Archive for March, 2011

Homebrew contest, Untitled Pale Ale and Blue Heron brew updates

When I brewed the Untitled Pale Ale (since titled Vienna Pale), its purpose was to be entered into the Bluff Country Co-Op’s homebrew contest. I had used a new strain of yeast, and a new style of grain bill. I probably should have done something a little more tested, since the beer hit 76 degrees at its peak Krausen, much higher than it should have. Once I noticed this, I quickly brought the carboy into the basement to cool down, but that damage was done. Once it was done, there was some bad off-flavors that I tried to mask with a couple of ounces of Citra for dry-hopping. No go. This one needed time, and after a month or so, I’d decide if it was salvageable. Needless to say I didn’t enter it.

I feel that it is just now  starting to be a drinkable beer. The off flavors are dying off, and it’s starting to be almost enjoyable. It’s about half gone, so I’ll continue to ‘sample’ it, and pawn it off to any willing testers. I am still really interested in the idea of using Vienna as a base malt, especially since I enjoy the bready, malty base that the beer has. I’ll just use a yeast I am more experienced with, and keep an eye on temperature a bit more.

The beers that Jeff and I made up at the Blue Heron a couple of weeks back are done. I haven’t checked gravities yet, but they were both pretty much settled after about 5 days. The wheat will get dry hopped a bit, and the extract pale ale may as well, depending on how I like the sample I draw. I’m excited at the thought of doing something similar like this again, and am very pleased with how things have turned out. They will be served at April’s homebrew club night, and I’ll bottle some up to give to our gracious hosts for the evening.

So the UPA was a bust, and I needed to enter something into the homebrew contest. My double IPA was a bit past its prime, the hop aroma was fading, replaced by a nice floral honey aroma. It was starting to taste a little thin, but I bottled up the last two bottles from the keg and sent them off. Also, I had batch #3 of the Rye IPA on tap, but it was a bit young, and wasn’t dry hopped, so it was missing that initial punch of Amarillo nose. But I entered it anyway. I didn’t get first place, but I got second (and third)! The double IPA placed, with the comments telling what I had known, and the Rye was right behind it in 3rd. So I got my first award, a spiffy ribbon, and a co-op gift card. Not bad! I’m proud of both beers, even if they weren’t (to me) at optimum condition at the time of entry.

Next brew will likely be the Black IPA. It’s been too long!


Double brew demo/class!

For the past year, I’ve been really fortunate to work with the good folks at Bluff Country Co-op with various homebrewing activities. Our first class was an outdoor demo brew of one of their extract kits. We attracted a good crowd, and since then we did two more informational classes. Then, to coincide with the co-op’s upcoming homebrew contest, we thought to do another brewing demonstration, except bring it up a peg. The plan was to utilize the kitchen and space at the Blue Heron, the wonderful cafe across the street, have proprietor Larry make food, we’d do two brews (one extract, one all-grain) and of course, we’d sample some brews. Needless to say, I was all over it.

My first thought was that I needed a second brewer. Jeff Williams was the obvious choice, since I knew that as long as he’d be in town, he’d be down. Once that was set, we then knocked heads on what we’d make for the all-grain batch. The thought was to do a ten gallon batch, split it, each take our half and ferment and dry-hop how we chose. Since spring is almost here, the retooled Gummy Wheat was a perfect choice. I procured the ingredients that I didn’t have on hand, and Jeff took care of sourcing the yeast. We both ended up choosing Greenbelt ale yeast, Austin Homebrew Supply’s signature house strain. For the extract beer, the initial thought was to do a kit, but Mike from the co-op suggested in an email possibly piecing together an extract recipe, and I ran with it. I wrote up the recipe, knowing that all of the stuff needed was on the shelf at the co-op. It was going to be a full-boil extract brew.

Once all of the details were in place, we only needed people to sign up. The decision was made to keep the sign up number to ten, and there would be a $10 fee, mainly to cover the food Larry was going to prepare. Signups were slow, but I was sure that if we kept spreading the word at beer club, facebook, word of mouth, and with the help of a couple potential last-minute stragglers, that we’d get the place filled. And we did!

So, here’s a quick run down of what happened.

Jeff and I met up with Mike and Larry at around 5:15. Shortly after, we started heating the boil water for the extract, and the strike water for the all-grain. People started showing up, and we got ingredients and equipment going. The Heron’s stove kicked out some fantastic BTU’s, which made heating water a breeze. Once people had arrived, Mike made  a quick introduction, and Jeff and I got to work brewing, explaining processes, and answering questions. Our guests were very interested, had great questions, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The extract batch went off without a hitch and was actually done a bit earlier than I’d anticipated. We missed our mash temp by a few degrees on the all-grain brew, but we were able to quickly take care of that by getting a gallon of water to a boil to bring the temp up to 152. I was a little nervous about all the wheat causing a stuck mash, but the addition of some rice hulls gave is a nice clean wort. We drew around 14 gallons, then set my new 20 gallon pot over two burners and got it to a boil with ease. The rest of the brewing was a breeze.
While this was happening, we tasted some of Jeff’s fine homebrews, some of Mike’s delicious stout, and some Summit that Lenny brought out. Larry fired up the oven and began a steady stream of pizzas for people to munch on while we cooled the extract batch and got things ready for the end of the wheat beer boil. By this time, the 9 PM class end time had passed, and Mike told the crowd that they could stay and watch the rest if they wanted. Understandably, people started filing out, with happy bellies and hopefully some good ideas for their own brewing. At the end of the boil, a large 4 ounce hop addition gave the place a nice punch of Amarillo aroma. By 10:30, we were all packed up and ready to go. We did good on our numbers, got the volume we wanted, things went really well. We continually thanked Larry and Lenny for their time and space. Jeff and I then went to Ed’s for a celebratory pint, then we took our wort home.

Starting gravity of the extract pale ale was 1.056, and the gravity of the wheat was 1.052. Good numbers, and right in line with the bittering I planned. Now it’s the yeast’s turn to work!


I gave Jeff’s wife Katie my camera to take a few pictures.

Pouring in the extract. This stuff moves much easier if you heat it up a little bit.

Mashing the all-grain wheat. I am sure we’re coming up with some sort of plan here.

Using the refractometer to check our pre-boil gravity. Efficiency was a bit better than I planned for in the recipe.

Here’s all of the primary action. The extract pale is on the left, the wheat is in the middle, and on the right is the second batch of the solstice stout, ready for kegging.


So it was a great success. Jeff and I had a great time, and thanks again to everyone who was involved. These beers should be ready in time for tasting at April’s homebrew night!