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?