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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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Racking Fluffernutter Sammie Stout to Secondary

Racking the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout.

Racking the Fluffernutter Sammie Stout.

It’s Memorial Day…respect to all who served. I racked my Fluffernutter Sammie Stout to secondary fermentation today. I began by cleaning and sanitizing a carboy and adding my Everclear-soaked vanilla beans to it. Then, I brought a gallon of water to boil and whisked in 2 packages of peanut butter powder, 6.5 oz each, JIF brand. I boiled the peanut water for 10 minutes and then cooled it in a water and ice bath. Once down to about 73 F, I poured it through a sanitized funnel, into the carboy. Next, using a siphon and tube, I racked the beer onto the peanut water and vanilla beans.

I left most of the original trub behind, and wound up with 5-1/2 gallons in the secondary carboy.

5-1/2 gallons into secondary fermentation.

5-1/2 gallons into secondary fermentation.

I took a hydrometer sample after racking and came up with a current SG of  1.031. (Adjusted for sample temperature of about 70 F.) I’m still guessing it may go down to 1.028, but we will see where it is after 10 more days and monitor it from there, to determine when it is ready to bottle.

Hydrometer sample, trub from primary fermentation.

Hydrometer sample,  trub left in primary fermentation.

The color looks nice. The flavor is obviously “in your face” peanut right now. Hopefully, the vanilla will bloom and the peanut will tone down, as anticipated. I may have to up the vanilla, though…possible some extract at bottling. I’ll have to make a judgement call later. So, back into the fermentation chamber…which has been working out very nicely!

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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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2014 Muscadine Wine Tasting

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

My last taste of this wine was a little over a year ago, in February 2015. It was my first attempt at wine. I began the batch with foraged muscadine grapes in August of 2014 and was bottled about 2 months later. The ABV, if I read the hydrometer correctly, was right on 16%. It was fairly hot at bottling. I opened a bottle in February, 2015 when it was about 3-1/2 months in the bottle and the notes were basically that it was still kind of hot, but had a nice color, light body, and fairly dry flavor that I would not have guessed was muscadine.

It is now March 4, 2016, so the wine has been bottled for almost a year and a half. While still slightly warm with alcohol and a little tannin, the nose and color are still nice and the body light. The thing that really jumps out immediately, though, is that the flavor has very noticeably softened. It is definitely more drinkable now! I don’t expect muscadine wine to last a decade, but this one is improving and I think it may benefit from even a little more time…but I have no idea when it will “peak” or turn the corner and head downhill. Tonight, however, I’m having a glass of wine that I’m pretty happy with!

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There Gose Sea Breeze Ready to Drink

There Gose Sea Breeze

There Gose Sea Breeze

I was pushing it to get this beer ready for Thanksgiving at the beach. As a reminder, I used dried hibiscus flowers to make a tea concentrate to mimic the color and flavor of cranberry, and vodka soaked grapefruit zest to complete the attempt to tie the beer to a Sea Breeze cocktail. Since we spend Thanksgiving at the beach, the Sea Breeze name ties it to our Thanksgiving location and the cranberry flavor and color evokes the holiday. Today is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I’m at the beach, and I’m testing a bottle that I refrigerated for 24 hours.

The result? I’m declaring a success! The color is nice…maybe slightly pale. It’s not clear, but that’s expected in a wheat beer. It just makes it look look more like a cranberry jelly. The aroma is hard to describe…but it’s a nice fruity, almost candy scent. The flavor is subtly salty with a tang in the finish. I think there’s a little bitterness/sharpness from the grapefruit zest. I’m not sure if the coriander is really contributing much…but maybe it’s just blending well and doing that “Je ne se crois” thing. The carb is very good, with a white, thin layer retained throughout the drink. I was concerned that I bottled too soon and that it might overcarb, but it’s good. When I get home, I think I’ll refrigerate what’s left, so that it stops or slows any possible additional carbing.

As usual, I’ll be responsible for cooking and carving the Turkey. I’ll also make a broccoli casserole. I have a batch of my traditional Scottish shortbread  https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/traditional-scottish-shortbread/

and, for the first time, I will Make my Dad’s Yeast Rolls

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/my-dads-rolls/

…something I tried last year and failed. This year, I have the right recipe and I have tested it successfully, twice. And with the beer to toast, it should be a great meal! I feel like this style of beer will compliment the big meal and cut through some of the richness. It may also contribute to the after-meal nap!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Checking the Specific Gravity on There Gose a Sea Breeze

Hydrometer Sample

Hydrometer Sample

After I racked to secondary, added the grapefruit zest and hibiscus tea concentrate, there seemed to be some additional fermentation happening. It wasn’t much…in fact, I was afraid the little white bubbles were going to turn out to be an infection. However, they did eventually fade away.  The OG was supposed to be 1.062, and it came in at 1.063. The current SG reading is 1.014 with a temperature of 72.8F.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

After temperature correction for the hydrometer, the actual SG is 1.015, which is .001 above expected FG. Considering that the OG was .001 high, fermentation could be done.

The thing is, I really want this beer to be carbed and ready to drink by Thanksgiving, which is about 2-1/2 weeks away and carbing will likely take at least 10 days. I’d rather give it a month, but it is what it is. So, just in case the fermentation isn’t COMPLETELY done, and, considering my history with over-carbonation…I think I will bottle in new bottles, underestimate the priming sugar, and cross my fingers.

Regarding the beer’s other characteristics, I am hopeful. The sample is a pretty cranberry color, the front end is appropriately a little salty (but not overly so), then there’s tart, followed by a little sour in the finish. The thing is, I don’t know how to describe the aroma or the flavor. I think the hibiscus is giving it a little cranberry character, but I’m not sure how the coriander and grapefruit zest are influencing the flavor. There’s obviously a blended flavor there. I just don’t have the palate and experience to put it into “proper” tasting terminology. But I like it. I really look forward to getting some feedback from some more experienced brewers.

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