Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Semper F-IPA

I've seen a couple of times where various brewers have created a brew that they've dubbed "Semper FI-PA", in honor of, or as a "tip of the cover" to the Corps.  Having been an active duty Marine myself, I felt compelled to come up with my own recipe. For me, based on my preferences, I think I'd go for a light golden color, and really hoppy...maybe even push for that lupulin shift...starting off by bittering with, what else, Warrior hops.  I'm then going to use Jarrylo, Mosaic, and Azacca hops for aromatic hop additions, as well as dry hopping.

Brew Day: 18 Aug 2015

Partial Mash - total weight: 17 oz grain
8 oz Briess GoldPils Vienna Malt (~ 3.5L)
8 oz Franco-Belge Pale Malt (3L)
1 oz CaraPils

I followed my usual process for partial mashing...2 qt water, initial water temp of 156 deg F, 1 hr in the cooler. Toward the end of the hour (@ ~ 45 min), bring 4 qt of water to 170 deg F in the kettle.  After manually cycling the wort through the cooler several times, remove the grain bag and steep in the kettle for 10 min.  Once the steep is complete, bring the water to a boil.

Boil - 45 min
1lb Briess Golden Light DME (@ 45 min)
3.5 oz corn sugar (@ 45 min) - I added this because it was just...well...there
7 g Warrior (AA: 14 - 16%) (@ 45 min)

Hop Addition 2 (@ 15 min) - use muslin bag
  4 g Jarrylo (AA: 14.2%)
  4 g Mosaic (AA: 12.8%)

Hop Addition 3 (@ 5 min) - use muslin bag
  4 g Azacca (AA;10.3%)
  4 g Jarrylo (AA: 14.2%)
  4 g Mosaic (AA: 12.8%)

Yeast: Jasper Yeast JY127 Magic IPA Yeast  Safale US-05

I used my usual procedure for cooling the wort, transferring it to the fermenter, and then pitching the yeast.  The yeast came in a 1 gallon pitch, so it was really straight-forward.

Addendum, 19 Aug: I got up this morning and went to check on the fermentation...and saw nothing.  No activity at all.  Since everything was enclosed last night, I brought it all up to the kitchen, and took out a packet of US-05, sanitized it and let it sit to come up to room temperature.  I then aerated the wort again, and pitched the yeast (a bit more than half of the packet).  We'll see how that goes.

I'd purchased the yeast yesterday, about mid-day.  The label said that it had been bottled 15 Mar 2015.  I shook it up a bit, and it wasn't refrigerated on the ride home.  I'd taken it out of the fridge when I started the boil, so that it would be good and comfortable by the time it came to pitch it.

Addendum, 20 Aug: Checked the fermenter again this morning (just a quick peek), and things are going very well, with a nice steady stream of bubbles flowing through the blow-off tube.

Addendum, 3 Sep: Dry hopped - Beer was a nice golden color, just what I was looking for, with respect to this batch.
Hop Addition 4 (dry hop)
  4 g Azacca (AA;10.3%)
  4 g Jarrylo (AA: 14.2%)
  4 g Mosaic (AA: 12.8%)

Addendum,12 Sept: Bottled today.  This was the first beer that I've made that has been this clear.  In the fermenter, it was a nice golden color with a hint of red, which works out really well.  I started by dissolving 1.2 oz of table sugar in 1/2 cup of boiling water, and using that as my priming sugar.  I put that in a clean fermenter, and then racked the beer on top of it.  After letting it sit for about 20 min, I bottled the beer, and got 9 nice bottles.  There was a small amount left over which I put into a small glass...I took a sip of it while I was cleaning up.  I'm really looking forward to trying this one.

Addendum, 5 Oct: Tasting - Beer pours with a nice golden color and a persistent, pillowy head.  Carbonation is not a problem with this beer.  A pronounced berry (maybe tropical fruit) aroma in the nose, as well as in the initial taste, finishing with a citrus-grapefruit flavor and no discernible aftertaste.  Very good lacing in the glass.  This is not a huge, overpowering IPA, but this recipe is definitely a keeper, as is, and is my Semper Fi-PA.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Recently, I've turned to using a priming sugar solution rather than using fizz drops when I bottle beers.  This is the process I followed with my first home brew, which was a 5 gal batch of wheat beer.  It made sense to use a priming sugar solution and being my first batch, I was reading and re-reading the instructions, making sure that I was following the instructions as exactly as I possibly could.  I still have some of fizz drops left, and I'm going to use a few of them when I bottle the hard cider I made for my daughter, so that some of them come out "sparkling".

I've been doing a lot of bottle re-use.  There are a LOT of breweries that bottle in basically what amounts to the same bottle type that I use..and I say that because I have tried to re-use bottles from some breweries, and they've been taller and more narrow that the bottles I use.  For me, what makes the difference when it comes to bottle re-use is how easily the labels come off.  When I first started doing this, I found that the labels on bottles from European breweries came off very easily.  Over time, I've found that some of the best bottles come from Fordham & Dominion Brewery.  Not only are the beers really good (Candi, Hop Lips, etc.) but the labels and the glue come off really easily, with little more than a good soak in warm, soapy water.

Also, I have a friend who drinks German beers and tends to give me his 22 oz flip top bottles when he's done.  After a good cleaning, they're ready to be pressed into service.  And I tell you, they've done great!

Something else that I tried not long ago was using a soda bottle for bottling.  I'd thought about bottling plastic bottles for a bit, and did some research online, and as you would expect, there were advocates on both sides of the fence.  So, I opted to give it a shot myself and see what happened.  So, I got a Diet Sprite at a local store, and after finishing it off, carefully removed the label and cleaned it out.  Then during a bottling session, I sanitized and filled it.  To be honest, it worked great.  Using a soda bottle ensured that it was designed to take carbonated beverages...there were a number of folks in one forum, for example, who were against using Gatorade bottles because they didn't hold a carbonated beverage.

So, a couple of advantages I've found.  Yes, I know that a semi-clear green bottle doesn't have the light-blocking effect that a brown bottle has, but I keep my bottles in a fairly dark area during bottle conditioning.   My wife and I have a couple of camping trips that we do with our horses each year, and taking some home brew along in a soda bottle is a little safer than using glass.  After consuming the beer, I can stick the plastic bottle in a trash bag and not worry about the bottle breaking against other bottles in transit (which means, taking them home and putting them into recycling).

Finally, those little "feet" that the bottle stands on make a great place for sediment to settle.

Now, I'm not advocating that everyone change to soda bottles; rather, I'm just sharing my experiences...that's it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Jarrylo IPA

I had some left-over malts in a bag that totaled about 40 oz, but I split it up into three separate bags, one 14 oz and two 13 oz.  Using that as a base, and upping the base malts a bit, will give me the basis for an IPA "blend", if you will.  This way, with the slight exception of some additional base malts (and yeast), I can have similar flavor and color for different IPAs.  I wanted to use some of the Jarrylo hops I'd received as promotion for the AHA membership in, and this seemed like a really good time to try it out.  Given that the alpha acids in this one are pretty high (the BSG packaging listed it as 14.2%, NorthernBrewer lists it at 16.3% for what they have available), I thought it would be a good idea to use the hops for both bittering and aromatic additions.

Brew Day: 13 Aug 2005

Partial Mash - total weight: 19 oz
3 oz FB CaraMunich 80L
3 oz Pale Malt 3L
3 oz Briess GoldPils Vienna Malt
3 oz Briess CaraPils
2 oz Weyerman Rye Malt
5 oz German Pale Ale Malt

Heat 2 qt water to 156 deg F, add to cooler, add grain bag.  After an hour, begin heating 4 qt water in brew kettle to 170 deg F.  Cycle wort through cooler manually several times, then remove grain bag and steep in kettle for 10 min.  After 10 min, remove the bag and let drain, add the wort and raise the temperature of the kettle.

A note about cycling the wort through the cooler...using a 1 qt container, most of the wort comes out of the cooler if you fill the container, due to the amount of water/wort retained in the grain.  Draining the cooler causes the wort to drain through the grain bag, and then adding the wort back to the cooler runs it through the grain bag again.

Boil - 60 min
1 lb Briess Golden Light DME (@ 60 min)
2 oz Belgian candy sugar (@ 60 min)
7 g Jarrylo (AA: 14.2%) (@ 60 min)
7 g Jarrylo (AA: 14.2%) (@ 30 min)
12 g Jarrylo (AA: 14.2%) (@ 10 min)

Yeast: Safbrew T-58

Once the kettle just starts to boil, add the DME, candy sugar and hops.  Continue with boil and hop additions.  Once the boil is complete, reduce the temperature of the kettle to approx. 80 deg F, via an ice bath.  Fill a sanitized fermenter half-way with wort, aerate vigorously.  Add wort to fill 1 gallon, pitch yeast (approx. half packet).

Speaking of boiling, Obsessed Brewing provides a good indicator of various levels of boiling wort.

Fermenter, 14 Aug
About 11 hrs after putting the fermenter in my fermentation location (downstairs bathtub), I checked in on it to find that the blow-off bottle was overrun with krausen.  Needless to say, the yeast appears to be doing just fine, and is very active.  I'll probably change out the blow-off bottle in a day or so, and then replace the blow-off tube with an airlock at about day 5 or 6.  In about 10 days, I'll transfer the beer to secondary and dry hop it, for at least 10 days.

That's my YAH hefeweizen in the background.  You obviously can't tell from the picture, but it's still bubbling away, albeit at a slower rate.  Looking closely at the fermenter, I can still see small bubbles rising in the fermenter.

Addendum, 24 Aug: Dry hopped today with 14 g of Jarrylo hops pellets.

Addendum, 3 Sep: Bottled, primed with 1.2 oz table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  After prep'ing everything, I poured the priming sugar in the sanitized fermenter and then let this sit for about 15-20 min while I finished getting ready to bottle (i.e., put music on, etc.).  I got 8 bottles out of this batch, and had just a little bit left over, which I poured into a glass before cleaning the fermenter.  The color was a nice golden amber, and the beer had a warmth of alcohol on the palate.

Addendum, 17 Sep: Tasted one tonight, right at 2 weeks.  Dark golden amber pour, with a nice thick light golden head.  The head was bubbly and did not persist, dissipating slowly.  As soon as I had poured it, I got my nose in close to where the bubbles were dissipating, to try and discern anything in particular; I'll have to try again, as nothing specific jumped out in the aroma.  Nice flavor, clean, with a slight hint of malt, some sweetness, no real bitterness, and no after-taste.  Terri said that she liked the body of this beer, and I can definitely envision drinking it on a fall afternoon, but I don't see this one as a summer beer.

This is the second time I've tried using Jarrylo hops with what might be referred to as an "aggressive" hops schedule, and its come out more like a pale ale.  Terri really liked this one; her thoughts were good body, good flavor and no after-taste.  This is one of those beers that will really push my senses, in that I'll really need to focus on what it is I'm getting from the beer; this will really force me to discern and describe what it is I'm getting.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's Available

Currently Available
Grapefruit IPA #1 - 2 x 22oz bottles, 2 x 12oz bottles
Grapefruit IPA #2 - 3 x 12oz bottles
"JM Hall" Pale Ale - 2 x 22oz bottles, 4 x 12oz bottles
Rye Pale Ale #1 - 3 x 12oz bottles
Rye Ale #2 - 3 x 12oz bottles

For a tasting I've organized for a couple of friends, I'm going to offer up GfIPA1 and GfIPA2 (for comparison), rye ale #1, and likely the JM Hall Pale Ale.   I've tried to keep the tasting notes on each page, because down the road I might want to make use of one of those services to turn the blog into a book.

The rye ale #2 is one that my wife really likes, so I'm very likely going to do another one of those in the near future, with some adjustments, such as less wheat in the malt bill, some carapils (for head retention), do a bittering with some hops that are higher in alpha acids, and push the Tettnang (3.5-5.5% AA) to much later in the boil.

Angel's Share #2 - 10 x 12oz bottles (bottled 31 Jul; used priming sugar in a fermenter, rather than fizz drops) - I'm really looking forward to trying this one, as it's my first all-grain brew.
Hefeweizen - 10 x 12oz bottles (bottled 11 Aug)
Azacca IPA - 10 x 12oz bottles (bottled 11 Aug)

Cider - rack to secondary ~ 17 Aug, let rest for 10 days.  Will bottle ~ 27 Aug, should be ready for a first sample around 11 Sept, in time for my daughter's birthday

YAH (Yet Another Hefe)

I opted to brew another hefe in order to make use of the other half of the Jasper Yeast that I purchased.  I haven't yet tried my previous hefeweizen using this yeast (bottled 11 Aug), but I had the time, fermenter, as well as interest in brewing another hefe to have it available.

Starting to boil
Brew Day: 12 Aug 2015

Partial Mash
11.7 oz Rahr Red Wheat Malt (what I had left)
3 oz German Pale Malt
1 oz CaraPils

Boil - 60 min
1 lb Briess Pilsen DME (@ 60 min)
7 g German Perle (AA: ~ 7%) (@ 60 min)

Yeast: JY074 German Hefeweizen yeast

Used the usual method for cooling wort and pitching yeast.  After cooling the wort to 80 deg F, I transferred wort to the fermenter.  When the fermenter was about half full, I aerated the wort by shaking vigorously.  After adding the rest of the wort, I pitched the remaining yeast (about half of the 5 gal pitch...I'd used the other half on my previous hefe).

I checked in on the beer about 12 hrs later.  The blow-off bottle wasn't as clear as the previous attempt (29 July), but that may have to do with the recipe, the head space in the fermenter (there's less this time than previously), etc.  All in all, things are looking good so far.

Addendum, 16 Aug: I check in on my fermenters pretty regularly, given that they're in the downstairs bathtub.  I will pull back the shower curtain and take a peek when I'm downstairs for some reason, such as cleaning the litter boxes or working out (our gym is in the room next to the bathroom).  I checked in the fermenters this morning and the airlock cap for the YAH hefeweizen was resting on the top of the airlock spout.  This was odd to me, and I'd only seen this once before, when I'd tightened the fermenter cap too tight and cracked the cap, causing me to loose the brew I'd done with Medusa hops.  The other two fermenters (cider, Jarrylo IPA) were doing just fine.  I'd checked on them all yesterday and the caps were all floating above the spouts...no issues at all.  So, I quickly sanitized another fermenter, cap and airlock assembly, transferred the beer (still smelled like beer...) to the clean fermenter, and added just a little bit of WB-06 to it.  After putting the fermenter back in the tub and cleaning up, I checked in on it and the cap was again floating above the spout; however, it was too soon for the yeast to take effect, so it could've simply been the result of gas pressure from the Star-San (don't fear the foam!).  I'll check in on it again later...I'm hoping that the beer turns out okay.

Addendum, 26 Aug: Bottled today.  I've had some pretty good success with bottling using 1 oz (or just a tad more) of table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  I've been much happier with the results of using this method, even at just 2 wks of bottle conditioning, than with the use of the priming tablets (i.e., fizz drops).  This batch had a slightly different malt bill and a bit more hops than the previous hefeweizen, so I'm kind of looking forward to this one, and doing a comparison.

Addendum, 9 Sept: Taste test tonight...and the first bottle I opened didn't pop or fizz.  Fortunately, the second bottle did, and the pour resulted in a hazy, straw-colored beer with a full, white, pillowy head.  Definite aroma of banana in the nose.  The head diminished but didn't completely go away, and there was some minimal, non-persistent lacing in the glass.  The body was good, and the flavor was a bit spicy, most likely as a result of the hops.  Terri said that she liked this one, but wasn't as enthusiastic about it as the previous hefe.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Hard Cider

My daughter likes hard cider...it's kind of her "go to" drink when we're out, and sometimes she picks some up for herself when she comes over.  So, I thought I'd try my hand at making some hard cider, and as it turns out, it's not too different from making beer.  I did some searching and reading, and came away with a couple of hard take-aways:
  1. Do NOT boil the juice/cider, as it causes the pectins to set and you'll end up with a hazy final product.  You can bring it to 185 deg F for 45 min, as a means of killing off wild yeast and bacteria.
  2. After primary fermentation is complete, transfer to secondary and keep the fermenter in a cool place, in order to allow the cider to clear.
Okay, keeping that in mind, it should be easy enough.  Now, a lot of what I read regarding making hard cider mentioned getting freshly-pressed cider while it was in season, but I did read (and see some YouTube videos) that you could use commercially available apple juice, as well, as long as it didn't include preservatives.  Fortunately, my local Harris Teeter has a line of fresh-pressed juice and cider; I'm not going to bother with the "from concentrate" stuff.

As a bit of a side note, I found out recently that there's a cidery near us.

A couple of yeasts were mentioned in my reading. White Labs and Wyeast have cider yeasts, but I've also read in several locations where Lalvin EC-1118 is recommended (in one case, by a professional cider maker), and good things have been said about Danstar Belle Saison yeast.  I just happen to have some Belle Saison, so I thought I'd give that a try.

Brew Day:  7 Aug 2015

4 qts cider - Harris Teeter brand organic "fresh pressed" cider
3 oz corn sugar

Start by collecting the cider (or use juice).  Pour a cup or so of the cider into a sauce pan and warm it...do NOT bring it to a boil.  Stir in corn sugar until it's dissolved.  Add this to a sanitized fermenter and allow it to cool down a bit.  Add the remaining cider, being careful not to splash it...unlike the wort for beer, we do not want to aerate the cider (a.k.a., must).  Pitch the yeast, add a cap and blow-off tube to the fermenter.

Primary fermentation: 10 - 14 days
Secondary fermentation:  7 days
Bottle conditioning: 14 days

Note: for sparkling cider, bottle as one would a beer; dissolve 1 oz of table sugar in 1/2 cup of boiling water, cool, add to clean, sanitized fermenter.  Rack the cider to the fermenter, allowing it to sit for a bit (do NOT agitate or aerate).  Bottle normally.

Addendum, 9 Aug: Checked on the fermenter this morning; still activity and regular bubbles flowing through the blow-off tube, although not as frequent as yesterday morning.  I did note the lack of a krausen-like build-up around the neck of the fermenter, like what I usually see with fermenting beer.  The must is still a hazy, straw-yellow color...I'm not sure that it will completely clear up, due to the fact that what I started with was hazy; the only clear juice I found was from concentrate, and the "freshly pressed" products were hazy.  I'm not too concerned about that at the moment because I'm looking more to the technique and flavor than anything else.  I may be able to get some fresh juice or cider when the fall season comes around, but for the time being (and for doing this year-round), the hazy stuff may end up working just fine.  I'll give it a couple of more days before putting an airlock on the fermenter.

Addendum, 17 Aug: Transferred to secondary this evening.  Smelled of apples, which is a good thing.  I'm not too sure that this is going to clear up, because I started with a cloudy product, but I got it into a clean fermenter, and within seconds, the cap was floating above the airlock.  In about a week I'll bottle it, where it will have 2 weeks before my daughter's birthday.

Addendum, 24 Aug: Bottled today.  I bottled 3 bottles with a fizz drop each, to get sparkling cider, but did nothing to the remaining bottles.  These will just sit for a good three weeks, or more.

Addendum, 16 Oct: First tasting.  I have nothing to judge the cider against, because cider isn't really my thing.   My daughter's reaction was that she liked it (but that may have been more about me putting in the effort to make it than her actually liking it...), but that it was a little light with respect to body.  I tried it...very dry, a little bit of apple flavor.

I did do some research into how to get more body out of the cider, and there were discussion threads that talked about the addition of acid and/or tannins, and even a few comments about how carbonation can give the appearance of body.  When I bottled the cider, I purposely did not add priming sugar to it; instead, I put fizz drops in three of the bottles, and labeled them "sparkling", and left the others as they were.  My daughter tried one of the regular ciders last night, and it had moderate carbonation.  Maybe one of the sparkling ciders will be "better", as far as body goes.

One comment that I ran across in one thread stated that the reason the OP wasn't getting the body or the flavor they wanted was because of the apples they were using.  I'm no expert, and I haven't been home brewing for long, but I "get" that.  So, my next attempt is going to be done while using a local cider, rather than a store-bought one.  However, I think that if I was planning to have some cider available in the off-season for apples and cider in general, I could use the store bought cider, add some sugar and some brown sugar, and have something that would be pretty good.

Monday, August 3, 2015


I just finished up watching "Brewing with Wil Wheaton" on Brewing TV, pt II (here's pt I).  I was actually on YouTube looking at some non-brewing related videos, and saw that that part II was available.

We were at The V Eatery in Ashburn a while back and picked up a copy of Mid-Altantic Brew News.  Reading through the paper this morning, I found out about Love2Brew, an online home brew supply store.  Checking out their site, they have a bunch of interesting recipes, as well as a small supply of one-gallon kits.  One of the things I really like about sites like this...other than the availability of the kits...is that they also share the ingredients and recipes.  For example, I've got a rye ale fermenting right now, and I'm kind of excited about it because this is the first time I've used the Safbrew T-58 yeast.  Well, the Belgian Golden Strong Ale partial mash recipe uses the same yeast.  Browsing the recipes lets me see what others are using to achieve various results, such as "Belgian" or some other characteristic of the beer.

Another example of this is the recipe in the brew news paper (pg 12) for a Hefeweizen IPA.  It's clearly a 5 gal recipe, and uses a combination of grain, DME, and LME.  For the yeast, the recipe says "Safale S-06", but I think what they mean is "Safbrew WB-06".  I've seen Belgian IPAs on the shelves, and I like this collision or cross-over in styles, and I'm thinking that using a similar recipe and swapping out the yeast will let me go from a Hefeweizen to a Belgian-inspired style.

Speaking of Belgian, here's a Belgian Tripel recipe that uses Safbrew T-58...I may have to try this one to redeem myself for the Tripel that I lost.  I used the T-58 in my rye pale ale #2, and it turned out pretty well, I think.

Learning/Educational Resources
When I was going into college, I chose to get my BSEE, which was something I picked without any foresight or direction, other than I wanted to know how things worked.  Later, during my time in the military, I had an opportunity to get my MSEE, as well.  As of now, I've been out of the military for 18 yrs (at the time I'm writing this, 18 yrs and 2 days), and in that time, I've enjoyed a career that, well, used neither of those degrees.  I will say that coming out of the military, the MSEE opened some doors that might not otherwise have been opened for me (I was told as much several times, so...).  In fact, when I started in this career, there were no college courses you could take in DFIR; in fact, a great deal of what I did during incident response was cobbled together out of my military experience.  Over time, as I've written books in my technical niche, those books have been used in some of the training and education courses that are now available in the field.

Anyway, I was wondering if there were any courses available on how to be a (more) professional brewer, and I found a couple:

Top Online Beer Making & Craft Brewing Courses
Options in Education

Homebrew Believer
The Homebrew Believer blog appears to be pretty much defunct (hasn't been updated in almost 2 yrs), but if you're in search of interesting recipes, check it out.  He's got a dubbel recipe, as well as a witbier IPA recipe. Not all of the recipes are all-grain, either...there's a "Georgia Peach" wheat ale extract recipe, as well.  Finally, there are some other recipes, as well as how-tos at the blog.

For recipe conversion to small batches, the wheat ale calls for 7 lb of wheat LME, with 1/2 used at the beginning of the boil and the rest added at "knockout".  For a 1 gal batch, that would equate to 1.2 lb total extract, with .6 lb at the beginning and the rest added at the end of the boil.

What I Like About HomeBrewing
What I like about home brewing is not just the process, but also the freedom and the creativity.  We go to stores to find our favorite bottles of beer, and find that much of what we like is seasonal.  But what if you want a wheat beer or hefeweizen in the middle of winter?  Or a hearty IPA in the heat of the summer?

I got up one morning and found an email from NorthernBrewer with a recipe for a Belgian wit that's pretty easy to make, and also found another recipe for a 20-minute boil pale ale.  Lots of freedom...these can be made and enjoyed at any time.