Monday, October 20, 2014

Clone Wars Episode II: Heady Topper-ish

This is my second attempt at brewing a Heady Topper clone, or something that resembles Heady Topper. I very much believe that even given a recipe it’s still almost impossible to replicate a beer brewed by someone else due to process and equipment size. However, I’m giving it another try because I wasn’t exactly pleased with my first attempt and if I could get close to the actual Heady Topper, I would be very pleased.

Part of the problem with my first attempt was I think due to some autolysis and mash pH. That beer is what caused me to force myself to sit down and learn about mash chemistry. It’s my assumption that the harsh astringent bitterness I got came from my mash pH being too high. After learning about the importance of mash pH I’ve been adding some acid malt to all of my beers and have noticed an improvement in flavor and clarity. I also recently bought an oxygen diffuser stone so that I can inject pure O2 into my wort. This should help with yeast attenuation and help to prevent off flavors and aromas by improving yeast health. 

My brewday started off slow. I didn’t know that I didn’t have a single charged battery for my drill, which caused my grain crush to take an hour and a half. Although I will say that it was nice to be able to control the crush of my grain. Beyond that I didn’t have any other problems until I stated to oxygenate and the oxygen wand blew out of the hose and into my carboy. On the plus side the actual brewing was smooth and easy. 

I used a previous method for a “hopback” that I used in the past. Essentially I pump the hot wort through my “jockey box wort chiller” but leave the coils out of the ice bath. This will chill the beer to 140F, which is still hot enough to extract hop oils in a reasonable amount of time and preserve the hop aroma but not too hot to extract bitterness. I left the wort on the hops for about 50 minutes including the amount of time to pump it from the keg to the carboy to fully chill the wort. 

Beer Stats
Est OG: 1.077
Measured OG: 1.076
Final Gravity:
SRM: 10o
IBU: 110
Boil Time: 90 minutes
Batch Volume: 6 gallons

Grain Bill
16 lbs - Perle Malt
1.25 lbs – Carapils
1.25 lbs – White wheat
1 lb – Cane Sugar
0.5 lbs – Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
10.00 ml - Hopshot- Boil 90.0 min
1.00 oz -  Simcoe-  Boil 5.0 min
0.50 oz – Apollo - Boil 5.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus  - Boil 0.0 min
2.00 oz - Simcoe - Boil 0.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Simcoe - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Simcoe - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00oz – Amarillo - Hopback 30.0 min
0.50 oz - Centennial - Hopback 30.0 min
0.50 oz - Apollo – Hopback- 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
1.00 oz - Simcoe - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Amarillo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Centennial - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.25 oz - Apollo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
1 oz - Columbus - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Simcoe - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Amarillo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Centennial - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.25 oz - Apollo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
1 oz - Columbus - Dry Hop 4.0 Days

Mash Schedule
Single infusion – 152oF
Mash Out – 168oF

1.5L - Conan Yeast stepped up from a can


10/12/14 – Stock from fridge added to 1L 1.020 starter

10/15/14 – Starter decanted and stepped up to 1.5L 1.040 starter

10/17/14 – Starter placed in the fridge

10/18/14 – Brewed by myself. Mash pH was 5.32 (estimated 5.34). Water profile was 84% RO water with 4 grams of Gypsum and 6 grams of CaCl. Wort chilled to 60oF and decanted starter pitched. Oxygenated for 30 seconds with pure O2.

10/19/14 – Fermentation started 12 hours after pitching.

10/20/14 – Had to take the air lock out and add a blow off tube. I thought I had enough room, but I think the O2 really helped give me a strong fermentation.

Monday, October 13, 2014

First Tasting: Traditional Hefeweizen

This beer initially started out as a diacetyl bomb when it warmed up, but with a little extra effort I was able to clear that issue up. I knew that if I could detect diacetyl when the beer was warm and not cold that it was not an issue with infection, but a fermentation issue. My thought was that if I let the beer warm up in a keg and sit in a warm room for a little while the yeast (being a Hefeweizen it should still be in suspension) clean up the diacetyl. If that didn’t work I had no idea what to do. Happily after a week and a half of sitting in the laundry room they yeast cleaned up any aromatic problems. 

I’ve brewed this beer a few times in the past and have been happy with it, but I’ve never actually brewed it for myself. I like to think this beer is somewhat similar to Live Oak Hefeweizen, although a lazy man’s version because I don’t perform a decoction like they do at their brewery. 

Appearance:  It pours a hazy orangish-yellow with a fluffy white head. The head retention leaves a little to be desired, which I think comes from the extended warm conditioning after the fact or due to the low gravity of the beer. I really love the color of the beer that the melanoidin malt adds. 

Aroma: I’ve very pleased with the aroma, now that the diacetyl is gone. There is a nice balance of clove and spice upfront. The spices remind me of cinnamon and nutmeg, with a touch of citrus. As it warms up I get a bit of banana, a hint of bubblegum and even some bready malt, but the spices continue to come through to provide balance. 

Flavor: Clove and banana are the predominate flavor with some bready malt in the back ground. I think the melanoidin malt did a good job of giving the perception of a decoction mash. There is a bit of wheat twang and the pH might be a touch too low, but I think that was more of an issue with my gravity being too low so there isn’t enough residual sweetness to balance it out. 

Mouthfeel: I think the body is a little too thin. My calculator was had the wrong equation for calculating initial gravity, so I was coming under my target, which caused my final gravity to be lower than I would have liked. Ideally I would have preferred 1.012, but I was closer to 1.008, which thinned out the beer a bit. I think my mash was also a little too low. I went with 149oF for the Berliner, but normally I would go with 151-152oF. Carbonation is prickly and the finish is dry. 

Overall: I’m very happy with this beer, but there are a few issues I need to tweak. The gravity issue shouldn’t be a problem now that I have corrected my equation and I even bought a grain mill so I can no longer use the LHBS as an excuse. I think this is the first beer that I’ve started to dial in on a recipe that I really like. I’ve also got a fermentation schedule that I think keeps the phenols in check and provides balance that is not just banana.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

First Tasting: Berlinerweisse

This was my first attempt at brewing the elusive style Berlinerweisse. Fear of producing 5 gallons of vomit is what has kept me from attempting, as well as, the fact that there is no single undisputed way of producing a Berliner. I decided to go a more natural way by using the naturally occurring on the lacto on the grain husk for the souring bacteria; however, I wanted to maintain extra control over a sour mash by souring the wort. 

My ultimate goal was to produce a drinkable sour in a short period of time. I chronicled my issues in my previous post. Basically I had to boil the wort to concentrate the sugars since my gravity was way under my target, mostly due to the fact that the calculator I made was wrong (I was calculating my anticipated original gravity based off of the batch  volume into the carboy, not the final kettle volume. In other words, I was leaving liquid out of the equation.) By boiling the wort for an extended amount of time DMS was not a concern, but it also removed the typical corn flavor from the beer. 

Appearance: Murky orange-yellow with a spritzy white head that quickly fades to a thin lacing. It’s probably a little darker then the style normally would be due to the specialty malt added for the Hefeweizen and the boil time. Lack of head retention is to be expected.

Aroma: There is actually barely any discernable aroma coming from the beer. As it warms up I get a slightly off putting aroma, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Other than that it’s pretty clean. I can kind of smell the Cascade Strawberry dregs that I poured into it when it warms up. 

Flavor: Clean lactic acidity up front with a slight citrus flavor. I get a little hint of acetic acid, but nothing off putting. The acidity is there but it might seem light for some people. I feel its right where it should be as far as the style guide lines go. 

Mouthfeel: Bright carbonation and a lactic acidity upfront with a clean finish. Surprisingly I don’t get much of a sour finish, but I don’t get the grainy finish I normally do from Berliners. I think the body is a little high for a Berliner. I would have liked for it to dry out a little more, but I think it would have taken too long for the Brett-C to finish it out. In the future I would probably add some clean ale yeast to dry it out and add Brett for complexity. 

Overall: I couldn’t be happier with how this beer turned out. There are a few things I would correct for next time but I will definitely be brewing it again. Assuming I can replicate it this might be a great way to produce a quick sour. Next time I’ll probably just brew 10 gallons of this beer without the specialty malt and maybe add fruit to half of the batch. That is of course assuming I don’t end up with 10 gallons of vomit. The best suggestion I can make would be to add CO2 every time you open the beer to take a taste or gravity reading. Theoretically as the pH drops it should be protecting the beer from the bacteria that will produce off flavors, but it’s just an extra precaution that doesn’t hurt anything.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Split Batch: Traditional Hefeweizen

Surprisingly I didn’t actually take a picture of this beer prior to racking into a keg, but honestly, all fermenting beer looks the same in a carboy other than color and if it has a pellicle or not. This is the main portion of the beer that I recently brewed. I wanted to attempt to brew a traditional Hefeweizen, since it’s one of the few styles that I don’t think needs any improvement. In Texas it will still be pretty hot for at least another month so a Hefeweizen felt like a good choice. It was also a good excuse for me to attempt to brew a Berliner, since the grain bill is pretty much the same and it wouldn’t require much extra work, besides cooling and checking acidity. I addressed the risk in my previous post. 

I’ve brewed a few Hefeweizens in the past but I’ve never actually brewed a traditional Hefeweizen in the past that was for me to drink. I’ve brewed a few with my father, without temperature control so they end up being banana bombs, I’ve brewed one and added Citra hops, and I’ve brewed a traditional one for my cousin’s wedding reception using temperature control, but I only had one glass of it. Now it’s time for me to have my own keg. 

I used the same grain bill as I did for my cousin’s beer and the same fermentation schedule. I really liked how that beer turned out so I was attempting to replicate it. The temperature control should keep the banana in check and allow the yeast to produce some more clove aroma to balance it out. 

After brewing this beer I’m really starting to think buying a grain mill would be a good idea. Since I rely on my LHBS to crush my grain my efficiency swings wildly from batch to batch so I don’t have a good way of nailing down a recipe. This beer was no different. I way undershot my gravity. My initial plan was to brew a standard gravity Hefeweizen, rack off three gallons, and top up with water to bring the gravity down to Berliner gravity. However, since I was so far under my efficiency target, I didn’t need to top up at all and had to boil down to reach my target for the Berliner. I was also way under my target starting gravity for the Hefeweizen, but I honestly didn’t care because it was so far under. I sense a grain mill in my fear future. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 8.5 gallons
Boil time: 135 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.048
Measured OG: 1.040
Measured FG: 1.008
ABV: 3.5%
IBU: 15

Grain Bill
7.75 lbs – Wheat Malt
6 lbs – Pilsner Malt
1 lb – Acid Malt
0.75 lb – Melanoidin Malt

45 min – Hallertauer – 1.75 oz
20 min – Hallertauer – 0.25 oz

Mash Schedule
149oF – Saccrification Rest – 90 minutes added 3 grams each of CaCl and Gypsum


8/24/14 – Brewed by myself along with Berlinerweisse. No starter made to encourage phenol production. Fermentation set at 64oF

8/27/14 - Temperature raised to 67 oF

8/30/14 - Temperature raised to 71 oF

9/3/14 – Beer racked to keg and placed under 14psi at 38oF

9/24/14 - When the beer warms up it becomes a diacetyl bomb so I'm assuming fermentation didn't clean things up before I kegged it and cooled it. I've removed the keg from the keezer and have placed it in the laundry room.

10/6/14 - Keg placed back in keezer.

10/9/14 - It seems like the diacetyl has gone away. I'll find out when I let the beer warm up more.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Split Batch: Berlinerweisse

By no means have I brewed every style, but honestly there are some styles I just don’t care for so why should I brew them? My favorite category of beers is easily sours, however, there is one style in that group that I had yet to brew. I have yet to brew a Berlinerweisse, even though a good Berliner, can be very enjoyable and refreshing, especially in the middle of the summer in Texas. Honestly I’ve been afraid of attempting to brew a Berliner. Most people consider American Light Lager (AAL) to be the most difficult style to brew. AAL’s generally are so light and delicate that any flaw will stand out. I consider Berliners to be the most difficult style because of its unusual fermentation process (using Lacto) and because if the beer goes bad it smells like vomit. If you fail at making an AAL it will at least probably be drinkable, whereas, a bad Berliner will be something difficult to remove from your mind and keep yourself from throwing up. The reason that a Berliner becomes something that haunts your dreams is because during souring the beer does not have alcohol to prevent bacteria from producing Butyric Acid. It also needs to be kept at an elevated temperature (~120F), which is perfect for this bacteria. The best defense is lower pH and no Oxygen. 

I’ve done a lot of research on brewing a Berliner and there are 3 basic ways to go about brewing one (there are more variations with in each but 3 basic ways).

1)     Mash normally, bring to a boil, purge with CO2, add pure lacto culture and hold until sour. Finally bring to 180F to kill the lacto and pitch yeast to ferment.
2)     Replace pure lab culture with a lacto starter using the grain (Lacto is naturally occurring on grain husk).
3)     Preform a sour mash. Similar to choice (2), however the grain is tossed into the mash tun after the temperature is lowered to 120F. Once soured the wort is brought to a boil and yeast is pitched. 

I chose to somewhat go with step 2, but do it my own way. I brewed the Berliner as part of a Hefeweizen so I’m not concerned with having to dump 3 gallons if it doesn’t work out, but at least I’ll learn something. 

I began by making a sour starter using the grain. I made a normal 1.5L starter chilled it to 100F, added some grain, purged with CO2, and placed in my hot garage. I left it there for 3 days. When I brewed I took a smell before pouring it into the carboy and it smelled slightly grainy and without any vomit. There was definitely Brett on the grain husk as well. I brewed enough for 8 gallons of Hefeweizen. After mashing out I was under gravity and over volume so I boiled to reduce and concentrate, then I racked 3 gallons off into a corny to chill and rack to a carboy. I didn’t add any ice to my wort chiller so it brought the temperature down to 128F. I didn’t notice this until after I pitched the starter, but it shouldn’t hurt anything. After pitching I purged with CO2, I added 3 mL of Lactic acid in an attempt to lower the pH to 4.5 as was suggested by Chad Chad Yakobson, then I left it in my garage. I didn’t take a pH reading because I need to recalibrate my meter and to be honest I was hungover from the day before and just didn’t care enough. 

The base grains were roughly 50% wheat and 50% malt. No hops were added in an attempt to not throttle the Lacto at all. 

8/24/14 – Brewed by myself with a hefeweizen. 

8/26/14 – A thin pellicle has formed. 

8/28/14 – Grainy aroma and flavor with only a slight tartness. I added some Cascade Strawberry dregs to hopefully give it some super Cascade lacto. 

8/30/14 – The craziest pellicle I have ever seen has formed. The bubbles are larger the softballs.

9/9/14 - More acidic then it was before, definitely smells like Cascade.