Thursday, September 6, 2012

Make sure the seals/disconnects on your kegs are on tight

Good news: I finally brewed an excellent wit beer.

Bad news: I only had a few young pints before the majority of the keg leaked out into my Keggorator.

I guess I'll have to brew it again.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Belgian Wit Brewday (8/5/12)

For the third time in this blog/summer/year, I'm brewing a Belgian Wit.  Still hasn't come out exactly how I wanted, so I keep re-brewing

Recipe (5 gallons) 

1.046 O.G.
1.010 expected F.G
4.8% ABV


4.5# German Pilsner (51%)
3.5# Unmalted Wheat (40%)
12 oz. Flaked Oats (9%)

Hops: (19 IBU's)

9 grams Nugget (15.1%AA) @ 90 Minutes


Spices (added at flameout):

1 oz. Grapefruit Peel
.75 oz. Crushed Indian Coriander
1 tablespoon flour to add haze


Usually I've done a cereal mash when using unmated wheat, but since my grains were already crushed together, I decided to use a single decoction to break down the adjuncts.  I'm not going to pretend I really understand what "breaking down" the unmalted adjuncts means, but I know that adjuncts aren't modified enough during malting to be used in a single infusion mash.

1). I mashed in at 122 degrees for a protein rest at a 2 qts/lb ratio:

I'm using my kettle as a mash tun, so I can add heat directly if needed.

2.) After one hour of protein rest, I pulled the first decoction.  I used one quart of thick mash per pound of grain, which was 24 fills of this pyrex measuring cup:

Mostly grain is pulled from a decoction, but the small amount of liquid that comes along should be okay. 

3.) After my thick 30-40% of the mash was pulled into a separate kettle, I began the 30 minute decoction.  The schedule was:

122-150 degrees in the first five minutes
150-170 in the second five minutes
170-boiling in the third five minutes
boil for 15 minutes

The first video shows the beginning of my boiling decoction.  The second video is towards the end of the 15 minute boil, and you'll notice the grains are much darker and softened.

4.) After my 30 minute decoction, I slowly added the grain back until the mash reached my sacchrification temp of 150.  I actually needed to apply a bit of heat since I undershot my temp.

5.) After resting at 150 degrees for one hour, I applied heat to the brew kettle until I reached a mash out temp of just below 170. I poured the mash into my lauter tun (aka my cooler mash tun I use on most brews), rested for 15 minutes, then treated the mash just like any other batch sparge. Vorlouf, lauter, and sparge until I reached 7 gallons.

6.) Boil for 90 minutes, add hops and spices, chill, oxygenate, pitch yeast.  Ferment at 73 degrees ambient.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jean-Claudde Van DAYUMM! Brewday 8/15/12

As I was prepared to keg my Belgian Pale Ale last weekend, I had two thoughts.  One was that I should re-use the Belgian yeast, and the second was that with three session strength, pale beers on tap, I could use some dark flavor to mix things up a bit.  So with that, and the fact that I recently drank and enjoyed Allagash Black, I decided to make a black Belgian Stout.

After trying to think of a notable black Belgian to make another celebrity pun-named beer, I realized the only well known Belgian person is the Mussels from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Sure, he's white, but I can bring this thing all together with the following clip that came forward from the depths of my memory:

Since I found an excuse to bring up the great Jean-Claude in a beer blog, I might as well post a clip of his finest work; a fight to the death with a penguin-suited mascot in the 1995 classic Sudden Death:

The Beer:

I wanted this stout to be big at 7.5% ABV but with a dry mouthfeel of a Belgian ale.  The recipe has big stout characteristics with oatmeal, roasted malts, and a high O.G, but is mashed low at 148 and dried out further with table sugar and D-180 Dark Candi Sugar Syrup.
D-180 Dark Candi Sugar syrup.  Taste is really sweet, with a dark, fig-like sweetness that tastes distinctly Belgian.  

For hops, I decided to add a small amount of Serebrianka for the fruity, tobacco complexity I blogged about before.  I used just a small amount, so if I can adjust the level through dry-hopping when I keg it. The yeast is Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey, which I used last week for my Belgian Pale Ale.

Recipe (5.5 gallons):


9.5# Belgian Pilsner Malt (67%)
1.5# Torrified Wheat (11%)
12 oz. UK Chocolate Malt (5%)
8 oz. Roasted Barley (4%)
8 oz. Oats (4%)

1# Candi Syrup 180-D (7%)
8 oz. Table Sugar (4%)


Single Infusion, 148 degrees, one hour. 1.25 qts/lb.

I always love drinking the first runnings of a dark beer.

Hops (41 ibu's)

.75 oz. Nugget, 15.1% AA @ 90 minutes
.25 oz Nugget, 15.1% AA @10 minutes
.5 oz Serebrianka, 3.5% AA @10 minutes


Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey re-pitched from previous batch.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Belgian Pale Ale Brew Day 7/8/12

This past weekend, I brewed another one of my "experimental" beers that would not be considered experimental by almost any homebrewer.  This was a Belgian Pale Ale, similar to two other recipes I've made, with the major difference between them being the yeast strain.  The idea is a session strength Belgian Ale, with pilsner malt and a bit of unmalted, torrified wheat for the malt bill.  For hops, I've used a moderate amount of a floral hop variety.

The yeast has been the experimental portion.  So far, I've used Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II and Wyeast 3538 Lueven Pale.  The 1762 is a relatively clean Belgian strain, and is the one Rochefort uses in their brewery.  It is distinctly Belgian, but it allows more of the malt and hop profile to come through.  The 3638 is on the other extreme.  It has a very spicy aroma with a more complex and intense flavor.

Today, I'm brewing with Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey.  This is the strain Chimay uses, which feels like the most "classic" of the Belgian yeast profiles.  I'm hoping for the balanced ester and phenol character similar to Chimay's beers, especially the white.

Recipe (5.5 gallons)


8.5# Belgian Pilsner Mouterji Dingemans (89%)
1# Torrified Wheat (11%)


Single Infusion. 150 degrees for 30 minutes

Hops (39 IBU's):

2 oz. Hallertau Mittlfruh (4.5%AA) @ 90 minutes
1 oz. @ 10 minutes
1 oz. @ flameout
1 oz. dry hop in keg


Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey

Brew Day:

It seems like a minor thing goes wrong on most brew days.  Today, it was a stuck mash that was caused by an equipment malfunction. Here's a picture:

At the bottom, in my mash tun is the stainless steel toilet braid I use to run off the liquid in the mash and leave the grain behind.  If you look at where it attaches to the run-off tube, you'll notice it collapsed on itself and got twisted shut.  Nothing came out when I attempted my first run-off.  To fix the problem, I dumped the entire mash into my brew kettle (at the top of the picture), removed the braid, fixed it, and dumped it all back into the mash tun.  

Theoretically, I run the risk of hot side aeration from all the dumping of a hot mash.  There's a lot of info and debate about HSA, but most brewers aren't concerned about it.  When I brew at New England Brewing Co., there is a ton of hot wort splashing into the kettle, and it doesn't cause any oxidation in the final product.  So good enough for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jeffeweizen 2012

Every summer, since the first time I ever homebrewed, I've made a hefeweizen of some sort.  Not only was it a style that drew me in to craft beer, but it's a style that still amazes me when I have a great one.  It also helps that they are quick and easy to brew.  The recipe is another really simple one, so while it doesn't make for a particularly interesting blog post, it is a yearly ritual so I feel like I need to make a log of it.

The one notable recipe decision is the choice of Wyeast 3068.  This yeast strain is the same one used by Weihenstephaner for their hefeweizen, and is my favorite.  The yeast strain, pitching rate, and fermentation temperature are all huge factors in what determines the difference between hefeweizens.  Some brewers like to accentuate yeast character by underpitching and fermenting above 70 degrees, but I chose for a more balanced approach of a regular pitching rate and a fermentation temperature just below 70.  I feel like this gives a balanced yeast character while still incorporating all of the complexities.  Here's the recipe, which was brewed last Wednesday:


(5 gallons, 1.045 O.G.)


5# Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner (50%)
5# Wheat (50%)


Single Infusion, 151 degrees for 30 minutes.


.75 oz. Hallertau Mittlefruh at 90 minutes (13 IBU's)


Wyeast 3068, Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen. Ambient temperature 65 degrees. Primary for 10 days, then keg.

Recirculated first runnings.  Exaggerated cloudiness from what the final product will look like.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Double Decocted No Boil Berliner Weisse Recipe (6/2/12)

This post is from my Berliner Weiss brew day I had two weekends ago.  My goal was both to get a great summer beer in the fermentor, and to re-try the complicated double decoction technique that I've had trouble with in the past.

The Beer:

My Berline Weisse is a light and refreshing wheat beer at about 3% ABV, but with a funky, sour flavor from wild yeast.  It's an old German style that's expensive and hard to find on shelves, but brewing it at home allows me to treat it like the great summer thirst quencher that it is.

The Method:

This recipe is a re-brew of a berliner weisse I brewed last year, but instead of using a yeast blend, I'm pitching the sour, lactobacillus strain first, and the ale yeast strain a day or two later.  This should give the lacto a head start and result in a quicker souring.  I'm also giving another try at a double decoction.  It's a difficult German mash schedule that gives so many of their beers a traditional, complex malt flavor.  It should also help funkify it by allowing me to use no boil, and get only a few IBU's from mash hopping.


3# Pilsner (55%)
2.5# Wheat (45%)

1 oz. of Hallertau hops during decoction for just a few IBU's.

1.033 O.G

The Decoction Mash:

Protein rest.  Mash in at 132 using a thick ratio of 1 qt/lb.  5.5 qts of water at 142 degrees into 5.5 lbs of malt.  Includes 1 ounce of Hallertau.

Protein rest mashes look a bit more milky.  Also, the hops are included here since there is no boil.

This rest lasts for 1 hour.  So, at 30 minutes, decoct the thickest 40% of the mash using (roughly) the following schedule:

Over 5 minutes, bring the decoction to 150 degrees.  Rest for 5 minutes, then bring to a boil over another 5 minutes.  Boil this decoction for 15 minutes.  Total decoction time: 30 minutes.

This is the beginning of the decoction.  Very little liquid was removed from the mash, so I'm basically about to boil grains here.

At the end of the decoction, the grains are darker from caramelization.

Return to mash, stir, and check temperature.  I only reached 130.  This decoction wasn't successful in raising the temperature of the mash, but the chemistry of the mash should be different.  I infused two quarts of boiling water to bring the mash up to 148.  Next step is to mash for one hour, decocting again at 30 minutes.  

Picture of the mash after sacchrification rest and before second decoction.  Liquid is separating at the top, with some hops floating as well.

Use the same schedule as the first decoction, only rest at 170 degrees.  Boil for 15 minutes, bringing the total decoction time to 30 minutes.  Add back to the mash to bring it to 170 degrees.  The second decoction also didn't raise the temperature, so I added boiling water to bring it to 165.

After the first decoction wasn't successful at raising the temperature, I took a larger amount in the second decoction, along with more liquid.
Decoction #2 in the kettle.

Rest at mashout temp for 15 minutes.  Lauter into kettle, then sparge with 170 degree water to get to 5.5 gallons.  Let it cool naturally in the kettle, covered until it reaches 80 degrees.  Oxygenate, then pitch Lacto yeast.  After two days, pitch English Ale yeast from previous batch.

Decoction Recap:

So while neither of my decoctions were successful in hitting my temperature rests, I should still have all the chemistry benefits from procedure.  After re-reading the decoction section of New Brewing Lager Beer, and watching some YouTube clips, I picked up some new methods that I'll write about in my next decoction attempt.  That blog should be in a few weeks, when I try a double decocted hefeweizen.

Decoct on. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Serebrianka Hop: Deconstructed

The idea for this post was probably the inspiration that led me to actually start this blog, because it's the sort of post that I would find useful in my own homebrew research.  I'm sure I'm not the only homebrewer who has found some valuable information out on the old blogosphere, so I figured I'd give back with this experiment.

I bought a pound of Serebrianka hops from Hops Direct on a recent hop shopping splurge.  The price was right ($9 a pound!) and the description sounded nice, so I figured I'd try them out.  According to the site, this hop is an "Aroma Hop with a light perfume, mellow, ellegant, subtle, gentle, almost tobacco like smell."  They also ask me to "... give it a try and let us know what you think."  Okay, here it is!

The AA% is a low 3.5%, which is typical for a European aroma hop.  With some googling, I found that this is a Russian hop and is one of the father plants to the great American Cascade.  When I opened the bag, the aroma was pretty subtle, with a simple leafy note.  In order to get a good idea of how these hops work, I brewed a single hop pale ale.  The recipe pretty basic; 6% ABV, 45 IBU's, American Ale yeast and a touch of crystal malt.  I don't need to get too much into it here, but you can see my recipe on Hopville.

Great head formation and retention.  I've read that high use of low AA hops for bitterness can help with retention.   Hmm...

This was one of the final pours off the keg, so it's a bit cloudier.


The aroma on the finished beer changed a lot as time progressed.  On day 7 of dry hopping, the beer smelled much like the whole-hops did, with gentle leafy notes.  By the time I kegged it on day 10, the fruitiness came out more.  This evolution continued in the keg, hitting its stride after a few weeks.  The fruity, Cascadian notes came through in the form of sweet orange peel and melons.  The European, herbal hop notes balanced it out, with a slightly minty, tobacco-y aroma that reminded me of a menthol cigartette.  But in a good way.  If that makes any sense. The flavor comes through with a standard caramelly sweetness on the front end of the palate, shifting in to a delicate, leafy bitterness on the finish.

Overall Recap: 

Even though I used an absurd amount of these hops (8 oz.), the character was delicate.  Never really leaped into my face like a high-alpha American hop would.  But, it was certainly unique and complex, so I will happily use them for something else.  I could see this working well as an aroma hop in a more malt focused beer.  Use it in a porter, stout or brown ale to get some nice complexity without giving it a noticeably or distinct hopiness.

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Bristol, CT, United States