Saturday, October 24, 2009

#19 Milk Stout

Brewed: 22nd October, 2009

I had some different issues with my mash temperature for this brew. I lost more than normal from my strike temperature, but didn't lose as much as I normally do over the hour. It doesn't bode well for my consistency.

I was a bit suspicious that my thermometer was out, but I tested it at freezing and boiling and it seems to be correct at the extremes. I still have to do a comparison with some accurate thermometers around the mash temperature to be sure, but at the moment, I'm reasonably confident that it is not my thermometer. Maybe the different type of grains had a role in absorbing more temperature?

I also underestimated the sparge water required and came out about a litre under my pre-boil volume. That ended up working out in my favour though, because I had overestimated the boil loss and ended up with my target volume in the end. The original gravity came in close enough too and probably would have been too low if I had the extra litre or so there.

Finally, I'll need to remember to wear my glasses more in the future! I was splashed in the eye with hot water when filling the mash tun, which wasn't a pleasant experience.

The recipe (based on this one):

JW Pale Malt: 3175g
Carafa Special II: 450g
Crystal 135: 225g
Carapils: 225g
Roast: 225g

Perle (8.3% AA): 30g @ -60 minutes
Lactose: 500g @ -5 minutes

Mash time: 60 minutes
Target mash temperature: 70C
Start temp: 68C
Middle temp: 67.5C
End temp: 67.5C

Expected run-off: 26L
Actual run-off: 25L

Boil time: 60 minutes

Target volume: 19L
Actual volume: 19L
Target OG: 1056
Actual OG: 1053

Yeast: Coopers stout yeast, harvested from #17 Dark Ale
Ferment temperature: 18C

Friday, October 23, 2009

QABC result feedback

A couple of months ago, I entered my Winter Ale (recipe coming soon) into the Queensland Amateur Brewers Competition. It was the first time I have ever entered a beer in any competition, so it was a completely new experience for me.

The beer was entered under the Northern English Brown Ale style of the Brown Ale category, a decision that was made the night before with my trusty tasting partner, who helped me realise that it wasn't going to fit under the original style I was thinking of. I was really glad that I made the switch, as these competitions are so much about entering under the correct style so that the beer can be matched up with the guidelines.

The results were published about a month ago, but it was only last night at the Brisbane Amateur Beer Brewers club meeting that I received the score-sheets with feedback.

It's very interesting to see the comments by the two judges side-by-side, and it made me realise just how much of the score comes down to luck of the draw with the judges. I'm not saying that the results are completely down to luck - you obviously need a good beer to do well - but a few points can mean the difference between placing and not placing. The difference is understandable too; no matter how much objectivity they try to put into the judging process, at the end of the day, the range of ability to discern different flavours & aromas can vary quite a bit between people.

Also interesting to note that the main flaw I thought the beer had (too much diacetyl) wasn't mentioned at all in the comments. Maybe it was within the style limits after all.

Judge 1: 6/12
Very low aroma. Cannot detect any malt character at all. No faults detected either.

Judge 2: 8/12
Lovely light fruit hops, caramel also comes through.

Judge 1: 3/3
Good colour, clarity for style. Head is moderate and stable.

Judge 2: 3/3
Nice head retention. Lovely carbonation billowing up the glass. Good amber colour to style.

Judge 1: 14/20
Well balanced beer, needs a touch more malt complexity for style. Increase nutty by adding chocolate malt etc. Low fruitiness from yeast - good. Hops & after taste reserved.

Judge 2: 15/20
Malt sweetness good. The hop flavour & bitterness levels are within style.

Judge 1: 4/5
Medium body good for style, slight warming sensation ? higher end of alcohol scale.

Judge 2: 3/5
Carbonation level to style. Nice dry finish to style.

Overall Impression
Judge 1: 7/10
Good easy to drink beer. Not enough aroma character with more malt complexity required for style.

Judge 2: 6/10
An overall good attempt at style. Nutty & dry finish. Well done.

The combined result for the beer was 34.5/50, and it was beaten by three other beers in the category (with scores of 39.5, 36.5 and 36) amongst 15 entries in total.

I remain extremely happy with the result, and I look forward to entering more beers in the BABBs mini-comps for more feedback in the lead up to next year's QABC.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Brewday pics

Here's a few snaps from my last brewday.

Weighing out the grain:

Getting ready to mill:

Roughly 500 turns of the handle later:

Grain close-ups


Note that the idea of milling the grain is not to completely pulverise it, but rather crack it and crush it enough to allow water to mix with the dry content of the grain. In the above photo, you might still be able to see some of the larger husks in tact. This husk aids in filtering grain particles when running the wort out of the mash tun.

Speaking of which, my mash tun:

The mash tun is the vessel in which the grain is mixed with heated water and left for a period of time. During this time, enzymes present in the grain break down the starches in to simpler sugars that can be later fermented by the yeast. By adjusting the temperature, you can adjust the kind of sugars that are produced, which in turn impacts the body of the resulting beer. Higher mash temperatures will produce less fermentable sugars and result in a fuller bodied beer, whereas lower temperatures will produce more fermentable sugars (easier for the yeast to convert) and result in a drier beer.

Inside the mash tun:

I have stainless-steel braided mesh to prevent larger grain particles from going through the tap, which in turn eventually stops the smaller particles from going through.

An hour after adding the crushed grain and water to the mash tun:

Collecting the start of the wort, waiting for the liquid to be visibly clear of grain particles:

Grain particles add tannins to the beer if they are boiled with the wort, which results in an astringent taste. This is why we want to wait until the liquid is clear before transferring to the kettle.

Inside the empty kettle:

Mash tun as it is being drained into the kettle:

Mash tun at the end of draining:

See how the grain particles have all compacted together, creating that natural filter for the wort to flow through without taking the particles with it.

After draining the mash tun, it is topped up with water again, left to settle, and drained for a second time to extract more of the converted sugars. This particular procedure is called batch sparging, and although it is not the only sparging method available to brewers, it is one of the simplest and requires the least equipment.

Weighing out the different hop additions:

The hops above are hop flowers that have been compacted into pellet form.

Hops are added to the kettle at different times during the boil. Earlier additions (boiled for 80-30ish minutes) are generally used for bittering the beer. Flavour additions are generally added between roughly 30-10 minutes before the end of the boil, and aroma additions are added in the last 10 minutes, or even after the boil has finished. The longer the hops are boiled for, the more flavour and aroma is driven off from the wort, hence the different timings.

The liquid yeast I used for this brew:

Once the boil has finished, the hopped wort is drained from the kettle and cooled down to fermenting temps (for the case of ales, around 20°C). Once at fermenting temperature, the yeast is added, or "pitched" to the hopped wort, and begins converting the sugars into alcohol. Three weeks later and with a little luck, I'll be pulling the first beer from this batch out of the keg!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#18 NSSA (Nelson Sauvin Summer Ale)

I did my 18th all-grain batch today. It is the second in a series of brews that I will be doing based on Ross' Summer Ale recipe, where I will be changing one variable at a time. In this batch, I am using a different, higher quality, yeast strain and trying to keep everything else the same.

Unfortunately, I've already had a couple of other differences. First of all, the mash lost three degrees over the hour instead of 1 degree the first time. It may have been because I started a lot earlier today when it was much cooler in the brewery. Next time, I'll try to compensate for that by heating up the mash tun before I add the grain so that I don't lose as much heat to the vessel while it warms up.

Secondly, I had an extra litre of wort into the kettle compared to last time. It was looking a bit thin towards the end, and I nearly stopped it early, but I didn't realise that I only took 29 litres last time. My original gravity is down too, which I suspect is at least partly from the extra volume. Last time my original gravity was over the expected gravity by two points.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to tasting the results of this batch with the different yeast, and to reusing the yeast for subsequent batches. I've got the yeast getting ready in a small starter now that I hope to step up tonight and pitch tomorrow.

Here's the recipe:
JW Pale Malt: 4500g
Torrified Wheat: 400g

Nelson Sauvin pellets (11.5% AA): 15g @ -80 mins
Nelson Sauvin pellets (11.5% AA): 15g @ -20 mins
Nelson Sauvin pellets (11.5% AA): 20g @ -5 mins
Nelson Sauvin pellets (11.5% AA): 25g in no-chill cube

Mash Time: 60 minutes
Mash Temperature
Start: 64.5C
Middle: 63.5C
End: 61.5C

Run-off: 30L

Boil Time: 90 minutes

Yeast: WLP001 - California Ale
Ferment temperature: 19C

Target OG: 1050
Actual OG: 1046

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day one on my new career path

As I alluded to a couple of posts back, I've been spending a lot more time this year on a rediscovered passion of mine, so much so, that I have decided to pursue it as a career. And that passion is brewing beer.

I began making beer with my father when I was at university, and continued doing so throughout the remainder of uni and my first career as a software developer. I use the term "making beer", as we were using pre-brewed, concentrated kits and fermenting it from there. This year, I made the switch to all grain beer, which actually involves mashing and brewing the grain and hops as well as fermenting the resulting wort. The all grain method is a lot more time consuming, but you have much more control over the results and you can make beers that are at least as good as a lot of micro-brewery beer.

The task now is to find out how to scale this method up to a commercial level. Whilst I've already done a bit of preliminary research towards this goal, today was my first real day working directly towards it.

Like any first day on the job, there were a lot of unknowns in front of me. My first port of call is to try to line up some work in the industry so I can gain some experience. While there's not a whole lot of opportunities around in Brisbane, I'm confident that I'll be able to find somewhere to get started.

Today I also discovered the brewing courses offered by the University of Ballarat. They have a short course as well as a Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma, which is something else to look into. The short course certainly looks like something I'd be keen to do, but I'm told that it isn't being held again until mid next year.