Sunday, 30 September 2012

Pumpkin High π (Pi) Ale/Wiezen

We typically don't brew the same thing twice.  Why do it?  With so many styles to try and variables to consider with amount of available weekends to brew why commit to the same thing twice?  Well, one reason is last year Jeff's recipe for Pi Pumkin Ale was a big hit and its fall.  Ok, that's two reasons but one is enough (+ a gift card from Brew-It-Yourself from the this year's Big Ass Beer Bash raffle helped with the additional $$$).

The recipe is very similar to last year's with the main exception of a tweak on the yeast.  Instead of dual pitching Wyeast 3068 and Wyeast 1099  into each carboy we pitched them seperatly to test the yeast profile.  So we should have a Pumpkin Ale and a "Pumpkinwiezen."

Brew day went well with the exception of hops and pie filling clogging the "bazooka" filter during the boil calling for repeated cleaning by-way-of dipping hot gloves into the pot, dissasembling of the filter, cleaning, and re-installation.  Next time this batch is done care will be taken to put hops and pie filling in the hop bag because the alternative is unpleasant.

We also used the mach pump for the first time in quite awhile since this was a 10 gallon target batch size.  It worked like a charm for us.

Brewday: 9/3/12

10# Maris Otter
8# Domistic 2 Raw
4# Munich Malt (10L)
1# Crystal Malt (40L)

1/2# Rice Hulls
1 Lb Muntons Extra Light DME (added halfway into the mash)
2 lbs Organic Rolled Oats, whole Gran
8 oz Shelled Hemp Seeds
1.25# Sunridge Organic Bulghur Wheat
1 lb Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar
16 fl oz Organic Blackstrap Molasses (30 min boil)
30 oz Pumkin Pie Mix (Can) (60 min boil)
30 oz Organic Pumpkin (60 min boil)
0.37 lbs Dried Mango Spears (15 boil)
0.27 lbs Dried Papaya (15 min)
0.30 lbs Dried banana chips (15 min boil)
0.57 lbs pumkin kernnels (Mash)
0.10 lbs Pumkin Pie Spice (boil 5 min)
0.07 lbs ground cinnamon (boil 5 min)

7 gal spring water to Mash Pot with 1 tablespoon pH stabilizer
10 gallon spring/tap water to sparge water with 2 tablespoon pH stabilizer

start-of-sparge, 1074@ 140 F
 12 gallon wort collected at 1044 @ 122 F

Collected ~ 8 gallon wort to fermentors, 4.5 gallon to first, 3.5 to second.

Pitched 1099 to 3.5 gallon carboy, and 3068 to 4.5 gal. (smack packs, no starter)
Fermented at 67 F.

9/10/12 update,
Transferred 3068 to secondary, krausen did take up 1/3 of the head space as advertized.  IG 1015 (81% attenuation).  Evidence of yeast still in suspension as advertized too.

9/11/12 update,
Transferred 1099 to secondary, 1019.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Nostalgic Pale Ale Tasting

Nostalgic Pale Ale turned out good.  I wanted to make a pale ale that reminded me of the first craft brews I tried and Nostalgic does the deed.  Its a beer that is hard not to keep pouring.


Reddish/Amber color with small bubbles.  Head retention is not great but that may be due to not having carbonation on the keg during several events at the house and just needs a bit more carb-ing up.  Head is slight off white.  Some small bubbles but not a bunch.  Its a gorgeous beer but what beer isn't.


Good hop aroma from Cascade, not great.  Citrus, some orange/lemon notes.  A touch of sweet malt as well.  Not an over-powering aroma.  Thought about dry-hopping ... maybe next time.


This beer has a lot of flavors going for it.  Centennial/Cascade combo does a good job doubling down on the citrus appeal:  again orange/lemon/grapefruit flavor with a strong bitter finish.  There is a malt depth to complement the hop flavor which makes is very enjoyable.  The more sips the more straight-up grapefruit flavor comes out which is a good thing.  Everything one would expect in a Pale Ale.


Maybe a little under carbed (fixable) but it does have good body. 


Good Pale Ale,  If hop aroma was stronger I would say a great one.  The beer did what it was suppose to, it reminds me of the first craft beer experiences I had with Boulevard's Pale Ale and Copperhead Ale from Free State.  It has enough aroma to set-up the flavor and the beer just looks right and tastes right.  Really happy how this turned out and will be excited to submit to this year's Dixie Cup to get a score on it.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Green Bullet Blondy Shire SMaSH

I was ordering some replacement parts off Northern Brewer (drill mixer, beer gun seal, etc.) and thought maybe I'd check to see if there were some good deals on Hops.  I had noticed a month or two back that they had pretty good deals on a bunch of varieties but I didn't see the need to ordering at the time.  As I glanced through the varieties I noticed a bunch of good deals (1.25 - 1.99 $/oz) on N.Z. varieties.  I decided to take the opportunity to pick up some Pacific Gem and Green Bullet 1 oz pellet packets (already paid the flat $7.99 shipping ... why not).  I wasn't sure the best way to incorporate but remembered reading about Single Malt and Singe Hop (SMaSH) brews here and here and I decided this was a cool way to experiment with these NZ hops.  I had some 2nd generation Cali Hops which I could use too for a super cheap brew.

I was trying to find a commercial example of a SMaSH on the net and was pleasantly surprised  finding Boulevard 's Collaboration No 1 as an solid example and another source of inspiration.  I recalled trying this beer at a trip home to Kansas a few years back and really enjoying it.  Reading Collaboration No 1's style led to the idea of experimenting with First Wort Hopping (FWH).  Ideally, as I read somewhere(s), FWH is best with a lower AA hop (i.e. not 13.2% AA like the Pacific Gem came in at), but whatever and enjoy a home brew (so on and so forth).  FWH involves running the sparge wort over hops before bringing to a boil.  "Old Data" on the topic is here and there are a gazzilion different ways to implement the method.

And all this led me to the SMaSH Paradox:  something so simple is in fact so complicated, so difficult to choose.  I knew I wanted to FWH, I knew I wanted to reuse some Cali Yeast, but I was standing at the homebrew shop trying to figure out the SM of the SMaSH.  Should I stick with Pilsner Malt like Collaboration No 1, should I pick Marris Otter for its depth, should I stick with the budget brew and buy whatever base malt is on sale, should I pick a base malt that a really really want to study further, that is one goal of the SMaSH.  Budget brew won the day and I picked up 12#'s of domestic Pils.  The rest of the recipe is below.  There are some many other variables that can be adjusted, Mash Schedule, Hop Schedule, Yeast and Fermentation temp.  That is the utility of SMaSH's and its  a great way to introduce someone to All-Grain Brewing.

Green Bullet Blondy Shire SMaSH
Single Infusion (154 F, 3.7 gal strike water at 175 F, Sparge water 170 F, 8 gallon wort collected)
12 # Domestic Pils
0.5 oz Green Bullet (FWHed) @ 60 min
1.0 oz Green Bullet @ 20 min
0.5 oz Green Bullet @ 0  min
OG 1045 (target 1048)
Cali Yeast (2nd generation) 1.5 L starter (3 days prior to brew day)

This was the first time in a while I had a gravity lower than target, probably due to collecting an extra half gallon of beer (I collect 8 gallon of wort instead of the typical 8.  Also, note that I did the FWH on the bittering hops and not the aroma or flavoring.  The latter is more typical, but what the heck.  Pitched Yeast at 74 F, chilled down to 68 F.

Brew day went well, I mowed the lawn right before it rained, and the rain was a nice backdrop and kept things cooler than normal lately.  Also kegged Nostalgic Pale Ale and gave it a quick try, review to come later but it seems to have turned out quite good.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pleuviot Saison Tasting

Brewed this beer experimenting with 2nd generation Belgian Wit yeast as a substitute for Saison yeast strain to see if similar flavors could be generated leaving the fermentation on the high-end of the scale.  In a word did this work?  No.  In many words:  this beer has a Belgian Ale taste to it, it has some subtle spiciness, fairly good nose, more than one person who tried it commented to the effect "is this a belgian wit, its sorda dark," its good, but is is not Saison (I'm not renaming it)".

That being said, using a Belgian Wit yeast in a non-belgian Wit recipe (i.e. not ~ 50% unmalted wheat) can produce good beer so its certainly worth experimenting with but using it as a saison yeast substitute is a stretch.


Dark brown with some haze, off-white head.  Figs used imparted a good bit of color to the beer.  The head retention is pretty good and their is a fair bit of small bubbles streaming up the glass (left it at 14 psig for 10 days by mistake).  Darker than a typical saison (well, the nice thing about this style is the broad range in ... everything) but pleasant to look at.


Subtle fruit and nut notes but distinct enough for this style.  A bit of hop aroma but subdued.  Frankly, it smells like beer, which is never a bad thing but not exactly a good thing.  Nothing distinctive to get one ready for the flavors.


Nutty and malty with some residual sweetness.  Maltier than I would have expected.  Some spiciness but not as much as one might expect.  As the glass warms the spicy flavors come out more:  probably a beer best served in the 50's not the 40's (F).   Good hop balance with hop bitterness accumlating as the pint goes down.  There are good flavors here, just not the "flavor density" one might want.  Very drinkable.

Taste tidbits - tried after 2 days keg conditioning and tasted a metallic flavor which apparently can be caused early in the forced carb process.  It dissipated.  Also, noted a butter tasted in the head of one of the pints I poured, but not the body.  May be some diactyl preseant but not much.


Creamy and substantial, not thin at all.  Coats the mouth well and leaves no dryness (until the morning).


A good homebrew, just not great.  Misses the mark wrt want I wanted, Saison tasting beer with Belgian Wit yeast.  Disappointed that Figs did not come out more.  This beer does go down well and is completely enjoyable.  I'll probably uses a similar recipe next year with a Saison Yeast strain and do a taste comparison down the road.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Nostalgic Pale Ale

I've been thinking a lot about beer lately.  What to brew, what to try, what to do next.  My thoughts took me back to what got me interested in craft beer in the first place.  Circa 2000 was an exciting time for craft beer even in Kansas.  A typical discussion involving beer snobs would go,

Beer Snob: "I have to go to Europe to get great beer, American beer is no good"
me:  "what about Boulevard or Free State ... New Belgium or Sam Adams"
Beer Snob:  "well besides those"

Needless to say the stereotype remained that American's did not appreciate good beer or make good beer but the truth had changed - American Craft Beer brought a person who appreciated beer pride.  I could have a Grolsch, maybe a Warestiener, or a tasty, citrusy pale ale.  And really, for me at least, it was the pale ale that I kept coming back too.  The first pale ale I tried was Free State's Copperhead.  Monday's at Free State a few beers were $1.50 a pint (amazing college student deal, I think they are 2 something now) and I knew I liked ales from trying Bass Ale.  This beer took me by suprise.  It was like bitting into a grapefruit it was so citrus tart and bitter.  I kept drinking my pint and ordered another knowing I loved craft beer but not knowing why.  I know better now.  Cascade hops are awesome and American.  California ale yeast are steady and forgiving.  Ales ferment at ambient tempertures.  Most homebrewers start brewing pale ales and most craft breweries have a pale ale as one of there flagship brews. Nowadays, the craft beer sub-genre is strong and relevant internationally and cannot be denied.

All this reminiscing made me want to make another pale ale.  There are so many good pale ales and IPA's out there that it is almost futile trying to make a unique one.  I really like Red Chair NWPA by Duschutes and generated a recipe based on it (yeast type main switch as I wanted to harvest some WLP001),

Brew Day went well.  Had good help from Jeff and Steve and a few homebrews.  Used filtered tap water for the sparge and strike water.  Did a single infusion at 153 F with pretty good temperature consistency throughout the pot.  Collected 7 gallons of wort which was 1035 at 135 F which should have given 1050-1055 OG but wound up with 1060.  Batch was scaled to 6 gallons but probably only collected 5.5.

We also transferred a couple of gallons of Black Magic IPA to the "party pig," kegged the saison, and bottled the rest of the Belgian wit.  Ended Brew day with a night at BBCB Compass Bank Stadium watching the Dynamo beat Montreal (3 to nil if I remember correctly).  Stopped by Flying Saucer Sugar Land for some ... pale ales!.

 Fermentation started steady the next morning.  Not aggressive like the belgian wit ales and saison's we've been brewing.  I was out-of-town the next weekend so sampled 9 day's later with yeasty smelling 1020 IG beer.  This was a bit higher than I wanted.  I could visibly see yeast agglomerates moving in the sample vial and a bunch of carbonation spewed out the sample port.  I sampled again 4 days later at 1012 IG.  Harvested yeast and lowered fermentation temperature down to 58 F (14 days later).

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Pleuvoir Saison

I wanted to re-use yeast.  This is something we've never done, we've talked about doing this, but always figured it posed too big a risk to the beer.  Contamination, extra storage, extra time ... always seemed too much trouble.  I caught a old spaghetti's jar worth of yeast from Random Ass Wit brewed back in April.  I was a bit chicken to re-use the yeast on Beleaguered Wit so I decided to use fresh yeast (we now have a plethora of Wit Yeast if anyone in the Houston Area needs some).  Brewing another wit seemed like overkill and I was reading on the net where wit yeasts could be used as a substitute in the saison style ... opportunity strikes!

I read around the net for saison recipes, inspiration mainly from here and here.  Brewday morning we (Von and I) went to the Sugar Land farmer market and came across a pint of very ripe figs which looked perfect for a brew.  That along with a couple of ripe pears given to us by Von's mom made for a good fruit addition.  This set the recipe:

I began the yeast starter the day before brewday:  ideally this would be a few days longer.  The re-used yeasts looked good, smelled o.k... what the heck.  1/2 cup DME to 1 L of water, boil, add re-used yeast (careful not to add the very bottom portion which had a bits of something, probably hop pellets).  It took off well:

 Brew day went awesome.  Jeff and Tim came down to help as well as a friend from Canada, Alyaz who had landed that day in Houston for some training.  We finished the Random Ass Wit and started the Beleagured Wit.  We also had some good fun an a suprisingly cool and not supprsingly rainy July Houston Day.

Mashed at 130F for 20 min Protein Rest, 90 min for the Sacc Rest, and 15 min at 164 F for mash-out.  Used propane flame to increase temperature with a slow stir around the side to keep the heat uniform (false bottom at the base.)

Sparged 7 gallons of wort with sparge water at 180 F.  Sparged 7 gallons over 40 min.  Had some trouble maintaining liquid level in the mash-tun but not too bad.

Measured hops a bit more carefully in than in previous batches.  These hop additions should get within target BTU's.

I did say cool Houston day right?  We flowed wort at a mass rate just enough to get flow so that ~ 84 F was the best we could get.  We also had our typical geeky heat exchanger argument (Jeff's right, moving of on).  We were close enough for r the yeast pitch (honorary international yeast pitch done by Alyaz):

One cool thing we did was use the final runnings of the sparge (about a gallon) to boil the cubbed figs and pears.  After cooling in ice the mixture was purreed and added to wort with about 20 min left in the boil.  Inspiration for the idea here:

 The figs oozed sugars and perhaps 0.9 lbs were charged instead of the 1 lb :)

 The puree somewhat thick and smelled awesome.

Put the fermentor in the fermentation chamber at 68 F to cool to 72 F for two days then raised to 75 F.  FG was 1058 very close to the 1060 predicted.  Von also cooked and awesome dinner and we watched some awesome netflix.  Great time.

Checked the IG (intermediate gravity, after primary).  Came in at 1012 which has been better attenuation than any of the recent batches.  I will not brew without a starter again hands down.  Its worth it, and the yeast recycle went well.  The beer tastes good, good flavor.  Still a bit hazy ... some yeasts settled in the hydrometer tube (sample taken from side port).  Harvested two jars of yeasts!  Stay tuned.