Saturday, 31 January 2015

Quick & Simple Invert Sugar

2 kg (~5 lbs) of invert sugar. The one on the right is slightly less
caramelized due to better temperature control during inversion
In some of my previous posts I've covered the making of Belgian Candi Sugar (Posts 1, 2), but this isn't the only hard-to-find brewing sugar out there. For my upcoming big beer I need a healthy dose (2 kg) of invert sugar - something which around here you cannot get in anything less than industrial amounts (a hundred kilos minimum order).

Invert sugar is used in a lot of English-style beers; it is simply table sugar (sucrose, a glucose chemically bonded to a fructose) broken down into its constituent glucose and fructose molecules. In theory it is easier for yeast to ferment this sugar, hence why it is popular in high-gravity brewing.

Several of my readers and youtube viewers (and myself) have reported issues with sugar crystallizing, which if you're lucky makes a hard-crack sugar ugly, but if it gets too bad can turn your sugar into an unmanageable - and insoluble (which is bad for brewing) mess. I've been working on this issue and have found a solution - the details are included in this post, and can be applied to both Belgian candi sugars as well as to invert sugar.

And as with candi sugar, don't forget that this can be quite dangerous - you are working with a sticky liquid well above the boiling point of water. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, cover your feet, and be as careful as you can be.

So how do we make it - its easy, but as always the details are found below the fold.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Matilda, The Seductress

The Temptation of the Idler
Albrecht Dürer, 1498
This is the penultimate post (minus the inevitable tasting notes) of my Brewing Vintage Beers Series. Today's beer is  a Belgian Enkel, also known as a Patersbier. This is a style of beer that I wish was much more common - it has all the flavour and complexity of a double or triple, but comes in at less than 5% ABV and thus is quite sessionable. It solves all of the problems of dubbel and tripels; you can imbibe in pint after pint of an Enkel without finding yourself hugging the floor as the room spins around you.

This beer is obviously not a high-gravity beer, so why is it part of the vintage-beer series? The answer is that this isn't just any old beer - it is also a massive stater for one hell of a big beer I'll be brewing (and posting about) in two weeks time, and its also been scaled up to provide a few extra litres of wort to test-ferment a dozen wild yeasts I've isolated over the past year. This is truly a beer with many faces!

To make this beer a good "starter" for producing yeast I am taking the rather unusual route of adding yeast nutrient to what is a beer that wouldn't normally require it - but keep in mind, our goal isn't simply a good beer, but its also healthy yeast at the end of the ferment. Yeast nutrient plus a strong oxygenation will fulfill that goal.

Some may be wondering about the odd name for this beer. I don't want to give too much away, but it is related to one of my favourite novels and also to the name of the strong/vintage beer this beer's yeast cake will be re-pitched into.

Recipe & brew-day notes below the fold...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Brewing long-aging beers - fermenting high-gravity beers

As promised last week, this is the fourth instalment in my "Brewing Vintage Beers" series. In this post I'm going to cover some of the methods that homebrewers can use to ferment beers that push - or even exceed - the rated alcohol tolerances of the yeasts being used. Experienced brewers will likely see nothing new here, but I've tried to include a bit of the science behind what the different methods do, so that my readers have a better idea of why these things work and are often necessary.

There are a number of things you can do to get full attenuation when brewing high-gravity ales, namely:
  1. Yeast selection
  2. Pitch rates
  3. Late/repeated oxygenation
  4. Late sugar additions
  5. Late yeast additions
  6. Managing the fermentation
  7. What if the batch doesn't ferment completely?
Details below the fold

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Brewing long-aging beers - some guidelines.

A few months ago I announced my intention to start a short blog series on long-aging beer, in a post where I outlined a couple of my more recent vintage brews. This was followed by a review of THE book any brewer serious about brewing vintage beers (or collecting commercial vintage beers) must have in their library, In this, the third post in this series I will go over some of the rules for designing, brewing and aging these beers.

The ideas in this post are largely my own, but as I mentioned in the aforementioned book review, the reading of Patrick Dawson's "Vintage Beer" was key to crystallizing these ideas in my mind, so I'd like to encourage my readers once again to buy this amazing book.

This is going to be a long post, so the details can be found below the fold.

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Year in Review

Its officially 2015, so happy brew-year everyone! I thought I'd use my first post in 2015 to look back at 2014...

The good...
Lots of good things happened this year. My wild yeast collection activities and yeast identification methods are up and running smoothly. I had a number of rather successful brews this year - most of which I posted here. Both my blog and youtube channel are getting a lot more hits - 75,000 and 10,000 hits respectively last year.

The bad..
2014 was not as busy a year for me as 2013. A rather pathetic 15 batches were brewed this year - 18 if you count the wine kits I did along the way, 16 (or 13 if you discount the wine) if you subtract the two infected brews I had this year. My blogging was also down - 11 fewer than 2013. Hopefully we can pick up both those numbers this year.

The ugly...
As mentioned in "the bad", I had my first (non-deliberately) infected beers this year in over a decade. That sucked...and it hurt even more as the infection was something I brought home from work with me. In addition, for the first year since 2008, I failed to hit the 400 liters of brewed goodness mark (roughly equivalent to 100 US gallons).

Some quick stats:

My Favourite Beer Blogs of 2014:
         In no particular order...
Here's hoping that 2015 exceeds 2014 in every way - in my brewing & in yours.