Friday, October 23, 2015

Pumpkin Lager

Pumpkin beer.  You probably have an opinion on it.  People either love it or hate it.  If you love it, you are either on the pumpkin pie spice crowd or actual pumpkin side.  It's a divisive style.  Every year I brew one, taste it and swear the style off.  Then the next year comes around and Fall hits and all of a sudden I cave and brew one.  Every.  Single. Year.  I've done a straight pumpkin beer with spices.  I then added graham crackers to the mash along with lactose and vanilla.  Last year I tried pumpkin pie spices to a stout.  They're all very average.  And for some reason I'm stupid enough to try it again.

This year I am of course changing up my recipe.  There's a guy on Reddit who has apparently honed in on a recipe over the past 10+ years that he describes as a cross between Punkin and Pumking.  He uses real pie pumpkins in the mash and then actually "dry pumpkins" after fermentation to give a gourd-y character.  I decided to basically copy his recipe, his spice mix, and his pie pumpkin process.  The only exception is I'm doing it as a lager instead of an ale.  I had to change something up, didnt I!?

Ichabod Crane

3 Gallons
74% efficiency

5 lb Maris Otter (83%)
0.5 lb Victory (8%) - I had to sub this because the homebrew shop didn't have Biscuit
0.5 lb Munich (8%)

0.4 oz Tettnang (60 min)

Wyeast 2124 (1 L starter, decanted, then 1.5 L starter)

OG 1.055 | FG 1.015 | IBU 12 | ABV 5.5%

Mashed at 156F to try to get some sweetness.  Boiled for 60 minutes.  2 mL lactic acid to get the mash pH to 5.35.

Pumpkin Spices/Process:

Baked 1 medium pie pumpkin (cubed in 1inch cubes) for 60 minutes at 375F (tossing every 15 mins).  Then I mixed some brown sugar (~1/4 c) with some water and spice mix (~1 tsp, see below) and put it back in the oven for 15 minutes until browned. This went into the mash.

2 tsp of spice mix (below) at 15 mins left in the boil.

When fermentation is done, bake another pie pumpkin in the oven, then candy on the stove with molasses and maple sugar, then add to secondary.

Spice Mix:

1 T cinnamon
1 t ginger
1 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves

10/20/15: Brewed.  OG 1.052.  Put in fermentation chamber to cool down to 50F.

10/21/15: Pitched yeast.  Following the quick lager method that you can find online.  12 after yeast pitch, added O2 for 60 sec.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Imperial Stout/Milk Stout Partigyle

My all time favorite stouts come from Cigar City in Tampa, FL.  There is a mouthfeel and sweetness in Marshal Zhukov, Hunahpu and a variety of their El Catador offerings that is consistent across all of their bigger stouts and I don't find it in many other commercial RIS.  Apparently many other homebrewers feel the same way because there is an extensive thread trying to clone Hunahpu on HomeBrewTalk.  Of course this is the internet and everyone seems to know a guy who knows a guy who talked to Wayne Wambles (head brewer at CCB) and got the recipe.  Recipes on the internet have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Take this from here, that from there, combine them, put your own twist on them and then brew up something that you hope is in the spirit of the original beer.  That's all I'm going for here, a big, thick, chewy imperial stout.  I don't expect it to taste like Marshal Zhukov, but if it's in the ballpark I'm good.

With my recipe design, one key thing that I think helps CCB's stouts get this character is a high percentage of non-base malts.  There actually are some emails and interviews with Wayne where he talks about this.  Oh and there is this sheet of paper under the bar in the tasting room at CCB which is supposedly the first recipe for Hunahpu.  As you can see there are a lot of malts, a lot of roasted malts at that, and it's a fairly complicated recipe.  So from this, from my theory about base malt being <50% of the recipe and from some select bits of info from online, I pieced my recipe together for a big RIS.

Aside from the recipe, another thing I read about online was that breweries with these big, thick, chewy stouts sometimes only use the first runnings.  I thought this would be a good time to try this and while I was at it, also do my first partigyle.  For those who don't know, a partigyle is where you take off the first runnings, use that to make a beer, then sparge and use the second runnings to make another beer.  With my first runnings beer being a RIS, I thought I would do a milk stout for my second runnings beer and just add some lactose during the boil.  This brew day was intense because I had to do two separate mashes because my tun was too small, then two separate boils, but I finished it in around 5 hours and ended up with about 1.5 gallons of RIS and 2.5 gallons of milk stout.

Imperial Stout/Milk Stout Partigyle

4 gallons
74% efficiency

7 lb Maris Otter (50%)
2.5 lb Munich (18%)
1 lb Roasted Barley (7%)
1 lb Chocolate Malt (7%)
0.5 lb C60 (4%)
0.5 lb C120 (4%)
0.5 lb Black Patent (4%)

2 oz Chinook (60 mins)

Wyeast 1056 - 2 1.5 L starters, fermented at 64F.  Mashed at 154F.

These values are theoretical if I wasn't doing a partigyle.  Look at the notes for actual numbers.

OG 1.089 | FG 1.031 | ABV 8.3% | IBU 83

No water adjustments needed.

9/20/15: Brewday.  Split mash, added baking soda because mash pH was low.  Ran off 0.75 from each first runnings.  Ended up with 1.5 gal of RIS OG 1.101 and 2.5 gallons of milk stout OG 1.068 (0.4 lb lactose added).

9/26/15: RIS gravity down to 1.026.  Milk stout down to 1.022.

10/19/15: Both gravities stable at about the same as last time.  The RIS is viscous, a little hot in alcohol, maybe too much roasted barley.  Milk stout is nice and sweet.  Bottled.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Quest for a Good Hoppy Beer

It's a common theme that I talk about a lot on this blog, my quest to brew a good hoppy beer.  I've probably brewed 15+ hoppy beers and every one I brew falls off quickly or lacks a certain hop quality that I find in commercial beers.  My last 3 brews have turned into muddled, dark colored beers so quickly that I considered stopping brewing hoppy beers.  Instead, after being talked off the ledge by my fiance, I decided to dive into why my beers are failing and tried to fix it.

There is a NHC seminar talk that was given at the 2015 conference by the homebrewing master of IPAs, Kelsey McNair.  His IPA, Hop Fu! has won NHC Gold 3 times and Silver twice, which is unfathomable in the competition's biggest category.  Needless to say, this guy knows his stuff.  His seminar focused on a few things that I thought were important: recipe development, water, and packaging.  Recipe wise, my hoppy beers tend to be 90%+ base malt and back loaded hop schedules, so I think I'm ok there.  I've talked about how I treat my water, and it's in line with what he does, but I adjusted a few numbers to hit his recommendations exactly.  The last part, packaging, seemed to me to be a huge focus of his and something I've never given a ton of thought to, so I decided to start there.

I've heard time and time again that a lot of people have their hoppy beers improve when they start kegging so it got me thinking.  I may not be able to keg, but I can certainly improve my bottling process to mimic a kegging setup.  If my beer tastes good in the fermenter and not so good 2 weeks later after bottling, something must be happening during bottling, right?  Hooray for process of elimination.

First off, what does a homebrew kegging setup look like?  Good brewers will have a keg purged with CO2, they will then rack the beer in a closed system from fermentation vessel to the keg, then seal it up and add CO2 to carbonate.  See where I'm going here?  There is little to no O2 exposure of the beer.  Oxygen is a killer to hoppy beers.  So much so that commercial breweries measure O2 pick up in the parts per million level with dissolved oxygen meters.  A place such as Modern Times Brewing has spent a lot of money to get this number as low as possible.

So, what does a bottling setup look like for a homebrewer? Typically we rack the beer into a bottling bucket open to the air, add a cooled corn sugar mixture that I base off a priming sugar calculator, stir, then use a bottling want to get the beer into bottles and capped.  Lots of room for O2 pickup in a normal bottling setup.

My hoppy beers were so heavily loaded with hops on the back end that I felt oxygenation was (one of) the culprits in why my beer tasted so mediocre.  I set out trying to mimic the closed loop kegging set up.

Here's my finished beer.  A pale ale with Citra and Nelson.  As you can see I brew 2.5-3 gallon batches which leaves some headspace in the fermenter which could be an oxygen issue.  Never fear!  I picked up a portable CO2 dispenser which I use to add CO2 to the headspace when I sample and dry hop (which only happened once in this batch, I sampled and dry hopped at the same time).

This is the CO2 dispenser I picked up.  This little device will be used throughout this process to purge anything and everything with CO2.

Above is my bottling bucket which has a very tight seal.  The hole on the lid with the gasket will be used to insert tubing to add CO2, then immediately filled with my siphon tubing to rack the beer.  Before the lid was put on, I added my priming sugar solution and just assumed that as the beer was added it would mix evenly.

The first step was to purge the siphon with CO2, then purge the bucket with CO2 and rack the beer through the hole on top.  I need to say that I added a very small pin-hole on the lid as well to let air escape.  As I was racking in, air was constantly coming out of this tiny hole which led me to believe I had a good seal.

My bottling station above my dishwasher is shown on the left.  Before I filled any of the bottles I purged them with CO2 just as another crazy attempt to eliminate O2 pickup.  Once I finished filling the bottle, I immediately put an O2 absorbing cap on them and capped them.

My bottling was done and I felt that I had eliminated O2 as best as I could with such a jerry-rigged system.  I made sure once I finished bottling them that I put them in my fermentation fridge at ~62F to condition, then straight to the regular fridge to cold condition.  Keeping hoppy beers out of any kind of warmth will also help the hops to not fade as quickly.

Two weeks after bottling, I popped my first one and it's brightly hoppy and I'm pretty dang happy with it.  It's not commercial quality, but it's fine for a homebrew.  I'm pretty happy I didn't swear off brewing hoppy beers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scrappy Hound House Pale Ale #3

It's no secret that I hate homebrewing hoppy beers.  I'm convinced that it's very, very difficult to brew good hoppy beers at home if you don't keg, and even then I'm still skeptical that they're ever at a near-commercial level.  I have yet to have a good hoppy homebrew from anybody.  Regardless, I still foolishly brew them because it's one of my fiance's favorite styles and, well, I'm just stubborn.

Most of my hoppy beers fall flat.  They're muted and kind of blah even when they're young.  I've tried water adjustments, yeast, hops, and just about everything else I can think of.  This time I did a few things.  First off, I found a talk from this year's NHC by Kelsey McNair who, if you don't know, has won something like 3 NHC gold medals for his IPA, Hop Fu!.  He's going pro and this talk was about how to brew the perfect hoppy beer.  I specifically focused on two things, the water profile he recommends and eliminating O2 which I think might be hurting my beers.  The water profile was easy to hit with salts but eliminating O2 as much as possible took some thinking.  I am planning on a post soon with my new (and probably crazy and unnecessary) method, but I did buy this portable CO2 cartridge dispenser to help me to purge headspace with CO2 when I sampled and bottled.

This recipe I came up with is pretty simple and focuses on two awesome hops, Citra and Nelson.  I was hoping for a juicy pale ale that's crushable and really bright.  I used late hopping, a hop stand and some super fresh hops from Farmhouse Supply to really drive the aroma.  I like the idea of wheat in the grain bill to provide some softness.  I'm not optimistic because I have yet to brew a great hoppy beer, but hopefully I'll be surprised!

Pale Ale #3

3 Gallons
74% Efficiency

5 lb 2 Row
1 lb White wheat

0.5 oz Chinook (15 min)
0.5 oz Nelson (Flameout)
0.5 oz Citra (Flameout)
0.5 oz Nelson (180F)
0.5 oz Citra (180F)
1 oz Nelson (Dry Hop)
1 oz Citra (Dry Hop)

US05 at 66F ambient.  Mashed at 150F.

OG 1.054 | FG 1.011 | ABV 5.8% | IBU 59

Ca 127 | Mg 2 | Na 0 | Cl 44 | SO4 227 | HCO3 38

8/15/15:  Brewed.  OG 1.049.

8/20/15: Sampled for gravity, purged headspace with CO2 cartridge and added Nelson and Citra dryhop.

8/26/15: Bottled with new O2 free bottling system.

Friday, August 28, 2015

More Quick Sours!

It's been awhile since I've posted but that doesn't mean I haven't been brewing.  I've been consistently been at it and now that I've got some time I plan to catch up on the blog.

I was running low on berliners/quick sours, so I fired up a 3 gallon batch with the intention of splitting it 3 ways.  I followed the kettle sour method I've been using for years to make a pretty low gravity (~4%) beer that's nicely tart and clean.

For this batch, once it fermented out, I chose to split 2 gallons on fruit and 1 gallon as a gose experiment.

The first gallon was split on pineapple for an upcoming competition in my area that I actually took first and second BOS in last year (humblebrag).  This pineapple berliner might not be the most overwhelmingly crazy fruited berliner that I do, but it scored a 43 on Dr. Homebrew and a buddy took my tips on this beer to the final round of NHC in the fruit beer category.  I think that 1 chopped pineapple/gallon is perfect for this style.  The key to a BJCP competition fruit beer is balance with the base style and at this rate, the pineapple is there, but it's definitely a berliner first and foremost.  It's a really elegant blend.  I have high hopes for this at the competition.

I split another gallon onto peach puree.  These local peaches went on sale for 50 cents a pound so I snatched up 10 pounds.  ( let them get really ripe, then took the pits out and pureed them in a food processor and froze them in 2 pound increments.  I put one gallon onto 2 lbs of pureed peach.  When it came time to rack off the fruit, it was an absolute mess.  I left behind a lot of sludge and I'm not sure how well the peach flavor is going to present itself.  

The last gallon I made into a Margarita gose.  I highly salted it (6 g sea salt/gallon) and then added the zest of 2 limes in secondary.  I took a sample to see how it was coming and I was BLOWN away.  The flavor is absolutely nailed.  I haven't been this excited with a beer in awhile.  At bottling the flavor was still there so I'm really excited to try it properly carbed.

I always love making berliners because they're so easy to make (mash one day which takes an hour, then boil the next day for 15 mins, and they are low OG so they ferment quickly) and fun to experiment with.  I actually have a 5 gallon batch planned for this upcoming beer fest which I plan on fruiting (tropical fruit: dragonfruit, passionfruit, mango, guava) and serving during the people's choice portion of the fest.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saison Notes

I wanted to post these here for posterity.  They are notes from the king of saisons, Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead.  He gave these notes back in 2007, so they might be a little outdated, but they serve as a fantastic outline of general saison brewing.  In particular I take away the sulfate levels as well as the acidification of the sparge water, which I've never done, but will most definitely be doing when I do my 4th iteration of my saison.

Yeast/Fermentation: A great saison begins with the brewer's choice of yeast. A likely candidate is the Dupont culture (WLP 565, WY3724). This will always produce the peppery/estery/earthy characteristic that seems to define the style. Many brewers have reported difficulties achieving desired levels of attenuation while using this strain and are thus forced to finish the fermentation with a second strain of yeast. I have never encountered this dilemma but highly suggest that when using this strain it is necessary to maintain a very warm fermentation temperature - in the range of 75° to 90° F (24° to 32° C) and to use a yeast nutrient. Due to this occasional lack of attenuation, it may be more advisable to choose a more predictable and reliable yeast strain. Chouffe (WLP550, WY3522), Fantome (WY3725), Blaugies (WY3726) or any myriad of the wit/wheat yeasts (WLP400, WY 3463) available from White Labs and Wyeast are capable choices. The Blaugies strain (WY3726) is reputedly less finicky than the Dupont strain and has a very similar flavor profile (likely due to the relationship between the two breweries at Blaugies' startup). If choosing the Chouffe yeast, beware the "flavor bomb." Higher temperatures with this yeast can result in excessive phenolic/ester development. Pay particular attention to the suggested temperature profiles - but don't be afraid to experiment. Being cautious and living by the rules doesn't breed an inspired saison!

Primary: 1-3 weeks

Secondary: 2 weeks

Bottle Conditioning: 2-3 weeks, minimum

Cellar Indefinitely - three-year-old bottles still taste brilliant!

Water: Depending upon the profile of your water source, you may want to try and boost your sulfate levels into the range of 100 to 200 ppm through the addition of calcium sulfate (gypsum, CaSO4). This will benefit the perceived dryness of the final product and accentuate the hop character. If the pH of your source water is much above 6, you may choose to treat with food grade acid (lactic or phosphoric) to bring the pH of mash and sparge water into the 5.2-5.4 range

Grist: Feel inspired. Begin with a base of Pilsen malt. 2 row pale will work if you don't have access to Pilsen malt. This should contribute at least 50% of extract value. Try adding in Munich, Vienna, wheat, spelt, oat, or rye malt. Candy sugar, dextrose, and other sugars (1-10%) will add fermentability to the wort and boost attenuation

Mash: Infusion mash, unless you have the ability/desire to step. Mash temperature should be guided by your desired end result - the lower the temperature, the higher the level of attenuation and fermentability. Try mashing somewhere in the 146° to 152° F (64° to 67° C) range. Adjust as necessary

Boil/Hopping: 90 minute boil. 20-40 ibus. Noble hops are preferable. Try Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding, Hallertauer, Saaz, or try adding an American twist to your saison by using Mount Hood, Amarillo, or any other spicy variety. It's all up to the chef. Add bittering hops at 60 minutes (20-30 ibus); add remaining bitterness in the last 15-20 minutes of the boil. Finishing addition at the end of the boil should be in the range of 1-2 ounces per 5-gallon batch

Spicing: Star anise, coriander, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, peppercorns, orange peel, ginger, figs, cumin, dates, etc. Minimal

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Scrappy Hound House Saison #3

Round 3!  My first and second attempts at a delicious saison went surprisingly well.  I really enjoyed each iteration and felt that there was nothing wrong with the two beers, but they could also be improved on.  In this version, I'm sticking to the same general grain bill, but with a little big more emphasis on wheat.

My big change from the past two versions is that I'm introducing a new yeast this time.  In the past I've used French Saison Wyeast 3711 and although I love how vicious that yeast rips through a beer (down to sub 1.005 in no time), the flavor profile isn't exactly what I'm looking for.  I got in touch with the 2014 saison winner and he uses a split of 3711 and the Belgian saison strain, Wyeast 3724.  I had heard stories about the Belgian strain being finnicky, so I had shied away from it, but I think that with some 3711 in there, it'll have no problem ripping through the wort.  I aimed to pitch the yeasts in a 50/50 ratio (I built up starters, and eyeballed how much I pitched), so hopefully we'll get the Belgian profile with the fermenting capabilities of the French strain (in a perfect world).  Oh, and as far as the last batch where I messed with the water profile, I'm keeping it pretty plain this batch, but I am adding some NaCl to see what that does.

Additionally, as much as I love plain saisons, my Fiance isn't the biggest fan, and since she's mainly the other one who drinks these beers, I'm going to split this batch.  I'm thinking that I'll do 1 gallon straight, 1 gallon on some fruit (she suggested Mango, might do Apricots since they're in season) and I think we're going to sour a gallon and maybe pitch some brett.  All in due time.

Scrappy Hound House Saison #3

3 gallons
74% efficiency
60 min boil

3 lb Belgian Pils (67%)
1 lb White Wheat (22%)
0.5 lb Vienna (11%)

0.75 oz Tettnang (60 min)

Wyeast 3724/Wyeast 3711 (50/50) @ 65F ambient.  Mash at 148F.

OG 1.042 | FG 1.006 | ABV 4.7% | IBU 26

Ca 41 | Mg 2 | Na 56 | Cl 87 | SO4 80 | HCO3 38

6/21/15: Brewday.  OG 1.040.  3+ gallons into fermenter.  Cooled overnight and pitched in morning.

6/22/15: Visible fermentation by night.  

7/1/15: Down to 1.001.  Temperature bumped to 70F

7/11/15: Bottled 1 gallon.  

7/19/15: Added 2 packages Goya Mango puree to 1 gallon, dry hopped another with 1 oz. Nelson.