I haven’t written much here recently as it’s all been a bit disheartening. I have still been struggling with kit a bit and I’m yet to make anything I’m happy with although, but here’s a summary of the last two brews in the hope that it might provide a bit of help for youse out there.
AG#16: Simcoe S.M.A.S.H.
I bought half a kilogram of Simcoe from The Malt Miller so I thought I’d better use it, and try and do yer actual single hop single malt beer to get an idea of what is possible. The recipe was therefore fairly simple:
- Maris Otter 100%
- Boil 75 minutes
- Simcoe 35 IBU 60 mins
- Simcoe 6 IBU 15 mins
- Simcoe 2.5 IBU 5 mins
- Simcoe 5.7 IBU flame out
- Safale US 05
The mash went well, oh yes, no problems there. But when I started to transfer into the boiler, one of the elements started to leak around the seal and I spilled a fair amount of wort. The stupid thing was that I had bought some locking nuts for the elements but decided not to bother straight away as it seemed secure enough.
So, down to about 40 litres of wort, I started the boil only to find that one of my boiler elements was actually dead. I pressed on, taking longer to get up to the boil than I wanted, but I got that fantastic blackcurrant smell from the Simcoe.
At transfer into the fermenter, things when awry again. The hoprocket doesn’t really like being pumped through even at the lowest rate I could get it to do, and I had thought that having a pump in line to drive cooling water would make the cooling process better, but it didn’t, and the wort still ended up in the FV at around 35 degrees. After trying to recirculate and letting it cool for a while I gave in and pitched the yeast at around 30 degrees mostly because it was climbing out of its jar and it was getting late. This time I had also managed to set up an aquarium heater properly and had it set at 20 degrees. The wort went in at about 1047 SG and I left the beer with the usual lack of hope.
After a day or so I checked on the FV and the yeast had grown remarkably well although it wasn’t actually top fermenting, rather a bit below the surface. It seemed to be attenuating well though so I left it for a few more days and got it more or less down to the target gravity. It didn’t have much of the hop flavour I was aiming for but was decent enough.
I finally got 20 bottles out of the brew, which represents not very efficient at all. In the spirit of having nothing left to lose I used coconut sugar as I had some in the house at a fairly low carbonation rate (around 1.8 volumes or thereabouts).
The beer actually hasn’t turned out too badly. It was rough after a week in the bottle, but has improved. There was an amount of DME flavour early on, no doubt because of the high pitching temperature, but that seems to have decreased in the later bottles. It didn’t have the level of Simcoe flavour that I was aiming for, but reading around a little, the general consensus seems to be to use it lots and use it late, and also not as a bittering hop as despite its high alpha ratio. As with my previous Chinook SMASH, at around 40 IBU (according to BeerSmith) you get a pleasant tasting beer with a little of the signature flavour of the hop, but not the hop monsters that SMASH brews seem to be, so late and more seems to be the key. As for equipment, well, some tinkering was in order: the hoprocket has been taken out of the chain and I still needed the get the chiller to work properly.
AG#17: The Golden Age (of poor stock control)
Back to the quest for a good pale. My original intention was to make a golden ale with all British hops at around 4.2% and to take a keg on holiday. I had a 100g bag of Pilot which I bought with the intention of using it in such a beer. If you’re not familiar, it is quite rare and described as mild lemon and herb, with an alpha of around 9%, which seemed to fit the bill for a bittering hop. I *thought* I had 100g of East Kent Goldings but it would have appeared to have been thrown away with a bit of a stock cull I had to carry out (it’s been a while after all), so I turned to an old faithful, Cascade.:
- Maris Otter 99%
- Crystal Dark 1%
- Pilot 30 IBU 60 minutes
- Cascade 7 IBU 15 minutes
- Cascade 3 IBU 5 minutes
- Cascade 2 IBU flame out 30 minutes
- Safale-03 yeast (well, two Safale-03, one Lallemande Nottingham, all a couple of months out of date)
(all additions a bit rough as I managed to overwrite the recipe in Beersmith. Yes, that too.)
Mash went well, boil went well, and then we came to the cooling. As pumps seem too fast, with a bit of thought I have rearranged the kit to let gravity do its thing, which is a lot more controllable. There was a decent throughput of water and transfer was nice and slow and yet the wort was still hitting the FV at about 30 degrees. Better, but still not right. Gave it an hour, pitched the yeast. OG was about 1045, again within range. I asked on Twitter what I might be doing wrong and got some excellent help from @stringersbeer, who suggested that I probably had my connections the wrong way round. He was right. There is a clue in the name ‘counterflow chiller’ after all.
After five days it was still at around 1020, still too high. Heating seemed to been working and the yeast had flocculated nicely, so I gave it a bit of a stir and left it another couple of days. It got down to about 1016 but the yeast was starting to look a little unhealthy so I transferred to secondary. Through various circumstances it stayed in there for a week or so and looked more unhealthy. Surely enough there was a hint of vinegar in the beer, an infection had got in somewhere. Not good at all. For all that, I tried putting 15 litres in three mini kegs but dumped the rest. Yesterday I tapped a keg, not expecting anything good. The carbonation was actually fairly good but the acetic acid smell and taste was enough to make it undrinkable. My wife said it actually smelled quite nice, but definitely had a vinegar edge, but I couldn’t smell anything other than Sarsons. So it’s been binned. The kegging was successful at least so that’s something to try again.
So: getting there a bit at a time, but there’s sometimes one step forward and one back.
I felt I had to have another go in case a hot summer stops play for a while. Fortunately, Glastonbury and Wimbledon have conspired to provide a weekend more fitting to March than June, ideal brewing weather. More to follow…
Oh, and does anyone want a Hoprocket?