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

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brew #4: Milk & Donuts

Growing up five houses from a donut shop has impacted me in ways I’ve never expected.  It’s made me completely biased towards my local donut shop, its made me crave donuts every weekend for the last 30 years and it’s made me want to put donuts in all sorts of recipes.  

A few years back I made a batch of donut ice cream with glazed and cake donuts steeped in warm milk then strained.  The donut milk was delicious and was just like biting into a donut.  The donut milk was just the base of the ice cream and I decided to take it to the next level and make a donut and coffee ice cream.  Turned out to be one of my best ice cream recipes yet.  This gave me an idea, what if I steeped donuts into wort?  Would it provide the same donut flavor as it did in milk?  Would the oil affect the beer in a negative way?  I needed answers to these questions so I set out to brew a donut brown ale.

For the brew I wanted to keep it simple to see  how adding donuts at  different times  would affect the donut flavor.  For this batch the donut was added a knockout in a hop bag and left until the wort cooled.  It seemed that the hot wort would sanitize the donuts and extract some of the flavor.  The brew was a simple brown ale with just Maris Otter and biscuit malt and a light dose of bittering hops.  The goal was to make a bread like beer without  going over the top.  I also added a small amount of lactose because it’s not right to have donuts without milk.

The type of donuts to use in the beer was stressing me out but I finally went with straight unglazed cake donuts because I didn’t want all the extra sugar from glaze.  Cake donuts also have more flavor than regular glazed donuts.  On brew day everything went well but adding the donuts at knockout became a strange gooey mess.  The donut chunks absorbed a lot of wort and there was a lot of oil floating around the top of the kettle.  Next time I’m thinking of baking my own donuts.

When racking the smell of donuts was strong.  Attempting to squeeze wort from the donuts wasn’t too successful and my gallon jug ended up with about a 3 inch high layer of sediment.   So far so good but I’ll have to wait and see what changes need to be made after tasting.

2/13/2014 - Bottled 6 bottles plus ½ a bottle to taste.  At bottling there was no donut aroma but the taste  is similar to bourbon barrel aged beer (very strange).  The beer leaves a nice donut aftertaste on the tongue and is not cloying.

Recipe: Milk & Donuts
Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 1 Gallon
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated IBU: 25.7 IBUs
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                           
1 lbs 8 oz        Maris Otter (Crisp) (4.0 SRM)                 
3 oz                Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)                        
2 oz                Brown Malt (65.0 SRM)                            
2 oz                Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM)           
1.0 oz             Pale Chocolate (200.0 SRM)              
2.0 oz             Milk Sugar (Lactose) (0.0 SRM)               
2.46 g             Warrior [15.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min              25.7 IBUs   
3.00 Items     Cake Donuts (Knockout)
1.0 pkg           SafAle English Ale (DCL/Fermentis #S-04)  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Brew #3: Semi-Sweet Mead

Mead is one of those things that everyone knows about but only a few have tried.  The local homebrew club has an award winning mead maker who brings his good stuff to some of our functions.  Tasting his a couple of times completes the catalog of my mead experience (not including a bad experience with Ethiopian Honey Wine).  At the club holiday party my friend and I tasted a sweet mead that was really enjoyable and we figured why not give it a try.

If this mead turns out well we will go through it quickly and if its bad we can probably dose our tea with it (3 gallons of mead would dose quite a bit of tea!).  Without doing much research I went and bought some honey, 6 lbs of the orange blossom variety.  The man at the farmers market told me that most mead makers are using his orange blossom or his avocado honey, but orange blossom sounded safer.

After taking the honey home I conducted some research and realized that my local homebrew shops don't  carry any mead specific nutrients or supplies.  It seems that this time we'd be screwed since we had to make the mead in the next couple of days.  We decided that for our first mead we would just use some regular yeast nutrient and hope all goes well.

On brew day (is it brew day?) the process brought back memories of making my first beer about four years ago.  It seems like every step forward was two steps back.  We started by slapping the Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast in the morning and cleaning all the equipment.  We poured the 6 lbs of honey into the 3 gallon carboy then added 2 gallons of cold water.  We figured since we only needed 2 gallons that it would be easy to get some from the store but I didn't realize that my friend grabbed the water jugs from the fridge instead of off the shelf.  After adding the cold water we had 2 gallons of water sitting on top of a 6lb blob of honey.

After realizing that cold water wasn't going to help dissolve the honey we attempted to stir the must.  We soon discovered that we had nothing that was long enough or narrow enough to fit through the mouth of the carboy.  After several attempts at stirring with random objects we put the carboy in a hot water bath and shook it until it all mixed together.  After all this we pitched the yeast and hoped for the best.

The brew day was Monday and the first signs of fermentation (airlock activity) started to show on Thursday.  I was sort of nervous since this has never happened to me with beer.  Maybe it's because I make starters or maybe it's because the Smack Pack was left on top of metal shed roof for an hour on an 80 degree day.  By Friday morning the fermentation looked to be full blown with a 1/2 thick layer of krausen on top.  By Friday night it had all dropped.  I'm curious to see how this will turn out.

Semi-Sweet Mead

6 lbs Orange Blossom Honey
2 Gallons Water
1 Wyeast Sweet Mead Smack Pack

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brew #2: Toasty Olive Oil Ale

This Christmas was the first in a awhile where I didn't receive any gifts that were beer or homebrew related but like any good homebrewer I made something from nothing.  My wife thought it would be fun to get me a giant tub of Tapioca Maltodextrin so I could play around with making different powders at dinner time.  This sparked an idea, what if I added one of these powders to beer? 

There's already some good ways of adding chocolate and peanut butter so I figured that I'd try adding some olive oil.  It's fruity and bitter and at least it would help with oxygenation of the wort if all else fails.  Adding oil to beer is disgusting and has many negative effects such as poor head retention and increased rate of spoilage but maybe the maltodextrin will help in some way. 

For this recipe I wanted to create something toasty for the olive oil to complement.  Using some biscuit malt for a some light toasty biscuit flavor, a fair amount of wheat to help with head retention and a small bit of Carafa II to add a slight hint of roast and color.  The Saison yeast was chosen to add some peppery spice notes.  The one hop charge was kept as a neutral bittering hop with no aroma hops.  I'm hoping that this will allow some of the Olive Oil aroma to come through.  Two ounces of olive oil were mixed with enough tapioca maltodextrin to form a powder.  It was pulsed in a food processor then added to primary.

Primary fermentation started within a couple of hours and the airlock has continued steadily bubbling for about a week and half.  The olive oil powder dissolved back into oil but it's hard to tell if any stayed in powder form due to the krausen.  I'll give this a taste in a week or two and see if it needs any more olive oil or maybe a touch of herbs or spices.
Recipe: Toasty Olive Oil Ale
Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 1.85 gal
Post Boil Volume: 1.30 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 1.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG
Estimated Color: 13.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

75%    Pale Malt (2 Row) US        
5.0 %   Biscuit Malt
7.5%   Wheat Malt
10.%   Cane Sugar           
2.4%   Carafa Special II 

26.6 IBUs      Warrior [15.00 %] - 60.0 min

1.0 pkg            WLP Belgian Saison I Ale
2.00 oz            Olive Oil Powder (Primary)

Mash at 148 for 60 minutes.
Add maltodextrin to 2 oz of Olive Oil and pulse in food processor until powdery.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Brew #1: Crabapple Lambicky Ale

The first batch of beer I decided to brew in 2014 is Randy Mosher's Crabapple Lambicky Ale.  Mosher's book Radical Brewing blew my mind when I read it so it seemed right to pay homage to him to start off the adventure.  His twelve beers of Christmas is also something that always seems to draw me in.  Since I'm brewing fifty two batches why not brew all twelve this year.

The recipe for this brew is available here on the AHA website.  There are a few things that seemed strange to me but I followed them anyways.  Mosher mashes this at 145 for two hours which seems really low for a beer that will have Roselare added to it.  I'm thinking it's because he wanted this beer ready quick and/or maybe the wheat provides more for the bugs to munch on than the O.G. shows.

I made a couple ingredient substitutions since I'm trying to clear out my hop stash in the freezer.  I subbed out the Cascade at bittering for some Warrior and subbed out the Tettnang for El Dorado (thought I had some Saaz but was mistaken).  Hopefully the El Dorado will provide some soft cherry notes that blend with the Roselare otherwise this may have been a bad decision.  I also pitched a clean ale yeast Safale 05 so that the majority of the yeast character is created by the Roselare blend.

 I'm going to rack the base Pale Wheat recipe onto around a 1lb of cranberries (or crabapples if available) and add some yeast from a 5 gallon sour that is ready to bottle that used the Roselare blend from The Brewing Science Institute.

My goal for this batch is to get a whopping 6 bottles since the fruit cuts down on the yield.  This will have plenty of time to age before Christmas and I can even save a couple bottles for the next year or two.

2/13/2014 - Racked onto 1/2 lb of chopped frozen (and thawed) cranberries since crabapples were nowhere to be found.  Pitched the dregs from a bottle of Russian River Consecration.  The base beer tasted somewhat boring during racking.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Let's Get This Started

Homebrewing is one of those hobbies that takes over your entire being.  It seems that when someone starts homebrewing they become completely obsessed and brew a as much as their life permits.  After the initial obsession dies down most of us either brew what we like to drink, brew to style or experiment as much as possible.  Some people, like myself, are a bit of all three.

I'm not the most active at drinking beer so brewing what I like and brewing to style really clog up my homebrewing pipeline and limit my creativity since I don't want 5 gallons of an experiment gone wrong blocking one of my taps for half a year (or longer).  My solution to this was to brew 5 gallons of beers I like and use 1 gallon batches to brew things that I probably shouldn't.

The goal for this year is to brew 52 batches of beer.  It won't be weekly but it will be constant.  I started off the 1st week with 3 batches, Randy Mosher's Crabapple Lambicky Ale, my first Semi-Sweet Mead, and a toasty Olive Oil Ale.

I have a huge list of brews that I have planned but it's always changing and I'm up for suggestions.  I'm looking forward to busy year.