Monday, September 17, 2018

Extra Strong Bitter 1.4

I've been trying to work out an Extra Strong Bitter (ESB) recipe for about a year now. My three previous versions did not do all that well with the judges who tried them, for differing reasons. Some felt I had the right bitterness but no "malt complexity" while others felt I had too much hop bitterness. A few even commented that there seemed to be "no hops" in the beer (the same version the two other judges felt had too much hops bitterness).

For this fourth version, I've removed Victory Malt from the recipe. I've also removed the Caramel 10L that I used in the previous version. I've added Special B Malt into the mix, dialing back the Caramel 40L and Caramel 65-70L a little. I added some corn to give it some sweetness against the hops. I stuck with Lallemand ESB yeast for this version because I liked the two earlier iterations of this recipe that used it, and disliked the one that didn't. I also decided to go with East Kent Goldings in this version to see if I like it better in this style than I do in some others, but mixed in some Fuggles for a little complexity.

Ingredients

4.5 pounds Maris Otter Malt
6 ounces Caramel 40L Malt
4 ounces Caramel 60L Malt
3 ounces Special B Malt
4 ounces Flaked Corn
0.5 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
0.2 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 6.1% AA (30 min.)
0.45 ounces Fuggles pellets @ 4.5% AA (10 min.)
0.45 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 6.1% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Calcium Chloride
3 gallons, 32 ounces filtered starting water in keg
1 packet Lallemand London ESB dry yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil (5 min.)

According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:

  • BJCP Style: 11C. Strong Bitter
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 1.059 SG (actual 1.053 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.018 SG
  • IBUs: 30
  • SRM: 16
For this batch, I used a modified version of the High-Efficiency Mash Profile in the Zymatic advanced editor. The modified mash schedule was:
  • Dough In 102F (default)
  • Mash at 113F for 15 minutes (added this step)
  • Mash at 120F for 10 minutes (added this step)
  • Heat to 154F
  • Mash at 154F for 90 minutes (modified from 152F for 30 minutes and 154 for 60 minutes)
  • Mash Out at 175F (default)
Because my keg had run dry on a couple of recent patches and caused some foaming, I decided to increase the starting water on this batch to 3 gallons, 32 ounces. 

Boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes: 0.5 ounces East Kent Goldings
  • 30 minutes: 0.2 ounces East Kent Goldings
  • 10 minutes: 0.45 ounces Fuggles
  • 5 minutes: 0.45 ounces East Kent Goldings and Brewtan B
After the boil, the wort would be run through a counter flow chiller and into the fermenter.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

09/16/2018: The extra water proved to be too much for this batch. Grain spilled up out of the mash compartment and into the boil compartment. I don't know if this will leach tannins into the beer or not. I'm hopeful it won't ruin the beer by making it astringent. The counter flow chiller worked reasonably well. I sterilized it by running the boiling wort through it for 60 seconds before turning on the cold water flow. Once cold water was running through the chiller, wort was coming out of it about 88F. Despite that, the temperature inside the fermenter was about 93F when all the wort was pumped in. I need to think about a better way to sterilize the chiller in future. Perhaps running boiling water through it before brewing.

My fermenter developed a leak in the valve, which I didn't discover until I picked up the fermenter. I had to quickly sanitize some tubing and another fermenter, and transfer the wort into it. I'll deal with the leaky valve later. What was a bit irritating about this is that the valve didn't leak when I filled the fermenter with sanitizer earlier on... only when wort was pumped in.

Gravity came up low on this batch, probably because of the extra water I added. In future I'll need to consider what the right amount of water should be. It apparently needs to be more than the recipe crafter suggests, but less than I used today. 

When I pitched the yeast, just before midnight, the wort temperature was registering at 83F. That's too high for the ESB yeast, but I'm hoping by the time fermentation gets underway it will cool down into a safe range for the yeast. Unfortunately, the only fermenter I had that would work with my temperature control system was the one that was leaking. I'll need to resolve that tomorrow night and perhaps transfer the wort once more. We'll see.

09/17/2018: About three hours after the Lallemand London ESB yeast was pitched into the wort, it began fermentation. At that point, the temperature was 78F. About 15 hours after it started reducing the gravity of the wort, it had reached a gravity of 1.020 SG. By then, the temperature had climbed to 80F. It's held at that gravity for about six hours as of this writing. That may the fastest fermentation I've ever experienced. I expected a sample of wort I took from the fermenter to taste and smell of acetone and other off flavors. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although I could pick up a hint of acetone, it wasn't easily picked up. The flavor seemed quite good, and the aroma fruity as is common for the style. I'm going to be curious to see if this tastes as good in the bottle.

09/18/2018: The gravity is now 1.019 SG. The temperature has dropped to 70F. Yesterday, the beer looked pretty cloudy. Today, it's looking quite a bit more clear. I'm hopeful that after cold-crashing and gelatin fining it will be bright and clear.

09/20/2018: The gravity has held at 1.019 SG, and the temperature is down to 69F.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ordinary English Bitter 1.0

Another style I've never brewed, but always wanted to, is the standard English Bitter. This is a low-alcohol, slightly bitter, session beer enjoyed in many British pubs.

I started with a bit of research on the style. I found two good articles, one in Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine, and one from BYO Magazine.  From these articles, I got some recommendations for formulating my own recipe:
  • For the grist:
    • Maris Otter should be the base malt
    • Victory Malt
    • Crystal Malt (up to 10% of the grist, 40L to 150L, use less if it's darker)
    • Crystal 80-90L is common
    • Special Roast Malt
    • Biscuit Malt
    • Specialty malts are what differentiate one brewer's bitter from another
    • Simple sugars are not recommended, as they will thin out and dry the beer
  • For hops:
    • East Kent Goldings
    • Fuggles
    • Challenger
    • Willamette
    • Northdown
    • BU/GU ratio from 0.7 to 0.9
    • 30 IBUs is about right
    • The bulk of the hopping should occur at the 60-minute mark
    • Adding hops at 20 minutes and flame-out will "add interest" to the beer
  • Yeast:
    • WLP002 English Ale Yeast
    • Wyeast 1968 London ESB Yeast - generates more fruit esters
    • Wyeast 1318 London Ale III - highly flocculant
    • Safale S-04
    • Start in the middle of the yeast's range, then increase slowly toward the upper end, to create the expected level of esters
    • Ferment starting at 65F and free rise to 68F over 3 days and hold there
  • Other:
    • If your water is soft, add gypsum or a little Burton Water Salts, but be careful not to add much because it can make the water too hard - no more than 1 tsp. in 5 gallons
    • 1/4 tsp. Gypsum in 5 gallons is a good amount to provide the right mineral character
    • Serve at 55F
    • Low carbonation (1-1.5 volumes CO2)
    • A little diacetyl is OK in the style
Mashing should be a bit higher than some styles, around 154F.

I decided to go with Maris Otter, Victory Malt, and British Crystal 60-70L as my grist. I chose these in part because they're appropriate to the style, and in part because I happened to have all of them on-hand and wanted to use them up. I'll follow the recommendation to mash at 154F to have plenty of long-chain sugars in the beer to add body and sweetness to go with the hops bitterness.

I chose Fuggles as my bittering, flavor, and aroma hop primarily because I'm not a huge fan of East Kent Goldings but still wanted a good British hop flavor. Fuggles is similar to East Kent Goldings, but is said to have a stronger aroma and less softness. I'm hoping it will make for a good finished bitter. I also happened to have Fuggles on hand that I hadn't used yet. I'm getting about 20 IBUs from the 60-minute addition and the rest from the 20-minute and 5-minute additions.

For yeast, I wanted to get some of the fruity esters associated with the style. My experience with the Lallemand ESB yeast is that if fermented near the top of its range, it can produce subtle fruity esters. I'll use that yeast (since I happen to have it on-hand).

To punch up the hop flavor a little, I'll add some gypsum to the mash water. I've also been using Brewtan B in my beers lately, so I'll use it in the mash and boil here as well, though I've seen the Brulosophy article suggesting it has little effect on flavor. I'll use Clarity Ferm because I have a friend who is sensitive to gluten and likes to have beer she can drink that's lower in gluten. 

To help the beer drop clear, I'm adding a beta glucan step in the mash to reduce that source of haze. I'm also including Super Irish Moss during the boil, and extending the boil to 90 minutes to (hopefully) help compensate for the lower temperature boil in the Zymatic. The Clarity Ferm may help reduce the haze a little, too. Right before bottling, I'll treat the beer with gelatin finings and cold-crash it for a few days. Hopefully this combination will yield a nice, bright beer.


Ingredients

3.25 pounds Maris Otter Pale Malt
0.25 pounds Victory Malt
0.25 pounds British Crystal 60-70L Malt
1/8 tsp. Gypsum in mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in mash
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in boil (20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (10 min.)
1/4 tsp. Super Irish Moss
0.60 ounces Fuggles hops pellets @ 4.5% AA (60 min.)
0.45 ounces Fuggles hops pellets @ 4.5% AA (20 min.)
0.50 ounces Fuggles hops pellets @ 5.0% AA (5 min.)
1 package Lallemand London ESB yeast
3 gallons, 16 ounces starting water in keg
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm

According to the PicoBrew Recipe Crafter, the beer should have the following qualities:
  • BJCP Style: 11.A Ordinary Bitter
  • Original Gravity: 1.040 SG (actual was 1.038 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
  • IBUs: 30
  • SRM: 9
  • ABV: 3.6%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.5-2.7 gallons)
The 1.040 is a touch high on gravity for the style, and the 1.012 SG final gravity is also a hair higher than it should be. However, I expected that either the gravity would come up light or I would dilute the wort a little to get it down to about 1.038 SG, considered the upper end of the style. (As it turned out later, I wound up with a bit more wort at the desired 1.038 SG gravity, so all was well.)

Mash Schedule 

PicoBrew Zymatic High-Efficiency Mash Schedule, modified to:

  • Heat to Dough In temp of 102F
  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Raise temp to 120F and hold for 10 minutes
  • Raise temp to 154F
  • Mash for 90 minutes at 154F
  • Heat to mash-out temp of 175F
  • Mash out 10 minutes at 175F
The 120F step was added to break up any beta glucans in the mash to help with haze reduction. (This is per a talk I listened to by Charlie Bamforth of UC Davis.) The normal High-Efficiency Mash step of 152F for 30 minutes was removed, and the step of 60 minutes at 154F was extended to 90 minutes. The 154F mash temp is a better match for the Ordinary Bitter style, based on reading I've done.

Boil Schedule

A 90 minute boil was used, to see if this has an impact on clarity with the Zymatic:
  • 90 minutes: No hop addition
  • 60 minutes: Fuggles 0.6 ounces
  • 20 minutes: Fuggles 0.45 ounces, plus 1/4 tsp. Brewtan B
  • 10 minutes: Yeast Nutrient and Super Irish Moss
  • 5 minutes: Fuggles 0.5 ounces
Following the 90-minute boil, the Zymatic will pump the wort into the keg for chilling. As is my current practice, the wort will be pumped into a sanitized stainless steel kettle and chilled using a sanitized immersion chiller to a temperature below 80F before being poured into the fermenter.

Fermentation Plan

The Lallemand London ESB yeast strain reportedly works best between 65F and 72F. Toward the upper end of that range, it should produce the fruity esters common in many British Ordinary Bitters. For that reason, my plan is to ferment it just below the upper end of that range, at 70F. This has an added advantage of being very near my basement's current ambient temperature, so it should not require too much work from my temperature control system.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

There was a considerable amount of foaming early in the mash, starting during the Dough In step and continuing through the 120F rest. This did not result in the spillage of any wort outside the machine. The use of anti-foam agents didn't help a lot in this case. I checked the lines for air leaks and made sure there was water in the keg when the foaming occurred. In a couple of cases, there wasn't, so I added more and the foaming stopped briefly - but eventually reoccurred.

09/09/2018: The original gravity, according to my Tilt Hydrometer, initially read 1.040. After I got it setup with the BrewJacket temperature controller, it began registering 1.038 SG - which is the precise top end of the Ordinary Bitter gravity range in the BJCP criteria. I also found that I had more than 2.5 gallons of wort but less than 2.75 gallons (I have the fermenter marked in quart increments). The temperature of the wort at the time the yeast was pitched was 78F. The BrewJacket is configured to drop the temperature down to 69F for fermentation. I'm expecting it to get that low before the yeast begins doing much fermentation. The beer had a good color to it, about what I wanted to see.

09/10/2018: Gravity has dropped to 1.016 SG. The BrewJacket Immersion Pro has been holding the temperature steady at 69F. I'm hopeful that this temperature is low enough that the yeast doesn't produce an abundance of esters, but high enough that it produces some - consistent with the style.

09/11/2018: Gravity has been holding at 1.014 SG since approximately 4am today. I raised the temperature to 72F to see if this would encourage the yeast to take the beer the rest of the way to the expected final gravity of 1.012 SG.

09/12/2018: Gravity is continuing to hold at 1.014 SG despite the temperature increase. It's spent almost two days at 1.014 as of this writing. After three days at 1.014, I'll treat it with gelatin and move it to the mini-fridge to brighten up.

09/15/2018: It appears the the final gravity is holding steady at 1.014 SG, and has done so for over three days now. I treated the beer with a teaspoon of gelatin finings and moved it into my mini-fridge to cold crash and clarify over the next few days before bottling.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Old Man Ale Clone v3

My two previous attempts at cloning Coniston's Old Man Ale resulted in very tasty brews, but beers that had no real resemblance to the original. Both were extremely dark, nearly black in color, while Coniston's beer is a nice reddish brown. Both of my attempts tasted more (to me) like a Foreign Export Stout than a brown ale. I believe that's due to including too much roasted barley in the grist. This time around, I'm going with a little less than a third of an ounce in a 2.5 gallon batch. I'm hoping that will achieve the right color profile, and allow me to begin focusing on adjusting the flavor.

Ingredients

4.25 pounds Maris Otter Pale Malt
8 ounces British Crystal 60-75L Malt
0.30 ounces Roasted Barley
0.55 ounces Mount Hood hops pellets @ 4.2% AA (60 min.)
0.45 ounces Challenger hops @ 7.8% AA (10 min.)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash
1/4 tsp. Gypsum in the mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil (15 min.)
1/8 tsp. Yeast nutrient in the boil (10 min.)
3 gallons 16 ounces Brita-filtered starting water (plus a few ounces to reduce foaming)
Safale S-04 English Ale yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm

According to the PicoBrew Recipe Crafter, this beer should have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 13.B British Brown Ale
  • Original Gravity: 1.053 SG (1.053 SG actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
  • IBUs: 22
  • SRM: 12
  • ABV: 5.4%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.5+ gallons actual)
The High-Efficiency mash schedule was used unmodified for this batch. This starts with a Dough-In step at 102F for 20 minutes, followed by a 30-minute step at 152F, a 60-minute step at 154F, and a Mash Out at 175F for 10 minutes. Wort is then extracted from the machine and heated to a boil.

A 60-minute boil is specified, with the following steps:
  • 60 minutes: Add Mount Hood hops
  • 15 minutes: Add Brewtan B
  • 10 minutes: Add Challenger hops and yeast nutrient
  • 0 minutes: Pump into keg for chilling
The plan is to free-ferment the beer in a plastic fermenter I have free at the moment. The S-04 yeast is said to produce some sourness at higher fermentation temperatures, which is a flavor element I remember in the real beer. It's intended to ferment between 59F and 68F.

Post-Brew Notes and Comments

09/02/2018:  There was a fair amount of foaming on top of the step filter of the Zymatic during the Dough-In stage of the mash. Adding a few drops of anti-foam didn't seem to phase it. I wondered if maybe the keg had run dry, and it looked as though it might have. I added some additional water at that point but the foaming seemed to continue. 

After the Dough-In, the Zymatic lost its WiFi connection and appeared to re-run the last few minutes of the process before moving on to heat the wort to the first mash step at 152F.

After brewing, the beer looked a bit lighter than I expected when I transferred it into a sanitized kettle for chilling. However, in the fermenter it looked much, much darker. I'm hopeful it will come out closer to the coppery color of the Coniston beer than my previous two versions.

09/03/2018:  The temperature of the wort was still 75F by the time I was ready to crawl into bed, which is too high for the S-04 yeast, so I moved the fermenter into my mini-fridge to cool down overnight. This morning it was down to 51F. I put the wort into my BrewJacket temperature control system and set the temperature to 64F, in the middle of the yeast's optimum range. As of this moment, the temperature is up to 58F.

09/04/2018: The BrewJacket has held the temperature steady at 64F since not long after I pitched the yeast. I worried that the yeast was bad, as I saw no change in gravity for well over 12 hours. Before I went to bed at midnight, I checked on the beer and saw a thin krausen appearing on top of it, so I did not pitch more yeast. Today, the gravity has dropped from 1.053 SG down to 1.039 SG, with most of that drop having taken place between about 8:30pm yesterday and 5:45pm today.

09/05/2018:  The temperature has been increased to the upper end of the yeast's range, 68F, to try to finish out the fermentation. The gravity is now 1.015 SG. This yeast has made slow but steady progress through the sugar so far, so it may yet get down to the expected 1.010 SG final gravity. We'll see.

09/06/2018: Gravity is 1,014 SG. I've unplugged the temperature control, but it's holding at 68F.

09/08/2018: Gravity has held steady long enough now that I believe fermentation has ceased. Since the beer I'm trying to replicate here is a slightly hazy brew, I'm not going to use gelatin finings on this batch. The original beer wasn't overly carbonated, so I'm planning to bottle this today using three small carbonation tablets per bottle ("low carbonation").

A sample of the beer taken from the last of the beer in the fermenter after bottling looked about the same color as I remember the real Old Man Ale looking when I last had it. The flavor had the same tartness that I remember from the real beer, combined with some nice caramel and toasted barley notes. I'm hopeful that it will compare well to a bottle of the real beer when I can find another.

09/14/2018: Below you see a bottle of my version (unlabeled, on left) and the Coniston version (labeled, on right). The color looks to be about right. My version has a caramel aroma (with a touch of diacetyl because it's not totally finished bottle conditioning). The flavor starts with a toasty malt, followed with a bit of caramel, and a hint of tartness. The stout-like roastiness I picked up in the two previous versions is not here, which is what I hoped for. In a week or so, I'll compare my version with my remaining bottle of the real beer and see how it tastes relative to Coniston's.

 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

English Dark Mild 1.0

Where Have I Been?

If you're noticing that it's been a while since I brewed a batch of beer (July 29, 2018 was the last one), that's primarily because I'd been having issues with the PicoBrew Zymatic. Specifically, any time it had to heat water or wort more than about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it would shut down with an error. The PicoBrew support folks were responsive and nice, but it was a time-consuming process. They would email me to request photos or to suggest a course of action. I would have to wait until I got home to try the action or get the photos, and send a response. Sometimes I couldn't answer right away. Other times I'd contacted them outside their normal work hours or on a weekend. In the end, we think we've got the issue sorted out. (It basically took several intense soaking, cleaning, and rinsing cycles to clear residue from the heat exchanger.)

My wife and I have also been doing a bit of "beer tourism" lately, too. We attended Brew Dog's "Annual General Mayhem" last weekend. We've visited Lineage Brewing, Platform Brewing, Zaftig, toured the local Budweiser plant (a rare opportunity), and more. So the time to brew (and interact with the good folks at PicoBrew) has been a little limited.

Why An English Dark Mild?

It's been some time since I encountered an English Dark Mild on a beer menu anywhere. I loved the style the first time I had one. It was malty, smooth, and really easy to drink. Until today, I had never tried to brew one.

The BJCP guidelines for the Dark Mild style include the following:
  • Overall: It's a low-gravity, dark, malty session ale.
  • Aroma: Malt aroma is low to moderate, possibly with fruity elements. Malt can be caramel, grainy, toasted, nutty, chocolatey, or lightly roasted. There is little or no hop aroma, but if any aroma is present, it should be earthy or floral.
  • Appearance: Copper, mahogany, or dark brown. Low to moderate off-white head. Head retention may be poor.
  • Flavor: Generally malty, with a wide range of malt and yeast-based flavors. It can finish sweet or dry. May have a roasted finish. Low to moderate bitterness, enough to provide balance but not enough to outshine the malt. Moderate to no fruity esters. Diacetyl low to none. Hop flavor low to none.
  • Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Low to medium-low carbonation. 
  • Ingredients: Pale British base malts, crystal malt, dark malts or dark sugar adjuncts, (optional) flaked maize, and may be colored with brewer's caramel. Characterful English yeast. Any type of hops, as their contribution is muted and rarely noticeable.
Generally, the beer ranges in gravity from 1.030-1.038 SG, with bitterness in the 10-25 IBU range, with a color in the 12-25 SRM range, and ABV 3.0-3.8%.

Ingredients

In line with the BJCP guidelines, this recipe mixes Maris Otter base malt with caramel malt, pale chocolate, and black patent malt for color. East Kent Goldings hops are used at the start of the boil for bitterness, but not flavor or aroma, in line with the style. White Labs WLP002 English Ale yeast is used to ferment the wort.

4.25 pounds Maris Otter Malt
5 ounces British Crystal 50-60L Malt
4 ounces Crystal 120L Malt
2 ounces British Pale Chocolate Malt
1 ounce British Black Patent Malt
0.40 ounces East Kent Goldings hops @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
0.25 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
0.25 tsp. Brewtan B (boil - 15 min)
0.25 tsp. Super Irish Moss (boil - 10 min)
0.25 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (boil - 10 min)
3 gallons, 16 ounces, filtered water

The Zymatic Recipe Crafter estimates the following qualities for the beer:
  • BJCP Style: 13A Dark Mild
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 1.75, diluted to 2.75)
  • Original Gravity: 1.053 SG (actual was 1.066 SG, 1.040 after dilution)
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
  • SRM: 21
  • ABV: 5.5% (after dilution, estimate is 3.8%)
A modified mash schedule based on the "Cover all the Bases" mash schedule in a BYO Magazine article and the Zymatic High-Efficiency Mash Schedule was configured in the Zymatic recipe editor:
  • Dough in 20 minutes at 102F
  • Beta Glucan rest for 10 minutes at 113F 
  • Mash step 1 at 135F for 15 minutes
  • Mash step 2 at 145F for 20 minutes
  • Mash step 3 at 154F for 30 minutes
  • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
A 60-minute boil follows the mash, as noted below:
  • 60 minutes: East Kent Goldings pellets (Zymatic compartment 1)
  • 15 minutes: Brewtan B (Zymatic compartment 2)
  • 10 minutes: Yeast nutrient and Super Irish Moss powder (Zymatic compartment 3
Following the boil, the wort is transferred to a sanitized stainless steel vessel in which a sanitized stainless immersion chiller is placed. Cold water flows through the sanitized chiller while the wort is stirred using the chiller and/or a sanitized stainless steel spoon. 

Once the wort is near room temperature, it's roughly poured into a sanitized fermenter to oxygenate it a bit before yeast is pitched. A sanitized Tilt Hydrometer is added, along with a half-vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm, and the yeast. The fermenter is then sealed and the BrewJacket temperature control system configured.

The beer will ferment at the basement's ambient 68F temperature, which is in the optimum range for the WLP002 yeast, per White Labs. 

I'll then treat it with gelatin and cold-crash it in my mini-fridge until it drops clear.

After that, it will be primed and bottle-conditioned until ready to serve.

Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

09/01/2018:  After chilling, I ended up with approximately 1.75 gallons of wort at 1.066 SG. I diluted the wort with a gallon of steam distilled water, down to a gravity of 1.039 SG and 2.75 gallons in volume. The color looked like I expected. I chilled the wort down to 73F. After pitching the yeast, adding the Clarity Ferm, and added a Tilt Hydrometer to monitor the gravity and temperature.

09/02/2018: About 18 hours after pitching, the wort's gravity was unchanged. Peeking inside the fermenter it was clear that fermentation was not happening. I pitched a second package of WLP002 yeast, one that is close to its expiration date, so it may not do well either. If there is no activity within 12 hours, I'll drop in a package of Lallemand's London ESB yeast, which should be a decent substitute for the WLP002. (Update, late in day) The yeast still did not come to life in the beer. The top of the wort was still and clear, with no hint of ongoing fermentation. At 9:30pm, I pitched a fresh packet of dry London ESB yeast to get fermentation going.

09/03/2018: The ESB yeast has gone like gangbusters. Starting around midnight, the gravity began to drop. By 11:30am today, the gravity had dropped to 1.020 SG. The temperature peaked around 75F, which is a few degrees outside the yeast's optimum range, but hopefully not enough to cause off-flavors. I strapped ice packs to it to start cooling it down within its ideal range, and soon had it there. After that, I strapped on my Cool Zone cooling jacket and pumped cool water through it to get and keep the wort near 68F, the ambient basement termperature and a good one for the ESB yeast.

09/04/2018: Gravity has held for a while now at 1.013 SG, and the temperature has held at 70F. I'm debating whether raising it to 72F (the yeast's upper end) would coax it to reach the expected final gravity of 1.010 SG.

09/05/2018: Gravity is now 1.012 SG, and the temperature is 70F

09/06/2018: Gravity is down to 1.010 SG, and the temperature is holding at 70F.

09/08/2018: Gravity has held at 1.010 SG for a while, so I'm assuming primary fermentation is complete. I prepared gelatin finings and added them to the fermenter before moving it into my mini-fridge to cold-crash and brighten up before bottling. I plan to leave it chilling until next Monday evening, and bottle it then.

09/15/2018: The beer has now had a week in the mini-fridge with a gelatin addition for clarifying. Today I bottled the beer using 3 small carbonation tablets per bottle (low carbonation).

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.

Ingredients

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.

09/04/2018: I opened a bottle today to have a taste. The photo at the top of the post is the actual bottle used for these notes. Below are my tasting notes, in roughly BJCP format:

  • Aroma (7/12): Malt-forward, with strong caramel notes, and a touch of butterscotch. Could use a touch of pome fruit and a hint of English hop aroma, which would bring it closer to a 12/12.
  • Flavor (15/20): Malty, with a hint of roastiness, some toffee, and a touch of dark fruit. A very subtle butterscotch note comes through as well. Balanced bitterness, allowing the malt to shine through. Some fruity esters would push it toward 20/20.
  • Appearance (3/3): Bright, coppery, with a thin off-white head. The head is nice and creamy but does not last that long, and leaves behind no lacing. Looks as good as any true Scottish-made ale I've seen.
  • Mouthfeel (5/5): Medium-bodied, creamy, and smooth. Exactly what I want from the style.
  • Overall (8/10): I'm very pleased with this one. The appearance is exactly what I wanted from it, a nice coppery brown. I'd like to see the head linger a bit more, but it's good as-is. The flavor is complex, starting a bit caramelly, followed by a touch of sweetness and a roasty note, with a hint of dark fruit and butterscotch near the finish. Finish is roasty and complex. 
  • Total score: 35/50
What would I change next time around? Here are my initial thoughts:
  • Replace some of the Maris Otter with Carapils. In my experience, the combination of Carapils and Melanoidin makes for a creamy, long-lasting head. That would make the beer's appearance (to my taste anyway) dead-on perfect. Maybe 4 pounds of Maris Otter and a half-pound of Carapils malt in place of 4.5 pounds of Maris Otter.
  • Evaluate other yeasts and hops. To really nail the BJCP criteria for this style, it needs a bit of pome fruit (apple, pear, and/or quince) in both the aroma and flavor. Some of this could come from the choice of hop and/or the choice of yeast, as some yeasts give off an apple aroma. I'm thinking Mangrove Jack Burton Ale or White Labs WLP023 Burton Ale might add a pear note.
  • Late-hopping for some English hop aroma. The BJCP criteria talk about pome fruit, earthy, citrus, floral, or spicy aromas in the best examples. I'm considering Challenger, First Gold, Progress, or another UK variety.
I'm hoping some combination of these changes will take the beer over the 40/50 scoring line.

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.

Ingredients

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.

Ingredients

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.