Category Archives: Midnight Hour Brewery

Brewing and such

Vigorous Fermentation

I was glad the barleywine did not become infected because it blew the airlock off the first night of fermentation. I was fairly confident it was safe since it was just expelling trub and krausen. I don’t normally ferment in carboys any more so didn’t have a blow-off tube. This is what remains after racking. The interior of the duck-in cooler is a giant mess. That’s one reason it’s brewery cleaning week(s).

Barleywine, Bitter, Beer judging

Last Friday, minutes before leaving for a beer-judging weekend trip to Oakland, CA, I kegged this year’s Gnarly Barleywine. Even though it has been four years since the first and last time I made this barleywine, I call it “this year’s” barleywine because it is a good enough recipe that I would like to make it yearly. Brewed on May 6th, this beer’s beginnings reach back another two weeks to a 10-gallon batch of Bitter I made as a yeast starter for the barleywine.

As I write this article, I sip the Starter Bitter. It’s an ordinary bitter on the very low end of the SG range and the very high end of the IBU bracket. That combination of attributes makes for a bad beer. The bitterness is sharp and harsh and the body is thin. Adding calcium sulfate to RO water is about the only way to “fix” my tap water, but I think I overdid it this time. Sulfur compounds accentuate harsh bitterness. It is carbonic and metallic and a healthy dose of malt flavor would really bring this beer from the brink of disaster. The bouquet has some malt sweetness, but lacks hop aroma. Pardon me while I take another draught. Next time, five more pounds of Maris Ottr. The recipe:

10 gallons of Ordinary Bitter
Fermentables

  • 12 lbs Maris Ottr Pale
  • 2 lbs Crystal 60

90 minute rest at 149° F

Hops

  • 2 oz 7.6% AA pellet Brewer’s Gold 60 minutes
  • 2 oz 5.25% AA whole EK Goldings 15 minutes

WYeast 1098 British Ale yeast. Ferment around 62° F.

A better mash program will probably help the malt profile. 149° F is at the top end of beta-amylase’s temperature range, but below alpha-amylase. Beta makes fermentable sugars and alpha makes unfermentables. As John Palmer writes: “A lower mash temperature, less than or equal to 150°F, yields a thinner bodied, drier beer.” That is exactly what I have; more malt please.

I should also note that higher fermentation temperatures will produce more of the British ester compounds that are missing from this beer.

The low starting gravity sure makes for a low-alcohol session beer. Pardon me while I pour another pint.

Moving along, the starter bitter fermented out and I transferred it to kegs. Onto the yeast cake I dumped 5 gallons of New Gnarly Barleywine:

Fermentables

  • 13.25 lbs Maris Ottr Pale
  • 2.25 lbs Honey Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Munich
  • 1 lbs Carapils Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Brown Malt

Mashed at 145° F for 60 minutes. Raised mash up to 160° F for another 30 minutes.

Hops (90 minute boil)

  • 1.5 oz 14.4% AA pellet Magnum first-wort
  • 1 oz 5.2% AA pellet Mt Hood 15 mins
  • 1 oz 5.2% AA pellet Mt Hood 5 mins
  • 2 oz 4.8% AA pellet EK Goldings 2 weeks dry hop

WYeast 1098 British Ale yeast. Ferment around 62° F.
OG: 1.092
FG: 1.018
IBU: 71 (est)

I was in a rush to get to the airport for this weekend’s Longshot competition, therefore I did not get a proper taste on the way to the keg, nor did I add the dry-hops. Adding them will give me an opportunity to have a proper taste test.

Longshot was great, as usual. This marks my third year judging at the competition and reinforced my appreciation for the Boston Beer Company. My report from 2007 will give you an idea of what it’s like. Incidentally, the best in show in our region went to a barleywine.

22 beers waiting to be judged best in show. The dude on the right is Pete Solsberg of Wicked Ale and gourmet chocolate fame. Real approachable guy – as are most brewers.

The Midnight Hour Brewery Goes Next-level

I purchased a used 3-tier stand yesterday from a local homebrewer. In brief, it is professionally welded 2″ box iron. The vessels are all converted kegs with weldless quick-disconnect fittings. Propane is hard plumbed up the center support.

Before plunking down money Clint invited me to make a batch of beer with it. This is that beer’s story.

Clint and I started heating strike water around 9:15 Saturday morning.

Fermentables:

  • 10 lbs Pale Malt

Doughed in with 1.3 qts/lb of RO and tap water to rest at 145° F for 30 minutes. Direct-fire heat to bring the temperature up to 160° F for another 30 minutes. Sparged with 170° water to collect about 6 gallons sweet wort. Boiled 60 minutes.

Hops:

  • 1 oz 7.9% AA whole Perle Hops first-wort hop
  • 1.5 oz 5.3% AA whole E.K. Goldings 30 mins

SafAle S-05 California Ale yeast

We were done and cleaned up by about noon-thirty, making a relatively quick brewday. OG was 14.6 °Brix with an estimated 51 IBUs. I call it Bitter Blonde.

I love the recirculating mash and all the direct-fire vessels. The mash tun and hot liquor tank have temperature probes for use with common digital oven thermometers. That gives me fine control over the mash, meaning when I find a recipe I like I can accurately record and recreate it. The kettle doesn’t have a sight glass which is critical to me. Kettle volume combined with the gravity of the sweet wort is a guide to hitting target OG. My current 20 gallon aluminum kettle has a sight glass and fits on the bottom burner, so I will continue to use it (and I already have a prospective buyer for the keggle).

I also get a March pump with the deal, doubling the number of pumps I have. Now I have a spare mash tun and HLT which will go up for sale. It is a little sad to see my mash tun go because it is the second piece of homebrewing equipment I made – the first being an immersion chiller which was sold long ago.

Bitter Blonde is bubbling away in my 6.5 gallon carboy. Looking forward to tasting it and brewing again on my new brewstand.

Alt One

Altbier is one of my favorite styles of beer, and this is my first attempt at formulating a recipe for it. To prepare for this batch, I read Altbier: History, Brewing, Techniques, Recipes by Horst Dornbusch. The Classic Beer Style Series book came through with helpful explanations.

Fermentables:

  • 10 lbs German Pilsner
  • 3 lbs Munich
  • 3 lbs Vienna
  • 2 lbs Crystal 60

Using reverse-osmosis water treated with gypsum, I doughed in with 1 qt/lbs water to rest at 146° F for 30 minutes. Added boiling water to bring temperature to 160° F for 48 minutes. Sparged to collect around 14 gallons sweet wort.

Boiled 90 minutes.

Hops:

  • 3 oz 8.3% AA whole Perle 60 mins
  • 1 oz 3.3% AA pellet Hallertau Hersbrucker 10 mins
  • 2 oz 2.4% AA whole Hallertau Hersbrucker flameout

Chilled wort and pitched WYeast 1007, German Ale yeast. Fermenting at 63° F.

The second mash step went 18 minutes longer than I planned for. At that temperature alpha-amalyase is most active and beta-amalyase is denatured. Alpha-amalyase breaks down starch into unfermentable sugars and because of this the wort turned out quite sweet. The finished beer will likely turn out too malty for the style, but it won’t turn out bad. I will find out in six weeks.

Kegged Evil Brown

On ITAFtHD I made a brown ale from AHS. Readers will know that I really messed that one up using RO water. I came out with 15 gallons when I expected only 10 – meaning that the beers were weak. Beer #2 was a slow starter, taking two days and some krasuen from beer #1 to get going. I kegged the beers today.

Number 2 was totally spoiled. Might get it through my head now to slow down the rate at which I pass the beer through the CFC. I suspect I pitched my starter into hot wort, killing the yeast. In the end, I came out with the same volume I was expecting (10 gallons) but the wrong strength. Evil Brown #1 ought to be ready for Thanksgiving when we have company over to celebrate.

Final Gravity: 5% brix.

I also ran out of the totally delicious Rye of the Hurricane today. Gonna make that one again. The beer came out with a great dry earthy bitterness from the rye malt and Mt Hood hops. It needed a little more body so I think I will increase the ratio of Munich to pale malts.

International Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

Today is International Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day so I had a few friends over and made beer. Some of them knew how to brew, some of them did not, and one of the latter is gonna give it a try. I ended up making about 15 gallons of beer in two batches. Allow me to elaborate.

I bought ingredients for 10 gallons of AHS Evil Brown ale and everything was set to go at 10 o’clock this morning. There was one flaw in my plan, you see at the last club meeting we discussed Bryan/College Station water quality. It turns out that our water is simply awful for brewing – there’s too much sodium and hardness. With this in mind I went down to Jacob’s Well and got 20 gallons of reverse osmosis filtered water.

I know better than to brew with only RO water, and thought I had some Burton salts in my box of homebrew supplies. I did not. Nor did I use any tap water in my mash like I should have. My efficiency suffered severely because of this and I extracted 10 gallons of 1.022 wort where I should have seen 1.050-ish.

The remaining grains were still sweet so some of the other homebrews convinced me to do another batch. This time I added about a gallon of tap water to 5 gallons of RO. The mash went through starch conversion in about 15 minutes and I mashed for a total of 40. The resulting wort came out around 1.031 SG. I tossed some left-over Magnum and Goldings hops in the boil and split my yeast starter between the two fermenters. They are in the duck-in cooler right now.

So it took me two mashes and 15 gallons to get all the sugar out of my grains, but I like low-alcohol session beers. I’m curious to tast the brews.

The recipe:

Fermentables:

  • 18 lbs 2-row
  • 1 lbs Crystal 60
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Malt

Hops:

  • 2 oz 7.6% AA Brewer’s Gold 60 mins
  • 1 oz 4.2% AA Goldings 15 mins

White Labs 005 English Ale yeast

Batch two used

  • 0.5 oz 14% AA German Magnum hops for 90 minutes
  • 1 oz 4.2% AA Goldings for 15 mins

I had those nagging cooling problems. Next time I will run my pump at a slower speed.

It was a great day. I even found the time to grill two racks of spare ribs and Adrienne made mozzarella. Other folks brought home and commercial brew meaning everyone was well fed and well drunk.

Rye of the Hurricane

Yesterday the eye of hurricane Ike passed 85 kilometers westward of my house in Bryan, TX. It caused no damage to speak of here. Our neighbors lost a tree, but after Adrienne and I helped him cut it down we waited out the storm with some spicy barley soup and laptops. We did not lose power or water like Galveston and wish a speedy recovery to them.

Today was brew-day. I had a crisp rye ale lined up from Austin Homebrew Supply and a starter of Wyeast 1968 ready to go. AHS advertised this recipe being similar to Real Ale’s Full Moon Pale Rye, which I like. Bear Republic makes a great rye IPA and I would like to explore brewing with rye malt.


Had a few friends over to help share some (commercial) beer. The brew went by in a typical way. My efficiency is often quite low (50% today) so I topped off the recipe with a kilogram of dry malt extract. I got about 45 liters out of it which indicates that I sparge too much. OG was 12.8% brix with 41-ish IBUs. The recipe:

Fermentables:

  • 7.75 kg Pale malt
  • 2.0 kg Rye Malt
  • 1.0 kg Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 0.5 kg Munich Malt

Hops:

  • 110 g 5.3% AA Mt Hood (60 mins)
  • 55 g 1.5 % AA (!) Hallertauer (5 mins)

Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale yeast.

Mashed 2.5 liters of water per kg at 65° C for 60 minutes. Sparged with 37 liters water to collect 51 liters of sweet wort. Measured the gravity to be 7.8% Brix.

I boiled for 30 minutes before adding the Mt Hood trying to get my volume down and gravity up. The wort has a nice sweetness to it, but I do not taste much rye. Chilling the wort is still a problem as I can only get down to about 32° C. When I put together a stand for my equipment I will make space for a pre-chiller. However, the brew is now fermenting in the duck-in cooler I made.

Duck-in Cooler Update

Hello loyal readers (and others),

I started the duck-in fermentation cooler project with the goal of keeping my homebrew at a temperature appropriate for fermenting. It is mostly finished now and stands in the brew-room of my new house undergoing light testing.

On the left is my 15-gallon fermenter with about 12 gallons of tap water and a thermometer probe. To see how long this contraption takes to get to temperature I started running the AC at about ten in the morning yesterday. Here is what the thermometer said:

Top is ambient temperature and bottom is the water. Yep, it comes out of the tap that warm, which makes for problematic wort chilling. After 8 hours the water temperature dropped to the low seventies. At the 12 hour mark it was in the mid sixties where it stayed mostly constant. Most ales are happy in this range, so I am happy. The ambient temperature was in the high seventies. Initial tests showed that it could hold 65-ish° without a full fermenter even in 90° F weather, giving me a 25° drop under ambient. I am using the AC’s built-in thermostat, which probably doesn’t go much lower than 65. I measured 40° air coming out of the unit, so with the right controller I could get down lower.

I do not know how efficient it is. When the cooler is in full swing I felt around all the likely places where cold might escape and only found one. I would like to purchase a watt-hour meter to see how much electricity this thing needs. The total cost of the cooler comes in at around $380 for materials; my time is more precious, but who’s counting?

The cooler appears to be ready for a maiden fermentation, but I have not decided what to make. There is space for two 15-gallon fermenters and four corny kegs, so I have the capacity to make a respectable amount of beer.

Bryan/College Station Homebrew Club


Analytics shows me that people come to my blog looking for information on homebrew clubs in the Bryan / College Station area of Texas. Since I am trying to start one up I thought it good to increase my pagerank with a little post about the new club.

[Edit 2010/04/17] The club is well-established, calling itself the Texas Aggieland Brew Club (TAbc).  We meet every third Friday of the month. [End Edit]

My wife and I moved to Bryan in January 2008 from San Jose, CA. I was part of the Sudzers homebrew club there, and upon arriving in the Bryan/College Station area I checked around for clubs. Not finding any I decided to try starting one. Using Craigslist and the TexAgs forum I quickly amassed a number of homebrewers.

Our first meeting happened in April with about 20 people showing up to brew beer. The second followed a month later and the third will be this weekend.

We do not have a name or web site yet, but I hope to decide upon that this weekend. If you want to learn about making beer, or like drinking good beer contact me. Follow this blog too, check the posts tagged brewing.

Problematic Decimal Arithmetic in Javascript

It is a pretty well known fact that using javascript to add decimals 0.1 with 0.2 does not result in 0.3. [1] Try it yourself with the FireBug console. For the uninitiated, the problem stems from javascript’s internal representation of numbers. They are actually binary numbers that are usually exact, but sometimes for example, are 0.00000000000000004 off. This is particularly aggravating when writing calculators that rely on js to give accurate results.

In my text inputs I was using toFixed() and some magic HTML attributes to keep decimals nice and clean. However, this method breaks down when a user enters a number with more significant figures than initially set up or you try to operate on two numbers with different sig figs. It was probably inevitable that I use a little arithmetic library extending Number to make decimals play nice.

Since javascript is 13 years old I thought it would be a simple thing to find such a library. I was wrong. After four days learning, looking and lamenting I had no library. After putting this one together in about a day and a half I am not surprised that nobody published theirs. Most of the eleven functions are one-liners, yet it bothers me that there are probably thirty-odd implementations of the this out there and not one found through Google.

// decimal_arithmetic.js
String.prototype.digitsAfterDecimal = function()
{  var parts = this.split(".", 2);  // FIXME: Not international!
   if( ! parts[1] )
   {  parts[1] = "";  }
   return parts[1].length;
};
 
Number.prototype.biggerScalar = function(n)
{  return n.scale() > this.scale() ? n.scale() : this.scale();  };
 
Number.prototype.digitsAfterDecimal = function()
{  return this.toString().digitsAfterDecimal();  };
 
Number.prototype.divided = function(n)
{  return this.dividedBy(n);  };
 
Number.prototype.dividedBy = function(n)
{  return this.multiply( n.reciprocal() );  };
 
Number.prototype.minus = function(n)
{  return this.plus( n.negative() );  };
 
Number.prototype.multiply = function(n)
{  var s = this.biggerScalar(n);
   return (Math.round(s*this,0) * Math.round(s*n,0)) / (s*s);
};
 
Number.prototype.negative = function()
{  return -1 * this;  };
 
Number.prototype.plus = function(n)
{  var s = this.biggerScalar(n);
   return (Math.round(s*this,0) + Math.round(s*n,0)) / s;
};
 
Number.prototype.reciprocal = function()
{  return 1 / this;  };
 
Number.prototype.scale = function()
{  return Math.pow(10, this.digitsAfterDecimal() );  };

Now you can do magical things like:

0.1.plus(0.2)
// 0.3

yielding the correct results.

I am looking forward to javascript 2.0 when I can override the + operator. Maybe I won’t go that far since binary arithmetic is still faster.

[1] http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.javascript/…