This Week on BrewZasters: Bottling Laurel India Pale Ale

Last time on BrewZasters), we lost all of our  Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale clone  from our three Tap-a-Draft bottles.

Tap-a-Drafts are a compromise between bottles and kegs. It’s nice filling only three bottles…The handle has an issue. If you do not confirm that the handle is secure and the locking tab is in place, it leaks… About 15 minutes later the beer had found its way into vegetable crisper (onions, celery, and lettuce were marinating in beer), behind and under the crisper, and onto the kitchen floor…we lost one-third of our product, or about $10 retail. Damn. [Update: Lightning struck twice and a second TAD leaked. The TAD needs to be checked constantly.]

My version of Laurel IPA. Slightly cloudy with a SRM color around 6.

Well, gluttons for punishment that we are, today we packaged our third batch of Laurel India Pale Ale. The initial tastings of the flat beer hint at this being another dynamite batch. This time we filled just one Tap-A-Draft so that we can sample the Laurel sooner but we didn’t expose all our batch to the TAD [I checked that it was still holding product after writing this sentence.] We bottled the remainder in 12-ounce bottles.

We will keep constant vigilance on this batch. It is a sin to spill beer.

Fermentables
Ingredient    Amount        %         MCU    When
Pale 2-row 
Ale Malt     13lb 15oz     94.7 %    7.6   In Mash/Steeped
Carapils Malt  7.20 oz     3.1 %     0.1   In Mash/Steeped
Caramel 40L    5.40 oz     2.3 %     2.5   In Mash/SteepedHop Schedule
Hop                     %Alpha     Amt         Timing
Magnum                 11.0 %     0.77 oz    First Wort Hopped
Cascade                 5.9 %     1.85 oz   60 Min From End
Centennial              9.5 %     0.75 oz   30 Min From End
Simcoe                 12.5 %     0.30 oz   10 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk)     15.5 %     0.30 oz   10 Min From End
Centennial              9.5 %     0.45 oz   At turn off
Cascade                 5.9 %     0.20 oz   At turn off
Cascade                 5.9 %     2.12 oz   Dry-Hopped
Centennial              9.5 %     1.15 oz   Dry-Hopped
Citra                  11.1 %     1.00 oz   Dry-Hopped
Yeast
 White Labs WLP001-California Ale

mashed at 151F using 9 gallons of water
Output:
7.5 gallons wort pre-boil grav 1.044 @ 113F (Corrected pre-boil of 1.053)
Original gravity: 1.065
Final Gravity: 1.013
ABV: 6.9%

Tap-A-Draft Review

The Tap-A-Draft system  is a reasonable compromise between the drudgery of bottling and the ease of kegging. Each of the three see-through plastic mini-kegs holds 6 liters (1.58 gallons or 203 ounces) of liquid. The three bottles can hold 4.75 gallons of product. It costs about  $70.

Tap-A-Draft system

Pros:

  • It’s  affordable. It’s significantly cheaper than a kegging system (by 60-100%).
  • You don’t need a second refrigerator  to hold it. In my refrigerator it took up about one-third of the lower shelf. That’s a significant displacement, but not ginormous.  The bottle is 12.5″ long, and 7.5″ in diameter. The dispenser spout adds 4″ to the length.
  • You can see through the PET plastic bottle. So you know how much beer or homemade soda you have on hand.
  • You can force carbonate beer or soda, and drink it darn-near immediately.
  • The dispensing valve has two built-in regulators that maintain a constant 15 psi.
  • You have to fill three bottles only, instead of 51 12-ounce bottles.
  • The CO2 cartridges are easy to handle and change out.
  • The dispenser has a one-way check valve to keep CO2 in the bottle.
  • Pressure relief in case of excessive pressure. If the pressure in the bottle exceeds 60psi, the valve opens to release the pressure in the bottle.
  • The valve carries a one-year warranty against any manufacturing defects.

Cons:

  • The dispenser valve is not spring loaded.
  • You must ensure the valve is completely closed and the locking tab is securely in place, otherwise it will drip. I have lost three gallons of beer in a span of two weeks.  (Yes, it is “operator error” but it requires a boatload of diligence to keep it from happening.)

Because, I have now suffered two dispenser valve accidents and lost some darn good beer (My L’il Sumpin’ gone–I was tempted to lick the floor), I’m going to use fill only one Tap-A-Draft bottle and put the remainder of the beer in 12-ounce or 22-ounce bottles. Your mileage may vary.

This Week on BrewZasters: Kegging our Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ clone

The finished product.

Last time on Brew Disasters (from now on to be referred to as BrewZasters), we had sampled our clone of Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale and detected  hints of clove (phenolics) and banana (isoamyl acetate) in the aroma and taste.

And we here at Flog This Dead Brewery wondered  if, given these possible imperfections, should we throw the whole batch down the drain, as Dogfish Head Brewing did in nearly every episode of Brew Masters? Hell no! Was our answer. We dry-hopped the bejeezus out of it with  2.33 oz   of  Cascade 1.0 oz of Simcoe, 0.53 oz of Columbus (Tomahawk), 0.45 oz of Perle, and 0.15 oz of Nugget–if a hop was in stock it went into the carboy. And, we hoped time would do its magic and remove the off-flavors.

Tasting Notes – NOT cloned – but not bad

After another two weeks in the secondary, the beer is not a clone but it tastes pretty darn awesome. The hops jump out of the glass and hit your nose like a wave of citrus and pine. It’s light in color (about 5 SRM). When you sip the hops hit your tongue first and it finishes with a bright citrus flavor with some pine in the background.

Troubles in kegging bottling Tap-A-Drafting

For bottling, we added 4 ounces of corn sugar and put the beer in our three Tap-a-Draft bottles. Tap-a-Drafts are a compromise between bottles and kegs. It’s nice filling only three bottles rather than 52 12-ounce bottles. A 16 ounce CO2 cartridge charges up the system and carbonates it. The handle has an issue. If you do not confirm that the handle is secure and the locking tab is in place, it leaks. This is what happened: I missed making sure the handle was completely secured and put it in the refrigerator. About 15 minutes later the beer had found its way into vegetable crisper (onions, celery, and lettuce were marinating in beer), behind and under the crisper, and onto the kitchen floor. Not quite as large a mess as the time the glue from labeler in Dogfish Head Brewing spilled all over, but a mess it was. And, we lost one-third of our product, or about $10 retail. Damn.

 

Sam Calagione has much higher standards than we do. His company has flavor profiles and everything. Whereas our motto is “When in doubt, hop the bejeezus out of  it.”

 

Taking a beer with off flavors to 1st place at Battle of the Brews

Oh Well, What the Hell a couple of weeks following bottle conditioning.

As you may recall (well probably not), on December 28 I brewed a beer that was supposed to be a Laurel India Pale Ale. Since the pre-boil specific gravity came in way too low for an India Pale Ale, I decided to make it a Pale Ale. Simple Pale Ales are not simple to make. There is no place to hide any imperfections. And, after 10 days in the fermenter, I tasted slight soapy and buttery flavors in the new beer. According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew” website, a soapy flavor can result from the breakdown of the fatty acids that are in the trub at the bottom of your fermenter. Butter flavors can result from diacetyl. To some extent a buttery flavor might not be bad. But it can also indicate that your yeast did not start on time.

It has 5.5% ABV and and calculates out to 43 IBU.

Given these imperfections, would we bottle or would we throw the whole batch down the drain?

Well, we here out Flog This Dead (Mule) Brewery looked at our flavor profiles and realized we have no flavor profiles. We wondered if our degrees Plato were met, and we had no idea what that meant. Finally, we checked our standards, and realized we had none, well, maybe not none, but extremely low.

So, since we have incredibly low standards (after all, we answer to no one but ourselves) we went ahead and bottled, and hoping to mask the dish soap flavor, we used honey for the bottle conditioning fermentation.

Now, with only moments to go before we have to serve this beer–which we have renamed after some dead guy and claimed that it’s based on a 1200 year-old recipe involving wild honey and monk sweat–at the homebrewers portion of the semi-prestigious Battle of the Brews beer event. Let’s hope the honey will fool people into thinking the stuff tastes okay.

[Norm smiles and opens doors while carrying boxes filled with bottles of beer named after some dead guy and claiming that it’s based on a 1200 year-old recipe]

The Oh Well, What the Hell Pale Ale garnered 36 points at the Battle of the Brews in Santa Rosa, 2nd place had 35 points, and 3rd had 33.5 points. Woo hoo!

Success! Oh Well took 1st place in the homebrewers tasting competition in BJCP #10A American Pale Ale category.

The saga of the “Oh Well, What the Hell” Pale Ale. Off Flavors.

If  you have ever watched an episode of Brew Masters  on the Discovery Channel,  you will have seen Sam Calagione  wrestle with whether they should dump a batch of beer that didn’t quite meet their standards. Unlike me, the folks at Dogfish Head Brewing have standards. They have flavor profiles. They have degrees of Plato (a system of specific gravity). They have all the benchmarks of their beers charted. They have to be consistent.

I, on the other hand, am just trying to make something that tastes pretty good. On December 28 I brewed a beer that was supposed to be a Laurel India Pale Ale. Since the specific gravity came in too low for an India Pale Ale, I decided to try to make simply a Pale Ale. Simple Pale Ales are not simple to make. There is no place to hide any imperfections.

Though it is only been 10 days, which shouldn’t be too long, I can detect slight soapy and buttery tastes. According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew” website, a soapy flavor can result from the breakdown of the fatty acids that are in the trub at the bottom of your fermenter. Butter flavors can result from diacetyl. To some extent a buttery flavor might not be bad. But it can also indicate that your yeast did not start on time.

So, to bottle or not to bottle or not to bottle. That is the question.

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 5, 2011) Aviation...

To bottle or not to bottle or not to bottle. That is the question.(Image via Wikipedia)

From no brew to homebrew – equipment

Bottling Hardware

Bottling Hardware (Photo credit: ilovebutter)

Are you interested in getting into home brewing? Would you like to make ales and beers that are as good as (or better than) what you can buy in the store or find on tap? You can. I know you can make good beer because I make good beer–without high tech equipment. The equipment should cost less than $100 and you can make beer for between $.50 and $1.50 per bottle (depending on what you want to make).

Here’s a link to a post, From no brew to homebrew: Make your own beer in 3 simple steps, on what you’ll need to get started. Basically what you’ll need is:

1-Ingredient kit. (For starters, go with a kit that uses malt extract. Don’t start with an all-grain kit right out of the chute. The link above has links to a number of online kits.)

2-Equipment kit. (The link above also has links to a number of online kits.)

3-cleaner, sanitizer, and a few other things (like bottles).

All of the equipment kits should have:

  •   A plastic fermenter with airlock (either food grade buckets with lids or plastic carboys). Some homebrewers prefer only glass carboys because glass doesn’t scratch. Plastic will accumulate scratches over time that will harbor batch-destroying bacteria, so it’s a good idea to replace them after several uses. The recommended replacement period ranges from five uses to one year. Glass breaks and makes shards that cut and puncture. Replacing 20 plastic buckets is much less expensive than one trip to the emergency room. 
  • A priming bucket for bottling. After the beer has finished fermenting, it’s transfered to a priming bucket where sugar is mixed with it (for ‘conditioning,’ aka carbonation, in the bottle).
  • A hydrometer. The specific gravitity (OG-original gravitiy) at the beginning of fermentation and at the end of fermentation (FG – final gravitiy) determines the alcohol content. Do not bottle if the specific gravity is still dropping!
  • A bottle capper.

Beyond those things, you should have:

  • 2 1/2 cases of 12 ounce bottles (non twist offs and not clear or green-light makes beer ‘skunky’)
  • A 20 quart brew pot (if you can’t fit a 20 qt on your stove, you’ll need to do a partial boil. For how to do a partial boil MoreBeer has instructions in PDF format here.)
  • A food grade thermometer (candy thermometers work). I use a Taylor digital thermometer. They’re inexpensive (under $20) and won’t shatter in your wort.
  • An auto-siphon with 4-6 feet of tubing
  • A bottle filler with 3-5 feet of tubing

Here are parts 1 & 2 of Alton Brown of the Food Network giving good information on home brewing. He shows how to do a partial boil with whole hops (this is a style preference, most hops you’ll be able to find are pelletized). The only niggle I have is he says that “dry hopping” is the addition of hops at the end of the boil. Dry hopping is the addition of hops in the fermenter after fermentation has stalled.