Monday, March 26, 2007

Brew #45: Düsseldorf Altbier

Altbier is a beer that I have drunk on several occasions while visiting Germany, and I have enjoyed all of the variants I have tried. I have not been to Düsseldorf yet, but it sure is on my short list of beer cities to visit. Commerical examples seem to range from malty sweet to intensely bitter.

This recipe is for an Altbier that is on the upper end of the OG and bitterness ranges. I have tried to make it a bit sweet and with some complexity, and balanced by 35 IBUs. That should make it a nice spring beer I hope. It will have to be lagered in the fridge for a few weeks before drinking though.

The brew day lasted 5 hours and 50 minutes, of which 40 minutes was spent trying to get the wort into the fermenter. I will never ever again use whole hop cones with my current brew setup. The easy-siphon clogged and it was almost impossible to get a siphon from the brew kettle. I have used whole hops before, and do remember that I have had similar problems, but never this serious. The Spalt hops were quite small, so that might have something to do with it. I literally had to pump the wort, and that didn't always work either until I had cleared the opening. Anyway, lesson learned.

The batch was brewed 2007-03-26.

Düsseldorf Altbier
All grain, batch sparge
34 EBC (Light brown)
35 IBU
2500g Pilsener malt
1500g Vienna malt
1300g Münchener malt
700g Cara-münich malt
50g Debittered chocolate malt
50g Debittered black malt
67C, 60 min
76C, 10 min (mashout)
73% efficiency
60g Spalter Select whole, 5.2%, 60 min
40g Spalter Select whole, 5.2%, 10 min
Wyeast 1007 German Ale Yeast, production date 2006-11-17, 1 liter starter
90 min
OG: 1.054 FG: 1.013 (estimated)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brew #44: India Pale Ale

The previous IPA was a success. We ran out of it last Saturday, so my wife asked me to make another preferrably using the exact same recipe. That was easier said than done as I had no more Crystal (135 EBC) and no more Safale US-56 dry yeast. I adjusted the recipe to use some Cara-münich malt and the Rogue Pacman yeast. I also took out the Chinook hops and added Columbus. The Amarillo also got upped a bit. In the end I think it is going to taste much the same.

Being somewhat feverish at the time I also forgot to add the mash hops, so I decided to make up for some of it by first wort hopping the 60 minutes addition of Amarillo.

The mash efficiency improved a bit this time as I tried to crush the grist a little finer. Still no sparge problems through, so there is more to go on I think.

The batch was brewed 2007-03-25. The brew day lasted 5 hours and 10 minutes.

American IPA
All grain, batch sparge
33 EBC (Light brown)
61 IBU
6000g Maris Otter pale malt
1000g Amber malt
450g Crystal malt
400g Wheat malt
300g Cara-münich malt
200g Melanoidin malt
66C, 60 min
76C, 10 min (mashout)
69% efficiency
50g Amarillo pellets, 8.4%, first wort hops and boiled 60 min
30g Columbus pellets 12.2%, 30 min
30g Warrior pellets 13.8% 10 min
80g Amarillo pellets 8.4%, 1 min
Wyeast Rogue Pacman Ale Yeast, production date 2006-11-17, 1 liter starter
90 min
OG: 1.072 FG: 1.018 (estimated)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Building your own Randall

If you want to build your own Randall then you may find this shopping list useful. I bought all the parts from Morebeer, except the 1/2" OD stainless pipe that I drilled 20 small 1.5mm holes in. I'm sure you'll find the parts elsewhere also.


1xFIL32A - Filter Housing - 10"$23.00
1 ftD1710 : Beverage Line (1/2" ID)$0.80
2xH616 - Stainless - 1/2" mpt x 3/8" Barb$4.95
2xD1260 - Faucet - Hand Held$3.25
1xKEG720 - Ball Lock Bev Out, Black Flare$5.95
1xKEG610 - Flare Fitting - 1/4" Tee$6.00
4xKEG600 - Flare Fitting - 1/4" Swivel Nut$0.75
4xKEG604 - Flare Fitting - 1/4" Barb$0.95
4xKEG630 - Flare Fitting - 1/4" Male Flare x 1/4" Barb$2.50
4xKEG602 - Flare Fitting - Washer$0.25
8xH950 - Hose Clamp (Small)$0.65
6 ftD1700 - Beverage Line (3/16" ID)$0.50
6 ftD1702 - Beverage Line (1/4" ID)$0.50

Using the Enamel Animal

The Randall has now been tested and used twice. It worked surprisingly well on both occations. The first time with 50 grams Centennial and the Scottish Export 80/-. The second time with 40 grams Amarillo and 10 grams Sorachi Ace and the India Pale Ale. Thanks to Frode for bringing the Sorachi Ace, a Japanese hop with an intense citrus aroma.

There were no leaks and the dual-serving system was well balanced. I had expected a little more resistance in the filter housing and the hop bed, but there was nothing wrong with the flow.

50 grams seems to be just the right amount of hops to use in this filter housing. It seemed a bit too little at first, but the hops soon swelled and filled the entire volume. The pressure in the keg started the flow of beer as soon as the line was connected to the keg. The Randall got filled about half full before the flow stopped as the air could not escape. Pressing the release valve replaced the air with beer. Note that it makes sense to let the hops soak a little while first.

The resulting beer is pretty amazing. There is an extremely intense hop aroma and flavour. You really need to enjoy hops to appreciate it. I felt that the aroma and the flavour of the two were somewhat different. The Centennial appeared much more oily and pungent than the Amarillo and Sorachi Ace did. This may have something to do with the kind of beer it was served through. My impression is that it is better to serve beers that have a higher alcohol content and more bitterness as this will help balance the end result. Otherwise the result is way over the top with regards to hop aroma.

So, what other things can one put inside the Randall other than hops?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Brew #43: Extra Special Bitter

This beer is a fairly bold ESB, both in original gravity and hops. It also has quite a bit of specialty malts, much more than I've had in any of my earlier attempts. I used mash hops with this brew, and it is the first time I try this in a British beer. The few times I've done this, with good results, have all been with hoppy American beer styles.

Again, I'm trying to get rid of my stock of old, but still usable yeast. I have a couple of vials of liquid yeast that I just have to throw away, but with this brew I should be left with a pretty decent set of fresh yeast packs, especially if I manage to squeeze in a double brew on Sunday. I used both the 11 grams packs I had just to be on the safe side. Even though it was past its best before date I'm sure it is more than enough of vital yeast for a beer like this. I store all my yeast, both dry and liquid, in the kitchen fridge.

The incredibly useful Mr. Malty's Pitching Rate Calculator™ says that the yeast in this particular beer must have a viability of minimum 67% for the two packs to be optimal. Go check it out. I'm sure you'll soon realize that you're underpitching. I sure did when I first tried to calculate the amount of yeast to pitch in my own beers. Since then I've tried my best to improve my pitching rates. Also make sure that you read Jamil Zainasheff's (Mr. Malty) Proper Yeast Pitching Rates article. It's almost scary how much vital yeast you need. Anyway, it is very helpful and makes you realize that yeast is extremely important to the quality of your beers.

The batch was brewed 2007-03-14.

Extra Special Bitter
All grain, batch sparge
30 EBC (Copper)
40 IBU
5200g Maris Otter pale malt
750g Ambermalt
400g Wheat malt
450g Crystal 60L
200g Crystal 40L
250g Melanoidin malt
66C, 60 min
76C, 10 min (mashout)
73% efficiency
50g First Gold pellets 7.3%, mash hops
50g Fuggles pellets 5.1%, 60 min
50g First Gold pellets 7.3%, 10 min
50g Fuggles pellets 5.1%, 1 min
Safale S-04, 2 packs, best before 2007-01
90 min
OG: 1.066 FG: 1.016 (estimated)

Monday, March 12, 2007

You know you're a brewing nerd...

...if you can spot the two logical errors in the photo below:

The mistakes I've made won't necessarily prevent the device from working, but they are clearly incorrect. Can you find them? (Click on the photo to see more details.)

I'm taking the device for a trial run on Thursday evening btw...

Update: The two logical errors were: 1. The red release valve button on top of the filter housing is placed next to the IN-connection, so having the tap mounted on this side is wrong. 2. The gray ball-lock quick connect is to be used for the IN-connection on the cornelius keg, since I want beer to flow through it I should have used a black ball-lock quick connection instead.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bring on the hops!

I'm proud to present my latest homemade brewing gadget, a Randall. Its full name is Randall The Enamel Animal, and is also known as an organoleptic hop transducer module. The contraption was first invented by the Dogfish Head Brewery. It has later been bought by many pubs serving their beers, all in the the U.S. unfortunately, but they are to my knowledge only used for special events.

I have never tried it myself, but it sure looks like I good idea. I love hops and what couldn't be better than having beer pushed through lots of delicious hops cones on the way to your glass? Yummy!

As far as I know there are no places in Europe where one can try it. So, what was there to do other than to make one myself?

The device is made from one filter canister housing with threaded barbed fittings on both sides. Inside the filter there is a stainless steel pipe with twenty small 1.5 mm drilled holes. I had to get hold of and adapt this one myself. It wasn't easy as getting hold of a 1/2" stainless steel pipe was harder than expected. I ended up buying a towel rack from IKEA(!) and sawing it into pieces with a hack saw. Drilling the holes wasn't easy either as stainless steel is a pretty hard material. I ended up using five titanium covered HSS drills.

I have installed a dual system with two picnic faucets, so that one can serve the beer from the keg directly or from the Randall. That way it will be easy to find out what effect the hops have made to the beer.

The plan is to serve the keg of India Pale Ale through it at this year's Norwegian Homebrewers Festival. So, if you'd like to try it yourself you now know where to be on March 17th.