Friday, July 12, 2019

Mint Julep Ale 1.0

We have a lot of mint growing outside our house.  I always wondered if you could make a mint julep style beer with it.  I had envisioned a beer that was basically amber colored, with mint added late in the boil, and aged on some bourbon-soaked oak chips.  Then I visited the now-defunct Fate Brewing in Boulder, Colorado, and tasted their Mint Julep Ale. It was quite good, which convinced me to brew my own.  Theirs included rye malt in the grist, which worked well with the mint, but didn't feature any actual bourbon.  I decided to add rye to the recipe I'd been considering, and to soak the mint in some bourbon apart from the oak chips, then blend in the mint-soaked bourbon at bottling time. Since corn is a big part of bourbon and I happened to have 3 ounces lying around I didn't want to go bad, I added that in last-minute.


6 pounds 2-row Pale Ale Malt
1 pound Crystal 60L Malt
4 ounces Rye Malt
3 ounces Flaked Corn
1 ounce Acid Malt
0.42 ounces German Northern Brewer hops @ 4.8% AA (60 min.)
0.25 ounces German Perle hops @ 7.2% AA (15 min.)
0.25 ounces German Perle hops @ 7.2% AA (5 min.)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
2 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer (mash)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (boil, 20 min.)
1/4 Whirlfloc tablet (boil, 15 min.)
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm (fermenter)
1 package Safale US-05 yeast (fermenter)
10 liters (2.64 gallons) mash water
6.3 liters (1.7 gallons) sparge water

According to BeerSmith, the beer has the following characteristics:
  • Batch Size: 2.64 gallons (2.5 actual)
  • BJCP Style: 34.C  Experimental Beer
  • Original Gravity: 1.064 SG estimated (1.072 actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.049 SG estimated (1.055 actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 estimated (1.018 actual)
  • IBUs: 23
  • SRM: 15.7
  • ABV: 6.9% (plus Bourbon and Everclear)
  • Fermenter used: Spock
  • Bottling wand used: Stainless 2 
  • Carbonation method: mix of Coopers and Brewer's Best drops
  • Estimated Brew House Efficiency: 66.2% (vs. 62% expected)
Mash Schedule:
  • Load 10 liters into the Brewie+
  • Mash in at 104F for 20 minutes
  • Load 6.3 liters into the Brewie+ for sparging 
  • Mash at 120F for 20 minutes
  • Mash at 140F for 30 minutes 
  • Mash at 158F for 30 minutes 
  • Sparge at 168F for 20 minutes 
Boil Schedule:
  • 75 minutes: No additions
  • 60 minutes: German Northern Brewer
  • 20 minutes: Brewtan
  • 15 minutes: German Perle, Whirlfloc 
  • 5 minutes: German Perle 
Fermentation Plan:
  • Days 1-3: Ferment at ambient basemen temp of 69F (no temp control)
  • Days 4 through end of fermentation: 80F
  • Add bourbon soaked oak chips near 67% attenuation
  • When oak flavor reaches desired level, add mint to taste and bottle

Notes and Observations

07/12/2019:  As with other recent batches, I decided to load the water into the Brewie myself, to ensure that the exact amount was loaded.  I measured the water with an accurate scale and a plastic pitcher. It was then loaded into the Brewie and measured.

Pre-boil volume was around 13.8 cm deep, which is approximately 12.1 liters or 3.4 gallons.  Post-boil this should end up about 10.1 liters, and post-chilling it should be 9.7 liters or 2.56 gallons.  Gravity registered 13.1 Brix on the refractometer or an estimated 1.055 SG.

Tragedy struck just as the Brewie+ brought the wort to a boil. I noticed in the app (and later on the machine's control panel) that the wort was dropping in temperature... 190F... 180F... 170F... 160F...

I went down to check on it and nothing seemed amiss, so I tried shutting it down, unplugging it, waiting a bit, plugging it back in, and turning it back on. It asked if I wanted it to continue the previous brewing session. I told it to go ahead... and watched as the temperature continued to fall.

The wort boiling in my 8-gallon Mega Pot with induction cooktop
Grabbing the 8-gallon kettle from my extract brewing days, I quickly rinsed it and had the Brewie+ pump all the wort into the kettle. While it did that, I setup my induction cooktop and got it ready to go.  I shutdown the Brewie+ and unplugged it, using that plug for my cooktop. A little while later, I had the wort boiling nicely. I set a timer for 75 minutes and followed the boil schedule above.

While boiling, I cleaned up and sanitized my old immersion chiller and another kettle.  When the boil was over, I fished out the hop strainers and let them drain into the kettle.  Once they'd drained, I transferred the wort into the kettle with the immersion chiller and let it sit for a couple of minutes to further sanitize everything.  Then I kicked on the cold water and chilled the wort down to around 78F, which was as low as I figured I could get it with our summer ground water.

I transferred the wort into a sanitized fermenter, then dropped in a sanitized Tilt Hydrometer.  The gravity read a bit high, so I added distilled water to bring the volume up to 2.5 gallons and swirled it well.  When things settled, the gravity read 1.070 SG and the temperature read 77F.  That was a bit too high for my yeast, so I decided to let it chill a bit more in ambient basement temperatures.

I contacted the support folks for the Brewie+, hoping there might be an easy fix like a blown fuse or something, but it may be some time before I hear from them. They are based in Hungary.

07/13/2019:  I let the beer chill on its own from 77F to the ambient basement temperature of 69F before pitching the yeast. The yeast went in around 3pm and an airlock was placed on the lid. I'm planning to leverage the basement air to keep the fermentation within its ideal 64-82F range.

07/18/2019:  The beer is currently at a gravity of 1.023 SG, down from 1.025 yesterday.  I'd like to see it keep going a bit more but don't plan to do anything more than rousing the yeast, as glucoamylase is a bit too strong and unpredictable.

07/20/2019:  Here are the gravity readings since yeast pitch, showing the highest and lowest gravities registered each day:
  • 7/13/2019: 1.072 to 1.071
  • 7/14/2019: 1.071 to 1.056
  • 7/15/2019: 1.056 to 1.034
  • 7/16/2019: 1.034 to 1.024
  • 7/17/2019: 1.026 to 1.024
  • 7/18/2019: 1.024 to 1.023
  • 7/19/2019: 1.024 to 1.023
  • 7/20/2019: 1.024 to 1.023
  • 7/21/2019: 1.024 to 1.023
  • 7/22/2019: 1.023 to 1.022 
  • 7/23/2019: 1.023 to 1.022 
  • 7/24/2019: 1.022
  • 7/25/2019: 1.022
  • 7/26/2019: 1.022 to 1.021
  • 7/27/2019: 1.022 to 1.021 
  • 7/28/2019: 1.022 to 1.021
  • 7/29/2019: 1.022 to 1.021 
  • 7/30/2019: 1.022 to 1.020 
  • 7/31/2019: 1.021 to 1.019 
  • 8/1/2019: 1.020 to 1.018 
  • 8/2/2019: 1.019 to 1.018
  • 8/3/2019:  1.019 to 1.018
It appears likely at this point that we've reached final gravity.  I had expected the gravity to be a fair amount lower, but it looks like the mash schedule may have left too many unfermentable sugars behind because US-05 is a pretty solid fermenter

One day last week I picked fresh mint, chopped it up with herb scissors, and covered it in Everclear to extract the mint flavor from it.  Within hours the Everclear had gone from clear and colorless to a dark emerald green.

At 12:30pm, I added some oak chips soaked in Larceny Bourbon (a wheated Bourbon) into a stainless tea strainer ball and dropped them into the fermenter.  The chips had been soaking in Bourbon for weeks, so they should have plenty of flavor.  I saved the remaining bourbon (which had a few chips in it I couldn't easily get out) in case I needed to add a bit more flavor before bottling.  My plan will be to taste the beer every day or two until the right Bourbon flavor and oak flavor is reached. Then I'll transfer to a bottling bucket and add the mint extract until I get a good level of mint flavor, and bottle it.

07/27/2019:  I did a taste test. The rye comes through mostly as a slight sweetness. The oak chips and bourbon have made a mild flavor contribution, but I'm looking for a bit more, so I'm going to give it another few days. If it's still mild, I'll drop in more Bourbon-soaked oak chips until the flavor works, or start adding some of the bourbon the oak has been soaking in.  I don't really want to take the risk of infection associated with transferring to a secondary fermenter, but I may have to do that if it takes too much longer to impart the oak and bourbon flavors.  Gravity is currently registering at around 1.022 SG.

08/03/2019:  Another taste test revealed only a hint of oak flavor and virtually no Bourbon. I'm going to give it another week. If it hasn't picked up flavoring by then, I'll need to transfer it to a secondary fermenter to ensure that no autolysis takes place and creates off-flavors and continue aging it.  Gravity is currently reading 1.019 SG.

08/10/2019:  Today the oak flavor was solid, so I decided it was time to bottle. I transferred the beer off the yeast and into a clean fermenter for bottling.  Then I added Larceny wheated Bourbon until it suited my taste, about 3 ounces.  I ended adding all the Everclear-soaked mint to achieve a nice but subtle balance.  It was then bottled using Coopers drops in most, and 4 Brewer's Best tablets in the others.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

English Dark Mild 1.1 (Barrel Aged)

Although I was pretty happy with my original Dark Mild recipe, it unfortunately picked up a bacterial infection and had to be dumped.  A second Dark Mild suffered the same fate.

In my notes on the original version, I mentioned that I wanted a little more crystal malt and more body.  Toward that end, I've shifted the mash temp upward for most of the mash and added another ounce of Medium English Crystal malt. I've also added some flaked corn, which the BJCP notes is a common ingredient in the style.


3 pounds Munton's Pale Ale Malt
6 ounces Medium English Crystal Malt
4 ounces Flaked Corn
4 ounces Crystal 120L Malt
2 ounces English Pale Chocolate Malt
1 ounce English Black Malt
1 ounce Acid Malt
0.35 ounces East Kent Goldings hops @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
1 large pellet East Kent Goldings hops @ 6.1% AA (15 min.)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer in the mash
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil (20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.)
1/4 tsp. Wyeast yeast nutrient (15 min.)
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm (in fermenter for gluten reduction)
1 packet Mangrove Jack's MI5 Empire Ale Yeast
8 liters mash water
7.7 liters of sparge water

The beer is expected to have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 13.A Dark Mild
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.8 gallons)
  • Original Gravity: 1.037 SG estimated (1.042 SG actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.027 SG estimated (1.035 SG actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.009 SG estimated (1.003 SG actual)
  • IBUs: 20
  • ABV: 3.8% estimated (5.1% actual)
  • SRM: 21.5
  • Fermenter used: McCoy
  • Bottling wand used: Stainless #2
  • Carbonation method:  1 Coopers carbonation drop per bottle
Mash schedule:
  • 15 minute Mash-in at 102F
  • 20 minute Protein Rest at 120F
  • 15 minute Saccharification Rest at 150F
  • 55 minute Saccharification Rest at 158F
  • 20 minute Sparge at 168F

The Protein Rest is something I've added since using the PicoBrew Zymatic and Brewie+.  In my experience, beers brewed in the all-in-one electric systems have had a tendency to develop chill haze.  Adding this rest seems to help the enzymes break up Beta Glucan and get me clearer brews.

Boil schedule:
  • 90 minutes: No additions
  • 60 minutes: East Kent Goldings
  • 20 minutes: Brewtan B
  • 15 minutes: Yeast nutrient, Irish Moss, and EKG pellet
Fermentation plan:
  • Chill to 68F or less
  • Pitch yeast
  • Hold within the 62-72F optimum range of the yeast for days 1-4 of fermentation
  • Raise temp to 72F until fermentation finishes
  • Add gelatin finings and cold crash until clear
Once fermentation is finished, the plan is to bottle the beer using 3 small Brewer's Best carbonation tablets (low carbonation) and to allow it to condition at ambient basement temperatures until carbonated.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

07/06/2019:  I decided to manually measure the water going into this batch to ensure that it's accurately loaded into the machine.  This took a little more effort, but allowed me to be sure I had the amounts right rather than relying on the Brewie's frequently-inaccurate sensors.  I loaded 8 liters in the mash and 7.7 in the sparge.  I had an extra pellet of East Kent Goldings when I'd finished measuring everything, and I decided to add this (it weighed 0.03 ounces) to the 15-minute addition to give a hint of EKG flavor and possibly aroma... rather than tossing out the pellet.

The beer finished above both volume and gravity.  Gravity came out at 1.042 SG vs. 1.037 SG expected.  Volume came out at 2.8 gallons instead of the 2.5 gallons expected.  Normally I would dilute the beer to hit my desired target, but the fermenter was pretty full with 2.8 gallons, so I decided to leave it high.  It's only 4 points above the high-end for the style in the BJCP guidelines, not enough that it's likely to be obvious.  The ground water is warm this time of year, so it took the Brewie a while to get the temperature down to 76F.  I'll need to use my temperature control system to get this down low enough and hold it there for the recipe. My plan will be to set the temp to 64F and hold it there until the yeast is nearly finished, then ramp the temperature up gradually to 72F.

Fermenter volume, before yeast pitching

  About 4-5 hours after the yeast was pitched, gravity in the fermenter began to drop from 1.043 to 1.042.  It's about 14 hours in as I write this, and gravity is down to 1.036 SG, which represents about 18% attenuation and an ABV around 1%.  I think it's safe to say at this point that the yeast is healthy and beginning to get to work.

About 22 hours after the yeast was pitched, the gravity had dropped to 1.023 SG. That's about 39.6% attenuation and 2.68% ABV.

07/11/2019:  The gravity seemed to stall at 1.020 SG, so I added a small drop of glucoamylase, swirled the fermenter, and raised the temperature to 71F.  Today the gravity is down to 1.014 SG and may still be dropping.

07/12/2019:  The gravity has dropped to 1.011 SG.

07/13/2019:  The gravity has dropped to 1.010 SG.

07/14/2019:  The gravity has dropped to 1.009 SG and the temperature is holding at 69F.

07/18/2019:  The gravity has continued dropping. It currently registers 1.005 SG.  I'm concerned that the fermentation has already gone past the style's lower limit and could drop low enough to take the beer totally out of style.

07/20/2019:  Gravity has registered 1.005 SG or 1.006 SG since somewhere around July 18.  It's showing no indication of going below 1.0005 so far.  If this holds another day, I'll bottle it and see how it tastes some time in August.  Around 12:30pm, I mistook this fermenter for another one containing a beer I'd intended to flavor with oak and Bourbon, and dropped medium toast oak chips soaked in Bourbon into it.  Rather than try to fish out the strainer full of oak chips, I've decided to leave them in and make this a "barrel aged" beer, too.

07/25/2019:  A sample of the beer was removed for tasting. There was a touch of barrel-aged flavor to it, but not as much as I'm looking for, so I'm going to give it a few more days.

07/28/2019:  Gravity is now registering 1.003 SG, which puts the beer at 5.1% ABV and 92.6% apparent attenuation. The glucoamylase, tiny amount that it was, seems to have severely over-attenuated the beer.  A taste of it yesterday showed a touch of barrel aged flavor and a thin body.

08/03/2019:  The beer was bottled today, using a Coopers carbonation drop per bottle.