Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Most Viewed Posts For 2009

I hope that all of the readers and beer enthusiasts that follow this blog have a healthy and prosperous new year. I want to thank you all for supporting my efforts to share my homebrewing experience by joining me on this site.

The following is a list of the top 10 Beer Diary... posts listed in order of their popularity for the year 2009.

1.)How To Make Your Own Keggle Sight Glass

2.)Pulque Not Beer

3.)3 Simple Homebrew Tricks

4.)One Simple Kegerator Trick

5.)Duchesse De Bourgogne

6.)Filter Your Beer If You Can

7.)Take A Homebrew To Work Day

8.)Bottling Alternative

9.)Cerveza Casera

10.)3 More Easy Homebrewing Tricks

Happy new year, Feliz ano nuevo, and here's to enjoying a pint with you in 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Beer From Home Malted Barley

Tadaaa!! Beer brewed from home malted barley.

It was a fun and educational ride and the ultimate pay off is a pretty good pale ale. The following is the recipe which includes a significant amount of cane sugar to get the gravity up but it didn't hamper the delicious (if I do say so myself) maltiness of the barley.
There is also a nice citrus flavor provided by the cascade and centennial hops and a crisp mouthfeel from the dry final gravity and moderate to high carbonation level. I poured samples for friends this evening and got a mix of responses from
"that's pretty good" to "sure I'll have another" . O.K. not outstanding testimonies but at least they didn't spit it out.

What's interesting to me is how much the flavor stands out in this beer after drinking the light lagers of Mexico. It's a welcome change.

Here is the ingredients and process I used for brewing. Do you batch sparge? This was the first time I did this as I normally fly sparge, I hope I did it right. If there is a better method let me know for future attempts at this.

1. Mashed 9.4 lbs. home made barley in 2.5 gals. h2o at 150f. for 90 minutes then (batch sparge)
2. drain entire content of mash tun then
3. added 2.5 gals. of h2o at 170f. and drained and again
4. added 2.5 gals. of h2o at 170f. and drained
5. brought 6 gals. wort of 1.028 (5 gals = 1.033) to a boil with .5 lbs. cry #60 and 1 lb. cara red steeping grains
6. added 2 lbs. cane sugar (Mark C. if your reading this - still no cider flavors from the sugar addition)
7. boiled for 60 mins. with .5 oz. Simcoe hops
8. boiled for 15 mins. with 1. oz. Cascade hops (irish moss)
9. boiled for 2 mins. with 1. oz. Centennial hops
10. Chilled in ice bath
11. fermented at 65f. using US-05 dry ale yeast for 7 days
12. bottled and conditioned for 2 weeks

Efficiency: 50%
Attenuation: 85%
ABV 6.18%
IBU's 40
O.G. 1.055
F.G. 1.008

Any questions about this recipe? Leave a comment.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

When Your Yeast Quits

This is an often experienced occurance in the homebrew world and has happened to me a couple of times. In fact, I presently have a German hibiscus/wheat beer that has stopped dead at 1.020 when I expected it to finish at about 1.012, the original gravity was 1.050. This is a German style hefe weizen with the addition of hibiscus flower. I used the Safeale S-33 Belgian ale yeast from MoreBeer to ferment. There are a number of reasons that stuck fermentations happen. Yeast viability, lack of adequate aeration, high mash temperatures, low fermentation temperatures, you could probably name a few others. The point is that the beer has not fermented completely and you've got five or ten gallons of under-attenuated beer sitting in the fermenter looking up at you with an expression of defeat.

An under-attenuated beer can be problematic for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that the taste will be sweeter than you may want considering that you hopped with an expectation of a drier beer and the mouthfeel fuller as a result of the remaining sugars in solution. The second problem effects those that are bottling the beer. Normally you would add approximately half a cup of bottling sugar for a five gallon batch (48-12oz. bottles) to achieve the carbonation that you want in the finished beer but with all that residual sugar in solution to begin with, you may just be creating bottle bombs caused by the over carbonation of the additional sugar.

In the case of this beer, my expectation was for a final gravity of around 1.012 and so I am a little dissapointed but determined to get the rest of those points out of it one way or another. My belief is that the temperature got too cold and I may not have oxygenated the wort well enough causing the yeast to drop out of solution assuming a dormant state. My solution?

1.)pitch a fresh pack of US05 ale yeast
2.)gently stir up the yeast cake with a sanitized spoon to get it back into solution
3.)warm the beer up to 75f. with a 60watt light bulb placed strategically near the fermenter

Not real dignified but I have high hopes for success here, I have to.

In the past, US05 has been successful in getting a couple more points out of the gravity and I've read of others using Champane yeast with good results. The other part of this equation is patience. It may take an extra week or even two for the yeast to slowly do their job. I have to remind myself of this regularly as I tend to want the beer done quickly and into a keg or bottle to prevent any additional exposure to the elements since I basically 'open ferment'.

Finally, if the beer doesn't ferment any further after all these efforts then I will reduce the amount of bottling sugar I use. Additionally, I will plan to increase the amount of hibiscus flower that I add because it causes a distinct sense of dryness to the mouthfeel in this recipe.

If you've got more solutions to this common problem, please leave a comment.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Day In Mexico

I picked up a six pack of Modelo 'Barrillitos' from the abarrotes as I headed home. Not because it's a great beer but because it's cheap and I can reuse the bottles in the future for my homebrew. I carried my bolsa outside into the bright light and as I turned the corner to start the climb home I saw a dead man on the street.

Laying on his back, his worn clothes matched the color of the dusty cobbled sidewalk. His grey eyes staring blank through half opened lids at nothing just beyond the tree branches. Two plastic bolsas were at his feet, the contents of his morning grocery shopping spilling out. Some bananas, a pepper, tamarindo. A small clutch of pedestrians looked down at him from their improvised ampitheatre, some making the sign of the cross while a short policeman stood by impatient for the ambulance to come fetch the body. I'd crossed the steet to get a better look. I don't often get to see a dead person, in fact I've only seen one other in my life, many years ago.

He was the father of a friend, and was dressed up and put on display at the funeral parlor near his Salinas home. I had no emotional connection to him, only met him once before so approached his prepared body with only curiousity. He was unmistakably lifeless, but that recognition wasn't obvious from the color of the skin, or its texture but from the lack of energy that it normally emits, an energy that you don't pay attention to except in its absense.

The man on the street lacked that same energy and it occured to me that all the connective energy was gone too, like removing the ligiture from muscle. Some invisible energy that could be described as strings or twine that binds the man to his family, friends, the familiar things of his life. The defining history, the events. All that energy evaporates too, leaving a stillness around the body, a magnetic void that is perceptable on a level apart from intellect.

I continued up the street towards home glancing over my shoulder every once in awhile to see if the body was still there. When I turned up Calle Mesones the buildings blocked my view and I quit turning back. On the next block the city buses shouldered up along a stretch of road under construction. Piles of cobbles and sand kept them from getting too close to the sidewalk where the locals lined up to board. They formed a line, leaning against the warm walls of the colorful concrete buildings eyeballing the placards in the bus windows that displayed their destination. Mega, Santa Julia, Soriano, Mexiquito.
As I got closer a newly arrived bus veered in close and shuttered to a stop by a pile of rubble. Passengers climbed down from the rear doors through a heavy cloud of diesel fumes and dust while others entered the front. After a moment it pulled away, cranking sharply into the road to avoid the debris but the rear tire nearest the sidewalk rode up over a cobble pile, compressing the stones with its extreme weight. A split second later several of the potato sized stones shot out from the pressure, a birdshot blast of granite projectiles, they blew into the line of pedestrians before anyone could react. Some ricocheted off the building walls, thudding and cracking with their force. Painted concrete spintered into the dry air. I froze in place, while the crowd, now alert, moved about in jerky motions brushing concrete fragment from their clothes. Then a young boy, maybe ten years old stood from a crouched position by his mother. A quarter sized divet of flesh missing from his forehead exposing the bone. Blood began to form and then drain with intensity from the opening and he stagger stepped toward me. I knelt and held him by his shoulders to prevent him from walking into the street and he looked at me absently from behind his pain and shock, blood running down his face. The bus driver stopped and climbed down from his perch as I and the crowd yelled for help. He approached with cautious alarm and then motioned for the mother to quickly help the boy on board. I stood watching as the bus pull away with the wounded, wondering if his going on the bus was a wise choice, but it's not my place to question the drivers logic, I'm just a witness here.

When I reached home I let out the sadness that I felt, a sadness born of my impotence to help or make a difference in either persons life and the recognition of my own mortality. I let the emotion run out of me feeling sympathy for the boy, the dead man and myself as I considered our innocence in this life and how little protection it gives.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Malting Barley In Mexico IV (the mash)

I have to begin by saying that malting barley is hard work. I have to give a lot of credit to the professional maltster out there, and in the future will find it easier to pay what now seems like a very reasonable price for a bag.

From the original five kilos (11 lbs.) of raw grain that I purchased at the beginning of this project, I ended up with 9 lbs of malt. Once my malt was ready to mash, I set about milling it severely in the hope of exposing as much of the interior of the grain as I could in an attempt at extracting as much sugar as possible. I found this mill at the hardware store for $25usd and it did a great job but I wouldn't want to use it to mill more than a few pound as it was difficult to crank and there is no easy way to motorize it. On the other hand if you need a starter mill for cheap, this is one way to go.

I used a plastic bucket with a braided hose attached to a spigot as my mash tun and (don't tell my wife) insulated it by securing a couple pillows off our bed, held in place with a piece of rope I found on the roof. This worked suprisingly well at maintaining a temperature of 150f. I let the grain mash for and hour and a half before performing a batch sparge. Normally, I mash for an hour but in this case I did an iodine test after an hour and found that there was still a lot of unconverted starches. Then I sparged by draining the mash tun completely once, filled it again with 170f. water, stirred, let rest for ten minutes and drained again.

The results? In a beginning boil volume of six gallons my specific gravity was 7 brix or 1.028. At this point I have to make some assumptions in order to figure how well I did in the malting process and how efficient I was at extracting the sugars from the mash. I am going to use my personal historical records of previous brewing sessions as a data point to make comparisons. Unfortunately, I am unable to determine exactly how effective I was at malting the grain but if I make another assumption that my mashing procedure was 71% efficient then I can also assume that in my malting process I created a potential of 1.0265 instead of the commercial malt that typically is 1.037

Here's the numbers as I figure but tell me if I'm off base here:

6gal. x 1.028 (6 x 28 = 168)

9lbs. x 1.026 (9 x 26 = 234) (168/234 = 71%) or 10% less potential sugar than commercial malt.
In conclusion, this was a great way to learn about the malting process and I can see that with practice one could increase the yield of sugars, but in the end, with the amount of time and energy that I put into this effort I think it's a small price that we pay as homebrewers for consistent quality and yield that the professionals can provide.

Mash Tun

P.S. I went ahead and brewed a batch of beer with some additional ingredients. If you're interested in that recipe, leave a comment and I'll include it there. Cheers!
For the previous steps in malting barley go to here for step I and here for step II and here for step III.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Malting Barley In Mexico III

Just a quick update on my malting progress. The barley has grown as much as I want it to and so now it's time to stop the growth. One interesting note is the growth is very inconsistent. Much of it is over modified and just as much is undermodified. Does anyone have an idea why that would be?

The weather has been partly cloudy but I was able to get enough sun to spread the grain out on the terrace with a temperature of 90f. I collected the grain to keep inside over night and then put them back the following day of additional drying. Here are a few pictures. I layed the chicken wire over the top in a half ass attempt to keep the ginormous grackles and other birds out which seemed to work.

After several hot days of drying, I placed the grains on some aluminum pans to be lightly roasted in the oven at a temperature of around 180f. for a few hours. After that, I pushed the grain around the inside of a colinder to remove the rootlets.

Then next step is the mashing process and I will take some readings on the sugar extractions. I plan to do a batch sparge using a five gallon bucket with a braided hose in the bottom to filter. I've never done a batch sparge as my normal system uses the fly sparging technique. If you have words of wisdom regarding batch sparging, please leave a comment.

For the previous steps in malting barley go to here for step I and here for step II.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brewing At Antigua Capilla

When Susan and I first arrived in San Miguel de Allende this year, we stayed at the Antigua Capilla bed and breakfast for a couple days. What a treat. Francisco and his wife Antonieta own this gorgeous Spanish colonial style hotel that is built around a 17th century chapel nestled on the side of the hill east of town. Within walking distance of the central plaza, Antigua Capilla is the perfect retreat from the bustle of town but an easy walk to enjoy the sights, sounds, food and shopping that the city has to offer. I highly advise it for those thinking of visiting SMA. Francisco lives part time in California and more frequently in San Miguel as he gets his new hotel up and running.

I met Francisco through a brewing course that I was teaching in Soquel, California. He would make the drive down from the Bay area each weekend to attend. He arrived here in San Miguel a few days after us and I joined him at Antigua Capilla as he brewed up the first batch of beer to be made at his new hotel. Later, I was left in charge of bottling the beer because he had to return to the states before the beer was ready. Fortunately for me, I was able to squeeze a 49th bottle of beer out of his five gallon batch and kept it for myself.

Well, today was the day the beer was ready for tasting and so I cracked it open and poured the gold colored German hefe weizen into my mug. This beer is slightly hazy which is normal for this style with crisp carbonation and off white head. Great aroma of clove, banana and a big spicy flavor that comes across with defined clove and some flower essense. A great example of the style and a success for the first brew on premise for Antigua Capilla.
Francisco, if your reading this- Great Job! I look forward to seeing you back down here and of course breaking into the rest of those beers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Malting Barley In Mexico II

Here are some updated pictures of the sprouting barley after several days of growth. There are a significant amount of grains that do not show any rootlets or even chit and this has me concerned. I will be giving this growth period another two days before starting the drying process but I will dissect a couple of the grains to confirm the acrospire growth before that step. As I turn the germinating grain by hand, I keep finding a variety of beans.

No me gusta frijoles!

Grains with rootlets .

Keeping the grains moist and cool.
The weather here has been cloudy with intermittent showers and I'm hoping that the clear warm weather returns for the drying step because my plan was to spread the grain out on the floor of the upper deck rather than trust the inconsistent temperature that my oven provides. More of the drying step in a later post.

In the mean time I returned to Cerveza de San Miguel last night to sample some ales and get in touch with the owner Matthew Carrol. He was giving a short lecture on brewing along with a beer tasting, to a small group of us and will meet with me on Monday to talk about a possible small scale brewing collaboration. He may also be a good source for malted barley.

Aside from these projects I'm anxious to get started brewing but have had some setbacks as far as getting the equipment together. I have everything I need except the large boil pot and the gas burner to use on the deck, but I'm expecting to brew within a few days. My first beer will be a repeat of a well received recipe from last year, "Hibiscus wheat".
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