Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pecan Porter



One of the things that I enjoy about attempting to clone a beer is the process to come up with a recipe. The other nice aspect of cloning is that you have the ability to compare your clone with the actual commercial example. This gives you the opportunity to determine how close you are to the commercial beer and determine what changes need to be made if your beer does not taste like the clone.  The more that you brew the easier it is to determine how a beer should taste prior to brewing it, but if you’re just learning the easiest way is to compare your beer to a commercial example. 

As usual I enjoy trying new techniques when I brew and this time was no different. I needed to use pecans if I am to properly clone (512)Pecan Porter, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to use them since they contain head killing oils. I did a little research into the topic of using nuts (pecans are fruits technically) that contain oils and stumbled across two different methods. The first method was described by one of the employees from Lazy Magnolia Brewing for their Pecan Ale and the second method was explained over at ryanbrews

Method 1- Roast the pecans at 400oF for 10 minutes and let them cool on a paper towel to extract oils, followed by breaking them into chunks and repeating the roasting at 350oF for 30 minutes, finally after the second roast let them cool on a paper towel again to remove oil. The point of roasting the pecans is to remove the some of the oil from the pecans. After they have been roasted you will throw them in the mash tun and mash as normal. To make up for the fact that there will be some of the oils making their way into your beer you will need to either increase (or add) the amount of wheat  or crystal malt you’re using to boost the head retention. 

Method 2 – This method involves making an extract. In theory you will preserve the essence of the pecans without the head killing oils. In order to do this you need to roast the pecans just like in method 1 but instead of mashing with them you grind them up (which causes them to turn into a pile of sticky mush) and place them into a jar with a clean spirit (such as vodka). Over time the oils will infuse their aroma and flavor into the vodka. When the aroma has been infused you need to filter out the pecan bits and then take the oil/alcohol mix, place a straw in it and freeze the mixture. When settled the oil should settle to the top and freeze, while the alcohol will not freeze. Once frozen, remove the straw and pour the alcohol through the hole that remains, leaving the fatty oil behind. Continue to repeat until the oil has been removed. You can add this mixture at bottling to your liking. A more detailed explanation of the process can be found here

I decided to go with method 1 assuming it will give me more pecan flavor that (512) is known for and because I’m assuming the reason they use “copious amounts of crystal malt” is because they mash with the pecans. I did, however, also make the extract just in case I want to add some more pecan aroma when I bottle. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.25 Gallons
Boil Time: 100 minutes
Original Gravity: 1.068
Measured Gravity: 1.068
Final Gravity: 1.016
Measured:
ABV:
IBU: 30
SRM: 54o

Grain Bill
12lbs Pale Two Row Malt
2lbs Crystal 80L
0.75Lb Chocolate Malt
0.25lb Black Patent Malt
0.25lb Roasted Pecans

Hop Bill
Glacier – 1.5 oz – 60 minutes

Yeast
1.5L starter Wyeast 1056 – made the day before

Mash schedule
60 minute saccharification rest at 150oF

Notes:
10/6/14 – Brewed with my Dad for part of his birthday gift. A little low on the pre-boil gravity so I added 15 minutes to the boil. Mash pH measured at 5.56, calculated value was 5.57. Ended up boiling off too much due to my Dad’s different kettle geometry so the FG was 1.071 at 5 gallons. Chilled to 80oF and added the yeast and it brought up the final volume to 5.25 gallons and the gravity to 1.068. Left to ferment in my parent’s house at ambient temperature. 

10/7/14 – Healthy fermentation going 12 hours later. 

10/9/14 – Made the pecan extract.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

First Tasting: Heady Clone v2



It took me a little longer to get around to reviewing this beer then I would have liked but I think the extra time actually helped it. This might seem counterintuitive for an IPA, but I think the flavors and aromas mellowed out and became more distinctive rather than muddled together. Part of the reason for the delay I was because I had problems getting the keg to carbonate. I’m not sure what the reason for this was, but I finally used the old shake method to infuse CO2

The last time I brewed this beer it did not come out the way I would have liked. It developed a harsh astringent bitterness and was a weird murky brown color. I placed the blame on mash pH. This caused me to force myself to learn about mash chemistry, which I think has overall improved my brewing. I was able to adjust my pH for this beer, but I don’t think I got it low enough. Lowering my pH did help with the color of the beer and I feel it also helped to remove the astringent hop finish (the other problem could have come from poor hop extract). The issue I had this time around came from my yeast not fully attenuating. I don’t think I made a big enough starter after going from the can and I think when I stepped up my starter it was too old. That coupled with an inability to oxygenate didn’t help things for the yeast in a stressful environment. 

Never the less I’m much happier with this batch, but feel it could still use some tweaking.

Appearance: It pours a hazy orange-yellow with a fluffy off white head with crazy good retention. The head never really fades from a centimeter thick lacing and clings to the side of the glass. I wouldn’t mind clearing it up a little bit, but really I would have to filter in order to do that. Conan yeast is a notoriously bad flocculater and chill haze from all of the dry hopping isn’t helping anything. 

Aroma: Dank hops up front with peach notes peeking through. As it warms up some more citrus aromas come up but it’s still pretty dank. I’m thinking next time I will reduce the amount of Columbus hops and maybe increase the Amarillo hops. I think I will also cut the dry hopping in half. I usually notice the best aroma after the first hopping but then the aroma becomes mixed after the second addition. I was at first disappointed by aroma because it didn’t remind me of Heady, but the more I drank the more I realized that it was similar to Alpine Purehoppiness, which I can’t really complain about. 

Flavor: Due to the under attenuation of the yeast there is some residual sweetness that I’m not too fond of but it’s not a cloying sweetness. The flavor is bitterness up front with piney notes and some orange flavor blended and some caramel notes. When I was initially drinking the beer I thought it was too sweet, but the more I drank I started to feel like it was actually fruity hop flavor. 

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation and a full body with a lingering bitter finish. I would have preferred for the beer to be dryer and maybe for the bitterness to be a touch softer. I might dial back the extract some next time around. 

Overall: I think one of the things that I’m going to try to do next time for sure is to lower the pH a little bit more. I took a reading of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and it came in at 4.44 which is about 0.2 lower then my beer. I added a few drops of lactic acid to a glass and felt like it cleaned it up a bit and brightened up the aroma a little. I think the extra stage of dry hopping also caused the reverse affect then what I was looking for so I think next time I’ll cut that addition out or I’ll split the first dry hop into two additions for better extraction. I’m sure getting full attenuation will probably help as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hill Farmstead Saison...maybe/ Barrel refill



I’ve wanted to brew a Saison using Hill Farmstead dregs for a while but I haven’t had the time to drink the only bottle I have and save the dregs. I also generally don’t have any carboys available for long term fermentation. Since I decided that my barrel was ready to bottle I needed to brew something to put in the barrel the next day. Knowing this I decided to take the time to make a starter ahead of time so that when I opened my bottle of Vera Mae I would be ready to capture the dregs. 

I made a low gravity starter, decanted the bottle into two glasses, but I left about 2 ounces of beer and swirled up everything left into the bottom and dumped it into the starter wort. Unfortunately by the next night there was no sign of activity. I had read that Hill Farmstead uses a different yeast strain for bottle conditioning, but honestly I don’t really believe much of anything that Shaun Hill says when he is not specifically giving information. But just in case to cover myself I opened up a bottle of Allagash Midnight Brett and dumped the dregs into the starter. Still no activity. I went through the brew day as normal, half of the beer went straight into the barrel that I washed the day before with 180F water, and the other half went into the carboy with the non-active starter. My hope was that because the gravity was so low that any growth took place quickly overnight but there wasn’t much fermentation. 

The recipe I used was from the first Saison I ever brewed, which was modified from a Mad Fermentationist recipe. It is still is one of the best straight Saisons I’ve brewed. Normally when I brew beers with bacteria and Brett I mash high to provide leftover sugar for the bugs and Brett, but this time I mashed low so that the beer will finish out dry in a quicker amount of time and be slightly tart, rather than full on sour. 

Beer Stats:
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Boil Time: 90 minutes
Est OG: 1.061
Measured OG: 1.055
Final Gravity:
ABV:
IBU: 16
SRM: 11o

Grain Bill:
16lbs Pale Two Row Malt
3lbs Maris Otter
2lbs Sugar
1.5lbs Rye Malt
1lb Caramunich 20L
1lb Acid Malt

Hop Schedule:
60 min – East Kent Golding – 2oz

Yeast:
Hill Farmstead Vera Mae and Allagash Midnight Brett dregs, or maybe something else

Mash Schedule:
146F single infusion scarification rest

Notes:
11/29/14 – I remember why I don’t drink while brewing. I forgot to add the sugar. Other than that and the stuck kettle screen it was an easy brew day. Attempted to oxygenate using my air stone but it shot off into the carboy again, I’m going to tape it to the hose. Cooled to 65oF and pitched yeast into the carboy, but I’m using the bugs in the barrel to ferment. 

11/30/14 – Boiled the sugar separately and added it to the barrel and carboy to boost the gravity. 

12/1/14 – Signs of fermentation in the carboy. Both vessels are fermenting in ambient temperature in my beer room, probably 68oF to 72oF.

12/4/14 - Fermentation has taken off in the barrel.

12/9/14 - Topped up the barrel with an Upland Sour Reserve dreg starter.

12/10/14 - Fermentation in the barrel blew the air lock off and is foaming out of the hole. Looks like I'm going to let it open ferment in my beer room while I'm in Michigan for the next three days. 

12/14/14 - Filled up the barrel again with the rest of the starter.

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

Yeast
Wyeast 1335 – Brittish Ale II

Mash Schedule
154F –Single Infusion – 60 minutes

Notes:
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.