29 January 2016

posted by benjy edwards

After the yeast had a go with the Dark Mild, we wanted to brew another cask ale.  There is the first annual Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference in March, and as I am presenting a talk on brewing and serving cask-conditioned ale at home, I planned to serve some at the seminar, and of course like most beer, it is best when fresh.  We will serve the dark mild since it is an unusual style for most Americans (even difficult to find in England any more, at least outside of the Midlands), and to complement that, a hoppy golden ale would be a nice contrast.  The recipe today is Golden Arrow, a beer I tried from Cottage Brewing Company in a pub in Falmer, East Sussex, and was struck by its quality.  We last brewed it in 2013, so it was overdue in any case.

According to one source, it is simply pale ale malt with Challenger hops for bitterness and Styrian Goldings for flavour and aroma.  As we have no Challenger, we used Bramling Cross at 60 minutes for about 25 IBU, then Styrian at 30, 20, 10, and 0 minutes.  Target gravity is 1.043, and we reached 1.042 with sixteen pounds of Maris Otter plus a pound of biscuit malt and half a pound of kiln amber.  We’ve shortened our mash rests to 30 minutes recently and we continued with that method today, with no difference in original gravity, as in the past.

The dark mild was racked to a couple of corny kegs without dry hops.  The gravity only dropped to 1.019, which was higher than expected, but the last few times we’ve used the English Ale yeast on the first pitch, it has under-attenuated, then fermented fully on subsequent batches.  Since the move, I think we have been fermenting at a slightly lower temperature, which may be the cause.  Another possibility is the change from vials to the PurePitch pouch, but it’s hard to conceive of how that would affect initial attenuation.

The next batch might be another golden ale or bitter, or we may switch to an American pale ale, and cask-condition half and force-carbonate the other.  That leaves the fourth and fifth pitches for IPA and double IPA, or perhaps a stout or porter, for some variety.

24 January 2016

posted by benjy edwards

A new year, and another year of brewing opportunities!  I had the second PurePitch pouch of White Labs WLP002 in the fridge, so I made a starter on Saturday afternoon.  The recipe is the eleventh batch of our dark mild, which in the tenth version was the most popular beer at the homebrew club holiday party in December.  We have been trying to increase the distinctive chocolatey and dark biscuit flavour of the beer, so the change to the recipe was an increase in the chocolate, pale chocolate, and brown malts.  The nominal bittering hops were changed from Fuggle to a mix of Sterling and Crystal, using up the last of each left in storage.

Target gravity is 1.040, but perhaps as a result of increasing the malt bill, we reached an OG of 1.043.  Interestingly, the pH readings of the mash and sparge were only .01 from the ideal mash pH of 5.2 and sparge of 5.8 (ours was 5.19 and 5.79 respectively).  The mash pH was too low last time, so the lactic acid was reduced from 2 ml to 1 ml.

There were no snags during the brew day, except for running out of propane right after the boil started.  A quick trip for an expensive tank exchange and the boil was back in progress.  The delay was 15 minutes at the most, so no issue at all then.  The fermentation was underway the next morning, so that’s another good sign that the new White Labs packaging is more viable than the vials were.