Category Archives: Brewday

Catching up – Porter, Pompey, and W00tstout

I didn’t have much time to homebrew over the summer, thanks to a very busy work and travel schedule, but now that Autumn is in full swing, and the end of the year has brought with it the usual slowdown in my industry, I’ve had time to set up and brew three different beers in the last few weeks.

First up, I did the St. Paul Porter from Northern Brewer (in fact, all of these kits came from Northern Brewer, because I work with them to do some of my own things). This was an extract kit with specialty grains, and I did a liveblog of it on Twitter during brew day. Here are some highlights:

It was a fun brewing session for me, and I enjoyed sharing the steps along the way with people who follow DevilsGateBrew on Twitter (it’s much lighter than my main account, so I can actually interact with people who have questions). In fact, I had such a good time with it, I hatched an idea to do a livestream video of a brew day, explaining all the steps as I do them, and taking questions during the long stretches of waiting for something to happen in the kettle. As a proof of concept for that video (and potential series) I shot a couple things and posted them to G+ when I made Northern’s Plinian Legacy kit, which I call Pompey The Great.

I can’t embed them, because why in the world would Google want to make it easy to embed things that might drive people to G+? So here are links to

The sun went down in a hurry, so it was too dark to film the last part, but after I pitched the yeast (2x 1056), it was bubbling like crazy within two hours. It’s a good thing I used a blowoff, because not only did it overflow the mason jar I was using, but it nearly filled up the little bowl I put the jar in, just to be safe. That beer will be racked to secondary next Sunday, and dry-hopped twice before it gets kegged. According to my brewing calendar, it should be ready to drink around January 16.

Yesterday, I finally had time to use all of my shiny, fancy, new equipment to make the all grain #w00tstout kit that we started selling at Northern Brewer a couple months ago. This is a huge beer, with a target OG of 1.108, 21 pounds of grain, a two and a half hour mash, and a ninety minute boil. I tweeted it, and here are some highlights:

I know it’s called a carboy, by the way. I was just being silly. It was tremendously relaxing to spend literally an entire day — from about 1030am until nearly 6pm — just taking my time to make this beer. I made a couple of small mistakes, most notably not collecting enough wort. I got about 6.5 gallons, which is usually enough for a typical 60-minute boil, but with this being a 90 minute boil, I really should have collected closer to 8 gallons. I ended up with about 4.5 gallons when I was finished boiling, and undershot my OG, ending at 1.106. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but I’m always learning while I brew, and next time I do this kit, I’ll make sure to get more wort. (I also ended up letting the mash tun run extra runnings into a separate kettle, and got about 4 gallons of 1.030 wort, which I was going to use to make a partigyle stout today, but it’s raining. I have it refrigerated, so I’ll try to turn it into beer before the end of the day tomorrow, just for kicks, and make a 1 gallon experimental batch).

As I type this, the #w00tstout is fermenting a few feet away from me. It’s making happy, tiny bubbles in the blowoff’s Mason jar, but it isn’t filling my room with the magnificent smell of hops like the Pompey did (unsurprisingly). The recipe instructions say that it will be ready in about 3 months.

So that catches me up on my latest brewing adventures. Coming up soon, I’m going to post pictures and descriptions of my equipment, brew the extract version of #w00tstout, share a new brewer’s holiday gift guide, and maybe have a new homebrewing webseries to announce. Thanks for reading, and happy homebrewing!

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Brewday: Synchronicity Extraordinaire Wheaten Saison

Northern Brewer had a sale recently. If you ordered four extract kits, they were shipped for free. Extract kits can sit in my closet for a few weeks (hops go in the freezer) so it seemed like a good deal and I pulled the trigger.

One of the kits I got was the Synchronicity Extraordinaire Wheaten Saison. I am absolutely crazy for Saisons, and I kind of loved the idea of a relatively quick extract-based brewday with minimal ingredients. It’s been really warm here so letting it ferment up around 77° shouldn’t be difficult, and if everything goes well, it’ll be ready in about 6 weeks.

The kit was really simple: 6 pounds of wheat malt extract, three hops additions, a late addition of 1 pound of honey, and some lemongrass and sweet orange peel. Holy Hell did it smell good in the last five minutes!

Normally, when I do extracts, it’s a partial boil that gets topped off before pitching yeast, but I’ve done a couple from Brewing Classic Styles, and I much prefer doing a full boil (partially because it makes getting a correct OG reading much easier than if I add water and have to worry about striation) so I got on the line with the support crew at Northern Brewer, and asked if I could go ahead and do full boil without messing up the hop utilization. Gabe at NB told me that for a non-hop-forward beer like this, it would be fine to do that (for a hop-forward beer I could still do it, but there’s a bit of math involved to ensure the hop utilization is correct) so I went ahead and did a 6.5 gallon boil. Everything went great, with no boil overs or accidents, and I was able to drain right into my bucket leaving trub and hop debris in the bottom of the kettle. Unfortunately, I miscalculated my boil off and ended with just under 4.5 gallons, but my OG was 1.052 (right on target!) so I didn’t top it up. I aerated it for about 20 minutes, pitched Danstar’s saison yeast, and after about 3 hours lag, the yeasties were doing their thing.

I checked it this morning, and fermentation is going like crazy, so I’m staying out of the way until it’s all done sometime next week. I’ll do about a five day secondary (while I’m in Phoenix next weekend for Comicon, probably) and then this one will go into bottles because I don’t have enough kegs or kegerator space [FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS] to package it any other way.

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Brewday: American Pale Ale

I really wanted to make beer yesterday, but I didn’t have time to do the all-grain Halcyon Wheat I’ve had on my schedule for so long, the grains have probably gone stale. So I asked Anne what style she’d like me to make, and went to the homebrew supply to pick up the ingredients for the caramel American Pale Ale from Brewing Classic Styles.

The only problem was, my homebrew supply didn’t have any Munich extract, which is an important part of the recipe. Greg (the owner of Eagle Rock Homebrew Supply) and I stood in the store for several minutes trying to figure out what I could do instead, and then we simultaneously realized that I could just substitute Munich malt for the extract, and do a partial mash of that malt with the caramel 40 specialty grains.

I gathered my hops, milled my grains, and then went to get the LME … only to realize that the recipe calls for 7.9 pounds, and the homebrew supply only sells LME in 6 and 3 pound units. Undeterred, Greg and I did some math, figure out that I could substitue an appropriate amount of light DME for 2 pounds of LME, and pretty soon, I was in business.

I mashed the grains at 154 with a thickness of 1.5qt/pound for 45 minutes, circulated the resulting wort through the bag one time, and was delighted when I saw that my calculations were spot-on, leaving me with exactly 2.25 quarts, which I added to about 6 gallons in my brewing kettle.

My boil was uneventful. I didn’t boil over, I didn’t boil too much, I didn’t evaporate too much, and when the whole thing was over I collected just over 5 gallons of wort. The best part? The target gravity was 1.052, and that’s exactly what I got. I pitched 2 WLP001 at about 74* (a little warm, I know, but I had to leave) and when I got home six hours later, the yeasties were already doing their thing.

This beer is currently unnamed, but I’m looking forward to drinking it in a few weeks, so I can find out if the adjustments I made worked, and if I brewed to style.

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Brewday: Pliny The Elder

I recently figured out that brewing is a stress release for me, so when I have a ton of stuff going on, I usually end up making some beer. One particularly busy time in February was preceded by me making four freaking all-grain batches of beer in a week. I have a big week coming up, and I’m sort of hung up on a story I’m writing, so yesterday I made an extract Pliny from More Beer.

We’re having weird weather in Los Angeles, and yesterday a lot of warm unsettled air dropped hail and quite a bit of rain all over the place, so I set up under an overhang by my back kitchen door, and got to work. This particular kit uses six separate hop additions, including 2 ounces of whole Cascade while steeping the specialty grains (holy hell did that smell good), as well as a lot of extra sugars (maltodextrin and dme and corn sugar) to lighten the colour and increase the fermentables.

It was a delightful brewing experience, just me and the weather and my dog sleeping on the floor in the kitchen behind me. I had some trouble keeping the long boil going (I’m still figuring out my new regulator and burner), but I had an uneventful brewing session that gave me a little over four gallons of wort that finished at 1.098. After topping it up to 5 gallons, the OG dropped to 1.078, so if my yeast stays happy and hungry, this could be a monster double IPA when it’s all done. I pitched 2 smack packs of 1056 (I didn’t think to make a starter this time, which was kind of silly considering the high OG) and after about a 5 hour lag, they went to work. I’m using a blow-off tube into a glass Wheaton lab bottle filled with StarSan, and HOLY BALLS is it going crazy. It sounds like playing cards in the spokes of your childhood dirt bike and the wheel is just slowly spinning in perpetual motion.

This is a great kit, and More Beer includes instructions for full or partial boils (I did a full boil, and in the last 30 minutes had a ton of evaporation, probably because, like I said, I’m trying to figure out this new regulator and burner). They also give you the recipe for all-grain, so if you wanted to make it yourself after you’ve made the extract version, you have that at your fingertips.

In other homebrewing news: later today, I’m going to bottle the tripel I made three months ago (usually I keg, but I think a tripel should go in big bottles). I pulled a sample of the possibly-infected Patient Zero yesterday, and it tastes off to me. I’m hoping that the yeast will clean it up for another 10 days or so, but I think it may be a lost cause.

But that’s one of the joys of homebrewing: it’s entirely out of my hands (and inside one of my kegs) so all I can do is let it do its thing, hope for the best, and accept that it’s out of my control now.

 

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Bonus Brew Day: Parti-gyle Mystery Ale

So yesterday’s Barley Wine did not go as planned. There were … errors.

I ended up sparging way too fast, so the OG of my wort was very low (around 1.060 instead of 1.106). I knew I could get the gravity up with the long boil, but I still sort of panicked, put too much wort in my brewpot, boiled it too hot, and in addition to the nearly 2 gallon boil over I had, I also boiled off another two gallons.

When it was all done, I had just around three gallons of … wait for it … 1.103 wort. I could have just fermented that and probably would have done well, but I’d made a 2L starter, so I panicked again and topped it up to 5 gallons. Which dropped the OG to around 1.065ish. Stupid, Wheaton. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Brewing Mystery Ale It’s currently fermenting in my office, and I’m really glad I put a blowoff tube on it because it looks like it’s going to explode, and the tube is full of kreusen.

It seemed like a shame to just take 22 pounds of grist and throw it into the compost bin, so I did a second mash, which I added to about 2 gallons of high gravity wort I had left over from the barley wine. I did some calculations in Beersmith, and concluded that I could probably end up with a very light pale ale, maybe in the 1.050 range if I get lucky. I have a ton of hops in my fridge, so I decided to do the following:

Roughly 6.5 gallons of second runnings from the barley wine grist.

1oz Simcoe at 60

1oz Willamette at 15

1oz Willamette at 5

Ferment with 1056 or US-05, depending on how I feel in about 2 hours.

I have no idea what will happen with this, but it’s a fun experiment that doesn’t cost me anything except time, and since I got up early this morning specifically to do this brew, I think I’m still coming out ahead.

Post-boil update: Everything went well, and I ended up with a nice pale ale, OG around 1.039. I suppose it’s sort of on the line between an English Pale and a Bitter, and will likely finish around 5%. I’m sticking with Mystery for the name, because reasons.

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Brew Day – Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine

Several weeks ago, I bought a 5 gallon used whisky barrel. It’s been sitting in my office ever since, waiting to be filled with something… anything. Seriously, dude, just do something with me. I made whisky for christsakes!

I haven’t had time to do an all-grain brew for months, but I was looking at my calendar and saw that I have this entire day free until around 5pm, so I resolved to do an all-grain brew today. That brew is the Old Guardian Barley Wine from the Stone Brewing book, because it’s a simple recipe that will deliver a high gravity monster which is perfect for aging in my whisky barrel.

I have a 2L starter on my stirplate, and a full bottle of propane to get me through the nearly 2-hour boil. This is going to be a lot of fun, and in about 7 months — you know, right around my birthday — I should have some oak-aged barley wine to celebrate with.

 

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Brew Day – Lady Liberty Ale

For today’s brew day, I made the Lady Liberty Ale from John Palmer’s How To Brew.

I wanted to do a fairly simple and straightforward extract Pale Ale, so I have something ready to drink in a few weeks, rather than the few months I’ve had to wait for most of my recent high gravity brews. It’s so damn cold today, I didn’t even want to consider sitting on the patio for the hours and hours an all-grain brew would take. It was 46 degrees and windy when I finished, so it was a good choice.

Boiling Wort

We have hot break!

It’s a very simple recipe: 6.6 pounds of light extract plus 8 ounces of C60 steeped.

You split the LME into halves, put the first half in when the boil begins, and then put the second half in at knockout.

Almost there...

Cascade hops are amazing.

The hop schedule is delicious:

.5 ounce Northern Brewer for bittering

.5 ounce Cascade at 30

1 ounce Cascade at 15

I like to use muslin bags for my hops (except for first wort hops) because it cuts down on the trub in an extract brew. When I do all-grain, I use Irish Moss so it’s less of a concern, but for an extract, I like to keep things clean.

The only change I made to John’s recipe was the addition of yeast nutrient at 15. I pitched one vial of WLP001.

 

I was just going to call this Lady Liberty, but my brewdog, Marlowe, decided to dig a hole in the yard and make a huge mess while I was boiling. I was able to give her a bath and didn’t miss a hop addition or allow a boilover, so I decided this is going to be called Dirty Dog Pale Ale.

Marlowe Wheaton: assistant brewer.

Marlowe Wheaton: assistant brewer and dirty dog.

I also racked the Tripel I made on the day the world ended (Brewpocalypse) to a carboy for about 7 weeks of conditioning. I should have racked it a week or so ago, so it ended up being in primary for 21 days. However, it’s looking like it’ll finish around 9.3%, so … yeah.

I also took the Midnight Beatdown Wheaten Porter I was aging in my Sparks McGee barrel and racked it into a korny keg. It should be ready in about 4 or 5 days after force carbonation.

As I write this, fermentation is really getting going on the Pale Ale. The Original Specific Gravity reading is about 1.060 (it’s tough to get a perfect reading because of the foam on top of the wort), so I think I’ll be looking at a nice 5ish% or so when it’s finished.

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Brewpocalypse 2012

It’s a beautiful day here in Los Angeles. It’s a bit cool, but if the world has to end, it picked a nice day to do it.

To celebrate the latest Apocalypse, I’m brewing a Carmelite Triple-Grain Tripel from Northern Brewer.

This is the first Tripel I’ve made, and I’m a bit nervous about the two months it needs to spend in secondary. Keeping good temperature control that entire time will likely be a challenge.

If everything goes according to plan, though, I’ll find out how it went right around π day. This pleases my inner beer and math geeks.

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