Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Moving! Update Your Feeds!

I've got a new home on the web! Check out, which will have lots of great new content as well as the archives of posts past. Make sure to update your feeds and tell your friends!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Accretion Porter Kegged

I kegged my Accretion Porter on Tuesday, April 12. Final gravity was 1.020, down from 1.058, for 5.0% abv. No major comments on the beer at this point, other than it seems to be right on target.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My First Homebrew Medals!

Homebrew competitions have had a steep learning curve for me, and the experience has been a mixed bag as a result. I've entered two competitions previously, to mostly mediocre scores (28 for a milk stout and 28.6 for a vanilla porter I brewed in 2014, and 25 for an oatmeal stout I entered in 2015, all out of 50). Using the BJCP scoring guide, that puts them range of entries that are "good" but "[miss] the mark on style and/or minor flaws". This was a bit disappointing at the time, but the feedback was really helpful as a learning experience.

What I Learned From Previous Competitions
Although my scores were not awful, they were instructive on how I could improve my brewing, and even more critically, how I could improve my entries for competition. As I learned from reading many sources, it's not enough to brew a good beer--you also have to brew a beer that hits the points that judges are looking for within a flight of entries. Time and introspection have shown the following:
  • Category matters (Part 1). It's easier to place in smaller categories, particularly against the odds in big categories with experienced brewers (and there are lots here in SoCal!). This is the reason I haven't bothered with an IPA, for instance. I really like some of my IPA's, but am not convinced they would score well against the really excellent brews my friends and colleagues are brewing.
  • Category matters (Part 2). If you're going to enter a category, make sure you are brewing your beer within the overall style parameters. An otherwise good beer might get dinged for being outside of style, if it's not a good match. For instance, I submitted a vanilla porter as a robust porter -- and that was a mistake. The judges noted "odd" aromas that were almost certainly in part from the vanilla--in fact, one even stated that "The herbal flavor is vanilla, so this beer should have been entered as a specialty [beer]." This is a bit different from the oft-repeated advice that winning beers often push the bounds of categories; after all, a beer can push bounds while still being within believable reach of the style. Stretch boundaries, but not too much!
  • Fresh, fresh, fresh. I'm really proud of my oatmeal stout, and consider it a good beer. The one time I entered it in competition, though, the bottles had been sitting around for a few months. One judge suggested some oxidized flavors were at play, and another noted that the beer was a tad thin. I suspect both of these were due (in part) to the age of the brew, with maybe a bit of secondary fermentation in the bottle. Surely there were other facets I could improve, but nonetheless resting at room temperature for months didn't do the beer any favors. Lesson learned.
  • You have to be on top of your brewing game. I have definitely improved over the past few years, as I pay closer attention to fermentation temperature and such. For instance, I have drastically improved my carbonation procedures (either by carbonating with CO2 or more carefully measuring my priming sugar), which avoid hazards of overcarbonation. This can only help in judging!
  • Read the comments. Even if the judges' assessments of the beer didn't match my own lofty expectations, I needed to swallow my pride and take their comments seriously. Every entry has two score sheets, and there is naturally a bit of variance. One judge might pick up oxidation, but the other judge might not. Even so, I have seen enough commonalities between scorings that I am willing to listen. If both judges give middling scores, it is probably a middling beer for the purposes of that category.
Although I was disappointed that I didn't get any medals in my first two competitions, they were a valuable learning experience. Firstly, I gained confidence that my beers weren't awful. Nothing the judges said indicated that I had tremendous process flaws--it was a matter of relatively minor tweaking to transform decent beer into good beer into great beer. I also gained an understanding of the competition process--brewing for a medal can be (but isn't necessarily) different from brewing for personal satisfaction. I might have the best vanilla-infused porter on the planet, but it will never do well if the judges are expecting a standard porter. 

A celebratory IPA for my first medals
Renewed Efforts
Based on my adequate, but not great, performances, I was a little cynical on competitions. I liked my beer, and many of my friends said they liked my beer, so why bother with the dog-and-pony show of a formal beer competition? I had accepted the lessons mentioned above, but wasn't confident enough or filled with enough energy to test the waters in another competition.

Thankfully, I have a homebrew club to kick my butt into gear.

At the December meeting of Horse Thief Brewers Association, our president noted the upcoming "Romancing the Beer" competition, sponsored by Thousand Oaked Brewers. He wanted to see a good turnout for "The Thieves," and even offered to transport the beers personally to the entry center. I came to a final realization--what would it hurt to try again? No entries, no awards.

I decided to enter my 80 shilling ale, imperial stout, Berliner Weisse, and Irish stout. They were pretty fresh, decent brews (in my opinion), and for at least two (the Scottish and the Irish beers) were in categories that don't always get a lot of entries.

Due to my own incompetence, I only ended up with three entries, because I had attached the wrong labels to one set of bottles. Oops! One of my four initial submission was removed from competition as a result (major kudos to the folks in charge for alerting me to this, and refunding my entry fee). So, three beers went into the fray.

And of those three, it turned out the wrong labels were on one (oops again--the wrong set of beers had been removed of the original four). Totally my fault, but needless to say, a Scottish export doesn't score well in the imperial stout category (to the tune of 17/50 as a score). Lesson learned, and I'll definitely double-check the bottle labels next time!

But for my remaining two...what a surprise! I was completely shocked to see that both placed first in category.

My Irish Stout placed first out of the five combined "Scottish and Irish Beer" entries, with a respectable (but not outstanding) score of 36.5 (average of 36 and 37). I suspect it wouldn't have placed so highly if there were more entries, but I'll take a win! And, it was nice to see the beer so well received.

The real shocker, though, was for my Berliner Weisse. It placed first out of 12 entries in the "Sour Beers" category, with an average score of 41.5 (39 and 44)! This was a pleasant surprise on several counts. First, sour beers are a bit in vogue at the moment, and there are some great sour brewers in Southern California. There must have been stiff competition! Second, I had never attempted a sour before, and I don't drink a lot of them, so I really had no idea how my beer really fell on the sour spectrum. Finally, I "cheated" a bit with this brew. It was brew-in-a-bag, and kettle soured. Easy, simple, and apparently successful! That was a nice boost of confidence, to realize that simple techniques could produce something so technically solid in the eyes of a judge.

Final Thoughts
It was a nice boost of confidence to get external validation for some of my brews, particularly after the learning curve of earlier competitions. I don't know if I'm going to enter every competition that comes my way, but I'll certainly be trying a few more in the future. The overall process has forced me to consider my technical processes more carefully, and provided some helpful feedback along the way. That has definitely added up to better beer overall. I don't expect to have such success every time, but I am hopeful for future efforts as a whole, regardless of whether they go to competition.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Accretion Porter

My oatmeal stout is popular--and so it is just about all gone, thanks to the able efforts of many friends and family members. I do like to have a "dark beer" on tap at all times, though, so it's time for another brew. I had thought about doing a "session porter," but thought instead I'd use up a bunch of ingredients and go for something a little bigger instead. I haven't done a robust porter in awhile, so that seemed like a good style to aim for.

In formulating this recipe, I had a two things in mind. Firstly, I wanted/needed to use up a bunch of ingredients. Secondly, I wanted a rich and complex brew. The intersection of these two sets brought in a ton of dark grains--pale chocolate malt, roasted barley, de-bittered black malt, and black patent malt, along with a healthy dose of honey malt and dark crystal malt to bring some rich caramel characteristics. I was okay with having a high percentage of ultra-dark grains, because I felt the beer would need some of that to balance out any sweetness from the honey and crystal malts. I elected to use WLP002 (English Ale yeast), because I had a culture of that in the fridge. Plus, I figured that would add a nice complex and fruity dimension to the beer.

Thus, Accretion Porter was born! The name references the geological process by which some landmasses are formed--successive addition of a random smattering of crust--that mimics the assembly of the grain bill.

Accretion Porter
  • 9.5 lbs. Maris Otter (pale malt)
  • 1 lb. honey malt
  • 0.75 lb. crystal dark malt (77°L, Crisp)
  • 0.5 lb. flaked barley
  • 7 oz. pale chocolate malt
  • 4.4 oz. roasted barley
  • 4 oz. de-bittered black malt
  • 2 oz. black (patent) malt
  • 0.84 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (whole; est. 4% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (whole; est. 4% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. English ale yeast (White Labs WLP002), prepared in 1.5L starter.
  • A day in advance, prepared a 1.5L starter of the yeast, which I had cultured previously. Because I don't know when I'll next get a chance to use this strain, I elected not to overbuild the starter.
  • I mashed in with 4.5 gallons of water at 168.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 155.5°. After 50 minutes, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 200°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I added another 3.5 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 165.5°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort. In total, this was 6.9 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.048, for 70% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops and Irish moss at the indicated schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to 76°.
  • 5.1 gallons of wort went into the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.058. I am starting fermentation at ambient temperature (65°), and will move it into the fermentation chamber within 24 hours, for a fermentation temperature of 66°.
  • I brewed the beer on 19 March 2016.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Transatlantic IPA 1.1 Kegged

After three weeks in the primary fermenter, I kegged my Transatlantic IPA 1.1 tonight (12 March 2016). The beer was down to 1.015 from 1.060, for 5.9% abv. I added 2 oz. of Falconer's Flight 7C's and 1 oz. of Australian Galaxy hops pellets in a mesh bag, and simultaneously began carbonating at ambient temperature (~64°). All indicators seem positive so far!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2016 Orange Summer Wheat Ale Kegged

Tonight (24 February 2016), I kegged my latest orange wheat ale. It had dropped from 1.043 to 1.010 gravity, for 4.3% abv. I added the orange extract (I had filtered out the peel pieces, leaving just the liquid), and it has added a great aroma and flavor. Now it's carbonating, and should be ready to tap in a few days!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Transatlantic IPA 1.1

My Transatlantic IPA recipe turned out really well--in fact, I probably count it as the best full-strength (non-session) I've ever brewed. I wanted to give it another go, both to keep my yeast culture active and also to use up some of the hops I have on-hand. Although I really liked the

This batch is slightly modified from the last version, with the modifications nearly entirely in the hops. I also added a bit of gypsum to the boil.

Transatlantic IPA 1.1

  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Caravienne malt
  • 0.15 lb. pale chocolate malt
  • 1 oz. Bravo hops pellets (13.2% alpha, 3.5% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. U.S. Fuggle hops pellets (4.5% alpha, 3.1% beta), 20 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (est. 5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (est. 5.5% alpha), steep/whirlpool
  • 2 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's hops pellets (13% alpha), 2 week dry-hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hops pellets (13.7% alpha), 2 week dry-hop in keg
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (5 minute boil)
  • 1 tsp. gypsum (added at beginning of boil)
  • 1 pkg. Vermont Ale Yeast (The Yeast Bay), prepared in 1 L starter
  • I made a two-step yeast starter, with the first step initiated on 14 February, 2016. This used 0.5L of water with 55 g of extra light DME and a bit of yeast nutrient. On 16 February, I cold-crashed the starter. On 17 February, I decanted most of the spent wort and then added another 1.5L of starter (165 g DME dissolved in the appropriate amount of water). On 20 February, I decanted 0.6L of the starter to a jar for storage (assuming this reached a little over 100 billion cells), and the remainder was set aside for the beer.
  • Because my software calculated such a small addition for the first round of batch sparging (0.43 gallons), I figured I would just skip the first sparge round. I did notice that my wort had a little more grain material coming in from the mash tun than normal; I will have to check my crush. I also noticed on the past few batches that I've been drawing off a bit more water than anticipated (approximately an extra half-gallon); I'll have to adjust my dead-space downward on the software, too.
  • I mashed in with 5.3 gallons of water at 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 152.5°. The mash was down to 149° after 40 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the overall mash temperature to 165°. I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All together, I collected 7.1 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, for a mash efficiency of 73%.
  • I added all of the hops and other goodies per the schedule above, and turned off the heat after 60 minutes.
  • I chilled the wort down to 76°, transferred it to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast starter. Approximately 6 gallons of wort went into the primary.
  • The starting gravity for this beer is 1.060, a bit lower than calculated. I had the boil set a bit less vigorous than typical, so that along with the larger-than-anticipated wort volume likely contributed. I'm starting fermentation at ambient (65°), and will move it to my fermentation chamber once that frees up. I brewed this on 20 February. When I checked on the beer the next morning, about 8 hours after pitching the yeast, fermentation had already started.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Beer Tasting: Dad's 3P

My first foray into a pilsner is nearing the end of its keg, so I wanted to make sure to get a tasting in before it was gone. I served it at a recent party, which depleted a good chunk of the supply, and gave away a few growlers, also. It's not that I don't like the beer--I do!--but I didn't want to tie up too much equipment with something that required unique handling for serving temperature (cold, cold, cold) and carbonation pressure (high, high, high).

Dad's Pre-Prohibition Pilsner

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.051; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.5%; estimated IBU = 30.
  • Aroma
    • This beer showcases a crisp and slightly spicy hoppiness, with a hint of corn sweetness behind that.
  • Appearance
    • Clarity is a touch off of the brilliant I was aiming for; there is a very faint chill haze, which is unfortunate (more on this later). The beer has an exceptionally tall and thick white head when poured, almost meringue-like in its texture and fineness. Retention is excellent; it sticks around as a full blanket over the beer until the very end. Despite the very minor chill haze, the effervescence of the beer gives a very nice visual too. The beer itself is a pale straw color.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor profile is quite clean, with crisp hops at the front and a clean but simple malt bill behind that. I definitely taste the corn backing up the rest of the beer, and perhaps a hint of the rye spiciness (although I don't think I would pick it up if I didn't know it was supposed to be there). It's a reasonably bitter beer, but not overly so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a light-bodied beer, with high carbonation (as appropriate for the style). The finish is dry, and very clean. A lingering but not overpowering hop bitterness rounds out each tasting.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I feel like this is a very solid, but not perfect, first try at a pilsner. There's a lot that hit the mark with this brew. The flavor and aroma are incredibly clean, without any DMS or diacetyl or fruitiness. It's a tasty, easy-drinking beer, perfect for warmer weather. The color is a bit too light for the Classic American Pilsner style, and the slight haze is also an issue in terms of the strict style. That said, these don't matter much for me in terms of taste enjoyment, although they are things I want to work out for the next batch of whatever pilsner I do.

      I think the haze in this case was compounded by two things. First, I added the gelatin to the keg, rather than the fermenter. I think next time I'll add to the fermenter and let it work its magic in there for a few days before kegging. Second, I let the keg warm up a bit one night after serving, coupled with a bit of movement/sloshing, that probably didn't help things either. So, I'll aim to be a bit more careful with my handling next time, and see if that fixes things.

      For my next pilsner, I'll probably go with something a little more "traditional", just to see how that goes.
  • Overall
    • 6 / 10

Friday, February 19, 2016

Beer Tasting: Red Star Imperial Stout

More than two months after brewing and about 5 weeks after kegging, I wanted to do a taste-test of my imperial stout. This tasting was done prior to our club competition, so as to not bias my opinion on it one way or another. In the competition itself, it was at the top for the homebrewed entries, although just barely! A two year old entry from another club member was just behind mine in the overall scoring.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.098; final gravity = 1.031; abv = 9.1%; estimated IBU = 66.5.
  • Aroma
    • Aroma is rich and moderately roasty, with a faint earthy note and a very slight alcohol tinge in the background. As the beer warms up, the booziness comes a little more to the forefront, but is not overwhelming. The aroma is rich enough that it blows out the smell receptors pretty quickly. I don't pick up any level of fruitiness.
  • Appearance
    • This beer is black, or a rich chocolate brown when viewed at an angle. The head is low, thin, and brown, which rapidly subsides to a ring around the edge of the glass. This bit of head is pretty persistent, though.
  • Flavor
    • Flavor-wise, this beer has a prominent malt character that is distinctly roasty (coffee-like) and a tad burnt on the finish. As the beer warms up, I get some chocolate notes, too. There is a tinge of alcohol heat, but that is definitely in the background. This is balanced against a hefty dose of bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This beer has really great body, and a slightly creamy feel on the tongue. The finish is medium-dry, with a lingering roasty finish. It has maybe a touch more bitterness on the extended finish than I care for, but this is fairly minor in the overall beer. Carbonation is moderate and seems appropriate for the style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This beer turned out pretty well, particularly for a "big" style that I haven't attempted previously. For what it is (imperial stout), it's a pretty good beer. I'm missing out on a bit of the malt complexity in the flavor (I think), but that also could be my unrefined palate. Attenuation seems spot on--I was worried this might have underattenuated or ended up a bit cloying, but that is definitely not the case. So would I brew this again? Sure, I think it's a pretty good recipe, although not so exceptional that I wouldn't try others, too. I'll be curious to see how that assessment changes as the beer ages. I also should say I don't see myself making imperial stouts that often--I just don't care for "big" beers, and it's a lot of effort for a beer that I'm only moderately interested in (even if I think it tastes pretty decent).
  • Overall score: 7/10

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Beer Tasting: Alt-Alt Ale

My altbier has been on tap for over a month, and seems to be at peak flavor. Time for a tasting!
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.052, final gravity = 1.008, abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 28.
  • Aroma
    • Exceptionally malty, with a strong caramel/sweet note (thank you, honey malt!). I do not pick up much in the way of hops, esters, or other components.
  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, with a deep amber, almost copper, hue. The head is low and ivory colored, with excellent retention.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately-high degree of maltiness, which is predominated by caramel aspects at the front end and a bit of breadiness at the back. It is rather bitter, and the bitterness has a distinct but clean character. There is a very modest perception of sweetness, but it is not overwhelming. The maltiness and hopiness are really nicely balanced, although it is definitely the bitterness that lingers longest on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a medium-bodied beer, with medium-high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I quite like this beer, particularly as a way to try out a new style along with some malts that depart from my usual repertoire. The gelatin definitely did the trick for fining this out (particularly so when melded with the ingredient of time in the keezer). It departs from the altbier style in some ways (e.g., head is a bit lower than optimal for the style, and I didn't use much in the way of German ingredients), but as a variation on that theme, it's darned good. I can't say it is in my "brew and drink every day" category (it's a little too 'massive' of a beer for that), but it's definitely in the "brew every once in awhile and enjoy" category.
  • Overall rating
    • 8 / 10

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Special Beer Review: Heady Topper

A friend was out east recently, and brought me back a can of Heady Topper! I've never had this legendary beer before, so I thought I would really slow down and savor the experience by doing a formal tasting. Here it is!

I disobeyed the directions on the can, and poured most of the contents into a glass. I left a bit in the can, though, and talk about the distinctions at the end of the post.
  • Appearance
    • Hazy light gold beer, with a thick and sticky cream-colored head that leaves some fine lacing on the glass.
  • Aroma
    • Piney and slightly dank aroma, with a hint of peach/apricot behind it. As the beer settles down, the aroma is milder.
  • Flavor
    • Definitely hop-forward, with a smooth and well-rounded bitterness that ramps up as I drink it. The hop character is quite resiny and piney. I don't pick up much in the way of other flavors, but that might just be my palate. Malts are in the background; I can't say anything in particular about them.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a medium body, with a slick mouthfeel; it really coats the tongue. I'm guessing that must be the hops.
  • Overall
    • This beer definitely lives up to the hype, although I am curious how I would view it in a blind tasting. The hype is probably part of the experience, and definitely set me up to want to enjoy it. It's interesting reading reviews on Beer Advocate and places like that...there is a very subjective element (I think the technical term is "BS"). Really...passionfruit and cracker alongside 20 other flavors? I suppose...
Is it that different in the glass versus from the can? Not in flavor, certainly. I perceive the aroma as different, but I think that's largely because of the metallic aroma from the can itself. This shifts the overall aroma more towards the citrusy side--very interesting, but definitely not a "real" character of the beer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2016 Orange Summer Wheat Ale

One of the better brews during the "early" stage of my homebrewing career was an orange wheat ale. Inspired by Hangar 24's offering, my overall recollection is that I got some nice orange flavor into the mix. I would like to make this again, but with the massive changes in my brewing techniques (particularly the switch to all-grain), I needed a nearly complete reformulation. I'm also adjusting the recipe for the hops I have on-hand.

It's still a fairly simple recipe, and one that I hope turns out well. My other experimental change this time is to modify the way I handle the oranges. In the previous batches, the whole oranges (crushed) went into the fermenter along with the zest. For this iteration of the recipe, I'm going to soak the zest in vodka and add it at kegging.

2016 Orange Summer Wheat Ale
  • 5.75 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 2.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.5 lbs. 10° L crystal malt
  • 0.25 lbs. rice hulls
  • 1.25 oz. Mt. Hood hops pellets (5.75% alpha, 30 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. American Hefeweizen Ale yeast (White Labs WLP320), prepared in 1.25 L starter
  • Zest of 3 medium to large oranges (1 navel, 2 Valencia), steeped in a few ounces of vodka
  • The day before brewing, I made a starter of 1.25L water and 125 g of light DME. I added the yeast culture, and let it run for around 20 hours.
  • I mashed in with 3.6 gallons of water at 164.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. The temperature was down to 149.5° after 40 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.25 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash temperature to 154°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 190°, and a little ice to cool the mash down, and got a temperature of 165°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the runnings.
  • All told, I collected 6.9 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.036. This equates to 74% mash efficiency.
  • I started the boil, and added the hops after 30 minutes. After 60 minutes total, I turned off the heat and chilled the beer to 72°. I pitched the yeast and sealed the fermenter. 
  • Starting gravity was 1.043, with 5.5 gallons into the fermenter. Fermentation had taken off within 12 hours. Because my fermentation chamber was currently on hold for lagering, I am fermenting this beer at ambient temperature. This means the brew is about 68°, give or take a degree.
  • I brewed this up on Monday, February 9.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

3P Kegged

After 11 days at 65°, my pre-Prohibition pilsner is down to a final gravity of 1.008. This equates to 5.5% abv and 83% attenuation. The low mash temperature definitely did the trick for drying out the beer! On Saturday, January 30, I dropped the temperature down to 40°, and on Sunday dropped it again to 35°. This evening (Sunday, January 31), I kegged the beer. I am fining it with 3/4 tsp. of gelatin in 1/2 cup of water, mixed in with the beer. I'm force-carbonating and lagering at a temperature of 34°.

The beer has cleaned up pretty nicely, although is still pretty hazy. I expect the gelatin should take care of that in short order. I can definitely pick up the corn in the grist, as expected for a beer in the American pilsner style.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout 1.2 Kegged

Today I kegged my Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout, after 3 weeks in the primary fermenter. The beer had settled down to a final gravity of 1.020. From a starting gravity of 1.060, that is 5.3% abv. Not much more to add!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

3P Update

I checked the gravity for Dad's Pre-Prohibition Pilsner on Sunday, January 17. At this point, it was down to 1.018, from 1.051. This puts the beer at around 64% apparent attenuation (and 4.3% abv), so it's time to start ramping up the temperature. The temperature at this point was around 52°. For the first 12 hours, I just let it free rise in the fermentation chamber. The next morning (January 18), it was at 55°. I then put my heating pad in the chamber, and set it at 60°. By that evening, it was at the desired temperature. I then gave it the final bump up to 65°, which it had reached by the morning of January 19.

Per the guidance from Brulosophy, I will leave it at this temperature for four to 10 days. I'll probably do a check next weekend.

The beer is a quite pale straw color, and pretty hazy yet (not surprising). The krausen was ridiculously rocky on it--I suppose it's a product of the grains plus the yeast strain. I am a bit surprised that I don't pick up any really obvious off-flavors (e.g., diacetyl), but perhaps that is just my bad palate.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jarrylo Session IPA Kegged

Tonight (10 January 2016) I kegged my Jarrylo Session IPA, which has been fermenting for 11 days. The yeast had dropped very clear, and the beer had a malty flavor (all that Munich!) with a rather subdued bitterness. I'd probably place it in the pale ale rather than than IPA category. Nonetheless, it's shaping up nicely!

Final gravity is 1.017, down from 1.047, for 3.9% abv. I added the dry hops (weighted down with two stainless steel washers--I note that three would probably be advisable, as the bag didn't really sink as much as I'd hoped!). I'll be force carbonating, and hopefully can let it go at least a week before tapping.

Dad's 3P

For quite some time, I've been itching to make a lager. It was on my goal list for 2015, but never quite happened. The main thing deterring me was the time investment--the process takes longer than an average ale, so I didn't want to tie up my fermentation chamber for months. I have to keep the taps on my keezer all occupied, after all!

When I discovered a "quick-lager" method, that provided the incentive I needed. This is a technique popularized by the folks at Brulosophy (although not developed by them, as they are quick to point out). Essentially, you use a temperature-change regimen to keep the process moving along. Most of the potential off-flavors are produced in the first half of fermentation, so once the beer is more 50% attenuated, you can raise the temperature and speed up the finishing. Then, it's a cold crash, some gelatin, and you're done!

For my first lager, I chose a recipe that my dad has been brewing for many years. It is a "Pre-Prohibition Pilsner," in the style of the American beers that were made before Prohibition destroyed many of the traditional breweries and beers. He makes an extract version that is absolutely delicious, and has been brewing it in some form or another for close to 15 years. The original recipe came from the April 1999 issue of Brew Your Own, and I have modified it slightly for hop and yeast availability. The main changes are using Spalt instead of Tettnanger and WLP800 (Pilsner Lager) instead of an American pilsner strain.

I will note that the rye flakes are "off-style" for a classic American pilsner, and I suppose the yeast is too. But, it's homebrew, so I'll make my beer the way I want to and forget about official style guidelines. I also wanted to approximate the classic water of Pilsen, so used a water blend heavily tilted towards distilled water. Our tap water here has a ton of minerals, and so is not well-suited on its own for the styles (including American pilsners) that are best with soft water.

Dad's 3P (Pre-Prohibition Pilsner)
  • 9 lbs. pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. flaked maize
  • 0.5 lb. carapils malt
  • 0.5 lb. flaked rye
  • 2 oz. German Spalt hops pellets (2.4% alpha, 4.3% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Hallertau hops pellets (2.7% alpha, 3.8% beta), 30 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Hallertau hops pellets (2.7% alpha, 3.8% beta), 15 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient
  • 1 package Pilsner Lager yeast (White Labs, WLP800), prepared in 2L starter
  • "Special water blend" - 2 gallons of the carbonate-heavy Claremont water with 7 gallons of distilled water.
  • Five days in advance, I prepared a 2 liter yeast starter, and let it ferment out for 2.5 days (after the krausen had fallen). I then put it in the refrigerator to cold crash for another 3 days.
  • I mashed in with 4.25 gallons of water at 161.8°, aiming for a target mash temperature of 149°. The mash hit 149.8°, and was down to 146° after 55 minutes. 
  • After the 60 minute mash rest, I added 0.84 gallons of water at ~160°, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3.82 gallons of water at 180°, which brought the mash bed up to 162°. I let this rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained again.
  • In total, I collected 7.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.043, for an efficiency of 82%. I suspect my water volume must have gotten off somewhere in the process. But, I'm not too worried because this is my target gravity anyhow before the boil.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops, Irish moss, and yeast nutrient per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I chilled the wort to 74° using my wort chiller. Then, I transferred it with aeration and placed it in the fermentation chamber for 90 minutes to bring the wort down to 60°. At this point, it was pretty late, and I decided it would be okay to pitch the yeast. I saw evidence of fermentation (krausen starting to form, very slow bubbling in the airlock) when I checked on the beer around twelve hours later.
  • Starting gravity was 1.051. I'll do the first stage of fermentation at 54°. I brewed this on 9 January 2016, and will check on the gravity in about a week, to see if it is ready to warm up.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout 1.2

I've brewed my house oatmeal stout recipe twice previously, and both times it has been a winner. Looking towards my keg rotation, I thought it would be nice to roll this one out for 2016. I'll note that this is the third time I've brewed this one in essentially the same form--probably a record for my home brewery.

The primary minor change to this batch versus the others has been to use "old fashioned oatmeal" out of the pantry instead of the flaked oats from the brewshop. Based on my reading, they are essentially the same thing. Many brewing forums tout using oats from the grocery store as cheaper--however, I think this is fairly overstated, particularly for the amounts of oats used in most recipes. In some cases, even, the brewshop oats are cheaper! And ever in the worst-case scenario, it's a savings of a few cents at most. Thus, the "wisdom" of grocery store products being a massive savings over the homebrew shop products is not entirely correct here. I think the primary utility is as a quick alternative if you need to add oats flavor but forgot to buy them with the rest of your grains.

Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout 1.2
  • 8.5 lbs. 2 row malt (Great Western)
  • 1.25 lbs. old-fashioned oats
  • 1 lb. 80° L crystal malt
  • 1 lb. Victory malt
  • 0.75 lb. chocolate malt
  • 0.5 lb. roasted barley (Simpsons)
  • 0.3 lb. rice hulls
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss, 10 minute boil
  • 1.1 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha, 4.5% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. English Ale yeast (White Labs WLP002, 0.9 L starter)
  • Three days before brewing, I began a 1.5L starter (191 g of extra light DME and ~.5 tsp of yeast nutrient in 1.75L of water, for a target gravity of 1.040). After 48 hours, I decanted 0.6L for future use and cold-crashed the rest of the starter.
  • I mashed in with 5 gallons of water at 170°, and hit 156.5° for my mash-in temperature. The mash had dropped to 155° after 30 minutes and was down to 153.4° after 50 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.5 gallons of 162° water, let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash bed to 162°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All together, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.049, for a mash efficiency of 72%. I note that the relatively small quantity of rice hulls seemed to be just fine for this recipe.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, adding the hops and Irish moss as scheduled.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to 75°. The final yield was ~6 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.060. I decanted most of the spent wort from the starter, and pitched the yeast slurry before sealing up the fermenter.
  • I brewed this beer on Sunday, January 3, 2016 (first brew of the year!). It will be fermenting at 68°.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Alt-Alt Ale Kegged

On Wednesday, January 6, I kegged the Alt-Alt Ale. It had been fermenting for 11 days, and was down to a final gravity of 1.008. This equates to 5.8% abv. In tasting, I definitely pick up the honey malt. The yeast leavings were pretty remarkable--this had a high, hard, and foamy krausen, which ringed the fermenter more than just about any other yeast I've seen. This was fairly bizarre for WLP001, so I think it is a good decision to end my particular culture there, and reculture the yeast for next time I use it. The beer is now carbonating under high pressure, and will condition until the next keg in my keezer is kicked.