Monday, June 16, 2014

Adventures in Homebrewing - Spring 2014

Spring is finally here!  Besides the fact that my favorite trails are now free of ice and snow, it also means that my basement temp has warmed up which should make fermentation a bit easier.  

I've been slowly cobbling this blog post together for so long that my original opener is no longer relevant.  Now summer is almost here!  Fermentation will now become trickier as even my basement temps begin to creep up.  I'm in a bit of a lull brewing-wise so now's the perfect time to detail all my brews from the last few months.

ChocoNanner Stout - 5.5-6% ABV

This was my grand experiment to make a stout with bananas added at secondary.  It was quite the process and the end result produced a dark roasty beer with mild chocolate and banana undertones.  I'm still not sure if it's entirely successful but ultimately it did what I set out to do.

Chinook Pale Ale - 4.2% ABV

Originally this was supposed to be an all-grain version of my first extract recipe.  It was my first attempt at brew-in-a-bag and it didn't go as well as I had hoped. When it came time to drink one I had already written it off but I was wrong wrong wrong!  The aroma was good and the resulting brew was a very drinkable all-day IPA.  Despite temperature and sanitation issues, I made a tasty brew - a testament to how forgiving this hobby can be.

Ocean State Homebrew Competition

I submitted my apfelwein and Bourbon Barrel Porter to the Ocean State Homebrew Competition held at Johnson & Wales in early April.  I didn't know what to expect as you just drop your brews off at an official sponsor and then wait for the results (the judging is closed to the public.)  Finally the results were posted and come to find out my apfelwein placed second in the Specialty Cider category with a score of 34 (okay so there were only six entries but I'll take it!)  It also went on to take 2nd in the Best in Show Cider category.  The BBP didn't do bad either, scoring a 33 out of 50 which is pretty respectable.  It was interesting reading all the reviews/criticism/praise of my brews.  I'll definitely be taking the judges' remarks under advisement when I make my next batch of BBP.

American Wheat - 4.8% ABV

I decided to whip up a gallon of this beer a few hours beforehand when I was already planning a more involved brew session with my 2nd attempt at an all grain batch (see below.)   I already had the cascade and willamette hops (only needed 6 grams apiece) and I had half a packet of dry yeast too.  Just had to grab a pound of DME at the brewshop.  This beer is light and drinkable.  The Safale-05 yeast is fairly neutral tasting and the beer doesn't have that strong yeasty taste of its German cousins.  Just a quick small batch I worked up on the fly but it came out well!

15 Minute Cascade Pale Ale - 5.2% ABV

Here's another quick extract recipe that I got off my homebrew discussion board.  Again this was a case of picking a recipe with hops already on hand.  This was a 2.5 gallon batch that couldn't be simpler.  3 pounds of DME, 1/2 pound of crystal 60 as the steeping grain and 3 ounces of cascade hops.  The best part about this recipe is that the boil is only 15 minutes long!  Hops are added at 15, 5 and 0 and then dry hopped.  Beer came out really tasty with lots of hop aroma and flavor. 

English Barleywine - 9.5% ABV

For my second BIAB attempt, I decided to really go for it and make an English Barleywine.  Originally I was going to make 1 gallon but after doing some calculations I figured I could get away with 2 gallons on my stovetop.  Though it was only a 2 gallon batch I still used 6 pounds of grain and I didn't have much room to spare.  Unlike last time I didn't micromanage the mash-in.  I had preheated the oven to 155 degrees.  Once I stirred in all the grains, I covered the pot and placed it in the turned-off oven for one hour.

This worked much better than last time where I tried to regulate the temp by turning on the burners sporadically.  The temps ended up a little low (147 degrees) but the resulting gravity was much better.  I was shooting for 1.082 and reached 1.074.  Not quite where I wanted to be but much closer than last time.   I had thought ahead this time and bought some DME - a half pound would do the trick but I came to play and dumped the full pound in.  Starting gravity - 1.096.  Boom.

L to R - American Wheat, English Barleywine, 15 Minute Cascade Pale Ale

So much trub

I used safale-05 which has become my go-to yeast and it ate up the sugar beautifully.  FG came out at 1.022!  Now I had a decision to make.  I could bulk age in secondary or just bottle and let it age a few months individually.  I really liked the idea of bulk aging and pushed ahead despite the unorthodox amount of beer.  I had two gallons but a good amount of it was trub.  I decided to rack into two separate containers.  First I filled up a 4 liter Gallo wine jug (and I mean I filled it - right to the top!  Whoops!)  Then I realized I didn't have that much left to rack.  What to do?

I ended up grabbing an empty handle of Jim Beam, drilling a hole in the top and throwing an airlock on it.  After a quick rinse with StarSan, in went the rest of the barleywine.  What a disaster - it only filled the bottle halfway.  That's way too much headspace to leave for any extended period of time so after a week I decided to just bottle what was in there...of course come to find out that my autosiphon wouldn't fit.  D'oh!  So I poured it every so gently into the bottle bucket, added some sugar and got on with it.  I got 3.5 bottles out of it.  I put an X on the top of the three bottles to let me know that the contents may be dubious but after tasting the remaining 1/2 bottle I can honestly say that this is gonna be one tasty beer.  Now to just leave it be until the fall.

Three survivors of the Jim Beam Secondary Debacle

The rest of the batch settles down for
a long summer's nap

On Tap

This past Father's Day I brewed up five gallons of the 15 Minute Pale Ale and a strong Brown Ale that came in at 1.076 with my buddy Jay.  The 15 Minute is a known commodity but I'm looking forward to sampling the brown ale.  Happy brewing!

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