Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

Smokin’ with the Boys

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The other day was my friend Rick’s birthday. His wife was out of town on business, so I thought it would be a nice way to keep him from getting lonely if I invited him to come up and brew with me. While I was at it, I also invited our friends Chris, who has some professional brewing experience, and Peter, who is about to move up to all-grain brewing. I wanted Chris’s input on improving my brewing system, and wanted Peter to see first-hand how relatively easy an all-grain brew can be. They all showed up at 8:30 and we brewed this semi-traditional German Rauchbier, while sipping a Hill Farmstead porter, “Twilight of the Idols”, that Chris had brought along (yes, a big Porter at 9:30 a.m. – surely a breakfast beer!). Peter had a lot of questions, the rest of us tried to answer them as best we could, and the Rauchbier got brewed.

The thing about this brew that makes it only “semi”-traditional is the fact that the smoked malt I used was my own. I was playing around last week with a way to smoke grains at home, over various local woods. Five pounds of the grain in this recipe was smoked on my grill over birch chips, giving it a wonderful sort of wintergreen aroma… The mash smelled really cool, and the wort in the kettle smelled even more amazing.

Rauch’n’Roll

5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 2 lbs. birch-smoked Pilsner malt
  • 2 lbs. birch-smoked Vienna malt
  • 1 lb. birch-smoked 30°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. honey malt
  • 1 oz. Sterling hop pellets (@5.7% aa)
  • 1 oz. Liberty hop pellets (@5.2% aa)
  • White Labs Old Bavarian Lager yeast (WLP920)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar or 1 cup light DME (for priming)

Procedure: Crush malts. Heat 15 quarts water to 163°F. Dough in and hold mash at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 13 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet smoky wort. Bring to boiling, add Sterling hops. Boil 45 minutes, add Liberty hops. Boil 15 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat and chill to 75°F. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60°F for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager cooler (45°F) for three weeks. Prime with corn sugar (or DME), bottle and age cold (38 – 40°F) for six weeks.

OG: 1058

IBU’s: 31

Note on smoked malt: Not everyone will be able to smoke their own malts, obviously. You can substitute 3 lbs. German Rauchmalt (beechwood-smoked) and 1 lb. each Vienna and 30°L crystal. The Rauchmalt is more intensely smoky than my own home-smoked malts, thus you need to use less for the smoke level of this brew. More smoked malt will mean more smoky flavor, and it is easy to overdo it.

Home-smoking grains:I built a 12” by 12” box, 3” deep, out of hardware cloth, then lined it with aluminum window screen. The hardware cloth is sturdy as a frame, the screen is a much finer mesh. My gas grill has a tray you can set in on top of the flames to use wood or charcoal for grilling.

Birch chunks on the left, pilsner malt on the right...

I built a small pile of wood chips at the far left end and placed my screen box on a grill at the far right. I placed 2 lbs. of grain, dry, in the screen box, sprayed it with water to moisten it, and lit the gas under the wood only. Because it was not actually touching the wood but only the metal tray, the wood never actually caught fire but smoldered, nice and smoky, for over an hour.The draft pulled the smoke from the wood across and through the grains, which I stirred and re-misted every 15 minutes. After an hour of smoke, I spread the grain out on a large cookie sheet to dry then packed it away in 1-lb. units in zip-lock bags. I did a total of about 20 lbs. in different combinations – some pilsner malt, some crystal, some Vienna, some wheat, etc… over birch and then oak and then maple. Four or five of my next several brews will include a smoked component.


Splish Splash

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Got an email from a reader with a question about aeration and yeast. Any further reader input would be welcome…

Hey Scott,
Just found your blog,  while searching for the origins of the dark IPA.  I’m going to attribute it  to Greg Noonan just like every Vermonter should.  I’ve been trying to get  better with homebrewing and have been a little concerned with aeration of the  wort going into primary.  I’m a PhD student in biobehavioral neuroscience  so I get a bit anal about things, bear with me.  As a scientist I want a  specific value for dissolved oxygen necessary for a good fermentation, I find  that nowhere.  Some suggest a vigorous shaking of the wort, I’ve read of  aeration systems (access to medical 95%02, 5%CO2 so I’m tempted), and I’ve also  read many that like you suggested transferring the wort so that it is a bit  splashy and aerates “enough” (the scariest option for me as a scientist, I need  control!).  Is a good pour typically enough to provide enough oxygen for a  healthy ferment?

Enjoying the reading material you provide.  Thanks!
Brendan

Hey Brendan, thanks for checking out the blog! Glad you’re enjoying it.

As you probably can figure out from my posts, I am NOT much of a scientist – I have no idea what kind of dissolved oxygen ratio would be ideal for optimum start-up. I have, for my entire brewing career (20 years) observed that pouring the wort into the fermenter and allowing it to splash well has been more than adequate. For a short while I used a counterflow wort chiller, siphoning the wort through copper into the bucket, and I am absolutely certain that there was not enough aeration occurring then – I had several batches that took days to start, and ultimately had off-flavors that one would associate with lag spoilage bacteria… Using the “pour and splash method” I usually get active fermentation within 4 – 6 hours, even quicker if I have built up a starter slurry…I don’t have my copy handy right now but I’d bet if anyone has quantified the oxygen content question it would be found in Greg’s “New Brewing Lager Beers“…
best of luck,
Scott


A reader’s question

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Got an email from a reader and would like to address it publicly here. Brandon writes:
“I have read (Greg) Noonan’s book on Scottish ales, but I am not clear on the procedure for caramelizing the wort. I thought you might be able to answer some of my questions.
In the book, he says to lightly caramelize some of the wort. How much wort did he typically use? I have read of homebrewers boiling a gallon of first runnings and reducing it to a quart. Is this too much caramelization or is this similar to what Noonan did?
I have also read that longer boil times do not necessarily increase caramelization but instead increase Maillard reactions, which are two different things. So when making a Scottish ale, am I going for caramelization or Maillard reactions?
Any information you could offer would be greatly appreciated.”

Good question, Brandon – and potentially confusing! As I understand it, Maillard reactions do in fact produce pretty much the same results as caramelization, but due to amino acids rather than actual “burning” of the sugars. Maple syrup, bread crusts, milk caramels, etc. are darkened by Maillard reactions, true sugar caramel and the like are by “pyrolisis”, or burning. In terms of a Scotch Ale, I think we’d be hard pressed to differentiate – true caramelization should be easy to do, although if a Maillard reaction occurred we might not know the difference among all the other complex flavors in the brew…
What I usually do (and I have a recipe, inspired by Greg Noonan’s work, that comes awfully close to a Traquair House clone) is take the first 2 or 3 quarts of runoff (from a 5-gallon all-grain mash with a target OG of around 1080 at least) and boil it in a cast iron pot until it thickens to a syrup-consistency, and almost burns… takes some watching, especially if you are also still monitoring the runoff and sparging the rest of the mash… I will then dilute the caramelized wort with a few cups of ordinary wort and add it into the brew kettle….

I would love to hear from readers with more of a chemistry background, explaining, in layman’s terms, the difference between these two processes, and between their results…