Sunday, October 23, 2011

Batch #5 - India Pale Ale (Extract)

Batch number 5 is an India Pale Pale.  It is based on the Brewer's Best IPA kit but with a twist.  Because I like my beer hoppy, I'm going to dry hop this batch.  If this one turns out OK I plan to try going all-grain next batch after I accumulate all the necessary equipment.

Ingredient List:
  • 6.6 lbs. Muntons Light Liquid Malt Extract (LME) - Two 3.3 lb./1.5kg cans
  • 1 lb. Brewer's Best Dry Malt Extract (Spray - Dried Malt) DME
  • 1 lb. Brewer's Best Crushed Caramel Malt Specialty Grain
  • 8 oz. Brewer's Best Crushed Victory Malt Specialty Grain
  • 2 oz. Brewer's Best Cascade Bittering Hops, 6.4% Alpha Acid
  • 1.5 oz. Brewer's Best Columbus Bittering Hops, 13.9% Alpha Acid
  • 1 oz. Brewer's Best Cascade Aroma Hops
  • 1 oz. Hopunion Amarillo Dry Hopping Hops (not included in Brewer's Best kit)
  • Wyeast 1272 American II Yeast (replaced the Nottingham Ale dry yeast that came in kit)
  • 5 oz. Brewer's Best Priming Sugar for bottle conditioning
  • Heat approximately 2.5 gallons of drinking water to a steeping temperature of between 150 - 165 degrees.
  • Pour the Crushed Caramel and Victory Malt Specialty Grains into a steep bag and loosely tie a knot to contain the grains and place in your heated water.
  • Steep for approximately 20 minutes but ensure the temperature does not exceed 170 degrees.
  • Remove the grain bag and allow the water to drain back into the brew kettle.  Do not squeeze excess water back into kettle.
  • Bring your newly created wort to a gentle, rolling boil.  Remove from heat and add all of the fermentables (both the LME and DMW) and stir vigorously to ensure they to not caramelize on the bottom of the brew kettle.
  • After the fermentables are added return to heat and gently stir until wort returns to a boil.
  • Slowly sprinkle both bittering hops into boiling wort and boil for 55 minutes.
  • Add aroma hops and boil for 5 more minutes and terminate boil.
  • Place brew kettle in ice bath to chill as quickly as possible to a temperature of  70 degrees.
  • Strain cooled wort into primary fermentation bucket.
  • Start adding water to bring the Original Gravity to between 1.061 - 1.065.
  • Pitch the yeast and stir well to aerate.
  • Add airtight lid with airlock to begin primary fermentation.
  • Ferment for 3-4 days in primary container.  Actual primary fermentation was 8 days.
  • Take a specific gravity reading and record. OG reading - 1.061
  • Transfer to secondary fermentation and add dry hops.  Omitted dry hops.  SG reading 1.020
  • Allow beer to finish fermenting in secondary fermentation carboy for approximately 2 weeks.
  • After about 2 weeks in secondary fermentation proceed to bottling.
Notes and/or lessons learned:
  • For batch #6 consider upgrading brew kettle to larger model that will allow me to do a "full boil" instead of adding water to the concentrated wort.  For this batch I did an initial 3 gallon boil which is about as much as my present brew kettle can handle.
  • My previous 4 batches have all been drinkable but they have all had that homebrew "twang" to them. In reading some threads on I got the following recommendations:
    • Do full boils whenever possible.
    • If you can't do all-grain then use all DME in your extract brewing instead of LME.
    • Stay away from aluminum brew kettles.
    • Maintain appropriate fermentation temperatures.
    • One suggestion was to use only distilled water.
    • Consider making a yeast starter.
  • The directions called for pitching the yeast AFTER adding the additional water to achieve the desired OG hydrometer reading.  I reversed the order.  Not sure if it matters.
  • Desired Finishing Gravity was not achieved.  Fermentation conditions were acceptable.  My guess is that there simply wasn't enough active yeast cells to do the full job.  Hopefully a yeast starter will do the job next time.
  • Popped open a bottle after 7 days of bottle conditioning and there was little carbonation present.  I thought the batch was a dud but at 14 days the beer was great.  This appears to be a style and/or batch that will do well with increased bottle conditioning.
The Verdict:

  • Damn good - possibly the best batch yet.  No homebrew "twang" present.  Tasty.
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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Batch #4 - Rye Pale Ale (Extract)

Homebrew batch #4 is a Rye Pale Ale.  We decided to step it up a bit and take on a recipe that is a little more involved plus it is my favorite beer style - I'm hooked on Terrapin's Rye Pale Ale.

We're still stuck on the Brewer's Best kits since we have had success with them so far.  The Rye Pale Ale beer kit is from their "intermediate" line in terms of difficulty.  The only real difference with this kit as opposed to an "easy" kit is that you steep your grains differently (a partial mash process).  For this kit you employ a "steep-to-convert" process which is a simplified version of mashing.

Most of the grains in extract brewing are pre-converted meaning the starches inside the malted barley have already been converted into sugars through special heating processes.  Base malts (like Pale) are not pre-converted.  They contain starches inside the husk that need to be converted.  The process adds an additional 45 minutes to the overall brewing time.  The hardest part is maintaining a constant temperature of approximately 150 degrees.  It seemed impossible to keep our temperature constant so we would let the heat creep up to 155 and then turn the burner off.  After it decreased to 148 we would reignite and monitor until it was at 155 again and repeat the actions above.

After the "steep-to-convert" procedure it is pretty much business as usual (with one exception as noted below) and the directions are similar to the previous 3 kits we have completed.  With this recipe we used 5 gallons of bottled spring water.  For the past recipes I have used distilled water but read that the minerals in other types of water lend to the overall taste so we are switching things up.

Things got a little dicey when we went to pitch the yeast.  We used a liquid variety from White Labs over the dry yeast packet that comes inside the kit.  It was real close the expiration date so I was slightly concerned it about it still being fresh and active.  When I opened it it fizzed and spewed like a soft drink that had been shaken.  At this point, I didn't have much of an alternative except to pour it in and hope for the best.  Well, a quick Google search and my fears were alleviated.  This is apparently quite common and most brewers reported no problems.  Within 8 hours of pitching the yeast my airlock was bubbling furiously.

Secondary fermentation was started 7 days after primary.  The airlock was still bubbling about every 4 minutes so my goal of moving it to secondary before fermentation completed was achieved.

Another difference with this kit is the addition of "dry hopping".  Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to the beer after the boil and usually to secondary fermentation for the purpose of increasing aroma in the finished beer.  The directions called for a two week secondary fermentation process but something odd happened.  About one week into it the hops had mostly fallen to the bottom of the carboy and fermentation seemed to have ceased.  On about the ninth day it appeared fermentation had started again!  I didn't know if  perhaps the beer was contaminated or what was happening.  I was reminded by my brewing partner (and lovely girlfriend) that the AC in her house was off for a period of time and the temperature crept up to 81 degrees.  Could that have re-activated the yeast?  Even after many weeks the airlock was still bubbling.  A quick Google search indicated the only sure way to tell if fermentation had stopped was to test with a hydrometer.  I'm getting concerned about this batch but time will tell.

When it came time to bottle I wasn't sure what to expect.  We had left the wort in secondary fermentation for about 6 weeks and still noticed activity.  We decided that it was time to move forward and bottle.  A hydrometer reading indicated that the beer was, indeed, at its finishing gravity.  I question how long it had been there but the lesson learned is that visual activity in the wort (or lack there of) isn't the best indicator of what's truly going on with your beer.  Trust your tools, in this case a hydrometer, and use them.  My concern now is how the lengthy secondary fermentation will affect taste.

The moment of truth...

Despite some uncertainty, it looks like we're going to have a decent batch of Rye Pale Ale to drink.  Already thinking about what's next.  Dare were try an all grain recipe...?
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