Category Archives: Midnight Hour Brewery

Brewing and such

Exclusivity Does Not Promote Competition

Duh.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code is not a comedic document yet I laughed aloud after reading Subchapter C Section 102.51.  It goes something like this:

SUBCHAPTER C. TERRITORIAL LIMITS ON SALE OF BEER

Sec. 102.51. SETTING OF TERRITORIAL LIMITS. (a) Each holder of a manufacturer’s or nonresident manufacturer’s license shall designate territorial limits in this state within which the brands of beer the licensee manufactures may be sold by general, local, or branch distributor’s licensees.
(b)    Each holder of a general, local, or branch distributor’s license shall enter into a written agreement with each manufacturer from which the distributor purchases beer for distribution and sale in this state setting forth the sales territory within which each brand of beer purchased by that distributor may be distributed and sold. No holder of a general, local, or branch distributor’s license shall make any sales of any brand of beer outside the sales territory specified in the written agreement. No such agreement shall interfere with the rights of retailers to purchase beer as provided in Section 102.53. A manufacturer may not assign all or any part of the same sales territory to more than one distributor. A copy of the agreement and any amendments to it shall be filed with the administrator.

(c)    This Act is promulgated pursuant to the authority of the state under the provisions of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution to promote the public interest in the fair, efficient, and competitive distribution of beer, to increase competition in such areas, and to assure product quality control and accountability by allowing manufacturers to assign sales territories within this state.

Seriously?  Allowing only exclusive distribution rights is intended to promote competition.  This is the sort of legislation the distributor’s lobby fights for and what small brewers are up against.  Increase competition indeed!

Cafélatté Homebrew – I ain’t talking about coffee

Cafélaté about to boil

The state of the art

Like many homebrew beer makers I also roast coffee.  It’s quick and simple to produce better java than you can buy in most shops.  While not a natural pairing, beer and coffee go together.  There’s coffee porter, coffee stout, ..uh… espresso porter….  I like to do things differently.

I thought about putting hops in my coffee grounds just to turn things on their head.  May still do that….  Instead, I picked a coffee drink and set about translating it to beer.  Astute readers have already picked up that I decided upon cafélatté – a mix of espresso and steamed milk.  This decision came mostly from the availability of lactose, milk sugar, for brewing.

The creative process

With one ingredient chosen I went a-browsing for the remainder of the grist.  To my surprise I discovered Coffee malt, a moderately roasted 2-row barley (130-170L).  My grain bills are almost always simple, with one or two specialty malts, so I decided to limit the beer to that one roast.  I also had an idea for a fourth ingredient.

The third grain is, of course, the base malt.  My normal favorite, Maris Otter, would likely be too nutty or biscuity for this beer.  Again looking for new things to try I cane across Golden Promise.  The description promised a “sweet, clean flavor” which I deemed perfect.  Although the beer will be malt-dominant, it should show the coffee flavors more than anything else.

To round the grain bill off I decided on rolled oats to give the beer body and a smooth mouthfeel.  The beer should feel like you are drinking a creamy latte and oats are just the thing.  With the four ingredients selected, I placed my order.

Days later it arrived.  Although the ingredients came 32 hours ahead of brew-day I was eager to taste my creation.  Originally the coffee malt was to make up 15% of the grist, but I ordered enough to make 20.  I mixed some of the Golden Promise and coffee malt and bit into a small handful.

Coffee malt does indeed smell and taste like coffee.  It has that burnt bean starbucks flavor that I do not care for.  But as the grain stewed in my mouth the base malt stepped forward to compliment the ash and roast.  I nearly couldn’t stop myself from eating the entire grainbill.

Enough already, get to the recipe

OG 1.042
IBU ~23
Efficiency 75%
BU:GU 0.5

Fermentables

  • 70% Golden Promise
  • 20% Coffee Malt
  • 5% Lactose
  • 5% Rolled Oats

I use a water to grist ratio of two quarts per pound.  Aimed for a single 60 minute step at 158ºF but hit 160º.  Collected six gallons of sweet wort at 1.041 SG.

Kettle

  • 23 IBUs of Hallertau at 45 minutes
  • Irish moss and lactose at 15 minutes

Yes, this is a 45 minute boil.  Chilled and pitched onto a healthy yeast cake of White Labs London Ale yeast.  OG came out to 1.045.

Whatsit taste like?

I like to taste my beers at many steps.  Right out of the chiller is an important place.  I am quite pleased with the way this beer matched my expectations of it.  The lactose really gives the impression of milk.  One of my tasters remarked that he expected a hot coffee drink from the aroma.

The wort smells of burnt grains and steamed milk.  The lactose and rolled oats combine to give the beer noticeable body, but a the malty sweetness remains thin, like something you would expect from a beer of ten SG points lower.  Hop bitterness is mild and should be nearly undetectable after fermentation.

I’ll edit link to the review when it’s done.

Hard-plumbing The Stand

Just a quick homebrew update.  My three-tier stand is great, but I kept melting hoses when they would touch the hot metal.  Luckily none ever burst and spewed hot wort all over, but I knew that was just a matter of time.

So a friend and I got out the torches and hard-plumbed the stand.  The hoses are now short jumpers that connect vessels to the center line.  Brewed a dunkelweiss with the new setup on Thursday.  Works well and no burned hoses.

Some eye candy:

Barrelling Day


All those fermenting vessels under the looming Merlot barrel contain Russian Imperial Stout. Yesterday the TAbc drained the beer into that barrel to condition over the summer. The first task of the day was to sanitize the barrel with 20 gallons of boiling water.






The barrel sits high on its rack making gravity transfer tricky. The duck-in cooler gave us the necessary height.


Surprisingly little beer spilled, but what did come out flew across the room, landing on Ruth.

After a long day of barreling, the beer came to rest in my cold room, where it will sit until we bottle it in October.


I bottled a 12-pack pre-barrel for comparison.

Alt Two

My second try at an Altbier turned out better than the first. Alt One got an infection from the MiniBrew plastic conicals I was using. A tragedy, because it tasted so good coming out of the kettle.

Alt Two is not my own recipe, but a concoction from Jamil Zainasheff’s Brewing Classic Styles. Scaled up to 10 gallons the recipe is:

Fermentables

  • 18 lbs Pilsner
  • 2 lbs Munich
  • 0.5 lbs Debittered Black malt
  • 0.5 lbs Caramunich 60L
  • 6 oz Pale Chocolate malt 200L

Mashed starting at 151º, falling to 145ºF over the course of 60 minutes. (Need winter insulation for my mash tun.) Mash out at 160ºF. Sparge. Collected 12.5 gallons 11% B sweet wort. Boil 90 minutes.

Hops

  • 2.5 oz 8.1% AA Perle 60 minutes

Fermentation

Pitch a 1600ml starter of WLP 029 German Ale yeast into 14.3% B original gravity wort.

Fermented two weeks between 58º & 66ºF. Lagered for 26 days.

Notes

  • 2010-02-15 9.6%B Vinous notes
  • 2010-03-13 8%B Vinous flavors reduced. Ready to package.

It pours a deep copper brown with no appreciable head. Carbonation has not quite developed and I expect to get a good stand of foam in a few more days under pressure. There is roastyness up front and that vinous flavor refuses to disappear completely. This Alt puckers the mouth just a little, a problem attribute to poor scaling of the recipe from 5 to 10 gallons. The percentage of dark roasted malts may be too high. Bitterness is present and polite as appropriate for this malt-centric beer.

For my third Altbier I will find a common ground between One and Two. Not so much roasted malt as #2 and not so much Munich or Vienna as #1.

Tasting & Bottling Something Else

It is 14.6° Plato and Something Else is three weeks old. Starting at 25.2º P, the big gravity beer weighs in at a small 6.2% ABV. Before putting it all away for conditioning a little evaluation is in order.

There is a little ester in the nose. No hop aroma. The uncarbonated beer is sweet, bitter, roasty, “stout-like”, and lacks much fermentation character. Tastes a little like an over-hopped milk stout might. It sticks to your mouth.

It is close enough to be a Russian Imperial Stout, but lacks nuance due to the simplistic grainbill.

I have about 80 fluid ounces to bottle. The small volume batch is a breeze to work with. Next time I will remember to add priming sugar. Not to worry, the gravity is still drifting downward.

The Domestic & Something Else

Read from the bottom up:

twitter feedToday I brewed The Domestic for a second time. It is a Classic American Pilsner, also called a Pre-Prohibition Lager. The recipe is from Jamil Zainasheff’s book Brewing Classic Styles.

  • 12.5º Plato OG
  • 80% German Pilsner
  • 20% Flaked Maize
  • Rest at 148ºF for 60 minutes
  • Mash out to 160ºF
  • Collect 11.5 gllons
  • 2 oz 8.1% AA Perle FWH
  • 0.5 oz 3.8% AA Czech Saaz 30 mins
  • 1 oz 3.8% Czech Saaz 10 mins

I recently started doing a mash-out and this is my second brew session doing so. Combined with a slow sparge, I saw improved efficiency the first time. Today I ran into problems.

My mash tun is direct-fired and I recirculate the wort to prevent scorching. During vorlauf today my flow rate slowed to a trickle. Most of the time the March pump loses prime and I goose it a little to get it going again. When that didn’t work I stirred the grainbed and restarted the vorlauf. None of the usual tricks got the wort flowing again. But this was no ordinary problem.


That piece of hose pokes through the mash tun’s false bottom, acting as the pick-up. Heat from the burner melted it partially closed. Wort in the bottom of my tun scorched from lack of movement.


The sparge marched onward and I collected 11.5 gallons of sweet wort. I measured the gravity at 9.6º Plato, or 1.038. At that strength my post-boil gravity comes out to 1.043; 7 points too low. Reducing the volume to hit the gravity posed two problems. First, the style demands a light-colored beer and a prolonged boil would darken it too much. Secondly, the first hops were in the kettle and would throw off the bitterness balance. I cursed a little, tweeted then pushed on.

Ninety minutes later the brew was boiled then chilled and in the fermenter. When I lowered it into the converted chest freezer the bulges of the keg would not fit. Previously, I had tried to put the keg in the freezer with the same result, so I should have known. I grumbled a little.


It is now in my ale fermentation cooler, turned up to full blast cooling. When it comes time to lager this baby, I’ll split it into two carboys and put them in the freezer. Notice I hit my target starting gravity of 12.5º B.

After collecting the desired pre-boil volume I became curious how much wort I had left in the mash. Opening the spigot on the tun I dumped 6 liters of 9.6º B pale sweet wort into a bucket. With everything that went wrong today I was not about to waste so much potential beer.

Looking at my grain store, I picked an additional 2 lbs Crystal 60ºL and one ounce of chocolate malt. Approximating the recipe gives this:

  • 2 lbs German Pilsner
  • 2 lbs Crystal 60º L
  • 1 oz Chocolate

Post-boil volume would be less than a gallon

  • 0.3 oz 9.1% AA Centennial 60 mins
  • 0.5 oz 9.1% AA Centennial 15 mins
  • 0.5 oz 4.5% AA Fuggles 10 mins
  • 0.5 oz 4.5 %AA Fuggles 1 min


The final gravity turned out to be 25.2º P (1.107). It will probably be an Imperial Stout-ish. The yeast is a German ale/kölsh strain coming right out of an Altbier I put into lager tonight. Hope it can handle high gravity.

As an aside, I am quite fond of the brew-in-a-bag method those Aussies invented. Tonight’s second brew session was essentially that.

Basic Equipment

One of my friends asked what equipment she should get her boyfriend so he could start making beer. There are many equipment articles out there and here is one more

Note: If I were to write this up again, I would recommend the Australian brew-in-a-bag method rather than all the all-grain equipment.

I don’t know what your budget is… you can easily spend a few hundred dollars for a good kitchen setup.

The Minimum:

A large pot. Stainless steel is best, but aluminum is cheap. Like I said before, at least 2 gallons. The bigger, the better. Best is 6 gallons so he can do a full-wort boil where he doesn’t have to top off the fermenter with tap water. Boiling 5 gallons of wort on a kitchen stove is a big pain though, consider getting one of those turkey fryer burner deals. The one I used to have was a 7-gallon aluminum pot and a burner. Never did fry a turkey.

A fermenter. Go for the 6 gallon variety. I used glass carboys, but I have heard very good things about the Better Bottle. If I needed another (cheap) fermenter, I’d try one out. The homebrew shop will probably tell you need a primary & secondary fermenter, but that’s a big myth. I do my fermentations in a single vessel and make pretty good (damn good) beer. Politely decline.

Transfer tubing, bottling wand and a racking cane. Not too much to say here – the homebrew shop will know what you need. I recommend a stainless steel racking cane over a plastic one. It’s worth the extra money.

A bottling bucket.

Bottles. Five gallons of beer fills a little fewer than fifty bottles.

Sanitizer. Go for the “no rinse” variety. I switch between iodophor and 5-Star to keep the nasties on their toes. Buy in bulk.

Testing equipment. A floating thermometer or a digital thermometer on a probe. Also a hydrometer and a cheap graduated cylinder to take specific gravity readings in. Long ago I ditched the cylinder & hydrometer in favor of a refractometer. Really worth the extra money (but maybe only if you’ve been using a hydrometer for a while :-)

That equipment will be enough to get him started doing “extract with specialty grain” (also incorrectly known as “partial mash”) brewing. The recipe kits are classified by the level of equipment you have. Since he’s got some brewery experience he will probably want to get into “all grain” brewing pretty soon. All of the above equipment will serve for that purpose, plus a few additional pieces.

All Grain

You definitely need the full sized pot.

A hot liquor tank (HLT). Ideally this is a vessel you can heat, but anything that keeps 3-5 gallons of hot water is fine. Many people use Rubbermaid or Gott coolers.

A mash tun. This is a vessel to hold the grain and hot water for making sweet wort. It’s slightly specialized because you need a filter at the bottom used to separate the sweet wort from the spent grain. If either of you is crafty you can make one on the cheap. Mine was a large cooler with the drain plug removed replaced by some copper fittings. Some rigid copper tubing with small holes drilled in it sat in the bottom connected to a brass ball valve on the outside. Served me well for five years.

Here’s a good shot of my previous all-grain setup. Left to right in the picture is a 5-gallon aluminum pot that I punched a hole in for the drain and spigot. It served as my HLT. Next is my mash tun which I described above. Lastly is a 10-gallon aluminum pot sitting on a burner. It also has a drain and spigot.

Consider a subscription to Zymmurgy or BYO Magazine. One of the books I recommend to everyone is Designing Great Beers. Really helped me understand the process.

Get involved in a homebrew club. They are the best places to learn the hobby. There are at least two in Oakland: The Draught Board & Bay Area Mashers (BAM). If you go to a Draught Board meeting tell Roger St Dennis I say hi.

I’ve gone on for a while now. There are a billion other brewing resources on the web.