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Day 90 Tasting Strawberry Blonde & Plain Jane

If you look back through the journal, you will see the lengths to which I went to try and make the Strawberry Blonde a successful brew. Alas, I believe it was all for naught. The Strawberry Blonde is lacking in hops, either in aroma or bittering. The strawberry flavor is best described as musky and muddled, hiding any hint of malt. But the extract sweetness is there. I don’t think aging will help, but I’ll give it a little more time. I compared with a commercially produced strawberry wheat beer produced by Lancaster Brewing Co. and, while I didn’t really like the commercial product either, it was generally better than mine. It did have a strawberry cream soda like flavor to it from the strawberry flavoring.

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A pleasant surprise, on the other hand, was the “Plain Jane Blonde”, small batch.

Plain John Blonde...surprisingly drinkable!

Plain John Blonde…surprisingly drinkable!

It has, by way of the attempt to up the OG, a little strawberry essence to it…just barely. While there are no hops in the aroma, they are there with a slight bitterness. The malt comes through and there is a little sweetness, but it isn’t cloying. It’s actually a pretty drinkable beer! Not my best offering, but not bad. If I were to attempt this recipe again, I would 1) Measure the water more accurately!, 2) Decrease the strawberries from 6 lbs to my original thought of around 2 to 3 pounds and, 3) Add the fruit in secondary, instead of after flameout at 170F.

I also used a free, simple beer label maker program to create a label for the Costa Kona Mocha Latte stout that I think looks passable. I kind of did a similar thing using a different program and printed it on plain paper, cut it out, moistened the back with milk and applied it to a bottle. Oddly enough, it works! Cheers!

BeerLabel Costa Kona

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Day 81 Racking the Blondes!

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

I started off the day with some cleaning and sanitizing chores and had my blondes racked to secondary before 10 a.m. I opened the box with my new 6 gallon glass carboy in it, took it out, washed it and sanitized it. Next, I fitted it with the nylon brew carrier and prepared an airlock.

For the strawberry blonde, I sanitized around the airlock and I prepared a hose to fit the spigot (primary fermentation was done in a bottling bucket). With the strawberry blonde on a table and the new carboy on the floor, I attached the hose to the spigot and dropped the other end down in the glass carboy. Next, I removed the airlock from the lid of the bottling bucket, so a vacuum would not be created. I opened the spigot and let the strawberry blonde flow into the carboy.

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I do like seeing the liquid in the glass…last time was with my little pineapple experiment, “Pineapple Tinker”…which is still bottle conditioning. The convenience of the spigot on the bottling bucket is nice, but siphoning isn’t so bad.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

The strawberry blonde has an interesting pinkish color to it; however, it is very murky at this point. I am very interested in what the beer will look like when it (hopefully) clears. I did manage a sample to double check the SG and it is dead on 1.010 according to the hydrometer, so that should be an FG of 1.011 with adjustment for temperature, assuming no further fermentation in secondary.  Never one to pass the opportunity to taste a hydrometer sample, I indulged to further educate my beginner’s palate! The flavor is…interesting, at this point. I would not expect a burst of fresh strawberry flavor. It definitely tastes of fermented fruit…sort of  a musty, winey flavor. From what I have read from other’s experiences, I’m hopeful that this flavor will clean up and back down a little with clarification and bottle conditioning. I do get some hop bitterness, but not overpowering…it’s there right at the front and then again in the finish. I think I’m getting kind of a strawberry jam-like aroma…nice.

The trub in the strawberry blonde PFB looked nasty…but then, they always do. This batch with the strawberries, though, was weird…it was like a strawberry vampire had sucked the color out of them!

Mmm...fermented strawberries!

Mmm…fermented strawberries!

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After some cleaning chores to finish up the strawberry blonde process for today, I turned my attention to the “Plain Jane” blonde. For this one, I prepared and sanitized another 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket (PFB) and airlock. I also sanitized a hose and my siphon, since there is no spigot on the PFB’s. When I opened the bucket, the plain blonde was, not unexpectedly, more clear than the strawberry blonde.

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

I siphoned into the new PFB and noted that the color looked good. Being an extract brew, it is a dirty blonde…but who doesn’t like their blonde to be dirty? (Ahem) Moving along. I am missing my little racking tip that helps keep the end of the siphon tube off of the bottom of the bucket, so I had to be careful not to pick up any trub off the bottom. Thankfully, the trub (lees?) was pretty thick and settled. Would it be the correct use of the terminology to say that the trub had excellent “flocculation”? Anyway, siphoning was a snap and i was able to drag my finger through about 1/3 to 1/2 in sludge on the bottom without the path collapsing on itself for several seconds.

Plain Jane trub

Plain Jane trub

I did not want to waste any of this beer on hydrometer sampling, since it’s only about a gallon and a half, but it looked and smelled good. Sealed the lid and installed the airlock and finished my clean-up duties.

I’m betting that the strawberry blonde will take longer to clear than Plain Jane, but I will probably wait to bottle them both at the same time, for convenience. Stay tuned! Next brew will be a Chocolate Milk Stout with Costa Rican cocoa nibs and husks and lactose.

7:45 p.m.   Drinking a Citra Citrus American Wheat. This has got to be my greatest addition to the world of brewing to date! Everything is just right…aroma, color, bitterness, citrus …everything. This one MUST be done again. Soon.

Citra Citrus American Wheat...oh YES!!!

Citra Citrus American Wheat…oh YES!!!

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Day 78 Update on Blondes, More Murray’s

Primary Fermentation Buckets: 6 gallon with blow off and strawberries; 1-1/2 gallons plain with airlock.

Primary Fermentation Buckets: 6 gallon with blow off and strawberries; 1-1/2 gallons plain with airlock.

The blonde ales are in primary fermentation, about 6 gals are fermenting with 6 lbs of whole, frozen strawberries with a smack pack of Denny’s Favorite #50 yeast.  The other 1-1/2 gals are plain and are pitched with an almost full package of Safale S-04. The strawberry blonde is still steadily putting off bubbles, though not as vigorously as before.

Blow off on strawberry blonde.

Blow off on strawberry blonde.

The plain blonde has been slow…a bubble every minute or so. I doubt that it could be that close to done, especially after the addition of the extra DME fortified wort. I’m hoping it doesn’t get stuck, but I’m keeping an eye on it and will probably need to do an SG check in a day or two.

I also did some grocery shopping today and picked up two 1/2 gallon containers of  Murray’s Apple Cider. I was so happy with my test batch of the Murray’s Super Easy Cider, that I want to make more!

Murray's Apple Cider...for super easy, delicious hard cider!

Murray’s Apple Cider…for super easy, delicious hard cider!

 

 

 

At $5.69 per 1/2 gallon, a 5 gallon batch would be about $60 and I don’t need ten 1/2 gallon glass carboys…even if they ARE free. So, I may have to research alternatives…bigger containers, case prices. Something. But it IS good and DO need to make some more!

UPDATE: 2/27: A quick note…not worthy of a separate “Day” entry…but I checked the SG on the plain blonde and it is 1.014. So it has had significant movement. Maybe it’ll go down more. ABV currently is a little over 3%. I could always move to a secondary and pitch a different yeast…but the batch is so small, I really don’t want to lose much more of it to testing and racking.

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Day 77 Goosing the Strawberry Blonde and Bottling the Wheat Citra Citrus

Opened strawberry blonde after 24 hours to inspect. (I drew off the gallon for DME addition from the spigot.)

Opened strawberry blonde to add DME wort. (I drew off the gallon for DME boil from the spigot.)

A busy day today. On the recommendation of some people on http://www.homebrewtalk.com, I decided to make a run back to the brew shop and get some dry malt extract (DME) to bump the specific gravity of the strawberry blonde and plain blonde brews that I did yesterday. The specific gravity was 1.034 at 75F (1.035)…well below the target of 1.053. I’ve done this enough now that I think I’m taking the measurement correctly and it could be due to the higher volume that I wound up with…a total of about 7-1/2 gallons. There’s 1-1/2 gallons of plain blonde ale and about 6 gallons of strawberry blonde (including the 6lbs of strawberries). As of late morning, the main bucket was gurgling nicely and the blow off is seeing some action, but not out of control. The plain blonde in the small bucket is just starting to see some action.

At the home brew shop, they crunched the number for me and concurred that 3 lbs of DME should put me back on target and, using some of the existing wort, will lover my yeast count a little, but will keep me from increasing the already high volume in the main bucket.

So, at home again, I sanitized a 1 quart measure and removed a gallon of wort form the strawberry blonde. I put the wort into a stock pot and brought it to a boil. I added the DME, while stirring, until it was dissolved and incorporated. Watching carefully for boil over, I boiled for 15 minutes.

Drew off 1 gallon of strawberry blonde wort. Added 3 lbs DME at boil.

Drew off 1 gallon of strawberry blonde wort. Added 3 lbs DME at boil.

I skimmed off a few suds and then chilled the DME wort to 75F in an ice bath in the kitchen sink.

Ice bath chill.

Ice bath chill.

I measured the wort at 17 cups and divided that between a total of 7-1/2 gallons of wort (I just realized that I didn’t account for the gallon that I took out…dang. Shouldn’t matter too much, though.). I put 13-1/2 cups of the DME wort into the strawberry blonde fermentation bucket and 3-1/2 cups in the plain blonde bucket. The only problem is that the SG …what I will be using for my OG is still under what we worked out. It is just 1.040 @ 75F (1.041)…and I’m second guessing my abilities on the hydrometer reading thing. If I’m accurate though, and I attain the 1.010 that is estimated, then the ABV will be 4.07%. It’s not optimal, but it is acceptable. The sample looked and tasted pretty nice.

Strawberry blonde hydrometer sample

Strawberry blonde hydrometer sample

A little muddy at this point, but I think fermentation and the process will clear it up nicely.  Cleaned up and prepared for bottling my American Wheat Citra Citrus. The fermentation resumed pretty quickly on the blonde ales.

Blow off action.

Blow off action.

On to the bottling…all the usual bottle washing/sanitizing, equipment sanitizing. I’m using some of my newly acquired bottles.

Nice, clean bottles.

Nice, clean bottles.

Thankfully, they are in decent boxes with six-pack holders for dividers. The box flaps and handles are in a little rough shape on some, but not destroyed…definitely usable. I could use an empty bottle box or two for the loose bottles that I have. I should ask at the brew shop if they sell the boxes only, next time I go there.

Anyway, the bottling went smoothly. I filled a case and capped it and then did the second one and capped it. I did get a yield of exactly two cases…the last bottle was a struggle.

First case of the American Wheat Citra Citrus.

First case of the American Wheat Citra Citrus.

I marked it, just in case it had any trub in it. Because I racked pretty carefully a couple of days ago though, it was all rather clear.

Nice and clear American Wheat Citra Citrus...ready to bottle.

Nice and clear American Wheat Citra Citrus…ready to bottle.

The color looks good…a little dark, but it IS an extract recipe, so that’s expected. The flavor has a great citrus punch with a really nice hop bitterness…not overpowering, though.

Sample of American Wheat Citra Citrus...very encouraged!

Sample of American Wheat Citra Citrus…very encouraged!

And the aroma is a-maz-ing!!! The combination of the citra hops late additions and the citrus work very well together! I am VERY much looking forward to the first bottle of this batch! I didn’t check the SG before bottling, but I did check it at the final racking and I don’t think it would have changed since then. It was 1.010@72F (1.011) at that time. I’m going with that as the FG. The OG was 1.044@75F (1.045), so the ABV would be 4.46%, which is very close to the estimated 4.4% ABV.

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Day 76 Brew Day! Strawberry Blonde @ Raleigh Big Brew!

Third saturday of the month at Raleigh Brewing Co. means Raleigh Big Brew day! Gathered my equipment and headed to the brewery.

Raleigh Big Brew Time!

Raleigh Big Brew Time!

I decided to use “Denny’s Favorite #50” yeast, on the  suggestion of a brew friend, as it is supposed to work well with fruit beers. It came in a “smack pack”…very handy! This was the first time I used one of those. I’m brewing a blonde ale and adding strawberries. My biggest mistake today was using too much water for my boil and not allowing room for the strawberries…6 lbs of whole, frozen strawberries.

Boiling the wort

Boiling the wort

I wound up drawing off 2 gallons and holding it until the last 5 minutes of my brew’s boil. I added it back in and boiled the next 5 minutes to sanitize and then I drew it back off to finish processing at home with Safale S-04 yeast that I have on hand. (Luckily, I had a bucket in the car and didn’t have to buy one!) The rest of the batch, I added some cold water to and got the temperature down to 170F. At this point I added the strawberries. Next, used the wort chiller at the brewery to bring the temperature down to 75F and pitched the yeast.  Then, I poured the wort into a bottling bucket that I’m using for primary fermentation.

6lbs of whole, frozen strawberries added to wort at 170F.

6lbs of whole, frozen strawberries added to wort at 170F.

Again…too much volume…couldn’t close the bottling bucket without fouling the airlock. So, I drained off enough to create some headspace and sealed back up and added a cleaned airlock. I forgot to check the OG, but I measured it at 1.034 @ 75F, once I got home. This is well below the recipe’s estimated 1.053 or the measured 1.046. I have messaged a friend to ask advice…I’m assuming I diluted my wort too much and wonder if I should add more sugar? The flavor and color seem okay, so I don’t think the beer will lack flavor…but it may be too weak on the alcohol. If the fermentation yields the expected FG of 1.010, the the ABV would be around 3.28%.

Once at home, I finished chilling the smaller fermentation bucket with the plain blonde ale and pitched the Safale S-04. I also set up a blow off on the main strawberry batch, since the volume is still rather high.

About 5 or 6 gallons of Strawberry Blonde and a little under 2 gallons of plain blonde ale.

About 5 or 6 gallons of Strawberry Blonde and a little under 2 gallons of plain blonde ale.

Note to self: it was a good idea to take my big bin of supplies. I was lucky to have the smaller fermentation bucket. For future brews, a stick lighter and a pair of hot pads or mitts would be good to have. A card table and a chair would be great to have!

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Day 75 American Wheat with Citrus & Citra…Final Racking

Racking from secondary to another bucket to settle for a couple of days before bottling.

Racking from secondary to another bucket to settle for a couple of days before bottling.

Today, I decided to rack the American “Breadbasket” Wheat with Citrus & Citra an additional racking. I wanted to get it off of the lees and let it settle for a day or two before I bottle it. Being a wheat beer, it’s not expected to be crystal clear; however, when I bottle it, I don’t want to have to worry about the sludge and the citrus peels and zest.

Drained

Drained

Dried (formerly) sweet orange peel and fresh lemon zest floating in secondary.

Dried (formerly) sweet orange peel and fresh lemon zest floating in secondary.

The aroma is floral and citrusy and has a little spice to it. The flavor is nice…good bitterness, lots of citrus and maybe a little clove? Whatever. It’s going to be really good when it has been bottle conditioned! I did a hydrometer check and the reading is 1.010 at 72F. Fermentation should be done. I haven’t seen any bubbles at all lately. I should be bottling this in two days.

Racked American Wheat with Citra and Citrus

Racked American Wheat with Citra and Citrus

Tomorrow is the monthly Big Brew at the Atlantic Brew Shop/Raleigh Brewery! This month, the special is a blonde ale. I’m thinking about making it a Strawberry Blond. I’ve done some research and I’ve read a lot of good experiences and a lot of bad. We will see. I need to go to a grocery store and see what is available.

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