Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Brewing MoreBeer's Blonde Ale Partigyle Style!

It's been a long time and it's brew day once again, boys and girls!  Today we'll be brewing up the Blonde Ale all grain kit from MoreBeer!

We're going to partigyle this sucker for two totally different beers. Our brewing process today will consist of a thick brew in a bag mash to produce about 2.5 gallons of high gravity wort followed by a sparge step to collect about 4.5 gallons of a weaker wort.

Let's talk briefly about this recipe.  MoreBeer's website says "A Blonde Ale is a great starter beer for those who are new to craft beer. An easy drinking ale, low in esters, balanced with enough hop character to accentuate the malt profile. We brew this beer for big party events."

Well today we are going to be producing one beer similar to that description. Because we are "sacrificing" some of the Blonde Ale's gravity for our Barleywine, our numbers wont necessarily match with MoreBeer's. Original gravity for the Blonde Ale is estimated to be around 1.040 for an estimated ABV of about 4%.

Our small batch of high gravity wort will be an American Barleywine. Original gravity is estimated to be 1.107 for an estimated ABV of around 10.50%. Big. 

Now, if I haven't already changed the recipe up enough (more like threw it out the window), I decided to make a few more minor changes. First, I'll be adding half a pound of corn sugar to each batch. For the Blonde Ale, this will bump up the ABV slightly. For the Barleywine, it will help dry out the finished beer.

Also, to add a little more hop character to the Blonde Ale, we will move its single bittering charge of Willamette to a first wort hop addition. For the Barleywine, I scrounged up half an ounce of Cascade, which we'll also add as a first wort hop addition just for fun. 

The kit also ships with a pretty detailed all grain instruction sheet, which might be handy for brewers who bought the kit or received it as a gift without knowing much about the all grain process.  I would still recommend at least doing some online research on the process and how it can be adapted to work for your specific needs.

MoreBeer mills the grain by default and packages it in separate labeled plastic bags.  I personally don't have the space for a mill and extra buckets, so I just order my grain milled. The mill on this particular grain was quite good. Although until I mill my own grain, I definitely can't complain. 

So after filling our big mash pot with only 11 quarts of water, we doughed in our total of 9.5 pounds of grain.  This comes out to be about 1.16 quarts per pound, which is definitely on the thick side.  However, we're shooting for a specific volume, here.

After our 60 minute long mash, we lifted the little grain bag out and let it drain to bring us to our pre boil volume of about 2.5 gallons of super sweet wort.

In go our first wort hops into both pots. Due to the lower volume of the Barleywine, it started boiling first. There's nothing left to do except clean up and watch at this point.

Now that both 60 minute boils are over, we simply pop the lids on and make a seal with some plastic wrap. the wrap will shrink and "suck in" as the wort cools.

It's now the morning after we brewed and our wort is nice and cool. We'll aerate by shaking the pots and then we'll pitch our soldiers into battle. Then the lids will go back on for fermentation.

Let's get down with some tasting notes. 

Blonde Ale

Pale yellow
Crystal clear
One finger head dissipates to a medium collar

Very light grainy aroma
Very light grassy/earthy

Light bread followed by grassy/earthy hop character followed by slight bitterness
Clean tasting and refreshing


Rich amber
Surface haze reducing to collar
Hazy but not murky

Sweet grain, subtle alcohol, subtle fruit

High malt sweetness, slight fruitiness, slight bitterness, and alcohol warmth but no harshness
Very smooth
Very silky texture

Very interesting and enjoyable high gravity beer with a 10.5% ABV that is very well hidden
Among the most approachable high gravity beers I've ever had

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Aloha folks! It has indeed been a while! So here are my updates.
1. I have officially put my 2 week notice in sparepartswarehouse.com. Wednesday, April 17th will be my last day, and I am so pumped.
2. I am preparing to live my dream and help run a homebrewshop. We have a kickstarter, if so PLEASE, donate what you can! I will be giving a short presentation on Osborn Brewing at the NHC in Zanesville.
Click here to watch an amazing video and donate!
3. I have made 10 beers so far this year.
4. I am going back to bottling and I will now explain why.

So, you want to try kegging? Guess what, it's AWESOME. In fact, kegging is TOO AWESOME for me. Why? Beer the is ready in about 24 hours (Longer if you're patient, and I tend not to be. ) And easily drinkable. There is no gauging how much you have had, except by counting the pints, and lifting the keg. The average time a keg is on tap with me is 4 days. Rarely more, more often less. It kind of stinks, because I am burning through the beer faster than I am making it, which means I need to either A. Brew more often (Which I really can't do right now.) Or B. Brew Larger batches, which isn't possible as my equipment is set up for 5 Gallon batches. Add to this I have been on a late hopped beer kick lately, using 5-6 oz a batch, and you've got a recipe for not enough beer.

Don't get me wrong, kegging your beer is AMAZING and every brewer should eventually take the plunge. But in reality I miss having the cases of bottles, having something tangible that I know I made and can hold in my hand. I miss counting the bottles the batch yielded, looking at them, I miss bottling and I never thought I would say that. So, kegging is great. It's one of the best decisions I have ever made in brewing, it just...doesn't cut for me. I should have realized the dangers when our first keg of Ass Kickin' Coffee Stout blew in less than a week. My roommate had brewed the batch with me and we were both a little shocked. So when I say I want to go back to bottle, I only yearn to do so I may have more bottles and know how much is left.

What else have I been up to? Well, since I have posted last, I have made several beers, and I will try to list them all now. (As a side note, I judged in the Wizard of Saaz in Akron, Ohio, and won a 55lb bag of Weyermann Pilsner malt.)

1. SMaSH: 5oz Motueka & 15lb of two-row malt.
2. Left Overs Dark Brown Ale: 10lb of Pilsner malt, and the left over crystal, pale chocolate,  and special B malts along with the rest of my Midnight wheat malt. (GREAT stuff btw.)
3. Worldly Chap: I named this late hopped pale ale Worldly chap because it has ingredients from all over the world: 10lb german pilsner malt, 1 lb Marris Otter (English) 1 lb Golden Promise (English) 1 lb Crystal 20 (American)  1oz Citra (American) 1oz Sorachi Ace (Originally Japanese) 1oz Motueka (New Zealand.) Dry Hopped with an ounce of each. It smelled like pineapples.
4. SMaSH 10lb Pilsner & 5oz Galena - I made this to be cheap. I had all of the ingredients on hand.

All are gone except the SMaSH pils-Galena, because it's in the carboy. Kegs are evil.

I am going to post the link one last time, PLEASE Share this on FB, on everything you can, we need to raise all we can! I can't wait to start working in a homebrew shop! Thanks!

Click here to watch an amazing video and donate!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mama's Apple Pie Oatmeal Stout Update.

Last night...Last night was a good night to give my oatmeal stout a try.

Before I get into the taste results, let's take a walk down the memory lane with this brew.   First off, I ended up using the Wyeast London ESB yeast for this beer.  Mistake #1 was this choice.  This is a high flocculating yeast that will get lazy and drop out quickly if the temp gets lower than it wants.  Now, this would normally not be an issue, had I realized this and made prior plans.  I do not have a sure-fire setup for temp control,  I usually just set our house thermostat to 70 and leave it be.   Low and behold my wonderful but sometime oblivious to my fermentation temp needs fiancee would keep turning the thermostat down to 65 while we were not there. About 8 days into fermentation, it stalled at 1.052(OG was 1.074).  I ended up making up a starter with wlp001 and pitching that two days later.  At the same time, I cut up about 12-13 granny smith apples that I sprinkled some cinnamon/sugar/nutmeg on and added that into the fermenter along with a 12oz can of frozen apple concentrate. I let that go for about a week, and it finally stopped at 1.038 and wouldn't go any further.   I decided to bottle it up at this point. 

As of last night they have been conditioning for almost 2 weeks now so I figured it was time to pop open a bottle while some friends were over.  I wasn't overly sure about how this would come out with such a high FG but was pleasantly surprised.  First thing I noticed was the apple/cinnamon aroma.  Not overwhelming but you could definitely tell it was there. Taste was upfront apple then the spices kicked in.   Very creamy body with a decently amount of dark brown/tan head.

Overall this might be a beer I need to make again as it really turned out well, but I am unsure of the results if I actually get full attenuation out of it.  I did end up sending a couple bottles home with people so I think I shall label this experiment a success for now.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brewing MoreBeer's Irish Red Ale

It's a good day for brewing, boys and girls! Today we'll be brewing up the Irish Red Ale all grain kit from MoreBeer!

Our brewing process today will be what I like to call a "hybrid brew in a bag", which is just a regular brew in a bag mash with a sparge step. To do this, we'll need our eight gallon pot and our three gallon pot. We'll name them big pot and little pot to make things easy.

Let's talk briefly about this recipe. MoreBeer's website says that "this beer is classified as a big Amber Ale, but is so unique, it does not really fit within any category. Contains Aromatic malt to provide malty flavor and aroma. Features dark Crystal malts, including Special B, and a pinch of Roasted Barley for a deep red color and very distinctive caramel flavor. One of our most popular ingredient kits."

Sounds pretty tasty! Original gravity is estimated to be around 1.053 for an estimated ABV of about 5%.

It should be noted that this particular recipe kit does not ship with yeast by default, but some of their other ones do. So you can either pick your favorite dry yeast or go with a liquid variety. I chose Safale US-05 dry yeast because I find that it typically ferments fairly cleanly for me.

If you glanced at the recipe sheet, you might have noticed that this ale includes two ounces of Willamette hops as a late flavoring addition. I typically get spicy, earthy flavors from Willamette, therefore I wanted a fairly clean yeast strain to let those flavors shine through.

The kit also ships with a pretty detailed all grain instruction sheet, which might be handy for brewers who bought the kit or received it as a gift without knowing much about the all grain process. I would still recommend at least doing some online research on the process and how it can be adapted to work for your specific needs.

MoreBeer mills the grain by default and packages it in separate labeled plastic bags. I personally don't have the space for a mill and extra buckets, so I just order my grain milled. The mill on this particular grain was quite good. Although until I mill my own grain, I definitely can't complain.

So after filling our big mash pot with 24 quarts of water, we doughed in our total of 12.25 pounds of grain. This comes out to be about 1.95 quarts per pound, which is considered to be on the high side. However, I greatly prefer stirring a loose mash because my pot is quite tall and therefore tips easily.

After our 60 minute long mash, we lifted the heavy grain bag out, drained it, and sparged with about six quarts of 170 degree water to bring us to our pre boil volume of about six gallons of sweet, sweet wort.

Now it's time for our 60 minute boil. Once our dark brown wort has come up to a rolling boil, we'll add our one and a half ounces of Northern Brewer variety bittering hops. These hops, like Willamette, have very nice earthy qualities about them.

There is now about five minutes left in the boil, so we'll throw in our two ounces of Willamette and one whirlfloc tablet. Smells pretty darn good right about now, doesn't it?

At this point in the brew day, when the boil is over and I am waiting for the wort to chill in a tub of water, I have time to think about how I want this beer to be served. When I imagine the end product, I imagine sitting in an old Irish brewpub with a pint of their house red in hand. I'm thinking beer engine, boys and girls.

Don't worry, I'll cover the beer engine in another post. Sit tight.

Once the cascading head settles from the pull, you're greeted with a wonderfully dark, deep ruby red beer with a creamy off white head. Let's get down with some tasting notes.

Appears black in low lighting, but glows a deep, dark ruby red when back lit. A two finger dense head fades to a one finger head that remains through the rest of the pint.

Piney and woody hop aroma with a rich malty background.

Due to the beer engine pull stripping a lot of carbonation out of the beer, the mouthfeel is silky smoothness. Complex malt sweetness quickly transforms to to a hoppy bite. The sip starts with an almost coffee like flavor up front, moving to caramel and dark malts. Then, as the beer moves towards the back of the mouth, a pleasant piney and woody hop flavor and bitterness takes over. The lingering head is dense, creamy, and somewhat bitter

This is a very complex, flavorful, and interesting beer. Its rich malt overtones are nicely balanced by its hop character. This is a great beer to sit and appreciate when you're relaxing for the evening.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Brewday update.

     Brew day last yesterday went fairly well. Weather cooperated and I was able to have the garage door open all night and still be perfectly ok without a coat.  I did have a couple of mistakes, which considering how tired I have been lately does not surprise me.  First, I was about 45 minutes through the mash and then saw my bag of midnight wheat on the table, Doh.  I went ahead and added in the 1 lb of grains and let it mash for another 30 or so minutes. Sparging went well and got the boil up and running.  I decided to ax the perle additions of hops and just go with a 1oz addition of Willamette @ 60, and add one cinnamon stick at 60 minutes and one at 5 minutes.   The other mistake came into play when I forgot to add some brown sugar @ 10 minutes like I had planned.  Ah well, No worries as Ill just add some in secondary.

    The OG ended up at 1.074 which is ~ 68% efficient.  Not bad, but not great in my opinion.  I was using my new mash tun so that may have had something to do with it.  Wort has a nice cinnamon/nutmeg aroma and taste that is not overpowering at this current time.  Pitched the yeast, and currently 8 hours later it is already bubbling away.  I truly cannot wait for this beer to be finished.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brew day is here once again.

       As a homebrewer, there are two days that I love, and one that I despise.  One of those days is the brew day, and that would be today, well to be specific, tonight.  I must get through this thing called "work" first.  As I live in Nebraska, sometimes my brew days have to be in line with the weather, especially in winter.  Mother nature decided to be nice and today should be a nice 50 degrees.  Perfect for a brewing adventure.

      A few weeks ago I was talking to a buddy and somehow we got onto the topic of apple crisp, which prompted me to think about how much I really like apple crisp, and how much I really like beer.  One thing lead to another and I thought this would be a great experiment. I started off with a basic oatmeal stout recipe and went from there.  Final grain bill has come out to this:
  • 10 lbs Maris Otter
  • 1 lb Roasted Barley
  • 1 lb Pale Chocolate
  • 2 lbs Flaked Oats
  • 1 lb Midnight Wheat
  • 2 lbs Caramel 60L
     I very well may cut down on the roasted barley and caramel 60L before everything goes into my mash tun tonight but we will see.  As far as hops go, I will be using 1 oz of Willamette @ 60, .5 oz Perle @ 40, and .5 oz Perle @ 10.  This brings the IBUs to ~ 30 IBUs which is about right for the base style.  This would be where the whole "to style" things ends though, especially as this should be up around 7.5% which is well above most oatmeal stouts.  My mind keeps going through a few different variations for how I will be adding adjuncts but as of now this is what I have:

  • 1 lb lactose @ 10 minutes
  • 1 Cinnamon stick @ 60 minutes with the first hop addition
  • 1 tsp nutmeg @ 60 min.
  • 4 oz Brown sugar @ 10 minutes
  • (?) oz of frozen apple concentrate in secondary.
  • Depending on taste test - 1 more cinnamon stick in secondary.
   I plan to mash at 158 as I want this stout to have a nice creamy/thick mouthfeel.  OG should come out right around 1.084 and with using London ESB years should get down to  ~ 1.026.  Hopefully this beer turns out how I'm imagining it but sometimes as homebrewers(Or at least myself) we may get a bit overzealous about our beer. As I first stated, this is an experiment, and you will be along for the ride.  I will post again tonight with an update to how the brewing went.

Happy Brewing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Luck o' The Irish, or Unluck o' Le Moi...

So Saturday, February 2 was brew day for my Irish Red Ale. One of my favorite things to do is write new recipes and I was happy to do this when I started all grain brewing. New ideas, exploring what makes the style, and best of all, I get to mix base malts for new flavors rather than just settling for malt extract. Don't get me wrong, extract brewing is all fine and dandy and I did it as my main method of brewing up until recently. I have always wanted to do all grain because it gave me a better sense of control over my recipes, and a chance to do Pilsners, which I have yet to do. Getting back to the Irish Red, this is a style near and dear to me, feel the exposition coming?

Back in 2006, when I had first started brewing, I was loving everything about it. I decided that I wanted to make an Imperial Irish Red as my second brew. I tried to write a recipe, getting ideas from information online, etc. And when I went to my LHBS the owner talked me into changing up the recipe. At the time, he had a pseudo brew on site/ferment at your house sort of thing going on. So we brewed up his version of the beer, utilizing one kind of hop that I don't even remember. The beer was called Drunk Leprechaun, and ran about 7%abv, I think. When the beer was ready, I invited friends over for my Irish Red on St. Patrick's Day. Everyone loved it, I was proud of it (Even though it wasn't really my recipe.) and decided I would enter the competition the LHBS owner was holding in May. I stuck a case of bottles in the fridge and lagered it.

Ah, the old competitions. I thought all home brew competitions. For these competition the LHBS owner would rent out a space, and require that all entrants either have a keg to enter or a case of bottles, I thought this was the norm for home brew competitions. Then he would charge a fee at the door, and you would get a tasting glass. This made you a judge. People would pour in (get it?), get a tasting sheet, and try your beer. It's a lot of beer to give up, but it's also a lot of fun. And I got to hock my beer and tell people about it. People kept coming up to me and asking for my beer, telling me it was really good. I was excited. But sadly, this part of the story turns ugly. Several problems all happened as a result of this.

1. I was new to home brewing and didn't know the rules. At the end of the day I took a wine jug and filled it half way with 2 different beers, an imperial stout and a maple porter. This was a HUGE no-no and the owner of the home brew shop was pretty up set with me over this. To add to this, my GF had gone into the competition without paying and found herself a tasting glass, which looked bad but I had seen him admit two random girls without asking them to pay at the end of the competition.
2. My beer had won first place. I got $100 to the shop, and my beer would be brewed by the local brewpub that was re-opening! Alright! No, not alright. I lost the recipe, so we had to guess at the hops as it was the LHBS owner's red ale recipe with more malt extract. When my beer was done and on tap, my name wasn't on it at all. They just took the name Drunken Leprechaun and ran with it. I don't care now, but at the time I was very angry.
3. When I went to collect my $100, the owner just kept tabs on it himself and shorted me. I had only spent about $55 by my math, but I couldn't say anything because of the earlier jug of beer situation.

All in all, winning felt like losing this time. Let's move on from the sadness that was 2006 and into the happiness that is 2013. Brew day, what a weird one it was. Here is my recipe.

6 lb Marris Otter
4 lb Golden Promise
1 lb light Munich malt
1 lb Vienna malt

1oz UK Kent Goldings, 6.6%AAU for 60min
Irish moss @10 min.

1.5qt or water per pound, 1.5 times that for sparge.

My mash was a little odd, I ended up too low in the mash (140's) so I added 1 gallon of boiling water and brought it up to 152F and held it there for about an hour. In reality my target was 154F, but I only have so much control over cooling temp. That being said, it was overall one of the worst brew days I have ever had. The beer went fine, it was all of the other events that just killed it for me.

Besides my strike water being too low, something else had happened that day. Patty, my girlfriend, had found some coupons that were $7.00 off 5 Primo gallon water jugs of from Kroger, which in the long run would allow me to purchase the water for $0.39 a gallon after I used up the Primo brand water. Once I paid and got everything to the car, I was putting the water in my trunk and broke one of the 5 gallon jugs! I am sure the employee sitting on the bench had a good laugh at this, I would have. I managed to get it out while there were 3 gallons, but nonetheless, I still had to deal with the situation and spend $5.00 more on water. Once I got home I ran into another issue much later. I was walking into the garage and managed to kick our 2 cup, Pyrex measuring cup. I am pretty sure that's it for my problems. I should have taken more pictures to document the brew day, but I didn't, all I have is this picture of the boil.

At first I was a little nervous that I had made the beer too light by using neither roasted malt nor any crystal malt, but looking at the beer now, in the fermentor, things are looking up. I compared the SRM to a list and it looks a bit on the lighter side of the Irish Red Ale spectrum. I guess I should post a picture of my fermentors.

On the left: my Rainbow's End Irish Red, on the right: Xochiquetzal Imperial Stout, both are ready for secondary, which will happen tomorrow, if the gravity is right for each. If they are, then Xochiquetzal gets her   adjuncts and rainbow's end gets cold crashed. One last thing, here is our weird, second running beer.
Yeah, that's the old Battle Star Galactica on the TV and an Army of Darkness poster in the background! What of it? Second runnings of Xochiquetzal, 1lb of honey, 8oz of palm sugar and 8oz of brown sugar. It was boiled for 7 min with an oz of Galena hops, and 8 oz of hibiscus. Has a very tart/vinous red wine twang to it with a mild  malt finish. Mouth feel is medium to medium light. We are drinking the beer flat as it tastes that much like wine...and I ran out of CO2.  Until next time! Keep drinking it up! -Ryan Tarpley
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