Saturday, 30 January 2010

Salisbury CAMRA Winterfest XIII

Been to the Salisbury Winterfest this afternoon.  There were an interesting selection of beers including more golden beers than expected at a Winter Ale Festival. 

Nothing really stood out as a Winter beer but there were some good beers none the less.  My favourite was Box Steam Funnel Blower.  A very nice porter which tasted like there was a good dollop of brown malt in it.

A very enjoyable afternoon's drinking followed by a pretty good curry. 

Off to bed now.....

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

North Hampshire Brewers Meeting 26/01/2010

Had the January meeting of our local homebrew club last night.  Drank too much, obviously.

The meeting started off with an extremely well prepared and presented talk on yeast culturing.  The process of making slants and using them to store yeast was covered as was the practice of making starters and stepping up yeast from a few hundred cells to a starter big enough to ferment 10 gallons of beer.  Thanks Michael!

The theme of the meeting was Winter Ale but we really only had two in style.  We also had a Schwarzbier, a Russian Imperial Stout, a London Porter, a Chocolate IPA (?), a couple of Belgians and I took along a couple of bottles of AK.  Other than a slight TCP issue on one of them the beers were all excellent. 

As a club we're really starting to turn out some fantastic beers month after month.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Time to Re-Wire the Brewery

I brewed last night and things didn't go according to plan!

The temperature controller that I use to maintain the temperature of the wort as it is recirculated through the heat exchanger just wasn't showing a stable temperature.  It fluctuated by as much as 20°C so any kind of control was out of the question.  I have had this problem before and I know it's down to moisture in the wiring which I've been putting off replacing for months.  I think I now have to bite the bullet.

I managed to get through by monitoring the temperature of the mash tun and the heat exchanger with a thermometer and controlling the heat exchanger manually.  A few pints of AK helped me along too!

In case you want to see the recipe here it is:

Chineham Pale Ale
Brew Length (L):          55.00
Total Grain (kg):         9.40
OG:          1.040
Anticipated EBC:          29.6
Anticipated IBU:          31.0
Brewhouse Efficiency:       75 %
Wort Boil Time:             80    Minutes


   %     Amount     Name                           EBC
 87.8    8.25 kg.  Pale Malt(2-row)            7
  5.3     0.50 kg.  Crystal 55L                     145
  5.3     0.50 kg.  Flaked Corn (Maize)      0
  1.6     0.15 kg.  Black Patent Malt            1390


   Amount     Name                              Form    Alpha  IBU  Boil Time
 55.00 g.     Fuggle                              Whole    4.40  12.6  First WH
 55.00 g.     Goldings - E.K.               Whole    4.20  12.1  First WH
 40.00 g.     Fuggle                              Whole    4.40   3.2   20 min.
 40.00 g.     Goldings - E.K.               Whole    4.20   3.1   20 min.


White Labs WLP002 English Ale

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Bottling chaos

Well, my plan of cask conditioning for a few weeks has gone down the pan.  I changed my mind and decided to bottle both casks today after just 3 days in the cask.  The picture shows the chaos that ensued!

Actually it didn't take very long.  9 gallons minus the ullage ended up as 67 pints bottled plus a pint sunk by myself.  All done in about 80 minutes.

This bottling form cask is very straight forward.  I use a "little bottler" connected to the cask tap.  To make things as easy as possible I brought my floor capper into the utility room.

I didn't use any priming sugar as there'll be a couple of gravity points worth left to ferment over time.  The only problem is I don't have a very good track record of giving my beers time to mature. The lure of the malty, hoppy lovliness is just too much for me.  Now where can I hide it so I don't drink it all???

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A Spot of Cask Conditioning

The AK's been in the fermenter for 7 days at 19°C (ok, so it started a little cold) and then another 3 days at 6°C.  So, I've just put it into two 4.5 gallon casks.  I managed to get a small 3 gallon keg out of it too which I've taken the liberty of purging with CO2 and shaking a little condition into.  I like to do this rather than throw beer away.

The plan is that I'll drink a few pints from the keg and then at the weekend I'll bottle what's left.  The casks will be left for a few weeks to do their magic.  Then I'll spend a few hours bottling it all up before hiding it from myself.

Monday, 11 January 2010

AK Fermentation Complete

Well, the fermentation's pretty much done now.  I've just measured it at 1.012 and I wouldn't expect it to much below that if at all.  Fullers yeast is supposed to go to something like 71% attenuation and this has reached 73%.

I've turned the temperature controller down to 6°C to cold condition but I've disconnected the chiller so the beer will cool down naturally (the garage is currently sitting at about 1°C).

In the interests of science I felt it necessary to taste the hydrometer sample.  So, the beer's almost clear but it's already down to 9.2°C so any slight haze could well be chill haze anyway.  The nose is malty with a little hop aroma.  This follows through into the taste which has a good level of sweetness and a lovely backgound of hop.  Bitterness is not overwelming but it's there in good balance.

What is surprising is the amount of body this beer has considering the fact that 19% of the sugars in the beer are from brewing sugar.  I've used sugars in beer before but never in this kind of percentage.

I'm so impressed, in fact, that I might well have to brew this again as I don't think this is going to last very long.....

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Update on AK Fermentation

The fermenting AK is now up to 19.6°C and fermenting nicely.....phew!

This cold weather makes me think I should have brewed the black lager I've been threatening to do for so long.  Maybe next weekend.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Came home from work this evening to find the beer fermenting away but at 15.4°C.  I couldn't leave it to get even cooler.  In fact I'm a bit surprised the yeast was still going.  So, I slipped another 25w vivarium heater underneath the insulation.  Within an hour it's risen to 15.7°C so I'm happy again!

Also, while I was in the garage I grabbed another Simonds IPA.  Cheers!

Low fermentation temperature...brrrr

I checked on the AK this morning and found it bubbling away slowly but the temperature is a little low.  The little 25w vivarium heater stuck to the side of the FV is barely able to keep the fermenting beer above 17°C.  Originally I fitted two heaters but one melted.  I must get around to replacing it with a new one.  Anyway, currently it's at 17.2°C despite being set to 19°C.  This is OK and I would expect the fermentation to start creating its own heat soon but it's just a bit slower than I wanted.  Still, it should make a nice, clean beer and stop the 1.75kg of sugar causing nasty flavours.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

All done but I could do with a beer

55 litres of Fullers AK (1910) in the FV at 20C. 4.5 litres of actively fermenting wort added during the runoff.

All packed away and the brewery cleaned by 15:00. Walked the dog, the boy and the wife by 17:00. Getting stuck into my first pint of the day at 17:01!

What am I drinking? It's from a recipe for Simonds IPA from 1878. OG of 1.068 (should have been 1.070 but I was a little tipsy when I brewed it) and a calculated 175 IBU. I know, I know, you can't taste IBU's beyond 95 but the amount of hop flavour you get by going beyond that is fantastic.

It's a light copper colour; not crystal clear but its only about 5 degrees where the bottles are stored so it's got a slight chill haze that disappears as it warms. It has a good tight, white head which disperses once you start drinking it. Probably this beer would be better suited to drinking it from a smaller glass and topping up from a jug to preserve the head. On the nose there's malt and hops with alcohol. The taste is of hops (obviously) with a background of sweetness and a lingering bitterness on the farewell.

I have about 10 pints in bottles and 4.5 gallons in a pin, cask conditioning. I'll probably get around to bottling this when it gets a bit warmer..... if I can resist the urge to tap it and take a few pints one night. At 6.9% abv it's not the sort of beer to have on draft!

Boil's now over - so what did we get?

Boil's now finished and the wort's standing for 20 minutes while it settles. Gravity in the copper is 1.045 as per the recipe but with 60 litres in the copper rather than the 55l I'd planned for. Luckilly I foresaw this and stuck a few more hops in the boil so it should be OK.

So, what does it taste like? Nice!! Obviously sweet as the yeast still has to munch through the sugars but the bitterness and hop flavour are there.

I'll start running it to the FV in a few minutes.

Brewday underway - Fullers AK (1910)

So, I went with the AK recipe afterall. The newly clad mash tun held its temperature perfectly and a steady 66°C will see those enzymes happy as a pig in sh1t, converting the starches to lovely sugars.

It's bloomin cold in my garage today so the uninsulated copper may take longer to boil than normal. Maybe that wants cladding too!

The mash was more efficient than I wanted (as it always is) so I overshot my extract and will end up with either slightly more beer (never a bad thing) or a beer with an OG of 1.050 rather than 1.045 (also no disaster).

Fullers yeast starter

Suppliers of liquid yeast tend to package it up in quantities that will only just ferment 5 gallons of yeast; so long as you aerate loads after pitching. You could obviously buy more of it but that can get expensive and, depending on how old the yeast is, you may end up just pitching a load of yeast with a high percentage of dead cells anyway as this stuff doesn't keep indefinitely.

The best way to be sure that you are pitching enough healthy yeast is to make a starter. I use a stir plate to encourage aerobic fementation as that's the time where the yeast reproduce making lots of fresh, healthy, new cells.

Here's a picture of my yeast starter for tomorrow's (actually today's) brew. It's about 4.5l of wort made with DME to an OG of 1.040 with a load of slurry from an earlier, unused starter added about 4 hours ago.

You can see my refractometer standing upright at the back of my stirplate. It's a great piece of kit that every brewer should have.

The cold weather came in handy tonight as I was able to bring the temperature of the wort from boiling to pitching temperature within minutes just by dunking it in a bucket of water that was sitting by the back door. After I broke the ice on it it was a perfect wort chiller!

As the source of the slurry had been sitting in the kitchen for a couple of weeks I did a quick check on the health of the cells prior to pitching. The photo to the right shows that the yeast cells are healthy. There's a little debris around but no nasties that I can see.

I'll do a viability check on the starter (using methylene blue as an indicator) prior to pitching into my wort. It it's infected (which I doubt, looking at the activity in the flask right now) I'll pitch a fresh tube of WLP002 and aerate like mad.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Finished cladding the mash tun

Last night I finished insulating my mash tun and cladding it with wooden staves. I'm now looking forward to brewing with it with its new clothes on!

The cladding itself was very straight forward. I used 44x18mm PSE softwood from B&Q. I cut a chamfer on the two front corners of each stave with a table router to make them look nice when in position.

To assemble, I first wrapped the mash tun with a camping mat for insulation then placed the staves around this and held them in place with ratchet straps.

I cut a circle of 9mm MDF which I tacked to the bottom of the tun into the staves. Then I cut a similarly sized ring to tidy up the top of the staves. I just need to finish the lid and varnish the whole thing. For the time being I've used the offcut MDF from the top ring as a lid.

Different beers, same yeast!

Tomorrow I shall be brewing a beer with Fullers yeast for the March meeting of The North Hampshire Brewers. The theme for the meeting is "Different beers, Same yeast" and the chosen yeast is Fullers.

The objectives are firstly to give people a gentle nudge to try liquid yeast if they've not done so before and secondly to demonstrate the character that the particular strain of yeast imparts to the beer. Hopefully all the beers should share that character irrespective of the style and ingredients of the brew. Knowing Fullers they'll probably all taste of diacetyl (euch!).

The recipe I'm toying with is for Fullers AK from 1910. The only thing that concerns me is the liberal use of brewing sugar. I don't have an issue with brewing sugar as such but this recipe calls for 19% of the sugars to come from the stuff. I'll be expecting a thin beer possibly with an overtone of green apples.

Maybe I ought to just brew London Pride or ESB and be done with it.....