Saturday, 20 August 2011

Beer Day Out

Yesterday was a bit of a beer-adventure to various venues in Melbourne.  First was a lunch-time visit to Biero, which from the outside is this small un-assuming little red-brick building:

The reason for my visit was their advertised "Black Friday" promotion, all of their taps would be devoted to black beer, 8 stouts and 2 black IPA's. Given the promotion and Biero's reputation as one of the craft-beer-venues in Melbourne, once inside, I was surprised to find I was the only customer!

While the barman was friendly and knowledgeable none of the black beers had been tapped yet (some of the promoted beers were not even in stock yet), so there was some wait while they were tapped and run through the lines. However after a bit of a wait (and lots of foam) I did get Karma Citra Black Ale that I wanted to try:

Feral Brewing Company's Karma Citra India Black Ale advertised as "a rich malty black ale that showcases the tropical fruit character of the hop variety citra."  The fresh citrus type hop flavour and aroma reminded me very much of what the house smells like in late summer when all the freshly picked hops are drying, very pungent and refreshing.  Unlike with pale IPA's the dominant hops in this 'India Black Ale' are balanced nicely with the dark roasted malt flavours.

After enjoying the beer at Biero it was time for a tram-trip to Abbotsford for the CUB Brewery tour.  The Carlton and United Brewery is a huge imposing building taking up several city blocks, and I was looking forward to seeing how the 'big boys' make their beer.  Unfortunately, the experience was a waste of time and there was little to see or learn or do that was interesting or entertaining.

The 'brewery tour' consisted of a 1/2 hour 'beer information and CUB advertising session' held in the 'visitor center' where we were told the basics of how to brew beer, by a tour-guide who obviously knew nothing about making beer other than what's in the PR brochures. That was followed by a 1/2 hour look at the bottling line which likely would have been impressive if it had been working, however since it's winter and production is on the low-side this week's quota was finished yesterday.  This left our tour guide to ineptly try to explain the grandeur of what we'd have seen when it was working. There was no mention of seeing, visiting, looking at or even being told about any of the actual beer production details or gear (other than they make 2million L per day), no look at the big mash tuns, filters, large tanks, fermentors or any large shiny stainless bling, or other interesting stuff to look.

The tour also included a "complimentary tastings of fresh, cold beer" so I sampled a couple of CUB beers that I don't remember trying before: Carlton Black and Fosters Lager, neither of which I feel the need to drink again.  However the Bulmers Pear Cider and something 'triple hopped' from Fat Yak (neither of which were brewed at the Abbotsford CUB plant) were both worth of an additional glass.

After being so disappointed by the CUB 'tour' at least Mountain Goat was well worth the walk up the street and around the corner.  Mountain Goat are one of Melbourne's oldest (and more famous) micro-breweries.  They are open to the public on Wed and Friday nights and are situation in an industrial area of Richmond and inside another un-assuming red-brick building:
Lucky I got there early and had a chance to look around and ordered my beer before the place filled up with black-suited business-men for whom it seems to be a popular location.
The beer here was Mountain Goat's IPA served through what they affectionately call 'Randy'; their Randall filter through which the beer is run (this time loaded with fresh hops) as it's served:
As you'd expect the beer was packed with fresh hop flavours and aromas backed with a noticeable but subdued malt backbone, and overall a very tasty IPA.

Just a few steps away from the bar is Mountain Goat's brewery area (tours are offered on Wednesday) so at least I got to see some bits of stainless beer making gear after all:
With Mountain Goat quickly filling with mostly business suited patrons it was time for a walk down to the tram and a trip back into the City, this time to the European Bier Cafe for a nice malty German Lager:

We then visited the Comedy Club Friday night gig, enjoying a couple of stubbies of Coopers Sparkling Ale from the limited bar selection available, before finishing the night with an interesting pizza.  Panned Pizza is located adjacent to Melbourne's Greek Precinct, with 'American Style' (thin based pizza) served by Asian shop attendants - a very multi-cultural mix and tasty pizza:

Sunday, 14 August 2011

German Weiss

24 hours after pitching (at 16degC) as seems to be using for a Weiss-Yeast, it's nearly crawling out of the top of the fermentor:

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Brew Day: DunkelWeizen

Another chance to try one of the Brewtek yeasts today, this time it's CL930 "German Weiss".  It's listed as being "Milder than CL920" which is why I wanted to use it, but since they also say it's "from a famous German yeast bank" it may be that it's actually the same yeast as Wy3068 and WPL300: 'Weihenstephan 68'.

Estimated OG: 1.054 SG, Estimated Color: 17.1 SRM, Estimated IBU: 16.5 IBU
Boil Time: 65 Minutes

Wheat Malt, Pale (Best Malz) (2.0 SRM)    52.0 %       
Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)            42.0 %       
Crystal (Joe White) (72.0 SRM)            4.0 %        
Carafa Special II (Weyermann) (415.0 SRM) 1.0 %        
Wheat Malt, Midnite (Briess) (742.0 SRM)           1.0 %        
0.68g/L Hallertau Aroma 09 [8.10%]  (60 min)      16.5 IBU     
0.09g/L Calcium Sulfate (Mash)
0.18g/L Calcium Chloride (Mash)
9.1 billion cells/L  (Starter)  German Weiss (Brewtek CL930)
This is also my first chance to use the two new wheat malts I picked up last weekend.  Best Malz list their Pale Wheat Malt as being 2 SRM - they actually say it's 3-5 EBC, 1.6-2.3 °L, which works out about 2 SRM.  However, while the bag does say 'Best Weizen Malt' 'Best Wheat Malt' it looks to be much darker than the last sack of Wheat Malt I had (from Barrett Burston which was listed as 1.2 SRM).  The Best Malz wheat almost looks a similar (but more orange) colour to the Weyermann Munich which is about 7 SRM (and also the colour listed for Best Dark Wheat Malt):
Best Wheat Malt (left), Wyermann Munich I (right)
Midnite (yes American spelling) Wheat malt from Briess in the USA is a glossy pitch-black colour that they say "will deliver intense color and subtle, smooth flavor ... without bitter or harsh flavors" so it seems like a good choice for darkening the DunkelWeizen when combined with some Carafa Special II:
Carafa Special II (left), Midnite Wheat (right), JW Crystal (bottom), base Munich I (top middle).
Mash schedule was a double infusion, the first for a protein rest at 55C and the second for the Saccrification at 67C.  A single decoction was used to setup the temp up to mash-out at 76C.
Decoction boiling on the stove.
When brewing beer using only hop-pellets I usually remove the slotted pickup tube because a decent whirlpool is enough to concentrate all the hop debris and break material in the middle of the kettle.  Without the pickup tube in place, the tap essentially siphons off the clear wort from the edge of the kettle without any additional complication:
With more than 50% wheat some haze is probably expected into the fermentor, but with the wort chilled well by the CFC the yeast was pitched almost immediately.:
The style guidelines suggest the colour should be "Light copper to mahogany brown" as you can see at the very top of the photo above, the wort leaving the copper CFC is pretty much exactly the same colour as the copper pipe, so it should be spot-on what is expected for the style.

Old German Ale

After 3 days in the fermenting fridge at 16C the Brewtek (CL400) 'Old German Ale' is already past the high krasuen stage and appears to be happily fermenting the Altbier from a few days ago:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Brew Day: AltBier

I've been looking forward to using the Brewtek (CL400) Old German Ale for a while now, and a Dusseldorf Altbier should be the ideal style for it:

Estimated OG: 1.052 SG, Estimated Color: 14.1 SRM, Estimated IBU: 47.2 IBU
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)            52.5 %       
Pilsner (Best Malz) (1.8 SRM)             41.2 %       
Melanoidin (Weyermann) (30.0 SRM)         3.1 %        
Caraaroma (130.0 SRM)                     1.6 %        
Carafa Special II (Weyermann) (415.0 SRM) 1.6 %        
Northern Brewer 08 [9.60%]  (60 min)      32.6 IBU     
Wuertumberger (HG '10) [4.50%]  (FWH)      12.1 IBU     
Mt. Hood (HG '10) [5.00%]  (15 min)        1.6 IBU
Wuertumberger (HG '10) [4.50%]  (15 min)      1.2 IBU     
0.022ml/L       Lactic Acid (Sparge)
0.025g/L      Calcium Sulfate (Mash)                      
0.05g/L       Calcium Chloride (Mash)                      
0.075g/L       Calcium Carbonate (Mash) 
0.05g/L       Whirlfloc (Powder/Granules) (Boil)                     
0.05g/L       Yeast Nutrient (Boil)
13.6 billion cells/L  (Starter)  Old German Ale (Brewtek CL400)
The Style Guidelines suggest "Moderately carbonate water" but I didn't want to overdo it so there is a mix of Calcium Carbonate, Chloride and Sulfate.  Low temp single infusion mash @65C so the Munich and specialty malts should provide ample rich malty flavours balanced by the decent amount of hops.
CaraAroma,  Melanoidin, Carafa Special, & Pilsner base
Here is the new grain-crush (same size roller gap, just no pre-conditioning of the malt:
The other new addition to the 'high tech plastic fly sparge arm' is a tiny bit of aluminum foil that 'floats' on top of the grain bed and helps distribute the flow just a little better:
Both the MtHood and Wuertumberger hops were home grown (the MtHood by myself and the Wuertumberger by another home-brewer), hopefully they will add some more interesting flavours since Alt beers traditionally use very spicy Spalt hops.

Since it's virtually impossible to know the exact IBU level of home-grown hops, they're being used mostly for flavour and aroma additions with the bulk of the bittering from the commercially grown, packed and lab-analyzed Northern Brewer.  Even if there is a bit of a difference between the home grown IBU estimation it should not have a large impact on the end result.

First wort hopping (and pre-oxidation of hops) have gotten some attention on various forums recently, with all sorts of theories about how much bitterness and flavour FWH adds.  Some people have suggested that FWH adds less bitterness, others that the bitterness is more rounded and more palatable so it is perceived as a lower bitterness level, others say you should take a percentage of your late hops and add them as FWH but not adjust the bitterness levels.  While there is probably some logic (but not that much testing) behind many of those suggestions, most hop calculations are simply best-guesses anyway, especially when working with home brew quantities and conditions, so it's more about trial and error and finding a beer that tastes good rather than reaching some specific commercial type IBU target.

With this in mind I'm happy to let the brewing software assume the FWH add bitterness at the appropriate level for the full boil duration, but also presume that there may be some perceived roundness and more flavoure from the FWH additions when compared to typical 60min additions.  Besides they look good and make the wort smell so good, so who needs other reasons than that:
Wuertumberger FWH hop addition.
When brewing with all commercial pellet-hops a decent vigorous whirlpool is usually enough to settle the hops and break material in the middle of the kettle.  However whole hops are too bulky, retain too much wort and take up too much room in my kettle to settle neatly in the middle, even if Whirlpooled.  When using a percentage of whole hops, I use a simple 'hop strainer' which is just a slotted copper pickup, much like that on the mash tun.
The hops seem to provide a good filter bed and actually help filter out all the break material, leaving the wort very clear and bright right out of the kettle, which is one reason why I generally prefer to brew with whole hops.  However they do tend to retain a bit more of the wort, resulting in a decrease in efficiency of up to 5%, in the past I've decanted the hops, trub and remaining wort into 2L glass bottles.  The hops and break will settle to the bottom of the bottle and if you were paranoid about efficiency the wort decanted into the fermenting beer, however I typically keep the kettle-dregs and use them to make yeast starters.
Kettle dregs after being left to settle in the fridge for a few days.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Beer & Pizza

Stopped at Mojos Weird Pizza on the way home from the airport today. It's almost adjacent to Purvis Beer but unfortunately they closed an hour before we got there. There was another bottle shop almost next-door, so still got some beer to go with the pizza, however given the stock and quality of what was on offer, most beer drinkers probably shop at Purvis.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Brewtek Yeast Starters

I've finally have the chance to use some of the 'new' Brewtek yeasts I got earlier this year.  Recultured the slants into 10ml of wort before stepping them up a couple of times (100m, 500ml).  They are nearly ready to go now so should be brewing with the new grain and the 'new' yeast in the next few days.

 The yeast starters 2x CL400 (at the back) and a small CL930.
About BrewTek
A number of books, online recipes and brewing software (such as BeerSmith) reference BrewTek yeast, these yeast strains were used very successfully in many home-brewed beers.  Until about early 2003 Brewers Resource supplied BrewTek yeast (numbered as CL-#) on slants via their website.  As of about 2004, Brewsters Yeast offered BrewTek strains , however in 2007 Brewsters Yeast also closed their operation.  Since that time the only way to obtain BrewTek yeast (except in large volume or commercial situations) is via home-brewers who have saved this these yeasts at home or in their on labs.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

All that Grain ... and nothing to Brew.

This is what AU$6500 worth of grain looks like.
While only a small portion of it is coming here, I did spend half the day distributing it to fellow home brewers from the AHB forums.  Luckily most of it went well, only 1 sack of grain out of 135 was sent to the wrong home.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Plastic Bits 'n Pieces

Although the box got pretty battered up on it's way over from the USA, all the plastic bits for the new beer fridge arrived today.  There are a couple of beers lagering in the keg-fridge so it's still going to be a few weeks before I fit it out.
Jim at Apex was a great help in getting the stuff selected and even had to order some things in for me (since the 'Australian' 5/16 OD Beer and Gas line is not used that much in the USA).  While shopping locally is nice, I saved about AU$275 by ordering all the bits shipped from the US.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Freezing Goo ... it just wont do.

While making starter wort - from the old tins of good that were on chuck-out at the supermarket - the stuff was dribbling and sticking everywhere as usual.  We have some large stick-ice-cube-trays so I thought it would be a good idea to freeze the goo so that it could be distributed without mess the next time I wanted to use it.  The idea was that a single 'stick' of frozen goo could be put in the starter without all the mess of having to measure it out each time.
While the theory was good, after spending a few days in the freezer the goo was still as runny and sticky as ever, I guess that the super-high sugar-content means that it doesn't freeze until it's much colder than the beer-fridge wanted to make it ... so much for that idea, now I have to clean the mess off the bench and out of the ice-trays.