Tuesday, 23 February 2010

It's Official.... Hell's Frozen Over

Those of you who know me will know that I have an intense dislike of American Hops.  I don't know what it is about them but they just don't do it for me.  Therefore, it will come as a complete surprise shock that I'm brewing a single hop Schwarzbier with drumroll....... Cascade!!!

I know, it's going to end in tears but I figured I'll just have to give it a go in a kind of  "Kill or cure" fashion.

So what's the recipe?

9kg Pale Malt
1.9 kg Munich Malt
1kg Carafa Special III

60g Cascade FWH
25g Cascade @ 30 minutes
15g Cascade @ 5 minutes

WLP 830 German Lager Yeast (slurry from a 4 litre starter)

Before you all point out that a Schwarzbier should use Pils malt not Pale Ale Malt, I know but I don't have any Pils malt.

I've been wanting to make a Schwarzbier since I discovered Zeitgeist and just never got around to it until now.  I just hope I haven't ruined it with those bloody Cacades.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Also, I rewired the brewery today.  I've added a nice new control panel, that's waterproof this time, and I have to say that the brewery as perfrormed better than ever so far.

I expect I'll be posting in a few weeks about how I've failed to be converted to Cascade but for the time being I'm keeping an open mind.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sore Head Sunday

Last night was drinkies night at the Robins house.  I put the Green Bullet Gold on a beer engine and served the Chineham Pale ale via a cask tap while 3 guys from the brewing club and 4 old friends from school/college came over to help me get through it.

Both beers had an OG of 1.040 but the Green Bullet Gold was drier and more quaffable compared with the Chineham Pale Ale that had a rich maltiness backed up by a wonderful hoppy aroma and aftertaste.  Both beers went down well with the guys although I was surprised that the Green Bullet Gold was the more popular of the two.  Especially so as it was only 7 days old!

Personally I thought the Chineham Pale Ale was excellent.  The Styrian Goldings that I dry hopped it with really shone through and left me chewing on the hops for minutes after drinking.

The night got progressively more geeky as we discussed the finer points of brewing and eventually we had a side by side tasting of 2 Timothy Taylor Landlord clones that Scott had brewed with identical recipes but two different water profiles.  One was biased towards the chloride and the other to sulphates promoting the malt and hops respectively.  I think the non-brewers in the party were perhaps in awe of our geekdom but enjoyed the beer all the same.

Scott also brought a gallon of his excellent schwarzbier.  Yummy!

As the night wound down and people started to go home Michael and myself sat down to enjoy some fantastic imperial stouts that he had kindly brought with him.  In fact it's probably these that caused my current state and hence, "Sore Head Sunday".

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Green Bullet Brewday

About a year ago the brewing club had some hops donated to us by Triple fff brewery.  They've been sitting in my garage since waiting for me to pack them up and distribute.  Now I've done this I've found myself with a load of Green Bullet high alpha hops so I thought I'd brew a beer to try them out.

So, today I'm brewing Green Bullet Gold....

Brewlength 55 litres
OG 1.039
IBU 30.1

Pale Malt 8kg
Caragold 0.5kg
Flaked Maize 0.5kg

Green Bullet 25g @ 90 minutes
Green Bullet 20g @ 30 minutes
Green Bullet 20g @ 5 minutes

Yeast WLP002 (Fullers)

Mash temp 65C for 90 minutes
Boil 90 minutes

This means that I'll have 3 beers brewed with Fullers yeast for our "Different beers same yeast" night at the club.

The mash is on at the moment so I'll leave it there...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Making Slants for Yeast Growing

I bought some glass tubes with metal, autoclavable, screw caps from ebay this week for making slants.  I already have a load of pyrex tubes with plastic stoppers but the yeast dries up very quickly in those so I thought I'd try these.

A slant is a tube containing a solidified wort (growth medium) that you innoculate with yeast in order to keep a small number of yeast cells from a starter or a batch of beer for use in a later batch. 
The growth medium is sloped up the side of the tube to make it easier to lay the yeast cells onto it quickly to limit the risk of infection.  It's a great way of making a tube of liquid yeast go a long way but it's also good fun in a sort of geeky way.

So making slants is very easy.  I use a wort of about SG 1.015 and then I add about 3-4% agar to that.  For me this means adding 260g of water to 12g of light, dried, malt extract.  I then boil this up and add about 9g of dried agar (agar agar if you want to be pedantic).

I then take a syringe and put 10 ml of this sticky worty mixture into each tube.  The tubes hold about 30 ml so by the power of mathematics I make that about a third full.  I then put the lids on loosely and cooked them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes.

Now, I keep the lids on loosely so that the tubes don't explode when the pressure builds up in the pressure cooker.  It also helps to keep the moisture out of the tubes.  Then I put the lid on the pressure cooker.

Once they've been cooked under pressure for 15 minutes I turn off the gas and allow them to cool enough for the pressure to equalise in the cooker.  If you don't do this and you release the pressure too quickly the wort will bubble up in the tubes and you'll end up with a sticky mess in the pressure cooker.  I don't know about you but I'd be very unpopular if I did this!

While the tubes are still too hot to handle I remove them one by one and rest them on a piece of wood with the, still loose, caps higher than the closed end.  This allows the wort/agar mixture to solidify in the tube at a jaunty angle ideal for growing yeast on.  Once they're cool they can be stood upright and the lids tightened.

Before they're used for yeast it's a good idea to prove them for a few days in a warm place.  The airing cupboard is good for this but anywhere about 20-24ÂșC is fine.  What you're doing here is making sure that nothing grows in the tube.  If anything does grow then you've got an infection and the slant's no good.  Clean the tube and start again!

Hopefully in a few days time I can show you how I innoculate the slants.

Beer Analysis

Having bought a microscope before Christmas I've been trying to put it to good use.  The reason I bought it, other than the fact that it's a brilliant boys' toy, is to give me the ability to check yeast count and viability.

Now that I've moved away from dry yeast I'm making large (4.5l) starters from White Labs vials.  This means that, as I step the starter up to the pitching volume, there's much more opportunity for an infection to sneak in.  The microscope allows me to see any nasties prior to pitching so I can have confidence that what I'm pitching is yeast and not some kind of bacterial soup.

The other task that the microscope can be useful for is to see if I can determine why a particular beer isn't very nice.  An example of this is a stout brewed by a member of our local homebrew club.  He brewed it for our March meeting last year and it immediately took on a rather sickly sweet taste and aroma.  Not being able to identify it, a bottle's been sitting in my garage ever since.  So I opened the bottle and had a look.

Firstly I checked the pH which was 5.  I'd have expected it to be between 4.2-4.5.  Then I checked the SG and it was 1.025.  So basically it didn't ferment out.

Then I took a look under the microscope and saw this.  What you can see is a few yeast cells looking healthy enough but then there are loads of rods.  These are lactobacilli.  These are the reason why it tastes so bad.  It's basically an infection due to poor sanitisation.  That's not to say that the equipment wasn't sanitised but it wasn't done so satisfactorilly.  A common reason for this would be topping up with tap water after the boil or using old, plastic fermenters with scratches that can harbour bacteria. 

Fortunately both of these are really easy to rectify. Make sure all your liquor is boiled for at least 15 minutes and if you have any suspicion that you may have a scratch in your plastic fermenter, no matter how small, replace it.  Fermenters are cheap in comparison to the number of batches of beer that can be ruined while you figure out where the infection is coming from.

So if you think about it, a 23 litre batch of beer costs somewhere around £12 to brew.  A new plastic fermenter costs £8.99 from Hop and Grape.  If I was using plastic for my fermentations I'd be considering replacing the fermenter every 4 or 5 batches as a matter of course.  Why take the risk?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Simonds IPA (1878)

I brewed an IPA back in October 2009 that was based on Simonds' 1878 recipe.  For 55 litres I mashed 17kg of pale malt and nearly 800g of EKG's.

True to form I drank half and stuck the other half in a cask.  And there it's been for the last 3 and a half months.  Until today, at least!

Today was bottling day and I ended up with 32 pints in 1 pint bottles.  I didn't prime it so it's going to take quite a while to condition.

The one's I bottled and drank before Christmas were quite sweet so the bitterness wasn't so apparent.  The rest has dried out much more in the cask and is mouth puckeringly bitter.  I had one pint and my mouth is now prickling with the hops.

So now it's the same old game of trying to put it somewhere where I won't drink it too soon.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Chineham Pale Ale's Drinking Well

After 8 days in the fermenter, on Saturday night I switched off the heating/cooling to the FV to allow the yeasticles to drop out.  Not that this is necessary with Fullers yeast as this stuff drops like a stone once it's done its job. 

Overnight the Pale Ale dropped in temperature to about 12C and was casked.  I filled two pins and also added 50g of sugar and 10g of Styrian Goldings to each.  These I've got conditioning in the kitchen for a few days and they'll be moved somewhere cooler towards the end of the week.

As luck would have it, I managed to get another 2 gallons or so out of the FV and into a third pin for drinking.  This one is in the utility room set up on the beer engine and is drinking very nicely thank you very much!