Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rocky II

Yesterday was brewing day for our second batch of Rocky Raccoon's Crystal Honey Lager (p.210). We modified the recipe slightly, at least in part due to ingredient availability. We used an extra half pound of DME, substituted an ounce of Northern Brewer hops in the boil, and used a Trappist Ale Yeast. That last was definitely intentional, since I tend to prefer the Trappist yeast. Here is the array of goods, which I call "Still-life with Beer Ingredients."

This time around, rather than trying to engineer a sinker for the aeration hose, we used a racking cane attached to the air hose: Marco supervised the aeration: And here I am contemplating the marvel that is aerated wort, and maybe a bit of wondering how much of a pain it's going to be to clean up the foam that's coating the outside of the carboy:

Finally, the wort was aerated, the yeast pitched, and the blow-off tube attached: That was at around a quarter past 10 last night. By this morning, there was definite positive pressure in the carboy, though it's not quite bubbling yet.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dunkel, First Impressions (Part Two)

Welcome back, my friends, to the brew that never ends.

Marco and I brewed tonight at my place (blog entry to follow tomorrow). He brought over a couple of our 1pt EZ-Cap bottles of the Dunkel, at a more flavor-compatible temperature.

After trying the not-so-chilled Dunkel, I stand by my characterization of the beer as having a distinctly roasty-toasty character, which isn't surprising for a dunkel. This was even more apparent, and the chocolatey character of the chocolate malt also came through. I thought that it tasted somewhat creamy, in addition. The hops and alcohol are definitely there, but neither whomps you upside the head.

Needless to say (and yet I say, or rather write, it anyway), I look forward to drinking more of this, especially as bottle conditioning continues to develop its flavors.

Dunkel, First Impressions (Part One)

Last night, Marco and I tried the first bottles of our Dunkel. For a still-young beer, we were very pleased with it. The color is extremely dark, almost opaque. The taste is nice and roasty, not too dissimilar to a good strong cup of coffee.

If anything, the beer was a bit too cold for flavors other than toastiness to come through. The bottles had been chilling in the fridge for a couple of hours, and the mugs had been stashed in the freezer. We plan to consume the rest at cellar temperature, and I'll give my further impressions on trying the less-chilled beer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Insane Pale Ale

(Pete Keleher and Mike Marsh)

9 lbs. light DME
1.5 lbs. #40 crystal malt
0.5 lbs. biscuit/chocolate malt
3 oz. Chinook hops (boil)
1 oz. Chinook hops (finish)
1 oz. Kent Golding hops (finish)
Trappist ale yeast

The method is what you'd expect: Steep the crushed crystal and chocolate malts in 2 gallons of water for 30 minutes at a temperature between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the dry malt extract and boiling hops and boil for an hour. Add the finishing hops for the final 5 minutes of the boil. Strain, sparge, fill to 5 gallons, and cool to pitching temperature. The Trappist ale yeast will tolerate the higher alcohol concentration produced by the 1211 lbs of malt and malt extract.

The color might not generally be described as "pale," but this was definitely inspired by the India pale ale style. Think of the darker color of this pale ale as just part of the "insanity" of Insane Pale Ale.

This one's still aging, so we can't really speak to the final result. From what was left over when bottling, which was of course flat, this is going to be a good batch. My attempt to measure the starting specific gravity was an obvious failure (1.042 measured, with a large concentration of fermentable sugars), so we really have no idea how strong this will be. I'm certain that it will get the job done, which along with a pleasant taste is all I personally ask of beer.

UPDATE 4/18: I mis-read the receipt from the store. The quantity of hops was incorrect. It has been fixed. Also added recipe attribution.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Homebrew Equipment

Beer isn't the only thing we homebrew. Sometimes, we make homebrew equipment, as well. Some of this is quick jury-rigging, such as a chopstick twist-tied to an aeration hose as a sinker, or a bent wire coat hanger to fish out a chop stick that's been twist-tied to an aeration hose and promptly gotten stuck in the neck of a carboy, or the cap off a bottle of throat spray to replace a missing floater in a three-piece airlock.

Other times, a bit more thought is put into homebrewed equipment. That is, the design wasn't a last-minute emergency work-around. For example, a small funnel stuck into a length of flexible tube is an excellent way to fill gallon water jugs from an on-faucet water filter.

My latest required a bit more thought, and I'm rather proud of it. I didn't bother with a bottle washer that screws onto a faucet, since I wasn't planning to do much in the way of bottling, and carboys and kegs are a little unwieldy to hold over the standard bottle washers. What I did instead was to buy a 6' length of laundry hose, which I keep attached to my laundry sink. It's a very serviceable way of rinsing out carboys, kegs, and anything else of similar size. It's also great for filling buckets without having to lift them in and out of the sink.

Sometimes, though, you need more pressure than the faucet can generally provide, or you just need something that'll fit into a narrower opening. That's where my homebrewed nozzle comes in. The requirements were simple: It had to attach to the end of a laundry hose (which is the same threading as a garden hose), and it had to have a narrow opening to provide for a substantial pressure in the outgoing stream. This allows us to power-wash just about anything, eliminating the need for a bottle brush.

A trip to my local home-products mega-store chain (I have a gift card to use up), and I picked up the following: What we have here is a 3/4" garden hose male end to 1/2" MIP hose adapter (Watts® A-663), a 1/2" FIP to 3/8" FIP pipe reducing coupling (Watts® A-815), and a 1/4"x3/8" hose barb MIP adapter (Watts® A-193).

Put them all together, and you get a coupling that takes a 3/4" diameter hose to a 1/4" diameter stream (probably smaller, since the barb is for a 1/4" inner diameter tube). That's about a factor of nine increase in water pressure. It's truly a sight to behold when in use.

All told, this cost me about $9 in parts. I could have bought a bottle/carboy washer at my local homebrewing store for $11.50. That would attach directly to the faucet, rather than a hose, meaning more things to screw and unscrew. In any case, it would have been a lot less fun. And that's what homebrewing is about, after all.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Tapped Out

In other brewing news, I took twelve of our pint bottles home from Marco's, so that I could bring some of my "Rocky Raccoon's Crystal Honey Lager" (p.210) to my niece's first birthday party tomorrow. No, I'm not giving beer to babies, but we have some family from out of town coming in for the party who haven't had the opportunity to try it.

I'd intended to bring all twelve bottles, but there was only enough left in the keg to fill ten of them, plus a small taste (maybe 4oz) for me. Still, that's about 160oz of beer (depending on how close to one pint each is filled), compared with 144oz for a standard twelve-pack.

Incidentally, a cobra tap will work for moving beer from keg to bottle, but if you try it be prepared for a lot of filling, waiting for foam to subside, and re-filling. Growlers are much nicer in this respect, since you have a large volume to fill, and fewer bottles to mess with. Of course, if you have any suggestions for making this go more smoothly in the future, feel free to post them in the comments.

This marks a bittersweet point in my brewing. The honey lager was the first batch I brewed in my new house, and finishing it is an occasion of sorts. On the other hand, my philosophy had been, to paraphrase Gen. "Buck" Turgidson from "Dr. Strangelove": we cannot allow a homebrew gap! I haven't had the chance to start a second batch, however, so now I do, indeed, have a homebrew gap. At least, it's a gap in terms of what's available in my own home. Marco and I still have a bottle or two of non-archival Märzen, and there are the Dunkel and IPA conditioning.

Dunkel: Bottling

On Sunday, Marco and I bottled our third batch, "Danger Knows no Favorites Dunkel" (p.204). Here are some photos from the effort.

The previous two batches were conditioned in 1 pint EZ-Cap bottles (36 of them). We had been contemplating moving to kegs with this batch, but instead decided to go with twelve one-liter EZ-Cap bottles and twelve of the old pint bottles. That also gives us a surplus for overlapping batches and longer-term storage.

On the subject of the latter, we put aside six of the Märzen so we can see how it changes over the course of a few months:

Moving on to the happy work of filling our bottles with young beer, we started by sanitizing the empties and boiling the priming sugar and water. The arm you see belongs to Marco.

Now we're ready to begin siphoning! If you've ever had to deal with traditional siphons, the kind you have to fill with water, and that inevitably seem to get stuck in mid-siphon and have to be re-primed, you really need to try an auto-siphon. It has a built in pump, and before you know it the beer will be flowing: That, by the way, is me doing the siphoning.

Once siphoned, it's time to bottle. The liter bottles make this much easier, since you have considerably fewer bottles to swap. We managed to fill all twenty-four bottles with very little left in the dregs.

Here's the final result: It's been almost a week since we bottled, so by next weekend we should be able to crack open the first bottles, though of course what remains in bottle will continue to develop in character.

Subsequent posts will likely be less image-intensive. I'll try to get in shots of all the major pieces of equipment, as well as any particularly interesting stages in the process.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Photos from March 6

We started the strong IPA (which as yet remains unnamed) on March 6th. The recipe involved nine pounds of dry malt extract, which has one disadvantage when compared with liquid malt extract: It also takes awhile to dissolve:

Eventually, of course, it did dissolve. Nine pounds of malt takes a lot of water to dissolve, so the volume was enough that it wasn't ready to pitch until the next morning: