Saturday, April 28, 2007

Czech Pilsner - Final Results

This beer was lot of fun to make. Tons of Saaz hops. All German malts. Czech yeast. Steady fermentation temperatures. Good long lagering in the ice box.

I had expectations, but only based on commercial examples and the descriptions from various recipes and books. I've never used any of the ingredients before. So I guess I was venturing into the unknown. In the end, I'm very pleased I did it. I love the flavor of Saaz hops. The Wyeast 2278 Czech Pilsner yeast strain, though very sulfuric during fermentation, performed very well with great attenuation and malt flavor. I think the German malts helped give it the right kind of flavors.

First signs of fermentation appeared at around 20 hours after pitching the yeast. Pitching temp was around 52*F, the temp dropped to around 48-50 over night, then the temp rose to around 53-54 withing 24 hours. Fermentation went smoothly over a 2 week period. I was very surprised by the intense odor of sulfur during primary fermentation. It was more intense than the Munich strain and filled the whole porch with its rotten egg stench.

Finished Results

OG: 1.056
FG: 1.013
SRM: 4
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 45

Tasting Notes & Photo

Appearance: Beautiful pale yellow/straw color. Very clear considering that it was unusually hazy all the way through fermentation, lagering and bottling, and no Irish moss. Slight haze especially at colder temps. 1 inch white foam head forms, and slowly diminishes to a small rind of bubbles around the glass edge.

Aroma: Hoppy, sweet maltiness, floral.

Taste: Bold and bright hop presence from both solid bittering and flavor/aroma additions. The hops carry a full flavor with mild citrus and spiciness. Malts do balance the hop assertiveness, and has a smooth & clean sweet taste. There is definitely a "crisp" character to this beer. Attenuation was very good, and the residual sweetness is not too low nor high. There is also a nice dryness in the aftertaste. I'm quite pleased to sense a slight presence diacetyl (buttery taste) because I think it adds more character/complexity to this light colored beer with bold flavors. Also, all the flavors held up for a good years and smoothed out nicely over time.

After-taste: A definite mild 2%AA Saaz hop bitterness lingers long on the tongue. There also seems to be a small alcoholic presence.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, soft, attenuated, very good carbonation (on the lower side).

Drinkability: Even though it has a bold taste, the smoothness in the malts and lighter carbonation make this lager very drinkable. After one pint, I found myself wanting another one right away.

Overall Impression: An all-around attractive beer. It has great color, aroma, taste and mouthfeel. It is a little over the top with hop presence, but that's what my intentions were. I get a sense of pride drinking this beer and rank it as one of my finest.

This beer tasting guide has been

Notes for future brewing: It was very difficult getting the wort to boil after adding even half the hops. The total weight of hops was 13 ounces in 6 gallons of post boiled wort. I think Brian would agree that it was an armful stirring and chilling both pots. I question the hop utilization, and perhaps using higher Alpha hop pellets for bittering would help. Also, I would like to try bringing the OG to about 1.050 and scaling down the IBU's to about 38. I'd like to improve upon this beers already smooth flavor and make it a very balanced, more refined, and delicate.

Click here for earlier Czech Pilsner posts - Conception and Recipe & Brewday Stats

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blueberry Ale & Sour Corn Ale

The idea of making a sweet corn flavored ale stewed around in my mind for about a year, until the opportunity to try it, presented itself. After acquiring two 4000L conical flasks from a friend, I easily got into an experimental ale phase.

After visiting Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine in 2004, I came away tasting some very good blueberry ales. Since that trip I wanted to make a blueberry ale of my own.

I decided to brew both of these at the same time. The grains for both recipes were steeped/mashed together to form that part of the recipe. After that, each recipe becomes quite different with the choices for malt extract, hops and bitterness, and fruit.

Sour Corn Ale (Corn Cob Ale)
1.125 gallon

Grain & Extract (OG 1.048)
1 lb. Pale DME
.25 lbs. Vienna
2 oz. Crystal 10
2 oz. Carapils
1 oz. Crystal 120
1.5 lbs. Organic Corn, frozen (2nd Fermentor)

Hops & Spice (29 IBU)
.25 oz. Perle, 6.1%, whole, FWH
.125 oz. Hallertau, 5.8%, whole, 45min
.5 tsp. Ground Pepper, 10min
.125 oz. Hallertau, 5.8%, 5min

Yeast: Collected Thames Valley Ale

It was quite a surprise how this ale turned out. The corn did not contribute any sweetness at all. In fact, it developed a very pleasant sour taste. My only presumption is that the corn could have had some sort of wild yeast/bacteria that reactivated and consumed residual sugars. The combination of medium spicy notes from the hops and ground pepper, and the overall rich golden malt sweetness, it was quite refreshing. Though there was plenty of carbonation, a head didn’t develop as intended, nor did it stick around. It pairs very well with a burger and fries.

1 year later...
This beer tasted AMAZING. It smoothed out so much and became "simply" complex. Almost too simple to describe. The sourness and any sweetness vanished. The carbonation was full and smooth. There was an oxidation in the aroma, but not really in the taste. Overall, it took on a quality much like an aged Belgian Tripel but in a unique sort of way. I'll definitely play around with whole corn again, both in fermentation and in secondary.

Blueberry Ale
1.125 gallon

Grain & Extract (OG 1.048)
1 lbs. Muntons Super Light DME
.25 lb. 2-Row
2 oz. Crystal 10L
2 oz. Carapils
1 oz. Crystal 120
1 lb. Organic Blueberries, frozen (2nd Fermenter)

.125 oz. Willamette, 4.2%, pellets, 60min
.125 oz. Willamette, 4.2%, pellets, 30min
.125 oz.Tettnanger, 4.1%, whole, 10min
.125 oz. Tettnanger, 4.1%, whole, KO

Yeast: Collected Thames Valley Ale

It has a nice purple hue to its otherwise pale gold color. There is a faint blueberry scent. All of its flavors are bright and sort of sharp. The hop bitterness may have been a little high. The blueberry flavor is light but definitely present. There is a slight alcohol/metallic taste to it. Overall, its a drinkable beer. I think some wheat or flaked barley could give it a more smooth flavor and mouth-feel. Perhaps the hop flavor and aroma was a little aggressive, and shifting the hop schedule to bittering hops with less aroma would help the blueberry taste and aroma come through more.

1 year later...
An amazing beer. It's carbonation was full and very soft. Similar to the Corn Ale, the overall aroma and flavor was smoothed out but was also much more flavorful. Its sort-of hard to describe. It had a faint aroma of blueberries, and the flavor was super smooth. Absolutely great. I will be aging my current Blueberry 2 for at least 1 year!

Swamp Rat Super IPA

Last year I wanted to brew another IPA for a late summer thirst quencher. The Swamp Rat Super IPA was originally inspired by Dogfish Head's 60 minute IPA. But then it changed drastically into a super charged English/American style. I was trying some new hopping ideas like first wort hops (FWH), and in the end it came out very unexpected...almost strange and out of place.

I really don't get into naming my beers, but entered it into a competition and had to give it one. I was having a hard time with it so I asked my brother what he thought. Right away he suggested a phrase he used for a long time..."swamp rat super...." This meant that what he was describing totally rocked! It was perfect. In fact I think the name suits the beer quite well...not that it rocks, but that it's kind of like a swampy beer.

Swamp Rat Super IPA
6 gallons

Grains (1.066)
4 lbs. Pilsner
4 lbs. 2-Row
3 lbs. Vienna
1.5 lbs. Munich
1.5 lbs. Crystal 10
.5 lb. Flaked Rye

Hops (68 IBU)
2 oz. Cascade, 6%, whole, FWH
1 oz. Galena, 12%, pellets, 60min
1 oz. Goldings, 5%, whole, 30min
1 oz. Goldings, 5%, whole, 5min
1 oz. Goldings, 5%, whole, Dry

Wyeast 1275 - Thames Valley Ale

3 judges at the Schooner Competition gave a very fair and accurate critique on this beer. I think the malt complexity and messy addition of hops contributed to its overall harsh bitterness and blunted edges. Here's what they had to say...

Aroma: Grainy, slight indistinct fruity nose, malt sweetness, faint hops.

Appearance: Copper gold color, cloudiness, persistent thin head.

Flavor: Malt sweetness, then hop bitterness, and harsh finish. Grainy maltiness with balance to the bitter side.
Flavor is rustic, not citrusy with fruitiness restrained.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, mild/medium carbonation, high alcohol presence, with no astringency.

Overall Impression: Good beer, almost no hops in aroma, bittering hops are harsh, no citrus notes, not one I'd drink more than one.

This beer was definitely more experimental. I would keep the grain bill simple choosing a pale or pilsner base. Skip Vienna. Bump up the Crystal to 40 or 60 Lovibond. Either bold rye presence (10%) or none at all. If using FWH, treat it as both the bittering and flavor hop additions, and then add KO and Dry hops. Maybe Goldings was not such a good choice for aggressive IPA hopping. Perhaps a 3C blend or Amarillo might be very nice. I will definitely try a better FWH schedule in the future.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Brief History of Ted's Brews

Here's a chronological listing of all my past beers and mead. Not all of these are full 5 gallon batches. Most of them have a link to a post with their recipe or critique. for the one gallon batch list.

2003 through 2004
Fermented Water (Munton’s Old Ale)
Insignificant Ale (lost somewhere in my memory bank)
Malty Brown Fizzy Water (Edme Red Ale)

Tumultuous Porter
Denny Conn's Rye IPA
Johnny’s Rockin’ Ale
Oatmeal Stout
Holiday Spiced Ale

Munich Helles
Smoked Scottish Ale
Honey Toasted Red Ale
Swamp Rat Super IPA
Sour Corn Ale
Blueberry Ale
Buckwheat Dry Mead
Irish Dry Stout
Downer Brown Ale
Cyser Sweet Mead
Ancient Ale (Old Ale)
Munich Dunkel

Copper Lager
Ginger Peach Lager
Dry Hopped Lager
Citrus Lager

Mild Brown Ale
Czech Pilsner "Boldface Bohemian Pilsner"
Dandelion Wine/Mead
Belgian Pale Ale
Belgian Strong Ale w/ Juniper
Cranberry Champagne
Hop Blend IPA
Matrimony Ale(APA)
Blueberry Wheat Beer
Official NBA
Simcoe 100
Barley Wine
T&C Nut Brown Ale
Hard Cider 2007
Cocoa Porter
Sterling Pearl
Smoked Scottish 2
Cardamom Ginger Beer
Fennel Nettle Ale
Burdock Beer
Fresh Sage Ale

Copper Lager 2
Rauch Bock
Quinoa Lager
Raisin Toast Stout
Fresh Old Ale
ESB vs. American 2 - round 1
ESB vs. American 2 - round 2
ESB vs. American 2 - round 3
Ordinary Bitter
Mint Stout
Sterling Pale Ale
Rhino Rye Beer
Yvonne's Sterling Moon
Sandy Jaywalker IPA
Cascade IPA
Smoked Amber Ale
Blackstrap Root Beer
Rat Bite IPA
Silly Trappist
Belgian Tripel
Blackstrap Root Beer 2
Belgian Blue
Nut Brown Ale 2
Blueberry Oatmeal Stout
Five Flavored Beers
Mint Stout 2
Robust Porter
Holiday Spiced Ale 2
Columbus IPA
Golden Nugget "wet hop" Harvest Ale
Gnome Autumn Red Birch
Old Rasputin Clone
Blackstrap Root Beer 3
Spiced Pumpkin Ale
Nut Brown Ale 3
Copper Lager 3

German Style Pils
Golden Rauchbier
Scottish Ale 70/-
Double Dark Scottish Ale
Scottish Imperial Stout
Royal Ryeness Brown
Palisades Best Bitter
Hooded Sterling APA
Wayward Imperial IPA
Small Beer
Peppercorn Belgian Ale
Belgian Tripel 2
Rhino Rye 2
Split American Ambers
Sunburst Pale Ale
T-90 Chinook Pale Ale
Extra Dark Belgian Abyss
Belgian Tripel 3-Peat
Cocoa & Ancho Chili Smoked Porter
Blackstrap Root Beer
Big Batch Small Beer
Hop Blend IPA 2
Coal Porter
Steelcut Oatmeal Stout
Isaac The Great APA's
Blackstrap Root Beer
Imperial Stout III
Mild Ale

Session 1 Lager
Biscuit Small Beer
Copper Lager #4
Cousin's Brown Ale
Munich Dunkel 2
Cherrywood Smoked Doppelbock
Smoked Session Lager
Daring Pils
American Hefeweizen 1
Columbarillo IPA
A1 & P1
A2 & P2
The Bones Eye IPA

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Going All-Grain

My brother David went to a NOmeansno show back in Spring 2005. After the show, he made his way over to their merch table to see the goods. Among all the albums and t-shirts he found something just a bit unusual…a home made video about making home made beer. Looks like these legendary punk rockers were also big into brewing their own beer! And they were doing it all-grain!

So David bought the video as a bit of a surprise. Its a rad video. It clearly shows the punk rock way to make beer…which is pretty much the same way anyone else would make the stuff, but they’re punk rockers, and infuse the video with their own punk songs about brewing beer. It’s a must see. Oh, the only way you'd see it is to go to their show, or ask me to lend it to you. Thanks to Mr. John Hanson's video, I am now an all-grain brewer.

All-grain brewing totally rocks! The BIG difference is that with all-grain brewing you are in total control of the malt profile (aroma, taste & color) in the finished beer. My experience with malt extract has resulted in a similar “fruity” malt flavor and aroma no matter what style of beer I tried to make. On the contrary, all of the all-grain batches taste completely different, and much closer to what the style calls for. It’s a lot more fun, it requires a better understating of the large variety of malts, and the finished beer tastes loads better.

For our first batch, I decided to go with the recipe they had on the video. Its a light Scottish style, and very simple. This beer came out great!

Johnny's Rockin' Ale
Approx. 4.5%

7.5 lbs. Pale Malt (2-row)
0.5 lbs. Crystal Malt
2.0 oz. Chocolate Malt
2.0 oz. N. Brewer Hops (Pellets), 60min.
Irish Moss & Gypsum
Dry Yeast
Cost: Under $20
(about 30 cents per bottle)

Much like music or art, creative choices implemented within every step of the all-grain procedures provides the opportunity to express myself fully. In the beginning, I had to familiarize myself with it through practice. I was adjusting to the "science" and methodology of it all. After gaining experience with technicalities of many different beer styles, I now understand and appreciate the finer elements/variables. Using the AG method, I'm in total control over how the finished beer will taste. I'm sure bakers, coffee roasters, and other culinary artisans feel similarly. It is really a great feeling. And at this point I see how artistic expression is starting to blend with the practical/scientific element.

AG brewing is surely a more lengthy process, but it's much more fun and rewarding. I especially appreciate the assistance of my brother David and old HS friend Brian Mateja (they are always ready to help out). We're like a team that can easily work through difficulties and tighten productivity. Most of all, the finished beer is usually quite good. Most beers I make don't have outstanding negative traits, but I do have some areas to improve on...mainly malty, hop aroma, and alcoholic presence.

After a couple years of AG brewing, I've become a little more "scientific." It seems to be a natural inclination due to the required attention at every step in the process. After brewing experimental batches, I see how my beers can take on a sort of "artistic" expression. I plan to explore and write about these topics of "science" and "art" as it applies to our beers. I welcome everyone back to read those in the future..

Thanks for checking out my brewing journal. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed putting it together. It's definitely fun writing about brewing in between brewing. I plan on keeping up with it often. I'm also looking forward to changing the scope by periodically adding posts about bread making and fermenting foods such as kimchi, krauts, pickling and kombucha.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Transition to Better Brews

In the last post, I talked about my initial failures, that I'm sure most new homebrewers go through. This post gets into some small transitions into better brews, and the beginning of a more intense interest in brewing my own beer.

By initially, and quite accidentally, venturing into the extremes of beer styles (fizzy brown water and tar-like black sludge) I must have learned more of what NOT-to-do than what to-do when making beer. I definitely didn't want to make any more light fizzy water, nor, slip down into the darkest depths of the scary Goat’s Scrotum/Tumultuous Porter.

Another beer style I wanted to explore was an IPA. After searching online for recipes, I stumbled upon one that looked BIG and complex. It was listed as an all-grain recipe, but I used a partial mash equivalent. It was called DC’s Rye IPA. Little did I know that Denny Conn’s recipe has been brewed by more home brewers than probably any other. I followed the recipe as close as possible, and ended up with something I could proudly say was a fine glass of beer. Most everybody complimented. I remember David and me stringing up huge teabags of grains (looking for a photo that may not exist anymore) and squeezing out every last bit of sweet golden goodness. It fermented like crazy with foam oozing out the blow-off hose like lava from a raging volcano. Using my new 6 gallon primary carboy, it was also the first time I could see what was going on in there. A truly amazing sight. It really looked like it was boiling in there.

It came out to be around 6.2%. It had wonderful body, color and taste. With premature bottling, it also had great carbonation (almost like a Belgian). Great hop bitterness and aroma. Overall it was a dramatic improvement to all my previous attempts. So finally I could say I brewed some quality ale. Thanks Denny Conn for a solid recipe. This success had something to do with learning from past experiences and utilizing a higher proportion of fresh grains and hops.

Better equipment = better beer and lots more fun!...

Two pieces of equipment has made brewing even more enjoyable. The 6 gallon carboy for primary fermentation allows me to see what’s going on in there, and also results in a larger net volume of finished beer. To this day, I’m not sure why most photos of home brewer’s primary and secondary carboys are not filled to the top (maybe someone can answer this). I’ve always filled the primary to the top so that I can fill the secondary to the very top. I pretty much always end up with a full 5 gallons. And I always adjust recipes for 6 gallons cause that’s how much is going into the primary. All-in-all, I love the bigger carboy.

Second is the immersion chiller. Being a bit of a DIYer, I thought it would be fun and challenging to make my own. Ace Hardware had all the parts (coiled copper tubing) and I simply wound the tubing around a rigged large glass bottle. It really makes a HUGE difference...only 15min/pot. Though it wastes a lot of water, it sure saves lots of time. I notice even shorter chill times in the winter when the pipes push through icy cold water. Another thing I learned early on was to preheat the coil before setting it into the boiling pot.

The total success of DC's Rye IPA got me thinking about brewing more beers like this. But, before I could brew again, I already put together an all-grain system. Click here to read about going all-grain.