30 April 2016

posted by benjy edwards

For the last pitch of this yeast, it is time for a double IPA.  I had tossed around the idea of Kern River Citra IIPA, but I had a request for a clone of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder since I had mentioned that I was brewing the Blind Pig IPA last week.  I happened to have the hops, so that’s what I did.  I needed some carapils, dextrose, and crystal 40 though, so yesterday I stopped at the LHBS.

The mash is domestic two-row, 1.5 pounds each of carapils and crystal, and then the same amount of dextrose in the boil.  Target OG is 1.072 and we reached 1.070 with the sugar addition.  The bittering hops are added at the beginning of the 90 minute boil, rather than at 60, and were six ounces of Columbus.  The next hops are Simcoe at 45, Centennial at 30, and then Amarillo, Cascade, Simcoe, and Centennial at flameout.  The brew went well, and for the first time we used the water line that we just installed in the garage, and this time it worked fine.

The Blind Pig was kegged, with a dry hop of one ounce each of Amarillo, Cascade, and Columbus.  Gravities were different for each fermenter, one at 1.016 and the other at 1.018.  One was also clearer than the other (the more attenuated one), but they tasted the same.  The kegs were force-carbonated and will stay at room temperature on the dry hops for a week, then chilled for storage until tapped.

The Pliny batch took off fermenting right away, and the blowoff was so active that by the end of the night, at least half a gallon of wort had blown off into the bucket.  We will dry hop this batch mid-week, then again when it is kegged after 14 days.

This is the end of this yeast, but as we have some dry lager yeast, I am considering brewing a Pilsner next weekend.  It would be a chance to try out the 15 gallon Speidel fermenter we got last year.  Now that the brewing structure is on wheels, we could rack and chill into the fermenter while it is sitting in the lagering fridge.

23 April 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Today is St. George’s Day, and also happens to be the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.  We’re brewing again, and during the week had assembled all of the parts to run the new water line.  On Friday night I got the copper joined together, but when I installed it on Saturday morning, there was a leak at one joint.  In trying to re-solder it, one of the pex fittings got too hot and melted, so the project was put on hold and the outside water line used once again for this batch.

Although it would have been more fitting to celebrate this day by brewing an English ale, it has been a while since we brewed a clone of Russian River’s Blind Pig IPA, so that is what is on for today.  The mash is domestic two-row pale ale malt, with some might crystal and a bit of carapils.  We are out of carapils, however, and so used some Victory instead.  Target gravity is 1.058 and we reached 1.060, which is still on the light side for an IPA, but there’s nothing wrong with that!  The mash and vorlauf went well, and during that time we kegged the pale ale hopped with Denali.  It had fermented down to 1.012 on one and 1.013 on the other.  It is quite hoppy and I like the characteristics of this hop, so it is a success.  For some unknown reason, the beer was not as clear in the primary as the two previous batches of Harvey’s BB.  We force-carbonated both kegs and also dry hopped them with two ounces of Denali pellets each.

The kettle took a couple of extra minutes to come to a boil, but that gave us time to measure out the bittering hops, which go in at the beginning of the boil instead of at 60 minutes.  These were Columbus and Chinook, and then a combination of Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, and Columbus at 30 minutes and steep.  The boil went fine and we steeped the late hops for 5 minutes before beginning the chill.  The ground water is starting to increase in temperature, and with the wort running at full flow, the temperature in each fermenter was in the low 70s, so we cooled them to 66F in the fermentation fridge, then allowed them to rise to 68F during fermentation, which began immediately and required blow off tubes within a couple of hours of pitching.

Next week will likely be the last use of this yeast, with a stronger ABV IPA or perhaps a double IPA as the recipe.

17 April 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Having skipped brewing last weekend, it was definitely time to make another batch.  I should have seen this coming, and while to some extent I anticipated the possibility of problems when trying to brew after a process change, the scale of the mistakes/problems was surprising.  To what do I refer?  Read on…

During the week and finishing on Saturday, I managed to install a dedicated water line in the garage, complete with carbon filter, from where I could draw the brewing liquor, instead of having to hook up the potable water hose to the outside tap around the side of the house.  I got it plumbed in and only had one small leak, which I fixed easily.  However, when I went to hook up the line from the filter to the brewing stand to start brewing, there was a leak there.  Not a problem, easily fixed.  I got the mash tun filled up, heated the strike water and worked on the malt bill.  The mash went fine and the problems came back during collection for the boil.  First off, a surprise boil over when the kettle was only two-thirds full.  Backed off on the heat and collected again.  While I was trying to figure out how to hook up  the water line with a hose nozzle for cleanup, a friend and fellow brew club member stopped by.  Distracted by that, I overfilled the boil kettle, thankfully catching it before it overflowed, but had to remove some wort and therefore diluted the gravity.  Before that I managed to run the grain bed dry so had to add more sparge liquor.  The boil began and of course had a boilover.  Around this time I discovered that the hops I intended to use for this beer were not in our stocks.  I meant to buy a pound of 007: the Golden Hop pellets from Yakima Valley Hops at their booth at the Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference, but they gave me Denali by mistake and I didn’t notice it.  I’d also bought some Experimental Grapefruit pellets at the same time and the other hops must have been switched during that exchange.  A quick Google search reveals Denali to be an interesting citrusy hop, so I decide to use it in place of the 007.  The first pellet addition went fine, but the second causes a big boilover.  I learn from my friend, who uses pellets frequently, that this is a real problem with pellets.  The fine material causes billions of nucleation points, so the hops have to be added very slowly.  Lesson learned, and the following additions take about 5 minutes to add each time.

The next problem came when it was time to chill the wort.  Since the new water line has the filter built in, I’m running the cooling water from the filter, which slows the flow, and the wort is going getting chilled to about 80F.  Not acceptable, so I disconnect the chiller and hook it up to the usual outside tap.  Temperature is down, which is fine for now, but calls for a change in how the water line is installed.  I will have to have two outputs, one with the filter and one without.

We finally got the brew wrapped up.  However, because of overfilling the kettle and other problems throughout the brew day, the original gravity ended up being 1.046 instead of 1.052, so this will be on the low end of the scale for a pale ale.  Still, learning about the new hop variety is the goal of this batch, and that should be unaffected.  We oxygenated the wort and finished up the cleaning as usual.

Going back to the mash, we also racked the previous batch of Harvey’s Best Bitter to a couple of corny kegs, without a dry hop.  The gravities were down to 1.010, so that is good attenuation.  Next week the recipe will be an IPA of some kind, and the goal is to get the water line finished in time for the brew.

4 April 2016

posted by benjy edwards

The weekend’s weather was very nice, so we brewed on Monday instead, when it was a bit rainy. As planned, this is the second batch of the Harvey’s BB clone using the Essex yeast. The malt bill stayed the same, though the hops had to change because we are out of EKG and Styrian Goldings, so this batch was all Fuggle and Bramling Cross.

After the malt was milled, I noticed a lot of uncracked kernels, so the malt was run through the mill again, which helped a lot. I think this explains last week’s low original gravity, because this time we reached the expected 1.040 target. The roller gap may have increased on our mill. I’ll crush the malt for the next batch and have a look, and if it’s too coarse, then the gap will be tightened.

There were no problems with the rest of the brew, and the first batch was kegged without dry hops. The gravity at racking was down to 1.011, quite good attenuation for the first pitch, no doubt due to the higher attenuation of the Essex strain versus our house English ale yeast. The beer tasted very good, but is lacking the strong earthiness that is distinctive of Harvey’s Best Bitter. Perhaps it will come through once conditioned, but if not, it could be due to a sub-optimal supply of Fuggles.

The next batch will likely be an American pale ale, perhaps with a new hop variety. I have some Cashmere to experiment with, and while at the inaugural Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference I tasted a SMaSH beer hopped with Idaho 7 aka 007: the Golden Hop, and really enjoyed it, so I bought a pound of pellets to try out.