Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mashing and Kegging

We did our first mash about a week ago. The ladybrewer wanted to try the whole process as she's felt like she hasn't done much actual brewing since we started. Which is true. I was hogging all the kitchen work and she helped mainly on the bottling and drinking end. She also picked up a "mini-mash" kit, which meant a couple small pieces of equipment, and a couple hours additional time. The partial mash still uses mostly extract, but you get a more complex flavor by mashing a few pounds of barley. The recipe is the MoreBeer Malty Brown Ale (Kit300), and smells great during the brewing.

We also took a few minutes out of our holiday schedule of drinking beer and watching Ghostbusters to bottle the dunkelweizen. The stats have been updated in that post. The color looks right, and the apple cider smell is there. I estimated the ABV at about 5.4%, but I think I may be wrong, since I've been doing the FG measurement after adding the primer, which should add about 40ppg. With 4 oz of sugar, that works out to 10 gravity points, so maybe it's closer to a 6.7%.

The blackberry stout has aged very well. The finish is no longer very chalky and the blackberry is a little more pronounced. We've stepped up our operation a bit with an additional primary fermenter so we have a couple batches going at once, and Santa dropped off a keg and CO2 system for a lucky brewer. =)

Batch #5
Malty Brown Ale (mini-mash kit), East Coast Ale Yeast (White Labs P008?)
--7 lbs Ultralight Malt Extract (liquid)
--1.75 lbs 2-Row malt
--1 lb Munich malt
--8 oz Caravienne malt
--8 oz Aromatic malt
--8 oz Carapils malt
--8 oz Crystal 60L malt
--4 oz Chocolate malt
--1 oz Northern Brewer 6.8%AA (60min)
--1 oz Kent Goldings 4.9%AA (10min)
--1 oz Kent Goldings 4.9%AA (1min)
--1 tsp gypsum in mash water
--1 Whirlfloc tablet in wort
OG: 1.070
FG: 1.024
ABV: ~6.0%
Calc. IBUs: 21.1

Update: Stuck at 1.026 SG. Transferred to secondary, added champagne yeast and 3g fermaid K nutrient on 1/15/07. After 2 days, SG has still not dropped.

Next up: St Patrick's Day brews - irish stout and a red.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Blackberry Stout tasting.
It was brewing day here on Matadero, so I've been busy. I really wanted to do a recipe that was entirely my own, and decided to try making a Bavarian dunkelweizen. If you've never had the style, I can strongly recommend both the Franziskaner and Weihenstephaner. It's a german wheat beer with more emphasis on the malt that I think makes it more drinkable than your average hefeweizen. My numbers missed the style parameters by a few gravity points and several IBU, but I'm optimistic. I also decided to try using filtered (Brita...took forever, buy at the store next time) water instead of tap. It was also my first time using a dry malt extract, which has a hot break that liquid extract doesn't. I picked out two caramel malts for color and sweetness, as well as a roasted malt to push the color closer to a dunkel. Hop selection was a bit limited, so I list below both what I used and what I wrote into the recipe. This difference in hops accounts for the added bitterness.

Batch #4
Dunkelweizen (extract), Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (White Labs P300)
--3 lbs Wheat Malt Extract (dry)
--4 lbs Ultralight Malt Extract (liquid)
--8 oz Crystal 40L
--8 oz Crystal 80L
--2 oz Roasted Barley [4oz Rostmalz]*
--1 oz Palisade 9.7%AA (60min) [1 oz Tettnang 3-6%AA, 60min]*
--1 oz Santium 5.8%AA (5min) [1 oz Fuggles 3.5-5.5%AA, 5min]*
OG: 1.057
FG: 1.016 after 21 days in primary. No secondary.
ABV: ~5.4%
Calc. IBUs: 29.4 [14.6]*

[]* Intended recipe, substitutions made based on availability.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blackberry Stout

Update 12/02/07: We opened up some of the conditioned blackberry stout this weekend, and the verdict is in: it's... OK, I guess. One of my friends thought it had a bitter finish, which I didn't taste. The lady says it's too dry in the finish, which I agree with. In the end, I think it's a good balance between hop and blackberry, and it's the taste I was aiming for, but that the gypsum gave it a little more hardness than needed.
Update 11/19/07: Bottled. FG and ABV below. The beer is not quite as purple anymore, and tastes pretty good. I'm looking forward to the finished product. Yield was a little low at 4 gallons.

A brief foray into the world of fruit beers. This recipe was intended to be a mix of two Irish stout extract recipes I found on, but I settled for the MoreBeer kit as a starting point, since the differences were not too great. I had intended to use 6 lbs dark malt extract and 1/2 lb each of 80L and 120L. I was going to give Fuggles hops a try, as well. I decided to pasteurize the puree, despite claims of it being asceptic, and hope that most of the pulp will settle out before I rack to the secondary fermenter. The calculated IBUs are probably a bit off due to the gravity of my boil at different times, but hey, it's...

Batch #3
Blackberry Stout (tweaked extract kit), Irish Ale Yeast (White Labs)
--7 lbs Ultralight Malt Extract
--1.5 tsp gypsum*
--1 lb Crystal 40L
--8 oz Black Roasted
--4 oz Black Patent
--4 oz Chocolate Malt
--1 oz Northern Brewer 6.8%AA (60min)
--1 oz Cascade (1min)
--3.1 lbs Seedless Blackberry Puree (~10min)*
OG: 1.051-1.052
FG: 1.016
ABV: 4.7%
Calc. IBUs: 28.6

*My additions, the rest (except for the yeast) is MoreBeer's Stout (Kit175). The gypsum (CaSO4) acts to improve clarity and accentuate the hop bitterness. If you've never used it, do like I did: check your water report and figure out the ppm of sulfate to expect after the addition. Too much has toilet-related consequences. Thanks again, John Palmer...really, read his book!

Much like the porter, the baby beer spit up through the airlock. I really need a blow-off rig for the fermenter.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Take 20 or so down, pass them around...still lots of bottles of beer in the closet

The first of the porters that I tried tasted absolutely awful. Somewhere between pennies and ash. In hopes that it was maybe just a bad bottle, I tried another the next night. Not bad. This one actually tasted like a porter, so I had no problem bringing a dozen or so to a party last night. Everyone had positive things to say about it, which is good. I think I got another dud, but it may have been the food I was eating. One guy said it smelled like burning tires but tasted pretty good. I think that's fair, although I'm pretty sure that's just what hops and black patent smell like.

In the end, I'm happy with it but might tweak the recipe some if I make it again...push it a little closer to a stout and rack to a secondary fermenter, perhaps.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Water Dog, bottled

After three weeks in the fermenter (no secondary), the porter is bottled. While sanitizing, I soaked the filter on the starter for my siphon and improvised with a paper towel instead. As with the red, I put aside the first bottle for posterity's sake. We managed just over 4 gallons this time. I attribute the lower volume to spilling some on the floor during the transfer to the fermenter, as well as leaving behind the bulk of the trub. Most of the beer found its way in to 10oz Pop Shoppe "Stubby" bottles we found at an antique store in San Juan Bautista, CA, and the rest into pint or larger bottles.

I highly recommend a bottle tree for those that don't have a lot of space.

Numbers updated in the recipe post. FG and ABV: 1.012, and ~5%, respectively.

Smells good, I'll let you know how it tastes in a couple weeks. We have big plans for the next brew. It's time to make our own recipe. No mashing yet, though.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Hardest Part

It's been a week since I brewed the porter, and the primary fermentation, after a vigorous start that spat some foam and yeast out the airlock, has settled and my krauesen is subsiding. I would rack to a secondary but for the lack of additional carboys. In the meantime, I added a couple recipe links to the sidebar.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Water Dog

The specialty malts smelled fantastic while steeping and I suspect it's going to a be a long few weeks waiting for this brew. The Fonz had his first real workout today and did a pretty good job, cooling the hot wort in about 20 minutes.

Batch #2
Porter (extract kit), American Ale Yeast (Wyeast)
--7 lbs Ultralight Malt Extract
--4 oz Maltodextrin
--1 lb Crystal 40L
--8 oz Black Patent
--4 oz Chocolate
--1 oz Northern Brewer 6.8%AA (60min)
--1 oz Cascade (1min)
OG: 1.050-1.051 (temp corrected from 1.048)
FG: 1.010-1.012
ABV: ~5%
Calc. IBUs: 28.6

Porters always remind me of a Portuguese water dog named 'Porter' and his curly mop of hair. His person was a friend of mine in high school, but I haven't seen much of either of them since then.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to build a wort chiller, Part II

I cleaned and tested the chiller today. Copper Fonzie I cooled five gallons of water mixed with half a gallon of vinegar from boiling to 80ºF in about 15 minutes. No leaks on the inlet or outlet, but the faucet hookup was having some trouble. I neglected to clamp the vinyl hose onto the nylon barbs and the force of the water pulled the hose off a couple times. That's a problem easily solved for less than a dollar tomorrow, though. Hopefully I'll be home from work in time to brew.

All told, the chiller cost more than I would have liked. Not counting the pipe bender, faucet aerator, and Teflon tape, I spent $85 to make two chillers. Subtracting the $40 I made off of the Fonz' younger brother, I saved $10. I'm canceling the time and labor costs with the DIY enjoyment factor so that I still feel like I came out ahead. The moral of the story, which applies to homebrewing in general, it seems, is: unless you like to make it yourself, it is almost always cheaper to go to the store and just buy it. That said, I'll keep brewing and will make my next chiller, too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How to build a wort chiller

After one full boil, we've decided that cooling hot wort just plain requires a chiller. End of story. Wort chillers start at about $50 for a 5 gallon batch, but cost slightly less to make yourself. The catch is, you might have to make two of them. You may have to go to a store that specializes in plumbing for some of the parts, as certain orange-themed retailers don't carry fittings for my faucet. John Palmer, my first brewing idol who is not called Arthur, wrote a fantastic book that runs the gamut from beginning to advanced understanding of brewing and includes an appendix on chillers. He has the book published here, but you should buy the paperback because it makes good reading material for the beach.

Making your own chiller is fun and easy, so long as you can find a like-minded soul to split the cost of the parts. I'll be testing mine and will post the results of its performance later this week.

The First Batch

Welcome! This blog will be dedicated to our foray into the world of homebrewed beer. For me it started when the ladyfriend and I slipped into a brew supply store a few months back and decided to give it a go. As our first attempt, we brewed an irish red ale from an extract kit. A month later and a tasty red was in our glasses. Onward and upward...

The Beer
Batch #1
Irish Red Ale (MoreBeer Kit145), English Ale Yeast (White Labs)
Fermented in primary for 2 weeks, no secondary.
OG: 1.048 (temp. corrected from 1.046)
FG: 1.010
ABV: 4.7%-5%
I lost my original notes on this one, so no recipe or calculated IBUs.

This is a good one. There's a reason the kit's a top seller. MoreBeer recommends the Irish Ale yeast, but the English Ale yeast was suggested to me by an employee at the shop and it does not disappoint.