Forging mighty beers one batch at a time.

Next Beer Recipe

The ingredients for my first stout recipe came in yesterday. I’m still formulating the actual recipe (in my head), but here are the possible ingredients.Next beer recipe

A Tale of Two Hefeweizens

A tale of two hefeweizens

Today I’m tasting two beers that I brewed recently. Two of the same style – hefeweizens to be exact. The first (shown on the left of the photo) was brewed using extract, and the second was my very first all-grain beer. I wanted to compare them so I’m tasting them side-by-side.

The all-grain hefe is much lighter in color than the extract. The carbonation levels are about the same, and the head thicknesses are about the same. The aroma is where things start to diverge. The extract has a sharp, slightly earthy nose, while the all-grain has a bright, slightly citrusy aroma. Comparing the two, the extract beer seems to have an almost lagery character – less like a true hefewiezen. It is also a bit less cloudy than the all-grain. Both beers have a slightly off flavor in the finish, something that I’m still working out in my brewing process. 

Overall the all-grain exhibits more of the characteristics of a true hefeweizen than the extract beer. The all-grain came out a little bit sweeter than I would have hoped, perhaps a little more time in the secondary fermenter could have helped the attenuation – or perhaps a different yeast?

I think that the all-grain method will let me get closer to a true hefeweizen than extract, however there may be better extract syrups out there for doing wheat beers than the one that I used.

Next Beer Plans: Coming Up With a Stout Recipe

I just placed another order with Austin Homebrew for the ingredients for my next beer. I decided that I wanted to take the next step in my brewing and create my own recipe. Using John Palmer’s book ‘How To Brew’ as a guide I ordered roughly what I think should make a decent stout. I’m not sure what the final recipe will look like but here are the grains that I got:

Brewer’s 2-row malt

Chocolate malt

Black roasted barley

Crystal 60L roasted malt

So, the majority of the grain bill is going to be a basic 2-row malt, which is pretty typical. The black roasted barley should impart a bitter dryness to the final beer. I’m aiming for a pretty dark and crisp stout, so hopefully this fits the bill. The chocolate malt should give the beer a nice color and hopefully some complex roasted coffee/chocolate notes. I’m not sure about the Crystal right now. I probably won’t use it on the first batch, but if the bitterness of the black barley is too much, I’ll try to temper things with the Crystal. From what I’ve read it should give me a bit of a caramel flavor, which should offset the bitterness without taking the dry, crisp edge off that I’m looking for.

I went with high alpha-acid hops for this recipe. Palmer recommended a high-alpha hop in the base recipe in the book, but I went off and chose different hops. I’m planning on using Nugget hops for bittering and Cascade for flavor/aroma. Cascade is the variety that gives American IPAs their distinctive grapefruit/citrus flavor, so I though that this would be a pretty wild twist on a stout recipe. Mind you, I have no idea what I’m doing, so this could be a terrible idea.

The yeast is the Fermentis Safbrew S-33 Dry Ale Yeast. I’m sticking with dry yeast for now, even though I’m coming to understand from talking to other brewers that the yeast is an incredibly key choice in the recipe. However, there are only so many hours in the day, and I can only experiment with so many variables at once. So, yeast experimentation will have to wait.

Beer Brewing Tip: One-step Sanitizer

A popular sanitizer for brewing beer is a no-rinse or ‘one-step’ sanitizer. This stuff comes as a powder that is mixed with water and used to sterilize anything that comes in contact with the wort. I realized that the one-step sanitizer that I had been using is the same thing as Oxy-clean (the stuff that Billy Mays sells on TV). Clorox makes a version of this stuff called Oxi Magic that you can find in the supermarket. This 2 pound tub cost about 5USD. If you brew beer, you know that most of the time goes toward sanitizing everything, and you can really start going through sanitizer pretty quickly. Now, I’m not too worried about it since I can run down to the store any time I run out.
Beer brewing tip: one-step sanitizer 

Bottling the AHS Dunkelweizen

Bottling the AHS dunkelweizenI bottled the dunkel today, finishing at a gravity of 1.010. Tasting the wort before bottling there is really not anything off tasting, which is a good thing. I primed with 2.8oz of table sugar. I know that I should be using corn sugar, but I don’t have any on hand. I can really taste a nice roast finish on this one; not bitter at all but gives it a little bite. This could have turned out way too malty, but it seems really balanced, so I’m hoping for the best.

Brew Day: AHS Hefeweizen - Batch #2

I’m brewing the second half of my Austin Homebrew Hefeweizen kit. To save time I’m trying out no-sparge brewing. This just means that I’m putting all of the water into the mash tun during the mash, and I’ll slowly drain off the wort all at once instead of continually adding water to the tun during lautering. I’m hoping that this will work out well, since a large part of the time spent on the last two batches was sitting over the tun dribbling water into the mash and trying to avoid disturbing the grain bed.

The link above has a lot of technical details about the different gravities of the wort at different times, but I don’t really understand what it is all about yet. For the moment I don’t understand what the purpose is in adding the water slowly to the tun, but I guess I’ll find out if this doesn’t work.

The mash temp dropped to 144 degrees F by the end of the mash. Hopefully this didn’t hurt anything. Next time I’ll probably add the second half of the water later in the mash. This time I added the second half of the water as soon as I was finished heating it. The first infusion was 170 degrees, and the second was 155 degrees. It may be better to wait and add hotter water later on in the mash.

The post-boil gravity ended up at 1.040, which is 10 points under the target given in the recipe. I ended up with 2.5 gallons of beer so my liquid volume was pretty much spot on. I’m not sure if doing the no-sparge method cost me anything in terms of mash efficiency. I’ll have to take a look at my numbers for the previous brews.

Second Mash: AHS Dunkelweizen

I’m doing half of the AHS Dunkelweizen kit that I bought today, mostly according to the process that I used with the Hefeweizen that I did last weekend. I started with a slightly higher mash strike temperature of around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I added 2 quarts of boiling water 1/2 hour into the mash to keep the temp up. Also, I started with 2 gallons of strike water for 5 pounds of grain. The grain bill of the dunkel is a little bit bigger than the hefe. The strike water is a little higher than recommended in the directions, but last time the grain bed was barely covered, so I wanted to try more this time.

- Update:

I ended up doing the boil today too. Gravity at the end of the mash was 1.032, and at the end of the boil it was 1.042.

Brew Day: All-grain Hefeweizen

Today was brew day for the all-grain Hefeweizen recipe. The kit is from Austin Homebrew, and the mash tun is a converted cooler. The strainer worked better than I ever would have imagined. I ended up limiting the flow of wort during sparging using a c-clamp that I had lying around.

The recommended amount of water in the mash didn’t seem like enough but then I’m not too sure about how mashing is supposed to work yet. Pouring the sparge water in without disturbing the grain bed is nearly impossible. I resorted to just pouring the water over in a far corner of the tun so that only one part of the grain bed got stirred up.

The temperature in the tun dropped about 10 degrees F in the first half-hour, so I added some very hot water to get the temp back up to 150 degrees. Most of the heat seems like it is leaking out of the lid, which seems to be commonly noted by others using the cooler method of mashing.

Anyway everything seems to have worked out, and the original gravity reading is 1.044 so hopefully I end up with some beer.

Brew day: all-grain Hefeweizen

Next Beer: NB Bavarian Hefe Weizen

In order to mix things up a little, I purchased my next ingredients kit from a different source – Northern Brewer. I had been getting everything from Austin Homebrew, but a friend of mine gets his stuff from Northern, so I’m giving them a shot. This kit is not a premium kit like the seasonals that I have been getting from AHS. The Belgian Noel was an expensive high gravity beer with specialty grains, so it is not completely fair to compare it to this kit from NB. However, this will be the first five gallon batch for me, so a lower gravity should work in my favor as far as actually getting the whole thing to boil on my stove.

The hefe weizen kit consists of mostly liquid malt extract and a small amount of dry malt extract. There are no specialty grains included with this kit. I elected to go with the dry yeast option, as I have not been having any problems fermentation-wise. I’m not experienced enough to really tell the difference between yeasts yet, so I’ve been shying away from the more expensive liquid yeast options. The hop profile is also very simple. Hops don’t play a huge role in most wheat beers so this is not surprising. I’m looking forward to brewing this one.

Next beer: NB Bavarian Hefe Weizen

Brew Day: NB Hefe Weizen

Today was brew day for the Northern Brewer Hefe Weizen. This beer was simpler than some that I’ve brewed in the past, but it was my first five gallon batch, so I was a little worried about the volume. It took a long time for my stove to boil 2.5 gallons of water, but once things were underway I was able to maintain the boil easily on slightly lower heat. I used two burners to speed up the initial boil process and then switched to a single burner once the wort was at a boil.

The heat break was much less pronounced with this beer. I’m not sure if it was due to the lower initial gravity of this hefe weizen or whether the sheer volume of liquid this time is such that my stove can’t really deliver as much heat.

Brew day: NB Hefe Weizen