25 August 2012

posted by benjy edwards

One of the more intriguing “beers” that I tried at the National Homebrewer’s Conference in Seattle this June was not a malt beer at all, but rather a ginger beer.  A very spicy ginger beer in fact.  I spoke with the brewer about it, and he very kindly gave me the recipe.  Although there is a generous amount of fresh grated ginger in it, most of the heat comes from the addition of habanero, serrano, and jalapeno peppers added at flameout, following a 15 minute boil of the grated ginger and brown sugar.  This gets chilled and racked to primary and left to ferment for ten days.  Although the recipe calls for fermenting it with champagne yeast, I opted to use my pitch of the English ale yeast from the Boathouse pale ale.  Using beer yeast eliminates the risk of contaminating any of my beer with a wine yeast, which can happen.  You’ll know if that happens because either the beer will not ferment out completely, since the wine yeast will kill the beer yeast and most wine yeast cannot ferment maltotriose, so you’ll end up with a sweet beer, or it will ferment out completely and be bone dry.

For the ginger beer, a combination of jerk spices are added to the secondary and left to condition until ready for kegging.  The aroma from the primaries reminds me of what I tasted at the NHC, and the gravity sample (OG 1.030) that I took from the kettle tasted remarkably similar as well.

18 August 2012

posted by benjy edwards

After two back-to-back double batches over the past two weekends, today was a single batch day, just to take things a little easier.  Since I only needed two fermenters with yeast to repitch, I decided to delay racking the Boathouse pale ale for a week and just keg up the Palmer’s Best Bitter clone, using the yeast from that batch for today’s Boathouse IPA recipe.  The malt bill is American two-row pale malt, American crystal 40, and Vienna to add some depth to the domestic malts.

Choice of hops was dictated by what is available.  I used Summit and Nugget for bittering, then a combination of Cascade and Columbus for flavour and aroma, but I also tossed in four ounces of Zythos pellets that I got from the homebrew club.  I am looking forward to the hop harvest in several weeks’ time, as my supply has dwindled quite a bit.  I am using my last pound of Cascade, and have been out of Simcoe, Citra, Centennial, and Amarillo for too long.  Most of the remaining stock is English hops to be used in the cask ales.

Despite using only 8 ounces of pellets out of a total of 21 ounces of hops in today’s IPA, the bazooka screen still got plugged up by the dreaded pellet sludge.  Using a spoon to clear the screen worked, but it takes time, and added about 15 minutes to what would otherwise be a 20-minute cooling time.  OG was 1.070 and fermentation really took off, blowing out the airlocks overnight and leaving a foamy mess to clean up on Sunday.

The Palmer’s bitter had dropped to 1.011, and I dry-hopped each keg with 2.5 ounces of Styrian Goldings.  One of the kegs leaked from the beer out fitting, so I replaced the poppet and it sealed up fine.  Next weekend I will keg the pale ale and use one of the two primaries to ferment a ginger beer recipe that I want to try.  I may dry-hop the IPA I made today in the primary, since the yeast is not going to be repitched.  After that it’s a short break before beginning the next brewing cycle.

11 August 2012

posted by benjy edwards

Today was a very busy brew day, what with a double batch in the works, plus racking four fermenters to kegs.  The recipes are Boathouse Pale Ale and our clone of Palmer’s Best Bitter.  The pale ale is largely unchanged from the previous batch, though due to a lack of the lighter crystal malts, we went with amber malt and kiln amber instead.  Target OG for the pale ale is 1.050, but we managed to hit 1.055.  It is good to be on the higher end for this beer, since it will be served via co2.  The gravity of the Palmer’s was 1.039, perfect for a cask ale.  Getting the two gravities correct when simultaneously running off into two boil kettles when aiming for different strength beers can be tricky, you really have to keep an eye on the gravities as you go, using the refractometer.

The hops in the pale ale were Nugget for bittering, then a combination of Columbus and Amarillo throughout the rest of the boil.  We are now out of Amarillo until the next harvest, which thankfully is not far off.  I’m looking forward to be able to get Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe again.  The Palmer’s used Willamette for bittering, followed by Styrian Goldings and East Kent Goldings late hops.

The two boils were fifteen minutes apart, which works out well since one batch has to wait to be cooled until the first one is chilled.  During the last part of the runoff of the pale ale wort, one fermenter got filled a lot more than the other, a difference of almost a gallon.  I sanitized the thief and transferred it to the other carboy, since it was so full that it would undoubtedly have blown out of the top during fermentation.  As it was, one of the fermenters still pushed foam and wort through the airlock once it was active.

Other than the disparate fill levels on the pale ale, no hitches during the brew day; the propane supply held out this time.  I used the heatstick to assist the heating of the hot liquor, but I skipped using it in heating the strike water and the boil.

The Hophead clone and the Boathouse Bitter were casked in four cornies, with liberal dry hopping of Cascade in the Hophead and Mt. Hood for the Boathouse Bitter.  Gravities for both batches were down to 1.011.

We may be brewing next weekend, if so it will most likely be a single batch of something stronger, such as IPA.

4 August 2012

posted by benjy edwards

Now that the yeast culture has fermented last week’s Harvey’s Best Bitter clone, it can be split in half in order to ferment a double batch.  Today’s recipes are Hophead, which is a staple, and a version of Boathouse Bitter hopped with Mt. Hood.  Oakham’s JHB uses Mt. Hood as a late hop, so I thought I’d try it on a single-malt beer of 100% Maris Otter.  The Hophead is hopped entirely with Cascade, while the Boathouse Bitter used Northdown pellets for bittering, then Mt. Hood for flavour and aroma.  Original gravity of the Hophead was on target, at 1.040, while the Boathouse Bitter came in at 1.039.

As stated above, the yeast from the Harvey’s was split into two more fermenters and today’s wort racked into the four primaries.  The Harvey’s Best was racked to a couple of corny kegs, but with no dry hop, as it seems to hinder, rather than help, the earthy hop character that I am seeking to recreate.  Out of the primaries the gravities were down to 1.011 and had the earthiness, but perhaps not to the extent that I desire.  Getting the correct hop character in this beer is proving to be a big challenge.  I am not sure if it is a question of which hops to use in which proportions, or the timing of the additions, or both.  Having used Progress and Bramling Cross in this batch, in addition to the Fuggle that was giving some of the right character in previous batches, I can’t say yet whether it’s getting any closer.  I should have a better idea once the beer is conditioned and served on handpump.

The only hitch today occurred when one of the propane tanks ran out, right at the beginning of the boil.  I had forgotten to fill the tanks earlier this week, and thought I may be able to get by with what I had, but even with the help of the new heatstick, it wasn’t possible.  The heatstick seems to be much less powerful than I expected.  Using it alone, it was raising the strike liquor by one 1 degree every few minutes – too slow!  I think I would need 3 or 4 of them in order to heat the liquor or wort quickly enough to use electricity in place of propane.

The plan for next weekend is an American pale ale, along with another cask bitter of some sort.  Stay tuned.