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.