Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beer Photo of the Week - Chocolate Porter

It is just barely ready to go, but I cracked one anyway. Glad to see the slightly brown head, which is what I put the roasted barley in for. Bottom line is it's drinkable - tastes okay, like a typical porter with some extra roastiness, and some added coffee flavors from the chocolate. Additional conditioning should improve it. I can't detect any of the bourbon I put in. It also has a good color for a robust porter...

So I guess this is "Beer Photos of the Week"...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

At Long Last - The Tale of the IPA

I'm really not keeping this up like I want to, but sometimes you just can't. So here I am now; I finally got around to brewing my IPA on 01 February, aka Superbowl Sunday. I got much more out of my brewing experience that day than I did the Superbowl, which I tried to get officially re-named "Who Gives a Rat's Ass" since the Patriots weren't in it.

In the interest of keeping the learning curve steep, I stepped up to partial mashing. I was happy with how I handled the nuts and bolts of boiling, adding hops, cooling and racking, so I figured I'd up the difficulty.

First, the recipe (I make 6 gallons to end up bottling 5):

3.5 lbs American Pale Malt
1 lb Crystal Malt 20°L
0.5 lb Victory Malt
6 lbs Munton's Extra Light DME
0.75 oz Chinook 13%AA - 60 min boil
0.75 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - 60 min boil
0.75 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - 15 min boil (flavor)
0.5 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - end of boil (aroma)
0.75 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - Dry Hop (add to secondary)

Predicted OG is 1.066, 60 IBU (BU/GU ratio is 0.91 - pretty hoppy)

I've read some bad things about Chinook hops - too resiny, too piney, blah blah blah. I have used them in the past and found that if I stay under an ounce and make sure I have a good, vigorous boil, I get good results.

I mashed in a min-mash bucket that I lined with a 24" x 24" mesh bag. Once I mixed the grain and water I dumped them into the bag, covered the bucket and insulated it.

I used an old sweater to insulate the bucket. It did the trick - the mash pretty much held at 150° the whole time.

Mashing is easy. Just sit there and enjoy the starch conversion. Sparging sucks though. The general instructions stated to draw off the wort at a rate of 1 cup per minute while slowly adding hot (175°F) water on the top. Since I used a bucket there is no built-in sparge, so I had to slowly ladel the water on top. When I cracked the drain the grain bag was drawn into the drain valve, all but stopping up the flow. So getting 1 cup/min was a laughable chore. I was "left holding the bag" straight up and away from the bung the entire time so the wort could flow out.

My kingdom for a proper mash tun! The entire sparge lasted about an hour (with recircs and interruptions) so I guess I got it sort of kind of right. The water at the end of it all looked light but not too light (not that I have much experience to compare it to) so I don't think I got too many husky tannins in the wort.

When all was said and done, I collected 2.5 gallons of wort at SG 1.041. The goal was 3 gallons but I was out of patience and out of sparge water. The quick math tells me 102.5 GU, which when diluted to 3 gallons would have been an SG 1.034. Target would have been 3 gal at 1.036/7, so I can assume I came close to the sugar extraction I wanted. So I pumped the wort volume up to 6 gallons, began heating and carried on as normal.

Cooling once again went on in a snow bank - and it took way too long. I haven't detected any DMS in my latest sample, so I guess I'm okay, but I'm sure the stuff will be hazy as heck. I compensated with malt during the boil and water after transfer to get as close to a 1.066 OG as possible. Of course I forgot to measure "final" OG so I'll just assume I'm in the ballpark (within .003). Fermentation got a fast start, and blowoff was noisy and frequent for several days.

Happiness is a blow off tube full of yeast...that box contains the Chocolate Porter in secondary. Ten days later I transferred to secondary.

The weight on my hydrometer is uneven so it doesn't float straight up and down. SG was in the vicinity of 1.016 at transfer, so right now the beer is in the low-mid 6% ABV range. It tasted great, too. A good pale ale taste, with some of the toastiness of the Victory Malt, with serious but not out of control bitterness. An evident citrus/grapefruit character to the bitterness.

I'll be keeping the beer in secondary for around three weeks, the last two of which it will be dry-hopped, and possibly oaked as I found some sweet-looking French oak chips at my local homebrew shop. It's a bit cloudy, so I plan on fining with some gelatin before bottling. I still don't think that will be enough to eliminate haze completely. To remedy this, I have finally purchased a wort chiller and will also pay much more attention to racking the wort off the break post-boil instead of just transferring as much as I can. That method will get tested tomorrow when I brew my next batch.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beer Photo of the Week

If only a Man O'War could sail the seas of Märzen Rauchbier...water through the gun ports might have actually been welcomed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chocolate Porter - Making Landfall

It's time to catch up from the early neglect of this "new" blog, now that my life allows it. Even though I have not been able to blog the progress (until now) things are chugging along okay - the Chocolate Porter is bottled and cellared, and the IPA is in the last few days of primary fermentation. My brew days are taking longer than I would like them to, and I'm not working on the dates I want to, but such is the way of life with a family and small children.

The first recipe is near completion - sort of like a ship making landfall. You can see the destination, but you are not there. The right combination of wind and tide is still needed to reach port. Even if a coast is well-charted, there is always the risk of running up on the shoals, whether by human error or force of nature.

I bottled the porter last night, but the process actually started this past Saturday, when I added the final dose of chocolate to the beer. Resisting the urge to roast the cocoa beans, I ground them fresh. It was originally recommended that I soak them in vodka for 15 min or so to sterilize them. That was an issue, as I was out of vodka. I used a substitute.

In all, I added about 6 oz of bourbon to the beans. Why? It seemed right. About 60 hours later, I bottled the beer. As I'm doing this (or at least part of it) as a gift for my father, I got some growlers that I can put some customized labels on. They'll feature a goofy picture of him or something like that. The rest of the bottles I needed I made up from what I had in storage in my garage - some 16 oz swing-top bottles and a case of 12 oz bottles. I had dug the bottles out from the garage the night before, and there's an interesting story in there as well, that I'll tell some other day.

Before I primed, I took final gravity. It measured 1.015. That's kind of high - I just barely got 70% attenuation. Ideally I would want to hit 1.013/1.012, to get me at about 5% ABV. As it stands, it is 4.8% ABV. A bit on the low side (technically below the threshhold) for a robust porter, though a 1.015 FG is "within spec" for one. Maybe something to be tweaked the next time I brew it, but I'll wait and taste the finished product first. To keep carbonation on the low side, I then primed the 5 gallons of "new beer" with 3.6 oz of light DME, using the priming guidelines from Randy Mosher's The Brewer's Companion.

I. Hate. Bottling. It takes a long time, it always seems awkward to me moving between filling, topping off, capping, back to filling, etc. Still, if I wish to enjoy the beer I need to do it right, so I was as meticulous and clean as I could be. One of my next steps is to start kegging. When all was said and done, I had three 1/2 gallon growlers, 24 12-oz bottles, and six swing-tops.

First test is in a couple of weeks; then I'll know if I made it safely into port or took a wrong turn and ended up on the rocks. It still tastes okay, but I've never had an easy time predicting final taste by tasting what I have at bottling.