Sunday, February 21, 2016

Plethora Rye IPA

I've been trying to get around to brewing this beer for a few weeks now. Things just kept getting in the way...then caught the flu. I'm still not 100%, but I'm feeling a lot better so I decided to brew this up today.

Today's recipe is based on Wytchmaker Farmhouse Rye IPA from Jester King and utilizes The Yeast Bay's Amalgamation blend. Based on the description, I think this yeast blend will perform very well in a hop-focused beer like an IPA. This blend is described as follows:

Amalgamation is the union of our six favorite Brettanomyces isolates from our microbe library. Each isolate produces a unique bouquet of bright and fruity flavors and aromas, and the combination of all of them into one blend results in the coalescence of these unique flavors and aromas into something truly special.

Expect this blend to create a dry beer with a bright and complex fruit-forward flavor and aroma, accompanied by some funk on the palate.

Temperature: 70 - 80 ºF
Attenuation: 85%+
Flocculation: Low

This recipe comes straight from Jester King. In addition to fantastic beer, Jester King has some of the coolest label art with Wytchmaker being one of my favorites. I got to try this beer a while back and it was pretty tasty. Seems like it should be a great pairing with the Amalgamation Brett blend from TYB.

Lately I've been using some dextrose in my IPAs to ensure they finish dry and drinkable. I won't be doing that with this recipe; instead I'll be relying on the plethora of brett strains in the yeast blend to dry out the beer. The recipe as I'm brewing it:

8 # 13 oz Great Western Full Pint Malt
1 # 9 oz Weyermann Rye
28g US Goldings (60 min)
56g Chinook (10 min)
28g Falconer's Flight (Whirlpool)
28g Zythos (Whirlpool)
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
The Yeast Bay Amalgamation - Brett Blend
56g Citra (Dry hop)
56g Falconer's Flight (Dry hop)
56g Simco (Dry hop)

Mash at 151F, 90 min boil, chill to 66F then allow to free-rise to room temp.

Water Profile
Tasty Water - To 10 gallons of RO water:
  • 16g Gypsum (CASO4)
  • 7g Epsom salt (MgSO4)
  • 2g Canning salt (NaCl)
  • 1g  Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)
Brewing Notes
No issues with this session. Gravity came in a bit higher than I was shooting for 1.059 and came in at 1.066.

Update 2/23/2016
This beer is starting to worry me a little bit. Usually I see activity fairly quickly, but this one still isn't showing visible signs of fermentation. I did a 1.5l starter for about a week, cold crashed it to decant, then pitched Sunday evening. Couldmbe  characteriscrap....ktic of theses brett strains, but that's a pretty long lag time. I moved the fermentercrash this to a warmer area of the house to try to jump start things. 

Update 2/24/2016
Finally seeing signs of fermentation today. Definitely the longest lag I think I've ever seen. I probably chilled it a bit lower than I should have.

Update 2/29/2016
This one is still plugging along. Krausen is hanging around 1/2" thick with tons of yeast in suspension. I'll let it ride for at least another week or so, then see where things are at. The aroma coming off the airlock is very nice; fairly clean, very hoppy.

Update 3/11/2016
Fermentation is more or less done. I realize this is a blend with low flocculation, but holy crap...this stuff does not drop out! I'll probably have to cold crash this batch because it's downright milky looking right now.

Update 3/20/2016
Pulled a sample today. Aroma is mild brett funk with big fruity notes. Flavor is very similar but fruit character is bigger. There's tons of peach, apricot, plum, and tangerine character. This should be pretty amazing once it's dry-hopped. There's still tons of yeast in suspension and the gravity is still around 1.020. There are still visible signs that fermentation is chugging along, so I'm going to let this ride for a while

Update 5/14/2016
Definitely digging this beer. I pulled a sample tonight and it seems noticeably drier. I'm going to rack this over onto the dry hops very soon, hopefully this weekend if I have time.

Update 5/16/2016
I transferred this beer to secondary tonight on top of a whole bunch of dry hops. I saved the yeast cake and am planning on using it in future brett beers.

Update 5/27/2016
Kegged this beer and started force carbing today. I definitely love the hop combination in this beer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Beer Line Cleaning Upgrade

Brew Hardware has some really innovative gadgets for homebrewers. He may have not been the very first to use them, but Bobby M was the first homebrewer I ever saw using stainless cam-locks on their brew rig and he's the reason I use them on mine. I recently ordered a stainless racking cane with a male cam-lock fitting soldered onto one end. I use it as a carboy filler. It ensures none of my precious brew ends up on the garage floor while I gently manipulate the boil kettle so that I don't leave any sweet wort behind. Other items I've ordered from Bobby include my stainless steel elements in my HLT and HEX, and the sight glass on my keggle.

One of the newer products from Brew Hardware is the ball lock disconnect jumpers. Judging by how quickly they sold out after their introduction, they seem to be very popular. I saw they were back in stock, so I pulled the trigger on a set about a week ago.

The basic idea with these is they let you connect two ball lock QD's together. This is useful when cleaning lines, transferring between kegs, etc. I decided to use these so I could clean all my draft lines at the same time. I'd built one of the DIY Beer Line Cleaners in the past and it works fairly well, but from what I've read, beer line cleaning solutions do a better job when they're recirculated. That plus cleaning multiple lines at the same time is pretty appealing.

I'd planned on using a small fountain pump that I bought years ago. I know I have this pump somewhere in the house...I just don't know where. After about 45 minutes of looking and failing it I went to my spare parts bin to see what else I could use to somehow connect this to my portable brew pump. I found a type B stainless cam-lock fitting and scavenged the post fitting off my DIY Beer Line Cleaner. I then used a LFA-177 brass fitting from Lowes to join the two stainless fittings together. What I ended up with was a fitting that converts from cam-lock to a ball lock post so I can connect the keezer lines directly to the pump.

To use the cleaner, I attach the converter fitting to the pump output then connect the taps as follows:
  • Pump pulls liquid from reservoir
  • QD #1 connected to adapter on pump
  • Tap #1 jumpered to Tap #2 with silicone hose
  • QD #2 jumpered to QD #3 with ball lock jumper
  • Tap #3 jumpered to Tap #4 with silicone hose
  • QD #4 jumpered to QD #5 with ball lock jumper
  • Tap #5 returns to reservoir
I recently used this setup for the first time and it worked great. I was picking up some oxidized character on one of my lines. When bypassing the tap, I wasn't picking up anything odd, and the beer actually took first place in a club comp. So it seemed the issue was definitely with the line itself. I did a hot flush, followed by a recirc of hot Oxyclean, hot rinse again, hot recirc with Liquid Line cleaner, hot rinse and recirc, and lastly a sanitizer recirc. Beer lines are now running clean and absent of any off flavors. Here are a couple pictures of the components.
Brew Hardware Jumper
Cam-lock to ball-lock adapter

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

I likes me some Buffalo chicken wings. This recipe for Buffalo chicken meatballs as every bit as good, especially if you know someone that shies away from eating meat off the bone. I made these last year for Super Bowl Sunday and they were a huge hit. Ground chicken isn't the easiest meat to work with; it's a sticky mess when forming the meatballs. The final result is worth the mess if you ask me. Here's the recipe as I made them.

2.0 # Ground Chicken
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Eggs
1 C Italian Bread Crumbs
2 T Ranch Dip Mix
0.5 C Blue Cheese
4 T Butter
2 C Buffalo Wing Sauce (your favorite)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  2. Form blue cheese into marble-sized pieces.
  3. Combine chicken, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, and dip mix. It will be sticky and messy.
  4. Use a scoop or your hands to measure out the meatballs.
  5. Press a blue cheese ball into the center and form the meatball around it.
  6. Bake meatballs on a non-stick cookie sheet for 16 minutes, or until cooked through.
  7. Transfer cooked meatballs to a slow cooker and add wing sauce and butter. Set to high for 20 minutes, then switch to warm.
Tip: I've found that latex gloves help a lot. The ground chicken doesn't seem to stick to the latex nearly as much as it does to your hands. The blue cheese marbles were also much easier to form with gloves. 

Al Pastor

There's a local Mexican restaurant named El Morelense that makes amazing Al Pastor tacos. It's so amazing that I figured I needed to figure out a way to try to make them at home. I made this recipe a couple weeks ago for my family and some of my kids' friends. It went over really well (zero leftovers) and was requested for Super Bowl Sunday.

This recipe and process comes from Serious Eats. It's not an exact clone of El Morelense, but it's close. The recipe isn't difficult, but it requires some prep in you can't just decide to have it for dinner and whip things up in an hour. Just a tip, some of these ingredients will be easier to find at a Latino grocery store. Here's the recipe as I made it.

2 Disposable foil loaf pans
Corn Tortillas
4.0 # Thin cut pork sirloin roast (~ 1/4" thick)
1.0 # Bacon
4 Dried Ancho Chilies, seeds and stems removed
4 Dried Pasilla Chilies, seeds and stems removed
1 c Chicken Stock
4 t Vegetable oil
2 t Dried Mexican Oregano
2 t Ground Cumin
2 T Ground Achiote
2 Chipotle Chilies in Adobo Sauce, + 4 t Adobo Sauce
1/2 c White Vinegar
5 t Kosher Salt
4 t Sugar
9 - Cloves Garlic, Minced

  1. Place chilies in a medium saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir regularly to avoid burning.
  2. Add chicken stock then kill heat and transfer chilies and chicken stock to a small bowl. Cover and set aside. 
  3. Add oil to pan and heat over medium/medium high heat.
  4. Add oregano, cumin, and achiote, stirring for 30 seconds.
  5. Add chipotle, adobo sauce, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Stir until mixed then remove from heat.
  6. Transfer contents of pan plus chilies, and chicken stock to a blender. Add garlic and blend until marinade is smooth.
  7. Combine pork and marinade in a bag or bowl. Coat pork thoroughly.
  8. Layer the loaf pans with alternating layers of bacon and pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
  9. Pre-heat oven to 250F and bake on a foil-lined cookie sheet for 4 hours.
  10. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least a few hours.
To serve:
  1. Remove meat from loaf pans, reserving fat and some of the drippings.
  2. Slice loaves as thin as possible and transfer to bowl.
  3. Add 2T rendered fat to cast iron skillet, and heat over medium high heat. 
  4. Add sliced pork. Stir occasionally and cook until it browns and crisps a bit.
  5. Add drippings to create a glaze. 
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Serve in corn tortillas with chopped onions, cilantro, and your favorite hot sauce.

Friday, February 05, 2016

2016 Munich Helles - Small Batch

For the second half of my double-header brew day I'm brewing a Munich Helles. This is also a 2.5 gallon batch. Per the 2015 BJCP Guidelines, here are some of the vital stats for the style:
History: Created in Munich in 1894 at the Spaten brewery to compete with pale Pilsner-type beers. Currently the most a popular style in Southern Germany.
Overall Impression: A clean, malty, gold-colored German lager with a smooth grainy-sweet malty flavor and a soft, dry finish. Subtle spicy, floral, or herbal hops and restrained bitterness help keep the balance malty but not sweet, which helps make this beer a refreshing, everyday drink.
Comments: A fully-attenuated Pils malt showcase, Helles is a malt-accentuated beer that is not overly sweet, but rather focuses on malt flavor with underlying hop bitterness in a supporting role. Export examples can quickly lose some of the rich malt character that often suggests sweetness. Helles in Munich tends to be lighter in all aspects than those outside the city, which can be more assertive with more body, flavor, and hop character.
And the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

5.0# German Pilsner
6.0 oz German Munich
2.0 oz Melanoiden
1.0 oz Carapils
4.53g Hallertauer (FWH)
9.07g Hallertauer (45 min)
0.25 Whirlfloc
0.25t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
WLP838 Southern German Lager

To 6 gallons RO water:
2.9g Gypsum
4.4g Calcium Chloride
2.4g Chalk

Mash at 145F for 10 min, 150F for 50 min, 168F for 10 min, 90 min boil, chill to 50F, raise to 55F over 5 days

Update 2/29/2016
I took this beer up to 65F for a diacetyl rest for a couple days and have been ramping it down to lagering temps over the past week. Quite a bit of the yeast has dropped out and it's pretty bright right now. I'm going to try to get it kegged and fined this week. That should give it almost a month to condition before I have to drop it off for Lagerpalooza 2.

Update 2/29/2016
I managed to get this beer kegged after work tonight. Fined in the keg with gelatin, it'll sit cold and under CO2 pressure until I'm ready to bottle my entries.

Update 3/11/2016
I pulled a sample today. It has dropped crystal clear and is a really nice beer. This is a beer I'd probably brew again, at least for the warmer summer months.

2016 German Pils -Small Batch

I think I've brewed more lagers in the past year than I have in all my previous years of homebrewing combined. Today is a double batch brew day with a couple of small batch lagers (2.5 gallon).  First up is a German Pils. Per the 2015 BJCP Guidelines, here are some of the vital stats for the style:
History: Adapted from Czech Pilsner to suit brewing conditions in Germany, particularly water with higher mineral content and domestic hop varieties. First brewed in Germany in the early 1870s. Became more popular after WWII as German brewing schools emphasized modern techniques. Along with its sister beer, Czech Pilsner, is the ancestor of the most widely produced beer styles today. Average IBUs of many well-regarded commercial examples have dropped over time.
Overall Impression: A light-bodied, highly-attenuated, gold-colored, bottom-fermented bitter German beer showing excellent head retention and an elegant, floral hop aroma. Crisp, clean, and refreshing, a German Pils showcases the finest quality German malt and hops.
Comments: Modern examples of Pils tend to become paler in color, drier in finish, and more bitter as you move from South to North in Germany, often mirroring the increase in sulfate in the water. The Pils found in Bavaria tend to be a bit softer in bitterness with more malt flavor and late hop character, yet still with sufficient hops and crispness of finish to differentiate itself from a Helles. The use of the term ‘Pils’ is more common in Germany than ‘Pilsner’ to differentiate it from the Czech style, and (some say) to show respect.
And the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

4.25# German Pilsner
14g Perle (60 min)
7g Hersbrucker (15 min)
7g Hersbrucker (1 min)
.25 Whirlfloc
.25t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
WLP830 German Lager

To 6.0 gallons of RO water:
2.4g Gypsum
1.7g Epsom Salts
2.9g Calcium Chloride

Mash at 147F, 90 minute boil, chill to 50F, raise ferm temp to 55F over 5 days

Update 2/29/2016
I took this beer up to 65F for a diacetyl rest for a couple days and have been ramping it down to lagering temps over the past week. Quite a bit of the yeast has dropped out and it's pretty bright right now. I'm going to try to get it kegged and fined this week. That should give it almost a month to condition before I have to drop it off for Lagerpalooza 2.

Update 2/29/2016
I managed to get this beer kegged after work tonight. Fined in the keg with gelatin, it'll sit cold and under CO2 pressure until I'm ready to bottle my entries.

Update 3/11/2016
I pulled a sample today. It has dropped very clear. Compared to the Munich Helles, it's definitely more hop focused than the more malt focused Helles. Very nice beer, but I'm glad I only made a small batch.