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.

Odd.  

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 , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Batch 165 – Hefeweizen

Hooray!!  My 165th batch of homebrew and my 50th all-grain batch!!  My 165th batch was actually finished before batch 164 (my Kölsch).  Since the Kölsch wouldn’t be ready for July 4th as I originally planned, I had to decide ‘what do I make next?’ so I would have something on tap for Independence Day.

Since my kegerator was not working, I essentially had a giant insulated icebox to work with.  So a making a lager was out of the question as I was unlikely to have enough space to add ice to get and keep the temperature consistently at lager fermentation temperatures.  So I decided I had to make an ale that I could ferment at warmer temperatures (closer to the ambient temperature of about 75° on the first floor of my house).  And I wanted what I made to be a lighter, refreshing beer that would go down easy during July and maybe August if it lasted that long.  So I settled on making a hefeweizen.

To solve the problem of keeping the kegerator temperature in the mid 60s, I went to the grocery store and bought four one-gallon jugs of drinking water.  I poured out about 12 ounces from each (and used it to water my dwarf citrus trees) to create some head space within the jugs and put them into the chest freezer so they would be frozen in time for Father’s Day hefeweizen brewday.

This time, since this was a more spur of the moment brewday, I picked up the ingredients at my local homebrew store.  These ingredients included:

  • 5.0 pounds of Pilsner Malt
  • 5.0 pounds Wheat Malt
  • 8 ounces of Munich Light Malt
  • 0.5 pound Rice Hulls
  • 1.0 ounce Hallertau Mittlefruh Hops (3.8%)
  • White Labs 380 (Hefeweizen IV yeast)

Batch 165 - Hefeweizen Ingredients

Batch 165 – Hefeweizen Ingredients

The Munich Light malt was an accidental addition – I had an old grain bill slip that I found prior to going to the homebrew store that had included it.  But I haven’t used Munich Light malt in a hefeweizen since 2016 when I dropped it because the online companies I was ordering from would only sell grain in one pound increments.  Fortunately more online stores are allowing customers to order specialty grains in ounces (and of course my local homebrew store has always done this).

I also ended up picking up the WLP 380 instead of my preferred WLP 351 because the homebrew store didn’t have WLP 351 in stock.

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.057
  • Final Gravity:  1.015
  • 5.5% ABV
  • 4.2 SRM
  • 13.9 IBU

The brewday went smoothly and I once again had some feline company for a short time before he disappeared to patrol his domain.

Pimento catching some sun

Pimento the Cat catching some sun on a brew day

I about hit my original gravity on the nose (1.056) and after using my wort chiller to get the temperature close to the groundwater temperature, I put the fermenting bucket into the chest freezer (yes, there is room among the food) to get it down to around 65° to pitch the yeast.

I then prepared the now-dead kegerator to get it down to fermenting temperatures – my target was 65-68 degrees.  I put a frozen gallon jug of water into the kegerator and within about two hours, the interior temperature was done to around 66°.  About an hour later, I pitched the yeast in the wort, which was now at about 63° after its time in the chest freezer.

Over the course of the next few days, I would swap-in a frozen gallon jug of water every 12 hours or so.  The temperature in the kegerator generally stayed in the 63 – 67 degree range, which I was happy about.

The airlock was bubbling nicely over the course of the next couple of days.  On the third afternoon, I was surprised how the fermentation suddenly took off, with krausen spilling out of and clogging the airlock and causing an ominous bulge in the lid of bucket.  I pulled the airlock to relieve the pressure from the CO2 gas build-up and had to do it again about eight hours later.

Batch 165 - Hefeweizen Mess

The mess created by the vigorous hefeweizen fermentation. Note the thawing gallon jug of water used to maintain the temperature inside the dead kegerator.

One would think that after such a vigorous fermentation three days in, that the overall fermentation would be completed quickly.  However, when I transferred the beer to a carboy for what I hoped would be a few days at colder temperatures, I was surprised the fermentation was not yet complete.  After nine days, the beer was at 1.020 – still a few points away from the anticipated final gravity.

By this time, the new kegerator had come (more on this in an upcoming post) so I put the carboy in the new kegerator and set the temperature to 67° to hopefully have the fermentation finish off.  The internal temperature fluctuated between about 64 and 70 degrees over the course of the next few days.

New kegerator finishing the hefeweizen

Finishing off the hefeweizen in the new kegerator!

Thirteen days after brewing, I checked the gravity using a wine-thief and found it was at 1.016.  This reading, along with the receding of some of the additional fermentation foam visible in the carboy, led me to reset the kegerator to 34° in order to get the beer temperature down low enough so I could keg and carbonate it.

All-in-all, it took two weeks from brew day to kegging this batch of beer.  Despite all the issues with the keg fridge, I was very pleased with how it turned out!

Batch 165 - Hefeweizen

A great hefeweizen for summer drinking!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Hefeweizen, Hefeweizen, Homebrewing, Keg Fridge, Kegerators | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Batch 164 – Konfrontational Kölsch (all grain)

Continuing on with the warm weather beers, I was eager to get back to making the consistently best style I have made since I started exclusively all-grain brewing back with the Rauchbier I made back in September 2014 (Batch 114) – my Konfrontational Kölsch!

There have been some bumps along the road to getting this batch done, though…

I ordered the same ingredients for my most recent batch Kölsch from Atlantic Homebrew Supply.  of made a slight adjustment to my recipe since I found that Weyermann is producing a Cologne Malt.  These 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 Spalt Hops (3.8%)
  • Wyeast 2565 (Kölsch Yeast)

I had ordered the ingredients so that I could take advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend and get this batch made so that it would be ready by July 4th.  That is when the first hiccup came…

I went out to the garage and started getting set-up for my brewday.  I got the propane tank and burner set up.  I smacked the Wyeast package.  And I started sorting out the ingredients for the customary picture I usually take.  That’s when I saw it:

Ooops.

It doesn’t look like the grain was milled…

Atlantic Brew Supply did a great job of getting the order to me, but forgot to mill the grain prior to shipping.  They were great in making up for the oversight, but I had to wait until the week after Memorial day to get the replacement grains.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t brew the following weekend and ended up with a June 6 brewday.  This loss of two weeks pretty much ensured that I would not have Kölsch ready for July 4th.

So brew day came, and it was time to get everything assembled.

Batch 164 Kölsch Ingredients

Pimento the Cat inspects the Kölsch ingredients

Targets for this batch, based on BeerSmith were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.050
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 4.8% ABV
  • 6.1º SRM
  • 30 IBU

The original gravity came out about 1.050, so I was hitting my target, even with the use of the grain bag in the mash tun.

Original Gravity

Kölsch Original Gravity

When this brew day wrapped up, I had the Czech Pilsner in the garage fridge (the chest freezer I normally use having been put into service for food storage), and the Maibock had been finished off the previous week, so the kegerator was open and available for primary fermentation.  So I put the fermenting bucket in the kegerator with the temperature controller set for 55°.

With the kegerator not really being cold enough for serving the Maibock, I had bought some digital refrigerator thermometers and placed one in the kegerator to monitor my fermentation temperature.

Everything went great for nine days.  The morning of the ninth day, I checked the digital thermometer and it was at 55° – as it had been for the entire primary fermentation time.

Since I have been working at home due to the Wuhan Flu pandemic, I went down to the kitchen to eat my lunch (the kegerator being situated between two pantry cabinets at the end of the kitchen table).  During lunch, I noticed that the thermostat of the kegerator was clicking, but the compressor wasn’t starting up.  It registered in my brain, but my brain was in work-mode and set it aside while I was mulling over some other work stuff I would need to tackle after lunch.

When I got done with work that day, I went to the kegerator to check on the temperature – having decided in the back of my mind during the afternoon while I was working that it wasn’t good that the compressor wasn’t firing up.

Sure enough, the temperature on the fridge thermometer read 68°.

I wasn’t too alarmed since most of the fermentation should be complete, and a the hybrid ale-lager nature of a Kölsch should not have a disaster due to the higher fermentation temperatures after nine days.  I did get some blue ice and put them into the keg fridge to see how much I could drop the temperature.  After a couple hours, the fridge temperature was about 65°.  So there was an option to bring the temperature down, but I didn’t have enough blue ice to keep cycling frozen packages to replace defrosted packages.

Again, I wasn’t too alarmed.  I figured I would wait five more days and transfer the Kölsch to secondary and put it into the garage fridge to cold crash and lager.

Kölsch at the end of Primary Fermentation

Kölsch at the end of Primary Fermentation

Like the more recent batches I’ve made, the beer is especially cloudy and filled with unsettled yeast and other trub.

I did better on the specific gravity, though, coming in at 1.010.

Specific gravity at the end of primary fermentation

Specific gravity at the end of primary fermentation

Putting the carboy into the garage fridge had almost immediate visible impact – after about seven hours, the beer was starting to fall clear.

Seven Hours of Cold Crashing

Kölsch after seven hours in the fridge.

Nine days of cold crashing

Kölsch after nine days of cold crashing

I let the Kölsch lager in the garage fridge for almost six weeks before I did the usual gelatin fining to clear the beer.  I kegged it about a week later.

As usual with my Kölsch, I was very pleased with the way it turned out!  I had a bit of a time getting it to fall clear, but I think that was mostly due to disturbing the flocculant remaining on the bottom of the keg from the gelatin fining getting shaken up every time I had to put gas to the keg.  Eventually it became nicely clear!

Konfrontational Kölsch!!

A nicely clear and bright Konfrontational Kölsch!

I still have to figure out what I’m going to do with the unmilled grain I originally received!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Homebrewing, Kölsch, Kegerators, Kolsch, Kolsch | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

O’ zapft is! (2020 – Annual Oktoberfest Post)

I’m sad…no…despondent…that Oktoberfest had to be cancelled this year. It has been 10 years since I attended Oktoberfest, and this time last year I thought it would be a nice thing for my wife and me to do to go and re-visit.

Fucking Wuhan Flu.

Source: https://www.oktoberfest.de/

So here is a reminder of what we are missing this year.

Source:https://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/os-et-s7-oktoberfest-fall-drinking-events-orlando-20180910-story.html

In the meantime, I have plenty of homebrew to see me through the next few weeks.

Posted in Oktoberfest | Tagged | Leave a comment

Kegerator Woes

As I will discuss in my upcoming post about the current batch of Kölsch, my kegerator, which I have been using mostly as a primary fermentation vessel rather than using it to serve beer, had its compressor (I think) crap out after nine days of primary fermentation.

This left me in a dilemma I have been facing more often as I get older:  how much longer do I plan on homebrewing.

This though also occurred to me when the grains I ordered for my Kölsch were not milled as I had ordered.  While the online vendor I purchased the grains from were quick to send replacement grains that were milled, I still have 10 pounds of unmilled grain that I can’t use.

My options for the grains were to go to my local homebrew store (who I have only occasionally been patronizing) and ask them to mill the grains I bought from someone else.  Since I think that is too much of a dickhead move, I started looking at the other options.

A second option was to find another homebrewer who had a mill that could mill the grain for me.  The hurdle there is that I don’t belong to a homebrew club, and I don’t know many other homebrewers – the few I do know aren’t all-grain brewers, so they wouldn’t have a mill.

My wife asked me if I could crack the grain using a tenderizing mallet or rolling pin.  “Of course” I replied, “that was how I had to crack unmilled grain when I first started homebrewing.  Except, that was for maybe a pound or two of grains for steeping as part of an extract batch, not 10 pounds of grain I need to get crushed well to form the basis of an all-grain batch.  Plus, I remember it taking about 15 minutes to really get a good crush of a pound of grain and…well…that time period and the effort involved didn’t scale well in my mind!

My wife raised the obvious third option: ‘Why don’t you buy a mill?’

Don’t think I didn’t consider it!  But, as I mentioned above, making that purchase raised a couple of questions:

  • What kind of mill would I buy?  One with a handle, one that I could run using a drill, or one with a motor?
  • How much did I want to pay for it?
  • How long – I mean really!! – how long would I be using it for?  Five years?  Ten?  And then the big question:
  • Where would I put it when I’m not using it?

I decided I didn’t want to have a mill at all, because I don’t think I’d be using it enough in the next five to 10 years to justify the purchase (let alone the cost, because I don’t see me turning a handle to mill the grain nor do I see myself spending the money to buy a mill with a motor).

So I still have to figure out what to do with 10 pounds of unmilled Kölsch recipe grains…

The kegerator posed a similar problem.

The recent transition of my brewing set-up, which had centered on using a chest freezer to lager and serve from to now not having the chest freezer available at all since it was put into service storing food, raised a similar dilemma.  One solution was to get another chest freezer – either for storing food or as a replacement for me to use instead of the old chest freezer.  Also, the Wuhan Flu pandemic has made chest freezers a hot commodity – after all, the pandemic is the reason why we pressed the current chest freezer into doing food storage chores.  How long would it take to get a new one?   Then I ran into a similar situation – mainly: where the hell would I put it?  The garage already has a refrigerator and the chest freezer, plus my old kitchen cabinets that make up my brewing equipment storage area as well as cabinets for storing the ridiculous amount of beer glasses I have accumulated over the years.  I could *probably* put a smaller chest freezer in the garage, but I would need to have more electrical outlets put in, and there isn’t a hell of a lot of open floor space anyway.

Another solution was to stop brewing ‘temporarily’.

The problem with stopping brewing temporarily is that I might not be inclined to start up again.  All-grain brewing is a giant time commitment to start with, and while I do enjoy it, there are times when it feels like a chore that I’d rather avoid.

The solution I adopted was to scale back brewing.  Instead of using the chest freezer to lager and serve from, I figured what I could do is continue to use the kegerator as a primary fermentation chamber.  I could then use the garage refrigerator as the place for secondary fermentation and to serve from until the current batch’s primary fermentation was finished and I could shift kegs into the kegerator to serve from.  This would require that I could not brew until the batch on tap in the kegerator would be finished and it would become available again for serving as the primary fermentation chamber.

Then the kegerator crapped out on me.

And some of the same questions – and some others – came up again:

  • How much longer am I going to brew?  Will it be long enough to make the investment into a new kegerator worthwhile?  Maybe the kegerator dying is a sign that I should get out of brewing.
  • I could go back to bottling agai….no…no fucking way *that* is going to happen!
  • So if I’m not going to bottle and I’m still going to brew, what kind of kegerator should I get?  A lower cost one similar to the Haier kegerator I have had for the last 15 or so years?  Or a decked out one with more space and some nifty bells and whistles?
  • Once I get the new kegerator, I’m going to have to assemble it.  Where do I put the old kegerator before I can get rid of it?  To get rid of it, I’d prefer to find a homebrewer eager to get into kegging, and who either wants to fix my kegerator or sees paying a service company to fix my old kegerator as a cheaper alternative to buying one new. But since I don’t know many homebrewers, let along those that might want to keg their beer, I’m probably going to have to have the County haul it away as a special pick-up – whenever I can get that scheduled.

So the decision was made to purchase a new kegerator, which is slowly making its way across the county even as I type these words.  More on that in a subsequent post.

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Brewing Equipment, Grain Mill, Keg Fridge, Kegerators | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Batch 163 – Czech Saaz Pilsner (All-Grain)

Looking forward to more warm weather beers, I looked back through my beer log and decided to take another go at a Czech Pilsner.  The last Czech Pilsner I made was in May 2017 was brewed exclusively with Kazbek hops.  I though of going the same route this time, but then decided to go with more traditional 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)
  • 7.0 ounces of Saaz Hops (2.4%)
  • 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss
  • 2 packs White Labs Czech Budojovice Lager Yeast (WLP802)

In the previous recipe, I included 2 ounces of Aromatic Malt in the grain bill, but for some reason forgot to order it.  Oh well.

Batch 163 - Czech Saaz Pilsener

Ingredients for the Pilsener – including an 8 ounce packet of Saaz hops!

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.053
  • Final Gravity:  1.010
  • 5.7% ABV
  • 3.7 SRM
  • 42 IBU

Brew day was at the end of April 2020.  I was trying to be watchful as I always am when the wort begins to boil,  but my spray bottle with water that I use to break down the foam to avoid a boil over was set to stream more than spray.  So I had probably the worst boil over of all my all-grain batches.

Boilover

Ugh – that’s a bad boil over!

The starting gravity was a little under the 1.053 target at 1.050.  The beer was cooled and put into the keg fridge to ferment around 50°.

After 19 days in primary, I transferred the beer to secondary.  Except, as Imentioned in the last post about the Maibock, I had to make some re-arranging of my lagering set-up since the chest freezer has been pressed into service storing food.

My garage fridge up to this point had been re-organized so the beer in it was more efficiently stored, opening up space to serve my Dortmunder and Maibock from while this batch was undergoing primary fermentation in the kegerator.

Re-vamped garage fridge

Re-vamped garage fridge with the Dortmunder on the left and the Maibock on the right.

I had been serving the Dortmunder and Maibock out of the garage fridge – though this was less than ideal because there was very little clearance space above the keg.  Putting more gas to the kegs to push the beer out required me removing the kegs from the fridge, jumping some gas in, and then putting the kegs back in the fridge.  This had the unfortunate side effect of kicking up the sediment (largely yeast and gelatin floculates) and making each glass really murky.

Dingie Dortmunder

Dingie Dortmunder with kicked-up sediment

Murky Maibock

Murky Maibock with kicked up sediment

Moving the kegs to the kegerator had mixed results.  First, I ran out of Dortmunder on the next pint I pulled.  Then, the kegerator wasn’t really getting too cold (about in the mid-40’s), and the back panel was quick to ice up and form a glacier inside.  But without moving the keg around to gas it, the Maibock started becoming more clear!

Magnificent Maibock!

Magnificent Diaphanous Maibock!!

Anyway – back to the Czech Pilsner!

The cold-aging in the garage fridge was a short four weeks.  This was a necessity because I ran out of Maibock before I ran out of May!  It was amazing to see how clear it became in three weeks, and how much more it became over the last week after I fined the beer with gelatin.

Czech Pilsener before Secondary

Czech Pilsner just before secondary.

Czech Pilsner after three weeks of cold crashing

Czech Pilsner after three weeks of cold crashing.

Czech Pilsner after one week of gelatin fining

Czech Pilsner after one week of gelatin fining

This led to a very clear beer!

Czech Pilsner just before kegging!

Czech Pilsner just before kegging and carbonating.

The plan was to move the Czech Pilsner keg from the garage fridge into the kegerator once my next batch (another batch of Konfrontational Kölsch) when I suffered a home-brewery set-back.  But that is a story that will soon be told!

But I have been enjoying this beer, and its sparkling clarity renews my faith in my using gelatin fining to make a bright beer!

Gorgeous Delicious Czech Pilsner

Gorgeous Delicious Czech Pilsner

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Czech Pilsner, Czech Pilsner, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 162 – Maibock (All-Grain)

Another beer which sounded good to have on hand as the weather starts to warm this spring and to drink on the deck on the still cool-spring evenings in May is a Maibock.  It had been just over five years since I last made this style, and 10 years since I first made it at the local homebrew store’s Brew Day.  It was long overdue to be made again!

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

  • 6.0 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt
  • 6.0 pounds of Best Malz Vienna Malt
  • 1.0 pounds of Weyermann Light Munich Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Briess Cara-Pils Malt
  • 0.75 ounces (22 grams) Magnum Hops (12.8% alpha acid)
  • 1.0 ounce of Hallertauer Hersbrucker Hops (2.2%)
  • 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss
  • 1 packs White Labs German Bock Lager Yeast (WLP833)

Because I started the brewday late (almost 3 PM), I forgot to take my customary ingredient picture.  So I improvised after I had dumped all the grain into a bucket prior to mashing in.

Batch 162 - Maibock

Well – here are the ingredients just prior to mashing in. And yes, I took out the packets of hops!

The predicted specs for this beer from BeerSmith were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.071
  • Final Gravity:  1.021
  • 6.5% ABV
  • 41.5 IBU
  • 6.8º SRM (5.6ºL)

My strike water was running a little hot, so I had to stir the mash for a few minutes so I could get to my target temperature of 156°.

I was also surprised by how murky the wort was during vorlauf.  I pulled and recirculated a gallon of wort during vorlauf, but it remained extremely cloudy.

Final quart of vorlauf runnings

Final quart of vorlauf runnings – it was just as murky as the first quart.

Other than that, the brew day was uneventful, and I cooled the wort, put it into the fermenting bucket and pitched the yeast.  My starting gravity was again a little low (1.066) and I’m wondering if it is because I’m using the grain bag to keep my mash tun drain nozzle from clogging, and perhaps not getting as good a distribution of mash water to the grain as I used to without the grain bag.

After 18 days, I transferred the beer to secondary fermentation.  I was surprised by how murky the beer was after primary fermentation.

Maibock going to secondary

…in the murky, murky month of Mai…

The chest freezer was starting to get a little full at this point.

Beer storage

Mid-march 2020 in the Chest Freezer – starting to fill up!  The Maibock is in the upper left corner.

The plan was to get some friends to come over on March 20 and assist me in clearing out the Scottish Ale, the Tmavý Ležák, and the Doppelbock.  The Dortmunder was on hand to premiere if we ran out of the darker beers.  Unfortunately, this was about the time when places were shutting down and people were discouraged from gathering – even with friends.

Secondary fermentation lasted about five weeks before I pulled the carboy out to fine the beer with gelatin.  By then, it had improved somewhat, and was a bit clearer and there was a bi of sediment on the bottom of the carboy.

Maibock after secondary

The Maibock after secondary just before fining…

The fining didn’t seem to work much though.  The beer was not noticeable clearer a week later when I went to keg it on May 1.

Maibock just before kegging

Maibock after a week of gelatin to clarify. It kind of looks clearer, but no a lot clearer.

Maibock gravity reading

It sure looked pretty clear in the sample flask, though.

The final gravity came out to be 1.020, just below my target.  The Maibock finished at a little over 6.3% A.B.V.

I was not happy with how hazy the beer was on the second day after tapping the keg.  But it tasted great, which I guess is all that matters.

Batch 162 - Maibock

Second day after tapping the keg – hazy as hell.

I’m not sure where I’m going wrong with the gelatin fining.  Maybe I’m pulling too much into the keg when I do the final transfer.  I don’t know – but it is discouraging after the initial success I had with gelatin fining on the first batches I tried that clarifying technique on.

The change of using the chest freezer for storing and serving beer to freezing food led to a move of this and the Dortmunder keg into the spare refrigerator in the garage.  While I can fit two kegs in that fridge comfortably, remaining bottles and cans of beer require leaving one shelf in at the highest level.  This is not high enough to leave either and ‘in’ disconnect for gas or an ‘out’ disconnect for serving attached to the keg.

The kegs have to be shifted to be tapped to pour a glass or to occasionally push some gas to improve serving.  There isn’t enough space in the fridge to place the CO2 bottle (not that the disconnects would fit under the shelf above it) which isn’t really a problem since I don’t leave the gas on and attached to the kegs (too many experiences with losing a whole tank of gas due to keg and disconnect leaks).  In any case, the kegs need to be moved to do either of these, disturbing the remaining yeast and/or gelatin sediment on the bottom, resulting in cloudy beer with each pour.  It also tends to darken the color, making these nice golden beers a bit murky and gray.

More murky, gray, Maibok

Maybe it’s the lighting, but this looks as dismal and gray as the last winter weather in the northeast – and the mood I have after ‘sheltering-in-place’ due to the Wuhan China Virus.

The goal is to move these kegs into the keg fridge and server from there – once the next batch (a Czech Saaz Pilsener) is ready to transferred to secondary.  Then the kegs in the spare fridge in the garage will be moved into the keg fridge, and the carboy with the Pilsener will be lagering in the garage fridge.

I can’t wait for things to get back to normal and I get my chest freezer back!!  Hopefully the meat and produce supply chains will not breakdown and we won’t need to stockpile even more food for the coming months.

 

 

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Beer, Carbonating, Gelatin Fining, Helles Bock, Homebrewing, Maibock | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments