Brew Day! National Homebrew Day! Big Brew Event!

Let's Brew!

Let’s Brew!

Today was National Homebrew Day and I celebrated by brewing at Atlantic Brew Supply’s “Big Brew” event in the Raleigh Brewing Company’s brewery. The recipe I chose is a Saison called Legends Never Die and the 1/2 price deal came up to just over $15 for a 5 gallon recipe. As has been usual for awhile now, I used the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method. The grain bill is North Carolina sourced, the yeast is Belle Saison, and the hops are an ounce of Cascade @20 minutes, a half ounce of Nugget @ 10 min and again @ 5 min. A final 1 ounce dry hop addition is done at secondary fermentation for 10 days.

Raleigh Brewing Company/Atlantic Brew Supply Big Brew

Raleigh Brewing Company/Atlantic Brew Supply Big Brew

The brewing process went pretty smoothly. The brewery hot water was already above 130F, so strike water reached temperature quickly. As usual, I went over my target temperature for mash in, but I added a little cold water and got it right within a few minutes.

My stuff.

My stuff

I did a mash-out this time to 172F for 10 minutes and sparged with 2 gallons of the brewery hot water.  When I was ready to boil, it seemed to be taking a little time, so I started making some notes…next thing I knew, I had a little boil-over. On the plus side, it provided a pretty clean break and I had a nice boil for the rest of the time.

Ready to boil

Ready to boil

I did get a little pop while stirring and got a mild burn on my right hand. It really only hurts when exposed to steam or warm water. I have found that stirring enough to create a whirlpool in the wort while it’s boiling, creates these pops of hot wort that can splash out of the kettle. I used my refractometer to check the specific gravity (SG) and is a little under the projected 1.063…I got 1.058. I’m good with that for my original gravity (OG). A friend had to add a pound of DME (Dry Malt Extract) to get to 1.060, so I don’t feel too bad.

After the boil, I used one of the brewery’s wort chillers and brought the temperature down to about 72F…took about 15 minutes or so. Then I siphoned the wort into my plastic carboy, aerated it with the oxygen cannister for about two minutes, and then pitched the yeast.

Done! Time for clean-up.

Done! Time for clean-up.

Clean up went pretty quickly and I strapped my carboy into my van for the trip home. Done! I arrived at the brewery at 9 a.m. and left right at 2 p.m. Five hours on the button.

Strapped in for the ride home. Click it or Tip it!

Strapped in for the ride home. Click it or Tip it!

I checked on the carboy around 7 p.m. and didn’t see much action, but it looked okay. An hour later, the krausen had literally created a layer on the top of the wort that was about a finger thick!

Belle Saison yeast is a monster!

Belle Saison yeast is a monster!

Time to install a blow-off set-up, before it fouls the airlock!

Blow-off set-up installed.

Blow-off set-up installed.

And it’s time for some Aleve. Happy National Homebrew Day!


Day 162 Brew Day! McQuinn’s Robust Porter

Becoming a porter.

Becoming a porter.

I got this recipe from my LHBS (Local Home Brew Shop) as a recipe of the month at 1/2 price! It came as a pumpkin porter, but since I already have a Scottish pumpkin ale in the works, I decided to “de-pumpkin-ni-fie” the recipe, add a little maltodextrin and just make a Robust Porter. The name McQuinn comes from my paternal grandmother’s maiden name…and it sounds good for a porter!

I’m trying to input my recipes and brewing sessions into Brewer’s Friend online, but they include some technical stuff that I’m not into yet. They also do not account for things like sugars or fermentables that aren’t part of the “mash” or grain steep. (I’m doing BIAB–brew in a bag–all grain brewing).

All set to brew, BIAB style.

All set to brew, BIAB style.

So, when going from end of mash specific gravity reading, to pre-boil, to end of boil, the calculations show my conversion of grain to sugar and mash efficiency to be over 100% I’m also getting confused on water volume, grain absorbtion, boil off rate, etc. I start with 6 gallons in the kettle to mash, I know the grain absorbs some and the calculations have a standard default. Then I do what I’m calling a modified “sparge” where I drain heated water over the grains to hopefully wash out some more sugars from the grains…so, I’m adding about 2 gallons back.

My "modified sparge" set-up. Hey...it seems to work!

My “modified sparge” set-up. Hey…it seems to work!

Starting at 6 gallons and adding 2 gallons, minus what the grains absorbed, should leave me with about 7 gallons, but I swear I had 8 for the start of my boil. Had to keep the boil slow for most of the hour, because of the volume. Then I wound up with a slam full fermentation bucket.

Pitching the yeast in a "slam full" bucket of aerated wort.

Pitching the yeast in a “slam full” bucket of aerated wort.

I had to actually pull out a gallon to process separately, after I pitched the yeast. I used an oxygen tank with an aeration stone to aerate the wort for two minutes. I’m using Mangrove Jack’s British Ale Yeast. I was supposed to have 5.5 gallons after the boil.

The other thing that throws me off on all-grain brewing is the amount of trub. If you want a nice clear beer, you rack maybe 5.25 gallons off of 6 gallons and the rack again to 4-1/2 for bottling. I don’t care too much about getting a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) so much as I was a good beer and I want my 5 gallons! Ah well. C’est la biere!

So, I keep trying to tweak the brewing program and make notes that explain discrepancies, but it can be confusing. The main thing is that the actual brewing went well…except the temperature dropped in the mash at one point and I fired the burner to boost it and I over-shot from the 153 target, up to 157F. I stirred constantly for over 15 minutes to get it back down. Temperature control in the mash is the bane of my beer making! I’m not sure how it would do in an accurately judged competition, but my stuff still seems to come out pretty well, so I guess it’s okay. At the end of the brew, the color looks good and the OG reading is spot-on at 1.063 with an anticipated ABV of 6.32%.

Chilling the boiled wort in an ice bath...maybe a copper coil chiller for Christmas?

Chilling the boiled wort in an ice bath…maybe a copper coil chiller for Christmas?

Despite the brewing program confusion and water volume weirdness, this should be a pretty decent porter…and I have an extra gallon or so to experiment with. I’m using blow off tubes, since this is a dark beer and the volume is high.

Hit my numbers and still had more that I could fit in the fermentation bucket.

Hit my numbers and still had more that I could fit in the fermentation bucket.

I may wind up combining them at secondary and then dividing them again at bottling time and add cold brewed coffee to one half or one quarter.

If anyone would like the details of the recipe, I am happy to share…let’s see how it turns out, though!

Update: 10/6/14   The porter has been chugging away all day!

Update: 10/8/14   It has only been a couple of days since brewing and the porter has already gone through a quick chugging fermentation period and by yesterday afternoon, had already slowed substantially. I think I might go ahead and switch from blow off tubes to regular airlocks. I don’t know if this is normal for Mangrove Jack’s British Ale Yeast…I have to assume so.

Day 3 after brewing, small jug...action substantially slowed.

Day 3 after brewing, small jug…action substantially slowed.


Day 154 Brew Day! Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Samhain label...no artist to credit, but it's beautiful!    Not for sale, so I guess it's okay.

Samhain label…no artist to credit, but it’s beautiful! Not for sale, so I guess it’s okay.

After I picked up a new oxygen canister and some bags of ice, I set up for brewing my Scottish Pumpkin Ale that I’m calling “Samhain”, which is the Celtic version of Halloween and is pronounced “so-win”.

The recipe is a modification of a Scottish Ale recipe from a member at www.Homebrewtalk.com. I put the recipe together like this (but note the changes as I brewed!):

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Original Gravity: 1.068 Final Gravity: 1.019 ABV (standard): 6.49%

IBU (tinseth): 30.47 SRM (morey): 19.58


Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %

14 lb United Kingdom – Maris Otter Pale 38 3.75 73.7%

1 lb American – Caramel / Crystal 80L 33 80 5.3%

0.75 lb United Kingdom – Brown 32 65 3.9%

4 oz Molasses 36 80 1.3%

3 lb Dry Malt Extract – Light 42 4 15.8%***

19 lb Total


Amount Variety Type AA Use Time IBU

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5 Boil 60 min 19.79

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 60 min 8.91

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 5 min 1.78

Hops Summary

Amount Variety Type

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5

1 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5

Mash Guidelines

Amount Description Type Temp Time

5.5 gal BIAB Infusion 158 F 60 min

2 gal modified sparge Fly Sparge 168 F —

Other Ingredients

Amount Name Type Use Time

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted 30 minutes at 425F,  Boil 15 min

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted Other Secondary 0 min

2 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Spice Boil 0 min

1 each Vanilla Bean, split Flavor Secondary —

2 oz Vodka, to soak vanilla bean Other Secondary —


White Labs – Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast WLP028

Attenuation (avg): 72.5% Flocculation: Medium

Optimum Temp: 65 – 70 °F Starter: Yes

Fermentation Temp: 70 °F Pitch Rate: 1.25 (M cells / ml / ° P)

393 B cells required (Guess…I have no experience calculating this.)


Method: Corn Sugar CO2 Level: 2.4 Volumes

Target Water Profile: Cary Town Water

Method: BIAB

Style: Holiday/Winter Special Spiced Beer

Boil Time: 60 min

Batch Size: 5 gallons (fermentor volume)

Boil Size: 7.5 gallons

Boil Gravity: 1.045 (recipe based estimate)

Efficiency: 35% (brew house)*** 

Source: Matt Miller

Non-grain fermentables added at 60 minutes.

Irish Moss added at 15 minutes.


***So, there were a couple of issues that required some changes. The efficiency that was the default in the recipe builder for Brew in a Bag (BIAB) brewing was 34%  and I evidently get double that.

Sparging...kind of.

Sparging…kind of.

Set up for a rigged "sparge". Seems to do the job.

Set up for a rigged “sparge”. Seems to do the job.

After the mash, I had an SG of 1.075, which was already better than projected and I had not yet added the 3 lbs of DME I thought I would need to add to the boil…so I omitted it entirely.

The process went smoothly. If anyone is interested, there are other posts that go through the process. The color is really nice!

Nice color!

Nice color!

Sorry the photos aren’t better…*someone* took my camera to use at a Demi Lovato concert and didn’t bring it back in time. I had to use my phone’s camera. I did chill the wort down to 76F, using an ice bath.

Ice bath chill

Ice bath chill

Then I pulled a sample, oxygenated the wort for 2 minutes using a sanitized oxygen canister and “oxygen stone” set-up and pitched my Edinburgh Ale Yeast (that I harvested from a previous batch of cider). I had prepared a starter for the yeast in advance and it was very active. I don’t have experience with “pitch rates”, but I believe I have plenty of yeast cells for the job. Since the volume I wound up with is about 6 gallons, in a standard fermentation bucket, and I have seen this yeast ferment very aggressively, I went ahead and set up a blow-off tube  to keep from fouling the airlock.  The yeast was pitched around 5:10 pm. As of 9:45 pm, I’m hearing a little action in the blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Now, aside from the process, let’s talk about the sights, smells, and flavors! I made my own pumpkin pie spice blend, using cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. I did freshly grate the nutmeg. Also, the ginger has been around along time, so I supplemented it with a little grated fresh ginger. I roasted a can of Libby’s Pumpkin, spread on some parchment paper, on a baking sheet, at 425F for about 30 minutes. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it picked up a few dark spots from caramelization and lost a lot of water. I kept the pumpkin in a sanitized storage container until I was ready for it.

Roasted, canned pumpkin

Roasted, canned pumpkin

The wort took on a great brown color with a dark orange-ish shade to it. Really nice! And the aroma and flavor from the pumpkin and spices are very good, too. I think this is going to be a VERY good beer.

Using the hydrometer sample, the OG came in at 1.083 and, if the attenuation rate is accurate, the ABV will be 7.91%; however, in my experience, the SG isn’t going to stop at 1.023…so, the ABV will likely be over 8%. And, this sample was also the basis for the flavor and color evaluations.

Hydrometer sample...settling a little.

Hydrometer sample…settling a little.

An update on the ciders and muscadine wine: the wine is basically bulk aging and clearing nicely. I’ll eventually rack it…maybe a couple more weeks, and let it go a few months, before I bottle it. The Caramel Cider made with crab apples and Cripps apples is pretty much bulk, aging as well. It did have a little airlock activity going on for a while after racking…not regular or often, though. It has almost stopped now, I think, so I’ll probably rack that a final time in about a week. Maybe bottling in two weeks. The crab apple, pear and Cripps apples cider…no name for it yet…is still bubbling pretty regularly in the airlock. It probably won’t be bottled for a month.

I think I’m learning that it pays to take a little extra time. Excess sediment in the bottom of bottles seems to be messing with my carbonation after bottles have been around for a couple of months. And I like my ciders to have very good clarity…not as huge a deal for all beers, but some. (For instance, wheat beers are actually supposed to be a little hazy.) So, slow down…get it right. Give it another week. It can only help!

Update: 9/15/14  Getting very good action in the blow-off on the Samhain Pumpkin Ale. It hasn’t fouled and it isn’t quite what I have heard some describe as “Rhino farts”, but it is almost constant bubbling.

Update:  9/15/14  Opened the test bottle of the caramel cider to see what it’s doing. No carb at all. The ABV is a hefty 10.89%, though and the flavor is nice. Color is good. Finished product will be more clear.  Alcohol may have pushed the Edinburgh Ale yeast past its tolerance…may have to explore options, if I want to carb.

Caramel Cider tester bottle...no carb; lots of alcohol.

Caramel Cider tester bottle…no carb; lots of alcohol.


Day 148 Pitching the Yeast in Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider

Opening cider bucket to pitch the yeast.

Opening cider bucket to pitch the yeast.

Edinburgh yeast starter…pulled from the fridge and decanted. Opened the cider bucket and removed the cheesecloth bag of apple/crab apples pulp and squeezed out the juice. I will compost this material.

Apple/Crab Apple "must"...pulp, fiber, stems, etc.

Apple/Crab Apple “must”…pulp, fiber, stems, etc.

I added the yeast slurry to the cider and stirred well. I did pull a hydrometer sample and it is very sweet and reads 1.100 at 78.2F, so that comes out to an OG of 1.102. I tossed in a couple cinnamon sticks and 8 whole cloves that I had sanitized with Star-San.

Cider bucket and flask with yeast starter.

Cider bucket and flask with yeast starter.

Cider with cinnamon, cloves, molasses and yeast added.

Cider with cinnamon, cloves, molasses and yeast added.

I also added about 1/4 cup of molasses…just a touch. The time was about 9:15 a.m., so let’s see if the Edinburgh Ale Yeast  takes off and when.

I also checked on the muscadine wine. The aroma when I opened the bucket was less appealing than it has been.

Muscadine wine fermentation bucket.

Muscadine wine fermentation bucket.

Still a lot of effervescence and nice color. I stirred the bag under and mixed the liquid well. I took a small sample in the stirring spoon and resealed the lid. The sample did not have any off-odor, still tasted of muscadines and is sweet; however, the alcohol level is definitely rising!

Stirring things up.

Stirring things up.

By 2 pm, I noticed airlock action in the cider bucket, so I guess my revival technique was successful and the subsequent starter that I made worked. as well. Sweet! As of tonight, it’s a fairly regular slow heart beat type of bubbling.

The muscadine wine continues a fairly vigorous activity.

Update, morning 8/27/14: I opened and stirred down wine again…same as yesterday. No problem. I also opened the cider bucket and saw more krausen than I expected.

Stirred the krausen down.

Stirred the krausen down.

Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider...quite a bit a krausen!

Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider…quite a bit a krausen!

I stirred it down and resealed the lid. About an hour later, I found that the yeast had kicked in in big time! The airlock was fouled, so I immediately set up a blow off to remedy the situation.

Blow off set-up on the cider bucket.

Blow off set-up on the cider bucket.







Day 134 Status Citra Saisons and Diet Root Beer

Switched back from blow-offs to airlocks

Switched back from blow-offs to airlocks

A quick update on my current projects: 1) Diet Root Beer. I prepared a replacement cap for my test bottle, I opened the tester and heard a slight CO2 escape. I poured a very small amount in a glass. There were very few bubbles. The soda was obviously undercarbed, but had some…hopefully, that will continue to increase! The flavor was strong on the root beer and not overly sweet, but it does have a little “diet” aftertaste. It’s okay, though, for the trade-off on sugar. I’m just hoping it carbs enough! Next time, maybe a little sweeter. I may have to find a way for a little more sweetness and a little less aftertaste without upping the sugar too much.

2) I switched back to regular airlocks for the Citra Saisons this afternoon. The action seemed to have relaxed sufficiently. Still on the heating pad on “low”  and wrapped in the Space Blanket. The main batch is bubbling about every 8-10 seconds and the little bonus gallon, that I’m going to rack onto vodka soaked cherries, is at about 18-20 second intervals. Looking good! A lot of trub…I’ll probably get 4-1/2 to 5 gallons out of the big carboy and 2/3 gallon on the small one, but they should be good!

3) Moving the Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus to storage. They were bottled on July 27th. Should be a couple of weeks before I open one and a month before I expect them to really be ready.


Day 114 Ginger Bug Pineapple-Mango Soda, Tepache #2

The ginger-mint “bug” appears to be ready…nice and bubbly. I picked up a pineapple today and already had a couple of mangoes. I got some extra ginger while I was at it. So, tonight I used my little countertop extractor to juice the fruits and about a half ounce or so of ginger and wound up with about 32 oz of juice. I added 2 cups/16 oz of water for a total of 48 oz. Then I added 1/4 cup of strained “bug” and stirred well.

Little countertop juice extractor.

Little countertop juice extractor…before I cleaned the ginger out of it.

Next, I sanitized utensils and 4 bottles and caps. I bottled the juice and capped it and had a little left over, so I put it in a small canning jar with a lid. I’ll use that as a tester. Directions say to refrigerate when carbonated to desired amount…1 to 3 days. I know there’s a LOT of sugar in there, so I think I will pasteurize the bottles when ready, just to be safe. That’s a fair amount of work for four bottles of soda! But I’m hoping it will be worth it! I might try a commercial juice for the next batch, though.

Ginger bug, 4 bottles of Pineapple-Mango Soda and a l;ittle tester jar to check carbonation. (Tepache in fermentation bucket in the background.)

Ginger-mint bug, 4 bottles of Pineapple-Mango Soda and a little tester jar to check carbonation. (Tepache in fermentation bucket in the background.)

Since I was doing a pineapple for the soda, I went ahead and peeled and cored it for a batch of tepache. I only had a few ounces of the piloncillo Mexican raw sugar, so I made up the bulk of the sugar with regular old brown sugar. So, at least I’m multi-tasking and getting another product started for all my efforts! My American Wheat/RyePA was chugging along this morning. Later in the afternoon it had slowed quite a bit. It pretty slow tonight. I’ll probably go ahead and replace the blow-off tube with a regular airlock  in the morning. And, as ever, the pineapple-mango melomel continues to condition in a carboy and looks beautiful. Can’t wait to drink it…in November 2016.


Day 113 Brew Day!!! Something a Little Different. Rye PA?

The set-up.

The set-up.

It’s been a long brew day. I slept late and got a late start. After getting an idea about what I was going to brew, running to the local brew shop, topping of the propane tank and getting ice, I still had to organize, set-up and sanitize! I think I finally turned the burner on at about 2 p.m. I just finished…well, still have some more clean up to do…and it’s 7:45 p.m.

I was hoping to make a scotch ale; however, the recipes and comments I was hearing were all pretty much saying that I needed to be able to maintain a fermentation temperature of 68F for the first week and sometimes down in the 50’s for another 10 days. Since I don’t have anyway of temperature regulation, I decided I needed to go another way. In looking at styles that do better in warmer temperatures, I found a recipe for a wheat beer, with an option for rye, that sounded interesting. So, I started tweaking it and headed for the HBS to get further  input.  The original recipe I found is here:


I always like to give credit to originator! So, here’s what I did. First, I went with regular wheat, not red. Maybe some other time. I also decided to pick up some Citra hops, because I really liked what they did for a similar brew. I also remembered that I had a little Vanguard hops left in the freezer at home. And rather than go with a Weihenstephaner yeast, I decided to go US-05. This should help with my higher fermentation temperatures. For the honey in the recipe, I opted for orange blossom and instead of Lemon Zinger Tea, I’m going for Lemon zest soaked in vodka for the secondary…maybe some orange zest, too. Maybe I’ll call it “Rye Sense of Humor American RyePA”.

Gots all my pertinents and such.

Gots all my pertinents and such.

On to the brew: I pretty much followed the recipe. There are two hops varieties in addition to the hops I decided to add. Bittering hops at 60 minutes, Cascade. Aroma hops at 30 minutes and 5 minutes, Hallertau and again at 5 minutes.  I added the Vanguard at the 30 minute marks, as well and the citrus at flameout.

My BIAB process went pretty smoothly, except it is hard to nail down that target temperature and regulate it there. I heated the strike water to 168 (a tad higher than I anticipated). I let it come down a little  before adding the grains. The grains only got it down to around 158F. I left the lid off and stirred a lot to try to bring it down to 152F. I went through that a couple time before it was ready to mash out.

Boil in a Bag, all-grain.

Boil in a Bag, all-grain.

The mash out, on the other hand, went smoothly. I hit the temp and I was able to maintain it pretty steadily for 15 minutes. Then it was on to the boil. I started with 7 gallons and went through most of the process as planned.

Dunking and draining...no sparging.

Dunking and draining…no sparging.



I did, however, have in my mind that the last two BIAB brews I did have a bunch of trub and tit really cut into the amount of beer I made. So, at the end, I added a gallon of  cold water which, of course, dropped my specific gravity reading.

I decided to pull a gallon of wort and re-boil it with another 1/2 pound of honey and a 1-3/8 oz chunk of piloncillo (Mexican raw sugar). I chilled that down and added it back. The refractometer was reading 1.047…I did a hydrometer check and it was reading 1.050 at 73F…that would be 1.051 corrected for temperature. Anyway,  I took one last refractometer reading and, low and behold, it matched the hydrometer at 1.051! I stuck the rest of the sample in the fridge to check the color later.

The Boil

The Boil

I had already rehydrated the yeast, so I went ahead and pitched it. Then I rocked the fermention bucket for 5 minutes to aerate. I’m going to go ahead and put a blow-off tube on this bucket, because it is pretty full. It would not take much krausen to foul an airlock!

Blow-off, in place and ready.

Blow-off, in place and ready.

Now it’s time to finish up a little cleaning before I yawn myself to sleep!

Update: Sample tube…clear separation. Lots of trub! I really like the flavor of this wort…this has great potential!

Wort hydrometer sample...checking for trub, color, aroma, flavor.

Wort hydrometer sample…checking for trub, color, aroma, flavor.