Yes, it’s that time of year again. Blood oranges are in season and that means it’s time for Blood Orange Hefeweizen. This is one of the most annoying beers I’ve brewed because it takes me so long to prepare the blood oranges. First they need to be washed, then zested, then peeled. All the pith needs to be removed or else the beer will be too bitter. During my hour of orange preparations, I strongly considered leaving the pith on and using less hops. But I’m too anal when it comes to details like that an I did it right.
This was my first all grain batch of Blood Orange Hefeweizen and I decided to use half Belgian Pilsen malt and half US white wheat malt. To be safe, I threw a bunch of rice hulls in the mash because stuck sparges suck. The Pilsen malt meant I needed to boil the wort for 90 minutes to drive off dms precursors. Getting 10 gallons of beer to boil takes long enough, but I managed to make it take even longer because I didn’t have a thermometer to put in my other keggle so I couldn’t sparge and run off wort to a keggle at the same time. That meant running off to my two older kettles, and then dumping that wort into my boil kettle after I finished sparging. So my brew day was 7+ hours and I missed about half of the Super Bowl.
I steeped the blood orange zest and fruit in a pot on the stove the entire time I was brewing. I took them up to about 180* and removed the pot from heat to let it cool. That also meant sitting above 160* long enough to pasteurize the fruit and kill off any yeast or bugs that might be on the zest. The water turned a nice ruby color and I added about half to each of the fermenters so I didn’t lose out on any aromatics or color from the oranges.
I used Wyeast 3068 for one bucket of beer and Wyeast 3638 for the other. I have used 3638 in the past and loved the results but I also read 3068 is THE Hefe strain to use. I guess we’ll find out soon. Unfortunately I didn’t remember to take a gravity reading because I was distracted by the football game and a cold pint when I finished chilling the wort. I have the two buckets sharing a fermwrap right now, which may or may not work very well. I suppose I should have bought another one. Oh well, I’m only trying to heat them to 62* and once the fermentation is rocking I doubt they will even need the added heat.
from → Hefeweizen
When I heard Wyeast was releasing a Belgian stout yeast, I knew I had to try it. I’ve never tasted a Belgian stout before, but I like stouts and Belgian beers and I figured this private collection yeast might not be easy to find later on and I went for it. I used Northern Brewer’s Mustache Envy recipe to brew this beer. I’m a little concerned there will be too many flavors going on with the Belgian yeast and oak chips in the secondary, but it should work out fine. Other Northern Brewer kits have produced great beers for me.
I broke in two new tools with this brew — my March pump and my Blichmann burner. They both worked really well, although I was hooking up the fittings to my pump and boil kettle while I was mashing, so it was a little more stressful than usual. The burner is great — nice, quiet, and fast. I loved having the pump to do a whirlpool chiller and the wort was down below 100* within about 5 minutes of knockout. It sounds like summer brewing will be a whole lot better this year than last year’s insanely long cooling times. The fermwrap kept the beer right at 67-68* the whole time it was in primary.
I made a 1.6 liter starter fr this beer because I could only find one smack pack of yeast. It worked great with my stir plate and I had an active fermentation a few hours after I pitched the starter into my wort. I look forward to tasting the results because I was sick when I tasted the sample from the hydrometer and I couldn’t really taste anything then.
from → Stout
I haven’t brewed beer for a long time. Between Amy moving, working on the house, and the holidays, there just wasn’t much time to fire up a kettle. I figured my first brew of the new year should be interesting, so I thought I’d try a Rye Porter. Rob found this recipe for me on the way to the homebrew store, so I can’t say it’s the ideal Rye Porter grain bill, but it sounded interesting. I substituted chocolate wheat malt for the black patent because I don’t like the roasted flavor black patent brings to a porter. Thanks to Kathy for helping me discover that. I think there might be a few too many specialty malts in this beer, but I’ll need to taste it before I can be sure. I’ probably should have used my warrior hops for bittering instead of the Goldings, but I must have forgot I bought a pound of bittering hops for the year when I was picking up ingredients.
My only problem on the brew day was a horrifically stuck sparge. I had to blow into the hose on my mash tun at least 5 times and I also stirred the mash quite a bit during the sparge. Even with a pound of rice hulls in the mash, there was too much wheat and rye in relation to the other malts. Next time I’ll just get 2 pounds of rice hulls to be safe.
I had really hoped to use Wyeast 1028 for this beer because I dislike White Labs, but I wasn’t able to find a second smack pack of 1028. I ended up buying 2 vials of WLP013 and crossing my fingers. Fermentation went really well. I used a temperature controller and a fermwrap to keep the temp at 68*. The yeast took off quickly and it looked like fermentation wrapped up in about 3 days. I’ll let the beer sit under the heat wrap for about a week and a half total to give the yeast a chance to clean up any off-flavors they may have produced.
from → Porter
Here’s another Thanksgiving beer. I brewed the blonde ale so I could have a less intense beer than my Evil Amber ale to give to people who come over, or share with the family at Thanksgiving. My original plan was to rack the blonde to secondary with some cherry puree, but I don’t think I’ll have enough time to get the cherry flavor and carbonate it before Thanksgiving.
This was a really easy brew. I think my efficiency is fine and I’m having an adjustment period going from a hydrometer to a refractometer for gravity readings after the sparge. The original gravity always ends up pretty close, so that’s all I really care about anyway. I didn’t get as long of a vorlauf as I had wanted because it was dark and raining and I wanted to get the boil going, so I hope the beer turns out clear enough. My latest amber and pumpkin beers both turned out very clear because of a longer vorlauf and it’s something I really want to keep up in future brews.
My only problem during this brew, other than the rain and darkness, was missing my mash-in temperature by a lot. I ended up heating a gallon of water up to 180 degrees and that brought the mash temp back up to the 152 degree target. I’m going to stick with mashing in a bit on the high side and just stirring the mash to get rid of any excess heat.
from → Blonde
I was pretty excited to brew the pumpkin beer for the Muskrat Mashers pumpkin beer competition in November. Mostly because going to all-grain brewing meant it would be easy to include real pumpkin in the beer. I’ve read that pumpkin doesn’t really contribute any flavor to this style of beer and most of the flavors we associate with pumpkin are really the spices from pumpkin pie, but it seems wrong to brew a pumpkin beer without any pumpkin in it.
I went with Jamil’s pumpkin spice ale recipe because a lot of the recipes for spice, herb, and vegetable beers that you find online are a little suspect. I didn’t get much sugar out of the pumpkin I mashed, so next year I’ll put in more Maris Otter to keep the gravity a bit higher and end up around 5% ABV. I’d probably bake the pumpkin for an hour and a half or two instead of the one hour I did this time to get a little more caramelization. Being a little closer to the session beer range will be ok with this beer because I plan to serve it at Thanksgiving.
from → Spice, Herb, Vegetable
This will be both a challenge of my all-grain brewing skills and recipe formulation skills. I knew I needed some advice on the grain bill, so I asked a few club members and my friend Jonny. Jonny told me to lose some of the specialty grains I was planning and to use Maris Otter for half my base malt. It sounded reasonable, so I went with it. After the miserable attempt at my own 10 gallon all-grain batch of porter, I was a bit nervous so I waited until I had a full day off work to concentrate on brewing and not feel any pressure because it was dark.
I took my time crushing grains while the strike water heated up, got a pretty good crush, and doughed in. I had a lot of dough balls to break up and I might have lost too much heat to mash right at my 152* target. I assumed it wouldn’t matter as long as I kept the lid on the cooler and didn’t worry too much. I did about a 20 minute vorlauf because I got a little impatient and wanted to sparge. I think having a tiered system where it’s easier to have the sparge water constantly flow over the grain bed would have been better, but this worked well enough and I did a batch sparge.
I used my keggle to boil and realized the thermometer probe is about a half an inch too high to be used on a 5 gallon batch. Oops. No matter, I just hung my other thermometer off my wort chiller and it seemed to do a good enough job. I am happy to report the groundwater is finally cooling down in Monroe and I had a lot more success chilling the wort. Once I got down to about 78*, I transfered the wort to my carboy, set it in an ice bath, and started aerating the wort. I ran the pump for about 20 minutes and then pitched yeast. Fermentation started within about 4 hours!
It looks like my system is a little over 70% efficient, which is great news. I’ll happily take a few points over 70 instead of coming in under the target. I need to use my refractometer next time to get a pre-boil reading, but I had no distilled water to clean it while I was brewing.
from → Amber Ale
Amy picked out an Ordinary Bitter from Northern Brewer when we last visited and I decided to try this Russian Imperial Stout. I really, really like to drink Russian Imperial Stouts in the colder months and this beer needs to age at least 6 months to taste right, so I needed to brew this beer a few months ago to really enjoy it this winter. No matter, I plan to bottle this one and only have one or two early next year with the rest waiting until November 2012 or later. Hopefully it turns out right.
I’m a little concerned about the 125 IBU rating of this beer, but that should help it age well. The hydrometer sample was way too hoppy and bitter because the Summit hops were an incredible 18.5% AA. I suppose I could have used less than 1.75 ounces, but I decided to stick with the kit. Next time I will do things differently (and probably all grain). I decided to try using a yeast cake from a much smaller Ordinary Bitter instead of making a huge starter to grow enough yeast to ferment this beer. I’m not 100% sure that was the right thing to do since my Ordinary Bitter doesn’t taste great, but I’m hoping it will all turn out fine. Even the messed up Black Widow Porter is surprisingly drinkable given how badly I messed it up. Check this space in a few months to find out what happens.
from → Russian Imperial Stout
Amy and I made another trip to Northern Brewer to pick up some supplies and she picked out another recipe kit. I cannot remember why she picked this kit, but it must have sounded good. I didn’t have a lot of interest in this style since commercial examples aren’t widely available around here, but it was a great opportunity to grow some yeast for a Russian imperial stout that I wanted to brew. I chose the WLP007 yeast strain because I read great things about it and I thought it would handle both the bitter and stout very well.
Brew day went fine other than relatively hot groundwater temperatures that made cooling a challenge. There was a lot more lag than I expected before fermentation started, so I was a little worried about how healthy the yeast was. I never bothered checking the final gravity but I assume it turned out fine after sitting on the yeast cake for about 9 days. I wanted to make sure the RIS was racked on very healthy yeast so it would fully attenuate.
from → Ordinary Bitter
Perhaps there were enough warning signs that today’s brew wouldn’t go well, but I ignored them all. First up, I bought a sack of 2-row malt and all the specialty grains I needed. At least I thought I did, but I forgot to look at the recipe before I left and neglected to buy the Munich malt that made up part of the base malt bill. When I tried to buy the 3 lbs of Munich I needed fro another store, they only gave me 2 lbs. I should point out that both of these stores crushed the grains for me even though I asked for uncrushed grains. This was the biggest sign, but I had no idea at the time. Once I had all the malt I needed, I realized my mash tun wasn’t big enough to hold all the grain for a 10 gallon batch. No problem, I’ll just use some DME to replace a bit of 2-row.
I made two yeast starters so I could split my batch between WLP001 and Wyeast 1056 just to look for a difference in flavors. The starter that ended up being 001 boiled over. It took for too long to cool the two flasks, but I thought I’d be off to a good start with both stir plates humming along.
This morning I woke up and started to pull together my ingredients. I realized the specialty grains I bought were all crushed, so I just added them to the mash tun. I started weighing and crushing grains and eventually went through all 14 pounds of 2-row. My biggest mistake of the day was not checking to see how fine my crush was with my new barley crusher. The answer was not at all because I was spinning the roller in the wrong direction. I didn’t discover this until after the mash. Good thing I used a bunch of DME so I could fit everything in the mash tun. It’s almost the only way I managed to get gravity!
I have never brewed 10 gallons of beer before today and I have only done one all-grain batch before. I should have asked another Muskrat Mashers member to swing by and supervise me! The whole process took longer than it should have and I really missed my target gravity because of the crush problems. Oh well, at least I know what NOT to do next time and I have a much better idea of how I want to arrange my brew system once I have m other two keggles finished.
It’s weird that this was a porter and a huge pain since my first batch was a porter that seemed like a huge pain at the time. That first one turned out just fine. I hope I can say the same about this batch in a few weeks…
from → Porter
After a long day at work, which came right after a vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where we fully immersed ourselves in the world of Dogfish Head, I needed a release and decided to brew. I went to Adventures in Homebrewing looking for a decent session beer to brew that had nothing to do with wheat. I’ve brewed a lot of wheat beers this year and felt like taking a break from that grain. But what to brew? I flipped through the big recipe book and kept coming back to brown ales. The recipe for Mjolnir Brown Ale caught my eye because it’s an English brown with Maris Otter malt. It sounded tasty and I bought the kit.
I really planned to brew a porter or stout and go all-grain for my next brew, but I am going to need a replacement for the weizenbock once that keg kicks and I didn’t have the time to brew all-grain after work. I’m thinking of doing some extract brews in Chicago with Amy on the weekends and bottling them to age for a while. This will obviously be bigger recipes or things that need more maturing than I can tolerate with kegs at home. I have almost enough equipment to run two systems now and the keggle should be finished before my next batch.
from → Brown Ale