Saturday, 29 September 2012

Simple Time-Saver

Measuring out beer volumes is not always easy - 18.7L of water = 19 measures with our 1L measuring cup. A simple way to deal with this is to mark your bucket - carefully measure out set volumes, let the water stop sloshing around, and pen it in.  It'll save you valuable time in preparing your beer.

Crepuscular Porter

Fall is here - time to do away with the lighter summer beers and start brewing rich, dark, beers that warm the soul on cold winters nights.  Dark beers - browns, porters, stouts, olde ales & Scottish exports - are among my favourite beers.  Of these, porters top the list.

Porters are not a commonly encountered style - at least, not here in Canada.  It is too bad - aside from being important historically, porters stand as one of the most diverse styles of beer out there.  On one extreme porters are medium-brown in colour, differing from brown ales in their extra hoppiness.  On the other extreme are dark porters - would-be stouts but for a bit more dark malt bitterness.  Between those two extremes is a huge range of beers - sweet to dry, mild to hoppy, some with toasty nuttiness, others with the coffee-like flavour of roasted malts.  Swap out the ale yeast, substitute a lager yeast and lager fermentation conditions, and you get a baltic porter - every bit as diverse as the ale version, but with the mellower nature of a larger replacing the flamboyance of ale yeasts.  For the brave soul, one can take a sweet porter, subtract the hops, add in some/all of vanilla, wintergreen, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, anise, molasses, cinnamon, clove, or honey - and you have a real rootbeer.  Alcoholic, richly flavoured, sweet and spicy.  Its the great-grandpa of the soda enjoyed by so many.

Today's brew is a middle-of-the-road Porter.  Crepuscular Porter is named after crepuscular animals - animals active at twilight and at the dawn.  Accordingly, this beer lacks the midnight blackness of darker porters and stouts, bearing a medium-brown colour (30SRM).  With a hoppiness on the higher-end for the style (32IBU), 5% alcohol, and with a rich nuttiness imparted by a rarer adjunct grain - pale chocolate malt - this beer will be a nice brew to enjoy while racking leaves or while warming up after a chilly bike ride home from work.

More Below the Fold...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Bit of Bitter

The Vestigial Bitter, brewed a few weeks ago, is done.  It is an excellent beer - the best beer brewed since I started this blog.  It is a light beer, coming in at 3.7% alcohol (it was planned to be 3.5%).  It is thin-bodied, with its flavour dominated by hop bitterness with hints of hop flavour and crystal malt.  It is lightly coloured - just a tad lighter than an American-style lager (i.e. Bud).  Its effervescent and light - great after a hard days work, or a good beer to use to convert a friend from the generic mass-produced lagers that dominate the market to homebrew and craft beers.

Because of its low alcohol content, it won't age too long, but the low content also means that many pints can be quaffed without suffering for it the next AM.  This style is traditionally served with minimal carbonation; I'm not a fan of that, and as such have carb'd it to a level common for most beers (2.4 volumes).  The extra carbonation gives this beer a lighter feeling than usual, and in combination with the flaked barley, creates a fine, long-lasting head that lasts the whole pint.

My sole disappointment is the absence of colour and relatively weak crystal character.  This beer will be brewed again (and again, and again).  But next time I'll double the crystal to give it a bit of a red colour and a bit more of that sweet crystal character.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Überschuss = Übergood

So the Überschuss European Ale is in the keg.  It turned out very well, especially considering I essentially pulled the recipe out of my ass.

The beer stayed in the primary for 3 weeks - AKA the time from brew-day to the return from my holiday.  After transferring to the keg I added 1 package of "bloomed" gelatin to help clear the beer, and put it in the fridge under ~13 PSI of CO2.  One week later it was cleared and carbed.

The beer itself was darker than expected, and pours with a bubbly head that collapses over a few minutes into a thin, but creamy, lace that lasts the whole pint.  As you can see, my keggerator woes were not completely fixed by my modification to my kegging setup, meaning I still have a bit of building to do.

Taste-wise, it is a pleasant surprise.  Before you sip, you're hit by a bit of maltyness with a hint of floral hops.  Those characteristics continue on into the taste - a sweet, but not overpowering maltyness, with a nice balancing (but not strong) bitterness.  The flavour and aroma of noble hops is present, but again, not overpowering and nicely balanced with the maltyness of the brew.  At first it finished with an almost-unpleasant lingering bitterness.  That is already beginning to fade, and should be gone within a couple of weeks - likely about the same time I empty the keg.

This one will, without a doubt, be brewed again.

Brew Day: Vestigial Bitter

Today I continue my mission to rid myself of some leftover brewing ingredients, before they go off.   The second recipe in this quest is a common English bitter - and unlike my Überschuss European Ale, this one is pretty much by-the-book.

The brew session went without hiccup.  Hit of OG right on, colour looks good, smells good too.  Despite the 30C temps, I managed to re-do all of the hangers in my garage during the boil - AKA multitasking!  It'll be a few weeks until we know the real story (about the beer; the garage is fine), but I have high hopes.

No pictures from today's brew session - but you will find the recipe below the fold.

Brew Science: The Iodine Test

This is in first of a series of articles about the science behind basic brewing processes.  These articles will explain how many of the procedures we use in brewing work - and hopefully provide sufficient information on how to make us of these tests/processes in your own brewing.

An iodine test [wikipedia] is used by brewers to test for conversion of unfermentable starches into the mixture of fermentable sugars and unfermentable dextrins which comprise the sweet wort we ferment to make beer.

The presence of starch in beer is very much unwanted.  Starches cannot be fermented, and induce an unpleasant appearance and feeling the the resulting wort.  In contrast, fermentable sugars (mostly glucose, or 2-3 glucose's attached togeather - AKA maltose and maltriose) are consumed by yeast to make alcohol, and unfermentable dextrins (short chains of glucose) which impart a malty flavor and mouth-feel to the beer.

Left: the branching structure of starch.  The '...' link to additional starches of glucose molecules (see below image).  A single starch molecule will be comrpised of many hundreds of glucose molecules.

Above: the structure of the long chains of glucose.  
 A single molicule of gluocse.  Images from wikipedia.

The process of breaking down starch into sugars and dextrins is called saccrification (or conversion), and is driven by soaking grain in water at the desired temperature (generally 63-66C).  At these temps, enzymes called amylases break down starches into sugars and dextrins.  Many beginning brewers simply wait-and-hope for conversion to complete.

If only there were a better way...