A Home Brewer’s Personal Journey through His Craft – Part 21
Did you miss me?!
Yeah, I know, it has been a while and I really have no good excuse. It is just that the next few beers on our journey left me uninspired. There was no coherent theme I could apply to this edition. And then, it dawned on me, beer, especially home brew, and being incoherent, was a theme unto itself. So now, I bravely stagger forward into the fog and bring you, my loyal readers, three or four random beers.
Maple Wheat Ale
9 ½ lbs M&F Wheat DME 55/45
12 ½ fl oz Maple Syrup
1 ½ oz Willamette whole cone hops (60 min)
½ oz Willamette whole cone hops (15 min)
1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
Wyeast 3056 Bavarian Wheat yeast
Priming: ½ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup wheat DME & 1/3 cup maple syrup
As you can see this is a very simple recipe. I did not note the source so I probably made it up from several that I had looked at.
Heat 1 ½ gallons cold water to boiling. Remove from heat and add DME and maple syrup. Return to boil watching for boil-over. I said, “Watch for boil-over!” I made the basic dumb-ass rookie mistake of not paying attention and had a major boil-over, losing probably ½ gallon of wort.
I added another ½ lb of DME and ½ gallon of water to replace the lost wort and returned to boil, this time paying close attention. Add the hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for a total boil of 60 minutes. Remove from heat, remove the hop bags and pour wort into carboy with 3 gallons cold water, topping to 5 ½ gallons. Pitch yeast when cooled.
After 11 days in primary and 21 days in secondary, I bottled the beer and opened the first 25 days later. WOW! This was great! It had a definite but not over-powering wheat character and tasted like a Belgian, even though the yeast was Bavarian. It was sweet but not too sweet with a hint of maple. It was very clear with a slight hefe cloudiness. Carbonated to perfection, it kicked up a thick head of bright white foam and retained a full layer to the bottom of the glass. This was easily one of the best hefeweizens I had ever tasted.
Our next random brew came from the back of a White Labs brochure. I made some changes based on availability and adding the oak chips was my idea.
Alt is German style brown ale which is typically aged or lagered for a longer period than most ale. The German word “alt” means old, therefore it can also be referred to as German old ale.
7 lbs M&F light LME
8 oz 75L Crystal Malt
2 oz Black Patent Malt
1 ½ oz Northern Brewer whole cone hops (60 min)
½ oz Northern Brewer whole cone hops (5 min)
¼ tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
White Labs WLP036 Düsseldorf Alt Yeast
1 cup toasted oak chips (secondary)
Priming: ½ cup corn sugar & 1/3 cup DME
Place milled malts in a hop bag in 8 quarts cold water and heat to boiling removing the malts just as boil commences. Sparge with 2 quarts hot tap water (not the best choice). Add the LME and bring to boil, adding hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for 60 minute boil. Remove the hop bags and cool wort with immersion chiller and add to carboy with cold water topping to 5 ½ gallons, pitch yeast.
After six days in the primary, rack to secondary with oak chips which have been steamed in a hop bag for 15 minutes to sanitize and cooled with cold tap water. I did not note whether these were American oak or French oak, light toast or heavy toast, just toasted oak chips. Bottle after 20 days in the secondary.
The beer came out very clear dark brown with minimal chill haze. It was under-carbonated and stayed that way. Well balanced malt and hop but kind of weak with no real character or body. The oak gave it a hint of clove flavor. Overall, it was a drinkable beer but kind of uninspiring. Aroma was a bit like brown sugar.
For our next beer I was trying to do something light and summery yet make it unusual. I came up with the following simple original recipe for a steam beer. Steam beer is also known as California Common. It is basically a lager brewed at ale yeast temperature without any refrigeration during lagering. The term “steam” probably originated from the fact that it is a highly effervescent beer which needed to have the pressure released or “blow off steam” before serving.
Wild Mild Steam Beer
6 lbs M&F Plain Extra Light DME
1 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (60 min)
½ oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (15 min)
½ tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
½ oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (5 min)
White Labs WLP810 San Francisco Lager Yeast
Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME
Bring 2 gallons cold water to boil and remove from heat. Add DME and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Return to boil. Add hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for a total 60 minute boil.
Cool with immersion chiller and pour into carboy topping to 5 ½ gallons with cold water. Pitch the yeast.
Bottle the beer after 12 days in the primary and 21 days in the secondary. After three weeks of bottle conditioning this brew came out just as I wanted. It was very light and clear but did take on a moderate chill haze. It was a good, light bodied, slightly hoppy, very drinkable summer-time brew.
Our next brew is somewhat significant as it was the first brew made in my newly constructed basement brewery space. We had moved from Littleton to Colorado Springs and the new house had a full unfinished basement. My first project (OK, second, after putting in the back yard) was to build a second kitchen in the basement to be used as brewery space and an adjacent bar area. Mind you, this was seven years ago (2003) and the bar still does not have a counter top on it. Some of these things take time, and money.
Update: Granite counter top has been installed, about spring 2012.
The size of this space was defined by reusing the damaged counter top from the main kitchen, which we had the builder replace.
No, I do not have any fancy three tiered brewing sculpture to brew on. I am still a stove top brewer. The brewery is actually a full kitchen with sink, gas stove, refrigerator/freezer with ice maker, and cabinets. The only things it lacks are a dishwasher and garbage disposal. There is a 2-stage water filter under the sink. Update: January 2017, the water filter recently began leaking. I tried to fix it but only only made it worse so, I removed the filter. Colorado Springs water is pretty good anyway.
All-righty then, back to the beer. This recipe is loosely based on an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) I found on Cat’s Meow. The brewer did not want to call his brew an English ESB because he used German and Czech hops. My version uses British malt, English yeast, American Cascade, German Hallertau, Czech Saaz, and Irish Moss. So thus, I had to call it:
6 lbs M&F Amber DME
1 ½ lbs Coopers Light DME
1 lb 53L British Crystal Malt
4 oz British Chocolate Malt
1 tsp gypsum
1 tsp Burton Water Salts
1 cup M&F Extra Light DME (in yeast starter)
1 oz whole cone Cascade hops (homegrown) 60 min.
1 oz whole cone Saaz hops 30min
1 oz whole cone Hallertau hops 15 min
1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast
Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME
For this brew I prepared a yeast starter. I typically do not do this unless the yeast is past its use by date just to make sure it is still viable. I did not note why I did it on this brew. Boil 1 cup DME in 1 liter cold water, cool and pitch yeast. This was started three days before brew day and was bubbling along nicely.
Heat milled malts in 2 gallons cold water treated with gypsum and water salts just to boiling and remove from heat. Remove the grain bag and let drain back into kettle.
Stir in DME and return to boil adding hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for a total 60 minute boil. Remove hop bags, cool wort, and pour into carboy, topping to 5 ½ gallons with cold water.
Bottle after 7 days in primary and 14 days in secondary. This brew was not bad, just not great. It was under-carbonated to begin with, but that improved with age. It had a bit of a medicinal, moth-ball taste which also disappeared over time. In researching this flavor I believe it to be Chlorophenol which can be an external contaminant of the raw materials picked up from the packaging. It can also come from too much chlorine in the brew water.
The beer was very malty and not nearly hoppy enough to be considered an ESB. It was still quite drinkable after it had aged for a while.
You probably noticed I gave no gravity readings or ABV for any of these brews. That would be because I was stupid and did not take any!
28 bottles of beer on the wall, 28 bottles of beer, take 4 down, pass ‘em around, 24 bottles of beer on the wall. That’s where we are, 24 bottles remaining out of 100. I hope it won’t be so long until next time because I know where we are going for the next leg of our journey. We are headed for Whiskey River!
Until then…Keep on Brewin’
To be continued…