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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.

Belgian Tripel Brew Day

08-08-01Yesterday I finally got to brew my Belgian Triple. I still need to think of a good name for it and I am taking suggestions. I recieved all of my ingredients from Austin Homebrew on Wednesday and quickly discovered that I had a few problems. The first was that the Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale yeast was warm to hot. The summers here in Texas get scorching and the trip from Austin to Lubbock is a long hot one. I did order an ice pack, but that too was warm by the time it got here. The second was that Tettnanger and Saaz came in 2-3% less than what I was anticipating. I modified the recipe a bit to get similar IBUs out of the brew. I also change a few of the times in the mash and hopping schedule.

08-08-02Friday morning, around 9:30 or so, I smacked the pack to get the yeast woken up. I didn’t plan on actually starting the brew till 4:00 in the afternoon so that gave it plenty of time to puff up. The smack pack never really puffed up much past the first 2 hours. You can see in the picture to the left that it didn’t to much. I was a bit concerned but decided that it was too late to change anything.

I mashed my grains (12 lbs Belgian Pils, .5 lbs Belgian Pale, and .5 lbs unmalted wheat) for 90 minutes at 152ºF. The strike water temperature came in at 165ºF. After the 90 minutes I took the temperature again just to see how good my new mashtun held temps. The theomerter read 150ºF! I was pretty pleased what that result. I was acutally expecting it to drop much more than that.

I collected about 2.5 gallons of water from my orginal 4 gallons. I added another 3 gallons of water that came in at 170ºF. I collected my second runnings in the main boil pot and about a gallon of third runnings in a secondary pot. The point of this is to add it to the main pot once some of it boils away. I only have a 5 gallon pot, so trying to get the most out of it is tough. This is the method I have been using and it has worked. It also allows me to get the most out of the grains that I can.

08-08-07

08-08-06I boiled each pot for 30 minutes and then combined them. I also added 1 oz. of the Tettnanger at this time. I continued the boil for another 30 minutes and added .5 oz of Saaz hops. 15 minutes later I added another .5 oz of Saaz and 5 minutes after that I added a BrewVint Yeast Fuel. Finished out the boil for another 10 minutes and started the cooling process. 90 minute total boil. When all was said and done I had collected just under 4 gallons of wort, I was shooting for 3.5 gallons, and had a gravity of 1.074.

I was pretty happy with that, but it fell short of the gravity I wanted. Part of that was due to the increased wort volume and I think Beer Tools Pro overestimated the amount of sugar I would be able to get. I didn’t add anything to bring the gravity up to where I wanted it becasue I wasn’t sure about the health of the yeast. I pitched the yeast closed it all up and went over to a friends. I came back 4 hours later and the airlock was 08-08-04bubbling away. Success! The beer isn’t going to be as strong as I had intended but that’s ok. This is my first ever big beer and I am happy with the results thus far. If I would of done some more thinking and planning I would of tried to make a session beer with whatever sugars were left in the grain bed. Something to consider next time.

The Tripel should be in the primary for a week and the secondary for another week. Then it is bottling time. My apartment stays at a pretty consitent 75ºF so it should be just fine. And finally my new brewing partner enjoying all of the new smells. If you click the read more link after this you can see some more pictures from the brew day. (more…)

07-31-01

Belgian Tripel Recipe

07-31-01Now that I am finally established in Texas I can get back to homebrewing again. It has been a long time since I brewed the SB Birthday Beer. Does the date of that post really go all the way back to Feburary. That sucks. I’ve been really digging Belgian beers for the past few months and have been coming up with ideas in my head about what all I need to do to make it as good as it can be. So I came up with the following recipe:

  • 12 lbs Belgian Pils
  • .5 lbs Belgian Pale
  • .5 lbs Wheat malt
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 120 mins)
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 90 mins)
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 60 mins)
  • .25 0z Tettnanger (4.5% at 30 mins)
  • .5 oz Saaz (5.0% at 10 mins)
  • Yeast: WLP530 (Abbey Ale) or another Belgian Strong if unavialable

I plan on mashing the grains at 152 degrees for 90 minutes to try and get as much sugar out of them as I can. I hope to collect a total of 5 gallons of wort for boil when all is said and done. I then want to boil for two hours and bring down the level of wort to around 3.5 gallons. I haven’t brewed here before and I am almost 3,000 ft. higher in elevation so I don’t know if the boil time will need adjusting.

I will ferment in the primary for a week, switch to a secondary for another week, and then bottle and contition for 2-3 weeks. I hope to have a nice estery beer that comes in between 9.5-9.7% abv. My SG goal is going to be 1.090, maybe a bit higher or lower depending on my effiency.

My hop choices came down to English (Fuggles and Goldings) or the German hops I picked. Saaz hops has a history of being a bit more fruity and I want those esters to shine. With such a long boil I wanted to strech out the primary hops and split them up into four small additions. It might add a bit of complexity but will make it not overpowering. I am still considering just a single addition at the hour mark, but I still can’t make up my mind. The final IBUs should come in at about 28 IBUs. I’m going to ferment on the upper edge of the recommended temperature at 75 degrees or so.

Is there anything I missed or any other considerations I should look at before brewing this bad boy up. I’m hoping to make a go at it this weekend or next depending on how fast the ingredients ship and how fast I can build my mash tun.

2 gallons of badness

As I’ve noted I got my start to homebrewing with Mr. Beer. That got old pretty quick as all of the beers had the same after taste and there wasn’t a ton of useful things you could do with Mr. Beer. I’ve seen people make a ton of different “styles” with Mr. Beer, and I don’t know how they turned out, but to me it seemed like a weak attempt at homebrewing.

So one day during the summer, I decided to upgrade everything and start formulating my own recipies a bit more. I went down to the homebrew shop and bought most of the basic brewing equipment, including two 2 gallon buckets. I talked to the guy at the store and told him I wanted to make a simple American Lager. He loaded me up with yeast, hops, speciality grains, and 4 pounds of dry malt extract (DME). This all for a 2 gallon batch.

I didn’t really have a good sense of what I was doing, but I went for it anyway. I now know better. 4 pounds of DME for 2 gallons of beer is way, way, way too much. I’ll explain later. I did the normal procedure, let it ferment in my basement for 4 weeks, and then bottled it.

A week or so went by for carboniation and then I tried it. The stuff was terrible. The beer was so unbelievely full of alachol that the hyrdometer couldn’t give a reading. There was just too much sugar for such a small batch. Usually, I tend to use about 7-8 pounds of DME for a typical 5 gallon extract brew. I had half of the amount of that for less than half of the total liquid. The flavor was a strong carmel and the smell was just aweful. I do have a bit of the stuff laying around just to see if I could get a real ABV reading on it one of these days. When I do, I will let you know.

The point of this is, understand what you are getting into. Don’t solely rely on other peoples opinions when brewing, do what works for you. I didn’t do enough research and listened to someone who didn’t have as good of an idea of homebrewing as I thought they did. My result was an undrinkable beer. The only positive thing I took away from this was that I had good sanitation and learned some technique.