Sunday, August 28, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #26 Rogue Dead Guy Clone

This was an infected disaster. It was infected some time in secondary by my house wild yeast. It started fermenting again out of nowhere, and by the time I threw it out it had an astringent, Belgian-y flavor.

Let us never speak of it again.

For those curious, the recipe came from Can You Brew It, and is just after the break. I included notes I took while listening to the podcast, which is here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yeast: Bottle Harvesting

Bottle Harvesting: the process of bringing nearly dead yeast back from the dead. Yeast Frankenstein, if you like.

Maybe you want to brew a spot-on clone but they don't sell that particular brewery's yeast strain. Maybe you're cheap and want 'free yeast'. Or maybe you're just a homebrewer, and you don't need a goddamn reason. Here's how.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recipe Recap: #16 - #20

Today's Recipe Recap will cover brews #16 through #20. My brewing is definitely getting better. I improved my process, lowered my efficiency, corrected my pH, cleared my beer more, carbonated properly and controlled my fermentation better.

#16, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA Clone
First, the bad news. This didn't really taste like Union Jack at all. I bittered with Columbus hops for 60 minutes instead of Warrior for 90, giving it a much harsher bitterness. My OG was off, and it attenuated more than it should have. My high efficiency led to a lack of strong malt character, so it was hop dominated (more like my pliny clone). My lack of pH control led to a little bit of phenolic off flavor and astringency, but very very little.

Finally, the carbonation was higher than I'd like, making the beer seem harsh. Oddly enough, I have to carb around 2 - 2.2 volumes, using BeerSmith's calculator, to reach a level of carbonation that is close to what you'd get from a commercial bottle or draught. This beer was carbed to around 2.6-2.7 volumes.

Also, I tried to dry hop without a hop bag. That was a huge mistake, and I lost almost a gallon of beer to hops before all was done.

The good news is that it was a pretty good beer. It just wasn't a clone, and it wasn't perfect.

#17, Janet's Brown Ale
Holy cow, this stuff was good out of the gate. I had one after only being in the bottle less than two weeks and it was fantastic. I carbed it properly, to around 2.3 volumes. The head was thick and creamy and lasted a long time. The hop aroma was strong and pleasant. The hop flavor and subtle roastiness of the chocolate malt went hand in hand. The mouth feel was nice and thick but never sweet, and very drinkable. My best beer so far!

If there was any complaint, it might be that the specialty malt flavor wasn't as pronounced as I expected and there was a hint of phenolics in the background. I only noticed it when I compared mine to a commercial Black IPA that had a similar flavor.

I'd love to try the real thing and compare! I've also rebrewed this one with some improvements to my process. I carbed to 2.3 volumes, and will probably reduce that to 2.0 - 2.1 next time I bottle.

#18, Stone Levitation Clone
Light, dry and orange-y. Drinkable and full of flavor, though more and more I prefer beers with a very thick body. I can't detect any off flavors, though.

Carbonation is a little high at 2.5, and I would reduce that to 2.3 next time. I had to sub Mt. Hood for the Crystal, which may have had significant impact on the flavor. Aroma and flavor are definitely dominated by the orange citrus of the Amarillo. Over time, the flavors have 'melded' together into a more cohesive single flavor, where before it felt like a combination of different flavors competing for my attention. I don't know if that makes sense, but it's the only way I can describe it.

This will probably taste closer to the original if I lower my efficiency and adjust my specialty malt percentages. Of course, I haven't compared it to the original. I'll come back and update this post when I do, or create an entirely new post.

#19, JZ's American Pale Ale
Well, I'm not the biggest fan of Pale Ales in general. They're usually pretty dry and boring. For me, a glass of beer is an event, not something I drink pints and pints of. It tastes decent, though a little young, and the carbonation feels higher than it should. I think the flavors need time to merge. It currently tastes like hops and malt, instead of a single combined 'pale ale' flavor, if that makes sense.

This is my first beer made with a lower efficiency, 5.2 pH stabilizer and gelatin finings. I can definitely tell. The beer is clearer and cleaner than any before it. I detected no off flavors. Very clean and very drinkable. The flavor is similar to Levitation, probably due to using the same base malt (Great Western American Pale Ale malt, a US version of British pale malt).

#20, Triple-X Sweet Stout
Heaven in a glass. This will be gone in no time, even though I'm only drinking on weekends on my diet. Thick but drinkable. Slight milk-like aftertaste. Creamy espresso and chocolate flavor, with a hint of alcohol. Not hot alcohols or off flavors that I can detect. This one has been in the bottles only two weeks and yet is nicely carbed, creamy and delicious. Proof that if you need to age your (lighter) beer more than a few weeks, you probably did something wrong.

I carbed to 2 volumes, and will probably reduce that to 1.8 or 1.9 next time. There *will* be a next time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #25 McQuaker's Oatmeal Stout

My first oatmeal stout, based on Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles recipe.

The resulting beer was unusually acidic and overcarbonated, even though I only carbed it to 2.0 volumes with corn sugar. I suspect that it wasn't fully attenuated, and may have finished attenuating in the bottle.

My wife loved it, and it tasted pretty damn good to me, even with the flaws.

I also sent it in to the Northern California Homebrew Festival competition, where it received a 27/50, with the following taste notes:

* Med fruity esters + med phenolics gives odd aroma like cola.
* Strong pear ester, some caramel. Light a weizenbock. Roasty notes as it warms.

* Dark, dark brown in color, opaque. Tall brown head, fine bubbles. Mouss-y w good retention.
* Rocky head, creamy dark brown, clear, med persistent creamy head, low CO2 (low???? later he says lots of CO2)

* Malt sweetness, roasted notes (coffee+milk). Fruity esters, slight tartness. Low hop bitterness leaves the balance a little sweet. Roasted acid finish.
* Moderately sweet with caramel, not very roasty. Sharp fruity ester, finishes slightly dry. Slightly tart. Slightly oxidized? (no way)

* Medium body, lighter due to carbonation. Slight creaminess but comes off as watery. Higher acidity in the finish.
* Med-full body, not as creamy as expected. Medium carbonic bite, tingly. Slightly dry, not huge or chewy.

* An interesting beer that's difficult to describe. Hard to say the acidity is due to infection - it's almost like star san. My guess is that you lost temp control during fermentation, finishing and storage, which gave a bunch of esters. Maybe an older extract batch?
* It seemed like the fermentation wasn't clean enough, esters were too strong and reminiscent of wheat beers. Body was slightly low.

Recipes are after the break.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Munich Madness recipe on AHA site

The official AHA web site just posted JZ's Munich Madness recipe, which I brewed a while back (batch #15). If you want to brew this as extract and don't want to convert from my all grain recipe, check it out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Better Bottle!

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my Mr. Beer kegs sprung a leak. I need to transfer a batch to secondary this Friday, but I no longer have an extra vessel.

I went to HopTech over in Dublin, CA to pick up a 3-gallon Better Bottle. While I was there, I also got the "breathable bung". It costs more than a standard stopper and airlock combo, but you don't have to worry about the water being pulled into the vessel, krausen overflowing up into the airlock or the airlock falling off. It also has less moving parts, and is equally useful as an airlock and a stopper. Here it is at HopTech, and it is pretty similar to this, but not quite the same.

Anyway, for the moment I only have plans to use this as a secondary. Why not primary with it? I wasn't kidding when I said the Mr. Beer kegs are great. I can't put any carboy, not even a 3-gallon one, into an ice chest. That means I have zero temperature control. It's summer, and that means I might as well not even bother unless I want an estery beer dominated by fusel alcohol and god knows what else. Not to mention the ability to easily take a sample every day. No, I won't be giving up my Mr. Beer kegs for primary until I have room for a freezer + Johnson controller for temp control.

I went with the solid version, which has no spigot or hole for a spigot. The problem is twofold - their spigot is expensive (more expensive than the bottle itself) and strangely designed. Furthermore, I don't know how I would install my own spigot, since I can't very well get my hand into the bottle to tighten the nut. This means I have to rack with my easy siphon, but oh well. Since it will be holding secondary + gelatin, there will be relatively little trub + yeast to disturb.

As my Mr. Beer kegs die, I'll be replacing them with Better Bottles. If and when I switch to 5-gallon batches (for example, if I want to get fat or I have 5 times times as many beer-drinking friends >.<), I'll definitely be using 6-gallon Better Bottles. Heck, I even heard that JZ now ferments primarily in BBs, even for Heretic pilot batches. You can't get a better endorsement than that.

Now, if only they would design a Better Bottle with a larger opening, I'd be one happy camper!

Mr Beer: Replacing Your Spigot

You've already heard me expound on the virtues of the Mr. Beer keg. It's small, it fits in your fridge or in an icebox, it has a spigot for taking samples and easy racking, it has a wide opening on top so you can fit your hand in for cleaning, it's made of PET plastic like a Better Bottle, the bottom is shaped like a reservoir for collecting yeast & trub and it has one-way vents so you don't need an airlock.

However, it has one major flaw - the spigot it comes with sucks. Really bad.

One thing you could do is pick up a locking spigot. I have two, and you can use it for racking if you attach a bottling wand and hose to it. It isn't ideal though.

There are two types of spigot. You can find the standard Italian Spigot (left) at almost any homebrew shop. Example: here. I don't really like them, but they're better than nothing. The problem is that the entire valve turns when you switch it from on to off and vice versa. Also, they look cheap.

What you really want is one of these. They're basically a ball valve-style spigot, but made of plastic. You can get them in multiple sizes, and the hose doesn't turn when you turn it on and off.

The problem with both of these is that neither fits in the tiny hole in the Mr. Beer keg! I haven't checked recently, but I believe that the hole in the keg is 3/4" while these larger spigots require a 1" hole. Supposedly, the spigot on the right comes in a 'mini' version for a 3/4" hole, but I've never seen it for sale anywhere except for a homebrew shop in Canada that doesn't have an online store!

Solution? Sharp objects.

As I'm a pretty urban guy, I don't exactly have a ton of power tools sitting around. If you have a dremel though, this is easy. Use a coarse sanding attachment to widen the hole on your Mr. Beer keg. Widen it evenly, and stop as soon as the hole is large enough to fit your new spigot. Switch to a fine sanding attachment to smooth out the rough edges. Attach the spigot with the rubber washer on the outside and you're set! Racking from your keg can now be done by simply attaching a 3/8" ID hose directly to the barbed spout.

What if you're like me and don't have a rotary tool? Errr, well, time to cross your fingers. I used a utility knife. I slowly chopped away at the edges. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. I've done it to three kegs so far, and only one of them leaked. It was a very small leak of about two drops per minute, but I threw it out. To avoid leaks, don't cut too far down, and avoid deep, angular cuts. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle, but at least try to make your opening closer to an octagon than a square or star shape. Once you attach the spigot, the washer and nut will cover your grotesque cutting job, so it really doesn't need to be pretty.

Update: while I don't have a rotary tool like a Dremel, I do have a cheapo electric screwdriver/drill. I was able to find a sanding attachment that locked right into any standard drill. I used the coarse version and got a nice round, smooth hole in less than a minute. If you have literally no power tools, go ahead and try the utility knife version, but a power drill can cost less than twenty bucks and you will definitely use it again.

An interesting bit of trivia is that the very bottom of this spigot reaches exactly to the bottom of the keg. If you set the keg on a table, the keg will lie flat, but the spout will drag on the table's surface.

Another neat bit of trivia is that Mr. Beer is currently testing a new spigot that is designed quite a bit like this one. They haven't released it yet, though, but I believe it is essentially just the "mini" version of the spigot I use.