Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hop Harvest 2015

Kraemer Brew experienced its first true hop harvest this fall. And what a harvest!

After losing two plants (R.I.P. willamette and magnum) and only reaping a few handfuls last year, I wasn't sure what to expect.

The cascade plant climbing up the western corner of the deck and the chinook plant along the western fence did spectacularly. Both were extremely prolific, especially the cascade.

Harvesting throughout early September -- and after drying the cones -- I pulled in nearly 2 lbs of cascade and just over 1 lb of chinook. Here are the exact weights:
  • 1 lb 14 oz Cascade
  • 1 lb 3 oz Chinook
I can't wait to use these in a mid-winter IPA or pale ale to really get a sense of their character!

Meanwhile, the centennial plant, climbing up the eastern corner of the deck, and the fuggle plant in the corner of the western fence, also did well. However, neither receive as much sunlight, so it's no surprise that they were not as bountiful.

The centennial cones were the first to be ready for picking. The fuggle were the last. Since both resulted in a limited supply of cones, I didn't bother weighing the finished product. Since then, I used both to dry-hop a cider in late November.

At that time -- after spending a few months in a freezer -- a had roughly 0.25 oz fuggle and 0.75 oz centennial.

Planting, Care, and Harvesting

Looking back through my notes, I see that I failed to blog about the initial planting and experience last year. Here's a quick summary to bring you up to speed.

I found this article by Brewing Techniques to be straightforward and helpful.

Planting. I located places along our fence line and deck to allow the hop shoots to climb and receive adequate sunlight. Since Madison's soil is largely thick clay, for each hop rhizome I dug out roughly a 2' x 1' hole and replaced it with a mix of compost and silt. This allows for proper drainage and space for the root to expand. After filling in the holes, I planted the rhizomes just below the top layer of soil, maybe an inch deep and gently patted the soil down, being careful not to compress.

I planted in late April and within 3 weeks had my first few shoots.

Care. Once the shoots were 6-12 inches in length, I assisted their climb by wrapping them around twine tied to the top of the fence or deck and staked near the plant. I then selected the 3 dominant shoots of each plant and prunes back the rest.

We had a warm summer last year, so I water every 2-3 days for the first month or so, until I felt that the plants were self sustaining. From there, I pinched off leaves near the ground to help prevent disease up the plant and continued to guide the vines by wrapping them up and along the fence and deck posts.

This past spring and summer, I did almost no watering. Aside from once again selecting 2-3 shoots, pruning back the rest, and assisting their climb up the twine, I did almost no work to care for the plants.

Harvesting. I waited until late August to begin regularly checking the cones to determine if they were ready for harvesting. The centennial hops began to feel dry and papery first, with a few turning a lighter shade of green to brown before I decided to pick.

Cascade and chinook came due in early September. Rather than cutting the bines, I methodically picked those cones that felt ready to harvest. I did this over the course of about a week. I then left the bines until later in the fall to cut them down to the ground.

The fuggle hops were the last to be ready to harvest.

Drying and Freezing. As I picked the hops, I moved them to our basement and spread them out over a few large window screens. I used a box fan to direct air across the hops to help them dry more quickly. After three or four days, the cones felt dry and papery enough to package.

I stuffed as many hops as possible into gallon sized ziplock freezer bags and then squeezed out the air by rolling the bags closed and using a straw. Not as effective for long term storage as a food saver vacuum sealer, but should keep the hops usable until I can make a hoppy beer this winter.

I packed the bags into our large chest freezer until then.

Final thoughts. Growing hops is easy. The plants require some loving care the first season as they establish themselves. But I did very little the second season to maintain them and still wound up with a nice harvest. Any homebrewer who has yard space should plant hops!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Belgian Quadruple | Meditation 32

Brew date: Sept. 18, 2015
#42 - 6 gal

I often find brewing to be a meditative experience. Spending the day outside, just enjoying the process and taking in the natural scene from my driveway. Apples quietly dropping from our tree. Birds chirping. The occasional passerby. Peaceful. A great way to kick off my birthday weekend and the perfect setting for this beer.

I've wanted to brew a Belgian quadruple ever since my first taste in 2007 at Brasserie V in Madison -- a great place for discovering Belgian and other European beers. The recipe is loosely inspired by several that I found, including clones for St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Westvleteren 12.

Brewing this batch did come with difficulties. The week leading up to brew day, I dutifully made a yeast starter, but to little visible effect. After a couple of days, I purchased another White Labs vial and added it to the starter, again with seemingly little effect. Finally, I pitched a pack of Wyeast 3787 Trappist yeast directly to the wort. It's now fermenting away, but I'm still not sure if that's due to the White Labs starter or the Wyeast pack.

Moreover, a hose slipped at the end of chilling and whirlpooling, causing a loss of almost a gallon of wort. Extremely unmeditative. I need to start using clamps to keep the hose in place.

10 lb Pilsner malt (Avangard)
6 lb Pale ale malt (Briess)
8 oz Aromatic (Dingemans)
4 oz Special B (Dingemans)
4 oz Debittered black malt (Dingemans)

1 oz Northern brewer (7% pellet) (60)
0.25 oz Fuggle (5.3% pellet) (60)
1 t Irish moss (15)
1 lb Dark candi syrup 180L (10)
1 lb Medium candi syrup 90L (10)
0.5 lb Light candi sugar (10)
1 oz Styrian golding  (3.7% pellet) (3)
1 oz Hersbrucker (2% pellet) (3)

1.8L White Laps 500 Trappist ale starter w/ two vials
1 pack Wyeast 3787 Trappist high gravity

5.25 gal filtered
5 gal RO
4 g Gypsum
Profile calculator

Mash in 6.25 gal @ 130F
Protein rest @ 125F (15)
Sac rest @ 150F (30)
Sac rest @ 156F (30)
Mash out @ 168F (10)
Batch sparge 4 gal
Boil (75)

OG: 1.092
FG: 1.023
ABV: 9.15%
IBU: 28
Efficiency: 70%

1st running: 4 gal @ 1.084
Preboil: 8 gal @ 1.069
OG: 5.5 gal @ 1.104
Add 1 gal sparge water to sac rest to cool to 156F
Lost ~1gal when hose slipped out of boil kettle during whirlpool

Chill to 70F and pitch
Ferment at 66F
Keep below 72F and above 64F

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pumpkin Porter | Peter Peter Porter Eater #3 and Brett version

Brew date: Sept. 18, 2015
#40 - 4.5 gal and #41 - 2 gal 

Spent my birthday weekend in meditative-brewing bliss: Two batches, three beers. First up, a split-batch pumpkin porter.

I've made different iterations of this beer over the years, but for this recipe, I settled on a slightly lower ABV, reduced the IBUs and black malt, and added debittered malt, including kiln coffee malt which I have never used before.

My aim was to emphasize the roasted character without subjecting the drinker to too much bitterness, which bordered on astringency the last time I made this. (With the higher IBUs it was more a black ale than a porter.)

I pulled about 2 gallons of the wort near the end of the boil, just before adding the spices. I chilled this separately and pitched a vial of WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii. This is my first attempt at a brett beer, so this is largely an experiment. I'll allow it to ferment out entirely before deciding if I want to try blending with another beer or bottling on it's own.

There's a fair amount of literature out there about English ales, especially porters, relying on brett for at least some of their character. And I think this beer base could lend itself nicely. If it doesn't turn out as I hoped, I can always rack something else onto the nice brett yeast cake that I now have going in my 3 gallon glass carboy.

I am a little concerned that I have too much head space (almost 1 full gallon), but I'm hoping the pellicle that formed will prevent oxidation and the creation of pumpkin porter vinegar. Not my idea of appetizing.

12 lb 2-row (Briess)
2 lb  6-row (Briess)
12 oz Black malt
8 oz Caramel 40L
8 oz Debittered black malt
7 oz Kiln coffee malt
5 oz Chocolate malt
32 oz Pumpkin (canned)

1 oz Hallertau (2.7% pellet) (60)
1 oz Cascade (7.1% pellet) (60)
0.25 oz Fugle (5.3% pellet) (60)
0.5 oz Hallertau (2.7% pellet) (15)
1 t Irish moss (15)
0.5 t Allspice (3)
0.5 t Cinnamon (3)
0.5 t Nutmeg (fresh) (3)
1.5 L Wyeast 1028 London ale, and smack pack of 1028

Brewer's Friend calculator profile
5 gal filtered
5 gal RO
5 g Gypsum
3 g Calcium chloride
1 g Epsom
Add 0.5 gal filtered water near end of boil to reach target OG

Mash in 6 gal @ 165F
Sac rest @ 154F (60)
Batch sparge 4 gal
Boil (60)
Chill to 66F

OG: 1.068
FG: 1.017
ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 36
Efficiency: 75%

1st running: 2.75 gal @ 1.090
2nd running: 5.25 gal @ 1.047
Preboil: 8 gal @ 1.066
Add 0.5 gal filtered water
OG: 1.070

Chill to 70F and pitch
Put ice packs on carboy
Ferment at 68-70F in first 24 hrs
Ferment at 66F

Brett Pumpkin Porter
#41 - 2 gal

Pulled two gallons of wort prior to adding spices. Chilled to 70F.
1 vial White Labs 645 Brettanomyces Claussenii

Monday, October 26, 2015

Black IPA: Bottled

Bottle date: Aug. 5, 2015

Desired CO2: 2.3 vol (5.25 gal @ 60F)

106 g Corn sugar
1.5 c Black IPA

1 gal of Black IPA left over. Decided to bottle with cacao nibs.

6 g Corn sugar
2 oz Water
0.25 oz Cacao nibs

Black IPA: Dry Hop

Dy hop date: July 28, 2015


1 oz Centennial (9.0% pellet)
1 oz Simcoe (12.3% pellet)
1 oz Chinook (13.1% pellet)
0.25 oz Cascade (7.1% pellet)
0.25 oz Columbus (15.6% pellet)

Black IPA

Brew date: July 12, 2015
#39 - 6.5 gal

Getting to this entry very very late. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about the brew day. Efficiency was much higher than expected. I added water to dilute OG and increase batch size.

Future lesson: Increase brewery efficiency for any beer under 8% ABV.

My first use of blackprinz malt. Really nice subtle roasted flavor, that came out in the finished product.

10 lb 2-row (Briess)
5 lb Pale ale
0.5 lb Caramel 60L
12 oz Debittered black malt
7 oz Blackprinz
3 oz Dark chocolate malt

0.5 oz Simcoe (12.3%, pellet) (FWH)
0.5 oz Chinook (13.1%, pellet) (FWH)
0.5 oz Columbus (15.6%, pellet) (60)
0.75 oz Cascade (7.1, pellet) (5)
0.25 oz Columbus (5)
0.5 oz Chinook (5)
0.5 oz Simcoe (5)

Fermcap (60)
1 t Irish moss (15)
0.5 t Yeast nutrient (10)
1.5 L Wyeast 1056 American ale yeast starter

1 oz Centennial (9.0% pellet) (DH)
1 oz Simcoe (DH)
1 oz Chinook (DH)
0.25 oz Cascade (DH)
0.25 oz Columbus (DH)

Mash in 6 gal @ 163F
Sac rest @ 152F (60)
Mash out @168 (10)
Batch sparge 4.5 gal (10)
Boil (60)

OG: 1.067
FG: 1.017
SRM: 29.66
ABV: 6.6%
IBU: 71.7
Efficiency: 75%

5 gal RO
5.5 gal Filtered
8 g Gypsum
Water profile

1st run: ~3.5 gal @ 1.091
2nd run: 4 gal @ 1.043
Preboil: 7.5 gal @ 1.067
Added 0.75 gal filtered water @ 15 min
Added 1 gal filtered water @ chill
OG: 1.069, 7 gal

Chill to 66/68F and pitch
6 pm that day - 68/70, add 1 gal cold water to tub and cover fermenter with shirt.
7/15 - Temp at 66F. Remove from water.
7/28 - Dry hop

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Heart Full of Black Russian Imperial Stout with cacao Tasting Notrs

Appearance: Deep brown to black. Nice, very light tan head. Over carbonated, but bubbles subside quickly.

Aroma: Not much at first, but more cacao chocolate as it warms. Perhaps some whiskey, but very very remote.

Taste: Over carbonated. Sweetly dark chocolate, some caramel goodness. Some alcohol warmth at end of palate. Nice bitter balance against the residual sweetness of the malt.

Final Thoughts: I wish I had dialed in the carbonation better, but I like the flavor overall. Definitely a sipper. Really opens up as it warms in the hand. Big chocolate flavor without being too sweet. Finishes warm. I still like the base RIS beer better.

Heart Full of Black Russian Imperial Stout with cacao Tasting Notrs

Appearance: Deep brown to black. Nice, very light tan head. Over carbonated, but bubbles subside quickly.

Aroma: Not much at first, but more cacao chocolate as it warms. Perhaps some whiskey, but very very remote.

Taste: Over carbonated. Sweetly dark chocolate, some caramel goodness. Some alcohol warmth at end of palate. Nice bitter balance against the residual sweetness of the malt.

Final Thoughts: I wish I had dialed in the carbonation better, but I like the flavor overall. Definitely a sipper. Really opens up as it warms in the hand. Big chocolate flavor without being too sweet. Finishes warm. I still like the base RIS beer better.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Lost Dog IPA: Tasting Notes

Appearance: Sunburst amber blending to light orange at the edges. Nice white head with great sustaining lacing.

Aroma: Mango and sweet orange citrus, with a whiff of pine. Some other light fruit. Maybe mandarin or blood orange.

Taste: Slight sweetness which quickly fades to a crisp citrus bitterness. Not tongue-curlingly bitter, but definitely refreshing. Medium bodied.

Final Thoughts: Taco, you beautiful (doggy) bitch! Extremely pleased with how this IPA turned out. While it has more sweet citrus hop character than fruit, the bouquet is extremely pleasing. A great hop profile, which I attribute to the galaxy hops. The bitterness is perfectly balanced by a light sweetness and the overall effect is crisp and refreshing. And the lacing: superb.

I want to share this with everyone (... and no one).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Saison de Rye: Tasting Notes

Appearance: Light golden color, clean with perhaps a very very slight haze -- as to be expected with the style. Nicely carbonated, with a thin white head that lasts the whole drinking experience.

Aroma: Fruity with that classic saison, farmhouse aroma.

Taste: Lightly fruity with that great saison, farmhouse flavor. A very slight, bready sweetness lingers throughout, but quickly gives way to a pleasant and refreshing hop bitterness. The spiciness of the rye also comes through nicely, but doesn't overwhelm. Each sip finishes dry. Medium bodied.

Final Thoughts: I really nailed this one! Very reminiscent of Door County Brewing's Biere de Siegle, which is exactly what I was going for. In fact, I'd go so far as to call this a clone recipe. Overall, the beer is a great balance of lightly fruity aroma and flavor that is refreshingly bitter. Right on style. I'm hard-pressed to think of a single thing I'd change, except that I wish I made more!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lost Dog IPA - 1st Annual Brew and Smoke

Kicking off Brew and Smoke. Mashing in.
Brew date: June 6, 2015
#38 - 6.5 gal

What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. - Conan the Barbarian

I'd also add beer and meat to that list. These - and crushing your enemies - were the inspiration for the 1st Annual Brew and Smoke.

My buddy Eric brought over his meat smoker and cooked up some great ribs, while I worked on brewing an IPA for mid-summer. Friends Wes and Kevin mostly hung around to eat and drink. (Not that I blame them.) Stephanie and Alyssa joined us later for dinner and to play with the baby.

We had a beautiful summer day. So beautiful, in fact, that we were joined by a pair of runaway dogs. I'm not sure what the other one was named, but I corralled "Taco." (Great name for a dog.) They had come a long way, at least a mile or two, according to the frazzled owner. The smell of delicious ribs acted as a magnet, no doubt.

Overall, the ribs turned out great, and brewing went without incident. Let's do this again next year!

Lost Dog IPA

Having lately sampled a number of IPA's with more tropical notes (we supped on Karben4's Fantasy Factory during the brew session) I wanted to emphasize the same in this recipe. The classic citrus and pine will still be there, but I hope to also draw out other notes like pineapple and mango. All of this provided a great excuse to use a few hop varieties I haven't yet worked with: Galaxy, topaz, and falconer's flight.

I decided to forgo any mid-to-late boil hop additions and strictly first wort hop (galaxy and topaz) with a very small amount at boil (simcoe). Then round out the end by adding the majority at or just before whirlpool. I'll dry-hop with another generous assortment for a week or so before bottling.

Kettle leftovers.
10 lb 2-row malt (Briess)
6 lb Pale ale malt (Briess)
0.5 lb Carapils (Briess)
0.5 lb Caramel 40L (Briess)
0.5 oz Topaz (16.5%, pellet) (FWH)
0.5 oz Galaxy (15%, pellet) (FWH)
0.25 oz Simcoe (12.3%, pellet) (60)
0.5 Falconer's Flight Blend (9.9%, pellet) (5)
0.5 oz Chinook (13.1%, pellet) (5)
0.5 oz Galaxy (15%, pellet) (5)
0.25 oz Simcoe (12.3%, pellet) (5)

1 t Irish moss (15)
1.5 L Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast starter

Dry Hop:
0.5 oz Topaz (16.5%, pellet)
0.5 Falconer's Flight Blend (9.9%, pellet)
0.5 oz Simcoe (12.3%, pellet)
0.5 oz Chinook (13.1%, pellet)
1 oz Galaxy (15%, pellet)
0.75 oz Centennial (8.7%, pellet)
Brew buddy. Thanks for helping!

Brewer's Friend calculator profile
5.5 gal filtered water
5 gal RO water
8 g Gypsum

Mash in 6 gal @ 162F
Sacc rest @ 151F (60)
Mash out (10)
Batch sparge 4.5 gal (10)
Boil (60)

OG 1.070
FG: 1.018
ABV: 6.95%
IBU: 69
Brew buddy. Not as helpful.

First runnings: 3.5 gal @ 1.085
Pre-boil: 7.5 gal @ 1.063
OG: 1.074
5.5 gal collected

Chill to 64F
First 24 hr: Free rise to 66F. Warm to 68F.
6/7/15: Temp risen to 70/72F at 3 pm. Begin to chill.
6/8/15: Temp at 68F at 7 am. Remove chill and maintain.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saison de Rye [bottled]

Bottle date: May 3, 2015

Saison de Rye
Desired CO2: 2.3 vol (4 gal @ 60F)
OG: 1.009

  • 81 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c filtered water

DCB Saison de Rye
(Desired CO2: 2.3 vol (2 gal @ 60F)
OG: 1.006

  • 40 g corn sugar
  • 0.5 c filtered water

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saison de Rye

Brew date: March 28, 2015
#37 - 4.5 gal and 2.25 gal

About a month ago, I picked up a six pack of Door County Brewing's Biere de Siegle, more or less on a whim. It really knocked my socks off and is the inspiration for this beer. I was already considering doing a saison for my next batch, and this sealed the deal.

Besides doing a lot of drinking sampling to get the flavor profile just right, I found this great article which breaks down the grist ratios of Biere de Siegle. In addition, I did a fair amount of reading up on saison as a style, including posts from Growler magazine, BYO, and BeerSmith. I also found this BeerSmith video podcast on saison to be tremendously helpful.

Bottle Yeast Capture

Besides the article on Biere de Siegle, I decided to try capturing yeast from some of the bottles I was already drinking sampling. I built up the culture over two weeks and by the time I made my final starter, I had at least 1.5 L ready to rock. I pitched this in just over 2 gallons of wort. I'm excited to see how it compares to Wyeast's Belgian saison strain. Unfortunately, I'm only set up to warm one carboy, so I selected the Wyeast to receive this treatment. Until I know how the DCB strain ferments, I want to make sure the larger of the two batches ferments closer to the temperature profile.

Insulated Mash Kettle

After the wide temperature swings I experienced during my last batch, I outfitted my mash kettle with a few layers of reflectix insulation wrap. It did a great job holding my temperature, even during a prolonged mash. This stuff will be invaluable next winter! (Note: Do not attempt to heat the kettle while the wrap is on. The burner
will melt it.)

Brew Day

Given the substantial amount of rye (~30%), I opted to do a protein rest and added a half pound of rice hulls to prevent a stuck mash (it was still a pretty slow runoff on brew day).

Brew day went long due to slow mash run off, pump problems (I had to take it apart), cinched water hoses, and a slipped tube during whirlpool. This was on top of a protein rest and and extended mash. By day's end, I was pushing 8 hours -- set up to cleaned up. WAY too long.

On the plus side, it was a clear and comfortably warm spring day and I had my dad over for company.

11 lb Pilsen malt (Dingemans)
2.5 lb Rye malt (Briess)
1.5 lb Flaked rye (Briess)
0.5 lb Vienna (Best Malz)
0.25 lb White wheat malt (Briess)
0.5 lb Rice hulls
0.5 oz Styrian goldings (4.5%, pellet) (60)
0.75 oz Crystal (3.8%, pellet) (60)
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings (5.7%, pellet) (60)
0.25 oz Fuggle (5.3%, pellet) (60)
1 t Irish moss (15)
0.5 oz Styrian goldings (4.5%, pellet) (15)
1.5 L Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison starter
1.5 L Door County Brewing - Biere de Siegle yeast starter

Water profile from Brewer's Friend calculator:
5 gal filtered water
5 gal RO water
7 g Gypsum

OG: 1.065
FG: 1.016
ABV: 6.37%
IBU: 30

Mash in 6 gal @ 129F
Protein rest @ 122F (15)
Sacc rest @ 148F (90)
Mash out (10)
Batch sparge 4 gal (10)
Boil (60)

First running: 2 gal @ 1.088
Second running: 5 gal @ 1.048
OG: 1.067*
*Added 0.8 gal filtered water 10 minutes before end of boil. Original gravity was 1.073. 

Chill to 66F and pitch
First 24 hrs - 64-66F
Warm to 73F (range 71-73)
Warm to 74F on 3/31 (range 72-74)

Fermentation #2:
Chill to 66F and pitch
Ferment at room temp 64-66F

Monday, April 6, 2015

Heart Full of Black Russian Imperial Stout [bottled]

Bottle date: March 31, 2015

74 g corn sugar
1.5 c filtered water

Desired CO2: 2.2 vol (4 gal @ 60F)
FG: 1.023

Transferred remaining 1 gallon to secondary on 4 oz cacao nibs for a few weeks.

Heart Full of Black Russian Imperial Stout

Brew day: Feb. 14, 2015
#36 - 5.5 gal

I picked a damn cold day to brew this one -- single digits, blustery. It wreaked havoc on my mashing temperatures: One minute I'm reading a solid 153F for my sac rest, I walk away for 10-15 minutes and it's plummeted to 135F. Lots of tweaking all afternoon. And given the mash thickness, heating the kettle was also hard to gauge. I would get temperature spikes up to 170F if I wasn't constantly stirring during heating. Regardless of all this work, my efficiency was still WAY off.

I also recently saw this post about tips for brewing big beers, which recommends accounting for a lower original gravity once you start getting north of 1.080... Shit. I wish I had known all of this during the planning stages of this batch.

15.25 lb Maris Otter (Muntons)
1 lb Roasted Barley (Briess)
1 lb Caramel 120L (Briess)
1 lb Chocolate malt (Briess)
0.75 lb Caramel 40L (Briess)
0.5 lb Flaked Oats (Briess)
0.25 lb Black malt (Briess)
1 oz Northern brewer (10.6%, pellet) (60)
0.5 oz Columbus (15.2%, pellet) (60)
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings (5.0%, pellet) (15)
1 t Irish moss (15)
1.5 L starter 2 pk Wyeast 1028 London Ale
5 gal RO water
5 gal filtered water
5 g gypsum
5 g baking soda
4 g calcium chloride
Mash in 6 gal at 166F
Sac rest @ 153F (60)
Mash out @ 168F (5)
Batch sparge 4 gal (10)
Boil (60)
Chill to 60F
OG: 1.094
FG: 1.023
ABV: 9.3%
IBU: 66
1st runnings: 3.5 gal @ 1.093
2nd runnings: 1.040
Pre-boil: 6.5 gal @ 1.070
OG: 5 gal @ 1.081

Pitch @ 57F
Allow to rise 8 hrs and heat to 64F in furnace room
Peak fermentation temp hit 70-72F over 24 hrs
Chill to 60F for 12 hrs in laundry room
Warm to 63-65F and move to furnace room

Monday, March 30, 2015

Munchen Marzen by March [bottled]

Bottle date: March 20, 2015


  • 114g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c filtered water
Desired CO2: 2.4 vol (5.25 gal @ 60F)

FG: 1.014

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Is the Boy Blond? Belgian Blonde Ale [bottled]

Bottle date: Jan. 23, 2015


  • 92 g corn sugar
  • 1.75 c filtered water
Desired CO2: 2.5 vol (4 gal @ 60F)
FG: 1.008

Belgian Ardennes Blonde

  • 34 g corn sugar
  • 0.66 c filtered water
Desired CO2: 2.5 vol (1.5 gal @ 60F)
FG: 1.010

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Water Chemistry

In preparation for my imperial stout, I spent substantial time researching water chemistry. It's been on my homebrewing to-do list for quite some time, and if I was going to spend several hours outside in the dead of winter working on a big beer, I wanted it to knock my socks off -- no astringency, not too bitter, etc.

In the end, I decided to use the Brewer's Friend - Brewing Water Chemistry Calculator. It allows you to save your results via a link. Here's what I ultimately used for the stout: I input my water profile from the City of Madison's utility, then did a 50/50 split with filtered tap water and RO water from the store for both my mash and sparge.

Madison has very hard water, but I'm not exactly sure what my end profile is since I have an Aquasana filter that supposedly leaves in the important minerals, but strips out the chlorine and other harmful chemicals. The line also goes through my water softener. So, for now, it's all kind of an experiment.

Although Beer Tools Pro does include the ability to adjust water chemistry, I opted not to use it because the program doesn't breakdown the necessary residual alkalinity range for beer styles or provide any information on the sulfate/chloride ratio -- which tells you if the beer is balanced, bitter, or malty.

I found dealing with pH the most confusing aspect. Mash pH and Residual Alkalinity.

Other Resources

Really handy, straight-forward information on the brewing salts, alkalinity range for beer styles, and how to emphasize certain characteristics,

Found Bobby from NJ's YouTube video to be helpful, He recommended downloading the water calculator from However, the updated version 3.0 on the website doesn't seem to contain some of the handy options found in version 2.0.

Bru'n Water was recommended to me by my LHBS, It is extremely complex detailed. Thankfully, Accidentalis Brewing blog has a detailed walk-through of how to setup the calculator, I'll have to take time to read it in the future.

Of course, there's information from John Palmer,

And from the Beersmith Brewing Blog, also has some great info,

Brewing with Madison Water,

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Is the Boy Blond? Belgian Blonde Ale

Brew day: Jan. 2, 2015
#35 - 6 gal

Second batch of the day: A Belgian blonde ale. The recipe takes inspiration from this article in BYO.

Fermented 4.5 gal with the 1388 Belgian Strong yeast and 1.75 gal with the 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast.

  • 11.25 lb Pale ale malt (German - Avangard)
  • 0.5 lb Caramel 10L (Briess)
  • 0.25 lb Flaked wheat (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb Light Belgian candi rock sugar (10)
  • 0.5 oz East Kent Goldings (7.2%, pellet) (60)
  • 0.25 oz Liberty (4.5%, pellet) (60)
  • 2 oz Saaz (3.6%, pellet) (15)
  • 1 t Irish moss (10)
  • Yeast nutrient
  • 1 L Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong yeast starter
  • Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast, 2nd gen, Sept 2014
  • 5 gal filtered water, 5 gal RO water
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.26%
IBU: 24
Efficiency: 75%

  • Mash in 6 gal @ 158F
  • Sac rest @ 150 (60)
  • Mash out (10)
  • Batch sparge 3.75 gal
  • Boil (60)
1st runnings: 4 gal @ 1.057
2nd runnings: 3.5 gal @ 1.022
Pre-boil: 7.5 gal @ 1.040
OG: 1.055

Chill to 68F and pitch
Ferment @ 63F room temp

Munchen Marzen by March

Brew day: Jan. 2, 2015
#34 - 6 gal

The plan: Ring in the New Year by brewing two batches of beer. What could be better?!

What actually happened: I spent all day quivering on my couch thanks to a wicked bout of food poisoning. (Pro tip: Check the expiration date on your olives before you make a martini. I had one to celebrate NYE. Instead, I got reacquainted with my bathroom floor.)

While illness ruined my initial plan, the wife gave me clearance to brew the following day. (No small feat since we were also dealing with a sick baby.)

Moderately cold, grey winter day. My dad and brother stopped by for a short time to hang out and watch the festivities.

First up: A marzen. One of the few good things about a Wisconsin winter is using the cold weather to lager. The floor in my laundry room is hovering around 53-55F, while my garage is around 35F. Perfect. The recipe takes inspiration from this BYO article, and two from the AHA website, Marzen and Oktoberfest.

Water chemistry: This beer also marks my first real foray into adjusting my water chemistry. Beer Tools Pro contains several listings, including one for Munich.

Best practice: Put five gallons of water in each of two coolers in the garage two days before brewing to super-cool the water for chilling. Add large bag of ice to chill for lagers.

  • 6 lb Pale ale malt (German - Avangard)
  • 5 lb Munich malt (Dingemans)
  • 1.5 lb Munich 10L (Briess)
  • 1 lb Munich 20L (Briess)
  • 2 oz Tettnanger (2.4%, pellet) (60)
  • 1 oz Saaz (3.6%, pellet) (30)
  • 0.75 oz Liberty (4.5%, pellet) (10)*
  • 1 t Irish moss (10)
  • 3.3 L Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast starter
*Accidentally added 0.5 oz Liberty hops at 30 min. No Liberty aroma hop addition at 10 min to adjust for added bitterness.

OG: 1.056
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.47%
IBU: 26.2
Efficiency: 75%

  • 2.5 gal filtered water
  • 7.5 gal RO water
  • 7 g calcium chloride, 2 g baking soda, 1 g epsom salt
  • Mash in 6 gal @ 128F
  • Protein rest @ 122F (20)
  • Sac rest @ 152F (60)
  • Mash out
  • Batch sparge 4 gal
  • Boil 7.5 gal (60)
1st runnings: 4 gal @ 1.066
2nd runnings: 3.5 gal @ 1.024
Pre-boil: 7.5 gal @ 1.046
OG: 5.75 gal @ 1.055

Chill to 59F and pitch
Ferment at 57F for 24 hrs
Chill to 55/57F for two days
Hold at 54F for two weeks
Raise to 60F for three days before lagering in garage

Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Pops Christmas Ale [bottled]

Bottle date: Dec. 9, 2014

FG: 1.006

  • 98 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c filtered water
Desired CO2: 2.2 vol (5 gal @ 63F)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Two Pops Christmas Ale

Brewing date: Nov. 8, 2014
Dad stirring in the mash
#33 - 6 gal

Dad came over to brew, Mom to help the wife and see her grandson.

I had intended to brew a "winter ale." Something resembling Capital Brewing's Winter Skal (a lager) or Goose Island's Mild Winter or Sam Adam's Winter Warmer. And while the recipe draws inspiration from an article from BYO that mentions Capital Brewing's Winter Skal (one of my favorites) and Norther Brewer's winter warmer, that's not what this batch turned into.

If anything, this beer more closely resembles New Belgium's Abbey Belgian Double. Quite the departure, I know. But the character is so similar to that beer, and unlike the winter ale I was shooting for.

So what happened? In short: I succumbed to the temptation to add too many malts, my efficiency was much higher than expected, it fermented too warm, and is too sharply bitter. (Oh, is that all?!)

The ABV is way too high for a Winter Ale, closer to 8% (my efficiency was much better than anticipated) and the yeast fermented too warm (creating a beer with far more ester-characteristic and an alcoholic backbone). All in all, I'm calling this beer a Christmas Ale -- mostly because it's a somewhat more opaque descriptor.

For future reference, I would use a quarter of the honey malt that's in this recipe, or cut it out entirely. It's VERY pronounced in the final product. Probably reduce the victory malt too. I'll try to add some tasting notes soon. It's also too sharply bitter for this style for my taste.

I also think my strain of 1728 Scottish Ale yeast has seen it's last day. It's been washed and reused too many times  and has sufficiently mutated beyond it's original profile.

  • 13.25 lb Maris otter
  • 1 lb Caramel 60L
  • 10 oz Honey malt
  • 10 oz Victory malt
  • 6 oz Chocolate malt
  • 6 oz Special B
  • 2 oz Liberty (4.5%, pellet) (60 min)
  • 0.25 oz Liberty (4.5%, pellet) (1 min)
  • 2 t Irish moss (15 min)
  • 1.2 L starter Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
Target OG: 1.064
Target FG: 1.016
Target ABV: 6.3%
Target IBU: 26

  • Mash in 6 gal @ 163F
  • Rest @ 152F (60 min)
  • Mash out @168F (10 min)
  • Batch sparge 4 gal
  • Boil (60 min)
  • Chill to 66F and pitch
  • 1st running: 3.5 gal @ 1.079
  • 2nd running: 3.5 gal
  • Pre boil: 7 gal @ 1.059
  • OG: 1.073
  • Volume: 5.3 gal
  • Efficiency: 73%
  • Pitch @ 66F
  • Basement air temp 64F