Friday, December 30, 2011

Raspberry Beer: Part 2

I transferred the sour base for my raspberry beer to secondary today, which is where I added the raspberry puree. It was advertised on Labelpeelers as Oregon fruit puree, but I got Vintner's Harvest instead. Maybe Oregon's was bought out? Who knows. The puree is already pasteurized, so there's no need to worry about sanitizing it.

I soaked the can in sanitizing solution along with my funnel and can opener, then opened it up and dumped it right in. Three pounds of puree is surprisingly dense, it looks to take up only about as much space as a nice thick yeast cake. It's a little pulpy but not overly so.

The color looks pretty nice right now, it's a darker red than I had expected, I'm assuming probably due to the pasteurization process. Advertised gravity of the puree is between 1.040 and 1.053. The pulp and color played havoc with my refractometer, but it looked to be about 13.4 Brix, which is a specific gravity of 1.054. The sour base started a little higher than expected, at 1.038, so I'm calculating a total starting gravity of 1.071. Assuming normal attenuation, then, I'm looking at about a 7% ABV beer. I'm not really sure what to expect with regard to fermentability of the puree. If it's 100% fermentable then I'll end up with something between 8% and 8.5%.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brewing Primer Part 0 of 12: Getting Started

So I'm finally getting back to the brewing primer I had hoped to blog about. But I realize that the first step in brewing is figuring out that you want to brew beer, then figuring out what types of beers you want to brew, then figuring out what method of brewing you want to use to brew those beers.

I started off with a basic kit from Midwest Supplies, came with all the necessary equipment, a 5-gallon carboy, and a couple of cases of bottles. My first two brews were extract with specialty grains, and they helped to get my feet wet. The taste of the beers was far superior to commercial beers, but once I started reading more about brewing I realized that all-grain brewing was what I needed to do, and I haven't looked back since.

The starter kit still provided me with a whole bunch of useful equipment though, and I still use my plastic fermentation bucket for a lot of things. That being said, I think any beginning brewer looking to move to all-grain brewing should start off with the following equipment.

  • John Palmer's "How to Brew" - available for free here:
  • 1 grain mill
  • 1 scale for weighing grain
  • 2 10-gallon brew kettles - Williams Brewing occasionally sells dented kettles for around $80; one kettle can be used as a mash tun, while the other can be used for the actual brew kettle
  • 2 3-5 gallon pots for heating sparge water
  • 2 Spigots with barbs for brew kettles
  • 1 bazooka tube for mash tun
  • 8' high-temp transfer tubing for mash tun
  • 8' PVC tubing for brew kettle
  • 2 or more 1" worm clamps for clamping tubing to the barbs
  • 1 flat head screwdriver for fastening worm clamps
  • 1 refractometer for measuring specific gravity
  • 1 thermometer for measuring mash/boil temperature
  • 1 wort chiller: can be made by purchasing 50' of copper tubing from Home Depot - wrap around a paint can, then wrap the rest around again, attache 5-8' of PVC tubing to each end of the copper and fasten tightly with worm clamps, then add a garden hose fitting to one of the PVC tubes and clamp that in place with a worm clamp to allow hooking up the chiller to a garden hose or a faucet with a garden hose thread. Faucets without garden hose thread require a kitchen faucet/garden hose thread adapter. I think kitchen faucets are 55/64"-27 thread, and the adapters have both male and female threads on the kitchen faucet end, with a male garden faucet end.
  • 1 small digital scale for measuring hops
  • 1 funnel with screen for straining hops residue and cold break material from the chilled wort
  • 1 6.5 gallon carboy for primary fermentation
  • 1 5 gallon carboy (or larger) for secondary fermentation
  • 1 bottling bucket
  • 1 ~5 gallon bucket for mixing sanitizing solution
  • Sanitizing powder or solution
  • 1 1/2" auto-siphon w/ 5-8' of tubing
  • 5-8' of 5/16" or 3/8" tubing for bottling bucket
  • 1 bottling wand
  • 1 hydrometer for measuring final gravity
  • Priming sugar
  • Bottles
  • Crown caps
  • Bottle capper
  • Sufficient stoppers and airlocks for closing up fermenters
  • Vodka for putting into the airlocks

I think that pretty much covers everything that I use to brew. Obviously someone else's unique circumstance might necessitate variance from this list. Off the top of my head I'd say that the total amount of equipment here would probably cost around $400-500 to buy right now. It may sound like a lot to some people, but if you brew regularly it pays for itself pretty quickly.

A 5 gallon batch gives you a little over 2 cases of beer. I haven't bought cases of beer from a store in a while (or ever?) so the last prices I remember are $14 for a case of Yuengling, and that was on sale. So let's just say it's $30 for 2 cases of beer from a store. I can brew a 3.5-4% beer for as little as $7 a batch, and a 4.5-5% beer for around $10 a batch. A 7-8% beer costs around $13-15 per batch, whereas it might cost you $10+ to buy a 6-pack of a similar beer. I figure I've saved at least $800-1000 or more over the past few years just by brewing my own beer, so my equipment has definitely paid for itself. And I'm not a particularly active brewer or drinker, so someone who brews and drinks more than I do would save even more money.

Raspberry Beer

Today's brew was a raspberry beer. No photos yet, but I hope to have some once I add the raspberry puree.

I started this one out on a sour beer base, started the mash yesterday and sprinkled some crushed grain on once I got home last night. It only soured for about 14 hours as opposed to my standard 24, so it won't be quite as puckering as a normal sour beer. That's okay though, because the raspberry should add some tartness once the sugars ferment out.

I'm planning to leave this one in primary for about two weeks, then transfer on top of 3 pounds of Oregon's Raspberry Puree in secondary. My other 6.5 gallon carboy should be clear by then, so I'll probably secondary it in that, then maybe move it to a tertiary. I'm hoping the puree is seedless, because the last time I tried a fruit beer (strawberry beer) my siphon got clogged with fruit pulp and I lost a few gallons of beer.

We'll see how this beer and the peach beer I'm doing next turn out. If the raspberry is too subdued I think I might use the blackberry puree I have for a porter rather than put it on top of a lighter beer. I just had a bottle of Captain Lawrence Brewery's Nor'Easter today (thanks Thrine!), a dark beer brewed with elderberries and aged in bourbon barrels, and it's given me some ideas for future dark fruit beers.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sour Beer

My last brew was a sour beer, my first ever attempt at a sour lager. I used 4# of Weyermann Vienna and 2# of Weyermann Light Wheat, mashed in with 6 quarts of water to reach a saccharification temperature of 155F. I put the mash tun inside a sleeping bag overnight, and by the next morning it was down to around 120F. Perfect temperature for inoculating with lactobacillus.

Lactobacillus delbrueckii naturally occurs on barley husks, so I tossed a handful of crushed grain on top of my mash. After covering tightly with saran wrap to ensure that no oxygen was present to favor spoiling bacteria, I put the tun back in the sleeping bag for 24 hours to allow it to sour. The next day I was greeted by a very nice sour smell in the mash, almost like sourdough. Not quite as sour as some previous beers I've made, but not too bad.

I decided to brew a Gose-type beer, but without adding salt. I hopped the brew to about 10 IBUs and ground half an ounce of whole coriander seeds in a coffee grinder. The ground seeds went in for the last ten minutes of the boil.

The chilled wort didn't smell nearly sour enough, nor did any of the coriander come through. But I had a huge blowoff the next morning, the first time I think I've ever had a lager brew blow off before, and the gas coming from the airlock had a very definite, strong coriander seed aroma. It almost smelled like freshly baked Kranzbrot.

Tomorrow I'll transfer it to secondary after I brew my next sour base for the raspberry beer I'm planning on making. And the potato beer and sweet potato beer, after about three weeks of cold conditioning, are finally out of the refrigerator. I'll try to bottle those soon, along with the rye beer that needs bottling.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Potato & Sweet Potato Beer

Last week's brewing day ended up being incredibly long due to the fact that I tried to brew three beers in one day. My main 5-gallon batch was a Robust Porter, using 9# Weyermann Pilsner, 1# Caramunich I, 1# dehusked Carafa I, 0.75# Weyermann Light Munich, and 0.25# Weyermann Roasted Barley. I always like to go strong on the dark malts, which is actually a good thing given that my water pH is something like 7.6. That brew was uneventful, and the smell coming through the airlock was heavenly. 2 oz. of Glacier for bittering and 1 oz. Hersbrucker for flavoring led to a really nice minty, hoppy smell coming through the vodka in the airlock.

What really took a long time were the two one-gallon test batches I made, of potato beer and sweet potato beer. For the potato beer I used a little over two pounds of white potatoes, which ended up being around two pounds after peeling. I started to grate them but decided just to chop them up and boil them. Once they were nice and soft I put them through a SpƤtzle-Schwob and let them cool. Then I added 1.5# Weyermann Pilsner and enough water to get to around 6-8 quarts. I applied direct heat to get them to saccharification temperature and let them mash for around two hours to ensure that all the starch was converted.

Then I strained the wort through sieves into my brew kettle and boiled for about 45 minutes with 1/8 oz. of Hersbrucker until I got down to around 1 gallon of wort. My OG was 1.055, so I ended up with a contribution of around 13ppg from the potatoes, higher than the 8ppg I had read from other sources, so assuming an normal attenuation of 75% I should end up with around a 5.5% ABV beer.

I tried the same thing with the sweet potatoes, albeit with 1.5# Weyermann Vienna, and in my normal mash tun with the bazooka tube. Big mistake, that thing clogged like crazy. Not a bit of liquid made it out. So I had to improvise. But everything worked out well. As you can see in the photos, the potato beer is on the left, the sweet potato beer is on the right.

There was quite a bit of grainy material in the beer, and as the second photo shows, much of it ended up settling to the bottom.

So out of a gallon of wort I'll be lucky to get half a gallon of beer. Not really worth the effort, but we'll see how it tastes. I'll probably wait a few weeks to bottle, so that maybe sometime early next year it should be ready to drink.