Thursday, November 25, 2010

Smoked Porter, November 23, 2010

I've brewed up a couple of Smoked Porters earlier this year with great success.  The first was an Agave Smoked Porter utilizing the agave as an adjunct, great beer.  The second time, I tried a different approach on Smoked Porter with fantastic results.  Although I felt the second beer was nearly my ideal Smoked Porter, I changed it up based on my current holdings.  As with many beers, recipe formulation is often limited to what's in stock at home and/or what's available at my local homebrew store.  The one element we didn't like from the last Smoked Porter was the flavor profile imparted by the yeast, WLP007 Dry English Ale.  In my opinion, you simply can't go wrong with WLP001 California Ale and I always feel that most ale recipes need a try with this strain (here's just another good reason I'd like to upgrade to a 10 gallon system, experimenting side-by-side [same wort split into two carboys each fermenting with different yeast strains] would be insanely fun!).
As far as competition is concerned, luckily I don't really need to follow any specific guidelines.  Quoted below is the category guidelines for smoked beer.  Since this homebrew recipe does not follow any classic styles, I can easily blanket the underlying style as a "Porter".

On another note, I've been having a great time utilizing the Wort Chiller with Recirculation Combination.  With cooler weather in San Diego, there has also been a significant drop in tap water temperatures.  Today, I was able to reduce a boiling wort to 63°F in 20 minutes using slightly less than 20 gallons of water (I use this hot/warm/cool effluent for washing and rinsing).  At the end of chilling, I pump out the wort rather quickly to a carboy.  Check it:
After chillindamos, the March Pump and recirculation arm quickly transfer the wort to a carboy.

Pumping wort is not only fast, it seems to do a fairly decent job of aerating as well.

Smoked Porter
BJCP 22B. Other Smoked Beer
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

9 lbs. Domestic 2-Row
2 lbs. Red Wheat
2 lbs. German Rauch Malt
0.7 lbs. UK Chocolate Malt
0.75 lbs. Crystal 20
0.25 lbs. Crystal 60
4.5 oz. Carafa II
2.5 oz. Dark British Crystal

Single Infusion Mash
(1 qt./lb. raised to 167°F)
Saccharification Rest at 148-150°F for 70 minutes
Fly-sparged 5.5 gallons at 170°F

1.5 oz. Homegrown Chinook 60 min.
0.75 oz. Spalt 20 min.
1 Whirlfloc Tab 20 min.
0.5 oz. Spalt 10 min.

White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast   2 vials (thanks Kara)

OG: 1.063 @ 62°F
FG: 1.013 @ 66°F
ABV: 6.7%

Blueberry Wheat, November 20, 2010

I know what you're thinking, Blueberry?  Really?  Let me tell you.  This beer is the gateway homebrew for so many of my friends.  It leads to more drunkeness and debauchery than any other of my brews.  Really.
This is my classic Blueberry Wheat.  Very simple recipe and a huge crowd pleaser.  I've tried a few other fruity combinations but this is the true winner.  It is requested every year for our New Year's Bash up in Big Bear and certainly fuels our annual Winter Games.
Andrew floats blueberries on the top of last year's Blueberry Wheat.
This time I followed some advice and it seemed to potentially have a negative effect (I'm probably overreacting).  Of course, this is my perception on original gravity only (1.050 vs. previous 1.058-1.060) but typically there are many other variables that could have contributed to a change.  One variable is that I used Red Wheat malt instead of White Wheat (probably very minor).  This was simply a matter of availability at my local homebrew supplier.  The difference of their effect in the mash tun is likely small since they seem to be identical malts in so many ways. Anyone got a maltster profile of these two wheat malts?
My underline issue here is consistency.  I believe this is the ONLY brew I've ever made more than twice.  Getting more than one gravity result (again, 1.050 vs. previous batches 1.058-1.060) makes you realize how much each beer brewed depends on the execution of a specific process.  Also, you have to accept that ingredients may also change, even year to year.  On my equipment, I know there's a great deal of human variability (another argument to get a brew sculpture with more control over the process, any sponsors?).  While a change in ingredients is the first major variable, I decided to reduce my mash time to 60 minutes from a suggestion by Harold during a beer evaluation session.  While the evaluation committee didn't evaluate this particular beer, Harold discussed the importance of not extending the mash time to 90 minutes.
Why change a thing that's worked really well in the past?  Well, I can't tell what affected my gravity target: malt or a change in mash times. Of course, there can be other variables in play that are not quite as obvious.  Many of us homebrewers evolve our process over time.  I am likely not the same brewer I was when this beer was last made.
So here's the big question: 60 minute single infusion or 90 minutes?  I've previously heard and read that 90 minutes is essential to ensure a full conversion and others have been convincing that time beyond 60 minutes can break down essential final products (don't remember their specifics here).  In a month, I'll have the verdict whether or not this basic grain bill has an improved flavor and body profile at the expense of potential alcohol.  I would be interested in doing a full experiment but that's hard to do without good controls (again, any takers?).  I doubt the guy below has an answer, anyone else?
Saw this guy in SF.  He's got it wrong, should read, "Why lie, I need a homebrew".
Blueberry Wheat
BJCP Category 20. Fruit Beet
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

7 lbs. Red Wheat
4 lbs. Domestic 2-Row

Single Infusion Mash
(1 qt./lb. raised to 167°F)
Saccharification Rest at 148°F for 70 minutes
Fly-sparged 5.5 gallons at 170°F

1 oz. Hallertauer 60 min.

White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast   2 vials (thanks Kara)

2 oz. Blueberry Flavoring added at kegging

OG: 1.050 @ 68°F
FG: 1.006 @ 66°F
ABV: 5.9%

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doppelbock, November 14 2010

Contemplating the frustration of having limitations with my mash tun, it occurred to me that I really don't need to make 5 gallons every time I brew (what I really want is 10).  I decided to give a try making a 4 gallon batch with a reasonable capacity of about 13.5 pounds.  A grain bill that size is easy enough to manage (stirring without spilling all over the place) but is about a pound or so too big for a multi-infusion mash. I'll opt for a single-infusion to see what's possible with a lower final yield.  Turns out that I'm just within the Doppelbock range of starting gravities (1.072-1.112) with this brew.  I figured that if I missed the mark, I would still have a Traditional Bock.
13.5 lbs. of grain in a 5-gallon Rubbermaid cooler is easy to work with.

After adding today's batch, looks like plenty of room for 2 more primaries.

BJCP Category 5C. Doppelbock
4 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

5.2 lbs. Vienna
5 lbs. Belgian Pilsner
1.2 lbs. Munich
1 lb. Caramunich
1 lb. Caravienne
1 oz. Dark British Crystal
1 oz. Melanoidan
1 oz. Carafa II

Single Infusion Mash
(1 qt./lb. raised to 168°F)
Saccharification Rest at 152°F for 70 minutes
Fly-sparged 4.5 gallons at 170°F

1 oz. Tettnanger 60 min.
0.5 oz. Spalt 20 min.
1 Whirlfloc tab 15 min.

White Labs WLP830 German Lager Yeast   200ml of leftover slurry from previous week's brewing
Currently in ferment at 52°Fin the Lager Cave

OG: 1.076 @ 68°F
FG: 1.022 @ 39°F
ABV: 7.3%

Thursday, November 11, 2010

German Bock, November 11, 2010

I've avoided this style considering that its on the secondary brewing list planned for lagers to be ready for Oktoberfest (priorities are typically Oktoberfest, Pilsner, Helles, and a Vienna or amber-like lager) and two, bock requires a large grain bill, beyond my mash tun's capacity.  The Lager Cave has eliminated the first barricade and with a 15 lb. limit tested during the Barley Wine brew, it was worth the shot to try to hit the target original gravity of Traditional Bock.  I settled for a grain bill of 14.5 lbs. which eliminated any possibility of doing a multi-step infusion mash.  Just 1/2 pound more and my 5-gallon Rubbermaid mash tun is busting out its plastic seams.
14.5 lbs. has its toll but at least its manageable.
After the brew day, we drove the bock over to the Lager Cave at Ed's and as you can see below, there's still room to spare (hmm, what to brew next!?).
The Lager Cave has insane space!
German Bock
BJCP Category 5B. Traditional Bock
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

9 lbs. Munich
4 lbs. Belgian Pilsner
12 oz. Caramunich
4 oz. Dark British Crystal
4 oz. Caravienne
4 oz. Melanoidan

Single Infusion Mash
(0.95 qts/lb. raised to 166°F)
Saccharification Rest at 148°F for 60 minutes
Fly-sparged 5.75 gallons at 170°F

0.45 oz. Magnum 60 min.
1 Whirlfloc tab 15 min.

Combination of 135ml of White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast and 50 ml
White Labs WLP830 German Lager Yeast   (Fresh slurry thanks to Kara!)
Currently in ferment at 52°F

OG: 1.062 @ 70°F
FG: 1.015 @ 38°F
ABV: 6.5%

Reminder: Glass Breaks!

Who wants some!?

Luckily, no one was hurt during this mishap.  It does, however, remind me that I should warn all who come over to help with brewing that glass carboys are extremely dangerous.  I should always tell a few stories of  severed toes, explosive impaling shards, and the worst - spilled beer.  While we didn't experience any of that, knock knock, the truth is that many have.  Time to replace the fermentation fleet with Better Bottles!  On the lighter side, we were able to take this image of Andrew, clearly threatening! As for Matty, sorry I didn't tell you those stories first!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vienna Lager, November 7, 2010

The last Vienna Lager I made was great!   I also brewed up an interesting Vienna Agave Lager last year that was well received.  I'm hoping that this beer will be an instant hit with our New Year's party crowd and I'd like to bottle out some for evaluation.
On another note, I'm still dialing in the recirculation immersion wort chiller.  The biggest problem was with the Quick Disconnects (QDs) which were clogging the pump system.  In both sides of the QD components, a cross-hair structure would collect hop matter and slow the March pump to a trickle. 
QD's for the March Pump.
Shown is the tubing end of the QD but there's also two other components that are attached to the pump. They also have the same structure imposing on the flow.  A total of four blocking points have been reeking havoc on the recirculation flow during wort chilling.  Using a Dremel tool, I drilled and sanded out all four flow restrictions.
Left QD shows the original "hop blocker".  Right, rough drilling.
After cleaning them up with a sanding bit, I could easily tell the flow rate will have significantly less interruption.  The only restriction points are now the 1/2" barbs.  After testing this out today, no small hop matter and trub was locked up at any point along the recirculation route.  I'm chillindamos again.
Using a dremel, both QD's are opened up for business!
The only other frustration, and restriction point, on the recirculation pump system has been with the kettle spigot.  I took the spigot over to Home Depot and Lowe's during the summer to try and find a replacement with no avail.  It seems the threading was not standard.  Larry over at Home Brew Mart and Ballast Point Brewing identified the pot with the spigot to be an Italian design with its own spec.  He suggested some options including simply taking out the spigot tip (I had managed to squeeze in a narrow barb that hasn't been working very well - the tightest restriction point at the moment) and finding some 1/2" ID tubing to stretch right over it.  We also talked about drilling a new hole and replacing the spigot.
With heat left over from the boil, the tubing molded easily to the Italian spigot.
 Since the contours of the kettle spigot are thicker on the end, the tubing seemed to create a good seal without the use of any clamps.
Tubing leaving the kettle to the March Pump.
 I thought this tubing was high temp and originally thought I might have to leave it on the kettle at all times.  I had to remove it when it started showing signs of melting, yikes!  At least I was able to cut off that section and found that it was really easy to remove and reinstall the tubing with a tight seal whenever I wanted.
Immersion Chiller combined with Wort Recirculation.
Further modifications have led to even more chillindamos!  The circulation happening in the pot was significant compared to before the dremel work and tubing makeover.  I went through even less water and reduced more time to chill the wort.   Now back to beer.

Vienna Lager
BJCP Category 3A. Vienna Lager
5 Gallons, All Grain, Step Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

6 lbs. Vienna
3 lbs. Munich
3 lbs. Belgian Pilsner
4 oz. Caramunich
4 oz. Caravienne

Protein Rest at 122°F for 7 minutes
(0.9 qts/lb. raised to 135°F)
Saccharification Rest at 148°F for 60 minutes
(0.5 qts/lb. raised to 212°F)
Fly-sparged at 170°F

1.5 oz. Tettnanger 60 min.
1 Whirlfloc tab 20 min.
1 oz. Spalt 10 min.

White Labs WLP830 German Lager Yeast   (100ml of fresh slurry thanks to Kara!)
Currently in ferment at 52°F

OG: 1.053 @ 73°F
FG: 1.013 @ 40°F
ABV: 5.6%

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Schwarzbier, November 6, 2010

"Smell the Beer" in honor of Spinal Tap.
I've wanted to make a Schwarzbier for quite some time.  With the Lager Cave in full effect, how can I not brew everything and anything requiring lower fermentation temperatures?  While I've had a few Black Beers in the past, I was not quite sure where to start in recipe formulation.  My intuition told me I should make a dry stout and simply use a lager yeast instead of ale yeast.  As with several other planning sessions, I used Jamil Zainasheff's recipe as a general guideline from his book, Brewing Classic Styles.  I've found this book and Jamil's style-based podcasts a great starting point when formulating many brewing recipes and would recommend other brewers to do the same. 

BJCP Category 4C. Schwarzbier (Black Beer)
5 Gallons, All Grain, Step Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

8 lbs. Beligan Pilsner
2 lbs. Munich
8 oz. Carafa II
4 oz. Caramunich
4 oz. Chocolate
2 oz. Black Roasted

Protein Rest at 122°F for 10 minutes
(0.9 qts/lb. raised to 135°F)
Saccharification Rest at 149°F for 60 minutes
(0.5 qts/lb. raised to 212°F)
Fly-sparged at 170°F

1.5 oz. Hallertauer 60 min.
1 Whirlfloc tab 22 min.
0.5 oz. Spalt 22 min.
0.7 oz. Hallertauer KO

White Labs WLP830 German Lager Yeast   (100ml Fresh slurry thanks to Kara!)
Currently in ferment at 52°F

OG: 1.052 @ 74°F
FG: 1.013 @ 40°F
ABV: 5.5%