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Day 170 Racking East Coast Cascade Waterfall Off of Dry Hops

 

Dry hop bag removed and opened...dried leaf Cascade used for dry hopping in secondary.

Dry hop bag removed and opened…dried leaf Cascade used for dry hopping in secondary.

I’m running a day behind on getting the East Coast Cascade Waterfall American Amber racked off of dry hop…but that never hurt anybody, right? I started at a little before midnight and finished up after midnight. So, I decided to have one of my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ales while I worked.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale...wet the whistle while you work!

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale…wet the whistle while you work!

Side note: The person whose recipe I used for the Scottish ale base, received a package from me with two bottles of the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale (along with a Cherry Belle Saison and a Hi-Nelson w/Hibiscus). I was very happy to see that he drank one of the Scottish Pumpkin Ales and said that he was genuinely impressed! He described it as “Very Scottish, nicely pumpkin. Aroma is almost like pumpkin pie and a fresh pretzel.” It has a …”sturdy backbone, body, and face for the spice to play with.”  Awesome!

Back to the East Coast Cascade Waterfall American Amber Ale: I just set up a tube on one bottling bucket and transferred the contents, after removing the nylon bag with the Cascade dried leaf hops.

Bucket to bucket for racking from secondary to tertiary to settle for a couple days.

Bucket to bucket for racking from secondary to tertiary to settle for a couple days. Hmmm…how did that blue ribbon from my crab apple jelly entry from the NC State Fair sneak into the photo?

All the indicators are positive…I believe this will be a nice, sessionable, easy-drinking brew, with a nice balance of hops and malt…not too bitter. I was pretty reserved with the bittering hops. For a partial mash, experimental small batch, I think this beer is going to be pretty good.

Small sample of East Coast Cascade Waterfall. Tasty!

Small sample of East Coast Cascade Waterfall. Tasty!

After transfer, I have about 2.75 gallons. I believe there will be about 2.5 gallons to bottle, which I should be able to do Monday. I took a small sample to taste, but I added it to the hydrometer sample after a tiny sip. The sample I took for a hydrometer reading was from the dregs and was pretty cloudy, but it came out to 1.014, after temperature correction. I refrigerated the sample to let it crash and settle. I’ll check it again tomorrow and get a better taste, as well.

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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 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 163 Tasting Fermentation Samples

 

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, just a little evidence of activity on top.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, just a little evidence of activity on top.

This evening, I replaced the blow-off tubes on the fermentation bucket and one gallon carboy of McQuinn’s Robust Porter. While I was at it, I decided to take a small sample of the  Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale and the porter. I am trying to continue learning to evaluate the potential of a beer “in process” by looking at, smelling and tasting  samples. It continues to be a challenge, as I learn how the different styles of beer are supposed to look, taste, and smell.

I am more familiar with some than others. I have preferences that affect my evaluation. These are challenges that I need to work on. For instance, I have never had a Scottish pumpkin ale. I have had a few pumpkin ales and a couple of Scottish Ales, but not enough of either to evaluate them beyond my own opinion. The same goes for the porter. I don’t think I have had a porter since I started homebrewing. I have brewed a couple of stouts and a couple of nut brown ales, but this is my first porter. And the stouts and browns were extract brews, not whole grain.

That being said, the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale looks like it will be okay to bottle this weekend. There was just a little evidence of fermentation…just about done. (see above photo) The color is a nice amber and it appears to be fairly clear.

Scottish pumpkin ale sample held to light. Nice.

Scottish pumpkin ale sample held to light. Nice.

The alcohol is forward in the smell and flavor; however, the aroma has a nice spice component and the flavor and body are very good. I expect the alcohol warmth will tone down in the bottle conditioning process and the flavor will shine through a little more. The spice and pumpkin are not overpowering, but are well balanced. Now I just have to imagine getting the carb right. So, while I don’t have any experience tasting a Scottish pumpkin ale, I can reasonably predict that this brew should be pretty amazing. (I hope I’m right!)

As for McQuinn’s Robust Porter, I’ve done a little research on the style and I think I have an idea what it should be like when ready to drink. At this point though, with only a few days in fermentation, it’s hard to make a judgement. I think the color is in the right range, the aroma is pretty good…I get the roasty grains.

Porter with a little light...obviously still murky. But it's promising!

Porter with a little light…obviously still murky. But it’s promising!

A small sample of McQuinn's Robust Porter.

A small sample of McQuinn’s Robust Porter.

I enjoyed the taste, but it’s so early, it’s hard to get where it will end up. I feel pretty confident that it will from the one gallon glass carboy, using a sanitized baster, without the rubber bulb. When I opened the top, the was a mass, resulting from the krausen, in the neck that appears to have drained and dried out somewhat. When I tried to go through it for the sample, it dropped into the beer. I assume it will disintegrate and settle as part of the trub.

I still have my crab apple/pear/apple cider bulk aging  and I anticipate that continuing for a couple of months. I also have my muscadine wine bulk aging and I think I may be bottling that within a week or two.

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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 158 Yeast Harvest Fail, Try Another

 

Got my starter all ready and aerated. Pitched harvested Edinburgh Ale yeast...nothing.

Got my starter all ready and aerated. Pitched harvested Edinburgh Ale yeast…nothing.

I attempted to harvest the Edinburgh Ale yeast from my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, after I racked it to secondary. I collected some trub and tried “washing” it and adding it to a beaker of DME boiled with water for ten minutes. No luck after about 24 hours. So, I decided to pitch another expired yeast that I picked up after the yeast class I took awhile back. I shook a vial of American Ale yeast  and pitched it in the same starter beaker.

Overnight, it was showing signs of growth. I swirled it down a few times today.

Success with expired American Ale yeast.

Success with expired American Ale yeast.

This evening, I put the beaker in the refrigerator to crash it. Tomorrow, I’ll transfer it to a jar and keep it refrigerated until I need it. Actually, my next brew is likely to be a porter, so I will have to buy some yeast for that batch. Then, maybe I’ll use the frozen fresh hops I have to do  “wet hops” beer. That will require a little research to find an appropriate recipe to try.

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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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