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Day 165 Bottling Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale…Finally!

Well, it took awhile…32 days to be exact. Yesterday, I finally got to bottle the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale and, if I got the priming sugar right and all goes well, this has the possibility of being pretty amazing! It just seemed to want to keep going…so I let it. And it did drop by another point over the last 10 days. The hydrometer sample looks nice and clear and wound up at 1.014.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

Looks great!

Looks great!

That makes the ABV 9.06%…definitely in the “imperial” range. Or is it “wee heavy” for a Scottish Ale? Anyway, the aroma is nice and the flavor is terrific! Thanks goes to “Billy Klubb” at Homebrewtalk.com for the base recipe for his Scottish Ale…awesome recipe! I chilled the hydrometer sample to evaluate (a.k.a. DRINK!) later and it is really good.

Chilled sample for evaluation.

Chilled sample for evaluation.

I used 3.50 oz of corn sugar to prime for bottling. The priming sugar calculator that I have had the best luck put it at 3.40 oz for a Scottish Ale at 2.1 volumes or 3.66 oz for a Winter Ale at 2.2 volumes…so I just split the difference and crossed my fingers. I racked from the bottling bucket that I was using as tertiary to a second bottling bucket with the priming solution, so  it would mix thoroughly.

Racking onto the priming solution. Nice color and clarity.

Racking onto the priming solution. Nice color and clarity.

The bottling went smoothly. The calculation on my estimated 4.85 gallons said I would get 52 bottles and I actually filled 50 bottles, so I was pretty close. Now, the excruciating wait to see how it does in the bottle!

Fifty bottles of beer...not on the wall, but who bottle conditions their beer on the wall?! That's just silly.

Fifty bottles of beer…not on the wall, but who bottle conditions their beer on the wall?! That’s just silly.

Bottling the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale...finally!

Bottling the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale…finally!

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Day 160 Racking Crab Apple/Pear/Cripps/Ginger Gold Cider for Long Term and Pumpkin Ale

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I needed to free up a fermentation bucket, and the cider that I made from crab apples, pears, Pink Cripps and Ginger Gold apples looked pretty clear, so that’s the one I decided to deal with. I racked from the 5 gallon glass carboy into a bottling bucket. From there, I racked to four 1/2 gallon glass carboys, filled to leave as little head space as possible, and capped. These containers were moved to an out of the way dark corner for bulk conditioning/aging.

I wasn’t too aggressive in getting every last drop, since I knew I was nowhere near having enough to fill another container. As a result, I got a good hydrometer sample and a little drinking glass sample. After I took and SG reading, both samples went into the refrigerator for additional tasting later. The immediate taste at room temperature pleasantly seems to have eased up on the tannin astringency that I tasted last time I was able to try a sample. It still needs some time, but it’s pretty nice. It also packs a wallop! The OG for this batch was 1.097 and it is currently at 0.993, which I’m confident will be the FG. That puts the cider at 13.65% ABV! Whew!

I also racked my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale to the big glass carboy for some final clearing and making sure it’s absolutely finished fermenting before I bottle it.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

I have still seen a bubble in the airlock up until recently and I don’t want to rush it. I really want to nail the carb on this beer. If I do, I think it’s going to be phenomenal! The body if full, the aroma is awesome, the spice is well blended and not overpowering. Love the color…it does, as my son suggested when he smelled it, remind me of a ginger snap cookie, but not as sweet.

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

The ABV is 7.74% and my volume is only 4 gallons. This may horrify some homebrewers, but I would rather sacrifice a tiny amount of alcohol by volume and have 5 gallons, instead of 4, so I added a gallon of bottled Culligan water. I’m having samples of the cider and the ale as I write this and I’m very happy…and have a nice little warm feeling. >grin<

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

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Day 159 Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale and Crab Apple/Pear/Apple Cider

Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale...again.

Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale…again.

When I last racked the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, I was surprised at how much trub settled so quickly. Yes, I added more pumpkin, but there was still more than I expected. It’s only been four days, but I decided to go ahead and rack it again. I prepared a bottling bucket…my usual choice for fermentation…and racked the pumpkin ale from my glass carboy to the bucket.

Racking to the bottling bucket.

Racking to the bottling bucket.

I pulled out the vanilla bean pod, rinsed it and put it in a small container with enough vodka to cover. I may use that in something else, later. I got about 4.25 gallons into the bucket.

Close look shows a little over 4 gallons.

Close look shows a little over 4 gallons.

I might just top it off to 5 gallons before I bottle it. I think there is plenty of alcohol and enough body in this beer to handle it. I’m going to let it sit and clear for now.

While I had the carboy empty, I cleaned it very well and sanitized it. Next, I decided to mark the carboy with gallon and half-gallon lines with a black Sharpie marker. I used a half gallon jug to pour water into the carboy and I marked the lines each time. I decided to do this because I wasn’t sure how much pumpkin ale I had there and it was frustrating!

Marked carboy

Marked carboy

After the carboy cleaning and marking project was done, I racked the crab apple/pear/apple cider to secondary. Still very “green” and with substantial…what I am assuming is tannin.

Racking Crab Apple, Pear and Apple Cider.

Racking Crab Apple, Pear and Apple Cider.

This one will bulk condition for a long time, I’m thinking. At some point, I ‘ll need to decide if I want to back sweeten and/or carb this cider. I haven’t decided yet. There are currently a little under 2-1/2 gallons there.

Now I can tell how much is in there!

Now I can tell how much is in there!

I’ll let it settle awhile and then rack to smaller glass carboys/jugs for the bulk aging, and reclaim the big carboy. I’ll be brewing a porter soon and need the space for fermenting.

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Day 157 Racking Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale to Secondary

Racking from the fermentation bucket to a glass carboy.

Racking from the fermentation bucket to a glass carboy.

The Scottish pumpkin ale has been transferred to secondary. I really need to mark my carboy, so I can be accurate with volumes, but it looks like I left a little less than a gallon in the primary bucket and I started with about six; so, I’m approximating 5.25 gallons in secondary. I added another can of pumpkin (roasted), a vodka soaked vanilla bean and another 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin pie spice blend to the carboy and racked the beer onto it.

Added the spice blend to the vodka and vanilla bean.

Added the spice blend to the vodka and vanilla bean.

Vanilla bean soaked in vodka for a week and pumpkin pie spice.

Vanilla bean soaked in vodka for a week and pumpkin pie spice.

It was a bit of a challenge getting the pumpkin into the carboy without making a mess. I put it into a Ziploc baggie and clipped on corner and squeezed it in.

Roasted canned pumpkin. Gathering it up to put in a baggie.

Roasted canned pumpkin. Gathering it up to put in a baggie.

Canned pumpkin, spread on parchment paper for roasting.

Canned pumpkin, spread on parchment paper for roasting.

With the volume of additions, once I’m done fermenting, I’ll probably come up a little under 5 gallons, but pretty close. There’s enough alcohol that I could top it off, if I want to.

I took a hydrometer sample and got a reading of 1.028 @ 76.4 F, which is 1.030 corrected for temperature.

Hydrometer sample.

Hydromter sample.

Currently 7.09% ABV, before secondary additions. Good color…seems like flavor is good, but I’m glad I’m adding more spices. I’ll taste the hydrometer sample again later (in the fridge) and see what the color looks like when it clears. The carboy has settled quite a bit already and looks nice.

Carboy secondary a few minutes after racking.

Carboy secondary a few minutes after racking.

I hope those flavors I added blend in well. Still pretty psyched about this beer!

Now that I’ve freed up a bucket, I may go ahead and rack the crab apple/Cripps& Ginger Gold apples, and pear cider to secondary. I’ll look into that tomorrow. I did take a small sample from the spigot on the bucket and it is very “green” tasting with a tannic astringency on the tongue. I’ll probably have to either back sweeten this on and pasteurize it after an extended bulk conditioning.

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Day 155 SG Check on Samhain Ale

Yesterday, I could see that the activity in the blow-off tube had slowed way down…in fact, it had slowed the day before. I decided to remove the blow-off tube and install an airlock. (And took a quick photo.)

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale. 4 days in primary and activity slowing.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale. 4 days in primary and activity slowing.

Last night and today, I haven’t seen any activity. I’m not convinced that it has finished fermenting yet, though, so I took a SG reading and it’s at 1.031 (corrected from 1.030 @ 74.3F). According to the recipe, it should make it to 1.023 to finish, so I’ll let it keep going. It’s only been 4 days since brewing. I don’t need to be terribly concerned with fermentation being quite done in primary, however, because it will go into secondary with more pumpkin, spice, and a vanilla bean (soaked in vodka). The sugar in the pumpkin could cause a little more fermentation, so I’m planning on giving it plenty of time. Then, I’ll probably do a tertiary for final clearing.

The hydrometer sample has gone into the refrigerator for a look at how it clears, color and flavor…later, but a small taste yielded a very nice flavor that I am quite pleased with, so far.

Hydrometer sample...nice color.

Hydrometer sample…nice color.

My ciders and muscadine wine continue to condition. The crab apple/pear/Cripps blend actually still has some airlock activity in primary, so another week? Probably.

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Day 154 Brew Day! Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Samhain label...no artist to credit, but it's beautiful!    Not for sale, so I guess it's okay.

Samhain label…no artist to credit, but it’s beautiful! Not for sale, so I guess it’s okay.

After I picked up a new oxygen canister and some bags of ice, I set up for brewing my Scottish Pumpkin Ale that I’m calling “Samhain”, which is the Celtic version of Halloween and is pronounced “so-win”.

The recipe is a modification of a Scottish Ale recipe from a member at www.Homebrewtalk.com. I put the recipe together like this (but note the changes as I brewed!):

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Original Gravity: 1.068 Final Gravity: 1.019 ABV (standard): 6.49%

IBU (tinseth): 30.47 SRM (morey): 19.58

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %

14 lb United Kingdom – Maris Otter Pale 38 3.75 73.7%

1 lb American – Caramel / Crystal 80L 33 80 5.3%

0.75 lb United Kingdom – Brown 32 65 3.9%

4 oz Molasses 36 80 1.3%

3 lb Dry Malt Extract – Light 42 4 15.8%***

19 lb Total

Hops

Amount Variety Type AA Use Time IBU

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5 Boil 60 min 19.79

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 60 min 8.91

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 5 min 1.78

Hops Summary

Amount Variety Type

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5

1 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5

Mash Guidelines

Amount Description Type Temp Time

5.5 gal BIAB Infusion 158 F 60 min

2 gal modified sparge Fly Sparge 168 F —

Other Ingredients

Amount Name Type Use Time

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted 30 minutes at 425F,  Boil 15 min

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted Other Secondary 0 min

2 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Spice Boil 0 min

1 each Vanilla Bean, split Flavor Secondary —

2 oz Vodka, to soak vanilla bean Other Secondary —

Yeast

White Labs – Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast WLP028

Attenuation (avg): 72.5% Flocculation: Medium

Optimum Temp: 65 – 70 °F Starter: Yes

Fermentation Temp: 70 °F Pitch Rate: 1.25 (M cells / ml / ° P)

393 B cells required (Guess…I have no experience calculating this.)

Priming

Method: Corn Sugar CO2 Level: 2.4 Volumes

Target Water Profile: Cary Town Water

Method: BIAB

Style: Holiday/Winter Special Spiced Beer

Boil Time: 60 min

Batch Size: 5 gallons (fermentor volume)

Boil Size: 7.5 gallons

Boil Gravity: 1.045 (recipe based estimate)

Efficiency: 35% (brew house)*** 

Source: Matt Miller

Non-grain fermentables added at 60 minutes.

Irish Moss added at 15 minutes.

 

***So, there were a couple of issues that required some changes. The efficiency that was the default in the recipe builder for Brew in a Bag (BIAB) brewing was 34%  and I evidently get double that.

Sparging...kind of.

Sparging…kind of.

Set up for a rigged "sparge". Seems to do the job.

Set up for a rigged “sparge”. Seems to do the job.

After the mash, I had an SG of 1.075, which was already better than projected and I had not yet added the 3 lbs of DME I thought I would need to add to the boil…so I omitted it entirely.

The process went smoothly. If anyone is interested, there are other posts that go through the process. The color is really nice!

Nice color!

Nice color!

Sorry the photos aren’t better…*someone* took my camera to use at a Demi Lovato concert and didn’t bring it back in time. I had to use my phone’s camera. I did chill the wort down to 76F, using an ice bath.

Ice bath chill

Ice bath chill

Then I pulled a sample, oxygenated the wort for 2 minutes using a sanitized oxygen canister and “oxygen stone” set-up and pitched my Edinburgh Ale Yeast (that I harvested from a previous batch of cider). I had prepared a starter for the yeast in advance and it was very active. I don’t have experience with “pitch rates”, but I believe I have plenty of yeast cells for the job. Since the volume I wound up with is about 6 gallons, in a standard fermentation bucket, and I have seen this yeast ferment very aggressively, I went ahead and set up a blow-off tube  to keep from fouling the airlock.  The yeast was pitched around 5:10 pm. As of 9:45 pm, I’m hearing a little action in the blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Now, aside from the process, let’s talk about the sights, smells, and flavors! I made my own pumpkin pie spice blend, using cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. I did freshly grate the nutmeg. Also, the ginger has been around along time, so I supplemented it with a little grated fresh ginger. I roasted a can of Libby’s Pumpkin, spread on some parchment paper, on a baking sheet, at 425F for about 30 minutes. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it picked up a few dark spots from caramelization and lost a lot of water. I kept the pumpkin in a sanitized storage container until I was ready for it.

Roasted, canned pumpkin

Roasted, canned pumpkin

The wort took on a great brown color with a dark orange-ish shade to it. Really nice! And the aroma and flavor from the pumpkin and spices are very good, too. I think this is going to be a VERY good beer.

Using the hydrometer sample, the OG came in at 1.083 and, if the attenuation rate is accurate, the ABV will be 7.91%; however, in my experience, the SG isn’t going to stop at 1.023…so, the ABV will likely be over 8%. And, this sample was also the basis for the flavor and color evaluations.

Hydrometer sample...settling a little.

Hydrometer sample…settling a little.

An update on the ciders and muscadine wine: the wine is basically bulk aging and clearing nicely. I’ll eventually rack it…maybe a couple more weeks, and let it go a few months, before I bottle it. The Caramel Cider made with crab apples and Cripps apples is pretty much bulk, aging as well. It did have a little airlock activity going on for a while after racking…not regular or often, though. It has almost stopped now, I think, so I’ll probably rack that a final time in about a week. Maybe bottling in two weeks. The crab apple, pear and Cripps apples cider…no name for it yet…is still bubbling pretty regularly in the airlock. It probably won’t be bottled for a month.

I think I’m learning that it pays to take a little extra time. Excess sediment in the bottom of bottles seems to be messing with my carbonation after bottles have been around for a couple of months. And I like my ciders to have very good clarity…not as huge a deal for all beers, but some. (For instance, wheat beers are actually supposed to be a little hazy.) So, slow down…get it right. Give it another week. It can only help!

Update: 9/15/14  Getting very good action in the blow-off on the Samhain Pumpkin Ale. It hasn’t fouled and it isn’t quite what I have heard some describe as “Rhino farts”, but it is almost constant bubbling.

Update:  9/15/14  Opened the test bottle of the caramel cider to see what it’s doing. No carb at all. The ABV is a hefty 10.89%, though and the flavor is nice. Color is good. Finished product will be more clear.  Alcohol may have pushed the Edinburgh Ale yeast past its tolerance…may have to explore options, if I want to carb.

Caramel Cider tester bottle...no carb; lots of alcohol.

Caramel Cider tester bottle…no carb; lots of alcohol.

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Interlude: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

While I’m waiting for the next step in my home brew cider odyssey, I am indulging in a single bottle of Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. While I am not the beer gourmand that I once was (meaning I used to drink a lot more beer), I do appreciate a good craft brew.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Here’s where I spill the beans about my beer epiphany. In the Summer of 1983, I took a 6 week trip to Germany with my future wife. We stayed with her parents, who were living in Stuttgart for a couple of years. Up to that point, my experience with beer was pretty limited and basically was your typical binge and purge college experiences with Miller Beer. And then I arrived in Germany. West Germany, at the time. The regional beer was Dinkel Acker and my first one was a revelation in unpasteurized flavor and hops.

Eventually, I learned that there were, in addition to the regional beers, local beers that were specific to even the smallest town. I also learned that a 1/2 liter beer in one town, was NOT necessarily the same in the next town over. Where I am from, there was a limit of about 5% alcohol in beer. One could drive to a neighboring state and purchase beer with a slightly higher alcohol level, but none of it was particularly good. In Germany, the beer did not have a standard alcohol percentage . It varied from beer to beer, without warning! Sometimes I could drink a liter and have a small buzz; while other times, I would a 1/2 liter and have a serious buzz going! And it all TASTED GOOD!!!

My understanding is that it wasn’t until 1978 that Jimmy Carter signed the law that allowed legal home brewing. Is that widely known?! I’m no Jimmy Carter fan, but he DID have one major accomplishment as President! By 1983, the “micro-brew” phenomenon was still in its infancy in the United States. After only 6 short weeks traveling West Germany and visiting surrounding countries, I returned to the United States and, at some point, bought a six back of Miller Beer. I almost did the comedy classic “spewing of the beverage” when I took my first swig. Had someone switched my beer with a bottle of dog urine?!  I couldn’t drink it! (Sorry, Miller Beer.)

Over time, as budget permitted, I would seek out imported beer that was, while pasteurized, still very good. Eventually, the micro-brews started taking off. Home brewers were finding a new audience and stepping up. Soon, even the beer giants started offering some more flavorful beers. I did settle into a regular domestic that was okay and affordable and I drank plenty of it. Then, the doctor said that needed to stop! So now, I rarely have any alcohol and never more than one serving. But could that serving be more worthwhile? Well, craft brews are numerous now, but they can be pricey. What could be more affordable? One look at the internet and you will see that home brewing is still VERY popular and there are people who are seriously absorbed by it!  After an initial investment of about $100 to $150 though, basic brewing really isn’t too hard and the actual ingredients make home brewed beer fairly inexpensive. (I’m hoping my town will have a brew shop soon! Until then, I’ll drive the 15 miles or so to get my supplies.) I was actually pretty happy without alcohol; however, an abundance of crabapples has led me down the path to brewing. (I have all the jelly and crabapple butter I need for the next year.)

While out and about today, I came across the Weyerbacher Pumpkin Ale, brewed in Easton, Pennsylvania. Since I just cooked up several quarts of pumpkin puree and have been reading a bunch of brewing forums lately, it caught my eye. So, while I am far from a gourmet who is qualified to critique someone else’s product, I do know what I like.

At $3 per bottle, it's all about quality, not quantity.

At $3 per bottle, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

Technical points aside, since I wouldn’t know what I was talking about; I like this Weyerbacher Ale.

It’s a little bitter, but not overpoweringly so. It’s a pretty color and has a nice aroma. I guess I get the spices a little, but they aren’t assertive. I don’t know if actual pumpkin was used in the process, but I get the overall idea.

Nice color on the Pumpkin Ale.

Nice color on the Pumpkin Ale.

Did that sound pretentious enough? Well, at $3 per bottle, I felt obligated. Anyway, this ale is something I would like to replicate sometime in the future with a brew of my own, just a little less bitter. Okay…enough for tonight. I think I’ll drink the other half of my beer and hit the sack. (My tolerance has really dropped over the last few years!)

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