Ask and it is Given

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 10.04.10 under All-Grain, Bock, Brewing, BYO, Extract

So I was looking at my upcoming brew days schedule. I saw that I have a Doppelbock-style beer coming up. Now it’s to be done as an ale, but it’s generally a brown malty low-hop-character clean high-gravity beer. I made one before, but it was meant to be a bock that just came out with incredible efficiency and jumped into the doppel range. So in other words, I don’t know how to build the right recipe. I decided I needed to look up a recipe. I took a quick look on the forums, and found a few arguments about many unrelated topics, and gave up for the time being. I then sent myself an email and forgot all about it.

Then tonight I decided to finish going through the latest Brew Your Own magazine while watching the Patriots struggle through the first half. The main theme of the magazine is brewing with extract. While interesting, it’s not really tuned to where I’m at with my brewing.

First thing I found was an article about adding body to beer. This culminated in a recipe for “Small IPA”. A low alcohol IPA-flavored beer is something I’ve been interested in for a while. But after many attempts, I had pretty much given up on it. I rationalized this, deeming it “pointless” to make a beer under 4% ABV when I could just as easily make one 50% stronger. But thanks to this article, now I have a recipe concept (1/3 Munich, 1/3 Vienna, and 1/3 Victory malts) to work from for the next revision of my “Small IPA”. Cool!

Flipping forward through the magazine some more, I get to one of those stupid ad cards that makes the pages not fold back quite right. The front of the card was a call to subscribe for a discount, but the back of the card is what caught my eye. It was a few recipes. Normally I barely even glance at these recipes, but as I was ripping it out, I just figured I’d see what the nonsense was all about.

Lo and behold, it’s a recipe for a Doppelbock. Now I don’t think I’ll necessarily follow it verbatim, but it at least gives me some sort of clue as to how to proceed. It uses mostly plain old 2-row, with some Munich, Victory Wheat (?), and Crystal 120 to 1.084 and 20L with Hallertau hops to 21 IBU. It’s a starting point that I can work with. Actually nothing too fancy. I have Munich. I can use my  normal wheat malt. I might get some of that C-120, but I can handle that.

It’s amazing sometimes when you just want something and then forget all about it, and all of a sudden you find it!

Ultimate Efficiency

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 02.24.10 under All-Grain, Brewing

As a brewer, extract efficiency is a key metric. Each grain you use in your brew has a certain amount of potential sugar stored in there. Due to our limitations as humans in the real world, we can’t really get all that sugar out. So extract efficiency measures the percentage that we do manage to run off into our kettles.

Maximizing this number gives you the ability to get the most out of your grains. This saves money and expands the possibilities of what you can make without needing to add sugar or malt extract. Consistent efficiency allows you to craft more precise and repeatable recipes.

Efficiency relates to many variables, including how you crush the grains, mash filter arrangement, possibly mash thickness and duration, and so on. Most of these are pretty constant from batch to batch. But my efficiency has been hovering around a meager 65-70%. This is not where I want it. It’s OK, but it seems to leave a lot on the table (or in the tun, so to speak).

Read the rest of this entry…

Getting Out The Trub

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 01.05.10 under All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Lambic, Stories, Zok

I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy over a week of paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s. With such an extended stay at home, it’s almost a given that there should be a time to brew somewhere in there. As it turns out, the holidays are busy times full of seeing family and stuff like that. But in the end, I managed to carve out a perfect brewing day – January 1st. I still haven’t decided if it was Brew Year’s Day or New Beer’s Day, but either way the pun is bad.

I have had these bacterial cultures in my fridge for a while, and I decided to finally put them to work. I made a lambic. Half malted wheat and half pale malt, with a handful of what we dubbed “bunny hops” boiled for 60 minutes. I skipped the whole raw wheat turbid mash four hour boil thing, and went pretty standard with an infusion mash around 148°F for this one.

Read the rest of this entry…

Chemistry of Batch Sparging

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 08.29.09 under All-Grain, Brewing, Stories

I made beer today for the first time in a few months. Oktoberfest is coming up and I need beer for the O-fest party. One batch of Yachtoberfest 2009 and one Fisher Cat Wheat should do the trick.

My friend Jeremy was here to assist with the brewing. He is a chemistry expert. This looked to be a mutually beneficial day. He’d get to learn about the practical chemistry orchestrated by the various steps involved in turning grain into beer. I’d get to ask him all sorts of scientific questions about the process in real time, complete with discussion and maybe even some experimentation.
Read the rest of this entry…

Amarillo es Bueno!

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 02.17.09 under All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Tasting

Of course, I’m not talking about the color yellow, but rather the hop named Amarillo. This is an American hop that I don’t know too much about other than that it’s really tasty. It’s billed as citrusy and flowery. It really reminds me of juice. I like to refer to my beer that’s heavily late hopped with Amarillo as “hop juice”. I just love it. Almost as much as the kids love juice boxes. Or maybe even more, in fact. I mean, their juice boxes probably shouldn’t contain 6.5% alcohol by volume.

I made a beer that was meant to educate me on the bittering effects of Colombus. But I also happened to dose it with several ounces of hops late in the boil. So I guess Colombus makes a fine minty assertive yet not harsh bittering hop, but all I can say for sure is that I love Amarillo. Me gusto mucho los Amarillos!!

Admittedly, the intensity of hop flavor may be too much for some wussies (who shall go unnamed) to handle. But I trust that the real IPA fan, the hop loving beer drinker, will drop to their knees much as I do every time I sip the sacred citrus beery nectar, upon tasting the latest revision of my IPA.

So here it is:
BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Careful With That Hops, Eugene
Brewer: Keith Brainard
Style: American IPA
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.061 SG
Estimated Color: 10.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 61.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount    Item                              Type        % or IBU
1.50 lb   Extra Light Dry Extract (3.0 SRM) Dry Extract 12.00 %
7.50 lb   Base Malt (2.0 SRM)               Grain       60.00 %
1.25 lb   Crystal 40 (40.0 SRM)             Grain       10.00 %
1.00 lb   Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)             Grain       8.00 %
0.75 lb   Carahell (11.0 SRM)               Grain       6.00 %
0.50 lb   Wheat Malt (1.4 SRM)              Grain       4.00 %
1.00 oz   Columbus 12.2 [12.20 %] (45 min)  Hops        34.0 IBU
2.00 oz   Centennial 9.1 [9.10 %] (15 min)  Hops        27.4 IBU
1.00 oz   Columbus 12.2 [12.20 %] (0 min)   Hops        -
2.00 oz   Amarillo 8.0 [8.00 %] (0 min)     Hops        -
1.00 tsp  Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 min)        Misc
1.00 tsp  Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 min)    Misc
1.50 Pkgs Fermentis #US-05                  Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule:
Total Grain Weight: 11.00 lb
Step Time  Name         Description                       Step Temp
60 min     Mash In 3:1  Add 15.84 qt of water at 167.6 F  155.0 F

Regarding the grain bill, I am trying to expand from all Crystal malts for color and character, but I can’t really say what effect the Munich had, because the late hops are so in control here.

It is my opinion that having hops boiled for no more than 45 minutes helps smooth the bitterness. Though I may skip the high alpha hops at flameout next time. In fact, I might just use one ounce of Amarillo next time, in the interest of the common man’s (er…person’s) palate.

And the only reason I’m using Dried Malt Extract is because my mash tun is too small to make a beer of this gravity. I’d recommend adding base malt to top off the gravity if you could.

Finally, use Mr. Malty’s pitching calculator to tell you how much yeast to use. It’s really cool.

In summary, I like Colombus for bittering to this IBU, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Amarillo for flavor at any level. If you like a West Coast IPA, then make this one, and you won’t be disappointed.

Ice Beer

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 01.16.09 under All-Grain, Brewing, IPA

No, it’s not a beer concentrated by freezing and then thawing, leaving water behind.

It’s brewing in my garage today! It must have been 15 degrees out there, and it was damn cold! The garage is detached from the house and very porous. It was probably a good 10-15 degrees warmer in there than the raw outside, but that still made it freezing, and I have to keep some ventilation open for the propane burners, so I don’t die.

On a brew day, I’m always spilling water and wort everywhere. And today it was funny. At first, I was wondering why it was so slick – was it moldy or something? Then I realized that the spills were freezing and becoming little patches of slippery.

In the end, it’s a 1.061 IPA and a 1.029 IPA. Both one point shy of my target, but not too bad. The first one I meant to mash in at 155, but ended up mashing in at 148. I even went three degrees higher than BeerSmith told me on the strike water, but the cold was just too much for it. That’s not so bad for the big IPA, it will be OK with a lower FG from the lower mash temperature.

Fortunately I was able to adjust my strike water temperature for the small IPA, and hit my mash temp of 156. If that one mashed low, it could finish really low and end up really watery. As it is, I’m on the edge of beer with a starting gravity that low. The wort was barely even sweet. Combined with 40 IBU, this should make a great beer to have with lunch.

Holy Shit – Smoked Beer

[ 4 Comments ] Posted on 01.04.09 under All-Grain, Brewing, Tasting

I made a smoked beer about a month ago. It was a request from a friend. I would never have made it if I weren’t put up to it. I’d had that German one, the classic example of a Rauchbier. It was horrible. Like a BBQ rib in a glass. Give me an IPA any day over that nonsense. So I was a bit skeptical about making a smoked beer. I mean, five gallons is a lot of beer.

Well I kegged it the other day, and I pulled a testing pint last night. Damn, that is one hell of a beer! The smoke is present in the aroma, but not over the top. The smoke comes through in the flavor, but still not overly smoky. There is a subdued hop bitterness, with a unique smoky bitterness. Its pleasant brown color is perfect for its flavor, which also has just a hint of malty sweetness and character. This beer is still a little young, so there’s still some unwanted yeasty taste in there for me, which will subside with time in the keg.

Here’s the recipe:
BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.064 SG
Estimated FG: 1.012 SG
Estimated Color: 17.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount     Item                                    Type         % or IBU
1.500 lb   Pilsner Dry Extract (2.0 SRM)           Dry Extract  12.00 %
4.500 lb   Base Malt (2.0 SRM)                     Grain        36.00 %
3.500 lb   Smoked Malt (Rauchmalz) (9.0 SRM)       Grain        28.00 %
1.870 lb   Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)                 Grain        14.96 %
0.750 lb   Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)              Grain        6.00 %
0.250 lb   Peat Smoked Malt (2.8 SRM)              Grain        2.00 %
0.125 lb   Black (Patent) Malt (478.0 SRM)         Grain        1.04 %
1.50 oz    Williamette 4.6 [4.60 %] (60 min)       Hops         20.5 IBU
1.00 tsp   Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 min)              Misc
1 Pkgs     SafAle American Ale (Fermentis #US-05)  Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: Mash
Total Grain Weight: 11.00 lb
Step Time   Name          Description                        Step Temp
60 min      Mash In 3:1   Add 15.84 qt of water at 167.6 F   155.0 F

I suspect you could use any low alpha hop here, or really any bittering hop you like. The key is low bitterness, so it doesn’t compete too much with the smoke. I used extract just to boost the gravity based on my current limitations for mash size. If you have better efficiency or a bigger mash tun, you can simply add more base malt to make up for the gravity of the extract.

For my next attempt at a smoked beer, I’m going to up the Rauchmalz to 5 pounds, and the Peat Smoked to 0.50 pounds, for a more intense smoky experience. I’m also adding a half ounce of Willamette at flameout next time. I’ll try to remember to report on that one when it’s ready in about a month.

A smoked beer is a great change of pace from IPAs, Stouts, Belgians, or whatever else you’re making. Besides that, they’re not that common on the market, which is another good reason to make one.

Fermentation Friday: Homebrewing Horror

[ 3 Comments ] Posted on 10.30.08 under All-Grain, Bottle Conditioning, Brewing, Fermentation Friday, Stories, Troubleshooting, Yeast

It was early in my all-grain career. A beautiful sunny day. Nothing like the cold stormy darkness of Halloween night. Not the sort of scene you’d expect for the tale of terror that will unfold before us.

A Duvel clone. That should have been the first clue. The Devil was at work here. A step mash was called for, but me with my igloo cooler and no real way to do a decent step mash. Eerily, that part went fine. Great, even. I got the best efficiency of my brewing life up to that point on that batch.

The thing was coming along great. After a few weeks, it was time to transfer to secondary. The recipe also called for a bunch of corn sugar to be added at transfer. I was skeptical. My OG was already above the expected value for the recipe, even without this adjunct addition. But I followed the recipe like a zombie seeking delicious brains. I was curious to see how far I could go. I was also curious to see how far I’d come. I bottled one bottle at transfer time with a measured dose of priming sugar. Read the rest of this entry…

Brewing Results Are In!

[ 5 Comments ] Posted on 08.06.08 under Alcohol, All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Stout, Tasting

Three weeks ago, I made two beers. One was an IPA, called Newport Jazz Fest. It is bittered with Newport hops I got from Northern a while back when the panic of hop shortage first hit me. The panic has passed, but the hops remain. I am still not sure when I’ll use those Pride of Ringwood hops I have… The other beer was a Stout, called Midnight Moon Stout. Named after a “Jack and Annie” Magic Treehouse book, and my daughter drew the label for me.

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[ Comments Off ] Posted on 07.23.08 under All-Grain, Brewing, Extract

Adjuncts are sugars other than those derived from malted barley used in brewing beer. Germans hate adjuncts. Due to the restrictions of the Rheinheitsgebot adjuncts are actually forbidden, except for wheat, go figure. Belgians love adjuncts. Practically every Belgian beer probably has some adjuncts, either beet sugar or corn sugar.

From a practical homebrewing perspective, adjuncts are useful for a lot of reasons:

1. First and foremost, corn sugar is the primary fermentable used for priming beer at bottling time. Corn sugar is completely fermentable, so it’s easy to tell how much to use to get your target carbonation.

2. This high degree of fermentability makes corn sugar the big beer brewer’s friend. If you want a beer with a high starting gravity (say, over 1.070) but a normal finishing gravity (say, around 1.015), a bit of corn sugar can go a long way to that goal.

3. Finally, simple sugars are a quick and easy way to boost the gravity of your all-grain recipe. I can only mash about 12 pounds of grain in my system, so I can only get about 1.060 for five gallons of beer using grains only. Adding some adjunct sugars lets me boost that up as far as I want. Of course, adding malt extact gives me the same capability, but remember item 2 above: high gravity beer enjoys some highly fermentable simple sugars, and malt extract is not the most fermentable substance you can brew with.

I would encourage anyone making beer to feel free to use adjuncts, in moderation.

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