Brew Day – Spiced Winter Ale – 10/28/18

It’s football sunday. My Eagles are playing across the pond (London), and the NFL Network has the exclusive rights to broadcast the game. Since I’m a cord cutter, and chose a streaming service (Hulu) that DOES NOT offer NFL Network, I’m resigned to watching the game via the NFL.com app on my Samsung phone. I tried streaming to my TV using the Miracast app, but (and even though it worked), when I activated the NFL app, the screen went black and said, “NFL.com does not allow sharing with other screens.”

Jerks.

I’d like to know how they can even do this. Its like some type of wizardry. I really thought I beat the system for a second there.

I spent a portion of yesterday balancing my kegerator system. Getting the pressure and resistance just right really is a balancing act and takes patience. It comes down to knowing the desired pressure for your style of beer, and then going through the process of setting the pressure, drawing beer, resetting pressure, releasing pressure, drawing beer, and doing this until you get homeostasis in the system. I think I finally got it. My beer is pouring pretty well.

I also spent a portion of the AM prepping a batch of local apple cider for fermenting into hard cider (post coming soon). Within a couple hours, that bad boy was fermenting nicely.

Today’s beer recipe is a nod to the cold weather coming our way. A nice dark and heavy spiced beer is great for winter. I do enjoy stouts, but a nice spiced ale with some alcohol bite is perfect for cold nights in front of the fireplace. Since this one projects out in the 9%-10% range, I don’t want to do a 5 gallon batch and keg it, rather it’s perfect for a small 1.5 gallon batch and bottle. This recipe is kind of a clone/knock off of a guy’s recipe from my BYO magazine, but my grains are slightly different (I’m keeping his ratios though).

The Recipe: (note – see below about subbing Carafa 488 for Chocolate 350)

old winter ale

Not pictured in the recipe is the spice extract. This will be my first time making this type of spice extract. Basically, I’m steeping cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger in 4 oz of Vodka for a week. Once primary fermentation is done, I’ll add the extract a teaspoon at a time to taste.

Brew notes (I’m not going to regurgitate all of the steps – just the ones that are important):

  • Made a yeast starter with my S-04
  • 90 minute mash
  • 90 minute boil
  • Hops @ 60 min
  • Add extract after primary is done

Target numbers:

  • Pre boil SG: 1.065
  • 1.5 gallons
  • OG – 1.087 , FG – 1.020

This will be bottled once it reaches its final gravity.

Bought ingredients at my local homebrew store (Bacchus & Barleycorn).

Brew day notes:

  • Date: 10/28/18
  • Stovetop BIAB setup (decided to get an actual brew bag for $10 and see how long it lasts)
  • Total time (including cleaning): 4 hours
  • Brew day beer of choice:
    • Homebrew – Chicory Dry Irish Stout
  • Brew day A/V stylings of choice:
    • FOOTBALL!
  • Actual OG: 1.091
    • Exceeded expectations – NICE!
  • Final OG: 1.022
  • Final ABV: 9.2%
  • What went well: pretty much everything
  • What went bad: Had to change a grain due to B&B not having chocolate. Since the SRM on the chocolate was 350, I subbed in a dark grain to provide the color. Ended up with a carafa with an SRM of 488. Little darker than anticipated, but what can you do!
  • Fermentation notes:
    • 11/2 – good activity in fermenter
    • 11/10 – gravity at 1.024 (target was 1.020, so pretty good)
      • added 2 oz of spice extract to the batch
        • did a taste sampling at 1 tsp per 6 oz, and it was too strong, so I cut it in half – reserved remaining 2 oz of extract for future beer
      • sample tasted nice even before the spice extract
    • 11/17 – bottling with 1.09 oz cane sugar – hoping a bottle is semi-carbed for Thanksgiving! The sample tastes pretty darn good. The aroma is amazing.

 

Have you ever brewed this style beer before? Please let us know about your brewing experiences. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. Thanks!

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Homemade Hard Cider – 10/27/18

As a family trip last weekend, the Breakings drove out to Louisburg Cider Mill . The trip was two-fold…

  1. Get some pumpkins and get some pictures of Baby Breaking amongst said pumpkins
  2. Get some pumpkin spice donuts

I decided to make it an even better trip by getting some jugs of cider and resolving to turn one of them into booze.

I’ve never made homemade hard cider before. I’ve consumed commercial cider and enjoyed it. I’m a pretty decent homebrewer and understand the mechanics/nuances of making a fermented beverage. So, I did some Googling on home hard cider making just to ensure that I learned any intermediate steps that aren’t the same as beer brewing. It’s about 90% the same, luckily. There are MANY ways to make your hard cider – since this was my first rodeo, I opted for the simplest approach, just to dip my toe in.

In general, you can ferment anything that has fermentable chains of sugar in it when you introduce viable yeast, and create an environment where they can do their thing. Apple juice (and yes, cider) have these fermentable sugar chains, so it’s just a matter of doing the proper requisite work to set up that environment for the yeast to thrive.

If the cider/juice is NOT pasteurized, you’d need to boil it just like wort in beer production. Also, and this is a big deal, you can NOT use juice/cider with preservatives in it. So, if you are going to give this a try – aim for preservative free juice/cider. Lucky for me, the cider at Louisburg is pasteurized already, so I can skip the boil step and go right to sanitizing/pitching.

Before pitching your yeast starter, you can add pectic enzyme to the cider as a clarifier. It doesn’t impact taste at all – just clarity (it makes the pectins in the juice/cider fall out of suspension). I did buy a pouch from Amazon, but at the last second, decided not to do it. Again – since this is my maiden voyage into cider land, I didn’t want to add a variable that could screw it up. I want to get this first batch under my belt, and then I’ll focus on the bigger picture and improving my process.

One note about the yeast – I was going to get Nottingham Ale dry yeast by Danstar (very highly recommended by a majority of the sites I checked out). But, I opted to go with S-04 because some other sites said it works almost as well, and, I already has some S-04 on hand. So – win win.

When I skipped the pectic enzyme step, the last thing to do was take a gravity reading, and then pitch my yeast slurry and throw in the airlock bung. Done and done. The gravity of the cider was 1.052. Not bad. If you want to make your cider more alcoholic, you can add brown sugar or other sugar ingredients to up the gravity. Again – trying to keep this down to as few variables as possible, I opted to keep the gravity as is. If it ferments out to under 1.010, I’ll end up with a pretty decent cider.

Brew day notes:

  • Date: 10/27/18
  • Used cold pasteurized local cider from Louisburg Cider Mill
  • Actual OG: 1.052
    • Note – I didn’t add any sugar – that was the OG right out of the bottle!
  • Final OG: 1.000
  • Final ABV: 6.8%
  • Fermentation notes:
    • 10/26/18 – prepared a yeast starter using Fermentis S-04 and about 4 ounces of the hard cider from Louisburg Cider Mill. Within a few hours, you could see some activity in the mason jar, so that was very encouraging
    • 10/27/18 – poured the starter into the half-gallon jug of cider and put on my airlock.
    • 11/16 – cold crash
    • 11/17 – bottled at 1.000
      • Used 1 oz of sweet cider per 22oz bottle for priming
      • Tastes like hard apple cider – little on the dry side. I’ll break this out during Thanksgiving and let the family sample and render a verdict. All in all, not a bad first cider batch!

 

Have you ever brewed hard cider before? Please let us know about your brewing experiences. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. Thanks!

Brew Day – Hop Dump 1.0 – 10/21/18

The idea behind Hop Dump is to empty out your fridge, and use whatever hops you have before they become unfresh. I spent the AM measuring out what I had left, and then when Baby Breaking took his AM siesta, I sat down at the computer and designed a beer. Once BB woke up, we went to the beer supply store. This will a cheap batch (relatively) since I only needed to buy the grain and the yeast.

I targeted an Imperial IPA right off the bat because I knew this was going to be a high IBU beer. Between that and the hellacious amount of dry hopping I’m going to do, I wanted a nice alcohol backbone to level out the taste. If I hit my fermentation numbers, this will be around 9%. That is what I had in mind.

I’m looking forward to the first sample draw next week. I put sampling spouts on my 2 gallon fermenters to make gravity readings easier (I was tired of popping the lids and introducing oxygen into the mix). Isn’t it funny how the stupid simple things like that can bring you joy?

Equipment upgrade side note for my kegging system…

I decided to buy a two port secondary regulator to help me do independent carbonation controls on my two kegs. The CO2 tank runs through the primary regulator which is jacked up to 30 psi. The first tap (El Hefe) has the regulator set at 9 psi. Very nice pour. The 2nd tap (Chicory Dry Irish Stout) is force carbing at 25 psi. I can’t emphasize how nice it is to have the ability to control carbonation separately based on the beer. It really makes the experience of pouring so much better. If you have multiple taps, I HIGHLY recommend you set up to have a regulator for each. It really isn’t that expensive. Here is a link to the one I got. Notice that it has a hose barb for the “IN.” You need this to connect from the hose coming off your primary regulator. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing a multiple tap PRIMARY regulator.

The Recipe:

Hop dump.JPG

I included the bottom style guide comparison to show how BeerSmith can help you design a recipe from scratch. As you can see, I was targeting an Imperial IPA style, and I’m within the target range for IBU and SRM. I was most concerned about IBU’s (since that can absolutely kill a beer if you screw it up). I messed with a couple different configurations on the “bittering hops” and settled on an addition at 60 minutes, and a couple at 10 minutes.

Brew notes (I’m not going to regurgitate all of the steps – just the ones that are important):

  • 75 minute mash
  • 60 minute boil
  • Northern brewer @ 60 min
  • Sorachi Ace and East Kent Goldings @ 10 min
  • Dry hop the rest after a week of fermenting

Target numbers:

  • Pre boil SG: 1.070
    • nailed it – 1.075
  • 1.5 gallons
    • needed to top off to hit 1.5 gallons (too vigorous a boil I guess)
  • OG – 1.089 , FG – 1.027
    • Killed the OG (1.094)

This will be bottled once it reaches its final gravity.

Bought ingredients at my local homebrew store (Bacchus & Barleycorn).

Brew day notes:

  • Date: 10/20/18
  • Stovetop BIAB setup (used nylon paint straining bag)
  • Total time (including cleaning): 4 hours
  • Brew day beer of choice:
    • Homebrew – Blueberry Stout
  • Brew day A/V stylings of choice:
    • Arrested Development – season 4 on Netflix
  • Actual OG: 1.094
  • Final OG: 1.034
  • Final ABV: 8.3%
  • What went well: new thermometer gave me a sense of security that I wasn’t destroying my mash
  • What went bad: nothing really
  • Fermentation notes:
    • 10/21 – airlock has some activity (part of me is wondering if I should have made a starter since this was a high gravity beer). But, Beersmith didn’t say one was needed – as long as I rehydrated my S-04, one packet for this volume should do the trick. We’ll see.
    • 10/27 – gravity at 1.034 – will add dry hops today and check again in a week. Its within 7 points of its potential final, so that is not too bad. Sample taste is very sweet with a little bitter. Not a lot of hop aroma – that is the dry hop job!
    • 11/4 – cold crashed and bottled
  • Tasting notes (sample taken pre-bottling bucket, so its not carbonated, and is 60 degrees)
    • Full body and good mouthfeel. Definitely some bitterness, but the sweet tries to balance it out. Definitely some strong hop aroma going on here. There is too much going on to be able to isolate different hops. That is probably not a surprise since there are more than 5 different hops in this thing.

 

Have you ever brewed this style beer before? Please let us know about your brewing experiences. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. Thanks!

Brew Day – Chicory Dry Irish Stout – 9/29/18

10/21 KEGGING UPDATE!

I’m making this a headline because it was a last minute change. I don’t want it integrated into the post, so you think it was the plan. This was supposed to be my stock dry irish stout recipe. But, as I explain in the fermentation notes, the fermentation stopped dead at 1.024. I tried heating up. I tried repitching.

Nothing.

I looked through my notes, and didn’t see any issues in my process that would cause this situation. BUT, I did decide to check my kettle thermometer to see if that could have caused a problem. If you follow my small-batch posts, you’ll see that I found a glitch with my stovetop process – I mashed a batch too high by hot-boxing it (setting the oven to “warm” and putting the kettle in it). If you mash over 160 degrees F, you start to draw out unfermentable sugars. You’ll hit your gravity numbers pre-fermentation, but once all of the fermentables are gone, your numbers are toast. Seeing this behavior in a larger batch (I use a cooler/mash tun, so no temp issues EVER), I decided to check my tools. Sure enough, that stupid boil kettle thermometer was off by 15 degrees F. So, if I thought my strike water was 164 degrees, it really was 179 degrees. What a piece of junk. I’ve since thrown it out and replaced it with a better digital thermometer. Used it in a small batch yesterday (my original Hop Dump Imperial IPA – will post in about a month), so we’ll see if my stuck fermentation problem goes away.

Anyway, since this beer finishes its journey at 3.8% ABV, I decided it’s a perfect candidate to experiment with. I cold brewed some chicory yesterday morning, and decided to test this stout batch with concentrated chicory cold brew. I figure if it sucks, no big loss – the beer was an accident anyway. No worries. I did 1 oz of chicory root for every 4 ounces of water. I wanted 8 oz total for the 5 gallon batch, so, you do the math. I let it steep overnight, and strained it this AM. That stuff was strong. This should be an interesting beer addition. I think the bitter and sweet of the chicory should play very nice with the dryness of the stout. Dogfish Head Brewing makes a chicory stout, so I know it’s been done before. Their beer is a higher ABV, so, if this turns out okay, maybe I’ll try an imperial version. Its force carbing at 30 PSI right now, so we’ll see if its ready to sample in a day or two.

Continue reading Brew Day – Chicory Dry Irish Stout – 9/29/18

Brew Day – CLONE – Iechyd Da Walloon Belgian Dark – 9-23-18

Figured I should try another belgian beer now that I have my efficiency issues ironed out. Since I have a hefe in the 5 gallon tank, I decided to do a belgian clone from my BYO magazine as a small batch.

Ended up doing a 1L starter since I didn’t have my dry yeast for this (Fermentis BE 256), and the liquid yeast at the store only had 100 billion yeast cells (this style beer needed more). Didn’t want to waste $$$ on a 2nd smack pack, so I made a starter with some DME.

To better dial in my efficiency, I did a stovetop test to see what is my actual boil off rate. As it turns out, the default in BeerSmith was way off compared to my stovetop. Once I adjusted it down to meet my actual set up, my volumes were much more accurate. Just goes to show – learn the software you are using, and you’ll get great results.

I’m really excited for this beer. The wort was crazy sweet.

The Recipe:

Iechyd Da Waloon Beligan Dark

Brew notes (I’m not going to regurgitate all of the steps – just the ones that are important):

  • 75 minute mash
  • 60 minute boil
  • Add belgian candi syrup at 60 min (stir to make sure it doesn’t settle to the bottom and scorch
  • Hops @ 60 min

Target numbers:

  • Pre boil SG: 1.069
    • missed by a hair – 1.067
  • 1.75 gallons
    • nailed it
  • OG – 1.086 , FG – 1.012
    • Killed the OG. Brewhouse efficiency over 83%!

This will be bottled once it reaches its final gravity.

Bought ingredients at my local homebrew store (Bacchus & Barleycorn).

 

Brew day notes:

  • Date: 9/23
  • Stove top BIAB set up (used nylon paint straining bag)
  • Total time (including cleaning): 4 hours
  • Brew day beer of choice:
    • KBS baby!!!
  • Brew day music of choice:
    • n/a – rolling with Two and a Half Men, season 3 in the background, then some FOOTBALL!
  • Actual OG: 1.101 – this beer might kill somebody 🙂 This blew away my brewhouse efficiency estimates. I really dialed in my boil volumes this go around, and it appears to have paid off.
  • Final OG: 1.032
  • Final ABV: 9.2%
  • What went well: the wort tasted so darn sweet!
  • What went bad: missed pre-boil gravity, but that turned out to be a non-issue.
  • Fermentation notes:
    • Brew day update – the airlock is bubbling 6 hours after putting in the fermenter!
    • 10/6 update – 1.034 – not sure how much lower it will go.
    • 10/13 update – 1.032, 2 days in a row. I’m happy with the result, but wonder if I left some efficiency on the table. In my SMaSH Centennial + caramel 20 post, I talked about a problem I had with my mash temp and holding in an oven. For this batch, I used a similar technique, but the oven wasn’t as hot. I wonder if a few longer chain sugars were pulled out by the mash temp rising a bit. That would explain the OG being so much higher than the recipe called for.  I won’t pout too much – this is a delicious 9% belgian dark beer. I’m actually drinking the room temp sample in a tulip glass as I type this. It is amazing. I’m cold crashing it now, and will bottle tomorrow during FOOTBALL!

 

Have you ever brewed this style beer before? Please let us know about your brewing experiences. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. Thanks!

Brew Day – SMASH Centennial, Vol 2 – 8/31/18

This is the next iteration of what I’ve been affectionately calling my “build-a-beer” series. If you read the first SMASH post, you know that I’ve taken a single base malt and a single hop, and made a beer. For volume 2, I’ve kept the same recipe, but added a specialty malt (caramel 20) so I can compare the two side by side, and see how caramel 20 changes the taste & color. I was cognizant to adjust down my base malt when I added the caramel 20 to keep the color, ABV, and bitterness within expected ranges for the beer style.

Also, I’ve been spending a lot of time learning how to fine tune my BeerSmith2 application. I might have mentioned it before, but its worth revisiting…not only is BeerSmith2 a great resource for recipes, but its also a great tool for designing beers if you spend the time to set up your various profiles:

  • equipment profiles
  • mash profiles
  • fermentation profiles

Going through that process has made me more aware of my equipment, and the nuances of how my brewing practices can affect the beer. Youtube has a lot of great videos. A guy on YouTube called Brulosophy has some great tutorials on setting up these profiles. The creator of BeerSmith2 has videos as well, but I find it to be a nice additional perspective to get user tips from the guy that DIDN’T design it.

The Recipe:

SMASH + C20

Brew notes (I’m not going to regurgitate all of the steps – just the ones that are important):

  • 60 minute mash
  • Hop adds at 60 min, 45 min, 30 min, 15 min, and flame out

Target numbers:

  • Pre boil SG: 1.048 (exceed pre-boil efficiency)
  • 1.95 gallons
  • OG – 1.073 , FG – 1.022

This will be bottled once it reaches its final gravity.

Bought ingredients at my local homebrew store (Bacchus & Barleycorn).

 

Brew day notes:

  • Date: 8/31
  • Stove top BIAB set up (used nylon paint straining bag)
  • Total time (including cleaning): 4 hours
  • Brew day beer of choice:
    • n/a – on babysitting duty!
  • Brew day music of choice:
    • n/a – Had “Two and a Half Men,” season 3 going in the background
  • Actual OG: 1.069 – pretty close to target – need to get my boil volumes under better control on the stovetop
  • Final OG: 1.030
  • Final ABV: 3.4%
    • It doesn’t taste bad, so I’m going to bottle it. Lesson learned – watch your mash temps you dope!
  • What went well: nailed the pre-boil gravity by milling my grains again. Looks like that fixed my problem.
  • What went bad: other than being better with my boil volumes, things were smooth.
  • Hardware notes: nothing new to report
  • Fermentation notes: this thing started off with a VIGOROUS fermentation. I didn’t leave enough head space in my 2 gallon fermenter, so it bubbled out of the airlock.
    • 9/10 update – added dry hops
    • 9/17 update – removed dry hops, checked gravity – only at 1.030 – give it another week. Also changed airlock – that thing was nasty with hops and blow off.
    • 9/22 – still reading 1.030. Wondering if too much yeast came out as it bubbled out of the airlock…
    • 9/30 update – this has been a stubborn beer. Hasn’t moved since 9/22. Thought maybe some sediment in solution was pumping up the gravity, so I cold crashed it and redrew. No change. Decided today to repitch a 2nd packet of dry Fermentis S-04 to try and restart fermentation. Beer smells good and I like the color from the Caramel 20. I just want those last 8-10 gravity points before I bottle it. Will monitor to see if 2nd fermentation happens after yeast addition.
    • 10/6 – Still stuck at 1.030 after pitching a pack of S-05. I didn’t aerate at the time of the 2nd pitching. So, as a last effort, I aerated the 1.030 batch and re-agitated everything. I’ll give it 48 hours. If I don’t see any signs of fermentation, I’ll just call it quits and bottle what will be a highly sessionable 3.8% IPA.
      • This bugs me. I reviewed my notes and thought back through the brew day. There aren’t signs of infection. The temp in my basement is nice and stable to promote a good fermentation. The initial fermentation was quick and vigorous. No issues there. My only apprehension was that a lot of the bucket contents bubbled out of the fermenter (I didn’t leave enough head space). I was concerned that maybe those conditions contributed to this issue. I started doing some reading on what can stop a fermentation. The good news is that my headspace observation didn’t play into this. What I did find is too high of a mash temp could lead to unfermentable chains of sugar getting into your wort. You’ll still hit your pre-boil numbers and post-boil numbers (since they are sugar), but, when the rubber meets the road and fermentation commences, once the fermentable sugars are eaten, the yeast can’t do anything with the longer chain sugars, and you get a stuck fermentation. I reviewed my BIAB stovetop process, and think I found the issue. To maintain mash temp, I set my oven to 150 degrees (hold) temp, and then put my kettle into the oven for the duration of the mash. My intent wasn’t to heat up the mash, it was to maintain the current mash temp (since uninsulated kettles lose heat). I didn’t check the mash temp at the end of the mash – I just strained and plowed ahead. If the temp crept up above 160 degrees, I probably pulled those long-chain sugars that you don’t want. So, I’ll chalk this up as a big lesson learned, and will do two things:
        • First – no more oven preheating – just treat the oven like an insulated box (seemed to work okay for the SMASH volume 1)
        • Second – check the mash temp during and at the end. I’m not going to take it for granted that my mash temp will stay put once I put it in the oven.
    • 10/8 – no activity whatsoever. I’ll buy the long chain sugar theory and call it a day. Stuff tastes okay. Its sweet – but lacks the alcohol to balance that out. It’s not like I’ll be choking it down. It will be a subtle reminder to watch your mash temps when doing stovetop work. Also, I decided that I want to pivot my SMaSH work to cascade hops. I learned what I wanted with the centennial – it has a bit of a piney backbone. That is all I need to know.

 

Have you ever brewed this style beer before? Please let us know about your brewing experiences. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. Thanks!