Monday, December 19, 2005

Perfect porter?

Bottled the porter last night and I'm pretty pleased. Fermentation started real slow, so I had pitched some slurry from the previous batch (with my fingers crossed, because the last batch didn't turn out so well) and everything seems to be okay. I've been concerned about scratches in the bottom of my fermenter, but this beer seemed to ferment nice and clean, and tasted great right out of the primary. Yield on this batch was 22 22-ounce bottles and two plastic quarts.

Tasted out of the primary, this beer had a chewy caramel and pronounced chocolate flavor, laced with the citric and piney hops. I could also detect a sort of minty-licorice flavor, which I'm guessing may be the juniper berries that I added. Hops are assertive, but not overpowering. Quite happy with this one so far.

The only problem with this batch was that I broke my bottle filler.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Back to Basics

I decided to brew a batch of porter yesterday. I kept it simple and easy, using two 3.3 pound cans of Munton's Amber extract, a half pound each of 120L American crystal malt and Belgian Special B, a pound each of Belgian chocolate malt and Biscuit malt, some left over whole Centennial and Chinook hops (an ounce each) and a vial of White Labs English Ale yeast.

I crushed all the grains myself in a corona-style grain mill. I sort of steeped/mashed the grains with a half ounce of the Centennial hops (sort of a first wort hopping experiment) in a large grain bag in my brew kettle, raising the temperature to about 150 degrees F. and holding it between 140 and 150 for about a half hour. I then added the malt extract and turned the heat up to bring the mixture to boiling. Once I got the boil started I added a half ounce of the Chinook, followed the rest of the Chinook after a half hour. I added the rest of the Centennial hops about five minutes before the end of the boil. It was at this time that I sanitized my wort chiller by letting it sit in the boiling wort for the last five minutes of the boil. I cooled the wort with the chiller in about 20 minutes to about 80 degrees F., poured it through a strainer into my plastic fermenting bucket and topped off with artesian spring water to bring the total volume up to five gallons. I pitched the White Labs vial directly into the wort (no starter) and it was rather messy. The vial seemed to be under quite a bit of pressure, as the yeast and liquid inside sprayed out even though took care to crack the vial slowly and relieve the pressure inside. This has happened to me on a couple occasions now.

I much prefer the Wyeast Activator packs, but particular homebrew shop I visited doesn't sell them. Perhaps I'll be going back to having everything shipped.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Happy Holidays!

I've been on a bit of a brewing hiatus for the past couple months. The red ale turned out infected and I've been agonizing over what exactly happened for a few weeks now. I've come to the conclusion the batch was infected by either an improperly cleaned and sanitized spigot on my bottling bucket or by adding some old yeast energizer to the beer after boiling.

So, I've taken some time off from brewing, but I intend to get back to it after the holidays. In the meantime...

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Red Ale Revisited

I've revisited a red ale recipe that turned out well last year and that is loosely based on Rogue's St. Rogue Red. I used 10 pounds of Maris Otter pale ale malt and one pound each of CaraMunich, CaraVienne, Simpsons Light Crystal (10L, I believe) and one pound of German Munich malt. I also experimented with a Scottish brewing technique that calls for boiling a small portion of wort and letting it caramelize. I'm thinking that this technique will add some extra caramel flavors to the beer, off-setting the sharp hop flavors. The hops I used included an ounce of Centennial "flowers" employed half as a "first wort" addition and half as bittering hops boiled for 60 minutes, after which time I turned off the stove and added an ounce of Chinook hops. It's a pretty simple recipe, but one that makes a pretty complex beer, mixing sweet caramel malts with spicy and bitter hops.
I sparged about four gallons into the brew kettle and diluted with another gallon of water after I chilled the wort. I chose an Activator Pack of Wyeast 1332 for this beer to hopefully add a little bit accent the malt flavors a chance to be heard over the screaming 40 IBUs.
No stuck sparges this time or other hangups. Just a bit of mess dealing with the whole hops. I think I need to stick to with pellet hops for bittering and just use whole hops for aroma, because the whole hops tend to absorb a lot of the wort, affecting yield.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Clan Morrison Scottish Ale Bottled

I bottled up the Clan Morrison Scottish Ale (see below) today and I was pretty pleased with the results. There's a bit more bitterness than I would like for a Scottish Ale, but I think this will soften a bit after a month or so in bottles. The malt aroma was very pleasant with the amber malt (grain, not extract) adding a wonderful biscuit or cookie-like aroma to the beer. I'm certain the Maris Otter added to the crisp, cracker-like maltiness. The body was about right, perhaps a bit on the light side. The color came out a little lighter than I had hoped, but I still think it's to style.

I had a problem with a leak from my bottling bucket during my last bottling session. I've since replaced the spigot for the bucket and I didn't have any problems bottling today. The bottling session seemed to take up a bit less time than usual, but that's probably because I scrubbed and washed all equipment in the morning and sanitized everything, racked and filled the bottles in the evening. Breaking up some of the tasks worked well and I think I'd do that again, perhaps cleaning everything the day before and sanitizing the next day.

I think the next beer I brew will be an ordinary bitter.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Clan Morrison Bride Ale

I brewed a Scottish ale today for my friend Ryan's wedding coming up in November. It should turn out to be something like an 80-shilling with a gravity of between 12-13 Plato. I used a total of 14 pounds of grain. This included 10 pounds of British Maris Otter, two pounds of British amber malt, one pound of Scottish peated malt and one pound of flaked oats. I used Kent Goldings hops at 4 percent alpha acid in an amount equal to about 20 IBUs, which I'm hoping is just right for this beer. (You might be thinking that 14 pounds of grain is a lot for a beer of only 12-13 Plato, but I only collect 3.5 to four gallons of wort, which I then dilute with 1.5 to two gallons of water and I've been getting about a 50 percent mash efficiency.) I used Wyeast 1056 for this beer instead of the #1728 which is the Scottish strain, which I thought might produce too many esters, since it's still a bit warm in the kitchen. I like to taste the grains that I use and the Maris Otter malt was wonderfully sweet with a cookie like character -- really good stuff.
The sparge was slower than the other all-grain batches I've brewed this year, taking about 45 minutes. I'm going to assume this is because I mashed more grain than the previous batches. I stopped the flow out of my mash-lauter tun (Gott cooler) to recirculate some of the cloudy wort and had difficulty getting the flow started again. Next time I'll try scooping wort out of the kettle without stopping the flow.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Spiced Blonde doesn't disappoint

I tasted a bottle of the Spiced Blonde the other night and I wasn't disappointed. It seems a bit drier than the previous versions I've brewed this past summer and it seems to have a little more heat in the finish from the black pepper, but it's still young (only 12 days in the bottle.) I've brewed this batch for a tasting party and I'm glad that it seems to have turned out so well.

Here is the recipe for my stronng spiced Belgian-style winter brew; a.k.a., Santa's Little Helper, as promised.

Santa's Little Helper

A ProMash Recipe Report

BJCP Style and Style Guidelines

18-D Strong Belgian Ale, Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Min OG: 1.065 Max OG: 1.098
Min IBU: 25 Max IBU: 40
Min Clr: 7 Max Clr: 20 Color in SRM, Lovibond

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal):5.00
Wort Size (Gal): 2.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.05
Anticipated OG: 1.063
Plato: 15.36
Anticipated SRM: 15.8
Anticipated IBU: 38.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

3.30 lbs. Muntons LME
2.00 lbs. Corn Sugar
1.00 lbs. Crystal 80L
1.00 lbs. Flaked Soft White Wheat
1.00 lbs. Munich Malt(light)
1.00 lbs. Vienna Malt
1.00 lbs. Wheat Malt
0.75 lbs. Crystal 120L

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

1.00 oz. Spalter Spalt 4.75A (First Wort)
0.50 oz. Perle 8.25AA for 60 min.
0.50 oz. Spalter Spalt 4.75AA for 60 min.

1.00 Oz Ginger Root 15 Min.
0.33 Oz Coriander Seed 5 Min.(boil)
0.33 Oz Coriander Seed 15 Min.(boil)
0.75 Oz Sweet Orange Peel 5 Min.(boil)
0.33 Oz Cardamom Seed 5 Min.(boil)


White Labs WLP400 Belgian Wit Ale

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Santa Needs Helpers

It's Thursday night, it's raining and I just finished up bottling a batch of strong brew. I found a use for my vial of White Labs 400 (Wit) and seventeen days ago I brewed a partial mash recipe with five kinds of grain, fortified with a 3.3 pound can of Munton's Light Malt Extract. I used the rest of my German hops; Perle and Spalt, along with some spices such as cardamom, sweet orange peel and coriander. I'm calling it Santa's Little Helper. What I've got so far is a strong light brown ale with a big caramel malt presence, some complex esters and phenols, along with a fairly bitter finish -- the makings of a fairly complex brew. The esters are completely different that what I thought I'd get; mostly caramel, a bit of sugary-vanilla and a hint of leather in the nose. The tartness that I expected is also missing, perhaps due to the elevated fermentation temps of around 83-85 degrees F. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with batch so far. I'll be posting the recipe when I get a chance, but for now it's sleepy time. I love homebrewing, but bottling can be exhausting.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The making of a Balcony Beer

I brewed another batch of spiced summer ale, or what we like to call a "balcony beer" today. A balcony beer is what me and my wife call any beer that is thirst quenching, fresh, crisp, and light (in body and color.) It's good for a balcony beer to be visually appealing, too. The ability to see the sunlight filtered through the beer as bubbles of carbon dioxide percolate up the through the glass to sustain a bright, white, meringue-like foam.

The first batch of the spicy blonde turned out fantastic, even though I experience a stuck sparge. I was aiming even higher with this batch; as I added some more spices and herbs to the mix. Unfortunately, I had a stuck sparge with this batch, too. Seeing that the first batch stuck and turned out great, I probably shouldn't worry about this batch, but the fact that the last batch "stuck" and turned out okay made the situation no less frustrating. At first I was convinced that the problem was due to poorly milled grain; the grain I used from the St. Charles Homebrew Shop had a lot of flour to it. After almost an half hour of sparging the wort into my brew pot with a hand strainer and a ladle, I could see my phalse bottom and didn't see any grains stuck underneath it or in the tubing. So what was the problem? I think I needed more foundation water, as I simply dumped the half the grain in my mash tun (Gott cooler) and then mixed in about a gallon and a half of water. I probably should have added enough water to cover the phalse bottom and then about a pound of grain, instead of six pounds! Everything else about the brewing process was pretty normal, but I was worried the whole time about hot side aeration and a heavily oxidized final product.

Experiencing a stuck sparge again had me wondering if all-grain brewing is worth the trouble, but after cracking open one of my previous all-grain brews (my hoppy summer blonde ale brewed in early July), I was reminded of why it's worth it. (You can see for yourself by looking at the attached picture. The beer even looks good, again proving that it's a good "balcony beer", too.) There is no way that I could produce such a crisp and light ale with extract.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A boring blonde?

After almost a month in the bottle, I think the Hoppy Blonde Ale is pretty much what it's going to be. The aroma is slightly malty and estery with a hint of corn, which suggests some problems with DMS. The color is pretty good (a light gold), but and carbonation is pretty much perfect, but the aroma seems a bit off. Although I calculated this beer at 40-something IBUs, the hops seem to be lacking a bit, with the malt asserting itself more than I thought. If I brewed this recipe again, I would probably reduce the amount of CaraPils (dextrine) malt from 15 percent to 10 or maybe even 5 percent. Or, I might leave out the dextrine malt and use a little bit of flaked or torrefied wheat instead. The batch turned out okay, it's just a bit boring.

Meanwhile, I've the got the ingredients together for another batch of the Spicy Blonde Ale, except that I bought White Labs Wit (WLP400) instead the Wyeast Belgian Ardennes. The guy at the brew shop told me that it would ferment fairly clean at high temperatures, but after doing some research about this strain it seems I could end up with a bit of tartness in this brew. I guess I'll experiment and see what happens.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hoppy Blonde Ale

About a couple weeks ago, I re-pitched the yeast from the spiced blonde ale (see previous entry) and brewed a hoppier version without the lemongrass and pepper. At bottling time, it tasted more phenolic than the first batch, but I suppose that's to be expected when fermenting at near 85 degrees! Seeing that this batch seems a little higher in gravity than the last, I'll probabably wait at least a couple more weeks before I crack open a bottle. Having tasted the spiced blonde, I'll probably go back to adding the spices, they add just bit of complexity that can't quite be figured out...

Hoppy Blonde Ale

A ProMash Brewing Session Report

Brewing Date: Saturday July 02, 2005
Bottled: Sunday July 10, 2005
Head Brewer: Marc Morency
Quality Control: Carol Morency
Recipe: Hoppy Blonde

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.00 Wort Size (Gal): 3.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.25
Anticipated OG: 1.049 Plato: 12.03
Anticipated SRM: 6.2
Anticipated IBU: 44.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50 %
Wort Boil Time: 70 Minutes

Actual OG: 1.046 Plato: 11.44
Actual FG: 1.009 Plato: 2.31

Alc by Weight: 3.81 by Volume: 4.86 From Measured Gravities.

Actual Mash System Efficiency: 50 %
Anticipated Points From Mash: 46.20
Actual Points From Mash: 46.66

0.25 lbs. Coopers DME - Light 1.046
11.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row) 1.036
2.00 lbs. Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt 1.033

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

1.00 oz. Perle Pellet 9.00AA 70 min.
0.50 oz. Amarillo Gold Pellet 8.40AA 4.8 12 min.

AA=%Alpha Acid

0.50 Oz Irish Moss Fining 10 Min.(boil)


WYeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes

Mash Schedule

Mash Type: Single Step Infusion
Heat Type: Indirect

Grain Lbs: 13.00
Water Qts: 13.20 - Before Additional Infusions
Water Gal: 3.30 - Before Additional Infusions

Qts Water Per Lbs Grain: 1.02
Grain Temp: 75 F

Dough In Temp: 171 Time: 0
Saccharification Rest Temp: 154 Time: 60
Sparge Temp: 175 Time: 25

Runnings Stopped At: 1.010 SG 2.56 Plato

Total Mash Volume Gal: 4.34 - After Additional Infusions

All temperature measurements are degrees Fahrenheit.

Fermentation Specifics

Pitched From: Slurry
Amount Pitched: 150 mL
Lag Time: Less than 8 hours

Primary Fermenter: Plastic
Primary Type: Closed
Days In Primary: 8
Primary Temperature: 82 degrees F


First time using sparge arm. Didn't realize the jump in efficiency that I had hoped, but the sparging process was easier and could left alone most of the time. I think 13.5 pounds of grain would fill the lauter tun to capacity, while still leaving room for the sparge arm. Added four ounces of Cooper's DME to boost gravity. Diluted the 3.2 gallons from the kettle with an additional quantity of water to make up five gallons. I'm not happy about my low effiency, but I guess that's what I have to expect if only sparging with enough water to boil 3.5 to 4 gallons instead of 5 or 6.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Spiced Blonde Ale

I brewed this past Wednesday and I decided to go for a hybrid of two recipes that I've crafted in Promash. I was thinking of brewing a saison-style beer with Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, but I was also thinking of brewing hoppy light ale, and I ended up brewing a lightly hopped blonde ale with a moderate gravity, using Wyeast Belgian Ardennes yeast. I also added an ounce of dried lemongrass to the last 15 minutes of the boil and two ounces of crushed black pepper. The airlock on my primary fermenter started bubbling about four to five hours after I pitched the Wyeast Activator Pack. Fermentation has just started to slow down with airlock bubbling quite infrequently, probably every minute or so. I'm thinking about racking the beer into the secondary sometime today and when I do, I'll be adding an ounce of Amarillo hops and perhaps some whole peppercorns for an extra peppery aroma. Here's the recipe as it turned out.
Marcobrau Summer Spiced Ale

A ProMash Recipe Report

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.00 Wort Size (Gal): 3.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.00
Anticipated OG: 1.045 Plato: 11.10
Anticipated SRM: 6.7
Anticipated IBU: 23.2
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Formulas Used

Brewhouse Efficiency and Predicted Gravity based on Method #1, Potential Used.
Final Gravity Calculation Based on Points.
Hard Value of Sucrose applied. Value for recipe: 46.2100 ppppg
% Yield Type used in Gravity Prediction: Fine Grind Dry Basis.

Color Formula Used: Mosher
Hop IBU Formula Used: Rager

Additional Utilization Used For Plug Hops: 2 %
Additional Utilization Used For Pellet Hops: 10 %

10.00 lbs. Pale Malt(American 2-row)
2.00 lbs. Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

0.75 oz. Perle Pellet 9.45AA 30 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo Gold Pellet 8.40AA 7 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo Gold Pellet 8.40AA 0 min.

WYeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Single Step

Grain Lbs: 12.00
Water Qts: 10.00 - Before Additional Infusions
Water Gal: 2.50 - Before Additional Infusions

Qts Water Per Lbs Grain: 0.83 - Before Additional Infusions

Saccharification Rest Temp: 152 Time: 30
Mash-out Rest Temp: 0 Time: 0
Sparge Temp: 175 Time: 30

Total Mash Volume Gal: 3.46 - Dough-In Infusion Only

All temperature measurements are degrees Fahrenheit.

Added 2 ounces of black pepper and an ounce ounce of dried lemongrass for the last 15 minutes of the boil.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Siamese Dream?

My ambitious "next batch", Siamese Dream, (see below) is getting shelved for now in favor of a well-hopped blonde ale. The inspiration for this batch is Bell's Third Coast Beer a very dry, light-bodied pale ale from Michigan. I just love the citrusy and grassy hops in this beer and the powerfully bitter and dry finish. I've been enjoying my American wheat beer that I've brewed, but it's left me wanting something a bit hoppier.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Well, I've brewed some more wheat beer, but I haven't cracked a bottle yet. I'm really pleased with how the last batch turned out. I'm really liking this all-grain brewing. I don't know if I'll ever be able to use extract again. I think what I like about all-grain brewing is the freshness of the beer and how the temperature of the mash can affect the body of the beer. I'm also amazed at how light colored my last couple of brews have been; I always tried to brew light-colored brews before with malt extract, but it just didn't work.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I brewed an American Wheat beer this past Sunday. It's a version of the Gall Bladder Ale I brewed last year. It was about this time last year that I started having gall bladder problems and in May I had the angry little organ removed. Unfortunately, brewing this batch was almost as tedious as surgery, as I experienced a stuck mash of some sort. I think the Phil's phalse bottom (plastic) that I use floated up as I was loading the cooler with grain. I think my water to grain ratio was tilted towards more water than grain, which I'll have to watch in future batches -- got to keep that false bottom loaded down. I ended up scooping the mash up with a coffee cup, dumping it in a strainer held above the brewpot and letting it drain -- a royal pain in the ass. I'm sure this hurt my efficiency, which ended up being 43 percent. I may invest in a stainless steel false bottom, or might just attach a weight of some sort to the darn thing. The resulting beer from this brew session should be pretty darn light (both in color and in body) which will make for a tasty treat after working in the garden.

Meanwhile, I'm trying not to gobble up too much of the IPA, mostly because it so intensely bitter and hoppy. The near 86 percent attenuation of this brew resulted in sort of a thin and strong IPA. You would think it would go down easy, but all those anesthetic hops slow you down. I'm planning on setting aside a case for at least another month to see if the hops mellow a bit.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Racking and Bottling we go...

This past Sunday was a busy day for brewing -- well, not brewing per se -- but racking and bottling. I bottled the Red IPA and it's turned out a bit thin, which is probably due to the low finishing gravity -- which is probably due to the extra long mash (almost two hours.) I dry hopped the IPA with two ounces of pellets and that seemed to muck things up quite a bit. I had to leave about a half gallon of beer because of all the floating and settled hops. I was a little bummed out about this, but it was kind of expected, and the four gallons I did bottle should have an alcohol of 6.5 percent by volume -- so less of a stronger than expected beer.

Once I bottled the IPA, I racked the saison in the empty carboy. It had a much higher gravity of 1.018, so I decided to go through with my plan for adding an additional yeast to dry the beer. I was a bit surprised at the amount of fermentation activity (about a half inch of foam) and how quickly the yeast sprung into action. It will be interesting to see how far the gravity drops in this beer. I also added an ounce of Styrian Goldings pellets. I'll probably give the beer a couple weeks for the hops to settle out.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Saison Season

Time to brew!

It's saison season (kind of redundant if your French). It's still cold outside, but in order to enjoy a tasty saison-style ale in mid- to late summer, it must be brewed in March. I've been brewing a Saison (think: Saison DuPont) for the last several years. Each year the beer is a little different; sometimes I use spices, sometimes I don't. This year, I didn't use any spices, but I added sugar. My goal for this summer's saison is to make a very dry beer. The sugar I've added to this batch should aid in accomplishing this, as well the additional yeast I plan on adding after primary fermentation. The first strain I'm using is the one I've always used, White Labs Saison. The second strain I'll be using to "dry" the beer, will be Safbrew T-58. I used the Safbrew T-58 last year to make a wheat beer and it turned out pretty good. With the saison, I'll be using this yeast to attempt a further attenuation of the beer, with a goal of a final gravity of 1.008 or lower. To this end, I also adjusted the length of the mash (in an effort to produce more sugars), which is something I did with the last beer I brewed. That beer, a red IPA, achieved a relative degree of attenuation of 88 percent, which translated to a finishing gravity of 1.004-6.
Here are the details for Saison Morency:

Batch Size (Gal): 5.00 Wort Size (Gal): 3.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.00
Anticipated OG: 1.055 Plato: 13.66
Anticipated SRM: 8.1
Anticipated IBU: 36.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

8.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row)
2.00 lbs. Jaggery (Gur)
1.00 lbs. CaraVienne Malt
1.00 lbs. Torrefied Wheat
Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings Whole 5.20 AA First Wort
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings Whole 5.20 AA 60 min.
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings Pellet 5.25 AA Dry Hop

White Labs Saison I

Mash Schedule:
Mash Type: Single Step Infusion
Qts Water Per Lbs Grain: 1.00
Saccharification Rest Temp: 158
Sparge Temp: 175
Total Mash Volume Gal: 3.30 - Dough-In Infusion Only

All temperature measurements are degrees Fahrenheit.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Another Extra Hoppy Amber Ale

Another extra hoppy (read: IPA) amber ale is born. This time I'm mashing with a new system. I've removed the Zymico Kewler Kit from my five-gallon Gott cooler and replaced it with a Phil's Phalse Bottom. Lautering was slower than with the Kewler Kitz and mesh screen, but no stuck mash. I mashed 12 pounds of malt and added a half pound of corn sugar (about four percent of the overal grain bill) to kick up the strength a little bit. Hopped like an IPA, with the expected reddish color of an amber ale, this beer is turning into a favorite. I plan on alternating the hoppy version with a more balanced version throughout the coming year, with an occasional Belgian ale or stout brewed here and there. I replaced the Munich malt used in previous versions of this beer with Mild Malt. I also used a extrodinarily long saccharification rest. The extra long rest for this brew was due to a longer than expected lunch break. At least I know I rinsed all the sugars from the grain! It will be interesting to see if this beer is more fully attenuated than over beers I've brewed with a shorter rest. Here's the recipe for this batch.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Tasting amber waves of grain

The all-grain amber ale has turned out pretty good. No problems with carbonation (which seem to be recurring problem with my beers these days.) The only problem with this last batch is that I'm already almost out of it (well, not really, I'm almost out of bottles.) I still have a mini-keg I have yet to have of this fairly well-balanced amber ale. The hops in this beer are definitely in the background, but the finish is long and bitter. I wish there was a little more complex flavor with malts, perhaps more body. I think the next time I brew this I might raise the temperature of the mash or add some Munich malt for more body. I also might consider dry hopping to add more hop aroma. I guess I should just be happy the it's clean tasting brew with no off flavors.

Meanwhile, the last few bottles of the extra hopped, partial mash version of this beer has a soapy taste and some bottles are gushing when opened. Looking back at my notes, I found that I kept the beer in the primary fermenter (plastic) for 15 days -- way too long. My guess is that the extended time spent on the yeast sediment built of fatty acids in the beer, which can contribute to gushing and a soapy flavor. On the other hand, the most recent all-grain batch I did spent only six days inthe primary and then was bottled. I think the lesson here is to practice short primary fermentations.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Another all-grain experiment

After several successful partial mashes, I thought I'd try and make an all-grain version of the "Special Reserve", but due to the constraints of my electric stove, I decided to make a concentrated wort and dilute it with a couple gallons of water. I ended up mashing 12 lbs of grain (the most I've used in my 5-gallon tun) and it seemed to be too much. Did I have a stuck mash? It sure seemed like it, as try as I might, I coudn't get my mash tun to drain. I use a 5-gallon rubbermaid cooler as a combination mash-lauter tun with a Kewler Kitz spigot and bulkhead. I used to use a large grain bag for my partial mashes, but I've since been putting a cleaned and sanitized lint trap (mesh screen) on the inside of the spigot. I'm not sure if it was the weight of the 12 lbs of grain that compacted around the screen, but that's what seemed to happen. How did I rescue this batch? Well, I basically used a large mug (cleaned and sanitized, of course) to scoop up the grain and place in to a mesh colander held over my brewpot. I also used a ladle to rinse the grain with the liquid (wort) collected in the pot. It was a lot of work. The whole experience has got me thinking about sticking with partial mashes.

It's now seven days later and the gravity seems to have dropped about 40 points. The "green" beer from the fermenter tastes thin and excessively bitter (probably due to the 40 IBUs) and hot. I'm guessing the "hotness" is from longer chains of alcohols/fusels. Hopefully, that nastiness will subside. There's virtually no hop aroma; I'm assuming it all got blown off. I guess I could dry hop but I don't know if it's worth the extra effort, as this batch seems to have some flaws. I think I might add some dry hops to my mini-keg, though. I'll be bottling mostly in plastic, with three English pints thrown in for good measure. Here's the recipe if anybody is interested in this mess.