Pictured above: From top left clockwise: 1. Sales receipt for Schwarzbier brew 2. Cold brewed grains using the pseudo-Satz method 3. Pretzel review of Kathi's pretzel mix 4. Attempted fermentation of corn & molasses ale
Welcome to my new free online magazine of homebrewing experiences. I will have regular departments that discuss my factual accounts of what I'm brewing at home, my reviews and ratings of beer or foods paired with beer, any new things I'm trying, observations of my experiments, thoughts and analysis and my passions about homebrewing. My focus now is fermented beverages, as a whole, because brewing might involve something between beer and wine. It might be a cider, mead, wine, beer or a hybrid. If you like fermented beverages and don't mind trying to concoct them at home you are in the right place!
STORIES FROM THE HOME BREWERY
Fred Scheer's Grandfather's Schwarzbier: Testing Yeasts, Lagering Periods & Varying Yeast Levels
(Focus here are records of recipes I've made recently or are about to make. Most of beer recipes will involve perfecting a style. Why test single malt, single hop beers if you need to test it again in a recipe you are trying to perfect?)
Every winter, I like to make my Schwarzbier. It actually is a close clone of a beer made years ago at Frankenmuth Brewery called Frankenmuth Dark. I'm trying to improve the clone even though I think I've gotten it real close to the original beer. I'm testing 2 kinds of yeast, the effects of the amount of yeast as well as varying lagering periods are being sampled. I'm trying to see if I can reproduce the creamy taste using just barley grains again this time.
Using the pseudo-Satz method of brewing as I had done in the past -
Cold Soak Infusion: Grains soaked in brew water (see below) in the refrigerator overnight for about 12.75 hours.
Brew Water: I brewed using Brita-filtered Lansing city water with an addition of 1/8 teaspoon of Calcium Carbonate as I have done in the past to simulate Munich water. After the cold soak, additional brew water was poured into the mashing pot up to 1 inch from the top of a 2 gallon pot.
Grain: I made a clone recipe of Fred Scheer's grandfather's Schwarzbier. It may have varied slightly, but I'm pretty close to the correct taste. See the sales receipt (above picture) for the quantity of grains I used.
Mashing: Using a strainer, I drained all the brew water from the grains. The water was boiled and then poured back into the main brew pot to mix with the grains again letting it rest with the lid on off to the side. Oven burner was used to raise the mash rest to 126 degrees F. for 10 minutes. (Remember, I do rests the old fashioned way by taking the pot off the stove burner once I've reached a target temperature, put the lid on the pot and put the pot off to the side and wait 10 minutes. I have no fancy high-tech equipment to hold grains at a specific temperature.)
One of our cats had an accident in the house and I had to give attention to that problem - so the rest ended up being 20 minutes instead of a 10 minute rest. I had strained all the water off the grains again, boiled the water and added it back to the grains again, let it rest and then there is some heat loss during this time.
Stove burner was adjusted to bring the batch to 167 degrees F, and it was taken off and lid placed on the pot for 7 minutes. The former step was repeated 8 more times with a wait of 7 minutes after reaching 167 degrees.
Grains were strained of water again. Stove burner was used to reach a temperature of 167 degrees F 3 more times, resting 7 minutes each.
Sparging and Lautering Phase: The mash was drained using the strainer once. Only cold brew water was poured through the grains to make a full 2 gallon pot (1 inch from the brim of the pot.)
No Mash Out
Boil: 1 hour.
Hops: Older hops less than 6 months old from the fridge - 2 pinches of Cluster pellet hops at beginning of boil. 3 pinches of Perle pellet hops at 15 minutes before the end of the boil.
Cooling: The batch was cooled to about 80 degrees F in the sink with ice. The batch was poured and split up into 4 Mr. Beer plastic bottles using funnel and small strainer.
Yeast: Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager is being compared to 2633 Octoberfest Lager Blend - batch is split in two between these two. Using Mr. Beer plastic bottles, varying yeast levels were used in the bottles. Some of the bottles had 1 dinner spoon of yeast added, some had 2 dinner spoons of yeast added. Mini-fridge ferments the lager at 46 degrees F for 10 days.
Bottling: When the batch was bottled in 12 oz. bottles, some of the bottles got the 1 spoon of yeast dose, some got 2 spoons of yeast and a few bottles got a mix thereby, getting a 1.5 spoon of yeast dose.
Lagering: I will taste test the two yeasts on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th weeks of lagering by sampling 2 bottles to compare the yeasts.
REVIEWS, RATINGS AND RANKINGS
Pursuing Perfect Pretzels With Kathi's German Pretzel Mix
(A search for the best of the alternative ingredients. Evaluations. Check out these findings about the beers or foods paired with the beers.)
I bought a box of Kathi's pretzel mix from my local World Market store to find that the lye mix packet was missing. I decided to improvise as it was too late to run back to the store for a refund. I wanted to make homemade pretzels that night. The ingredient list on the side of the box revealed that the missing lye mix wasn't actually lye but baking soda, a food additive and a modified food starch. Articles on the web show that real lye solution in water is supposed to change the outside of pretzels to make them harder. I didn't have any lye mix around the house. I don't recommend this to anyone on what I'm about to say - read this for your entertainment purposes only and don't try this as you may not know what you are doing! (Our own FDA may have something to say about bleach in food as new findings have been determined over the years). I've worked in food service years ago and also never suffered any ill effects from having my restaurant dishes overly bleached when I ate out. The restaurant workers trained us to use about 1 part bleach to 15 parts water. The ratio wasn't perfect either as low paid workers sometimes added slightly more or less. Who hasn't gone to a restaurant to find their water glass with the taste of bleach in the water? Most of us really survived to this day even though the bleach ratio wasn't perfect. I know that bleach is 2nd to lye which will get the pH up for the skins of those pretzels. Kathi's instructions discussed just using a brush to lightly apply the lye mix to the outside of the top of the pretzels. My opinion is that pretzel making means you are an expert cook to make a folded pretzel - I seem to be having a problem getting them stuck to my fingers! I settled with making pretzel rolls. I will use latex gloves and maybe some flour next time around. Also, it didn't help to cover the counter with wax paper as the mix got stuck to it and it all had to be thrown out. I started over using Kathi's instructions with new flour, soybean oil and some active dry yeast. I questioned how the German ingredients may have turned out. I will definitely try a second round of this with another box of Kathi's pretzels again to see how their ingredients tastes. Their box recommended safflower oil so I will swap out the soybean oil next time. Here at Lansing, Michigan the magic time to cook at 400 degrees F was 27 minutes to get the browning and hardening of the pretzels (see picture above). Lansing, Michigan is about 860 feet above sea level and cook times may be different where you live. Pretzels were pretty good using Kathi's instructions and they were chewy inside. I recommend homemade pretzels to go with your beer. These are lot better than the pre-made hard pretzels from the store which are dried out anyway.
NEW PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES
Skimming Yeast Instead of Second Fermentations
(To accomplish a cloned beer and other great tasting beverages we may need to make changes.)
In order to halt fermentation, I've decided to use the older method of skimming the yeast from the vessels instead of trying to move beer to another vessel for a additional fermentations. This may reduce the risk of contamination as well.
Failed Fermentation of Corn and Molasses Batch
(New observations from my brewing experiences that may differ from that which other experts and authors have found.)
The corn and molasses batch I tried to make failed to ferment. (See picture above of mini-growler with topped with foil covering) I tried additional pitching of the same type of yeast from a new packet with no success. Summarizing possible problems or changes: The first yeast pitch was already opened from a previous brewing and I had saved it in the refrigerator. Presence of molasses meant there was a considerable amount of sugar in the vessel. I didn't go through a slower multi-step mash as I had done previously sticking with a single infusion. The corn didn't go through as much malting as it should have. The additional amount of roots and stalks, in my attempt to get more sugar, may have been too much to be converted over. The corn may have been acting more like an adjunct here. The batch was eventually poured out. Previous beer batches were made with part city water mixed with RO water with success. This time I had used additional gypsum in the water. This is the first batch where I saw no presence of ale fermentation. I really couldn't follow the instructions to the letter as the corn had to be cooking for over 8 hours by a dying campfire.
New Corn Hybrid Ideas: Is It Ale Or Is It Wine?
(I gather data and analyze my alternatives. My objective is to make something better than what I've made before. I voice my opinions here on what I may have found.)
I have had some degree of success at making a Popcorn Ale and Tortilla Ale recently without any malting necessary. You can use air popped popcorn or tortillas found at your local store. (If you grow your own corn for 10 days to germinate you will need to malt that corn with a minimum of drying the germinated corn in the sun at least 6 times at about 4 hours each.) I prefer to use yellow corn or else a hominy taste results which is not a favorite of mine. The problem is the gel that forms after aging corn in the bottles. It is as much as a third or more of the bottle is gel. Additional fruits, vegetables or raw honey seem to deter the gel problem. I will repeat both the Popcorn and Tortilla Ales again in the near future and take gravity readings to figure the alcohol coming out. A soak of raw honey, lemon or lime juice before mashing seems to assist in the conversion. Also, a batch of corn ale was given a whole bag of fresh cilantro in the last minute of the boil resulting in no gel formation.
After reading an old book titled, First Steps in Winemaking, by C.J.J. Berry. I was amazed to find 2 corn wine recipes dating back to the early 60's. Berry was an expert of wine making and had compiled a number of recipes together. His findings enlightened me into coming up with a hybrid procedure between the wine and beer making process. Wine making comes real close to the German Satz method of cold and hot infusions. Blogs like
make me wonder if the boil is really necessary at all. As I contemplate a new method of brewing, a hybrid might be possible. Wine making makes flavor from infusions and some aren't even boiled. Mashing and boiling may not even be necessary any longer. After a warm hot water infusion, the "must" (solution of juice and solid pieces of fruit) usually comes to room temperature on its own. The manual cooling of wort with an ice water bath may not be needed either. Wine goes through a long cold soak for a week to 2 weeks afterwards. Then, the liquid is strained to another fermenter to age.
IN FRONT OF THE HEARTH
Finland's Sahti Sort Of Shows Us How To Make True Cold-Brewed Beer
(Much like one would reflect on resolutions in front of a fireplace on New Years Eve, this section will show my what my interests or what I'm passionate about in homebrewing. Just the joy of innovation and "what-if" scenarios as I try new things out to create new ideas in brewing.)
If you've kept up at reading my blog in the past, you know I've attempted to brew a beer you don't have to cook. I'm fascinated by this. I've read up on infusions in other books and they demonstrate you can do a cold soak instead of boiling.... My recent historical research of Finland's raw ale gave me the following steps to making Sahti. It doesn't follow the recipe exactly, but we can simulate some steps to get there. There are some ideas I have variations to be considered at the end. Please bear with me as I gathered data from a variety of sources which may not be entirely correct.
Drafting My First Sahti Recipe:
Sahti is unfiltered, unpasteurized beer. It can be rye and juniper berries. It should have an original gravity of 19 Plato to get an 8% alcohol by volume. I will try 20% rye malt with 80% barley malt to start out. Maybe, I will taper back to 10% rye in the future. I will do a hot water infusion (water at pasteurizing temperature) will be poured over the hops and juniper berries only. The grains will never see the heat. Active baker's yeast will need to be hydrated by steeping it at 110 degrees F. I will monitor the hop/juniper solution to see when it reaches 110 degrees and the yeast will go in at that point. Once the hop/juniper reaches room temperature, the solution will be mixed with the grains. I guess the juniper berries are equivalent to Campden tablets or hops when it comes to antibacterial qualities. While some do boil their Sahti, some actually might prepare a "raw" ale. This comes close to the historical account. The rye grains steeped in a cold river. Juniper berries were steamed in Finland's saunas which were referred to as a source of dry heat. The main fermenting took place in 3 days, but the men were allowed to drink fermentations that took about a week. With Baker's yeast, the fermenting is vigorous and will ferment quickly at 68 degrees F. That's the ideal temperature for the house right now for the winter. Recipes show I will need just over 4 lbs of malts for a 1 gallon batch. I should have about 3 oz. of juniper berries and 2.25 oz of hops. The grains are the only thing that is raw and uncooked.
WHAT'S BREWING NEXT TIME?
Dampfbier: Comparing Bubblegum Yeasts In Paulaner's Wiesn Clone