Monthly Archives: October 2012

Wort chillers, Irish moss and oatmeal mash. An evening of firsts.

We brewed our first batch of beer on August 25, 2012. Last night, we brewed our 7th and 8th batches – this homebrewing thing seems to gaining a strong foothold in our lives. I freakin’ love it..

We’ve made a bunch of mistakes over these first two months, but so far all the beer has been drinkable (and some of it’s actually pretty good, IMHO).  Special thanks to our spouses (Nat, Gwen, Carrie and Amy) for letting us take over garages and kitchens these past weeks.

Last night’s brewing session was an adventure as we experienced a number of firsts. For one, we brewed our first 100% Taft Canyon Brewers Recipe – an Oatmeal Stout. After reading a ton of different recipes for stouts, I decided to create one of our own, borrowing heavily from Charlie Papazian on technique.  I was nervous about making the mash – we’d steeped grains before, but had never taken the mash steps that a good oatmeal stout apparently requires.

Stirring the mash. Why is this so fun?

Stirring the mash. Why is this so fun?

This turned out to be one of the most fun parts of brewing I’ve experienced – and I can’t wait to do it again. I found that replacing extract fermentables with specialty grains is extremely rewarding, even though it adds significant time to the overall brewing process (about 75 minutes in this case). The difference in aroma and perceived freshness is significant and it makes this aspect of brewing seem more like cooking than chemistry.

Oatmeal Stout Mash

5.25 lbs of grains in 2 Gallons of Water at 135 degrees. Not sure if this is how its supposed to look, but it smelled incredible.

As I started this mash, it appeared that my ratio of water to grains was off. I had about 5.25lbs of grains in 1.5 gallons of water and it wasn’t enough to cover all the grains. Fortunately, I had more water already at the correct temperature (135 degrees) and added another 1/2 gallon.

Not sure why, but I was actually surprised when this began to look like a Stout.

Not sure why, but I was actually surprised when this began to look like a Stout. This is right before I added 4 pounds of liquid dark malt extract.

Another first last night was the use of Irish Moss, a natural clarifying agent that gets added the wort toward the end of the boiling process.  It smells like dirt or, as Michael put it “smells like a swimming pool at the end of the summer”. We’ll see how it works.

And the final “first” of the evening was using our new wort chiller. Man, I wish we’d had this two months ago. Granted, I had to weave a garden hose through a maze of Halloween yard decorations and under my garage door to hook it up to the chiller, but it did the trick. It took about 15 minutes to get the wort down to the right temperature to add the yeast.  Michael was brewing up an IPA featuring Warrior Hops and his wort was done much faster than mine. As a result, his batch took the wort chiller maiden voyage.

Wort Chiller

The Wort Chiller doing its thing on the Hop Warrior IPA – reducing cooling time by 75 percent.

So, as of today, we have 5 brews fermenting. Two in primary, one in secondary, and two in bottles. And three are already in the fridge.  I’ve never looked forward to winter so much before…

Cheers,

Steve

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Redbeard Magee Oatmeal Stout

Recipe by: Taft Canyon Brewers

Specialty Grains:

1lb Flaked Oats
0.5lb Extra Dark Crystal 160L (UK)
.25lb Chocolate (US)
.25lb Chocoloate (UK)
.25lb Coffee Malt (UK)
4lb Row 6 Pale

Extract:
4 lbs Liquid Dark Malt Extract

Hops:
1 oz Northern Brewer – whole leaf (60 minutes)
1 oz Northern Brewer Whole Leaf (30 minutes)
.5oz UK Challenger (dry hop)

Yeast: Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Mash:
8 Quarts at 135 degrees for 40 minutes
3 Quarts at 155 degrees for 30 minutes
8 quarts Sparge

Other Additives: Irish Moss Powder (10 minutes) – Boil

Fermentation Temperature: 70 F

Original Gravity: 1.032

Final Gravity: TBD

Notes:

Brew History:

Batch 1 – Brewed 10/27/2012
Brewers: Michael, Steve

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Hop Warrior IPA

Recipe by: Hops & Berries

Specialty Grains:
1lbs Carastan
.5lbs Dextrine/Carafoam

Extract:

6lbs Liquid Pale Malt Extract
2lbs Liquid Amber Malt Extract

Hops:
1 oz Warrior pellets (60 minutes)
1 oz Columbus pellets (10 minutes)
1 oz Columbus pellets (5 minutes)
1 oz Warrior pellets (5 minutes)
2 oz Amarillo pelelts (dry hop)

Yeast: Wyeast American Ale

Mash: N/A

Other Additives:
N/A

Fermentation Temperature: 70 F

Original Gravity: 1.069
Final Gravity: 1.201
Potential ABV: 11%
Final ABV: 8%

Notes: 

Brew History:

Batch 1 – Brewed 10/27/2012, Racked 11/4/2012, Bottled 11/12/12 | Brewers: Michael, Steve. Original Hops & Berries recipe called for only 6lbs of Pale Malt Extract – we kicked that up to 8lbs.

Batch 2 – Brewed 2/24/2013. Kept to the Hops and Berries original recipe.

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‘Tis the Saison. A night with the funky yeast beast.

Keith, aka Yukon Bungholeus, just got back from two weeks trekking around Canada and Alaska, so we decided to celebrate his return by brewing up a batch of High Plains Saison.  This will be our first Saison and our first time using Saison yeast. It was also our first time using oats in addition to Barley.  And it was quite fun.

James and Benjamin direct the final moments of grain steepage.

James (left, age 2) and Benjamin (4) direct the final moments of grain steepage.

Were impressed with how much lighter the wort was after we steeped the grains and could definitely pick up the oat aroma. That oat aroma carried through all the way to the point we added yeast – it’ll be ”
inneresting” to see if that carries through to the final product. We also used Mt. Hood Whole Hops – which just smelled so freakin’ good.

Our challenge here was getting the Wort to cool. We had 4.5 gallons of hot wort, added .5 gallons of cold water, but it took us forever to cool the wort down. I was a given $50  Gift Certificate from a friend last month and ended up spending it on a wort chiller. We’ll use that on the next batch and see how it goes. If anyone has advice on using a wort chiller, please send it our way.

Saison Original Gravity at 1.040

Saison Original Gravity at 1.040, provided I’m finally reading this thing right, that is.

So Saison yeast is pretty cool.  This batch of beer is batch #6 – and in our first five batches we only used dried yeast. This time, we used wet yeast and it came in a package that looked that like this:

Stanky delicious Belgian Saison Yeast

Stanky delicious Belgian Saison Yeast SmackPack

So inside this package are a BILLION yeast cells in liquid and a “nutrient packet: that helps activate them. You smack the pouch, let it sit for a few hours, and watch it inflate like a bag of microwave popcorn. Then, when the wort is at room temperature, you pitch the yeast. When we opened the package, however, the aroma that came out smelled like my oldest son’s sneakers in the middle of summer. Seriously rank. So, naturally, we put it in the beer.

As of today, we have three batches in fermenters (Last Flight Amber Holiday Brown, and the Saison) and the SumoCitrus2 is finishing up in the bottles. We snuck of a taste of SumoCitrus2 last night and, holy hops,  it’s already delicious. It might have to be our first repeat performer.

Best,

Steve

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Which is more fun? Birthday party or cleaning bottles?

Henry, age 6, helps soak and remove labels for homebrew.

Henry, age 6, helps soak and remove labels for homebrew.

Well, the answer might surprise you. Yesterday my six-year-old son, Henry had to stay home while his brother attended a birthday party. When I asked him whether or not he was interested in helping me clean bottles, I was surprised when he answered with an enthusiastic “Sure!”.

He was tenacious as we soaked bottles and peeled off labels, finally exclaiming “This was a pretty good trade! Ben gets to go to a party, and I get to do bottles with you!”   A proud Dad am I.

Henry assembles the bottle tree.

Henry assembles the bottle tree.

Cheers,

Steve

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High Plains Saison

Saison Wort in the Carboy

Saison Wort in the Carboy

Brewed on: October 14, 2012

Brewers: Keith, Steve

Recipe by: Hops and Berries

Bottled on: TBD

Specialty Grain: .5 lbs Golden Naked Oats, .5 lbs Honey Malt

Extract: 6 lbs Pilsner Malt Extract, 2 lbs Munich

Hops:
.5 oz Perle (60 minutes)
2 oz Mount Hood Whole Leaf (15 minutes)

Yeast: Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison

Fermentation Temperature: 70 F

Original Gravity:1.040

Final Gravity: TBD

Notes: 10/16/12: Slight overflow 24 hours after adding yeast. Cleaned fermentation lock and bung and replaced.

 

Racked on 10/21/12

Saison racked to new carboy at 7 days.

Saison racked to new carboy at 7 days. Distinct color change.

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Unicorn tears and Sasquatch blood…10 more gallons brewed.

Man, I love this. Last night was a good night. We put 10 more gallons of brew into the fermenters. This time, we went with an easy Amber Ale and then a full-bodied Brown Ale.

Amber and Brown Ale getting their ferment on. Basement temps have dropped, so these are now in the dining room. My wife loves that.

Amber and Brown Ale getting their ferment on. Basement temps have dropped, so these are now in the dining room. My wife loves that.

Keith is off on a business trip this weekend so our buddy Michael volunteered to pitch in – and to do some brewing of his own. Two kettles going at once this time and experimentation with two new ingredients made this an adventure.  Instead of hop pellets in these beers, we used whole leaf hops (Goldings and Perle) which totally changed the look and feel of the wort as it brewed. It also added considerable time to straining the worts before moving them to the fermenters. And totally worth it – the aromas were incredible.

Whole leaf hops surfing the amber.

Whole leaf hops surfing the amber.

The other new ingredient to us is someting called Fermcap – used to prevent boiling over. Just a couple drops of the stuff did wonders. What is it, you ask? I found one guy who says it’s ” made from a blend of unicorn tears and sasquatch blood.” Another source said it’s a silicone-based emulsion that reduces the surface tension of the liquid, preventing boil-over.  I prefer to believe the former. Either way – it works.

Ten pounds of Pale extract go into the Brown Ale

Ten pounds of Pale extract go into the Brown Ale

So here’s the big curveball from last night – our hydrometer readings. I need to go back and consult my book, because these things didn’t make any sense. One said our specific gravity was at 1.72 … we gotta be doing something wrong.

1.72!? WTF?

1.72!? WTF?

10% ABV before we even add the yeast - nice!

10% ABV before we even add the yeast – nice!

And now for something completely pedestrian – the Bubbling of the Wort Live-Action Movie:

Cheers,

Steve

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Last Flight Amber

Brewed on: October 7, 2012

Brewers: Michael, Steve

Recipe by: Taft Canyon Brewers

Racked on: 10/14/12

Bottled on: TBD

Specialty Grain: N/A

Extract: 6.5 lbs Amber Malt Extract

Hops:
1 oz Perle Whole Leaf (60 minutes)
1 oz Goldings Whole Leaf(0 minutes)

Yeast: Safale US-05 (dried) – Belgium

Fermentation Temperature: 70 F

Original Gravity: 1.046

Final Gravity: TBD

Notes: Quick and easy brew, we made this in honor of our fellow brewer Keith, who couldn’t be here to brew because he was busy fly fishing in Canada. He conveniently chose to schedule a meeting for a Friday afternoon in a picturesque Canadian town that “doesn’t have any flights out on weekends.”

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Holiday Brown Ale

Holiday Brown Ale wort cooling down.

Holiday Brown Ale wort cooling down.

Brewed on: October 7, 2012

Brewers: Michael, Steve

Recipe by: Hops and Berries Team

Racked on: 10/14/12

Bottled on: TBD

Specialty Grain: 1 lbs 120L Crystal Malt, 1 lbs Amber Malt, .25lbs British Chocolate Malt

Extract: 10 lbs Pale Malt Extract

Hops:
1 oz Perle Whole Leaf (60 minutes)
1 oz Strisselspalt (10 minutes)
1 oz Goldings Whole Leaf(10 minutes)

Yeast: Safale US-05 (dried) – Belgium

Fermentation Temperature: 70 F

Original Gravity: 1.072

Final Gravity: TBD

Notes:

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