It’s a stand up Tripel!

Last night, I opened the first bottle of the Carmelite Triple Grain Tripel I made to celebrate the end of the world last year. It’s absolutely sensational, and one of the best beers I’ve ever made. Its color and clarity exceeded my expectations, and the balance of yeast esters and alcohol warmth is delightful. I can tell that it probably wants another week or so to condition the alcohol and smooth it out a bit, and when that happens … boy, it’s going to be challenging to not just dive into the whole thing and go to town. I kind of wish there was a competition I could enter it in, just so I can get some feedback from someone with BJCP. If you have the patience to make it and let it condition for two months, I highly recommend it.

Speaking of competitions, in the next few days I’m going to deliver my Patient Zero Pale Ale to Golden Road for the pro-am competition. I went ahead and kegged the portion that I thought was infected (but hoped was okay) and … well, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with it. There’s definitely something a little off, but it isn’t ruined. In fact, I’m going to brew it again and make sure that it stays healthy, because I believe the recipe is solid. I’m really glad that I did the dry-hopped gallon, because I opened a bottle of that last night and OH MY GOD SWEET HOPPY JESUS IS IT GOOD. The hop aroma is just magnificent (and makes me think that the mystery hop is some kind of New Zealand Cascade), even if it’s just a little bit too much. I used 3/4 of an ounce for the gallon, and if I did it again, I’d probably pull that back to 1/2 or so, just so that it doesn’t overwhelm the malt profile. Still, it’s a great beer and even if I don’t make it past the first round, it’s something I’ll be brewing again (dry-hopped and not).

In the next day or so, I’ll be racking my Pliny the Elder clone (which I call Pompey the Great — bonus points if you can figure out why) to secondary for five freaking ounces of dry hops. I lifted the lid of the fermenter when I moved it to my racking station (kitchen counter) and it looks and smells great. I’m really excited about that.

Finally, the Mystery Parti-gyle just isn’t working out. It’s way too bitter for the malt profile, and it has this bready, doughy taste underneath the bitterness that I just don’t like. If it was the 17th century and we needed it for survival, I’d keep it, but life’s too short in these modren times to drink crummy beer, even if it’s beer you made yourself. So that’s going to the Land of Wind and Ghosts as soon as I need the keg. Oh well. I did learn a lot from that whole experience, so it wasn’t entirely wasted.

Cheers!

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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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infect (?) me with your love

About a week ago, I racked my Golden Road Pro-Am Mystery Hop Beer (tentatively called Rule 34) to secondary. I also pulled one gallon out of the five into a smaller carboy and dry-hopped with 3/4 ounce of the mystery hop, just to see how that would taste. The competition instructions encouraged us to feature the hops, and I thought that was a worthy experiment.

This morning, while preparing to bottle both brews, I discovered what looked like an ugly infection on the surface of the large carboy:

Infected(?) Beer

Gross.

It looks pretty nasty, and I had a big old sad.

Luckily, the dry-hopped gallon is fine and healthy, so I think that’s what I’ll submit into the contest.

But here’s the thing: I popped the airlock out of the carboy and took a big smell (Thinly rolling for a Smell Check and getting a critical success). It didn’t smell sour or gross or off at all. Intrigued, I pulled a few ounces into a glass (using massively sanitized equipment, of course) and tasted it. It didn’t taste weird to me at all, so I asked Anne to taste it, and she also thought it tasted fine.

So I suppose it’s possible that what I thought was an infection is actually something yeasty that looks bad (there is a big, ugly whitish bubble on top, which is what really makes me nervous) but isn’t a problem. If it is infected, I’m worried about bottle bombs, so I decided to keg that four-ish gallons and let it naturally carbonate right up until it’s time to submit my bottles. I’ll use my beer gun to bottle some, and then make a decision about submitting the dry-hopped version or this one. At the very least, I’ll submit the dry-hopped version and hope for the best.

And if the infected(?) batch is drinkable, I’m calling it Patient Zero Pale Ale.

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I’m in Golden Road Brewing’s Pro-Am Contest!

The Golden Road Brewery selected 42 homebrewers to participate in a competition that will send the winner to the Great American Beer Festival in the Pro-Am competition. I am lucky enough to be one of the 42!

All of us got a big bag of mystery hops. All we know is that they are 7.8%AA, and smell pretty great. I got a very clean, almost noble aroma, but my brother got a piney aroma, so that doesn’t exactly help narrow down the origin. To be honest, though, I kind of like that it’s just a mystery.

So we’re charged with making a beer within the competition guidelines using these hops, and submitting finished bottles by the end of March. Four of the submissions will be brewed on their pilot system, and one of the four will be declared the winner.

Because I don’t have a whole lot of time to get something conditioned and ready to drink, and because the hops are 7.8%AA, I was immediately limited , which was a good thing; creativity comes from limitation! I kicked around a few ideas, and decided to make an American Pale Ale, which I thought would let the hops come through, and which should be ready to drink faster than, say, a Saison or a Brown.

Here’s my first pass at the recipe:

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Golden Road Pro-Am Pale
Brewer: Wil Wheaton
Asst Brewer: 
Style: American Pale Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0)
Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 6.52 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.98 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal 
Bottling Volume: 5.13 gal
Estimated OG: 1.055 SG
Estimated Color: 10.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 80.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Ingredients:
------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU 
9 lbs 0.7 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 2 83.0 % 
1 lbs 1.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3 9.8 % 
8.5 oz Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.9 % 
4.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.3 % 
0.86 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 22.4 IBUs 
0.43 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 7 8.6 IBUs 
0.22 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 15.0 min Hop 8 2.8 IBUs 
0.93 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 9 4.8 IBUs 
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [124.21 Yeast 10 -
Mash Schedule: Temperature Mash, 2 Step, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs 14.2 oz
----------------------------
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time 
Protein Rest Add 13.61 qt of water at 129.3 F 122.0 F 30 min 
Saccharification Heat to 156.0 F over 15 min 156.0 F 30 min 
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min 168.0 F 10 min
Sparge: Fly sparge with 4.67 gal water at 168.0 F
Created with BeerSmith 2 - http://www.beersmith.com
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I’m probably going to tweak this a little bit, and maybe simplify. I may take out the wheat entirely and just up the C60 a tiny bit, or mix in some C40. At the moment, it’s going to end up right in the middle of the style guideline, and I want to preserve that.  I may also change the mash to a single infusion, just to eliminate one more place where I can screw up.

This will be my first ever competition, and I’m really excited. Even if I don’t get past the first round, I’ll probably learn a whole lot of things.

UPDATED: I asked John Palmer, who I met last night at the Beer Blogger’s thing at Chloe’s at the Pub at Golden Road (wow, that’s a lot of nested ats), for some feedback and comments on my recipe. He gave me some great notes and suggestions, so I have modified the recipe thusly:

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Golden Road Pro-Am Pale
Brewer: Wil Wheaton
Asst Brewer: 
Style: American Pale Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0)
Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 6.52 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.98 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal 
Bottling Volume: 5.13 gal
Estimated OG: 1.055 SG
Estimated Color: 7.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 43.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 80.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Ingredients:
------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU 
9 lbs 0.7 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 2 83.8 % 
1 lbs Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 3 9.3 % 
4.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 4 2.3 % 
4.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.3 % 
4.0 oz Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 6 2.3 % 
0.85 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 22.1 IBUs 
0.70 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 20.0 min Hop 8 11.0 IBUs 
1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 9 - 
2.00 oz Mystery Hop [7.80 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 10 10.4 IBUs 
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [124.21 Yeast 11 -
Mash Schedule: Simple Mash
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs 12.7 oz
----------------------------
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time 
Strike Add 13.49 qt of water and heat to 145.0 145.0 F 30 min 
Infusion Add 7.56 qt of water at 184.6 F 158.0 F 30 min
Sparge: Fly sparge with 2.80 gal water at 168.0 F

Created with BeerSmith 2 - http://www.beersmith.com
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I’m pretty sure this is what I’m going to brew on Sunday. If you want to do it at the same time and see how our things turn out, let me know in email, or just chime in when I’m live-brewing on Twitter. That might be fun and awesome. I can convert this to extract, if anyone wants that.

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Update on the Parti-gyle Mystery Ale

A couple days ago, I drew a sample to see how fermentation was going, and to get a sense of this particular beer’s flavour.

It has a very light body, extremely pale colour, and a whole lot of hop bitterness. Based on my hydrometer readings and knowledge of BJCP guidelines, I’m going to go ahead and declare that this is a proper English Bitter. It isn’t bad, and exhibits potential to be a satisfying session beer.

This will likely be racked to a secondary in a few days (as soon as one of my two become available; I have a Tripel in one and a Pale in the other) and given a week or so to clear. It’s probably going to end up in a keg, so if it’s just not worth drinking, I don’t have to deal with two cases of bottles that need to be given a Viking funeral.

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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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Current homebrews

 

A pint of #VandalEyesPA

On tap:

  • Crisp Apple Cider

In bottles:

  • No Quarter Honey Sage
  • Tripel

Click to expand. Continue reading

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