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De-chlorinating Brewing Water

Note to self: think about de-chlorinating my brewing water.  Supposedly imparts a medicinal (phenol) character.  I can’t say that that’s been the off-flavor I’ve noted since moving back to OR (seemed more red apple), I do recall brewing mailing lists talking about treating it and it couldn’t hurt to try.

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Dusseldorf Alt Winter 2016

Brew Day (2/21/2016)

Cooldown:

< 100 F: 5:00
< 80 F: ~7:30
<70 F:  ~10:00
Stop @57 F:  15:00

Pre boil: 1.041 (11 Brix)
Original gravity: 1.048

 

Fermentation

I didn’t expect to get the wort as cool as I did after the boil.  Instead, I expected to have to leave it overnight in the keezer to get down to ~60 F so I didn’t pitch the starter until after brewing (technically I pitched while I waited for trub to settle after cooldown.  Unfortunately, overnight the starter didn’t get too much going.  I woke up to find that the stir bar had been thrown so there was no agitation.  I expected a good head to show up once I got it started as the dissolved CO2 from the starter was agitated and released, but instead it stayed completely still.  It was nice and milky as expected, just not as much (any) CO2 as expected.

After pitching, the beer itself got to a slow start.  Remember previous brews that were pretty vigorous, I set up a blowoff tube first thing.  By the end of the first day (evening after brew day), nothing was really evident.  It wasn’t until the next morning (Tuesday morning after a Sunday brew day) that the blowoff tube started bubbling in the sanitizer.  By the end of that day, I good looking krausen had formed that fell overnight (I can’t remember for sure when it happened) and the beer ended up looking like a puddle of mud (with tiny bubbles apparent if you looked closely).

Tried to keep beer between 60 and 62 but during more active first couple of days, it coasted up to ~63 max (by thermometer in bubble wrap insulation).  Afterward, it fell down to ~60.  Throughout, I tweaked the keezer temperature control to keep it where I wanted.

By Thursday afternoon (~3.5 days after pitching) the blowoff tube was no longer very active and I took my first sample:

~3.5 days after pitching:  1.012. Still lots of yeast in suspension.  Good bit of carbonation (expected with the low fermentation temperature).  Licorice aroma.  Pretty dry, firm bitterness.

~10 days: Still 1.012. Still lots of yeast in suspension. Still firm bitterness.

Impressions

Mostly through the batch.  Been on-tap for the last few weeks and, while it’s been serviceable, it hasn’t been what I was hoping.  There was certainly something wrong, and I think it’s largely a combination of too low OG skewing the malt:bitterness to the bitterness and some yeast health issues that left out some character.

Overall, it really reminds me of a brown ale I brewed way back in my early days in Madison.  The fermentation started really sluggish and, while I didn’t get the brain-like krausen, it was just kind of weak.  Such a weak fermentation is really out of character for this beer, even keeping the temperature low.

Other than the brown ale, it’s also similar to my first – and so far only – try at a mild.  It’s pretty highly carbonated, leading to a bit of a carbonic bite.  Little body and really a macro-beer-like flavor:  bland, though certainly firmer bitterness.

Color is brown-amber and pretty clear.  Good head.

Note: After writing up these impressions, I went back and read about my Mild and Brown and I was surprised how I’d written that my Mild had reminded me of my Brown.  It would seem that maybe these 3 brews had something in common that it would be nice to avoid in the future.  I’m chalking it up to poor yeast health.

Starter

So, I’m out of malt extract for a starter, so I’m going to use some grain from my ESB grain bill for tomorrow…

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Spunding Valve Build

I’ve been wanting to build a spunding valve for a while now.  At least since I was trying to carbonate with gyle, but finally got most everything collected when I started brewing Belgians.  Once I started thinking about how to age my Belgian Dark Strong, I finally felt the urgency to get the final piece – a flare-to-npt coupler.  I had to resort to eBay and hope against hope that what I was buying would fit the bill, but luckily it (mostly) did.  There was a bit of a lip inside the flare end that I ground down with a Dremel tool, but otherwise got everything to fit pretty snuggly.

Most of the parts I got from a local second-hand gadget store.  It’s been a pretty awesome place for various electronics projects I’ve done and I happened to find a 0-30 PSI valve with a T coupling (pictures to come).  Once I was able to connect the gas quick disconnect to the T (with the coupler from eBay), I was finally set.

Testing

Before using on an actual brew, I want to test the gauge accuracy and ability for the contraption to hold pressure:

~8:45 Friday morning:  charge keg to 20 PSI per regulator.  Spunding gauge reads 20 PSI as well (on the high side of the line).

Fall 2015 ESB Brew

Alright, this definitely didn’t happen when I expected it to.  I’ve taken quite the break from brewing, ’cause honestly it’s kind of a lot of work and it’s been more of a chore lately.  It feels like it’s been long enough now, and the weather’s good, that I’ll try to pick it up again.  Instead of trying to juggle two starters with one stir plate – like I was going for with my comments below – I think I’ll stick with a 5-gallon batch and use the WLP002.

While the Dubbel & Dark Strong experiences have been fun, I think I need a good house beer brew.  ESB is the obvious go-to, but unlike previous brews, I think I want to make this a little drier (probably because of the Belgian beer immersion I’ve been in).  I typically use the Wyeast 1968, partly because I liked the residual sweetness it gave me.  Now I think I want to try something different.  In fact, it seems like it would be fun to do a 10-gallon batch and pitch 5 gallons with 1968 (or White Lab’s equivalent – WLP002) and the other 5 gallons with a test yeast that’s supposed to attenuate more.

Wow, there a lot of White Labs english ale yeasts!  I think I’m down to WLP006 – Bedford Ale Yeast (in-season now), WLP007 – Dry English Ale Yeast, and WLP085 – English Ale blend.  These are all the ones – in season now (WLP039 – East Midlands Ale Yeast also sounds viable, but is only available in fall) – that have high attenuation.  I think I’ll just have to go into the shop and pick from the ones available.  I’m not sure if I can count on any particular one being around, but I think I have presented them in my order of preference (006->007->085) in case more than one is available.

I think I’ll just re-use my latest ESB recipe.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew day (10/25/15)

  • pre-boil gravity:  13.75 Brix
  • <140° F – 3:16
  • <100° F – 6:50
  • <80° F – 11:26
  • <70° F – 17:31

Belgian Dark Strong

Despite some misgivings (complex grain bill, no candi syrup, high mash temp) I’m going to brew a Belgian Dark Strong ale using Jamil’s recipe from c. 2007.

Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew day (7/12/15)

Cooldown:

<140:  4:13
<100:  8:45
<80:  14:11
<70:  21:32
stop @69:  23:04

Added remainder of D2 candi syrup leftover from Dubbel (~4 oz).

OG: 1.084, much lower than 1.107 goal.  Likely ran off too much since 2 gallons were left in kettle after filling fermenter.  This combined with the likely fill of the fermenter beyond 5 gallons means I left a significant amount of sugar behind.  I.e., 2 gallons left behind + >5 gallons in the fermenter results in >7 gallons brewed when 6.25 gallons were planned.

Using Beersmith’s ‘Dilution Tool’ indicates having too much volume would account for only ~11 points (diluting 6.25 gallons of 1.107 wort with 3 quarts of water yields 7 gallons (what I ended up with) at 1.096) => ~12 points unaccounted for.  Generously adding a quart for fermenter overfill (leading to 7.25 gallons brewed) accounts for an additional 4 points leaving 8 points.

Other than poor sparge, what would account for this?  Maybe it’s small enough to be in the error (i.e., homebrewing isn’t an exact science).  It makes me wonder though if high gravity sparging/mashing is more lossy?

Fermentation

Began in Rubbermaid in garage with garden hose water @ ~68F.  Overnight, rose to 72F despite ice packs with slow blowoff tube bubbling.  By lunch, temperature had increased to 74F and bubbling had likewise increased to good rate.  Decided to move to smaller Rubbermaid in the garage fridge with aquarium heater.  After about 3 hours, temp had dropped to 69F, bubble rate was not noticeably affected and krausen had worked its way up to the neck (and had started getting through blowoff tube to jar of sanitizer).

Hopefully initial high temperatures don’t negatively affect the beer.  Will try to slowly ramp temp up as fermentation abates.

Sample after 11 days:  1.030.  Pretty sweet, but pretty darn good.  Hopefully it continues to attenuate and dries out, but it might not be horrible if it didn’t drop too much.  Not sure how much “to-style” it would be, but it could still be pretty good, maybe a bit like a barleywine.  I had feared/expected a high finish to this, but hopefully it can get a little lower.

Belgian Dubbel

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Dough in: 11:50 @ 149°F
Lauter End:  1:15
Pre-boil:  12.25 Brix
Boil Start:  1:33
Gravity after 30 minutes:  13.25 Brix
Hops:  38g Tettnang @4.8%
Gravity after 60 minutes:   13.50 Brix
Flameout:  3:06
Cooldown:
<140:  3:15
<100:  6:26
<80:  10:07
<70:  14:31
Stop @67 :  17:33
OG: 16.25 Brix (1.067)
FG: 1.011
ABV: 7.35%
Apparent Attenuation: 83%

Fermentation:

Trouble keeping Rubbermaid cool in garage with ice packs, so moved to keezer after a day. Was ~66° in the Rubbermaid, dropped to 64°in keezer. Started ramping up temperature after 3 or 4 days and airlock activity slowed down. Ramped up to 70°over ~4 days. Put back in Rubbermaid in garage after ~8 days, maintaining 72°.

Sample after ~10 days: 1.017. Boozy aroma, but not in flavor. Sweet.

Sample after 14 days: 1.015. Still pretty boozy, but drier, not sweet and noticed the alcohol in the flavor.

Sample after 18 days:  1.011.  Pretty surprised it dropped so much, the airlock didn’t seem to be doing anything anymore for at least a couple of days.  Flavor and aroma not so much different from before.  Booze might be a little more subdued.

Crashed after 3 weeks, 2 days prior to leaving town.

Kegged after 4 weeks.

Impressions

Initial (Flat in keg @ 32°):  dry, rummy flavor.  No strong alcohol as I noticed in warm samples.  Time will tell if it induces headaches at volume, but drinking ~4 oz. or so has not.  Same umami undertone as my other beers.  While visiting West Sixth Brewing in Lexington, KY I noticed the same.  They claim it’s intentional in their Brown due to some nut addition (hazelnut?) but I also noticed it in their schwartzbier.

Carbonated (~1.5 weeks from kegging):  Loving this beer.  A little hazy.  A little more alcohol, not quite as drinkable when warm (though not “harsh”).  Want to keg a 12-pack for long-term storage and a 6-pack for competition.  I’d really like to see how others perceive it.