30 October 2016

posted by benjy edwards

This week we are brewing a Citra pale ale, my favourite hop after Mosaic.  The malt bill is loosely based on our clone of the Kern River Citra double IPA, scaled down to 1.052 OG, using Great Western two-row, Munich, Vienna, carapils, aromatic, and wheat malt.  With our thirty minute mash at 151F, it should be fairly fermentable.

We were running low on propane, so rather than get more, we opted to use our electric water heater for the hot liquor and strike liquor.  It took hours and hours, but eventually it raised them to the proper temperatures.  If I can remember in the morning, it would be a good way to save propane for regular brewing.  We used the Milwaukee MW102 bench meter for the first time and discovered a half pH point discrepancy with the handheld meter, which may mean that our mash and sparge pHs have been .5 pH points too high.  We added more lactic acid than usual and the mash pH was 5.57 and the sparge liquor was 6.17.  Close enough!  I should replace the handheld meter probe and see what that gives us.

While the wort was recirculating, we kegged up the Hophead, having added a couple of ounces of Cascade to each keg.  Racking gravity was down to 1.012, so it should be right around 4.0% ABV.  It tasted great out of the fermenter, as this beer always seems to do.  It is definitely a favourite, if not the outright best one.  During the boil, Simcoe was added for bittering and then Citra at 30, 15, 10, and 5 minutes in copious quantities.  The wort was chilled to 76F, the best the groundwater could do, then cooled down to 65F for fermentation.  Another successful batch.

Next time we will likely make an IPA, if it is the last use of the yeast, or a batch of the hoppy brown or even a stout if we elect to push the yeast to a sixth pitch.  Am I feeling lucky?

23 October 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Another week, another batch!  We’re in need of more cask ale, so a British golden ale is a good follow-up to the dark mild we made last week.  The recipe is Hophead again, easily my favourite golden ale or hoppy clean bitter.  No changes to the recipe, simply Fawcett Maris Otter and Cascade hops.  Thirty minute mash rest at what ended up being higher than expected, more like 155F instead of 152F.  The mash pH was 5.3 and the hot liquor was 5.8, so pretty much ideal.

Target OG of 1.040 was hit spot-on, which was unexpected because it appeared from the pre-boil gravity that we were going to be a few points higher.  No complaints, though!  We used a pound of Cascade in all, with lots of late hops at 15, 5, and 0 minutes.  The clarity of the wort into the kettle was bad at first, but after the usual three recircs it was running clear, and after the boil it was crystal clear going into the chiller.  Our ground water has cooled down a bit, so it was in the mid-70s going into the fermenters rather than edging toward 80F.  We chilled it the rest of the way to 65F in the fridge.

During the mash and recirculation, we were able to rack the dark mild into kegs.  No dry hop of course, and the gravity was down to 1.017, so after further conditioning it should be about 3.5% ABV.  Next week will likely brew an American pale ale which we can split to serve via co2 and on handpump.  Mosaic, Citra, or Simcoe are likely candidates, or perhaps a combination of them.  The Mosaic we got last year is disappointing as a single hop, so we may be better off combining it with Citra.  We also have plans on brewing the hoppy brown again, as it is currently my favourite on tap.

16 October 2016

posted by benjy edwards

After trying out the extract kit last weekend, now it is time to do a full all-grain ten gallon batch.  Our dark mild is almost gone, so that is needed once again and is a good low-gravity beer for the yeast to grow.  The recipe is unchanged except for increasing the quantities of pale chocolate, chocolate, and brown malt in order to punch up the roastiness and chocolate character of the beer.  Hops change too, but in a mild they are just there for a background bitterness.  This time we used Bramling Cross at 45 minutes left in the hour-long boil.  We kept the mash rest down to our now-standard 30 minutes, and instead of recirculating for three times, we cut it to twice, since the wort was running clear and in a dark beer such as this, total brilliance is not really needed.  In any event, I trust the Fuller’s yeast to clear it.

The original gravity was 1.042, which is two points above target.  The ground water is still at summer temperatures, so the wort in the fermenters was in the high 70s and was chilled down to 66F in the refrigerator.  We had to split the yeast from last week into a second fermenter, which makes it difficult to divide it evenly.  By Sunday evening the original fermenter was underway, with the second carboy yet to begin active fermentation.  All in all, another successful day of wort production.  It is good to be back in the regular routine of brewing.  After taking a month or more off, it is a bit awkward to get back into the good habits of making beer in our standard process.  There are always a couple of moments during the brew day where I have to pause and recall what few things need to be happening simultaneously at that moment for things to go smoothly and nothing gets missed.

Speaking of simultaneous events, during the wort recirculation we kegged up the Stumptown Brown clone from last week.  No dry hop in the keg, and there was no leftover beer from the primary, but we were lucky to fill the keg all of the way.  The gravity was down to 1.018, so with the new yeast culture along with what I would expect to be a lot of unfermentable sugars from the vanilla almond granola we added to the steeping grains, we have a rather sweet beer.  It will likely attenuate a bit further in the keg and along with the bite of carbonation, it should be more balanced in the end.  It was force-carbonated and chilled.

The next batches, as referred to last week, will be Hophead, our hoppy brown,  then perhaps a pale ale and IPA.  However, we may switch things up and brew at least half of the pale ale for cask, since we are low on cask ale at the moment.

8 October 2016

posted by benjy edwards

After quite a long break of three months, which seems longer since we miss brewing so much, we are back at it.  Next month being our twentieth anniversary since the start, it was fitting that we went back to our roots in a way with this batch.  I felt like it was taking a step back in time to be brewing an extract batch today, something not done since the  early days of the mid-90s.  The reason is a fluke, really: I won an ingredient kit at an AHA rally earlier this year at Fish Brewing, courtesy of Homebrew Exchange.  The owner kindly offered to exchange it for something else since he’d tried my beer and knew I didn’t need an extract kit, but since his shop is in Portland and I haven’t been down there this year, I decided to just use it.  I’m glad that I did, as it was both fun and educational to try extract again after so many years of all-grain, or “full-mash” brewing as they say in England.

I had to actually read the instructions in order to figure out how to do it, but it is really simple: merely steep the pre-crushed specialty grains and dissolve the two cans of syrup in boiling water.  The brew day was less than three hours, and could have been shorter if I’d been heating the liquor while the grains steeped.  I opted to add ingredients to supplement the specialty malts, both on the malt and hop sides.  An ounce of bittering hops and half an ounce of aroma hops seemed ridiculously low, so I added two ounces of Ahtanum pellets at the start of the boil and another two ounces at the end.  For malt, I added a pound of brown malt and a quarter pound of pale chocolate, along with the weird addition of a pound and a half of granola!  This is a commercial granola that contains almonds, vanilla, and canola oil, so it will be interesting to see if the oil harms the foam and whether any flavour is contributed by the granola.

The kit specifies an OG of 1.050, and we reached 1.054 with a yield of 5.5 gallons instead of the kit’s 5 gallon target.  We chilled, racked, and oxygenated as usual, though of course for only one fermenter.  Instead of pitching the generic Munton’s dry ale yeast, I made a starter of Wyeast 1968 last night and pitched that.  Fermentation began a few hours later.  I’m keen to see how it turns out!

Since it’s been such a while since we brewed, I already have the next few batches lined up.  First we’ll brew another batch of our dark mild, then our Hophead clone, and we also need more of the hoppy brown ale.  After that it’s probably onto the usual hoppy suspects of pale ale and IPA.  That is a total of six batches, enough for this yeast pitch.

I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but be warned – I might post some information about another current obsession of wood-fired pizza.  Having bought a wood oven for our backyard last year, starting this summer we’ve been making pizza in it, and learning all about authentic Neapolitan pizza.  We’ve had ten attempts at it and have already figured out how to make a respectable margherita pizza.  Delicious!