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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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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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Day 156 Final Racking for Caramel Apple Cider (Probably)

Should be the final racking for bulk conditioning of my Caramel Apple Cider.

Should be the final racking for bulk conditioning of my Caramel Apple Cider.

This is what will probably be the last racking for the crab apple/Pink Cripps apple cider that I have decided to call Caramel Apple Cider, due to the small addition of molasses and a cinnamon stick. It’s nice and clear now and I think I’ve managed to leave the rest of the small amount of sediment behind.

I had hoped to bump up the volume to 1-1/2 gallons, by boiling, cooling and adding 800 ml of water. There’s plenty of alcohol and I just don’t want to lose anymore volume.

Top-off water, boiled to sanitize.

Top-off water, boiled to sanitize.

I transferred the cider, by siphon, to a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, racking off of the sediment and trying to minimize oxygenation. I added the boiled water, cleaned my containers and refilled them.

Original gallon and bomber containers, along with the half gallon I had hoped to fill instead of the bomber.

Original gallon and bomber containers, along with the half gallon I had hoped to fill instead of the bomber.

Siphoned cider with boiled/cooled water added.

Siphoned cider with boiled/cooled water added.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough to fill the half gallon; so I wound up with the volume I started with, minus the sediment, plus enough for a hydrometer check and a nice sample for evaluation!

I measured the SG at 1.013, down from an OG of 1.102…even after the small water addition. That makes the ABV 11.68%. Incredibly, the aroma is fresh apple juice. The flavor is deceptively smooth and sweet, with a nice touch of caramel. The finish is a tummy warmer, though! Really, very nice.

Look at that color!

Look at that color!

I have been trying to carb all of my ciders so far, but the ABV on this one has probably already overwhelmed the Edinburgh Ale Yeast and I don’t think carbonation would be an improvement in this case. I did have enough to fill a test bottle. The cider should be good for a couple of months, but I’ll check the tester in a couple of weeks.

Racked off the sediment and maintained volume for bulk aging. Again, look at the color! And the clarity.

Racked off the sediment and maintained volume for bulk aging. Again, look at the color! And the clarity.

Soon, it will be time to do the “final” racking for bulk aging on the muscadine wine and rack the crab apple/pear/Cripps apple cider to secondary.  And finally, my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale should be ready for secondary sometime next week. So many good things going on and they all take so much time!  The pumpkin ale should be ready before Halloween and should be good (maybe better) at Thanksgiving.

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Day 130 Racking the Hi-Nelson Saison & Washing Yeast

Set-up to rack to secondary.

Set-up to rack to secondary.

 

It has been 2 weeks and a few days since I brewed the Hi-Nelson Saison (July 4th). A check with the hydrometer, after temperature correction, shows 1.004 SG. I’ll get a final gravity reading at bottling, but right now, the ABV is looking like 8.40%. The hydro sample is an appropriate color, I think. The aroma is nice…not too pronounced yet, but I’m sure dry hopping will change that! The flavor is good, but a bit boozy at this point. I’m using a bottling bucket for primary fermentation and the trub is above the spigot level, so I’m going to have to use a siphon to rack to secondary. Since I’m dry hopping, I’m racking to another bottling bucket, instead of the carboy.

Hi-Nelson Saison hydrometer sample. Ready to rack to secondary.

Hi-Nelson Saison hydrometer sample. Ready to rack to secondary.

So, here we are a few hours later and I got the racking done. The beer in primary fermentation looks good and I can smell the alcohol.

Opening the primary fermentation bucket.

Opening the primary fermentation bucket.

I made the hibiscus tea in a pitcher with a plunger, designed for mixing, but it did a good job straining the flowers out of the tea.

Hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus tea.

I added the tea to the secondary, another bottling bucket and started the racking process.

Mingling the beer and the hibiscus tea via racking.

Mingling the beer and the hibiscus tea via racking.

I sanitized the packets of Nelson Sauvin hops and a pair of scissors and I had a nylon bag soaking in sanitizer.

Ready for dry hopping

Ready for dry hopping

I put the hops pellets in the bag, tied it off and tossed it in the secondary bucket. The new color is striking!

Hibiscus tea and Nelson Sauvin hops are in and ready to seal.

Hibiscus tea and Nelson Sauvin hops are in and ready to seal.

After racking, I still have well over 5 gallons of beer and a little under a gallon of trub.

I have never tried washing and harvesting yeast before, but I’m going to give it a shot and see how it works. I know that higher alcohol exposure may make this attempt not very viable, but I’m going to see what happens.

I have put the lid and airlock back on the trub and boiled a gallon of water.

Hi-Nelson Trub

Hi-Nelson Trub

 

The water is in a gallon carboy in the refrigerator to cool. I’m following a procedure for which I found an online video. It’s basically adding water, mixing, letting it settle and pouring off the yeast into a smaller container, letting that settle and pouring off into smaller containers, then refrigerating. If I’m lucky, enough viable yeast will survive to make a starter and a test batch of beer. The yeast is Belle Saison.

Chilled the gallon of water down…finishing in an ice bath in the sink.

Chilling boiled water for washing yeast.

Chilling boiled water for washing yeast.

I got it down to about 85F. Belle Saison is good up into the 90’s, so it should be good. Sealed bucket and swished around well. After about 45 minutes (I got distracted), I poured off a little over 1/2 gallon into the 1 gallon carboy. It immediately started separating.

Boiled water added and separation done in fermentation bucket. Poured into 1 gallon carboy.

Boiled water added and separation done in fermentation bucket. Poured into 1 gallon carboy.

After settling, I decanted to four 1-pint size jars and transferred those to the refrigerator.

Four pints of (hopefully) harvested Belle Saison yeast.

Four pints of (hopefully) harvested Belle Saison yeast.

We’ll see how that settles out over the next couple of days. I found a fairly simple looking Citra Saison that I may try some of the harvested yeast on…pinned the recipe to Pinterest. I might make it a half batch to keep the investment lower for the first test.

 

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Day 99 Racking the Pineapple-Mango Melomel

Pineapple-Mango Melomel, ready to rack out of primary fermentation.

Pineapple-Mango Melomel, ready to rack out of primary fermentation.

I racked the Pineapple-Mango Melomel today. Because there was so much pulp in the liquid, I put a small, fine-meshed bag over the siphon tip.

Siphon tip with mesh bag.

Siphon tip with mesh bag.

This worked well, to a point. Unfortunately, when I got about 2/3 down, the siphoning practically stopped and there was obviously quite a bit of liquid left.

Siphoning with the bag.

Siphoning with the bag.

So, I sanitized a bowl and a grain sock and strained the rest. I then siphoned the rest into the carboy.

I wound up with a nice, full gallon.

One gallon of strained Pineapple-Mango Melomel.

One gallon of strained Pineapple-Mango Melomel.

It’s cloudy, but it should clear eventually. I did get a small sample and stuck it in the refrigerator to clear and chill…I’ll taste it later.

Chilled sample...nice flavor. Good pineapple color.

Chilled sample…nice flavor. Good pineapple color.

I put an airlock on the carboy and I labeled it with the name and today’s date. I was thinking I would be leaving it for several weeks, but after a couple of hours, there are clear layers forming on the bottom. It might be that I let it clear for a week and then rack it again for the longer term.

Sediment layers forming quickly.

Sediment layers forming quickly.

I also checked on the Murray’s Super Easy Cider (third 1/2 gal batch) and it is still seeing action in the airlock, as well as visible action in the bottle. I can see effervescence at the top of the liquid and bits rising from the bottom and falling from the top.  I guess  the cider has several more days to go.

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Day 95 Racking the Pale Ale

Pole Vault Pale Ale racked to secondary.

Pole Vault Pale Ale racked to secondary.

The Pole Vault Pale Ale was ready to rack today. I tried to draw a sample off yesterday and I got sludge through the spigot, so I decided to rack through my siphon. Since I bought a longer siphon recently, I decided to go ahead and rack into the glass carboy. The trub in the bottom of the bottling bucket was definitely above the spigot…around the 1 gallon level!

Trub definitely above the spigot.

Trub definitely above the spigot.

A lot more trub than I'm used to seeing.

A lot more trub than I’m used to seeing.

 

I carefully racked off as much as I could, without getting into much sediment; however, there was a little that got through. The carboy is at, what I believe is, a little under the 5 gallon mark. Judging from the initial settling, I’ll probably lose another 1/4 gallon when racking at bottling time. So, I may not get my full two cases, but that’s okay.

On a side note, I tried my brew buddy’s all grain strawberry blonde  and compared it to my extract version. Mine was messed up in the beginning by too much water and a low OG. I added extra DME after the fact to raise the SG. By comparison, mine had a decent strawberry flavor…I added mine at 170F following flameout and she added hers to secondary. I think this plus the extra DME probably overpowered my hops bittering. I was also a little overcarbonated, but not drastically. Despite my minor flaws, it is drinkable if you like the strawberry flavor. While I love ripe strawberries, I think fermented strawberry flavor is not really my thing.

Brew buddy's all-grain strawberry blonde. (Right after pour)

Brew buddy’s all-grain strawberry blonde. (Right after pour)

 

My extract version of a strawberry blonde.

My extract version of a strawberry blonde. (After head dissipated)

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Day 88 Bottling Murray’s Super Easy Cider, 1/2 gallon

Murray's Super Easy Cider

Murray’s Super Easy Cider

After returning from a vacation, my Murray’s Super Easy Cider is ready to bottle. I don’t want to waste any by checking the FG…just have to guess. But it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t have a helper and starting the siphon was a pain in the butt and stirred up a small amount of lees…not too bad though. I got five 12 oz bottles out of the little 1/2 gallon batch.

Lees on the bottom, after siphoning cider into bottles.

Lees on the bottom, after siphoning cider into bottles.

A little ring in the neck, them fairly clear. Layer of lees on the bottom.

A little ring in the neck, them fairly clear. Layer of lees on the bottom.

It’s getting a little late in the day to bottle my Costa Kona Mocha Latte Stout tonight. I’ll do it soon though…tomorrow or this weekend. I would like to do my first all-grain Brew in a Bag (BIAB), but I’m not sure if I’ll have time this weekend. We’ll see.

Meeting my brew-buddy to deliver some goodies she wanted, that I picked up while on vacation.

Swag!

Swag!

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Of course I picked up some for myself as well! The highlight and big deal is Nugget Nectar from Troeg…along with a few other bottles. Also a few bottles from Appalachian and Lancaster Brewing Companies.

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