First Group Tasting

image5This past Friday after work I invited a very small group of folks over (4 guests) to sample my initial brews and “tour” the brewery.

Brews 001 through 003 are on tap and everyone got to have some of each.  IPA fans enjoyed the Rye Pale Ale and those who favor less hoppy ales liked the All Amarillo Pale Ale.  Everyone tasted the Oatmeal Stout, but I’m thinking it is a bit “bold” for most palates.  I do have a
couple who are dear friends of mine who had it a week or so ago and really liked it.image4

It was fun explaining the equipment and the whole brewing / fermenting process, though the kind students may have been finished listening before I was finished talking 🙂

Yes, that is some new Silent 5 swag I am sporting.  Couldn’t help myself.

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Brew 003 – Rye IPA

Third time’s the charm.  As I get more comfortable with the process as well as improve on steps and techniques, the only way to go is up.

img_7762Some of the corrections or improvements I made for this batch included:

  • Gap in grain mill rollers that crush the barley was reduced from 0.035″ to 0.032″. This allows more surface area and better conversion of starch to sugar.
  • Mash pH corrected to 5.25 from 6.0.  The mash pH should fall between 5.1 and 5.3.  My last brew the mash was uncorrected and remained at 6.0.The pH of the mash is very important for proper conversion of sugars during the mash and also due to its effect on finished beer.
  • Used stainless coil chiller as an immersion prechiller.  Having a two stage chilling setup allowed me to get the wort from 212 F to yeast pitching temp in less time using less ice.

Enough about the technical stuff – how did it taste?  Let’s take a look and listen:

Motorized Grain Mill

One of the four official ingredients in beer is malted barley. For an all-grain brewer like myself, you can either buy pre-crushed grain or buy it whole and crush it yourself.  Best is crushing it yourself for the sake of freshness and not exposing the inside of the grain to oxygen too soon.

So I use a Barley Crusher brand grain mill with a drill attached to the shaft (this guy isn’t gonna sit there and hand crank the thing).  It is very effective and quick, but I know I am exceeding the 200 RPM that I justmotorized-grain-mill learned is the top speed to be used. As we were “hunkered down” for Hurricane Matthew yesterday (without power), I sipped on my All Amarillo Pale Ale and continued reading a homebrew book by the light of a window. The author, Randy Mosher, was discussing milling grain and offered an option to the drill method: a gear motor.  Eureka!  I have a 30 RPM gear motor that was once part of a BBQ grill coffee roaster I built over 10 years ago.

I dug around and found the motor along with the coupling “spider” and switch.  I tested it and it still worked so I built a stand for the motor and…well…it all works!  Here is a very brief video:

UPDATE – 10/16/2016: Today was brew day # 004 and I used this new motorized mill setup for the first time.  The good news is that it worked great and left me free to do other things.  The bad news is it is MUCH slower and took a lot more time that usual.  Note made for future: allow 30 minutes for the grain to be ground and put this step in the brew day schedule accordingly.

Brew 002 – All Amarillo American Pale Ale

I didn’t go into detail in my previous post about the error I made in my first brew.  Suffice it to say that in my attempt to replicate Dublin Ireland’s hard, alkaline water I accidentally added way too much CaCl, CaCO3, and gypsum.  I was assured by Dave at Hearts Homebrew that it would still taste just fine.  And he was right.

I mention that to say that homebrewing is a combination of art and science.  It is a constant learning and growing process. You learn from mistakes and strive not to repeat them as well as learning what mistakes to avoid in the first place.

So, when I had made that water treatment mistake I really thought I had ruined the beer – yet I kept going with the process (thankfully).  But I also decided right then that I would brew another batch 2 days later.  I didn’t want my potentially failed inaugural experience to be the only one in the record books for too long.

It was a 4 day weekend (Labor Day), and fortunateimg_7336ly the first brew had fallen on day 2.  I went to the LHBS (local homebrew shop) on day 3 to gather the ingredients for Brew 002 slated for day 4. I came home and immediately prepared my yeast starter.

This recipe was simpler in that there was no water treatment.  I didn’t try to replicate a particular prinimg_7337cipality’s water supply. Thus, no error was incurred on that front.  The only oversight I am now aware of for this second adventure is that I didn’t correct for a mash pH that was too high.  It should have been in the range of 5.1 to 5.2, yet I let it remain at 5.9.  We’ll see if that factors in to any unexpected results.

This session view in Beersmith tells the story over several days.

brewsmith-session

My original gravity was low and that could be due to the fact that I am still determining my brewhouse efficiency. Since my method is BIAB (brew in a bag) I still need to fine tune my volumes and specific gravities.  At some point soon I hope to produce much more predictable results.

img_7448After transferring from the fermenter to the keg, it tasted so much like an English pale ale or ESB. It was close to room temp, low carbonation, and more about the malt than the hops. It tasted fantastic with mashed potatoes and meatloaf and took me back to my experiences in English pubs.

So, after all that, how did it turn out?  Well, I’m glad you asked – watch this video to find out 🙂