Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How A Bacterial Infection in Your Beer Can Ruin Your Weekend

Late last year, I started brewing various British beer styles to become familiar with them. My goal was to have a collection of beers I could enter into this year's SODZ British Beer Fest homebrew competition. I'd managed to brew an Ordinary Bitter, a Scottish 80 Shilling, Irish Red Ale, British Brown Ale, and others.  I entered four of these into the Barley's competition this year. Two came back with terrible scores because they gushed out of the bottle on the judges. 

Having brewed for several years now, and having not varied my sanitation practices much, I was in complete denial when the Barley's judges suggested that the beer had been infected. When the same thing happened with two different beers at the SODZ competition, I could no longer deny it. I had a bacterial infection somewhere. But where?

Given my brewing process, I had the following candidates:
  • Brewing System:  If the plumbing inside either the PicoBrew Zymatic or the Brewie+ became infected, specifically on the cold side, then the beer might be infected going into the fermenter. However, this seemed unlikely. I tentatively ruled it out.
  • Fermenter:  If one or more fermenters had an infection that survived a PBW clean and Star San sanitization, that could be passed on to the beer.  If this was the cause of my infection, it would impact any beer brewed in that fermenter.  A good indicator would be if I could identify infected batches vs. uninfected ones, and trace that back to a fermenter.
  • Bottling Wand:  I only owned two bottling wands. If one of those was infected, it would infect every bottle filled with that wand, but not batches filled from the other wand (unless both were infected).  
  • Carbonation Drops:  I had been picking these up by hand and placing them into the bottles with my fingers (which had been washed and spent a lot of time in Star San). There was a small chance this could have infected the tablets and then the bottle. If this was the case, every batch I bottled would be infected.
  • Bottle Caps:  This seemed unlikely. In general, my caps soak in Star San until I pull them out to put them on the bottle. I can't rule it out, but it's not a top suspect.
To start narrowing things down, I needed evidence. I began by opening a bottle from each batch I had on hand. A bottle from January 2018 was fine. A bottle from February gushed like crazy.  A bottle from a week or so later didn't.  Over the next two days, I opened at least one bottle from every batch I had made over the past year that I still had on hand. 

The result was depressing. Probably 65% of the batches showed clear signs of infection.  Some gushed beer 3-4 feet from the bottle. Others gushed only inches away.  In the end, at least 75% of the beer I had made in the past 14-16 months was infected and had to be tossed out.  About a dozen batches were fine. A few were overcarbonated but didn't appear to be infected.  I spent hours dumping entire batches of beer down the drain, rinsing the bottles clean, and removing the labels. 

It became clear that the brewing systems most likely weren't the culprit. I had at least one batch from each of them that wasn't infected, and batches from both that were. If the system was infected, I would expect all of its batches to be infected.  That left the fermenters and bottling wands.

As I got to some of the more-recent batches, a pattern began to emerge. There were four fermenters I used most-often in 2018 and 2019. They both featured a half-inch spigot. The other two featured a 3/8" spigot. Why was that important?  It meant that I used a different bottling wand with two of the fermenters than I used with the other two. It quickly became clear that batches bottled through the half-inch wand were all showing signs of infection, while batches bottled through the 3/8" wand were just fine.  I had my smoking gun. The half-inch wand was infected (and possibly the two fermenters, but I'd start with the wand).

I tossed both bottling wands and ordered new ones. That would hopefully clear the infection. I also made some adjustments to my procedures, in the hope that this will catch any future infections more quickly so that I never have to toss as much home brew again as I did this weekend.

From here on, my bottling procedure will change to:
  • Bottles should (continue to) get a hot tap water rinse until visually clean, then run through the dishwasher without any other dishes to minimize the risk of food particles causing infection. Bottles then need to be soaked in fresh Star San for further insurance. (This has been my process all along.)
  • Where possible, soak the bottling wand in boiling or near-boiling water to clean and sanitize it, then go a step further by soaking in Star San. In theory, this would eliminate an infection in the wand going forward. (This is a change. I used to use PBW to clean and Star San to sanitize, but that's clearly not good enough, at least not all the time.)
  • Caps will be soaked in Star San before use. (I've always done this.)
  • Stainless tongs will be sanitized and used to load the carbonation drops, to ensure that no bacteria from my hands enters the bottle. The tongs may be boiled or sanitized with the wand. (This is new.)
  • When a batch is bottled, record the fermenter used, bottling wand used, carbonation drop type, and where appropriate, the number of drops per bottle.  (I have not done this in the past.)
  • After any batch has been in the bottle for 30-90 days, open a bottle to check for over-carbonation and signs of gushing. If any signs are detected, check additional bottles.  (This is something I've also not done in the past, and it really "bit me" this time.)
  • If an infection is found check bottles from any other batches that went through the same wand and/or fermenter to ensure there are no gushers in there. Stop using that fermenter and/or wand until the infection is found and removed. (This should prevent me from having to dump a huge number of batches as I did this time, and result in only losing 1-3 before the infection is found.)
I noticed, too, that you can tell the difference between a bacterial infection and simple over-carbonation, at least in this case.  Overcarbonation resulted in a slow, gradual foaming of the beer up through the neck of the bottle and down the side. Maybe a third of the beer would foam out if you let it.  The infection caused a rapid expulsion of foamy beer through the neck of the bottle, and looked more like it was boiling out of the bottle than just foaming. 

Tonight I bottled a Belgian Dubbel from one of the four fermenters I use regularly. I made sure to hit the spigot with Star San before use, and to soak the new bottling wand and connecting tubing in Star San as well.  If this batch turns up infected, I'll know it's the fermenter... though this was one of the 3/8" spigots, so I'm inclined to think it will turn out fine.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Margarita Cream Ale 1.0

While inventorying my home brewing supplies over the weekend, I realized I had a lot of flaked corn, which made me think a Cream Ale might be nice.  I also saw some dark agave nectar I'd bought a long time ago on clearance, which delivers a tequila-like flavor when fermented.  I figured adding some orange peel, lemon peel, lime zest, and lime juice might just bring that margarita flavor home. I could add some Hallertau hops (lemony) and Mandarina Bavaria (orange) to further enhance the flavor.

I started with a national competition-winning Cream Ale recipe from the American Homebrewing Association web site as the base, then layered on Mandarina Bavaria hops, agave nectar, lime zest and lime juice, orange and lemon peel, and set things up in the Brewie+.

Ingredients

2 pounds Swaen Pilsner Malt
2 pounds Briess 2-row Pale Malt
9 ounces Flaked Corn
7 ounces Corn Sugar (mash)
4 ounces Acid Malt
4.2 ounces Dark Agave Nectar (flameout)
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer (mash)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
0.20 ounces Hallertau hops pellets @ 4.4% AA (60 min.)
0.30 ounces Hallertau hops pellets @ 4.4% AA (5 min.)
0.30 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets @ 9.2% AA (5 min.)
1 lime's worth of zest and juice (zest @ 5 min, juice at flameout)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (15 min.)
1/2 ounce Bitter Orange Peel (15 min.)
1/2 ounce Lemon Peel (15 min.)
1/2 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.)
1 package WLP029 White Labs Kolsch Ale yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm

11.6 liters of mash water (13.2 cm deep in the kettle)
(Note: The correct mash water should be 7.8 liters, 8.9 cm)

5.0 liters of sparge water (5.7 cm deep in the kettle)
(Note: The correct sparge water should be 7 liters, 8.0 cm)

Brewer's Friend estimates that the beer will have the following qualities:
  • BJCP Style: 6.A Cream Ale
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (~10L) (2.64 actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.055 SG (1.057 actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.045 SG/10.3 Brix (approx.)
  • Final Gravity: 1.014 SG
  • ABV: 5.32%
  • IBUs: 12.9
  • SRM: 3.6
  • Pre-Boil Volume: 13.2 Liters (approx.)
Mash Schedule

This batch will employ a fairly simple mash schedule:
  • Mash in for 15 minutes at 135F
  • Mash at 145F for 35 minutes (Beta rest)
  • Mash at 165F for 25 minutes (Alpha rest)
  • Mash out at 172F for 5 minutes
Boil Schedule

A 60-minute boil will be used, with the following schedule:
  • 60 minutes: Hallertau
  • 20 minutes: Brewtan B
  • 15 minutes: Yeast Nutrient, Irish Moss, Orange Peel, Lemon Peel
  • 5 minutes: Lime Zest, Hallertau, Mandarina Bavaria
  • 0 minutes (whirlpool): Lime Juice
Fermentation Plan

The White Labs Kolsch Yeast I'm using here should produce a fairly clean beer if we can keep the fermentation temperature at about 65F.  My fermentation plan is:
  • Days 1-10: Ferment at 65F using temperature control
  • Days 10+: Ferment at ambient temperatures in the basement
After the final gravity is reached and held for a week, the beer will be bottle-conditioned.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

05/05/2019:  The ingredients were gathered, measured, and loaded into the Brewie+.  The lime was zested and juiced, with the zest being added to the machine and the juice held for flameout.

I screwed up calculating the mash and sparge water. Noticing that the spreadsheet I've been using for a while doesn't incorporate the grain absorption amount into its mash water calculations, I fixed that. But in doing so, I forgot to adjust the grain volume to match the current recipe, so everything was calculated for about twice as much grain. I should have used 6.8 liters but ended up using 11.6 (which made for a very thin mash).  Later on, instead of 12.4 liters of pre-boil volume, I had 13.2 liters.

Mash pH read anywhere from 4.7 to 5.3 depending on where the meter entered the mash liquid. I may have added too much Acid malt, but that was based on the recommendation of Brewer's Friend.

Pre-boil gravity read 11 Brix (which adjusts to about 1.045 SG on my refractometer) and the volume read approximately 13.2 liters instead of the expected 12.4 liters, so I opened the lid on the Brewie to increase boil-off rate with the goal of hitting my targets.  This boiled off enough water to bring the final volume and gravity into line with the recipe targets.

During the boil, I noticed at times that the Brewie did not seem to be pushing wort through the hop cages.  There seemed to be a clog in the system that resolved itself, then reappeared, and resolved itself again. That, or a pump may be failing.  Given that it's only 5 months old, a clog seems more likely.

Post-boil, the gravity registered 1.057 SG on the Tilt Hydrometer and the temperature read 66F. I pitched the yeast and set the temperature control to hold it at 65F.  Volume read between 2.5 gallons and 2.75 gallons.

05/08/2019:  The gravity has been dropping as expected since the yeast was pitched. Below are the lowest gravities recorded for each day since the yeast was pitched:
  • 5/5/2019:  1.057 SG (65F)
  • 5/6/2018:  1.049 SG (65F)
  • 5/7/2019:  1.032 SG (65F)
  • 5/8/2019:  1.022 SG (Temp raised to 66F)
05/09/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.017 SG. Temp is holding at 66F.  I'm planning to increase it to 69F later tonight to help the yeast reach final gravity.

05/14/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.013 SG, down from 1.014 SG yesterday. Temp is holding at 65F.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

In Search of... Malt Complexity

I've placed a lot of malt-forward styles into competition in the last two years. These are styles that tend to appeal to me, such as the Dark Mild, Scottish Export, Extra Strong Bitter, and Dry Irish Stout. To be fair, I had brewed many of these styles for the very first time, and from recipes found on the Internet (which probably had good pedigrees, but who's to say). The fact that they did not do well may have boiled down to them being mediocre recipes to start with, or a lack of experience on my part brewing the styles, or the fact that I've changed brewing systems twice in the last two years. Regardless, a common comment from judges over the last three years of my brewing competition experience has been that some of my beers (not all, or even most) lacked malt complexity.

The first time I got that comment, I assumed that the judge meant that I hadn't used a good balance of specialty malts. When I tweaked the grist on one of those recipes and entered the next competition, the scores did improve a little. The comment cropped up more often this year, which convinced me that I needed to do a deeper dive into the subject.  If you're running into this same comment, what I'm about to share may help you, too.

Malt complexity can be impacted at each stage of the brewing process:
  • Recipe creation:  Choosing the right types of barley (and other grains) for the grist is important. Studying the BJCP criteria's list of ingredients and reviewing winning recipes for the style you're brewing can help here.
  • Mashing:  The mash process is all about breaking down proteins, starches, and sugars with enzymes present in the grain. Adding different mash rests rather than doing a single temperature rest can help alter the body, mouthfeel, and malt flavor complexity.
  • Boiling:  A rolling boil is important to kettle caramelization and driving off unwanted flavors like DMS. Lengthening the boil can help increase caramelization and deepen malt flavors, resulting in improved complexity.  It can also help to pull off a portion of the wort and boil it down very rapidly, then return it to the brew kettle.
  • Fermentation:  Choosing a yeast strain that accentuates malt flavors rather than hops can also improve the malt complexity of the finished beer. Depending on the style of beer you're making, there are usually several yeast strains available, each with differing impacts on the finished beer. You'll want to choose one that delivers what you're looking for.
I'm going to dive a little deeper into each of these areas.

Recipe Creation

There are a number of ways your recipe can impact the malt complexity and body:
  • There is a good list of barley variations and their impact on the beer here:
    https://www.brewcabin.com/malted-barley/
  • Base Malts: These form the background flavor of the beer.
    • Pilsner:  pale color and delicate flavor, perfect for lagers and pale ales
    • Pale Malts:  light color with biscuit and honey flavors
      • British pale malt tends to be darker but more flavorful
      • American two-row is between a pilsner and a British pale with honey and grain flavor
      • American six-row is great for starch conversion but less flavorful than two-row
    • Pale Ale Malts:  developed specifically for English-style Pale Ales. They are darker in color than pale malts
    • Vienna and Munich Malts: These are a foundation for beers that require sweet caramel flavors without dark colors
    • Extra-pale malts may display herbal notes and grassy or hay-like flavors and aromas
    • English pale ale malts like Maris Otter and Golden Promise develop a sharp, biscuity character that suits bitters and pale ales
    • North American "lager" malts often are very neutral and lack the character needed for some styles
    • Vienna malt brings out sweet, caramelly notes recognizable in a Vienna lager or Marzen
    • Munich malt brings sweet, toasty, cookie type flavors
  • Specialty Malts:  Depending on the style, you can add specialty malts, increase or decrease the amount of specialty malts, or choose malts from a different supplier to increase complexity.
    • Carapils/Dextrine malt will add body and head retention. Use as 5-20% of the grist in darker beers and 5-10% in lighter ones.
    • Some North American pale malts can give edgy or phenolic astringency
    • European malts often show more character and aroma
    • Pale malts in the 10 Lovibond range contribute sweet caramel, cotton candy, and honey notes
    • Malts in the 20 Lovibond range contribute some golden raisin flavors
    • Pale Ales and IPAs are often accented with some raisiny caramel malt, often with a mix of lager and pale malts, possibly with Vienna or Caramel 10L for sweetness
    • Lighter caramel malts tend to provide a beer's main flavor while darker varieties plan a supporting role. Dark crystal malts can overwhelm a beer's flavor.
    • Biscuit malt adds nutty, toasted biscuit flavors, like a more-intense Vienna malt
    • Amber malt is similar to biscuit, but has more complex flavors like toffee, nuts, and baked bread, and more bitterness
    • Brown malt has toffee, bready, nutty flavors but can dry out a beer if overused. It's best used in moderation to add complexity.
    • Chocolate malt offers a slight burnt flavor, coffee and chocolate aroma/flavor, and astringency
    • Black malt gives a deep color addition, but can add astringency unless it's huskless
    • Roasted barley isn't really malted, but adds roasted flavor
    • Acidulated (Acid) malt adds sour flavors, and a little can add sharpness and reduce mash pH.
    • Smoked malt is useful in some styles but can be overwhelming depending on the degree of smoke flavor
    • Peated malt is smoked using peat instead of wood. It's more for whiskey than beer, and some say it can make a beer taste like a Band-Aid bandage.
    • Wheat malt has a high protein content and can add a thicker, long-lasting head along with bready flavors
    • Rye malt adds a spicy flavor and works well with hops
    • Oat malt can fill out a beer's flavor and gives it a smooth mouthfeel. 
  • Maltodextrin can be added to enhance body
  • Lactose can add sweetness, body, and mouthfeel
  • Flaked Barley and oats should be less than 15% of your grist in most cases
  • If you're using a more-attenuating yeast strain, add proteins/dextrins to fill in the body
Mash Schedule Impacts

The mash schedule you follow for a brew can also impact the malt complexity:
  • Proteins break down in the 113-131F range at a pH between 5.1 and 5.3. Breaking these down will lighten the body of the beer and may impact head retention.
  • Starches break down into sugars best in the 150-162F range at a pH of 5.3 to 5.7.
  • According to one source, a few degrees Fahrenheit and a tenth of a pH point can make a world of difference in creating complex malt flavor.
  • Having at least two temperature rests in the saccharification range will make for a more complex beer.
  • If brewing with wheat, add a rest at 113F (ferulic acid rest) to bring out clove characteristics associated with wheat beers, and a saccharification rest in the mid-150F range.
  • If you're using a lot of specialty malts, mashing in at 140F and stepping into the mid-150's will facilitate fermentability while retaining body.
Boil Schedule Factors

Activity during the boil also impacts malt complexity:
  • Pilsners and wheat beers are generally boiled 60 minutes or less to maintain the light color
  • Scottish ales, porters, stouts, and other darker styles can be boiled up to 2 hours in order to get enough kettle caramelization, color, and complexity.
  • Varying your boil time as little as 15 minutes can make a difference, especially if you're maintaining a rolling boil. Try a two-hour boil to start, dialing it back if the effect is too intense. Some styles, like barleywines, may even boil up to 5 hours.
  • In general, the longer you boil, the more caramelization you'll have in the kettle and the more intense the malt flavors will be.
  • Use kettle caramelization for the right styles and dial in the right boil length for your setup.
  • You can concentrate a portion of the wort (improving caramelization and complexity) by pulling off a bit of it, boiling that down very hard (reducing volume by half) and adding it back to the kettle. This works well in styles like:
    • Bock
    • Doppelbock
    • Wee Heavy
    • Old Ale
    • Barleywine
    • Imperial Stout
    • Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Fermentation Factors

By the time you've reached the point of fermenting the beer, nearly all the heavy-lifting in terms of developing malt complexity has probably been achieved. Still you can tweak things further:
  • A less-attenuating yeast strain will leave behind malt sugars and increase the body of the finished beer.
  • Some strains emphasize malt flavors (like Scottish Ale strains) while others will bring out the hop flavors. Choosing a different strain can impact malt aroma and flavor.
  • Some fining agents reportedly lighten the body of the beer, so take care when using those. (I didn't find much specific detail on which fining agents do this.)
Incorporating this Information in Your Brewing

Learning and reading all this won't help much if I don't put some of it into practice to improve my brewing. Here's how I intend to start playing around with these suggestions to improve my beer:
  • Grain Bill:  For styles that need more body, I'll be looking to add oats, maltodextrin, Carapils/Dextrine malt, and/or Melanoidin, and mash at higher temperatures.
  • Mash: The Brewie+ and the PicoBrew Zymatic I used before that both make it fairly easy to implement multi-step mashes and keep them on track. I'll continue to play around with adding steps, lengthening or shortening some, etc., to try to improve body and complexity.  I think these automated systems seem to have trouble delivering a full-bodied beer, so I may need to compensate for this in the grain bill.
  • Boil:  The Brewie+ and the Zymatic both tend to boil below the 212F "true boil" temperature.  I regularly see the Brewie+ boiling in the 205-209F range. You would definitely not call it a rolling boil compared to some propane-fueled kettles (or even some stove tops) but there is a decent amount of roll to it.  Still, I'm considering drawing off and concentrating a portion of the wort on the kitchen stove as a way of boosting caramelization and possibly the body of the finished beer.  I'm also going to start lengthening the boil times on the theory that the lower boil temperature of the Brewie+ delivers less or "slower" caramelization in the kettle, and that extending the boil length will increase the caramelization overall.
  • Fermentation:  If all the above isn't getting me the results I want, I'll have to start experimenting with less-attenuating yeast strains to see if that helps.
As with many things in brewing, research and experimentation should help improve the beer.

I hope you've found this post useful and/or interesting.






Saturday, April 27, 2019

Belgian Dubbel 5.0

I've been able to brew Trappist Single, Tripel, and Quad (Dark Strong) ales that I'm happy with. One of my Tripels placed at the Ohio State Fair. Two of my Dark Strong Ales finished in the top three at Barley's Ale House. The one Trappist style I've brewed repeatedly but never been happy with is the Dubbel.

It's not that I don't know what I want from a Dubbel. I want a nice deep ruby red color with a decent head and clarity. I want a noticeable aroma of dark fruit (prune/plum) and noble hops (preferably Saaz). I want a touch of sweetness, but not to a cloying degree, to bring out that dark fruit. A mild phenolic quality, manifesting as peppery or clove-like notes would be ideal. The body should lean toward medium. The beer should finish dry and clean.

I found a recipe on Beer and Brewing that is attributed to Andy Mitchell, a brewer at New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colorado. I'm swapping out the East Kent Goldings hops (which I've never liked in a Belgian style beer) for a mix of Whitbread Goldings for bittering and Czech Saaz for flavor/aroma. I'm also going to add some chopped raisins and prunes in the whirlpool to see if I can't dial up the dark fruit flavors in the finished beer. A locally-made Dubbel I tried a few years ago included plums in the recipe, and it was one of the best Dubbels I've had, so I'm hopeful that

Ingredients

3 pounds Dingeman's Pilsen Malt
1 pound plus 5 ounces Weyermann Munich I Malt
8 ounces Caramunich I Malt
7 ounces Gambrinus Honey Malt
4 ounces Carapils/Dextrine Malt
2 ounces Dingeman's Special B Malt
1 ounce Dingeman's Chocolate Malt
1 pound Corn Sugar (added to mash)
4 ounces Golden Raisins, chopped
4 ounces Prunes, chopped
0.30 ounces Whitbread Golding Variety (WGV) hops @ 7.1%AA (60 min.)
0.25 ounces Czech Saaz hops @ 5.4% AA (15 min.)
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (boil - 20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 package Safbrew BE-256 ale yeast
6.5 liters mash water
6.9 liters sparge water

BeerSmith estimates the beer will have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Category: 26B Belgian Dubbel
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.75 gallons actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.066 SG estimated (1.068 SG actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.049 SG
  • Final Gravity: 1.007 SG estimated (1.012 SG actual)
  • IBUs: 21.5 estimated (19.1 adjusted estimate)
  • SRM: 16.6
  • ABV: 8.0% estimated (7.7% actual)
Mash Schedule

The following mash schedule was programmed into the Brewie+ system:
  • 10 minute Ferulic Acid Rest at 113F (to help the yeast express itself)
  • 20 minute Beta Rest at 144F
  • 40 minute Alpha Rest at 158F
  • 2 minute Mash Out at 168F
  • 20 minute Sparge at 168F
Boil Schedule

To enhance the malt complexity in this malt-forward style, a 90-minute boil will be used for this batch, as below:
  • 90 minutes: No additions
  • 60 minutes: WGV hops
  • 20 minutes: Brewtan B and 1/3 of the prune/raisin mix
  • 15 minutes: Yeast Nutrient, Irish Moss, Czech Saaz, and 1/3 of the prune/raisin mix
  • 0 minutes: Remaining runes and raisins, steeped through chilling/whirlpool and removed
The wort will be chilled to 63F and transferred to a sanitized plastic bucket fermenter.

Fermentation Schedule

The yeast will be allowed to free-rise until approximately 67% attenuation takes place, at which time I'll raise the temperature to 73F and hold it until final gravity is reached.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

04/27/2019:  If you look at the Beer and Brewing recipe, you'll notice I swapped some of the Munich I malt for Honey malt. I did this, honestly, because I'd run out of Munich I and had some Honey malt to use up. They're by no means ideal substitutes, but I thought it would be interesting to see how it turned out.  I also swapped East Kent Goldings in their recipe with WGV and Saaz, which is more to my liking in Belgian styles.

My yeast package was older than I realized, so I smacked the nutrient pack and shook it up. I allowed it to warm up while I ran a sanitizing cycle on the brewing system and prepared the ingredients. In the end, I decided it would be best to drop the yeast into a starter and raise up the cell population before pitching it into the wort. To help things along, I poured a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10, then swirled the last half-inch of it until the yeast seemed to be in suspension and added that to the starter as well. (This should be more or less the same yeast strain as 1762, by the way.)



At the end of the process, I pumped approximately 2.25 gallons into the fermenter at a gravity of about 1.080 SG. I diluted this down with distilled water to a gravity of 1.068 and a volume of 2.75 gallons in the fermenter.  All of this impacts bitterness, dropping the beer to 19.1 IBUs from the original 21.5 IBUs. The increased gravity also brings the estimated ABV up to 8.0% from 7.8%.  If it ferments out as expected, this is going to be a fairly strong Dubbel.

I sealed the fermenter without pitching the yeast, as the package of 1762 had a distinctly autolyzed aroma to it when I opened it. Despite that, I dropped it into a 1 liter starter wort to see if there is enough viable yeast there to ferment the beer. If not, I'll either use the package of Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast I have on hand or make a trip to the LHBS for a new package of 1762 or White Labs WLP540.

04/28/2019:  The starter of Wyeast 1762 didn't seem to raise any yeast, even after dregs from a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10 were added to it. My package of Ardennes yeast was also old, so I ended up pitching a package of dry Safbrew BE-256 yeast, which is a Belgian strain that should be the most suitable among those I have available.

05/05/2019:  The gravity has been slowly dropping since the BE-256 was pitched into it.  The Tilt Hydrometer readings have shown a continued decline. Here at the lowest hydrometer readings for each day since the yeast was pitched:
  • 4/29/2019: 1.050 SG
  • 4/30/2019: 1.017 SG
  • 5/1/2019: 1.015 SG
  • 5/2/2019: 1.014 SG
  • 5/3/2019: 1.014 SG
  • 5/4/2019: 1.013 SG
Based on this, it looks like there is still a slow fermentation going on, so I'm hesitant to bottle the beer for fear of overcarbonating it.  (I've had a few beers do this recently, and suspect that bottling too soon is the issue.)

05/08/2019:  Gravity has continued to hold at 1.013 SG.  I've raised the temperature on the fermenter to 77F to ensure that there is no sugar remaining to ferment before bottling.  Concerned that the issue in recent overcarbonation might be a bacterial residue in the bottling wands, I've ordered replacements and will not bottle this beer until they arrive.

05/09/2019:  I've raised the temperature for the beer to 77F to help the yeast finish cleaning up before bottling.

05/11/2019:  The beer has held at 1.013 SG now for a week, so I think it's safe to call this "final gravity" for the batch.  BeerSmith estimated the final gravity at 1.007 SG, but it may have been assuming a lower mash temp than I used, or its estimates for the yeast strain were off.  Either way, I think we're ready to bottle this one.

05/14/2019:  I bottled the beer today. It was in my 2.5 gallon translucent plastic fermenter with the screw-on lid, pictured above, passed through the new stainless bottling wand.  Sanitized metal tongs were used to drop 3 carbonation tablets into each regular bottle and 4 into each Belgian style bottle.  Yield was 28 twelve ounce bottles. The bottles were placed inside a sealed plastic cooler with no heat. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Irish Red Ale 4.0

I am starting to feel cursed that I am unable to brew an Irish Red Ale, a style that I really enjoy drinking.  My first attempt brewed fine but didn't taste like I thought it should (and it wasn't my recipe). The second attempt had a volume and gravity issue that watered it down. It was drinkable but hardly memorable. The third attempt stalled during fermentation at too high a gravity. I tried to fix that with glucoamylase and ended up with a "Brut Irish Red Ale" that was drinkable but not what I wanted, either.  This time I am hoping to nail it.

I'm creating my own recipe this time around, loosely based on those I've seen online. I'm using Maris Otter for an authentic base, layering on some Caramel 40L for a caramel flavor, 120L for some color and dark fruit, roasted barley for more color and a touch of flavor, and Melanoidin malt for body, red coloring, and foam stability.  I'm using a single dose of East Kent Goldings for authentic bittering, Brewtan B for shelf stability, and Irish Moss to help brighten it (with gelatin in secondary if needed).  As usual, I'm including Clarity Ferm to reduce gluten so that my gluten-intolerant friends are able to enjoy the beer as well (so far they've found it drinkable and enjoyable).

Ingredients

4.5 pounds Maris Otter Malt
3 ounces Melanoidin Malt
3 ounces Caramel 40L
2 ounces Caramel 120L
1 ounce Roasted Barley
0.40 ounces East Kent Goldings hops @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
A few pellets of Whitbread Goldings Variety hops @ 7.1% AA (10 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast nutrient
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (boil)
1/2 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.)
1/4 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
6.0 Liters of Mash Water
7.0 Liters of Sparge Water

BeerSmith estimates the beer will have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 15.A Irish Red Ale
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.8 actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.047 SG estimated (1.045 actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.038 SG (1.038 actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.011 SG
  • IBU: 20.7 (19.6 actual)
  • SRM: 13.6 (12.6 actual)
  • ABV: 4.7%
  • BU/GU Ratio: 0.44
These characteristics place it at the upper end for gravity, toward the lower end for bitterness, toward the upper end for color (I'm aiming for a nice red color), and toward the upper end for alcohol content.

Mash Schedule

Here is the mash schedule I'll be using:
  • 5 minutes Mash in at 95F
  • 10 minutes Beta Glucanase rest at 113F (help ensure clarity)
  • 15 minutes Conversion at 142F 
  • 30 minutes Conversion 2 at 153F
  • 15 minutes Conversion 3 at 160F (three rests to help with malt complexity)
  • 5 minutes Mash out at 168F
  • 20 minutes Sparge at 170F
The point of the complex mash it to help bring out some malt complexity in the finished beer. Competition judges have criticized some of my recent British styles for a lack of malt complexity, so I am hoping to dial that up here and see how it goes.

Boil Schedule

I'm going with an 80-minute boil on this one to try to leverage kettle caramelization to enhance malt complexity:
  • 80 minutes: No additions
  • 60 minutes: East Kent Goldings
  • 20 minutes: Brewtan B
  • 15 minutes: Irish Moss and yeast Nutrient
  • 0 minutes: Chill to 65F
Wort will then be moved to a sanitized and cleaned fermenter with temperature control.

Fermentation Plan

The yeast's optimum range is between 62F and 72F.  I plan to aim for a temperature of 67F and hold it there through fermentation, perhaps raising it to 72F toward the end, to help the yeast clean up and reach final gravity. The yeast nutrient is there to help it. I'll be pitching the entire package to ensure a healthy yeast population, since I don't plan to brew any more Irish styles for a while.

If the beer seems hazy, I may drop in gelatin finings to clear it up before bottling.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

04/25/2019:  Ingredients were gathered and loaded into the Brewie+.  I programmed it with the mash and boil schedules and waited near it while it loaded the mash water, returning a bit later when it loaded sparge water. I adjusted the volumes to ensure that they were on track, but ended up adding some to the mash to cover all the grain.

After brewing, gravity registered 1.045 SG on the Tilt Hydrometer and the temperature read 75F. I pitched the yeast and set the temperature control to 67F.  I ended up with over 2.75 gallons of wort, something along the lines of 2.8 gallons.



04/27/2019:  The yeast seemed to get off to a slow start, but is now on its way. The gravity is currently 1.025 SG and the temperature is holding at 67F.  That's about 44% attenuation at this point.

04/28/2019:  The gravity is down to 1.016 SG and continuing to decrease.  The temperature has been raised to 72F to encourage the yeast to finish up.

04/29/2019:  The gravity is down to 1.013 SG, two points from the expected final gravity. The temperature has continued to hold at 72F.

05/05/2019:  The gravity seems to be holding at 1.013 SG.  It's held there for a week now, so I think it's time to bottle this one.

05/06/2019:  The beer was bottled using three small carbonation tablets per bottle (low carbonation). A few bottles were dosed with only two tablets, and one bottle with a single tablet. I've had some beers lately start gushing out of the bottle unexpectedly. While I suspect that this is the result of bacterial infection in one of my bottling wands, there is a possibility that it's a combination of being bottled before final gravity was reached and/or being over-primed. If it's a bacterial issue (and the bottling wand I used was the infected one), then even the 1-tablet and 2-tablet bottles in this batch should gush when opened. If it's an issue of final gravity and/or over-priming, then the 3-tablet bottles might gush - but the 1 and 2 tablet bottles should have a more reasonable level of carbonation.

05/12/2019:  Unfortunately, I've had yet-another failure in the Irish Red Ale style. This time around, I I learned that the bottling wand I used for this batch had become infected with an unknown strain of bacteria. Every bottle of this beer gushes itself empty when opened.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Azacca Belma Pale Ale 1.0

While browsing of the online homebrew supply shop web sites, I discovered that they had both Belma and Azacca hops on sale. Having never used either, I decided to order some and craft a Pale Ale recipe around them.  I'd also wanted to try the relatively new Omega Yeast OYL-091 Hornindal Kveik yeast.  This recipe is the culmnation of that recipe design.  The flavor and aroma contributions from this combination should harmonize pretty well:
  • Azacca hops: Citrus and mango notes with a little orchard fruit.
  • Belma hops: Clean with a very orange, slight grapefruit, tropical pineapple, strawberry, and melon aroma.
  • Hornindal Kveik yeast: Complements fruit-forward hops with its aromas of fresh pineapple, mango, and tangerine. Fermenting at high temperatures (up to 95F) will intensify the aromas and speed up fermentation.
Blend all that and we should get lots of nice citrus, mango, pineapple, and grapfruit aromas and flavors. I plan to intensify that by using only later-addition hops and whirlpooling with a bit of the hops after flameout.

Ingredients

5 pounds 2-row Brewer's Malt
4 ounces Caravienne Malt
3 ounces Carapils/Dextrine Malt
2 ounces Caramel 20L Malt
2 ounces Flaked Corn
0.18 ounces Azacca hops @ 11.6% AA (20 min.)
0.18 ounces Belma hops @ 11.6% AA (20 min.)
0.18 ounces Azacca hops @ 11.6% AA (10 min.)
0.18 ounces Belma hops @ 11.6% AA (10 min.)
0.15 ounces Azacca hops @ 11.6% AA (10 min. whirlpool 156-176F)
0.15 ounces Belma hops @ 11.6% AA (10 min. whirlpool 156-176F)
0.25 ounces Azacca hops (dry hop)
0.25 ounces Belma hops (dry hop)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (15 min.)
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (boil - 20 min.)
1/4 tablet Whirlfloc
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
6.7 liters mash water
6.7 liters sparge water

BeerSmith estimates the beer to have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 18.B American Pale Ale
  • Batch Size: 2.6 gallons
  • IBUs: 33.4
  • SRM: 5.7
  • ABV: 5.7%
  • Original Gravity: 1.052 SG (actual was 1.053 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.009 SG
  • BU/GU Ratio: 0.65
Mash schedule:
  • Mash in at 138F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 157F for 45 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minute
  • Sparge at 168F for 15 minutes
Boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes: No additions
  • 20 minutes: Azacca and Belma hops, plus Brewtan B
  • 10 minutes: Azacca and Belma hops, plus yeast nutrient and whirlfloc
  • 0 minutes: Chill to 176F then whirlpool and dry hop 10 minutes with 0.15 ounces each of Azacca and Belma hops, then chill to a yeast-safe temperature
Fermentation plan:
  • Pitch yeast and Clarity Ferm
  • Place fermenter in an insulated bag with a heating element, set temperature to 80F.
  • Seal the bag and allow the yeast to maintain a temp of at least 80F through fermentation, raising to 95F after 65-70% attenuated and add dry hops of Azacca and Belma for 3-4 days.
I plan to bottle with a single Coopers carbonation drop per 12-ounce bottle. I don't plan to cold-crash or add finings.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

04/13/2019:  At the last minute, I decided to add the Carapils to the recipe to ensure some body and a nice head on the beer. I also decided to toss in a couple of ounces of flaked corn I had lying around that needed to be used.  Pre-boil gravity registered at 1.051 SG on a refractometer.

Post-boil, after the built-in chiller had dropped the temp to 176F, I paused the process. I dropped in a muslin bag with the Azacca and Belma whirlpool charge and began stirring the wort around for the next ten minutes. After that, I resumed the chilling process and got to work sanitizing a fermenter. By the time I'd finished with the fermenter, the wort was down to a yeast-safe temp. I pumped it into the fermenter and was pleased to see it registered 2.5 gallons (my target volume). When I dropped in a Tilt Hydrometer (and tested a couple of drops on the refractometer), but measurements yielded the same 1.053 SG.  I pitched the entire yeast package and Clarity Ferm.

I then moved the beer into one of my large Igloo coolers, added a heat wrap, and configured temperature control to keep the inside of the chamber to 85F (at least initially) and see about getting the beer up closer to the top of the yeast's range. This will maximize the yeast's aroma and flavor contributions - and speed up fermentation.

04/14/2019:  It's roughly 12 hours since I pitched the yeast. Temperature in the fermenter is now up to 74F and the gravity has dropped from 1.053 SG down to 1.048 SG, which implies the yeast is alive and well in its new environment.

04/16/2019: The Tilt Pi stopped communicating with the Tilt Hydrometers yesterday. After the SD card was reimaged and reconfigured, it worked again. Today the gravity of the beer is reported as 1.027 SG and the temperature as 83F.

04/19/2019:  The gravity is down to 1.014 SG. The temperature is up to 86F, owing to an increase in the temperature of the fermentation chamber.

04/21/2019: The gravity is down to 1.013 SG. Temperature is holding at 86F but I plan to increase the temp in the fermentation chamber later today to try to get it up in the 90F-98F range.  At this point we're only about 4 points away from the expected final gravity.

04/24/2019:  The gravity is down to 1.009 SG today. The temperature is up to 98F. It seems that the increase above 90F really helped this yeast get going.  I need to remember that for next time if I decide to brew this again. It wants to ferment very warm and may need a starter.

04/27/2019:  The gravity held at a consistent 1.009 SG for three days, but late last night began intermittently reading 1.008 SG. This suggests to me that fermentation may not be complete yet. I'm going to give it another day or two at 97F to see if there's any change before bottling. I think this is why I've had some batches overcarbonate and gush... fermentation wasn't truly finished and ended up continuing in the bottle.

04/28/2019:  After several days now at 97F and gravity holding at 1.009 SG, I've turned off the temperature control system and am allowing the beer to drop down to room temperature on its own inside the insulated chamber. I'll most likely bottle the beer in the next night or two.

04/29/2019:  Today the beer was bottled, using 1 Coopers carbonation tablet per 12-ounce bottle, and placed in the "hot box" with the temperature set to 98F.  A sample taken from the end of the bottling bucket had a hint of a cracker or biscuit-like malt bit to it, some somewhat muddy (to me) citrus notes that remind me of orange with a bit of pith to it. I'll reserve judgment until it's had a couple of weeks in the bottle but my initial take is that it's "OK" but nothing fantastic. I harvested the yeast to use in another beer soon.  The yeast flocculates into a fairly thin, compact layer in the fermenter and seems to impart a little of a Saison-like funk to the flavor, reminding me a little of beers that included Brettanomyces.

05/11/2019:  The beer is mildly carbonated at this point. There is an aroma of fresh orange (pith mostly) to the beer. It's not as bitter as it should be for the style, but it's not cloying, either. If I do this recipe again, I need to increase the hop amounts to aim for perhaps 40 IBUs.

Monday, April 8, 2019

MadTree PsycHOPathy Clone 1.0

MadTree PsycHOPathy is an American IPA brewed in Cincinnati by MadTree Brewing.  They post the recipes for all of their beers on their web site. These recipes list the ingredients and most of the vial information for the beer, but omit some of the details you might need to precisely replicate their beer. However, if you ask nicely, I've found that they will fill in the blanks.  For example, they told me the mash temperature they use is 149.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  I'll use 149F myself, knowing that the temp in the Brewie+ varies a little during mashing, so it will hover around 149.5.

I took MadTree's published recipe and reproduced the grain bill for the Brewie+ and ran that through my mill.  I then took the alpha acid values for all the hops and reworked the amounts so that I am getting approximately the same number of IBUs from all my hop additions that MadTree gets from theirs (according to the published recipe).  This should mimic their hop flavor profile as best I can reproduce it.  The resulting recipe and process appears below.

Ingredients

6 pounds, 7 ounces of 2-row Pale Malt
1 pound, 6 ounces of Vienna Malt
3 ounces of Carapils/Dextrine Malt
3 ounces of Caramel 40L Malt
0.20 ounces of Galena hops pellets @ 13.8% AA (60 min.)
0.21 ounces of Chinook hoops pellets @ 11.6% AA (45 min.)
0.37 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (30 min.)
0.42 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (15 min.)
0.35 ounces of Cascade hops pellets @ 6.9% AA (15 min Whirlpool)
0.09 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10.8% AA (15 min Whirlpool)
0.90 ounces of Centennial hops pellets (dry hop 3-7 days)
0.55 ounces of Chinook hops pellets (dry hop 3-7 days)
1 package Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (15 min.)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash water)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (boil 30 min.)
1/4 tablet Whirlfloc (15 min.)
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer (mash)
1/2 tsp. Gypsum (mash)
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm

8.8 liters of mash water (approx.)
6.2 liters of sparge water (approx.)

BeerSmith estimates the beer will have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 21.A American IPA
  • Batch Size: 2.9 gallons (actual was approximately 2.9 gallons)
  • Original Gravity: 1.064 SG (15.3 Brix) estimated (1.057 SG actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.052 SG (12.5 Brix) estimated, actual was 1.061 at 11 liters, diluted to 1.053 and 13.2 liters
  • Final Gravity: 1.014 SG 
  • ABV: 6.9% 
  • IBU: 71 
  • SRM: 6.4
  • BU/GU Ratio: 1.103
Mash Schedule
  • Mash in at 140F for 15 minutes
  • Mash at 149F for 60 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minutes
  • Sparge at 168F for 15 minutes 
Boil Schedule
  • 60 minutes: Galena hops 
  • 45 minutes: Chinook hops 
  • 30 minutes: Centennial hops (0.37 oz.) plus Brewtan B 
  • 15 minutes: Centennial hops (0.42 oz.) plus yeast nutrient and whirlfloc
  • 0 minutes: Heat off, add whirlpool hops (Centennial and Cascade)
  • Whirlpool 15 minutes with hops
  • Chill to 62F
Fermentation Plan
  • Ferment at 60-66F for 7-10 days or until gravity is approximately 1.020 SG.
  • Add Dry Hops and leave until FG is reached or 3-4 days, whichever is longer.
  • Add gelatin finings and cold crash until clear.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

04/08/2019: The water loads were a little high and had to be adjusted slightly. However, I did notice that the mash water level was too low to cover all the grain so I ended up adding back about 48 ounces.  Sparge water also loaded high, so I adjusted it down by about a liter or so.

Gravity read 17.1 Brix (1.072 SG) late in the mash before the sparge water was added.

Pre-boil gravity was 14.5 Brix (1.061 SG) and volume was estimated to be 11 liters.  This gives a brew house efficiency for this batch of 76.6%

Adding water to dilute it a bit to get the gravity closer to the estimate of 1.052 SG pre-boil gravity. This raised the volume to 13.2 liters and dropped the gravity to 12.75 Brix or approximately 1.053 SG.

Post-Brew approximately 2.9 gallons ended up in the fermenter at 60F and a gravity of 1.057 SG per the Tilt Hydrometer. US-05 yeast was pitched along with Clarity Ferm.

04/09/2019:  The beer has warmed from 60F to 62F since the yeast was pitched last night. The cooler temperature must have kept the US-05 sleepy, as it showed no sign of fermentation for about 20 hours, when the gravity of the wort began to drop.  Gravity has only dropped a point or two in 24 hours, but I expect that will start to pick up.

04/10/2019:  The beer has warmed up to 64F and the gravity has dropped to 1.040 SG. That is 29.31% attenuation and approximately 2.2% ABV.

04/12/2019:  Gravity is down as low as 1.017 SG (though it's varied as high as 1.024 SG) and the temperature has gone as high as 65F (but currently 63F).  Tonight I dry-hopped it.  If past experience is any indicator, this will spur some additional fermentation and bring the gravity down further, perhaps lower than the estimated 1.014 SG.

04/14/2019:  Since dry-hopping, the beer has reached its estimated FG and seems (for the last several hours at least) to pretty much be holding there.  I'll need to bottle it in the next 2-5 days to avoid any grassy notes from the dry hops.  For now, I'm waiting to make sure it really has reached FG since dry hops can spur additional fermentation activity, which can lead to burst and overflowing bottles if you bottle the beer too soon.

04/16/2019: The beer has been holding in the 1.014-1.015 SG range and should be ready to bottle.

04/18/2019:  The beer was bottled with a single Coopers carbonation drop per bottle.

04/27/2019: A test bottle was chilled and opened. It was compared to a can of the MadTree beer. The color of my version was a bit darker, and the hop aroma less evident despite a long contact time with the dry hops. The flavor was very close, though. Mine exhibits a bit of diacetyl that the real beer lacks, and I'm hopeful that the yeast will clear this up.