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Brief Update: Fluffernutter Sammie Stout and Railer’s Pale Ale

Railer's Pale Ale, floating whole Cascade hops.

Railer’s Pale Ale, floating whole Cascade hops.

Tried a bottle of the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout a couple of days ago. There was no head…like pouring a soda with no ice. It bubbled when pouring and immediately dissipated. The carbonation is better than last try, but could still be better. I’m hoping this isn’t the best it’s going to get, or I’m disappointed. Flavor is not bad, but would certainly be more enjoyable with head and a little more carb. Maybe I just need to try another established recipe, without doing anything “interesting” to it. I might just do better with an ESB.

The Railer’s Pale Ale is coming along nicely. The Wyeast II 1272 yeast has performed very well…nice krausen, but no need for a blow-off tube. At this point, I think fermentation is done; but I’m giving it a little more time. I may take a hydrometer sample soon to start the verification process. I’m hoping to be able to keg this beer, with equipment belonging to a friend, for the Railhawk’s Soktoberfest event September 10th. The whole Cascade hops are floating …at least some of them. I’m hoping they will drop, but either way, I’m planning to rack to another carboy, using a strainer bag on the siphon. I’m optimistic with this beer…as long as it isn’t too sweet…but it will be consumed.

I just wish I could pull off a good stout with a nice head.

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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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Fluffernutter Sammie Stout Update

Fluffernutter Sammie Stout, out of the fermentation chamber briefly to ease the temp up a bit.

Fluffernutter Sammie Stout, out of the fermentation chamber briefly to ease the temp up a bit.

Update 5/24/2016: An unexpected little run of cooler temperatures had me worried that the beer was not fermenting. I know it did for a couple of days, albeit a bit slowly…never really started “chugging”, but going. Then the cool weather, and my little fermentation chamber is outside. It is only able to cool, not warm, so this could be a problem. Since the overnight low last night was going into the mid to lower 50’s, I decided to bring the carboy inside.

I took a sample and did a temperature and hydrometer reading. The temp was 62.5, so it wasn’t terrible…a little under optimum range, but should not be low enough to have caused any harm. The hydrometer has the specific gravity at 1.030, so it definitely was fermenting. That’s good! Adjusting for the lactose, I think it will likely only go to 1.028 or so.

Hydrometer sample for evaluation...specific gravity, temperature and flavor.

Hydrometer sample for evaluation…specific gravity, temperature and flavor.

The flavor of the sample has my hopes up! The color may be a tad light, but it’s a little darker than the sample shows, because of the camera flash and the particles had not settled out yet. I could definitely taste the peanut flavor, especially in the finish. Nice malty sweetness. After the sample chilled overnight, the peanut flavor is more muted. With that and the consensus from others that the peanut flavor will start fading after a couple of months in the bottles, I do plan to add more peanut powder to secondary via boiling it with water and cooling it…probably a gallon and then racking onto it and the vanilla beans. I’m going to skip the marshmallow Fluff in secondary and rely on the vanilla for that flavor, so I’m not adding much more fermentable sugars. I may try adding some to the boil in a future batch, but not this time. I have a feeling that this beer’s flavor will improve as it loses some of its chill, after pouring.

The temperature on the carboy strip thermometer reads around 66-68F, so I’ll be putting it back in the fermentation chamber later today.

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Brew Day: Fluffernutter Sammie Stout

Set up to brew.

Set up to brew.

 

Finally! For the first time in 7 months, I brewed some beer! I created this recipe months ago and tweaked it some, but just didn’t want to brew again until I was able to control my fermentation temperatures. I have had ongoing issues with over-carbonation and I have had some off-flavors, particularly with darker beers…some are metallic or just very one dimensional. I have addressed everything I can, except fermentation temperature and yeast selection. For this sweet stout, I decided to go with Wyeast 1968. Optimal temperature range is around 64 to 70F. So, instead of my normal household room temperature of around 72F, with wort temps reaching 75 to 78, I now have a small chest freezer with controls to regulate the temperature. I have it set at 63-64F. I’m hoping this will at least help the flavor of the beer. If it helps with the carbonation issue, too, then that would be awesome!

Small chest freezer. Perfect fit for a single carboy and a blow-off container.

Small chest freezer. Perfect fit for a single carboy and a blow-off container.

http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/295261/fluffernutter-sammie-stout

I did have to make some minor changes based on homebrew shop ingredients availability…nothing major. Brew day went very smoothly, except for mash temperature climbing to 160F, instead of 155F. With about 25 minutes left, I removed the insulation/lid and started stirring to lower the temperature. With 10 minutes left, it was down to 156-157.

Brew in a bag...the "mash in".

Brew in a bag…the “mash in”.

My understanding is that the effect would be less fermentable sugars and possibly a little sweeter finish. I also added lactose with 10 minutes left in the boil. The end of the boil was fine, except the OG was high. I have a feeling that the lactose is not figured into the refractometer/hydrometer readings, because otherwise, it looks fine.

The boil is done.

The boil is done.

As a result of being able to drop the temperature to 71-72F, pitch the yeast and drop the carboy in a 64F fermentation chamber, the “take-off” for the yeast was barely noticeable 20 hours later. There was just a ring of bubbles around the top inside of the carboy. Now, at about 26 hours, there is audible bubbling and more visible signs of fermentation.

Controls to convert the freezer to a fermentation chamber.

Controls to convert the freezer to a fermentation chamber.

My concerns, at this point, are whether or not I added enough peanut powder to be noticeable in the final product, and if the vanilla planned for secondary will give the marshmallow flavor. A couple little sips of the wort towards the end of the boil did not really convince me on the peanut powder…and what IS marshmallow flavor? Marshmallows are basically corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla. I’ll investigate some more and see if peanut powder can be effectively added during primary or secondary fermentation, as well as exploring the marshmallow flavor a bit more. If I make changes, I will definitely update the recipe. For tonight, it’s reading, while the fermentation builds.

 

 

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Racking There Gose Sea Breeze and Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Fermentation seems to have slowed way down on the “There Gose Sea Breeze” beer and I’m trying to get it done for Thanksgiving, so I racked it today. Problem: my Blueberry-Muscadine Wine is in my other carboy. I need a third to make this process work. So, I went to a local home brew shop to check out my options. I decided to go with a 5 gallon Better Boy brand plastic carboy with a port on it for a tap. That will allow me to use it like a bottling bucket, rather than having to use a siphon. Maybe this will reduce the chance for infection by one more function…maybe. Seems like a good system, but the tap is a bit tricky to install and it ain’t cheap. The carboy itself was about $28. Then, the tap comes as two separate pieces that add up to about another $30. Then, I needed the special size of stopper for the top, some 1/2″ tubing and a 1/2″ diameter bottling cane. Altogether, with tax, it was about $85.

After I got everything organized, cleaned, put together, and sanitized, things went pretty smoothly. I went with the 5 gallon Better Boy because I plan to generally use it for secondary fermentations and, at that point, usually I’m down in that range. When I racked the wine, I got a nice, full 5 gallons.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

I then squeaked out about another quart, into a half gallon glass jug. I may go ahead and bottle that in a 22 oz bomber, when I get a chance. There’s too much head space there and I don’t want it to oxidize.

Once the wine was transferred and the glass carboy it was in was cleaned and sanitized, I prepared to rack the beer into it. I set-up the siphon and hose. Next, I added the grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer to the carboy and began racking the beer onto it.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Once that was all squared away, I started making the hibiscus tea.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

I used a quart of hot Culligan (bottled) water and 5 oz of dried hibiscus flowers to a 2 quart stainless steel sauce pan.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Since I didn’t have one a bit bigger, I went ahead and brought another quart of the water to a boil in a big stainless stock pot. After the hibiscus flowers were brought to a boil, I covered them and turned off the heat. The other water boiled for a few minutes and, after the flowers steeped for 10 minutes, I strained the tea concentrate into the boiling water. I cleaned the smaller pot and then strained the entire amount of liquid back into it and it just did manage to fill it completely. Note here…steeped hibiscus flowers don’t do well in a garbage disposal unit. I should have composted them. Live and learn. After a little disposer cleaning, I got back to my hibiscus concentrate and funneled it into a sanitized glass container, covered it with sanitized plastic wrap and stuck it in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

 

 

 

 

The final thing I wanted to accomplish tonight was to attempt to harvest some yeast. If I like the result in this gose, I wouldn’t mind making another gose or a maybe try making a kolsch, before the really cold weather starts coming around. So, for tonight, I poured off some of the trub that was left behind in the carboy that I racked out of and funneled it into a sanitized 1/2 gallon glass jug.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

I topped that off with Culligan bottled water and added a sanitized cap. I’ll let that sit out overnight and separate. I’ll update here tomorrow when I add the hibiscus tea concentrate and further separate the yeast.

11/2/15 update: Added the hibiscus tea to the gose and it looks like a giant jar of cranberry sauce!

IMG_20151102_070230010

I also decanted the liquid off of the yeast I’m trying to harvest. My understanding is that the yeast is the thin whitish layer on the top of the sediment. I transferred that to a pint jar and added water, We’ll see how that settles.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Yeast settled for harvest.

Yeast settled for harvest.

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There Gose Sea Breeze

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or "mashing in".

Brew Day!!! Adding the grain to the heated water. or “mashing in”.

So, two days ago (Thursday, October 24, 2015), my wife asked me, “If you brew a batch of beer tomorrow, will it be ready in time for Thanksgiving?” I figured it would, as long as it wasn’t something that needed a long time to ferment or bottle condition. Maybe an IPA? Well, she was going to be taking kids to the NC State Fair…all day…so I was authorized to brew. That night, I did some research for holiday beers and everything seemed to be porters and stouts. IPA’s were recommended by some sources, but so many hops and dry hopping…just didn’t feel it. Then I thought, “How about a refreshing gose style? That’ll cut through the heavy foods.” I brewed a gose before and, while mushroom was not the most successful flavor choice, it was technically very good.

Okay, so the next decision: how do I want to flavor it? I immediately thought about cranberries…tart, refreshing, a little citrusy. So, I did a little research on cranberries. It turns out that cranberries present a problem for brewing: they float. And raw, floating berries don’t ferment well or add much flavor. Even chopped, they don’t do much better. If you cook them, the flavor changes and the pectin comes out. That presents more problems. How about cranberry juice? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find pure juice, without additives. Not for a reasonable price, anyway. In my research, someone recommended dried hibiscus flowers as an alternative…very similar to the flavor of cranberries and great color. I used them in a previous recipe very successfully and, in fact, still have a supply! Hibiscus it is.

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

Dried Hibiscus F;owers

I pulled out my previous gose recipe and began working on it. Substitute hibiscus for the mushrooms, up the salt from .75 oz to 1.25 oz, and add .25 oz ground coriander. The coriander is traditional, but needs to be restrained. I bought a fresh bottle and smelled it. Surprisingly, it reminded me of hops.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

Hops. coriander, sea salt, and Irish moss additions.

I also decided to go with a traditional hop choice: Saaz. As I was putting together the recipe, I happened to run across a cranberry cocktail called “Sea Breeze”. It is made with cranberry juice, vodka, grapefruit juice, salt and a lime garnish.

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Sea Breeze Cocktail (Photo via Wikipedia)

Well, since we are going to be drinking this at the beach, I figure…add some grapefruit zest, sanitized in vodka, and There Gose Sea Breeze!

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Grapefruit zest from 3 grapefruits.

Lime garnish optional. I got all the information plugged into the recipe and it looks good! You can get the recipe here: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/289756/there-gose-sea-breeze

Before I could brew, I had a lot of cleaning, preparation, sanitizing, to do. Plus a run to the grocery store and local home brew shop. Then I had to organize and set up for the brew. I think I finally started brewing about 1:15 pm. Steps went fine. I overheated the strike water, but not too badly.  The special grain, the acidulated malt, is added after the first 60 minutes and takes an extra 45 minutes to mash…it adds a lightly sour component to the beer. After the mash, I added an additional gallon of water for the boil. Everything else went smoothly and I wound up with a carboy full of wort!

That's a full carboy!

That’s a full carboy!

Checkiing the Specific Gravity(SG) with a refractometer and a hydrometer, I determined the Original Gravity(OG) to be 1.063. The Final Gravity(FG) is anticipated to be around 1.014, which would put the ABV at 6.3%. I pitched the yeast, finally, at about 6:30 pm.

I put a blow tube on this morning, after having to do a little floor cleaning. The good news is that the yeast is alive and active!

Blow off tube...should have put on at the start.

Blow off tube…should have put on at the start.

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Brew Day! Mowing Ranier

The set-up. Mashing in and maintaining temp with a blanket and a "space blanket".

The set-up. Mashing in and maintaining temp with a blanket and a “space blanket”.

 

It took awhile to get organized this morning, but eventually, I got started. I began with 6.25 gallons of strike water heated to 149F…but it overshot a little. After I added the grains, the water came down to 150.8, but that’s okay. The mash went for 60 minutes. I checked it at 30 minutes and it was still 150.6F.

Next, I raised the temperature to 170F and did a mash-out for a few minutes and then did my usual rigged sparge with 2 gallons of water at 170F.

My McGyver sparge set-up.

My McGyver sparge set-up.

That put my boil at about 7 gallons. The pre-boil specific gravity reading was 1.035…a little lower that expected. Looking at my grain, I don’t think the brew shop double-milled the grain for “brew in a bag” (BIAB), as I requested and it looks like my efficiency is suffering for it.

After the sparge...looks like a pretty coarse crush.

After the sparge…looks like a pretty coarse crush.

I’m not really hung up on the ABV, though. It’s supposed to be a “lawn mower” style beer anyway; this the name. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means a beer suitable for after mowing the lawn. Lighter body, lower alcohol, refreshing. Plus this one has Mt. Ranier Cherries (I had to add a few regular ones to make up a pound), stems removed, pitted.

Mostly Mt Ranier cherries, stemmed and pitted.

Mostly Mt Ranier cherries, stemmed and pitted.

When I move it to secondary fermentation, I’ll be adding about a pound (minus a couple samples!) of dried Mt Ranier cherries. Have to make sure to get ones NOT processed with sunflower, or any other, oil.

So, after the sparge, I started the boil. I did remove about a gallon of wort to reduce the chance of boil-over. Once the boil was going, I added the first 1/2 oz of Citra hops. After 15 minutes, I added back the excess wort. I did get one small boil-over, but I reacted quickly and didn’t really lose much at all. After 45 minutes, I added the next 1/2 oz of Citra hops and 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss (to facilitate clearing). At 55 minutes, I added another 1/2 oz of Citra hops (the last hops addition will be a dry hop in secondary). At 3 minutes, I added the cherries.

Just about done with the boil.

Just about done with the boil.

Then it was time to use the wort chiller. Unfortunately, with the temps in the mid nineties daily, the water temp coming from the hose is 80F+. I was only able to get the wort down to about 84F. So, I brought the wort inside and transferred it to a carboy. Unfortunately, again, it’s difficult to transfer from a stock pot to a carboy…especially with cherries in the wort! I did sanitize everything, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there was no contamination. I used a stainless steel Kitchenaid mixing bowl and a rigged paper cup funnel to dip and pour the wort into the carboy. I could really use a brew kettle with a valve/spout. I wound up with about 5-1/2 gallons of wort in the carboy and about 3/4 gallon in a separate, small fermentation bucket. I think I’ll use the extra for a blackberry experiment.

I let the wort sit for awhile to cool a little more and then added the US-05 yeast. I sprinkled enough on the small batch to cover the top and the rest went into the carboy. I’m afraid the temp was still around 80-81F…thought I killed the yeast. But, the yeast survived! The next morning, there was good action going on.

It's alive! It's alive!

It’s alive! It’s alive!

There is a possibility, at the higher temperatures, that some “fruity esters” will develop. They’re considered undesirable in most beers, but in a fruit beer, may be okay. If they do develop…meh. Maybe they’ll compliment the cherries. I’m not sure I would pick them out, anyway. Oh, and after I finished and cleaned everything up, I made two batches of spent  grain dog treats. That should last awhile…it’s over 3 pounds. The rest of the  used grain is feeding my compost bin.

Spent grain.

Spent grain.

Spent grain doggie treat dough, patted out and cut...ready for oven.

Spent grain doggie treat dough, patted out and cut…ready for oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four bags of doggie treats, about 12 to 13 ounces each.

Four bags of doggie treats, about 12 to 13 ounces each.

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