This Week in Brew Disasters: Big Irish American Red Ale…the bottling

It’s been nearly a month since we at Flog This Dead Brewing avoided injuring even though we boiled 10 gallons of wort for over 3 hours inside a drafty hall filled with randomly running children and tipsy people. We were able to move the wort into fermenting carboys and added yeast at which point the wort changed (legally at least) into beer. A week later we took a sample (using a wine thief, essentially a long plastic pipette)  and its specific gravity measured 1.023.  Though there were some “dish soap” tastes–probably phenols produced by the yeast.

Hydrometer shows the finishing specific gravity of 1.014

After one month in the primary and secondary combined, and two weeks after dry-hopping with an ounce of cascade hops, the specific gravity has reached its final gravity of 1.014.

So today, the beer will be bottled and set aside for bottle conditioning. Bottle conditioning is the process of adding sugars to the beer to awaken the yeast and get them working again. Their burping of carbon dioxide inside the bottle will carbonate the beer.

But, first we will taste the month-old beer to see how it’s doing so far. The beer has a deep red color with a floral nose and taste (reminiscent of rose petals). The soapiness is gone and hoppiness jumps out at you but it is still slightly sweet. In future batches, I think the malt might use a little more presence. Since this was an extract brew there was not much we could do about that. The yeast ate the extract and left the beer a little drier. In an all-grain batch I might try mashing in the 155F (68C) range which will leave some more unfermentable sugars that the yeast can’t digest.

I’ve decided to experiment  with the flavor profile by bottle conditioning half of the batch with corn sugar (0.46  oz/gal) and half with honey (0.56 oz/gal). I’m interested to see how the honey will play with the already great flavors. It may be too much of a good thing. We will know in a few more weeks which method was the right choice.

Carbonation calculation for a brown ale.

Here’s the recipe for the Big Irish American Red beer:

17.00 lb Pale Liquid Extract (4.0 SRM)
0.75 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM)
0.75 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)
0.75 lb Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)
2 oz Columbus hops (added at 20 minutes before flame off)
2 oz Centennial hops (added at 10 minutes before flame off)
2 oz Citra hops (added at 1 minute before flame off)
2 oz Amarillo Gold hops (added at 1 minute before flame off)
California Ale Yeast (White Labs #WLP001)

After the yeast has been added and two weeks of fermentation here is the expected beer profile:
Est Original Gravity: 1.062 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.014 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.3 %
Actual Alcohol by Vol: 6.3 %
Bitterness: 44.5 IBU
Calories: 278 cal/pint
Est Color: 19.2 SRM

Cervesariis Feliciter.” (“Long live the Brewsters”) — Ancient Roman Blessing


This week on Brew Disasters: Bottling Batch #2 of Laurel IPA

Hop cone in the Hallertau, Germany, hop yard

Hop cone in the Hallertau, Germany, hop yard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A two and a half weeks ago on Brew Disasters we had checked the specific gravity of our Laurel India pale ale using a wine thief.

It tasted fine. There were hints of buttery diacetyl, but not overwhelmingly so. The specific gravity was 1.026. The original gravity was 1.068, which would give the beer an ABV of 5.6%.

But when we checked it again after a week it had dropped to 1.020. But when we checked it again a few days later it was still 1.020.  We had really muffed the mashing temperature.  Apparently there had been some fermentable sugars produced during the mash, but not enough for this batch to drop to 1.012 (7.8% ABV) as had December’s batch.

This batch of Laurel IPA had started with an original gravity of 1.068. Its final gravity was 1.020. That calculates to an average alcohol by volume (ABV) of 6.4%.

Batch two tasted great. The diacetyl taste had departed and the dry hopping with an ounce of whole-leaf centennial hops, and one-half ounce each of zythos and simcoe hops really made the aroma and flavor pop. It was time to bottle.

While the use of the whole hops made the beer taste great, the leaves got stuck in the mouth of the auto-siphon making the transfer to the priming bucket exceedingly slow. And, the further down the level of beer in the carboy dropped, the more frequently the siphon needed to be unclogged.

We are not putting whole hops in primary or secondary fermenters again. Once was enough.

Intermediate Follow-up on “This week on Brew Disasters: Laurel IPA”

A hydrometer showing the hydrometry principle....

Image via Wikipedia

I took a sample yesterday of the Laurel India pale ale brewed on Friday using a wine thief.  It tasted fine. There were hints of buttery diacetyl, but not overwhelmingly so. The specific gravity was 1.026. The original gravity was 1.068, which would give the beer an ABV of 5.6%.

So, despite muffing the mash’s temperature, it seems some fermentable sugars were produced during the mash. Whether this batch will drop to 1.012 (7.8% ABV) as December’s batch did remains to be seen. The airlock has stopped percolating every minute, so the ‘rapid’ fermentation has ceased.