Category Archives: Dean

Stuff Dean writes

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.

Oktoberfest At Christopher’s World Grille

Thanks to everyone for coming out to see me talk at Christopher’s tonight. For an Italian, he makes some delicious German food.

If you want to know more about making beer at home, read this post and come out for Teach A Friend to Homebrew Day on November 7th. The Texas Aggieland Brew Club will be making beer in front of the Village Cafe/Art 979 Gallery in downtown Bryan starting at 11am. If you can’t make that we hold regular meetings on the third Friday of the month. We are organized through Facebook only right now, but if you get in touch with me I will make sure you know what is going on.

I hope you enjoyed the dinner as much as I did. I can do the same for your restaurant. I also train staff and give general beer menu advice. Drop me an email.

I Could Make Great Vinegar

The nettle beer came down with an acetobacter infection. This is not a surprise because fermentation conditions almost encouraged it. When I made the beer, I was out of carboys after making a Newcastle Brown ale clone. Under the circumstances I used a 5-gallon bucket. Normally these vessels can make great beer, however none of my buckets have lids. I improvised a “seal” with some plastic wrap. The beer was okay when I added dry hops to it a week after fermenting and I suspect opening the seal introduced the infection.

In the interest of Science I have a few ounces of the witch’s brew in my cup and take furtive sips to get a taste for how the beer may have turned out. My eyes are a little watery. It isn’t balsamic strength, still very much a vinegar. All the alcohol became acetic acid but there is a underlying malt taste and something else which I can only attribute to the nettles. Sandwiched between the initial vinegar sourness and the finishing vinegar bite is a vegetal-peppery note that reminds me of the brew day. Hop bitterness is non-existent and there is a softness to it that you don’t get when consuming straight vinegar, which I do on occasion.

It was an experiment that failed. The follow-up experiment will improve it. Things I will change:

  • A proper lauter – I strained my grains through a colander.
  • Closed fermentation.
  • Nettles at knockout instead of the boil.

Most teas are steeped and adding leaves to boiling water can bring out bad flavors. Doing a full boil, then adding the nettles after removing the flame will better simulate this.

An Early Fall Evening Walk

I heard reports of snow as far south as Denver. Fall is creeping down from the Great White North, but here in Texas Summer still weakly grasps for the Earth, holding ground against the inevitable season. Some mornings it gently rains, some afternoons the temperature climbs to 90°. Today we experienced both.

The sun seems closer in the Southwest. It lazily crossed the clearing sky, determined to dry the lawns and buildings and sidewalks and streets, sending so much moisture airborne. A breeze would make it pleasant, but all day the air was still. The late evening atmosphere sticks in your hair and precipitates on your cheeks, closing around like a womb.

Through the morning’s vaporized rains, with the sun just below the horizon, Adrienne and I set out for a walk. Dusk was quickly deepening into night, bringing yet perceptible relief from the surroundings. We strolled the neighborhood softly rapt with one another and conversation.

Our course led us by a low area where the rainwater runs out of a small wood into a gutter under the sidewalk. The year-round water makes habitat for papyrus sedge and passion flowers and amphibians that splash in the pool when you approach too noisily. As we passed Adirenne stopped.

“Sweetie, look!”

I broke my search for frogs and brought my gaze up to see. At first there was nothing but low shrubs against a background of trees. Standing still as the air around us I waited. Then I caught a wink of low yellow light in the middle distance. “Fireflies.”, she whispered.

Against the dark background of the forest the insects were impossible to see until they revealed their presence with a brief luminescent glow. Within moments dozens of rising lanterns winked in the night. Silently they droned in the moist air, oblivious to the two spectators their mating signals also attracted. I watched quietly waiting for one to silhoutte against the sky close enough to catch.

Spying one, I carefully reached for it drawing my closed fist between us. She bent close to look, but my open palm revealed nothing. For the first time in long minutes, I looked at her.

She stood perfectly still except for eyes that darted over the glen, sparkling with each firefly. A big gap-toothed smile brightened the whole of her face. In that instant the natural beauty around me seemed a reflection of the look on Adrienne’s face. The moment lengthened and I would have liked to stay in it forever.

We lingered at our private fireworks show a while longer not wanting to leave. It seems the longer you stand still, the closer responsibilities of the day press against your mind. Nudged forward, we clasped hands once again and resumed our walk. Looking back towards the creek, Adie proclaimed “Best night ever!”