Sunday, July 29, 2018

Scottish 80 Shilling v3.0

Although I liked my first two Scottish 80 Shilling Ales, judges in the competitions I entered them into decidedly did not. The second actually scored worse on average than the first, despite the fact that it incorporated feedback from the judges of the first recipe. This time around, I decided to build my own recipe after having a look at the BJCP criteria for the style and the ingredients it recommends.


4.5 pounds Maris Otter Malt
4 ounces British Crystal Malt (60-70L)
2 ounces Caramel Light (8L) Malt
2 ounces Melanoidin Malt
4 ounces Flaked Corn
2 ounces Special B Malt
1 ounce Roasted Barley
0.35 ounces Horizon hops pellets @ 8.2% AA (60 min.)
0.25 ounces Bramling Cross hops pellets @ 6.5% AA (10 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient at 15 min.
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the Mash
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in at 15 min.
1/2 tsp. Irish Moss at 10 min.
1 packet White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
3 gallons, 16 ounces filtered tap water in keg as starting water

The Zymatic Recipe Crafter provides the following estimated characteristics for the finished beer:
  • BJCP Style: 14.C Scottish Export
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was approximately 2.25 gallons)
  • Original Gravity: 1.059 SG (actual was 1.057 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.017 SG
  • IBUs: 20
  • SRM: 18
  • ABV: 5.5%
The mash schedule was configured based on the Zymatic High-Efficiency Mash Profile, but modified to increase the body and hopefully the unfermentable sugars:
  • Dough In: 102F for 20 minutes
  • Mash Step 1: 154F for 30 minutes
  • Mash Step 2: 156F for 60 minutes
  • Mash Out: 175F for 10 minutes
The boil schedule was configured to the following:
  • 90 minutes: Pre-hop boil
  • 60 minutes: Horizon hops
  • 15 minutes: Brewtan B and Yeast Nutrient
  • 10 minutes: Irish Moss and Bramling Cross hops
  • 0 minutes: Chill to yeast-safe temperature
The plan is to leverage my new BrewJacket fermentation temperature control setup for this batch, keeping the wort temperature at 68F (in the middle of the Edinburgh yeast's 65-70F optimum range) for the first 7-10 days of fermentation. If the final gravity has not been reached by that time, increase to 70F and hold there until final gravity is reached - or until the gravity has held constant for at least 3 days.

After that, I'll bottle with carbonation drops and condition for 7-10 days at ambient basement temperature (68F this time of year) until carbonated.

Brew Notes and Observations

07/29/2018: Despite my best efforts to get the recent Zymatic errors sorted out, the system has continued to have trouble. Generally speaking, any time the Zymatic has to heat wort by more than a few degrees, it seems to generate the dreaded "Fatal Error #1" which implies that the temperature of the heat loop is 50F higher than the temperature of the wort itself. This is generally thought to imply that there is a clog somewhere in the lines that prevents the wort from flowing smoothly past the heat loop, thus causing the heat loop to be much hotter than the wort. Rather than burn up the components inside the Zymatic, the computer throws the Fatal Error code and stops the brew immediately. Unfortunately, I could not find a problem. The keg posts were clear of debris and clean. The in-line filter was also clean. Water seemed to be flowing through the system well when I set it to recirculate. After a few attempts, I got it to Dough In. Then it generated the Fatal Error again. After a few more attempts, I got it through the mash and boil process. According to the information kept by the PicoBrew site itself, it took seven tries to get the beer brewed this time around.

Original gravity came in two points below the expected gravity, which is pretty close... close enough that I didn't try to adjust it. Volume came in low, as it usually does, somewhere around 2.25 gallons rather than 2.5 gallons. After chilling with the immersion chiller for about 8 minutes, the wort was down to 77F. At that point, I transferred it to the sanitized fermenter with the Clarity Ferm and put the BrewJacket to work chilling it down to 68F before I pitched the yeast. (I'll cover the BrewJacket in more detail in a future post, but don't want to talk much about it until I feel like I have a good enough impression of its pros and cons.) By about 11pm, the wort temperature hit 68F and I pitched the yeast.

Gravity 1.057 SG, Temperature 68F

07/30/2018: Nearly 24 hours later and no change in gravity or temperature. Removing the airlock and peering inside, it was clear that the yeast did not start fermenting. I opened a package of Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast and added it to the wort. At that time, gravity registered 1.058 SG at 68F.

07/31/2018: Fermentation kicked off pretty strongly around midnight after the yeast was pitched. By 8pm, gravity was down to around 1.032 SG.

08/01/2018: Gravity is down to around 1.020 SG now. That works out to apparent attenuation of 64.9% and 4.86% ABV.  The yeast can reportedly attenuate 73-77%.  I raised the fermentation temperature to 68.5F to help get the yeast through the last of the sugar. I am debating raising it to 72F and rousing the yeast by swirling the fermenter a bit, to see if I can get it down to my intended 1.017 SG final gravity.

08/02/2018: Today the gravity has dropped to 1.017 SG. That's 70.18% apparent attenuation and 5.25% ABV. Temperature has held at 72F since I set it there last night.

08/03/2018: The gravity is now 1.017 SG. That's 71.93% apparent attenuation and 5.38% ABV. I reduced the temperature to 71F, and plan to reduce it to ambient temperature.

08/04/2018: Gravity has been at the 1.017 SG target since around 10pm on August 2. Tomorrow I'll give it a dose of gelatin and cold crash it before bottling.

08/12/2018:  Gravity has been holding at 1.016 SG for some time. I lowered the temperature to 50F and held it there for several days. Today, I bloomed a teaspoon of gelatin and heated it to 155-160F before adding it to the fermenter. I placed the fermenter inside the mini-fridge to allow the gelatin to get the beer nice and clear. I'm expecting to bottle it next week.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Coniston's Old Man Ale clone v2.0

My first attempt to clone Coniston's Old Man Ale was sort of a flop. Instead of producing a reddish brown English style brown ale, it produced a deep black ale reminiscent of an export stout. I don't know if this is because the homebrew shop didn't measure the specialty malts correctly, or because I ordered the amounts incorrectly, or what, but it bore no resemblance to the beer I was trying to brew. On the other hand, it was actually quite a tasty beer and I view it as a happy-but-unrepeatable mistake. I ordered a new set of ingredients this time, and the resulting beer was indeed a reddish-brown color as it came out of the Zymatic. This leads me to believe the original set of ingredients from the homebrew shop contained a bit too much roasted barley.


3.75 pounds Maris Otter Malt
1 ounce UK Roasted Barley Malt
12 ounces Crystal 80L Malt
0.25 ounces Challenger hops @ 6.8% AA (60 min.)
0,20 ounces Mt. Hood hops @ 5.6% AA (15 min.)
0.15 ounces Challenger hops @ 6.8% AA (15 min.)
0.35 ounces Challenger hops @ 6.8% AA (5 min.)
0.13 ounces Mt. Hood hops @ 5.6% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B added to mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B added to the first hops cage
1/8 tsp. Super Irish Moss added to the second hops cage
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 packet White Labs WLP023 Burton Ale Yeast (didn't work)
1 packet Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale Yeast
3 gallons plus 8 ounces starting water in keg

The Zymatic's high-efficiency mash profile was used, unmodified. A 60-minute boil was used. After the boil, the wort was chilled using an immersion chiller before pouring into the fermenter.

According to PicoBrew's Zymatic Recipe Crafter, the beer should have the following qualities:
  • BJCP Style: 13.B - British Brown Ale
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was between 2 and 2.5 gallons)
  • Original Gravity: 1.048 SG (actual was 1.046 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.013 SG
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • IBUs: 21
Post-Brew Notes and Comments

07/23/2018: The Zymatic has been very frustrating of late. This batch generated four "Fatal Error 1" messages before the water even made it into the grain compartment of the step filter. Each time, I recirculated the water through the system until it cooled down the heat loop and restarted the brew. Eventually the water reached Dough In temperature (102F) and the brew began. About 20 minutes into the mash, I looked at the step filter and realized the grain compartment wasn't flooded. This meant that full conversion was very unlikely. I could see that wort was not flowing smoothly through the sample port into the keg, which implied a blockage somewhere in the system. I paused the brew, disassembled the keg posts, and found (as I've seen many times) the string in the ball lock post clogged full of debris. Removing the debris and reassembling the post seemed to do the trick. When I resumed the mash, the liquid flooded the grain compartment as expected. From there, the brew finished without another error.

The most likely cause of the issues I saw before the mash is a blockage somewhere inside the Zymatic. After the brew, I ran their new Beta-test cleaning program on the machine. When the cleaning program finished and the machine was flushed with clean water, I began a "super deep clean" process. In this process, a Finish dishwasher tablet is dissolved in a gallon of hot water and poured into the keg. A "recirculate" cycle is started and allowed to run for a while to ensure that the lines inside the machine are all filled with hot cleaning solution. Then the recirculation is interrupted and the machine turned off. The cleaning solution is left in the machine overnight to soak and (hopefully) remove whatever is clogging up the works. Tomorrow night I'll run several rinse cycles through the machine to wash out the cleaning solution and hopefully the next brew will go more smoothly. If not, it will be time to reach out to the PicoBrew folks for help again.

The beer turned out two SG points lower than expected, possibly due to the issues with the first mash step, where not all of the grain was submerged. This was close enough that I didn't supplement with malt extract or anything else. 

Wort left the chilling process at 75F. The Burton Ale yeast's optimal fermentation range is between 68F and 73F, so I strapped ice packs to the outside of the fermenter to chill it a bit. Within a few hours, the wort temperature had dropped to 71F.  By morning, it had dropped to 67F, the ambient basement temperature.

07/23/2018: Although the yeast packet pitched into the wort had an "use by" date at least six weeks into the future, by 7:30pm (19 hours after pitching) there was still no sign of fermentation. The Tilt Hydrometer still registered a gravity of 1.047 SG and 67F for the temperature. I took out a Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale yeast pack and smacked the nutrient pack. At 10:30pm, I added it to the wort.

07/25/2018: The Thames Valley yeast kicked off and did the job. About 9 hours after I added it, the gravity began dropping. About 22 hours in, the temperature had increased to 70F and the gravity had dropped to 1.036 SG. I used a bungee cord to attach an ice pack to the fermenter. About 2 hours after that, the temperature had dropped to 62F. About 24 hours after that, the gravity dropped down to 1.016 SG, while the temperature had gone back up to 71F. A new ice pack was applied and as of this moment the beer is down to 1.013 SG and 67F. This works out to 73.77% apparent attenuation and 4.55% ABV. That's a bit more attenuation than I expected from the original yeast, but Thames Valley might go as high as 76% before it's finished.

07/26/2018: The gravity has dropped to 1.009 SG today, with a few blips at 1.008. The temperature has dropped to 66F. I would guess that the bulk of fermentation is over at this point, with 82.98% apparent attenuation and an ABV of 5.12% - far more attenuation than I had expected.

07/27/2018: The gravity has leveled off at 1.008 SG at 69F. That's 85.11% attenuation and 5.25% ABV, a bit higher than the real Old Man Ale's 4.4% ABV.

07/29/2018:  I bottled the beer today using three small carbonation tablets per bottle (low carbonation). It has a good brown ale flavor to it, but seems to lack the tartness I detect in the real Old Man Ale. We'll see how it turns out when it's carbonated. I set the "hot box" to 71F.

08/03/2018: I opened a bottle today for the photo and initial tasting. It poured considerably darker than I expected or intended. It's almost totally opaque, rather than the reddish brown I was looking for. That said, the aroma is a nice mix of caramel and chocolate. The flavor starts lightly sweet and caramelly, then the roasted barley note swells up. This roasty note isn't right for the style, according to BJCP guidelines, so I'll need to do something about that in the next version (and lighten the color). While it's not the beer I want it to be, it's actually a very tasty beer - more reminiscent of an export stout than a brown ale. Head retention is quite good, and the head is almost milkshake-like.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Irish Red Ale v1.0

I ran across a recipe online for Raging Red Irish Red Ale and it seemed that people who had made it really enjoyed it. I've wanted to brew an Irish Red Ale for a while, so I ordered the ingredients. After they arrived, I realized I had mis-read the honey in the ingredient list as Gambrinus Honey Malt, so my version will be a little different from the original. I'm also swapping the California Ale yeast for Danstar Nottingham Ale yeast, which has a similar attenuation and might be slightly more authentic.

I also decided to use some Brewtan B in this recipe since I had it on-hand and wanted to see how it might help this beer's flavor hold up over time.


4 pounds Two-row Pale Ale Malt
8 ounces Caraaroma Malt
8 ounces Gambrinus Honey Malt
4 ounces Carafoam Malt
4 ounces Melanoidin Malt
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash
0.5 ounces Crystal hops pellets @ 3.5% AA (60 min.)
0.5 ounces Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (30 min.)
1/2 tsp. Brewtan B (15 min.)
1/4 tsp. Super Irish Moss (10 min.)
1 packet Lallemand Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
3 gallons plus 16 ounces starting water in keg

The PicoBrew recipe crafter estimates that the beer should have these characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.062 SG (1.050 SG actual)
    It's worth noting that the BJCP guidelines for the Irish Red Ale range from 1.036 to 1.046.
  • Final Gravity: 1.015 SG (1.008 SG actual)
  • IBUs: 29
  • SRM: 16
  • ABV: 6.1% (5.5% actual)
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.4 actual)
  • BJCP Style: 15A Irish Red Ale
The High-Efficiency Mash Profile was used, unmodified.

The Zymatic step filter's hop basket 1 was loaded with the Crystal hops, basket 2 with the Cascade hops, basket 3 with Brewtan B, and basket 4 with Super Irish Moss.

Post-Brew Notes

07/08/2018: The grain was crushed and added to the Zymatic step filter.  Hops and other ingredients were also loaded. Brewtan B was sprinkled over the grain bed. The water was measured and added to the keg, and the Zymatic told to begin brewing. The brew went pretty much perfectly through the first stage of the mash. Part-way through the second step of the mash, the wort temperature began to fluctuate up and down. This continued throughout the boil. When the brew was finished, and I attempted to pump the wort into a kettle for chilling, it barely came out. I resigned myself to risking a burn by dumping out the contents of the keg. When I removed the black ball lock connector, it made a vacuum style hiss. That sound made me realize that most likely the problem was a blockage in the keg post or tube. I removed the post and found the spring inside to be full of gunk. I cleaned it and made sure that water would flow through the dip tube. After reattaching the dip tube and ball lock post, the Zymatic was able to pump out the wort without a problem. Unfortunately, the flow problems seemed to negatively affect the gravity, with the beer turning out 1.050 SG instead of 1.062 SG.

07/09/2018: Today the gravity is down to 1.035 SG and the temperature has risen from its low of 64F overnight to 69F today. That's 30.1% attenuation and just a hair under 2% ABV.

07/10/2018: I strapped two large ice packs to the fermenter last night, which got the temperature down to 59F around midnight. Today, the temperature is back up to 68F and the gravity has dropped to 1.011 SG. This represents 80% attenuation and an ABV of 5,25%. This is four points lower than I expected to get, and fermentation may not be finished yet. We'll see.

07/11/2018: The gravity has dropped to 1.008 SG now (in fact, since about 7am today), well below the 1.015 SG I expected. This gravity represents 84.24% attenuation and 5.53% ABV. I'll probably cold crash it tomorrow and bottle it over the weekend.

07/12/2018: The gravity is still holding at 1.008 SG.

07/15/2018:  I treated the beer with a half-teaspoon of gelatin and placed the fermenter into the mini-fridge to clarify.

07/22/2018: The beer was bottled with 1 large or 3 small carbonation drops per bottle. Yield was 23 bottles.

07/27/2018: A bottle was placed in the freezer to chill quickly for a taste test.

07/30/2018: Another bottle was chilled in order to taste and photograph. The beer pours a deep red with thin beige head that lingers briefly before reincorporating into the glass. Aroma is malty, with caramel and a little butter (which is in line with BJCP criteria). If hop aroma is getting through, it manifests as a floral hint. Flavor is malty wit hints of caramel, balanced against a light roasty note. Hop bitterness balances nicely against the malt. Mouthfeel is medium. Finish is malty, dry, and mildly bitter. Smooth and easy to drink.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Christopher's (Manny's) Pale Ale v3.0

My first attempt at cloning Georgetown Brewing's Manny's Pale Ale was a dismal failure. It was a drinkable beer, but not pale in color and nothing like a pale ale in flavor. The second version was more like a pale ale in flavor, but still a touch dark in its color. The family member who loves the real beer says this version is too "malty" (which I'm interpreting as the beer having too much Caramel malt or too dark of a Caramel malt). In this version, I'm switching from Caramel 60L to Caramel 40L and decreasing the proportion of the Caramel malt in the recipe.


2 pounds 2-row Pale Ale Malt
2 pounds 13 ounces 2-row Brewer's Malt
5 ounces Crystal 40L Malt
0.25 ounces of Summit hops pellets @ 17.5% AA (30 min.)
0.35 ounces of Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (20 min.)
0.45 ounces of Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (10 min.)
0.45 ounces of Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 tsp. Irish Moss
1 packet Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale Yeast

Mash Schedule:

  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Mash Step 1 at 152F for 30 minutes
  • Mash Step 2 at 154F for 60 minutes
  • Mash Out at 175F for 10 minutes
Boil Schedule: 
  • 30 minutes: Summit hops pellets
  • 20 minutes: Cascade hops pellets
  • 10 minutes: Cascade hops pellets, Irish Moss, and Yeast Nutrient
  • 5 minutes: Cascade hops pellets

Recipe Notes:

  • The PicoBrew recipe editor misunderstood the 30-minute hop addition as indicating that I wanted only a 30-minute boil. I didn't catch this until the Zymatic began flooding the Summit compartment. (I see this as a bug, but it's been part of the Zymatic design and has never been fixed as near as I can tell. You have to remember to specify a 30-minute pre-hop boil if you do a 30-minute addition and no 60-minute addition.)
  • I didn't have as much Pale Ale malt as I thought, so I substituted 2-row Brewer's Malt to fill in the missing amount. I've no idea how this will impact the finished flavor.
  • My packet of yeast was almost six months old at the time I pitched it, so I'm concerned that it may not have enough viable cells to ferment the beer. If not, I'll pitch some Safale US-05 to do the job. Hopefully it will be close enough if I need to use it.
The PicoBrew recipe crafter estimates that the beer will have the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.056 SG (actual was 1.055 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
  • IBUs: 39
  • SRM: 6
  • ABV: 5.3%
  • Starting Water: 3 gallons, 16 ounces
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was about 2 gallons)
Post-Brew Notes

07/04/2018: The brew went fairly smoothly, although I did notice the temperature differential between the wort and the heat loop getting above 30F apart. That's fairly close to the 50F limit where the machine will shut down. I suspect that there may still be a blockage in the system that hasn't fully cleared yet. The volume produced and the gravity were lower than expected, either because of the initial issues with the mash temperature or the swapping of 2-row Brewer's Malt for 2-row Pale Ale Malt. Regardless, the resulting beer was close enough to the expected gravity. At the time the Tilt began logging (12:44am on July 5) it registered a temperature of 77F and gravity of 1.055 SG.

07/05/2018: There is no sign of yeast activity, so I pitched a packet of WLP001 California Ale Yeast into the fermenter to see if it would jump-start fermentation.

07/06/2018: The WLP001 also showed no activity after 12 hours, so I pitched a packet of Safale US-05 which I knew would take off. The gravity registered as high as 1.060 SG overnight but is down to 1.050 this morning.

07/07/2018: Gravity is down to 1.024 and the temperature is up to 74F. That's 55.9% attenuation and 4.3% ABV.

07/08/2018: Gravity has dropped to 1.010 SG and temperature down to 69F.

07/09/2018: Gravity has stabilized at 1.010 SG and the temperature has dropped to 68F.

07/10/2018: Gravity is still 1.010 SG and temperature remains at 68F. That's three days at the same gravity, so the beer can be bottled any time now. Since the original Manny's Pale Ale isn't clear, I'm thinking I may bottle this tonight or tomorrow night.

07/11/2018: Gravity has continued to hold at 1.010 SG.

07/12/2018: Gravity is reading as 1.009 SG today and 68F for the temperature.

07/15/2018: The beer was bottled today with three small carbonation tablets per bottle. Yield was 24 bottles.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cream Ale v1.2

The last Cream Ale I made was an experiment to see if a drinkable cream ale could be produced with a three-hour Zymatic brewing session. The result was a drinkable but slightly hazy, slightly tart beer. While not the equal of the original 1.0 version of the recipe, it was actually a great warm weather beer. This time around, I am going back to the original recipe, with only a slight change to the grain bill to get a little better head retention. I'm adding some cara-pils malt for that.


2 pounds 2-row Pale Malt
1 pound, 13 ounces 6-row Pale Malt
3 ounces Cara-pils/Dextrine Malt
0.50 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh hops @ 3.8% AA (60 min.)
0.55 ounces Hallertay Mittelfruh hops @ 3.8% AA (5 min.)
1/2 tsp. Irish Moss
1 packet Safale US-05 ale yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
3 gallons plus 12 ounces of starting water in keg

Mash schedule:
  • 20 minutes Dough-In at 102F
  • 45 minutes Mash Step 1 at 149F
  • 45 minutes Mash Step 2 at 154F
  • 10 minutes Mash Out at 170F
Boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes: 0.50 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh 
  • 10 minutes: 1/2 tsp. Irish Moss
  • 5 minutes: 0.55 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh
According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.051 SG
  • Final Gravity: 1.007 SG
  • Volume: 2.5 gallons
  • IBU: 14
  • SRM: 3
  • ABV: 5.7%
After brewing, the finished beer had the following characteristics:
  • Original Gravity: 1.059 SG
  • Volume: 2.25 gallons
The beer came out slightly under the gravity and volume targets, but close enough.
    Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

    07/02/2018:  The Zymatic has seemed to be struggling lately. I've gotten the "Error Code #1" on my last two brews. According to the available information, this implies that the temperature of the heating elements exceeded that of the wort by 50F. Usually this implies some sort of blockage in the wort lines or an air leak somewhere in the system. The recommendations when you see this error are to look for air leaks and to run a cleaning cycle to see if that clears the blockage. After this batch brewed, I ran three rinse cycles with hot water. I'm planning to run a deep clean cycle before the next brew to see if any other "gunk" can be cleaned out.

    The Tilt Hydrometer was sanitized and dropped into the wort just before the yeast was pitched. The refractometer read 13.1 Brix or 1.051 SG. The Tilt registered 1.050 SG initially but settled in to 1.049 SG and a temperature of 75F after the yeast and Clarity Ferm were pitched into it. The beer is expected to get down to a final gravity of 1.007 SG after fermentation.

    As I look back over the original Kari's Cream Ale recipe that this is based on, I see that the original recipe used Pilsner malt and 2-row Pale rather than 2-row and 6-row. I'll have to try it that way next time if this doesn't turn out well.

    07/03/2018: The Tilt Hydrometer now reads 1.043 SG and 69F, down from 1.051 SG yesterday and 75F. That works out to about 15.7% attenuation and 1.05% ABV so far.

    07/05/2018: The Tilt now reports temperature of 71F and a gravity of 1.011 SG. That's about 78.4% attenuation and 5.25% ABV.

    07/06/2018:  Gravity has dropped to 1.006 SG, representing 88.2% attenuation and 5.9% ABV.

    07/07/2018:  Gravity is down to 1.004 SG and temp is at 69F.

    07/08/2018: Gravity is still holding at 1.004 SG and the temp is down to 68F.

    07/09/2018: Gravity and temperature continue to remain constant. It's time to treat with gelatin and cold-crash. I bloomed a half-teaspoon, heated it, poured it in the fermenter, and moved it into the mini-fridge to chill.

    07/15/2018: The beer was bottled today with three small carbonation tablets per bottle (low carbonation). Yield was 22 bottles.

    Sunday, June 24, 2018

    Centennial Blonde Ale 1.0

    Centennial Blonde Ale 1.0
    Some time ago, when searching for some good recipes, I found a Centennial Blonde Ale recipe that had been voted the top recipe by visitors to I've wanted to brew it for a while, and finally got around to doing it today.


    3 pounds 2-row Pale Ale Malt
    5 ounces Cara-Pils/Dextrine Malt
    3.5 ounces Caramel/Crystal 10L Malt
    3.5 ounces Swaen Vienna Malt
    0.10 ounces Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (55 min.)
    0.15 ounces Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (35 min.)
    0.15 ounces Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (20 min.)
    0.15 ounces Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (5 min.)
    1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
    1 packet Lallemand Nottingham Ale Yeast
    3 gallons of starting water in keg

    For a mash schedule, I've modified the High-Efficiency Mash Schedule in the Zymatic Recipe Crafter to hold the mash at 150F for 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes at 154F, leaving the rest the same.

    Boil schedule will be:
    • 60 minutes:  No hops
    • 55 minutes: 0.10 ounces of Centennial
    • 35 minutes: 0.15 ounces of Centennial
    • 20 minutes: 0.15 ounces of Cascade
    • 5 minutes: 0.15 ounces of Cascade
    According to PicoBrew's recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:
    • Original Gravity: 1.040 SG (actual was 1.043 SG)
    • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG (actual was 1.005 SG)
    • IBUs: 22
    • SRM: 4.0
    • ABV: 3.9%  (actual was 4.99%)
    • Volume: 2.5 gallons (actual was approximately 2.25 gallons)
    As is my usual process, the beer will be pumped into a sanitized kettle after brewing, the sanitized immersion chiller dropped into it, and the beer chilled to a yeast-safe temperature.  The beer will then be transferred to a sanitized fermenter, yeast and Clarity Ferm added, and a Tilt Hydrometer dropped into it for monitoring purposes.

    Post-Brew Notes

    06/24/2018:  The beer came up slightly low in volume and slightly high in gravity. I decided to ignore the 3-point difference in SG and the quart of volume to avoid possibly over-diluting the beer, especially given that 3 points of gravity may well be within a reasonable margin of error. The refractometer measured gravity at 10.9 Brix, which (when calibrated) works out to 1.045 SG which also is close to the 1.043 SG that the Tilt Hydrometer measured. This works out to a Brew House Efficiency of 72.1% for this batch. The Nottingham yeast and Clarity Ferm were pitched into the 76F wort before the fermenter was sealed.

    Since the Notthingham yeast prefers cooler temperatures for fermentation, I decided to see if I could chill the beer a bit further. I wrapped some ice packs used for a cooler around the fermenter, along with a damp towel. Within an hour the fermenter temperature dropped to 70F and as of this writing is continuing to drop. The ambient 68F temperature in the basement should help to keep the fermentation temperature down a little, but I'll have to keep an eye on it.

    06/25/2018:  The ice packs and damp towel got the beer down to around 69F by morning. I replaced the thin ice packs with some thicker ones used for shipping food at around 7:30am. By 11:30am, the temperature in the fermenter had dropped to about 66F. The temperature has held there since then, though I've replaced the ice packs in the meantime. The gravity has dropped from the original 1.043 SG down to its current 1.014 SG. That's about 67.4% attenuation and 3.8% ABV in about 24 hours. If the yeast continues working at this rate, it should hit the expected final gravity of 1.010 SG by this time tomorrow night.

    06/26/2018:  The beer's gravity has been holding steadily at 1.008 SG now for about eight hours now. That's 81.4% attenuation and 4.6% ABV. That's a bit more than expected, but not too far out of line.

    06/27/2018: The gravity continues to hold steady at 1.008 SG, so it appears that primary fermentation is complete. I'll give it another day or two to ensure it's really finished, then treat it with gelatin finings and cold crash it.

    06/30/2018: The gravity has dropped slightly to 1.007 SG, and has been holding there for about two days now.

    07/01/2018: The scatter plot below shows the gravity of the beer from the time the yeast was pitched until now. Each dot represents a gravity reading at 15 minute intervals. The yeast seemed to begin fermenting around 3 hours after pitching. It seemed to peak around 15-24 hours after pitching, and had substantially completed fermentation by about 4-5 days.

    A teaspoon of gelatin was bloomed in distilled water and heated to 155-160F before adding to the fermenter. The fermenter was then placed in a mini-fridge to cold crash and clear up before bottling.

    07/05/2018: The beer is looking pretty clear, and I needed to free up the mini-fridge for the Cream Ale that's right behind it (process-wise), so I bottled the beer today using 4 small carbonation drops per bottle (medium carbonation). Yield was 23 bottles with virtually no extra beer. The yeast was compacted nicely in the bottom of the fermenter. The Tilt registered 1.005 SG at bottling and 38F. Although I'll reserve judgment until the beer finishes conditioning, a sample of the small amount of leftover beer seemed merely "OK" and not particularly tasty (or particularly bad) to me.

    07/15/2018: The beer has carbonated nicely and was removed from the 76F hotbox in preparation for labeling and sharing with others.

    Sunday, June 17, 2018

    A Study of Tripels - And 2018 Tripel 1.0

    2018 Tripel 1.0
    Despite having had a Belgian Tripel take fourth place at the Ohio State Fair this year, I've still never really made one that I felt was "perfect" for my taste. I decided before brewing another that I'd study the style a bit, seeing what has worked for other brewers, and try to come up with my own recipe.

    I located as many Tripel recipes on the web as I could.  If the recipe was for a commercial Tripel, a commercially sold kit, published in a magazine, or listed as a winner in a home brewing contest, then I included it in the study.  There are many (possibly very good) Tripel recipes listed on the web that don't have a "track record" (for lack of a better phrase) associated with them.  I did not include those.

    The Style

    The BJCP 2015 definition for the Belgian Tripel style suggests the following:
    • Overall Impression:  A pale, somewhat spicy, dry, strong Trappist ale with a pleasant rounded malt flavor and firm bitterness. Quite aromatic, with spicy, fruity, and light alcohol notes combining with the supportive clean malt character to produce a surprisingly drinkable beverage considering the high alcohol level.
    • Aroma: Complex bouquet with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop phenols. Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges, but may sometimes have a slight banana character. A low yet distinctive spicy, floral, and sometimes perfumy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and low in intensity. The malt character is light, with a soft, slightly grainy-sweet or slightly honey-like impression. The best examples have a seamless, harmonious interplay between the yeast character, hops, malt, and alcohol.
    • Appearance: Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Long-lasting, creamy, rocky, white head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades.
    • Flavor: Marriage of spicy, fruity, and alcohol flavors supported by a soft, rounded grainy-sweet malt impression, occasionally with a very light honey note. Low to moderate phenols are peppery in character. Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit such as orange or sometimes lemon, and are low to moderate. A low to moderate spicy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and low in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness lends a dry finish with a moderately bitter aftertaste with substantial spicy-fruity yeast character. The grainy-sweet malt flavor does not imply any residual sweetness.
    • Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest. Highly carbonated. The alcohol content is deceptive, and has little to no obvious warming sensation. Always effervescent.
    • Characteristic Ingredients: Pilsner malt, typically with pale sugar adjuncts. Saazer-type or Styrian Goldings are commonly used. Belgian yeast strains are used - those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols - often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures. Spice additions are generally not traditional, and if used, should be a background character only. Fairly soft water.
    My personal favorite examples include:  Karmeliet Tripel, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, and Old Dominion's Candi Belgian Tripel.

    What I want from my own Tripel is:
    • Appearance:  Anything in the yellow to gold color range, consistent with the BJCP style.  A thick white long-lasting head. This (for me) means including both Melanoidin and Carapils malts in grain bill, as that combo tends to produce the kind of head I'm looking for.
    • Aroma:  Spicy, fruity, and with a definite orange/lemon citrus note.  Optionally a hint of honey and malt sweetness.
    • Mouthfeel:  Medium body with lots of carbonation.
    • Flavor:  Mild peppery spiciness, citrus notes, spicy hop character that's allowing the balance to tilt just a little toward the malt sweetness (which goes against the dry/bitter nature of the style). A hint of honey. No warming note.  I don't want the spices to be obvious, nor do I want it so sweet that it feels like a soft drink.
    Any Tripel I produce that doesn't meet those criteria will require changes.


    The recipes I examined contained one or more of the following grains:
    • Acidulated Malt: Primarily used to lower pH in the wort when Pilsner malt is used.
    • Aromatic Malt: Said to provide sweet, toasted flavors and contribute light brown and orange color along with intensely malty flavor.
    • Belgian Cara 8:  A very pale caramel malt said to contribute a subtle caramel flavor. 
    • Belgian Pale Malt:  A fully modified pale ale malt, good as a base malt.
    • Biscuit Malt:  A lightly toasted malt that contributes warm, earthy malt flavors and aromas. Contributes light to medium garnet brown colors and a toasty finish. Some nutty flavors and a baking bread aroma.
    • Caramel 10L Malt:  This light caramel malt reportedly delivers a mellow candy-like sweetness and subtle toffee flavor, and increases foam stability.
    • Carapils/Dextrine Malt:  Contributes unfermentable sugars that add foam stability and fullness to a beer.
    • Caravienne Malt: Adds subtle toffee, caramel, and malty flavors to the beer.
    • Flaked Corn: Adds a mild neutral flavor when used in small amounts, and a moderate sweetness when used in larger amounts.
    • Flaked Wheat:  Increases head retention and body.
    • Melanoidin Malt:  Adds a red color and intensifies malt flavor and aroma.
    • (Belgian and Non-Belgian) Munich Malt:  A bready, sweet malt.
    • (Belgian and non-Belgian) Pilsner Malt:  A light colored base malt.
    • Torrified Wheat:  A whole kernel version of flaked wheat, which increases head retention and body.
    • Victory Malt:  A Biscuit-style malt that brings out nutty, toasty, biscuit-like flavors.  Adds a layer of dry toasted complexity and a russet brown color.
    • Wheat Malt: Improves head retention and mouth feel.
    This is not to say that other grains cannot be used, only that these are common.  I'm also not suggesting that a Tripel recipe should have all, or even most, of these grains it... only that these are being used and are worth considering in a recipe because they've obviously worked in the past.

    If we look at all the above malts and generalize them a bit, we come down to roughly the following:
    • Pale and/or Pilsner base malt provide most of the grist
    • Caramel, Carapils, and Caravienne add some caramel notes to the base, with Carapils perhaps adding a nice head as well
    • Aromatic, Biscuit, and Victory malts add some malt complexity and bready/toasty notes
    • Flaked Corn and Munich Malt add sweetness
    • Torrified Wheat, Wheat Malt, Carapils, and Melanoidin malt contribute a lasting head and some thickness to the mouthfeel
    A good Tripel recipe probably mixes those five categories to some degree.


    The following hops appear in the Tripel recipes I looked at:
    • Crystal:  An aroma hop, said to impart woody, fruity, and "green" aromas.
    • Czech Saaz:  An aroma hop, said to import mild earthy, herbal, and floral overtones.
    • East Kent Goldings: A dual-purpose hop said to include floral, lavender, spice, honey, earthy, lemony, orange, grapefruit, and thyme overtones.
    • Fuggle: An aroma hop said to include delicate and pleasant mint, grass, and floral tones.
    • Hallertau Mittelfruh: An aroma hop said to impart noble, earthy, and herbal tones.
    • Horizon: A dual-purpose hop said to provide smooth bitterness and impart floral bouquet and spicy aromas to a beer.
    • Liberty: An aroma hop said to impart noble, delicate, floral bouquet, and spice aromas.
    • Nugget: A bittering hop said to have mild herbal aromas.
    • Sterling:  An aroma hop said to produce noble and spicy aromas.
    • Styrian Goldings:  Said to impart a spicy aroma with a sweet/earthy edge, resinous with hints of white pepper.
    • Target:  A dual purpose hop said to impart aromas of fresh green sage, spicy/peppery notes, and hints of citrus marmalade.
    • Tettnanger:  An aroma hop said to display noble characteristics and a slight spiciness, with aromas of black tea, pepper, and spice.
    • Tradition: An aroma hop said to impart a harmonic bitterness, with aroma descriptor of floral, herbal, grassy, and fruity.
    I've used Saaz, East Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings, and Tettnanger in the past. A mix of Czech Saaz and Styrian Goldings is my go-to combination for Belgian beers.

    There is something about East Kent Goldings I just don't like. I can't quite explain it, but beers containing very much of that hop variety just don't appeal to me. I can tolerate it in English styles, but generally dislike it elsewhere. More recently, I've found that blending a little East Kent Goldings with something else, like Styrian Goldings or Saaz, makes the East Kent Goldings bite more subtle and tolerable to me.

    If we paint the hops in broad strokes, there are some definite patterns going on:
    • Fruity, spicy, earthy, herbal, citrus, and floral notes appear in most of the hops varieties used
    • Most of the hops varieties used are aroma-type hops, though a few dual-purpose and bittering hops do appear in the list
    When I think about my own recipe, I'm wanting both spicy and citrus notes in the aroma.  I want a softer bitterness that doesn't take away from the malt, so my initial thinking is that I might do this:
    • 60 minute bittering addition:  Target hops - for the peppery/citrus notes
    • 15 minute flavor addition: Styrian Goldings - for the spicy, earthy, peppery notes
    • 5 minute aroma/flavor addition: Mandarina Bavaria - for its fruity, citrus, tangerine flavor and aromas, perhaps mixed with some Saaz and/or Target 
    Although I know Mandarina Bavaria isn't a common Tripel hop, but I think the fruitiness it imparts might work really well with the style.


    The Tripel style is, like many Belgian monastery ales, known for containing some percentage of sugar in the grist.  Here are the various sugars I saw in the Tripel recipes I examined:
    • Blanc Soft Candi Sugar:  No flavor addition to the beer.
    • Clear Candi Sugar:  No flavor addition to the beer.
    • Corn Sugar:  No flavor addition to the beer.
    • Demerara Sugar:  A type of cane sugar with a pale amber color. Has a toffee flavor and can be used in place of brown sugar.
    • Golden Candi Syrup:  Adds pronounced caramel and light fruit to Belgian styles.
    • Honey (often Orange Blossom or Clover):  Can knock the bitter edge off hops and add floral notes and aroma. Early in the boil contributes mostly fermentable sugar. Late in the boil or in the fermenter will contribute flavor and aroma.
    • Light Brown Sugar: Lends subtle caramel notes to beer.
    • White Table Sugar: There is a rumor that adding this to beer will lead to cider-like flavors, and there is also evidence to suggest that this is not the case. When I've used it, I've detected no off flavors.
    All of these will boost the alcohol content of a beer, lighten its body, and dry out some of the sweetness.

    I've used most of these in Tripels, as well as Turbinado sugar in a recent one.  The clear candi sugars and corn sugar don't contribute anything I can detect to the flavor.  The same for white table sugar as best I can tell.

    Because I'm wanting my Tripel to come out with less dryness than many of the examples of the style, I think I'll reduce the adjunct amount used. It's common in Belgian style recipes for sugars to make up 15% of the fermentables. I'm going to aim for a much lower percentage, and try to stick with a fermentable that will contribute something to the flavor.  That means probably Golden Candi Syrup, Demerara Sugar, or Orange Blossom Honey... but not very much of any of them.

    Spices and Flavorings

    I didn't see too many spices or flavorings in Tripel recipes, but I did see:
    • Bitter Orange Beel
    • Fresh Pink Grapefruit (in primary)
    • Coriander
    • Pepper
    • Sweet Orange Peel
    I can imagine orange peel helping with the flavor profile I'm looking for, and probably coriander. I am less sure about pepper or grapefruit.  I won't rule them out, though.

    I'm thinking a mix of bitter and sweet orange peel would be good, with a very small amount of coriander and perhaps some grains of paradise (which impart peppery flavors).


    Where a yeast strain could be identified in the recipes I examined, it was usually one of the following:
    • Wyeast 3522 Ardennes (said to add a citrus/pepper flavor)
    • Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity
    • Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey
    • White Labs WLP500 Belgian Abbey
    • Fermentis Safbrew T-58
    I've not used the Ardennes strain in a Tripel. The author of that particular recipe claims that it delivers an ideal flavor complement to the beer, so I'll have to check it out.

    Recipe Formulation

    Putting all this together, I think my first Tripel recipe for 2018 will be something like this:
    • 7 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt (a good light base)
    • 8 ounces Munich Light Malt (a little sweetness)
    • 4 ounces Carapils/Dextrine Malt (head retention)
    • 2.5 ounces Melanoidin Malt (head retention)
    • 2 ounces Aromatic Malt (malty flavor and aroma)
    • 2 ounces Biscuit Malt (bready, malty flavor)
    • 8 ounces Golden Candi Syrup, dissolved in the wort post-boil
    • 0.25 ounces Target hops @ 11.5% AA (60 min.)
    • 0.25 ounces Styrian Goldings @ 5.5% AA (15 min.)
    • 0.50 ounces Mandarina Bavaria @ 8.5% AA (5 min.)
    • 0.10 ounces Czech Saaz @ 5% AA (5 min.)
    • 0.10 ounces Target @ 11.5% AA (5 min.)
    • 0.50 ounces Sweet Orange Peel (3 min.)
    • 0.50 ounces Bitter Orange Peel (3 min.)
    • 0.15 ounces crushed Coriander (3 min.)
    • 0.25 tsp. Super Irish Moss
    • 0.25 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
    • Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast
    This is for a Picobrew Zymatic 2.5 gallon batch.  The Zymatic web site says that this should produce a beer with the following characteristics:
    • Original Gravity: 1.083 SG (actual was 1.071 SG)
    • Final Gravity: 1.022 SG
    • IBUs: 22
    • BU/GU Ratio: 0.265 (actual is 0.310)
    • SRM: 7
    • ABV: 8%
    • Starting Water Needed: 3.3 gallons
    • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.25 gallons)
    I used a modified version of the Zymatic high-efficiency mash schedule, which ran as follows:
    • Dough in at 102F for 15 minutes
    • Mash step 1 at 113F for 10 minutes
    • Mash step 2 at 122F for 15 minutes
    • Mash step 3 at 145F for 20 minutes
    • Mash step 4 at 155F for 45 minutes
    • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
    The boil schedule was set to:
    • 60 minutes: Target hops
    • 15 minutes: Styrian Goldings hops
    • 10 minutes: Sweet Orange Peel, Bitter Orange Peel, Coriander, Yeast Nutrient, Super Irish Moss
    • 5 minutes: Target, Mandarina Bavaria, Czech Saaz
    • Candi Syrup was added after the boil, prior to chilling
    Post-Brew Notes

    06/16/2018: The Zymatic appeared to get clogged at some point during the mash. The grain bed didn't flood during mash out, and when it switched from "mash out" to "heat to boil" it halted with Error Code 1. When I tried to restart it, it got the same error. After that, I powered the Zymatic off and unplugged it briefly. After plugging it back in and powering it on, I was able to get it to begin the "heat to boil" stage. The Zymatic seemed to have trouble getting the wort up to boiling temperature. When it finally reached boiling, the temperature fluctuated for quite a while before stabilizing. I assume it must have cleared the blockage at that point as the rest of the brew finished without error.

    The gravity of the finished wort was low (1.071 versus the expected 1.083), as was the volume. I suspect that this was related to the possible blockage in the system, as it may have prevented full conversion of the wort. A few hours after pitching the yeast, I began seeing the gravity drop. Since the Ardennes strain is rated for temperatures between 65F and 76F, I'll be keeping an eye on it for the next few days. Since pitching, the wort has dropped from 73F to 70F. Gravity has dropped from 1.071 to 1.068 SG. This seems to indicate that the yeast is happy in its new home.

    Brew House Efficiency for this batch worked out to 48.8%, which is abysmal. The most likely cause is some blockage in the lines within the Zymatic that prevented it from being able to flow wort through the grain bed well during the mash. I ended up running multiple cleaning and rinsing cycles through it to ensure that the blockages are worked out of it. The brew I did the following week did not exhibit the issues seen with this batch, so hopefully a re-brew of this recipe in the future would yield a higher gravity.

    06/17/2018: The yeast has been an impressive worker. Gravity has dropped from 1.071 SG to 1.038 in a little over 24 hours. That's 45% attenuation and 4.2% ABV in about 24 hours. Temperature dropped to a low of 70F overnight and is currently at 77F, just above the recommended top-end temperature for the yeast. I've read that it does fine in temperatures as high as 82F, so I'm going to let it free-ferment as long as it stays below that temperature.

    06/18/2018: The yeast has continued to work its way through the fermentables. Gravity is down to 1.021 SG today and the temperature has dropped down to 71F. That is the final gravity I expected it to reach, so it's on target to finish as expected. A sample removed from the fermenter had a nice gold color, a fruity and slighly clove-like aroma, and a dry, fruity flavor to it. It could turn out quite well.

    06/21/2018: The gravity is currently reading as 1.017 SG (77.1% attenuation and 7.1% ABV) and has been reading that figure since about 6am this morning. If that continues, as I suspect it will, I'll be treating it with gelatin and chilling it this weekend to brighten it up before bottling.

    06/23/2018: The gravity is now reading 1.013 SG and 68F. It's held this gravity since about 5pm Friday, so it will need to hold that for a couple more days before I'm willing to move it to a refrigerator to brighten.

    6/24/2018: I bloomed some gelatin in distilled water, then heated it to 158F before tossing it into the fermenter. I then moved the fermenter into my mini-fridge to brighten before bottling. At the time the beer went into the mini-fridge, the Tilt Hydrometer was reading 1.013 SG and 68F. When it comes out, I expect the gravity to read the same, but the temperature to be about 38F. I'm expecting to bottle it Thursday or Friday evening, depending on how clear it's gotten.

    07/01/2018: The beer was bottled today, with four or five small carbonation drops per bottle (the number of drops used determined by the strength/thickness of the bottle). Yield was 23 bottles. A sample of the leftover flat beer had a good flavor. I'm hopeful the finished beer will as well. We'll know in a week or two. The bottles were placed in a 76F "hot box" to carbonate.

    07/15/2018: The beer didn't carbonate at first, and had to be flipped upside down daily for a few days. Today it was clearly carbonated well enough to serve, so I removed it from the hot box in preparation for labeling.