Monthly Archives: January 2011

Low gravity double brew

After deciding to do a low gravity year, fortune smiled upon me with the presentation of Maris Otter base malt. That, plus fresh London Ale yeast from the local microbrewery made the decision easy. I decided to give another crack at an ordinary bitter, and also try a dark mild. Both English styles, and also traditionally low gravity. Perfect!

I sent 2010 off with a bang on NYE by brewing an over-the-top Bigfoot clone, using nearly 20lbs of grain, so when I got these two batches together and realized that in total, the grain bills were under that, I decided that surely I could knock them both out in the same day — that makes sense, right?
Mash

I decided (after some persuasion) to borrow a boil kettle and mash tun from my friend Nate, which would allow for plenty of overlap in the batches, which was critical now that I can’t use my outdoor hoses, I’m relying on the outdoor temperature to cool my wort.

The first thing that I appreciated with these new batches of beer is the sheer ease in dealing with less water for strike/sparge, and how much lighter everything is to move around. I hit my temps right on, and the volume to boil was only what it needed to be, not like with the barleywine where I had to boil off nearly 5 gallons of wort.

Fermentation was also over with extremely quickly — my ordinary bitter (OG 1.036) finished fermentation in under a week, the mild is going a little more slowly, I may have pitched slightly more yeast into the bitter, or it was just more active.

This was also my first time using my new fermentation chambers, some Nalgene carboys I was gifted from a friend of a friend. The prices on these things are ridiculous from a homebrewing standpoint, but for free, they’re fantastic. They’re super lightweight, and have nice handles on the top for moving around. The mouth is also really wide, making it easy to clean. The only issue I’ve had is finding a #13.5 bung locally, but for this batch I was able to just keep the lids screwed on loosely, and everything was alright.

I’m looking forward to enjoying my first low-gravity pint soon, with many more to come. Next up will be another mild, but fermented with an English Ale/Brett C blend leftover from an Old Ale brewed in December.

Year in Review

With 2010 officially passed by, and a new year of brewing ahead, it’s good to realize how the past can be a helpful learning tool (thanks Jamey Barlow). I took some time to look back over the past 12 months, and to catalog a few key points about my batches of beer in order to gain perspective and to learn, as well as to make some decisions about 2011.

I knew that I liked to brew at least once a month, and my favorite schedule was every 2 weeks. That’s a pretty hard schedule to maintain, and a lot of beer to drink, so I wasn’t surprised that I fell short, but I did brew 19 batches of beer (that I documented) in 2010. Not bad.

So, in no particular order, here are some figures from my homebrewing records of 2010:

  • Number of batches: 19
  • Average batch size: 5.2 Gallons
  • Total volume of beer brewed: 94 gallons
  • Average OG: 1.070
  • Average efficiency: 73%
  • Average ABV: 6.93%
  • Highest (expected) ABV: 11%
  • Lowest ABV: 2.6%
  • Average grain weight/batch: 14.77lbs
  • Total grain weight: 265.9lbs
  • Average hop use/batch: 3.24oz
  • Total hops used: 58.25oz (3.64lbs)

Now we get to some subjective data:

  • Favorite recipe brewed: Hefeweizen
  • Most unique recipe: Bourbon Oaked Wheat Wine

bigfoot-boilSo, what does this all mean for 2011? Well, the numbers for average ABV and grain bills are a bit larger than I’d like – I guess it’s fair to say that I got to go bananas this year with doing whatever I wanted, which resulted in a fair bit of beer that was hard to enjoy much of. So for 2011, I’m planning on doing a year of session beers, no beer to exceed 5% ABV. This won’t be easy, as I love my IPAs and the imperial style beers, but I’ve made a lot of them, and it’s time to grow. I’m a believer that constraints can force you to be creative, and also, its good for me to have a bunch of lighter beer around.

I finished 2010 by brewing a monster barley wine on New Year’s Eve, so I’m starting the year off with an English mild and an English bitter, two styles that are firmly session beers, and I’ll get to explore my Hefeweizens a bit later on this spring. It’s going to be a different year, and I’m excited to have a challenge and a direction.

Happy 2011!