Sunday, April 16, 2017

Scottish 80 Shilling Ale 1.0

Unlike a lot of craft brew fans, I'm not terribly fond of hop-forward styles. I'd much rather have a Belgian Trappist ale or a good German lager than an IPA, American Pale Ale, or "Imperial" something-or-other. One of the beer styles I really enjoy is the Scottish Ale, though until today I hadn't brewed one.

I began by searching out a recipe that had won an award at the national level. Then, I considered that recipe in terms of my own tastes and the ingredients I had on hand. For example, I had only an ounce of East Kent Goldings (EKG) hops pellets on hand. This wasn't enough to bitter the beer, so I investigated other hops varieties that are suited to Scottish Ales and went with Magnum hops for bittering. I would use the EKG for flavor and aroma so that the beer would remain true to style. I also wanted some Cara-Pils in there for a nice head. Here's how that brewing session went...

9 pounds Maris Otter Malt
10 ounces Munich (Light) Malt
10 ounces Cara-Pils Malt
9 ounces Honey Malt
5 ounces Roasted Barley
0.50 ounces Magnum hops pellets @ 12.7% AA
1.00 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 5.7% AA
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 packet White Labs Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast
1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
2 Campden Tablets

I had originally estimated this to be a 5.9 gallon batch at 80% Brew House Efficiency in BeerSmith. My actual volume came out at 5.9 gallons but my efficiency was actually 87.7% for this batch, so the figures below represent the finished beer rather than the original estimate:

  • Batch Size: 5.9 gallons
  • Brew House Efficency: 87.7%
  • Boil time: 60 minutes
  • Estimated pre-boil volume: 7.3 gallons
  • Estimated Mash Efficiency: 87.1%
  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.059 SG or 14.5 Brix
  • IBUs: 24.3
  • Color: 16.3 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 5.3%
  • Total Grains: 11.13 pounds
  • Total Hops: 1.5 ounces
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.411 IBU/SG
  • Estimated Pre-boil Gravity: 1.052 SG or 12.9 Brix (actual was 13.3 Brix)

All the grain, whether pre-crushed or not, was run through my Cereal Killer mill to ensure a proper and somewhat consistent crush.

The Mash

Per the formula for The Grainfather and my own experience with the system, I calculated that I would need 4.5 gallons of mash water and 3.75 gallons of sparge water to produce a 6-galllon finished volume of beer. I put 4.5 gallons in The Grainfather kettle and dropped in a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine. I also put one in the sparge water kettle and filled it.

A 90-minute mash at 157F was performed with the grain bill, followed by a 10-minute mash out at 167F. The sparge water was heated to 167F and the grain batch sparged into the kettle.

Post-sparge the the kettle contained just over 7 gallons of wort. I added some water to top it off at the needed 7.3 gallon mark my calculations called for. 

The color looks good to me. I wanted a slight reddish hue
I stirred the wort well and took two or three gravity readings with a refractometer. All three readings came up at 13.1 Brix, versus the expected 11.7 Brix. Clearly I've become more efficient at mashing than I've been in the past.

The Boil

A 60-minute boil began. Due to the large wort volume, it took The Grainfather quite a while to get up to the boil. Once there, I stirred it to keep ahead of the foam until the foaming stopped. I then began the 60-minute countdown.
  • 60 minutes: Add Magnum hops pellets
  • 15 minutes: Add Whirlfloc tablet and whirlpool the kettle for a couple of minutes
  • 10 minutes: Add the East Kent Goldings and Yeast Nutrient. Start recirculating wort through the counter flow chiller to sterilize it.
  • 0 minutes: Switch off the heat, switch off the pump, and run cold water through the counter flow chiller to cool it down. Then move the output hose to the sanitized fermenter and pump the wort into the fermenter.
Owing to the efficiency of the chiller and the temperature of our cold water supply, wort entered the fermenter at 64.9F, right at the low end of the yeast's optimal range. I pitched the yeast and a vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm and sealed the fermenter.

Fermenter Volume a little below 6 gallons

The Fermentation

Using my Inkbird temperature controller, I programmed the following temperature settings:
  • Days 1-2: 66F
  • Days 3-4: 67F
  • Days 5-6: 68F
  • Days 7-8: 69F
  • Days 9+: 70F
This gradual climb should allow the yeast to finish out fermentation well without stressing it unnecessarily. I attached a fermwrap fermentation heater to the fermenter and plugged it into the Inkbird controller's heat port.

After primary fermentation is complete, I plan to transfer the beer to a clean and sanitized secondary fermenter and pitch in some gelatin to clarify the beer some more. I'm hoping to enter this brew in a competition and want it to look and taste its best.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

Lately, I've noticed that my brewhouse efficiency has been pretty inconsistent. FOr my last four brews, it's been:
  • Boardwalk Belgian Quad 2.0: 74..7%
  • Mandarina Blonde Ale 1.0: 83.0%
  • Australian Sparkling Ale 1.0: 80.0%
  • Scottish 80 Shilling Ale (this brew): 87.7%
I'm still tracking down the issue, but I have a few "suspects" to consider:
  • Grain Crush - For the Quad, the grain bill consisted mostly of a malt I crushed myself. Later, I discoverer that my mill had a larger gap between the rollers than it should have had, so I adjusted that for the other three batches and efficiency improved.
  • Mash Thickness - The Quad had a thicker mash and the largest grain bill of all. 
  • Grainfather Efficiency - I've heard that The Grainfather delivers greater efficiency for grain bills of a certain size, and lower efficiency above and below that. 
Lately I've been keeping stats on the grain bill in pounds, the brew house efficiency of the finished wort as calculated by BeerSmith, mash time, and mash thickness. There hasn't been much correlation so far, but I'm hoping to find out what's causing it in time. My primary suspect at this point is the grain crush. The batches I've made since adjusting the mill have been more efficient.

April 24: The ale has been fermenting now for approximately nine days. The airlock activity has been relatively mild and slow compared to other yeasts I've used. Despite the fermenter being more full than I often have it, there has been no blow-off through the airlock and no unexpected mess as there was with the Australian ale yeast I recently used. The temperature control system has not needed to cool the beer at all, Although I am very interested to see how this one is coming along, I've resisted the urge so far. Given how "slow and steady" this fermentation has been, I am hesitant to do anything to interrupt or interfere with it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Australian Sparkling Ale 1.0

In September 2015, I read an article in BYO magazine about the Australian Sparkling Ale style, which included a recipe for the beer. The main characteristics of the style are the use of Australian hops, particularly Pride of Ringwood hops, a more dry flavor, and lots of carbonation.

The Recipe

3.5 pounds of Bohemian Pilsner Malt
3.5 pounds of 2-Row Pale Malt
5 ounces of Caravienne Malt
1 ounce of Carafa III Malt
1 pound, 12 ounces of cane (table) sugar
0.9 ounces of Pride of Ringwood hops pellets @ 9.0% AA - at first wort
0.3 ounces of Pride of Ringwood hops pellets @ 9.0% AA - at whirlpool
1 packet of Cooper's dry ale yeast
1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer

BeerSmith data for the recipe:

  • Estimated OG: 1.046 (actual was 1.046 SG or 11.5 Brix)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.029 SG (actual was 1.031 SG or 7,9 Brix)
  • IBUs: 29.3
  • Color: 6.6 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 5.0%
  • Total Grains: 8.63 pounds
  • Total Hops: 1.2 ounces
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.632
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.008 SG
  • Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.0%
  • Batch Size: 6.1 gallons
  • Boil Time: 90 minutes
The Mash Schedule

This beer was brewed in iMake's The Grainfather RIMS system, so mash and sparge amounts are based on the vendor's formula.

3.25 gallons of mash water were heated to 144F and treated with half of a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine.

5 gallons of sparge water were heated to 168F and treated with a full Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine,

A 90 minute mash with the following schedule was performed:
  • 70 minutes at 144F, adding pH 5.2 stabilizer immediately after the grains
  • 10 minutes at 158F
  • 10 minute mash out at 168F
  • Add 0.9 ounces of Pride of Ringwood and sparge with 5.0 gallons of water at 168F
This was expected to yield 7.3 gallons at 7.3 Brix (1.029 SG). The actual yield was 7.3 gallons at 7.9 Brix.

The Grainfather's recirculating arm leaked after I walked away from it, spilling possibly as much as 12 ounces of wort on the floor which had to be cleaned up. I'm still trying to understand why this has happened recently, usually only after several minutes of no leaking.

The Boil Schedule

The recipe features a 90-minute boil with the following schedule:
  • While still sparging, you should have added the bittering hops.
  • 10 minutes left in the boil, add the cane sugar, yeast nutrient, and whirlfloc tablet
  • 7 minutes: Recirculate wort through the counter flow chiller to sterilze it
  • 0 minutes: Shut off heat and add 0.3 ounces of Pride of Ringwood
  • For the next 15 minutes, let the last hops addition steep in the whirlpool
  • Cool the counterflow chiller by running cold water through it
  • Pump the wort into the fermenter
This yielded a little over 6 gallons in the fermenter at 11.5 Brix, exactly as expected.

The Fermentation Schedule

This was my first chance to use my Inkbird 310 temperature controller. I took it out of the box and calibrated it with a known good thermometer. I then set it with the following schedule:
  • 1 day at 68F
  • 1 day at 69F
  • 1 day at 70F
  • 1 day at 71F
  • 10 days at 72F
A heat wrap was taped to the fermenter and connected to the InkBird. Given the low ambient basement temperature I opted not to use a cooling device on this batch.

Given how full the fermenter was, I attached a blow-off tube and snaked it into a half-gallon of water in a gallon jug.

After this, I cleaned all the items used during brewing, including The Grainfather itself.

Update 04/14/2017: Cooper's Ale Yeast is a monster to ferment with. At the height of fermentation, it blew beer and yeast through the blow-off tube, into the jug of water, out of the top of the jug of water, across the shelf on which the jug sat, and expelled enough liquid to send a stream about four inches wide from the fermenter's location to a drain in the basement floor about ten feet away! I've never had any brew expel so much. The water jug's contents are now a rich brown with about a quarter inch of yeast across the bottom. The blow-off jug looks like it's brewing its own beer (and it may be).

Note the nice light color in the transfer tube as the beer goes into secondary

Yeast residue on the lid of the fermenter after 1 week
Yeast residue inside the fermenter after primary
Yeast mess in the blow-off jug and tube. Note how dark it got the water!

Yeast cake and dregs in the bottom of the fermenter

Update 04/15/2017: Checked the gravity today. As you'll see in the image below, my refractometer registered somewhere in the 4.5 to 5.0 Brix level. That works out to a final gravity in the ballpark of 1.004SG and an alcohol content around 5.6% ABV.  This is higher than I expected for the brew. I was expecting an alcohol-adjusted reading in the vicinity of 5.7 Brix, so it's safe to say this beer attenuated extremely well. I did this after transferring the beer to a sanitized secondary fermenter. I also kept a large sample of the yeast for future use.  Since the beer was still quite cloudy (which isn't out of line for the style) I decided to pitch some gelatin finings and cold crash it to see if I could clear it up a bit.

Final Gravity Reading - calculates to approximately 1.004 SG

Bottling and Conditioning

I'm planning to calculate 3.1-3.2 volumes of CO2 for this one and prime accordingly. The sty;e guide calls for priming from 3.0 to 3.5 volumes. I'm concerned based on things I've read that carbonating it to 3.5 volumes could burst the bottles, so I don't plan to go quite that high.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

Apart from the leakage of wort from the recirculation arm, which has happened on a couple of recent batches for reasons unknown, this brew went off without a hitch. The morning before I brewed it, I weighed and crushed all the grains. The gap between the rollers in my crusher seemed large, so I adjusted it down to a smaller setting, which seemed to work very well. My efficiency for the batch was measured at 79.7%.

The original recipe in BYO called for using distilled or RO water and adjusting it to match Australian chemistry. I probably should have done that but didn't want to take the time. It was brewed with standard Hilliard, Ohio, tap water with Campden to remove chlorine and chloramine, but nothing else.

I'm expecting to move this to secondary on April 15, then add gelatin finings and chill it. I'll plan to bottle it some time during the week of April 17, 2017. After two weeks in the bottle, I'll chill some and see how the carbonation, clarity, and flavor turned out. So expect an update in early May.

Update 04/14/2017: A sample of the beer extracted earlier in the week showed that there is absolutely no residual sweetness to the brew. It was incredibly dry, a bit cloudy, and mildly to moderately hoppy.

A sample of the ale from the bottom of the bottling bucket

April 20:
The beer spent several days in the mini-fridge with gelatin finings and is now nice and clear. I decided to bottle it and place it in a 72F "hot box" to carbonate.  I'm expecting to be able to try my first bottle later this week to confirm that it's carbonating properly.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Boardwalk Belgian Quad 2.0

A little over a year ago, I brewed a variant of the "Dixie Cup Boardwalk Belgian Quadrupel" that appeared in a 2007 issue of BYO magazine. It turned out to be one of the tastiest beers I'd ever brewed, and I think I have no more than a bottle left... and that's only because I jealously protected it to ensure it would still be around when I brewed it again.

In my post-mortem notes for that batch, I said I wanted to do the following in version 2.0:
  • Use temperature control to minimize the "burn" from the high alcohol, keeping the beer at or below 72F during the early stages of fermentation (and ramping up the temp later to encourage the formation of esters).
  • Correct my sparge water calculations so that I hit the target volume and gravity.
  • Use two full pounds of D-90 syrup (I had a partially used container last time that I had thought was a full pound but wasn't). Note: After considering all the adjuncts in this recipe I decided against this.
  • Replace D-45 with Brun Fonce sugar
  • Make a yeast starter and ensure I have enough to ferment the beer without stressing the yeast. (Due to an oversight this won't be happening today.)
  • Dial the hops back by about 10%.
  • Add Cara-Pils or Melanoidin malt to improve head retention, because the first batch had almost no head. (I added both)
  • Eliminate the Brewer's Crystals used to boost gravity due to bad calculations on my part
  • Carbonate to a higher CO2 volume
This results in the following modified recipe and procedure:
  • 12 pounds of Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 12 ounces of Caramunich I Malt
  • 8 ounces of Cara-Pils/Dextrine Malt
  • 8 ounces of Melanoidin Malt
  • 8 ounces of Dark Munich Malt
  • 4 ounces of Aromatic Malt
  • 4 ounces of Special B Malt
  • 1 ounce of Pale Chocolate Malt
  • 8 ounces of Brun Fonce Candi Sugar
  • 1 pound of D-90 Syrup
  • 8 ounces of Turbinado Sugar
  • 4 ounces of chopped raisins, a mix of regular and golden
  • 1.6 ounces of Czech Saaz hops pellets @ 3.2% AA
  • 0.3 ounces of Styrian Goldings pellets @ 6.4% AA
  • 1.1 ounces of Northern Brewer hops pellets at 10.1% AA
  • 0.5 grams of Seeds of Paradise, crushed
  • 0.25 ounces of Coriander Seed, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. of pH 5.2 Stabilizer
  • 0.25 tsp. Super Irish Moss, rehydrated
  • 0.5 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
  • ECY13 East Coast Yeast Abbaye Yeast II
  • 1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
The BeerSmith statistics and estimates for this batch are:

  • Style: Belgian Dark Strong Ale
  • IBUs: 31.1
  • Color: 18.4 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 9.5%
  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.087 SG or 20.9 Brix
  • Estimated Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.071 SG or 17.3 Brix
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.015 SG or 10.5 Brix (after adjusting for alcohol)
  • BU:GU Ratio: 0.359
  • Estimated Pre-Boil Volume: 7.3 gallons
  • Estimated Post-Boil Volume: 6.7 gallons
  • Estimated Fermenter Volume: 5.8 gallons
  • Total Grains: 16.56 pounds

This will be a 12% adjunct beer, which is well within Belgian style guidelines and shouldn't stress the yeast too much.

Mash Schedule

This was brewed using iMake's The Grainfather RIMS system. Using their mash and sparge calculations, I put 6.5 gallons of water into the kettle and dropped in a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine. I put 1.75 gallons of sparge water into the sparge kettle and part of a Campden Tablet to treat that as well (actually since there's a gallon of dead space in my sparge water kettle, I put 2.75 gallons and half a Campden Tablet - your mileage would of course vary).

The mash water was heated to 152F. The grains were crushed and stirred into the mash water a few scoops at a time to ensure proper moistening. The lid was placed over the mash tun and the recirculating arm attached. A 90 minute mash was then performed at 152F.

After 70 minutes of the intended 90 minute mash, I did an iodine test. It showed complete conversion, so I decided to terminate the mash and begin the mash out. The temp controls were set to 168F. When the temp was reached, I waited 10 minutes and then removed the grain basket. I also set the temperature controls to heat the wort to 200F to save time bringing it to a boil later.

It took the grain bed about 20 minutes to drain and sparge, by which time the kettle had heated to approximately 185F. The yield was 6.75 gallons, compared with the 7.3 gallons expected. Water was added from the sparge kettle to get volume up to the expected level. Original gravity was then measured at 14 Brix, well below the expected 17.3.  I've heard that The Grainfather's efficiency drops with larger grain bills, and that might be what's happening here. It's also possible that BeerSmith calculated that gravity on the assumption that some of the brewing sugars were malt extracts (I noticed one listed that way). I decided not to sweat it too much.

While the wort heated to boiling, I discarded the grain and rinsed the gasket. I then mixed up some PBW and started cleaning the grain basket, overflow pipe, etc., since I had nothing better to do but wait. (I've found that the more cleaning you do during the waiting periods of brewing the shorter your elapsed brewing time will be for a given batch.)

Boil Schedule

The following boil schedule was followed:
  • 90 minutes - Nothing added to the kettle, just the boiling wort. This part of the boil was intended to help clarify the beer. A gravity reading taken during the early rolling stage of the boil yielded a reading of 14.1 Brix again.
  • 60 minutes - Added the 1.1 ounces of German Northern Brewer hops pellets in the hop spider. Gravity increased to around 14.3 Brix at this point and volume dropped below 7 gallons. Removed a sample of wort to rehydrate the Super Irish Moss. 
  • 20 minutes - Added the chopped raisins to the hop spider. Wort volume was down to 6.6 gallons at this point (just a touch under 25 liters). Gravity had increased to about 15.6 Brix. 
  • 10 minutes - Added Saaz, Goldings, Yeast Nutrient, and Super Irish Moss. 
  • 7 minutes - Recirculated wort through chiller to sterilize it
  • 5 minutes - Added the D-90, Turbinado, Brun Fonce, Grains of Paradise, and Coriander. With 3 minutes left in the boil, the gravity registered 19.0 Brix. Still below the estimated 20.9.
  • 0 minutes - Ran cold water through wort chiller to bring its temperature back down
The expected kettle volume post-boil was 6.7 gallons at a gravity of 20.9 Brix.

Fermentation Schedule

The wort was pumped from the kettle, through the counter flow chiller, into the sanitized fermenter.

The expected fermenter volume was 5.8 gallons at 20.9 Brix. Actual was 6.0 gallons at 19.0 Brix. According to BeerSmith, this corresponds to an efficiency of 74.7%.

The wort reached the fermenter at 68F thanks to the chiller.

The wort was oxygenated for 60 seconds with pure oxygen and a stone.

White Labs Clarity Ferm and ECY13 Yeast were pitched into the wort and a blow-off tube attached to the fermenter.

The planned fermentation schedule is:
  • April 1-15: Ferment in the primary with temperature control set to keep the beer between 66F and 72F, heating or cooling as needed to stay within the range.
  • April 15-22: Transfer to a secondary fermenter and raise the temperature to 76F for one week.
  • April 22-25: Add gelatin finings and move to a mini-fridge to chill as close to 32F as possible for three days, to further clarify the beer.
After this, the beer would be bottled with the goal of 3.0 volumes of CO2.

Update 04/15/2017: Fermentation is definitely finished. No airlock activity. No visible yeast floating on top of the brew, and the refractometer reads about 8.5 Brix, My expected final gravity was 9.9 Brix. This works out to an estimated 9.54% ABV, which is higher than the 8.5% I expected.

Final Gravity reading, going into secondary
Since I also transferred my Australian Sparkling Ale to secondary today, it yielded an interesting comparison between the two yeasts. Despite this beer having a much higher gravity and a lot more sugar to ferment out, it made relatively little mess compared to the Cooper's Ale yeast.

This is what was left on the lid

This is the yeast ring inside the fermenter
Yeast on the lid from the Australian Sparkling Ale
Yeast ring in the fermenter of the Australian sparkling
To further compare the two, the Quad didn't use anything other than an standard canister style airlock. The Australian Sparkling Ale had a large bore blow-off tube and glass jug. Despite all that breathing room, the Australian beer blew out through the tub, blew beer into the jug enough to turn its water medium brown, blew beer out the top of the jug onto the shelf, the floor, and across the room into the drain. There wasn't any exterior mess from the Quad. Moral of the story: Coopers Ale Yeast needs a lot more headspace and breathing room than Safale T-58.

The Quad transferring to secondary via a clear tube

April 15, 2017: Given that a sample extracted from the primary was quite cloudy, I decided to use gelatin to fine the beer before bottling. Since my mini-fridge is currently busy fining the Australian Sparkling Ale, I'm going to try an experiment. The gelatin will be added to secondary while it's left out at ambient basement temperature (around 65F) until the mini fridge is available to cold crash the Quad. I'll take a sample from the fermenter then to see if it's clarified at all, and again after it comes out of the mini fridge later on. In theory the gelatin will do some good at room temp, but really have the most effect when the beer is colder.

Sample from primary. Note it's relatively cloudy.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

The last batch of this beer was one of my all-time favorites, so I decided to go with a larger batch size this time around. Although 16.5 pounds of grain is within The Grainfather's 20-pound limit, it does seem to "push" the system. Wort tended to go down the overflow tube more than through the grain bed this time. Efficiency seemed to suffer as a result. The last time I did this recipe, my efficiency calculated out at 71.9%. This time it was 74.7%. This leads me to think The Grainfather is much less efficient with larger grain bills. I typically see efficiency in the 80% range with most batches.

Two days after the brew started, there was no activity in the airlock. Opening the lid showed no krausen either, indicating the yeast was in fact not viable. I added a packet of White Labs Bastogne yeast that was still reportedly viable and a packet of Safbrew T-58. The next day the airlock was actually rattling audibly from all the yeast activity.

April 9:  It's now approximately a week since I brewed the beer and airlock activity has slowed considerably.  A sample extracted from the fermenter was very cloudy, but had the expected reddish-brown color. It also had a noticeable hops bitterness to it, more so than v1.0 did.

April 15: The beer is a nice reddish medium-brown color. It's still quite cloudy, which I will probably correct with some gelatin finings since I want to enter the brew in competition and want it to look good. Since my mini-fridge is busy cold crashing the Australian Sparkling, I may not bother with the gelatin for a few days.  A taste sample of the beer shows a good Belgian dark fruit flavor and aroma, with none of the burn I felt from the first version of the recipe. It does seem to have a little residual sweetness, which I was hoping for. I'm as happy as I can be with it until it's been bottle conditioned and I get a taste of the finished product.

April 24: The beer has been in the mini-fridge since Thursday and is finally beginning to clarify. I'm planning to give it another day or two before bottling. The aroma is one of bubblegum and plum or prune. The flavor is more mellow than it had been, and less bitter.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Avery Brewing's The Reverend Belgian Quad Clone Recipe

While browsing Craft Beer and Brewing, I noticed they'd posted a clone recipe for Avery Brewing's "The Reverend" Belgian Quad. This is one of my wife's and my favorite beers, so naturally I jumped at the chance to capture the recipe here for later use.

Note: This recipe differs from the way it's published on Craft Beer & Brewing because I've adjusted it for my own brewhouse environment with The Grainfather. Refer to the link above if you want the "official" recipe.

The Ingredients

15 pounds, 11 ounces of 2-row Pale Malt
11 ounces of Aromatic Malt
6 ounces of Cara-20 Malt
6 ounces of Cara-45 Malt
6 ounces of Special B Malt
1 pound of Dark Candi Sugar
1.75 ounces of Sterling hops pellets @ 6% AA
0.35 ounces of Sterling hops pellets @ 6% AA
0.80 ounces of Sterling hops pellets @ 6% AA
1/2 tsp. Super Irish Moss
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast or White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale yeast

Expected characteristics of the recipe are:

  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.093 or 23.1 Brix
  • Bitterness: 26.3 IBUs
  • Color: 16.9 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 9.9%
  • Batch Size: 5.8 gallons
  • Boil Size: 6.8 gallons
  • Pre-boil Gavity: 1.086 SG or 21.5 Brix
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.018 SG

Mash Schedule

Add 6.75 gallons of water to The Grainfather and heat to 148F.

Add grain and mash at 148F for 90 minutes.

Mash out at 170F for 10 minutes and then sparge with 1 gallon of 170F water.

Wort volume should be 6.8 gallons, but if it's up to a half gallon below that it should be OK. Pre-boil gravity should be 1.086 SG or 21.5 Brix. If wort volume is lower it could be higher than that.


A 60-minute boil is called for, with the following schedule:

  • 60 minutes: Add 1.75 ounces of Sterling hops and the candi sugar
  • 30 minutes: Add 0.35 ounces of Sterling hops, extract a wort sample for rehydrating the Irish Moss later
  • 10 minutes: Add the rehydrated Irish Moss and whirlpool the wort
  • 7 minutes: Recirculate boiling wort through wort chiller to sterilize it
  • 0 minutes: Add 0.80 ounces of Sterling hops
Finished kettle volume should be 6.4 gallons at 1.093 SG or 23.1 Brix. 


Chill the wort to 68F and pitch the yeast. Hold the temp at 68F for the first half of fermentation, then allow the temperature to rise as high as possible to promote attenuation. After pumping through the counter flow chiller and accounting for trub in the kettle, the volume in the fermenter should be approximately 5.5 gallons.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hochkurz Mashing

There is an old mash technique referred to as "hochkurz" mashing, which stems from the German words for "high" and "short". This mash style starts at a higher temperatures than most and stays at each temperature for less time, thus "high temperature" and "short duration" at each temperature stage.

The idea in a Hochkurz mash is to mash in two steps. The first step maximizes the beta amylase enzyme activity, and takes place at 145F. It lasts for 30 minutes (up to 45).  The second step maximizes alpha amylase enzyme activity, and occurs at 158-162F. It also lasts for 30 minutes (up to 45 if needed to complete conversion). These steps are followed by a traditional mash-out at 170F for 10-15 minutes. This allows the mash to complete in 70-100 minutes.

Theoretically, this 70-minute mash will result in a more complete conversion than a single-step mash that runs over a longer period of time, since the Hochkurz mash gives each of the two main amylase enzymes a chance to work at their optimal temperature.

With a brewing system like The Grainfather, performing a Hochkurz mash is pretty simple. Fill the kettle with water, set the 145F starting temp, add the grain, and wait 30 minutes. Then change the temp to 160F, and wait 30 minutes more. Finally, set to 170F and sparge after 10 minutes.

If you're using hot water infusions to raise the temperature of the mash, you'll want to start with a thicker mash for the first step so that the additional hot water doesn't dilute the wort too much.

According to some of the sources I've read, this is an excellent general purpose mash schedule. While there are some beer styles (lagers in particular) that will benefit from a different schedule, most will do well with Hochkurz and will show a higher brewhouse efficiency too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mandarina Blonde Ale 1.0

The beer prior to cold conditioning
A while ago, I read something about Mandarina Bavaria hops. One of the brewing sites had them on sale at the time. They said the hops can impart a mandarin orange aroma and flavor to a beer. I had no idea what I would do with them, but I bought some anyway.

After doing some thinking about it, I thought they sounded like they might go well in a blonde ale. I thought a nice malty blonde ale with some added bitter orange peel and sweet orange peel, combined with a couple of healthy later additions of Mandarina Bavaria hops would create a very nice spring or summer beer.

Not having a ton of faith in my recipe creation skills, I decided to do a 3-gallon batch for this one (or 3.9 gallons before shrinkage, trub, and other losses). I also wanted to see if The Grainfather boiled a batch any harder if it was a smaller size, and if this impacted chill haze.


4 pounds of 2-row Brewer's Malt
1.75 pounds of Munich Malt
4 ounces of Carapils/Dextrine Malt
2 ounces of Caramel 60L Malt
0.5 ounces of Tettnang hops pellets @ 5.0% AA
0.5 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets at @ 7.3% AA
0.65 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets @ 7.3% AA
0.5 ounces of Sweet Orange Peel
0.5 ounces of Bitter Orange Peel
1 pound of Orange Blossom Honey
1/8 tsp. yeast nutrient
1/2 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/8 tsp. Super Irish Moss
1 packet Safale US-05 yeast

You might be wondering the "why" of some of the ingredients. The Munich Malt is there to sweeten the beer and add some body. The Carapils is there to help generate a nice head. The Caramel 60L should add a slight reddish or orange-ish color to the beer, to help visually evoke the orange flavors and aromas. I used Tettnang for bittering just to hopefully add a little complexity. Mandarina Bavaria is there, as I noted earlier, to give a good mandarin orange flavor and aroma. The orange peel varieties are present to punch that up a little more. I'm even considering adding some in the secondary, but we'll see. This is the first time I've really done a recipe from the ground up, so it will be interesting to see how it comes out.

According to BeerSmith, this brew should have the following specifications:
  • Batch Size: 3.9 gallons (3.0-3.1 expected in the fermenter)
  • Original Gravity: 1.047 SG or 11.9 Brix (actual was 13.1)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.039 SG or 10.1 Brix (actual was 10.2)
  • Final Gravity: 1.011 SG or 6.0 Brix
  • Bitterness: 20.4 IBUs
  • Color: 5.2 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 4.7%
  • BU:GU Ratio: 0.438
I used The Grainfather's water calculation formulas to determine that I would need 3 gallons of mash water and 1.75 gallons of sparge water. I decanted these amounts in The Grainfather and my mash water heating setup and kicked on the heating elements.


According to my calculations, The Grainfather formula resulted in a mash thickness of approximately 2 quarts of water per pound of grain. I knew that would drag down the efficiency of the enzymes, so I increased my mash time to 90 minutes for this batch to hopefully allow for a full conversion.

The grains were mashed at 152F for 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes at 156F, and then a 10-minute mash out at 167F.

I sparged the grains with the water. My expected kettle volume post-sparge and pre-boil was 4.2 gallons approximately. In reality, I ended up with about 4.1 gallons at a gravity of 10.2 versus the 10.1 I expected.


A 75-minute boil, with the following schedule:
  • 75 minutes: No additions, just a straight boil of the wort.
  • 60 minutes: Tettnang bittering hops were added
  • 15 minutes: Added yeast nutrient, Super Irish Moss, sweet orange peel, bitter orange peel, and 0.5 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 7 minutes: Began recirculating wort through the chiller to sterilize it
  • 0 minutes: Added 0.65 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops, cooled the wort chiller, and began pumping wort into the fermenter
I expected a post-boil volume of 3.7 gallons. By time trub and shrinkage kicked in, that would work out to about 3.0-3.1 gallons in the fermenter.

The reality turned out to be a post-boil volume around 3.5 or 3.6 gallons, with just a little under 3 (best guess) in the fermenter. The Grainfather's counterflow chiller again did an amazing job, with wort flowing into the fermenter at approximately 64.5F. My expected original gravity was 11.9 Brix, but I achieved 13.1 Brix at a lower volume of wort.


The wort was pumped into a sanitized SS Brewing Technologies Brewmaster Bucket. Given the small volume, relatively low gravity, and low ambient temperature in the basement this time of year, I decided to forego any temperature control during the first stage of fermentation.

A taste test after two weeks of primary fermentation would hopefully tell me if the beer would benefit from lagering at 50F for a while or could be dosed with gelatin and cold-crashed to clarify.

Update 3/18/2017: I extracted a sample from the fermenter last night to see how it's coming along. It has a good light color. Since we're still mid-fermentation its aroma had a good bit of diacetyl to it. The beer itself was surprisingly dry and bitter. There was some hint of orange to it, but not what I expected. I boiled 16 ounces of water, then dissolved 16 ounces of Orange Blossom Honey in it. When this cooled, I added it to the fermenter.

Update 3/24/2017: While home ill with the flu (a strain I wouldn't wish on anyone), I took a moment to check on the beer. Fermentation was complete, reading 6.7 Brix which BeerSmith and I worked out to 1.004 SG or 1.0 Brix when adjusted for alcohol. Needless to say it's very dry, but the orange element comes through clearly in the flavor and the color is lighter than I expected. It seemed very cloudy still, so I added gelatin finings and began cold-crashing it in the mini-fridge. If the last remnants of this illness are gone by then, I'm hoping to bottle it Sunday. That would have it ready for tasting around April 9.


3/26/2017: The beer was bottled today with my wife's help. It was bottled at 43F and yielded 3.25 gallons according to the bottling bucket markings. However, this yielded a total of 32 12-ounce bottles - an even 3 gallons - so I question the bucket's markings. Carbonation sugar of 2.5 ounces was added based on BeerSmith's calculation that this would generate 2.8 volumes of CO2 in the finished beer, which is good for the style. The gelatin finings appeared to have improved the clarity of the beer significantly. I expect that to improve further after carbonation and extended refrigeration.


This beer was an experiment on several levels. I wanted to develop a nice citrus beer with strong notes of orange, maybe even bordering on overkill. I wanted to try brewing a 3-gallon batch in The Grainfather instead of my usual 5 and 6 gallon batches, to see if a smaller batch boiled any harder. I have wondered if one cause of the haze in my beers is the somewhat weak rolling boil The Grainfather does. That's something I plan to test after primary fermentation is over.

I can say that the boil this time, which started at approximately 4 gallons and boiled down to around 3.5, seemed more vigorous than usual. The surface of the wort churned more than I am used to seeing in the 5 and 6 gallon batches. Whether this will translate to a clearer beer remains to be seen. I didn't treat this batch with Clarity Ferm from White Labs so if it comes out nice and clear, the more vigorous boil could be the reason. (Update 3/24/2017: Since it seemed very cloudy still, I've added gelatin finings to it and began cold-crashing before bottling.)

I'll be back to add more notes after bottling, which should be March 26, 2017.

April 15, 2017:  The beer has been bottled and carbonated. It generates a nice creamy white head that lasts a while before incorporating into the glass and leaving behind some spotty lacing. The aroma is malty and slightly orange. The color is an amberish gold and as of this writing it's a bit hazy. I plan to condition the bottles in the fridge for a week or two before tasting again. The flavor starts with a mild bitterness, some orange peel, a bit of malt sweetness, and a final bitterness that's reminiscent of the pith of an orange. The orange flavor and aroma is far more subtle than I expected, given all the items that went into this. Still, it's a very nice beer that's really easy to drink.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rhinegeist Truth Clone Recipe

Disclaimer: While searching for a good IPA recipe, I discovered the following on a forum online. I am not claiming authorship of the recipe below. If the forum post I read is factual, and I have no reason to think it isn't, this recipe includes input from one of the Rhinegeist brewmasters. That means it probably can produce a beer very close to the original. I plan to brew it at some point to see how it turns out. For now, I'm just documenting and sharing the recipe here.


8.5 pounds of Rahr Pale Malt (67.3%)
2.75 pounds of Golden Promise Malt (19.5%)
12 ounces of Briess Vienna Malt (5.3%)
10 ounces of Carared Malt (4.4%)
8 ounces of Flaked Rye (3.5%)
0.65 ounces of Bravo hops pellets @ 15.0% AA (60 minutes)
0.71 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10% AA (20 minutes)
0.30 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 10% AA (20 minutes)
1.10 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10% AA (10 minutes)
0.25 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 13% AA (10 minutes)
2 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10% AA (0 minutes)
1.5 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 13% AA (0 minutes)
1 ounce of Citra hops pellets @ 12% AA (0 minutes)
2 ounces of Amarillo hops pellets @ 9.2% AA (dry hop 7 days)
1.5 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 13% AA (dry hop 7 days)
1 ounce of Citra hops pellets @ 12% AA (dry hop 7 days)
1 Tbsp. Irish Moss
1.5 Liter starter of San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090)

Notes from the Rhinegeist brewmaster say that they use 20% Golden Promise malt, 2% CaraRed, 4% Flaked Rye, and 5% Vienna and mash at 150F. The brewmaster also says that they hop with 30 IBUs worth of Bravo at 60 minutes, 20 IBUs of a 2:1 mix of Centennial and Simcoe at 20 minutes, and 16 IBUs worth of a 2:1 mixture of Centennial and Simcoe at 10 minutes. At 0 minutes they and Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra then steep for 45 minutes before cooling. They dry hop with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Citra for 7-8 days. They suggest you shoot for a starting gravity of 15 Plato or 1.061 SG, and try to attenuate down to 1.9 Plato or 1.007 SG.


Mash with 8 gallons of water for 90 minutes @ 150F. Raise to 170F over 7 minutes for mash out.


Boil for 60 minutes with the hops scheduled as noted above.

Perform a hop stand by turning off the heat but waiting for 45 minutes to cool the wort after the boil.

Fermentation Schedule

Ferment at 65F for 3 days.

Ramp from 65F to 70F over 4 days.

Add dry hops on day 7.

Cold crash with a gelatin addition for 3 days.