Adventures in Beer Making: Dry Irish Stout

I decided to try a recipe out of a different brewing book this time.  It's a great source of brewing knowledge and all things beer, Mastering Homebrew by Randy Mosher.  The recipe, called Leprechaun's Ladder (p. 293), is basically a Guinness clone.  It's the first time I used acid malt, which adds some nice sour tang to simulate the 3% soured, barrel aged beer that Guinness adds to their own batches of stout.

It was also the first time I used my new Tallboy kettle - an awesome piece of equipment, which makes the transfer of liquids a lot easier than before.

In the end, the batch turned out quite good.  Pretty dry, with some chocolate and coffee flavors, with a hint of tang from the acid malt.  There's room for improvement, though.  Next time I want to be more on top of maintaining low temperatures, especially at the beginning of fermentation when yeast activity can be quite intense and hot, which can introduce off flavors into the brew.  I did indeed detect something off in the yeast profile, which points to problems during this phase.  Oh well, you learn and improve with every batch!

Here's a picture of the finished product:


And all the ducks in a row in my fermentation chamber (i.e. temp controlled mini fridge):


Now, what to brew next...

Adventures in Beer Making: Dunkelweizen

I had a bit of time off work this week, so I decided to brew some beer!  I settled on a summery wheat.  Hopefully it'll have all the trappings of my favorite wheats: fruity & refreshing, but with a bit of a twist - it's dunkel (dark in German)!  The dark malts promise to add a bit of cocoa character to the flavor.  The recipe comes from Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy Of Homebrewing ("NoopleTucker Dunkel Weizen", pp. 363-4).

Over-flowing with joy...

So, I walked on down to my local homebrew supply store, Brew North, and picked up some ingredients.  (It's a really great store and you should check it out especially if you live in the East End.)

Like my recent brews, I used the (largely) hassle free brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) method.  After the mash is done, I squeeze the sweet wort out of the bag with these awesome silicon oven mitts.  It's like a big 5 lb bag of tea.

Squeezing all the sweet wort out of the spent grain.

I'm pretty excited with this batch too because I recently got a mini-fridge!  Using my temp controller, I can now set the fermentation temperature much more exactly to keep all the yeast as happy as possible.  We'll see how it turns it in about a month.

Happily bubbling away in my new mini-fridge!

Quick update: I brought this beer into work and a bunch of my co-workers and I enjoyed it over the lunch break.  It was a hit!  The consistent fermentation temperatures provided by the fridge really helped smooth out the yeast aspect of the taste and added a nice level of "polish" to the flavor profile.

Adventures in Beer Making: Rye Not?

I decided to make a beer with rye in it this time because... rye not?  So I went down to the fine folk at Noble Hop and picked up some fresh, amazing smelling ingredients.  The recipe itself was taken from Charlie Papazian's "The Homebrewer's Companion" (pp. 252-4).  I made some changes with the hops though, subbing in Cluster for bittering and Ahtanum for aroma and dry hopping.  

I've been struggling with temperature control lately, especially as the weather starts to get warmer. Ambient temperature in my place is 23-24°C, which is too warm for the yeast to work without introducing esters and (excessive yeast) funk.  So, after perusing the wealth of knowledge online concerning the subject, I decided to make a little ice bath for the fermenters!

I set up an office supplies container in a spare closet, filled it partway with water, and then periodically swapped out water bottles filled with ice. Swapping out water bottles 2-3 per day over a period of 3 weeks was a bit of a pain, but I think it's well worth it. 

I recently bottled the beer and sampled a bit of the left overs: it was much cleaner, with less off flavours than without any method of temp control.  The batch is bottle conditioning now, so I'll let you know how it is when it's all carbed up.  I think that for sure I'll be getting a dedicated mini fridge in time for my next batch!

Finished product!

Here's a little video of me opening a bottle. Really happy with how it turned out! Hoppy and spicy with powerful carbonation and great head retention. Mmm... 

Adventures in Beer Making: English-Style Ordinary Bitter

Key Ingredients:


I brewed a new batch of beer this weekend.  The recipe came from The Complete Joy Of Homebrewing, a tome of infinite experience, wisdom and humour penned by the Homebrew Yoda, Charlie Papazian.  The recipe itself ("Humpty Dumpty English-Style Ordinary Bitter", pp. 341-3) was a hoot to make and I learned a lot!  There involved a few ingredients & processes that were new to me.  Without further delay, here are the beautiful grains: 

I picked up the ingredients (and a few pieces of equipment) from a snazzy homebrew supply store called Noble Hop, in the west-end of Toronto (Dundas & Dufferin).  Great shop with a really helpful owner.  You should check it out.

Back to the recipe... The mash was a bit longer than I'm used to (75 mins), with a multistep temperature increase throughout.  Fun stuff.  I was really excited about using Fuggle hops, partly because it sounds like something/someone from the Harry Porter universe.  The hops' smell is wonderful: earthy, woody, a bit musty.  It's been described in Make Some Beer as having the aroma of "old man". Lolz.  You can almost smell it through this picture:

Weighing hops.  For a scale good enough for drug dealers and jewellers check out the AWS-100

The recipe also calls for dry hopping, and this is the first time that I've used this technique.  The samples that I've tasted throughout the process have been really good and I'm excited for the final product.  I've got to wait a few weeks before I can drink the finished brew, but, for now, the yeast are farting up a storm and the fermenter is bubbling away happily.  Here it is in my "cellar" (an old-timey, hand-me-down liquor cabinet).  Yeast go blub, peep dat kraeusen.

I'll let you know how it ultimately turns out during the last week of February.  Hopefully, it will be good enough to share!  For now, I leave you with this:

Hops in Fuggle form.

Hops in Fuggle form.

UPDATE: Turned out pretty well!  An extra week in the bottle really helped clean things up. More conditioning time also increased carbonation, which in turn brought out more of the hops' flavor.  I even shared this batch with my co-workers!  They seemed to enjoy it, so yay! Until next time...  Maybe a rye ale?

Untappd the Beer App

Untappd is a great app to socially share and explore the world of beer, and you should totally get it if you're into beer.  The process of drinking, describing, rating (and even photographing) your beer is a lot of fun.  Untappd is a great tool for trying new brews and expanding your beer palette.  It's a fun way to show what you're drinking and what your friends are drinking too.  Good times.  Here's my profile - I'd love to know what you're drinking!