Category Archives: Brewed Slowly

all things beer

Brewed Slowly: #17 Kitchen Sink Belgian Blonde

The last beer I made, about 2 weeks ago, was what we’ll call a kitchen sink beer. I had a smack pack of Irish Ale yeast and a bunch of different types of hops around the house, and I figured if I could just get some grain, I could throw it all together and make something maybe, possibly, just maybe possibly worth drinking. When we were in Birmingham for the beer festival, we stopped by the homebrew store and I explained my ingredient situation to one of the guys working there. He suggested using the Irish ale yeast, Saaz and Northdown hops, and some pilsner grain to make a basic Belgian blonde. Fantastic, all I needed was the pilsner grain. So I picked up 12 pounds of it and had a potential beer on my hands. (I was concerned somewhat about the pilsner grain’s level of modification (because I’m not yet comfortable with multiple step mashes), but the guy assured me it was fully modified (hope he was right).)

I don’t really know what to expect from the beer because it’s actually still in the primary. But it sounds good in theory. Hopefully light and malty with mild Saaz hop flavor.

Software:

12# Belgian Pilsner (2-row)

2 oz. 40L Crystal malt

28g Northdown hop pellets

28g Czech Saaz whole leaf hops

1 tsp Irish Moss

Wyeast Irish Ale starter

Process:

1. One-step mash of the grains at 152 F for 1 hour in 3.75 gallons of water.

2. Batch sparged with 4.25 gallons of water at 175 F. Vorlaufed and added to brewpot.

3. Added Northdown hops at boil.

4. Boiled for an hour.

5. Added Irish Moss with 15 minutes left in boil.

6. Added Saaz hops with 5 minutes left in boil.

what a setup for cooling wort

7. Cooled down the wort overnight and pitched the yeast starter the next day.*

*This has become pretty much my SOP with regard to yeast pitching. It’s probably not the safest way to pitch yeast because the wort sits around for so long, but so far (4 beers in) it’s worked. I either stop up the carboy with sanitized foil or a stopper and airlock overnight.

My 10 plate chiller just doesn’t quite bring down the boiling wort to the temp I need to pitch at (which this could be because of my brewing practices, I’m not completely sure–but I’m also not sure what I could do differently. Ideas?).

fermentation beneath an SDRE t-shirt

This beer was the first I’ve fermented with any kind of temp control system (see above). What amounts to putting a t-shirt on the carboy and sitting the whole thing in a tub of water is what I’ll say is my temp control system. Guess what. It works. (The t-shirt soaks up the water and cools the entire carboy.) This setup kept the wort down to about 68 F when it would easily have stayed around 75 F without the t-shirt. And also, you might have noticed (but you probably didn’t) the carboy rocking a circa 2000 Sunny Day Real Estate t-shirt–scored at an awesome July 2000 show at the House of Blues in New Orleans. The shirt’s always been a little big for me (uninteresting story), so I’ll let the carboy have the honor from now on.

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Brewed Slowly Catch-Up: #15 Dry Stout and #16 Maui Brewing Co. Big Swell Clone

Recently, I’ve made some beers I haven’t told you guys about, and since I’m sitting here with no power (there’s a thunderstorm going through), I figured I’d write about some beer while I drink a beer in the near dark—the laptop’s got about 4 hours left of battery. Earlier, around the middle of May, I made a dry Irish stout, and just last week, I made a clone of Maui Brewing Co.’s Big Swell IPA.

I made the stout because I had some dark specialty grains and various hops sitting around that I wanted to finally get rid of and a couple packs of dry yeast that needed to be used. So I ordered some grain and made it on the cheap. It’d been such a long time since I’d made a stout that I figured it was time to try it out again. The Big Swell IPA was a kind of request of a friend who’d just come back from Hawaii and had the beer there. We went in together to split the cost and then we’ll split the beer when it’s bottled.

I’m going to rework my standard recipe explanation and basically give you the ingredients and basic steps I used to make the beer—basically less talk and more specifics.

So, first the stout.

Software:

9 lbs Maris Otter 2 row pale malt

2 lbs flaked barley

4 oz roasted barley

18 oz chocolate malt

19 g Warrior hop pellets

1 tsp Irish Moss

(2) 11.5 g packs of Safbrew S-33 dry yeast

Process:

1. One-step mash of the grains at 152 F for 1 hour in 3.5 gallons of water.

2. Added the specialty grains during batch sparge.

3. Batch sparged with 4.5 gallons of water at 175 F. Vorlaufed and added to brewpot.

4. Added Warrior hops at boil.

5. Boiled for an hour.

6. Added Irish Moss with 15 minutes left in boil.

7. Cooled down the wort and pitched the yeast.

I rehydrated the dry yeast and before pitching, and I only actually say bubbling the very next day. After that, it seemed like nothing was happening. But I let it sit in the primary fermentor for 2 weeks. When I went to keg it, I took a reading, which was 1.020, and figured that I might have pitched the yeast with the wort a little too warm. In any case, the beer tasted alright and fermented most of the way down. So I kegged it up and will carbonate it this week. (I got lazy and have just let it ‘age’ in the keg for the last week or so.

Now, the Big Swell IPA.

big swell IPA after a couple of days

Software:

14.5 lbs Rahr 2 row pale malt

14 oz Munich malt

7 oz 40 L Caramel/crystal malt

16 oz 10 L Caramel/crystal malt

1 oz Columbus hop pellets

0.75 oz Centennial hop pellets

1 oz Chinook hop pellets

1 oz Citra hop pellets

1 oz Nugget hop pellets

1 tsp Irish Moss

Wyeast American Ale II starter

Process:

1. One-step mash of the grains at 150 F for 1 hour in 4.68 gallons of water.

2. Added the specialty grains during batch sparge.

3. Batch sparged with 2.5 gallons of water at 175 F. Vorlaufed and added to brewpot.

4. Added Columbus and Centennial hops at boil.

5. Boiled for an hour.

6. Added Irish Moss with 15 minutes left in boil.

7. Cooled down the wort overnight and pitched the yeast starter the next day.

This was actually my first time making a yeast starter. I basically boiled half a gallon of water with half a cup of dark dry malt extract (DME) for 15 minutes, cooled it down, then pitched a somewhat expanded smack pack of yeast into it. I let this set for just over 2 days before I pitched it into the wort. I was a little concerned about decanting off the weak wort, especially since it was made with dark DME, but ended up pitching it all in. The color still looks fine. And there’s not way I’m going to not make a starter again—the wort was bubbling heavily after about only 10 hours. It’s been fermenting for about 5 days, and it’s still pretty active.

Brewed Slowly: # 14 California Common (Steam Beer)

One of my favorite beers is Anchor Brewery’s Anchor Steam beer, which is a type of beer often known as a California Common. My buddy, Steve, made one of these beers a couple of years ago, and it turned out pretty damn good. Why haven’t I made one yet? No idea. But so I made one last week–my 3rd all-grain batch of beer. After the London Pride clone and the Petite Saison, I feel like I’ve come to understand my all-grain system and its idiosyncrasies much better, so hopefully this beer will be even more better than the last two, which so far they still turned out not so damn bad.

California Commons are basically ales fermented at ale temps. (60-75 F or so) but with lager yeast. I’ve read lots about how the lager yeast fermenting at a high temp affects the end product and how it makes this beer distinct, but I’m not going to try to remember all that and regurgitate it for you here–you can find it easily enough with a bit of a google. Suffice to say that I used lager yeast with my common because you use lager yeast when making a common. I don’t make the rules, etc.

Like I mentioned, this is my 3rd all-grain batch, so there were still plenty of bugs crawling around the system waiting to jump on my lack of planning or carelessness and fuck up my brew day. But I brought the proverbial RAID (i.e., planning) and managed to avoid serious problems. Fantastic.

The Software:

12 lbs. 2 Row Pale malt (US)

2 oz. Caramel 40L

24 g Warrior hop pellets

17 g Challenger hop pellets

0.25 tsp Irish Moss

Wyeast 2112 (Rush!) California lager yeast

The Build:

1. Brought 4 gallons to 176 F and added to MT (remembering how I undershot the temp. last time, I made sure I got the water too hot this time. I overshot by about 4 degrees and then just stirred until I hit my target temp. 152.)

2. Added grain to MT and held for 1 hour.

3. Added 3.5 gallons of water at 180 F to MT and batch sparged.

4. Vorlaufed (which just means I caught the first quart, and subsequent qts. of run-off in a pitcher and poured it back in the MT until the run-off was clear–this helps keep grain particulates out of the boil kettle) and drained all I could get into the boil kettle.

5. Brought wort to boil and added the 24 g (1 oz) of Warrior hops.

6. Boiled that sumbitch. BOILED IT!

7. With 15 minutes left, added 8.5 g of Challenger hops.

8. At flameout, added another 8.5 g Challenger hops.

9. Ran the wort through the plate chiller and into a carboy. It came out around 120 F (probably because I’ve yet to have the brainpower to realize that if I run the cold water in the opposite direction as the hot wort, I’d probably knock off more heat–next time), I’d guess. Still too hot to pitch the yeast, but not so hot to be dangerous for the carboy.

10. Closed up the carboy until the next morning, then pitched the yeast.

it's the one in the carboy. been in there about a week and it's still bubbling about every few minutes or so. the keg is full of the saison.

11. Put off cleaning till the next day, and ate some crawfish. (Just to be clear–ate crawfish after brewing, cleaned up the next day.)

So compared to the saison, this brewday went down pretty easily. There’re still a few warts in the process, but by the next batch, I’ll have freeze-dried them off and the brewday’ll be as smooth as James Carville’s head. I.e., as frictionless as possible, slick. The next brewday’ll be slick.

I don’t have any immediate plans for the next beer. I was thinking of making another Kolsch, but I’m not super set on it. If you’re reading this and have a suggestion, especially if you know me and can actually try the end product beer, tell me what kind of beer you think would be good to make.

 

Brewed Slowly: #13 Petite Saison

I’ve been interested in Saisons lately, so I figured I’d try to make one as my second all-grain batch of beer. I looked over a few recipes for lower gravity saisons, and kind of mixed and matched what I liked about a few of them to get a single recipe that I liked.

From what I understand, saisons are sometimes called farmhouse ales, and they can be French or Belgian. Sam Adams has a Rustic Saison that you might be able to find at restaurants now, and it’s an OK beer–I’ve had better, but I still like it pretty good. Technically, I guess, I brewed a French saison because I used a French saison yeast (there’s probably more to it being French or Belgian than that, but that’s what I’m going to guess).

Couple of other points to mention about this beer. I’ve gotten a few new toys to make the all-grain brewing easier. First, I built the mash-tun (which I’m sure you read all about here), then I picked up a plate heat exchanger (wort chiller) from Dudadiesel, and I also downloaded some open-source brew software called Brewtarget. While batch number lucky thirteen didn’t exactly go as planned, these new equipment additions made it much more enjoyable and ensured, as much as anything can with me, that the beer will come out good.

Before I get into the recipe, I should talk a little about Brewtarget. This software (I am completely aware of how nerdish it sounds to talk about beer making software) allows you to put in information about your recipe, desired mash temps., etc. and then does much of the math for you. It even puts together a recipe page you can print off and a ‘brewday’ instruction sheet that you can print off and follow. Pretty damn neat. Leave it to computer geeks to come up with a program that helps you make beer. So even though I’d heard about brew software before and thought it was kind of lame, I’m completely into it now. It certainly doesn’t make or break the beer, and you can easily get along without it, but it is an easy way to calculate (without doing lots of math on your own (which is pretty much not an option for me for more reasons than are germane here)) stuff such as mash efficiency, beer bitterness, original and estimated final gravities, and even estimated calories per 12 oz. beer. Shazaam.

So now for the recipe (i.e., the Software):

7 lbs. Belgian 2 row Pale malt

2 lbs. Fawcett Optic Pale malt (also 2 row)

3 oz. Czech Saaz hops (whole leaf–cause it was cheaper to get 8 oz leaf than pellets and I hadn’t used leaf hops in a while)

Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast

the Leoneian (sp?) Showdown:

1. Brought 2.2 gallons of water to 170 F and added to mash-tun (MT).

2. Added grain to MT and held at 154 F for an hour. (Full-disclosure: it was my first time using the MT and I (actually Brewtarget) calculated the water temp a little low–ended up mashing just below 150 for an hour. Will know better next time.)

stirring in the mash

3. Added approx. 5.5 gallons of water at 180 F to mash and held for 15 minutes.

4. Batch sparged and drained into brew kettle.

5. Brought wort to boil and added 1 oz. hops.

6. With 10 minutes left in 60 minute boil, added another 1 oz. hops.

7. With 2 minutes left in boil, added one more 1 oz. hops.

And here’s where it got wonked-up. I hadn’t exactly figured out all the fittings and/the operation of the heat exchanger I got, and so running the boiling wort through the plate chiller took a little improvisation and brewing assistant help. To spare you the boring details (that just also happen to make me look like a dumbass), I’ll just say that the wort was only about half-chilled coming out of the plate chiller. Which means that the wort was still pretty warm, way above the goal 70-80 F, when it went into the carboy. Which also meant that I ended up plugging the carboy with a bung and covering that with plastic wrap to sit overnight.

But wait, that means that I’ve got a Wyeast smack pack that is by now (i.e., about 6 hours in) completely expanded and waiting to be pitched. Well, I made a starter (not without its own problems) from about a quart of wort that collected in the MT while the beer boiled, put that qt. of wort in a small jug, and pitched the yeast into it to sit over night.

8. Next morning around 8 am, I pitched the yeast and starter, plugged up the carboy with an airlock, and was witnessing bubbling beer about 10 hours later.

So what was so problematic about lucky number 13? I’ll only give you the most dramatic obstacle of the day. It stormed pretty much all day, and we had about 5 (this is a conservative estimate) tornado warnings during the time I started to mash till I put the carboy away. So just when the mash was close to being done, I, and my buddy Ben who was helping, had to come inside and hide out in the bathroom until the sirens were done and the TV said the storm had passed us. This was not the only tornado siren we heard while brewing, but after we’d had about 45 minutes of the past 2 hours filled with sirens, we took our chances and stayed outside with the beer. We lived to tempt another nader.

Brewtarget has the original gravity coming out to 1.040, and I didn’t take a reading, so I’m trusting that I got somewhere relatively close to this. (If you are learned in mashing, this will probably seem optimistic to you given the amount of grain. I set out for an efficiency of 78% instead of 75 or 72, mainly because both my grains were rated for 80% efficiency. This could very easily be faulty logic. It wouldn’t be the first time.)

about 3.5 days after pitching yeast. still bubbling.

I’ll be making a steam beer this weekend, and by then I intend to have all (read: some (actually, probably just a few)) of the kinks in the new toys worked out so that this batch goes easily and ferments with confidence.

Brewed Slowly: #12 London Pride Clone

Last time my wife and I were at Whole Foods, I put together a mix 6 pack of beer and just happened to pick one of my most favorite beers out of my many favorite beers: Fuller’s London Pride. London Pride is a British bitter that you can find on tap just about everywhere in London, which is where I first had it, and some places here in the States, and it’s pretty low in alcohol (4.1 or 4.7 ABV depending on whether it’s in casks or kegs/bottles). And even though the tendency seems to be that higher gravity (alcohol) beers get featured more prominently as the ‘serious’ ones at restaurants and stores, I’m a huge fan of lower gravity beers. A high gravity does not necessarily a good beer make. Also, you can have a few low gravity beers and not be ruined the rest of the day (which try to do that with an Imperial anything). So when I bought some new equipment to start transitioning to all-grain brewing, I figured I’d take a shot at making a London Pride clone.

(Because this was my first all-grain beer, I looked at some all-grain intros on the Internet. One pretty helpful video I watched was Joe Polvino’s two-part video. He ain’t the most captivating public speaker, but the content’s solid as a goddamn tank.)

A bit about the new equipment. I recently bought a new brew pot on eBay. This pot, as you can see in a couple of the pictures, is just a modified keg–i.e., a keg with the top cut out and with three holes put in for a valve, thermometer, and a sight glass. My pot came with a thermometer and valve but not a sight glass. It also came with a steel mesh strainer on the inside attached to the other end of the valve. Long story short, it’s a completely kick-ass toy.

the burner ain't big enough for its britches (i.e., the keg)

I also finally broke down and bought a glass carboy to use as a fermentor. I’ve been using the same plastic fermenting bucket that came with my first brew kit (which is now over two years old), and I’ll just say that it doesn’t ever not smell like beer, so it’s not exactly the environment I want my beers to ferment in anymore. And I usually use my wife’s winemaking glass carboy as a secondary, so I only really needed one more carboy. For now. And using a carboy as a fermentor is cool because now I can actually see the beer fermenting. Yes, it is cool to be able to do this.

So with the new equipment came new (and necessary) steps in the brewing process, but first, and switching to metric for primary measurements (also, a note about the recipe: this is a clone recipe, which just means that it’s someone’s close attempt at recreating a particular commercial beer. I’ve actually mixed two recipes for London Pride, one from this month’s Brew Your Own magazine, which is provided by the brewery, and one from this site),

the Software :

3.9kg (8.6 lbs) Optic Pale Malt

240g (0.52 lb) flaked corn

132g (0.28 lb) Caramel/crystal malt 40L

11g Target hop pellets

10g Northdown hop pellets

11g Challenger hop pellets

1 tsp Irish Moss

Wyeast 1968 London ESB (Fuller’s own yeast strain)

the Dance:

1. Brought 2.25 gallons of water to 170F in the keg pot.

2. Added the grain (in a huge grain bag. I seriously miscalculated how big a bag I’d need. I think the one I bought is like 2′ x 3′ or something).

mashin' 9 lbs o' grain

3. Kept the temp. between 150-158F for 60 minutes. This is a pretty big pain in the ass to do with the Bayou Burner I use. Lots of bringing it to 160F, then turning off the heat, then turning it back on when it gets to 150F, then repeat, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

sub-3. Brought 4 gallons of water to 170F in another pot (my old brewpot) during the 60 minutes mentioned in 3. And on the same Bayou Burner–gettin’ a workout.

4. Sparged the grain with the 4 gallons from sub-3. Poured the 170F water over the grains and let it run out through the handy valve (did this twice, and it seriously helps to have a helper during this stage–my buddy Ben lent his two hands).

5. Removed the grain bag.

–Steps 1-5 comprise the Mash, which is the new (and necessary) step in my brewing process. It’s basically making the extract I used to use, and there are all kinds of advantages to mashing/all-grain brewing, which we’ll suss out later on. As in, in other posts.–

bringin' it to a boil

 

6. Brought the liquid to a boil.

 

7. Added the Target hops at the beginning of the 60 minute boil.

8. Added the rest of the hops and the Irish Moss with 15 minutes left in the 60 minute boil.

9. I had no snow this time, so I cooled the wort down, after transferring it to my old brewpot, with regular, store-bought ice.

OG: 1.050

it's alive

Same as last time, I goofed on the measurement. This time I just plain forgot to use the beer thief to get a sample before I plugged up the beer to ferment.

I’m hoping, obviously, for a big success with my first all-grain beer, and the fact that it’s got London Pride’s Shaq-sized shoes to fill is why I specifically chose the word ‘hope.’ I think about all the words I choose, homey.

Coming up, I’ll have reviews of some fancy-ass beers (e.g., Dogfish Imperial Pilsner, Stone IPA) I picked up in Atlanta last weekend.

 

Brewed Slowly: #11 Poacher Valhalla* IPA

Boy, have I been a slacker. The last beer I posted about brewing was the fall beer, but I’ve made two beers since then. So but let’s just skip ahead to the beer I made last weekend. I’ll call it #11 but it’s technically #13. Lucky #13. A little bit of background on this beer: Ben and Scooter (who are 2/3 of Poacher (the band I’m the other 1/3 of)) thought that we should have a Poacher beer. And I thought: C’mon guys, that’s just AWESOME. But what I said was: OK, I can do that. So we decided that an IPA would be most representative of the band. (Cue pretentious synesthetic music/(tastes?))

Will I ever get tired of IPAs? Probably not, especially when there are so many bad ones that I try that are talked up as good ones. But why talk about bad IPAs when I’m hoping to make a good one. Right? This IPA was modeled, to some extent, after the Dogfish Head IPAs in that the beer was hopped continually throughout the boil (every 10 minutes). But because I don’t have one of those awesome vibrating football board games, I just periodically dropped in more hops during the boil. If there’s an American standard of IPAs, I imagine Dogfish Head owns the proverbial copyright.

So isn’t this post supposed to be about a beer I made?

Software:

1 lb (0.45 g) Briess Rye grain

3.15 lbs. (1.42 kg) Gold extract

6 lbs. (2.72 kg) Organic light extract

3.25 oz. (92 g) Warrior* hop pellets

1/4 tsp Irish moss

Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Here’s how it all went down.

1. Steeped the rye grain at 150F for 30 minutes. Sparged, removed, and brought the liquid to a boil.

2. Added 28g (1 oz.) of the hop pellets and the Gold extract to the boil

3. After 10 minutes, added 7g hops

organizin'

4. After 20 minutes, added 14g hops

5. 30 minutes–7g hops

6. 40 minutes–14g hops

7. 45 minutes–added Irish moss and 6 lbs Light extract

8. 50 minutes–7g hops

9. 60 minutes–14g hops. Then put the pot into an icechest full of snow (it’d snowed here about 4/5 days earlier and we still had quite a bit in the yard).

10. Pitched the yeast when the wort was below 80F.

OG: 1.069

Just so you know that I’m being completely honest (and if you’re not familiar with brewing and measuring beer gravity, just ignore this), this original gravity is based purely on math rather than what I sampled from the wort. Because I made the mistake of not mixing up the wort with the 3 odd gallons of water that I topped it off with before I pitched the yeast and took a sample to measure. Basically, I pulled about 4 oz. worth of water heavy/wort light  liquid from the top of the fermentor and thought I’d take an accurate reading. Needless to say, I was surprised (but shouldn’t have been) when it read 1.010 OG. But when I put the figures into more than one beer calculators (I mean, why didn’t I hear about these in math class?), I came up with a gravity of 1.066, so that’s what I’m sticking to.

coolin' down

The Poacher beer is currently in the fermentor, and I’ll transfer it to the secondary probably this weekend–we’ll see.

Brewed Slowly: #10 It's Finally Fall Brown Ale

This beer was a little more complicated than I planned for. But it got made without any of what I’d call real problems. As you might have guessed from my last portentous post, I made a fall-themed beer. And I got all mad scientist on its ass–I threw in not just pumpkin, but butternut squash and acorn squash, too. And a little cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Whoo-boy.

Why the extra additions? I’ve never had a fall seasonal beer made with pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut squash–so what the hell. I usually feel a little underwhelmed with the pumpkin beers I try, so I figured let’s see what some other fall harvest vegetables add to a beer. My little customization experiment the day before led me to believe that adding all three vegetables would be preferable to just one.

that's a pot on a burner.

Let’s get on with it now.

Software:

56 g. Black Patent malt

112 g. Pale Chocolate Malt

6 lbs. Liquid Amber Extract

1 lb. Dry Amber Extract

56 g. Centennial hop pellets

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

735 g. roasted pumpkin

452 g. roasted acorn squash

849 g. roasted butternut squash

1 tsp Irish Moss

I’ll stick to a concise and perspicuous recipe process here.

1. Roasted all the vegetables at 450 F for 20 minutes, let cool, then peeled the skin off.

2. Brought 3 gallons of water to 150 F and added vegetables and grain. Steeped at temps. between 150 and 160 F for 30 minutes.

maybe the best way to cook vegetables.

3. Took out vegetables and grain and brought liquid to a boil.

4. When boiling, added 42 g. of hop pellets, all liquid and dry extract, and spices. Boiled for 45 minutes.

5. Added Irish Moss 45 minutes into the boil.

cookin'

6. Added 14 g. of hop pellets at 58 minutes of boiling and cut heat after 2 minutes (= 60 minutes of boiling time).

7. Changed shit up a bit this time and had an ice chest of ice water standing by to work as an ice bath.

8. Pitched the yeast when wort was below 80 F.

chillin'

OG: 1.050

This brewing experience was quite a bit different than all my previous brews. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently got an outdoor gas burner, which I obviously used for this beer. I used Irish Moss in this beer, and hopefully it will help clarify the beer, which could possibly have a certain amount of pumpkin, acorn squash, and butternut squash material floating around in it. And I used more interesting adjuncts than I have in the past–so we’ll see how it all works out.