Dialing it in: Part One

Hop Nest is a favorite of mine. It has the right amount of complexity while still being an easy drinker. The original recipe was an experiment with 100% Munich Malt paired up with some Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo for an English IPA. That beer went on to win the best of show in the first Vlaamse Hobby Brouwers Forum competition. Hop Nest was now going to serve as a calibration recipe for my new Arsegan EasyBrew system/process. After brewing Penelope, I had a good idea about the efficiency of the system, but the volumes were not correct yet (strike water, sparge water, boil off rate, etc.).

Not only was the EasyBrew new to me but I was also trying out some new brewing software. My normal software, Beer Alchemy, stopped getting updated. Plus, the only way I could find to factor in the large amount of deadspace under the grain basket in the Easybrew, was to play with the water to grain ratio. If all my beers were going to be around the same strength then that would be alright, but I want to brew stronger or weaker beers without having to play with profile settings. It was great for my previous Batch Sparge system, but with the EasyBrew it just didn’t cut it.

BeerSmith seems to be the current market leader for homebrewers, and it offers a lot more settings to play with than BeerAlchemy. So I created my next recipe in both applications. However, even in BeerSmith the volumes of water still weren’t adding up. Starting off I didn’t have a lot of confidence in either program. I don’t want to have to second guess volumes. I want to be able to create a recipe, then follow the directions in the app without having to think. When I think, I over think, and that doesn’t make my life any easier.

Calibration Batch 1 (April 8th 2018)

Hop Nest

  • OG:1.056
  • FG: 1.012
  • IBU (Rager): 59.4
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Final volume: 18 liters (1 corny keg)

Fermentables:

  • 90.9%  Weyerman Munich Malt
  • 5.5% Flaked Oats
  • 3.6%  Crisp Maris Otter (was to make up for the fact that I accidentally didn’t order enough Munich)

Mashing and sparging: Single infusion mash @ 67°C for 60 minutes

As I started to mash in I realized that the mash was way too thick. After doing some quick math on paper (deadspace + water/grain ratio + grain absorbtion), I adjusted my strike water volume. Sparging was easy to figure out on paper too (sparge vol. = boil vol. – strike water + grain absorption). The rest was smooth sailing.

The EasyBrew can be fully programmed to go from step to step by itself without too much input from the brewer, but for these first brews I did not try that out. I wanted to have the freedom to quickly change the wattage depending on what I saw going on in the kettle ( I use the full 2500w to quickly go up in temperature but then only 1600w to 1800w to keep it at temperature).

Boiling:

  • Nelson Sauvin (Whole leaf) 12.8%AA – 60 min. from end (21.4 IBU)
  • Amarillo (Whole leaf) 9.3%AA – 60 min. from end (15.6 IBU)
  • Nelson Sauvin – 20 min. from end (9.1 IBU)
  • Amarillo – 20 min. from end (5.3 IBU)
  • Nelson Sauvin – 5 min. from end (5 IBU)
  • Amarillo – 5 min. from end (3 IBU)
  • Nelson Sauvin – Dry Hop 1g/l for 7 days
  • Amarillo – Dry Hop 1g/l for 7 days

Unfortunately, I forgot to adjust the Alpha Acid content of this harvest of Nelson Sauvin in BeerSmith. I didn’t see that until after boiling was almost done. It’s not a big deal but it means that the hopping will be a little bit off.

My boil off rate needs some work too. I have been playing around with the wattage and seem to have settled around 2000w for a decent rolling boil. However, it may not be vigorous enough. The flavors associated with a weak boil aren’t in my beers though. I am just a bit surprised that I’m only losing about 3 liters over 60 minutes. My previous system was 5 liters. More brewing needed!

Yeast: Safale US-05 (dry)

Beer was fermented in a plastic brew bucket @ 18°C (64.5°F) for 14 days before dry-hopping in the same bucket. That is 21 days on the yeast cake. It still surprises me that this works without giving off any off flavors, but it does. It definitely makes it easy! After dry-hopping, the beer was kegged into 2 of my 9.5L (2.5 gal) corny kegs.

How did it turn out?

The beer turned out really good. It did miss a bit of the crisp citrus and summer fruit hop character that I remember Hop Nest having. Is this because of my Alpha Acid mistake? I think partially yes. I also think that this past harvest of Amarillo just wasn’t the best. There were more harsher grassy notes than there should have been. Most likely from the Amarillo, but I don’t know for sure. The malt character was great. It reminded me why I love Munich malt in high percentages. It creates a much more complex malt character than normal pale malt. Bready and biscuity malt with a touch of caramel. I did miss a little bit of caramel complexity that usually I get from a small addition of a cara malt. The Flaked Oats did’t really add as much mouthfeel as I had expected, but it wasn’t as thin as that very first batch. It was still a great drinker!

My initial thoughts on the mash efficiency of the EasyBrew were confirmed (75% with the grain crush I am now using). The mashing profile in Beersmith has to be reworked though. The first profile was based on the Grainfather but I just couldn’t get the numbers to match with what I had seen on brew day. Back to the drawing board I guess.

Rebel without a clue

After a week delay, thanks to my not-so-local homebrew shop, I brewed up another fun experiment. This time I am bringing the funk to a darker level. A stout fermented with Brettanomyces Lambicus and Lactobacillus. A stout with a beat you can dance to. Road Runner, Rebel Stout.

Ever since I took a slight step back, as I mentioned last time, brewing has become easier and even more enjoyable. This brew day was smooth even though I was introducing a new piece of equipment (an electric HLT) and the process with this beer was a little different. I hit all my numbers and had amazingly clear and quick run-off. In the boil is where this brew day was different than usual. Since the beer is intended to be partially fermented by Lactobacillus, the IBU’s from the hops would be a problem. Lactobacillus rolls over and dies at the mere mention of hops. To get around that I ran off 5 liters of beer after 15 minutes of boiling and before the first hop addition. This was then chilled and had Wyeast Lactobacillus thrown in. The rest of the wort continued to boil and receive two additions of East Kent Goldings before being chilled and pitched with a good starter of Wyeast Brettanomyces Lambicus. If my hillbilly math works out the OG should be 1.058 after blending (5 liters @ OG 1.050 + 15 liters @ OG 1.060).

One of the things I wanted to accomplish here is to see what a real lactobacillus fermentation will produce compared to the lactic acid laden Acid malt I used in the last beer. Obviously this stout will have a bunch of other flavors in the way but I still think I should be able to pick up on the complexity of the lactic character and be able to compare that aspect. We’ll see.

Road Runner – Rebel Stout
  • beer after blending: 20 liters
  • OG of total blend: 1.058
  • Expected FG: 1.012??
  • Expected ABV: 6.1%
  • Expected IBU: 27
  • Expected Color: 69.5 EBC (35 SRM)
  • Boil duration: 60 minutes
Fermentables
  • 40% Pale Ale
  • 40% Munich
  • 8% Aroma
  • 6% Roasted Barley
  • 6% Dehusked Chocolate (800 EBC)
Hops
  • 30g East Kent Goldings @ 45 minutes
  • 20g East Kent Goldings @ 10 minutes
Mash
  • Single infusion mash @ 68°C (154°F)

Yeast

  • 5 liters un-hopped wort – Wyeast Lactobacillus
  • 15 liters –  Wyeast Brettanomyces Lambicus
If it doesn’t turn out well I may have to change the name to Dead Duck – Drain Pour Stout

Brewed on April 3, 2011

Update April 8, 2011: Despite pitching a large amount of brett L and Lacto, there was no sign of activity for the first three days. After 72 hours there was some positive pressure in the airlocks but no real sign of fermentation. Now almost 5 days later there is still no krausen and not much activity in the airlock. Getting worried.

Update May 4, 2011: pretty much right after my last update the beer really took off. That was the longest lag time I’ve had on a brett beer. Fermented nicely and the two are now blended together. The brett portion was at 1.020 but will continue to slowly come down (I expect it to stop around 1.014). The Lacto portion is not so easy to measure since the lactic acid it produces is actually denser than water so a hydrometer is useless (I should have taken pH readings before and after). The sourness developed very nicely on the nose and in taste. A bit of appley balsamic flavor with a bright crispness underneath and slight vegetal. Went well with the chocoalte notes in the beer. Tasted different ratios of the two portions but surprisingly enough 1/4 lacto portion to 3/4 brett portion tasted the best. So all 5liters of lacto portion went into the brett batch. Now the beer needs to sit a couple-few months.

hop nest

hopnest_label090702That’s the name I have given my munich malt IPA (still working on the label). This brew has turned out to be quite a fantastic, balanced IPA. It has the necessary hop bite, tons of hop flavor and a dreamy aroma. It does not have the harshness and finess of a sledgehammer that so many IPA’s do. This could be the beer to turn me to the hop side. So really, how is the beer? Well, I will try to give it the good old ratebeer analysis.

The beer pours a hazy deep copper with orange edges. A tall slowly fading creamy yellowed head sits proudly on top. Pungent hop nose with grapefruit zest and some musty pine resin. Some indeterminate fruitiness blows in as the hops dance around. Very complex hop notes that are a bit hard to nail down. Heavenly if you like the smell of hops! I can pick up something that you could describe as “winey.” Could this be the famed character of the Nelson Sauvin hops or am I just looking too hard for it? No, as it warms up that character comes out more. A touch of simple sugar and malt make their way upfront after a while, but the nose is definitely hop forward. First impression in the mouth is a good stiff bitterness coming from deep with some grassy notes. Not astringent at all but definitely assertive. Some malt and thinned out caramel try to work there way upfront but are pushed back by waves of citrus hops. Some pine is noticed in the throat. Good lightly fruity tones. Quite nice. Malt does finally make its way forward and join the grapefruit and “wine” for a decently long finish. Medium to light mouthfeel with a dry finish. CO2 level is just right.

Score: aroma 8/10, appearance 4/5, flavor 8/10, palate 3/5, overall 16/20: total score 3.9/5

hopnest_tasting090702This is pretty much exactly what I was shooting for. The only thing that I would like to change is that the beer is just a touch too thin. That is not really surprising since this was an experiment with only munich malt… nothing to build mouthfeel. I have already adjusted the recipe in BeerAlchemy to include a touch of crystal. It will definitely be brewed again. I am also now in love with Nelson Sauvin hops!

bottling day

bottling_munichIPA_090607Yesterday I bottled up the munich IPA I brewed a few weeks ago. The aroma is absolutely fantastic. There is obviously a big dose of hops covering a nice range from citrus to the coveted Sauvignon Blanc aroma from the Nelson Sauvin. What a wonderful hop this is turning out to be. It mixes very nicely with the amarillo and the Munich malt. I am a little surprised at how deep and complex the malt character is considering there is only one malt in it! The hydrometer sample was damn tasty too with a nice grapefruit zest and grape-skin on top of a deep malt with toasted bread, biscuit notes and something faintly chocolatey, but I don’t know where that would have come from. I can’t wait to try this with CO2. I think this brew is turning out really well. Above and beyond my non-hophead expectations. Both Munich as a base malt and the use of Nelson Sauvin hops get a big thumbs up… but I do need to wait till the bottles are ready before I make a final call on this brew. Oh yeah, I was reminded with how tedious and time consuming bottling is. It is definitely not the most fun part of brewing.

What happened since I brewed it: I let the beer ferment for 2 weeks before I added 10g of Amarillo and 10g of Nelson Sauvin whole leaf hops into the primary for dry-hopping. I have heard that you can bring out some berry esters when you dry-hop while the beer is on the yeast cake, but I wasn’t detecting that in the hydrometer sample. The beer sat on the hops for another week and then I bottled. I ended up with 9 liters (damn those hops for soaking up so much of my beloved brew!) of a FG 1.010 IPA, OG was 1.057. Now, lets hope I didn’t screw up anything when bottling.

My cellar smells like hops!

munichIPANow, I am no hop-head, but living in “the land that hops forgot” it is nice to blow my senses away with some Humulus Lupulus now and then. When I started my brewday on saturday, I was having one of my hop cravings. So what did I do? I upped the hops on the recipe for the 100% Munich malt IPA. It should be more of an American IPA now, rather than the barely-an-IPA I was going to brew. It was a bit of a last minute decision, but when I smell the hop aroma coming out of the fermenter, my senses thank me for the change in recipe. I decided to up the hops, but I also decided to make a smaller batch this time. I wanted to save enough of the Nelson Sauvin hops for some Brett brews that are planned. I only made about a 12 liter (3.2 US gallon) batch as opposed to my normal 20 liters (5.3 US gallons). Since this was a smaller batch I decided to use my old small mash tun. Its nice to have a small mash tun like that but I realized that I need to rebuild it. I will probably be using the smaller mash tun more than the big one so I can brew smaller batches but more often. One thing I forgot to take into account was the different boil-off rate on the stove inside that I discovered on the last brew, so my OG was 1.057 instead of the calculated 1.062. I am trying to be less anal about my brewing so officially this doesn’t bother me, but inside I am kicking myself. Overall, the brew day went alright, but I am still a bit rusty since this is only my second brew since my year long hiatus. Guess that means I need to brew more!

OG 1.057 (target was 1.062)
IBU 59 (Rager formula)
60 min boil
boil volume 17 liters
batch size: targeted 12 liters but final volume is unknown (a lot of hop material made it hard to measure.

3kg Munich

7g Amarillo whole hops (60 min)
7g Nelson Sauvin whole hops (60 min)
8g Amarillo whole hops (20 min)
8g Nelson Sauvin whole hops (20 min)
7g Amarillo whole hops (5 min)
7g Nelson Sauvin whole hops (5 min)

I will most likely be dry-hopping this beer also. Perhaps 10g of both the Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin.

The beer is happily chugging away in the cellar with US-05 yeast. Since this was a smaller batch I decided not to split it and ferment half with S-04.

Plans can change

rockin_babyPlans can change, especially when you have a baby. I didn’t get to brew last Sunday but that was not necessarily a bad thing. Instead we spent some quality family time together. We introduced our baby daughter to the wonderful world of music festivals, and she loved it! There was a family-friendly music festival and the sun was shining so the brew kettle stayed in the shed.

This past week was pretty fruitful even without brewing or grilling. Noskos over at BBQ-NL sent me a bottle of Plowboy’s Yardbird rub that I won in a BBQ lotto of sorts. I am looking forward to trying it out. Now I just have to figure out what I want to try it out with. So many things I’d like to throw on the smoker. I also received some hops I ordered from the people at the hopshopUK. They are hop varieties which I can not find in mainland Europe. 100 grams of Amarillo (USA) and 100 grams of Nelson Sauvin (NZ). I am very interested in both these varieties. Amarillo for its citrussy orange and grapefruit and Nelson Sauvin for its supposed grapey, sauvignon-blanc aroma. Also on the beer front,  I talked with Chad over at The Brettanomyces Master Project Blog (who is working with Brettanomyces at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, and has a fascinatining blog for beer geeks interested in Brett). Chad has graciously offered to send over a sampler of some pure brett strains he’s been culturing up. Some commercially available and some not. I have been itching to play with more funky yeasts and bacteria in my beers. Now I hope the beers turn out well so I can repay Chad with tasty samples!

The new plan: The experimental brew I was going to do last Sunday has been changed to a not so experimental IPA (not a west-coast hop-bomb, I’m looking for balance). It is made with only Munich malt though, so that is new for me. I will be hopping it with a combination of Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin hops and doing a split ferment with US-05 and S-04. Should be tasty!

Sunday experiment

dr_jekyllmr_hydeI just found out that I have Sunday free. Since I have been dreaming of doing some brewing experiments I figured Sunday is brew day! I have three ideas that I want to try all rolled up into one brew session. First, I want to do a brew using Munich malt as the base malt (or even 100% of the malt). I want to get a better feel for some of the more special base malts. The last brew was with Vienna as the base, but that will be a sour ale so I don’t know how much I will learn about vienna from that. This Munich malt brew should give me a good impression of what Munich can do. The second experiment will involve splitting the batch between two fermenters. In one I will add Safale US-05, a neutral yeast so I can really taste the malt. In the second fermenter I will add Wyeast Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. I really want to get into brewing beers using wild yeast and bacteria so I figure I need to do an all Brett ferment. I am really curious about that. The third experiment may or may not actually happen, I haven’t decided yet. I was thinking of doing a no-sparge mash. This isn’t really all that interesting but I’d like to know if it really would save a lot of time on tight brew days. I’d end up with a mash that is about 20% less efficient than my typical batch-sparging but on a 1.050 OG beer it won’t need too much extra grain to make up for that.

Since I just decided I will be brewing, I haven’t finalized a recipe yet. Obviously it will be Munich based, but I don’t know if I will be adding anything to that. I want to get a feel for the Munich but I also would like something with some interest. Perhaps something like this then:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Munich Malt 90%

Pale Wheat malt 7-8%

Belgian Chocolate Malt Debittered (800EBC) 2-3%

East Kent Golding 60 Min From End and perhaps a 20-30 minute addition. In total about 25 IBU.

Single infusion mash around 68C (154F)

Split ferment with half getting Wyeast Brett Brux and the other half getting US-05

…but then again, 100% Munich with EKG hops is an option. One of these days I want to do an 100% Munich IPA with EKG and Fuggles. I just like the idea, but for now I don’t want the hops to cover up the malt too much.