Sep 30, 2013

Competition entries

Now winging their way to the ACT
Today we posted our competition entries for judging on October 12 & 13. You can get 3 of the Coopers PET bottles in one express post satchel so we've entered 6 all up, 5 of mine and 1 of Simon's:

  • Leichtes Weizen
  • Blonde Ale
  • Export Stout
  • Tripel
  • Saison
  • Dusseldorf Altbier (this one is Simon's entry. It's delicious)
I'll post tasting notes for all of these ones soon and the competition results, good or bad when they're back.

Sep 22, 2013

Brewday: Barclay Perkins 1859 EI Porter

As I type I'm brewing a beer from 1859, the Barclay Perkins EI Porter. Thanks to Ron Pattinson's dedication to the obscure and his relentless pursuit of historical minutiae, recipes and detailed information has been freed from the archives and put out there for anyone to read. His blog, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins is an internet treasure trove if you're into that kind of thing and well worth following. I've got a list of about 15 beers from there I'm hoping to brew my way through over the next year or two.

Not quite the right one

Here's part of Ron's introduction of the EI Porter:
EI stands for Export India. This is the Porter that Barclay Perkins produced for the Indian market. It's the Porter equivalent of IPA. As I keep reminding anyone who will listen, there was probably more Porter exported to India than Pale Ale. But for some reason that seems to have been forgotten, with everyone focusing competely on IPA. It's most likely a class thing, IPA having been drunk by officers and officials, Porter by the ordinary soldiers.
Normally I write my own recipes. It's one of my favourite parts of the whole process. But this time I'm just along for the ride. It's good though, it makes me try different things. I'd never write a recipe with 185 IBUs and I'd never write a recipe with nearly 20% Brown malt so I guess it shows what I know about it.

BPIAB: Barclay Perkins In A Bag
Barclay Perkins 1859 EI Porter (18L batch)
(The original recipe)
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.017
IBU: 185 IBU
ABV: 6.5%
EBC: 57

72.5% Golden Promise
19.3% Brown malt
4.8% Amber malt
3.4% Black malt

150g EK Golding @ 120 min
60g EK Golding @ 60 min
60g EK Golding @ 30 min
25g EK Golding @ Dry hop

I'm using WY1968 because that's what I have available at the moment but I'd like to give it a go another time with WY1028. Fermentation will kick off at 20C and probably go up to 23C over a week.

The mash is being carried out without regard for history, I'm going for a fairly highly fermentable mash so that the yeast doesn't give up on my halfway through. It's a 64/68/72/78C mash for 20/30/15/10 minutes.

Sep 21, 2013

Wild yeast capture one more time

A while back I had a go at capturing some wild yeast. I had one promising jar out of four but whatever was in there wasn't able to attenuate the wort beyond 1.020 and it got dumped. I'm still pretty much in love with the idea of capturing some wild yeast and brewing with it, either lambic style or isolating and using a single strain. I've started growing some samples of my sourdough starter and kombucha on plates and I'm looking forward to seeing what will come of them.

Anyway, I had a little bit of left over malt extract agar when I made up the plates yesterday so I put some paper towel over it and left it outside overnight next to our hop plant. I brought it in again in the morning and it'll sit at room temperature for a week or two and we'll see what it does. Since it's a jelly, whatever grows on there will be on the surface and in theory, I'll be able to pick out the promising colonies.

Sep 20, 2013

How to make malt extract agar petri dishes for yeast ranching

This year in my blogging blackout I've learned a bit more about yeast ranching. Yeast management is probably the most significant factor in beer quality so my carefully cultivated ignorance of all things science could not be allowed to stand.

Virtually all the information I've used to get going with this has come from BKYeast with some additional help from Eureka Brewing and a couple of homebrew forum threads here and there. Both those blogs are excellent reads for anyone wanting to step into the Tardis that is the world of those microscopic organisms.

Malt extract agar

So today I made up some wort-agar plates for collecting and storing both commercial and wild yeast strains.

Recipe (to make up 10 petri dishes)
200ml water
4g agar
4g dried malt extract

1. Weigh out water, agar and malt extract into a beaker, give it a stir and cover with aluminium foil.
2. Place the beaker in a pressure cooker on a wire rack to keep it off the bottom of the pressure cooker.

In the pressure cooker

3. Pour water into the pressure cooker up to the level of the rack.
4. Close the pressure cooker lid and heat on the stove. I let it go for 15 minutes in the cooker after it's steaming away.
5. Once it's done, let it cool until the beaker can be safely handled. Making sure you've got a clean space to work and a alcohol burner or butane torch nearby to create some updraft, pour into petri dishes and wrap them in gladwrap.

End product

Petri dishes all wrapped up

They're ready to go now but I'll let them sit at room temp for a week or so to make sure they haven't been contaminated. If they're clear, they'll go into the fridge ready for whenever I need them.

Sep 17, 2013

Little Beer Brewday Continued: Ordinary Bitter

Ordinary Bitter isn't a very inspiring label. Ordinary: pedestrian, plain, dull. We even use ordinary as a descriptor when we mean bad. There's something nice about the idea of an Ordinary Bitter though. Ordinary Bitter just is, no punching people in the face with high ABV or flavours turned up to 11. A well made Bitter has a place even though it can't compete with crazy Belgian beers and West Coast IPAs for straight up impact.

Bitter is better when pronounced 'bit-ta' like Roots Manuva

I brewed this one earlier in the year and I think it worked well. It was just 93% Maris Otter and 7% Medium Crystal with 35 IBU worth of First Gold hops. I carbonated some bottles as normal and carbonated others with only half the normal amount of sugar. When comparing them it was almost as if they were two different beers. This time I've run out of Medium Crystal so it's the less traditional Caramunich II instead and I've got East Kent Goldings instead of the First Gold. I'll start fermenting it at 20C and raise the temperature slowly over the week to 24C. Another time I'd like to leave out the crystal and just add a little black malt to adjust the colour.

It's not a revolution in a bottle, it's not different or new, it won't stand out. It's not meant to. It's just meant to be well brewed and good to drink. I like beers that are different and challenging but it's nice to just brew something that can be simple and good without any extra pretension.

Liberty Bitter (23L batch)
OG: 1.037 (1.038 measured)
FG: 1.010
IBU: 35
ABV: 3.5%
EBC: 11.6

93% Maris Otter
7% Caramunich II

25g East Kent Golding @ 90 min
30g East Kent Golding @ 20 min
30g East Kent Golding @ 0 min

1L starter of WY1968

9g CaSO4, 1g CaCl2, 3g MgSO4

80g Acidulated malt to adjust pH.

Sep 16, 2013

Little Beer Brewday: Leichtes Weizen & Ordinary Bitter

Yesterday I brewed my last two candidates for the competition, a Leichtes Weizen and an Ordinary Bitter. I left these till last because they'll both clock in at under 4% abv and I want them to be as fresh as possible when I send them off.

The Australian Amateur Brewing Championship guidelines borrow heavily from the American BJCP guidelines but differ at a few important points. The AABC categorises some styles differently so that instead of putting an Ordinary Bitter together with other English Pale Ales as in the BJCP, it gets put in Category 1: Low Alcohol (<4% ABV). That category also contains Leichtes Weizen, a low gravity German wheat beer (OG range of 1.025-1.035).

I've brewed a couple of hefeweizens, a dunkelweizen and a weizenbock but so far I haven't managed to brew a wheat beer that has exactly the combination of wheat, pils malt, clove and banana goodness that I'm after. Hopefully that's all changed now. The Leichtes Weizen was apparently an attempt of the major wheat beer brewers to compete with the 'Lite' beers of the big lager brewers. I don't know how successful this was but it makes for a tricky little beer to brew. It needs to have all the flavours of a Hefeweizen but in balance with each other and turned down a bit to fit in a lower gravity beer. Nothing should stick out, no aggressive cloves, no in your face banana, no hops, no malt dominance. It's a beer designed by removing parts of an existing style rather than built from the ground up.

So in the light of my earlier wheat beer failures, I've attempted to modify my process to hopefully hit the perfect combination. There's nowhere to hide if I've gotten it wrong, it'll be obvious and the judges will mark it down. I decided to try my first ferulic acid rest, probably something I probably should have tried earlier on a non-competition brew. It's a rest in the mashing process at 43C where, thanks to the work of some amazing enzymes, ferulic acid is released into the mash. Ferulic acid is a precursor to 4-vinyl guaiacol, a compound responsible for the clove flavour and aroma. So more ferulic acid = more clove flavour and aroma, something my wheat beers have lacked. It'll just be a short rest, probably 15 minutes because I don't want to go crazy with the clove phenols. I'll be fermenting at 17C as I've done in the past with WLP300 to keep the banana in check. I've also increased the percentage of wheat to 60% up from the 50% I've tended to stick with up until now.

Getting my ferulic acid rest on
Once again I've written so much about the first brew, I'll have to leave the Bitter writeup for another day.

He Ain't Heavy Leichtes Weizen (23L batch)
OG: 1.033 (measured)
FG: 1.008
IBU: 10
ABV: 3.3%
EBC: 4

60% Best Malz wheat malt
40% Best Malz pils malt

9g Aramis @ 90 min

750ml starter of WLP300 (shooting for a slight under-pitch of 0.625 million cells per ml per degree plato)

Sep 13, 2013

BrewSwede: Brewtas' Swedish spinoff

My youngest brother lives in Sweden and has started brewing this year. He sent a bottle of his Belgian Blond down and it was delicious with it's spicy and clove aroma and flavour. He lives in a tiny apartment with his partner and baby and doesn't have any kind of dedicated brewing area. What he's been able to do with limited resources has been impressive.

Simon, me and Dad with the beer in question

The recipe was a very simple extract brew, a testament to how much the yeast is responsible for producing delicious beer. Here's the recipe:

Ben's Blond Ale (12L batch)
OG: 1.060
FG: 1.010
IBU: 19
ABV: 6.6%
EBC: 10

92% Light DME
8% Table sugar

25g Tettnang @ 60 min

White Labs 570 fermented in a 21-22C apartment

Sep 12, 2013

Blonde Ale and brewing for a wedding

In January one of my friends from school will be getting married and he's asked me to provide the beer for the reception. It's a fun project to plan and obsess over but it also comes with some pressure to brew for a range of people I don't know and who aren't necessarily into craft beer. I've written and rewritten the list of 5 or so beers that I'll brew and it will probably get some more revision before January. Still, at this point I'm planning:

  • Bohemian Pilsner
  • Dusseldorf Altbier (Simon's recipe, one of my favourite beers)
  • Hefeweizen with Vienna malt
  • Blonde Ale or American Pale Ale
  • Belgian Pale or Saison

The dates for brewing are mapped out, the Pilsner is set for October 6th so it's got plenty of time to lager. I may get excited and brew an extra beer or two. Maybe an IPA or something a little more unusual. A Berliner Weisse might be a fun beer on a hot Summer day.

I brewed the Blonde Ale on the same day as the Pale Ale and they're competing for a spot in January. A Blonde/Golden/Summer ale is not the kind of beer I would usually bother brewing for myself. There are just too many others I'm more interested in. I'm sure there are well done versions but generally they seem to be a fairly bland entry level craft beer. The sort of beer that 'craft' breweries backed by big corporations have as their flagship beer.

The kind of thing I'm talking about

Anyway, enough raging against the machine. The recipe is very simple. Pils malt with a touch of wheat. I'm shooting for simple, fairly dry with a little fruity hop flavour and aroma. I overshot my gravity but that's not the end of the world. If I had more time/space in the fermentation fridge & freezer, I'd have gone with a Kolsch yeast or even the California Lager yeast for a super clean and malt friendly finish. If I end up choosing to go with the Blonde Ale, that's what I'll probably do and brew it side by side with the Alt.

Blonde Ale
OG: 1.050 (I was shooting for 1.047)
FG: 1.010
IBU: 8.4 (calculated, although I'd guess the reality would be more like 15-20)
ABV: 5.3%
EBC: 5

92% Best Malz pilsner malt
8% Best Malz wheat malt

20g Citra @ 10 min
30g Citra @ 0 min


Highly fermentable stepped mash: 62C/68C/72C/78C for 30min/30min/15min/10min

Added 1g CaSO4, 6g CaCl2 and 3g MgSO4 to get calcium and magnesium to a minimum level and enhance perception of the malt.

Sep 11, 2013

Brewday: Pale Ale & Blonde Ale

Another two beers brewed on Sunday. I'm trying to make up for lost time.

My first ever craft beer, July 2004
First up is an American Pale Ale. For my money, American Pales are one of the harder styles to perfect. Not because they require such a high level of technical skill but because just about everyone brews one. They're common. Boring. Too often they taste as if the brewer's paying their bills rather than sharing something they believe is genuinely worthy of being shared.

So even though I'm just brewing for myself and friends, I'm in search of a Pale Ale that isn't just another Pale. As I go, I'm slowly building a list of preferences and ideas to divine the shape of the platonic Pale Ale. The big thing is that I like it to be fairly dry. It needs to be light enough to be drinkable and to my taste, crystal malt is often the enemy of the drinkable Pale. It shouldn't taste sweet. It shouldn't smell like caramel. I like to shoot for a FG of 1.010. That contributes to the perception of a firm bitterness. With aroma, I want the hops to be both generous and cohesive. It's easy for a brewer to get excited and add multiple aroma hops but the result can often be competing rather than complimentary aromas.

The gold standard
So with that in mind, I brewed the first version of the recipe below earlier this year. It received very positive comments from everyone but at 6.4% abv and 45-50 IBUs it was pushing the style limits. That isn't really a problem for me but I'm planning on brewing this beer for a mate's wedding reception so I thought I'd try a version that was a little more accessible. Last time I used CaraAmber as the specialty malt but this time I've got some biscuit malt from a guy in Launceston who's begun malting and roasting barley. This is my first go with his malt and I'm looking forward to the results. When I weighed out the biscuit malt I had a little taste and it reminded me of Sao crackers. I don't know if they still exist but it took me back to being a kid and having a couple after school with vegemite or cheese. I love how aromas and flavours can do that. I've gone for Cascade hops because they're still amazing after all these years and I wanted to dial in the base recipe before I turn my attentions to trying to combine 2 or 3 hops into one delicious package.

Two Wrongs Pale Ale 2.0 (19L batch)
OG: 1.053 (measured)
FG: 1.010
IBU: ~36 (the 0 min addition probably makes it at least 40)
ABV: 5.5%
EBC: 10

95% Golden Promise Malt
5% Bill's Biscuit Malt

10g Cascade @ 90 min
25g Cascade @ 30 min
15g Cascade @ 20 min
15g Cascade @ 15 min
15g Cascade @ 10 min
15g Cascade @ 5 min
40g Cascade @ 0 min
100g Cascade @ dry hop

US-05 yeast

I raised the calcium, magnesium and sulphate levels to enhance perceptions of the hops.

Mashed with my standard schedule for making a highly fermentable wort: 62C/68C/72C/78C for 30min/30min/15min/10min.

I also brewed a Blonde Ale on Sunday but I can't type much more now so I'll add that info to another post.

Sep 1, 2013

Double Brewday: Saison and Export Stout

Some more brewing today. Thanks to merging my brewing equipment with my brother's, we can easily do two batches at once when fermentation space permits. It's a bit late to get getting going but I'm hoping to get a few different beers ready for a brewing competition. There's no brewing club in Tasmania so I'll be entering the ACT one. Of course I'd like to do well but getting good written feedback will be useful either way.

I'm looking forward to the Saison because I've stepped up a starter from the dregs of a bottle of Saison Dupont. The fermentation will kick off at 22C and I'll step it up to the mid 30s over the course of the week. Can't wait to see what comes of this one.

The Stout is more or less the same recipe as I've brewed twice before. I've gone for flaked barley this time instead of rye and I used Aramis hops instead of the Northern Brewer and Fuggles I've used in the past. I've upped the gravity a little. It's a recipe I know fairly well and I'd like to continue to work on it with different varieties of yeast.

The Tripel I brewed last week has been tasting delicious out of the fermenter. I've added sugar in two stages and it should be ready to bottle in a day or two.

A quiet drink, a great view and a sour I brewed last year

Saison (23L batch)
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.008
ABV: 6.4%
IBU: 27
Colour: 9 EBC

97.5% Belgian Pilsner
2.5% Caramunich II

25g Aramis @ 90 min
25g Saaz @ 20 min

Export Stout (19L batch)
OG: 1.068
FG: 1.013
ABV: 7.3%
IBU: 55
Colour: 83 EBC

83% Maris Otter
8% Flaked Barley
5% Roast Barley
2% Chocolate Malt
2% Black Malt

66g Aramis @ 90 min

15g US-05
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