Brewery update, 2014 summary, 2015 goals.

In my 2013 wrap up and goals referred this year to the year of calibration. I wanted to get down to brewing good beer, and I felt the best way to achieve that was to start by making sure everything that could be measured was. I think I’ve made great progress in this area. With my volume chart, http://thebottlefarm.com/ProjetsThoughts2/measuring-volume-charts/ I’ve found I have a much better grasp of pre/post boil volumes. I’m still struggling to work out my boil off and trube losses as it changes so much dependent on hopping losses. After brewing the same beer three times in a row, (Daisy Cutter 1, 2, 3) I learned a lot about the efficiency and consistency of my brewing process. I’d love to call it a system, but frankly I’m still working at being more consistent with it. I did do a great job of taking notes, and logging everything. So I consider this a did, but still room for improvement. I want to etch my brew kettle, but I only have a few limited things left to calibrate.

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12 Batches. I brewed 14 beers this year, 17 if you count split batches, and I still may brew again this year (I have the itch). Interestingly I brewed is a few spurts this year. 3 may beers, and 4 October beers, but a solid dry spell during mid summer. I’m pretty happy with the volume of beer I brewed this year, about 60 gallons (some batches were split). 8 batches were less than 4 gallon batches. I made 4 pales, 2 IPA’s, 2 brown ales, 2 berliner weisses, 2 saisons,  2 milds, and an imperial stout. I consider it a reasonably tight grouping of beer styles. This doesn’t even include cider or mead, which I decided to skip this year. I only had one real failure and that was my attempt at making a super low abv beer by boiling off the alcohol, which just resulted in terribly oxidized beer. It wasn’t too bad for beer bread, but not good for drinking. I even managed to take home some homebrew club bling, with a win with Mike for the dynamic duo competition. Done!

12-24 posts. 19 posts this year, not counting polls. Unlike my brewing I’d like to space these out a bit more. They were grouped around my busy brewing months, and had a similar drop off when I took time away. I’m pretty happy with the content of the blog this year, the brew day posts are long and dry, but I’m working on keeping only the good stuff, and better formatting what I do post, with my new templates. Please reach out to me if you have any feedback, or suggestions on content. Done.

Hone my hoppy Amarillo Wheat Recipe. Fail. I didn’t even attempt to brew this beer once. I have fallen out of love with this beer, perhaps it’ll take a trip to three floyds to rekindle my love of this style. Anyone want to send me a 6er of gumballhead to be sure? I just haven’t had enough luck with it to warrant further investment in the style. I might come back to it this year, but in the words of Mike Tonsmiere ‘Focus on a subset of beer styles’ and I’m not sure hoppy wheats is a style I am going to focus on. I suppose it’s a hoppy pale but… session pales have stolen my heart.

Read and review 12 books – 50% accomplished this goal. It was a noble goal. It prevented me from acquiring a great deal more books in 2014 that I would not read. I still have a list an arms length long to read, and will try to squeeze one more into 2014. I made progress on this early on, and it fell off my radar. Partial.

3.5 out of 5 ain’t bad. I’d like to believe I brewed better beer in 2014, than I did in 2013, I’ll consider this a successful year.

Goals for 2015.

Utilize current hop inventory. Time for some big, burly, hoppy beers. I’m also going to convert some cones to aged hops. I’ve also got far to many pellets to work through. If this means diverging from recipes to use what I have, I’ll make due. I can’t justify purchasing hops when I’ve got as much in the freezer as I do.

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Read all the books I didn’t finish in 2014. Goal is to read 9 books, and buy less than 3 new books. I think I can achieve that.

Plan my brewing schedule so that my beers are ready to drink in the proper season. IE have my berliners ready for spring / early summer, a stout ready for fall, and hoppy beers all the time.

My volume goals are the same as 2014. I found a happy medium of batches and posts, and a good production number. Frequency = familiarity = success. I found that I made the right amount of beer to share, and had enough to enjoy here, but not feel back logged. I would like to be more consistent blogging more brewing, but I have a lot of demands for my time.

Hone my Berliner Weisse recipe and technique. I brewed two this year, and fermented a third. I need to find a way to get the beer more tart. I also want to make more fruited Berliner Weisses. Maybe come up with a very non traditional combo once I have the sourness figured out.

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Evolve some ‘house’ cultures. I made good use of the yeasts I purchased this year, and grew up some dregs this year. I have also captured some local wild yeast. I’d like to work on a clean house yeast blend (1968, london dry & conan), a saison blend not 3711, and some mixed culture for souring berliners. Hopefully I won’t break the bank on yeast this year.

What are your successes from 2014, and what are you going to do better in 2015?

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Take two on brewing a partigyle imperial stout

With the winter chill setting into the air, it was time to visit Mike up in Bow to brew another partigyle imperial stout. We were happy with both beers from the last time. Last year I might have over planned the brewing process. This year I took a bit of a less detailed approach in designing the parti-gyle, and I went crazy figuring out the base recipe. I did some analysis of the imperial stout recipes I could find. I started with the 13F (Imperial stout) category of the NHC recipe breakdown written up by GatorBeer, which he compiled from here. I then added all the recipes I could find, Katethe great, Jami’s recipe, BYO’s Stone RIS clone, and a few others. You can see the Imperial Stout Grain ratio spreadsheet here. We both liked the imperial stout from last time, but the reviews I got elsewhere indicated it wasn’t complex enough, and didn’t have enough stout character. With the spread sheet I could see the grain percentages to validate a recipe of our design. This past year a few ingredients have really stuck in my head. Chocolate wheat we used in the Janet’s Baby, golden naked oats I keep hearing about, and brown malt has been on my mind since reading Ron Pattinson’s Vintage Beers. The first two are somewhat new, and bring something unique to the recipe. The chocolate wheat brings a nice chocolaty note, while not being acrid or overly bitter like normal chocolate malt, and it adds some head retention from wheat. The Golden naked oats are a Crystal oat, bringing both the silky mouth feel of oats, but with crystal sweetness. Both of these are like two for one malts in my opinion. The brown malt seems like a throwback traditional malt to use, it’s what these beers used to be made mostly of. Inspire of these additions, we tried to simplify the grain bill from last years KTG kitchen sink recipe. This is a much more simplified recipe:

http://beersmithrecipes.com/viewrecipe/591843/we-are-stout-ltrepeatablegt
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Using Beersmith to Make labels and custom brewing sheets

I’m a tech geek this is not a surprise to any of you, recently I decided I wanted to take advantage of BeerSmith* to automate some repetitive tasks. Not that it hasn’t been helpful for designing recipes, logging my brewing, etc. However, I’ve been hand writing out brew day todo lists since I started brewing. At first just it was a list of things to get and high level instructions. But it’s evolved into a detailed process for ever step, with timings and measurements. I’d also take notes on the sheets and plug it back into beersmith. Eventually I’d use those notes to write up brewing logs. Before the next brew day, I’d recycle the last plan for the next next batch. It’s has been effective at evolving my process, but it’s also time consuming manual process. I decided I wanted to automate it. Continue reading

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If I had it all to do over again… How I recomend getting started brewing.

Hindsight . As a homebrewer you are often asked about starting out, what’s the best kit to get, what recipe to use, what did you do etc. I’m doing this for Learn to homebrew day, I’ve greatly benefited by those in the community willing to share a recipe, tip, DIY plan, etc. Here is I’d do if I were to do it over again.

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Read, but don’t obsess. You aren’t going to brew a perfect beer the first time, and there is only so much you can do with your first batch. Pick a book, and read it. The two most common are How to brew by John Palmer And The Complete Joy of Home brewing – Charlie Papazian. They are different takes on brewing, read a few pages from amazon, and pick the one that suits your style, and read it. I read and read and read, and listened until I was filled with crazy ideas, and worried about doing it perfect. I didn’t understand what I was reading. Just pick a book, read it, and get a bad first draft done.
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Fall is the Saison Season

Saison is a style I feel a closeness to, I’m a small farmer and french Canadian by heritage. The idea of making an artisanal product with a raw edge, using my own hops, and rustic grain just moves me. This recipe is a simple table saison, something I think the farm hands may have enjoyed during the long work days. I found the recipe on beersmithrecipes.com via Nathan Smith. He’s a staple on the brewing network, has presented at NHC, ANHC, Beersmith, and Basic brewing radio. He’s even given talk on Saisons. Continue reading

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Imperial IPA II

After having a few of Mike’s latest hoppy beer, pliny light, I had to brew another imperial IPA. My first attempt was ok, but was pretty sweet, higher abv, and darker than it’s inspiration (heady topper). My goal is to get this one to dry out, have a lighter finish, less fruity, more dank, more grapefruit hop profile. When reworking this recipe, I referenced the same sources I hit up the first time. Continue reading

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Bitter again.

I took a few months off from brewing this summer to travel, and work my way through some of my homebrew back log. With any layoff it takes a bit of motivation to get started again. It’s not that I don’t want to brew, it’s just that life is busy these days. I figured my first batch back I should make something I’m comfortable with, so I made my third batch of bitter american clone. If you recall this was the first all grain beer I brewed and I brewed a second larger batch focusing on local ingredients for my club to bring to NHC back in 2013. I’m familiar with the recipe, and have mixed results with it, I have not brewed it enough to have it mastered. The original recipe came from a brew your own article on canned craft beers. When planning to brew this, I focused on using the ingredients i had on hand. I’ve got an over stocked freezer full of hops, and a cellar full of grain just waiting for me to brew. Somewhere along the way, I neglected to reference the original recipe and just used pearl malt instead of the recipe’s golden promise which I do have on hand. These two malts are similar, but from reading comparisons, http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/2-row-vs-maris-otter-vs-golden-promise-vs-halcyon-vs-pearl-vs-optic-439642/ they aren’t the same. I’m wondering how big of a mistake this is. The other shift in recipe was to swap out the warrior bittering hops for citra. I’m not sure why I haven’t bought more Warrior, I liked it in the alpha king clone, but more high alpha hops won’t be added to my freezer any time soon. Continue reading

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Measuring volume: charts.

Made a few volume charts so I can easily calculate volume from a ruler measurement. I use a stainless ruler I picked up at amazon.

Something like this 18 inch stainless etched ruler.

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I made a chart for both of my brew pots. I should maybe make one for my 5g pot too, but It already has some graduated marks for each gallon.

Until I get around to etching my pots, these will have to do. I printed them, laminated them, and tapped them to the back of my brewing clipboard.

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Why you ask? Well, volume is extremely important to when brewing, and I found myself tying to guess on the fly what my volume was for each batch, this makes it easier.

10/16/14 UPDATE: I consolidated the charts into one, and added the mash tun’s to the mix. I had to change the orientation to simplify the equation, but printed full page will make it easier to reference on brew day.

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Plan C, batch number three of the Daisy cutter clone.

The third batch of the Daisy cutter came hot on the heels of batch #2, brewed just one week later. One might think it’s boring brewing the same beer over again, but I’ve found it’s the opposite. The challenge of trying to get repeatability and predictability and improvement from my brewing system is thrilling. Brewing batch two showed me more things that I needed to work on with my process. These are the nuances that I’d otherwise not pick up by brewing a new recipe each time. I’m seeing parts of my process that have been close enough, but that doesn’t cut it when you are trying to hit the same numbers again. One that caught my attention in the second batch was volume measurements of strike, sparge, runoff, and pre and post boil. I’ve jumped around between different brewing vessels so much, that it’s hard to remember which measurement is what volume in a specific pot. Before brewing batch 3 I took some measurements so I knew how much volume my total run off should be, and what my post boil volume should also be. With these measurement and my gravity notes, I’ll be able to tell and tune my efficiency going forward. I feel like I’m slowly working out small process issues, as well as incrementally improve the recipe. Continue reading

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Taking a second chop at the daisy cutter.

A month after my first attempt at brewing a daisy cutter clone I brewed this recipe. My first brew session wasn’t the smoothest, but I did hit my numbers and volume, so it wasn’t all bad. The beer isn’t bad either but It’s a work in progress. I gave a few bottles to friends, and I’m looking forward to some constructive feedback. The aroma was nice, but not what I wanted. The color is good, but darker than the original. The residual sweetness is good, it seems clean, dry, but does not have nearly enough hop flavor. The aroma is also too candy like. With that in mind, along with my first batch missteps, I had some process changes and recipe changes in mind. Continue reading

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