Another brew day, another clone recipe. This time it’s from the pages of Brew your own magazine, a clone of 21st Amendment’s Bitter American. A hoppy american style bitter, weighing in at 4.4 ABV, 42 IBU, featuring warrior and cascade hops, according to 21A’s website. A beer I’ve had a few times, and have enjoyed it. It’s similar to my earlier brews, pale, hoppy, lower abv, and a clone recipe. Whats different about this brew day was that I brewed all grain.
This is a big change from my last batch which didn’t even include steeping grains. My all grain setup is a typical basic homebrew setup. A converted 10 gallon home depot cooler as a mash tun. My boil kettle is a 42 qt polar ware kettle, and my hot water tank is my old 5 gallon brew pot. It’s not really an adequate size for batch or fly sparging. No pumps, brew sculptures, or fancy brewing carts to speak of. Just me lugging stuff around, hoisting hot pots of water, and what not.
Since the recipe was pulled from the pages of BYO, not a kit or a home brew store recipe, I was not able to get the exact grain bill from my local home brew shop. Every time I come in with a specific recipe, which calls for specific grains, he gives the same lecture about how he only stocks x grains, and not every grain ever made, that recipes call for every grain under the sun, bla boa bla. I wish he would give it a rest. I’m sure the rest of his customers would appreciate him not talking down to them as well. I get it, you don’t have it all, just give me what you have.
So, in addition to the grain type variation, I bumped up the grain bill by a pound of base grain to account for any inefficiency in my brew process. I made additional recipe changes, using some stockpiled hops, I replaced the bittering addition of warrior with german hercules, cascade pellets with local whole cascades. I kept the centennial pellets at flameout, and will keep the dry hopping additions the same. The flavor and aroma of those specific hops are really what makes the beer what it is.
The brew day went ok, I remembered to smack the yeast pack well ahead of time, skipping the starter since I have yet to build my stir plate. This beer is also low enough abv that a single smack pack should have sufficient cell count. Milling the grains was easy enough, although I think I might need to adjust the mill to factory settings, I had a fair amount of flour with my grist. My process was pretty straight forward, heat the recommended volume of strike water to the recommended temp. I then mixed in, almost hitting my target temperature, 158 (very high, but the goal of this low abv beer). Next time I’ll try preheating my cooler. It was a bit challenging to add the grain to the water while stirring. I kept hitting the stainless mesh tube when stirring. Then I set a timer, and left the grain to sit. I had other stuff to do, so it sat longer than expected. The cooler held the temp surprisingly well for all that time. I then tried to set my grain bed, and begin running off, but I couldn’t get much flow, so I decided to go no sparge instead of batch sparge.
I mixed in my additional 4 gallons of 170* water, and gave it a big stir up, and let it sit for another 20 minutes. It ran then, albeit still quite slow. I really missed my target run off volume, and at this point I should have heated another 4 gallons, and sparked once more, but it was getting late, and I needed to get the show on the road. Next time more water, and rice hulls. With almost 7 gallons of wort, I started heating to boil. I was inattentive and had a massive boilover, my first since using the new large kettle. About 30 minutes in I decided this was going to be a 60 minute boil instead of a 90. I just didn’t have the time or the wort to spare. I was already shaping up to be up a 2am, and at least a gallon low. Chilling went as planned, I’m amazed how fast chilling works when ground water and ambient temps are at winter temps. 15 minutes, instead of 40 to get to 65, instead of 70. The transfer to carboy went well too, the new stainless scrubby kept the hops and pellet mush at bay. With the low run off, boil over, boil off, I only managed to eek out about 4 gallons into the 6 gallon carboy.
Leaving at least a gallon of sludgy hoppy mess in the pot. The volume was so low I could not manage to get any wort with the turkey baster for a gravity reading. I’m fairly certain it’s going to be quite a bit higher than expected. I pitched yeast 1056, and plopped it into the water bath for temp control. It was bubbling away in less than 24 hrs. It has climbed all the way up to 70, where I’m currently holding it.
Changes for next batch / brew day. First and foremost I’ve tweaked my beer smith settings. Fixing mash tun dead space, trub loss, and boil off numbers in an attempt to fix my volume to fermentor issues. Of course those changes are going to sink my brew house efficiency, but I’m here to make good beer, not cheap beer. I also plan to use rice hulls, and, use a larger pot for heating sparge water, and adjust my mill gap.