Friday, December 11, 2009

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale tasting

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was one of the original beers in the American microbrewery revolution of the late 70's. It's one that is often talked about on home brewing forums and beer appreciation sites, and is said to encapsulate the American Pale Ale style.

Despite the warnings about it not traveling well, when I saw it on the beer menu at Brisbane's Era Bistro, I knew I had to give it a go.

The warnings refer to the degradation of the aroma and flavour on the long trip over from California. I've even heard that Australian exports of the beer come via Europe, adding to the length of the journey. Bright hop aromatics fade over time and at increased temperatures, and when you consider that the beer could have been sitting in a container or warehouse for who knows how long on its trip over, the warnings are understandable. But it didn't stop me from ordering one.

It is difficult to evaluate a beer that comes with so many preconceptions. The hop aromatics were still there, although I could easily imagine them being less subdued in the fresh product. I can't remember a lot of the malt characteristics that are said to be present, though I wasn't taking detailed notes at the time (after all, this was a night of a work milestone celebration). I do, however, remember making comparisons in my head to Little Creatures Pale Ale at the time; an American Pale Ale style of beer that is said to be a tribute to SNPA.

Overall, I wasn't disappointed, and am still excited to have had the chance to try it. If anything, it has made me want to go over to the US and find out just how good the beer is fresh, and how good a job Little Creatures have done in paying tribute to the style.

Friday, December 4, 2009

#22 GxSA (Galaxy Summer Ale)

Brewed: 12th November, 2009

The fourth batch in the Summer Ale series, this time using Galaxy hops instead of Nelson Sauvin.

I tried a slightly different technique of filling my mash tun this time, called underletting. This involves dumping all of the grain into the mash tun and filling it from the bottom up through the outlet. The aim of this was to see if I could saturate the grain properly and hit my mash temperature without having to stir the mash as much. The result I ended up with though was even more inconsistent temperatures throughout the mash (requiring more stirring!) and still coming in slightly under the mash temperature despite the fact that it was way over temperature before I started mixing in properly! Oh well, something learned for next time.

Part way through my first runnings, I realised that I made the silly mistake of not attaching the tap to the kettle. All of a sudden I was wondering what the dripping noise on the floor was! Luckily I was standing next to the kettle at the time and didn't lose too much sweet wort. The spills didn't end there though, as with a higher than expected post-boil volume, I overflowed the "no-chill" cube after the boil. In the future, I plan to use a brewday checklist and actually tick things off instead of relying on my memory to consult the checklist that's on the fridge in the brewing area.

In terms of numbers, I didn't lose as much temperature over the hour compared to last time (1 degree instead of 2). My first runnings were slightly under, which I made up for my adding an extra litre of water to the second sparge. My pre and post boil gravity readings were also a point lower, but well within my expectations.

The recipe:

JW Pale Malt: 4500g
Torrified Wheat: 400g

Galaxy pellets (13.4% AA): 12g @ -80 mins
Galaxy pellets (13.4% AA): 12g @-20 mins
Galaxy pellets (13.4% AA): 16g @ -5 mins
Galaxy pellets (13.4% AA): 23g in no-chill cube

Mash time: 60 minutes
Target mash temperature: 64C
Start: 63.5C
Middle: 63C
End: 62.5C

Run-off: 30L

Pre-boil SG: 1038
Boil Time: 90 minutes

Volume in fermenter: 21L
Yeast: WLP001 - California Ale (harvested from #20 NSSA)
Ferment temperature: 19C

Target OG: 1052
Actual OG: 1046

Actual FG: 1012

ABV: 4.5%

Work experience at MT Brewery

One day a week for the past few weeks, I've been heading down to MT Beer on Mount Tamborine to lend a hand to the head brewer, Ian Watson, in the day-to-day operations at the brewery. It is part of my on-going quest to discover the gaps in my knowledge about working in a commercial brewery so that I know where to focus my efforts in going forward.

So far I have been involved in cleaning and filling kegs and transferring beer to/from various vessels. Last week, I was there to help out with brewing the latest batch of Blonde, including what I imagine would be the least pleasant job, which was to empty the several-hundred kilograms of spent grain from the lauter tun. I guess I didn't mind so much at the time because it is all still new to me! It is interesting to see the similarities and differences between home and commercial brewing, where the latter in this case is approximately 100 times the volume. So far, most of my focus has been on the process side of things as opposed to the business side that I know I'll need to start looking into soon.

The days start much earlier than I'm used to, but it has definitely been worth it. Getting feedback on my own beers throughout the day makes it even easier and more valuable to me (though you certainly have to go easy on it given the lack of commuting options)!

Next week Ian is planning to do a bottling run while I'm there, which will fill in yet another piece of the puzzle for me.