Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brew 8 & 9 - Big Brews: Barley Wine & Wee Heavy

Having little kids around can make it difficult to get to the local hombrew shop so I devised a plan to have my wife pick up ingredients for me while she runs errands.  The first time  I kept it simple and asked for some yeast, hops and an airlock and she succeeded.  The second time I threw in a grain bill for my Export Stout and and a Witbier.  When she arrived home I asked why she only had one small bag (remember these are 1 gallon batches) of grain, she said the other was to big to carry.  This had me worried since it contained only slightly more than a pound of grain.

When I went to the car there was a huge (five gallon batch size) bag of milled grain.  I checked the receipt and found that she purchased 13 lbs of base malt instead of 13 oz for the Witbier.  Since the goal for this year is to experiment I figured this was chance to brew some really big beers.

The big sack of grain included:

13 lbs Two Row Malt
10 oz Flaked Wheat
7 oz   White Wheat
1 oz   Acidulated malt

For the two recipes that follow just take the amount of grain I used and guess assume the proportions stayed the same.  For oxygenation I just spun these two brews and created a vortex for a good long minute.

The 1st batch turned into a simple English Style Barley Wine with 5.1 lbs of grain.  The OG came out at 1.120 after a 160 minute boil.  It was really surprising how dark the wort became just from boiling for 3 hours.  I added 145 IBU's worth of EKG at 60 minutes since I was trying to make something similar to the J.W.'s Harvest Ale mentioned in the IPA book by Mitch Steele.

This batch maxed out my BIAB system with the water level reaching about a 1/4" below the top of the kettle.  Stirring the mash was slow and steady.  The long boil also resulted in my 1st boilover.  Since most of my batches have had so much headspace in the kettle I wasn't paying to close of attention during the boil until I heard the sizzle of the boilover meeting my stove.

The second batch of beer was a Wee Heavy that used 4.7 lbs of grain plus 4 oz of left over black roasted barley steep water.  I mashed at 154 and boiled down 4 cups of the wort to a thick syrup (really thick!) and added it back to the boil.  This brew had 27 IBU's of EKG at 60 minutes and 2 IBU's of EKG at 10 minutes.

I washed some Safale 04 yeast from a Southern English Brown (Brew #7) and split it three ways for the two batches.  The recipe for J.W.'s Harvest said to repitch some yeast after a couple of days so the third batch of yeast was used for that.  Fermentation for both took off and stayed in the low to mid 60's the entire 1st week.

If you did some calculating you'll see that I still have about 3 lbs of grain left over which I'm going to use to brew two Session IPA's for some hop experiments.  These would have been brewed already but I ran out of airlocks.  I'll admit that it's a problem that's good to have.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Brew #6: Pale Stout

Back in around August '13 I began thinking of finding new ways to extract flavor from brewing ingredients.  An interesting thought came to me and I was obsessed with finding a way to get the flavor from something without taking its color.  Immediately the thought of a pale stout was bouncing excitedly in my skull.

After some internet research about pale stouts it appeared that it wasn't a new thing but it seemed like nobody had done one using the same ingredients as a true dark stout.  It looked as if everybody was using coffee as a substitute for the roasted grain.  This led me to start looking for ways to clarify coffee.  I figured if coffee could be clarified then grains could be too, especially since the process of steeping grains is similar to brewing coffee.  This blog post from super barista James Hoffman about clarifying coffee using iced gelatin filtration made me believe that a pale roasted stout could happen.

For my first attempt I used the recipe for the milk stout from Brewing Classic Styles and prepared the roasted grains in a way similar to the process outlined in James Hoffman's blog.  The color did come out lighter but not as light as expected and the flavor was still spot on.  The milk stout actually scored in the mid 30's in a local competition.  I tried this recipe one more time with similar results and found myself going back to the drawing board.

For the third attempt I used the Dry Stout recipe from Brewing Classic Styles since it used two light ingredients (Maris Otter and Flaked Barley) and one roasted grain (Black Roasted Barley).  I prepared the grains three different ways to test flavor and color.

1.  Steep unmilled grain 2 oz in .5 liter of 160F water for 30 minutes.  Strain through paper coffee filter (using Chemex) and mix hot liquid into prepared gelatin (.5% by weight of liquid).

2.  Steep milled grain 2 oz in .5 liter of 160F water for 30 minutes.  Strain through paper coffee filter (using Chemex) and mix hot liquid into prepared gelatin (.5% by weight of liquid).

3.  Add 2 oz milled grain into ISI whip and fill with room temp water to .5 liter.  Charge with one nitrogen canister and empty after 1 minute into Chemex with paper coffee filter.  Heat liquid in microwave until hot then mix into prepped gelatin (.5% by weight of liquid).

The results were very interesting.
Steep 1:   Lacked dry astringency that I wanted for dry stout.  Very nice chocolate flavor but somewhat watery and stale tasting.  Not much roast character

Steep 2 (top right):  Dry astringency and roast (highest but not by much) both present.  Somewhat bitter.  Darkest in color.

Steep 3 (bottom left):  Dry astringency and roast both present.  Most chocolaty with astringency close to steep 2 but not quite as high.  Lightest in color by far.

The tasting process eliminated steep 1 and the appearance eliminated steep 2 (which was the most dry stout like) because I wanted to get the beer as light as possible.  After tasting the mixtures were frozen then thawed on a cheesecloth lined sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator.  The whole process took about 4.5 days.

After completing a 2nd round of gelatin filtration the liquid from steep 3 looked like the photo below:

Now that I had a nice looking black roasted barley extract it was time to brew.  The brew was a normal BIAB with a cereal mash and 60 minute rest at 150F.  The black roasted barley was added with 1 minute left in the boil to minimize added color.  Once cooled the resulting beer's appearance blew my mind.  Almost pale ale in color and nothing like a stout.  I didn't get a good taste so I'm flying blind but hopefully it will have some roast character and will provide a starting point for further exploration.

Pale stout in fermentation vessel:

Pale Stout
1 gallon batch
OG: 1.041
IBU: 41

1 lb Maris Otter
7 oz Flaked Barley
2 oz Black Roasted Barley (Prepared as described above and added with 1 minute left in boil)
12 g  East Kent Goldings (60 min)
Safale US-05

This was a fun brew that took a total of almost 10 days to prep for since I did two rounds of gelatin filtration.  I have some ideas for improvement in the future and would also like to try this with agar instead of gelatin.  I'm also going to try using the ISI Whip with unmilled barley.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Brew #5: Meyer Lemon Berliner Weisse

My body craves whatever is not in season so it led me to a nice refreshing Berliner Weisse in the middle of winter. After a previous attempt I did some internet research and talked to some other homebrewers that have had success with the style.  It seemed that the quickest way to get a nice balance of sour was to sour mash.  The problem with sour mashing is that introducing oxygen into the mash can result in some unappetizing vomit flavors.  I read that someone had great success mashing in a corny keg and purging with carbon dioxide but I didn't want to introduce any bacteria in my kegs (not yet at least!).

It struck me one night while reading a cookbook that I should mash in a sous vide sort of way.  After brainstorming I figured out that I could get a big ziploc bag (5 gallon) and put the wort in it at 110 degrees F with a handful of unmilled pilsner malt to introduce the Lactobacillus.  I put the ziploc bag into an igloo cooler filled with 110F water (filled from my tankless water heater) and used the water to squeeze all the air out of the bag.  I refilled the water before and after work each day and found that I only lost about 2-5 degrees each time.  I also opened the bag to squeeze out the air and get a whiff.  The wort was slowly smelling delicious, nice and sweet, lemony and grainy.  After three days I tasted it found the sourness was to my liking.

At this point I did a quick 1-2 minute boil, chilled then pitch a packet of Safale 05.  The yeast fermented quickly in the upper 60's.

At bottling I decided that since this beer was fermented in two separate 1-gallon jugs that I should use the opportunity to experiment.  I had a couple idea that I'd like to explore later like a black tea infused berliner weisse (Arnold Palmer?) but instead took inspiration from the two lonely Meyer Lemons growing on my backyard tree. I wasn't sure of the best way to extract the Meyer Lemon flavor so I tried something that they use with other cocktails: Nitrogen Cavitation.  This is a technique that I first learned about from David Arnold's blog and it's a fast way to infuse liquids with the flavors of porous materials.  It's not really a viable technique for commercial brewers but it's perfect for 1 gallon homebrewers and it has endless possibilities.

Not paying attention to anything I've learned I peeled the rind off of the two lemons and loaded them into an ISI Whip device and filled it with my fermented berliner weisse.  I charge the vessel with one nitrogen canister and shook it up for about a minute then let it sit for another minute before evacuating the gas.  I then strained the beer into a measuring cup and watched it bubble for awhile before adding it to the bottling jug.

How did it taste?  It was one of the most refreshing berliner weisses I've  ever tried.  The version with no lemon was excellent in its own classic way but the Meyer lemon version had a smooth sourness and the full floral flavor profile of the Meyer lemon was captured.

Aroma: Floral, lemony, sweet graininess.  No apparent off flavors (i.e. vomit).

Appearance: Very pale straw.  Hazy.  Large head that dissipated quickly.

Taste:  Smooth sourness with floral Meyer lemon character upfront.  Slight grainy sweetness in the aftertaste with a subtle layer of lemon that lingered.

Overall:  One of the top two beers I've ever made.  I wish that all two gallons were of the Meyer lemon variety because a bottle of this doesn't last long.  It's similar to a grown up 7-Up with a Meyer lemon twist.  I can wait to use these techniques on some different types of beers.

Berliner Weisse (sour mash)
Batch Size: 2 gallons
OG: 1.034
FG:  1.008
IBU: 3.3
Boil Time: 1 Minute

1 lb 8 oz Pilsner Malt
14 oz      Wheat Malt
2 oz        Acid Malt (at end of mash)
2 g          Liberty (4.3%) in Mash
Safale 05 Yeast