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…

Extract Twang

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 06.14.08 under Brewing, Extract, Troubleshooting

BanjoOn the homebrewing forums you read a lot about “extract twang”. It’s supposed to be a certain type of off flavor that comes as a result of using extracts in your homebrewing. Many say it’s a myth. But when you taste enough homebrewed beers that have that certain “something” to them, you start to believe in extract twang. Logic tells you it must be a process issue, but your gut replies, “no, it’s the extract twang.” And you just move on with your life. Here’s an exploration of some potential causes of so-called “extract twang.”

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High Gravity Brewing

[ 6 Comments ] Posted on 05.01.08 under Alcohol, All-Grain, Bottle Conditioning, Brewing, Extract, Troubleshooting, Yeast

I wrote a post a while back about calories in beer. It was really fun to write, and even more exciting when Bob Skilnik called me out on a few ambiguous and incorrect statements I made. But just having Bob Skilnik reading my site was cool!

The other day, I got a new comment on there, with a commentor named Kiwi asking the following question:

So my question is, your 10%ABV russian stout (sounds most excellent) got to that % by the recipe…which has more… sugars? and a better yeast? I am trying to up my alcohol %, but not ruin my homebrew.

Such a great question deserves front page answers, not some answer hidden in the comments of an old post. So, Kiwi, this one’s for you!

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Correction for Low FG Beer

[ 2 Comments ] Posted on 04.12.08 under Brewing, IPA, Troubleshooting

I made the Post Natal IPA-Style beer a few months ago. A 3.5% ABV beer. It’s hard to make such a small beer. I used like 25% crystal malts, and still got a FG of about 1.006. It’s dry. I like a dry IPA, but this is just too dry sometimes.

I got a neat idea tonight, so I tried it. I put a little packet of Xylitol – one gram – in a single serving of the beer. I had to mix it a lot, so I just put a little beer in there and mixed it well to dissolve all the Xylitol, and then poured the rest of the beer. This had two effects. First, the head was big and fluffy, thanks to a half ounce of beer being whipped into a frenzy – nice lacing, too. Second, the beer is not dry any more. It feels really nice and full, but it still has a great deep bitterness and hop character. I wonder how much nonfermentable sugar (such as dextrine or lactose) I’d need to add to the boil to get this same effect across the entire batch. I guess about 50 grams…

Xylitol is a “dietary supplement”. It’s supposed to be good for your teeth somehow, but it seems to me to be a bit like NutraSweet and similar sugar substitutes. Though they say it doesn’t have Saccharine or Aspartame… But it was a simple convenient small packet to try for this use. I wonder if Xylitol is fermentable? It might be useful to increase beer body for use even during the boil. But I couldn’t see myself cutting open 50 packets of Xylitol on brew day. Maybe I can get it in bulk.

Since I have that Mindbender Jr. “Small IPA” in the fermenter with an OG of 1.030, I expect a super dry beer, too. I just might try this Xylitol trick on that beer, too. I suppose you could probably use a gram of table sugar in the glass and get a similar effect, if you could measure out a gram of table sugar.

Chill Haze

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 03.02.08 under Bottle Conditioning, Brewing, IPA, Troubleshooting

PostNatal IPA-Style BeerChill haze is when beer appears clear at room temperature, but becomes cloudy when refrigerated. This is generally caused by proteins precipitating at colder temperatures. The number one recommended solution to this problem is to ensure fast cooling of your wort using a wort chiller. But sometimes there’s more to it than that.

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On Second Thought…

[ 1 Comment ] Posted on 01.24.08 under Brewing, Troubleshooting

So it turns out maybe I went on a paranoid rant the other day for no reason. After having a home brewing expert, Zok, taste my supposed sour Pre Cut Ale With Fir beer, along with a panel of three other tasters, it has been determined that although the beer has a bit of a sour finish, the sour is not lactic in nature, and more likely somehow related to the massive amounts of Fraser Fir in the beer.

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The Bread Crumb Trail: From Dorée Forte to Christmas Presence and Beyond

[ 2 Comments ] Posted on 01.22.08 under Brewing, Stories, Troubleshooting

Hansel and GretelI finally figured out something. It took me a while. Well maybe I could be wrong, but here’s a theory. Actually, here are several of them. This is a long one, a journey of self-discovery for the author. A revealing look into the practices of one brewer, and where they seemed to go wrong. It also talks about the future in a bright way, a plan to redeem myself, and become the sanitary uninfected brewer I always meant to be and once was. This highly clean fellow still appears from time to time, but his face is starting to be less regular, and it’s time to change that. This is the bread crumb trail of decay that started with a very bad batch, and caused a few slightly bad batches. But it all stops now.

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Perfect Homebrew Conditioning

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 12.25.07 under Bottle Conditioning, Brewing, Troubleshooting

Box of Conditioning BottlesFirst of all, Merry Christmas! 

Many homebrewers use bottle conditioning to get their beer full of fizzy bubbles of carbon dioxide. Rather than force carbonating the beer via exposure to CO2 under pressure, this beer is conditioned with CO2 from within. It is these bubbles that give beer much of its life, and help it to be a great match with food, as well as a refreshing overall drink. While bottling beer is one of the last labor steps in making beer, it is one that needs your full attention as much as any other step. Having a beer that is too flat or too fizzy can really put a damper on your enthusiasm for that beer. All that hard work out the window!

I’ve had beers come out on both sides of the equation, and I can provide some tips for perfectly conditioned beer.

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