24 August 2013

posted by benjy edwards

Although we did not brew today, it was time to keg the two batches brewed last week.  First up was the Boathouse Bitter, which was a single-hop Chinook version.  The corny kegs were dry-hopped with two ounces each of Chinook, naturally, and the bitter was racked into the kegs.  The gravity was low, at 1.009, and the beer tasted very nice after just a week.  Chinook is a nice hop by itself, quite similar to Cascade but a bit more pungent with a slight resinous hint.  There was enough left over to fill a gallon growler.

The Mosaic pale ale, which we will call Unobtainium Pale Ale since Mosaic hops are so difficult to get, dropped down to 1.012, making it 6% ABV.  I only kegged one half of the batch today since I’m waiting for a keg from a friend in order to give him the other half.  I dry hopped my keg with an ounce and a half of the Mosaic pellets in a hop sack.  The beer was good right from the primary, although the character from the Mosaic was somewhat subdued.  Time, carbonation, and the dry hop will determine how it turns out in the end though.

Since the Simcoe-Citra pale ale will likely be gone soon from the 3 gallon corny, I thought I would make a small batch of cider to replace it.  It is blackberry season right now, and since we had several pounds of frozen blackberries, I decided to add them to the cider.  I put three gallons of apple juice into a 5 gallon carboy and added 6.5 pounds of berries, which is what we happened to have on hand.  That is just over the recommended rate of two pounds of fruit per gallon.  I pitched it with the yeast from the Boathouse Bitter at the end of the night, and fermentation began by the next morning.  I will leave it to ferment for a month.

There are no set plans to brew again, but if I have time when it’s time to keg the second fermenter of the Unobtainium, I may do a single batch using that yeast.

17 August 2013

posted by benjy edwards

After skipping a week last weekend, we’re back to brewing.  This time it’s a double batch, now that we have a single batch fermenting which we can split the yeast for these two brews.  The recipes are an American pale ale with all Mosaic hops and a single-hop batch of Boathouse bitter to be served via handpump.  I love the flavour of Mosaic in the few commercial beers that I’ve tried, but it is a new proprietary hop that is impossible to obtain as a homebrewer.  I was lucky enough to get a pound of Mosaic hops from a local brewer (thanks very much Noah!) but they were available only in pellet form.

Unfortunately today was not one of those days where everything goes smoothly.  The two problems we encountered were troubles dealing with the all-pellet Mosaic batch and also missing the gravities when splitting the wort between the stronger pale ale and the weaker bitter.  I had successfully brewed a 100% pellet batch with the Midwest Supplies Kiwi Crossing IPA, but I think they were the larger size pellets.  As you may know, pellets come in two forms: Type 45 and type 90.  The Mosaic were the smaller of the two pellet sizes, whereas I believe the Midwest hops were the larger pellet type.

The double mash was a combination of domestic two row and a bit of Maris Otter, along with some wheat for head retention, carapils for added body, and honey malt instead of crystal for a honey-like sweetness.  The mash went fine, almost 39 pounds of malt fit easily in the tun at a water to grist ratio of 1 quart per pound.  I relied on the refractometer to get the pre-boil gravity of 1.044 for the Mosaic pale ale, and hit it right on.  However, the OG of this beer turned out to be 1.060 instead of 1.053.  As a result, the OG of the bitter was too low, coming in at 1.031 instead of 1.038.  I am considering adding a couple of pounds of dried malt extract or DME and sugar to the bitter to boost the gravity.*

We bittered the pale ale with Northdown pellets at 60 minutes, then added the Mosaic at 30, 15, 10, and 0 minutes, with a 15 minute whirlpool rest after the boil.  The wort ran off at a good rate during the chill, but once we reached just over 5 gallons in each primary, quite a bit of hop sludge went through the chiller.  I stopped the runoff soon afterwards, and we had about 5.5 gallons in each fermenter. The real problem we had with the pellets, though, was the fact that every time I added a few ounces of Mosaic near the end of the boil, it caused massive boilovers and we lost not only quite a bit of wort but also a lot of the pellets themselves.  These pellets seemed to form a film on top of the wort which then superheated and boiled over, and this was at the end of the boil when the volume was down to around 12 to 13 gallons.  Sadly, it’s yet another reason why I despise pellets and it’s only in desparate circumstances, like being able to use Mosaic hops, that I will run the risks of messing with pellet hops.  All told, there were three serious boilovers which must have cost us close to a gallon of wort.

The bitter was hopped entirely with Chinook, on the recommendation of a bartender at the Eastside Tavern (the best beer bar in Olympia), whose favourite version of the Boneyard Shotgun session IPA was the all-Chinook beer.  Since other single hops in this beer have been Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic, this is high praise indeed.  I haven’t brewed a single-hop beer using Chinook, so this is a good way to evaluate this hop.

The Blind Pig IPA clone from two weeks ago was kegged while we brewed.  The gravity was down to 1.012, and we dry hopped each keg with Cascade, Amarilo, and Columbus.  Right from the primary this beer is delicious, just like the first batch of it we a couple of months ago.

It is likely that today’s batches are the last with this yeast, though I intend to ferment a cider or the spicy ginger beer next week with the yeast from the bitter.  Because of the pellets in the Mosaic pale fermenters, I will not pitch anything onto that yeast.

* Note: on Monday evening I boiled half a gallon of water and added a pound of dried malt extract and a pound and a quarter of cane sugar.  After it cooled, I added half to each fermenter for the bitter, which should boost the gravity up to 1.038.  At the time I added the strong wort, the primary fermentation was in full swing.

3 August 2013

posted by benjy edwards

After an unusually long break mostly due to wanting to ride my bike when the weather here is so good, we started brewing again today.  Originally I had planned to brew our dark mild, since a low gravity cask ale is a good thing to ferment with the first pitch of the yeast, but we still have plenty of the Dark Ruby Mild on cask, so I switched the recipe to our second crack at the Blind Pig IPA clone from Russian River.  The first batch was great, but at the time I didn’t have any domestic two-row, so that was brewed with Maris Otter.  From people who have had the commercial beer, our version came out a touch darker and with more malt character.   Today we brewed it using Gambrinus pale malt, crystal 40, and carapils.  No changes were made to the hopping schedule, as that worked well the first time.

Target gravity for this beer is only 1.058, for a 6% IPA.  The mash went well, our pH was 5.5 with some lactic acid added, and we recirculated as usual and collected for the boil, adding the Columbus and Chinook bittering hops at 90 minutes as the brewer Vinnie specifies.  Then at 30 minutes some Amarillo goes in, and then Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, and Simcoe at flameout.  We let the hops go for a 10 minute steep before chilling.  Our original gravity was 1.057, so only 1 point shy of the target, and we got a full 6 gallons in each primary.  The fermentation was very active next morning, with both fermenters needing fresh airlocks after blow-offs.

The next planned brew is a double batch, one a session IPA or extra pale ale using only Mosaic hops, and a cask beer probably hopped with Citra.  I  am very excited to brew the Mosaic beer, after obtaining a pound of pellets from a local commercial brewery.  Mosaic are currently “unobtainium” for homebrewers, so this is a great opportunity.  I’ve had all-Mosaic pale ales from Sound Brewery and Fearless and they were both excellent.