Tuesday, November 25, 2014

First Tasting: English Dark Mild

Rarely do I brew to “style guidelines” but I’ve decided that next year I want to enter beers into competitions. For the most part I’ll still brew what I want to drink and attempt to find a category to enter them into, but I will also attempt to brew beers to style. I feel like that is a good way to gauge my brewing ability. Beyond that I brewed this beer knowing that it will be a while until I will have my chest freezer open for fermentation and I’m going to have two IPAs on tap with an ABV over 6%. The temperature is also starting to drop (as much as it does in south Texas) and I wanted something a little darker and maltier. 

I generally don’t care for British style ales because they are too malty for me, but malty and low ABV pretty much falls under Mild ale category. I like to always have something that is low ABV around so that I can have beer and still be functional. There are not a lot of commercial Mild examples in America so I pretty much had to design my recipe based off of the style guidelines. I knew I wanted it to be slightly sweeter, yet still dry, but also not light bodied, which sounds like contradiction in a glass. 

Brewing low ABV styles can be difficult because there are not a lot of hops to hide flaws and it’s easy for the beer to come off as thin.  Knowing this I figured I would need to use adjuncts for body and have a complex grain bill to add flavor complexity. I added Crystal malt for sweetness (even though I have an irrational fear of Crystal malt), and Golden Naked Oats for body in an attempt to mimic the creamy mouthfeel you get from a beer on cask. 

Appearance: Hazy dark mahogany brown with reddish hues and a creamy tan head about a finger thick that fades at medium speed to leave a thin spotty lacing over the top of the beer. The clarity is not where I would like it. It might drop out over time in the keg, but in the future if I brew this beer for a competition I would probably use a finning agent to help with clarity. As the beer warms up it clears up a bit, so it’s definitely just chill haze. 

Aroma: Malty sweet with an odd hint of banana. The banana aroma seems to go away as it warms up. I’m not sure if it is from the yeast or if it’s from the beer line that was not cleaned properly. I cleaned the line that was previously used for my Hefeweizen, but maybe I didn’t clean it well enough. 

Flavor: Chocolate, a touch of sweetness, but that is balanced out by some spicy characteristics of the hops, the predominate flavor is caramel and bread. I was worried about the sweetness from the Crystal malt, but I think it dried out enough so that the only sweetness is minimal, but enough to add flavor to the beer and not distract from it. (According to my club’s BJCP judge it might be a touch too sweet, but he was just splitting hairs)

Mouthfeel: I’m pleased with how the mouthfeel came out in this beer. I think the oats added the creamy mouthfeel that I was looking for to mimic a cask feel. Since the beer didn’t completely dry out there is some body and residual sweetness, which fools you into thinking this is a bigger beer. The only down side is that it is probably over carbonated. Since I don’t have a duel regulator the beer is set to the same carbonation as my IPAs. But as I’ve always said, it’s easier to remove carbonation then it is to add it. 

Overall: I’m very pleased with this beer and I enjoyed the quick turnaround from brewing to drinking. I really like the complexity, mothfeel and the fact that its only 3.7% ABV. I’m surprised that with the growing trend in session beer in craft beer that there are not more commercial examples of Mild ales. Probably because there are not enough hops.

Monday, October 27, 2014

English Dark Mild

I decided that over the next few months (probably weeks who are we kidding) I’ll only have high alcohol beers on tap. To counter that I decided to brew a low ABV beer, but since it’s winter I didn’t want to brew something like I would for the summer. I wanted to brew something malty for a change, instead of my usual dry finishing beers. For that reason I came up with the idea to brew an English Mild. 

This is one of the few beers that I am actually attempting to brew to style. My plan is to have it mimic the creamy mouthfeel you would get from a cask by adding Golden Naked oats. I also want to have a touch of sweetness from Crystal Malt, but since I’m terrified of Crystal Malt sweetness I’m adding brown sugar to hopefully dry the beer out a little bit more. The brown sugar might seem counterproductive for reducing sweetness, but the brown sugar is essentially 100% fermentable, while adding color and some extra caramelized sugar.  The Golden Naked oats should balance out the lack of body provided by the sugar and the possible over attenuation of the yeast. Personally I like dry beers, but on a low gravity beer a dry finish can make the beer seem thin. 

There are not a lot of commercial examples for English Mild, in fact there are probably more examples in America then there are in England. The recipe that I formulated comes from the BJCP style guidelines for English Mild, a touch of sweetness, medium-body, low carbonation, and dark brown in color. I generally don’t care for English beers, but I think that is just because I can’t find good examples of them. If that’s the problem then why not make my own. Part of my brewing philosophy is that if I can’t buy it on the shelves, then I should brew it. One of the fun parts of home brewing is being able to brew beers you cannot find or recreate extinct styles. 

I only encountered two problems while brewing this time. First I’m still trying to figure out my grain mill, it shouldn’t take me as long as it does to mill grain, this time it wasn’t a battery issue on my drill. I had trouble getting both rollers to mill. Secondly I completely forgot that I was out of CO2 until I started my boil. After flame out I was forced to add a 25 minute whirlpool while I ran to get more CO2 (I use it to transfer beer through my wort chiller), one more reason I need to get a pump.

Beer Stats
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil Time: 90 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.042
Measured OG: 1.041
Measured FG: 1.012
ABV: 3.7 %
SRM: 25o
IBU: 16

Grain Bill
7.5 lbs - Perle Malt
0.75 lbs – Crystal 80L
0.25 lbs – Chocolate Malt
0.5 lbs – Golden Naked Oats
0.5 lbs – Brown Sugar

Hop Schedule
1 oz – Fuggles – 60 minutes

Wyeast 1335 – Brittish Ale II

Mash Schedule
154F –Single Infusion – 60 minutes

10/26/14 – Brewed by myself. Pretty standard besides issues milling and having to make a CO2 run after boiling, but that should only add maybe 5 more IBUs. Added 0.5 grams of CaCl to the mash. Mash runnings came in at 1.032. Chilled to 68oF pitched yeast straight from the smack pack. I figured there was no need for a starter due to the low gravity of the beer. Shook to aerate since my air stone is still submerged in the Heady clone. Fermentation temperature set to 64oF.

10/27/14 – Fermentation had taken off in the morning with a nice inch thick layer or krausen.

11/3/14 - Moved up stairs to finish off fermentation.

11/10/14 - Placed in chest freezer at 33oF to cold crash and clarify.

11/13/14 - Gravity down to 1.012. Kegged and pressurized under 8psi. 

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.

10/23/14 - Increased temperature to 70F.

10/26/14 - Removed from chest freezer and placed in beer room to finish out fermentation at ambient temperature.

11/3/14 - First round of dry hops added to new "brite" tank, aka sawed off dip tube in a corny.

11/9/14 - Racked to finishing keg and added a second round of dry hops in a hop bag.

11/15/14 - Bag of dry hops removed and keg placed in the chest freezer under 10psi. 

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.