Monday, October 16, 2017

Batch 206, Leeser

This was supposed to be a double batch day, but I tried to kill myself with CO, so just one today, and another tomorrow. Must remember to turn on the fans in the beer shed, or splitting headaches will happen. Just to be clear, I wasn't trying to kill myself. My beer shed is 12' x 20', has two windows with a fan in each, a big door, and a high volume roof exhaust fan. It was cold, and I didn't turn on the fans, big mistake.

Anyway, a 10 gallon batch of Leeser, pretty straightforward.

23.75 lb pilsner

Mashed at 146F for 60 minutes, adjusted pH to 5.2, recirc (vorlauf, for you German speakers) for 10 minutes each sparge, collected 12.5 gallons in the boil kettle.

1.5 oz Magnum, 60 minutes
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 minutes
3 oz Saaz, 5 minutes

90 minute boil

I used a mix of Wyeast Bohemian Lager yeast and White Labs Oktoberfest yeast in a 2 quart starter. Only 1 quart went into this batch, the other quart is for tomorrow.

OG was 1.050, which is low again. I'm going to check the roller gap on my mill before brewing tomorrow.

Update, Nov 17, 2017, we got back from vacation on Monday, so I bumped the temp on both this batch and the Oktoberfest to 65F for a diacetyl rest, then dropped the temp to 35F to cold crash out the yeast. Kegged both this batch and the Okto, both are now lagering at 35F until spring time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Batch 207, Oktoberfest

This is the second batch that was supposed to happen yesterday. I checked the gap on my grain mill, it was a little large, so I tightened it down to 0.038". That made a much finer crush and a thick mash, plus I got the OG that I'd planned for. All fans ran all day, no CO problems!

10 gallon batch.

11.5 lb pilsner
8 lb munich
7 lb vienna
1 lb caramunich

Usually I add wheat, but I'm out, so I used a little extra pilsner (1.5 lb) to compensate. Mashed at 148F, which is what I was aiming for. Adjusted pH to 5.3, recirc 10 minutes each sparge, collected 12.5 gallons in the boil kettle. The caramunich is new to this recipe, usually I use crystal 60, but I wanted to cut down on the sweetness a bit. I'll go back to the crystal 60 if this isn't as good as last year.

1.25 magnum, 60 minutes
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 minutes
2 3/8 oz Mt Hood, 5 minutes
1 1/8 oz Hallertau, 5 minutes (pellets)

90 minute boil. I thought I had enough Mt. Hood for the full 3.5 oz at 5 minutes, but no, so I used some Hallertau to make up the difference.

Same mix of Bohemian lager yeast and Oktoberfest yeast as I used in the Leeser batch yesterday.

OG: 1.060 actual, Brewtarget calculated 1.059, so I'm happy with that.

Update, Nov 17, 2017, added some notes that pertain to this batch in the Leeser batch. And this completes brewing for this year.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Weird beer

Our friends Angie and Steve keep asking for these off the wall beers, and I've been trying to accommodate...

Fennel saison -- really good. Added about 2 cups of vodka that had fennel soaking in it for 2 weeks to 2.5 gallons of saison. Angie picked the fennel from her garden.

Vanilla saison -- a little strong on the vanilla flavor for my taste, but Steve and Angie loved it. It was 5 vanilla beans soaked in 2 cups of vodka for 2 weeks, plus another 1/4 cup of Costco vanilla extract. Same saison as above.

Cucumber pilsner -- chopped 5 english cucumbers (also from Angie's garden) into 1 inch pieces, soaked in about 3 cups of vodka for a week, until the cucumbers lost all their color and were white. About 5 cc in 22 oz pilsner gives a noticeable cucumber flavor that I don't care for, but again, Steve and Angie loved it.

Cucumber pale ale -- same as above, but added to a pale ale.

Fortunately, it's easy to just add these extracts to a glass of beer. I feel that I wasted the saison with the vanilla since I think this batch is too strong, but the one I made last year for Libby's wedding (Steve and Angie's daughter) was to die for.

I have a book titled "Homebrewers Garden" that is about 20 years old now, and looking through that, I'm really tempted to try some more off the wall creations.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Batch 205, End of the world

Attempting to repeat the most awesome End Of The World beer. Unfortunately, I missed my gravities...

10 gallon batch

22 lb 2-row (22.25 actual, I was a little short on wheat)
8 lb wheat (7.25 actual)
1.0 lb crystal 120
0.5 lb crystal 60
0.75 lb chocolate malt

Mash at 150F (154F actual) with 11 gallons of water. Adjusted pH to 5.3.
Lose 4 gallons to absorption, run off 7 gallons for strong beer.
Sparge with 7 gallons for small beer.

Strong beer hops:
5 oz Chinook (the ones from Angie, this time), 60 min
1 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min

Small beer hops:
2 oz Pacific Jade, 14.3% AA (pellets from Niko, never used it before), 60 min
1 oz Centennial, 5 min (leaf)

60 minute boil for both

Wyeast 1272 from batch 204 in both. 2 quarts of thick slurry, about 2/3 quart in the small beer, the other 1 1/3 quart in the strong.

Strong beer specs:
OG: 1.110, actual 1.084
IBU: 111

Small beer specs:
OG: 1.055, actual 1.040
IBU: 70 (or not, I didn't actually calculate after I changed the hops for this batch)

I'm not sure why the gravities were so low. I hit volumes just right, both with mash run off and in the fermenter. I'm wondering if it's my grain mill? It's really the only thing that has changed since the last time I brewed this. But -- my other beers have been coming out as expected.

Update, 8 Oct 2017, blowout! I haven't had one of these in a long time!

Update, 17 Nov 2017, cleared out the nitro tap to put the strong beer on. It is delicious, even if it's not yet carbonated. I had put the small beer on a regular tap on Sep 7 and left it to carbonate while we went on vacation for 2 weeks, and when we got back, the small was flat and my CO2 tank was empty. Ugh. I'm calling the small beer "End of Pluto" since it's no longer a planet.

Update, 4 Apr 2018, we've been gone to Mexico since the day after Thanksgiving and just got back last night. I'd forgotten that this was on tap. It is OMG delicious! I left the nitro gas on the whole time we were gone, so this is very nicely carbed(?) nitroed(? is that even a word?) Creamy nitro head and super good beer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Batch 204, Guava IPA

Yet another variation on the Guava IPA I've made before. This time I changed up the hops schedule.

10 gallon batch

20 lb 2-row
2.5 lb wheat
3 lb guava juice concentrate (4 cans Winco frozen guava juice, added to the fermenter)

MT initial temp 50F
8 gallons sparge water, 175F
Mash in temp 156F, pH 5.25, finished at 145F, it was a cold day.

1 oz Citra, 12.6% AA, FWH
2 oz Amarillo, 7.7% AA, 60 min
2 oz El Dorado, 10.7% AA, 60 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
3 oz Citra, 12.6 % AA, 5 min

90 minute boil

Wyeast 1272, American Ale II, from Batch 202.

OG: 1.056 before adding the guava, 1.062 after. Like last time, I added the guava juice directly to the fermenter.

Update 10 Oct 2017, the guava tastes super juicy! It needs a little more carbonation, but this is going to be good!

Note for future reference -- I was at Walmart the other day and saw they have canned whole guavas. I might need to try that next time.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Batch 203, Saison

Another batch of saison. The last batch had additives that came across too strong, so I'm planning to use this batch to dilute some of that and make it more palatable.

10 gallon batch

22 lb pilsner malt
1.5 lb caramunich
1.25 white wheat

Heated 9 gallons of mash water to 165F, mashed in aiming for 148F, got 150F, close enough. Adjusted pH to 5.2, forgot to adjust the sparge water pH again.

4.5 oz Saaz pellets in a nylon, 60 minutes
2 tsp Irish Moss
3 oz Saaz pellets in a nylon, 5 minutes

90 minute boid

Wyeast 3724, Belgian Saison yeast, just one package since that's all they had at the homebrew store, but did a 2 quart starter for it, so it should be sufficient.

OB 1.056 actual

Update, 10 Oct 2017, the yeast wasn't sufficient, and I had some really nice looking yeast from the guava IPA I did recently, so I added about a pint of thick slurry from it to the saison. Finished in no time!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Batch 202, Panama Red

Yay! Another batch of Panama Red!

10 gallon batch

22.25 lb 2 row
1.5 lb crystal 50
1.5 lb white wheat
4 oz chocolate malt

Outside temp was 80F, and so was the mash tun. Heated 7.0 gallons mash water to 170F, mashed in, adjusted pH to 5.2, mash temp was 156F, which is what I was aiming for. Mash for 60 minutes, lost 2 degrees, so was 154F when I started vorlauf. Ran off 3 gallons, expected more, probably should have used 8 or 9 gallons for initial mash in. Forgot to adjust pH of sparge water. Oh well... Collected 12.5 gallons in boil kettle.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 min

Wyeast 1272, made a 2 quart starter with 2 new packets of yeast.

OG 1.060 actual

Monday, June 19, 2017

Some notes on clarity

Clarity is something I've always struggled with over the years, but it seems that for the past couple of years, my beer has become quite a bit clearer. There are a few changes I've made to my process that I think accounts for this:

  1. Vorlauf, or recirculating, the mash. I've been doing at least 10 minutes and as much as 15 minute per each sparge. So when the mash is done, or close to done, I start recirculating, just pumping the wort out of the bottom of the mash tun and pouring it back into the top. I've used a variety of methods to not splash the wort on the top, so as to keep the grain bed undisturbed, but usually there is enough liquid already above the top of the grain that it really isn't an issue. Really, the idea is to scatter the wort as it enters the top so that it doesn't create a single channel through the grain bed. This does add some time to the overall brew day, but not a lot, and it seems to be worth it.

  2. Ditto with the boil kettle. I almost always use whole hops, so I set up my pump to pull from the bottom of the kettle, through the chiller, and back into the boil kettle. Rather than scatter, since it really isn't necessary, I clamp the output hose to the side of the kettle so it makes a whirlpool. It's not a strong whirlpool by any means, and the whole hops are going to cover the entire bottom of the kettle anyway, so it doesn't have to be. This process usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to get the wort down below 120F (in the kettle, the chiller puts it out at 60f - 70F, whatever I set it at), and the hop bed does the same filtering action as the grain bed did in the mash tun. Once below 120F, I move the output hose to the fermenter. There is practically zero trub transferred from the boil kettle to the fermenter, which means I also get very clean yeast to reuse when fermentation is complete.

  3. After fermentation is complete, I try to be careful when filling the kegs. I usually do 10 gallon batches, and both of my fermenters are large enough to hold the entire 10 gallons. I use my pump to fill the kegs, being careful not to suck up too much yeast if I can help it. After the kegs are filled, they generally get a couple of weeks of lagering at 35F. Regardless of how long they lager (could be as short as a couple of days, could be as long as several months for lager style beers), I don't move the kegs out of the fridge until after I've transferred the beer to clean kegs. I use a jumper hose like this:

    The first bit of liquid out of the hose goes into a bucket, it almost always sucks up some sediment off of the bottom of the keg. Then watch carefully, as the last little bit of liquid will also suck some sediment off of the bottom of the keg. Once transferred, it is as clear as I can make it, without filtering anyway.

That's it. With these few changes, my beer is much clearer, as clear as you'll find in most breweries, style-dependent, of course.

Update, 12 Sep 2017 -- I brewed yesterday and realized one other thing I've been doing is extra Irish Moss. I always put in 2 tsp in a 10 gallon batch, the label on the bag says to use 1/4 - 1/2 tsp, so I'm putting in at least double.

Update, 31 Jul 2019 -- one other thing I've started doing again (and haven't done in a long time) is using gelatin for fining. With all the things above, plus gelatin, my beer has been coming out spectacularly clear .

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Stir plate modification

My stir plate has been working well, except for when I try to do a 2 quart starter. It's a little too much for the stir bar and magnet, if I try to turn up the speed, the stir bar falls off. So I moved the magnet closer by cutting a hole in the top and building up the height with some double sided sticky tape. Now there is much better bonding between the magnet and the stir bar, and no trouble turning the speed all the way up.

The box itself is pretty straightforward:

Speed knob:
Speed control:
Power connector:

Total is about $25, with the box being the most expensive part at $20. There are cheaper boxes available now that would be sufficient.

Stuff I had laying around:
computer fan
magnet from an old hard drive
5V wall wart

Friday, June 2, 2017

Batch 201, Leeser

A repeat of batch 193. Brewing this now so it can lager while we travel to Alaska during July and August.

10 gallon batch

21.5 lb Pilsner
1.25 lb wheat

Single infusion mash at 150F for 60 minutes.

1.5 oz Magnum, 60 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
3 oz Saaz, 5 min

I used a mix of Wyeast Oktoberfest yeast and Bohemian lager yeast.

Update, Sunday, June 18, 2017: Finally it's done fermenting. Bumped the temp to 68F for a diacetyl rest until Tuesday, then I'll keg it and set it to lager while we're off to Alaska.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Batch 200! Pale Ale

Yay! Batch 200! Means nothing! Yay!

Just a pale ale, don't want to run out of good beer!

10 gallon batch

25 lb pale ale
1. lb caramunich
1.5 lb white wheat

Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes, as usual, adjusted pH to 5.2 - 5.3ish with phosphoric acid. Recirc 10 - 15 minutes on each sparge, really helps make clear beer.

2 oz Magnum, 60 minutes
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 minutes
3 oz Cascade, 5 minutes

60 minute boil.

Wyeast 1272 from previous batch of Panama Red

OG: 1.060 actual and by recipe
FG: 1.016
ABV: 6.1%
SRM: 7.2
IBU: 42

Update June 3, 2017, crashed on Wednesday, kegged on Friday

Some brew day pics:


freezer for fermenting and beer fridge

6 cups Wyeast 1272

I made these 6 years ago, and they are still looking great and working great! Look at all the hops that were stopped.

New regulator

I picked up this nice 3 head regulator at the scratch and dent sale at Homebrewstuff on Big Brew Day. $40, plus another $5 for the gauge at the left. It works great! My fridge holds 4 kegs, but one is on nitro, so it has its own regulator and tank.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Batch 199, Panama Red

That batch of Panama Red I made a few weeks ago is half gone already, so it's time for another!

10 gallon batch

22.25 lb 2-row
1.5 lb crystal 60
1.5 lb white wheat malt
4 oz chocolate malt

Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes. Adjusted pH to 5.2 with phosphoric acid. Recirculate for 10 - 15 minutes on each sparge.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min

Wyeast 1272, from the last time I brewed this. I got two quarts out of the fridge yesterday so they'd warm up, oxygenated the wort as usual for 90 seconds, then pitched both quarts. The yeast looked really good.

OG: 1.056 (actual)
FG: 1.015
SRM: 11.8
ABV: 6.4%

Chilling while chilling

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Batch 198, Saison

This is a rerun of the Saison I made last year for Libby and Aaron's wedding. The vanilla saison was absolutely delicious and was a huge hit at the wedding. I only made 2.5 gallons for the wedding, this time I'm trying to make more. I bought 5 vanilla beans from Amazon, they've been soaking in Everclear since April 18, and are still soaking. I won't add the vanilla until kegging time, and then I'm not sure if that is enough for 10 gallons, it might only go into 5 gallons so there is enough vanilla flavor.

10 gallon batch

22 lb pilsner malt
1.5 lb caramunich
1.25 lb wheat

Mashed at 151F. I was aiming for 148F, but there you go. I didn't bother to correct the temp, but did adjust the pH to 5.2.

4.5 oz Saaz, 60 minutes
2 tsp Irish moss, 15 minutes
3 oz Saaz, 2 minutes

90 minute boil.

Wyeast 3724, Belgian Saison yeast. Ferment at 68F. I bought two packages and made a starter, video below.

OG 1.054 actual

Update April 30, 2017, dropped the temp to 66F since I brewed a Panama Red today and 1272 likes 66F better.

Update May 6, 2017, I thought this would be done by now, so I went to keg it and found that the gravity is still at 1.030. I thought 2 packages in a starter would be enough. I pitched another 2 quarts of the same yeast, but it is fairly old, so we'll see.

Update May 11, 2017, the gravity is still not quite where I want it, it's at 1.020, I'd like that to drop another 5 points or so.

The quite chatter of yeast reproducing
I finally figured out how to not pour the stir bar into the fermenter!

Grinding grain, I love this mill.

Update, 22 May 2017, finally got this kegged. It took a long time to ferment, I was able to do brew a batch of Panama Red and keg it in the mean time. I dumped the Everclear/vanilla into just one of the 2 kegs, which should make that one delicious and more alcoholic!

Update, 29 May 2017, there really isn't much vanilla flavor, so I got a bottle of vanilla extract from Costco (good price, $24 for 16 oz) and added 1/4 cup to the saison.

Update, 10 June 2017, it's still not very good. Too much vanilla. I haven't done anything with the second keg yet. I'm hoping the vanilla will fade on the first keg, then I'll see about adding anything to the second.

Update, 11 Sep 2017, Angie asked if I could do another fennel beer, so I split out the second keg and added some fennel that she's soaked in vodka to half. I'd bought a little bag of "Miners Tea" at a craft fair a while back that I thought would be nice in a saison, so I added that to the other half. It's not bad, but not as good as I'd hoped. I probably let it steep a little too long in the beer. Live and learn! It is pretty good when mixed with cider. The fennel half is carbonating, haven't tasted it yet.

Update, 10 Oct 2017, the fennel beer is quite good, the vanilla is okay, but still too strong in my opinion.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Batch 196, Malted Cider

Just like the last batch of this, which turned out to be really nice and drinkable.

5 gallon batch

1 gallon wort from batch 195
11 12 oz cans Winco frozen Apple concentrate
3 gallons water

Mix it all up in a fermenter, adjust to pitching temp, oxygenate, add 1 quart of London Ale III that I had saved from a previous batch of something.

One time when I make this, I really need to get a hydrometer sample so I have some idea of the alcohol content. I'm still guessing it's in the 5% range.

This is so easy to do, it adds no time at all to a brew day. I made the cider while the boil was in progress.

Update May 2, 2017: my nitro tap opened up, so I thought why not and put the cider on nitro.

Update May 22, 2017: it's not very good. It's okay, but boring. I added 1/4 cup of vanilla extract from Costco and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Update May 29, 2017, this is freaking delicious! Too bad there is only 5 gallons. The creamy head from the nitro makes this tasted like apple pie or cinnamon rolls. The cinnamon is understated, but present, and the little bit of vanilla extract is really nice!

Update Nov 17, 2017, still delicious, but I want the nitro tap for End of the World, so I bottled the rest, which was 11 22oz bottles.

Batch 197, Hoppily Ever After

The recipe formerly known as "Smooth IPA", and now known as Hoppily Ever After, since I made this for Libby and Aaron's wedding and since I got the hops from the decorations at their wedding. It's a nice all Chinook IPA, really smooth and nice.

10 gallon batch

25 lb 2-row
1.5 lb wheat

Mashed at 156F.

0.5 oz Chinook, FWH
0.5 oz Chinook, 90 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 80 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 70 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 60 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 50 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 40 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 30 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 20 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 10 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 5 min
1.0 oz Chinook, 0 min


Wyeast 1272, reused from previous batches.

OG: 1.060 actual

May 2, 2017, put on tap to carbonate.

May 9, 2017, I've been drinking this for a few days, the first taste is definitely peaches, like nice, ripe, juicy peaches. There is no way that these hops are Chinook -- no pine at all, just peaches.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Just some notes about previous batches

Batch 194, currently named "Smooth IPA", is renamed to "Hoppily Ever After". The hops used in this batch were the decorations at Libby and Aaron's wedding. I got about 4 pounds of nice Chinook from the decorations, which were provided by Gooding's hop farm.

Batch 193, a 10 gallon batch of Leeser, and Batch 192, a 10 gallon batch of Oktoberfest, both lagered at 35F while we were off to Mexico for the winter. They are on tap now and are very clear and quite delicious.

Batch 191, a simple pale ale, was really good and worth doing again. Unfortunately, it's all gone now.

Oddly enough, there are still 2 kegs of Batch 190, yet another version of the Guava IPA I've been working on. For some reason, no taps were available to put this beer on before we left for Mexico the first week of November. So now it's 7 months old (really old for an IPA), but it's still pretty good. The hops flavor has faded, of course, so the guava flavor is a little stronger, but it is still a quite nice beer. I thought it might clear up some after all that time lagering, but it is still cloudy.

The garage beer fridge needs work. I'd left both Batch 188, malted cider, and Batch 177, Prickly Pear, on tap. Both taste sour now. The malted cider went on tap last May, and the prickly pear last June. Even kept cold and under pressure, both of these went bad. Surprisingly, the Dunkelweiss from Batch 161, which was brewed November 1 of 2014 and put on tap November 27, 2015 (notice that's a whole year between brewing and serving and now it's a year and a half later) is still quite drinkable.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Batch 195, Panama Red

I've turned into a snowbird, so I spent the winter in Mexico rather than staying around in the cold and snow. I haven't brewed since last October, so it's definitely time to brew, and it's Panama Red, of course!

10 gallon batch

22.25 lb 2-row
1.5 lb crystal 60
1.5 lb white wheat malt
4 oz chocolate malt

Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes. Adjusted pH to 5.2 with phosphoric acid. Recirculate for 10 - 15 minutes on each sparge.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min

Wyeast 1272, from the last time I brewed this. I got two quarts out of the fridge yesterday so they'd warm up, oxygenated the wort as usual for 90 seconds, then pitched both quarts. The yeast looked really good for being 4 months old.

OG: 1.060 (actual)
FG: 1.015
SRM: 11.8
ABV: 6.4%