Monday, August 26, 2013

Raspberry Saison - Bottling Day - July 14

I was super excited to see the color of the beer color shifted from a golden amber to a raspberry red, yay!

Before bottling day remember to prep your bottles the day before, so that your bottles will be clean and ready to get filled with your beer right away.


Prep Bottles
- Submerge each bottle in a StarSan solution. (Do not rinse clean, StarSan is safe for beer, more safe than water.)
- If you have access to a dishwasher, load it up and let drip dry or hit the sanitize cycle.


Bottling Day Steps
- Measure and record your beer for the ABV with the Hydrometer. This is the final calculation in determining the percentage of alcohol in your beer.
- Add the room temperature priming sugar to the bottling bucket with spigot.
- Rack your beer from the second fermentation bucket into the bottling bucket.
- Hookup your tube from your spigot to your bottling filler so you can fill your bottles with beer.
- Cap the bottles and store in dark place around 64-72 Fahrenheit.
- Wait 2 weeks for bottles to become fully carbonated and tasty.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Raspberry Saison - 2nd Fermentation - Sunday June 30

Second Fermentation - Sunday June 30

For the Raspberry Saison, I added the puree to the secondary fermentation after racking, moving beer from one bucket to another. This batch was much easier to handle because I knew what to expect (good to see the yeast poop ring!), but there are a couple of things to note. Since you're introducing a new element into your brew, you need to do some prep work to minimize any contaminates.

Sanitize with StarSan
- The can opener
- The cans of fruit

This might sound like overkill and your right. You want to kill any possible bacteria that might ruin the flavors of your beer. By taking this extra step you're less likely to allow any possible contaminates that might be on the can or the opener that could possibly leak into your fruit or your brew and either kill your yeast or create another form of unwanted funk.

Add the fruit to the Second Fermentator
- I opened the sanitized cans and I poured their contents into the clean sanitized bucket.
- Then I racked the beer from the primary bucket into the secondary.
- Closed the lid and wait another 2 weeks. I read online that Dry Hopping is usually only one extra week but fruits are usually two weeks in the secondary.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rasperry Sasion - Brew Day - Sunday June 23

It didn't take me long to start my next beer, in fact I started it a few days before tasting the first! I selected a Belgian Saison Brewer's Best Kit and decided to was going to go a bit off the grid and start tweaking the recipes slightly. I am still trying to get a handle on the brewing process, so I thought continuing with the kits and putting my personal twist on them was the best route until I was comfortable to breakaway from kits in general. This beer was going to get 6 pounds of raspberries puree added to a 5 gallon batch.  I couldn't wait to taste it, even before the water started to steep the grains.

I wasn't my initial intention to make a fruit beer, but it is Summer and it sounded refreshing and super tasty. I didn't know when exactly to add the fruit in the process, so I went online to do some research and discovered that most fruit is added in a second fermentation process. There are also different ways to approach adding a fruit flavor. You can add real fruit or you can add a chemical extract of the fruit. I personally have always been a fan of the real thing, I try to eat organics and I passionately against GMO's. I plan on making all my beers with real ingredients real fruits, spices, meats, and sweets. (Yup, I said meats... a bacon beer is in the recipe hopper).

FRUIT BEERS: A general rule of thumb is that if you want a incredibly fruity beer, you need to do a 2/1 ratio. That being 2 pounds of fruit to 1 gallon of beer. With my recipe I was only going to use 1.2 pounds of raspberries per gallon. Adding fruit can be expensive and I wasn't even sure how this would turn out, so I decided this was enough to get started. I also decided not to attempt buying fresh raspberries from the grocery store and just preparing them myself, however in the future when I become more adventurous and comfortable with the process, I may take this route. For this batch however I used Vintner's Harvest Raspberry Puree, which is GMO free and made specifically for home brewing and wine making. It's already pureed and sold in a 3 lb can ready to go when you need it. OK, so let's get started!

Saison Kit with ingredients listed in order of adding to pot or bucket. Another thing that I started doing after the first batch is going through all the ingredients that your using and then numbering them. I don't like to scramble, re-read things or try to find an item in a flurry, especially when you have a time and temperature sensitive process. It's so easy when you're just looking for the item labeled 3 rather than German Hallertau hops packet. Like I said there is an vocabulary shift with brewing, I'm still learning all the names of things, this helps me become familiar, remember the step in the process, and streamlines efficiencies.

The brew day process is very similar to my second post so I won't reiterate that, but some of the ingredients change pending the kind of beer your making.


The Basic Steps of Home Brewing:
- Steep Grains
- Boil ingredients specific to your beer style
- Kill boil (bring beer temp down to 70 degrees)
- Rack and strain brew
- Add water and yeast
- Ferment in bucket or carboy
- 2nd Ferment (optional)
- Bottle/keg

Monday, August 19, 2013

Taster Tuesday - Tuesday June 25

I was told that you should wait two weeks before drinking your home brew. I lasted 11 days before I popped open the first bottle.

I couldn't believe my eyes, hears, and tastebuds! It looked like beer, sounded like beer, and even tasted like a yummy beer! It had the right profile of a Belgian IPA, strong flavor and high alcohol content with an ABV of 6%. The complex flavors of piney, herbal and citrus came through in the aroma, taste and finish. It was spot on with the exception of a little too much carbonation. My friend Jesse, from Ale Syndicate, pointed out that the extra bubbles were probably caused by adding a bit too much priming sugar on bottling day.

I was in pure amazement. I had created this tasty alcoholic beverage and the beer bug soon took over... I began plotting my next beers, cultivating my laundry list of recipes and flavor profiles.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bottling Day - Thursday June 13

So we are finally ready to bottle! Yay! But wait, before you can start filling 50 little bottles full of all your hard labor, your going to need 50 little bottles... On average a 5 gallon batch fills about 50, 12oz bottles, or about 25, 22oz bottles (bombers).

As days neared my scheduled bottling day, I had collected only about 20, 12oz bottles. I started to get frantic and texted some friends to see if anyone had extra in their recycling bin. Luckily I scored big with my friend Brad from BeerRunners who had about a dozen, another co-worker brought in a few empties to the office, and some of my kind neighbors left bottles at my doorstep. All in all, I had about 45 collected, so that would mean I'd also need to prepare some of my growlers as back up too, luckily I had 3 of those. On average a growler holds about 5 beers, 64oz.

Of course I could have bought all clean, shinny, new bottles at BrewCamp, but where is the fun in that? No hard labor, no hours spent scrubbing and soaking bottles in water or GooGone (sold at DollarTree!). That would be just too easy. Plus I couldn't rationalize paying for empty bottles, I mean... they're empty.

A couple of days before bottling day there needs to be some prep-work and that starts with: scrubbing, cleaning, and sanitizing your bottles. There are definitely some bottles that work and some that don't, here's a list of what I've come across.

Bottles that rock for home-brew bottling:
New Glarus & Dogfish Head Their paper labels slip right off after soaking in some water and require minimal scrubbing, they also have the classic bottle shape.

Leave these bottles in the recycling bin:
ALL Twist-offs.
They don't have the secure air-locking system on the cap. Nothing is worse then scrubbing a bottle for about 20 mins and then realizing it's a twist-off... another Leignkugle sneaked it's way in!

Great Lakes, Ohio Brewing, & Thirsty Dog
The glue on the bottles is almost impossible to remove, it repels water and GooGone (see photo on left).

Anchor Steam & Pacifico
They have a different bottle shape, neck, and a shorter top near the lip. The clamping system on the capper device can't lock/secure the cap at the shorter height (see photo on left).

Two Brothers
They use water resistant sticker labels rather than good old fashioned glue and paper, which requires more work to remove. 

OK, now you have naked bottles, the labels have been removed and they've been scrubbed. Now they need to be sanitized and sterilized. Use a StarSan water solution in one of your buckets and completely submerge each bottle to sanitize. Then if you have a dishwasher you can load the washer with all the bottles and set the machine to sanitize to blast it with super hot water to kill any bacteria, this should sterilize your bottles. Do Not put any dishwasher soap into the machine. You don't want those chemicals leaving residue on your bottles and contaminating your beer. If you want to use anything you can use a tiny bit of StarSan, it goes a long way. If you don't have a dishwasher, you can let the bottles air-dry. Most home-brew shops have a bottle tree you can buy that will help let the liquid drain and speed up the drying process.

I used a dishwasher and panicked after I found out some of my bottles had condensation in them after the machine had ran through its cycle. I wasn't sure if the moisture would contaminate the beer so I tried blow-drying a few of the bottles before use. No, for real, I did this... (see photo on left). I'm sure in hindsight, this was overkill, but I was super cautious with my first batch. Moving forward I'd suggest running the dishwasher the day before so that the bottles are fully dry and room temperature. Remember yeast are very temperature sensitive, you don't want to fill hot bottles with your beer and kill the yeast.

OK, now bottles are ready, let's prepare the beer to be transferred to the bottles!

Bottling Day Steps.
Step 1: Measure and Remove.
Use your hydrometer to take the last measurement for the ABV calculation, record it and determine the alcohol content for your beer. With a sanitized utensil, remove any second fermentation additives, you may have used. 

Step 2: Rack your beer.
Move your beer, using your siphoning tool, from your fermentation bucket to a bottling bucket with spigot. Remember to leave the yeast poop in the fermentation bucket, you don't want that in your beer.

Step 3: Add priming sugar.
Boil water and the priming sugar until completely dissolved. Before adding the solution, make sure to bring the temperature back down so you don't scald the yeast.

Step 4: Prepare and transfer.
Gather all your bottles so they are ready to be filled. Attach one end of your tube to your spigot and the other end to your siphoning bottling filler. This will allow your beer to flow from the bucket into your bottle. It streams beer through the tube and only allows beer to flow out once the spring tip is compressed, at the base of your bottle. You'll want to leave 1 inch of air space at the top of the neck to allow the yeast to create some carbonation. A good measure for this is filling your beer to the capping line and then removing the bottle filler. Once the device is removed the liquid usually drops about an inch from the top.   

Step 5: Seal bottles with the bottle capper.
This might be my favorite new tool, I love capping! It's super easy to use just place an unused cap on the bottle and bring down the clamp with both of your hands... Bam! You just made a beer!

Step 6: Store in a dark place around 64-72 Fahrenheit. 

And now we wait 2 weeks for the beer to become carbonated and tasty....  

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dry Hopping - 2nd Fermentation - Friday June 7

So I told you I had picked a beer that was intermediate level, that's because IPAs usually involve a thing called "Dry Hopping." Dry Hopping is when you add extra hops to your beer "dry" after it's already fermented in the bucket for 4-6 days. During this time air should already be releasing from the airlock system. The air-lock system has a valve to fill half way with a liquid, some home brewers use water but I was told in my brew class by BrewCamp "Why fill it with water, when you can fill it with vodka?" Love this idea. This way if bubbles release and any fluid from the air lock system into the bucket by accident, it will be dropping in vodka rather than water which could, contaminate your brew.

So once you open the bucket to dry hop, there are a few things to note. 

Step 1: You want to see a grimy, gooey, crusty ring at the top of you liquid line.
This is waste created by the yeast doing their work. They are eating the sugars in your brew and leaving what I like to refer as "yeast poop," it's stuff you don't need, a bi-product that comes from yeast eating sugar. The stuff you do want from the yeast are the bubbles and the alcohol, everything else will get removed through racking. 

Step 2: Measure your alcohol levels in your brew with your hydrometer and record it.
A hydrometer, is the device that measures the buoyancy of your liquid and determines the amount of alcohol through a calculation formula. See the page marked "Brewing Terms" for more information on this.   

Step 3: Rack your beer.
Transfer the beer using a siphoning tool. Moving the beer from the gooey, crusty bucket into a clean sanitized bucket. Yeast don't like lots of air, so don't just dump the beer from one container to another, you'll generate too much oxygen in the process. Siphoning allows the beer to be transferred by sucking it out like a straw and moving it from one bucket to another using gravity as it's force. It also allows you to monitor the transfer and leave the gooey bits and yeast poop in the dirty bucket. The bottom of your bucket should have about an inch or two or murky putty, gooey crud (more yeast poop). Once you see it and there is no more good, clearer liquid stop the siphoning. All of that goop should stay in the dirty bucket and not be transferred to the second clean bucket.  

Step 4: Add your dry hops.
Hops should be placed in a muslin cloth sack tired loosely at the end, then dropped into the bucket. Close lid and wait for the yeast to feed on the new food you gave them. The extra hops will also add extra flavor and kick to the beer. This is that extra bitter hoppy smell you get from an IPA, that aroma and bite, is from lots of extra hops. You should keep the beer in the second fermentator for at least a week, before preparing your beer for bottling.

And now we wait again... tick tock, tick tock...

Monday, August 5, 2013

3AM: Brew Day - Wednesday May 29

OK, so this is a learning process, and one thing I can tell you for sure is don't start brewing at 11:00pm after watching a Blackhawks playoff game. Sure, your adrenaline is going, you're pumped... You just drank a few beers, you saw your team go into overtime and win it, your friend says she'll come over and help, it will be fun! Umm.. then fast forward 4 hours later when you're finally done washing the last bucket and climb into bed... at 3AM. So this is the story of my first homebrew.

I started with a Belgian IPA brew kit, from Brewer's Best, one of the largest and most trusted home brew companies, purchased at Brew Camp, my local home brew store. I love Belgian styles so I figured this is where I would start, I just sort of picked one that I knew I'd like to drink and had a strong familiarity on how it should taste. It happened to be a rated intermediate for level of difficulty, this I didn't know until I started on Brew day, but hey, I'm a pro in the kitchen. I've made at least a half dozen successful Thanksgiving/Christmas turkeys and festive feasts, surely I could master following some instructions.

The first hurdle, was just getting to know the ingredients and recipe language. It's not like a Epicurious recipe that makes sense to the average kitchen guru. There's language like, racking, siphoning, steeping (OK, so this one is easy because you do this with tea), and then the ingredients are called things like... DME (Dried Malt Extract) or LME (Liquid Malt Extract), and then we probably need to go into explaining what malts are... it's endless. I decided just now I'll need to include a glossary of terms on a separate page for this blog.

I'm going to break it down as simply as I can for a brew day.

Step 1: Sanitize all equipment

Step 2: Purify and prepare 5 gallons of water

Step 3: Steep to create wort using only 2.5 gallons of water
Wort is simply a tea which is created when you steep grains. There are different ways to make your wort. You can use extracts, usually provided in a kit, which is what I used and then there is "All Grain" we'll discuss "All Grain" further down the road, since that process is more complex, but simply put, Extract is like getting your coffee ground and ready for you to brew as opposed to an all grain which is like buying the coffee beans and grinding them yourself, it takes an extra step when using "All Grains" 

Step 4: Boil your wort and other ingredients that give your beer it's unique profile.
Adding them as you would in order of importance and ending with the most delicate aromatic ingredients last. Just as you would, if you cooked a meal, you'd start with the main focus, such as a protein, prepare the vegetables then ending with seasoning, herbs and accent flavors. It's the same with beer, and the last ingredient you add to your brew's boil is usually the first thing you smell when your sniff your beer.

Step 5: Kill the boil. Once all of your ingredients are in the pot you need to stop cooking them and bring the water temp down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve all the flavors.
This parallel's again with cooking. Once you're done cooking your protein, vegetables and herbs, you want to stop cooking, before you ruin all the flavors, overcook or burn them. You need to bring your brew down to 70 degrees as quickly as possible.
There are 2 ways to terminate your boil: 
1) Place your pot of boiling wort in a sink filled with ice.
You're going to need a lot of ice and patience, this option takes the most time. 
Also do not put ice directly in the pot, because it could contaminate your brew.
2) Use a purified wort chiller.
A wort chiller is a handy device that speeds up the cooling process. It's a copper coil that hooks up to a garden like hose nozzle and feeds cold water through it without letting water actually touch your brew. This is the fastest way to cool your wort and it still takes about 45 mins to bring the temp from 210 down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Step 6: Rack (strain) your beer to remove excess ingredients as you transfer the liquid from the pot to the fermentation bucket.
You'll want the clearest liquid possible for drinking, so it's necessary to remove everything that can't be strained.

Step 7: Add enough purified water to bring your bucket to 5 gallons and calculate your ABV (Alcohol By Volume) with a device that measures the buoyancy of your brew.
This is the first part in the calculation of your beer's ABV. You'll take another reading on bottling day, so the first reading is just the first part of the calculation in the formula.

Step 8: Add yeast and secure lid on bucket.
Most home brew bucket kits come with an air-lock control lid that allows for air to release but not to get in. Yeast will produce two important bi-products necessary for beer: 1) carbonation 2) alcohol (yum)

Step 9: Let the yeast do it's work.
Go to bed and wait 4-6 days, for next phase of brewing.

Phew... that only took 4 hours!