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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.

Homebrew updates

I haven’t posted about homebrewing in a little while and I just wanted to give some updates. So far this year I have brewed 15 batches of beer for a total of 75 gallons. It’s crazy to think that I still have  125 gallons to go in order to meet my state allowed maximum. I’m still drinking some of the beer that I brewed during the summer. I have a Belgian IPA on tap right now along with my Pumpkin Ale. I’ll get a recipe up for my Belgian IPA shortly.

The pumpkin is pretty good and it is received some rave review from my friends. I want to dial back the spices a bit and give it a touch more body. I’ll probably end up rebrewing this one before the fall is over with a different yeast that doesn’t attenuate as well so that it can have a bit more body. The Belgian IPA is good, but not great. It is suffering from sitting in the keg too long. IPAs need to be drank quickly and this one sat in a keg for a month and a half. The hop freshness is wearing off and is nothing compared to what it was when it was fresher.

I recently brewed a third version of an IPA I have been working on. I changed up the yeast and the hops, but everything else is the same. I have magnum as the bittering hop and two additions of citra. The yeast change was more out of me being cheap than anything as the IPA was pitched on a yeast cake. I recently kegged, what I am calling, an American Bitter. It uses American malt and hops, but a bitter grain bill profile and an English yeast. It came in at about 4% and initial tasting has this one being drinkable in decent amounts. I’ll get a recipe up on here once I’ve had a chance to really test it out and make sure it meets my internal standards.

On the equipment front I bought 2 new kegs from Keg Connection. With shipping they came in at $78, you really can’t beat that. I also scored a deal from Northern Brewer for buy one get one Better Bottles. That brings me up to 4 Better Bottles and one glass carboy. I’m hoping to do a number of lagers this winter once the basement cools down and I should have no problem filling all of the carboys up. I haven’t ordered much in way of ingredients recently but I did get a bag of grain at the beginning of October from Midwest Supplies for $32. I had a coupon that took away shipping and then some. I can’t get grain for less than $45-$50 around my house so this was a good deal.

I have plenty of ideas that I want to try out in the coming months. I’ve also had the hankering to do a sour beer as well as a barrel aged beer since I just found out they sell used 5 gallon whiskey barrels. I’m going to hold off on the sour beer idea until it warms up and the barrel is a temporary dream. What I really want, and have wanted for awhile, is a fermentation chamber. I would love to make one myself and have it be able to hold two Better Bottles and two kegs. Time and budget will see if that idea comes to fruition. I’m going to start posting more homebrew updates as it’s an area of the site that I have really been slacking on. I generally try to post every even day, and I’m thinking that every third even day will be devoted to homebrew. Anyone else up to anything in the homebrew world?

Dry hopping = bad bottling

When I bottled my Dry Hopped Dead Guy Ale last week I ran into a problem. Bottling was almost a failure. Let me start off with the fact that this way my first dry hopped beer that didn’t have the hop leaves contained in a bag. Needless to say there were a lot of hop leaves floating around in the carboy. I didn’t think that this was going to be a problem, but my auto-siphon was continually getting clogged wit the leaves.

This clogging had two negative effects. The first was that it took forever to transfer from the carboy to the bottling bucket. The second was that it introduced a lot of air/bubbles into the line from the auto-siphon to the bottling bucket. Air is great when beer is just starting it’s fermentation, but not so good when it is finished. In fact, it is downright bad to have that much air introduced into the beer. The beer did turn out pretty tasty (at least what I tasted from the bottling bucket) but we will have to wait a few week for it to carbonate to see how it really turned out.

Next time I think about dry hopping I am going to be getting a stainless steel sleeve that hops the flowers and also fits perfectly into a carboy. It was a fun experiment and hopefully the results will reflect the fun.

Tripel update #3

The Tripel has come along nicely. Since the last update, the beer has finished fermenting full and is now sitting at 9% ABV. I am very pleased with that result. While the efficiency was terrible, you almost expect that in a big beer. As I said before I wish I would of made a session beer out of the excess sugars.

It is still sitting in the carboy waiting to be bottled. My only problem right now is having enough bottles. I refuse to buy bottles as they are expensive and the shipping is usually pretty bad. It also depresses me to think of all of the new beers I could of tried if I would of just bought a few six-packs. I might of considered buying them if there was a homebrew store in Lubbock, but that is not the case. The Dubbel got most of my collection of bottles becasue it finished first, but I am slowing adding back to the collection. Hopefully by next weekend I will have collected enough to bottle.

On a side note I tired one of the Dubbels’ and it wasn’t terrible. The carbonation is still lacking, but the taste is right there. With proper carbonation I think it could be an excellent Dubbel.

Belgian Dubbel Brew Day

08-22-03Last Saturday around the time of this post I had a chance to brew my Belgian Dubbel. The wife went to see the Time Travelers Wife, which gave me a few hours of time to brew. The whole idea behind the beer was to save some money on yeast and have another Belgian style beer on-hand since I’m really digging Belgian beers right now, so is the wife. I ordered from Austin Homebrew Supply again and followed the ingredients that I had originally set-out on using. I didn’t order a half pound of wheat malt from them becasue I already had a pound on hand. One problem, they shorted me a half pound of Belgian Pale malt. Crap.

08-22-02I decided to go on with brewing anyway and get that half pound reimbursed at another time. I threw all of the grain into the mash tun and heated my strike water to 165ºF. Being that I roughly had 6.5 lbs of grain and wanted to keep a water to grain ratio of 1.25 quarts per pound the 2 gallons of water reached that temperature very quickly. I then let it all sit there for an hour and again, it only dropped 2ºF from 152ºF to 150ºF in that hour. I’m really happy with my new mash tun.

On my last brew, I had a terrible efficiency, so I wanted to fix that up a bit. I collected my first runnings and threw it back on top of the grain and collected it again. My thinking was that the water was still hot and I could grab some extra sugar.  I heated up another two gallons of water to 180ºF for the second and third runnings. On both I let them sit in the mash tun for 10 minutes. By the end I had collected 3.5 gallons of wort for the boil.

08-22-04I did my 60 minute boil using .5 oz of Styrian Goldings hops and 1 oz of Saaz hops for 15 minutes. I also threw in some Irish Moss to try and help clarity. Why I didn’t do this for the Tripel is still a good question. I cooled down the wort and pitched it on top of the yeast cake from the Tripel as that is now in a carboy.

I was shooting for a gravity of 1.062 but actually got 1.053. It was better than the Tripel but still pretty poor. Only 65% or so. I’m not sure if the problem is coming my mash, the water, or 08-22-01how Austin Homebrew Supply is crushing the grain. I’m inclined to lean towards the latter after talking to some people my the local homebrew club. Maybe new brew I will borrow on of their grain mills.

This brew marks my first experience with Belgian candy sugar as well. I used a dark variety of it. I was a bit concerned about scorching, but during the wait time with the second and third runnings I dumped all of it (1/2 lb) into the boil kettle and stirred like a madman. The kettle was sitting on the floor under the mash tun. The liquid was still hot and it dissolved pretty quickly. No scorching at all! I’ll have a few updates on both of my beers soon.