AG #09 – Binary Star: Galaxy, Citra

I went on holiday last August, fully intending to brew the moment I got back, I’d even produced a brew schedule for the rest of the year. As it turned out, the holiday cost a bit more than we budgeted for, which meant that I had to make some hard decisions during the rest of the year; should I brew, or go to the grand final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, for instance. Then there was the small matter of #projectcider. I still have some unfermented must and while I’ve given back the majority of the fermenters I borrowed, both of my fermenters still have cider (in various states) in them.

My wife has made her thoughts on #projectcider well known, especially the lack of brewing beer while its all been fermenting. So a couple of weeks back, I popped into Cutlacks on Mill Road and bought another fermenter, then placed an order with The Malt Miller for some grain. I didn’t buy any hops, as I still have a freezer full, as I bought a load before we went on holiday last year. I was all set to brew again, so decided to brew the second thing that I was going to brew after coming back from holiday last year. Here’s the recipe:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Crisp Lager Malt 3.5 EBC 3269 grams 87%
Thomas Fawcett Pale Wheat Malt 4.9 EBC 326 grams 8.7%
Crisp Cara Gold 15 EBC 161 grams 4.3%
  5 EBC 3756 grams  
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBUs IBU Ratio
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 90 7 15 30%
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 15 8 8 15%
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% 15 12 12 25%
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 10 11 8 15%
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% 5 20 8 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2012 Galaxy Whole 13.9% days 12 to 17 54g
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% days 12 to 17 38g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 21 litres
Mash 90 mins at 68°C 105 mins at 68°C
Original gravity 1.040 1.040 (10 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.007 1.006
Attenuation 81% 85%
ABV 4.3% 4.46%
GU/BU ratio 1.25 1.25*
Yeast: NBS West Coast Style Ale
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C, with two days at 2°C in kitchen fridge before bottling

Unlike all the other Binary Star beers I’ve brewed, this one has three malts in it, rather than just two. I decided to try this after reading Phil Lowry’s homebrew article in BEER magazine, where he chatted to Mark Tranter. Darkstar Hophead is one of my favourite beers, so if it’s creator offers a recipe with a similar malt bill, I’d be a fool not to try it.

I know I said after my last brew that I’d take a look at proper water treatment going forward. But as it had been ten months, I just wanted to brew without the complication of an extra new step. I’ll take a look at proper water treatment on the next brew…

The brew pretty much went without a hitch, it did take slightly longer than it could have and I didn’t get to bed until 03:30 or something daft. I also went with a much higher mash temperature, 68°C, than I normally go for, 65°C, I’m not sure why I did that if I’m being honest.

The main difference with this brew, was the use of oak husks in the mash, to help avoid the dreaded stuck mash. They worked an absolute treat and I had absolutely no issues with run off, from either of the two batches. I’ll definitely be adding some of these to every brew going forward.

The only other thing that I changed, was the yeast I used. Rather than the ever reliable US-05, I decided to use one of The Malt Miller‘s own packaged yeasts, just to see what the difference would be. It seemed slower to start, with only a partial krausen after 32 hours and slower to chop down to terminal gravity. Normally I’d have dry hopped for five days and be ready to bottle, in the time it took to reach terminal gravity.

Update: 23/04/14
As the yeast had finally chomped its way through the available sugars and hit terminal gravity, it was time to dry hop. Due to the tardiness of the yeast and the fact that I was brewing another beer this evening and needed the fermenter, I was forced to use a spare keg, that was waiting for another batch of #projectcider. As I’ll only be dry hopping for five days and the cider hasn’t quite finished, there shouldn’t be any contention for the keg.

Normally I whizz up the whole hops in the food processor and add them to the fermenter. Since I was using the keg, I decided to try blending the whole hops in the Vitamix, to see if that would help release anymore hop oils into the beer. So I added the remaining Galaxy hops and enough Citra to leave half a packet for another brew to the blender and three hundred millilitres of boiled water.

To be honest, I doubt I do this again, especially if I then have to put the resulting mush into a keg. The first issue was that the hops wouldn’t really blend, they just absorbed the water and stuck in the jug, rather than dropping into the blades. Secondly, getting the hops out of the blender jug and into the keg was nigh on impossible, without two pairs of hands.

Somehow I managed it, but I’m sure that there’s a bit of paper in there, and some of the paint from the plastic place mat thing I ended up using too. I’d been planning on trying this at some point, now that I’ve done it, I’ll probably just start buying pellets, as they’ll be rather easier to use…

Update: 28/04/14
After having dry hops in for the last five days, it was time to bottle. Normally I dry hop in the brew fridge and crash cool to 2°C for the last two days. As I have another beer in there fermenting, I ended up putting the keg into one of the kitchen fridges (yes, we have two) on Friday evening and setting it to 2°C.

After rummaging around in the loft for ages on Saturday to get a load of bottles down for #projectcider, I ended up tidying up that bit of the loft, so hopefully it will be easier to get bottles down in future. I selected two different types of bottle, one for this brew and another for the other batch that’s still fermenting. My OCD means I really have to have an entire brew put into the same style of bottle (the 330ml are for giving away to friends etc).

It turns out that I prepared the exact number of bottles required, which was a bit of a worry, as I normally have one or two spare just incase I’ve miscalculated. there was a bit left over, which looked rather opaque when held up to the light. I initially put this down to chill haze, but when I look at it again this morning, I’ll claim it’s hop haze from the dry hopping. South Cambridgeshire murky, if you like…

Taste wise, the bit left over was interesting. I can confirm that Galaxy and Citra go quite nicely together and the bitterness was just what I was after. As for the malt flavours, I’m not sure, it’s hard to tell this early and without any carbonation. I think I’ll only be sure when it’s all drunk.

* I’m not sure that the GU/BU ration is correct due to the two litres of liquor back to get to the correct gravity…

Future Brews


I’m always thinking about what I would like to brew next…

I’m off on holiday at the end of the week, and I’m really looking forward to the break. My holiday reading is mainly beer based, Principles of Brewing Science, Farmhouse Ales, Brewing with Wheat, Yeast and Designing Great Beers; although I have a load of classic kids stories to read too, well, to the kids. I’m also taking a couple of my bikes and am really looking forward to the beers at the end of what’s looking like, some rather steep rides.

I’ve written down what I’d like to brew when I get back, it’s not set in stone yet, but will be something along the lines of:

  • Voyager: Evin’s Triple Stout
  • Binary Star: Galaxy, Citra
  • Coronal Mass Ejection: Kohatu, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin
  • Voyager: No. 3 Export (1868), Wm. Younger
  • Binary Star: Nelson Sauvin, Citra
  • Nebula: Amarillo

Three are completely new beers to me and the other three are re-brews of existing recipes, but with different hops. Having said that, one of the things I want to do during the holiday, is tweak the grain bills for both Binary Star and Coronal Mass Ejection, so while they may look similar in the glass, they may be quite different in the mash tun. However they turn out though, I’m really looking forward to using some of the new season Kiwi hops, especially the Nelson Sauvin.

I’ve never brewed a stout before, so I’ve decided to go in at the deep end and have a bash at Evin’s Triple Stout recipe that was featured in Phil Lowry’s BEER magazine homebrewing column. I’m a massive fan of Evin’s beer, so I’m really, really looking forward to brewing this one.

In a similar vein, I’m also going to have a crack at brewing a historical recipe, namely William Younger’s No. 3 Export from 1868. The recipe is from Ron Pattinson’s excellent blog and while it’s not the No. 3 I remember drinking as a student in Aberdeen, it should be a nice introduction to both historical recipes and Double IPAs Scotch Ale.

Finally, I would like to brew a Wit beer and as I still have some Amarillo left over, I’m going to single hop it with some of those. I’m still undecided if it’s going to be a straight up Blanche de Louvain homage, or if it’ll take some inspiration from the US, only time will tell. It’s one of the reasons why I’m taking Brewing with Wheat with me, even though I’ve nearly finished reading it.

I’m really looking forward to getting back from holiday and getting on with brewing some of these beers.

AG #03: Binary Star – Galaxy Amarillo

I’ve not brewed for about twenty months, mainly as we were having an extension built, but then mainly due to being lax. After finally getting the brew fridge up and running the other week, which I’d been using as an excuse not to brew, it was time to finally pull the proverbial finger out and get a brew on. Fitting a brew in round a young family can be challenging though, as I’m not allowed to spend a whole weekend day on one of my hobbies and ignore the family.

It wasn’t so much of an issue when I was doing the extract/partial mash brews, as they could be all done and dusted in an evening. The initial plan was to take a Friday afternoon off work and brew into the night, although I just don’t have enough spare holiday this year to be doing that. This didn’t leave many options, but one that was suggested on Jims Homebrew Kit Forum, was to split the brew over two days; getting the mash done in the evening, then doing the boil early the following morning.

So that’s what I did at the weekend; mashed in on the Saturday evening while my wife was out and then got up at five o’clock on the Sunday morning and completed the boil and clean up. In fact, I actually started on Friday, as I needed to give all the containers a really good clean, they were quite manky from having sat unused in the shed. So I picked up some VWP at lunchtime and spent the evening up to my elbows with a cloth and shower head getting all the grime off.

Here’s the recipe I was working to, I was aiming for something pale and very hoppy, with an OG of 1040 and 50 IBUs. I wanted to keep the grist simple, as I had done in my first two all grain attempts, there’s plenty of time to experiment with other grains once I’ve got back into the swing of things. I have a load of hops that need used up, they were all bought a couple of months before I stopped brewing, as I thought I could fit in a few more brews before the extension was started, but I didn’t manage to fit any in. Wanting to use up as many as I can in each brew is the main reason why there is 150g of hops in the brew. The other 50g of Amarillo will go in the next brew, along with 100g of Simcoe, my fifth and sixth all grain brews will feature even more as I try to use them all up.

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Pale Malt 5 EBC 3586 grams 92%
CaraPils 4 EBC 312 grams 8%
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBU Ratio
2011 Galaxy Whole 15% 90 9 40%
2011 Galaxy Whole 15% 20 6 15%
2010 Amarillo Whole 10.7% 15 11 15%
2011 Galaxy Whole 15% 10 10 15%
2011 Galaxy Whole 15% 5 18 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2011 Galaxy Whole 15% 80°C steep 30
2010 Amarillo Whole 15% 80°C steep 20
2011 Galaxy Whole 15% days 6 to 11 27
2010 Amarillo Whole 10.7% days 6 to 11 21
  Expected Actual
Volume 19 litres 12.3 litres
Mash 90 mins at 66°C 90 mins at 66.9°C
Original gravity 1.040 1.060
Terminal gravity 1.007 1.011
ABV 4.9% 7.1%
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C

I batch sparge, as while I have the kit to do fly sparging, the mash tun isn’t quite square enough and I’d rather not have to worry about getting water flow rates equalised when my mash tun tap is so crap. I don’t mind having to use a few hundred grams more grain to offset the loss in efficiency, as it makes life alot easier. Having said that, I didn’t actually do it properly on my first two brews, as I mashed in with both the mash liquor and the first batch top up liquor. Having read this article on batch sparging on Jim’s Beer Kit, I did it properly this time and used the right amount of water for the ninety minute mash.

I was aiming to mash at 66°C, but let the strike temperature of the water get a few points of a degree too high. I also didn’t recheck the temperature of the grain once it had gone into the preheated mash tun, so this all resulted in the temperature creeping up to 66.9°C. I wasn’t too bothered to be honest, as having a bit of extra body would theoretically help to carry the bitterness. When the ninety minutes was up, the mash had only lost about a degree and a half, which wasn’t too bad, although I’d still like to insulate the mash tun lid with some two part epoxy foam.

The first batch sparge went without incident. In a change from my previous brews, I made sure that I recirculated a decent amount of wort to enable the grain bed to settle and act like a filter. In the past I’ve just used a couple of 500ml jugs worth and felt that the wort in the boiler was a bit on the murky side. So I dug out an old 2.2 Litre jug from my old darkroom kit, that I had last used about nine years ago. After recirculating three jugs worth, the wort was much, much clearer and I let it run into the boiler. I was after 12.3 litre from each batch sparge and as you can see from the photos, I pretty much hit that on the button with the first batch.

For some reason, after filling up the mash tun with the second lot of sparge water, I left it to sit for about twenty minutes before starting the run off. This is what I did on the first two brews, but for the life of me I can’t remember why; I must have read it online somewhere. In a similar fashion to the first batch, I decided to recirculate three jugs of wort, before draining into the boiler. The first jug was cloudy, but the second was really, really clear and in hindsight, I should have just let it run into the boiler at that point.

To cut a long story short, I managed to get a stuck mash, twice. I managed to free up the grain bed with a bit of stirring, I just hope that hasn’t released too many off flavours from the grain, but I had no way of underletting to try and refloat the mash, so it was the only option. After recirculating another couple of jugs, I started to let it run into the boiler, but the mash stuck again with only about half of the required volume transferred. This time there was no recovering it and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get more than a few drops out of the tap. It was at this point I discovered that I’d also dislodged the copper grain filter, so I knew the game was up.

I was after 24 litres in the boiler, I got about 19, so it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it did mean the wort was much stronger than anticipated. After tweaking the recipe in BeerEngine to account for the new OG and volume, the hop weights had only changed by a gram or two for the same IBUs, so I decided to stick with the original weights. I cleaned up as best I could and stumbled off to bed at around one o’clock.

When the alarm went off four hours later at five o’clock, I won’t lie, it was very tempting to just switch it off and turn over, but I didn’t. I got up, dressed and took the boiler out to the shed, where it was plugged in and on to full whack within ten minutes. After making myself a strong coffee, I got all the hops out of the freezer and started to get everything else I need out to the shed. It was at this point I realised that I’d not fitted the hop strainer to the boiler before the batch sparges, which meant having to plunge a rubber glove covered arm into 80°C wort to get it wedged into place.

I made a conscious decision to boil at a higher power than I have in the past. I’ve seen loads of photos of other peoples homebrew days and they all seem to have more hot break than I do, so I boiled harder to ensure I’d get a good hot break for a change. This had the side effect of increasing the expected boil off though and all the steam produced, also made the shed ceiling drip with liquid. I think I’m going to have to build some sort of extractor hood to fit over the top of the boiler, as it can’t be good for the shed to have that much hot moisture inside it.

Other than that, the boil was pretty uneventful, the hop additions all went in on time, as did half a protofloc tablet. I let the wort cool down to 80°C and then added a big load of hops to steep for twenty minutes to half an hour before getting the chiller on. I had a slight issue with the jubilee clips holding the rubber tubing to the chiller letting a tiny amount of water drip out and into the boiler. I need a better way of securing the tubing to the chiller, I’ll need to see if I can get some sort of John Guest fitting, or other compression fitting that I can secure onto the chiller ends.

Once the wort hit 23°C, I drained the boiler into the fermentation bucked, sprinkled a packed of Safale US-05 onto and gave it a quick mix with the mash paddle. Then the lid went on, the air lock was fitted and it was placed into the brew fridge, with the TC-10 set to 19°C with bounds of ±1°C. I then quickly emptied all the containers, quickly piled everything up and went back to join the family.

I was expecting to clean all the kit thoroughly in the evening after the kids had gone to bed, but I managed to fit it in while dinner was cooking. Over all, if I add up all the time taken, the split brew and clean up took nearly ten hours, my first two all grain attempts were both done and dusted in under eight. I know the stuck mashes didn’t help, but I think that I always slow down at the end and don’t get things cleaned up and put away as fast as I could, so there’s plenty of room to make this kind of split brew day go a lot faster.

Even though I know I’ve not brewed for a while and that my first five to ten all grain brews were all going to be about learning, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. I’m pretty sure that I caused the stuck mash and forgetting things like fitting the hop strainer to the boiler, which I’ve done before, is annoying to say the least. Mostly I’m annoyed at how little volume I ended up with, I was shooting for 19 litres, I ended up with a touch over 12. So I’m going to have to do some calculations to work out boil off and losses to hops etc and feed that back into the calculations for the next brew.

Having said that I’m disappointed, it’s really great to have finally brewed again after so long. The wort I tasted from the sample jar after taking a gravity reading, tasted really sweet and quite full bodied. While it was also really bitter, it wasn’t harsh or astringent like my previous attempts, so I’m hopeful the campden tablets have done their thing and that the hop combination will result in a really flavourful beer.

I’ll be updating this post with more details on the beer, like terminal gravity and theoretical ABV etc. There’ll also be more photos of things like the dry hopping and bottling and maybe even some tasting notes. In the meantime, here’s the photos from the brew day(s):

Update: 21/03/12
I popped out to the shed this morning and took a gravity reading. There was little point in correcting for temperature, as 0.0005 of degree doesn’t really have much impact on the actual reading of 1.020. So I’m toying with dry hopping it this evening, as I’m expecting it to finish higher than anticipated due to the higher mash temperature.

Update: 23/03/12
I should really have taken a gravity reading and dry hopped last night when I got home form work, but I was too tired. So once the family was all up and fed, I popped out to the shed to take the gravity reading and see if the beer was ready for dry hopping. Just like Thursday morning, the temperature correction wasn’t really worth worrying about, so I’ll take it as reading 1.012, it’s getting there.

I mixed up a fresh batch of StarSan, mainly as I didn’t want to start on the peracetic until the next brew. After spraying the food processor bowl, I weighed out the remaining Galaxy hops, and enough of the Amarillo to leave 50g for the next brew. Then after whizzing them up for a few minutes, it was back out to the shed to sprinkle them into the fermenting wort.

I’ll give them two to three days at 19°C, before crashing the temperature down to to just 2°C for another couple of days before bottling. The idea being to precipitate out as much of the dry hop, yeast and trub as possible. This would mean bottling on Thursday night after work however and as Thursday is my wife’s birthday, I think I’ll probably be waiting till Friday…

Update: 27/03/12
I popped out to the shed this morning before work, as I needed to fiddle with the brew fridge. First I gave the dry hops a gentle stir, which released loads of luscious aromas, can’t wait to actually try this brew. Then I switched the thermostat down to 2°C, I’ll find out when I get home if that’s actually worked or not. Finally I popped up into my loft and got down a box of bottles, which need to be soaked to remove their labels.

For some reason I thought that this Thursday was my wife’s birthday, it’s not, it’s next Thursday. I also forgot that it’s Easter weekend, so I have Friday off work. Due to this mind muddle, I’ll be bottling on Friday, when I have more free time, hence why I waited until this morning to turn the temperature on the fridge down.

Update: 30/03/12
The last update saw the brew fridge thermostat being set to 2°C, unfortunately when I got home that evening, the low level alarm was flashing. I couldn’t remember which setting was the one to adjust it and I couldn’t find the instructions (turns out they were in my bedside table), just as well it was really cold that night. The following morning, I changed the low level alarm setting from 16°C to 0°C and left the fridge to it.

As the weather was due to be really cold, I decided to take the bucket out of the fridge on the Thursday night. Mainly so that any disturbed trub would have time to settle out over night. I also soaked twenty three bottles in hot water, so that I could take their labels off. This worked wonderfully well, even with the Oakham Green Devil and Moor labels, which are quite hard to get off. This meant that on Friday I just needed to clean the new bucket and syphon tubing I’d bought and crack on with the bottling.

So on Friday morning, after I’d got back from the gym, I made up a priming solution of spray malt and water, cleaned the bucket and tubing, put the bottles through the dishwasher and headed out to the shed to crack on with it. The temperature corrected specific gravity was 1.011, which is pretty much exactly the 81% attenuation you’d expect from US-05. This means a rough ABV of around 7.1%, which is ever so slightly higher than the 4.9% that I was aiming for originally!

The filling went without hitch, although I should have filled all twenty 500ml bottles, before filling the three 660ml ones, as I was left with two and a half empty bottles. However, upon trying to put caps on the 660ml bottles, I managed to snap off the top of one and crack the other two. I didn’t realise that this type of 660ml bottle doesn’t have the required step at the bottom of the neck to engage the capper. So whatever you do, don’t use the new style Moor bottles, which are the same one’s that Oakham’s Green Devil comes in, without a bench capper.

In the end I managed to fill all twenty 500ml bottles and there was enough beer left in the 660ml bottles that I could have had at least another one, if not two 500ml bottles. So I’m a bit disappointed, but you live and learn. If I’d used the old style Moor bottles, the same ones that Punk IPA comes in, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

The beer is currently sitting in the brew fridge, which has been set back to 19°C. It’ll be in there for a week or two while it conditions. I’m looking forward to trying a bottle, as the taste out of the sample jar was quite nice. I’m not however, looking forward to sticking twenty odd labels on…

Update: 07/04/12
I stuck the labels on all the bottles yesterday, they’re now looking pretty cool. Definitely the best looking batch of beer I’ve made so far. While I won’t be opening any for another week, I’ve put a load into the kitchen fridge, as it gives me something to look at when I open the door. Nothing worse than an empty shelf which should be full of beer…

Update: 30/04/12
And then it was gone! Without even realising it, I drank the last bottle yesterday evening. I was quite sad when I discovered that I didn’t in fact, have another couple of bottle stashed in the cupboard upstairs. For an accident, it was a really tasty beer. Yes, it had lots of issues, not enough carbonation, a bit too cloudy, no head retention, but it had bags of flavour, a great bitterness and the best nose of any beer I’ve made.

I have to say that the combination of Galaxy and Amarillo hops worked really well, especially with the Galaxy to the fore. I’m definitely going to brew with Galaxy again, maybe even in a single hop beer, so I can full understand the flavour.