31 May 2008

posted by benjy edwards

We are using the yeast in its fifth generation this time.  The idea was to brew something reasonably light and drinkable for Steve’s upcoming wedding reception in July, so the recipe is Boathouse Bitter based upon Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Ale.  A copper-coloured special bitter, the grist is Maris Otter, a good portion of wheat, some caramunich, and a bit of kiln amber and malted oats.  Original gravity was 1.047, right on target.  The recent changes in the spreadsheet seem to have improved our ability to predict and achieve the correct gravity, at least when the specific gravity is in the 1.040s.  Higher gravities get lower efficiency, so it likely will not be as accurate when brewing recipes in the 1.050s, 1060s, and beyond.

The hops were Target and East Kent Goldings for bittering, with more Goldings added for flavour and aroma with 15 minutes left in the boil.  We got a good chill with the immersion chiller frozen in the stainless pot, but the ground water continues to warm up and today we almost melted the entire ice block.  It appears that this method will be insufficient later in summer.  We will have to come up with other ideas.

We racked the Boathouse Bitter from last week into a couple of corny kegs, dry hopping each with 1.25 ounces of Centennial.  Gravity was 1.013 on both.

We added some aluminium flashing to the brewing structure as a wind shield for the boil kettle and mash burners, which seemed to help block the wind.

27 May 2008

posted by benjy edwards

We had a chance to brew another batch of beer a couple of days before Memorial Day, and in an effort to replenish the selection of cask ale, it was the nineteenth batch of Boathouse Bitter. The malt bill was mostly pale, with small amounts of wheat, carapils, and honey malt. I used more honey malt than wheat and carapils, so it was sort of an experiment to see what honey malt contributes to a pale beer. This Boathouse Bitter formulation has a decided American hop character, with Columbus, Chinook, homegrown Cascade, and Ahtanum hops up to 40 IBU.

We used the frozen immersion chiller for the second time today, and if anything it worked better than last week. The increasing temperature of the ground water was noticeable by more ice melting than last week, but I think it helped to get a better heat exchange than last week, so there is hope for the method during the summer. If we keep using it we can track how much of the ice melts and should be able to predict if there will be enough ice to cool the water during the hottest part of the year. If the current amount of ice is not enough we can fill the ten gallon stainless steel pot even more, although there is only enough extra space for another few inches of ice on top.

Target gravity was 1.042 but we reached 1.045 instead, most likely due to a slower lauter and sparge than usual. I realized the runoff was slow, but did not want to speed it up for fear of disturbing the grain bed and getting grain husks into the boil.

We casked the Golden Arrow from last week, it had dropped to 1.013 and was tasting very nice right out of the primary. It is one of my favourite recipes, I need to try to keep it on tap at all times. I think the secret is the combination of Willamette and Styrian Golding hops for flavour and aroma.

17 May 2008

posted by benjy edwards

For the second time, we brewed a batch of the Golden Arrow from Cottage Brewing. The recipe calls for Styrian Goldings, which I did not have earlier, so I ordered a pound of pellets ($38 a pound, ouch!) which came in last week. The malt is just Maris Otter and half a pound of light crystal, with Northern Brewer for bittering and Willamette and Styrians for flavour and aroma. Target gravity was 1.041 and we got 1.042. The brew went very smoothly, with great clarity of the runoff to the boil kettle.  All three batches we brewed recently have been like that, for some reason.

We tried out a new method of chilling the ground water prior to running it through the counterflow chiller – we filled a stainless pot with water and put the immersion chiller in there, then put it in a chest freezer. Within a couple of days it was frozen solid, so we pulled it out and hooked it up to the hose. It worked pretty well, with low 60s for the wort temperature through the counterflow. Once the ice around the immersion chillers coils melted we put water in the cavity and shook the chiller. As long as you keep agitating it, it cools well. The ground water is cooler than it will be in the height of summer though, so the method needs more rigourous testing.

The Bishop’s Farewell clone brewed last week was racked off the yeast into a couple of corny kegs, dry hopping one with homegrown Cascade and the other with Ahtanum. It should be ready to drink by Memorial Day weekend. The gravity on both fermenters was 1.013.

10 May 2008

posted by benjy edwards

We brewed again today, this time a second batch of Bishop’s Farewell, a citrusy best bitter from Oakham Ales in England.  While I was getting the mash liquor heated up our power went out, which was bad timing.  I thought we might have a very tough day if it stayed off for a while, but thankfully the electricity was restored before the mash was over.  The grain bill was Maris Otter and 1.4 pounds of wheat, and the runoff to the kettle was hazy but we didn’t get a lot of grain particles coming through.  Hops were Phoenix pellets for bittering, followed by homegrown Cascade and Ahtanum for aroma.

Original gravity was spot on, at 1.043.  We tried to chill the ground water using the immersion chiller but the method we tested was a failure.  We had ten half gallon juice bottles frozen solid, placed in with the immersion chiller, but you cannot get a good heat exchange through the plastic, and with such large blocks of ice.  Next week we will try another way – freezing the immersion coil directly in a container and then running the cooling water through there.

The Chiswick Bitter from last week was racked to a firkin and dry-hopped with almost three ounces of East Kent Goldings.  The gravity dropped to 1.014, so it’s 3.7% ABv right now, with a couple more gravity point drop expected in the cask.  The strength will be a little higher than the real thing, which comes in at 3.5% ABV.  The flavour out of the primary was very nice though, a good balance of malt and hops.

3 May 2008

posted by benjy edwards

It’s National Homebrew Day, so it was fitting to begin brewing again today.  The recipe was suggested by the American Homebrewers Association, a clone of Chiswick Bitter from Fuller’s, because it was one of beer writer Michael Jackson’s favourites, who died in August 2007.  The recipe was Maris Otter, caramunich, and Special B.  The bittering hops are Target, but I had to substitute Northern Brewer for the aroma hops of Challenger and Northdown, since they are unobtainable due to the hop shortage.

Target gravity was 1.040. and we reached 1.041.  The colour in the primary looked quite dark, although it calculated to be gold in colour, at 7 SRM.  The ground water is starting to be warmer than optimal for chilling the wort, in order to maintain mid 60s we had to throttle the runoff to about half speed.  Fermentation with White Labs English Ale made in a starter on Thursday took off within 4 or 5 hours, keeping it at 66F.

We also racked the Belgian Strong Golden Ale out of the primary, after 3 weeks.  Gravities were 1.006 and 1.007, so the beer really dropped during the last of the 3 weeks.  The beer is being cooled now in an attempt to get it to clear, it is still quite hazy with yeast.