2 September 2017

posted by benjy edwards

After a break of almost four months, it’s past due time to get back to brewing.  The weather has been great this summer, so I suppose it’s as good a time as any to have a break, but there’s a reunion of my rowing teammates in two weeks, and I’ve been asked to supply some beer.

The recipe is Hophead, but with a different hop than Cascade.  I’ve had a pound of Boadicea whole hops on hand for a while now, so I’m using it here, along with a grist of simply Maris Otter.  Despite being out of practice in making beer, the brew day went very well, with the only omission being that of taking a pre-boil gravity.  It did not matter though, since we achieved an original gravity of 1.042, just a tad higher than target.  We also managed to keep the session to less than 4 hours, helped by the fact that we didn’t need to rack any beer.

Because of the hot summer temperatures, the wort chiller only got the wort down to 86F or so, so I chilled the carboys for a few hours before pitching the yeast, which was a smack pack of Wyeast 1968 that I started on Thursday and fed with more wort on Friday night.  It was nice and active by Sunday morning and there were even signs of fermentation late Saturday night, despite pitching later than usual.

I need to rack this batch next Saturday so it has time to condition for the trip to the reunion on the Oregon coast, and I’ll try to brew another batch for the yeast, but I may need to do that on Sunday since the bike racing team party is on Saturday at my house.  Recipe ideas are for another cask ale, as usual, perhaps Landlord or Harvey’s best bitter.

21 May 2017

posted by benjy edwards

No brewing today, but we needed to keg the IPA we brewed last week.  Each corny was dry-hopped with an ounce of Simcoe and an ounce of Chinook, and force-carbonated.  I was surprised to see that the gravity had dropped down to 1.008, which is very low.  This is no doubt due to the low 149F mash temperature and the malt bill, which was just two-row, pilsner, and Vienna.  The beer is very light in colour, clear, and has great hop aroma and flavour.  This one turned out really well!  With the 1.062 OG and low finishing gravity, this IPA is going to be almost 7.5% ABV.

We’ll take a break for a while and then resume brewing when we’ve got 6 or 8 empty kegs.

14 May 2017

posted by benjy edwards

Today’s batch is an IPA, no surprise there.  It is a different recipe, however, one based on a recent find which I much enjoyed, the IPA from Saint Archer.  It is a typical San Diego style IPA, very crisp, clean, and dry.  From the colour, it appears likely to be only pale malt, so our malt bill is the last 10 pounds of domestic two-row that we had, plus 13.5 pounds of Best pilsner malt, and four pounds of Vienna.  The mash temp was 149F and since we are running low on propane, the strike and sparge liquor were heated by our heatstick and by boiling water on the stove, sparing the last of the propane for the boil.  This worked well, provided one remembers to start first thing in the morning.

During the mash rest, we kegged up the Fuller’s 1845, which despite its day and a half lag and having been brewed on Monday, attenuated down to 1.012, so it will be about 6.5% ABV.  This beer is not dry-hopped, and we force carbonated both kegs since at that strength it is certainly not a session beer.  The colour is a chestnut brown and has a delightful malt flavour.

Once that was done, the wort was recirculated a couple of times and then collected for the boil.  The boil went well, with no boilovers even considering the massive quantities of hops chucked in.  We used Columbus, Simcoe, Chinook, Centennial, and Citra throughout the boil and added a pound of cane sugar at the end.  The target gravity was 1.062 and we reached 1.060.

The total brew day time was four hours, which is quite quick considering we still use a 90 minute boil.  One technique we’ve been doing recently is starting the boil before all the wort is collected, and basing the boil time on when it first boils.  This means that we’re adding the sixty minute hops soon after the full volume is collected.

It is unlikely that we will use this yeast for a sixth time, since we only have 3 empty kegs and 2 of those will be used for the IPA we made today.

8 May 2017

posted by benjy edwards

I had planned to brew on Sunday, 7 May, but the weather was really nice so I took the opportunity to ride my bike.  That should have meant skipping this week, but on Monday my son Owen needed to go to the eye doctor unexpectedly, so after that I had the afternoon to brew.  I enjoyed the Fuller’s 1845 clone we made a while back, so today is the second batch of it.  I had to revise the malt bill somewhat since we were out of Special B and melanoidin, so I used Fawcett’s 120L dark crystal in place of the former and kiln amber in place of the latter.  We will see what those changes do to the beer.  There were no problems during the brew day, but later on it surprised me that we had such a long lag before the yeast began fermenting.

The previous batch was up to 75F at the end of fermentation, and of course I did not want to begin the Fuller’s at the temperature, so the pitching temp was reduced to 65F.  That must have caused the yeast to go dormant, because after 24 hours there was still no activity.  Finally, on Wednesday morning, 36 hours later, the yeast was active.  I had started to think there was something really wrong, so I increased the temperature to 68F on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning the yeast had bumped it up to 69F.  Perhaps having brewed on Saturday last week and not until Monday this week, the extra two days also contributed to the yeast going to sleep.

We also kegged the IPA from last week, which was tasting very nice already.  We dry-hopped each keg with an ounce of Citra and an ounce of Chinook, and the gravity was already down to 1.011.  Clarity was also very good, proving that this Thames yeast does flocculate well.  Next weekend we will brew another IPA, I’m thinking something similar to Saint Archer IPA, a very dry, crisp, and hoppy West Coast IPA from San Diego.

29 April 2017

posted by benjy edwards

This weekend we brewed on Saturday since the weather will be nicer on Sunday, plus I’ve got lots of pizza-making activities to do on Sunday.  The recipe is an IPA similar to the award-winning Breakside IPA.  The malt bill is domestic two-row, Munich, and light crystal.  There were no problems in the mash, except the temperature was 154F instead of 153F, but that is hardly an issue.

During the mash rest we kegged up the Harvey’s Best from last week, with no dry hops in either keg.  The gravity was down to 1.010, so that is great attenuation, and the beer was quite clear.  I like the Thames yeast so far, though I haven’t tried any finished beer yet, just samples from primary.

We did a full 90 minute boil, adding Columbus hops at 60 and 30 minutes, and then Centennial at 10 minutes and a combination of Citra and Chinook at 5 and 0 minutes.  The chill went fine, no problems with a slow runoff like we had last week, so I think that was down to the seeds in the Bramling Cross hops.  We hit our target OG of 1.060 and by this evening we needed blowoff tubes on the fermenters.

Next week will likely be the second batch of Fuller’s 1845, followed by another IPA to finish off this pitch of yeast.

23 April 2017

posted by benjy edwards

Happy St. George’s Day!  All week I’ve been monitoring the Thames yeast as it ferments the Simcoe-hopped cask beer, and I was pleasantly surprised to see near the end of the week that it was clearing nicely.  Not quite the amazing flocculation of the Fuller’s yeast, but very good nonetheless.

Today’s recipe is another cask beer: once again an attempt to reach something close to Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter.  I hadn’t changed the recipe at all, except to include a bit of East Kent Goldings in place of some of the Bramling Cross.  This week I was sure to use filtered water for all of the brewing liquor, and encountered no problems during the brew day until it came time to chill the wort.  At first I noticed a lot of bubbles in the line from the kettle to the chiller, which is very unusual.  I made sure all of the hose connections were secure, but the problem persisted.  It got worse when the flow slowed, then almost stopped.  I had no choice but to sanitize a spoon and scrape off some hops from the kettle screen.  This solved the flow problem, but I had to do it once or twice again to keep it going.  I only used four ounces of the total pound hops as pellets, so I don’t know if that was too muc or if it was the seeds contained in the Bramling Cross whole hops that were blocking the screen.

In any event, it only caused a 15 minute delay in the brew day, so all in all not much bother.  The original gravity turned out to be 1.043 instead of the target 1.040, so perhaps the boil was a bit strong, since we ended up just shy of 5.5 gallons in each fermenter.

While the mash was proceeding, we kegged up the Simcoe version of Hophead.  Clarity was indeed very good, and the yeast attenuated to 1.012 in one carboy and 1.011 in the other.  Best of all, the beer tasted great, with no sign of any ill effects from the chlorinated liquor.  Both were racked to kegs with two ounces each of Simcoe and left to condition at room temperature.

Next week will either be an IPA or a second batch of the Fuller’s 1845 which turned out so well the first time we brewed it.  Also in the works are another IPA, and if we stretch the yeast to a sixth batch, perhaps a double IPA.

16 April 2017

posted by benjy edwards

After a break of almost two months, it is definitely time to get back to brewing.  The empty kegs have been accumulating for a while now, we are up to 8 empties, a sure sign of needing more beer.  I intended to brew last weekend, but the weather was decent so I rode instead.

I recently got a vial of a recently released special strain from White Labs; their Thames Ale yeast, which I thought I would try.  The flocculation is listed as high, which is a good as it gets except for the Fuller’s strain which is the only “very high” flocculating yeast in the world, but the starter I made on Saturday did not clump at all after taking it off the stir plate, so that’s some cause for concern there.

The recipe is a SMaSH with Maris Otter and Simcoe, so a sort of Hophead clone but with Simcoe instead of Cascade.  I’ve used Citra, Chinook, Belma, and Cashmere before, but not Simcoe.  Target gravity was 1.038 but we reached 1.040 even with a shorter 75 minute boil instead of the usual 90 minutes.  With the 30 minute mash rest and some efficient recirculation due to not having to keg a previous batch, we kept the total brew time to under 4 hours.  There was a bit of messing about with cold water to get the 153F mash temp right, as it started out at 158F for some unknown reason.

However, the problem of the day reared its head when Colin asked me why I was using the unfiltered water supply for brewing, rather than connecting up post-filter to fill the mash and hot liquor tanks.  Oh no!  So, the result is that the mash liquor was chlorinated, and the first two or three gallons of sparqe liquor also was chlorinated, before I discovered the problem.  I had already added 9 ml of lactic acid to this liquor, so I didn’t want to chuck it out, so I just added filtered water to top up the HLT.  I was more concerned when I could smell the chlorine coming from the HLT once it was up to temperature.

The only solace I can take from this situation is that there is a brewer in my club who makes great beer that tells me he uses the city water straight from the tap, no filtration.  If he can get away with it, perhaps it won’t be a problem with this batch, though certainly not one I will willingly repeat.  Apart from this mistake, the rest of the brew went well, and there was fermentation by next morning.  Fingers crossed!

5 March 2017

posted by benjy edwards

I had intended to brew today, a final batch with this yeast, but the weather here has gotten very cold again, plus I had a busy morning due to a cheesemaking class, so I skipped the last batch.  It turns out that this was a good idea, as we had to keg up the Hophead from last week, and the yeast in at least one of the fermenters seems to have mutated, with a slightly phenolic aroma and flavour.  I think pushing the yeast into another batch would have been a mistake.  Time will tell on how the two kegs turn out.  The gravity was lower than all previous batches as well, which could be a telling sign of a change in the yeast.  Both had dropped to 1.008 in only a week, very unusual for the WLP002.

We dry-hopped each corny with two ounces of Cascade and will allow them to condition naturally.  If the end results are a bit phenolic, then I will opt to bring a previous cask beer to the PNWHC in place of the Hophead.  The Batham’s BB is very tasty, so that’s an option, or there is the Cashmere single-hop bitter as well.

26 February 2017

posted by benjy edwards

Although we are getting to the end of this run of yeast, we’re still brewing cask ale, because we committed to serving two cask beers at the upcoming Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference, 17-18 March.  This is the second beer to make for serving at my seminar on home-brewing cask ales.  I knew I wanted to bring an English bitter, but couldn’t decide on a recipe, so opted for our go-to Hophead clone.  Continuing with the experiment about blending malts, I used half each of Maris Otter from Fawcett and Baird.  Hops are just Cascade, for bittering and 30, 15, 10, and 5 minute additions.  The mash rest was thirty minutes at 153F.

The dark mild had six days to ferment, during which time it reached 1.016 in one fermenter and 1.017 in the other.  No dry hops in the kegs, of course, just leaving enough headspace in the kegs to achieve good condition.  I have yet to decide whether to serve one of the ales from a pin instead of a corny keg, but of course if I do, it will have to be the Hophead.

20 February 2017

posted by benjy edwards

Lately, I have been brewing primarily on Sundays, mostly because there are more football matches aired on Saturdays (!).  This weekend, though, I am taking advantage of the holiday to brew on Monday.  The recipe is a low-gravity cask beer, which is unusual for the fifth use of the yeast.  The reason is that it is the right time to brew the beer that I will be serving at the Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference in Vancouver, Washington next month, where I will be presenting a seminar on brewing and serving cask-conditioned ales at home.  I did the seminar last year at the inaugural event and the organisers were kind enough to invite me to give it again.

I will be taking two ales, a dark mild and a bitter.  Today’s batch is the dark mild, and we will brew the bitter next weekend.  I made a few forced changes to the grist bill, because I am out of Special B and kiln coffee malts.  I increased the Fawcett Dark Crystal II to replace the Special B, and replaced the kiln coffee malt with a bit more pale chocolate malt.  Just for the hell of it, I replaced the flaked maize with flaked oats the peat malt with a cherry-smoked malt from Briess.  The target gravity is 1.042 and our actual gravity was 1.043.

We always follow a 60 minute boil for this beer, which is the only repeated recipe that uses the shorter boil.  This, along with our now-standard 30 minute mash rest, enabled us to brew this batch in a speedy 3.5 hours.  There is only one hop addition, Bramling Cross at 45 minutes for about 25 IBUs.

While recirculating the wort, we kegged up the Mosaic pale ale brewed on Sunday.  It attenuated well, down to 1.010 on one fermenter and 1.011 on the other.  Each keg was dry-hopped with 1.75 ounces of Mosaic, naturally, and force carbonated.

While the mild was boiled, I dumped out some of the yeast since the cake at the bottom of each carboy was about an inch thick.  Perhaps this was the reason that the fermentation did not start as quickly as previous batches, or maybe the lower gravity of this wort compared to the pale ale from last week had some effect.  I do not remember ever pitching a lower gravity batch onto a previous higher-gravity batch, so this is a bit of a test.  It is customary to pitch yeast into progressively stronger worts, and there must be a reason.  One of course is that you don’t want to repitch yeast from a very strong beer because the yeast has been stressed from the high alcohol environment of the previous beer, but in this case I am re-pitching from a 1.052 OG to a 1.043 OG, which one wouldn’t think could make much of a difference.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so as Charlie Bamforth likes to say: “suck it and see”.  I certainly hope the experiment is not a failure, as I will not be the only one drinking the results!