Friday, May 20, 2011

Back to the Crouch Vale

Haven't brewed in a loooong time. To many other things going on. We had the Upper Mississippi Mashout in January, I started studying for the BJCP exam which I took in April, and I've had a lot of personal commitments. I decided, however, to get back to the Crouch Vale. I was slack on the notetaking later in the brew session so my spreadsheet numbers are not complete but there's enough there to make another batch.

I noticed some oddities with this batch. Fermentation went fine, but finished really quickly (~3 days) with the gravity stuck about 1.022. I had made a good starter, oxygenated, and temp controlled to 63F. I was using the Wyeast 1318 (London III) yeast. I decided to rouse the yeast and bump the temp up to 67F, and also take daily readings of Brix and gravity just to see what was going on. I'm not making any conclusions about waht was going on, but here's what I saw.

The other thing that I noticed once I kegged the beer was a harsh hop finish, more than I  expected. I dosed the water to try and mimic a Burton water, I should not do that again. I don't know if that bumped up the hop bitterness that much, but compared to my original 'flabby' Crouch Vale this is much different.

Anyway ... on to the notes.

50-50 mix of spring water and tap water.

0715 :: 3 gal strike water on
0725 :: added salts (9 gypsum, 4.5 epsom, 1 calcium chloride)
0735 :: strike h2o @ 137F
0740 :: stirke h2o @ 147F; mash tun is preheating
0758 :: dough in
0800 :: mash @ 151F
0815 :: 7.0 gal sparge h2o dosed and heating
0825 :: sparge h2o @ 93F
0830 :: sparge h2o @ 106F
0836 :: sparge h2o @ 119F
0844 :: sparge h2o @ 132F - adding middle burner
0850 :: sparge h2o @ 145F
0859 :: sparge h2o @ 158F
0905 :: sparge h2o @ 170F
0905 :: begin sparge
0930 :: wort on to boil @ 152F
0935 :: final wort pH was 5.4 @ room temp
0943 :: wort @ 178F
0949 :: wort @ 192F
0955 :: boil
1110 :: added hops + whirlfloc
1125 :: flameout 
1235 :: end hopstand; chill

OG = 9.75 Brix

Chilling for 9 minutes brought the temperature down to 66F.
Oxygenated for 90s @ 0.06 lpm.
Pitched in 0.75l of starter.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lees Stout - 1952

Over at Barclay Perkins a while back, there was an interesting recipe for a session stout: J.W. Lees Archer Stout. I was curious about the low gravity, how close it seemed to a dark mild, and the extensive ingredient list. I am a big fan of beers with few ingredients - it is easier for me to identify the specific malt flavors if there are only a couple (or one) in the beer. However, I decided to try it so I ordered a 6-pack of Lyles Golden Syrup from Amazon and got down to business.

Nic decided to come over and help out that day, so there was more talking and very little notetaking. Nevertheless, I did get all my notes into the spreadsheet. The only unique thing that I did was that I used the London Ale III cake from my second Crouch Vale attempt. No problems there.

Day 28 (11 Dec)
Racked into a keg today and pressurized it. FG was 1.010, so just shy of 4% ABV. Big nose on this beer, way beyond what I expected, but none of the expected big flavor is there (there is *some*) but a really nice drinkable beer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Try at the Crouch Vale

The first Crouch Vale was good, but a bit flabby. The hops were there but muddy. It was suggested that my extra-hard City of Lakeville water might be part of the problem, so I tries the same recipe again but with 50% spring water (practically devoid of anything) and 50% tap water. The tap water is always run through an activated carbon filter to remove any chloramines. Using the 50-50 water mix also required that I do some water chemistry changes.

This turned out to be my last time brewing outside too. It was a Saturday night and by the end, it was down around 40F. I think that contributed to the major problem that I had - my mash temps were low. Having the mash tun sitting on a cold concrete slab doesn't help. I think also that my mash tun is only 1/3 full with these low gravity beers, so I'll be looking for a 5-gal Igloo to do these small beers.

I plan to reuse the yeast to do the Lees Stout the was recently mentioned over at Barclay Perkins, so I made a 1 liter starter of London III. Not exactly the same yeast as before, but the yeast choice was more to have the correct yeast for the Lees Stout. It took a good 8 days for the beer to ferment out, then I racked it two weeks after brew day. The hydro sample was down to 1.014 and the hops were really present, much more so than the last 'flabby/muddy' version. It was a little hazier than I expected, but it is now cold aging at 34F with the Lawnmower Beer, Ofest, and Schwarz.

Here's the spreadsheet with all the details from the brewing session.

Crouch Vale Brewers Gold
  • Gravity (OG)  1.038
  • 30 IBU
  • 6 gal  into the primary
  • 8lb Halcyon
  • Mash @ 151F for 60min (actually more like 147F)
  • Boil for 90min
  • 3.5oz Brewers Gold - 7.9% @ 15min
  • Wyeast 1318 London III - Ferment at 63F (or so, basement ambient)

Day 0 (30 October 2010)

1749 :: Flame on @ 1749 - 2.5 gal to boil (50-50 H2O).
1804 :: Want 164F strike water (ProMash).
1805 :: Strike water @ 120F so far (low flame).
1810 :: Strike H2O @ 146F.
1817 :: 170F, flame off. Drain tun of preheat h2o.
1825 :: UNDERSHOT! reheating h2o...
1850 :: Mash in.
1900 :: Mash @ 155F, added 2 c cold h2o, temp dropped to 140F! Boiling some h2o to add back (3 qts).

  • Mash tun on cold concrete floor?
  • Time to start brewing inside again?
  • Need to calculate Mash Tun Thermal Mass.

1924 :: Back @ 151F.
1945 :: Swapped out bayou classic for freebie burner from Dean - heats much faster. Need to get the Bayou Classic burner replaced.
2002 :: Sparge water spiked and @ 151F.
2012 :: Sparge @ 171F.
2036 :: Sparge completed, wort on to boil.
2049 :: Boil.
2204 :: 3.5oz bullion in, whirlfloc, IC.
2219 :: Flame off & 15' hop stand.
2234 :: Chill.
2244 :: Whirlpool.
2259 :: Drain.

Day 2 
0630 :: Aerate the wort @ 0.125 lpm for 1 minute. Pitch in the yeast.

Day 14
1600 :: Gravity is 1.014. Nice hop presence, still has the nice malt profile as well.

Day 18
2100 :: Racked it to another keg because Kris needs it. Still at 1.014, but at the lagering temp of 34F, the hydro sample is lacking the assertive hop bit that I saw at the previous 63F sample.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time for a Schwarzbier

Time for a Schwarzbier. I've always liked the style and the better ones I've tried are nice drinking lagers. I planned to use the yeast cake from the Oktoberfest, so when that quieted down, I racked it and harvested the yeast. This is the third generation of the yeast and likely the last use of it.

This time, I took some guidance from Nic and made up a spreadsheet to track what I was doing. In retrospect, I think that I got a lot more useful information that using my old format. I still have the time-based notes and they are useful, but the extra detail is nice. That spreadsheet is available here.

There are two problems I picked up on while documenting in this new-and-improved way:

Volume calculations
Although I corrected for the volume difference between ambient, mash temp, and boiling, I seemed to have collected more from the first and second runnings that I actually got in the boil kettle. Because the sparge water is in the boil kettle, I need to put the first runnings into a bottling bucket, sparge, transfer the bottling bucket contents to the boil kettle, sparge again into the bottling bucket, then transfer that into the boil kettle. The bottling bucket isn't perfectly vertical, but I accounted for that. Somewhere in measuring the wort depths and calculating volumes, I introduced some errors.

I read through Brewkaiser's wiki and used his efficiency spreadsheet. While my calculated efficiency comes out areound 77%, the lauter and conversion efficiency numbers were off (well over 100%). I think that decoction threw that off and I just didn't understand the calculations before using the spreadsheet. I'll see what happens next time I brew since that likely won't be a decoction.

Finally, my 24" brewing thermometer was out-of-whack. For some reason, when I was ready to mash, it read about 20F below actual (as measured with my digital and mercury thermometers). I was able to recalibrate with ice water, hot tap water, and boiling water by using the adjusting screw on the back, but I'm surprised that I needed to. I lost about 45 minutes figuring that out and resolving it. From now on, I'll validate the reading before starting to mash. I'll also need to put a flat-headed screwdrived into the brewing toolkit.

Day 0 (25 Sep 2010)
0815 :: Preheat mash tun with 8 gal hot tap h2o.
0840 :: 4.55 gal h2o on full (T = 65F).
0847 :: Mash h2o @ 115F; want to mash in @ 160F.
0851 :: Mash h2o is 138F.
0853 :: Turned burner down to constant flame cf noisy flame - replace rusty burner?
0858 :: Mash h2o is 167F.
0900 :: Mash h2o tempin tun only 148, so reheat the mash h2o to 175F.
0913 :: Mash h2o @ 182F.
0930 :: The dial thermometer was off by about 20F! recalibrated against the digital instant-read at freezing, boiling, and hot-tap. back on process now.
0935 :: Mash h2o is too hot (obviously) so I'm air cooling.
0938 :: Mash h2o is 168F.
0951 :: Begin mash in.
0954 :: Completed mash in.
0956 :: Mash @ 152F.
1013 :: Drew off 2 gal; mash temp down to 149F; began boil @ 152F with non-sputtering flame.
1018 :: Decoction @ 166F.
1022 :: Decoction @ 181F; mash @ 149F.
1028 :: Decoction @ 206F; 60 minute boil will be done @ 1130.
1058 :: Decoction boiling nicely; mash @ 149F.
1124 :: Decoction boil continues; mash @ 148F.
1134 :: 1.5 gal decoction added back; mash to 161F.
1140 :: Sparge water on.
1156 :: Sparge water @ 106F (uh oh).
1200 :: Sparge water @ 121F.
1207 :: Sparge water @ 145F.
1215 :: Sparge water @ 172F --> pre-vorlauf.
1237 :: Heating to boil; 12 Brix.
1258 :: Boil (1.0 oz 6.4%AA German Hallertau in loose).
1343 :: Whirlfloc and IC in to sanitize.
1358 :: Flame off, chill, then whirlpool and 15' stand.
1400 :: 14.25 Brix.

Day 1
0900 :: Oxygenated for 90s @ 0.12 lpm and 0.06 lpm. The 0.06 lpm rate doesn't seem to work well - very few bubbles are visible. From now on, I'll up it to 0.12 lpm and extend it to 90s to account for loss via bubbles.
0915 :: Pitched 3/4 of the harvested yeast.

Day 2
0630 :: Lots of kraeusen and bubbling.

Day ? - 11 December
I kegged the Schwarz today. FG was 1.014, a bit high for a Schwarz, but inside the guidelines.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I've always liked Oktoberfests. I went to college in a predominantly German town that had Canada's largest Oktoberfest celebration. I've tried making one early on in my brewing career and it was poor. It lacked the mouthfeel that a good Oktoberfest has. Apparently, a decoction mash is really needed to get that and I tried two Oktoberfests using decoction. Unfortunately, not being able to directly heat my mash tun, these turned out poorly - I dumped them.

So, based on my good experience with lauter decoctions on my Schwarzbiers, I thought I'd try that for the Ofest. In a lauter decoction, you mash-in with at about 1.6 qts/lb, let the mash rest for 15 minutes, then pull off a lot of the liquid (leaving a thick oatmeal in the mash tun). You then boil this pulled fraction for 60 minutes, then add it back to the mash and let is sit for 30 minutes. After that, the process is as usual.

For yeast, I planned to use a portion of the yeast harvested from my Lawnmower Beer, but I used all of it. I know that may be too much yeast, but we'll see. The yeast from this Ofest will be the yeast that I use for my Schwarzbier.


6 gal into the primary (5.75 - 6.0 actual)

Brew date: 04 September 2010

  • 9 lb 10 oz Vienna
  • 1 lb 2 oz Dark Munich

  • 0.625 oz German Hallertau (6.4% AA) @ 75 min


Brewing Notes

Day 0
0645 :: 9 gal hot tap H2O into tun to preheat.
0705 :: 4.3 gal mash H2O heating.
0715 :: Grain temp is 72.3F so I want to mash in with 1.6 qts/lb @ 160F.
0716 :: Mash H2O is at 120F; flame was low so I turned it up.
0721 :: Mash H2O @ 150F; will stop @ 165F.
0722 :: Began draining tun preheat H2O.
0728 :: Mash H2O @ 178F ... oops.
0737 :: Mash H2O in tun; temp is 166F.
0746 :: Mash H2O in tun; temp is 161F.
0748 :: Mash in @ 160.3F; 3 minutes to put it all in and get it mixed up.
0751 :: Mash temp is 148F; stirred and @ 0753, temp was 151.5F.
0759 :: Mash temp is 151.5F.
0806 :: Began pulling off 2.08 gal for lauter decoction (the dunnmaische).
0810 :: Had to peek into mash tun to check grain, temp loss here.
0814 :: Mash temp @ 150.5F; lauter portion on to boil.
0820 :: Dunnmaische is boiling.
0820 :: Took a sample of the wort from the mash tun; cooled it; pH was between 5.0 and 5.3 (closer to 5.3) with the pH strips from
0850 :: Mash temp is @ 150F.
0850 :: Currently cool and still, 48F.
0910 :: We seem to have boiled off 0.4 gal of the dunnmaische.
0920 :: Poured about 1.5 gal of dunnmaishce into the tun.
0922 :: Mash tun temp is 164F.
0935 :: Mash temp @ 165F.
1000 :: Mashout with 180F H2O.
1010 :: 4 gal first runnings, 4.5 gal second, 0.5 leftover.
1030 :: Currently @ 9 Brix (1.036).
1050 :: Boil.
1130 :: 0.625 oz 6.4% AA Hallertau hops in.
1200 :: Kettle seems to be at 7.25 gal.
1215 :: Whirlfloc and IC into kettle.
1230 :: Boil kettle volume @ 6.75, going another 15 min to get volume down and gravity up; currently 1.046 (11.5 Brix).
1245 :: Flame off.
1310 :: I decided to to a 15 min whirlpool to see if I can minimize trub; gravity going into kettle was 13.5 Brix (1.054).
1310 :: Looks like ~ 5.75-6.00 gal into primary.

Extra Notes:

  1. I think I need to adjust my grain absorption number (0.136 gal/lb) downwards. Lately I've been seeing less absorption than what I was used to. This time, I had to do a longer boil to end up with 6.00 gal into fermenter.
  2. Yeast harvesting is difficult. The yeast layer is very thin, so I tried to pull the trub off the bottom and then liquid off the top. Not sure how successful that was, but I got the harvested yeast + trub + beer down from ~1 gallon to ~0.5 gallon.
  3. Clean sanitizing solution off refractometer before taking gravity reading - it dilutes a few Brix pts.

Day 1
0900 :: Oxygenated at 0.06 lpm and 0.12 lpm for 3 minutes. Normally I do just 0.06 lpm, but the bubbles weren't really evident so I cranked it up a bit.

Day 2
0800 :: Fermentation has taken off! Pitching all the yeast made a big difference in fermentation
lag time, hopefully not in the finished product.

Day 8
1800 :: Fermentation is now down to 1 bubble every 20-25 seconds.

Day 13
1815 :: Hydro sample shows the gravity at 1.014, smack-dab in the middle of the BJCP range (1.012-1.016).

Day ? - 11 December
I kegged the Schwarz today. FG was 1.013, right where I want it. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Calculating V(T)

So when I brewed the Lawnmower Beer, I wondered about the change in volume of water vs. temperature. That's a pretty straightforward analysis so I used EngineeringToolbox to get some values and made the little calculator below. True, I am assuming that wort behaves like pure water, but for my application I think that assumption is acceptable.

Initial volume [gal]:
Initial temperature [degF]:
Final temperature [degF]:
Final volume [gal]:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lawnmower Beer

I'm in a low-alcohol session beer stage right now and since it's summer, it's time to make some lawnmower beer. I've always used some version of Jamil's recipe (80% 2-row, 20% Minute Rice) and have had the best results (taste-wise) with the default recipe. Fletty even gave me a 44 at 1st Round of Nationals, even though he panned the beer at the club meeting.

I've got some old 2-row (20+ lbs of it) lying around and I think it is too old; over a year. I kept it sealed and dry, but everything has a shelf life so tomorrow I'll use most of it up. I'll be doing a 10 gallon batch and while my mash tun can handle it, I like to get 12 gal into the fermenter so I end up with 10 gallons drinkable, and that means almost 15 gal in the boil kettle. That's always the balance when I do "10 gallon batches" - how much can I really deal with. I will shoot for 14.25 gal into the kettle, which, with thermal expansion, is just shy of 15 gallons.

Standard American Lager

12 gal into the primary (11.5 actual)

Brew date: 14 August 2010


  • 16 lb 2-row
  • 4 lb Minute Rice


  • 0.5 oz Magnum (10% AA) @ 90 min


  • Saflager 34-70, 0.5 liter starter stepped up with another 0.75 liters
Brewing Notes

Day 0
0630 :: 6.25 gal on for sparge (burner not @ max).
0652 :: Mash H2O @ 149F.
0655 :: Preheat tun with 8 gal hot tap H2O.
0658 :: Mash H2O @ 172F - flame off.
0728 :: Mash H2O @ 159F so mash in.
0733 :: Mash @ 149F.
0748 :: 10.75 gal vorlauf/sparge H2O on full.
0743 :: Mash @ 151F, opened tun @ stirred.
0750 :: Mash @ 151F again ... time to adjust calculation?
0803 :: Vorlauf/sparge H2O @ 100F.
0815 :: Vorlauf/sparge H2O @ 133F, mash @ 151F.
0822 :: Vorlauf/sparge H2O @ 151F.
0833 :: Begin sparge; vorlauf/sparge H2O @ 181F.
0858 :: 14.5 gal on to boil.
0900 :: 10.5 Brix (1.041).
0915 :: 191F.
0920 :: Currently 73F with 88% RH, little to no wind.
0920 :: Boil; hops in.
1035 :: IC and whirlfloc in.
1050 :: Flame off.
1110 :: 80F, so into the fermenter.
1112 :: 11.5 Brix (1.046).

I ran into problems when sparging. My mash tun is 10 gal and with the grain and mash water, 
I was up to almost 8 gallons. When I wen to add my 3.5gal of pre-vorlauf water, I ran into trouble. Same again when I want to batch sparge - 7+ gal of water just won't fit! I need to be better prepared in the future.

I also noted that I gathered more than 14.5 gal of wort, probably about 1-1.5gal more. My guess is that the Minute Rice doesn't absorb the same amount of water as grain, it absorbs less.

Another thing I want to look into. How much does the volume of the wort change with temperature? I start off with 10 gal of 165F wort, then bump it up to 212F, then chill it down to 80F, then ferment at 52F. 

Day 1
0900 :: wort @ 54F, so I decanted the starter and added about 0.5 liter of resuspended yeast.

Day 3
1800 :: Fermentation proceeding.

Day 4 
0630 :: 24 bubbles/min @ 52F.

Day 21 (04 Sep)
Racked into two kegs. The gravity was 1.011. Hopefully that will drop over the next few months of lagering.