AG #14 – Brown Dwarf: Amarillo, Chinook, Simcoe, Cascade

I needed to use up a load of old hops and wanted to try something new, so I decided to brew an American Brown Ale. You’d think that the amount of hops being used was way, way too much, but time has most likely not been kind to them.

As I mentioned in the write up of AG #12, my hop drawer in the freezer was full, so I needed to use up some of my old stock. After having a good rummage around, I felt that I should either use up all of the old open packets of hops or just chuck them. Since I’m not rolling in it, especially around the turn of the year, I decided to use them up.

I can’t remember exactly why I choose to brew an American Brown Ale. It might have simply been a desire to try some malts that I’ve not really used before, especially as some of them will be used in the next few brews too. Or it might just have been a desire to try something new, something that wasn’t pale and hoppy.

Not too sure of what I was doing, I decided to Ask JK what he thought of the recipe I’d concocted:

With his comments in mind, I completely redid the recipe, subbing out the Mild Ale Malt for Weyermann Vienna Malt. To get to a slightly higher original gravity, rather than using half a kilo more Vienna Malt and having some left over, I decided to use up the Weyermann Pilsner Malt that I’d had lying around for a bit.

It wasn’t just the grain bill getting a working over either, as while rummaging around in my mother-in-laws chest freezer, I came across more open packets of hops that I’d totally forgotten about. Given how old most of the hops were, and the state in which they’d been stored, I decided to use an online Hop Alpha Acid Loss in an effort to try an get a better idea of what their current alpha acid percentage (AA%) would be.

Fiddling with the timings of the hop additions and the much lower AA% values, this allowed me to use up all of my open packets of whole leaf hops and still keep the IBUs within the style guidelines (for what they’re worth). It also left enough to properly dry hop the target volume with just over 5g/L and use up all of the remaining Amarillo. I just hope that I’ve used the online calculator correctly, or this will be less of an American Brown Ale and more of a Brown IPA (PDF).

The recipe...

The other thing that JK mentioned was water treatment, so I fired him an email and he sent me back a profile to aim for. I generally use Wheeler’s Liquor Treatment Calculator, which is hosted on the Jim’s Beer Kit website, as you plug your values in, set the target values and it tells you what to add to get there. Except in this case, it didn’t tell me to add anything other than some AMS (CRS), even though you can clearly see on the Cations side that additions are required.

Mash liquor treatment...

All this meant that my Sulphate was too high and out of kilter with the Chloride. This should result in the hops being a bit too forward, when really they need to be balanced with all the malts. My knowledge of water treatment is a bit limited to say the least, so I’m not sure how I get rid of excess Sulphate for future brews. Definitely some reading up required in this area.

I’ve also found that without adding any other water treatment than the AMS (CRS), the mash efficiency suffers and while I hit target gravity in the fermenter, I was about 1¾ litres shy on volume. I know that I couldn’t, safely, get any more wort in the boiler and that losses to hops were greater than planned for, but still, it’s annoying to miss the target volume.

In another first for me though, I pitched the rinsed yeast from AG #13 into this batch. I was very relieved when checking on it the following morning, seventeen hours after pitching, to discover a healthy looking two and a half litres of krausen on top. So while it set off like the clappers, it did seem to be taking it’s time to get down to terminal gravity, so I decided to leave it an extra day before dry hopping.

Update: 03/01/15
I decided to have another go at the dry hopping technique I used last time out. So I boiled up some water and added just enough of it to aid in blitzing the dry hops with the stick blender. The beer was then transferred off the yeast and onto the dry hops, before being put back into the brew fridge.

According to the brew schedule, I wont need any US-05 for the next five brews, but I had another go at rising the yeast anyway. Good practice, even if I don’t use it. I’m not sure when I’ll bottle it, technically it should be Thursday night, but my wife is out on Friday night, so it might just be easier to do it then. Either way, I’m looking forward to trying this one.

AG #13 – Binary Star: Chinook, Citra

Sometimes the path to homebrew nirvana is simple and straightforward, other times, is a tortuous experience.

Sometimes I find it difficult to make my mind up, should I do this, or should I do that. Often, I end up chasing my tail, coming up with new idea after new idea, only to become agitated and frustrated and back where I started. Ages ago, I bought enough malt for a couple of brews, one of which was to be in the Binary Star series, the other to start the Nova series.

A lengthy gap in brewing between April and August, sort of put pay to the brew schedule that I had worked out. When I eventually harvested this years homegrown Cascade hops, there simply wasn’t any room in the freezer for them. Especially as there was also 1Kg of hops in there, that I’d kept after sending Adnams a couple of bin bags full for their Wild Hop beer. So I decided that instead of using the malts I had to hand for what they were purchased for, I needed to come up with a couple of new recipes to use up some of the hops clogging up the freezer.

So I settled on AG #13 being a slightly amped up Pulsar, single hopped with a whole bag of 2012 Citra hops that had been hanging around the freezer for ages. I wasn’t overly happy with it though and was endlessly fiddling with the recipe, to the point where I got all frustrated and decided to just brew what I’d originally planned, another Binary Star. So I asked on Twitter what everyones favorite hop to go with Citra was, as I didn’t fancy using any of my homegrown hops:

I wasn’t about to try Graeme’s suggestion of Goldings, but the multiple suggestions for Chinook really pushed my buttons. So in went a Malt Millar order for the hops and some oat husks. With all the sticky mash issues I’ve had, I’m now really reticent to brew without some of these in the mash.

I knew that I was pushing it with the lateness of the order, but orders from the Malt Millar have allways turned up the next day without fail. I knew something was up though, as I didn’t receive the usual early morning txt from DPD with my delivery slot. My order was then flagged as being unable to be delivered, due to a local event, which was news to me. As it turned out, the local event was nothing more than the complete and utter meltdown of DPD‘s Peterborough depot. I eventually received my order five business days late, which pretty much put pay to this beer being ready in time for Hogmanay.

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Crisp Lager Malt 3.5 EBC 3485 grams 87.7%
Thomas Fawcett Pale Wheat Malt 4.9 EBC 326 grams 8.2%
Crisp Cara Gold 15 EBC 161 grams 4.1%
  6 EBC 3972 grams  
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBUs IBU Ratio
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% First Wort 7 8.91 15.37
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 15 7 7.3 12.6
2013 Citra Whole 14.8% 15 13 13.56 23.38
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 10 10 7.62 13.15
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 5 19 7.96 13.74
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% 85°C steep 27 6.31 10.88
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% 85°C steep 27 6.31 10.88
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2013 Chinook Whole 14.8% dry hop 30g
2013 Citra Whole 14.8% dry hop 60g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 21 litres
Mash 90 mins at 65°C 90 mins at 64.5°C
Original gravity 1.043 (10.6 Brix) 1.044 (10.8 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.008 1.002 (4.5 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 95%
ABV 4.5% 5.4%
GU/BU ratio 1.35 1.32
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 18°C ±1°C, with two days at 2°C ±1°C before bottling

As this is the first Binary Star since I started using the Brewer’s Friend recipe builder, the values, especially for the IBUs are slightly different. Wheeler’s Beer Engine doesn’t calculate IBUs from first wort hopping, or flame out steeps. So it will be interesting to see if it’s appreciably different in terms of the upfront bitterness, or late flavour.

I’m not sure I’ve got the first wort hopping correct though, as I should have used the large 15 minute addition, instead of the bitterning addition, if that article is to be believed. It’s all new to me though, so if it doesn’t have a load of upfront bitterness, I know what I did wrong and how to correct it for next time.

Other than that, the brew went pretty smoothly, other than overshooting my mash strike temperature by twenty degrees. A slow decant from boiler to bucket and back again, brought the temperature back to where it should’ve been, at the cost of half an hours faffing. I did miss my intended 65°C mash temp, but then that thermometer is well knackered, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d hit it, or going slightly higher than it.

I also overshot my target gravity in the fermentor, so I took the opportunity to liquor back with a couple of litres of water. The gravity is still just a touch higher than planned, but that’s fine. It also means that even with losses to yeast and dry hops, I’ll have more beer to bottle at the end of the day. I really should try and work out my brewhouse efficiency one of these days, but it’s nice to plan for slightly less and then have the ability to liquor back.

Update: 17/12/14
I decided to try a slightly different approach to dry hopping this time. In the past I’ve tried with whole hop cones in stockings, blitzing them in the food processor and liquidiser and the results have always been a bit disappointing. I came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t using enough, as it was generally what was left in the packet after the rest had gone in the boiler. So in some cases, not really very much at all.

If you look at JK’s dry hopping rates, I should really having been buying more hops,rather than just using what I had left over. It just so happened that since both the Chinook and Citra had quite high alpha acid percentages, there was enough hops left over to be able to hop at a rate of 4.5g per litre, probably around the correct amount for this beer.

Update: 22/12/14
After sitting at 18°C for three days and then being chilled at 2°C for a further two days, it was time to bottle. I have high hopes for this one, as the smell streaming from the fermentor when I pulled the lid off was immense. It looks like I have a new dry hopping regime, at least until I start using pellets that is.

I made up some primings with 6g per litre of spray malt in a few hundred millilitres of water and boiled it for ten minutes. Then it was just a case of syphoning off the dry hop trub onto the priming, then into the bottles. Twenty four 330ml bottles and twenty three 500ml bottles, so a decent amount to be getting on with.

It’s just a shame it wont be ready for Hogmanay, as was planned. I may open a sneaky bottle just to check how it’s getting on though. Although I expect it will need at least another week after that before it’s open season.

AG #12 – Nova: Homegrown Cascade

With #projectcider out the way for another year, it was time to brew some beer again. I decided I needed to use up some of the homegrown hops in the freezer, so attempted my first American Pale Ale.

I’ve had this recipe ready to go for what seems like months, but finding the time to get it brewed has proved tricky. The brew schedule I’d worked up earlier in the year had me brewing something completely different for AG #12, but I decided to change it when I harvested my hops. There was simply no space in the freezer to put this years harvest, especially as there was half of last years and the year before that’s, still sitting crammed in there.

So instead of brewing what I’d originally planned, another Binary Star, I decided it was high time that I used up some of the homegrown hops, while using the malts I already had to hand to try a few different recipes. I’ve wanted to brew an American Pale Ale for ages, I felt it was the right thing to do, before attempting a proper American IPA.

I’d previous worked up five different recipes, all using last years homegrown Cascade, differing only in their malt bills. The idea being to see which one I liked the best and then move on from there. A great idea in principle, but I’d not realised that most of last years homegrown hops were frozen green. This meant that I didn’t have anywhere near enough for five brews, as you need to use five times as many green hops as you do dried, so that idea went out the window.

Around the same time, the homebrewing community on twitter started going on about Hop Stands, essentially a hop steep after flame out, generally above 80°C. Otherwise known as a flame out steep, or an 80°C steep. Kids… Always renaming stuff. The Beer Engine program that I use for building my recipes in, can’t work out the IBU’s provided by this kind of hop steep, so I looked around and found the Brewers Friend website and recipe calculator, which can calculate IBU’s from a hop steep.

So I spent a few afternoons plugging various combinations of malts and hops into the calculator until I ended up with five recipes (you only get five unless you pay to join) I was happy-ish with. I’d decided that since I had 4.7kg of Marris Otter, I’d use it in trying to make my first American Pale Ale. As this style allows for a small amount of speciality grains, I decided to use up the little CARAMUNICH I that was kicking about. I couldn’t decided if I should also use some CARAPILS or Wheat for head retention and body, but in the end decided not to.

My hop drawer in the freezer contained two bags of homegrown Cascade from 2012, so I decided those should be used up first. One bag, 66g, had been dried in the dehydrator, the other bag, 374g, had been frozen green. I decided to add the 66g bag for a full 90 minute boil to maximise extraction and then add the rest for an +80°C steep. There was to be no traditional flavour or aroma hop additions, a real step into the unknown for me.

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Thomas Fawcett Marris Otter 5 EBC 4,720 grams 96.3%
Wayermann CARAMUNICH I 90 EBC 182 grams 3.7%
  15 EBC 4902 grams  
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBUs IBU Ratio
2012 Homegrown Cascade (dried) Whole 2% First wort 66 18.57 61.1%
2012 Homegrown Cascade (green) Whole 2% 85°C steep 374 11.81 38.9%
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 18.75 litres
Mash 90 mins at 67°C 90 mins at 68°C
Original gravity 1.053 (12.9 Brix) 1.056 (13.6 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.010
Attenuation 81%
ABV 5.01%
GU/BU ratio 0.61 0.54
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 18°C ±1°C, with two days at 2°C ±1°C before bottling

My digital thermometer had been knackered a few months before in a random accident and I hadn’t got round to replacing it. I managed to borrow one from Bert, but the batteries had leaked and as I was in such a rush when I picked it up, it wasn’t cleaned up and checked if it was working. I should probably have tried it before switching on the hot liquor tank. (HLT) Luckily, it turnned out that my old digital thermometer wasn’t quite as knackered as thought, you just had to submerged the whole probe and handle and leave it for a few minutes and it’d give you a reading. Not the greatest, but serviceable.

I felt totally unprepared to brew and for some reason, I was late in getting started. It wasn’t until 20:00 that the HLT finally got switched on, so I knew it would be a pretty late finish, just as well that I’d loaded up on caffeine. Everything went pretty smoothly though, although I missed my mash temperature by a whole degree. In my defense, I knew I was adding water from the HLT that was about three quarters of a degree to high and with the shonky thermometer, the temperature reading from the grain to determine the strike temperature, may not have been wholly accurate.

I’d originally considered mashing in at 68°C, before changing my mind at the last moment, and deciding to mash in at 67°C. So hitting 68°C didn’t really bother me, as having a touch more body might be useful depending on what the homegrown hops turn out like. I collected exactly 12.5 litres from each batch sparge, which was made a lot easier by my half litre graduated 15 litre bucket, that I bought for helping with the cider.

As I had issues with run off last time out, even while using oat husks, I decided to use up the remainder of the packet, which was around 400g. I also forced myself to run off each of the two batch sparges more slowly than I have in the past, to try and ensure there was no issues with the mash sticking. There wasn’t and run off was constant and for a change, pretty clear. I may have to start using more oak husks than I have in the past, it’s not like they’re massively expensive or anything.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to try first wort hopping, rather than adding the first load of hops when the boil starts. I left the wort from the first batch sparge in the 15 litre bucket and only when I was ready to draw off the second batch sparge, did I add the wort to the boiler and switch it on. It’ll be interesting to see if I can detect any sort of change in the underlying bitterness or not. I’m also not sure about how this will affect the IBU’s, as when you select First Wort on the Brewers Friend recipe calculator, it gives less bitterness units for that amount of hops.

After 90 minutes the boiler was switched off and the wort allowed to chill to 85°C, which didn’t take long. 374g of homegrown Cascade were then added and left to steep for half an hour, with the boiler switched back on and set to keep the temperature there, or thereabouts. Then the chiller went in and in no time, due to the fact it was baltic in the shed, the wort was down to 25°C, so I transferred it into the fermentor, pitched the yeast, tucked it up in the brew fridge and headed inside to go to bed.

After four and a half hours of restless sleep, I was back up and out to the shed to start clearing up. In a change for how I normally empty the mash tun, I dumped the whole thing into a grain bag suspended over the HLT. This allowed all the remaining liquid to runn out of the grains, so what went into the green bin was much dryer than normal. I also did the same with the spent hops, which allowed me to squeeze all of the liquid out of them too. I’m sure this will help stop the green bin becoming quite so clarty and mean I don’t have to clean it so often.

I did have a couple of issues though, which I can only put down to tiredness. For some reason, I didn’t switch the HTL off when doing the second batch sparge, so part of the element got scorched. I also forgot to turn the boiler off when I put the chiller in, so initially, it didn’t drop in temperature as quickly as it could have. Those issues aside, from an overly stressful start, it turned into a pretty uneventful brew.

I’m not sure yet if I’m going to dry hop it, as I didn’t plan to originally, but I do have half a packet of Motueka pellets that need used up. I might just wait till fermentation is over and have a sample and see what I think. I don’t think I’ve been dry hopping with enough hops to make a difference anyway, so I may just save the Motueka for something else.

Update: 11/12/2014
Sometimes I wonder about my level of intelligence. This beer had finished fermenting and was ready to bottle, but I entered the gravity reading into the wrong box, so confused myself thinking it wasn’t done. Queue lots of hand wringing about a stuck fermentation, multiple rousings of yeast, rushing off to the shops to buy some champagne yeast and finally the dawning realisation that I’d been a complete and utter muppet.

All the unnecessary delays meant that I ended up bottling on the same night that I brewed AG #13, which made for some entertainment with jugling space on the work benches in the shed. The bottling itself was pretty straight forward though, as per normal. The colour looks pretty good and I’m sure the clarity will be excellent as it wasn’t dry hopped.

The only real issue, is that it might not be quite ready in time for Christmas, which was the plan. The extra delay in bottling, means it will only have been in the bottle for two weeks, on Christmas day itself. I’m not sure if this one is going to require another week or so to reach it’s best, we’ll find out on the big day…

Update: 29/12/2014
The labels are all stuck on and I’ve started drinking it. After a mere four bottles, I think I can categorically state, that I got the hopping wrong on this one. I shouldn’t have used the bittering addition for the first wort hops, I should have taken some from the 85°C steep instead.

There’s no real upfront bitterness, no sharp snap, just maltiness. The hops and bitterness do come, but they’re smooth, subtle and late. I think that just doing first wort hops and a 85°C steep, without a bittering addition, is a mistake. It’ll be interesting to see what others think of this one, as I suspect there are some who might quite like it. Me? I not convinced.

Update: 04/01/2015
I’ve drunk a fair few of these now and unfortunately they have all had a really low level of carbonation. I’m pretty sure I put in enough priming sugar before bottling, so I have a nasty feeling that one or two bottles will be hideously over conditioned. Time will tell…

AG #11 – Binary Star: Nelson Sauvin, Citra

This brew was originally supposed to have happened at the start of July, mainly so I could enter it into the Thornbridge, Waitrose homebrew competition. Best laid plans and all that though; my entry into home brewing competitions will have to wait.

I’m normally quite excited when I get to homebrew, but for some reason I really wasn’t feeling like it for most of the day. I was very tardy in setting up and could’ve and should’ve, started a couple of hours earlier. I was also home alone with the kids, so had to juggle the brewing with looking after them, which complicated matters somewhat. This is the recipe, which is essentially the same as AG #09, except for the hops:

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
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.3% 90 8 15 30%
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.3% 15 9 8 15%
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% 15 12 12 25%
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.3% 10 12 8 15%
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.3% 5 22 8 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.3% 80°C steep 20g
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% 80°C steep 20g
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.3% dry hop, days 7 to 11 29g
2012 Citra Whole 14.8% dry hop, days 7 to 11 18g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 20 litres
Mash 90 mins at 65°C 120 mins at 65°C
Original gravity 1.040 (9.8 Brix) 1.042 (10.3 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.007 1.002 (4.2 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 96%
ABV 4.3% 5.2%
GU/BU ratio 1.25 1.19
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 18°C ±1°C, with two days at 2°C ±1°C before bottling

I used the same malt bill as last time, mainly as I had to buy a kilo of Cara Gold, which was enough for six batches of this beer. But also as I blew hot and cold with the last batch, sometimes it was great, other times, a bit meh. I thought it deserved another couple of chances before deciding if we should keep it, or go back to what I was doing before.

I’d used oat husks in the mash on the previous two brews and it had a massive difference to the run off during sparging. This time it didn’t, with the run off petering out with a third of the sparge liquor still left in the mash tun, on both sparges. It wasn’t that the grain bed had set solid either, as when I emptied it, it was nice and fluffy underneath that nasty grey top.

I’m not really sure why it happened, but it meant that the wort in the boiler was rather on the murky side, as I had to jab a hole through the grain bed to get the run off going again. Which I have to say, it did really easily, so maybe that grey top on the grain bed was the issue.

Alternatively, it could be the fact that the tap on the mash tun is crap and is either on or off. It’s practically impossible to get it to trickle, as when you turn it, it jumps halfway round; I must buy a replacement before I brew again.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just the mash I had issues with, as my boiler decided to play up as well. It would boil fine for a bit, then start cutting out and just simmer, even on full power. This meant that the first twenty minutes of the boil, it wasn’t exactly boiling; I think there maybe something loose in the bit that controls the temperature, so I’ll have to look into that before brewing again. It did work correctly for the majority of the ninety minutes though (after a bit of waggling), so hopefully everything will be alright, there certainly seemed to be some hot break, so fingers crossed.

I did remember to take a pre boil gravity reading though, unlike the last two brews where I’ve forgotten. It was 9° Brix, or ~1.036, with about 25.3 litres of wort in the boiler. There was quite a bit of liquid left in the mash tun, but given how prone my boiler is to boiling over, it’s best not to go far past 25 litres. This means that the mash efficiency was somewhere in the region of 76% to 77%. I’ll need to do a proper calculation to work it out correctly though, as I don’t trust the website I entered the details into.

The last time I brewed this malt base, I forgot to do an 80°C with the hops. It does add an extra half hour or so to the brew length, but it’s worth it I think. Hopefully it will add an extra layer of flavour to the finished beer along with the dry hopping that is still to come.

After chilling, I transferred it to the fermenter, I was aiming for 19 litres and got 18.5 litres, so not too bad. The gravity was a touch high at 1.046 or there abouts, so I liquored back with a litre and a half to bring it down to about 1.042, which is still slightly higher than the 1.040 I was aiming for. This all meant that the final volume in the fermenter was 20 litres, so hopefully that will mean around 18.5 available for bottling, after losses to yeast trub and dry hops.

Now it’s just a case of being patient while letting the US-05 do its thing. I’ll admit to sneaking out the the brew shed to check on it, it’s smelling wonderful. I do like the smell of fermenting beer.

Update: 08/08/14
I’ve been a bit lax with tracking the gravity on this batch, in that I haven’t checked it since putting it into the brew fridge. I should probably have check it on Wednesday evening, but the Great British Bake Off was on the telly box and I was tired. So I checked last night and the gravity had dropped to 5.2 Brix, or 1.007 or thereabouts, so I probably should’ve dry hopped it on Wednesday night, but better late than never…

So it’s three days at 18°C ±1°C, with two days at 2°C ±1°C before bottling, which means bottling should happen on Tuesday night. Except I normally go for a 100+Km cycle on Tuesday nights after work and I’m off down the pub next Wednesday, so I think I’ll have to revisit what I do when next week as I don’t want to leave this too long in the brew fridge.

Update: 13/08/14
I turned the brew fridge down to 2°C ±1°C on Monday morning, due to forgetting on Sunday evening. When I checked it after work on Monday, it was only down to 7°C, so I was a bit worried, as this was the second brew on the trot, where the fridge hadn’t got down to the required temperature. I then noticed that the fridge dial was only set to 2, so switched it all the way round to 5. When I checked again on Tuesday morning, it was finally down to 2°C. Not sure why I had it set so low, obviously it needs to be all the way round to enable it to go cold…

The bottling went without any issues, thirty 500ml and twelve 330ml bottles is quite a good return. It was interesting to see that the gravity drop quite a bit further from what it was when the dry hops went in. An alleged attenuation of 96%! US-05 is a funny old beast…

AG #10 – Coronal Mass Ejection: Kohatu, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin

After ten months off from brewing, it’s two brews in as many weeks. Mainly as this brew needs to be ready for a planned soirée next month.

I did consider brewing a dark beer as the second beer for my wife’s soirée, but figured that as I still have a mountain of hops to get though, I’d have another go at a hop burst. The last one wasn’t quite what I wanted, so a slight reduction in the amount of CARAMUNICH I and an all Kiwi hop bill and I was ready to brew.

This time I decided to actually do proper water treatment, so along with the CRS, gypsum and sodium chloride that I already had in stock, I bought some Epsom salts, as required by the calculations. I treated the water in the morning before work as per normal with Campden tablets, to rid the water of chlorine and chloramine and then added the rest of the water treatment in the evening just before turning the boilers on to heat the mash liquor.

Here’s the recipe details:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Wayermann Premiere Pilsner 3 EBC 5,001 grams 88%
Wayermann CARAMUNICH I 90 EBC 397 grams 7%
Wayermann Dark Wheat 17.5 EBC 284 grams 5%
  19 EBC 5,682 grams  
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBUs IBU Ratio
2012 Kohatu Whole 6.8% 10 32 9 15%
2013 Motueka Whole 5.8% 10 38 9 15%
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.4% 10 23 12 20%
2012 Kohatu Whole 6.8% 5 67 10 15%
2013 Motueka Whole 5.8% 5 60 8 13%
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.4% 5 43 12 20%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2013 Nelson Sauvin Whole 12.4% days 5 to 10 34g
2013 Motueka Pellet 7.2% days 5 to 10 50g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 18.5 litres
Mash 90 mins at 65°C 90 mins at 65°C
Original gravity 1.060 1.054 (13.2° Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.011 1.011 (6.9° Brix)
Attenuation 81% 80%
ABV 6.4% 5.6%
GU/BU ratio 1 1.11
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 18°C ±1°C, with 2°C ±1°C for final two days before bottling

While everyone I gave a bottle of the last brew to, thought it was the best I’d brewed, I wasn’t happy with it. I thought the prickle from the malt was just a touch too high and don’t get me started on my perceived lack of hop flavour. So I used a couple of percent less CARAMUNICH I, with more pilsner malt to make up the difference, we’ll see if that delivers just enough prickle, but not too much.

Just like AG #09, I used oak husks in the mash, so again, it flowed freely into the boiler. There really is no going back now, I’ll be using those in the mash every time. As it was running off so freely, I recirculated six litres of wort (three jugs), rather than my usual four litres (two jugs). This all meant that the wort clarity in the boiler was amazing, still not as clear as some I see in others blogs, but by far and away the clearest I’ve ever had.

I made the mistake of not taking a pre-boil gravity reading, again. I’m not sure why I forgot, I was remembering. This means I can’t work out mash efficiency, which is rather annoying, as it would have been interesting to see given the use of water treatment. It would also of highlighted the fact that I’d not got enough extraction from the mash, which resulted in a post boil gravity of 1.054, rather than 1.060. I have a couple of theories why this might have been the case, I’ll need to do some calculations to confirm or exclude them.

While we’re on about the boil, this one was very lively and if I’d not been standing over it for the first fifteen minutes or so, it could have been a bit of a disaster. Out of nowhere really, I had two mini-boil overs, both of which I managed to catch just as they hit the lip of the boiler, so I lost minimal wort. I didn’t feel like I was boiling this one as hard as the last brew, so I’m not sure why this one tried to escape.

The two hop additions made up for having to stand over the boiler watching though, they really made the shed smell fantastic. The only downside to adding 250g of hops to the boiler though, is the amount of wort they soak up, I miscalculated slightly, so lost half a litre more than I was expecting. At flame out, I let the hops steep for twenty minutes before putting the immersion chiller in.

For some reason the water seemed to be running extra slowly through the chiller, which mean that I didn’t get it run off into the fermenter and into the brew fridge until about ten past two. This meant that I was an hour faster than the last brew, but the boil was only sixty minutes, rather than ninety. I’m sure I can still slice a bit of time off if I work on it. I’m looking forward to tasting this one, as a sample of the wort was very nice.

Update: 28/04/14
The date of my wifes soirée has been set, invitation have been sent out, so this beer is on a schedule, which means it needs to be bottled on Friday night. This give it two weeks and a day to condition, which is borderline at best and lunacy at worst. To meet the bottling schedule, I had to dry hop it last night, even though the gravity reading I took in the morning, only had the wort down to 1.020 from 1.054. At least that’s what I calculated it to be, but upon looking at the figures again today, it would appear that 13.2 Brix starting gravity and 6.8 Brix current gravity, gives an specific gravity of ~1.010.

I think what was throwing me, was the fact that there was still quite a decent krausen on top of the wort and not a patchy one either. The glistening creamy tan coloured yeast was covering practically the whole surface area, I did think about cropping some of it to save for the next brew, but didn’t have anything handy to collect it in.

I whizzed up the remainder of the packet of Nelson Sauvin, so about 34g or thereabouts. To this, I added 50g of Motueka pellets that my parents brought me back from their trip to New Zealand at the end of last year. It’s the first time I’ve dry hopped with pellets, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare, especially as they’ve been carted half way round the world in a suitcase.

The wort has three days to hit terminal gravity, I’ll be checking it over the next couple of nights. The brew fridge will then be set to 2°C ±1°C on Wednesday evening and I’ll bottle it on Friday evening after work. I’m looking forward to tasting a sample on Friday night to see if I can get an early indication of what it’s going to be like, I have high hopes.

Update: 03/05/14
Everyone seems to moan about bottling their homebrew, but I don’t mind it, it’s just part of the process. It’s also a couple of hours of me time in the shed, where I can listen to some podcasts or music and chill out. I might think differently if I had a bunch of corney kegs and a Kegerator setup though.

Things didn’t start so well, as I managed to smash some bottles when filling the dishwasher, I can be a bit clumsy like that occasionally. The main issue wasn’t with me though, it was with the brew fridge. Even though it had been set to 2°C ±1°C two days previously, it hadn’t dropped below 6°C. I’ve no idea why it did this and it’s not done it before, I’ll just have to see if it does it on the next batch and then react accordingly, i.e. buy a newer fridge if this one is on the way out.

It didn’t take that long, a couple of hours maybe, as I really wasn’t rushing. Then a quick clean down of all the buckets and it was ready for bed. Looking forward to this one…

Update: 04/05/14
So while I don’t mind bottling homebrew, I do find sticking labels on to be absolutley tedious. I did two batches of homebrew and two batches of #projectcider and it took all afternoon. My thighs are wrecked from all the squatting up and down to make sure the labels were going on nice and level.

While it’s tedious, it does mean they look the part…

AG #08 – Pulsar: Homegrown Cascade

Last year was the first year that I’ve managed to get any real quantity of hops from my Cascade bines. I dried about half of them in our dehydrator and just froze the other half without drying; they’ve all been sitting in my mother-in-law’s chest freezer since last September. Since I had no idea what they were going to be like, or what their Alpha Acid percentage would be etc, the only sensible thing to do, was to brew a single hop beer to find out. Here’s the recipe, it’s the same malt bill as the last brew:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Wayermann Pilsner Malt 4 EBC 2936 grams 95%
Wayermann CARAPILS 4 EBC 154 grams 5%
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBU Ratio
2012 Homegrown Cascade Whole ??% 60 66 100%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2012 Homegrown Cascade Whole ??% flame out steep 150g
2012 Homegrown Cascade Whole ??% days 5 to 10 150g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 20 litres
Mash 90 mins at 66°C 92 mins at 66°C
Original gravity 1.035 1.035 (8.6 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.006 1.002 (3.6 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 94%
ABV 3.75% 4.18%
GU/BU ratio ? ?
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: fermentation at 19°C ±1°C
dry hopping at 12°C ±1°C with 2°C ±1°C for two days before bottling

As the weather was still really nice, I decided to brew outside again, although I did mash in, in the shed, before moving everything onto the collapsible table. Unlike last time though, this brew was an evening/night affair, luckily for me the light in the shed was more than enough to illuminate things through the open door though.

To be honest, it was a pretty uneventful brew, apart from getting another stuck mash. The run off from the first batch sparge was crystal clear after vorlauf, I was most impressed. However, the run off just dribbled to a stop after half a litre or so and I had to apply judicious use of the mash paddle to get it going again.

I have an idea of what’s causing all these stuck mashes, which, if I’m being honest, are becoming a real pain in the arse. I think it’s all down to the tap on the mash tun, it’s a bit sticky and it seems to jump from off, to mostly full on, without stopping in between. So it’s practically impossible to have it on just a little bit, as it happens whichever way you turn it. I think I’m going to have to invest in one of those trick ball taps that I’ve seen others use, as they look quite controllable.

Given that I don’t know the Alpha Acid content of these hops, you may be wondering how I choose the amounts for each stage of the brew. It was quite easy, as I had two bags of dried cones and two bags of green cones. Each bag of dried cones weighed about 66g and each of the bags of green cones about 300g. So I decided to chuck in the whole bag of dried at the start of the boil and split the green cones for the flame out steep and dry hop. Which means I have enough to do a re-brew should it turn out to be nice and tasty.

The beer is currently sitting in the fermentation fridge at 12°C, while the dry hops work their magic. I’ll be dropping it to 2°C tomorrow, in preparation for bottling it on Monday night. I should really be bottling it on Sunday, but we’re taking the kids to the Olympic stadium to watch the super humans at the Anniversary Games, so I’ll be far too knackered by the time we get back.

Update: 30th July 2013
I managed to get it all bottled last night, I used 330ml and 660ml bottles. It went surprisingly smoothly and without a hitch, with even the capper behaving itself for a change. If I give it the normal two weeks in the bottle to condition, then I’ll be on holiday in France when it’s ready. So it looks like the majority of this batch will be sitting in a fridge till the end of the month before it gets drunk. I may take a few on holiday with us though, at least then I’ll have some hops occasionally…

AG #07 – Pulsar: Amarillo

I brewed again last weekend, it wasn’t such a snap decision as the last two (AG #05 and AG #06), as I knew I had to brew to ensure that I stick to the schedule prior to going on holiday next month. I started brewing slightly earlier than last time, but it still interfered with dinner and bedtime for the kids. I think that if I’m going to brew at the weekend, I need to start first thing in the morning, I might try it next time out to see how we get on.

I’ve wanted to brew some single hop beers for ages and since I bought 500g of Amarillo from @pdtnc, I decided to start with some of those. Also, as it was a really nice day, I decided to brew outside, rather than in the shed, mainly to avoid all the condensation dripping from the shed ceiling. Here’s the recipe:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Wayermann Pilsner Malt 4 EBC 2936 grams 95%
Wayermann CARAPILS EBC 154 grams 5%
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBU Ratio
2012 Amarillo Whole 10.9% 60 23 100%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2012 Amarillo Whole 10.9% flame out steep 50g
2012 Amarillo Whole 10.9% days 5 to 9 77g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 20.1 litres
Mash 90 mins at 67°C 105 mins at 66°C
Original gravity 1.035 1.033 (8.25 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.006 1.004 (3.8 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 87%
ABV 3.75% 3.73%
GU/BU ratio 1 1.06
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C, with 2°C ±1°C for final two days before bottling

I was aiming for something really pale and quite neutral in malt flavour, so that the hops could really shine, hence going for the Pilsner and CARAPILS combination. As I was aiming for a relatively low gravity, I tried to mash in at 67°C, but I missed by a degree, even with adding some water from a freshly boiled kettle. I’m not too bothered about missing it, as I’m sure 66°C will produce an acceptable result. I think the reason that I couldn’t quite hit 67°C, was due to brewing outside, with the wind just sucking all the heat out of the mash tun. To be honest, I’m not totally sold with brewing outside, I like being in my shed, so it’s probably time to seriously think about a DIY extractor system.

The boil was pretty uneventful, as I spent most of it in the kitchen making Macaroni Cheese for everyone’s dinner. I say it was uneventful, but when I went out to add the half Protofloc tablet with fifteen minutes to go, it was more like a simmer, than a boil. So I whacked the heat up a bit, but with the amount of break material floating around, I don’t think it’ll be an issue. Having said that, it did mean that I didn’t get the anticipated boil off, so ended up with slightly too much wort, at slightly too low a gravity.

Fermentation kicked in pretty quickly and was underway before I turned in for the night. I checked up on it on both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings before going to work and it was fairly making the airlock bubble on both occasions. Last night I took another gravity reading and then dry hopped it with what seemed like a mountain of hops. All this means that I should be on course for bottling it next Tuesday, which is a bit of a bugger as that’s normally my gym night. Given that, I might wait till Wednesday, depends on the weather…

Update: 11th July 2013
Last night I got round to bottling this batch up. I was hoping to use some 660ml bottles, but I didn’t manage to de-label enough of them in time, so ended up just using some 500ml ones. To mitigate the issues I’ve had with the last couple of brews, I ziptied a bit of muslin around the end of the syphon tubing, to stop bits of hop from blocking it. This worked a treat, although the transfer to the bottling bucket still wasn’t as fast as I’d have liked. I think I need to find a better clip and get hold of some wider bore tubing.

AG #06 – Binary Star: Delta, Green Bullet

I had originally planned to brew a US style IPA for AG #06, but I wasn’t happy with the makeup of grain I’d selected and range of hops I had left in the freezer. So in the end I decided to brew another batch of Binary Star, and use up the last of the older hops in the freezer, which were Delta and Green Bullet. If the last brew had been a bit of a snap decision, this brew was even more so, as even a couple of hours before I started, I hadn’t even thought of sneaking a brew in.

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Crisp Maris Otter Pale Malt 5.5 EBC 3317 grams 95%
Thomas Fawcett Pale Wheat Malt 3 EBC 174 grams 5%
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBU Ratio
2010 Delta Whole 6.5% 90 16 30%
2010 Delta Whole 6.5% 15 17 15%
2010 Green Bullet Whole 13.7% 15 13 25%
2010 Delta Whole 6.5% 10 23 15%
2010 Delta Whole 6.5% 5 43 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2010 Delta Whole 6.5% 80°C steep 1g
2010 Green Bullet Whole 13.7% 80°C steep 37g
2010 Green Bullet Whole 13.7% days 5 to 9 37g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 18.4 litres
Mash 90 mins at 65°C 120 mins at 65°C
Original gravity 1.040 1.041 (10 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.007 1.003 (4.25 Brix)
Attenuation 81% ~92%
ABV 4.3% 4.9%
GU/BU ratio 1.25 1.21
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C

I tried to fit the mash around the kids dinner and bedtime, but got my timing slightly wrong, which meant that the ninety minute mash, turned into a two hour mash. On the plus side though, I managed to finally hit my target mash temperature of 65°C. Which is typical, as I finally remembered to have a kettle of boiling water and a jug of cold water on hand, to adjust the mash temperature if I missed the target slightly.

I did get a partially stuck mash during the first batch sparge though, which was really quite annoying. After getting around eight litres of the twelve and a bit I needed, I just stop the flow and added the second batch of sparge water and stirred. This seemed to do the trick, as the runoff from this second sparge, while not the fastest, didn’t have any issues.

The boil was uneventful, although it had rather a lot of scum on the top to start with. It’ll be interesting to see what this one tastes like, as the Green Bullet hops were smelling amazing in the packet; so good in fact, that I had to wander back into the house and let my wife have a sniff. Given the lower Alpha Acid content of the Delta hops, there was only 1g left after the boil to use in the 80°C steep, so we should really get to find out what Green Bullet can bring to the table in term of aroma.

The only real problem became evident once I’d transferred the wort into the fermentation bucket, there just wasn’t enough of it! I was aiming for nineteen litres and got just over seventeen and a half, so I wasn’t exactly impressed. I’m not sure what happened, maybe I boiled too hard, so there was more evaporation, or that the hops were really dry, so soaked up more wort, I’m not really sure. As the gravity reading was higher than the 1.040 I was aiming for, it meant that I could try liquoring back for the first time. So in the end, I managed to get about eighteen and a half litres in the fermentor, which was slightly better.

Fermentation took hold pretty quickly and after four days, I whizzed up the last of the Green Bullet and added it to the fermentor. It’s been in there for three days so far, so this evening I’ll be turning the temperature down to 2°C, in preparation for bottling on Monday evening. I’m looking forward to trying this one, especially as I switched from CARAPILS to Wheat Malt for head retention. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, difference that makes.

Update: 26th June 2013
I spent Saturday and Sunday scrapping labels from bottles, so that I could have a range of sizes to fill on Monday evening. It may appear a random selection, but there was method to my madness. There are some old Sierra Nevada 710ml bottles, so when My wife and I want to share one, some 500ml bottles that once held Crouch Vale’s Brewers Gold for when I fancy one and a bundle of 330ml bottles to give away and for when my wife fancies one to herself. See, method to the madness.

One thing all this bottling has taught me though, is that I really, really need to get a bench capper. I don’t think "Greta" my twin handled capper can handle many more bottling sessions, as it took multiple attempts to get most caps sealed properly. It was a real ball ache, as was the transfer from the fermentor to the bottling bucket, which was hampered by hop detritus, again. Next time I’m going to wrap the end of the syphon tubing in some muslin and hope that stops it getting clogged up.

Looking forward to trying this one in a couple of weeks though, the sneaky taste I had, showed a bit of promise. Maybe not quite what I was expecting, but it had a nice bitterness to to, which is the whole point of this series of beers…

AG #05: Coronal Mass Ejection – Cascade, Centennial, Columbus

I’ve been a bit slack writing this up, as I brewed it a week past Thursday… The last two brews (AG #03 and AG #04) have used the same malt bill, but with different hop additions. So for this brew, I wanted to do something completely different and use some malts I’ve not used before. Also in an effort to get through another bunch of the hops I bought two years ago, I decided that I’d have a go at a hop burst and add all the kettle hops in the last ten minutes of the boil. I said to a few people before I brewed this, that if it didn’t taste like grapefruit juice, I’d have failed, so here’s the recipe:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Wayermann Pilsner Malt EBC 4543 grams 86%
Wayermann CARAMUNICH I EBC 475 grams 9%
Wayermann Dark Wheat Malt EBC 264 grams 5%
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBU Ratio
2010 Cascade Whole 7.6% 10 29 15%
2010 Centennial Whole 11% 10 20 15%
2010 Columbus Whole 15.2% 10 14 15%
2010 Cascade Whole 7.6% 5 71 20%
2010 Centennial Whole 11% 5 49 20%
2010 Columbus Whole 15.2% 5 26 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2010 Centennial Whole 11% days 6 to 12 31.5g
2010 Columbus Whole 15.2% days 6 to 12 59g
  Expected Actual
Volume (in FV) 19 litres 18.5 litres
Mash 90 mins at 65°C 90 mins at 66.6°C
Original gravity 1.060 1.059 (14.5 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.012 1.005 (6.5 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 91.5%
ABV 6.3% 7%
GU/BU ratio 1 1.017
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C

It was a snap decision to brew on the Thursday night, mainly due to the realisation that I had no idea when I’d have time to do a split brew, as the calendar was quite full. I figured that as it was a shorter boil, as long as I got the hot liquor tank on the moment I got home, I could be wrapped up and in bed by two, three at the latest.

I have to say that the brew went without a hitch, so smooth in fact that I was convinced that I must have forgotten something. I eventually crawled into bed at two thirty, but I’d managed to clean up half the kit, so could easily have been in bed by two if I’d wanted to. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll do again in a hurry, as I was a total wreck on the Friday morning at work.

I said that the brew went without a hitch, at least the process went without a hitch, as I missed my target mash temperature. I could have corrected it , if I’d had a jug of treated cold water to hand, which I’ll need to remember for the next brew. In fact, I think I’m going to start a checklist kind of page that has reminders for what I need at each stage of the process.

I’m not sure how this beer is going to turn out, as it doesn’t really match the expectations I had before brewing it. The colour, while really nice, is more of a marmalade amber and not, shock horror, brown enough. The hop flavour isn’t what I was expecting either, the taste I had when I bottled it, wasn’t like someone squeezing a grapefruit in my mouth. There was also a distinct lack of dry hop aroma too.

There may be a good reason for that last issue, as the hops didn’t blend very well in the food processor, so they were a bit chunky when they went into the fermentor. That’s not going to be an issue going forward after the next few brews, as I’ll be buying pellets for dry hopping. I’ll consider adding some water to the food processor next time, if the hops are as compacted as these ones were though.

The bottling went mostly smoothly, I just suffered from another slow transfer to the bottling bucket. When this happened last time, I put it down to a pinch in the syphon tubing, but that was incorrect, as the same thing happened this time and there was nothing wrong with the tubing. Basically, some dry hop material was sucked into the little cup thing on the end of the syphon tubing and restricting the flow. I’m not sure what to do about this, so I just made sure I gently stirred the wort in the bottling bucket to ensure the primings were nicely distributed.

I’ve just got the labels to stick on now, but I can’t print them out till this blog goes live, as I need to make the QR code up from the post URL. I’m quite looking forward to seeing how this turns out, but I’m already thinking that I’ll re-brew it, but with a full load of Kiwi hops, not sure when that’ll be though. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how to fit in three brews before I head off on holiday in August. I’m also trying to figure out what I’ll brew when I come back…

Update: 20/06/2013
I finally got round to printing off the labels for this batch today, I’ve been very tardy, especially as the beer has been in the bottle for just over two weeks and should be ready to drink. It seemed like a good idea to use 330ml bottles for this one, especially as the ABV was slightly higher. That was until I had to cut out and stick on fifty labels, how professional brewers manage to hand bottle and label hundreds and hundreds of bottles a day, I have no idea…

Update: 30/07/2013
And then it was gone. To be honest, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did, but then I’m also glad it did. I was really not that impressed when I first tasted it, as it was disappointed at the hop flavour, I Was expecting a massive grapefruit hit. The bitterness was there, the prickly malt profile as there, but it just wasn’t the hop flavour profile I was after. I’m not sure if it was just due to the hops being old, or if I should have had a 20 or 15 minute addition, or a flame out and/or 80°C steep. Either way, while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t quite what I was after.

It did improve over time though, the first few bottles felt a bit lacking, so maybe two weeks wasn’t long enough for the flavours to develop. I’m not saying that if ended up with the flavor I was after, but it got slightly more enjoyable. It’s certainly a malt profile I want to explore a bit more, maybe a touch less CARAMUNICH I, or maybe using CARAMUNICH II or III instead to get a slightly darker colour. I have an inkling that I’d like to do a all New Zealand hopped version, so watch this space…

AG #04: Binary Star – Simcoe Amarillo

After the stuck mash on my last brew, I was itching to have another go and try and get it right. I’d already decided to go with pretty much the same recipe as last time, mainly as I knew that these first couple of brews back would have issues and I wanted to try and iron them out. The main difference between this brew and the previous one were the hops being used, this time around it was a bag of Simcoe that was getting used up, along with the remainder of the packet of Amarillo. Here’s the recipe:

Fermentable Colour Grams Ratio
Pale Malt 5 EBC 3436 grams 89.1%
CaraPils 4 EBC 420 grams 10.9%
Kettle Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams IBU Ratio
2010 Simcoe Whole 12.2% 90 8 30%
2010 Simcoe Whole 12.2% 15 15 25%
2010 Amarillo Whole 10.7% 15 10 15%
2010 Simcoe Whole 12.2% 10 12 15%
2010 Simcoe Whole 12.2% 5 23 15%
Other Hop Variety Type Alpha Time grams
2010 Simcoe Whole 12.2% 80°C steep 20g
2010 Amarillo Whole 15% 80°C steep 20g
2010 Simcoe Whole 15% days 4 to 10 21g
2010 Amarillo Whole 10.7% days 4 to 10 20g
  Expected Actual
Volume 19 litres 18.8 litres
Mash 90 mins at 66°C 90 mins at 65°C
Original gravity 1.040 1.048 (12 Brix)
Terminal gravity 1.007 1.007 (5.8 Brix)
Attenuation 81% 85.4%
ABV 4.9% 5.4%
GU/BU ratio 1.25 1.04
Yeast: Safale US-05
Brew fridge: 19°C ±1°C

I didn’t quite have enough Marris Otter Pale Malt left to reach my target gravity of 1.040 with a 92%/8% split with the CaraPils, so I added more of the latter to make up the difference. Hopefully this won’t result in the beer having too much residual sweetness and infact might help as the GU/BU ratio is quite high.

For some reason I decided to use my main boiler to heat the initial mash liquor, rather than my spare one. I think the reason was that I needed more liquor than would fit in either, so decided to use the main boiler first so it would free to accept both batches of wort, without having to wait for the second batch of water to heat to temperature.

The taps on both the boilers are different, the one on the main boiler is quite small and doesn’t have anywhere near the float rate of the spare boiler, which is why I’ve always used it in the past for the initial mash liquor. Because of this, it took longer than expected to get the initial batch of liquor into the mash tun and I missed my mash temperature by a degree. Which meant that I mashed at 65°C for ninety minutes, rather than at 66°C for ninety minutes. I was pleased to see though, that after ninety minutes, the temperature of the mash was exactly the same.

Missing my mash temperature was also compounded by over shooting the strike temperature and then having to faff around to try and cool it down by a couple of degrees. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but it reached strike temperature about five minutes earlier than I was expecting and as I was in the house at the time, it meant to ended up too high. I should really find out what the power of the boiler elements are, so I can be a bit more accurate with working out how long it will take to heat up.

Both batch sparges went without issue, although I do think I should have recirculated three two litre jugs of wort like last time, rather than just the two that I did. The wort was much clearer last time round before I let it drop into the boiler, this time is was really muddy looking. On the upside though, at least this meant that I didn’t end up with a stuck mash, which all meant that I hit my target pre-boil volume.

Due to not having a stuck mash, this part of the brew went just bit faster than last time. I didn’t time it exactly, but it was somewhere in between three to three and a half hours or so from starting to fill the boilers with water, to having all the wort in the boiler. I still think there is room for improvement, so I hope to make this part go even quicker next time. One thing I definitely need to do next time is go to bed immediately after I finish and not stay up till half past midnight.

After drinking a few bottles of the last brew on the Friday evening and another bottle once I’d started the mash, I decided to make a tweak to the hopping schedule. Rather than 40% of the IBUs coming at the start, I decided to go with slightly less, in favour of a much bigger addition at 15 minutes to go. This also meant that there was no twenty minute addition, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of difference that makes, if any.

The boil passed without incident, although I’m not sure that I boiled quite as hard as last time. Though there did appear to be quite a lot of break material in the boiler once it was drained, so hopefully I boiled it hard enough. It took quite a long time to get to the stage where I could empty the boiler though, as it seemed to take an absolute age to cool down to pitching temperature. On the plus side though, I reseated the jubilee clips on the chiller, which seems to have stopped them leaking.

All that was left to do was pitch the yeast and clean up, which I did immediately this time round. While chilling the wort seemed to take an age, everything else seemed to be go a bit quicker, so I was all done and dusted and back with the family in time to whip up an Ottolenghi recipe for lunch.

I was much happier with the way this brew went, even though I still overshot the anticipated gravity, which I think was just down to an increased efficiency, rather than anything else. Having said that, I do think that I could have had a clearer mash run off, so it’ll be interesting to see what the beer is like once it’s been bottled.

Update: 17/04/12
I popped out to the shed this morning to check up on the beer and take a gravity reading. As you can see from the photos, I had a smashing time… I don’t know what it is about me and hydrometers, they just don’t last very long around me. At least I have a refractometer now though, so I can still monitor the beer and work out the terminal gravity and thus rough ABV. So it turns out that this equation is my new best friend:

SG = 1.001843 – 0.002318474*OB – 0.000007775*OB*OB – 0.000000034*OB*OB*OB + 0.00574*FB + 0.00003344*FB*FB + 0.000000086*FB*FB*FB

Update: 18/04/12
The gravity reading from yesterday was low enough for me to think about dry hopping the beer, so I did. I used up the remainder of both the packs of Simcoe and Amarillo, and boy did they smell good! I used the same dry hopping technique as last time, although I decided against adding some water, mainly as I couldn’t be arsed to boil some for ten minutes to sterilise it. I should really get my finger out next time and make sure I do try it wet, as I’m not sure I want all those lovely hop resins stuck to the side of the processor bowl.

Update: 23/04/12
I totally forgot to turn down the temperature on the brew fridge in Sunday night, which would have given the beer three days at 2°C. I suddenly remembered this morning, so ran out the the shed and adjusted the thermostat accordingly. I totally forgot to adjust the low level alarm again though, so when I got home it was blinking away. Luckily the temp in the fridge appears to have gone all the way down to 2°C inspite of this, so a minor tweak to the thermostat and the alarm disappeared.

I think I need to write a checklist of all the different steps that need doing and when they need doing. Sounds like a good idea for a blog or two…

Update: 25/04/12
Yesterday morning before work turned out to be slightly hectic, as I suddenly realised that I hadn’t prepared any bottles by stripping them of their labels. This resulted in a frantic scrubbing session at nine o’clock in the morning, to make sure I had more than enough clean de-labeled bottles.

I have to say though, that preparing German bottles is a breeze, the labels simply slide off after five minutes in hot water. In contrast, I have no idea what glue British brewers are using, as it seems capable of withstanding a thermonuclear explosion! Judicious use of a knife and metal pan scourer eventually got it off, but what a pain. I think I’ll have to try boiling the bottles next time, that should soften the glue enough, I would have though…

The benefit of getting the bottles prepared before work though, was that I could get them all into the dishwasher and have it set to come on while I was on the way home, so the bottled would be ready for me once I’d had my dinner, so theoretically I could get on quicker. This worked out quite well, especially as I ended up going off to collect another fridge for use in the shed, so if I’d waited until I’d got home to put the dishwasher on, who know how late it would have been when I finished.

I bought a new syphon tube clip for use on this brew, as my existing one is a bit crap and last time, didn’t allow the tube to get all the way to the bottom of the bucket. The only issue though, was the clip is for ¼” syphon tubing and mine is slightly thicker, which meant that it got a bit pinched. This resulted in the longest transfer I think I’ve ever done, it took an absolute ages to syphon the beer onto the primings in the other bucket. I might have to have a fiddle with different tubing, although the syphoning into the bottles didn’t appear to be affected.

I managed to get 34 bottles, which isn’t too bad, it means I lost just over a litre and a half to the trub and dry hops. While I could take this into account and have more than 19 litres in the fermentor, I’m getting near the limit of what the existing mash tun can cope with when batch sparging. I’m considering looking into getting some of those 30 litre blue barrels and trying to bodge my own system, I can’t see it happening anytime in the near future, but it’s worth dreaming about for a bit I think.

The bottles are all now in the brew fridge, which has been set to a balmy 19°C, where they’ll sit for a week or two until they’re ready to sample. All that’s left to do, is cut the remaining labels out and stick them on. I’ve got high hopes for this one and am really looking forward to trying it.

Update: 08/05/12
My wife was out last night, so I took the opportunity to cut out the remaining labels and stick them on. I’m quite pleased with these labels, I think they’re an improvement over the last batch. They do need a bit of tweaking though, as the sidebar has come out a bit darker than I wanted and I think the main text could be slightly larger, but other than that, I’m really quite pleased.

Update: 21/05/12
And in a fountain of foam, the last bottle was gone…
So it looks like this batch had some serious carbonation issues, as the vast majority of the bottles had next to none, while a few were quite lively. Then there was this one, where the foam literally jumped ten centimeters out the top of the bottle the moment it was opened.

I can only conclude that the pinch in the syphon tubing that caused the slower than normal transfer into the bottling bucket, meant that the primings didn’t get evenly distributed. They must have been in a clump that mostly went this this last bottle, which would explain why all the others were near enough flat. So I’ll be switching the syphon tubing around for the next brew to try and avoid this…