Friday, May 30, 2008

I Remember When I Started Home Brewing...Sort-of

Today is the day I get to reflect on the past, about how I got started with this wonderfully complex hobby of creating home brewed beer. This post was inspired by Adam's invitation at his beer blog...Beer Bits 2. Be sure to visit his site to read about how more bloggin brewers got their start.

It was many years ago, when what I did, was largely influenced by what my two older brothers were doing. I followed them in skateboarding, music, clothes, playing music, a straight-edge vegetarian lifestyle, and much more. Charles first brewed his own batches with a starter kit he got as a wedding gift. Guess what? After I saw what he was doing, I had to try in myself.

That's about it. I bought my first extract kit and starter equipment for our LHBS. Looking back, I find it funny that it was such a perplexing thing, where I had to read and re-read the instructions many times over, before brewing. It turned out to be a very simple process. After the first batch fermented and was bottled and conditions, upon drinking, it pretty much sucked. I find it amazing I kept up with it, especially because there was a pretty long hiatus due to significantly insufficient cash inflows at the time. In other words I was totally broke.

Over the years, I've been able to brew more and more....and more. Graduating from extract/steeped beers to all-grain has proved to be a huge improvement in the quality of each beer. There was much more distinguishable differences in taste from one beer to the next. Then fine tuning the all-grain process by limiting off flavors at every stage has further increased the satisfaction in clarity and taste.

But this is a post about how it got started, and I think the beginnings were much like any other new brewer out there. It was beer, and it was rewarding to make it myself. There were lots of new things to learn, and that was exciting. As I got a better feel of it and how additional ingredients could make a better extract based beer, I looked around for as many recipes as I could find for a particular style, and bought commercial examples to further educate my palate. Eventually my beers became much more flavorful and enjoyed by my brothers and peers.

In the end, it was all worth it. Starting this blog has also been fun and rewarding, because it allows me to keep in touch with a bunch homebrewers new & old all over the place. I pretty much use it to document all of my batches with some occasional brewing topics and stories. Please read more about my yearly homebrewing days in an entry posted long ago called Malty Brown Fizzy H2O.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yvonne's Sterling Moon

My good friend Yvonne loves lagers. She's tried many ales, but always returns to the refreshing crisp taste of full flavored lager beers. She doesn't buy those sissy watered down American versions, but usually finds a number of imports superiorly satisfying. I have yet to introduce her to some great local and regional brands.

Yvonne wants a batch of homebrew to share with her friends and neighbors, and since I'm out of lager season, we've decided to go with yet another pale Sterling ale. Sterling is a hop variety with smooth citrus and soft fruit flavors and a wonderful floral aroma that makes it perfect for bountiful late hop additions. It's like a full flavored version of Saaz, and really can't be overdone. Since it does have both Hallertau and Saaz qualities, it makes a pale ale (fermented at cooler temps) taste very lager-like.

As I write this, I was thinking about Sam Adam's Imperial Pilsener. It had a ton of Hallertau hops, to the point where it was a bit too cutting and harsh. I could see brewing a version of this by blending Hallertau with some Sterling to smooth it out some. Anyways...

Below is a recipe for Yvonnes' lager-like pale ale. She enjoyed the Sterling Pearl, and her Sterling Moon is slightly sweeter and lighter in hops. I really like the mix of malts...a little pilsener to lighten it, yet a generous percentage of pale crystals for sweetening the malt taste. The hop blends should lend some complexity to the otherwise straightforward Sterling taste and aroma. Very pale and clean, which should become crystal clear as it conditions.

In the end this will be the perfect beer to enjoy out on a beach veranda on a warm summer evening as the sun sets and warm gentle breeze sweeps in over crashing Lake Michigan waves, while the bright full moon steadily shows off it's sterling beauty glistening off crest tops towards a vanished Eastern horizon.

Yvonne's Sterling Moon

5.0 lbs. Organic 2-row Pale
2.0 lbs. Belgian Pils
.75 lbs. Crystal 20L
.50 lbs. Crystal 10L
.20 lbs. Aromatic
.20 lbs. Biscuit

0.50 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 60min
0.75 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 25min
0.50 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 15min
0.20 oz. Amarillo, 8.9%, whole, 15min
0.60 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 5min
0.45 oz. Vanguard, 4,8%, pellet, 5min
1.25 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 0min

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (yeast cake)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 5/29/08
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 6/13/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike...1.5 tsp Gypsum, .75 tsp acid blend
Mash out...distilled (1.43 gal)
2nd Sparge....75 tsp gypsum, .75 tsp CaCl

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.4 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 166°F/10min
1st Batch vol/SG: 3.25gal/1.055

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 3.25gal/185°F/172°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.024

Pre-Boil Vol: 6.5
Pre-Boil SG: 1.040
Boil Time: 90min
Post-Boil Vol: 5 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 80%

OG: 1.050
IBU: 36
Color/SRM: Straw-Golden/5-6
Ferment Temp: 65-72°F

FG: 1.011
ABW: 4.1%
ABV: 5.1%


1. The stats came out exactly as expected...mash temp and pH, evaporation, gravities...absolutely great!
2. This wort smells and tastes light and fresh, as opposed to some worts that taste much more bitter and heavy.
3. Showed signs of fermenting within 30 minutes, and foam building after just 1 hour.
4. Luckily we have a dip in temperature this evening when most of the fermentation will take place. After that, its not so critical that the temp go up.
5. I have a strong feeling about the quality of this beer, and I'm sure Yvonne will love it.
6. The final gravity came out nice and low at 1.011. Should come out fairly dry, and with mild bittering, it may be too drinkable, but perfect for summer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rhino Rye Beer

I needed to brew something quick. There are two carboys ready to rack, and yeast ready to ferment again. I've got a friend's beer scheduled for Tuesday, but thought I'd get one in before then. Was looking around for inspiration, when low and behold, there's some right around the corner. Kevin just brewed a batch that looks quite tasty for the upcoming warmer months. A pale ale with lots of rye and what looks like some smooth and easy hopping. I've been wanting to play around with a pale rye ale for some time now, so it seems perfect.

Kevin used rye malt. I wanted to use the malted product as well, but none was to be found at our LHBS. This created a pretty big brain freeze, and initiated some spontaneous creative thought. I'll going with 30% flaked rye. Just a small addition of sweet/aromatic malts should help with balance.

A few more things should make this beer different than other pale ales. Half a pound of Turbinado cane sugar may add dryness. Orange peel and Grains of Paradise will add complexity to the citrus hop notes, and a secret spiciness. These special additions should play well with fairly bold hopping of Cluster and Mt. Hood. After its finished, some dry hops will provide a kiss of delightful hop aroma.

As I wrap up with this post, I noticed under two hours after being exposed to a massive yeast cake, a mountain of foam is already steadily gushing out form a vigorous ferment. Absolutely fantastic! I also noticed two differences about this rye wort. 1. It had a milky cloudiness to it, and didn't seem to produce hot break or cold break protein coagulation. 2. It had a thick sort-of syrupy texture. I hope it clears up after fermentation, and perhaps it may have a decent mouthfeel. That might be nice considering the color is super pale.

Rhino Rye Beer

6.0 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
3.0 lbs. Flaked Rye
.50 lbs. Crystal 10L
.25 lbs. Aromatic
.50 lbs. Organic Turbinado, 15min

1.0 oz. Cluster, 7.9%, pellet, 60min
.25 oz. Cluster, 7.9%, pellet, 25min
.50 oz. Mt. Hood, 5.2%, pellet, 25min
.35 oz. Sweet Orange Peel, 15min
.25tsp. Grains of Paradise, crushed, 5min
.50 oz. Cluster, 7.9%, pellet, KO
.50 oz. Mt. Hood, 5.2%, pellet, KO
.35 oz. Cluster, 7.9%, pellet, Dry
.40 oz. Mt. Hood, 5.2%, pellet, Dry

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (yeast cake)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 5/23/08
Racked: 6/7/08
Bottled: around 6/23/08

Water Adjustment: .25 tsp acid blend, .25 tsp gypsum...protein rest
.5 tsp acid blend, 1 tsp gypsum, .5 tsp CaCl...sacch rest
1 tsp gypsun, .5 tsp CaCl...2nd sparge

Protein Rest: 128°F/.75 qt/lb
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152°F/1 hr
Mash Out Temp/Time: 164°F/15min
1st Batch SG: 1.059

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 3gal/182°F/169°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.028

Pre-Boil Vol: 6.125
Pre-Boil SG: 1.043
Boil Time: 80 min
Post-Boil Vol: 5 gal
Mash Efficiency: 79.4%

OG: 1.060
IBU: 42
Color/SRM: Pale Gold-Straw/6
Ferment Temp: 65-70°F

FG: 1.008
ABW: 5.46%
ABV: 6.8%

Tasting Notes & Mugshot

Appearance: Pale yellow, pretty clear, nice white head with little lacing
Aroma: Full yet soft floral aroma with orange malt and rye in the nose, sweet scent
Taste: A good balance between bitterness and malt sweetness...not the crystal kind, rye sharpness, good bitterness, and an almost English bitter-sweet yet dry taste
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with smooth carbonation
Aftertaste: Clean and smooth, some hop bitterness that's a bit difficult to describe...perhaps a result of generous gypsum
Drinkability: Very drinkable pale rye beer and great balance overall. Could enjoy a number of them easily. Quite refreshing. The sugar did seem to dry the taste, and reminds me of how imported English bitter pale ales taste, especially The Black Sheep Ale.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sterling Pale Ale

Everyone was really impressed with the late hopped Sterling Pearl. It tasted so fresh and vibrant! With no additions longer than 20 minutes, it had a smooth and mild bittering with loads of hop flavor and aroma. I liked it so much that I'll make some minor alterations and give it another go. This kegged version will probably be consumed in record time, after all my fellow crew members have at it. An outdoor, Spring-time shindig with pot-luck, good friends, and fresh beer is just what we all need! Mmmmm...Good!

The biggest difference in this version will be the yeast and a small bittering hop addition. The vigorous late hopping in the Sterling Pearl was big and fresh, but it didn't have quite the bite that I'd like. I will also try out a sort-of continuous hopping by adding all the late hops in 5 minute intervals...see the schedule below.

American Ale 1056 will ferment this pale ale, and hopefully I can keep the temperature below 70°F. I like how the Northwest Ale strain, fermented at around 62°F, gave the Sterling Pearl a refreshing lager-like taste.

Originally it was going to be a normal 6 gallon batch. Since its being brewed for a large group of beer thirsty co-workers and friends, there's no reason not to brew more. I've got the hops, so why not use them? This time I'll go for a volume record of 9 gallons. This should take my system very close to its maximum output. I think it will be well worth it, and ensure that absolutely everyone will get to have some.

I must send out a big thanks to Isaac for helping out the whole day, and to Kyle, Nathan & Fischer for assistance in the beginning. After adding the mash-out water, there was only about ½ - ¾ gallon of space left in the mash-tun. Should be able to take the system to 10-12 gallons, with the batch sparge method. I suppose fly sparging would result in much larger batches. I guess thats one good reason to fly.

Sterling Pale Ale

14.0 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
1.15 lbs. Crystal 20L
0.75 lbs. Organic Crystal 60L
1.00 lbs. Flaked Barley
0.50 lbs. Belgian Biscuit
0.25 lbs. Belgian Aromatic

1.00 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 60min
1.25 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 25min
1.00 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 20min
1.25 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 15min
1.00 oz. Cluster, 7.9%, pellet, 10min
1.25 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 5min
1.00 oz. Perle, 7.9%, pellet, KO
1.50 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, KO

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (decanted from a 2 quart starter, then made into 1 cup krausen)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 5/12/08
Racked: just primary
1/2 Kegged: 5/23/08
1/2 Bottled & Kegged:

Water Adjustment:
Strike: 1.6 tsp Gypsum, 1.4 tsp CaCl, 1 tsp Epsom, 1.5 tsp Acid Blend
2nd Sparge: 1.6 tsp Gypsum, 1.4 tsp CaCl, 1 tsp Epsom

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 153°F/1hr
Mash Out Vol: 2.5 gal
Mash Out Temp/Time: 173°F/20min
1st Batch SG: 1.061

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 5 gal/175°F/169°F
2nd Batch SG: n/a

Pre-Boil Vol: 11 gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.049
Boil Time: 90min
Post-Boil Vol: approx. 8.5 gal
Mash Efficiency: n/a

OG: n/a...approx. 1.057-1.064
IBU: approx. 45
Color/SRM: Golden/8
Ferment Temp: 65-70°F

FG: 1.013
ABW: 4.9%
ABV: 6.2%

Tasting Notes & Photo

Appearance: Pale golden color with a touch of orange tint, hazy, a strong white head forms and hangs around a while till it falls into a thin layer of fine bubbles across the whole surface of the beer. Some lacing.
Aroma: Moderate-full nose of soft citrus fruits, honey, with slight pine, lemon & yeast scent.
Taste: Bright hop flavor upfront that balances with light clean malt sweetness, then a clean sharp bitterness cuts through and reminds me that it's a 6% beer & just the light bitter bite I was looking for, some spice notes, and finishes with some alcohol presence.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation.
Aftertaste: Pine/sap bitterness lingers and makes it feel a little like an IPA, some alcohol, slight diacetyl.
Drinkability: Good drinkability, can be drunk alone but is better with a flame grilled burger or sweet & spicy sloppy joe, definitely a bigger and more aggressive version of the Sterling Pearl. Served on draft at the party, and at a Lowly ensemble rehearsal, I (I'm not the only one) found that it gets better with every serving poured, and as the temp goes up a little with each gets more flavorful as the evening moves on.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Keg Aeration & Hops

What a great combination...air & hops!

I ran into a predicament while transferring kegged beer to another keg. I had empty a 5 gallon corny, and proceeded to siphon the remaining 2 gallons into a 3 gallon corny. After trying many times without success (I think it was because of all the CO2 in solution), I ended up pouring it as gently as possible. That went as well as could be expected, but I'm sure oxygen got mixed in pretty good. Before sealing it shut, ¼ ounce of whole Yakima Golding hops were tossed in. I really like these hops for late additions and dry hopping. After bleeding out the oxygen in the large head space, I cranked it with 30 lbs of pressure.

Six hours later, I brought it to an ensemble rehearsal, and everyone really liked it. It already had a light/young & fresh/green hop aroma and taste. A couple days later, the taste is really remarkable. Much smoother and balanced. It is a wonderful cask conditioned ale.

There is quite a bit of foam coming through the line, and I assume that is because of the CO2 release emitted from the large surface area on the hops. Also, with what oxygen has been introduced (pouring & hops), the feel of carbonation is so much smoother with much finer bubbles. Since it also has lower carbonation it really feels like it has Nitrogen. I think the combination of air and hops put this beer in a much better place. It is sitting at cellar temperature and is becoming a great tasting cask conditioned ale.

What a wonderful surprise. Since this is my first experience keg hopping, and after it has already been carbonated, I look forward to seeing any differences adding them at various times. The beer transfered and keg hopped here was the Round 2: ESB Amber Ale.

Updated 5/9/08 - The foaming in this beer is way over the top, and it wont settle down at all. I'll try taking off all the headspace pressure, to help release the gas, and let it go nearly flat, and then put more CO2 in. The taste has gotten a little harsh. Perhaps as the volume has gone down to about 1 gallon, the hops become overbearing.