Lager Split Batch

>> Sunday, December 20, 2020

Today I'm brewing a 10 gallon batch to test out my newly acquired Blichmann 20 gallon Mash Tun. The recipe today is based on the Bierstadt Slow Pour Pilsner recipe I brewed a while back. This one will be a split batch with 5 gallons going on Saflager 34/70, and 5 gallons going on White Labs 940 Mexican Lager. I'm also trying a different base malt. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

Batch size: 10 gallons
Target OG: 1.047
Target FG: 1.012
IBU: 33

18.0# Great Western Pure Idaho Pilsner
1.0# Weyermann Acidulated Malt
2.0g BrewTan B (dissolved in warm water, mash)
56.6g Hallertau Mittelfrüh (FWH), 3.1% AA
113.2g Hallertau Mittelfrüh (70 min) 3.1% AA
84.88g Hallertau Mittelfrüh (5 min) 3.1% AA
Wyeast Nutrient
9.32g BCAA (Dissolved in water or wort, 5 min)
1 Whirlfloc
Saflager W-34/70
WLP 940 Mexican Lager

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 9-9.5 gallons, then top up to a boil volume of 11.75 gallons.

90 min boil. 34/70 half gets chilled to 47F, and ferments at 47F. The WLP940 half gets chilled to 49F, then I'll bump it up 1F per day for the first three days. 

Perform diacetyl rest when gravity ~1.017.

Water Profile - For each gallon of RO brewing water, add:
0.38g Gypsum
0.32g Epsom Salts
0.49g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No major issues, but I'm pooped. During the boil, I went ahead and kegged both of my Fruited Farmhouse Ale (Peach/Apricot and Blackberry). 

I added about 1.5ml of phosphoric acid, pretty much because I was in autopilot. Because I used acid malt, I definitely didn't need as much phosphoric acid as I'd normally use, so the mash pH was lower than I usually shoot for. Here are some of the vitals:
  • Beginning mash pH 4.99.
  • Mash pH of 5.10 right before pulling decoction.
  • OG 1.052
OG was definitely a little closer to target this time. The mash tun worked well but I did notice the wort didn't clear as much as with my original mash tun. I suspect it's because even though this was a 10 gallon batch, the grain bill wasn't huge and therefore the grain bed wasn't very deep. I had a great hop cone at the end of the whirlpool. I'm currently chilling down to my pitching temperatures.

Update 12/22/2020
I pitched the yeast yesterday morning. Both halves are actively chugging away this morning.

Update 12/29/2020
Both fermentors are chugging along. I decided not to do a diacetyl rest on the 34/70 half, per the original recipe from BYOB. Both will probably stay in the fermentors for at least another week.


Sour Pale Ale

>> Sunday, November 15, 2020

I've been busy with a bunch of projects lately so I haven't been brewing much. Some projects were planned...we decided to buy a hot tub, so we've been busy getting ready for that...patio... electrical hookups, etc. Other things weren't so planned; my son-in-law had a stroke back on Labor Day. At first it was touch and go and we weren't sure he was even going to survive the night. Thankfully he did and his recovery has been going really well. We moved them into our house for a while so he can continue his recovery, so there have been lots of projects related to that effort. Next, I decided to build a new brewstand. More details will come on that later, but this is the inaugural brew on Brewstand 2.0. 

If you've spent much time perusing my blog, you've probably noticed I'm really interested in sour beers. I also love hop-forward beers, so the marriage of sour plus fruity and citrusy hops is something I love. The challenge is lactobacillus isn't very tolerant of hops; not just high IBUs, but hops in general. The primary issue is hop oils coat the outer membrane of lactobacillus, rendering them incapable of producing lactic acid. So, what's a sour hop head to do?

Option one is kettle souring, where all souring is done up front before the boil so that the hops don't suppress lactic acid production. No problem, I've used this method in the past and other than the fact it spreads your brew day across multiple days (e.g. mash, pasteurize, pitch lactobacillus, wait a few days until desired pH is reached, then continue with your boil), it works fairly well. 

Another option, and one that I consider cheating and inferior to kettle souring, is dosing your beer with food grade lactic acid in order to reach your desired acidity level. In my opinion, this results in a very one dimensional sour character that basically lacks complexity.

Enter a third option, newly discovered yeast (Lachancea) that are capable of fermenting malt-based sugars while also producing lactic acid during the fermentation process. This yeast is from Lallemand and goes by the brand name Philly Sour because it was discovered in a Philadelphia graveyard. I'm excited to try it out in the beer I'm brewing today which is essentially a hop focused pale ale base.

If you're interested in brewing with this yeast, I highly recommend checking out the info on Lallemand's website, especially the pitch rate calculator. While this yeast is capable of producing lactic acid, the amount produced seems to be highly influenced by pitch rate and environmental conditions. High glucose content in the wort tends to favor lactic acid production. Over or under pitching both negatively impact lactic acid production, so this is one time that you really have to pay attention to what you're doing and take good notes.

Here's the recipe I'm brewing today. As I've noted before, bitterness and sourness tend to clash, so I'm looking for lots of hop flavor and aroma, but minimal bitterness.

Target OG 1.060

6.0# Pure Idaho Pilsner
2.0# Mecca grade La Monta
0.5# Castle Chateau Munich Malt 
6oz Weyermann Cara Munich III
1g BrewTan B (mash)
0.75# Corn Sugar (Boil)
3.0g Mosaic Cryo (20 min)
14g BRU-1 (15 min)
3.0g Mosaic Cryo (5 min)
1.0g Loral Cryo (5 min)
14 g BRU-1 (5 min)
4.66g BCAA (5 min)
7g BRU-1 (0 min)
7g Amarillo Cryo (0 min)
1g Loral Cryo (0 min)
3.5g Mosaic Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
3.5g Amarillo Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
7g BRU-1 (Whirlpool 170F)
1g Loral Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
57g BRU-1 (dry hop 8 days)
28g Citra Cryo (dry hop 8 days)
14g Mosaic Cryo (dry hop 8 days)
14.2g Philly Sour (based on 1.060 OG)
Wyeast Nutrient

Mash at 152F, 90 min boil. My plan was to start fermenting at 67F, then ramp up to 1F starting on day 3 for four days. I currently have my fruited farmhouse cold crashing to try to get the fruit to settle out, so my fermentation fridges are tied up. After re-reading my notes from the Philly Sour webinar, they indicated this yeast does better at the higher end of the temp range (67-77F) so I think I'm just going to let this go at room temp.

Water Profile
To 10 gallons RO water, add:
10.0g Gypsum
0.3g Epsom Salt
5.4g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes

No issues. I decided to try to include more details from my brew day, so assuming I don't forget, I'll start including pH readings and similar things in my notes.
  • ~1.5ml of phosphoric acid used to acidify mash.
  • pH read 5.15 about 5 minutes into mash.
  • pH read 5.24 about 45 minutes into mash.
  • First runnings gravity ~19.8 brix (1.080)
  • Pre-boil gravity 10 brix (1.039)
  • Post-boil gravity 15 brix (1.059)
  • Aerated at 0.5L/minute for one minute.
  • Yeast pitched at 60F; pitched dry directly into wort.
Update 11/16/2020
Tilt is showing a very slight gravity drop (1.058) and an occasional "glug" this morning. I've seen reports of fermentation taking up to 3 days to start showing signs of fermentation, so things seem to be headed in a positive direction.

Update 11/17/2020

Fermentation was quite a bit more active by end of day yesterday. I timed the "glugs" at about one every 2.5 seconds. Just checked it this morning and the gravity is down to 1.047. After watching the Lallemand webinar for this yeast and reading several posts about it on Reddit, I was expecting this yeast to be a very slow starter. It does seem to be a bit less vigorous compared to a lot of typical ale strains, but it's chugging along better than I was anticipating.

Update 11/17/2020 - Part 2
My buddy Devin asked what the pH was at, so I decided to pull a sample. It's currently sitting at 3.39. I tasted a small sample and it's noticeably sour but not super aggressive. I'm really interested in seeing what is like after fermentation is complete.

Update 11/21/2020
Fermentation is still moving along. Gravity is down to ~1.028 this morning, so the overall duration of fermentation is definitely longer than typical. Things seemed fairly standard the first 36 hours especially with the initial 10 point drop. Then the rate of the gravity drop seemed to slow, but not stall; kind of like the proverbial tortoise. Fermentation seems a bit more active this morning, but I suspect the 10-ish day fermentation period is going to be accurate.

Update 11/22/2020
Gravity was down to 1.014 today so I decided to start the dry hop a little early.

Update 12/7/2020
I kegged this beer tonight. Gravity finished at 1.009 and pH at 3.25. I tasted a sample and it's quite sour and there's tons of citrus and tropical fruit character. Flavor-wise, it reminds me of orange juice blended with pineapple juice.
Bitterness is pretty low, but I think it could be lower. The next time I brew it, I'll probably move everything back to 5 minute and later additions, but I'm going to hold off judgement until I get to try a carbed and cold sample. 


Kalua-Style Pork

>> Thursday, October 08, 2020

Here's a recipe I did about a month ago and it turned out really well. Our son-in-law Tyrone recently suffered from a stroke and I'm making this dish especially for him as a welcome home treat. It was a scary situation but his rehab is going amazing and he's about to be discharged from the hospital, so I'm hoping this will taste better than the hospital food he's been eating.

This recipe is based on one posted on the Green Egg Blog. Don't skip the banana leaves; they add complexity.

  • 1 Pork Butt - 10-12 pounds with the bone in, or smaller if you can only find boneless
  • 2-4T Alaea Sea Salt (aka Hawaiian Red Sea Salt) - This is critical as a lot of the flavor is derived from the salt
  • 1T Liquid Smoke
  • Banana leaves
  • Butcher's Twine
  1. Use a sharp knife to score the pork in a criss-cross pattern, cutting about 3/4" into the pork shoulder.
  2. Coat with liquid smoke*, then coat with Alaea sea salt. Don't be afraid to use more than 2T of salt.
  3. Wrap in banana leaves and secure with butcher’s twine. Note: To prepare the banana leaves, you'll want to remove the central stem/vein, then pass the leaves over a burner until they've become shiny and pliable.
  4. Smoke over charcoal and mesquite at 250F. After 2 hours, wrap tightly in foil then return to the smoker for the duration of the cook.
  5. Plan on a minimum of 1 hour per pound cooking time, then check temp and continue at 250F until you reach an internal temp of 190-200F.
  6. Pull the meat off the smoker and allow it to rest in the foil for at least an hour, but you can also wrap it in a towel and put it in a cooler for several hours.
  7. Pull pork for serving and reserve the juices…you’ll want to pour the juices back over your pulled pork.
*Normally I’d say it’s sacrilege to use liquid smoke on true BBQ. This is one case where I'd say it's ok. Basically it's just adding a little complexity, plus the banana leaves will reduce the smoke character.

The first time we made this, we served it as sliders on Hawaiian rolls, but it's also great over rice.


Roggenbier 2020

>> Sunday, August 16, 2020

Today I'm brewing up a style I've never brewed before, a Roggenbier. Roggenbier is a historical style that's essentially a Dunkelweizen brewed with rye rather than wheat. Dunkelweizens typically have prominent yeast-derived flavor and aroma consisting of clove, banana, and/or bubblegum. These flavors and aromas are also common in Roggenbiers. This may seem like sacrilege, but I'm not a huge fan of these kinds of yeast character; one Dunkelweizen every three or four years is plenty for me. Fortunately, it's also very appropriate to do clean lagered versions of Roggenbiers, and that's the goal with this beer.

One thing I'm really excited about is the majority of grain in this batch is from Mecca Grade Estate Malt. I've been wanting to try out their malt for a while. My buddy Chaz at Beer Nut recently won a giveaway from Mecca Grade and he hooked me up with a bunch of their Rimrock Rye Malt. Originally I was planning on doing a re-brew of my Sour Rye beer from 2014, but a Roggenbier will have a much shorter turnaround time and should be a great beer heading into late summer and the fall. Beer Nut also brought in a bunch of the other Mecca Grade malts, so I picked up a full sack of Lamonta. If you've never brewed with rye malt before, it can get really gummy. Rice hulls can help and they're cheap, so save yourself some heartache and use some. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

4.75# Mecca Grade Rimrock Rye
2.06# Mecca Grade Lamonta Pale
2.06# Briess Bonlander Munich
0.25# Simpsons DRC
0.25# Weyermann Caramunich III
1.0g BrewTan B (Mash)
Rice Hulls - a couple handfuls to help with recirculation and lautering
0.25# Carafa Special I (cold steeped overnight, then strained and added to boil)
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
4.66g BCAA (10 min)
10g Saaz (10 min)
10g Saaz (Whirlpool)
Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

Single infusion mash at 152F. 90 minute boil. Start fermentation at 51F then raise temps a couple degrees over a couple days.

Water Profile
To 10 gallons of RO water, add:
1.72g Epsom Salt
4.57g Baking Soda
10.15g Chalk

Brewing Notes
No issue so far. The color is great in the mash, deep orange approaching copper. After adding the Carafa Special I cold steep, it should be a beautiful deep copper color. No issues the remainder of the brew day. OG ended up at 13 Brix (1.051). My target was 1.050, so pretty dang close. With the summer heat, I was only able to chill down to 70F, so it'll continue to chill in the fermentation chamber before I pitch the yeast.

Update 8/17/2020
I aerated and pitched yeast this morning. When I did my yeast starter, I split a single smack pack in half and stepped them up to a total volume of about 1.5L on stir plates. Both had grown up substantially, so I hope fermentation takes off rather quickly.

Update 8/18/2020
Fermentation is pretty active this morning. The Tilt is showing a drop of five points although it's hard to say if that's really accurate when fermentation is rolling. It's just good seeing minimal lag.

Update 8/19/2020
Tilt is reading ~1.035 today. It started off reading a little high, 1.055 (compared to the refractometer 13 Brix/1.051). Regardless, fermentation is moving right along. I've allowed the temp to free rise to 53F as of today. I'll leave it here until I'm ready to start the diacetyl rest.

Update 8/21/2020
Tilt is reading 1.024 this morning. I'll start raising the temps for the diacetyl rest at about 1.018-1.020, so later today or possibly tomorrow morning. Here's a screen cap showing the progress so far:

Update 8/24/2020

I allowed the fermentation temperature to free rise up to 65F starting 8/22. Tilt is currently reading 65F and 1.012.

Update 9/9/2020
This beer went in the keg today. It finished out right about 1.011/1.012 for an ABV ~5%.


NZ Pilsner 2020

>> Sunday, July 26, 2020

I'm breaking in my new 15 gallon Spike Brew Kettle by brewing another New Zealand Pilsner. This one uses a bit of Maris Otter in place of German Pale (because that's what I had on hand). I'm trying out Saflager S-189 on this batch, and I'm also using a little less Loral than I did the last time I brewed this beer. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

6.75# Viking Pilsner Malt
0.75# Crisp Maris Otter
0.3125# Weyermann Cara Red
0.25# Pale Wheat Malt
1.0g BrewTan B
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
4.66g BCAA
14g Motueka (1 min)
14g Rakau (1 min)
14g Waimea (1 min)
4g Loral Cryohops (1 min)
21g Motueka (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Rakau (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Waimea (Whirlpool @170F)
4g Loral Cryohops (Whirlpool @170F)
(2) Saflager S-189
Yeast Nutrient
28g Motueka (Dryhop)
28g Rakau (Dryhop)
28g Waimea (Dryhop)
7g Loral Cryohops (Dryhop)

Mash at 150F, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 47F then ramp up to 52F over a few days.

Water Profile - To 10 gallons of distilled water, add:
4.0g Gypsum
2.8g Epsom Salt
4.8g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No issues. I was a little worried that I might have a different boil off rate compared to my keggle, but it wasn't too different. OG came in at 1.052 which is exactly the same as the last time I brewed this recipe.

Update 7/27/2020
I had to let the wort chill overnight to get it down to 47F, so the yeast wasn't pitched until this afternoon. The wort was aerated at 0.5L/minute for 2 minutes. The yeast was rehydrated before pitching.

Update 7/29/2020
Fermentation is a little slower starting than I'm used to, and/or than I prefer. The Tilt started out bouncing back and forth between 1.052 and 1.053, so the actual gravity was likely right on the cusp. It held pretty constant at 1.052 most of yesterday then started reading 1.051 early evening yesterday. I started fermentation out fairly cold for this strain so I've been allowing the temp to slowly rise. Hopefully it'll take off soon. 

Update 7/30/2020
Per the Tilt, gravity is down to 1.048 this morning and I'm hearing a glug, glug, glug sound coming out of my fermentation chamber, so activity has definitely picked up. Temp is set at 52F right now and I'll likely keep it there until the diacetyl rest.

Update 7/31/2020
Things are really moving along this morning with gravity readings down to 1.038.

Update 8/2/2020
Gravity is down to 1.020 this morning. I went ahead and dropped the dry hops and started raising the temps for the diacetyl rest. Normally I'd wait to dry hop until after the d-rest, but there's been a be lot of talk about yeast biotransformation lately, usually more related to brewing hazy IPAs. My understanding is not all yeast are capable of biotransformation, or at least they're not all equal in their capability. It's a fairly complex process that's been studied quite a bit recently, likely due to the popularity of hazy IPAs. Long story short, some yeast are capable of transforming hop compounds into different compounds, adding complexity to the finished beer. I've brewed this beer several times, so I thought I'd see if I notice any difference by dry hopping a little earlier than "normal". Here's a link to a Lallemand article on the subject.

Update 8/3/2020
Tilt is currently reading 1.015, but has read as low as 1.012. Current temp is 65F. I'll let fermentation finish out then hook up my cold-crash assembly and dropping the temps in order to get as much yeast and hop debris to drop out of suspension.

Update 8/11/2020
I started cold crashing this beer over the weekend. Gravity finished out right about 1.010 - 1.011, so ~5.5% ABV.

Update 8/16/2020
This beer went into the keg today.


American Lager 2020 - Re-brew Experiment

>> Sunday, July 12, 2020

An unfortunate thing happened this past week; both my Kellerbier and my NZ Pilsner kegs kicked, leaving me with only Doppelbock and Adambier on tap. The Doppelbock and Adambier are both really good, but they're not exactly what most people would consider easy-drinking summertime beers. So, today I'm doing some experimentation by re-brewing my American Lager recipe from earlier this year. I thought this beer turned out really well and I'd sent some off to NHC in hopes it would score well. Unfortunately, COVID reared its ugly head and NHC was cancelled. I ended up entering this beer in two subcategories at our local Lagerpalooza competition, and it did pretty well taking Silver for American Lager and Gold for International Pale Lager, It's also been a favorite for one of my sons-in-law. I like it as well, especially as a refreshing warm weather beer.

For today, I scaled the recipe up ever so slightly so that hopefully I end up with a post-boil volumne right about 6 gallons. The reason is I'm planning on splitting this into two fermenters, pitching one with Saflager 34/70 (reportedly the same strain as Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager) and the other half with WLP940 Mexican Lager Yeast. WLP940 is a strain I haven't used before, but it seems like a pretty good choice for the style.

7.56# Rahr American 6-row Malt
0.24# Briess Crystal 10L
0.5# Rice Syrup Solids (5 min)
0.5# Corn Sugar (5 min)
1.0g BrewTan B (dissolved in warm water, mash)
1.5ml Hopshot (60 min) - This is scaled up a bit higher as I thought the previous version could use a touch more bitterness.
18g Fuggle (1 min) - Scaled up a bit more to try to get a touch more hop flavor/aroma contribution
Wyeast Nutrient
4.66g BCAA (Dissolved in warm water, 5 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Saflager 34/70
WLP940 Mexican Lager

Protein rest at 122F -130F for 20 min, then raise to 149F for the duration of the mash. Collect ~7.75-8 gallons. 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
No issues. I didn't check 1st running or pre-boil gravity, but post-boil came out ~11.8 brix (1.046). I was able to chill down to 65F then I transferred to two 5 gallon fermenters and put each in one of my fermentation fridges where they'll continue to chill down to 52F. Next I'll aerate and pitch yeast.

Update 7/15/2020
Things are moving right along. Both beers had really fluffy bright white krausen with little waves and peaks for about 48 hours. Today it's dropped to a uniform thickness of about an inch. I didn't use my Tilts in these beers, only because I completely forgot to wash and sanitize them.

Update 7/20/2020
Things are progressing along. As I mentioned on 7/15, I didn't use my Tilts on this batch, despite me finding them extremely useful for timing diacetyl rests. I noticed both krausens starting to drop, so this time, I allowed the temp to free-rise to 65F starting on 7/18.

Update 7/26/2020
I kegged both of these today. Both got about 5ml of Biofine in the keg, then the kegs went into the keezer. I'll probably wait at least a week before tapping.

Update 8/3/2020
I pulled samples off both kegs this past weekend. The 34/70 half is very much like the first batch, a very clean and refreshing beer. 
The WLP940 half is nice as well and definitely has some different flavor and aroma components. Interestingly, I swear I'm picking up a very slightly skunky component...similar to Mexican lagers packaged in clear glass bottles. This character is absent in the 34/70 half which has me scratching my head. Both beers were fermented in 5-gallon glass carboys, each in one of my two glass door fermentation chambers. Neither were directly knowingly exposed to UV light, the usual culprit when it comes to skunking. I'm wondering if what I'm perceiving as skunky is due to an association in my mind that's tied to this particular yeast strain. I'll probably end up re-brewing this and use my SS Brewtech fermenter and see if I get a similar character.


Fruited Farmhouse Ale 2020

>> Friday, July 03, 2020

Today I'm brewing a Farmhouse Ale, which can be a hard style to define. When I think of a Farmhouse Ale, I think of things along the lines of traditional Saisons, which were lower ABV than a lot of modern examples. In my opinion Farmhouse Ales hit on the following points:
  • Expressive yeast character.
  • Overall rustic rather than refined character.
  • Despite the rustic character, it's still crisp and finishes dry and refreshing, and well balanced.
  • Usually highly carbonated; effervescent.
That still leaves quite a bit of room for interpretation and creativity which is one of the reasons that it's a fun style to brew. This is one I will most likely bottle rather than put on tap, as I'll want to cellar some and see how it developes over time. This will also be a low-ish ABV beer, so along the lines of a table-strength Saison. I've used the Saison Blend yeast before and really liked it's subtle "Belgian" character combined with a bit of Brett funk. Here's some info from Wyeast:
Species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus & Brettanomyces blend
Profile: A blend of two saison strains and Brettanomyces creates a dry and complex ale. Classic earthy and spicy farmhouse character meets tropical and stone fruit esters. Aging brings elevated Brett flavor. Expect high attenuation with this blend.
Notes: This blend contains Wyeast yeast strains that have been classified as Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus using rapid PCR analysis. These strains carry the STA1 gene, which is the “signature” gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus and will be found in all diastaticus strains. Flocculation: Low
Attenuation: 80-90%
Temp Range: 65-80°F
Alcohol Tolerance: 12%
I'm planning on fruiting this beer but I haven't picked the fruit quite yet. It depends how my fruit harvest goes, but it'll likely involve tart cherries, raspberries, or blackberries.

The recipe today is based on the Fermentery Form Extra Farmhouse Ale recipe published on Craft Beer & Brewing. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

5.58# Viking Pilsner malt
1.50# Chit malt
2.12# Weyermann Vienna
2.12# Spelt malt
58g Aged hops (90 minutes)
81g Willamette (90 minutes)
Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 3031 Saison-Brett Blend
Fruit TBD, secondary

Mash at 148F, 90 min boil, chill to 65F and pitch yeast then allow to free-rise.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at ~15.5 (1.061), which is a little higher than I was shooting for, but it's not too high. 

Update 7/6/2020
Fermentation seems to be rolling right along. As I mentioned above, I chilled to ~65F then brought it inside and it's been fermenting at room temp in my basement office, that's consistently around 70-72F. Fermentation does seem to be slowing a bit today with the krausen dropping from a high of about 2.5 inches to around 1 inch. Aroma in my office is quite fruity and tropical in character.

Update 8/3/2020
This beer is still in primary and there are faint traces of bubbles on top, possibly from brett working slowly, or possibly just CO2 coming out of solution. I'm going to transfer half onto 7.5# of blackberries (3# per gallon) and the other half onto 8# of a combination of peaches and apricots (3.2# per gallon). The target here is very much a fruit forward beer. I'm most worried about the blackberries since they tend to be a delicate flavor and this will be my first time using them. 

Update 8/10/2020
I started preparing the fruit tonight. One half will get 5.7# of Utah-grown peaches plus 3.0# apricot puree. The other half gets 4.0# of my home-grown blackberries plus 3.0# blackberry puree. The purees won't be added until I transfer the beer, but the fresh fruit was treated tonight. Both got treated with ~1/8t potassium metabisulfite dissolved in 1/2c RO water. This is a method used by several commercial breweries to sanitize raw fruit and it seems to really preserve the fresh fruit character. This will be allowed to off gas overnight before the beer is racked on top.

Update 8/11/2020
Beer was transferred from primary onto fruit this morning.  No issues, pics here:

Update 10/28/2020
I moved both of these out of my basement to start cold crashing and hopefully drop the fruit. The fruit had started settling out on its own, but it's still loose. The more compact it is, the less loss there will be so I'll let it sit cold as long as needed. I pulled samples of these a few weeks ago and really liked where they're headed. There's still a fair amount of bitterness but that will continue to evolve. Despite being dark purple, the Blackberry version is, as expected, fairly subtle berry character despite a heavy fruit addition. The Apricot/Peach version is bright peach flavor and aroma. Hopefully I'll be able to transfer these in the not too distant future.


Barrel Rehab 101

>> Tuesday, June 30, 2020

For today's write-up, I decided to document my process for rehabbing oak barrels. The primary issue I'm trying to solve here is re-hydrating a dry barrel. When barrels sit dry, the oak literally shrinks allowing small gaps to form between the staves. The result is the barrel is no longer water-tight. 

I have used this process on two 30 gallon barrels that sat dry for a little over a year. If you've sunk some cash into a barrel and aren't quite ready to turn it into a planter or use it for smoking wood, this process might help you out.

The TLDR version is the rehab process involves multiple steaming sessions, possibly tightening the hoops, and the French method of re-hydrating. The goal is to slowly swell the wood with steam until it's water-tight or close to it. Then, finish it off with the French Method before filling with beer.

First off, a couple assumptions. Your barrel needs to be in somewhat decent shape. So preferably no broken/cracked staves, no mold, no extreme warping, and hopefully it's still intact (versus a pile of hoops and staves). If your barrel meets that criteria, read on. Also worth noting, this process will reduce the spirit character in your barrel, moving it closer to being a neutral barrel. Each steaming session and fill is going to extract some of the wood and spirit character. If you're planning on doing a bourbon barrel stout, you may need to season the barrel before filling. If you're doing a sour beer, that's probably not a major concern.

One more thing, if you've never been to Utah, most of the state has very low humidity. Annually, the humidity is rarely higher than ~15% unless it's right after a rainstorm. According to my Nest thermostat, the inside humidity is usually right around 30%; that's with a humidifier running during the winter and a dozen-ish  houseplants. Generally speaking, the lower the relative humidity, the faster an empty barrel will dry out. 

Special Equipment
  • Barrel steamer - I highly recommend one of these for anyone that uses barrels and/or brews sour beers. Wallpaper steamers work great for these and you can often find them on local classifieds. Use RO or distilled water in the steamer to avoid mineral buildup.
  • 3# Sledge - Used for coopering. I bought one at Lowe's, I think for less than $15. Actual cooper's hammers are available, but they usually start at around $75. This is really only needed if you need to tighten hoops and maybe if you run into leaking issues after filling.
  • Cold chisel - Used as a hoop driver. Again, a cold chisel from Lowe's is pretty cheap, while an actual hoop driver is around $75. Same as the hammer, you really only need this if you need to tighten the hoops. I used my benchtop grinder to flatten the cutting edge so that it doesn't slip off the hoop. Word of caution, use eye protection. 
  • Water - Use RO or distilled water for steaming, and always, always, always use de-chlorinated water for rinsing, filling, etc.
What I'm Starting With
This particular barrel is a 15 gallon American oak barrel coopered by The Barrel Mill, and has a #3 char. I acquired it from a friend that works with Sugar House Distillery.
  • Originally filled with Rye Whiskey.
  • Prior to my initial fill, the top 50% of the staves were waxed.
  • My initial fill was an Adambier in 2/2019
  • Adambier was emptied on 7/1/2019 and it's sat empty and bunged since then. 
  • Rehab began on 5/13/2020, so the barrel sat dry for 10 months
The first thing I did was inspect the barrel to make sure there weren't any major issues. Things like mold and structural issues are what I'm looking for. In this case, there were no signs of mold, no off flavors, and the barrel still smells like whiskey...all good signs that it's worth the effort to rehab. Here are some "before" shots to give you an idea of the condition of my barrel.
Shrinkage between staves and head

Separation between waxed staves

Gap between hoop and staves

Rehab Diary
Session 1, 5/13/2020 12PM - I'm stuck at home due to Covid-19 and I ordered a pouch of Bootleg Biology's Spring 2020 Sour Solera blend yesterday, so I decided it was a good time to start getting this barrel in usable shape. The primary issue is there's visibly noticeable shrinkage. 

I started out rehab with a 30 minute steaming session.  No real issues during the first session other than there are visible leaks between the staves. 

Water seeping out now between staves

At the end of session 1, I re-bunged the barrel. 

Session 1 results - definitely not water-tight

Session 2, 5/14/2020 8AM - I'm doing a 45 minute steam session this morning. 

No issues during this session. I'm still seeing leaking when the steam condenses. I forgot to take a picture of the paper towel under the barrel this time, but it was basically the same as after session 1. Depending on how things go after the next session, I may try tightening the hoops a bit. On the plus side, the barrel is  noticeably heavier compared to before steam session 1.

Session 3, 5/15/2020 8AM - I'm doing another 45 minutes for session 3.

Session 3 - getting closer to water-tight
There was a huge improvement after session 3. The paper towel under the barrel only shows a few drips. Compare that to sessions 1 and 2 where the paper towel was completely saturated. Spaces between the staves and hoops that I was seeing before session 1 have all but disappeared.
Exterior barrel temp after 45 minutes
I'll probably do one more steaming session before a French Method session. 

Session 4, 5/16/2020 8AM - Today I'm doing a 1 hour steaming session. 

No issues, and based on the way the paper towel looks, no leaks this time.

Clean and dry paper towel!
Since it seems the barrel has sealed itself back up, I'm going to pause the steaming sessions. For the next session, I'll do a modified French Method, where I stand the barrel on end and fill the head with hot water, flip, and repeat. After that, I'll fill the barrel with hot water and check for leaks. If all goes well, the barrel will be ready to receive beer. I'm planning on brewing Memorial Day weekend, so this barrel should be getting filled in the next couple of weeks.

Session 4, 6/14/2020 - On 6/8, I brewed the rest of the beer that will be going into this barrel. Since it's been a month since the last steaming session, I'm starting off with that today just to be safe.

The steaming session went fine and I followed it up with the French Method (partial fill with hot water, then flip on end and fill the head with hit water, soak for 15 minutes, flip and repeat). I then ended up filling the barrel with water and found a very slow leak near one of the heads where the head meets the chime. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do much with it before I left town for a week.

Session 5, 6/27/2020 - This session is kind of an exception rather than a rule. As I mentioned, I've used this process on several barrels including two 30 gallon barrels that were very dry. Normally the barrel would be ready to fill after session 3 or 4, but this particular barrel needed some extra TLC. The problem I ran into here was the leak was so slow that it was difficult to see where exactly it was leaking. These barrels use barrel wax in the joint between the chime and the head. Some of the wax had seeped out during the steaming sessions, so I reasoned perhaps the loss of wax was causing the leak. I ended up melting some paraffin into the outside joint with my heat gun and tested again. This seemed to fix things with the barrel partially filled, so I tried filling the barrel again. Unfortunately, when full, the slow leak reappeared. The good news is that after the paraffin application it was easy to see it was leaking out of the end grain of one of the staves. This kind of capillary leak seems to be relatively common and is usually pretty easily fixed. If it's really slow like mine was, sometimes you can fix it with a hammer, a dull straight chisel, and a couple well placed blows. Note: the chisel used for this is smaller than the one I use as a hoop driver; this one is about 1/2" wide. Essentially you're creating a dam by collapsing the capillary. If it's worse or the leak reappears, you might have to go the wedge route. If you have to go that route, here's a link to an excellent video from Barrel Builders that shows how to install wedges. Anyway, long story short, the barrel is now water-tight and ready to be filled. It's currently filled with holding solution (solution containing potassium metabisulfite + citric acid). I should also mention, I'm planning on doing the Solera method on this barrel, so I went ahead and waxed the heads when I was trying to fix the leak. The effectiveness of waxing is debatable, but the intent is to reduce oxygen permeability of the thinner oak (thinner compared to wine barrels). Once I'm ready to fill it, I'll rinse with de-chlorinated water before racking the beer for aging.


Sour Brown Solera

>> Sunday, May 24, 2020

Memorial Day brew session! Today I'm brewing another beer for a Solera. This one is inspired by Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett. This is for a 10 gallon batch and will go into barrel #02

12.0 # German Munich
6.0 # German Pilsner
2.0 # Chit Malt
1.0 # Flaked Oats
1.0. # Special B
1.0 # Carafa II
0.5 # Pale Chocolate Malt
56g Aged Hops (60 min)
INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III
Wyeast Nutrient
2.0 # D-180 Candi Syrup (rack onto syrup in secondary when pitching sour bugs
Bootleg Biology Spring Solera 2020 (secondary)

Mash at 158F for 60 min. Ferment at room temp.

Brewing Notes
I haven't brewed for awhile, so it was a good brew day. No issues. OG came in at ~17 brix (1.068). I'm fermenting this at room temp in a snake keg.

Batch #1 Readings

Update 6/8/2020
Batch #1 has been moving right along. I was seeing positive pressure in the airlock within a couple hours of pitching the year, and fermentation was extremely active the next morning. I'm planning on doing another 10 gallons tonight so I'll have enough to fill the barrel. Batch #1 will get transferred to kegs until the barrel is ready to fill. Batch #2 will then be transferred right onto the yeast cake.

Update 6/9/2020
I brewed another 10 gallons on 6/8. As indicated, I transferred the 10 gallons from batch #1 to kegs then racked batch #2 onto the yeast cake. I finished around 10pm and by morning the fermentation was extremely active. I swapped out the airlock for a blowoff, and my blowoff container literally looked like it was boiling. I forgot to get my first runnings gravity, but pre and post boil readings were just a hair higher than batch #1.

Update 7/19/2020
Barrel was filled today. I'd been holding Batch #1 in two cornies while batch #2 fermented. The barrel was filled with one of the cornies, all of batch #2, plus a little from the second batch #1 corny in order to fill it. I'm anticipating some blowoff and plan to top off in the near future.

Update 7/20/2020
I'm seeing a decent amount of activity this morning; no blowoff yet, but I'm seeing about 12 bubbles per 10 seconds out of my blowoff assembly.

Update 7/21/2020
Bubble frequency has increased to about 19 per 10 seconds today. It also looks like I've had a little bit if blowoff as the Iodophor solution is much darker today, suggesting some of the beer has made its way through the blowoff assembly. Aroma is quite fruity with a touch of whiskey; overall quite pleasant.

Update 7/22/2020
There was definitely some blowoff in the last 24 hours. Thankfully it was pretty minimal, so not a ton of loss, but I'd guesstimate 4-6 ounces of beer has made its way into my blowoff reservoir. So nothing major, but there's definitely active fermentation taking place. 

Update 7/27/2020
Fermentation seems to have slowed back down. I'll probably give it a couple more days then swap out the blowoff for a silicone bung.

Update 4/28/2021
Pulled a sample today. Pleasant typical brown character with a hint of roast and some dark chocolate and cocoa notes. I didn't take a pH reading but it's pleasantly sour. If I had to guess, I'd say it's in the neighborhood of 3.35. Seems like there is a little bit of spirit character coming through, which kind of surprises me considering all the steaming sessions this barrel went through to prep it. Overall I'm pretty happy with the direction this is going, but I think we're still a few months out on the first pull.


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.