What’s Brewing? November 2020 Edition

November continues my steady stream of brewing (and enjoying) beer, as I settle in to my new electric brewing rig. With temperatures cooling down, I have a little more flexibility in ale fermentations, and I can utilize space outside the fermentation chamber more readily. It’s pretty great!

Kegging a German pils

Beer Batch Updates

  • The spiced Christmas ale is now kegged and carbonated, and just conditioning a bit before it goes on tap in about a month. It clocks in at about 5.8% abv, and has a really nice flavor.
  • My Stygimoloch Bock is now kegged and lagering. The goal is to have it lager for at least a month before serving, and have it online for the Christmas holiday. As a malty, flavorful beer, I’m looking forward to enjoying it!
  • I kegged a German pils yesterday, aiming for the requisite stretch of conditioning before it goes on tap.
  • I brewed a session stout about 10 days ago, and will keg it within the next few days. It’s basically a dry Irish stout with a twist, using Vienna malt and flaked oats instead of Maris Otter and flaked barley. It has a starting gravity of 1.038, so will be truly sessionable!
  • Last weekend, I started a “classic” northwestern IPA, using Cascade, Chinook, and Centennial as the hop core. It’s a slightly modified rebrew of Wildfire IPA, which I really enjoyed the first time around.
  • I just rebrewed my Tremonia Lager, because it was so enjoyable the first time around. I’ve adapted the recipe a little bit for the methods and efficiencies of the Anvil Forge, but it’s pretty much the same beer.

What’s On Tap?

  • I’m on the home stretch of Dog Days Pilsner, which is a truly fine beer. I feel like I’ve finally mastered German pils as a style (he said modestly), and it’s probably up there as one of my very, very favorite.
  • Kveik the Keg Brown Ale is on my center tap, providing a highly drinkable session beer when I want something in the sub-4% abv range.
  • Historical(ish) Vienna Lager rounds out my tap list, and has been my go-to autumn transitional beer. I still have slightly mixed feelings about it (the hop rate is too high for my tastes), but the beer has grown on me quite a bit. Weyerman Vienna Malt is such a solid backbone for this beer!

What’s Coming Up?

  • I’m going to brew…something…this week over the Thanksgiving holiday, but I’m not sure just what. Maybe a red ale? As I type this, I’m enjoying a red ale brewed by a friend (passed along via socially distanced growler swap), and it seems like the right beer for this moment!

Other Notes

  • I’m still dialing in my mash parameters for my Anvil Foundry system as well as streamlining my work flow with it. I hit mash efficiencies in the mid-60s for my first few batches, and feel like I can notch that up just a touch. For my most recent batch, I milled just a little finer (changing the gap to 0.037″ from 0.041″). I was able to get my efficiency up to 69%, and am pretty happy with that.
  • My latest batch of Weyerman Pilsner Malt just ran out, so I am replacing that with Viking Pilsner Malt. I’ve really liked their other malts, so can’t wait to give this a try.
Posted in What's Brewing? | Tagged | 2 Comments

Historical(ish) Vienna Lager

I’ve been working my way through the excellent Vienna Lager book by Andreas Krennmair, which presents a fresh, historically grounded account of the development of this classic style. It’s a relatively short, highly readable piece of work, and of course it has some recipes in the back. Although we can’t directly reproduce historical beers–so much has changed with ingredients and procedures–we can create an approximate copy fairly readily.

My recipe is pretty similar to that presented by Krennmair, although I made some modifications for ingredients and process. The original recipe (p. 144 in his book) uses a double decoction and 90 minute boil, along with WLP820 (Oktoberfest/Marzen yeast). I converted to a batch sparge, to streamline the brew day, and also raised the mash temperature a fair bit. The original recipe claimed a final gravity of 1.018, and I really have no idea how one could reach such a high final gravity, even with the hotter decoction rests. The main mash sat around 149° in Krennmair’s version, and the math (and enzyme chemistry) don’t work out for me. So, I raised the mash temperature in my batch to target 156°.

The recipe from Krennmair has many parallels with “Nothing But Vienna” by Gordon Strong, which I brewed some time ago (as “Decoction Envy Vienna Lager“, and it turned out pretty well!). Strong’s recipe is also just Vienna malt, with Sterling instead of Saaz. I did that last batch as a decoction, but decided to be a bit lazy this time around. I’ve tried decoction mashes, and they’re fun every once in awhile, but too much bother sometimes. Batch sparge all the way for this brew!

Historical(ish) Vienna Lager

  • 11 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.5 oz. Saaz hop pellets (5.3% alpha), first wort hop, 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. W34/70 lager yeast (Saflager)

Target Parameters

  • 1.051 s.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.8% abv, 5 SRM, 28 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines, lactic acid to neutralize carbonates, adjusted to target water profile of 50 Ca, 30 Mg, 81 Na, 68 SO4, 90 Cl, 30 HCO3, 25 ppm alkalinity, 53 ppm effective hardness, -29 RA.

Procedure

  • The night before brewing, I took 9 gallons of hot tap water and added 7.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to neutralize the carbonate load.
  • On brew day, I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 166°, to aim for 156° mash temperature. I added 7 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the mash pH. I hit 157°, which was down to ~153° after 45 minutes.
  • After 50 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of water at 200°, to raise the mash temperature to 168°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I added the hops to the kettle at this point.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.042, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding 2 g of gypsum at this time. During the 60 minute boil, I added finings per the recipe.
  • Next, I chilled to ~84°, let it settle for 45 minutes, and transferred to the fermenter. I moved this into the fermentation chamber, and let it chill down to 54° before pitching the yeast. This was about 8 hours after flameout.
  • I brewed this beer on 22 August 2020. Starting gravity was 1.050, pretty darned close to my target.
  • I started fermentation at 54°, and raised the temperature to 56° on 31 August, 58° on 2 September, and hit 60° on 4 September 2020. I held at this temperature for 12 hours, before starting the trend back down. It was at 57° on 5 September, 50° on 6 September, 45° on 7 September, 40° on 8 September, and 35° on 9 September. The final step was down to 32° on 10 September, and I held it there until kegging on 27 September 2020.
  • At the time of kegging, the beer had a really nice flavor but still a fair bit of haze. I did a semi-closed transfer, straight out of the fermenter into a CO2-purged keg.
  • Final gravity was 1.015, for 4.6% abv. I lagered in the keg for about a month at 33°, before it went on tap.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, gold colored beer, with persistent white head. It looks really nice in the glass!
  • Aroma
    • Malty, fresh bread aroma, with no hop character.
  • Flavor
    • Malt forward flavor, with a bready quality to it. Bitterness is fairly strong too, maybe a little more than I would really like for this beer. There is not a lot of character to the bitterness, beyond a slight spicy quality.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, off-dry finish, with moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a pretty decent recipe, but nothing exceptional. For whatever reason, the hop level comes across as a bit more than I really care for, and is almost a bit harsh at times. I blame the gypsum addition for that. I think trying to increase the sulfate level was a bit of a mistake, even if it brought the water closer to what it “should” be for Vienna water. I feel like a yeast that accentuates malt character a bit more would be do some good here, and perhaps a slight reduction in the hop level, too, as well as a minor amount of melanoidin malt. As far as lager character, it’s clear and cleanly fermented, and the reduced oxygen transfer has paid off with a super fresh taste even after nearly two months in the keg. Minor flaws aside, this is still a pretty easy drinking beer!
  • Overall
    • 6/10
Posted in lager, tastings, Vienna Lager | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kveik the Keg Brown Ale

As the days turn towards winter, I’m in a dark [beer] mood. This is the time of year when I really like having a stout, porter, brown ale, or even an amber ale on tap to round out my beer choices.

To kick things off for the fall/winter dark beer season, I brewed up “Kveik the Keg Brown Ale.” It’s a total experiment, pulling together something that’s vaguely an American-style brown ale, with a repitch of the Hornindal kveik culture used in my recent pale ale. The idea was to make a sessionable beer holding ample malt character and a citrus highlight…something like a “chocolate orange” feel. I modified this from the Wasatch Premium Ale recipe in the Brewing Session Beers book by Jennifer Talley, because it looked like it had many of the initial features I was hoping for. For the malt base, I mixed American 2-row and light Munich malt, supplemented by a hefty dose of crystal 75, some chocolate malt, and a touch of Carafa Special III for color. For hops, I used all whole-Cascade hops. The Hornindal culture, which produces a subtle citrus character, would hopefully work alongside the Cascade. As you’ll see in the tasting notes, this was a pretty successful experiment!

Kveik the Keg Brown Ale

  • 6.25 lb. 2-row brewer’s malt (Great Western)
  • 2.5 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
  • 1 lb. crystal 75 malt (Great Western)
  • 2.6 oz. Carafa Special III malt (Weyermann)
  • 2.5 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Hornindal Kveik (Omega OYL-091), repitched from previous batch
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), dry hop in fermenter

Target Parameters

  • 1.044 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.4% abv, 18 SRM, 33 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines.

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.4 gallons of water at 166°, to hit my mash target of 156°. After 40 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of hot water (~175°), to raise the mash temperature to 164°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of hot water, to hit a ~164° mash temperature. I let this sit for 10 more minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.038, for 76% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, and added hops, nutrients, and finings per the indicated schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, chilled the wort down to 89°, and transferred it to the fermenter.
  • I brewed this beer on 19 September 2020. Starting gravity was 1.045, pretty close to my target. I pitched around 8 ounces of yeast slurry (which had been harvested a week prior), and saw signs of fermentation within 90 minutes of pitching the yeast! Within 18 hours, there was vigorous fermentation. What a solid start for this culture! I fermented this at ambient temperatures.
  • On 23 September, I added 1 oz. of dry hops directly to the fermenter.
  • I kegged the beer on 3 October 2020, adding 2.8 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup of water. The keg sat at ambient for ~10 days, before I topped up the pressure using force carbonation.
  • Final gravity was 1.017, down from 1.045, for 3.6% abv.
Kveik the Keg Brown Ale

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Very clear, deep brown beer with a persistent ivory head. It is exceptionally pretty!
  • Aroma
    • Moderate chocolate character to the malt aroma, with a slight citrus character, presumably from the yeast and hops. Very clean!
  • Flavor
    • The beer has a surprisingly rich, bready malt base (must be that Munich malt!), with a dark caramel and chocolate character behind that. Bitterness is at a moderately high level, but not over the top relative to the malt. There is definitely an orangey citrus character in play here.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate carbonation, with a fairly light body and a crisp finish. There is a very slight bit of what might be astringency on the extended finish, but it’s barely noticeable. It’s not harsh at all, but does seem a touch out of balance with the rest of the beer.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! I might make a few minor modifications, perhaps to dial the bitterness back just a touch and maybe reduce the dry hopping level or dry hopping time. I think the beer would also benefit from swapping out the 2-row base malt with a Vienna or Maris Otter-type malt, to enrich the malt character. All that said, it’s overall a pretty good beer. I really like how the kveik culture worked in this beer, and it’s pretty nice to find something for this yeast that’s not yet another oversaturated IPA. I’ll probably be brewing more beers like this down the road!
Posted in brown ale, kveik, tastings, yeast | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dog Days Pilsner

As the summer reached its peak of heat near the end of August, pilsners were always on my mind. There’s nothing more refreshing than sitting out on the patio at the end of an afternoon, with a Willi Becher of freshly poured pilsner. I find that a good pilsner with some character can also work as a fall beer…basically, a classic German pils is the year-round beer in my world!

So, during the Dog Days of Summer, I crafted this Dog Days Pilsner recipe. I kept the malt bill super simple, with pilsner malt and a touch of CaraPils to round out the mouthfeel. Although I often go for a SMaSH-type strategy for hopping, this time I wanted to build up some layers of hop character. Finally, I wanted a little more yeast character, so went with the White Labs’ Oktoberfest/Marzen recipe, instead of my usual W34/70. Those strategies paid off nicely in the end!

Dog Days Pilsner

  • 9.5 lb. Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 6 oz. Carapils malt (Weyermann)
  • 4 oz. acidulated malt (BestMalz)
  • 1 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (5.3% alpha), 20 minute boil
  • 0.55 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (3.2% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 WhirlFloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Octoberfest/Marzen lager yeast (WLP 820), in 1.75L vitality starter

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 s.g., 1.015 f.g., 4.1% abv, 3 SRM, 37 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 155°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, adjusted with lactic acid and gypsum to achieve 66 ppm Ca, 30 ppm Mg, 81 ppm Na, 107 ppm SO4, 90 ppm Cl, est. 30 ppm HCO3; alkalinity 25 ppm, effective hardness 65 ppm, RA -40 ppm

Procedure

  • The morning of my brew day, I spooled up a 1.75L vitality starter for the yeast, and ran it on my stir plate.
  • To prepare my water, I added 9 mL 88% lactic acid to 8.25 gallons of tap water along with a Campden tablet, and then 4g gypsum. This was done to knock out the carbonates and approximate a target of 66 ppm Ca, 30 ppm Mg, 81 ppm Na, 107 ppm SO4, 90 ppm Cl, est. 30 ppm HCO3; alkalinity 25 ppm, effective hardness 65 ppm, RA -40 ppm.
  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 162°. Mash temp was a bit low at 151.5°, so I added 3 quarts of water at 178°, to hit 155.5°. I added 0.75 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to lower pH to an estimated target of ~5.45.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed and then collected the first runnings. I added the remainder of the sparge water, and collected second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings at 1.043, for ~77% efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and kettle finings per the schedule. After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled down to 85° with my cooling coil. I transferred to the fermenter and cooled the rest of the way (~52°) in the fermentation chamber. This final chill took around six hours.
  • I gave the wort a 30 second blast of pure oxygen, and then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed the beer on 15 August 2020, and started fermentation at 54°.
  • I raised the temperature to 56° on 31 August, 58° on 2 September, and then 60° on 4 September. I held it at 60° for 12 hours, and then started the downward trend. It was at 57° on 5 September, 50° on 6 September, 45° on 7 September, 40° on 8 September, and 35° on 9 September. The final step was down to 32° on 10 September, and I held it there until kegging on 26 September 2020.
  • The final gravity was 1.011, down from 1.049, for 5.0% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Clear, just shy of brilliant. Light gold color, with a fine and persistent white head.
  • Aroma
    • Moderate level of malt aroma comes through, with a grainy sweet character. The hops come across amazingly, with a moderately prominent floral quality.
  • Flavor
    • Moderate grainy-sweet malt character–just gorgeous! The bitterness is moderately high, with a clean and slightly herbal character.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately light body, with a crisp and slightly dry finish and moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a really nice pilsner. The aroma and malt character are perfect. I can’t think of much I would change with this one, other than letting it lager a touch more before it goes on tap. In the last part of the keg that I’m on right now, it’s looking really nice!
    • My typical German pils recipes are on the upper end of bitterness for the style (37 IBU here, versus 40 max in the BJCP guidelines). At some point, I should probably play around with recipes at the lower end of the IBU spectrum…
  • Overall
    • 9.5 / 10 (slight ding for initial clarity)

Posted in German pils, lager, pilsner, tastings | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kveik Pale Ale

It happened…I’ve given in to a brewing trend, and am trying a recipe with kveik. As you’ll see in some upcoming posts, I’ve in fact tried a few kveik recipes at this point. This is my first one, and admittedly not my favorite.

red package of yeast from Omega Yeast, Hornindal Kveik strain, with cartoon of cat on front
Kveik culture from Omega

For those not familiar with it, kveik is essentially a Norwegian farmhouse ale culture, with a rich cultural history that has likely been over-analyzed by those outside of the original neighborhoods where the yeast originated. I’ve been intrigued by their stated qualities of fermenting cleanly in excess of 90°, which almost sounds too good to be true. It wasn’t, in the end!

The recipe is inspired by a kit recipe from Atlantic Brew Supply, with major adjustments to pretty much everything. Many of the kveik-centered recipes out there are super-high alcohol, and that just doesn’t interest me. Session ales forever! I looked around at a few different kveik strains, and Hornindal from Omega seemed to hit the balance of a citrusy character that I wanted. I went with my usual session pale ale strategy of Vienna plus some Munich and a little crystal malt. For the hops, I grabbed a South African experimental variety, U1/108, from my local homebrew shop.

Kveik Pale Ale

  • 8 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
  • 0.5 lb. Crystal 40 malt (Great Western)
  • 0.75 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 1 oz. African Experimental U1/108 hop pellets (15.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. African Experimental U1/108 hop pellets (15.0% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 3 oz. African Experimental U1/108 hop pellets (15.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 pkg. Hornindal Kveik (Omega OYL-091)

Target Parameters

  • 1.043 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.3% abv, 6 SRM, 41 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 45 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines and 2 g of gypsum added to boil kettle.

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons at 168°, to hit a 158° mash temperature. I also added 4 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to adjust pH.
  • The mash temperature was down to 156° after 45 minutes. At this point, I added 1.5 gallons for the first sparge, which raised the temperature to 162°. After 10 minutes, vorlaufed and collected the first runnings. Next, I added 3.6 gallons for the second sparge, with a vorlauf after 10 minutes.
  • In total, I collected 7 gallons with a gravity of 1.039, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • In the kettle, I added 2 g gypsum, and the broil everything to a boil. I boiled for 45 minutes, adding hops and other items per the schedule.
  • After flame-out, I chilled the wort to below 185° and then added 1 oz. of whirlpool hops. Hops were between 175° and 180° for 10 minutes. Then, I continued chilling.
  • After I chilled the wort down to 90°, I let it settle for 1 hour and then transferred to the fermenter and pitched the kveik.
  • The fermenter showed minor activity within 6 hours, and vigorous bubbling within 18 hours. At this point, I measured ~85° degrees for fermenter temperature, with 80° degrees ambient in the garage. I started fermentation on September 5, and fermentation seemingly was done by 9 Sept 2020.
  • I kegged the beer on 13 September 2020, adding dry hops in a baggie at that time. As has been my usual practice lately, I did a mixture of keg priming and force carbonation, targeting 2.7 volumes of CO2. I added 2.8 oz of corn sugar dissolved in one cup water for this first stage, and after a week topped up the CO2 using my cylinder.
  • Final gravity is 1.017, for 3.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • A hazy gold beer, with a pillowy, fine, and very persistent white head
  • Aroma
    • Aroma is malt-centered, very bready and showing a bit of caramel. Hop aroma is surprisingly low.
  • Flavor
    • Very hoppy, with a slightly rough bitterness. The malt in the background has a bready and toasty quality.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light bodied, slightly astringent finish, probably from the dry hops. Moderately high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Not with this particular hopping regimen. The malt character is fine, and the yeast character is fantastically clean for having been fermented at high temperature, but the hops just don’t do it for me. I wonder if it’s a combination of the hop variety with the low starting gravity, so that the hops aren’t balanced more by the malt. I also think I overhopped on the dry-hopping, so I can’t blame it all on the hop variety. Honestly, the beer was far better before I added the dry hops! That said, I’m super impressed by the yeast, and harvested a ton for use in some upcoming batches.
  • Overall
    • 4/10
Posted in kveik, session beer, yeast | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment