Category Archives: Experiments

Bottling day, plus surprise bottling

Saturday was a bottling day at my place. No brewing, just bottling. Was meant to be a quick one so we could get onto other things for the day.

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret bottled

Home Brewers R+D Victoria Secret bottled and ready for conditioning

Chas came over and, unlike the last few days at my place, there wasn’t anything major getting in the way of starting. So we quickly got stuck into bottling the 13 odd litres of the Home Brewers R&D Vic Secret. Sannitising bottles is pretty easy with the tub and bottling tree. Went  with a mix of a few bigger 500 ml bottles and a fair few 330 ml bottles.

Bulk primed the beer was a simple affair. Did it in the big stock pot just like the Super Stout. But unlike the Super Stout we didn’t pour the thing into something else to bottle. We simply siphoned the beer into bottles. Done.

Pseudo Lager 1 bottled

Pseudo Lager 1 bottled and ready for conditioning

Before priming and bottling we did a gravity sample. Final gravity came in at 1.010 which means after conditioning it will be 3.4% alcohol. Not surprised as there was such a low original gravity. From tasting the gravity sample it was very hoppy and very bitter. Not sure how it will finish. I’m hoping this becomes a session beer and, if I can keep myself from drinking it all, something for the warmer months later in the year.

Before calling it a day I decided to take a gravity sample of the Pseudo Lager. Was very surprised to see it down to 1.006! I’ve been hoping it would get down to 1.005 but expected it to finish around 1.020-1.010. That’s a good result and means the beer will be 6.0% after bottling. It tasted pretty alright as well, quite dry and not a lot of hops. Should be good once it is carbonated.

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret and Pseudo Lager 1

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret and Pseudo Lager 1 samples ready for tasting

Chas wasn’t that excited about bottling another 16 litres of beer. But after a bit of negotiation, and a break for a bit, we got into it. Rather than bulk prime into the pot, we used the recently emptied fermentation vessel with the tap and a brew wand. Saved a lot of time and finished quickly.

A day of bottling. Normally nothing special, but a pleasant surprise with the Pseudo Lager. Looking forward to tasting and letting you know how it all worked out.

-Mikey

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Making the Friedlieb all grain

DSC_0410Back in October 2013, we made a second version of a coffee porter called the Friedlieb. It used malt extract and some specialty grain. Now we figured we’d try to make it an all grain.

We basically had to start again to try to adapt what was about 1.5 kilograms of liquid malt and 250 grams of dry malt (for 12 litres). The liquid malt was a golden light and the dry was a dark malt, so we decided to replace this with 2 kilograms of traditional pale malt and up some of the other darker grains as well (for 8 litres).

The beer might not turn out “portery” enough, but this is just the start of things, so if we need to up the dark malts a little more, we will. All that being said, this has always been a fairly light porter, so we’ll see.

We also upped the peated malt to try and bring out even more smoke in the brew. Some would say we’re pushing it too much, but it’s hard to get the peat to come out above the large amount of coffee we’re putting in there, so…

The ingredients were (for an 8 litre batch):

  • 2 kilograms of traditional pale malt
  • 180 grams dark crystal
  • 100 grams chocolate malt
  • 150 grams peated malt
  • 100 grams melanoidin
  • 120 grams rye malt
  • 6 grams Willamette (bittering) – 30 minutes
  • 6 grams Fuggles (taste) – 15 minutes
  • 6 grams Fuggles (aroma) – 0 minutes
  • 16 shots espresso
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • Windsor style ale yeast

All the grains were mashed for an hour in eight litres of water at 65 degrees. We were able to keep the temperature pretty constant, and this seemed like a good amount of water for the grains.

DSC_0413We played around with the pots a bit to do everything right. Basically, we just let the grains mash in the biggest pot we could get (about 12 litres) without a bag or anything like that. After the mashing process, we strained all this (through a few bags) in a couple smaller pots. With the grain now in a couple grain bags, we transferred all the wort back to the big pot and sparged. It worked pretty well! But we still need a bigger pot…

From there, it was pretty standard.

The brown sugar and coffee went in with 5 minutes left to the boil.

Cooling was pretty easy and we were left with about 7 litres of liquid, so there wasn’t a whole lot of topping up to do to get it up to 8 litres.

The original gravity was 1.063 which isn’t bad considering we were approximating the grain from a previous extract brew with an OG of 1.073. Depending on how things turn out, we may up the malt a bit and/or mash the grains for a bit longer to bring that original gravity up a little bit.

Anyway, the beer is currently bubbling away and should be ready to bottle pretty quick. I’m eager to see how it turns out and modify further!

-Chas

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Journey continues, onto all grain

Yesterday I finally did my first all grain brew. It’s been a long time coming and Chas has already done a couple all grain brews. I’ve been putting it off for a while. That’s partly because I was trying to knock out a few batches I’ve been thinking about. The other part was because I didn’t have a pot big enough to do a proper batch. Now that’s all sorted it was time to go all grain.

American Brown Ale done

American Brown Ale done in the carboy

Before I get into that, we also bottled the American Brown Ale. Didn’t bother with bulk priming due to the small batch size. Carbonation drops into bottles liquid in an capped. The final gravity came in at 1.022 which was a bit higher than the 1.014 expected. Final alcohol will be 4.6% and I’m happy with that.

So, my first all grain brew was a brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) style. The recipe is part of a Research and Development brew, an American Pale Ale, with a few home brewers from work. The idea is that we all brew with the same grain ratios and IBU target but with different hops. Due to my ‘small’ 19 litre pot I did an eight litre batch, rather than the 16 litre version the others did. Given my fascination in Vic Secret hops, that was the hop selection for me. The recipe is below.

  • 1.8 kg Joe White Traditional Ale grina
  • 0.15 kg Joe White Cara grain
  • 4 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for 60 min)
  • 11 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for 20 min)
  • 13 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for 5 mins)
  • 1/2 pack of Safale US-05 yeast
  • 14 g Victoria’s Secret hops (for dry hopping at day 7)
R+D Vic Secret mash

Home Brewers R+D Vic Secret mash in the pot

The brew was a very long one. Longer than I expected. Main reason is it took an hour to get the 14.4 litres of water for the mash. Reason for that was I want to filter all my water before I use it and I didn’t get any prepared before hand. Once water was ready we brought it up to about 69-70 degrees Celsius. Grain bag went over the pot and grain in. This sat in the pot for about 60-65 mins at 67 degrees Celsius. It was meant to be at that for 75 mins but there was too much head added and the last 10-15 mins it got up to about 72+ Celsius. Mash out was meant to be 75 Celsius, so we called it done at that point.

There was a lot of liquid that was at the start of the boil. The recipe said it should be about 13 litres. After the boil it was meant to be 10 litres, then batch size of 8 litres. Not sure where the last two litres were meant to go. If anyone has some info on this please post below.

Due to the excess water we let the boil go for about 30 or so minuets before first hops. This was to try and reduce liquid, which was a good idea. The hop additions went pretty smoothly. My alarm wasn’t loud and missed a couple additions by a couple minuets here and there. Shouldn’t make much difference. Also used some Brewbrite to clear it out. Added a teaspoon to a cup of water and dissolved it. Then into the boil with about 5 mins to go.

Chilled the wort down by putting the pot in an ice bath. This was pretty good. Also added some big blocks of ice to the wort directly which worked a treat. It was only later that I realised this was a problem. Once down in temperature the wort was poured into the fermenter and I realised that I had way too much liquid. It came in at 13 litres! No surprise that the gravity reading came in a lot lower than expected. It was 1.033 and should have been 1.049. That’s a big difference.

The re-hydrated yeast went in along with the yeast nutrient. I’m expecting, or rather hoping for, a good conversion from the yeast. If things go well it should reduce down to 1.008 and that means after bottle conditioning It should be about 3.5% alcohol. Will wait and see.

-Mikey

 

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Long time coming, long time to wait

Since very early on home brewing I’ve wanted to make a good lager. After a bit of looking about, reading up on it and asking a few other brewers I decided to dive in.

The first attempt was as part of basic home brew kit. It was more of a very pale ale rather than a lager. The yeast was from a kit can and then it was fermented with out any temperature control. It turned out a bit rough and didn’t get much better with age.

Since that brew I wasn’t  in a rush to do another lager. Reading up on the process others use, strict temperature control and long term storage, really tuned me off. Then a fellow home brewer, Carnie Brewing, posted on his blog about his attempt and quick turn around. That got me interested again.

Pseudo Lager boil

Pseudo Lager boiling away on the stove

Yeast was the main sticking point. I didn’t want to do a big batch in case I stuffed it. So, I decided to do a trial run with US-05 at a low temperature. Due to using ale yeast, instead of lager yeast, I’ve decided to call this Pseudo Lager. If it turns out well I’ll look at doing a bigger batch with proper lager yeast.

  • Amber Dry Malt – 600 grams (60 mins)
  • Light Dry Malt – 300 grams (10 mins)
  • White Sugar – 1.1 kilograms (10 mins)
  • Victoria’s Secret hops – 5 grams (60 mins)
  • Crystal hops – 10 grams (flame out)
  • US-05 yeast – about 3-4 grams

This was a pretty basic brew. For a quite some time I played around with the idea of splitting out the hop additions into three, but stuck with two as I wanted to highlight the Crystal hops at the end. The 5 litre boil was for 60 minutes so was able to get enough bitterness (IBUs) from the little Victoria Secret hops at the start. All the amber malt went in at the start. The malt selection was based on what was in the house. Originally I thought there was more light malt, but that wasn’t to be. Light malt was added at the end with the sugar, which was there to keep the finish dry and alcohol up.

Pseudo Lager fermenter

Pseudo Lager done and in the fermenter

Before the boil started I re-hydrated the yeast. I added in a little bit of light malt to try and get some yeast starter going. As this was only for about one and a half hours I’m not expecting much.

Cooling went very well. The process I’ve got to dump a lot of ice directly into the wort seams to work well. Got a bit excited and poured the whole wort in without sieving out the hops. Whoops. Then I realised as I was filling up the fermenter that I forgot the Crystal hops! Uh Oh! So, I just dumped the hops into the fermenter and continued filling it up to 16 litres. I suppose it will be something like flame out/dry hopping. Hopefully.

The gravity reading came in at 1.049 which is exactly what the recipe said it would be. Due to all the sugar in there it should ferment out to finish with a gravity of 1.005. That would be about 6% alcohol after bottling. That’s exciting for a lager.

I deliberately left this in the shed with no heating. The temperature out there drops down a fair bit. Down to maybe 10 degrees Celsius, or less, overnight. Then during the day up to a maximum of 18 degrees Celsius. I’ve left this on purpose to help keep the yeast working at a larger-like temperatures. Not sure if this will do anything other than drag out the fermentation.

After two days the beer is bubbling away. It’s very slowly doing that, but it is happening.

-Mikey

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Something easy for winter, brown ale

A few days ago I made a mistake with bottling the Super Stout. There’s a chance that it won’t taste good. I want to have something darkish to enjoy over the rest of winter. So it was time to do a back up brew, something a bit basic and small. Enter the idea of doing a brown ale.

I spent a while playing around with a recipe ideas. In the end I decided to go with a really quick 30 minute boil and only two hop additions. Plus to keep the length of time down I wanted to do just four litres. Another factor keeping it simple and quick is to only use malt extract, in this case it was dry malt extract (DME).

American Brown Ale

American Brown Ale in the carboy

With the ingredients I had at home I couldn’t do an English style brown ale. Therefore I went with creating an American Brown Ale. Ingredients listed below.

  • 600 grams of Dark DME
  • 3 grams Warrior hops (30 mins in boil)
  • 2 grams Crystal hops (flame out)
  • 1 teaspoon of kit yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Some people really don’t like using kit yeast. For me it was easy because (1) I had some at home and (2) it’s a very basic darker beer. The darkness of the malt will help hide some of the less desirable flavours of the yeast, I hope.

This was a three litre boil. First in went 400 grams of the DME. After the hot break went in the Warrior hops. Twenty minutes later the rest of the DME went in. Ten minutes after that flame out. Crystal hops went in. The pot was moved to sink to chill in cold water. About three trays of ice dropped directly into the wort. Only had to replace the water once for chilling. I was happy that it got down to about 22 degrees Celsius quite quickly. Then poured the wort through a sieve into the glass carboy which was then topped up to four litres.

While all that was happening the yeast and nutrient was re-hydrated in some water on the side. Before pitching in the yeast took a hydrometer reading which came in at 1.054. This should come in around 5.8% after bottling. That’s going to be stronger than the Super Stout!

This was a very quick brew and only took about two hours to do. Was done by myself and I like that it was so quick. The wort tasted basic as expected. There’s not a lot of hops in there and plan was to keep bitterness down. Fingers crossed that this one turns out well. Will know in about a month.

Keep an eye out as I’m going to be doing a lager style ale in the next few days.

-Mikey

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When you don’t brew, go brew

Chas is still overseas having fun and tasting beers. I’m still naively waiting on the Super Stout. So… what to do when not brewing? Help a mate with his brew!

Strong Belgian Golden Ale sparge

Strong Belgian Golden Ale sparging away with hot liqueur pot, mash tun, pump and boiling pot

Last weekend here in Melbourne was a long weekend thanks to Queen’s Birthday public holiday. No, it’s not her Birthday, the holiday is about something else. Anyway.

On Saturday I went around to my mate Michael‘s place. He’s been doing all grain for a while. Last time I was there I had to leave early and missed a few things. This time I was there from start to (nearly) the very end. This was a very long day. Started at 10:30 am and at 5:15 pm both the airing of the wort and pitching of the yeast were still left to do. That’s one very long brew day for a home brew.

Like last time Michael was doing a Belgian quad, which didn’t work out that well. This time a Strong Belgian Golden Ale, which hopefully turns out well. The process was mainly the same. Fist heat the water for the mash and then put that in the mash tun. Grain goes in, stir and wait. Recirculate the liquid to settle the grain bed. Next was a bit different. Fly sparge rather than batch sparge. What you do is slowly drip water over the top while letting the liquid drain out the bottom. Apparently, if done right you get a better conversion (getting sugars from the grains) than batch sparing.

Hop leaf

Hop leaf in a hop bag

Boil was next. A long boil as Michael needed to reduce volume. After that was done a hop bag with loose leaf hop flowers went in. I’ve never seen loose leaf hops before. Most people I know use pellets. Had a taste and wasn’t sure what to think about them. Interesting, but not sure if it’s for me.

The chilling was very cool (pun fully intended). Michael has a counter flow plate chiller. Brew goes in one end and out the other, while cold tap water goes in the reverse direction in a different channel. Long story short, lots of liquid moves really quickly and your brew gets chilled a lot.

Strong Belgian Golden Ale chilled

Strong Belgian Golden Ale chilled with pot and plate chiller

Like I said, had to leave before the brew was aerated or the yeast pitched. But, you can get an idea from the photos how much goes on. Lots of steps and lots of equipment. I have to say, I’m slightly jealous of all the equipment. But that’s offset by the idea of having to (a) take so long to make a beer and (b) that thought of cleaning all that equipment.

Then Monday went around to my good mate Ian‘s place. He wanted to do An American Brown Ale. Something nice to have over the cooler months. And, to be completely different to the all grain brew, it was an all extract brew.

Strong Belgian Golden Ale done

Strong Belgian Golden Ale done, except aeration and yeast

For this brew I was there from the very start to the very end. Plus it was a lot quicker. Dry malt extract and hop pellets measured out. Boil the water, first addition of dry malt, hot break, add hops 1, add hops 2, add hops 3 and the last of the dry malt. Then onto chilling, which went a lot quicker than expected. We chilled it so well that it was almost too cool to pitch the yeats. But before the yeast went in I made Ian take a gravity reading. Hopefully this means we’ll known the alcohol percentage on his beer.

An American Brown done

An American Brown done and ready to start fermenting

Thinking back on the long weekend, I’m not sure which brew day I enjoyed more. They were both laid back in their own way. Ian’s was pretty easy, but a fair few things on one after the other. And once it was all done we hung out for a while which was fun. The brew day at Michael’s was a lot longer. And as a lot of steps took a chunk of time there was plenty of down time. That said it was also a lot more complex and a few things were nearly missed. One thing I know for sure, brew days are fun.

-Mikey

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Basic Pale Ale 1 – Review

Chas has decided to make a nice pale ale. While I do all sorts of weird stuff with hops in my Australian Pale Ale series, Chas has taken a practicable approach. First, start with some basic malt and what should work for hops. Second, fix anything that’s wrong. Third, enjoy your tasty home brew. Smart.

Basic Pale Ale 1

Basic Pale Ale 1 ready for tasting

The first beer in this journey is the Basic Pale Ale (take 1). It’s an all grain small 4 litre batch. And it turned out quite well.

Once opening up a bottle, there’s a stone fruit aroma like peach or nectarine. Yeasty hints as well. I quite like the smell of this beer. Sort of tropical.

Onto the tasting. First thing that hits is the smooth and creamy feeling. There’s a lightness and delicate fruit flavour up front. Then there’s a slow build up of intensity in flavour, but not a whole lot. Some pine flavour comes out after it warms slightly and grapefruit flavours. Bit of a stewed fruit flavour at the end and slight dry bitterness. Finishes off with some more dryness.

I like the body here. Everything is held together well. No noticeable drop away of substance. The body is on the lighter side but still keeps it all together. Not sure on the alcohol here as a gravity readings weren’t possible. If it’s not too strong it would be good as a session beer.

Only downside is that the sort of stewed fruit and grapefruit flavour doesn’t quite hit the mark. Can’t quite put my finger on it. The reason could be due to not enough malt, not enough body, too much hops, or simply it’s not to my taste.

Food matching, not sure. Basic home cooked meal seams to work well, steamed veggies and pan fried chicken/fish. Things that aren’t too strong.

This is quite a good beer. I could easily knock back a few of theses one after another. I’m sure after a few adjustments this will be a solid beer for all occasions.

-Mikey

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Bottling before leaving, with a tasty beer

Sunday at my place was a very quick one. Only four litres of the Australian IPA #1 to be bottled. Plus sat down for a taste test of the Australian Pale #4. No brewing because in two weeks I’ll be on holidays. I don’t want to leave something in the fermenter too long. Will pick things up once I’m back.

Australian IPA 1

Australian IPA 1 in the carboy and ready for bottling

The bottling went very well with 13 stubbies sanitised, filled and capped super quick. The bulk priming works a treat. Getting the hang of tipping the priming vessel so you get the right angle to help liquid flow down the bottling wand.

Gravity came in at 1.015. At first I was a little disappointed, then realised I had dry hopped (see the photo with the hop bag). Plus the original gravity was 1.058 which means after bottle conditioning I’m looking at about 6.1% alcohol. That’s good for the style.

The sample we tried was very bitter. That’s somewhat expected for an IPA. I’m hoping the flavour and aroma comes out a bit more. I’ll sneak in a taste just before holidays, then we’ll do a proper tasting in about a month.

As I mentioned, we did a proper tasting of  Australian Pale Ale #4. Chas liked it and will write up a review soon-ish. Personally it’s my favourite pale ale I’ve made. And sits next to Baltic Porter #2 to battle it out as the best beer I’ve made. Not much left, might need to make some more once I’m back.

-Mikey

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Back to Basics – Basic Pale Ale (take 1)

Oh the humble pale ale!

While it is in fact lager that is the most widely made and consumed beers, it’s probably the pale ale that has the most variants and allows itself the most experimentation – at least according to me.

Because of this, the pale ale is great place for experimentation and a great way to learn more about the craft of beer making.  While Mikey and I have done quite a few brews, of course we still have quite a bit to learn.  So it’s been decided to make the most basic of basic pale ales and work our way up from there.

Keep in mind, yes, Mikey has been been experimenting with “basic” pale ales.  His is an exercise in playing with different hops, seeing how they go as a single hop, and seeing how they interact.  This is an exercise in making a very basic recipe, and building on that very same recipe.

Yes, this is a basic one – just some traditional pale ale malt and some hops.  What hops to use was an educated guess.  We’ll see how it tastes and develop from there.

The Basic Pale Ale

The following is for a four litre batch.

  • 1 kg traditional ale malt

    20140329_130047

    Mashing some grains!

  • 4 grams Chinook (bittering – 60 minutes)
  • 4 grams Cascade (taste – 20 minutes)
  • 4 grams Citra (aroma – 2 minutes)
  • US05 Ale Yeast

The malt was mashed at 65 degrees in five litres of water for 90 minutes.  We felt this was a pretty good rule of thumb to start with.  As mentioned, this recipe will be the skeleton for what will be developed into a unique recipe.

After the initial mashing, we sparged with another 1.5 litres of water.

This left us with 6.5 litres at the start of the boil, noting that this is a recipe for 4 litres!  Unsurprisingly we lost a fair bit of water in the boil and ended up with about 3.5 litres when it was added to the carboy.

We were aiming for an American Pale Ale style of hopping.  According to our calculations, the IBUs came in on the top end of the style, which is fine, especially as there will be some other great fruity, tropical, and pine flavours coming through with the hops.

I’m really keen to see how this turns out. I’m sure there will be some more flavours that we’ll want to add in there, but we’ll let the first batch tell us what those are and go from there.

20140402_192724

Tucked up and ready to go

-Chas

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Malted Cider 2 – review

On Saturday Chas had another brew day at his place. Was another good day with what should be a good beer. He’ll cover the details later. We did some tastings on the day. My Sneaky Cider and Chas’s Malted Cider 2. Two different takes on cider.

Malted Cider 2

Malted Cider 2 ready for drinking

The Malted Cider, a graft, was the second attempt by Chas. The first one was an okay drink. But each time I tried some it was eggy in aroma. Chas said that there was less egg smell in the other bottles. Anyway, onto the new version. And it had a slight eggy smell. Granted it was very slight, and Chas assures me that there isn’t any of that in other bottles. The main character for the aroma was the rich sweetness. Not a sickly sweetness like raw sugar, more like rich fruit.

After the smell the first thing you notice is the feeling. It has a big creamy mouth feel. This fills out and gives the cider a lot of substance. I really like that a lot. The sweetness slowly builds. it doesn’t become too much, and that keeps this grounded. The malt helps with body and keeping the whole thing under control and smooth. There’s a nice apple flavour along the whole way. And that’s good, ‘cos a lot of apples went into this.

This isn’t a drink I would choose for a session. More of something for an easy match with dinner after work, or before dinner. And this comes in at 6.4% alcohol. So another good reason not to knock back a few of these in a row.

I’m really impressed with the substance of this cider. We talked about it on Saturday and agreed that there’s something missing. It’s like the cider is halfway between two points and doesn’t know where/what it wants to be. Maybe a different yeast and/or temperature might help. Or maybe just a different malt?

-Mikey

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