BREW DAY: Czech (Bohemian) Pils v1

A quick note: I am in the process of trying to really dial in a handful of recipes. I enjoy giving beers funky names, and I think that’s why I brew so many different recipes instead of trying to fine-tune them. So for the time being, you’ll be seeing beers with unimaginative names like “Pale Ale v1” until I either decide to name it or get the recipe just right and call it finished.


Yo, whoever left the portal to Hell open: shut the damn door! I complained on my previous brew days about the heat, but that was nothing compared to day. 98*F on the thermometer, with a “Real Feel” of 110*F. 110! I guess we got the answer to whether or not they serve beer in Hell (though it’ll be a cold day before any douche named Tucker gets served some of mine).

Anyway, my brain’s melting, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah: Czech Pils. CZ Pils is my favorite kind of pilsner which I know if blasphemy but whatever, I’ll be quaffing delicious CZ Pils with my pineapple pizza and you all can suck a fart. Sorry, heat makes me aggressive.

So my CZ Pils is officially a hit-and-miss recipe, in that I’ve brewed twice and once it was a hit and the second time it was a miss. So we’ll find out if the third time is a charm.

Mashin’

My girlfriend is out of town and the furry head and assistant brewers were reduced to puddles by the heat, so I sort of meandered into this brew day. I did a cursory final cleaning of my equipment and started heating strike water around 11-11:30am. I really wanted to focus on clarity for this pilsner, so I went back to the “malt conditioning” that I mentioned from the saison brew day. I noticed while milling in that my drill was probably operating at too high speed/power; after slowing it down I got a much coarser-looking crush, but that was about 75% of the way through the process. Lesson learned for next time.

Another issue I’ve had is getting volumes right. We came a lot closer today, with 10.75 of the 11 gallons targeted into the fermenter. I don’t think I adequately compensated so the 10 oz of pellets that would be going into this batch. Usually when I’m measuring my strike/sparge water I round up slightly to compensate. Today I rounded up a little more drastically on the strike water, so I wouldn’t have to worry about any water left in the kettle and tubing. Which is good, because it means no second degree burns handling the kettle/tubing. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually hit my volume target on first runnings.

Of course I promptly forgot this lessen when sparging and burned my hands.

I went back to the BrewTan B dosing that I used in the pale ale, to try to precipitate out some of the proteins. I have no idea if this works yet, as the pale ale is still carbing up (and tasting amazing), but after a few brew days I may have a good look and see.

I also spent a LOT of time trying to vorlouf my wort, trying to get it run as clear as possible. This proved to be a largely futile (and painfully hot) process that consisted of me getting progressively crispier under the hot sun and the wort not getting much clearer. I’m starting to think a big part of this is the crush of the grain. After getting a close look at the Hullwrecker in action today, I think I need to have a lighter touch on the drill to avoid pulverizing so many grains.

More like bore-lauf

I step mashed again (145*F for 30, 154*F for 30, 168*F for mash out) and had, uh, shockingly high efficiency. My target was 14 gallons pre-boil at 1.030 gravity for a 90 minute boil. So I pulled a sample, temperature corrected, and got a pre-boil gravity of… 1.044. Uh, that’s my finishing gravity. I’m thinking I must have screwed something up along the way and/or the heat melted my brain and it dribbled out my ears, washed away by the rivers of sweat. In my notes, I correct this reading to 1.034 for two reasons. One, going .004 over my target efficiency is in line with the increased efficiency I saw in my past two brewing sessions, and two, I ended up with a post-boil gravity reading of 1.044 and I don’t think the 90 minute boil did nothing.

There were some issue with the boil, which would explain why the gravity it 1.044 and not 1.048 or higher. See, all day I was out in the sun praying for a cloud or a breeze for a bit of relief. Well the breeze came… when I was trying to get 14 gallons to a rolling boil. I’m not a huge fan of my Anvil burners for 11 gallon batches; they just don’t throw enough BTUs. So when the wind came it caused the boil to sputter a bit; not the full rolling boil I like to see.

I used a lot more hops in this batch than I usually do with my Czech Pils recipe. One of the reasons is that I wasn’t getting a firm Saaz aroma in the previous batches. I did sub out the bittering addition for some HopShot in order to drop a little less green stuff into the boil. I also switched it to a First Wort addition. I also revised water chemistry since I lost my old water calculations in the great harddrive crash of 2019, and moved the 0 minute addition to a 20 minute whirlpool to hopefully get more of those noble-hop aromas.

I chilled the wort down to 70*F, which is amazing and a testament to the bad-ass JaDeD chiller. I did not think I would be getting 11 gallons down to anywhere near 70, and we got there in about 15 minutes. Insane. I transferred the wort to the conical, hooked up the glycol and chilled it down to 50*F before pitching 4 packets of dry yeast right onto the top. I put 5psi of CO2 on top and called it a (very long, very hot) day.

Absolute beast. JaDeD King Cobra chiller


Final Thoughts: 

Okay, that’s 3 brew days in 17 days. That’s pretty damn good! I’m feeling the muscle memory come back, and after a preliminary tasting of the pale ale (more to come on that), I’m feeling pretty good about my brewing. Because of my notes – and because I force myself to relive the brew day in writing this blog – I’m starting to notice little things I need or want to change that I probably wouldn’t notice if I was just pounding beers the whole time (I had a few, but this was a 7-8 hour session and, as mentioned, it was HOT).

The pale is carbonating and cold-conditioning right now, and the saison is due for kegging any day, so I’ll finally start getting to taste the fruits of these labors and see if all the attention was worth it. I’m cautiously optimistic from the early samples that it is.


Clean as a whistle

 

Recipe:

For 11 gallon batch, brewhouse efficiency: 75%

  • 16 lb Pilsner (2 SRM)
  • 1 lb CaraVienne (20 SRM)
  • 8 oz Dextrine/CaraPils (2 SRM)

 

  • 4mL HopShot – First Wort – 19.4 IBU
  • 90g Saaz – 30 min – 16.4 IBU
  • 90g Saaz – 5 min – 4.3 IBU
  • 120g Saaz – Flameout/20 min whirlpool – 5.9 IBU

 

  • 4 pkg of Saflager W34/70 – sprinkled onto wort

 

  • Ca: 42
  • Mg: 0
  • Na: 38
  • Sulfate: 46
  • Chloride: 69
  • Lactic Acid (88%): 5mL, 1.8 mL
  • Bicarbonate: -42
  1. Mash at 145*F for 30 min, increase to 154*F for 30 min
  2. Mash out at 168*F, vorlauf, sparge, you know the drill
  3. Boil for 90 minutes
  4. Ferment at 50-55*F, allow to free rise to 58*F for 10+ days
  5. Raise to 62*F for 3 days (diacetyl rest)
  6. Cold condition at close to 32*F for 30 days
  • OG Target: 1.044 [Actual: 1.044]
  • FG Target: 1.009 [Actual: ]
  • IBU: 45.9
  • SRM: 4.4 [Actual: ]

BREW DAY: Saison v1

A quick note: I am in the process of trying to really dial in a handful of recipes. I enjoy giving beers funky names, and I think that’s why I brew so many different recipes instead of trying to fine-tune them. So for the time being, you’ll be seeing beers with unimaginative names like “Pale Ale v1” until I either decide to name it or get the recipe just right and call it finished.


Nine days (Absolutely (The Story of a Girl)) since the last brew day, and we’re already back at it. Yes, it’s 86*F and yes, it’s over 90% humidity, and yes, I’m a glutton for punishment… but also for beer.

Today’s batch is a saison. From the BJCP:

Most commonly, a pale, refreshing, highly-attenuated, moderately-bitter, moderate-strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish. Typically highly carbonated, and using non-barley cereal grains and optional spices for complexity, as complements the expressive yeast character that is fruity, spicy, and not overly phenolic.

I brewed a saison a few years ago as part of a split-batch with my first attempt at a pilsner. The pilsner tasted like dogshit but the saison came out really, really good. The grain bill was real simple, bittered with Chinook and late-hopped with Nelson Sauvigon. I was really pleased with the fruity, white wine character the hops gave and how it fixed with the French saison yeast, so I figured I’d give it another shot with some slight modifications.

saisondetre2015

First saison attempt.

I have a bad habit of buying hops without a brew day in mind. As such, I have like 3 lbs of Idaho 7 hops.

Juicy tropical fruit and citrus (think apricot, orange, red grapefruit, papaya) with big notes of resiny pine and hints of black tea.

Not really a great “to style” hop for a saison, but that actually sounds pretty nice to me when mixed with the French saison’s character. When I’ve used French saison yeast, it’s thrown more cracked pepper and spice character with less of the Belgian bubblegum, banana, and clove characteristics that I’m not a big fan of.

I hosted a member of my homebrew club during this brew day, so less fancy pictures to share.

My setup in the foreground, and Bill’s in the background.

I tried something new when milling in for this brew session; first, I bought a new “Hullwrecker” mill as the second-hand mill I had been using started falling apart. Second, I tried something called “malt conditioning.” Basically the idea behind malt conditioning is adding a small amount of water to the malt before milling in order to make the malt husks more pliable. More pliable husks are harder to pulverize, resulting – theoretically – in my more husks making it into the mash, and thereby creating a better filter for the mash.

I saw a roughly 2% increase in efficiency from the Pale Ale brew day, but it’s hard to give malt conditioning all the credit, since it could be attributed to the new grain mill. The new mill was set to the same setting (0.0278) as the previous mill, so I’m willing to entertain the idea that it’s possible the conditioning helped.

As for improving the filtering/clarity of the wort, there were 3 lbs of wheat malt in the recipe so it was an uphill battle with clarity with that, but I’m willing to give it another go and see if I can get more clarity the next time around.

Mash efficiency came in at 77%, way over what I had expected and ended up with a pre-boil gravity of 1.044, a few points higher than the expected 1.040. This is the second brew day in a row where my efficiency was higher than target. I’m thinking that it probably has to do with the two-step mash that I did for these beers; wanting them to finish dry, I mashed both batches in at 145*F and raising the temperature into the 150s after 30 minutes, creating more attenuable worts.

I boiled for 75 minutes, whirlpooling my flameout addition for about 20 minutes. This was a last second decision since there was only one hose available to chill the wort for me and Bill and his boil finished first. I finished with a little less than my target 11 gallons, and at 1.050 gravity (target was 1.048).

All in all it was a pretty stress-free brewday. I only had 3 hop additions and one of those was at “first wort;” none of my new equipment gave me any trouble; and I skipped the BrewTan B addition to the boil because clarity isn’t necessary for a saison (and because I didn’t want to bother trying to rehydrate it / I was enjoying a couple beers). I pitched the yeast starter at 70*F and I’m allowing it to free rise up to 80*F – it’s up to about 78*F after two days.

Yeast Starter with Propper canned wort and WL590


Final Thoughts:

I think the “muscle memory” of brewing is starting to come back to me after being able to brew twice within 10 days. It’s also likely that I’ll be able to brew again this weekend. The pale ale should be finished dry hopping and kegged this week, so that’ll free up a fermenter and with the girlfriend out of town on Sunday I don’t see a good reason not to make it 3 brews in 17 days. I’m thinking a lager of some kind so that I’ll have some time to drink through the pale ale before the next beer is ready. Maybe a Czech Pils or a Vienna Lager?

I’m sure I’ll let you guys know…


Recipe:

For 11 gallon batch

  • 12 lb Pilsner (2 SRM)
  • 5 lb UK Pale Malt (2 SRM)
  • 3 lb White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)

 

  • 15g Chinook – First Wort – 12.4 IBU
  • 30g Idaho 7 – 15 min – 12.1 IBU
  • 60g Idaho 7 – Flameout/20 min whirlpool – 14.8 IBU

 

  • 2 pkg of White Labs 590 French Saison in a 2L starter, shaken

 

  • Ca: 66
  • Mg: 0
  • Na: 38
  • Sulfate: 149
  • Chloride: 35
  • Lactic Acid (88%): 3mL, 1.6 mL
  • Bicarbonate: -5
  1. Mash at 145*F for 30 min, increase to 154*F for 30 min
  2. Mash out at 168*F, vorlauf, sparge, you know the drill
  3. Boil for 75 minutes
  4. Ferment at 70*F, allow to free rise to 80*F for 7 days
  • OG Target: 1.048 [Actual: 1.050]
  • FG Target: 1.006 [Actual: 1.002]
  • IBU: 39.3
  • SRM: 6 [Actual: 6]

BREW DAY: Pale Ale v1

A quick note: I am in the process of trying to really dial in a handful of recipes. I enjoy giving beers funky names, and I think that’s why I brew so many different recipes instead of trying to fine-tune them. So for the time being, you’ll be seeing beers with unimaginative names like “Pale Ale v1” until I either decide to name it or get the recipe just right and call it finished.


While I haven’t been blogging about it, I have been brewing albeit less than I would like. I went to Homebrew Con in Providence, RI last weekend and it did a lot to reinvigorate my love for brewing. So here I am today – on July 4th – in the sweltering-ass heat, brewing a pale ale.

The recipe is based on the Firestone Walker Easy Jack recipe from Session Beers by Jennifer Talley. I honestly haven’t read Session Beers cover-to-cover yet, but I was looking around for a nice, easy-drinking pale ale recipe and pulled the book off my shelf. I modified it to add some dry hops that I got for free at Homebrew Con; Idaho Gem and Citra (cyro).

This was also my first time using BrewTan B. I went to a talk by Dr. Joe Formanek at Homebrew Con regarding the use of tannic acids to improve shelf stability, improve clarity, or (in the case of Tannel B) maintain haze. He offered some advice on dosage (1/2 tsp per 5 gal in strike/sparge, and 1/2 tsp per 5 gal rehydrated in 1/4 cup of water in the boil at 15 minutes; make sure to add BTB before any fining agents).

BrewTan B made the water kinda cloudy and a little brown

Things got off to a rocky start. I accidentally misread my water adjustments and added 4.9g of CaCl2 to the strike water. That 4.9g was the gypsum addition for the sparge. I added the BrewTan B after my water adjustments and noticed that the water immediately became hazy and had a slight tan hue. Both faded by the time the water got up to strike temperature…

Even managed to take a picture of screwing up.

… or should I say, 10*F past strike temperature, because I was busy making my notes and let the water heat up to 165*F. Note to self: buy wireless thermometer with an alarm. I stirred the water a bit and transferred to the cold (well as cold as anything can be on an 85*F day with no freaking wind) mash tun. Since I use a converted keg as a mash tun, it absorbed a good deal of the heat… which is kind of great in hindsight because dispersing that heat probably helps to maintain mash temperature. But the reason I moved the water was in the hopes that doing so would lower the temp. It did, down to 160*F. So from there I just stirred and waited until the temperature dropped to 154*F, a degree over my target, and mashed in.

Hey there, fancy new thermometer. Can’t wait to drop you.

I mashed in at 146*F (1*F higher than my target). I stirred the mash at 15 minutes in and checked the temperature; 145*F right on target. At 30 minutes, I raised the mash temperature to 154*F. According to the recipe, I only need 10 minutes at 154*F. That seemed low to me and I’m clearly smarter than someone who actually wrote a goddamn book, so I mashed for 30 minutes at 154*F, stirring at 15-minute intervals.

I mashed out at 168*F and batch sparged with 170*F water. The whole mash out and sparging process was a minor calamity in its own right, more about which in a sec.

I was looking for a target pre-boil gravity of 1.042 at 13 gallons. I ended up with about 12.75 gallons at around 1.046. I’m not used to getting that kind of mash efficiency and I don’t know if it’s because BeerSmith doesn’t account for the step mash or because I mashed extra long at 154*F. Sparging also took a long time as I was worried about volume and decided to stir and re-vorlauf the first runnings before starting my sparge. Maybe I got some extra extraction when the temps dipped back below 168*F?

More questions than answers that this point, but with less volume than expected into the brew kettle I decided to cut the boil from 75 minutes to 60. I also miscalculated my timing and my 10 minute hop addition became a 5 minute hop addition.

Did I mention it was very hot out?

AHB Chief of Brewing Ops, Oberyn

So after whirlpool and chill (not to be confused with Netflix and chill), I ended up with right around 10 gallons into the conical, at 1.054 (target: 1.050). I used the glycol chiller to finish getting the beer down to temp – ground water was running in the high 60s – and pitched my starter at ~62*F. I set the temp controller for 63*F, purged the headspace, and left 5psi of CO2 on top of the beer.

If you’re gonna make bad beer, look good doing it


Final Thoughts:

It felt like I hadn’t brewed since March but I actually brewed two batches in May. I dumped both. 22 gallons into the sewer. That was a real gut punch because the beers that I made in January were good; in fact my Obie’s Oatmeal Stout was probably the best beer I’ve ever brewed, snagging an average score of 41 in a competition. Brewing has felt like “one step forward, two steps back” for a little while. I missed out on some peak brewing time working on our homebrew club’s festival, travelling to Europe, and going to Homebrew Con. Not things I’m complaining about, but stressors that also took me away from brewing. So I haven’t had that ability to brew consistently and maintain that “muscle memory” that keeps these brew days from looking like a circus of second-degree burns.

Homebrew Con helped remind me why I like brewing, and got me excited to get back on the horse. I think part of my brewing process might be screwed up though, because I don’t hear about anyone else using a horse in their process…

Anyway, I’m cautiously optimistic about this batch. It was murkier than I had wanted or anticipated throughout the whole process, but you really can’t tell what it’s gonna be like until it’s carbed and in your glass. I’m away for the weekend, so I won’t get a chance to baby the fermentation until Sunday, but the mental obsession has already begun.

Very needed


Recipe:

For 11 gallon batch

  • 15.5 lb US 2-Row (1 SRM)
  • 2 lb Munich Light (6 SRM)
  • 1 lb Dextrine/CaraPils (2 SRM)
  • 1 lb Crystal 10L (10 SRM)
  • 1 lb White Wheat (2.4 SRM)
  • 1 lb Flaked Oats (1 SRM)
  • 1 oz Midnight Wheat (550 SRM) – for color, end of mash
img_1140

Shout-out to Briess for the free Midnight Wheat

  • 10 mL of 61.1% AA HopShot – First Wort – 43.5 IBU
  • 2 oz Cascade (pellets) – 10 min. [Actual: 5 min] – 7.3 IBU
  • 2 oz Cascade (pellets) – Whirlpool, 30 min, 190*F – 0.1 IBU
  • 2 oz Simcoe (pellets) – Whirlpool, 30 min, 190*F – 0.3 IBU
  • 3 oz Idaho Gem (pellets) – Dry Hop – 4 Days
  • 2 oz Citra (cyro) – Dry Hop – 4 Days

 

  • 2 pkg Wyeast London Ale #1028 – 1.5L starter, shaken

Shaken, not stirred

  • Ca: 50 [Actual: 98]
  • Mg: 0
  • Na: 38
  • Sulfate: 113
  • Chloride: 35 [Actual: 119]
  • Lactic Acid (88%): 3mL, 1.6 mL
  • Bicarbonate: -5

Gypsum aka the adjustment I made correctly

  1. Mash at 145*F for 30 min, increase to 154*F for 10 min [actual: 30 min]
  2. Mash out at 168*F, vorlauf, sparge, you know the drill
  3. Boil for 75 minutes [Actual: 60 minutes]
  4. Ferment at 63*F for 3 days, increase to 66*F until final gravity
  5. Bump temp to 70*F for diacetyl rest
  6. Dry hop for 4 days
  7. Add CO2 and lower temp to 50*F
  8. Add gelatin for fining
  9. Cold crash to 34*F for 3 days
  10. Package and get hammered

See post for additional instructions.

  • OG Target: 1.050 [Actual: 1.054]
  • FG Target: 1.007 [Actual: 1.009]
  • IBU: 51.1
  • SRM: 6 [Actual: 6]