Pints for Prostates

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chinook IPA Tasting

A couple weekends back I put a few bottles of the Chinook IPA (B3) into the refrigerator. Later in the day I poured a glass. The beer had a great, pink grapefruit aroma, decent head of carbonation, and appropriate color. Then I tasted it. The flavor starts out fine, then nose-dives into a harsh metallic taste. Blah!

What happened? I wracked my brain over what caused this terrible off-flavor. The more I thought about it, the more small details of the brew day and bottling day I remembered. I tried to take good notes, but there are always small actions and activities that don't get recorded.

The worst possible explanation is a contamination of my plastic equipment. I don't *think* that is the case. If my latest beer (B4) has off-flavors, or if the Chinook IPA bottles start getting even worse flavors over time, there could be some souring going on. That could lead to having to replace much of my equipment.

Could the fermentation temperature during the first few days be too high? The closet was probably 64 or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That means the temperature inside the bucket could be a bit higher during active fermentation. A friend and fellow brewer from work tasted my beer. He knows what this off-flavor tastes like and he did not think this was the case.

I did recall an oil-slick-like film on the beer and priming solution in the bottling bucket. The oil slick look can be a contamination. I worried that maybe there was soap in the sauce pan I used to boil my sugar and water solution. Or maybe the sauce pan had not been cleaned well beforehand and there was some grease/oil/butter residue. Maybe, but not likely.

The other thing I thought of, which might very well be the problem, is the use of a metal strainer. Because there were some pellet hop particles on the top of the beer in the bottling bucket, I decided to use a new strainer to scoop the hop particles out. I first submerged the strainer in a water and StarSan solution to sanitize it. Then I scooped out the hops. This seemed innocuous enough, but it could account for the metallic off flavors. The How To Brew book John Palmer states that metallic flavors are caused by metal. No other possibilities are provided. Hmm. Looking at the strainer later, you can see that the metallic finish is gone and some parts are rusty. What was once a brand new strainer looks like an old used and useless strainer. Could the ph of the beer taken the cheap metallic finish right off the strainer? If this is the reason for the off flavor, the yeast may not be able to improve the flavor over time.

As you can guess, I am disappointed in the beer. I was looking forward to finally having an IPA that I made. It really brings one down to have this happen. I put a lot of work, time, and money into this beer.

All I can do is learn from the experience and jump back on the proverbial homebrewing horse again. I learned some about off flavors and their causes. I learned a little about fermentation temperatures. I learned to not use metallic strainers in beer (!).

I plan to let the beers sit in the closet for some number of months. Occasionally, I'll throw one in the fridge to sample. If it continues to taste bad, I may dump it. If it gets better, I'll let the beer sit in the closet even longer. There are posts on the HomeBrewTalk forums that provide success stories of bad beers that took a long time to improve: Time heals all things, even beer. I don't know if this beer will improve, but I'll give it a chance.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

March Haters Ale

Here in Central New York State the month of March can be kind of depressing. By that time we have dealt with many cold days, shoveling, scraping, fewer hours of daylight, and heating bills. The first day of spring is observed during March (my mother's birthday), but spring weather is still some weeks away.

In our family, it was Chloe that spoke up and voiced her dislike for the month of March. She didn't like the fact that there are no holidays or recess weeks off from school. "I hate March" she exclaimed, clinching her fists. The rest of us now echo her sentiment with similar fervor. We have started to think of ways to create our own holiday to make the month a little bit better. My own offering, for the over 21 crowd, will be this beer: March Haters Ale.

This beer is my first all-grain beer, which means that I milled my own grains (well, the kids helped a little) and mashed them to convert the starches into a sweet wort, as opposed to using a half gallon jug of pre-prepared malt extract. The recipe for this beer is Jamil Zainasheff's American Pale Ale recipe, which is published in the book, Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer.

On the day before (01-14-2012), I used a scale to measure the grains and a Corona grain mill to crush the grains. I milled the following grains:
  • 11.3 lbs (5125 grams) of pale two-row malt
  •  .75 lbs (340 grams) of Munich malt
  •  .75 lbs (340 grams) of Victory malt
  •  .5 lbs (226 grams) of wheat malt
25 pounds of pale two-row
Weighing Grains
My Corona Grain Mill
I also prepared a yeast starter the night before. The recipe states that, if using liquid yeast, one should have either two packets of yeast or use one packet and make a starter. The goal is to have around 200 billion yeast cells. (I think I did; I lost count around 200,000. lol) I did the following steps to make a 1 liter starter:
  1. Smack the yeast smack pack (preferably an hour earlier and at room temperature)
  2. Clean and sterilize: glass container, sauce pan, spoon, funnel, yeast packet, tinfoil
  3.  Mix 4.2 cups (1000 ml) of water and 100 grams of DME in a sauce pan
  4.  Boil the wort for 15 minutes. Cover wort immediately after removing heat.
  5. Cool the wort in a cold water/ice bath to 70 degrees
  6. Pour wort into sanitized glass container, using a sanitized funnel
  7. Pitch yeast
  8.  Cover container with sanitized tinfoil
  9. Swirl mixture to aerate
  10. Place in warm, dark/dim area
Yeast Starter Size: 1 liter
Water Volume: 4.2 cups
Dry Malt Extract: 100 grams
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale
Now that's a yeast starter!
Brew Date: 2012-01-15
Recipe Name: "March Haters Ale" / Jamil's American Pale Ale
Beer Style: American Pale Ale
Batch Number: B4

Expected Original Gravity: 1.056
Expected Final Gravity: 1.013
Expected ABV: 5.7%
IBUs (bitterness): 40
SRM (color): 6
Expected Efficiency: 70%

Brew Day Start Time: 11:25 am
Music: A Grounding in Numbers by Van Der Graaf Generator

I brought all my equipment in the basement up to the kitchen. I put my brew kettle on the electric stove and started measuring out my strike water, which is the first water added to the grain to begin starch conversion.

Strike Water Volume: 4.2 gallons
Strike Water Temperature: 165 F
Target Mash Temperature: 152 F
Actual Mash Temperature: 150 F ?
Mash Time: 60 minutes

I used an iPhone app, Sparge Pal, to determine my strike water amount and temperature. However, I guessed the temperature of the grain, which may have caused my recommended strike temperature to be low. My target mash temperature, as stated in the recipe, was 152 degrees.

Note: When using software to determine the strike water temperature, take time to check the temperature of the grain (a typical variable for such a calculation).

I pre-heated my mash tun by adding a half gallon of hot water and closing the lid. This may or may not be a sufficient means to warm a mash tun.

After I poured the strike water into the mash tun (at 12:10 pm), I stirred the grains. The grains came nearly up to the top. I put my thermometer in and got 150F. Mind you, my thermometer is analogue and is not precise. Also, my thermometer probe was only a few inches into the grain. I decided to heat a couple cups of water and try to raise the temperature. Even though I had the lid closed on the mash tun, I got 140 F after I added the extra water. I started to freak a little at this point. There was little room left for additional water. I warmed more water to 180 F and added that. I was still only reading about 140 F. I couldn't add any more water. I decided to just close the lid and let it rest. I figured my original water was close to the target temperature and hopefully most of the grain, further down, was fine.

Note: Regardless of calculated strike water volume, make sure there is enough room in the mash tun to add water in case the temperature needs to be adjusted.
When I closed the lid on the mash tun, some water (sticky, brown mash water now) came out on the floor. Also, while stirring the grain, some of the grain splatted on the floor--looks like soupy oatmeal. I decided that in the future I should have a tray underneath the mash tun when pouring water and stirring.

Note: For the sake of cleanliness, have a tray under the mash tun when adding water or stirring grain.

After 60 minutes, I started the vorlauf (at 1:10 pm), which consists of draining the caramel liquid from the mash tun into a clear plastic pitcher, then pouring it back into the mash tun. The idea is to cycle the liquid a couple times until it is free of small grain particles. Once the liquid is running clear, it is drained into the brew kettle. This is called, "first runnings."
First runnings
In the meantime, I had heated 3 gallons of sparge water to 150 degrees. I poured the water into the mash tun, but not all of it would fit.

Sparge #1
Sparge Water Volume: about 2 gallons
Sparge Water Temperature: 150 F
Mash Time: 20 minutes (1:18 - 1:38 pm)

Music: ...And Then There Were Three... by Genesis

After 20 minutes I emptied the liquid into the brew kettle. There was still not enough wort collected so I heated more water and poured another 2 gallons or so into the mash tun. This may be typical for a 5 gallon mash tun and so much grain (13.3 lbs).

Sparge #2
Sparge Water Volume: about 2 gallons
Sparge Water Temperature: 150 F
Mash Time: 20 minutes (2:00 - 2:20 pm)

After I emptied the liquid from the second mash, I took a sample of the wort to get my pre-boil gravity (once the sample liquid cooled to 60 degrees in the refrigerator).

Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.062
Pre-Boil Volume: about 7 gallons

The recipe expects a pre-boil gravity of 1.048. My reading was high. I'm not sure what accounts for it. Maybe I just got wicked amazing starch conversion. That reading prompted me to test my hydrometer by putting it in tap water. I got a 1.000, which is correct, I believe.

I started heating my wort to begin a 60 minute boil time and hop additions (at 2:30 pm). I use the Clock app on my iPhone as my 60 minute timer. I used my new scale to weigh the hops.

Boil Time: 60 minutes (starting at 3:14 pm)
Music: This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

Hop Additions
  • .66 oz (18 grams) Horizon @ 60 min
  • .5 oz (14 grams) Centennial @ 10 min
  • .5 oz (14 grams)  Cascade @ 10 min
  • .5 oz (14 grams) Centennial @ 0 min
  • .5 oz (14 grams) Cascade @ 0 min
  • 1 oz Amarillo dry hop 1 week before bottling
(I'll also add the leftover Horizon hops when I dry hop.)

After I added the last of the hops, I turned off the burner, put on my (new) oven mitts, and carried the lidded brew kettle down to the utility sink in the laundry room.

To use the immersion wort chiller I need garden hose threads to attach to the faucet. I tried to find an adapter to fit our kitchen faucet so that I would not have to carry the hot kettle down a flight of stairs, but I was unable to find one.

Usually, brewers put their wort chiller into their wort during the last 15 minutes of the boil to sterilize. But because I knew I had to carry the hot kettle downstairs, and I wanted the lid shut tight on the kettle (no hoses sticking out), I did not put the chiller into the wort. Instead, I had the chiller submerged in a StarSan and water mixture.

Once downstairs, I submerged the wort chiller, attached the hose to the faucet, then started running the cold water (at 4:15 pm).
Immersion wort chiller cooling the wort
After the wort was cooled to 70 degrees, I carried the wort back upstairs and poured it into the (sanitized) fermentation bucket. I took my original gravity reading and pitched the yeast (at 4:42 pm).

Original Gravity: 1.060

The recipe calls for an OG of 1.056, so I wasn't too far off. The wort tasted sweet....and bitter when I got some of the zero minute hop sediment.

I ended with 5.5. gallons of wort in the bucket, which is exactly what I was aiming for, as per the recipe.
homebrew while I home brew

Fermentation Temperature: 65 F

Because of my brilliant yeast starter, the stopper was bubbling away within five hours.

Grain: $11.14
Hops: $6.78
Yeast: $6.25
Other: $7.99 for shipping
Total: $32.17

I used an All Grain Recipe Template and All Grain Brewing Checklist from Brewer's Friend. They came in handy; I may use them next time. I'll use the Brewhouse Efficiency Calculator later.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Boddingtons Pub Ale

Boddington's Pub Ale
This beer is the first of our survey of English ale styles. Kim and I plan to sample various English ales that exemplify the ale styles, as defined by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines. The goal is to learn about the styles, to have fun tasting the beers, and to determine the first of English ale styles we would like to brew at home.

Boddington's Pub Ale is an example of an English Pale Ale. It is a light ale without a strong malt character or a strong hop character.

Beeradvocate review.
Foamy lacings

The beer is foamy/creamy. The immediate carbonation that is seen when pouring dissipates quickly. Apart from the foamy top, the beer is rather flat. Still, that foamy top does make for a soft, creamy mouthfeel.

Boddington's Pub Ale comes in a pint can with the Draughtflow system for carbonation (i.e., a widget causes carbonation when the can is opened). There was a slight aluminum can taste.

Kim describes the beer as smooth and creamy, with a hint of honey at the end. Easy to drink.

The beer reminds me of Czech Pilsener, but with British, Burton-upon-Trent water and ingredients. It's good. I'm sure a pint of this beer in a London pub is even more flavorful and satisfying.

This beer is good for watching episodes of Midsomer Murders and Doc Martin.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bottling the Chinook IPA

Today was the day to bottle the Chinook IPA, aka Beer #3. It took me much longer than previous bottling days. The difference is due to my taking a longer time to wash the bottles and a lunch break.

One of the hidden costs of making beer is the electricity used to heat water. I used a lot of hot water washing two cases of 12 ounce bottles. About the equivalent of three teenagers in a twenty-four hour period, give or take a few gallons. I filled one side of the sink with hot soapy water. For each bottle, I submerged the bottle until it was full of water, washed the outside with a sponge, and scrubbed the inside with a bottle brush. When I had 12 standing bottles in the other side of the sink, I rinsed each one with hot water. Rinsing a single bottle may mean adding water a few times to get all the soap suds out of the bottle. After all the bottles were washed, I filled the bottling bucket (the one with the spigot) with hot water and StarSan sanitizer. I submerged each bottle until the air bubbles stopped rising, then placed the bottle in a tray and covered with plastic wrap. No rinsing is needed with StarSan. This may all seem a bit much, excessive, or anal, but washing and sanitizing bottles is necessary. Now, having brewed three beers, I'm increasingly conscientious about the process and cleanliness.
Beer Sample
The final gravity of the beer is 1.015. Coupled with the original gravity of 1.052, I can determine that the beer has an Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of 4.5. That's low for an American IPA.  
Sanitized bottles and equipment
Bottling brush, bowl of sanitized bottle caps, hydrometer

Three extra bottles
I learned last time that it is smart to have extra bottles cleaned and sanitized. Sometimes there is enough beer for more than 48 bottles. Certainly don't want to miss out on beer! I did, in fact, end up filling two extra bottles this time. That makes 50 beers total.
Filled bottles with caps placed on top
Capping bottles
When I bottle, I sit on a small step-stool. In front of me is a chair with a cutting board and paper towel. The cutting board makes for an even surface. The paper towel soaks up any beer on the bottom of the bottles (from sitting in the tray) and keeps the bottle from slipping. I affix the bottle caps and place the bottles in a box on the floor.  
Bottle caps with the number "3"