Rule #1: Never brew in socks.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This Saturday, February 26th, Mod 47 AKA Angry Monocle Brewing Company will be hosting a beerluck. It's like a potluck, but with beer. The following of our beers will be featured:

1. Our hefeweizen, which Jack has apparently named "Cloudy Dreamwich". This is a simple, classic beer, brewed with 40% wheat malt, low bitterness, and a prominent fruity character. This beer was brewed with yeast from the Weihenstephan brewery in Germany, which brews what many consider to be the best example of the style. Like the Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier, our hefeweizen is slightly more restrained than some other German-style hefeweizens in not having an over-the-top bubblegum-like character, which allows more malt flavor to shine through. Served with the yeast in it.

2. The Belgian pale ale, or One-Eyed Bandit. This beer is Jack's firstborn. I won't speculate too much about his thoughts on the process, but see his earlier posts for more detail. This is by far the strangest of our brews, and will likely be polarizing. If you're in for something wild, give this one a try.

3. Armadillo IPA. A close relative of the (forthcoming) Armadillo Pale Ale, this beer is single-hopped with large quantities of Amarillo, a pungent, citrusy American hop. This beer was brewed on premise at Deja Brew, as a generous gift from my brother and his girlfriend. We haven't actually tried this yet, but I'm very interested to see what kinds of differences we notice from the use of a different brewhouse.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Future

While we wait to brew our next batch, I thought I might muse on the future. We've already ordered ingredients for another three batches, as well as another fermenter. I also have a number more recipes that I'm working on.

The first of the beers that we just ordered is a Belgian amber ale; a continuation of the series we began with the Belgian pale. We expect to continue with a Belgian brown ale and a Belgian stout. It is entirely a tribute to Ommegang's Rare Vos, which is the most highly esteemed of all beers in our mod. However, we're not going to try anything overly complex, such as the various spices that may or may not be in the real Rare Vos. Just malts, hops, and yeast.

The second is a spur-of-the-moment decision that I cobbled together from two recipes I'd been working on: a raspberry red ale, and an American stout. Raspberry stouts being known to work well, I mentioned it as a possibility when we were ordering, and it produced great anxiety amongst the hearers that they were not drinking such a beer at that moment. It has a fairly complex malt bill, with pale chocolate, dark chocolate, roasted barley, and Crystal 75 all making an appearance. I dropped the American hops from my stout recipe and included 35 IBUs of Kent Goldings, which is fairly low for the gravity, which I estimate at 1.074, which yields an estimated 7.3% ABV. The raspberry flavor comes from over three pounds of raspberry puree (a deseeded can of 100% fruit), whose addition made this beer the most expensive we've decided to brew.

The third beer is an even more improvised recipe than the second. At the last minute, we decided to a brew a Belgian Golden Strong Ale (think Duvel). I'd never even considered such a recipe before, but I did a little research and threw one together. 80% base malt and 20% sucrose, fermented with a White Labs yeast that is said to be Duvel's. Single hopped with Saaz. (I later learned that Duvel also uses Styrian Goldings, but ah, well, we weren't really brewing a Duvel clone anyway.) If we get this one right it will be delicious and widely appealing (though we may not wish to share).

Here are the other recipes I'm developing:

1. The Mon Oncle bier de garde, an amber or brown French-style ale. This has gone through a number of incarnations, but the pun was so satisfying I had to keep working at it. The main idea is to make a very malty, yet very dry beer. My formulation of this recipe owes much to Jamil Zainasheff and Michael Tonsmeire. I'm using a mix of Munich and Extra Pale LME, aiming for about 30% Munich. In addition I add a couple of ounces of Carafa (I) for a hint of roasted complexity, and 3/4 of a pound of Dark 2 Candi Syrup, for increased attenuation and bit of a dark Belgian character. Jamil recommends a Euro Ale yeast, while Tonsmeire used a Kolsch. Upon reviewing the two, I found that the Kolsch was consistently considered more attenuative, so I chose it. I call for all Northern Brewer hops (the only hop used in Anchor Steam), for its distinctive earthy character, at about 30 IBUs, which is at the upper end of the style guidelines.

2. I've recently decided that I definitely want to start doing partial mashes, which is the practice of doing a small mash as well as using extract. This has opened up several possibilities for beers I would not have been able to brew to my satisfaction before. The first is a Honey Ale, which includes both honey and honey malt. The honey malt should be mashed, so I'll perform a partial mash with 1/4 lb of honey malt as well as 3 pounds of Maris Otter, a flavorful English base malt. The twist to the beer is that I'm late-hopping it with 2 ounces of Centennial, for only 23 IBUs, but a lot of hop flavor.

3. I've always wanted to brew an English bitter, but I wouldn't be satisfied with an all extract bitter, because I want a flavorful base malt like Maris Otter. The ordinary bitter I'm working on should be very low in alcohol (OG: 1.039), but very flavorful with a heavy dose of English hops.

4. I would like to try making a sour beer, but don't want to deal with the long times and possibility of contamination, so I decided that a sour mash might be a good idea. I plan to do a sour mash on 2 lbs of 2 row and 2 lbs of wheat malt, and then add an additional 2 lbs of extract in the boil. The resulting beer will (hopefully) be a Berliner Weisse, a very low alcohol (2 - 3%) sour wheat beer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Armadillo Pale Ale Brewday 2/16/11

Today we did our first re-brew; what was the Three-Eyed Cat Pale Ale has become the Armadillo Pale Ale. The recipe is identical, except we changed the Cascade hops to Amarillo hops.

Batch size: 5 gallons
Boil Volume: 3 gallons
Calculated OG: 1.057
Estimated FG: 1.013
Calculated ABV: 5.8%
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 36
Yeast: Safale US-05
Measured pitching temp: 64F
Fermentation vessel: Better Bottle
Lag time: 7 hours
Days in primary: 17

6.5 lbs Extra Pale LME
1.5 lbs Munich LME

0.5 oz Amarillo 10.3% AA at 60 minutes
0.5 oz Amarillo 10.3% AA at 30 minutes
0.25 oz Amarillo 10.3% AA at 15 minutes
0.25 oz Amarillo 10.3% AA at 5 minutes
0.5 oz Amarillo 10.3% AA at flameout

After two weeks containing the Belgian Pale, the Better Bottle was heavily hopped and krausened. We soaked it in Oxiclean overnight, but there was still a bit of crap stuck on. Ultimately, swirling a rag with Oxiclean proved to be effective, and all was well.

There weren't any other major problems, except that the funnel we bought has a screen that continuously gets clogged by the hops. I think we're going to cut it out. Also, I'm not confident about our final volume, so the OG may be off. Note to self: mark where 5 gallons is on the Better Bottle with masking tape. Oh yeah, and we meant to add yeast nutrient, but forgot.

Really looking forward to drinking this one. The hops smelled great.

Bottled on 3/5/11. Some DMS detectable, especially in the smell, which we attribute to insufficient boiling of the late extract addition. I'm somewhat disappointed in this one, but I think I am particularly sensitive to DMS, which might be one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of most pale lagers.
We chilled this one down to 42F at one point; it will be interesting to see if either this or the longer period in primary have any impact on the clarity of the beer.

The off flavor that I identified as DMS has weakened considerably after a few weeks in the bottle. The beer is now quite tasty; Nick says it's his favorite of the beers we've brewed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Few Updates

Today we bottled the Belgian Pale, a most unusual brew. The uncarbonated, unchilled beer burst of fruit and a bit of sour, results of a warm fermentation and a terribly unconventional yeast regime. It tastes quite unlike any beer I've sampled before. Final gravity of 1.019, 48 bottles in total.

In other news, the hefeweizen was bottled Thursday (51 bottles total), and should be ready the last week of the month. The IPM (Indian Prime Minister) has matured quite well, with the dark malt beginning to shine through while retaining a healthy hop. The Armadillo Pale Ale should be brewed early this week.

Beers we're drinking this week:
Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, Star Island Single, Shoals Pale Ale, Finestkind IPA;
Ommengang BPA


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Magic Carpet Brewday 2/10/11

After bottling the hefeweizen we brewed our second experimental beer. The recipe is a fairly straightforward late hop IPA, but all five ounces of hops are Austin Homebrew's Magic Hop Dust. This stuff is what collects at the bottom of their boxes of hops, and is a blend of 20 different varieties. It's hard to say what this beer's gonna taste like, but it's gonna be hoppy.

Batch size: 5 gallons
Boil Volume: 3 gallons
Calculated OG: 1.064
Measured FG: 1.014
Calculated ABV: 6.5%
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 59
Vol. C02: 2.4
Yeast: Nottingham
Measured pitching temp: 64F
Fermentation high: 72 (days 3-7)
Fermentation vessel: Ale Pail
Lag time: less than 12 hours
Days in primary: 8

7 lbs extra pale LME
2 lbs Munich LME
0.5 lbs Crystal 10

1 oz Magic Hop Dust 7% AA at 60 minutes
1 oz Magic Hop Dust 7% AA at 30 minutes
1 oz Magic Hop Dust 7% AA at 20 minutes
0.5 oz Magic Hop Dust 7% at 10 minutes
0.5 oz Magic Hop Dust 7% at 5 minutes
1 oz Magic Hop Dust 7% at flameout

We forgot to rehydrate the yeast until the wort was almost cool, so we only rehydrated for 15 minutes, rather than the usual 45. Other than that, everything went smoothly, though the fermenting bucket still smelled like the hefeweizen even after we washed it twice. Well, a little hefeweizen can't hurt.

Update: it's the next day, and the fermenter is bubbling like crazy. This is our first time using Nottingham—success!

2/15/11: Bubbling has slowed considerably, and the gravity is already down to 1.014, which is just about our expected FG. It tastes quite good, very much an IPA.

Bottled 2/18/11. Unfortunately, Jack had to do most of the bottling by himself. We also decided to try cold crashing by leaving the fermenter outside the night before bottling.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Volcano Porter Brewday 1/5/11

For our second brew we decided to try a dark beer. The recipe comes from John Palmer, modulo some AA% adjustments.

Batch size: 5 gallons
Boil Volume: 6 gallons
Calculated OG: 1.046
Measured FG: 1.015
Calculated ABV: 4.1%
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 53
Vol. CO2: 2.0
Yeast: Safale US-04
Calculated pitching temp: 65F
Fermentation high: 68
Fermentation low: 57 (day 8)
Days in primary: 13
Fermentation vessel: Better Bottle
Lag time: less than 8 hours

6 lbs Extra Pale LME
0.5 lbs Crystal 60L
0.5 lbs Chocolate
0.25 lbs Black patent
3.2 oz of sucrose at bottling

0.8 oz Nugget 12.2% AA at 60 minutes
0.75 oz Willamette 4.7% AA at 40 minutes
0.5 oz Willamette 4.7% AA at 20 minutes

One hitch in our brewday was that we put the steeping water in the main brew pot, and the water depth wasn't enough to immerse the grains in the nylon bags we were using. I ladled water over them throughout the steeping, but we may have gotten less than optimal utilization from the steeping grains. We also experienced our first near-boilover at the beginning of the boil.

We took a OG reading, but it ended up being way low as a result of the foam and, I think, the top up water not being completely mixed in. Since then I've stopped taking OG readings, because they will likely be less accurate than calculating gravity from extract. The yeast fermented quite vigorously, with airlock activity within 8 hours. After 24 hours the airlock blew off, so we put a blow-off tube on, with the racking cane attached. A few hours later the blow-off tube clogged and blew off, so we cleaned it out and took off the racking cane. After that we didn't have any more trouble.

We bottled on 1/18/10, with plain silver caps. Bottling went smoothly, though there were a lot of bubbles in the siphoning. Not sure if that was dissolved CO2, or if air was getting in somehow.

Tinseth's equation gives a significantly higher IBU value (53) than Palmer does (39), and the beer turned out hoppier than we were shooting for. Note to self: do own IBU calculations beforehand. A week after bottling hops were the dominant flavor in the beer, with roasted grains being detectable only in the smell. We decided to let it sit for a few weeks to mellow, but we opened another today (2/1/10) to add to a chili, and it already has a much better balance.

Three-Eyed Cat Pale Ale Brewday 1/4/11

This was our first brew, and I was pretty anxious about everything. I had been reading at length about everything that could go wrong in brewing and I tried to do everything possible to make sure our first brew went right. I used a recipe that's very popular online, Edwort's Haus Pale Ale (
I subbed in 0.2 oz of Nugget at 60 minutes to correct for our Cascade's lower AA%.

Batch size: 5.5 gallons
Boil volume: 6.5 gallons
Calculated OG: 1.052
Measured FG: 1.012
Calculated ABV: 5.2%
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 33
Vol. CO2: 2.6
Yeast: Safale US-05
Pitching temp: 70F
Fermentation high: 70F
Fermentation low: 57F (day 9)
Days in primary: 11
Fermentation vessel: Ale Pail
Lag time: less than 18 hours

6.5 lbs Extra Pale LME
1.5 lbs Munich LME (40% Munich)
0.5 lbs Crystal 10L
4.7 oz of sucrose at bottling

1.0 oz Cascade 5% AA at 60 minutes
0.2 oz Nugget 12.2% AA at 60 minutes
0.5 oz Cascade 5% AA at 30 minutes
0.25 oz Cascade 5% AA at 15 minutes
0.25 oz Cascade 5% at 5 minutes

We cleaned my grandmother's big aluminum stock pot and then boiled water in it for 30 minutes to rebuild an oxide layer. (I'm not sure if I believe in this.) We discarded the water, then added more water for brewing. We treated all the water except the steeping water with an inexact portion of a campden tablet. We steeped the crystal malt in a smaller pot with no bag, then strained the steeping water into the brew pot. I like this method and may use it again.

We added half the extract at the start, and half at 5 minutes. We have continued using this extract-late method for all of our brews. We cooled and poured the wort into the ale pail, and there was airlock activity within 18 hours.

We bottled on 1/15/10. We soon discovered that there were some bottles we couldn't cap, which resulted in a few uncarbonated beers being drunk. In total we'd brewed 53, but only bottled 48. The beers were fully carbed in 2 weeks, and quite tasty. The bitterness is very smooth once it warms up a bit; it peaks about 15 - 30 minutes out of the fridge, so I'd leave it out for 5 before drinking. We're planning on brewing this one again, but replacing Cascade with Amarillo as an experiment.

Hefeweizen Brewday 1/28/11

On Friday we brewed a hefeweizen. This is the simplest recipe we have brewed so far. No specialty grains and only two hop additions. It's all about the yeast in this beer.

Calculated OG: 1.048
Estimated FG: 1.012
Estimated ABV: 4.7%
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 14
Vol. CO2: 2.9
Yeast: Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan)
Starter: 1 liter
Pitching temp: 65F
Fermentation high: 72F (day 4)
Fermentation low: 63F
Fermentation vessel: Ale Pail

7 lbs wheat LME (40% wheat)
5 oz of sucrose at bottling

0.5 oz Hallertau 4.3% AA at 60 minutes
0.5 oz Hallertau 4.3% AA at 30 minutes

I made a 1 liter starter the night before we brewed. Though I had a bit of trouble popping the nutrient packet in the smack pack, my first attempt at making a starter went quite well. The starter smelled amazing, like rising bread.

On brewday, Jack was out getting new yeast for the BPA, so I performed the boil by myself. This was by far the quickest and smoothest brewday we've had. I soaked the bucket of LME in a sink of hot water, which made it so much easier to add to the boil. Unfortunately I was sick at the time, so I have no idea what the Hallertau smelled like.

My only qualm about this beer is that we used water from the hot water tap. When I realized this, I got fresh water from the cold tap for the top-up water, so I don't think we'll have any problems with infection, and any heavy substances should have precipitated out either in the boil or during fermentation, but it is the one element in this beer that could cause trouble.

2/8/11: 11 days into fermentation. Bubbling has slowed to once every 20 seconds. Specific gravity: 1.012. Tastes good. If the gravity is the same on Thursday, we'll bottle.

Bottled on 2/10/11, with plain red caps.

Brewing the Belgian Pale 1/27/11

Since its miraculous discovery by Tim, I've loved Brewery Ommegang. So when Lee asked if I wanted to try brewing myself, one of my first questions was whether we could do a Rare Vos clone. There were rather a lot of caveats, and more than bit of hesitancy, but yes, he said, it could be attempted. Not that he thought we should, the finer points of brewing presumably still beyond our grasp, but I prevailed upon him to try. We reached a compromise: I would have to culture the yeast on my own, and we would leave out the spices and some of my more excessive desires for specialty grains. So the dream was born.

Yeast becomes inhibited in high gravity beers, so we decided upon Ommegang's Witte with a modest 5.1% abv. We picked up four from the Spirit Haus, with a bottling date that looked about 4 months old. Not perfect, but the best we could do. Each bottle was poured until the first sign of yeast sediment, then the top of the bottle was flamed with a lighter, shaken, and dumped in a growler full of yeast starter. Following the messianic teachings of John Palmer, the yeast starter was made with half a cup of dry malt extract (DME) to a pint of water. It was later found that this is actually more then twice the correct amount of malt extract, but not before all the DME was used up. The yeast was put through three consecutive starters while we waited for the rest of the ingredients to arrive.

We'd ordered 10 pounds of pale liquid malt extract (LME) and two ounces of hops (Horizon and Spalt) through, and still had half a pound of crystal 10 and crystal 60 lying around from a previous brew to throw in. So our recipe looks like this:

10 lbs pale LME
0.5 lbs crystal 10
0.5 lbs crystal 60

0.5 oz Horizon at 60
0.5 oz Horizon at 30
0.5 oz Spalt at 15
0.5 oz Spalt at 5

OG 1.070
expected final gravity 1.015

Partial mash specialty grains at 150 for 30 minutes.

Well, last Thursday we brewed this baby. The brew process seemed to go fine: mash specialty grains for 30, boil for 60, no trouble really. The Horizon smelled amazing, we're definitely using that one again. The Spalt seemed a little aged. The real trouble began when the uncapped the yeast. The yeastiness was there, but there was also some a little more insidious. I thought I smelled vinegar, Lee felt it was more like tuna, Tim didn't know what it was. But we'd come this far, there was no turning back. We chilled the wort down below 80, mixed in the top up water, and pitched the yeast. Now we had to wait.

Within a few hours a thick layer of yeast sediment had formed, but there was no sign of fermentation. Nothing for 24 hours. First bubbles at 30 hours, it felt like victory. One about every 30 seconds. Fortunately, by next morning the bubbling had stopped (I felt like I was going to cry). So while Lee brewed the hefewiezen, I made a trip to the homebrew store. The guy there recommended another day before giving up on the yeast, and then to pitch a second. White labs 550 Belgian Ale yeast in hand, I headed home.

When all activity ceased saturday morning, we pitched the yeast. The guys down at the homebrew stay not to bother taking it off the trub in the first fermenter, so we pitched with a thick sediment already there. This may have impacted flavors, but its uncertain how to say. Belgian yeasts already do a lot of wild stuff, so it'll be hard to tell. Back to the pitching. In short, I missed. I would say at best 3/4 of the yeast made it in. At worst maybe half. So we may have under pitched.

Within 36 hours the krausen was billowing through the air lock, and we set up a blow off tube. Its been a vigorous fermentation these last few days, and 4 days later it has only just begun to calm down. On sunday there were scents of banana bread, and by Tuesday it had begun to smell like a Belgian. Will post back once its been bottled.