Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#38 Rye Ale #2 - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 6.0%
IBU: 36
Serving Temp: 38F
Carbonation: 2.6 vol
Grade: B

Rye Ale #2 is in the books.  Or rather my glass, I try to keep it away from books.  It's substantially different from #1; better yes, but not in the way I expected.  I missed my mark by a pretty wide margin, but the brew was clean and the beer is enjoyable in spite of itself.

To start with, the appearance is a surprisingly clear amber.  It seems the protein that gives wheat and rye ales their characteristic cloud has settled out since I kegged this batch several weeks ago.  It's also slightly lighter than I expected.  Whatever, appearance never really means much to me except as a clue to what's inside.

The aroma is mostly hops with pine and pineapple leading the way, and an herbal undercurrent rounding it out.  I really didn't expect it to be so fruity.  When I added the Columbus dry hop, I underestimated its citrusy qualities, hoping primarily for the pine side.  Lesson learned.

As I take my first sip, the taste seems to be dominated by again pineapple and grapefruit over a neutral malt base.  It's not clear whether this fruitiness is coming from the hops or the yeast, but it soon fades, indicating it was probably the aroma hops.  It's about this time that I notice how thick the beer is.  It's not sweet--actually it tastes quite dry, with a crispness (in a sense) you would expect from a dry lager--but there's a surprising amount of viscosity; it makes for an odd pairing.  Then as I swallow, a different set of flavors emerge.  The malt flavor come forward, with a bit of light toast and rye spiciness, then the hop bitterness dries it all up.  I'm really digging the finish; it's much closer to what I originally imagined.

I guess this beer came out closer to what I expected from the first batch than what I had planned for this batch.  The malts flavors are nice, but you have to excavate them from under the frutiness.  Columbus is definitely not the hop I was looking for, but I could see experimenting with Chinook, or one of several varieties of German hops.  I think next time I'll also add back the Crystal 80L malt, maybe just 5%.  It seems like it would help fill a gap in the malt profile that I can't articulate.  However it would also add even more body which might be something I want to scale back.  A protein or beta-glucan rest might be worthwhile to try to reign in the rye without losing its flavor, or dropping the gravity back on target could be sufficient.  Also I'm not sure it was worth using pilsner malt here.  This beer is fairly German, so I figured it would be appropriate, but it's subtle influence is buried under all the other layers of flavor and not worth the extra cost.  Last thing I want to experiment with is the yeast. I mentioned in the recipe post that I considered using alt or Kolsch yeast, and I'd still like to see how that idea turns out.

Now that I've started tweaking this recipe, it seems I have a lot of work to do before I dial in something I'm happy with.  At least it came out clean, with no major brewday faults, or rubbery off-flavors (I'm looking at you rye #1).  Simple execution goes a long way towards getting to know your recipe.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#40 Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Porter - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Another solid brewday.  It don't get no better than solid.  Chris and Steve came up to help out, and we really tore through the work, brewing this porter, bottling the blackberry wine, kegging the session ale, and polishing off a growler of the rye ale.

The mash started off with a bit of a mistake.  I left the valve on the mash tun open so as I was dumping in the strike water I lost who knows how much.  The mash in turn came in under temperature at 146F, so I added a gallon of boiling water to bring it up to 151F.  The mash tun was filled right to the brim, but we didn't lose anything.  After that, I let the mash run its course--it's 90 minute course--and ran off as usual.

When I measured the SG and pH of the first runnings, it was a bit low at 5.09 (I usually target 5.4).  This batch features tons of dark and crystal malts in a thick grist/liquor ratio so it's no surprise that the mash is fairly acidic.  However, I thought I accounted for this using calculated baking soda and chalk additions to raise the pH.  I think part of the problem was that I forgot to give the chalk time to dissolve into the strike water (well at least as well as it ever does), instead I just tossed all the salts right into the mash at dough in.  Whatever, it shouldn't be a big deal.  The biggest drawback is reduced alpha amylase activity, but the 90-minute mash should have more than compensated, and Braukaiser even lists some benefits of a lower mash pH (as in 5.2-5.4).

After two batch sparges, I came up a little short on wort, but high on gravity.  Instead of adding more water to meet my target, I cut the boil 15 minutes short; the only reason I specified a two hour boil was to accommodate extra sparge water anyway.  The boil was uneventful, and with the extra hands, cleanup was a breeze.  I harvested 130 ml each of Chico and Denny's Favorite 50 yeast from the Willamette session ale split batch and pitched them into the two carboys.

Forgot to add yeast nutrient during the boil, 45 sec 02, yeast pitched at 60F, temp set to 66F.

3 Days: Fermentation is progressing, but no aggressive blow off.  Temp upped to 70F.

3 Weeks: Racked to secondary.  Fermentation looks like it was pretty tame.  The foam never reached any higher than in the picture.  Like with the session ale, the Denny finished a couple points lower than the Chico.  I'm worried we might have a tiny bit of autolysis here, not sure exactly what that's supposed to smell/taste like though so I'll have to study up.  I also tested out the bourbon (or in this case Westland American single malt) dosing on the gravity sample; it was tough to adjust the bourbon precisely with such a small dose, but I think 1.5 oz/gal will be good without being overwhelming.

3/10/15:  Mixed up two jars of vanilla and whiskey to extract and sanitize the vanilla.  6 oz and 1.5 vanilla beans each.  I used the Westland American single malt instead of the Maker's Mark the recipe called for (since we have it on hand), and ordered the Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla.

3/17/15:  After a week, we added the whiskey and bourbon to the fermenters.

3/29/15  This thing is finally in the bottles!  It spent two weeks with the bourbon and vanilla mixed in, in addition to the one the beans spent in the whiskey alone, and I think that was just about right.  I'm not sure how much more flavor it may have extracted from the beans--this is my only experiment with vanilla so far--but both the aroma and flavor are fantastic.  I get a nice caramely vanilla on the nose and a smooth, dry chocolate flavor with just a hint of bourbon and vanilla.  I aimed for 2.4 vol of carbonation (though since it has aged a bit, this could drop as far as 2.0 vol), but this beer tastes so good flat that I poured a little of the priming sugar solution out to avoid over carbonating it and losing the amazing balance it already has.

Friday, January 23, 2015

#40 Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Porter - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

I love stouts and porters, but the only one I've brewed this winter was the export stout that came out way too carbonated.  I would think that would be something I would always have on hand, but as it turns out, the last successful stout was the dry Irish stout I did for last St. Patrick's Day.  It's about time I changed that.

There are lots of things I want to try, but the recipe I settled on is Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Porter recipe.  Denny Conn is something of a homebrewing legend, author of a few homebrewing books, and a member of the AHA governing committee.  His recipes have made the rounds of the internet as they are made specifically for the homebrew scale.  This one caught my eye when I first started brewing--as did descriptions of his favorite yeast, Wyeast 1450--so it's been on my to do list for awhile.

The recipe itself is a bold robust porter, with vanilla bean and a touch of bourbon added to secondary.  I love big barrel aged beers (as does everybody apparently) so if I can make something comparable and save the $12 a bottle, I'll be a happy camper.  I have no thoughts to add on the recipe composition since it's not mine, the only tweak is to use hops I have on hand and scale it up to 8 gal so I can do a split batch to try the Wyeast 1450 head to head against good old Chico.

Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Porter
Batch Size (fermenter): 8.00 gal
Estimated ABV: 8.2 %
Estimated OG: 1.078 SG
Estimated FG: 1.016 SG
Estimated Color: 37.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 120 Minutes

Amt            Name                                     %/IBU
17 lbs 8.0 oz  Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           64.2 %
4 lbs          Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)                    14.7 %
2 lbs          Brown Malt (65.0 SRM)                    7.3 %
1 lbs 12.0 oz  Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)               6.4 %
1 lbs 6.0 oz   Caramel/Crystal Malt - 120L (120.0 SRM)  5.0 %
10.0 oz        Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM)    2.3 %
1.00 oz        Columbus [16.10 %] - Boil 60.0 min       27.2 IBUs
1.00 oz        Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 10.0 min      4.6 IBUs
1.0 pkg        American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)         -
1.0 pkg        Denny's Favorite (Wyeast Labs #1450)     -
3.00 Items     Vanilla Bean (Secondary 14.0 days)       -
12.00 oz       Bourbon (Bottling)                       -

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion @150F, No Mash Out, 2x Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 27 lbs 4.0 oz
Estimated Cost: $63.92

Saturday, January 17, 2015

#31 Export Stout - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

I'm not going to waste a whole lot of time on a detailed review of this beer, because it's ridiculously overcarbonated.  I had one explode in storage as it was carbonating, blowing out the bottom of the bottle.  The others pour straight foam, then what's left in the bottle climbs right out to sit on the table next to you.  I can let some of the beer sit until it starts to go flat--meaning normal--but there's the CO2 leaves a vicious carbonic bite that obscures further analysis.

Why did this happen?  Well there's always a chance I mis-measured the priming sugar, but I take good notes, and looking at them now I doubt that's what happened.  A more likely scenario is that when the yeast woke up to go after the priming sugar, they went on to finish off some residual sugars left over from fermentation.  In my fermentation notes, I wrote that the temperature dropped to 62F after 5 days and had appeared to stop fermentation at SG 1.020.  It dropped a couple more points in secondary, but in all likelihood it could have used to shed another.

All that being said, here are a few notes from the gravity sample at bottling:

  • This is super chocolaty, with a milk chocolate flavor that I like.  Still a bit sweet though.
  • I'm getting the same root beer flavor I remember from last year's oatmeal stout.  Now that I've worked with the Guinness yeast a little bit more, that's definitely the source.  It's cool to taste the alchemical transformation of yeast esters and roasted malts into root beer flavors.
  • Lighter roast barley plus black patent does not equal dark roast barley.  The dark roast barley in my dry stout last year was more along the lines of dark chocolate, while the lighter roast barley is more of a milk chocolate, with coffee notes from the black patent.  I'm really impressed with the depth of flavor in the roast barleys though.
  • I need to brew more stouts!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

#39 Willamette Session Ale - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

This was one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong.  To start things off, I realized the brew kettle, with all its nooks and crannys, needed a thorough cleaning, so I gave it a good soak in oxi-clean during the mash.  Unfortunately it took forever to scrub it out, so I had to extend the mash a bit.

After more than a two hour mash (including mash out), I was finally able to run off.  Unfortunately I lost a piece of the manifold stirring in the sparge water (batch sparge), so the whole thing got clogged with grain bits.  I ended up pouring the whole thing into a sparge kettle with a BIAB bag and just squeezing the bag for the lauter.

It was somewhere around this time that I also remembered I forgot to add the oats.  Oops.  Whatever, let's just throw the hops in and be done with all this.  Oh, wait this recipe calls for an extra 30 min boil before the 60 min hop addition.  I guess it's just one of those days.

I also hooked up the counterflow chiller (part of the long cleaning process mentioned above) for the first time since going all-grain.  I hadn't been confident in my ability to keep it clean, so without being able to inspect it, I decided it was best just not to touch it.  Well this time I ran hot oxi-clean through, then a rinse and several gallons of Star San to sanitize.  Once clean, it was certainly a huge timesaver, as I could cut out the hour spent waiting for the immersion chiller to work, instead running off straight through the chiller and into the fermenters.  This may be the only reason I survived this brewday.

No 02, yeast pitched directly from smack packs, Chico from December and Denny from August, pitched at 54F, temp set to 66F.

5 Days: temp set to 70F.

3 Weeks:  Racked to kegs.  Tastes pretty good, but the SG finished lower than I expected (1.010 and 1.007), so there's more alcohol than expected.

Friday, January 2, 2015

#39 Willamette Session Ale - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

With four days off for new years, I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by brewing more beer.  Unfortunately after coming back from Christmas I don't have any yeast ready to go.  That means I'll have to brew a small beer so I can use a yeast pack without making a starter.  Most of the things I have on my to-brew list require a lot of yeast--pilsner, kolsch, IPA, vanilla bourbon porter--so I'll use this batch to build up a healthy pitch for that porter.

The recipe here is built around the grain bill I used in the session IPA I brewed this summer.  The hops and malt flavors were both bold and tasty on their own, but didn't seem to fit well together.  I basically scaled the malt bill up to 6 gallons (with the victory and carastan malts rounded up) so I could split it in half for two different yeasts.  I want to try Wyeast 1450 Denny's Favorite 50 in the porter, and as always, I like to have a baseline when trying a new yeast, so I'll do the other half with good old Chico.

After that I'll throw in a bit of Willamete hops.  Like Cascade, I'm not worried about Willamette overwhelming the beer.  The earthy/citrusy mix should go well with the malt and yeast here, plus it gives me a chance to learn a bit about one hop on its own.  I used just Willamette in the parti-gyle bitter and barleywine, but the bitter went quick and I still haven't bottled the barleywine, so it's good to take another look while I have a pound of the stuff.

Willamette Session Ale
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Estimated ABV: 3.6 %
Estimated OG: 1.039 SG
Estimated FG: 1.011 SG
Estimated Color: 6.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 34.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt           Name                                     %/IBU
4 lbs 8.0 oz  Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           45.0 %
3 lbs 8.0 oz  Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                    35.0 %
12.0 oz       Carastan - 30-37L (35.0 SRM)             7.5 %
12.0 oz       Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)                  7.5 %
8.0 oz        Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                   5.0 %
1.00 oz       Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min      21.2 IBUs
1.00 oz       Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 20.0 min      12.9 IBUs
1.00 tsp      Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins)          -
1.00 Items    Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)        -
1.00 oz       Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min       0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg       American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)         -
1.0 pkg       Denny's Favorite (Wyeast Labs #1450)     -

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion 60min @ 156F, Mash Out, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs
Estimated Cost: $30.50
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