Monday, April 27, 2009

trillium brewing hops field

Well, its not really a 'field' so much as it is a hops postage stamp. I've had my fenway garden plot for 7 or so years. Its my landscaping methadone...takes just enough of the edge off my wanton need to grow all things perennial, annual, vegetable, shrub, tree or vine. Its my 24'x16' caged in spot of fertile soil. Just barely holds out the male prostitutes and the drug addicts. Well, about 97% of the time it holds them out. But I suppose my garden is so just darn pretty that...
Oh, I'm getting off track. what was I writing about...umm...right..HOPS!

This AM, Esther and I planted the four rhizomes (Mt. Hood, Cascade, Centennial, Zeus) that I had started in pots about 3 weeks ago. The two from the prior season (Fuggle and Sterling) are showing signs of terrific vigor, both already have bines that are reaching for something to grab on to. Maybe have grown 2 feet in length. Not bad considering I didn't get them in the ground til mid-May, and no visible shoots til early June. The soil in my garden plot has deep and rich soil. No need for any amendment. Loaded with earthworms and life. Best soil I've ever put my hands in to. But this is a brewing blog...
I'll snap a few hops photo the next time I'm there. The Sterling looks quite a bit smaller, which reflects what I saw in its growth last year. The Fuggle was notably larger in its first year, and will certainly need to have some bines culled, and I'll have to establish some sort of semi-horizontal, semi-vertical trellising for them (there are height restrictions in the gardens).

Here are some shots of the baby hops prior to planting:


Sunday, April 19, 2009

an Indian Brown Ale plus lots of firsts

The IBA spent a little more time on the dry hops than I would have liked, but finally got to bottling it this past Monday night (18May). FG at 1.020, leaving it a bit higher than I would have liked, but expected for extract, I suppose. Nonetheless, the hydrometer sample revealed a pleasantly bitter and fresh hop aroma and flavor. I didn't really swish it around and analyze the malt profile very much, but I think that the properly carbed up version will be quite enjoyable. The color was a nice brown, just what I was going for. Maybe a touch of redness to it, but only when held up to the light, at the edge.

About 1/2 of this batch was put in to 12oz bottles, and is currently conditioning at the office. Final destination is the group of guys who kindly donated the reactors to my homebrew cause. I put the rest in larger flip tops, as I expect to drink this one in its peak condition, which would be within 2months.

Finished at ~6.5%abv.

Back from Phoenix yesterday (26April), and racked the IBA to secondary on to an ounce each of Cascade and Centennial. The fermentation vessels don't have an airtight seal on the screw caps, so I wasn't able to dry hop in the primary as I intended. No worries there, but I'll probably put a bead of silicone on the inside of the caps to get that good seal for future brews. While stuffing the whole hops in to the 5 gallon carboy neck, I was reminded why the wide top opening in the reactors would expedite the process vs. a regular carboy neck. Keeping the carboy in a water bath in the spare bathroom tub, as springtime temps expectedly jumped up to the 80s over the weekend.

The primary ferment was done before this happened, so I'm hoping no off flavors from a warmer than optimal fermentation. holding in the mid to high 60s in the water bath now.
Brewed up this Indian Brown Ale tonight as a thanks for the fermentation vessels. here's a nice shot of the beautiful foamy wort after squeezing out the hop matter post wort cooling.

I had 6lbs of northwestern amber LME that I received as a gift from my sister Chelynn, so this recipe is a partial mash. The taste of this LME was, fresh, smooth. Almost like a soft and sweet molasses with no 'iron bite' that can sometimes be associated with it.

Anyhow, I chose a hoppy american brown ale, as I figured the guys will appreciate a decidedly hoppy brown. Oh, and plus I've really been wanting to make one. The roasty chocolate malt combined with a touch of caramelized sugars from the crystal30, and some soft belgian biscuit malt will play a backup role to the bitterness provided by the zeus and american aroma and dry hop thoroughbreds: Cascade and Centennial. If Centennial is good enough for Bigfoot and Ruination, its plenty good for my little 5 gallon batch of IBA.

I added alot of new variables to my brew day:

  • Tore in to my 25kg Canada Malting ltd pale ale malt. This is base grain that I'll be using for the to-be-determined 3rd wedding beer, so it'll be good to get a sneak peak.

  • Of course all of this grain is uncrushed, so I unleased my barley crusher for the first time... here's a snippet of the titillating video!

It tore through the 5.5 lbs of grain to reveal a wonderfully fresh and aromatic crush. From the mill and in to mash in minutes...I can already tell this is going to improve my beer.
  • I used 1 teaspoon of 5.2pH stabilizer in my mini mash...I'll have to wait to get a taste of the brew to see if it made much of an impact. I added 1oz of burton water salts to my nearly naked boston sparge water, so I'm not too sure if this was the best time to introduce the 5.2pH stabilizer variable (to discern effect), but I figured it couldn't hurt and would probably help.

  • I finally cracked in to my freshops stash. wow. the 16.4AA% zeus is almost sticky. what fun. I suspect freshops will become my sole retail hops provider to supplement my (eventual) 6 variety hops field (more on that in a future post).

  • And of course, the inaugural fermentation in my 25L reactor. The larger central opening is going to really help when it comes time to add the dry hop addition. It could also be useful for top cropping, should I ever want to do that.

Without further ado, the relevant details:

Hoppy American Brown
American Brown Ale

Type: Partial Mash
Date: 4/19/2009
Batch Size: 5.00 gal

6 lbs Amber Liquid Extract (12.5 SRM) Extract 52.17 %
4 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 34.78 %
8.0 oz Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) Grain 4.35 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 30L (30.0 SRM) Grain 4.35 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 4.35 %
1.00 oz Zeus [16.40 %] (60 min) Hops 50.9 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [7.20 %] (Dry Hop 14 days) Hops
1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] (Dry Hop 14 days) Hops
1.00 oz Cascade [7.20 %] (5 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep) Hops
1.00 oz Centennial [9.00 %] (5 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep) Hops
0.50 oz Burton Water Salts (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
1 PkgsUS-05 Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.070 SG
Measured Original Gravity: 1.070 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.020 SG
Measured Final Gravity: 1.020 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.56 %
Actual Alcohol by Vol: 6.58 %
Bitterness: 50.9 IBU
Calories: 317 cal/pint
Est Color: 23.9 SRM

Mash In
Add 2 gallons of water at 159.5 F
150.0 F

Mash Out at 170F, 60min boil

Friday, April 10, 2009


A friend of mine at work, who knows of my great interest in homebrewing has procured some fantastic corning glass ported chemical reactors for use as fermentation vessels.

The reactors have reached retirement by way of chipped glass (minimal) ports and insufficiently repaired broken ports (seam is too weak to hold heavy apparatus). The smaller of the two is ~25L (6.4 gal), the larger is was a 50L (12.8 gal). In their prior life, they were used to create various peptides for use in the (human) medical device no worries about biocompatibility (or use for homebrewing.)

As you can see, there are several features of these reactors:
  • volume gradations on the sides
  • indentations/grooves on the sides that make handling that much easier
  • flat bottoms (some reactors are round bottomed)
  • heat resistant laboratory-grade glass...though I'd be VERY hesitant to put these babies over a direct flame. or even an indirect flame, for that matter.
  • two small side ports, which accomodate my universal stoppers (these also have an indication on the tops, heat resistant to 140C (284F)...which makes them OK for boil sanitizing)
  • one large central port, would make dry hopping that much easier
  • included are two side port screw caps and one central port screw cap
  • ***they are still made of glass, and if or when you drop 50L pyrex, they break.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Farmer JC

wellsir, I just put in the order for some two row barley, spring wheat and oat seed from Johnny's Seeds.

I will plant these at my garden plot. Alongside my hop rhizomes. So, beer has infiltrated yet another aspect of my life.
I do wonder if I'm paying through the nose for these seeds, but they are organic (rolling eyes). I have no idea what kind of yield I'll get, if any. But if nothing else, this small scale effort will give me some useful experience for the future (or lack of) larger scale growing of some of my own for true 'homebrews'. If I do get some viable yield from this, all I'll have to do is learn how to properly home-malt and home-kiln, which I'm sure is completely impractical and will yield a vastly inferior product vs. commercially available stuff.

Barley (Conlon) (OG)Item No. 989G
5 Pounds
Kame Oats (OG)Item No. 293G
1 Pound
Glenn Spring Wheat (OG)Item No. 292G
1 Pound
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