Tag Archives: Homebrewing

Coconut Porter Tasting

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Coconut Porter

Brewing with coconut has been an a desire of mine for some time.  I’ve only have had a few wonderful coconut beers, so this was my first shot in the dark. It tasted ok, but really, not too impressive.  I toasted the dried coconuts on the stove for about 15 – 20 min before putting them into the secondary for about 10 days.

Appearance: A wonderful Dark brown that has a honey/amber undertone to it

Nose: Big time Chocolate and some coconut aromas.  Malty with hints of dark fruit and plum

Taste: easy start with a big coconut, hop , dark chocolate mid flavor. the blend of flavors gave an almost metal taste.  Kinda weird, but if i cut the hop character, I think it would just be coconut flavor

Mouthfeel: nice carb, but the flavor is a bit cloying

Overall:  6/10.  Kick up the coconut and drop some hops.  The base beer was a great start on this beer.

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OH NO! My sour cask wants to be a volcano?!?!

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I’m not sure if it is the teaching, the brewing, or just “grown up” instinct, but I’ve become accustomed to hearing loud noises and running directly toward the sound.  This reaction has proved to be tremendously valuable .  Last week I saved my clothes from a growler that felt like becoming a bottle bomb in my closet. While today, I was lucky enough to be in front of my computer when my recently inoculated (Roeselare Blend from Wyeast) and filled cask started going off like a second grade science project. This makes sense, but I’m surprised at the force that the beer was coming out with.  If you have ever taped a keg of beer, without realizing that the tap was not connected to the disconnect, that’s the pressure I’m talking about. Cask volcano will now be the artwork for this beer!  I fixed the problem by using some duct tape to barely hold the cork in place (I don’t have an airlock that will fit) emptying out some of the beer and putting the whole cask in a styrofoam cooler.  BTW, friends that order Omaha Steaks are great to know if you’re a homebrewer.

RED LAVA IN THE TIP JAR

problem solved! until an airlock comes to me...

brewing on a budget….

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This last year has been a great time for my brewing.  I won my first homebrew competition, which gave me a real kick in the butt to brew more frequently.  Since that competition I have been brewing weekly, sometimes working on beer 3 times a week.  Its been about 5 – 6 months of that schedule and I have spent all my money. As you can tell, slowing down my brewing is an answer to my problem, but I find a great amount of joy playing with my beer, so I’ve decided to knock back the brewing schedule to every other week and start saving money wherever I can.

With my science background, I’m planning on saving yeast and making slides, but I’m broke enough that an autoclave (pressure cooker!) is out of the question right now. This leads me to the cheapest/easiest way to save money on brewing, reusing yeast.  All I do is put the newly made beer directly on top of an old batches yeast cake.  I always make sure that the cake is as fresh as possible and never leave the yeast without beer in it for more than an hour or so.  I know this is tremendously over pitching the yeast… but whatever, its easy and the fast fermentation is wonderful!

I have also been reading/listening up a lot on no sparge brewing (video link).  No sparge brewing is a process commonly used for lower ABV beers that could use a better malt backbone.  In this process, you use all the water you need for your brew day in the mash tun, vorloft it well, and drain the entire mash tun into a brew kettle.  You lose some efficiency, but it makes for a wonderful beer (which I will soon find out!)

While I was listening to this method, I thought of a way to still use the extra sugars in the mash tun, make a partygyle brewday out of this process.  After I brew a no sparge batch, I simply add another 3 -4 lbs of grain (sometimes specialty grains) to the mash tun at the mashing temp and let it go through another conversion.  This second mash usually lasts about 2 hours, since I have been only using my 7.5 gallon kettle for inside brews and i have to wait to get the first beer out of the brew kettle.

The results of this process have been promising.  After 2 brew days, I have been able to get 4 different 5 gallon batches for the grain normally used to make 2 gallon batches.  Is the original gravity lower on all 4? sure! But with OG’s in the 1.040 range, i am more than content with having a few 4 – 5 % ABV beers coming down the pipeline.

This leads me to my last option to save money. STOP BREWING BIG BEERS.  Usually my beer all hover in between 6 and 10 % ABV.  ya know, I make strong beer! But with my goal being lower ABV beer, my bills are remarkably smaller, usually walking out of the homebrew store with a bill for less than $40.  That means I making beer at about 40 cents a beer.  Its weird, but it seems that I can finally make great beer that is cheaper than buying commercial beers! It only took about 6 years of brewing to do it, but my original goal was to make good beer cheaply. and now I have.

More on these beers to come!

the purrfect ipa

The Souring of a Cask

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Which one shall I choose?

One of the most fantastic rewards of having casks to play with is the ability to make sour beers.  A cask is the perfect vessel to keep micro organism cultures happy.  There is always a little oxygen sneaking into casks and our friends Lactobacillus and Peddiococcus love that.  In many ways, preventing them from developing in casks can be an exercise in futility, but I am taking steps in three casks (Scotch Casks, Blaton’s Bourbon cask, and Evan Williams bourbon cask) which will be a future post.  One of my casks, the rye cask, has been giving off some winey characteristics in the beers aging and I felt like it was about time to push this one over the edge.

A while back, I made a beer based off of a Westvelren 12 Quad.  I have 5 gallons currently lagering for eternity… planning on waiting until December (12 months old) to pull it out at taste it. I also had 1.5 extra gallons of the base quad that was fermented separately from the other 5 gallons using Chardonnay yeast.  Both beers clock in around 11.5 % ABV.  I wasn’t planning on souring this beer, but i am finished looking at this beer sitting, I MADE IT TO EXPERIMENT DAMMIT!

The next part of this cask souring experience comes from an endeavor that was way to long in the making.  The Homemade wine, Pony Vino, that my room-mate Tom and I made about a year ago was finally bottled a few weeks ago.  The wine is okay, kinda like a sweet red, but drinkable.

Wait....How many ml are in 5 gallons?

Unfortunately, when we bottled the wine, my math was stupid and I ran out of wine bottles with about a gallon left over…

Then my worlds came together in a fantastic moment of clarity. The wine went right into the Quad, followed with a good 3 ounces of Fantome De Noel

yum yum yum

a splendid beer that was a gift my friend Degal gifted me.

The fermentor bubbled for two weeks before I got around to playing with the casks, so I’m counting on micro’s munching away in there.  I’m planning on pitching a commercial bought micro blend within the week to throw into the cask as well.

So far, things are pretty crazy on this beer, but was I done? no way!  Every summer, there is this totally awesome fig tree that grows in my neighbor’s backyard, and no one EVER picks the figs.  This last summer I felt like it was a duty of mine to do something more with those lovely fruits than simply feed the birds, so I picked about a pound and froze them.  I had planned to put them into the Quad when it was done fermenting, but I left in the freezer until now.  I also had 2 packages of Blackberries frozen, so I just put them all together into this project.

I defrosted the fruit, cooked them for about 15 min, mushing them up the whole time, and then blended them in my blender.  Once they cooled, I tossed the puree into the cask after the beer.

messy messy messy

I think I have been reading the madfermentationist way to much lately, but I’m very excited about where this beer will go.  Updates to come!

Barrel Aging Update: 2/7/2012

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UPDATE

Here is an update on the beer that is sitting in my casks since 11/28/2011:

Scotch Ale:

1. Scotch Cask: The nose has a roasty hint and a tart essence. The scotch/oak is really drying out the flavor profile.  This is very delicate and dark. Can’t wait to bottle this, but I might leave it in cask awhile longer

2. Evan Williams Cask: a roundier sweeter scent than the scotch cask. Vanilla oak and no roastiness in the nose. The taste is a real surprise. The bourbon flavors moves this beer in a great direction. A thight tannin finish… whoa. ready to bottle!

Brown Ale:

1.  Blanton’s Cask: this smells like a belgian dark sour beer, but still with a sweet backbone.  The flavor is a nice smooth balanced beer. this is good, not very oaky or bourbony, just an easy beer, with a complicated flavor. a little wine finish.

2. Rye Cask: an oaky raisin nose. A bright citrus flavor, with a weird grapefruit essence.  This could get a little more sour, and turn into a fantastic rodenbach type belgian. This could mean some additional micro organisms…. uhm…..

is dark a color?

Our Invisible Roommates Part 1

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Harvesting Wild Yeast

all my invisble friends!!!!

As a person who has found science and brewing to be a wonderful world of interest and excitement, I have recently been going back in time and revisiting some of the lab equipment that I had to use in college.  It turns out that a great deal of the science I learned in school is readily applicable to brewing.  The first process I wanted to focus on was harvesting wild yeast.  This is a practice that was the traditional procedure for brewing beer in history.  It can be traced back to the beginning of civilization, when people first started using our micro organism friends as workers. This is still practiced in Belgium and in many of the new craft breweries that are focusing on wild yeast and other micro organisms (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces)
First off, I would like to say that this is a very challenging process, especially for someone who has been accustomed to modern brewing techniques, where sanitation is paramount to making good beer.  Harvesting wild yeast is not for the casual brewer, or in many ways, the professional brewer.  Controlling this process would be nearly impossible, the daunting amount of variablity would make products that vary from batch to batch. Blending can help, but wild beers are an intense idea. To get pure yeast, it’s really something that dorky scientist’s should to do, like my friend Dave. 

He's a Yeast Scientist!!

In order to harvest wild yeast, you essentially have to create an environment that only a few organisms will be happy in (like an alcoholic mixture with a low pH (BEER!)) and expose it to the air. If your lucky, you get S. Cervisae. If your unlucky, you can be harvesting a mixture of mold and dangerous bacteria. It was very challenging to get any success with this, with most of the samples being over run with mold. Let’s see what I got!
THAT’S NOT YEAST

This could be due to using a starter what was far too low of a OG.  I accidentally made the starter with only .3 grams for a 50 mL sample (OG 1.010???)instead of the 3 grams that was needed.  This could have made my results a bit unreliable, but I still got some samples with what should be yeast.

I started with 36 samples, placed randomly both inside a large room and outside by the Verrazano Bridge. I left them for 24 hours on a breezy windy early december night.  I then brought the samples in and let them sit covered for 10 days.  Out of 36 samples, only 5 looked to have yeast.  I put those samples onto petri dishes ( about 18 dishes) and let them incubate for another 5 days.  Of the 18 samples. 6 seemed to have yeast colonies. I then put these samples into 6 50 ml starters, then put them onto a stir plate or back into incubator. After 18 days, I took the FG reading on my refractometer.  of the 6 samples, 3 had fermented down to the low 1.030’s, from 1.045.  The other samples had no difference in gravity (into the garbage!)
the one on the left! that’s yeast! I hope….

Looks nice!

At this point, I’m planning on taking the sample with the most active yeast and get my science friend to tell me whats in it. Then, onto a test batch! MORE TO COME!!
Next time I plan on adding sterilization practices to this as well as making a correct starter

The Great Heat Wand

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Being stuck in Brooklyn in a third floor walk up has really hindered my ability to brew 10 gallon batches of beer.  I do have a propane setup and a back yard (more like a cement pit) but i have to walk up and down the stairs way too many times, and then walk around my block to get to the back yard.  I’ve done it a couple of times, but I tell ya, carrying all that beer, all that equipment, and dealing with the yummy in my tummy, have all contributed to me having bad experiences with the whole outside brew day approach.
doing a test run!
Frustration can be the biggest turn off about brewing in Brooklyn (yeessss) but luckily solutions can come from all different areas.  An answer for my problem once again came from BASIC BREWING RADIO, which I think is one of the best resources I have found on the Internet.  They did a whole episode on electric brewing a few years back and in the video section, they got to play with a portable heat wand .
check under electric brewing april 29 2010
A heat wand sounds nightmarish and dangerous, but, after researching, I found out that there are really only a few things scary about it, and those are posted very clearly on a BYO article on the bottom. (here is another helpful link,  http://www.3d0g.net/brewing/heatstick) So I decided to build one with the help of my very handy friend,BULLWINKEL

ME and BULLWINKEL

The set up was really simple honestly. Just follow the directions found on the website (http://www.3d0g.net/brewing/heatstick)  and everything comes together very well.  I was unsure what to do with the ground wire, but i simply cut it and taped it very well with electrical tape.

now that is a rolling boil!

Using this is wonderful.  For a 10 gallon batch, my stove top simply couldn’t maintain a boil, but when I use the heat wand, my boil is a vigorous as a propane brew day, and I usually boil off about 2 gallons in a 60 min brew.  This tool is also wonderful for heating up mash water and striking water.  Without the wand, my burners raises temp at about 2.7 degrees per minute.  but with the heat wand, its about 3.3 deg/min.  which adds up very quickly when making these big batches.
In summary: while I was scared in the beginning, doing 10 gallon batches is absolutely fantastic and is really allowing for experimentation in my brewery (apartment).  This is one of best investments i have made in my brewing lifetime. you should do it!