Sep 20, 2012

Grain mill upgrade

I got a mill for crushing barley nearly a year ago. Before that I was crushing grain for my extract brews (and one partial mash) with a bottle or rolling pin on a baking tray, not a fun way to start an afternoon's brewing. It's not the best one you can get but then it wasn't the most expensive either. It works fine but the hopper was pretty small and flimsy and it was only mounted on a narrow bit of ply.

I lent it to my brother the other day and now it looks like this:

What can I say? Simon has skills
The new hopper holds around 6kg of grain and sits nicely on a 20L bucket. It's more stable and easier to use. A win all round.

Some people get into brewing and love all the planning and building and really enjoy getting everything together. That's not me at all. I sometimes wish it was but all I really want to do is brew. It's awesome having Simon around to make this kind of stuff happen.

Sep 18, 2012

Tasting: American Brown Ale

It's well and truly gone now but I found these tasting notes from a while back (20/7/12) and thought I'd chuck them up here so I have a record of it.

Aroma: It has a gentle hop aroma. Passionfruit, citrus, pineapple are the main players. There's also some sweet caramel and coffee in the background.

Appearance: It pours clear and a medium brown colour. A sticky, tight and long lasting head. I don't think of Brown Ales as the most pretty beers but as far as they go this one isn't bad.

Flavour: A mild hop flavour, again passionfruit and citrus are the main characters I can detect. The hop flavour merges nicely with the residual sweetness. Coffee/roast flavours from the chocolate malt comes out to play and there's a firm bitterness that lingers on the palate as the flavours clear. The flavours all play really nicely together and make this beer work well.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium carbonation, plenty of body and a light background sweetness. It works nicely with the flavour.

Overall: The aim with this beer was to make something accessible and drinkable. It worked! I found myself running out of it pretty quickly. It was an extract beer but certainly didn't suffer for that. The body along with the roasty flavours makes it a really nice wintery beer but still has the hop notes that hold out the promise of Spring. I can't think of anything I'd change and I'd happily brew it again if I was after an easy drinking Brown Ale again. 

Sep 13, 2012

DIY wort chiller

My bro and I made ourselves wort chillers a couple of months ago:

9m of 1/2in copper tube shaped around the end of a bucket.

Finished wort chiller. I neatened up the ends a bit afterwards.
It was really easy to do. I think in the end it might have taken a lazy 20 minutes to make both of them. We also found that you can just jam on a bit of garden hose without mucking around with hose clamps or tap fittings. It's not the prettiest but it works really nicely. 23L of 100'C wort chills to 25'C in about 20 minutes.

Sep 11, 2012

Reflections on a dry month

My ongoing health issues have forced us to rethink our diet and over the last month we've been doing a particularly restrictive diet that's supposed to be helpful. As part of that month I had to forgo beer, it was painful. Now the month is up and I've happily fallen off the wagon. Here are some reflections on my dry month as I sip my brother's delicious Hefeweizen.

1. I really like beer. I know it's obvious but I really didn't realise how much I loved it until I had to avoid it. It's complex, varied, powerful and delicious. For at least part of the past 4 months or so I've had to take dairy, fructose, gluten and a few other bits and pieces out of my diet and generally I've been pretty much fine with that since it's meant more meat. Beer was by far the hardest thing to do without. I wanted malty and I wanted bitter and nothing else would do.

2. I like being able to go without for a while. When I worked as a barista I usually had 5-10 coffees a day but I usually didn't drink any coffee on the weekend. I liked not needing it. Same with beer. 

3. It's given me a greater appreciation for beer. This is related to the first two points. It's nice to have access to decent to fantastic beer at any time but I find that over time I begin to drink with less regard to what's going down my throat. I might be drinking something delicious but I don't appreciate it properly. After a month of abstinence I'm savouring every drop and enjoying the wafting aromas.

4. One of the things I really missed was the social beer. Whether it's home brew or not, it's always better when shared with friends. Sure you can drink coffee or tea with people but it's not the same.

5. Related to that, it's made me realise that I generally don't brew just for myself. I mean, I love it, it's heaps of fun to do and I obviously enjoy the results of my efforts but a brew isn't complete until it's being shared with friends.

6. A month with no drinking is a great way to build up the stocks again. My enforced winter brewing break left my cupboard pretty bare but as of today I have 4 batches bottled and in various stages of carbonation. 

7. It drove me to work on a bunch of recipes. I was dreaming of the kinds of beers I wanted to drink and trying to create recipes for those beers. If I brewed a beer a week and just used the recipes I've written so far it'd take me until December next year to brew them all. 

Sep 5, 2012

Brewday: Session Saison

Yesterday I brewed a saison, the final beer of three for an upcoming camp. I'm hoping that the low gravity and the high fermentation temperatures will get this baby done quickly so that it has time to carbonate in the bottles.

Now we wait. It hurts.
I'm a relative newcomer to saisons. The first one I had was at Fremont Brewing just over a year ago. It was memorable even among all the other great beers I had in the US. I loved the dry finish and the fruity and peppery characters that came with it. Since then I've also enjoyed the Sierra Nevada Ovila Saison and a number of others from the US, Belgium and Australia. They seem to be a beer geek favourite and I guess with good reason. It gives heaps of freedom to play with grist, mashing, hopping amounts and brett/funky bacteria.

With this one I was aiming for something pretty dry with a decent bitter bite to it. I started fermenting it at 23'C but will up that to 28 or 29'C over the next few days, I'm hoping the higher temperatures will help me get a bit more out of the WY3725 than I did last time. It'll weigh in somewhere between 4.5 and 5% ABV and should be perfect for those lovely Spring days we get in between the windy/wet ones.

The grist is pilsner malt (82%), rye malt (11%) and wheat malt (7%). Not shooting for anything spectacular with that, just light and hopefully with a little edge from the rye and wheat. I mashed at 65.5'C and was shooting for 1.043 but only got 1.040. So far for the 3 batches I've brewed in my urn I've hovered around the 70% efficiency mark, it's not exactly where I want it but at least it's relatively stable and I can build recipes around that. I haven't been doing a mashout in the urn yet and I reckon that'd help get my efficiency up a few points.

I added 26g of Aramis hops at the start of the boil, 30g Saaz @ 20 minutes and 30g Styrian Goldings at the end. It's far from a hop bomb but in a relatively little beer they should come across nicely.

Fermenter of saisony goodness
Camp de Brains Saison
OG: 1.043
FG (est): 1.005
IBU: 31
Batch size: 23L
Mash: 65.5'C for 60 minutes

Pilsner malt (82%)
Rye malt (11%)
Wheat malt (7%)

26g Aramis (8.2%aa) @ 60 min
30g Saaz (2.9%aa) @ 20 min
30g Styrian Goldings (5.4%aa) @ 0 min

Yeast: Wyeast 3725

I also bottled the IPA on Monday. I'd dry hopped it for 4 days with 40g each of Columbus, Amarillo and Simcoe and bottling it was a pleasure. The aromas were incredible. Tropical fruit punch, strawberry, coconut and lime. I'm really happy with it and can't wait to see how it drinks.
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