Posts Tagged ‘Brew Day’

At the beginning of the year I brewed a porter.  I went to a LHBS with no idea of what I was wanting to brew and just kinda winged it.  I grabbed this and that, but tried to keep it simple.  When the beer was young, I really liked it.  All the flavors were really subtle and it wasn’t too dark.  But as it matured a couple more months, it became a completely different beast.  Much more robust.  Roastier.  Completely black.  And the hops really started showing themselves.  And I fell in love.  But it’s a love/hate relationship.  This beer is fantastic, but only on days when I’m in the mood for it’s fury.  When I’m not, it is just too much.

NDBrew Porter:

  • 6 lbs Dark LME
  • 1 lbs Dark DME
  • .5 lbs Chocolate Malt
  • .5 lbs Crystal 120
  • .5 oz Columbus pellets (60 min)
  • 1 oz Cascade pellets (5 min)

I made a 2L starter with half of the DME and pitched the whole thing.  The yeast was the problem with this brew.  I picked up a vial of White Labs WLP 001 and pitched it in the starter.  After 18 hours I had no activity (after looking at the vial, it was past the exp date by about 2 months).  After briefly panicking I remember I had a brown ale downstairs with some Wyeast 1028 in a secondary.  So I racked the brown off the cake and added some of the 1028 to my starter with the 001 still in it.  I went about the brew day trying not to worry about it.  When it was time to pitch, the starter was going crazy.  So I can’t really tell you what yeast to use.  I’m sure there was a contribution by some of the 001 but the majority of the ferment was done by the 1028.  Either way, this is a great beer, and I’m sure that picking either one of the yeast will still yield a very drinkable brew.



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The Big River Brown that I brewed was so good, really good.  So good, in fact, that it is now all gone.  It  started with a nice roasty touch and then the hop flavor would come through just right.  The finish was sweet and crisp.  The head would last to the bottom and even leave some lacing on the glass.  I will be making this one again.  The last bottle got drank on Friday, the 5th, when I was brewing up my latest batch.

This marks the first time I have created and brewed my own recipe.  The foundation for this batch is rooted in the Big River Brown.  I wanted something similar since it was so delicious but not quite as roasty with a bit more caramel, nutty flavor.  The recipe is as follows:

  • 7 lbs. Amber LME
  • 12 oz. Crystal 80
  • 8 oz. Brown Malt
  • 2 oz. Special B
  • 2 oz. Roasted Barley
  • .75 oz. Glacier Hops 7.4% (60 min)
  • .75 oz. Glacier Hops 7.4% (2 min)
  • Wyeast #1028 London Ale

The difference is in the malt extract and the addition of the Brown malt.  The Big River Brown was 3.3 lbs of Amber and 3.3 lbs of Dark LME.  Also the hops I got this time were 7.4% AA instead of 6.0% I used last time, causing for the reduction in amount used to try to achieve the same level of bitterness.  Although, not having a scale, I just had to guesstimate the amount, first splitting my 2 oz. pack in half and then taking roughly a fourth of each half away.  It should be relatively close.

I decided to go with the Amber LME to try to cut back on the roast flavor while introducing more caramel and added some Brown malt to the Specialty grains to get the bit of nuttiness.  Not being real familiar with ingredients yet, it is kind of just a shot in the dark.

The brew was pretty typical with the exception of my steeping grains.  I knew that the Brown malt needed to be mashed in order for the starches to convert.  I don’t have the necessary equipment to do that.  So I thought about steeping the grains in a lesser amount of water to try to do a mini-mini-mash.  And then I was given John Palmer’s “How to Brew” the day before as my birthday gift from my wonderful lovely wife.  In the part about specialty grains, Palmer actually says to steep in a smaller amount of water, less than a gallon per pound.  So that’s what I did.  I added my pound and a half of grain to a gallon and a quarter of water and tried to keep it around 150º for half an hour.

It got poured into my main kettle being measured and noted that the grains soaked up a quarter gallon of water.  Having friends and family over distracted me a bit and the wort boiled for a little while before I noticed what was happening.

The hops got added, dumping them straight in without a bag and I made sure to start a timer on my phone.

I still have to rely on my bathtub for cooling not having an immersion chiller yet.  This time, however, I turned on the shower head and let it spray under the water level directly on the side of my kettle.  It worked out great, getting the wort down to 70º in only 40 minutes.  That’s without the addition of ice.

I pitched the yeast and threw it in my closet with a couple of shirts over the fermentor.  There was activity the next morning.  I had to use my closet as my basement is getting too cold.  I will take the shirts off and put it down there when fermentation is finished to semi lager the beer.

On a side note, I got to drink my first Lambic.  It was a peach Lambic from Lindeman and all I have to say is, “Yummy.”  I wish I had more.  Cheers!

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I got to brew the other day, other day meaning on the 4th. It’s been almost two weeks now. All in all it went really well. Having some prior experience brewing a full 5 gallon batch made me feel a lot more comfortable. It was just another kit from Midwest Supplies. I think I’m going to do a couple more kits and try to dial in my techniques before I start designing my own recipes. But I have decided that I am going to stick with brown ales for a while.

The kit I got was the Big River Brown. It included:

  • 3.3 lbs Amber LME
  • 3.3 lbs Dark LME
  • 12 oz Caramel 80°L
  • 2 oz Special B
  • 2 oz Roasted Barley
  • 2 oz Glacier hops
  • Wyeast 1028 London Ale Yeast Activator Pack

It is a 60 minute boil with a target gravity of 1.044-1.048 for 5 gallons.

Knowing that last time I had too much water I started with only 6.25 gallons and was determined to only boil for 60 minutes. I brought my water up to 150º and threw in my specialty grains. I held the temp there for 30 minutes. This made me realize I’m basically doing the same thing an all grain brewer does when they mash and it probably isn’t quite necessary when just steeping grains. I will continue to it this way however with the intent of someday moving to all grain.

After steeping I increased the flame and brought the tea up to a boil. I added my LME and had to change the propane tank. I knew it was getting low and already had an extra tank on hand. Doing so caused a heat loss of about 10º so it took and additional 10 minutes to bring it back up to a boil.

As soon as I saw the smallest indication I was reaching a boil I started my timer and threw in my bittering hops. 1oz Glacier at 6% AA. I put my hop pellets in a muslin bag but am considering just throwing them in the boil without the bag next time. With 2 minutes left in the boil I added the second addition of hops, 1 oz, and turned the flame off at the 60 minute mark. This is where I had a question. Do you take the hops out of the wort at flame out or wait until you put it in the fermentor? With the bags it makes getting them out easy at flame out but if you don’t use the bags you can’t. Do the hops continue to isomerize during the cooling period? If they do then I may need to continue using the bags until I get an immersion chiller. Using the bathtub to cool the wort takes at least an hour, this time taking 80 minutes to get the wort to 70º.

45 minutes into the boil I decided it was time to get my fermentor sanitized. This is where my problem of the day began. When I went downstairs to get my fermentor I was greeted with some fuzz. I almost freaked out. There was mold, mildew, bacteria, whatever it was growing. Not a lot in the fermentor but my bottling hose and bottling wand were covered. They had been placed in the bottling bucket and the fermentor and been put on top. Just stacking buckets to save space. What I came to realize is the equipment must not have been totally dry when it got put away providing a good place for the bugs to take hold.

So what do I do. I was really concerned that just washing and sanitizing wasn’t going to be good enough. I washed the fermentor out with soap and water and then got out the bleach. I bleached the heck out of it. And then made certain I rinsed it thoroughly. I made my wife smell the fermentor when I was done not telling her I had bleached it and asked if she could smell anything. When she said no I was satisfied I had done a good job. I’m still a bit concerned I didn’t rid the fermentor completely of all the bugs but there wasn’t much more I could do.

So I cooled the wort and dumped it into the fermentor. Closed the lid and shook. Shook and Shook. Trying to aerate the wort is the probably the worst part of the my process. After several back breaking minutes I pitched the yeast and sealed it up.

My OG came out to 1.046 at 68º. Correcting for temperature, it ends up being 1.047. I’m not too sure what the final volume ended up being. The next day I went downstairs and was pleased to find fermentation had started. Hopefully it was the yeast and not the funk in the fermentor. It was going to get cold that night so I wrapped a flannel shirt around my fermentor. I don’t know where my thermometer wandered off to, so I can’t be too sure about where my fermentation temps were.

A few days ago, I checked and it seems that fermentation is complete. I haven’t taken a reading but there are no more bubbles coming from the airlock. I took off the shirt in an attempt to chill the beer a bit to aid in clarification.

I ordered a new bottling wand and tubing. I don’t want to take any chances with the funky old stuff. They should be here on Tuesday. That will be 2 solid weeks since brewing. I’ll bottle then and hope for the best.

Things I learned:

  • Checking on all parts of the process prior will be useful
  • Gather up all the stuff needed before hand will save some stress and worry during the brew
  • If you don’t use bags for the hops you can’t take them out at flame out
  • Don’t put any equipment away until it is completely dry
  • Using ice in the ice bath helps in chilling the wort by about 20 minutes or so
  • Using bleach to clean/sanitize isn’t really for me
  • I need to get some PBW and some Starsan
  • Drinking throughout the process makes the notes at the end of the session a bit scarce
  • I love brewing


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Not So Good

Just a quick update.

I’ve decided that the Hefe Weizen I brewed a few months ago isn’t so good.  With more than half the bottles not carbonated and the flavor just not right, I’m calling it a bad brew.  There are still a dozen bottles left but I’m seriously thinking about just dumping them all out.

On the plus side, I did finally get to brew again about a week ago.  I haven’t gotten around to posting anything it yet (look for it hopefully tomorrow).  The brew day did go really well, and I think it is just about done fermenting.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that it turns out better than the Hefe.


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Hefe Weizen

It’s been 6 whole weeks now since I brewed, it’s about time I publish something about it. Getting myself to sit down and blog has proved to be very difficult. Getting distracted and ending up just reading other blogs seems to be the norm. I just need to make it a habit and it’ll probably get easier with time. Anyways, here we go.

After sitting on my equipment and recipe kit for a week, I just couldn’t take it any longer and had to fit a brew day in. I used “Hank’s Hefe Weizen” kit from MidwestSupplies.com. It included:

  • 6lbs Wheat LME – Breiss
  • 1lbs Light DME – Munton’s
  • 8oz Carapils
  • 1oz Tradition (German) Hops – 5.7% AA
  • Wyeast 3068 Activator
  • Priming Sugar
  • Muslin Bag

I put 7 gallons of tap water in to my boil kettle and added it to the flame. The 7 gallons was just a guess as to how much I was going to need after accounting for evaporation, in actuality I had no idea how much I really needed and 7 gallons turned out to be too much. I brought the water up to 155° and added my muslin bag filled with Carapils. Within 4 minutes, my temperature had risen to 161°. It stayed around 161° even after turning the flame off and dropping and retrieving the thermometer for 20 some minutes. After a half an hour the temperature had finally came back down to 155°, just in time to take the grains out. I grabbed my measuring cup and rinsed the grain bag a couple of times with the hot water. I don’t know if this was necessary or not. Turn the flame back on.

Within 15 minutes I had a boil. I turned the flame back off and added my extracts. I had tried warming up the LME earlier, but by the time I needed it, I think it was pretty cool again. Then I dropped something else in to the water. The stupid ring from the lid came off and disappeared in to my wort. Luckily I did get it back out. Added my DME. I was surprised at how sticky that stuff gets. I dissolved the extracts as best I could. It was a bit difficult not having a spoon quite long enough to stir 7 gallons of water. I was also presented with something I hadn’t thought of. Adding all the extract had increased my volume. Duh. It was one thing I hadn’t thought of happening.

It took around 10 minutes to get all this done. I put the flame back under it and brought it back up to a boil. Another 15 and I was ready to add the hops. Re-using the muslin bag from the grain, I put in my pellets. Time to drink some more beer and watch the boil. After 45 minutes I wasn’t even close to my final volume so I decided to extend the boil to 90 minutes. In hindsight, this wasn’t a good idea. But 45 minutes later I was down to around 5 gallons.

Not having a wort chiller, I filled my bathtub up with cold water and added a bunch of ice. Carrying a hot kettle filled with 5 gallons of hot wort inside and into the bathroom is a daunting task. I did not burn myself though. It took about 50 minutes to cool the wort down to 75°. I poured it into my fermenting bucket, added the yeast, closed the lid and tried shaking it as much as I could. It was quite heavy. I added the airlock and to the basement it went.

I took a hydrometer reading. Reading 1.050 and then taking in account the sample was 70°, I figure my Original Gravity was about 1.051.

The fermentor sat on a towel in my basement to keep it off the cement floor. Every time I checked the thermometer I had sitting on the bucket, it read around 68°. I don’t think there was too much variance there. After 8 days I took another reading and came up with 1.014. The fermentor had a wonderful banana smell. I decided to then transfer into my secondary glass carboy. This went pretty well. Learning how to use the siphon properly was a bit tricky but I managed to get my beer into the secondary. I put the carboy back in the basement and let it sit for another 9 days.

Time to bottle. I took another hydrometer reading and was surprised to see the gravity had fallen another 2 points ending up at 1.012. Alcohol by Volume should be just over 5%. Right about where it should be. Oh boy was I excited. I washed all the bottles and ran them through the dry cycle in my dishwasher to sanitize them. When I opened the dishwasher up I didn’t think the bottles had really gotten hot enough, so I decided to enlist the help of my beautiful wife and rinse all the bottles with sanitizing solution prior to bottling. She rinsed, I filled and capped. An hour or so later I had 48 bottles of beer. But wait. Along the way, I ran into another mistake. When I was transferring the beer from carboy to bottling bucket, I was about half way when I realized I hadn’t added my priming sugar. Stop the siphon, boil and cool the sugar, and add it as gently as I can to the half filled bottling bucket. Continue filling said bucket. Even still today, I’m not sure if the sugar mixed completely with all of the beer.

Back to the basement went the bottles. Again the temperature stayed pretty constant around 68°. A week later I opened the first bottle. Actually two, my Dad was over helping me with another project. I was pleased to hear hiss when I popped the top but a tad let down when the head wasn’t what it was supposed to be. I presented a glass to my Dad and when he took a drink was surprised and said, “That’s beer!” He had thought it was iced tea. The color was dark and the head had completely gone away when he got his glass. All in all it tasted pretty good.

A few days later I opened a couple more bottles only to find the had not carbonated at all. I think this was from me forgetting to add the priming sugar first to the bottling bucket. These bottles also didn’t taste so good. A little worried, I figured some for time in the bottle to condition might help.

Having been in the bottle for 3 weeks now, my first full 5 gallon batch of beer is really good. Some of the bottles have a pretty aggressive head while some of the other have a decent one. They all are carbonated and the flavor has matured quite well. The color is darker than it should be and it is a tad more bitter as well. I think I detect a bit of caramel flavor. The body is full, preventing me from drinking a whole lot at once. The clove spice from the yeast can be a bit sharp at times.

As a whole however, this beer is very tasty. My wife seems to really think it is good. She doesn’t normally drink any thing besides Bud Light, so her saying that she enjoys my beer really makes me feel good.

Things I learned:

  • 7 gallons is too much water to start with
  • Adding your extract will increase your volume
  • Shut the flame off before you reach your steeping temperature
  • Don’t warm up the LME so soon
  • Remove the lid ring from the LME before pouring it in
  • Boiling for extended amounts of time has several consequences
    • Hops continue to bitter the beer
    • Color darkens
    • Caramel flavors become apparent
  • A wort chiller would be very useful
  • A longer spoon would be as well
  • Leave the bottom cap ON the siphon when transferring to secondary
  • Put the priming sugar in the bottling bucket BEFORE you add the beer
  • Be patient – Time only helps

So now what? I’m definitely itching to brew again. Right now I think my next brew will either be a Brown Ale or a Scottish Ale.  I’m leaning towards the Scottish Ale. It’ll end up being another extract kit from MidwestSupplies.com again. I haven’t ordered it yet because I just can’t seem to bring myself to spend the money right now. I may get over that, the itch is getting bad, or I may just wait a few more weeks.

That’s it for now. Cheers!

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