25 June 2016

posted by benjy edwards

The latest batch of lager has had two weeks on the yeast, so it is time to keg it.  We decided to brew again as well, so a starter was made of the WLP002 on Friday.  This is normal procedure for pitching into a full batch, and although this time it would be for only half the batch, we made a starter this time because the vial was a bit past its use date (25 May).  We are using a new yeast for the other half, the Pub strain from Imperial Organic yeast in Portland, Oregon.  Their yeast comes in small cans and is intended to be pitched directly right from refrigerated storage.

While the mash rested (more on the recipe in a moment), the lager was racked under pressure from the non-airtight Speidel fermenter into a couple of corny kegs, not dry-hopped this time.  The lager had attenuated down to 1.010 already, so it should be around 5.5% ABV after a long lagering period.  The beer tasted good, though cloudy as usual, which we hope will clear after a month or more of lagering. This is the last use of the lager yeast since the Speidel needs to be returned to Morebeer.  Thankfully, we tested the replacement and the lid seals just fine.

It’s been six weeks since we brewed the Bohemian Pilsner, so it has had a month of lagering following the two-week primary.  Almost time to serve!

For the ale brewed today, we went with a session strength bitter or pale ale to test out a new hop – Cashmere.  We used a small amount in a previous beer, and it smelled so good I wanted to test it out as a single-hop beer.  The beer is not quite a SMaSH because we supplemented Maris Otter with 25% wheat malt and a pound each of carapils and aromatic, with some rice hulls thrown in to deal with the huskless wheat.  Target gravity is 1.038 which we hit spot on.  The pH of the hot liquor was right at 5.80 and the mash pH was a tad low at 5.10.  The brew went well, with the only hitch occurring when disconnecting the water line to the HLT after it was filled, without closing the ball valve, and thus losing a pint of hot liquor.  Nothing to worry about!

The boil was 90 minutes, with a couple of ounces of Nugget for bittering at 60 minutes and then charges of Cashmere at 30, 15, 10, and 5 minutes, each 2 or 2.5 ounces at a time.  This leaves plenty of the hop left for dry hopping.  All told, the brew took just over 4 hours, very good for a full all-grain batch and kegging another.  We also had time this weekend to re-arrange the garage, moving the three fridges from the outside wall to the back wall, replacing them with the metal shelving for all of the brewing gear.  This allows for much easier access to the fridge for fermenting lagers.  It seems hard to believe, but the brewery is now set up so well that we’re running out of projects!  Even the seemingly never-ending task of getting the casters on the brewing structure to hold up seems to finally have been tackled, after adding some copper sleeves to the brackets, thus shimming the space between the corner brackets and the posts of the wheels.

The next batch is likely to be another cask, or perhaps we’ll brew the hoppy brown ale, which is definitely on the schedule for this yeast.  Right now it’s my favourite beer I have on tap, which is something I’d never thought I’d say about a beer that seems to be the only proper way of making what is now called a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale.

Pitching the White Labs starter was straightforward, and as of Sunday morning it was fermenting well.  The Imperial yeast was … interesting.  Having up-ended the can in the fridge for about 5 hours, we removed it and cracked the lid as directed, which resulted in a spray of yeast, thankfully on the brewing sink.  Pouring in the first part was fine, but swirling the mixture of solid and liquid yeast was difficult, and the last part did not want to leave the can.  By slowly crushing it we got most out, but with that trouble along with the first spray of foam, I’d guess we actually pitched about three-quarters of the total volume, which may partly explain the long 24+ hour lag to fermentation.  The proof is in the pudding of course, so we’ll see how it attenuates compared to the WLP002 (supposed to be higher) and the ultimate test of the beer flavour.  Clarity of course is also very important, with its claims of very high flocculation.

11 June 2016

posted by benjy edwards

The IPL has had two weeks in primary, so for the third use of the lager yeast we settled on another Bohemian Pilsner.  This style is just so tasty and since we brew so infrequently with lager yeast, I wanted to make another ten gallons before switching back to ales.

However, there was the small matter of having no pilsner malt, no domestic two-row, and a desire to minimize the use of our favourite malt, English Maris Otter.  This malt has just such a characteristic bold biscuity flavour that using it for most of the grist would be inappropriate for a pilsner.  The solution was to come up with a very strange grist: 30% Maris Otter, 14% each of wheat, Vienna, and flaked maize, then around 5% each of flaked barley, oat malt, and carapils, plus small quantities of aromatic and melanoidin malts.  This was supplemented by two pounds of dextrose in the boil to achieve the target gravity of 1.050, and a very pale colour of 4 SRM.

While the mash rested for 30 minutes, we prepared to keg the IPL.  Two cornies were dry-hopped with an ounce each of Citra and Centennial, and during the vorlauf we pushed the IPL into the kegs from the Speidel via co2 pressure.  This went smoothly again, and we had a gallon left over.  The beer is nicely hoppy, and although hazy, this should clear again during the lagering.

The pilsner was boiled, with Azacca for bittering and Saaz at 20, 10, and 0 minutes for a total of 50 IBU.  We were only one point short of the target OG, at 1.049.  The ground water here is already warming up, so the best we could do on the chill was to get the wort to the mid-70s.  We will have to use the fridge to get the temperature down to the 53F pitching temperature.  Note: as of late this evening, the temp was down to 64F, and in the morning it was 56F, and finally reached 53F in the early afternoon on Sunday.

This will likely be the last use of this yeast, partly because this fermenter needs to be returned to Morebeer since the lid doesn’t seal.  They already sent us a replacement, which we will use next time we brew lagers.