Category Archives: Brew Day

Schwarzwald Black Lager Brew Day

I was contacted by the nice folks at Midwest Supplies a few weeks ago asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of their kits and/or doing a article or two for them. I was happy to take them up on their offer and I grabbed their Schwarzwald Black Lager kit. The beer is modeled after a traditional German Schwarzbier (German for black lager). It’s a beer style that I have always liked, but never attempted to brew.

I really like the box that this beer kit ships in. I should quickly note that this is the first partial mash beer that I have done in three or four years. The kit comes with some grain, a half gallon of liquid malt extra, hops, yeast, Sinamar color extract, and everything else that you would need to brew this beer ingredient wise. Midwest puts sticker on the side of the box to let you know what you should find in the kit as well as the expected color of the beer.

I followed the included directions to the “T” so that I could accurately review this beer kit. The grains that came with my kit did not appear to be crush so I sent them through the grain mill and filled my muslin bag with them. I heated 2 gallons of water to 155 degree and steeped the grains for a half hour. After the half hour, I removed the pot from the burned and let grains sit in the water for another ten minutes. You can see the color change that took place during that time below.

I removed the grains an put them in the box that the kit came in (a nice and easy way to dispose of your spent grains). I only made one change from the directions and added a gallon of water before adding the liquid malt extract and boiling. I did this because I didn’t want to scorch the extract and come away with a “homebrewed flavor.” After boiling and adding the hops as described in the directions I cooled the wort and added two and a half gallons of additional water. I then shook the carboy to oxygenate the wort and added the yeast. The final product looks like this.

My basement is sitting right around 57 degrees at this time of the year, which is perfect for primary fermentation. I’ll leave it in the carboy for two weeks and then transfer to another carboy that will be held at a colder temperature for eight weeks or so. As of right now the carboy is sitting with all of her brothers and sisters.

I’ll give an update to this one after I get a first tasting.

Pilsner Brew Day

I brewed my Pilsner last Saturday, just as the snow ended. The snow setting made brewing a real treat compared to the normal blustery winter brew day. The recipe for this beer was pretty simple and the grain crush went quickly. Even though it was cold out, my mash water heated up quickly. My goal was to use a high water to grain ratio at low temperatures to get as much sugar out of the grain as possible, I ended up putting four gallons of water into ten pounds of grain. This gave me a 1.6:1 quart to pound of grain ratio. Typically this ratio is closer to 1.25:1. I have been doing these higher ratios recently and I have found that my efficiency has gone up, so I’m sticking with it.

I mashed for 90 minutes hitting my target of 151 °F through the whole mash. I then added my strike water at 175°F and let the whole thing rest for another ten minutes. Once everything was completed I began my boil. I went for a 75 minute boil this time around as I collected a bit more wort than I was anticipating. I added my whole leaf Hallertau hops at 60 minutes as you can see below.

I rarely use whole leaf hops, but they look awesome in the beer. For the next 45 minutes I read my book while waiting for the next hop addition. At 15 minutes I added the Sterling hops (pellets), my wort chiller, and the Irish moss. At 10 minutes I added a yeast nutrient that I have had good success with. Come fame out I turned on the wort chiller water. At this time I also begin transferring a different lager beer from the fermentor to the keg. Doing two things at once is nice, but also hectic.

I had to switch between checking on the beer transfer and stirring the wort to help it cool more quickly. As the completed beer finished its transfer, I put the airlock back on the fermentor in order to protect the yeast cake from the air. The wort cooled down to 60 °F in about 20 minutes and I decided to put it in the fermentor. The whole leaf hops tried to clog my auto-siphon but they did not succeed. After all of the wort was in the fermentor I shook it up to make sure that the yeast mixed with the beer and to make sure that it was properly oxygenated.

My target goal of 1.053 was hit dead on. I really love hitting my goals and I am going to continue to do a looser mash and longer mash time as the success that I have had with it continues to impress. Within six hours this beer was producing bubbles in the airlock. I plan on leaving it in my basement for a month at 55 °F. From there I will keg it and lager it at colder temperatures for two to four weeks. I’ll let you know how it turns out when I transfer it over to the keg. Continue reading

Brown Porter Brew Day

This is the first Brew Day post that I have done in almost half a year. I am really trying to document my homebrewing more this year and this far I think that I have done a decent job. My Brown Porter recipe was pretty straight forward and didn’t have a complicated hopping schedule or anything else that would cause difficulty. I am getting more used to using my grain mill now, as this is the third batch of beer brewed using it, and I think that I have all of the kinks worked out.

 The image above shows that nice grain crush that my grain mill has been giving me. While I crushed the grains, the mash water was heating up on the burner outside. Once the water reached the correct temperature, I combined it with the grain in my cooler and hit 152 degrees Fahrenheit on the dot. Go me!

Pictured above this are the cracked grains pre-water. You can clearly see the darker grains, chocolate and roasted barely, that will give the beer its darker color. I then drained the first runnings out of the cooler and added the strike water. I held the strike water in the cooler for about ten minutes before draining it as well. I collected a little over six gallons total. I then boiled for an hour and followed the hopping schedule as noted in the recipe.

At 15 minutes I added the wort chiller and Irish Moss in addition to the hops. At the 10 minute mark I added some yeast nutrient as well. I boiled off a little over a half a gallon of water during the hour long boil. During the winter, the water coming into the wort chiller is super cold and this beer cooled down from 212 to 65 in about 15 minutes. During this time I transferred the IPA to a keg. I then put my new Brown Porter wort right on top of the yeast cake from the IPA. I left the hop particles at the bottom of the boil kettle and collected five gallons of beer. I did better than my expected gravity of 1.052 by getting a 1.053. It was the first time that I have ever done better than expect. I generally fall a few points below where I want to be. I think it was mostly due to the higher water to grain ratio of ~1.6 qt/lb then the normal 1.25 qt/lb. I started seeing bubbles in the airlock within two hours of this beer being put into the fermentor.

As a sidenote: I had to hook up a blow-off tube for this one because the fermentation was very active.

I will have some tasting notes up for this one as soon as it is ready to drink. The same goes for my IPA. Continue reading

Summer Blonde Ale Brew Day

I hadn’t brewed in a long time, so I was pumped to finally get a chance to brew some beer and enjoy/use my new equipment. My brew day was supposed to begin around 11:00 AM or so, but I had some chores to do so I didn’t actually get to brewing till around 3:30 PM.

There were two new pieces of equipment in use on this brew day; 7.5 gallon pot and a propane burner. The burner is such an improvement over my previous gas stove and my current electric stove. Heating of the mash and strike water took half of the time and who doesn’t love the sound of gas burning?

I began my day by smacking my smack pack of Wyeast 1318 London Ale III. Within three hours it was fully inflated and ready to go. I’ve had some trouble in the past with the smack pack not really going, but this one took off like a rocket.

I heated my mash water (~4 gallons) to 163, to give a mash temperature of 153. While the mash was going for an hour I prepared my fermenter and other equipment for sanitation. After the hour was up I used a new “method” to get the wort out of the mash tun. The reason behind this was that I was listening to a homebrewing podcast a bit ago and they talked about boosting efficiency in your mash by letting your wort run slowly out of the grain instead of letting it flow like crazy. I’ve always let it flow like crazy, so this time I only opened the valve  a bit and let a trickle. It took a lot longer, but the resulting wort gave me a 79% efficiency.

Once all of the wort was in the pot, the real fun could begin. I fired up the burner and awaited a boil. Wonderfully enough, the boil began in about 10 minutes. Have I mentioned how much I love my new burner? I was slightly worried about a boil over as I haven’t had a chance to test the temperature control on the burner yet. My worried were unnecessary as a small increase or decrease of the gas flow had an immediate impact on my boil.

From boil time to 15 minutes before flame out the brewing was pretty unexciting. With 15 minutes left to go, I placed my wort chiller into the wort to sanitize it and threw in some Irish Moss. With 10 minutes left to go I threw in a new product to me, Wyeast Yeast Nutrient. With 5 minutes to go I added the last addition of hops and at flame out I switched off the gas, started the water through the chiller, and awaited proper temperatures to be reached.

Being that it is the summer, the ground water is kind of warm and the chiller took almost a half hour to get near 70 degrees. I placed the wort into my new better bottle and threw the yeast in as well. Once completed, the better bottle, wort, and yeast were placed into my kegorator with the temperature set at 68 degrees. The is my first attempt at temperature control so we will see how that goes. I was encouraged to see bubbles with 8 hours of brewing. All in all, it was a wonderful brew day and I got the chance to play with a lot of new fun toys.

Pumpkin Ale Brew Day

10-03-01I was tempted to call this post the brew day from hell because it was the most frustrating homebrew experience that I have ever had. I’ve been planning this pumpkin ale for a long time now and I was super excited to brew it. And then the brew day came. It started like a normal brew day but I was using some new ingredients that I have never used before. The first was a pound of rice hulls. I’ve never used them becasue I have never used enough of an ingredient to be cautious about a stuck sparge. For those of you who don’t know a stuck sparge is when the grains clog the openings at the bottom of the mash tun and prevent any liquid from coming out. In essence you have a bunch of wort stuck in the grain and no good way to get it out. With the addition of the pumpkin puree, also something I’ve never used before, I decided that rice hulls were a good idea.

Taking a few suggestions online I soaked them in warm water before adding them into the mash tun with the rest of my grains and pumpkin puree. The idea is to soak them first so that they absorb water and don’t steal any water from your strike water. Simple enough. The rice hulls expanded a lot more than I had expected, but that was alright because I still had plenty of room in my mash tun. Adding the rice hulls, pumpkin puree, and the grains all at one time was a bit of a challenge and I could of used a helper. Maggie the homebrew helper puppy was too busy playing with a towel to help me out this brew day.

After adding everything together I took a temperature reading and decided where my water temperature needed to be. I wanted to mash at 152. The first problem came when I realized that the pumpkin puree takes a lot more heat to warm up than the grains do. Grains instantly change temperature, pumpkin puree is much more resistant. My mash temperature came in much lower at about 142 degrees. Another problem came when I put too much water in becasue I wasn’t sure how to account for the pumpkin puree. I actually used bungee cords to keep the top of the mash tun on and prevent any extra heat escape.

10-03-02

I mashed for 60 minutes and then opened the ball valve to find a trickle of wort coming out. Crap. There was plenty of liquid in the mash tun, just not coming out of the front. I moved the grains around a bit and it started flowing a bit more. I collected about three gallons before it stopped again. I also added the 2 pounds of brown sugar when the wort started flow more to get it to dissolve better. The wort stopped flowing and I got my trusty strainer out and put it over the boil kettle. I then took a bowl and scooped out the grain and placed them in the strainer. Any liquid that was stuck in there trickled out, but I did not squeeze the grains to avoid any tannins from coming out in there. I emptied the mash tun out and captured another half gallon or so go wort.

I could not do a second runnings becasue the grains went from the stainer to the trash. I boiled what I had and added the planned hop additions anyway so I’m expecting the IBUs to be a bit higher than I wanted. I also added the same amount of spices that I had planned I use my kitchen sink to cool down my kettle since I do not own a wort chiller (yet!). My apartment has a duel sink setup that allows the water to overflow one and go into the other. It is a great solution for me to always have cold water running and the warmer water drain off. But today of all days, the apartment complex has some plumbing issues and the sinks start backing up. Not just in my sink but the 16 other apartments in the complex. I was ready to give up.

I finally got the wort down to a respectable level, 80 degrees, and put it into the fermenter. I added two different dry yeasts that have high flocculation (fall out of suspension) and high attenuation (eat a lot of sugars) characteristics. I took my gravity reading and it came in at 1.089. The ratio of brown sugar to wort drastically increased the gravity. I’m now looking a a pumpkin beer around the 9% ABV level. Could be good, could be really bad. I also tasted the wort to see what flavors were in there and man it was wonderful. Sweet, pumpkiny, and had the correct spice balance. Hopefully it comes out alright. The day after brewing the fermenter was whistling from all of the CO2 passing though the airlock. We shall see how this beer turns out but brewing it was a pain.