All Ahead Full

Kinda fell out the mood dealing with some of the locals, and havent had the urge to brew in a while. Been dabbling here or there, cleaning up loose ends. So I need to do a quick catch up, then we will be back at it
Since I got the Mash and Boil system back December I think I have only brewed three times. Some kinks in that system,, but I think I have most of them worked out.
So I’m ready to start working on consistently with it and firm up a couple of recipes I’ve been tinkering with. Especially the 3 gallon sides of things.
Plus I gots ingredients coming out of my ears. Made a killing at a couple of homebrew contests the last couple weeks. Both in prizes and in raffles. Scales, controllers, grains, and hops! But as you will see shortly, I will be starting to make use of all that stuff. (I hope you like reading about Cascade hop recipes.)
I did get out a few weeks ago and brewed up a 10 gallon batch of an English BarleyWine with a buddy on his big ass system. We split it up, and currently am deciding if I should keg or bottle it.

Not sure I wanna tie up a keg for a year or so, and I more than enough bombers. Plus I wanna get some numbers and pics and just general data on the bottling process again, so more than likely will be capping soon.

Got the red currant wine all corked and put away. I really was surprised at how good it turned out. Needs some time on it to meld a little, but even in this short of a time its tasty. I’m sure a tasting review will be incoming as we closer to release date!
I don’t see me brewing or anything club related in the near future, so everything coming up will be for my own use, and things I can write up for this sad blog. I have a ton of bombers to fill and space to put them so should be a string of 3 gallon batches
First thing coming up this weekend will be a simple mini blonde ale to get back in the swing, and see if i can get both my spreadsheet and Beersmith dialed in for it.

If everything is kosher, the will start finalizing a Red IPA featuring… Cascades! I have a few directions to go with it, but should decide which way to head by Sunday.


It a wine time

Sometime within the past year or two, my household decided they like wine. Lots of wine. And so, my hand has been forced to get a batch going.

I did start in on this hobby making wines, but that was so long ago that I would not call myself a wine maker

Being a brewer mostly, I have nearly all of the equipment that I need to, except for the standard wine potions, but picked those up for under 10 bucks. And after perusing several wine sites, not much, if anything had really changed since my last venture.

Had planned on doing a kit, but I had a pile of red currants I was gonna make a blonde beer with. Might as well use them up.

Just over 3 lbs..or enough for a gallon. But I am shooting for 3 gallons so gonna add these to a white concentrate. Yep. The old Welches white.

I of course screwed up my volumes, but I did have enough concentrate to recover.

(Shot of the solids dropping out while the enzyme and campden are doing thier stuff)

Ended up with 4 gallons of 1.095.

Took a look this morning and the yeasties are firing on all cylinders. So I’ll report back on the first racking

1st run Mash and Boil

I thought i would do a more detailed brew day report for this brew because I am running my first batch on the Brewers Edge Mash and Boil.


Its more or less a Grainfather without the pump and chiller, (both of which I have) but about $500 less. I had initially thought these all-in-one brew systems as a hybrid Biab, with a sparge. And sure they surely can be for smaller gravity or smaller volume batches,, but the way the instructions are written, its really a heated mash tun/boil vessel.

I want to run this first batch pretty much stock to get baselines. I wanna know what this thing can and cant do. I did however wrap with 2x layer of reflectix with 2 layers of 1/8th rubber foam between them. Since my basement is a balmy 49 degrees F, I knew those temps would really affect heating times.

Just gonna do a simple pale ale with 8lbs of grain.

I read the enclosed instructions on how to find how much water to use, but it just seemed like it would be inconsistent,, so I made a new profile on BeerSmith.

What I am coming up with for water volumes on paper is not jiving with Beersmith numbers tell me. That fact does not surprise me, and lots of online accounts seem to agree that the numbers given by BS are not right. So, I will go with mine and go from there

Since this mash tun is heated, I dont really need to worry much about strike temp. I can hit a bit low and work my way up, but the temps BS gave were in fact close.

Its really the volumes that I’m trying to figure. There isnt much to figure really. I know my kettle loss, I know my boil off (from several accounts), and I know what my fermenter volume.  The only thing that seems to be a sticking point is the grain absorption. And I really didnt think that would be an issue.

I am shooting for a .1 gallon/lb rate. A standard rate that fits most grains. I will be able to adjust later if necessary

At first I figured my mash ratio to 1.25,, but.. But there is a bit of dead space between the bottom of the basket and the bottom of the boiler/tun. This recipe called for 2.5 gallon strike and the water looked really shallow. So I moved 1/2 gallon of the sparge water to the strike volume to give a bit more room.

Hit strike temp 162 at about 45 min. Not sure how long exactly as I came back and it was there.

Was going to use my mash bag, but decided to see what this thing does first, then decide if I want a bag. (spoiler: OMG yes use a bag, don’t even screw around with out one)

Dough in was just as I expected,  way to thick. Its that deadspace under the tun basket. Will surely have to up the mash ratio next time. But did end up with a 154 mash temp.

I found it tough to get a decent temp reading for some reason. But I figured out why. The dead space. The water level is so low because of the dead space, the top layer of grain drains off and cools quickly.

Once I pushed my thermostat way down I got the same temp that was on the display. Will need to stir this a couple times during mash to get those top layers back into mash. (once a pump is in use this should be a non issue)

But since I am not using my pump, I am not going to run the heat. Will just mash as normal and stir. Maybe kick the heat on if drops too low, but because of a pre-trial with water, I do not expect it too.

Am also heating my 4.15 gallons sparge in separate kettle with a single heatstick.

Just got back from stirring at the 30 min. Was very surprised at first that the temp dropped 5 degrees in 30 min, but after a stir the temps were fine at 153.

I think this confirms that the top layer does not stay soaked with the warm wort. In a previous test I only lost 3 degrees over the hour mash. I am thinking a larger ratio would help here.

(going to be rapid fire reporting now as things are gonna start moving along faster)

-Ok dont like mashing in this thing at all. As with every flat false bottom I’ve ever seen, its clogs up and either slows waaay down or stops.

-The mechanics of this system really dont help it al all. Soon as you lift the basket of grain up out of the wort, everything inside is forced to the bottom grate, where it immediately turns to concrete and only letting any wort out in dribbles. And I have 4 gallons of sparge to send thru yet.

-Now I’m forced into a decision. Do I just keep pouring the sparge in there? It would take 3-4 hours at this rate.. Or do I stir a little knowing when I do I will be letting all the fine particles thru and into my wort?

-Made it thru, but I took the stirring route. The wort looks almost as chunky as the mash.

Now coming up to numbers.

Took a bit longer to get to boil that I liked,, but then again I was sitting there watching every move, so it probably wasn’t really as long as it felt. And of course I didnt time it,, but boil came at 2 ¾ hours after I started this morning,, seems long.

Didn’t know what to set my expected efficiency at so I left it at 80%.

I didn’t measure out the marks on the kettle but they show a preboil volume of just shy of 6.5 gallons. My predictions was to be at 6.3 so we appear to be on track.

Preboil gravity kind shocked me at first. The original recipe says I should be 1.033, but I am at 1.040. But then I realised I am going to boil off an entire gallon less. So again, right on track.

Boil is ok. Actually more vigorous than I expected. Am starting to doubt the .6/hour boil off, but we will see.

Post boil volume before chilling (using the marks on kettle) was 5.75 after chilling the level dropped to a little less 5.5. Not sure of these marks,, they could be way off. Will know better once in fermenter which i did measure out.

Ok we are into the fermenter. And here come the vitals…

  • We are at just under 5 gallons, or a little more than ¼ gallon short.

  • Gravity into fermenter is slightly over for the 80% I plugged into BS

  • Of course, tons and tons and tons and tons of trub. We will most certainly loose more than the usual ¼ gallon

  • The 5.5 marks on kettle are “close” would assume the rest are “close” as well

I will analyse this brew day tonight, but from first looks, I think we should lower the efficiency % just so we can calculate things better. Use a bigger boil off because if those marks are close as they look, we did hit our preboil. So the lowering of eff + adding more boil off we should be close.

First brew thoughts.

I like most things about this. The size, the compactness, and it dont feel like a cheap knockoff,  but this thing really needs help mostly in mechanics and procedure.

If I was starting out sure I could see this thing being ok to start on,, especially if you were going for 3 gallon Biab with no Sparge. (which is kinda what I planned to do with it)  

But if you are a seasoned brewer and expect this thing to be right up to par with your current system,, nope. Not even close.

Oh it does have a great potential,, but mods are needed. Right out of the box it just limps to the finish.  

This first, stock run gave me data. Data I sort of expected, so I’m not dissapointed.

And I gots plans. I will soon master this thing.

After the fact Update:

I have done all my measurements on the kettle and those stock hash marks on the kettle are right on the nose. 

But I did all measuring cold.

So while my initial preboil looked right, it was short because of the expansion of the hot wort. And on this batch my preboil was supposed to be 6.35 gallons, which it did looked like… but add in the 4% expansion and it shoulda looked like 6.6.

So right from the preboil we were off the exact amount we are short in the fermenter. Meaning the boil off is right, but the grain absorption is off)

Trub. Holy shit is there trub. Not used of this Biab kinda thing so seeing the cloudy chunky wort boiling and going into fermenter is un nerving to say the least. Even with whirlpool its flipping thick in there.

It looks like the next brew will be a 3 gallon BiaB style. Mainly to see is a mash bag inside the basket will help with sparging. We will see

How to get and give proper feedback on beers.

Getting good feedback on your beer is the best possible way to understand not only a particular beer, but brewing techniques for every style across the board.

Feedback allows you to get a perspective that’s different from yours. Without even knowing, you may be bias towards one aspect, and miss another. The more opinions you get can help cover more bases.

Now I’m not talking about having professional tasters or judges analyse your brew (but that would surely help forsure) I’m talking about your friends, or maybe other club members.

There is more to it than handing me a sample and asking me what I think, or how I like it. I’m 99 percent sure I will say “oh I like this!” Because I genuinely like almost anything… so that’s not really giving you any usable information is it?

To get even the most basic critique or info on your beer, even if you’re not actively looking for it, Keep in mind that we all sense things differently, and you’re probably overlooking something.

That statement opens a lot of doors. And works both ways depending if you are the taster, or if it’s your beers being tasted.

Next time you are offering up samples…


Be a bit more specific in what info you are looking to get back.

Instead of “Hey what do you think”, try.. “Hey this is my Irish Red, what you think of the bittering?”  Or, “ What do you think about this late hop I tried?” Or even “You think this is a Porter or Stout”

This immediately lets the other person know how they are supposed to approach the beer, and what you are looking for, and helps me focus on more than “Mmm that’s good”

With a more specific question like those above,  even a generic “yea thats great” response now has more weight to it, because it was evaluated in the narrower parameters that YOU wanted.

Be ready and accepting of both good and maybe not so good feedback.

Even right now at this very moment, I know people who very adamant about saying how they don’t care what anyone else thinks, they make it they way like it, and just shrug off any kind of thoughts given.

Of course making beer they way YOU like it IS what is most important, but ignoring helpful insights can hamper your ability to get it, or keep it where you like it.

You like your beer because of “X”. Taking some advice could make the “X” even better.

Sometimes, what people tell you about “this” beer, can help you make one of your “other” beers better. Take all the info you get, when you get it. It will always be useful later.

And almost all of the times people give you insight on your beer, they are comparing it to one of their own beers. By sampling their beers you can gain more of where they are coming from.

Once you get an idea of why they think this or that, you can use that to ask them questions of what they did to get their “X” where it is.

Enter your beer into a homebrew contest. Specifically a BJCP style contest.

I know there are quite a few people who just will not enter a contest for various reasons. They don’t want someone telling them their beer is bad. They like their beer just they way it is, they dont care about scores… But that is not necessarily the point, (and this really should be an whole entire post by itself)

Regardless of the score, the judges really give you advice as to why each point of your beer is good, and where, why and how you can improve not only a specific part of your beer, but sometimes even how to adjust your technique for all your brewing.

I hope you can incorporate some of these tips on learning more of your beers, and how to give help and opinions on others.

Spiced Sweet Stout

Finally made the move back down stairs. Really like off down here much better. Everything is where I need it.

Anyhoo,,went with a spiced sweet stout.  But not really sure of the grain bill.  I bought the specialty grains but never brewed them.  I’ll have to go back and cross reference my notes to see what it is.

Added 1 lb of lactose, 2 crushed cloves, and a 1/4 tsp each of ground ginger,  nutmeg, and cinnamon. With a 04 yeast should make a decent Xmas beer!

Brew Updates

Time to go back to the last few beers and give some up dates.

Back in May I made a lower gravity Honey ale

This beer really came out spectacular. Did have a bit of a hiccup with carbonation. I left it hooked to 40psi for about 5 days. Ah yep. took a while to gas off. Took a big hunk of the aromatics with it as well, but it still was great. As expected though, no real honey characteristics from the honey. But not sure I would just take the honey out. With that small grainbill, I’m sure it affected the body somehow. I would give it a 4/5

Also in May was the mini extract batch of Brown ale.

I was really hoping for this beer to shine, as I have been having some great extract beers lately. This one however is not one of those. First extract beer in a long time that had the extract taste. But even today as I’m having one, I’m not entirely sure its the extract. I thought then, and now that the heavy hand on the 80L may be whats going on here. Its far far better now in September than it was in June or July. And I really don’t recall the extract taste fading before,, at least not as dramatically. Everything else I love about the beer. The color, the aromas, the feel.. need to revisit this one again. 2/5

The last one here the Zerg the Pines Amber  is really one of my favorites. Though I gotta say its nothing like what I wanted or expected. I wanted the real piney, dank stuff like the Titletown Eureka beer.

It did have some of that sure, but not as much as I hoped. It was more grapefruity, and the yeast really stood out in this. And while its been a while, its really reminded me of Alaskan Alt Amber. I’m still gonna pick up some to do a side by side. Its probably way off, but at least I can nudge it one way or another then.  Definitely going to make this again. 4.5/5

(next up,, time for some stouts)

Porter and fresh hopped

Been doing a little more brewing lately since it’s cooling off. And since I like the morning brews, I’ve been out there 5am.

First was the Memorial Mild. As the name suggests, it used to be my Memorial Day beer. Small, easy going. I think it’s not quite a Porter, but not a Brown either. And brewed it Labor day weekend.

It will be getting served at an upcoming event in October.

Then we finally got to the annual fresh backyard hop brew.

This year I went with a Kentucky Common. A rustic kind of beer that more or less a darker cream ale. Doesn’t really use that much hops. Except almost everything was  Britishy..

While I do have tons of hops back there, this recipe let me get away with only picking for 1/2 hour.

2017 Backyard Hillbilly Amber 5 gal.

  • 7 lbs Maris otter
  • 12oz flaked corn
  • 4oz instant rice
  • 2oz midnight wheat
  • 1oz cluster to bitter @60
  • 1/3 bucket of fresh picked hops @5 min.
  • Nottingham yeast
  • Mashed at 152