Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Easy Way to Enter AHA/BJCP Competitions

First you need to brew some beer, and bottle it. But not any bottle will do, you need brown or green glass between 10 and 14 ounces. No swing-tops. Next you need to fill out a Bottle ID Form. The AHA website has links to this sucky form, and this sucky form for Club-only competitions, but what you really want is this good form.

What makes the good form good? It's a PDF with fillable fields, so you can type in your name, address and other info rather than writing it. But the best part is that when you fill out the first label (there are four per sheet) it fills in the other three labels auto-magically. The sucky forms are just pictures of a form that you have to print and fill out by hand for each bottle.

If you are entering a competition that only requires two bottles and you want to save paper you can fill out most of the form, print it and fill in the beer name and category by hand. Cut the label sheet into four parts, and rubber-band one to each of the bottled beers you are entering, and you're almost done.

If you need to include a recipe with your entry, the AHA website has links to this sucky one, this sucky one for Club-only competitions, and this good one. The links to the good forms are strangely hard to find. I used the good ones for a Club-only competition last year and the contest organizers were fine with it.

The final thing is to write the check and drop off the bottles, and you're all set!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cascadian Dark Ale Recipe

I brewed this recipe up for the Greater Everett Brewer’s League (GEBL) Hop Madness IPA Bracket Challenge. I started out with an idea of what I wanted it to taste like, bounced my ideas off a couple of homebrewers I know to get their input, did a little research on the web, and came up with the following recipe. I bottled a bit to enter and share, and put the rest on tap. I like this one a lot, the keg is already almost empty. If it wins any prizes great, if not it's still a winner in my book.

Cascadian Dark Ale (Black IPA)
BJCP Category 23: Specialty Beer

Recipe Specs
Batch Size (G): 5.5
Total Grain (lb): 12.50
Total Hops (g): 170.09
Original Gravity (OG): 1.062 (°P): 15.2
Colour (SRM): 30.1 (EBC): 59.3
Bitterness (IBU): 84.6 (Tinseth)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 75
Boil Time (Minutes): 90

Grain Bill
10.000 lb American Two-row Pale (79.99%)
1.125 lb Munich I (9%)
0.563 lb Carafa II (4.5%)
0.563 lb Special B Malt (4.5%)
0.250 lb Chocolate (2%)

Hop Bill
14.2 g Columbus (Tomahawk) Pellet (14.5% Alpha) @ 99 Minutes (First Wort) (2.6 g/Gal)
14.2 g Columbus (Tomahawk) Pellet (14% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (2.6 g/Gal)
28.4 g Simcoe Pellet (12.2% Alpha) @ 30 Minutes (Boil) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Cascade Pellet (5.5% Alpha) @ 15 Minutes (PostBoil) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Simcoe Pellet (13% Alpha) @ 15 Minutes (Post-Boil) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Cascade Pellet (5.5% Alpha) @ 10 Days (Dry Hop) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Columbus (Tomahawk) Pellet (14% Alpha) @ 10 Days (Dry Hop) (5.2 g/Gal)
Single step Infusion at 151°F for 60 Minutes.
Fermented at 68°F with Safale US-05 Dry Yeast

The Post-Boil additions were done at flameout, I whirlpooled and let it rest for 15 minutes before running off into the fermenter.

Recipe Generated with BrewMate

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Burtonize Your Brewing Water

If you're brewing and IPA and you want a good, firm bitterness you'll want to Burtonize your brewing water, AKA make it like the water in Burton-on-Trent where IPAs were made initially. The water in Burton-on-Trent is very hard. To match it exactly, the ions in your water should have the following profile:
Calcium (Ca+2) 352.0 ppm
Magnesium (Mg+2) 45.0 ppm
Sodium (Na+1) 44.0 ppm
Chloride (Cl-1) 16.0 ppm
Sulfate (SO4-2) 801.0 ppm
Bicarbonate (HCO3-1) 320.0 ppm

The most pronounced aspect of the water from Burton-on-Trent is the sulfate level. At 801ppm (some sources say 820ppm) those sulfates are enough to have a mild laxative effect, which is probably not quite what most brewers are going for. The good news is that you can get most of benefit of Burtonized water without going nearly that far into the sulfate levels.The reason you want sulfates is that they provide the increased perceived bittering and crispness in the taste of your beer for styles such as IPAs. For most beer styles including IPAs the rest of the water ions for Burton-on-Trent are merely interesting.

The easiest (and cheapest) way to get the bittering benefit of Burtonized water is to add a tablespoon of food-grade gypsum (calcium sulfate) to your water for a five gallon batch. One tablespoon will increase the sulfate level by 354ppm. It will also increase the calcium level by 148ppm and lower the pH level a bit. If your water is reasonably soft or if you started with deionized water you'll be in the ideal sulfate range between 300ppm and 500ppm; your IPA will be Burtonized enough to accentuate the bitterness and not in any danger of being overloaded with sulfate. You're all set.

If you want to be authentic for an English Pale Ale, I guess the easiest way to accomplish this is to buy a sufficient quantity of 'Burton Salts' at your homebrew store and follow the directions, but you'll need to start with water that has been deionized by distillation or reverse osmosis (RO), or have tap water that is very soft. Going this way costs more because you'll have to pay for the water, and you'll pay a premium price on the official "Burton Salts" as opposed to buying the stuff that does the same thing as Burton Salts. I still have a packet of Burton Salts that I haven't tried yet, so I can't comment on the effectiveness of the official approach.

I don't see a good reason to do anything more than adding a tablespoon of gypsum to adjust the water for an American IPA. Then again, you could bump the sulfate level to 820 and claim it is the medicine you use to help you stay "regular." Most people probably won't be able to use Burton Salts to match the water from Burton-on-Trent if they are using local water, because the local water already has different levels of the various ions. Instead you'll need to do the calculations to adjust the ion levels to get from your water as a starting point to a 'Burtonized' finish. To figure out how do that, check my previous blog post on Brewing Water Chemistry.

The following additions would get me close, assuming a 5.5 gallon batch. Your Mileage May Vary, so do your own calculations. And really, that's a lot of chemicals to put in your beer so your best bet is a tablespoon of gypsum.
Brewing Salt Additions to Burtonize
Chalk (CaCO3) 2 grams 1.11 tsp
Baking Soda (NaHCO3) 4.3 grams 1 tsp
Gypsum (CaSO4) 25 grams6.25 tsp
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 6 grams 1.33 tsp
Canning Salt (NaCl) 1 grams 0.17 tsp

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 Factors to Making Better Hoppy Beers

I bumbled upon this info as an image inside a PDF file. Hopefully the text format will make it a bit more accessible. Vinnie has produced some fantastic IPAs, so his suggestions are worth more than a casual glance. A couple of his beers are cited as "Commercial Examples" in the BJCP Style Guidelines for India Pale Ale.

There's one item I don't get, the suggestion for yeast removal. "The more yeast you remove, the more beer surface are you'll have exposed to the dry hops." Can somebody explain that to me?

10 Factors to Making Better Hoppy Beers
by Vinnie Cilurzo
Brewer/Owner Russian River Brewing Company

Consider using some gypsum to add some sulfate- this will bring out more hop character. Also consider using some lactic or phosphoric acid- you can trade out a little bitterness for acidity.

Crystal Malt
Crystal Malt and American hops (those found in IPA's) do not mix. At the most, use 5% crystal (45 lov.) malt in an IPA or Double IPA- I prefer 3.50% - 4.00%.

Dextrin Malt
A modest amount of unfermentable sugar is your friend when making a hoppy beer. These dextrin sugars will allow you to add more hops. Remember though, too much dextrin malt and you'll have too high of a finishing gravity. Also, some brewing equipment will make more (or less) dextrin malt, thus, you may need to experiment.

Mash Temperature
Don't mash at too warm of a temperature. Too many unfermentables due to a high temperature will yield a sweet beer that doesn't meld well with the hops.

Yeast Strain
Pick a yeast strain that finishes dry, doesn't flocculate too fast, yet, will fall out if a cold temperature is applied. English yeast stains do not work well in American IPA or Double IPA.

Yeast Pitch Rate
Your pitch rate is one of the most critical factors when brewing an IPA or Double IPA. Too much yeast and you could end up with less bitterness due to the fact that the yeast takes up bitterness from the beer.

Gravity (Original and Terminal)
Consider lowering your original gravity a little, this will yield a lower terminal gravity, thus, creating a drier, more drinkable beer. Remember, drinkability and balance are two different things! Finish your hoppy brews at 1.012, that is the highest finishing gravity for an IPA or Double IPA. Anything above that, and you'll have too much sugar competing with the hops. With your double IPA's consider using some dextrose (corn) sugar to give the yeast something simple to work on.

Yeast Removal
The more yeast you remove, the more beer surface are you'll have exposed to the dry hops.

Post Fermentation Oxygen Pick-up

Purge everything with CO2 that your beer comes in contact with- buckets, hoses, bottles, kegs, etc... Oxidized hops is a terrible flavor.

Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew
After all these years, Charlie's words still ring true. At the end of the day, remember, it is just beer, and you will get another chance to make a batch of beer- just be thankful that you are not a winemaker who only gets one chance a year.

My list of factors to making better hoppy beers is somewhat shorter:
  • Yeast   Use the Chico yeast strain. (i.e.: White Labs California Ale, Wyeast American Ale, Safale US-05)
  • Hops   It's not just about the IBUs so make your hop additions appropriately. Along with the standard flavor and aroma additions, think about adding hops to the first wort, and at flameout. Some guys seem to prefer dancing around the kettle and tossing in hops every five minutes... I haven't tried that yet.
  • Malt   Don't worry about adding malts that promote head. With all those hops it's gonna happen. And don't over-think your character malts. You want just a little something to work with the hops. But really, a bit of crystal is going to be OK.
  • Water Treatment   Add a tablespoon of gypsum to the boil unless the sulfates in your water are already like the water at Burton-on-Trent. The difference in perceived bitterness will be like night and day.
  • Adjuncts   If your finishing gravity is turning out too high, or if your tastebuds are saying the beer needs to be drier, mash at lower temps or substitute a pound or more of corn sugar for some of your base malt.
  • Recipe Formulation   In general, look at the BJCP Style Guidelines for India Pale Ale and try to be in the middle of the allowable range of values for OG, SRM; try to be on the low side of FG; but be on the high side of IBU. (I don't trust ANY of the hop calculations for uber-hoppy beers.)
Above all, drink them young because the best hop flavors and aromas are not long-lived. This is somewhat ironic because the original IPAs were brewed to survive a long sea voyage. Back then the extra hops were viewed as a necessary preservative, not a special aroma and flavor component.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Cost of Homebrew

"If anyone ever tells you that you'll eventually save money by making your own beer, tell them they're full of shit." - Colin L.

Seems like it's easy to break even if your average cost for a "store-bought" six-pack is $12 and you brew seventy-five gallons per year. At that rate you'll need to drink eleven or twelve pints per week to keep up, but you can cover your hardware expenses pretty quickly. I dunno, I don't drink nearly that much and it still seems like I should still be able to get to break-even somewhere along the way. Not that I always brew from a recipe that looks like this, but I can brew five gallons of a pretty decent beer for twenty bucks.
Item/Ingredient Percentage Cost
10lbs. 2-Row Malt 32.5% $6.50
2lbs. Specialty Malts 12.5% $2.50
4oz. Hops 20.0% $4.00
Dry Yeast 20.0% $4.00
Misc.(Whirfloc, Gypsum) 5.0% $1.00
Production (Cleaners, Propane, etc.) 10.0% $2.00
Total 100.0% $20.00

Those are my actual costs, based on my "inventory" as I start 2011. I probably have about 80 pounds of malt, five pounds of hops and half a dozen yeast packets on hand. My cost of ingredients used to be about twice that much when I was buying per recipe. The two things that keep the costs down now are:
  • I shop around. I could go to any of half a dozen homebrew stores, but the bulk of my purchasing is done where I get the best deal.
  • I buy in bulk. Base malts by the bag with a discount to homebrew club members, and hops by the pound.
I've since heard about an even less expensive source for all sorts of stuff. Unfortunately for me, it's 200 miles away, so it will need to wait for my next trip to the Portland area.

Let's say the commercial version of the same beer is about $7.50 a six-pack. We're looking at more than $60 for five gallons that way, so the cost of homebrew is about one third of the commercial cost. And let's also say that I brew a batch of beer every other month. We're looking at a savings of $40 per batch times six per year, or $240 annually. As long as I keep my equipment costs under $200 per year I'm at least forty bucks to the good, which I can spend on a couple of pints at a local pub.

I could cut my costs down to $11 per batch (about $5 per case) if decided to go as cheap as possible. It's funny to note that adjuncts like flaked rice actually drive up the cost of my beer rather than lowering it:
BobweiserTM (Lite American Lager)
Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Original Gravity (OG): 1.039 (°P): 9.8
Color (SRM): 2.8
Bitterness (IBU): 9.1 (Tinseth)

6.25lbs American 2-Row
1lb Flaked Rice
14g Hallertau Tradition (5.4% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil)

Multi-step Infusion mash. Boil for 60 Minutes
Ferment at 50°F with Saflager W-34/70
Keg rather than bottling to save on capping costs.
I've been brewing beer for at least six years, so my equipment investment should be around $1,200 right now to make all of this work. Is it? If you count the keggerator and the lager fridge, I'm a bit over. But I've gotten most of the stuff I need/want, so my equipment purchasing should slow down a lot from here on out. I might go for welded cart to replace the metal shelves I have now, but that's probably the last major purchase for Finn Hill Brewing for a long time.

Here's another interesting way to put things in perspective: The cost of ingredients is roughly 15% for large-scale brewers. This is eerily similar to the costs of engineering for a software company I used to work for. They spent more than double that in marketing. I always wondered, if we put twice as many dollars in to making it, wouldn't it be twice as easy to sell?