Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Full Brewing Capacity

I am now at full capacity. I can brew no more until I get some stuff bottled and it will be a while. The first thing that will be bottled will be the hefeweizen and that will take 10 days to 2 weeks to mature.
The next thing that will be ready for bottling will be the Irish Red Ale and that will be in about a month. The buzzy beer won't be ready to bottle for at least 7 to 8 weeks. The peach ginger mead won't be ready to bottle for probably another 3 to 6 months. The plum crazy mead will not be ready for at least 6 to 9 months.

Hawkeye Hefe

I just brewed my last of anything for a while. I decided to brew a German hefeweizen. It is a wheat beer that is at least 50% wheat. hefeweizen uses a specific yeast that doesn't settle out so the beer stays cloudy like the one in the photo below.
Hefeweizen is traditionally a summer beer because it is very refreshing. Hefeweizen yeast produces a flavor of cloves and banana in the beer. It is usually very lightly hopped so it is not too bitter.

I decided to brew hefeweizen because it matures very quickly. You let the fermentation finish in the primary and then you bottle it. You don't have to age it in the secondary because the beer will be cloudy no matter what you do, and the cloudiness is a desired characteristic. The other nice thing about hefeweizen is that it is a very simple beer to brew. There are no specialty grains in my recipe so you can skip the steeping step, thus cutting about an hour off of the brew time.

Hawkeye Hefe

7 pounds Munton and Fison Dry Wheat Extract (55% wheat, 45% barley)

1/2 ounce German Tradition 5.0% AA hops

Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen

Bring about 2 gallons water to a boil. Remove pot from heat and stir in the extract. Add the hops to the boil bag and boil the whole mess for 60 minutes. During the last 10 minutes put the immersion chiller into the pot to sterilize it. Cool using the immersion chiller. Aerate the wort very well by stirring. Measure specific gravity. Pitch yeast.

Mine started with a SG of 1.052. I am predicting a final ABV of about 5%. The IBU for this recipe is 10

Monday, August 25, 2008

Plum Crazy Mead Part 2

Last night I made a starter using Lavlin D47 yeast. I used 3 cups water, 1/4 t yeast energizer and 1/4 t yeast nutrient. I boiled that for 10 minutes and then added 1/4 cup honey off the heat. I let it cool to room temp and then pitched the yeast. This morning it was bubbling away happily.

Plum Crazy Mead

6 pounds honey from Perry
1 t yeast nutrient
1 t yeast energizer
1 1/2 t pectinase
~3 pounds plums
starter of Lavlin D47

I mixed up the honey, yeast nutrient and energizer. I added water to make 2 gallons and took a specific gravity reading. It was 1.140. Then I cut the plums in half and dropped the pitted plums including the skins into the mead. Then I pitched the yeast and added the pectinase.

Buzzy Beer Brewed!

Last night I brewed the Buzzy Beer after a trip up to the farm to get water.
I went back to the spring fed well to find out that it had been capped.
Our family also owned the farm across the road so we went to the pumphouse to draw some water.
This pumphouse is less than 100 yards away from Buzzy's spring so I am sure it is fed from the same aquifer. We let the water run for about 10 minutes. I tasted the water and as with all things involving Buzzy, it went way beyond what I was expecting. 'Our Man in the Field' relayed the info at pumpside that he occasionally fills his water tank on the sprayer with this water. If it sits a while it turns the tank a little yellow and leaves a line. He postulated that the water has a high iron content.

I tasted the water and it was extremely strong. It definitely had an iron effervescence about it. The water tasted very similar to every farm water I have ever tasted. There was also a fairly strong component of sulfur.

'Our Man in the Field' suggested, wisely, that I only use a little of the Buzzy water to "seed" the Buzzy beer. I agreed with that plan and only used 2 cups of buzzy water to seed the beer.

I had to change the hops just a little because Midwest Supplies didn't have the exact hops I needed. Here is the new hops bill:

60 minute boil -
Hallertau (German) 4.4%AA
Hersbrucker (German) 3.0%AA

10 minute boil -
Stryian Goldings Aroma 1.9%AA

The new IBU calculates to 14

After everything was mixed up the starting gravity was 1.100 - right on target to make a 9.5% beer.

Irish Red Ale Part 2

I brewed the Irish Red Ale on 8/17/8. Last night I moved it into the secondary. I didn't take a gravity reading. This morning it is already starting to clear.

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead Part 3

Last night I racked the Joe's Ancient Orange to the secondary. I know it is supposed to be able to mature in the primary but it looked like it wanted a new home. The specific gravity at this point is 1.034 so the ABV is ~10%. It tasted pretty sweet with a strong flavor of oranges.

Liberty Cream Ale Part 4

I cracked open some of the Liberty Cream Ale at a family get together last Saturday. I thought it was pretty tasty and it seemed to go over pretty well.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pilgrimage to Midwest Supplies

I am planning a trip to Minneapolis this Sunday to pick up some supplies from my favorite brew shop. I am also stopping by Ledyard to get the spring water for the Buzzy Beer. "Our Man in the Field" will be accompanying me on this journey.

Plum Crazy Mead part 1

Last night I happened upon a plum tree that my grandfather planted years ago. It still had plums on the branches although it needs a thorough pruning very soon. Today we went back and picked 3 pounds of plums.

I am planning on making a mead using some of the honey I bought in Perry and the plums. I would like a nice plum flavor and 3 pounds of plums should be adequate to make 2 gallons of mead. I would like this mead to finish a little sweeter than my peach/ginger mead so I am going to use 6 pounds of honey in the 2 gallons of water.

I am planning to pick up some Lavlin D47 yeast for this mead. I should be able to get things going sometime this weekend or Monday morning. More news on this as it develops.

I think I am going to pick up some more honey from the guy in Perry next week.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Buzzy Beer, Planning Phase Part 4

As I was saying earlier, I decided to change Buzzy Beer a little. I want a nice strong beer but I don't want it as bitter as a Barleywine would be. I changed my mind after I had this Belgian beer made by these naughty Trappist monks. I have been researching feverishly. It is difficult to find much information on the Trappist beers because they are so secretive.

Buzzy Beer will be in the class of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. I am planning to have it be about 9.5% alcohol with an IBU around 25. It will be very dark and somewhat sweet.

I was originally planning on doing this as an all-grain brew but I have decided to wait a bit before upgrading my equipment to be able to do an all-grain. So without further delay, here is the recipe:

Buzzy Beer
Specialty Grains
11 oz of Cara-Munich Malt (Belgium)
8 oz of Munich Malt (Germany)
3.5 oz of Chocolate Malt (UK)
2 oz of Biscuit Malt (Belgium)

Heat 1 gallon of water to 160 and pour over grains. Let sit for 30 minutes to steep. Strain grain water into the brew pot. Add an additional 1 gallon of 150 degree water to the grains and strain again. Bring water to a boil and add:

Boil Ingredients
9 pounds of Munton and Fison Extra Light Dry Malt Extract
1.67 pounds of Belgian Amber Candi Sugar

Hops boiled for 60 minutes
1 oz Styrian Goldings 5%AA
1 oz Hallertau Hersbrocker (German) 3.3% AA

Additional ingredients

1 t Irish moss added at 15 minutes left in boil

Last 10 mintues of boil hops

1/4 ounce Hallertau Hersbrocker (German)


Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

The priming for carbonation will be different for this batch. 3 days before it is time to bottle I will add another dose of the yeast. Right before bottling I will add 1 1/4 cups M&F extra light DME which has been boiled for 10 minutes in 2 cups water.

From what I have read, this beer will have to sit in the secondary for about 6 weeks and it takes about 10 weeks after you bottle to get the right amount of carbonation.

Peach and Ginger Mead Part 7

I ended up moving the mead into a carboy for secondary fermentation. I am about to add 2 ounces of ginger. It will sit in the secondary for a month and I will move it again to another carboy. You have to keep moving it to get it to clear real well.

Peach and Ginger Mead Part 6

I got back from Columbus and the mead wasn't bubbling anymore. I thought to myself, 'uh-oh, the mead is stuck'. Sometimes when you make mead or any alcohol for that matter, it will ferment for a while and then for whatever reason the yeast decides to die or take a nap. If it does this before all of the sugar is consumed then you have to take steps to remedy the problem.

The first step if you think your mead is stuck is to measure a specific gravity. This mead started at 1.112 so if I measured a repeat gravity and it was 1.065 then I would know that it wasn't done fermenting because it should finish much lower than that.

So anyway I measured the gravity and it was 0.996! This means that the mead has an alcohol by volume of 16.25%!! Now I have to decide if I should move it to the secondary fermenter or keep it in the primary with the fruit for another couple weeks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Change in Plans for Buzzy Beer

Last weekend I went with my friend Dirty T to a few brewpubs in Des Moines. We had some Barleywine, which was the original style that I was going to brew Buzzy Beer in. It was pretty tasty and very strong. But then we went to this other place and I had a bottle of Trappiste Rochefort.
It was seriously one of the tastiest beers I've ever had. It is something like 9.2% ABV so technically it is a Barleywine, but it wasn't bitter like an English Barleywine. It was somewhat sweet. I am researching how it is brewed and I am going to redesign Buzzy beer to be similar.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Irish Red Ale Part 1

I am planning an Irish Red Ale for the next brew. I am no longer brewing from kits. The kits are easy and all but I haven't found any that come with no-compromise authentic ingredients.

To design the my Irish Red Ale I consulted the Beer Judge Certification Program style guide and the book Designing Great Beers. I wanted to make something that would be legal to use in a competition with super high quality ingredients.

Irish Red Ale

4 pounds Mountmellick (Ireland) light extract
3 pounds Munton & Fison (UK) extra light dry malt extract (Added in last 15 minutes of boil)
12 oz Crystal 50-60L Simpson's (UK)
2 oz Roasted Barley 500-600L Simpson's (UK)
2 oz Cara Malt, crisp malting (UK)


1 oz Kent Goldings 4.8% AA ---- boiled 60 minutes
1 oz Fuggles 4.0% AA ---- boiled last 2 minutes


White Labs Irish Ale Yeast WL004


1 t Irish Moss added in last 15 minutes of boil (clarifying agent)

5 oz corn sugar for priming (carbonation)

I did some calculations based on the recipe. We'll see how close they come to reality.

Predicted Starting Gravity - 1.061
Predicted Finishing Gravity - 1.015
Predicted Alcohol by Volume - 5.9%
Predicted IBU (bitterness) - 20

I should be brewing when I get back from Columbus.

Liberty Cream Ale Part 3

I bottled the Liberty Cream Ale today.

Here are the final stats:

Liberty Cream Ale
International Bitter Units: 37.5
Starting Gravity: 1.046
Finishing Gravity: 1.011
Alcohol By Volume: 4.51%

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Peach and Ginger Mead Part 5

I finished my last stirring just now. I did 3 stirrings, 24 hours apart. I added 1/2 t yeast nutrient and 1/2 t yeast energizer at each stirring. The must is bubbling away now at least once a second.

I won't touch it again until it has been fermenting a month. At a month I will switch it to the secondary fermenter and add the ginger.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Peach and Ginger Mead Part 4

I went downstairs to check the meat tonight and it was bubbling once per second. I decided to stick the original plan and sit and re-invigorate it once a day for the next couple days. I stirred the must really well with the drill and paint stirrer. I added 1/2 t yeast nutrient and 1/2 t yeast energizer.

Peach and Ginger Mead Part 3

This AM we have vigorous fermentation, bubbling at least every second, sometimes more than once a second.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Peach and Ginger Mead Part 2

I opened up the fermenter and everything looked good.
I pitched the yeast just now (4PM).
I used a sanitized paint stirrer and a drill to aerate and stir everything for 10 minutes.
For the next 3 days, I am going to add 1/2 t yeast energizer and 1/2 t yeast nutrient and stir really well. The idea is to get a really robust fermentation going. It is supposed to take about a month for the process to complete.

Peach and Ginger Mead

Yesterday I turned some of my recently acquired honey into some peach and Ginger Mead. It will take about 6 to 9 months to mature properly. I based the recipe on one I found in the book The Compleat Meadmaker.

The first thing I did was find about 10 pounds of tasty peaches.
Then my naughty wife helped cut them up.
The weight of the peaches after peeling and pitting was exactly 8 pounds.

After I sanitized all of my equipment, the next thing was to weigh out some honey and dissolve it in water.
I used 12.5 pounds of honey, which was about a gallon. I topped it off with enough water to make 5 gallons and stirred the heck out of it with a sanitized whisk.

I measured the specific gravity and it was 1.122. I also measured the pH and it was much greater than 4.4 so we are good to go.

Next I added 2 teaspoons of yeast energizer and 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient. Those will help the yeast get going and will keep them alive. Honey is great but it doesn't have enough free nitrogen for the yeast to have a nice party.
I also added 2 1/2 teaspoons of pectinase enzyme. That is supposed to help break down the peaches and ginger so that more juice gets into the mead.

The next thing I did was to add the peaches to the honey water. I am going to add 2 ounces of peeled and crushed ginger after the primary fermentation is done. Because peaches aren't sterile and there are all sorts of natural yeast in there, I decided to use some sulfate to clean things up a bit. I added 3 finely ground Campden tablets. After adding the Campden tablets, everything has to sit for 24 hours before you pitch the yeast.

Meanwhile I made up a starter for my yeast.
I used a strain from White Labs called WLP720, a sweet mead/wine yeast. It has an alcohol tolerance of 15%. To make the starter I boiled 6 cups water, 1/4 t yeast nutrient and 1/4 t yeast energizer for 5 minutes. After I removed it from the heat I dropped in 1/2 cup honey and let the whole thing cool to room temp. Then I dropped in the yeast and shook it up.

I have to throw a liter of the starter into the 5 gallons of mead tonight. I have posted a summary formula below.

Peach and Ginger Mead

12.5 pounds honey
water to make 5 gallons
About 10 pounds of peaches, peeled and cut up to make a final weight of 8 pounds, added to primary
2 ounces of ginger, peeled and crushed added to the secondary
2 t yeast energizer
2 t yeast nutrient
2 1/2 t pectinase enzyme
3 campden tablets finely crushed
1 liter of starter made from White Labs WLP720 yeast

Friday, August 1, 2008

Super Premium Honey for Mead

So I've been looking for some really good honey to make some high quality mead. Ideally what you want is something that has never been heated, filtered or otherwise adulterated. Heating honey causes some depredation of the aromas and flavor. If you have never smelled or tasted raw honey you are in for a big surprise. Honey can be heated for pasteurization. If honey is filtered, they will likely have to heat it to get it liquid enough to run through the filter. In order to get it to run through a filter you have to heat it to 110 degrees.

The next thing you are looking for is honey that the keeper knows the pollen source for. Ideally it is single source honey from someone who lends their bees to orchards and the like.

If it was a perfect world you would be able to get honey that was just harvested from the comb which meets all of the above criteria AND has a really good fragrance and flavor.

Well guess what, I got super lucky and found some honey that is perfect, meeting all the above conditions.

Curt Bronnenberg is a second generation beekeeper and has been involved in beekeeping his entire life. He runs Spring Valley Honey Farms in Perry Iowa. It is on a gravel road to the west of Perry.

I made a pilgrimage there today. I met Curt and he is the nicest guy you would ever meet. He is so incredibly enthusiastic about bees and honey. We talked for almost an hour about the health of his bees, how the honey business is coming along and the current batch of honey.
The whole time I was there I was standing up next to that forklift in the center of the photo. All these bees were buzzing around like crazy because he is currently harvesting honey. He has some of his 2000 bee boxes sitting there buzzing away like nuts.

I didn't mind all the bees because they added to the ambiance. We talked about what to look for in a premium honey. As luck would have it, he was harvesting "early honey" today! The honey I bought literally went from the comb to the centrifuge and into my bottle. There was no heating, no filtering no messing with the honey whatsoever.

Early honey is the best honey because it is much lighter in color and has an amazing amount of aromatic aroma. You can smell flours, sweetness and all kinds of other smells that you can only smell in fresh raw honey. There really is that much of a difference.

Check out the jug of Spring Valley Honey Farms Honey vs. the store brand.
Look in the handle of the jug at how light the color is!

Curt told me that it is only for about a month and a half a year that you can get it this fresh. He only harvest combs for about a month and a half. Later in the year the honey crystallizes and he has to heat it a little to get it out of the barrel. So really I got incredibly lucky to get honey today.

As for the floral source for this current batch, Curt said the bees were around apples, white clover and basswood. He says that this is one of the best flavored and best smelling batches he has made in a long time. How lucky did I get!!??!?!?

Scotch Eggs

A little something to go with your homebrew.