Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fermentation Friday - 5/09 - Brewday Joy & Stress

A year ago, Adam at Beer Bits 2 launched what's called "Fermentation Friday." On the last Friday of every month, a nice round-up of homebrewing bloggers write their story on a common theme. It's been very interesting reading everyone's brewing perspectives.

I've been invited to host for the month of May. While honored and excited, I've also been struggling to find a theme. It's taken me a while to come up with a topic. I realize I didn't leave much time to write about this, but the truth is, the topic literally just came to me.

I've been wanting to write about brewing beer in terms of being a science, and an art form. But, I think that's a better topic for my own writings in the future.

So for something a bit more light and fun, this month's topic revolves around the brewing activity itself. Brewing is an extremely rewarding endeavor, especially after sipping on the end product...a delicious pint of cold carbonated beer. But in the process of making it, its not always "a walk in the park." I'm interested to hear about what areas in the brewday bring joy and stress. So the questions are...

a. What part of the your brewday brings you the most JOY?
b. What part particularly brings out a good deal of STRESS?

So before, on, or even a bit after this Friday, May 29th, please share your story here in the comments section, or include a link to the post in your blog.

I will follow-up with a round-up of all contributors.

Brewday Joy

I do a lot of preparation before brewday like the filtering and collection of water in gallon jugs, recipe development, recipe research, setting up & checking equipment, and crushing grains the night before a typical 5am start time. All that preparation only builds the anticipation for another good brewday. Like I've said in the past, I enjoy the process of brewing even more than drinking fine tasting beer itself.

Brewing to me is a long and drawn out culinary creation, and I love the practice of using my good olfactory sense throughout the whole day. The smell of freshly crushed malted grains is dry with a virgin malt scent. Character malts definitely enrich it. The hot mash smells like oatmeal and is usually when I fix myself some breakfast. As the wort flows into the boil kettle it has a rich sweet scent with pale worts being clean and dark ones having rich chocolate and roasted overtones.

The best part is when the wort is just about to boil. At this point, thick steam begins to rise, and within, a full malty sweetness unleashed into the air. Good, so good it is! I also love noticing how the bittering hops smell hoppy in the beginning but fade away beyond the 30 minute mark.

Brewday Stress

Among various spontaneous causes for intense stress, like wort dripping from the mashtun through the crack in the floor and into my down stairs neighbor's light fixture, there is one major cause that I depend on every time.

I run full wort boils on the stove in my kitchen. Sometimes there are two enormous kettles stretched over all four burners. With roughly 36,000 total btu's, maintaining a boil isn't what I'd call fun. In fact, I must keep the lids only slightly ajar to keep a vigorous boil.

There are many reasons we boil our worts vigorously for about an hour. During this hour, one gallon of liquid volume is boiled off, and it's important to prevent the steam/condensation from re-entering the pot. So its a double edged sword for me in my kitchen. I need to keep the lids on, but continually wipe them every 2 to 3 minutes during the whole boil (x2 with 2 pots).

Wiping lids is something I've gotten very used to over the years. It's basically a 6th sense for me, so while I prep other things, I know when to return to the lids. Also, if there are any helpers with me, they easily become "Lid-man." So this is a guaranteed cause of stress during one of my brewdays.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Peppercorn Belgian Ale

I have always wondered when I might want to replicate a beer. Some pretty good beers have passed through my set-up over the years, but there's always something tweak. But, last year's Belgian Tripel was so good, I'm not sure there is anything change. I'll write more about that one later.

In order to recreate the Tripel, I needed to make a one gallon batch of a light alcohol Belgian ale. This yeast starter is actually very similar to last year's Silly Trappist. I used up a bunch of different worts from final mash runnings. Some extract was also thrown in at the end.

The hops were kept simple with one small addition at 60min. I thought I'd try something similar to the light Belgian ale in the recent Zymurgy. So, in went some cracked black pepper right at the end of the boil. The whole peppercorns are organic with a ton of aroma!

Peppercorn Belgian Ale

1 gal. Various pale worts
.3 lb. Extra Pale DME

.2 oz. Spalt, 2.9%, pellet, 60min
.25 tsp Organic Black Peppercorns, crushed, 5min
.125 tsp Organic Black Peppercorns, crushed, KO

Wyeast 3787: Trappist High Gravity

Brewed: 5/22/09

OG: 1.038
IBU: approx. 14
Color/SRM: Pale/3-5
Ferment Temp: 75-80°F

FG: 1.014
ABW: 2.5%
ABV: 3.15%

NHC Meet @ Half Acre Beer Co.

I'd like to send out a big thanks to my friends at Half Acre Beer Company for graciously hosting the 4th meeting of the Northside Homebrewers Connection. Gathering in the space at a time when it's still "under construction" was a unique experience. It really is coming along nicely.

I was happy to see a good turnout of both regular attendees and new folks who had been interested for a while. As a group, we enjoyed a grand tour of the brewery, hearing fun stories from Gabriel and Tommy, a great Q&A session, and all while enjoying samples of some super fresh beer.

I started the Northside Homebrewers Connection as a way to meet more locals who enjoy brewing and drinking fine beer. I'm happy to see a lot of interest, and already the group has come up with great ideas and meeting topics. A google group has been formed as a way to chat in-between meetings. I look forward to future meetings, events and plans.

I encourage anyone in the area who may be interested in this group to contact me (see bottom of this post about the NHC). At this time I wont post about upcoming meetings here (especially cause this is my journal & a NHC blog may be created soon), but will send out email updates. Attending a meeting opens the opportunity to sign up for the google group, and other events.

My wife Sarah came along to shoot the evening.
Enjoy a look inside the brewery!
Visit In Your Guts for a few more pics!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Knock Out Hops

What are "knock out" hops? They are often referred to as 0min hops, and could even be considered "whirlpool" hops. In other words, these are hops that are added when the boil is finished and the heat turned off. I suppose each one could mean something slightly different, but all of them do the same thing...add lots of hop aroma to a beer. For the past year or so, I've been using this zero minute addition for an extra boost of aroma in certain styles.

Most of the time, published recipes call for this hop addition and is notated as 0min or KO. I used to add these hops at or even a little before the heat was cut. But I felt my beers just didn't have a bright enough hop scent, so I've redefined what this addition means to me and my beer.

I thought I might clarify what is written in all my recipes. When you see a 0min, or more often...KO addition, it doesn't mean they are added right when the heat is cut off. These hops are actually dropped in the hot wort after its been cooling for about 4-7 minutes. Why do I notate it like the books, I'm not quite sure? Maybe I'll start writing it as "-5min".

Adding hops while the wort is near boiling only scalds them and really diminishes their level of freshness in a brew's bouquet. Much like preparing french pressed coffee, the temperature of the water shouldn't be above 190°F, and even better at around 180°F, because anything higher tends to give my morning coffee a scalded & harsh flavor...yuck! This same theory applies to steeping tea, where boiling water should never be used. In the same fashion I add my "knock out" hops when the wort has cooled to about 180-170°F, or after the first chill water collection bucket is filled (about 5 minutes). The wort needs to be hot enough to breakdown the hops and offer a good hot steep, and if its too cool the hops tend to float on the surface without much contact.

I've also found that pellet hops give the best aroma for this addition. Primarily because they break down almost instantly, where as whole hops float and take much longer to get into full contact with the wort. It's all about contact time.

Just about all my beers that require a hop nose get this special post-KO addition. Especially if no dry hopping is planned, and a big hoppy presence is needed, a larger dosage of KO hops is infused.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Small Beer

A super high gravity Imperial IPA called Wayward was pulled from the first runnings of a huge Parti-Gyle batch. Now for the Small Beer part. It's been nice having lower alcohol session beers around. My friends appreciate them as well. More brew with less the punch and carbs. Good stuff.

Initially I thought the 2nd/3rd runnings of the mash might provide enough malt for a light beer. But then I recalled reading about adding crushed crystal malts to this portion of the sparge to add things like color, body and sweetness to a very light ale. Since I had some various crystal malts on hand, in they went. the crystallized sugars on the inside of the kernels simply dissolve in hot water.

The hopping for this small beer is utterly simple. One bittering hop addition at 60+ minutes. That's it.

The volume for this beer came directly from the second sparge. The OG turned out only 1 point below target, and it tasted sweet enough for me. It should turn out light with some sweetness. The bitterness may come out a tad high at about 24 IBU's.

Small Beer

Grain Bill...See 1st Parti-Gyle

1.25 oz. Willamette, 4.8%, pellet, 60+min

Wyeast 1056: American Ale yeast cake

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: May Day 2009
Kegged & Bottled: 5/11/09

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.021
Boil Time: 60+min
Post-Boil Vol: 6 gallons

OG: 1.029
IBU: 24
Color/SRM: golden/8
Ferment Temp: 68°F

FG: 1.010
ABW: 2%
ABV: 2.5%


1. Tasting this beer at racking time actually made me think of pouring it right down the drain right then and there. It almost tasted like how my feet smell after a long day at work.
2. Sampling a bottle sitting a room temperature only 3 days after bottling, changed my perception completely. It tastes great! Very smooth, light, not too sweet, not really all that dry, with enough bitterness carrying through.
3. Can't wait to try it fully carbonated and conditioned in a couple weeks. Most of it was kegged, and light on the priming sugar...didn't want this one being too carbed.
4. Thanks to Kevin for persuading me to keep the hopping simple after considering more hop addition.
5. Now that its kegged, softly carbonated, and sitting at cask temp, this is probably one of the best beers to date. Strange to think that a super low ABV with delicate flavors and a beer that is basically the "run-off" from a big on e would be so great tasting. It's clean, smooth, bittered right, has soft malt profile, easy drinking, and simply delicious.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wayward Imperial IPA

There have been some pretty bitter IPA's brewed here last year. Since the Columbus IPA, I've been thinking about brewing another IPA like it, just a bit more intense. As the first wort to drain from the main Parti-Gyle mash, it entered the kettle at a pre-boil SG of 1.071. Since the gravity typically rises about 10 points after an hour boil, I was happy to see the OG going to be near what I was hoping for.

If you've ever tried Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, and ended up loving it, then we have something in common. I love that beer! It's gonna take some time to get to that point in my imperialistic pale ale brewing adventures, but I hope this is in the ballpark.

I love the look of a very pale, crystal clear IPA/IIPA. It's a deceiving look. Very pale, yet very intense in flavor! I imagine pilsener malt, very light crystal (10L), with a touch of aromatic malt, make up the grain bill for these brews. But I was already set on using my organic pale ale malt and some medium-light crystals.

As for hops, its got about 88 IBUs of hop bitterness spread throughout a one hour boil. Centennial is doing most of the work here, but I've tossed in a special blend of both Chinook and Columbus for interest and intensity. The "blend" in the formula is 1/3 Centennial, 1/3 Chinook & 1/3 Columbus. I haven't decided yet how much dry hops to use, but I think it'll be around 1.5 ounces of the special blend.

Going into the fermenter, it tasted like fermented beer. Solid bitterness, sweet flavor and a ton of hop flavor and aroma. Within an hour the wort was beginning to bubble, with some heavy hoppiness coming through. I hope it turns out wayward, in the right direction, as it pours into the glass.

Wayward Imperial IPA

Grain Bill...See 1st Parti-Gyle

.80 oz. Centennial, 9.1%, pellet, 60min
.80 oz. Centennial, 9.1%, pellet, 30min
1.0 oz. Centennial, 9.1%, pellet, 20min
.40 oz. Centennial, 9.1%, pellet, 10min
.60 oz. C - Blend, 11%, pellet, 10min
1.2 oz. C - Blend, 11%, pellet, 5min
1.2 oz. C - Blend, 11%, pellet, KO
1.5+oz. C - Blend, 11%, pellet, Dry

Wyeast 1056: American Ale yeast cake

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: May Day 2009
Racked: 5/15/09
Bottle & Keg: 5/22/09

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 151°F/60min

Pre-Boil Vol: 5.5gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.071
Boil Time: 60min
Post-Boil Vol: 4.5

OG: 1.081
IBU: 88
Color/SRM: golden/7
Ferment Temp: 68°F

FG: 1.014
ABW: 7%
ABV: 8.8%

Read about the Small Beer part of this big batch here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

1st Parti-Gyle

On May Day, I tried my hand at a true parti-gyle technique. It's something I've wanted to do for quite a long time. This is an old/traditional style of brewing that not only rinses just about every last molecule of sugar out of the mash, but it makes 2 or more styles of beer with different levels of alcoholic strength. I found this article, written by Randy Mosher, to be very interesting and a great description of the technique as it applies to home brewers.

I decided to make one super strong Imperial IPA from the first runnings, and then a low gravity small beer with the rest. The mash and sparge was just a little more complex, especially because my system can't handle the volume being pushed through it. I used both fly and batch sparging techniques, and utilized buckets for holding hot water while filling both pots. It was also cool to research my own notes, about first sparge gravities, to calculate what the SG of the first running would be, and it turned out to be very close! And it was fun having Felipe over to help out.

The first sparge (for the Wayward IIPA) began without any mashout because the mashtun wouldn't accept any more liquid. I knew I'd get about 4.3 gallons, so a fly sparge setup was used to collect an additional 1.2 gallons. This put the pre-boil volume at 5.5 gallons and SG at 1.071, for a 4.5 gallon batch of super strong beer.

After the IIPA volume was collected, a second batch sparge was added to the drained mash. Along with this hot water, in order to add a touch more color and sweetness, 1 additional pound of both American & UK Crystal malts 20-40L was thrown into the mash. Draining all of this provided me with 7.25 gallons of pre-boil wort at 1.022, for a super light Small Beer.

The IIPA finished boiling first. I'm glad, because we were able to get the hop-complex beer out of the way. The Small Beer had only one bittering hop addition, and it was nice to relax a bit at that point. While these worts were chilled/chilling, we kegged and bottled the Hooded Sterling APA to expose the Wyeast American Ale yeast cakes in both fermenters.

Main Mash Grain Bill

19. lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale
.75 lbs. Amer. Crystal 20L
.75 lbs. UK Crystal 20L
.25 lbs. Belg. Aromatic
.25 lbs. Belg. Biscuit
.25 lbs. CaraPils

Small Beer Crystal Booster Blend:

.25 lb. Amer. Crystal 20L
.25 lb. UK Crystal 20L
.25 lb. Amer. Crystal 40L
.25 lb. UK Crystal 40L