Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Czech Pilsner - Recipe & Brewday Stats

My good friend and long time brewing comrade, Brian Mateja, dropped by a little after 10 am. Everything was pretty much ready to go. Water was adjusted the night before and the infusion volumes were measured and preheating. While waiting for dough-in, we smelled and tasted the blend of malts. The Durst pilsner had a very mild aroma and taste, while the Vienna held a deeper smooth malt character (not nearly as aromatic as Munich malt). The CaraFoam is a very crunchy/hard malt with an interesting "nutty" taste. It's the first time I've used Acid malt, which has an intense sour bite.

We began with a thick protein rest at 131*F for 30 minutes. At 11:30 we added the second infusion of boiling water for the saccharification rest and hit our target of 153*F perfectly. Everything was going well...until...it was time to check the mash Ph and starch conversion at about 30 minutes in. So I went looking for the Ph papers and iodine. I looked and looked and looked...and couldn't find them anywhere. Knowing the PH would have informed me if the Acid malt in fact kept it low. So I got a little frustrated, but we had to move on.

Sparging revealed its true color, a very pale golden hue. After getting 7.5 gallons of wort to a boil, we got some great hot break material, and then the foam subsided. In went the first dose of bittering hops...3.25 ounces. A half hour later the second big dose of flavor hops...another 3.25 ounces. Fifteen more minutes go by and another dose of aroma hops...another 3.25 ounces. At this point we're thinking it's getting pretty thick and crazy. Now it was time to add the Irish Moss for added clarity in the finished beer, but misplaced it with the Ph papers. But then it was time to cut off the heat and start cooling the wort...and in went a last 3.25 ounces of fresh Saaz finishing hops. That's a total of 13 ounces! I've never done that before, and may never do that again. I thought we'd run into big problems pouring the cooled wort into the fermenter, but it was actually a bit easier than using a lot of pellets. No clogged funnel screen. As we pressed out all the liquid, we just had to make sure the huge pile of hops wouldn't avalanche all over the floor. Luckily, no mess.

After it was all over we checked the original gravity (OG). To my surprise, we hit it perfectly at 1.056. I gotta say that using all the brewing calculators on the Tastybrew site has been working out great. After tasting the gravity sample, I got the feeling that it will turn out to be a very good beer. I think it'll be very distinguished from all my prior beers.

Thank you Brian for all your help. I couldn't have gotten through it without you. I really appreciate you coming down so early on a Sunday morning. I usually have a brewday checklist, but now it's like second nature. In the very end I happened to find all the missing materials (Ph papaers, iodine, irish moss) in a bag with my all my equipment. The funny thing is that I actually searched in that bag a couple times earlier. As a result, some of the stats are missing, and the finished beer might end up being a little cloudy.

Czech Pilsner - Recipe

8 lb. Durst Pilsner Malt
3 lb. Durst Vienna Malt
.5 lb. Weyermann CaraFoam
.5 lb. Weyerman Acidulated Malt

Hops (Whole Saaz - 2% AA):
3.25 oz. 60min.
3.25 oz. 30min.
3.25 oz. 15min.
3.25 oz. 1min.

Wyeast 2278 - Czech Pils (1 gallon starter)

Czech Pilsner - Brewday Stats:

Water Adjustment: 3 parts Distilled to 1 part Chicago (carbon filtered)

Protein Rest Temp/Duration: 131*F/30min.
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1qt/1lb

Sacch Rest Temp/Duration: 153*F/60min.
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.5qt/1lb

Mash Ph: missed
Sparge Vol./Temp : 4.32gal/170* (had to add a bit more)

Pre-boil SG: missed
Length of boil: 1.5 hours
Post-boil OG: 1.056

Post-boil Ph: missed

Brewhouse Efficency: approx. 75%
Approx. IBU: 45

Please read on to the final results post...Czech Pilsner - Final Results
Also refer back to its conception...Czech Pilsner - Conception

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Czech Pilsner - Conception

On Feb. 18, I'll be brewing the beer I wanted to make from the very beginning...a pale-gold hoppy Czech/Bohemian pilsner! I remember standing in front of all the malt extract kits over at the Brew & Grow a number of years ago. My attention was drawn to a can of pilsner extract. To be honest, back then I really didn't know the difference between ales and lagers. I think the people over there advised I stick with ales. Thinking about it now, I'm glad I went with their advice because it probably wouldn't have turned out any good.

I've been thinking of this beer for quite some time now. The recipe has gone through a few permutations. After a lot of reading and research, I settled on a recipe of my own. More than anything else, it has to be fairly authentic. Five main variables will help give it authenticity: 1. German malts, 2. Saaz hops, 3. Czech Pils yeast, 4. Soft water (3 parts distilled to 1 part Chicago water), 5. Long cold lager phase. Since I haven't found decoction mashing to be conclusively better, I'm sticking with double infusion mashing and fly sparging.

I usually buy my base ingredients from the Brew & Grow, but this time I wanted to get indiginous ingredients. A new brewing friend (Russ) suggested I give Northern Brewer a try. The selection and people over at NB are great, and it got here in two days. I'm glad I ordered a full pound of Czech Saaz hops, because the Alpha Acids are only 2%. After adjusting the recipe, it turns out I need 13 ounces! That's alotta hops!

This one is simply called "Czech Pilsner." I'm hoping for some classic taste and character. The hops are bit aggressive on the aroma/finish side, but I'm also going for a hoppy quality. Saaz hops are new to me so I'm looking forward to tasting and smelling their effects. Going with all imported grains (mostly pilsner) may give this beer a differentiated taste over all my previous beers. The mash temperature for starch converion will be held at about 150*F for a more fermentable wort and dryer finish. This one will be sealed in my converted cooler/icebox for a month and a half. Since there's a good IBU level, this one will be able to age a little longer than say...a Helles or Dunkel. Since this one is hopped well, lagered long, and brewed 4th out of 4 lagers this winter season, I expect to make it last into the warmer months for a nice cold, refreshing beverage.

Please read further into the progress post...Czech Pilsner - Recipe & Brewday Stats
See also the final results post...Czech Pilsner - Final Results

Monday, February 12, 2007

Beer & Brewing Terminology (3 parts)

This post is for Casey. On second thought, I guess it's for anyone else who may find beer & brewing terms read more like a foriegn language.

Part 1: Basic Beer Terminology

Beer –
· A fermented beverage made from barley, hops, water, and yeast, and sometimes additional ingredients like oats, rye, rice, corn, fruit and honey
Ale –
· A general name for beer made with a top fermenting yeast
· Ales ferment at warmer temperatures and more quickly than lager yeasts
· They convert less of the sugar into alcohol (giving a sweeter, fuller body)
· They produce more aromatic compounds - esters (fruity notes)
Lager –
· lagern ("to store")
· Bottom fermenting yeast strain undergoes cooler temperature ranges
· During the long secondary stage, the lager clears and mellows
· Cooler fermentation produces much lower esters & makes a “crisp/mellow” taste

Barley –
· A grain cultivated since prehistoric times; grown for forage and grain
· A grain malted for use in the mash in the brewing of beer

Malt –
· Malting is a process applied to cereal grains, in which the grains are made to germinate and then quickly dried before the plant develops
Mash –
· The process by which crushed malts and other grains are placed into a vessel and steeped at various temperatures in order to convert the starches in the grains into sugars
Wort –
· The liquid extracted from a mash of malt or malt and adjunct
· Fermented wort equals beer
Hops –
· Hops are the cone-like flowers of the perennial female hop vine
· They are used to balance the sweetness of the malts with the bitter qualities of hop resins
Yeast –
· A single-cell organism with numerous species in nature
· Specific strains of yeast are used by brewers to ferment wort to produce specific beer styles
Fermentation –
· The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide

The definitions of the previous terms were gathered from various sources including some sources in "Part: 3"

Part 2: Listing of Technical Brewing Terms (for definitions, please refer to the links below)

Primary Fermentation
Secondary Fermentation
SG - Specific Gravity
OG - Original Gravity
FG/TG - Finish/Terminal Gravity
ABV - Alcohol by Volume

Hop Utilization
AAU - Alpha Acid Units
IBU - International Bittering Units
HBU - Homebrew Bittering Units
Bittering Hops
Flavor Hops
Aroma Hops
Dry Hopping

Mash Efficiency
Mash Tun
Decoction Mashing
Infusion Mashing
Immersion Wort Chiller
Lovibond (L)
SRM - Standard Reference Method (3=pale/straw to 35 = black)
Bottle Conditioning
Chill Haze

Part 3: Online sources for beer and brewing terminology

Beer Advocate


Enter any term into the Siebel Institute site

Mike's Big Brewing Glossary! A great site for just about every homebrewing term (very specific long list)

In-depth descriptions of beer styles at the Beer Judge Certification Program site

“The Brewery” has tons of information about home brewing

Hope all of this helps!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dark Cherry Stout Man

It was getting close to the end of my shift over at Trader Joes, and I was growing tired both mentally and physically. The checkout lines were long with no end in site. A nice couple came up to my register and bought an unusual amount of frozen dark cherries (11 lbs!). Normally I would have made a funny comment but, my fatigue got in the way. The man made a comment about it himself saying..."That's a lot of cherries!" I returned, "sure is...what are you using them for?" He said, "they're going into beer. I'm making a cherry stout." Upon announcing that, I automatically became more alert and interested. I told him about how I'm about to put peaches into a lager. The fast pace of TJ's checkout lines only allowed for a brief discussion about our shared hobby. I'm thankful that it occured. It's nice to see homebrewers are all around. Until we talk again, I will simply name you the mysterious "Dark Cherry Stout Man." Now I'm wondering if you're putting all 11 pounds into a 5 gallon batch?

Following was added after original post...

Well Brian, it's nice to meet you. Hope your Dark Cherry Vanilla Stout turns out great. Take good notes. Its so easy to forget some of the details when you're formulating recipes in the future.

I decided to start this online journal to help me take better notes on my beers, and to keep my brewing interests fresh.

Friday, February 2, 2007

First Lager

Back in 2002, my good friend from HS enlisted in the army as an Intelligence Analyst. For about two years he was stationed outside a small town southeast of Munich called Bad Ibling. Naturally, drinking the finest German/Bavarian lagers was infused into nearly every social event. He enjoyed classic Munich Helles, Dunkels, Octoberfest, and local strong fest beers. I managed to visit him there, and pretty much marveled at his fortunate circumstances.

After I heard Brian returned home, we got back in touch. He was impressed by my new hobby of home brewing, and started helping out. So I asked him what style he would like to brew. Then he mentioned the beer he was so accustomed to drinking…the one and only Munich Helles (specifically...
Augustiner Brau Lagerbier Hell). I said…I hadn’t brewed a lager before, but the pale lager style is what I wanted to brew in the very beginning (specifically a hoppy pilsner).

Since the brew date was scheduled for January 7th 2006, I thought…"the weather is cold enough, so why not?" So I quickly brainstormed how to regulate the primary and secondary fermentation temperatures. A space heater thermostat would keep a consistent primary temperature out in the porch. For maintaining lager temperatures, I thought about turning my ten gallon Rubbermaid mashtun into an icebox. I then fabricated a Styrofoam lid that fit perfectly around the neck of the secondary 5-gallon carboy. By weighing it down with books, it creates a tight insulated lid. Over the course of a week I slowly added more and more ice. It worked perfectly.

My first attempt at a good clean pale Munch lager was a complete success. It’s still one of Brian's and my favorites. Unfortunately a whole year would pass until I could brew another one. Since then I’ve become much more attracted to tasting/drinking lagers. I feel like lagers provide just as much room for experimentation as does the brewing of ales. This winter season I am getting in about 19 gallons of lager beer. (Munich Dunkel, Schwartzbier, Bohemian/Czech Pilsner, and four 1 gallon experimentals)

Overall, brewing lager beers has been a rewarding experience. I totally recommend it. It doesn’t take a whole lot to maintain cold temperatures during the winter season (well...in the northern zones). And the end result is well worth the time and energy. It definitely provides a nice break/alternative to normally brewing ales throughout the rest of the year.

Munich Helles – 1st Lager
Brewed January 7 & Bottled March 5th 2006
Lagered 1.5 months at 32-35*F
Utilized a diacetyl rest

10 lb. 2-row malt
.5 lb. Cara-Pils
.25 lb. Flaked Wheat

.75 oz. Hallertau 60min
.50 oz. Hallertau 40min
.50 oz. Hallertau 20min

2308 - Munich Lager

Having never brewed a lager before, I didn't know what to expect. Brian said it tasted just like his favorite session beer back in Germany. It was a very clean tasting pale gold lager with good malt character and low subtle bitterness. It finished just a bit sweet. It's great head retention and carbonation helped create a sense of dryness. It was very clear and thrist quenching. Overall, we were quite impressed. The only regret is only brewing 5 gallons of it. I didn't take accurate measurements so...
Approx. OG = 1.046
Approx. FG = 1.012
Approx. ABV = 4.4%
Approx. IBU = 19

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Current Beers

At this post date, the beers in ferment or bottle conditioning are…
Brewed at end of 2006

-Buckwheat Honey Dry Mead (bottled 1/25/07)
-Cyser Sweet Mead (bottled 1/25/07)
-Munich Dunkel (bottled 1/25/07)
-Old Ale (Tertiary - Lambic Blend, hop, spice & fruit additions for 6 months)

Brewed at beginning of 2007

-Schwarzbier (bottled 3/7/07)
-Base Lager (bulk primary, inde 1 gallon secondaries, bottled 3/11/07)
1. Copper Lager 2. Ginger Peach Lager 3. Dry Hopped Lager 4. Citrus Lager

-Czech Pilsner (brew date 2/18/07, secondary 3/8/07)

Base Lager & Experimental Secondaries

Well, on 1/30/07, I finally brewed an all-grain batch by myself. Oh, I did get a little help at the beginning of the boil from an unexpected visitor. It is true that Bruce Lee is a relatively small man, but he also puts out an enormous amount of chi-energy and physical endurance. Hey hey Bruce, you know, you could be a really good homebrewer! Oh, and I did put my mom to work on the syphoning while she was visiting, playing with Cadence and dropping off some awesome homemade soup. But for the most part, a solo act.

I'm in lager mode right now, and getting in 4 batches this Winter season. For this 4.5 gallon/1-pot batch, I made up a "base" wort that's a nice deep golden color with medium/low bitterness. The wort is fermenting nicely at about 50*F on the Schwartzbier's Bavarian yeast cake.

Base lager recipe: (OG 1.050)
7.00 lb. American Two-row Pale
1.00 lb. German Munich
0.25 lb. Flaked Wheat
0.13 lb. Belgian Aromatic
0.25 lb. American Crystal 80L

There were a variety of hop pellets left over from past batches, so I utilized all of them in this recipe. Approx. 22 IBU came out of these hops...

Hops: (22 IBU)
.50 oz. Tettnanger (90 min.)
.25 oz. Challenger (90 min.)
.13 oz. Willamette (30 min.)
.25 oz. Hallertau (30 min.)

After the bulk primary is finished, it will be divided into 4 experimental secondaries.

1. Base "Copper" Lager
2. Dry Hopped Lager
3. Ginger Peach Lager
4. Citrus Lager

I love reusing my Mom's & Grandma's 4 liter wine jugs. They make perfect test batch fermenters. They're also great as starter vessels and for making mead.

It's been a long time since brewing (9/2006) a light colored beer. The past four have been 16 SRM and up. So finally I get to see clearly into the action of fermentation. Watching lager yeast do it's thing is pretty cool. I like the way it smells right now (very clean with a nice bitterness).

Progress: The secondaries sat on the cracked windowsill with a light barrier and a styro-cubicle built around them to hold in the cold outside temperature. I didn't worry about temperature fluctuations. They conditioned for two weeks, and the weather stayed quite cold. They were bottled on 3/11/07. So far so good. Each one is very unique.