Tag Archives: Homebrewing

Batch #2: Racked to Secondary

I racked the Chocolate Oatmeal Stout to secondary today. It tastes really good. The flavor is great and the beer is pretty smooth (hoping 2 weeks in secondary will smooth it out a bit more). There are 2 problems. The first is the color. It’s a little light. It’s more of a very deep brown, and not black enough. It’s also a little light in body. I’d call it an oatmeal brown ale, but it’s too dark, too heavy, and the flavor is stout-like. I guess it’s closer to a porter in body and color (though it’s even a little light in color for a porter. Anyway, lessons have been learned (even though I was given the recipe and ingredients by the guys at the homebrew shop).

It’s got a nice chocolate flavor to it, but not overwhelming. There are some roasted notes there as well. I’m hoping more will come out by the time it’s ready. I may consider adding a little more cocoa in about a week to give it a slightly more chocolatey flavor (Susan wanted more chocolate flavor than what’s there, though I think it’s nice). I also think I’m going to let this one condition in the bottles for 3 weeks before I refrigerate any to drink.

The fun part about this one was the cleanup. All the cocoa settled to the bottom of the bucket and expanded, leaving a thick layer of sludge that looked like a moist cow pie.

I plan on revisiting this one. I’ll probably brew it again in October or November to be ready for winter. I also think I might try it with more grain and less extract and do an actual partial mash rather than just 2.25 pounds of grain.

Final Gravity = 1.019

ABV is approximately 5.5%.

Batch #3: Brainstorming

I’m not actually preparing to brew my third batch, but I have been brainstorming (as has Susan). Being one of my favorite styles, I kind of want to brew an IPA next. Susan wants me to wait until it’s closer to summer (and for other reasons, again, can’t publicly disclose them). Instead, she wants me to make a dark wheat ale, similar to Schlafly No. 15, which is an excellent beer, by the way.

I’ve been playing around with Beer Calculus at hopville.com to come up with recipes. It’s my first time tooling around to make up my own recipe, not knowing much about the different types of malts and grains out there, but knowing enough about hops (lots of info about the different varieties) and about yeast (good info from White Labs). The good thing about that site is it helps guide you with the target OG and IBU for the beer. It also gives you an idea of the color and how bitter or sweet it will be.

Anyway, I made up a recipe for an English IPA and for a dark wheat ale. Here’s what I got for the recipes. I’d link to them, but I haven’t made them public as I’m likely going to be messing around with them and won’t actually be brewing what I put together on there. Feel free to critique, so long as you have explanations (since I know little to nothing about recipe creation).

English IPA

3.3# Amber LME
3# Pale DME
0.5# British Pale Two-row
0.25# Crystal 10L
0.25# Caramel 30L

Steep grains until water boils. Add extract, return to boil.

60 min 2 oz Fuggles and 2 oz East Kent Goldings (both pellets)

Pitch White Labs California Ale Yeast

1 week in primary, 2 weeks in secondary, dry hopping with 3 oz whole leaf Willamette for final 7 days.

Dark Wheat Ale

3.3# Dark LME
3# Light DME
0.5# American Crystal 120L
0.25# Caramel Wheat Malt
0.25# German Dark Wheat Malt

Steep grains until water boils. Add extract, return to boil.

60 min 1 oz Cascade pellets
30 min 1 oz Cascade pellets

Pitch White Labs California Ale Yeast

1 week in primary, 2 weeks in secondary.

Batch #1: Bottling Day

I just finished bottling my Alt Things Reconsidered. It took us about an hour to bottle (not including the time it took to prep everything). I ended up with 44 12 oz. bottles and 2 22 oz. bombers of beer. I can’t, at this time, say why I filled 2 bombers. I came to some conclusions.

  • Bottling is a pain in the ass. I’ll definitely be looking into a kegging system at some point (probably after a year once I get the hang of things). I’ll keg the “normal” beers and bottle the experimental ones.
  • Cleanup is even more a pain in the ass, but PBW is some serious stuff. Talk about easy removal of dried hard crusty crud.
  • Capping Anchor bottles is easiest, followed by Sierra Nevada, followed by normal 12 oz., with the bombers being the toughest (at least according to Susan).
  • I need a second hose for bottling. The 6 foot one I use for the siphon is too long for bottling. I should get one that’s like 3 feet.
  • I need to get the bottling bucket up higher. Counter height with me sitting on the floor sucks.
  • Writing a number 1 on the caps signifying your first batch is bottled is very satisfying and gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

Now I need to make some labels (I’m a dork, but I’ll label some of the bottles that I plan on giving out to people).

Batch #2: Brew Day

I brewed my second batch today. It’s the Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. It was an interesting one. I did a mini-mash of 2 pounds of grain. I don’t think I did it right, but this is a learning experience. It wasn’t quite as easy as I would have thought to keep the temperature steady. I have a feeling it was too hot (not sure what effect that will have). Regardless of anything that went wrong, I came out with an original gravity of 1.060. I was shooting for 1.064, but anywhere between 1.057 and 1.066 would have been good. Looks like it turned out just fine. It smelled pretty sweet for a while, but after tasting it, it might not be too bad. It was a relatively easy process because everything got dumped into the boil right at the beginning. I just had to make sure it didn’t boil over.

All in all, it was pretty successful. I need a better airlock. I have 2, but one of them is the snake-like type and I just don’t like it (not to mention it’s a little loose in the bucket). I have to bottle the first batch tomorrow. I’ll swap airlocks then (assuming this is safe to do as long as I sanitze the one I pull out of the first batch). I’m also considering a wort chiller. It took forever to chill the wort today (probably about half an hour in a constant ice bath).

I will have to taste this one when I rack to secondary. It may need some more cocoa. It didn’t taste a whole lot like it when I tried it, but none of the sugars had fermented out. It’s also not very dark. It’s a dark brown, but by no means black. It looks like a dark brown ale. I doubt the color’s going to change at all (will it?). I wonder if I should have used all dark extract rather than 3 pounds of pale DME and 3.3 pounds of dark LME (it’s what the guy at the homebrew shop gave me).

As usual, I’ll report back in a week. And tomorrow, I’ll report on the bottling of the first batch.

Batch #2: Preparation

As stated before, my second batch is going to be a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Being a beginner, I went with the recommendation of the employees at my local homebrew shop (George, I’ll try your recipe sometime, I just wanted a little more personal guidance). This is basically what we came up with for a recipe. The only thing that was recommended, but not on that recipe is the mash. I’ll be mashing the 2+ pounds of grain.

Now, I don’t have the exact instructions in front of me right now, but here’s what I was instructed to do for the mash. bring water to 165°F and steep grains for 30-45 minutes. Bring additional water to 170°F (it might’ve been more, I don’t remember off the top of my head) and rinse grains into brew kettle. Add extra water to bring to my regular boil amount (usually 2.5-3 gallons) and start my boil. What do I do with the original water? It seems like it’d be a waste to just dump that water. I’ll likely be on the phone with the homebrew shop during this batch, but that’s my only question.

I’m putting about a cup of Ghiradelli cocoa powder in the boil for the chocolate flavor and will try it before racking to secondary to see if I need to add some more. This batch is going to be quite the experience. Brewday is Saturday. Bottling the first batch on Sunday.

Batch #1: Transferred to Secondary

After a week of fermenting in the primary fermenter, I transferred the Alt Things Reconsidered to the secondary. It’s an interesting process, but once I got a rhythm with the auto-siphon, it went pretty smoothly. My hands got a little cramped from holding it of the bottom to avoid moving the sludge over, but other than that, I think it went well.

I took another gravity reading. It’s now at 1.017. The instructions say it should be 1.014. Perhaps 2 weeks in secondary will bring it down a little more. I also had a little taste. It’s coming along quite well. It’s a little estery, but the 2 weeks in secondary should balance it out a bit.

Bottling day is in 2 weeks. I now have to figure out when I want to brew my second batch, the Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Anyone have a good Oatmeal Stout extract recipe they want to share? Link to it in the comments. Next report on Alt Things Reconsidered in 2 weeks. How long should I let it sit in the bottles before it’s ready to be enjoyed? I was thinking giving it another 2 weeks of conditioning and carbonating in the bottles before I put some in the fridge.

Batch #1: In the Fermenter

I brewed my first batch of beer yesterday.  It’s an Altbier, or at least I hope it will be.  Anyway, here’s a brief overview of the procedure and the recipe if anyone cares.  The recipe is not my own, but came from Steve at Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies.

3.3 pounds Light Malt Extract – Liquid
3 pounds Light Malt Extract – Dry
4 oz each of Vienna, Munich, Wheat, and Crystal Malts
1 oz Spaltz hops for bittering 5% AA
1 oz Tettnang hops for armoa 3% AA
1 tsp Irish Moss

Steep grains until water boils, add extract and return to boil.

Add bittering hops at start.
Add half aroma hops 20 min from start.
Add Irish Moss 40 min from start.
Add remaining aroma hops 45 min from start.
Remove from heat at 60 min.

I used White Labs Dusseldorf Alt Yeast (WLP036).

It made a 5 gallon batch.  Original Gravity was 1.054, a little high as I was shooting for 1.045-1.050 according to the recipe I was given.  After entering everything into my newly created hopville.com account (I’m RunawayJim on there), it said the OG would be about 1.056.

I had a little snafu.  After adding the extra water to bring it to 5 gallons, I covered it and went to plug the hole in the lid to aerate (shake furiously).  I inserted the stopper, and the stopper and gasket fell right into the bucket.  I managed to fish both out.  Hopefully, this didn’t cause an infection (everything had been sanitized).  I woke up this morning and the fermentation was already going.  I guess I did something right at least.  Lessons have been learned and next batch will be a little better.

Speaking of the next batch, Susan wants me to make a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  It’ll be an interesting choice for my second batch, but as with everything I do, I like to jump right in full force.  Should be fun.  I think I’ll be doing that in about 2-3 weeks.  I’ll report back when the beer is complete (or maybe after I transfer to secondary).

Sunday, March 8 – Brewday!

Exactly 6 days from now, I will be brewing my first beer.  I decided I wanted to make an Altbier for the first one.  It’s a style I feel is highly underrated and rarely made by most breweries trying to make the hoppiest, strongest, heaviest whatever.  It’s also one of my favorite styles of beer and, as was required, Susan likes it.

I went up to Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies on Saturday with a brewing friend to pick up the rest of the equipment I needed and to get the kit.  I realize it’s not an original recipe or anything, but it’s the first beer.  I’m super excited and will have a very hard time waiting for the beer to be ready to drink.

If there are any homebrewers out there who read this, I do have one question… is there a difference between the various bottles?  I’ve got a bunch of bottles saved up in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I kind of like the short stubby ones that Sierra Nevada uses and the curvy ones that Anchor uses (now that both of those breweries have ended their use of screw caps).  Would there be a benefit to sticking with the regular longneck types over these other shorter ones?  My main reason for prefering them is simly because they’re different.

It’s Officially Infected

As far as I’m concerned, the beer I brewed with the Mr. Beer kit is infected.  I just tried some tonight after 3 weeks of conditioning/carbonating and the beer still tastes like apple.  If it was meant to be a lambic of some sort, it’d probably be good (though the other flavors from the pale ale don’t go well with the sour apple flavor).  I took a couple sips and dumped the rest.  This time I was sure to try one of the ones I bottled in the glass bottles to see if the little buggers hid in the groves of the plastic bottles.  It tasted the same.  I’m going to leave it for one more week and try some more and see how it is.  I don’t have any hope for it right now.

I posted about it on the Beer Advocate homebrewing forum and someone mentioned that I probably didn’t have a chance because of the age of the ingredients (which wouldn’t surprise me considering I received the kit in December 2006, though the expiration date is September 2008).  I’m not at the point where I’m ready to give up brewing though.  Hopefully, I’ll soon be getting the real equipment (which I need to save some money to buy the other stuff that my boss doesn’t have) and I’ll be brewing real beer (though probably extract at first, at least until I have more space than just this apartment).  I’ll be sure that once I get ingredients, I brew within a week or so to prevent them from getting too old.

The Beer Needs Another Week

I decided after 2 weeks on top of my fridge carbonating and conditioning that I would try a bottle of the beer I made with the Mr. Beer kit (it’s called West Coast Pale Ale).  Unfortunately, I think it needs another week.  If you recall when I first tried it warm and flat straight from the fermenter, it had a very tart apple flavor (I think it’s called acetaldehyde).  A frequent reader/commenter suggested it was just a by-product of fermentation and it should go away with conditioning.  He suggested I condition it for a couple weeks before trying (which is why I didn’t try it last week).  Well, that flavor is mostly gone, but it’s still detectable.  I think it just needs some more time.  Anyway, here’s a brief review of the beer.

Pours a pale amber color with a small head that quickly disappears.  There is noticeable carbonation that seems just about perfect.  Smell of a slight hint of apple tartness with a faint hint of hops.  Taste is mostly the apple tartness up front which becomes a slight hops and malt aftertaste after the swallow.  It feels somewhat thin and watery and that’s really the main theme of this beer… thin and watery (in taste, smell, and mouthfeel).

I wouldn’t rate it very highly, and I don’t have huge expectations for it after more conditioning.  It’s drinkable (I’ve had much worse), but I’m glad it was only 2 gallons instead of 5 or 10 (which most homebrewers make).  I’m also glad that I know some people who will want to try it to help get some of it off my hands so I can make room to make more beer.  I have to plan a trip to Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies with my manager to pick up some beginner equipment and probably a kit.  I guess making beer requires a lot of patience (something that I need to learn).  Hopefully, this one will come out alright after another week or so of conditioning.