25 August 2007

posted by benjy edwards

Today we brewed the fifth crack at a clone of Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, a wonderful dark mild that is a throwback to the milds of the 19th century.  Changes to the recipe include reducing the amount of roast barley, upping the amount of crystal malt from 5% of the grist to almost 20%, and the addition of some homemade dark invert sugar.  Original gravity was 1.060, a couple of points higher than the target 1.058.

I altered the stainless braid setup that is beneath the false bottom on the mash tun by cutting off about half an inch from the dip tube so that the braided hose is not kinked on the bottom of the tun.  The runoff from the mash was pretty clear, an improvement over the last brew.

We racked the Harvey’s bitter clone from the primary to a firkin, dry hopping with 2.5 ounces of East Kent Goldings.  The beer was at 1.010, so it’s a whopping 2.7% ABV.  We should be able to tap that for Labor Day weekend and drink all ten gallons in about five minutes.  The ultimate session beer!

Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Homebrew Competitions

posted by benjy edwards

10. Turning in bottles renders you with no control over your beer after it leaves your hands.

9. Judging beer by a few sips doesn’t allow you to tell what the beer is really like. How can you judge a session beer by a few ounces?

8. Judges reward big beers and weird beers, so classic beers brewed strictly within the style suffer.

7. People “cheat” by entering beer brewed outside the style specifications and by entering many beers to increase their chances.

6. Competition brings out the geek/snob in some homebrewers.

5. Judges often criticize the beer without suggesting improvements.

4. Sweeter beers do better than properly attenuated beers because the judges go for the bigger body.

3. Taste is so subjective that the final winners can be selected based on judge’s individual preferences and bias.

2. You have to bottle beer.

And the Number One Reason…

1. We never win!

11 August, 2007

posted by benjy edwards

We brewed again today, back to the lighter session ales after last week’s stronger Simcoe IPA. Too light, in fact, because in attempting another clone of Harvey’s Best Bitter using the no-sparge method, we decided we would not sparge the mash at all and just collect all of the runnings from the mash tun and add hot liquor to gain the total volume. The result was a very low original gravity, 1.030 instead of the target 1.042, and an efficiency of 46%. That’s really low! I guess you can’t just follow the no-sparge calculations blindly. Using the new stainless steel hose braid as a mash screen may affected the runoff, it’s too early to tell. Clarity was better than usual on our system, but not as good as with the giant batch of last weekend. We’ll continue to refine that.

We racked the Simcoe IPA to secondary, as we left the Simcoe hops for dry-hopping this beer at John’s house, so we can’t keg it yet. Gravities were quite different, which was strange, we hit 1.019 on one and 1.014 on the other. Slight temperature differences during fermentation must account for it.

Primary: Harvey’s Pale Ale clone

Secondary: Simcoe IPA (ver. 3), Simcoe IPA, version 4, Alpha King Pale Ale clone

Casked but not yet tapped: –

Kegged but not yet tapped: Snake River Pale Ale clone, second keg

4 August, 2007

posted by benjy edwards

The big brewing day was really busy, but lots of fun. We cleaned out the soup kettle using Bar Keeper’s Friend first and then an acid solution, and got it all nice and shiny. We put in the hose braid and false bottom and began heating the required 34.2 gallons of mash liquor in 3 kegs. Once up to about 165F we pumped the liquor into the giant mash tun and found that we had a strike temperature of 160F, only 1 degree off the target. We added the 107 pounds of malt (pale, crystal, Munich, aromatic, biscuit, and Special B, and got a mash temperature of 152, just right. After 30 minutes it had dropped a couple of degrees so we added some boiling water to raise it back up to 153-154F. It mashed for about another 35 minutes, by the time the hot liquor was ready. We sparged by gravity draining hot liquor onto the top of the mash while we pumped out the wort into four kegs. The hose braid worked marvelously and we got cyrstal clear wort right from the beginning. We did recirculate the first 7.5 gallons once, but there was no real need to. By intentionally varying the runoff rates slightly on the four boil kettles we got slightly different original gravities – 1.064 for our Simcoe IPA, and 1.069 for two of John’s batches, and 1.070 for the last one. John brewed a Moonraker clone, a Belgian ale, and a German alt. Our Simcoe IPA was hopped with seven ounces of Warrior for bittering, then three different additions of Simcoe for flavour and aroma.

The stainless hose braid worked so well as a mash screen that we’re going to have to incorporate one into our mash tun. It completely eliminates the need to recirculate and also prevents any grain husks from being carried into the boil. The hot break in the four boil kettles was incredible, better than I’ve ever seen, with huge flocs of protein whirling around in a crystal clear wort. It was fantastic! I made a trip next day to the hardware store and picked up more stainless braid, enough for the mash tun and some more for an experimental hop screen for the boil kettle. It may even work for hop pellets, which would be great, as we currently have no way of dealing with pellets in any quantities more than about 25% of the total hop bill.

The big batch didn’t take that much longer than a regular 10 gallon brew day, but it was a lot busier dealing with all of the issues that come with having four boils going and the plumbing needed for transferring so much wort from the mash to the boil and then chilling 4 boils into 8 fermenters. I’m sure we’ll do it again as it’s a fun group day and you get a lot of beer out of it, but we’ll have to streamline the process by having the right wort transfer hoses set up and remembering the details of the procedure.

3 August, 2007

posted by benjy edwards

We racked the JHB clone to the firkin tonight, in preparation for a gigantic brewing session tomorrow. This week we’ve been building a mash screen for John Brush’s 60 gallon commercial soup kettle so we could do a big batch brew. We’ve got the screen built up, it’s five feet of 3/8″ stainless steel hose braid connected to a brass barb that’s connected to a 1.25″ PVC end cap that slides into the drain tunnel on the bottom of the soup kettle. The screen is from the stainless steel jacket of a high pressure plumbing supply line with the inner hose removed. It coils up on the bottom of the soup kettle and then the stainless false bottom from one of our half-barrel kegs fits over that to take the weight of the grain. We’ll see how it works!

The JHB fermented out to about 1.011 from the OG of 1.037, so it’ll be about 3.7% ABV if it drops another couple of gravity points while conditioning. The firkin was dry hopped with four ounces of Tettnanger. For the past 5 days the primaries were kept at about 55F which helped to drop out the yeast.