Archive for August, 2013

BIAB#5 – Bastogne Pale Ale

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31/08/2013 – I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to liquid yeast and the starter cultures they usually require. The only time I’ve used a liquid yeast (with a starter) was the hefeweizen earlier in the year that used the WLP300. The starter seemed to be fine but the fermentation was sluggish and the temperature control was non-existent. For various reasons that have been well-documented, the beer was pretty disappointing. A complete banana-bomb, with some inappropriate Belgian-style esters and very little mouthfeel (though in fairness, this was probably caused by using 100% malt extract). Having been disappointed with the Belgian flavours in my hefe, here I am attempting a beer where I actually want those types of esters!

The yeast I’ve chosen for my upcoming series of Belgian ales is WLP550. It’s reported to be cultured from La Chouffe, a fantastic example of a Belgian golden ale. I’ll be doing a moderate gravity Belgian pale ale to kick things off gently. Then I’ll be stepping up the gravity and doing a “faux” saison, before doing a heavily-hopped Belgian IPA. This yeast has a high level of attenuation, flocculates reasonably well for a Belgian yeast and has a nice spicy Belgian character. It’s reported to have a moderate level of esters so I might be compensating for this with some fruity/floral hop choices in the upcoming beers.

Having scorched the feck out of my 2l conical flask and no way of removing it without buying some spooky chemicals, I used a 2l plastic mineral water bottle. I used 1.5l of the mineral water itself (yeast starters are not supposed to have any chlorine present) and added 150g of light spraymalt. I boiled for 10 mins in a saucepan to sanitise and chilled the saucepan in a sink filled with icy water. It cooled down in a surprisingly short length of time. I was sure to check the pitching temperature which was 17C. I transferred the starter wort to the plastic bottle and aerated the wort by putting the plastic bottle cap back on (which had been sanitised) and shook the hell out of it several times, opening the cap each time to get more air into the bottle.

The first surprise was when the yeast vial started fizzing when I opened it. I’ve done a bit of reading on this and it’s supposed to be quite normal. Pitched the yeast anyway, it already had that signature Belgian aroma. I think a couple of Belgian beers are in order tonight. I’ll give the starter a few days to work it’s magic before pitching into my 15 litres of Belgian pale ale! Here’s hoping!

I also sanitised the vial of WLP550 before shaking well to dislodge the compacted yeast.

01/09/2013 – No sign of the starter kicking off yet, even though it’s been about 18 hours since the yeast was pitched!

02/09/2013 – Big fermentation going on in the start today. Huge streams of bubbles. Should hopefully be about 2 days until I can brew with this.

04/09/2013 – Note to self… do the yeast starters mid-week so that you can do brewing at the weekend, not the other way around! It’s Wednesday and I have to brew tonight!! ūüôā

So what’s this recipe? The idea is to start off my WLP550 yeast in a moderate-gravity beer instead of putting it straight into a strong dubbel or Belgian IPA (those recipes will be coming up shortly). It’s a fairly basic recipe, ripped off from Jamil’s “Brewing Classic Styles” – pilsner malt, CaraMunich, Munich, CaraPils and Biscuit. The CaraPils is my own addition, just to help the head retention. This is my first time using pilsner malt, so I’ll be doing a 90-minute boil instead of the usual 60 minutes. This is done to reduce dimethyl-sulphide (DMS) in the beer. I’ll still be adding my first hop addition at 60 minutes though. Hops will be all East Kent Goldings, an English hop (obviously) but a very common ingredient in Belgian beers. I’m also taking advantage of the freedom afforded by the fact that I’m “doing a Belgian” to add some funky spicing. I’ll be adding some coriander and orange peel. Just a little bit, to give the beer an extra something.

Recipe

Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 8.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

3.20 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM), 82.4 %
0.24 kg Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM), 6.1 %
0.16 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 4.1 %
0.16 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM), 4.1 %
0.13 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 3.3 %
20 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 60.0
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
5.00 g Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)
24 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 0.0
1.0 pkg Belgian Ale White Labs #WLP550 – 1.5 litre starter – 3 days old

Brew Day 04/09/2013 – Doughed in at 72C, mash temperature of 67C, bang on target. I fished the muslin bag containing the 5g of coarsely crushed coriander seeds before I turned on the immersion chiller. Not sure if this is the done thing, but I’d rather have too little coriander flavour in this than too much. The smell from the spent seeds is amazing – I really hop some of that flavour makes it through to the fermented beer. Really citrussy, reminds me of Christmas cake in a¬† weird way. It’s pretty cool not having to deal with (f’ing) malt extract for a change. I’m looking forward to making the move to my full all-grain setup. I also quite like not having to worry about yeast hydration etc. I can just pitch the starter into the fresh wort.

09/09/2013 – This is well finished! Only 5 days later! Bit worrying really, but I’d heard this yeast was a bit of an animal. I’d noticed a couple of days ago that the fermentation had slowed right down so I was keep an eye on it. With a fair amount of trepidation (given my last experience with liquid yeast and starters) I took a gravity reading and was delighted to read 1.010. Right on target but I’ll leave it another 1-2 weeks in the FV to do a little cleaning up. I had a taste from the trial jar and it’s not bad at all. Bit yeast, alcohol a little too prominent. But there’s a superb grainy flavour from the beer – the pilsner malt I presume. I does remind me a little of a nice crisp lager. Seems to be plenty of fruity Belgian yeast character in there though. Happy with that.

15/09/2013 – Bottled with 97g of dextrose (13l at 2.5 vol) into all 500ml bottles. Got 24 bottles from the batch. Sample was a bit yeasty, but there’s a nice underlying biscuit flavour and plenty of Belgian yeast flavour.

13/11/2013 – I think this has really improved. Past tastings have been a little cidery, a little astringent perhaps. But that’s mellowed a lot. You can really taste the sweetness of the Pilsner malt. The crystal malt (CaraMunich) is very evident, maybe a little too much, but it’s probably appropriate for the style. I think I’d make this a little drier if I was doing it again.

PM#16 – Yo-leven India Pale Ale

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Having actually done the brew before writing the introduction to this recipe, I fear that anything I write as an introduction will be pointless as this wasn’t a very successful brew day. Everything was fine until I measured my original gravity. It came in at 1.063! I almost couldn’t believe my eyes; I’ve never missed my gravity targets by this much before. Adn the sad thing is, I’m still at a loss on why it happened. There was a big gap between weighing out my malts and doing the actual brew. Because of all this hot weather we’ve been having, I abandoned this brew and just bagged up the crushed malt in ziploc bags. Is it possible Ieft some base malt out of the recipe and forgot about it? Maybe another culprit might be the mash temperature? I mashed at a pretty high temperature of 69.5C. While I was shooting for a slightly higher mash temperature, I did go a little overboard. But I didn’t adjust with cold water because I didn’t think the mash temperature would be high enough to kill off any enzymes. And I still don’t believe the mash temperature is the problem here. Maybe I under-estimated the amount of hop soakage. No more than usual though. I only got 14 litres into the fermenter. [EDIT: it turns out my inaccuracy was due to a dodgy weighing scales. See comment in notes below.]

Pretty disappointing, however, I’ll try to set out where I was going with this attempt at a re-brew. I wanted to make the beer lighter and colour and reduce the malt flavours, but still leave plenty of caramel sweetness in the beer. I’ve used different hop varieties (including my old favourite, Cascade) because I was getting a lot of grassiness from the last hop combo, which I suspected was from the flamout additions of Columbus and Summit.

The following is a summary of the changes to the grain and hop bills in this attempt.

  • No corn sugar in this attempt. The idea was to not only up the ABV slightly (by 0.2%), but to see what effect removing the corn sugar would have on the mouthfeel and flavour of the beer. Given the problems I encountered with the gravity, it’s just as well I removed the corn sugar!
  • This attempt has slightly more crystal malt, just 50g. But it’s split between 75% C15 and 25% C40.
  • The amount of wheat malt is much the same, I reduced it by 10g only to have the same percentage as the other specialty malts. I reduced the Munich malt by 50g but added 50g more biscuit malt this time. I’m not sure whether any of these changes will have much of an effect though.
  • This attempt used a sachet of fresh US-05 whereas the last attempt was fermented by a pitch of US-05 slurry.
  • This attempt has a traditional 60-minute bittering addition, instead of the 30-minute bittering addition used in the first attempt.
  • There’s three different hop varieties here, instead of six used in the last attempt. The flameout addition is slightly smaller too.

Recipe

Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.075 SG
Estimated Color: 10.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 71.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

2.25 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) , 50.6 %
0.30 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 15L (15.0 SRM) , 6.7 %
0.15 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 3.4 %
0.15 kg Munich Malt (10.0 SRM), 3.4 %
0.15 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM), 3.4 %
0.10 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) , 2.2 %
0.35 kg Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM) , 7.9 %
20 g Centennial [11.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 42.5 IBUs
1.00 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min] (8.0 SRM), 22.5 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
24 g Cascade [7.40 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 9.6 IBUs
24 g Centennial [11.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 10.2 IBUs
24 g Cascade [7.40 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 6.0 IBUs
36 g Chinook [13.30 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
30 g Cascade [5.50 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
30 g Chinook [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Notes

24/08/2013 Brew Day – As I said above, everything was going fine until I had the beer in the fermenter and realised I had missed my target gravity by 12 points! A bit of a disaster, but hopefully it will still make a tasty beer. This is likely to be pretty bitter as the IBUs are possibly too high for the OG. I might abandon my plans to do the double dry-hop on this after all. I’ll leave this in the fermenter for 2-3 weeks before bottling.

27/08/2013 – Well, the mystery has been solved… My assistant brewer and I noticed this morning that our digital scales are completely off! I did think at the time that my hop additions looked pretty small compared to previous batches. The 1.35kg of malt extract that I weighed out looked a little small too, which would explain the lower gravity. So what now? Now that I know that both my malt additions and my hop additions were lower than intended, maybe they’ll balance each other out. The wort I tasted from the sample jar was pretty sweet, not much hop bitterness coming through, but hopefully it will be okay. I considered dry-hopping this twice, in line with my original plans, but I might just be wasting hops on what might be an under-bittered and cloying beer. Now I’m thinking of just doing the single dry-hop and chalking it down to experience. What have I learned? Calibrate the weighing scales before attempting any brewing. It’s pretty bad that I can’t trust a Salter digital scales, but there you go. Fuck it, anyway…

31/08/2013 – This brew has been an unmitigated disaster and one borne out of pure carelessness. I was looking over this recipe the other day, just contemplating how the balls-up with the kitchen scales might have affected both my gravity and bitterness levels, and then it hit me.. I had completely forgotten to add my flameout addition of 36g! Complete and utter lack of attention. At this stage in my brewing career, I really should have noticed the low level of hop material in the kettle at the end of the boil. My first idea was to do a really aggressive (and probably multi-stage) dry-hop. But I don’t want to be chucking expensive hops into a brew which is so wide off the mark of my recipe. Probably better to chalk it down to experience and get on with a re-brew. So I dry-hopped today with 30g of Chinook and I’ll probably remove the hops in a weeks time, then bottle.

I had planned on re-using the yeast from this beer in a new Imperial red ale which I’m going to call “Diabolus in Lupulus”. It’s an extension of my Big Dawg Amber Ale, but using a completely different malt bill in order to achieve a completely different style of amber ale. Now however, I’m abandoning that plan in order to re-brew the Yo-leven (again!) and I’ll roll over the yeast from this batch. I even bought a new bag of Citra hops to use in the re-brew.

07/09/2013 – Bottled with 100g of dextrose (13.5l x 2.5 vol). Got 24 bottles from the batch as expected. No issues with bottling. Great hoppy aroma from the FV. The brew has a prominent bitterness, quite to my surprise, given the low IBUs. Saved the yeast slurry for the next batch of Yo-leven, which I’m brewing tomorrow.

16/10/2013 – Nearly 5 weeks in the bottle and my thoughts on this are a little mixed. Surprisingly, it seems to have just enough bitterness to carry the ABV and level of residual sweetness. But as we know, bitterness fades, so I’m guessing this one will have to be dispatched fairly quickly. It was a little yeasty, but that could be because the bottle hadn’t had any cold-conditioning in the fridge; I just took the bottle from outside. Maybe I just poured it carelessly, who knows. One disappointing aspect of the flavour is that it has the hop flavour level of an ordinary pale ale, not the huge hop bomb I was aiming for. Maybe when the yeast drops out further and conditions a bit more, the hop flavours might be more prominent. It’s also got great clarity.

I’ve adjusted the recipe in BeerSmith to account for the dodgy scales (which was ready approximately 50% of the actual weight). As such, my malt extract and hop additions were too small. Here’s the updated/actual recipe:

Recipe

Boil Size: 17.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 15.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.061 SG
Estimated Color: 9.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 36.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

2.25 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 57.7 %
0.30 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 15L (15.0 SRM), 7.7 %
0.15 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 3.8 %
0.15 kg Munich Malt (10.0 SRM), 3.8 %
0.15 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM), 3.8 %
0.10 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 2.6 %
0.30 kg Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM), 7.7 %
10 g Centennial [11.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 22.5 IBUs
0.50 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0 SRM), 12.8 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
12 g Cascade [7.40 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 5.1 IBUs
12 g Centennial [11.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 5.4 IBUs
12 g Cascade [7.40 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 3.2 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
30 g Chinook [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Looking over the recipe, it’s pretty easy to see why the beer lacks the intended hop punch – it’s got only 76g of hops! Even a standard pale ale would have more hops than this. It’s a useful illustration though, of how important those late/flameout additions are. After forgetting my¬† flameout addition, I can really see a big difference in the aroma.

30/10/2013 – It’s pretty apparent this is not going to be one of my more successful brews. There’s very little hops in evidence for an IPA and the malt and yeast flavours are just not up to scratch either. There’s enough bitterness surprisingly, but not enough hop flavour.

10/11/2013 – I had thought this was improving slightly – the Belgian yeast character was starting to subside somewhat though it still had (and has) a touch of the “heads and tails” about it. I’d three bottles of it recently, and the ensuing headache was something else. On this tasting, there’s an unpleasant level of residual sweetness in it. Even though there’s still plenty of hop bitterness there, perhaps it just doesn’t have the oomph to balance all that residual sugar? Not bad though, considering the brew day was an unmitigated disaster. You’d still know this was an American ale.


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