Your First All-Grain Beer

I was going to post the last installment of the all-grain brew day walkthrough today, but decided to call an audible. Instead, I’m going to post this article, “Your First All-Grain Beer,” as a prequel to that series. It can fall between the “Should You Go All-Grain?” article, presuming you’ve answered yes, and the “All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough” series. I’ll wrap up the walkthrough series on Monday. (I will also return to the series on “Enzymes for Brewers” early next week.) 

 

IMG_2935You always remember your first. That’s a statement that applies to a lot of things, but it will certainly apply to your first all-grain brew day. Ask any all-grain brewer about his first time, and you will likely hear a funny story. Lots of things can go wrong on your first brew day. And the way brewers try to fix the problems often make things worse. However, ask the brewer how his beer turned out and you’ll likely hear that it was great. Brewing can be very forgiving. This article is going to be half advice and half pep talk — a letter to all new brewers taking the plunge into all-grain.

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Storing Wort Runs the Risk of Botulism

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Clostridium botulinum — the bacteria that produces the botulinum toxin, which causes botulism. (CDC photo in the public domain)

Botulism is a rare but serious condition that can occur due to eating improperly preserved foods. One homebrewing practice that is gaining in popularity may put homebrewers at risk for botulism — using the no-chill method of wort chilling and subsequently storing (unpitched) boiled wort in sealed containers for long periods of time.

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All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough (IX: Aeration)

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A standard wort oxygenation setup. A regulator sits atop a cylinder of welding oxygen. The oxygen passes through a HEPA filter on it’s was to the aeration stone, made of sintered stainless steel.

This is the nineth installment in the All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough, which started with a post on strike water preparation.

 

Aside from cleanup, the last two things a brewer does on brew day is to aerate the wort and pitch the yeast. Pitching an adequate amount of yeast, and “feeding” it with an adequate amount of oxygen, will ensure an orderly fermentation. An orderly fermentation is one that starts in a reasonable time, proceeds smoothly, and reaches a reasonable final gravity.

Altering the pitching rate or aeration level in your beer can affect its aroma and flavor. If you lower the pitching rate below what is optimal, the yeast need to reproduce more to reach the proper density to ferment the wort. Since esters are primarily given off in the growth phase, under pitching leads to more estery beer. In a like manner, under aerating the wort also increases ester production. These effects are most easily seen in yeast strains that produce a lot of esters and other fermentation byproducts. Most estery English ale yeasts, “spicy” Belgian yeasts, and wheat beer yeast strains “clean up” noticeably when the pitching rate is increased above the optimal rate and the wort is well aerated. The effect is harder to notice in cleanly fermenting yeast strains.

In most cases, it’s best to pick a yeast strain with the fermentation characteristics you desire rather than trying to stress a yeast into producing more esters, or taming its fermentation byproducts through overpitching.

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Money Saving Homebrewing Tips

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Frugal websites can save money by using art that is the public domain. (Art released to the public domain by artist.)

Compared to a lot of other hobbies we could be spending our money on, homebrewing is fairly cheap. Still, money is, well . . . money. So here are some suggestions for lowering your homebrewing bill.

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3-gallon (11-L) All-Grain Golden Ale

368px-Ah,_what_a_lovely_maid_it_is!_by_Elmer_Boyd_SmithBrewing smaller batch sizes is something that many homebrewers are exploring, whether for considerations of space or to brew a greater variety beers. This is another recipe that can be brewed with a simple 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup. With this 3.0-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup, you can brew all-grain beers in your kitchen and have everything fit on your countertop. There are also somes fringe benefits to brewing at this scale — you don’t need to make a yeast starter when using liquid yeast at specific gravities around 13 ° Plato (roughly 1.052) or less, the wet T-shirt method works well for cooling fermenters at this scale, and your heating and cooling times can be very quick. (See our post on small batch brewing for more.) This is a great way for apartment dwellers to brew all-grain batches. The only downside is that you yield 3.0 gallons (11 L) of beer rather than 5.0 gallons (19 L).

There are also 5-gallon all-grain and extract versions of this recipe. For other 3-gallon all-grain recipes, see the links at the bottom of this post.

 

“Freyja’s” Eyes

Golden ale

by Chris Colby

All-grain; English units

 

DESCRIPTION

A crisp golden ale with a grainy and bready pale malt flavor. Hop bitterness and flavor are quite high for this type of beer, but not to the point of masking the malt character. The relatively high pitching rate and low fermentation temperatures yield a fairly clean fermentation, even though a Belgian yeast strain is used.

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Beer News (April 7–13)

BWJlogoThe Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) was held this week and along with it, the World Beer Cup. The winners of the World Beer Cup are posted here. One concern at this year’s conference was the perceived threat to the craft brew industry from small breweries producing low-quality beer. Paul Gatza of the Brewers Association urged brewers to improve. (See also this blog.) To me, this brought up some interesting questions. Are bad breweries — and they’re out there, no doubt — really dragging the whole industry down? Or are they irrelevant? In the ’60s — when Hendrix, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Kinks were at the top of their game — was music threatened by the (many) silly bands that also existed?

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Enzymes for Brewers: I

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Beta amylase from barley. The sections in gold are alpha helices. The sections in blue are beta sheets. The grey stretches are sequences of amino acids that lack secondary structure. (Diagram from Wikipedia, under Creative Commons license.)

Whether we know it or not, all brewers rely on enzymes in the brewhouse. This is a primer on the biology of enzymes, meant to give the interested brewer a more sophisticated understanding of enzymes. Nothing in this article will suggest radical alterations to your brewing procedures. However, a better understanding of enzymes may help you when things go wrong in the brewhouse — for example, if you mash at too high or too low a temperature.

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All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough (VIII: Wort Chilling II)

This is the (second half of the) eighth installment in the All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough, which started with a post on strike water preparation

DSCN0155After the wort has been boiled, it’s time to chill it. In the first part of this discussion of wort chilling, I explained how to chill the wort using an immersion chiller. Today, I will discuss counterflow chiller and plate chillers.

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Supercell Stout (Surefire Extract Recipe)

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OK, I didn’t have an American stout handy, so I used an old Irish dry stout picture instead. Interestingly, the foam on an American stout will be much darker as American stouts get their roast character from black malt. This colors the foam, unlike the roasted (unmalted) barley that is the dark grain in an Irish dry stout.

This is the third beer in the second series of Surefire Extract Beers. The first series presented five homebrew recipes that played to the strengths of malt extract and stovetop brewing methods. The second series continues this idea, and started with an English best bitter.

This beer is somewhat stronger than the other beers in this series, relying on the higher number of cells in a packet of dried yeast. It is an intensely roasty, aggressively hoppy stout, in some ways reminiscent of Sierra Nevada’s Stout and other similar American style stouts. I paired two distinctive American bittering hops — Chinook and Columbus — with Cascade for flavor and aroma.

With summer on its way, I named the stout after the large weather systems that tear through the American Midwest every year. As a kid, I used to love watching the lightning from a big thunderstorm. As an adult, I still love it . . . the only thing that’s changed is that now I have a beer in my hand while I watch.

 

Supercell Stout

American Stout

by Chris Colby

Extract; English units

 

DESCRIPTION

A dark, roasty, and fairly strong American-style stout, with lots of hops.

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Navy Bean, Smoked Sausage, and Beer Soup

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Mmmm . . . Navy bean soup.

This is my recipe for Navy bean, sausage, and beer soup. It’s a modification of the Dried Bean Soup recipe from the 1964 edition of “Joy of Cooking” (p. 152). I searched the internet for Navy bean soup recipes and found a couple interesting variations on the general theme. One recipe used smoked pork sausage instead of the usual ham hock, and I adopted that idea. Some recipes also cooked the beans in chicken stock and I used that idea, too. Then, of course, I added beer. I used cheap beer, left over from grilling, but any malty beer would probably work just as well.

I’ve made this soup twice now, once with Navy beans and once with lima beans. Probably any kind of white bean would work. I made both batches using triple the amount of ingredients listed below and yielded about a gallon (~4 L). Soup freezes well, so now I have a ton of leftovers that I can reheat whenever I want.

So, enjoy the recipe and don’t worry – I’ll post something brewing related later today.

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