My New Year’s brewing resolutions for 2014:
Archives for December 2013
Beer and Wine Journal went live on June 24th of this year. Since then, we’ve posted over 220 articles on beer, mead and wine. We’ve got big plans for 2014, but — for a few more hours — it’s still 2013. So, before we turn the page on our calendars, here’s a look back at our top 25 stories of 2013 (ranked by popularity).
Learning how to brew better beer involves learning not only the abstract concepts, but the practical details of how things work in your brewery. One of the best ways to find out how your system works and have a repository of this information is to keep a brewing notebook. A brewing notebook is not just a place to store all your recipes — if you take detailed notes on your brewdays, it will contain a wealth of information. This information will allow you to check on information from prior beers. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, it can help you plan your future brew days and make future brewdays run more smoothly. In general, there should be a point to every measurement you record. On the other hand, measuring and recording various things during your brewday doesn’t take long and may be useful later. Here are some of the things you can record in your brewing notebook and how they can help you.
This article is part of a series on barleywine, the second in a section on fermentation.
Yesterday, I discussed getting a barleywine fermentation started — aerating the wort and pitching the yeast. Today, after explaining one additional step you can take, I’ll discuss guiding the fermentation to it’s conclusion and conditioning the beer.
Forced Fermentation Test
A forced fermentation test is a way to predict the final gravity of your beer. To perform this test, take a small sample of wort, pitch an excess of yeast and ferment it warm. For a 5-gallon (19-L) batch of barleywine, take a sample just large enough to float your hydrometer (about 8.5 fl. oz./250 mL). Place the wort in a sanitized jar with a lid and aerate it thoroughly. Pitch about 2 tsp. of thick yeast slurry and hold the jar (with the lid loosened) at around 80 °F (27 °C), or as warm as you can manage. The sample should ferment quickly due to the high pitching rate and warm temperature. The final gravity (FG) it reaches will tell you what to expect your main batch to ferment down to. This can help you distinguish between a stuck fermentation, and one that is simply complete.
This article is part of a series on barleywine.
Making the wort for a barleywine can be trying. Sometimes the amount of grain required is more than your mash tun can hold. Sometimes you can’t collect all the wort you’d like because your kettle is too small. And for most all-grain versions, you need to boil the wort for an extended period of time. Even though wort production can be a chore, the part of brewing a barleywine in which the brewer can exercise the most influence on the quality of the final product is the next step — fermentation. If you make a yeast starter that is large enough, your fermentation can be handled like most ale fermentations, especially for smaller barleywines. For the largest barleywines, you may need to use some additional techniques to get all you want from the yeast,
Once the wort is chilled and in the fermenter, it’s time to let the yeast transform the wort into beer. In a barleywine fermentation, you have several goals. As with any fermentation, you want active fermentation to begin quickly. If your barleywine has a cap of kräusen and your airlock is gurgling between 8 and 16 hours after pitching the yeast, you’re doing great. If it takes longer than 24 hours to start, you may be headed for problems. (At a minimum, this could lead to a sluggish fermentation that takes longer than it should to finish). Likewise, once started, you want the fermentation to keep moving steadily until the beer’s target final gravity (FG) is reached. Most barleywines should finish in the high teens through the 20s. (The BJCP gives FG 1.018–1.030 for English barleywines and FG 1.016–1.030 for American barleywines as the proper range.) For beers at the lower end of the barleywine OG range (OG 1.080–1.090), this means you want a maximum apparent attenuation of around 75%. For heavier barleywines, apparent attenuation up to 80% is OK. The biggest key to achieving this is to pitch an adequate amount of yeast. Choosing an appropriate yeast strain is also important.
This article is part of a series on barleywine.
Once you’ve collected your wort, it’s time to boil. In most cases, brewing an all-grain barleywine involves an extended boil. When making an extract barleywine, or an all-grain barleywine from first wort, an extended boil may not be needed. Barleywines are amply hopped, so the amount of hop debris that will be generated should be considered when choosing a hopping schedule.
Here is an index of the articles that ran in the last three months. Before the end of the year, we’ll have a static index page that is updated once a week.
Once an all-grain brewer has decided on the malts to use in his or her barleywine, the next thing to consider is the method of wort production. (I covered extract wort production earlier.) Depending on the method you use, you may have to alter your recipe from an initial recipe based on your normal extract efficiency.
Your goal in wort production is produce a wort at the correct OG and volume, and with a fermentability that can range from middle-of-the-road to fairly high. Hitting your target OG will be easier if you review the elements that contribute to extract efficiency. Crushing the malt finely enough, stirring and performing a mash out all help in this respect. And of course, your method of wort production is also going to influence your extract efficiency based on how much wort you collect from the grain bed.
Longtime homebrewers may, at some point, wish to branch out a bit. Many eventually add mead, cider or both to the list of fermented beverages they produce. And of course, wine is also a popular option.
Homebrewers can introduce themselves to winemaking by trying kit wines. Kit wines contain everything you need to make wine in one box, presuming you have a bucket fermenter and all the usual equipment (hydrometer, tubing, etc.) The best kits are simple to make and the resulting wine can be excellent if you follow the directions closely. However, the simplicity and “by the numbers” approach of kit wines may not be attractive to homebrewers who wish to make wine “from scratch.” Unfortunately, making wine from grapes requires some reasonably expensive (and fairly large) pieces of equipment and this can discourage some from trying it.
For homebrewers who’d like to try winemaking without having to buy a lot of equipment, but still retain the freedom of making wine from raw ingredients (or nearly so), there is frozen grape juice. There are companies that crush quality wine grapes from vineyards in wine growing regions and freeze the resulting juice. This can be used by home winemakers to make high quality wine.
Overview of How Wine in Made
In order to introduce the topic of making wine from juice, I’ll review how wine is usually made. Winemaking starts in the vineyard where wine grapes are grown. Most wines you would buy are made from grapes of the species Vitis vinifera, and these include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling.
This year, as in years past, Steve Wilkes and I gathered around a microphone to share stories about brewing disasters sent in by listeners of Basic Brewing Radio. All were sent in with a spirit of fun, even though some of them end in ruined beer, property damage, or even personal injury. After reading dozens of letters, certain themes emerge – themes that we can all learn from in our brewing efforts. Here are my top five. [Read more…]