Sunday, July 20, 2014


A special brew day yesterday. I should have taken pictures. Yesterday we went FULL QUAD.

Dave and Shawn, a couple of friends, were on hand to assist through the day, which made it a lot easier. This 5 gallon batch of Belgian Quadrupel was a challenge, with some unusual and even unique steps.

Firstly, I used a liquid yeast in a starter I put on Wednesday, to give me the cell count needed to provide a healthy fermentation. I was able to effectively use Erin's stir plate (former research chemists have interesting toys) to get the most bang for my buck.

Secondly, this recipe called for a "magic elixir", a process step suggested by a respected brewing acquaintance. The first 1.5 gallons of runnings off the mash went into a separate pot, the demerara sugar was dissolved in, and it was boiled down by 50% or more to caramelize. Tricky, because it can't scorch or boil over, and the second burner I have is very hard to adjust. But Dave and Shawn handled that part of it well. By the time it was returned to the main pot, it was almost syrupy.

Apart from that, things were actually quite simple. A straightforward single infusion mash with batch sparge. A single hop addition.

A successful brew day. The technicals went well, and the company was welcome. But it'll be a while before we can enjoy the fruits of this labour. This is a beer for the winter, not a beer for now.

Recipe below.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Brazilian Blonde, Awenda Wheat, KWCBC, etc.

So, I've been remiss on posting lately. Slipping!

Brazilian Blonde

Early in June I ran a 10 gallon batch of Blonde Ale. There's not much notable about it. I'll include a recipe below.

It isn't even kegged, because the keg fridge already has a nice yellow beer in it (Windbreaker Pilsner, which has turned out very nice now that it's had a chance to age after I dry hopped it.)

IPEh Growler Event

The US-05 yeast version of Backyard IPEh went to the KW Craft Beer Club's IPEh growler event. It tied for 4th out of 10. I'm happy enough with that, but the event was too competitive (and some of the beers were not, to be honest.) Participants would have got a lot more value out of the event if they had a chance to describe the beer and hear people's responses.

I would have appreciated it, myself. I don't think the Backyard was that great a beer and one lesson I did come away with was that the better performing brewers are thinking tactically about their ingredients and recipe. Something I need to learn.

The next event is a Wheat beer event. Which brings me to:

Awenda Wheat

Sunday, I fired up the 5 gallon system for the first time this year, because this brew is a pair of firsts. One, it's my first wheat beer. Two, it's my first decoction mash. Normally I do infusion mashes (so called because the mash temperature is set and adjusted by the infusion of hot water into the grains). But this time, I decided to follow a simplified version of a traditional German brewing technique.

When you want to adjust the temperature of your mash, you scoop off the thickest part of the mash into a separate pot, so you have a big pile of soggy grain in there (leaving most of the liquid behind) and then you boil it. Once boiled, you return the hot grains and liquid back to the mash and mix it in.

It didn't go quite as smoothly as I wanted: I needed to move from 122F (protein rest) to 153F (sacharification rest, or the main starch-to-sugar conversion process) and what I thought would be one step ended up taking three whole cycles of scooping grain out with a slotted spoon and boiling it. In the end I settled for a mash temperature of 148F. That will change the body of the beer.

Decoction mashing is counter-intuitive for 2 reasons.
  • Boiling the mash denatures the enzymes you need to mash (but since most liquids get left behind and the enzymes have dissolved, this doesn't end up being a problem.)
  • Brewers are told not to subject their grains to more than 168F because of tannin extraction. But decoction involves boiling the damn things. BYO does an okay job of explaining why this isn't a problem.
There are some upsides to decoction, according to some. It changes the character of the beer, creating body without adding residual sweetness. We'll see.

For a fairly simple Weizen, though, it's completely in place. I even had a package of Weizen yeast on hand, but it was a little too old and didn't look viable, so I used a backup package of dry WB-06 instead.

Recipes below the fold.