Pre-Prohibition Lager

>> Sunday, January 10, 2016

Today I'm doing a small batch (2.5 gallon) Pre-Prohibition Lager. The recipe is pretty basic and while bold compared to modern Light American Lagers, it's still a very delicate beer with no place to hide flaws or off-flavors. If you haven't thoroughly cleaned your equipment in a while (run a brush through your tubing, disassemble ball valves, etc.), it's not a bad idea to do it before brewing this type of beer.

I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of most lagers, but sometimes it is nice to have an easy drinking beer on hand, especially if you have some friends that prefer the cleaner character associated with lagers. Here's the history and description for the style from the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines:
History: A version of Pilsner brewed in the USA by immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them, but who had to adapt their recipes to work with native hops and malt. This style died out after Prohibition but was resurrected by homebrewers in the 1990s. Few commercial versions are made, so the style still remains mostly a homebrew phenomenon.
Overall Impression: A clean, refreshing, but bitter pale lager, often showcasing a grainy-sweet corn flavor. All malt or rice-based versions have a crisper, more neutral character. The higher bitterness level is the largest differentiator between this style and most modern mass-market pale lagers, but the more robust flavor profile also sets it apart.
Here's the recipe as I'm making it today.
3 # 10 oz Pale 6-Row
14 oz Flaked Corn
2 oz Cara-Pils
0.61 oz Cluster (60 min)
0.20 oz Cluster (10 min)
1/4 Whirlfloc
1/4 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager

Step mash: 30 min at 122F, 45 min at 158F, mashout at 168F for 10 min. Chill to 48F then ramp up to 52F over 48 hours. Perform a diacetyl rest when fermentation is nearly complete. Cold condition in the keg near freezing for a month or so.

Water Profile
To 6 gallons of RO water
  • 0.48g Gypsum
  • 0.12g Pickling Salt
  • 1.32g Epsom Salt
  • 0.48g Calcium Chloriden
  • 0.48g Baking Soda
  • 0.24g Chalk
*I decided to add 7.4 oz of Chit malt to this recipe even though it didn't call for it. This is due to the slightly reduced efficiency I saw on my fist run with my new small batch setup. I also bumped up my total water from 5 to 6 gallons as I was a little low on water during the first run.

Brewing Notes
It seems that I can expect about 73% mash efficiency with my mini-mash tun. Not bad, but quite a bit less than my full-size.  I did a couple things different on the second run with my mini-mash tun/small batch setup. I bumped up the total water from 5 gallons to 6 gallons. This ensured I had enough water left in the HLT that I was able to fire the HLT element during the mash to maintain sparge temps. This also ensured I had plenty of sparge water on hand. I used my lid from my full size mash tun to recirculate the mash liquid to the top of the grain bed this time. It worked better than laying the hose across the grain bed.

A couple really nice things with this setup, I'm able to bring the small volume up to a boil very quickly.  Post-boil, I'm able to chill down to pitching temps very fast.

Very bright wort pre-boil
Update 1/26/2016
I did a diacetyl rest at 60F for a few days. On 1/24 I started ramping the temp down. I'll drop it to around 38F then rack it to a keg for fining and lagering.

Update 9/6/2016
This beer ended up taking a gold medal at 2016 Beehive Brew-off and is probably the highest score I've ever received on an entry (47). The funny thing is the same beer did not do well at all at Lagerpalooza earlier this year (scored 24). Not to sound like a poor loser, but I felt like the judges at Lagerpalooza really didn't understand the style guidelines (or the difference between corn flavor from the use of corn and DMS). The same beer scored 34 at NHC right after Lagerpalooza, with no mention of the "issues" identified by the Lagerpalooza judges. It just goes to show, judging is subjective and mistakes are made, so don't get let one person's (or set of judges') opinion bring you down.


Classic Rauchbier

>> Friday, January 08, 2016

Today I'm doing my first small batch (2.5 gallon) on my mini-mash tun. The recipe for today is a Classic Rauchbier. I haven't brewed a Rauchbier in quite a while. I still think the first one I made years ago was the best and the batches since then have been mediocre at best. One of them even had a horrible chlorophenol problem. I'm hoping this one turns out as good as the first batch did.

The recipe today consists of equal parts Munich and Rauchmalt with a little bit of Melanoidin tossed in to add some malty complexity. A touch of Carafa III adds a bit of color. One thing I've learned about yeast is pitch big with lagers. This will help ensure a healthy fermentation and a nice clean finished beer. For thus recipe, I used one smack pack in a 1L starter on my stir plate. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

2.25 # Avangard Dark Munich II
2.25 # Weyermann Rauchmalt
7.0 oz  Weyermann Melanoidin Malt
0.5 oz Carafa III Dehusked (lauter)
0.62 oz Hallertau (60 min)
0.21 oz Hallertau (5 min)
1/4 Whirlfloc
1/4 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

Mash at 154F for 60 min. Chill to 46F then ramp up to 52F over 48 hours. Perform a diacetyl rest when fermentation is nearly complete. Cold condition in the keg near freezing for a month or so.

Water Profile
To 5 gallons of RO water:
  • 1.0g Gypsum
  • 1.2g Epsom Salt
  • 2.6g Calcium Chloride
  • 1.0g  Baking Soda
First runnings into boil kettle
Brewing Notes
Things went fairly well with this brew session. The silicone hose returning to the top of the mash worked ok, but tended to sink into the grain rather than lay on top. I'll try to figure out something that will work better.

One other thing, my HLT heating element was exposed once I transferred mash water, so I couldn't fire the element to maintain temps for the water that would be used in the sparge. It's not a huge deal because I ran it through the HEX while sparging and it kept the temp right at 168F.

One last issue, the amount of deadspace under the false bottom is a much greater proportion when brewing 2.5 gallons verses 5 or 10 gallons. My efficiency dropped to a hair under 77% and I think it was partly due to the deadspace.

A couple things that went better than expected...a 2.5 gallon batch gets to boiling and chills much faster than 5 and 10 gallon batches. I started the whirlpool and within what seemed like a couple minutes, the temp was down to 67F. A little bit longer and it was 50F. This will sit overnight in the fermenter in my ferm chamber, then I'll pitch the yeast in the morning.
Probably one of the smallest grain additions,
14g of Carafa III

Update 1/26/2016
I did a diacetyl rest at 60F for a few days. On 1/24 I started ramping the temp down. I'll drop it to around 38F then rack it to a keg for fining and lagering.

Update 2/16/2016
I put this on tap over the weekend. Smokiness definitely comes through, but you still get the malt characteristic pf the style. It's more subtle than Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, but there's no mistaking that it's chock full of smoked malt.


Rood Mélange 2016

>> Sunday, January 03, 2016

It seems like I'm brewing sour beers half the time lately. I have some non-sour lagers queued up in the not too distant future, but my first batch for 2016 is yet another sour. Today I'm brewing a sour red ale based on the red base recipe from The Rare Barrel. This one will be fermented with Mélange - Sour Blend from The Yeast Bay. This is a blend I've never used before, but I'm excited to try it out. Per TYB:
Mélange is our most varied mix of fermentative organisms, intended for use in the production of sour beers in which a balance of funk and sourness is desired. This blend contains two Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolates, Saccharomyces fermentati, five Brettanomyces isolates, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus delbreuckii and Pediococcus damnosus.
For most of my sours I use aged hops. This time I'm going with a small addition of US Goldings. I'm interested in seeing how much this inhibits the lacto early on. Nothing too fancy with the water profile today, just cutting 8 gallons of carbon-filtered tap water with about three gallons of RO water. The recipe as I'm making it today:

6.0# 13 oz Dingemans Pilsner Malt
1.0# 3 oz Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
7 oz Crisp Light Crystal Malt 60L
7 oz Flaked Oats (lauter)
7 oz Special Aromatic Malt
7 oz Spelt Malt
3-ish oz Carafa II (lauter, for color adjustment)
2.5g US Goldings (60 min)
5.0g Aged Debittered Hops (60 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
The Yeast Bay Melange Sour Blend
Mash at 130F for 15 mins, 158F for 45 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp. Because of the lactobacillus, no aeration.

Brewing Notes
No real issues although my gravity came in a couple points low; target was 14P (1.057), measured was 13.7P (1.054).

Update 1/4/2016
I wasn't seeing any activity last night (24 hours after pitching) and I was getting a little worried. I had the fermenter in my basement which tends to be a little cooler than the rest of the house this time of year. I moved it upstairs last night and this morning I'm seeing active fermentation.

Update 1/6/2016
Fermentation is still plugging along. Krausen is at most one inch high, so no need for a blowoff hose as of yet. Aroma out of the airlock is a bit sour, but hard to say for sure.

Update 1/26/2016
Krausen has completely dropped and so far there are no signs of a pellicle. I'll probably let this go until at least April before pulling a sample.

Update 2/21/2016
I pulled a sample the other day. Tartness is fairly low, as would be expected with a young sour beer. One thing did surprise me a little bit, and that was an almost saison-like spiciness character. I hope this subsides over time because that isn't what I'm shooting for.

Update 5/14/2016
I pulled a sample of this beer last night. Still not digging the saison-like character, although it does seem to be mellowing. Sourness is still very low.

Update 7/18/2017
I pulled a sample tonight and I'm really happy with the direction this beer has taken. The saison-like character has essentially disappeared. There's a real nice acidity that has developed and the pH is coming in at 3.43. The acidity coupled with the fruity esters is really nice. There's some brett character there as well but it doesn't dominate. I'll be pulling samples from a few more reds soon and will probably be doing some blending.


Mini-Mash Tun

>> Saturday, January 02, 2016

Today I'm doing a little write-up on a new piece of equipment. a mini-mash tun. This isn't to be confused with mini mash or partial mash brewing; I'll still be doing 100% all-grain, just on a smaller scale.

There really isn't anything new or groundbreaking here, but I'm still excited about it. I've been toying with the idea of doing some smaller batch brewing for a while. Most of the time I brew 5 gallon batches and occasionally I'll mix in a 10 gallon batch, especially when I'm doing sours. Sometimes even five gallons of a particular beer can be too much. For example. pumpkin spiced beers...I enjoy them but they're hard to drink pint after pint so they tend to hang around for a while. I don't brew many lagers, mainly because I prefer the bolder flavors usually associated with ales. However, I'll probably brew lagers more often if I have the option of brewing smaller batches. Another candidate, beers that should be drunk fresh, like IPAs. Half batches will ensure tasty IPAs are finished off before the hops have a chance to fade.

So why a new piece of equipment rather than just making a smaller batch with my existing mash tun? Well, my normal mash tun is simply too large in diameter for batch sizes less than 5 gallons. It measures roughly 16" in diameter and the volume is about 12 gallons at the rim. This size vessel would have too shallow of a grain bed for 2.5 - 3 gallon batches. The new mini-mash tun is 12" in diameter and has a total volume of about five gallons, so the grain bed and liquid depths will be comparable to that of my larger tun. On the plus side, the 12" false bottom that I use in my larger tun will also work in the mini tun.

Weldless Assembly
Like my other brewing vessels, I'm going with weldless fittings on this tun. All the weldless fittings are based on Blichmann-style weldless fittings as documented on The Electric Brewery site. You can take a look at this diagram on The Electric Brewery for more details, but weldless fittings are assembled as follows (from inner to outer):
Hose barb nipple > full coupler > close nipple (through hole in kettle wall) > silicone o-ring > washer > nut > ball valve. 
As on my other vessels, I used my 13/16" Greenlee punch to make the holes for the weldless assemblies. These punches work awesome and give you a perfectly sized and perfectly round hole for mounting your assemblies. The false bottom connects to the nipple with a short section of 1/2" silicone tubing. The return from the heat exchanger is basically the same assembly and uses a short section of 3/8" silicone tubing to return the mash liquor to the top of the grain bed when recirculating.

That's about it for the mini-mash tun. I'm pulling my old 8 gallon boil pot out of storage for these smaller batches. I've outfitted it with a whirlpool port just like my keggle. I'm planning on the inaugural batch with this tun in the next week or so.
Return from HEX 

Full-size vs. Mini 

With False Bottom