White Beer Brewing Session

There are a few styles that I really want to brew right. Witbier is one that I have brew a few times and I have not been satisfied with any of my efforts.

Last Saturday, I gave it a try again. I bought a kit from Northern Brewer because it was there and it was an easy click to put in my online shopping cart. Unfortunately, I bought the wrong yeast so I had the awesome idea of cultivating yeast from commercial beers.

I bought three different versions of witbiers and made starters with the dregs of each. 2 of the 3 showed some activity so I used those two in my beer.

The kit itself had simple instructions. They were definitely written for the experienced homebrewer.
I am guessing since the recipe had oats in it, the mash included a protein rest. I had never done one before but I went ahead and held the mash at 122°F for 20 minutes before the 60 minutes at 152°F. No big deal.

More coriander and orange peel in this beer too. I write “more” because the saison kit I brewed had those ingredients in it too.

To keep the white beer cloudier for longer, I added a cup of wheat flour in the boil with fifteen minutes to go. I read this tip in a few different places so I felt it would help me get the look I want. In the past, my witbiers have cleared up way too quickly and it has affected my scores in competitions. We’ll see how that works out.

The big thing about white beers is keeping the fermentation temperatures cool so the funky flavors of the yeast don’t get too funky. Since it is still summer and the air temps are still warm in the house and outside, I put my fermentor in a water bath. This version of a swamp cooler should keep my carboy’s temperature in the 60 to 70°F. The cold water coming out of the tap is around 56°F so the vessel is well insulated here.

White Beer In A Swamp Cooler

I have some high hopes for this brew. If I can get that smooth, refreshing taste that I like so much in the commercial versions. Maybe some cultivated yeast is the way to go.

BIAB Series Update

What do I have going on?

We have a preview of the Brewing in a Bag series.  The first of the experiments is ready to bottle and will be ready to drink and talk about in a couple of weeks.

These Brew Dudes took some video of the brew session and we plan to fuse it with some of our thoughts on the process with one of our future “in studio” tapings.

The new challenge for me is figuring out how much priming sugar to use for a 1 gallon brew.  I have to get my calculators out (yes multiple) and figure out how much I need.  I was thinking of getting a measurement by weight of what I need for a 5 gallon batch in grams and then figuring out a fifth of that for the one gallon batch.

Two 1 gallon beers to bottle over the next few nights.  Love it.  Thankfully, I don’t need that many bottles.  Here a looky look at what the first gallon beer looks like:

White or Red Wheat One Gallon Batch

It’s the wheat experiment so if you’re interested in how the different wheats taste, well, we will have our opinions ready soon.

Mike is convinced that he has only used red wheat in his recipes throughout his brewing career. I am sure I have only used white wheat. That statement is apropos of nothing really, but it is interesting that we think we have only used one variety of wheat malt in our years of homebrewing.

More BIAB stuff will be coming. Outside of just our follow up notes on this experiment, I have three hop experiments to run. Now that I have the start of this test out of the way, I feel comfortable with the whole brewing in a bag process so the other experiments should be find.

That reminds me, if you are a reader of the Homebrew Talk blog, you can read about an experiment I conducted harvesting commercial yeasts for homebrewing.

Lawnmower de Saison Kit Brew Day

Summer brewing has begun and although it has taken until the end of July to kick it off, the brew day went smoothly so any fear of being rusty were unfounded.

To help me ease back into it, I bought a kit from Midwest Supplies. We did a review of one last year and the beer I brewed from it won an award in competition.

The kit was shipped to me unmilled and all the grains came mixed together in one big bag. The trade off of not being able to know for sure the measurements for each of the grains was the ease in which one bag’s contents can be poured into the top of the mill’s hopper.

I had a hankering for a saison but I didn’t feel like thinking about putting an ingredient list together. Buying the kit saved me time in that respect and shopping online. I clicked on one button and the whole thing was in my cart.

The recipe had 3 different grains, 3 hop additions, and some special ingredients like bitter orange peel, grains of paradise, whole coriander, and Belgium candi sugar.

I almost didn’t add the spices, but then I decided I was all in on the recipe. I thought to myself that if I was going to brew it, I might as well brew it as it was intended.

The only variation was the yeast choice. I went with the dry strain (Lallemand Belle Saison) since Mike had luck with it last year, which I don’t think was one of the choices when I bought the kit. With two packets and proofing it as instructed on the packet, I felt like I had a good plan for the fermentation.

The yeast took off pretty quickly. I started seeing signs of fermentation after just 3 hours after I pitched.

The only thing that didn’t measure up was the starting gravity. The beer is supposed to be a lawnmower version of a saison but my gravity reading was at 1.060 when I racked the wort to the Better Bottle. I thought the kit’s target range was 1.052-1.055, but I looked online and it tops out at 1.059. Meh, I think it will be ok.

Saison Kit Brew Day

Brew On!

Wedding Mead Bentonite Results

I think the heading of this post should have a question mark at the end of it, or maybe have the word results in quotation marks.

What would you think if you had experimented with a certain clarifying agent and had had dramatic results as a conclusion of that experiment but when you followed the same procedure again, you were underwhelmed with the outcome?

If you’re like me, you keep on trucking.  That’s all you can do.  The other thing about being me is that you have to blog about it.

So I had scheduled a week for the clarification process.  I added the bentonite to the secondary vessels and waited 7 days for the clay to do its thing.

After a week, I didn’t see much difference.  Take a look at this photo album of the mead depicting different periods of time during the bentonite process.

At the far left, the mead was put in the fridge to chill down before the bentonite was added.  The middle picture shows you what it looked like a week later.  If you look really closely, maybe it looks clearer?  The color is a little different but it still has a haze to it.  The photo to the far right is the mead after a racking and the oak spirals floating at the top.  You can see that the third vessel is a better bottle.  The volume of mead has been reduced a bit.  I probably left around a half gallon in the second vessel along with the yeast and the clay.

The mead now gets to sit and condition with oak for six weeks.  I am confident that during that time, the mead will clear up even more and will be looking beautiful by the bottling day.  We’re planning to bottle it on Saturday, August 30th and that is plenty of time for the rest of the haze causing particles to settle out.

I guess my biggest disappointment was the lack of a tremendous, overwhelming reveal after the bentonite phase.  Boo Hoo.

It’s clearer – you just aren’t blown away by it.  At least I am not.

Mead On.

BIAB Series – SMaSH Beers for Hops Learnings

Keeping up with plans for the Brew In A Bag series (BIAB), here is the rundown of the single malt and single hop (SMaSH) experiments that I have planned for the summer.

There has been one idea in the works for a few months but with the BIAB series, we need to add a few more varieties to the mix to lengthen the series and add to the fun.

The hops that will be a part of the series are as follows:

The Mosaic hops have their own SMaSH recipe so they will be the first ones to be brewed. The Equinox hops have been purchased and will probably follow the procedure as the Mosaic recipe. El Dorado hops need to be purchased, which should be done soon.

As I look over the SMaSH recipe for the Mosaic hops, it was built for 5 gallons. The leading thought for the BIAB series was brew small batches. I think these experiments would be good for 2 gallon boils/1 gallon beers. That way, we could brew them all on the same day, ferment them during the same time periods, and taste them for the same video in a few months. That would be pretty cool.

I will have to take out the calculator and figure out how to reduce the recipe from 5 gallons to 1. After I am done, I should put up an update – probably for the brew day post. The session could be worthy of an event.

Maybe we can set these brews for a homebrewing club meeting?

All of these hops are pretty new and are fairly hyped. To brew them all in the series would be a great way to really know from my own perspective how all of these hops taste.

The Red Wheat vs. White Wheat experiment is first in the series but soon after will be the brews for hops learnings.

Brew on.