Thursday, March 19, 2009

Confidential to Phil

Step 1- Pour yourself a brew
Step 2- Rinse bottle with hot water
Step 3- PBW and rinse a day or two before bottling
Step 4- Star san right before bottling
Step 5- Weep at the beautiful head on your brews

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Gallon Christmas Barleywine

Lager season is over, and it's time to start busting into some serious ale brewing. I'm excited about this, partly because the whole temperature control thing about lagers is a little stressful, and partly because I did some good stuff last year that I want to improve on, and some stuff I want to try out new. I'm going to try a few different incarnations of my rye beer that I did last year. I feel like that was a really good first effort, and could turn into a sort of always on tap haus beer type of thing. I'd like to redden the color a little, and see what sort of interesting things I can do with it, while still letting the rye drive the flavor.

But first on the docket was to do a barleywine. I used a White Labs ale yeast most of last year, and while it did some good beers, it also pooped out on the last few, which led to some tremendously over carbonated stouts, and some spectacular Brown Ale bottle bombs. I decided to use Wyeast 1056 American Ale to do a few right off the bat, and since I didn't have much carboy space, I decided to do a one gallon batch, and start repitching the yeast cake. I haven't done a barleywine before, partly due to the smallness of my MLT, so a one gallon was perfect. I would only need to mash a few pounds of grain, so I could make it as thin of a mash as I wanted. Here it is:

One Gallon Christmas Barleywine-

2 Row Pale Malt (organic)- 3 lbs
Crystal 60- 4 ounces

Cascade- .5 ounces- 90 minutes
Cascade- .5 ounces- Knockout

Wyeast 1056 American Ale- Pitched straight from the smack pack

152- infusion

Gravity Target/Actual

The general idea behind this was to do a pretty big, super hoppy American style Barleywine, ferment it in a one gallon jug, decant it to two separate growlers after the primary fermentation, and then bottle in a few months. I'm thinking I'll bottle it in some Duvel bottles, as they are such a heavy gauge, and will easily hold the pressure if the carbonation gets too much in the coming months. I'll let it sit til Christmas, and then hand it out to family and friends.

The gravity came out low because I had not really done a one gallon batch in the stockpot I used, so it was a little difficult to know how long I could boil to get the evaporation that I was looking for. I collecting two gallons, and boiling for almost two hours, and ended up with a little over one gallon. I probably could have gone a little longer, since my last hop addition was going to be at knockout, and then I could have topped up the fermenter if I needed any volume. Brew and learn, I guess. It should still be real interesting as I boiled it pretty hot for so long. There was little in the way of character malts, so most of the color will come from the caramelized sugars. The Cascades should explode in aroma when these get poured. I was literally able to take it from knockout to pitching temps in 8 minutes, so the aroma addition will be real fresh.

Note to self: anytime you do a really big beer in a one gallon jug, add a blow off tube. The initial fermentation was positively volcanic. Awesome, but messy. It was pumping out some fantastic Cascade aromas too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Darkish American Lager No. 2

Every brewer hears about how if you do the same beer with two different yeast, you end up with two completely different beers. I had never done that before, but my last lager of the season gave me the perfect opportunity.

The first version of this was made a month ago with an American Pilsner yeast strain. I did my smoke beer two weeks ago with a Bavarian strain. The American strain is sort of geared toward accentuating hoppiness. The hallmark of a Bavarian Lager is the malts, so this was set up perfectly.

Darkish American Lager No. 2-

German Pilsner Malt- 5 lbs
Vienna Malt- 3 lbs
Crystal 60- 2.5 oz
Cara Vienna- 4.375 oz
Cara Hell- 9.125 oz
Black Patent- 1/2 oz

Nugget- 1 oz- 60 minutes
Vanguard- 1 oz- 8 minutes

Wyeast Bavarian Lager 2206- Yeast cake from the Rauchbier

152 infusion/168 decoction mashout

Gravity target/actual-

I didn't have access to a computer for this beer, so I only sort of remembered what I had done the first time. The malts ended up being close, and the hops slightly closer, but there were some definite changes. The malts, especially the character malts were more geared toward using us what little was left of some stuff that's been sitting around for a while. The Nugget hops are pretty high in alpha acids, and with the slightly higher amounts, the bitterness of this beer are going to really pop. Much more bitter than I usually make.

The brewday went really well, after last time's gas issues. I ended up watching parts of several soccer matches while brewing this one. I was up high on my gravity, which I pin to better mash efficiency. I calculated my numbers based on 75%, but I was probably closer to 80%. Pitching to the yeast cake made it take right off, to the point that I'm going to rack it this weekend. I had a small sample fermenting in a test tube in the kitchen to keep an eye on gravity progress, and I'm thinking it should be ready to rack as soon as this weekend. It smelled very bready. Outside temperatures are starting to get warmer, and I'm anxious to get it to the lagering phase before the weather gets in to the 50's every day.

Up next ale season 2009 kicks off. I hadn't really been thinking much about ales recently, so I'm going to try to make some improvements to some of last years recipes, but there will be some completely new ones too. I'm going to start it off with a one gallon batch as a starter for an update/redo of my rye beer, which was one of my tastier efforts last spring.