Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not in the clear yet... but lookin' good

I was a little worried earlier today that my Choco-Berry Brown was off to a somewhat slow start, I didn't seem to have a lot of airlock activity. So i brought the bucket upstairs and left it on the kitchen counter for a while, hoping to warm it up a bit and get some more activity.

The speed of the bubbles did increase somewhat. So just out of curiosity I cracked the lid on the bucket just a little bit, and saw that I had a glorious, fluffy brown krasen. All is well it seems! I would've taken a picture but I did not want to have the fermenter open long enough for that.

The really cool thing, though, is the smell. This beer smells like baking wheat bread right now, very strongly like baking wheat bread! It's a smell like none-other, and it ROCKS.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Most Accurate Brew Day Yet!

It's not safe yet to start calling today's brew day a success, that'll take at least a week, maybe two before I can say that, and even then I can't be sure the beer is a success! However... what I can safely say is that today was the most technically accurate and tight brewday yet. Short of some minor temperature issues, and forgetting to close a valve, NOTHING went wrong!!

For starters, timing today was just about perfect. Here's how the day broke down:
1:00 - Start gathering equipment and heating water for mash
1:50 - Mash In
2:48 - Mash Out
3:00 - Start Sparge
3:40 - Finish Sparge
4:00 - Boil
4:10 - Hot Break
5:15 - Chill
5:30 - Pitch & Seal

Three hours and 40 minute from Mash In to Pitch! That's pretty darned good! Now it took me a while to get cleaned up... but it always does, I'm normally lazy by that point.

My mash started a little low, around 145°F. I was hoping to get 154°F or so, so I added almost 2 quarts of boiling water, and got it to 150°F. Good enough... I was going to run out of sparge water if I used any more. Also, my mashout didn't seem to raise the temp of the mash at all, and I can't figure that out. I thought the mash-out water was above 180°F, so it should've raised the temp at least a little bit! I'm not sure what happened there... but I'm not too worried about it. My sparge water was hot enough and the sparge went great.

Which brings me to the absolute best part of the brewday:


Ok, to be honest, I overshot my gravity based upon my efficiency in the past, and hit my volume within about 1/16 of a gallon. But this is a pretty serious win for me, as this is the very first time I have hit 75% efficiency, which is basically the sweet spot that brewers shoot for.

I was starting to get a little frustrated by the fact that I was constantly undershooting my gravity. On the last batch, Van Den Heuv Ale, my mash Ph had been right on, and the sparge had gone very well as far as I could tell; there were no areas of sweet grain left in the grainbed, it was all very well rinsed. Ph and sparge are the two variables, not including temperature (which has never been the issue), that I have control over on brew day that will affect my efficiency. The other variable (which unfortunately is NOT easily correctable on brew day) is the crush of the grain; the more crushed it is the more sugar you will be able to extract. However, if the grain is over-crushed you can end up with basically a porridge that is impossible to sparge. Fortunately this "porridge" affect can be overcome by adding rice hulls to the mash to make it more porous. So this time around I had Brett at the Red Salamander double-crush my grain and give me some rice hulls. The end result is that I ended with around 13.5-14° Plato, at least a full degree higher than Beersmith said I should get! Awesome. And I managed to collect just under 5-gallons of wort at that gravity, so I'm feeling pretty good. Needless to say I am going to pay special attention to the crush of my grist in the future.

My only concern (besides the ever-lingering concern that I will get another infected batch...) is that the beer may be more hoppy than I would like... but this should be exactly as bitter as the first River Grand Brown Ale was, so if it's too bitter I just need to make it less bitter next time =)

I used my bottling bucket for a primary today because I am going to need my "primary" bucket for my secondary fermentation since it's such a PITA to get fruit in and out of a carboy. Unfortunately I forgot to close the valve at the bottom of the bottling bucket until after I had poured the wort in. I got it closed very quick... but I'm willing to bet that I would have had just a little over 5 gallons of wort if I had had the valve closed in the first place.

Anyway, brew day went well, and in honor of the eventual berry goodness that this beer should bring, I am currently drinking the original incarnation of Mount Pleasant Brewing Company's Coal Stoker's Blackberry Ale: 3-parts Raspberry Wheat, 1-part Steam Engine Stout. Subconsciously, this beer is probably the motivation for Choco-Berry Brown in the first place!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Choco-Berry Brown Brew Day Tomorrow

On Tuesday I stopped by the Red Salamander and picked up my grains for my Choco-Berry Brown. After getting a little advice from the guys in the homebrew forums, I decided to stick with the original brown ale recipe, so that if anything is "off" it can be attributed to the raspberries. I thought that was a good idea, so the recipe will be the same as the River Grand Brown Ale except that I will be using Mt Hood hops instead of Sterling. According to Karl at the Salamander, Mt Hood should be even more neutral than the Sterling were. I picked up 8.5 gallons of water this evening, and I *THINK* I have enough propane to do my boil. I really need to get a 2nd or bigger tank one of these days... it will make my life easier if I can heat my sparge water on the propane burner too. Gotta clean the kitchen up tonight after dinner. I've got a full growler of IPA from Mt Pleasant Brewing Co... I think my ducks are in a row!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Potential upcoming brewdays...

All right, this is all very much subject to change, but I want to get this down "on paper" so that I can see how this might all work. See I would like to brew my Raspberry Brown ale next weekend if at all possible. But I would also like to potentially brew on June 20th, 27th, or 28th as well with a co-workers husband, so I just need to make sure my fermenters will be empty by then.

May 23rd - Brown Ale into Primary in Bottling Bucket
June 6th - Brown Ale into Secondary in Std Bucket with Raspberries
June 20th - Bottle Berry Brown (using Bottling Bucket)

Ok, so that kind of precludes brewing with the guy on the 20th, that day will be full enough and I'm not keen on bottling and brewing on the same day yet.

So, I'll have to talk to my co-worker and see what day she wants to pawn her husband off on me for brewing. She will have to pay for Grain, Hops, Water, Yeast, and Bottles, and give me a six-pack for "rent" on my fermenters. He said something about a honey-wheat beer, and I'm pretty sure he had American Wheat in mind. If that's the case... here's what I see as a potential recipe:

4lbs 2-Row
3lbs White Wheat
1lb Vienna
3lbs Honey

1oz Glacier 5.5% FWH

Safale S-05 (as always... could use the English yeast for more flocculation... but since it's a wheat beer, who cares?)

Step Mash
-Protein rest, 122°F 30min
-Sacch Rest, 154°F 30min
-MashOut, 168°F 5min

This needs to be in primary a minimum of two weeks, honey is slow to ferment.

I'd like to give my co-worker a cost estimate so she can decide if this is what she is doing. Here's what it would cost if I ordered all the ingredients from

2-Row: $1.25/lb x 4lbs = $5.00
White Wheat: $1.57/lb x 3lbs = $4.71
Vienna: $2.10/lb 1lbx = $2.10
Glacier*: $3.50/2oz x 1oz = $1.75
Honey: $12.50/3lbs x 3lbs = $12.50
S-05: $2.25/pack x 2packs = $4.50
Water: $1/gallon x 9gallons = $9
Total: $39.56

* does not have Glacier in stock, so I'm using the price for Cascade. I'm pretty sure The Red Salamander has Glacier, and if not I have an extra ounce.

Now if he opted to not use real honey, and instead go with Honey malt and an all-malt beer, it would probably be about $5 cheaper. And... I still need to contact the Red Salamander and find out how much it would really cost. Or, just order it online for them.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bottled a butter bomb

So I bottled up Van Den Heuv Ale yesterday. While I don't think the beer got infected, I'm not sure it's going to turn out ok... it was laden with diacetyl. Diacetyl is a normal by-product of yeast, but one that the yeast should re-absorb on their own. It is likely that I racked the beer to secondary too soon, resulting in the remaining yeast being unable to re-absorb the remaining diacetyl. The problems is... diacetly can also be a side affect of a Pediococcu or Lactobacillus infection. So it's entirely possible that this beer did get infected... though I have a tendency to doubt that, mainly because all of my previous infections have been very obvious in primary and resulted in very vinegary/sour flavors. At least if this was an infection, it's a different one! On the off-chance that this is infected though, I need to be very careful with the bottles, they could be "bottle-bombs" waiting to go off! I really should put them in a plastic tub...

I did ask for some advice regarding whether there is anything I can do to reduce or eliminate the diacetyl on It seems that if I keep the bottles in the 70°F range the yeast should be able to re-absorb some of the diacetyl while they eat up the priming sugar and carbonate, assuming the yeast is still healthy... which brings me to another point...

While I was at the Red Salamander the other day I was asking Karl how much sugar exactly to use, since it's been quite a while since I've bottled a beer. He said 5oz is the magic number for 5 gallons of beer. So I asked him, since I only had 4.5 gallons of beer, tops, should I use 4.5oz? He suggested that instead of reducing the amount of sugar, I should increase the amount of water I boil the sugar in to increase the total volume of beer... not a bad idea I thought! Well now I'm not so sure... I siphoned my beer into the bottling bucket after pouring my 3 or so quarts of boiling sugar water into the bottling bucket. Well obviously the beer was much cooler than the boiling water, and I'm afraid I may have killed off some of my yeast! I mean there were still wisps of steam coming off of the top of the beer after it had all siphoned in... By the math, my beer should have been a little less than 80°F when it was all mixed, but I'm a little worried. Oh well, not much I can do now but wait!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Raspberries, cherries, and my next recipe?

I found out that one of good buddy co-workers has many pounds of frozen raspberries in her freezer. Homegrown berry goodness! I think that this just begs for a raspberry beer... but I don't know what kind to make! I'm actually thinking about modifying my River Grand Brown Ale recipe to use the raspberries... maybe accentuate the chocolate malt flavor a little so the beer has kind of a chocolate and rapsberry thing going on... Hmm, actually, that sounds really interesting, perhaps I will do that... a name will come later, but here's a concept recipe:

9lbs Maris Otter
.5lbs Crystal 40L
.5lbs Victory
.75lbs Chocolate Malt

1oz Sterling 5%AA FWH


4lbs Frozen Raspberries in Secondary

Obviously... this is basically exactly my brown ale recipe. I hope to get a little higher ABV on this than the first go around, I think I'm getting better efficiencies now. if not by much.

I just don't know much about making raspberry beer... I'm going to have to look for some help in some forums. The raspberries will be going into secondary... but the question is, do I need to puree them? Sanitize them? (There's already alcohol by secondary... shouldn't it be ok?) Just put them in and crush them a little? Since they've been frozen... I would think they would be fairly mushy already...

And what about flavor? Hopefully I've got a good amount of berry... I don't want to overpower the malt, I'd like a balance between malt (with bitter dark chocolate being a predominant malt flavor) and tart raspberry. Will 3/4# of chocolate malt and 4# of raspberry achieve that? And the hops... Sterling are apparently a decent replacement for Saaz... is that a good choice? A rough guess on IBU is 20 for one ounce of Sterling... is that too much? Founders Cerise comes in at 15... so I would think 20 would be ok, since I'm hoping to have a beer that is less fruity than Cerise! Otherwise, I have a couple of ounces of Glacier at 7.4%AA, would be a little more IBU but Glacier is such a smooth hop...

Another co-worker has asked me to help her husband brew his very first beer... so I might be popping a guys brewing cherry! He mentioned that he might like a Honey Wheat style brew... and I've never done that exact kind of thing. I did try a honey beer with wheat in it a summer or two ago... but that's when I was having much trouble getting a decent brew... so I won't even look to that. I know honey should be added as late to the boil as possible for maximum aroma... so I'm thinking about something like this:

4# 2-row
2# White Wheat
3# honey (55 min? Add then bring to boil for 5 min?)

1oz Glacier 7.4% FWH

US-05 (Do I use anything else? Bah... no!)

I'll work more on this recipe later... totally off the top of my head with no research and no basis in anything. I'm more interested in the raspberry brew, and making sure my Pale Ale came out ok at the moment!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Van Den Heuv Ale ok?

It's been over a week since I actually brewed this beer, and I didn't do my normal brewday summary post. Whoops.

Brewday went well overall though. Collected over 6 gallons of wort, and appear to have gotten a good gravity. I used my 5.2 ph Stabilizer for the first time, and from what I can tell it kept my mash at almost exactly 5.2. While definitely not the most scientific method for calculating mash and sparge efficiency... my spent grains were the least sweet they have ever been. I still don't think I broke the 70% efficiency mark though... so I think I'll have Karl double-grind my grains next time, and maybe I'll use some rice hulls to prevent the possibility of a stuck mash because of the extra fine grind.

Hot liquor tank was ok... it leaked a little bit, but it was passable. I think when I've got spare cash (not anytime soon...) I'll replace it with a new cooler.

Boil went great, no boil-overs and kept it rolling pretty hard the whole time.

The new wort chiller was a thing of beauty. It cooled 4.5 gallons of wort from boiling to UNDER my target temp of 65° in about 15 minutes! I actually hit close to 55°!! Absolutely spectacular, and for less than $25, AMAZING.

I did only end up with 4.5 gallons of wort after the boil... which doesn't bother me. As John Palmer says... the goal is to brew good beer, not brew 5 gallons of beer! If I get 5 gallons of good beer, all the better.... but that's secondary. Gravity into the fermenter was 14° (technically) balling, but close enough to Plato or Brix to use any of them.

Of course the real question of all questions here was... would I end up with an infected mess? And I don't think I did! I did things a little different this time... different wort chiller, poured my wort into the fermenter outside, and something appears to have made the difference. I wasn't too sure a few days ago when I checked the gravity (approximately 2.5°), as there was some definite off-flavor... but it's been a while since I've tasted such a young beer so I might have just been tasting early yeast by-products. Today it seemed better.

I racked to a glass carboy for secondary fermentation today. With the OG of 14 and FG of ~2.5, I'm looking at about 6% abv on this one, right at the top of the APA range. The bitterness, which was very strong before primary, has subdued a bit, so that I think this will make a good APA, pushing the limits on all counts but not quite an IPA.

I'm a happy guy right now. Which means I'm already planning my next beer ;-) I think I will brew River Grand Brown Ale again, it was my best, and I would love to have some more of it!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Brewday, Van Den Heuv Ale

This morning I was up early for an appointment that was actually next week... oops. Oh well! It got me going early enough that I'll be started setting up and pre-brew cleaning by noon, which is pretty decent.

I also got 8.5 gallons of Absopure Spring Water and 4 gallons of propane this morning, so I should now be all set for brewing!

Yay! It's been too long...

Monday, March 30, 2009

A new Wort Chiller, and hopefully a finished hot liquor tank

I built a new wort chiller last Saturday. It wasn't very difficult... but I'm proud because it's the first piece of equipment I've built from scratch! Here's a picture:

(seen here undergoing cold-water leak testing)

What I've got is 50ft of 1/2" soft copper, with 3/8" vinyl tube clamped on each end, about 1 foot on the inlet side and 14 feet on the outlet side and a hose bard for a garden hose on each end. It's very similar to this wort chiller from except that mine only cost me about $22!! But I have to admit... it only cost me this little because the cashier at the hardware store SCREWED UP... BIG TIME. At the store where I bought the copper, it was supposed to be $2.49 per foot. I bought a whole 50' reel, so it was still in it's cardboard box. There was a young girl working the cash register so she just scanned the barcode... and called it good. Well apparently the barcode is in their system as 1 foot... because I only got charged $2.49! I didn't even realize it in the store because I didn't know what the price was before I got to the cash register... I was just prepared to pay whatever I was told the cost. It wasn't till I got back to the homebrew store and mentioned what it cost me that the owner of the homebrew store tipped me off to how much the store got ripped of... if you haven't already done the math, that copper should have cost me $124.50!! So I got royally hooked up. I can't wait to put this new chiller to sue though, it should take my beer down to yeast pitching temp pretty darn quick!

I also got the rubber stoppers I needed so that I should be able to use my old mash tun as a got liquor tank... I just need to open the mis-drilled hole a little more to get the stopper in it. Then I have to decide if I want to use a mini stopper to plug the whole in the bigger stopper, or put a hose it in it to use as a "sight-glass"... The sight glass is probably a little silly... I can just open the lid to see how much water is less, this is only in the 5 gallon range, not the 10+ barrel range ;-)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Van Den Heuv Ale

Next Saturday is supposed to be in the low 50s and mostly sunny... a PERFECT day for brewing. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

What I've got planned is an American Pale Ale or IPA which I will dub Van Den Heuv Ale in honor of Jon Vandenheuvel and his sister Sarah, my sister-in-law, who grew 100% of the hops that will be used in this batch at their greenhouses in Zeeland. Here's my recipe:

Van Den Heuv Ale
8lbs 2-Row
2lbs White Wheat
1lb Crystal 20L
1lb Victory

1.25oz East Kent Golding - First Wort
.5oz Centennial - First Wort
.1oz Cascade - First Wort
.5oz East Kent Golding - Aroma
.5oz Cascade - Aroma

I'm using grains that I've had for a while... in fact I'm using the grains that I bought for the recipe I published on August 1st last year. But I've added 2 more pounds of 2-row, and a pound each of Crystal 20L and Victory... my standard pale ale specialty grains. A pale ale with wheat malt isn't by any means "standard", but at the most it will make the beer a little cloudy and thicken up the body and possibly add a hint of sweetness, though I doubt it will be noticed under the Victory and Crystal 20L. If I get my normal 65% efficiency, I'll be looking at an Original Gravity of close to 14° Plato*, which is right at the top of the American Pale Ale range. If I manage to get 75% out of my mash tun, then I'll be looking at 16°, which puts me right at the bottom of the American IPA range. IBUs will be in the low 40s at either 65% or 75% efficiency, which is perfect since the top of the APA range is 45, and the bottom of the IPA range is 40. So... I'll choose my style after I measure my gravity ;-)

Well I'm really hoping I don't run into my old infection issues on this one... I've got a brand new never-used bucket, and I've got a nice long tub to sanitize in, long enough that I can get my whole racking cane submerged and can get a bucket to lie down in it sideways. Also, I've bought some latex gloves... at the Mt Pleasant Brewing Company (MPBC) we wear gloves any time we touch anything that is sanitized or that will come into contact with the beer after the boil or before sanitation.

And, no more kegging... I've actually gotten rid of my tap-fridge and kegging equipment. I figure if I'm going to be brewing on a professional basis I'm not going to need to brew everyday drinking beers very often, and most of the higher-gravity specialty beers I would rather bottle anyway. I'll be putting this beer in 24-12oz botles, and 12-22oz bottles. And I'll likely give a fair amount of it to Sarah and Jon... even if they don't drink it (I don't think overtly hoppy beers are their favorite), they might want to give some away to showcase their hops!

*Up at MPBC, gravities are all measured in Plato, so I'm trying to convert myself to the Plato scale. An easy conversion rule is that one degree plato = four points of "standard gravity", so my 14° Plato wort here would have a standard gravity of about 1.056.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back in action!

It's been a LONG time, both since I've blogged, and since I've brewed. But finally, I'm back in action! After spending nearly a week up at the Mount Pleasant Brewing Co, I've got the itch and MUST SCRATCH!

I'll get into more detail in the next couple of days, but today I got some more equipment, including a brand new 50ft wort chiller, and some ingredients, and on April 4th, I'll be brewing a batch of Pale Ale with the hops from my sister-in-laws' hop farm over in Zeeland.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I can never make up my mind...

Yup, I changed the recipe I was going to brew again. I decided that I need to brew as cheap of a recipe as I could for this next batch, since I don't know if it will end up infected or not... So I've decided to use some of the ingredients I have at home, and about as small an amount of grain as I can use, and design a blonde summer ale. If I'm real lucky, this will ferment out fast and might be ready to be served at my Dad's wedding on the 23rd! I'd still love to take some beer there, even if it's not the Mild ale...

So here's the recipe:

5lbs American 2-Row Malt
2lbs White Wheat Malt
1lb (or more) Honey
1oz East Kent Goldings FWH
1oz East Kent Goldings 0min
S-05 American Ale Yeast

I already had the yeast, honey, and hops. All I had to buy was the grain, and that was only $11.50, so this is nice and cheap for me at the moment. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but if I remember right this was about 1.041-1.045 OG and somewhere around 30 IBU. This is kind of in the English tradition with the wheat malt and East Kent Goldings hops, then I've bastardized it by using American malts, American yeast, and Honey. Should be nice and light.

I'm going to do something new with this batch too, besides just using my new mash tun. I'm going to do my very first step mash! Since I've got wheat in this beer, I want to do a protein rest to break down the proteins in the wheat and hopefully keep this beer crystal clear!

Ok, enough for now. I've got to get me old mash tun modified to be a Hot Liquor Tank, and then get my kitchen cleaned up. Tomorrow's brewday!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A new Mash Tun, a plan, a pale ale

So I may still have no idea what's going wrong with all my brews... but I have a bit of a plan. First off though... some encouragement in the form of new equipment!

I ordered a new Mash Tun and Sparge Assembly from I got the 48-QT model, which is big enough to do 8%abv or so 10gallon beers, so it should last me basically forever (I don't see myself ever doing 20gallon batches, I like too much variety for that much of a single brew, and I don't even see me brewing more than 5-gallons of some big beers). I got this "loaded" if you will, so I had the sparge assembly installed in the lid, and I ordered the sparge faucet which I will adapt into my old Mash Tun to re-fit it as a Hot Liquor Tank. This setup should allow me to reach 75%+ efficiency, Brewd00d reports 80-85%. This will save me some money, in some cases up to $10 on grain per batch. Next thing I need to do is build a 3-tier stand for my coolers to sit on for gravity feeding!

So as far as my infection problems go... These are what I see to be the possible causes of my problem:
-Infection from the air
-Infection on the thermometer that sits in the wort post-boil
-Overall sanitization
-Infection in the Fermenter
-My Cat?

If the infection is coming from the local (as in Grand River Valley, Portland MI) air, there's not much I can do about it, except be VERY careful not to splash the wort, and keep it covered at all times after boiling, and then use an oxygen tank to oxygenate, rather than shaking for aeration.

The thermometer? I'm not so sure... it's possible though, so I will not leave the thermo sitting in the wort. I won't even read the temp for 30 minutes after boiling, I know the wort chiller takes at least that long for now. Then I'll use my small steel thermo which will have been in the sanitizer, and put it back in the san when I'm done with it.

As far as overall santization goes... I don't honestly think I've been doing anything wrong there. I've brewed a few times with other people, and so far I seem to be slightly more anal than most I've worked with. There has however been one big difference. Nobody I've brewed with has ever used Iodophor as their sanitizer! They've all used an acid-based sanitizer, Star-san or off-brand equivalent. Now there's lots of discussion on the homebrew forums about which is better, and people seem to stick with what they like with no clear indication of which is the "best". All I know is that something I am doing is not working right, so I've got a bottle of Acid-san and will try that.

An infection in the fermenter, like a scratch with some bacteria growing in it? This seems to be the most likely scenario to me, and I don't know if I think it's very likely... The only thing I can do to combat this is to clean them real good, and sanitize them real good. Theoretically chlorine is no better at sanitizing than Iodophor or Acid-san, but I think I'm going to whip up a stiff bleach/water solution to soak my fermenters, lids, airlocks etc in, after giving them a thorough cleaning.

Lastly, my cat... Now I've heard that Cats harbor all sorts of bacteria, and I wonder how much of that is present in the air in my house? I wonder if my stuff that has been sanitized is getting infected post-sanitization? Or perhaps I'm picking up the bacteria in the air during transfer? I'm not sure... but next time I think I'll sanitize my fermenter and stuff, and then let them drip outside and transfer to my fermenter outside. Then I should never have to have my beer open to the air inside my house until after alcohol forms.

So, next weekend I will put my new Mash Tun and refitted Hot Liquor Tank to use, along with new sanitization methods, to brew me up a pale ale. I've got plenty of Summit to use as my bittering hop, and I picked up a couple of ounces of Glacier for my aroma and flavor. I think I'm going to skip dry hops on this, as most of the pales and IPAs I've made have been dry hopped, and I just want to know if I notice a difference right off. Since Summit and Glacier are both low-cohumulone hops (cohumulone being the compound in hop oils that causes very coarse, resinous, harsh, and strong bitterness) they should provide nice bittering without overpowering coarseness. Because of this I've taken this recipe right to the edge of American Pale Ale IBU range, which tops out at 50. Assuming gravities hit right, this should be basically 48 IBU. I'm very curious how the flavor will turn out, as I haven't had a beer with Glacier as the main flavor hops survive yet. Glacier is reported to have peach, apricot and orange notes, and Summit should be citrusy, grapefruit and tangerine perhaps, though there's not going to be much Summit flavor in this, the Glacier should really dominate. And with Summit and Glacier hops, I'm thinking I may have to dub this Frozen Peaks or something... So here's the recipe:

Frozen Peaks Pale Ale

8lbs American 2-row $12
1lb Victory Malt $2
.5lb Crystal 40L $1
9.5lbs Grain $15

.5oz Summit 16.7% FWH $0
1oz Glacier 7.4% 15min $2.50
1oz Glacier 7.4% 0min $2.50
2.5oz Hops $5

2-packets US-05 $4

9 gallons Absopure Spring Water $11

Total cost: $35 (not including propane, maybe another $5?)

Now I should get a OG of about 1.051 with 75% efficiency, and if I do well I could end at 1.056 with 82% efficiency or so. To achieve 1.051 on my old mash tun would require an additional 3.5 lbs of base malt. Since this recipe is using the American 2-Row, it's only saving me $5.25. However, if this was Maris Otter, it would be $7 savings (and if I, for example, brew a Maris Otter based Barleywine at about 10%, this new mash tun will save me at least $13). In relation to buying beer then... I'm about breaking even on this batch. A case of Samuel Adams might run me $30, plus tax and deposit. This should be a better (read: more flavorful, more grain and hops per gallon) beer than SABL, so I might equate this closer to Sierra Nevada or Founders Pale Ale. The Founder's could run me closer to $40 a case, so I'm doing pretty good there. And, theoretically, I should end up with close to a sixer more than a case of beer in a 5 gallon batch. To cut costs, I think my next step is water filtering, and trying the tap water in Portland. Maybe I can find someone a the club who has a filter I can borrow for a trial batch.

So my future brewer expansion plans look like this:

1. Build wood stand for HLT and MT for gravity sparging, kind of like these setups. This will be made of 2x4s and maybe 4x4 legs. I'll have to decide if I want the mash tun to be high enough to drain into the kettle right on the burner, or if I can drain to a kettle on the ground and go from there. It'll depend on exactly what height I decide I want my mash tun at. I don't want to have to bend over to stir, or climb anything to fill my HLT... but I also don't want to have to pick up a nearly 55-lb full kettle if I don't have to.

2. I might try to find a decent water filtering solution after this, because I think using filtered tap water will be my next big savings. I don't know what my exact price per gallon is on my tap water, but I'm sure it's less than the $1.19 or whatever that I spend on spring water, as my water bill is only $20 a month or so for the whole house. so I figure a water filter, if the water is acceptable, should save me at least another $8 a batch.

3. I think next will be oxygenation. I can get my wort all oxygenated so the yeast start fast and fully ferment with zero risk of infection with an oxygenation system. There's a couple of options, using either an air pump and filter, disposable oxygen tanks and cheap regulator, or "normal" refillable oxygen tanks and expensive regulators. All systems use an air-stone, like in an aquarium, to deliver the O2 into the wort. I tend to think I would go with a refillable O2 tank, so that someday I can upgrade to inline oxygenation, when I got to inline cooling, without having to buy a new tank.

4. After that will be my 2nd wort chiller for my pre-chiller setup I discussed in another post.

5. Then, I will likely try to get a bigger propane tank! Heating my strike and sparge water on the stove is cool and all, but eventually I want to this be an entirely outdoors operation. So I need a bigger tank so I don't have to fill up as often.

6. Next perhaps will be a new boil kettle, one with a spigot and ball valve. This will be in preparation for future upgrades to the cooling, oxygenation and transfer systems. Once I've got spigots on my HLT, MT, and Kettle, I'm ready to add pumps, counterflow chillers, and inline oxygenation. Then my brewery will need to be put an on all inclusive cart, since I won't need gravity anymore. Sweet =)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Worst

So I seriously must be the worst homebrewer in the world. Something is seriously wrong with my process or something... both the 2nd Colin's Colsch and my American Mild Ale have gotten infected, with the same crap as every other infected batch as far as I can tell.

I'm going to have to ask somebody to come brew a batch of beer at my place with me. I don't even know what in the hell else to do! If I continue to do this crappy, I'm going to have to quit. I simply can't afford to waste $25 on a batch of vinegar every two weeks. Not to mention investment in new equipment and such...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quick Mild Update

I apparently didn't get this *quite* cool enough, after pitching it was at about 72F. That's a decent temp, but I prefer it a bit cooler for nice clean fermentation. She was already bubbling nicely only 4 hours in though, so perhaps the warm temp got it started faster.

To lower the temp some, I just got a towel wet and wrapped it around the bucket and put a fan on it. This very quickly brought the exterior temp of the fermenter down to 66F. I left it like this for about 6 hours, and then pulled the towel off. The exterior remained at 66F the whole time, and 4 hours later was still at 66F. Couldn't ask for much more! In the future, I may just cool to about 72F (as the last few degrees are the slowest) and then use the towel after pitching to lower it the rest of the way, this was pretty effective.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

American Mild

I brewed a Mild Ale today. I call it an American Mild because I used an American hop, Summit (16.7% Alpha Acid), US-05 American Ale Yeast, and I am over the style guidelines on gravity and bitterness... pretty typical Americanization of a classic beer style. I did, however, use Maris Otter as my base malt, as it's still my favorite. At least I think I used Maris Otter... I bought my grains after attending the Master Brewers Association of the Americas Summer Social Picnic, which featured a pig roast, and MANY, wonderful beers all free for the drinking. I had a (sober) ride home, and I don't exactly remember which base malt I told Ed at The Red Salamander to give me. Judging by the total price, it must have been Maris Otter. So here's the recipe:

9lbs Maris Otter
1lb Flaked Corn
1/2lb Roasted Barley

1/4oz Summit First Wort Hop
1/8oz Summit 60min

With my low efficiencies, this should've yielded me 1.039 and about 27 IBU. I got 1.041 or so, which means that even if my efficiency is low, I can at least reproduce it consistently.

The Summit hops are new for me. They're a high alpha acid, and low co-humulone, so they should give a nice smooth bitterness. They're supposed to have a citrusy, tangerine like character. I'm hoping that I don't get too much flavor out of these, as the style shouldn't have much, but it won't be a problem if there's some small American citrusy hop character. I got 4 ounces of these for helping out at my local brewery, these are what the Brewmaster there, Scott Isham, uses as the bittering hop in his American Pale Ale, which I'm rather fond of. So we'll see how it is in an "American Mild".

So the brewday went well. I only had one minor problem the whole day... I put the wort chiller in the boil a few minutes before it was done, and either I did it too soon, or that's just not as good an idea as it seems with my chiller. The plastic tubing got pretty warm, swollen, and started to leak. I managed to get the clamps tightened down, so it seemed to be no problem.

I hit my gravities pretty much right on. Pre-boil gravity was about 1.030, and my OG post-boil was 1.041 or so. I probably could've actually gotten a little more gravity out of this, it seems that I used too much sparge water in the my second batch sparge. So I ended up with about an extra gallon of wort. Oh well

The beer smells nice and roasty, nutty, and toasty. Tastes pretty good too, perhaps a bit too much roast, but the bitterness was nice and I think this should be pretty tasty after the yeast adds it's character.

Finally a picture of my new kettle. I like it, much sturdier than the aluminum pot. It's a bit wider around, so I have to start with more wort, but that's no big deal. It's a lot easier to prevent boilovers in this kette, and that's really the major reason I got it.

And I did something else different today. I racked my beer out of the kettle and into the fermenter, I really should've done this in conjuction with some irish moss, and then made a big whirlpool with the wort after chilling. I did manage to avoid a fair amount of the trub though, and this should theoretically help with chill haze, even though chill haze doesn't really bother me.

If this turns out good, and doesn't dissapear too fast, then I will take this to my Father's wedding in August. I think at least a few people there will want to try it. So let's hope it's good!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What am I doing wrong?

I don't know what my problem is... but I've lost over half of the batches of beer I've ever tried to brew. Most to, I think, infection and a few with temperature problems.

I decided when I started brewing all-grain, I would kind of start my count over. But that's no good, b/c if I do that I'm at 0 for 3, counting through the first try of Colin's Colsch (I still have a chance with Colin's Colsch-2)

I never posted about this b/c I was so frustrated, upset, and embarassed by it (I don't know a single other homebrewer who has ever had as bad a record as me...), but both Repale (the River Grand Brown) and my River Rat Rye got infected or something in the keg. I hadn't had a pint off either of these in a week or two (and this has been a while now) and one day when I went to draw a pint... they both tasted like crap! Cidery, bitter (not in the good way), tart... really gross. I don't know what in the hell happened to them. My only guess at this point is that my taps were dirty/unsanitary and something was able to infect the beer from there.

So I consider those two partial losses. I made it to finished beer, and just didn't handle them right afterwards. I have a new plan for operation my kegs for at least the next couple of batches, hopefully to eliminate this problem. I bought a hand held faucet and a new section of tap line. I've filled a keg with sanitizer solution, and plan on getting a spray bottle I can fill with some kind of alcohol-based disinfectant (I think I know where I can get some 90% ethanol...). I will use this new faucet exclusively for the next couple of kegs. It will be stored disconnected, and I will flush it with sanitizer before using. I will also spray all connections with the alcohol before connecting the faucet to the beer-keg. After pouring beers, or if switching from one keg to the other, I will flush the faucet and spray the connections again. As I'm thinking about it... I'm also thinking I need to tear apart the hardware in the fridge and clean and sanitize everyhting there too. So hopefully with some more rigorous handling I can eliminate that problem.

However... Colin's Colsch round 1 is now... crap. It seems to have gotten infected sometime prior to going into primary. Chances are that it got infected during the cooling procedure, or while pouring into the fermenter. I think my sanitization process is fine, though I could perhaps 'polish' my process a bit (I don't have a designated sanitary drying location for example...), so I'm guessing that I got the infections while it was cooling, which took a while. To combat this I need to do one or two of these: Cool faster, cool more carefully.

Cooling Carefully... well I don't know what to do there. I sanitize my wort chiller before using, though I could just stick it into the boil before it's done, I could really use a hose to get the water to my kettle then as right now I have to carry the kettle to a spigot. Actually, I think I should probably get a hose, but I think I need one on the drain side to, then I could drain into the street. Normally I leave my floating thermometer in the wort while it chills, and use that to stir the wort a bit, perhaps I need to be more careful not to splash? But this batch was no different than the Repale and River Rat...

Which brings me to cooling. Repale and River Rat both cooled faster, it was cooler outside (Repale even had snow to help). There's lots that I could do to help cooling though... with that I'm basically limited by money. There's 3 main types of wort chillers. I have a single immersion chiller. One option that I am considering is getting a 2nd chiller so I can do a pre-chiller. This is when you use 2 immersion chillers in a line, and the first chiller is in a bucket of ice-water. This pre-chills the coolant water down to around 40F or so, hopefully, translating to faster cooling. A counterflow chiller would be pretty cool, but they're a bit expensive. I've seen them and plate chillers in action, and it is awesome to see wort get chilled immediately, you just drain your beer from you kettle through them and it comes out chilled! Well it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea. I think the pre-chiller is more cost effective though.

Something else I've considered doing is having somebody come and brew with me some day while I'm brewing. Somebody with lots of experience, who can tell me if I'm doing something wrong, risking my beer at any point. I've brewed with others before, but nobody's ever come watch me do my brew-day on my own.

It's tough though... this is something I REALLY enjoy, enough of a passion to want to make a career out of it. And yet, I fail half the time. I've sunk a lot of time, money, and effort into this, and I'm currently the most failingest homebrewer I know. This is like wanting to be a professional tennis player, but losing every single game, set, and match you've ever played! (No I don't lose every batch... but I've never met a homebrewer who's lost more!) I get so frustrating that I want to give up sometimes... it seems like if I was meant to brew, I wouldn't do so bad.

Ah well... I've got some plans on what to work on to prevent this in the future. Just the fact that I'm still willing to work on making this happen, produce new recipes, brew new beer (I'm thinking about a mild ale this weekend, real cheap and real quick) proves to myself that I've got the determination. I just need to keep brewing!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I forgot to write down my gravity recordings for Colin's Colsch round 2. Fortunately, I think I remember them. Pre-boil I was at 1.032, and I ended the boil with 5.5 gallons of 1.044. Crappy efficiency... but the beer should be nice and light.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


There's at least one flavor that the majority of beer drinkers would, I'm sure, insist does not belong in beer. There are likely many more, but the one I speak of today is: Sour. Yup, sour. You might not think that Sour would be a very good flavor in beer, but let me tell you, there are some wonderful sour beers!

Currently, I am drinking a Rodenbach, a red ale from the Flanders region of Europe (on the boundary of France, Netherlands, and Germany). The sour in this beer is awesome, not a mouth-puckering sour, but smoothly sweet and sour. It's really a treat. Another sour beer that I have tried and REALLY enjoyed was Festina Peche from Dogfish Head. Festina Peche was a Berliner Weisse (sour, light German wheat beer) fermented with peaches.

In the Flanders region of Europe, and in Belgium, many sour beers are produced through spontaneous fermentation, in other words they let the natural yeast and bacteria in the air "infect" their beer and ferment it. In this case, the infection can come from many agents: Saccharomyces (regular beer yeast), Brettanomyces (another yeast), Lactobacillus (bacteria in Yogurt), Pediococcus (bacteria that makes Sauerkraut), and others less desireable single-celled beasties. In the production of the Lambic style of beer for example, the cooled wort it allowed to sit uncovered for a period of time to allow the infection of yeasts native to the Senne valley around Brussels.

So this led me to wonder... Are there enough native yeasts and bacteria in the Grand River Valley around Portland for me to get spontaneous fermentation? The answer is... yes. After brewing my Colin's Colsch recipe the second time last Friday, I took my gravity sample and left it outside all night, and in a window sill all day. As of this morning, something is causing some bubbles and fermentation to occur. I don't know yet what it is, it could be weeks before it even ferments out, but I'm very curious to find out what I harvested! So we'll see if that pans out and if I can brew a Wild Portland ale!

But in researching everything I could about wild ales and wild yeasts/bacteria, I found some good notes on how to make Berliner Weisse. Apparently the key is... DON'T BOIL! A guy had posted a recipe in a thread on BeerAdvocate. It was very simple. Do a step mash with lots of wheat malt... and then let it cool and ferment for 6 months. See the missing step? Straight from Mash, to chill, to ferment! And apparently what ends up fermenting the beer is Lactobacillus spores on the grain itself! The trick is (apparently) to mash up to 175F, which will kill most of the nasties but leave the Lacto to live. So, I plan on trying this in November. I will probably buy a new fermenter just for this, since it's going to take 6 months... but I would LOVE me a Berlined Weisse come next May or June!

I'll let you all know how my wild experiment turns out!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mid-brew update

I just put the kettle on to boil about 7 minutes ago. I'm on my laptop outside drinking an IPA waiting for it to come to boil.

The mash went well. I timed it right this time, and got myself just over 7 gallons of wort, exactly what I needed! I didn't even measure the PH of anything until there were just 20 minutes left in the mash. At that point the PH was a bit high, so I added some acid to help. The enzymes that will have a tendency to produce a drier beer are more active on the lower end of the acceptable mash PH range, so I prefer to be around 5.2-5.4 in my mash.

I almost freaked out when I measured the pre-boil gravity as 1.022, that would have only gotten me a 3% ABV beer! Then I remembered you have to correct gravity readings for temp, and that sample was cloase to 160F. So I've got a second sample chilling so I can get a measure on it. I hope the efficiency was good!

Boil is rolling along, I've already averted one boil-over. Whew! I mentioned pics of my new kettle the other day... and I took some, but forgot to post them. I'll get to them sometime this week. Maybe...

Another 50 minutes of boiling, and then it's time to chill it! My yeast is re-hydrating with some boiled wort to get it started. Hopefully that'll kick-start my fermentation nicely.

Colin's Colsch... round 2

So I'm going to try and brew this beer again. This time armed with my knowledge of boil-off for my new kettle, a healthy respect for Phosphoric Acid, and more time, I hope to get closer to my target!

I did change one thing... rather than English Maris Otter pale malt, today I am going to use German Pilsner malt. Pils is lighter colored, so I should get a paler beer. Which is good, a Kolsch should be straw-golden colored at the darkest, pale yellow at the lightest.

Of course, switching grains brings in a new dynamic... Pils malt, especially German Pils apparently, is less "modified" than standard 2-Row Pale or the Maris Otter I love so much. Less modified meaning that less of the proteins and starches in the malt are broken down into smaller proteins and sugars. Generally this is dealt with by doing a "protein rest" in the mash, a half hour period at about 121F before the mash is brought to 150F for an hour. I've never done a protein rest... and I'm not sure I feel like trying today! (Perhaps I should've stuck to Maris Otter...) I've asked in the BeerAdvocate homebrewing forum... but it's early so I won't get a response for a while.

Oh well. Gonna go get some breakfast, and then get started!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


If you haven't noticed, I have a tendency to flip-flop between plans for what to brew next a LOT. I've got 100s of brews I want to try, but am limited by fermenter space, money, and sometimes equipment.

Saturday's smooth brewday has me itchin' to brew some more, and I'm also bummed about how my "Colsch" ended up not so Colschey, so I really want to brew.

I'm considering brewing it again this weekend! I've got the Hops and Yeast I need already, so it would just be a matter of getting the grain and water, 10 gallons this time. The only thing I'm unsure of is how much propane I've got left. I may have to go get it filled, as I would HATE to run out mid-boil.

I've been reading about brewing DunkelWeizen... and it's going to be a little bit more complicated than what I've done in the past. Instead of a DunkelWeizen then, I think I'll make another Brown Ale or and IPA.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bubble bubble, toil and trouble

The airlock is bubbling, so the yeast took off on their own. Still longer than I would like, I'm going to use a starter next time...

I forgot to mention yesterday that my OG into the fermenter was around 1.062. If I get that down to 1.015, that'll be about 6.2% abv. Gotta get the water right on this one next time...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Post Brewday

Brewday went pretty smooth. Besides my normal PH mishaps, and once again coming short of five gallons, everything else went well.

One thing I learned today is that a 9 gallon kettle finally gives me enough room to boil enough wort to end up with 5 gallons. I've only ended up with around 4 gallons today, because I was using the same amount of water as I would have used for my 7.5 gallon kettle. I'll need to be using a minimum of 8 gallons total in the future, more if the grainbill is big. I need to end up with 6-6.5 gallons in the pot before I boil.

The 90 minute mash... may have ended up closer to 120 minutes. Oh well, I do like my brews dry... there were a couple of times that I forgot to reset the timer after stirring, and I think i forgot to mark down one stir. I was supposed to stir every 15 minutes, 5 times. I think I stirred more like every 20 on average, 6 times.

Pre-boil gravity was 1.036 at 100F, which should be about 1.041 or so at 70F. I think that might be right on... if I had harvested 6.4 gallons of wort. Since I only got 5.3 or so, my gravity was low, again. Even with that long ass mash... I gotta ask the brewclub about some ways to increase efficiency. Maybe a better mash tun for fly sparges.

I'm actually chilling it right now. It's take a ridiculous amount of time, 42 minutes so far, and it's at 76F or so. I want it to be 65-70 when I pitch, the closer to 65 the better. I'll let it go a little while longer.

The color on this seems right, and the taste pre-boil was good. I'm anxious to taste this as it's my first brew with the Glacier hops! Besides a porter I made, and there was little hop flavor or aroma in that, this'll show me a bit about Glacier!

Ok, I'm going to go pull the chiller, pour my wort in the primary and pitch my yeast...

Ok wow, 3.5 gallons. That's nearly 2 gallons of boil-off! This new kettle does havea bigger surface area, so I suppose that's what I'll have to work around. So I'll need 7+ gallons pre-boil to end up with 5 gallons of beer. If I had more jugs of water around, I could've used them, but I don't like topping off fermenters, I swear it's lead me to infections problems before.

The beer is a bit darker than I was shooting for, thanks to the boil-off, and may be a bit sweeter and more bitter than I was shooting for. Now I'm questioning whether I will lager it, as it's right in line to be an English Pale Ale, and a somewhat strong one at that, possible 6.5% or so. It's too late to make it more bitter, which is what I would really like, but I could dry-hop it and give it more hop flavor, but then I would loose more beer... Oh damn, it'll just be a strong Pale Mild or something. With German yeast... I guess I don't care what style it is as long as it tastes good!

So now I have to decide if I want to brew a DunkelWeizen next, or go for Colin's Colsch again with the right amount of water. Actually, the next brew may be an IPA, if I can get it done in time for the August Red Ledge Brewers Club meeting!

EASY with the GD Acid!

Okay, I thought I learned my lesson once... I thought I knew to be careful and go easy with the Phosphoric Acid if I'm going to use that to get my water PH correct.

Even better, I should correct the Mash PH, not the water.

But no! I once again WAY over compensated. Stupid... I had water that was so acidic it could probably have eaten my skin off! Okay, in all honesty it was nowhere near that... but I did go a bit overboard.

My Mash is almost done, it did correct itself, so I'll be in good shape.

Brewday, Colin's Colsch

Ok, so today is the day. I was going to brew yesterday, but I had other things to do, including run back the Red Salamander becuase I decided to change my recipe.

I cut the honey. I did some additional reading, and decided that it was not going to have the effect I desired. I wanted some of the honey flavor to shine through, and that's apparently not very likely, not to mention that it would have made the beer take longer to ferment out, which I didn't really want to wait for, I want to be drinking this in just over 3 weeks if I can.

So the recipe is even more simple now:
11lbs Maris Otter
1.5oz Glacier @ 30min
.5oz Glacier @ 0min
Safale K-97

Mash will be 3.5 gallons, 150F, 90min. Sparge with 3 gallons 165-170.

Primary 1 week, 65F or lower ambient
Secondary/Lager 2 weeks, 32F
Keg @ 40F, 13.5psi

This'll be my first brew in my new stainless steel 9-gallon brewpot too! I should have even less worry about boilovers now! I'll post a pic in my post-brew... post.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Colin's Colsch

So I've been really digging some of the lighter-weight beers recently, such as Milds, Dark Milds, Altbiers, Koelsch, Weizen, and DunkelWeizen especially. Apparently a very Continental taste for styles as well...

So I decided that my next brew needed to be one of these styles. I think I might do Dunkelweizen next, but for next weekend, I decided to start out with the malt bill and brewing style of a Koelsch and work it into my own Summer Ale, for hopefully quick maturation and clean refreshing drinking.

Kolsch is a pale colored and very crisp, clean ale with German origin (Cologne), often made using only pale malts and Noble Hops. It was an answer the Pilsen's... Pilseners if my beer history serves me right, and is made with ale yeast but is actually lagered (cold-conditioned, 32 degrees or so) for a short time.

I really enjoy a Kolsch on a hot day, and I prefer it over a true pale Lager (made with lager yeast) as I often pick up on some sulfur in the pale lagers. But I wanted to mimic a Kolsch pretty closely, at first. So I found what I think is a nice little gem on in the form of an email from a Kolsch Brewmaster at the Brauerei Früh Am Dom describing the basic method (here). It's not an exact breakdown, recipe, mash schedules etc, but in this case I think it's pretty easy to fill in the blanks. After seeing that thread though, decided that I would take as much of the Kolsch process and combine it with some of my fav ingredients, include some honey (I think a Summer Ale with honey sounds good, we'll see!).

So this is how it's going to go:

-Mash for high fermentability, 150F or even a slight bit below for 90 minutes
-I don't have super-soft water like Koln or Pilsen, but I can compensate with some acid to at least get the ph right, but use my normal water, which seems to work well
-Recipe is SIMPLE:
-7lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
-2oz Glacier Hops, 30 min
-3lbs Honey, added at Flameout
-Safale K-97 (German ale) or my good buddy US-05 (if the k-97 doesn't show up in time)
-Primary for at least 7 days (Honey is supposed to take a longer time to ferment)
-Lager two weeks (secondary at 32F)
-Keg her up and she should be good to go! (Is it a female beer because it's a Blonde Ale?)

So this should hit the keg on July 19, in time for HOT summer days!

And a note to names and spelling... I haven't been consistent through this post, and obvioulsy I've hacked the name of the beer Colin's Colsch. Part of this is that I don't know offhand how to type the Umlaut, so if I want to spell Kölsch that way I have to paste it in... and I've seen it spelled Koelsch, and Kolsch in different places. But the beer name is a play on that, and a tip to the Koln/Cologne name for the city where the only true Kölsch's are brewed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

River Rat Rye Kegged

I don't have much time, but I'm way behind on getting this posted! I kegged up the River Rat Rye on Sunday the 13th, after two nights in the fridge, and got it running with about 12psi, 3.5 feet of tap line to get about 2.7 vols of CO2, which is great for an American Pale Ale. It's nice and clear, deep golden on the edges to amber in the middle. Nice toasty malt with some sweetness up front and an intangible something that I attribute to the Rye, leading into strong toasty malt aftertaste. Hops are fairly balanced but prominent enough to be good for an APA. The body is slick, and the carbonation moves slowly, forms a thick head, and laces pretty well. There is a hint of diacetyl, and overall the beer is not as "crisp" and "clean" as I might have liked, but is still VERY good! Definitely the second best beer I've brewed now second to my Brown...

Speaking of my Brown Ale, my friends over at Around the keg have helped me name my beer! I was going for something "Prohibition Repeal" themed, and ended up deciding on a nice and simple "Repale". Now, I don't know if that recipe will be name Repale for good, or if it is a one-time commemorative batch... Probably depend a lot on whether I plan to re-brew that recipe again or not!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The beer is finally flowing.

Well I finally did it. I've been lazy and I'm a bit late, but I've got the Brown Ale in a keg, after 28 days in “secondary”.

Two nights ago, on Sunday, I moved the fermenter into my kegerator and set the temperature to 40 degrees. This “cold-crash” should have helped to drop an remaining sediment out of suspension further clarifying the brew. By all counts, it did this, as this is easily the clearest beer I've made yet, both during the transfer and in the glass. I managed to get the beer into the keg without stirring up any sediment too, which helped.

I'm shooting for the low 2s in carbonation levels, on the low end of the American Ale category. I've got the kegerator set at about 36 degrees and about 8 psi on the regulator. This is about as close to perfect as I'm going to get, as I'm limited a bit by the length of my tap line. You see, getting a keg system to balance perfectly where the CO2 from the regulator supplies the carbonation for the beer and also gives just the exact amount of pressure to push the beer out of the tap, can be tricky. The objective is to have the right amount of pressure on from the keg to end up with exactly 1 psi at the tap to push the beer with, this will result in good flow with minimal foaming. So there's this nice formula that can be used to determine exactly how long you need your tap line to be to get the perfect pressure (which can be found here, credit to Steve Jones). Except the problem is that I have a set length of tap line in this case, just a little over two feet! Thankfully I paid attention in Algebra class and had no trouble re-writing the equation in terms of pressure rather than length. When I calculated it out, I needed to end up somewhere around 7.4 psi to get my magical 1 psi at the tap with my two foot tap line. Cool, so I glanced at the carbonation level chart (also found on the above referenced page) and saw that if I set my regulator to just under 8 psi at 36 degrees, I would get a little under 2.3 volumes of CO2, perfect!

As far as the beer goes... well I like it! Slightly sweet malt up front is joined by a toasty and a roasty malt just strong enough to satisfy. The strongly toasty lingering aftertaste is a bit more subdued now, but still present. Hops are perfectly in line, simply balancing the beer and not adding too much of anything. Body is thin, overall the beer is dry. I'm a very happy brewer right now, this is by FAR the best beer I've ever brewed.

Now I think I'll put the Rye Pale ale on tap here this weekend.

And to top it off, getting drunk on my own alcohol rocks. =)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

River Rat Rye Racked

Racked my River Rat Rye into the secondary fermenter last night. This stuff seems to have turned out pretty damned good! The taste was nice and toasty with some decent sweetness, but plenty of bitterness, and I think a hint of spiciness from the rye. Gravity came out at 1.008 so I'm looking at about 5% abv. Pretty good.

Besides my efficiencies, my mashes have really done pretty well, in that I'm getting highly fermentable wort (like I like) and good tasting beer. I wish I had never used extracts!

So, this stays in secondary for at least two weeks, and then in a keg conditioning and carbonating for another two weeks. Can't wait!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

River Rat Rye summary

Brewday went pretty well. I hit my temperatures pretty much right on, 147-150 for the mash, and sparged about 165. Efficiency may have been a bit low (it sucked actually), the wort weighed in at I think about 1.032, I forgot to write it down apparently. That thickened up to 1.046 in the boil, so I could get 4.5% abv or so. PH was still a bit of a problem, it was high all around. I tried correcting the sparge, this time measuring quarter teaspoons into a pint of water and adding one cup of that at a time. I added 3/4 of a teaspoon and it was still high. I had been told on some forums that I probably just shouldn't get too worried about ph, so I just went ahead and sparged, but now I'm wondering if ph has something to do with my lack of efficiency.

I did have one "incident" where I accidentally pushed the rubber stopper that holds the steel mesh and copper pipe into my mash tun. I had about 1 gallon of 120 degree water and 1/2lb of rice hulls in there, so besides making a wet mess, there wasn't too much loss and it wasn't even sticky. I turned the mas tun so the drain side was away from me and all was fine.

This time, I went with my conceptual "compacted" brewday, where I waited to do things like get the mash tun clean until after I started heating my strike water, or waiting to make my sanitizer and sanitize my fermenter until the last 10 minutes of boil, etc. While this got me from start to yeast pitching in 4 hours, this was not such a good idea. I set up closer to the sink this time, which was handy, but it prevented me from being able to clean things as easily, and at some times I was somewhat rushed, and I couldn't watch my boil well enough, which resulted in a boilover. Next time it'll be back to having everything clean before I start, if not necessarily sanitized.

I started about 12:30, after picking up 10 gallons (again, actually the Absopure gallon + 8oz jugs) of water, and exchanging my propane tank. The mash got underway about 1:30, and I was on the burner at 2:50, boiling by 3:02, and had hot break at 3:05. I pulled it from the burner at 4:10 and pitched my yeast 20 minutes later. All in all everything worked great.

My biggest problem today were the hops and the volume. The whole leaf hops are a bit troublesome to deal with as they soak up a lot of wort (which exacerbated the volume issue) and are hard to keep out of the fermenter, unless you rack your wort into the fermenter, and I really prefer to pour mine, I think it's much easier. I don't think I took enough of my sparge water, but that's kind of a catch 22 because my gravity might have been even lower if I had taken more. I'm going to skip dry-hops on this batch because I don't want to lose any more beer to absorption.

I need to find out what to do about my efficiency. I know batch sparges are not efficient, but they should be more efficient than what I'm getting. I might need to start showing up at the Red Ledge Brewer's club meetings and ask for some input. There's tons of resources online, but I think I want to talk to some people who have experience in person. Perhaps I'll ask the person with the strongest beer

Saturday, March 15, 2008

River Rat Rye

Today I brew a Rye Pale Ale, that I'm dubbing River Rat Rye, as in Mr. Rat of the Wind In The Willows. (I played Ratty in a youth theater production once...)

River Rat Rye
7.75lbs Maris Otter
1lb Victory
2lbs Rye
1lb Flaked Rye
1/4lb Crystal 20L
1/4lb Crystal 40L
1/2lb Rice Hulls

1/2oz Cascade 7.9%AA FWH
1/2oz Nugget 9.5%AA 60min
1/2oz Nugget " " 30min
1/2oz Cascade 7.9%AA Flameout
1oz Cascade Dry Hop

Safale US-05 American Ale x2

I'm using Hops that are grown in Saranac MI for my brew, at least for the brewday hops. The Dry Hops will go into secondary when I rack, hopefully next weekend, so I'll have a chance to buy some pellet hops instead of the whole leaf that I have now. Pellets are easier to deal with in a fermenter.

Based on my efficiency with the last batch, I should end this one somewhere around 1.057 and get about 49 IBU. This is right on the high end of American Pale Ale, which is great. The rye should add some nice spiciness and add to the body a fair bit. The rice hulls are just there becuase rye is "sticky" and can cause flow problems in a mash tun, but I don't even know if that is an issue for batch sparge.

I'm pitching 2 packets of dry yeast today, just to be sure, and I'm going to be much more careful of my acid corrections.

And before I can do anything, I need breakfast, 10 or so gallons of water, and some more propane.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Tonight I racked my Brown Ale, transferred it into a secondary fermenter, in this case a 5-gallon glass carboy. It's been in primary now for 10 days, but only fermenting for a little over 7. I'll leave it in the secondary for a couple of weeks. I'm using the secondary as more of an aging time, but it's important to get the beer off the dead yeast cells.

The final gravity was 1.010, giving me an alcohol of about 4.7%, pretty nice. It tastes pretty great too. Simple, toasty-sweet malt up front with a bready/chocolatey lingering aftertaste. The bitterness doesn't stand out, it's just enough to be a little bit over balanced. Nice, I like it. I'm excited to taste this one after it's aged out a bit and it's been carbonated.

This weekend, I'm planning on brewing a Rye Pale Ale. I'm goin to use hops that are grown right here in Michigan too! Saranac, to be exact.