Tag Archives: Style

Stout Experiment – Brewing Details and Results

The recipe target the creation of 5 liters of 10 °P (1.040) wort, post boil.  I used a “brew in a bag” process, though unlike some I choose to mash with only a portion of the water and add the remainder as a sparge or rinse.  My default water to grain ratio is 3.0 liters per kilogram, which is somewhere around 1.5 quarts per pound.

Grains Amount Percent
Maris Otter 0.57 kg 68%
Flaked Barley 0.17 kg 20%
Roasted barley 0.10 kg 12%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
Nugget  6 g 50 min 40

All batches were mashed at 68 °C for an hour.  My 4 gallon brew pot fits into my oven which is easier to control than using a propane burner.  It’s not perfect – my oven’s lowest setting is about 76° C – so I have to monitor the mash temperature with a remote probe and turn the oven off and on a few times during the one hour mash.  Still it was pretty worry free.

I made three separate “brew-in-a-bag” mashes.  The first batch was brewed in the normal manner, all grains mashed together.  The main mash of the next two batches consisted of only the base malt and the flaked barley.  For the second batch I added about 300 grams of water to the roasted barley and let it steep cold, overnight.  About a cup of liquid was drawn from this and added to the wort after mashing was complete.  For the third batch I  added the roast barley just prior to the end of the mash.  I did not write down exactly how long it was in the mash, maybe 3 to 5 minutes at most.

The first full mash achieved an extraction efficiency of 85%; the second two mashes were about 75%.  That is a pretty huge difference but until I can repeat the experiment I am not going to claim it as significant, merely interesting.  All three batches were 2.7 kg in the fermenter and pitched with 2.5 grams of Safale US05 dry yeast.  Thirty seconds of pure oxygen was also added after pitching.  Note I pitched the dry yeast directly on the wort.  While not really a best practice, I felt it would lend the best chance for consistency among the batches.

Interestingly all three batches ended at the same terminal gravity of 3.1 °P (1.012), so that the cold steep batch ended at a slightly lower ABV than the other two.

See Much Difference?

See Much Difference?

But the real question is:  how did they taste? And the simple answer is not much different at all.  The color of the foam on the fully mashed batch was ever so slightly darker than the other two, but the taste differences were simply nil.

My take away from this experiment is: do what works for you.  If your water is naturally high in alkalinity then a full mash with dark grains may be the simplest approach.  If your water is more balanced and you don’t want to fuss with mineral additions then by all means mash your pale grains first and let the starch conversion happen at the correct pH before adding your dark grains.  And if you are like me you can just make a quick water salt adjustment for the dark mashes.

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More on Stouts and Water Chemistry

I received the November/Decemeber 2013 issue of Zymurgy to find an article by Martin Brungard on Irish water chemistry. His article aligns quite nicely with my recent ramblings on water chemistry and dark beers. Martin’s article reviews the typical rock formations encountered and finds that while Ireland does have a significant amount of limestone (consistent with highly alkaline water) much of Ireland is not limestone geology and therefore softer, less alkaline waters should be found. He presents water analysis data to suggest that the water in Ireland is, by and large, much softer and less alkaline than is often suggested.  The only potential hiccup in this data is that Dublin is in the limestone geology area of Ireland, and one of the rivers that supplies Dublin can have high levels of hardness and alkalinity, depending on the season. The “typical” Dublin water profile is presented (300+ppm of bicarbonate and a residual alkalinity of 170) but it is immediately discounted as being unsuitable for brewing good beer.  So what is the truth about Irish water?

Martin proposes how Irish brewers could get around this.  Boiling of the hard/alkaline water lowers both the calcium and bicarbonate levels of the water. The article suggests that boiling hard Dublin water would result in a water profile very similar to other areas of Ireland.  So if the brewing water is either relatively soft to begin with or boiled to achieve that end, how did Irish brewers use dark roasted grians successfully?  They mashed without the dark roasted grains, and instead cold steeped the roast barley or added at the very end of the mash.

So it is interesting this article popped up just as I was playing around with these techniques.  I am looking forward to trying the beers I made recently using both of those approaches along with the traditional mashing methods.

Mighty, Mighty Head

imageMy favorite saison yeast is Wyeast 3711, French Saison.  I have talked about it before: it has a nice spicy flavor and attenuates without much fuss.  My standing joke is that this yeast will ferment your concrete floor if you let it sit.  The thing is, the saisons I bottle almost always end up a bit over carbonated.  I do not know if this is just the 3711 continuing to work, or if I am picking up a slight infection. The bottles do not gush, but you can only pour about half of the beer before you run out of space.  The flavor is still OK, so if it is infected it is a pretty benign critter.  But when those beers are poured man do they end up with one whipped cream like head.  I am surprised the head is so big and long lasting, as I thought the continuing fermentation would tend to break down components in the beer which contribute to head formation.

Octoberfest Craft Beer Tasting

Octoberfest Craft Beer tastingMy recent brewing spree, as outlined in a series of posts, culminated in last Saturday’s tasting.  Thanks to friend of the brewer Dick, I had access to a nifty, homemade beer serving station as seen the photo above.  Three taps mounted into a chalk board stand provide for easy labeling.  The extra large trash can held ice and three kegs, plus a 5 pound bottle of carbon dioxide. Lastly a small drip tray on top.  It all worked pretty well, though my Kolsch style ale was a bit of a problem child – a little over carbonated and foamy.  But we muddled through.

There were somewhere near 300 people in attendance.  A number or breweries were represented: Southern Tier, Helltown, East End Brewing, Full Pint, Rivertowne, Penn Brewery and many others. In addition to the Little Boy Brewery, there two other home brewers in attendance. The guests were wonderful and very enthusiastic, but not all were completely aware of my status as a home brewer.  A number asked me where I made my beer (“my garage”) and a few wanted to know where they could buy it (“you can’t”).  But all were very enthusiastic.

I was overwhelmed with the response to the beers that I made.  As I has noted before, my Saison recipe has always proven to be very popular. I did double the amount of coriander from 15 grams to 30 grams, which when you add it to the wort looks like quite a slug.  In the past I have been surprised by how often people fail to note the coriander in a beer when I can smell it a mile away.  That is what expectations can do for you.  For this beer it seemed pretty strong but it did not to seem to put many people off.  Several tasters showed up with their glass in hand and said they were told they should come try my saison.  One lady came up to the booth and inquired about what beer she should try and so I pulled just a sip of the saison for her to try.  Her eyes lit up as she tasted it and, with a big smile, requested a full pour.  That reaction made my night.

I thought the wild card in my beer lineup would be the Russian Imperial Stout.  When planning for this I knew I wanted something that would stand up and stand out against all of the IPAs and other strong beers from the other participants.  I was happy enough with how this beer turned out, though it was a bit strong on the roast and light on the chocolate, at according to what I envisioned.  It did not seem to bother anyone on Saturday night.  In the end, this beer and the Saison ran neck and neck in popularity. And although this is a bit of a sexist observation, there were no shortage of the female sex coming up to try this beer.  This was a pretty intense beer, and I was surprised by the wide love it found.

The afterthought beer was the Kolsch. I brewed it partially as a backup beer but in the end I brought it along. Most of the people were not aware of the heritage of the style, so it gave me a chance to do some education. There were a few that were well aware of the style, though, and I am pleased to report they gave it a thumbs up.  Many other, more timid drinkers chose it as a safe alternative to other, stronger beers.  Unfortunately I spent the night fighting the carbonation level – it was foamy.  But we soldiered through.

It was a great night for craft beer.  it was a great night for home brewing. A couple of people told me they thought the home brews were better than the commercial ones.  While that might have been a bit of hyperbole, I was very happy I participated and really thrilled at the response.

What to Wear ? (Part 3)

Part 1 and 2 of this series highlighted beers that I brewed for an upcoming beer tasting.  The first two beers were a Russian Imperial Stout and a Saison, both good styles for tasting as they have distinct and robust flavors that will stand out after one has sampled other beers.  I decided to make a third beer just in case one of the first two did not turn out as expected (and who knows I might just take all three to the tasting).  My choice for the third beer was a Kölsch. This style is much more mild in flavor than the other two, but I had just brewed one earlier in the summer and it turned out to be exceptionally good, so I thought it was worth presenting.

The BJCP style descriptor says a Kolsch should have “soft, rounded palate comprising of a delicate flavor balance between soft yet attenuated malt, an almost imperceptible fruity sweetness from fermentation, and a medium-low to medium bitterness with a delicate dryness and slight pucker in the finish (but no harsh aftertaste)”. Descriptions such a that really put me off because I do not think the words convey much at all about the flavor. While many who try a Kolsch simply write it off as another light flavored lager, I feel it has a subtle and  distinct flavor that is difficult to describe.  For me it is the flavor of a white Italian bread crust, rich with the flavor of grain but not heavy with bread notes. It has a slight sweetness that adds to the pleasantness of the beer.  Much like riding a bike, once you taste it you cannot forget it.  I have been fortunate that business has taken me to Köln on more than one occasion and I have had the chance to sample Früh, Sion, Gilden and Dom Kölsches (and maybe a few others I forgot). Köln is a wonderful place to visit, go there if you can.

The Big K II

Grains Amount Percent
Pilsener Malt (Weyermann) 3.68 kg 92%
Light Wheat Malt 0.20 kg 5%
Acidulated Malt 0.12 kg 3%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
German Tradition (6.5% AA) 25 g 60 min 18
German Tradition (6.5% AA) 8 g 10 min 2
Original Gravity 12.2º P (1.049)
Final Gravity 1.3º P (1.013)
Apparent Attenuation 73%
Estimated ABV 4.6%

I mashed in at 66 °C but the mash settled to 63 °C at thirty minutes.  I raised it back up with the heat stick and let the mash go for one hour total before raising the temperature to 70 °C and mashing out.  I added calcium chloride, epsom salt, and baking soda to the mash, but only such that the final count was 80 ppm calcium, 44 ppm sodium, 115 ppm chloride and 89 ppm sulfate.

The yeast selected was Wyeast 2565, Kölsch.  Selecting the correct yeast is critical to achieving the correct flavor profile, and based on my effort with this style earlier in the summer this yeast delivers the goods.  I made a one liter starter from a very fresh pack of yeast and ended up with about 100 ml of slurry, which I estimate is about 200 billion cells.  Based on what I know about yeast that is a good number for a 19 liters (5 gallon) of 12 plato beer.  I cooled the wort to 16 °C before pitching and let the temp rise to 18 °C for the commencement of fermentation.  I raised the temperature 0.5 °C per day until it reached 20 °C.  I I further allowed it to rise to 22  °C to assure good diacetyl clean up.  Post fermentation it went into a fridge at 5 °C for some cold aging.  ideally this would age for 4 to 6 weeks, but it will only have 3 weeks before the tasting.  Hopefully it will be OK.

What to Wear ? (Part 2)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was invited to participate in a craft beer tasting promoted by the local community foundation. That post detailed the Russian Imperial Stout that I made as the first beer for the tasting. The second beer selected for the show is a Saison, a style that has become very popular in the last five years. I love my Saison with rye malt, so I sent back to the well and used my basic Saison recipe:

Grains Amount Percent
Pilsener Malt (Weyermann) 2.75 kg 47%
Vienne Malt 1.10 kg 19%
Flaked Wheat 1.10 kg 19%
Malted Rye 0.60 kg 10%
Lyle’s Golden Syrup 0.24 kg 4%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
East Kent Goldings 30 g 60 min 18
East Kent Goldings 22 g 15 min 7
East Kent Goldings 22 g 5 min 3
Coriander 30 g 0 min 0
Original Gravity 15.6º P (1.064)
Final Gravity 2.3º P (1.009)
Apparent Attenuation 86%
Estimated ABV 7.0%

I mashed in at 67 °C and let it go for an hour.  I added both gypsum and calcium chloride to the mash, partially to help the pH but also to add some minerals to the relatively low mineral western Pennsylvania water.  I even added a bit of sodium chloride. The final water profile was 89 ppm calcium, 64 ppm sodium, 137 ppm chloride and 148 ppm sulfate.  I almost always mash with 3 liters of water per kilogram of grain, which works out to somewhere around 1.5 quarts per pound (for those still using middle age measuring systems).  My mash efficiency was 78%, which is probably due to using a sugar as an adjunct, freeing up water for sparging.  Since I was using a pilsener malt I boiled for 90 minutes.

Wyeast 3711 French Saison is the yeast I prefer for Saisons.  I had to restart a small sample I had retained fr0m earlier in the year.  I worked up the volume by making an 8 liter starter (which I actually hopped and drank, hey, I may be a coward but I am a thirsty little coward).  The fermentation temperature started at 16 °C before allowing it to slowly rise to 25 °C over a week.  I was a little disappointed in the attenuation.  Wyeast 3711 normally gets 90 or 95 percent, this was 86 percent.  A sample tasted during kegging seemed OK, but unless this thing becomes infected it is what I will serve at the tasting.

So I now had two beers ready for the tasting, but it never hurts to have a backup plan and brew a third.  I will cover that one next.

Bicentennial Brew & Stats

Last weekend a milestone was reached at the LittleBoy Brewery.  The 200th batch of beer was put into the ferementer.  Because this was a milestone brew I made it something unique, a sour red ale.  I used the same recipe as the So Was Red brew, but instead of a Berliner Weisse yeast I pitched a pack of Wyeast Roeselare Ale, which is a blend of ale yeast, brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus.  I put it in a plastic bucket fermenter and intend to leave it sit for one year.  You can’t rush sour.

200 batches of beer is not that much for someone who has been brewing since 1997, but it has been a fun hobby.  Here are a few additional statistics:

  • The 200 batches made 3203 liters of beer or 846 gallons. That is just over 27 barrels.  Budweiser spilled that much this morning.
  • For the first ten years of brewing I never made ten batches in a single year.  I have averaged 23 batches per year in the last five years.
  • I have used 48 different varieties of yeast.
  • My most used yeasts are dry yeasts: Safale US-05 is my go-to: I used it for 22 batches, followed by Danstar Windsor (21 batches), Danstar Nottingham (20 batches).
  • Most popular liquid yeasts: White Labs WLP 002 English Ale (13 batches) and Wyeast 3711 French Saison (12 batches).
  • Most popular categories: English Pale Ale (35), Belgian and French Ale (22), Stout (20), American Ale (13) and Pilsner (12)
  • Most popular styles: ESB (17), Saison (16), Dry Stout (12), Ordinary Bitter (11) and Classic American Pilsner (10).

Of the 200 batches I only really dumped one. It was a spiced Christmas Ale that just never tasted right.  I don’t think it was spoiled, just too bitter and too much ginger.  I kept it a solid year before I gave up on it though.

Brew on!

What to Wear ? (Part 1)

I was recently approached by a neighbor from across the street. They happen to be good friends with Southern Tier Brewing Company in New York, and as such they were approached by the community charitable foundation to “help” with a craft beer tasting fundraiser. And by help I mean they wanted to get Southern Tier to participate.  Somehow the topic of home brewing came up and the organizers of the fundraiser were interested in having a few homebrewers serve, too.  With that my neighbor suggested my name and of course being humbled I could not refuse the offer (there is always an upside to giving neighbors home brew).

Talking with the organizers, they were looking for about 150 servings of a couple of beers, which works pretty well with a 5 gallon corny keg.  They left it up to me to decide what to bring.  My first thought was my saison, as it has won a gold medal in the local competition as s generally liked by those who try it.  What about a second beer?  I recent made a very delicious Kolsch style beer, but I was concerned that the light flavor of a Kolsch would not stand up well to the strongly flavored beers one might find at a craft beer tasting.  I thought about an IPA or such, but no recipe I had really jumped out as being interesting.  Then it hit me: a Russian Imperial Stout!  A well made RIS will easily stand up to any other beer that it is served with.  One challenge is that these beers stand up to aging very well, and often are better after weeks and even months of aging.  I had to get busy.

I had recent made a RIS and entered it into the local TRASH competition where it scored just OK.  It was criticized for not being “imperial” enough, which surprised me as I thought it had great flavors.  What flavors should it have?  The BJCP guidelines call for flavors that are complex and intense: roasted grains, fruity esters, hop bitterness, chocolate, cocoa, and or strong coffee.  Jamil Zainasheff recommends combinations of three roasted and three caramel grains to achieve these flavors. In my first attempt I used roasted barley and two types of chocolate malts for roastiness and caramunich, Special B , and Crystal 160 for the caramel malts.  All together, the specialty malts comprised about 20% of the grain bill.  Not “imperial” enough?  Well then, up the ante to 23% as shown below:

The Rus’ II

Grains Amount Percent
Munton’s Maris Otter 7.23 kg 77%
CaraMunich Malt (48L) 0.32 kg 3%
Special B (147L) 0.40 kg 4%
Crystal 160 0.32 kg 3%
Roasted Barley 0.56 kg 6%
Belgian Chocolate Malt (347L) 0.30 kg 3%
Kiln Coffee Malt 0.30 kg 3%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
Nugget (13.5% AA) 70 g 60 min 68
Columbus (13.9% AA) 20 g 5 min 4
Original Gravity 21.0º P (1.087)
Final Gravity 6.1º P (1.024)
Apparent Attenuation 72%
Estimated ABV 8.1%

The new addition to the grain bill is the Kiln Coffee Malt, a product I saw advertised by Northern Brewer. It has a great roasted coffee aroma, hopefully it does the job here. I mashed at a moderate temperature (65 to 66 °C) but used my heat stick to get that to 70 °C at the end of a 70 minute mash.  I added 10 grams of chalk (CaCO3) and 3 grams of baking soda (NaCO3) to the mash to compensate for the dark roasted grains.  I also added 3 grams of calcium chloride as the local water is low in both calcium chloride ions.  I batched sparged and achieved 70% overall brewhouse efficiency, not bad with a 20°P beer. I boiled for 75 minutes.

This batch was fermented with 20 grams of Safale US-05 yeast, rehydrated and pitched with pure oxygen. US-05 is a workhorse and it is so easy to use in dry form I am not sure why anyone would want to mess with liquid cultures. The 72% attenuation is lower than normal, but this was a very strong beer with lots of specialty malts so I am not dismayed by that performance.

This beer has been sitting cold (5 °C) for almost four weeks, it will be six by the time the tasting arrives.  That should be about right if I have done my job correctly.

Genesee Ted

The Cream Ale should be one of those despicable styles, sort of like Light American Lager.  It often starts with six row barley, that scorn of malts popularized by the large purveyors of dastardly American mega-swill.  Adjuncts such as corn and sugar are key ingredients. Hop bitterness and flavor levels approach the average offensive output of the Cleveland Browns. On the surface, this beer seems to offer little interest to the modern home brewer.

And yet, much like the Kölsch, the Cream Ale is a style that many brewers embrace.  Yeah, the standard ingredients are nondescript, but together they can create a beer that is subtle yet flavorful.  It can be successfully shared with craft beer newbies and those less adventurous beer drinkers.  The grainy and sweet corn flavor combines with full malt and a lightly fruity malt profile to create a beer much like a classic English bitter: flavorful enough to enjoy without demanding your full attention.

My approach to this beer is simplicity.  I just brewed this style for the third time and I am looking forward to a beer I can share.  For this iteration I skipped the six row barley (because I had plenty of pilsner malt) but stuck with my usual malt bill: 75% base malt, 20% flaked maize, and 5% caravienne malt.  This gives a beer that is a gorgeous gold color with a light sweetness from the corn and richness added by the caravienne.  I mashed at my usual loose 3 liters per kilogram of grain. I mashed for an hour, starting at 67 °C and letting it fall to 65 °C over 25 minutes before raising the mash to 68 °C for the duration of the mash.

I boiled for 90 minutes, adding 13 grams of Nugget hops at 60 minutes and another 13 grams at 5 minutes, for an IBU level I estimated at 22.  The wort finished at 12.8 °P or 1.052.  I cooled to 19 °C and pitched one pack of Safale US-05 yeast (11.5 grams).  This US-05 is a great all around yeast, I am not sure why anyone would want to mess around with a liquid version when this is so easy to use.  I raised the fermentation temperature about 1 °C on the second and fourth day of fermentation.  Tonight I checked the finishing gravity and found it to be 2.1 °P (1.008) for an apparent attenuation of 85% and an estimated ABV of 5.9%.

I will move this beer straight from the primary to a keg and a bottling bucket, targeting about 2.6 or so volumes of CO2 in the finished beer.  If all goes well in a few weeks I will have a beer that I can share, without fear, with any beer drinker out there.

2012 Stats

It was another good year for the LittleBoy Brewery (mainly because we are still alive and still brewing!).  Salud!  It is a bittersweet end to the year as my mother passed from the living yesterday and the young age of 94.  She often reminded me that having another birthday was highly desirable to the alternative, and for that simple wisdom I raise my glass in her honor.  And the fact that she was always happy to sample a bit of my homebrew.

But back to the good news.  Twenty-nine brews were made last year yielding 377.7 liters of wort into the fermenters.  The average batch size was 13 liters.  The largest batch was 21 liters, and the smallest a tenth the size, 2.1 liters.  The number of brews exceeded the previous years total of 25, which was the previous high. But 2011 still holds the volume record at 382.3 liters of wort.  Established styles brewed for the first time in 2012 include 1B, Standard American Lager, 1E, Dortmunder Export, 5C, Doppelbock, 11B, Southern English Brown, 13D, Foreign Extra Stout, 13F, Russian Imperial Stout, 17A, Berliner Weisse, 17B, Flanders Red Ale, 18A, Belgian Blond Ale and 19A, Old Ale.  For a brewery in the 15th year of production there sure were a lot of styles that were never tried!  Also this year a great experimental beer was created based on a type of beer that might have been brewed at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

So 2012 is in the books.  Can’t wait to brew in 2013!