Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hook's Giant Bock - Doppelbock

On The heels of my Vienna lager, Most Interesting Man, I decided to reuse the lager yeast for a nice big doppelbock. 

As of writing this I am interested to see how this turns out with the WLP940 Mexican lager yeast as it is not a typical yeast for this style. I also have no real idea of how much yeast (or how healthy) I pitched as I poured slurry right from the bottom of my 3 gallon better bottle from the vienna.  If you recall the vienna wound up being...not awesome

The wife and I are big fans of the ABC series Once Upon a Time and I can't go an episode without hearing about how sexy Captain Hook is. I thought I would make fun of her by including him in the beer name and label. 

Brewed On: Jan 29, 2016
Kegged On:
Style: Doppelbock 9A (2015 BJCP)
Batch Size: 5 gal
Boil Length: 90 min
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.073
FG: 1.019
IBU: 24
ABV: 7.1%
Yeast: WLP940 - Mexican Lager Yeast slurr (from vienna)

Grist Mashed at 154.5 for 40 mins
70% - Weyermann Light Munich -11 lb (Acutally was 7.5 lb Weyermann and 3.5 lb Avangard due to my supplies)
20% - Weyermann Bohemian Pils - 3 lb 2 oz
10% - Weyermann Caramunich - 1 lb 8 oz

Hop Additions
.4 oz - Magnum 14.7% AAU - 60 minutes boil- 24 IBUs

Water Adjustments - 7 gal tap and 2 gal distilled

Calcium (Ca ppm)Magnesium (Mg ppm)Sodium (Na ppm)Chloride (Cl ppm)Sulfate (SO4 ppm)
Jan Estimated Tap4110172645
Estimated Final Beer648137735

Heated 7 gallons of tap water with campden and 4 g CaCl. Used 6 gallons for mash 177° lost 8 to mash tun. Dough in mash 155° for 60 min. Estimated mash pH 5.48. Sparged with remain 1 gallon treated tap and 2 gallon distilled

Tasting Notes: Aroma | Moderately low malt aroma of light prune and toffee. Appearance | Deep copper color with light off-white head which fades very quickly. Mouthfeel | Medium carbonation, medium-full body, low-alcohol warmth, moderately low creaminess, no astringency. Flavor | Moderately High malt of sweet toffee, no real hop flavors, moderately low hop bitterness, very low sulfur otherwise clean, balances towards the malt and finishes slightly sweet.

Overall this is a very drinkable doppelbock since it comes in on the low-end of the abv for style. The beer is lacking in Aroma (very one dimensional) and malt complexity. I think it could benefit from a more traditional bock-style yeast or possibly using a flavor addition of a German noble hop. This would probably be in the low 30s on a score sheet.

At the very least I am pleased that replacing my keg lines fixed a lot of my issues. It appears the yeast was not the culprit since it fermented this beer out fine. Yay!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Most Interesting Man - Vienna Lager

Every winter I curse the cold weather. I am the type of person that would rather be drenched in sweat in 100°F+ temps than in any weather below freezing.

The cold, however, does provide a few positives that I can use to my advantage: Colder tap water for chilling and about 59°F basement temp. The latter allows me to not stress my fermentation chamber as there is a lower temperature differential while brewing lagers in the low 50°Fs.

At the end of October on a trip to the homebrew store I was picking up some ingredients and persued the "Recently Expired Yeast Selection." The bargain bin of yeast (well 'bargain' is the homebrew store's term since these vials are still $5 at this store) contained WLP940 Mexican Lager Yeast. I had heard great things about this lager yeast. In particular it results in quick fermentation times.  Perfect!

I have always liked Dos Equis, but its a shame that  true Vienna lager is almost non existent these days. I decided to create a more traditional Vienna Lager, but with the ingredients I had on hand.

Which means that it technically is not traditional.

I decided to do a 50/50 split of pilsner and light munich malts.

Now for some silly reason light munich is always quoted as 10L and I have no clue where this comes from. Read the malt analysis sheet of any malting co's light munich and you will get a range between 5L-8L. Compare that to a vienna malt's 3L-4L and you are right about have the lovibond.

Where a traditional vienna was crafted out of mostly vienna malt I am testing the light munich and pils combo as an alternative.

Most Interesting Man Label
Unfortunately the awesomeness of the label doesn't carry through to the beer!

Brewed On: Jan 9, 2016
Kegged On: Jan 29, 2016
Style: Vienna Lager 7A (2015 BJCP)
Batch Size: 2.5 gal
Boil Length: 60 min
Efficiency: 69%
OG: 1.049
FG: 1.013
IBU: 20
ABV: 4.7%
Yeast: WLP940 - Mexican Lager Yeast

Grist Mashed at 154.5 for 40 mins
50% - Weyermann Light Munich -5 lb
50% - Weyermann Bohemian Pils - 5 lb
>1% - Carafa III Special - 1/2 ounce

Hop Additions
.15 oz - Magnum 14.7% AAU - 60 minutes boil- 20 IBUs

Water Adjustments - 2.5 gal tap and 2 gall distilled
Heated 2 gallons of montgomery county md strike water to ~175 and filled orange 3 gallon cooler with the 2 gal of tap water treated with 1.5 grams CaCl and campden. 
2 oz of acid malt used
Sparged with 2 gallons distilled and 1/2 gallon tap

Tasting Notes:

I was holding off on posting the tasting notes thinking it would get better, but it just kept getting worse so in full disclosure here it is:

Vienna Lager
At Least its Clear!
Aroma: Moderate-low butter and toffee-like note, moderate toasted bread, low sulfur

Appearance: Deep gold (darker in pics), white head that fades quickly and remains as a top coating, excellent clarity

Flavor: moderate diacetyl butter, low perfumey ester, low floral hop, moderately low bitterness, low toasty malt.

Mouthfeel: Moderate carbonation, medium body, moderately low slick feeling (diacetyl) low astringency, no creaminess.

Overall: This beer is infected. No other way to put it. Its a shame cause it tasted pretty great flat before kegging. I would give this an overall score in the low 20s. I probably should have purchased fresh yeast for this one, or built up the starter slower.

Although no diacetyl was detected at the time of kegging, as the beer lagered the buttery "goodness" was there. After investigating the cause, and looking back at how my beers have been degrading in the keg, I decided it was time to replace all my beer line and give my taps a thorough cleaning. A lot of my beers have not been aging well after kegging - but taste fine prior. 

I am ashamed to admit I have not replaced my beer line in over 4 years and the worst damage probably occurred when I moved to the new house and left warm beer hangout in the lines. I did that last weekend and plan to document that as I learned a few tricks along the way.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Creating a Logo, Not as Simple as You'd Think

If you are one of my few treasured fans over on Facebook, then you may have already noticed the new logo I created.  On most of my labels I had just been using this font to read "SHEGOGUE BREW" and I had some images of grain underneath it, It worked, but I wanted a logo that could stand alone.

Take note of the "Shegogue Brew" in one of my favorite labels

Thought Process

I went through a lot of thought and deliberation to come up with the logo presented below.  Here is some of that thought process:

  • Wanted to keep "Shegogue Brew" - Most brewery names have some variation of Brewing Co or Brewery.  That doesn't rhyme with the pronunciation of my last name Shegogue (pronounce Shuh-goo)
  • Since my home brewery name is just my last name I was at a loss for what identifying mark or symbol I should use
    • I thought about incorporating a beer mug and the letter 'S' but that was too plain
    • I thought about some sort of synergy of yeast, hops, water and grain, but those were all too busy
    • Considered creating some sort of chart or bar graph to reference my tagline (see tagline description below)
  • I put the symbol on the backburner to consider some sort of tagline.  Many of the great breweries have them.  i.e. Dogfish Head - "Off-centered ales for off-centered people".  Everyone in my family knows I have two speeds slow, and slower so I came up with the tagline "slowly analyzing ales"
  • With that tag line in place I had a slightly more narrow focus for my symbol which I decided to go with turtle or a snail.  To be honest, the snail images I found online were easier to work with than the turtles so I went with that
  • As an added bonus, I can now refer to my little guy as the "Ale Snail," which I think is pretty catchy
Without further ado - the new Logo for Shegogue Brew

New Logo

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Brew Year in Review

Another year come has come and gone as 2015 marked my sixth year in this wonderful hobby. The first half of the year I ended up producing zero, I repeat zero, gallons of beer. I held up my vow to not brew until I could do so inside. It took a while, but I finally finished!

Brewery Build

Look back at the progress posts here:

  1. Indoor Brewery Plans
  2. Workbench
  3. Brew Stand
  4. Utility Sink
  5. Ventilation

After setting up the brewery I then decided to shift all my free time into raising a puppy.

Beer Making

I did end up making a few batches of beer - the inTROduction session ale, and the dumper brown.  The Simple Blonde Ale, which had me worried but ended up fine.  And the last brew of the year was the big Russian Imperial Stout for National Homebrew Day.

Beer Blogging/Writing

Though my posts were somewhat numbered here on the personal blog I was able to contribute to other online sites like Homebrewtalk.com and Homebrewacademy.com

Commercial Beers

We also can't forget that this summer I was able to vacation in Vermont and get Heady Topper!

Resources Created

Created the sortable and searchable Yeast Strain Table to help identify and compare homebrew yeast strains.

Thats the quick of it!  Hope your 2015 was a great one and that 2016 is even better.

Hoppy Brew Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Simple Blonde Ale

Blonde ales can be a tricky beer as they are really all about balance.  I tried another quick brew with a 30 minute boil for this one.  Efficiency was significantly lower so I will have to investigate why for the future.

I apologize for the lack of tasting notes and pictures as I wanted to get the recipe up before I forget about it.

Simple Blonde Ale
Brewed On: 9-19-2015
Kegged On: 
Style: 18A American Blonde Ale
Batch Size: 5 gal 30 min boil
Efficiency: 65%
OG: 1.043
FG: 1.011
IBU: 24
ABV: 4.2%
Yeast: WLP090 Fermented 63 raised to 67 and held

Grist Mashed at 148 for an hour
100% - Pale Ale Malt (Rahr) -9.5 lbs

Hop Additions 
1 oz - Cascade 7.3% AA - FWH in a 30 minutes boil- 21 IBU
.5 oz - Cascade 7.3% AA - 5 min - 3 IBU

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
5 grams CaCl to mash water
3 oz of acid malt used
Estimated pH of 5.52 (EZWaterCalc)

Tasting Notes: Will update once my cold is gone, but as I recall there is low citrus hop aroma that comes through slightly more in the flavor.  The bitterness is moderate and the beer was not as smooth as I was hoping.  In the future I will try to hit a higher gravity or decrease the bittering hops. Additionally, I may try to use all RO or dilute my tap water to minimize any sulfate from my tap water.

Monday, November 16, 2015

National Learn How to Homebrew Day - 55 Gallons of RIS

November 7th was National Learn How To Homebrew Day and the GOBS (Goshen Oak Brewing Society) decided to plan a Big Brew Day.  There were 11 brewers who combined their systems to make 55 gallons of beer!  Five 10-gallon batches of Russian Imperial Stout were brewed, and split into individual 5-gallon vessels to be fermented separately.  There was one individual marching to the tune of their own drum making their own 5 gallon batch.

The group organized the event through a lengthy back-and-forth email chain.  After a little deliberation a version of the winning RIS from NHC 2012 (Chernaya Polnoch) was chosen.  Everyone was left to their own devises for yeast. I believe there will be versions fermented with American Ale yeast, Nottingham, London ale (Wyeast 1968*), Ringwood (Wyeast 1187*), Irish Ale (Wyeast 1084*).

Despite having the ability to brew 10-gallon batches since the inception of my all grain brewing equipment (circa 2010), this was actually the first time I have ever done so!  An RIS was definitely pushing the capacity limit on my mash tun - a 52 qt coleman xtreme was filled with 32 lbs of grain and 9 gallons of water.  We could barely close the top on the mash tun and had to top off the boil with 3lbs of DME.  The batch using my equipment finished at 1.088 FG which should result in an 8.5%-9% ABV Russian Imperial Stout after fermentation is all said and done.

The brew day went-off with only one real hitch - we all finished roughly around the same time and only had one water source to chill our batches.  This left many of us impatiently waiting.  During the day we were able to utilize a newly motorized grain mill.  A Brutus system was used to perform two separate mashes.  10 gallons was transferred to another boil pot and burner, and 10 gallons remained on the brutus system to boil as normal.

A few of the attendees were extract brewers who were able to fulfill the "Learn" portion of the event.  I think we may have a few converts now that they have seen how easy it is to make an all grain wort.

Compliments to our host Vitol for providing his home and smoking some delicious pork. Also praise to the resident GOBS chef, Gene, who provide some amazing ribs!  Lastly, thanks to all who brought samples of homebrew (and commercial) beer to keep us (de)hydrated throughout the day

Setting up - my system is on the far left

Milling Grains

Doughing In

camaraderie while mashing

keeping the kegs cold

The Brutus System

* - Does your local homebrew store not stock Wyeast?  Check my yeast strain chart for comparable alternatives!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't get too Lax - First true infection

I have a confession, I have gotten too lax with my brewing.  I have caught an infection in my brown ale, and I possible have another off flavor in my most recent brew, a blonde ale.  Which is currently carbonating and I will reevaluate shortly.

I have been a big fan of all the exBEERiments taking place over on brulosophy.com but I my be letting all their statistically insignificant data carry over into some actually significant brewing processes - I have neglected some cleaning/sanitizing and have been using unhealthy yeast.

Brown Ale Infection

For the brown ale, I have narrowed down the cause of the infection to three potential areas
  1. Unboiled DME
  2. Ball valve
  3. Contaminated yeast
I think my infection came from 1 or 3, while its possible number 2 was the cause, I think its slim. 

1) A little back story - when I kegged my brown ale I cleaned and sanitized my quick disconnect and silicone tubing and I sprayed starsan in and around the quick disconnect on the pot's ball valve. I then attached the hose and gravity drained right from the kettle into a cleaned and sanitized keg.  I grabbed a plastic cup in the brew area and weighed out the DME to use in the keg for carbonation.  I dumped it right in the keg (didn't boil it) and let it sit for a little over 3 weeks to naturally carbonate.

When I hooked up the keg and pull some off, it was all foam and had a very sour note.  I did my research and new I was overcarbonated and it was most likely caused from an infection.  I off-gassed the keg twice a day for over a week until it finally was not pouring foam.  The samples were getting less sour, but they were taking on new off flavors - phenolic, clove, spicey, and a slight "meaty" note all accompanied with an astringent bitterness.  The sourness had faded but this beer was not getting better.

Just like a baseball skipper, I made the call to pull my pitcher and dump the brown ale...

[moment of silence for dumping 5 gallons of alcohol]

Life is too short to drink bad beer!

2) Anyways, I did save a bit of the sample to test and the gravity had dropped 2 points from 1.011 to 1.009 so something unintended definitely got to work in that beer. As you can see from the pictures below, even though I clean out my ball valve and boil kettle after each brew, some stuff gets in those threads.  I have since disassembled and cleaned all of those parts.  I also don't think I am going to be fermenting in the kettle anymore - probably not the cause of the potential grime, but I prefer to see what is going on in the clear better bottles anyways.

You can see the dirt in the 7 to 8 oclock quadrant of the valve

Same picture with slightly different lighting

Flecks of crud on a napkin after brush out the inside of the ball valve

3) The last possible cause for my infection could have been the yeast.  I harvested the WLP002 from inTROduction ale by just pouring the yeast slurry from the better bottle into a mason jar which had been boiled.  It should have been fine, but who knows what was kicking around in the air from the time I finished racking to the keg, until dumping the yeast slurry.  It also took a good 2 days for that yeast to show signs of fermentation.  Definitely plan on making a vitality starter next time.

Off Flavor in Blonde Ale?

So I just kegged my blonde ale on Saturday and taking a swig from my final gravity sample I found myself shaking my head in shame again.  I tasted a little bit of a vegetal character, much like V8 tomato juice.  This is where I am really interested to see how this beer turns out after carbonation - did I get DMS from the 30 min boil?  Or was it the slow start to my fermentation?  A statistically insignificant exBEERiment would state it wasn't the boil time, but instaed was caused by the slow fermentation.

Yeah, you caught that did you?  I had an even slower start to my fermentation in the blonde ale than I did with the brown!  I used WLP090 San Diego super yeast which was a few weeks past its best by date.  I was TOO LAZY to make a starter, so I just took 2 L of my blonde ale wort and added the yeast to the stir plate.  About 8 hours later I pitched the yeast and wort into the rest of the wort to ferment.  It took right under 72 hours for it to start to fermenting - not optimal


I have been to lazy to make sure my yeast is at optimum health and pitch rate to ferment my beer to its best potential.  I need refocus my efforts toward better brewday preparation.  I will update when i have a better idea about how the blonde turns out.  If it is DMS I am going to have a constant inner battle with whether it was the 30 minute boil, or the slow fermentation start.

I can control both of those variable in my next brew.

Until then...everyone hug your uncontaminated and off-flavor-free beers for me.  You don't know how much you should appreciate them :)