Smoked Imperial Porter - 2018 Experimental

>> Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today I'm brewing an experimental version of my smoked porter. The first version of this beer took a gold medal for smoked and wood-aged beers and the second version did as well. The third version on sassafras didn't fare quite as well and I personally hated the rootbeer-like character it got from the sassafras. So today I'm brewing the fourth version which will be a split batch.

The biggest difference with this version is I'm using hickory-smoked malt that I smoked myself for my base malt. After primary, I'm planning on splitting off 2.5 gallons which will receive 1 pound of Maple & Bacon Smoked Candi Syrup. The home-smoked malt was cold-smoked using my newly completed malt tumbler. I suspect this version will have a much stronger smoke character because of the larger proportion of smoked malt, and because hickory trends to yield stronger smoke flavors compared to some other smoking woods. I love a strong smoke flavored beer, so I think I'll enjoy it, but it might be a little too strong for some.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it:

10.5# Hickory-smoked California Select Malt
2.0# Avangard Munich
1.25# Crisp Brown Malt
1.25# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.75# Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (225L)
28g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
Imperial Yeast Flagship
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast nutrient

Split batch with 1# of Maple & Bacon Smoked Candi Syrup added to half the batch after primary fermentation subsides.

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F

10 gallons distilled water using Beersmith's London water profile.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 20.8/1.085.

Update 5/28/2018
I transferred this beer to two secondaries today. Half was racked onto the Maple Bacon Candi Syrup. I'll probably let this go about a week or two then add the wood for aging.

Update 7/2/2018
These variants went into kegs tonight. These have been sitting on hickory since 6/2/2018. Smoke on these is noticeable, but doesn't dominate. The maple-bacon variant is interesting. The maple character is subtle. The bacon component is a bit harder to identify. I'm interested to see how it changes as it carbs.

Update 8/5/2018
Both variants got bottled today. I'm really happy with the way both of these turned out. I don't know if I'd use the maple bacon syrup again. It's super subtle and I don't think it really adds much to this beer. 


Tumbler for Cold-Smoking and Malting Grain

Equipment time! I stumbled across this post on Reddit by u/Bearded_and_Bored a little while back. At the time, I was toying with the idea of brewing a Chicha-inspired beer but wanted to take advantage of malting the corn rather than doing the chew and spit thing. I also love smoked beers and was thinking this design would work great for cold smoking my own malt at home.

The design is fairly simple here; a standard food-grade bucket for the container, a simple box frame to mount everything to, a two casters connected to a rotisserie motor to turn the bucket, and a few more smaller casters to keep everything properly aligned. A picture (in this case a video) is worth a thousand words, so check out Bearded and Bored's Reddit post and related YouTube video for more info. Mine is essentially the same design as his, it's just made out of metal tubing rather than 2x4s.

I recently used this for the first time to cold smoke some California Select 2-row and it seemed to work really well. Here's the process I followed:

  1. Add grain to the bucket. For the trial run, I used 6 pounds of California Select Malt. You want the grain to be able to move freely, so don't pack it full.
  2. Moisten the grain with RO, distilled, our some other de-chlorinated water source at the rate of 9.5ml of water per pound of grain. The water helps the smoke flavor and aroma "stick" to the grain. 
  3. Fire up your cold smoke source and turn on the motor. Total smoking time on my first batch was about 2.5 hours. 
  4. After smoking, transfer the grain to a paper grocery bag and let it mellow for at least a couple days before brewing. 
For the first go, I used hickory. Hickory can be pretty assertive, but I'm using it in a smoked porter and I think it'll be able to stand up to the smoke flavor.

It's probably worth mentioning, for my cold smoke generator, I use a homemade aquarium pump venturi-style one. It works fairly well and puts out quite a bit of smoke. There are lots of options here though, Google cold smoke generators for ideas. Ideally you want something that isn't going to add any color to the grain due to temperature.

At some point I'll try using this new piece of equipment to malt some corn and possibly other grain, I'm also planning on smoking grain with some different wood varieties. More on that later.


American Wild Brown 2018

>> Sunday, April 15, 2018

Today I'm brewing a variant of my American Wild Barrel-aged Brown base. Grain-wise, the biggest change is I went with half Pilsner and half German Pale malt for the base. Note: I'd intended to go 50/50 on Pilsner and Pale malt, but when I went to measure out my base malts, I realized I was out of Pilsner malt. So this version got 100% Pale for the base. All dark malts are being added during the sparge this time (previously, only the Carafa III Special was added during the sparge). I'm using a portion of US Goldings rather than all aged hops. Lastly, this 10 gallon batch is getting split between INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III and dregs I've grown up from some Casey Brewing and Blending bottles.

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

10 gallon batch
9.5# Avangard Pilsner
19# Avangard German Pale
3.0# 4 oz Weyerman Pale Wheat Malt
1.0# Crisp Crystal 60
1.0# Briess Chocolate 350L (During sparge)
1.0#  Flaked Oats
1.0#  Special Aromatic
1.0#  Spelt Malt
4 oz Carafa III (During sparge)
17g Aged Hops (60 mins)
17g US Holdings (60 mins)
INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III and Casey dregs (split batch)
Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 157F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp. Also, no aeration prior to pitching as I believe both of these cultures contain lactobacillus.

Water Profile:
Nothing fancy here. I filled my HLT with 2 gallons of distilled water and 8 gallons of carbon filtered tap water. Since this is a 10 gallon batch, the HLT was re ftfilled with the same radio after mash-in.

Brewing Notes
No real issues. It seemed like I was starting to get a stuck mash about 10 minutes in. I ended up adding a bunch of rice hulls and resetting the bed.

Update 4/17/2018
The Brett Barrel III half had about an inch off krausen yesterday morning and more last night. The Casey half had a tiny bit of foam here and there when I went to bed last night. It has a little more around the edges this morning, so it seems to be slowly getting going.

Update #2 4/17/2018
The Casey half was rolling after I got home and Brett Barrel III seems to be slowing down a bit now. I'm going to move both out of the basement and into a warmer area of the house for the remainder of primary.

Update 4/18/2018
The Casey half has really taken off and looks like it was close to needing a blowout last night despite the fact that it had quite a bit of head space.

Update 9/25/2018
I pulled a sample of each tonight. The Casey half is quite sour and more or less tastes ready to carb. I didn't take a pH reading, but it's pretty assertive. This one also showed some signs of sickness/ropiness back on April 26th when I pulled a very early sample.

The Brett Barrel III half is much less sour, but there's definitely some acidity there. There might be a touch of diacetyl there as well. This one probably needs to ride a couple more months. 

Update 12/1/2018
I transferred the Brett Barrel III half into my Solera today. I pulled about three gallons out of the Solera before transferring. The five from this batch weren't quite enough to fill it, so I topped off with a little bit of Flanders Red #4 w/Roeselare.

Update 2/10/2019
I kegged the Casey half yesterday. This beer is pretty intensely sour. I felt like I was picking up a little bit of diacetyl. It also seems noticeably more sour than it did in September. Pedio will produce diacetyl which brett will convert into other compounds, and I think this is likely the source of both the diacetyl and the increased sourness. I went ahead and pressurized the keg to seal, but not really enough to force carb. I'm going to let this condition for a while at room temperature, hopefully allowing the diacetyl to get converted.

Update 7/3/2019
I'm finally getting back around on the Casey portion. I pulled a sample the other day and I didn't pick up on any diacetyl. The beer is still pretty sour, but it actually seems to me like it has rounded a bit.