Thursday, March 26, 2015

Westminster 1839 Porter Brew Day & Ordinary People Bottling

Tuesday morning, I went outside to grab my mash tun for some cleaning, and I knew that day had to be brew day. I prepped everything, got my mash going, and did a bunch of cleaning and sanitizing during the mash. During the boil, I racked Ordinary People to secondary, because I needed the yeast for the porter but there was still a little ferm action in the jug. I bottled it today, as FG was on point and fermentation had clearly died down. Ended up with 9 bottles of what should be a very tasty session beer.

Brew day of the porter went really well. I was very conscientious about sanitation, wort chilling was fast and efficient, the whirlpool/trub removal went really well, and I pitched a nice large volume of healthy yeast. Additionally, I collected a heaping volume of wort that I ended up boiling down for about an hour before adding my first hop addition, and the extra kettle caramelization should result in a really nice malt profile. My efficiency was 69%, which is a little low for my system (I usually get somewhere between 70-75%), but I still got an OG of 1.051, which should still give me a really nice ~5% ABV beer. I am really looking forward to this one, as the original version of this recipe (everything the same, but fermented with a different yeast strain) was my single favorite batch I've ever brewed. Here are a couple shots from brew day:

Blanket-insulated mash tun:

Siphoning Ordinary People to secondary to finish fermentation:

Siphoning clear, trub-free wort after the whirlpool:


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ordinary People Brew Day

Oh man, what a treat this was! When you are used to the sweaty, exhausting, and at times cumbersome act of brewing 5-gallon batches, with all that grain and water, brewing 1-gallon batches is a welcome change to the routine. I found that my brew day on Tuesday evening went much faster, as I was able to bring the wort to a boil and cool it to pitching temps much faster with the smaller quantity, plus cleanup was much easier and faster. I also found that certain elements, like the mash, were more accurate and easy, though the monitored brewpot method requires much more vigilance than the cooler method. In terms of efficiency, I hit my target OG on the money. At the end of the day, I was very happy and satisfied, and in many ways reminded of why I love brewing in the first place. Fermentation was off like a shot by this morning, and still trucking along vigorously now more than 24 hours later! I did a bit of live tweeting during the brew day, which was quite fun. And now...some pictures from the day!

A bamboo spatula makes for a perfect tiny mash paddle
Mash accuracy
Even had time to enjoy a barleywine
Vigorous fermentation by the next morning


Thursday, March 12, 2015

My return to the game

For those of you that have been faithful readers of this blog in the past, you are well aware of the fact I haven't been brewing much in the last couple of years, as well as my propensity for lengthy (sometimes involuntary) hiatuses. Frankly, this makes me sad. I have plenty of free time, a little disposable income, and a fiery passion for beer. I would like to return to the days when I was brewing more consistently, firstly because I miss having homebrew in the house. Secondly--and perhaps most importantly--beer is a creative outlet for me. I'm starting to feel like a bedridden Keith Jarrett with all of these ideas whirring around in my head and nowhere to exercise them, and at this point I feel like I owe it to myself to get things rolling again. I'm hoping these upcoming batches will serve as my very own The Melody at Night, with You. 

Recently, I read an article (which I of course can't relocate at the moment, but for which I will post a link when I do find it) about brewing one-gallon batches of in lieu of making yeast starters (small batches of unhopped beer meant solely to stimulate yeast growth and get a proper volume of yeast to pitch into a 5-gallon batch). I don't always make starters, but in an attempt to hone my methods a bit and take my beer to the next level, I'm going to try and avoid underpitching from hear on out. To save my more casual beer fans from too much jargon, this way the yeast will do what it's supposed to, and the beer will taste better and be the correct ABV.

I have planned a simple but classic 1-gallon ordinary bitter to build up a nice yeast cake for my all-time favorite recipe, the Westminster 1839 Porter. Here are the two recipes:

Ordinary People:
Target OG: 1.038
Target FG: 1.012
Target ABV: 3.3%
Target IBU: 29
Projected SRM: 12°L (copper/amber)

1 lb Maris Otter
4 oz Crystal 60L
1 oz brown sugar

12 g (for accuracy) East Kent Goldings @30 min
7 g East Kent Goldings @flameout

WLP002 English Ale yeast

Westminster 1839 Porter:
Target OG: 1.057
Target FG: 1.019
Target ABV: 5%
Target IBU: 45
Projected SRM: 32°L (VERY dark, almost opaque)

8 lbs Maris Otter
2 lbs Brown malt
8 oz Black patent malt

2.5 oz Fuggles @60 minutes
1.5 oz Fuggles @5 minutes

WLP002 English Ale yeast cake from Ordinary People

I'm very excited about these. The porter was really tasty last time, and I just love a good, quaffable English bitter. If the porter comes out as well as last time, I've got my eye on a May competition in Philly...but more on that later.

Thanks for reading, and PROST!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friar Tuck is in the keg!

Hi there brewfans! Today I did a major cleaning of my kegerator and kegged my "Belgian mild." FG came out around 1.009, so we'll have a nicely dry, drinkable Belgian session ale that comes out just under 4% abv. The flavor is really nice (I'll give some tasting notes once it is carbonated and flowing from the tap). Additionally, with the low abv, you can basically drink this beer all day long without losing your mind. Should be carbonated and ready in a day or two, so if you find yourself in or near central NJ, come and enjoy a pint with me! I will be brewing up another batch soon, and while I originally planned a Belgian IPA, I'm going back and forth on what I really want next. More updates on that to come.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Friar Tuck Belgian Mild - Brew Day

Swirling first wort hops - Styrian Goldings and Saaz
Today I had my first brew day in almost a year and brewed up an experimental Belgian mild ale, which I am calling Friar Tuck.  Brew day was fun and went pretty smoothly.  I had some cleaning to do, which required my jumping into the shower with my mash tun before I began, but after I got all set, everything went very smoothly.  I undershot my target OG just a bit, I was going for 1.040 and got 1.038, which just means that my efficiency was about 71% instead of my usual 75ish.  I am well within the OG range of an English mild, which is exactly what I was going for with this beer.  I think it will be a perfect session/table beer.  For the hopping, I had some leftover Saaz in the freezer that still smelled great, so I threw in half an oz. with the Styrian Golding pellets during the first wort hopping (a method whereby I steeped the hops in the wort before bringing it to the boil).  The Styrian Goldings were of a lower alpha acid percentage than I originally calculated, so I used the Saaz to bump up the IBU just a tad and add some extra hop complexity to the beer.  I am looking forward to seeing how the first wort hopping affects the flavor of the beer, as it is supposed to add some unique flavor and aroma as well as bitterness.

In other news, I also got some critical keg cleaning done today and discovered that my kegerator and the beer inside it had completely frozen solid.  This was probably because I did not open the fridge very often, so I'm now defrosting the kegerator and the poor, lost, frozen keg so we can get the kegerator functioning and get some tasty Belgian mild flowing in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Planning my triumphant return

Having not brewed in almost a year, I am finally making plans for my return-to-the-game batch. I am actually planning two brother batches, one session strength beer and one high ABV beer, using the same yeast strain.  I hope to brew one and possibly both in the first week of August, as it is my first truly free week of the summer. The plan is to brew two very exciting original Belgian hybrids, two brand new recipes that I've never done before.  Here is what we have to look forward to:

Friar Tuck Belgian Mild:
Target OG: 1.040
Target FG: 1.009
Target ABV: 4.1%
Target IBU: 13
Projected SRM: 23°L (brown)

6 lbs Maris Otter
1 lb flaked wheat
8 oz Special 'B'
4 oz Midnight Wheat (or Carafa III)

Single Infusion Mash @154°

8 oz Dark Belgian Candi Syrup

1 oz Styrian Goldings (pellet)  @First wort hop (so I can get some smooth bittering qualities as well as some late addition character)

WLP500 Trappist Ale

Belgocalifornication IPA:
Target OG: 1.075
Target FG: 1.017
Target ABV: 7.7%
Target Bitterness: 53 IBU
Projected Color: 14 °L (amber)

12 lbs Maris Otter
3 lbs flaked wheat
8 oz Special 'B'

Single Infusion Mash - 152°

8 oz Dark Belgian Candi Syrup

1 oz Columbus (pellet) @60

1 oz Amarillo (leaf) @10
1 oz Centennial (pellet) @10
1 oz Citra (leaf) @10

1 oz Amarillo (leaf) @flame out
1 oz Centennial (pellet)@flame out
1 oz Citra (leaf) @flame out

1 oz Centennial (pellet) dry-hop 14 days
1 oz Citra (leaf) dry-hop 7 days
1 oz Amarillo (leaf) dry-hop 5 days

WLP500 yeast cake from Friar Tuck Belgian Mild

I am super excited for these.  I love Belgian ales as much as I love breaking the rules, and these recipes satisfy both of those criteria.  I am also a big fan of reusing yeast as it saves a bunch of money per batch and doesn't require a starter.  More updates to come in a week or so.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Great first showings--Sea Symphony Strong Ale and Saison de Potiron

This weekend, I sampled both the recently-bottled Sea Symphony Strong Ale (or Barleywine, but it's a little outside of style guidelines...and deliciously so!) and the young Saison de Potiron, and they were both wonderful and wonderfully surprising.  On Friday night, I tasted my 11.6%ABV behemoth of a beer, the Sea Symphony Strong Ale, hopped with Chinook, Falconer's Flight, and the Falconer's Flight Seven Seas (Cs) blend.  It was very lightly carbonated at this stage, but the taste was wonderful.  The beer had notes of honey, pine, burnt sugar, citrus, flora, apricot, with lots of warming and a beautifully sticky mouthfeel.  I am so excited to enjoy that wonderful beast of a beer over time.  It is probably my favorite beer I've ever brewed.

The Saison de Potiron is showing amazing promise.  The WLP568 yeast RIPPED through this beer.  It is already deliciously dry, in the proper farmhouse ale fashion.  The yeast profile will develop over time, but I am already getting the wonderful peppery notes, with fruity esters in the background.  It already has a delightfully "Belgian" taste to it, so that has me very excited.  There's a nice nutty caramel malt background, with the proper light, spritzy farmhouse ale body.  The pumpkin made it just about the most wonderful color I've ever seen.  Tawny, autumnal orange-amber.  Mmm...just delovely.  The pumpkin added that delightfully earthy, squashy note to the beer as well.

Wow, it is so exciting to be back in the game.  Scarlett the Galway Girl on tap right now...used it to make some ale grilled onions to put on a buffalo chicken pizza tonight...freaking delicious.