Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do I Need a Better Brewing Setup?

Today's brew event was a combination of things. A new recipe experiment for a friend and an attempt at multi-step mashing with a cooler-as-a-mashtun system. The beer is a Patersbier. The actual beer that this is based on comes from at a Belgian monestary and is brewed solely for consumption by the reverent Cistercian brothers. This ale is not served or sold to the public, making it one of the rarest beers in the world. Although the NB kit is Pils only, mine has some acidulated malt (3.5%) and some CaraVienne (3.5%). The hops were also changed up a bit since I have a bunch of Styrian Goldings that were freebies at this year's Upper Missippi Mashout.

The other trick in this beer was to do a short (12 min) mash at 112F, then the rest of the mash at 149F. With a simple system like mine, that means doing the normal hot water addition to hit the initial mash temp, then adding boiling water to reach the final mash temp. There are plenty of calculators out the that tell you how much boiling water to reach your next temp ... I was led astray by them. I had planned to do a bit of a lauter decoction at the end of the mash but I could not hit the second temp with the calculated values and things went to hell in a handbasket. I ended up having an inital mash at 112F, then added far from enough boiling water. While I madly got extra water boiling, the mash had an unintended 25 minute rest at about 121F, then finally the final (planned) 45 minutes at 149F. The notes below tell all the sordid details.

Boiloff was another weird problem. Over 90 minutes, I boiled off 2.25 gal, way more than normal. It was 13% more humid, so I'd expect less boiloff but I got way more. I guess I just had the boil going a lot more than with the two Crouch Vales.

And another problem - the BreweryTimer app. While the boil timer is great, once the other alarms go, they will not shut off unless I restart the app. I said last time "why didn't I code this up"; now maybe I will.


6 gal  into the primary (planned, 5.25 actual)


  • 9 lb 10 oz Belgian Pils
  • 6 oz Acidulated malt
  • 6 oz CaraVienne 75L
  • Mash @ 112F for 12 min
  • Mash @ 120F for 25 min (unanticipated)
  • Mash @ 149F for 48 min
  • Boil for 90min


  • 1.5 oz Styrian Goldings (2.6%AA) @ 90 min
  • 2.5 oz Styrian Goldings (2.6%AA) @ 0 min


  • Wyeast 3738 Trappist High Gravity, ferment at 63F

I made a 1 liter starter about two days ahead of time.

Brewing Notes

Day 0
0750 :: 3.5 gal on to boil.
0756 :: Mash water @114F.
0802 :: First H2O into tun @ 142F; rest of H2O continues to boil on lower heat.
0805 :: Remainder of H2O @ 195F - heat off.
0810 :: Added tap H2O to tun (keeping vol constant) and got temp to 128F.
0814 :: Mash in @ 124F;  remainder of H2) on flame.
0821 :: Overshot the mash temp - had to add 2 qts tap H2O to get mash temp down to 113F.
0824 :: Mash @ 114F.
0830 :: Mash @ 116F - looks like my (and Promash's) calcs for water:grain and temperature are off for low ratios.
0833 :: Add remainder of H2O for mash.
0840 :: Mash temp only to 122F - WTF! putting 3 gal on to boil to bring it up to 149F - will add slowly until 149.
0905 :: Added 3 gal of boiling to get to 149F.
0910 :: 148F mash.
0917 :: 148F mash, 125F sparge.
0955 :: When I sparged, the mash bed was very very compacted - needed to stir it up to get all the liquid out. Normally I don't have to do that.
1000 :: I got 5 gal first runnings.
1005 :: I only added enough sparge water to get 2.5 gal second runnings.
1010 :: Preboil gravity is 10.25 Brix (1.041) with 7.5 gal --> 80% eff.
1013 :: With full flame, 185F.
1015 :: Current conditions : 71F, 73% RH.
1153 :: Flame off, start immersion cooler. The immersion cooler results are
3 min -- 120F
4 min -- 106F
5 min --  99F
6 min --  93F
8 min --  84F
I love the nice cold Lakeville water.
1211 :: I only got about 5.25 gal into carboy ... big boiloff? The boil rate didn't seem that high.
1212 :: OG is 13.5 Brix (1.054). This doesn't really jive with any boiloff calcs, but it is what it is.
1215 :: The wort is in the refrigerator getting down to 64F (pitching temp).

Day 1
0630 :: I aerated for one minute at 0.12 lpm, then pitched the entire 1 liter starter. The starter was about 68F and the wort was about 65F, so close enough.
1900 :: Nice bubbling (12 bubbles/min).

Day 2
0700 :: Even more airlock activity - 24 bubbles per minute. No blowoff into the airlock jug. The carboy is about 63F.

Day 4
1800 :: It has been stable around 63F for a few days now. Activity has dropped to zero at this point. I will rack to secondary tomorrow night.

Day 7
I was going to rack it, but the gravity was only 1.014.

Day 16
Back from vacation, the gravity is 1.012 - I guess I could have racked it. Something happened while I was away and the temp got up to about 72F, but almost no fermentation occurred (the gravity barely dropped) so I hop no off flavors got into it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Crouch Vale - Version 2

Today is replace-the-front-shocks day. I've never done it before and thankfully the corrosion isn't as bad ad I thought it would be. I was unsure of doing it myself, but I found this series of videos over on eHow. Nathan McCullough rocks. The only hiccup I had was replacing the stabilizer control links. The nuts had seized and the 'bolt' portion was a ball joint so you couldn't get a grip on them. I had to cut them out. I hadn't planned on replacing the links, but I noticed last night that the driver's side was shot so I ordered a new set (both sides). This may have been the whole noise-in-the-front-end problem in the first place, but I had already bought the shocks and the original ones have 100k (miles) on them, so I went ahead and did the whole job.

Ok ... on to beer.

I brewed Crouch Vale Version 1 last Tuesday and now it's time to do Version 2. The recipe is identical with two exceptions:

  • I decreased the amount of Halcyon to 7 lb and added 10oz of Crystal 75,
  • I washed the yeast from Version 1 and added half of it at pitching time.

Everything else was the same (temperatures, times, etc) but I had some problems. My mash screen (a bazooka tube) got loose during the mash and I had a heck of a time getting it back in. While is was out, though, some grain got into the mash tun valve and buggered everything up. I got my first runnings (less than normal amount) by using a pitcher and a kitchen seive, cleaned things up, then got my second runnings in the normal batch sparge way. Efficiency seemed to drop a bit from the previous version: my preboil wort was 1.035 which means 75% efficiency. Boiloff was a bit higher than planned and although I ended up with 6 gal in the carboy, the postboil wort was 1.038 - spot on what I wanted.

Brewing Notes:

Day 0
1730 :: preheat tun w 7 gal hot tap H2O
1737 :: flame on! 2.5 gal on to boil
1749 :: 185F and nucleate boiling
1757 :: want to mash in @ 162F; currently @ 168F; allowing thermal eq'm
1804 :: after some swirling for cooling, 162F so mash in
1807 :: mash screen came out; fished it out and let the mash go on - will insert at end of mash
1823 :: mash @ 151F
1840 :: 6.25 gal sparge H2O on (2.45 pre-vorlauf + 3.8 sparge)
1840 :: mash @ 151F
1850 :: sparge H2O @ 122F
1902 :: sparge H2O @ 165F; mash @ 149
1904 :: screen disconnectd again; had to take first runnings via seive
1940 :: finally got 7.5 gal of wort; OG = 7 Brix (1.028) --> 75% eff
1948 :: current conditions are 78F and 61% RH
1953 :: full-on boil; going with a fuller boil than normal to ensure that I get the boiloff I want
2100 :: my Bullion hops are 7.9%, so I am using 3.5oz @ 15 min
2108 :: Bullion hops, whirlfloc, and IC into kettle
2123 :: flame off. IC down to 74F in under 15 min
2143 :: into fermentation chamber @ 63F

Day 1
1800 :: Oxygenate for 120s @ 0.06 lpm; Why? This article  (and many other sources) say you need about 0.12 liters of O2 added (assuming perfect absorbtion). If I dial my regulator to 0.12 lpm, it foams a lot and not all the O2 is absorbed. Halving the flow rate minimized bubbles (maximizes absorbtion) and it only takes an extra 60 s.
1810 :: Add half of previous batch harvested yeast.

Day 2 
1810 :: Kraeusen is present. Slowly bubbling.

Day 3
1715 :: Kraeusen is this with persistent. 63F spot on.

Day 4
0630 :: Kraeusen is present. Still persistent bubbling.

Day 6
1900 :: No more evident bubbling, but there is some kraeusen present.

Day 7
0700 :: The gravity is 1.010 so I will rack to a keg tonight. The hydro sample is noticeably different from Version 1; not nearly as hop forward or bitter, with distinctly more malt character. I am really looking forward to getting both of these carb'd up and onto the tap.

Tasting Notes
OK, it is also a nice beer. Less hop presence, but there's a flavor that I'm not a big fan of. Greg calls if phenolic. Kris says that it is the Crystal 75. Good malty profile.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Carafa Flavors

We did a tasting experiment at a club meeting a few months back - four Kellerbiers. The main point that I took away (and am noting here for posterity's sake) is that Carafa I adds chocolate flavor, Carafa II adds black patent flavor, and Carafa III adds roasted barley flavor.

I need to modify my Schwarz recipe accordingly. I  blindly boosted the Carafa I and Carafa III last time, hoping to increase the roast but ended up making it too chocolatey. My next batch should keep the Carafa I at original levels but up the Carafa III.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Crouch Vale - Version 1

This is a recipe that I took from Mashweasel's (Kris England) post here hereKris is a member of my homebrewing club and phenomenal resource. I've made a number of his recipes before and have never been disappointed. This recipe is damn simple - one grain, one hop addition. My plan is to brew this and in a week, brew Kris' "more bittery" version and pitch it onto the yeast cake from this one. The only difference was that I only had Bullion hops available, so I substituted them in place of the Brewers Gold. This should be an interesting experiment - my friend Nic is brewing the same recipes, but he's using invert sugar for the "more bittery" version and he's using Wyeast 1028 instead. 

Crouch Vale Brewers Gold

  • Gravity (OG) 1.038
  • 30 IBU
  • 6 gal  into the primary

  • 8lb Halcyon
  • Mash @ 151F for 60min
  • Boil for 90min


  • 3.5oz Brewers Gold - 7.9% @ 15min


  • WLP013 - Ferment at 63F

I made a 1 liter starter about two days ahead of time. I also used the Brewery Timer app for the first time, which I got here and I must say it is a nice little app. It's one of those things I used and said to myself "now why didn't I code this up years ago?"

Brewing Notes:

Day 0 (because everything should be zero-based)
1710 :: flame on! 2.5 gal on to boil
1720 :: approaching 165F - no time to preheat mash tun so I plan to add the H2O at a higher temp let it drop
1722 :: 182F and nucleate boiling. Flame off and transfer the H2O to the mash tun
1726 :: I want to mash in @ 162F; currently @ 173F; allowing thermal equilibrium to occur
1735 :: 170F in mash tun
1745 :: after some swirling for cooling, I reached 162F (close enough) so mash in
1750 :: mash @ 150F
1805 :: mash @ 151F
1810 :: sparge H2O on to heat (2.5 gal pre-vorlauf + 3.82 gal sparge)
1825 :: mash @ 150F
1838 :: sparge H2O @ 180 F so flame off
1850 :: 4 gal from first runnings
1855 :: 3.5 gal from second runnings
1900 :: OG = 7.5 Brix (1.030) --> 80% eff
1905 :: current temp is 71F and 60% RH (important because summer brewing yields odd boil-off rates)
1908 :: full-on boil
1935 :: going with a fuller boil than normal to ensure that I get the boiloff I want
2012 :: my Bullion hops are 7.9%, so I am using 3.5oz @ 15 min
2025 :: Bullion hops, whirlfloc, and immersion chiller (IC) into kettle
2038 :: flame off. IC down to 74F in under 15 min
2055 :: oxygenate for 60s @ 0.5 lpm <-- I need to change this to 0.12 lpm for 75s
2100 :: added 1 l of yeast starter to just over 6 gal of wort
2105 :: into fermentation chamber @ 63F

From a boil-off point-of-view, I lost just shy of 1.5 gal over 90 min for the given environmental conditions (71F and 60%RH). 

Day 1
Morning, fermentation temp was 68F so I dropped the temp controller setpoint.
Evening, fermentation temp was 55F so I let the heater control and cooler control battle it out

Day 2
Morning, I finally achieved 63F. From here on, fermentation was nice and steady 

Day 4
Evening, kraeusen has fallen but fermentation still ongoing.

Day 7
The gravity of the beer has fallen to 1.010, which is pretty much where I want it to end. I racked the beer to a keg and put it into the fermentation chamber at 62F. The hydrometer sample was tasty. The hop bitterness was definitely present (as it should be) but not overly so, and no significant hop flavor. Minimal malt presence.

To reuse the yeast for tomorrow's Crouch Vale - Version 2, I poured the remainder of the trub/yeast into a sanitized gallon jar and waited for for the trub to settle out. I poured off the top portion (the yeast) into a sanitized Erlenmeyer flask. 

This site documents the process well, but where it takes him 20 minutes to achieve a nice yeast-trub separation, it takes me 90 minutes. I put my flask of yeast into the fridge overnight and will pitch a portion in when I brew Version 2 tomorrow.

Tasting Notes
OK, it is a nice beer. Nice hop presence, but seems a bit flabby. Bit of malt to it. Definitely drinkable though. It did not clarify well though. Nic's version was better - nice and clear. The hop nose was the same but not flabby at all. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

And so it begins

This inaugural post is all about me. The 'About Me' gadget doesn't really give enough space, so I'll give some background about me and what this blog is all about.

First off, I am Canadian and I brew beer. I live in the US though, Minnesota to be more specific. My job brought me here some years back and while I brewed back in Canada, being here has really opened up some opportunities. I am fortunate to live in an area with a phenomenal homebrewers club as well as two great homebrew supply stores, Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies. The club has really helped me figure out what works and what doesn't for my brewing, as well as opened up my eyes (and taste buds) to different styles. Having easy access to supplies makes opportunistic brewing possible. I would not want to live somewhere that required me to plan my brewing weeks in advance, mail order supplies, etc.

The purpose of this blog is primarily a place for me to log my brewing sessions. I've used notebooks, text files, etc., but they seem to be a hassle. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll post other stuff, maybe not.