Friday, December 16, 2011

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

The first time I brewed an imperial stout, I learned a lot about brewing a big beer.  The original recipe, simply titled "Black Sabbath", was a pretty basic Imperial Stout, really more like a regular stout but amped up.  The plan was to make one of these beers every year, and age it to see how it improved.  In that recipe, I was able to use the Wyeast limited edition Imperial Ale yeast.  I made 5 gallons and was going for a 12% ABV recipe.  I also ended up making a 4% ABV stout with the second runnings.

However, when you're using 24 pounds of grain, your efficiencies tend to go down the toilet.  So I got a 10% beer, which really isn't too bad.  Considering I was two years into brewing, it turned out pretty good.  I "dry-beaned" it with 4 ounces of coffee beans.  I won't do that again, as I think the coffee becomes more astringent as time goes on.

There was also some design involved in the labels, in that each succession would line up with the next Black Sabbath album.  I figured this would keep me in label art for some time to come.  I also picked up some darker red wax from Shoreline Brewery to dip the top of the capped bottles in, akin to Three Floyd's Dark Lord.

In this second iteration, I was learning more about specialty grains, so I wanted to experiment with them.  The idea behind the use of these grains was to make a very complex beer.  The other issue I had was fermentation.  I wanted the fermentation to finish well, so I figured I would make a smaller batch so I didn't have to have such a large (1 gallon) starter.  I also didn't have the same Imperial Ale yeast, so I went with the British Ale II (Wyeast 1335) since that was what Northern Brewer was using for the Surly kits, and I like Surly quite a bit.  I made a 2000 ml starter for this one.  Fermentation began within 2 hours of pitching.

Black Sabbath – Paranoid 

Batch Size (Gal): 3.00
Anticipated OG: 1.094 (22.50)
Anticipated SRM: 54.9
Anticipated IBU: 124.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

5.00 lbs. American 2-row (Great Western)              
3.00 lbs. Munich Malt(dark)
1.00 lbs. Golden Light Dry Malt Extract             
0.25 lbs. Crystal 80L                 
0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt               
0.25 lbs. Golden Naked Oats            
0.50 lbs. Flaked Barley                
0.25 lbs. Honey Malt                   
0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley               
0.50 lbs. Molasses                     

1.50 oz. Magnum @ 60 min.
1 tablet Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
3 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min.

Wyeast British Ale II 1335

In the last batch, I used both honey and molasses.  I have no doubt that the honey added to the alcohol content, as that ended up being a 10% ABV beer.  I went with Honey Malt this time for more honey flavor. The Golden Naked Oats were supposed to also add a fruitiness, and I went with those instead of flaked oats, which I used in the original recipe.  Another change to this recipe was the substitution of some Dark Munich malt for the 2-Row, to give it some more evil.

OG was a little under (I ended up adding the pound of DME for this reason) at 1.088.  Fermentation was vigorous for 3 days.  I even did a second oxygenation at this time with my aquarium pump for about 30 seconds.  I doubt this was enough.  The beer ended up finishing at 1.028, which freaked me out, but the beer has been in bottles for over 6 months now.  The most recent one had strong carbonation, but others I had were not as carbonated.  I didn't want a big carbonation by the style, but I have yet to drink a beer that wasn't helped out by at least 2.5 volumes of carbonation.  It's beer for Chrissakes, not wine.

So I ended up with an 8% ABV beer, which is actually all right.  The flavors have gotten more complex over the months, with more dark fruit beginning to show up. 2012's version (Master of Reality) will get an increase of 2-row, and I think I will add back the honey and molasses, but put them into the bucket 3 days after primary fermentation has started.  If I can get the Imperial Ale yeast again, I will.  I would like to use that to make an Imperial IPA and then use the yeast cake from that to make this beer.  Vanilla beans are a possibility.  Down the road, I'd like to use a Trappist High Gravity yeast to give it more of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale twist.  The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Honorable Mention for 2Wicky

So I responded to a question in the LinkedIn Homebrewer's forum about interesting beers you've brewed or somesuch.  Unfortunately, I was mistaken for someone else named Thierry in the post.  Whatever.  Here's the Drapeau Noir Siason (sic), otherwise known as my 2Wicky Saison Noire.  Hopefully, we'll hear back some tasting notes.  Might be a chance to brew this one again in 2012, but I really only want to brew a Belgian Dubbel this year.  But I will have to brew another beer with the yeast cake from that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Brew Day

This is sort of a photo journal entry of what a good brew day looks like for me.  It actually starts about 12-18 hours before the brew day, since I do 2 things before I can get the wheels in motion.  "Pre-Brew Day" includes collecting the water for the boil and sparge, making a yeast starter, and possibly crushing the grain the night before.  Usually, crushing the grain is the first thing I do in the morning of the Brew Day, but since I had a friend come over to get his grain crushed, he suggested that since I had the 1/2-inch drill and grain mill set up, I go ahead and do mine.  It was a pretty good suggestion.

The Yeast Starter

Unless I'm using dry yeast, I like to make a yeast starter.  You can use the Mr. Malty Pitching Calculator to help you out, but I've done enough starters to know what works for me.  I use 6 oz of dry malt extract for each 1000 ml of water.  So if it's 2000 ml, 12 oz, 3000 ml, 18 oz, etc.  If the base malt is 2-row, I'll want to use "Gold" DME, if it's Pilsner malt, I try to use "Pilsner" DME.  However, I'm cheap, so I tend to use what I have on hand.  I also add a teaspoon of yeast nutrient to each starter.  1 tsp is usually what is called for per gallon, so I guess I could use less, but what does it hurt?

I have a 5000 ml flask I bought from an online brewing store, so I can put the DME, yeast nutrient and water all in the same thing, bring it to a boil for 5 minutes, chill and pitch the yeast.  I am working on building my own stir plate, but I need to get a rheostat for it.  Until then, I leave the flask on the kitchen counter and swirl it often.  For 1000-2000 ml starters, I will do those 12-24 hours in advance of pitching.  For anything bigger, 3 or 4 days seem to yield more yeast.  So you have to plan.  Below are my guidelines.

For Ale Yeast (including Belgian strains):

OG is 1.060 or below:  1000 ml starter
OG is 1.060 - 1.075: 2000 ml starter
OG is 1.075 - 1.090: 3000 ml starter
OG > 1.090: 4000 ml starter

For Lager Yeast, I don't usually make a lager over 1.066, so I usually make a gallon starter and actually chill the wort and decant into a better bottle, though I suppose using the 5000 ml flask would work.  It's just easier to use the brew kettle and run it through the chiller.  I have had success using only one packet of fresh Wyeast and a gallon starter, but I think I will start using 2 packs of yeast in the future.  Maybe.  A 4-day yeast starter for lager at room temperature has yielded at least 4 good lagers for me (that's 4 for 4, in case you were wondering, 100% success, although one of those was actually yeast cake from another...)

Yeah, and I just use foil over the top, although I don't think a stopper and ferment lock would hurt.  This is more of a "a lot of people use foil, so I decided to use foil" thing.

Brew Day

I like to start my Brew Day early.  Like when I get up, I make some coffee, and start setting things up.  I use ProMash to figure out the strike temperatures, and so I take my pre-measured water and start warming up the water on the stove.  I bought a hard copper pipe, and used a measuring cup to determine what the certain amounts of water looked like in my boil kettle.  So I put a gallon of water in, put the pipe in, marked it with a pencil, then used a hack saw to score the mark permanently.  I did this in increments of gallons up to 7, since it's a 9-gallon kettle.  I batch-sparge, so I have a 4.5-gallon kettle I use to heat up the sparge water.  However, I measure this water out first in the 9-gallon boil kettle because I don't have another pipe for the 4.5-gallon pot, and transfer it.  Then I measure out water for the initial mash in.  I leave both these pots on the stove the night before the boil to let any chlorine evaporate.  I have friends who bought a Britta filter that they can put on the end of a hose, and can go to town right away.  I do this more out of superstition than actual flavor tastings.

This is my mash tun, a Coleman cooler I've had since 1992 that I put a stainless steel valve on, some washers and o-ring/gaskets, a small amount of copper tubing, and a big stainless steel braid that Jon Duder gave me.  I used a worm clamp to fasten the hose to the copper tube, then folded and crimped the loose end.  It works well.

I have a grain mill that I set on a bucket I bought at the hardware store that I use strictly for grain capture.  Grain mills are nice if you're doing all grain, because you can buy grain in bulk (cheaper) and un-crushed, so you can crush it fresh, and don't have to feel pressured to brew if something comes up because your grain is losing freshness (and thus, efficiency).

Once the temperature of the water is right, I pour it into the mash tun first, then pour my grain into the mash tun and stir it with my big spoon.  Check that the temperature is right, close the mash tun, and carry it outside to a table where I've got it set up to be wrapped in two big wool blankets.  I usually set the sparge water kettle on top to hold the mash tun down.  I let the grain set for 30 minutes, open, stir, check the temperature, and if I need to, I'll boil a gallon and pour it in and stir it up.  Usually, it only drops 1 or 2 degrees over 90 minutes.  I tend to mash for 75-90 minutes, as this has seemed to improve my efficiency.

I use a 2 quart pan for vorlauf, also pictured above is a scale for measureing hops, a small bowl with yeast starter and whirlfloc tablet for an addition at 15 minutes (you can use Irish Moss in lieu of whirlfloc).

With about 30 minutes left in the mash, I start heating the sparge water.  I will bring this to a boil.  This will go in after I vorlauf the first runnings


"Vorlauf" is a German word that means to recirculate the beer.  I guess I could say "recirculate", but I like German words.  Once the mash has reached 75 or 90 minutes, it's time to start filling the boil kettle.  I attach a hose to the mash tun and start running liquid into the 2-quart pan.  The photo above was shot during the vorlauf after I added the sparge water, so that's why you see wort in the kettle.  You want to make sure you don't have any grain (or too much grain) in the boil, which will give you tannin flavors, so you run the wort into the pan until it looks clear.  This usually takes me 2 or 3 fills.  I fill the pan, then return it to the mash tun.  Once it runs clear, I open the valve and let the wort run into the kettle.  When it runs dry, I close the mash tun valve, measure the amount in the kettle to let me know if I have enough sparge water, then I adjust the sparge water, and dump it into the mash tun.  Stir it in to get even temperatures, and then I go get a drink of water or take care of some minor things to let it set in there for 5 or so minutes (totally unnecessary, but again, some superstition), then vorlauf again.  I then run off the wort until I have the pre-boil amount I want (usually 1.5 gallons more than I intend to ferment, so 7.5 for 6 gallons, 7 gallons for 5.5 gallons of wort).


Next comes the boil.  If I'm not using Pilsner malt, it's usually a 60-minute boil.  For fun this time, I actually did a 70-minute boil.  I was shooting for a gravity of 1.050 and hit 1.051.  So I probably would've been good with a 60-minute boil.  Note that if you have hop additions at the beginning of the boil (for example, 1 oz @ 60 min) do not change that.  Still drop it in with 60 minutes left in the boil.  This will prevent it from having more bitterness.  I add other hop additions as necessary, and then throw my yeast nutrient and whirlfloc in with 15 minutes left in the boil.


I didn't take any photos of my counterflow chiller.  Chill the wort down to the temperature you want - I usually shoot below 70, around 65*F, if possible.  This was a Koelsch, and at the time, my root cellar floor was 58*F, so it was perfect.  Fermentation temps are becoming more important to me.  I think a lot of mine have been too low, and my finishing gravities end up higher than I'd like.  For ale yeasts, I think 68*F is a good temp.  For Belgians, I like to start at 62*F, and once fermentation takes off, I want to start increasing the temps about 2*F per day, and end up around 70*F if possible.

Leave a message if you have any questions.  And don't forget to enjoy the brew day.  Hopefully they will all be awesome days.

Friday, May 20, 2011

2Wicky Black Saison

Sometimes I am in awe of the wonderful things that run through my head when I think of beer ingredients.  The creative side of homebrewing is the funnest part for me.  Building something different used to be my primary motivation, but then this year I decided I'd rather get some recipes down that were solid recipes I could repeat, mostly because I'd make all these weird things and find myself longing to have a simple pale ale or pils.

That's how 2Wicky started.  Only it wasn't black.  I was pumping out all sorts of crazy Belgian-style beers but putting a twist on them.  I had just brewed the #9 clone, and I liked it, but I realized that the amount of apricot extract in one bottle (4 oz) wasn't enough for a 5-gallon batch.  I needed another 4 oz bottle, but what was I going to do with the remainder of the second bottle?

Knowing that 4 ounces of extract let you know the flavor was there, but wasn't strong got me to thinking what if you could use 3 ounces and put some other things in the beer, or use a beers attributes to make someone wonder what that flavor was?  2Wicky was born, and sat in my recipe file until I decided I needed to brew some kind of wacky Belgian beer one day ("2Wicky" is a song by Hooverphonic, a Belgian band).  I looked at the recipe, but I thought of making a Saison Noire (black saison) instead.  Plus, I didn't have the apricot flavoring.

I also had been wanting to use star anise (I would go into the local ingredient store and open the whole star anise bin and inhale) and I wanted it peppery, and had just read about grains of paradise.  So I fashioned this recipe.


Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
OG: 1.072 (17.53)
SRM: 21.2
IBU: 44.8
75 % Efficiency
90 Minute boil

8.00 lbs. Marris Otter Malt            
3.00 lbs. Pilsener                    
0.50 lbs. Carafa II (dehusked)        
0.50 lbs. Crystal 40L                
0.38 lbs. Molasses                    
2.00 lbs. Demerara Sugar

1.50 oz. Perle (8.25%AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Strisselspalt (2.60%AA) @ 5 min.
1.00 Anise (whole star) @ 5 min.
2.00 gm Grains of Paradise @ 5 min.

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

There are some tricks to this beer.  When I brewed it, I threw the molasses and the sugar in with 10 minutes left in the boil.  When I make this beer this year, I will only add the molasses at this time, and not the Demerara.  I have a feeling that adding that much sugar to the boil tends to leave me with beers that don't finish below 1.016.  Therefore, what I have done before, and what I intend to do the next time, is open ferment for 2 days, rouse the yeast both days, then cover and wait for fermentation to slow.  I will then add the 2 lbs of sugar to maybe a quart or quart and a half of water, bring to a boil, and then add it to the wort, to give the yeast some dessert, and dry out the beer.  (Make sure to rouse the yeast prior to adding the sugar water to kick start it) The beer was very carbonated after I bottled.  It also got a 36 at the Urban Knaves of Grain homebrew contest this year (2011) and was entered in a mini Best of Show.  I entered this as a Belgian Specialty Ale (16E).  Some of the notes were:

"High molasses aroma with star anise notes, moderate malt aroma, medium-low hop aroma, low esters.  Brown with garnet highlights, high, light tan head, good retention.  Very light malt flavor, moderate molasses, light grains of paradise malt flavor.  Very low star anise flavor, moderate hop bitterness and aroma, some peppery phenolic notes.  Creamy explosive carbonation, medium light body, finishes prickly, somewhat dry."

This is a good beer to make as a Christmas beer.  Using the warmer temperatures in the summer to ferment, you can bottle it, and then around late November/Thanksgiving, you can start cracking them open.  Mmmmm...smells like Monk Basement.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Roosevelt Franklin Rye Stout

I am not a big fan of stouts.  While I think the style is good, for the most part, I don’t really care for that burnt or roasted flavor in my beer, or at the level the stouts I encountered earlier in my life.  I always felt challenged in a way that I did not want to be challenged from beverages I drank.  Having said that, I would have to say that I’ve had many stouts in recent years that are not as roasty, but more balanced, or even have a nice chocolate overtone to them.

About a year ago, one of my friends brought me a Bell’s Rye Stout.  It sounded interesting enough.  I was completely blown away when I smelled the beer.  It smelled like toasted dark bread.  It was only the second beer in my life that I wanted to walk around smelling all day, rather than lose that aroma by drinking the beer.  The beer had a nice, dry finish, and more of a chocolate flavor rather than a roasted flavor.

I decided that I wanted to brew something like this.  I contacted Bell’s, but only asked if they actually toasted any of the malts in the beer.  They replied, saying that they did not toast any of the malts, only the combination of the malts resulted in the toastiness of the beer.

I went to the Northern Brewer forum to inquire if anyone had any ideas on how to modify a recipe that I had fashioned.  I was given a nice recipe to try, that was similar to what I had, and rolled with it. 

The beer has turned out well.  It is a good stout, balanced with roastiness and chocolate flavors.  It doesn’t have quite the toasted aroma I want though.

As luck would have it, I was listening to an old Jamil Show podcast about California Common.  Jamil uses a small amount of pale chocolate malt in his California Common recipe to give it a “toastiness”.  He was asked by his co-host on the show if there were any other malts he knew of that would impart a similar flavor.  He stated that for the style of toastiness he was going for, that pale chocolate malt was the only one he was aware of.  Therefore, I have modified my recipe to cut back half the amount of chocolate rye, and in it’s place, use a quarter pound of pale chocolate malt.

Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Anticipated OG:1.069
Anticipated SRM: 30.0
Anticipated IBU: 51.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 60    Minutes

10.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row)       
2.00 lbs. Rye Malt             
1.00 lbs. Flaked Rye                  
0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley
0.25 lbs. Chocolate Rye
0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate Malt

0.50 oz.    Magnum @ 60 min.
0.50 oz.    Nugget @ 60 min.

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Friday, April 15, 2011

Re-Using Yeast Cake

You may have heard of the process of moving your beer off of the yeast either to bottle or keg, or put into secondary fermentation and then using the yeast at the bottom of that fermenter to ferment another beer.  I have done this 3 times and have had successful results.

Mind you, my methods might be a little unorthodox.  Here are the steps that I take:

1)      Plan the brew day for the second beer based on when the yeast is done.

The second time I did this, I brewed a Vienna lager and figured in two weeks, it would be done fermenting.  I began brewing the second beer, a Maerzen, exactly 2 weeks after the first.  Unfortunately, while the second beer was boiling, I took a gravity sample and found that the first beer was far from done (gravity reading was 1.030).  Luckily, I had enough vessels that I was able to move that beer to a secondary fermenter, use half the yeast cake for the new beer, and then return the Vienna into the original fermenter.  Both beers turned out great.

2)      Sanitize two vessels

One vessel will be for your fresh beer, the second vessel will either be your bottling bucket, keg, or secondary fermenter for your first beer.

3)      Sanitize the path

I use a fresh rag and sanitized water and gently clean the top of one side of the first fermenter to get rid of any chunks of kreuzen or gunk left behind during the fermentation.  This is probably very unorthodox, so get some other opinions.  This is how I’ve done it, and it works well for me.

4)      Put the yeast cake into the second beer

Go through your normal methods of infusing oxygen into the new beer (shake the fermenter, use an oxygen stone and tank or aquarium pump, etc.) and pitch the yeast.

You should see fermentation rather quickly with this method.  And you just saved some money on yeast.

Good luck!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Magic Hat #9 Revisited

I've been thinking a little bit more than I should about Magic Hat's #9 lately.  I don't plan on brewing this beer anytime soon, although I wouldn't mind having 5 gallons of this in my house.  I've brewed a clone of Magic Hat #9 before with some success.

Two things have brought me back to thinking of this beer.  The first was an email that I get from Magic Hat (in fact, I signed up on BOTH of my email addresses to get this newsletter/email) that suggested making a drink called Black Magic, a Black and Tan style drink with Magic Hat #9 and "your favorite stout".  I have just brewed a Rye Stout that I call "Roosevelt Franklin" that I should have a post about next week.  I just had one of these beers last night, and it is finally ready.

In case you were wondering, the Magic Hat #9 would go in first.  You don't need the special spoon, you can just bend one, but here's a nice video courtesy of the Brooklyn Brew Shop, who have some pretty interesting sounding recipe kits you can buy:

I also found an old Can You Brew It podcast where they cloned the Magic Hat #9. I based my original recipe on a recipe from the book Clone Brews. My recipe used Marris Otter, and a half pound of Crystal 60L, Cascade and Columbus hop additions exactly opposite of what was suggested by the head brewer of Magic Hat on the podcast.  Still, I thought the beer was very close to the original, and I enjoyed it.  The recipe they came up with on the show was something like:

Magic Hat #9

6 gallons
OG: 1.045
IBU: ~20
SRM: 6

9.92 lbs pale malt (Marris Otter)
0.20 lbs Crystal 80

¼ oz Columbus @ 60 min
½ oz Cascade @ 30 min

White Labs WLP002 Yeast or Wyeast 1098 British Ale 

Mash temp 152*F

Ferment @ 68*F

On the podcast, they used 5 oz of Apricot flavoring in 5 gallons of beer, or the keg.  If you're bottling, you can't just add more to each bottle once the caps are on.  However, you buy the Brewer's Best Apricot extract in 4 oz bottles, and having made 5 gallons of the beer and adding 4 oz of the Apricot extract to the bottling bucket, I can verify that it was not enough.  Brewer's Best suggests 5 oz in 5 gallons, the guys at Can You Brew It also suggested this, so I think that this should be the correct amount.

I should also note that on Magic Hat's web site, they are now using Cascade and Apollo hops in the #9.  At around 20 IBU, this probably won't matter, although Jamil says in another podcast that you can taste the difference between 1 IBU. (I'm rolling my eyes at that.  This is as bad as the stereo-philes in the 80s saying they could tell the difference between a clean record and a CD.  Maybe you can, Jamil, but the average beer drinker, I assure you, can NOT).

In my recipe, I'm upping the malts to 10 lbs Marris Otter and .25 lbs of Crystal 80, because of my efficiency. I'm showing an OG of 1.053 in Promash, so if I hit anything between 1.045 and 1.053, I'll be happy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Samhain - Version 4

Just as there are many kinds of beer, there are also many kinds of home brewers. When I got into this, I never made the same recipe twice. Then, while visiting in-laws in Syracuse, New York, I discovered Magic Hat beers for the first time. From what I’ve observed, Magic Hat tends to be a polarizing brewery for home brewers. It seems like people either love them or hate them, and I think a lot of it has to do with their flagship beer, #9, a not-quite-so pale ale with a hint of apricot.

Personally, I like #9. I don’t go out of my way to load up on it, but I enjoy having one or two every now or then. My wife also likes #9, which is also helpful.

However, while on the trip I mentioned above (and also here before), I also discovered Magic Hat’s Jinx. I really liked this beer. So much that I went on a quest to clone it. That beer turned out to be a lot bigger than it needed to be. Again, I liked the aroma of this beer, and I even enjoyed what a malt bomb it was, much to the chagrin of just about everyone else who drank it. I mean, Magic Hat made it with only 20 IBUs. So, yeah, it’s going to be malty. But earlier versions were much too sweet, I’ll admit.

So as I traveled down the path of learning about Scottish ales, which I discovered was sort of the base recipe of the Jinx in a far-reaching manner, I heard that you’re not supposed to put peated malt in Scottish ales, but rather derive that taste from longer boils and darker crystal malts.

The other thing I liked about this recipe is that I grow Zeus hops in my backyard, and I could use them for this beer. However, this year, I just put all 18 oz of my hops in my chest freezer/kegerator instead of freezing them (I didn’t really have the room in my basement beer fridge/freezer due to there being food in there; you gotta eat, you know). After a couple of months, all the hops had turned brown. And I dried them for 16 hours. Perhaps I didn’t bag them well enough. Next year, I’ll try and use a vacuum sealer. I had to use what I had on hand, since I didn’t plan on the hops being bad, and wasn’t paying attention. So I had half an ounce of Perle, and a whole bunch of Nugget and Summit hops (of which a little of the latter goes a looooong way), so I decided to make a different version.

I’ve been dickering with the malt bill every brew, the last time I used a pound each of Crystal 40 and Crystal 120, which kept me up at night. Again, that might have been a better beer had I hopped it heavier. Still, like I said, I enjoyed it. While the color of the current year’s (I believe I’ve brewed this beer 4 times now in my 3 years of brewing) beer a lot, it still doesn’t have that “purplish” hue (actually, when I poured the beer for the photo tonight, I think the color is spot on) but I think if I increased the boil 30 minutes, I could achieve this. That would be okay, anyway, since I ended up with 6 gallons this year instead of 5.5, so my OG was 1.060. I should also note that this year, I added the pound of brown sugar after 3 days of fermentation to dry it out. It still ended up finishing at 1.013, but for this kind of beer, that is okay with me. It finishes dry and there is a tart hop punch.

I think the malt bill is good. The hop schedule will change to 3 additions of Zeus hops, likely a third of an ounce at 60, a whole ounce at 10 minutes, and another ounce at 0 minutes. While, it won’t exactly be the malt bomb it was intended to be, it will be a more balanced beer, and one I will enjoy. Perhaps in version 6, I’ll tone those down a bit, because I don’t know what the alpha acid is on my Zeus hops. I am assuming 11% AA, while Fresh Hops, where I got the rhizome, are selling Zeus hops are 14.2% AA. It’s a great journey, and I’ve enjoyed each version.


Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Anticipated OG: 1.067
Anticipated SRM: 19.0
Anticipated IBU: 25.3
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

9.00 lbs. Golden Promise
1.50 lbs. Munich Malt(dark)
1.00 lbs. Brown Sugar (dark)
1.00 lbs. Crystal 40L
0.25 lbs. Crystal 120L
0.13 lbs. Chocolate Malt

0.5 oz. Perle (Pellet - 7.8% AA) @ 60 min.
1.0 oz. Nugget (Pellet - 11.2% AA) @ 10 min.
1.0 oz. Summit (Pellet - 18.5% AA) @ 0 min.

WYeast 1028 London Ale – 2 quart starter

Friday, March 4, 2011

Novices and Bigger Beers

When I started out brewing, I was still relatively unfamiliar with the different styles of beer that existed. I knew I liked pale ales, IPAs, and even had a special place in my heart for Belgian-style Wit (or White) beers. While I was known among my friends for a very long time for liking beer, the depth of my knowledge of the various styles was not that deep.

As I began developing recipes, I was also going to forums on home brewing and rating beer at places like I started learning about other beers and commercial styles of these beers. Eventually, after having a conversation via private message on ratebeer with a guy from Wisconsin, he pointed out that since I live in northwest Indiana, I must get to drink a lot of Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. I had not known about this beer, or the events surrounding Dark Lord Day, but I became intrigued.

After buying and trying the Dark Lord in 2007, I began on a quest to clone this beer. Searching for recipes on the internet proved to be easy. However, the technique on brewing a beer that was around 13%ABV did not also come with these recipes.

While the first version of this beer turned out to be pretty good, I learned a couple of things about brewing bigger beers. One thing being your efficiency completely drops when you use greater than about 17 pounds of grain. I’m sure if I was wiser about mashing techniques, I could have gotten closer, but I doubt I would ever be able to achieve the 75% efficiency I was looking for. Longer mash times than 60 minutes might have helped achieve this. There is also an interesting method in Randy Mosher’s book, Radical Brewing, about taking half the grain of a big beer, mashing it, then using the wort collected from the first half and mashing the second half of the grain with that wort instead of using fresh water. I haven’t tried this.

I didn’t come here to discuss how to brew bigger beers, though. I’d rather each person learns this process by their own means. I would be happy to discuss this at another time. What I wanted to discuss was how new home brewers tend to get into the hobby, and right away they want to make a 10% ABV beer.

You can be successful doing this, and I’m not against it, but I think there’s something to be said for easing yourself into the hobby and not attempting to make boozy beers right away. I’m not sure you can get a complete understanding of what is going on with big beers.

Of course, this is just my opinion, and recently, I had a friend make a double IPA and he used just one packet of Nottingham yeast. Suprisingly, to me, the gravity started out at 1.090 and within just a week, was down to 1.015. He said it tasted great just after a week. Shows you what I know.

It just reminds me of the scene in the movie, Weird Science where Gary and Wyatt are trying to impress the other two male “cool guys” in the movie, Max and Ian, by making a second girl. When they get to the discussion about breast size, Max and Ian say, “Bigger tits”. Gary disagrees but in the end, frustratingly says, “Give ‘em the knee shooters.”

Of course, it is a hobby, and you should make what you enjoy. I just enjoy the journey a little more.

Give 'em the knee shooters...

Friday, February 25, 2011


In the past, when deciding what to brew, I fought against an urge to brew what I really wanted (IPA! DRY-HOPPED PALE ALE! PILSNER! PILSNER! IPA!) to try other styles. For example, the beer that became 2Wicky (a French-style Black Saison with Star Anise, Grains of Paradise and molasses) started out as a standard Saison with just 2 oz of Apricot flavoring so you'd think "Huh? What was that?" The grains weren't very traditional. Only 21% Pilsner malt was used, and instead I went with Marris Otter as the primary base malt (at 55%).

In an enclosed hotel rooftop swimming pool in downtown Indianapolis, I started thinking about the base recipe of the 2Wicky as a simpler Saison. There were posters around the swimming pool that appeared to be some kind of old-timey vacation ads for places in France. I noticed how "Maison", meaning "house" or probably "home" was one letter away from "Saison". I thought that if I made a Saison beer, I would call it "Saison de Maison". As I decided what beers to make this year, the names were made simpler, into one or two-word titles, and "Maison" was born.

I brewed this beer on my birthday in 2010, opting to try another open-fermented, late-sugar addition beer. My buddy, John Hayes, bought me the ingredients for this one.

5.5 gallon batch
OG: 1.069
SRM: 4.9
IBU: 49.6

90 minute boil

5.0 lbs 2-Row Malt
5.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
0.5 lbs CaraVienne Malt
2.0 lbs Demerara sugar

1.5 oz Perle (8.25%AA) @ 60 min.
2.0 oz Strisselspalt (2.6%AA) @ 5 min.
2.0 oz Mt. Hood (4.6%AA) Dry Hop

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

I do a 75 minute infusion mash at 149-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Batch sparge. I made a 2-quart starter for the yeast. This beer spent 2 weeks in primary fermentation, and then 3 weeks in secondary because I went to Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday, and didn't bottle it until the very first week of December. The sugar was added after 48 hours of fermentation via 1 quart of water and all 2 pounds added to that, boiled, chilled and added with the lid placed on the fermenter. The beer finished with an OG of 1.006.

As of February, I think the beer is good. It might improve over the next few months, but I figured about an 8.3% ABV for this one, so it's very likely it will become more estery. It's definitely free of fusel alcohols, though, and ended up a bit darker (I think due to the Demerara sugar) than calculated by promash.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Belgian Strong Dark - The 8-Ball

The last time I posted, I talked about adding sugar later in the fermentation, as opposed to at the end of the boil so as to allow for the yeast to eat all of the simpler sugars (matlose?) before they got to their dessert of the sucrose. You know how lazy you get after eating dessert. Yeast are even simpler creatures.

As I also stated in that article, I performed open fermentation on this beer, another technique that I had yet to try. This is where you leave the lid off the bucket after you add the yeast. Keep animals and small children away, and you should be all right.

Here's the recipe:

6 gallon batch
OG: 1.078
SRM: 15.8
IBU: 26.1
12.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
2.0 lbs CaraMunich Malt
2.0 lbs Demerara sugar (I got mine at a local grocery)
0.5 lbs Corn sugar

1.0 oz Tradition (6.2%AA) @ 60 min.
0.5 oz Hersbrucker (3.3% AA) @ 30 min.
0.5 oz Hersbrucher (3.3% AA) @ 5 min.

Wyeast 1762 - Belgian Abbey II - 2 quart yeast starter

When I got the ingredients, I didn't look closely at the hops. I had the ounce of Hersbrucker, but instead of Tradition hops, Midwest Supplies sent me Tettnanger. These had a lower alpha acid %, and probably would've been all right, but I had a lot of Perle hops left over, and I thought their alpha acid % (8.2%) would've served this better, so I adjusted it to 0.75 oz of Perle instead. It turned out well.

Since I was using Pilsner malt, I also opted for a 90 minute boil. In case you haven't seen it a million times already, this is supposed to reduce the dimethyl sulfide (which can impart a "corny" taste to your beer). I haven't been brave enough to experiment with this.

The OG without the sugar was 1.058. A 2-quart yeast starter was therefore a good size starter for this beer.

After 2 days of open fermentation, I put 2 quarts of water in a pan, added all the sugar, brought it to a boil for 5 minutes, chilled it to about 70 degrees F, and added it to the fermentation bucket, and put the lid on. In about half an hour, the ferment lock was popping like a machine gun.

After 5 days of fermentation, the lock showed no signs of fermentation. Usually, you can watch the lock for 2 minutes and see a bubble, but this was DEAD. I still let it stay in the primary bucket for 2 weeks. I checked the gravity (1.008) and then transferred it to secondary. Then I lagered it for 2 weeks and bottled with 5 oz of corn sugar.

The beer has been in the bottle almost 6 months now. It has finally become very good. When I tried it during the first few months, there wasn't much of a scent on it. Now, you can smell the esters. At 25 IBU, there isn't a lot of hop bite, what shines through is a raisiny malt profile with a caramel backbone.

At 9.2% ABV, this one should've been aged at a minimum this long before opening. That's my opinion. Bigger beers need to age so they can actually become good.

I will likely make this again, but I think I will leave it sit in the bottles for a good 8 months before trying it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Trick to Adding Sugar

This summer I was listening to a Jamil Zainasheff podcast about making Tripel beers, and he was asked if he’d ever had a really good, homebrewed Tripel. He stated that he hadn’t, saying that many of them were too sweet, and even cloying. He suggested that since Tripels usually have a large amount of sugar as part of the recipe bill, that brewers who wanted the beer to finish dry should add the sugar later in the fermentation process, rather than during the boil. This would require the yeast to get all the maltose provided by the malt BEFORE the yeast would convert the easier sucrose. Given the choice of the two, the yeast would spend all of their energy working on the sucrose first and THEN go after the maltose.

I have only made one Tripel, and I found that my beer did not finish as low as I wanted it to. While 1.014 was decent finishing gravity, or so I thought, I still found the beer to be a little more sweet than other Tripels I liked (not to mention the fact that I used a half pound of Crystal 20ยบ L, which I thought would be cool, but was totally unnecessary).

A friend and I wanted to brew a beer together, and he suggested looking at Northern Brewer’s kit called The Number 8. I’m not sure if this kit was patterned after a particular commercial beer (maybe the Rochefort 8?), but it appears to be a Belgian dark strong. I made some small changes to the recipe and named this beer “Magic Eightball” and then later just “8*Ball”. I will cover this beer in another post.

I decided to try two new techniques with this beer. The first was to open ferment it for 48 hours. I was inspired by a Brewing TV episode on this subject. While I think that Dawson let his wheat beer go for more like 72 hours, I was nervous about it. I roused the yeast after about 12 hours, and it had a nice kreuzen going (big clouds of yeasty foam on top), and I did this about every 12 hours, until I was freaked out enough to boil the two and a half pounds of sugar in 2 quarts of water, chill it, and then dump it into the fermenter and pop the lid on it. Within a half hour, the 3-piece ferment lock was popping like a machine gun.

That beer finished at 1.008. Way better than I could have hoped.

For my birthday, my brewing buddy, John, bought me the ingredients for Maison, my Saison recipe. Again, this beer included a pound of Demerara sugar, so I boiled it in a quart of water and added it to the beer after 48 hours of open fermentation. Again, it finished lower than any other beer I brewed, this time at 1.006.

There may be other things at play here with me adding the sugar late. All I know is that both of these beers taste great, and I’ll be discussing them soon in further detail.