Thursday, April 28, 2011

Most. Boring. Blog. Post.

Tonight still drinking BIPA... no surprises there.

Not a lot to write about tonight, just did a few little maintenance type things.

After work I stopped at the homebrew store for some hops to dryhop the SMaSHed Pils and pick up some sanitizer.

I decided to bottle a few BIPAs off the keg to share with friends at work and to bring a sample to the brew store for critique.

After sanitizing bottles and my home made beer gun (used to fill bottles and growlers from keg) I reduced the pressure on the keg, hooked up my beer gun, and filled a six pack of 16 oz Grolsch bottles. Grolsch is like a better Heineken (it's ok if you like that skunky dutch lager thing) but it comes in really cool flip top bottles that are great for home brew...

I tested the SMaSHed Pils again to confirm it was done. Hydrometer reading was 1.010 again so it is definitely done. I dryhopped. Two full ounces of Aurora hops, hoping to get big aroma.

Finally got around to cleaning the keg and tap that had the cider. Cider kicked like a week ago. Right after filling a nice champagne bottle for my inlaws.

That's it for tonight, nothing exciting. Just blogging to fill the void. Planning next batch. Was thinking of doing a beginner method extract batch to illustrate how easy it can be to get started. But now thinking, bc I would boil inside, I might wait for a time when the wife is def away for the day (she hates the smell...) idk, open for suggestion.

Also, please don't be afraid to comment people. ask questions if I don't explain something well enough, suggest topics... whatevs. One friend irl was asking about my kegerator, so I plan on profiling it soon... later all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BIPA/Raging Bitch side by side

Tonight I did the side by side comparison of my BIPA (Belgian IPA) clone attempt at Flying Dog's Raging Bitch and the actual original. I am the first to admit I am not a good taster... I like everything... I try, but I cannot pick up the subtle stuff. I usually defer to others, like the proprietor of my LHBS (Local Home Brew Store) Rich Loomis of Brew Wine Hobby located in East Hartford, CT... But I am trying to taste compare here, cleansing my palate with beer bread (probs terrible choice) and through dinner (chicken salad sandwiches tonight...) Again, I have no idea what I am doing here, but I'll try...

My BIPA from the tap on left, Flying Dog's Raging Bitch on right.

Appearance: Color match is spot on. Clarity goes to Flying Dog... more patience on my part might help here but this point carries the least weight for me...

Nose: My BIPA has this one, hands down... Fresh hop aroma from dry hop, a little funky belgian yeastiness. Flying Dog smells stale... bland... Here is where I start wondering how long the Flying Dog was sitting on the shelf...

First Taste: BIPA has more bitterness, fresher hop and yeast flavor, also drier? maybe... Flying Dog is a little maltier and blander? Side by side does not seem representative of the Raging Bitch I tried that inspired me to want to clone it. Tastes malty... has almost the "iced tea" flavor (best way to describe?) that reminds me of oktoberfests... idk, probs has something to do with food pairings? But I feel like, if I am eating the same thing before drinking both side by side, then it should be even? 

Overall Winner? My BIPA, duh! Loving this beer. Only changes I am thinking of is maybe, (maybe) cranking up fermentation temps to bring out more yeast flavor, and maybe upping the hops to balance that. Would make total extreme beer though... 

Also... side note... Holy "CR" at double fisting 2 full pints of 9% beer through dinner... Whoooo! Total danger game... ;)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beer Can Chicken

Tonight I am drinking the BIPA. Belgian IPA brewed on 3/20... Not prepared to do a full write-up yet, I have a bottle of Flying Dog's Raging Bitch (commercial inspiration) sitting in the fridge that I plan on doing a side by side comparison with. SPOILER ALERT... it's in the top three of my best batches. 

Has not fully dropped clear yet. Still has a little lingering chill haze, but I am guessing that will fully drop out with another week in the kegerator. Stay tuned for more!

Tonight, not much brewing action but doing some beer related cooking. I am doing a Beer Can Chicken. If not familiar, basic idea is you stand a roasting chicken up in the oven with an open can of beer inside the cavity. When you roast the chicken the beer boils and steams the chicken from the inside as it cooks, adding flavor and moisture. 

Had an old can of Bud Light in the back of the fridge for over a year and I thought it would be perfect... riiiighht... lol

First step, wash can.

 Next step (most important step), pour entire can of gross beer down the drain... couldn't even drink it, ugh...

 Fill now empty can with delicious homebrew (BIPA) add 3 cloves of garlic, and some rosemary to beer. Kegerator is a hot mess tonight, should have cleaned up before taking pics... don't judge, lol

Next, insert can into cavity of chicken and stand chicken up like a tripod. Totally winging it here... (zomg, winging it... lulz) Rub chicken with EVOO and fancy seasoning salt I had on hand. Red potatoes drizzled with EVOO and sprinkled with same seasoning salt in bottom of pan. Roasted at 375 degrees for 2 hours 40 minutes...

When I cut into it on the cutting board, it exploded with juice. Was not expecting and it made a huge mess that ran down the counter and all over the floor. I filled up just from picking while carving, so good...

Immediately after taking this picture I managed to knock over and smash my favorite tall draft glass all over the table. Total klutz...

I also used the BIPA in making the stuffing by replacing a half cup of water with beer! I don't think anyone noticed, but I thought it was good.

Minus the broken glass and spilled beer, it was a great family meal, even kids, who inherited their aunt's picky eating, liked the chicken. As good as the chicken was, I was blown away by the potatoes. Soaked in the drippings and seasonings, olive oil, omg so good...

Since the sink was now contaminated with salmonella/plague/supergerms, I decided I might as well mix up a batch of sanitizer and sanitize the sink. Figured it was a good time to take a gravity reading on the SMaSHed Pils.

Brewed 4/11, original gravity 1.064. 12 days later crystal clear, gravity at 1.010. Calculates at a respectable 7% abv. Also finished nice and dry, which is what I was going for when I mashed low. Ugh at myself for spacing out and freezing my tasting sample again... but first impressions from the too cold sample: Muted nose, I think I will go big on dry hop, 2 ounces maybe... Very fruity and citrusy hop flavor, maybe a little apricot? Nice bittering balance. Nice and dry, clean finish with a pleasant lingering bitterness. Everything I was going for, pretty excited for this one too!

During brew day, I made a last minute decision to increase all the hop additions, so I do not have the hops on hand to dry hop, even though it is ready. A trip to the LHBS (Local Home Brew Store) is in order. Also need some other small supplies.

That's it for tonight, time to start thinking about the next batch... Heard a rumor that DogFish Head might be pulling distribution from CT (DFH denies this rumor on their FB page) thinking it's time to work on some clone recipes for my fav DFH beers just in case. I think my 60 minute IPA recipe is pretty solid, thinking of trying something like Midas Touch... We'll see...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

BIPA Kegged

Tonight I'm drinking Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot...

Love this beer. New to the Bigfoot fanclub... First year I have tried it and I don't know if I'll be able to force myself to put any away for aging (totally won't). But I like the hops, and aging brings out the malt profile, so I'm told. I don't know... maybe I can convince myself to put one away (doubt it).

To continue Sunday's brewday coverage,  I tested and kegged the BIPA (Belgian IPA). BIPA had been dryhopping for a week. Last week the gravity tested at 1.011 down from 1.080. Was pretty sure it was done but I tested again to confirm. Really just wanted a sample to taste. Last week i accidentally froze the sample and then tasted it too cold so I didn't get a good idea of taste or aroma... 

This week, after dryhopping, the sample tested at 1.011 again and was very clear. sorry no pics... I was totally beat at that point and gave up taking them. So because the sample tested at the exact same gravity, that means the yeast have eaten everything they can and are done. This is especially critical to confirm if bottling. If you bottle before the yeast are done, you risk the dreaded bottle bombs... Yeast eating sugar produce CO2. In a closed vessel like a capped bottle, the pressure will build until something gives (probably the glass) and will explode with some force. If you confirm your final gravity it's safe, I never had a problem in my ten-ish batches that I bottled. But kegging is a little more forgiving with that.

The sample tasted great... the belgiany flavor was a little muted. I am wishing I had jacked up the temp a little during fermentation... but it's possible that as the hops fade a little with time, the belgian esters will come through a little more. Aroma was great and I think carbonation will really bring it out. 

So I kegged, set the CO2  to serving pressure, and put in the kegerator to chill. This is the really slow way to carbonate, but the extra time in fridge will help it clear all the way... so now I just have to force myself to leave it alone for 2 weeks. Will be so hard... Really excited about this beer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

SMaSHed Pils!

Tonight I am drinking my Autumn Cider...

Disclaimer: not affiliated with any homebrew clubs, just picked up this nice pint glass that one of the local clubs was selling at the Brews and Blues Fest at the Coventry farmers' market last year...

Overall pretty happy with it. The spices are great, won't change anything there. Can definitely taste a difference in the juice I used. Last time I used fresh, in-season, cider from a local orchard. This time, I saw generic cider on sale at Price Rite and I happened to have everything else I needed on hand, so I threw together a quick batch for $15. It's good, but was better with real cider. I guess that's why cider is typically a seasonal thing... Oh well, lol

A little backstory on SMaSH beers... SMaSH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop. The intent is to use really simple ingredients so the brewer can learn what each ingredient actually brings to the beer. At the suggestion of the proprietor of my local Homebrew store, I decided to do a SMaSH with Pilsner Malt and Aurora Hops. I decided to do this beer loosely as an IPA to really get a feel for the hops. I have played with Pilsner Malt before, so I already have a good feel for that. I have never used Aurora hops so my goal here was to be aggressive with the hops to really see what Aurora tastes/smells like.

So today was Brewday! Typically I love brewdays. My routine is to get up early (7:00) Sunday morning and start before anyone else wakes up. This way I am usually done and cleaned up before noon with time to go to the dump and relax the rest of the day. Today I got a late start and was nearly as efficient due to a late night, Saturday night... So I got started around 10:00 and finally cleaned up at 5:30, ugh... I should explain that I brew All Grain, which is basically making beer from scratch. I would not recommend AG for a beginner, there are several simpler ways to brew great beer. I am considering doing an easy extract batch and write it up for the blog to show how easy it can be for the beginners.

A shot of my All Grain equipment. from L to R: turkey fryer with 20qt pot, 
7.5 gallon brew kettle on table with wort chiller inside, and orange igloo mash tun.

First step is to mix up a batch of sanitizer. I use Iodophor, iodine based no rinse sanitizer. I keep the whole bucket around throughout brewday because you never know when you need to resanitize things.

Then I figure out all my brewing math. 13lbs of grain, how much water, how hot the water should be to hit your mash temp after you mix in grain. I like to write up a plan for my brewday ahead of time, so I am not looking things up or trying to find a calculator at a critical point.

Inside the Mash Tun. You can see the manifold in the bottom, this helps to 
let the wort run out while separating and leaving behind the grain.

Once I have my plan I preheat my Mash Tun. I heat up some water (about a gallon) to about 170ish and pour into Mash Tun. I let that sit while I heat up my strike water. Strike water is the initial batch of water that you mix with the grain for the mash. In this case I needed 14.6 qts of water at 167 degrees. 

13 lbs of Pilsner malt in the bag...

 Grain mixed with strike water in mash tun. Mixed well to make sure all the grains are saturated.

Science Warning: Mashing is soaking the grains in hot water to use the enzymes present in the grain to convert the complex starches into simpler sugars. The simpler sugars are able to be digested by the yeast later on and turned into alcohol.

The mash temps are pretty critical. Typically, to get the proper conversion the temps need to be between the high 140s to 160... As I understand it, the lower you go, the more complex sugars will be broken down and conversely the higher the temp, the more complex sugars (undigestable by the yeast) will be left. This affects the final gravity. The higher the final gravity, the sweeter and fuller bodied the beer. The lower the FG (final gravity) the dryer the final beer.

For this IPA, I wanted a dryer beer to accentuate the hops. I aimed for the lower side, 150 degrees.

Aiming for 150 degrees and nailed it. Doesn't always happen, and I like to have a small pot of boiling water and some cold water on hand to adjust if I need to...

Hit my mash temp, now we hold it for an hour to let the conversion happen. The cooler does a great job holding the heat. I don't lose a single degree over an hour.

After the hour mash, I start to drain the first runnings.

The first little bit that comes out has a little bit of grain material in it. So you have to catch that first quart or so until the wort runs clear. This then gets put back into the mash, it will get filtered by the grain bed on its way back through. This is called Vorlaufing.

First runnings going into the brew kettle.

For this batch I get about 2 gallons of super concentrated wort. But there are still a lot of sugars sitting in the grain after it's all drained. So then, you have to sprage. Sparging is rinsing the mashed grains with hotter water (170-180)  to dissolve the residual sugars and rinse the grains. There are several methods to sparge but I use the simplest... I batch sparge. I heat up 3 gallons to 170 and add to the mash tun. Stir, let sit for a few minutes and drain into the boil kettle. Repeat a second time and I end up with about 7.5 gallons of wort.

 Brew kettle full of wort, ready to start the boil.

 Hops lined up for timed additions to the boil.

Hops are added during the boil at certain times. The amount of time the hops are boiled changes what they add to the beer. Late additions (boiled 5 minutes or less) adds hop aroma. Middle additions (boiled 30-15 minutes) adds hop flavor. And early additions (typically boiled 60 minutes) add bitterness.

For this SMaSH I wanted to really see what this hop was like. So I added 4 additions at 60, 30, 15, and 5 minutes.

 I didn't get a good pic of my wort chiller. But this is it in the wort. All it is, is a coiled up copper tube that you run cold water through after you are finished boiling.

 Running the wort chiller to cool down to pitching temps.

Yeast are pretty tough, but dumping them into 200 degree wort is a sure way to kill them. You have to cool the wort down under 80, I prefer under 70. You also have to cool as fast as possible to avoid infection. Yeast love sugar, they go nuts for it. Unfortunately bacteria love the same thing... This is also why you have to sanitize anything that will touch the wort after the boil.

 Taking my gravity reading after cooling.

I get unusually high efficiency... Not bragging, because I don't really know why. Using other people's recipes I would always end up with way stronger beer than expected. I have started adjusting my recipes to compensate. I plan on 83% efficiency. (70% is typical for this process?) Today I planned on 5.5 gallons of 1.073 beer. But I didn't boil off as much water as I planned so I ended up at 6.25 gallons of 1.064 beer. Still 83% efficiency... And not really complaining about more beer. 

This is where I was getting pretty tired and gave up taking pics for a while... sry. But after sanitizing fermentor,  I poured beer from the brew kettle into the fermentor from about 3 feet up to aerate (the yeast need oxygen to multiply) this is the only time you should aerate, any other time adding oxygen is damaging to the beer.

After cooling and aerating I added the yeast and sealed up the fermentor.

Fermentor sitting in the closet... I mean fermenting chamber, lulz

Ferment for about 2 weeks, add dry hops for a week and keg. I also tested and kegged the BIPA I talked about last entry... but I'm beat and I'll write that up tomorrow.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Starting in the middle (now with pics!)

Tonight my taps are dry... I'm drinking Demo, a black IPA by Magic Hat and Red Hook's ESB. Not really impressed with Demo, kinda doesn't come together very well for me. Like a roasty stout with a lot of hop aroma but not much bitterness. The ESB is one of my go-to, middle of the road, commercial beers. I love it.

As most of my intended audience is not familiar with all the terms and technical points of brewing, I want to make this kind of educational. I am no brewmaster, but I can share what I have learned and maybe take some of the mystery out of brewing for anyone interested. Kinda bummed that I am starting this in the middle stages of two batches, but there will be plenty of other batches that I will document from beginning to end.

First project tonight was testing the specific gravity of my Autumn Cider, that I started on 3/22, to see if it is ready to be kegged.

So tonight I pulled the fermentor out of the closet. After mixing up a bucket of sanitizer and sanitizing my hydrometer (scale for testing the amount of sugar left in beer/cider/wine) I opened the bucket up.

All that floating on top is just the rehydrated raisins, cranberries, and spices I used. Smells like total fall in the kitchen... The original gravity (measure of how much sugar) of this cider was 1.056 before fermenting. If I left this alone, the yeast would turn all the sugars they could eat into alcohol and go dormant. In a beer that's the goal, but in this cider I want to stop those greedy yeast early to keep a little sweetness. Depending on the yeast they would probably quit at specific gravity (SG) 1.000 or lower. I'm trying to stop at 1.010, that would math out to 6 % alcohol by volume.

The sample measured out to 1.008, went a hair too far but close enough. That is 6.3% ABV probably higher because of all the sugars I couldn't measure in the raisins and cranberries. It tasted great... So racking (siphoning) to keg and putting in fridge to cool and put those yeast to sleep.

After sanitizing I racked to keg...

Put the keg in the kegerator and set CO2 pressure to 30psi for 24 hours to jump start carbonation. Noticed I might be running out of CO2. I'll have to stop at AirGas to fill my tank. Now we wait... I'll be drinking this in about a week now.

My other task of the night was to check the gravity of my Belgian IPA. The BIPA was brewed on 3/20. With a beer you need to let it ferment all the way out. So really all I need to see is where it stops so I can figure out the alcohol percentage. Also, for this beer, once it is done I am dry hopping with an ounce of Amarillo Gold hops for a week before kegging. 

The yeast strain I used for this (Ardennes) is completely insane. My first time using it and I had a feeling it would be super active. All that gross stuff on top is called krausen, foam created by the yeast during fermentation. During the first two days of fermentation this thing was pushing the krausen through a blow-off tube I set up just in case. The top of the bucket would swell up and then it would push some stuff through, relieve the pressure and the lid would go back down. It looked like it was breathing! Temps matter a lot for the yeast. This time of year my house is at like 64 and for this yeast I wanted it more like 74. I have a rubbermaid tub I can put the bucket in, fill with water and use an aquarium heater in the water to raise temps. I ended up not needing to... This yeast was so active, it created it's own heat. The thermometer on the side of the bucket was reading 75 even though the closet was 64! 

Took my sample, starting to clear. This beer started at 1.080. That's about as big as I can go with my current setup. Tonight it measured at 1.011, making it 9.0% ABV! The strongest beer I have made to date. Also, it's probably done... I could take another reading in a couple days to confirm it, but the yeast is dropping out so I am not too worried.

In with the dry hops! I am using pellet hops (ground up and formed into pellets) and they make a mess when you dry hop with them. That's why I am putting them into a sanitized bag, so they don't turn into hop slime and end up in the keg. Most of the hops are added during the boil, before fermentation. Dry hopping is adding hops to the fermented beer to give it fresh hop aroma. Not necessary for all styles but for anything IPA it's a must... Now, the way I am doing this can be a little controversial. A lot of homebrewers move the beer to a secondary fermentor to let the yeast settle and add dry hops there. I don't do secondaries anymore. Its a waste of time in my opinion. The beer will clear just fine if you let it sit long enough and there is no risk of off flavors from the yeast cake, so why bother? So, I'll let the dry hops sit for a week and keg it. Meant to try the sample I took tonight, but I froze accident, trying to chill it for tasting. Oops... When it thaws out I'll let you know how it was. But it smelled amazing!!

Last pic for the night... My 5 year old painted me this picture. "It's a beer!", she said. She was so proud. Pretty funny... I hung it up on my kegerator.