>> Sunday, September 04, 2022

Today I'm brewing a Kölsch, a style I can't believe I've never brewed before. The BJCP guidelines describe the style as follows:

A subtle, brilliantly clear, pale beer with a delicate balance of malt, fruit, and hop character, moderate bitterness, and a well-attenuated but soft finish. Freshness makes a huge difference with this beer, as the delicate character can fade quickly with age.  
Köln has a top-fermenting brewing tradition since the Middle Ages, but the beer now known as Kölsch was developed in the late 1800s as an alternative to pale lagers. Bottom fermentation was actually prohibited in Cologne. Kölsch is an appellation protected by the Kölsch Konvention (1986), and is restricted to breweries in and around Köln. The Konvention simply defines the beer as a “light, highly attenuated, hop-accentuated, clear, top-fermenting Vollbier.”
Jamil Z has a good article that he wrote about the style for BYO Magazine years ago. The BJCP guidelines mention subtle fruitiness (I think it used to omit the word “subtle”) and Jamil talks about how some homebrewers tend to run with that and brew an overly fruity and estery beer. This is a hybrid ale/lager beer and as such it should not lean too far either way. One of my complaints after judging a Belgian category years ago at a comp is that homebrewers tend to focus on a key characteristic (e.g. Belgian phenolics) and overdo it; “if a little bit is good, then more must be better”. IME this is rarely the case and I tend to shoot for balance. That will be the goal with this beer, some light fruitiness with a clean and crisp lager-like character, well attenuated and super drinkable. 

You could say it's a little late in the year to be brewing something this crisp and drinkable, but I'm the type that enjoys crisp drinkable beers year round (and Imperial Stouts too). If this turns out well, I'm planning on entering this beer in Beehive Brew-off. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing today:

Target OG 1.051
IBU: 21
7.8# Weyermann Cologne/Kolsch Malt
6.5oz Proximity White Wheat Malt
42g Tettnanger (60 min)
14g Tettnanger (10 min)
Wyeast 2535 Kolsch Yeast
Wyeast Nutrient

Step mash at 142F (30 min), then raise to 154F over 60 min
Mashout at 168F
90 minute boil
Chill to 58F, ferment at 60F

Water Profile
This is a pretty soft and balanced water profile. To 10.5 gallons of RO water, add 3 grams each of:
  • Epsom Salts
  • Calcium Chloride
Brewing Notes
No real issues with this brew session. Beginning mash temp was 141F so I pretty much hit my initial strike temp close to perfect.

While sparging, I went inside for a minute and ended up accidentally collecting a tad over 7.5 gallons rather than my targeted 6.75 gallons. To compensate, I boiled a little harder than normal. This worked out perfectly as I hit my target OG exactly at 1.051. The wort is currently chilling down to my pitch temp of 58F.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.33
Ending mash pH 5.37
1st running gravity 16.6 (1.066)
Pre-boil gravity 9.2 (1.036)
Pre-boil pH 5.46
Post-boil gravity 13.1 (1.051)
Post-boil pH 5.42

Update 9/4/2022 10:30PM
Wort was aerated and yeast pitched.

Update 9/5/2022
I was seeing signs of fermentation this morning with a bubble through the blow-off about every second.

Update 9/25/2022
I kegged this beer today. Gelatin was added to the keg for fining and I’ve started dropping the  temps.


Imperial Stout 2022

>> Sunday, August 07, 2022

For this post I'm rebrewing the Weldwerks Achromatic Stout recipe that I brewed back in May of 2021. For the original brew session, I used Mecca Grade Lamonta for the base, and I split it in half and fermented on two different yeasts. I also did two different treatments (TX Bourbon and Cacao). This time I only have about 17 pounds of Lamonta available, so the rest of the base malt will be Crisp Maris Otter. Also, I'm using A01 only for this fermentation. Lastly, the beer will age in a Garrison Bros Single Batch Bourbon barrel that was then used at The Bruery for a special single barrel Black Tuesday release. I'm super excited to put a beer in this barrel. This is a 15 gallon barrel, so it'll be brewed in two sessions. Here is the recipe for the first 10 gallons:

10 gallon batch
OG: 1.105
FG: 1.030
IBUs: 45
ABV 10-ish%

27.25# Mecca Grade Lamonta
1.75# Simpsons DRC
1.375# Simpsons Light Crystal
1.375# Flaked Oats
1.75# Simpsons Chocolate Malt (*cold steeped)
1.75# Weyermanns Chocolate Rye Malt (*cold steeped)
1.75# Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (*cold steeped)
0.375# Simpsons Roasted Barley (*cold steeped)
Imperial A01 House
84g Magnum (FWH)
Yeast Nutrient

Cold steep roasted grains (1lbs/2qts RO water) overnight. Add cold steeped extraction with 10 minutes left in the boil.

Mash at 153F, 90 minutes. Collect ~12.33 gallons pre-boil volume (assuming boil-off rate of ~1.16 gallons/hour), 120 minute boil.  Aerate well; 2 minutes at 0.5l/m. Start fermentation at 60F, ramping up to 65F over 5 days.

Carbon-filtered tap water treated with Campden (extra precaution against chlorine and chloramine). 

Brewing Notes
For round 1 I added the cold steeped dark malts right near the end of the boil. This ended up diluting the gravity much more than I was expecting. Round 1 was brewed 7/17/2022. For round 2, I added the dark grains at the end of the mash so I was much closer to my target gravity.

Session 1 Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.32
Ending mash pH 5.35
1st running gravity 25.7 (1.106)
Pre-boil gravity 19 (1.076)
Pre-boil pH 5.26
Post-boil gravity 21 (1.085)
Post-boil pH 5.12

Round 2 Notes
For round 2 (8/6/2022) I added the dark grains at the end of the mash before sparging.  This didn’t dilute the wort as much, so OG was much closer to target (24.2/1.099). I also only had about 14# of Maris Otter left so this got about 2# each of Avangard German Pale Malt and Great Western California Select Malt. Rahr North Star Pilsner filled the remainder of the base malt bill. Round 1was transferred to a 10 gallon holding keg until round 2 is done fermenting and the barrel is ready for filling. I also had three of my friends over to help brew round 2, so I wasn’t as good about taking readings throughout the brew day. Mash pH was right at 5.24 before adding darker malts and starting the sparge.

Update 8/19/2022
This beer went in the barrel tonight. 


Golden Solera 2022

>> Sunday, July 10, 2022

Finally, a new brewing post! First brew of 2022 and first brew since November of 2021! I've mentioned in a couple times, but I've been working on a kitchen remodel project that's finally wrapping up, so it's time to brew some beer!

Today is a another 10 gallons of my Golden Sour Solera. I'm bumping up the grain bill a little and using different base malt for this round. See the last version here.

12.0# Weyermann Barke Pilsner Malt
3.0# Spelt Malt
56g Aged Hops (60 min)
Yeast Nutrient
Inland Island Brett Barrel III

Mash at 160F. Collect  ~10.0 gallons, then top up to ~12 gallons. 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

Water Profile
50/50 blend of carbon filtered tap water and RO water.

Brewing Notes
Thankfully no issues during this session, especially since I considered myself a little rusty. I may have cur my sparge a little short (~9.5 gallons), but post-boil gravity came in same as the last batch. I'm fermenting this at room temp in a half barrel Torpedo Keg with a floating dip tube. When ready, I'll be able to push it straight into the Solera barrel for extended aging and souring. Here are this session's key readings:

Brewing Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.28
Ending mash pH 5.32
1st running gravity 20.5 (1.083)
Pre-boil gravity 9.5 (1.037)
Pre-boil pH 5.58
Post-boil gravity 11.2 (1.044)
Post-boil pH 5.64

Update 7-11-2022
I went to check and fermentation is super active this morning. As I mentioned, I'm fermenting in a half barrel Torpedo Keg with a floating dip tube. In order to vent CO2, I connected a gas quick-disconnect with a short section of 1/4" tubing that runs into a cup filled with sanitizer.  

Update 7-18-2022
Activity started decreasing about 3 days in, but there’s still some activity today; about a glug per minute.

Update 7/30/2022
On 7/27/2022, I transferred 10 gallons from the Solera barrel onto a combination of homegrown sweet cherries from my buddy Brandon’s tree, sour cherries from my tree, and dried Montmorency cherries for a total of about 30 pounds of fresh fruit (3#/gallon). I’ve used dried zante currants before in a Consecration clone, but this is the first time trying dried cherries. My thought process is even though you’re adding sugar with fresh fruit, the amount of water in fresh fruit usually ends up diluting the finished beer. By adding dried fruit, I should be getting fruit sugars without dilution. 
Also, the 10 gallons of fresh beer from this session wasn’t enough to top off the barrel due to angel’s share losses, so I brewed up another 10 gallons on 7/30 that’s currently fermenting. OG on the last batch was a little higher at 11.7 (1.046) and will give me enough to finish topping off the barrel plus some extra for future topping off.


Chilean Carmenere 2022

>> Tuesday, March 01, 2022

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've been busy since...I think December, working on some remodeling projects. This wasn't just a simple paint refresh.  We ended up taking out a bar and putting in a new one.  I moved a bunch of electrical, added new lighting, moved drain lines, etc. Our kitchen cabinets were long overdue for replacement and dogs and kids had taken a toll on our flooring, so all that was torn out as well. Long story short, lots of trips to the dump spread over lots of weekends. 

We're kind of at the end of all the destructive work and moving on to putting things back together. New flooring is going in this weekend (pretty much the only thing I'm paying someone to do for me) and I'll start installing new cabinets and appliances shortly after that. I feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, the point of my long-winded intro is to point out the probably obvious fact that I haven't had a chance to brew in a long time. Because the time commitment is so much less and because my wife likes wine, I'm about to start on my second batch of wine, a Chilean Carmenere.

This is another Wine Expert kit. For this one, I'm using the yeast supplied with the kit (EC-1118) and per my usual beer brewing process, I'm making a yeast starter to help ensure a healthy fermentation. For the yeast starter, I'm using 1 quart of Knudsen Concord Grape because it's 100% juice and it's preservative free. To this I added 1/2t of Fermax Yeast Nutrient and 4t of granulated table sugar. This was boiled to sanitize then allowed to cool overnight before pitching yeast. I'll let this go for a day or two before pitching.  

Update 3/3/2022
The krausen on the yeast starter (is it called krausen when making wine?) looked like it was starting to drop a little bit, so I decided to proceed today. I'm doing primary for this one in my SS Brew Bucket. Here's the process I followed today:
  1. I added 8 cups of hot water then bentonite to the fermenter and stirred well. I used RO water for this part and ask other water additions.
  2. I added the concentrated must from the kit then topped up to the 5.5 gallon mark. The instructions call for topping to 6 gallons, but I felt comfortable going to 5.5 since I'll be adding my yeast starter, and I suspect the bucket cone will do a good job containing sediment.
  3. Next, I added the granulated oak.  
  4. Lastly, I took a gravity reading: 21.3 (1.086).  I should end up with a wine around 12.1% ABV.
  5. I pitched the yeast and am fermenting at 63F.
Stay tuned for more updates.


Pinot Noir 2022

>> Monday, February 28, 2022

I’ve been busy working on some home projects, including a full kitchen remodel, so I haven’t had any time to brew in a while. I’d purchased a Wine Expert Pinot Noir wine kit way back in July of 2019 that I’ve been planning on making this wine and blending it with some of my barrel-aged sours for a beer-wine hybrid. I’ve never tried making wine before, but these kits seem pretty straightforward and the time commitment is substantially less than brewing an all-grain batch, so I was able to fit it in one evening after work.

For these wine kits, pretty much everything that you need is included, from finings to sulfites to yeast. The only things you need to provide is some basic equipment like a carboy, racking cane, etc. Since mine had been sitting in a dark corner of my basement for over two years, I opted to purchase a fresh pack of yeast. I went with Red Star Premier Cuvée. I also picked up some Fermax Yeast Nutrient. The only other thing needed  is enough good quality water to bring the volume up to about 6 gallons. 

After doing a little Googling, it seems most wine makers ferment at warmer temps compared to your typical beer fermentation. I opted to ferment at room temp which ended up being about 68F-70F this time of year. Visible signs of fermentation wrapped up in a little over a week. Beer kit instructions are notoriously vague and often outdated compared to current best practices (e.g. no need to rack beer to secondary in most cases). The wine kit instructions seemed a little more detailed so I followed them fairly closely. The biggest difference was I left the wine in primary for about 3.5 weeks rather than the 2weeks in the instructions. The wine is currently sitting in secondary. The kit didn’t come with any oak, but I have a bunch of Medium+ French Oak, so I’m toying with the idea of aging it on an ounce-ish. Stay tuned for more updates.