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Update on Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry Citra Ale: Infection!

This is what infection looks like...damn it.

This is what infection looks like…damn it.

Well, I have my first confirmed infected beer. After racking the Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale, I noticed some patches on the surface the next day. Then, the following day, there was a complete film (a.k.a. “Pellicle”) covering the surface. I confirmed that it was on the small blackberry batch, as well.

What caused the infection? I don’t know. A fruit fly touching the beer during racking? A microscopic particle drifting in? Cherries weren’t properly sanitized? Sloppiness when transferring wort from kettle to fermenter? No way to know really. From what I understand, there are a few possible outcomes. I could put it in an out of the way place and let it go for a couple of years and hope that the infection is Brettanomyces strain and would slowly transform my beer into a mindblowing sour beer. It could be an acetobacter (commonly from fruit flies) that would basically turn the beer into vinegar. It could be something yucky than would just turn the beer into something disgusting. Finally, I could go ahead and try to siphon from under the pellicle and bottle the beer ASAP and cross my fingers. The eventual outcome could still be nasty, or it could be good initially and go downhill. Or it could get better with age. Again…no way to tell in advance. So, I’m going to bottle it. The next step, after that, will be replacing my siphon and tubing and bleaching the Hell out of my carboy and bottling bucket, and hoping to salvage them. Some say it should all be thrown away or only be used for sour beers. Others say bleaching works.

I was almost out of 12 oz bottles, but I have some 22 oz “bombers”, so I went ahead and bottled the little blackberry batch into 2 of those and one 12 oz. The beer seemed to taste okay still. Luckily, a brewer friend had a couple of cases of bottles that she gave to me…saving me a trip to the supply store and about $35 for 2 cases of bottles! So, bottling will be my project tonight. I’ll update later….

***Okay…it’s later. I bleached all my utensils and the bottling bucket, rinsed well and then sanitized again with Starsan. The bottles, I soaked in Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda solution, rinsed well, and then sanitized with Starsan.I went transferred the beer to the bottling bucket with 3oz sugar dissolved in hot Culligan water. I collected 4 gallons to bottle. I tried to stop well before any of the stuff from the pellicle got too low. As the volume in the carboy dropped, the pellicle coated the sides.

The clarity and color were nice though...dang it!

The clarity and color were nice though…dang it!

Volume drops, pellicle coats sides.

Volume drops, pellicle coats sides.

I went through the bottling process and got 42 bottles (12oz). The beer is clear, the color is nice, the flavor is good. If it weren’t for the infection, I would have been really happy at this point! It is depressing though that the few bottles I did yesterday from the little blackberry variant were cloudy at the bottom and may have had some stuff floating at the top. It could be that it just had more crap in the smaller bucket and I wasn’t as careful getting it into the bottles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the main batch. I had intended to go light on the priming sugar, but I overestimated how much beer I would collect; so it turns out that I added the amount of sugar that would have been recommended anyway…though I was shooting for 2.2 atmospheres, which is a little under. I will have to watch for overcarbing.

Update 9/10/15: Refrigerated a bottle all day and opened it last night. Not carbed enough. I’m not sure it’s good enough to save, but I’ll give it a couple more weeks.

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Racking to Tertiary: Mowing Mt. Ranier

Racking to tertiary for clearing.

Racking to tertiary for clearing.

Looks like the Mowing Mt. Ranier Ale, Cherry-Citra “lawnmower beer” is done with secondary fermentation and dry hopping. I let it go a couple of extra days, just in case, because the cherries in secondary DID restart fermentation.

Secondary-fermented red cherries...giving up flavor and color.

Secondary-fermented red cherries…giving up flavor and color.

Once the small amount of krausen worked itself out, much of it precipitated to the bottom, just leaving the cherries floating. (Note: my little 1/2 gallon blackberry recipe looks good, too and I racked it as well. Not as much color imparted by the blackberries, but the flavor is interesting…good.)

After settling under refrigeration, the blackberry sample.

After settling under refrigeration, the blackberry sample.

Racked my little blackberry batch, too.

Racked my little blackberry batch, too.

The red cherries did impart some color that I would not have gotten if I had used all Mt. Ranier cherries; however, it IS a nice color. I removed a sample for tasting and to get an SG reading. The color, as I said, is nice. The flavor has pronounced cherry and citra, without being sweet or heavy.

Transferred back to clean carboy to clear for a couple of days.

Transferred back to clean carboy to clear for a couple of days.

Sample of Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale

Sample of Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale

The SG got down to 1.007, so the alcohol should be 4.73% ABV. That’s actually a little lower than the recipe estimated, but I’m actually very happy with that.

I cleaned and sanitized a bottling bucket and racked into it. I dumped the cherries, hops bag, and the small amount of trub that made it through the last racking. I washed, rinsed, and sanitized the carboy again and transferred the beer back into it. Looks good…pretty clear. I’ll give it a couple of days to settle and then it should be good to bottle.

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Racking to Secondary: Mowing Mt. Ranier

 

Ready to rack to secondary

Ready to rack to secondary

A few days ago, I did a specific gravity test on the Mowing Mt. Ranier Ale with Cherries. It was down to 1.009 (the anticipated was 1.008) and hadn’t shown signs of activity in several days. To be safe, I waited a few more days before racking. I had some time this morning, so I went ahead and got it done. I removed the stems and pits from some regular red cherries and weighed out a pound.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

I was not able to find Ranier cherries locally anymore and my brother in-law canceled an order for dried ones when I warned him not to get ones processed with sunflower oil. Unfortunately, that’s what he had ordered. So, I have decided to finish the beer with the regular, fresh, red cherries. I sanitized them in StarSan, since I didn’t have time to soak them in vodka and freeze them. I also have a small experimental batch that is just about a 1/2 gallon after racking. I have sanitized a pint of frozen blackberries and added them to that little batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

After racking the main batch, I cleaned the carboy, sanitized it, and transferred the beer back into it, onto the cherries.

Racking

Racking

Sanitizing the carboy.

Sanitizing the carboy.

Cherries in secondary.

Cherries in secondary.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

I have what appears to be right at 5 gallons. To this, I added a dry hop addition of 1/2 oz Citra hops pellets that I contained in a little sanitized fine mesh bag. Dropped that in and put the airlock back in place. There is a possibility that the yeast, suspended in the beer, could start fermentation back up with the sugar in the cherries. Ideally, the batch will be done in five days. If it takes longer, that’s okay. I’ll let it be ready when it’s ready. So far, everything looks and smells good. There isn’t a lot of cherry flavor, but I’m not looking for cherry soda. The cherries added to secondary should give me what I’m going for.

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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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Day 143 Bottling Citra Belle Saison

Time to start bottling the Citra Belle Saison.

Time to start bottling the Citra Belle Saison.

I figured about 4.75 gallons for bottling and, using Northern Brewer’s priming calculator, I underestimated (on purpose) a little and used 6.0 ounces of corn sugar. Then, when I racked the beer onto the priming sugar, I only got 4-1/2 gallons. I decided to add a quart of bottled water to make up the difference and keep the priming sugar about right. Somehow, it would up back at the 5 gallon mark! anyway, the FG came out to 1.001, after temperature correction. The OG was 1.047, so we should have 6.04% ABV. I filled 29 twelve ounce bottles and 12 twenty-two ounce bottles.

Here's the bulk of it.

Here’s the bulk of it.

I have to say, when I removed the dry hops bag, after I let it drain, I squeezed it out into a measuring cup and it smells AWESOME! I love the smell of Citra hops! And the little squeezed stuff tasted great, too! I also stuck the the hydrometer sample into the fridge to look at clarity later and sample. So far, it’s looking, smelling and tasting good. First sample bottle should be right after Labor Day.

Also did a little organizing of my “cellar”…such as it is. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s what I have. A lot of my inventory is comprised of a few of this and a few of that. The Hi-Nelson Saison with Hibiscus and the Citra Belle Saison are the largest quantities and there’s a fair amount of Major Nelson IPA and Strawberry Blonde.

Inventory.

Inventory.

Checked on some local wild grapes today…picked over half of a pound in about 5 minutes. Need to go check my main source…soon!

10:30 pm and I checked the SG on my Second Runnings  Ginger Beer. It is at 1.06 at 72.6F=1.061…just not moving. My last effort is to add 1/2 teaspoon yeast nutrient and pitch the rest of the Champagne yeast, after rehydrating. Everything is all sanitized and back in place…let’s see what happens.

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Day 142 Ginger Beer and Citra Belle Saison updates

I drew just a couple of ounces from the Citra Belle Saison…the flavor has approved since I racked to secondary on an ounce of Citra hops. Needs a couple more days…should bottle Sunday or Monday.

The ginger beer that I bottled previously hasn’t really taken off in the carbing department. In fact, I considered dumping the bottles back into the “second runnings” batch and combining them. However, I checked a bottle yesterday and it had a small amount of carb. Not much, but enough that I have decided to leave the bottles and watch them to see if/when they need to be pasteurized.

The “second runnings” batch is taking a long time to really get fermentation going. I had it off the heating pad for awhile. When the weather cleared, I gave it some time in the sun for a couple of days, but then the temp dropped, so I put it back on the heating pad and covered it with the space blanket and the fermentation picked back up. It’s coming along slowly, but today was the first time that I believe I detected alcohol in the aroma when I opened the lid. So, while a longer process than I anticipated, the plan remains as originally envisioned: virgin batch is to be non-alcoholic and the “second runnings” batch will be fermented out for an alcoholic version. No photos for this update…nothing really interesting to see,  just an update.

Additional update 8/16 10:15pm : I guess I was wrong on my second runnings ginger beer. I just took a SG reading and it looked like 1.066 when corrected for temperature and the OG was 1.062. So, either the the sugar is increasing in this bucket (not likely) or one of the measurements was off. I’m betting tonight’s measurement could be a tad off, due to some bits of ginger solids in the hydrometer sample. Would that affect it? I don’t know…seems like it might. At any rate. I’m thinking that there is no fermentation really going at it here, so I’m making an executive decision to add 1/8 teaspoon of dry Champagne yeast to the mix, after I strained it through cheesecloth and made sure I have at least a gallon of liquid left, which I do. With Champagne yeast at work, I will have to keep a close eye after I bottle it and definitely pasteurize; otherwise, the yeast won’t stop until it is bone dry and bottle bombs!

8/18…I had seen some activity with the addition of Champagne yeast to my Second Runnings Ginger Beer, but it seems to have stopped. I checked the temperature and it was over 100F. I guess a two gallon plastic bucket heats a lot more on a heating pad and wrapped in a space blanket than a 6 gallon glass carboy and I’m sure the yeast must be dead. I Googled and found “This strain tolerates fermentation temperatures ranging from 50° to 86°F….”.  So the plan is to get the temperature down and pitch the yeast again…and no additional heat. The house is usually around 74F this time of year. Still trying! And I missed buying bottles yesterday and the home brew shop is closed today. I guess my Citra Belle Saison is going to dry hop a little longer that anticipated.

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Day 141 Bottling Cherry Belle Saison

Cherry Belle Saison

Cherry Belle Saison

I made a rookie mistake this morning. I got all set up to bottle a small batch and I started filling the bottles without having added any priming sugar. D’oh! So, I quickly cleaned and sanitized a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, consulted Northern Brewer’s priming sugar calculator and got on with the little task of priming. The calculator recommended 1.33 oz (using corn sugar) for a 1 gallon batch at 78F. I have a history of over-carbing, and this was recommended at 3.2 volumes of CO2 for a saison style, so I went with 1.25 oz. Not a big reduction…nothing to do but wait and see how it turns out.

Oops...started bottling without priming sugar! Put it in reverse!

Oops…started bottling without priming sugar! Put it in reverse!

I added the priming sugar to about 8 oz warm water to dissolve and added it to the bucket. I poured the bottles I had filled onto the sugar mixture and then racked the balance of the beer onto it and mixed it well. I rinsed and sanitized the bottles and started over with the bottling. I was able to fill 11 bottles with just enough left over for a small sip to taste.

Yielded 11 bottles.

Yielded 11 bottles.

The color imparted by the cherries is beautiful…love it! The aroma is definitely cherry and there’s a little alcohol there. As for the flavor, there’s good cherry there. At this point, however, I’m not getting any of the bittering from the Citra hops and no saison character from the yeast. I’m going to give this 2 months to bottle condition though, so I’m hoping some more complexity develops.  I’m second guessing myself now on the decision not to dry hop this little batch. Ah well, relax, it’s just home brew beer, right? At the worst, it will be a fizzy alcoholic cherry drink.

Yesterday, I racked the main batch of Citra Belle Saison to secondary with a dry hop bag containing one ounce of Citra hops pellets. I love the smell of these when you cut open the packet! Wow!

Racking to secondary.

Racking to secondary.

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Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to write it up, but everything went smoothly. I decided to take a shot at harvesting a second round of Belle Saison yeast, just to see how it does. I only saved one jar…just play with.

Washing yeast. Decanted yeast to a small jar after it settled.

Washing yeast. Decanted yeast to a small jar after it settled.

The Citra Belle Saison will get about 5 days on the hops before bottling, so may be bottling Saturday.

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