Thursday, May 30, 2013

Growing Hops in San Antonio!!!

So I had a impulse buy yesterday on the internet, hop rhizomes! 2x Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Chinook. The Chinook has already broken through the dirt.

More to come later!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SWMBO Slayer!

1.010, color is yellow and hazy.
Notice the krausen level.

Final take: 49 bottles of various sizes.
So the Slayer came it at 1.010, ~ 6.5%! Tasted pretty good right out of the bucket. Normally I don't particularly care for this style of beer, but my wife likes this style which is why I made it. So a few things to note about Wyeast #3944 Belgian Wit that I have learned/read:

1. Krausen - from the website, you need 33% head room for the krausen, so for a 5 gallon batch you would in theory need a container that would be  6.65 gallons to accommodate for the krausen growth during fermentation.

2. Fermentation is violet, vigorous and prolonged. I kept thinking it would be over soon, but it stayed very active for 10+ days, I think it finally started to settle down around the 11 or 12 day mark and I bottled it on the 15th day.

3. Produces a skunk or sulfur like smell. Don't get me wrong, the beer tasted good, but at bottling it smelled very skunky. I read around the internet and this seems to be a fairly common occurrence.

4. This yeast strain (from what I've read) does well in a higher temperature environment. At first I was keeping it in the lower end of the spectrum (64ish), however towards the end I let it get up to 74. The jury is still out, but we'll see soon enough.

And for my next brew, I've got a few options - an True Brew English Nut Brown Ale partial extract kit and a few canned extract kits from Muntons. I think I might go the easy route and do the canned 20 minute boil extract kits. I'm not sure how much time I'll have to donate to beer the rest of this month and April is looking just as busy.

Below is a picture of the Irish Red Ale I made, I personally didn't like it very much but my wife did. I brewed it with some friends one day after work. 
Irish Red Ale that my wife liked.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Belgian Blonde Update

Blow off tube definitely needed with this yeast!

Nailed my temps!
So after some reading and research and of course, some brewing blunders, I ended up at 1.060, which will give a beer with approximately 6.4% ABV (Alcohol By Volume). That temp was taken after an hour long mash, I hit 152ish before. I was shooting for 153 or 154, but I'll take 151.9 after an hour. So I pulled the water off the stove at 166-167. I think next time I'll go ahead and pull it at 168-169 or even 170. I think this will give me more flexibility within the mash (easier to cool off then to heat up). So I followed the normal protocol, 1.25 qts/lb of water/grain, pulled almost 2 gallons of the first run, then hit 5 gallons on the sparge/mashout. I ended up with 71% efficiency, which would bring me to 1.043, the low end of the spectrum. However I was reading from the recipe on Homebrewtalk and a lot of people were getting 1.065, so I thought I screwed up and I added 3.3lbs of Liquid Malt Extract to bring it up to 1.060. Looking at numerous calculators I ended up with 71% at 1.043, so I think I have narrowed down my efficiency problem to hard water.  If you see the fermentor bucket, the key things to notice are the blow off tube with this yeast and the temperature strip on the side. If you could read it, it would say 64-66, which I'm happy with. The fermentor is sitting in my garage bubbling away like crazy. I brewed this on Sunday (10 MAR 2013).

Will be dropping off my IPA for the local homebrew competition, ( today, hopefully it'll win an award. I was going to drop off the ESB, however I don't have enough of the correct type of bottles. I also want to pick up my next batch of grains today, but I don't know what to make. Will try and get some pictures of the IPA later tonight. I also changed the name to Nicole's IPA (my wife's name) instead of Drew, Sorry Drew.

I'm really looking into getting a mill, probably a Corona mill. I have read that your efficiency will improve significantly if you mill your own grains. You can pick up a Corona Mill off Amazon for like 30 bucks or I can pick it up at the homebrew store for $51.99. I really don't want to pay $51, but 20-30 is doable, but then I have to pay shipping which brings it to $40. Homebrew decisions can be so hard, and I really enjoy making simple improvements in the process to yield better results.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Drew's American IPA

The Krausen got a little out of control.

Changed up my bottling technique, went well.
Notice the color and clarity! Came it at 1.012 for an ABV of 5.6%

I can't explain how beautiful this beer looked, smelled and tasted.

And lastly my other hobby, BBQ! The ribs turned out great!
    Okay, so I just finished up bottling the All Grain IPA. I think it really turned out great. The color, clarity and smell is by far the best that I've made! It is weird because I was really worried about this beer, the efficiency sucked and I used hard water (soft water was empty). But the beer tasted absolutely amazing. I really am looking for to drinking this one. I have a few bottles I'm going to go ahead and send to some friends and family and based off my initial tasting, I'm going to go ahead and send this one into the Home Brew Competition.

     Notice the ribs, next brew day I'm going to do ribs/brisket/homebrew. Probably make the day that much more enjoyable. Still on for March 11th to brew Wife Slayer! Can't wait, I'm excited!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wife Slayer!

     So my next brewing goal is to make beer SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) will like. I looked around on the internets and decided I would go ahead with an all grain kit from Midwest Supplies. This is actually a cheap all grain kit and should come in around 6.5%. As a precaution, I went ahead and ordered some light malt extract to deal with any efficiency problems like I had with the IPA. My wife also gave me the go ahead to start kegging, so I ordered that last night with some random things, like an American Ale kit. The American Ale kit I ordered is a cheap extract kit that I ordered to test out the kegs on. I bought a 2 keg system, so I will probably just keg the IPA anyway. I'm really looking forward to my next brewing session, but I'm not sure when that will be. I really want to just get home from work and starter up! However I have the wife, kids and work the next day. 

The Recipe I took from a gentlemen on the Homebrewtalk forum named BierMuncher and he said he bought it from Midwest, so I did the same. Originally I  could have pieced it together for about the same from the LHBS, but I figured I would try Midwest out, since the last time my efficiency sucked, I figured I would give someone else a chance.

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: Belgian Wit WP400
Yeast Starter: Yeast Cake From Prior Brew
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.25
Original Gravity: 1.057
Final Gravity: 1.008
IBU: 18.9
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 4.9 (SRM)
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 14 Days (65 degrees)
Additional Fermentation: One week chilling in keg
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 7 Days (65 degrees)

Style: Belgian Blond Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (45.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.25 gal
Boil Size: 6.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG
Estimated Color: 4.9 SRM
Name:  Belgian_Blonde_Color.jpg
Views: 22057
Size:  873 Bytes
Estimated IBU: 18.9 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.0 %
Boil Time: 60 +/- Minutes

Amount Item
5.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
4.00 lb Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM)
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM)
0.50 lb Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)
0.25 lb Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM)
1.00 oz Williamette [5.50%] (60 min)

1 Pkgs Belgian Wit Ale (White Labs #WLP400) Yeast-Wheat

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body (154-156 degrees), Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 10.25 lb

This is a basic Belgian Blonde AG recipe kit I got from Midwest. Awesome beer. I ended up pitching this onto a Belgian Wit (WL400) yeast cake from a prior session. This was a long primary. 14 days and very vigorous.

I named it the SWMBO Slayer because it is decievingly potent. A very smooth, mellow tase with a medium body and just a hint of the fruity flavor from the yeast. Very refreshing.

My SWMBO loves this beer, but one glass on an empty stomach and she was out like a light at 7:00PM. I'll definitely do this one again and may back off on the Pale by about a pound to bring the ABV down a bit.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

IPA All Grain

Nailed the Temps!

Looks dark but it actually was a normal pale color

Latest and great All Grain Batch - a 15 lb monster of an IPA! At least that is what it was supposed to be. For some reason, my efficiency hit an ultimate low - 57%. I hit 1.054 or possibly even 1.052. I was shooting for a 1.071, but ended up with a really low number. I hit all my numbers almost perfectly. Was shooting for 152 on the temp, hit 152.7. I really don't know what happened, I opened it up after 1 hour and it was at 151. So my temps were right on. According to the internets, it always seems to be the crush. I always use my LHBS (Local Home Brew Store) to crush my grains and so far I have gotten 72% and 74%. I narrowed it down to what I believe the problem is: no salt pellets in the soft water softener. We have really hard water here in San Antonio, so I think that is what it is. I'm really bummed, but on the plus side, originally it was a big beer, so efficiency only turns it down to a normal beer at around the 5.5% side. Well within the standards of an IPA. I'll be entering this into a local home brew competition here along with my English Special Bitter, which turned out amazing! The ESB is the best beer I have ever made. I was worried it would be too sweet, but it turned out perfect.

Here's the recipe I used with some notes from brewday:

13 lbs Pale Ale malt 2 row (US)
1 lb Munich Malt (German 1)
8 oz Carafoam/Dextrine
8 oz Crystal 40L
1 Tab Whirlfloc

1 oz Cascade @ 60
1 oz Palisade @ 20
1 oz Ahtanum @ 15
1 oz Summit @ 5

Yeast: Wyeast American Ale 1056.

Will Update with pics of the brew and a pic of the ESB - which like I said earlier, is amazing - after I get my cell phone charged up.
**And here it is! I'll enter this in the local home brew competition.  Hopefully I'll be able to say award winning ESB soon! As you can see, its definately not clear, it is a dark beer. I was worried about the sweetness, but it actually came out okay. It may be a little on the sweet side, but definitely good. I will make this again, but I think I'll go about the crystal a little differently, maybe 1 lb of crystal 60 and a little less on the Maris Otter. The flavors are bold and do really come through, so I don't know. This beer is really good and gets your pretty drunk after a few (7.1%).

Monday, February 4, 2013

2nd All Grain! Bottled...

Uncarbonated beer!

1.012! ABV = 7.1%
 Ok, so as you can see from the pics above - we bottled the 2nd All Grain beer last night!  It tasted pretty good. I can't believe it tasted that good, I can't wait to see what it tastes like when its carbonated and cold! So a few things, I got a little lazy and my brewing partner called me on it last night. I have been bottling using the my old method from Kansas, where I would just add about 1/2 teaspoon of Dextrose to each 12 ounce bottle. It works great on the Cooper's kits I made. It didn't work very well on the Edwort's Hauz Pale Ale (1st All Grain). Although Edwort's recipe did taste good, it was not carbonated very well. I also used Irish Moss, and it seems the beers I don't use Irish Moss on seem to carb up nicely. My buddy pointed out that we should probably just boil the water and use the 5 ounces per 5 gallon batch of beer. It's all about improvement right? I mean it does make sense, I spent about 5 hours on the all grain batch and now I'm going to cut some corners on the carb process?  I really want to just get a kegerator, but I need more time brewing before my wife will "let" me get a kegerator. Oh well, overall it's a pretty good night, the beer I made tasted pretty good and its going to be 7.1% ABV! No one understands how cool that is, SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) just didn't get it, I mean - 7.1% and it doesn't even taste like a strong beer at all. Oh well...also, my brewing partner and SWMBO decided I can't be trusted with the beer we brew, so they took the beer to his house and we'll drink it when it's ready. Also, I used some 1 liter bottles that a friend gave me from a Mr. Beer Kit, they are plastic. Did I tell you the beer tasted awesome and I can't wait to drink it?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

This is my second All Grain batch. I had an early day at work, so I went straight to the LHBS (Local Home Brew Store) and got some grains. I came up with this recipe on the fly, so we'll see how it turns out. I essentially took it from a northern brewer kit and added a few more lbs. I'm trying for an Extra Special Bitter. Everything went really well and I tried to just relax and enjoy the home brew experience. I almost nailed my temps, but I was off by like 2 degrees, so I added about 2 quarts of 200 degree water to bring it up to ~ 151. Mashed there for an hour and then started the boil. Total time was 5 hours, so I shaved about 100 minutes off the time. I even enjoyed some games of Call of Duty while I was mashing, so overall a good day! Here is the recipe I used:

- 12 lbs Maris Otter
-  2  lbs Crystal 60L

- 2 oz Willamette @ 60 min
- 1 oz UK Kent Easting (something like that, I can't remember) @ 15 min
- 1 oz UK Kent Easting @ 5 min

Wyeast London ESB #1968

Just a couple of random thoughts on the whole process. It is much more enjoyable when you relax and just let it happen, I didn't stress or worry about hitting exact temps. Looking back on my recipe, I think I should have lessened the Crystal 60 to maybe 1 lbs. I was worried about my efficiency so I upped everything and I didn't do it proportionately. I don't really know why, I just did it that way. I mashed in the lower end of the spectrum, so I hope that leads to a drier beer with most of the sweetness coming from the Crystal and not the Maris Otter. I'm really worried this beer will come out way too sweet. It had an OG of 1.066, big beer! Wyeast has like a starter attached to it, so now it's going absolutely gangbusters! I haven't had this fast of activity in such a short time period (12 hours). I think I might need to do a blow off tube because its literally going that fast. I'm trying to keep temps down using a plastic container with ice around it, but temp seems to stay at 74. That is the high end of the temperature range for the yeast. I really have some high hopes for this beer, as the entire day went much better than my last all grain. And speaking of my last All Grain, I had a couple last  night and it is really good. It is a pale ale with cascade hops. It isn't quite ready, but its so good I can't help but drink it. It probably still needs about 1 more week to carbonate.

End of the Mash @ 150, not bad eh?
Cool Picture of the wort, notice the wort chiller, thanks Paula!
Much darker beer than my last one

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grandpa's Batch

Bottled Grandpa's Batch last night and managed to break another hydrometer! So this is a quick batch we decided to do with my father-in-law earlier in December. Couple of notes - see the green bottles above? Stella Artois and Pilsner Urquell do not work for bottling homebrew beer! Found that out the hard way! Only difference in this batch from the last batch is we used Nottingham yeast instead of Cooper's. I was really hoping using Nottingham's ale yeast would make a better beer, but tasting it out of the fermenter, it tasted very cidery, which evidently is caused by using the sugar the kit calls for. The pro tip for making kits from a Cooper's can is to use DME (Dry Malt Extract) instead of sugar for a better beer. There are a few things I would like to try, such as using DME in addition to the Cooper's can and throwing some specialty grains like Crystal 60 in the batch. I guess I just need to keep brewing, but I can't decide what I want to do next. In typical homebrew fashion, I tried a bottle of the All Grain while bottling and it tasted fantastic but is still flat. I really need to leave it alone for at least another week.

 So I really think All Grain so far seems to very superior, it is purely anecdotal as I haven't tried to make an extract American Pale Ale. I will be brewing this weekend, either another All Grain or a True Brew Nut Brown Ale. I really want to try Marris Otter as the base malt in a Pale Ale/IPA, I guess I just need to brew more so I have beer around for me to drink. So many things I want to try, so little time to actually brew, I'm not sure if I want to do more of the All Grain or do some quick down and dirty kits and throw some stuff together to see what I like best. The only limiting factors for me are really cost, the Cooper's can costs $20, throw in some extra hops, specialty grains and DME and I'll be pushing $40, whereas the All Grain cost me $19 total and I believe so far has produced far superior beer. I guess in the end its all about how much is your time worth.

You'll notice the beer tree in back that I just recently got from my mother-in-law for my birthday. She also got me a wort chiller, temperature gauge for the fermenter, bottle cleanser and bottle washer. I have an awesome setup now and I think it is complete. I really can't wait to brew this weekend, I might even brew twice since I have to empty fermenter buckets!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

All Grain Update!

Finished bottling the All Grain last night! It came it at 1.008 FG, with a OG of 1.047 that gives me an ABV of 5.2%. Just some notes from the recipe (posted below), I was trying to get an OG of 1.51, however I missed it and hit 1.047 and the FG was supposed to be 1.010, however I hit 1.008. I don't think this will affect it that much but I don't know! I also had more water than 5.5 gallon size due to Mash Tun Temperature issues. I also spilled some grains in the garage , I don't think it was that much, but every little bit helps. While bottling I seemed to pick up a bunch of hops/trub. I think I might have hit the siphoning tube against the bottom and knocked some loose. I would normally use my bottling bucket, but it was full of Coopers Draught that Grandpa helped brew. I was drinking the "Dishwater" draught and it has finally turned into a very good beer. I was eating Pizza and Drinking my home brew last night and it was great! At first the Draught tasted a little strange or "green," as I have read on the forums. But is good now! I'm down to my last few IPA bottles and they are so good, I think I will do an IPA and use the exact same hop schedule. I really want to make the PSA IPA again it is that good, however it is an expensive kit at $40. I think I can make it via all grain for half the price.

My Biggest problem now is: BOTTLES! I have a few friends bringing in bottles and what not, but I'm still terribly short and I've got Grandpa's Batch is still sitting in the fermentor ready to be bottled. I know people on the internet hate this, but I am probably going to order some Plastic bottles that are 1 liter, it'll just help so much with the bottling process, think about it - roughly 23 bottles per 5.5 gallon batch. That seems a whole hell of a lot easier than 55 (12 ounce) bottles. Anyway, I'll debut my all grain at the Super Bowl!

Some other random notes from my beers:

1) Cooper's Draught takes roughly 3 weeks in bottles and 11 days in the fermentor, so all told it is a 32 day process to get drinkable beer from a Cooper's can. Overall I'm actually pleased.

2) I gave about 4 pints of IPA to friends from work and another 4 from friends from Church, everyone loved the IPA except the guy who didn't drink beer. SWMBO (She who must be obeyed) likes the IPA and she doesn't like IPA's!

3) Pro tip: Don't ferment in your bottling bucket!

I took this recipe from here:

Edworts Bee House Brewery Haus Pale Ale:

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: Nottingham
Yeast Starter: Nope
Additional Yeast or Yeast Starter: Nope
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5
Original Gravity: 1.051
Final Gravity: 1.011
IBU: 39
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 5 SRM
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 10 Days at 68 degrees

This is my Haus Pale Ale. A very quaffable beer that is very easy to make using basic ingredients and a dry yeast.

Grain Bill
8 lbs. 2-Row Pale Malt
2 lbs. Vienna Malt
0.5 lb. Crystal 10L Malt

Single Infusion mash for 60 minutes at 152 degrees.
I batch sparge in a 10 gallon water cooler with a stainless braid manifold. Dough-in with 3.5 gallons of water. After 60 minutes, add 5 quarts of 175 degree water and begin vorlauf. My system only takes about 2 quarts before it clears up, then it's wide open to drain in the kettle. Have another 3.25 gallons of 175 degree water ready for the next batch sparge. You should then get 6.5 gallons to your kettle for the boil.

Boil & Hops
1.0 oz Cascade 6.6% at 60 min.
0.5 oz. Cascade 6.6% at 30 min.
0.25 oz. Cascade 6.6% at 15 min.
0.25 oz. Cascade 6.6% at 5 min.

Chill to 70 to 75 degrees

Pitch with Nottingham Dry Yeast. No starter or hydration.

Friday, January 4, 2013

1st All Grain!

Enjoying a homebrew while making a homebrew!

Pouring the grain in
Finally my brewing buddy shows up! Priorities - The hobbit w/ fam or brewing beer?
Okay, so I will briefly sum this up while I am waiting for the wort to cool down. Never again will I brew without a wort chiller. It is 1:27 and I am still waiting for the damn wort to cool down to temperature! I really thought about it, but I was at my Local Homebrew Store (LHBS) and decided against picking it up. Big F!@#$ing mistake! I wrote down a lot of shit, but let me tell you this, I think I royally messed this one up. My errors were many, I was a nervous wreck but I think I will get beer. I posted a lot on this forum: to sum it up - I panicked! Temps were off/right on, I don't know! They seemed right on, then I checked it about 3 minutes later and they were off, so I adjusted, finally I just said screw it and thought I got to the right temp and sealed the cooler. When I opened it up and let the thermometer sit, it showed my best case temp, 152 - is that a good thing? I don't know. So everything went fine after that, batch sparged for the first time and did all that along with vorlaugh. It was great, I will do a starting gravity meter reading soon (once it Fing cools down) and then I'll know how I did. It looks good, does that count? More to follow with a less drunken rage/frustration.

*** Some notes so we can reproduce this if it turns out good:
1)  Opened the Mash Tun after 1 hour and it was right at 152, what it was supposed to be. My assumption is that the final resting temperature was somewhere between 154-158 and eventually lowered to 152. Many brewer's with a similar equipment setup report a 1 to 2 degree loss in temperature.
2)   I have been switching between the garage (where temps are around 58) to my laundry room (where temps are roughly 74-78 degrees). During the day when its 58 in the garage I will ferment there, however once it starts to cool down at night I move it into the laundry room where it is currently 74 degrees. I will probably crack the garage door open to let a little to lower the temp.
3)  Also, I found out through that I didn't check my SG (starting gravity) I checked my OG (Original Gravity).
4)  My OG was 1.047, I took a couple of readings and that was the lowest. Calculated out I did 72% efficiency. I think the main contributing problem to a lower efficiency (although I'm happy with 72%) is I ended up panicking and adjusting too much during the mash. I checked the temp about 3 minutes into the mash and it was at 158, so I poured some cold water in. Went down to 148, then I added some boiling or close to boiling water to bring it back up to 152 and I just said screw it, I'm closing this lid and I'm not going to worry about it.
5)  I really want to figure out how to accurately read the temperatures in the mash. I just put a dairy thermometer that came with my original beer kit, is this good?  I will purchase a digital thermometer along with a wort chiller before my next batch.
6)  I'm not sure if I'm hopping right, I just throw the hops in, should I use a bag? I think next time I will use a bag.
7)  I'm not sure (yet) if all grain is worth the time investment. I think I can get it down to 4 or 4.5 hours which would make the whole process more enjoyable. To be quite honest, when I hit the 6 hour mark, I was pretty frustrated, I don't know if this is common or can be attributed to my nervousness during the brew.