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Day 90 Tasting Strawberry Blonde & Plain Jane

If you look back through the journal, you will see the lengths to which I went to try and make the Strawberry Blonde a successful brew. Alas, I believe it was all for naught. The Strawberry Blonde is lacking in hops, either in aroma or bittering. The strawberry flavor is best described as musky and muddled, hiding any hint of malt. But the extract sweetness is there. I don’t think aging will help, but I’ll give it a little more time. I compared with a commercially produced strawberry wheat beer produced by Lancaster Brewing Co. and, while I didn’t really like the commercial product either, it was generally better than mine. It did have a strawberry cream soda like flavor to it from the strawberry flavoring.

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A pleasant surprise, on the other hand, was the “Plain Jane Blonde”, small batch.

Plain John Blonde...surprisingly drinkable!

Plain John Blonde…surprisingly drinkable!

It has, by way of the attempt to up the OG, a little strawberry essence to it…just barely. While there are no hops in the aroma, they are there with a slight bitterness. The malt comes through and there is a little sweetness, but it isn’t cloying. It’s actually a pretty drinkable beer! Not my best offering, but not bad. If I were to attempt this recipe again, I would 1) Measure the water more accurately!, 2) Decrease the strawberries from 6 lbs to my original thought of around 2 to 3 pounds and, 3) Add the fruit in secondary, instead of after flameout at 170F.

I also used a free, simple beer label maker program to create a label for the Costa Kona Mocha Latte stout that I think looks passable. I kind of did a similar thing using a different program and printed it on plain paper, cut it out, moistened the back with milk and applied it to a bottle. Oddly enough, it works! Cheers!

BeerLabel Costa Kona

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Day 85 Busy! BIAB Class, Bottling Strawberry Blonde, Murray’s 1/2 Gallon

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

Yes, a busy day today! I had a class at my HBS today on BIAB–Brew in a Bag, all grain brewing. It’s like a partial mash extract brew, except the grain steep is MUCH bigger and there’s no liquid or powdered extract. A little more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea. I got a recipe kit for brewing a batch of pale ale using the BIAB method and bought the bag accessory. Also bought some Safale s-04 to use with ciders.

Tony from Atlantic Brew Supply: Lautering? Vaulof?

Tony from Atlantic Brew Supply: Lautering? Vaulof?

Back at home, I set to bottle the strawberry blonde. I siphoned it from the 6 gallon carboy  into a bottling bucket to clear for a few more hours. My siphon did not reach, so I need to look into another solution for that, but I managed the old fashioned way today…risky, but I sanitized the hose, put one end in the carboy and sanitized my mouth (!) and sucked on the other end to start the flow and drop that end of the hose into the bottling bucket.  Went out to dinner and gave it a couple of hours. Then I realized that I was going to have to stir to evenly distribute the priming sugar anyway! Oh well. As it turns out, the racking was very successful in clearing the beer anyway! (I would have racked onto the priming sugar to mix it, but I wasn’t quite ready to bottle and I wasn’t sure how the siphoning was going to go.) Surprisingly, the pinkish color seems to have gone away.

A sample of the strawberry blonde ale. Remarkably, the pinkish tint disappeared!

A sample of the strawberry blonde ale. Remarkably, the pinkish tint disappeared!

The flavor is a little weak maybe, but the strawberries are there. Maybe I should have tried dry hopping for the first time! It will be drinkable though.  The FG is 1.006@72F corrected to 1.007, resulting in an ABV of 4.46%.

Later, I finished getting ready and sanitizing everything for bottling. I mixed 3 oz corn sugar and 4 oz hot water to dissolve. I added that to the beer and stirred well. Note: my bottling instructions have all been calling for “3.93 oz” priming/corn sugar for bottling. I have done some research and discussed this with the HBS folks and found that I need to be taking charge of that particular specification and correcting it to style, thus the 3 oz for this batch. My stout will be bottled with 2 oz corn sugar. Back to business: Bottling went well. I had my younger daughter help with capping for the first time. It was nice to get her involved!

Camera shy, but a good helper!

Camera shy, but a good helper!

The batch of strawberry blonde ale yielded 2 cases of 12 oz bottles plus one 22 oz bomber. I’m considering naming it “Amy Adams Ale”…my favorite strawberry blonde.

After we got the strawberry blonde cases dated and stored, I showed my daughter how I do the 1/2 gallon carboy of Murray’s Cider.

Two Cases of strawberry blonde and a 1/2 gal. Murray's Super Easy Cider.

Two Cases of strawberry blonde and a 1/2 gal. Murray’s Super Easy Cider.

I call it Murray’s Super Easy Cider. Basically, it’s rehydrating 3 grams of Safale s-04 yeast in a couple ounces of 75F water, sanitizing around the cap and pitching the yeast. Shake the jug for a minute or two and then replace the cap with an airlock. Boom! Done! The refractometer put the OG at 1.053 @ 72F. (The refractometer is supposed to compensate for temperature.)

The next project is to rack the Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout onto the Costa Rican cocoa nibs in secondary for a week or so.

Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout...about done with primary fermentation.

Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout…about done with primary fermentation.

I need to do a little more research on the treatment of the nibs for sanitizing and drawing out the flavors. Ideally, I could soak them for a few days in a little vodka, but I don’t have any and tomorrow is Sunday…maybe I can borrow a little from the in-laws and push the racking back a day. I’ve heard that heating the nibs in the oven briefly might bring out the flavor a little more…like toasting spices. more research!

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Day 84 Bottling Plain Jane Blonde, Small Batch

Plain Jane Blonde Ale, opening after secondary.

Plain Jane Blonde Ale, opening after secondary.

I had a little time this evening and decided to go ahead and get the bottling chores done for the Plain Jane Blonde Ale. There’s about a gallon and a half…looks nice and clear. When I got closer to the bottom, I could see that I could bottle just about every bit. There wound up being just a film of trub on the bottom of the bucket. Taste is pretty good, as far as I can tell…just had a very small taste. I didn’t want to waste any, since there is so little. Color is clear, but  a tad dark for the style, due to the late addition of extra DME to bump the weak OG, the day after brewing.

End of the batch in the bottling bucket, with flash, so you can see color

End of the batch in the bottling bucket, with flash, so you can see color

(This little plain blonde batch is the result of not measuring my water properly on brew day and I wound up with too much wort for the strawberry blonde that I had planned. So, it’s a bonus batch, but it weakened the OG. To review, I added 1 gallon of the strawberry blonde wort to 3lbs DME and boiled 15 minutes. Of the 17 cups that resulted, 13-1/2 cups went back to the strawberry batch and 3-1/2 cups went into the plain batch. The OG went up to about 1.041; still short of the target, but with a FG of 1.010, I got a decent session beer range of 4.07 % ABV.

I prepared 1.5 oz corn sugar dissolved in about 6 oz hot water, put that in my bottling bucket and racked onto it. I came up with the 1.5 oz amount using an online calculator. I hope it comes out right. Since this is a small batch and I anticipated very little sediment, I racked into another 2 gallon bucket, using a siphon.

Three six packs...not bad.

Three six packs…not bad.

Bottling went smoothly, using the siphon and bottling cane. I did have to quickly sanitize 3 more bottles/caps, because I had a little more than I anticipated. I finished up with eighteen 12 oz bottles.

The strawberry Blonde batch…almost 6 gallons…is in a glass carboy and clearing. It should be ready to bottle this weekend. The Costa Kona Mocha Latte stout should be ready to rack onto the cocoa nibs for secondary by Sunday.

Ingredients for Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout (except for the cold brewed coffee extract).

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

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Day 83 Brew Day Costa Cocoa Milk Stout

Ingredients for Costa Cocoa Milk Stout

Ingredients for Costa Cocoa Milk Stout

Brew Day 3/8/14   I think I am far enough along to breeze through the basic details. The basic brew went well, except I added 1 lb of lactose instead of 8 oz. From what I have heard, that should not be a problem. Maybe a slightly higher gravity. I started the grain steep with 3 gallons of water @ 155 for 30 minutes. I did do my little mini sparge set up. I used a bottling bucket with hose and gravity drained 2 gallons of water @ 168F over the grain sock.

Mini sparge for the grain sock. Hey, why not?!

Mini sparge for the grain sock. Hey, why not?!

Creative little mini sparge

Creative little mini sparge

Boiled for 60 minutes following directions for additions. Ice bath chilled to 125F, added 1 gallon of cold water to top-off at 5-1/2 gallons. Temp was still at 100F. So I returned the bottling bucket that I’m fermenting in, to the ice bath.

The Boil

The Boil

When I got it to 75F, I pulled a sample for specific gravity check and pitched the yeast (I rehydrated the Safale s-04 yeast in 4 0z of 75F water). Popped on the lid and airlock and I aerated for 5 minutes. Finished shortly after 5 pm.

I checked the OG with my new refractometer: 1.063/1.064 (those numbers are SO small!) and hydrometer: 1.060 at 80F, adjusted to 1.062…so, pretty close to each other. The original specs called for 1.053. I imagine the difference can be accounted for with the extra lactose and maybe a little better efficiency on the grain steep resulting from the mini sparge technique(?).

The hydrometer OG check

The hydrometer OG check

Update 3/9/13   9 p.m.   The wort began to ferment late last night and became pretty strong by this morning. I was away from the house for several hours and returned to find a very small amount of krausen in the airlock. It may not be necessary, but I went ahead and set up a blow off. I have 1 quart of cold brewed Kona blend coffee in the refrigerator. That will be added at bottling, after a secondary on Costa Rican chocolate nibs. This brew will eventually be “Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout”. Did I mention that I love sitting here and writing and being able to hear the blow off chugging away in the next room? Yeah…love it. And having a glass of my homebrew Citra Citrus American Wheat doesn’t suck, either!

Citra Citrus American Wheat...Man, I love this beer!

Citra Citrus American Wheat…Man, I love this beer!

By the way, the strawberry blonde is continuing to clear in secondary. I’m thinking it should be ready to bottle by next weekend. The small batch of Plain Jane Blonde is in a plastic bucket, so I can’t see it; but I assume it is at least as clear as the strawberry. Maybe I’ll bottle that later this week, just to break things up a  bit. There’s about 6 gallons of strawberry, so that’s going to take awhile. The plain is only about a gallon and a half.

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

Strawberry Blonde Ale, secondary for clarification.

I hadn’t thought about it before now, but I’ll need to do some math on the corn sugar amount for bottling these blondes, since both are substantially off from the 5 gallon mark.

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Day 81 Racking the Blondes!

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

I started off the day with some cleaning and sanitizing chores and had my blondes racked to secondary before 10 a.m. I opened the box with my new 6 gallon glass carboy in it, took it out, washed it and sanitized it. Next, I fitted it with the nylon brew carrier and prepared an airlock.

For the strawberry blonde, I sanitized around the airlock and I prepared a hose to fit the spigot (primary fermentation was done in a bottling bucket). With the strawberry blonde on a table and the new carboy on the floor, I attached the hose to the spigot and dropped the other end down in the glass carboy. Next, I removed the airlock from the lid of the bottling bucket, so a vacuum would not be created. I opened the spigot and let the strawberry blonde flow into the carboy.

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I do like seeing the liquid in the glass…last time was with my little pineapple experiment, “Pineapple Tinker”…which is still bottle conditioning. The convenience of the spigot on the bottling bucket is nice, but siphoning isn’t so bad.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

The strawberry blonde has an interesting pinkish color to it; however, it is very murky at this point. I am very interested in what the beer will look like when it (hopefully) clears. I did manage a sample to double check the SG and it is dead on 1.010 according to the hydrometer, so that should be an FG of 1.011 with adjustment for temperature, assuming no further fermentation in secondary.  Never one to pass the opportunity to taste a hydrometer sample, I indulged to further educate my beginner’s palate! The flavor is…interesting, at this point. I would not expect a burst of fresh strawberry flavor. It definitely tastes of fermented fruit…sort of  a musty, winey flavor. From what I have read from other’s experiences, I’m hopeful that this flavor will clean up and back down a little with clarification and bottle conditioning. I do get some hop bitterness, but not overpowering…it’s there right at the front and then again in the finish. I think I’m getting kind of a strawberry jam-like aroma…nice.

The trub in the strawberry blonde PFB looked nasty…but then, they always do. This batch with the strawberries, though, was weird…it was like a strawberry vampire had sucked the color out of them!

Mmm...fermented strawberries!

Mmm…fermented strawberries!

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After some cleaning chores to finish up the strawberry blonde process for today, I turned my attention to the “Plain Jane” blonde. For this one, I prepared and sanitized another 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket (PFB) and airlock. I also sanitized a hose and my siphon, since there is no spigot on the PFB’s. When I opened the bucket, the plain blonde was, not unexpectedly, more clear than the strawberry blonde.

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

I siphoned into the new PFB and noted that the color looked good. Being an extract brew, it is a dirty blonde…but who doesn’t like their blonde to be dirty? (Ahem) Moving along. I am missing my little racking tip that helps keep the end of the siphon tube off of the bottom of the bucket, so I had to be careful not to pick up any trub off the bottom. Thankfully, the trub (lees?) was pretty thick and settled. Would it be the correct use of the terminology to say that the trub had excellent “flocculation”? Anyway, siphoning was a snap and i was able to drag my finger through about 1/3 to 1/2 in sludge on the bottom without the path collapsing on itself for several seconds.

Plain Jane trub

Plain Jane trub

I did not want to waste any of this beer on hydrometer sampling, since it’s only about a gallon and a half, but it looked and smelled good. Sealed the lid and installed the airlock and finished my clean-up duties.

I’m betting that the strawberry blonde will take longer to clear than Plain Jane, but I will probably wait to bottle them both at the same time, for convenience. Stay tuned! Next brew will be a Chocolate Milk Stout with Costa Rican cocoa nibs and husks and lactose.

7:45 p.m.   Drinking a Citra Citrus American Wheat. This has got to be my greatest addition to the world of brewing to date! Everything is just right…aroma, color, bitterness, citrus …everything. This one MUST be done again. Soon.

Citra Citrus American Wheat...oh YES!!!

Citra Citrus American Wheat…oh YES!!!

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Day 79 Birthday Brew Related Presents & First Taste of Citra Citrus Wheat

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My birthday was yesterday and I was not at home until today to celebrate with extended family. I received some excellent brew related gifts at our family gathering (thank you everyone!). There were some non-brew related gifts that were just as appreciated, but this is a brew journal, so that is what I’m going to talk about here!

I received a brew ingredients kit  for a chocolate stout that will be fun. It includes cocoa husks and nibs and some lactose…so I’ll be using some new things. Also, I received my first 6 gallon, glass carboy and a handle and carrier strap for it. I’m looking forward to trying it out! My last piece of hardware is a refractometer…woo hoo!!! The refractometer will give me a specific gravity reading with just a few drops of wort and I wont have to worry about the temperature so much. It will be easier to read than a hydrometer floating in a sample tube…and less wasteful. I tested it with some bottled Culligan water, not distilled, but it read zero, so calibration should be good. I tested a sample of some Newton’s Folly Granny Smith Hard Cider and it read 1.025…cool!

Nice, tart Granny Smith cider...tested the new refractometer with this...I wonder what the OG was?

Nice, tart Granny Smith cider…tested the new refractometer with this…I wonder what the OG was? About 1.063?

I’ll check my Strawberry Blonde Ale and Plain Jane Blonde Ale’s SG’s tomorrow…maybe rack them, depending on readings. Need to find my racking siphon pieces, if I’m going to use the big carboy.

My final brew-related gift is a brewing class on March 15 for “Brew in a Bag” (BIAB) brewing at Atlantic Brew Supply…includes brewing a batch in class too! Should be interesting.

Finally, at my birthday gathering, I tasted two of my brews. One was my Bavarian style Hefeweizen (the Great Weisse)…I had one in reserve that I didn’t give away to my friend for the Megalodon shark tooth. I really kept this one for my own benefit to see how it would taste this far out from bottling.

Great Weisse, Bavarian Style Hefeweizen

Great Weisse, Bavarian Style Hefeweizen

The head was aggressive, but died down to a nice soft one and the flavor/aroma/color were all nice and appropriate for the style…very pleased with the beer. The second beer I tasted tonight is my Citra Citrus Wheat …this beer is a-MAZE-ing!!! A home run. in my opinion. IMAG2694It was bottled one week ago and it is VERY drinkable. I can’t wait to show this one off and get some feedback! The family members that got a sip were all very impressed. Today has been a good day.

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Day 78 Update on Blondes, More Murray’s

Primary Fermentation Buckets: 6 gallon with blow off and strawberries; 1-1/2 gallons plain with airlock.

Primary Fermentation Buckets: 6 gallon with blow off and strawberries; 1-1/2 gallons plain with airlock.

The blonde ales are in primary fermentation, about 6 gals are fermenting with 6 lbs of whole, frozen strawberries with a smack pack of Denny’s Favorite #50 yeast.  The other 1-1/2 gals are plain and are pitched with an almost full package of Safale S-04. The strawberry blonde is still steadily putting off bubbles, though not as vigorously as before.

Blow off on strawberry blonde.

Blow off on strawberry blonde.

The plain blonde has been slow…a bubble every minute or so. I doubt that it could be that close to done, especially after the addition of the extra DME fortified wort. I’m hoping it doesn’t get stuck, but I’m keeping an eye on it and will probably need to do an SG check in a day or two.

I also did some grocery shopping today and picked up two 1/2 gallon containers of  Murray’s Apple Cider. I was so happy with my test batch of the Murray’s Super Easy Cider, that I want to make more!

Murray's Apple Cider...for super easy, delicious hard cider!

Murray’s Apple Cider…for super easy, delicious hard cider!

 

 

 

At $5.69 per 1/2 gallon, a 5 gallon batch would be about $60 and I don’t need ten 1/2 gallon glass carboys…even if they ARE free. So, I may have to research alternatives…bigger containers, case prices. Something. But it IS good and DO need to make some more!

UPDATE: 2/27: A quick note…not worthy of a separate “Day” entry…but I checked the SG on the plain blonde and it is 1.014. So it has had significant movement. Maybe it’ll go down more. ABV currently is a little over 3%. I could always move to a secondary and pitch a different yeast…but the batch is so small, I really don’t want to lose much more of it to testing and racking.

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