Monday, February 28, 2011

Stout, stout, stout.

5.25 gals of the Black leather stout is hapily bubbling away.

This one landed at 1.065OG, and I'm trying a different yeast.. Wyeast 1272 American Ale II.

Supposed to be a bit fruitier, and more flocculant than 1056, so.. We'll see.
I also have a shiny new 44Qt kettle coming in Via UPS soon, so I'm all excited about that.

Eventually, I'll finalize a design, and get part numbers, but I'm attempting to build a digital temp. control that will do heating and cooling together for less than $40. Its going to be super simple, and I promise to post pics, and part sources here. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Da Wheat!

First real wheat beer got did today.

Its super pale, and should be roughly 5.2%ABV when done, making it a little heavier than most wheats, but screw it.. Its winter.. We need heat, and the liquid jacket alcohol gives you can stave off chill cheaper than turning up the thermostat. :)

So, here it is.. The recipe as we brewed today: (5.5Gal batch)

7 Lbs German malted wheat
2.5 Lbs Vienna malt
2 Lbs Domestic 2-row

1 Oz Tettnanger, 45 Minutes
1.11 Oz Czech Saaz, 15 Minutes.

Pitched a dry package of Danstar Nottingham yeast.

Hopefully, we should be able to get this to the keg, and drinkable within 2 to 3 weeks!

The malted wheat smells awesome, but its a totally different smell than the barley when crushed. I'm pretty excited to see what this "light" beer tastes like.


Monday, February 14, 2011

"Smokin' Redhead" Fail.. :(

I think I need to review my yeast propagation technique.

The rauchmalt beer I recently tried was getting skunkier, and skunkier out of the airlock. The fermentation didnt look right, and we finally pulled the plug and dumped it. It was a horrible smell.

I seriously want to try this one again soon (next?) as the color, and smokiness was so awesome...

I think this time I'll stick with a commercially packaged yeast tho.

I need to do a bit more refining / experimenting with my yeast growing skills before I try pitching a yeast I grew, again.

Oh well.. Its all a learning experience, no? :)

Okay, lets try this again.. :)

Same recipe is in primary, only this time, I'm using Danstar Nottingham dry yeast (It came very highly recommended from a brewer friend of mine)
Its kicked off after about a 12 hour lag, and seems to be going to town.

I'm also actively managing the temperature. I have a temp. controller that my brewbelt is plugged into keeping it all at 20.2C +- 0.15C (Say just above 68F)

Hopefully this way I can get a quick, vigorous fermentation, and get the yeast to all go dormant and flock at once. I think I've been brewing too far on the cold end, as its been cold here, and my fermentations have not been attenuating as far as I'm used to, plus the yeast all seem to want to stay up in suspension. I hope a touch of heat will help that along.

Well, heres to another experiment! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First time being a beer judge..

So, I attended my first homebrew judging / competition yesterday.

they let me tag on as a novice judge, to help in the Stouts category.

Our panel of 3 judged 11 different homebrews. From sweet stouts, to American stouts, to Russian Imperial stouts, and everything in between.

Holy hats I learned an incredible amount! Some of the beers were awesome, some just good, and others virtually undrinkable. I got a chance to taste firsthand some of the more common off flavors seen in homebrews. (Esters, Fusel alcohols, Diacetyl, too much Lactic acid, etc.. ) One stout tasted straight up like Banana, and green apple! (Esters produce these flavors).

It took us nearly 4 hours to judge the whole flight of 11 beers (12, if you count the first commercial, or "Calibration" beer we started with).  Sadly, I had to leave shortly before the judgments were handed out, but I will get the judging sheets in the mail for the IPA I had entered.

Overall, a great time. A wonderful meet n' greet experience, and a genuinely awesome learning experience. With the tools I started learning yesterday, I can now judge my own beers with a much more objective, and critical eye. This is how we make better beer!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still sore...

So, I had the chance to hang out, and brew with a local brewmaster.

Holy fuck, I learned a lot, and had a great time.. Brewing is still fun, even at commercial level!

This particular place was a local brewpub, with a ~10bbl system. Smallish by commercial standards, but probably on the high end of physical effort per bbl, compared to larger systems (Im only hoping here) I was working from roughly 9:30AM to 6:30 PM

We brewed an Irish dry stout, scheduled to be on tap March 16th. Just in time for St. Patrick's day! (Downtown Joes regulars, Be there.. I know I will!)

The recipe was pretty straightforward, in deference to the brewer, I'm not gonna post it, but it was interesting to me to help build a 370ish pound grain bill. roughly 7 lbs of hops went in as well.

It was a super dark color coming off the tun, smelled of coffee and chocolate.. Great smelling brew. Target ABV. was roughly 4.5 (IIRC)

I got the whole newbie experience.. Sweep out the grain room, load out the spent grain, then wash the tun, climb into, and scrub out the copper boil kettle... A lot of interesting learning. The brewmaster was awesome, very sharp, and in tune with dialing in chemistry so its just right. A professional..

Still, the fucker made me work till I was shaking, and I'm still sore today.. :) Climbing into, and scrubbing a copper boil kettle with a scour pad isn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Its hot, sweaty, cramped (and cramping, like of the leg muscle kind)

I feel proud of the beer I helped on. I think its going to sell well, and I cant wait to get a taste of it once it hits the taps.

If you have a small brewpub in your area, and can spare a (full) day, I think you could do a lot worse than offering to be a beerbitch for a day. I got free beer, food, and more learning in one day than in months of 'net researching, and trial and error.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mmmm.. Smoky goodness..

So, got a wild hair, and thought I'd continue my experimenting..

I decided to try something with a smoky flavor, and see what happens.

Heres what I ended up with: (5.5 Gal Batch)

10 Lbs Domestic 2-row
2 Lbs Smoked barley (Rausch malt?) Not peated malt!!
1 Lb Crystal 120

! oz Cascade - 60 minute boil
0.15 Oz Magnum - 60 minutes

.75 Saaz - 15 minutes

Yeast was whatever the yeast is on the bottom of some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottles.

Propagated a pretty huge yeast cake from 2 bottles worth (Maybe 10ml of liquid, with maybe 2 ml of actual yeast in it)

I pitched that 500ml starter (good 1/4" thick yeast cake on the bottom now) after stirring it up on the stirplate.

In less than an hour, I have a bubble every couple minutes from the blowoff tube!

The Crystal 120 (I think) has given this beer a beautiful red / copper color, I'm really liking how the color turned out, so in keeping with the "S&M" theme, I'm calling this smoky, copper beer:

"Smokin' Rehhead ale"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Second Homebrew club meeting..

So, I just returned home from my second local club meeting (Bungbrewers, Napa, CA)

This one was hosted at a local brewpub. I took my wife and a good friend, I figured a little dinner, some good brews.. Its a night out! (Multi-tasking never hurt anyone, right?)

Tonights main topic was discussing water. Specifically; the local municipal water source, and what additions can help for various styles of beers. I learned a lot, but feel like I barely breached the cusp of what I should know to help me brew a better beer..

The talk was given by the brewpubs brewmaster, and he said I could hang out (and help) on a brew day, and ask all the questions I want.. (Joy!) So, here in a couple weeks once I get my calendar cleared a bit, I plan to call him up, and go learn.

I understand the main topic / lecture item for the next few brewclub meetings will be hops, and grains.

Sadly, I joined too late to catch the yeast lecture.

So much more to brewing than I thought. Subtle changes, subtle differences can make a profound impact on how your beer is experienced by the drinker.

It seems almost like the board game Go, or mastermind. Its easy to learn the rules.. Its easy to play at an okay level (You can practically fall into making a perfectly drinkable beer) but refining your technique to produce something very special.. Well... Thats where its gonna take a lot of learning, and practice.

What better way than to hang out, and brew with a master!

If you brew, find your local brewpubs, micro breweries, or whatever, and call them.. Leave a message for the brewmaster. Devote a day, and follow him around. Chances are, he's as passionate about brewing as you are, and would love a set of hands to help scrub boil kettles, or unload grain.

Who knows, you might just learn something.. I surely hope to.