29 November 2015

posted by benjy edwards

I had intended to brew on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but as my holiday consisted of suffering a perforated eardrum as a result of a sinus infection, I took another day to rest and tackled the brew on Sunday instead.  I was still feeling pretty crummy, but one may as well do something fun while feeling rotten.  That, plus we need more cask ale in advance of the homebrew club holiday party coming up in mid-December.

The recipe is our stalwart, Hophead.  We chose to keep things simply and stick with the authentic Maris Otter and Cascade, so no changes to the recipe.  Now that we’re dealing with different water, it makes no sense to change lots of things when it is important to be able to determine what effect the water has on our existing recipes.

The Maris Otter was mashed at 153F for 45 minutes, in line with our recent shorter mash rest practice, and wort recirculated as the dark mild from a week ago was kegged.  By the way, happy birthday to Maris Otter, which celebrates 50 years in the brewing industry.  Most malts only have a lifespan of half a dozen years before a more efficient malt comes along, but MO is so superior in flavour that it has survived.  Also, despite these modern malts, I find that I get better extract from Maris Otter than any other base malt.

The racking gravities for the two mild fermenters were higher than expected, at 1.016 and 1.017, making this about a 3.5% ABV mild.  I don’t know whether the high SG is due to the yeast being the first pitch, or something else.  We are using a different temp. controller on the fermentation cabinet, so it’s possible that it is fermenting colder than usual, which would certainly cause a higher finishing gravity.  The good news is that it tasted very good, not only like our previous batches, but also seems to confirm that the water treatment, at least for dark beer, is appropriate for the new water source.

The pre-boil OG for the Hophead was looking good, so the 90-minute boil proceeded normally.  The chill went well too, and the wort was aerated on the yeast cake.  Original gravity was correct, at 1.040.  The entire session took just under 5 hours, which is very good for only the second brew in the new brewery.  Although I wish that there were a bit more space, the compact footprint certainly seems to save time.

Plans for the immediate future include finishing up the pub area and perhaps brewing a hoppy American pale ale or West-Coast IPA for the next batch.


22 November 2015

posted by benjy edwards

After a two month break, we’re back to brewing again.  During that spell we moved the brewery to our new home, only 3 miles away from the old one.  Moving was a pretty vicious experience, but it’s mostly done now, although the serving area for the brewery is still a work in progress.  I had intended to brew on Saturday, but getting the brewery set up took longer than expected (as everything else to do with moving), so we pushed it back to Sunday.  It was a good choice, because the result was that the brew day went very smoothly, and took less time as well.

The recipe today was a good first brew, our dark mild.  This is a great way to get the yeast going, and have a quick first brew to break in the new location.  With a short 45-minute mash and a 60-minute boil, we were able to finish up in under 5 hours.  The yeast was a starter of White Labs WLP002 which we began on Friday night.  This was the first time using their new PurePitch pouch instead of the plastic vial, and whether it was the increased cell count or the extra day for the starter which contributed to the shorter than usual lag time, I don’t know.  Perhaps it was a combination of both, but the wort was actively fermenting on Monday morning, and the yeast showed signs of life as early as Sunday night.  The OG of 1.040 was spot on, and the malt bill was the same except for bumping up the amounts of brown and peated malts.  Fuggle was the sole hop, added at 45 minutes in the boil for bittering.

I kept the water treatment the same as for the well water we used before, but now that we’re using Olympia city water, it might be different.  If the city water reports can be trusted, the water is virtually identical though, hence the idea to keep the mineral additions the same.  The mash pH was on the low side, just under 5.0, so I may reduce the amount of lactic acid added to the mash next time.  It may be the right amount for a very pale grist, but the mild contains quite a bit of acidic dark malts and so doesn’t need as much acid added to it, but it was no more than we usually use for this recipe.  I expect that getting the water treatment dialed in will be a bit of work, but this batch should give us a baseline.  If it seems that we’re way off, I will have the water tested by a lab in case the city report is inaccurate.

Of course there was no previous batch to keg this time.  Next up will likely be another cask, probably a light-coloured bitter, perhaps the Hophead clone.