Pints for Prostates

Monday, May 21, 2012

Water Test Results #2

Hey all! I finally got my results from the pre-water-softener sample I sent to Ward Labs. The first container they sent must have gotten lost in the mail so there was a big delay. 

This sample is straight from the pipe where the water from the well comes into the house. Here are the results:

pH 7.9
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 259
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.43
Cations / Anions, me/L 5.2 / 5.1 ppm
Sodium, Na 3
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca 84
Magnesium, Mg 10
Total Hardness, CaCO3 252
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.5 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 4
Chloride, Cl 8
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 278
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 228
Total Phosphorus, P 0.54
Total Iron, Fe < 0.01

As opposed to the earlier sample, the sodium level is low as expected, which is fine. The pH and Alkalinity is high. The Sulfate and Carbonate is low.

One of the brewers on the HomeBrewTalk forum suggested lime softening the water. I don't doubt that it would be helpful, but for me to do that it would require more research, number crunching, and equipment (costs) on my part. It's interesting, but probably a project to try sometime later. I did find the following two links useful for understanding something about the science and methodology:
Alkalinity reduction with slaked lime
Using slaked lime to reduce water alkalinity

Instead, I plan to use Reverse Osmosis (RO) water to dilute half of my mash water; I'll only need 2 gallons. Doing that will address my alkalinity issue. I'll add (~3 ml of ) lactic acid to bring the pH down. I'll add Calcium Chloride and Epsom Salts to get my Calcium, Chloride, and Sulfate levels where they need to be.

The EZ Water Calculator helped me play with additions and see what the affects are on the chemistry. Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Planting Hops

This weekend I planted my hop rhizomes. I bought one Tettnanger and one Columbus rhizome from Farmhouse Brewing Supply. I waited kind of late to order so I didn't have much to choose from. If these hops grow well I'll order different varieties.

You can see that I have two tee-pees of wire for the hops to climb on. A few weeks a ago I put in the shorter post and wire, thinking that they might not grow much the first year. After thinking about it more I decided to put in the taller post and longer wire. The hops still might not grow as much, but at least I'm prepared.
Hop rhizomes planted on May 12, 2012
I planted each rhizome at the base of the longer wires. Tettnanger on the left, Columbus on the right. I soaked the soil after planting.

The rhizomes are just beneath the rich, dark compost that I brought from the compost pile, which is also where I put my spent grains and trub from my beers over the winter. So you see, the circle of beer has already begun. Not only can those hops and grains feed the local deer, they can also provide nutrients for hop rhizomes. I think you can guess what the rest of the circle will be, provided the rhizomes grow well. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tasting Late Summit

I've had a few pints now so I suppose I can provide some feedback regarding the Late Summit American Brown Ale I brewed last month. It came out pretty good and I would love to pour a glass for all of you.
Appearance: Dark, cloudy (muddy) brown. Decent, off-white head.

Aroma: There was no dry-hopping so there is no hop smell. There is a slight aroma, that reminds me of some commercial beers I've had. Some malt sweetness.

Taste: Excellent. Reminds me of a good English ESB, but with more spicy hop presence. Chalky (in a good way) and malty. Tangy hop end.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Good carbonation and mouthfeel. Not too cloying. Slightly bitter with a dry finish.
Late Summit
Overall Impressions: I'm really happy with this beer. Might be my best yet. I think the darker malts brought the pH of the mash down, closer to what it should be (~5.2). The beer reminds me of some commercial beers I've had. The off-white head and retention looks like some of my favorites, though I'm not an expert in brown ales. 

The taste causes me to keep drinking (i.e., it is very drinkable). In fact, the first beer I opened was gone in minutes; I couldn't stop tasting. I'm currently drinking the third or fourth from the batch, after nearly three weeks of bottle conditioning, and it tastes great. 

I'm not sure about the appearance though. It is cloudy and I don't know if that is protein haze or if that is the way it is supposed to look. Jamil's recipe, which this beer is based on, is called, "Dirty Water Brown" after all.

This last weekend I delivered two bottles to to be entered in the New York State Fair Homebrew Competition, which is hosted by the Salt City Brew Club. The entry fee is only $6 and I will receive feedback on my beer (as a BJCP sanctioned event). I don't expect to place at all, but I should get a ribbon and one ticket to the Fair. I wanted to enter the beer so that I could have the experience of at least entering a beer competition. There are other competitions in New York that I can enter at a later time. I was happy that my early tasting of the Late Summit beer suggested something half-way decent to enter into the competition. (I thought my Cream Ale was just too cloudy to be considered.) I'll keep you posted.

The New York State Homebrewer of the Year site has more information on New York State homebrew competitions. There are links to various club/competition web pages. At some point I may sift through the sites and post an overview of the competitions and their (typical) deadlines.