Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Ale... First Ten Gallon Brewday!!!

Breaking news! Hop River Ales is now a 0.3225806 barrel home brewery! Also, I love pumpkin beer. Well, let me rephrase... I love one commercial pumpkin beer. I've tried many, but the only one that really gets me is Dogfish Head's Punkin' Ale, all the others I have tried have been too much spice/not enough pumpkin or too much pumpkin/not enough spice. DFH nails it with Punk... So, with all the equipment to brew ten gallon batches complete and autumn in full swing, I decided to do my Pumpkin Ale recipe for my first ten gallon batch. I have brewed this recipe 1 1/2 times before (the "half" was my only ever failed batch due to a hopelessly stuck sparge)... I adapted the recipe from one I found on here: Reno eNVy's Punkin' Ale which is intended to be a clone of DFH's Punkin'. I made a few tweaks (less 2 row, real pumpkin, more brown sugar, different yeast, higher efficiency, etc...) hopefully enough to consider it my own, while giving credit to the original recipe. It came out amazing.

Here is my recipe for an 11 gallon batch. You may be wondering why I make an 11 gallon batch... after fermentation, a lot of sludge (called trub) ends up settled to the bottom of the fermentor. When transferring to keg or bottling, you want to leave this behind. In doing that you lose some beer. So, to end up with 10 gallons of clear finished beer, I have to make 11 gallons to start with.

152 degree mash (was shooting for 154, but missed low and rolled with it) for 60 minutes
19 lbs American 2 row malt
2 lbs Crystal/Caramel 60L malt
2 lbs Victory malt
5 1/4 lbs Sugar Pumpkin (baked and pureed)
1 lb Rice Hulls

Mash is pretty straight forward for the experienced All Grain brewer. Except for the pumpkin... Here is how I prepare it.

I start with a 10 lb sugar pumpkin from the local country farm store. (I always go to The Hurst Family Farm for this type of thing, they may be the nicest people in the world...) I cut the pumpkin into eighths, remove the seeds, and lay in a 13x9 pan with an inch or so of water in it. Bake at 375 uncovered for about an hour or until the pumpkin starts to brown.

After baking, scoop pumpkin flesh from the skin, and discard the skin. Then I use an immersion blender to puree the pumpkin. I usually do this the day before and refrigerate. 

But. The pumpkin is going into the mash, so there are a few things needed to handle it. Firstly, you need to compensate for the temp. 5-6 pounds of cold pumpkin will affect your mash temp. To deal with this, I heated up the pumpkin on the stove before mashing in... nbd. 

Also... Rice hulls. I cannot stress enough. In my experience, nothing will stick a mash (everything in the mash tun congeals and won't drain) like pureed pumpkin. The second time I attempted this recipe was a nightmare. The mash stuck like cement, I had to pour back and forth between the tun and a 5 gallon bucket to unstick and that would last about 5 minutes of draining before sticking again. Then the sparge stuck... it was hopeless and I gave up and dumped it after 3 hours of this. Rice hulls will help keep things loose and flowing so use a lot. A half pound for 5 gallon or full pound for 10 may not be enough...

So you're probably thinking that fresh pumpkin seems like an asston of work, why not just use canned? Bc that's not how I roll. Canned pumpkin isn't even really pumpkin, it's closer to butternut squash. So if you're trying to make a Butternut Squash Ale, go ahead, used canned. But I'm making Pumpkin Ale! (does that make me a pumpkin snob??)

60 minute Boil:
2 oz Hallertau hops @ 60 minutes
3 lbs Light Brown Sugar @ 15 minutes
1 tablet Whirlfloc @ 15 minutes
3 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice @ 15 minutes (see notes)
1 oz Hallertau hops @ 5 minutes
1 oz Hersbrucker hops @ 5 minutes (substitution, this would have been another ounce of Hallertau but my brewstore only had 3 oz in stock)

Boil is pretty standard, the only real note I have is in the pie spice. In my successful 5 gallon batch I used 1.5 Tablespoons of spice in the boil. When tasting for the first time, there was not nearly enough spice. So I boiled 2 more tablespoons of spice in a quart of water for a few minutes and added right to the keg and it was perfect. I am essentially going to do the same thing again. I may try to just add the extra spice to the boil next time, but I was already experimenting on a few different fronts this time around so I didn't want to take the chance. Disclaimer: I used cheap Ocean State Job Lot pumpkin pie spice (it's what I had in the cabinet)... I cannot guarantee if you are using a fresh quality spice. I would recommend starting low as you can spice to taste at bottling/kegging.

With my efficiency, I ended up with 12 gallons (due to weaker than normal boil) of 1.078 gravity wort. If that ferments down to 1.014 like I did last time, that is a 8+% Alcohol beer. Could be considered Imperial, see why I dropped the extra 2 row malt? The efficiency is hard to calculate due to the unknown amount of fermentable sugars in the pumpkin, but I assume I'm in the low 80's...

split between two fermentors
1 pack S-04 dry yeast
1 starter of Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes liquid yeast

Here is where it gets experimental... Last time I used S-04 dry yeast instead of US-05 as in the original recipe. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I think S-04 does not ferment as low as US-05 so it will leave more body, sweetness and pumpkin flavor. I think it was perfect last time.

Since I brewed 10 gallons and my fermentors are really only for 5 gallon batches, I need to split the batch into two fermentors. This gives me the opportunity to use a different yeast in each fermentor. So I decided to get creative and do something fun for half of the batch. I used Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast in the second fermentor. This is the same yeast I used in my Belgian IPA found in my old blog posts herehere, and here. This yeast is incredibly active. I knew from experience that a simple airlock would not contain it, so I started out with a blowoff tube. Glad I did, within hours it was swelling up the top of the bucket and passing krausen through the tube. 6 days later it is still pushing stuff through the tube and it has clogged twice. So excited to try this...

So what about the ten gallon experience?? Well this 13 hour (I was still out brewing after dark) brewday was full of mistakes, bloopers, panic, and learning experiences. No zen this time, but I learned a lot. I'll post about my ten gallon process once I have it figured out better... for now, here are some pics:

 The color of this beer is amazing, check out the caramel colored first runnings coming from the mash out...

So 10 gallon batches are heavy! (duh) This was my first attempt at staging things so it all flows downhill. My new neighbors probably think I'm making meth...
 So I filled the keggle on the ground and was going to pick it up full (bad idea) and put it onto the burner. I should have tested that with water. Turns out a full keggle weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 150lbs...

 Another thing I should have tested... my burner could not hold the weight. So I went to the local hardware store where I remember them having a cast iron outdoor burner. It was gone and they looked at me like I had two heads when I asked about it. So to Home Depot, they should have it... right? nope. Lowes either... So my last chance was Cabella's, and they saved the day. Probably would have been dumping this batch if Cabella's had not had it.

Full keggle sitting on new heavy duty burner... Unfortunately the rim of the keggle makes it sit a little high on the burner and it was hard to get a really good rolling boil. I'll be modifying the burner before my next brewday.

15 gallons fermenting in my basement... White topped fermentor is my Autumn Dream Cider, the other two is the split batch of Pumpkin Ale. The one on the left pushing all kinds of stuff through the blowoff tube is the Ardennes yeast. The S-04 also clogged the airlock and needed a blowoff tube but it was not nearly as dramatic as the Ardennes.

I will keep you updated with these batches, stay tuned... Later...

Keggle (not kegel (sry, still makes me lol)) Continued...

Well I finally got around to finishing the keggle... kinda... it's functional but not fully equipped yet. You can read the first half of the keggle saga (so dramatic) here: Keggle (not kegel) Workout... I last posted about the keggle all the way back in June, with the plan to get it welded and assembled within a few weeks. Fast forward four months and I finally have it complete to a point that I can actually brew with it. Quick recap: acquired old beat keg, cut off top, drilled two holes near bottom, had two couplings welded into drilled holes, and here we are...

Ok, so full disclosure, I'm using some brass parts... Not as sexy as stainless I know, but easier and cheaper to get. I know what you might be thinking, "Brass has lead, doesn't it?" Well, yes it does... a tiny bit... but consider what all the valves and fixtures in your home that you use every day are made from, and you're fine right? right. But... because it's so easy to do, I decided to "pickle" the brass parts. This leaches the lead from the surface of the brass so that the beer will never come into contact with the lead.

Solution is two parts white vinegar, one part hydrogen peroxide. Remove handle from ball valve. Soak brass parts for about 5 minutes at room temp. If it starts to turn green, you soaked it too long and need to start over with a fresh solution. Then just rinse and reassemble. Easy, peasy, mac and cheesy...

Why yes, I did use an old pickle jar to pickle the parts. Isn't it ironic?

Here you can see the couplings I had welded into the holes I drilled. Threaded both inside and outside the keggle so I can attach fittings in and out.

On the outside: On the left, 1/2" brass nipple into 1/2" ball valve for draining. On the right, just plugged for now, this port will be used for a combination thermometer and sight glass in the future. I can brew without them for now, but it will be nice to have. I'll save that for a future post.
Inside: Because the bottom of the keg is domed down, if I just used the ball valve on the side, like a full gallon of wort (unfermented beer) would be left behind when I drained. So I built a diptube to supply the ball valve drain from the very very bottom of the dome. I used a 1/2" male thread to sweat adapter, 1/2" copper tubing, and a 1/2" copper 90 degree elbow. In the pic nothing is soldered together, but it has since been soldered.
Here's a better visual of how the diptube goes into the ball valve. When test draining it left behind only a few drops... So... after cleaning, I have a fully functional 15.5 gallon brew kettle. Know what that means?? Ten. Gallon. Batches.

I was nervous about how heavy this thing was going to be when full. I'm guessing the keggle weighs something like 30-35lbs empty, add 12 gallons of wort (9-ish lbs/gallon) and you are talking about 145 lbs full. As Marty McFly would say, "That's heavy." I was scared that, sitting on top of my stainless turkey fryer burner it might wobble, tip, spill...

It was worse than I thought. My stainless burner could not withstand the total awesomeness of the keggle I built.

Hilarity ensued, when I drove around central CT on an October Sunday afternoon trying to find an outdoor propane burner out of season, while 13+ gallons of unboiled wort sat at home... But to hear how it turned out, stay tuned for my next post covering my first ten gallon (pumpkin) brewday... Total cliffhanger! Later...

Also, please take a second and take a look at my poll on the right (if reading on a mobile device click "view web version")

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Autumn Dream Cider... So Srs!

Well... the leaves are falling, it's rainiy and cold, and the Red Sox aren't in the playoffs (ugh) It's officially fall. 

Tonight I put together my Autumn Dream Cider. This is my own recipe, I made it twice last year and it came out great. I've said it before, ciders are so easy... I actually put this together in 30 minutes while dinner was in the oven. This is different than the Summer Cider I did in May, a little crisper, drier, and more flavorful. This one has a few more ingredients and the extra step of steeping spices. It's not as cheap to make but it's pretty great.

5 gallons Fresh Local Cider (must be no preservatives, check the label. If it has potassium sorbate in the ingredients, it won't work)
1 lb Light Brown Sugar
1 pack Mulling Spices (I cheat and use a whole spice blend that my country farm store makes and sells... looks like clove, allspice, star anise, dried orange peel, cinnamon sticks... etc.)
1 cup Dried Cranberries (I try to find ones that don't have corn syrup or preservatives added)
1/2 cup Raisins (just regular old raisins)
1 pack S-04 Dry Ale Yeast

I always prefer to use fresh local ingredients when I can, in the summer it's really hard to find cider at all never mind cider with no preservatives. For my Autumn Dream Cider, I like to use fresh local cider that I get from the country farm store down the street from me. (I also picked up a 10lb pie pumpkin for this weekend's brewday)

So, I take a half gallon of cider and pour into a 4qt pot and heat on low. While that is heating up, I do all my sanitizing per usual. Once the cider on the stove is warm, I stir in the full pound of brown sugar until it's all dissolved. Then I rough chop the cranberries and raisins and add to the hot cider. Let steep for about 15 minutes, don't boil! Unlike brewing beer, no one is going to complain about the smell.

Pour all that into a clean sanitized fermentor while still hot. Then pour the rest of the cold cider (4 1/2 gallons) into the fermentor. Pour from a few feet up and let it splash and foam to aerate (yeast need the oxygen to multiply and get started) I got a 1.052 starting gravity reading. The mixed temp of the 1/2 gallon hot and 4 1/2 gallons cold comes out to a nice cool temp for the yeast to get started.

I'll let this ferment down to 1.010 to 1.005 and I'll stop fementation there by cold crashing (transfer to keg and put in fridge) the cold will make the yeast go dormant and drop to the bottom of the keg. I might play with some finings at the point to get it extra super clear, we'll see... Later.