Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quite Funny

Its rare that I just cheaply post a link to somewhere else, but this is rather quite hilarious, and just my kind of funny. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some Kind of Belgian Update

Just an update on the SKOB brewed this past weekend (for the very very few of you that actually care)...
The OG was 20.3 P (1.084). After ~32 hrs of fermenting it had dropped to 10.9 (1.044)!! Thats crazy! It was fermenting at ~26 C, which would explain that. I wanted it to ferment quite warm, to get some crazy yeast character out of it.
After 66 hrs of fermenting (today) the gravity had dropped to 5.5 P (1.022), with a temp at a more respectable ~20 C. It seems to still be fermenting, so thats a good sign. I figure with such a fermentable wort it should ferment right down to 3.6 P or so (1.014), which would yeild a 9.3% beer. I'll be happy though if it ferments to 4 P, really.

This week I'll rack it off into a couple of carboys and let it sit at ~15 C for 1.5-2 months before giving it a test.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Belgian Brew Night!

Last night my friend Graeme and I brewed our "Some Kind of Belgian" (SKOB). My last post had the planned recipe, but this is the actual recipe for what ended up being a 35 L batch (instead of 40 as planned... bah):

9.0 kg 2-row pale malt
1.5 kg dextrose
290 g Belgian amber candi sugar rocks
70 ml homemade Belgian amberish caramel syrup
64 g EK Goldings (75 min boil, 5.5% AA)
23 g Czech Saaz (25 min boil, 3.6% AA)
21 g German Spalt Select (25 min boil, 4.8% AA)
(IBU should be ~30)
~1 tbsp yeast nutrient
Wyeast 3864 (Belgian/Canadian) yeast 1L starter generated from XL smack pack.

Process: Mashed in at 3.0 L/kg with a mash temp of 65 C for one hour. No mashout (see notes in pictures below). Boiled for 75 minutes, added candi sugar and syrup at 30 minutes left in the boil. Added dextrose in last 15 min of boil (which actually stopped the boil for a few minutes). Added yeast nutrient at 15 min boil too (was worried that I had too much sugar for fermentables)
OG = 20.3, expecting the beer to be ~9% alc/vol.
Anyway, on to some photos:

I made the Belgian caramel syrup at home before hand. Its actually quite easy, the directions can be found at the bottom of this page. The first batch I made was too burnt and I'm sure it would have ruined the beer. My second try resulted in a perfect golden caramel syrup, I just didn't make enough... I only got 70 ml instead of 100 ml. I didn't want much since at most I wanted the caramel to be a very subtle flavour in the finished beer.

We started around 19:45 at night... perhaps an odd way to spend a Saturday night. Here I am heating up the strikewater to 71 C.

Graeme adding the milled 2-row to the strikewater. I love it when calculations work out perfectly, we hit exactly 65 C for our mash temp.

Too keep the mash from cooling off over the course of the hour, we covered the tun in sweaters and labcoats.

Ingredients waiting for their moment to shine... the Belgian candi sugar, my yeast starter, and the caramel syrup. I made the starter two days previous with a 1.060 wort made from DME and some dextrose, which was kept in a room at about 23 C after pitching the XL smack pack.

At the end of the mash we started running the wort into the boil kettle. We didn't do a mashout, as I figured that with the enzymes active for a longer time we might get maximum conversion. However, it seemed that the mash got a little stuck because of this (too cold) and in the end our extract wasn't very good (ending up with a 9.5% smaller batch that predicted). So I think next time I do such a beer I just let the mash rest for another 15-20 min and then mashout to a solid 78-79 C.

Waiting for the boil to start. I don't think the propane burners have enough BTU power to get the boil going as much as I want it to for 40 L of boiling wort. When I do smaller batches (20 L or so) the boil is great, though.

The night before I completed the first phase of my super-fermenter conversion of a 58.8 L keg. I used a grinder to cut the large hole you see in the top, creating an open fermenter. Here you see the product, filled with and iodine acid sanitizer.

After the boil, cooling, and a short whirlpool, we started running off the wort into the fermenter. We let it dribble through the air, which will aerate it pretty well on the way down (but also has a higher chance of picking up some contamination, however I was confident that with my strong yeast starter the yeast would instantly take over the wort). The other tube you see going into the fermenter has an aeration stone pumping in filtered air, just to make sure the wort is well aerated.

Pitching the yeast.

The fermenter being almost full at this point here, you can see how much foam is being formed which suggests that it is well aerated.

And finally, the fermenter full, covered, and put away in a nice warm furnace/hot water tank room. The room seems to hover between 20-23 C. I figure once the yeast get going and create their own heat they should be able to give themselves a nice high fermentation temp of 25, maybe even higher.

Most of the flavour in this beer should come from the yeast character. The Belgian/Canadian strain is (apparently) used by Unibroue. Its character is described by Wyeast as "Mild phenolics, which increase with elevated fermentation temperatures. Low ester profile with a dry, slightly tart finish. Complex and well-balanced, alcohol tolerant". At higher fermentation temps (24-29C), the yeast should produce banana, clove, light phenolic, and fruity flavour profiles (S. Hieronymus, "Brew Like a Monk", 2005, pg 178).

I'm a bit worried that the beer will be much darker than "golden". It seemed that the wort was quite amberish without any sugar additions. I think its darker than I'm used to as it is a high gravity beer... the final runnings of the sparge were still at 7 plato, where with a normal batch of beer might be 1.5 plato... much more dilute. I was going for a nice golden-light-amber colour, but I don't really care I suppose (it is "Some Kind of Belgian" afterall...).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Belgian Golden Strong Ale

So it looks like I'm brewing up some Belgian beer this Saturday. The recipe is very simple, designed to be highly fermentable.

For 40 L batch after kettle boil:
9 kg Pale 2-row, mashed at 65 C for 1 hour.
No mashout (should increase fermentables even more still), sparge with 75 C water.

The gravity at knockout will be 20.0 Plato (1.069). The wort from the grain will be boiled for 60 minutes, at which point 300 g of Belgian amber candi sugar crystals will be added, as well as much dextrose to bump the gravity to 20 P. On my system, I'll need about 44.9 L of preboil wort at a gravity of 14.9 P.

350 AAU of EK Goldings at 75 min boil (70 g for my Goldings)
180 AAU of Saaz at 25 min boil (50 g for my Saaz)

All I have access to is Wyeast's 3864 Canadian/Belgian yeast, which is apparently the Unibroue yeast. I plan to make a starter on Thursday or Friday from the smack pack to get a nice healthy pitching of yeast.

Should ferment pretty warm, hopefully 24-26 C.

The predicted colour is slightly darker than the limits for the style, but not by much, and I don't care either.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Super Fermenter!

Back when I was in Fort St. John, I picked up a 58.8 L keg to use for homebrewing. I've decided to turn this keg into a super fermenter, not unlike this product featured here. Here are the features I plan to build into such a device:

- First, I want an internal thermometer, either digital reading to one decimal place in celcius, or a dial that is fairly tight in range, say from 0 to 30 C (thats probably hard to find though).
- Sightglass
- Spigot with angled inlet spear that rotates, so that I can rack off above the sediment.
- Cut off the lid, this will make it easier to clean and harvest yeast if needed. Of course, I'll need a replacement lid-type-thing to keep out shit. Doing this would make it an open type fermenter, so I wouldn't need an airlock.
-Eventually, tubing wrapped around the fermenter that can pump water (or glycol) inside to maintain temperature. It would be nice to be able to be able to hook it up to a temperature control that would kick in the motor if the temp gets too hot (or too cold).

I just need to figure out how to attach everything in a leak-free and removable (for cleaning) way. And how to attach the thermometer as well. I'm sure this info will be easy to find though.

Any other suggestions?


Sunday, November 05, 2006

No Service

Right across the street from my condo here in Edmonton is a nice cozy coffee shop called The Sugarbowl, which I like to sit in for hours at at time drinking coffee or a beer whilst reading a book. Its quite a cozy place, that plays good music and has the kind of people in it that I seem to agree with. Its also rather laid back, and you can't expect fast service... not a place to go unless you have an hour or so to kill.

So today I go in and sit down at a table somewhere in the middle of the shop, certainly not hidden at all. Since I'm used to the laid back service I just start reading my "Brew Like a Monk" book (as I want to brew a Belgian strong dark ale soon). Eventually I realize that its been about 15 minutes and my server hasn't come to talk to me yet. Ok, maybe she didn't see me come in and it looked like I had been there for awhile or something (even though I was wearing a bright red hoodie, which should have been noticeable). So I wait another 10 or so min and even catch my server's eye a few times. She served two tables right behind me without stopping for me. This is starting to get silly.

So I went and grabbed my own menu and proceeded to read it (which she saw while serving the tables beside me) and put it down indicating I knew what I want. She still never stopped by after passing by me 2 more times. So I laughed to myself and decided to make this an experiment... how much longer would it take for her to acknowledge my existence? Well, after 30 more minutes (a little longer than an hour in total waiting) I decided to give up and go home. She saw me pack up and leave, but I certainly didn't say anything. Why? I donno... I was kindof laughing to myself as I left.

Anyway, I'll still go back there since its very close, very cozy, has good coffee, and some cute waitresses...