Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Souring wort

So I was craving a Berliner Weisse and really wanted to brew one. I did a ton of research on HomeBrewTalk, through Google and I even emailed Funky Buddha in Boca Raton for info on how they did their Berliners (and he even got back to me!). There was a ton of info and even more opinions on how to sour a beer with the most common general themes as follows: 

1. Souring the mash
2. Souring the wort
3. Souring with a pure lactobacillus culture

I looked into all of these methods and at the pros/cons of each.  Souring the mash and souring the wort were similar in that both methods used lacto that is present naturally on grain to sour the beer.  You mash in and once the mash is done you cool to 110-120F and pitch a handful of the grain then maintain it at that temperature until it reaches the desired level or sourness.  I was a fan of souring the wort because it seemed a little easier to clean up and transfer then souring the whole mash.  The downside to doing this is that you get a fairly one-dimensional sourness.  It's basically just a simple tartness and not very complex which can take away from a beer.  You can also develop some creamed corn/garbage aromas which may or may not clean up in the finished beer (mine mostly do).

Pitching a lacto culture provides a complex sourness and might provide a better overall experience but it can be frustrating to work with.  The sourness takes awhile to develop, so if you're looking for a quick turnaround, this method isn't for you.

Because I like berliners and have zero patience, I sour my wort.  My process which I've tried 5-6 times is as follows:

Once I drained my wort from my mash tun I put it into a bucket that I bought specifically for this lacto purpose. After it is cooled to 110F, I threw in a handful of grain (grain naturally carries lacto on it) and then put an airlock and lid on the bucket and put it in my fridge that I normally use for fermenting. I had put a light bulb in which I turned on and used as a heating source and it was kept insulated by the fridge, essentially creating an incubator. I maintained the fridge as close to 110F as possible because that is around the highest temperature that lacto likes to do its work without being killed (which occurs around 120F). As the wort began souring it gave off a creamed corn smell and when I took a sample it had a nice puckering sour. I was going for a big punch-you-in-the-mouth flavor so I soured it for 4 days.  

I've tried variations of this method with these results: 

4 days souring at 110F - way too sour, warhead level puckering, not desirable
4 days souring at 110F then blended 50/50 with fresh wort = perfect level of puckering tartness
6 days room temp 70F - lightly sour, gravity dropped drastically with minimal ABV contribution.
5 days room temp 70F with boiling water infusion 2x/day - slightly more sour, minimal off flavors, nice sourness and minimal gravity drop

My recommendations:

-Sour the wort for simplicity and quickness.
-Keep the wort as hot as possible for as short as time as possible to minimize off flavors.
-Don't fear the creamed corn/garbage smell!
-Put saran wrap on the top of the wort to minimize introduction to O2.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sweet Stout

I'm looking to model a beer after Cigar City's Cafe Con Leche.  Basically I'm looking for a sweet stout with a thick mouthfeel that I can add coffee to before bottling.  Their head brewer talks about it here in this blog post with the most important thing being "a ridiculous amount of caramel malts".  I went online to find some sweet stout recipes and then tinkered with them adding a heavy hand of caramel malts.

3 Gallon batch:

6 lb Marris Otter
0.5 lb Chocolate Malt
0.5 lb Dehusked Carafa III
0.25 lb Caramel 120
0.25 lb Caramel 80
0.25 lb Caramel 40
0.25 lb Caramel 20

0.75 oz EKG (60 min)
0.25 oz Columbus (60 min)

Mash at 158F.  Sparge at 168F.

Ferment with WLP005 at 62F and let it rise.

46 IBU
OG 1.064
FG 1.029

Add coffee beans for 48 hours before bottling.

Pfriem Family Brewers

Pfriem Family Brewing out of Hood River, OR has an amazing tap room that I recently saw online.  These tap handles are gorgeous and their serving tray for samplers is perfect.  I'm stealing this idea one day!

Hogtown Brew-Off 2013 3rd Place!

I entered my Big Nose clone and Kolsch into the 2013 Hogtown Brew Off a few weeks ago and got back the results.  I won 3rd in the Light Hybrid Beer category for my Kolsch!  38/50 and most had comments about a little more bitterness bite to the beer, but overall they liked it.  One even said "if it was on tap I'd order it".  Cheers!

Portland, Oregon

This may be TL;DR so skip if you don’t want to hear about my beer centric trip to Portland, OR.

I flew in Tuesday afternoon and left Saturday morning and the main goal was to hit breweries, see the city and just relax.  I’ll do a highlight reel of the best beers/breweries/bars I visited.

APEX beer bar was awesome.  Pliny the Elder on tap next to Boneyard’s Hop Venom and RPM IPA.  Honestly, although it was a different take, Hop Venom gave Pliny a run for its money.  RPM was one of the best IPAs ive had in a while also.  Wish I could have gotten a few bottles to go.

Wednesday was our hardcore brewery tour day.  Started at noon with Hair of the Dog. 
Moved on to and spent the most time at Cascade Barrel house.  Had Luckie Charms, a sour that tasted exactly like the cereal, absolutely wild.  Chocolate Bourbonic Plague, Vine, Vlad the Imp Aler, Noyeaux and tastes from my GFs Blueberry, Manhattan NW and more.  We spent a long time here, it was my favorite brewery.
Went from there to Base Camp, which had mediocre beers, but the space was badass and they had a smore stout where they put a marshmallow on the glass and took a little propane flame and roasted it for you.  Pretty gimmicky, but still neat as I had never seen that before. 
Before I go on, for some reason Wednesday is the greatest day ever to drink because every brewery we went to had $2.50 pints or $4 imperial pints (20 oz).  All the beer the entire weekend was really reasonable.
We got a flight at Burnside brewing, nothing special but they did have a pepper beer that I hated.  Why people put pepper in an IPA is beyond me.
$10 for all of this!
Coalition was a really tiny space with some solid beers.
Migration had an awesome outside space and a ridiculous taste flight for like $8.
Last stop of the (very hazy, drunken) night was Deschutes for a flight and Elk burger.
The next day didn’t have much beer tasting but instead we went to the Willamette wine country to visit 3 wineries.  First stop, Voodoo Doughnuts.
I know nothing about wine but it was a gorgeous day and the views were great.  We did hit up this ridiculous bottle shop on the way out.  The best selection I’ve ever seen.

On Friday we did a brewcycle tour where you pedal yourselves in a cart thing to three breweries then have a pint. 
We hit Lucky Lab (beer hall with not good beer), Caps & Corks (beer bar/bottle shop) and Deschutes again (remembered more this time).  Then it ended right next to Rogue where we had a flight and I got to try the Beard Beer where they brewed a beer using some yeast that had been in their brewers massive beard.  Not too bad!
Last few stops were Upright for some really tasty saisons (Four, Five, Six and Seven), and Tugboat brewing, a tiny, not-so-good brewery.
Overall it was an awesome trip, and I might still be a little hungover.  Favorite beers were Boneyard Hop Venom and RPM, everything from Cascade, HoTD Fred, and many I can't remember.

Common Beginner Problems Part 2

Part 2 of my widely viewed (read: never read) Common Beginner Problems

"What should I make for my first beer"

I know what you want to make, a 12% bourbon barrel aged imperial double stout with fruit, maple and hops.  Most beginners want to make the craziest thing for their first beer when the real answer is to do something simple so you can fine tune your system and pick out any flaws.  An ideal first brew in my opinion is a pale ale.  Something not too hoppy so you can pick out fermentation issues, process problems, etc.  A perfect pale ale is the holy grail of many seasoned homebrewers because there's not much to hide behind and finding a balance in the beer is very hard to do.  If you really wanted to learn about your system and brewing, you'd brew the same recipe three times, tweaking each time until you're familiar with everything.  I know this impossible because I went through it and as soon as I finished my first brew I was already on to something else.

"Where can I get information about brewing/equipment"

You can learn anything by doing a quick search on and I'll just about guarantee somebody has had a similar problem to you, if not the same one.  A good overall text source is How To Brew by John Palmer.  I've flipped through this a few times and it's technical enough for a seasoned brewer yet simple enough for a beginner.  Many brewers consider it the Bible of homebrewing.  
If you want to get more technical, the Brewers Association has released a few technical books about brewing or ingredients including Yeast, Hops and the soon to be released Water.  These are for advanced brewers who want to get into the science and technical side of brewing.  You'll still make beer without them.
As far as equipment, search around for a local homebrew shop (LHBS), but if you can't find one there are plenty of online retailers, just do a little price shopping and you can get everything you would ever want.  I like,, and

"Has anybody ever gone pro/do you think about it"

Welcome, you're officially a homebrewer.  Can't stop thinking about recipes?  Do you sit and watch the airlock bubble?  Do you think your fermenting beer is like a child?  Welcome to the hobby, follow down the rabbit hole.

Common Beginner Problems Part 1

As I go on or BeerAdvocate's Homebrewing forum or anywhere really that has people posting about brewing, I tend to see the same problems and questions being posted over and over.  It's gotten to the point where I don't even respond because I'm fed up answering the identical question for the 50th time.  People need to realize that their problem isn't unique and it has been asked multiple times before and a quick google search will find them their answer.  I'm going to post the questions and my answers here so in the future I can just copy and past these responses (because I know nobody is reading this).

"My airlock isn't bubbling/I don't see krausen/am I done fermenting"

Airlock activity isn't an indicator of fermentation aka bubbles don't directly correlate to fermentation efficiency.  Due to head space, faulty seals, etc, you might not see any airlock bubbles for the entire fermentation and have a perfectly attenuated beer.  Also, just because you don't have a huge krausen doesn't mean your beer isn't fermenting.  Sometimes the krausen is quick to fall and you miss it or the yeast strain itself doesn't produce a huge krausen.  The only way to determine fermentation is to take a gravity reading.  I repeat, the best way to determine fermentation is via a gravity reading.

"Should I make a starter/dry yeast vs liquid yeast"

First off, I don't use dry yeast and I understand it is cheaper and you can still make good beer with it.  If you're going to use dry yeast, make sure you rehydrate it with 1 cup of sanitized (read: boiled and cooled) water at 95-105F.  Any hotter and you'll kill the yeast, cooler and it's not properly rehydrating.
Now, if you use liquid yeast, most vials/smack packs say they're designed to include enough yeast cells to ferment a 5 gallon batch of beer, and while this is certainly true (you'll make beer), you may need to make a starter to make the 'best' beer possible.  Yeast is fickle and I won't get into all of the specifics, but to produce the optimal beer product yeast needs the correct fermentation temperature, pitching rate, dissolved oxygen content and many other factors which affect the finished product.  A starter's main goal is to activate the yeast and build up cells to an appropriate pitch count.  There are a few yeast starter calculators out there but Mr Malty is probably the best and will give you an accurate way to estimate cell counts.

"Critique my recipe"

This is a common post and one I actually don't mind answering because it is a somewhat unique question.  The problem with this post is most people post incomplete information.  The number one thing that needs to be posted in a recipe critique question is "what do YOU want the beer to taste like".  What hop flavor do you want, if any?  Malt back bone?  Do you want it to finish dry/sweet?  ABV?  A good example would be "I'm looking for an IPA with a bright, citrusy hop flavor, a little malt backbone, and I want it finish nice and dry and about 6% ABV".  This is something people who are going to help you with need in order to give you good advice.  
Also needed to be included:
Recipe (grains with amount, hops with amount and time used, anything else going into boil/mash)
Mash Temp and length
Yeast type
Fermentation temperature
Expected OG/FG

More to come in other parts but remember RDWHAHB

Blue Nose

This beer is a clone of Swamp Head's Big Nose and is being brewed for Nicole's dad's bday.  He loves Big Nose and IPAs in general so we thought we would surprise him with something similar to the original.  

3 gallon batch

7.25 lb 2-row
1.25 lb Munich
0.5 lb C-40

0.25 oz Columbus (60 min)
0.25 oz Centennial (30 min)
0.25 oz Amarillo (20 min)
0.25 oz Centennial (20 min)
0.25 oz Amarillo (5 min)
0.25 oz Centennial (5 min)
0.25 oz Zythos (5 min)
0.25 oz Amarillo (Flameout)
0.25 oz Centennial (Flameout
0.25 oz Columbus (Dry Hop)
0.25 oz Zythos (Dry Hop)
0.25 oz Amarillo (Dry Hop)

Mash at 151F for 60 minutes with 11.25 qt 162.5F water.
Sparge/mash out with 2.14 gal at 168F.

Ferment with WLP001 at 65F.

OG 1.071
FG 1.016
ABV 7.2%
IBU 55.3


With summer pretty much here in FL, I wanted a lighter beer I could drink with the heat.  I settled on a German Kolsch, aiming for a tasty, but crushable ~5% beer.

For a 2 gallon batch:

3.5 lb Pilsner
0.25 Vienna

0.5 oz Hallertau FWH

White Labs Kolsch yeast

Added ~0.25 tsp of calcium to my bottled water.
Mashed 4.69 qt at 149F for 60 minutes and "sparged" with 2.01 gallons at 170F.  Fermented colder around 64 and cold crashed before bottling.

I was aiming for OG 1.045 but I tried something new this time and squeezed my grains as they were dripping and I think that got a lot more sugars out for an OG of 1.057.  Either that or my boil is too vigorous.  Anyways, this is bottled up and I had one last night, but it was a little undercarbed.  The taste is OK, but something is a little off.  Maybe too many salts added?  Hopefully it'll clear up in time.

I just finished souring another batch of berliner for 8 days at room temp. Gravity dropped from 1.039-1.013 in that time and from what I've read I haven't gotten much alcohol if any from that so this beer might weigh in around 1-2%.  I have big plans for splitting this batch onto watermelon or cherry for part, toasted coconut for part and cucumber for another part. I have some new techniques for fruit that I want to try out.

Hunahpu's Day 2013

A mini-TR about Hunahpu Day at Cigar City in Tampa. Mark and I went with some others for the day.

We got in line around 6:15 AM (gates were supposed to open at 7:50. The first 4000 people were guaranteed 3 bottles, next 1000 were guaranteed 2) and were about ~1000 people back in line. We had gone last year and got there at about 8:30 and were ~500 back in line, so this event has gotten more popular.

The line was probably ~2000 people long and winding into the Home Depot by 7:00 and Home Depot was not happy. They called the cops and Cigar City was forced to let everyone in around 7:15.

We got in and parked in a spot with our chair and coolers (outside beer was allowed). They sell tokens for $5 which you could trade for a beer (8 or 12 oz depending on the beer). One of our group bought tokens and gsupoker and I got in line at one of the 5 pouring stations which opened at 8:30. This was good for us because this line quickly became ~2 hours long to get from the back to the front. We got our first pours and sat down for the next few hours while everything reached a critical mass of ~7000 people. At noon they let people buy bottles after which a lot of people left and it was more manageable. 

Here's the list of what Mark and I drank over the course of the day:

Cognac barrel aged imperial sweet stout
Leon Barrel aged barleywine (might have been my favorite of the day)
2013 Hunahpu
Three Floyd's Zombie Dust
Jester King Funk Metal
Cigar City Right Side Up Pineapple Cake (tasted EXACTLY how it sounds, amazing)
Funky Buddha Last Snow (coconut porter)
Cigar City Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Cordial
Cigar City Bourbon Barrel Sea Bass
Stone Best By 4.1.13
Three Floyd's Supa Rice Ronin of Death
Angry Chair Raspberry Berliner Weisse (new FL brewery)
Half Acre Space IPA
Cycle Brewing Bottom of the 9th Brown
Cigar City Hopped up Johnnie (CCB Marshal Zhukov aged on Johnny Walker Blue oak chips then dry hopped, this stole the show)
Cigar City Jamonera
Cigar City Peaches and Cream
Cigar City Criterium Wheat
Three Floyd's Sand Pebbles
Cigar City/J. Wakefield Guanabana
Cigar City Dos Anos Kumquat Berliner Weisse

We stumbled out around 6PM (I think, not surprising but can't really remember) and were some of the last to leave.

It was a ridiculous day of beer I never thought I'd get to try and we came out of there with 14 bottles due to girlfriend mules and them opening up bottle sales around 5PM between the two of us. I'll be back every year they put this on as Hunahpu is one of my favorite beers and this event can't be beat.


West Coast IPA V2.0 is ready to be bottled, I just have to snag a scale and weight out the priming sugar.

I just got back from Cigar City's Hunahpu Day and managed to get 6 bottles.  When I got home, I decided to lay out most of my 'cellar' and take a pic.  Here's what I have.


From left to right:

Deschutes 2012 Abyss
Deschutes Black Butte XXIV
Fifty Fifty Eclipse Evan WIlliams
Fifty Fifty Eclipse Rittenhouse Rye
Fifty Fifty Eclipse Elijah Craig 12 Year
Three Floyds Behemoth
Westvleteren XII (X3)
Cigar City Hunahpu (X6)
Cigar City Marshal Zhukov
Swamp Head Batch 300
Logsdon Peche N' Brett
Green Room Quetzalcoatl
Bell's Black Note
Intuition Underdark
Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Barleywine
AleSmith Barrel Aged Speedway Stout
Founders 2012 KBS
Dogfish Head 120 Minute
Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th
Captain Lawrence
Jester King RU-55
Russian River Supplication
Sierra Nevada/Russian River BRUX
Cigar City/Swamp Head Church On a Hill

West Coast IPA V2.0

I have so many big imperial bourbon barrel aged stouts, a bunch of my Breakfast Stout clone lying around I need a juicy IPA in the fridge.  I'm going to tweak my last IPA recipe and give it another go.  It was good, but I still want less of a malt backbone and a bigger hoppier bite.

3 gallon batch:

6 lb 2 row
0.25 lb carapils
0.25 lb Crystal 20L
0.25 lb flaked wheat

0.5 oz Columbus (60 min)
0.25 Centennial (15 min)
0.25 Simcoe (15 min)
0.25 oz Amarillo (Flameout)
0.25 Centennial (Flameout)
0.25 Columbus (Flameout)
0.25 Simcoe (Flameout)
0.25 Centennial (Dryhop1)
0.25 Simcoe (Dryhop1)
0.25 Amarillo (Dryhop1)
0.25 Columbus (Dryhop1)
0.25 Simcoe (Dryhop2)
0.25 Centennial (Dryhop2)

OG 1.064
Mash at 152F with 2.1 gal, sparge at 168F with 2.42 gal.
Fermented with WLP001 rinsed from previous batch.  1L starter.


So the Brett pale ale was something of a disaster.  I was heating my sparge water after I had just mashed and as I was doing that I started to clean.  I threw my grain out and cleaned the bag.  Yup, threw the grain out before sparging.  Whoops.  I was in such shock that I just went to the boil and then added water afterwards.  The result is that it was pretty bitter and just a totally different beer.  I fermented at room temp and when I took a gravity reading a few days ago it was down to 1.012 and tasted weird, with some pretty odd off flavors which I think are a result of the brett being stressed.  I'm going to keep it going because it still bubbles and check back soon.
I racked my two gallons of berliner weisse to a Mr Beer keg, rinsed the yeast (I got two big mason jar slurries of the Brux blend) and added a diced pineapple for some secondary.  I treated the pineapple with a cup of water with a campden tablet dissolved in it.  I took a sample the other day and there's a nice pineapple flavor going on.  I hope leaving it for a few more days will make it come through even more then I'll bottle this weekend.
The shandy I brewed up is fermenting big time and I'll be checking on the gravity and taste soon because I need to get that bottled up asap so that I can hopefully taste it before the event.  
I've been drinking bottles of my maple coffee stout recently.  I must have used too much maple syrup because it gushes when I open it, but if you're prepared you can get a full glass.  It is obviously under carbed at that point because it all vented off but its actually a fine beer.  I'm pretty happy with it.
Next up in a week or two will be another IPA.  I'll be using columbus and probably simcoe/centennial and tweaking my previous IPA attempt.  Cheers!

Scrappy Hound gets funky

I’ve been reading a lot about brettanomyces and have decided to finally take the plunge.  I’m not talking barnyard/funk/musty 6 month in the bottle type beers but 100% brett fermentations.  Brett isn’t scary and should act like saccharomyces in primary fermentation but can give some great twists on the classical yeast strain. 

I’ve started a little by fermenting 2 gallons of 1.036 OG Berliner weisse with yeast cultured from SN/RR’s BRUX, which I thought was mainly Brett B. but at it turns out is mostly a saccharomyces strain with some Brett B.  Either way, I’m interested to see how that turns out.  To really get into brett beers, I’m going to brew a pale ale and pitch a vial of brett claussenii.

Brett Pale Ale

4 lb 2 row
0.5 lb carapils
0.5 lb Crystal 20
0.5 lb Flaked wheat

0.25 oz Columbus (30 min)
0.25 Motueka (15 min)
0.25 Columbus (5 min)
0.25 Motueka (5 min)
0.25 Columbus (Flameout)
0.25 Motueka (Flameout)
0.25 Columbus (Dry Hop)
0.25 Motueka (Dry Hop)

Mashed at 152F with 1.72 gal and sparge with 2.29 gal.  Stove top BIAB. 
I opted not to make a starter because I wanted to get this done before I leave and also because I hear you can get some cool things going on when you under pitch. 
Fermented at room temperature ~68-72.

Peanut Butter Brown Infection!

Well my Peanut Butter Brown bit the dust.  I'm not sure if it was the unsanitized PB that I racked on, or I just goofed with sanitation, but it had a nasty infection that I noticed and when I tasted it, I had to dump it.  First time ever, oh well.

Next time I'm going to flash boil the peanut butter mixture with some water and add the slurry to the fermenter.

Here's the gross (but awesome) infection

Founders Breakfast Stout Clone

I did brew up a Founders Breakfast Stout clone though and it's on day 2-3 in the fermenter right now.

2.5 gallon batch

5.5 lb 2 Row
0.75 lb Flaked Oats
0.5 lb Chocolate Malt
0.5 lb Roasted Barley
0.25 lb Black Patent Malt
0.25 lb Caramel 120

Mashed at 155 F

Hopped to ~50 IBU with EKG (I think).  1 oz at 60 min and 1 oz at 30 min.

At 15 minutes to go I added 2 oz unsweetened chocolate baking nibs and 1.5 oz dark bittersweet bakers chocolate.

At flameout I used ~1.5 oz coarse crushed Sumatran coffee beans.

I pitched a 1 L starter of rinsed WLP 001.
OG 1.079

If all goes well I'm going to bottle some with Grade B maple syrup to try to get a really tasty breakfast stout.

Peanut Butter Brown Ale

I'm back brewing a lot and next up is a peanut butter brown ale.  Inspired by Funky Buddha's No Crusts and then even more after I got a taste of a peanut butter brown homebrew at Hunahpu Day.  There's a lot of conflicting information about how to best get the peanut butter flavor and aroma but I think for my first time I'm going to try the following.

2.5 gal batch

5 lb Maris Otter
0.5 lb Crystal 60L
0.5 lb flaked oats
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt
0.25 lb Victory

0.5 oz EKG (60 min)
0.5 oz EKG (15 min)

Ferment with WLP002 (English Ale)

There are two peanut additions.

The first will be a pound of unsalted, roasted peanuts in the mash.  Before adding they will be re-roasted at 350F for 20 minutes.  The next addition will be dried peanut butter (PB2) which the beer will be racked onto in the fermenter.  I think this is better than real peanut butter or peanut butter extract.  I should brew this tomorrow and hopefully have it in bottles asap.

West Coast IPA

I'm taking another crack at an IPA.  My first one, Paws, was okay, but nothing great. This is a direct attempt at a west coast style IPA.  Huge hop profile, C hops, simcoe and a standard grain bill.

2 gallon batch

90% 2 Row
5% Carapils
5% C20

Hopped at 30 minutes with Columbus.
At 15, 5 and 0 with simcoe and centennial.
Also at flameout some more columbus.
Dry hopped with simcoe, centennial and columbus.

I hit my OG of 1.066, should end up around 6.5% ABV.

I used leaf hops for the first time and the sucked about .5 gal of a 2 gal batch, which sucked.  But it's in the fermenter with some rinsed 001 yeast.  I'm hoping for a nice citrusy/piney bite with a huge nose and hop flavor.  If it's good, this will be a staple. 

Pumpkin Ale

Sure it’s 95 degrees out. Sure it’s the middle of August. I don’t care! I had my first pumpkin beer last night (Sam Adams Fat Jack) and I’m in the mood for them. With that being said, I have put together a recipe that is a cross between DFH Punkin and ST Pumking, leaning more towards Pumking. I want a big (~8%), full bodied, sweet beer that has a load of spices and pumpkin taste. People say that you can make pumpkin beer without actual pumpkin but that doesn’t seem right so I’m definitely adding it.
6.5 lb 2-row
.75 lb crystal 40
1oz EKG (60 min)
WLP002 with a 750 mL starter
Estimated OG 1.085
Estimated FG 1.030
30 oz pumpkin purée mixed with maple syrup and baked at 350F until cartelized and add into the mash.
1tsp (or less) of pumpkin pie spice with 5 min left in boil.
To taste before bottling: more spices, vanilla, concentrated graham cracker crust extract.
It should be an interesting brew day with the puree and my first pumpkin brew but I think this has the potential to turn out really good.

Citrus Honey Wheat

I'm finally moved into the new place and that means one thing.  I can brew again!  I've been itching to brew for the past few months but I couldn't so instead I've been coming up with recipes.  The first one I'm going to try is a Citrus Honey Wheat.  I'm going for an easy drinking, clean, bright citrusy beer.  A good introductory beer for people who don't drink beer that much.  Not to mention something for the ladies. :)

With that being said, here's the recipe for a 2 gallon batch

3 lb 2-row
1 lb wheat malt
0.25 lb honey malt

0.25 oz Citra (15 min)
0.25 oz Citra (10 min)
Zest of an orange and grapefruit (5 min)
0.5 oz Citra (Flameout)

I want it to be right around 5% but I haven't perfected mashing BIAB on the stove top so I'm guessing it's going to be a little higher than that.  Clean ferment with WLP001 and this should be good to go in a few weeks.  

2012 Brewing Goals

I know the year is more than half over, but I'm going to finish strong with a lot of brewing and experimenting.  Since I'm downsizing, most of these recipes are going to be stove-top, 2-2.5 gallon, Mr. Beer kit fermented in a temperature controlled mini fridge.  Kind of like a half version of what I've been doing.  I will be able to do the occasional 5 gallon propane burner brewing at a friend's house, but that will probably be rarer.
Planned brews/experiments before the end of the year:
5 Gallon Saison based on Swamp Head's Saison du Swamp (with 1 gallon split off and fermented with brett B. cultured from a bottle of BRUX)
Coffee stout (lower ABV, big, smooth mouthfeel, coffee bomb)
Re-brew/tweak of Scrappy IPA
Orange Honey Wheat or Raspberry Wheat (a beer for the ladies ;))
Peanut Butter Brown
If I have enough time I also want to fool around with my Citra SMaSH brew.  Keep the golden promise, maybe add a little wheat and then swap some Citra our for Simcoe or Amarillo.
Since they're all small batches I think this is doable, but right now that's whats on the docket.

SMaSH American Pale Ale

I brewed up a golden promise/citra Smash APA for a 2+2 swap. I was shooting for 3 gallons and did it on the stovetop BIAB to get ready for brewing next year. I really liked the process, it was quick and easy with minimal clean up. I overshot my gravity a bit because I had too much boil off so ended up with 1.060 OG instead of 1.049 :(. Fermentation has started up and wow this is going to be a hoppy APA, hopefully not too hoppy.

Waxing Caps

My Scrappy RIS is all bottled up and since I don't think it's going to be ready for a looooong time (it's really hot in alcohol), I decided to wax the caps.  Off to I went again and lo and behold somebody has thought of this before.  In the DIY style of, they have also done it cheaply and without buying professional wax.  The secret?  Crayons and glue sticks.  After a lot of trials the people on the site have found that a ratio of 3:1 glue sticks to crayons provides the perfect was effect.  So I bought the necessary ingredients, found a soup can to melt it in and did it over my electric stove.


Gainesville Water Report

Here are some values I found from GRU posted on HBT.  I'm going to try using tap water for my next brews and might make some mineral additions.
  1. They use free chlorine (easier to remove by filtering or boiling than the other type of additive)
  2. Calcium = 27 mg/liter
  3. Magnesium = 17 mg/liter
  4. Sodium = 11.3 mg/liter
  5. Chloride = 27 mg/liter
  6. Sulfate = 71.8 mg/liter
  7. Carbonate = 145
  8. Alkalinity = 55

Wooden Beer Crates

For a long time now I've been on the lookout for a wooden beer crate.  There's something about them that has such a cool look and vibe that I needed one.  I couldn't find any around town so I set out to make one.  After a lot of research on, I found a design I liked and set out to buy the supplies, trying to keep the cost as low as possible.  The downside of making this cheap is that the wood wasn't necessarily straight, resulting in weird cuts and some gaps, but I like to think it add to the charm.

I used 3.5" wide furring strips (about 72"? long), which are <$2, but not that straight and a little sheisty.  I also only had a circular saw and no table to cut on so I free handed all of my cuts, further adding to the problems.  I think with a table saw and better wood, these boxes would have turned out much straighter, but I'm still pleased with them.

Wood cuts needed (for 24 12oz bottles):
6 15"
6 11.5"
4 10"
4 10.5"
 I also used 1 1/4" wood screws and wood glue.

To stain the wood, I found a simple solution online.  Use 0000 steel wool, take a sizeable piece and put it in a full 12 oz white vinegar bottle and let it sit overnight, until you start to see some steel wool dissolve in the bottom.  Put on some gloves, grab a sponge and use the vinegar solution to wipe down the wood, giving it two quick, even coats.  Like magic it'll turn from plain wood to this nice dark brown.  Voila!


RIS Treatments

Brewday has come and gone and Scrappy RIS is happily fermenting away, looking like a decadent chocolate latte.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Since its a big stout has a lot of roasty and chocolately flavors (or is supposed to), it should hold up to different treatments that will enhance those flavors. I am going to keep 2.5 gallons as it is to see what I can adjust for the next batch but I want to experiment with the remaining 2.5 gallons.
I love bourbon barrel aged stouts so I plan on soaking some dark roast oak chips in bourbon and then throwing them in the fermenter anywhere from 1 week to a month. I’ll taste as I go to determine how oaky it gets. I’m also debating adding a vanilla bean to get some of those flavors into the beer, but that depends on what the beer tastes like when I take gravity samples in a month. An oak bourbon vanilla aged Scrappy RIS sounds great doesn’t it?
On quite the opposite end of the spectrum, I had 0.5 gallons left after the brew day, so I decided to do a little experiment. I’ve been on a sour kick and have had success with using the natural lacto from grains, so I used the same method to try to see what it would do to this stout. I had to improvise and used a gallon jug that had water in it and Tyler’s little mini fridge, but it worked out OK. The only problem? I forgot to sanitize the jug! That explains why after 3 days the jug smelled like rotting, burnt creamed corn. :( Regardless, I’m determined to see this experiment out so I added a little water to get the gravity around 1.058-60, boiled and pitched a slurry of kolsch yeast (hey, it’s already gross, let’s see what this does). It’s in the fermenter right now and I’m hoping to see some krausen tomorrow! Maybe I’ll get lucky and this will be a real winner.

RIS Brewday

First off, I have been stepping up my yeast for the past fee days. I started with a 1L starter, let that go for a day, then cold crashed it overnight. Yesterday i made a 1.5L wort, decanted the non yeast and put it in my 1/2 gallon (1.89L) growler and left it overnight. Well I woke up this morning with the house smelling like yeast and a huge krausen than had spilled over the aluminum foil lid all over the growler. I definitely lost some yeast but you live and you learn. I'm confident I'll have enough for this brew. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos I just mashed in on my imperial stout in this glorious brew day. 4.5 gallons and 12 lbs of grain just fit in my tun and I hit my target temperature of 154F just about right. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos It was a nice chocolate black when I put the lid on, a big difference from what I've recently been brewing. Also, as I was heating up my water a random guy on his bike drove by, saw my tun, grain and water and stopped. Turns out he is a home brewer in the area, so we talked a little bit about our setups and such. He's a partial mash brewer and has a tiny setup but it was cool knowing there are people around who can recognize some brewing when it's happening. So it's been a little while since I've used extract. When I added the 6 lbs of DME with about 15 minutes I was stirring and waiting for a hot break but I guess I didn't stir enough or it got too hot because before I knew it, there was a boil over. Thank god I was outside and it was easy to clean up because it was a sticky mess. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos When all was said and done I had 5.5 gallons of 1.108 wort! I overshot my gravity by quite a bit so all I can hope now is that my yeast can chew through it.

Russian Imperial Stout

Since I'm moving out of my place in a 2 months and downsizing, I'm likely only going to brew once more before I leave and spend the rest of the time drinking down my stash (tough job, I know).  Brewing up a Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) has been a long time coming.  I've mainly stuck with brewing ambers, pale ales and IPAs since I started, with the exception of one cream stout.  That cream stout, Keep At It, was pretty bad, the victim of poor fermentation temperature control and over carbonation.  I still have a few bottles left but they're borderline undrinkable.  
With that being said, I wanted to design a rich, full bodied, motoroil-esque, creamy, chocolaty RIS that I can drink over the winter (hah winter in FL) or cellar for a long time.  After a lot of research on what is true to style, modeling it after other RIS that I like (Stone, KtG, Ten Fidy) I've come up with the following:

Recipe: RIS
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Imperial Stout
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 5.70 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.20 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.090 SG
Estimated Color: 57.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 84.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


8 lbs                   Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)          
1 lbs                   Black Barley (Briess) (500.0 SRM)       
1 lbs                   Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)  
1 lbs                   Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)         
1 lbs                   Oats, Golden Naked (Simpsons) (10.0 SRM) 
4 lbs                   Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)     
1.00 oz               Magnum [14.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min  
1.00 oz               Warrior [15.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min   
1.0 pkg               California Ale (White Labs #WLP001) 
I had to use some extract because of the constraints of my 7 gallon mash tun. I'll be making a 2L starter, mashing at 154F (subject to change) and fermenting at around 66F.
I think I am going to make 6 gallons of this and sour one gallon. As you can tell from my previous posts, I love souring stuff and this should be a fun experiment. I am also toying around with the idea of adding some bourbon oak cubes or cacao nibs to part or all of the batch. It's going to be a lot of experimentation for sure, but I won't worry about that for a month or two after fermentation is complete.

Adding Fruit

I've been obsessing over what fruit to add to my upcoming Pucker Up Batch 2.  Since this is a 5 gallon batch, I have a little more leeway with what I want to do.  I have yet to decide for sure but I think I want to only fruit 2.5 gallons.  The other half I will leave alone and it will be a true Berliner Weisse.  Maybe I'll get some woodruff syrup for it and try that out.

That leaves me with the decision of what fruit to use.  I initially wanted dragonfruit or passionfruit but come to find out, they're not in season right now.  That left me wondering about another attempt at raspberry, blueberry, blood oranges or mango.  I bought a mango to taste and it just doesn't appeal to me so that's out.  I kind of want to do something other than raspberries, so they're out.  Blueberries just don't quite get me excited about in a berliner.  I went to the grocery store and tried to find a blood orange but they didn't have one, so I got a grapefruit instead.  It was wayyyy too sour and just didn't have that aroma or bright taste that is needed in order to not get overwhelmed by the sourness in the berliner weisse.  I've been throwing around the idea of peaches now, because they are in season and I've had a few successful beers that use peaches, but I'm going to take a trip to the store to search for more fruits soon.

Once I get my fruit, I am wondering what is the best way to add them to the brew.  I'm a little worried about just chucking them in there because of the risk of contamination.  I pasteurized my raspberries last time by adding a little water, heating them to 160F and holding them there.  I know they were safe, but I wonder if the taste suffered a bit.  I've read online that some people freeze fresh fruit, effectively killing some bugs in addition to breaking down the cell wall, making it easier for yeast to convert.  I might just brave the risk of infection and chuck some fresh fruit in.  Worst case scenario, the beer gets a little funkier right?

Berliner Weisse Part 2

So my second Pucker Up batch has been fermenting for about 4 days now. The brew days went great, I soured half for 4 days and mixed them for an OG of 1.035, which was spot on. I made a 500mL kolsch yeast starter and pitched it on Thursday. I tried a sample and it was tasting really nice with much less tart than the first batch, but still prevalent enough to let you know it was still there. The gravity reading was 1.010 so I'm going to leave it in the fridge for a little bit longer and hope it drops another point or two and I'll update then! Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Raspberry Berliner Weisse Review

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
I’m leading off with this picture because it’s so awesome. I’m really proud of the color and shocked it looks so brilliant.
The beer smells sour. The lacto sourness is prevalent with the first whiff. Unfortunately there isn’t much raspberry flavor but I’ll work on that for the next batch. Aside from the lack of raspberry the rest of the taste is awesome. A big sourness but it’s still really quaffable. At around 2.8% alcohol I wouldn’t mind knocking back a few of these.