Thursday, March 5, 2015

Firstone Walker Union Jack Clone

Back to the brewing network's "Can You Brew It". I love this show. I managed to get some fresh Union Jack when I was in San Francisco back in October. I remember thinking it was pretty awesome, though I can't remember anything specific about now. I just decided it's time I did a west coast IPA style beer and this recipe looks the goods.

I'm still working on the new setup. Efficiency (63%) was quite poor once again. I think this is coming from two places:

  1. My blichman autosparge is returning wort via a silicon hose, which is causing a whirlpooling effect. This is causing an obvious channelling problem. I need to rethink how to return wort and sparge. 
  2. I'm collecting wort far too quickly in the sparging process.

I've removed the stainless braid from my kettle output. As I mentioned in the last post it was getting hopelessly clogged with a medium hop bill, it wouldn't have any chance with this hop bill. Also it was interfering with whirlpooling by effectively drawing wort from the whole of the outside rim. Now I've just got a simple pickup tube with no filter of any kind. It worked quite well, with a decent trub cone developing through simple whirlpooling and I was able to drain all but about 2.5L from the kettle without getting a lot of hop debris in the chiller.

So even though my mash efficiency was the same as the last brew, my brewhouse efficiency was way up. I'm half way there I guess. I ended up with an OG of 1.063, 7 points off the CYBI recipe, but only 3 off the recipe in Mitch Steele's IPA book, so I'm hopeful I'll still end up with something pretty good.

I'm a little worried about my starter. It was a 2.5L stirred starter of WLP007. The starter beer had a very slight sour edge, and I was sorely tempted to throw the whole thing out. Then I found this post on, and decided it was probably ok. Now I'm not so sure. I guess we'll find out.

Despite the slight disappointment with mash efficiency, and being another night time brew, the whole thing went really smoothly. I think this was due in large part to creating a job list before hand. I hadn't done this before, but it really helped keep any panic at bay. Here it is:


Firestone Union Jack


   %     Amount     Name                          Origin        Potential SRM
 82.0     6.30 kg.  Pale Ale Malt (2-row)         Australia      1.037      2
 11.7     0.90 kg.  Munich Malt I                 Germany        1.037      6
  4.9     0.38 kg.  CaraPils                      Germany        1.033      2
  1.3     0.10 kg.  CaraMalt                      UK             1.035     34

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.


   Amount     Name                              Form    Alpha  IBU  Boil Time
 29.00 g.     Warrior                           Pellet  14.70  55.5  60 min.
 16.00 g.     Cascade                           Pellet   7.90   8.4  30 min.
 21.00 g.     Centennial                        Pellet   9.00  12.5  30 min.
 52.00 g.     Cascade                           Pellet   7.00   0.0  0 min.
 52.00 g.     Centennial                        Pellet  10.50   0.0  0 min.
 44.00 g.     Cascade                           Pellet   5.75   0.0  Dry Hop
 44.00 g.     Centennial                        Pellet  10.50   0.0  Dry Hop
 30.00 g.     Cascade                           Pellet   5.75   0.0  Dry Hop
 30.00 g.     Centennial                        Whole   10.50   0.0  Dry Hop
 14.00 g.     Amarillo Gold                     Pellet  10.00   0.0  Dry Hop
 14.00 g.     Simcoe                            Pellet  13.00   0.0  Dry Hop



Mash Schedule

Mash Type: Multi Step

Saccharification Rest Temp :  63  Time:  60
Mash-out Rest Temp :          68  Time:  10
Sparge Temp :                 78  Time:  30

All temperature measurements are degrees Celsius.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

American Pale Ale

So it's back to brewing classic styles for the first beer through my new mash tun. I've dispensed with the bag for now and I'm close to finishing the 3 vessel system I've been building for the last few months.


The recipe is one I've done several times before, though I've played with the hops a little. The brewday itself was besieged with issues from the off:

  1. I connected my heat exchanger backwards during the initial mash, and the wort ended up hitting 69C through the HEX for a short time before I spotted the error and dropped it back to 66C.
  2. I ran my sparge water through the HEX to ensure it was at the correct temperature, but once again I connected it backwards and may possibly have heated some sparge water way above an acceptable temperature, also the water in the HEX boiled for a moment which is not good.
  3. I didn't heat enough sparge water and ended up topping up the kettle with around 3.5L of water to hit the pre-boil volume. 
  4. My hop filter using a stainless braid got completely clogged with pellet hops and I left around 5L of wort in the kettle at the end of the brewday.
  5. Efficiency was poor,  around 63%, a combination of mill gap and running out of sparge water.
  6. The final insult - I messed up setting the temperature on the fermenting fridge and 12 hours after pitching the yeast it was sitting at 12.5C.

I'm still hopeful it's not a complete disaster, but I'll be lucky to pull some decent beer from this brewday, and in any event I'll be very short on volume.

One nice result from the whole experience was the clarity of the wort at the end. It's unlike anything I've seen before from any other brew setup I've used. Hopefully it translates into clearer beer, though I'm not so sure about that.

 Anyhow, that's the first and hopefully the most painful brew on the new system. You can plan these systems out all you like but you don't really get an idea how it all works together until you fire it up. I now know where I need to concentrate my efforts to get this running smoothly. I need to:

  1. Sort out draining of the kettle to the plate chiller. Some ideas below
  2. I need to heat more sparge water than seems necessary, better to have too much rather than too little. I was still getting 1.024 from the last runnings out of the mash tun so missed out on a lot of sugar here.
  3. I need to tune the mill gap a little. I had no issues with sparging so there seems to be some room for adjustment.
  4. I need rules about HEX connections. It matters which way it's connected.
  5. I need to mount the controller properly. At the moment it's just sitting on the edge of the stand.

For the kettle draining, I'm going to have to abandon the sparge braid as a hop filter. It just isn't up to the job and it's also having a dramatic effect on my ability to create a whirlpool in the kettle. Because I'm effectively draining the kettle from the whole of the outer rim, the whirlpool has no chance to gain any momentum.

My plan is to replace the braid with a simple side facing pickup tube and simply depend on an effective whirlpool stage to concentrate hop debris away from the pickup tube. I'll need to throttle back the outlet to avoid upsetting the resulting cone of hop debris. Also this means I can't really use the boiling wort towards the end of the boil to sanitise my chiller, so the chiller will have to be sanitised separately. Maybe I'll figure out a clever way to do this, but I can't think of one right now.

Here's the recipe:

5.1Kg Barrett Burston Ale Malt
0.34Kg Weyermann Munich I
0.34Kg Joe White Wheat
0.23Kg Breiss Victory

Water treatment: 2.5tsp CaSO4, 1tsp CaCl2, 1tsp MgSO4, 0.25tsp lactic acid

18g Magnum 14.7% @60
20g Cascade 7.9% @ 10
20g Centennial 9% @10
20g Cascade 7.9% @ 0
20g Centennial 9% @0

Pitched 200ml slurry of WLP001. Fridge set to 19C (or so I thought, dipped to 12.5C but quickly corrected back to 19)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Continuing Landlord Obsession

So here we go again, Wyeast Yorkshire Ale yeast, Styrian Goldings, Golden Promise, and just a hint of Simpsons Heritage Crystal.

Looks like Timothy Taylor have done quite a bit of updating of their website recently. There are some really good videos with head brewer Peter Eells narrating here.

I particularly like the fermenting vessels - basically they convert from open to closed after the main part of fermentation is finished.



4.20  Kg Thomas Fawcell Floor Malted Golden Promise
0.175Kg Simpsons Heritage Crystal

34g Fuggles 5% @ 60
23g EKG 5.7%   @15
50g Styrian Goldings 2.5% @ 0

Salts: 1tsp CaCls, 1.5tsp CaSO4, 1tsp MgSO4 (also 1/4 tsp of Lactic)

Mash: In at 55C for 5, 66C for 40, 72C for 10, 78C for 10

Mashing in at 55 seems to have had a dramatic effect on the Amber Ale I brewed last time - hydrometer samples maintained a dense fluffy head for about an hour!

The new system build is still ongoing, and my lack of familiarity with it caused a big cock up last night. I mashed into about 36L of liquor instead of 32. I don't have numbers on the keggle, just marks and I got mixed up. That will need to be fixed.
This meant that nearly an hour into what became a 2 hour boil I still had over 30L of weak wort and I decided that it was getting too late to do a very extended boil so I chucked in the bittering hops. One hour later I still had around 27L of wort, which is usually my pre-boil volume. At that stage I cut the heat, whirlpooled and added the styrians, and finished with an OG of 1.040. This means efficiency was at around 80%, without changing the crush, which shows you how much more efficient lower gravity brewing is in a brew in a bag system.

I ended up collecting about 23L of wort and could have collected a lot more, but I didn't have the headspace in my fermenter (a Brewtech stainless bucket). I'm planning to aggressively top crop this batch, at 24 hours skim off and throw away, then at 48hr collect a batch of yeast for another brew. For now it just has a cling film lid, which will be replaced when activity reduces a little with the usual stainless lid.

I chilled to groundwater temp (25C), and pitched and aerated straight away as it was getting too late for messing about. Yeast is of course WY1469, and aeration was 60sec O2. The fermenting fridge was set to 17C and I'm allowing it to free rise to 19.

Target OG was 1.045, and this will also affect the IBUs on this beer. Wheeler lists Landlord OG as 1.042, so I'm there or thereabouts. Overall it was only a minor disaster, caused by two factors; night time brewing and lack of keggle number markings/familiarity with the system. On the plus side the extended boil does seem to have darkened the wort a little, which is appropriate for a Landlord clone.

This should still be a decent beer, and I'll put it 'on cask' (Low CO2 through hand pump, ~10C).

Lessons learned: Sort out the keggle markings, no more night time brewing until I've got the system dialled in.

Monday, February 2, 2015

American Amber Ale On New Brewery

I visited the Bright Brewery at Christmas. I tried quite a few of their beers but for me the 'Hellfire Amber Ale' stood out. It has a magnificent malty backbone with just a little spicy hop character over the top. From the notes I read at the brewery it's fermented with 'Yorkshire Ale Yeast' and finished with English hops - I assume this means WY1469 and EKGs.

Anyhow, this got me thinking about brewing something along the same lines, but with a bit of American hop character, just because I'm in the mood for some C hops. I've turned to my trusty copy of 'Brewing Classic Styles' and pulled out the American Amber Ale recipe from that.

 I've been busy building myself a new brew rig over the last few months. To begin with I've built up the stand with a mounting point for my chiller, burner and HEX, which already represents a huge improvement over the improvised mountings on my old rig. Also I've put this on castors, which I can tell you already is by far the biggest improvement over the old rig. Here's what it looked like last week before getting tested over the weekend.

The New Rig
For the first brew (and probably the second) on this rig I'm using BIAB with HERMS similar to the previous system. One change on the new rig is a plumbed whirlpool fitting. Eventually this will morph into a full 3V HERMS system, but it might take me a month or more to get fully there.

Another change is that I've now started buying ingredients in bulk. I've gotten myself a monster mill and 75Kgs of base malt, as well as a few kilos of hops. These are being stored appropriately and already I'm enjoying the feeling of being able to brew whenever I want, whatever I want.

For this brew I set the mill gap to ~1mm. My efficiency ended up at 69%, and this was something I was able to measure accurately for once, as I've calibrated the new keggle. I'll adjust the mill gap down a little to try and get to about 75% which is I think a good place to be efficiency wise.

Mash schedule was: Mash in at 55, raise to 66 for 50 mins, 72 for 20 mins, then mash out at 78 for 20mins. I'm testing out some theories I've read on head retention and low mash in temps. I'll report on this later on.

I was left with 2.5l of wort/trub in the keggle at the end of the brew and I should be able to get this down a little more with some adjustment. I got 20L into the fermenter (also a new SS brew bucket), and this got 60 secs of O2 aeration at pitching time. Yeast was WLP001 from a 1.5L stirred starter.


Water: 2tsp Gypsum, 1tsp CaCl2, 1tsp MgSO4 into 32L very soft Melbourne water.

4.19Kg Barrett Burston Ale Malt
0.45Kg Weyermann Munich Malt
0.34Kg Simpsons Crystal Light
0.23Kg Simpsons Cyrstal Dark
0.23Kg Breiss Victory Malt

Pre-boil: 26L at 1.043

After-boil: 22.5 at 1.051


24g Centennial  9.0%AA at 60 mins
 7g  Centennial  9.0%AA at 10 mins
 7g  Cascade     7.9%AA at 10 mins
 7g  Centennial  9.0%AA at  0 mins
 7g  Cascade     7.9%AA at   0 mins 

Whirlpool through chiller from 5 mins before end boil to 5 mins post boil. Chilled to ~75C via whirlpool then to 25C into fermenter. Chilled to 21 in fridge before pitching. Fermentation set at 20C

OG: 1.051

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some tasting

Kolsch II

I tasted this just after a Flensburger Pilsner, so it's interesting to pull out some of the contrasting tastes between a very clean pilsner and a relatively clean tasting kolsch.

Pours with a generous creamy white head, which dissipates and leaves no lacing. Pale coloured, though not quite as pale as the pilsner. Good level of carbonation for the style. Some very slight green apple (possibly acetaldehyde but slightly different I think). Other noticable 'white wine' type flavours. Little to no hop aroma on this one. Bitterness is clean and at an appropriate level for the style. Dry finish.

A good beer, reasonably well brewed. I am very sensitive to acetaldehyde and I think I can possibly detect it here, but only a very tiny amount. I've gotten this with both Kolsch yeasts I've used (WLP029 and WY2568), but with other yeasts any acetaldehyde tends to disappear with time.

I would like to see a better head and lacing on this and some of my other beers. I wonder if no-chilling influences this. I think I've noticed a correlation here, but I need to keep track of things a little better to know for sure.

Kolsch II

Brunswick Pride

This beer is almost simultaneously a triumph and a disaster. With eyes closed it is a really fine example of a drinkable, sessionable english bitter ale. However with eyes open it's a mess. It has a serious haze problem, which cold conditioning has had no effect on.

If you can recall the brewing notes on this one, the grain had been sitting in my garage crushed for 9 months before I got around to using it. A taste test seemed to confirm it was in reasonable condition, but I think it's extremely likely that it's the cause of this haze. I have found a few examples on homebrew forums where brewers found the same haze problem with very old grain. I don't know how to explain this scientifically, but empirically there does appear to be a strong connection.

This is a shame, as usually any beers I ferment with WY1968 are extremely bright. Also I place a lot of importance on having my beer reasonably bright, and this haze is annoying me. Still, it's a really nice beer to drink, so not a total mess.

Got down to an FG of 1.012 on this, so I think the O2 injection at yeast pitching time is having the desired effect. Also this beer was ready to drink (tastewise) a little quicker than I would have expected. I think I'm sold on O2 for aeration.

Dead Guy Clone

This beer had me very confused for a while. Kegged after 3 weeks, I tasted it quite regularly over the following three weeks. It began with some harsh phenolic type notes, little to no hop character, poured with no head, and displayed a slight haze. This changed slowly at first and then rapidly to a beer with beautiful toasty, buiscuity notes and a spicy hop character. The rapid change seemed to coincide with the haze disappearing, so I think perhaps some of the particulate in suspension was causing the phenolic type tastes.

Dead Guy Clone
Dead Guy Clone

Unfortunately, the balance of this beer was off by a little, missing perhaps 10 IBUs of bitterness. Also it would have benefited from a little more late hop character. I can't blame the recipe for this, as the hops I used were lacking in AA% and my attempts to make up for this on the day with some high AA% hops I had stored were unsuccessful. This was probably due to the age of the high AA% hops.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kolsch (again)

I saved the yeast from my last batch of Kolsch, and given the time of year I though I'd get another one on asap to deal with visitors. This is a beer I don't mind drinking, but not a favourite by any means. All the same, it requires a certain amount of skill to come up with a very pale, clean tasting beer, with no-where to hide in terms of fermentation issues etc.

An early tasting of the previous batch

I decided to change the recipe a little, based on a Jamil recipe from a Kolsch article of his in a 2009 issue of BYO magazine. This is just Pilsner malt and wheat malt in a 95/5 ratio. I had planned to go with Hallertau hops, but my brew shop was all out, so I went with Spalt. This is a hop which many people report as having quite an odd flavour profile. I'm interested to see what it's like in the finished beer.

Mashing was at 65 for 50 mins (recirculated through HEX), then mash out at 75 for 10. I no-chilled this beer. One unusual thing about my brewing setup is that I never measure volumes, just guess based on experience how much water/wort I've got at each point. This has never let me down before, but on this brew I ended up with 22.5L of 1.044 wort instead of 20L of 1.049 (after trub losses). This is actually quite a mess up, and is a bit of a wake up call for me, I need to sort out my volume measurements.

Anyhow, here's the recipe:

4.72KG Joe White Pilsner Malt
0.25KG Joe White Wheat Malt

30g 4.75%AA Spalt hops @50
10g 4.75%AA Spalt hops @10

whirlpooled for 20, then no-chilled.

This will stay in the no-chill cube until the London Pride clone is done fermenting, then I'll pitch some WY2565 slurry to this and ferment at 16 (one degree lower than the last batch). I'll also give it a blast of O2 and try to dry it out a little. The previous batch is not quite dry enough based on early tastings.

Brunswick Pride

I've had a bag of grain ready for brewing for several months, and a smack pack of yeast in the fridge for over a year. Yesterday I decided to put both to work to see if good quality beer can result in such old ingredients.

First off, I had a mix of 95% Simpsons Maris Otter, 5% Simpsons Dark Crystal which was supposed to go into a Fullers ESB type beer. The yeast is a WYeast 1026PC cask ale, manufactured June 2013!

Chewing on the grains I discovered that they still had plenty of crunch with no discernible musty notes. The yeast I smacked and waited about 8 hours until I could see that the pack was beginning to swell. At this point I decided to bank this yeast in glycol stocks. I made a quick post on about this.

I was still not too sure about the actual viability of the yeast, so the wort was no-chilled to ensure that it can wait until I either propogate or buy some healthy yeast.

Given the yeast issues, I dumped about 800g of my grains to come up with the following grain bill:

4.67Kg Simpsons Maris Otter
0.25Kg Simpsons Dark Crystal

then very loosely based on a Can You Brew It Fuller's London Pride recipe, the hop bill is as follows:

12g Northdown @60mins
22g East Kent Goldings @60mins

18g Northdown @ 0mins
25g East Kent Goldings @ 0mins

I took 250ml, 700ml and 2L wort samples for stepped starters, and no chilled the rest. The mash was recirculated at 65.5 for 50mins, mash out at 78 for 10. I got pretty good efficiency here - OG of 1.051 for 75%, a little more than I expected.

My yeast adventures began with pitching the 100ml remaining in the 18 month old WYeast pack into 250ml of wort. I watched this for two days but there was no discernible activity. Despite this there was a slight drop in gravity so I decided to pitch this to the 700ml wort flask. After another day or so I had lots of activity in this flask, but this failed to pass the sniff inspection (never mind the taste inspection). It had serious medicinal/phenolic aromas. Either the yeast has mutated severely, or most likely I've got some Brett or something in there. I will try to streak out a few colonies from the frozen stocks to see what I come up with, but this won't be done in time to ferment this batch.

The solution is a fresh smack pack of WY1968 london esb ale yeast. This will be pitched to my 2L starter tonight, followed by pitching to the main batch tomorrow. Fermentation will be at 18C rising to 20 towards the end.

Had I known for sure that the WY1026 was a no-go, I would have mashed a little lower to achieve better attenuation. However, I have just gotten myself a little pure oxygen aeration kit, so 60secs of Oxygen may help to boost yeast health and numbers and achieve a dryer finish. Updates on this fermentation will follow.