The Latest

2 new brews in the past 2 weeks - a smoked dry stout and a further iteration on the honey-chilie-cocoa beer.  I finally got to try out my new 40-qt kettle on the stout batch, and it considerably shortens my brew day by allowing me to perch it over two burners on my stovetop.  Strike water heats in about 20 minutes, and bringing the work to a boil after the sparge is about the same.  Only problem is that it heats my kitchen up so much that it's pretty unbearable to be in it.  Three burners with 6.5 gallons of boiling wort leads to a nice, tropical atmosphere.  I checked the thermometer sitting on the counter, and it read 105 last weekend... I can see why summer is not a classic brewing season.  In any case, three batches in three weeks, two kegged, and one in bottles.

The saison with Brett C. is amazing - an immediate spicy hop presence moves quickly into a tropical tartness (sour pineapple?), and ends with the characteristic saison yeast flavor tempered nicely by a creamy wheat texture.  Slightly hazy, pale straw, and spritzy on the tongue, this is a saison I will definitely re-brew.

As for the stout, I took a simple dry stout and replaced a quarter of the base malt (UK pale ale malt) with cherrywood smoked malt.  The remaining 9% was good ol' roasted barley for that classic stout dryness and jet-black color.  Finished off with some US Nugget to 32 IBUs and brewed to an OG of 1.047, this is a classic style with just a little twist.  I can imagine sipping this one around a campfire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, talking about the day's catch out on the lake...

Yesterday I brewed my second attempt at a honey-chilie-cocoa beer, inspired by Dogfish Head's Theobroma.  My first batch had some flaws - too thin, the chilies were a little astringent from soaking in vodka too long, and the honey and chocolate were nonexistent.  This one I treated a little different.  I used 12 pounds of 2-row, a pound of dextrine malt for some body and head retention, and a half pound of crystal 90 for color and a little sweetness.  I added a couple ounces of cocoa powder at the end of the boil, along with an ounce of dried ancho chilies and let them both steep while cooling, filtered out when racking into the fermentor.  I pitched a packet of Nottingham dry yeast, sealed it up, and today am listening to it bubble away.  I plan to add three pounds of honey when fermentation slows down a little bit.  Last time I added the honey at the end of the boil, so it scrubbed away all the aroma, and the cacao nibs had little to no effect on the taste.  Good thing my girlfriend likes the first batch, because it's one that I'm not counting as one of my successes.  The new batch had a nice chocolatey flavor with a hint of chili, and the honey will be a nice addition as well.  Here's to hoping it comes out alright!

Two-weekend brewing hiatus coming up, as I'm heading back to Minnesota for the 4th of July.  It'll be great when I get back though, as I'll have an additional 2 batches to bottle up.  Mmmmmm... beer....

40 quarts...

Of awesome just showed up on my doorstep in the form of a brand-new stainless steel kettle.  Hells yes!

Roggenbier and Other Stuff

Having never had a Roggenbier, I thought I would give it a whack.  Roggenbier is very similar to German wheat beer, just with the wheat replaced by malted rye.  Rye adds a spicy, dry character to a beer, and I can only imagine it pairs very well with continental hops like Saaz and Tettnang.  The yeast is the same, lending notes of banana and clove.  

Brewday went as usual, although the lauter was tough because of the gummy rye.  I even threw a half pound of rice hulls into the grist, but still I got a crummy 65% efficiency.  Oh well - session roggen!  

Tip: Never leave your mash tun to clean the next day.  I just about barfed back into it when I opened the lid and was smacked with a warm gust of sour, barn-nasty air.  

Also accomplished on brewday: I transferred the Hoodlum saison to secondary and gave it a taste - that's going to be one tasty beer when carbed and cold.  A little tangy, super-dry, the right amount of belgian yeastiness, and a hoppy nip make it a refreshing one.  The honey aroma was very slight, and might even get scrubbed completely out by the yeast, but it was worth a shot.  My Not-So-Thai Witbier was a bust.  When I tasted it a few weeks ago looking to enter the Sam Adams Longshot, it was so peppery from the coriander that it was pretty much undrinkable.  I sealed it back up hoping the coriander would mellow a bit, albeit not in time to enter the contest. When I opened it yesterday, a huge citrus smell hit me, but my heart fell when I saw the fuzzy white mold sitting on top of 5 gallons of wit.  It smelled so good while I poured it down the drain!  I guess I can take solace in the fact that this was the first infection in the 20+ batches I've brewed.

Recipe: Roggenbier
Style: 15D-German Wheat/Rye Beer-Roggenbier

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 6.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.50 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.00 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.00 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.00 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.046 SG
Expected OG: 1.054 SG
Expected FG: 1.013 SG
Expected ABV: 5.4 %
Expected ABW: 4.3 %
Expected IBU (using Rager): 19.5
Expected Color: 13.1 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 74.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

German Rye Malt 4.38 lb (42.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Munich Malt 2.45 lb (23.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Pilsner Malt 2.10 lb (20.5 %) In Mash/Steeped
German CaraMunich I 0.70 lb (6.8 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Rice Hulls 0.50 lb (4.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Carafa Special II 0.13 lb (1.2 %) In Mash/Steeped

German Tettnang (4.0 % alpha) 28 g Loose Pellet Hops used 60 Min From End
Czech Saaz (3.5 % alpha) 9 g Loose Pellet Hops used 15 Min From End

Other Ingredients

Yeast: Wyeast 3056-Bavarian Wheat

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (68C/154F)
Step: Rest at 154 degF for 60 mins

Recipe Notes

Saison Deux (Hoodlum)

So I'm giving saison another shot, this time with a new recipe and a few twists.  I've been sampling a lot of Brettanomyces-fermented beers lately, and one I really enjoyed was Wild Devil from Victory, an american IPA fermented entirely with Brett C.  The Burgundian Babble Belt homebrew board is a good resource for wild, spontaneous, and brett fermentations, and an article posted to the board about beers fermented entirely with Brett cultures was particularly interesting.  I really enjoy the tart, dry, tropical flavors of a brett beer done right, and so I decided to try a saison with a Brett C. culture added in the middle of fermentation.  

I formulated a new saison recipe since my last one had a bit too much residual sweetness despite the bone-dry 1.000 finishing gravity.  5 pounds of Belgian pils, a pound of wheat for cloudiness and tang, and a pound of munich I for color and a bit of maltiness.  To really dry it out I added a further pound of table sugar, and just for shits and giggles a pound of honey.  I figure a saison is traditionally a farmhouse beer made with whatever ingredients the brewers had handy, and I can't imagine that honey never made it into a farmhouse beer somewhere in Belgium.  I used a blueberry varietal and added it with 5 minutes left in the boil to keep a bit of the aroma, though I'm guessing most will be scrubbed out during the fermentation.  I also hopped this one a bit more aggressively to a total of about 38 IBUs.  

I used the same saison yeast as last time, Wyeast 3711 French Saison, but I made a 2L starter this time.  The last few batches I've brewed I've used a starter, and I've definitely noticed a difference in the vigor of the fermentations, as well as the length - less than 12 hours after pitching, it was burping away, and by the second day after brew-day, the krausen had fallen back.  I figured that was a good time to pitch the Wyeast Brett C culture (no starter, just straight from the packet), which kicked fermentation back into high gear for another two days.  As I write this, 5 days after brew-day, the gravity is sitting at 1.004 and tasting pretty damn good.  An initial slight sweetness with a hint of honey aroma is followed immediately by a hoppiness, then a tart fruitiness, and finally a long finish of grain and good ol' saison ester.

Overall, I'm very excited for this beer.  Going to bottle this one in 12-oz longnecks, and I really look forward to watching this one change over the coming months.  

Regarding the name - Hoodlum is what I called my first all-grain beer, also a saison, though it finished out more like an imperial saison due to unexpected mash efficiency (I calculated for 65%, but ended up with over 85%!).  To really get high attenuation and that characteristic saison funk, I wrapped it in a black hoodie sweatshirt and set it on the table in the sunny kitchen.  The next morning, after a night of hanging out with some good friends (read: heavy drinking), I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water (and down some Advil) and nearly crapped my pants when I saw a hooded person standing across the room.  I quickly realized it was my beer, and decided to name it Hoodlum.  So Hoodlum this one is as well - not as strong, but just a little bit wild.  

Recipe: Saison Deux
Style: 16C-Belgian And French Ale-Saison

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 6.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.50 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.00 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.00 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.00 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.028 SG
Expected OG: 1.048 SG
Expected FG: 1.003 SG
Expected ABV: 6.0 %
Expected ABW: 4.7 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 39.0
Expected Color: 3.4 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 93.3 %
Mash Efficiency: 70.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 80 degF

Belgian Pilsen Malt 5.00 lb (55.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
US White Wheat Malt 1.00 lb (11.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Munich Malt 1.00 lb (11.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
Sugar - White Sugar/Sucrose 1.00 lb (11.1 %) Start Of Boil
Sugar - Blueberry Honey 1.00 lb (11.1 %) End Of Boil

US Nugget (12.0 % alpha) 0.75 oz Loose Whole Hops used 90 Min From End
German Hallertauer Hersbrucker (2.4 % alpha) 0.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 30 Min From End
German Hallertauer Hersbrucker (2.4 % alpha) 0.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 5 Min From End

Wyeast 3711-French Saison (2L starter)
Wyeast 5151-Brettanomyces Claussenii (at 2 days after pitching)

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (147F)
Step: Rest at 147 degF for 75 mins

Recipe Notes

Sunday Brew - Goldings IPA

My Sunday brew session went well.  I hit my target mash temp no problem and was only one gravity point low on my pre-boil, all despite a stuck sparge.  I think what really did it for me this time was the mash-out step, which isn't something I normally do.  It loosened up the mash enough to make it nice and fluid so the bed could settle while I recirculated, giving me a relatively fast second running.  I think this is something I';l be doing from now on.  

Another step I took a little different than usual was to use equal parts strike and sparge water, both 4 gallons.  I read a wiki article about batch sparging efficiency, and the gist of it was that each sparge addition should be equal in volume to to the strike volume for greatest efficiency, and while you get better efficiency with each runnings, its balanced out by the fact that you'd have to boil 20+ gallons down to 5.5 to make it really matter.  So, basically, the easiest way is to strike with 1.5 quarts per pound of grain, mash at whatever temp you want, laurter, then bring it up to 168 with an addition 1.5 quarts per pound of grain, and lauter again.  BOOM 79% efficiency.  

I also did a 2-liter starter with Rogue's Pacman yeast, which sounds like it shouldn't be too much different than the US-05 I used for the APA version of this beer.  Neutral, low ester and diacetyl, and a clean finish.  Can't wait for it to be done.

Recipe: Goldings IPA
Style: 14B-India Pale Ale(IPA)-American IPA

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 6.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.50 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.00 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.00 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.00 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.049 SG
Expected OG: 1.058 SG
Expected FG: 1.014 SG
Expected ABV: 5.9 %
Expected ABW: 4.6 %
Expected IBU (using Rager): 60.4
Expected Color: 6.8 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 75.0 %
Mash Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

UK Maris Otter 10.00 lb (95.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 40L Malt 0.50 lb (4.8 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Goldings (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 60 Min From End
US Goldings (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 15 Min From End
US Goldings (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 5 Min From End
US Goldings (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used Dry-Hopped

Other Ingredients

Yeast: Wyeast 1764-Pacman from Rogue

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (67C/152F)
Step: Rest at 153 degF for 60 mins

Goldings Single Hop Pale Ale MK II

Brewing this weekend, and making some changes to my pale ale recipe.  I'm thinking of switching out the base malt from US 2-row to Marris Otter to give it a maltier, nuttier taste, along with additional hops to up the bitterness and increase aroma.  I love me some brew days, gettin' excited already.

Not So Thai Wit

So Sunday was the big day, the day I was planning on brewing my Thai Witbier with kaffir lime leaves and zest, ginger, lemongrass, and coriander.  Alas, the asian grocery store in Allston was out of Kaffir lime, lemongrass, and ginger, so there went that idea.  Instead, I stopped by the co-op and picked up blood oranges, ruby-red grapefruit, conventional limes, and some chamomile, and I went the more traditional route, albeit with different citrus.  The boil smelled awesome when I dumped all the spices and zest in at 5 minutes, and the 1L starter of WLP400 Wit that went in started munching right away.  Hopefully this one is different enough to qualify for a category 23 in the Sam Adams Longshot!

Calculated in BeerAlchemy

OG: 1.048
ABV: 4.6%
IBU: 18.9
Color: 3.3 SRM

Grain Bill
4.25 lbs. Belgian Pils
4 lbs. Flaked wheat

0.75 lbs. Flaked oats
1 lb. Rice hulls

Hop Schedule
Hallertauer Hersbrucker 3% - 1.3oz @ 60 mins

Citrus Zest (5 blood oranges, 1 ruby-red grapefruit, 3 limes) - 5 minutes

Coriander (pulsed in coffee grinder briefly) - 0.6oz @ 5 minutes
Chamomile (2 teabags) - 2.6g @ 5 minutes

1L starter of WLP400 Belgian Wit

Single-step infusion @ 152°F, 60 mins, batch sparge

75% efficiency

Longshot Brewing Competition

It's here... the Samuel Adams Longshot Competition, in which homebrewers across the country will submit their best to be judged by the brewers at Sam Adams at the mother-brewery in Boston, MA.  Two winners will be awarded a one-time royalty of $5,000, as well as the honor of having their beer brewed and released by Sam Adams in a special edition Longshot variety 6-pack with the other winner and the winner of the internal competition in the brewery itself.

The category this year is the BJCP category 23 - Specialty Beer.  This is pretty much anything that doesn't fit into the other 22 style categories, and includes beers with unusual ingredients or brewing techniques.  For example, a beer brewed with juniper berries or boiled with white-hot rocks would fit in this category.

I've been thinking about what I would like to try - smoke beer?  Something spiced?  I've always like Thai flavors in food, especially soup.  Tom Yum soup carries flavors of lemongrass, kaffir limes, chiles, and coriander (in the form of cilantro - I know, not the same, but shut up it's my beer).  The coriander lit off a flashbulb for me - witbier.  Wits are a belgian wheat beer, with a slight lemony tang from the grain, a lactic tang, and a subtle spiciness from coriander and other spices, which taken all together seemed like the perfect canvas for a Tom Yum Wit.

But shhhhh... don't tell anyone...

'Tis the Saison

With the Goldings Pale Ale still in the fermenter with a couple ounces of dry hops, I felt the need to brew again, just so I can fall asleep to the burping of the airlock.  I got a shipment of yeast this week, with a couple packs each of Wyeast 3711 French Saison, 3638 Bavarian Wheat, and the limited release Pacman (Yay Rogue!).  Since saisons are one of my favorite beers, I thought I'd give it another whack - last time I made a saison, I accidentally made it imperial by not knowing my new all-grain system, resulting in a thicker, denser brew, almost a belgian golden ale instead.  Still tasty, and great to make mussels with, but definitely not the spicy, refreshing beer I was looking for.  I've really gotten to know my system since, so I formulated up a recipe based on Jamil Zainasheff's Raison D'Saison from Brewing Classic Styles.  The malt bill is pretty much the same, but I substituted the 3711 French Saison for the 3724 Belgian Saison called for in the recipe to really drive the FG down and give it a nice clean pepper note.  This time, I hit all my numbers within a gravity point or two, and this morning, I woke to the sweet bloop blip blip of fermenting beer.  

Calculated in BeerAlchemy

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.007
ABV: 6.3%
IBU: 29
Color: 6.1 SRM

Grain Bill
7 lbs. German Pilsener
0.5 lbs. Wheat
0.5 lbs. Munich I
0.5 lbs. CaraMunich III
1 lb. sucrose

Hop Schedule
Hallertauer Hersbrucker 3% - 2oz @ 60 mins
Hallertauer Hersbrucker 3% - 1oz @ knockout

1 packet Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Single-step infusion @ 147°F 60 mins, batch sparge

Dogfish Head Aprihop

A beautiful, sunny, 90 degree spring day really makes me want to drink a brewski or two, so I stopped by the store and picked up a 4-pack of Aprihop, their spring seasonal.  It's an American IPA brewed with apricots, topping out at 7% ABV and 30 IBUs.  I'm not a big fruit-beer guy, but Dogfish head rarely disappoints, and certainly didn't with this one.

This clear orange ale pours with a thin white head that stays all the way down the glass.  Being Dogfish Head, they dry-hopped the crap out of it, this time with Amarillo, so a blast of citrus with a whiff of apricot hits you.  The taste is immediately of crystal maltiness with a bit of sweetness from the apricot, followed by a pleasant hop bitterness and a lingering fruity flavor.  Not being over-sweet, a body light enough to quench your thirst but heavy enough to have some presence, and an appropriate level of medium carbonation makes this a perfect beer to sip on the porch while reading a book.  

Allagash Fluxus 2009

I picked up a 750 mL of last years Allagash Fluxus, a beer which the friendly counter guy informed me is released every year on the anniversary of their new brewery, and is something different every time. For some reason, I'm not usually one to purchase Allagash on your average night.  I feel like it's always available, so there's no hurry to grab it, unlike, say, the newest Mikkeller.  This one is brewed with sweet potatoes and black peppercorns, both unusual ingredients which piqued my curiosity.

I cracked the bottle when I got home - unfortunately, it was a little too chilled for the style, which seems to be based on a saison.  The beer pours a hazy orange with a pillowy head which dissipates within a few minutes to a light lacing on the surface.  A spicy aroma, full of fruity Belgian esters and a touch of pepper, hits the nose.  In the mouth, an initial sweetness from the malt and  is immediately followed by a hop bitterness and a bit of spicy heat from the peppercorn.  The finish is a hint of rich, caramelized sweet potato.  The carbonation is light, and the beer is refreshing despite the 8.3% ABV.

Overall, I liked this beer quite a bit - too bad it's a one-off, because this would be a fantastic Thanksgiving libation!

Empty Kegs

Big weekend - finished off a keg of ESB and a keg of mild.  Good thing I have a batch of pale ale finishing up this week, because I am definitely out of beer.  I'm thinking about doing either a saison or bier de garde next weekend...

Goldings Single Hop Pale Ale

I just received a pound of US Goldings pellets, and I've been wanting something a little hoppier than the milds I've been making lately, so a pale ale it is.  

EDIT: Added 2oz. US Goldings dry hops after fermentation was complete.  CHange reflected in recipe below.

Calculated in BeerAlchemy

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.8%
IBU: 41.4
Color: 5.3 SRM

Grain Bill
10.0 lbs. US 2-Row
0.5 lbs Caramel 40L

Hop Schedule
US Goldings - 2oz @ 60 mins
US Goldings - 1oz @ 30 mins
US Goldings - 1oz @ flameout

US Goldings - 2oz @ end of fermentation

1 packet SafAle US-05

1/2 tsp gypsum

Single-step infusion @ 152°F, 60 mins

Measuring SRM

I realize not many people have access to the necessary equipment to directly measure the color of a beer, but fortunately, I work in a research lab and have all this stuff sitting around, waiting to be used by curious brewers such as myself.  My most recent finished beer, an ESB, was just kegged and I've always wanted to try out the spectroscopic determination of beer color, so I though I'd give it a shot.
Wikipedia (which was the only source I could which gave the wavelengths needed for the process) defines the SRM (an acronym for Standard Reference Method - the output of the equation is in dimensionless units) of a beer as the absorbance at 430 nanometers times a constant and a dilution factor.

SRM = 12.7 * D * A, where D is the dilution factor (for an undiluted sample, D = 1, for a sample diluted 1:1 with deionized water, D = 2, 1:2 D=3, etc.) and A is the absorbance at 430 nm.

When I ran my ESB through, I got an absorbance of 1.36, which resulted in an SRM value of 17.3 -- what? An SRM of 17.3 is something expected from a dark lager, not a golden ESB. However, an EBC value of 17.3 looks right on, and conversion to SRM using the formula SRM = EBC * 0.508 results in an SRM of 8.8, which is close to the color calculated by my brewing software, 9.5.

Is Wikipedia wrong, or are my measurements incorrect? Does anyone have a reference for these measurements?

For those interested, here is my procedure:

1. Dispensed 35mL of beer into a centrifuge tube
2. Centrifuged at 10,000 RPM for 10 minutes
3. Passed supernate through a 0.3 micron syringe filter
4. Decanted filtrate to a small vial
5. Pipetted 3 mL into a plastic cuvette
6. Measured the absorbance at 700 nm (This measurement will tell you if your sample is clear of turbidity - a value under 0.039 times the absorbance at 430 nm means your sample is acceptably turbidity free)
7. Measured the absorbance at 430 nm

A(700) = 0.005784
A(430) = 1.36414

The Mash

Hello Internet, and welcome to The Mash, a beer, brewing, and fermentation-focused blog.

Before I was of legal age, I wasn't yet aware of the variety of beers available. Through mass media exposure, the only brews I was aware of were the standard macros, Guiness, Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and Leinenkugel's (my dad's suds of choice). The first time I walked into a liquor store, I was amazed by the array of six-packs they had - and what the hell are bombers and growlers? I walked out with 6 bottles of something I bought merely for the cool looking skeleton dude holding a brewski on the label, Rogue Dead Guy Ale.

And I haven't looked back since.

I began homebrewing because I wanted to try to make something that tasted as good as that first sip of a real craft brew - something hoppy, malty, and above all, flavorful. I'm not sure that I've succeeded yet, but I hope that someday my beer can make someone realize that there's a bigger, bolder, and brighter world out there than PBR tallboys and Corona.

And that's what brings me here - I want to share my thoughts on beer and brewing, recipes, techniques, reviews, etc. Like the mash of a brew session, I hope that The Mash can be the start of something great, but if not, hey, it's still beer, right?