O’ zapft is! (2021 – Annual Oktoberfest Post)

Cancelled again this year.  Here’s hoping there are happier times next year.  In the meantime, celebrate Oktoberfest on a smaller scale with your family and friends! 


Think of happier times!

Source: https://www.oktoberfesttours.travel/2020/05/14/will-oktoberfest-2021-be-extended/


Wait ’til next year!!

Source:  https://www.oktoberfesttours.travel/oktoberfest-2022/

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Batch 174 – Czech Saaz Pilsner (All-Grain)

On the heels of making the Kölsch, I was in the mood to follow-up with a repeat of last year’s Czech Pilsner using Saaz hops

This recipe, with ingredients bought from Atlantic Brew Supply, consists of the following:

  • 9.0 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt (1.9L)
  • 0.5 pounds of Weyermann Light Munich Malt (6 L)
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafoam Malt (2 L)
  • 2 ounces of Monastique (Aromatic) (20 L)
  • 4.0 ounces of Saaz Hops (3.0%)  
  • 2.0 ounces of Saaz Hops (2.4%) 
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 2 packs White Labs Czech Budojovice Lager Yeast (WLP802)

In the previous recipe, I forgot to order the 2 ounces of Aromatic Malt in the grain bill.  I made sure I included it in the order for this batch.  I also finished up the last of my eight-ounce order of Saaz hops, so to be safe, I order two more ounces of Saaz hops to hit my targets.  The alpha acid noticeably declined from 3.0% to 2.4%.

Batch 174 - Czech Saaz Pilsner

Ingredient for the Czech Saaz Pilsner

The predicted specs for this beer (using BeerSmith) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.054
  • Final Gravity:  1.010
  • 5.8% ABV
  • 4.1 SRM
  • 42.4 IBU

This was a batch I had to watch closely.  I had two minor boil overs in the first three minutes of the boil, and another with about seven minutes remaining in the boil.  

I have to say, I’m still amazed at how well the Whirlfloc tablet performs compared to Irish Moss.  

Pre-fermentation sample with Whirlfloc

Clear pre-fermentation sample – amazingly clear with the flocculant precipitated to the bottom of the flask.

My efficiency was better than predicted, with an adjusted starting gravity of 1.058. 

After two weeks in primary fermentation in the kegerator at 52 degrees, I raised the kegerator temperature to 68 degrees  for six days of diacetyl rest.  I then dropped the keg fridge to 36 degrees for two days and transferred the beer to a carboy for secondary fermenting.  The final gravity hit the mark at 1.010 – resulting in a high-powered beer of 6.3% ABV.

After three weeks in primary, I fined the beer using gelatin and let it sit in the garage fridge for another six days before I kegged the beer and force carbonated it with the gas set at 20 psi and rolling the keg under my feet for 2:15.  

Despite finishing remarkably clear prior to kegging, I still had a bit of chill-haze in many of the drafts I poured.  Or maybe it was just massive condensation on the outside of the glass that made it appear hazy.

Stunningly clear beer before kegging

Stunningly clear beer before kegging!!


First draft of the Czech Saaz Pilsner

First draft of the Czech Saaz Pilsner – hazy or glass condensation?


Four drafts and 90 minutes later

Ninety minutes later – this is how the fourth pull from the keg looked. Some chill-haze remained, but mostly condensation on the glass, I think!

This keg was finished in exactly three weeks – probably the fastest I have gone through a keg without having a party where I served it to guests.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t because I drank all of it. 

I had two leaks in beer fridge where I had the keg set up.  I use threaded ball-lock disconnects for my kegs – it makes it easier to disconnect the line to the picnic tap from the ‘out’ disconnect to clean both the serving line and the disconnect. The threaded connection tends to be right under the glass shelf in the beer fridge (where I keep cans and bottles – I don’t drink just my homebrew!).  Opening and closing the fridge door causes the keg to rock a little, which loosens the connection.  If loosened enough and with enough pressure in the keg, beer will leak out of the threaded connection. 

This happened with the recent batch of Doppelbock, though I didn’t mention it in that post.  When enough beer collects on the bottom of the beer fridge, it will leak out around the door seal and onto the garage floor. 

This time, I had two instances where the threaded fitting loosened on me and I had to mop up spilled beer from the bottom of the fridge and off the floor.  I lost at least 4 pints (a half gallon) of the Czech Pilsner as a result. 

As a precautionary measure, I have started wrapping the connection with electrical tape to hopefully minimize and amount of loosening that occurs from opening and closing the fridge door and rocking the keg slightly.  I also reach in and make sure the connection is tight.  Despite these precautions, I did have a minor leak on the Hefeweizen I made as the next batch, but it was very small in comparison to the losses I had with this batch.

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Beer, Czech Pilsner, Czech Pilsner, Gelatin Fining, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 173 – Konfrontational Kölsch (All-Grain)

With the Dortmunder kegged and ready to go, it was time to brew my usual summertime Kölsch.  The ingredients were:

  • 7.0 pounds of Weyermann Cologne Malt (4.5° L)
  • 3 .0 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt (1.9° L)
  • 3.0 ounces Saaz Hops (3.0%)
  • Wyeast 2565 (Kölsch Yeast)
  • 1 WhirlFloc tablet

This time, I didn’t have to make a separate order to purchase the ingredients.  The grains I had in inventory were those I initially ordered to make last year’s Kölsch.  When I originally ordered those ingredients, it was overlooked that I ordered for the grain to be milled.  Instead what I was sent was unmilled grain.  I kept the unmilled grains in the bags it was sent in and kept the bags in a plastic container.  I was a little worried they had lost some freshness, but only a little.  The hops and yeast were part of the ingredients from the Dortmunder order.

Batch 173 Ingredients

The collection of ingredients for this year’s batch – including year old, unmilled grain.

You might be asking yourself “If you couldn’t use the grain last year because it was unmilled, how can you use it now?”  

A good question – and one that is easily answered.  

This past Christmas, my wife and daughters were looking for gifts to get for me.  There isn’t really much I need, to be honest, and I don’t generally have a long wish list of things that I want.  But they kept asking, so I sent my wife a link to the Barley Crusher Mill with a 15 pound hopper.  After the last round of Kölsch grains came unmilled, and the crappy job that was done on milling the grain for my Sussex Ale, I decided this would be a good gift – and now I finally had a chance to use it!

Barley Crusher Grain Mill

Putting the Barley Crusher Grain Mill through its paces.

I fiddled around a bit with the roller settings, paranoid and worried that I was going to set them too far apart and receive to coarse a milling or too close together and get too fine a crush and end up with a bunch of barley malt flour. 

When I poured the grain in the hopper for my initial milling, it seemed a bit too far apart.  Some whole pieces of grain fell through, and my old cordless drill wasn’t charged up enough and wasn’t up to the task of getting a good RPM going, so the crush wasn’t at all great.  I moved everything back in and used my corded power drill, and milled the grain for a second time.  Much more successful, but was it too fine and would it cause me to get a stuck mash?  

Milled grain results

Results of the milling. It made me a bit…nervous.

I proceeded with the brew day – actually, what choice did I have?  As I have been doing lately, I used a brew-in-the-bag grain sack in my mash tun, which certainly helped keeping the outlet nozzle from clogging.  Run off was very good and I was very pleased with how the mash and sparge went.

My targets using BeerSmith were:

  • Original Gravity:  1.050
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 4.9% ABV
  • 6.1º SRM (about 5.0º L)
  • 27.8 IBU

I also used Atlantic Brew Supply Recipe Calculator, but it didn’t list the Weyermann Cologne Malt or the Wyeast 2565 Kolsch yeast to add to the calculator, so it probably won’t be quite as accurate as I would like it to be.  In any case, this is what Atlantic Brew Supply’s recipe calculator had as the targets:

  • Original Gravity:  1.056
  • Final Gravity:  1.014
  • 5.5% ABV
  • 3.9º SRM (about 3.4º L)
  • 23.2 IBU

I was once again amazed at how well the Whirlfloc tablets worked at coagulating the proteins in the brew kettle and in the hydrometer jar.

Konfrontational Kolsch Hydrometer Reading

Amazing flocculation and precipitation of proteins in the hydrometer jar.

I didn’t have to worry about being less efficient in my mash with my inexperience using the grain mill.  My original gravity, adjusted for temperature, was 1.053 – a bit higher than predicted by BeerSmith.  

I cooled the wort to 65 degrees by setting it in my kegerator set at 36 degrees.  I was trying to buy some time because I was a little worried that the Wyeast pack did not swell much and was hoping to get that going better before it was time to pitch the yeast.  This was a little concerning because the use-by date on the pack was August 9, 2021 – a good three months plus after the brew day.

Wyeast 2565 not swelling much

The Wyeast 2565 smack pack didn’t really swell up as much as I hoped – but enough that I felt confident it would take off once pitched.

Once the wort reached 65 degrees, I pitched the yeast and increased the setting on the kegerator to 58 degrees.

Primary fermentation took two weeks, at which time I transferred the beer to a carboy for secondary fermentation in the garage beer fridge.   After three weeks in secondary, I fined the beer with gelatin, using a slightly different technique (heating 1 teaspoon of gelatin in ½cup of water to 150-155 degrees and pouring that straight into the carboy rather than letting it first cool to 120 degrees.  

Another week in the carboy in the beer fridge, and I kegged and force-carbonated the beer at 20 psi for 2:15.  Between the Whirlfloc tablet in the kettle the gelatin fining in the carboy, the beer was very clear.

Sample at kegging

Amazingly clear Kõlsch at kegging!

With a final gravity of 1.010, the beer checks in at 5.6 A.B.V. 

The next day, I poured the first drafts from the keg.  I enjoyed this beer immensely, and had to pace my consumption so that I would not be out until I had the next batch kegged and ready to go!  Even then, it took me five weeks to run this keg empty!

As usual, the first few drafts are still a little cloudy as the remnants of the gelatin and Whirlfloc proteins that made it in the keg settle out.  However, within a couple weeks, the beer was looking beautiful on each pour – the only cloudiness was condensation on the beer glass!

Batch 173 - Konfrontational Kolsch

Another beautiful draft of the Kõlsch!


Posted in All-grain Brewing, Brewing Equipment, Grain Mill, Homebrewing, Kölsch, Kolsch, Kolsch | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 172 – Dortmunder (All-Grain)

With the Doppelbock kegged, it was time to move on to the next batch.  Decided to go with the Dortmunder again since it came out excellent last time

Once again, I ordered from Atlantic Brew Supply     Here are the ingredients for this batch of the Dortmunder:

  • 8.5 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt
  • 1.0 pound of Weyermann Light Munich Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafoam Malt
  • 4.0 ounces of Castle Monastique Malt
  • 2.0 ounces of Gambrinus Honey Malt
  • 0.5 ounces (14 grams) of Magnum Hops (12.9%)
  • 3.0 ounces of Saaz Hops (2,4%, 3.0% and 3.2%)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 2 packs Saflager W-34/70  Yeast
Batch 172 Ingredients

Dortmunder ingredients – old Saaz hops in the spice bottle on the left, eight ounce package of Saaz hops on the right!

Pretty much the same as last time.  However, since the last batch turned out so well, I decided to include Magnum hops again – which is a bit funny since I could have used Magnum hops in the Doppelbock I just brewed, but decided against it so I didn’t have to deal with leftover hops! In most of the previous batches I made, I would use noble hops (usually Spalt and/or Saaz), but those seem to be coming in much lower in alpha acid content than in the past, requiring more ounces of hops.  I also decided to use up some older Saaz hops I had leftover from other recent batches, but didn’t have enough to cover all the hop schedule.  Planning ahead more than I tend to do when I brew, I ordered a package containing eight ounces of Saaz hops that I knew I could use up on the next batches I planned on making. 

My targets using BeerSmith were:

  • Original Gravity:  1.055
  • Final Gravity:  1.015
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 5.5º SRM (about 4.5º L)
  • 34.4 IBU

Atlantic Brew Supply’s recipe calculator had the following targets:

  • Original Gravity:  1.057
  • Final Gravity:  1.014
  • 5.6% ABV
  • 5.3º SRM (about 4.5º L)
  • 26.9 IBU

I also decided I wanted to test a different kettle fining agent than Irish Moss, which is what I have been using since I started brewing in 1996.  When I ordered the ingredients, I opted to purchase a package of 10 Whirlfloc tablets, figuring that if I didn’t like how they worked, I wouldn’t be wasting that many. 

Boy – was I surprised by how great the Whirlfloc tablets worked!

The brew day was uneventful, but while I was chilling the wort down to yeast-pitching temperature, I noticed an incredible amount of cold break in the brew pot because of the Whirlfloc tablet – much more than I ever got using Irish Moss!

Dortmunder Cold Break

Incredible cold break resulting from the use of a Whirlfloc tablet for kettle fining.

Since my kettle boil off is so high (I usually have to collect 7½ gallons of wort to end up with five gallons at the end of a 60 minute boil), I tend to drain nearly all the brew kettle into the fermenter – so most of the cold break goes with it. 

While transferring from kettle to fermenting bucket, I pull a sample of the wort from the kettle to get the original gravity reading.  This time around, I encountered something I had not encountered before: after I took the original gravity reading, the cold break was separating in the test flask!

Cold break separation

Amazingly clear kettle run-off sitting on top of flocculated cold break and trub!

My mashing efficiency was pretty good – my original gravity ended up coming in at about 1.061.  According to BeerSmith, this is an efficiency of 79.6 percent!

When I transferred the beer to a carboy for secondary fermentation and lagering, I was amazed at how clear and bright the beer was.

Primary to Secondary Gravity Reading

Behold! The power of Whirlfloc!

After nearly four weeks in secondary at 36 degrees in the keg fridge, I decided I would also fine the beer with gelatin.  This was good timing, because I ran out of Doppelbock on the day I did the fining.  Normally I will let the gelatin fining go for a week before I transfer the beer to the keg and carbonate it.  In this case, I kegged and carbonated (rolling the keg on its side for two minutes with the pressure set to 20 psi) two days later.  I was pretty much dead on the final gravity, coming in at 1.014.

While the beer was amazingly clear prior to kegging, it was a bit hazy when I pulled the first drafts.  I tend to attribute this to a need for the beer to settle after the force carbonation and also pulling a little bit of the trub/gelatin that settles at the bottom of the keg.  Some of it is also no doubt due to condensation on the glass.

Dortmunder - first draft of Batch 172

First draft of this batch of Dortmunder – not as bright as when it was in the sample flask!

After a couple weeks, the beer was amazingly clear!

Amazingly clear Dortmunder

Brilliantly bright and clear!

The beer also tasted as good as it looks!  It was excellent all the way around – and I’ve become a convert to Whirlfloc!  

At the time of the writing of this post, the Dortmunder has been in keg for five weeks and is about to run out.  Hopefully the next batch will be ready to keg next weekend!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Beer, Carbonating, Dortmunder, Dortmunder Export, European Lager, Gelatin Fining, Homebrewing, Kegging, Whirlfloc | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 171 – Doppelbock – All-Grain

As usual, the Christmas season gets me thinking about brewing for late winter and early spring, which includes the lenten season and Starkbier season. That means Doppelbock again!

I opted for making a full batch again this year, unlike last year’s half batch which turned out to very well!  

The ingredients, ordered from Atlantic Brew Supply, included the following:

  • 6.0 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt
  • 5.0 pounds of Weyermann Light Munich Malt
  • 5.0 pounds of Weyermann Dark Munich Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafa II Malt (from inventory) 
  • 8.0 ounces of Briess Caramel Munich Malt (60ºL) (from inventory)
  • 1.0 ounces Mount Hood hops (6.5% alpha acid)
  • 2 packs – White Labs Bock Yeast WLP 833
Batch 171 - Doppelbock Ingredients

Batch 171 – Doppelbock Ingredients

I decided to order the Mount Hood hops instead of the usual Hallertau hops that I normally get. The alpha acid of the Hallertau hops available were ridiculously low – 1.4 percent! I would have needed four ounces of hops to approach the desired IBU.  I could have ordered an ounce of Magnum hops, like I used in the last half-batch of Doppelbock, but with those clocking in at about 14 percent, I would have ended up with spare Magnum hops that I would have been looking to use in other batches. 

I generally prefer to use what I had bought for a batch in that the batch, rather than inventory left over hops.  Since I rarely brew the same style of beer within about a year of each other, they tend to sit for a couple years in the refrigerator before I end up tossing them out.  I suppose I could plan several batches ahead to use up the inventory, but I just don’t brew that way.  As it is, I’m using up some grains I’ve been storing for three years since the last time I brewed a full batch of Doppelbock.

The targets for this batch from BeerSmith were:

  • Original Gravity: 1.088
  • Final Gravity: 1.027
  • Alcohol by Volume: 9.0%
  • IBU: 19.3
  • Color: 31.2° SRM

I was right about on target with a original gravity of 1.086.  

Primary fermentation lasted about 12 days when I then raised the temperature to about 58 degrees for a diacetyl rest.  The temperature was held there for eight days when the beer was transferred to a carboy for secondary fermentation and cold crashing to 36 degrees.  I held this for about two weeks before kegging and force carbonating by rolling the keg on its side at 30 psi for 2:15.  Final gravity was 1.026 – just a little below target.


Batch 171 – Doppelbock on the deck with the eastern redbuds blooming!

The batch came out great!  I was so happy I made a full batch instead of a half batch.  I went through it relatively quickly as well – kegged on March 13 and the keg was finished on April 28.

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Doppelbock, Doppelbock, Doppelbock_, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Batch 170 – Tmavý Ležák (Czech Dark Lager) – Decoction (Half Batch)

With this batch being the 150th batch I’ve made since I started brewing again in October 2004 and with Christmas rolling up, I was thinking again about making a batch of my Czech Dark Lager.  I had previously toyed with doing a decoction mash for this batch in hopes I would get it closer to the commercial Czech dark beers that I have enjoyed.  

Brewing a normal cooler-mash tun-fly sparge batch is a big time sink, with brewing lasting about four hours from starting to heat the mash water to finishing cooling the wort.  Add another hour for clean up and it takes up a big chunk of a day. 

I have been leery about adding even more time to my brew day by doing a decoction mash.  But when I was looking at my opportunities to brew as 2020 came to a close, I thought trying that mystical alchemy of decoction on a half-batch done up in the kitchen instead of a full five gallon batch done outside on my propane burner might be the perfect chance to experiment.

Waking up on brew day to 28 degree weather made me think I made the right choice.

I’m not going to take the time to describe the decoction mash brewing process – there is plenty of information and a lot of videos on the internet about the process that explain it better than I could here.

I had ordered my ingredients for this half batch along with the ingredients I needed for an upcoming batch of Doppelbock from Atlantic Brew Supply.  For this batch I ordered slightly less than in previous batches since I wanted his to be slightly lower in alcohol content:

  • 3.25 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt
  • 1 pound of CaraMunich Malt 
  • 4 ounces of Carafa II 
  • 1.5 ounces Saaz Hops (3.2% alpha acid)
  • 1 package of White Labs 802  Czech Budejovice Lager Yeast

The targets for this batch from BeerSmith were:

  • Original Gravity: 1.047
  • Final Gravity: 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%
  • IBU: 25
  • Color: 22.4° SRM

I pulled out my old brewpot and at 7 AM started heating 10 quarts of water to 126 degrees to mash in all the grains but the Carafa II.  I held the mash at around 122 degrees for 35 minutes before pulling about 3.25 quarts of the mash at around 8 AM to begin boiling.

Batch 170 - Decoction

Pulling the first of the grains for the decoction

The decoction process I was following said to hold the mash to be boiled at about 155 – 160 degrees for about 15 minutes – presumably to convert the starches in the mash prior to boiling.  Once the 15 minutes was up, I continued to bring the decoction to a boil, and boiled it for 20 minutes, stirring constantly to keep the grains from scorching.  This first decoction boil ended about 9:10 AM.

One purpose of the decoction is to add the separated and boiled mash back to the remainder of the mash to raise the temperature of the entire mash in what is essentially a step mash process.  I let BrewSmith calculate the amounts of mash to be pulled for decoction, which in theory should have raised the mash from 122 degrees to about 147 degrees.  In reality, it didn’t work.  

I think the main problem I encountered was the result of doing a half batch in my equipment that is sized for a full five gallon batch.  The thermal mass of the remaining mash in the large insulated cooler wasn’t enough to retain the heat.  When it came time to add the first decoction back into the mash, the temperature of the original mash had dropped to around 112 degrees.  Adding back in the first decoction, the temperature of which was just below boiling, did not raise the temperature past 126 degrees – well underneath the target of 147 degrees!.

What followed was several rounds of pulling more mash out, heating it, adding it back in and seeing if I came close to the target temperature.  After multiple efforts to heat separated portions of the mash to raise the temperature to the 147 degree target, the best I got at around 10:15 AM was 140 degrees.

When I pulled the next portion of the mash for decoction, which was ostensibly intended to raise the entire mash temperature to 156 degrees, I took 3 quarts of mash instead of the 1½ quarts recommended by the software. After I pulled the mash, I took the temperature of the remaining mash in the cooler.  Removing the decoction dropped the mash temperature from 140 to about 132 degrees.  By the time brought this decoction to boil and boiled it for 20 minutes, the mash temperature was holding somewhat steady at 130 degrees.  But adding the decoction back in only raised the temperature to 140 degrees, not 156 degrees.

It was past 11 AM at this time – four hours into the brew day when I would normally be wrapping up and I had yet to boil the wort yet!  I tried another round of pulling more mash and heating it up again, but I never got the mash over 148 degrees.

While I never go the mash to 156 degrees, let along to the mash out temperature of 168 degrees, by this time I had enough of decoction mashing.  This will have to be classified as ‘Close Enough!’

I added the Carafa II malt to the mash tun and begin to sparge the grains.  I started boiling the wort as usual at around 12:30 PM – five and a half hours into the brew day.

Boiling on the stove turned out to be a similarly frustrating experience.  I remember making extract and grain batches on this stove and having to watch for boil overs for the three to four gallons in the brewpot.  Now I can barely get a decent boil on the highest BTU burner on the range!

Batch 170 - Decoction Batch Boil

Not a very vigorous boil.

The boil was finished and I started cooling the wort around 2:30 PM.  Fortunately, the cold weather and the half-volume in the brewpot allowed me to get the wort down to about 67 degrees in less than 15 minutes.  I was a bit short of my targeted original gravity, with the wort coming in at 1.043.

I collected 2¼ gallons into the fermenting bucket and got it into the keg fridge to begin cooling to the target 55 degrees for pitching the yeast around 3 PM. 

This ended up being an eight hour brew day – and a failure in many respects!!  This was more than long enough to convince me that I will *never* attempt another decoction mash again!

After about three weeks in primary, I dropped the temperature in the keg fridge from 55 degrees to 34 degrees without bothering to transfer from the original bucket to a three gallon carboy.  After about 10 days, I finally transferred it into secondary and put it back into the keg fridge at 34 degrees.  Compared to the last batch, I did much better in hitting my final gravity, which came in at 1.010 resulting in a beer that is right at 4.5 percent ABV as I had planned.

Batch 170 - Final Gravity

Final gravity with clarity from cold crashing

The sample I drew during the transfer didn’t have the overly porter-ish notes that I had been receiving in past batches, but it also didn’t have the maltiness or residual sweetness that I’m looking for.  It was kind of bland, to be honest.

After another week in secondary, I kegged and carbonated the beer mostly because I needed the space in the keg fridge for fermenting my next batch – which was a full batch of Doppelbock.  The half batch lasted about six weeks before the keg was empty – though a leaking disconnect on the keg lost me about two pints all over the garage floor.

Batch 170 - Final Product

Pint of the Tmavý Ležák

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Czech Dark Lager, Czech Dark_Lager, Czech_Dark Lager, Homebrewing, Kegging | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Batch 169 – Sussex Ale / Best Bitter (All-Grain) and the Perils of Internet Ordering (Extra Long Post)

So with the Dunkelweizen fermenting away, my thoughts turned to the next batch.  With a Thanksgiving weekend coming up, I thought it might be a good time to make another batch of beer over the holiday weekend.

I was mostly settled on making either a British Mild to expand into yet another beer style that I have not yet made or redoing my previous Best Bitter with some tweaks to the recipe.  I ended up going in a slightly different direction because of an unrelated article I read in a hilarious, politically incorrect British website.

The article was ostensibly about the pussy-whipped British civilian formerly known as ‘Prince Harry’ and his pain-in-the-ass, D-list actress wife.  But it was a discussion in the comments between a couple of Brits from Sussex that caught my attention.  The discussion (it was really too brief to be a discussion though) about Sussex centered mostly on the perception that West Sussex was ‘posh’ and East Sussex, well, wasn’t.  One fellow pointed out that the Sussex town of Lewes is where the Harvey’s brewery is located.  This in turn led to other people commenting about Harvey’s Sussex Best and how wonderful it is.

Intrigued, I started doing some research (I even remembered that one of the first branded brewery beer glasses I ever bought was a Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale glass).

Harvey's Elizabethan Ale

Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale beer glass – An crap eight year old picture of a beer glass that I have had for about 20 years.  Yet I never have had a Harvey’s beer!

The research came across this article, which intrigued me further.  I doing further reading, one of the elements that add to the mystique of the Sussex Best is the 60 years of re-pitching and re-using yeast they obtained from the John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire (to Americans, the John Smith Brewery is probably not known and is probably easily confused with the more famous Samuel Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster – though I did have the opportunity drink the John Smith’s Extra Smooth Ale from a can at Old Trafford in Manchester and on draft at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on my 2019 trip to Ireland and England).  This re-use of the yeast over the decades is thought to have added a bit of a wild tang to the taste of the beer – one that is unlikely to be replicated using a recent liquid yeast culture!

Nonetheless, I continued my research and I found in short order several clone recipes from which I chose one to form the basis of this batch of beer.

The one I settled on had the following specifications:

  • 87.7% Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 6.8% Crystal Malt (80° L)
  • 5.5% Flaked Corn
  • 20 grams Progress hops
  • 20 grams Fuggles hops
  • 20 grams Bramling Cross hops
  • 20 grams East Kent Goldings hops
  • Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale yeast

The targets were

  • Original Gravity: 1.043
  • Final Gravity: 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volumes: 4.0%
  • IBU: 39
  • SRM: 8.6

So it came time to convert this recipe to quantities that I could order online.  Using BeerSmith, I came up with the following:

  • 7 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 9 ounces Crystal Malt (80° L)
  • 7 ounces Flaked Corn
  • 0.5 ounces Progress hops (6.2% alpha acid assumed)
  • 0.5 ounces Fuggles hops (5.6% alpha acid assumed)
  • 0.7 ounces Bramling Cross hops (6.0% alpha acid assumed)
  • 0.5 grams East Kent Goldings hops (5.0% alpha acid assumed)
  • Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale yeast

The targets estimated by the software are fairly consistent with the online recipe.  They are:

  • Original Gravity: 1.043
  • Final Gravity: 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volumes: 4.0%
  • IBU: 35.1 (slightly lower than the 39 IBU in the example recipe)
  • SRM: 9.2 (slightly higher than the 8.6 SRM in the example recipe)

The next hurdle to jump was ordering the ingredients online or from my local homebrew store.  At one point I had five different websites open and discovered what may be most difficult about making this batch of beer is finding a place that carried all the ingredients.  I was unable to find an online provider (including the website of my local homebrew store) that carried both Progress and Bramling Cross hops.  It wasn’t always easy finding the Wyeast 1469 yeast either.  The White Labs equivalent, WLP037, is a specialty strain that isn’t available year round, so I didn’t have an option for the yeast.

My recent go-to shop, Atlantic Brew Supply, had the yeast, but didn’t have either the Bramling Cross or Progress hops – the same was true for Homebrew Supply Company and Williams BrewingMore Beer! had the yeast and the Progress hops, but not the Bramling Cross hops.  Same with Northern BrewerRebel Brewer didn’t have the hops or the  yeast.  Adventures in Homebrewing (and its twin site, Austin Homebrew Supply) had the Bramling Cross hops and the yeast, but not the Progress hops.  And a place I found that I have never ordered from, Yeastie Beastie, had both hops but do not carry Wyeast products.  My local homebrew store, according to their website, carried only the Bramling Cross hops, and not the yeast or Progress hops.

So my exhaustive research was coming up blank.  I figured researching eight or nine sites was enough – if I couldn’t find somebody who carried all the ingredients, I was going to have to decide which ingredient I was going to omit.

The yeast was a must have.  If it was available, I had to get it.  So it came down to which of the hops – Bramling Cross or Progress – I was going to double up on.  The Bramling Cross hops are described as having a “pronounced aroma of black currant and spice”, or black currant and lemon.  It also intrigued me when I read “If used as a late hop or dry hop, the affect on the final beer flavor can be very interesting” on the Yeastie Beastie site.  Progress hops were described as having “suggestions of spring grass, herbs, and fresh flowers overlaid on woods and dried mint” and a “strong, fruity and resiny aroma” – the former seeming to be at odds with the latter.

So Bramling Cross it is!

I placed the order late on Saturday, November 21 figuring the order would be processed and shipped out on Monday.  I also chose ground shipping because I figured that would be sufficient to get the ingredients to me by the following Friday, so I could brew on Saturday or Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

So Monday came and went and I didn’t receive an email confirmation that the order shipped.  So I sent an email on Tuesday morning asking for an update, but figuring that my order wouldn’t ship until that afternoon, and would not reach me over the Thanksgiving holiday before Saturday – which would likely push my brew day off a week, missing out on brewing on some of the off-days of Thanksgiving weekend.

During my lunch break on Tuesday, I decided to go to the local homebrew store and see if they had the Bramling Cross hops in stock like it said on the website and to also have a heart-to-heart talk with the owner about why I don’t patronize the local shop much (though I would prefer to buy locally).  I also thought that if he had all the ingredients that I needed, I would buy them on the spot and cancel the internet order.  He was missing the Progress hops and the yeast, and of course offered to order them for me.  But the order would go out four days later on Saturday (which was the day I was hoping to brew) and would be received the following Wednesday…maybe…if his suppliers had it in stock…or if they had it in stock and sent it out with his Wednesday delivery…

I declined the offer – there were too many chances it wouldn’t come together – and decided to stick with the internet order.

When I got home, a customer service representative at the internet store called me and explained why the order didn’t ship the previous day, but it would go out that day and I should have it by Friday – Saturday at the latest.  He also explained that they prioritize the next day and second day shipping orders, which makes sense, but that orders choosing ground shipping generally don’t ship for 24-48 hours.

If I had known this, I probably would have made other arrangements or put off this batch for a later day when I had time to get *all* of the ingredients.  But the rep assured me it would be part of their Tuesday shipment going out later that day.

Come Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t received an email confirming my order had shipped.  Which meant if it was going out before Thanksgiving, it would have to go out that day and there would probably be no chance of me getting the order delivered by Friday.  I replied back with an email asking for a status update, and the response I received said that they missed getting my order out to ship on Tuesday, but they would ship it expedited for Friday delivery.

The package was delivered as promised on Friday.  Inspecting the contents, it appeared the Maris Otter malt was not ground – or at least not ground well.  I put the malt into some storage containers after opening the plastic bag to inspect it further.  There were some crushed pieces, but most of the grains looked whole – though they were friable and crumbled a little when I rolled them between my fingers.  Not having a grain mill, I figured I would just use what I had – maybe the friable grains would break into smaller pieces when I mashed them in.

Maris Otter Malt – does this look milled to you?

The brew day itself went forward uneventfully through the mash, lauter and boil.  I did make a mental note that, even with the full 7.5 gallons of wort that I usually collect (I tend to boil off about 2.5 gallons in 60 minutes with my propane burner set just barely above where the gas would cut off), that there wasn’t anything close to resembling a boil over that I had to worry about.


I cooled the wort and took a gravity reading as I was transferring it into the fermenting bucket.  The gravity was a mere 1.028!!  Well below the 1.043 target gravity.

Obviously, the grain was not adequately crushed.  This led to the low gravity reading and most likely to the lack of foaming during the boil.

I was a little pissed off.  Brewing is a huge time commitment – usually taking between four and five hours from measuring out and heating the strike water to final clean up.  Having a mix up by a vendor that costs me time is a big deal – more so than the money that I spent on the ingredients that weren’t adequately prepared (or in some cases not supplied as ordered – I’m looking at you, local homebrew store).

While I set to figuring out how to keep the batch from being a total loss, I emailed the internet store where I purchased the ingredients and expressed my disappointment.  I then set out to do some internet research.  An obvious quick fix was to use malt extract to boost the original gravity – but how much?

I found that my Brewsmith software has a tool for adjusting gravity.  Input the original gravity (1.028), the amount of wort to adjust (five gallons), the target final gravity (1.042) and the source of fermentables (dry malt extract).  Based on that tool, I needed to add 1.59 pounds of dry malt extract to raise the gravity to 1.042.

The calculation is actually pretty simple, based on what I found on the internet.  Subtract the original gravity from the desired gravity and multiple by five to determine how many ‘points’ are needed (1042-1028=14; 14×5=70 points).  Dry malt extract contributes 46 points per pound, so 70/46=1.59 – how much dry malt extract is needed to raise the wort to the desired gravity.

In a brewing storage bin in our closet, I had stored in a plastic container 1.5 pounds of dry malt extract left over from July 4, 2012 – this coincides with a Dampfbier I made.  Beggars not being able to choose, I decided to use it and see how it turned out – and made a mental note to keep sufficient quantities of dry malt extract on hand in case this ever happens again.

The next question was how to make the adjustment.  I had five gallons of low gravity wort, and I didn’t want to dissolve the malt extract in additional water as that would dilute the already low gravity.  The obvious move was to pull a gallon of cooled wort from the fermenting bucket, heat it enough to dissolve the dry malt extract, and then pour it back into the bucket.  The dry malt extract was dissolved by the time the gallon of wort pulled reached 115 degrees.  Pouring it back into four gallons of 70 degree wort and stirring it in raised the temperature of the five gallons of wort in the bucket to 78 degrees.  A hydrometer reading a short time later had me at 1.040 at 74 degrees.

Close enough!

I put the wort in the keg fridge set at 35 degrees to get the temperature down to about 70 degrees before pitching the yeast.  Then the keg fridge temperature was raised to 68 degrees, and I left the door open for a while to get the interior temperature up into that range faster.

After six days, I transferred the beer into a glass carboy for secondary fermentation/cold crashing.  I dropped the temperature of the keg fridge to 35 degrees.  The sample I drew tasted great and had a nice hop aroma.

After kegging and carbonating, the beer finished at a gravity reading of 1.010, which came in at a 3.9 percent ABV.  I was pleased with the outcome, though I think it would taste better if I had better yield from the Maris Otter malt. 

Sussex Style Bitter – Just in time for Christmas!!

An enjoyable beer to drink over the holidays and into the 2021 New Year!!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Best Bitter, English Best Bitter, English Bitter, English_Best Bitter, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 168 – Dunkelweizen (All-Grain)

The funny thing about my brewing schedule over the years is that I tend to brew a lot in the summer, particularly in May, July, and August – especially since I first started brewing all-grain batches in September 2014.  I figure this is because the weather is better and despite having yard work to do, I didn’t have activities that took me away from home on the weekends, such as when my daughter was playing club soccer in the fall beginning in late August and running through the beginning of December.

The months I have brewed the least over the last eight years are March, October, and November.   One reason I brew so seldom in March is that I brew outside and March is the month where we have heavy pollen season – you can literally see the yellow pollen blowing off the trees in a good breeze.  The pollen tends to coat everything, which causes me to avoid brewing outside.  Who wants a beer with a bunch of pollen in it?

October and November and generally quiet brew months because, in addition to the past years when soccer took up my weekends, I also tend to be at serving/storage capacity in those months with all the beer I make in July and August in preparation for Oktoberfest (or Oktoberween) gatherings.  It isn’t until December or January where I gradually start picking up brewing again.  This is particularly odd because I usually like to take advantage of holiday weekend to brew.  Thanksgiving weekend would usually be a good weekend to brew, but I haven’t brewed on a Thanksgiving weekend since 2013!

With my Vienna Lager in the keg, and the Festbier running low, I found time on a November weekend to brew.  I had been thinking about what to brew next – I wanted something with a quick turnaround, so it would most likely be an ale.  I thought of remaking my Best Bitter from a little over a year ago, and though I was happy with how that came out, I wanted to find a bitter recipe that was more traditional than my take on it was.  I needed more time to research this. 

I’m also mulling over making my first all-grain Altbier, but again – I need time to research the recipe.

Around Halloween, we had a couple of friends over for tapas and drinks (fortunately, I don’ live in a socialist-fascist state that tries to make it illegal for people to have small gatherings), and one of my friends mentioned how remarkable my unintentional  Schwarzeweizenbock came out and that I should try making it again.  

So I went to my local homebrew store, taking the same grain bill on a slip of paper that I had given to the owner before hoping that somehow he would replicate the same mistake he made five years ago (five years already!!) hoping that I could make that incredible beer again.  

Alas, it was not to be.  This time, the beer came out close to what the recipe was based on.

The ingredients were:

  • 5.0 pounds of Pilsner Malt (1.2° L)
  • 5.0 pounds Wheat Malt (2.5° L)
  • 1.0 pound Rice Hulls
  • 0.5 pounds Munich (10° L)
  • 0.5 pounds CaraMunich (45° L) 
  • 1.5 ounces Chocolate Malt (350° L)
  • 1.5 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh Hops (3.8%)
  • White Labs WLP380 – Hefeweizen IV yeast
Batch 168 - Dunkelweizen

Ingredients for Batch 168 – Dunkelweizen. Compare against the ingredients photo for batch 124 (below) which turned into the legendary Schwarzeweizenbock. Note the lack of black grains…

I figured this batch would probably be closer to what I expected when I compared it against the ingredients from the Schwarzeweizenbock.

Batch 124 Ingredients

Ingredients for what became the Schwarzeweizenbock – note the very suspicious dark malt in the bag on the left!

The predicted specs for this beer (using BeerSmith) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.060
  • Final Gravity:  1.016
  • 5.8% ABV
  • 11.0º SRM
  • 21.0 IBU

I knew when I took my first runnings from the mash that I wouldn’t be getting either the Schwarzeweizenbock or a Schwarzeweizen this time out.  I admit I was a little disappointed.

Batch 168 - Dunkelweizen (first runnings)

First runnings of the wort – not even close to the

I was a little bit below my targeted original gravity of 1.060, coming in with an adjusted gravity of 1.056.  The color difference between the two batches is quite obvious though.

Schwarzeweizen Bock

Batch 124 – darker and much higher in gravity


Batch 168 - OG Reading

Current batch – much lighter and lower in gravity

With the cooler November weather, my tap water temperature has decreased enough that I was able to cool the wort to about 75 degrees.  I brought the beer down to yeast-pitching temperature by putting it into the keg fridge at 34° for about three hours.

After a week in the fermenter, I was right around my target final gravity of 1.016.  I transferred the beer to a carboy for cold-crashing in my garage refrigerator for three days before kegging and force carbonating the beer at 30 psi for two and a half minutes. 

Not the Schwarzeweizen I was hoping for, but a good Dunkelweizen nonetheless!

Ready for Thanksgiving!  

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Dunkelweizen, Dunkelweizen, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 167 – Vienna Lager (All Grain)

Last year as the end of August approached, I decided to try a few new beer styles I had not made before, rather than re-doing one of the many other previous styles I have brewed over the years.  Because of then-recent articles in Brew Your Own, I made the Best Bitter in the beginning of September and and the Scottish 60 /- Light being made in early November.

I considered doing the same thing this year, but I wanted to find another Best Bitter recipe to try, and I thought I could hold off on the Scottish 60/- Light until later in the year.  I had some time, what with my recent batch of Kölsch on tap, my recent Hefeweizen just finishing up, and my Festbier nearly ready to be kegged.  

Since I decided against making a Märzen this year, I thought I would tackle a Vienna Lager.  I had fond memories of the Eliot Ness Amber Lager that Great Lakes Brewing Company makes, which is a ‘Vienna-style’ beer.  However, I didn’t want to make a clone of that beer. I did some internet research and came up with the following recipe:

  • 8.5 pounds Best Malz Vienna Malt (3.5° L)
  • 10 ounces Weyermann Caramunich 3 Malt (55° L)
  • 8 ounces Best Malz Melanoidin Malt (27° L)
  • 2 ounces Briess Black Prinz Malt (500° L)
  • 3 ounces of Saaz hops (3.2% and 2.8% alpha acid)
  • 2 packs White Labs WLP 830 – German Lager Yeast

The ingredients were purchased at Atlantic Brew Supply:

Batch 167 - Vienna Lager Ingredients

Batch 167 – Vienna Lager Ingredients

The predicted specs for this beer (using BeerSmith) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.049
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 4.8% ABV
  • 16.2º SRM
  • 28.3 IBU

I overheated my strike water – I was aiming for a mash temperature of 150-152 degrees and ended up at 158 degrees – so I had to stir into the brewing liquor half a maßkrug of ice, which brought the temperature down to 150 degrees.

After cooling the wort as low as my tapwater would allow and adjusting for the temperature difference, I just about hit my original gravity – (1.044 at 89° comes out to about 1.048).  I liked the color of the wort in the sample jar – though I was afraid it was a bit dark – maybe two ounces of Black Prinz Malt is too much?

Batch 167 - original gravity reading

1.044 at 89 degrees and pretty nice color!

I put the fermenting bucket into the chest freezer to bring the temperature of the wort down to 65° before I pitched the yeast.  The bucket went into the kegerator set a 52°.  After about 10 days, I checked the beer – there was still a bit of krausen on top of the beer and it was kicking out a big whiff of sulfur! 

After about two weeks, the krausen had fallen so I started bumping up the temperature on the kegerator by two degrees every 12 hours until it reached 65 degrees.  The wort was left at 65 degrees for one week for a diacetyl rest, at which point I dropped the temperature on the kegerator by five degrees every 12 hours until I hit 36 degrees.  At this point, I transferred the beer to a carboy for secondary fermentation.  It finished out a little below the 1.013 final gravity at 1.012.  The beer was in secondary fermentation at 36 degrees for about four weeks.

Since the beer was so dark, I opted out of gelatin fining to clarify it.  I kegged and force-carbonated it by rolling the keg under my feet at 30 psi for two and a half minutes.

It turned out quite nice, though a bit on the darker side of where I hoped it would be.

Pint of Vienna Lager

Pint of Vienna Lager

But it looks pretty when the sun hits it!

Vienna Lager

Nice color when back-lit!!

I’m very pleased with the result, and have really enjoyed this beer through Halloween and look forward to enjoying several more pints over Thanksgiving!



Posted in All-grain Brewing | 1 Comment

Batch 166 – Festbier (All-Grain)

With my Hefeweizen on tap and my Kölsch a week away from being kegged, it was time to prepare for what would usually be my favorite time of year – OKTOBERFEST!!

Unfortunately, this year due to the Wuhan Flu, there is no Oktoberfest of similar type gatherings.  So instead of making three batches of beer for a party of smaller gathering, I decided just to make one batch.  But should it be the Oktoberfest Märzen or the Festbier?  Well, the title of this post gives a pretty solid hint!

I was a little shocked by the reminder that I didn’t brew a Festbier in 2019.  It had been over two years and sixteen batches since i made the last batch of Festbier!

The ingredients though, were largely the same and were ordered from Atlantic Homebrew Supply.  The ingredients included:

  • 9.5 pounds Best Malz Pilsner Malt (1.9° L)
  • 1.0 pound Weyermann Carafoam Malt (2.0° L)
  • 1.0 pound Weyermann Munich Malt (6° L)
  • 6 ounces Gambrinus Honey Malt (22° L)
  • 3.0 ounces Hersbrucker Hops (2.1% alpha acide)
  • 1.0 Saaz Hops (2.8% alpha acid)
  • 2 packs SafLager 34/70 Dry Lager Yeast
Batch 166 Festbier Ingredients

Batch 166 – Festbier Ingredients.

The predicted specs for this beer (using BeerSmith) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.063
  • Final Gravity:  1.018
  • 6.0% ABV
  • 5.6 SRM
  • 26.1 IBU

After the beer was cooled as low as my water would allow (about 87°), I put the fermenting bucket in the chest freezer to bring the temperature down to about 68° before pitching the yeast.  I then put the fermenting bucket in the kegerator set at 36° before setting it at the fermenting temperature of 54°.

I did overshoot my original gravity by a few points (1.068) but I’m ok with that!

After 11 days, I started adjusting the temperature of the kegerator up by two degrees every 12 hours – at least that was the plan.  If I missed a 12 hour interval, I raised it be four degrees instead.  I did this over the course of a few days until I reached 68°, at which point I let the beer rest at that temperature for another four days before I dropped the kegerator back to 54°.

At about three weeks, I transferred the beer to secondary in a glass carboy, putting it into the kegerator and dropping the temperature to 36°.  After another three weeks, I fined the beer with gelatin, letting it settle for another week before kegging it just in time for what would have been the opening day of the 2020 Oktoberfest.  

The beer finished at 1.022, resulting in a 6.4% ABV.  I kegged it by force carbonating at 30 psi and rolling the keg under my for for two and a half minutes.

The gelatin fining again disappointed me in that the beer wasn’t as bright as I would have liked it to be.  The beer itself wasn’t as clean tasting as past batches – it was a little fruity but had a nice hop finish. 

I think I might have overdone the Honey Malt, or perhaps my adjusting the temperature by a few degrees every 12 hours for the diacetyl rest rather than just popping the temperature up to 68° and letting the temperature rise and sit there for a couple days before cold crashing may be the reason.

Batch 166 - Festbier

Festbier just before the keg ran out. Still not as bright as I would like it.



Posted in All-grain Brewing, Fest Bier, Festbier, Gelatin Fining, Homebrewing, Kegging | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments