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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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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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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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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Brewing ‘Mildly alcoholic’ beer

Looking back through my brewing logs, I’ve never brewed two batches as close together as I did these past two. I’m of the school of thought that the best way to get good at something is to do it often. It was nice to have my brewing process fresh in my mind when approaching this brew night. The last batch a hoppy pale ale is just off dry hops as I write this brew day up. This batch is a rebrew of the english mild I brewed last summer. The first time I brewed this, I made a biab beer. Taking a very simple approach and not worrying about it. This might have been one of the better batches I brewed last year. This time I have a slightly different target. I’ve been asked a few times if it is possible to make an NA beer, so I’m trying to brew a very low abv beer, and make it as close as I can to Non Alcoholic Beer(NA). I figured it makes the most sense to start with a flavorful low abv beer. Research (googling) and turned up anecdotal stories, but no well documented first hand experiences with abv testing. I found two approaches to making NA beer, heating the beer to evaporate the alcohol, or freezing the beer to concentrate the alcohol and sugars leaving behind low alcohol beer ice. There are issues with either approach. Heat and Oxygen are known to damage beer. However I can’t think of a way to achieve the goal of low abv beer w/out exposing the beer to these factors. If someone has done this and has found a reliable way to do it with good results please let me know.
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Brewing Daisy Cutter pale ale Clone

It’s been a while since I’ve brewed at home and it feels longer since I’ve brewed a good beer. I’ve felt either rushed, distracted, or otherwise I screwed up my last few batches. Coincidence or not, I also haven’t brewed a really hoppy pale ale in some time. I won’t go into the details here, I’ve already shared one failure on Facebook. Lets just say I could really use a win. Early this year I decided I was going to try to dial in my brewing, calling it the year of calibration. I am trying to both harden my brewing process, and add process controls. That way I can know how specifically I brewed a beer, which will allow me to reproduce success, and improve upon the beer in future batches. I haven’t been terribly consistent with either process or equipment in my last few batches. I think I’ve made my last major changes for a while, and my hope is that I can take this beer, evaluate it, access the recipe and brewing process, then brew it again making only slight changes to the process.
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Duo Brew Day

When Brew Free or Die announced a Dynamic Duo club competition I knew two things: that I was in, and I’d be brewing with my buddy Mike. What wasn’t immediately obvious was what we’d be brewing, but I did have a hunch. This fall Mike brewed a very tasty version of Mike McDole’s famous recipe, Janet’s Brown, A hoppy american brown ale. I have just brewed a not so tasty american brown ale (story for another day), and both of us agree the style is quite enjoyable. The club competition is named Dynamic duo. Brew a 1.040-1.050 beer, using only two hops, two malts, no adjuncts, no spices, etc. With that in mind, I tried to reworked the Janet’s Brown ale recipe down to just two malts, two hops, and bring the gravity down. Continue reading

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Very small batch Cyser

Making a mead has been in my brewing pipeline for quite some time. Last fall I took a swing at a cyser, but it was really more of a honey fortified cider, than a real cyser. Having tried a really good example at one of the BFD club meetings, I knew I wanted to make a better example. After listening to Michael Fairbrother (member of, and former President of BFD) of Moonlight Meadery on BeerSmith’s podcast talking about meads, and specifically Kurts Apple Pie (Cyser) I had a fairly good idea how to make a cyser I was hoping for. Continue reading

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It’s a brew party and third time is a charm?

Brewing is a involved endeavor. To plan and pack all of my brewing gear into my car and spend an afternoon brewing at a friend’s house is quite a feat. In August when the invite appeared from Mike to a brewing party, I put it on the calendar. IMG_2826.JPG
I assumed that life would some how get int the way, and I would have problems making it, but I thought it would be fun. The weekend came, and even though I brewed the prior week, I busied my self writing a pack list, and making a starter. The only decision left was what to make. I’ve wanted to take another swing at my hoppy wheat (2am Maiden) for some time. Knowing I still had a pitch of 1968 and a freezer full of hops, it was a no brainer. The tweaks from last time are enough to consider this a new beer, but it’s the same quest for a hoppy ale that can compare to Three Floyds Gumballhead. One of the best beers I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve had any beers available locally that come close. In my last attempt at a hoppy american wheat, I used fresh amarillo hops, and it was a failure. I noted some significant changes after reviewing the beer, when all was said and done, I decided on.

All grain, 55% wheat, 37% pale, 8% Crystal light. Moving away from single hopping, hop bursting with amarillo and citra, and dry hopping with amarillo and centennial. The idea was to increase the fruitiness, hop flavor, and lose the bitterness. My initial thoughts moved the beer too far away from Amarillo, which is a hope I really enjoy.

This is the recipe I followed:

http://beersmithrecipes.com/viewrecipe/280739/2am-maiden-american-amarillo-wheat-sb

The planning and prep started the week prior. I started setting aside my equipment. I had to mentally go through my brew process a number of times to note all the things I needed to bring. Even with a crazy mind map for the brew day, I nearly left w/out my burner. As it was my gear just barely fit in my subaru wagon, I’m glad I was using the 2.5 gallon setup, I doubt my 6 gallon stuff would have fit.

I arrived, unpacked, and setup my gear. I had considered bringing my water along, but since I don’t know much about it, and don’t make specific adjustments for it, I just let it be. Mike and I did a side by side water taste test with the different filter setup, and the results were inconclusive. I was the first there, and pretty much got right to brewing. One unfortunate aspect of a brewing party is the distractions. It’s pretty easy to get off track, tasting some beer, or talking about something you just did, so much that you don’t remember your timeline, and forget to do the basics, like, oh say taking a single gravity reading. Needless to say I didn’t take great brew day notes. However I did hit my desired mash temps. I’ve slowly been making adjustments to my equipment in Beersmith. I’ve adjusted the cooler weight, the thermal mass, and been more aware to adjust grain and tun temperatures. It has been helpful for hitting my mash temp w/in a degree. I do still recommend hitting the cooler a a little hot, and string down to your target strike temp, since that will just happen naturally. While I hit my mash temp, I had a bit more of a challenge hitting my runoff volumes.  With the high wheat percentage in my grist, it was very helpful to have an extra hand mashing in, but it was still a gummy mess. The small cooler mash tun doesn’t really lend itself for a quick mash in w/out smashing the braided filter. Despite the metric ton of rice hulls and 170* sparge water my run off was terrible. I managed to get most of my volume, but I’m certain my efficiency suffered. Compounding the grain bill, I had an issue milling, and reran them through the mill. The boil was uneventful, no boil overs, and hit all my hop additions. I did forget however that I wanted to bag the hops. I wanted to bag the hops for two reasons. I wanted to remove all the non 0 minute hop additions. I also wanted to help simplify wort transfer. So much for that!

IMG 2827

I chilled to 180, and added my amarillo and citra burst/whirlpool hops, and boy did they smell great. Everyone was commenting on the wafting aroma. After a 20 minute hot steep, I chilled to 65x, and tried to transfer to my carboy. I first put my sanitized funnel in the carboy, followed by a hop sack. I then poured the wort through the sack into the carboy. Spilling wort, and hop matter everywhere. Needless to say the nearly 3 oz of mixed whole and pellet hops in about 3 gallons of wort was a slow filter. But I was able to avoid hop significant losses due to hop sludge.  Once I filled the fermenter it needed to take an hr journey to my house. About 4 hours after knockout, I hit with a full 10 count of 02, and a 1.5l yeast starter of 1968. I decided to see how well it worked at the ambient basement temperature, and with in 12 hours it was bubbling away. I added heat at 48 hours, as fermentation started to slow, I wanted to maintain an active ferment, but still get a clean ferment. I’m going to let it rest warm for a few days to clean up. Then it will get racked and dry hopped with Amarillo and centennial. I can’t tell you how eager I am to get this on tap, It’s been so long since I had a _fresh_ hoppy ale on my tap.

 

Plans for next batch of 2 AM Maiden

Work on water additions to maximize hop flavor, without making it harsh or minerally.

Sort the volumes on the small setup. I knew the 10g / 10.5 setup well enough, I need to calibrate myself to the smaller batches I am doing.

Adjust the mill gap. I bought the mill second hand, and have never adjusted the rollers. I’ve always assumed the crush was too fine, due to the amount of flour / powder.

Get a ball valve and a false bottom on the small kettle.

 

Resources / Alternate recipe sources

Mad Fermentationist’s Hoppy American Wheat – where I turned when I decided to rewrite this as an all grain recipe, and move away from single hops.

MeekBrewing’s Clone of Fortunate Islands – A clone of Modern Times Hoppy American Wheat, Mad Fermentationist’s wheat made on a production scale.

Brewing with wheat by Stan Hieronymus* – This contains a recipe for GumballHead (and I get a referal for purchasing on amazon)

Bertus Brewing : Wedding Batch #1 Hoppily Ever After – Another take on hoppy american wheat.

 

***One thing I forgot to mention about this brew day is that it is my 20th batch. I’ve come a long way in my understanding of brewing, but feel like I’ve only started to pencil in the framework of that knowledge. Here’s to another 20 batches filled with incremental improvements, and hopefully more lessons along the way. Thanks for following along as I learn what I don’t know.

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