Our first sour beer, a gose with apricots

The day had come. Until now, through these last years all of our beers had been fermented exclusively with the reliable and classic Sacccharomyces cerevisae, a.k.a. beer yeast. Different strains, yes, some of them even quite peculiar, but always putting fermentation in the hands of the same species. However, the rise of sour beers in recent times made us to rethink the possibility of brewing one of these beers. First thing we had to face was to choose a style, since most of you will know, there are several styles of sour beers. Finally we decided to brew a Gose for several reasons: it is a relatively approachable style, it doesn’t take an eternity to brew and we really like the style, more than other sour beers like Berliner Weisse, Lambic or Flanders Red. Once we chose the style, we thought that we were also going to use some fruit for this beer, since Gose is a style that goes well with fruit and it is not unusual to see Gose beers brewed with different fruits. We decided we were going to use apricots this time, so the first thing we did was to buy some ripe apricots during their season. Then we made a purée with them and kept that purée in the freezer while we kept on reading information about the style and how to brew it. Since we brewed this beer in December 2017, the apricot purée spent 3 months in the freezer.

Ripe apricots right before making a puree

First, as always, some notes about the style and its history. Gose is a pale wheat beer, top fermented and acidified via lactic fermentation. Sodium chloride (table salt) and coriander seeds are used as flavourings. It is usually brewed with barley malt and wheat, with the latter in a greater proportion in the grain bill. Gose was probably once a spontaneous fermented beer and sourer than today versions. The website of Ritterguts, the oldest brewery which still brews Gose contains some useful information about the style and you can even watch an interview where people from the brewery explain how they brew their Gose.

Taking about its history, Gose maybe is one of the most interesting beer styles. I’m not going to detail it because some of you maybe aren’t interested in reading stories about beer. But for those of you who, like me, enjoy reading about the evolution of beer styles, nobody better than the excellent beer historian Ron Pattison to tell you about the history of Gose. However, I’ll give you some notes: first Gose was brewed in the beginning of the eighteenth century in Goslar, in the north of Germany, and it became famous in the next years in the nearby city of Leizpig, where at the end of the nineteenth century it was considered the local beer style. During the twentieth century its popularity declined, to the point that it almost disappeared. There was a revival in the 90s and now you can see how it turned out in your favourite bars.

Wheat malt and barly malt ready to be milled

Focusing on brewing, first thing we had to think about was how we were going to acidify (lower the pH value) of the wort. One of the common ways to do this is to work with lactic acid producing bacteria like the ones from the Lactobacillus family, since they are easy to work with and they are not hard to get, as pure cultures or from the environment since they are present in most of the base malts. If you want to get a fast acidification, there are basically three methods to do it: acidifying in the mash (sour mashing), in the ketlle (kettle souring) or in the fermenter (sour worting). Each one has its own tips and characteristics to avoid troubles and if you want to learn more you can visit this entry from the Sour Beer Blog, where you can find a detailed description of each method as well as some tips to do it right.

We chose kettle souring, I’ll explain the process later. We chose it for several reasons: it’s quick, it’s safe since it avoids cross contamination and it’s easily adjustable.

 

Fast Souring Lacto from Giga Yeast

Before getting into specifics about the process we followed, you can see below a description of the ingredients we used as well as a little summary of the steps of the process. The final volume was 5 liters (1.32 gallons), since everytime we try a new thing we like to start with small volumes.

GOSE WITH APRICOTS

MALTS/GRAINS
0.60 Kg (1.32 lbs) (57.1%) wheat malt (Grannaria) (3.9 EBC)
0.45 Kg (0.99 lbs) (42.9%) Pilsen malt (Dingemans) (5.0 EBC)
HOPS
2.50 g (0.09 oz) Hallertauer Tradition (6.70% AA) leaf (boil 45 minutes, 8.1 IBUs)
ADJUNCTS
3.00 g (0.11 oz) table salt (sodium chloride) and 3.00 (0.11 oz) g coriander seeds (boil 10 minutes)
1.00 Kg (2.2 lbs) ripe apricots. Added in the form of purée (previously frozen) in secondary
BACTERIA / YEAST
Fast Souring Lacto (Giga Yeast #GB110) (Gold Pitch, pitched directly). Fermented for 48 hours between 30-40ºC (86-104ºF) until pH was 3.55
Safale K-97  (1 sachet, previously rehydrated). Fermented after boiling and cooling after Lactobacillus ferementation. Fermentation temperature around 19-20ºC (66-68ºF)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 5.25 L (1.39 gallons)     OG: 1.041     FG: 1.008     ABV: 4.2%     IBUs: 8.1     Color: 7.2 EBC     BU/GU: 0.197     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 111 pm; Mg: 3.4 ppm; Na: 7.4 ppm; SO4: 132 ppm; Cl: 140 ppm
MASH
4.86 L (1.28 gallons) water at 64ºC (147.2ºF) for 60 minutes, mash out at 75ºC (167ºF) 10 minutes adding 3.5 L (0.92 gallons) of boiling water
BOIL
60 minutes

Wort with a pH of 3.6 after acidifying with Lactobacillus

Ingredient selection was easy. For grains, following tradition, wheat malt and Pilsen malt, with the first in a greater proportion. This time wheat malt was from Grannaria, a malting plant in Leon that has increased the grains in its catalog this year. We bought from them because we liked the result we got with our Smash L&G. Pilsen malt was from Dingemans. The little amount of hops we needed came from Germany, Hallertauer Tradition. We also added as adjunts, also following the style guidelines, salt from Añana and coriander seeds, freshly crushed, both in the boil. To acidify we used Fast Souring Lacto from Giga Yeast and to finish fermentation a German strain from Fermentis, Safale K-97, a clean ale yeast.

In the process, new for us, we followed again the advice from the Sour Beer Blog to avoid growth of unwanted microorganisms and/or contamination with Lactobacillus in the cold side of the process. The steps to follow to avoid complications start after mashing. At this point, you boil the wort for 15 minutes to sanitize and kill as many microorganisms as you can. Then, you cool the wort until it reaches around 40ºC (104ºF), a suitable temperature for Lactobacillus (it depends on the strain), and you add enough phosphoric acid or lactic acid to lower the pH to a value of around 4.5. After that, you pitch Lactobacillus and let it ferment, trying to keep the temperature in a suitable range, around 30ºC-40ºC (86ºF-104ºF). It is also advisable to keep oxygen apart, so it is a good practice to purge with CO2 when pitching Lactobacillus to avoid some undesirable byproducts. Finally, when the wort reaches the pH value you are looking for, you boil it as if it were a normal wort for the time you want, adding the hops you want and from then on you keep on as you would do with other beers. Following these steps, you practically avoid growth of unwanted microorganisms, off flavors and contamination of your equipment with Lactobacillus in the cold side of the process.

Coriander seed and table salt from Añana

With all of the above in mind, we started adding enough calcium chloride and sulfuric acid to obtain the water profile showed above, as well as the desired mash pH (theoretical mash pH=5.33). This time we had collected water the day before brewday and we left it overnight so the chlorine could evaporate. After heating water and adding the crushed grains, the initial mash temperature was about 64ºC (147.2ºF). One hour later, after mixing the grains a couple of times, the temperature was a little above 61ºC (141.8ºF). We added 3.5 liters (0.92 gallons) of boiling water for a mash out temperature of 75ºC (167ºF). Before pitching Lactobacillus, we removed grains and we boiled for 15 minutes to sanitize the wort. Fast Souring Lacto from Giga Yeast has a fermentation temperature ranger of 20ºC-37ºC (68ºF-98.6ºF), so we cool the wort to about 40ºC (104ºF) and we added 4 mL of 80% lactic acid to get a pH of 4.68 (we didn’t want to go too far). All of this inside the kettle, where we pitched the Fast Souring Lacto, purging with CO2 at the same time to avoid oxygen. We finally pitched with wort at 39ºC (102.2ºF) and after we put the lid on, we put the kettle in our little fermentation chamber with the temperature set at maximum, 24ºC (75.2ºF),to keep it as warm as possible. The original gravity at this point was 1.033

German ale yeast Safale K-97

Next day, 21 hours after pitching Lactobacillus, the pH value was 4.50. The kettle had lost temperature, so we heated it until the wort reached again 40ºC (104ºF) and we put it again in the fermentation chamber, this time with a towel around it to try to avoid heat loss and facilitate the growth of Lactobacillus. A day later, 48 hours after inoculation of Lactobacillus, the pH value was 3.55, just in the middle of the recommended range (3.3-3.8), so we proceeded to boil the wort. Pre-boil gravity was 1.029, giving an attenuation of 11.8%. The theoretical value for this culture described in the Giga Yeast website is 15% fermenting at 37ºC (98.6ºF) for 48 hours, so having into account that our average temperature was lower than that, it was not bad at all.

We added hops 45 minutes before the end of the boil, and the last 5 minutes we also added 3 g (0.11 oz) of salt and 3 g (0.11 oz) of freshly crushed coriander seeds. When the boil was finished, we cooled the wort until it reached 20ºC (68ºF) and we pitched Safale K-97 looking for a clean fermentation, setting the fermentation chamber at 18.5ºC (65.3ºF).

Final fermentation with Safale K-97

23 hours later a considerable krausen was present and it made us forget about our fears of the yeast not being able to work with a low pH value. After three days, the krausen was gone and fermentation seemed to be reaching its final stages. Nevertheless, we left it another 3 days before adding the apricot purée that we had kept in the freezer for three months. Obviously, we kept it outside of the freezer a few hours so it was a little below room temperature when we added it. Final gravity was 1.008, for 4.2% ABV. Before adding the fruit I took a sip and it tasted pretty nice, with a marked but pleasant acidity.

Sugars from the fruit reactivated the yeast, and next day the airlock looked like a volcano, full of fruit, as well as the top of the fermentation chamber as you can see in picture below. After a couple of days and various changes of airlock everything settled down and the fruit started to fall to the bottom of the PET bottle. Twelve days after adding the apricot purée, we transferred again the beer to a smaller PET bottle trying to clear it. Finally, the second day of 2018 we bottled the beer adding enough sugar to get around 2.6 volumes of CO2 in the final beer. We had certain difficulties because there was still a lot of fruit in it and it was difficult to separate it from the beer, even using some cloth filters. We ended up with around 4 liters of beer with about 4% ABV that filled 12 bottles of 33 cL, left at room temperature to carbonate for at least 2-3 weeks.

Airlock after adding apricot puree

As a final summary, and before commenting how the beer turned out, something we’ll do in a future post, I must say that brewing our first sour beer was a very interesting experience. We forgot our fears about “bugs” and this sour beer will be followed by others. The steps to avoid complications when brewing this style are not difficult to follow and the possibilities are endless (different yeast/bacteria strains, other types of fruit,…). However, for future elaborations of beers similar to this, we had to think about the way of adding fruit so we can separate this fruit from the final beer. Maybe we can try putting the fruit in stockings or maybe we can brew a bigger volume and give more time for the fruit to settle down at the bottom of the fermenter (this time we rushed everything because we were looking forward to taste the final result).

For those of you who haven’t brewed sour beers yet, we encourage you to forget your fears and do it since, as you can see, it’s not so complicated and you can get good results without having to wait a lot of time. And for those of you who already brew sour beers, we are all ears if you want to share some tips with us.

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A trip to the cradle of Kölsch and Altbier beers – First part: Cologne

As we told you in our post about brewing our Kölsch 2017, last November we were able to spend a few days in Cologne, and also to visit the nearby Dusseldorf. As every good beer aficionado will know these two cities are the cradle of two peculiar beer styles, Kölsch and Altbier, respectively. To make it easier, and also because we don’t want to choose one side in the regional rivalry about beer between these two cities, we are going to divide our trip in two parts. First one will be about Kölschs from Cologne and the second one will be about Dusseldorf and Atlbiers.

Cologne

First, and as a non-beer introduction, a few tourist tips about the city. It is clear that its majestic cathedral is the center of everything with its tourist magnetism. It can be seen from a lot of places around the city and it impresses with its enormous size. Apart from its outward appearance, its interior deserves to be visited with tranquility. You can also climb the stairs to one of its towers for spectacular views of the city. Apart from the cathedral, Cologne is, at least the most touristic area, a good city for walking. It is a pleasure to walk around its Altstadt or along the banks of the Rhine river. It is also interesting to leave the city center and explore further areas while visiting the old doors of the city. A friendly city, totally recommended for a short trip.

Coasters from the 8 brewery pubs we visited in Cologne

Time for the beer, Kölsch in this case, that of course is another attraction to visit Cologne. After arrival, once you start wandering the streets, you notice that beer culture in this city is big. There are logos from the different Kölsch breweries everywhere. And when you step into any of the huge brewery pubs owned but the breweries all of this is confirmed. Almost any time of the day there is a great atmosphere in these places, being especially lively at lunch and dinner time. People of all ages sitting around tables having a good time, from teenagers groups to entire families, grandparents and grandchildren included. And everybody in a perfect (but noisy) harmony, without any trouble in spite of the liters of beer consumed.

As we told you in our post about brewing a Kölsch, this beer is served in 20 cL glasses known as Stangen. These recipients showcase the clarity of the beer and help sustain the characteristic white head of Kölsch. Kölsch is usually dispensed from wooden casks and you don’t really need to order one, unless you want to order something different from beer. Servers (known as kobes) go from one site of the pub to another with a special tray full of glasses with beer replacing empty glasses from the tables. To keep track of the beers consumed, servers mark a coaster with a slash for every glass they serve. If you don’t want to drink anymore, tradition tells that you should put your coaster atop the glass. At the end, based on the slashes on the coaster, you pay the corresponding price. If you feel hungry, you can also taste the German gastronomy in these pubs. Beer prices are similar among the different brewery pubs and, if I remember correctly, a glass is about 1.70-1.80€.

For the last part of the post, I’ll make a description about the different beers we tasted and how I felt about them. I’ll also describe the brewery pubs, at least what I remember about them. I’ve organized the beers from the ones I enjoyed most to the ones I enjoyed less, but it’s only a matter of personal taste, nothing to do with their quality.

Malzmühle

Kölsch from Malzmühle was the one I enjoyed most. The brewery pub, situated a little bit off from the city center, is a cozy place, smaller than the rest of the brewhouses we visited. It is one of the few to have the brewery on site. With a traditional decoration, we didn’t eat here, but we loved the beer. It is the maltiest Kölsch among the ones we drank, very tasty and with a final hop touch that makes it perfect. As every other Kölsch, it is a very clean and dry beer.

Päffgen

Päffgen was established in 1883, and their brewery pub is also away from the city centre, but the walk is worth it. Unlike Malzmühle, it is distributed in big and long halls. We had lunch here, including one of their famous specialties, a 75 cm sausage, excellent to recover some strength while drinking their Kölsch, a truly delight. In this case, hops are the ones which shine, in aroma as well as in flavor. It is a very well balance beer, probably the easiest to drink. Here you realize the importance of drinking this style of beer fresh and why it is almost impossible to drink a great Kölsch outside Cologne.

Peters

Peters is maybe one of the most beautiful pubs in Cologne. Similar to Malzmühle, although in this case beer is brewed off-premises. It is a very cozy and welcoming place, with a lot of rooms not as big as in other pubs. It is also located right in the Altstadt. Their Kölsch is pretty good: not too malty, with subtle notes from the hops,… a beer to drink in large volumes.

Früh

A truly giant. Among the Kölsch league, that is how you can describe Früh. It is, with Gaffel and Reissdorf, one of the few breweries which export their beer, brewed in a big facility in the outskirts of Cologne. Opened in 1904, their brewery pub is located a few meters from the cathedral in an impressive building that, in addition to its huge pub restaurant (with space for more than 1000 people!!!) also holds a hotel. Due to its location, it is almost constantly full of tourists drinking and eating in its countless rooms. This overcrowding make it lose some charm, but it is worth to visit it at less once to drink their Kölsch, similar to the ones from Peters or Gaffel. Balanced, with a nice hint of hops and maybe smoother than Gaffel’s. We had lunch here and both food and service were good, although a little bit more expensive than in other places.

Gaffel

Another Kölsch monster brewery. Gaffel fights Früh the first place in pub presence in pubs all over Cologne. Their spectacular brewery pub Gaffel am Dom is located in front of the cathedral and it is huge, although unlike Früh, it is distributed in larger halls, what makes it appear more spacious. Despite its location, it has less tourists than Früh, with more local clients, at least when we were there. With typical German cuisine, we were having dinner one day here at ease in the middle of a great atmosphere. Their Kölsch, although in my opinion one point below the ones from Peters or Früh, it is very similar to these two, maybe a little less bitter. Clean, dry, with notes of hops in flavor and aroma, it was the first Kölsch we drank in Cologne (in another pub) and we liked it a lot.

Hellers

Hellers has farthest brewery pub of all, and it shows the most modern decoration. It is very long with a lot of smaller rooms and a beer garden. We were there when they were opening it in the afternoon and there were few people, but it was maybe not the right time. It is a welcoming place and they have something the rest of the breweries don’t have. In Hellers, in addition to their Kölsch, they also brew other beer styles (Pils, Weizen, Mailbock,…). We didn’t taste them, maybe in another opportunity. Their Kölsch is malty, bitterer than the one at Malzmühle, and with little hop flavor. As any other Kölsch, very drinkable.

Sion

Located in the Altstadt, Sion is what you have in your head when you imagine a German brewery pub. Huge halls full of tables with servers going from one place to another, in one of the largest brewery pubs of Cologne. With a great tradition, the brewery was founded in 1318,  and now it seems to be under control of Interbrew. We didn’t eat anything here, but the menu looked good. Their Kölsch was too bitter for me and somewhat plain, with less shades than the previous beers I described above.

Reissdorf

Of all the Kölsch we tasted, the one from Reissdorf was the only one that disappointed us. Their pub is probably the smallest of the ones we visited. In fact, when we were there, there was only one person serving the tables. It is away from the city centre and the food looked good, although we didn’t eat anything. This was the only place where the Kölsch wasn’t dispensed from wooden casks by gravity. They served us from tap (we couldn’t see where the taps were connected). We thought it was too bland for a Kölsch and it reminded us more of a Pils.

Well, that was my recap from Cologne and Kölsch. In a future post we’ll tell you about what we visited in Dusseldorf and the Altbiers we tasted, in the second part of our trip to Western Germany. If any of you had visited Cologne feel free to post your comments below about your favorite Kölsch. And for one of you who had not been to Cologne we hope this post helps you to plan your trip. Prost!

 

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Discovering styles: Dark Mild, brewing and tasting

Among the different homebrewer groups that exist in the Basque Country, one of them organized a calendar with several meetings in which, among other things, there were going to be tastings of not very well known beer styles. The idea behind these tastings was to drink some beers brewed by members of this group as well as some commercial examples of the same style. It is something similar to the Style Meetings of the homebrewers from Madrid that, if I’m not mistaken, were the first to do this kind of meetings. For the first meeting the chosen style was Dark Mild, and we offered to be brew it. I’ll talk about it in this entry, but before that, I want to give you some insight as how the meeting was because it was spectacular.

The meeting was hold in a gastronomic club (thanks Miguel Angel!) and we were approximately 20 homebrewers. The idea was to taste Dark Milds and then we were going to have lunch with 5 dishes paired with 5 different beers. While we were arriving, several corni kegs made the waiting more pleasant as we got to know each other. At the same time, food was cooked (thanks Paul for designing and cooking the menu, and also thanks to the ones who helped him while the rest of us were talking with a glass of beer in our hands). Once everybody was there, the ones who had brewed a Dark Mild explained some characteristics of the style (see below for our version) and then we tasted three homebrewed Dark Milds and a commercial reference. Although it is not a very complicated style to brew, the three homebrewed examples were different and each of them had its own character. After some talking about our personal tastes on these beers, we sat down for lunch.

In picture below you can see the menu: raw leek, cheese and Iberian ham salad, Dupont mussels with green onions, prawn brochette with red curry and Thai rice, flank steak cooked at low temperature with mashed sweet potatoes and Imperial Stout ice cream with pistachio and tarragon. All of these dishes were paired, respectively, with an APA, a Saison, an IPA, a Porter and an Imperial Stout. Simply amazing. Good talk, laughs, more beers after lunch (among them our Vossaøl fermented with Kveik yeast, which was received with mixed feelings). It was a pity that I had to leave early, but I know that the meeting lasted a few hours more. Definitely a great day, good people, good beers,… waiting eagerly for the next one.

Spectacular menu after the tasting

Time for the style we are going to review in this entry, Dark Mild. After being a popular drink its popularity decreased drastically in the 1960s after Bitters appeared, all of this in England, where the style was born. Besides that, because of its low alcohol content (its strength decreased through the twentieth century because of the scarcity caused by the Wars) it doesn’t stand well with time and it is difficult to find it bottled. It is found almost exclusively in English pubs served from tap, where it is poured fresh with a low carbonation.

Dark Milds can go from cooper to mahogany in color. Malt has the leading role in aroma where touches of grain, toffee, toasted, chocolate, nutty or caramel are all possible. As previously mentioned, carbonation is low with low/medium body. Finally, for flavor, it is malt again the ingredient that shines with flavors similar to the aromas described before, depending on the grain bill used. They can finish dry or a little sweet and yeast can contribute some esters with hints of fruit, raisins or plum. Hop flavor is low to none, since hops are only used to balance the sweetness from malt.

 

 

Water after steeping chocolate malt

Turning to specific ingredients and processes about the style, to brew a Dark Mild first is highly advisable to use a good English base malt. The rest of the grains are usually crystal malts (preferable on the dark side) on a 10%-15% depending if they are used in conjunction or not with other darker malts as chocolate malt or black malt (4%-6%). Hops, of course, should be of English origin (Fuggles, Northern Brewer or Goldings) and only to get a bitterness:gravity ratio of about 0.5. Mash temperature should be about 67ºC (152.6ºF) and to ferment we should use an English yeast. Fermentation temperature should be about 17ºC (62.6ºF) at the beginning of the fermentation, increasing until 20ºC (68ºF) at the end. Finally, carbonation should be low, around 2 volumes of CO2. With all of this in mind we planned the following recipe for our Dark Mild:

EXPLORING DARK MILD

MALTS/GRAINS
0.80 Kg (1.83 lbs) (83.3%) Maris Otter (Crisp) (5.0 EBC)
0.15 Kg (0.33 lbs) (15.6%) Crystal DRC® (Simpsons) (300 EBC)
10 g (0.35 oz) (1.0%) chocolate malt (900 EBC)
HOPS
7.00 g (0.25 oz) East Kent Goldings (5.00% AA) leaf (boil 60 minutes, 19.1 IBUs)
YEAST
Safale English Ale S-04 (1 pack, previously rehydrated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 5.25 L     OG: 1.037     FG: 1.011     ABV: 3.3%     IBUs: 19.1     Color: 41.1 EBC     BU/GU: 0.520     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 38.5 pm; Mg: 3.4 ppm; Na: 7.4 ppm; SO4: 12.4 ppm; Cl: 12.6 ppm
MASH
68.9ºC (156ºF) for 60 minutes (base malt and crystal malt), mash out 75.6ºC (168ºF) for 10 minutes
Chocolate malt steeped in water at 60ºC (140ºF) for 30 minutes
BOIL
60 minutes

Boiling word for our Dark Mild

As you can see above, Maris Otter, one of the most characteristics Enlglish base malts was our base malt, with a pinch of chocolate malt (we are not very fond on toasted malts) and approximately 15% of a new Simpsons malt we hadn’t tried before and that looks very promising, Crystal DRC. According to Simpsons website, this malt has been created to substitute darker roasted malts that could impart some astringency and bitterness when these are not the attributes you are shooting for in your beer. Besides, it can be used in higher percentages than these other roasted malts to impart notes of dried fruits and caramel. For the rest of the ingredients, English hops and yeast, as it should be. We only brewed 5.25 liters (1.39 gallons) this time, since this beer must be drink fresh and we didn’t want to end with a lot of bottles in our fridge.

Talking about the process we followed this time, the only thing we changed from our normal brewing schedule was to left chocolate malt out of the mash. A lot of homebrewers steep roasted malts in cold water, in order to avoid the astringency and the bitterness these malt could contribute after a long exposition in hot water. Although we left chocolate malt in water that was not cold (about 55ºC,111.2ºF), it was colder than the mash and the exposition time was also shorter.

Fermenting Dark Mild

 

For the mash with the base malt and the crystal malt, we added approximately 4 liters (1.1 gallons) of hot water and the grains in an 11 liters (2.9 gallons) cooler to start the mash at about 69ºC (156.2ºF). After 1 hour, the temperature had dropped to 66ºC (150.8ºF). We added a little more than 1 liter (0.26 gallons) of boiling water to increase the temperature for the mash out and, finally, we removed the grains and mix this wort with the water in which we had steeped the chocolate malt in order to boil the full volume. Pre-boil gravity was a little bit higher than expected (1.034 vs 1.027). We added East Kent Goldings hops at the beginning of the boil, and after one hour we had about 5 liters (1.32 gallons) of wort with an original gravity of 1.045. Since this OG was too high for the style, we calculate the volume of water we had to add in order to get the theoretical OG, 1.037. Finally, we obtained 6 liters (1.59 gallons) of wort with the desired original gravity. We cooled the wort to a temperature as low as we could using our tap water and then placed the 6.25 liters (1.7 gallons) PET bottle where we were going to ferment the wort in our little fridge to lower the temperature of the wort to the one we had planned before pitching Safale S-04 yeast, that we had previously rehydrated while boiling was finishing. After some cleaning, we pitched the yeast setting the fridge at 18ºC (64.4ºF), so this way fermentation would be about 19ºC-20ºC (66.2ºF-68.0ºF).

Dark Mild at bottling

The next day, barely 9-10 hours after pitching yeast, there were rests of a formed and disappeared krausen. The beer was quite hazy, the yeast was probably in suspension still fermenting. At the end of the same day we increased our fridge temperature to 19ºC (66.2ºF). After another day the beer had started to get clear and there were no signs of fermentation. We left the beer undisturbed another three days (five in total) at the same temperature to make sure the fermentation was finished and also to let the yeast settle in the bottom of the PET bottle.

Five days after brewday we bottled about 5.5 liters ( gallons) of beer with a final gravity of 1.012, for 3.3% ABV. As this is a beer style with low carbonation, we added table sugar dissolved in water (boiled and cooled) to obtain about 2 volumes of CO2. We were happy with the aspect of the beer and, after tasting some of the beer before bottling, it seems the flavor is according to style too. Malty, with hints of caramel and a little bit of toasted.

Dark Mild, final result

Two weeks carbonating in bottle and it was ready for the day of the meeting. With the beer carbonated, the characteristics we had noted in bottling day were confirmed. Malt is the only star of the show, with a little toasted touch, possibly for the combination of chocolate malt and crystal DRC. It is very drinkable, with low body but full of flavor and, being only 3.3% ABV, you can drink quite a few pints and maintain your balance. I think it is a good example of Dark Mild for all of you who want to brew this style. It is a relatively easy (and fast) style to brew, so if some of you decide to give it a try,  you can tell us your results in the comment section.

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Brewing a Kölsch

At the end of April 2017 we were able at last to brew a beer style we had wanted to brew for a long time, Kölsch. We hadn’t brew it yet because we hadn’t been able to get the right yeast for this style. This German style, specifically from Cologne, depends to a great extent on the yeast used to ferment the wort.

When we say that this style in specifically from the city of Cologne is somewhat literal, since outside of the city borders you cannot sell beer with described as Kölsch, as it was stated in the Kölsch Konvention in 1986 by 12 brewers from this city in the West of Germany crossed by the Rhin river.

Talking about the characteristics that define this style, Kölsch are clear top fermented ale beers, the wort has to be 11º-16º Plato (or 1,044-1,065 specific gravity) by law, they are highly attenuated and hop accentuated and have a long lasting white foam. The majority of the production is consumed in the city of Cologne, usually from draft, served in small, 200 mL cylindrical glasses known as stangen. In November 2017 we were able to spend some days in Cologne touring the city and we could live this first hand visiting the city breweries. We also traveled to the nearby Düsseldorf to taste its Altbiers, but we will talk about all this in a future post, let’s talk now about brewing Kölsch.

Temperature at the begginning of the mash

By a quirk of fate, as we were planning our recipe, the 2017 may/june Zymurgy issue arrived and it had an article about Kölsch and Cologne breweries, which served us as a base for the recipe design and for our future trip to Cologne. Following the guidelines from that article, and with a little more information from different books and websites, we learn some things about the style that would help us to define our recipe.

As we previously mentioned, probably the most important thing when brewing Kölsch is yeast. They are very specific ale strains that ferment at a relatively low temperature for ales (15ºC-17ºC or 59ºF-61ºF) and produce clean, dry beers with an ester touch. This is how they describe the yeast we used in the Giga Yeast website, Kölsch Bier Yeast GY021. It is supposed to be sourced from one of the oldest breweries in Cologne. It is a liquid yeast, packed in the characteristic Gold Pitch from this brand and, as their instructions address, it doesn’t need a starter when pitching in 19-20 liters of wort (about 5 gallons).

Apart from the yeast, the rest of the ingredients are not complicated. In the case of grains, a Pilsen malt makes usually the majority of the grain bill, with the possibility of using other additional malts in low percentages to increase body and/or foam (cara-pils, wheat malt) or to add complexity (Vienna malt, Munich malt). Hops, evidently, must be from Germany, usually noble hops, and they are used mostly for bitterness. Last, water from Cologne is slightly mineral.

Kölsch yeast from Giga Yeast

Having all of these into account and, from what we have in stock, we design the following recipe:

KÖLSCH 2017

MALTS/GRAINS
1.00 Kg (2.20 lbs) (45.7%) Pilsner Premium (Weyermann) (2.0 EBC)
0.84 Kg (1.85 lbs) (38.4%) Bohemian Pilsner – Floor malted (Weyermann) (4 EBC)
0.25 Kg (0.55 lbs) (11.4%) Vienna malt (Weyermann) (7 EBC)
0.10 Kg (0.22 lbs) (4.6%) Cara-Pils (Weyermann) (5 EBC)
HOPS
15.00 g (0.53 oz) Spalt Select (4.60% AA) leaf (boil 60 minutes, 18.5 IBUs)
7.00 g (0.25 oz) Spalt Select (4.60% AA) leaf (boil 30 minutes, 6.6 IBUs)
YEAST
Kölsch Bier Yeast from Giga Yeast (1 Gold Pitch sachet, directly inoculated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 9.5 L (2.5 gallons)     OG: 1.046     FG: 1.006     ABV: 5.2%     IBUs: 25.1     Color: 6.5 EBC     BU/GU: 0.546     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 38.5 ppm; Mg: 3.4 ppm; Na: 7.4 ppm; SO4: 12.4 ppm; Cl: 12.6 ppm
MASH
65ºC (149ºF) for 75 minutes, mash out 75.6ºC (168ºF) 5 minutes
BOIL
75 minutes

Kölsch, 12 hours after pitching yeast

As you can see in the recipe above, there are two different Pilsner malts. That’s only because we didn’t have enough of either of them to brew the entire batch, so we combined both. These two malts made a little more than 84% of the grain bill, with some Vienna malt to give some color and complexity and a little percentage of Cara-Pils to enhance body and foam. For this beer we didn’t modify our water since the one in our area is low in mineral content and allegedly suitable for the style. We set mash temperature at 65ºC (149ºF) to try to obtain a quite fermentable wort.

In the morning of the brewday we boiled water for 20-30 minutes to eliminate chlorine, having into account that, after evaporation, we were going to need almost 18 liters (4.8 gallons). At the start of the mash, after adding grain, the temperature was as planned (65.4ºC or 149.7ºF). For a while we kept some heat in the induction hob to keep the mash temperature. After half an hour, we increased the heat since the temperature have dropped a little bit and we left it that way… until we were entertained with other things and when we came back the mash was out of control. The temperature had been raising and now the mash was at 80ºC (176ºF). ¡You have to be careful with these idle times! After the shock, we removed the grain and take a reading of the preboil gravity. It is a few points above the theoretical value (1.037 vs 1.030), so we take a deep breath. The fact that the mash was more than 30 minutes at the right temperature and that we also milled the grain more than usual (we used our old Corona mill instead our roller mill because we forgot to charge the batteries of our drill) seemed to be enough to convert starches into fermentable sugars.

Fermentation days 3, 4, 5 and 6 after pitching yeast

During the boil, we added German noble hops at 60 and 30 minutes to the end of the boil and, when finished, we removed hops and we tried to cool the wort as soon as possible with our immersion chiller. We cooled it until it reached 23ºC (73.4ºF) and then we transferred it to a plastic bucket, previously sanitized, to try to low the temperature a little bit more, since our idea was to ferment at about 16ºC (60.8ºF) during the few first days. We cooled the wort until 17ºC (62.6ºF) and then we splashed it between the plastic bucket and the kettle to get some oxygen. Finally we transferred it to a PET demijohn that was going to be our fermenter for this beer. Original gravity was just as the theoretical value, 1.046. Probably, since we ended with a little more volume than expected, the few points we were off before boiling had been corrected now.

Fermentation didn’t show visual signs for the first 48 hours after pitching, so we increase our fridge temperature until 16ºC (60.8ºF). A few hours later, a krausen started to form and the airlock started bubbling, faster as the time advanced. On the fourth day, the krausen reached its highest point and, from the fifth day onwards, both activity in the airlock and the krausen started to disappear. From the sixth day until the eighth day we increased progressively the temperature until the beer reached 20ºC (68ºF), with the intention of giving the yeast the opportunity of eliminating diacetyl and other undesired compounds.

Sample to measure final gravity before bottling

After a couple of days at 20ºC (68ºF), we set the fridge at 6ºC (42.8ºF) to clear the beer before bottling the next day. We measured the final gravity, 1.010, four points above the theoretical value, 1.006. An apparent attenuation of 77.5%, while the specifications for this yeast describe an apparent attenuation of 79-83%. The causes for this little difference can be several, but we think it could have been due the problems during the mash or to a insufficient number of yeast cells pitched. This number should be enough pitching directly without a starter, but you never know the viability of the yeast without testing it. The thing is nothing serious. Color and appearance of the beer are exactly as we planned, and it has only a little less alcohol, it finished at 4.7% ABV. We added enough sugar, previously dissolved, boiled and cooled down, to get 2.5 volumes of CO2 and we bottled approximately 9 liters (2.38 gallons) of beer, 27 bottles of 33 cL. We kept these bottles at room temperature, 19ºC-20ºC (66.2ºF-68ºF) for 17 days and then we put them in the refrigerator for lagering before consuming them. In a future post we will tell you how it all ended.

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Jockey box

Almost every homebrewer, sooner or later, upgrades from bottling to kegging beer. We took that step a year ago and, although we bottle most of our beer, sometimes we keg some of our beers in corny kegs.

Once the beer is carbonated in the corny keg you have to choose one of the different alternatives to dispense the beer. For us, while the keg is at home and, since our beer consumption is not excessive, we usually dispense our beer from a chromed tap that can be attached to a keg disconnect. We keep the corny keg in a small fridge and when we want some beer is just as easy as attaching the tap and serve. Easy, fast and simple. The problem starts when you want to take your keg out for some event or reunion.

Chrome tap with flow control

For these situations there are several options. You can go with draught beer coolers systems as PYGMY. These are beautiful and very appealing systems, but they also have some cons for the use we intend, mainly three. There are fairly heavy, what makes their transport difficult, they aren’t cheap and it takes some time to clean them well. There are a lot of homebrewers who used them, both at home and out, but their beer consumption is big enough for the beer to stay at its best condition. Because of all of the above, we decided a more affordable option, to build a jockey box.

Jockey box with and without lid

As with all the DIY projects, there are thousands of alternatives to do it and one can do it as complicated as he/she can, as you can see in a lot of online videos. Being our first time, we decided to do a quite simple jockey box, with only one tap. First thing we had to do is get all the different parts to build it. You can check the following list with all the parts we used, with links for those who want more details.

Inside the jockey box

Looking at the pics accompanying this post, you can get a picture of how to assembly everything, since using John Guest connectors is something quite easy. The biggest trouble we had to face was to drill holes in the cooler to pass through its wall the tap in the front and the bulkhead union in the back. To drill the holes the best option is to use either a step drill bit or a sheet metal punch. In our case, my brother was able to use a step drill bit in his workplace, but if you don’t have any of them, you should be able to borrow one from somebody. Another problem we had to face was to cut a fixed nut in the bulkhead union in order to be able to connect it to a 1/2” thread of the John Guest 1/2″ to 3/8” line adapter. A metal sawing machine should do the job.

Jockey box, back

Once these problems were solved, the rest was a piece of cake. We first put the tap in its place. Then we put the bulkhead union in the back, connecting to it both John Guest 1/2″ to 3/8” line adapters. Then we placed the stainless steel coil inside the cooler and we took two short pieces of tubing to connect the coil ends to the 3/8” John Guest connectors. Finally, we connected the dispensing tubing from the back of the cooler to the corny keg. The length of this tubing is something you should decide having into account the diameter and material of the tubing, since it will determine how the beer would be dispensed. There are several online sites where you can find instructions to calculate this length. For our jockey box, the tubing has a length of approximately 3.5 meters (11.5 feet). The connection of the tubing to the corny keg was done with the John Guest 1/4″ FFL female to 3/8″ line adapter, which fits the thread of a ball lock out disconnect. Below you can see the final setup.

Jockey box, complete setup

When everything is in place, the only thing left is to fill the cooler with ice and connect a corny keg full of beer. Then a pressure must be applied in order to dispense beer, with a CO2 tank or portable CO2 cartridges. This pressure depends on the distance the beer has to travel from the keg to the tap, and also on the materials of the tubing and the coil. This pressure can be regulated as the beer is being dispensed, but a good starting point and something that works for us is approximately 1.5 bars (21.8 psi).

The first time we used this jockey box was with our first NEIPA, once we had done some tests with water to prove the system. We were very happy with the results, we could serve the entire corny keg at a perfect temperature by filling with ice only the inside part of the coil, without needing too much ice. In our opinion, a jockey box is an excellent (and relatively economical) option to enjoy beer on tap outside. For those of you who are planning on doing something similar we hope this post can help you do it. And, if you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section, we will be glad to  answer.

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Tasting Smash L&G

One of the first beers we brewed this year was a smash (single malt and single hop), from ingredients not far from where we live. Hops from Girona grown by Lupulina and malt produced by Grannaria in Las Grañeras, a village in the province of León. We already told you about the brewing process for this beer, so if you want to remember it you can go to the corresponding entry.

Smash L&G (Lupulina and Grannaria)

The color is light golden. In the beginning, as you can see in the picture, it was quite hazy. Nowadays, 6 months after bottling and after keeping the bottles in the fridge, the beer had cleared a lot and, although it is not crystal clear, the haziness is very low. Head is white and creamy with medium retention.

For the aroma, citrus tones from Cascade are upfront, with malt in the background. Medium body and medium-high carbonation. Hop is the predominant characteristic in flavor, again with the citrus and herbal character from Cascade hops, and a medium but assertive bitterness. Some bready tones from the malt balance the bitterness and hop flavor.

Now that we have only a few bottles of this smash pale ale left , I think I can say that, of all the beers we’ve brewed through these years, this is one of our favorites. It has also stood the test of time. Obviously, the hop character is not as bright as it was when it was fresh, but it keeps most of the properties that made it a great beer a few months ago.

As a final though, this beer confirms something that we’ve learned through time. A lot of times simple recipes are the most sensible thing to do. When you are new to the hobby, it is easy to get lost among the multiple kinds of malt and varieties of hops at hand and a lot of us made the mistake of planning complicated recipes with lots of malts and hops that were a mess. Nowadays, I think that, for most of the beer styles, one or two malts are more than enough, with three or four being a good number for the rest.

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American IPA + results from IPA Day homebrew competition

Let’t go back in time. Specifically, until August this year. As we told you about in our entry on our first NEIPA, the first week of August a homebrew competition was held for all the homebrewers from the Iberian Peninsula celebrating the IPA Day. Then we told you that, apart from the NEIPA, we also had brewed an American IPA for the competition. Well, in this post we are going to tell you about the recipe and process for that American IPA and then we will take a look at the results for the Iberian Cup competition.

Citra pellets, 2016 harvest

Let’s start with the recipe. This American IPA was based in another one we had previously brewed and enjoyed. The ingredients and process are described below.

AMERICAN IPA FOR 2017 IPA DAY

MALTS/GRAINS
2.50 Kg (4.41 lbs) (82.1%) Maris Otter (Crisp) (5.0 EBC)
0.36 Kg (0.79 lbs) (12.0%) Munich I malt (Weyermann) (15 EBC)
0.18 Kg (0.40 lbs) (5.9%) table sugar or sucrose (2.0 EBC) (added as a syrup with 300 mL of boiled water 4 days after pitching yeast)
HOPS
18.00 g (0.63 oz) Chinook (13.00% AA) leaf (first wort hopping 90 minutes, 61.8 IBUs)
80.00 g (2.82 oz) Citra (14.20% AA) pellets (whirpool 5 minutes, 28.1 IBUs)
80.00 g (2.82 oz) Cascade (6.20% AA) pellets (dry hop, 7 days after pitching yeast, for 3 days)
20.00 g (0.71 oz) Citra (14.20% AA) pellets (dry hop, 7 days after pitching yeast, for 3 days)
YEAST
Safale US-05 (1 sachet, previously rehydrated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 11.0 L (2.9 gallons)     OG: 1.060     FG: 1.009     ABV: 6.6%     IBUs: 60.7     Color: 10.7 EBC     BU/GU: 1.031     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 82 ppm; Mg: 3 ppm; Na: 7 ppm; SO4: 169 ppm; Cl: 89 ppm
MASH
66ºC (150.8ºF) for 60 minutes, mash out 75ºC (167ºF) 5 minutes
BOIL
75 minutes

We obtained the water profile for this recipe starting with our tap water and adding 7.2 mL of 33% CaCl2 to increase calcium and 66 mL of sulfuric acid 1 N to achieve a mash pH of 5.28 according to Bru’n Water. This way, the ratio chloride/sulfate was 0.53, which theoretically should enhance bitterness.

Mash pH

Having into account what we had planned, everything went more or less as expected. As you can see in above picture, mash pH was 5.32, not far from what Bru’n Water had predicted (5.28). After mashing, we added hops for first wort hopping as we heated wort to boil for 75 minutes. When the boil was finished, we added Citra hops and soon we started to cool the wort. When the wort reached 20ºC (68ºF), Safale US-05 yeast was pitched. Original gravity was 1.052, close to the theoretical value of 1.054, due to the fact that we ended with a little more volume than expected. You would have noticed that this original gravity value is not the one that appears with the recipe. This is because that value counts the table sugar, that we added four days after pitching yeast with water as a syrup, with 300 mL of previously boiled and chilled water. This way, we gave the yeast some “dessert” after metabolizing all the sugars from the malt.

After three “extra” days of fermentation due to the table sugar added, we added hops for dry hopping, keeping them in the beer for 3 days. We added hop pellets for dry hopping into a clean and sanitized demijohn, purged it with CO2 and then we transferred the beer with an autosiphon over the hops trying to avoid oxygen as much as we could. From the beginning of fermentation until three days after adding the hops for dry hopping the beer the temperature was about 19ºC (66.2ºF) all the time, keeping the demijohns inside a fermentation chamber.

Dry hopping the American IPA, with our Norwegian farmhouse ale as a witness

Once we finished dry hopping, and looking for the material from hop pellets to precipitate, we set the temperature of the fermentation chamber at 5ºC (41ºF), keeping it that way for 24 hours. Once the hop pellets settled on the bottom of the demijohn, we kegged approximately 6 liters (1.59 gallons) of beer, and the rest was bottled with enough table sugar to get a carbonation level of 2.3 volumes of CO2. Final gravity was 1.012, with an ABV value of 6.0%.

Enough of the process. We will comment on the results of the homebrew competition and our own opinion about this American IPA and the NEIPA previously brewed, both entered into the competition. We will also share some changes to make in future elaborations of these styles. Let’s start with the American IPA, which was the one that was fresher at the time of the competition. The average score was 31.7 (34, 31 and 30 being the individual scores), which at first glance is not bad. Unlike other participants, the three scoresheets didn’t show great differences between them. None of the judges noted any remarkable defect in the beer and the main criticism was that both in aroma and flavor hops were very subtle. After tasting a couple of bottles we kept to drink the beer in the same conditions as the competition judges, I must say that I have to agree with them. I don’t know if the first time we brewed this recipe hops were fresher or the process was somehow different, but both flavor and aroma were brighter that time, and I would also say that bitterness was more pronounced. For future batches, I would add more hops in the boil and also would make some little changes in the hop whirlpool addition, since I think that for this beer we should have kept the hops with the wort warm a little bit longer before cooling. Anyway, we’re satisfied with the score this beer got.

NEIPA, 3 months after brewday

As for the NEIPA, this beer was brewed in the end of May, beginnings of June this year. Freshly brewed, we took a 9.45 liters (2.5 gallons) keg for a weekend with some friends… and it lasted a couple of hours, it was delicious. Hop aroma was awesome, smooth mouthfeel, golden color, hazy and very tasty. When we send it to the competition it was three months since we had brewed it and, of course, it was smashed by the judges. Individual scores of 20, 15 and 20 in the three scoresheets. The bigger defects that judges noted were oxidation and color, too dark for the style, besides a weak or inexistent presence of hops in aroma and flavor. Once again, I have to agree with them. By the time the competition was held, the beer had darkened in a major way (in above picture you can see the amber color after 3 months, when it was light golden when brewed) and it really didn’t show any hop presence at all, with a quite disgusting flavor due to oxidation. All of this confirms a lot of the things people are talking about regarding this beer style. These beers seems to be more or less stable for about 2-3 weeks and then they experiment a huge decline in their properties. If we add to this the fact that in a homebrew level our chances to avoid oxidation are not the best, we have that a wonderful and tasty beer can turn into a bland or weak beer in very little time. For future NEIPAs, apart from playing with other combination of hops and/or yeasts, we’ll have to find a way to keep oxygen levels as low as possible. And when brewing a NEIPA, we won’t be brewing big batches, only enough volume to be freshly consumed. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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