Monday, November 30, 2009

Dunkel update

I finally transferred my Dunkel to secondary and I took a taste and a gravity reading. It's at 1.017, which is too high. It doesn't taste too sweet though, maybe that the decoction mash created an abundance of unfermentable dextrins. It's only 1 point above the high end of the scale according to the, so it's probably alright. It might even drop another point in secondary or while lagering.

It does have a bit of astringency though. I know if you sparge too hot you can get an astringent taste, I wonder why a decoction doesn't cause the same problem. Maybe because the pH is lower during the decoction than the sparge? This beer is still young though, I'm hoping that this off flavor fades over the next five weeks that it will be in secondary and lagering stages.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I used my brewing burner and my old brew pot today, but not for brewing beer. I added three gallons of peanut oil and one 12 lb turkey. Deep fried at 350F for 40 minutes. It turned out delicious.

I also tasted the first sample of my Xmas lager, which has been lagering for about a month now. It is also delicious--like dessert in a glass. I'll have to post the recipe later, if I haven't already done so in an earlier post.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

100th post!

As you may have surmised from the title, this is the 100th post of the Noble Square Brewing blog. Who would have guessed ten and a half months ago on New Year's Day I would have kept up with this and be writing my 100th post? Well here we are, and when I say we--I mean it. According to the site, I've got 15 followers, and 26 subscribers--not sure what the difference is, and if there is any overlap, but the important thing is that there are more than a handful of readers out there that like reading my blog on a regular basis. I thank you, and I appreciate the comments that you leave. A special thanks to those of you that link to this blog from your blogs.

I was going to read over the Noble Square Brewing blog from the beginning and post highlights here, but I only got as far as January 31, when I realized that it was going to take way too long. So I'm just going to list some things from the last 99 posts that I remember, stream of consciousness style, about home brewing, and blogging about home brewing. If I'm ambitious enough, I'll hunt down the posts and link to them:

Don't melt your computer keyboard while brewing. If you want a lot of page hits on your blog, mention Megan Fox. Even better, mention Megan Fox naked. Brew lots of different types of beer. Enter contests, even if you don't win, you'll learn something. Judge contests. Comment on other blogs, and respond to comments on yours. Join a homebrew club. Name your kegs. Blog your recipes. Post lots of photos. Make yeast starters. Grow your own hops. Use interesting ingredients. Build your own kegerator.

OK, I know I went a little link happy there, but there's some decent posts in the last 99, and I hope there will be a lot more to come. Thanks again for reading my blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I started the starter

I made my decision on what and how I am brewing next. Thanks for the input, hopshead and holzbrew. You'll be disappointed to learn that I didn't take either of your suggestions. I'm going to brew a split batch lager/ale, specifically a doppelbock and porter.

I'm going to use the first runnings from my mash to brew 5 gallons of the doppelbock, hopefully with an O.G. of about 1.090. Then I'll add some more dark/roasted/cara grains to my mash tun, and use the second and third runnings to make ten gallons of brown porter with an O.G. of about 1.050. Either that, or I'll just steep the extra specialty grains to get the additional color and body. I'll probably need to add some malt extract to the kettle for the porter to get the gravity up. Back of the envelope calculations says I'll need 450 +500/ 27= about 35 lbs of grain to do so otherwise, and my mash tun maxes out at maybe 30 lbs max, so yes, I'll be adding some extract.

Since I'll be using the yeast cake from my dunkel for the doppelbock, I'm covered for that portion of the brew. I did start the ale starter tonight using some older yeast that I saved from a previous batch of American Brown ale. I hope it takes off, the yeast actually froze in storage, I hope enough survived the freeze and thaw to wake up and multiply. If not, I'll be buying yeast come brewday.

I went with the porter because it's a pretty broad category, and while you should really use english malts for it, I figure the darker specialty grains will predominate the flavor, and nobody will notice that I used the second runnings of a mostly munich and vienna malt grist. Plus I'll get to use my homegrown Northern Brewer hops.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So what do I brew next?

I'm trying to figure out what beer to brew next. I would like to reuse the yeast cake from the dunkel, which means another lager. Maybe a bock or doppelbock? But I also want to make an ale, something that will be ready fairly soon. I could do a split batch, partigyle style, where I use the first runnings for a doppelbock, and the second runnings for? Any ideas out there, brew buds?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Photos 3 The Boil

Just before the wort starts boiling, I take a sample:

Which I then check the specific gravity of:

(Hard to tell from this angle, but it was 1.046 on the hydrometer, which is off by two points, giving me a pre-boil gravity of 1.044)

Then we start boiling:
And we get the hops ready:
(I put them in a paint strainer bag weighted down with a couple of stainless steel spoons)

Which I then add to the kettle:

Here's that funky home-made immersion chiller I wrote about:
(I think the guys I bought it from fashioned it this way to avoid having the plastic tube be too close to the burner while it was still on--you don't want it to melt!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Photos 2--The Mash

The mash
The Strainer (this is what I used to pull the decoction).
You're supposed to pull more grain than liquid.

The decoction

The decoction post-boil (look how much darker it got!)

Dunkel Brewday Photos

I thought I would go back to the previous posts of the Dunkel brewday and insert photos where appropriate, but that is too much work. OK, I might still do it. But I might not, so I thought I would post a bunch in this post, and worry about it later. I'll still try to keep them in order of the previous posts.

So from the 8 am post:
The mechanical timer for my HLT heater.

(Kids don't use an ungrounded adapter at home)
HLT with 1000 watt bucket heater
The photo everyone was waiting for, melted keyboard

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'm over 3000 with this post. I'll break things up and start a new post for some more.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Wrapup, A Balmy Chicago November

Those of you that actually look at the "Is it Brewing Weather?" widget I have in the right column of this blog, below the label photos, will have seen that it was 71 and sunny yesterday. In November. IN CHICAGO. So as soon as I was done brewing yesterday, I didn't want to come inside and sit at a computer to write my follow-up. Instead, I took the frau und hund for a long walk around the neighborhood, and then fired up the grill when we got back home. After that, we had a social event, so here is my wrapup, a day late. My apologies to the two readers who were sitting at their computers all day yesterday waiting for updates.

Amazingly, other than the melted computer keyboard, and the slow start, everything went well yesterday. I chilled the beer quickly, since while the outside temperature was 71F, the tap water temperature is probably under 50F. (I use an ugly homemade immersion chiller that I bought from some fellow homebrewers).

I collected just under 12 gallons of sweet dark pre-Dunkel wort, with an original gravity of 1.052. It looked and tasted great. I think I was right in going a little heavy on the bittering hops to compensate for their age, but I won't know for sure until most of the sweetness is fermented out, and the bitterness mellows from lagering.

One note for those of you that use simple brewing calculators like the one at, they don't adjust the color estimation for the darkening that occurs during a decoction. When I plugged in my grain bill, it estimated a SRM of 12, which is a copper color that is at the low end of the spectrum for the Dunkel style. My pre-fementation wort came out more like SRM 20, which is a medium-light brown, which is right in the middle of the spectrum for the Dunkel style.

I aerated the heck out of the wort using the old shake-the-hell-out-of-the-carboy trick. I then pitched the slurry from the gallon starter of Wyeast Munich lager yeast, and had activity (small bubbles) going by early evening. I haven't checked it this morning yet, but I'm guessing a nice krausen is forming. Check back for an update on this beer in about two weeks when I transfer it to secondary. Oh yeah, and I'll get those photos, including the melted keyboard, up soon.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Noon The Boil

Just a quick post here since I have about 5 minutes left on the boil. I collected just under 14 gallons of wort, we'll call it 13.75 for calculation purposes, with a pre-boil gravity of 1.045. This gives me an efficiency of about 77%. Not bad for batch sparging. The boil started at 11am, but I didn't make the first hop addition until 11:10, because I had to figure out how much I was going to use, and weigh it out. I ended up using 1.3 ounces of 13.1% alpha acid Galena hops, which a brewing calculator gives me about 28 IBUs, a little high for a Dunkel. However, these hops are a year old, and while they have been stored semi-sealed in the freezer, they may haver lost some of their oomph.

I threw in some Irish moss for clarity about 10 minutes ago, along with my immersion chiller to heat it up and sterilize it. I threw in .75 ounces of Hallertau finishing hops just before I started this post. And it's now 12:10, so I have to go shut off the burner and start up the chiller.

Dunkel Brewday 9:40 AM The Mash

I ended up completing the mash-in at 8:45. I started earlier, but it takes awhile to add the water and grains and make sure they are well mixed. Initial mash temperature was 144F, right about where I wanted to be. Some of you home brewers out there are undoubtedly scratching your heads, wondering why so low. Well I'm doing a single decoction mash, and I'm using the decoction to bring the temperatures up to have a two-step starch conversion, the first half at temperatures suitable for beta amylase conversion, and the second half at higher temps for the alpha amylase. I know this isn't decoction by the book, but it is how I'm brewing this beer.

After waiting 15 minutes, I pulled about a third of the mash with a strainer, and slowly heated it to boiling in my 7 gallon aluminum pot. I let it boil for a half an hour, stirring constantly. The grains got noticeably darker. I then added the boiled grains back to the main mash, which brought the temperature up to 157F. I'm currently letting this sit for a half an hour, at which time I'll begin filling my brew pot with deliciously carmelly sweet wort.

So here's the summary of my mash:

Main mash
45 minutes @ 144F
30 minutes @ 157F
(temperature raised by decoction)

Decoction mash
15 minutes @ 144F
10 minutes slowly raised to boiling
20 minutes boiling

8 AM Dunkel Brewday

I'm up and ready to brew. Unfortunately my HLT (hot liquor tank) is not. I just checked the temperature, and it's around 150F, instead of the 170F I need. I think it's low for a number of reasons. One, I started out with colder tap water than last time. Two, it's colder outside so I'm losing more heat from it due to the larger temperature differential. And three, my outlet timer didn't kick on at exactly 4am. It was more like 4:20. I know this because I got up in the middle of the night, at about 4:15, for reasons entirely unrelated to brewing today. However, since I was up, I decided to check the timer. It's a mechanical timer, and not completely accurate. It was in the process of switching the outlet on when I checked it, and since I was half asleep, I decided to let it do it's job instead of just using the manual switch to turn it on. So it looks like I'm going to mash in closer to 8:30.

On a side note, since I'm blogging live, while I am taking photos, I don't want to be constantly uploading them to the computer. So if you're reading this as it happens, I'll add photos all at once later.

Finally, (at least for this post), as regular readers of this blog know I try to detail my mistakes, so I and others can learn from them. So here's a little warning. While heating extra sparge water up on the stove, make sure your computer keyboard is a safe distance away. It can and will melt. As I said above, photos to follow.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pseudo Munich Dunkel Recipe

Yes, I know I still have to get to part three of my kegging procedure, which I have come to realize while it is very necessary, is also very boring reading. I will get to it eventually, but since I'm brewing tomorrow, I decided to blog this brew from start to finish, which I never have done before. So let's start with a recipe, which once you read it, you'll realize why it's a PSEUDO Munich Dunkel. So here we go:

Munich Dunkel (aproximately 12 gallons)

17 lbs Vienna Malt (I wanted to use Dark Munich Malt, but I'm out)
6.5 lbs German Pilsner Malt (I wanted to use less, but since this the last of my pilsner malt, I thought I would use it up)
12 oz Pale Chocolate Malt (mainly for color, especially since I'm not using Dark Munich Malt)
8 oz CaraVienne (for a little extra color and body, but mainly because I've got a ton of it)

60 Minutes Galena (enough to bitter to about 25 IBUs--I haven't worked out exactly how much to use, plus I would rather use my German Magnum hops for bittering, but the Galena are the last of the 2008 crop that I have, and I'm trying to get rid of them)
10 Minutes Hallertau (for a hint of hops flavor and aroma)

Wyeast Munich Lager Yeast (I've already got a gallon starter of this going--I stepped it up from a half gallon a couple days ago--this probably should have been my first post if I were really to blog this beer from start to finish) .

The starter is chilling to knock the yeast out of suspension, the HLT is full of delicious Chicago tap water with a campden tab added to neutralize the chlorine, the malt is measured and milled, and the electric heater is plugged into the the timer which is set for 4am. I should be ready to start the mash tomorrow morning at about 8am.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Kegging Procedure (Part Deux)

If you read part one and you aren't yet bored to tears, here is the part two. I'll make is succinct, I promise. So last we heard, the keg parts are boiling and the keg and liquid pickup is soaking in a hot oxyclean solution. From there:

Scrub keg with carboy brush, slightly straightened to accomodate keg contours.
Run small brush (a rifle brush works well) through liquid pickup tube and keg post holes.
Dump oxyclean solution, quick rinse with hot water.
Fill keg to the "tippy-top" with water.
Reattach all keg parts, double checking that gaskets are put back on the pickup tubes.
Hook up CO2 tank and cobra tap to the keg.
Turn on CO2 and open tap to push all the water out--leaving only CO2 (and no O2) in the keg.
Disconect the CO2 tank and cobra tap and bleed the excess CO2 out by opening the keg pressure relief valve.
Pour a quart of star-san solution into the keg through the beer out post using this contraption:

Make sure not to introduce any oxygen to the keg--connect the quick disconnect to the line loosely and don't tighten it until you let gravity force the air out.
(This sanitizes the tube and beer out quick disconnect at the same time).
Close the pressure relief valve and shake the keg thoroughly to let the sanitizer coat the inside of the keg well.
Wait two minutes and then hook up the CO2 to force the sanitizer out.

You now have a sanitized keg that is purged of oxygen and ready to fill. But again that was really boring. So have a homebrew, and I'll explain how I fill the keg in part 3.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Kegging Procedure (part 1)

I just filled a keg full of Your Sister's Mustache tonight, so I thought I would post my kegging procedure.

The first thing I do is to cool the beer down to 35F and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours. This helps to settle out any yeast or suspended solids.

Then I clean the keg. Since I have a surplus of beer lately, the decision of when to keg is usually when an existing keg runs dry. Yes, I know it's a good problem to have.

I take the dirty keg and remove the lid and both the gas and beer fittings (along with their poppets). I also remove the dip tubes and take the gaskets off of them. I then boil the lid (with the pressure release valve open), the gas dip tube, the fittings, the gaskets, and the poppets. I add a pinch of baking soda to the boiling pot. I let it boil for 20 minutes to sterilize all these parts.

While the keg parts are boiling, I spray the inside of the keg with about a quart of hot water, swirl it around to free up whatever yeast is sitting at the bottom (usually not much since I settled most of it out as per step 1), and dump. Then I fill the whole keg with hot water, add a half a scoop of oxyclean, and let it sit for about a half an hour. (This is a good time to have a homebrew).

I just read over the last couple paragraphs, and realized (except for the having a homebrew part) that this is a really boring post. So I'm going to quit while I'm behind and post a cool picture of a bike that has two kegs and tappers built into it. Click on the photo for a link to the story from Wired magazine explaining the whole dealio. I'll post the rest of my kegging procedure later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicago Beer Society

I'm not sure if I have written about my homebrew club, The Chicago Beer Society, on this blog before, but I thought I would for a number of reasons, which I'll enumerate on this handy-dandy bulleted list:

  • Last month I went to our annual picnic for the first time, and it was awesome. There were about 15 local brewery beers on tap, great food including the competition entries fron salsa, chili, ribs, and dessert contests, and fun, interesting people. The music wasn't great, the DJ played a lot of really obscure stuff and only one (beer-drinking) polka, but from the emails that went around afterwards, maybe they'll improve on this next year.
  • The monthly First Thursday is this Thursday, October 1st at Goose Island (As the name implies, it's always held on the first Thursday of the month.) I don't always attend, but I will be there this month. It's always a fun time, sometimes there are presentations, but mostly it's a big homebrew and craft beer tasting with a bunch of people who really appreciate beer.
  • The annual Chicago Beer Society homebrew contest, Spooky Brew, will be held on October 31st. I'm entering a couple of my brews, including Your Mother's Mustache, Topfglück Alt, and possibly my Vienna Lager, Schwarzes Modell. They are accepting entries at the monthly First Thursday (sometimes called Thirst Fursday), which is why I'll definitely be attending.

Now I called it my homebrew club, but it's really much more than that. It's an organization of people who enjoy and appreciate well-made beer. Members are homebrewers, beer judges, professional brewers, beer industry insiders, beer authors, and just plain beer drinkers. If you're in Chicago and you fit any of these categories, it's definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Drying and Bagging Hops

It's still Hop Week here at Noble Square Brewing so let's talk about Hops! I got done drying and bagging the hops I harvested from my folks' garden. I planted Chinook and Hallertau there last year, 3 rhisomes each. Only one of each type grew--they had flooding in the area I planted them in early spring. Only the Chinook produced a couple of cones last year. This year both plants produced some cones, but not much. I really didn't tend the plants at all--no additional water, fertilizer or anything. I didn't even trim them back, I just put up some saisal for them to grow up the side of the garage. You can see one of the Chinook cones above; the yellow powder is the lupulin.

After I removed the cones from the bines, I dried the hops by leaving them out on a window screen perched horizontally over two books in the hottest part of the house. They dried out in a couple of days. Then it was time to bag them.

I got the above "Handi-Vac™ and bags for free last year. They were just handing them out on in Daley Plaza. I guess they figured you would use the included bags, get hooked, and be lured into a lifetime of buying replacement bags from Reynolds. As soon as I saw them, I immediately thought, "I could use that for my hops!" I grabbed two of them, one for me and one for my Brew Bud Pete.

I have to admit they are "Handi", although I have yet to buy any additional bags. I have reused the bags from last years hop harvest, although they may not be designed to be reused. Sometimes they don't maintain a vaccuum seal. They idea is that you fill the bag, seal it like a regular Zip-Loc™ type bag, and then use the "Handi-Vac™" to suck the extra air out of the bag by placing the tip of the "Handi-Vac™" on the blue circle on the bag. Like I said, they work well, although not so well on reused bags. I guess I'll go out and buy the bags. Who knows, maybe the product launch failed and they don't sell them anymore.

Oh yeah, after I seal the bags of hops, I toss them in the freezer. And one more thing, "™" is Alt+0153 on your numerical keyboard if you were wondering.

Señor Brew™

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hops, Hops, Hops!

It's still Hop Week here at Noble Square Brewing, so let's talk about hops. I harvested these Hallertau from my folks place. Yes, they are turning brown. I wasn't able to get out there to harvest them at the peak of their ripeness, but I'll take what I can get. They still smell delicious, grassy, flowery, with a hint of spicyness. They're currently drying on a window screen.

Green Shoots!

No it's not the green shoots in the economy that everybody was talking about a couple of months ago--it's still Hops Week here at Noble Square Brewing, and we are talking about new green shoots on my Saaz hops as you can see in the photo above.

For those of you that follow this blog (we're up to 14 now--15 if you count Señor Brew™ himself), you might remember that I had a little spider mite infestation. Well, I sprayed insecticide twice, and the hops that weren't already terminally ill rebounded and started new growth. You can see the bright green leaves against the background of brown half dead leaves. Now granted, it is way too late in the season for me to expect any hop flower growth--the flowers (or cones, in hop vernacular) being where the bittering and flavoring agents come from, but still, it is nice to see a rebound, and with this late leaf growth I can only assume that the roots are growing as well, which means more hardy plants for next year.

Curious about what a spider mite infestation looks like? I took some photos. This one shows what the early stage looks like. At this stage it's easy to confuse it for other conditions, such as a lack of water or nutrients. The telltale sign of spider mites is a spidery silk web on the underside of the leaves, which unfortunately I didn't get a photo of. The mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but the damage they cause and the webbing they leave is highly visible.

This photo shows an advanced stage of spider mite damage. If you haven't already sprayed for mites, and your hop leaves look like this, consider your hops harvest a lost cause by now. However, as I mentioned earlier, it might still be a good idea to spray, to get some late growth. In my case, I'm hoping the late growth leads to stronger plants next year.

This photo shows the ultimate stage of a spider mite infestation. The mites will literally suck your hops dry, leaving a dry, desicated ruin of your hops. Let this be a warning to all the home hop growers out there--if you notice any evidence of spider mites, be sure to spray an insecticide that has been proven effective against them. For those hop growers that want to stay organic, I have read that keeping your hop leaves moist will cut down on the damage that spider mites can do. Of course, moist hop plants can lead to powdery mildew, which is a whole 'nother problem for hop growers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hops Week

It's hops week here at Noble Square Brewing. "Why?" you may ask. Because Señor Brew™ said so. Actually it's for a number of reasons, mainly because I'm going to post about hops all week. So where do we start? Why don't we take inventory of what hops I have on hand for brewing?
I've brewed with some of the hops in the above photo since I took it, but it's a good indication of where we stand at Noble Square Brewing, especially since we're going to add to it with some recently (and soon to be) harvested hops. (That's another reason it's hops week).

So here are the varieties of humulus lupus currently on hand:
Galena 13.1% AA 4 oz.
Williamette 4.8% AA 17 oz.
Simcoe ?? AA 4 oz.
Magnum 10.4% AA 9 oz.
Hallertau 3.0% AA 15 oz.
Tettnanger 3.3% AA 11 oz.

I don't know the alpha acid content of the Simcoe because I traded some Magnum for them with fellow Brew Bud Russ Chibes, and forgot to write down what they were. Maybe he'll comment here and enlighten me. Actually, now that I look at the photo, it's clearly written on the bag that they are 13.5%--it just wore off with the combination of condensation and handling of the bag. The pictured hops that have since been used were an ounce of Centennial and a couple of ounces of Columbus. So that's where I stand, but I have a hop harvest coming soon. Russ, please still feel free to comment on this post.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Omega King Scoresheet

A couple of readers have asked about the scoresheet comments on the Omega King IPA, which took first in it's category inthe B.U.Z.Z. Brewoff, so here they are.

It was scored by two judges, J. Sparrow, a Master BJCP judge, and Jeff Albarella, a novice. J. scored it a 35 and Jeff a 37, which put it in the top end of the "Very Good" category. In this case, "Very Good" was "Good Enough" to take home a blue ribbon. On to the comments:

J: Notable piney aroma balanced by ample citrus esters, moderate carmel malt in background.
Jeff: Dominant citrus hop aroma, balanced with sweet malty graininess

J: Adden? (can't read this word) Bright Wispy off-white foam quickly fades
Jeff: Golden Orange color, slightly hazy, little to no head retention

J: Initial pungent bitterness balanced by a moderate carmelly malt character. Noteable citrus esters. Finishes bitter though not oppressive
Jeff: Well banlanced flavor, nice hp flavor of citrus/pineapple, finish is clean, but a bit watery, nice clean fermentation

J. Body a bit thin and carbonation low (close to flat) For style very moderate hop astringency
Jeff: Light Bodied and a bit watery at finish, good carbonation level

Overall Impression:
J: Low body and condition detract from an otherwise pleasant IPA with notes of pine and citrus. This is where the parts definitely affect the whole. But still a pleasant IPA.
Jeff: Very drinkable well-balanced beer, could use sugary more malt character to thicken the malt feel at finish. Nice smooth hop character.

So it looks like I scored lowest in the Mouthfeel area. When I brew this again, I'll increase the mash temperature from the original 152F to 156F and see if that makes a difference. I wonder if each judge tasted from a different bottle, since one commented on the low carbonation, while the other said it was well carbonated.

Next I'll post the comments on the beers that didn't win, since I have more to learn from those.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Double Brew Day (round 2)

The second beer we brewed today was an Alt, here's the recipe:

To Be Named Later Alt (12 gallons)
13lbs Pilsner Malt
9 lbs Dark Munich
2 lbs Caravienne
4 oz Pale Chocolate

Mashed for 1 hour at 153F

Hop Schedule
2 oz Magnum (14% AA) 60 min
2 oz Tettnanger (3.3% AA) 2 min
1 oz Pete's Mix* 2 min

It's currently fermenting at around 65F with Wyeast German Ale Yeast
I didn't take the O.G. but I'm guessing it's about 1.053.

*Pete's mix is a mix of Brewer's Gold and Tettnanger that he grew last year. They grew together, so he doesn't know the breakdown of the mix. We just threw it in for grins.

Double Brew Day

My buddy Pete and I brewed some beer today at his house, and since he doesn't get to brew that often (he has two kids under 3), we decided to double up and brew two different beers.

The first was an American IPA, kind of based on our Omega King, but tweaked to fit what we had on hand grain-wise, and what the LHBS had on hand hops-wise. Here's the recipe:

To Be Named Later IPA (15 gallons)

18 lbs Pilsner Malt
6 lbs 2-row
2 lbs caravienna
1 lb dark munich
1 lb special B
4 oz pale chocolate malt

Mashed for 1 hour at 156F

2 oz Columbus 60 min
2 oz Simcoe 30 min
2 oz Centennial 30 min
2 oz Cascade, 1 oz Centenial 15 min (this was supposed to be 3 oz Cascade but we goofed)
.75 oz Columbus, 2 oz Cascade 0 min

O.G. was 1.050
Fermenting with Wyeast American Ale yeast.
We'll probably dry hop it--stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


According to an A.P. article today, one of my kegs, Jessica, has been named most dangerous celebrity on the web, because of the high chance of web searches leading you to a website that could be damaging to your computer. Don't worry, you won't get infected with a virus here at Noble Square Brewing, although you might catch spider mites.
This is a really bad photo of Jessica by the way, it accompanied the story I linked to, so I linked to it as well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Omega King Recipe

I know I said I was going to post this a long time ago, but I finally dug out the recipe for my Omega King India Pale Ale because I'm thinking about brewing it again soon. Unfortunately, I only wrote the grain bill and the hop schedule down, so I'm reconstructing some of the other details from memory. So without further ado, here is the blue ribbon winning recipe:

Omega King India Pale Ale (approx 15 gallons)
15 lbs Pilsner Malt
10 lbs 2-row
8 oz Special B
8 oz Caramalt 60L
8 oz Melanoidin malt
8 oz Carapils
8 oz caravienna

Mash 45 minutes at 152F

Hop Schedule

2 oz Columbus 60 min
2 oz Chinook 30 min
2 oz Centennial 30 min
3 oz Cascade 15 min
1 oz Chinook 0 min
1 oz Centennial 0 min

Dry Hop

2 oz Columbus, 1 oz Chinook, 1 oz Centennial, 1 oz Cascade

I don't have the O.G. or F.G. but I assume that it started in the upper 1.050s and ended around 1.014. I do remember that it was around 6% alcohol by volume.

I made a gallon starter using light DME and Wyeast American Ale 1056, and fermented for about 2 weeks at 65F? I then dry-hopped in secondary for another week.

It won 1st place in its category at the B.U.Z.Z. brewoff. I'll post the tasting notes if I can find them--yes I know I haven't been organized lately.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Spider Mites!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this previously in the blog, but I grow some of my own hops. I have Saaz growing along the front fence line, and Northern Brewer growing in the back. Last year the Northern Brewer hops got infested with spider mites. As you can see from the diagram above, they are pretty nasty, and can do a lot of damage. They're invisible to the naked eye, but they leave a silk web underneath the leaves like a spider (hence the name) that is visible. I caught the infestation pretty early, sprayed them with a hand-held bottle of insecticide on two separate occasions, and harvested a decent crop of hop flowers.

This year both varieties were infested, and I may have waited too long to spray the Saaz to save them. Hop leaves are drying up and falling off the plant. I sprayed today with a bottle that you attach to the garden hose. If I remember correctly from last year, you have to spray them twice about a few days apart, because the eggs are resistant to the insecticide, so you have to let them hatch after you kill off the adults, and then take care of the new generation with another application. We'll see if the Saaz make it to harvest.

The whole time I was spraying, I had the Spider Man theme running through my head, albeit with different lyrics:

Spider mites, spider mites,
Deadly hop-eating spider mites,
Can't see them, they leave a thread,
Watch me now, kill them dead.
Look out!
I'm killing the spider mites.

Yeah, I know, I'll stick to brewing beer.

Friday, July 10, 2009

No Scoresheets yet!

Still no scoresheets yet from the B.U.Z.Z. brewoff. I'm waiting to get them before posting the recipe for the Award Winning Omega King IPA. Apparently the guy in charge of them has been real busy. I hope to get them soon.

Noble Square Brewing Extra: If you want to get a lot of page hits to your blog, post photos of sexy actresses and/or models. My hits went from about 1000 to the current count of 8300+ pretty quick. (I was just naming my kegs.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day America!

I'll come out and say it right from the start, I'm cheating by pre-dating this post to the Fourth of July even though it was written about three days later, but I'm feeling guilty about not posting to the blog for over two weeks. So it's going to be one of those quick updates type post. Quick updates:

I brewed a split batch Amber Ale/Vienna Lager on the 3rd of July. Recipe to follow

I still haven't received the scoresheets back from the B.U.Z.Z. Brewoff, but I realize I haven't posted a recipe for my 1st place blue ribbon IPA. Recipe to follow.

I have hired a home-brewery engineer, JL, who has already fixed my leaky counterflow chiller. Our next project: cutting open a sankey keg for use as a hot liqour tank. I'll post photos and/or videos. JL said he is going to use a angle grinder and promised lots of sparks, so a video may be apropos. (He's a nuclear engineer by education--it could get interesting). I pay him in homebrew.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Who's the big winner?

Señor Brew is the big winner.

My American India Pale Ale, which I named Omega King, won first place in its category in the B.U.Z.Z. Brewoff this year. YAY!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Named My Kegs!!

Thank you all for your suggestions on naming my kegs. It turns out that I got the idea originally from reading a post on Russ Chibes' blog. I have to admit I filed it in my subconscious and forgot about it--even down to the part about the Simpson's characters. My only excuse is that sometimes I drink home brew while reading other home brew blogs.

But anyway, the idea for the names was right in front of me all along. Corny kegs need constant attention. They're high maintenance. You constantly have to buy things for them. They're not rock musicians...O.K. maybe lead singers. But still, here are the names for all my kegs:







Again, Brew Buds, thank you for all your suggestions. I mentioned that the winning suggestion gets homebrew. Since I picked my own idea, you all get homebrew. If you commented on the original post before today and you are local, I will give you home brew the next time I see you. If you're not in Chicago, email me at SeñorBrew (no tilde on the "n") at gmail dot com. Obviously you have to reformat that yourself--I don't want to be spammed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bar Keepers Friend

So Bill Pierce over at Brews and Views on the recommends Bar Keepers Friend, a stainless steel scrubby, and some elbow grease to work that corrosion out of my third free keg. Now I just have to find someplace in Chicago that sells it. I looked online, some Ace Hardware Stores had it listed, so I'll see if the local one carries it. I googled an image, it does say "STAINLESS STEEL" at the very top on the label.


It looks like the gunk at the bottom of my keg is actually corrosion. I tried the PBW soak as suggested in the comments section of the last post to no avail. I posted to the Brews and Views board to figure out if I can still use this keg, or somehow easily remove the corrosion. I'll post later with an update.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gunk in the Trunk, I mean Keg

Hello there, Brew-buds! I'm cleaning out the (mostly) free kegs I received. Two of the three cleaned up beautifully with just a soak in an Oxy-Clean solution, but the third had to be difficult, like the French. It's got some gunk in the very bottom that just will not come clean. It's almost like the gunk has become part of the stainless steel of the keg.

I tried the Oxy-Clean soak followed by a lot of elbow grease and a carboy brush, then another Oxy-Clean soak (for a couple days) followed by more elbow grease and a super rough nylon scrubber, and then a third soak in a electic dishwashing soap solution (I heard it works well--it didn't) and more scrubbing with the scrubber.

Right now it's soaking in a baking soda/boiling hot water solution. Once the water cools to a tolerable level, I'm going to scrub it again. I'm hesitant to use a wire brush on it, I vaguely remember reading somewhere you should not do this with stainless steel. Of course, that may be my option of last resort. Any suggestions, readers? I do have some PBW (powdered brewery wash) from Five Star, but my experience in the past tells me that Oxy-Clean works better.

Let me know what you think, and while you're at it, NAME MY KEGS!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dolly Varden India Pale Ale

I tasted the Dolly Varden India Pale Ale from Metrolius Brewing over the weekend, and I actually took the time to write down some tasting notes. So here is my impression.

Appearance: Light copper color with a touch of cloudiness, with a 100% chance of beer. White creamy head that persists, leaving a lacework of bubbles as the beer was drained. Bottle was a stubby twist-off.

Aroma: Spicy hoppiness with a hint of sweet malt.

Flavor: Predominant hop bitterness not quite balanced by a caramel sweetness. Slight toasted malt flavor.

Mouth feel: Highly carbonated. Too full in body, most likely from a preponderance of crystal malts.

Would I attempt to clone this: No. The beer, while not bad, finished too sweet and heavy. I prefer my IPAs drier. I was also disappointed that the bottles were twist-off. I couldn't reuse them to bottle home brew for competitions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Name My Kegs!!

Now that I've acquired some new (used) kegs, I decided that I need names for all of them. I'm naming them because I want to be able to differentiate among them. I've had some problems with leakage, and more recently a couple of my beers have acquired a bit of sourness after being kegged, so I want to eventually upgrade all the gaskets. poppets and O-rings, just not all at once.
Of course I could just number them, but I figure that it might be easier to remember that Moe Szyslak needs new O-rings and Homer Simpson has a suspect poppet vs. keg 2 and 6 needed the aforementioned parts. Plus, home brewing is a fun hobby! There are already enough numbers involved, O.G. F.G. AA%, IBUs, SRM, etc.

So I now have six five gallon kegs. I need six names. If it were four it would be easy--no not John, Paul, George and Ringo, but Robert, Jimmy, John Paul, and Bonzo. (I never was a huge Beatles fan). I could go with fictional characters like from the Simpsons above, or real people names like the guys from Led Zeppelin, or colors, or you name it. In fact, YOU NAME IT! Yes, I am looking for suggestions from my readers. All eight of them.

So please leave suggestions in the comments. The winner gets some home brew.

Follow Ups

This is just a quick follow up to some previous posts:

1) I don't need to buy new kegs. Steve Hamburg from my brew club, The Chicago Beer Society, gave me 3 kegs that he no longer uses. I gave him approximately 3 gallons of my Toasted Coconut Porter in return.

2) I haven't yet sent my B.U.Z.Z. brewoff entries. They're packaged up and ready to ship tomorrow; I hope they get there by June 1st. I cut the entries down to 4. I didn't have time to bottle the Tripel, and the Toasted Oatmeal Lager got drank up at a Memorial Day Cookout. (I actually saved enough to bottle a couple, but the travel faucet that I left on the keg opened up on the ride home, dousing the back seat, and not leaving me enough for a competition entry.)

More about the new kegs to follow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

B.U.Z.Z. Off!

Well, even though I have an O-fer going so far this year in homebrew competitions, I'm going to get back up on that horse, or in this case a buzzard, and try again. The Boneyard Union of Zymurgical Zealots (B.U.Z.Z.) is holding their annual homebrew competition on June 6.
B.U.Z.Z. is the homebrew club of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, my alma mater, so I think it's my duty as a faithful alumna to enter (and win) their competition. If I can get everything together, I plan on entering multiple categories:

Pilsner--Your Mother's Mustache--Classic American Pilsner
Belgian--It doesn't have a name yet Belgian Porter--Belgian Specialty
IPA--Alpha King Clone, Omega King?--American India Pale Ale
Belgian Stong Ale--Tripel Your Pleasure--Belgian Tripel
Spice/Herb/Vegetable--You Sank My Coconut!--Toasted Coconut Porter
Specialty--Toasted Oatmeal Black Lager--Specialty
So far only the Pilsner and the Belgian are bottled, but everything else should be ready to go, it's just a matter of me bottling it. Have I mentioned I hate bottling? Anyway, look for Señor Brew's alter ego in the winners list for the B.U.Z.Z. Brewoff 2009.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trippel Your Pleasure, Trippel Your Fun!

Holy Smokes! I just racked my Belgian Trippel from Primary to secondary, and it is awesome! (Of course I took a little taste). I knew that it would finish dry, especially with the sugar addition, but wow! It started at 1.057 before the sugar addition, which upped it to 1.080, and finished at... 1.004! That's 10.5% alcohol by volume, or at least it was when I went to school.

It's not carbonated yet, and I'm sure it will taste even better once it does, but it has that peppery citrusy Belgiany taste to it, yet slightly subdued. I fermented pretty cool for a Belgian, around 64F. You don't taste the alcohol, nor any cidery flavors that you are rumoured to get from cane sugar. Pure cane sugar, that's the one!

I brewed this as part of a split batch at the Big Brew...I'll have to post the recipe once I dig it up--if I even wrote it down at all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Tale of Three Porters

I'm finally getting around to posting my porter recipe. I say it's a tale of three porters because I made a very large batch (around 15 gallons) and then split the wort between three different yeasts. So here we go:

17 lbs 2-row
3 lbs pale chocolate malt
1.63 lbs flaked oats (Jewel brand Quick Oats)
1 lb caramel 80L
1 lb caramel 40L
1 lb flaked wheat
1 lb toasted 2-row (toasted in the oven for 15 minutes @ 350F)
1 lb toasted flaked oats (Jewel Quick Oats toasted for 15min @350F)
0.5 lb UK Chocolate malt
10 oz rice hulls

I mashed the above for 2.5 hours at 152F. I did a batch sparge and collected approximately 18 gallons of wort. I boiled for 60 minutes, there was only one hop addition 2 oz of Galena 13.1% AA boiled for the whole hour.

The batch was split between Chimay yeast (cultured from a bottle of Chimay Red), Wyeast London 1968, and Wyeast Munich Lager yeast--yes I made a porter/lager. The London and the Belgian fermented at 64F, and the Munich at 56F. In hindsight, I would have fermented the Belgian a little warmer, to bring out more esters and phenols.

But wait, it gets better. After primary fermentation of the batch on the London yeast, I added 8.8 ounces of dried coconut that I toasted at 350F for about 20 minutes.

So I have a Belgian Porter, A Toasted Coconut Porter, and a Dark Lager Porter.

O.G. was 1.046, the Belgian and the lager finished at 1.010, I haven't yet measured the Toasted Coconut.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Opening Day Alt Update

Well it's approximately six weeks into baseball season, the Cubs are in second place in their division, 1.5 games out, and I opened a bottle of Opening Day Alt over the weekend. It's much better than it was April 5th when the season started. It has cleared up completely, and the bitterness has mellowed to the point where it is just about perfect. I wish I had bottled some in 12 ouncers, because this beer is competition worthy, although it propably would get dinged a few points for my choice of hops. It just goes to show that patience is rewarded in this crazy hobby we call homebrewing. Never rush your beer--now if I can only listen to my own advice.

Time to buy more kegs?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have run out of keg space. It might be time to buy more kegs, especially since I have to transfer my "You Sank My Coconut!" Porter to another keg next week, and there is no way I'll have a free keg. Plus I have a number of beers in either in primary or secondary that will need to be kegged at some point soon. Here's the rundown of my current beer situation.


5 gallon: Obfuscator Doppelbock. Status: lagering. Ready to drink: Early June
5 gallon: Dark Unamed Lager. Status: lagering. Ready to drink: Mid June
5 gallon: "You Sank My Coconut!" Porter. Status: Dry coconutting. Ready to drink: next week
2.5 gallon: Pseudo-Alpha King Clone. Status: Dry hopping. Ready to drink: next week

IN PRIMARY (in 6 gallon glass carboys)

Belgian Tripel ~5 gallons Ready to secondary: Now
Pils ~9 gallons Ready to secondary: Now

IN SECONDARY (in 5 gallon glass carboys)

Pseudo-Alpha King Clone. Status: Dry hopping. Ready to keg/bottle: next week.

Too much beer? It's a good problem to have.

You Sank My Coconut!

I couldn't leave well enough alone, and decided to fix the floating coconut bag problem I was having with my Toasted Coconut Porter. The plan was to pull the bags out, weigh them down with glass beads, suspend them in the keg with fishing line, and add some sugar water to the keg so the yeast would naturally carbonate the beer and scavenge the oxygen that I was sure to introduce by this whole process.

I boiled the glass beads in the sugar water solution--killing two birds with one bead, sterilizing the beads and sugar at the same time. When I opened the keg, I saw that the bags of coconut had sunk on their own! This would be fine, except that I don't want the coconut in the keg for the whole time; I'm just "dry-coconutting" for about a week, and since the bags aren't tied to anything, there is no easy way to pull them out.

Since I had the sugar solution ready, I added it even though I didn't really disturb much by opening the keg. My new plan is to let it naturally carbonate and "coconutate" for a week, and then transfer it to another keg so it doesn't get too "coconutty". The only problem is that I don't have a free keg. It might be time to buy some new kegs.

Of course, I sampled a little even though it's warm, flat, and only been on the coconut for three days. There is quite a bit of coconut on the nose, and it has a little coconut finish. Another week, carbonated, chilled, it should be perfect.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Let's Do...Megan Fox

So I racked (no double entendre intended) the porter to secondary and added the toasted coconuts (again, no double entendre intended). I toasted the coconut for a little longer than originally planned, about 22 minutes at 350F. I resolved my "which is the bigger pain-in-the-ass" conundrum by using the bags ( get the point), but also using the corny keg as my secondary. This way, I don't have to worry about loose coconuts (why did I use this photo?), but also don't have to worry about fishing the swollen (this is getting weird) coconut bags out of a carboy.

The only problem? And yes, there's always a problem, if you haven't yet figured that out from reading this blog. Actually, there were two problems. One, I tied some nylon string to the bags so I would be able to pull out easily (here we go again) the bags of coconut. The strings were tied to the handles of the keg. Well the string was too thick (?!?) and the keg wouldn't seal. So after doing some research on the intertubes, I decided to use monofilament, a.k.a., fishing line.

I opened the keg, and encountered problem number two. I didn't weight the bags of coconut down with anything, so they were floating at the top of the beer. I decided at this point not to mess with anything further, thinking I would oxidize and/or contaminate the beer. I cut the string, put the top back on, and sealed the keg with a shot of CO2. I figure that since the keg is almost completely full, most of the coconut is in contact with the beer. I'll turn the keg upside down every other day or so, so the bags float to the other end and all the coconut makes contact with the beer. This is of course assuming the bags don't rotate as they float their way up.

Oh yeah, the photo of Megan Fox is just because I promised another photo of her in an earlier post. You know, I haven't even seen any of her movies?

Let's Do...Organic

I decided to try to add coconut to a beer after tasting a Trader Joe's "Almond in the Coconut" candy--delicious. It made sense to me to add it (coconut, not the candy) to a porter, and since I had a number of odds and ends of malt types lying around it was perfect to make a "kitchen sink" type porter. You know---everything-but-the-kitchen-sink goes into it. In this case it was going to be everything-including-coconut-but-still-not-the-kitchen-sink goes into it.

I'll have to post the porter recipe later, but I split the 15 gallon batch three ways, mainly for variety, but also because I have never added coconut to a beer, and didn't want to risk having 15 gallons of undrinkable "Malibu Rum-Beer".

So it's time to add the coconut. Actually, it's way past time to add the coconut, because it has taken me awhile to find unsweetened preservative-free coconut. I finally discovered some at Whole Foods. I was hoping that they had it bulk, which would tend to be a lot cheaper, but unfortunately they had it pre-packaged, so I paid $2.75 for 8.8 oz. I have seen it online for under two bucks a pound, but since I would be ordering a small amount, the shipping cost wouldn't make this a viable option.

Tomorrow, I will be toasting the coconut! 10 to 15 minutes at 350F should do the trick. Then I'll rack the porter to secondary in a five gallon glass carboy, and add the 8.8 ounces of coconut. I debated whether or not to bag the coconut before I add it, but ultimately decided to just pour it in unbagged. I figure that the potential pain-in-the-ass of straining around coconut shavings come kegging time are outweighed by the potential pain-in-the-ass of fishing a swollen bag of coconut out of the carboy. It will sit in secondary for about two weeks--look for an update about June 1st.

Final note: as you will see from the soon to be posted photo, the coconut is reduced fat. On the back label they say they use a steam process to do this. For my porter, this is a good thing--you don't really want any fat in a beer if you can help it--it could lead to reduced head retention and spoilage.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fat Weasel Ale

So I thought I would critique a beer that I found in my fridge. I didn't buy it, it was just there. I wrote this kind of stream of consciousness, although influenced by the BJCP reports I get back from the competitions I enter with my homebrew. Enjoy.

Appearance: Pale golden, medium white head, crystal clear.

Aroma: buttery, slight corn and malt aroma, no discernable hop aroma.

Flavor: very slightly bitter, buttery, hint of malty sweetness, a little corny (DMS),very little neutral hop flavor.

Head persists, mouthfeel medium, dry finish, alcohol warmth, upper medium carbonation.

Alcohol 7.1% by volume.

Not my favorite beer--too much diacetly (buttery, butterscotch) and one dimensional in flavor. You also sense the alcohol burn.

If I had to catagorize it, I would call it a strong cream ale or malt liquor?

Steinhaus Brewing, New Ulm, MN.

Beer advocate had it listed as an American Strong Ale. I'm guessing the wifey picked it up at Trader Joe's, because that's where everybody on Beer Advocate mentioned they got it from.

Would I attempt to clone it in a homebrew version? No.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

AHA Big Brew video

Check out the beer nerd at the one minute mark who propagated yeast from a bottle of Chimay. Yes that is yours truly, Señor Brew.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day Alt

I didn't know what I was going to call this beer until I realized what it is ready for. Opening Day of Major League Baseball. What is better than kicking back to watch America's pastime drinking a malty hoppy dark German ale? OK, so that doesn't really make sense, but this is the beer I made, and it's officially ready today, and besides, as you'll see from the recipe below, at least I used American hops.

This beer is the ale component of the split batch ale/lager strategy I've been using lately. It was made using the second and third runnings of the mash used to make Obfuscator Doppelbock. It was made in the style of a Dusseldorf alt, and again using American hops instead of noble German hops. So here is the recipe:

15lbs Dark German Munich malt
8lbs American two-row (I would have used Vienna malt, but I've got a ton of two-row on hand)
1lb Carahelles (a free gift from Larry at the LHBS--it was a sample from their supplier)
1lb Melanoidin malt
1/2 lb U.K. pale chocolate malt
1lb DME
1lb corn sugar
1 oz Galena 13.1% AA hops
1 oz Columbus 12% hops (need to cut this in half)
Dry ale yeast (I forget which one I used)

Mash at 146F for one hour and collect the 2nd and 3rd runnings to collect approximately 12 gallons of wort. Pre-boil gravity was 1.033. The hop schedule was:

Galena 60 minutes
Columbus 30 minutes

The alt turned out too bitter for a number of reasons. One, the gravity came in much lower than expected, so I got much better hop utilization rates. (The less sugary your wort, the more the bitterness is extracted from the hops). Two, I intended to only add 0.5 ounces of the Columbus, but I left in the middle of the boil due to a family emergency, and mistakenly added a full ounce. And three, I had only intended to boil the columbus hops for 15 minutes, instead of 30, again because I left in a hurry. I also didn't add Irish moss as usual during the last 15 minutes of the brew.

The cooling of the wort was done in a very interesting way. I instructed the wifey to turn off the burner at the proper time, since I wasn't going to be there. The wort sat outside, uncovered for about 3 hours before I was able to return. It dropped from boiling to about 115F during this time. Probably the ultimate temperature for beer spoiling organisms. But I didn't have a choice--this reminds me, I need to buy a cover for my 15 gallon brew kettle. At this point, I force chilled it down to 65F with my immersion chiller, pitched the yeast and hoped for the best.

The O.G. came in at 1.038 (low for style), so I added the corn sugar and malt extract (after boiling them in a half gallon of water for 15 minutes) two days into fermentation, bringing the estimated O.G. to 1.048. Normally I wouldn't add sugar to an alt, but I was down to my last pound of DME, and I needed to make it a little stronger. It fermented for 10 days at approximately 65F.

So how is it? Well, as I mentioned earlier, it's too bitter, although you get used to it after the second pint. It's also very cloudy. Alts are supposed to be very clear, and mine is not. I don't know if it's because I didn't add the Irish moss, or because it didn't cool quickly, or what, but this beer is kind of a muddy brown. More like a muddy brownish-orange. Yes, I know it sounds appetizing. So it looks like this one is going to be for my own enjoyment, no competition winner here. But it's like my buddy Mikey says, "There are no bad homebrews, some are just more preferred than others".

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Obfuscator Doppelbock

I brewed this beer two weeks ago, but am finally getting around to posting it here. It was one part of a split batch of lager/ale, as I have done in the past, but this time it was a true partigyle brew, using the first runnings from the mash for a strong beer, and the later runnings for a "small" beer. Also, this time, opposite of the YMM/YSM and the Johann Sebastian Bock/ Anglerman Ale , I made a smaller amount of the lager, and a larger amount of the ale. So without further ado, here's the recipe:

15lbs Dark German Munich malt
8lbs American two-row (I would have used Vienna malt, but I've got a ton of two-row on hand)
1lb Carahelles (a free gift from Larry at the LHBS--it was a sample from their supplier)
1lb Melanoidin malt
1/2 lb U.K. pale chocolate malt
2 oz Hallertauer 3.9% AA hops
Wyeast Munich Lager yeast

I did a single infusion mash for 1 hour at 146F. I mashed low, because I knew this was going to be a big beer. This style traditionally calls for a decoction mash to get melanoidin in the wort, but I thought the addition of the melanoidin malt would allow me to skip this step.

It was a batch sparge, and like I mentioned earlier, I took the first runnings as well as just a small amount of the second to get me approximately 6 gallons of wort. Pre-boil gravity was 1.083.

The hop addition was simple, all 2 oz at the beginning of a 60 minute boil. O.G. ended up at 1.089.

Sounds fairly simple, right? Well of course nothing is simple here at the Noble Square Brewery. I had to leave in the middle of the boil because of a family emergency. The wifey turned off the burner for me at the proper time, and covered the brew kettle. I returned from the hospital three hours later--don't worry, everyone is o.k. now--to finish my brewday.

But this means I didn't add Irish moss ( a clarifying agent) at the end of the boil, and it also means that the wort was not force cooled quickly. The temperature had dropped over 2 1/2 hours from boiling to 160F. Since it was covered, and still at a fairly high temperature, I wasn't concerned with bacteria or wild airborne yeast contaminating the wort. But also since it was covered and cooled slowly, I was concerned about DMS (Dimethyl sulfide). DMS is created from heating grain in a certain temperature range--it gives an unwanted cooked cabbage flavor to beer. Normally, when boiling wort, the precursors to DMS are driven off, and by force cooling it quickly, they don't reform.

I did force cool it from 160F down to 55F in about 15 minutes with my immersion chiller. I tasted a sample before I transferred it to the fermenter. I didn't taste any DMS, but the wort was so sweet and caramel tasting that it could have masked the flavor. General consensus at Brews and Views was to not worry about it. I fermented for two weeks at 53F on the yeast cake reused from Your Mother's Mustache. I'll find out soon if it tastes like cabbage when I transfer to secondary, although I won't know how well it clears until it lagers. I could always add gelatin to help it clear up.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Little Beer Fiasco

I mention in the subtitle of this blog that one reason for creating it is to learn from my homebrewing mistakes. And I have. But I keep making more. In just the last post I described how I lost almost a full keg of bock due to a faulty connection. Well, I just lost over a gallon of an alt due to almost the same problem.

Russ Chibes at Chibebräu suggested that I keep a cobra tap on my keg as I'm force carbonating it to avoid the same problem again, thinking it was a faulty poppet. So I did, and here is what happened:

Yes, that is beer foaming out underneath the fitting. I still don't know what the problem is. This may or may not be the keg I had the problem with before. (It's a 50-50 chance, since my 3rd keg has been lagering Your Mother's Mustache Classic American Pilsner).

It could be a bad fitting, a bad O-ring on the post, or maybe I just didn't have it on right. Although I'm almost certain it was well connected, especially after what happened last time. I wonder if the pressure was too high? I had it at about 25 psi, because I was trying to force carbonate the beer fairly quickly. I do think there is a problem with the poppet, because after I took the fitting off, beer was still slowly seeping out around the poppet. But the poppet is depressed with the fitting on, so this shouldn't have caused the leak.

Originally, I thought I lost under a gallon of beer, which isn't too bad, especially since this beer didn't turn out that great. (More about that in a later post.) But once I started vacuuming the kegerator out with the shop-vac, I realized it was closer to two gallons, maybe more:

I have reduced the pressure and put another fitting on to make sure what is left doesn't leak out. I'm going to replace the poppet and O-ring when I have a chance. Hey readers, what do you think caused the problem?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Big Beer Fiasco

To all you homebrewers that keg your beer, I have some advice: CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK YOUR CONNECTIONS!!!

I lost basically a whole 5 gallon keg of Johann Sebastian Bock because I had a bad connection on my beer line. This was a beer that had no discernable flaws, that had lagered for 6 weeks, and was one that I had planned to enter and win numerous competitions with. And it's gone, all gone. I think the problem started when I was trying to hook up the CO2 to the keg. It was in the bottom of the kegerator, so I didn't see right away that I was attempting to hook the CO2 to the "beer out" connector. Once I realized my mistake, I hooked the gas up correctly, to the "gas in", and then hooked the beer line to the "beer out". Apparently, it wasn't secure, possibly because of my attempt to force the gas on it earlier, so overnight, all the delicious malty bock was pushed out of the keg and into the bottom of my kegerator. Wasted. I don't have any photos of the damage because I was too pissed off to even think about taking any. In fact, I couldn't even write about this incident until almost a month later. (It happened early March).

I ended up pumping the beer out of the kegerator with a fountain pump and watering my newly planted hop rhizomes with it. I hope the alcohol in the beer didn't have an adverse effect on them. So I'll write it again, "CHECK YOUR CONNECTIONS! TWICE!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bosworth the Wonder Dog and his Beer Wagon

As you can see from the above video, Bosworth got a wagon for his second birthday. He loves to pull it. The next time we go down to the LHBS to buy bulk grain, Bosworth will be pulling it home in his wagon. Also, I measured the wagon and it will hold 3 five gallon kegs of homebrew, and a CO2 cannister. Their combined weight with the wagon will be just under the maximum Bosworth should pull--3 times his body weight. Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yes, I'm still here

I realize I haven't posted in awhile, and I intend to remedy that. The best way for me to do that is to post a list of what I'm going to post, so here it is:

Update on Your Mother's Mustache
Why I've been scoring low in competitions
The Big Beer Fiasco
Why one Portuguese Water Dog is better than a team of Clydesdales
Plus more photos of Megan Fox!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

0-fered again?

The results of the 2009 Babble Brew Off are in, and somehow, I didn't place in any of my 3 entries. I wonder what is going on--last year about half the beers I entered at least placed in their category, and this year I'm 0-for-7. Maybe I'm spending too much time writing about brewing, and not enough time on the brewing itself?

There's another contest I was planning to enter, The Drunk Monk Challenge. I was going to drop my entries off at the Chicago Beer Society meeting this Thursday, but now I think I'm going to skip this one. I want to see my score sheets from Babble, and I don't think I'll get them in time.
Oh yeah, the photo of Megan Fox had nothing to do with this post, I just liked the picture.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pasta in Beer?

I mentioned in my last post that I had 6 oz of wheat pasta in my last batch of beer and said that it's a long story. It really isn't. The wifey has a gluten allergy, but she likes to have macaroni and cheese once in a while. She'll make it with rice pasta, but she likes the cheese packet from the regular Kraft Mac N' Cheese. So instead of tossing the unused Kraft pasta out, I'll save it, and throw it in the mash of my next beer. It's such a small amount that I don't think it affects flavor, color, or head retention, it just adds 6 extra ounces of fermentables to the beer. Although, this last beer has nice head retention, which you're supposed to get from wheat.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Persistent Head

I'm enjoying a pint of Your Sister's Mustache right now. One thing that I noticed is that the head retention on this beer is very good. I know that adding a little wheat to your beer is supposed to aid in head retention, and I neglected to mention that I had a secret ingredient in the mash--6 ounces of wheat pasta (it's a long story), but I doubt if that was enough to give this beer the head it has. Does rice aid in head retention as well?

By the way, this beer is all sterling hops. They have a distinctive flavor. I like them, but they seem a little overwhelming--I might reduce the quantity or boil time for the next batch of YSM.

What do I brew next?

I'm thinking about brewing this weekend, so I have to come up with a new brew. My basement is still frickin' cold, so another lager would be a good. I also like doing the split batches with a lager/ale, so I have some beer for sooner, and some for later.

Instead of the 11/3 gallons lager/ale strategy I used on the Johann Sebastian Bock/ Anglerman Ale and the YMM Pilsner/YSM Cream Ale, I'm thinking of reversing it. Do a small batch of a strong lager with the first runnings, and a larger batch of an ale with the second and third runnings. I'm kicking around a doppelbock/dusseldorf alt combo.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Babble Brew Off!

The Lake County home brew club is having their annual contest, The BABBLE Brew-Off, this Saturday. I entered 3 beers, Superbowl Stout, Tottenham Mild, and J & H Birthday Lager. I took second in the specialty category last year with the 2007 version of the J&H. (It's a Christmas beer--the J stands for Jesus). When the results are posted I'll let you all know how I did. Better than the last contest, I hope.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Johann Sebastian Bock Sampling

So Old Johann has only been lagering for two weeks, but I sneaked a sample. It's very good! F.G. is 1.023, a little higher than I wanted, so it's a little sweet, but oh that malty goodness. It's a dark copper color, with a thick creamy cream-colored head. Slightly toasty, with just a bit too much hop bitterness, which hopefully will mellow with more lager time. There is also a hint of sulfur, I hope this will dissapate with some more lagering. Clarity is excellent, crystal clear.

I definitely plan to let this lager for another 2 to 4 weeks, but I know it will be hard not to sample more while I'm waiting. I have 10 gallons of it, so a few samples won't hurt. I think this will be one to enter in contests, although the high F.G. might hurt me a little.