Brew Day – Dry Dock Naked Porter

Happy New Year to all!

My local craft brewery, the Dry Dock in Aurora, CO, brews a Vanilla Porter.  And I can’t stand it.  But when they leave the vanilla out, what a beer!  More to come, but first, a few other items.

Just finished Book 4 of the Brewing Elements series, Malt.  It was well written, a statement that pretty much ensures that the following review is not positive.  There was some useful information in there if you’re malting your own grain but for general homebrewing, not a lot.  You can learn how to calculate beer color from the book but Palmer already has told us how in “How to Brew” (the one brewing book that, if you don’t own, go buy, right now).  You can get a good idea of how to malt, a lot of info about the commercial production, shipping, storage and handling of malt and a good bit on some smaller craft malt houses but all in all, borrow it if you can, skip it if you can’t, unless you’re just fascinated by malt.  This book will not help you brew better beer at homebrew scale.

Now to brew day.  The Porter is very dark, 40 SRM.  It has lots of roasty-toasty flavor, in fact, I’d classify it more a robust porter than a brown porter.  I’m brewing it to 4.8 ABV, very sessionable.  It’s low-hop, 20 IBUs:  Malt is the key player in this beer.  It has some complexity, malt-sweetness to balance out the other flavors and I’m hoping my brew will get close to it.

Everything went well.  Really.  There was nothing to complain about.  I even enjoy a good Denver brew day in the snow….

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I hit all my numbers and determined my new boil rate for the new, wind-shielded burner.  In the past, I’ve had to turn the flame up much higher to keep the wind that seems to blow here every time I start a boil from blowing the flame aside and stopping the boil.  So I got this shielded number.  Using my stick gauge, I was able to determine this bad boy was boiling off about a gallon an hour, less than my previous setup.  So I am now able to start with 7.25 gallons of wort to get to 5.5 by boil end rather than the 7.75 I used to start with.  Fewer boil overs, less mess.

Another new piece of equipment:  While cleaning up last brew day, I wasted yet another hydrometer.  I use a refractometer on brew day so I can take multiple readings easily but for the “real” measurement, it’s the good old fashioned triple-scale hydrometer.  The only problem:  The “cheap” hydrometers at the homebrew shop may not be well calibrated so it pays to check:

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I filled the sample jar with distilled water, cooled it below 60 degrees F, the calibration temperature of the hydrometer, then let the water warm up.  Once it hit 60 degrees, I checked the reading, 0.998, or an adjustment of -.002 degrees.  So I now have to subtract 2 points from every reading I take with the new hydrometer.

If you haven’t calibrated yours, I’d do so.  Cheers!

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Kottbusser Recipe

Having seen a search request land here, here’s my Kottbusser recipe.  It’s currently scaled for 10 gallons for brewing on the Ruby Street Brewing 10 gallon rig.

Yesterday’s experiment told me that next time I’ll sour mash the brew.  To do that, make your wort as usual but chill down to 120 degrees.  Pitch lactobacillus in one of two ways, either as a culture you bought or through throwing a few grains of malt into the warm wort.  Keep air away from the wort to avoid culturing acetobacter – you’ll get a vinegary taste if you do.  To keep air away, either cover the wort with plastic wrap and by that, I mean floating the plastic on the wort, or use a blanket of carbon dioxide to keep oxygen away from the wort’s surface.  In 12-24 hours, take a sample and if it’s tart enough, boil and add your hops.  Caution:  Don’t let anything you can’t sterilize fairly harshly come in contact with the soured wort.  Lactobacillus can be hard to get rid of once you have it.  I keep a separate setup of buckets, racking canes and so forth for anything soured.  I sour the mash in my kettle since it will be boiled and everything else is very clearly marked.  Duct tape is good for this.

Chances are the original beer was soured after the boil.  Lactobacillus Delbruckii is sensitive to hop oils so it won’t work quickly as a culture once the beer is hopped.  Lactobacillus Brevis is not but it will require very careful handling – it’s a very aggressive spoilage bacterium!  To sour in storage, again, cool the wort to 120 degrees.  Innoculate the wort and let it cool slowly for a few hours to let your lacto get going, then finish cooling and pitch brewer’s yeast.  Let the beer ferment, then bottle or keg as usual.  The beer will sour slowly, taking up to three months to develop tartness.

Hat tip to Ron Pattinson for tips on the recipe and techniques used to develop this recipe.

Brew Day: Avangard Classic American Pilsner (split batch)

First, a new toy that makes brew day in Colorado much nicer:

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That’s a new burner.  What makes it nice is on today’s snowy, windy day, it has a wind shield to keep the flame constrained and from blowing about, solving one of my problems, controlling the boil.  Previously with my unshielded burner, I had to keep the flame too high to compensate for wind, causing either the boil to stop because the wind blew the flame too much or boilovers when the wind dies down.  The shielded flame lets me boil more consistently and at a lower overall level.  We’ll see if it has any effect on my beers.  I’m guessing more malt flavor.

Now to the beer.  A while back the Brew Hut management gave me 10 pounds of Avangard Pilsner malt to test brew.  I decided to incorporate it into a multivariable experiment involving 1) the new burner, 2) the new malt and 3) splitting the batch, fermenting with both American Lager and Urquell yeasts.  A fourth factor, use of Magnum hops for bittering –  I like the idea of clean bitterness.  Of course, the finishing hops are pure Saaz….

Aside from the late start, the brew day went without a hitch.  I got great conversion from my step mash (145/156/170 degrees F).  As mentioned, the boil was uneventful, a great change of pace!  In the end, I had to add a bit of water back to the wort to get to near my target gravity of 1.057 – I got 1.060 after the water addition.  The wort came out beautiful!

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See the break falling out of the pale-blonde wort?  And the refractometer in the foreground – best tool I ever bought for the brew day (aside from my wort chiller, and pH meter, and new burner, and kettle….).

In the end, I’m still waiting for the wort to get down to pitch temperature, the low 50s.  And I’ll have to change the boil rate in my calculation software.  All in all, a pleasant brew.  Looking forward to tasting it!

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Two New Gadgets

A couple of new tools to make the brew day a little easier.  First is a Pocket Scale accurate to 0.1 g:

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It’s an AWS SC-2kg, the above link from Amazon should take you right to it.  My previous scale was accurate to a gram, meaning when I weighed hops my readings were anywhere from 0.5g low to 0.5g high.  Over an ounce, that’s an error of about 2%, not too bad and likely not noticeable at homebrew scale.  The problem occurs with brewing salts.  If I’m putting 4 grams of gypsum in my brewing liquor, my error is +/- 12.5%.  That’s unacceptable for a process geek like me.  The same measurement with the new scale is accurate to +/- 2.5%, good enough for homebrew.  Above, I’m weighing DME for a starter for my last brew day.  I finally got around to making my pumpkin ale just in time to have it ready for Thanksgiving.

The second new gadget was a birthday present from my wife, an oxygenation kit.  It’s basically a valve for screwing into disposable oxygen tanks, the little 40 gram ones used with small hand torches, tubing, a HEPAfilter and an airstone.  Two minutes oxygenation replaces 30 minutes aeration.  I don’t have the equipment to measure how much oxygen is in solution but it should exceed the 8 ppm possible with aeration.

Yesterday was brew day for my Chunkin’ Punkin’ ale.  It was good last year, should be better this year.  Basically it’s an ESB with four pounds of pumpkin in a 5.5 gal (21 l) batch.  I anticipate two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice in it but here’s where I depart from the normal:  Instead of taking a chance on 2 tsp at the end of the boil, I put one in.  Then I make a tincture of one tsp pie spice in a couple of ounces of cheap vodka, the cheaper the better.  At bottling I start adding it a little at a time until the spice reaches the proper level.  Same with the vanilla.  The result is a slightly sweet brew reminiscent of pumpkin pie.  It doesn’t taste like it but I have the strong malts in the ESB suggesting crust, the spices and mild pumpkin flavor representing the filling and the vanilla the whipped cream.

Saturday I’m brewing on a digital brew sculpture from Ruby Street Brewing.  I’ll take pictures and report on my lust following the brew day.

Two22 Brew/Brew Day

A busy couple of days.  Yesterday I was out running errands and they took me to the vicinity of Two22 Brew, actually the closest brew pub to me and very near my old house.  It’s a typical Colorado tasting room:  You go in and buy beer in what ever volume the publicans choose to serve.  My first choice was a flight of their beers:

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It’s an American Pale Ale (already done in this pic), a Saison, a Blonde and two IPAs, one a “Two Hop” and the other a Simcoe IPA.  All of the beers were sound and good, the winner to my taste was the Two Hop IPA, the one I later got a half-pint of.  The brewer was not there.  I’ve talked with her before, though, and hope to get over there one evening this week and compliment her on her brews.  You have to google “two22” to find them, a drawback to their clever name, but it’s worth it and damn, I’m bummed that they weren’t there when I lived within walking distance.

Today was brew day for Dusseldorfer Altbier, named “Hopfenkopf.”  Dusseldorfer Altbier is the original German hophead beer with a very high BU/GU ratio.  I brewed mine to 50 IBUs and an OG of 1.050, pretty much a BU/GU ratio of 1.  Here we go:

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Now that’s a fine looking grain bed!  I got 80% conversion, leading to an original OG of 1.055, higher than I wanted.  A couple quarts of water later the gravity was where I wanted it, it’s pitched and in the fridge.  Altbier calls for a carefully controlled fermentation below 65 degrees until finished, then a “lager” phase at about 40 degrees for a few weeks.  I’ve never tasted the style but a friend is leaving for Germany soon and Dusseldorf is on their list of places to go.  I’m expecting a full critique once they get back.  The particulars on the beer:  OG1.050, 50 IBUs, about 14 SRM in color (copper).  Primarily Pilsner malt with Munich, CaraMunich, Vienna and a touch of black malt for color.  Hops were Perle (bittering) and Spalt so there was a lot of hop material in there.  It should finish at about 4.6% ABV, sessionable.  Key is this is a flavorful beer and mine should be.

I’ll make the recipe available here on request or cross-link from Brewer’s Friend.