Friday, August 31, 2007

Barley Wine

I will confess, this was an impulsive batch of first barley wine. I blame it on two brewers who have sparked my interest...or I guess I would say thanks to Brian and Travis. With all your recent talk and brewing of wine-like barley beer, I've decided to follow along. It would be really great to have a tasting of these in 6 months or so. But, what an adventure it was.

On Friday, I was planning on racking the Simcoe 100 to its secondary/dry-hop tank, but instead found myself having lunch with my brother, Becki & Cadence over at Goose Island. I noticed they had a barley wine at over 10% ABV. So I tried my first sip of barley wine. Pretty good. So at that moment, I asked David if he would like to brew one. I told him I already had a huge yeast cake of Wyeast London Ale.

Next thing I know, we're over at the Brew & Grow picking up ingredients for a 3 gallon batch. I formulated the recipe right then and there. We tried to keep with as much British ingredients as possible. After getting home and plugging the ingredients into a calculator, I found out I had just bought enough malts and hops. A close call.

I told David to get here at 8am cause it was going to be a long day. We started the mash at about 8:30am and finished at around 4pm. The boil lasted 4 hours! After 2 hours of boiling, we poured one pot into the larger. At the point where we knew we only had about an hour left, in went the bittering hops.

I was surprised to see that the yeast was having difficulty getting going. Probably because I cooled the wort down in a cool water bath to about 65°F. So later in the day on Monday I took it out, and it started to show signs of digestion. But then the wort rose up to the high side...74-78°F. Bummer. But it will probably turn out just fine. Since fermentation slowed down fairly dramatically by mid day Wednesday, I started a tipping regiment. A couple times a day I angled the 6-gal carboy and turned it to get most of the yeast into solution. Bubbling picks up nicely after tipping.

Barley Wine

10.5 lb. Maris Otter Pale Malt
1.0 lb. Munich Malt 10L
1.0 lb. UK Crystal 60L
.75 lb. Flaked Barley
.25 lb. Belgian Biscuit
.125 lb. Crystal 80L
.125 lb. Special B

3.00 oz. Kent Goldings, 5%, pellets, 75min
0.25 oz. Chinook, 12%, pellets, 60min
1.00 oz. Kent Godlings, 6.5%, whole, 20min
1.00 oz. Kent Goldings, 6.5%, whole, 10min
1.00 oz. Kent Goldings, 5%, pellets, 5min

Wyeast 1028 London Ale, yeast cake from previous batch

Brewday Stats

Brewed: 8/26/07
Racked: around 9/20/07
Bottled: around 10/18/07

Strike Water: 4.83 gal/163.4°F
Mash Temp: 152°F
Mash Ph: Acidic
Mash Out: No
2nd Batch Water: 3gal/192°F
2nd Batch Temp: 168-169°F Perfect!

Pre-Boil Volume: 6 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.061
Total Boil Time: 4:17 hours
Post-Boil Volume: 3.5 gallons

OG: 1.107 (2 points below target)
IBU's: Approx. 123
SRM/Color: 13-18/Amber
FG: 1.027
ABW: 8.4%
ABV: 10.5%

Estimated Mash Efficiency: 73.5%
Cost: $31.50, $0.85/12oz. bottle, $5.10/6-pack


1. Lag time for fermentation was long because I cooled the wort and kept the carboy in a cool water bath at about 64*F
2. Took carboy out of bath, and yeast showed signs of digestion
3. Tuesday it is fermenting well, but on the high side of temperature range. Only about 1-1.5 inch of kraeusen foam
4. Kraeusen fell away by mid-day Wednesday. Since it didn't appear to be as active, and ended sooner than later, I'm a little weary of the gravity at this point. I've been "tipping" the carboy (3.5 gallons wort in a 6 gallon carboy) to break up the whole yeast cake into suspension, and it definitely gets the airlock bubbling again. Did this a couple times a day for a few days.
5. 9/10/07 - After 15 days in primary, and totally quiet, racked to a new 3 gallon secondary fermenter. Specific Gravity (SG) = 1.0267 & ABV = 10.54%. Overall it tastes quite good. Malt sweetness, sweet cherries among other medium-dark fruits. Solid hop bittering & flavor balance which will both age/mellow nicely and benefit from an addition of dry hops during the last month of bulk aging. It has a moderate-strong body and lends to a full mouth-feel. Though I like its texture, I wonder if this will lessen a little with age and after its chilled and carbonated. So good!
6. After hearing Basic Brewing's podcast about blending beers, I am making plans to blend portions of the Old Ale with other beers. I'll definitely blend it with a portion of this Barleywine.
7. At bottling, and after stirring in the priming solution to the carboy, I noticed a layer/pad that was resting on the bottom, broke up and was suspended in the beer. It look very much like a layer of mold. Not knowing what it was, I proceeded to bottle after it settled to the bottom.
8. Didn't add any yeast at bottling and it didn't carbonate. Will add yeast and see if that works. Otherwise, I'm impressed, it smells and tastes great, and is crystal clear.
9. After about 5 weeks, added yeast to all the bottles and they've been sitting in the furnace room above 70°F

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toast to Erik

Yesterday, my friend Erik had a final exam in French. Its a class he's been studying throughout the summer. Later that evening I decided to make a toast to congratulate his achievement. I thought it would only be proper to celebrate with some good champagne. So I opened a 12oz bottle of homemade bubbly.

It turned out to be a fun evening of chatting. Erik arrived in Chicago Monday evening, and Erik's Jeanie flew in that evening. It was nice to play a little catch-up, after our baby fell fast asleep. Here you can see Erik is deep in thought but totally relaxed and free, and Jeannie admiring it's lovely color.

This was an impulsive batch of fermented juice. After racking the Belgian Strong Ale, I simply could not let all that great performing yeast go to waste. So I looked around for something to ferment. In the pantry was a 64oz. bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, and in the refrigerator was about 32 ounces of TJ's Organic White Grape Juice.

After sterilizing a 4 liter flask fermenter, I just poured everything in and gave it a good swish. It started to ferment in good time, and fizzed for a few weeks. After about a month I transferred it to secondary for clearing.

What started out as a vibrant pinkish-red colo
red must, transformed into a medium yellow with a slight blush in the round of the glass. It seems like the yeast somehow absorbed all the pigment from the juice because it was pink sludge in the end. This was a total experiment. I am very pleased to find it was a total success. It tastes very tart and dry, and very much like a robust champagne. I gave it some priming sugar to build up bubbly in the bottle. In the end I got a couple 22oz and a number of 12oz bottles. It's exciting to know that I have some good homemade champagne to use in celebratory occasions like this one.

Felicitations Erik!

Merci de lire ce blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

5 Label Designs

For a wedding gift to Lauren & Doug, David and I designed and framed a label/poster for the Matrimony Ale. We kept with the theme and font they used in the invitation. After playing around with an initial design, utilizing a fabric pinstripe from the invitation, David finally came up with something quite good. I like finding old frames from thrift stores to put art and beer labels into. So when I found this simple wooden frame, I knew it would be perfect. We even utilized the border from the picture that was in the frame for matting. Here is an image file and photo of Lauren holding the actual piece.

Recently, I design my own label for the Simcoe 100 Amber Ale. I did it in a Word document. And then Sarah helped me get it into a GIF form. It's a simple concept, and something to work off of. I like oval shapes for labels.

In order to write this post, I asked David if he kept the designs for a few ales made a couple years ago. He actually found one that goes way back to 2002. A beer that was supposedly called Old Amber Ale. I have a feeling this was what I referred to as "Fermented Water" in an past post . It's too bad such a great label was made for such a sissy beer. Maybe we can use this label design for the Ancient Ale/Old Ale, or for a Scottish Ale in the future.

For our first all-grain batch, and in honer of Nomeansno/John Wright, we brewed Johnny's Rockin' Ale. We simply made a dog-tag for this one. I love it's textured lettering, and simple looks.

For a x-mas gift in 2005, we brewed up a bold beer called Holiday Spiced Ale. I was in charge of building the malt profile that would be strong and sweet to balance the assertive spiciness we were going for. I also chose hops that lean towards spiciness. Since he was becoming well versed with various spices while making home-made chai teas, David was in charge of building up a spice blend. In the end the gravity made it into the 60's and 2 baseball sized tea-infusers were packed with freshly diced ginger and a long list of spices. To my surprise, my parents still have their bottle sitting in the frig...see photo. I'm very happy they didn't drink it, cause I think it will definitely mellow even more and be simply amazing in another year or two. Maybe I can coax them into giving me that bottle for X-mas this year. It was a great beer. The label design for this one was a ribbon collar with an oval paper label glued at the crossing point.

Thanks for taking a look at my beer labels. Can you tell, David is a professional graphic designer. I really appreciate all the effort he put into them. And I had a great time helping out with ideas. Don't they look fantastic?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Simcoe 100

I've heard good things about Simcoe hops. Its a varietal I've never used before. Thanks to a exceedingly successful IPA (Hop Blend IPA), and a good APA (Matrimony Ale), I'm going through a hop kick this summer. I figure now is as good as any to become familiar with a handful of hops that can be used heavily in beer styles that showcase them.

"Simcoe 100" will be a deep colored, BIG amber ale in the realm of 8%. Exclusively hopped with Simcoe, it will reach a level of 100 IBU's. That's a BU-GU ratio of about 1.22, and with a high Alpha Acid percentage, the flavor and aroma should come out bold and beautiful.

In comparison to the Hop Blend IPA, I expect this beer to be bigger in all areas. Bigger malt sweetness, bigger body, more residual sugars, strong head retention, fuller hop bitterness, huge hop flavor and aroma, and a deeper amber color.

The OG came out 10 points higher than expected. This also happened with the yeast starter brewed for this batch. I'm not really experienced with how malt extract effects the gravity of a wort. I suppose there is a rating for various malt extracts. Strange how all-grain brewing is much easier in this department.

Its out of the ordinary for me to get creative and design labels for my beers. Something about this one mysteriously propelled me to do so. Now I have to figure out a way to get it from...don't laugh...a word document, onto the web. David...can you help me? Well, Sarah was able to do it. Thank you dear. The ABV in on the label isn't correct, cause I didn't know it at the time of designing it. Just mentally input 8.6% in that little white oval.

Simcoe 100

4 lbs. Alexander's Pale Liquid Malt Extract
5 lbs. 2-Row Pale Malt
.25 lb. Crystal 40L
.5 lb. Crystal 60L
.25 lb. Special B
.25 lb. CaraPils

1.4 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 105min
.90 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 20min
.90 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 5min
.90 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, KO
2.0 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, DRY

Wyeast 1028: London Ale, slurry from 1 gallon batch

Brew Day Stats

Brew Day: 8/14/07
Secondary: 8/26/07
Bottled: 9/18/07

Water Adjustment: 1 gallon distilled, .75 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp CaCl, pinch of salt

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.45 qts/lb
Mash Ph: acidic (ph papers didn't change color)
Sacch Rest Time: 1 hour
Sacch Rest Temp: 153°F
Mash Out Temp: 162°F - low again

2nd Batch Sparge: 2.5 gallons at 182°F
2nd Batch Temp: 166°F- low again

Pre-Boil Vol: 5 gallons
Pre-Boil SG w/o extract: 1.038
Boil Time: 1:30 hours
Post Boil Vol: 4.25 gallons

OG: 1.084
IBU: 100
Color/SRM: 15-18
Mash Efficiency: Approx. 94.2% (Gravity from extract may influence)
FG: 1.0184
ABW: 6.88%
ABV: 8.61%

Fermentation Temp: 74°F
Cost: $31.61, $.71/12oz., $4.26/6-pack


1. Showed activity, and layer of early foam by night fall
2. Progressed activity next morning
3. Great activity with very thick foam later in the day Wednesday
4. Scent from airlock is a wonderful myriad of fruits, flowers, pine
5. One week later, fermentation has slowed way down. There are still bubbles rising, so I'll let it go some more.
6. 8/26/07 - Transfered to secondary over 2 ounces of Simcoe pellets with an SG of around 1.023 (approx.8%)
7. Tasting at racking revealed a a sweet fruity taste. Sort-of an unbalanced flavor.
8. Bottled 9/18/07 and was delayed a few days because the carboy still look a tad bit active
9. 2 Bottles got a small dose of Cascade cones
10. On 10/4/07 the CO2 level is still a little low, so I'm continuing to turn the bottles.
11. At 2 weeks this beer is FULL of flavor, quite complex, very fruity, good mouthfeel, aromatic, and with a masked alcoholic strength. The deep amber/red color is simply beautiful.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Official N.B.A.

24 hours have gone by and one gallon of yeast starter is fermenting very well right now. It's really a very small batch of beer. This time I'm experimenting with moderate-high usage of Northern Brewer hops. Since the recent brewing of a darn good APA and IPA, I wanted to try using different hops in higher IBU's. The yeast slurry from this batch will go into a 4 gallon batch..."Simcoe 100," a strong amber ale with very strong hops.

It's about half all-grain and extract. Since my coffee carafe "mini-masher" can only handle about a pound of malt, I had to perform two consecutive mashes. Each mash lasted about 45 minutes and took about 15 minutes to batch sparge three times. I made up the rest with amber DME. In the end the gravity turned out high by about 10 points! I thought it was more important to boil it down to the right final volume. So the bittering hops may be contributing more IBU's..

After primary fermentation, a taste sample will dictate how much dry hops to use. I definitely want to go big with the aroma on this one. My prediction is that this hop will result in a more "grassy" and "earthy" taste and aroma. We'll see.

Though its coming out more brown than amber, I'm still calling it the "Official N.B.A."

Official N.B.A.
Brewed 8/7/07
1.25 gallon

Malts (OG 1.062)
.65 lb. Munton's Amber DME
1.5 lb. 2-Row Malt
.20 lb. Crystal 60L
.13 lb. CaraFoam
.05 lb. Chocolate Malt

Hops (IBU 62)
.30 oz. Northern Brewer, 8.5%, whole, 90min
.20 oz. Northern Brewer, 8.5%, whole, 15min
.20 oz. Northern Brewer, 8.5%, whole, 5min
.20 oz. Northern Brewer, 8.5%, whole, KO
.20 oz. Northern Brewer, 8.5%, whole, Dry (more or less)

Wyeast 1028: London Ale


1. Racked to secondary 8/14/07
2. Aroma at racking time was absolutely wonderful, and I almost wanted to just let it be. But I gotta go through with the plans. Since the hops already did great things, a little more can't hurt.
3. Bottled on 8/31/07. Two bottles got a bunch of Northern Brewer whole hops in the bottle, and to be drunk within 2 weeks. Looking forward to see how "cask conditioned" I can get my bottled beer.
4. Overall this beer came out pretty bold. Please read about my assessment of Northern Brewer Hops.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Here is a response to a question from fellow brewer/blogger Travis in Syracuse, NY. In my post about the Matrimony Ale, I talked about how the mash Ph was "bi-polar." I would take Litmus tests before and after additions of gypsum (Calcium Sulfate...calcium ions help to lower the mash Ph). Every time I'd add it, I'd get an acidic reading. Then after about 10 minutes, the litmus strip showed up red again...basic.

All-grain brewing requires one critical and initial step...the MASH. Its where all the grains are mixed with hot water, and allowed to rest at a given temperature for about an hour. During this "saccharification" period, enzymes in the malted barley grains become active and convert grain starches into food for yeast...fermentable sugars!

The mash can either be looked at simply, or more complex. In its simplest form, mixing hot water with grains will most likely result in a fermentable wort. How "fermentable" is the question.

In it's complexity, the mash is a sensitive thing. There are many variables contributing to the overall efficiency and activity of the grain's enzymes. The main variables are temperature, grain bill, acidity/mash Ph, and alkalinity.

I really like how John Palmer covers this topic in his book How to Brew.

Here in Chicago, I've noticed that my mashing come out fairly acidic. So their really isn't much I need to do to the water. When I dilute it with distilled water, in order to lower the Bicarbonates for certain styles, then the mash Ph will turn basic because the level of Calcium is also diluted. In this case I figure out how much Gypsum or Calcium Chloride to add in order to bring the Ph down/more acidic.

How much to add? It's not a matter of where the Ph will be. I look at the level of Sulfates or Chlorides that is more appropriate for a particular style. If I want more hop presence...more Gypsum. If I want more maltiness...more CaCl2.

Chicago Water Profile:
New York Water Profile:

In an Excel spreadsheet, I add to the base water (sometimes base is diluted w/ distilled) profile incremental additions of salts to get close to a profile that aids in the production of specific regional styles. A good gram scale helps in measuring salts on brew day, or simple measuring spoons will to just fine. Ever since I've been tinkering with salts and diluting with Distilled, I've noticed that the overall beer taste has gotten better...or at least more distinct.

Travis, if your water in Syracuse, NY is like the above example, you have a pretty darn good water profile. Fairly soft with low Bicarbonates...great starting point for all styles. You can definitely make some great pale lagers! If you are reading levels that are too basic, you will definitely need to add some Gypsum or Calcium Chloride (or combo) or acids/acid-malt to increase the level of Calcium Ions in the mix. Just try it, take litmus readings, and note any differences compared to a beer with more, less or no minerals with a similar malt bill.

Overall, I think its important to get into the habit of checking mash Ph every time you brew. Not so that it can be corrected in the moment, but it will provide good information when planning upcoming brews.

Calculating efficiency is kind-of complex. There are a lot of factors that play a role, and I'd say too many to narrow in on just one right away. Part of it is getting the gravity readings correct and pre&post boil volumes correct. As far as Ph litmus strip readings are concerned, it's important to take the reading at a cool/room temperature. Also, I'm under the impression that it takes a little while for the Ph of the mash to settle as well.

In the very end, if your iodine conversion test comes out positive, then sparge away! I have noticed that some conversions were much more "sticky" than others, but haven't recorded which ones. It's happened a number of times, and I'll take better notes next time it happens.

Not sure if I've helped any. But I think its worth getting into. Eventually we'll make sense of all this. In the mean time, the beer tastes great, and I'm not too worried.