Thursday, September 14, 2006

BrewIV - India Pale Ale (J.Palmer)

OG 1.062 IBU~59
As you can see the IPA is a bit stronger than traditional British Bitter in both alcohol and bitterness, this was originally intended to preserve the beer better as it travelled to India. Steeping 250g crystal malt as before and using malt extract, this brew is essentially the same procedure as the English Special Bitter (previous brew) but gives me the chance to use some different hops.

Bittering Hops: Challenger (8%) instead of Nugget (12%)
Aroma: Goldings(5%)
Dry Hop: Goldings (5%) (in secondary fermentor)

Procedure -
11.5L partial Boil
cooling by dilution to 19L
(steeping see English Special Bitter)

Diastatic malt? I like the fact that liquid malt extract is cheaper than the spray malt but I prefer spray malt because its easy to weigh & handle. The cincinnati pale ale used 1/2 and 1/2 spray and liquid but I won't be doing that again because spray costs so much more. They only had the diastatic liquid malt at the Local Home brew shop (LHBS) and the colour is <15 whilst the light I usually use is 8-12, the price is the same and essentially its the same stuff so no problem. The recipe calls for slightly more than the 1.6kg can so I made up the rest by splitting a bag of spray malt.

7g of Youngs GP yeast took well overnight with a good inch of krausen the next day. The brew vigorously fermented for 3 days and then slowed. Lessons learnt though i'm giving it a couple of more days in the primary before racking it into the 2ndary fermentor. For some reason since I started steeping crystal malts the 2ndary fermentation is taking a lot longer. This beer as with the ESB is spending a long time at 1.020 with CO2 being produced and the yeast actively in suspension.

I've chosen to dry hop in the 2ndary instead of adding the Goldings in the last 5minutes of the boil. This is an option in Palmers recipe and I figured that this will better suit my personal taste & my nose.

Results -
Strong in both bitterness & alcohol. Harsh & unpleasant with no fruity qualities that might otherwise redeem this brew. The problem could be a result of poor quality dry hops. Will make a good mixer for Shandy.

8.11.06 - Apparently stronger beers take longer to mature. Now it's had a good month to mature this beer is tasting pretty smooth. Definately redeemed its-self.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Brew III - English Special Bitter (J.Palmer)

OG 1.047 35IBU
Since the last beer I've moved up a step from just using malt extract to steeping some grain. Steeping grains are commonly known in the UK as crystal malts, these grains have already had their starch converted into soluble sugars through mashing and then they have been roasted to dry/ partially caramelise the sugars. I'm using crystal malt to try and make up for the dry flavour of the previous beer as this should add more complex & unfermentable sugars as well as some fresher grain flavours. The only additional skill you need is being able to work out the infusion temperature using Palmers straightforward equations i.e. You will need to steep the grain at ~75oC to extract the sugars and so you need to know what temperature 1L of water needs to be so that when you add it to 250g of grain (@ room temp) you end up with the correct temperature.

Bittering Hops: Target (10%) substitued with Northern Brewer (11%)
Aroma Hops: Goldings (5%)
Addition of 250g crystal malt

Procedure -
11.5L partial Boil
cooling by dilution to 19L

To steep the 250g of crystal malt I used 1L of water at 77 oC for 1/2 an hour, with the malt contained in a cotton bag (otherwise used for hops.) Assuming the grain is at room temp ~ 20 oC then to achieve the right temperature 1L of water needs to be 84.3 oC. In practice this worked out well and the mixture took up most of a 2L jug and evened out at 79 oC, insulated with a few towels. Steeping grain like this is a nice step towards all grain as it is simple lautering and the calculations are a good introduction.

I pitched just one 7g sachet of Youngs GP brewing yeast and there was activity within the hour. As before the brew fermented agressively for the first 3 days and then I racked it into a secondary fermentor. After a week in the secondary fermentor the gravity is still 1.020 so I may have racked from the primary a little early, I'll just have to wait a bit longer. I cannot currently see a need for yeast starters or wort oxygenation but I'm sure this will change when the brews get bigger. I read that pitching rates do have an effect on beer flavours.

Results - One to repeat :)
Clean flavoured, dark, hazy, sweet with a rounded bitter flavour. Even after nearly 3 weeks in the 2ndary
this beer is little below 1.020 gravity, gradual activity was evident during the first 2 weeks particuarly. The haze is odd considering I added the steeped wort from the crystal malt at the begining of the boil which proceeded to be very fierce. Final boil volume was down to ~ 7.5L from 11.3L and 10% reduction is industry standard. I waited nearly 20 minutes for the hot break and I'm not sure if it came or not as the boil was still very frothy. During the hot break the proteins in the boil that form the haze should be completely denatured, I could have problems here because the brew is so concentrated? The great thing about using the corny's as 2ndary fermentors (see my equipment) is that once fermentation is complete all I have to do is take off the gas post/ blow off tube, pressurise & draw off ~250ml which includes any yeast sediment (+ finings if added) then the beer can be conditioned / drunk directly from the same corny. Unfortunately I still haven't managed to let it mature for long.

Brew II - Cincinnati Pale Ale (J.Palmer)

This recipe is early on in the book and is suggested as a first attempt at brewing with extracts & hops. A pale ale is a good place to start as it has a relatively strong flavour. OG1.045 30IBU

Bittering Hops: Nugget(12%) substituted with Goldings (5%)
Aroma Hops: Cascade(5%) substituted with Saaz (3%)
Dry Hopping: Saaz (in 2ndary fermentor)

Equipment -
The recipe is a partial boil and so you only need a 11.5L pot to boil in before diluting the brew up to 19L in the fermentor. Remember to use cotton hop bags in the boil kettle- they save a lot of time trying to seive out the hops from your wort. For a fermentor I use a 30L wine fermentor with an airlock in the top & I use a corny keg as a 2ndary fermentor. There is no need to use an airlock on the corny it's already equipt' for a blow off tube using a gas connect and a length of tubing with its end submerged in water (I find a demijohn is perfect.) The small amount of sediment left in the corny after fermentation has finished can be drawn off in the first 1/2 pint from the keg and disgarded.

Procedure -
In addition to the instructions in Palmers book I followed some great advice I've picked up from the internet. Using 2 fermentors is straightforward enough, the beer should ferment vigorously for a few days, the recipe states 10 days but this IPA fermented agressively and virtually dry in 3 days flat. Once the fermentation shows signs of slowing transfer the beer into the 2ndary fermentor essentially leaving behing the large quantity of yeast in the bottom. This yeast if the beer were to be left on it for a long period can often begin to die and cause off flavours.

It's common to dry hop IPA’s to produce nice floral smells so I added 1/2 oz saaz in to the 2ndary fermentor in a hop bag (cotton.) After the fermentation had finished completely (after another week) I added Finings, these make the yeast clump together and fall to the bottom of the fermentor. 24hrs later I sucked off the sediment and transferred the beer into another corny using a jumper of 2 black connects joined by 30cm of pipe. Here I used a gas system to pressurise the beer to 5psi for storage/ maturation which should be a minimum of 2 or 4 weeks.

Results -
Great colour, good foamy head, dry taste, stong hopp flavour but lacking the floral nose I wanted. My deduction is that the varieties of hops I used weren’t quite right. I've since found out that Goldings are essentially British aroma hops and make great British bitters. Saaz are continental lager hops and again are commonly used as aroma hops so I got the use right but they aren't really the right flavor for this IPA style. I will try this IPA again in exactly the same way but I will use Northern Brewer (11%) or Target (10%) for the bittering hops and Goldings for the aroma hops.

The Dry taste is my major criticism and is a result of the yeast using up most/all the sugars in the wort, this might be common with extract beers possibly because they contain virtually 100% fermentable sugars but I can't be sure of this. This could be in small part due to my yeast choice too as my safale ale yeast 300ml starter jar failed and so I had to pitch some saflager yeast for the first 24hrs and then some Youngs Ale yeast the next day when I got to the HB shop.

I failed to leave the beer to mature (recommended >4 weeks) after I racked it from the secondary. The only way around this I think is to start a routine of brewing every couple of weeks on a designated brew day i.e. Monday, so that I’ve got several beers on the go at once i.e. one in primary, one in secondary etc & so theoretically each batch eventually gets time to mature before drinking.

Getting the Ball Rolling - John Palmer

To get the ball really rolling I read as much as I could on the internet for a couple of months, then I took the plunge and invested in a decent brewing book. After some advice from a UK web forum – see links – I bought John Palmers How to Brew. This is a real “tome” and fundamentally tackles the hows and why’s of homebrewing beer encompassing some deep science. The book takes you on 3 steps from brewing with malt extract then moving into steeping speciality grains such as crystal malt (to create a more authentic flavour) and finally into all grain mashing. There aren’t a lot or recipes in here but they are excellent recipes and cover all the popular beer styles, by the time you’ve understood the book you’ll be more than well equipped to confidently make your own recipes.

My own aim is to brew some fine Lagers once I’ve eventually got the hang of all grain brewing.

A Good Start

Starting off making Bitters using malt extract is a good idea for several reasons. The beer can be fermented and matured at room temperature and great bitters can be made using malt extract which is straight forward to work with. The stronger flavours of bitters mean that it’s more forgiving, you are more likely to achieve a drinkable beer even if you make a few small mistakes.

Basic Skills & Calculations

Working out hop utilisations is essential. GCSE maths will get you through the straightforward calculations. The reason this is so important is that quite often, particularly with American recipes, the hop variety specified can not be found and a substitute has to be made. The substitute will nearly always have a different Alpha Acid content (% AAU) and so the weight of hops you use will have to be altered to make up for this.

To keep things simple I decided to stop fighting it and stick with using the recipes often “old fashioned units,” each of Palmers recipes makes 5 US gals and this is fortunately the same as 1 Cornelius 19L keg so it suits me fine. Converting weights and measures all the time is one of the most likely sources of confusion/ mistake in a recipe so I decide to just follow the units in the recipes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Brew I - Lessons learned

I've been brewing fruit wines since my father took the hobby whilst I was a child. I remember being fascinated by what he was up to, probably because it was like some kind of mad science experiment with all the vivid colours in clear glass demijohns and mystical bubbling arilocks. I performed a few brews in the form of mostly Strawberry wines and Elderberry wines and had varied sucess. I still have some elderberry in the rack that I made when I was 12 years old and its certainly among the best wine I've ever tasted, or certainly made at least.

Beer was always a bit more adventurous a bit more mysterious and complicated, with many wine making books including recipes but no real confidence inspiring reasoning behind the beer brewing process. I attempted one 20pint brew from a Boots Lager kit using granulated sugar to make up the gravity as instructed on the packet. The result was horrendous..... but to be fair I really didn't know what I was doing and so since the age of 15 I stopped homebrewing and pursued other interests.

During my Biology & Microbiology Degree @ Warwick University UK my interest in brewing grew again in the form of a new challenge. I was oringinally looking at producing large quantities or ginger beer and searching for recipes etc on the internet. These searches obviously turned up a lot of beer making websites. These mostly american sites were an inspiration, here people have proudly posted photos and descriptions of their home breweries with often plans, recipes & all the detail involved. I realised that most of the equipment can be home made, is relatively cheap and that brewing beer although can be achieved by somebody with only a small amount of scientific knowledge could pose a vast challenge to somebody like myself wanting to get into the hows and why's of this fundamentally microbiological industry.

Brew I
I borrowed my mothers 2gal jam pansion, recovered an old boots pressure barrel (which cost me £2.50 at a car boot sale) and bought a fermentor for £10 from Wilcos. So I was ready for my first brew using simple malt extract. The intelligent thing to do I know now would have been to visit my local home brew store and buy a simple canned kit to start off with which with the addition of extra malt extract (never add sugar) would have produced me a very drinkable first beer. Instead I went to the homebrew shop, bought a bit of everything including some assorted packs of dried hops which at the time I had no clue about and went about bodging some recipes I found on the internet. The result was drinkable but not the bitter that it was planned to be. It was a dark stout through using a can of dark malt and ludicrously over hopped as I had guestimated my hop weights instead of working out the AAU's and kettle utilization of the hops bitterness.
Trial and error - often the best way to learn. I learnt a lot in this first brew and most of all about dispensing the beer. The pressure barrel is useless without a compressed gas system! The best option I found was I bought a "stainless steel tyre valve" and bolted it into the top, using this with a hand held CO2 bicycle tyre inflator to pressurise the beer.


Monday, September 04, 2006

What is this blog all about

This is a blog about Brewing Beer

My names Matt & I live in the midlands UK. This Blog is a public record of my trials and errors as I Brew my own beer, recipes, equipment & yeast culturing, etc etc. That my victories and mistakes may be useful to anybody else I'd much rather share my notes than have them sit on my Hard Drive.

Bsc - Biology with Microbiology