Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hefe, Again

I tried a hefeweizen recipe in June, and it really didn't turn out the way I had hoped.  It was based on the NB 1 gal Bavarian hefeweizen recipe.  The fermentables for my second attempt consisted of 1.5 lb 1 lb of Bavarian wheat, 0.5 lb of gold) of DME, which is approximately 2.25 lb of grain.

I also think that the type and amount of hops lent itself to a spicier flavor in the beer.

For this one, I'm looking at a total grain weight of just over 2 lb, and I'd like to get a bit better head retention.  I also opted to use a different yeast, in hopes of getting something a bit closer to notes of banana and clove that you usually find in hefeweizens.

Brew Day: 28 July

Partial Mash - 1 lb of grain in muslin bag, strike temp of 156 - 158 deg F for 1 hr (in a cooler)
8 oz German Pale Ale malt
4 oz   Rahr Red Wheat malt
2 oz  carapils

Boil - 60 min
1 lb Bavarian Wheat DME (=~ 1.5 lb grain)
4 g German Perle (@ 60 min)

Jasper Yeast JY074 - 5 gal pitch, pitch ~1/2 of container.

This time, I tried something a little different with respect to aeration of the wort.  I filled the fermenter about 1/3 of the way up, and then removed the transfer hose.  I put a piece of sanitized aluminum foil over the top of the fermenter, and aerated the wort.  This created a bit of foam, but that died down as I added the rest of the wort.  With the yeast, I had removed the container from the fridge and allowed it to come up to about room temperature, and kept it well mixed.  I then pitched around half of the container (maybe a little less).

Hefeweizen, 29 July
This morning (29 July), I checked on the fermenter.  There's a steady flow of bubbles through the blow-off tube, and interestingly enough, there's nothing in the blow-off bottle besides the sanitizer solution I put in last night.  Yep, it's clear.  You can't tell from the picture to the left, but there's a good bit of bubbling activity in the fermenter...little bubbles rising up to the top of the beer.

Addendum, 31 July: The bubbles flowing through the blow-off tube has settled down quite a bit, so I replaced the blow-off tube with an air lock.  In under a minute, the cap was pushed up slightly, and floating after that...a good sign.  ;-)

Addendum, 6 Aug: I ran across this really interesting read today on what goes into a good hefeweizen.  What I like most about it is that it goes through the process of making different award-winning hefes, and then follows up with an option for those of us without the equipment to follow the process.

Addendum, 11 Aug: Bottled today.  Dissolved 1 oz of table sugar in 1/2 cup of boiling water, put that in a fermenter.  After giving it time to cool down, I racked the hefe into the fermenter, and then let it set for about 15 min.  I then bottled normally.  Ended up with 10 bottles.

Tasting Notes, 25 Aug: Foamy, non-persistent head, good good, that after opening the bottle, some of the beer bubbled out of the bottle. Mild, non-persistent lacing. Definite banana aroma, still trying to figure out how it finishes.  I may leave that to the next taste test.  Terri likes it, definitely a keeper.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mathy Stuff, Conversion, and Troubleshooting

Remember the early days of when you were in school and you were learning some math principle, and you asked yourself, when am I ever going to need to use this??  We've all done it, and decided that we'd never need it...but years later, we'd end up using those basic principles and skills so much and so often that we weren't aware of it.

The first time I discussed mathy stuff (i.e., converting recipes to small batches), the math was pretty simple...straight-forward division, with maybe a little rounding thrown in there for good measure.  Part of what I'd been trying to do with that was to figure out why some of the initial 1 gal batches I'd tried were so lacking in body.  By looking at the amount of fermentables in a 'good' brew and comparing that to what was in the recipe, I would then "do the math" to try to figure out where things might be lacking.  I know that looking at the total weight of grains, and doing conversions for extracts (dry or syrup) isn't necessarily a 1-to-1 direct relationship in all recipes, but it's a starting point.

Here's some conversion math from MidWest.  If you're really lazy, Jay's has a chart for you.  Home Brewer's Assoc. has some similar calculations. Northern Brewer has some gravity per pound per gallon calculations you can use, if you're up for that sort of thing, and BYO has some similar calculations.

In short, I opted to go with the conversions from MidWest, which look like this...
LME/grain : 4/5; that is, 8 lb of LME =~ 10 lb of grain
DME/grain : 3.2/5; that is, 6.4 lb of DME =~ 10 lb of grain

Carrying that a step further, the above conversions line right up with the LME/DME conversion of 1.25/1 (or, 1.25 lb of LME =~ 1 lb DME).

Simply for the sake of comparison, let's take a look at three of the 1 gallon recipes available from True Brews, using these conversion factors...again, this is simply for the sake of comparison.  What I've listed in the following table is the recipe, the total weight of the grain bill, and the estimated ABV specified by the recipe.

Recipe Amount ABV (est)
Amber Ale (pg 97) 2 lb 14 oz 6 %
IPA (pg 101) 3 lbs 6 %
Apricot Wheat Ale (pg 104) 2 1/2 lb 6 %

As you can see, all of these recipes utilize more than 2 lbs of grain for a 1 gal brew.  One of the early beers that I brewed as a 1 gal small batch was the Wil Wheaton VandalEyes PA, from Northern Brewer.  I really liked the body of the resulting beer, and if you use the conversion from above, the 1.5 lb of gold malt extract syrup is approximately equal to 2.34 lb of grain.  The 5 gal all-grain recipe calls for 13 lb, 14 oz of grain; converting to a 1 gal recipe (simply based on weight), that would be 2.775 lbs (2 lb, 12 oz) of grain.

Yeah, I know that this process that I've walked through isn't a 1-to-1 conversion, but it's a simple method that I've been looking at to give myself an idea of what a beer that results in adequate body looks like from the beginning.

Troubleshooting - Lacing and Head Retention
Like many home brewers, I've run into issues with the beer I've brewed.  Something that's on my radar at the moment is lacing and head retention.

So, here's the go-to brew when I'm out-and-about is Bell's Two-Hearted.  It's got a great flavor, great color, a really nice head (it usually still has a head when it gets to the table), and some really awesome lacing going on.  Most of the beers I've brewed haven't been like that...although, according to my tasting notes, the first rye ale I brewed did have some good lacing.  So, I started doing some research into what might be the issue, particularly for the beer I brewed with ginger.

In doing my research, I found a couple of reasons why there might be issues with head retention and lacing.  For the moment, I'm discounting the bottle cleanliness, as my cleaning process hasn't changed at all since I started; it's been consistent and I have had at least one beer with some good lacing.  This thread on HomeBrewTalk has some good input (talks about wheat, carapils), and it references an interesting malt chart.  This BeerSmith article includes some interesting tidbits for enhancing beer head retention.  Here's a pretty interesting BYO article on techniques for getting good beer foam, which includes a brief discussion of how boiling barley malt denatures a protein called LPT1, which leads to good bear foam.

In reading through these and other sources, the understanding that I've developed thus far is that base malts should lead to good beer foam, and using wheat and carapils can lead to good head retention and lacing.  Pretty simple at this point, I know, but it's a start.

Bell's Two-Hearted Clones
HomeBrewTalk Recipe
Recipe from the Home Brewer's Assoc.
BeerSmith Recipe

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Azacca IPA

When I joined the AHA, the enticement to join was that new (or renewed) memberships would receive 4 oz of Azacca hops, and 4 oz of Jarrylo hops.  I really like how the Jarrylo hops turned out in the JM Hall Pale Ale, so getting some more hops just for joining was a good deal.  Also, there are a number of other benefits, like getting discounts, etc.

I had a bit of time today, so I looked around at what I had available and did a brew using the Azacca hops.  I had some of the Northern Brewer Super Structure LME still available, so I added a partial mash, and used only the Azacca hops.

Brew Day: 18 July

Partial Mash
½ lb Belgian Munich malt
½ lb German Pale malt

Start with 2 ½ qt water at 156 deg F.  Mash for 1 hr, then cycle wort through the cooler manually.  Bring 3 qt water in brew kettle to 170 deg F, steep malt bag for ~ 10 min.  Remove grains, add wort (~ 2 qt; total volume 5 qt).  Add malt syrup, and then bring to gentle boil for 60 min.

Boil: 60 min
1.2 lb Northern Brewer Super Structure malt syrup (@ 60 min)

9 g Azacca (@ 60 min) (AA: 10.3%)
7 g Azacca (@ 30 min)
9 g Azacca (@ 15 min)
12 g Azacca (@ flameout)

Yeast: Safale US-50

At this point, my plan is to leave it in primary fermentation for approx. 10 days, and then do a dry hop in secondary, for at least a week.

Addendum, 20 July: I checked in on the fermenter this morning and there is a steady stream of bubbles flowing through the blowoff tube into the jar (Gatorade bottle).  Things seem to be progressing nicely at this point.

Addendum, 29 July: Racked the beer to secondary, dry hopped with 13 g of Azacca.  When I put the cap on the fermenter and inserted the air lock, it only took a few seconds before I could see that the air lock cap was being elevated by the production of gases from the beer.

Addendum, 11 Aug: Bottled today (2 wks dry hop).  Dissolved 1 oz of table sugar in 1/2 cup of boiling water, put that in a fermenter.  After giving it time to cool down, I racked the IPA into the fermenter, and then let it set for about 15 min.  I then bottled normally.  Ended up with 9 bottles.

Taste Test, 25 Aug: Starts with a big, pillowy head, which persists.  Nice lacing.  Definite flavors of grapefruit and pine.  Very, very good flavor, and definitely an aggressive hop schedule (i.e., equal to about 6 oz for a 5 gal batch).  Definitely a keeper.

Addendum, 2 Sept: Had a tasting with some friends at the end of last week, but didn't have time to add wife came up with the name "So Fly IPA", because this one is just  ;-)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Angel's Share #2

My first attempt at replicating the Angel's Share brew was  not a failure as a beer, but it did miss mark with respect to what I was aiming for, per my the tasting notes.  From the web site where I found the description of the beer that I'm attempting to replicate; not a recipe but just a description:

Our version of a Belgian-style Pale Ale. Brewed with pale, crystal and munich malts and a touch of flaked barley and then spiced with a light touch of Saaz hops. This beer is then fermented with a Belgian yeast strain from the A Chouffe brewery in the Ardennes region. Light burnished bronze in color with an accent on malt sweetness and a focus on fruit flavors from the yeast’s fermentation.

This description explains why we liked the beer so much.  Also, I thought it went very well with the BBQ chicken flat bread that was on the menu; it had a sweetness from the BBQ sauce, as well as some goat cheese and red onion, and the beer went very well with all of that.

Brew Day: 15 July 

Malt Bill
½ lb FB CaraMunich 80L
½ lb Rahr 2-row
½ lb German pale malt
½ lb Belgian Munich malt
½ lb GoldPils Vienna malt

Total weight of grain: 41.1 oz

Note: This is my first attempt at an all-grain recipe, using a brew-in-a-bag approach (methodology below).  I was able to find a 2 gal RubberMaid cooler with a spigot, and after cleaning and sanitizing it, I used it for this brew.  I'm hoping that the end product will not only be closer to the Angel's Share I remember, but also exhibit some lacing.

Bring 4 qt water to 156 deg F, add to cooler and then add grain (in a bag).  After 30 min, add 1 qt water at 160 deg F.  At approx. 50 min, begin manually cycling the wort through the cooler.  Bring 2 qt of water in the brew kettle to 170 deg F.  At 60 min, steep the grain bag in the kettle water for 10-15 min.  Remove grain bag, add wort (total volume of wort was slightly more than 3 qt).  Bring to low boil for 60 min.

2 oz light Belgian candy sugar (@ 60 min)

Hops: 4 g Czech Saaz (@ 60 min)

Yeast: Safbrew T-58

9 hrs after boil, bubbling away
Addendum, 31 July: Bottling day.  I did something a little bit different this time around.  I boiled a cup of water, and put a spoon in it to sanitize the spoon and container.  I then poured out 1/2 of the water, and dissolved 1 oz of table sugar in the water.  I put that in a water bath for a few minutes while sanitizing a clean fermenter, and once it was cool, I added the priming sugar to the clean fermenter.  I then transferred the beer to the clean fermenter and let it set for about 15 - 20 min.  I then bottled the same way I always do, but without adding fizz drops.  I ended up with 10 good bottles, and they're conditioning.  

Addendum, 20 Aug: Taste test - beer pours with a brown amber color and a beige, non-persistent head.  Minor, non-persistent lacing.  Good carbonation.  Malt forward, slightly sweet flavor with some mild spice.  Overall, not bad but still not close to what I was trying for with respect to flavor.  The darker color and the caramel malt flavor comes primarily from the CaraMunich malt, so I'll need to back off of that in the future.  The flavor of the beer has a very mild malty sweetness, and a very little bit of spice...maybe moving to an Abbey-style yeast will be the way to go going forward, to maybe pick up a little sweetness or fruitiness from the yeast.

Something else to cover here is the priming sugar used during bottling.  My very first batch was 5 gal, and I used the 5 oz of priming sugar provided in the recipe kit.  After that, when I moved to 1 gal kits and used the primer tablets, I wasn't entirely happy with the level of carbonation in the beer.  The biggest recommendation I received from folks was to let the brew bottle condition longer, and what I've done is hold on to a bottle or two of some of my beers for future taste testing.  However, I used the priming sugar method for this brew, and was very happy with the level of carbonation during this first taste test.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Rye Pale Ale #2

I have some rye left over, and while I'm saving the dark rye for a sahti, I wanted to see if I could make a spicy, peppery rye pale ale.  My first attempt at a rye PA turned out okay, so I wanted to see if I could do something a bit better.  I thought I'd give it a shot by using some rye grain in a partial mash, as well as trying out a different yeast.

Brew Day: 2 July 2015

Partial Mash (2.5 qt water, strike temp: 156F, 1 hr mash time)
0.5 lb 2-row
0.35 lb Rahr red wheat
0.35 lb Weyermann German Rye malt

Just shy of 1 hr, cycle wort through cooler manually several times. For the boil, heat 3 qt water to 170 F; once mash time is complete, move muslin bag of grain to kettle, steep for 10 min.  Add wort, DME, bring wort to a boil.

Boil time: 45 min (5 qt total volume)
1 lb Pilsen DME (@ 45 min)
7 g German Tettnang (@ 45 min)

Yeast: Safbrew T-58

Once the boil completed, the wort was placed in an ice bath until it reached 80 F, transferred to the fermenter, aerated, and about 1/2 of the packet of yeast was pitched.

Rye Ale, fermenting
About 10 or so hours after putting the fermenter in a safe location, this is what the beer looks like (left).  Not bad, particularly since this is the first time I've used this yeast.

So, this beer is relying less on the hops and more on the rye and yeast for a bit of spice.

...and I thought I'd share something, because these images are funny, as well as likely very true for most home brewers...

Rye Ale, 8 July

Addendum, 8 July: To the right is a picture of the rye ale as of 8 July (the day I bottled the ginger beer).   It's looking pretty good, with a yellow hue that I haven't seen before, but that's not a bad thing.  The cap on the airlock floats just a bit, so I know that there's some gas being produced.  I'll be bottling in another 8 days or so, and this one should be ready to try around the end of the month.  Based on some of the recipes I've seen for tripels that use the same yeast, however, letting the bottle sit much longer may produce some interesting results.

16 July, pre-bottling
Addendum, 16 July:  I moved the fermenter to the bar area where I do my bottling this morning, and the picture to the left shows that its a nice golden color.

Tasting notes, 1 Aug: Hazy, pale straw yellow color, non-persistent head, no lacing.  Very light, easy to drink, good flavor.  Mild fruit flavor, most likely from the yeast.  Terri said that this is likely her favorite thus far.  Frank tried one tonight as well, and enjoyed it...which was high praise, indeed, because he started off with a barleywine ale that I had available.  The beer is not spicy or peppery at all; rather, it's light, and easy to drink.  Definitely a keeper.

With respect to the recipe, I think that I'll do next time is back off of the wheat malt a bit, and maybe put a touch of carapils in there.  I'll also bitter it with something with a higher alpha acid, and move the Tettnang hop addition later in the boil.

Addendum, 20 Aug: Terri still really likes this one, and had one tonight, and then we split one.  This one is still a hazy witbier, with a slightly sweet, yet mild, finish.  I fully agree with the recommendations regarding the yeast made in this blog post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


A commercial craft brew that my wife and I both enjoy is Dog Fish Head's Sah'tea.  It has usually been available in the spring or early summer, and I would go out to my local Total Wine location and purchase a couple of bottles.  Lately, I haven't seen that it's been available, and even check the AleBoards app to see if any of the local DFH locations has any available...and I haven't been seeing it.  So, what better opportunity to try something new, eh?

I started reading about the history of the style, and while I found some really good information about it, I also found some different recipes.  What I thought was interesting about the style itself is that several descriptions suggest that it isn't supposed to sit (secondary fermentation, rest in bottles, etc.) for extended periods of time, which is somewhat different from what I've found with some more traditional recipes that I've worked with.

So, my thoughts on a small batch recipe that I'd like to try:

I'd have to get some juniper boughs, so I'll go to the local nursery first.  If that doesn't work out, I'll see what I can find in the local park.

The partial mash will be predominantly Munich malt (with a small amount of dark rye), and I'll put the juniper boughs (hopefully, I'll be able to find some with berries still on them) in the cooler before adding the water.  After adding the water, I will add the grains (in a muslin bag) and follow my usual process; as with most cases, I'm looking to have the water at 142-146F for about an hour.

Once the partial mash is complete, I'll add the juniper boughs and the wort to the brew kettle, bring the total volume of water up to 5 qt, add 1 lb of Pilsen DME, and bring everything to a boil.  Most of what I'm guessing are more traditional recipes do not use hops, and several say that this brew only stays in primary fermentation for a week.  I'll have to review the recipes again and look at the time required, and also look at my schedule...I don't want to have this stuff ready to put in containers and me be off doing something else.

Yeast: Instead of the Finnish baker's yeast, several recipes recommend using the Red Star Active Yeast, which can be found on Amazon.

NorthernBrewer - also, here
HomeBrewTalk recipe