Sunday, November 29, 2009

All kegged up!

I've had this old Cornelius keg laying around the brewery collecting dust. I stumbled upon it about fifteen years ago, it was beat up on the outside but bright and clean on the inside. One problem--no lid. Eventually I acquired a properly functioning piece, and armed with a new gasket and lid valve I suddenly had a five-gallon system ready to go! By then I'd been using my two-and-a-half gallon kegs for some time. They are convenient and easy to handle, and the five-gallon keg is too tall for the fridge. The poor old thing sat around and collected some more dust. Mark's Pale Ale is occupying the two shorties at this moment and the Fifty-fest needed someplace to go, so today I cleaned off the cobwebs and put Corny to work. I primed the batch with 3 oz. (84 grams) of dextrose in one quart of water and managed to get about 4-1/2 gallons of clean, well-settled beer out of the secondary fermenter. The brew had a dark, reddish-copper color with a final gravity of 1.010 (2.5 ºP). It's potent one, about 6% abv, and should be ready for quaffing over the Xmas holidays!

a.d. III Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday in the brewery

Today I racked the Fifty-fest to a secondary fermenter. (I have another of those fabulous Better Bottle PET carboys, and I cleaned and sanitized it yesterday.) It was a yucky, sludgy mess, but the beer seemed fine, no funny smells or weird floaties. This yeast should only be used for open ferments where you intend to "crop" the frothy mass off the wort. That being said, the worst is over and I expect we'll get a nice, clean brew after a cool week in the closet. Since we'll be out of town, the house won't be as warm, and the beer should have a chance to finish properly. We also busted out the MPA and had a pint. I bled off the CO2 and poured a full, proper glass without the excess foaming by only cracking the tap half way. I had to add some gas to draw a second, and that came out fine as well. (I capped the keg with 8 lbs. and put it back in the fridge.) The beer is honey-colored, golden with amber edges. It has a distinct fruitiness (apricots? raisins?) in the nose and on the tongue, but the finish is dry and refreshing, so I like the balance. It has an unfortunate haze, but the full body and rich malt flavor is quite nice. The hops seem to hover in the background, and then emerge to keep the sweetness from dominating, adding just a hint of bitterness as you swallow. Good stuff! Another week of lagering should help smooth it out and I expect it will be even more delicious next Sunday.

a.d. X Kal. Dec.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tappa Kegga Foama

I pulled a couple of pints of MPA tonight, and got one hell of a lot of bubbles. It got so bad with the dispensing that I finally popped the lid off the damn keg. Then I re-set it with the hand-pump and managed a decent draw. The beer is over-carbonated, and my first thought is that I over-primed it a bit. My last few batches have been a little weak on the fizz, so I know I dialed it up a tad for this one. As I pondered further, I realized that I'm dealing with a bizarre yeast strain, and it is entirely possible that the brew is still fermenting! I'm not sure if the yeast was fully attenuated when I kegged the beer. A serious faux pas, I know, but that's what happens when you are an "old hand." I saw the gravity drop to 1.053 from 1.010 (from 13 ºP to 2.5 ºP) and assumed it was done. What really matters, though, is the beer. Simply delicious. Rich and sweet, but not cloying, with a dry finish. Some interesting, complex fruity notes are there, but they are not overpowering, in fact, they are quite appealing. My lovely bride says she really likes it and and calls it "quaffable." Can't argue with that.

a.d. XIV Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fifty-fest ferments!

When I checked on the brew at 0900 I saw a very vigorous ferment--the carboy plug had been shoved out by a thick jet of foamy goop! There was a nice sloppy trail of it down the side of the vessel. It was easy enough to wipe up, and I keep the carboy in a big circular plastic bin for just this sort of eventuality. But, wow, what an active wort! They call this strain a "true top-cropping yeast" and I can see why. Looks like this beer will finish the primary fermentation damn quickly. We'll see how it settles over the next few days and then rack it off to a fresh carboy.

a.d. XVII Kal. Dec.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


That's what I decided to call this one. It is batch no. 169, which of course is 13 squared. I had intended to brew it on Friday the 13th, but festivities got in the way. I got a late start today--I didn't fire up the hot liquor tank until a little after 1300 hours. It was an eventful Friday evening, and I was a little fuzzy this morning, so I didn't get my brewing legs under me until the afternoon. Fortunately it was a bright, sunny day, and that took the edge off the cold, wintry air. I used 12 pounds of Gambrinus organic pilsner malt for a base, and brought the bill up to 13 with 1/4-lb. of roast barley, 1/4-pound of 140 ºL Briess Extra Special Malt, and 1/2-lb. of 60 ºL Briess Caramel. I mashed at 150 ºF, and after a quick-and-dirty batch sparge got a kettleful of thick, dark wort. I kept the hops simple, too, a sixty-minute single-addition ounce-and-a-half of whole New Zealand Hallertaur. The packet of Kölsch yeast had swollen by Thursday evening so I tossed it into a starter early on Friday. It was pitched into the wort just shy of 6 p.m. today, 1755 hours to be exact. It gets dark pretty quick these days, so I only managed a quick clean-up, and a pile of work still awaits me tomorrow. I hope to rack this stuff into a secondary fermenter next weekend. This is a messy yeast, if I remember. We'll be gone for Thanksgiving week, and the house will get quite a bit cooler. I think the extra time at a lower temperature might be a good thing before kegging and conditioning.

(Note that yesterday--the 13th--was the Ides of November)
a.d. XVIII Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Punch 'n' gro

I activated a 'smack-pack' of Wyeast Kölsch this morning and put it in the hall closet to swell up. I expect it will be ready by Wednesday when I can pitch it into a starter. I'd like to brew with it on Friday.

a.d. VI Id. Nov.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

MPA to the fridge

Temperature in the main fermenting room held a steady 68-70 ºF for most of a week then dropped to 66 ºF over the last few days. Mark's Pale Ale should be properly conditoned by this point, so I've moved both kegs to the refrigerator at 36 ºF. I'll tap one in a week or so--check back.

Prid. Non. Nov.