Dickel-barrel Barleywine Project

>> Sunday, June 30, 2019

Today I'm brewing a Barleywine for a club barrel project. This is recipe is based on a medal-winning recipe from Mike Hahn, one of the very talented Homebrewers in the ZZHOPS homebrewing club. This beer will be going into a Dickel Bourbon barrel for aging and should be ready just in time for winter. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today for 5 gallons:

18# Maris Otter Crisp
2# Crisp Dark Crystal
2# Cristp Medium Crystal
1# Dingmanns Aromatic
1# Weyermann Melanoidin
1# Dingmanns Biscuit
6ml Hopshot (60 min)
28g EKG (20 min)
28g EKG (2 min)
Imperial House
Wyeast Nutrient

Mash 155F, 90min boil, ferment at 62F

Brewing Notes
No issues during this session.  Post-boil gravity came in at 1.115 according to my Tilt Hydrometer. That's a little higher than I was anticipating. I'm hoping everyone else's contribution is a bit lower gravity than mine, or this is going to be a huge beer.

First runnings off mash
Update 7/1/2019
I was a little concerned whether my yeast starter was big enough for this beer. I was very much relieved this morning when I could see it was showing active signs of fermentation. Gravity is down to about  1.101 tonight.

Update 7/7/2019
Gravity is down to 1.036. The published alcohol tolerance for this yeast is 10%, and it's currently sitting at 10.8%. I'm not sure how much further it will go, but it seems like it's still working on the sugars, as it's dropped four points since yesterday.

Update 7/9/2019
Gravity is down to 1.032 today, so things are slowing down, but the yeast still seem to be "working".

Update 7/12/2019
Gravity is down to 1.031, and has been holding there for about 48 hours. I'm still seeing some positive pressure, but I think that's just off-gassing residual CO2, so I suspect I won't see any additional gravity drop. I'm fairly sure there are still unfermented sugars present, it's just that we've reached the alcohol tolerance limit for this yeast. I think there's a really good chance we'll see some fermentation activity in the barrel since some of the other batches had lower OGs. Once they're all blended and the alcohol level from my contribution is diluted, the residual yeast will most likely chew up additional sugars.

Update 7/16/2019
Gravity is now reading 1.030. We're planning on filling the barrel on 7/28, so I'll be transferring this to keg soon.


Malting Corn

>> Friday, June 28, 2019

Last year I brewed my interpretation of a Wari Chicha, incorporating home malted purple corn. I've been tossing some ideas around in my head in regards to using the corn malt in another beer, so I figured I'd document my process. Here it is:

  1. Step 1, acquire some purple corn for malting. Really, any corn should work as long as it's not too old or been treated in some way to keep it from germinating. Here's the brand I bought at my local international market.
    Inca's Food, Maid Morado
  2. If your corn came on the cob like mine did, the next step is to remove the kernels from the cob. 
  3. Next, transfer your kernels to a colander and wash the corn with cool tap water. My pre-soaking weight of my dried corn was 966g.
  4. Transfer the kernels to a suitable container, such as a bucket. Top off with cool tap water, about 1" over the kernels. Soak for about five hours.
  5. Transfer corn to colander to drain. Leave it in the colander for about two hours.
    Kernels are more translucent after a soak
  6. Transfer back to a suitable container and top up with fresh water. Leave to soak overnight.
  7. Transfer back to colander and rinse well with cool tap water.  Transfer back to suitable container and top up with fresh water.
  8. 24-28 hours after starting first soak, transfer corn to your colander and rinse well. At this point, the soaked kernels weighed in at 1154g, so an increase of 188g.
    Looks like purple pomegranate
  9. Line a large shallow dish/pan with damp paper towels or dampened dish towel. Transfer corn to the dish and spread it out into a thin layer. Cover with another dampened towel and set it in a warm place.
  10. Check your corn at least a couple times per day. Both times I've done this, they've grown extremely fast. Once the shoots are about 2x the length of the kernel, it's time to dry them.
    Sprouted corn
  11. I use a food dehydrator to dry the malted corn and stop the germination process. Set food dehydrator to between 100 and 125F. Once the kernels have lost 14.2g per .45kg, it's time to increase the temps. In my case, this meant when the weight was down from 1154g to ~1118g.
  12. Increase food dehydrator temp to between 140 and 160F. It's done when the kernels have lost 85g per .45kg of its original weight. In my case, this meant down from 1154 to ~936g.
  13. Next, preheat oven to 176F. 
  14. Kiln corn malt for about four hours at 176F.
  15. Lastly, transfer corn malt to a pillow case and put it in the clothes tumble dryer for about 10 minutes to knock the shoots off.
At this point, the malt is ready to use. I store it same as I would any other grain. When it's time to mill, it seems to mill more easily if you partially crack/crush the grain first. That's about all there is to it. Cheers!


Keezer 2.0

Keezer 2.0
I can't remember the exact date, but my old keezer (keezer 1.0) died in the early winter or late fall last year (2018). The manufacture date on it was 1994, so it definitely had a good run. Out of necessity, I started running ideas through my head on a replacement. I kept going back and forth on whether to try to get my hands on a commercial kegorator this time, or build a new one based on a residential freezer. On the residential front, I was going back and forth between chest freezer and upright. The insulating properties of chest freezers are hard to beat, but the smaller footprint of an upright would work better in my already crowded garage, where the keezer will live. At one point I stumbled upon an all stainless commercial fridge at an incredible price...then I noticed a huge hole on the back caused by a careless forklift driver, and it looked like it had damaged one of the copper cooling lines connected to the compressor (hard pass). After a whole bunch of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to buy my wife a new upright freezer (for frozen food) then repurpose our couple year old chest freezer for my new keezer (keezer 2.0).

The design of keezer 2.0 is similar to the old one. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are a few words along with a bunch of pictures.

Key Features
  • 9.0cf Chest Freezer - Holds five ball-lock kegs (four 5-gallon, plus one 3-gallon) plus one 1-gallon mini-keg used for carbonated water. It has a 4" collar and the main purpose of it is to add a bit of height and also provide a way to route CO2 lines, temp probe, and DC power into the fridge. The top is made from 3/4" maple plywood, 1/4" cement backer board, and ceramic mosaic tile. The top plus the tower is quite heavy, definitely heavier than the thin glass tile on v1.0. The top and collar are joined using a standard piano hinge and so far it's holding up to the weight just fine. I insulated the insides of the top and collar using 1" rigid foam insulation.
  • Six Tap Tower - For keezer 1.0, I built a wooden coffin designed for five taps. This time I went with a pre-built stainless tower with built-in glycol chilling capability. I really only wanted five beer taps, but I couldn't find any five tap towers for a decent price. I got this six tap one used off of eBay for an incredible price, so the sixth tap is being used for carbonated water. My wife digs having the carbonated water for cocktails or just drinking straight, and so far I'm really liking it too. It's even handy for rinsing your glass between beers. The taps that came with the tower were chrome plated brass, and were completely worn out. All the old faucets and shanks were removed and replaced with stainless equivalents. The glycol cooling loop (copper tubing plus aluminum blocks) was retained for use with the stainless hardware. The tower was re-insulated using 1" rigid foam insulation. One last note, this tower is unbranded, but it's a really nice tower, very solid and pretty easy to service.
  • Glycol Chilling - Anyone that's built a keezer using a coffin or tower knows you have to figure out a way to chill the taps. If you don't, the first pour of the day tends to foam. This is caused by the beer hitting the warm shanks and faucets resulting in CO2 breaking out of solution. Once those parts cool down from the cold beer flowing through them, they tend to pour well. However, if the time between pours is long enough for the tap to warm back up, it'll foam again. Blowing cold air into the tower is one solution and is what I did for keezer 1.0, but most commercial towers use a glycol loop for chilling Since this tower came with a glycol loop, I decided to take advantage of it. My glycol chiller uses computer hardware intended for water-cooled CPUs. It consists of a small combination pump/reservoir coupled with a 120mm computer fan mounted to an aluminum radiator. Both fan and pump run on 12VDC power. I made some brackets out of aluminum flat stock and mounted everything to the brackets, so it's a fairly self-contained unit that resides on the compressor hump inside the keezer. The fan and pump have separate power connections, so the fan runs 24/7, helping to circulate cold air throughout the keezer. The pump gets switched on (plugged in) whenever it's time to pour a beer. The pump circulates the chilled glycol through the radiator, up to the taps (chilling them), then it flows back to the reservoir. The fan blows through the radiator, thus re-chilling the glycol before it's sent back up to the taps in a continuous loop. When I was piecing this together, I was a little worried the reservoir might not be big enough and it might result in foaming beer out of the taps. I may have gotten lucky, but so far it's working great.
  • Drip tray - On keezer 1.0, I installed the drip tray somewhat permanently. Basically I set it in place in some silicone caulking, tiled around it, then caulked the edges. This looked really good but it was a pain to clean. I would have to swab out the nasty spilled beer, then wipe, wipe, wipe, until it was clean. This time the drip tray sits, surface-mount style, on top of the tile. Whenever there are spills, I just carefully pick up the tray and empty it into the sink. I added some adhesive rubber strips to the bottom which prevents it from slipping on the tile top. This drip tray is from American Coffee Urn Manufacturing. It's a really nice tray and it was way cheaper than a lot of the other options out there. I the bought the 5" x 24" version. They also sell some of their trays on Amazon, often available with free Prime shipping.
  • Digital Controller - I re-used the temp controller from keezer 1.0, which is a Willhi model WH7016C controller. This controller isn't super common anymore, at least not in the configuration I have. I really like it because the relay on my particular unit is rated for 30 amps, and, contrary to what you may read in online forums, my unit reads in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. Good beer shouldn't be too cold, so I usually have it set at 40-42F.
  • Beverage line - I went with Accuflex's Bev Seal Ultra 235 tubing. This is the same tubing used in trunk bundles in a lot of commercial draught systems and it is awesome stuff. It's basically impervious to oxygen, so there's no need to dump oxidized line beer on the first pour of the day. It also has a flavorless and odorless liner that doesn't retain flavors/odors and is reportedly very easily cleaned. The only downside is it's definitely stiffer than standard vinyl tubing so it can be a little harder to work with. Also, the liner offers less flow resistance compared to standard tubing, so you usually have to go with longer lines to keep things balanced.  I'm running 18' lines on my setup. Previously, I used ~13' lines for standard tubing. Did I mention Bev Seal is cheap? I got mine for $0.39 per foot at BrewHardware.
Those are the highlights, and those were more words than I'd planned, so now onto the pictures.
Test fitting kegs

Reassembling the tower after teardown

Original brass shanks that came with the tower; #buystainless!

Test fitting the top

Checking tile and tower layout

After painting wood and grouting tile

Tower innards - copper glycol loop held in place by aluminum cooling blocks

Lines running up to faucets

Glycol pump and radiator; still need some split loom to cover the wires
Rear panel; first six are CO2 inputs, then pump power, fan power, and temp probe


Hoppy NZ-ish Pils

>> Sunday, June 16, 2019

Today I'm brewing a variation of my New Zealand Pilsner. The biggest change is I'm trying out some Viking Pilsner malt. I'm also trying out a new ingredient, BrewTan B (more info here). Long story short, it's supposed to help with a few things, including "improve the shelf life and enhance the flavor and colloidal stability of your beer". Dosage/usage info from Wyeast:

Dosage rate: In the mash: 8 grams per barrel of mash liquor (8 g/1.17 hL). In the boiler: 5 grams per barrel of wort (5 g/1.17 hL).
Usage: Dissolve powder in warm water; add solution to mash, boil, or both.
In the mash: Add solution to mash water prior to dough-in.
On the homebrew scale, that translates to .25g per gallon of mash liquor.

Other changes, I'm going with a bit more Carared, and I'm experimenting with some Loral cryohops in the mix. Lastly, I'm swapping the amounts of the late hop additions. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

6.75# Viking Pilsner Malt
0.75# Avangard German Pale
0.3125# Weyermann Cara Red
0.25# Pale Wheat Malt
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
14g Motueka (1 min)
14g Rakau (1 min)
14g Waimea (1 min)
7g Loral Cryohops (1 min)
21g Motueka (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Rakau (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Waimea (Whirlpool @170F)
7g Loral Cryohops (Whirlpool @170F)
(2) Global Yeast
Yeast Nutrient
28g Motueka (Dryhop)
28g Rakau (Dryhop)
28g Waimea (Dryhop)
14g Loral Cryohops (Dryhop)

Mash at 151F, 90 min boil, start fermentation at 46F, ramp up to 52F over 6 days, diacetyl rest when gravity ~1.016.

Water Profile
To 11 gallons of distilled water, add:
  • 4.0g Gypsum
  • 2.8g Epsom Salt
  • 4.8g Calcium Chloride
Brewing Notes
No major issues. One minor issue, I over-sparged and wasn't paying attention, and ran off about 8.25 gallons rather than my normal 6.75 gallons for a 5 gallon batch. I ended up boiling longer in order to concentrate the wort down to the appropriate volume. So, I likely have a little more caramelization and a bit more mineral content than I was planning on. Time will tell how close this version is to the previous versions.  OG into the fermenter was 1.052.

Update 6/18/2019
Gravity is down to 1.044 tonight, roughly 24 hours after pitching.

Update 6/28/2019
I went to Denver last weekend (6/21 - 6/24) and I set my temp controller to slowly ramp the temps up for a diacetyl rest. It's been sitting at about 65F since 6/25 and I added the dry hops today. I'll leave it there for about 48 hours, then hook up my CO2 reservoir and start lowering the temps in preparation for kegging.

Update 7/1/2019
I swapped out the blow-off for my CO2 reservoir yesterday, and started cold crashing.

Update 7/16/2019
I pulled a couple samples of this beer. I think the color is perfect now, exactly where I want it. Flavor and aroma are always really nice, but there is a touch of diesel character from the hops. I didn't notice this character at all in the previous batch, so I'm assuming it's from the Loral, or the Loral is bringing this character out. Some people love this character, but I'm not a huge fan. It's not bad by any means, it's just not something I really like. There's also some bright grapefruit character. The next time I brew this beer, I'll probably cut the Loral in half and see what happens.


Lichtenhainer 2019

Yesterday I got started on my second a attempt at a Lichtenhainer. I brewed one last year, but it had a horrible acetaldehyde problem. I'm 99% sure this was caused by a timing/cellaring issue (it was cold crashed twice).

For this attempt, I changed the malts slightly, and will be using US-05 yeast.

Full grain bill was cold-smoked over Pecan
4.25 # Avangard German Pale Malt
4.25 # Spelt Malt
14g Aged hops (60 mins)
GoodBelly SuperShot for kettle-souring
US-05 yeast after kettle-souring
Yeast nutrient

Mash at 150F, transfer to boil kettle and raise temps to 175F for 15 minutes to pasteurize. Chill to 100F and acidify wort to 4.5 before pitching GoodBelly. Sour to a target pH of 3.4-ish. After target pH is reached, proceed with boil, 90 minutes. Ferment at 63F.

Brewing Notes

  • Day 1 (6/15/2019) - No major issues.
  • Day 2 (6/18/2019) - No major issues. Gravity into the fermenter is 1.039, so this will be a nice sessionable beer.
Update 7/1/2019
I kegged this beer yesterday. I'm ingested to see what it's like after carbing. Out of the fermenter, the smoke is pleasant but also quite noticeable. The aroma hits you first and is a bit more intense than the flavor. Flavor-wise, I get mellow smoke up front, then noticeable acidity, then a trailing smokey finish. I love having sours with fatty foods like BBQ because I feel like the acidity in the beer helps cut through the fat. It might just be that association in my mind, but this beer seems similar, but everything is in one package. And I'm happy to say, I didn't pick up on any acetaldehyde this time.