Friday, July 27, 2007

Gravity Math

Since the equations (really just a couple numbers) aren't ingrained in my head, this is a quick place to go to for recalling ABW and ABV mathematics using a beer's gravity readings.

Original Gravity (how much dissolved sugar is in the wort)
Final Gravity (the specific gravity after fermentation)

Alcohol by Weight (percentage weight of alcohol per volume of beer, approx. 20% less than ABV)
Calculate ABW
(subtract FG from OG and multiply by 105)
ABW example:
(1.054 - 1.013) x 105 = 4.31%

Alcohol by Volume (Alcohol content as a proportion of the total volume of a liquid)
Calculate ABV (multiply ABW by 1.25)
ABV example:
4.31 x 1.25 = 5.38%

But now after working it out here, I think I'll remember next time. If not...its right here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dark Triad

Three dark beers have been sitting together in the basement since the holidays. They were together for a reason. I wanted to taste two of mine along with a commercial beer. Finally the opportunity presented itself. One evening (July 13th), David and I had nothing better to do than sit around and sample beer.

Within the triad, the only thing in common was their color...jet black. Some of the basic flavors found in very dark beers were in all three, but their personalities presented the flavors in very different ways.

Thanks David for a fun tasting, and your notes. Here's the details for each beer. If anyone would like to see the recipes for the first two, please let me know. You're on your own for the third. I have one bottle left of the Dry Stout, and a small handful of Schwartzbier hanging around.

Classic Dry Stout
OG 1.043
ABV 3.75%

Look: Black, medium tan fine head builds and slowly diminishes to a steady ring around the collar
Nose: Chocolate
Taste: Pleasant bitterness with chocolate upfront, then the carbonation effect rushes over bringing somewhat complexity of roast flavors, and ends dry
Aftertaste: Long lasting taste, finishes dry and clean
Overall: Using a classic/standard recipe and a fairly low OG (1.043), it came out pretty good. A little assertive with roast flavors. It's a smaller beer acting like a big one, so one is enough.

OG 1.052
ABV 5%

Look: Black, fine lighter tan head with staying power
Nose: Smokey, dry roast and toast aromas, and roasted cacao
Taste: Sweetness coming from Munich and dark malts, then moves into a smooth bitterness and finishes with moderate roast flavors and a touch of smoke. The smoke character was very prominent after 2 weeks in the bottle and has been mellowing over time.
Aftertaste: Sweeter roast flavors
Overall: Good beer, and a bit full in flavor, and almost tastes like a Baltic Porter. A little high on carbonation. Can drink a couple...slowly.

Bison - Organic Chocolate Stout
OG 1.058
ABV 6.1%

Look: Black, fine tan head very much like the Classic Dry Stout
Nose: Chocolate
Taste: Smooth and silky chocolate then in & out layers of roast. Following is a definite chocolaty flavor and there's a mild malty sweetness throughout.
Aftertaste: Smooth & silky
Overall: Easy to drink & very enjoyable, and with such a high alcohol percentage it's very impressive. Perhaps the low IBU's (17) have something to do with the smoothness too.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Melding Belgian Beer & Mexican Food

There's absolutely no rules when it comes to pairing food with good home brewed beer. I'm not exactly sure why I served Mexican food with my summertime Belgian beer, but I think I was just craving them both. They actually paired pretty well.

The Belgian Pale Ale is smooth and simple. It has a malty sweetness and candy-like taste coming from the Indian Jaggery cane sugar. The bitterness level is low and the carbonation is soft. All this combined makes it a very drinkable beer. Everyone came back around for a second glass, and had their fill.

Thank you to my wife Sarah, David and my Mom for helping out with making the delicious dishes. Thank you also to those who brought other tasty foods. We had a nice spread of salsas and dips...a black bean & jack cheese dip, classic chunky salsa, Sarah's famous guacamole, roasted tomatilla salsa, and a spicy/creamy dip.

Thank you to everyone who came out last night. You all helped me to do something I'd never done brew a batch for mass consumption. With a goal of downing 5 gallons, 17 of us did manage to drink a total of 2.45 gallons. I'm impressed.

It was so much fun. I will definitely do this again.

One last thank you to Sarah for taking some photos.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Blueberry 2

This past weekend I got the place to myself. It would have been totally awesome to be with my wife and baby at the Pitchfork Festival. But, I did have lots of brewing things to do. At least I got to see Sonic Youth have a rockin good time playing their Daydream Nation set on Friday night.

Saturday after work I had to bottle the
Hop Blend IPA in order to make room for the Matrimony Ale on Sunday. I took advantage of a still and quiet house and bottled the Belgian Strong Dark Ale as well. Since that one was in 3 separate secondary jugs, I decided to use a piece of equipment little used for bottling. The bottling bucket...a bucket I only use for mixing grains, sterilizing hoses and bottles and stuff, and sometimes as a hot liquor sparge water tank. Bottling went well, and these beers taste pretty darn good.

Sunday was the day to rack the Matrimony Ale to secondary. So I decided to brew a beer to pour right over the yeast cake in the primary carboy. I knew I wanted to do a fruit beer. Blueberries like last year? Raspberries? Passion fruit? I did some research and shopping round. Since Trader Joe's was selling 2 lb boxes of big plump and ripe blueberries for a very reasonable price, I had to go with them.

Last year's experimental
Blueberry Ale had a very light malt base with very little crystal and no wheat. This time, for some reason, my confidence is up and I brewed a large batch. I wanted to go with a solid wheat percentage with enough sweetening support from a few crystal malts. I also thought some citrusy hops would pair well, and since Amarillo also has a fruity character, I used it for the aroma addition.

Brewing went very well, and I got good stats. Check out the recipe and stats below. I got only two photos of the rinsed and dried blueberries laid out right before freezing on Wednesday.

Blueberry 2
4.25 gallons (w/ blueberries...could be more in the end!)

4.00 lbs. 2-Row Pale Malt
1.75 lb. Wheat Malt
1.00 lb. Flaked Wheat
1.00 lb. 6-Row Pale Malt
6.00 oz. Crystal 40L
2.30 oz. Crystal 60L

1.75 oz. Special B

.50 oz. Amarillo, 8.7%, whole, bittering
.25 oz. Cascade, 7.6%, whole, bittering
.30 oz. Amarillo, 8.7%, whole, 5min-aroma

4.00 lbs. Fresh Blueberries, hand squeezed, in wort at 140*F
4.00 lbs. Fresh Blueberries, hand squeezed, in 2nd half of primary

Wyeast American Ale, large yeast cake from previous batch

Brewday Stats

Salts added to boil: 1/2 tsp Gypsum, 1/8 tsp Calcium Chloride

Mash Temp: 155*F
Mash Time: 1 hour
Mash-out Temp: 162 (always comes out low?)

1st Batch Gravity: 1.060
2nd Batch Gravity: 1.025
Preboil Gravity: 1.043

Original Gravity w/o blueberries: 1.054 (1 point over target)
Approx. IBU: 29
Color/SRM: 15-20 (with fruit)

Brewhouse efficiency: Approx. 75%
Cost: $35.76, $4.74/6-pack, $0.79/12oz bottle


1. I went out to catch a movie right after brewing, and when I got home there were bubbles coming out of the blow-off hose. I then retired for the night at around 10PM. In the morning there was a steady, but fairly slow bubbling. And now as I post this entry, the bubbling seems to be slowing way down. Not sure what's happening here. Either there was enough yeast to chew through everything throughout the night, or it got stuck for some reason. I suppose a gravity check will answer this.
2. A gravity check on Tuesday evening did informed me that the wort finished fermenting, and was settling down. This marks the shortest fermentation of all my brewings. Done overnight! WOW that's fast. And it tastes ok.
3. I added the second round of blueberries on Tuesday night. 4 more pounds of plump blueberries squeezed into a thick pulp. This second addition started to ferment within an hour, and continued for about a day.
4. Periodically, as I walk past the boiler room, I give the carboy a light swirl because the blueberries have a strong propensity to float above the surface. Because the boiler room is halfway down the hallway, its easy to remember.
5. Racked to secondary on July 27th. The color is simply amazing. Looks more like wine than beer. The color of the base beer was probably around 9, but now with all the crushed blueberries its more like 15-20. So far so good. Looking forward to tasting it when its done.
6. I think the photos below totally rock. I love the colors and the way the blueberries look all funky. The whole blueberries that managed to slip through my fingers while hand crushing rested on top of the layer of pulp. Thank you my dear for taking these.
7. Bottled on July 31st. It's color is amazing. It tastes very good. Clean, light, with great blueberry taste and aroma. There was a sort of awkward lager/6-row malt flavor that has since vanished. There is a very nice soft acidity too. I wanted enough carbonation to hold a head for a little while (which should turn out reddish-purple) so the 4oz. of priming sugar should bring the CO2 volume to about 2.65.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Matrimony Ale

There's not a better reason to brew a beer than for a grand occasion such as my sister's wedding. I am so happy for Lauren and Doug. I'm looking forward to celebrating with them on their wedding day. I'm also happy to brew up a batch of summer time pale ale for the occasion.

They are planning a morning ceremony and an early formal reception. After the reception our parents are hosting an after-party at their house. I will be brewing American Pale Ale for the after-party festivities.

It's going to be very bright, and hoppy. It will have a sweetness but will also have an attenuated dryness. Hop bitterness will come from Centennial. Hop flavors will come from a blend of Centennial and Cascade. Hop aroma will come from Cascade. A tasting at racking time will determine if this beer will get dry hops.

So we got around to brewing this beer yesterday morning. A record start time a little after 8AM. The advantage is we're done by yearly afternoon. The drawback is our lunchtime...Jimmy John Subs arrived right when we were in the heat of the boil. Usually Sarah brings subs home before the boil, and we get to take shifts eating and watching the boil.

One strange occurrence was a bi-polar mash Ph. Lately I've been getting low mash Ph's. So this time I decided to go let the mash go without any Gypsum. The night before I diluted Chicago water by half with distilled. About 10 minutes into the mash the litmus test displayed a high Ph around 5.8-6.2. Then I added a half teaspoon of gypsum and the Ph read very acidic. A little later it read again around 5.8. Added a little more and it read very acidic. Then it read around 5.6-5.8. Added another half teaspoon, and it read very acidic. Then again it read around 5.6-5.8. Surprisingly, the mash didn't lose much heat, but I decided to just leave it alone. Especially because the iodine conversion test was positive. After diluting the water in half with distilled, I also added .5 tsp of gypsum per gallon, to give the water enough calcium and sulfates for a good hop presence.

Lastly, we decided to stagger the hop additions for both kettles. I really don't like adding finishing hops to both kettles at the same time, because while one kettle is cooling the other one is still ridiculously hot. So those late addition and knockout hops are really becoming flavor hops. So staggering 20 minutes helps.

Amidst all the commotion in the kitchen, I totally forgot to take gravity readings, so there's no stats for this beer. I can only approximate the ABV to be about 4.8%, and the IBU's to be around 53.

Matrimony Ale
(an American pale ale)
6 gallons

9 lbs. American 2-Row
.75 lb. American Crystal 40L
.25 lb. British Crystal 60L
.25 lb. Belgian Biscuit Malt
.5 lb. CaraPils

1.13 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellets, 60min
.25 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellets, 20min
.5 oz. Cascade, 7.6%, whole, 20min
.75 oz. Cascade, 7.6%, whole, 5min
.75 oz. Cascade, 7.6%, whole, KO

Wyeast 1056 American Ale
Pitched about .3 quart slurry from the Hop Blend IPA

Fermentation got going in record time. It was fairly active within 3 hours, and started blowing off within 6 hours. I've got it in a cold water bath inside the 10 gallon mashtun. This morning the inside and outside liquid temperatures equalized right at about 68*F. I will slowly raise the temp towards the end of primary fermentation to get some final attenuation. The yeast was pitched at around 1:30PM, and these photos were taken just after 6:30PM. The fermented beverages in the boiler room are Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Hop Blend IPA, Ardennes Cranberry Wine, and this Matrimony Ale.