Friday, September 28, 2012

Paradox Brewery

I got the opportunity today to go and check out Paradox Brewing, which is the latest addition to the every changing beerscape that is Colorado. Paradox is partnering with Colorado Mountain Brewery for the actual brewing side of the beer. The wort is then brought to Paradox's location in Woodland Park where it is aged in a number of wine barrels. I was able to pester the owners with questions as well as try some of their up coming beers.

I also had the opportunity to try several of their current offering, all of which are outstanding. In particular the American Pale Ale. I would highly recommend that if you are in the area you stop by a liquor store and try these beers!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flanders Ale Tasting


I have been tasting my Flanders Red I brewed over 9 months ago on a 2 month basis. About 3 weeks ago I decided that I liked where it was and moved forward with bottling it. I added a bit more sugar than I would normally because the beer had set so long and was most likely completely flat. I also added 1/3 of a packet of dry yeast to ensure there would be something to carbonate the beer.

I tasted it for the first time and here are the results:

Appearance: Brilliant red brown, very clear. There is not much head but a lace forms around the glass. Small bubbles rise to the top of the glass.

Aroma: The aroma is sour with a huge amount of fruit aroma, somewhat cherry like.

Taste: Wonderful, a smooth lactic sourness with some hints of caramel. The beer is very clean of any off brett smells but is still complex in its finish.

Mouthfeel: The acid coats the mouth and makes it feel very smooth and silky.

Overall: This turned out great, the sourness is perfect and clean. I would like the carbonation to be higher but I think that it should develop as I let it sit in the bottle a bit longer. 

Pumpkin Ale

Roasted Pumpkin
For Thanksgiving this year I have decided to brew a Pumpkin Ale. I come from a large family that always has a large get together with all the fixings. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, side dishes, and at least 3 types of pies, all accompanied by wine. Unfortunately for me and a few others beer is not on the menu. I decided that the best way to bring a change to that is to come with my own beer. In keeping with the holiday spirit I made this festive themed beer.

4 Gallon Recipe

I started off by taking 2 pounds of organic canned pumpkin and spreading it out on a baking sheet, I then placed it in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Grain Bill:

11 pounds of Rahr 2-row malt
1 pound caramel 20 L malt

Mashed in at 155 F for 1 hour and added the pumpkin to the mash inside of a small grain bag.

Boiled 60 minutes

60 minutes 1 oz of 6.4 % Fuggle
5 minutes 1 oz of 4 % Hallertau

Spices 1 tsp of Pupmkin Pie Spice

OG: 1.070

Pitched 1056 grown in a 2 litter starter

FG: 1.010

At bottling added ...
1/8 tsp Cinnimon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 oz vanilla

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Brewing At BierWerks

 I have been a home brewer for two years now. I have learned and read everything that I can about brewing beer. Through wild brewing I have even had the opportunity to make larger batches of beer for aging in barrels. However, yesterday I had a totally new experience. I spent the morning with James, the Head Brewer at BierWerks making a batch of their famous Helles.

Here is a little about my experience. I have heard many a time that 70% of the time in a brewery is spent cleaning. Between all the hoses and fermentors that I saw I can believe it. There is just so much going on and with sanitation being so important I got to see first hand how much work it is to keep everything clean. I also gained respect for the juggling act that brewers do as they move beer around the brewery and try to get it on tap while it is all still fresh. Altough I did little more than turn on some pipes and stir the mash it was a great learning experience and an exciting first time in a real brewery. I hope to join James on a few more batches of beer and get a better understanding of what it is like to be a brewer.

Yeast Culturing: Plates

One of the best ways to maintain a yeast culture is on an agar plate. This method can be used to keep yeast health in your fridge for about a month or two. It also happens to be very easy and this post will be about making your own plates to use at home.

First, what is an agar plate? Agar is a compound derived from sea weed. It has many applications in science but is basically like jello that sets up firmly at room temperature. It creates a nice substance for microbes to grow on. By adding compounds to agar it can be customized to create whatever type of a plate is needed. In this case we will be adding nutrients and sugar to the agar to make it suitable for growing yeast.
Finished Plates

   What you will need:
  1.    Petri Dishes
  2.    Agar
  3.    Dry Malt Extract
  4.    Yeast Nutrients (optional)
  5.    Sterile Loop or Toothpicks

Directions: YM Media

Food Grade Agar
  1.  Add 9 grams of food grade agar to 400 mL water.
  2. Add 1.5 grams of Dry Malt Extract
  3. Add 10 grams Table Sugar
  4. Add 1 gram of yeast nutrient (like servomyces)
  5. Bring the volume up to 500 mL
  6. Boil the mixture in a microwave, watch it carefully so that it does not boil over, when all the solids have dissolved allow it to cool (covered) to a temperature in which it is comfortable to be held
  7. Pout the agar mixture into the petri dishes. You only need enough to cover the bottom of the dish with about 1/8 of an inch of liquid. Pour quickly and place the lid immediately on the plate. Stack the plates on top of each other as they cool. This will help dissipate the moisture that likes to accumulate on the top of the lids.
  8. When you are ready, take a small sample of yeast on a loop or a sterile toothpick and smear it on the plate, you do not need much and you do not need to press hard. You do not want to break the surface of the agar. Place the plate upside down in a warm room and allow the yeast to grown 2 days. You will see white colonies form, these are the yeast.

Harvesting Yeast for the Bottle

One of the best parts about being a home brewer is that every time you brew you can try something different. You never have to worry about what someone else wants to drink or what would sell in a pub. If you want to go out on a limb and make something that is completly crazy that is totally acceptable. If you want to try to make a beer just like one that you had no one will say a thing. In fact, there are a number of home brewers that set out to recreate some of the more famous beers in the craft industry. These recreations are called cloned beers. If you are setting out to clone a beer one of the best skills that you can use is culturing yeast from a bottle of the beer you are trying to clone. This will ensure that you are using the correct strain of yeast. You can also use this method to create your own collection of yeast strains from some of your favorite beers.

In order to culture yeast from a bottle of beer you are going to need a couple of things...

Petri Dishes
Dry Malt Extract
An Alcohol Burner
A beer that was bottle conditioned
An inoculation loop

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale Yeast
From here it is pretty easy, you first make your media plates by using Agar, water, and dry malt extract and pouring it into the petri dishes. I have a separate post with more details on how to go about this step.

Next you take the bottle of beer that contains the yeast you want and get it nice and cold in the fridge, if it has been moved at all recently you are going to want to give it some time to sit so that all the yeast will be at the bottom of the beer. Now you can take the beer and pass the neck and the top of the bottle through the flame of the alcohol burner. This will make sure that nothing is alive on the outside of the bottle.

Now open the bottle and poor the beer slowly into a glass. When you get to the point where some of the sediment is beginning to come off the bottom stop.

Now take your inoculation loop and run it through the flame until it is red hot, let it cool for about 20 seconds. Now place it is the bottom of the bottle and give it a good stir, you are trying to get some yeast onto the loop.

Once you have some yeast on the loop (you only need a very very small amount, as long as you moved it around a bit in the bottle you will be fine) streak it out on the plate. Now cover the plate and let the beer dry before turning the plate upside down and allowing the yeast a few days at room temp to grow.

When you are ready to use this yeast in a beer you should pick just a single colony from the plate and slowly grow it up in wort to make a yeast starter.

I have also had success with taking about 2 cups of yeast starter and pouring the dregs from a bottle of beer right into the starter. I then give it a couple days to grow and step the starter up to about a quart before using it to make beer. This it the technique that I used to brew my Tropic King Clone with great success.

Tropic King Clone

I have always really liked Saison. It is a style of beer that is so versatile. It was originally brewed for seasonal farm workers (Saison means season in French). The beer was meant to be refreshing and invigorating for farm laborers. For this reason it was both low in gravity and alcohol with a nice hoppiness that both helped preserve it and make it more refreshing. Over the years Saison has changed quite a bit. It is now often much higher in gravity and alcohol and can range quite a bit in flavor. One of the reasons that I like the style is that it has so much variety, not to mention a dry hoppy beer with an expressive yeast strain just sounds delicious!
I recently had the opportunity to try Tropic King, brewed by Funkwerks. This beer is an “Imperial Saison” with an ABV of 7.5 %. What makes the beer unique is the hops used. When you open up the bottle you are instantly transported to a tropical island as the aroma of passion fruit, grapefruit, and pineapple dance up out of the glass. The beer is incredible smooth and refreshing with hints of ginger, spice, pepper, and all those tropical fruits. Despite the high ABV you would can not smell or taste any alcohol which makes this a rather dangerous beer because it is so refreshing it just disappears from your glass.
For my most recent batch I decided to duplicate Tropic King. After a little poking around on the internet I found a recipe that claims it is from Gordon who works at the brewery. It looks about right and I decided to give it a try.
To start I bought a bottle of Tropic King and cultured the yeast from the bottle, growing it up to a quart starter.

OG: 1.065
FG: 1.007
SRM: 5.6
IBU 30
Grain Bill
Pale Malt 76%
Munich 10°L 16 %
Wheat Malt 5 %
Carapils 3 %
Mash Schedule
144 F 10 minutes
158 F 20 minutes
170 F 10 minutes
Rakau 12.7AA 60min 0.415oz/5gallon
Rakau 12.7AA 10min 0.484oz/5gallon
Opal 7.9AA 0min 0.668oz/5gallon
Rakau 12.7AA Dry hop 0.634oz/5gallon

Wyeast 3711 French Saison pitch at 65, ramp up to 75 over 48 hours
I followed the above recipe with only minor changes (Single Step Mash 1 hour at 155 F and using yeast from the bottle).
I hit my OG right on at 1.065 for a 3 gallon batch, I cooled the beer to 65 F and added my decanted yeast starter. To my surprise over the next 6 days I saw very little fermentation activity. There was certainly a kreusen but it was nothing special. When I went to move the beer to secondary and dry hop it I took a gravity reading, 1.007. The beer is currently being dry hopped and should be in the bottle ready to be tasted in a few weeks.

Tasting Notes:

The beer quickly carbonated in the bottle. It was ready a week after being bottled.

Appearance:  A light brown color with a thick haze. A strong head pours and is easily brought back to life with a swirl of the glass.

Aroma: Citrus fruits, pineapple, passion fruit, ginger, a little hint of green apple, no alcohol. 

Taste: The beer is all hops with a subtle malt backbone. I can taste pepper, ginger, and pineapple. The finish is a little bitter but quickly leaves the tongue with a clean refreshing bite. 

Mouthfeel: Medium and surprisingly full for the low final gravity.

Overall: This beer turned out awesome and was a big hit with my friends. I will certainly brew it again, just have to find away to continue to get a hold of the special hops.

Yeast Basics: Making a Starter

Making a yeast starter is a necessary skill for someone who wants to brew beer. A yeast starter takes either a small quantity of yeast and grows it to the volume needed to ferment a batch of beer or takes a culture of yeast that is not healthy enough to brew a batch of beer and produces new cells that will be able to ferment the beer, or both.

In order to create a yeast starter you will need a few basic things...
  1. Dry Malt Extract
  2. A sterile vessel 
  3. Tin Foil
  4. A stir plate (not essential)
  5. Yeast
  6. A sterile toothpick of inoculation loop
  7. Scale
  1. The first step is to make a wort that is about 1.030 gravity. This is easy to do using Dry Malt Extract, simply add 0.75 oz of Dry Malt Extract for every cup of water. 
  2.  Boil the wort 10 minutes to sanitize it
  3. Sanitize the inoculation loop and whatever you will be growing the yeast in
  4. Add the wort to the vessel and place tinfoil over the top, allow the wort to cool to 80 F
  5. Add the yeast, using sterile practices, to the wort (you will only need a very small amount of yeast, a few colonies will do)
    1. If you have a packet from Wyeast or a tube from White Labs you can add the whole tube

A few notes:
The size of your starter is important. If you are starting yeast from a plate then you need to start them in a small volume of starter (100 mL) before you step them up to something larger like 500 mL or a liter. If you are trying to boost your cell count from a packet of Wyeast or a vial of white labs you are going to want to go big, like 1.5 L. Otherwise the yeast are not going to be able to do much dividing.
You can either pitch the entire starter or you can do what I do, which is place it in the fridge the night before to help the yeast floculate. Then you can decant the fluid and add only the yeast to your wort.