Monday, June 29, 2009

Guess What! I Made Another Session Beer!

Sunday was the third Brew Day in the past week. And for the third time in as many brew sessions, the beer of choice was a session beer. After experimenting with The Ultimate Table Beer last week, I opted for a more traditional style this time. Enter Hwart's Bitter (MB0029).

I have been trying my hand at Bitters for a while, with such attempts as the Eagle and Child Mild (MB0015) and the Ode to the Halper Bitter (MB0026). The recipe for the latter had been used, with some modifications, in Nate's brewing course in May and, most recently, by Eric for his second extract batch this past Wednesday. So, with my new found interest in session beers (more to come), I decided to revisit the Halper and make some adjustments to it.

The inaugural version of OttH got some good reviews, but the biggest criticism was that it was a bit too sweet. Since that version, every subsequent batch has used less caramel malt. Nate's class's version cut the caramel malt in half, which lead to it being a bit to bitter. For Eric's version, we lowered the lovibond rating and reduced the caramel malt by only a quarter.

For Hwart's Bitter, the caramel malt and the bittering hops were both reduced by at least 40%, hopefully evening out the malt/hop ratio while cutting the sweetness. We'll have to see. As for now, it's bubblin' away.

Coming up this week - A look at the Parti-gyle barley wine, some thoughts on all grain, and what's next for MB.

A big thanks to Nate and Joe for helping out, and to the former for continued use of this AG rig.


Friday, June 26, 2009

PGE: The Ultimate Table Beer

The first of the two Parti-Gyle beers to ferment out, of course, was the small beer. Now, frankly, this beer isn't all that small. With a starting gravity of 1.040, it's going to get to around 4.5% ABV, instead of the sub 3% I was looking for. I guess this makes it an Imperial Table Beer? No. Oh, well.

Now as the post title indicates, I'm referring to this as the "Ultimate" Table Beer (MB0028). What makes it so ultimate? Well, for starters, primary fermentation used a Belgian Saison Yeast. After four days in primary and a specific gravity of 1.020, I racked the beer to secondary. I added to the carboy Brettanomyces bruxellensis. This will continue to ferment for the next 6 months, adding some funky flavors to the beer.

I've been a fan of Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Biere for quite some time now, which was the inspiration for this beer. Bam is a farmhouse ale boasting all the classic saison qualities with some tart, funkiness to boot. It's extremely quaffable and could be considered a session beer weighing it at a manageable 4.5% ABV.

I'm not attempting a clone, per se, but I am shooting for a beer with all of the above qualities. I want something that fits the "session beer" template, but still has a ton of flavor. Plus, I've always wanted to experiment with Brett.

To do this, I invested in a new 3 gallon Better Bottle, since equipment that's been exposed to Brett is notoriously difficult to clean thoroughly. I don't know what Mrs. Muckney Brewing is going to say about a carboy sitting in the dining room for six months, but oh, well.

Keep an eye out for updates on this one.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Parti-Gyle Experiment: The Brew Day Strikes Back

It always sounds easy, doesn't it? One Mash, two beers? Heating up a lot of water, draining a lot of wort? Cake walk. That's what I said Thursday night when I told Mrs. Muckney Brewing that "sure, I can brew tomorrow so we can go to your Dad's house on Saturday!". Well, while Eric and I were cooling the remaining 4 gallons of Barley Wine wort at 2:45 AM early Saturday morning, racing against an advancing storm, watching the chunky, Irish-moss-less, over-boiled, golden-caramel pre-beer move quickly through a transfer hose I grumbled under my breath that said "cake walk" had turned into a long, meandering marathon of a brew session.

It all started well. I had the brewery up and running by 6:00 PM. The plan was to mash-in by 7:00 PM or so and be boiling by 9:00. Well, the water took a bit longer to heat than anticipated, pushing the mash-in back an hour. All seemed to be going well through the sparge, though it too took a bit too long. We finally gathered enough wort (more on "enough" later) close to 10PM. This is where things took a turn for the worse. There were about 5 gallons of wort "left over" after the Barley Wine (MB0027) was "good to go". So instead of wasting it, I boiled the Table Beer (MB0028) in two separate pots with few issues, except forgetting the Irish moss. No biggie. I ended up with about 3+ gallons of 1.040 OG wort, which was about 10 points higher than what I was shooting for, but oh well. I'm not complaining.

Now for the Barley Wine. Well, as the Table Beer was boiling away, the BW was "coming to a boil", which, unfortunately took about 90 minutes. There was something inhibiting the burner from getting to full strength, so after a quick fix of the propane, we were boiling. Ninety minutes later, the BW was cooling (after an additional 10 minutes to sterilize the wort chiller) without the addition of Irish moss.

After transfer being an hour late and a gallon short, I took a gravity reading - 1.090, no where near the 1.100 I was shooting for, and this was for 4 GALLONS! That means at 5 gallons it would have been closer to 1.080. So this means that my efficiency was sub 60. This is where "enough" from above comes in. Basically, I left 20 gravity points in the mash. The last batch sparge read 1.030. It should have been closer to 1.010. So, I missed 20 points of wort. Basically another 4 gallons of golden goodness. All I can say is "D'0h!"

All in all, it was a 9 hour brew session that could have been shortened to about 6 with a bit more planning and little less stupidity. But hey, there are two beers, one big and one small fermenting away, so I guess in the end, it's counted as a success.

I'm planning on writing an "analysis post" on this in the near future, with some possible fixes for the above problems. As for now, I'll chalk this one up to "learning through experience". No excuses, but it was my first all grain by myself. More to come, including some twists on the two brews from this batch.

Stay Tuned.


A big shout out to Nate for letting me borrow his equipment, Pat, Craig and Eric for helping brew and to Rob for his moral support.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mash Tun Photos

I told you they were coming - frankly, I warned you. So here they are, the aforementioned pictures of "Mashie" (it's kinda catchy, isn't it.



The Glory that is "Mashie"

Obligatory Side View

Ball valve outlet with hose barb

Circular steel braid lautering device with copper t-juction and hose barbs

Obligatory close up

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Parti-Gyle Experiment

There are plenty of way to make homebrewing more productive, more cost effective, and more enjoyable. OK, so we'll have to see about the third part of that statement, but it looks like I've stumbled upon a method to bring the first two to fruition. I guess we'll start with a story.

I'd been talking with Nate about a couple brews I'm planning to make, one being a funky, saison-esque table beer while the other was a big American Barley Wine. Nate suggested that I make the table beer from the second runnings of the barley wine. This got me thinking, and after a quick Google search, I found a reprint of Randy Mosher's Parti-Gyle Brewing article on Brewing Techniques.

Parti-gyle brewing is an ancient technique that uses one mash to make multiple beers. The classic example is of course the "Belgian Hierarchy" of Tripel, Dubbel, and Single, each made with a subsequent mashing of one grain bed. This allows for a greater variety in styles while cutting the length of a brew day, in contrast to brewing multiple beers from several mashes. Needless to say, the shortened brew day can have significant advantages, from reducing brewer's exhaustion to not getting harassed by one's significant other that you "wasted" your whole day on your "dumb hobby" (DISCLAIMER: Mrs. Muckney Brewing does not consider brewing a "dumb hobby", or so she says).

The process is simple enough, but does have its own drawbacks, though minimal, IMHO. It does, however, throw a new calculation into the mix, and can confuse brewing software. Here we go.

First, one must decide on the gravity of each brew. For this example, we'll go with, say a Barley Wine and a table beer. Coincidence, I think not! Let's say we're shooting for a 5 gallon batch of Barley Wine with a starting gravity of 24.22P and 3 gallons of table beer at 7.3P. To figure out the target gravity of the "mother ale" as I call it, use the following formula.

(D1 x V1) + (D2 x V2)/Vtotal*

where D is the density of the target beers 1 and 2 in Plato and V is the desired volume of the beers in gallons. Vtotal is the total volume of the target beers.

Simple enough, right? Now running our numbers through the formula gives us the following:

(24.22 x 5) + (7.3 x 3)/8 = 17.875

For those following at home, that translates to 1.074 SG.

Step two is to develop the recipe for the Mother Ale. Using whatever grain bill you'd like, shoot for a target SG of 1.074. The brewing software of your choice is a big help in figuring this out. It keeps the calculator out of it. Once you have the grain bill, the next step is to figure out the pre-boil volumes needed. This will vary from system to system, and with the length of boil used.

Step three is to complete the recipe for each beer. For my current experiment, I found it useful to create each beer separately in Beersmith, manipulating the grain bill to get your target gravity, then working through the recipe as normal to get the correct hop dosage and such.

Brew Day

Implementing the process has its own hurdles. First, having two brews going at the same time may be a bit of a struggle. Equipment limitations may render this technique moot, as it applies to a time saving technique. My plans for the upcoming brew day is to boil the 6 gallons (calculated pre-boil volume) of Barley Wine in Nate's converted keg on the back deck for 90 minutes, while brewing the 3.5 gallons (again, pre-boil volume) of table beer inside on my stove in my brewpot for 60 minutes.

Yes, I do think I'm crazy to attempt to run two boils simultaneously, but with a bit of planning, and some luck, I'm hoping to pull it off. Keep an eye out for updates.

Sounds fun, huh? I think so. There are some concerns noted in Mosher's article, the most pressing, in my opinion, is the color of the second beer. The runnings may be a bit light, so Mosher suggests a mini-mash on the side to get to the desired color. Depending on the style, a longer boil of the second runnings could also help achieve a darker color, but may affect the final volume of the beer, let alone the flavor. That sounds like another experiment for another post.

The only issue I'm currently having is choosing a sparge method. I'm leaning towards a batch sparge, which seems to be more traditional, but a continuous sparge may allow for more precise wort collection. I'm still doing research on this. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Stay tuned for updates.


*Calculations from Parti-Gyle Brewing by Randy Mosher, republished from BrewingTechniques' March/April 1994. For more information, including calculation tables, please read the article.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Mash Tun Built . . . FINALLY!

So back in February, I mentioned that I purchased parts to build a mash tun as Muckney Brewing's first step toward all grain. Well, this evening, after a quick trip to the hardware store, I finally finished building what I've affectionately dubbed "Mashie" (I'm still working on the name). Mashie has a capacity of 12 gallons and should easily do 10 gallon batches. For a lautering device, I've employed a steel braid by connecting both ends to a T-junction with barbed hose fittings and high-temp resistant zip ties.

So, I guess it's needless to say that I'm excited to put Mashie to use, and his first task is going to be a tall order. I'm planning on making a Barley Wine (MB0027) and Table Beer (MB0028) both from one mash, but there's more to come on that.

And to answer the inevitable question, yes, there are pictures to come. The wifey has the camera this evening.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Go Pens!

I know, it's not beer related, but it's pertinent. For those that don't know, the Pens forced a Game 7 with Detroit tonight to be played on Friday night.

All I have to say is



Monday, June 1, 2009

Back to Brewing

It's been a while - since December, in fact - since I pulled out the brew equipment. Well, with the return of summer, and my recently purchased, though not yet assembled MLT, the time has come to make some beer. Now, the little Brew Devil inside of me is pulling me in a few different ways, and I have a couple of obligations to previously conjured brews, so the brew schedule is filling up fast. Here's a quick run down.

1) Since I couldn't decide between whether to do a barley wine or a table beer, I'm going to do both . . . from the same grain bill. Yup, we're going to play a game of "Big Beer/Small Beer", and collect the second runnings of the barley wine to make a table beer. Details forthcoming.

2) The Ides of March is still un-brewed. This is not cool. The IoM will be brewed this year, just a bit late, so more like, Ides of July.

3) I'm in a Saison mood. I'm also in a Sour mood. I think we're gonna see a funky saison in the near future.

Oh, and the good thing. We're going all-grain on all of this.

Stay tuned.