Archive for category Homebrewing

Hop Bursted IPA #2

My first attempt at hop bursting was (for the most part) a success. For those that don’t know what hop bursting is, it’s pretty simple. Usually a brew has a bittering addition right away at the beginning of the boil, and the late additions (near the end) are done for flavor and aroma. Hop bursting instead loads up all of the hop additions in the last half of the boil (In this case, I used 2 oz. at 30, 15, 5, and 0). This give you the same amount of IBUs as if you were doing a bittering addition, but by loading up all of the hopping additions at the end of the boil, it’s also giving you tons of flavor and aroma.

The first hop bursted IPA recipe used a pretty straightforward malt bill, and while it was insanely aromatic and flavorful, it was pretty thin on body, due to mashing pretty low. For this batch, I had to scrape together the malt from three different varieties to get the 14lb of base grain (time to reorder!), and I changed the hops around a little bit to use some of the Citra hops I’ve been wanting to try. The combination of using a lot of Maris Otter (and a touch of Vienna!) and mashing a little higher should give this beer more body. The recipe is on the right.

As with the first batch, this one used 4 two ounce hop additions. For the sake of not losing a ton of wort, I bagged them up, then sanitized my neoprene gloves and squeezed them when the cooling was done. The aroma emanating from these hop bags was intense citrus. My mouth was watering the whole time.

Of course, the obligatory hydrometer shot:

The brew session went well, I was done around 9 PM on Saturday evening. By the morning it was bubbling away, and this morning when I left for work, the bubbling was near constant, and the area smelled amazing. I didn’t need to dry hop the first batch, and I’m excited to see  how this one turns out.

Last week’s Cascadian Dark ale fermented out in three days! It’s now sitting in the basement with 2.5 ounces of Cascade hops for a little extra flavor and aroma. The sample I tasted was very smooth, but I could definitely taste a little of the roasted malt. It almost came off like a hoppy porter. Still, I can’t wait to try it. I’ll keg it sometime later this week. I had a few pints of the wheat beer, and all that Amarillo is really coming through nicely. I plan on bringing both to homebrew gatherings later this month.

Cascasian Dark Ale (AKA Black IPA)

New recipe posted over on the right! I’ve been reading a lot about Black IPA’s, and when Ed got the Widmer Brothers new W’10 Pitch Black IPA, it cemented the idea of needing to brew one of these myself, just to see if I could. Interesting beer. Dark as night with only a slight flavor of dark malts, yet a significant presence of Cascade hops.I had some free time Friday night, so I decided to come up with the recipe and give this style a shot.

In making a black hoppy ale, I thought it best to take the pound of black malt and add it with 10 minutes left in the mash, so it would extract color, but little of the roasted flavor and aroma. After that addition, I stirred vigorously and waited 10 minutes before vorlauf and draining. The wort was more of a dark brown, so once I collected the first runnings, I ran downstairs and crushed a pound of Carafa III and threw that in the mash tun while the sparge water was doing its thing. After another 10 minutes, I drained that and got the color I wanted. I added an ounce of Cascade (first wort hop) and put it on the flame. Once I hit boil, I added an ounce of Columbus for bittering, and two 2 ounce additions of Cascade at 10 and 5 minutes (in hop bags, so I could squeeze the wort out after chilling with my sanitized brew gloves).My friend Jason came by for a little while to borrow some hops and have a couple of beers while we watched the boil, so that made the time fly. After the boil and cooling, I pitched two packs of Pacman yeast (in waiting until the night before brewing to decide what to brew, I didn’t have time for a starter, and I thought this would be a great yeast for this beer). I hit my numbers wonderfully, and here’s what the hydrometer sample looked like. It tasted very hoppy, and I couldn’t detect and of the flavor that all that dark malt would normally impart.

Two days into fermentation, the violent display of yeast activity is starting to slow, and I think this one will ferment out very quickly. I’ll take gravity reading after a week and then put it in the cool basement to clear up a bit. I want to get this one on gas quickly so it can be enjoyed fresh, and all that Cascade aroma is there. I’m optimistic that it will be a very successful brew.

The Early Spring Wheat is on tap now and it is tasty! Another week and it should be perfect. I also bottled the second batch of stout. It smelled and tasted great, and I’m again very excited for it to be ready!

Save it for a rainy day…..or…don’t?

I’ve been reading up on a great thread on homebrewtalk about aging beer. It’s mainly been reaffirming my new found knowledge that properly adjusted water pH can help speed the process along…..but that’s not what this is about. I mainly keg, and I’m still learning with every batch that some beers are ready earlier than others, and while some are ready, they’re delicious after an extra month or two tucked away in a corner. These are usually hop monsters, higher gravity beers, or stuff I’ve never really delved into before, like the rye IPA. An adequate knowledge of basic brewing procedures (as well as beer in general) would show that these beers just need a little extra time to find their optimum flavor and balance. It’s a tricky slope, since hop aroma and flavor can quickly fade.

Bottling is a different animal altogether. When you bottle, it’s generally at least two weeks before the beer is carbonated, then usually a couple more before it’s right where you want it. Sometimes (as in the case of my stout), a few months really brings out some subtleties. In the case of imperial IPA’s however, you’re not going to want to wait around too long. Even commercial IIPA’s are made to be consumed fresh.

I recently found a small stash of last summer’s Dawn Spawn Double IPA (my first big beer!), which I brewed in April to bring to New Jersey in June (My sister Dawn’s adorable redheaded boys inspired the name and color). I was proud of it, but I knew right away when I popped that first bottle in NJ that it was past its prime already. Of course I didn’t let on my thoughts, since it was still a tasty beer. I also had a few Hop Zombie IPA’s from back in September (brewed in the backyard of Ed’s (No Name) Bar, during our second homebrew get together). We bottled the Hop Zombie at the next month’s meeting (I racked it into a keg and used a picnic tap and homemade bottling wand with carbonation tablets…worked really nice), and we were all really psyched about the massive hop flavor and aroma of the samples we tried. I took a bottle of each and poured them into a glass. Before tasting, I took a picture:

On the left is the Dawn Spawn, the Hop Zombie on the right. Right away, the Dawn Spawn nearly overflowed the glass, while the Hop Zombie had a nice mellow carbonation. The HZ had a significant amount of sludge on the bottom, but it wasn’t caked to the bottom of the bottle like the Dawn Spawn was. I actually had to OxyClean a few of the DS bottles to get the crud out so I could re-use them. Neither beer smelled like anything I remembered, it was mostly booze. The HZ tasted stale, malty with a faint hop bite rolling off of your tongue at the end. It almost tasted like a barleywine (though not a very good one!). The Dawn Spawn tasted like what I’d imagine rocket fuel would taste like. All hop and malt flavor and aroma were masked by a sharp alcoholic heat. It was pretty bad. Of course, I wasn’t surprised. There was no need to keep them around, so I dumped them out, cleaned and reclaimed the bottles. A neat experiment, though.

Bottling kind of gives me that ‘hoarding’ mindset, especially near the end of a batch. “I can’t drink the last Hop Zombie!”, like I’d be consuming some historic document. If you bottle a good batch, it’s no fun to see that last bottle go, but it has to! Kegging is so much easier in this regard, since the end of a kegged batch announces itself with one last glorious pint, followed by some shooting foam and a hiss of c02 coming out of the tap. That’s it. If you’re lucky, you have another full keg to take its place. If not, you surely have something in the pipeline.

Some beers just go TOO fast. My hop-bursted IPA seemed to pretty much drain itself from the keg. From the first 2-liter bottle I force carbed in order to bring to homebrew night, to that last muddy pint (weird, since usually the last pint for me is clear and wonderful), this was a beer that was kegged quickly, and drank quicker. A look at the recipe on the right shows that the amount of hops used provided an incredible aroma and flavor, even without dry or keg hopping. Even still, with a little over a month in the keg, the initial punch that people were able to smell from across the room was starting to fade. All the more reason to enjoy it while it was at its best!

An interesting sidenote about the Hop Zombie. We bottled two cases, using the same kind of bottles, the same amount of carb tabs, and the same equipment. One case was kept in my basement, the other in Ed’s back room. A couple months in, we did a side by side, and the beers tasted completely different. The only difference was probably a few degrees of storage temperature. Surprising!

Finally, I racked the stout into secondary today. It’ll sit in there for a week with a hop bag containing an ounce and a half of Sumatra and cocoa nibs. Then I’ll bottle it and wait for a month or so. It tastes very smooth so far, and I can’t wait for the finished product!

Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout, v2.0

An accidentally smacked pouch of 1056 American Ale yeast afforded me another brew day this past weekend. After all, why let good yeast go bad? I put in a small order at Midwest for some more dark grains for stouts and brown ales, and also a pound of dry malt extract for making yeast starters. I make the 1 liter starter on Thursday, and on Saturday evening I brewed the stout.

This is what gives the stout that little extra oomph. Three ounces each of roasted cacao nibs, 71% dark chocolate, and freshly roasted, coarsely ground Sumatra. This was added to the boil right at flame out, and stirred vigorously to melt the chocolate and infuse as much flavor as possible before cooling the wort. After primary fermentation, I’ll add another couple ounces of coffee and cacao nibs in secondary.

The wort is thick, very dark, and smells great. I actually scaled the gravity back by 10 points to make it not so strong. The first batch was around 8.5%, and this time around I am shooting for around 7.5%.

It’s currently bubbling away in primary at about once a second, with a nice thick, chocolaty krausen.

I got my judging sheets back from the Upper Mississippi Mash-out last week. I didn’t place, but the beer did make it to the second round of judging in its category, and the scores given were a 34/50 and 37/50. The aroma seemed to be the part drawing the most criticism, but honestly, when the beer warms up to the mid 50 degree point, a lot more comes out. I’m not sure what temperature it was served at, but both judges seemed to think that the aroma was lacking and that it could have used a bit more malt presence in it…which I agree with. I mashed pretty low the first time, and the beer fermented out a bit dryer than I would have liked.  This time around, I mashed a little higher, and also added another half pound of oats (2lbs total). All in all, it was great to receive the score sheets back with some honest feedback. Maybe if this batch turns out well, I’ll enter it again. Who knows?

Early Spring Wheat

Over on the right with the rest of the recipes you’ll see the wheat beer I made this weekend. Being sick of winter, I thought a wheat beer would kick start those warm weather vibes. Saturday morning I got up at 6 a.m. and started my brewday. The grains were crushed the night before, so I set up the strike water on the stove and got the mash cooler ready. With the weather this cold, I heat my strike and sparge water up on the stove with no difficulty. It was a pretty smooth morning brew session, and I was done by a little after 10.

The only downside, and I guess I should have seen this coming (especially using so much wheat in the mash), was that my efficiency was terrible! I missed my original gravity reading by 10 points. It came out at right around 1.043. Since most of the hop additions were late, I wasn’t concerned with it being too bitter, and I quickly came to terms with the fact that I will probably end up with a 4-4.5% ABV hoppy wheat ale. I can live with that! I should have probably thought that out, and added another pound or two of 2-row, but I’m not going to worry about it. The aroma coming out of the airlock smells incredible, and fermentation is going great, and took off a couple hours after I pitched the yeast. The hydrometer sample tasted really nice, and it should have a light orange color with a good wheat haze to it.

The Upper Mississippi Mash Out was this past weekend, and the stout I entered didn’t place in the top three in its category. I’m not surprised, as I wasn’t expecting to place, but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a slight bit of disappointment. Still, I’m very proud of it, and I will be brewing it again next. I would have brewed it this time, but I didn’t have enough of the dark malts. I have six left, and I plan on doing a side by side with the beer that inspired it, Founders Breakfast Stout.


I’ve been meaning to kickstart this page, but something always came up. It originally was to be a ‘hobby’ page, but since it’s mainly about brewing these days, I’ve decided to make it an online brew log, since I am terrible at writing things down. Also, it will give me a place to store recipes, photos, and other resources.

About the recipes. On the right, you’ll see a listing of some of the recipes I have uploaded. That list will grow, and these are all beers that I have brewed and enjoyed. The recipes are exported straight out of Beersmith, and detail the ingredients and procedures used.

In other brewing news:

The Red Rye IPA, EPA, and Hop Bursted IPA are all kegged, with the EPA sitting outside the kegerator patiently waiting its turn. I took the Rye off of the gas for a couple of months to let it age and mellow and it has really made a difference. Patience is always the hardest part of brewing. Also, the Boognish Brown Ale (Which is my Moose Drool clone) is kegged, but for the second time in a row, I am not pleased with the results. Perhaps next time, using the 5.2 (explained below) will help.

I sent in the Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout to the 2010 Upper Mississippi Mashout, mainly for some certified judge feedback than any real expectation of placing amongst the amazing brewers this region has. Judging is this weekend, and I am both excited and nervous to hear how the judges rate my first stout!

The Homebrew Night at Ed’s (No Name) Bar has been coming along nicely. In September, we brewed the Hop Zombie IPA in the backyard, bottled it in October, and have been sipping it ever since. Ed may have a few bottles left, and I have 5 myself. Last month we had another tasting and watched “Beer Wars”. Plans for more on-site brewing is in the works, and we’ve started to attract a small, loyal crowd of homebrew aficionados!

I’ve started using 5.2 Mash Stabilizer. Basically, it’s brewing salts designed to lock in the pH of the mash to 5.2. Winona has pretty hard water with some stuff in it that seems to lend some undesirable flavors and harshness to  lighter, maltier beers (in my experience). I’ve used it twice so far, and both times, the results are remarkable. Efficiency is up, the beer needs less time to age without tasting “green”, and the hop aroma seems to have really improved. We’ll see how that goes. Until I decide to start ‘making’ my water, this will do.

I plan on brewing this weekend, so I’ll have a write up and pictures of whatever I decide to do. Winter brewing is mostly done in my kitchen, with only the full wort boil done outside on the burner (it’s cold out there!)

Homebrew club: A success!

This past Tuesday at Ed’s (No Name) Bar, the inaugural meeting of the fledgling homebrew club was held. Around 8 people showed up, which was about 7 more than I anticipated! I met some cool people, and I brought samples of Gummy Wheat and Centennial Blonde to share. Some people were brewers, some were looking to get into it, but we were all there for the love of beer….which was cool!

Since it was more of an informal, informational session to ‘feel’ out how the club would function, I didn’t expect much to come out of it. Imagine my surprise (and excitement) when we all quickly came to the conclusion that next month’s meeting should consist of a group brew in the back patio!

Regarding the upcoming brew, here’s the loose plan for the next few meetings:

September- 10 gallon group brew. I’ll come up with an all-grain IPA recipe (unanimously, IPA was chosen as the style), scale it accordingly, and gather the ingredients. I’ll probably go with what I have on hand. The thought is to brew and BBQ in the back patio, starting around 5. I’ll bring the stuff to brew, and will probably ferment the two carboys’ worth in my basement so I can keep an eye on them and transfer them to secondary as needed. Should be around a three week fermentation. This will be fun; people who aren’t too familiar with the process will see if from start to finish, and I’ll have extra hands!

October- Fermentation should be complete, so it’s bottling time! I’ll get with Ed to see if he can save a few cases worth of empties, and when the time comes, we’ll bottle it up. I may be able to force carb some in a 2-liter so we can have a taste.

November- Time to enjoy the creation! The hope is to not only have a great brew to enjoy together, but to be able to send everyone home with some to enjoy as they please.

Ed and I are excited about this, and I’d like to again thank him for opening up his place for us to use for the club. Hopefully by the end of the next session, we can start to organize a bit and do some proper club stuff, but the idea of doing a big brew off the bat was too cool to pass up! I’ll post the recipe when I finish it…..I just got a fresh shipment of some pretty punchy hops, so it should be a good one! :)

Anatomy of a brew day

Yesterday I took the wife and baby to the airport so they could spend a few days out east with Jamie’s parents. Perfect opportunity to do some brewing!I decided to take some pictures as I went. Obviously, there were a few things I wasn’t able to photograph while I was doing them, but here’s a general idea of how a brew session goes down.

Heating up water. This was heated to 160 degrees to mash in at around 150. I use a turkey fryer burner and propane tank. Much easier to deal with than stove top brewing!

While the water was heating, I ran downstairs and assembled the grain bill. 12 pounds total, so I grabbed the electric drill and my Barley Crusher and crushed the grains.

This particular beer is an English-style pale ale with added orange peel and coriander. I took one ounce of coriander seed and crushed it coarsely. Then I zested three large oranges. Smelled good! Then I measured out the four ounces of Cascade hops. The first ounce goes in while I collect the first runnings (called ‘first wort hopping’). The next three ounces will be added with 10, 5, and 1 minute left in the boil, respectively.

Once the strike water was heated, I mashed in. I poured the water into the mash tun (a fancy term for a vessel where you mash your grains), then added the grain. After some good stirring to make sure there’s no clumps of dry grain, I checked my temperatures and closed the lid. It usually takes around an hour for the conversion from starches to sugar. Once that was done, I collected the wort (unfermented beer). I had a few more gallons of water heating, which I used to rinse the grain and increase my boil volume. They call it sparging. Here’s what the pot looked like shortly before the boil.

After the 60 minute boil, it’s time to cool the wort. I use a copper coil immersion chiller, which hooks up to a garden hose. Usually, I can chill it down to yeast pitching temperature (less than 70 degrees) in around 15-20 minutes using around 25 gallons of water. I thought I’d try something different this time: take a small electric pump and put the input and output into a bucket filled with ice and a small amount of water. I wanted to see if I could chill it down to 70 without using a ton of water. It worked, but I needed to raid all the ice cube trays in the house!

Once that was done, it was time to pour the wort into the awaiting sanitized glass carboy for yeast pitching. As it is, the wort looks very dark and cloudy. As the fermentation does its thing, the beer will clear up as particles settle into the bottom, giving the beer a nice golden hue.

The target gravity for this beer (which tells us the amount of fermentables in the wort and can be used in conjunction with the final gravity taken after fermentation to determine alcohol content) was 1.060. Here’s a shot of the hydrometer, which not only gives us a view of the nice color of the brew, but if you look through that foam you’ll see that the target gravity was hit dead on! Almost done! Time to celebrate by pouring a homebrew.

After this, it’s time to pitch the yeast. Then I put the airlock on, put it down in the basement and wait. All in all, it was about a 4 1/2 hour brew day. Not bad! Primary fermentation on this beer should take about 10-14 days. From there, I’ll siphon it into a secondary fermentation tank where I will add another ounce of Cascade hops (called dry-hopping) to give it a nice aroma boost. From there, I’ll siphon it into an empty keg (which I don’t have right now!) and it’ll be ready to drink in a week. I’ll keep you updated! :)

Homebrew get together at Ed’s?

I don’t get out very much, and when I do I usually only go to Ed’s No Name Bar on Third and Franklin. Not only is Ed an old friend from way back (as well as a great guy), but the beer and music selections are wonderful. It’s my kind of place, basically. There’s always something great on tap that I’ve been meaning to try.

Last night I biked down with a couple bottles of homebrew (my Amarillo/Simcoe IPA and Centennial Blonde) for Ed to try, with the hopes of getting some tap handles for the kegerator (:D) and some honest feedback. There were only a couple of others in the place, so we all tasted both beers and the reception was positive. I’m always nervous when I hand out samples, especially since I’ve only been doing this for a short time.

Anyway, Ed offered to host a “homebrew night” every month starting next month. If all goes well, it’ll be the third Tuesday of the month (two weeks after his first Tuesday beer club tasting). I am excited! I’m eager to find out who else brews in town. He’s going to get the word out and probably put a blurb on his Facebook page for the bar. More details will follow. :)

Thanks, Ed!

Homebuilt kegerator project

Thought this would be a nice way to start off the homebrew part of the blog.
When I started kegging, it was obvious that I needed a nice-looking, effective way to serve my brew. Otherwise, why not just stick to bottling? My first kegerator was a $50 used Kenmore fridge I bought off Craigslist locally. It had a single tap going through the door, and could only fit one keg. One that fridge started having issues with keeping a stable temp, I shopped around for something new. I found this Danby brand new for $150 (with my wife’s blessing, of course!), and the tower kit I purchased with funds I received from selling some guitar pedals on Ebay. I had to RMA the first tower, since one of the faucet couplers was really bent up, but sent me a new one quickly. I then had to snip off the beer line connectors, which were made for commercial beer kegs, and replace them with connectors that screw into homebrew pin-lock disconnects. Once I had everything on hand, it was time to get to work!.

The first thing I did was remove the inside shelving on the door. This allowed me to get both kegs in the fridge with the c02 tank. Then I figured out that the cooling lines ran through the front of the fridge, so I marked the spot where I would drill with a 3″ hole saw. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked with the help of my Dremel. Once the hole was finished, I used aluminum ducting tape to seal it up and smooth it out.

I then had to drill the four holes for the mounting screws, and then it was time to run the beer lines through and re-attach the lamp/thermostat. Then I ran a couple gallons of sanitizer through each line just to be sure. Once everything was cleaned up and tightened down, I put the c02 tank on the back ledge, hooked up gas and beer lines, and fit everything in nice and snug.

A $20 drip tray, some glasses and it’s ready to go!

The whole project took about two hours from start to cleanup. Not bad!
The fridge stays a constant 42 degrees unless I tell it to, and the forward sealing faucets eliminate the problem of sticky taps, since I don’t pull pints from it every day. I’m very happy with it.