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!

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.