Sunday, February 28, 2010

#34 BWB (BABBs Wild Brew)

Brewed: 19th February, 2010

This beer is part of a collaboration brew for the brewing club I belong to. The idea is that about 22 members will brew up the same recipe and ferment it out under the same conditions (well, as close as possible anyway), then the resulting beer will be blended together and aged in an ex-wine barrel with another yeast strain. At the end of the year, we will bottle off half of the barrel and then brew a new beer (possibly a different recipe) and blend it with the remaining half of the beer and the cycle will start again. More details, including the recipe, can be found on the BABBs website.

With an estimated original gravity of 1.104 SG, this was by far the biggest brew I've ever attempted. The grain alone for this batch weighed in just under 8kg; three kilograms more for the same volume than the usual grain bill for the Summer Ales I have been brewing over the recent months. As I still only have a hand mill, I was lucky enough to get the grians pre-milled!

I was a little surprised to see that my system was able to extract the necessary amount of sugar from the grain for such a large volume, with my pre-boil gravity coming in just above the calculated expected value and getting more volume than I had anticipated. I think this was partly to my mis-calculation of sparge water volumes, resulting in first-runnings of 20 litres instead of the expected 14! I adjusted the second sparge to account for this mistake. I'll have to look into this calculation again for future big beers so I don't make the same mistake again.

The gravity of the second runnings was indeed high enough that I decided to sparge one more time and get 5 litres of additional sweet-wort from the grain. It's still sitting in the fridge (after being boiled) waiting for me to make a decision about what to do with it.

My evaporation rate wasn't quite as high as I predicted, and as a result, I needed to boil the wort for two and a half hours instead of the predicted two. It probably could have done with an extra 10 minutes on top of that to hit the target OG spot on, but it was close enough in the end.

The biggest mistake I made on the day was that I didn't notice that my kettle drain filter had become blocked towards the end of draining, and I assumed that it had finished emptying. This resulted in me leaving behind 3 litres in the bottom of the kettle instead of the normal 1 litre I usually lose, and pretty much canceled out the great extraction efficiency I had during mashing. I think the blockage was partly caused by the wort being a lot more dense than I am normally used to - yet another lesson learned.

These were my results from the brewday:

Mash time: 60 minutes
Target mash temperature: 65C
Start: 65C End: 63.5C

Runoff: 30L

Pre-boil SG: 1.068
Boil time: 150 mins

Post-boil volume (hot): 21L
Target OG: 1.104 Actual: 1.101

Volume in fermenter: 17L
Yeast: Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity
Ferment temperature: 18C for first 24h, then up to 24C

#33 ChSA (Chinook Summer Ale)

Brewed: 13th February, 2010

This was the 9th batch in the Summer Ale series I have been brewing and a contender for the BABBs March mini-competition, which focuses on American Ales. I actually changed two key ingredients for this batch; the hops and the base malt. I chose Chinook hops as I've heard of its good for bittering and flavouring aspects, and although I haven't used it before, I've tasted a few beers that contain Chinook and have enjoyed the flavour. This recipe will isolate the hop flavour so I can see what it tastes like itself. I changed the base malt for this recipe too, as I knew I wanted to enter it into the competition, and American Pale Ales are meant to have a bit more of a malt component than what I've been getting in my previous Summer Ales. I chose English Maris Otter, as it is said to leave more malt flavour trace than the Australian Pale Malt I've used in the past.

I first noticed the difference that the base malt brought to the recipe when I was draining the Mash/Lauter tun; the runnings were a lot darker and cloudier than I had seen in the past. It almost had a green hue to it and certainly appeared to have a higher suspended protein content. The aroma from the mash and kettle was also a bit more grainy than what I remember from previous batches, so hopefully that carries through in the final product.

I hit most of my targets on the day, with the exception of stopping the boil a few minutes late, hence the odd timings for the hop additions.

I've since tasted the beer after primary fermentation finished, and really noticed a good citrus aroma and grapefruit/passionfruit flavours coming through. I'm going to dry-hop the keg before I bottle my competition entry, with the aim of delivering more of that fresh aroma on the night. I didn't notice a change to the malt flavour at the time though, so I'm not sure if that part of the experiment has paid off. Time will tell.

The recipe:

Maris Otter Pale Malt: 4500g
Torrified Wheat: 400g

Chinook pellets (11.5% AA): 15g @ -83 mins ~19 IBU
Chinook pellets (11.5% AA): 15g @ -23 mins ~ 14 IBU
Chinook pellets (11.5% AA): 20g @ -8 mins ~ 4 IBU
Chinook pellets (11.5% AA): 20g in no-chill cube < 1 IBU
Chinook pellets (11.5% AA): 20g dry-hop in keg < 1 IBU

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

Runoff: 30L

Pre-boil SG: 1042
Boil time: 90 mins

Post-boil volume (hot): 24L
Target OG: 1049 Actual: 1051

Volume in fermenter: 19.5L
Yeast: WLP001 - California Ale (harvested from #30 AmSA)
Ferment temperature: 19C

Actual FG: 1010
ABV: 5.4%

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#23 GIPA (German Eis-PA)

Brewed: 25th November, 2009

Time for a catch up post. This brew came about after a BABBs social outing up to Eagle Heights Brewery at Mount Tamborine. On the day we were there, they made up 500L of boiled sweet-wort, which was packaged into 20L cubes and distributed to members of the club. Each member who took some wort home was able to further process the wort and ferment it out however they pleased, with the only exception that no further malt could be added to it (other fermentables, such as sugar, honey, etc were ok). The results were to be brought back to the club's first meeting of the year in January, where we got to try everyone's beer side-by-side. The grain bill for the wort was 100% Munich malt, mashed at 66.5°C then boiled for 45 minutes.

Here's a picture of me on the day peering into the Mash/Lauter tun as Johann, another BABBs member, was mixing in the grain:

A great day was had by all, starting off at Eagle Heights Brewery, then heading up the road to MT Brewery for a few more beers before returning home. There's more pictures from the day on Eagle Heights Brewery's website, and more information about the day in the BABBs November newsletter.

Anyway, back to the brew. I didn't want to do anything too fancy with it, as I wanted the Munich Malt to shine through the end result. I was considering doing a SMaSH, but then had the idea of combining German and English ingredients, and doing something along the lines of an IPA, a style I hadn't tried brewing before. So I ended up with German malt, German bittering hops, English flavouring hops, and English yeast.

One of the most interesting things to happen with this batch was that at the end of five weeks of cold conditioning at around 0-1°C, when I went to transfer the beer to a keg, I found that it was a little too cold and had partly iced up on the inside! I only noticed this after I had started transferring, so I couldn't wait for it to thaw out. In the end, I decided to leave the ice behind and ended up with an Eis Bier! A German Eis Bier (Ice Beer) is made in a similar way, where once the beer has finished fermenting, it is cooled to below 0°C. At this temperature, the water component of the beer starts freezing, but the alcohol, which has a lower freezing temperature, remains in liquid form. Once the water is in ice form, it can be separated from the beer, thus concentrating the remaining flavour and alcohol. In my case, I only lost about 2 litres out of 16 to ice, which increased the alcohol content by about 1%. Ordinarily, brewers yeast can only tolerate alcohol up to 12-15% ABV, but by repeating the process, you can get the alcohol content much higher, which is how some beers can achieve up to 40% ABV.

I was pretty happy with how this one turned out - a great strong malt flavour. If anything, it is a little too bitter, but I'm planning on letting it sit for a couple of months and see if it smooths out.

There was a wide variety to the beers that were brought to the January meeting by the other members. There was a Belgian interpretation, a Bock and Dopple-bock, a couple of Dunkels, a sour-orange and a berry infused brew, and then there were those that were flavoured with oak chips, chai spices, and even pureed banana! I also took the oportunity to enter a bottle to be judged by Eagle Heights Brewery's owner, Ed Gordon, with the chance of winning a case of Mikkeller beer. I guess that will be announced at the next meeting.

This was the recipe I went with:

Light Munich Malt: 100%

Perle pellets (8.3% AA): 30g @ -60mins ~35 IBU
East Kent Golding pellets (4.8% AA): 47g @ -15mins ~15 IBU

Pre-boil gravity: 1051
Pre-boil volume: 20L

Boil time: 60 minutes

OG: 1064

Volume in fermenter: 16.2L
Yeast: WLP005 British Ale Yeast
Ferment temp: 19C

FG: 1018
Pre-ice ABV: ~6%
Final Volume: 14.2L
Final ABV: ~6.9%

#32 EBB (English Best Bitter)

Brewed: 6th February, 2010

This is another contender for the February BABBs mini-competition. In all I'll have three to choose from; this one, #31 CSA and #29 OPA. The rules of the competition are that you can only enter one beer to count towards scoring, and one additional beer to get feed-back on, so I'll enter the one that fits to style best for scoring, and perhaps the one I want to improve for feedback.

This brew will be cutting it fine for the competition, but it's also a style that is better fresh/young, so that might work out in my favour. I figure I'll have a week for primary, then transfer it to finish off fermenting (maybe three days?), four days cold conditioning and a couple of days to carbonate it. The competition is on February 25th and I transferred to primary on the 9th. Yes, definitely cutting it fine!

Once again, I was shooting for a lower volume with the intention of having just enough to fill one keg. I've only just started adjusting recipe volumes and I now realise that I have made a couple of mistakes over the last couple of batches, thinking I was doing the right thing by scaling the volume along with the grains & hops. Unfortunately, I hadn't taken into account that things like evaporation rate and transfer losses remain fairly constant, and so on both occasions, I have ended up with far less volume in the fermenter than I was expecting. It's a good lesson to learn, and something I'll be practising over the next few brews until I get right.

There were a couple of hiccups on the day. Firstly, during pre-heating the Mash/Lauter tun, I noticed a small leak at the tap, but subsequently forgot to tighten it after emptying. It wasn't until the grain was in and I'd started filling it that I noticed the leak again. Luckily, I was filling the tun from the bottom, which meant most of the grist on top was still quite dry and I was able to remove enough to get in and tighten the tap. I'll have to figure out a way to remind myself in the future.

The second problem came as a result of cleaning up from the last batch, when I mixed up the stainless steel washers from the MLT and Kettle. I had thought they were the same size, but it turns out that the kettle one is slightly bigger and I couldn't get the other one to fit. I only noticed this after the MLT was full so I was unable to retrieve the proper kettle washer, which meant I had to file back the mash tun washer until it fit the kettle. This lead to slight delays after mashing. On the plus side, the two washers really are interchangeable now.

Everything else went to plan, and aside from the lower volume, I'm confident about the result. I recently bought some English Maris Otter malted barley to use in some of my more malt-driven ales instead of the Australian Pale malt. The aroma coming from the mash tun was noticeably nuttier, the sweet wort had a nice grainy taste to it, and there was a slight toffee flavour in the hopped wort. I'm really looking forward to tasting the finished product.

The recipe (based on this one):
[Note that the original recipe calls only for Caramunich II, but as I didn't have enough, I substituted the remaining amount for the lighter Caramunich I]

Maris Otter Pale Malt: 3717g (88%)
Caramunich II: 268g (6.5%)
Wheat Malt: 165g (4%)
Caramunich I: 62g (1.5%)

East Kent Golding pellets (4.8% AA): 54g @ -60mins ~32 IBU
East Kent Golding pellets (4.8% AA): 17g @ -60mins ~5 IBU
East Kent Golding pellets (4.8% AA): 17g added to no-chill cube <1 IBU

Mash time: 60 minutes
Target mash temperature: 67C

Start: 67C End: 65.5C

Runoff: 25L

Pre-boil SG: 1043
Boil time: 60 minutes

Target OG: 1046 Actual: 1048
Post-boil volume (hot): 20.5L

Volume in fermenter: 17.5L
Yeast: WLP005 British Ale harvested from #27 DA
Ferment temp: 19C

Updated 4th March: This beer scored 36/50 in the BABBs February 2010 mini-competition. Results posted here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

#31 CSA (Coopers Sparkling Ale clone)

Brewed: 31st January, 2010

I decided to brew this batch for a couple of reasons; first, it fits in to one of the styles open for competition at the February BABBs mini-competition, and second, it looks like we're going to a party at the end of February where this style of beer could go down pretty well. The hop signature of this, and many other Australian main-stream beers, is that of the Pride of Ringwood cultivar, and although it's far from my favourite from a flavour perspective, it's pretty distinctive, and in my experience, reasonably easy to replicate from a home brewing perspective.

I was shooting for a lower volume with this brew with the intention of getting enough to fill just one keg (without any left overs for bottling). Unfortunately my calculations were a bit out when it came to my first sparge water and I ended up with a lower first-runnings volume. I made up for it with the second sparge, whilst still being close enough with my pre and post boil gravities.

The yeast for this batch is currently being brought back to life from a couple of Coopers Pale Ales I was enjoying the other night. For those reading who aren't aware, Coopers' beers are bottle conditioned with what is reported to be the same strain of yeast that they use in primary fermentation. What this means from a home brewing perspective is that you can take the "dregs" from a Coopers beer and build it back up to a quantity of yeast suitable for pitching into your own brew, giving you a yeast flavour profile and properties that are similar to Coopers' beers. There's an article and discussion about how to do this on

The recipe (based on this one):

JW Pale Malt: 4030g
Wheat Malt: 225g
Crystal 125 Malt: 75g

Pride of Ringwood pellets (8.3% AA): 17g @-60 mins ~17 IBU
Pride of Ringwood flowers (9.6% AA): 11g @-60 mins ~12 IBU

Mash time: 60 minutes
Target mash temperature: 63C

Start: 63C End: 61C

Runoff: 24.5L

Pre-boil SG: 1043
Boil time: 60 minutes

Target OG: 1051 Actual: 1048
Post-boil volume: 19.5L

Yeast: Recultured Coopers Ale yeast
Ferment temp: 18C
Target fermenter volume: 20L

Updated 4th March: This beer scored 36/50 in the BABBs February 2010 mini-competition. Results posted here.