Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Clone

The past year has seen some major changes in my brew practices, most prominently in the transition from extract to all-grain. It has been fun to stretch my abilities and add new techniques to my toolkit, although not without its frustrations, either. There is a whole new learning curve to master! 
One of the toughest projects has been to master my mash efficiency. Where you can get really, really consistent gravities quite easily with extract (I would rate this as a big “plus” for extract brewing), I’ve found less consistency in my all-grain. From my reading and conversations with other brewers, “crush” hits the top of the list for improving efficiency. So, with that in mind, I purchased a two-roller mill from Monster Brewing Hardware. Their mills are pretty consistently well-rated, so it seemed wise to follow that reputation. It will be really nice to be able to control my crush more precisely–the local homebrew shop generally gave me good results, but now I can mill grains exactly to my home specs. This also makes it logistically easier to get big bags of my base malts (see photo). By buying in bulk, I can cut the per batch cost significantly.

It took me a bit to figure out what I wanted to brew for the first batch with my new mill. I had thought about a simple amber ale–but, I already have a fair bit of IPA and pale ale on hand (and apparently an amber ale is just a variant of a pale ale–makes sense, but I hadn’t thought of it this way before!). So, a good porter seemed like a great alternative. It will round out my beer stock nicely.

After a bit of thought and searching, I elected to go for a clone recipe that I’ve tried versions of before. One of my favorite beers is the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing. It’s tough to find out in California, but I have had it a few times on tap or in the bottle when in the midwest or out east. For this batch, I stuck much closer to the original recipe from the North American Clone Brews book. The only mild variation was to have Cascade as strictly an aroma (steeping) hop at the very end, mainly because I forgot to pick up a little more at the store.

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Clone

  • 10.6 lbs. 2 row malt
  • 1 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 0.66 lb. chocolate malt
  • 0.66 lb. roasted barley
  • 0.70 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets, bittering, first addition (9.9% alpha, 4.6% beta)
  • 0.75 oz. Willamette hops pellets, bittering, second addition (5.3% alpha, 3.7% beta)
  • 0.75 oz. Willamette hops pellets, bittering, third addition (5.3% alpha, 3.7% beta)
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops pellets, aroma, fourth addition (5.5% alpha, 6.0% beta)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 tbs. pH 5.2 stabilizer (for mash)
  • 1 pkg. Danstar Nottingham dry yeast (11 g)
Procedure
  • I mashed in with 4.3 gallons of water at 172°. As measured 20 minutes later, the temperature was stabilized at 154°.
  • After 1 hour, the temperature was down to 152°. I added 0.75 gallons of water at ~185°, stirred, and let it sit for 10 minutes. From this, I collected ~3.1 gallons of wort. I did have a slightly stuck sparge (first time ever!) towards the end of the collection, but was able to unstick it by stirring the top of the mash slightly and blowing air up the tube.
  • Then, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 190°. After stirring, the mash stabilized at 168°. I let the mash rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 7.1 gallons of wort. I suspect I got so much because there was more wort left than usual in the first round of the batch sparge.
  • The 7.1 gallons of wort had a gravity of 1.046. This equals 72% mash efficiency.
  • Once the boil started, I added the Northern Brewer hops.
  • After 30 minutes, I added the first addition of Willamette hops. At this point, the wort volume was down to ~6.75 gallons.
  • After 60 minutes, I added the second addition of Willamette hops. Wort volume was down to ~6.2 gallons at this point
  • After 75 minutes, I added the Irish moss. Wort volume was down to 6 gallons at this point.
  • After 90 minutes, I added the Cascade hops, turned off the heat, and chilled the wort using my wort chiller.
  • It took ~30 minutes to chill the wort to 80°. I whirlpooled the wort, transferred it to the primary fermenter (with the Venturi pump in use for aeration), and pitched the rehydrated yeast. The beer was visibly bubbling within a little more than 12 hours.
  • The end result was 5 gallons of wort into the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.060 at 60°.
  • I am fermenting the beer at 65°. This batch was brewed on 30 August 2014.

Beer Tasting: Summer Blonde Ale

The summer blonde ale is at its peak, turning out to be a pretty delightful brew. The full specs are below.

Summer Blonde Ale

  • I brewed this up on June 28, 2014, and bottled it on July 13. Thus, it has had about a month to condition. The sample I am evaluating here is from a bottle.
  • Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.046; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.0%.
  • Appearance
    • Clear, straw-colored
    • Head is white, fine, and low, with fair retention over the course of the sampling
  • Aroma
    • Clean and slightly malty
  • Taste
    • Clean and slightly malty; pleasant
    • A subtle hops finish
    • Good balance between hops and malt
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is perhaps one of the best all-grain beers I’ve done to date, and it is perfect for sipping on warm summer evenings. As near as I can tell, the recipe (and this batch) nails the style quite squarely, and is very much to my taste. I don’t know that there is much, if anything, that I would change; maybe up the malt and hops ever-so-slightly, but that’s about it. Probably a bad idea to mess with a good thing.
  • Overall rating: 8/10

Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1

Back in March, at the start of my all-grain brewing, I brewed up Gondwana IPA. The resulting beer turned out unexpectedly tasty, and hooked me on Citra hops (especially for dry-hopping). Because I was still figuring out my techniques at the time, my mash efficiency was a little low (~57%), and the result was closer to a pale ale than a traditional IPA in some respects. Thus, I retooled the original recipe as a pale ale, cutting back some of the malt and utilizing Citra as the only hops for the brew. As before, I want a prominent hops aroma, so this beer will get a nice dry-hopping.

Gondwana Pale Ale (version 1.1)
  • 9 lbs. 2 row malt
  • 1 lb. Vienna malt
  • 0.5 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 0.5 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 1 oz. Citra hops (bittering, first addition; pellet form; 14.5% alpha, 3.9% beta)
  • 1 oz. Citra hops (bittering, second addition)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. Safale American dry yeast (US-05, 11 g)
  • 2 oz. Citra hops (dry hopping)
Steps
  • First, I preheated the mash tun with 9 gallons of water that was as hot as possible from the tap.
  • In my brew pot, I heated 14 quarts of water to 170°. I added the milled grains to the mash tun with 1 tbs. of pH 5.2 stabilizer, and mashed in. The temperature stabilized at 154°. After 30 minutes, the temperature was 153°.
  • After 60 minutes, added 1 gallon of water at 185°, and let it sit for 10 minutes or so. I drained the tun, extracting ~2.9 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.2 gallons of water at 195°. This raised the mash temperature to ~175°, a little warmer than I wanted. So, I added 1 quart (.25 gallons) of ice cubes. This dropped the temperature down to 168°. I let the mix sit for 10 minutes before draining.
  • I collected a total of 6.7 gallons of wort, with a preboil gravity of 1.043. This works out to a mash efficiency of ~73%.
  • I heated the wort to boiling, aiming for a total of 60 minutes at boil. After 30 minutes, I added the first addition of hops.
  • After 50 minutes, I added the Irish moss.
  • After 58 minutes, I added the second addition of hops.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat, removed the hops (they were all bagged), and chilled the wort to ~80°.
  • Once the wort was chilled, I transferred it to the primary fermentation vessel. Along the way, it was oxygenated using my Venturi pump.
  • The yeast was rehydrated in 2 cups of preboiled water at ~90°, and pitched into the wort.
  • Starting gravity was 1.048 at 60 degrees, with ~5.3 gallons of wort. I can probably expect around 5% abv in the end.
  • The beer is fermenting at 64°; after 1 week I will transfer it to the secondary fermenter and dry-hop for 2 weeks, prior to bottling.
Notes
  • Total ingredient cost for this was $27.65. Assuming around a 5 gallon yield in the end, the cost per 12-oz. bottle will be around $0.55.
  • In order to maximize extract efficiency, I have been using a double crush on the mill at my local homebrew shop. Based on a visual inspection of the milled grain, and on conversations with the owner, I decided to try just a single pass through the mill this time. Based on my efficiency, that was an okay decision.
  • In the past, I had been a little frustrated by trying to raise the temperature of the grain bed during the second collection of wort. Thus, I tried adding much hotter water (~195°) than recommended by BeerSmith (168°), and got much better results both in terms of temperature as well as mash efficiency. There was a little fiddling to keep the temperature below 170°, so I might aim for around 185° to 190° next time.

Summer Blonde Ale

One of the primary limitations of brewing in southern California is the weather…there is a short window indeed where ambient air temperature–even in a basement–is within the happy zone for ale yeast. You can brew when it’s warmer, of course, but there is more danger of off-flavors developing (well, unless it’s a Belgian…off-flavors are the default there). So, I’ve been mostly limited to brewing between November and March, with maybe a little wiggle room on either end. It also meant I had to get as much brewing as possible during that window, to have a good supply for the long summer months.

Well, those days are now at an end. The parents shipped me a Ranco temperature controller for my birthday, which regulates a fridge or freezer into appropriate fermentation temperatures. I bought a cheap 7 cubic foot chest freezer, hooked it all up, and now I’m ready to go! First up…a good, drinkable summer blonde ale. This recipe is ever-so-slightly modified from one that originally appeared in BYO.

Summer Blonde Ale

  • 10 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 8 oz. 20° crystal malt
  • 1 oz. Willamette hops pellets
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. (11 g) Safale American US-05 yeast
Steps
  • I preheated the mash tun and added the grains with 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer.
  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons of water at 165°. I adjusted the water slightly by adding 1 gallon distilled water (and another gallon when I did the sparge).
  • The mash temperature stabilized at 152.3°, was down to 151.5° within 30 minutes, and was at 149° after 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.08 gallons of water at 170°, stirred, and let it sit for 10 minutes. I then decanted ~3.15 gallons of wort.
  • I added 3.14 gallons of water at 170°, stirred, and let it sit for 10 minutes. This raised the temperature of the mash to 160°.
  • In the end, I collected 6.5 gallons of wort. Pre-boil gravity was 1.040, which works out to around 67.5% mash efficiency.
  • After heating the wort to a boil, I added the hops pellets and boiled the wort for 60 minutes. 10 minutes prior to flame-out, I added the Irish moss.
  • I cooled the wort down to ~78°, and transferred it to the carboy. Total volume is 5 gallons. 
  • After rehydrating the yeast in 1 cup of water, I pitched it and sealed up the fermenter.
  • In order to gain a clean flavor profile, I’ll be fermenting at ~62°. The plan is to ferment for around a week before bottling. Starting gravity was 1.046.
  • The beer was brewed and yeast pitched on Saturday, June 28. By the next morning, visible fermentation had started.

Rodinia IPA

For one of the last batches of the “season”, I opted for another all-grain IPA. This was a chance to try out a few new ingredients as well as a new recipe style. For my first IPA of the brewing season (an extract beer), I found that it ended up a little too sweet for my tastes. Some reading suggested that crystal malt could be behind this (although I only had 8 oz. in that recipe–on the other hand, it was fairly high gravity, too, at 1.070 s.g., but most of my extract IPAs have been on the sweet side). So, I decided to try a crystal-free recipe.

Additionally, I’ve been wanting to try some new hops varieties. The owner of my local homebrew shop said they had something called Nelson Sauvin in stock, and he had been wanting to try it too. That was good enough for me, so into my recipe it went! Pretty much everywhere I read said, “No equivalents” for substitutions…and the variety is usually described as having “white wine” character, so that sounded like an awesome dry hopping opportunity. I also wanted to use up some of the partial bags of hops pellets in my freezer, so Northern Brewers and Nugget went into the kettle too. With the mix of hops origins (New Zealand, Europe, and North America), and with my tradition this year of naming batches after various supercontinents, “Rodinia IPA” seemed appropriate.

Rodinia IPA

  • 13 lbs. pale malt
  • 2 lbs. Munich malt
  • 0.95 oz. Northern Brewers hops pellets (8.5% alpha) – 60 minutes boil
  • 1.4 oz. Nugget hops pellets (14.0% alpha) – 20 minutes boil
  • 1 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops pellets (12.0% alpha) – 1 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minutes boil)
  • 1 pkg. BRY-97 American West Coast Yeast (Danstar – 11 g)
  • 1 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops pellets (12.0% alpha) – 14 days dry hop
Steps
  • I mashed in with 4.75 gallons of water to achieve a temperature of ~153° (which stabilized here about 15 minutes in). By the end of the mash, the temperature was at 150°. I collected 3 gallons of wort, and sparged with 3.25 gallons of water at 170°. From this, I collected 3.4 gallons of wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.4 gallons of wort, with a preboil gravity of 1.061. This works out to 71.3% efficiency–not too bad!
  • I heated the wort to boiling, planning for a 90 minute total boil with successive hop additions. The Northern Brewer hops were boiled for 60 minutes, Nugget hops for 20 minutes, and Irish moss for 10 minutes. An ounce of Nelson Suavin was added a minute before flame-out.
  • Using my wort chiller, I chilled the wort down to 70°, whirlpooled, and let it sit for 15 minutes. During this time, I rehydrated the yeast.
  • I transferred the wort to the primary fermenter. This resulted in 4.3 gallons, with a starting gravity of 1.076. This is quite a bit higher than expected (1.071 from BeerSmith)–I suspect the reason is because I ran a very vigorous boil. From the 6.4 gallons of originally collected wort, and assuming the typical 0.5 gallon of sludge left behind in the kettle, that’s a total of 1.6 gallons boiled off over the 90 minutes. BeerSmith had only assumed 0.75 gallons (0.5 gallons/hour), so I might need to adjust that in the future.
  • I pitched the yeast immediately before sealing up the primary fermenter (a carboy). 24 hours on, I’m not seeing any visible fermentation activity. I’m not entirely sure if this is due to the relatively high gravity of the wort, or if it is a character of BRY-97. My past batches with this yeast have also been slow to start, and this also was mentioned on other sources. In any case, if I don’t see activity within 48 hours from the initial pitch, I’ll probably repitch the yeast.
  • This batch was brewed on 12 April 2014. At this writing, the beer is at about 65° for the primary fermentation.