Sunday, October 21, 2018

2018 Dubbel 3.0

I've brewed plenty of Belgian-style Dubbels over the years, from a variety of recipe sources. None of them has ever really blown me away. If you've ever had a cellared bottle of Bornem's "Double" then you know what my ideal Belgian Dubbel is like. If I could brew something close to that, I'd be happy and have my "house" Dubbel recipe.

My goal is a deep ruby color with a lingering whipped-creamy head. The aroma should suggest noble hops, a touch of caramel, and dark fruit. The flavor should be slightly sweet, a pilsner malt backbone with hints of chocolate and plenty of prune, raisin, and plum flavors. It should finish clean with no lingering cloying sweetness and no lingering hop bitterness.

With these goals in mind, I've started from the ground up for this recipe. I'm using a base of Pilsner malt and Munich to provide some sweetness. To that, I'm adding Special B malt and Dark Candi Sugar rocks to provide the dark fruit flavors, Caramunich for some caramel, and Belgian Chocolate malt to darken it and add the chocolate notes. The Ardennes yeast strain will hopefully bring in some fruity and spicy notes. The Clarity Ferm is something I typically add to ensure that a friend of ours who is gluten-intolerant can enjoy the beers I brew.

Ingredients

4 pounds Belgian Pilsner Malt
2 pounds Munich I Malt
6 ounces Special B Malt
6 ounces Dark Candi Sugar rocks (dissolved in starting water)
4 ounces Caramunich Malt
1 ounce Belgian Chocolate Malt
1 ounce Styrian Celeia hops pellets @ 2.8% AA (60 min.)
0.51 ounces Czech Saaz hops pellets @ 3.0% AA (15 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil (15 min.)
1 packet Wyeast Belgian Ardennes 3522 yeast
3 gallons plus 32 ounces starting water in the keg

According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 26.B Belgian Dubbel
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 1.068 SG (1.071 SG actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.018 SG
  • IBUs: 20
  • SRM: 29
  • ABV: 6.6%
The mash schedule will be:
  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Mash at 120F for 15 minutes
  • Mash at 159F for 60 minutes
  • Mash Out at 175F for 10 minutes
The boil schedule will be:
  • 90 minutes: No additions
  • 60 minutes: Styrian Celeia hops added
  • 15 minutes: Czech Saaz hops, yeast nutrient, and Brewtan B added
The wort will then be chilled to a yeast-safe temperature and the yeast pitched into it. The Ardennes yeast likes temperatures in the 65F to 76F range, but I've heard stories that it does well even up into the lower 80's. My plan is to let it free-rise and only to introduce cooling if the beer climbs into the 80F range.

Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

10/20/2018: The brew finished 3 SG points higher than anticipated. It came out of the chiller at 82F, which was a bit high for the yeast, so I left it to cool a while before I was comfortable pitching the yeast. The yeast packages were a bit old and didn't seem to be swelling anyway, so waiting a while would give the yeast a chance to "wake up" if it was going to. I set aside some dry yeast to use if the liquid yeast didn't make it. I plan to give the yeast at least 24 hours to become active before pitching an alternative yeast.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Scofflaw Basement IPA Clone 1.0

At the BrewDog Annual General Mayhem (AGM) event in Columbus this year, I had the opportunity to meet the brewers from Scofflaw Brewing in Atlanta. I enjoyed all of their beers I tried, but one that stuck with me was their "Basement IPA", due to its sweetness and intense fruit flavors. The Scofflaw representatives said they brewed a sweet IPA because the market in Atlanta seemed to prefer it, as it was reminiscent of sweet tea. I reached out to ask if they'd share their recipe, but got no response.

I decided to take a shot at cloning it myself, just for fun. From their web site, I knew that it contained 2-row Pale Malt, Acidulated Malt, and Carafoam Malt. It is hopped with Chinook and Citra hops. It's a 7.5% ABV beer with a reported 40 IBUs. Given that the bitterness in Basement isn't particularly intense or harsh, I suspect it's late-hopped more like a New England IPA than a traditional West Coast IPA. For that reason, I'm not starting my hops additions until the last 30 minutes of the boil. This should provide a smoother bitterness and intensify the fruit flavors from the hops. I'll mash for 90 minutes, half at 152F for fermentability and half at 156F for some residual sweetness (hopefully). I doubt it will be a perfect clone, but will serve more as a starting point for trying to dial in a better recipe.

Ingredients

6 pounds Rahr 2-Row Malt (82.7%)
1 pound Carafoam Malt (13.8%)
4 ounces Acidulated Malt (3.5%)
0.20 ounces Chinook hops @ 12% AA (30 min.)
0.55 ounces Citra hops @ 13% AA (15 min.)
0.45 ounces Citra hops @ 13% AA (10 min.)
0.05 ounces Chinook hops @ 12% AA (10 min.)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash water
1/4 tsp. Gypsum in the mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil with the first Citra addition
1 packet Safale S-04 English Ale yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm (for gluten reduction)
3 gallons filtered starting water plus 30 ounces *
(* If you brew this, I recommend reducing the starting water to 8 ounces more than the recipe crafter recommends. 3 gallons plus 30 ounces was way too much.)

(If you're wondering why the small amount of Chinook in the 10-minute addition, that's because I didn't want to open another ounce of Citra just to hit my planned 0.50 ounce final addition amount.)

The PicoBrew recipe crafter estimates the beer will have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 21.A American IPA
  • Original Gravity: 1.074 SG (1.069 SG actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.015 SG (1.007 SG actual)
  • IBUs: 39
  • SRM: 5
  • Estimated ABV: 7.6% (8.2% actual)
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual ended up less, see below)
Mash Schedule:
  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Rest at 120F for 15 minutes
  • Heat to 152F
  • Mash at 152F for 45 minutes
  • Mash at 156F for 45 minutes
  • Heat to 175F
  • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
A 75-minute boil is used,with this schedule:
  • 75 minutes: No additions
  • 30 minutes: Chinook
  • 15 minutes: Citra and Brewtan B
  • 10 minutes: Citra plus Chinook
The wort will be pumped through a counterflow chiller and then cooled to 66F before yeast is pitched.

I plan to let the beer free-ferment in a 68F basement, which is within the yeast's range.

I plan to bottle it with 4 small carbonation drops (medium carbonation) per bottle and hold it at 70F until the beer is carbonated.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

10/05/2018:  It seems like there was too much water added again, as the mash compartment of the step filter was full to the lid. I'll need to reduce starting water next time around.

There was a fair amount of foaming near the end of Dough In and during the mash, but no spilling outside the drip tray.

As the Zymatic was heating the wort to boiling, it generated a Fatal Error #1 (heat loop inconsistency). After some diagnosis, I learned that the grain compartment overflow apparently clogged the duck valve and prevented the system from pulling wort out of the tray. I unclogged the valve and drained the tray, then removed the hops cages and cleaned the grain and remaining wort out of the tray. I then restarted the brew from the Mash Out step (although there was no grain in it). Next time I need to reduce the amount of starting water, perhaps to only 3-4 ounces more than the recipe software calculates.

Volume was probably low. I didn't measure it, but I'm estimating 2 gallons. Original Gravity came out at 1.069 SG instead of the expected 1.074. Yeast was pitched once the wort cooled to 75F, which was around midnight.

10/06/2018: This morning, I noticed the gravity had already dropped to about 1.060 SG and the temperature had only dropped to 73F, which is near the upper end of the yeast's optimum range. I moved the entire fermenter into my mini-fridge for 2-3 hours to cool it back down into the lower end of the yeast's range to avoid stressing it and introducing off flavors.

10/07/2018: The temperature climbed to 74F overnight, so I moved the fermenter back into the mini-fridge to cool down. I removed it when the beer was at 66F and the gravity had dropped to 1.012 SG, which is lower than the expected final gravity. That puts the current ABV at 7.5% and the apparent attenuation at over than 81%. By midnight, the gravity was still holding at 1.012 SG and the temperature was holding at 69F. A taste of the beer from the fermenter showed a mild sweetness and strong hoppy fruit notes which reminded me of the actual Scofflaw beer. It will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

10/08/2018: The temperature is now up to 70F. Gravity is reading 1.009 SG today, well below the estimated 1.015 final gravity.

10/09/2018: The temperature is holding at 70F. Gravity has bounced back and forth between 1.008 SG and 1.009 for the last day or two.

10/13/2018: I bloomed and heated a teaspoon of gelatin in distilled water, added it to the fermenter, and placed the fermenter in the mini-fridge to cold crash. I'll bottle in a week or so when it's cleared up a bit.

10/20/2018: The beer was bottled today, using four small carbonation drops per bottle (medium carbonation). Yield was 18 total bottles, owing to losses from the issues during brewing. Final gravity was reported as 1.007 SG by the Tilt Hydrometer.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

BrewDog "IPA is Dead" Mandarina IPA

Despite having had the DIY Dog book of BrewDog's recipes for a while, I've never taken the time to make one of their beers. I decided to change that today, selecting the "IPA is Dead" Mandarina IPA since I had plenty of Mandarina Bavaria hops and (what I thought was) enough Maris Otter malt. As it turned out, I was a little shy on the Maris Otter and had to fill in with some Belgian Pale Ale malt I wanted to use up.

Ingredients (as Brewed)

5 pounds plus 5 ounces Maris Otter Malt (6 pounds 4 ounces was the original recipe)
15 ounces Belgian Pale Ale Malt (not included in the original Brew Dog recipe)
0.75 ounces Mandarina Bavaria Hops pellets @ 9.2% AA (60 min.)
0.80 ounces Mandarina Bavaria Hops pellets @ 9.2% AA (20 min.)
0.85 ounces Mandarina Bavaria Hops pellets @ 9.2% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Mash Stabilizer in the mash
1/4 tsp. Brewtab B in the boil (20 min.)
1 packet Safale US-05 yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity ferm for gluten reduction
3 gallons, 40 ounces filtered Dublin Ohio Mash water in keg

According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, this beer should have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 21.A American IPA
  • Original Gravity: 1.066 SG (actual was 1.056 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.009 SG
  • IBUs: 70
  • SRM: 7
  • ABV: 7.3%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.3-2.4 gallons)
The mash schedule is the PicoBrew High Efficiency Mash Schedule, modified so that the main mash step is 75 minutes at 149F per the Brew Dog recipe.

The boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes: 0.75 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 20 minutes: 0.80 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops plus 1/4 tsp. Brewtan B
  • 5 minutes: 0.85 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
Fermentis says the ideal range for the US-05 yeast is 64-82F. Since I'll be pitching a full packet of US-05 into a 2.5 gallon batch, I do not plan to rehydrate the yeast or create a starter. There should be plenty of viable yeast without doing that.  My plan is to hold the beer at 68F, near the lower end of the range, until fermentation is complete. After that, I'll treat with gelatin and cold-crash to brighten the beer before bottling. I'll be aiming for medium carbonation at bottling.

Post-Brew Notes and Comments

09/29/2018: The addition of Belgian Pale Ale malt was a last-minute choice since I was about a pound short of Maris Otter. I chose the Belgian malt because it was closer to something BrewDog might have used in Scotland than a domestic 2-row. 

The PicoBrew recipe crafter recommended 3.22 gallons of staring water, but I decided to go with 3 gallons plus approximately 40 ounces because it seems that in a high-efficiency mash they are sometimes a little short and this causes foaming.  It looked like this starting water amount was about all the machine could hold. I didn't see any overflow but it certainly filled the step filter to its absolute limit. 

Gravity came up about 10 points low on this batch, possibly due to the thinner mash. However, volume also came up low, so that implies a fairly low overall efficiency. One consequence of this is that the beer is likely to seem more bitter than it would have if I'd hit the gravity target. For an IPA that isn't a concern, but for some other styles it could make a big difference.

Wort volume, between 2.25 and 2.5 gallons
The wort came out of the chiller at about 84F, so I let the temperature control system get to work before pitching the yeast or Clarity Ferm. Around midnight the temperature had dropped to a range where it seemed appropriate to add the yeast.

During cleaning, it was clear that wort had overflowed from the mash compartment and carried some kernels of grain into the boil chamber. Given past experience, I don't expect this to create an unpleasant level of tannins in the finished beer as the amount was fairly small.

09/30/2018: It's about 17 hours since the yeast was pitched. Temperature has held at 67F. Gravity has dropped from 1.056 SG down to 1.054 SG, so there is clearly some fermentation going on. If I don't see a significant improvement by Monday evening, I'll pitch another packet of yeast.

10/01/2018: It's approximately 41 hours after pitching. The temperature has held at 67F. The gravity has dropped to 1.043 SG, which is about 23% attenuation. The fermentation has been slower than I've often seen US-05 work, probably because the temperature is being held low in the yeast's range. It will be interesting to see where things are tomorrow.

10/02/2018: The gravity is down to 1.028 SG as of this writing. That's about 50% attenuation and an estimated 3.7% ABV.

10/03/2018: The gravity has dropped to 1.023 SG, 14 points away from the expected FG. The temperature has held at 67F, but I'm planning to raise it up tonight to 70F to help it finish out.

10/05/2018: The gravity is down to 1.009 SG. I've raised the temperature up to 72F to give it more help finishing up. I've seen momentary gravity readings between 1.010 and 1.008 SG over the last few hours so I suspect it's down near its final gravity (FG).

10/06/2018: The gravity is registering 1.008 SG today, a point below the expected final gravity. I turned off the temperature control, mostly to save energy, and will let the beer finish out at ambient temperature before treating with gelatin and cold-crashing it.

10/07/2018: The gravity is reading 1.009 SG today and has been holding steady now for a while. I'm planning to treat the beer with gelatin and cold-crash it before bottling next week.

10/09/2018: The gravity has continued to hold at 1.008-1.009 SG so fermentation appears to be over. As I write this entry, I'm blooming a teaspoon of gelatin in distilled water. I'll use that to clarify the beer while it cold-crashes in the mini-fridge.

10/13/2018: The beer was bottled today with 4 small carbonation tablets per bottle. Yield was 25 bottles. A sample of the beer at bottling tasted much like any Brew Dog beer I've ever had, with a similar flavor profile and bitterness. A hint of mandarin orange flavor comes through in the middle.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Extra Strong Bitter 1.4

The Finished Extra Strong Bitter
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 (actual 1.018 SG to 1.019 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.

09/22/2018: The gravity is down to 1.018 SG today (the expected target gravity), and the temperature increased slightly to 70F. I am planning to dose the beer with gelatin finings today and move it into the mini-fridge, once I remove the Ordinary Bitter which is currently in the fridge, and bottle it.

09/30/2018: The gravity held at 1.018 SG (not that I expected it to change during cold-crashing) and the temperature at bottling registered 37F. Yield was 24 twelve-ounce bottles. I put them in my "hot box" and set the temperature to 70F. Each bottle was loaded with 3 of the small Brewer's Best carbonation tablets, except for the last 3 bottles, which I primed with four tablets for comparison later. A sample of the beer from the bottom of the fermenter yielded a nice, slightly malt-forward flavor.

10/05/2018: I chilled a bottle of the beer and poured a glass. It has a nice coppery color and creamy head. The aroma is malty, but with a hint of butterscotch that is probably coming from diacetyl that the yeast needs to clean up. The flavor was mildly sweet with a good balancing hops bitterness. To my tastebuds, there was a nice malt complexity. I got some sweetness from the corn, a bit of caramel, a touch of dark fruit from the special B, and a nice medium body. I do think the hopping is a little flat, kind of a one-note song from the East Kent Goldings. Maybe adding a different English hop to the mix as the flavor addition, something like Bramling Cross or Sovereign, might add some variation that would kick the flavor up another notch. Still, I am very happy with this one as it is.

10/09/2018: The diacetyl is gone now. There's a little less sweetness to it, making it about the level of a Fuller's ESB from the UK, at least the bottles we find on shelves here in Ohio. The aroma is a mix of caramel and fruit, tending toward plum. The flavor starts malty with a balancing hop bitterness. Carbonation is low, but enough (as you see in the photo at the top of this post) to generate a thin beige head that lasts a little while before reincorporating into the beer. The fruit flavors in the beer had become more subdued to me, but are still detectable.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ordinary English Bitter 1.0

The finished bitter, bottled and labeled
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.

09/22/2018: The beer has now had seven days in the mini-fridge with gelatin finings and should be just about as clear as it can get at this point. I will bottle it with three small carbonation drops per 12-ounce bottle (low carbonation) today and move it into the "hot box" for carbonation.

09/29/2018: I chilled and opened a bottle of the beer (seen in the photo at the top of this post). It has a nice color. There is very little carbonation and a touch of diacetyl to it, which implies to me that bottle conditioning is still underway. The ESB yeast expressed its fruity flavors and aromas well. The balance tilts slightly (but only very slightly) toward the hops. Malt and yeast flavors come through well. I'll re-taste in a few days when conditioning has finished.

10/14/2018: The beer has had some time to condition and mellow out now, so I thought it would be good to compare it to the official BJCP criteria for the style and self-score it:

  • Aroma (10/12): Mild malty aroma with a touch of caramel to it. Moderate fruitiness from the yeast, from the hops and/or yeast. No diacetyl in the aroma.
  • Appearance (3/3):  Coppery amber color. Very clear at serving temperature. Thin off-white head that dissipates in about a minute. 
  • Flavor (14/20): Moderate bitterness, maybe slightly astringent. Bitterness dominates at the start, then gives way to biscuity malt and a touch of fruit. A touch of caramel in the middle. Finish is relatively dry and bitter. There might be a hint of diacetyl, but it's barely noticeable. I'd like the fruit to come through more and maybe a hint of toffee, too.
  • Mouthfeel (5/5): Medium-bodied, with low to medium carbonation. 
  • Overall Impression (7/10):  I haven't had a true English bitter that I can recall, so it's hard for me to judge the style beyond the BJCP notes. In that sense, this beer hits the vast majority of them. It's primarily bitter but not intensely so. There is a malt, caramel, and fruit presence in the aroma and flavor, but this takes a back seat to the hops bitterness. Maybe adding a second hop to give some complexity to the bitterness would improve it, and perhaps shifting to a little more medium crystal malt might punch up the fruit element a little. Overall, though, it is an easy-drinking beer.
  • Total Score (39/50)

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

The Finished British Dark Mild Ale
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).

09/22/2018: A bottle was chilled and poured. The photo at the top of this post was taken.  The color is a coppery brown with minimal carbonation and very little head. It's a little hazy. The beer's aroma is fruity and malty, primarily caramel in the malty portion of the aroma. A touch of diacetyl is present in the aroma. Flavor begins with a slightly grainy malt, a touch of toasted malt, and a hint of caramel. A touch of tartness makes an appearance as well. Finish is clean and slightly sweet.

I think the next version needs to be mashed at a slightly higher temp, with perhaps a touch more caramel malt. The higher fermentation temp seems to have added a light tartness that isn't right for the style and possibly some yeasty notes to the aroma. 

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.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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

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

Ingredients

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

Mash Schedule:

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

Recipe Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cream Ale v1.2

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sunday, June 24, 2018

    Centennial Blonde Ale 1.0

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

    Ingredients

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

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

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

    Post-Brew Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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