Piety and scholarship under Lupulos.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dry Hopped Aspis Hoplon in bottles

Got 10 16oz+ bottles filled. Had a taste of the good stuff. Nice hop aroma, huge roasted malt flavor. Was a bit sweet because I tasted after adding the sugar. Yum! Eager to try it after a week or two in the bottle.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Aspis Hoplon in primary/secondary

Moved half of Aspis to a secondary. Boiled about an ounce of oak cubes (French Oak, house toast) in water for 10 minutes, put them in. Cut open a vanilla bean, scraped the contents into a shot of Caribbean rum, then diced the rind and put that in the rum too. Let it soak for 10 minutes or so to sanitize, then put that in the secondary.

To the half remaining in primary, I added dry hops. I'll leave them in for 3-7 days then bottle that batch. The other will stay on the oak and vanilla for as long as it can.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mountainbeering tasting notes (2)

We're at day 10 in the bottle.

Appearance: Pours a caramel red with nicer carbonation than last time. Still, a quickly dissipating head which is rescued by some nice lacing. The yeast have dropped, and there's a pleasant absence of chill haze.

Aroma: Nice, deep hop aroma with a lot of apple and a kiss of honey. Signs of prematurity. The aroma is not as pronounced as last time.

Taste: Pleasantly bitter with a lick of sweetness. Not quite a finish to match the aroma, but tasty nonetheless.

Mouth: More carbonated than last time. A lingering bitterness.

Drinkability: Love it. 5-6% can be sessioned. Too bad I ended up at 2G.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mountainbeering tasting notes

Popped a cold bottle today.

Yeast is still suspended, and it's flat. Trails of sugar are visible. Darker than expected, probably from the 40L caramel. I might switch to 10L or 20L next time.

Hop aroma is absolutely delicious. Flavor not as strong, but needs more conditioning and carbonation.

I am psyched about this one.

Aspis Hoplon in primary

Aspis Hoplon was a success up until the last steps. I hit the temps and volume perfectly. If you haven't brewed a stout before, do yourself a favor and try it: the smell of the wort is delicious.

  1. Second time using whirlfloc, which makes some crazy coagulation. Am I using too much for a 3G batch? Can't really split the tablet. The problem is that, to speed cooling, I whirlpooled the wort while chilling, which stirred up the trub a bit. The filter clogged nearly immediately every time I tried to siphon to primary. I have heard you should wait after cooling for 30 minutes or so for the trub to drop out, but a recent infestation of fruit flies had me worried to leave it. Not to mention, it was midnight and I was tired.
  2. Usually I keep the primary cool by putting it in a cooler with water and ice packs. At the beginning, I use ice to get it extra cool. This time, I just used ice packs and it did not get cool enough (75 by morning). Will I get fusels and bananas? Probably. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mountainbeering in bottles

Bottled "Mountainbeering" two days ago. Little nervous that I used some stale StarSan, it was a bit cloudy which means it's either shot or very near it. Most of the stuff was pretty clean and I'm trying not to get too nervous about it. I'm beginning to think that contamination is more difficult than portrayed, although sanitation is easy and should be maintained regardless.

I had a taste and it was quite good. Different hops than P4P imparted a fruitier flavor. The added salts may have improved the hop character although there seemed to be a perceptible saltiness.

Tried a new trick to filter the wort to the bottling bucket. Kept a tea filter under the hose, and the hose low enough to be under the surface of liquid to minimize oxygen exposure. Seemed to trap a good bit of trub and the beers are clear enough.

Wednesday I'm doing Aspis Hoplon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bruxelles Sprout: Week 3 conditioning tasting notes

  • Appearance: Pours copper with slight reddish hue. Reasonably clear. A 1/2 inch head from a vigorous pour. Head quickly dissipates.
  • Aroma: Deep dark fruit on the nose: raisins, dates, fig. Some green sour apple. No apparent hops.
  • Flavor: thinner than the nose with a dry, phenolic (i.e., clove) finish
  • Mouth: nicely carbonated but could be improved
  • Drinkability: low alcohol level (5-6%) and modest flavor make drinking a couple pretty easy
I suspected the "secret" origin of the yeast to be Rochefort's own and a website did confirm as such. (This was facilitated by Nilam and my splitting of a Rochefort 10 on Friday night.) This is an excellent yeast and is really pulling the flavor weight. I'd like to give it more fermentables to work on.

I am enjoying this beer more and more now that it's conditioning into its peak. The apple hint suggests more conditioning time is needed. I hope the flavor improves but I don't expect a dramatic change. On a future iteration, I would like to bridge the gap between the excellent aroma and nice finish. This will probably require retooling the grain bill and raising fermentability.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bruxelles Sprout results; IPA in primary

Hello Beerworld,

I have been enjoying Bruxelles Sprout for the last 10 days. Some thoughts:
  1. Significantly under-carbonated relative to previous brews. I'm looking at my notes and trying to identify the difference. I recall not using cane sugar but instead a more traditional, corn-based priming sugar, though recollection is fuzzy. Also, I did try to dial it down. Finally, where previous brews were bursting by 7 days, this one may well need the full 3 weeks of conditioning. However, carbonation is pretty important with taste so I think it's still a negative.
  2. I'm digging the esters/phenols from the abbey yeast.
  3. Overall the taste is a little thin. This was by scientific design: I want to learn Belgian yeast and therefore tried to isolate the variable as much as possible. I went for a simple malt profile, relatively low alcohol, and a light hoppiness, that, combined, would let the yeast profile shine. And wow, the yeast is really a beautiful thing. But, I am perhaps enjoying the beer pedagogically.
  4. The chill haze is oppressive in this beer. Look at a warm bottle and it's clear as water. Put it in the fridge for half a day and it's fog. Mostly cosmetic and equipment-related but I'd like to fix it eventually.
The next Belgian will be mashed for heavy attenuation. I don't want residual sweetness and the more the yeast gobbles up, the more of those delicious byproducts it will leave in the beer. I may try for more hops next time. I love the Belgian tradition, but damn, it breaks my heart to make a batch on an ounce of low alpha hops.

In the primary: a new IPA with a similar grain bill to P4P and a new hop. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bruxelles Sprout in the primary; IPA on deck; Berliner Weisse and Gose in design

Mostly successful brew day with Bruxelles Sprout, my Belgian Pale Ale. This recipe diverged from my previous all-grains as follows:

  1. Not an IPA
  2. Pilsner malt instead of two-row
  3. A non-base malt used (Caravienne)
  4. Homemade Belgian candi sugar
  5. Belgian abbey yeast
I really did not hop this much at all, which pained me while it liberated me. In fact, I used a "Noble-esque" hop which has been "aged" in my fridge for several months. Not by design but could have been.

I had a ripping starter going which was timed perfectly for brew day. Siphoned some of it into a bottle for storage. BS was bubbling like a champ by morning.

Next up, a new IPA with some variations from PfP. Gonna use a new hop I'm curious about and maybe even the remnants of the Belgian candi sugar.

Finally, I've changed my mind and will not siphon a gallon of BS off to pitch with Roselaire and turn into a Flander's Red. I'm still intrigued by the sour flavors but want something a little faster (a Flander's Red requires 12-18 months to reach peak flavor). Instead, I'm going to try a Berliner Weisse or a Gose, two ancient and rare German ale's which feature very sour character on account of early lactobactillus inoculations.

Friday, June 19, 2009


After a week in the bottle, we broke out a "Pining for Pliny" today and I must say it is truly an amazing brew! Bright orange, nearly clear (I think some more time in the fridge will clarify it more), thick, frothy head, absolutely delicious hop aroma and flavor. I really think it is a huge step forward and not too far from Pliny (of course it is not Pliny but Pliny seems not so distant anymore). There is a slight resiny hop flavor that I hope gets conditioned out in the next few weeks (it is still a bit early in the conditioning phase) but overall I'm very impressed and for once proud of one of my brewing creations.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Lot's of stuff since the last post.

First, the two extract brews ended up aging nicely and are now quite drinkable. Argentina, in fact, was tasty, and hopefully Hoppy Diwali will come into its own soon.

Though they were tastier, the hop flavor never arose. I narrowed the problems to:
1) Too much time with the dry hops
2) Poor filtering at bottling time, leaving hop sediment to bitter the beer more
3) Too many IBUs (most likely), causing a harsh bitterness which obscured the hop flavors
4) Water profile

I dialed down the hops big time for a new brew called "Pining for Pliny". This is an all-Simcoe IPA with an IBU count of ~70, which was a substantial rollback. I made the recipe as light on grains as possible to showcase the Simcoe. (Wow, do yourself a favor and smell a bag of Simcoe some time. It's known for a piney/citrus flavor; hence the naming "Pining for Pliny".). Regarding the process: I paid special attention to water levels and managed to perfectly hit my water amount. I used BeerSmith to aid in the process and I don't think I'd brew again without it. Today I bottled it and wow, what a smell! The beer is clearer and much lighter than previous brews. Can't wait to try it.

I have been reading a lot about water profiles and it turns out that Orange County water does not cut it for highly hopped beers. The sulfates are way too low, and sulfates are critical to really pull the flavors out of hops. So, for the next brew I'm going to be adding gypsum salt to get it up to the right level (again, Beersmith will help me calculate this).

Next up: a break from the usual hop bombs. I'm going to try something summery; a light, Belgian ale, using Pilsner malts, Belgian yeast, a low ABV, and a low dose of Sterling hops. I'm calling it "Bruxelles Sprout" (were it a stout you know what I'd call it.) I have a crazy idea to siphon off a gallon of it into my little 1G carboy and add some wild yeast to give it a nice sourness.

Finally, I have decided that if "Pining for Pliny" comes out decent, I'm getting/building a keggerator. I hate bottling enough to abandon the hobby altogether.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Hoppy Diwali is a big, malty, hoppy mess. I think the reduction from 2.5G ending volume to ~1.75 caused a concentration which does not favor flavor. I recalculated and got 11.1% ABV and 150+ IBUs. The sherry off-flavors are telltale of allowing the beer to get too hot, which I know was the case as the upstairs closet has reached 80+ temperatures in the last month. There is a nice toasty malt flavor with honey and some light spices. The bitterness is near astringent and not right. Also some husky, tannic tones. Good thing the batch size was small. I had really almost written this one off anyway.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First all grain batch

I did my first all grain batch yesterday. Let me begin by saying that all grain is way easier than you can imagine. Its reputation for difficulty must be a hangover from days when you had to do all the calculations by hand. Nowadays, tools like hopville.com make it a snap.

I designed a recipe called Santa Ana Garden. There's a lemon tree in front of the Santa Ana house I stayed in and I made lemonade from it once. The citrusy hops I placed in this one (including Amarillo, which means "yellow" in Spanish) evoke that memory.

The grain bill is fashioned after McDole's Pliny the Elder clone.

Some notes on the recipe:
  1. I put 1oz Cascade in the mash itself. There is growing popularity for this method as a way to infuse the beer with more flavor and aroma without adding bitterness. Though the science is not well understood by beer nerds, the idea is that the sub-boiling mash temperatures allow the hop flavors to be more fully extracted into the wort before boiling off, and they'll tend to keep throughout the full boil.
  2. I used some yeast collected from Bell's bottles as described earlier in this blog
  3. I'm using a method to keep the primary fermenter cool, since the apartment was in the mid 80s for most of the weekend. Warm temperatures for fermentation cause serious off flavors. I put it in a cooler in the closet and fill the cooler with water. I put ice packs in in the morning. I've measure the temperature at various times and the water temperature is about 67, which is ideal

And mistakes:
  1. I forgot to put the sugar in. Cane sugar is a way to build the alcohol and body of the beer without adding flavor or color.
  2. I did not calculate water loss in the grain bed correctly, and ended up with about 2 gallons of beer.
  3. I forgot to put Irish Moss in, so did not benefit from its coagulative properties and hence threw away more trubbed-up beer
Given the mistakes, I ended up with a variant recipe which I describe here. The loss of water means a higher gravity. Not the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mash tun take one

I built a mash tun today. I originally decided to use the directions here. However, those directions are pretty hard to follow since they seem to be written for mechanically inclined people. It also requires non-standard washers which were not available in any hardware store in my area (the author says to just expand a smaller one, but I have yet to talk to someone who knows how to do that).

I instead used the directions here, which were both easier and required fewer parts. I have:

  1. 5 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler ($22)
  2. 1/2' of 1/2" copper tubing ($1)
  3. a small rubber stopper ($1)
  4. a stainless steel mesh taken from a supply line ($5)
  5. a square head plug (Watts part A-737)
  6. 1/2" hose clamps
Most of this is straightforward. However, the supply line needs the ends to be sawed off. You then pull the hose from the center. I asked the guy at Fetch Lumber to help me saw off the ends of the supply line and he did with relative ease. I used needlenose pliers to pull the hose out and it took about 5 minutes.

Next, I would wash the mesh in some alcohol to get the oil off.

  1. I unscrewed the plastic spigot from the cooler.
  2. I jammed the stopper in from inside out. Make sure to go this direction so it can withstand the pressure. This took me 5 minutes of strenuous work. If it isn't hard to do, you may have a stopper which is too small, and will not get a good seal.
  3. I pushed the copper through the hole in the stopper. This was by far the most difficult task and took me about 10 minutes of pushing. I was drenched in sweat by the end
  4. I attached the head plug to the mesh using a hose clamp
  5. I attached the mesh to the copper using a hose clamp.
  6. I attached the vinyl tubing to the copper on the outside of the cooler
Here's a picture:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Future brew brainstorm

  1. "Raspblurry Stout": A strong stout with chocolate and tart fruit flavors like raspberry and cherries. Creamy feel (from oats?). Think Framboise raspberry over a deep chocolate stout
  2. "Pop-the-cap-puccino stout": espresso and milk stout, frothy head
  3. "Currant Affair": Dark, thin stout or porter with a sour dryness. Think cabernet over a dry chocolate malt base
  4. "Chocolate orange": Not really much of an orange taste but some aggressive, citrusy hops on a stout. No one does this. Would it work?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Extract twang

Home brewers often complain about 'extract twang' which vaguely describes the telltale off-flavors from extract brewing. It seems the main problem (aside from contamination) is boil size. The typical kit is for 5 gallon batches but the process involves a 3 gallon boil since most homebrewers can't boil much more. There are two negative consequences:

  1. The extracts are added to the boil portion and hence saturate it. The hops cannot be as effectively absorbed. This can be avoided, in part, by not adding half of the extracts until the end of the boil (long enough to sanitize)
  2. Water needs to be added to the wort in the fermenter to bring it up to full size, rather than being incorporated in the whole boil. If you did this with a curry sauce, I doubt it would be as flavorful.
These contribute to the extract twang. This is where the smaller batches are advantageous: you can do the wort as a full boil.

The yeast is stolen

I successfully harvested some Bell's yeast last night as per Palmer's instructions. I used the last inch of two Oberon bottles. Now it's time for a few more build up rounds.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Half-hearted Ale

I'm planning a Two-Hearted variant. Word is, Bell's uses the same special yeast for all of their beers and that it can be harvested since their beers are unfiltered. Recommendation for yeast harvesting is that you try with a low ABV beer, since higher ABV beers are generally not friendly to the yeast in the bottle and you end up with something mutated. I bought a 6er of Oberon and plan to do a yeast starter this week using the yeast from the bottom of a few bottles.

Two-hearted is a pure centennial beer. I am considering two brewing options.

  1. Ignore the grain side and just do light DME so that I can showcase the hops more
  2. Do an all grain batch
If the former I am titling the beer "Half-hearted Ale"; the latter, "Full-hearted Ale". The latter requires I build a tun by the weekend.

I am also going to add some Amarillo at aroma time to bring a little more citrus and complexity to the table.

Racked to secondary; comments

Racked to secondary a few days ago. For Diwali, I bought a smaller carboy. Apparently it is 3 gallons but seems to hold a lot more; it would be a perfect secondary for a 4-5 gallon batch because the head space would be minimal.

Diwali smells a bit strong and sour. My guess is the final volume was under 2G (my plan was for a 2.5 G batch but I did not add water after much of it evaporated). Consequently, this beer had a massive OG and will probably drink like a hopped up wine with ABV in the 15-20% range or higher.

Argentina had nearly the clear appearance I was going for and smelled like Blue Moon. I had a little taste and it was almost soapy from all the hops but I think it will be a nice flavor.

Dry hopped both. Unfortunately I did not label my 3 zip-locs of hop remnants and had to guess by smell. I'm pretty sure I was consistent: Amarillo to Diwali and either Columbus or Argentine Cascade to Argentina.

Both of these brews had massive IBUs and I am very curious to see the result. I am a little frustrated that they will probably need long conditioning with the high ABV and will not reach peak flavor for another month or more (quite longer than I am willing to wait to tweak the recipes).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't Cry for me, Argentina

I brewed a new batch tonight and I'm calling it "Don't Cry for me Argentina". Since I used Columbus, Amarillo, and Argentine Cascade, I thought "Conquistador" a more apt name but the macho IPA names are a bit cliche.

1 gallon batch
  • .25 lb Munich (steeped)
  • 1.5 lb light malt extract
  • .5 lb honey
  • .15 lb sugar
  • .25 oz Columbus (60 minutes)
  • .25 oz Columbus (30 minutes)
  • .25 oz Amarillo (30 minutes)
  • .25 oz Argentine Cascade (15 minutes)
  • .25 oz Argentine Cascade (flame out)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tales from Diwali

The process was OK but not perfect. Some things to note:

  1. I steeped in a different pot because the 1 gallon was not high enough in the 5 gallon pot. This required me to pour between them when adding extracts which potentially oxidized. Solution: steep with more liquid in the larger pot
  2. Did not prepare the yeast. Solution: Need to bring it out ahead of time.
  3. Did not account for evaporation. This beer is under 2 gallons. Solution: have boiled extra water cooled by the end so we can bring up to 2.5 gallons
  4. Leaking chiller. Solution: tilt outside; build my own; return the one from 5th season
  5. Dry extract made mess. Solution: pour dry into bowl first, then dump in
  6. Did not clear crap from wort before fermenting. Solution: clear crap from wort before fermenting, by slowly decanting, then rinsing the bowl

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hoppy Diwali IPA

I adapted this extract recipe from an interesting Hopslam clone. I changed it a good bit. I removed honey, scaled back the extracts slightly. I am using only two hops: Centennial (for bittering and flavor) and amarillo (for flavor and aroma).

2.5 gallon recipe

Steeping grains
  • 1/4 lb. honey malt
  • 1/4 lb. munich malt
  • 1/8 lb. crystal 10L
  • 1/8 lb. crystal 40L
  • 4.0 lbs dry amber malt extract
  • 60 minutes: 2/3 oz Centennial
  • 30 minutes: 2/3 oz Centennial, 1/2 oz Amarillo
  • 15 minutes: 2/3 oz Centennial, 1/2 oz Amarillo
  • Flameout: 1/2 oz Amarillo
Dry hop at 7 days with 1/2 oz Amarillo

Beertools says this will be have an OG of 1.074 and 123 IBUs. A hop blast for sure.