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Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Ready for another round
As the title of my post indicates, for the latest addition of my BIG IPL series I decided to mix it up a little and add some Mexican flair in the form of one of my favorite lager yeasts WLP940 Mexican Lager.  That's about the extent of the Mexican flair, no other ingredients just a new yeast which I harvested straight from the latest batch of Costa del Sol. (For the technique I employed for this check out Billy Brew's  yeast washing video). The yeast was not the only change I decided to make; others included the amount of length of the boil, amount of knockout hops, the total bitterness and rice vs rice extract.

I decided to up the length of the boil from 75 minutes to a targeted 90.  The reason I did this was a comment Robert Kennedy made at the AHP anniversary party about brewing with pilsner malt. He mentioned that if your grist has over 50% pilsner malt in it, then you should plan for a longer boil to combat the production of DMS.  He therefore always boils beers with high percentages of pilsner malt for a minimum of 90 minutes.   There seems to be a lot of conflict opinion online about the status of this belief/myth but I figured why not add a few more minutes to be on the safe side. 
Another change I made was to do a little hop bursting at the end of the boil.  Basically I kicked up the amount of knockout hops I planned on using from about 1 ounce total to 2. This should deepen the flavor and brighten the aroma at least that's the plan.  I decided to do this after I have locked in the latest version of the recipe so it somewhat works against the next section of changes.

Really trying to become more efficient during brewing
When doing extract brewing topping off with additional water changes the hop utilization factor.  When I was extract brewing I would routinely top off with about a gallon of water.  I was doing this when I first created the recipe for IPL however in all my recipe sheets I had always built them for a full boil.  When first I converted it to all grain I only worried about the grain not the hops keeping them around 100 IBU. I wasn't overly please with the final bitterness and flavor level with that first batch but assumed it had to do with the addition of the Citra, however when I brewed it again I still wasn't happy with it so I blended the extract and all grain versions together to round it out.   I then went back to my notes and inputted the recipe exactly how I brewed it completely with a four gallon final volume topped off to five. Doing this I saw a 20 IBU drop to around 80 IBU which jived with both earlier recipes and the lab test Karl Strauss did on it.   With this info in had I adjusted the recipe down to the 80s.  In the end, the extra time (a lot more then 90 - read below) and the hop bursting bumped me into the 90s.

A little Westbennetteren 12
I decided that for this round I'd go all all-grain and ditch the rice extract.  After a lot of researching I decided to use minute rice as it is precooked partially gelatinize. I cooked it prior to adding to my mash. I put a pound of minute rice in about 4  quarts of water and cooked for about 15 -20 minutes. I held the temperature at 190 for 10 minutes for rice starch to fully gel. I let it start to cool and added straight to my mash.

Using the rice complicated the brew a little as I had no tool to calculate the effect of adding over a gallon of 180ish rice to my existing grist.  I also ran into the problem as my calculations had flaked rice in the main grist so all the water volumes had included that amount of matter in its water ratio section.  To make matter worst I over shoot my strike water by 10 degrees, lowered it by 20 and figures the rice would bump it back to 148.  Nope I ended up with a mash in temp of 142 so I pulled off a gallon of liquid, blasted it to a boil on the cooker and tossed it back in.  I was able to then NAIL my mash temp at 148 for an hour while I racked the Costa del Sol to secondary and washed the yeast for later that day.

My favorite hop chart
I failed to recognize until it was too late that I no longer had accurate water volumes and ended up over filling my preboil by over a gallon diluting my starting gravity by about 0.006 (1.051 vs 1.057). To try and catch back up I decided to further extend my boil to about 2 hours total.  I was unworried about the additional time would do to the bitterness levels as the effect boil has on bitterness in non-liner, flatting out around 50 minutes. This meant only a change of a few IBUs total nothing to stress over.

I got everything ready and turned brewing operations over to my wife so I could take our daughter to Little Gym. As we were headed home Bonnie told me that we had run out of gas.  I wasn't surprised as I had a feeling I'd run out (I should be tracking the consumption better).  I told I'd be home soon and asked her run to Home Depot and switch out tanks. By the time I got home Brian Evans of Brain Evans Photography and Thee Beer Book had arrived to take some pictures. Brian had asked several months ago if he could come over and include me in Thee Beer Book project that he was working to finish up.  I was quite honored as he's taken pictures of a lot of the guys I look up to in the OC brewing scene and I've known and followed his work for over a year now.  We'd first met when he came over to photograph my friend Don Barnum during a brewday I had hosted at my house.  It also happened to have been the day I brewed the Karl Strauss winning batch of Scott's BIG IPL, so it was fated that the day we were able to sync up schedules I'd happen to be brewing another batch. 

Taking a picture of Brian taking pictures
I took Brian around the brewery, covered some of the basics of what I was doing and showed him some of my favorite beers.  I showed him how to transfer a beer to secondary which he had not yet had an opportunity to see and sampling the Coast of the Sun as it came out of primary. I'd saved my last can of 5/11 Furious for him to sample.  We also sampled Westbennetteren 12, which I'd kegged temporarily until I get around to bottling, and thieved a sample of Halvtreds. Both are coming along wonderfully but I would like a little more sourness from the Halvtreds.  Once Bonnie returned I brought the beer back to boil continuing the clock and showing Brian around.

Coming into the home stretch everything was looking good, I was progressing nicely on clean up, the photo session/demo hadn't majorly affected the process and according to my refractometer I had caught back up from my wort dilution earlier.  Once the timer hit zero I killed the gas and started the chiller with all the new connections looking tight.  At around 110 I opened the lid, explaining to Brian the importance of sanitation once the wort drops below 160, only to find a leak coming from on of the connections.  Apparently the heat had soften the hose enough to allow a stream of water to escape.  Refractometer and hydrometer readings conformed my fears as all the ground I had made up with the longer boil had been completely eroded giving me a corrected gravity of 1.073... boo! 

Faithful dog companion
Now I had a few options here; I could bring the wort back to a boil and attempt to boil off more liquid (the con side was that it would majorly mess with the bitterness levels and probably destroy the beer), I could bring it to 160 and hold it there for 15-30 minutes (this probably was the best option with time being the only issue) or I could do nothing and take my chances with the water (hoping that any contaminates present in the hose or wouldn't infect the beer).  Going against my better judgement I opted with the third choice and fixed the leak and continued the cool down.  I figured I had a pretty healthy yeast cell count tailor made for the cold lager environment it would be exposed to.  Basically I was gambling that the nutrients, cell count and environment would make the yeast the dominate organism the beer not outside contaminates.  

Figures crossed


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Costa del Sol v2: Split Batch

10 gallons of pale beer a brewing
Finally after another 6 week forced brewing hiatus I was able to get back in the lab and make some beer. I have a schedule semi-mapped out for the next couple of brews including the next batch of BIG IPL with WLP940 Mexican Lager Yeast, a Funky Brother Brett rebrew and a string of sours.  I also need to pick up the Beast from Shawn and build the barrel stand.  To do this I plan on taking down a old pass through garage door to expand the brewery.  Many I have a lot of brewing related projects/posts on the horizon. 

For my return to brewing I did a beer my lovey wife Bonnie has been asking for for almost a year now, a return to Costa del Sol.  I posted up the history of this beer awhile ago in which I crafted a Mexican Style Light Lager for my wife's birthday.  It came out very well and ended up winning second at the 2011 OC Fair in the 601 Light Lagers category.  At the time the driving yeast, WLP940, was a once a year platinum series yeast.  Well it returned to being a mainstay at the beginning of the year.  If I had more time I'd work to make the beer year round as well.

For the second batch/revisit I decided to transition the beer to all grain (minus the rice dme).  Last year I used Falconer's Flight (shortly after I said I would never use it), so this year I decided to another new hop blend Zythos. 
A proprietary blend of hops from HopUnion, designed for complex flavor in IPAs and similar hoppy American styles. Zythos is strongly aromatic, with tangerine, lemon, grapefruit, and pine notes. Try it in place of Amarillo, Sorachi Ace, or Simcoe.
That sounds like a hop blend I'd like to try.  I also decided that given it's aroma potential I'd make a 100% Zythos beer subbing out the original Cascade and Summit dry hops.  Unfortunately the shop was out of Plisner malt so I subbed in some UK Pale malt from my original plan.

I decided that given how small the beer was I'd step it up to a 10 gallon batch.  With the large brewing hiatuses I'd been having and blowing through 3 kegs of beer at the SCHF I'm getting pretty low at home.  Therefore I decided to speed up half of the batch by throwing some WLP007 at 5 gallons to make a quick pale ale - a style I'd yet to brew, we'll call this half Coast of the Sun.  Given how much hops I'm using (8oz total for 10) it should be a nicely hoppy aromatic beer.

This brew also pointed out the limits of my system in cranking out 10 gallon batches.  In the past I've always had an extra piece of borrowed equipment (usually a 7-15 gallon pot) to assist in the heating of sparge water. Without it I was forced to change my sparge schedule with some forced breaks while getting the water to temperature.  It's clearly time to build my second kettle.

Capturing the chilling water
to water my lawn
I also blew away my previous efficiency ratings by miles.  I've double checked my measurements via a refractometer and a hydrometer with both coming in at an OG of 1.048 - 0.010 over my targeted 1.038.  This unfortunately means that this version will not be a session beer at a potential abv of 5.1.  I'm glad I up my hops slightly during the brew.  I really have no idea how this happened.  I'm very interested in how this one turns out.

The other cool thing I did during this brewday is make some modifications to my cooling system to capture the water.  My friend Angelo had challenged me to come up with a solution to brew that wasn't so wasteful with water.  For awhile I was carrying buckets of runoff water to my back yard to water it.  I came up with a better solution and put it into action.  After cutting my big hose in half and adding some fittings I was able to connect a hose from the front of the chiller and then to a hose running into the backyard hooked up to a sprinkler.  I can now water my yard during cooling capturing 99% of my cooling water!



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Judging a Collaboration Homebrew Competition

The judging necessitates
A few month's back Shawn Burch, a fellow brewer, came up with a cool idea for a competition - a Collaboration Homebrew Competition.  The way it was designed to work is that interested participants would be randomly pair up with another brewer.  They would then get together, design a beer and brew it together.  The end product would then be judged with the winners taking home bragging rights in addition to some nice prizing including the "Pimp Paddle".

I volunteered to arrange and host the judging half which took place at my house a few nights back.  I can tell you that forcing myself to start reviewing the odd beer here and there for this site was really great prep.  The last time I judged I felt less then confident about what I was doing, this time I had no problem being descriptive, identifying what I was tasting and offering feedback when needed.   This is good considering the fact that a few of my brewing compatriots and myself are planning on becoming BJCP certified.

My score sheets
In talking with some of the brewers on hand I found there were a few methods of collaboration that went into this.  Several groups did straight collaborations and brewed a single 5 gallon batch.  Others brewed a 10 gallon batch with each participant taking home 5 gallons to ferment, they then selected either the better version or blended them together.  Finally one group brewed separately then came together and blended for the final beer.   As someone who enjoys concept of collaboration brewing it was nice to see the various methods that people came up with.

In total we ended up with seven entries, this was a little surprising as we had enough interest to round out several additional teams.  I also assembled a crack team of seven judges (including myself) and two and a half stewards to help keep the judging blind.  As far as the judges I felt we had a great range of judges from full BJCP certified, to people with more then enough knowledge to be BCJP, to a couple of guys who have never judged before.

The Final Four
I divided the group of judges into two panels and separated them in two areas of my house.  As some of the judges were also participants I instructed the stewards Eric (OC Eric) and Don (BackHouse Brew) to make sure that no one judged their own beer. In the first round I judged four beers with Daniel (beancurdturtle) and Steve (SteveM) while Shawn (oleolsson), Robert (Brew Captain), Joel (JJkings52) and Joey (PunkMonk) judged three beers.  Judged and scored using BCJP score sheets each group was instructed to advance their favorite two beers to the finals.  My group selected an American Brown and a "Belguim" to join a Wit Beer and a Dubbel in the main event.

For the finals we regrouped the judges which included zero competitors and was made up of Steve, Joey, Robert and myself. Robert suggested arranging it so that all beer could be poured at the same time so that we could debate which one was our favorite.  To do this I brought out fresh taster glasses including the four Brewing TV tastes I won by hobbit-fing John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff a few months back.

After sampling all the different beers we determine the winners.  I swore the tasting panel to secrecy so that they could be announced at the AHP Anniversary Party.  Fortunately with the magic of scheduled posting this post did go live till then so here are the Winners

3rd Place Goes to
Shawn Olsson and Cesar Alfaro
(Deconstructed Belgian Cream Ale)

2nd Place Goes to
Shawn Burch and Daniel Vaughn
(Belgian Dubbel)

1st Place and the Pimp Paddle Goes to
Vince Bunting and Mark Laun
(American Brown Ale)
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