Sunday, January 27, 2019

Scottish 80 Shilling Ale 4.0

I have long been a fan of the more malt-forward styles of beer, and the Scottish 80 Shilling Ale (also known as the Scottish Export Ale) is no exception. The roasty and toasty, caramel, and dark fruit flavors of the malt combine with just enough hop bitterness to bring the beer to a perfect balance. The 80 Shilling is a stronger version of the Export Ale, meant to have enough alcohol to stand transatlantic voyages.

I've made three Scottish Ale versions before this. The first version fared poorly in competition, scoring an average of 27 out of 50. The second, to me, was much better. The judges disagreed, scoring it 25.5. The third never made it to competition, so I don't know how it would have scored. To me, it was the best of the three.

This, the fourth version, is actually a recipe from Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer's book Brewing Classic Styles. The recipe in the book scales between a 60, 70, or 80 Shilling Ale. According to the authors, the difference between a 60, 70, and 80 Shilling ale is the amount of base malt. You only change the specialty malt percentages, they say, if you're increasing or decreasing the volume of beer. It makes sense to me, but it's the first I'd heard that.

Ingredients

4.75 pounds of Simpsons Golden Promise Malt
0.50 pounds of Crystal 40L Malt
0.25 pounds of Weyermann Munich I Malt
0.25 pounds of Honey Malt
2 ounces of Crystal 120L Malt
1.5 ounces of Pale Chocolate Malt
0.42 ounces of East Kent Goldings hops pellets @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the Mash
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the Boil (15 min.)
1/8 tsp. Super Irish Moss (15 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 package Mangrove Jack's MI5 Empire Ale Yeast
2.5 gallons of Mash Water
2.0 gallons of Sparge Water

According to BeerSmith 3, the beer is expected to have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Category: 14.C Scottish Export
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.7 gallons actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.053 SG estimated (1.055 actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 SG estimated
  • Brew House Efficiency: 62% estimated (69% actual)
  • IBUs: 20.3
  • SRM: 15.5
  • ABV: 5.4% estimated
The Mash Schedule for the batch was:
  • Mash in at 120F with 2.5 gallons of water for 25 minutes
  • Mash at 157F for 60 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minutes
  • Sparge with 2 gallons of 168F water for 10 minutes
The Boil Schedule was:
  • 90 minutes: No hop addition
  • 60 minutes: Add 0.42 ounces of East Kent Goldings
  • 15 minutes: Add yeast nutrient, Super Irish Moss, and Brewtan B
After the boil, the Brewie+ was told to chill the wort to 64F.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

01/26/2019: The Brewie performed flawlessly on this one, with no errors or other issues. The wort chilled to 64F easily.  The wort volume as delivered into the fermenter was above 2.5 gallons and the gravity came in at 1.060 SG. I added distilled water to bring that back down to 1.055 SG, which resulted in a volume of just under 2.75 gallons. Clarity Ferm and the Mangrove Jack's yeast were added, then the temperature control system was set to keep the fermentation at 69F, which is roughly the middle of the range for the yeast.  

01/27/2019: Gravity has dropped from 1.055 SG to 1.025 SG over the past 24 hours. Temperature has held at 67F. That's approximately 53% attenuation.

01/28/2019: Gravity has dropped from 1.020 SG to 1.020 SG. This is 63.6% attenuation.

01/29/2019: Gravity is holding at 1.020 SG. This is well above the expected 1.012 SG. The 63.6% attenuation is well below the yeast's reported 70-75% rating. 

02/03/2019: A half-teaspoon of gelatin was bloomed, heated to 155F, and added to the beer. The mini-fridge was busy, so I moved the beer outside. Unfortunately, current outdoor temperatures are expected to range between 15F and 60F over the next week, so I don't know how much clarity I'm going to get out of it.

02/05/2019: The beer is currently registering 1.018 SG (6 points higher than the originally-estimated final gravity from BeerSmith) and 45F. Our current outside temperature is reported to be 40F, which is almost as low as it's expected to get overnight (the forecast calls for a low of 39F).

02/09/2019: The beer has been left in an insulated container outside with a heating element to keep it from freezing (but let it get as close as possible to ensure clarity). With our warm temperatures in Central Ohio this week, the beer has been in the mid-to-upper 40F range, but today has dropped down to 23F. I've got the temperature control system holding it close to this figure to allow the gelatin to do its thing before bottling. When I bring this fermenter in for bottling, I'll take out the Irish Red or Dark Mild to allow those to clarify as well.

02/12/2019: The beer is currently registering 1.018 SG (which it has for over a week now) and a temperature of 43F (though it's been as low as 25F since it went outside). The beer was bottled with four small carbonation tablets (medium carbonation). Yield was 27 twelve-ounce bottles. A taste of the beer from the final few ounces in the fermenter was very good. I'm looking forward to tasting the finished version with some carbonation.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 German Pilsner 1.0

The only lager I've ever  brewed was a Ttopical Stout. Despite my best efforts with that one, it didn't do that well in competition. Judges noted yeasty notes they did not like, despite the beer never getting above the yeast's optimum temperature range. I suspect that was due to pitching only a single packet of dry lager yeast and not a large starter.

I decided to start 2019 by brewing another lager, a traditional German style Pilsner. This time I'll be pitching both a 1 liter starter and some dry yeast, plus plenty of yeast nutrient to ensure a healthy yeast population. I'll also be using a good quality temperature control system to ensure a consistent temperature,

Ingredients

10 pounds Swaen Pilsner Malt (the closest I had to German Pilsner)
1 pound Briess Pilsner Malt
4 ounces Cara-pils/Dextrine Malt
0.5 ounces Magnum hops @ 12.6% AA (60 min.)
0,5 ounces Hallertau hops @ 4.5% AA (10 min.)
1.0 ounces Hallertau hops @ 2.5% AA (4 min.)
1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 packet White Labs Pilsner yeast raised in 1 Liter starter
2 packets Saflager S-23 dry yeast pitched onto wort directly
1/4 tsp. Gypsum
1 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
4.2 gallons mash water (3/4 gallon distilled plus tap water)
2.9 gallons sparge water
Approximately 1 gallon of distilled water after brewing.

According to BeerSmith, the beer should have the following qualities:

  • BJCP Style: 5.D German Pils
  • Batch Size: 5 gallons (actual was 5.3 gallons after dilution)
  • Original Gravity: 1.053 SG (est. and actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.044 SG
  • Final Gravity: 1.011 SG
  • SRM: 4.7
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • BU/GU Ratio: 0.516
  • Brew House Efficiency: 60% est. (67.2% actual)
The goal here is to brew a German Style Pilsner "to style" rather than anything fancy or unusual.

Mash Schedule

This one has a fairly simple mash schedule. Since I wasn't sure how well modified the Swaen malt would be (that's not a criticism of them, just some question on my part), I decided to include a 120F rest to break down beta glucan and ensure good conversion.
  • Mash in at 120F for 25 minutes
  • Mash at 144F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 158F for 30 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 5 minutes
  • Sparge with 168F water for 10 minutes
Boil Schedule

Pilsner malt is known for high levels of DMS, so I'm employing a 90-minute boil to ensure that all DMS is boiled off. There was definitely a cooked corn smell during the early part of the boil.  Magnum hops will provide clean bittering, with Hallertau in the flavor and aroma roles. 
  • 90 minutes: No hops added
  • 60 minutes: Magnum
  • 10 minutes: Hallertau, yeast nutrient
  • 4 minutes: Hallertau
Post-boil, the wort will be chilled to 70F and pumped into a sanitized fermenter. I'll use my temperature control system to further lower that to 53F overnight before pitching the yeast.

Fermentation Schedule

The yeasts being used in this batch prefer temperatures in the 48-55F range, with a good middle ground temperature being 53F. My fermentation plan, therefore, is this:
  • 1-5 weeks, until final gravity: 53F
  • 1-2 days: Diacetyl rest at room temperature
  • 4-8 weeks: Lager in mini fridge
After the lagering phase, we'll bottle with low to medium carbonation.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

1/1/2019: The combination of mash and sparge water led to a brew kettle being nearly full. I actually added less than the amount I calculated that would have been needed to end up with five gallons. In the end, this left me with about 4.75 gallons of wort at a higher gravity (around 1.069 SG). I diluted this down to 1.053 SG and increased the volume to 5.3 gallons (20 Liters accord to fermenter markings). Adding the distilled water dropped the temperature down from 73F to 70F. I configured the temperature control system to drop the wort to 53F. I will pitch the yeast when the temp reaches that level.

Unfortunately, the Brewie computer system hung during the boil, during the last hour. I had to power the machine off and on, at which point it picked up from where it left off. I have no idea how this will affect the finished beer. 

The longer boil did appear to be necessary, as there was a definite aroma of cooked corn during the majority of the boil.

1/3/2019: The temperature of the beer is down to 54F, so I've added two packets of Saflager yeast and the starter made with WLP800, to ensure that there is plenty of yeast available for fermentation.

1/4/2019: Gravity registered at 1.055 SG at the time I added the yeast. It's now showing 1.053 SG, so I'm hopeful that fermentation is starting.

1/6/2019: Gravity has dropped to 1.050 SG. That's 9% attenuation in three days, a much slower start than most ales, but not uncommon for lagers.

1/7/2019: Gravity is now 1.042 SG. That's 23% attenuation and 1.80% ABV.

1/8/2019: Gravity is now 1.038 SG. That's 30% attenuation and 2.35% ABV.

1/9/2019: Gravity is down to 1.032 SG, 41% attenuation, 3.16% ABV.

1/10/2019: Gravity is down to 1.027 SG, 50% attenuation, 3.68% ABV.

1/11/2019: Gravity is down to 1.024 SG, 54% attenuation, 3.94% ABV.

1/14/2019: Gravity is now 1.016 SG, 70.9% attenuation, 5.27% ABV, and only 5 points away from the expected FG of 1.011.  I swirled the fermenter a bit this afternoon to help ensure that the yeast remain in suspension for a while.

1/17/2019: Gravity is down to 1.014, which is three points away from the expected final gravity. I turned off the temperature control so that the beer would get up to ambient basement temperature, which at this time of year is 63-66F, perfect for the diacetyl rest the beer needs now. As of this writing, the temperature has only increased to 55F.

1/20/2019: The beer has undergone a diacetyl rest for the last 2-3 days. I pulled a sample from the fermenter. It was pale and cloudy, but without any hint of diacetyl or other off flavors. I added a teaspoon of gelatin finings, then moved the fermenter outside into an insulated container with a temperature controller and heat wrap. The temperature controller is set to 30F based on a thermowell inside the fermenter. Outside temperatures are expected to range between 5F and 41F over the next 10 days, for the most part staying in the 20-30F range. The heat wrap and insulated jacket should keep the beer from freezing (though I'll have to monitor that) but should keep it nice and cold for the next few weeks without my having to use much refrigeration (and hopefully not much heating).

The fermenter inside the black insulated bag with temperature controller on top
1/21/2019: Overnight, the temperature of the beer dropped to 27F, which is a couple of degrees below its freezing point. I adjusted the temperature controller and brought it back up from there to 37F. I've been working out a good temperature to allow the beer to stay in the 29-36F range without dipping below that. So far, things are looking good.

10:20pm: Despite an outside temperature under 10F, the beer has remained at a good lagering temperature. As I write this, the outdoor temperature is 3F. The temperature probe in the fermenter's thermowell is reporting 34F, and the Tilt Hydrometer floating on top of the beer is reporting 37F.

1/26/2019: The beer has been outside for the last several days. According to the Tilt Hydrometer inside it, the temperature has varied between a low of 25F on January 21 and a high of 40F on January 24 (when outside temperatures were a bit warmer). I'm planning to take a sample of beer from the fermenter today to check the clarity. If it's nice and bright, I'll be bottling it. If not, it can lager for a while longer. According to Weather.com, temperatures over the next 10 days will vary between a low of -4F and a high of 44F, but for the most part in the 30's.

2/4/2019: After several days in some very cold weather, the beer was still cloudy. The weather now is much warmer, too warm for lagering, so I brought the beer in and placed it in my mini-fridge to finish out its lagering phase. As of today, the temperature is registering 42F.

2/5/2019: The beer is currently registering at 38F from inside the mini-fridge. I don't expect it to get much lower than this in the days to come, but I plan to leave it in the fridge for at least two weeks before checking clarity again.

2/9/2019: The beer is registering 35F inside the mini-fridge and has held that temperature for about two days. I'm going to check the clarity at the end of the month and see where we are. The beer was very hazy when placed in the mini-fridge so I'm not expecting much at this point.

2/12/2019: The beer continues to read 35F in the mini-fridge and the gravity has been holding steadily at 1.011 SG.

2/17/2019: A sample was removed from the fermenter. It's a little clearer than earlier samples but still appears to have a way to go before it's ready to bottle.

03/06/2019: A sample was extracted today. It's still fairly hazy, which is disappointing. This means that with four weeks in the fridge and about 10 days outside (roughly 5-6 weeks) it hasn't dropped clear yet.

03/16/2019: The beer was bottled last weekend. I chilled and opened a bottle tonight. It was pretty and clear, but not at all carbonated.  I'm hoping more time will get it there or I am going to have to figure out another solution.

2018 - The Year in Beer

Last year, I took the time at the start of the year to review my homebrewing experiences for the prior year and reflect on what I'd like to accomplish in 2018.

What Did I Accomplish in 2018?

I brewed almost 50 batches of beer in 2017 (48 to be precise). That's up from 36 batches in 2017, 17 batches in 2016, and 15 batches in 2015. That's well above the supposed average of 8.3 batches per year of the hypothetical "average" homebrewer according to the AHA.

I brewed approximately 25 different BJCP styles during the year, including the Tropical Stout, Belgian Single/Dubbel/Tripel/Quad, Saison, Pale Ale, IPA, Scottish 80 Shilling, ESB, Blonde Ale, Australian Sparkling, Irish Red, Cream Ale, English Brown, Dark Mild, Pumpkin Ale, and others.

I entered three competitions: Rhinegeist, the Ohio State Fair, and Barley's Ale House. I didn't place at Rhinegeist. At the State Fair, I took home a fourth place ribbon for a Belgian Tripel. At Barley's Ale House, I won the entire competition.

Late in 2018, I joined the Scioto Olentangy Darby Zymurgists (SODZ) home brewing association and continued my membership in the American Homebrewing Association.

I brewed beer using three different setups during the year: the PicoBrew Zymatic, the Brewie+, and a system I've used before, an induction cooktop and steel kettle.  My Grainfather setup did not see any use in 2018.

Last year, I said that I hoped to accomplish the following in 2018:
  • Tune my BeerSmith settings to scale between Zymatic, Grainfather, and other systems more easily. While I did get better at this, I found the Zymatic nearly impossible to predict. It seemed that no matter what I did, it rarely came close to the gravity and volume I calculated.
  • Continue to fine-tune the wort correction factor for my refractometer. As it turns out, the factor I had was fairly accurate. When comparing wort using a glass hydrometer or the electronic Tilt Hydrometer, I was fairly accurate with the factor I was using.
  • Set up a permanent home for the Zymatic in the basement. I achieved this, but also "semi-retired" the Zymatic in November when I received the Brewie+.
  • Get rid of older accumulated brewing grains.  I found a home for some of these, and have not had to throw much out this year. 
  • Use the Zymatic to produce a number of self-teaching beers to learn the differences between different specialty grains, yeast strains, etc.  I did not make any real progress toward this goal.
  • Nail down my "house" recipe for the following styles:
    • Belgian Single - I only made one of these during 2018 and I didn't care for it.
    • Belgian Tripel - I've got two recipes that are approaching this goal.
    • Gulden Draak Clone - Although I've tried a few times on this, I've yet to come anywhere in the ballpark... though one attempt produced a really nice Dark Strong Ale.
    • ESB - I made three variations on this in 2018. Each one got me a bit closer to my goal, but I still can't say I have my "definitive" recipe yet.
    • Cascade Pale Ale - I "detoured" from this to try to produce a clone of Manny's Pale Ale, so I'm no closer to having this recipe done.
    • Trappistes Rochefort 10 Clone - The recipe which won for me at Barley's was one of my attempts to clone this beer. While I feel like I got a good beer, it's not by any means the equal of the true Rochefort 10 beer.
  • Accumulate notes and ideas for a book on brewing. I've yet to feel like I've got something worthwhile to write and share yet. Maybe in 2019.

I managed to accomplish the first four of these goals. I made some progress on the other three, but can't claim to have really accomplished them.

What Did I Learn in 2018?

Some of the highlights among the things I learned this year:
  • In the past I've bottled some beers before they were finished fermenting. This led to some of these brews foaming over when opened weeks or months later. Since then, I've been using the Tilt Hydrometer to better gauge when fermentation has finished. This has not totally eliminated the problem, but has reduced it considerably.
  • I've been able to create several of my own recipes "from the ground" up and turn out a good beer. Some of those have gone on to place in their categories in competition. I don't believe I've really mastered the art of recipe creation, though.
  • Often, a beer that I really like doesn't do as well in competition. I don't know if that's because I'm "over-scoring" myself when I review my beers or because the judges are looking for things (or finding flaws) that I can't detect.
  • Despite what you might hear in forums online or at your local homebrew club, it is possible to win competitions with beers brewed in automated systems like the PicoBrew Zymatic. In fact, one of the first two beers I brewed in that system is the Tripel that took fourth place at the fair.
  • Making a good Christmas Ale or Pumpkin Ale with your own recipe is harder than it seems. I made both this year and neither was especially good to me, though others seemed to like them.
  • Probably my second-proudest accomplishment (apart from winning at Barley's this year) was learning how to brew a beer that exceeded 20.5% alcohol by volume. The experience inspired me to try brewing a 16% English Old Ale a few weeks later.
  • I also learned to extend the life of a package of liquid yeast by making a starter, splitting it between a batch of beer and a "jar for later use". I got 3-4 batches from a single yeast package toward the end of the year with no negative impact on the beer (that I can see).

Those are the top-of-mind things I learned this year.

Did I Improve This Year?

It's difficult to answer this objectively.

On the one hand, I went from third place at Barley's last year to first place this year. That would appear to be improvement over 2017.  

On the other hand, although I went from having no Trappist Ales place at the Ohio State Fair last year to having one make fourth place this year, last year I took home two silver medals at the fair (versus a fourth-place ribbon). You could argue that this was a step backward. On the other hand, I'd placed two Trappist ales into the fair in the hopes of placing in that category "period"... so in that sense I did better than in 2017.

What Did I Contribute to the Hobby?

I've shared the things I've learned over the past year in this blog, which is available to any home brewer who has an interest in reading it. 

I've also helped fellow home brewers at work and elsewhere, who had questions or problems with their beers. 

What's Next?

For 2019, here are the things I hope to accomplish:
  • Attend most of the meetings of the SODZ group, with allowances for the fact that in 2019 I've got a wedding (my step-son's) to attend, a graduation party (my nephew's), a different graduation party (my step-son's and his fiancee's), and other events to attend which may take me out of town when the SODZ meetings happen.
  • Brew an IPA for my step-son's wedding, to share with guests.  This assumes we're able to get a recipe that works for my step-son and his fiancee before the end of March.
  • Get at least one medal at the Ohio State Fair's Homebrewing Competition.  I don't care which style or even whether it's a gold/silver/bronze.
  • Compete in at least two homebrew competitions.  This can include the fair, Barley's, Rhinegeist, or others.
  • Brew at least three lager style beers. Probably a Pilsner, a Doppelbock, and a Malt Liquor recipe I've been mulling over.
  • Brew my Belgian Dark Strong Ale at Barley's.  This is sort-of a given, unless you look at al the events going on this year that fall during the April to June timeframe when the Barley's competition takes place.
  • Nail down my "house recipes" for the following styles:
    • Trappist Dubbel
    • Trappist Tripel
    • ESB
    • Doppelbock
  • Brew at least 10 styles of beer I've never brewed before.  I've managed something like 35 of the approximately 118 recognized BJCP styles. I'd like to increase that number in 2019.
  • Brew at least one beer at 16% ABV or higher that (to me at least) tastes good.

I'll be back in about a year (hopefully) to tell you how all this turned out.