Homebrew et al.

Blog about trying to make beer, good beer.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Brewed a "Malty" Boston Stock Ale

I picked up a recipe kit from Alt Bev. I brewed their Boston Stock Ale, but I added a few twist. First, to make it maltier I added an additional pound of Crystal 60L to the grain bill. Then I saved about a 1/2 ounce of Saaz hops to dryhop the brew a couple of days before bottling.

Compared to HBA, the Alt Bev recipes are packed in a more retail friendly manner but their directions are not so good. I adapted the directions to fit the HBA mold, with which I am more comfortable. Nonetheless, both shops are staffed with great employees.

1. Heated the water to 165 F and added the grainbill for 30 minutes.
2. Pulled out the grainbags and then added the 5 lbs of light DME and brought the mixture to a boil.
3. Once boil was achieved, I added an ounce of Kent whole flower hops (5.9 alpha) for bittering and set the timer for 35 minutes (pictured upper left). This was the first time I used whole flower hops.
N.B. The Alt Bev instructions suggested the Saaz hops for bittering. But at 3.6 alpha, I decided to take Palmer's advice and use higher alpha unit hops for bittering and use the "better" Saaz hops for aroma/dryhopping.
4. Added Irish moss then set the timer for 15 minutes.
5. Add Servomyces and the immersion ciller and set the timer for 10 minutes.
6. Added aroma hops, 1 ounce fof Fuggles (5.6 alpha) and 1.5 ounces of Saaz; set the timer for 2 minutes. The Saaz hops were peletized (upper right).

After I topped off the fermentation bucket I checked the gravity and it read 1.050 (at 70 F). If I do the corrected score (since hydrometers are calibrated at about 60 F), the SG is 10.60. I then added the yeast (Whitelabs WLP008).

Throughout this process I had to reference Palmer's book several times to check which, and how much, hops to use at what point. I also referenced the instructions that came with the HBA kit.

I don't think that dryhopping is consistent with this style but, hey, that is why we brew our own beer. Right?

Finally racked my beers

I finally racked my beers. I got some advice from the Brewboard that I should just rack, since enough time had elapsed. A couple of strange things to note. The hydrometer readings after the rack were, at least for the special bitter, 1.008. Was I taking bad samples? I really don't know what is going on. Nonetheless, I took a sample from the bottom of the carboy and I had a ten point difference. When I transferred the wee heavy I tried to take a sample of beer with my wine theif and broke the hydrometer that I left inside as I was bouncing the thief in the beer. I hope I didn't contaminate the brew. I am hoping that the shards of glass stayed in the thief, and the auto siphon was placed at the other end of the fermentation vessel (plastic bucket).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Common New Brewer Mistake

I have read about a common brewer mistake - checking the gravity too many times. I checked the gravity on my "wee heavy" and it was at 1.020ish. It still needs to come down about 10 more points. I shan't be racking (brewer-speak for transfering the beer from vessel to vessel) today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gravity Still Too High

I was thinking of transfering my special bitter to the conditioning vessel but when I checked the gravity I was still about ten points off (1.020). I have resorted to putting the fermentors in the hall to heat them up. I guess the yeast just don't like the cold. Come Friday I am transfering to the second no matter what.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Scored a bunch of bottles

While bottling my homebrew is about a month away, I have been acquiring bottles slowly. What I do is I throw them in the dishwasher (the heat cycle actually sterilizes everything) then I put foil over the tops to make sure nothing (dust, bugs, mold) gets into the bottles. I'll soak them in Star San before I bottle.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Brew Radio

Learn about homebrewing at BasicBrewing Radio. Very informative radio show.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Brew Pantry

I wrapped the plastic fermentor in a blanket and secured it with a bungee cord (not seen).

Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

I brewed HBA's Wee Heavy Scotch. It was much easier than the first time.

First a few notes about the brew. According to HBA the wee heavy is:
Creamy, very chewy, slightly smoky example of Strong Scotch Ale. A wee tad less hoppy than Scottish Export (while considerably maltier), similar in flavor to Bitter family. Addition of peated malt enhances smoky character of this "session beer."

The two sacks above are eight pounds of malt extract that make up the wort. As I stated above, this brew session was easier.
This time I used my immersion chiller; I didn't have to get all stressed out about an ice bath. I also used a plastic fermenting bucket instead of a glass carboy.

Each time I hope to correct some mistakes. Last time I forgot to sanitize the outside of the gallon jugs that I poured into the fermenting vessel to make the 5 gallons of wort. This time I sanitized the gallons but I think I added too much water because I missed the target gravity of 1.077. My SG was 1.070, meaning I dilluted the mixture too much. It should end up with a FG of 1.010. In the future I should add about half or 3/4 of what I think I need then check the hydrometer reading.

Another point to worry about is that I reused my Star San sanitizer from my last brew. I hope that it worked and killed all the possible nasties. I did throw out what I used today, though. My hands feel very dry (like they do after I use Star San) so I am thinking I'll be okay. I'll have to keep an eye on that, but the makers of Star San claim that it is effective until it turns cloudy. At which point you have to make a new batch (1 oz. to five gallons of water).

Cold Carboy = Slow Fermentation

I figured out why the special bitter's gravity level was too high. It is becuase the carboy was too cold (about 62 degrees Fehrenheit). I went ahead and put one of my jackets around the carboy. Now, not only is the fermentation going strong, but the carboy is styling.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I brewed up a yeast starter for my next beer. The Carolina Brewmasters' website has a nice "how to" or education section.

The fact that the "wee heavy" has a lot of fermentable sugars means that I have to give the yeast (in this case Wyeast 1728/Scottish) a headstart to build up its cell count so that when I pitch it into the wort they'll be ready to start converting the fermentable sugars, very cool.

First Post Pitch Hydrometer Reading

Used my Fermtech Thief to check my fermenting brew's gravity. Much to my chagrin my current reading was 1.022. My target is twelve points lower at 1.010. I wonder if I have stalled fermentation, the krausen has settled back into the wort and I guess I'll just have to wait and see. I wanted to brew a wee heavy Scotch ale tomorrow but if the gravity is not ready I guess I'll have to wait.

First Attempt (Dec 2)

My first attempt has been HBA's extract recipe called "Thames Valley Special Bitter." HBA's description is:

Another Amber Ale related to Pale Ale family. Maltier and hoppier and with higher alcohol content than Ordinary Bitter. Special Bitter is just the ticket for someone searching for a more flavorful Bitter.

A couple of newby mistakes I made were that I added the first set of bittering hops in a muslin bag cut in half. I found that this didn't give the hop pellets room to expand and get fully wetted. I am afraid that the hops didn't have enough contact with the wort and that they kept their precious oils all to themselves. The cooling of the boiling wort was also a mess and I have since invested in an immersion cooler. I know what you are saying, "but you're only doing partial boils." I know, but cooling 3 gallons of boiling wort in an ice bath was so messy and makes things only more susceptable to infection.

I added servomyces (a yeast nutrient) to better insure a healthy fermentation and WhiteLabs yeast (strain WLP002). I also sanitized everything with Star San, a comercial no-rinse, acid-based sanitizer. The Star San made everything really slippery. You really need to let the stuff dry for a while when using Star San.

Ultimately I ended up with an original gravity (OG) of 1.050. The finishing gravity (FG) should be about 1.010. The gravity readings (done with a hydrometer) are a method of measure the density of the wort. In this case, we're measuring the amount of fermentable sugars. After letting the yeast work, converting fermentable sugars to alcohol, there should be less sugar in the wort. After all, the yeast at all the sugars. Which is to say, amazing.

Pictured to the right is the fermentation pantry of doom.

The Set Up

Here's the equipment. I am such a gadget-monger so homebrew fit my needs to acquire gadgets and do something that is steeped in fascinating history (our history) but is also fun and scientific.

The equipment I bought was the "deluxe" system, with two fermentation vessels that allows for a clarification stage. The result is a cleaner, less yeasty beer.

So what is dry hopping?

So what is dry hopping? Dry hopping is a technique used by the British to preserve beer for the long trip to India. It was accomplished by adding hops to the kegs/barrels and what emerges is a citrus-like aroma beer.

Since I was going to "blaugh" about my homebrew experience, I thought I'd call it something homebrewy.

Pictured above is Malcolm Reynolds, the cat, staring at Aflack, the duck, and her friends.