25 February 2012

posted by benjy edwards

After the first time using the 26 gallon HLT last week, I think the double batch process is getting more streamlined.  Today I was able to brew two quite different beers in less than six hours, which is only about half an hour more than it takes to brew a single batch.  It makes for a busier day, and there are times when it won’t be practical to make two batches from the same mash, so there will be a mix of single and double batch brew days in future.  For instance, single batches are needed when brewing a higher gravity beer, due to the size limit of the mash tun.  In that case, I may use the 26  gallon kettle as the mash tun (indeed, I have already built a manifold from stainless steel braid and copper pipe that fits it), but would have to be creative in heating enough liquor to sparge a twenty gallon batch.  Another option is to use the big kettle as the mash tun for ten gallons of a truly huge beer, like a 15% barleywine.  With 65 pounds of malt in it, theoretically I could get an OG of around 1.150 in a ten gallon batch.

The recipes today were a clone of Harvey’s XXXX Sussex Old Ale and a hoppy brown ale of my own devising.  The mash was created in order to brew the old ale, but instead of including the chocolate and debittered black malts in the mash, which would have made the brown ale wort too dark, only the Maris Otter and Special B went into the mash, and the darker grains were steeped in a grain bag in the old ale boil kettle to add colour.  By filling the mash tun to capacity, the gravities were even higher than the targets of 1.043 for the old ale and 1.050 for the brown ale, instead reaching 1.046 and 1.052 respectively.  Black treacle was added to both worts near the end of the boil, more so in the old ale than the brown.

Hopping was entirely East Kent Goldings in the old, and Northern Brewer for bittering in the brown ale, with Cascade later for flavor and aroma.  Both worts were boiled simultaneously, but while the old ale went through the chiller, I steeped flameout hops in the brown ale for 20 minutes until the counterflow was available.  This eliminated the extra time it took last week to steep both the Landlord and Hophead clones.

It has been too long since I last brewed a brown ale (back in 2003), so it will be nice to have one on draught again, and even better since this should be nicely hoppy as well as malty.

Of course we had the two batches brewed last week to rack, so four cornies were sanitized and dry hopped on Friday night so as to save time on brew day.  I racked them all while recirculating the mash, so that when it came time to collect for the two boils, I could focus on the task of getting the two worts to different gravities and steeping the dark grains for the old ale.

The Hophead fermented out to 1.012 while the Landlord reached 1.014.  Both tasted great from the primary.  Next week’s brew is an IPA, with plans to brew a small beer from the second runnings.  Since I was able to produce five gallons of a 1.033 small beer with the second runnings from the Double Jack IIPA mash, I should be able to brew 8, possibly 10 gallons of a similar strength beer from the IPA mash.

18 February 2012

posted by benjy edwards

Today we tried out a new bit of brewing gear, a 26 gallon stainless steel kettle with a ball valve and a thermometer that I picked up from a cool place called Brewsteel.  The purpose is to make it easier to brew double batches, mainly as a hot liquor tank to sparge one big mash and supply two boil kettles, although it can also be used as a brewpot for a 20 gallon batch or as a giant mash tun for a 20 gallon batch.  I built a copper dip tube to use today and am in the process of building a mash screen for it from copper pipe and stainless steel hose braid.

As with using any new gear for the first time, there are risks of unforeseen problems occurring during the brew.  The double batch of Hophead and Landlord went very well though, with the only unexpected incidents being a longer brew day and overshooting the gravities.  Rather than just adding the two grists together, I supplemented the mash with one extra pound of Maris Otter, thinking that with a double mash the extract efficiency would be lower, if I ran off and sparged for the same amount of time as usual.  In the end, the wort collection took longer than a single batch, which accounted not only for a longer day but probably also for the higher than expected gravities.  Targets were 1.040 for the Hophead and 1.042 for Landlord, actual gravities were 1.043 for the Hophead and 1.045 for Landlord.  The volume collected on the Landlord was lower than usual too, so a stronger boil accounted for some of the extra gravity.  In future, I will try to speed up the runoff and see how much of an effect it has on the extract.

Heating the hot liquor was quicker than I expected.  I didn’t start the HLT burner until the mash was underway, and it reached temperature well before the sparge began.  The 26 gallon pot worked great, and having the thermometer on the side of the tank is a nice feature.

Other than the higher gravities, everything went according to plan.  The Landlord was boiled and cooled first, followed immediately by the Hophead.  The Landlord had a ten minute rest after flameout with extra Styrian Goldings, while the Hophead had a twenty minute rest with Cascade prior to chilling.  The yeast from last week’s dark mild was split into two more fermenters after racking it to a couple of corny kegs.  The gravities were 1.016 and 1.015, so it will end up just under 4% ABV.  I had extra volume from the shorter boil, enough to fill a three gallon corny keg about halfway, so total batch yield was 11.5 gallons.

11 February 2012

posted by benjy edwards

We’re excited to be back to brewing again after the last batch on New Year’s Day.  I made a starter last night of the Wyeast 1968 and put it on the stir plate at around 71 degrees.  The  recipe today is our Dark Mild, which turned out so well when we brewed it after Thanksgiving that I wanted to have it on the handpump again.

The malt bill was unchanged, except for reducing the Maris  Otter by a quarter of a pound since we overshot our target gravity.  We did again today, but not by as much.  I didn’t want to cut back too much on the malt since it would be different from the last batch, which really was the best yet.  The brown malt character was slightly subdued compared to the previous batches, so the roasty coffee flavour was more in balance, and I think the tiny amount of peat malt contributed an indefinable something.

Gravity is 1.042, the hops were Admiral and East Kent Goldings at around 22 IBU. Other than a small boilover near the end of the boil, there were no problems encountered during the brew.

I racked the cider out of primary into a 2.5 gallon carboy.  It has cleared up reasonably well, but still needs more time before it is ready to keg.  Looking back I see that I did not include a post about making the cider, and I can’t remember when it was.  It must have been around the end of the last brew cycle, since I used the yeast from one of the later pitches.  I used some juicing apples we had, supplemented with apple juice as well as honey.