Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brew 6- Big Brew

I am exhausted. Yesterday I completed my most ambitious brew to date: I finished 4 different ales in one night.

After tasting our basic Pale Ale as an all-grain, I am still not that happy with the flavor profile. It is better, and I do like it, but it is too flowery and although not as sweet as our extract brew, still a bit too sweet. I was wondering what the following would do:
  • Change the boil times of the flavor/aroma hops
  • Use a different flavor/aroma hop
  • Use a different yeast
The problem is that I don't have enough faith in my brewing technique to compare brews done 2 months apart, if I mash in at a different temperature, mess something up etc., the taste difference could be a combination of factors. I wanted to isolate the above areas and focus on them.

So, I decide to do 4 brews at once. This is where having a large mash/sparge tun really pays off. I beefed up the malt bill to 8.5 gallons of yield, brewed it all up into 11.5 gallons of wort, then split the wort into 1 kettle of 7.5 gallons, and 1 of 4 gallons and started the boil.

10 minutes into the boil, one of my propane tanks ran out! I got another tank and proceeded with the boil, with one kettle 20 minutes behind the other in total boil time. For both batches, I used Cascade as the bittering hop, 1.25 ounces for the large batch, .75 for the small one. After that..

Large BatchSmall Batch
20 Min remaining.5 oz of Cascade.4 oz of Fuggle
10 Min Remaining.5 oz of Cascade.3 oz of Fuggle
0 Min .2 oz of Fuggle

Both batches have 34 units of bitterness, within the range of an American Ale, and they are both more bitter than our last recipe which should offset the sweetness. Both had an original gravity of 1.060, the upper limit of an American Ale.

For the large batch, I fermented with a California Ale yeast from a starter 5 hours old (it had just started bubbling) in a 6.5 gal carboy.

The small batch was split 3 ways:
1 Gal of liquid London Ale Yeast
1 Gal of Safeale US-56 Dry Yeast, hydrated 2 hours before pitching
1 Gal of Coopers Dry Ale Yeast, hydrated 2 hours before pitching

I would really like to have tried some other ale yeasts too, but the bill was getting higher and higher, so I decided to economize.

I squeezed the fermenting ale into my warm-box, next to the conditioning porter, and went to bed at 1am. It was exhausting but I really, really had a good time. I was so busy that I didn't even sit down except for about 15 minutes during the mash rest.

Within 8 hours of pitching the dry yeast was bubbling, and within 12 hours the liquid was also bubbling. In about 5 days I will rack them all to secondary, and by this time next month I should be able to compare the results!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tasting: Altenmunster Winterbier Dopplebock

I picked this beer up mainly for the bottle, it will be great to keep yeast in, and it was on sale for 2.99. But the beer was was the real deal, a great dopplebock.

Tasting: Chilled to ~55 degrees (f) from a pint glass.

Appearance: 3/3 deep mahogany with faintly tan head.
Head: 2/3 medium head, light tan in color, thins quickly.
Aroma: 3/3 sweet malty smell, hints of currants, toasty.
Flavor: 3/3 sweet, full flavor rich, malty.
Mouth feel: 3/3 Very smooth medium body with light carbonation and pleasant aftertaste of malt with hints of raisins and currants.
Overall: 3/3 A very good beer, dark but not heavy, an excellent beer for the cold nights of winter.
Buzz: 3/3 At 7.2% alcohol, a winter warmer indeed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tasting: Harpoon Dark

Another beer from the beer-of-the-month club. A tasty dark beer that is easy to drink.

Tasting: Chilled to ~55 degrees (f) from a pint glass.

Appearance: 3/3 deep mahogany with tan head.
Head: 2/3 medium head, light tan in color.
Aroma: 3/3 light aroma of malt and hops.
Flavor: 3/3 mild flavor of malt and subtle hops.
Mouth feel: 3/3 Smooth medium-light body with medium carbonation and light sweetness.
Overall: 3/3 A good beer, dark but not heavy.
Buzz: 2/3 Mild buzz after 1 glass.

Observations on Orlando Beer

I traveled to Orlando for Convergence last week with my brewing/business partner Brad. We had a pretty good time drinking our way up and down International Drive near the convention center.

There is a microbrewery in Orlando but we didn't have a car so we couldn't get to it. We saw 2 Florida beers: Landshark Lager was the most abundant, Brad had one and said it wasn't bad. Yuengling was another Florida beer, it was decent.

I was really hoping to have some of the east-coast beers I have heard of like Dogfish or Victory that aren't available in my area, but since we were trapped in Tourist Central our selection was very limited. Even the bars/restaurants that had lots of beers carried only the big labels. It is amazing that with 15 beers on tap and 15 in a bottle the selection is still mainly the big 3 and their various permutations of cheap lagers!

One night we went to a Microsoft-sponsored party at Universal Citywalk, and the selection was also limited there. The exception was that Red Stripe was available at the Bob Marley cafe, and Amstel Light at the New Orleans-Themed restaurant. Other than that it was Bud, Bud Light and Heineken.

We spent a couple nights at a British pub drinking and throwing darts. Their selection included one "British Ale" and Boddingtons but I think their lines were dirty or something. It just didn't taste right.

Several restaurants had Guiness on tap, and did a good job of pouring it too. One place had a neon Bass sign in the window but didn't actually carry it, another had it on tap and it was good.

My expectations weren't too high considering we were in the vacation playground of mainstream America, but it is a shame that restaurants aren't more bold with their beer offerings.

Tasting: Cooper's Best Extra Stout

This came in my beer of the month club, it was the standout of the bunch. An interesting note is that it came in a 12.7 oz bottle that filled up my glass. Another beer I had recently came in a 11.3 oz bottle. I noticed it because the glass wasn't close to full after pouring.

Tasting: Chilled to ~55 degrees (f) from a pint glass.

Appearance: 3/3 Thick black, opaque.
Head: 3/3 nice head of fine bubbles the color of espresso foam.
Aroma: 3/3 , Rich, malty smell with hints of coffee and chocolate.
Flavor: 3/3 Mildly sweet, malty offset by a burnt bitterness, very good and balanced.
Mouth feel: 3/3 Rich and full on the palette, smooth with a tangy, smoky aftertaste.
Overall: 3/3 This beer is wonderful. Balanced, rich and smooth.
Buzz: 3/3 Medium buzz after 1 glass.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tasting: Fuller's ESB

Tasting: Chilled to ~55 degrees (f) from a pint glass.

Appearance: 3/3 nice amber color, very clear with tiny bubbles that continue to rise.
Head: 2/3 nice head that lasts and leaves fine lace down the side of the glass.
Aroma: 3/3 , Rich, hoppy smell, with subtle hints of dried fruit and spice.
Flavor: 3/3 Sharp but pleasant hops with rich malt.
Mouth feel: 3/3 Very smooth with medium carbonation and subtle sweetness that lingers with the hops.
Overall: 3/3 This beer is wonderful. Balanced, rich hoppy and smooth.
Buzz: 3/3 Mild buzz after 1 glass.

Brew #5: Disaster Porter - Update

I racked the Disaster Porter to secondary on Friday. The gravity is now 1.012 which is a little thin, but still within the range. I tasted it and was pleased to find that much of the bitterness has faded, leading me to think I didn't mess up the temperature on the top end, but that the recipe had WAY too much bitterness so I did some more research.

The recipe I found on the web called for 1.5 oz of Galena Hops at 30 minutes, 1 oz of Cascades at 30 min and 1 oz of Tettnager at 5 minutes resulting in over 57 Bittering Units, which is outside the range for a Porter. I found other references to that recipe where they boiled the Galena for 60 minutes which would result in an IBU of 60. That is high for an IPA, and double what the average Porter would have! For my brew, I adjusted the recipe to reduce the IBU to 55, the top end of the range for a porter according to Beer Smith, but in hindsight still way too high.

The original recipe was an extract recipe but it didn't have 60 minutes of boil time and did things in a weird order and called for sparging of the steeping grains, which I had never seen before, so I converted it to an all-grain, did a normal 60 minute boil, and reduced the hops.

I now think that the recipe had the right ingredients, just the wrong quantities. I found other Black Butter Clone recipes that have a similar grain bill, and the same hops, just in lesser quantities, with IBUs; between 27 and 40.

My prediction is that the beer will need to be aged for a month or two longer than usual, and will taste more hoppy than a porter should, but it will be drinkable. I will pay closer attention to the numbers next time I find a recipe online, and I will redo this recipe sometime in the future with the following recipe, IBU should be 30, OG should be 1.060:

10.5 lbs 2-row malt
8 oz chocolate malt
4 oz black patent malt
8 oz honey malt
4 oz Roasted Barley
4 oz rice hulls for sparging

0.75 oz Galena Hops, pellets (60 min)
0.5 oz Cascade Hops, whole (30 min)
1 oz Tettnager hops, pellets (2 min)

Mash at 155 for 30 minutes.