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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!

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Merry Christmas and Starting a Half Gallon of Cider

Some yeast and some cider.

Some yeast and some cider.

It’s been some time since I have brewed or fermented anything…holidays and vacation have taken so much of my time! I was grocery shopping today, however, and I bought a gallon of White House brand “Fresh Pressed” Apple Cider (not from concentrate, “all natural”, from whole apples, pasteurized, etc., etc.). My daughter likes unfermented apple cider, some I’m splitting this gallon and fermenting the other half. It cost $5 for the gallon, so I’m not too worried about this not working out. Here’s what I’m doing:

In one 1/2 gallon growler, I’m putting a 1/4 teaspoon each of pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient and a little under 1/2 gallon of the cider. In the other 1/2 gallon clear carboy, I had stored  in the refrigerator, some recovered East Coast Ale yeast. I had never gotten around to draining the wort off of it…but I don’t think it’s worth trying to ferment into beer. What I have done is removed it from the refrigerator and added a couple tablespoons of honey.

Tomorrow night, I’ll see what’s going on. If all goes well, the yeast will activate, I’ll pour off the wort, and add the yeast slurry to the cider. Another 24 hours will show me if it’s going to ferment. I’m not sure how the East Coast Ale yeast will do with cider…I hope it works and I find out!

As for other project updates, the East Coast Cascade American Amber is interesting. The initial taste was a little dank and had a slight astringency in the finish. The carb has come up nicely and the astringency is almost completely gone. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it’s very drinkable and tasty. The Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale IS amazing and has been well received by all who have tried it. Finally, the robust porter and it’s coffee version were not promising at first. Passable, but not really what I was hoping for. Another couple of weeks in the bottle and I was pleasantly surprized that it had turned out to be pretty darn good, after all. Cheers!

 

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Day 168 Brew Day! Partial Mash with Cascade Hops Experiment

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

I have a friend whose son started planting Cascade hops in her garden four years ago. This year, he got a job at a brewery, out of town and wasn’t going to be around to harvest the hops. I was invited over to pick some. Fresh hops! What to do, what to do? I wasn’t ready to use them. I had never used fresh hops before and had no clue how to handle them. Thinking that the best thing was to have them as fresh as possible, I vacuum sealed them in canning jars and put them in the freezer.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

I subsequently heard from a number of people that freezing fresh hops was not a good decision. They would likely become soft and slimey. Flavor was a  big question. One recommendation was to keep them frozen right up until putting them into the boil. So, that’s what I did…right into a little nylon bag and tossed right into the boil.

Some time later, my friend said I should come pick some more. When I arrived this time, instead of big, green cones, most of the hops were drying and turning brown. In addition, it was misty that morning and the “dry” hops were damp. I brought them home and put them in a large cardboard box and put them in the attic to finish drying. After several days, they were nice and dry, but I was concerned about the browning. They had plenty of appropriate aroma, though.

Since I have recently finished up some projects and had some Dry Malt Extract (DME) and a couple kinds of yeast on hand, I decided to try a smaller batch of beer and use some of each of the styles of Cascade hops, vacuum sealed frozen and vacuum sealed dried. I worked on a partial mash recipe and created an American Amber Ale that I’m calling Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale. The yeast is a White Labs East Coast Ale yeast.

Boiling with the bags of hops...this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Boiling with the bags of hops…this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale (American Amber, Single Hop, Partial Mash)

Batch size 3 gallons, 30 minute steep, 30 minute boil

Fermentables:

3 lb DME-Pilsen, boil 30 minutes

8 0z DME-Light, boil 30 minutes

1 lb American-Caramel/Crystal 60L, Grain sock steep 30 minutes @150F in 3.5 gallons strike water

Hops:

0.5 oz Cascade Fresh/Wet (Note: I used frozen, vacuum sealed in a jar.) Boil 30 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf,  Boil 15 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf, Dry hop (in nylon bag) in secondary, 5 days

Other:

Irish Moss (fining) Boil 15 minutes

Yeast: White Labs East Coast Ale Yeast, 1 vial, Optimum temp. 68-73F, 72.5% attenuation    (Note: I used harvested yeast and prepared a starter.)

Original Gravity: 1.053,      Final Gravity: 1.015,       ABV 5.04%     IBU (tinseth) 36.99     SRM (morey) 12.69

After the boil, I chilled to 68F in an ice water bath and tranferred to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation. I had a little under 3 gallons of wort, so I added enough Culligan bottled water to top it off to 3.25 gallons. The plan is to have 3 gallons to bottle after racking to secondary. I aerated with an oxygen stone for 2 minutes (or you could agitate/rock for 5 minutes).  Yeast pitched and fermentation bucket sealed and an airlock was installed at 1:05 pm.  As of 8:30 pm, signs of activity were evident in the airlock, though not aggressive. Unfortunately, I have no idea of the pitch rate. That’s one area (of several) that I have had no experience with figuring out.

Initial impression was positive…no weird or off flavors or aromas were noticeable. Color is a nice brown; perhaps a little darker than I anticipated, but all the indicators match the American Amber style, according to my recipe calculator. I did hit my Original Gravity (OG) number pretty closely. The recipe calls for 1.053 and I measured mine at 1.055 on my refractometer. Good brew day!

One update: the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale has been in the bottles for 11 days now. I opened one of my two test bottles, at room temperature, and poured a small sample. The sample looked clear and, frankly, the aroma and flavor are amazing.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

I recapped the bottle and stuck it in the refrigerator for later. I did open and drink the rest of the bottle tonight and my assessment stands. It is low on the carbonation, though not flat.  I hope that the carb will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

Update on the Eastern Cascade Waterfall: By 8 pm, there was sign of action in the airlock, but it was slow. By the morning after brew day, the airlock is happily chugging away, so my yeast starter appears to be a success!

Update 10/30/14: Eastern Cascade Waterfall Amber airlock action is slowing to a crawl. Probably going into secondary Sunday. Might just get it bottled by middle or end of next week. Lots of choices for Thanksgiving this year!

 

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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:

http://thebrewhut.com/brewblog.php?page=recipeDetail&&filter=brewmaster&id=62&pg=2

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.

DSC04805

 

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.

 

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Day 112 IPA Sample and Soda Bug Progress

Major Nelson's IPA test bottle.

Major Nelson’s IPA test bottle.

I chilled my partial “tester” bottle of IPA earlier today. This evening, I opened it and poured it slowly through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a glass. I think that process pulled most of the carb into the head, because there was a big head and little carb. The reason for the filtered pour is because it looked like there were some floaters in the beer. Anyway, the aroma and flavor were both good. I’m looking forward to the final product!

The ginger starter for making soda seems to be coming along okay. I did add more water with the second ginger and sugar addition. I made a third ginger and sugar addition today.

Giving the "bug" a swirly every now and then.

Giving the “bug” a swirly every now and then.

Getting s few bubbles in the "Ginger-Mint Bug" for making soda.

Getting s few bubbles in the “Ginger-Mint Bug” for making soda.

The pineapple-mango melomel continues to carboy condition. All seems steady…nice and clear…pretty color. Maybe another month to bottling.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (Fruit mead). Look at that color!

Pineapple-Mango Melomel (Fruit mead). Look at that color!

I’m hoping to brew this weekend…maybe tomorrow. I’d like to do a Scotch Ale, but the fermentation temperature requirements may be too low for me to control. I’ll consult the home brew shop…maybe a rye of some kind?

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Day 110 Bottling Major Nelson’s IPA

Major Nelson's IPA

Major Nelson’s IPA

Okay, so I bottled Major Nelson’s IPA today. This is my second all-grain Brew in a Bag (BIAB) beer. This was the “unnamed IPA” recipe from Atlantic Brew Supply for The National Big Brew on May 3, 2014. My name was runner up to “No Way Jose IPA”. I’m sticking with mine.

This IPA includes Falconer’s Fight, Cascade and Simcoe hops and features a Nelson Sauvin dry-hop. The yeast is Mangrove Jack West Coast. The OG was 1.058 and the FG is 1.012, so that yields an ABV of 6.04%.  Based on Northern Brewer’s online priming sugar calculator, I added a tad over 93 grams of corn sugar mixed with about 12 oz of hot, bottled water. The calculator tool called for 93.86 grams, but my scale doesn’t do decimals. Anyway, I made sure it was well dissolved and thoroughly stirred in to my estimated 3.8 gallons of beer to be bottled. I wound up with 40 12 oz bottles. That’s 3.75 gallons. And I did have about a half a bottle left over, so I pretty well nailed the volume with my estimate. I hope that translates to a perfectly carbed IPA! I am encouraged by the aroma, flavor and color. The recipe says to age 30 days. I’m looking forward to it! I’m betting this will be great on July 4th…so I put American Flag crown caps on this batch.

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Day 103 The National Big Brew Day & Racking Tepache

 

National Big Brew group toast!

National Big Brew group toast!

The day started out early with getting to the local brewery by 9 a.m. to set up for The National Big Brew event. I did my second BIAB all-grain brew. This beer has some interesting hops: Cascade, Simcoe, Falconers Flight and dry hopping with Nelson Sauvin. There was not a name for this beer, so they had a naming contest. I think mine was the runner up, but I’m going with it anyway: Major Nelson IPA. I love the camaraderie and access to a wort chiller…easier than the ice bath! I was one of about 5 or 6 brewers set up inside the brewery. It was a nice day and  many brewed outside, but it was hot out there!

The Outsiders.

The Outsiders.

New for this brew, my brew buddy let me use her aerator gizmo to aerate at the end…much more effective than rocking and swirling. The process went smoothly…no surprises.

BIAB set up for Mashing in.

BIAB set up for Mashing in.

I started off with a little over 5 gallons of water and, after the saccharification step and mashout, I added 2 gallons for the boil. After the boil, my OG was 1.058 and I did not top off. I wound up with about 5-1/4 gallons anyway…sweet! The recipe estimate for the OG was 1.066 (but their actual was 1.046, so I’m happy with where I would up. I’m estimating that my FG will be around 1.010 with a 6.3% ABV.  Lets see how it turns out!

In line for using the wort chiller...I'm next!

In line for using the wort chiller…I’m next!

Boiling!

Boiling!

I pitched the yeast, a Mangrove Jack West Coast, at 3 p.m., when I arrived home. I did not rehydrate it first…I have been told that it doesn’t really do much other than maybe speed up the fermentation kick-off a little. As of 8 p.m., I’m not seeing any action yet, but I am confident it will happen; probably overnight.

Draining the pineapple (using my BIAB bag)

Draining the pineapple (using my BIAB bag)

After cleaning up from my beer equipment, I checked on my Tepache. The level of fermentation was looking pretty good, so I strained the pineapple skins and core out and I sanitized a one gallon carboy. I added a 12 oz bottle of room temperature Strawberry Blonde Ale to the carboy and added the tepache liquid to it.

Tepache, racked for a couple more days, with a beer.

Tepache, racked for a couple more days, with a beer.

The brewer/fermenter in me said,”Airlock that baby!” So I did. By 8 p.m., I had a nice foam on the top and it looks like a little action in the airlock. This doesn’t have to ferment way out…probably just another day or two. If I decide to bottle any (it would only be around 6 or 8 bottles for all of it), I would definitely need to pasteurize, to avoid bottle bombs There’s going to be a LOT of residual sugar. I’m really enjoying this little experiment!

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