Saturday, September 4, 2010

Put a CAP in it

Classic American Pilsner, that is.

As part of my ongoing lawnmower ale phase, I’ve been brewing low alcohol, easy going ales.  This one comes from a Cream of 3 Crops Ale recipe.

Here’s the recipe:

2.72Kgs Pale Malt (from SA Maltsters)
0.5Kgs Gelatinized maizie
0.1Kgs Gelatinized rice
0.54Kgs sugar
20gm Southern Promise (11.6%) @ 60 minutes

This is a very light, slightly bitter recipe which really lends itself to a clean appearance and flavour profile.  The use of adjuncts helps make the beer lighter in colour, and helps to dry it out nicely.(FYI, not my image: thanks BierMuncher)


This particular style of beer was introduced into america by german immigrants. The germans brewed it in the same style as the traditioanl pilsen lagers, but had to make do with locally available ingredients. Hence the heavy adjunct usage and simple recipe style.

We’re looking for something a little light in intensity but with a little sweetness from the maize.  I’m using a rice and sugar based version so it’s expected to be light, dry and crisp.  Colour should be extremely light with a light yellow gold and (hopefully) pretty clear.

The expectations are to have a dry, clear, flavourless (ish) but still slightly bitter beer.  I am, however, really just using this as an excuse to practice my technique and M.O. until I can guarantee I’m not ruining my beer through stupid mistakes or bad ingredients or techniques.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Woah, what is that stuff?


Yep. That’s the gunk that was sitting on my elements in my brewkettle.

A good 30 minute scrub later and we now have:


Better.  The elements are still scorched black, probably something due to the Ph of the wort that it’s boiling, but at least there’s no gunk on them anymore.

This could possible be the cause of my off flavours, we’ll have to see what happens.

Either way, I think it’s a good idea to use this as an excuse to get some low density elements in there and make cleaning them part of my regular practice.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

3rd bad batch in a row

Well, got feedback last night from the BJCP judges at the local brewclub.  The off flavours are definitely still there.  Very different to the previous batch, but still there.

This time though, the comments and suggestions all leaned towards mash temperature and schedule.  One of the guys suggested I start looking at a decoction mash… but I just can’t justify the cost of setting one up.  Another said he tastes tannins – possibly from mashing too high (which I’m sure I didn’t).

Oh well.  Needless to say, this is frustrating.

So here’s the changes for the next brew:

  • Still boil all water and use metabisulphite (in case of chlorine or chloramine)
  • New fermenter (in case some gunk or something is hidden away in a scratch somewhere)
  • Clean kettle elements as much as I can before hand (they look kinda manky at the moment)
  • Forego the use of a nochill cube and let it chill in the fermenter (one less vessel to worry about)

One of the other guys that runs a microbrewery has offered to come and observe my next brew to make sure I’m not doing something completely stupid.  Maybe my technique is failing me somewhere.

All I know is I need to kick this thing.  I can’t keep wasting time on bad batches like this. It’s very demotivating.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Building a brew-cupboard-stand-thing

This is my spare room:


Zero space for an actual spare room here.  So time to up the storage space by building a storage cupboard that I can lock outside, store all my brew stuff (and other tools and goodies) in to make the spare room have some… well… spare room.

Here’s the bits and pieces:


Assembling (in a box):




Not a massive improvement in the spareroom (in terms of space) but at least the beer equipment is out the way so SWMBO can’t complain about it :)

Fermentation will still happen indoors, but once equipment has been cleaned it’s going in the brewcupboard for storage.  I’m still deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to store stuff in a sanitizer solution.

It’s not waterproof, but it’s not the rainy season so I have at least 2 months before I need to worry about waterproofing it.  Anybody got any ideas on how to waterproof it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So I’m being plagued by phenolic flavours lately.

That’s a problem.

Step 1 in fixing the problem is to identify where the phenol flavours are coming from.  At the last local brewclub meeting the local gurus indicated 2 major potential sources:

  1. Too much chlorine in the water
  2. Wild yeast

A bit of a search around also seems to point to the fact that it could be caused by a Bacterial Infection.  The BJCP Beer Fault List shows the phenol flavours can come from:

  • Water with chlorine or chloramines
  • Bleach sanitizers
  • Astringency
  • Infection
  • Too high a fermentation temperature

There are time-based indicators which could help identify the potential cause of the off flavours:

Flavour Effect Implication
Increase with time This would imply that the off flavours are being caused by something still in the beer.  Possibly a bacterial infection.
Stays the same This should mean that whatever caused the flavour isn’t volatile and isn’t active.  Could implicate chlorine or chloramine in the water or perhaps a bleach sanitizer.
Decreases with time This would indicate that the yeast is capable of cleaning this flavour up.  Which according to my logic means that it’s a byproduct of a high fermentation temperature.

I haven’t had the opportunity of keeping a sample for an extended period of time so I have made an effort of keeping 8 bottles from my previous batch.  I’ll try a couple of them each month and see if there is any change in the off flavours.

In the meantime though I’ll be keeping an eye on my water source and sanitation practices.

New brewday now includes an extra step to boil all water I use before-hand as well as to add metabisulphite to the water.  This should in theory get rid of all chlorine and chloramine in the water.  Note: I did this for the last batch but rinsed my no-chill cubes with hot water straight from the tap.  Hopefully that won’t have a negative flavour impact.

Also, cleaning and sanitation is going to get some serious attention.  I currently clean with a solution of Caustic Soda and sanitize with Chlorine Dioxide.  It’s already a pretty complete cleaning and sanitation procedure, so I’m just going to spend a little more care on the actual rinsing process of all equipment (such as the cubes in the previous paragraph)

Let’s hope the last batch doesn’t have any of the phenol flavours coming through.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Vuvuzela Herald

Brewed a batch of Pride of Raubsville a couple days ago.  It was the first time using my new mash tun.  My mash tun used to be a cooler box and a grain bag.  Now it’s a cooler box with a stainless steel manifold at the bottom.  It’s also been insulated with a good few layers of old Yoga mat.

I had to substitute local hops for the Target hops (hence the Vuvuzela reference).  I like the local Southern Promise hops so I’m sure it’s going to come out just fine!

Mash went beautifully.  I mashed the grain at about 69.1 degrees C.  The recipe calls for about 0.5Kg sugar so I mashed high to get some body for the beer.  The new mash tun held temperature beautifully!  Didn’t lose more than a point of a degree over the entire hour.  Lautering and sparging were absolute pleasures too. No stuck sparge and it probably took about 30 minutes off my brewday total time.

Only problem I had was I got distracted during the boil and probably ended up boiling for close on 2 hours (no hop additions yet thankfully) which means I’ve got substantially less beer than I should have had.  The OG is also a little on the high side.  I was aiming for around 1.040 but ended up with 1.050.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Brew Sessions

Summer’s fast approaching, and with a big family reunion in December I need to start filling up the pipeline.  Most of the family like the typical shop-bought brands (Windhoek lager, Heineken, Grolsch, etc.) so I’m aiming for something quite simple in flavour, light in colour and served ice cold.

Here’s the potential list:

Beer Recipe Notes
Classic American Pilsner Cream of 3 Crops Ale Brewed this a year ago and it was absolutely fantastic! This is very drinkable even while it’s young.
English Pale Ale Pride of Raubsville Simple grain bill, just a pity I don’t have the hops.  I’m tempted to substitute with Fuggles and Styrian but we’ll see.
Light Hybrid Beer Squeeze my Lemon Summer Blonde Seems like a really clean recipe and the lemon zest sounds exciting.

I love simple recipes.  It seems that the more complicated a recipe the more difficult it is to get a good flavour profile from the recipe.  All 3 of the beers above have very basic recipes with very few twists.  About the furthest is the rice or lemon zest and those aren’t that bad anyway.

Each of the beers shares similar characteristics:

  • Light in colour
  • Light in alcohol
  • Light in hops
  • Not too much maltiness

Pretty much all simple, standard brews. I’ve seen the term “Lawnmower” beer used to describe them.  The one I’m most excited about is the CAP, but I’ll probably brew the Hybrid up first.  I’ve just added a braid manifold to my mash tun and don’t want to risk a stuck sparge just yet by using adjuncts.