Category Archives: all-grain brewing

Simplicity

I’m on a simplicity kick.  Nothing for a total of ten beers (only successfully completed and drank beers) can be in any way complicated.  My reasons for this are a few in a row of very so-so beers that were also too complicated to be able to accurately trouble shoot without doubt.  So it’s KISS only from here to a while from now.

My lager came out good, that’s one.  It was merely golden promise plus cascade, and it’s damn tasty.

I’ve got a couple Munich SMaSH beers going too.  One’s a petite saison smash with munich and citra, one’s a regular old
US-05 munich/cascade smash beer.  Also got a super simple stout planned with 90% 2-row, 10% roasted barley, and Irish ale yeast, for a super simple dry Irish stout.

Also got a blonde ale that came out fantastic (again!)  Reasonably simple beers that I’ve done before successfully are IN as far as my simplicity kick goes. Elderberry wheat may be repeated shortly too.

When you realize that your simplest beers are usually your best, then you should consider going on a simplicity kick.  Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

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Munich-Citra Petite Saison Smash

Decided to try a new twist on an old recipe, new in a couple of ways.  Petite saison smash – but with 100% Munich malt.  Also in some ways similar to Citra-Bomb-From-Hell, but with less of a citra blast, and lower bitterness.

I added 10 grams of citra as the bittering addition.  Please, no whinin’ over using citra for bittering, that’s a debate I don’t particularly care when you’re talking ten friggin’ grams.  Then I dumped in the remainder of the pound of citra I bought a while ago, 72 grams, at flameout.  Should leave plenty of citra flavor, but not quite be so over the top as the citra bomb.

The wild card is my choice of Danstar Belle Saison yeast.  Haven’t tried this one yet, but chatter online seems positive.  Actually, I picked this one on a whim, asking the guy in my LHBS “got any good saison yeast?” at which point he pulled out a box from the fridge, started digging, and came up with this. Screw it, I’ll try anything once!

In addition, I’m using 62F as the fermentation temperature, same as with my first petite saison yeast.

So we’ll see how it comes out.  I suspect it will come out really good!

Sam Adams Summer Ale Clone

4.5 lbs 2 Row Malt

4.5 lbs Wheat Malt

1 oz lemon peel at 5 min

3 g grains of paradise at 5 min

Mash temp 153°

I’ve wanted to try brewing with grains of paradise, so I’ve finally gotten my chance.

Now there was a bit of a mixup between this brew and my quadro-smash, and this may have been dry-hopped with the hops from that one!  Oh well, we’ll find out when the time comes.  Although I didn’t mean for this to be dry hopped, if ti was, it should merely be “extra tssty.”  The quadro-smash will just be more like any other IPA that’s not dry hopped, so no biggie there. Can’t wait to taste them!

Quadro-Smash! (WTF Al?)

Edited to reflect reality!  And again to reflect reality again!

 

UPDATE: fucked it all up.  Forgot which bucket was which, put the dry hops 68g for this one into the Sam Adams summer ale clone.  This one was quite a bit on the bitter side, but has mellowed as it aged, and is at least drinkable. 

Now the other beer, the Sam Adams Summer Ale clone, it came out really nice!  All that dry hop aroma somehow didn’t mess with the rather delicate and subtle aromas and flavors of the lemon peel and grains of paradise.

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Well I never cared whether I mis-used words or butchered the English Language much, so I can name my beers whatever the heck I want!

Got the idea from a beeradvocate.com thread. Four base malts, equal portions, and four hops, equal portions, in a pale ale or IPA like beer with IBUs about 45-50.

3 lbs maris otter
3 lbs golden promise
3 lbs vienna
3 lbs munich

Hops will be a blend of Cascade, Citra, Willamette, and Bravo!  I gotta check the AA% for the exact numbers,, but the schedule wound up like this:

  • 40g bravo
    100g cascade
    80g willamette
    60g citra
    280g hops total
    28g at 60
    54g at 5
    140g at FO
    68g dry hop

Used Denny’s best yeast.  Wound up being far more of an IPA than I had previously planned.  Still – This one can’t help but be ginormously fantabulous!

Lager!

Brewed a lager! Wasn’t really much to it, actually. 10.5 lbs of pilsner malt plus this hops schedule:

  • 1 oz cascade at 60
  • 1 oz willamette at 10
  • 1 oz cascade at 5
  • 2 oz willamette 1 oz cascade at flameout

Other than that, just some yeast nutrient and whirlflock, and German lager yeast.  The plan is to ferment at 52F for six weeks, then transfer to a carboy and lager for at least six, but up to ten weeks at 33F.

This beer has its own special fermentation freezer and controller setup.

Imperial Classic American Creme Ale?

Well the first version of my Classic American Creme Ale was so damn good it made my Top Six List (obviously list to be revised as time goes by).  Then I got a wild hair one day and thought to myself “boy that was so good, I should imperialize it!”

This may not turn out to be the best idea I’ve had, but the deed is done, and it’s in the fermenter.  The only difference was the original used 6-row, and this one used UK pale malt, so it’s not quite exactly the same grain bill (nor is it the same hops used, but I’ll get to that).  Essentially my (perhaps not so bright) idea was to jack everything up by a third, and use more and stronger hops.  Here’s the jist of it:

  • 12 lbs UK pale malt
  • 4 lbs flaked corn
  • 21g magnum hops at 60
  • 1 oz magnum at 5
  • 3 oz willamette at FO
  • 15 minute hop stand at 170F
  • Nottingham yeast

Will I be a Super-Genius or a Super-Magoo?  Don’t answer that!

I suspect it will at least make tasty beer, which is all you can really hops for when you’re shooting in the dark, making recipes based on your drunken whims from last night.  We’ll see in a few weeks!

My Top Six!

Well I’m always talking about my top five beers so far, and while that’s probably somewhat debatable, I decided to at least make an effort to qualify which beers those are, at least up till this point. But looking back, it’s impossible to narrow it down to five, so six it is!  I’ve been brewing for a few years now, so I’ve got a nice little list to choose from. Here’s what I’ve decided, as of Feb 2014, in no particular order:

Fresh hop pale ale

The Averagely Perfect American IPA

Pliny the Elder pseudo-clone

Classic American Creme Ale

Citra-Bomb from Hell SMaSH

The Juniper Pale Ale Project with MrOH

And what have I learned from these brews?  Well, one thing that really stands out is that simple recipes tend to be better. Two of these beers used only one base malt (citra bomb and fresh hop), and that base malt was golden promise. Maybe that’s two things learned.  However, Bravo-Munich SMaSH would certainly be the honorable mention for this list.

Classic American Creme Ale used only two ingredients, barley malt and corn, and that barley malt was six-row. That was by far my clearest beer ever, absolutely crystal clear, even at bottling, all the way to my filled glass. So much for the plethora of “six row sucks” cries of horror you’ll hear on the web if you admit to using six-row.

Crystal malt does not equal “bad” when it comes to IPAs. Both the APA IPA and Pliny the Elder (and my pseudo-clone of PtE, which is exactly based on Vinny’s recipe malt-wise) made the list, and the choices for that list included various hoppy beers that did not contain crystal malt. So much for that de-bunked theory.

Juniper can be an excellent addition to a beer (if you make good beer in the first place, that is). I wouldn’t over-do it tho.

BMC fans can be easily converted without making ridiculously light and flavorless beers. Classic American Creme Ale was rated “my best beer yet” by one particular BMC drinker that frequently samples my beers. And while it was quite good for the type of beer I envisioned (one without hugely strong flavor or aroma, but not a flavorless or totally bland beer, more of a refreshing, light, thirst-quenching beer with a nicely light corny, hoppy flavor).  However, the Citra Bomb From Hell disappeared awfully fast considering there were only a couple BMC fans and me drinking it.

BMC drinkers, once converted to homebrew drinkers, never go back. Remember that.

So here’s to the first edition of my top six list, and to many more like it. Cheers!

Pilsner and Willamette Petite Saison SMaSH

Lately I haven’t been brewing that much, but yesterday a buddy and me did a big double batch brewday.  We brewed two beers using Willamette hops, because I have a bag of Willamette leaf and I want to use it up to make space in the freezer.  So here’s the first beer we brewed:

12 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt

approximately 6 oz Willamette hops.  1.5 oz measured FWH, the rest approximated and added over a steady stir for the last 5 minutes of the boil, with a 10 minute hop stand.

Now last time I did petite saison smash I used 3711, this time I used T-58.  The main reason for this was I had a pack of dry T-58 and didn’t feel like making a starter, and didn’t have any 3711 anyway, so the choice was easy.  I’ve used T-58 a number of times now in my small experimental batches, and I’ve liked it.  We’ll see how it performs on this batch.

Fermentation will be at 64F.  I didn’t dry hop the last petite saison, so I might try it on this one, but then again I might not.  We’ll see.

The other beer we brewed will be in another blog, with some pictures too!  That beer is test run #1 of a clone of Texas Big Beer’s Working Stiff Ale.  Much more on that to come!

Munich and Caramunich Sorta Smash

Decided to break from my relatively long streak of not using crystal malts (except in the stout) and try something I’ve been interested in for some time.  I’m going to make a beer with all Munich I and Munich II base malt, and all three kinds of Caramunich:

  • 7.75 lbs Munich I (10 SRM)
  • 4.25 lbs Munich II (20 SRM)
  • 0.25 lbs Caramunich III
  • 0.25 lbs Caramunich II
  • 0.5 lbs Caramunich I

Hops wise, I haven’t decided yet.  The grist is already bagged, so that won’t change. However, any suggestions on the hops bill will be considered!  I will edit / update when the hops bill has been finalized.  I am thinking something noble-ish, leaving a maltier, less IPA-ish final beer, but if the eureka moment presents itself, I will go with just about anything that is highly likely to kick ass!

Yeast wise I haven’t decided yet either.  Something that will highlight the Munich and caramunich, perhaps Irish ale yeast?  WLP029?  Again, suggestions welcome.

A new and different IPA, plus some unsolicited beer philosophy

Well this one will be sorta smash-like, in that I’m not using any specialty malts, just base malts.  It’s going to have 6 lbs pilsner malt, 6 lbs golden promise, and 2 lbs Munich malt, 14 lbs total.  That’s a little bit bigger than I usually make my beers, but hey, I’m experimenting, so I can do what I want!

Here’s what I planned to do with the hops:

0.5 oz magnum at 60
0.25 oz each magnum, bravo at 15
0.5 oz tettnanger at 15
0.25 oz each magnum, bravo at 10
0.5 oz tettnanger at 10
0.25 oz each magnum, bravo at 5
0.5 oz tettnanger at 5
0.5 oz each magnum, bravo at FO
2 oz tettnanger at FO

Here’s my thinking: I’ve seen some cases where other people have experimented with magnum hops NOT solely at the 60 minute mark, but as late additions, flameout additions, or even dry hopping..  None have had anything bad to say about their beers, so I figure I’ll step outside the box a little and try some magnum late in the boil.  Now I’m also going with a little bravo, which I already know works fine at any stage of the boil.  If you recall that far back, my Munich / Bravo SMaSH had half an ounce bravo early, 1 oz at 5 minutes, and two ounces at flameout, and that’s one of my favorite SMaSH beers I’ve ever made.  Purely delicious.  So to me, that’s a tried and true hop.  It should offer support to the magnum, which is a little unknown, but I have no worries.  Then I’m tossing in tettnanger, in approximately double-ish the amounts of the two higher AA hops.  I really don’t know what I’m going to get out of this, but I bet it will be tasty!  Well of course I think it will be tasty, or I wouldn’t bother making it!

Oh, and probably US-05 yeast.

In the near future I’m going to be brewing with some Irish Ale yeast, and some 3711.  I think the 3711 will go with the next weird extract experimental two gallon batch I’m planning.  Can’t wait to see how EXTRA DARK extract goes with 3711!  Hey, the last one worked out great, so who knows!

Now also in the spirit of trying new things, if this one comes out really good, I may have to try a smash beer with all magnum.  I know one guy who’s tried just such a beast, and it came out tasty beer.  Who says you can’t use magnum late?  Sure, it’s a great bittering hop, and I have no plans to take anything away from it in that respect.  But is it being unfairly relegated to the background, when it deserves some time center stage?

Well let me just say this – if it’s generic, commonly spewed forth advice that seems regurgitated and taken for granted “just because,” then I’m willing to challenge that notion.  I’m already challenging the standard advice with extracts, and now maybe even a little bit with magnum, and maybe a lot more with magnum soon.  I encourage everyone to do the same, challenge the norms, try stuff that maybe doesn’t seem like the obvious thing to do.

And when it comes to giving out advice… Yeah, you can always say “sanitation is important,” and you’ll never be wrong.  But if you say “don’t use amber extract, use light, then add specialty grains bla bla bla…”  Have you actually TRIED amber or dark extract?  Is this advice universal and unchanging, etched in stone from cradle to grave?

I say no.  There are times when amber or dark extract will be perfect for the beer you intend to make.  If that’s the case, just use them!  Taint no big deal!!  Now other times, it may be better to use light extract, and adjust the finer points of your beer with specialty grains.  There’s no doubt that there are many times when this advice is also the best advice, so again, I’m not trying to take away from this approach.  But there should be a reason why the light extract+steeping grains is superior in the particular instance at hand.  Conversely, if amber (or even dark) extract is appropriate for the beer at hand, at least try it once.

I recently had an email exchange with a representative from Munton’s about their extracts.  While he didn’t hand over the manufacturer’s specifications to me, he did indicate that the notion that extracts are “chock full of crystal malt” was simply not the case.  If they were, then extracts would not have the versatility that they do.  instead, they would consistently produce cloying, overly sweet, overly thick beer (just like if you put too much crystal malt in a beer!  Imagine that!).  And of course he believes that the quality of extracts (particularly Munton’s, lol) is very high, and the quality of beer you can make from extracts is also very high, including for the amber and dark or extra dark varieties.  I tend to agree, at least so far.  I know I’m brewing all grain now, but my extract brews  were very tasty too.  That’s part of why I keep experimenting with small extract batches.

So anyway, I’ve digressed into pointless rambling.  I tend to do that sometimes.  Make of it what you will, or just grab a beer and go watch reruns of your favorite TV show (as a means of ignoring my ramblings)*.

Anyway, I need a beer.  Cheers!

*wouldn’t be the first time that happened, lol

EDIT: Brewed 11-23-13

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