Keller-rado 2020

>> Sunday, March 22, 2020

Today I'm brewing up my second batch of Kellerbier. The first version can be found here.

I'm mostly doing things the same on this batch with just a couple small tweaks. I'm going with straight Aramis hops for the 60 and 0 minute additions. I'm also bumping up the amount of FWH and the 60 minute additions as I thought the first one could have used a bit more bitterness. The last version took Bronze at 2019 Beehive Brew-off, so it definitely wasn't a bad beer, but there's always room for a little tweaking. Assuming I don't have any issues with this batch, and assuming the competition isn't cancelled due to COVID-19, I plan to enter it in Lagerpalooza, a local lager-only competition.  Here's today's recipe:

8.70# Root Shoot Pilsner
0.25# Weyermann Munich I
1g BrewTan B in mash
20g Hallertauer Mittelfruh (FWH)
14g Aramis (60 min)
20g Aramis (0 min)
Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager

Single Decoction Mash - Decoction mashes add a level of complexity to the brew day. Fortunately, this recipe only employs a single Decoction.

  1. Mash in at 132°F and hold for 10 minutes.
  2. Increase mash temps to 147°F, then pull 1/3 of mash for decoction. 
  3. Heat the decoction to 156–158°F, hold for 10 minutes.
  4. Bring Decoction to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Raise mash to 156–158°F.
  6. Return decoction to mash and mashout at 168F.
90 minute boil, ferment at 49°F

Water Recipe
To 10 gallons of RO water, add:
3g Epsom Salts
3g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at ~13.2 Brix (1.052).


NZ Pilsner 2020

>> Sunday, February 23, 2020

Up today is a slightly modified version of the Port Road Pilsner recipe I brewed a couple months back. I tweaked the hop additions a bit and increased the grain bill slightly.

Other "new stuff", I recently purchased the Ultimate Sparge Arm for my brew system and this is the first batch I'll be using it on. There wasn't any major problems with my original arm, but I did have to occasionally switch out the silicone hose used to connect the siphon sprayer to the end of the arm. The reason for this was so I could more finely adjust the height of the sparge arm based on grain bill and batch size. I gotta say, the Ultimate Sparge Arm is pretty awesome...well thought out and simple but functional design. I'm able to drop the arm all the way to the top of the false bottom, or raise it all the way to the brim of the mash tun.

False bottom support
One additional change, I modded my false bottom ever so slightly and this will also be the first batch using this mod. I use a domed false bottom from Morebeer and it's the original one I bought years ago back when my mash tun was based on a Rubbermaid cooler.  I noticed sometimes it would start to dent/deform/collapse with huge grain bills. The mod was to add a short section of 14mm OD copper pipe which functions as a stand to support the middle of the false bottom. This little support/stand was drilled in several places to allow the wort to flow freely. I'm hoping this simple mod will provide enough support to solve the occasional collapsing issue.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

7.5# - GW Pure Idaho Pilsner Malt
0.5# - Weyermann Carahell Malt
2oz - Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1.0g BrewTan B (Dissolved in mash)
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
8.0g - NZ Motueka (10 min)
18.0g - NZ Nelson Sauvin (10 min)
28.0g - NZ Riwaka (10 min)
3.0g - Loral Cryohop (10 min)
18.0g - NZ Motueka Pallet (Flame Out)
28.0g - NZ Nelson Sauvin (Flame Out)
28.0g - NZ Riwaka (FlameOut)
3.0g - Loral Cryohop (Flameout)
28.0g - NZ Riwaka (Dry Hop)
7.0g - Loral Cryohops (Dry Hop)
Wyeast Nutrient
4.66g BCAA (Dissolved in water or wort, 5 min)
S04 or Saflager W-34/70

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 10.5 gallons of RO water, add:
3.81g Gypsum
2.67g Epsom Salt
4.58g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No issues. The sparge arm worked great and actually looked like it was doing a better job of not disturbing the grain bed. The false bottom stand also worked well, but I really wasn't expecting any issues because the grain bill was pretty small to begin with.

Update 2/26/2020
Gravity is down to ~1.039 this morning, so things are progressing.

Update 2/27/2020
Gravity is reading ~1.030 this morning, however I'm not confident that is super accurate. I'm only logging gravity once per hour and the Tilt has a tendency to wobble a bit during active fermentation. So bottom line, I don't take the readings as gospel, but they are helpful in showing a trend. As you can see in the graph below, yesterday there was a steady drop 1.039 to about 1.037, then it jumped back up to 1.040 to 1.041, then a sharp drop to 1.030 at 5am this morning. That could be when a glob of yeast slid off the Tilt. Long story short, I don't get too hung up on the individual readings, rather I'm looking at the overall trend.

Update 3/5/2020
Dry hops went in today. I'll let these ride for a few days then hook up my CO2 reservoir and start cold crashing.

Update 3/22/2020
It took me longer than I'd planned, but this finally was kegged today. The leftover hops smelled amazing.


Golden Sour Solera

>> Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Today I'm brewing a repeat of sorts for another sour barrel project. This beer will be going into a 30 gallon barrel where it will age on Bootleg Biology MTF Funk Island Mega Blend. The grain bill is basically the same one used for our club barrel project, Big Bad Barrel #3. Big Bad Barrel #3 was a little boring on its own, kind of a blank slate, but it ended up being amazing with fruit, dry hops, etc.

This is another collaboration brew with friends, this time with Brandon, Chaz, Devin, Jeff, and Nate. We're planning on doing this beer solera style, so we'll let it age for a while then pull off 10 gallons and replace with 10 gallons of fresh beer. This process will be repeated about once a year or whenever the beer it's ready. The following recipe is scaled for 10 gallons. 

10.5# Great Western Pure Idaho Pilsner Malt
2.6# Spelt Malt
56g Aged Hops (60 min)
Yeast Nutrient
Blend of Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison and White Labs WLP013 London Ale Yeast

Mash at 160F. Collect  ~9.0 gallons, then top up to ~11.75 gallons. 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

Water Profile
I don't get too fancy with my sour beer water profiles. We have fairly hard water here, so if I'm not completely building water from scratch, I usually at least dilute tap water with RO water for light colored beers. This time I went with a 50/50 blend of carbon filtered tap water and RO water.

Brewing Notes
I started fairly early today at about 6:45am. No issues during the brew session. Target on this batch is 1.040. The last time I brewed it, it came out at 1.041. This time I'm pretty much at 1.040 (10.2 Brix). 

I'm doing primary in a Sankey keg with the spear removed. Usually I split 10 gallon batches between two fermenters, but I figured I might as well ferment in one vessel. 

Details for Barrel #03
I've been collecting more barrels, so I've started numbering them. This one is #03 and is a 30 gallon whiskey barrel originally from Sugarhouse Distillery. The 2nd fill was a stout at Kiitos Brewing. I then got my hands on it...where it sat in my basement long enough to completely dry out. Ideally, you never want this to happen as it's possible you may never get the barrel to seal back up.
To rehab the barrel, I ran it through a steam session with my homemade barrel steamer. Next, I tightened up the hoops a bit. This was followed by a session using the French Method for rehydration, then more steaming sessions, and finally a fill with holding solution. 
The purpose of all these steps was two-fold. First, to rehydrate the barrel so that it was watertight. Second, to neutralize the barrel because we're not really looking for a ton of spirit or oak character. The last step to get this barrel ready to age our beer was the top half of the barrel was waxed as were the heads. Spirit barrels have thinner staves compared to wine barrels, so the wax is an attempt to reduce oxygen permeability and therefore oxygen transfer during the aging period.
Update 2/11/2020
I didn't use my Tilt with this batch, so I don't know exactly where things are at fermentation-wise, but it was showing signs of fermentation yesterday morning with a bubble about once per 2 seconds. There's about 5 gallons of headspace, so I'm not too concerned about needing a blowoff. The fermenter is in my utility room, which is probably about 67-68F this time of year.

Update 3/7/2020
We brewed the last 10 gallons for the barrel today. No issues with the brew session.

3/7/20 Gravity Readings


American Lager

>> Sunday, January 26, 2020

Today I'm brewing a style I honestly thought I'd never brew, American Lager. I'm not in love with this style, and I'm definitely not a huge fan of the business practices of most of the macro breweries known for producing American Lagers, but I can appreciate the expertise required to brew such a delicate beer. This is a style that definitely tests a homebrewer's skills and attention to detail. The reason being, these are such delicate beers that it's pretty much impossible to hide any flaws. It's the reason that most sensory trainings use American Lager or American Light Lager as the clean slate for dosing the beers with off flavors and/or aromas. So bear with me as I venture into the world of fizzy yellow beer.

6.0# Rahr American 6-row Malt
3oz Briess Crystal 10L
0.4# Rice Syrup Solids (5 min)
0.4# Corn Sugar (5 min)
1.0g BrewTan B (dissolved in warm water, mash)
1ml Hopshot (60 min)
14g Fuggle (1 min)
Wyeast Nutrient
4.66g BCAA (Dissolved in warm water, 5 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager

Protein rest at 122F -130F for 20 min, then raise to 149F for the duration of the mash. Collect 4.5 - 4.75 gallons of wort, then top up to 6.75 gallons total boil volume. 90 minute boil. Ferment at 52F.

Water Profile - To 10 gallons of RO water add:
3.8g Gypsum
3.2g Epsom Salts
4.9g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
I had some problems during the last brew session with the grain bed compacting. I'd tightened up the gap on my grain mill for an earlier batch, and I'd forgotten to open it back up to my normal gap (0.045) and that seems to have been the cause of the problem. There were no issues recirculating the mash today.
  • First running - 17.6 brix (1.070)
  • Pre-boil - 6.0 (1.023) *after topping up, before adding rice and corn sugars
  • Post-boil - 10.0 (1.039, Tilt = 1.042) *after adding rice and corn sugars
I ended up with a little over 5 gallons. I probably boiled a little softer than typical, trying to avoid any extra caramelization in the kettle. 

1st - Pre - Post

Update 1/27/2020
About 24 hours in and gravity has dropped to ~1.037. 

Update 1/28/2019
A little shy of 48 hours in and we're down to ~1.029.

Update 2/10/2020
This was kegged today along with 6ml of Biofine Clear. 


CO2 Reservoir For Cold Crashing

>> Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Today I have a quick little write-up about my CO2 reservoir that I've been using. I got the idea from a kit sold by which may have been inspired by a Brulosophy post...I'm really not sure which one of these two came first, but I saw the Brewhardware kit first. The concept is simple, in order to minimize oxygen exposure (e.g. via suck back), employ a reservoir filled with CO2 so that as the finished beer cools and the gas reduces in volume, CO2 is drawn into the fermenter rather than air. As most brewers know, oxygen + finished beer = stale oxidized flavors and aromas, muted hop character, etc.

My first test setup utilized a mylar balloon for the reservoir as described in the Brulosophy post. Mine consisted of a balloon, a small piece of 1/2" stainless tubing jammed into balloon's valve, then this assembly was filled with CO2 and inserted into the fermenter bung. It worked great, but since I couldn't see inside the mylar balloon to make sure it was clean, I started to worry about the potential for infections with re-use. Mylar balloons are cheap, but I didn't want to add one to the landfill every time I brewed a new beer.

This led to my slightly improved second iteration which involved a water bladder I purchased through Amazon. The bladder is similar to Camelbak bladders except it has a slide lock that I can use to access the interior. I also replaced the 1/2" stainless tubing with a 3/8" stainless barbed elbow (because these fit better in the bung). This setup worked well and the only problem was when it was time to transfer to keg, I had to disconnect the reservoir, then connect low pressure CO2 to complete the transfer. Depending on how much CO2 was left in the reservoir, there was the potential to introduce some oxygen when swapping out the reservoir for the CO2 line. Also, I found it hard to maintain constant low pressure CO2 flowing into the fermenter as the beer filled the keg.

Enter version 3 of my CO2 reservoir, and what I think will probably be the final iteration. For this version, I swapped the 3/8" barbed elbow for a 3/8" barbed tee. One barbed port gets inserted into the bung, the bladder is attached to another, and a valved disconnect is attached to the third. This allows me to fill or re-fill the reservoir via the valved disconnect whenever the reservoir is running low. I can also fill it as I'm transferring to keg, eliminating the risk of over-pressurizing the fermenter.

Here are a list of parts I used for my build:


Bierstadt Lagerhaus Slow Pour Pilsner

>> Sunday, January 12, 2020

Today will be the first attempt trying to clone a beer from Bierstadt Lagerhaus. Bierstadt is located in Denver, Colorado, and it's become one of my favorite places to visit when I'm in town. Besides having great beers, Bierstadt Lagerhaus at The Rackhouse, is just a really fun place to hang out. There are giant versions of games like Cornhole, Beer Pong, and Connect Four, and the food offerings are solid. The Rackhouse also features a full bar plus local ciders, so there should be plenty of options even if everyone in your party doesn't love beer as much as you do.

I first tried Slow Pour Pilsner (SPP) on a trip to Denver in December 2018 on the recommendation of a buddy of mine that had visited during GABF week. On a different visit, they were serving a Smoked Helles. Chatting with our server, he explained how they cold-smoked the grain themselves for this batch. Having smoked my own grain for several of my homebrews, it made me appreciate it that much more. As for SPP, it's just a great example of a German Pils...crisp, clean, and super drinkable, while showcasing traditional ingredients and processes.

The recipe comes directly from Bill Eye and Ashleigh Carter of Bierstadt via BYO magazine. One note, it seems there was a correction to the BYO recipe with respect to the hopping schedule. If you compare my recipe below with the online BYO version, you'll see some differences. I also decided to incorporate a diacetyl rest even though the BYO recipe does not mention one. Other differences include some of my standard practices like BrewTan B, BCAA, and whirlfloc.

Target OG: 1.047
Target FG: 1.012
IBU: 33

9.0# Weyermann Bohemian Floor Malted Pilsner
0.5# Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1.0g BrewTan B (dissolved in warm water, mash)
28.3g Hallertau Mittelfrüh (FWH), 3.1% AA
56.6g Hallertau Mittelfrüh (70 min) 3.1% AA
42.44g Hallertau Mittelfrüh (5 min) 3.1% AA
Wyeast Nutrient
4.66g BCAA (Dissolved in water or wort, 5 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
(2) Saflager W-34/70 in 2L Starter

The mash for this beer is somewhat complicated, employing both a step mash as well as a decoction. As such, I wouldn't really recommend this recipe for beginners.
  • The first step is a protein rest @131F for 10 min.
  • The second step is @144F for 30 min.
  • The third step is @160F for 40 min.
  • Finally, pull a 1/3 decoction (thin), bring to a boil, and boil for 10 min.
  • Return decoction to main mash and vorlauf until clear.
  • Collect about 4.5 - 4.75 gallons, then top up to a boil volume of 6.75 gallons.
90 min boil, chill to 47F, pitch yeast. Ferment at 47F. Perform diacetyl rest when gravity ~1.017.

Water Profile - To 10 gallons of RO water add:
3.8g Gypsum
3.2g Epsom Salts
4.9g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
I ran into a couple issues with an almost stuck mash. I got a Blichmann Riptide upgrade kit for my March brew pump, and this was the first time using it. I love this upgrade kit, but it seems to have much higher output than the old pump head, as it seemed to be compacting the grain bed. I ended up adding rice hulls and swapping out for my Little Giant pump. I'll need to play around with the Blichmann head a bit. I also think my crush was too fine, so I'll be double-checking the mill gap as well.

The nearly stuck sparge continued to be a problem my Little Giant pump as well, so I think it's definitely related to the crush. Checked the gap and it was too tight, so I dialed it back to .045". I knew I'd adjusted it down for a previous batch, but apparently I forgot to open it back up. Long story short, I got a lot more flour than I wanted. 

No other issues other that I forgot to adjust the grain bill to account for my efficiency, so OG came in a bit high at 1.057.  

Slow Pour Method Details
As the name implies, when you order this beer at Bierstadt, they perform a traditional slow pour. This means it takes at least 5 minutes between the time you order your beer before it shows up; longer if you visit during GABF, but the good news is they usually have a dedicated pourer behind the bar at times like this. The slow pour method is said to improve flavor of the beer, helping to release aromatics and rounding bitterness. You should be serving it in a straight-sided tall-ish beer-clean glass. 
  1. Hold the glass upright under the beer faucet, open the tap, pouring the beer directly into the center of the glass. Stop in time so that the glass is about 1/3 beer and 2/3 head, and before it overflows.
  2. Allow the head to dissipate by about half its original volume. This will probably take around two to three minutes. Open the tap again and stop in time that the head just rises above the top off the glass.
  3. Allow the head to dissipate again for a minute or two. Open the tap one last time allowing the glass to fill so that the dense mousse-like head is about 1/2 to 1 inch above the top of the glass.
Start to finish, the slow pour should take 5-7 minutes to complete. It's pretty common to overflow the glass on the initial pour, so don't get discouraged and maybe keep a towel handy for cleanup. You can also do this method with bottled or canned beer by pouring directly into the center off the glass.

Update 1/13/2020
The wort was down to pitching temps last night, but after a day of brewing plus filling a barrel (Flanders Red Solera), I was pooped. I went ahead and aerated and pitched this morning.

Update 1/14/2020
24 hours in and fermentation has taken off. Per Tilt, gravity it's down to 1.052 this morning. Granted, this may not be 100% accurate as the Tilt can wobble a bit under active fermentation conditions, but it's great for showing trends.

Update 1/15/2020
Gravity reading is down to ~1.045 this morning, so things are progressing right along.

Update 1/16/2020
Gravity it's down to ~1.038 this morning.

Update 1/26/2020
I started cold crashing today. A couple days before I was planning on starting the diacetyl rest, my Tilt lost connection to my old phone...I hope it's not hosed. 

Update 2/2/2020
This was kegged today along with 6ml of Biofine Clear.