Saturday, September 24, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #28 Jamil's Chocolate Hazelnut Porter

Another damn infection!

Okay, I wanted to create some beers for Thanksgiving. Something holiday-ish but not necessarily 'holiday' or "christmas" beers. I decided to go with a chocolate hazelnut porter and a witbier - both are spiced, but not 'holiday' spiced. The porter would be the more interesting one, while the witbier would be for family with less adventurous palates.

I retired my Mr. Beer kegs for this batch, and have moved entirely to Better Bottles. I picked up an extra one at HopTech in Dublin while mashing.

The recipe calls for baking cocoa added at the end of the boil. This turned out to be difficult, and it didn't distribute evenly until it boiled for a while (even then it was chunky). It sunk to the bottom of the fermenter. During fermentation, the cocoa all went up to the top with the krausen. It was all very strange and made me uncomfortable. If I were to make another chocolate beer, I'd stick with cocoa nibs or chocolate extract!

True to my word, I didn't repitch yeast. I used a fresh vial of WLP001, but with no starter. After a month in primary, the FG was insanely high - 1.028. Even given the amount of specialty malt, the attenuation was way too low, about 57%. Out of fear that I'd get bottle bombs, I bottled these all in 1 liter PETs, which would bend instead of exploding if fermentation started up again in the bottle.

After 3 weeks in the bottle, carbonation was perfect, but the flavor was... off. Ashy, like a freshly burned candle or incense. Unpleasant, and the hazelnut and chocolate just made it worse.

One more week, and suddenly all of my bottles were bulging. Opening the bottles led to a fountain of beer.

Okay, so I did have underattenuation, which led to fermentation in the bottle. No big deal, right? Just let off pressure until the CO2 level hits the right amount, then drink. The problem is that the flavor got worse instead of better, and no amount of pressure relief led to a proper amount of CO2. I believe there was an infection that didn't manifest itself until after the beer was bottled.

After I realized it was likely an infection, I poured everything out. Yet another failure; I'm starting to get discouraged.

Anyway, as usual the recipes are after the break.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #27 Mirror Pond Pale Ale Clone

For this recipe, I thought I'd make a clone of Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, from Can You Brew It.

Another not so great brew. This time, the problem was the yeast. I created a starter from a repitch of WLP007 (instead of the WLP002 the recipe called for). The first sign of trouble came when I smelled the starter, which was way more "Belgian" than it should have been. I thought it might just be the starter, so I pitched it.

I soon discovered it wasn't just the starter. Samples taken from the fermented beer tasted more like a Saison than an APA. They weren't bad, and the flavor mellowed over time. If it was an infection, they would get worse over time. I decided to roll with it, after letting it sit for twice as long as I normally would. I dry hopped it and bottled it, and when I tried it two things jumped out at me:

1) The carbonation was correct, unlike many of my other brews which were way overcarbed.
2) It wasn't bad! The Saison with citrusy cascade hops wasn't a bad combination.

After this brew I decided I'm going to stop repitching yeast. When it works, it is great, but it is too inconsistent. Yeast can mutate too much after only a few repitches, especially if the harvesting isn't done just the right way. I suspect the lack of attenuation in many of my beers may even be caused by less healthy yeast from repitching. It will only be fresh vials from here on out.

Recipes after the break.