Monday, October 31, 2011

Making a Hop Bag

Making bags on a sewing machine is almost as easy as falling out of bed. Hop bags can be used for a variety of things in brewing: grain bags, hop bags, filters or even a scrubby in a pinch. In a variety of sizes and shapes they can be quite useful for all home brewers: novice to grandmaster of the order of the wooden mash paddle.

The first step here is gathering the materials:
A yard+ of voile (fabric is measured in square yards)
white cotton thread (no need for dyes)
Butcher's string (ask your butcher)

Simple Bag

If you're making a simple bag cut a rectangle, roughly an inch longer in each direction then you want your bag to be. For the simplest bag possible take in inch from the short end of your rectangle fold pin and sew. Run your string through the folds you just created leaving 3 inches to either ends and knot off with a simple knot. Now pin the sides and sew up to the string, which you should push up against the lip. Be careful not to immobilize the string, sewing over it will immobilize it. Do not turn the bag outside in so all of your seams are on the inside; this isn't a beauty contest. Stitching whether by hand or on a machine is acceptable for making bags. Stitching on a machine takes a lot less time and works really well.

(Read more after the break.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cold Crashing

For my Citra Citrus Light IPA I wanted to present a naturally clear beer. I did not have any whirl flock tablets when I made it, no Irish moss, and I don't really want to mess with gelatin finings. What is a man to do? Cold Crash It.

This is actually pretty simple you just put your fermenter, secondary fermentor, keg, demijohn, conical, whatever and cool it to the mid 30's. The yeast get cold, they give up and go dormant. That's basically it, Then you bottle it. There should be enough dormant yeast to carbonate the beer once you bottle it.

In practice I've had trouble with this, I can't fit my fermentors into my food fridge. Never fear because you can keg a beer and counter pressure fill bottles. I always forget kegs are cold and hold beer. You can also secondary in a keg and just bottle normally although I imagine this it less than ideal given the ease of leaving the beer in a keg or counter pressure filling.

After 2 weeks in the refrigerator my beer is looking less hazy. I believe that more yeast and trub has settled because the flash penetrated further into the beer. It's darker at the top then the middle or the bottom. I'll be bottling this soon, and hoping for the best.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lambic #3 Brewday

As mentioned in my previous post on Lambic Brewing I had a vial of yeast I needed to use.

This featured the same brew schedule as My Other Lambics with a few changed details

The recipe is the same with one deviation. I used Czech Saaz hops which had been warm and set aside for a few months. They smelled hoppy but not really hoppy, not like when they were fresh. This is different then the oven aged hops which had a slightly toasted dried scent. I forgot my large brew bags at my apartment so I was forced to go without.

(read more after the break.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hop Profile: Citra Hop

In an effort to put more things on my blog I am going to post profiles of hops that I think I have a good handle on. This won't be as frequent as some of my other posts, recipes, processes, and such. I plan to only post on a hop when I've used it a few times, made beers showcasing the flavor, and had commercial examples featuring it as a dominant/single hop.

Citra Hop:
Northern Brewer defines/describes it as, "A very new American hop with parentage from Hallertau Mittelfruh, East Kent Goldings, and others. High alpha and strong tropical fruit aromas and flavors (think mango, papaya, and pineapple)."

While drinking it (Citra Pale):
I would say that the smell is strong and dank. The fruity scent is undeniably sweet. It is rich like mangoes or papayas. It also carries a rich wetness scent (dank basement) to deepen the aroma.

Thoughts about use:
An incredibly smooth bitterness. The IBU number Beersmith calculates and the number I'd guess are very far apart. I trust the alpha acid measurements, but I think the bitterness is just so smooth that the apparent bitterness is lower.

This is a hop I love to use. With so many hops boasting the desired 'citrus' flavor at this point I have to say Citra Hop is a man among boys in terms of intensity and flavor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Process: Bottling

I keg and bottle. Bottles are 100% more convenient for moving around; kegs are more convenient for everything else. To Bottle beer you have to clean and sanitize every bottle, add sugar, and cap. A lot can go wrong with this whole thing however the same care that you put into brewing under sanitary conditions should help you to bottle this under sanitary conditions. The purpose of this post it to walk you through everything I do to bottle a 1 gallon batch of beer. Bottling five gallon batches differs in a few ways which I'll touch on but won't detail.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Reason for Every Season.

It's not a coincidence that your favorite major brewery pumps out seasonal ales with various characteristics when they do. Before my beer enlightenment I questioned why someone would release a fresh hopped beer in the fall when I was looking for a wee heavy or an Oktoberfest. I lamented not having super special seasonal stouts released in the summers when I had the most time off from work. One day I had an epiphany about beer seasons.

Rather then simply breaking down the beer seasons I wanted to make specific points about tradition, crop harvests, and alcohol.

(read more after the break)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Belgian Single Review

My Belgian Single

Belgian Single Ale

Appearance: Tall and pale, Yellow/white, unmistakably belgian head with the charicteristically large bubbles and rocky foam head.

Aroma: Esters, and Breadiness, smooth charicteristic belgian scent. I could curl up for a nap with candle of this scent.

Flavor: Really soft flavors, as with the aroma. The low malt/low hop produced exactly what I wanted, a nice light, soft beer with no harsh or strong flavors. Very subtle and belgian, hints of bread, the yeast is apparent, just a soft lightly tart edge catches the back of the sip.

Mouth: Nice, I'm still dialing in the carbonation but the head is lasting and this is a nice way to pass the evening work hours with.

Overall: I am glad I made this. This is the kind of beer I can see pleasing a crowd. It could have been lighter, or a touch heavier. I just like it.

Rating: if I paid for this I'd rate it a A- for style. That said I wouldn't rush out to over pay for a belgian single or any other subdued pale ale. It was about 8 dollars in grain, and a dollar in hops, I am a fan.  If you figure 15 dollars in cost with a fresh pack of yeast, and 5 pints per gallon, that's .60 cents a glass. Charging 2 dollars a pint for this at a brewery would be like stealing (Profit = Good).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scottish Wee Heavy - Stout

A Scottish beers are traditionally sweet while maintaining a low presence of caramel malt flavors. These beers were sweetened by condensing and caramelizing a portion of the wort then adding back that syrup to the main batch.

This normally wouldn't be a problem on a large scale system; the process would be to reserve a gallon of first runnings, and use an extra gallon of sparge water. Things get more complicated with BIAB and 1 gallon batches. It was time to get creative. I've decided that this will be 2 worts: a wort comprised solely of 2 row pale malt, a second wort made from maris otter, biscuit malt, and roasted barley would follow.

(read more after the break)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pilot Batch Pale Ale

This was our first effort as all grain brewers, mistakes were made, but the beer is surprisingly drinkable. The inspiration for this one was simple, to make a beer we couldn't screw up.

Keep it simple stupid is great advice for your first all grain brew. Nothing imperial, nothing with crazy adjuncts, nothing with complex techniques, a simple low gravity beer with a manageable hops schedule. You're going to feel rushed, you're going to forget things, having everything ready beforehand and printing a brew sheet will help keep you focused and on task.

(read more after the break)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Beer Events - CBS Release

One of the first beers I had that blew my mind was Canadian Breakfast Stout from founders, this was a chance tapping at the founders black party in 2009. I got a taster after having my first black IPA and I was in love. I returned the next weekend and had two glasses, I brought a friend and we both agreed that CBS was without a doubt the best beer we'd ever had. This was an easy statement to make because we hadn't had many great beers prior to that. I know that it might sound silly to non beer geeks but I stalked that beer. I've only missed one chance to have it since that first sip and this weekend founders released bottled of it for the first time. I wasn't going to be denied.

(read more after the break.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Small Batch: Process

Even when I move into a house, hopefully within a year, I'll still be brewing small pilot batches, starters, experiments, etc. It's important to me to get my process down pat for this, and for my other brews so I can make the best beer every single time.

Step one: Sanitation
On my very first brew I learned something very important, clean then sanitize. I had only bought sanitizer and my friend came over and asked 'dude where's your cleaner?' I was left dumbfounded. For all batches this starts with cleaning(you can't sanitize large chunks of gunk). I mix a gallon of cleaner up right in my fermentor; 1 table spoon of cleaner to one gallon of water, it's perfect. after this has sat for a while I drain it into a bowl with the rest of my equipment to get that clean while I rinse my fermentor and refill it with water. Next after I've filled my fermentor most of the way up with water I put a pinch less than a 1/4 oz of Starsan in. The standard mix of Starsan is 1 oz to 5 gallons, so with a bit of math I know I need a touch less than 1/4 oz for 1 gallon. After about 20 minutes I drain the bowl where the equipment has been cleansing and dump about 3/4 of the sanitizer into the bowl. This sanitizer is reserved for later in my process.

(read more after the break)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Flanders Red Ale

With my East Coast Yeast in hand I set about brewing the Flanders ale of my dreams; a Flanders Red aged on tart cherries/sweet cherries. I want to have some cherry flavor when it's fermented and I find that tart cherries don't pack enough punch on their own in the "cherry" department. Also this cherry addition will be subject to how the Flanders tastes in a year or more, if it's tart to the extreme I'll probably blend the cherries 50/50 to give it that funk/fruit/tart edge. If the tart is right about perfect It'll be more like 75 tart/25 sweet. All Michigan cherries will give the beer a nice terrior next summer.

The start of this beer will be the yeast. ECY 02 has a profile that is "A unique blend of Saccharomyces, Brett, lacto & Pedio perfect for flemish reds and sour browns. Dry, sour, leathery and notes of cherry stone." I received this yeast in the mail on 9/10/11 and brewed the beer on 9/24/11 So the yeast is fresh and viable.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oak Barrel Substitutes

In reading about making lambics at home I came across several links to the work of Raj Apte on making a carboy into a barrel. In a few of the accounts they mentioned some problems with this method: that beer was being forced into the wood by pressures inside the carboy, that the wood expanded to crack the carboys because it expanded when it got wet, and that there was no way for pressure to escape the carboy.

I have designed this in response to those thoughts in hope of advancing the process of making carboys into barrels and making better lambics across home brewed America.

By presoaking the wood in water until it submerges my hope is that it won't expand very much once it is in contact with the beer. The Rubber liner is also designed to give the wood a little extra room to expand before the carboy is cracked. If pressure build up is a problem and beer is being forced up through the wood then simply adding a channel for air to escape and an airlock should solve that problem. Oxygen and CO2 should still be able to travel in and out through the wood while excess pressures will be dissipated by the air lock.

(read more after the break)