Tag Archives: Homebrewing

Homebrewing Update

It’s been some time since my last post on this site. At the time of my last post I had just returned from vacation and jumped right back into a promotion at work which has kept me very busy. While I haven’t been posting a ton (like nothing at all in a month and a half) on this site, I’ve been very actively homebrewing. I thought that I would leave some notes below on my activities before getting back to beer reviews later this week.

Whiskey Barrel

My buddy and I split the cost of a whiskey barrel several months ago and we have produced a very nice Rye IPA and Belgian Tripel from it. The Rye IPA has passed its peak freshness in my eyes but the Tripel is firing on all cylinders. I expect that beer to age nicely and be around for some time. Currently to barrel has a Robust Porter in it (recipe coming soon) that hits some nice notes from the first tasting. It’s been in the barrel a little longer than what I would have liked and has become over-oaked as a result. I added some fresh beer to it a few weeks ago and that seems to have rounded it out nicely. I hope to bottle it this weekend. Going into the whiskey barrel will be a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that has been fermenting strong for three weeks now. I don’t know how it is doing it, but there are still bubbles coming out of the airlocks.

Kegs

The kegged portion of the Rye IPA is in one of my kegs and the other one has a Fall Session Ale. It’s a nice beer that comes in at 4% ABV, but has a ton of flavor that makes it drink like a higher percentage beer. I have a keg of the Barrel Aged Tripel waiting to go on tap once the Rye kicks. I need to replace the O-rings on one of my empty kegs along with a new poppet valve.

Fermentation

All of my fermenters are currently full, which is not something that usually happens for me. Three of them are taken up by the Belgian Dark Strong Ale which will be put into the barrel this weekend. Another fermenter has an American Hoppy Wheat Ale in it that is hopped with a generous amount of Citra, but stays at 4.5% or so ABV. My only glass carboy has three gallons of the fresh Robust Porter that didn’t fit into the barrel. I am toying with the idea of fermenting a few gallons of cider and mixing the two before kegging but I have to let that idea rest for a bit. I also just got two new fermenters in the mail today thanks to Northern Brewer’s buy one get on free sale from last week.

Brewing List

I have a number of beers in my mind that I want to brew pretty soon. The first thing that I need to knockout is a Pumpkin Ale. The one that I brewed last year really hit the mark for me and I am only going to be making slight adjustments for this years batch. I also have a Winter Warmer in my mind that needs to be brewed in short order. Finally I have a bunch of NZ hops on hand so I want to make an over the top IPA and Pale Ale, but those may have to hold off a bit as I want to make sure that I can drink them fresh and I don’t have the keg space to put them in right now.

Reviews will be back later this week and I plan on posting more homebrewing articles as well as I have a lot going on right now with it.

Pumpkin Ale Version 2 Tasting Notes

I made a commitment to start posting more about my homebrewing. I noticed that I post a fair number of recipes, but I never review them and explain future changes that I would make. I’m going to start making a better effort to do this and I figured I should review my Pumpkin Ale while I still have some left.

My pumpkin beer pours a nice clear dark amber color and has a thin white head that fades with time. The nose smells like pumpkin pie with a balanced dose of spices and some pumpkin meat.

The taste is pretty close to what I was shooting for. There is a good malt flavor with some hints of bread and graham cracker. The pumpkin pie spices come in and help clean up the beer. I really liked the aftertaste on this one. After all of the major flavor components have a chance to sit for a bit, they meld nicely.

This beer turned out exactly like I wanted it to with a few minor exceptions. The clove was a bit stronger than the other spices, so I will dial that one back a bit. I did think the spices were in balance with the beer though. This was not one of those overly spiced pumpkin beers. I want to add a bit more body to it as well. The oats didn’t give it as much silky texture as I would have liked. I’ll probably increase the mash temperature to help get some longer sugars out of it and as a result, more body. The mix of crystal malts worked nicely and I wouldn’t change a thing there. I might take a look at giving it some more bread character to better simulate the crust of a pumpkin pie. I would consider adding a touch of biscuit, brown, or carabrown malt depend on what I had on hand. I’m pretty happy with this recipe overall and I think I’m 90% there as far as how I want it to be.

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?

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.