Monday, August 24, 2009

Brewing the Old Thresher

Brewing this beer wasn't nearly as eventful as the brew session itself. In addition to Willie and Peter, I also had an open invite to STL Hops and STL Brews members. Two guys from Hops showed up and an additional Brews member as well. Peter also invited two other Brews members to step into all-grain brewing for the first time.

8 people. 3 beers brewed. Many, many beers drank.

Combine that with the Missouri sun and you've got a long day. The good news was that all of the brewing seemed to be a success.

My original gravity measured in at 1.060 relating to a 81% efficiency. My efficiencies are starting to level out in that range, so I'll be calculating my recipes closer to that from now on.

I transferred the dunkel into a keg and pitched my beer right on top of the yeast cake.

I was done early. My fellow brewers...not so much. Willie's Belgian Tripel clocked in at a killer 1.110 OG after not using enough sparge water and a big 90 minute boil. Mike's first time all-grain American IPA measured up at 1.060 using my mash tun, so again a 80%+ efficiency turn out.

6 hours after I pitched, I had bubbles in the blowoff. Nice yeast.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The dos and don'ts of making candi sugar

For the third time ever, I made a batch of candi sugar for an upcoming Tripel brew on Sunday. The first time I did this, I had great success and I was loving life. The second time wasn't quite as easy because I did 2 lbs. worth compared to the 1 lb. batch the first time. Not learning, I went ahead and did 3 lbs. last night. The problem isn't the amount of sugar I'm using, it's the cook.

To those readers (I have readers?) that don't know what candi sugar is or how to make it, I'll explain. Some Belgian beers are made with sugar as a fermentable. The sugar can be regular sucrose from either beets or cane or it can be invert sugar. What is invert sugar you're saying?

In a nutshell, the process of inverting sugar breaks down the sucrose into glucose and fructose. The rumor is that the glucose and fructose are easier for the yeast to eat and produce alcohol. However, "Brewers yeast have their own invertase (enzyme) and readily convert table sugar (sucrose) into its monosacharide components of fructose and glucose which can then be fermented.". Competing thoughts on the subject are rampant. Additionally, there are other brewers that say you can not duplicate in your kitchen what is produced commercially due to the trace minerals and other chemicals in household sugar.

Forgetting all of that, let's talk about my mistake(s).

3 lbs. of Schnuck's sugar (most likely beet)
Just enough water to make into a stirable solution
1 healthy squirt of lime juice

Cook in a non-stick pot until the solution reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit or the hard crack stage (1st mistake). Pour onto a jelly roll pan (2nd mistake). Cool this COMPLETELY (3rd mistake). Break the sugar into pieces and freeze for storage.

1st mistake: Make sure you get the entire pot up to 300.

Lesson: Don't rush it. Just because the probe reads 300, stir it up and make sure.

2nd mistake: When you use 3 lbs. of sugar, it makes a lot of hard crack syrup. Since I used a single pan, that makes the hard sugar very thick and hard to break apart. We're talking over 1/4" of a substance that's about as strong as anything as you can make in your kitchen.

Lesson: Seperate the batch into multiple pans to avoid having bulletproof sugar.

3rd mistake: Hard crack candy only cracks and breaks well when it's had a chance to totally cool down. If it has any warmth at all, it will bend then break. A contributing factor to this is also the 1st mistake.

Lesson: Put your pans in the fridge. It won't do anything but help.

I worked on getting the sugar pieces out of my single pan last night for almost 30 minutes and that was on a non-stick pan. Hopefully, I remember this for next time or we'll just use table sugar.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Old Thresher Dampfbier

This is a little known style outside of Germany. Dampfbier means "steam beer", but it shouldn't be confused with the San Fransisco steam beer. German Dampfbier is an all barley malt beer fermented on Weissenbier yeast. It's one of the few German ales and comes from the forests of Bavaria. This will be served at Mocktoberfest if things work out.

On to the recipe.

7 lbs. Pilsner
2 lbs. Munich
1 lb. Carapils

90 minute boil with

1 oz. Hallertaur @ 60 min.
Irish moss @15 min.

Fermented on a White Labs 351 Bavarian Weizen

OG - 1.049
FG - 1.010
ABV - 5.2%
IBU - 19
SRM - 10

Monday, August 3, 2009

Brewing the Draft Horse

The sea was angry that day my an old man trying to return soup at a deli!

It started like any other mild mannered brew day. I was at Willie's house around 8:30 with all of my equipment in tow. Setting up was no issue and all looked well. The calm would not continue.

Willie's Giganta-burner would not light. I wish I had a picture of this thing to post. It's a 200K BTU house warmer that can shoot a flame about 6 feet high on full blast. It's taken a lot of abuse over the last year that I've known it including a lot of boilovers. Well it finally gave up the ghost Sunday. The last hurrah was an attempt by Willie to bypass the safety mechanisms. He shut it down when it started peeling all of the labels off and it looked like we were about to have a full on meltdown and/or explosion.

Willie had to bust out his old burner, but it was obvious that to boil the 14 gallons or so, he would have to use my burner.

Fast forward to my brewing. Milling, mashing, sparging, and boiling went off without a hitch, except I forgot my thermometer. I had to use my old floating thermo, which actually worked ok. I'm sure I mashed a little hot and probably sparged a little hot too. Colling the wort also went fine with the combo of Willie's immersion chiller and a tub with a little ice water. I had already put away the thermo, so I used the finger test (sanitized of course). Cool to the touch is fine enough for brewers of old, so it was good enough for me.

Original gravity: 1.060 on a 5.5 gallon batch. (We left the last half gallon in the pot avoiding the cold break).
Brewhouse efficiency: 82%

I pitched two vials of WLP351 Bavarian Wheat.

Willie got his giant kettle to almost boiling on his little burner. Once we switched to mine, it took off like a rocket and I actually had to dial down the heat. Since his giant kettle covers the area of the burner completely, almost none of the heat is wasted off the sides.

We finished out the day with an attempt at finishing my immersion chiller, but by that time the afternoon sun had beaten our wills and burned our skin. It was finished.

This morning, my beer was bubbling away through the blowoff tube I had set up when I got home.