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I’m a Grandpa! (And General Update on Brews)

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Let’s just get this out of the way: Yes, I’m a Grandpa! My grandson was born on April 17, 2015 @11:23 p.m. and weighed in at 7 lbs 13 oz. I’m as proud as I can be!

Okay, back to brewing and fermenting stuff. Three things: Steinpilz Gose, Belgo Paleo Pale Ale, and kombucha.

The Steinpilz Gose has been in the bottles for a couple of weeks now an my friend picked up the rest for kegging  a little over a week ago. I have opened a bottle and tried it and she has tried it from the keg. Unfortunately, she does NOT like mushrooms, so it isn’t really her “thing”, but she said that it is “technically” good. Haha…I’ll take it. I think the bottled version needs more carbonation, but it is not bad. There’s not much aroma, but what I get is that German wheat beer smell with the earthiness from the mushrooms. The flavor is good…definitely has the German character. As for the gose style, I thing the tartness is good, but it could use just a little more salt. The earthy mushroom flavor is very present, but not overpowering. I look forward to trying the kegged version and getting some feedback from some more people (that like mushrooms, hopefully!).

Steinpilz Gose from the bottle after about 2 weeks.

Steinpilz Gose from the bottle after about 2 weeks.

Belgo Paleo. This has been an odd start. The home brew shop guy said the yeast, Safbrew Abbaye, is the one some brewers use for Belgian trippels and quads, so to not let it go crazy…maybe put it in my spare shower and run some cold water into the tub to lower the temperature a little. The first two days, the yeast ripped into the wort…it actually seemed finished after three days. Late at night on day 2, I replaced the blow-off tube with an airlock and moved the carboy to the shower and added water to the tub. The initial temps were around 70-72F. The tub water slowly leaked out over the course of a week. Last night, I took a sample for hydrometer testing and the temp was 68.5F. The thing is, the SG is 1.020 and it is supposed to get down to 1.009. I reached out to my online brewing friends and it was suggested that I should have increased the temperature after the first day or two…exactly opposite of the advice from the LHBS guy. *steam* I have brought the carboy back into the kitchen and need to check it in another week.

Belgo Paleo at S.G. 1.020

Belgo Paleo at S.G. 1.020

Kombucha…I have SCOBY’s to spare and plenty to share! The 1 gallon jars with spigots are working out great for draining off the ready-to-drink kombucha.

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

SCOBY Hotel

SCOBY Hotel

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

Fresh batch, ready to start fermenting.

Now I can add the tea, sugar, and water back without having to remove the SCOBY and extra starter kombucha to start the next batch. I am on a fairly regular staggered schedule 2 batches fermenting and 1 batch in the fridge to drink.

In the fridge to drink.

In the fridge to drink.

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Brew Day Belgo Paleo

Ready to Brew!

Ready to Brew!

Brew Day! I’m actually writing this on the day after, but it was a long day. I had to help prepare for my older daughter’s baby shower and, after brewing and planting several things in the garden, I had to go help with the clean up. I was sore and tired last night!

First, I want to address the fact that I have had an ongoing problem with overcarbonation in several of my brews. Most have been darker beers…stout, porter, Scottish ale; but that may not necessarily have anything to do with it. I’ve tried backing down on priming sugar, extending the fermentation period, careful sanitizing procedures. I have been wondering if maybe the equipment I’m using or the bottles may need replacing or heavy duty cleaning, rather than rinsing and sanitizing. Before this brew, I soaked EVERYTHING in a solution of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda…carboy, buckets, utensils, hoses, siphon, airlocks and stoppers. Before I bottle, I will soak the bottles in the same solution, run them through the dishwasher (including heated drying cycle), and sanitizing. If this batch winds up overcarbing, I will have NO clue what to try next. Keeping my fingers crossed.

The recipe I brewed is a Belgian Pale Ale called Belgo Paleo and it sounds pretty good. It uses Green Bullet hops for buttering, Tettnang at 30 minutes and Saaz at 15 minutes and dry hop. The yeast is a packet of dry Safbrew Abbaye.

Pellet hops

Pellet hops

I followed my usual brew day procedures, with one exception: I used my new stainless steel wort chiller for the first time!

New stainless steel wort chiller

New stainless steel wort chiller

I didn’t have to buy 8 bags of ice this time! I set up the chiller with hoses and kept it in a bucket of sanitizer until ready to use. I put the chiller in the kettle for the last 15 minutes of the boil, to sanitize it.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to manage leak-proof connections and a little water sprayed into the wort. It was right after flame-out, and I’m hoping it didn’t ruin the batch. I wrapped the connection in paper towels and the dripping happened away from the kettle, instead of into it. The chiller worked like a champ and my wort was down to pitching temp in under twenty minutes.

Most difficult part of the day? Pouring the wort from the kettle (actually, a S/S stock pot) through a funnel into the glass carboy. Next time, I’ll use a siphon! Should have aerated it well, though! And it’s a good thing, because the oxygen tank I have connected to an aerating “stone” evidently had the valve knocked open somehow and the canister was empty.

Ready for fermentation to start.

Ready for fermentation to start.

So, pitched the yeast and put on the airlock. There was action late last night and I heard that the Abbaye yeast is aggressive, so I switch the airlock to a blow-off tube set-up …

After fermenting 24 hours.

After fermenting 24 hours.

Blow-off tube and wrapped to keep light out.

Blow-off tube and wrapped to keep light out.

…and wrapped the carboy with a blanket to keep out light. The wort chugged all day today and is doing well, I think. As of tonight, about 32 hours after pitching the yeast, the bubbling has slowed slightly to once every few seconds.

Update: Steinpilz Gose: my brewbuddy came by and got the balance of the gose into a keg and is going to force carbonate it. I’m going to stick a couple of bottles in the fridge and we’ll compare when ready. Looking forward to that!

 

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Update Kombucha and Fruit Cider/Wine

Kombucha getting started.

Kombucha getting started.

Following up on the two little side fermentation projects that I have going on: kombucha and a mixed fruit cider/wine thing….

First, on the kombucha, I have reached out to some folks online regarding my progress, because I don’t really know how this is supposed to look. I’m using 1 gallon of green tea, a cup of sugar, and the dregs from a bottle of kombucha soda. After a couple of days, I have some bubbles around the perimeter of the carboy, a small “island” in the middle, and a few floaters that appear to be dark green and hang down like a “beard”.

perimeter bubbles and "beard" floater.

perimeter bubbles and “beard” floater.

There’s a little more sediment at the bottom than I started with, too. The little floaters are my biggest concern…all the pictures that I’ve seen online show the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) are off-white to tan in color. A little further research shows the floaters to be common…need to watch out for mold growing on top. That would be mean throwing out the batch. Also, it sounds like I may need to make a “baby” SCOBY and start another batch to grow a “mother” SCOBY? It’s a learning experience, that’s for sure!

Moving on to my mixed fruit little experiment: I racked the juice and it was still pretty thick on the bottom. After racking, I have just a little under a gallon.

Ready for first racking.

Ready for first racking.

I may only get a half gallon by the time this batch is racked and aged enough. So, I took some juice from the dregs and strained it to use for a hydrometer sample…I hope any “body” in the juice isn’t affecting the hydrometer’s measurement.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

The hydrometer reading is 0.998 at 70F, so that is 0.999 corrected. With the OG of 1.073, that puts it at 9.71% ABV. It’s still on the border between cider and wine…not sure what will end up being. (Other than delicious, I hope!)

Update 1/19/15:

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racked the mixed fruit cider to a 1 gallon glass carboy. I strained the dregs and took a hydrometer reading of 0.996@69F.

Transferring

Transferring

I’m thinking I may top off with Culligan bottled water next time I rack, so I have a gallon. Currently, it’s a little under a gallon…maybe 10% short? Looks good though and over 9% ABV, so a top-off won’t hurt it.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

The Kombucha is coming along…looks like a pretty decent skin is forming…almost covering the surface. Now.let’s see if it thickens. The jug has a small neck, so I’ll need to figure out removing the SCOBY and find a new, more appropriate container.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Probably one of those 1 gallonlemonade/iced tea dispensers with the spigot. The smell is a little tangy…haven’t attempted a taste yet. I’m not sure whether this first batch is supposed to be drinkable or not. We’ll see when I remove the SCOBY…somehow.

Update 2/24/15:  Okay, so, I’ve been been saving some of a hydrometer sample of the mixed fruit cider, in the refrigerator. I’ve been taking a little sip every couple of days. It has settled nicely and the flavor is not agressive, but it IS distinct from straight apple cider. The jug is looking good…still needs more clearing. I’ll let it go another week and rack it onto just enough clean water to top it off…should only take about 2-3 cups.

Now for the kombucha: pretty much “Wow”. I sanitized a turkey baster to retrieve a sample. (I need a new wine thief!) I had  to nudge the SCOBY aside…it is definitely holding together as a solid raft. I may go ahead and go to the next batch soon! The sample that I removed was tart and tasted “lemony”. I’m not a huge tea fan, but this stuff is really good! Not much tea flavor…just a little. I’m glad I used green tea. So, thumbs up! Let’s see if it will continue with the next round.

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Quickie Update on Little Cider Batch

A quick update: I racked my little half gallon batch of Super Easy Cider, made from White House brand “Fresh Pressed” commercial apple cider.After leaving the trub behind, I was down a cup or two in the jug, so I brought it back up with some additional cider (knowing that it will ferment some more). A very small taste was fairly light on flavor and the alcohol was low. Could be the harvested East Coast Ale Yeast was a little low? Considering additional options. Again, just a couple dollars invested, so who knows?

Just letting the Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout sit for awhile…not noticing any action, but I’m not going to rush this one at all.

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Merry Christmas and Starting a Half Gallon of Cider

Some yeast and some cider.

Some yeast and some cider.

It’s been some time since I have brewed or fermented anything…holidays and vacation have taken so much of my time! I was grocery shopping today, however, and I bought a gallon of White House brand “Fresh Pressed” Apple Cider (not from concentrate, “all natural”, from whole apples, pasteurized, etc., etc.). My daughter likes unfermented apple cider, some I’m splitting this gallon and fermenting the other half. It cost $5 for the gallon, so I’m not too worried about this not working out. Here’s what I’m doing:

In one 1/2 gallon growler, I’m putting a 1/4 teaspoon each of pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient and a little under 1/2 gallon of the cider. In the other 1/2 gallon clear carboy, I had stored  in the refrigerator, some recovered East Coast Ale yeast. I had never gotten around to draining the wort off of it…but I don’t think it’s worth trying to ferment into beer. What I have done is removed it from the refrigerator and added a couple tablespoons of honey.

Tomorrow night, I’ll see what’s going on. If all goes well, the yeast will activate, I’ll pour off the wort, and add the yeast slurry to the cider. Another 24 hours will show me if it’s going to ferment. I’m not sure how the East Coast Ale yeast will do with cider…I hope it works and I find out!

As for other project updates, the East Coast Cascade American Amber is interesting. The initial taste was a little dank and had a slight astringency in the finish. The carb has come up nicely and the astringency is almost completely gone. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it’s very drinkable and tasty. The Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale IS amazing and has been well received by all who have tried it. Finally, the robust porter and it’s coffee version were not promising at first. Passable, but not really what I was hoping for. Another couple of weeks in the bottle and I was pleasantly surprized that it had turned out to be pretty darn good, after all. Cheers!

 

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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 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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