100 Bottles of Beer – Billabong and Dingo Red

Australian Lager - Dingo Red

A Home Brewer’s Personal Journey through His Craft – Part 11

Homebrewing Australian Lager -Dingo Red

When we last met we had 61 brews left on our journey and I promised to tell a sad tale of an Australian Red Lager which did not turn out exactly as planned. So, let’s get on with it so we can move on to happier brews.

The Billabong – Minneapolis, MN

I had been working for an extended period in Minneapolis, MN and was frequenting, among other places, Billabong’s Aussie Grill & Pub. In researching it on the internet as of this (original) writing I find it is still in existence at 5001 80th St. W or 5001 American Blvd. in Minneapolis or Bloomington, MN depending on which web site you look at. I am sure both addresses are correct, just variations on a theme. UPDATE! I sadly can no longer find anything on the Billabong so,I can only assume it has closed.

Anyway, the Billabong was just across the parking lot from where I was staying so it was happily convenient. I remember great Australian style food; steaks and seafood, mostly shrimp. How authentic it was I do not know. I mostly remember the house beer, Dingo Red. I still have a very ratty worn-out t-shirt stating, “Dingo Red – Drink the Dog” with a very drunk looking dingo dog holding a beer mug and giving the “thumbs up” sign. (See above)

Drink the Dog!

To the best of my knowledge, this brew was an Australian Red Lager. It was not brewed on site but was brewed exclusively for the Billabong. All I could find on it at first writing is that it was still available and was brewed in New Ulm, MN, most likely by August Schell Brewing. I can no longer find it so it probably went away with the Billabong.

I came up with my own original recipe based on several I found for Australian Lagers. The addition of the roasted barley should make it a red, similar to Dingo Red. It was all SWAG as I did not have any specific information on Dingo Red. This is my first and so far only attempt at making a true lager. You will see why…

 Australian Red Lager

  • 6.6 lbs New Zealand Black Rock Light LME
  • 2 oz Roasted barley
  • 2 oz Australian Pride of Ringwood hop pellets (60 min)
  • 1 oz German Perle hop pellets (15 min)
  • 1 oz Czech Saaz hop pellets (5 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
  • 12g (2 pkg) Morgan’s Australian Lager yeast
  • Priming: 2/3 cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

Nothing to See Here

Nothing unusual about the brew process on this one, bring the roasted barley just to a boil in 1 ½ gallons cold water, strain and sparge with 1 ½ quart boiling water. A good hint I do not think I have mentioned before, when mashing a very small amount of grain like this, it is very helpful to put the grain in a hop bag in the boiling water. This makes it easier to remove without having to strain out the loose grain from the wort.

Stir in the LME and return to boil, adding the hops and Irish Moss at the times indicated for a total 60 minute boil. Pour the wort into the carboy along with cold water, topping to five gallons.

Brewing a Lager

Here is where the process for a lager will differ from the ales we have done previously. I had recently gotten a new refrigerator for the kitchen and moved the old one to the garage – Beer Fridge! After thoroughly cleaning the inside and removing all the shelves except the bottom one, making sure it is sturdy enough to support the weight of five gallons in a glass carboy. Set the temperature control for around 40°F. Place the carboy in the refrigerator and pitch the re-hydrated yeast when the wort has cooled.

You may recall, back in Part 3 of our journey, when I explained the primary difference between lager yeast and ale yeast. Ale yeast, which is what we have been using up to this point, ferments in a temperature range of 55 – 75°F and lager yeast in a range of 32 – 55°F. So, to get the clean ester-free flavor of a lager, we must ferment this at the proper temperature. Keith at Highlander Home Brew had advised me this should take about three weeks in the primary and two months in the secondary.

Fermentation began within 24 hours of pitching the yeast. After three weeks at a very steady 38 – 40°F the beer looked very clear with a thick layer of what looked like brown large curd cottage cheese settled at the bottom. This trub did not compact itself nearly as much as it normally does with ale yeast. It remained loose and somewhat suspended in the beer.

Unexpected Loss

Rack to secondary carboy. I got as clean a transfer as could be expected given all the curds in the primary. The beer was very clear and dark amber. The odd thing was it foamed up a bit in the secondary producing a thin bright white head on the beer. The secondary looked like a big draft beer. I lost nearly a gallon of beer to the thick trub in the primary. Returned the secondary to the refrigerator, intending to leave it for two months.

Difficult Bottling

After seven weeks there was no sign of continuing activity, hadn’t been any for nearly four weeks, and there was beginning to be a suspicious looking film on top of the beer. I decided it was time to bottle using slightly less priming sugars due to the lost volume of beer.

The beer kicked up a beautiful thick creamy head of foam when transferred to the bottling bucket. Well, it would have been beautiful except that it is not supposed to do that. It also was foaming up in the transfer hose and eventually filled up the hose and broke the siphon, losing about another ½ gallon left in the secondary.

It continued to foam up when bottling, making it difficult to properly fill the bottles. All this foaming could likely lead to oxidation. I tasted some of the overflow. It was still very sweet, I was hoping from the priming sugars, and, the odd part was, it smelled like apples. I put all the bottles in the refrigerator, should be ready in about four weeks.

Rotten Apples

I tried one at three weeks. It was under-carbonated and sweet, smelled and tasted like apples. After two more weeks I had tried three more with no improvement. I moved nine bottles to room temperature to see if that helps. After another week they proved to be very over-carbonated and smelled very much like rotten apples. I ended up pouring them all out.

So, what happened?

I believe it was a combination of oxidation from the excessive foaming and a bacterial contamination, which is probably what caused the foaming. The rotten apple character is caused by a chemical called acetaldehyde. It can be formed by yeast during fermentation. I do not know if the yeast I used is prone to that or not. I have not used it again since. It can also be formed by bacterial contamination. The thin film forming on top of the beer is called pellicle. It is a desirable characteristic when making lambic or sour style beers which are a controlled bacterial fermentation. The pellicle protects the anaerobic bacteria from air.

Sanitation!

The lesson I learned was that although I may think I thoroughly cleaned that old refrigerator, our refrigerators are probably the dirtiest, most bacterial contaminated place in our homes. I believe something from that old refrigerator got into the beer.

Again…Failure is Not an Option

Australian Lager - ginger
Fresh ginger root

 

OK, leaving my second failure behind us, let’s move on to something better. Our next brew comes from Charlie Papazian’s The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing. Charlie called it Vagabond Gingered Ale but the illustration with the recipe called it Vagabond Black Ginger Ale. That was the name I chose to use. This ain’t no soda pop Ginger Ale.

Vagabond Black Ginger Ale

  • 3.3 lbs John Bull Plain Dark LME
  • 3 lbs M&F Plain Extra Dark DME
  • 12 oz 53L British crystal malt
  • 4 oz British chocolate malt
  • 2 oz Cascade hop pellets (60 min)
  • 1 oz Willamette whole cone hops (5 min)
  • 4 – 5 oz fresh grated ginger root
  • 23g (2 pkg) EDME ale yeast
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

As usual, I made a couple changes and substitutions due to availability. Standard brew procedure here again. Bring the milled grains to a boil in one gallon cold water while at the same time bring another gallon to boil in the brew kettle. Strain the grains into the brew kettle, sparging with ½ gallon boiling water. Add the extracts and return to boil. Add the grated ginger at the beginning of boil and add the hops at time indicated for total 60 minute boil. Remove the ginger and hops and pour wort into carboy with cold water, topping to 5 ½ gallons. Pitch re-hydrated yeast when wort has cooled.

Bottle the beer after three days in primary and ten days in secondary. This was very dark but cleared very nicely. Taste was bitter and body was lighter and thinner than color would indicate. The ginger was probably a bit too strong but not over-powering. Carbonation was light but adequate.  Both the bitterness and the ginger mellowed out over time as the carbonation improved. It was best when very cold, fresh from the bottle, very drinkable. I did not take any gravity readings but Charlie’s target OG was 1.044 and FG was 1.016 indicated an ABV of about 3.7%

Experiments with Rye

Moving on to our next beers, I made three different versions of this which were my first experiments with rye beer. Unmalted rye can add a dry crisp flavor to beer while malted rye is very similar to wheat malt. Both can add a subtle spicy flavor. These are original recipes based on several I found from different sources. These are all using unmalted rye flakes, similar to oatmeal. The first one I called Brown Rye-Weizen.

Australian Lager - Rye_grainsAustralian Lager - rye flakesLeft: Rye grains

Right: Flaked rye

 

Brown Rye-Weizen

  • 4 lbs M&F Plain Light DME
  • 2 lbs rye flakes
  • 1 lb American wheat malt
  • 8 oz Belgian Cara-Munich malt
  • 4 oz American roasted barley
  • 17.5 oz Demerara sugar cubes
  • 2 oz Fuggle whole cone hops (60 min)
  • 2 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker whole cone hops (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
  • 23g (2 pkg) EDME ale yeast
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

Mash the rye flakes and milled grains in 1 ½ gallon cold water heating to 145 – 160°F. Hold in that temperature range for one hour. My temperature actually briefly hit 180° which was far too hot. At the same time bring DME and Demerara to a boil in one gallon cold water. Reduce the heat once boil commences to keep hot while rye and malts are mashing. Strain the very thick mash into the kettle sparging with one gallon boiling water. This was very difficult due to the thickness of the mash.

Return wort to boil and add hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for 60 minute total boil. Remove the hop bags and pour the wort into carboy with cold water topping to 5 ½ gallons. Pitch yeast when cooled. After six days in primary and eight days in secondary, bottle the beer.

It was very light and clear. So much that I thought maybe I should rename it Amber Rye-Weizen or Golden Rye-Weizen. Unfortunately it developed very heavy chill haze and was more of a reddish brown so I stayed with the original name. This was very good. It had a subtle spiciness from the rye and wheat without any of the weizen style esters. I actually preferred it unchilled.

Lighten it up

The second version of this I decided to lighten the color a bit and increase the wheat character. I also threw in some honey to bump up the ABV but mostly just to use up the little bit I had left.

 Honey Rye-Weizen

  • 3 lbs M&F Plain Extra Light DME
  • 3 lbs M&F Plain Wheat DME (55/45)
  • 2 lbs flaked rye
  • 1 lb Belgian wheat malt
  • 8 oz Belgian Cara-Munich malt
  • 2 oz British roasted barley
  • 1 lb C&H raw sugar
  • 7 oz Orange Blossom honey
  • 2 oz Fuggle whole cone hops (60 min)
  • 2 oz Hallertau Tradition whole cone hops (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
  • 23g (2 pkg) EDME ale yeast
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

I wanted Demerara sugar again but Highlander was out of it. Turbinado would be a good substitute but the grocery store only had boxes of individual packets. I settled for the C&H raw sugar.

Doin’ the Two-Step

I decided to try a two step mash this time. Mash the rye flakes and malts in five quarts cold water, heat to 135°F. Turn off heat and cover for ten minutes. Increase heat to 158°F. Turn off heat again and cover for 30 minutes. Strain the thick mash into brew kettle containing one gallon hot water and sparge with additional gallon boiling water.

Add DME, sugar, and honey and bring to boil adding hops and Irish Moss at time indicated for total 60 minute boil. Remove hop bags and pour wort into carboy with cold water, topping to 5 ½ gallons. Pitch yeast when wort has cooled. After five days in primary and eight days in secondary, bottle the beer.

This came out darker than expected but still lighter than the first one. It had a moderate chill haze, much lighter than the first. Good balance of rye spiciness and wheat complexity with neither being dominant. A slight dryness from the honey and using the C&H sugar didn’t seem to hurt anything. It was very good as was the first version.

Makin’ it Golden

The third version of this I made about four years after the second version. I was still trying to make it lighter and I changed several other things as well. I should not have tried to improve on a good thing. Something went wrong this time.

Golden Rye-Weizen

  • 7 lbs M&F Plain Wheat DME (55/45)
  • 2 lbs flaked rye
  • 1 lb light Munich malt
  • 1 lb Vienna malt
  • 1 lb C&H Raw sugar
  • 2 oz American Fuggle whole cone hops (60 min)
  • 2 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
  • WLP001 California Ale yeast
  • Priming: <¾ cup corn sugar & <¼ cup DME

I used the same two step mash at the same temperatures as last time, this time using two gallons cold water. I then sparged the mash 3 times with one gallon boiling water each time. This yields just less than five gallons in the brew kettle which I topped to five gallons with more boiling water. Obviously, I am using a bigger, 30 quart kettle now. Add the sugar and DME and bring to boil. Add the hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for total 60 minute boil. Remove the hop bags and rapidly cool the wort using an immersion chiller.

What, you may ask, is an immersion chiller

…and why do I suddenly have one? An immersion chiller is a coil of multiple rounds of copper tubing with a hose attached to each end. This is placed in the hot wort and cold water is passed through the coils. This rapidly cools the wort from boiling to pitching temperature, usually in less than 15 minutes. This is an invaluable tool for the home brewer. Care should be used because the cold water going in one hose comes out very hot at the other end as it cools the wort. Why do I suddenly have one? Well, in the fours years which passed between the last two brews I had gotten into all grain brewing, more on this in good time. This is also why I now have a larger kettle as well.

Back to the Brew

Pour the cooled wort into the carboy, top to 5 ½ gallons with cold water, and pitch the yeast. After 15 days in the primary, which was too long; I racked to the secondary, loosing nearly a gallon to the thick layer of trub. It was still very cloudy but after 18 days in the secondary it had cleared and was ready to bottle. I used slightly less than full measures of the priming sugars due to the lost volume in the primary.

Although this beer was very clear in the bottle it developed very heavy chill haze and it was still darker than I wanted. The body could only be described as thick. The beer even looked thick as it was poured into a glass. It had definite wheat character and rye spiciness. The carbonation was low but adequate.

The beer did improve slightly over the next six months. It was better at room temperature than chilled but the thick starchy mouth-feel never got any better. I suspect the Munich and Vienna malts did not contain enough enzymes to also convert the starches in the rye to sugars in the mash.

Beer CPR

At this point I decided to try to rescue this brew. I poured the remaining 17 bombers into a carboy with White Labs WLP715 Champagne yeast. If there are any remaining sugars the yeast will consume them and make a barleywine. If it is just unconverted starches, the yeast won’t do much of anything.

There was some very minimal activity over the next few days but not enough. I decided to try one last thing. I boiled up the following ingredients in one gallon of water for 30 minutes, cooled and added to the carboy.

  • 1 1/4 lb M&F Plain Light DME
  • 1 lb C&H Raw sugar
  • ½ oz Brewers Gold whole cone hops (homegrown)

Santiam 2

Homegrown hops?

OK, did I just open another can of worms? Yes, by this time I am growing hops in the back yard. I have about 20 plants, 13 different varieties, only three of which produce significant quantities of cones. We will talk of this in more depth further on down the road.

I got some very good activity over the next week or so and then re-bottled the beer with ½ cup corn sugar for priming. It took some time, but after three months aging this turned out quite good. The body was still a little thick, but the starchy flavor was gone. It was a nice copper color and was better at room temperature without the chill haze. It was definitely now a barleywine. I have no idea what the ABV was. One bottle was more than enough, two would kick your butt, and don’t even try three. I did, only because two gave me the courage, or it could be lack of  intelligence, to continue on…I couldn’t finish it.

Ramble On…

All-righty then, I seem to have rambled on a bit longer than usual this time. That’s five more brews down, 56 bottles of beer on the wall…until next time…Keep on Brewin’

To be continued…

References:

Charlie Papazian, The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, 2nd edition, October 1991

About

I am the HomeBrew Guru… My name is Bob Archibald. Some of you may remember me as the grumpy old man behind the bar at Bristol Brewing (bristolbrewing.com) in Colorado Springs where I had been pouring beer for over 12 years. They finally decided I was getting too old or didn’t have enough tattoos or something and replaced me with younger hipper bartenders. Oh well, it was time I moved on anyway. At least they kept my home brew recipe for the annual Christmas Ale! I have been home brewing since late 1994 and have brewed over 150 beers to date. Although I am not a highly technical brewer (its more of a ZEN thing) and still brew on a stovetop, I have created many different styles of beer and have gotten rave reviews for some of my creations. I have also dabbled with mead and wine to equal degrees of success. My latest endeavor is to try my hand at distilled spirits. I have found the basic stovetop method of brewing to be economical and in no way limiting in the quality and variety of beer which can be produced by the home brewer. I also still bottle condition my brews because I like the flavor of a good bottle conditioned beer. It is also more economical than the expense of kegging and the necessary draft system, just a little more time-consuming. A LITTLE MORE ABOUT MY BACKGROUND I am originally from Montana. I went to high school in the little town of Plains and later to an electronics school in Missoula, which eventually lead to a career in the telecom industry for about 23 years. First with Mountain Bell where I did everything from Operator Services to Central Office Installation to Outside Plant. From there I went to Northern Telecom, better known as Nortel, where I did Central Office Installation, Engineering, Grounding, Fiber Optics, and finally Sales Engineer. The telecom industry had a bit of a melt-down after the events of 9/11 and I found myself looking for work. I tried a couple of customer service jobs and ran my own retail business for 5 years. During that time I picked up the part-time gig with Bristol Brewing and I guess it sort of stuck, for a while anyway. 100 BOTTLES OF BEER I began writing my Home Brew Blog, 100 Bottles of Beer, about 9 years ago. It was hosted on Associated Content and then moved to Yahoo Voices. Both of those venues have shut down and I have now moved to WordPress. I went about two years without writing a new one but, I have now revived it here. The blog chronicles my fermentation adventures from how I got started in home brewing, my very first brew through my 100th brew and beyond. All recipes and instructions are included as well as related brewing history, brewing basics and advanced methods, personal experiences, successes, and failures. The most important thing to remember is… KEEP ON BREWIN’

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