Beer (Cider) 32: Beautiful Sparkling Cider from the Basement

I ‘brewed’ this several months ago and stashed several bottles in the basement. Last night, my wife wanted a cider, so I went to the basement and cracked open a bottle. I had to appreciate the clarity, the sparkle, and the fizz of a simple cider fermented with champagne yeast.

img_20161207_212347973_hdr

It was delicious. You get a big whiff of champagne, high carbonation, a crisp refreshing bite, and a tiny hint of apple sweetness. This proves that you can make a good cider with the simplest ingredients: I literally added 6 gallons of regular apple juice on sale, from the grocery store, nothing fancy. I dumped the juice into a bottling bucket, added champagne yeast, and bottled about a week later.

For my next cider, I want to dry hop with about 4 ounces of Citra or Centential. I think that would add a nice complexity.

Beer 31: Buttery, Shitty, Black IPA

I was in the Taco Bell drive-thru with my brewing buddy Rob, after drinking some of his tasty East Coast style IPA. I was so full. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t order anything from Taco Bell. Not a crunch wrap, not a Nachos Bel Grande, not even a Chipotle Griller for God’s sake. My belly was just too full, unusually so. I should have known something was up.

This beer suffers from diacetyl, a buttered popcorn aroma and flavor. The first day it was pretty good actually, but a day or two later: totally shit. With a little research, I found that diacetyl not only tastes like popcorn, it actually makes you full, which explains the first 3 days of drinking it and the Taco Bell nightmare. For commercial brewers, it’s not profitable to have diacetyl in the beer for this very reason – people won’t drink enough of your shitty beer.

Black IPAs fall into three camps. First, IPAs that happen to be black in color. Not my cup of tea. What’s the point? – it sets an expectation and then fails. Second, Stouts that are bitter but have no aroma. These are not bad, but not really IPAs. Third, a good Black IPA needs to be roasty and hoppy at the same time, malty and dark with a bright citrus or tropical aroma. I love Stouts. I love IPAs. It’s a good match.

I’ve made about 3 Black IPAs over the years, one of which I remember being quite good. It was roasty and hoppy. This beer, on paper, looking at the hops, would be a kick ass black session IPA. I was excited. Until I tasted the butter.

img_20161203_214248055_hdr

What Caused the Butter?
After my last butter lager, you think I would have learned my lesson. All beers create diacetyl during fermentation – it happens every time, no matter what. However, after fermentation, if you let the yeast “clean up” the diacetyl, by resting the beer at 72F or 75F for a few days, then you control it. This is called a “diacetyl rest.” I didn’t do it for my buttery lager, and I didn’t do it for this Black IPA. What the fuck am I doing? With brewdays under 2 hours, you would think I had the patience to let the beer sit. I’ll be more careful in the future to make sure (a) fermentation is complete and (b) the beer rests at 75 for a couple days.

The good news is that the One Pot Method probably isn’t the cause, at least I don’t think so. 30 minute boils don’t cause diacetyl, from what I understand (they cause DMS).

For what’s it’s worth, the recipe:

Black IPA
5 lb 2-row
3.3 lb Munich
.8 lb Roasted Barley
.6 lb. Carm/Crystal 80
——————–
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 minute boil)
2 oz Glacier (FO)
Equinox DH 3 days
Centenial DH
Citra DH
Simcoe DH
Mosaic DH
———–
US-05 yeast

started with 9 gallons water. added 2 tsp Gypsum / 1 tsp Calcium Cloride
mash 30 minutes, boil 30 minutes
chilled with wort chiller for 5 minutes, finished in ferm chamber

Beer 30: 7 Day Double IPA

This is why people keg. Eight days ago I brewed this Double IPA, and today I will be trying it for the first time. That’s 8 days from ‘grain to glass,’ as they say. Admittedly, I rushed the beer for hunting camp, and normally would give it a few more days to sit at  70F, but I’m pretty sure it’s good to go. Day 1: brew the beer in under two hours. Day 2: notice fermentation. Days 3 and 4: heavy fermentation. Day 5: hydrometer says 1.010, it’s either done or pretty darn close. Day 6: drop the temperature to 31F (cold crash). Day 7: transfer beer to keg, add gelatin to keg, and set the pressure to 50 psi for 10 hours (this was a 6 gallon batch). Day 8, today: drink. Is it carbonated? One way to find out. It’s 6:00am right now, time to take a sample:

img_20161112_061905686

The first thing I notice is haze, a product of rushing it, which I noticed while transferring the beer to the keg. I prefer crystal clear beer but this is acceptable, and it will probably clear itself out more, as the gelatin works its magic. Secondly, I notice a strong hop flavor. This is a a nice little IPA. Third, is it carbonated? Not sure. The head is nice, but I don’t see bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. I’m very new to kegging so I don’t really know. I think it’s very close.

Looking at the hop profile, I’m very excited to drink this beer. On paper it’s awesome. On paper it should have a big aroma too.

update: Hunting camp is over. And while I didn’t shoot any deer, I had plenty of this absolutely delicious IPA. The keg was gone in two days. This is the best IPA I’ve ever made. Impressive and intense tropical aroma, nice malt balance, hidden alcohol. And it was “juicey,”as they say, perhaps because of the magical thing that happens when you dry hop during fermentation. After traveling with the keg, it took about 24 hours for the beer to clear up.

Damn this was good.

Hunting Camp IPA (6 gal)
Brewed Friday, Nov. 4th

5.5 lb 2-row
6.5 lb Maris Otter
3.5 lb Munich
1 lb Cane Sugar (added end of boil)
————–
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 m. boil)
1 oz Centenial (F0)
1 oz Amarillo (FO)
2 oz Equinox (DH, 3 days)
1 oz Citra (DH)
1 oz Centenial (DH)
2 oz Simcoe (DH)
1 oz Amarillo (DH)
—————-
US-05 dry yeast

1 tsp Calcium Cloride, 2 tsp Gypsum (heaping, added to mash water)
mashed @ 149 for 30 minutes, boiled 30 minutes

Beer 29: My First Good Lager (oh wait…Diacetyl)

Not only did I copy the recipe from brulosophy.com, but the process too. This is a nice, clean, bready German lager. It’s almost black, with a brownish hue, but color can be deceiving. This is not a big, chewy, roasty beer. It’s a sluggable, low-alcohol beer with a hint of chocolate flavor and a nice malty aroma.

img_20161016_190230862-2

Oh crap!

A week after I wrote the above paragraph I began noticing a slight “buttered popcorn” aroma. Still drinkable, but Diacetyl was obviously present. I brought it to my local homebrewers meeting for feedback: yes, diacetyl indeed. Common causes can be a weak pitch of yeast (not enough) or not letting the beer “clean up” (sit on the yeast long enough). I cut corners on both, but my money is on the latter – I clearly rushed this beer through the process, even faster than the accelerated ‘brulosophy’ method. In other words, I should have gave it a couple more days to ferment at 58F, and a few more days to rest at 72F (to clean up). That’s what I’ll try next time.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher. This beer was actually judged by the owner of Territorial Brewing in Battle Creek, Michigan. On camera! With me right there! This is part of a new homebrewing web series I’ve been helping out on with a buddy of mine. So picture me, sitting across from an experienced professional brewer, swirling around my diacetyl black beer, waiting for him to hate it. Assuming he was telling the truth, he actually enjoyed the beer, but he also noticed the diacetyl. I lost the competition to a delicious Kolsh IPA.

Diacetyl, turns out, can slowly express itself and become stronger. This explains why it took about a week before I noticed it.

Beer 28: Excellent Belgian Tripel made with American Barley

Books will tell you to use a quality Belgian Pilsner malt for a Belgian Tripel. Until now, I have heeded that advice. It’s probably essential, right?

Nope.

This is the best Belgian Tripel I’ve made to date, and it’s made with 100% Briess 2-row malt, the workhorse of brewing, with a little Belgian aromatic malt. Banana, clove, huge yeast flavor, some body, nice color, very drinkable. It’s still young, but this is delicious. I’m happy to put it alongside my commercial favorites, like Sapient Tripel from Dark Horse. I really like how the 2-row seems to compliment the yeast. The aromatic malt, I think, adds a nice maltiness to the mix. Not a lot, just enough. I’ve always been confused as to what exactly aromatic malt does (supposedly it adds malt aroma). The slight sweetness from the Aromatic malt is also nice, although I would dial that back a few ounces maybe. Also I wouldn’t mind just a little more clean bitterness from Magnum hops, using Saaz only for the flame out hops. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything. I believe the vitality starter and fermentation might have played a factor in how delicious this is (more on that below).

img_20161003_193026492

Astonishingly, I cranked this big beer out in 1 week and was drinking it in 16 days. And I don’t keg. Hot temperature = fast fermentation.

2-Row Tripel
12 lb 2-row
.5 lb Aromatic malt (Dingemans)
2 lb Cane Sugar (added end of boil)
—————————-
2 oz Saaz (30 minute boil)
1 oz Saaz FO
———–
Monestary Ale Yeast (vitality starter)

Sat. Sept 17th: brewday, began vitality starter 4 hours prior to brewing
Sunday morning: pitched yeast @ 67F
Monday morning: noticed krusen, rose temp to 72F
Tuesday morning: rose temp to 80F
Tuesday night: noticed krusen had dropped already, rose temp to 85F
Wed. morning: rose to 90F; Wed night, hydrometer says 1.006, probably done fermenting: back down to 72F for ‘diacetyl rest’
Thurs 5pm: cold crashed to 30F
Saturday (a week after brewday): bottled 29 22oz beers
Monday, Oct 3: carbonated, tastes great. 16 days from grain to glass

Vitality Starter and Fermentation
I’m still tinkering around with how to ferment the best Belgian Tripel, and obviously I’m sold on the gradual, hot fermentation method: that’s how the Belgians do it. For this beer, I  really cranked up the heat, reaching 90 degrees at one point. I will probably continue with this sort of schedule. My vitality starter, as I explain elsewhere, is a matter of squeezing the liquid yeast into a jar of pre-made wort and letting it wake up for a few hours. Did it help? Who knows. But this is the problem with introducing new techniques to your brewing. You make a good beer, assume it’s because of the new technique, and consequently doomed to reproduce the new technique for the rest of your life. That happens all the time with homebrewing.

How Much Does Brewing Cost Over Time? (on Infographic Whiteboard)

Is brewing worth it? Does it make financial sense? Factoring in the equipment, do you “save” money? How much? This was the question I had before brewing and the reason I got into the hobby in the first place. And making things from scratch sometimes doesn’t make financial sense. Chocolate making, for example, is something that – after researching a little bit – doesn’t seem worth it. Coffee Roasting, alternatively, saves you 1-3 dollars per pound (which is why I do that, too). Cheese making, bread making, whisky making, clothes making…you get the point.

This is why I calculated every single piece of equipment, every recipe, every expense, every bottle. I loved Two Hearted Ale but could not justify (or afford) the $10.50 price tag. Now, when I go to the store, I have an odd predicament: I know how much it would cost me to make it. Some homebrewers start the hobby for non-financial reasons, and that’s cool; and I can only talk about my system, but for people who truly want to brew good beer simply and cheaply – One Pot Brewing makes sense.

img_20160926_194404314

this is how much One Pot Brewing costs (not including a fermentation chamber)

Impressively, after only 10 batches, using conservative estimates, you are already far below the cost of Two Hearted Ale. After 20 batches, it’s below the cost of Bud Light. After 40, it’s at a ridiculously low price of $3.78 a six pack – for craft beer! I imagine it starts to level off after that, although I don’t know where it hits bottom. I’m guessing around batch 100 or so.

These estimates – cost of equipment, average cost per recipe – are conservative. They assume buying everything new. Buying equipment from Craigslist, getting stuff for your birthday/holiday, being patient, shopping, using dry yeast, reusing yeast, buying in bulk, growing hops – these all brings costs down significantly. I’m also assuming ABV’s well above 5%.

What If I Want a Fermentation Chamber?

Let’s assume you want a really good one, like mine, and you’re not very mechanical, like me. I got a brand new upright freezer from Lowes ($450), an Inkbird temperature controller ($33), and a personal ceramic heater ($18). For simplicity of math, let’s call that $500 bucks – so the total initial investment would be $750. After only 10 batches, the cost of a six pack would be $12, which is sometimes the cost of a 4 pack of your favorite fancy Double IPAs (Hopslam). In other words, you are already there. After 20 batches total, you are at $7.50 per six pack, well below Two Hearted Ale. After 30 batches, $6.00/six pack. After 40, $5.28. Now you’ve been brewing for a couple years. After 50 batches, you’ve spent about 2,000 dollars and made about 2,500 beers – you are at $480. After 60, $4.50. After 70, $4.26. After 80, $4.14. After 90, $3.96. On you’re one hundredth batch you can say your beer costs roughly $3.90.

Congratulations you alcoholic.

Of course this assumes an ideal world where you resist the urge to buy crap to “improve your brewery”, which is part of the fun (I’m guilty of it). But the point is clear: making beer saves a significant amount of money. And there are other random costs involved, but they are minimal and occasional. Propane needs to be refilled, caps need to be replenished, sugar cubes need to be bought. Brewing beer takes time and work too, but I feel like it’s a hobby, it’s fun, and One Pot Brewing makes it truly enjoyable and mitigates most of the workload and time involved.

Beer 27: DIPA with a lasting aroma

Aroma is the Big Foot of brewing: hard to find. And when you find it, it’s gone fast.  It’s no surprise that the best IPAs have the best aromas, and the flavors follow the aroma. I had a Pliny the Elder last night, for example, and the aroma was intense, followed by an intense, citrusy flavor.

In terms of aroma, this Double IPA rocks. It’s got a nice, strong, grapefruit nose, thanks to the 7 ounces of citrisy hops added with the Shark Tank (patent pending, not really…my thoughts here):

img_20160901_182310036

Was the Shark Tank the reason for the aroma? Probably not. The amount of dry hopping? Maybe so. Was it because I used gypsum and calcium in my water? Maybe so (who knows? I’m pretty much guessing when it comes to water chemistry). Was it because I kegged this IPA for the first time in my brewing career? Probably. My new brew friend allowed me to use one of his kegs. Kegging has been touted as being essential for a great, fresh IPA. That makes sense. With kegging you (a) purge oxygen from the headspace, making the hops fresher longer and (b) get to drink it faster and fresher. Three weeks later, the aroma is hanging on.

And the flavor is pretty damn good too. This is crisp, citrusy, slightly resinous, slighty pine, and enough complex malts to back it up. The alcohol is completely undetected, and the water profile seems crisp and clean. US-05 is a winner in my book; it humbly steps aside and lets the malt and hops shine through – and it requires no starter.

img_20160906_195231368_hdr

This is a tasty IPA. That’s my final answer.

This beer, as usual, took 1 hour 30 minutes to make, thanks to the heretical methods that I’ve been employing for a while now: 30 minute mash and boil, no sparge, short chill, and quick transitions due to BIAB and keeping the lid on. That’s pretty impressive if I say so myself.

West Side IPA  5 gal.
10.7 lb 2-row
3.5 lb Munich
.5 lb Caramel Crystal 60
(mashed for 30 minutes at 149F)
—————————
1 oz Magnum FW (30 minute mash)
2 oz Cascade (whole cone) DH (all dry hopped for 3 days)
1 oz Centenial DH
1 oz Simcoe DH (whole cone)
1 oz Mosaic DH
1 oz Citra DH
1 oz Equinox DH
—————————–
US-05
——-
water: added 2 teaspoons Calcium Cloride and 1 teaspoon Gypsum to the mash water
after chilling down to about 120F or so, I placed into my cold fermentation chamber to bring down to pitching temp. A few hours later, before bed, I pitched the beer a little hot – at 82F- just because I don’t give a fuck, and that’s okay. The next morning (Saturday) it was at my target fermentation temp (68F), but no krusen was seen yet.
Sunday morning, 2 days after brewday, a nice krusen, which hung around until Wednesday.
Thursday night, 5 days after brewday, I dry hopped with 7 ounzes of hops in the Shark Tank, pissed off that it floated to the top.
When fermentation was complete, I cold crashed, fined with gelatin, and kegged for the first time.

 

The Shark Tank (a new way to dry hop)

img_20160901_182310036

the Shark Tank holding 7 ounces of mostly whole cone hops

Dry hopping is the best way to get an amazing aroma from an IPA. The more, the better. In fact, I tend to think that dry hopping is the best way to get the best aroma and flavor from your hops. Which is why my IPA recipes tend to have only two hop additions: first wort and dry hop. 30 minutes additions, flame out additions, and whirl pool additions can all suck it.

The problem with dry hopping, especially with One Pot Brewing, is that it can clog the spigot, creating a bottling nightmare. This has happened twice. The spigot is simply too low for that amount of trub, gunk, yeast, hops. If I could redesign the pot, I probably would move it up a half inch. Hop sacks work just fine, and I’ve used them, but they are sorta messy.

So one day  I was roasting coffee on my new coffee roaster and thought: holy shit, this little drum is the perfect dry hopping vessel! Big enough, easy to clean, and easy to suspend directly into the beer at the exact spot I need it. When it comes time to dry hop, I simply flip over the lid of the pot (so that the handle is facing towards the beer), then I tie the Shark Tank to the lid handle, and splash – here we go.

One minor problem I noticed is that hops float. And even the Shark Tank floats. I don’t like that; I would rather have the hops submerged completely. I might think of some way to weight them down.

So how did my first Shark Tank IPA come out?

Stay tuned (hint: the aroma is very good, maybe the best aroma I’ve gotten. And after a few weeks in the keg, still very good).

 

Beer 26: Hoppy Grapefruit Pale Ale

For this beer I wanted to have a lot of beer on hand. One Pot Brewing does just fine with 5 gallons, but what about 8? For this beer, instead of making an IPA, I made an IPA wort, diluted it with tons of water at the end of brewing, and instead made an 8 gallon Pale Ale. I wanted a huge grapefruit character, so I peeled 4 large grapefruits and threw them in at the end of the boil, along with large amounts of citrusy and tropical hops, all of which were placed in my brew bag for a few days during fermentation. The result was pretty tasty.

img_20160905_142831901_hdr

The grapefruit makes this a very interesting beer. I like it, but in full disclosure my wife and two other people didn’t like it. Another of my homebrew friends did like it. So…there you go. My wife said it was ‘grassy’ and, for all I know, she’s probably right. It’s very interesting to taste a beer that you brewed yourself; you know exactly what to look for, what to expect, and what you’re tasting. I get a large grapefruit peel effect, which might come off as harsh, but not to me; I get an odd pithy bitterness, which is backed up by slightly sweet malt character, and the zingy orange flavor of Simcoe hops. To me, it tastes like the ingredients that were put into it- especially the 4 grapefruit peels. So I’m happy with it.

If I brewed this again, I would try zesting the grapefruits, as opposed to peeling with a knife. Peeling is said to impart harsh bitterness from the pith, which I intentionally wanted because I like it. Adding lemon zest is also a good idea.

This beer carbonated in 5 days. What’s up with that? The mysteries of bottle conditioning continue to baffle me.

Grapefruit Pale Ale  8 gallons
10 lb 2 -row
5.4 lb Munich
.8 lb Caramel Crystal 40
—————-
2 oz Magnum FW (30 minute boil)
2 oz Simcoe FO
1.5 oz Centenial FO
2 oz Equinox FO
4 grapefuits, peeled FO
——————–
US-05 dry yeast

Another interesting technique I employed for this beer was to collect some wort for later, to use as a “vitality starter” for future beers. First, I sanitized some salsa jars. Then, after the mash, I poured some wort into the salsa jars, let them cool, and popped them in the fridge. That’s pretty easy, actually. I talk about how easy they are to use in a different post. I would only do this for very big special beers, like a Belgian Tripel. I don’t think starters are necessary, but it can speed the process up. It’s really the Belgian Tripel that I want to try this on.