Friday, December 21, 2012

Brewing Up a Storm: 100% Vienna Malt Bitter, Grey Skies Porter Again, Double Red Ale, and American Brown Ale

First I want to make a little pledge: I will make this a better and more complete blog. I do this because the story I want to tell and the perspective I want to give is how homebrewing excellent craft beer is absolutely attainable to an ordinary non-handy person on a budget.

I see plenty of my fellow brewers on the internet advocating sloppy techniques and shortcuts that I don't advocate. For example, I believe extract brewing should be a first step to ease the learning curve, not the core of the hobby. I also encounter plenty of "homebrew porn" detailing beautiful homemade hardware that only a seriously crafty person could build alongside wonderful gadgets that cost an arm and a leg. And I love that some people take the hobby in those directions. My way isn't the only way or the best way, but I make consistently great beer and I do it on a budget. My brewing is a cheap hobby. I actually save money on beer now that I don't need to buy equipment (save for replacing beer line and the occasional bucket or keg piece). That's right: this hobby saved me money in 2012.

So my pledge is to make this a more complete blog. My first post of 2013 will document a recipe formulation, and future posts will take that beer from brain to grain to glass

Now to take this post in the direction it was originally headed: my four most recent brews.

I have been brewing pretty frequently these past two months. My brews have all either been split 10 gal batches or 5 gal batches, so the take-home amount of beer has been somewhat pitiful (especially since this is X-mas present season and I am saving up to pay for a wedding). I have been brewing so often and with such abandon that I have three brews to share in this post. I will describe them in the order I brewed them.

100% Vienna Bitter

My plan with this beer was to find a nice way to brew something small with some fresh Wyeast 1318 slurry I got from Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, OR; while also using up my large supply of Gambrinus Vienna Malt. This seemed like an easy enough task - I would just brew up a 100% Vienna Malt bitter. At around 1.044 and 35 IBUs - something nice and easy to drink to give to my fiancée's family as a christmas gift (though I intend to keep a small amount for myself).

Since I tend not to buy imported hops and because I still have such a large supply of 2011 hops on hand, I opted for a hop profile that featured Glacier hops as well as some US-produced Tettnanger hops (said to resemble English Fuggles more than German Tettnanger). And then I made a last-minute decision to dry hop for a few days with Crystal hops right before bottling.

This is the recipe I went with. I ended up with 5.5 gallons of wort (I usually go for 6 gal).

9lb 12oz Gambrinus Vienna Malt (Canada)

Variety Alpha Amount IBU Form When
US Tettnanger 3.0 % 40 g 8.2 Bagged Pellet Hops First Wort Hopped
US Glacier 5.0 % 50 g 26.6 Bagged Pellet Hops 60 Min From End
US Tettnanger 3.0 % 30 g 0.0 Bagged Whole Hops At turn off
US Glacier 5.0 % 30 g 0.0 Bagged Pellet Hops At turn off
US Crystal 2.9 % 25 g 0.0 Loose Whole Hops Dry-hop (4 days)

Mash at 152º F for 60 min
OG 1.048 FG ~1.013

Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Grey Skies Porter Again

This turned out to be the single most unique of any of my modifications to the original recipe. The big change this time was swapping the British pale chocolate malt out for Franco-Belge Kiln-Coffee Malt. The resulting beer is more toasty, coffee-like, and dry-tasting; and less caramel-like, chocolatey, and creamy. It is still a very good beer and I may even submit it into a competition or two, but I personally like the standard version of the recipe better. That's how you hone a recipe, though - you try a change and find out what works and what doesn't.

I brewed this one with my friend Patrick at his grandpa's house. We did a 12 gallon batch and split it. It was a lucky brewday - it rained during the mash (when we didn't need to be outside brewing) and it rained before we started, but we didn't get wet while brewing. And the skies really were gray, too.

The recipe (12 gal):

Great Western Pale Ale Malt 23lb 79.4 %
Belgian Kiln Coffee Malt 2lb 6.9 %
Belgian Caramel Munich Malt 40 2lb 6.9 %
UK Chocolate Malt Crisp 1lb 3.5 %
UK Extra Dark Crystal Crisp 1lb 3.3 %

Variety Alpha Amount IBU Form When
US Nugget 10.9 % 70 g 37.5 Bagged Pellet Hops 90 Min From End
US Glacier 5.0 % 40 g 3.3 Bagged Pellet Hops 10 Min From End

Mash at 154º F for 60 min

OG 1.062 FG 1.013

Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Skeptic Winter IPA

I noticed a trend the last time I was in Portland. So many winter ales these days are essentially darker variations of IPA. So I made one. I decided to use up some malts I had in stock: Special B, CaraFoam, and Golden Naked Oats (a crystal malt made from oats). I hopped it a little less boldly than I usually do an IPA - but there is still plenty of Columbus, Summit, and Amarillo hops to insure a bold hop profile.

Here it is:

US 2-Row Malt 13lb 0oz 83.9 % 3.5 In Mash/Steeped
German CaraFoam 1lb 0oz 6.5 % 0.3 In Mash/Steeped
Belgian Special B 1lb 0oz 6.5 % 22.3 In Mash/Steeped
UK Golden Naked Oats 8.00 oz 3.2 % 0.8 In Mash/Steeped

Variety Alpha Amount IBU Form When
US Columbus(Tomahawk) 12.0 % 20 g 21.5 Bagged Pellet Hops 60 Min From End
US Summit 15.0 % 40 g 41.3 Bagged Pellet Hops 30 Min From End
US Amarillo 8.0 % 90 g 0.0 Bagged Pellet Hops At turn off
US Amarillo 8.0 % 40 g 0.0 Loose Whole Hops Dry-Hopped
US Columbus(Tomahawk) 12.0 % 20 g 0.0 Loose Pellet Hops Dry-Hopped

Mash at 152º F for 60 min
OG ~1.068, FG ~1.014

Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Rodeo Clown Brown

I brewed this one just yesterday. It was adapted from a recipe I developed months ago - the original recipe was going to be more hop-forward and less roasty. I had planned on brewing a dank dark beer - more of a brown IPA, but when it came time to brew the beer, my mood had changed and I wanted a more classic American Brown Ale. So I modified the grain bill to make it more robust (adding brown malt and opting for pale chocolate malt in place of midnight wheat malt). Then I toned down the hop profile, opting instead for a firm and assertive profile built of noble and English-style Northwestern hops (Glacier and Crystal), with the bittering coming from new-school "super alpha" Apollo. For the yeast, I decided to use some Nottingham slurry left over from the brown porter I made last month (erring on the side of overpitching). I pitched at 58º F and fermentation began promptly. At high krausen, I allowed the fermentation temperature to rise to 64º F, and I expect a restrained, but detectable ester profile as a result.

Here is the recipe:

US 2-Row Malt 9lb 0oz
US Flaked Barley 2lb 0oz
UK Dark Crystal 1lb 0oz
UK Brown Malt 1lb 0oz
UK Extra Dark Crystal 8.00 oz
US Rice Hulls 8.00 oz
UK Pale Chocolate Malt 8.00 oz

Variety Alpha Amount IBU Form When
US Glacier 5.0 % 30 g 8.5 Bagged Pellet Hops First Wort Hopped
US Apollo 16.8 % 12 g 19.0 Bagged Pellet Hops 60 Min From End
US Glacier 5.0 % 30 g 10.9 Bagged Pellet Hops 30 Min From End
US Crystal 2.9 % 60 g 0.0 Bagged Whole Hops At turn off


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