Lemonade Head

 

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I’ve made a couple batches of this hard lemonade and I still don’t have a solid recipe. Another casualty of poor note taking. I do know what how I started the first batch, though.

I often make lemonade over the Summer with the simple recipe of two cups of lemon juice and two cups of sugar per gallon. My starting place for a hard lemonade was just to make a five gallon batch and then add champagne yeast, yeast nutrient and yeast energizer.

Even with this help, it took a while to get going, the acidity of the lemon juice hampering the yeast. I was afraid of this, and it was the reason I used this method. I figured if the yeast didn’t take, the worst that could happen is I’d end up with five gallons of lemonade.

Once it finally started fermenting, after several days, it took off and I started adding more sugar. The final product was under 7% ABV, but I fermented it a bit higher than that to begin with. I knew it would take some post fermentation mixing to get the flavor I wanted, so I started with as much alcohol as seemed reasonable knowing that I would dilute it later.

Before getting to the mixing and blending, though, I had to kill the yeast. Lemonade is very sweet and I needed to add that two cups of sugar per gallon back without kicking off more fermentation. Since the lemonade didn’t need to be carbonated or have any other use for the yeast, Potassium Sorbate which not only kills it, but stays in solution to keep any new yeast from taking hold was the best option.

With the yeast disposed of, it was time to do some tasting. I already knew it would take a lot of sugar to bring back balance, but I was surprised how much more lemon juice I had to add. It made me think I should have just skipped the pre fermentation lemon juice altogether. I may try this method at some point.

To cover all of the alcohol, it took a ton of sugar and lemon juice. I don’t know how much. I almost want to make another batch just to figure out a solid recipe. I will admit, though, that I’m not a huge hard lemonade fan. I love lemonade and I think that is why I don’t like hard lemonade as much. I tend to drink large of lemonade in large quantities and when I switch to hard lemonade I have trouble resisting, which doesn’t tend to end well.

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Yes, the problem with this stuff is that it is too easy to drink. I don’t like the mass market hard lemonade because it tastes fake and artificial. That is not an issue with this. I have a couple bottles left of the second batch I made, I’ll post tasting notes soon. If you like lemonade and you like getting drunk, you should make some hard lemonade and if it works out for you, you should send me your recipe.

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Bear Wallow Blonde

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Bear Wallow Pond is nearby my families cabin in Sullivan County, Pa. We go there a lot to fish, hike and just generally relax when we’re at the cabin. I brewed Bear Wallow Blonde as a nice, mellow beer for the cabin long before I built up the courage to try making a lager.

In the Summer of 2012, I had Summer Swill for weekends at home when I wanted something stronger and Bear Wallow Blonde for longer sessions at the cabin (although at 4.7% ABV, it’s slightly out of session beer range). It was my first time using honey malt, which I already wrote about in my post about Braggart Braggot. While the combination of the honey malt and extracts may have pushed this out of the appropriate color range for a blonde ale, it made it extra delicious.

I used Tettnang hops for bitterness. Although they are very low Alpha Acid, they worked for the minimal bitterness required in this beer. Small additions of Willamette hops at thirty and five minutes from the end of the boil added some subtle spicy, earthy flavors. Tettnang and Willamette are actually very similar and either one could have been used for the full hop load of this beer. It’s hard to decipher what my thoughts were on some of these recipes as I didn’t know a whole lot about some of these ingredients and went solely on descriptions from web sites. Whatever the idea was, it worked out.

 

IMG_20120617_103820Although fermentation finished drier than I planned on, I remember this beer being slightly sweet from the honey malt. Crisp and dry with some perceived body and sweetness and just enough spicy hop character to balance. Unfortunately, this beer is long gone (not that it would have probably held up well). I have thought about reworking it several times, but its spot in the lineup has been taken over by the Elklan Lager series. Maybe it will make a return someday, and until then, you can try it if you’re looking for a nice Summer thirst quencher with a little bit more depth.

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Bear Wallow Blonde
Style: 6B. Blonde Ale
Brew Date: May 2012
Serve Date: June 2012
ABV: 4.7
IBUs: 18

Fermentables:
1 lb Honey Malt
7 lb Light LME
1 lb Light DME

Hops:
1 oz Tettnang @ 60 min
.5 oz Willamette @30 min
.5 oz Willamette @ 5 min

Yeast:
US-05 American Ale Yeast

2014 PROOF Fermentation Additions

I’ve never rewritten a post… scratch that. I’ve never rewritten anything as much as I’ve rewritten this post. If I left it all in it would take you all night to read this. Ultimately, the lesson I’ve learned is that the yeast is in charge. I knew that, but… I didn’t really know that. Luckily, the yeast is dictating that things go more quickly than planned instead of slowing things down.

I’m leaving for vacation next Wednesday, June 4. To reach the 20% ABV I’m hoping for with this beer, I’ll need to add at least seven pounds of light brown sugar before then. Originally, I was planning to spread those additions out much more. Wednesday morning, May28, about twelve hours after pitching the initial yeast, the cakes of Nottingham from my two Single Hop IPAs, 2014 PROOF was down to about 1.030 with an ABV of around 10.5%.

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Wow. I added twelve ounces of sugar and the bubbles in the airlock, which had slowed to around two a second after it literally blew the lid off the bucket twice the night before, picked back up to being quicker than I could easily count.

My plan, initially, was to add six ounce of sugar twice a day for ten or so days starting on day three. More research lead me to realize that this was probably not quickly enough. Even my accelerated schedule has not proven anywhere near fast enough for the yeast.

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I made a starter with a vial of San Diego Super Yeast and a quart of the initial PROOF wort. I expected to add that two days later, and again the yeast out performed my plan. It was fermented out within twenty four hours and added to the main batch along with a second addition of twelve ounces of sugar.

At this point, my plans are pretty much out the window and I’ve just made a chart to keep track of where I’m at. That chart, filled out to the current state of the beer is below. I will update with where it all ends up later.

My process for adding the sugar starts by taking a gravity reading. At the very least, I want this beer under 1.030 when all is said and done so if it is above that, from now on I won’t add any more sugar until it gets down. About an hour ago, when I added the third bit of sugar, it was at 1.028. I added twelve more ounces to take it to about 1.034.

Once I have a gravity reading, I decide how much sugar to add. I plan to stay with six or twelve ounce additions. I add the sugar to a sanitized pitcher, pour in the gravity sample and get another couple wine thief’s full to make it easy to dissolve the sugar. I stir it up and then I add it back into the fermenter. All of the equipment I’m using is sanitized and while I don’t like adding samples back into the fermenter, if I didn’t do it with this batch, there would be nothing left. With this much activity and alcohol, I’m not too concerned with infection or even oxygen at this point. When things slow down, I’ll definitely be letting this beer sit for a while and hoping it doesn’t have too much oxygen damage.

I plan to add some yeast nutrient with the next sugar addition before bed. After having the last few days off, I’m back to work today which will dictate when I can tend to the beer. As a result, my two sugar additions today will be much closer together and I can’t imagine I’ll be adding another twelve ounces. I’m planning on six, but the yeast doesn’t like when I make plans.

Time Sugar Adjusted OG Gravity/ABV Total Notes
Wednesday Morning 12 oz 1.116 1.030/10.5% .75 lb
Wednesday Night 12 oz 1.123 1.033/11.7% 1.5 lb Added 2nd Yeast
Thursday Morning 12 oz 1.129 1.028/12.4% 2.25 lb
Thursday Night Add Yeast Nutrient

Note: I see that the formatting for my table doesn’t seem to have translated, I’ll try to figure out how to make it looks nice before I post a more complete version later.

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Evidence Belgian Imperial IPA Brew Day

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Evidence is PROOF’s little brother, although it’s not so little. My efficiency for PROOF was not as good as I hoped, but that allowed for my “small” second runnings beer to be very big. I covered my overly complicated mash yesterday, but here is a recap of how I got the wort that became Evidence.

After conducting two separate mashes, one in my normal cooler mash tun and one BIAB mash in my kettle, I combined the grains from each and added more water. The water was at around 185º and I simply added it until I couldn’t fit any more. I stirred it up and then let it sit for a few minutes. After that, I gave it another stir and began draining it. I collected as much wort as I could, which ended up being about four gallons. It was around 1.065 pre-boil original gravity.

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This is a bit higher gravity than I was planning on. My plan was very loose and the gravity helped give it last minute shape. Beforehand, I bought a vial of White Labs Saison II yeast and planned to use some of the leftover Columbus hops from PROOF.

I was thinking I’d do something along the lines of Table Cat, though I figured the gravity would be a little bit higher. Since it ended up much higher, I decided to keep the late hopping of Table Cat, but to push it to the extreme. I hop burst this stuff into the ground. Nothing until fifteen minutes from the end of the boil, but eight ounces between then and the fermenter. Then another two ounces dry hopped (finishing off the pound of Columbus I have).

This is basically going to be Belgian Double IPA. Which is a ridiculous name, but at this point you can just do anything, backload it with hops and call it a blank blank IPA, right? I like my Double IPA’s extra dry and while the saison yeast should get it pretty dry already, I’m going to add some sugar to be safe. I would normally use corn sugar for this, but since I’m already using brown sugar in PROOF, I decided to use it here, too.

I like to wait until fermentation is well underway before adding any adjunct sugar to make sure the yeast go to work on the malt sugars before they tire themselves out, so I’ll be adding a half pound of brown sugar in a few days when the beer is fermenting away.

After active fermentation is done, I’ll rack it and give another week or so before hitting it with the first ounce of dry hops. After five more days, I’ll give it the other ounce. I haven’t done this staggered dry hop method before, but a lot of people swear by it so I’ll give it a shot. I think I’ll be kind of missing the point of it by doing two additions of the same hop, but it will work either way.

The simplified (ignoring the mashing method) recipe is below. The hopping rate may seem kind of low for an IPA of this size but I want to leave some room for the yeast to shine through. I think this should be a good beer and it was certainly fun to make up to this point.

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Evidence (2014)
Style: Belgian Double IPA
Brew Date: 5/27/2014
Serve Date: 7/8/2014
OG: 1.072
Expected FG: 1.008
Approximate ABV: 8.5
IBUs: 70

Fermentables:
87% Pale Malt
13% Light Munich Malt
Plus a half pound of light brown sugar

Hops (all Columbus):
2 oz @ 10 min
3 oz @ 2 min
3 oz @ Flameout
2 oz Dry Hop for last five days of secondary fermentation

Yeast:
White Labs 566 – Belgian Saison II

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2014 PROOF Brew Day

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Woo. It’s been a long day. It is now just after six and I still have some clean up to do, but I’m done brewing and I’m done writing, except for this paragraph, of course. As you can see below, my brew day started at nine in the morning. Currently, PROOF is fermenting like crazy in the basement and Evidence is in it’s lag phase in the kitchen. Below is how I got here.

9:00
Began heating pre-measured mash water on the stove and went off to get some non-brewing related stuff done before fully diving in.

9:40
Strike temperature was reached (166º), began adding small amounts of the water and then malt. I normally add all the water then the malt, but I was afraid of overflowing the mash tun so I did it this way. This is at a ratio of a quart to a pound to be sure it will all fit. As soon as it was all in and stirred, I started heating the strike water for the BIAB mash on the propane burner. Once that was started, I checked the temperature in the mash tun and saw it was a bit low and I knew I had a bit more space so I started to boil some water on the stove to try to raise it up. Temperature is currently 147º so there will still be conversion, but I’m going to try to get it up at least over 150º.

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9:50
I started the mash somewhere around 9:45 but I’m not specifically timing it. I’ll time the BIAB mash and by the time that is done, it will have been plenty long for the initial mash. Extra water raised the temperature to 152º.

10:05
Started the BIAB mash. Both mashes have settled right around 151º. I’ll check on them around 10:30. The BIAB mash will probably drop significantly. I plan to direct fire it to heat it up.

10:25
I stirred both mashes. The temperature is holding in the cooler, the BIAB is down a couple degrees.

10:35
I turned the burner on under the BIAB mash. I haven’t done this before, keeping a close eye on the temperature. Brought the temperature up to about 158º and turned off the heat.

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11:00
Getting ready to lift the bag of grains out and turn the heat back on to bring the BIAB mash temp up to 185º to use as sparge water for the big mash. Once it’s heating up, I’ll start draining the big mash (after another good stir).

11:05
Propped the bag of grains on top of the kettle and began draining the other mash into another kettle. After both were drained, I started adding the BIAB mash into the big mash. It didn’t all fit, so I kept the rest on the side to add to a second runnings beer.

11:30
I’ve run all the wort through the mash, added it to the main kettle and put the bag of grains in the other smaller kettle with what was left from the original BIAB mash. Starting the boil and figuring out how to do the second runnings beer… Refractometer reading shows 20 Brix, or about 1.085. Slightly disappointing, we’ll see where the long boil takes it.

11:40
Took out a gallon of the wort to boil separately on the stove. Neither have reached boil yet.

12:00
The gallon on the stove is boiling away, the big one is starting to get there. I’m going to wait a bit to start the timer. I added the grains from the BIAB along with the extra wort to the cooler mash tun. I topped it up with more water at about 180º. It was full to the brim. I stirred as much as I could without spilling it everywhere and then let it sit for a few minutes. After that, I drained it into a kettle and collected about four gallons of wort around 1.065. I’ll write more about this second runnings beer, which will become Evidence, tomorrow.

12:06
It’s been boiling for a few minutes but I just got it settled and started the timer. Two hour boil. After that, I started measuring out the hops and realized that I completely forgot about the first wort hops. Oh well. These hops are really just going to be trying to balance the beer, so I’ll just skip them. I have four ounces of Columbus measured up to add with ninety minutes left in the boil and another two for the last five minutes.

12:45
I’ve now got three boils going on simultaneously. I added the first charge of hops to the big one a little bit ago. Now I have about an hour of making sure there are no boil overs.

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1:30
Aside from tending to Evidence, I also decided to measure out some of the sugar for PROOF while I’m waiting for the boil to finish. I measured out seven baggies with six ounces of light brown sugar in each. There is about thirty five minutes left in the boil, half hour until I add the other hops. I’ll have to go rack my Single Hop IPAs while PROOF is chilling so I can use the yeast cake from the Galaxy IPA.

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3:15
I got a little tied up and haven’t kept up with the notes. Everything is done but the clean up. Let me try to get caught up. About twenty minutes from the end of the boil, the small kettle on the stove got really low and was starting to scorch. I decided to add another gallon from the big boil to keep it going. This seemed to work well, I don’t think there was too much damage and this wort was very dark, syrupy and smelled delicious. It should add a lot of malt character to the beer. I would like to try this method again with a smaller beer to try to make it feel bigger than it actually is.

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Aside from that, everything else went more or less according to plan. I added the immersion chiller and some Irish Moss with fifteen minutes left in the boil, then the last two ounces of hops with five minutes left. When the boil was done, I added the smaller boil back in. The wort got noticeably darker with this addition. After that, I began chilling. This took longer than normal. It’s very hot out today but I think the strength of the wort may have also had something to do with it. I chilled it cooler than normal, down close to 60º. I’m sure this is going to heat itself up pretty far while fermenting so I want to fight that a little bit. I am fermenting in the basement which is still several degrees cooler than the kitchen where I do most of my ale fermentations.

I poured the wort back and forth between the fermenter and the kettle a few times to get some oxygen into it, not nearly as much as it should have, I’m sure, but better than nothing. Once I got the wort in the fermenter, I’m using my eight gallon bucket to make the sugar additions easier, I took it to the basement. While the wort was chilling, I racked both of my Single Hop IPAs to secondary, leaving the yeast cakes behind, and put the tops back on the carboys. After I got the new wort down to the basement, I poured a couple cups of it into each of those carboys and shook them up to get the yeast into suspension. I also set about a quart of the wort aside in a growler for a starter for the second yeast addition. The original plan was just to use one of the yeast cakes, but I decided to throw both in.

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The secondary yeast, a vial of White Labs’ San Diego Super Yeast will be added on Thursday or Friday. Until then, I added it to the quart of wort in the growler and put an airlock on top. I will dump the whole starter into the main fermentation.

I’ll start the sugar additions on Thursday night and determine then if I want to add the new yeast with the first of them or wait until Friday. I believe I’m going to up the sugar additions significantly from my original plan after more research on San Diego Super Yeast has basically told me it will ferment anything you throw at it in a matter of days. I don’t want to let it drag, so I’ll hit it extra hard.

This is getting very long, though so I think I’m going to break it up and post more about the sugar additions on Thursday as I start to do them. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about the other beer I brewed today, Evidence. This stuff is already fermenting like crazy after about an hour on the yeast.

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2014 PROOF: My Big, Dumb Idea

 

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2014 has been a bit of a rough year so far. In the middle of some complicated circumstances, I decided that I wanted to make a really big beer. It started because I felt like I needed something big to take on the issues at hand (or at least a big distraction). Something that could stand up to anything, something that was 2014 PROOF.

Then it became a challenge for myself. Could I pull off a huge ABV beer that was drinkable? Something that would be reserved for special occasions, celebrations as well as hard times. I thought I could, but I needed PROOF.

I love big beers. I don’t really drink distilled liquor, but a beer that is pushed close their level of strength holds a great appeal to me. This beer wouldn’t be measured in ABV, it would be measured in PROOF.

My Old SMaSHy Barley Wine, which I have yet to write about was the last truly big beer I made and maybe the only one that I’ve been truly happy with. As the name implies, it is a SMaSH beer, meaning it has only one type of malt and one type of hops. I love barley wines that I love, but there are just as many that I’m not a fan of.

My most frequent problem with barley wines is that they’re too sweet. In my opinion, there is not really any reason to add Crystal malt to a barley wine. The alcohol and high terminal gravity negate the need for Crystal or Caramel malts. There will be plenty of body and sweetness, Crystal tends to make it syrupy.

This explains my reasoning for making an all Maris Otter barely wine, but we’ll get to Old SMaSHy in another post. I love that beer but now my concern became how to differentiate PROOF from it. First of all, it needed to be bigger. The twenty five pounds of malt in that beer already hit the limits of what my mash tun could hold, so now what?

My first idea was the easiest. Sugar. At this point, I was reminded of the widely circulated clone recipes for Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA. These recipes call for a ridiculous amount of corn sugar to be added in small intervals to the fermenting beer on a daily basis. I already use the idea of adding any sugar after fermentation is already in full swing rather than adding it during the boil. The reason for this being that the yeast may decide to ferment that simple sugar first then get tired and decide to sit out for the complex malt derived sugars.

So anyway, yes, I will add a bunch of sugar during fermentation. How about brown sugar instead of corn, though? That should make things slightly more interesting. Somewhere along the way I decided that 20% ABV (or 40 proof) seemed like a good goal. I will add the sugar in six ounce increments as the 120 Minute clone calls for, but I’m not setting a number of additions ahead of time. That will depend on my original gravity and how the yeast is performing. The plan is to add the sugar once a day as long as fermentation stays active until it looks reasonable to reach 20% ABV.

 

20140526-185015-67815990.jpgI don’t want to add as much sugar as that recipe calls for, though so how can I raise the original gravity beyond what twenty-five pounds of malt will get me? This is where I think I have a fairly original idea. It has all been done before and I’m sure that holds true for this, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it and I’m going skip researching if that is true and finding out how well it works.

Here is my idea: simultaneous to the main mash going on in my cooler mash tun, I’ll perform a BIAB mash in my kettle with another twelve pounds of grain. When the BIAB mash is complete, I’ll use the wort as sparge water in the other mash. What kind of efficiency will this lead to? I have no idea. How much wort will I end up? I’m not exactly sure. Will this be a fun experiment? Absolutely.

After my double mash, I’ll take about a gallon (maybe less if I end up with less wort than I think I will) and boil it separately on the stovetop. I’ll start boiling the main portion of the wort as soon as it’s all collected and boil for two hours. The smaller part will be boiling a bit longer because it should reach the boil very quickly. Hopefully, it will add some depth to the beer. I’ve heard of similar methods being used in strong Scotch ales.

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What about hops? I bought a pound of Columbus hops for this beer. I like Columbus (aka Tomahawk aka Zeus aka CTZ aka “they’re all actually different!”) but the main reason I went with them is because at 16.3%, they had the highest Alpha Acid of any hops available in pound bags at my local homebrew store. I’m not bothering with much in the way of late hops because this beer is going to be aging for quite a while. All I need for now is a ton of bitterness to balance what will be a ton of sweetness (real from high FG or perceived from a ton of alcohol). I’m going to give it a small first wort hop, basically just for kicks, then a huge addition at ninety minutes and one more close to the end of the boil (which is probably not necessary) and then I plan to dry hop the bejeezus out of it months down the road.

I don’t know how much sugar I’ll be adding, I don’t know how much or what kind of dry hop I’ll be conducting, I have no idea what kind of efficiency to expect. This could very well be a disaster, but it will be a lot of fun.

The next step, probably most important for a beer this big, is of course fermentation. I got a vial of White Labs’ San Diego Super Yeast. After chilling the beer, I’ll be adding a quart of it along with that vial to a growler and hoping it will take off. The rest of the beer will go on top of the recently formed cake of Nottingham yeast from my last batch, Galaxy IPA. Once the growler has fermented for a few days, using my best judgment, I’ll add it back to the main batch. When I do that, I’ll begin the sugar additions.

I reached just over 1.100 for Old SMaSHy. I’m hoping to be significantly higher this time. Anything beyond that, I don’t even want to guess. Check back tomorrow to see how that all works out. I’ve written out the notes below for myself tomorrow. I don’t normally do this, I normally just follow various brewing software, but with my double mash, double boil brew day, it seemed best to just work it out for myself. The plan is to just keep notes with time stamps tomorrow while brewing and post that. It will be a bit different from my normal posts, but hopefully it will work because this is going to be different from my normal brew day.

Mash A:
100% 25 lb Pale Malt
25 quarts at 166º for 154º mash temp, 75 minutes (or until sparge is ready)
Batch sparge with Mash B

Mash B:
58% 7 lb Pale Malt
42% 5 lb Light Munich Malt
25 quarts at 160º for 154º mash temp, 60 minutes
Remove grains and raise temperature to 185º

Boil A:
Remove 1 gallon of collected wort and boil on stovetop until Boil B is complete, then add back during chill

Boil B:
All the rest of the wort
1 oz Columbus FWH
120 minute boil
4 oz Columbus at 90 minutes
Irish Moss at 15 minutes
Add wort chiller at 15 minutes
2 oz Columbus at 5 minutes
Add Boil A at flame out

Fermentation:
Remove 1 quart and add vial of WLP090
Rack the rest onto Nottingham cake from Single Hop IPA #4: Galaxy
Add WLP090 with starter back to main fermentation on day 3
Begin adding 6 oz of brown sugar with the yeast starter
Continue adding brown sugar daily until… it seems like time to stop?
Rack beer when fermentation stops and age… a while?
Begin dry hopping with… a lot of hops?
Add champagne yeast and wait to see if fermentation begins again
If not, bottle and again… a while again?

Week Fourteen

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I have some time off work this week.  That means that I won’t just be brewing, I’ll be brewing something ridiculous.  On Tuesday, I’ll be making 2014 PROOF.

2014 PROOF is an idea I’ve been working on for a long time.  I’ll explain what it is tomorrow, then I’ll write about the brew day as it happens on Tuesday.  I’m also planning to make a small beer from the second runnings.  That will be called Evidence and I’ll write about it on Wednesday.  The rest of the week will be the usual grab bag.  

So what is PROOF?  Find out here tomorrow.