Saturday, June 27, 2015

Uses For Spent Grain, and Other Links

Now that I've started down the road of partial extract brewing, I've started to see some interesting changes in the beers I've been brewing.  For example, when tasting the rye pale ale, I noticed lacing along the edges of the glass.  Being new, I didn't know what it was, so when I described it to a buddy and brew guru of mine, he quickly let me know that it was "a good thing".  So I've been reading up on things like strike temperatures, and the effects of the heat of the water and time spent mashing on the amount of fermentables in the wort, etc.  As exciting as this is (not being sarcastic here, I'm really looking forward to some good beers coming out of using this method), there is the issue of that bag of spent grain sitting in a bowl as I'm going through clean up, after I've set the fermenter in a nice, safe place.  What do you do with a pound (or in the case of a recent brew, more than a pound) of spent grain?

My brew guru said that his just throws it away, but he's going to start keeping it for composting. He did say that he made dog biscuits from it once, and the dog seemed to like them.  Okay, great ideas, all.  My wife and I have horses, and where the horses are boarded, there are chickens (and we get fresh eggs every now and then), so I have a good use for spent grains.

But I also like cookies.  ;-)  Here are just a few of the recipes I found:

Deschutes Brewery
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I've also seen recipes for granola, pizza crust, and a wide range of other things that you can do with spent grain.  I heard stories of a brewery in Reston years ago, and that farmers from across Loudoun County would come out with their trucks and pick up the spent grain for their livestock.  With a lot of "farm to fork" restaurants in Loudoun, Prince William, and surrounding counties, this seems like a great idea.  I like the idea of a closed loop (or as much as possible) for this sort of hobby.  With horses, if I owned some land, I'd give the spent grain to my horses, who are excellent producers of quality fertilizer, which would then be used in a plot for growing hops.  ;-)

Home Brewing with Minimal Equipment
I recently ran across a fascinating read from the Swiss Hills Ferments blog that talks about how to home brew with a minimum of equipment.  I really like reading articles like this because they show how you can have an idea and just try it out to see how it goes...which has a significant amount of carry-over from my day job.  I really like that this also gives those who might be interested in home brewing but may be a little intimidated by the amount (and cost of) equipment they see in videos for 10 gallon brews...for less than $20 (minus shipping) they can try their hand at home brewing, see how it goes, and see if it fits their lifestyle.

Bottling in Plastic?
Based on the Swiss Hill Ferments blog, I was wondering...if someone had 2 liter soda bottles (my wife and I don't drink soda, so we don't have those around...), could they use those?  After all, the ginger ale recipe in True Brews uses 2 liter bottles (Note: Emma's blog is found here).  Also, the now-out-of-production PartyPig is PET plastic.  So there's another idea to try out...if you can find a Party Pig.  Like I said, the web site says that they're out of production.  As far as fermenting beer in a plastic bottle, most of what I've seen on the Internet leans toward glass, although some will say that the "rule of thumb" is that if it didn't hold a carbonated beverage before, you shouldn't try putting a carbonated beverage in it.  So what does this mean?  If you drink soda out of plastic bottles, you may be able to use those, at least once or twice.  Continual reuse of extended periods may not be a good idea.  However, what can it hurt to try it?

1 Gallon Small Batch Brewing
Being a small batch home brewer, I know that it can be hard to find recipes and recipe kits to get started, so I wanted to share what I'd cobbled together over time...

Northern Brewer - my first 1 gal kit was the Wil Wheaton VandalEyesPA kit, and it was very good!
Strange Brew
UrbanBrewery - link is on Etsy, to 1- and 3-gallon kits
MidWestSupplies - Monk's Cowl Belgian Ale recipe kit
MaltoseExpress - 1 gallon kits

Brooklyn Brew Shop - kits and mixes; I see these at my local Total Wine shop; I'd love it if they'd carry the refills, or have one pulled part so you can see what's in it; I know that the box includes the fermenter, but I'd like to see what else it has.

Craft-A-Brew - brewing kits; I saw a video that Platt R. put together on YouTube, showing how to use a Craft-A-Brew kit to make beer.  They're 1 gal kits, and he refers to them as "partial mash", in that they come with a small amount of grain that you steep prior to the adding the extract (about 1 lb) and bringing it to a boil.  This is very similar to what you can get from Northern Brewer, and aren't really what I'd call "partial mash"; I'd call them "extract with a steep".

HomeBrewingFun - Some excellent links to all-grain home brewing

Again, these are just starting points...some of the recipes I (and others) have tried produce a very light beer, particularly if the recipe is for something that's light anyway, like a blonde ale.  A 10 min steep of a small amount (1/5 lb or so) of grain doesn't seem to add any appreciable flavor or body to the resulting beer.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Golden Ale with Ginger

I'm a fan of Left Hand Brewing's Good Ju-Ju beer, and have thought, wow, how cool would it be to make my own variant of the beer?  Not a clone...if I want a Good Ju-Ju, I'll go get some. It's a seasonal brew, so it won't be available year round, but that's okay.  When I made a visit to Kettle & Grains, I asked the proprietor if he'd done any brewing with ginger, and it turned out that he had...he'd made a Christmas Ale last year with ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Note to self...go back around Christmas time this year...  ;-)

Brew Day: 24 June
1 hr Partial Mash, 3 qt water (strike temp: 156 F, expecting 10-12F temp drop when grain is added)
0.5 lb 2-row malt
0.5 lb carapils
0.3 lb rye
0.2 lb Victory

Boil: 45 min

1 lb Pilsen DME (@ 45 min)
7 g German Tettnang (@ 30 min)
1 oz fresh ginger root (sliced thin, in a muslin bag) (@ 10 min)

Yeast: Safale US-05

Once the wort cooled to approx 80 F, it was transferred into the fermenter, aerated, and about half a packet of yeast was pitched.  Around 12 hrs later, there isn't a lot of krausen, but there is some steady bubbling activity flowing through the blow off tube.

Addendum, 27 June: Checked the fermenter and blow off tube this morning; nice, steady flow of bubbles, albeit slower than yesterday.  So far, I've had some success with the partial mashing method (YouTube video here) I've been using, so I'm looking forward to how this one turns out.

Beer with ginger
Addendum, 8 July: Bottled the beer today (picture to the left just prior to bottling).  Got 9 good bottles out of it.  Throughout the process, I kept getting hints of ginger, which was pretty nice.  The color of the beer itself is pretty nice, and I'm really looking forward to trying this one in two weeks.

Tasting Notes, 27 July: Pours to a hazy golden color, with a light, non-persistent head.  Definite notes of ginger in the nose. Lots of really small bubbles; carbonation seems good.  Body is fine, can maybe be backed off just a bit.  Flavor of ginger is definitely there, but there's something of an after-taste that I can't identify, and it's somewhat distracting from the flavor of the beer.

Some thoughts for the next iteration of this beer are to back off of the rye, carapils, and Victory in the malt, and go with more 2-row, some wheat, and a small amount of carapils.  Also, reduce the overall amount; the total grain bill, with the DME, comes in at 3 lbs, and that's likely a little much for what I'd like to get out of this beer.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bavarian Hefeweizen

Early on in my brewing efforts, I tried out the NB Bavarian Hefeweizen recipe kit, and I have to say, I hoped for a beer with a bit more body.  Also, the end result wasn't a very cloudy glass of beer.  As such, I wanted to take another crack at it, so here's what I went with

Brew Day: 5 June
45 min boil/5 qt water

1 lb Bavarian wheat DME (@ 45 min)
7 g German Tettnang hops (@ 30 min)
1/2 lb Gold DME (@ 15 min)

Yeast: Safbrew WB-06

Once the boil was complete, I put the kettle in an ice bath in the sink, and cooled the wort to 80 deg F.  I then aerated the wort, and pitched a bit more than half of the packet of yeast.  Finally, I put the cap on the fermenter, inserted the blow-off tube, put the other end in a Gatorade bottle with some sanitizer solution in it, and put it in my special fermentation location.

My plan is to bottle in 2 wks, and then wait about 3 wks before I try one.  That'll put the first taste just before Bastille Day.

Bavarian hefeweizen
About 12 hr after putting the fermenter in the "fermentation location", the hefe is bubbling nicely.  That's the Angel's Share #1 in the background.

Bottled 19 June.

Addendum, 27 June: I visited Brew LoCo, a local home brew supply store recently, and was pleasantly surprised to see some interesting yeast offerings.  Apparently, they get specialty yeasts from the chemist from the Lost Rhino Brewery, and they come in 5 gallon and 1 gallon pitches.  Depending upon how this one turns out (and I'm strongly considering having a taste test on 3 Jul or thereabouts...), I may make a run up there to get a 1 gal pitch of the hefeweizen yeast and give that one a shot.

Tasting Notes, 27 July: Deep golden color, white head on the pour that fades quickly.  Carbonation is good.  Notes of fruit (albeit not banana) in the nose, with a touch of spice on the palate, most likely from the hops.  The beer isn't hazy, as would be associated with the style.  I could see bubbles rising in the glass for some time...carbonation isn't an issue with this one. Perhaps a little bit more body than I'd want in hefeweizen; this one is a bit heavier than I'd want.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Angel's Share

A while ago, there was a restaurant in Leesburg named "Vintage 50", and my wife and I liked to go there now and again.  The food and atmosphere were good, and we enjoy getting out.  I had just started drinking beer, and there was a brew there named Angel's Share that both of us really much so that my wife purchased a growler.  I really enjoyed it with the BBQ chicken flat bread that they had on the menu...the beer had a subtle sweetness to it, and it went really well with the BBQ sauce, and was a good counter to the goat cheese in the flat bread.

Like I said, we really liked this beer...and like most things I've really liked (Trader Joe's had a really awesome lentil soup packet for a while...), they stopped making it.  At one point when the restaurant expanded to include a location in South Riding, I'd either ask the manager at the local restaurant or call the "mother ship" and ask them if they'd be brewing it again.  I even asked the owner, who at one point said, "yeah, in a couple of weeks".  This was early spring several years ago.  Ah, I thought...good.  After "a couple of weeks", I called the main restaurant, and was told that no, they didn't have any plans to brew it.

Lately, as I've gotten into home brewing, I started asking again...but over time, people have moved on, locations were moved or closed, and when I did ask the staff, they'd pull out their smart phones and search on Google for "Angel Share" and get all kinds of results.  I recently found this description of the beer, and thought I'd give it a shot trying to make something that is close enough to enjoy.

From the description, this one sounds pretty interesting.  I have some golden LME and some NorthernBrewer SuperStructure on-hand, so I may start with that for the first attempt.  Another option would be to use the golden LME as a base malt, and then do a late addition of 1/2 lb of golden DME.

Saaz - easy enough, I have some of this on-hand, at least enough for a pale ale, and I can get more pretty quickly.  A recent trip to Kettle and Grains revealed that they had more than enough available.

This calls for a Belgian yeast, and being a small batch brewer, I'm not really thinking about purchasing some liquid yeast suitable for a 5 gallon batch...I'll do that once I get something close to what I'm interested in.  Right now, though, I have some Safbrew Abbaye and one Danstar Belle Saison packet, and I have some Safbrew T-58 on the way.

I recently ordered some Mangrove Jack M27; the reviews on this one sounded pretty good, so I purchased some, and may give it a shot.  I got two, so that I could try one for the Angel's Share, and maybe use the other for a Belgian-inspired ale.

Reviews of the Safbrew T-58 yeast indicate that it imparts a spicy, peppery flavor to the beer, so I was thinking that I'd use this for a rye pale ale, something to accentuate any spice in the rye.

First Attempt

Okay, here's my first shot at the recipe...gotta start somewhere, right?

Brew day - 3 June 2015
45 min boil/5 qts of water

1.6 lb Gold malt extract syrup
2 oz light Belgian candy sugar (@ 45 min)
7 g Saaz (@ 45 min)
7 g Saaz (@ 15 min)
7 g Saaz (@ 0 min)

Cool wort to ~ 80 deg F (ice bath in the sink).  Transfer wort to fermenter, pitch 1/2+ packet of Safbrew Abbaye yeast.

This one won't have a secondary; I'll bottle on 17 June (or within a few days), and let it sit in the bottles for at 2 1/2 - 3 weeks before I try one.  I'm thinking that it'll really be good around 4 weeks in the bottle.

I checked on the beer this morning, less than 12 hrs after putting it into the fermenter.  The image to the left shows you why it's a good idea to put the fermenting beer in a tub in a spare bathroom.

16 Jun: Bottled

Addendum, 1 July: This one isn't bad, although it didn't turn out like what I was looking for.  Definitely drinkable, with a bit of a spicy flavor, telling me that I need to back off of the hops a bit.  Very much a pale ale, although the effects of the Belgian yeast (albeit a dry one) are not really present.  For the next attempt, 7 g of Saaz hops at the beginning of the boil should be enough.

I had used the same yeast on this one as I had on the Tripel, but the time sitting in the fermenter was much shorter.  Perhaps a partial mash with munich, crystal and pale malts, with less extract, would get me a bit closer on the next attempt, as well as perhaps a move to a different yeast, even a liquid one.  Again, I may be able to use Safbrew T-58 for this one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Single Hop IPAs

Not long ago, I ran across this Men's Journal article, which is supposed to be a guide to hops.  Instead, it listed a couple of single hop beers, one of which (Bell's Two Hearted) is my go-to beer if it's on tap somewhere.  It provided these beers as an example of "if you want to know what this hop variety tastes like in a beer, try a beer that uses just that variety."  Honestly, that's not a bad idea.  In fact, it makes the beer making (and hopefully the drinking) easier.

Now, I have had some pretty hoppy IPAs, stuff referred to as "hop-ocalypse" and "molotov hop-tail", stuff described as being used to clean engine parts, or something that will peel the enamel off of your teeth.  Yeah, that's the good stuff.

A couple of the single hop IPAs that I've come across in my research include, but are not limited to:

Green Flash Mosaic Session IPA - I enjoyed one of these as the inspiration for this post.

Sierra Nevada Equinox Hops - haven't tried this one.

Hermitage Brewing Company has a Magnum and a Galaxy beer in their single hop series.

Double Mountain Brewery has a Clusterf#ck single hop IPA that I found online but haven't tried (a search via the web site indicates that they don't distribute anywhere near me).  I will tell you, though, that part of what got me started in trying different beers was the names on the labels...seriously.  The cooler the name, the more it made me laugh, the more likely I was to try it.  It doesn't mean that they were all just means that I tried the beer, and I like to think that I'm better for the experience.

Anyway, the site says that it uses pilsner and honey malts...I may try something like this using pilsen DME and a late addition of golden DME, and hopping with just cluster hops.

Here's an interesting article from SeriousEats explaining why you should stick to single-malt-single-hops (SMaSH) beers. Make sure to click on the link under "Get The Recipe" because it not only gives you the recipe, but also illustrates how to calculate the home brew bitterness units (HBU).  Not only that, it has some great ideas and thoughts for home brewers, such as what to use for bittering hops, and the hopping schedule for an IPA.  For example, from the recipe, the hop schedule and amounts for a 1 gallon small batch looks something like:

7g bittering hops, @ 60 min/start of boil
7+g hops, @ 15 min
7+g hops, @ 0 min/flameout
14g dry hop

Pretty easy, and similar to the schedule I've used for some of the IPAs I've brewed.  However, as a home brewer, I usually get my hops in 1 oz packets, which is just a bit more than 28g.  As such, I might use a high alpha acid hop for bittering (Centennial, Falconer's Flight 7Cs), and then use the full ounce of whichever hops I'm trying for aroma and flavor.  Otherwise, I'll just end up with a bunch of partial packets of hops sitting around, and the only thing I can really do with that is throw together a super complex, probably over-hopped IPA, kind of like what I did with  grapefruit IPA #2, I violated everything that the author, and others, have said about simplicity and focus in their recommendations for a single hop IPA...and we'll see in a bit how that turned out.  ;-)

Updates, 1 June

Some recent brewing activity (bottling, racking to secondary) incurred the need for an update...

Rye Pale Ale
Bottled today; got 9 bottles, but I broke one with a little too much effort put into the capper.  As this one is a pale ale, I didn't dry hop it.  I'm trying to come up with a VMI-related name for this one...thanks to the crystal rye, it's a little dark, but not dark like a stout, so I won't be using "The Sinks" or something similar that elicits something dark and foreboding in the name.

VMI Evening Gun
Grapefruit IPA #2
Racked to secondary, with a dry hop of 7g German Perle + 8g Amarillo (it's what was left).

Sticking with the VMI naming scheme, I'm thinking of calling this one "The Bomb", after the VMI student yearbook/annual.  With 5 different kinds of hops, 55g of total hops (that's almost 2 full ounces in a small batch), plus the grapefruit zest, this one is going to explode with flavor.  I had an idea when I was thinking "explode", and thought of the VMI Evening Gun, fired by cadets each evening during the SRC formation (image to the left).

I tried this one again because the first one was really good, with a subtle hint of grapefruit.  I'm really looking forward to trying #2 side-by-side with the first one...I kept a bottle handy for just that purpose.  This one's going to have a bit more of the grapefruit, but there's going to be other things going on...I didn't make one atomic change to the recipe.  Instead, I changed a whole bunch of things, most notably the hops.  While I am fan of IPAs and I do enjoy hops, many of the craft brews that I enjoy are single hops beers; most notably, Bell's Two Hearted is an IPA hopped with just Centennial hops, which (reportedly) gives it the grapefruit and pine flavors.  This one's going to be very interesting.

Jarrylo IPA
JM Hall, Cadet Chapel, VMI

No activity with this one today, I just like the idea of naming this one for JM Hall (image to the right), keeping with the VMI naming scheme I'm using for my home brews.  If this one turns out good...I mean, really good...the sad news is that I won't be able to reproduce it because it was only by someone's generosity that I happened to have some Medusa hops.  My first attempt at a single hop IPA using Medusa failed because the plastic cap on the fermenter cracked and let air in, souring the beer.  I used what I had left to hop this beer.

Dry Hop
I've mentioned "dry hopping" in a couple of posts now.  Dry hopping is adding hops to the beer after the wort has cooled.  To this point, I have done this during secondary fermentation.  The way I go about it is to bring a cup or so of water to a full, roiling boil and put a muslin bag into it to sanitize it.  I keep it in the hot water until I'm ready for it, even bringing it to a boil again if necessary.  I then put whatever combination of hops into it that I'm going to use for that dry hop, tie a knot in the end of the bag, and push it into the fermenter.  I then rack the beer to secondary, pushing the tube down into the fermenter as far as I can get it to go, so that there isn't a lot of splashing and oxygenation of the beer.  During this process, I have a piece of aluminum foil that I've sanitized wrapped around the top of the fermenter, to minimize exposure to the air.

I need to get a couple of glass marbles that I can sanitize and drop in the bag so that everything will just rest on the bottom of the fermenter.