Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stonebridge Ale Part 2

One of the owners of the company I work for has a cabin in the waythehellfargone north woods of Wisconsin. Like, once you get to Green Bay, you drive north for 3 more hours. Last year on the way up, I started fiddling with the radio dial. I was trying to see if I could get any Russian radio stations in.

We go up there once a year in a sort of corporate retreat. I say sort of, because most corporate retreats probably do not involove all of the following: fireworks, canoeing, a strip club, Playstation 3, and copious amounts of alcholic beverages.

I'm not really the power bender kind of guy, so I'm more about the canoeing and making sure we always have a roaring fire. This year though, will be extra nice, as I will be drinking my own beer. That was what I brewed on Sunday.

The recipe was about as simple as you can get. The idea was to make something that had a nice balanced taste, somewhat hoppy flavored, but with enough malt to make me feel like I'd eaten something nutritious if that's all I happen to consume that day.

The recipe-
2 row pale ale- 8 pounds
Victory malt- 1 pound

Hallertauer New Zealand- 1 oz- 60 minutes
Mt Hood- 1/2 oz- 10 minutes
Mt Hood- 1/4 oz- Knockout

White Labs East Coast Ale- pitched directly on to the yeast cake from last weekends Rye beer

153/Mashout- 2 water infusions

This is different simplified Pale Ale to what I brewed a while back. The idea is to come up with a nice base recipe for Pale Ales that I can refine. I think the hops schedule was pretty close to what I did with the Rupert Lager, and that turned out to be the best tasting of my lagers, so it should be yummy. I may try a different yeast next time, but I do like the White Labs one that I used. Having pitched it on to the yeast cake, I had bubbling in the airlock 20 minutes after I was done, and by the 24 hour mark, it had settled into the conditioning phase already. The temperature was a little high for fermentation, but hopefully that will just add a little estery complexity to the brew. The room I do the fermenting in was already warm, so I think the yeast were pretty acclimated to the conditions.

The brewing itself was the smoothest brew day I have had yet. The lautering had no sticking problems, although my starting volume was a little high, so the gravity ended up a couple of points low. I'll be making a dipstick for my kettle that should help me avoid that problem again. All in all a very good brew day.

We're not going until the middle of July, so this one will have over six full weeks to come into it's own. Then I shall drink it. All of it.

Thanks to the following...er...people-
Ted- for convincing me to only use one pound of Victory. Two would have just been weird.
Mike Jones- for stopping by right as the boil was starting. It was looking like a potential boilover, but ol' Mike Jones made sure that didn't happen.
Kerry- for getting me some lunch.
Bill McGill- for eating all the barley I spilled on the kitchen floor. If that's not a helpful brew dog, I don't know what is.

Last but not least- some people say brewing is an expensive hobby. I say nuts to that. Here's an example. I had a couple of beers with one of my coworkers Friday on State Street. After tip, my tab was $28 for four beers ($7 per beer). The grain for this batch cost $13.29 at Brew and Grow. The hops cost a total of $3.75 (purchased before the rise in prices). I won't count the yeast cost, as I've used it for 2 other batches already. Total bill- $17.04, or a whopping 34 cents per beer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rye Ale

This past Saturday saw the latest stop of the Simple Recipes 08 tour. This one was a Rye Ale.

The recipe:

2 row pale ale- 6 pounds
Rye malt- 3 pounds

Sterling- 1 oz.- 60 minutes
Vanguard- 1/2 oz.- 15 minutes
Vanguard- 1/2 oz.- 5 minutes

White Labs East Coast Ale- This was yeast that I had saved after I transferred my Stonebridge Ale. I made a 600 ml starter Friday night, and pitched the whole thing into finished wort.

125/152/170- all hot water infusions

I would say that for the most part, I've gotten most of the technical aspects of brewing all grain down pat. I don't even need a checklist to remember all the crap I need to do. The exception to this is my lautering process. My stuck sparge issues have been well documented on this blog, and this weekend was no exception. The rye malt would explain some of it, as it has no husk, but I still ended up having to start the process over again. One of the main points about the lautering process is to try and not expose the grain to oxygen to prevent off flavors. I'd imagine I'll have a few on this beer. I think the problem boils down to how quickly I'm draining. The general rule is no more than 1 quart per minute, or you compact the grain bed. I'm pretty sure that's what happened here. Next time, I'll have to sit there with a measuring cup and a stopwatch while I'm vorlaufing.

I'm still excited to see how this one turns out. I had Founders Red Rye Ale a few times recently at Handlebar, and it became one of my favorites right out of the gate. This isn't a clone per se, as it's just pale malt and rye (it should end up yellow as opposed to red), but that was the inspiration behind using the rye anyway. I'm also interested to see what comes of the Sterling and Vanguard hops, as these are, I believe, somewhat new varieties.

As far as other recent beers go, I'm totally fired up about the Saison. The temperature of the ferment never really got above 72, but I pitched a good amount of yeast, and that coupled with the lower sacch rest temperature made it end up at about 85% attenuation, which was basically how I planned it. The sample I tried when I racked it was very tasty. It was kind of peppery/spicy with no hint of sourness from the Sauer Malt. I cannot wait to get that bottled and drinkable. I kind of got the feeling that I had my first good recipe that I can really start refining.


Monday, May 5, 2008


I have spoken before of my admiration for the brewing ways of the Belgians. Saturday, I brewed up a version of probably one of the most diverse styles of beer, the Saison.

The Saison is a type of Belgian farmhouse ale. They were originally brewed by farm owners to give to the field hands throughout the summer as a refreshing sort of beer. In the last hundred years, they've morphed into something a bit stronger, but a fun one to brew. There are style guidelines when brewing for competitions, but it's generally accepted that no one really knows what the quintessential Saison is. Since every town had their own version, and even sometimes multiple versions at that, there aren't many rules regarding ingredients and brewing techniques.

My version:

Belgian Pilsner Malt- 9 pounds
Sauer malt- 1 pound

Hallertauer New Zealand (I think it's an organic hop)- .75 oz- 60 minutes
Kent Goldings- 1 oz.- 15 minutes

Wyeast- 1762 Belgian Abbey Ale II- Pitched the yeast cake from the 1 gallon Golden Strong Ale I brewed two weeks ago

131/148/165-decoction mash out

The brew day went pretty good. I had another stuck sparge, but it wasn't too devastating. More of a pain than anything. I changed my mash tun around a little so that grain wouldn't get under the false bottom. I think I achieved that, but a new problem immerged. During the sparge process, the grist basically turned into one huge dough ball. I'm not sure if that was a result of not enough stirring or what, but not a big problem. I managed to basically nail every rest temp and gravity target that I had set for myself, so it is truly the beer I was aiming for (my brewhouse efficiency came in somewhere around 80%)

The recipe itself should make for an interesting beer. I added the acidulated malt to give it a slightly sour flavor, without getting into dealing with any lambic type bacteria. The yeast cake that I pitched in turned out to be on the very expressive side (the sample of my Golden Strong Ale I tasted had a strong hint of banana with a peppery aftertaste). I'm hoping that those things coupled with the lower mash temperature to help dry it out a little will make for a refreshing complex taste.