Tag Archives: all grain

Brewday recap: Dark Lambic #2 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

DSCN2243This post is long overdue, but needed to be written. The weekend immediately following Lambic #1, I prepped a second wort for a sour pitch. I had an ECY20 pitch sitting in the fridge that needed to be put to work.

I made a starter several days before, as the yeast had been refrigerated for 2 months. The starter took off right away, and had a much funkier (barnyard) smell than the ECY01 did. This would prove to carry over to the primary fermentation as well.
DSCN2248After some serious waffling and consulting, I decided to brew a darker wort than the first lambic, and also to give it a little more food. I still followed the turbid mash technique, and used a good bit of unmalted wheat. What I’m hoping for is a wort profile similar to an Oud Bruin, but with a much more complex flavor profile due to the microorganism cocktail from Easy Coast Yeast.
DSCN2246I filled my brew kettle to the rim as with the previous batch, and there was so much wort that I actually needed to boil it down some before I could add all the second runnings. Partly why I got such a high efficiency, but also makes for a really long boil (and uses a lot of propane).

Recipe: 2012 Dark Lambic

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 9.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.045 SG
Expected OG: 1.074 SG
Expected FG: 1.021 SG
Expected ABV: 7.1 %
Expected ABW: 5.5 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 24.4
Expected Color: 14.4 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 90.0 %
Boil Duration: 180.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 68 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 7lb 0oz (56.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Unmalted Soft White Wheat 3lb 0oz (24.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Munich Malt 1lb 0oz (8.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Light Crystal 8.00 oz (4.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz (4.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
Caramel Munich Malt 4.00 oz (2.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Chocolate Wheat Malt 2.00 oz (1.0 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.40 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Other Ingredients

Yeast: ECY20 – Bug County 2011

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Turbid Mash

DSCN2249The primary fermentation happened fairly quickly, and there’s now some lingering bubbles on the surface, along with a very barnyard-y smell from the airlock. Time to put it away and forget about it for a good, long while. I will be adding oak in a couple of months, but there’s really no rush on that at all.

Brewday recap: Lambic #1 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

Last weekend, on MLKJr day, I brewed my first lambic. Technically it was a pseudo-lambic (or pLambic) because I pitched a culture rather than letting nature inoculate the wort.
DSCN2216There are many ways to get a souring culture, one of the most common is to buy a bottle of lambic beer that isn’t pasturized, and grow up a culture from the bottle dregs. I went a different route, largely due to the overwhelming popularity of the results. I bought a pitch from East Coast Yeast of Al’s BugFarm 5 (the 2011 variant) and made a starter.

Making a pLambic isn’t necessarally super hard, you can do a regular infusion mash and just pitch a mixed culture to make a sour beer, but after reading Wild Brews and nagging Michael Tonsmeire. for advice on a number of occasions leading up to brewday, I decided to make it in as traditional a manner as possible, which most importantly includes a turbid mash.

If you want to know all there is to know about a turbid mash, I’d recommend you read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, and then proceed to Wild Brews. In a nutshell though, it’s a specific mash process that leaves a significant portion of the starches from your cereal grains as they are, which sets them aside to be food for the non-brewer’s yeast to tear apart and eat over the 1-3 year fermentation cycle. A traditional mash breaks them down into simpler sugars, so that brewer’s yeast can easily convert them to alcohol and other by-products.

OK. So, I was a little anxious about the turbid mash, because it was a deviation from the process that I know so well, so I referred to Michael Tonsmeire’s website, Wild Brews, and a third article by the Cult of the Biohazard Lambic Brewers in order to make myself a spreadsheet, outlining the various infusions and runoffs. I was able to move through these steps on brewday fairly flawlessly, with the exception that there’s one step towards the end, where it would be handy to have a third pot and second burner. Oh well, minor delay. If you want to know what steps I followed, read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, he has the same steps all laid out with photos.
DSCN2236The boil is where this really becomes a drag. Due to the high volume of water used in the mash process, you end up with a 9-10 gallon pre-boil volume, which can take a really long time to boil down. I have a Bayou Country propane burner, and it took me about 4 hours to get to my final volume.

Hop selection is also of concern when making a pLambic — you don’t want to use high-alpha hops for bittering, even if you only use enough to hit your 20 or so IBUs — you want to use low-alpha hops that have ideally been aged a few years to have even less bittering power. I used 4 year old Challenger hops, that I calculated to be at 2.7%AA. And as the books say, yes, they do smell like cheesy, smelly feet. I put them in the boil early to make sure that I blasted out all the smell and flavor.

Fermentation was fairly mellow, and it seemed to finish it’s primary phase in 4 days. The krausen has now fallen, and I’m sure the secondary microorganisms are now taking over the show. I’ll post some followup photos here as things change, I know it’s going to be a long process.

Recipe: 2012 Lambic #1
Style: 17D-Sour Ale-Straight (Unblended) Lambic

Wort Volume Before Boil: 10.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.25 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.50 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.032 SG
Expected OG: 1.053 SG
Expected FG: 1.015 SG
Expected ABV: 5.0 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 19.2
Expected Color: 3.9 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 98.0 %

UK Pale Ale Malt 6lb 12oz (71.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Flaked Soft Red Wheat 2lb 12oz (28.9 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Yeast: East Coast Yeast ECY01 – BugFarm 5

Mash Type: Turbid Mash

Brewday Recap: Dark Mild

roasted-grain-additionLast Sunday I brewed the first dark beer of the year, a Dark Mild. This style is unfortunately a dying style, and is almost unheard of in the US. The best way to describe it is the smaller, gentler brother of a porter or brown ale. It’s usually around 3-4% ABV, and the term “mild” comes from the fact that it’s hopped just enough to balance the beer, leaving the malty caramel and chocolate notes in the forefront.

The total grain bill for this batch was under 7.5 lbs, which is tiny for a 5 gallon batch. These kinds of batches make for a very easy brewday, with small volumes of water to heat, and very easy stirring. They also make for a gentle fermentation after the fact, with worries of blowoff and large heat output kept to a minimum.
dark-mild-runoffI used basically the same recipe as last January, with two small tweaks. First, I used Willamette instead of EKGs, to try to make it more traditional. [Willamette is a Fuggles descendant, which is what I should have used, but didn’t have on hand.] Secondly, I used the sparge-time addition of dark grains technique that I learned about from Gordon Strong to keep the dark grains nice and smooth. I have a feeling I may regret not bumping up the quantity of those grains, as the unfermented wort was really caramelly and not at all roasty, despite 3/4 pound of dark roasted grains. We’ll see what fermentation does to change that, but I suspect it won’t be much.

[Edit 2012/1/23: Fermentation did in fact sharpen up the flavor on this batch, and the roasty character is just perfect. I’m glad I didn’t try to correct it.]

I pitched a solid cup of slurry into this beer, and like all the beers I make at this gravity range, fermentation was pretty much done after 3 days. I moved the beer to the cellar to chill out for a few days at 55ºF, and I’ll keg it this weekend, giving it 6-7 days before cold crashing it. I don’t like to give these beers too long on the yeast, because they clean up too much, taking away that “English” character that makes these small beers interesting.

Style: 11A-English Brown Ale-Mild

Recipe Overview

Volume At Pitching: 5.28 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.039 SG
Expected OG: 1.048 SG
Expected FG: 1.012 SG
Expected ABV: 4.6 %
Mash Efficiency: 85.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 68 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 7lb 0oz In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 12.00 oz In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz  In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt (500 EBC) 8.00 oz
UK Roast Barley 4.00 oz

US Willamette (4.9 % alpha) 0.85 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped

Yeast: Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Tasting: Old Ale


Last December I brewed the first beer I’ve ever intended for really long-term aging, an Old Ale. This recipe is based on the recipe that was built on HomeBrewTalk for their 11-11-11 swap beer. The idea is to have lots of people brew the same recipe, and to swap it in a year with other people to see how similar or different they are. As I modified the recipe, I didn’t enter in the bottle swap.

Appearance – Crystal clear, burnt gold color, with a bright white head that subsides fairly quickly.

Smell – Wow, this is when you know it’s not your average beer in hand. Loads of oak and vanilla in the nose, along with sweet caramel notes, and a bit of aged aroma (mustiness?).

Taste – More oak and vanilla, some fruitiness – raisins and dates, as well as sweet caramel. The brett comes through a little more, though the oak is really dominating at it’s current age. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes with time. Alcohol hits at the finish, but it’s very, very smooth for 12% ABV, but you can tell this one’s got a kick.

Mouthfeel – Low carbonation, which works well for the booze. The low finishing gravity keep the caramel notes from getting too sweet, which makes this one a really nice sipper.

Drinkability & Notes – Really pleased with the results of this batch. The oak is a little much right now, it’s hard to get past

Book Review: Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher


Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher is a very interesting book to say the least. I first had the opportunity to flip through this book shortly after switching to all-grain brewing, and I found the book a bit difficult to approach at that time. I was reading a lot of new books, and I was very process oriented at the time, and I found this book, which is packed full of information and ideas, to be a bit overwhelming. A recent discussion with Erik Lars Myers of Mystery Brewing prompted me to give the book another pass.

I was surprised to find upon opening the book for the second time, that there is a whole introductory section for beginning brewers, and some pretty solid advice at that. Little tidbits that would have helped me a long time ago, like the fact that liquid extract goes stale faster than dry extract. (Who would have expected that?) Mosher walks the novice brewer through the process of the first batch, and provides simple steps that any beginning brewer can take to drastically improve their finished product beyond the kits that many homebrew shops sell.

Mosher doesn’t dwell on the beginner’s process long though, and moves on into all-grain brewing, and then into what constitutes the bulk of the book, recipes, historical beers, different styles, and a seemingly never-ending catalog of ideas and methods to make your beers just a little different from the traditional recipe. This, along with several charts and indices of herbs, spices hops, grains and other adjuncts, along with flavor and aroma descriptions, are some of the most valuable assets contained within the pages of Radical Brewing.

Mosher also gives ample coverage to the more popular variations on brewing: basic styles, lagers, belgians, over-the-top big beers, alternative grain beers, spiced beers, even fruit and honey brews. There’s very little that’s not covered in Radical Brewing in some way, shape or form. You’ll likely find yourself with a book full of bookmarks to come back to when you’re ready to do that [insert beer type here].

Radical Brewing is an extremely dense book at over 300 pages, there’s a lot of information. It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but take your time. If you’re an experienced brewer, pick it up and flip the book open anywhere. You’re likely to find something that piques your interest, and gives you a little inspiration that you’ll be grateful for.

French Saison brewday recap

DSCN1632With the brewday behind me and fermentation going strong, it’s time to reflect on what went well and what didn’t, as always.

First of all, the recipe got altered on brewday. I had originally scheduled for only 4 pounds of wheat, but upon calculating what I was going to get for an original gravity, and noting that it will be September before this hits the keg realistically, I decided to go for 7 pounds to push the ABV up around 6%.

Second of all, my buddy brought over his scale (yes, I still don’t have a scale), which allowed me to stop my guesstimating of wheat volume, and actually know *exactly* what was going in. As I expected, my efficiency goes down whenever I use my own milled wheat, but more on that later.

Lastly, whenever I’ve been using more than 30% wheat, I’ve been doing a protein rest. This has thrown my game off everytime, as I am used to a single infusion and ramping up to mash-out. I keep doing my protein rest, going to saccharification rest, then forgetting my mash out. This time I got my whole mash transferred to my lauter tun before realizing it, and decided to skip the mash out rest. This may have contributed to my low efficiency more than I want to give it credit for, but it’s a factor nevertheless.
DSCN1637Instead of my expected 75% efficiency, I hit 65%, which made me glad I bumped up the grain bill. I also had way more hops than I needed for the lower grain bill, so I’m glad to have more gravity points to balance it out.

As to my wheat efficiency, well, I bought a Corona mill a few months back, and I’ve been pretty disappointed with it overall. It seems unable to produce a good crush for barley (big chunks or totally mangling the hulls), and on the wheat, well, I have it cranked down to it’s finest setting, and some bigger chunks still come out. Before I write it off forever as unable to provide good efficiency, I’m going to try double-milling the wheat next batch. My alternative is just use more wheat to make up for the lack of efficiency, and as I have a surplus of free wheat malt at the moment, it’s not really a big deal to do that, it’s just more grain to manage in the mash and lauter tun.

And as for the hops, well, it’s going to be hoppy. Never one to let hops sit on their laurels, I structured my additions to keep the IBUs down, but to use all my hops (2oz each Cascade and Centennial). I’m looking forward to the flavor and aroma profile.

American Pale Ale (All Grain)

apaWell, it had to come to it. After a year’s worth of style exploration, barleywines and imperial stouts, it was time to take a crack at the baseline of American craft beer: the American Pale Ale. This style has been one that I’ve put off for a while, not because I don’t like it, but like most homebrewers, I was enjoying the chase of the unusual and the exotic (and the high-gravity).

Having reached a point where it was time to start nailing down some regulars, and being summer (albeit in Maine), it was time for a more sessionable beer. I have to admit, after all the procrastination, I was a little bit anxious about this beer. After all the practice, I can’t screw up on a pale ale, right?

Well, I consulted all my favorite books before starting the recipe build, and decided to take the non-crystal malt approach. I wanted a dryer, crisper beer, one that would be refreshing and not too sweet. I also wanted to focus on hop flavor, so I left the grain bill rather mild to leave room for some dry-hops to shine.

Recipe Overview

UK Pale Ale Malt 11.32 lb (79.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
German CaraRed 1.00 lb (7.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Munich Malt 1.00 lb (7.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Wheat Malt 1.00 lb (7.0 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Centennial (8.5 % alpha) 1.24 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
US Cascade (5.9 % alpha) 0.99 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 10 Min From End

Yeast: Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

After cool fermenting the beer (I wanted to minimize ester production by the english yeast), I let it lager for a couple weeks while I waited for keg space to open up. In this time, I decided to go for another first: dry-hopping in the keg. My buddy has been doing this recently with a massive tea ball he got for a gift, and I was hopeful that I could pull off the same approach by using a muslin bag for grain steeping. I sanitized the bag by soaking it in Star-San for a few minutes, then filled it with about 3oz of Cascade and Centennial hop pellets, then twisted it closed, doubled over the bag, twisted closed, then tripled it over. I took this sock-full of hops, and shoved it (gently) under the dip tube of my Corny keg.

After two days, I tried a sample. Wow. That fresh hop taste coming from the keg is awesome, and without the added transfers and delays of a secondary. I’ll definitely be doing this again. Oh, and the recipe. Well, it turned out more like an amber. Good, but a little sweeter than I had hoped for. I’ll be cutting the CaraRed in half next time.

Improving Efficiency


My last post alluded to some efficiency problems I’ve been experiencing recently — while I had originally been hitting efficiencies around 75%, the last several batches were down closer to 60%, which resulted in disappointing starting gravities. I got some good feedback, and reverted to some of my old ways, including a pseudo fly-sparge method where I keep the mash covered in water during the sparge by adding water intermittently.

The biggest change that I made was to lauter very very slowly. Painfully slowly. It took close to an hour to lauter runnings for a 9.5lb batch of grains, which is more than double the time I had taken before. While it was somewhat boring, it gave me time to putter around and do some other prep and cleanup.

The result? 93% efficiency from the mash. I was very pleased. Knowing that a slow, really slow lauter and sparge is key to good efficiency should help some of my bigger beers coming up. I’m looking forward to a repeat performance.

Big beer in a small space


My last brew was a bit of an experiment. I had just finished reading Brewing with Wheat, and was gung-ho to do something using a significant amount of wheat. Summer is also nearly here, and the desire to drink big beers will be fading with the arrival of warmer temperatures.

One of the beer styles described in Brewing with Wheat is called a wheat wine, something I had never heard of before, but the gist is that like a barleywine, a wheat wine is a wheat beer (using at least 50% wheat), with high ABV and equally high bittering. Styles vary from there.

I decided to fashion a beer that is strong, uses a large portion of wheat (but not 50%), and with moderate bittering. My hope was to bring in something close to an English style barleywine, but with added character from the wheat.

I also did something new this batch. My friend offered to let me use his 10 gallon cooler mash/lauter tun for this batch,and I filled it to capacity. My grain to water ratio was about 1.2, and it was so full that I was unable to stir during the first mash, however I did stir as I was adding the water for the second sparge.

I ended up with a rather low efficiency, around 63%. Not ideal at all, which brought my OG in at around 1.080, rather than 1.1+ which I was shooting for. Oh well. Brew and learn.
boiling-wortI also used whole leaf Challenger hops in this batch, and I have to say that I really do love using whole leaf hops. They are very visually appealing, and make for a much cleaner transfer into the fermenter.

I used S-04 in this batch, and pitched the two packets of yeast that I prepped, having planned on needing them both for the expected huge OG. Fermentation took off within hours, and I had to hook up a blowoff tube before i hit 24 hours.

I’m planning to age this beer over the summer, and to use oak chips in the secondary. I’m looking forward to this in the fall, when cooler weather comes again.

Several questions arose from this session:
Does the grain to water ratio effect efficiency in such a way that you can reach a point where more grain actually delivers a lower OG? If so, where is that ratio? I know that I’ve seen ratios as low as .75:1, and as high as 2:1. For a mash tun that requires that you open it very little to prevent heat loss, and a lower ratio requires more stirring, is a higher ratio recommended? And with low mash ratios, is a longer mash needed to gain efficiency?

Hopped-Up Amber Ale


This past weekend’s brew was an enjoyable one and a learning experience. Once again, I modified my recipe based on available ingredients. I wonder if there’s a niche for that?

I had intended a brown, but the lack of crystal malt made me rethink my plans, and I ended up doing some kind of IPA/Amber hybrid ale. Who really knows what it is.

This time, I also tried the technique of dumping some un-mashed grains on the top of the mash before batch sparging. As of yet, I haven’t tasted the fermented wort, but my initial experience was that it added a significant amount of aroma of the malt that was unmashed (which happened to be CaraRed).

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