Thursday, May 3, 2012

Brewing American Historically Inspired Beer

This Saturday I will be brewing the first of two historically inspired beers that I will be brewing this month. These beers have been inspired by the type of beer that was brewed during colonial times in America. I say historically inspired because really, we have no accurate recipes but only notes and writings about what beer was like.

You may even find recipes that have been posted online that claim to BE Ben Franklin's, George Washington's or even Thomas Jefferson's recipe, but truly, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson only describe their beers as far as I know, and the recipe that is attributed to George Washington is written in a way that would be difficult for us to truly convert to today's recipe notation. So I will be brewing in the "spirit" of the colonists...not claiming to know exactly what the recipes were.

The styles I will be brewing are a brown ale and porter. Both styles originated in England in the 1700's and both became very popular during that time in both England, and the colonies.

One thing that makes brewing colonial beers as opposed to historical beers from England is the ingredients that were available. Beer in England used basically barley and hops and that was it. But, in the colonies, ingredients were harder to come by. So they would add locally available adjuncts to their beer, like corn, wheat and molasses to name a few. In fact, corn and molasses were very important brewing ingredients in colonial America. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin all mention corn and molasses being used.

The first beer I will be brewing will be a Brown Ale. By today's standards you might say it's an "Imperial" Brown Ale with an ABV of 7.6%, though I don't think the colonist would approve of the term "Imperial", so I am calling it Colonial Style. ;)

I had posted these recipes last month, but I have made some changes to them. Probably the most significant change I have made is that both beers will be "aged" in the secondary with oak that has been soaked in Bourbon Whiskey. Most beers of this period were stored in oak casks and most had had some type of whiskey in them before. Either Bourbon or Rye Whiskey. I have decided to use Bourbon since I have some on hand.

Here is the first recipe I will be brewing:

Poor Richard's Bourbon Oak Aged Brown Ale

7lbs 2-row Brewers Malt
3lbs Flaked Maize
2lbs Biscuit Malt
1.25lbs Wheat Malt
1lb Special Roast
2oz Black Patent Malt
4oz Molasses

1oz Kent Golding 6.1%AA @ 60mins
1oz Kent Golding 6.1%AA @ 45mins
.75oz Kent Golding 6.1%AA @ 30mins

2oz Bourbon Soaked Oak Chips

Wyeast 1968 - London ESB Ale

Target metrics:

Batch Size: 5 gal
Boil Vol: 6.5 gal
ABV: 7.6%
IBU: 48.4
BU/GU: 0.621
Color: 18.8°SRM

Should be ready to drink about two weeks before the 4th of July. What a great way to celebrate the founding of our country!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Getting Into All-Grain Brewing: Some thoughts on our first attempt at mashing

Partial mashing: Brew-in-bag method
This past weekend my brew partners and I were attempting to move from extract brewing to partial mash brewing. This is where a greater portion of the wort is produced by converting the starches in the grains to sugars.

Up until now, I have been only brewing with extracts and specialty grains. However, I had proposed to my brother-in-law that we brew a Roggenbier for his mother's upcoming family reunion in 2014. Roggenbier is a beer that contains a significant amount of rye and wheat. Never having brewed this style of beer before, nor having ever brewed with rye, I suggested we attempt a small 2.5gal test batch doing a partial mash as rye extracts are not readily available. Our local homebrew (High Gravity in Tulsa) supply does not carry it, but it is available from Northern Brewer. But that would mean having to order it and this seemed to me to be an as good as of an excuse as any to move to working more with grains.

So I formulated a recipe (I will reveal this later) and we moved on to researching a process. I found what I thought would be a simple process for us to begin with. The brew-in-bag method, which I found a good detailed description here on the forum:

Easy Partial Mash Brewing (with pics)

The explanation was very good and is probably a good enough process is you are brewing simple beers like brown ales, we ran into a few issues when we attempted it with our roggenbier style.

Basically, with the brew-in-bag method you are doing all if your mashing in a brew kettle inside of a grain bag. You add water that is hot enough to the grain to bring your grain to mashing temperature. Between 145 to 158 degrees.

These are few of the things that probably affected the outcome of our first venture into mashing.

First. We were not being able to keep our temp up above 145 efficiently. We started with water that was 160 degrees but once we added the grain the temp dropped significantly which was to be expected. But after awhile our temp was dipping below 145 and it took considerable effort to get it back up and keep it there. We avoided adding direct heat to the kettle and tried to bring the heat back up by placing our kettle inside of another kettle with water in it in double-boiler fashion and adding heat that way. We found that for some reason this method was not raising our grain temp very quickly. While the water bath temp was well above 190 degrees our grain temp was still hovering around 144-145 degrees.

"For the homebrewer just getting into all-grain style recipes, controlling the mash pH is not as big of a concern as controlling temperature." ~ Joe Postma, Homebrewing: Introduction to Mashing and All-Grain Brewing.

While it may be possible to keep the temp at the desired range with the method we were attempting...a better way of keeping the temp stable would be preferable in my opinion.

"Temperature control is key to proper mashing. In order to activate the enzymes that convert grain into simple sugar, the mash temperature must be between 145°F and 158°F. For most styles of beer, a mash temperature of 150-154°F is used, and will produce a wort that can be easily fermented by the yeast while retaining a medium body. If the mash temperature is in the 145-150°F range, the enzymes will produce highly fermentable sugars and the final product will have a drier finish. Mash temperatures in the 155-158°F range will produce sugars that are harder for the yeast to ferment, resulting in a fuller bodied beer. Mashing in the lower temperature range is appropriate for styles like a Saison or a Tripel, where the higher temperature range is used for Scotch ales and Sweet Stouts."~ Joe Postma, Homebrewing: Introduction to Mashing and All-Grain Brewing.

The second thing I see is the time during the mash. A one hour minimum is needed at mash temp. Because we were having to deal so much with keeping our temp up I really can't say for sure if we had a full hour at mashing temperatures or not.

The third factor was we really needed to do a Mash Out, especially since we had rye in our mash (rye can get very thick and gooey)... mash out is basically bringing the temp of the mash up to 170 degrees to get the syrup flowing free like when you heat up honey. After we had sparged our grain bag I noticed it still had a lot of syrup left behind. That was all sugar... and I am sure was a contributing factor as to why our OG (original gravity) was lower than expected. Also, if we had been using a lauter tun with a false bottom, or a converted cooler with a manifold, we probably would have seen this as a stuck mash which is why the temp must be brought up to 170 degrees to make sure the syrup liquefies enough to flow.

Another thing that we were not able to do with this method was to recirculate our wort back through the grain bed which also probably affected our final outcome.

Maybe the method we used would work well enough for simple brews, but for the rye/wheat beer style we were attempting... we need a better process.

I think moving to the converted cooler will produce much better results. This is will be our next project. Converting a cooler into a mash/lauter tun. I will let you know how that turns out.

By the way, here are a couple of good resources for learning about getting into All Grain brewing:

Homebrewing: Introduction to Mashing and All-Grain Brewing

How to Brew - by John Palmer: Section 3 - Brewing Your First All-Grain Beer

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Iron Brew 2012 Home Brew Competition

On Saturday, March 24th I was able to participated in the 2012 FOAM Iron Brew competition. The event took place at Haikey Creek Park in Broken Arrow, OK.

Iron Brew is a home brew competition where teams of 2-5 members are given a quantity of ingredients and the teams have to create a recipe and brew the beer during the day. All brewing must take place during the event and the only ingredients that can be used are the ones given to each team.

What makes it really interesting is that included in the ingredients are some "special" ingredients. If the teams are able to use any or all in an effective way, then they are given "bonus" points at the judging that will take place at the June or July FOAM Club meeting.

This year there were 10 teams competing which is the most ever this event has had. The special ingredients that were made available were, rose hips, lemon grass and cardamom.... mmm, can you say potpourri beer?

Anyway, I was a member of Team Flying Dog, which consisted of Jeff Washbourne (Team Captain), Steve Mueller (my brother-in-law), Stephen Handley, William Loyd and myself. We between 9:00AM and 10:00AM and setup our equipment and began to prepare. There was a bustle of activity all around with all the teams and their various equipment configurations being assembled. I was very interested in seeing all the different equipment.

At around 10:30AM all teams where given their ingredients and rules gone over. Then the activity began. Our team proceeded to evaluate all the ingredients and Jeff and I pulled out our portable computers and began formulating recipes. Stephen had brought a good source of reference materials and so Steve, Stephen and William went through a library of recipes looking for anything that might be close to the ingredients that we had.

Finally, we settled on creating an American Brown Ale style, similar to Pete's Wicked Ale. We decided that with the special ingredients that we had this style might work the best. All of the special ingredients have a citrus character attributed when used in beer.

This is the recipe that we finally settled on:
Iron Dog 2012 - American Brown Ale

Malt & Fermentables
12lbs Light Liquid Malt Extract
4lbs American Two-row Pale Malted Barley
1lb 4oz Crystal 60L
1lb Chocolate Malt

2oz Centennial for 60mins (9.9AA)
1oz East Kent Goldings for 10mins (6.1AA)
and we will dry hop 2oz Cascade for 10days

Wyeast American Ale (1056)

1oz Cardamom for 10min
1oz Lemon Grass for 10min
1oz Rose Hips for 10min

OG: 1.058, FG: 1.015est., SRM: 21 (Brown to Dark Brown), IBU: 33.3, ABV: 6.0%

This was a recipe for 10 gallons. The brew will be divided up among team members and we will be kegging a portion to bring to the FOAM Meeting in June or July for judging. It is currently in the primary and will be racking it over to secondary soon.

I will let you know how our brew fares in the final judging!

Monday, April 2, 2012

MacHendry's: Poor Richard's Ale

Malt & Fermentables
6lb 12oz: Briess 2 Row Brewers Malt
2lb 12oz: Maize, Flaked
1lb 12oz Biscuit Malt
6oz Special Roast
4oz: Dark Molasses
2oz Black Patent

.5 oz Kent Golding - 60mins
.75 oz Kent Golding - 45mins
.5 oz Kent Golding - 30mins

Wyeast American Ale (1056)

OG: 1.068, FG: 1.017est, SRM: 19, IBU: 24.8, ABV: 6.8%

This is the second of the two that I will be brewing for my first foray in to All Grain brewing. This recipe is unchanged from an existing recipe that I found on the internet some time ago. It has been around for awhile I'm sure. I plan on brewing this this month to be ready for the 4th of July! I will post more on my brewing technique and equipment later.

MacHendry's: G. Washington Patriot Porter

Malt & Fermentables
9lb: Briess 2 Row Brewers Malt
2lb: Dark Molasses
1lb 6oz: Wheat Malt
1lb: Brown Sugar
8oz: Maize, Flaked
6oz Chocolate Malt
6oz Biscuit Malt
3oz Black Patent
2oz Roasted Barley

1.5 oz Cluster - 60mins
1.0 oz East Kent Goldings - 20mins


Wyeast American Ale (1056)

1.085, FG: 1.021est, SRM: 34, IBU: 42.0, 
ABV: 8.5% 

This is my take on a Colonial Style Porter that is based on recipes that I found that try to replicate George Washington's recipe. Whether or not it's accurate, I cannot say. But, I'll enjoy it anyway. This is going to one of two of my first All Grains. I will post the second one next.