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Day 68 Nothing Brewing…Feels Weird

Since I bottled my hefeweizen, and scrambled for bottles to do it, I have nothing brew-related going on. Everything is in the bottle conditioning phase. It just feels weird! I did open a few bottles tonight…um…just to check their progress. Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, I started off with my Nut Brown Ale that I received as a Christmas gift-kit. It was bottled 10 days ago and is surprisingly drinkable already. Compared to my previous English Nut Brown Ale, A.K.A. Fawlty Brown Ale, it is a bit more bitter. The color and clarity are good and the carbonation may get better, but is pretty good already. In addition to the kit, I also received some Irish moss and gypsum. I believe they did their jobs! No doubt that this beer will improve with another couple of weeks in the bottle, but my first bottle out of this batch says it’s a success.

Nice clarity and color

Nice clarity and color

Nut Brown Ale

Nut Brown Ale

The second bottle of the evening was a 22 0z bottle of the Belgian Strong Dark. I believe my last taste of this beer was described as having a fruity component and maybe caramel, but not the roasted coffee or chocolate flavors. This beer has been in the bottle for 24 days and has since mellowed a bit on the caramel and it has lost that fruit from before. I’m not an expert at the critique thing for beer and I don’t have the right words to describe this flavor. Is this what people describe as “biscuit”? I will need to get some more experienced feedback on this one, but whatever it is, it’s good…at least, I think so!

Belgian Strong Dark...interesting.

Belgian Strong Dark…interesting.

The final bottle I opened this evening is the Watson’s Cider…in honor of John Hamish Watson’s nuptials on Masterpiece Theater tonight! Side note: awesome episode. ‘Nuff said. The cider, unfortunately, is not doing so well. This is an all-crabapple (foraged) sparkling cider. This is the only beverage that I have pastuerized, so far. I also was trying to retain some sweetness by not letting it ferment quite all the way out. In the process, I did not let it clarify long enough and too much lees came along for the ride. It’s a little sour in the nose…like mild vinegar. The carbonation is a bit week. If I went back through my notes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the carbonation is actually going down some. There was quite a bit of sediment in the bottle and the color of the cider is a medium golden, but with a little haze. I know it sounds weird, but the best way to describe it is as if someone drop one or two drops of skim milk into the glass before adding the cider. I did have fun with the label. Since calling it a “cyser”, I have seen the error in my ways…but the labels were expensive and already printed. Plus, “Watson’s Cider” sounds like a personal question.

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

One of my less successful beverages, but not ready to dump it yet!

As for the flavor, I definitely get that slight sourness/vinegar taste with an almost dry finish. These days, some people think it’s good for you to drink vinegar, so they’d probably think this was really mild and tasty! I’ll keep pulling one out, now and then to see what’s happening. I’m not ready to dump it yet, but we’ll see what happens over time. If I get desperate for a few bottles to use for something else, these are at the top of the expendable list.

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Day 65 Busy Day! Bottling & Brewing!

This morning, I started the day by bottling my nut brown ale. This was my first 5 gallon batch…good thing I bought bottles Saturday.

Some of the nut brown ale.

Some of the nut brown ale.

Set up for bottling.

Set up for bottling.

I got about 2 cases of 120z bottles, I racked to a second bottling bucket and left a lot of sludge behind.

5 gallon batch worth of sludge.

5 gallon batch worth of sludge.

Unfortunately, the spigot I bought didn’t have a nut with it and the one I put on was close, but must have not been quite right…it started leaking. OH NO!!! I stuck a (clean) arm into the beer and re-tightened the nut. I’m hoping that wasn’t a fatal mistake for this batch!  Otherwise, it went okay. I filled and my son capped. The FG was 1.008, so the ABV is 5.78% (approximately).

After lunch and gathering some more equipment and supplies, It was on to brewing! This is the first time that I have brewed outside. I borrowed a brother in-law’s turkey fryer set-up…powerful propane burner and a big S/S stock pot.

Turkey fryer for making beer.

Turkey fryer for making beer.

I sanitized all my utensils and went to work. I used 2 gallons of water for the grain bag steep. Then I set up another 2 gallons for a sparge-like set-up. I know there isn’t a requirement to do this in extract recipes, but I figured it couldn’t hurt my efficiency and I just wanted to try it.

Make-shift, unnecessary sparge set-up...but kind of cool!

Make-shift, unnecessary sparge set-up…but kind of cool!

Topped off water to 6 gallons with a 1/2 t. gypsum. The spent grain feeds my garden and the big burner brings the boil. Off the heat, I add the extract. Returned to boil and add the hops…adjust burner for a good 60 minute boil. Stirred frequently.

Chillin' and brewin'

Chillin’ and brewin’

I used a large plastic bin, filled with water and ice to chill the wort down to 90F.

Strangely enough, Bavarian Weizen Yeast for a Bavarian style hefeweisen

Strangely enough, Bavarian Weizen Yeast for a Bavarian style hefeweisen

I brought the wort inside and topped it off to 5-1/2 gallons and got the temperature down to 75F (Okay, I *may* have jumped the gun a little and pitched the yeast at around 80F. The top-off water was supposed to lower the temp from 90F to 70/75F, but I didn’t need much at all to get to 5-1/2 gallons. Iced the bucket in the sink, but was taking forever!) The OG was 1.040…so I added a 1/4 c. corn sugar with equal part  hot water stirred in. OG bumped to 1.042…close enough. Pitched the yeast, stirred, sealed and aerated. I set up the blow off and we’re off and running! The chilling part is still my biggest challenge.

Blow-off set-up...ready to roll!

Blow-off set-up…ready to roll!

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Day 46. Fawlty Brown Ale is just right!

It has been 1 month and 1 day since bottling the Fawlty Brown Ale and its carb level is perfect! Too bad I only have a couple of bottles left! My family isn’t a bunch of drinkers and they drink even less as time goes on. I didn’t have many helpers drinking my first brew at Thanksgiving…but I drank several over the course of the week. I think I’ve had one or two since then. Anyway, I’m down to four bottles just as it really hits its prime! It was tasty, but a little undercarbonated at Thanksgiving. Now, it’s just right on the carb. I’m not the educated palate that many brewers are, but I’m very pleased with this English Nut Brown Ale! I will definitely be making this one again and forcing myself to leave it alone for a month.

A month and a day since bottling is just right for this beer!

A month and a day since bottling is just right for this beer!

Oh yeah…the fruity bits layer on the Pineapple Tinker is starting to fall and create a layer on the bottom again. I’m assuming that this will continue and in a couple of days I will be racking for secondary. Fermenting in glass has been really interesting!

Having another Watson’s Cider…love the sweetness level and carbonation, but I really should have allowed another day or two to clarify. I was just too scared that it would ferment too dry. Instead, I’ve got more sediment in the bottles than I should and there’s a yeasty flavor in the cider. Not enough so that I won’t drink it, though!

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Day 38 Airlock Slowing on Dry Stout (and tasting some stuff!)

8:30 am   The airlock on my Dry Stout batch is slowing to about a bubble every 10 seconds. Getting there! Another 2 or three days and it should be ready to rack to bottle. I’m debating racking to carboys first for clarity. I probably will…let it sit for a few hours and then add priming sugar to a clean bottling bucket and rack on top of that and bottle the stout. I’m thinking Christmas is too early to drink this one…New Year’s Eve is going to be a little early too. I think sampling will begin in mid January.

2:00 pm   I checked intervals between airlock bubbles on the stout in primary fermentation and both times I counted exactly 37. Odd number to come up with, but there ya go. Note: Everything I read says that airlock bubbles are not an indication of fermentation and that the only way to truly tell your beer has finished fermenting is to check the specific gravity. If it hasn’t changed in two days, then it’s ready. Personally, I can’t help but see the airlock bubbles as a pretty good indicator. I really don’t want to expose my brew to open air any more than necessary. If the SG is in expected target range once bubbles have subsided for a couple days, I feel pretty confident.

3:30 pm   Opened the flip top test bottle of cider batch #4. I thought I heard a little release when I popped the top, but I could not detect any carbonation in the small sample that I poured. The sweetness and flavor are very nice, though. I guess I can let it go for awhile before I check it again.

8:30 pm   Well, it IS Friday night, so I decided to pop a top on a Fawlty Brown Ale. It has had another week in the bottle since I last tried one. It was in a back room, where the temperature was in the upper 60’s and the bottle felt cool, so I went ahead and opened it without additional refrigeration. The carbonation has definitely increased and I think the beer is quite good. More time won’t hurt, but it’s good.

Fawlty Brown Ale...carbonation is better this week.

Fawlty Brown Ale…carbonation is better this week

11:30 pm   Alright, the kids are at sleepovers and I shouldn’t have to go anywhere; so, I pulled out a bottle of Watson’s Cyser. (If I had used the right terminology on the label, it would have been “Watson’s Cider”…say it again…I know; funny, right?)

Watson's Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

Watson’s Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

This cider has actually got positives and negatives. The positives are that it retains some sweetness and some crabapple character and the carbonation is about where I like it. The negatives are that I left a little too much sediment in the bottling. I don’t mind the lack of crystal clarity, but the lees are allowing a bit of a yeasty flavor. IMAG2000Getting it just right is trickier than I thought! I need to rack longer for clarity, but not ferment the sugar all the way out and completely lose the yeast; otherwise, it won’t carb. The experiments are interesting, but I’m glad they aren’t huge batches!

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Day 33 Thanksgiving! Another Fawlty Brown Ale and Too Much Food!

IMAG1926

Sometime afternoon: I cracked open another Fawlty Brown Ale and relaxed before the cooking chores to come. This one was slightly better than the one last night, as far as carbonation, if that’s possible, but it seemed to dissipate by the last couple of swallows.  My Mother In-Law tasted it and gave it a thumbs up. Maybe a few more will be opened this evening. IMAG1929

Whatever is left will go home…I’m thinking of leaving a few in the refrigerator and a few out at room temp, to see if they improve with a bit more time. Much cooking ensued next. IMAG1930A turkey was cooked, a broccoli casserole was prepared, plain broccoli was prepped, giblets were turned into stock and a roux was created for gravy. Whew! Soon, it will be time to carve the 18 lb bird and make the gravy. Then, we must eat, drink and be merry! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Day 32 Fawlty Brown Ale…Not Bad

I decided to go ahead and chill the Fawlty Brown Ale for tomorrow and try one tonight. Since we have everyone here for Thanksgiving now and no one would share the bottle with me, I won’t be surprised if most of the 10 bottles I have left come home with me.

Opening Fawlty Brown Ale for a taste before Thanksgiving.

Opening Fawlty Brown Ale for a taste before Thanksgiving.

As for the beer itself, it tasted about the same as the bottle I opened several days ago. The color and flavor are good, nice bitterness, drinkable; however, the carbonation level is a bit low.

Not bad.

Not bad.

Still, pleased with my first attempt at beer and if nobody else drinks any, most of these can spend some more time in the bottle…but they’ve been refrigerated now. Not sure if I should take them out now?

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Day 29 Sample 12 oz Fawlty, Cider Batch #2 Test Green Bottle Rack Cider Batch #4

8:00 pm     Took a 12 oz bottle of Fawlty Brown Ale to a party where an experienced home brewer was attending. Sampled the bottle and it was a little under-carbonated, but a few more days in the bottle will help that. My sampler said that for a first try, it was good. He thought the aroma addition of hops could be bumped up a little and more time in the bottle would definitely improve the carbonation and flavor. Good info and reinforced that I’m on the right path!

Needed to rack cider batch #4 before Thanksgiving trip. I transferred from PFB’s #1 and #2  to a bottling bucket.

Transferred from PFB's and blended into Bottling Bucket.

Transferred from PFB’s and blended into Bottling Bucket.

The SG on bucket #2 was 1.014 and bucket #1 was 1.016 @ 72F. There was a little more particulate in suspension in bucket #1. When the two buckets were blended into the bottling bucket, the SG was 1.010…I guess the two SG readings don’t average when combined? Anyway, the SG, after combining and adjusting for hydrometer calibration @60F. is 1.011. Racked into two 1 gallon carboys and two 22 oz bottles.

Good color. Ready to hold until after Thanksgiving.

Good color. Ready to hold until after Thanksgiving.

The color looks good. Bubbling started back up in the airlocks. I’ll let these go until the Monday after Thanksgiving (or Sunday, if I have the energy. I’ll check the SG again and decide if I’ll go ahead and bottle and whether or not I need to backsweeten. This is the only project that I haven’t bottled yet and it should be okay for a week. Fawlty Brown Ale goes to the beach and will hopefully benefit from 5 more days in the bottle. Batches #1-3 are all bottle conditioning…basically indefinitely.

I did open the sample green test bottle of cider batch #2 that I bottled on 11/8/13…on 11/13/13, I opened and strained this bottle, added another Munton’s CarTab and re-capped. While I have decided against the carbonation tablets in the future, this bottle did finally lose the floaters and settle.IMAG1873

Test bottle from cider batch #2

Test bottle from cider batch #2

The result was fairly dry, but not as dry as I thought it might get. The bubbles were fine and streaming like champagne. Very nice.

Used the flash to show the bubbles better... actual color is more pale.

Used the flash to show the bubbles better… actual color is more pale.

The rest of batch #2 is primed with priming sugar, but was allowed to ferment out and spent quite some time in the carboys and was bottled as TARDIS Cider…bigger on the inside. Recent check of the screw-top soda bottle tester  didn’t really show any carbonation. I’m just going to let it go and sample it after a couple months to see if carbing kicks in. I’ll make the next decision then.

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