12 February 2017

posted by benjy edwards

This week we are brewing an American pale ale with my favourite hop, Mosaic.  I think I have more Mosaic on hand right now than ever before, so we can afford to use it throughout the whole process, from bittering to dry-hopping.  The malt bill is simple, just domestic two-row, Munich, and Victory, with the oddball ingredient being 15% oats.  We have not used oats in a pale ale before, but have enjoyed the few commercial versions that are out there.  Target gravity is 1.050 and 75 IBU.

The mash rest was 151F for our now-usual 30 minutes, then recirculated before the 90-minute boil, with bittering hops at 60 minutes followed by late additions at 30, 15, 10, and 5 minutes.  Our actual gravity is 1.051 and the wort smelled great.  Surprisingly, it was not hazy coming out of the kettle, which I thought would be the case with so much oats.

Meanwhile, we kegged up the hoppy brown from last week, which hadn’t attenuated as much as I’d expected: 1.020 on the first carboy and 1.019 on the second.  As the yeast was just as active (in fact more so, needing blowoff tubes) and we kept the temperature the same, the less attenuation must be the result of so much crystal malt.  It tasted great from the fermenters, though.  We dry hopped each keg with 1.75 ounces of Cascade and force-carbonated both.

There should be two more batches to come using this yeast, one of which is sure to be an IPA.  As for the other, who knows?

5 February 2017

posted by benjy edwards

For the third batch on this yeast, we are brewing our hoppy brown ale.  I did not intend to make any changes to the recipe, but upon discovering that we have no Special B, I was forced to substitute some English crystal, the Fawcett dark crystal II (120L), along with some brown malt.  Partly as a result of the malt changes, the OG turned out to be 1.058 instead of the target 1.048.  I think another reason for the gravity boost is that we are now milling the grain twice, which certainly helps with extract efficiency.

This week, I remembered to prep the kegs  the day before, so that helped things go smoothly.  The Cashmere single hop beer from last week was kegged with two ounces each of more Cashmere.  The gravity on this batch dropped really well, to 1.010.  These kegs were not force-carbonated, but will be left to condition on their own for serving on handpump.

As for the hoppy brown, we hopped with Columbus for bittering, and Cascade with a touch of Chinook for the late hops.  By Monday it was fermenting rapidly and I needed to fit blowoff tubes on the carboys.  Next week might be a pale ale or an IPA.  The clone of Fuller’s 1845 made last last year is drinking really well, so there is also the possibility of making that again soon.

29 January 2017

posted by benjy edwards

For the second batch this year, we are going with another cask ale, and also happens to be a second batch of a previous success.  This one is a single hop bitter using Cashmere, which turned out really well when we made it last year.  It is not an aggressive hop, but I like it in a simple cask bitter as a change from the Cascade in our Hophead clone.  While using only one hop, this recipe calls for Maris Otter, wheat malt, carapils, and aromatic malt.  I had intended to use aromatic, but found that we have run out, so the biscuit was used its place.  Target gravity is 1.038.

The brew day started well, until I realised when it came time to rack the Batham’s Best Bitter to kegs that I had forgotten to sanitise and dry hop a couple of kegs the night before, as I usually do.  I guess that is what happens when you don’t brew for a couple of months.  I had no choice but to fill a keg with iodophor and wait twenty minutes before racking the sanitiser to a second keg.  I dry-hopped each with an ounce of East Kent Goldings and purged them with co2.  By this time, the mash rest was over, the recirculation concluded, and the wort running off for the boil when I could fill the kegs and take gravity samples.  Both had reached 1.012, so this beer should be 4.2% ABV after given time to condition.  The mash pH was 5.57 and the sparge liquor pH was 5.78.

Meanwhile, the boil began and thirty minutes in, 2.5 ounces of Cashmere added for bittering.  Cashmere was also added at 30, 15, 10, and 5 minutes left.  The wort was chilled and racked into the primaries and the original gravity was 1.040.  The fridge was set to 66F and both primaries had krausen and were actively fermenting by Monday morning.

With ten empty kegs after kegging the Batham’s, it looks like we should brew four more batches after today’s beer.  Ideas are the dark mild, the hoppy brown, a Mosaic pale ale, and an IPA of some sort.  However, I also must work in the need for two different cask beers to take to the Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference in March.


22 January 2017

posted by benjy edwards

For the first batch of the new year, and after a long break (haven’t brewed since November!), we’re back to brewing with another cask ale.  I saw a couple of references to how good Batham’s Best Bitter is, and I previously brewed one attempt at a clone, so we’re having another go at it.  The malt bill is simply Maris Otter, but we are using equal parts Fawcett and Baird malts for more complexity over using only one maltster’s malt.  The hops are Fuggle and Sonnet Goldings for bittering, with East Kent Goldings late in the boil for flavour and aroma.  We hit our target gravity exactly, at 1.042.

The pH of the mash was correct, at 5.54, and our liquor pH was 5.90 after adding 7 ml of lactic acid.  With no previous batch to package, it was a quick four hour brew day.  The yeast we used was a PurePitch pack of WLP002 in a starter made on Friday night and fed on Saturday afternoon.  Signs of fermentation began on Sunday night and it was going well by Monday morning.

13 November 2016

posted by benjy edwards

For the sixth and last batch with this yeast, it is time to brew an IPA.  While it is common for us to finish with a double IPA, we are in need of single IPA, so the target gravity is “only” 1.060.  There aren’t any commercial beers that are grabbing me right now, so we made another version of our Boathouse IPA, with some inevitable tweaks to the malt and hop bills.  I don’t think our Boathouse IPA has been the same beer twice.

On to the recipe: domestic two-row, some wheat, biscuit, and Vienna, mash temperature of 150F for a high attenuation.  We omitted crystal malt, so it should be crisp and very pale in colour.  As for hops, we went with our favourites, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe in equal measure, with Columbus as the bittering hop.

The brew day went fine, with time during the mash and recirculation to keg up the Fuller’s 1845 clone.  The gravity had dropped to 1.012, so it will be around 6.5% ABV and the beer was remarkably clear, with no yeast haze of any kind.  The colour is a nice deep red, and flavour is malty with a sweet hop bite at the finish.  This comes across as a beer that will definitely develop over time and with some carbonation.  We did not dry hop this beer, as I very much doubt that Fuller’s does.  I debated whether to cask condition one of the kegs and serve it via handpump, but in the end decided not to, primarily because of its strength but also due to the fact that Fuller’s bottle-conditions this beer as well as serving it in kegs.  According to their website, this beer is not served in the cask.

I’m not sure when next we will brew, but the next batches will likely be a Batham’s Best Bitter clone, a SMaSH beer with Maris Otter and Cashmere, and more American pale ales and IPA.

5 November 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Today it is Bonfire Night in England, in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day.  Here in America, it is Teach Someone to Homebrew Day.  We are brewing today, but not teaching.  The recipe is a new one for us, an attempt to brew Fuller’s 1845, a bottle-conditioned English old ale for which a lot of professional brewers have respect.  Since we use the Fuller’s yeast strain for almost all of our beer, that certainly can’t hurt.

The grist is Maris Otter, English medium crystal, biscuit, melanoidin, Special B, and a touch of chocolate malt.  Target gravity is 1.064 and an ABV of 6.4%.  Our pre-boil gravity was correct, after having re-calibrated the refractometer since the last few brews have hit our OG but the pre-boil readings were way off.  It turns out that a fraction of a Plato error near zero (distilled water) translates to several points when reading original gravities.

Using our new bench pH meter, we got great mash and sparge liquor measurements, after adding more lactic acid than we have in the past.  The mash pH was 5.46, right in the range, and the hot liquor is 5.87, very close to the 5.80 ideal.

While the mash rested for 30 minutes, we kegged up the Citra pale ale brewed six days ago.  The gravity had dropped down to 1.010, so the yeast is attenuating well now.  Tasting this beer reminds me of why I love Citra so much.  Lovely hop.  Both kegs were dry-hopped with two ounces of Citra.  We force-carbonated one keg and are going to cask condition the other one.

Back to the old ale: the rest of the brew went well, the colour looked right when the kettle was full, so no adjustment was necessary.  When milling the malt it appeared very light in colour, but it shows what a small amount of chocolate malt makes, driving the colour from pale to brown.  The wort was bittered with a large charge of EKG since it is only 3.7% alpha, with a smaller amount of East Kent Goldings at fifteen minutes.  The gravity turned out to be 1.060, so the boil may not have been quite vigorous enough, but if we get good attenuation from out 150F mash temperature, we might reach the target 6.4% ABV.

We are still undecided on whether to use this yeast one more time, but if we do so, it is likely to be an IPA of some description.  Perhaps some domestic two-row, wheat, and either Munich or Vienna along with some great hops, such as Mosaic, Simcoe, Chinook, and Citra.  I also have some hop extract that I could use to cut down on the mass of whole cone hops in the boil.  I bought another pound of Cashmere recently after brewing a SMASH beer of our Hophead but using Cashmere instead of Cascade.  It’s a great hop.

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!