Galaxy Microburst - Double IPA

>> Sunday, December 06, 2015

I used Galaxy hops in my American Brown Ale  couple weeks ago and the aroma was amazing. I believe this was the first time I've used Galaxy. I decided I'd like to try brewing a Double IPA to showcase this hop. The inspiration for this beer comes from Noble Ale Works' Showers series. Each release in this series focuses on a single hop variety. I've had the opportunity to try a couple releases and have really enjoyed them.

There isn't a ton of info available for cloning this beer. The best I've seen so far is in this thread (post #14). It'll be hard to say cloned or not cloned since I won't be able to do a side by side comparison, plus I'm shooting for a little lower IBU. Ultimately I'm just hoping for a nice drinkable DIPA that focuses on the hops. Keeping inline with the Showers theme, I'm naming my version Microburst after the intense localized thunder storms that tend to frequent Utah. I'm kind of going with my own take on this recipe, so I reduced bitterness somewhat and I'm using a different variety for the bittering hop. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

5# 11oz Rahr 2-row
3.5# Weyerman Pilsner
1.5# Golden Promise
1# 3oz Corn Sugar
28g Magnum (First Wort Hop)
56g Galaxy (1 min)
168g Galaxy (Dry Hop)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
US-05

Mash at 149F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 64F, dry hop after primary fermentation slows down.

For water profile I want something that will showcase the hops. I've heard very good things about Tasty's water profile, so this is what I'm shooting for today. To 10 gallons of RO water I added:

16g Gypsum (CASO4)
7g Epsom salt (MgSO4)
2g Canning salt (NaCl)
1g  Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)

Brewing Notes
No issues. Mash efficiency was a bit higher than normal at about 86%. The mash smelled fantastic, then the end of the boil was even better.

Update 12/14/2015
I pulled this beer from the ferm chamber yesterday and brought it into the kitchen to finish up fermentation. It still has quite a bit of krausen on top so I'll wait for this to drop before dry hopping.

Update 12/20/2015
I dumped as much yeast as possible today then added the 6 ounces of dry hops. This beer smells amazing. And here's what 6 ounces of dry hops looks like. After I took the picture, I ever so gently stirred the hop pellets in with a sanitized butter knife. I'll let these go for about a week then plan on transferring to a keg. Throughout the week I'll periodically give a little swirl to the fermenter.

Update 1/6/2016
This beer went into the keg tonight. I tried a sample that was cold but still flat...this beer tastes pretty amazing. I think it'll be fantastic when carb'd. Cold crashing dropped out the hop debris really well. I placed a sanitized paint strainer bag into the keg and then racked into it. This is the same procedure I've used with fruit beers. After filling, just carefully lift the bag out. It really seems to cut down on the amount of debris in the keg.

Update 1/10/2016
Still not fully carb'd, but I had some friends over yesterday to bottle our group brew Whiskey Barrel Russian Imperial Stout (aka Queen Jennie's Revenge) and I had them try this beer. The consensus was this is a pretty amazing and very drinkable DIPA.

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Steel-Belted Jockey Box Build

>> Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Back in June my club had a booth at the Mountain Brewers Festival in Idaho Falls, Idaho. All proceeds from this event go to supporting local charities in Idaho. We had about ten club members donate batches of homebrew which were poured right alongside commercial beers. This was the first time we'd ever done an event like this and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We had all 10 beers going from the start of the festival; four on tap on a borrowed jockey box (thanks Lauter Day Brewers!) and the rest using cobra taps. The cobra taps worked fine but they ended up turning into a sticky mess. The jockey box worked awesome, so it got me to thinking that I should start collecting parts in order to build one.

If you're not familiar with jockey boxes, they're essentially a portable kegerators. Rather than keeping kegs at serving temp, room temp beer is chilled on the fly as it's poured. This is accomplished by passing the beer through a cold plate or stainless coil packed in ice. It's basically a heat exchanger, pulling heat out of the beer as it passes through the cold plate.

Fast forward a few months and I finally have my hands on everything needed to complete my build. I wanted something more interesting than you're standard plastic ice chest, so I kept my eyes open for a vintage metal cooler.  I finally got my hands on a nice vintage Coleman cooler a couple weeks ago. This cooler is from the 70's, so it's not 100% metal, but I dig it. It definitely has more character than an all plastic cooler.

As for faucets, I found a member selling brand new ones on homebrewtalk a while back. These are standard chrome rear sealing faucets. I wouldn't recommend these on a home kegerator because they tend to dry out and stick between uses. However, they should work fine on a jockey box where they won't have time to dry out between pours.

For chilling I'm using a seven circuit cold plate. Since we have seven circuits and only four taps, three of the taps are plumbed to do a double pass through the cold plate, and one tap will do a single pass. The single pass tap will be used for beers that will benefit from a slightly warmer serving temp.

Cooler wall cross-section
The build is pretty straightforward; make holes for taps and supply lines then make all the connections. For the taps, I drilled pilot holes all the way through the cooler wall then used a holesaw to cut the interior plastic and my Greenlee punch to make a hole in the outer metal layer. I cut the interior hole big enough to fit a PVC plug that I'd drilled so the tap shank could pass through. The plan is to sandwich the fitting between the metal layer and the nut on the shank. This will allow me to really snug down the shank for a solid mount without worrying about crushing the inner and outer wall. The plug was epoxied to the interior surface of the metal layer and the joint between the PVC fitting and the interior plastic was sealed up with some silicone caulking.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the best solution for the supply lines. I wanted a clean look, but didn't want to break the bank. I ended up going with stainless panel mount 1/4" MFL union/bulkheads. I'm really happy with the way these turned out, and they can even be disassembled fairly easily for cleaning, replacing lines, etc.

It's said the cold plates perform better when they're kept out of the water from the melting ice. You can buy cold plate holders, but I figured I could make a rust-proof holder out of PVC for cheap. I attached the holder to the cold plate using zip ties (not pictured).

That's about all there is to it. I just barely finished it so I haven't had a chance to test it out yet. I imagine I'll have to do a little fine tuning so I'll post an update once I have everything dialed in. In the meantime, here are a few pics of my build. Hopefully anyone planning a similar project will find them helpful.


Innards

Interior shank mounting
1/4" MFL bulkheads, exterior
Cold plate stand

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American Brown Ale

>> Monday, November 16, 2015

I picked up a copy of Gordon Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes at GABF in September. Today I'm brewing a recipe from that book, American Brown Ale. I also have some company today; Chris Detrick from the Salt Lake Tribune joined me today for a video piece on Homebrewing in Utah. Chris is a very accomplished homebrewer himself so it was a lot of fun to have him on hand. I'll add a link to the video once it's available.

Updated: Here's a link to the piece. Chris did an awesome job with the editing. He took all my rambling and managed to put it together so that it made sense. It's funny because I'd planned on talking about all these different things, but when the camera was on, my mind went blank. It was much harder than I imagined to form coherent thoughts.   

American Brown Ales are a style I really enjoy. I don't brew them as often as I should, but they're a great style to have on hand. Moose Drool is one of my favorite commercial examples. The combination of caramel, toffee, and chocolate characters blended with fairly assertive hop character is something I really enjoy. Here's the recipe as I made it today.

10.0# Rahr 2-row
2.0# Avangard Munich I
1.0# Briess Crystal 60
0.5# Briess Crystal 40
0.5# Crisp Chocolate Malt (Vorlauf)
2.0 oz Weyermann Carafa II (Vorlauf)
28g Saaz (FWH)
14g Galaxy (15 min)
28g Sterling (5 min)
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II
0.5t Wyeast Nutrient
0.5 Whirlfloc

Mash at 151F for 60 min, 90 minute boil, ferment at 66F.

Water treatment - Per the recipe in the book, I'm using RO water and adding 3.4g (1t) CaCl to the mash. I'm still learning about water chemistry, but this just seems too simple...regardless, I'm going with it.

Brewing Notes
No issues with this beer. Dark grains were added once we started running off to the boil kettle; at first I was a little worried because it wasn't picking up much color, but that changed after a few minutes. With the cooler temps this time of year, we were able to chill down to pitching temps fairly quickly.

Update 11/18/2015
I had to hook up a blow off tube this morning. This yeast produced a very dense mousse-like krausen that slowly crept higher and higher. It finally pushed up through the airlock sometime late last night or early this morning.

Update 12/5/2015
I decided to dry hop with the remaining 14g of Galaxy. This was added today.

Update 12/14/2015
This went back into the ferm chamber yesterday for cold crashing. I'm hoping to keg it later this week.

Update 12/20/2015
I kegged this beer today. The aroma coming off this beer was fantastic, hoppy with some really nice malty complexity. As with most of my kegged beers, I primed it and will let it naturally carb over the next couple weeks.

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American Wild Barrel-Aged Brown

>> Sunday, November 08, 2015

Today I'm brewing the first in my barrel-aged sours using my recently acquired whiskey barrel. The RIS that's currently in the barrel is progressing nicely, so I wanted to get going on this one so that it's ready when we bottle the RIS.

This beer is based on The Rare Barrel Bruin base recipe. This will primary with the INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III then I'll secondary in the barrel with my Roeselare-based sour blend. Here's the recipe as I brewed it today. This is for a 10 gallon batch:

15.75# Weyermann Pilsner
2.0# 11oz Rahr White Wheat Malt
13 oz Crisp Crystal 60
13 oz Briess Chocolate 350L
13 oz Flaked Oats
13 oz Special Aromatic
13 oz Spelt Malt
3 oz Carafa III
1 oz Aged Hops (60 mins)
INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III
Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 154F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp.
Note: I decided to go with a 154F mash even though I'm doing a 100% brett primary. This is because the brett I'm using has a reputation for fermenting very dry, so I'm trying to ensure there's a fair amount of complex sugars in this beer.

Brewing Notes
No issues to speak of. OG came in at 1.063 (15.6). I was going to use Whirlfloc, but spaced it off. It shouldn't matter too much as this beer will age for a while.

Update 11/10/2015
This yeast is voracious. I woke up yesterday morning to very active fermentations. Both fermenters had a couple inches of krausen and very active airlocks. I considered hooking up blow-off hoses but there seemed to be plenty of headspace so I skipped it and went to work. About an hour later I got a text from my son that read , "It's exploding" and a picture showing krausen pushing up through one of the airlocks. I ran home for lunch and hooked up blow-off tubes, and it was just in the nick of time as one of the fermenters had started building up pressure. Crises averted, but I'll remember to use a blow-off from the beginning the next time I use this yeast.

Updated 12/6/2015
This beer went into the barrel today. I forgot to pick up a pack of Roeselare, so I'll have to pick one up and pitch it tomorrow.

Updated 12/6/2015
I pitched a very fresh Roeselare pack tonight, manufacture date of 11/22/2015.

Update 5/14/2016
I pulled a sample yesterday and this beer has soured much faster than I expected. IMO, it's about ready to go now. pH on this beer is down around 3.18, but it doesn't seem like it should be that low. I'm trying to decide if I'll turn this into a solera by racking off a portion, then refilling with a fresh beer.

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Hibiscus Sour on Oak

>> Friday, October 02, 2015

Today I'm doing a rare evening brew session. I don't do too many of these because it usually results in cleaning pots at midnight...something that isn't real high on my list of favorite things to do. I'm excited to get started on this beer though, so I'm just going,with it.

I'm starting the first of several experimental sour beers based on the well-publicized grain bills used by The Rare Barrel. The Rare Barrel essentially has three different base beers, a golden, a red, and a bruin (brown). They'll take these base beers and age them in different barrels and/or add adjuncts in secondary to end up with a variety of beers. If you google Rare Barrel Base Recipes, it's pretty easy to find them. Additionally, Jay Goodwin has freely provided info on several episodes of The BN's Sour Hour. The grain bills cited below were found on the Milk the Funk Wiki:

Golden Recipe

12° Plato (1.048 SG)
70% Base Malt (any type; probably Belgian Pilsner)
12% Malted Wheat
6% Rolled Oats
6% Spelt Malt (substitute wheat if you can't procure spelt)
6% Special Aromatic (specifically Franco-Belges; substitute with Vienna or Light Munich)
 Red Recipe
14° Plato (1.057 SG)
70% Base Malt (any type; probably Belgian Pilsner)
12% Malted Wheat
4.5% Rolled Oats
4.5% Spelt Malt (substitute wheat if you can't procure spelt)
4.5% Special Aromatic (specifically Franco-Belges; substitute with Vienna or Light Munich)
4.5% Crystal 60
Use de-husked black (Carafa II or III) to adjust color to you liking; ~1%
 Bruin Recipe
16° Plato (1.065 SG)
70% Base Malt (any type; probably Belgian Pilsner)
12% Malted Wheat
3.6% Rolled Oats
3.6% Spelt Malt (substitute wheat if you can't procure spelt)
3.6% Special Aromatic (specifically Franco-Belges; substitute with Vienna or Light Munich)
3.6% Crystal 60
3.6% Chocolate
Use de-husked black (Carafa II or III) to adjust color to you liking; ~1%
The beer I'm making today is based on the Golden Recipe above. I will be adding dried hibiscus flowers after fermentation. I've never used hibiscus before but they're said to give a slight tart berry-like character and tons of deep red color to a beer. For yeast, I'm going with a clean primary followed by dregs cultured from Jester King's Petite Prince. SO-4 should leave some sugars behind for whatever is in the JK dregs.

A note on the malts, it may be hard to find Spelt and Special Aromatic. Spelt is an heirloom wheat variety. Special Aromatic is said to be different than both Special B and Aromatic malt. I had to special order both from the guys at Salt City, but you could make substitutions as noted above. Here's the recipe as I made it:

5.75 # Weyermann Pilsner
1.00 # Weyermann Malted Wheat
0.50 # Rolled Oats
0.50 # Best Malz Spelt Malt
0.50 # Franco-Belges Special Aromatic
1-2 handfuls of rice hulls
7g U.S. Goldings (60 min)
7g Aged Hops (60 min)
Safale S-04 (Primary)
Jester King Petite Prince (Secondary)
3.0 oz Dried Hibiscus Flowers (Secondary) - TBD, either dry hopped or made into a tea
French oak, Medium+ toast for aging

Mash at 150F, 90 minute boil, primary ferment at 65F, secondary at room temp

Update 10/7/2015
Primary fermentation seems to have wrapped up and the yeast have dropped out for the most part. I tasted a sample from the Petite Prince dregs starter and it tastes amazing. I'll probably let this go until the weekend then rack to secondary and pitch the dregs.

Update 10/9/2015
I racked to secondary tonight and pitched the JK dregs.

Update 10/27/2015
Pulled a sample tonight. Aroma is pretty clean, not much funk yet. There's a subtle tartness starting to develop but at this point I'd call it tangy rather than tart or sour. I didn't bother taking a pH reading yet. I think this beer is headed in the right direction but it's probably going to take a while to mature. I'll have to monitor the sourness and make sure it's progressing. Worst case, I'll drop in some of my house sour blend...I think it's capable of souring anything. If you brew this beer, please take note of Jerad's comment below:
I contacted Jay Goodwin a while back and he mentioned that with these grain bills, they mash at 148 when doing 100% brett primaries and 155 with sacc in primary followed by brett in secondary.
Update 11/13/2015
Checked the pH today and it's down to 3.41. Sourness is much more noticeable than when I tried it on 10/27.

Update 4/7/2016
I moved this beer from a 6 gallon carboy to a 5 gallon carboy today. I racked the beer onto 1 pound of Simplicity Belgian Candi Syrup and two partially charred medium+ French oak cubes. I wasn't originally planning on using the candi syrup, but I wasn't satisfied with the tartness I was getting out of the Petite Prince dregs. I'm hoping a little food will help drop the pH a bit more. The beer definitely smells acidic, but the flavor is too mellow for my liking.

Update 6/25/2016
I bottled this beer last night. For the hibiscus, I put the 3oz of hibiscus in a French press, then added about three cups of hot water. This went into the fridge and was left to "brew" for about 24 hours. Midway through, I gently stirred it. The tea was then added to the bottling bucket along with the priming sugar and the beer was racked on top. Appearance-wise, this beer is a nice pinkish red and has really good clarity at room temp. That may change once it's conditioned and chilled. It is tart, but it's not as intense as many of my sours. It's along the lines of lemonade and the hibiscus have added a nice berry character. I didn't take a pH reading at bottling, but I suspect it's in the 3.5-3.6 range. I'm definitely looking forward to trying this when it's fully conditioned, but it was good enough that I finished the last 8 ounces that was leftover in the bottling bucket.

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Whiskey Barrel Russian Imperial Stout (aka Queen Jennie's Revenge)

>> Sunday, September 20, 2015

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently acquired a 10 gallon oak whiskey barrel. I wanted to brew something that would be able to stand up to the strong flavors of a freshly emptied whiskey barrel. I decided a RIS would be a good candidate. I've been wanting to brew a RIS this past year,but was never able to fit it into my brew schedule. This is going to be a big beer and it would take me years to go through 10 gallons of it, so I asked a couple buddies of mine if they'd be interested in splitting a batch. Fortunately they said yes.


This recipe is based on the 2015 NHC gold medal winning recipe from William Steimle, Dylan Vaughan, and Craig Vilhauer. Our batch will be a 10 gallon batch and will have to be split into two separate mashes. We'll then recombine for a single boil. The recipe as we brewed it is:

16.0# Crisp Maris Otter
11.0 # Fawcett Pearl Malt
2.31 # Crisp Roasted Barley
1.50 # Briess Golden Light DME
1.44 # Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal
0.63 # Crisp Chocolate Malt
0.63 # Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt
71g Warrior (60 min)
85g US Golding (10 min)
85g US Golding (0 min)
Yeast Nutrient
Whirlfloc
3 packets US-05

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 63F then raise to 68F over a few days. After primary is complete, cold-crash to ensure as much yeast has dropped out as possible, then rack to whiskey barrel for aging. I'll start pulling samples after about a month to check this beer's progress.

Update 10/2/2015
No real issues from this brew session other than we missed our target gravity by a bit. We were shooting for 1.100 and got 1.090. The plan was to collect about 6.25 gallons from each mash, but I turned my back for a minute during the first sparge, and we ended up collecting almost 8 gallons. So our wort was a bit more diluted than we intended. 1.090 is still pretty high gravity, so I'm not too conscerned. Everything else went well and we wrapped up the brew session in plenty of time before I headed out of town for GABF.  This one went into the barrel today, finishing out at 9% ABV.

Update 12/6/2015
I racked this into kegs today to force carb. This beer tastes amazing...malt, chocolate, vanilla, oak, roast, and of course whiskey. The barrel has done a bit of magic; I'd say this beer is ready to drink now and doesn't need to be aged to enjoy.

Update 1/10/2016
This beer was bottled yesterday. Most went into 12 ounce bottles, but my buddy Brandon was brave enough to do a bunch of bombers for his portion. I'm interested to see how it ages, but this beer is drinkable now.


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Barrel Time!

>> Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Fresh out of the shipping box
As I've indicated in a couple of my posts, I've been involved in a few barrel projects with my club. Our projects have involved full-size 55-ish gallon barrels, and while it's been a blast, I don't have enough room to store a 55 gallon barrel at my house...nor can I turn out a 55 gallon batch by myself. Well, I recently came across a sale on 10 gallon whiskey barrels from Farmhouse Brewing Supply. I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on one.

The barrel came to Farmhouse from Old Sugar Distillery and had been used to age their sorghum whiskey, Queen Jennie. The plan is to use this barrel for a couple clean beers, then start doing some sour experiments in it as the barrel character heads toward neutral.

First up for this project was building a cradle for the barrel. Nothing too fancy here, it's just some 2x8 stock and other scrap I had in my garage. Joints were glued and screwed. Later on I'll make a dolly that the cradle will be mounted to, but I didn't have time to do that this past weekend.

With the cradle built, next I decided to wax the barrel. Depending on who you ask, this step may or may not be necessary. Smaller barrels like mine have thinner staves compared to full-size barrels. Also, the surface-to-volume ratio is higher than larger barrels. This raises two primary concerns. 

The first concern is oxidation, and this is where waxing comes into play. Because of the thinner staves and surface area, the amount of oxygen transfer is higher than a full-size barrel. Given enough time, this could result in oxidized beer. The theory is by waxing a portion of the barrel you're able to reduce the permeability of the barrel to that of a 55 gallon barrel. In the case of 10 gallon barrels, the recommendation is 75% of the staves waxed leaving the remainder of the staves and the heads un-waxed. 

The second concern is extraction rate. Because of the high surface-to-volume ratio, flavors tend to extract much faster in a smaller barrel. Long story short, it shouldn't take as long to extract oak and whiskey character from this barrel compared to a full-size barrel. The first beer in this barrel is going to be a Russian Imperial Stout and I'll probably start pulling samples after a month or so to see how things are coming along.

Fresh coat of wax before heat gun clean-up
The waxing process was pretty simple...but it was messy. If you don't want to catch grief from your significant other, do it in the garage and be sure to lay out some newspaper.

I picked up some paraffin wax from Walmart, melted it in an old tomato can immersed in simmering water, then used an old paint brush to paint it on the barrel. I used painters tape to mask off the staves that I didn't want waxed. For mine, I left the bottom 1/4 un-waxed. This process leaves a fairly thick coat of wax on the barrel, so I plan to go back over it with a heat gun to remove excess wax.

One word of caution, barrels like this contain explosive fumes from the residual distilled spirits. Use common sense. Unless you want to be picking splinters out of your spleen, I'd avoid any open flames around an empty barrel.

That's about it.  Stay tuned for updates as we run different beers through this barrel.

Update 9/9/2015
I had some time tonight so I took the heat gun to the barrel. It did a great job of removing excess wax from both the staves and the bands. Here's the barrel ready for some beer!
Post heat gun

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Petite Saison with Tart Cherries

>> Sunday, August 02, 2015

I wanted to try out the Wyeast 3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend, so today I'm brewing a Petite Saison that will get around 7 pounds of my homegrown tart cherries in the secondary. I really enjoy Saisons and other Farmhouse Ales. Usually I make my Saisons fairly high gravity, but the goal with this one is to come in a bit more session-able. The addition of the tart cherries will probably also make it somewhat kriek-like. This beer won't get any lactobacillus or pediococcus, so the only souring will come from the tart cherries.

Wyeast describes 3031 as follows:
Beer Styles: Saison, Belgian Specialty Ales, American-style Sour & Wild Beer, Strong Golden Ale
Profile: A blend of Saison yeast and Brettanomyces creates a dry and complex ale. Classic earthy and spicy farmhouse character meets tropical and stone fruit esters; aging brings elevated Brett flavor. Expect high attenuation with this blend.

Alc. Tolerance          12% ABV
Flocculation              low
Attenuation               80-90%
Temp. Range             65-80°F (18-27°C)
Based on the ferm temp range, I'd guess this is the 3711 French Saison strain blended with one of Wyeast's Brett strains.

Here's the recipe I came up with. I want this beer to finish dry, but not too thin, so I'm going with a step mash. Also adding some Chit Malt for some starch so that the brett will have something to chew on for a while. Hops-wise I'm shooting for low bitterness with a touch of flavor and aroma. I've used the Golden Naked Oats in a Saison before, and I really liked the berry/nutty character it added.

5.5# German Pils
1.25# Chit Malt
1.0# Flaked Rye
0.5# Golden Naked Oats
7g CTZ - 30 min
14g Citra - 5 min
3031 PC Saison Brett Blend
Whirlfloc
Yeast Nutrient
7.0# Tart cherries in secondary

Target O.G. 1.053

Mash
Mash at 149F for 15 min, raise to 155F for remainder of mash. I added 2.5ml of phosphoric acid to bring the mash pH to 5.39.

Fermentation
Chill to 65F, then let free-rise to 80F.

Water 
Nothing too scientific this time. I used 6 gallons of carbon filtered tap water cuht with 3 gallons of RO water. 3 gallons in the mash, sparged to 6.5 gallons pre-boil volume.

Brewing Notes
No real issues, But I did forget to take my OG before pitching yeast. I was trying to hurry and wrap things up so I could go drop off my entries for the Beehive Brew-off and totally forgot. I also decided to skip O2...just an experiment to see what happens with the brett character (some have reported more funk when the yeast are stressed).

Update 8/13/2015
Primary fermentation seemed to have finished up, so I racked onto 7# of homegrown tart cherries yesterday. Cherries had been stored in the freezer then thawed and sanitized with 1/8 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite dissolved in 1/4 cup RO water. This sat overnight then beer was racked onto the cherries in the morning. I mashed the cherries as much as I could, but there were still some whole ones.
Update 8/26/2015
Pulled a sample today and I'm really liking this beer. The "Saison" character is really nice.  Esters are there and blend very well with the tart cherry character. There's a light spiciness that's noticeable, but subtle and very complimentary. Brett character is also there but very balanced. I'm interested to see how this changes over time. The tart cherries dropped the pH to 3.68 so it's a nice level of acidity especially since it doesn't have any lactic acid producing bacteria. I can't wait to get this in the bottle and carb'd up. This beer will definitely be in my regular rotation when I have tart cherries on hand.

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2015 American Imperial IPA

>> Sunday, July 05, 2015

I have a whole bunch of hops in my freezer so it's time to use a bunch an brew an Imperial IPA. The hop schedule on this beer was inspired by my first attempt at brewing a sour IPA. It didn't sour up much but I really enjoyed the hop character and it took a silver medal at a comp last year. This one isn't exactly the same, but it's similar. One thing I've really liked in some of the more recent commercial IPAs is the lowering of IBU's. For a while there it seemed like everyone was doing everything they could to assault your palate with super high IBU IPAs. This IPA should have a firm bitterness, but it won't be too crazy.


This is the first time that I've ever tried using corn sugar in an IPA. The intent is to help dry the beer out, resulting in a more refreshing and drinkable beer. Also, I'm not using any crystal malts. Here's the recipe as I'm making it:

10.0 # Pearl Malt
2.0 # Crisp Dark Munich 20L
0.75# Dextrose
7.0g Magnum (60 min)
----
7.0g Columbus (20 min)
7.0g Mosaic (20 min)
7.0g Amarillo (20 min)
----
14g Columbus (1 min)
14g Mosaic (1 min)
7g Cascade (1 min)
----
28g Cascade (first hop stand, 165F for 30 min)
21g Amarillo (first hop stand, 165F for 30 min)
14g Citra (first hop stand, 165F for 30 min)
----
14g Mosaic (second hop stand, 140F for 30 min)
14g Citra (second hop stand, 140F for 30 min)
----
Whirlfloc
Yeast Nutrient
Vermont IPA Yeast (GY054)
----
28g Amarillo (Dry hop)
28g Citra (Dry hop)
28g Mosaic (Dry hop)

Mash at 148.5F for 60 min, 90 min boil, ferment at 68F, dry hop after primary fermentation.

Brewing Notes
Everything seemed to go well with this beer. I hit the anticipated OG exactly at 1.078.

Update 7/6/2015
Forgot to mention yesterday, I put the fermenter in my ferm chamber overnight and pitched the yeast this morning after aerating. It's starting to show signs of fermentation this evening.

Update 7/7/2015
Krausen is pushing up close to the airlock, so I hooked up a blow-off hose just in case.

Update 7/13/2015
Added the dry hops today.

Update 7/20/2015
I kegged this beer today with a bit of gelatin for fining. This beer smells amazing with tons of citrus, tropical fruit, pine and resin. Bitterness is there, but is not over the top. I can't wait for this beer to carb up so those tiny bubbles can release their hoppy goodness.

Update 7/26/2015
I pulled a sample off the tap today. It's really good, but I feel like a lot of the hop flavor and aroma dropped out. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have used gelatin for fining.  It has some great clarity, but It's definitely lost some hop character.    

Update 8/4/2015
So I'm definitely disappointed with the way this beer turned out. Way too much hop character dropped out. It's much closer to a boring version of an American pale ale than an IPA.  I'll prob try this again with a couple changes. First, reduce the corn sugar a bit. Second, increase IBUs a bit. Last, don't worry about haze and skip the gelatin. 

Update 8/7/2015
I took a growler of this to a Grace Potter concert at Deer Valley the other day. It was way more hoppy than when I last tried it. This beer is proving to be a bit of an enigma. I think I'll still try the changes I proposed on 8/4, but this beer is more drinkable than I originally thought.

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Watermelon Wheat 2015

>> Sunday, June 28, 2015

Time for another brew session. Today I'm brewing what I consider to be a quintessential summertime beer, Watermelon Wheat. You do have to really like watermelon to enjoy this beer, and I do. The watermelon really comes through in this beer in both the flavor and aroma. I haven't been able to figure out why, but this beer tends to age fairly well and the fragrant watermelon almost takes on a floral perfume-like quality with age.

I haven't made this beer in a long time, but it's always been a crowd pleaser. Usually I wait to brew this beer until late summer when the Green River Melons folks have started showing up at the local Farmers Market. It's still a bit early for that, but Sam's Club had seedless melons for $4 so I decided to pick a couple up. These early season melons tend to be hit or miss, but fortunately the ones I picked up turned out to be really good.

To prepare the fruit, a few days before brewday, I diced up the meat and used a potato masher to puree the melon. This was then poured through a strainer with the juice going into one container and the pulp into another. Both containers went into the freezer. Freezing the pulp will help break down the cell walls allowing us to extract a bit more juice. Freezing the juice just keeps it from going bad before we use it in secondary. I'll also be treating the juice with some potassium metabisulfite before adding it to secondary. This helps ensure we don't get any unexpected critters into the secondary.

For those that have never made a watermelon beer before, don't expect this beer to turn out pink. The red part of the melon drops out with the yeast, so you'll be left with a straw colored wheat beer.

I changed up a couple things this time, primarily the hops. I've been wanting to try Huell Melon hops for a while and based on the description, I think they'll work well in this beer.

6 lbs 8.0 oz Fruit - Watermelon
6 lbs Rahr Pale 2-Row
4 lbs White Wheat Malt
8.5g Columbus (60 min)
28g Huell Melon Hops (5 min)
Rice hulls
1 Pkgs US-05

Don't forget the rice hulls in the mash (helps avoid a stuck sparge). Mash at 152F for 1 hour, 90 minute boil, ferment at 62F

Add fruit to secondary

Brewing Notes
No issues with the brew session. Fermenter is currently in the ferm chamber chilling.

Update 7/9/2015
I thawed out the watermelon juice/pulp overnight and put it into the secondary today. I also added 1/8 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite dissolved into 1/4 cup RO water. This should help kill off any wild bugs that could have made it into the juice. This will sit overnight with a 1 gallon paint strainer bag stretched over the mouth (keeps bugs out while letting the juice off-gas). I'll rack the beer into the juice tomorrow. Oh and I ended up with about 1.5 gallons of juice.

Update 7/10/2015
Racked to secondary this morning. Believe it or not this pink beer will end up straw colored.
Update 7/20/2015
I started cold crashing this beer over the weekend to get the yeast and watermelon to drop. So far it's clearing up nicely but it still has a touch of pink. I'll let it continue to chill throughout the week before racking to a keg.

Update 11/22/2015
So this keg has been sitting around. The beer is good but my taste in beer has definitely changed since the last time I made it. One of the guys in my brew club brought an accidental sour watermelon saison to a meeting not too long ago. It was delicious. The lactic acid really brightened up the watermelon character. I decided to intentionally sour this beer and see what happens. For the souring, I added the oak cubes from the CS Experiment beer.

Update 5/27/2016
Pulled a little sample tonight. It's subtly sour right now, definitely much improved over the last time I tasted it. I'm going to let it ride a little longer and see what happens. It definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. 

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Smoke & Wood Imperial Porter

>> Sunday, June 14, 2015

Smoked and wood-aged beers are styles that people tend to love or hate. I think one reason is smoked beers are very phenolic and some people are very sensitive to those compounds, so even the slightest smoke character can be overwhelming on their palate. Another reason is sometimes it can be hard to find good commercial examples.

One smoked beer I really enjoy and that I've mentioned before is Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing. Another is Smoking Wood from The Bruery. Smoking Wood showcases the wonderful flavors that come from combining smoked grain with aging on wood, and it is the inspiration for this recipe. The last time I was at The Bruery, I think they had about six different variations of Smoking Wood on tap.

I formulated this recipe based on Denny Conn's famous Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter. For smoked grains, I'm going with the new Mesquite-smoked malt from Briess, plus Rauch malt from Weyermann. For wood, I'm going to be using a new product for me, Honey Comb Barrel Alternative from Black Swan Barrels (HCBA). I recently ordered the sample pack from Black Swan, so I may try splitting the batch after primary and dosing with different varieties.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

8.0# Muntons Pearl 2-row
2.0# Avangard Munich
1.25# Crisp Brown Malt
1.25# Briess Mesquite-smoked Malt
1.25# Weyermann Rauch Malt
1.25# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.75# Patagonia Chocolate Malt (350L)
28g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
WLP001 Cali Ale yeast
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast nutrient
1" per gallon HCBA

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F

I used 9 gallons distilled water using Beersmith's London water profile for this beer. I wasn't quite as concerned about the water profile on this beer other than I wanted to make 100% sure that there wasn't any chlorine that could result in chlorophenol (band-aid) character.

Brewing Notes
The only issue I had was the OG came out higher than anticipated. I adjusted for efficiency, but I think my pre-boil volume was a tad low and my boil-off rate seemed higher than normal. I was shooting for 1.079 and measured 1.099 with a volume of 4.5 gallons. I decided to top off to 5.5 total volume, so that should bring the gravity down to 1.081. Wort tastes great, not too much roast and smoke character is noticeable but not dominating.

Update 6/15/2015
And we have blow-off. Fermentation kicked off strong with about 1.5" of krausen this morning. After work it was at about 3".  Sometime between then and now (10pm) it started pushing up into the airlock. I've hooked up a blow-off hose and I'll keep it there until fermentation slows down.

Update 6/21/2015
I brought this beer in the house last night. Fermentation had slowed substantially so I'll keep it at room temperature to finish things out. This also allows me to dial the temp of the ferm chamber way down so I can start lagering my Czech pilsner.

Update 6/27/2015
Adding the wood today. Gravity finished out at about 11 brix (1.021) which puts me in the neighborhood of 8.3% ABV. This is a full body beer but it's not sweet or cloying. Aroma is not overly roasty, with a bit of smoke and some toasted bread character,. Bitterness is really nice and it has a little more smoke in the taste than in the aroma. Smoke is complimentary, not dominating and not harsh whatsoever. No chlorophenols whatsoever, so that's good. I decided to go with hickory for this beer. From Black Swan's site, the hickory has the following characteristics:
Honey, BBQ, hickory smoked bacon, apple sauce, cocoa coconut
I treated the hickory by steaming it for about 10 minutes to help make sure it's as sanitary as possible. I'll be pulling samples fairly often to make sure I don't extract too much wood character.

Update 7/6/2015
Pulled a sample tonight after realizing I hadn't tried it since adding the wood. This is a really nice beer. Wood character is still on the subtle side. I'd like to get a bit more out of it so I'll probably let it go a couple more days before pulling another sample.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took gold for 32B Specialty Smoked Beer. I really like the way this beer turned out. This will get made again with some other woods.

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Bohemian Pilsner

>> Saturday, May 30, 2015

Today I'm brewing a lager, something I rarely do, and it's the first time brewing this style, Bohemian Pilsner a.k.a. Czech Pilsner (a.k.a. 3B - Czech Premium Pale Lager per 2015 BJCP Guidelines). As you can tell from my posts, I tend to brew ales, but I've been wanting to try my hand at some lagers.

Another first, I decided to start tweaking my water profiles. I've done very rough tweaking in the past...like cutting my carbon-filtered tap water with RO water in some of the pale beers I've made. These adjustments weren't really based on any specific measurements. This will be the first time using all distilled water and adding brewing salts to build up to a specific water profile.

The recipe is based on the Style Profile column from BYO magazine, adjusted for 83% efficiency. Since I've never brewed this style before, I'm sticking pretty close to the recipe. The recipe as I'm making it:

8.0# 11 oz. Avangard German Pilsner
9 oz Briess Carapils
34g Czech Saaz 4% AA (60 min)
41g Czech Saaz 4% AA (30 min)
20.5g Czech Saaz 4% AA (10 min)
20.5g Czech Saaz 4% AA (0 min)
2 packs of Wyeast 2001 Urquell Yeast in 2L starter
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 154F for 90 mins, 90 minute boil, chill to 44F, aerate and pitch yeast. Raise temp to 50F over 36 hours.

Water Profile

  • Ca - 7.5ppm
  • Mg - 1.3ppm
  • Na - 2.8ppm
  • SO4 - 5.2ppm
  • Cl - 4.7ppm
  • HCO3 - 14.7ppm
Brew Water Recipe
  • 9 gallons distilled water
  • 0.5g Epsom Salt
  • 0.3g Calcium Chloride
  • 0.4g Baking Soda
  • 0.4g Chalk
  • 5 gallons of mash liquor acidified with 2.4ml 88% lactic acid
Brewing Notes
No real issues. I collected bit more volume in the BK than I'd planned, so the OG is a few points lower than I wanted (1.052 rather than 1.056). It's still within style guidelines, so no harm. I chilled down to 60F with my plate chiller then put it in the ferm chamber to continue chilling down to 44F. Hopefully it'll be there and I can pitch the yeast in the morning.

Update 5/31/2015
I was still a few degrees shy of 44F this morning so I had to wait a few more hours. Wort is now aerated and yeast is pitched. I'll gradually ramp up the temp to 50F over the next 36 hours.

Update 6/2/2015
Everything seems to be happily chugging along,with,this beer. I'm doing the final bump up to 50F today.

Update 6/21/2015
This beer spent the last week at 60F. Basically a diacetyl rest that also allowed me to ferment my Smoke & Wood Imperial Porter. I've now started dropping the temps for the lagering phase.

Update 6/27/2015
I went ahead and kegged this beer today so that I can clear out the ferm chamber for another beer. It has dropped very clear, but it has a little bit of haze. I treated it with gelatin so I'll let it work away on clearing the beer. I'll let it finish out its lagering phase in my keezer.

Not to toot my own horn, but in my opinion this turned out really well. Nice malt character with rounded bitterness, clean fermentation...I can't wait for it to carb up. The gravity finished out at about 6.8 brix (1.012). Definitely interested to see how this one stacks up against the competition.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took gold in 3B Czech Premium Pale Lager. Not bad considering this is the first lager I've entered in a competition.

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Berliner 2015

>> Friday, May 29, 2015

Berliner Weisse has become one of my favorite sour styles to brew. They're easy to make and the turnaround time is fairly short compared to most sour styles. I brewed my 2015 version on Memorial Day and it's been happily chugging along this week. I basically used the same recipe and process as I did in 2014 except for the following:
  • I used German Pils instead of Belgian Pils. 
  • For the souring, I decided to try a blend of Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus, Wyeast 5223 Lactobacillus Brevis, and White Labs WLP677 Lactobacillus Delbrueckii
  • For the yeast blend that I'll pitch after giving the Lactobacillus blend a head start, I'm using Wyeast 3191 Berliner Weisse Blend which is the blend I used on my first "successful" Berliner back in 2013. This is one of Wyeast's Private Collection blends, so it's not available every year.
  • My 2014 version scored very well in last year's Beehive Brew-off (42 or 44 if I remember correctly) and went to the mini-BOS for the Sour Ale category. It didn't end up placing (but my Flanders Red #2 took gold) and it got knocked out because one of the judges said they detected DMS. I never detected any in this beer, but I decided to try a more traditional boil this time, so this version got a 90 minute boil whereas the 2013 and 2014 versions used a short 15 minute boil.
I usually give the lactobacillus a head start of 5-7 days because I like my Berliners to be pretty sour. That can come at a price though because most beer judges have commented they think my Berliners are too sour for the style. They are sour, but I don't believe they're too sour, especially compared to some of the more modern commercial examples I've tried. I liken it to someone complaining that a West Coast IPA is too hoppy compared to a traditional English IPA. That may be true but I still love a good West Coast IPA. Regardless, if you try this recipe/process and you plan on entering it into a competition, consider shortening the head start by a couple days.

This is a 10 gallon batch and I'm toying with the idea of putting half on tart cherries for a Cherry Berliner Weiss. I'm also toying with the idea of shortening the head start for half the batch.

Here's the recipe as I brewed it:

8.0 # Avangard German Pilsner Malt
7.0 # Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
1.0 # Rice Hulls 
2.0 oz Aged Debittered Hops (Mash hops, 0.0 IBU's)
Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus
Wyeast 5223 Lactobacillus Brevis
White Labs WLP677 Lactobacillus Delbrueckii
Wyeast 3191 Berliner Weisse Blend

Mash at 150F for 90 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

Brewing Notes
No issues to speak of. OG came in at 11.4 brix (1.046), so kind of like my 2014 version, this is an Imperial Berliner. It's still going to have a pretty low ABV though.

Update 5/29/2015 I went ahead and pitched 3191 at day 4 for half the batch. The other half will get it a day 6.

Update 5/31/2015
I pitched the yeast blend into the second half today (day 6). Something kind of odd, the first half that got the BW blend on day 4, the krausen from the lacto completely collapsed. It was still showing signs of fermentation but I don't remember that behavior before.

Update 6/27/2015
Doing a whole bunch of brewing stuff today so I decided to pull a sample. I don't have a pH meter (yet) so it's hard to say with any degree of accuracy, but the pH is down in the 3.2 neighborhood on both. It's hard to tell in the pictures below, but there is a slight difference in the color of the test strips. Both samples smell the same, lactic and wheat, but the 6-day pitch is noticeably more tart than the 4-day pitch, but they're both quite tart. Both taste amazing so I'm really happy with the results. There seems to be some added complexity in this version...maybe from the blend of lactobacillus cultures. I'm definitely going,to enjoy this beer. Still trying to decide whether to do part on tart cherries. They're both so good, I'm not sure I want to mess with them.

Outdoors

Indoors

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CS Brett Expirement

>> Saturday, May 16, 2015


I've been on a brewing drought lately because I've been busy with a variety of projects. A buddy of mine moved to Denver earlier this year and was in town for my daughter's wedding (one of the things that kept me busy) and he brought me a vial of Brett Barrel III yeast from Inland Island. He got it at his LHBS in Denver and they indicated this is a brettanomyces strain from Crooked Stave.  Needless to say, I'm excited to brew a batch and give this yeast a try.

I'm a huge fan of all the CS beers I've been able to try, but I especially like some of the darker wild/sour beers (e.g. Nightmare on Brett Street, Motif Reserva, etc.), so I decided to go with a darker base beer for this experiment. Brett alone won't really sour a beer, so I'll probably pitch some dregs from one of my other sours once primary is done.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

6.0 # German Munich
3.0 # German Pilsner
1.0 # Chit Malt
0.5 # Flaked Oats
0.5. # Special B
0.5 # Carafa II
0.25 # Pale Chocolate Malt
28g Aged Hops (60 min)
INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III
Wyeast Nutrient
1.0 # D-180 Candi Syrup (rack onto syrup in secondary when pitching sour bugs)

Mash at 156F for 60 min. Ferment at room temp. I'll be saving this blend to use in other beers, so I'll rack to secondary, save the primary cake, then pitch some lactobacillus and pedio in the secondary.

Update 6/28/2015
I racked this beer to secondary yesterday. It has some really nice brett character, lots of stone fruit flavors in there. I added some yeast cake from my first Oud Bruin plus some from Chitty Bang Bang Oud Bruin. I also added two French Oak Medium+ cubes.

Update 7/22/2015
I recently picked up a pH meter that I plan to use for tracking progress of my sours as well checking mash pH. I decided to pull a sample and see where the pH was at after almost a month on the souring bugs. 

pH as of today is measuring 3.51. The beer is noticeably sour, but not quite as sour as most of my sours. Oak character from the cubes is subtle. Body is medium. I really like the direction this beer seems to be heading.

Update 10/27/2015
Pulled a sample today and this beer is delicious. It has a subtle oak character with just a hint of smokiness. Acidity is very nice, measured at 3.18 today. I think it's ready for kegging/packaging. I'm toying with the idea of treating it with potassium metabisulfite to halt the souring process because I really don't want the pH to drop any more.

Update 11/21/2015
This beer went into the keg yesterday.  

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Gose 2015

>> Sunday, March 22, 2015

Y

Lacto fermentation 24 hours after pitching
Today I'm brewing a Gose. This beer is a sour beer native to Goslar, Germany and is one of the few German styles that was exempt from the strict German Beer Purity law (Reinheitsgebot).

At one of our recent brew club meetings, one of our members brought an example of a Gose from Westbrook Brewing. The tartness level reminded me of a Berliner Weisse but it had added complexity from the salt and coriander additions. I decided to give this one a go so here's my first attempt at the style.  Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it:

3.0# Weyermann Pilsner Malt
4.5# Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
0.5# Weyermann Acidulated Malt
0.5# Rice Hulls
14g Aged Hops (60 min)
28g Coriander (whirlpool)
21g Trader Joes Himalayan Sea Salt (whirlpool)
0.5t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus pitched for 4-5 days before yeast (same as my Berliner Weisse process)
WLP029 German Ale/ Kölsch Yeast

Mash at 149F for 60 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 67F.

Update 3/27/2015
I went ahead and pitched the Kölsch yeast today.

Update 4/7/2015
Pulled a sample tonight. It definitely has some sulfur notes from the yeast, but that's very common with this strain and it should dissipate over the next few weeks. The sourness level is lower than I was shooting for, but it's noticeable. Coriander is a little lower than I wanted too. Saltiness is probably just about right...it's noticeable, but it's not overpowering. I'd like more tartness and coriander, but this is probably much closer to style than what I intended. 

Updated 6/8/2015
I poured this beer at our club booth at the 2015 Mountain Brewers Festival. I really like the way it turned out but I would like more acidity and more coriander. More acidity might bring out more coriander character. The salt addition was just about perfect, but you could go with a tiny bit more (24-28g). Not bad at all for a first attempt at the style.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took bronze for 27A Historical Beer. This recipe and process needs some refinement, but it's a good starting point.

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Little Giant Pump

Today I'm doing another little equipment write-up. I recently managed to get my hands on a Little Giant 3-MD-MT-HC pump. I don't want to brag, but the normal price on these is in the ballpark of $180. I found this one at a local discount store for $69.99...then I found out at the register that it was on sale for $49.99; score! I'm sorry to say it was the only one on the shelf or I may have picked up a couple for spares.

The main reason I wanted this pump was to pump wort from the mash tun into the boil kettle. I've been gravity feeding to the boil kettle which means I had to lift the full BK up onto my burner. It wasn't so bad when I was doing 5 gallon batches in my old 8 gallon pot, but the keggle is a back breaker even with 5 gallon batches; 10 gallon batches are pretty impossible to lift without a helper.

I decided I wouldn't mount this pump to my brew stand. Instead I made a little portable mount for it so I can move it wherever needed. The mount is made with some scrap 1.5" square tubing, 1/8" plate, and 7/8" OD round tubing. It was finished off with a coat of red paint, a handlebar grip, some stick on silicone feet and a few square tubing caps. I didn't include a splash guard on the pump mount. The reason is I figured the way I plan on using this pump, I probably won't need one. The only time I've needed on with my current setup is when I have a boilover, something that's easily remedied by paying attention during the boil.
 
I outfitted the pump with cam locks and a ball valve just like my March pump. Also like the March pumps, this pump uses a magnetic coupling so it's no problem to use a ball valve to throttle the output which I'll have to do to avoid pulling mash liquor too fast and compacting the grain bed.

To control the pump, I added a switch to my control panel. The pump is then plugged into an outlet controlled by the switch on my brew stand. 

One nice feature with this pump is it's very easy to disassemble the pump head for cleaning. Simple remove the four wing nuts and the pump head slips right off; that's all there is to it. The March pumps aren't too difficult either, but they're not quite as easy (or tooless) as the LG pumps.

That's about all there is to it...it's pretty self explanatory, so I'm not sure what else to say about it. Here are some pics that might help others considering something similar.


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Nitro Setup

>> Thursday, February 26, 2015

This first batch got a little over carb'd

Today I'm doing a little bit of an equipment write-up. I really like nitro beers and will often order a pint of Polygamy Porter or whatever else they might have on nitro when I go to The Bayou, my local favorite beer bar. There's just something about that creamy head and extra smooth mouthfeel that is really nice. Also, due to the reduced carbonation level, nitro beers tend to be less filling than traditional draft beer. As most of my friends will probably tell you, this post is long overdue. I've been promising them nitro beer on tap for a long time and it took me a while to work out the kinks, but I finally have a working setup.

I recently (five months ago is recent, right?) decided to move forward with my plans to have a nitro offering on tap. I had a stout faucet that I'd bought years ago, but until now I'd never gotten around to buying the rest of the equipment needed to complete my nitro setup. My original plan was pretty simple; get a spare tank, fill it with beergas (g-mix), and enjoy some nitro beers. Those plans ended up changing a bit along the way but I think I ended up with a pretty solid system.

The first thing I did was order a 40CF Nitrogen tank. I got mine from Scott R (a.k.a. ezryder) via homebrewtalk.com. Scott sells a variety of used tanks (CO2, O2, Nitrogen) all of which have current hydro stamps and are priced well below anything I could find locally. Scott was great to work with and shipped the tank before he'd even received my payment. I'd definitely order from Scott again. To contact Scott directly, email him at sscotty2@nospam_hotmail.com and remove the "nospam_" portion.

With tank in hand, I headed to my local Airgas store to get it filled with beergas. This is when I ran into my first hurdle. I had anticipated having to leave my tank since most gas suppliers won't fill beergas tanks on demand. The Airgas guys were very helpful but unfortunately they had to break the bad news to me; they wouldn't be able to fill my 40CF tank. I'd asked about beergas a while back (at least a year or two ago) and they said they could do it, but I neglected to ask if there were special conditions/requirements. In this case they indicated they were only able to fill the larger cylinders common in the restaurant/bar industry (120CF??). They were however willing to trade me straight across for either a 60CF tank of pure nitrogen or a 60CF 60% N2 / 40% CO2 gas blend. I knew the 60/40 blends weren't recommended for nitro beers as they tended to over carbonate the beer. The other option of using straight Nitrogen was less than ideal because of the opposite issue...under-carbonated flat beer as you progress through the keg. So I had to figure out a plan B.

It just so happened that I'd been looking at some gas blenders on ebay. Gas blenders mix gas on the fly which means you hook up a CO2 tank and a Nitrogen tank to the blender and out comes the perfect blend for serving nitro beers. The pro's are nitrogen and CO2 are cheaper to purchase separately than in a blend, and the blenders are designed to provide the ideal ratio for nitrogen beers. The con is these things are freaking expensive...usually anywhere from $600 to $1200 for the cheaper models.  Sometimes you can find really good deals on used ones, which is what I was counting on for my plan B. So I decided to take the Airgas guys up on their offer to trade tanks and crossed my fingers in hopes of getting my hands on an affordable blender.

As I mentioned, I'd seen a couple used blenders on ebay. After missing out on the first one (Trumix TM100) I managed to win a Micromatic MM200. This blender is able to dispense two different blends, one for Nitro beers and one for non-Nitro Ales/Lagers. The ratios for each are Nitro = 75% N2 / 25% CO2 and Ales/Lagers = 30% N2 / 70% CO2. The Ale/Lager blend is really intended for long draw systems to keep from over carbonating the beer. That isn't a concern on my setup so I won't be using the Ale/Lager blend at all.

So now I had my stout faucet, my original CO2 tank, my 60CF Nitrogen tank, and my MM200 gas blender. I still needed a Nitrogen regulator and a couple secondary regulators. The secondary regulators are needed because the blender requires relatively high pressures, so one is used to reduce the pressure of the CO2 going to my non-nitro beer, and the other is used to step down the pressure ofmthe CO2/N2 blend for the nitro tap. I was lucky to find some regulators at a local store that deals in surplus and salvaged equipment (e.g. freight damaged goods). The secondary regulators were both brand new in box model 8011's from Micromatic. The price seemed great at $30 each. This is where I ran into another hurdle. I hooked everything up only to find one of the regulators was defective. After a lot of time spent troubleshooting, I took the defective regulator back and exchanged it for another one. This one also turned out to be defective (safety valve leaked). I headed back to the store to exchange it again and this time I got a good one. On the plus side, everything in the store was on sale for 50% off, so they refunded me $15 on the exchange.

Next up I pressure tested the whole system and this is when I ran into my last hurdle. The mixer and all the tubing connecting the various components tested fine, but as soon as I connected the keg, it would bleed down to about 20PSI overnight. The nitro beers are typically dispensed between 35 and 45 PSI, so this was definitely a problem; bad pours plus gas leaking to the atmosphere. The challenge with this kind of leak is it's so slow it's really hard to detect. Adventures in Homebrewing came to the rescue in the form of a sale...brand new ball lock kegs for $75. That wasn't far off from the going rate on used kegs, and I'd really wanted to get a few more kegs ever since upgrading my keezer from three to five taps, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on a couple.  With a new keg in hand, I used a jumper to transfer from the old keg to the new one and thankfully it held pressure just fine.

To sum things up, I ended up spending a bit more than I'd originally planned, but I ended up with a pretty nice nitro setup. I may not always have a nitro beer on tap, but I'll probably have one in the regular rotation. I'm looking forward to trying out beers besides stouts on nitro...an English Bitter...perhaps an IPA. Anyway, here are a few pics of the various components and how I put things together.

First up below is the stout faucet. As you can see, it's much more...stout :) than the regular faucet. Something to consider when building a coffin for your keezer and you want to make sure you have enough room to pour.

Next up is the gas mixer. There's a nitrogen in port and a CO2 in port. If either gas runs out, the unit shuts off the flow of the blend. The tee on the CO2 in runs a line over to the CO2 secondary for dispensing non-nitro beers. I tend to run mine around 12 PSI.

The last pic shows the secondary regulators mounted on the board to the left of the mixer. I'm currently serving nitro beers at about 40 PSI. You do have to carb the beer to a little over one volume before dispensing on nitro. This first keg got a little over carb'd, so the first couple pours were a little too foamy. They eventually settled down to the nice dense creamy head associated with nitro beers, but it took a minute or two.

Stout faucet compared to regular faucet
The gas mixer
Secondary regulators




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Flanders Red #4

>> Sunday, February 15, 2015

Almost a boilover
Today I'm getting started on Flanders Red #4. I recently bottled #3 and realized I didn't have another Red in the pipeline. I also just recently filled my Solera sanke, so that means I have three empty Better Bottles waiting for sours.

Matt " Dr. Lambic" Miller recently made an appearance on Basic Brewing Radio as well as The BN's Sour Hour. The recipe I'm brewing today is a 10 gallon batch based on his Sour Red Ale recipe/process. Matt's blog is very well written so for anyone interested in brewing sours, I'd recommend checking it out in addition to the two podcasts.

I'll be taking five gallons and following his process more or less, and the other five will be fermented the way I've traditionally done my Flanders Reds with Roeselare cakes from Lambic #3 and Flanders Red #3. This will hopefully give me one that will be ready in the next couple months, plus another about a year from now. Here's the recipe as I made it. For more details on Matt's process, please refer to sourbeerblog.com

10.0 # Dingemans Pilsner
6.0 # Rahr White Wheat Malt
3.0 # Weyermann Carawheat
2.0 # Weyermann Rye Malt
0.5 # Crisp Light Crystal
0.5 # Briess Special Roast
56g Aged hops (mash hops)
1.0 Whirlfloc
Wyeast yeast nutrient
Roeselare yeast cakes for first 5 gallons
WLP677 Lactobacillus delbrueckii initial pitch in 2nd 5 gallons
WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast pitched into 2nd 5 gallons after one week
WLP653 Brettanomyces lambicus pitched into 2nd 5 gallons after primary

Mash at 130F for 15 min, mash at 158F for 45 min, 90 minute boil.

I'm going to do my fermentation a little bit different than Matt. I'm about to head out of town so I'm going to let my lacto go for a week at room temperature rather than two to four days at 110F. This approach has worked very well with my Berliners so I'm hoping that will be the case with this beer as well.

Update 2/23/2015
Got back into town last night and checked on these beers. The Roeselare half had started blowing off before I left town, so I already had a blowoff hose set up. This one definitely is experiencing a vigorous fermentation. The other half that only has lactobacillus had about a 3/8" krausen when I left. Last night it showed signs of pushing up into the airlock but not blowing completely through. I pulled a sample and it seemed like it had some tartness, but it's hard to tell because there's still a lot of residual sweetness. I'm going to move this into my fermentation fridge and dial the heat up a bit for a couple days.

Update 3/9/2015
I pitched the Brett L tonight. I forgot to post when I pitched the WLP007, but it was about at the 2 week mark. I still wasn't able to detect much tartness at that point but the gravity had dropped a bit and I was afraid to let it go any longer. I've had problems getting Lacto D to sour, so I'm hoping this one works out.

Update 3/26/2015
I pulled a sample of the Lacto D version last night and I'm happy to say it has quite a bit of sourness. There's also something a little odd going on. The best way I can describe it is there's a slightly smokey component, both flavor and aroma. I'm hoping this subsides over time.

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Golden Java Chocolate Milk Stout

>> Saturday, February 07, 2015

A while back on one of The Sunday Session shows they were talking about Anomaly Milk Stout from Faction Brewing. It sounded like a really interesting beer and considering it's closer in color to a pale ale, it definitely defies the style guidelines. I haven't had a chance to try Anomaly, but right after Christmas we traveled to SoCal and I got to try Naughty Sauce from Noble Ale Works. I loved this beer and it was the inspiration to try to brew something similar.

For this recipe I'm using a blend of coffee from Jack Mormon Coffee Co (JMCC), one of our local roasters. By the way, the name of this company has always made me laugh. If you don't know what a Jack Mormon is, google it. I'll be using equal parts La Providencia and Cuarenteño from JMCC, per the cold steeping process found on the AHA website. I'm also using TCHO Roasted Cacao Nibs and a vanilla bean to create a tincture, The Drew Way, that will also be used in this beer. The end goal is a beer that will taste roasty with some residual sweetness, but that maintains a much lighter golden color compared to a traditional milk stout.

Since I may pick up some bitterness from the coffee and the nibs, I'm keeping the IBUs fairly low on this beer. Also, since my water is fairly hard, I'm using about three gallons of RO water in the HLT (10.5 gallons total to begin with). This is something I always do when I'm brewing a lighter colored beer. Here's the recipe as I'm making it:

8.5# Fawcett Pearl Malt
10 oz Flaked Oats
0.5# Dingemans Crystal 45
14g Magnum (60 min)
1.0# Lactose (10 min)
14g US Goldings (10 min)
28g US Goldings (0 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Yeast nutrient
WLP001 Cali Ale

Mash at 154F for 80 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 65F.

Make tincture and coffee toddy and dose to taste at packaging time.


Brewing Notes
No issues to speak of. The color was pretty light. That's good because it will definitely pick up some color from the toddy and the tincture.

Update 2/11/2015
Fermentation is progressing as expected. I started on the tincture with the vanilla bean. This will go for about a week before adding the cacoa nibs to the tincture. I got an email from the AHA last night indicating I got all three NHC entries that I requested. If this one turns out as expected, I'll be submitting it to the competition.

Update 2/15/2015
I added the TCHO Roasted Nibs to the tincture yesterday. It smells awesome today. I can't believe I haven't tried this process sooner.

Update 2/25/2015
I went ahead and kegged this beer tonight. I went with the full volume coffee toddy (2 oz by weight of coffee into 16 oz RO water) as described in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Zymurgy. Based on the aroma coming out of the keg, I think it's safe to say this was a good starting point. For the chocolate tincture, I decided to start with 2 oz. I'll let this beer carb up and give it a taste test.

Update 3/27/2015
This beer turned out really well and is in the running for a club collaboration brew with Epic Brewing's The Annex. It didn't have quite as much chocolate character as I thought it would, but the coffee flavors and aroma are just about perfect; definitely noticeable, but the base beer comes through. I was thinking about entering this beer for NHC, but it wasn't quite ready in time to ship.

Update 5/9/2015
Went to Cali this past week and stopped by Noble. The Noble version is definitely less sweet than this one. I'm going to try tweaking this recipe a bit...for starters I'd scale back the lactose to somewhere between .5 and .75 # and the crystal to about .25#. The coffee character is about right. And just to reiterate, this won't be an exact clone, but it's pretty similar.

Update 11/22/2015
I re-brewed this recipe on 11/6/2015. A couple differences, I used Rahr base malt, cut back the lactose to .75#, and used Sierra Juarez and Cuarenteño from JMC.

Update 11/24/2015
Just stumbled across some updates to this thread on HBT with info from the brewers at Noble:
Good morning! For Naughty Sauce, no the coffee beans are not golden in color. If you use 2-4oz of fresh roasted ground coffee per 5 gallons, after fermentation, you'll get some deliciousness without a huge color pickup. You'll want to make the beer as light as possible because there is a little bit of a color pick up. For recipe tips, keep the IBU's in the 20's, add a bit of honey malt for flavor, use lots of oats and lactose to fill out the body. Our starting gravity is in the 1.050's. Good luck!

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