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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! Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout

"The Con"

“The Con”

I prepared yesterday by purchasing my ingredients, getting my propane tank refilled, and buying 7 bags of ice.  The first thing I did was activate the “smack pack” of yeast that I used in this batch. It’s recommended to do so, 3 hours in advance of pitching. I’m brewing Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout, a recipe highly rated by several brewers and created by a brewer and moderator at the Home Brew Talk website. The recipe can be found at:   http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f68/yoopers-oatmeal-stout-210376/

The yeast is Wyeast British Ale II (#1335) and my batch is dated Dec 10th, so it’s very fresh!

Wyeast British Ale II (#1335)

Wyeast British Ale II (#1335)

It is supposed to supply 100 billion cells. The next step was setting up “The Con”. Basically, a table, a chair, the propane, burner, strike water and all the supplies/equipment…and a cup of coffee.

My local home brew supply shop was able to pretty closely duplicate the ingredients for me. I used 10 oz of Thomas Faucette Pale Chocolate Malt in place of the “Crisp”, Bairds 70-80L for the Caramel/Crystal Malt 80L, and Breiss for the 350 SRM Chocolate Malt. I also upped my Maris Otter to 8 lbs to satisfy my recipe builder program’s efficiency number estimate. (Brewer’s Friend) One other thing: I split my hops into 1 oz at 60 minutes and 1 oz at 30 minutes. Brewer’s friend estimated the IBU’s would be too high if I did 2 oz at 60 minutes.

For the process, I used the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method that I have be doing since early last Spring. I heated my water to 159F and added my grains. I stirred to break up all the dry balls. My poor long plastic spoon needs to be replaced by a mash paddle! (Santa?) I turned off the burner and wrapped the pot with a blanket and a “space blanket” to try to maintain the temperature.

Wrapped for temperature retention.

Wrapped for temperature retention.

After 15 minutes, I checked the temperature and it had dropped to 154F. I gave the mash a burner boost, but overshot it up to 162F…rats!

Steeping grains, BIAB.

Steeping grains, BIAB.

I stirred constantly for a few minutes, but the temp wasn’t dropping very fast, so I added approx. 24oz of cold Culligan bottled water. I had the mash temp back down to just above the target 156F with 25 minutes to go in the mash. I wrapped it all back up again and it finished right on target. I hope the variation didn’t hurt too much.

I “tea bag” dunked & drained the grains a couple of times.

Tea bag dunk and drain.

Tea bag dunk and drain.

I also do a “modified sparge” that I have pictured in my journal before…I missed taking a photo this time. Basically, it’s a bottling bucket and tubing set up on a tall recycle container and I drain the water, in this case 1 gallon water at 167F, over the grains. The idea is to rinse additional sugars from the grains. Then I made sure the grains were well drained and squeezed out as best as I could, without burning myself. (I later added the grains to my compost container…I still have some in the freezer for making doggie treats.)

I checked the pre-boil specific gravity with my refractometer and it was 1.041…on target. I transferred the wort to the bottling bucket to measure the volume. It was right to the rim, which is 7 gallons.

measuring the pre-boil wort in a bottling bucket.

measuring the pre-boil wort in a bottling bucket.

I poured the wort back into the brew pot and re-lit the burner.

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The boil was good…added 1oz of Willamette hops pellets at 60 minutes got a vigorous boil going.

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I missed my 30 minute hop (also 1oz Willamette )addition by 5 minutes, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. Post boil SG was 1.066 amd the volume looked a little low, so I added 1/2 gallon cold Culligan bottled water and immersed the brew pot into an ice water bath.

Ice water bath to chill.

Ice water bath to chill.

I used 6 bags of ice and managed to get the temperature down to 72F in less than 25 minutes. A copper coiled wort chiller would be nice, though. (Uh…Santa?!) I checked the OG with both a hydrometer and refractometer. The hydrometer sample was 69F and the reading was 1.055. The refractometer was 1.056. After correcting the hydrometer reading for the sample temperature, the readings agreed at 1.056. I transferred the wort to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation and aerated it with oxygen for two minutes…

Hydrometer sample and oxygen stone aerator.

Hydrometer sample and oxygen stone aerator.

…and then pitched the yeast and sealed the lid.  The volume in the bucket appears to be about 6-1/2 gallons and is close enough to the top that I decided to go ahead and set up a blow-off tube, just in case. Now we wait for the yeast to start partying! According to the estimates, I’m almost dead-on the numbers. I should finish within about .05 of the ABV percentage projection.

Wort aerated and yeast pitched.

Wort aerated and yeast pitched.

When primary fermentation is done, I plan to split the wort and use 2 gallons to make a gingerbread version. Need to research those additions. I do plan to include some freshly grated ginger root. It really made a difference in my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, evidently. I had some guys at the local home brew shop taste it and the one I think has the most experience picked up on it right away. I assume the other componants will be ground ginger, ground cinnamon, vanilla (bean or extract?) … maybe some molasses? Not too much, though. It is fermentable and I found that a small amount really made a nice difference in a cider that I did earlier this year. Okay…updates as needed to follow!

Update: As of the next morning, there was no noticable activity. I sanitized around the lid and opened just enough that I heard some fizziness. I resealed the lid. By a few hours later, I could hear a regular chugging in the overflow liquid. So…things are good!

 

 

 

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Day 93 Pitching the Yeast on the Mead

Pineapple Mango Melomel. ready for yeast.

Pineapple Mango Melomel. ready for yeast.

Smacked the yeast pack earlier this morning. It swelled appropriately. At about 11:15 a.m., I gave the yeast pack a shake and sanitized it and my equipment.

Ready to pitch.

Ready to pitch.

I used my refractometer and measured the OG at 1.110. (The must was a little thick and I didn’t want to waste any, since it’s just a one gallon batch, so I used the refractometer instead of the hydrometer.) I gave the must a stir, added the yeast and stirred again.

Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast.

Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast.

From the little bit of juice on the spoon, this stuff is very sweet and tasty…but a lot of that sweet is destined to become alcohol! This is going to be a long process, but it’s off to a good start.

Pole Vault Pale Ale update: the airlock has slowed. I haven’t timed it, but it has definitely not got the steady heartbeat anymore…probably 2 or 3 per minute.

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Day 92 Starting Pineapple Mango Mead (Melomel)

Pineapple Mango Melomel ingredients

Pineapple Mango Melomel ingredients

There were some big pineapples on sale at my local store and I already had a couple of mangos at home that were on sale, so…time for Pineapple Mango Mead! Or melomel, I guess. I think most fruit meads are called melomels. Some die-hards can get really technical, but I think that’s right. Anyway, I grabbed the pineapple and a 3 lb bottle of clover honey and checked out. The pineapple was $3 and the honey was $8.

So, this morning I juiced the fruit with my little countertop juice extractor and added the pulp back to the juice. I see no reason to waste the pulp, it was practically creamy. I did peel the fruit first, so it should all be good.

Pineapple juice and pulp.

Pineapple juice and pulp.

Prepping mango.

Prepping mango.

I had put together a tentative recipe and adjusted to reality as I went along. The pineapple and two mangoes yielded about 2 quarts. Then I added 1 campden tablet, crushed, 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient and 1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Next, I mixed the honey with equal parts hot water to dissolve and added that to the juice and came up to one gallon.

In the 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket, mixed well.

In the 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket, mixed well.

Equal parts clover honey and hot Culligan water.

Equal parts clover honey and hot Culligan water.

I decided to add another 48 oz hot water to allow for some of the loss in racking. Mixed well, snapped on lid and added airlock. This mixture will sit 24 hours .

About a gallon and a quarter in the bucket. Tomorrow: check the FG and pitch the yeast!

About a gallon and a quarter in the bucket. Tomorrow: check the FG and pitch the yeast!

Tomorrow, I will pitch the yeast. I bought a “smack pack” of  Wyeast’s Sweet Mead Yeast. I will check the FG just before I do the yeast. After that process is started, it will likely take several weeks in primary. Then another couple of months or longer to be in a secondary phase where there is as little headroom as possible…in a carboy, I guess. Finally, it will be bottled and I’ll likely hide it away another year to age. I’m thinking Fall of 2016 is a good target.

Update on the Pole Vault Pale Ale that I brewed for my first all-grain Brew in a Bag project: It started bubbling away on the next day sometime and continues at a good rapid heartbeat-like pace.

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