Rule #1: Never brew in socks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oatmeal Bread Stout Mini-Batch 8/23/11

I had the day off and wanted to brew, but our local homebrew shop is closed on Tuesdays. So I decided to try brewing the way I cook—with whatever is at hand. We had some old hops in the freezer, the dry malt extract we buy in bulk, some rolled oats, and a couple of ounces of leftover chocolate wheat from the dunkelweizen. I brewed a one gallon batch, and used some bread yeast that Erika brought to ferment it. I didn't have any base malt, so I didn't attempt a mash and just steeped the oats with the chocolate wheat, and as a result there will probably be some quantity of starch in the beer. (Effects of starch in beer include haziness, poor attenuation, and increased chance of brettanomyces infection.) I also did a 30 minute boil, rather than the usual 60.

Batch Size: 0.8 gal
Boil Volume: 1.5 gal

Calculated OG: 1.060
Measured FG: 1.009
Estimated ABV: 6.7
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 27
Pitching Temperature: 70F
Yeast: Unknown Bread Yeast (saison and bread yeast added after primary fermentation)
Starter: none
Fermentation vessel: Gallon Jug

Malts Mashed Amount %
Choc. Wheat 0.25 13%
Oatmeal 0.13 7%
Other Fermentables Amount %
DME 1.5 80%
Hops/Additions Amount Time AA%
Hallertau 0.4 30 3.9%

8/30/11: Gravity is at 1.017. Pleasant, mild aroma taste, mostly roasted grains. Some esters. Tastes unexciting, but no noticeable off-flavors.

Added dregs from The Bruery's Saison de Lente (contains brettanomyces).

11/11/11: Gravity down to 1.011. A lumpy white pellicle has formed. The smell is intoxicating. Funky, citrusy, geuze-y notes, presumably from the brettanomyces, dominate the nose, with a hint of spice from the saison yeast. Taste follows, with the addition of some roasted grains and malty sweetness. Time and infection has definitely improved this beer (though I do feel a bit strange drinking what looks like mold).

6/20/12: 10 months later... Final gravity 1.009. Pellicle still present on the surface. Funky citrus in the nose, finishes with roasted grains, malt, and soy sauce (autolysis?). Bottled to approx. 2.7 volumes. A truly unique beer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Our First Real Attempt at an IPA (8/10/11)

In the past we've brewed hoppy beers with a number of strange characteristics (The Magic Carpet brewed entirely with Magic Hop Dust, and the Mad Hopper, a belgian IPA), but never before had we tried our hand at brewing a stand up American IPA. It's one of the most common (if not THE most common) styles of craft beer in America; everyone brews one—except for us. But now that's going to change. We're out to make the best damn IPA possible, no holds barred (and then probably turn it into a Belgian IPA, because obviously that's how we roll).

For help with this process, we enlisted some of the vets down at Bob's Homebrew shop. We wanted to consider hops we hadn't used much before, because Amarillo, Centennial, Saaz, and Styrian Goldings can only get you so far. Per their recommendation, we included Horizon, a stalwart dual-purpose hop known for clean bittering and an aroma that's terribly under-appreciated, and Citra, a new high alpha acid hop with pungent fruity flavors reminiscent of passionfruit. And, of course, we threw in Centennial to round it out.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe:

Batch Size: 2.5 gal
Boil Volume: 3.5 gal
Calculated OG: 1.071
Measured FG: 1.012
Estimated ABV: 7.7
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 51
Pitching Temperature: 72F
Yeast: Wyeast American Ale 1056
Starter: none
Fermentation vessel: Bucket

Malts Mashed Amount % Max Pts. Color
Crystal 40 0.25 6% 35.00 40.00
Other Fermentables Amount % Max Pts. Color
DME 3.5 82% 42.00 2.00
Cane Sugar 0.5 12% 46.00 0.00
Hops/Additions Amount Time AA% IBU's
Horizon 0.25 60 11.2% 29.68
Horizon 0.25 30 11.2% 22.81
Centennial 0.5 10 9.9% 19.02
Citra 1 2 13.5% 12.10

The brewing went entirely to plan. We decided to try increasing mash efficiency by sparging the crystal in a second pot of water taken from the boil kettle at ~160 degrees Fahrenheit. The fermentation vessel used was one of our original buckets from Hampshire, and it had a couple of small nicks and scratches on the inside. Hopefully this did not impact sanitation.

Added the sugar on 8/14/11.

Dry hopped on 8/17/11 with 1oz of Citra, 1.5oz of Horizon, and 0.5oz of Centennial.

Bottled on 8/29/11 with dark green caps.


We expected this beer to be a bit more bitter, as we were shooting for 84 IBUs. What we've found is that our IBU calculator has a bug, and the IBUs in this beer were closer to 50. The next one should be a bit more bitter, with a calculated 150 IBUs.

On the other hand, the flavor of this beer is exquisite, especially when it was fresh. Lots of mango and pineapple aroma, with a bit of honey sweetness in the finish. In retrospect, I appreciate this beer more as an imperial pale ale, rather than an IPA. It has the strength of a double IPA, but is as near as approachable as a pale ale due to its lower bitterness.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Cider 2011

We bought a gallon of organic apple juice* from Whole Foods to ferment back in early July, which came in a handy 1 gallon glass jug. We're making this primarily for our friend Matt, who was generous enough to bring some of our brewing equipment to Seattle for us. We used Nottingham, a dry ale yeast popular among homebrewers, to ferment the cider. Most home cider makers use champagne yeast, which ferments significantly drier—often under 1.000 (the specific gravity of water). Our final gravity was 1.004, which is still drier than beer and many styles of cider, including most cheap commercial ciders. In cider terms, a final gravity of 1.004 would qualify as semi-dry. I estimate the ABV on this cider to be ~6%. (We didn't take an original gravity reading because we didn't have sanitizer at that point).

We didn't add any sugar to this cider, which is commonly done to boost alcohol content. We did, however, add a teaspoon of black Assam tea at pitching, to provide a low level of tannins that is typical of good cider but lacking in most apple juice. Ambient fermentation temperature was 68-70ºF.

We got nine 12 oz bottles out of the gallon of cider, leaving about 15% of the original cider on the lees to avoid a large quantity of tea and yeast in the finished product. At bottling, the cider was fairly dark, for cider, and at an enjoyable level of dryness, with a pleasant tartness. It was still a bit yeasty for my taste, but that should settle out more while it's in the bottle. I just wish we had more time. I'm thinking about acquiring apples and access to a cider press this fall in order to make cider properly.

*I use the terms 'cider' and 'apple juice' in the British senses, according to which cider is fermented apple juice, regardless of whether the juice is clear or cloudy. For the record, ours was cloudy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lord Mormont's Ale 8/05/11

A case study in noble hopped brown ales, Lord Mormont's Ale is designed to be a brown ale ideal when you want something dark but not as intense as an imperial stout. It's a bit a of a change from previous brews, being our first real attempt at a dark beer that's under 7% (if you don't count that first ill-fated porter). We used Wyeast 1318, an English yeast which is fruity and a bit sweet, with expected attenuation of about 75%. We aimed to design a beer where yeastiness, maltiness, and hoppiness all came through, and to that extent used a moderate amount of roast grains and aimed for about 30 IBUs. This was also our first half-batch and our first full boil.

Batch size: 2.5 gal
Boil volume: 3.5 gal

Calculated OG: 1.061
Measured FG: 1.019
Estimated ABV: 5.6
Calculated IBUs (Tinseth): 31
Pitching Temperature: 73F
Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III
Starter: none
Fermentation vessel: Bucket

Malts Amount % Max Pts. Color
DME 3.25 81% 55.86 1.00
Chocolate 0.4 10% 28.00
Roasted Barley 0.13 3% 25.00
Crystal 40 0.25 6% 35.00 40.00
Hops/Additions Amount Time AA% IBU's
Tettnang 0.25 60 4.5% 7.59
Hallertau 0.25 50 3.9% 6.26
0.25 30 3.9% 5.06
0.25 30 4.5% 5.84
0.25 10 3.9% 2.39
0.25 10 4.5% 2.75
Tettnang 0.1 50 4.5% 2.89
Total 1.6

The brew went mostly to plan. We opted out of sparging the grains to save time and temperature, so we'll see if this seriously cuts the extraction rate. Hopefully it won't. The hops had different alpha acid levels than we expected, thus the strange hop schedule. It was reorganized at the last minute. We pitched at 73 degrees, higher than Lee wanted, but it doesn't trouble me. Without a lot more ice or an immersion chiller, we weren't getting it much colder.

Gravity reading 8/16/11: 1.019

Bottled on 8/29/11 with plain black caps. No change in gravity.


Lee: An excellent beer. Balanced, bittersweet, and drinkable, with excellent mouthfeel. Roasted grains dominate, with some fruity esters from the yeast. Hops are hard to pick out. Would brew again; might dry-hop next time.