Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Imperialized Autumn Maple

There’s something to be a said about commercial pumpkin beers…a high percentage of the time, they’re complete garbage.  I absolutely love fall, I love pumpkins, and I of course love beer, but when the three are married together, more often than not, the  harmony that was meant to be is nowhere to be found and what remains can only be described as a sad excuse for ingenuity.  Not a lot of character comes from the pumpkin itself and most of the time I find that brewers try to overcompensate for this by adding too many spices or leaving the beer too sweet with a one-dimensional flavor. 

Although not brewed with actual pumpkin, the Bruery’s Autumn Maple breaks this mold and finds a balance between the actual yam essence, the warming alcohol, and the broad range of spices and phenolic flavors.  Even though it doesn’t blow your hair back at first sip, the yam flavor is present and the spices are subtle enough to plant that seed of fall in your head without making you feel like you’re choking on grandma’s pumpkin pie.  In my mind, it’s a great harvest offering and having never brewed a pumpkin beer myself, I thought it best to start out by trying to emulate one that I actually respect. 

According to an interview with The Brewing Network back in November of ’08, founder Patrick Rue stated that Autumn Maple is mashed with a full 17lbs of yams per barrel, has a grain bill comprised of 2-row, munich, and caramunich, and is spiced and flavored with the following: a 1 lb mix cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg per 15 barrels, 1 pound Tahitian vanilla bean per 15 barrels, as well as molasses and maple syrup.  

Without knowing either the original or final gravity of the beer, we played around with the grain bill until we arrived at a grist that, at an estimated 75% efficiency and attenuation rate, would give us a 10% ABV beer.  To keep it authentic, we cultured up the Bruery’s house Belgian yeast from one of their lower alcohol beers, Orchard White, and pitched a decanted 4 ½ ltr starter into the primary.  Amazingly, the yeast strain turned out to be extremely attenuative and transformed our 1.100 wort into a 1.001 gravity beer.  At just a touch over 13% alcohol, the beer still retains a surprising amount of body, has a mild yam flavor and just the right amount of spices. 

Imperial Autumn Maple

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.5
Anticipated OG: 1.099
Anticipated SRM: 19
Anticipated IBU: 25.8
Wort Boil Time: 150 Minutes
Anticipated ABV: 10.0%
Actual ABV: 13.2%

50 ½ % - 9.00 lbs domestic 2-Row
22.5% - 4.00 lbs Munich Malt
28.5% - 3.3 lbs Cooked Yams
3.5% - 10 oz. Maple Syrup
2.8% - ½ lb Caramunich
2.1% - 2 oz. Dark Molasses

40 grams Liberty (pellets, 4.5% AA) @ 60 minutes
1 ½ grams Allspice, freshly ground @ 2 minutes
¾ gram Cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces @ 2 minutes
¾ gram Nutmeg, freshly grated @ 2 minutes
1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean, split and seeded @ 2 minutes

Bruery house strain – cultured from a bottle of Orchard White

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle water
1.2 grams per gallon Calcium Chloride added to the mash and sparge

Mash Schedule
60 minutes @ 151
15 minutes @ 168
Sparge with 172 degree H2O

Brewed on 10/25/2009 with Blake and Paul

10/15/2009 – Harvested the dregs from a bottle of Orchard White and mixed with 10ml of 1.035 worth.  Once fermentation started, I added another 20ml and then 24 hours later, another 50ml.  24 hours after that, I stepped it up to 250 ml, then 1000ml, then 2000ml, and then 4000ml all with about 24 hours in between each step.

10/25/2009 – Placed about 2.5 lbs of washed yams on my BBQ and 2.5 lbs in  350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Once both sets were cooked through, we smashed them in bowl, skins and all, and then added 3.3 lbs of the yams, along with the grain, into the mash tun.

Mashed at 151 for 60 minutes and then raised the temp to 168 for a mash out.

The mash and sparge wasn’t as efficient as we hoped, so after collecting 6 gallons in one kettle, we started collecting in another to allow for faster evaporation when boiling.  Later the two were combined before the hop addition.

Hops at 60 minutes.

Molasses was added at 20 minutes.

Whirlflock and yeast nutrient added at 15 minutes.

Spices were added at 2 minutes:  Although we knew what spices the Bruery used, we didn’t know the exact ratio.   To come up with our own, we freshly ground each spice, tasted, and then weighted according to our preferences.  We decided to forgo the ginger knowing how it can be such an overwhelming flavor and ended up with about 2 parts allspice, 1 part cinnamon, and 1 part nutmeg (3 grams in total).  We also added one whole Tahitian vanilla bean which we split and seeded.

After a total of 150 minutes boil time, wort was chilled to 67 and aerated with an oxygen air stone for 60 seconds.

Primary fermentation took place at 68 degrees.

11/8/09 - Racked to secondary and onto 10 oz. of grade B maple syrup.  Beer was moved up to my office, which has an average temp of about 70 degrees.

1/25/10 – Split beer into two kegs for maturation: half straight, half with a bourbon soaked oak stave that weighed about an ounce dry.

4/12/2010 – Kegged and carbonated.

11/17/2011 - Tasting and review.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lambic II

For a long time now highly acidic, sour beers have held my interest, but when it came down to brewing a beer that’s ready to drink in a few weeks versus a few years, I always opted for the former.  The justification to spend a day brewing a batch that won't fully develop for a few years escaped me, but I’ve decided to become friends with patience and a plan is now in place.

A few weeks back, we bit the bullet and brewed our first traditional lambic employing a turbid mash.  With most commercial lambic producers blending barrels to arrive at their intended outcome, we decided to mimic that approach and instead of just brewing one batch, we brewed two successively.   

Pellicle at 4 months
The second batch occurred two weeks after the first, and all along we planned to pitch the second onto the first’s yeast cake.  Traditionally lambics are never racked off the autolysed yeast so that the brettanomyces have a food source once they run out of sugar, but, since many of the lactic acid producing bacteria grow exponentially during the initial stages of fermentation, we wanted to use the yeast cake to produce a more acidic batch than the first.  After the second batch completed primary fermentation, we racked it into a secondary carboy and half of the yeast cake was added back to it and half back to the first batch.   

Although it’ll be many, many months before these batches are ready, hopefully when they are we’ll be able to blend the two to create a lambic that’s to our liking.  As it stands right now, we’re also planning on repeating this dual-brew process every six to twelve months so that not only can we blend a less acidic lambic with a more acidic version, but also be able to blend vintages to create the perfect gueuze.  

 Lambic - Turbid Mash

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.15
Anticipated OG: 1.044
Anticipated SRM: 4.1
Anticipated IBU: 19.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 82 %
Wort Boil Time: 150 Minutes
Anticipated ABV: 5.4%

62.8% - 6.00 lbs German Pilsner
37.2% - 3.75 lbs Raw, White Wheat

80 grams Willamette (Whole, 3 yr aged, 1.5% AA) @ 150 minutes

Lambic Batch 1 Yeast Cake (Wyeast 3787 plus Sour Starter)

Water Profile & Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle water
Added to boil (forgot to add in the Mash):
1.0 grams per gallon Calcium Chloride
0.2 grams per gallon Gypsom
0.24 grams per gallon Epsom Salt
0.1 grams per gallon Sodium Chloride

Mash Schedule
 Turbid Mash – See Traditional Lambic I post

Brewed 8/28/2010 - with Blake

Collected 5 gallons of 1.053 wort.  Topped off with 3.5 gallons of water and conducted a 2.5 hour long boil.  Ended with 6 gallons of 1.044 wort.

Hops added at 150 minutes in a hop bag.

Chilled to 68 and then pitched directly onto yeast cake from lambic batch 1 (which had been transferred off about 10 minutes before hand).  Fermented at 68 degrees.

9/4/2010 – Racked to secondary.  Half of yeast cake was added back and the other half was added to batch 1.  Moved down to basement.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lambic 1 - Turbid Mash

With the multitude of different microorganisms present in the fermentation, lambic brewers typically tailor their wort composition to provide food for the various critters over the multi-year fermentation.  There’s arguably no set “perfect” regiment, and each brewer’s mash schedule tends to be slightly different due to economic and equipment constraints.  Using the system that we built as it was designed to perform, we decided that a modified turbid mash would give us the best shot at producing a traditional lambic.

 The basic premise of a turbid mash is to minimize the nutrients available to the organisms typically active early on in the ferment and to maximize those that feed  and grow during the latter part of the multi-year cycle.  To accomplish this, a multi-step mash is performed where early on, a significant portion of mash liquor, rich in ungelatinized starches, is removed from the mash and held at a temp near boiling to effectively denature the enzymes.  This liquor is eventually reintroduced to the main mash after it has  been run through its various conversion rests, resulting in a final wort low in protein and high in long-chain dextrins and starches.  

Here’s how we accomplished this:

Starch rich liquid pulled from the mash, 180 degrees.
  1. We started off placing the entire grist into our boil kettle (7lbs German Pils and 4.15 lbs raw, soft white wheat).  
  2.  To the grist, we added 3.35 qts of 141 degree water to arrive at a dough-in temp of 113 degrees.  We normally dough in right to the mash tun, but with such a low water to grain ratio, it was important to make sure that all the grain was mixed thoroughly and we were afraid that the dip tube and false bottom in the mash tun would make this difficult.
  3. After the grain was thoroughly wet, we transferred it to our recirculating mash tun.  The system requires about 2 quarts of liquid before recirculation can occur, so in total now, there were about 5.35 qts in the mash.  The grain initially absorbed just about all of the 3.35 qts and so without this additional 2 in the mash tun, circulation would be non-existent.
  4. After letting the mash rest for about 20 minutes, we added 5 qts of 212 degree water to bring the temp up to 136 degrees.  A few minutes before this addition, we cut the recirculation pump and increased the temperature of our hot liquor tank to 136 so that once we made the water addition and restarted the pump, the temperatures would be in equilibrium (We continued to use this same process for the rest of the temperature increases).
  5. 5 minutes later we collected 2 qts of the extremely starchy mash liquor from the recirculation output tube and held this on a stove at a temperature of about 180 degrees.  This effectively denatured the enzymatic activity in the liquid.  The rest of the mash rested for about 20 minutes.
  6. Next, we added about 6 qts of 212 degree water to bring the temp up to 150 degrees where it rested for 40 minutes.
  7. For the second pull, we collected 4 qts of the mash liquor and added it to the previous pull.  We also increased the temp of this collective wort to about 209 degrees.
  8. Immediately after the second pull, we added 6 qts of boiling water to bring the mash temp up to 162.  Rest time, 10 minutes.
  9.  Next we added back all of the 209 degree pulled wort which brought the total mash temp up to 168 degrees.
  10. After a 10 minute rest, we started the sparge with 190 degree water.  This temp is normally too high for a regular sparge, but knowing that the leached tannins will break down over the long fermentation, the higher temp was beneficial in helping extract out any remaining sugars and unconverted starches from the grain.
With a turbid mash, since a significant portion of the enzymatic rich liquid is removed and denatured early on, mash efficiencies are typically really low.  Long, high volume sparges are common place in order to extract out all of the available sugars.  We were expecting this to be the case, but after an hour and fifteen minutes with about 6 gallons collected in the kettle, we decided to take our first gravity reading….1.056!  We were shooting for a gravity of 1.044 at 5 ½ gallons and since apparently we didn’t account for the recirculation factor, we ended up with a significantly higher efficiency than we were expecting ( ~82%).

Sour Starter
Although a long boil to concentrate the wort down to our intended original gravity was not necessary anymore, we still wanted to conduct a fairly long boil.  With such a large portion of raw wheat, the long boil helps to coagulate the proteins and also precipitate out a lot of the tannins from the hot sparge.  Although we didn’t age them ourselves, I recently purchased some 3-yr old Willamette hops from FresHops that we added at the beginning of the 2 ½ hr boil.  This long boil also helps to “extract as many of the antibacterial humulones, hulupones, and preserving polyphenols as possible” (Sparrows,  Wild Brews).

After chilling the wort down 67 degrees, we pitched about a ¼ of a packet of Wyeast  3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast.  Over the previous few weeks, I had been collecting the dregs of numerous commercial sour beers (Isabelle Proximus, Vagabond and Gargamel, Deviation, Giardin Gueuze, etc)  in a small starter consisting of a low gravity commercial wheat ale, a small amount of fresh wort, and some large oak cubes.  The idea was that the various microorganisms would inhabit the wood of which I could then use to inoculate future pre-wild worts.  Since the starter was still relatively fresh, I added about a half cup of the liquid and dregs directly to our carboy at the same time as the 3787. 

 Lambic - Turbid Mash

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.15
Anticipated OG: 1.044
Anticipated SRM: 4.1
Anticipated IBU: 19.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 82 %
Wort Boil Time: 150 Minutes
Anticipated ABV: 5.4%

62.8% - 7.00 lbs German Pilsner
37.2% - 4.15 lbs Raw, White Wheat

80 grams Willamette (Whole, 3 yr aged, 1.5% AA) @ 150 minutes

Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity (1/4 packet)
Sour dregs starter (Isabelle, Gargamel, Vagabond, Deviation, Giardin Gueze, etc - 1/2 cp)

Water Profile & Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle water
Added to boil (forgot to add in the Mash):
1.0 grams per gallon Calcium Chloride
0.2 grams per gallon Gypsom
0.24 grams per gallon Epsom Salt
0.1 grams per gallon Sodium Chloride

Mash Schedule
 Turbid Mash - see above

Brewed 8/14/2010 - with Blake

Raw, soft white wheat was purchased at Wholefoods.

Collected 6 gallons of 1.056 wort.  Removed about 0.9 gallons and then topped up with 2 1/2 gallons of water (after a 150 minute boil, we should be left with 6 gallons of 1.044 wort).

Boiled for 150 minutes with hops added at 150 minutes in a hop bag.

Chilled to 67 degrees and then added wyeast and commercial dreg slurry. Fermented at 68 degrees for 14 days.

8/28/2010 - Racked to secondary.  Traditionally we wouldn't do this as the decomposing yeast acts as food for some of the microorganisms during the long ferment, but we wanted to use the yeast cake for Lambic Batch 2.

9/11/2010 - Racked lambic batch 2 off of yeast cake and into secondary.  The yeast cake was then split into two and half was added back to Lambic batch 1 and half to Lambic batch 2 for the remainder of the long fermentation.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Primer In Brewing

At an extremely high level, brewing is the process of creating a sugary liquid, balanced for flavor and bitterness, that will eventually be converted into alcohol via fermentation.

Let’s start with creating the sugary liquid.

In order to get this sugary liquid, you need a starch source.  The main starch ingredient in most beers is malted barley.  During the malting process, the grain is submerged in water to begin germination, but before it’s complete, the grain is quickly air dried.  In doing this, enzymes develop on the grains that become the key component for us in converting the starches to sugar (the malting process happens way before we buy the grain).

Once we receive the grain, we make a blend of various types (which we call the grain bill) and run it through a mill so that the husk is broken up and the interior starches are more accessible.  From there, we submerge the grains in warm water for various lengths of time so that the enzymes can go to work and convert the starches to sugar.  This is called the Mash.  Different enzymes on the grain are activated at different temperatures, but the main conversion rest occurs between 140-160 degrees F.  Depending on how well the grains are malted and modified, this conversion takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.  

After the conversion, we collect the sugary liquid, which we call wort, through a process known as lautering.  During the mash, the grains and water are inside the “mash tun” and resting on a perforated steel sheet called the false bottom.  This sheet allows the liquid to drain out while leaving the grains behind.  The liquid is drained into our boil kettle, but given the amount of grain inside the mash tun, there’s still residual sugar that we can collect by rinsing the grain with hot water (typically about 170 degrees F).  This is called sparging.  

When all the grains are rinsed and the wort is collected inside the boil kettle, it’s time to boil.  By boiling the liquid, not only do we sterilize the wort, but we also drive off a number of components that potentially could cause off flavors in the beer later.  At various points during the boil, we also add our hops which, depending on when they’re added, impart bitteness, flavor, and/or aroma characteristics.   Depending on the grains that we use and our intentions of the beer, we typically boil anywhere from 60 minutes to 2 hours.

After the boil, the wort has to be brought down to fermentation temperatures before any yeast can be added.  There are numerous ways in which this can be achieved, but most involve using cold water or glycol which run through pipes or plates that are in contact with the hot wort.  The energy is then transferred from the hot wort to the cold liquid until an equilibrium or desired wort temp is reached.

Once the wort has been brought down to fermentation temperature, it’s transferred into a fermentation vessel and oxygenated.  Without getting too detailed, the oxygen basically acts as a nutrient for the yeast and improves their heath before the fermentation begins.  After oxygenation, the correct amount of yeast is added, or “pitched”,  to the wort.  

During fermentation, the yeast multiply and then consume the sugar to produce alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various flavor components (esters, phenolics, etc.) as bi-products.  Since the flavor developments are highly dependent on the fermentation temperature, the fermentation needs to take place in a temperature controlled environment.

Typically after fermentation completes, which can be anywhere from 4 days to a few months depending on the type of beer, it goes through a conditioning phase.  The beer is typically cooled to around freezing temps which causes the settling of yeast and the coagulation of proteins, both of which add to the clarity of the beer.  Because certain flavor compounds are not soluble at cold temperatures, this conditioning phase also helps to create a cleaner tasting and smoother beer. 

Once the conditioning phase is complete, the beer is ready for carbonation and packaging.  Carbonation occurs one of two ways…either forced or naturally.  With forced carbonation, the beer is placed into some vessel which can withstand high pressures (like a keg) and C02 is pumped in.  The pressure in the vessel causes the C02 to go into solution thereby carbonating the beer.  From here, it can either be dispensed directly from the keg or transferred under pressure into bottles.   In natural carbonation, CO2 is still absorbed into solution due to pressure, but it comes from a different source.  Yeast typically consume all of the available sugars during primary fermentation, but if you add a small amount back into the beer, the living yeast will go to work on it causing another fermentation.  Right after the sugar has been added, the beer is placed into a sealed vessel (either bottles or a keg) and the yeast start eating the sugar.  As a by-product, they also produce C02 which should build up to enough pressure inside the vessel to force it into solution and thereby carbonating the beer.

Back to The Brewery page.


When conducting the mash, it’s common to conduct different rests at various temperatures so that you can tailor the outcome of the wort  (fermentability, flavor, body, head retention, etc).   Brewers have many options do to this, with the most rudimentary likely being adding calculated quantities of hot water to the mash to raise it to the desired rest temp.  There are more complicated methods however.  

In designing our system, we weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each, and with a goal of semi-automation and repeatability, a Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System seemed like the best option for us.

With any recirculating brewing system, wort drains from the bottom of the mash tun, into a pump, which then pushes the wort back on top of the mash.  In many systems, some form of heat is supplied to the wort while in transit from the pump to the top of the mash in order to ensure constant temperature rests.  How this heat is applied depends on the type of system that you’re using.

In a HERMS system, once the wort exits the mash tun and pump, it passes through a heat exchanger which typically resides inside the Hot Liquor Tank (typically copper pipe).  As the wort goes through the exchanger, energy is transferred from one to the other and by the time it enters back into the mash tun, the wort should be the same temperature as the water surrounding the exchanger in the hot liquor tank.  

In order to maintain the proper temperature, a sensor is placed inline right as the wort exits the hot liquor tank and enters the mash tun.  Using a control panel, if the exiting wort falls below the desired set point, the control box can turn on whatever heat source is used to increase the temperature of the water in the hot liquor tank, thereby increasing the temperature of the wort in the heat exchanger itself.  If the brewer wants to conduct a rest at 122 degrees and then increase the temperature to 148, all that has to be done is change the temperature setting on the control panel and the system will regulate itself.

Advantages of using a HERMS system: 
  • Precise temperature control
  •   Repeatability – with the precise temp control, you’re ensured that you’re conducting the same mash over and over (at least from a temperature standpoint)
  •  Complex Mash Schedules are simple to conduct
  •  With constant recirculation, you end up with much clearer wort in the boil kettle and greater overall mash efficiency
  • Efficient – Your heated sparge water in the hot liquor tank is used to maintain mash temps
  • Impossible to scorch your grain or wort
  • Ability to raise your mash temps without increasing the water to grain ratio
Disadvantages of using a HERMS system:  
  • Costly and complicated to build (comparatively)
  • Compared to infusion mashing, step temperature changes may take longer to reach/equalize
  • More parts to maintain and clean
Back to The Brewery page.

The Frame

Back when we were designing our system, we were plagued with decisions on where to allocate our money.  We were upgrading from a relatively simple extract system consisting of a turkey burner and pot and the thought of shelling out over a $1000 for a new system was hard to stomach.  In the end though, although there are one or two things that I might have done differently, I think we made wise decisions and I’m very happy with the choices we made.

At one point, we were considering recycling some old bed frame bars and piecing together the frame on the cheap, but I’m glad that we abandoned that idea relatively quickly and decided to with an all-steel frame.  We designed it using 1.5” standard steel square tubing with dimensions tailored to our burner and kettle widths.  We were fortunate enough to have our friend’s dad offer to weld it together for us, and being a welder by trade, the quality is great and it turned out better than we hoped for.

Before and after rust removal and clear coat
Since we decided to save a few dollars by going with regular steel instead of stainless, the welds and tubes were quick to gather rust.

We expected this to be a problem, but after grinding down the rust and coating the whole thing in 1200 degree silicone clear coat, hopefully it won’t be too big of an issue down the road.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Burners and Pilot System

The brewing process for us starts here at the Mast Tun burner (or at least my explanation of it does). It's a 185K BTU propane burner with a windscreen and height adjustable bracket. We only use this to heat the water in the Mast Tun right before we add grains to it.


Since the hot liquor tank is used as our heat exchanger, we need a powerful burner to quickly raise the temperature of the liquid inside (and subsequently the liquid that flows through it).  To handle this heavy task, we chose a 220K+ BTU propane burner.

Here you can see part of the bracket that we had to make.  Like the one under the MT, it also has an adjustable height.


Here's a shot from underneath that details what's holding it in place. The cast iron burner alone easily weighs 10+ lbs.

Before the big burner can light though, the pilot light has to be on. We have a small, constantly flowing line of gas to this pilot, but as a safety mechanism, we decided to monitor the temp at this location.   Just to the right of the pilot assembly, you can see the thermocouple.   If the temperature switch on our control panel registers that the temperature here is below our set point (300 degrees), it’ll prevent power from reaching the solenoid valve (which supplies the propane to this burner).  In the end, this prevents propane from being pumped out of the big burner if, for some reason, our pilot light goes out.
Here you can see the small flame from the constantly running pilot light.

The Kettles and Recirculation

Although our volume limiting factor with our setup is our Boil Kettle, we wanted a larger Mash Tun and Hot Liquor Tank to allow for future growth.  We decided to purchase some used kegs and convert them into the necessary vessels.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know anyone who could weld stainless, so we resorted to taking them to a local fabrication shop to chop open the tops and weld on some valves and nipples.  

On both the Mash Tun and Hot Liquor Tank, we built sight gauges so that we can tell how much liquid is inside. The glass tube in the middle is surrounded by what was the dip tube of the original keg before we converted it. It's solid and it prevents the glass from accidentally getting bumped and broken.


Inside the MT, the grains sit on top of the perforated stainless steel sheet.  It's slightly elevated off the bottom of the keg and this allows the liquid to flow through the grains. The copper tube coming out of the wall extends below the false bottom and allows the liquid to drain out of the MT without it getting clogged by the grains.


As the liquid flows through the grains and out of the MT, it drains into this March pump which pushes it back up into the Hot Liquor Tank and through the heat exchanger.  The great thing about March pumps is that they’re able to withstand boiling temperatures and using the ball valve above it, we can scale back the flow without damaging it.

Here’s our Hot Liquor Tank.  It’s constructed similarly to the mash tun except in the upper right you can see some copper tubing (heat exchanger) coming out of it. During the mash, this is where the wort enters.


During brewing, the hot liquor tank is filled with hot water and as the wort from the mash tun flows through the heat exchanger, the surrounding water will regulate its temperature. If it drops below the temperature set point, the burner underneath the hot liquor tank kicks on and increases the temp until the controller tells it to turn off.

Our volume limiting factor…the boil kettle.  This is the vessel that we were using back in the extract days.  It’s a great kettle, but at only 10 gallons, we’re pretty much limited to doing 8 or 9 gallon full boils.

The Gas Manifold

On the back of our system, we built a pretty ugly gas manifold.  Right before each burner, we’ve installed shut off valves as well as needle valves to fine tune the burners.


In this picture, you can see our green Asco electric solenoid valve. It's normally closed so unless it gets the signal from the control panel, gas cannot flow to the big burner directly above it. Just below and to the right of it, you can see the brass needle valve and aluminum tubing. This is for our pilot light and the strength of the flame can be adjusted using this needle valve.

The Control Panel and Sensors

At the heart of the control panel are two Love Controller temperature switches.  The controller on the left hand side monitors the thermocouple in the pilot light and should the temperature drop below the set  point (indicating that pilot light has gone out), power will be prevented from activating the switch on the second controller.

Sensor between Heat Exchanger output and Mash Tun return

The second controller is where we set the mash temp (indirectly via the hot liquor tank and heat exchanger).  The temperature input is monitored via a thermistor at the output of the hot liquor tank and if the registered temperature is below the set point, the controller sends power to the Asco valve on the gas line.  This opens up the valve and allows gas to flow through to the burner under the hot liquor tank. 

Other buttons and toggles:
Upper Lefthand Corner:  Primary power
Two black switches in the center: Primary power to each temperature controller
Two red switches in the center: Power overthrow.  In the event that we still want our temperature controllers to remain on but not actually send power to the other controller or the asco valve, we can flip these switches to prevent that from happening.
Bottom Left Switch: Turns on pump

Bottom Right Switch and Dial: Power and speed control for the hot liquor tank stirrer.

Back to The Brewery page.

Fermentation Control

Although we’ve made significant advancements in recipe design and brewing practices since the first time we brewed, some of the largest improvements have come from fermentation control.  Whereas before we would ferment at ambient temp with rudimentary devices to prevent the wort from overheating (water baths, wet rags draped over the carboy, etc), nothing compares to the dialed in control that we’ve achieved with a dedicated fermentation chamber.

After purchasing this fridge off of Craigslist for 40 bucks or so, we cleaned it, gutted it, and installed our heating element.  Rather than going with a conventional heater, we used the uneven floor space to install a series of light bulbs with a fan to recirculate the air. Air is pulled in from the port on the right, flows over the light bulbs, and then out through the fan port on the left. It was cheap, and it works extremely well.  

All of this is controlled by an external control panel consisting again of two Love Control temperature switches.  By having control of both heating and cooling, we can ferment at the exact temp we want regardless of the time of year (since this chamber is in my non-temperature controlled garage).  

Yeast Propagation Tools

To help grow viable yeast before pitching, I built a stir plate. The first model I made turned out to be underpowered and so with this one, I went with a larger motor and clear acrylic so that I could spot what was going on if there was a problem.


The dial on the right allows us to adjust the motor so we get the perfect speed depending on yeast starter size.

Although this is just water, the stir plate allows more oxygen into the yeast starter. This, combined with the fact that it also keeps the yeast in suspension, helps to grow larger and healthier quantities of yeast which in the end help to produce a better fermentation.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Peach Cobbler Ale

One of my favorite things about summer is the amazing fruit that you can find at the local farmers markets.  A few months back, at the height of August, peaches were overflowing in every size, shape, and variety.  They're one of my favorite fruits and with so many brewers noting the difficulties in transposing the peach flavor into beer, the challenge just seemed too irresistible.

Shorts Brewing Company, in Bellaire, MI, is known for their abstract seasonal ales and while I hadn't had a chance to try it yet, their Strawberry Short's Cake became my inspiration.  Similar to short cake, peach cobbler contains that bright, fresh fruit flavor along with an irresistible warm bready character layered with just a touch of spice.  With a little vanilla ice cream on top, that's one hell of a dessert.

For my first attempt at this, I wanted a relatively simple grain bill with a large charge of biscuit malt so that it would shine through and bring out that bready character that's essential to any cobbler.  The peaches are the real star though and so for this beer, with lack of experience aging beer on fruit, I wanted give it, what seemed to me, a relatively high dose in order to really impart the peach flavor.  After the primary fermentation was complete, I ended up racking the beer onto 9lbs of Suncrest peaches (actual weight inside the carboy) that were at the height of their ripeness.

Anytime you use fruit, you run the risk of introducing souring organisms since the fruit themselves are covered in wild yeasts.  My intentions were not to create a wild ale, and so I wanted to take every precaution that I could to minimize the risk of introducing some unwanted yeasts/bacteria. I didn't want to heat pasteurize the peaches since in doing so, you'll gelatinize the pectin resulting in cloudy beer.  Instead, I took an alternative approach that was a gamble, but in the end, paid off.  First, I scrubbed each peach down under warm water and then dried thoroughly.  Next, I floated them in a bucket of Starsan for a few minutes making sure that no parts were left unexposed.  Since I also wanted to break down the cell walls of the fruit thereby making the sugars more accessible to the yeasts, after pulling them out of the Starsan, I placed each in an individual ziplock back which I then stuck in the freezer for a few days.  When it finally came time to add the peaches, I removed each from the freezer to thaw for a few hours (while still sealed in their respective bags).  In order to get the fruit through the neck of the carboy, I was expecting to have to cut individual slices.  However, after removing the fruit from the bag and giving it a quick dunk in a new bucket of Starsan, it basically fell apart in my hands and succumbed to the funnel without so much as a wince.

Peach Fuzz

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.25
Anticipated OG: 1.059
Anticipated SRM: 8.7
Anticipated IBU: 14.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

71.0% - 8.00lbs German Pilsner
17.8% - 2.00lbs Biscuit Malt
8.9% - 1.00lb Lactose
2.2% - 0.25lb Caramunich 40

20 grams Hallertauer (Pellet, 4.1% AA) @ 90 min.

0.5 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient @ 10 min.
1 tsp Irish Moss @ 10 min.
1 whole cinnamon stick @ 5 min
1/2 Tahitian Vanilla Bean (split with scraped seeds) @ 2 min.
9lbs Suncrest Peaches (added at secondary)

Wyeast 1028 London Ale (w/ 800ml starter)

Water Profile & Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle water
Added to both mash and sparge:
0.9 grams per gallon Calcium Chloride
0.2 grams per gallon Epsom Salt
0.3 grams per gallon Baking Soda
0.25 grams per gallon Sodium Chloride

Mash Schedule
Doughed in @ 147 and instantly set HERMS to 152
Sacc Rest 60 min @ 152
Mash Out 15 min @ 168
Sparge @ 170

8/21/2010 - 800ml starter

8/22/2010 - Brewed Solo

Collected 7.10 gallons of 1.047 pre-boil wort and ended with 5.5g of 1.060 wort post boil.

Chilled down to 65 which took about 25 minutes.

Yielded about 5 gallons in the fermenter.

Hit with 45 seconds of pure O2 and then pitched the entire 800ml of starter.

Fermented at 65 degrees with a solid fermentation starting at about 8 hours.

8/29/2010 - Removed peaches from freezer and via squeezing, placed 9lbs of peach flesh into secondary carboy.  Racked over the Peach Fuzz, which at this point, was down to 1.018.

9/29/2010 - Gravity is down to 1.014 and there's plenty of solid peach flavor.  Moved carboy down to basement fridge to crash cool and cold condition for a few weeks.

10/22/2010 - Racked over to keg and force carbonated to 2.3 volumes of CO2.

10/30/2010 - Overall, much better than I was anticipating.  The aroma is amazing and although the beer itself is complex and inviting, this could be my favorite part.  There's a strange essence of warmth...maybe it's the combination of the malt, vanilla, and cinnamon, but it reminds me cookies baking in the oven. The flavor consists of bright peaches with a mild tartness from the fruit (definitely not from contamination) and although the spices add a nice complexity, they're extremely subtle.  You definitely can't pick them out.  The lactose adds a nice creaminess without making the body heavy.  If it were on nitro, it would be unbelievable.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...