Philadelphia, in review.

Just a minute for a quick review of Philly.

-Triumph was awesome! It was the most upscale brewpub I've ever been to. Great look/feel, good & creative food, solid beers. We liked it so much we went twice.

-Nodding Head was good, but a bit too quiet for a Monday Night Football. Ludwig's was much better. Nodding Head's BPA was as good as I remembered.

-Case of Sly Fox Christmas for 40 bucks comes out to less than 3.50 a bottle. What a steal!

Maybe more later, but for now, I'm off.


Three posts in one morning?!

Since I'll be gone all week, I figured I'd squeeze in as much content ahead of time as I could.

Looking back of the most recent posts, I realized I hadn't said much at all about the Imperial Steam Beer (Batch 0003) I brewed up.

When I decided to kickstart my brewing again, I brewed a Steam Beer kit. In the interest of reusing that yeast cake, I looked around for a recipe for an Imperial Steam Beer. I found two different recipes, one from TastyBrew and one from the Maltose Falcons.

I used a Steam Beer kit as a base and with the above as a guide, Dave and I crafted a recipe. He's handy with his tools, BeerTools that is...)

It fermented quite nicely and has been in secondary now for more than two weeks. I decided to crash cool it get some of the floaters to drop out and that has worked very well. I was hoping to bottle it before I left town, but time being what it is, I ran out.

Looking forward to trying it though!

Sweetening my Cider

As I said in my autosiphon post, the hard cider I brewed turned out really dry.

So yesterday, while I already had sanitizer in a bucket, I dropped in some potassium sorbate and two cans of 100% natural apple juice concentrate. Gave it a little bit of swirling to get everything mixed in well. Hopefully that takes away a bit of the dryness.

I had thought about letting it ferment just a little, but didn't want to mess with rereading gravity and trying to pull a sample from the carboy, so I guess it will just be a mystery until I bottle.

Batch 0006 - Imperial Amber Ale, in the bucket

Sunday morning I awoke bright and early to brew Batch 0006, an Imperial Amber Ale. The base for this recipe was a Grape and Granary Amber Ale kit, to which I added 3 more lbs of Extra Light DME and a couple extra ounces of Cascade hops.

Once again, Dave assisted me with the recipe. His print out called for 5 different hop additions during the brew, as well as a dryhop, with a single varietal for each stage. However, the way the hops are packaged in the kit, the hops are not separated by type but rather by step, so I ended up adding a half oz of Cascade and a half oz of Simcoe twice, rather than an oz of each independently. That may mess up the IBU calculation, I'm not sure. Hope that made sense.

Brewing went well, all the grain stayed in the bags, I did split the grains between the two provided this time. While I was heating the initial water to boil to release the chlorine (8:30 am), I transfered the Alpha King Clone to secondary. It's looking and smelling great. The recipe for that one called for a dryhop as well, so I just dumped in my pellets and transfered on top of them. They were floating still this morning, but I'm guessing they will become a little more beer-logged and sink eventually.

Pretty uneventful brew session, which I'd say is a good thing. I almost had a boilover when I was reading a book to the kids but I caught it in time. Nice rolling boil after that and a quick cool as well. I did a four gallon boil and to help speed the cooling, I poured a gallon of my refrigerated spring water into the wort while it was in the icebath. That dropped the temperature nicely. A little more liquid to transfer, but I was afraid it I poured to 100 or so degree F wort onto the yeast cake, I'd shock it, defeating the point of reusing.

Ah, the yeast cake! I've had such success dumping new batches on top of yeast from freshly transfered batches. This batch took off! I was finished pouring and aerated around 1:30 and the wort was bubbling constantly well before 5:00pm. Its in a bucket so no blowoff, but I did notice one odd thing.

I added enough water to ferment 5 gallons, but with the fermentation going along so rapidly, it appears the level of liquid has dropped!?!? No idea why this happened, other than it maybe being suspended in the krausen? Anyone else ever see that before?


Turkey and Beer

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better topic than Beer and Turkey.

A couple resources to help out your research:

Trouble Brewing kicked things off in early November with some Turkey Trials.

Beer Advocate has a special feature written up for the holiday, including a very cool, dare I say whimsical, illustration.

Bob Batz Jr, at the Post-Gazette, moves his usual Thursday column up to Monday morning with a feature on pairing beer and turkey, making sure to highlight local beers ideal for the meal.

He also makes mention of the Brewers Association's http://www.beerandturkey.org/. Guess what that's all about.

I'm not sure what I'll be having with my turkey this Thanksgiving. I was hoping for homebrew, but I don't have anything that will be ready in time. What about you?


Batch 0005 Fermentation Photo

There it is, Batch 0005 on top of the fridge, nice big krausen forming up and bubbling happily away.

In the background: two cases of steam beer hopefully getting carbed up.

Brewing Batch 0005, a Boondoggle of Bag Breakery

Like things seem to happen every year, I have a ton of vacation time left to use up before December 31, so I've begun taking days off here and there. Friday was one of those days and what better way to spend it than brewing. So Friday, after lunch, while Kim was running errands I started brewing up my Alpha King clone.

Instead of buying six bottles of spring water this time I used tap water and boiled to free the chlorine. This batch called for doing a four gallon boil so it took some time to get that up to heat. From there I let it cool to 160 in order to do the grain steeping.

While that was cooling I bagged up my grains into the hop sock. For some reason the kit included two hop socks, but since there's a dryhop in secondary, I just assumed the bag was for those pellets. So jam jam jam the grains in the sock and tie it off as best I can.

About thirty minutes of waiting and ploppity-plop, in goes the grain bag and I'm stirring and stirring and stirring. The kids are really interested in what 'we' are doing so I'm giving a mini-tutorial. Stir stir stir and then it seems like the grain bag is a little easier to push around the brewpot. And oh look, now there's little grains floating around the wort. And oh, here's the grain bag all sopping wet and untied.

Panic! No, that won't help. I continued the steeping and stirring, put the extra hop sock over a colander and poured the wort through into another spare pot. Since the wort was still warm and I didn't want to make a (huge) mess, I used a 2 qt Pyrex measuring bowl to slowly pour the wort over the grains (is that almost a mini-mash?) and in little time at all I was back on the stove. (One note: would hot side aeration be an issue that early in the game or is that more of a problem once sugars are converted, post-boil? I splashed it as little as possible.)

Surprisingly, I got the four gallons up to a nice noisy boil rather easily and before too long I'd been through all of the hop additions and was cooling the wort. It looked and smelled great and the hydrometer said I hit the OG spot on, 1.066.

My yeast pack, Wyeast 1056 XL, was severely bloated and in it went and by next morning things were bubbling nicely.

I'm planning to use the yeast cake from this batch for my next brew, a dryhopped amber ale, but from what I read, its a good idea to step up the gravity with each batch, fully utilizing all that happy active yeast.

I'm thinking to do a barleywine or DIPA after the amber ale, but I'm wondering this: Is the gradually higher gravity essential to sustain the yeast activity? Meaning, should I ramp up the gravity on the amber to ensure that the yeast is 'ready' for the big beer?


Batch 0005 - Alpha King Clone

I ordered a few things from Grape and Granary Wednesday afternoon, including a couple ingredient kits.

Batch 0005 is an Alpha King IPA clone which features 6 different hop additions including my first attempt at dryhopping.

Batch 0006 will be a dryhopped amber ale that I'll dump onto the yeast cake (Wyeast 1056) of the IPA. I had great luck with doing this with the steam beer yeast cake so I figured I'd try it again.

Planning to brew the IPA today, already smacked the yeast pack and its swelling nicely.


The Joy of Autosiphons

In preparation for bottling my Steam Beer, I stopped at Village Homebrew yesterday afternoon and picked up an autosiphon. Until now, I had been starting a siphon by mouth (after a tasty vodka mouthwash), a messy and somewhat questionable method.

What a difference! The autosiphon couldn't be any easier to use. It was so much less painful that I transfered my Cider to secondary the same night.

Taking a gravity on the Cider, turns out that it sure is dry. The Cider fermented down from 1.060 to 1.002. I'm not sure if I'll add some apple juice concentrate or something else to sweeten it a bit or just let it ride...


It's been a while...

Well, after a busy and trying (at times) six-plus months, I'm going to give this blogging business another shot.

I've jumped back into homebrewing thanks to a boost of personal interest, due in part to the official formation of the Indiana Homebrew Club (offshoot of the Indiana Beer Club).

Currently, I've got 15 gallons of liquid on top of the fridge in fermentors. I'm planning to bottle one batch, a Steam Beer, tonight.

I dumped the wort for an Imperial Steam Beer on top of that batches yeast cake. I think I'm going to crash cool it in our uninsulated attic to get some of the floaters to drop out.

I also have 5.5 gallons of hard cider in primary. Its the result of some unpasteurized Pome Ridge Orchard apple cider and two packs of Nottingham Dry yeast.

In the works, with ingredients on the way, are an Alpha King Clone and a Dry Hopped Amber Ale.

We popped the last bottle of my ESB, now dubbed EAssB, at the second Indiana Homebrew Club meeting, unfortunately as an example of what homebrew should not taste like. Some people (must have been drunk) actually said it wasn't too bad.

Can anyone say back at it?

I haven't rated a beer in FOREVER, but I've definitely been enjoying my fair share. May do a post or two about specific beers sometime. We shall see.