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 , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 161 – Dortmunder (All-Grain)

As the new year begins, I start planning for the beers to drink once the weather starts warming up in the spring.  I usually begin yard work at the beginning of April (though as of this writing it is mid-March and I just cut the grass the earliest I ever have in my life) and it is nice to have some lighter color, but still hefty beers on hand.

This year, I’ve decided to go with a Dortmunder, which I made last at the end of March in 2018.

I’ve been really happy with ordering from Atlantic Brew Supply who fill my orders and deliver them quickly.  But every store has some slight differences in what they carry, so I had to adjust the recipe again based on the ingredients that were available.  They don’t carry an Aromatic Malt (I think I have used Briess Aromatic Malt most often in the past), but they had a substitute called Castle Monastique from Castle Malting.  And since I can order my grain in ounces, I included the Honey Malt that I like in these types of beers.  I also wanted to use some of the remaining Magnum hops, some of which I had used in the recent Doppelbock, so the hops in this batch are a bit different from the last batch as well.   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 (12.8%)
  • 3.0 ounces of Saaz Hops (2.8%)
  • 1 teaspoon Irish Moss
  • 2 packs Saflager W-34/70  Yeast
Batch 161 - Dortmunder Ingredients

Dortmunder ingredients – for my peace of mind, I had everything individually bagged!

My targets using BeerSmith were:

  • Original Gravity:  1.055
  • Final Gravity:  1.015
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 5.3ºSRM (about 4.5º L)
  • 33 IBU

The brew day was uneventful, but I was keeping a close eye on my propane tank, which was nearly empty.  I swapped it out with a filled tank after heating my mash and sparge water so I wouldn’t have to replace it during the boil.

I was a little below the target gravity at 1.052, measured as the beer was being transferred to my fermenting bucket for primary fermentation.  After two weeks of fermentation, the gravity had dropped to 1.016. Off to secondary and lagering in the chest freezer!

After four weeks of lagering, I fined the beer with gelatin and put it back in the chest freezer for another week before kegging and carbonating it.  The gravity had dropped to 1.014 when I kegged it in mid-March, clocking the beer in at about 5.1% A.B.V.

I was pleased with how clear the beer finished prior to kegging, but upon finally tapping it a little over three weeks after kegging it, it was not quite a clear as I had hoped.

Dortmunder at kegging

Nice and clear prior to kegging! Would it stay that way?

First draft of the Dortmunder (Batch 161)

First draft of the Dortmunder – not as clear as I hoped!

I chalked this up to drawing some of the residual gelatin from fining into the keg.  Surely after a few beers pulled that from the bottom of the keg, it would clear up?

Two weeks sitting in the keg in the chest freezer and it was settling very nice and clear.

Dortmunder - getting brighter

Two weeks later, it was a bit brighter. I was hoping it would continue to do so…

Unfortunately, conditions with the Wuhan virus led to a change is strategy that affected my homebrewing storage.  The chest freezer had to be sacrificed from its lagering and serving duties and instead was converted to its primary function – storing food.

The change in serving location has made it difficult to continue to draw a clear beer from this and the upcoming batch of Maibock.

But that is a story for another day…


Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Dortmunder, Dortmunder Export, Gelatin Fining, German Helles Lager, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 160 – Doppelbock (Half Batch)

It seems like all the holidays ran late recently.  A late Thanksgiving, coupled with weather, work, and wellness, seemed to have me and my family playing catch-up during this past holiday season.  I try not to miss an opportunity to brew over a holiday (like Thanksgiving) when I have the time off and I’m at home, but it just didn’t happen this year.

Fortunately, this year there is a late start to Lent:  February 26.  That gives me just enough time to put together a decent Doppelbock to have ready (hopefully) by the beginning of March and to enjoy during Starkbier season.

Now, I really like my Doppelbock.  Unfortunately, it is takes a long time to drink a regular 5-gallon batch of an 8% beer.  Not exactly the kind of beer that I can drink six or eight of during one night – unless I want to crawl up my stairs when I go to bed!  The ‘I’m not getting any younger’ condition I seem to be noticing more regularly lately also includes not being able to tip them back the way I used to do even a couple years ago (let alone ten or twenty years ago!).

So I made the decision to make a half-batch of my Doppelbock this year.

This led to a logistic issue – my all-grain set up (a converted cooler as a mash tun and a propane burner to boil the wort) is set up for five gallon batches.  I knew I could still mash in the mash tun, but I didn’t want to try boiling a smaller batch on the propane burner.

I generally have to collect about 7.5 gallons of wort when I’m making a five-gallon batch of beer.  After 60 minutes of boiling on the propane burner, with the flame set as low as I can possibly get it on the burner – my evaporation rate is that high.  Since I cook-off about 2.5 gallons per hour, I would have to collect five gallons of wort if I were to use the propane burner.

I opted for making this batch indoors on my gas range – something I don’t think I have done since I first fired up the propane burner – which happened to also be my first all-grain Doppelbock effort back in November 2014!  As it turned out, the weather forecast didn’t look all the appealing for outdoor brewing (a lot of rain was forecast), so I was happy that I wouldn’t have to delay the brewing of this batch.

Here is the halved recipe:

  • 3.0 pounds Pilsner Malt
  • 2.5 pounds Light Munich Malt
  • 2.5 pounds Dark Munich Malt
  • 4.0 ounces Carafa II Malt
  • 4.0 ounces Crystal Malt(60ºL)
  • 10 grams (0.35 ounces) Magnum Hops (12.8% alpha acid)
  • White Labs Bock Yeast WLP 833
Batch 160 - Doppelbock Ingredients

Batch 160 – Doppelbock Ingredients…but where is my Carafa II and Crystal 60?

Something that gave me pause as I was about to start brewing was that the bag was labeled to indicate it contained the Pilsner, Munich Light and Munich Dark malt, but it didn’t list the Carafa II or Crystal 60.  Was it included?

Usually, I ask for all the malt to be bagged separately as a way to be sure all of my ingredients are delivered.  But this time, I decided to group all of the Doppelbock malt together as ‘Recipe 1’ (I also ordered ingredients for an upcoming batch of Dortmunder that I plan on making).  I started to think my brew day was going to be delayed because I didn’t see any indication of any dark malt in the bag.

I eventually turned the bag over and saw some small amount of dark malt and then realized that it might be pretty difficult to spot 4 ounces of dark Carafa II malt in eight pounds of lighter malt.  I decided to go ahead assuming the dark malts were included, they just weren’t listed on the bag.  I figured it would become obvious once I started mashing if I had the dark malts or not!

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.086
  • Final Gravity:  1.023
  • 8.2% ABV
  • 25 IBU
  • 29ºL

In addition to scaling down to a half-recipe, I was brewing with Magnum hops for the first time.  I had received these hops as a ‘promotional’ item in one of my previous orders and had been holding on to them looking for an opportunity to use them.  One thing I learned making the recent Scottish Ale, which also had a low target IBU, was that I should estimate and measure out my hops in grams.  My digital kitchen scale measures to a precision of tenths of an ounce, but also measure in grams.  Since one gram is roughly 0.035 ounces, I can be more precise weighing out odd amounts of hops in grams than in ounces.  And a high alpha acid hop like Magnum lends itself very well to measuring out 10 grams rather than 0.35 ounces.

I mashed as usual in my cooler mash tun and collected about 3.25 gallons of wort to boil on the stove top.  I didn’t think I would need more wort than this since I was not likely to get as rolling a boil on my stove top as I do on the propane burner, and I had a little better range of control of the flame intensity on the stove.

Pre-boil Doppelbock Wort

I found out that I shouldn’t have worried about the dark grains missing from the bag!

As I predicted, I didn’t have nearly as rolling a boil as I normally get on the propane burner.  But at the end of the boil and after cooling the wort, I found that I had right at two gallons of wort in my fermenting bucket.

I was also short of my target gravity of 1.086, with my wort coming in at 1.080 as I was putting it into the fermenting bucket.

I think I may have left a lot of fermentables behind in the mash tun.  My first runnings were right at 18.0° Brix, but at the end of the sparge, my last runnings were still pretty strong.  The tail end of the wort I drew from the mash tun was at 15° Brix.  I usually end up with my final runnings being in the range of 4° to 6° Brix.  from the mash tun.

After two weeks in primary fermentation, I transferred it to secondary fermentation and lagered it for four weeks before I kegged the beer in a 2.5 gallon soda keg.  The beer was carbonated by rolling it on its side for 1:15 at 30 psi.

Batch 160 - Doppelbock Draft

Second draft of the Doppelbock (its a better picture than the first draft was!)

I am extremely happy with how it came out – and find myself wishing that I would have made a full batch!  A half batch seemed like a good idea at the time!




Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Doppelbock, Doppelbock, Doppelbock_, Homebrewing, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Batch 159 – Tmavý Ležák (Czech Dark Lager)

Winter always makes me lean towards drinking darker beers, and the winter of 2019-2020 is no different.  I figured it was time to make another batch of my Czech Dark Lager.  I decided I wanted to continue the evolution of the recipe that I started with the last batch in hopes of getting a beer that is sweeter and less roasted and porter-like.

The ingredients were once again ordered from Atlantic Homebrew Supply and consisted of :

  • 7.5 pounds of Best Malz Pilsner Malt
  • 2.5 pounds of CaraMunich Malt (half a pound taken from leftover CaraMunich Malt)
  • 8 ounces of Black Prinz Malt (instead of the Carafa II used previously)
  • 3.0 ounces Saaz Hops (2.8% and 3.0% alpha acid)
  • 2 packages of White Labs 802  Czech Budejovice Lager Yeast
Batch 159 - Czech Dark Lager Ingredients

Batch 159 – Czech Dark Lager Ingredients

I mentioned in the post about my Scottish 60 Shilling beer that I have started using a large grain bag in my mash tun to resolve the problem I was having of getting the mash tun nozzle clogged with small grain pieces.  This time I remembered to take a photo of what this looks like.

Mash Tun and Grain Bag Set-Up

Mash Tun and Grain Bag Set-Up

While the grain bag is kind of a pain when I’m mashing in the grain, I it still preferable to having a clogged drain nozzle!

The other slight adjustment I made with this batch was to wait until the mash was finished to add the Black Prinz Malt.  In the previous batch of this beer, I added the Carafa II malt I used (instead of the Black Prinz Malt used in this recipe) with 10 minutes remaining in the mash.  This resulted in a less pronounced roasted flavor in the final beer – but I wanted to reduce that even further.

Targets were:

  • Original Gravity: 1.054
  • Final Gravity: 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.5%
  • IBU: 23
  • Color: 27°L

My original gravity measured prior to fermentation came in at 1.056.  Because of work schedules, flu and respiratory crud working its way through the family, and the Christmas holiday, the beer was in primary fermentation for four weeks before it was transferred to secondary fermentation.  Even a four week primary fermentation period did not get the gravity close to the expected final gravity – the beer was right at 1.020 when it was transferred to secondary.  This is also consistent with the last batch.

After five weeks in secondary fermentation, I gelatin fined the beer (even though it is very dark!) and let is clear in the chest freezer for five days before kegging and carbonating.  For carbonation, I set my CO2 tank at 30 psi and rolled the keg on its side for two and a half minutes.

Batch 159 - Tmavý Ležák first draft

First draft of the Tmavý Ležák!

Overall, I’m pleased with how it came out.  Not nearly as roasted or porter like, but something between Czechvar Dark and Bernard Dark.

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Czech Dark Lager, Czech Dark_Lager, Czech_Dark Lager, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 158 – Scottish 60/- Light

In keeping with a break from making lagers and delving into some British styles, I followed up on the Best Bitter with a 60 Shilling Scottish Ale.  This beer was taken directly from the recipe on page 56 of the September 2019 issue of Brew  Your Own.  Some adjustments were made to the kind of debittered black malt and Belgian candi syrup that I purchased from Atlantic Brew Supply:

  • 4 pounds Golden Promise
  • 1 pound flaked corn
  • 1 pound D-90 Belgian Candi Syrup
  • 3 ounces Black Prinz Malt
  • 1 ounce of Fuggles hops (5.6% alpha acid)
  • 0.3 ounce of Kent Goldings hops (4.7% alpha acid)
  • WLP028 Edinburgh Yeast
Scottish 60 Shilling Ingredients

Scottish 60 Shilling Ale Ingredients

My targets, based on Brew Pal, are:

  • Original Gravity:  1.033
  • Final Gravity:  1.009
  • ABV:  3.2%
  • 21 IBU
  • 23 Lovibond

I made some alterations to my normal brewing process for this beer.  First, I used a large Brew-in-a-Bag grain bag to line my mash tun above the false bottom.  This resolved the problem I was having with the mash tun nozzle clogging at the start of vorlauf.  Second, I added the Black Prinz malt to the mash tun at the end of the mash to pull the color but minimize the amount of flavor pulled from the grain.  Third, instead of dumping the candi syrup directly into the brew pot and risk it sinking and scorching on my propane burner, I pulled four ladles of wort from the kettle about 25 minutes into the boil and dissolved the candi syrup in a smaller pot.  The wort with the dissolved candi syrup was added back to the brew kettle with 15 minutes left in the boil.  I timed how long it took for the boil to recommence after adding the dissolved syrup and extended the 60 minute boil by that time.

Using the grain bag to line the mash tun worked great – I had pretty clear runnings after pulling two quarts during the vorlauf.

Second runnings

Second runnings from the mash tun.

I was at 1.032 starting gravity prior to beginning fermentation – just a little bit below my target original gravity.  After two weeks in primary at 60°, the gravity had only dropped to 1.016 – still a bit away from the targeted final gravity.  I transferred the beer to a carboy and left it out in my kitchen overnight to see if fermentation activity would start again.  It did, so I put the carboy back in my keg fridge with the temperature raised to 68° to let the fermentation finish.  Five days later, I put the carboy into my 36° chest freezer for three more days, at which point and kegged and carbonated the beer.  My final gravity of 1.010 was close to my target of 1.009, resulting in the lowest alcohol content beers I have ever made:  2.9% A.B.V.

Scottish 60/- Light

Scottish 60/-Light Ale

I was very pleased with how it came out!  I am especially pleased with the carbonation.  It is a great session beer that was perfect for serving to guests over Christmas.

And for Christmas, my daughters got me a large thistle glass (21 ounces!) that I have been using as I continue to drink this beer – I like it very much and look forward to making it again in the future!

Festive Scottish 60 Schilling!

Festive Scottish 60 Shilling – in a Thistle Glass!




Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Homebrewing, Scottish 60 Shilling, Scottish 60/- Light, Scottish Ale | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 157 – Best Bitter

I have been making lots of various lager beers since I started all-grain brewing regularly back in September 2014.  A lot of the lagers I make are based on German lager styles (or hybrid styles).  I haven’t made any Belgian style beers, and I have tended to stay away from British Ale styles.

But after the legendary trip to England (with brief, but busy stops in Ireland) at the end of January 2019, I started thinking about making my brewing life easier by making a few quick turn-around ales.  Coincidentally, Brew Your Own had been delving into recipes of various British beer styles in some of the 2019 issues and covered Historic Bitter Ale in the July-August 2019 issue.

I adjusted the recipe in the magazine a bit with the following ingredients purchased from Atlantic Brew Supply:

  • 4.25 pounds Maris Otter
  • 4.25 pounds Golden Promise
  • 4 ounces Aromatic Malt
  • 2.0 ounces of Kent Goldings hops (4.7% alpha acid)
  • 1 packet SafAle S-04 yeast
Best Bitter Ingredients

Best Bitter Ingredients

My targets, based on Brew Pal, are:

  • Original Gravity:  1.043
  • Final Gravity:  1.010
  • ABV:  4.4%
  • 34 IBU
  • 4.0 Lovibond

I mashed again with a small grain bag wrapped around my false bottom.  The nozzle on my mash tun was still clogged by the fine crush of the grains but once that cleared, I didn’t have to hand-recirculate much during the vorlauf – about 2 quarts – before the wort was running clear.

I ended up a bit over my target original gravity, getting an adjusted reading of 1.048.  The final gravity came in at 1.015 (for 4.5 percent ABV – which was right about on target).

The beer spent one week in primary, and three weeks in secondary before fining it with gelatin and kegging and force carbonating the beer.

After some great initial results from the gelatin fining, I was disappointed that this batch was not clearer shortly after kegging.  I’m going to have to revisit my gelatin fining technique to see what I’m doing wrong.

Cloudy Best Bitter

One week after kegging, the best bitter was pretty hazy still.

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

Batch 156 – Kellerbier

It had been three years since I last made my Kellerbier.  I thought that it was time to make it again as a somewhat quick turnaround beer to follow the most recent batch of Kcölsh.  It wouldn’t require much lagering, and I don’t have to clear it for serving.

The ingredients were purchased from Atlantic Brew Supply, and included the following:

  • 8.0 pounds of Pilsner malt
  • 1.0 pounds Muncih Malt (light)
  • 4 ounces Aromatic Malt
  • 2.0 ounces of Saaz hops (2.8% alpha acid)
  • 3.0 ounces of Hallertau Hersbrucker hops (2.2% alpha acid)
  • 2 packets SafLager W-34/70 yeast
Batch 156 Kellerbier ingredients

The Kellerbier ingredients

My targets, based on Brew Pal, are:

  • Original Gravity:  1.048
  • Final Gravity:  1.011
  • ABV:  4.9%
  • 38 IBU
  • 5.4 Lovibond

The IBU were a little higher this time as I adjusted the amount of Saaz hops due to their lower alpha acid content.

Since I have been having problems with the fine crush of the grains clogging my mash tun spout when I lauter, I decided to wrap the false bottom in my mash tun with a grain bag to see if that eliminated the clogging and cut down on the many small pieces of grain that get pulled through during the vorlauf.

This was a marked improvement that what I had been experiencing.

The brew day was otherwise uneventful, but I went way, way over my target original gravity, getting a reading of 1.056 as I was transferring the wort into the primary fermenter.  With a final gravity of 1.012, the beer came in at 5.8 percent ABV instead of the targeted 4.9 percent.

After almost three weeks in primary, the beer was transferred into secondary for two weeks, and kegged and force carbonated.

This was fortunate, because I ran out of Kölsch that night and the Kellerbier was ready to go the next day!

Kellerbier Draft

Kellerbier Draft


Posted in All-grain Brewing, Carbonating, Homebrewing, Kegging, Kellerbier, Kellerbier | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment