Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Packaging Day!

For every Yin there is a Yang. Bottling beer is as much a grind as making it is fun. Sanitizing bottles. Boiling dextrose. Siphoning liquids while conserving sanitizing solution. Today I had two beers to get ready for competition. All the Winter Bock went into bottles along with a 12-pack of the American Pale. The rest of the Pale went into the keg since it will be consumed quick. Much of the Bock will be around for most of next year.
The only good thing about the experience is a chance to take a gravity reading and taste the beer.
Both tasted good although it's hard to tell since they're young and un-carbonated. But the Bock was surprisingly under-attenuated. This means that the yeast was not quite finished yet when I decided to package it. I wanted to get down to 1.014 or so but 1.021 is what I got. This was also supposed to be a holiday beer with notes of nutmeg, orange peel and cinnamon.
It just tastes like a Bock.
Of course, since I just wanted to get it done, I bottled the beer anyway. I hope this beer isn't too sweet.
But the side bathroom was getting crowded with last week's IPA and Saturday's American Amber fermenting next to it so I had to move some beer to the garage to let the newly packaged beer finish.
Jennifer, I think, will be happy when the competition is finished and she can have her house back.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bottling The Single-Wide I.P.A.

This beer is a fairly loose attempt to clone Boulevard's Single-Wide I.P.A. I had this beer at the brewery in March and loved it, recently finding it at the West Memphis Walgreens.
The Boulevard web site gave all the hop varieties, the IBU's and the gravity so I went from there using ProMash to design the recipe. Not knowing much about the grist except generalities I decided to use the grain bill from my regular I.P.A. recipe. I did not have one of the hops, Pallisade, but I went ahead anyway.
At packaging time this beer tastes good. We'll see if the judges think so too.
I decided to bottle the whole batch instead of doing a keg and a 12-pack. This way I can make good on a few beer promises I've made.
Besides, after expelling the spent hops and dead yeast, I barely would have had enough to fill a 1/6 barrel and I'm going to need a few to be packaged up for competition.
I also racked a couple of beers today.
The Winter Bock needs to warm up for a couple of days to finish, and the American Pale needs to dry hop for a week.
I'm about half-way through making the beers I want to have ready by February.
So much beer to be made, so little time to make it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sparging Tech

Finally, I think, I have found my sparge technique. I begrudgingly admit that the long slow sparge is the right method to maximize my yield. I have never tried batch sparging. And for a long time I tried to speed things up by running all the wort into the kettle as fast as I could, thinking that since I kept the grain bed covered it did not make much difference.
It does.
For 6 consecutive brew sessions I have made sure that the sparge took at least 45 minutes and I have improved my efficiency percentage from 68 percent and below to around 74 Percent, once getting 76 percent. I think 74 to 76 percent is a reasonable goal for my system and I'm glad to be achieving this range consistently. This is important because I can now write recipes with an exact gravity in mind and actually hit the target without making adjustments like malt extract addition or an extra long boil.
The final product will be more predictable as well. Malt additions might get you to the right gravity but they mess with (sometimes badly) the flavor profile of the beer.
Yesterday's American Pale was designed to come in at 1.059. The actual gravity was 1.060.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

American Pale Brew Day

Today marks the first time I have ever simultaneously fermented 3 beers in our house. They are all at different stages but until I can move one to the closet in the bathroom and package another there will be an aesthetic problem at our place.
I've got the Winter Bock from the 13th going in the fermentation vault at 51 degrees so I can't put an ale in there with it.
The only place that's 68 to 70 degrees right now is the guest bathroom off the kitchen. With today's pale brew it's getting crowded in there.
I'm in the middle of a big push to make 9 or ten beers for Home Brew Extravaganza 2010, our local competition held here in Memphis in February.
I've already made a Steam Beer and an Oktoberfest. I need to package the Bock and the American IPA. The American Pale will be ready in two weeks. I hope to make an American Amber, an American Brown, an American Stout, an Ordinary Bitter and a Hefe by the time the beers are due. I'm not sure I'll be able to do it but it'll be fun to try.
Today's Pale went splendidly. I hit the mash temperature exactly, although I am concerned that I lost about 3 degrees during the 60 minutes and wound up with 151 at the end.
The sparge went well too. Efficiency was good and the gravity was very close to target. I'm trying very hard to duplicate the beer that went to the 2nd round of the NHC in 2008. Most of my beers are good, but that one was truly awesome.
The chill was quick. I brought the wort down below 140 degrees in about 3 minutes.
This beer looked great in the measuring tube when I checked the gravity. I chilled it to 67.5 degrees and pitched a half gallon of trub from yesterday's racking of the IPA and moved it into the bathroom. At this hour it's progressing well and I have high hopes.