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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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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