Saturday, April 28, 2012

Outside Brewing

I took the brewery outdoors for the day last weekend. The plan was to brew a beer with a group of guys who aren't home brewers, but who like beer. I asked what they would like to brew, and I got 1 answer from 1 person. Stella Artois. There were 6 guys invited. So I put together a recipe to try and make a premium commercial lager. So I took the brewery across the house to the deck. I had to brew a beer for Memorial Day weekend and decided to re-make the Sunset Pale Ale that turned out so well. By the time the guys had showed up around lunch I had the Pale Ale finished and pitched. The Lager was mashing while everyone showed up. We dodged dog attacks, child attacks, and wife attacks throughout the brew day. In the end all things turned out well. I finally got the fridge dialed in at 50 degrees to ferment the lager. In a couple weeks I'll shift it to secondary and turn down the temp. The Ale is doing great, it seems the ambient temps are perfect for ales in the garage right now. It should be just right for memorial day weekend.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Sunset Pale Ale

So I'm back in the swing of things and have made up another beer. I was trying to think of a nice beer to enjoy during Spring. I was looking for a hoppy Pale Ale with a sort of twist. I though citrus would be a nice addition to the beer so I decided to us Cascade Hops for the bittering, flavor, aroma, and dry hop additions. I also decided to add orange peel zest to the boil. Here is the final recipe:

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
10 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 76.9 %
2 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 2 15.4 %
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3 7.7 %
1.00 oz Cascade [7.10 %] - First Wort 60.0 min Hop 4 23.6 IBUs
1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 5 -
1.00 oz Cascade [7.10 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 6 7.8 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [7.10 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 7 4.3 IBUs
2.00 oz Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 8 -
1.00 oz Cascade [7.10 %] - Boil 1.0 min Hop 9 0.9 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) [1.70 oz] Yeast 10 -
1.00 oz Cascade [7.10 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 11 0.0 IBUs

The garage / brewery smelled amazing after I added the orange peel. I racked this beer on top of a SA-05 yeast cake from a previous batch and it started fermenting heavily withing 2 hours. I have never had a fermentation start that fast, and it was exciting to see it running so quickly. I let this ferment in primary for about 10 days and then I transfered to secondary and dry hopped for another 10 days. This beer has been kegged a for a week or so now, and I'm happy to say it tastes amazing. The Cascade hops definitely bring out a new hefty citrus flavor and as I had hoped the orange peel can be detected lightly in the background and really comes through in the after taste. I have heard people say that citrus does not ferment well, but perhaps they are refering to people actually putting the peel into the primary or using it as a secondary addition. This turned out great and I'll be making this again in a week or two for Memorial Day.

Getting Caught Up

Well, it has been along 4 months since my last post. My job usually gets in the way and I let my brewery become unproductive for a while during the winter. Actually the brewery just goes into conditioning mode. Last winter I made a Pilsner, taking advantage of the cold temperatures. I actually fermented and lagered it in our downstairs bathroom. I opened the window a bit, and put a towel under the door to keep the cold air out of the house. It turned the room into a pretty good lagering fermentation room until my wife tried to go in and discovered what I was doing. I then had to take it out to the garage and figure out how to keep it from freezing. It turned out pretty good. A little bit of sulfur flavor, but I learned a lot about lager brewing. This is the F/T Seafisher and the object of all my efforts during the winter when it is back here in Seattle for our annual maintenance. The other 10 - 11 months she is fishing in the Bearing Sea and Western Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

Since my last post I have done a little brewing and have had to work out a few more kinks in the brewery. For Christmas my wife's uncle Patrick sent me an extract with steeping grain kit in the mail. This kit was called Sympathy for The Devil Red Ale from Bluff Street Brew Haus in Dubuque, Iowa. My wife is a red head, but I'm sure this was just a coincidental name... Anyhow, I brewed this up as soon as the Seafisher left town. Since it was an extract kit and I decided to just follow the instructions I was able to brew this on my kitchen stove This was a half boil, meaning I only was going to be boiling 3 gallons, then topping off with 2.5 gallons of cold water to reach my 5 gallons for fermentation. I had just gotten back from snowy, windy, cold Dutch Harbor and had the house all to myself. The brew day went very quickly, I am always shocked at how quickly extract brew days are compared to the 4 - 6 hour all grain brew days I'm use to. Nothing very notable happened during the boil. I was able to try my new refractometer that I got for Christmas from my wife. I had always used my hydrometer for my original gravity readings and all readings after that. This means I'm dumping 3 or 4 beers worth of wort and beer throughout the whole Process! This refractometer allows me to take my initial readings using only 2 drops of wort. Really easy to use. I know my Beersmith brewing software has a tool which I think will help me use the refractometer after the fermentation. Alcohol refracts differently than water which will cause the readings to be off. Generally its better and more accurate to use the old hydrometer for later gravity checks. 

This fermentation went without any problems. I was done with it after a few weeks and then it went straight to the keg. I had thawed out my kegerator while I wasn't using it to get rid of the built up ice over to coils. After the ice was gone I discovered the thermostat dial on the back wall. Since I had been having some problems previously with the beer freezing inside the kegs I decided to turn the dial down. After a day or two in the kegerator I decided that I had set the dial way too low since it was almost colder outside the fridge than it was inside. I turned the dial a little bit colder and left the keg in there for a few more days. I hadn't hooked up the air just yet to carbonate which as it turns out seems to have been a good thing. I opened the fridge to find this little beauty staring back at me! FROZEN SOLID! Shocked, I couldn't believe it. So the keg got to spend the night in our living room for the next couple nights while it thawed out. I hooked up the CO2 to make sure the keg hadn't been damaged and it held the pressure for another day before I put it back into the fridge. In the meantime I had put a thermometer into the fridge to get the stupid thermostat figured out. I put the beer in again and set it to carbonate. After a week, I pulled a pint off. Flat. No carbonation what so ever. I stuck it back in and cranked the pressure up to 30 PSI. I checked the valves to make sure the keg was actually pressurizing, all seemed to be normal. I checked the beer again in about another week. Flat. I set another keg I had laying around that had been conditioning for a while and let it carbonate in the fridge for a week while I left the Red Ale keg on another connection outside the fridge. Within the week the second keg had carbed up perfectly, but the Red was still flat. tasted great, but flat. The only thing I can figure is that something must have been damaged in the freeze. Now I will be transferring this beer into a different keg, and looking at all the parts of the keg to see what is happening. This keg might just get turned into a lagering fermenter that I can fit into my new larger fridge.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Little Wine on the Side

My brew buddy talked me into getting some wine going in the carboys I'm not currently using for beer. Since my kegerator is full, and I've got beers aging in kegs on deck I've got a few carboys sitting around collecting dust, so why not get some wine going to keep them working? I bought a Riesling Ice Wine kit from my local home brew shop. My wife really like sweet desert wines, and specifically she likes sparkling sweet desert wines. So I planned on fermenting this out, going through all the steps, and then instead of bottling I'll keg and carbonate it. Then she can serve herself from the tap instead of opening a bottle anytime she wants one. I can also bottle it in smaller beer bottles so she can have single servings anytime she wants once I need to clear the keg for beer. This kit only makes 3 gallons, but that should keep the wife happy for a while. The kit is so simple to put together. I was trying to complicate things because it looked too simple. A beer kit is 10 times more complicated than these wine kits. They come with everything you'll need except the equipment. I think the longest part was mixing in the bentonite, which I later found out is basically clay thats used to remove excess protein from the wine. It clumped together and stuck onto the bottom of my carboy like a green slug. It took me a while to find something to stick in to unstick it. After that its just a matter of pour in the juice, and sprinkling the yeast on top.

So thats it, every day when we come home from work the house smells like tart grape juice. Its bubbling away in the living room near the heater to keep the temps in the low 70's. Its such an easy thing to mix together that I think I'll start keep ing a kit in these fermenters all the time. Next time I'll get a Cabernet Sauvignon kit and let it age for a looooooooong time in my glass carboy that I hate using anymore because I'm affraid of dropping it.

Another Full Airlock

I brewed an American Pale Ale this weekend to give to my cousin when he comes home from serving in Afghanistan. After making some adjustments in the hop selection due to what I had on hand, and what the shop had in the freezer everything went pretty well. I've never brewed with Amarillo hops so I'm interested in seeing how this turns out. I also have never used Willamete hops for my flavor and aroma additions so this will be a new experience for me. The last "new" thing in the recipe was that I accidentally grabbed Organic 2-Row for my base malt. I didn't realize my mistake until I had already crushed the grains and was writing the prices on the bag. My buddy said the grains made him stronger, faster, and smarter so that should be great for a soldier.

So this is where my brewing goes off again. I've been using washed yeast from a couple May batches. I always make a half liter starter, always use a quarter teaspoon of yeast nutrient in the starter, and up until the last two times have had great starters with normal fermentation. The past two batches using the washed Wyeast Northwest Ale have produced HUGE krausens. This batch was 5.5 gallons and when I pitched the yeast on Sunday morning. By Monday morning primary fermentation had started and everything looked normal. Monday night, still happy bubbling airlock. Tuesday morning it looked like the airlock had had the Flu all night and puked yeast all over the its blanket and lid. I switched it out once again for the hose to relieve and pressure and foam. I just don't understand why this keeps happening. My gravities aren't very high, the yeast shows normal, or slightly weaker activity in the starters before pitching, and yet I get these crazy blast off fermentations. They are 8.5 gallon buckets, and I never have had this issue in the past using smack packs. The mystery continues. I'm thinking about washing this yeast again to see if this behavior continues in further generations. It may just be the genetics of the yeast that have survived the washing process and are now multiplying. I may be the grains I'm using that cause more head retention or proteins in the wort that hold foam better. The beers this washed yeast produces tastes great. I haven't picked up any off flavors in the IPA that almost blew its top. I'll send an e-mail to my friend who is the brewer for a local micro. He's a big yeast buff so he may be able to shed some light on whats happening in my brewery.

Brew Day Entertainment was provided by Ken Burns' The West. I really enjoyed this documentary series. I think I got through two or three episodes throughout the whole brew day. They are about 90 minutes per episode so it takes a bit of a commitment. I'm currently 6 episodes in since I've been watching bits and pieces after work. Its a very dark story that makes my childhood memories of cowboys and the wild west seem like fairy tales. In some instances the show makes me proud to be an American, while the majority of whats happening shows how cruel we were. I'm always fascinated by the old photos, and by the maps they show. Growing up here in Western Washington and a bit in Western and Northern Idaho I have seen a lot of the territory they cover in the film. I'm also familiar with several of the reservations and communities mentioned in the film. The only thing the west seemed to be missing in this film was good beer. They had whiskey, but not beer. I think next time I'll look into Ken Burns' Prohibition. I've heard that's a great history lesson on alcohol in the US. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Big Spill

I had a feeling it would happen.

It was probably the hops expanding as they soaked up the beer that caused it to overflow. I came home from work to find this little puppy looking pretty sad. I sanitized my auto syphon, a small piece of hose, a new airlock and stopper setup, and two 22oz bombers. Filled the bottles with beer so I'm not really wasting any of it. Stuck the new airlock setup on top and am good to go for another week and a half of dry hopping, this time with no worries from this beer. I opened my 4 lbs bag of corn sugar I hadn't gotten into since May, and put about a 1/4 teaspoon of corn sugar into each bottle to prime them. I didn't think much about correct amounts to add, I just decided to wing it. I'll have to keep a close eye on these though. I thought the hose in the neck of the bottle would act like my bottling wand and displace a bit of beer so when I pull it out there's a good half to full inch of head space. Didn't happen. One is damn near filled to the brim, and the other one has about a 1/4" from the cap. I'll watch them. They are more for fun, if they turn out then they are bonus beers. I just don't want them to turn into bottle bombs. We'll see. It seems like there's always something to do with this hobby.

Updated Temp Control

Last night I insulated my primary bucket with the towels around my brew belt. I checked this morning before riding off to work and the fermenter was sitting at 68 degrees. The brew belt alone was struggling to keep the temps at 58, so by adding the towels I was able to raise the temps that 10 degrees to keep the fermentation running strong. I pulled the towels off but left the belt on. I don't want it to get too hot. I figure it'll be about 66 when I get back from work. Another probably more visually pleasing material I could use would be a sort of neoprene material, just like a beer coozy. They make these for carboys, but I haven't seen them taylor made for buckets. I might look into buying some raw material and having my wife sew on some zippers. I'll save that for another day. Back to work!