Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final brew activity of 2008...making dark malt

What a year for brewing! I managed to make 8 all grain batches and learn a ton about brewing this year. I wanted to brew today (new years eve), but instead I'll prep today and brew tomorrow. As it turns out, I don't have enough chocolate or black patent for the porter I was planning on making. Since making the brown malt went so well, I thought I would try to make these as well. So, this is my the last brewing activity of 2008 (besides making a starter for the porter).

Making dark roasted malts

CAUTION: if you attempt to make dark roasted malts you must have adequate ventilation in your kitchen because it will be smokey (i.e. a range hood that vents to the outside and/or a fan on high speed in a kitchen window). Keep an eye on the malt at all times because the high temperature could result in a malt fire (although I had no problem with this).

With the disclaimer out of the way, lets begin. I tried to match the taste and internal malt color with some chocolate and black patent malt I had, but really, what I made is going to be unique since the malt is not going to heat evenly when only being stirred every 5-15 minutes. This is not a bad thing.

  • Spread malt on a cookie sheet. Don't fill it higher the the lip of the pan because it will spill when turning the malt
  • place pans in the oven and turn the oven on to 450.
  • turn malt with spatula and switch racks (if two pans are in the oven) every 15 minutes for the first 45 minutes
  • at this point the malt was beginning to smoke a little (i.e. burn) so I began to turn and switch racks every 5-8 minutes
  • I removed one pan at 65 minutes and the other at 75 minutes.
  • The temperature varied between 400-450 because of the door begin opened so often.

Original 2-row on the bottom, 65min on the left and 75min on the right
(with a few untoasted barley corns )

As you can see from the picture above, there is some variation in the malt. So, while this might not give the same results as the chocolate and black malts, I think its going to give a great flavor to the porter. The 75 could have gone longer, but it was smoking up my kitchen! This would be a good project for a grill! I recommend doing this went no one is home and then baking something else like cookies or a roast to cover up the burn malt smell (I'm going with lingonberry jam thumb print butter cookies...we were just at IKEA) and to give to your spouse or roommate when they get home.

Happy New Year! I'll be cracking my bottle of Velvet Hammer from the Arbor Brewery at Midnight. I can't wait.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 Batch #8 Recipe: Bog Trail Brown Ale

Brown ales are fall ales, at least in my book anyway. This beer (when I get it in a keg) will be perfect after late-fall walks like the one pictured below on the bog trail at the Discovery Center west of Chelsea, MI. The tamaracks were stunning this day.

Wife and daughter at the bog

Making Brown Malt: I wanted to make brown malt by toasting 2-row brewers in the oven. I generally toast a pound of my malt for all my ales, but this would be a longer than normal toast. I used the information from Brian Richards's post on making brown malt with a slight modification. This method seemed to work well and the beer tastes and looks great.

  • I started with 4lbs of 2-row split on two cookie sheets. I put the trays in the oven and then turned it on to 300ºF.
  • I stirred turned the malt and switched the cookie sheets at 15 minutes. The oven was at 250º.
  • At 30 minutes I turned the malt again and switched the racks. The oven was at 300º. I then turned the oven up to 350º.
  • At this point, I turned the malt and switched the racks every ten minutes for another 30 minutes for a total of 1 hour in the oven.
  • Then I pulled the sheets out and let the malt cool
I ended up with slightly less that 4lbs of brown malt due to driving off the moisture in the malt, so start with more malt than your recipe calls for. The malt was nice buff color on the inside and you could definately taste that difference.

Toasted brown malt on the left, untoasted 2-row Brewers on the right

Grain Bill:
  • 10lbs 2-row Brewers (or pale)
  • 3.5lbs brown malt
  • 6oz Dark crystal malt L135 - I picked this up from Mike O'brien in Ypsilanti. It has an interesting raisin flavor.  I also tasted some great homebrewed historical stouts and a "chips and salsa" brew that was strange and amazing durning that visit...
  • 5.5oz Carapils crystal malt
The Mash: I used an infussion mash starting at 150º for 15minutes then bumping up the heat to 157º for another 15 minutes. I kept the mash around 155º for another 30 minutes when the iodine test told me to stop. Sparged with ~5.5 gallons of 170º water and collected 6.25 gallons of run0ff.

The Boil:  Added one ounce of Northern Brewer when the boil was reached.  At 30 minutes I added 1/2 oz of cascade (from Heritage Hops).  At 45 minutes I added another 1/2 oz cascade. Turned it off at 1 hour and added 1/4 oz centennial.

Cooled and pitched Safbrew-04.  I've read that this yeast is a super fast starter that can cause problems, so I didn't make a yeast starter like I normally do and I put the fermenter on my back porch where it was slightly cooler.  I had a quick start and no problems.  This yeast is fast, it was done and almost totally settled out in 1 week.  The beer tastes great.  Now if could just find time to keg it...  The OG was 1.058 and the final is 1.012.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2008 Batch #7 Recipe: Rye Pale Ale

This beer was a first on two accounts: my first high gravity all-grain (high to me anyway) and my first RPA. yum.


For a 4.5 gallon batch (will it all fit in my mash tun, we shall see...):

  • 11.75lbs 2-row brewers (or pale)
  • 3.6 lbs rye malt
Heat 3.8 gallons H2O to 130 degrees. Add malt. Hold this protein rest for 30 minutes @ 120-124 degrees (NOTE: I totally screwed this up by heating the water to 150 degrees (duh!! I haven't brewed in months, give me a break!)). Add 1.9 gallons of 200 degree H2O keep mash closer to 150. mash until iodine tells you otherwise.

Sparge with 3.8 gallons of 170 degree H2O. Keep 4.9 gallons in the brewpot.


  • 1 oz Nothern Brewer (from the hopyard) at boil
  • 30 minutes .75 oz Cascade (from the hopyard)
  • 15 minutes .750z Cascade (from the hopyard)
  • 2 minutes .75 oz Cascade (from the hopyard)
  • OFF .25 oz Centennial (from the store)
  • dry hop .3 oz Centennial at transfer
Yeast: Safbrew S-33 started prior to brewing.

This beer has been fermenting for nearly a month; it started at 1.076 and is down to 1.o245. Its chugging along very slowly, but the yeast hasn't dropped out yet. When it does, I've acquired some oak "infusion spirals" from The Barrel Mill for further testing...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Swill by any other name...

Don't get me wrong, I occasionally indulge in mass-market beer. In fact, there are cans of High Life in my fridge right now. So, while I was at one of our local grocery stores the other day stocking up on can goods and newspapers to stuff in my cloths this winter (see: Hooverville) I noticed Budweiser's American Ale was on sale. Being curious, I thought I would try it. I'd read a few posts about it, so I wasn't expecting much. But, I thought I would try the beer brewed with "caramel malt and cascade hops." My official opinion: don't waste your money. You can't taste the hops (even though they claim to dry hop on the website) and there is only slightly more body than regular old Budweiser. It was nice to drink while installing my bamboo floor, but High Life would have done just as well (and its cheaper even when the ale is on sale). On the positive side, its a lovely color and I dig the label (except for the part where they claim to have invented a new style of beer, come on guys really) and it has a pry-off cap so I can at least reuse the bottles. They seem to be trying to market it to craft beer lovers since they are underwriting our local NPR station and we all know that NPR listeners only drink good beer. The website is actually pretty cool. For another review see what Brian at All Things Homebrewing has to say.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Where's Your Original Gravity?

Brad Sancho's is in Milan.  Michigan not Italy (you can tell, because its pronounced like its in the Midwest...)  Anyway, I had an opportunity to visit Original Gravity Brewing Company yesterday and talk with Brad about the brewery and watch as he finished up a batch of brew.  

Brad went directly from homebrewing with this homebrew system (a very nice setup I might add):

To this 7 barrel system:

Not bad, huh?  He still uses the homebrew system for small batches.   The brewery has an open layout and a relaxed atmosphere, and unless you are in the bathroom, you can see all the brewing equipment from every seat in the house.  I tried the Porter, Pale Ale and the Amber during my visit.  All of which were top notch, I went home with a growler of Amber.  It's a full bodied amber, slightly on the hoppy side (good for these fall days we've been having).  Like any good brewer (home or otherwise) he's always looking to make his beers better and experiment with new recipes.  A pumpkin brew is next on the small batch system.   OG has been open for 4 months now, so if you haven't had to chance to check it out I would recommend a visit.  Milan is only 15 minutes from Ann Arbor right off of US23.  Not to mention it's smoke free and kid friendly so bring the whole family!  For another blog perspective, check out this post from Michigan Beer Buzz.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Time to Get Serious

Tomorrow, I brew! It's been a while so I can't wait to get at it again. I've kegged my last batch from last brewing season (for me, brewing stops in the summer) which I've renamed December Lager since its nothing like a pilsner like it was suppose to be (more on that later). I was coming back from running an errand in Lansing so I stopped by the Michigan Brewing Co and picked up 50lbs of 2-row and some rye malt. I'm going to attempt an Imperial Rye P. A. This will be me first attempt at a high gravity beer, so it will be a challenging way to start off the brewing season. I'm hoping to get a barrel to age it in as well. The barrel age rye from Founders I had a the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beerfest was amazing. The beer below is the December Lager (aka Mystery Pils), kind of dark for a pilsner huh?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The politics of brewing

Summer is a slow blogging time for me. It's also a slow brewing time for me as well. I just now kegged my "pilsner" I brewed in December. Its not true to style in the least; more of a bitter lager with flowery notes. I'm starting to like it though...that was the last beer in a carboy, so I will have to start the mash fire soon.

This is a beer blog so there will be no partisan politics this election season from me. However, I thought it would be interesting to see who was making the decisions on the three most important beer related political events of the last century: prohibition, the repeal of prohibition and the legalization of homebrewing.

President Woodrow Wilson (Democrat) Vetoed the National Prohibition Act, however as we all know, this veto was over-ridden by congress and the USA went beerless from 1920-1933.

FDR (Democrat) repealed prohibition in 1933 when he signed the Cullen-Harrison Act. But, those 13 years virtually destroyed brewing in this country and only the past few decades have seen brew-culture regain its proper standing.

Congress passed a bill in 1978 legalizing homebrewing (whoo hoo) which President Jimmy Carter (Democrat) signed into law in February 1979. Thanks for the valentine Jimmy!

Agian, this is a non-partisan blog and I'm strictly an independent. However the Presidential Beer score is Democrats 3 - Republicans 0.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beerfest and Barley Harvest

The Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beerfest was last weekend and was a great time as always. We really do live in a great beer state. The selection was amazing. I was big on trying the bourbon barrel beers which Founder's had two stunning examples of. Rye P.A's were a new one to me with several example present (I can't remember who was brewing them...) that I really liked. I think my next batch is going to be an imperial rye P.A. Great job to everyone who was involved with the fest. The next day I harvested my barley. More on that later, including how a scythe just fell into my lap (figuratively of course, otherwise I would still be in the hospital).

Two sheaves of barley.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On the water

No, this isn't the Chicago to Mackinaw, but Sunday was a great day for sailing. It was my first sail since I re-patched the previous owner's sub-par Bondo patch on the bottom of the hull. Working with epoxy and fiberglass is fun! I would go into the details of the repair but this is a homebrew blog not a sailboat repair blog. Sailing and beer, of course, have a long intertwined history. Without the Europeans' desire for curry, we wouldn't have India Pale Ales, and what a shame that would be. In honor of my new (but very used) sunfish, my next batch of brew is going to be an Imperial IPA. More and more Michigan breweries are making this style so I think it should be dubbed GLPA (Great Lakes Pale Ale) So, if anyone has a good all-grain recipe let me know, I've haven't made a high octane all-grain yet. Happy sailing and brewing!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Barley Up, CO2 gone

Its been a while since I've blogged. With spring comes all sorts of projects and with summer come even more. I hope the recent solstice found you with wheat beer in hand. I've very excited about my barley project. I have a 20 x15 foot space in my garden currently occupied with the feathery heads of barley. Its a 6-row variety which is all I could find for sale in Michigan. Next year I will locate a 2-row variety and I hope to have it available through my new business, Heritage Hops, LLC, for other folks who would like to attempt to brew a REAL homebrew! My hops are coming along nicely as well. I went down to the basement to pull a draught of my pale ale...and nothing. I believe there is a leak in my system. I'm guessing its in my picnic tap. Anyway, I'll have to get the old tank filled up soon. I guess that's one problem with kegging...a fairly big problem if you don't have a backup CO2 tank!
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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Suprise...From the Czech Republic

I was kind of baffled when I picked up a package from the post office today from the Czech Republic. When I found the package slip in our PO Box I figured it was something for the baby from my mom, but was a mystery. But then I remembered I submitted a haiku to a beer poetry contest from the Beer Culture - The Czech Beer Blog. I couldn't find a link to my poem on the blog but I won a T-Shirt from the Staropramen Brewery in Prague! I'm wearing it in the photo which is an action shot of me checking out the Cascade hops in my garden. The giant beer conglomerate InBev distributes Staropramen, so there is a chance I could find it in the States. Let me know if you see it somewhere. Also FYI, a Euro XL T-shirt = US Large. The haiku:

A flower you say?
What a glorious blossom
crowns my IPA.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

2008 Batch #6 Recipe: Waiting, Waiting, Wheat

I was asked to make a batch of brew for a baby shower of some friends of ours, since my wheat is turning out quite well and they are generally crowd pleasers I though I would take another crack at the wheat paying more attention to the sparge this time around.

RECIPE: See Trout Lily Wheat.

CHANGES: I used 4 Gallons of sparge water which seems to be the correct amount. Also I borrowed an outdoor propane burner from a friend (Thanks Keith!) which cut down on the time to boil significantly. I forgot to start the yeast the night before, so I started it before brewing and it was ready to go by the time the wort was cool. This Safbrew T-58 is some active stuff (or just very fresh). Brix = 12.6; OG= 1.050

Monday, May 5, 2008

Kalamabrew Feature

I was recently featured in KalamaBrew post about growing your own hops. The folks at KalamaBrew do a great job of posting about all sorts of things-brew, so if you haven't checked them out yet, you really should. Thanks for feature guys (and gal).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

2008 Batch #5 Recipe: Trout Lily Wheat

Happy Homebrew Day!

I brewed two weekends ago so, this weekend will be dedicated to gardening and enjoying already brewed homebrew. If you are looking for a recipe to brew today, why not try this wheat beer? I learned a few things about wheat malt that I'll report. The yeast starter did a bang-up job (it was down to 1.013 in 3 days) and this beer tastes great young, warm and uncarbonated (dare I say better than the Oberon I had last night?) so I can't wait to get it into the keg.

Erythronium americanum - The trout lily, my favorite spring wildflower.

RECIPE: Trout Lily Wheat

  • 6 lbs US pale malt
  • 4 lbs wheat malt
  • 1/2 oz cascade - boil
  • 1/4 oz cascade - aroma
  • 1/4 oz centennial - finish

2.5 gallons of H2O at 130
º add grain and hold at arpox. 122º for 30 minutes. Add 5 quarts boiling H20 to bring the temperature up to aprox. 155º. I mashed for 30 mintues (iodine stayed orange after 15 minutes). Transfered to Lauter Tun and spraged with 5 gallons 170º H20. This is where things started to get interesting. I was worried about a stuck run-off due the the high amount of wheat malt (no hulls like like barley to make an appropriate bed) and in fact that is what happened. So, I just gave the malt a stir and WHAM it started flowing again. This was probably not the best way to filter your beer, but what else can you do (any ideas?)? THEN, I made another mistake by using too much sparge water. I ended up with 8 gallons (I need to work on my lautering technique) which I used to top off my brew kettle (sigh...why did I do that). I believe this is partly due to the wheat malt not retaining as much water as barley (correct me if I'm wrong). Anyway, I boiled the wort down until my refractometer said my wort was at 1.043 and then I started my boil.


Add 1/2oz Cascade at the start of boil. Add 1/4oz cascade at 40 min and the 1/4oz centennial when you turn the heat off before chilling.

OG= 1.044
Yeast = Safbrew T-58 dry yeast started the previous day with 1.5oz malt extract and 12 oz H20 in a small single malt scotch bottle (very important detail).


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And the winner is...

Not me exactly, but my Pine Tar Porter took 3rd of 19 porters in the World Expo of Beer homebrew competition. Being that it was my first entry ever and I've only been brewing all-grain since December (I've been brewing for over 5 years total), I couldn't be happier about it. I've also brewed my first all-grain wheat beer on Sunday. I learned a few thinks about the water retention differences of wheat and barely malt and what a stuck run-off is. In other homebrew news; the hops are poking out of the ground in my garden and I planed a 20x10 patch of 6-row barley yesterday. More on all that later.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Brewing photos as segue to future post

I've been meaning to post about my recent equipment changes/acquisitions, but these photos of my new bottling hydrometer taken by my lovely and talented wife will have to suffice for the time being (Avuncular Dunkel SG= 1.0125).

Friday, March 21, 2008

My First Competition

My friends like my brew. I like my brew. But is it prize worthy? I will find out soon because I'm entering The World Expo of Beer's Homebrewing competition. I've been to this festival in Frankenmuth a couple of times with my brother and his friends. Its a good time with lots of beer and entertainment, and besides Frankenmuth is a fun/wacky place to visit. The homebrew competition is a new event this year. I'm entering my Pine Tar Porter and maybe my Dunkel or the IPA that I'm currently finishing up. The deadline is April 11th so if you don't have a brew ready to go, its probably too late for this one.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Holly Michigan: Home of the Carry Nation Festival

Remember prohibition? No? Well anyway, you can celebrate the life of one its most infamous advocates in Holly Michigan this summer if you like. I came across the Carry Nation Festival when researching prohibition the other day and you know, it looks... strange. Why Holly? She went there once. Ok. But, really, I do love festivals so this might be one to check out. The website has not been updated so hopefully it's happening again. The most important question: will there be a beer tent?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

2008 Batch #4 Recipe: Diversified Pale Ale

As home brewers these days we have to diversify when it comes to the hops we use in our brews. Thats where the name for this batch comes from, I'm using two hops that are new to me: Perle and Cluster (because they were the highest alpha hops the store had!).

I made a yeast starter from the White Labs Cal V I had saved ( 3 vials left) two days prior to brewing using wort I saved from two privious batches in the freezer. The dark color come from the pine tar porter wort.

I also tried the super easy techinique of whilpooling the cooled wort before transfering to the pimary. I had a problem with sediment and hops plugging my valve last time I brewed. It worked great. Now, on with the recipe!

  • 8lbs 2-row US pale malt
  • 1/2lbs toasted 2-row US pale malt
  • 1/2lbs 20 lvb crystal malt
  • 1 oz cluster hops
  • 1 oz perle hops
  • 1/2 oz northern brewer
  • ale yeast (I'm using a re-cultured White Labs Cal V)

Heat 9 quarts of H2O to 170ºF, add crushed grain. Stabilize at 155ºF. My mash was on the low side of 150º for 30 minutes then I heated it up to 158º for the second 30 minutes. 1 hour mash total, then mash out at 168ºF. Sparge with 4.5 gallons H2O at 170ºF.


Add the 1/z oz Northern Brewer hops when the wort is boiling. at 15mins add 1/2 oz of the Cluster. At 30 minutes add the other 1/2 oz of cluster. At 45 at 1/4 oz of the Perle. At 60 minutes turn off heat and add 1/4 oz of Perle. Chill, transfer to primary, pitch and seal up! I added about a 1/2 gallon of H2O to bring the volume up a bit. Next time I'll boil let vigorously to decrease the water loss. The Brix before pitching was 11.6 (SG ~ 1.046) After the fermentation begins to settle down, transfer to a secondary and add dry hop with the remaining 1/2 oz Perle.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Helpful Hint: visit your local bakery

It's always cheaper to buy grain in bulk, but how to store it to keep out unwanted scavengers and bugs? Being that I'm an avid thrifter, I have this helpful hint to offer: visit your local bakery. Most bakeries don't make their own fillings or frostings, they buy them by the gallon in buckets. So, many have an ample supply of empty buckets around that have been used once. My favorite donut bakery, Hinkley's in Jackson MI, often will have buckets sitting out for $1. The one pictured is a 4.5 gallon Bavarian Creme Filling bucket (can you imagine the diabetic coma 4.5 gallons of Bavarian Creme would cause!?) with 10lb of 2-row pale malt. It will probably hold 20lbs of malt. It could also double as a small primary fermenter. You might have to ask for the buckets at some places, but I would imagine most bakeries will have them. Remember it will always help your cause to buy some baked good first. Deli's will often have pickle buckets, but the pickle smell lingers for a while. Happy scrounging!
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2008 Batch #1 Recipe (posted out of order): Pine Tar Porter

This is my first brew of the year, but I haven't got around to posting the recipe until now.

  • 8lbs US Pale Malt (Briess 2 Row)
  • 1lb Belgian Munich Malt
  • 1/2lb Crystal Malt (lv 49-60)
  • 1/2lb Black Patent Malt
  • 1/2lb Chocolate Malt
  • 1oz Northern Brewer (good luck finding some)
  • 1oz Northern brewer from my garden

10 qts H20 at 145º add grain and stabilize at 134 º for 30 minutes. added 3 quarts of boiling H2O ( would
have added 5, but that was before I had my large mash tun) stabilize at 153
º. Mash for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes heat to 158º for 10 minutes. (My conversion looked complete after 30, but I continued with this schedule anyway). Then mashed out at 168º. Sparged with ~3 gallons of 170º H20.


I had to boil in two pots. I filled my main boil pot to the brim and boiled the rest in a smaller kettle. When boiling, added 1/2 oz purchased NB hops; at 30 min added 1/2 oz garden NB hops; at 45 minutes added the other 1/2 oz of garden NB hops. I turned off the heat at 60 minutes and added the final 1/2 oz of purchased NB hops. After chilling and combining the kettles I had 4.5 gallons, so I added cold H20 to make 5. Added saved yeast from 12.12.07 (White Lab California V). Original Gravity was 1.060.


The ale yeast stopped working before it reached the gravity I was hoping for. So, I added the sludge from a lager I was transferring and let it worked a little more. This brought the gravity down to 1.020 which is acceptable (plus I was out of beer) so I put it in a keg.
The final gravity was 1.020 which gives it an % alcohol of ~5.2 . I'm not sure why the yeast stopped. Too cold in the kitchen? Maybe too many unfermentable sugars? Or, maybe I just didn't have enough patience and everything would have been fine. Either way it turned out great.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Porter is in a Keg

After letting the specific gravity drop to 1.020, I've decided to keg the porter. The extra few weeks with the lager yeast seems to have helped. I'm happy with the way it's turned out, once the CO2 is balanced out (I hit it hard with pressure so I could tap it 6 hours later when friends came over) it will be the perfect brew to tide me over until spring. I'll post the recipe soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Some friends of mine are part of a group from the Kalamazoo Gazette that have started Kalamabrew; a beer blog with a focus on the Southwest Michigan beer scene. Its packed with information about Michigan beer as well as news about beer in general (I'm sure it helps having access to the AP wire :) While is great reading overall, one cool feature is the Michigan Brewery video tours. I've included the most recent below. Nice job guys, and keep up the good work.
Freakin' Firkin

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is that six pack for me?

Being a busy person, I can't always have a batch of home brew in a drinkable state. So, currently I have 15 gallons of beer lagering in carboys. My cheap beer of choice is High Life, however my wife came from the store with a surprise yesterday: a six pack of Bell's Hop Slam. Now, I normally would never pay $15 for a six pack (thats would cover the entire grist bill for 5 gallons of home brew with a few cents to spare!! Hops are another story these days...) but as my wife pointed out, my birthday is next week and what better gift is there? The cashier asked her if it was, "some kind of special beer." I'm happy to report that it is. Man is it good. At 10.0% alc. you can split a bottle amoung friends and sip it like scotch. Is claims to be brewed with honey and has slight residual sweetness that you would expect from a beer of this octane, but its balanced perfectly with the hops (centennial I'm guessing??) This truly is a great beer that I'm sure will keep well. Its only availabe for a short time, so you can pony up the cash now and drink one a month for the next six months. If I can get one of the beers in my basement into a keg or bottles, I might be able to keep a bottle or two around until... March.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Like a good day skiing... Pine Tar Porter requires a pair...of yeasts? Named for the sticky malt extract like substance I use to recondition my wooden skis for the first snow of winter, my porter has been given another yeast; a lager yeast this time. I've been bitten by this lagering bug, and I've just read the book Brew Like a Monk. Those Belgian beers often use more than one yeast, so I feel like I'm in good company. After transferring my dunkel, I swirled the protein/yeast sludge and poured about a cup of it into my keg with my porter, which I've decided (and confirmed) is too sweet. I've rigged up a blow off tube from the CO2-in peg into a Scotch bottle with sanitizer solution added (I recommend single malt scotch bottles for experiments such as these, it's well worth the investment). The dunkel's Brix has dropped to 8.6 and still fermenting well after the transfer. We shall see about the porter/dark lager.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm going to lager my ale

What makes a good beer? Tradition? Ingredients? Knowledge? Of course, all of these go into a good beer. My first brew of 2008, Pine Tar Porter, is almost a great beer. I say almost because its still too sweet. The yeast is slow if not stopped (it's White Labs Cal V that I saved in the fridge after 2 batches) The SG is 1.022 if it was at 1.015 this beer would be great. So, I'm going to try something new: When I transfer my dunkel tomorrow I'm going repitch the porter with the lager yeast from the dunkel primary and see if it will balance it out. I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Batch #3 recipe: Avuncular Dunkel

I brewed another lager this weekend. This time I'm trying a dunkel which I've named for a good friend of mine who is currently in South Korea. I have to admit, I don't know a lot about these German brews and I'm really enjoying brewing something new. I transfered my pils and used the yeast sediment with a bit of beer left over to pour into this new batch. The Mystery Pils tastes great: like a field of flowers. I hope it keeps that character through the fermentation. Here is the recipe for my current batch:

This is basically "Jump be Nimble... dunkel" recipe from Papazian's Home Brewer's Companion with a few modifications.

  • 5.5 lbs Vienna malt
  • 2 lbs dark Munich malt
  • 0.5 lbs Belgian aromatic malt
  • 0.5 lbs crystal malt (lvb 49-69)
  • 0.33 lbs chocolate malt
  • 0.125 lbs black patent malt
  • .75 oz Norther Brewer
  • 1 oz Willemette

This was suppose to be a protein step mash beginning at 122 deg, however I was at 127 which is where I let it rest for 30 min. I achieved this by adding the grain to 2.5 G of 130 deg H2O. I then added 1.25 G Boiling H2O to bring the temp up to 155 deg I needed to add a little heat to achieve this. After 30 minutes the mash pasted the iodine test (see below) and I mashed out at 170 deg, transfered to the lauter tun and sparged with 4 G of 170 deg H2O.

Iodine test after 30 minutes at 127 deg...
after another 30 min at 155 deg (the orange near the top is the iodine, the dark spots are black malts).


When the worth was boiling I added 0.5 oz of Northern Brewer hops. After 15 minutes I added anther .25 oz of NB. At 45 minutes I added .75 oz of Willemette and 1 tsp of Irish Moss. At 60 minutes I shut off the heat and added .25 oz of Willemette, let it rest for 2 minutes and began chilling with my immersion chiller. When it was below 85 deg I transfered to a clean primary and poured in the sludge form my Mystery pils primary. Brix = 12.2. It was bubbling by midnight. In the morning I moved the primary to the basement where the temperature is about 60 degrees. After 4 or 5 days I'll transfer to the secondary and move the fermentation to my lagering cellar which is currently at 42 degrees.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

So, thats what a session beer is!

I've been doing a lot of beer reading lately and have come across this term several times. After perusing the Beer Advocate site, I came across this definition of a session beer. Now we all know, and of course knowing is half the battle.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2008 Batch #2 Recipe: Mystery Pils

So, here is recipe as promised. Its a combination/modification of a few pilsners in Papazian's books.

  • 8 lbs Pilsen malt (what kind? Either US or Belgian, who knows? See this post for details.)
  • .5 lbs Belgian Aromatic Malt
  • .5 oz Garden grown Norther Brewer (the last of my stash unfortunately)
  • 1 oz Mt. Hood (% AA= 4.2)
  • 1 oz Willemette (% AA= 4.5)
  • White Labs Pilsner yeast WL800
I'm used my new 8 gallon mash tun/brew kettle which was great. It held temperature well needing only a few heat applications. Mash as follows: 8qts H2O at 145 deg F add grain; needed slight heat to bring to 133 for 30 mins (+ or - 2 deg). Added 4 qts of boiling H2O to bring mash to 155; I kept it 151-155 for 45 minutes. An iodine test showed complete conversation after this time. I raised the temp to 158 for 10 minutes and then to mashed out at 168. Oops, forgot to get my 4 gallons of sparge H20 to 170, so while I was getting the mash to 168 I heated my sparge water (I have to stop forgetting this!). I use a zapap lauter system (ie the bucket with holes drilled in from Papazian's Joy of Home Brewing). I've reduced the amount of foundation water I need by cutting the top of the strainer bucket off so it sits on the spigot of the outer bucket. When sparging with this system, I recirculate the first .5 gallons of runoff.

When I reached boiling, I added the .5 oz of Northern Brewer Hops. Then .5 oz of Willemette at 15min, .5 oz Mt. Hood at 30, .5 oz Willemette at 45 and the final .5 of Mt. Hood when I shut off the heat. I use a homemade immersion chiller to get the wort below 90 then into my primary and pitched the yeast. I was just below 5 gallons, so I added cold water to bring it just above. The original Brix reading was 11.4 which is an OG of about 1.046.

I'll post later about some things I learned about my new system and what I will do different next time...

Friday, January 18, 2008

A name change already?

I've changed the name of this blog from Yet another beer blog to Tales from the mash tun for three reasons. 1) There are a lot of hits on Google for blog posts with this title, more careful research would have kept me from this error. 2) Yet another beer blog is kind of ho-hum and implies that this blog is merely one of many mediocre blogs about beer. 3) Tales from the Mash Tun sounds better.

Happy Brewing

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mystery Pils

I've locked up my second batch for 2008 this evening at 8:00pm: my first pilsner all grain or otherwise. The mystery is that I don't know if the malt I used is US or Belgian in origin. I stopped in at the Michigan Brewing Co's new location to pick up some stuff at the Things Beer store. I asked the helpful employee to weigh out 8lbs of US pilsen malt which he did...maybe...because when I got home my receipt said Belgian pilsen malt. So, after a phone call they took care of monetary concerns (the Belgian is 50 cents more per pound) but there is no way to tell what I had so I did what any good brewer would do and made it into beer anyway. Belgian pilsen is slightly more modified than the US, which could mean I'll get a slightly higher gravity than if I had the US malt (that is if I don't have the US pilsen malt). If you haven't been to MBC's new location you should check it out. It seemed kind of sterile to me at first being in an industrial park building, but the bar in nice and it really made room for their increased production. I refilled a growler with the Rye Bock which was excellent. Well worth the stop and the confusion with my grain. I'll post the recipe soon

Monday, January 14, 2008

TEE-HEE... my new mash tun/brew kettle has arrived

Well now, its time to get serious. If I'm going to be brewing all grain, I need a brew kettle that can hold 5-6 gallons of wort. So, I've purchased an 8 gallon "mega pot" from Norther Brewer with a ball valve to accommodate this. I think it will do the job. My first batch with this will be Mystery Pils (AGB #4); stay tunned to find out what the mystery is.
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Is it really necessary to create more banter about beer on the internet?

I answer with a resounding, "yeah, why not." I've recently taken the step into all grain brewing (pun intended) and it really has chanced how I perceive brewing. I live in the great beer state of Michigan and am blessed with a cornucopia of brew from lake to shining lake, even our small town grocery store has a nice selection. This year will prove to be interesting with the ingredient shortages (have you seen the price of hops lately?) and with brewers always trying new ideas. I wish I would have harvested all of the hops from my garden instead of leaving a good pound or two hanging (I didn't use all the ones from last year so I didn't sweat it when I didn't get every last one...). So, with that introduction this is what I hope to bring to this blog: documentation of my journey through all-grain (some might say real) brewing, comment on the Michigan brew scene, hits and tips learned the hard way for other brewers. Remember: if you don't brew your own, support your local brewery!