Pints for Prostates

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chinook IPA

Beer: Chinook IPA (extract kit from Northern Brewer)/ B3
Brew Day: Sunday, November 27, 2011
Music: Umphrey's Mcgee - Hall of Fame Class of 2010

Our third beer (Beer #3) is a Chinook IPA. I'm a bit of a hophead and I like IPAs. I also like the idea of brewing a single hop beer to better understand the flavor and aroma of a hop. This extract kit practically leaped into my digital shopping cart.

Chinook hops are a high alpha bittering hop. They were developed in Yakima, Washington in the 1980s from a mix of the Petham Golding hop and a USDA-63012 male. Their use has gone beyond bittering and have grown in popularity due to their spicy, grapefruit/citrus flavor and aroma. (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4
Chinook Hops
This recipe included specialty grains that we steeped as the water heated toward a boil. The mixture was dark and rich. I dumped the grain in our compost pile after we were done. I imagine deer grazing in the moonlight.

Kim helped me pour and stir in the malt syrup and dry malt extract. Warming the malt syrup in hot water helped speed up the pour. I'm happy to report that we did not end up with a round, burned area in the bottom of our brew kettle this time.

The boiling wort and the hop additions had a strong aroma. I loved it. Kim noted that my daughter said it smelled like peas and tea. That strikes me as a fairly creative and valid description, and that's coming from an eight year old that is also a super picky eater. Maybe there is a reason why she is so picky and we have an up-and-coming cicerone in the family. Though the fact that she could live on processed chicken nuggets/fingers/tenders causes me to have my doubts.
Chinook Wort

Chinook IPA recipe:
  • 0.75 lbs Belgian Caramil Pils (specialty grain)
  • 0.25 lbs Briess Caramel 120 (specialty grain)
  • 6 lbs Pilsen malt syrup
  • 1 lb Pilsen dry malt extract
  • 1 oz Chinook hops (60 min)
  • .05 oz Chinook hops (10 min)
  • .05 oz Chinook hops (1 min)
  • 1 oz Chinook hops (dry hop)
  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale
The OG was 1.052. The kit states an OG of 1.050.

I made a yeast starter for this beer. I wanted to make sure the yeast was viable and I also wanted to have the experience of making a yeast starter. I'll provide details in a different post.

The stopper on the fermenter was bubbling like mad the next morning.

Rather than use a secondary fermenter, I plan to have the beer in a single, primary fermenter for a total of four weeks at 65 degrees. I'll dry hop at the beginning of the third week (my first dry hop!).

How to Make a Yeast Starter

The night before brewing our third beer, a Chinook IPA, I got a chance to make a yeast starter for the first time. I wanted to make sure that the liquid Wyeast I purchased nearly a month earlier was still viable. The yeast pack was puffed-up already and was in the refrigerator. Making a yeast starter gave me a chance to learn about and practice the process.

For many brewers, making a yeast starter before brew day is a typical part of the process. A yeast starter can 1) increase the yeast count and 2) ensure viability of the yeast. I have read forum posts by homebrewers that are concerned that the fermentation does not appear active, which necessitates a drive to the local homebrew shop to buy more yeast. Making a yeast starter will reduce the lag time between when the yeast is pitched and vigorous fermentation.
Yeast Starter
A yeast starter is a basic beer without flavor. You use water, dry malt extract (DME), and yeast. The steps are as follows:
  1. Mix 2 cups of water and a 1/2 cup of DME in a sauce pan. (This measurement will differ depending on the size of beer batch and the beer style. For a typical 5 gallon batch of beer, this amount is fine--about 192 billion cells. Strong beers require more of everything.)
  2. Boil the wort for 10 minutes.
  3. Cool the wort in a cold water/ice bath to 70 degrees.
  4. Pour wort into sanitized glass container, using a sanitized funnel.
  5. Add yeast.
  6. Cover container with sanitized tin foil (which allows some oxygen in for the yeast).
  7. Swirl mixture to aerate.
  8. Place in warm, dark/dim area for 24 hours or so.
Carbonation on top, Yeast cake on bottom
I thought there would be a thick slurry of yeast. Instead, what I had the next morning is carbonation on top and a small yeast cake on the bottom. This is normal. It smelled like bread yeast and had a slight vinegar or wine smell (though I used a wine bottle so that may be the cause).

I pitched the whole yeast starter, as opposed to decanting the liquid and adding just the yeast cake. I pitched when the Chinook IPA was cooled to 100 degrees (maybe less with the refrigerated spring water I added). It is important to "pitch up," which means that the wort should be warmer than the yeast. My yeast was at room temperature (65 degrees) and the wort was between 70 and 100 degrees.

The stopper on the fermenter was starting to bubble when I woke up the following day, which suggests that the yeast is healthy and doing its work.

Extra Pale Ale Revisited

Our first home-brewed beer was the Extra Pale Ale. In another post I provided a review of the beer after it was in the bottle for three weeks. Below is a picture of the same beer after four weeks in the bottle; I was drinking it while brewing our third beer, a Chinook IPA.
Extra Pale Ale after 4 weeks in bottle
The beer has a a full finger-width of head after pouring. There is carbonation visible for a couple inches beneath the surface. I think the taste is a bit smoother and less "green" than before. That is, it has improved, which is not a surprise. Many homebrewers say that their beers just get better over time and that the last bottle is the best.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gueuze Lambic Beer

I've been listening to some beer podcasts over the last month, most notably, The Brewing Network's Sunday Session. A regular interest and discussed topic among the podcast hosts is sour beer. Also, the writer of the Mad Fermentationist blog is a brewer of sour beers. That got me to wondering what sour beers are like.

Sour beers use wild yeasts (i.e., spontaneous fermentation), with such yeast strains as Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces. Due to the unpredictable nature of the brewing technique, the beers are often mixed to get a desirable flavor.

The style comes from Belgium. Here in the States, there are sour beers being made in the West coast (e.g., Russian River Brewing Company). Supposedly there are even gastro-pubs with sour beers on tap. Here on the East coast, there are not as many options. 

One company that does have an example of a sour beer is Lindemans, a Belgian company. They are known for their sweet, fruit-flavored lambics. Their Cuvee Rene, however, is quite different...and sour.
Lindemans Cuvee Rene
It tasted of sour, green apple and a bit metallic. It had some funk. I'll let the BeerAdvocate review provide additional adjectives. I'm afraid I didn't care for it. That doesn't mean I dislike sour beers altogether. There is also the Flanders Oud Bruin and Oud Red Ale sour styles. I would still be eager to try other examples of sour beers.

BeerAdvocate review of the Cuvee Rene.

With all the discussion of sour beers and new breweries here in the States making sour beer, I would not be surprised if we see more prevalence of sour beers in the craft beer market.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tasting Beer #1 !!

We tasted our first homebrew today!! Four bottles of the Extra Pale Ale were in the refrigerator overnight and it did not take much encouragement today to wield the bottle opener and pour a glass.
Extra Pale Ale
Appearance: Light golden color. Thin foamy head when pouring, which dissipates and leaves a small ring of foam along the glass edge and foam lacing in the middle. Carbonation visible beneath the surface.
Foam Lacing
Smell: Orange. Grapefruit. Hops. Good aroma for not doing any dry-hopping.

Taste: Tastes like an American Pale Ale (e.g., Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale). Strong hop flavor with some bitterness. Citrus flavors. As it warms I can taste a hint of a vinegar taste. When it was colder I wasn't sure if it was an off-taste or not. As it is, it just makes it tastes like it was poured in pub.

Mouthfeel: Good amount of carbonation. 

Overall: I think it's great! Smells like a pale ale and tastes like a pale ale. Bold hop flavor and good carbonation. Flavors change as it warms. 

I think the extract kit delivered on its promise. And, as far I can determine, our brewing process was good enough to not to screw it up. In the end, we have a beer that is just as good as what can be bought at the store or beverage center.

Bottling Beer #2

Today (Saturday, November 19) was bottling day for Beer #2, the Bavarian Hefeweizen. The beer was in the fermenter bucket for almost three weeks. The recipe calls for two weeks, but the yeast seemed so active for so long, I thought it might be prudent to let the yeast settle more. I also noticed that comments regarding the ingredient kit on Northern Brewer's website stated that three weeks were used on some occasions.

When the lid was opened, Kim and I thought the beer looked dark--an amber color. But once I took a sample and held it up, the beer looked much lighter, cloudy, and certainly resembled a hefeweizen. The beer smelled like banana and cloves. Tasted good.  
Bavarian Hefeweizen Sample

Bottling went fairly smooth. The following are some notes:
  • I could not take the final gravity reading because I didn't quite have a big enough sample, the hydrometer touched the bottom.
  • I forgot to put the priming sugar solution into the bottling bucket first, so I poured it in last and stirred gently with a sanitized spoon.
  • Because I started with a little more than 5 gallons and the hefeweizen produced less trub, I ended up with two extra 12 ounce bottles and a 22 ounce bottle of beer. Because those bottles were sanitized a little half-hazardously, I marked their bottle caps (2x) so that I would know if off flavors, etc. resulted from deviations from the process. I suspect the beer will be fine, we'll see. In the future, I should have some extra bottles cleaned and sanitized in case I have the same issue.
  • Because this is the second beer, and the first beer is in similar looking bottles and caps, I did mark the bottle caps with a number "2," using a fine-point Sharpie.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

This last week I got a chance to try Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA; a special occasion indeed. The beer is rarely brewed and is therefore hard to find. It is also expensive. 

The beer has a high ABV of 15-20% (!). As Kim reminded me, Sam says, "it's a sipper." 
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
It's like hop liquor, with a strong alcohol smell and taste. Despite the high 120 IBU rating, I didn't find it to be bitter. It tasted great.

The beer looked like it had small particles of hops suspended in it. I don't *think* it was carbonation.
Suspended Particles of Hops?
Here's the BeerAdvocate review

Here's a video of Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione talking about the beer:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Fermentation Projects

I visited my parents last night. I, of course, shared my beer making enthusiasm, and general DIY/homesteading fervor. While talking, I must have said something about wanting to get one gallon jugs because my mother offered the two wine bottles that she had. I was happy to take them off her hands. Within minutes I had stoppers and air locks from the local homebrew shop. Ta da!
One Gallon Bottles with Stoppers and Airlocks
We plan to do the following projects with these little fermentation vessels:
  • Brew mead. Mead is a honey wine. I'll be doing more research on making mead over the next week. Here are some instructions on YouTube. Here is a link to suitable yeast on Amazon.
  • Brew kombucha. Kombucha is a tea-based beverage. It has active cultures and many health benefits. Here are some instructions on YouTube.
I'll post updates as we go. Should be neat. : )

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brew Masters, Season 1

I just found out that Season 1 of the Brew Masters TV show is available on iTunes (!). The show features Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Brewery. Unfortunately, there were only five episodes made before it was canceled (some suspect the big beer companies exerted their power). I can't wait to watch them.
Brew Masters
UPDATE: The episodes were interesting and entertaining. Highly recommended. Dogfish likes to be creative and make high ABV beers. Inspiring.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Beer #2: Bavarian Hefeweizen

On Tuesday (November 1st), we started brewing Beer #2, a Bavarian Hefeweizen, as soon as I got home from work.

Earlier in the afternoon Kim "smacked" the Wyeast yeast pack to release nutrients for the yeast to feed on. The package inflates to show that the yeast is healthy and active.
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Wheat
I used the Bavarian Hefeweizen extract kit from Northern Brewer. The kit cost $28.75. I ordered a second extract kit at the same time to lower overall shipping charges.

The recipe for the Bavarian Hefeweizen is the following:
  • 6 lbs Wheat malt syrup (additions at 60 and 15 min)
  • 1 lbs Wheat dry malt extract (at 15 min)
  • 1 oz Tettnang hops (60 min)
  • Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Wheat yeast

Boiling Wort
The total brew process went smoothly and took a little less time than our first batch. I didn't make any of the potential errors I made during Beer #1. We recorded an original gravity of 1.049.

The fermentation bucket started bubbling within 12 hours and had a scent of bananas. This beer only ferments for two weeks. In the meantime, I'm trying to get enough bottles.