Thursday, December 26, 2019

Resilience IPA

I'm tired of hazy and juicy; NEPA; NEIPA; imperial; and adjuncts. I want to go back to basics, like traditional American pale ales and west coast IPAs; bitters; and European lagers. This of course has been a theme of this blog for quite some time. So I really took to Resilience IPA. It was one of my favorite beers of late 2018 and early 2019. I think I bought three six packs. It's a great beer for a great cause and it also tasted great. It was on my mind again recently when I made the APA. So I decided to make Resilience my next beer. Thanks to Sierra Nevada for making the recipe available. I brewed it about a month ago and it's been in the keg for several weeks.

Appearance: Deep golden, amber. Some chill haze that fades as the beer warms. No gelatin in this beer yet. It has cleared with time, but still has a slight chill haze.

Aroma: I think I'm getting something from the yeast, and it is not very pleasant. Gross description, I know, but a burp sort of has a yeasty taste that follows the aroma. This happened with the pale ale too and I have decided I won't be using BRY-97 anymore. It was free so I thought I'd give it a try, but next time I think I'll just use US-05, which has never let me down. Anyway, the aroma is almost rubbery. Some research indicates a rubbery or plastic flavor can be due to infections or chloramine in tap water. I've been brewing with my tap water for years without any issues like that. Infections have been a problem at various times over the years and the lagers I made this year were off (with the exception of the IPL). I think it could be the yeast. Update: I wrote this draft a few weeks ago. Since then the plastic-like aroma has sort of diminished, but the yeast aroma hangs around.

Flavor: Follows the aroma. A touch of that off flavor/aroma, followed by centennial and Cascade hops. Citrusy, maybe a little piney, but maybe that's just because that's a typical flavor descriptor for these types of hops.

Overall: It's an okay beer to drink. It's way better than some of the worst I've made over the years, but it's still disappointing. I imagined this would taste like the resilience I had last year, and it sort of resembles it, but the yeasty flavor really detracts from the finished product.

A note on canning. I canned this and the pale ale, about three six packs each. It was fun, but at 50 cents a can, I probably won't be doing it again soon. I thought for sure friends and relatives would be more impressed by the cans, but they didn't remark on them too much. I do like how they're easy to fill and seam and cleaning the work space and the device is pretty quick. I like how they eliminate oxygen and clear up keg space, since beer is in the cans and not in the kegs, which in theory would allow me to brew and keg more often. It's also very cool to have cans of my own beer. But the expense of the cans limits the viability of doing this on a larger scale. The only way to get cans at a reasonable price would be to buy a whole palate, but I certainly don't want to commit to so many cans and I don't have space for that many. I doubt the club wants to store so many cans either. So, for now I anticipate using the canner only occasionally.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Brew Day (Night): classic pale ale

Looking back over the six years I've been brewing, I can think of few times I brewed a good old classic American pale ale in the vein of Sierra Nevada's. I brewed Northern Brewer's Sierra Madre kit in late 2013 and once made a Maris Otter/Cascade smash beer. Otherwise, I've made farmhouse ales, IPAs (lots of them), some English styles, and lagers. But lately I've had a taste for more modest, yet tasty styles, including the aforementioned lagers. I've had enough of the "juicy" and "hazy" IPA and actually getting bored with those is not hard to do given I've had more than a few mediocre versions. So, for my drinking tastes lately, it's back to basics, like West Coast IPAs and C-hop pale ales.

That's what was on deck for this beer: a straightforward, yet flavorful American Pale Ale. I helped run a homebrew competition on Saturday, reward for which from the homebrew shop owner hosting the event was the option to take a yeast packet from a selection for free. I think I saw some Belgians, US-05, 34/70, etc. I also saw BR-97, a yeast I was until then unfamiliar with. I figured I'd take it if it was still there after everyone had picked through the various items up for grabs. It was still there when I left so I chose it.

I'd been meaning to brew an APA like this for awhile, but many times I'd end up changing the hops and increasing the amounts. Not this time. I went for 10 pounds 2-row and .5 lb Crystal 90, I believe, but the shop did not have that particular malt, so I chose 120 instead. For hops, I chose to use the leaf cascades I got for free at the Anheuser Busch hop giveaway I attended last December. I had vacuum sealed them, so they smelled very fresh.

Brewing was uneventful, aside from losing a piece of my wooden stir spoon in the boil. I also ran out of propane just before the boil, which necessitated a trip to Walmart in the rain for a replacement (I only own one tank). And the hose was not properly connected to the wort chiller, so when I turned on the water, it sprayed out of the connection and I think some got in the kettle.

Other details: I mashed in the 150s. My mash tun - an igloo cooler - has various temperature zones, so it's hard to tell the exact temperature. Chilled to around 85-88 or so, and left the kettle outside in the cold while I sanitized equipment. I'm sure pitching temperature was much lower. I squeezed the hop bag to get as much wort out of the leaf hops as possible. I ended up with about 5.25-5.33 gallons, and still managed to overshoot the estimated OG that Brewer's Friend gave me (1.055). The OG was 1.056-58. Nice golden color, a little lighter than I anticipated given the higher lovibond of the crystal malt.

This brew took almost six hours, though I did manage a tip to the gym and a trip to Walmart, and overall I took my time. I pitched the yeast around 10:15 and started reading about my chosen yeast. I was already aware that the yeast is known for a hefty lag time, but was surprised to read that some brewers had 72 hour+ lags. I was pleasantly surprised to see some minor airlock activity by morning and a creamy layer of krausen by lunch. As of the evening airlock is bubbling regularly.

So far this is shaping up to be a successful brew. Hopefully it is. I'm already planning to reuse this yeast on, maybe, the Resilience IPA and an English Mild recipe I saw on homebrewtalk today.

Update: the yeast took off quickly. Fermentation was well under way by lunch time the following day. I kegged the beer on November 6, eight days later. I was pretty confident that it was going to taste good, since the hydrometer sample was pretty good, but some of the initial pours tasted a little off. I think it was just a large amount of yeast. I have since carbonated the beer and clarified with gelatin. The gelatin is still working, so it's not crystal clear just yet, but getting there.

Taste is citrus, pine, orange, whatever Cascade tastes like. There's just a little alcohol burn in the aftertaste, but not overwhelming or unpleasant. Not overly bitter. It has a generic malt sweetness but no real discernible malt flavors. The beer was also a little heavy at first, and I wondered if that was due to the higher gravity and thus greater ABV (OG: 1.056-58 to FG: 1.010 = ~ 6% ABV). That seems to have gone away as the beer has cleared up.

Aroma: Pretty faint cascade hops.

Appearance: Just what I was going for. Light amber, honey. Good clarity.

Overall: Seems to be a successful beer. Everything seems in balance, including bitterness, hop flavor, and malt sweetness.

Recipe: 5 gallons, 10 pounds 2-row, .5 pound Crystal 120. 1 oz cascade hops at 50, 1 at 10, .4oz at flameout (because that's what I had left).

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Wormkiller Oktoberfest

A note on the name: after the boil, I was chilling this beer in the front yard. I discharged the circulated water into the grass, obviously irritating the worms that I could then see swimming to the surface. My girlfriend suggested the name Wormkiller for the beer. It’s not the most appetizing name for a beer, but it’s memorable and has a unique story to go with it. 

There is something really appealing, maybe even romantic, about brewing a beer in the spring for later consumption in the fall, maybe due to the old German origin of the style. This is the story behind Marzen/Oktoberfest. I have always wanted to do it and now I have.

I started thinking about an Oktoberfest earlier this year when I began my lager yeast experiment. I have never brewed one before, even though I love the style, which might be my favorite currently. I love Oktoberfest season, when breweries release this delicious, malty German lager. I like the Sam Adams version and the rotating iterations put out by Sierra Nevada. 
I read some blog posts and watched some videos. I saw a good looking Oktoberfest homebrew on the German Brewing Facebook group. Ultimately I settled on a recipe published by Chop and Brew last fall, which is a take on Jamil’s from Brewing Classic Styles. 

Brew day (6/9/19) was mostly unremarkable, except the mash was interrupted by a few errands. There were a few hiccups. I lost track of a fruitfly that had found its way into the airlock (this beer was fermented with the same yeast and same fermenter as the Pilsner). So it was either in the keg of Pilsner or in the fermenter. Also, the bottom of the fermenter was wet from sitting in the swamp bucket. When I moved it, some water dropped into the wort. 

Initially I was concerned about this beer. It was cloudy. Smelled a little musty and like Pinot noir. I grew to like it initially, but since then my opinion has changed.

Aroma: Bready malt. Lager sulfuriness.

Taste: bready. Lightly caramelized sugar. A slight tanginess that is not unpleasant. The aftertaste is a doughy, crackery, grainy flavor. To what can be attributed the tanginess? There are no off flavors per se. Instead I simply taste the ever so slight tartness. Could it be the hops? Could only an ounce of hops at 20 minutes or so impart such a flavor?

When I kegged the previous beer, the Pilsner, I noticed that I misplaced a fruitfly that had found its way into the airlock. I think it sucked back into the beer when i was moving the better bottle. Did it end up in the Oktoberfest wort? Evidently fruit flies carry acetobacter. I did not see a pellicle or anything funky going on when I racked this beer to the keg. 

The more I drink this beer, the more I think of yogurt. It has a tang in the nose and the flavor. Yet I’ve noticed a slight tang in some other Oktoberfest lagers. And the two prior beers were pretty clean. 

Another clue. These beers were built up from yeast from a bottle in Schlafly’s Lunar Lager pack (the liftoff Lager, a German Kellerbier). I built a starter and then made a one gallon batch, which I bottled. It was a defective beer actually. It barely fermented (to 1.020 I think). The hop flavor was overly strong. When I opened a few bottles a few months later, they overflowed. The FG, at 1.020, was pretty high. Was there additional fermentation in the bottle? Too much priming sugar? Or was there a bug in there that continued fermenting the beer?

And yet another clue. A dunkel lager I drank from the same Lunar Lager pack was quite tangy. So much so that I drain-poured most of it. 

Update 10/12/19: The yogurt-like tanginess actually is unpleasant. I don't care for it. It seems to really clash with the bitterness and leaves an odd lingering taste on the tongue.

Appearance: Amber. Copper. Clear with the aid of gelatin. Good carbonation so a good layer of bubbles persists. It's really a beautiful beer.

In the end, I'm glad I brewed the beer and it was a fun experiment to build up some commercial yeast. It certainly looks nice, but the tangy flavor overwhelms the bready malt in the background.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

IPL tasting

I brewed this on Memorial Day and kegged it the following Sunday. Final gravity was around 1.010, and fermentation had finished, at least I think. The krausen had fallen away but there were still some bubbles rising to the surface and then quickly dissipating. I mention this because the next beer I brewed with the yeast cake - a pilsner - finished at 1.005, much lower than I intended, anticipated, or wanted. So, was femrentation complete or did the pilsner pick up a contamination?

This beer tastes pretty good. It has a moderate body, enough sweetness to balance out a good amount of bitterness. My practice has typically been to dry hop my hop-forward beers, but I didn't with this one. As such - or maybe owing to something else - the aroma is fairly low. Color is a nice golden, honey-like yellow. It is still very hazy as I did not add gelatin. And I shook the keg in the last few days to increase carbonation. As I mentioned, the bitterness is fairly strong. I would probably dial it back next time. Some of that could possibly be due to the hop stand. Either way, I think my yeast experiment has been successful overall, though the attenuation of the pilsner is concerning. Nonetheless, I'm using the yeast cake for an Oktoberfest today.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Brew Day - Helles turned India Pale Lager

Using new brewing software and taking a break from homebrewing for several months can lead to mistakes. Today I intended to brew a Munich Helles, but I evidently forgot to specify the amount of Munich malt I intended to use, despite entering the malt into the recipe in Brewer's Friend. So the recipe thought my total grain bill was 8.5 and I was thinking it was 10. Brewer's Friend therefore was telling me to anticipate an OG of around 1.48-50. And ABV below 5%. Perfect for a Helles. I added 10 pounds of grain to my mash tun and started mashing. I then discovered my failure to enter the amount of Munich malt. Once I did, I saw I could anticipate a 1.060 OG and a 6% ABV beer. My last Helles ended up like this (more like a Maibock I guess). I had a dilemma: either brew a different style of beer, accept the beer as is, or dilute it. Diluting would have given me the desired OG and ABV, but I would have ended up with an extra gallon of wort. Rather than mess with that, I decided I would try an IPL, something I've never made before. IPL seems to be a fairly recent style, as until a few years ago hoppy beers (at least with American hops) were fermented with ale yeast and lagers tended to be less hoppy, malty beers. A crisp beer with pungent, fruity hops makes for a tasty beer.

I recall having fresh Alpine Duet a few years back and enjoyed the combination of Amarillo and Simcoe hops. I had these on hand (2016 crop) and decided to use them. I kind of regretted not making use of the 2015 Nelson Sauvin hops that have been in my freezer for about three years. Maybe that can be the next beer, assuming this one turns out okay.

I used the yeast from the gallon batch I made last weekend. The beer fermented by that yeast only attenuated to 1.018, from a starting gravity of 1.034. I assume the low apparent attenuation is due to my mash procedures and not the yeast, but I suppose I'll find out for sure in a week or so when today's beer should be nearing the end of fermentation. OG was 1.058-1060, pretty close to my target, but I was off on my volume for some reason. I ended at around 4.67 gallons. IBUs were off from my Brewer's Friend calculator, as the Alpha Acids in my hops were higher than the preset values in the software. But the wort sample I tried was not unpleasantly bitter. All in all, I think this will be a good batch of beer, to quote Don Osborn.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Brew day: hoppy helles / helles / German pilsner / starter

I read about Schlafly Brewing's Lunar Lager pack a month or two ago and was intrigued. The bottle designs are really cool, as is the packaging. Further, in recent years, lagers have become some of my favorite beers to drink. So I bought this variety pack and have sampled all of the beers. One - the Liftoff Lager - is a German kellerbier. I noticed when I poured out the beer that there was a significant layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle. I've cultured up bottle yeast before (e.g. Chainbreaker Belgian yeast, Saison Dupont, etc.) and these have always been fun projects. It affords you access to a yeast you may not otherwise be able to obtain and it's also a means of obtaining yeast without having to pay for it at the homebrew shop.

So, I added some table sugar and water to the bottle and waited. After a few days, it had fermented the sugar water so I added more sugar and waited some more. Finally, last week I cooked down some solidified dry malt extract, decanted the sugar water mixture, and added wort and the yeast to a mason jar. It took a day or two to get started, but fermented out pretty well, and the yeast settled to the bottom. Schlafly told me via Facebook message that the yeast they used is WLP830 German Lager, which is apparently Wyeast 2124 or W34/70. I have used 34/70 before, so I was slightly disappointed to learn the yeast is the same strain I had used before (albeit from a different brand). I sampled the resultant beer. No apparent off flavors. Sweet, perhaps a little under-attenuated.

I figured the amount of yeast I had was too little for a full five gallon batch, so I decided I would try a one-gallon batch to step up the yeast again. I had purchased 10 pounds of Avangard pils malt recently, so I decided I would use that malt and make a helles. I came up with a recipe using the Brewers Friend iphone app (RIP Brewtoad), which is easy to use and had the added benefit of being free. This is my first one-gallon batch.

To further simplify things, I decided to brew in a bag and mash for 30 minutes instead of a full hour. I have used the BIAB method only one other time and it was a long time ago, so I needed to recalculate mash volumes. I ended up going with the same calculator I always use, but scaled down to one gallon. The spreadsheet told me to mash with a total of 2.4 gallons. I mashed for 30 minutes in the upper 150s/160. I aimed for about 152 but overshot.

I was concerned I might have too much volume, so I boiled for 15 minutes before starting the 60-minute boil timer. I started the timer and at the 20-minute mark (40 minutes remaining) I added .5 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hops. At around 15 minutes I added just a pinch of Irish Moss. At flameout I added an additional .5 oz hops. I chilled to about 80, decanted the beer from the yeast, swirled it around, and pitched it. OG was way off from the calculated value. It was supposed to be 1.043 and I got 1.034. I did end up with extra volume (maybe 1.25-33 gallon) so I don't think I will attribute the lower OG to a reduced mash time.

The wort is very cloudy. Usually my beers are very clear going into the fermenter. This could be due to the shorter mash or the minimal amount of Irish Moss. Either way, I am anticipating a cloudy beer. And a watery beer. This low OG is going to make for a very low ABV beer. And fairly hoppy too. The wort tasted pretty floral and was not overly bitter. This beer so far is not quite turning out what I wanted it to be, but that's ok. Ultimately I'm building a starter for a five-gallon batch on down the road. Cheers!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Brown Lager - malt bomb?

Despite brewing a series of malty beers - Helles, Vienna lager - last fall, I was craving more malt, specifically a brown ale. I had been using lager yeast, though, and wasn't ready to toss it yet. So I decided to see what would happen if I took a bunch of ingredients that could fit in a brown ale but use a lager yeast.

I had a bunch of old malt on hand. I had purchased Biscuit, brown malt, and special roast in January or February 2018. The base malt -- Munich -- was about 2.5 years old--and it was crushed. In addition, the hops I used -- Fuggles -- were from the 2013 crop, and purchased and opened in 2014. A bunch of old ingredients combined with a lager yeast. Should be a winner right?

It's actually not too bad. With the hops used for bittering only, this is strictly a malty beer. The flavor is cocoa, toast, crackerjack popcorn, caramel, coffee. Maybe just a touch sweet. Could stand to be drier or maybe it just needs some more bitterness. It doesn't really have what I consider traditional lager elements: crisp, dry, sulfury. Either way, it's a tasty beer and kind of scratches that brown ale lager itch.

5 gallon recipe:

7 lbs Munich
1 lb Biscuit
1 lb Brown Malt
.5 lb Special Roast

1 oz Fuggles at 60 minutes

Wyeast 2308

OG: 1.052-54
FG: 1.014-16

2019 homebrewing:

I don't have specific beer plans for the year yet. It would be nice to brew some English styles again, maybe some American IPAs, and perhaps a straightforward dry American Pale Ale along the lines of Sierra Nevada's classic. All four of my kegs have beer in them right now, though, so it could be awhile before I fire up the kettle again. Cheers!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

November 2018 vienna lager

In 2016, I really got into brewing and drinking lagers. Along the way, I rediscovered Boston Lager. And learned that it is one of my favorite beers. I feel like it's been sort of cast aside by the craft beer community. It doesn't feature the sexy hops, it's not a stout, it's not a sour, it's not an IPA. And it's an old beer brewed by a company that really stretches the definition of the term craft. Still, it's a favorite. My first memory of it is from 2003. I was in DC for the summer and a fellow dorm resident found a six pack stashed underneath a staircase. He didn't have a fridge so we drank it on ice. I recall not thinking much of it at the time. It was so hoppy and bitter--completely different than Michelob Light, probably my favorite beer at the time. 

As the years went by and my interest in beer increased, I looked beyond Boston Lager. At the time, I was into pale ales, then IPAs, farmhouse ales, and sours--the usual craft stuff. But as I wrote above, I got into lagers in 2016 and started drinking Boston Lager. It's a really good beer and to Boston Beer's credit, it tastes the same every time. It has a perfect balance of crackery malt and Noble hops. And when I drink it, I'm transported back to Catholic University in 2003.

So, as a homebrewer, why not try to emulate it? That was the intent of this beer. Sadly I haven't had Boston Lager in quite some time so the comparison is only by memory. However, this beer is perhaps within the ball park. It has a nice golden, amber color sort of like Boston Lager. It's hop forward, owing to the four ounces of Hallertau Hersbrucker hops. Boston Lager doesn't use those hops, or at least not exclusively, but being a German varietal it should get me close.

Mine has cleared up nicely thanks to gelatin. It's crisp like a lager should be. It's aromatic--again, of the Noble hops. Sometimes the vienna lager is quite apparent. Maybe as the beer warms? Today as I drink it, it's all hops. However, there is a sort of biscuity, bready malt foundation. Next time I might leave out the Carafa (thrown into the sparge only, for just a few minutes). And maybe reduce the vienna a tad. This beer is very clean and crisp. No apparent off flavors. Oddly I occasionally get a really malty, bready flavor that, for some reason, I think of as "muddy" in mind--maybe it has a slight metallic finish? Maybe it's just a little earthy. Not detecting it as I drink this sample though.


5 lbs Vienna
4 lbs Weyermann Pilsner
3 ounces Carafa III

Hersbrucker hops, 1 ounce each at 60, 30, 15, and 5 minutes.

OG: 1.052-54
FG: ? (around 1.10-12 I think).

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Cascade Pilsner

In 2017 I read about a hop giveaway sponsored by Anheuser Busch in St. Louis. Unfortunately I didn't make it, but when I saw the event advertised for 2018, I decided I would make a point to attend. AB held the event on December 1 and I made a day of the trip, following some personal things I had to attend to elsewhere in the state. First I went to Narrow Gauge, an up-and-coming if not-already-there brewery specializing in hoppy, hazy IPAs. I purchased a four-pack of Hoppy Meal. From there I ventured on to the AB brewery, my first time there actually.

Upon stepping out of my car I could smell the hops wafting through the air, indicating they were brewing at that particular moment. I'm not familiar with their brewing operation, but I imagine they brew 24/7. Their buildings are all-brick and have a German, 19th/early 20th century look. There were people milling about everywhere. AB's reputation has really taken a hit among the craft beer segment, but you wouldn't really know it by all the activity around the brewery.

Inside, in their beer garden, homebrew clubs had set up stations to serve and discuss their beers. And AB employees were handing out various types of hops. By the time I arrived, the only hops remaining were 2017 leaf cascade hops. I brought a few freezer bags and they filled two of them. I probably got between eight and 12 ounces in total. While there I tried a few homebrews, including a tasty ESB with brown malt, as well as a commercial beer. That was Devil's Backbone Hoppy Lager. I could find few details about this beer. I was really hoping it was their Vienna Lager as I've always wanted to try it, but alas. Still, this beer was good.

My AB visit concluded in one of the labs upstairs, where the AB northern hemisphere hop manager led a hop sensory demonstration. He had the same cascade hops arrayed on tables and had us take the hops in our hands and rub them until the oils were released. The aroma was amazing: so pungent, bright, citrusy.

Following AB, I went to Civil Life, probably my all-time favorite brewery. I had a few beers and bought a case -- a mix of ESB, Northern English Brown, and American Brown - to bring back. From there I checked out Urban Chestnut Research Brewery as well as their attached pizzeria, where I ordered a margherita pizza. While they prepared it I walked thorught he Grove neighborhood. On the way back I walked past an Afghan restaurant and was drawn inside by the delicious smells emanating onto the street. Despite having just ordered a pizza, I got Afghan food as well. The pizza and Afghan food -- from Sameems, and looking at their menu I think I got the goat special -- were both delicious. I topped the trip off with visits to Trader Joe's and Total Wine and then made my way home.

The next day I decided to brew. I had been mulling over what to make. I considered a Dunkel. But pilsner sounded good too. I had attempted the style in the past, but failed due to fermentation issues. Ultimately I decided on pilsner. And somewhat inspired by Sierra Nevada's hoppy pilsners in their recent variety packs, I decided I would forgo using the traditional Saaz hops I have on hand and use the AB Cascade hops instead.

So the next day I drove around town looking for distilled water. Both Walmarts I went to were inexplicably out of stock. I eventually found some elsewhere and bought four gallons, aiming for a 2:1 ratio of distilled to tap water. I've never analyzed Springfield water and have never treated my brewing water. So this was pretty much guesswork, though I did read a post somewhere about this particular water ratio.

The recipe was straightforward from there. 100% Weyermann pilsner malt and about five ounces of cascade hops. The brew went smoothly. I ended up with slightly more than five gallons. I was concerned about wort loss in the hops, but I gave the hop bag a squeeze and got most of the wort out.  I racked the wort onto the 2308 yeast cake from my brown lager, another experimental beer. Fermentation took off pretty much immediately and was complete within just a few days. I kegged it two weeks later. Going into the keg, the beer was pretty cloudy, but it has cleared up nicely since then, without the aid of gelatin.

How did it turn out? I like it. It's crisp, pretty clear, though not crystal clear. It's very dry and has the sort of thin mouth-feel of a pilsner. Every once in awhile I can taste the crackery pilsner malt in the background, but in general the dominant flavor is citrusy, lemony hops. It reminds me of a maris otter/cascade SMASH I made early in my homebrewing career. Overall I think this is a successful beer. It doesn't really adhere to any style guideline, but it was fun to experiment and I think it is within the ballpark of a European pilsner. Now I just need to get my kegging equipment figured out. I've been using short draft lines for a long time and I'm getting sick of flat beer. I even purchased new five-foot lines on the advice of the homebrew shop owner, thinking they would be sufficient, but no. The beer is still tasty though. Cheers!

OG: ~ 1.050
FG: ~ 1.010
(approximately 5.25% ABV)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

October 2018 Helles

What is a helles? When I think of the beer, I think German yeast, pilsner malt, and German hops. Little to no hop flavor or aroma. The malt should be the focus of the beer. Absolutely clean fermentation; no esters. Perhaps a touch of corny flavor or sulfur. Low abv, no more than 6%. Even that is on the upper range. A commercial standard: Weihenstephaner Original Premium. Am I correct on this? Perhaps. I'd have to go read the guidelines again.

I had taken a long break from brewing. I last brewed a beer in February of this year. Homebrewing is fairly strenuous work and somewhat time consuming. It takes several hours to brew a beer and clean. I had other things going on in my life and was also drinking a lot of commercial beer. There are so many good ones in the beer coolers these days.

But the itch started growing toward the summer into fall. I imagined the beers I wanted to make. One of which was a helles. I brewed no lagers in 2017 so it seemed a good time to make some more. My homebrew club had a competition in October. I went to help judge the competition at our usual meeting location, the homebrew shop. After judging, I looked around at their yeast selection and found Wyeast 2308. I think it was the only German yeast they had on hand. I was actually looking for a different yeast, maybe 2124 or 2206. Since 2308 was the only one they had on hand, I purchased it. The shop did not have Weyermann pilsner malt, only Avangard. So I went to a different shop and purchased 10 pounds of Weyermann pilsner.

The next day, I threw together a simple recipe in brewtoad. However, I forgot to update the batch size to 5 gallons from 5.5, the default. So I was thinking my 10 pounds of pilsner malt would generate a 1.50 beer. I had an ounce of Hallertau hops in my fridge. They were pretty old if I recall correctly. But these were 60 minute bittering hops so I was not concerned.

Brew day went smoothly. Wort, at 1.060 OG, went into the better bottle very clear. I pitched 2308 yeast from a swollen smack pack. I placed the fermenter in a plastic bucket filled with water and frozen water bottles. And then waited. And waited. Fermentation did not really take off for 24-36 hours. It formed a krausen about an inch thick, which faded fairly quickly. Six days later, expecting it was nearly finished, I checked the gravity. To my surprise, the gravity had only dropped to 1.030. I thought back to a single post I had read on a homebrewing forum about this yeast stalling and panicked. I thought that was happening to my beer. As such, I removed the beer from the bucket and let it ferment at ambient temperature. A few days later it had dropped to 1.020. And finally to 1.010-12 (sometimes hard to read the hydrometer) on November 8 when I kegged it. The yeast were still visibly moving around in the beer at that point, though to a lesser degree than before. However, I did not want the ABV increased any more, so I went ahead and kegged.

The first samples were hazy and a little sweet. Very grainy. Maybe slightly corny. Perhaps even a savory element. To the point that I thought perhaps others might detect diacetyl. I've never actually detected diacetyl in a beer. I drank it fresh from the keg this way for a few days before adding gelatin. Since then, the beer has started to clear up and is pretty crisp and golden.

By the second weekend in December, this beer has cleared up nicely. Taste is sort of a corny, pilsner malt with no detectable hops, in the aroma or flavor. Sometimes I pick up a musty almost metallic smell. But i noticed it yesterday while having some adjunct american lagers. So I'm not sure that its a flaw so much as a feature. That said, I also have Urban Chestnut Zwickel, which is not really a helles but sure tastes like one, and I didn't notice an aroma like that. Overall it's pretty drinkable and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Not quite sure what I'd do to improve it. If I could somehow achieve the bready biscuity malt flavor that UC Zwickel has, I'd do it. But I don't have a clue what they do (their web site says their beer has caramel malt ... what!?).

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Kitchen sink pale ale thing

Every once in awhile it's fun to throw caution to the wind and just experiment. Except for when I first started homebrewing and didn't know what I was doing, I've generally tried to adhere to style guidelines. That doesn't mean that Brewtoad always tells me that my recipe conforms to the style, but they seem to be in the ballpark.

So this was a fun beer just to throw together with spare ingredients that I had. A little of this, a little of that. Literally. This beer has six different malts in it. Some of which were years old (some two-year-old pale ale (uncrushed); three-year special roast and victory (crushed)). But the resultant beer seems to indicate they are no worse for wear.

I also had a pound of 2016 cascade hops that I bought from YVH last year. I was wondering how the roasty malts would play with the grapefruit flavors from the hops. And now I have the answer.

Appearance: Still cloudy. Red. Tan head.

Taste: Maybe a touch metallic. I was thinking blood for some reason. Which sounds strange but I think it's just the way the roasty malts interact with teh grapefruit and bitterenss and it's only slightly percepitble in the finish and not unpleasant. Otherwise, notes of caramel, grapefruit. Breadiness. Kind of hard to detect roastiness actually. Regarding metallic tastes, this is something I don't usually perceive in my beer, so I don't believe it's a water issue.

Overall: An enjoyable beer. If I were given this beer not knowing anything about it, I feel like I would enjoy it. Which brings to mind something I've thought of often about my beers. Sometimes I wish I could enjoy them as I would a commercial beer or another homebrewer's, i.e., not being involved in the process and knowing everything about it. The first taste I have of any beer is impacted by my knowledge of what went into making it. Sometimes I wish I could just taste them blindly and say, yes I like this, or no I don't.

Another beer that is long gone. In fact, I dumped the remains (maybe half a keg) last week when I kegged my October 2018 smash/helles. I dry hopped this beer and intended to do so for only a few days, but ended up dropping the hop bag to the bottom of the keg when I opened it. So every pour had some hop bits floating around. The worst problem is that it sat in my garage for the warm spring months and I think some refermentation occurred. It seemed to have a slight off flavor after that.