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First all grain brew day

My new all grain set up

My new all grain set up

In all honestly though this isn’t my first all grain brew day. I actually did one at home, though more like a BIAB using drilled plastic buckets at a sparge vessel. I’ve watched Denver during a couple of brews. I’ve done several 85% – 90% ‘all me’ brew days on Gratis Brewing’s rig, so those kinda count too. Those have helped me the most with understanding the process. They have both helped me decide on which route to go when I did decide (read: Sarah said it was ok) to finally go all grain. The two most obvious choices were, make sure it’s a fired mash tun and make sure you can do a full boil. Check and check! So I’m trying to remember why Sarah was in such a good mood, but I know she was sitting on the couch, probably playing Snoopy Coaster on her iPad between pauses of some dumb show on DVR. I gave her just enough information to get the remarks, “That’s not too bad, go ahead I guess.” Thankfully Mark over at 5 Points Growlers and Home Brew Supply helped me with everything I needed, plus no shipping and I bought local. I did manage to sneak a grain mill by her though. Which I honestly meant to mention but it arrived home before I did.

Caution!  I'm milling grain by hand.

Caution! I’m milling grain by hand.

After one of my best friends acquired me a 10 gal brew kettle and my other best friend helped drill it and valve it, I was finally ready to brew. Seeing as how I was going to brew on Labor Day I would need to use Belgian yeast since it’s more tolerant to warmer fermentation temperatures. I also didn’t want to go big on my first brew day with this new rig in case I missed my numbers I didn’t want to feel like I wasted a load of money on a large grain bill. I’m expecting a few more weeks of warm weather before it finally breaks, so I wanted something small with low ABV to enjoy on football Saturdays. I brewed a Saison once before and actually had to re-pitch with Wyeast 1056 to finish it out. So to avoid that hassle again I went with White Labs Saison II yeast, plus the guy at the shop recommended it after using it a few weeks prior.

First runnings

First runnings

Brew day finally rolled around and naturally I sleep late. I didn’t clean and sanitize the new pots the day before like I had planned. I knew I needed to run out for ice the morning of so I grabbed new propane tanks at the same time. The princess would want breakfast and coffee when she woke up, so there’s that stop too. It’s a warm day already so I wanted to at least start out fresh so I showered after running those errands, which now puts us at 11 am and I’m finally ready to start assembling the new brewery. Assemble? Yeah, Legos! Not quite. I did manage to do a little pre-work by measuring all the pots and oh yeah, new burner too, so I could build a three tier gravity set-up out of cinder blocks. I always brew in the garage, so it’s nice and flat and cinder blocks are sturdy enough that I’m not worried about knocking them down, plus they’re just over $1 a piece too. With this setup my only heavy lifting, which is still moderate since I’m only doing 5 gallon batches, is to remove the mash tun off the burner and place the full boil kettle on the burner. For this time I also lifted the HLT up top with 6 gallons of sparge water too. But I plan to buy some marine water hoses plus an in-line water filter and use the outside tap to fill everything with. Baby steps for now though.

I actually fitted valves, cleaned pots and hoses rather quickly and before I know it my mash water is up to temperature. The new burner is from Academy and it’s an 88,000 BTU burner as opposed to my other one that Sarah bought me (that I picked out), which is only 58,000 BTU. Big biggest difference is the new burner is a single flame so I’m cautious and aware that I’m always stirring if I’m heating the mash. I worry that the single flame while it spreads nicely across the bottom of the mash tun and there is a false bottom could burn some wort if not stirred. The mash is at temp and holding very nicely (again, it’s a mid 80 degree day) and quickly the strike water is at temp without getting it to 220 degrees like some other brew days I’ve been too. I’m not saying a word Brian, I promise! One thing that Brian did teach me, a good thing, is to float the mash from the bottom. This gives the grain bed a chance to loosen some sugars and become more viable for their soon to be voyage to the boil kettle. I finally get to use the mash paddle I cut out of cherry wood and if I leave dough balls behind with this behemoth then I should stop brewing all together. The day didn’t go without a few small hiccups though. I normally like to catch the first runnings and pour them back over the mash to filter out some of those bigger proteins. I was so excited to snap a picture of the first runnings that as soon as I did I remember from the hazy wort I had forgotten that step. Also while trying to fine tune my equipment profile in BeerSmith (brewing software) I set it for 2 gallons of lauter tun dead space. When the wort was done transferring to the kettle I wanted some of that extra wort and this caused for me to over sparge. I now have a really light wort and a low starting gravity. I decided to boil an extra 20 minutes to boil off and get down to my target gravity. Which I’ll be damned, actually worked and without darkening the wort too much. No boil-over either even though it seemed people were begging for it to happen. The other headache was trying to chill the wort after boiling using 30 pounds of ice in swamp cooler and my water hose coiled under it all. It came down to 80 degrees and held there until all the ice melted. So my next trick was to transfer into the fermenter then place that in the swamp cooler with more ice around it. After dinner it was at pitching temperature. I actually think I chilled the wort too much as it took almost an entire day for the air lock to see activity. But I’m not worried now because it gurgled for an entire week before slowing to a bubble every few minutes.

After eight days I decided to pull it out and take a gravity. My target final gravity was 1.009 and if I was close then I’d rack off the yeast, if it wasn’t ready then I’d carry the yeast over to secondary and then do another rack after it finished. To my surprise it was already at 1.006. The Chuck Norris of Saison yeast I guess? It certainly kicked the sugars out of there fast. So that’s where we’re at. First taste samples are dodgy because there’s still some off gases that screw up my palette and even worse my sniffer. It was a simple recipe with low bittering and no additions like bitter orange peel or coriander, which are common but not required in a Saison beer. I’m hoping that yeast will lend enough spiciness and flavoring to be considered as a successful batch. Keeping the fermenter in a swamp cooler worked out pretty well. I kept a thermometer in the water the entire time and I could regulate it between 62*-72* the entire time. I need to work on keeping the big swings out of that equation though. As for the next brew I’m thinking of doing the Cascade pale ale that I wrecked just before summer only dry hopping it this time.

As far as going from partial mash brewing to all grain brewing relied on one comment. Last year when Goose Island was released in Georgia, Brian introduced me to their brewer over at Pauley’s one night. He told the guy (whose name I forget and I’m so sorry for not remembering it at 2:30 am) about me recently winning gold at the Peach State Brew Off with my Citra Pale Ale. During that discussion it came up that I was only doing partial mashes and his comment was to go all grain as soon as I can. He added that while you can make really good beer without doing all grain you can’t sustain making great beer every time relying on extract as an ingredient, basically. This first brew is truth to that with an apparent attenuation of 87% without a starter. Fingers crossed this Saison turns out ok and we keep brewing better.


Mash runnings sample

Mash runnings sample

Post boil sample

Post boil sample

Post fermentation sample

Post fermentation sample

That’s some gold head

I’ve been a pseudo homebrewer for just over three years now.  This year is the second that I’ve entered homebrew into the Peach State Brew Off.   Last year I was comfortable with the professional judges critiquing of my beer.  Though none won medals, they all had positive feedback and some constructive criticism, just what I need at my early stages of brewing.  This year I brewed a pale ale recipe that I wrote shortly after I started brewing.  It was my fourth brew to be exact (3rd if you don’t count the porter that a former coworker brewed at my house).  I’ve changed the recipe slightly each time and I’m surprised at how much minor changes have a bigger effect.

After the comments I received last year from both the Peach State Brew Off and Savannah Summer Sud’s competition, I was feeling pretty good about brewing this beer again.  Only that I forgot when the entry deadline was and had to rush fermentation.  Well everything worked out ok and we landed our first homebrew ribbon.  Gold medal in the American Pale Ale category.

The video didn’t upload as clear as I would have liked, so I may replace it with a bigger version.  A link is at the very bottom if you’re viewing on mobile.  Now it’s time to tweak some more and brew again.  Beer sure does fly away when it’s good.  Cheers!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

PSBO gold pale ale, posted with vodpod

Pale Ale rebrew

After the debacle that was The Peach State Brew Off I had to rebrew the pale ale.  Ok, it wasn’t a debacle, but I used the judges comments to make what I thought would be corrections.  These should be simple right, since it wasn’t rated that poorly?  Fourth out of 13 for my first competition, not what I wanted, but I’ll live.  The two biggest complaints were not bitter enough, ‘bready’ tasting and better head retention.  Bittering is easy, if you understand the process.  Bread taste is in the description of the Vienna malt I used in the first batch.  For the head retention, it’s common to use Cara-pils malt, so I will.

New Bee pale ale batch 2                  New Bee pale ale batch 3

Grain bill – extract                              Grain bill – partial mash

2 lbs 2 row malt                                  3 lbs 2 row malt

1 lb Vienna                                          1.5 lbs Crystal C10

5 lb Pilsner LME                                 .25 lbs Cara-pils

1 lb Clover honey                                5 lbs Pilsner LME

———————                                  1 lb Orange Blossom honey

Hops                                                    Hops

1 oz Cascade – 60 min                        1 oz Centennial – 60 min

1 oz Centennial – 15 min                    1 oz Cascade – 15 min

2 oz Citra dry hop – 2 weeks              2 oz Citra dry hop – 2 weeks

Yeast                                                   Yeast

Wyeast 1056                                       Wyeast 1056

OG – 1.056                                         OG – 1.057

FG – 1.010                                          FG – 1.011

batch 2 vs batch 3

batch 2 vs batch 3

Batch 2 on the left was bottled on February 3 and batch 3 was bottled on April 23.  So in this picture, batch 3 had on bottle conditioned for basically seven days.  It’s been in the fridge for nine days.  So it may clear over a couple of more weeks in the bottle BEFORE chilling.  Although BJCP allows slight haze from dry hopping, you can clearly see the extract version has no haze.  The head in b3 is much ‘tighter’, or thicker and frothier.  Which is totally due to the use of Cara-pils and only 1/4 lb of it, goes along ways.  While I’m not including a picture of it, this helps a lot in retention.  It will lace the glass after each sip.  Ok, I gulp, so each gulp.  What a picture can’t show and something I can’t describe enough is the huge, HUGE citrus aroma on batch 2, even after three months of being in the bottle.  What this tells me is that quite possibly the hops were fresher in batch 2 than in batch 3.  I don’t recall where the ingredients from each batch came from, but it’s obvious when the cap is popped all the way through when it’s poured and even sipped on.

I’m not sure if it’s from the aroma alone, but the flavor in b2 is better than b3.  I may brew this again and add in some Vienna, or completely replace the C10 malt with Vienna.  I need to understand more clearly if Vienna malt is allowed in a true American Pale Ale.  Please comment if you know for sure.  Either way, I want to always have this in the fridge.  Either of these!


Nothing better than drinking another’s homebrew

Denver's Centennial IPA

Denver's Centennial IPA

It’s Sunday and I have ingredients for two recipes in the pseudo beer cellar (aka a closet).  I wanted to brew today, but I haven’t started propagating my liquid yeast yet.  So I may do that tonight and brew during the week.  This may be a grave mistake, but screw it, I’m still young.  I can handle a full day of work on a few hours of sleep.  Of course that next day will probably pertain to  doing extreme things on the shortest of notice.  That’s why they make coffee and Red Bull right?

Today is the first day of Spring and it’s a nice cool 68F.  A perfect day to brew.  The previous two days saw highs in the 80’s.  Mother Nature listens about as good as three year olds.  I’ve spent the previous two hours on the front porch with Twitter and a buddies homebrew.  He entered three beers into the Peach State Brew Off.  If you recall from the previous post, I entered one and finished 4th of 11 in the American Pale Ale category.  My buddy Denver actually won bronze with his hefeweizen.  Not sure where the other two placed, but they didn’t trophy.

Denver's hefeweizen

Denver's hefeweizen

It’s a gloomy day out, or the pictures of the beers would look much better.  The hefe tasted and smelled like those in the beer coolers at the local Kroger.  No wonder it placed third.  The flavor faded a bit and the clarity was almost too good.  But all around a damn good beer.  I may wash my hair with the other bottle later tonight.

Next up was his Centennial IPA.  As the name greatly describes, this is an India Pale Ale brewed with all Centennial hops.  The color to me was a bit dark, and the flavor followed the darkness.  This isn’t a bad thing since it was a tasty IPA.  While Denver could tell us differently, I think there is a tad bit of caramel C60 malt in this brew.  Sixty describes the color of the malt.  An American pilsner would be around the 4% SRM color.  A Guinness would be around 80% SRM.  If that helps you any.  One thing about IPAs is that the head should be big, not large and out of the glass.  It should also have lacing after almost every taste.  I would say Denver didn’t lose points in this part of the scoring.

IPA glass lacing

IPA glass lacing

Lastly was Denver’s, as he describes it ‘thrown together’ version of an ESB.  This some say is the English version of an IPA, dubbed Extra Special Bitter.  These beers should be built using all English malts and all English hops.  Along with an English inspired yeast strain.  Not sure what aroma hop was used, but it’s vaguely similar to Centennial hops.  Or that pleasant aroma is stuck in my nose hairs from his previous homebrew?  While Denver basically told me it was crap, I found it to be quite enjoyable.  Sure, it’s no award winner, but it’s not far off either.

Denver and I have committed to rebrew these and find another competition to enter them in before the Peach State Brew Off next year.  We’ll keep you posted.

Denver's ESB

Denver's ESB

Cheers on this Sunday Funday!

Peach State Brew Off 2011

I’ve been homebrewing for a little over 15 months.  If you’ve been keeping up you would know that out of 15 batches, I’ve only skunked two.  Two too many I know.  Batch 14 was my first re-brew.  The first pale ale I brewed was batch four.  Which was the first time I dry hopped, wrote my own recipe and brewed with honey.  They all went well.  So I made a couple of tweeks.  Mainly the hops, and brewed this again.  This time I was after a citrus taste and aroma using American citrus hops.  The only problems I ran into was a lack of time.  Instead of dry hopping for one week, I was forced to let it go two weeks.  This proved to be a great mistake.  The very first beer I tasted only a week after bottling smelled perfect.  After two weeks, still a citrus aroma bomb.  So after sharing with a friends, I’m convinced it’s decent enough to get some professional criticism.

35 point New Bee APA

35 point New Bee APA

So each year in Georgia they have the Peach State Brew Off.  I entered into group 10A, the American Pale Ale category.  I typically brew to BJCP category standards anyways, but this one fit perfectly in the group.  I was completely clueless on how well it would score.

On Saturday March 12 tweets started rolling out from group one on to the last group, then best of show winners.  Each group would have a bronze, silver and gold winner.  If the group wasn’t big enough for three winners, groups would be combined.  The tweets were sporadic.  But Sarah was shopping at the mall, so refreshing every minute or two kept me occupied and from ripping my eyes out.  When my group came out bronze and silver came through back to back.  No bronze and no silver.  While I honestly entered just for some professional feedback, I had no hopes on winning until this long pause.  So finally gold rolls out and it’s not me either.  Now I get inpatient waiting on my score sheets to get emailed to me.  Originally it was stated please wait up to two weeks before your score sheets get emailed.  But come Monday night, they’re available online.

I guess I should add that by Sunday night, I knew I scored 35 out of 50 points.  Now I’m thinking that’s a ways away from zero, yet still 15 points away from 50.  I download a BJCP score sheet and 35 is in the very good class.  Stating a good representation of the style with some minor flaws.  So when my sheets show up online for viewing it turns out it’s a great beer.  But why such a low score?  Or if your glass is half full why such a high score and no medal?  Turns out the beer just isn’t balanced.  Well we knew that with the smooth flavor and huge citrus aroma.  I even had some friends tell me this in a positive way.  That the aroma has you thinking it’s going to be a hop bomb, but it’s totally different.  So how did I totally botch a great beer with unbalanced hops and aroma?  Simple.  Because I love my wife.  No Sarah I’m not blaming you for yet another thing.  Honestly I’m laying in bed the night before I was to brew reviewing the recipe to try and memorize it to limit mistakes on brew day, and I swapped the hops.  My IBUs are within style guidelines no matter how I add them.  So I add my aroma hops at 60 minutes boil and my bittering hops at 15 minutes of boil time.  I know lowered the IBU by almost 10 points.  Enough to know Sarah will enjoy it.

The only other negative notes from the two judges were some bready taste.  I know exactly which grain did this and I know what I’m going to replace it with.  Also medium head with minimal retention and lacing.  So I have some Carapils in mind to add next brew to help with the retention.  I’m debating on brewing it again with corrections, then that same recipe but with some lemon zest, apricot or orange peel to enjoy through Summer.

Also, congratulations to my buddy Denver for his bronze in the weizen class with 38 points.  We’re discussing rebrews and finding another competition to enter into so we can grab more medals for PSBO next year.

Happy brewing and Cheers!

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