31 July 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Last week we used the last two kegs to rack the Mosaic pale ale out of primary, but during the week we had two kegs kick, so we were able to keg the IPA and thus brew another batch to fill the fermenters again.  The recipe is a simple pale ale to test out a new hop variety, currently called Experimental Grapefruit.  Information on this hop is limited, but it may be inappropriately named, as the reports from homebrewers indicate that it has no grapefruit character.  The alpha acid level is huge, at 15.2%, so one can expect quite a lot of bitterness even if used late in the boil.  We chose to bitter with Cascade and Amarillo pellets, as we had them on hand, and then use three ounces each of the Experimental Grapefruit pellets at 30, 20, 10, and 5 minutes, leaving enough for a two-ounce dry hop for each primary or keg (we have a pound total).

The mash was fifteen pounds of Maris Otter and just under four pounds of Munich, with a 153F rest for thirty minutes.  The wort was run off and reached a boil at about half volume, but the 60 minute boil clock wasn’t started until the kettle was full.  The Amarillo and Cascade were added then, and by the end of boil we had a gravity of 1.048, higher than expected.  The goal with this mash and boil schedule was to save as much time as possible, since we didn’t start brewing until after 3 pm.  The result was an all-grain batch in under 4 hours, which I believe is a record for the brewery.  There does indeed seem to be quite a lot of scope for time savings during the mash and boil, with little or no effect on the resulting beer.  We may be able to do a 15 or 20 minute mash rest, a shorter vorlauf, and a sixty minute boil, and actually save about about an hour and a half as compared to an hour mash and 90 minute boil.

The Boathouse IPA was in the fermenter for 8 days, and in that time dropped to 1.009, which is much lower than our usual attenuation.  We did mash at 150F, which seems to make a difference.  Also, instead of using airlocks, we just had foil on the tops of the fermenters, and this small difference in pressure is reported to result in a more active fermentation.  We will ferment the Grapefruit Pale Ale in the same way, so we will be able to see what a higher mash temp (153F) does to the attenuation, which should shed light on whether the airlock v. foil makes any difference.  The IPA was dry-hopped with Citra and Simcoe and force-carbonated.

This is the fifth use of the yeast, and probably the last.  Six would likely be fine, but as we’re out of empty kegs, even getting this batch packaged could be a problem.  If we don’t collect two empties by next weekend we’ll have to leave the beer on the yeast for two weeks rather than one.

23 July 2016

posted by benjy edwards

I intended to brew this beer last weekend, but the weather turned out nice and so opted to ride my bike both days.  Today is dry but grey and with sunny weather predicted for tomorrow, it is a good day to brew.  The recipe is an IPA focused primarily on Citra, but with some Simcoe as well.  Target gravity is 1.060, so it is on the lower end of ABV for the style.  The mash is Maris Otter, Munich, a pound of oat malt, and some biscuit and carapils.  No crystal in this West-coast style IPA!

We had some Cashmere and Azacca hops left over, so those were the bittering addition, following by Simcoe and Citra at 20 minutes, then more Citra at 10 and 5 minutes.  We used the immersion chiller again, partly to help the counterflow do its job, but also because I wanted to steep some hops at a lower temperature than boiling, which will extract the hop oils without so much aroma being volatilized by a higher temperature.  Therefore, once the wort was down to 160F, the last addition of Simcoe and Citra were added, then the wort run through the counterflow to the primaries.  We’re still reusing both yeast strains, though on every beer so far I have preferred the WLP002 version over the Imperial Pub yeast.  It flocculates just as well, and except for the first batch where it attenuated more, the Pub has attenuated the same as the White Labs yeast, but the flavour is just not as good.  The beer is just a bit duller, more muddied.

On kegging the Mosaic pale ale, two weeks in the primary dropped both down to 1.012, so it’s right at 5% ABv now.  Clarity and colour are good, and it is tasting nice, with great Mosaic flavour.  Should be even better after the dry-hop and carbonation.

The next batch might be the last for the yeast, and I have no idea what to make.  A double IPA is common, since it can be dry-hopped in the primary, but we have a couple of doubles already, so perhaps an IPA instead, or crazy to contemplate, but maybe something malty?

9 July 2016

posted by benjy edwards

The recipe today is a single-hop pale ale using our favourite hop, Mosaic.  It has actually been quite a while since we’ve had a Mosaic beer on tap (last year!) so we’re overdue for this.  Thankfully we have plenty of Mosaic on hand, as it was the hop we bought most of during last year’s harvest time.  The malt bill is based on the batch of single-hop Denali we recently brewed, which turned out really well.  It is a very crisp pale ale with not much malt flavour getting in the way of the hop expression.  We did add honey malt to this mash, so the grist was Maris Otter, Vienna, oat malt, and biscuit, with a touch of aromatic malt thrown in to make up for a 6 ounce shortage of Vienna.  Besides Mosaic at 30, 15, 10, and 5 minutes, the batch was bittered with a few ounces of Nugget.

The day’s brew was straight-forward, with the only difference from our previous process being a two-stage chilling of the wort due to the warmer groundwater temperatures which have seen the counterflow chiller only being able to get the wort down to 80F.  This time we used the immersion chiller first to reduce the wort temperature from boiling down to around 150F, then started the counterflow chiller on racking to primary.  Sadly, however, the temperature going into the fermenters was still around 78, so it only made a difference of a couple of degrees, which is not worth the extra step.  Once the fermenters are in the fermentation fridge, the fridge is capable of getting the temperature down to the 64F target within a couple of hours, which is before fermentation begins anyway.  It was worth a try, but obviously not the solution.  Using ice to chill the water going through the counterflow would work, but again is probably not worth the work given the ability of the fridge to lower the temperature before fermentation.

Target gravity is 1.050, which we reached exactly, which may be due to some luck, because in addition to shortening the mash rest to 30 minutes, we’ve taken to starting the boil before the full volume has been collected, and we are starting the 90 minute boil time as soon as it first boils.  The result is that we’re not boiling all of the wort for 90 minutes, which one would expect would have an impact on the gravity.  In order to compensate, we had a stronger than usual boil, in part for increased wort concentration both for gravity but also to reduce the volume since by the time the kettle is filled there is less than 90 minutes to reduce the volume to the correct fermentation volume.  The fermenters can only safely hold around 6 gallons each without excessive blow-off, and ending up with extra wort is wasteful.

The hoppy brown ale was only in the fermenters for 5 days since last week’s batch got pushed back to the 4th of July holiday, but we racked it to kegs since we needed to repitch the yeast for today’s batch.  Perhaps because of the shortened fermentation, the gravity has only dropped to 1.019.  It started at 1.054, so it’s only 4.6% now and will be around 4.8% or 4.9% once fully conditioned.  This is similar to the last batch though, which started at 1.046 and ended at 1.013.  The kegs were dry-hopped with two ounces of Centennial each and force-carbonated.

The Bo Pils has had six weeks of lagering now, and a tap just opened up with the first keg of the Denali pale ale kicked, so soon we will be drinking the first lager from the dry yeast batches.  I hope our warmer summer weather arrives soon.  We had a nice spell in mid-June, but since then it’s been cooler overall, with quite a bit of rain, especially this week.  Next weekend will probably be time to brew an IPA, since it will be the fourth pitch of the yeast.  So far I haven’t seen the need to dump the Pub yeast in favour of splitting the WLP002 into both fermenters, as the clarity and flavour of the Imperial yeast has been comparable to the 002.  I will definitely consider using this yeast in future.

4 July 2016

posted by benjy edwards

A funny thing happened on this long holiday weekend.  I sanitized, dry-hopped, and co2-purged two corny kegs on Friday night, expecting to need them on Saturday to rack the Cashmere single-hop bitter brewed last weekend whilst brewing another batch.  On Saturday I went out for a ride, fully intending to go for two hours at most, to leave time to brew the beer.  The cloudy weather gave way to full sun, I was feeling pretty good, so I ended up riding for almost five hours instead.  I figured I would brew the next day, on Sunday.  Sunday rolls around, and I left for a ride with enough time to get an hour or an hour and a half in before starting the brew.  The same thing happened, the clouds rolled away, the weather was warm, and I rode for over four hours.

So, here it is on the Fourth of July, and I still need to brew.  I rode for just over an hour, and got started on the batch just after noon, so as to leave time for a quick trip to the Indian reservation for some cheap fireworks.  My oldest son Colin loves fireworks so much he almost considers the Fourth to be better than Christmas.  Almost.

Today’s recipe is our hoppy brown ale, which is so tasty that the February batch needs to be replaced soon.  No change to the recipe, although since we are milling our grain twice now, the increased efficiency yielded an OG of 1.054 instead of the 1.046 achieved last time, with the same malt bill.  As in the past, the debittered black malt was only added to the mash during wort collection, so as to avoid further acidification of the mash.  Despite that, the mash pH was still low, at 4.90.  This was surprising, since we used only 1 ml of lactic acid in this mash, down from 2 ml last time, and that time the pH was 5.06.

Hops are Nugget for bittering, then Cascade for flavour at 30 minutes, and equal additions of Cascade and Centennial at 10 minutes, followed by more Cascade at 5 and 0 minutes.  The chill resulted in a wort temperature of almost 80 degrees, so something is going to have to be done about the chilling process.  Perhaps the easiest technique would be to chill the wort in the kettle with the immersion chiller, knocking it down from boiling to around 160F to 170F, then running it through the counterflow.  I’m not sure if that would be enough to enable the ground water to get the wort that much colder, but it is worth trying before attempting to use ice to pre-chill the cooling water, as we needed to do back in Ohio.  It makes me miss the cold well water we had when we first moved to Olympia!  We tried slowing the rate of the wort through the chiller, but this makes only a slight difference and if the rate is slowed too much, bubbles appear in the line right from the kettle valve, and aerating the wort when it is still hot is not good.  For this batch we were able to get the wort down to 65F within a few hours, before the fermentation began, so no harm done.

The last batch was kegged up, and the difference between the yeasts was interesting.  I was surprised and pleased to see that the Imperial Pub yeast cleared just as well as the WLP002, and actually attenuated more as well: 1.010 compared to 1.013.  However, the flavour of the beer from the 002 was better in my opinion than the Pub yeast.  These samples were direct from the primary of course, so a better comparison will be when the beer is conditioned and ready to serve.  As again though, when comparing other yeasts to the English Ale from White Labs, I wonder if I prefer the White Labs because that is what I am used to, or if I really like the flavour better.  It seems to carry across styles, so what that says I’m not really sure.

As for the beer itself, I like the flavour of Cashmere, perhaps not quite as much as all-Cascade, but it is a nice hop.  I don’t think it’s quite as fruity or as bitter as Cascade, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.  As with the yeast comparison, a better assessment will be possible once conditioned and with the dry hop in effect.

The next batch is likely to be an American pale ale or IPA.  We will see what we have in the way of hops to assist in the decision.  We definitely have a lot of Simcoe, so a Simcoe IPA is certainly possible.