Brewday: Rye Witbier

June 3, 2012

As we keep getting closer to the homebrew competition, I had just one beer left to brew for it: the rye beer. The only restriction for the beer is that it has to include rye for at least 30% of the grain used. I’ve brewed a lot of rye beers over the years, and I decided that most entrants would likely use rye pale ales and rye IPAs, so it was time I tried a different approach.

Part of what makes rye so great in a beer is that it adds a bit of dry spicy character, and a bit of an earthy aroma, so I wanted to add it to a non-pale ale style that would really benefit from the heavy use of rye. I figured a witbier would be an interesting and unique experiment. I made a wit recipe with a heavy dose of rye malt replacing a lot of the wheat malt, and was ALMOST tempted to add some peppercorns, but decided against it. So the grain bill for it was:

  • 6.50 lb Pils malt
  • 3.50 lb Rye malt
  • 1.00 lb Flaked wheat

The water additions were pretty light, just 5 grams each of calcium chloride and gypsum. I mashed it on the cool side, around 147F, to try and make sure it attenuated really well. This one should have a nice dry body to accentuate the spicy rye character. Unfortunately, the lautering went really slow for the first two gallons before I realized there was a piece of grain partially clogging the ball valve in my mash tun. After blowing that out and running a vorlauf again, the runoff went as smoothly as it usually does.

The hop and spice schedule on this one was fairly light:

  • 0.75 oz Challenger (60 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Challenger (15 minutes)
  • 10 gm Coriander (15 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Challenger (End of Boil)

The other odd thing about this batch was the yeast I used for it. My previous saison, the peppercorn saison I brewed for my 100th batch last month, had its saison yeast crap out halfway through fermentation. It refused to start back up and was left sitting really thick and sweet, so I made a starter of my Northwest ale yeast that was on hand and poured that in to get fermentation going again. That did the trick, but left me with a blended yeast cake to work with, so I thought that would be interesting to use for this rye witbier. These two yeasts should do pretty well at drying out the body and giving some nice character to the beer.

Also, starting gravity was 1.045, as I was aiming for a nice light session beer for the coming warm months.

Yesterday I brewed my 100th batch of homebrew. As it was a little bit of a milestone, I wanted to make something different than I normally do. With the disgusting heat of spring and summer moving in, I thought a saison would be perfect.

The saison I brew at work is lightly spiced and hopped, and isn’t nearly dry enough for me to enjoy very much. For my saison, I said “fuck yooouuuuu, Ommegang!” and went for a spicier and drier version of the style. I used Wyeast 3724 Saison yeast, and am planning to ratchet the temperature up after a couple days of fermentation to get as much attenuation as possible (and some extra spicy phenols/esters).

The grain bill was pretty simple, and geared toward attenuation with the addition of honey and a mash profile around 150F:

  • 10 lbs Pils malt
  • 1.5 lbs Wildflower Honey

For the water, I had to bump up the gypsum to make sure the pH didn’t stay too high. It wound up at 5.62, which is on the high end, but it’s still acceptable. The gypsum will also help accentuate the hop bitterness and the dryness of the beer.

  • 7 gm Gypsum (in the mash)
  • 2 gm Calcium Chloride (in the mash)
  • 2 gm Gypsum (beginning of the boil)

The hops and spices are the core of this batch. I was going for a spicy beer with some fruit undertones, so a combination of challenger (spicy) and centennial (fruity) hops seemed like a good idea. For the actual spices, a mix of coriander, grains of paradise, and green and black peppercorns rounds out the flavors and aromas I’m looking for.

  • 0.60 oz Galena (60 minutes, 11% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.75 oz Challenger (15 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 10 gm Coriander (15 minutes)
  • 4 gm Grains of Paradise (15 minutes)
  • 10 Black Peppercorns (15 minutes)
  • 4 Green Peppercorns (15 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Challenger (End of Boil)
  • 0.50 oz Centennial (End of Boil, 10.9% Alpha Acid)

All my numbers were good. Mash pH was 5.62, boil volume was 7.8 gallons, end of boil volume was 6.5 gallons, carboy volume was 5 gallons, gravity was 1.053, efficiency was 80%, wort pH was 5.32, and pitching temperature was 70F (74F as of right now, 18 hours later). That should just about cover everything. I’m really hoping I didn’t overdo anything in this one.

In my continuing quest to improve, and become satisfied with, my mocha porter, I made a revised version of it yesterday. This was the first time I’ve made it since I got my pH meter, and all of my dark beers have been on the low side for pH, so I made some adjustments to the water chemistry.

The first two versions of this beer had a bit of a dry, bitter bite to them. That was more evident in the first, and was cut down in the second as I dropped some hops out and added the cocoa after the boil was over. This time I jacked the calcium carbonate up a bunch to help buffer the pH, and added some crystal malt to add some sweetness to balance any bitterness.

The pH of the mash came in at 5.45, which fits perfectly in my target range of 5.30-5.50. Keeping the mash pH from getting too low will help avoid extracting tannins from the grain, and it will let the enzymes work at a more optimal rate to ensure good efficiency. Of course you’ll find lots of opinions on what the optimal pH range is, but I try to keep it safe and go with 5.30-5.50. That range WILL work, so I see no need to change things.

So the grain bill changed a little bit from last time. I dropped the Munich malt down a bit and replaced what was lost with more pale malt. Some of the oats were replaced with my remaining Simpsons Golden Naked Oats, as I forgot to buy a second pound of Quaker instant oats (oops). I also decided to replace the small amount of Carafa III Special with more Carafa II Special, as the little bit of III that was in there didn’t seem like enough to make a flavor difference. It also helped simplify my grain bill, which I always like to do. The big change, though, was the addition of some 80L crystal malt. That’s a darker crystal malt that will lend some dark caramel flavors and some supporting sweetness to the beer.

  • 11.25 lb Pale Malt
  • 18 oz Flaked Oats
  • 8 oz Golden Naked Oats
  • 1.50 lb Munich Malt
  • 1.00 lb Carafa II Special
  • 0.75 lb Crystal 80L

The hops and cocoa were left pretty much unchanged

  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (5 minutes)
  • 2.00 oz Challenger (End of Boil, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 5.00 oz Unsweetened Baker’s Cocoa Powder (End of Boil)
  • 1.00 oz Lightly Crushed Coffee Beans (dry hop addition) [not sure yet which type of coffee I’ll use this time]

So, all the other details of this guy… I used my standard 1.25 quarts per pound ratio for the mash, and mashed at 156F for 60 minutes. Because I don’t use a mash-out procedure to denature the enzymes, I start vorlaufing 15 minutes before the mash is over. It’s been working pretty well, and speeding up the brewday somewhat, so I just keep rolling with it.

The boil volume was 8.12 gallons, which got down to 6.70 gallons. 5.20 gallons were pitched onto the yeast cake from my previous Dark Mild, which was a Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast. I pitched it at 68F with a starting gravity of 1.069, giving me 80% efficiency. The wort pH was on the money at 5.24.

Oh, the water additions were as follows:

  • 3gm Calcium Sulfate (in the mash)
  • 4gm Calcium Chloride (in the mash)
  • 8gm Calcium Carbonate (in the mash)
  • 4gm Calcium Sulfate (in the boil)
  • 5gm Calcium Chloride (in the boil)

Brewday: Belgian Dubbel

February 6, 2012

It’s been ages since I’ve brewed a Belgian dubbel, and none of my recipes have really made me happy. I went through my few previous recipes and tried to figure out what was missing while applying some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years since those batches.

One of the biggest issues from those previous batches was a lower attenuation, so they were thicker than I like for the style. This time I decided I’d bump up the sugar content and drop the dark crystal malt down a little bit. I had been thinking the flavors from the dark crystal malt were a bit much in the other batches, anyway.

Since I began brewing Belgian style beers again recently, my grain stock now includes several forms of aromatic malts, which are kilned to a degree that enhances their flavor and aroma profiles without going too far into the crystal sweetness of the caramel malts. The nice thing about working at a Brewery that does Belgian styles is I’ve seen several of these aromatic malts in action, so I had some idea what to expect from them. In this case a very light aromatic malt was used as a light backup aroma to the dark crystal malt and the dark beet sugar syrup.

So the fermentables in this batch (keeping in mind I run off 8 gallons and boil down to 6.5 gallons) came from:

  • 10.50 lb Pale Malt
  • 1.50 lb Munich Malt
  • 1.00 lb Special Aromatic (from Franco-Belges)
  • 0.50 lb Extra Special (Briess’ version of Special B)
  • 1.00 lb Dark Beet Sugar Syrup
  • 0.75 lb Turbinado Sugar

In this case I’m using the Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast, which is supposed to be Westmalle’s yeast of choice. I love the malt complexity that it leaves, and the character it gives to Westmalle’s beers, so that’s what is fermenting this batch right now.

The hops in this batch were kept restrained and should play no more than a support role to the malt and yeast aromas.

  • 1.25 oz Challenger (60 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Hallertauer (15 minutes, 3.0% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Hallertauer (End of Boil)

For brewing water I used 10 gallons of spring water from Hannaford. I mashed in with at my standard ratio of 1.25 qt/lb, so 4.25 gallons. The mash was held at 150F for 45 minutes then started vorlaufing to set the grain bed. I’ve started to recirculate the wort before the desired end of the mash cycle because I don’t raise the grain bed temp to stop the enzymes, so any conversion is still happening. I haven’t seen any adverse effects, and it helped me shorten my brewday.

For water chemistry I added 3g of Calcium Sulfate, 2g of Calcium Chloride, and 2g of Calcium Carbonate to the mash water, and 4g/2g/2g of them (respectively) to the wort before boil. This led to a very nice mash pH of 5.46 and a final wort pH of 5.25, both right in line with what I wanted.

The rest of the numbers looked pretty good. I ran off 8 gallons into the kettle, boiled down to 6.60 gallons, transferred 5 gallons to the fermentor (all that wort was crystal clear), and hit 1.067 (76% efficiency on the mash) for a starting gravity. I was mashed in at 2:05 and cleaned up for the day by 6:35. Booyah. 🙂

First Belgian Brew of 2012

January 29, 2012

It’s been a very long time since I’ve brewed a Belgian beer, which is weird considering how much I love all of those styles. As my second brew of 2012, I decided to make a batch of Belgian pale ale to replace the keg of rye pale ale that’s about to kick. As opposed to the hoppy Belgian pale ale we make at work, I wanted to go for something more balanced and floral. The pile of noble hops in the freezer were perfect for this.

The grain bill for this batch focuses on giving the beer a little sweetness to balance the hops while providing a nice aromatic malt presence. I kept it simple, like usual:

  • 8.75 lb Pale malt
  • 1.50 lb Vienna malt
  • 0.75 lb Aromatic malt (17L)
  • 0.75 lb Cara Hell (10L)

A few months ago I thought I was going to use my chest freezer to make some lagers, so I stocked up on several ounces of different noble hops. It turned out that I filled up the freezer with kegs of various ales before I got around to it, so there were plenty of noble hops available for this batch.

At work we make a Belgian pale ale that’s pretty highly hopped with generous amounts of Styrian Goldings. I wanted a more balanced pale ale with a more spicy and floral aroma, so I used some Challenger for its clean bittering and a mix of Saphir and Tettnanger to get the aroma I wanted. Saphir is a descendent of Hallertauer Miltefruh and has a clean floral aroma. Tettnanger has a smooth spicy aroma.

  • 1.50 oz Challenger (60 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Saphir (10 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Tettnanger (End of Boil, 3.5% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Saphier (End of Boil)

The mash was done with 3.5 gallons of water at 167F and came in at 150F. The pH was 5.33. I sparged with 6.5 gallons at ~175F and wound up with 8.2 gallons in the kettle. The one thing that had me worried for a few minutes was when I took a pre-boil gravity sample from the kettle. The gravity came out higher than would be physically possible with the grain I used in the mash. Of course that was due to me taking the sample from the bottom of the kettle without having mixed up the wort, so I was grabbing mostly the dense first runnings. I gave it a good stir to mix it all together and took another sample, which came in at 1.043 (just higher than I was aiming f0r). I wound up boiling down to 6.65 gallons and got an original gravity for the beer of 1.052.

The fermentor had 5 gallons in it right when the kettle ran dry, so the volume wound up being perfect. I like to leave about 1.5 gallons in the kettle to make sure most of the trub and hot/cold break material stays behind. It’s really helped increase the clarity of my beers. The extra volume means I have to use more hops, grain, and yeast, but it’s worth it (to me) to get beer that’s crystal clear.

The yeast for this batch was Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity, and was pitched at 70F. Also, the mineral additions to the bottled water I used for the mash were minimal because I wanted to keep the hops from being brought out too much. I added 4 grams of gypsum and 2 grams of calcium chloride, so a pretty soft water profile.

More Rye Experimentation

December 3, 2011

A couple of days ago I finally got the rye pale ale keg carbonated and tapped. It’s got a dark gold color with a light haze from the dry hops. The aroma is a combo of grapefruit and pineapple. The bitterness is aggressive up front with a decent amount of resin character. Its body is dry with a spicy and resinous flavor with some pineapple in the background. Overall it came out pretty nice. I kinda want to reduce the Simcoe in the bittering and flavoring additions to knock the resin character down a bit.

Today I brewed up an Irish stout. It’s based on a previous recipe, but I replaced the flaked barley with a bunch of rye to reduce how chewy it gets. I’m using Challenger hops for the first time in this beer because they have a spicy character that should go well with the dry character of the stout.

Dry Stout (Rye)

Boil Volume: 8.27 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.57 gallons

Fermenter Volumer: 5.00 gallons

Original Gravity: 1.048

Boil: 70 minutes

Efficiency: 88%

Malt

  • 7.50 lb Maris Otter
  • 1.25 lb Rye Malt
  • 0.50 lb Carafa II Special
  • 0.50 lb Roasted Malt

Hops

  • 0.65 oz Galena (60 minutes, 11% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Challenger (15 minutes, 5.6%Alpha Acid)
  • 1.50 oz Challenger (End of Boil)

Water Additions

  • 2 gm Calcium Sulfate
  • 6 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 6 gm Calcium Chloride

Yeast

Wyeast 1098 British Ale Yeast

Mash

  • Strike with 3 gallons at 170F
  • Mash at 150F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 7 gallons at 180F