Dialing in beer temps from brew day to bottling

Don’t spread this around, but brewing pretty good beer at home is easy . If you can boil pasta and follow a few simple instructions while paying strict attention to keeping things sanitary, even a rookie can put together a decent all grain brew with minimal investment or brewing knowledge. So why then doesn’t everyone do it, and why again do people pay upwards of $20/bottle for some holy grail Ale? The answer to both is at once simple and the same… brewing GREAT beer is actually quite hard and requires an absolute attention to detail, a bit of luck(or the clever use of math to reduce luck’s part asymptotically to near 0!) and using a quality recipe. As it turns out, temperature adjustments at key times in the process can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your final product.

If I had to pick one dimension that most radically affects a beer’s overall flavor and character it would be mash temperature. Different styles, grain bills and personal taste may lead to confusion here. For beginners I solidly place the magic number at 153°F with a tendency to err slightly warmer up to, but no more than 155°F.  This works in concert with my choice of highly attenuating ale yeasts and favorable water chemistry which yield a typical FG of 1.010 and just the right malt backbone for a variety of IPAs/DIPAs. If you find your gravity readings are much higher, ie 1.016-1.018, and the beer a bit too malty/sweet then adjust down a couple of degrees at a time until you find a balance you like. Aiming right for Stone’s magic Enjoy By mash temp of 147°F will most likely dry the heck out of your beer and leave little to no mouthfeel, body or malt flavor. Remember, people spend years, lifetimes even exploring the nuances of this age-old chemistry.

Boil your wort vigorously! Extract and partial mash brewers are likely to find their brewing instructions do not always encourage a full length boil. Generally this is due to the use of a hopped liquid malt extract or an attempt to shorten the brewing schedule. Without going into excessive detail, always adjust for this, adding the HME towards the end of the boil if need be and put your wort through 60 mins minimum of high heat. In the case of a partial mash this is essential to boil off sulfurous compounds and begin the coagulation and precipitation of protein called hot break. These proteins will cause beer haze and off flavors if not removed.

Hop stands are growing in popularity and I for one am completely on board. Standard hopping schedules call for an end of boil aroma addition that typically does not have sufficient exposure to the wort. In other words, you turn off the burner, add the aroma hops, cool, remove the hops and move to the fermenter. This idea calls for a stand at post boil temp for upwards of 45 minutes allowing the aroma hops to steep. This is a simple step between the hot and cold breaks that will radically improve the flavor and aroma contribution of late hop additions.

Cool your wort as fast as you can manage! As a follow-up to the hot break this is called the cold break. Both are aimed at removing protein from the beer and reducing haze while improving flavor and shelf-life. Lower the wort’s temp to roughly 80°F as quickly as possible using an ice bath or wort chiller, etc. The wort is now ready to be moved to the fermenter and aerated.

What is the perfect fermentation temp? This will vary depending on the yeast strain you choose. Two key factors here are understanding what the manufacturer means by their stated temperature range and the effects of variation within that range. Wort fermentation creates heat. If you are not measuring your wort’s temp directly, it is essential to adjust for this. If your target wort temp is 60°F, factoring in an average +5° to a maximum +10° bump from the yeast’s activity, ambient temp would need to be 50°-55°F. Remember at 55°F, if the yeast makes the wort 10 degrees warmer you are now fermenting at 65°F! With all that in mind, it get’s slightly more complicated as you adjust the beer’s character within the target range. Unlike mash temp, you always want to aim low as there is little to no risk save stalling a finicky strain. At the higher end, as the yeast reaches its max recommended temp, undesirable flavors, excessive esters and higher alcohols will be produced yielding fruity booziness that’s generally terrible to taste. Hold the beer at the lowest advisable temp possible until primary fermentation is complete. Verify this with a hydrometer if possible otherwise allow ample time.

Diacetyl rests are a simple yet often overlooked means to improve the flavor of homebrew. After holding your fermentation temp at the lower end of the advised range until reaching the desired FG, raise the beer’s temp 5-10 degrees. This will encourage the yeast to consume its byproducts, namely diacetyl and greatly improve the flavor. 3-4 days of elevated temps in secondary or just prior to bottling is sufficient.

For naturally carbonated beer conditioning temp is another key factor. Now that the beer has been bottled, it is essential to warm the beer to the yeast’s max temperature or slightly higher to encourage proper sequestering of CO2 and complete consumption of the primer and byproducts. This is absolutely essential for proper conditioning of a Saison yeast, but advised under all circumstances. This will further reduce and remove any remaining diacetyl that was not broken down during the resting period. If your bottles fail to carbonate and you are sure you added primer raise the temperature a bit more and wait.

Hit the numbers. You’ll hear it again and again, what temp did you mash at, ferment at, how long was the boil, did you let the bottles warm up enough? Temperature control is a key factor in each stage of brewing. Keep these tips in mind and cooking up your next batch of brew will yield a much better tasting beer.

 

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The Brewing Monks: A Brief History of the Trappist Order and Monastic Brewing

A History of Hops: The Condensed Version Part I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…The oldest evidence of hop cultivation traces all the way back to the year 736 AD in the Geisenfeld/Hallertau area north of Munich Germany.  A region that today is considered the largest continuous hop planting area in the world! This region produces 80% of German hops amounting to roughly one-third of the world’s total annual hop production!

Originally posted on : http://www.prostbrewing.com/#

Read the full post here:  A History of Hops: The Condensed Version Part I.

 

Starting 2014 with 3 unique homebrewed IPAs

nellymaster  With Spring and warmer weather slow to arrive, I’ve been taking full advantage of the opportunity to brew a few successive batches of unique IPAs. Two of these batches shared the same yeast as I took a long overdue swing at reusing a fresh yeast cake. As I’m writing this, two are refrigerated and taste fantastic. The third is due out in a week or two and may be the most unique recipe I’ve crafted. Each of these brews is based on a completely custom grain bill and hop schedule. Being lighter ales, that’s far from rocket science, but it’s again another step towards the perfect beer.

Batch #1 2014 – Nelly Green’s Bubble Galumbus: I enjoy naming a batch of home brew more than the average brewer. In this case the name is based almost solely on the hops I used to brew it, Columbus, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin and Green Bullet. It’s a sessionable IPA at roughly 5.2% ABV and loaded with fruit and citrus flavors from the hops. The Nelson Sauvin in particular stands out in both the aroma and flavor, lending very unique and hard to describe notes of fruit and bubblegum. The spiciness of the Green Bullet balances this nicely. For the most part the Galaxy flavors are lost in the mix, contributing to the whole but indiscernible. (see pic above)

Batch #2 2014 – Double Galumbus: Last year I made what was then my favorite batch of home brew based loosely on a clone of Slumbrew’s Flagraiser IPA. Rather than a complete reboot of this recipe I decided to go bigger with the Galaxy hops, using them exclusively and in somewhat outrageous amounts at the 15 minute flavor addition. I was also able to get my hands on very fresh leaf Centennial rather than the pellets I used originally. After trying this beer, I am once again convinced that Galaxy, Columbus and Centennial are among my favorite hops to brew with. The aroma is packed with citrus, passionfruit and apricot. The flavor is similar with larger notes of grapefruit and tropical fruit. At 7.3% ABV, tasting the way it does, this is the best beer I’ve made and one of my favorite IPAs of all-time.

Batch #3 2014 – Magnum Tire: Is it a clone of Fat Tire? Is it an Imperial Amber? Is it absolutely delicious? Yes to all three. Feeling a bit experimental, for this batch I started with a rough reinterpretation of New Belgium’s Fat Tire and turned it into a much bigger Imperial Amber/IPA. This recipe has been ruminating in my mind since before I started brewing at home. In truth, being unable to buy New Belgium beer in MA is at least in part responsible for me starting to learn the craft of…  craft. With that in mind I am still a hophead and would not be satisfied with a mildly bitter table amber. I tripled the bitterness, doubled the ABV, doubled the Biscuit malt addition, quadrupled the Fuggles flavor hop addition and eliminated the Fuggles aroma addition. The result is a bready biscuity imperial bottle of hoppy joy. A beer I’ve waited years to make and longer to finally taste.

This years first three batches have each been a complete success. Although very different and often unique in flavor, each featured a big hoppy punch only fitting for a brewer who calls himself Mr Hops. For my next batch I’m torn between a hop-bursted Pale and a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout carbonated with bananas. With any luck, mother nature will stretch Spring out long enough for me to brew both!

It’s not easy being green – A new spent grain rule

BEER OF SC

grain

When you visit breweries these days, whether in South Carolina or elsewhere, you may have noticed some spent grain sitting in a truck, trash can, or trailer that will soon be picked up by a farmer or taken to a farmer. Spent grain is the grain that brewers have used in the brewing process to make beer. After brewing a batch with the grain, it cannot be used again. In a way to help sustainable practices, local farmers, the environment, and sometimes even their own pocketbooks, many brewers across the country have found a nice side business of selling spent grains to local farmers for them to feed their animals. Now, not all brewers sell their spent grain. Many give it to the farmers for free.

Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, not so fast. The Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposed rule that would establish best practices for…

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Bell’s Boycott

ALEHEADS

Just minutes after I posted a feel-good story about the growth of craft beer, BeerNews.org posted another ugly legal story revealing the dark side of the industry. This time, the transgressor is none other than Aleheads favorite, Bell’s Brewery.

It seems that Northern Brewer, a huge internet beer community and one of the best homebrewing sources in the country, sells a clone (a homebrewing kit) of Bell’s classic Two Hearted Ale called “Three Hearted Ale”. And Bell’s Brewery, in all their wisdom, has decided to issue a Cease and Desist letter to force Northern Brewer to change the clone’s name.*

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Global hop shortage provides rare opportunity to local farms

home_ssp_alt  I am an admitted hop fiend, known to often hunt down freshly bottled/canned IPAs and DIPAs the day of their release. In my own home brew recipes I often exaggerate the hop content across all aspects of a recipe. So it is with great concern that I remark on the current global hop shortage. As the craft and homebrewing worlds have expanded exponentially, the demand has finally outpaced production.

As far back as 2012 I heard rumors of a pending hop shortage, soon to curtail the craft industry. As a newish home brewer with access to several dozen strains in my local diy store, I felt the news was exaggerated. A few breweries were forced to change or downsize hop schedules, but for the most part the industry was still charging forward. As of now my perception of this has changed dramatically. Large and small breweries alike are now being forced to curtail their hop use and recipe experimentation unless they have the ability to either grow their own or are lucky enough to operate near someone who does. This has once again pushed the leading edge of the industry to the CA/WA corridor as other parts of the US and beyond are slow to recognize the booming need. Surprisingly, a small perk has emerged. Increased access to international strains, from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, etc that have dramatically different and enjoyable flavors and aromas.

Only recently has this begun to affect my personal access to hops for homebrewing. Certain strains, numbering now in the dozens, that were previously plentiful and fresh have now become near impossible to find. It’s become paramount to gather and store whatever I may foreseeably use any time they are available rather than shop strictly per batch. At this point, I have more hops in my freezer than food. As it should be I say. This coupled with newly imported strains has made for very novel yet completely enjoyable batches of beer. I find it interesting how pungent and unique the international strains have proven to be. While American hops have followed a fairly focussed citrus, pine or earthy trend, NZ and AU hops tend to be far more diverse.

What will the future bring to the world of hops? Local farms and conglomerates alike will soon be devoting more and more acreage to its growth. Wild hops and local hybrids will gain in popularity as the US slowly catches up with diversifying strains. Brewers large and small will be forced to adapt to the changing hop market place and will need to do so quickly to maintain current production and preferences. I would never expect this to escalate to the point of an IBU shortage, far from it. In fact I think this will follow the path the malt industry has taken with local farms becoming once again a prominent part of the industry.

Local farms in Western MA providing fresh hops and grains:

Four Star Farms, Inc

Valley Malt

Farms outside of Western MA providing fresh hops and grains:

Harbor Hops

BREAKING NEWS! It’s Going To Be A Headier World!

20130802_113633heady_topperjpeg

Great news from The Alchemist:

http://alchemistbeer.com/blog/#2765

New Retail Location Status

Posted on 1/21/14

Wow, the last two months have been a bit crazy around here. The following is an update on where The Alchemist currently stands in regards to a new retail location. Be warned—this is very dull. You may want to skip through to the end.

This past November, we closed our retail shop due to mounting pressure associated with poor traffic flow. This decision was not planned, and we didn’t have a clear vision of our future when this decision was thrust upon us. However, a few days after we announced the closing of our shop, we learned about some new legislation that just passed in 2013. This legislation allows for wineries and breweries to distribute their own product to an off-site retail shop. This was exciting news to say the least. Previously, it was illegal to sell…

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What’s in a name: Nelly Green’s Galumbus???

stpattys2013b  Aside from tasting and sharing homebrew and craft beer in general, one of my favorite parts of brewing is naming my batches. I find it very entertaining and often spend inappropriate amounts of time tweaking and fussing. In the case of clones, it’s a challenge to pay homage to the parental brew while not simply reiterating their names. Additionally, I prefer to name my beers so that what’s in the bottle is at least slightly implied. To be honest, I find obscure names that are witty yet unrelated a bit tiring. I aim to be clever and often amusing, even if just to myself.

Naming a beer can also help define its swagger. Wait, what? No really… here’s how it often plays out. “Hey, I started brewing beer at home this summer. My last batch came out really tasty. I got creative and flavored and carbonated it with banana. I also added orange peel, some biscuit malt and a ton of Apollo hops.” “What are you calling it?” “Fat Orange Banana!” Too me that conjures both an idea of flavor and an image of what the label would look like. I considered Fat Banana Moon and simply Fat Banana. Both are respectable, but Fat Orange Banana stood out.

As I said this get’s both tricky and fun when trying to reference a beer you’re essentially copying. As a homebrewer, I think this is taken by most breweries as a compliment. Should I ever venture into commercial brewing, I’d expect this would then not go over so well. That being said, here’s a few examples of recipes I’ve worked up and named that may be easy to associate with the original brew. Citrus Flag, Hop Arrogance, Stoopid Farmhouse and Fat Apollo. These came from Flag Raiser, Arrogant Bastard, Hop Stoopid, and both Fat Tire and Apollo. Good times… great beer and each one bears a semblance to what’s on the label.

As with any part of brewing, putting some of yourself into it will often lead to a more enjoyable experience and product. Creative use of malt and hops, yeast, and yes even adjuncts can lead to novel flavors and aromas. For me, once the brewing process has reached the point of wort sitting in the fermenter, I begin to ponder names based on these ingredients and the associated aromas and flavors. Often, however, it isn’t until I taste and smell the finished beer that I know for sure what its name will be. My latest batch (and by latest I mean the wort is still cooling in an ice bath) I’m thinking of calling Nelly Green’s Galumbus after the four different types of hops I used, Nelson Sauvin, Green Bullet, Galaxy and Columbus. It’s triply appropriate as my grandmother’s last name is Green and this beer will be the first of several I plan to share at this year’s St. Patty’s parade. Wear your green and come try a sample… or three.

A three-headed Saison Part 2: Tasting the beers

redhotjuly4 Tis the Saison… or it was, has been? Hard to say really. It seems like July/August were years ago somehow as winter takes a firm hold on seemingly the entire US. Ah, but still the summer brew ages on… This is a follow-up to A three-headed Saison: July, August & Red Hot and Hoppy with Mirasol chiles and quite a bit past-due. As you may recall, I brewed an over-hopped Saison that I finished three different ways. Mother nature toyed with me, turning a hot August cool after only 14 days of primary fermentation. I’ve done everything short of building a warm water bath for these bottles and still they stubbornly trod towards completion, oblivious, following their own tedious pace. Along the way I have tried each several times and think now is as good a time as any to review them and give my two cents on the pros and cons of Belgian yeasts.

July: Bottle conditioned with only the original yeast – As I mentioned above, the late Summer temperatures fell far short of normal and I hadn’t arranged for any artificially controlled environment. My first tasting was just over 3 weeks into bottling. Very very green. The tastes and smells of green apples were dominant, indicative of unprocessed Acetaldehyde. This is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation that is normally consumed as the beer ages and reaches maturity. This clearly was not going to be anytime soon. As weeks and months went by I began sampling this beer less frequently, in the hopes that I would have some left by the time it was really ready for tasting. To date it’s been over five months and still it’s not quite there. It does improve, however, so I’m confident it may just be a matter of patience.

Red Hot July: Bottle conditioned with only the original yeast. To each bottle I added one sliced and quartered Mirasol chile pepper – This beer is absolutely delicious. How? Why? Because the heat completely hides the lack of maturity of the brew. This pepper and the quantity added lends just enough heat and pepper flavor that in all honestly most of the beer flavors are lost. There are a fair number of commercial breweries putting out spicy beers, but often as was true early in the IPA IBU race, the Scoville scale score bragging rights outshine the point of making a drinkable and enjoyable brew. If you try this at home, keep in mind that heat fades over time and consider bottle conditioning with peppers to follow a similar time-table to dry-hopping and drinking an IPA. 3-5 days exposure to the peppers is minimal. In fact I prefer adding the peppers at bottling, although this gives you much less control over the level of heat imparted. In either case, if the beer initially seems too spicy let it age a couple of weeks and try it again.

August: Bottle conditioned with an additional strain of Belgian yeast known to be far more temperature tolerant – The best laid plans… This really should have improved/hastened the aging of an unfortunately off-season brew. It did not. In fact as I followed a regimen of tasting July and August together, I found this brew to follow the same painfully slow pace and in fact to be further tarnished by a very complex yeast flavoring. Bah…

As a lover of all things IPA it was unlikely that I’d be overly fond of these Belgian style home brews. Despite being known as lighter in both malt and hops, less bitter and characteristically flavored by the brewer’s choice of yeast(s), rather than take the summer off from brewing I decided to give these warm-weather yeasts a try. I must admit I have enjoyed the experiment more than the final products. I suspect next summer I will invest in a cooler of sorts, or perhaps build one from an old dorm fridge so that I might avoid specialty yeast strains altogether.

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