Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Vacation Time!

I thought I would give everyone a heads up that I will be taking a couple weeks off from blogging on the count of me getting married and going on a honeymoon and not just laziness.  I will have it be known though that this will not just be a vacation.  No, I will be doing some "research" on this trip as well since although we will be traveling in the Languedoc-Roussillon region which is well know for its vineyards (as a matter of fact we're staying at one) my beautiful wife to be said that we would be going to a microbrewery for my birthday present.  So without ant further ado, I am off and will be back in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recipe and Review (R&R): Marygrace's Belgian Blonde Ale

For all of the headaches that it has given me, regarding its carbonation issues, this Belgian Blonde Ale has to be one of my favorite beers that I have brewed.  There is the spice of the traditional Belgian Blonde, and it has a full body that lingers with you for a long time.  It falls outside of where the traditional guidelines say it should be, but what fun is brewing if you always follow the rules.

Below are some of my notes from 33 Bottles of Beer regarding this batch as well as the recipe.  If anyone has any questions or comments, let me know.

Marygrace's Blonde

18-A Belgian Blond Ale

Author: Aaron Piskorowski

Size: 5.0 gal
Efficiency: 76.0%
Attenuation: 90.5%

Original Gravity: 1.071 (1.062 - 1.075)

Terminal Gravity: 1.007 (1.008 - 1.018)

Color: 7.15 (4.0 - 7.0) 

Alcohol: 8.4% (6.0% - 7.5%)

Bitterness: 20.6 (15.0 - 30.0)


0.75 lb Honey Malt
5 lb Belgian Pils
3.0 lb Dry Extra Light Extract
1.0 lb Candi Sugar Clear
1.0 oz Hallertau (4.7%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 oz Spalt Spalter (2.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.0 ea WYeast 3711 French Saison

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.16

Secondary: Honey Dunkelweisen, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Monday, June 13, 2011

Congratulations Rusty Zymurgy!

Just wanted to say congratulations to Jay over at Rusty Zymurgy for taking the gold in the Light Hybrid/Amber Hybrid category of the New York State Fair Homebrew Competition!

Portable Kegerator/Jockey Box

I always need a project, Marygrace will tell you that.  Typically its brewing a new beer, but since we're getting married and going on our honeymoon soon, I don't want to start a new brew since I wouldn't have time to tend to it.  So, my attention turned to the fact that we just happen to have four beers that we will be serving at our rehearsal dinner, and I just also happen to have a beer tower with four faucets sitting in the attic unused.  Interesting.

I didn't know exactly what I was doing to start.  I was just kind of winging it.  I found a spare Rubbermaid tote in the attic as well, 19" wide x 32" long, so it would fit all my kegs, ice and the CO2 tank.  I measured the kegs at 25" tall so that was enough for me to start with, I had my volume that I needed under the table.  Next, I sketched out a design for the table.  I wanted the overall height for pouring to be about chest height, so I decided to design it tiered.  I'll have some room on each side for cups and a sign displaying what's on tap.

I went to my local hardware store, purchased all of my wood, and I was ready to go.  I decided to go with pine because it was cheap, and I am using a dark cherry stain in hope that it will compliment the brass of the tower nicely.

More will be coming in a later update...

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brewing with an IR Thermometer

I got lucky, twice (the second time extremely, I thought all hope was lost).  The third time bit me hard, but I was able to salvage it with some quick thinking.  The Easter bunny gave me an Infrared Thermometer (Pyrometer) this year, and I couldn't wait to try it out for brewing.  I wish I would have been a bit smarter.

I jumped into it head first as I usually do with a new toy.  It was high tech, so in my mind it had to be accurate.  The Pilsner that I brewed with it came out perfectly, both original gravity and terminal gravity (this is where I was lucky).  The second beer I brewed with it was my first wedding hefeweisen (now the Hopfen Weiss).  At first, I had just thought the original gravity was extremely low because the flaked wheat I had used turned into a giant ball while brewing.  The fermentation went pretty well, so I ended up with a nice summer, hoppy, low alcohol content wheat beer that would be perfect for the BBQ.  I couldn't complain too much.

The third batch I did was perfect (or so I thought).  I used malted wheat instead of flaked wheat and I hit all of my temperatures right on with the temp gun.  There was only one problem: my original gravity was low, meaning my efficiency was way off just like the Hopfen Weiss.  There had to be something in common with these two batches, and my thoughts started to turn towards my IR Temp Gun.

Naturally, I turned to my engineering background and had to perform some experiments regarding my temperature gun.  Over the course of three brew sessions, I took temperature readings with both my normal thermometer and the gun: at my pre mash water temperature, mash in, mash out, and my sparge water, always aiming for the same target temperature.  Although I cannot say that after my initial discovery that I was shocked by these results, I was surprised that over the temperature span the deviation between the two devices changed.

Red is a normal dial thermometer, and blue is the IR thermometer.

These results confirmed my suspicions, my temperature was consistently off.  When I thought I was reading 158ºF, my temperature was probably up near 185ºF, far above the range of starch conversion.  In a way I am tempted to continue with these tests to build up a better average temperature differential between the two devices so I can use just the IR gun, but all I would need is that one stray time for it to catch me and screw up another of my batches.  No, for now I will continue using my reliable dial thermometers.

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Hefeweisen 2 (Honeyweisen), Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stein Brew June 4th, 2011

Over the weekend, Marygrace and I took a trip down to Ellicottville.  Although the thunderstorms were pretty incredible on the way down there, they were not all that pleasant when standing out in them trying to brew beer.  (Thank God they sopped since as I later found out, I would have been killed if they had lasted much longer.)  All in all though, it was a great experience,  got to sample quite a few homebrews and Ellicottville beers that we don't typically get near us, and I got to learn quite a bit from some veteran homebrewers.

The stein brew the way that it is done in Ellicottville is pretty straight foreword.  Mash and sparge a beer as you typically would on a brew day, then when it is time to boil, then comes the fun.  We arrived shortly after noon and the days events were just getting under way.  Since it was raining, the homebrewers had to be a bit innovative in order to keep the fire going:

When the rocks get hot enough (they start to fracture apart since they were using don't want to use anything like shale or slate since they will explode rather than fracture) and the sparge has completed, the hot stones are loaded into metal baskets attached to planks by a chain.  The board is then spun around a few times to wrap the chain and raise the basket, then its off to the brew kettle!

The stones (some of them literally red hot) are lowered into the boiling wort and sit there for about 10 to 15 minutes (until all of the heat has been released to the wort).  They are then removed and the process is repeated about 15 times in total.  Although these stones help along with the boil (they still use their primary heat source in the process) one of the great attributes that they are supposed to impart on the beer is carmelization of the wort.  Apart from these few differences, the process is just like any other: add hops and whatever other flavorings.  In this case, they used spruce, cascade hops, and if I recall correctly, Mt. Hood.  Here are some shots of the 35 lbs of spruce that were used during the boil:

As I mentioned earlier, one of the great things that we got to do at the brewery was to taste quite a few of the different beers that not only the Ellicottville Brewery has to offer, but some of the homebrewers as well.  From Ellicottville, we got to try 16, Mow Master, Black Hops, two different Oktoberfests, and a Cherry Chocolate Stout.  All of them were so unique and different, but one of my favorites was definitely the Cherry Chocolate Stout, and when we go back in two months to try the stein brew, I will have to get a growler if it is still available for another adventure in beer ice cream.  From the homebrewers, there was an English Mild and a Belgian Christmas Saison that was the Buffalo Brew Fest BIS from 1996, and although the English Mild was a solid beer, all I have to say about the Belgian is wow, and I never though a beer could age that well.  It was smooth with hints of raisin with spices and was almost reminiscent of a sherry.  It was a deep rich dark color with only minimal carbonation.  I will be bringing some of my own homebrew for the next stein brew in October.  We well see how it holds up.

My list of three take-aways from this outing:
  1. Do not let American Homebrewers Association membership expire.
  2. Bring homebrew for the fall stein brew.
  3. Remember to bring a stein to drink out of next time (it is a stein brew after all)

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Hefeweisen 2 (Honeyweisen), Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons