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Brew Day: Railer’s Pale Ale

Brew in a Bag set up (BIAB)...draining the grains

Brew in a Bag set up (BIAB)…draining the grains

A friend recently asked if I would be interested in joining her in providing a homebrew for an event. The event is just prior to the local soccer team’s game. The team is the Carolina Railhawks, so I’m making a beer I’m calling Railer’s Pale Ale. Hopefully, my friend will be able to get my beer into a keg and we will set up beside each other to serve our beers. If the keg doesn’t work out, I can always bottle.

I used an online recipe building program, armed with a basic idea that I wanted to use some frozen, vacuum sealed Cascade hops for the bittering/background “canvas”, with a combination of Mosaic and Citra hops for flavor and aroma. The Mosaic add a resinous flavor and the Citra are, surprise! citrusy.

Cascade whole hops that had been vacuum sealed and frozen.

Cascade whole hops that had been vacuum sealed and frozen.

Starting the 60 minute boil with the Cascade hops.

Starting the 60 minute boil with the Cascade hops.

The base grain is an American 2-row. In playing with other grains to get the right alcohol ABV and the right color, I picked a few specialty grains. Then, after a little research, Wyeast American Ale II 1272 “smack pack” for the yeast. At the lower recommended temperature range, it is supposed to produce a clean, crisp result that accentuates the citrus componants. I went ahead and took the yeast out and activated it early on.

I put my recipe out for some fellow brewers to look at, but didn’t get any feedback before I had to go pick-up the ingredients. After I milled the grains and came home, I see a note from an experienced brewer who said I had too much specialty grain (28% of the grain bill) and should cut them in half and make up the difference with more 2-row. Ugh. The comment is that the beer will be too sweet. Well, I’m kind of stuck now. I can’t waste the time or money on buying more grain for a beer that is going to be given away. Ah, well. I hope that the hop selections will help counteract some of the sweetness that I’m being told is going to be there. At the very least, it will be beer, and it should be drinkable. Mine may not be picked by the fans as the best one there, but I’m not expecting to be in that group anyway…I’m probably the novice of the group.

So, without going through all the individual brew steps here, I’ll hit just a few points. The brew went pretty well as far as the step go. The mash temperature was overshot, as I usually do, not matter how careful I try to be. I used a little Culligan water, cold, to bring the temperature down into my target range. And flies and bees started showing up to check out the wort. Really got to be irritating! Otherwise, no problem with my little modified sparge or the boil.

My little modified sparge set-up.

My little modified sparge set-up.

I do need to note, that being a Liberal Arts guy, “brewhouse efficiency” and some of the more technical calculations in the process are pretty much a guessing game for me. I had the efficiency at 63% in the recipe, based on a previous brew that seemed fairly accurate. When I checked the specific gravity (SG) between the mash and the boil, I got 1.054. The post boil gravity was only supposed to be 1.052, so my efficiency was more like 71%. I adjusted it in the recipe, and the end result will be just a little higher alcohol content,,,but not crazy. It will still only be (estimated at this point) 5.15% ABV. That should be fine.

I chilled with an immersion coil. The tap water temperature is 71F, so I knew I wouldn’t get the wort down into the low 70’s.

Stainless steel coil immersion chiller in use.

Stainless steel coil immersion chiller in use.

I managed 83F and transferred to the carboy…started off using siphon, but the whole hops were a challenge and I wound up having to hand-pour about 1/3. A bit messy, but couldn’t be helped.

Siphoning wort into the carboy (on top of my little chest freezer converted to fermentation chamber.

Siphoning wort into the carboy (on top of my little chest freezer converted to fermentation chamber).

I put the wort in my fermentation chamber with an airlock installed, and placed the package of yeast in as well. I let the wort continue to cool for a few hours and then pitched the yeast.

After a couple of hours, I realized the temperature was a little low, so I turned the thermostat up a few degrees and left the lid up on the box to bring the temperture up for awhile. Six hours later, I see the slightest indication that the yeast may be active. A few hours later, I closed the lid to keep the temperature in the range I want, which would be around 65-68F. Now we wait to see if it really takes off…and how it turns out.

Update: 7/23/16    Checked on the progress around noon and we have a good fermentation in progress!

Success!

Success!

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There Gose Sea Breeze Ready to Drink

There Gose Sea Breeze

There Gose Sea Breeze

I was pushing it to get this beer ready for Thanksgiving at the beach. As a reminder, I used dried hibiscus flowers to make a tea concentrate to mimic the color and flavor of cranberry, and vodka soaked grapefruit zest to complete the attempt to tie the beer to a Sea Breeze cocktail. Since we spend Thanksgiving at the beach, the Sea Breeze name ties it to our Thanksgiving location and the cranberry flavor and color evokes the holiday. Today is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I’m at the beach, and I’m testing a bottle that I refrigerated for 24 hours.

The result? I’m declaring a success! The color is nice…maybe slightly pale. It’s not clear, but that’s expected in a wheat beer. It just makes it look look more like a cranberry jelly. The aroma is hard to describe…but it’s a nice fruity, almost candy scent. The flavor is subtly salty with a tang in the finish. I think there’s a little bitterness/sharpness from the grapefruit zest. I’m not sure if the coriander is really contributing much…but maybe it’s just blending well and doing that “Je ne se crois” thing. The carb is very good, with a white, thin layer retained throughout the drink. I was concerned that I bottled too soon and that it might overcarb, but it’s good. When I get home, I think I’ll refrigerate what’s left, so that it stops or slows any possible additional carbing.

As usual, I’ll be responsible for cooking and carving the Turkey. I’ll also make a broccoli casserole. I have a batch of my traditional Scottish shortbread  https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/traditional-scottish-shortbread/

and, for the first time, I will Make my Dad’s Yeast Rolls

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/my-dads-rolls/

…something I tried last year and failed. This year, I have the right recipe and I have tested it successfully, twice. And with the beer to toast, it should be a great meal! I feel like this style of beer will compliment the big meal and cut through some of the richness. It may also contribute to the after-meal nap!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Checking the Specific Gravity on There Gose a Sea Breeze

Hydrometer Sample

Hydrometer Sample

After I racked to secondary, added the grapefruit zest and hibiscus tea concentrate, there seemed to be some additional fermentation happening. It wasn’t much…in fact, I was afraid the little white bubbles were going to turn out to be an infection. However, they did eventually fade away.  The OG was supposed to be 1.062, and it came in at 1.063. The current SG reading is 1.014 with a temperature of 72.8F.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

After temperature correction for the hydrometer, the actual SG is 1.015, which is .001 above expected FG. Considering that the OG was .001 high, fermentation could be done.

The thing is, I really want this beer to be carbed and ready to drink by Thanksgiving, which is about 2-1/2 weeks away and carbing will likely take at least 10 days. I’d rather give it a month, but it is what it is. So, just in case the fermentation isn’t COMPLETELY done, and, considering my history with over-carbonation…I think I will bottle in new bottles, underestimate the priming sugar, and cross my fingers.

Regarding the beer’s other characteristics, I am hopeful. The sample is a pretty cranberry color, the front end is appropriately a little salty (but not overly so), then there’s tart, followed by a little sour in the finish. The thing is, I don’t know how to describe the aroma or the flavor. I think the hibiscus is giving it a little cranberry character, but I’m not sure how the coriander and grapefruit zest are influencing the flavor. There’s obviously a blended flavor there. I just don’t have the palate and experience to put it into “proper” tasting terminology. But I like it. I really look forward to getting some feedback from some more experienced brewers.

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Brief Update on Jackfruit Cider and Tepache

The Jackfruit Cider continues to ferment with steady, but not aggressive, bubbling in the airlock. I anticipate a long process for this one, because I really want to see where the flavor will go.  I opened the top (after sanitizing around it) and the fruit was floating on the top, but wasn’t dry or molding. The aroma was a sharp hit in the nose…after that, it was sweet, but still with that slightly odd componant. Lid back on and let it roll.

Jackfruit Cider fermenting.

Jackfruit Cider fermenting.

The tepache is nice and tangy. I wanted to go through the pellicle on top and siphon from under it, but it got sucked in, too. So, I had to run it through a strainer and into another container. I had about 2/3 to 3/4 of a gallon of tepache and I topped it off with water to a gallon. Popped that in the fridge to drop the temperature. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bottle it or just keep it in the jug, refrigerated.

Kombucha on the right, tepache on the left.

Kombucha on the right, tepache on the left.

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Opening a Bottle of Muscadine Wine

Opening my first bottle of  Muscadine Wine!

Opening my first bottle of Muscadine Wine!

I was not really planning on opening a bottle of my first wine until at least August and maybe Thanksgiving. It’s a muscadine wine made from foraged wild grapes. Now, this isn’t the typical Southern sweet muscadine wine. A previous taste, at bottling, was fairly dry and had a nice deep blush color with a light body. With a 16.01% ABV, it was a little boozy. Muscadine wine is not generally considered a wine to age indefinitely, so I just decided I want to try one. I’m also going to take a bottle to my mother to try and she’s almost 85 years old…so why wait!? But I want to try it before I give any away. It’s a Friday night though…and I’ve been drinking beer…so 12 oz of 16% ABV wine might be a wise move! I may just do a small pour and recap and refrigerate the rest. The wine was started on August 20th of 2014 when I picked the wild grapes. Bottling was about 2 months later, on October 22, 2014. The wine has been in the bottle for about3-1/2 months.

Pretty blush color, high alcohol, nice aroma and finish, light body.

Pretty blush color, high alcohol, nice aroma and finish, light body.

So…after a small pour, swirl, smell and taste…dang! Not bad! I don’t think I would be able to identify this as a muscadine wine. Perhaps a person with a trained palate could. It’s still a little young, maybe. I’m not a wine person. I have some experience with Reislings and Rhine wines from Germany…a little Merlot, a little Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon…but not to the point that I would consider myself competent to critique any wine. My best attempt would be to say that it’s still a little boozy up front, but the aroma and the finish are pretty nice. I’ll see what Mom thinks…and then I’ll seek some more opinions this Fall. Cheers!

 

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First “Official” Taste of Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout

Test bottle of Yooper's Oatmeal Stout at 13 days.

Test bottle of Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout at 13 days.

Yesterday, I opened the “tester” bottle of Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout (the plain version). I bottled it 12 days previous, so this was basically a carbonation test and to see where things are. Obviously, the carb is going to develope more…I know, because I used too much priming sugar at bottling and it’s undercarbed currently…and no head, to speak of. There may be a little “twang” in the flavor. Otherwise, I think it’s pretty solid and I think another 3 or 4 weeks and it should be much better. Mouthfeel and body are very good …nice aroma.

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Racking Yooper’s Gingerbread Oatmeal Stout

Equipment for racking

Equipment for racking

Racking time for Yooper’s Gingerbread Oatmeal Stout. Because there is trub, grated ginger, spices and half a vanilla bean in the mix, I’m filtering out any bigger particles with a santized nylon mesh bag. I tied the bag onto the tip of the siphon’s tube.

Filter bag tied in place.

Filter bag tied in place.

The racking went smoothly. I was considering bottling today; however, I though I saw a bubble in the airlock after I finished racking and sealed the new container. I’m going to give it some more time, just because I don’t want to rush it.

I did take a hydrometer sample and the SG is actually below the regular stout that I already bottled. A little nervous about that, but there is more going on here that can account for it. The original version finished at 1.019 and the gingerbread version is at 1.016.

Hydrometer sample. 1.015 @ 70F=1.016

Hydrometer sample. 1.015 @ 70F=1.016

The color is a little light for the style, but not a problem for me…it’s not going into a competition. The clarity looks pretty good. Currently, the aroma is strong fresh ginger. The flavor is initially dominated by the fresh ginger, too. The flavor turns more gingerbread in the finish. It’s not sweet…which is good. I didn’t want to create a sweet beer. I believe there is potential for a nice brew here. I think the ginger will fall back with age and bottle conditioning and allow the vanilla and other spice notes to come through.

Sippin' sample!

Sippin’ sample!

A little more trub in the bucket than I expected…smell was amazing, though!

Trub, ginger, spices, vanilla bean half.

Trub, ginger, spices, vanilla bean half.

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