October 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

5 gallons of cider brewing

So as I said before, I want to provide some details about brewing cider. Nick picked up 13 gallons of UV pasteurized cider from a cider mill north of us (I will spare sharing their name because according to NYS law, they are not supposed to sell us unpasteurized cider, stupid NY laws).

The plan was to make 10 gallons of cider that would have an OG of 1.060 and finish at around 1.011 using an American Ale yeast. We brewed the 10 gallons together by adding Camden tablets to both of the 4 gallon buckets. There was 2 gallons left over for the cider and another 3 gallons that Nick was using for another project. With the 2 gallons we put it on the stove and got the temperature up to 170 and added 6 cups of cane sugar, 6 cups of brown sugar, and the zest and juice of 2 lemons.

We held the two gallons at 170 for about 20 min and added a gallon each into the 4 gallon batches. Because Nick is much better at math than me, we hit our OG dead on!

So far it has been bubbling away for about 8 days and it's still at 1.030. It's making it's way down to 1.011 so I am just going to let it run for a while. After it's done with the primary, I am going to let it sit in secondary for a while, maybe a month or so, and I am going to bottle it carbonated in my growlers.

I would like to age some of this because I am not ape shit about cider as a whole. With that said, I am excited to try this and I think it will be a really fun drink to break out with my friends. I don't think it's going to be my "coming home from a long day of work" brew, but that's okay.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Something smells like sulfur!

This past weekend I went over to Nick's place and we worked on our pumpkin ale. We also did a cyder that I will write a post about as soon as I get the details from Nick on what we used and what we did.

What I am writing about today though was the pumpkin ale. To bring you up to speed, it was racked twice after the primary to help get rid of some of the traub that developed and in the end, we both had a full 5 gal batch because we planned ahead.

However, when I went to rack my beer from the carboy to the keg, I noticed a distinct surfer smell that permeated the spices. Nick had said that there sulfur smells coming out of the primary fermenters when I was gone, but on our first racking, I had not noticed anything.

This time though, I definitely tasted a distinct sulfur flavor.

After some consulting, Nick advised adding some yeast nutrient to the brew to help get rid of the flavor. He said that he had done some reading and that was one of the suggestions. When I got home, before I pressurized the keg, I added 2tbs of yeast nutrient and then pressurized the keg at serving pressure and let it sit until tonight.

Tonight was going to be my big night of tasting the brew and immediately I noticed something was not right. The brew had a distinct salt water flavor that threw everything off. I decided to take the keg off the tap it was on, shake it around and try it out of my party tap. The flavor was gone (for the most part anyway).

What I think happened was that the yeast nutrient settled at the bottom and when I was drawing off the keg, I was getting a very concentrated amount of that nutrient. The plan is now to shake it around some more and let it sit for a while longer to get fully carbonated.

In the end, I am sure it's going to be great, but it was hard to judge because I cannot get the salt water flavor out of my mouth. It kind of feels like it coats the tongue.

More to come on this!!!

**The story behind the picture was that I have had a few brown ales and I was looking for a "pumpkin carving of Nixon" because I thought with the election season in full swing, it would be fun. However, with little luck on that, I remembered these pictures and decided to include them just the same. That's a little window into how my mind works, scary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pumpkin Ale

A few weekends ago, Nick and I brewed up a pumpkin ale. I will make an update on where we are to date with the pumpkin ale but for now, I want to give some input on the brew day that was:

First off, Nick was good enough to volunteer for "pumpkin prep". This consisted of buying, gutting and scooping 8-10 pumpkins. Nick bought 20, because he was not sure what the weight would be after they were all gutted. In the end, we has 12lbs of pumpkin, so 8-10 pumpkins make for 12-14lbs of finished pumpkin product.

To prep, Nick carved the pumpkins in to 6-8" chunks. He placed these chunks on a cookie sheet at 350f for 1 hour (of until beginning to brown). After this he peeled the skin off and was left with the orange mass of the pumpkin. Nick took care of this a few days before our brew day and had it in the fridge. This was good because the process would have been a brew day in it's self.

One the day of brewing, Nick came over with the 12lbs of pumpkin and put it into my 5 gallon bucket and cooked it on the grill. We added enough water to cover the pumpkin chunks and stirred pretty aggressively to prevent burning. This took an hour and in the end, the pumpkin was a chunky orange paste.

We added the pumpkin to the mash tun just after we struck the mash. This got a little complicated because the pumpkin held a lot of heat and made a lot of "hot spots" in the mash. With a little ice and some aggressive stirring, it worked out in the end. However, for people looking to brew this, take into consideration the temp of your pumpkin because there is enough of it there to throw off your reading.

We let the mash sit for 1 hour. We were not able to add water to the mash for a mash out because the mash tun was too full so we pulled some off and did a quick decoction to elevate the temp.

In the end, we hit our 154f for the mash and had it up to 170 for the mashout. We batch sparged and had a little over 13 gallons in the pre boil (the brew kettle was REALLY full). Our goal was to have 12 gallons in the end because of traub loss.

Regarding the spices, we did not have "pumpkin pie" spice so we used my wife's Betty Crocker Cookbook and increased the amount as we saw fit. We were concerned initially because the amount of spice versus the amount of wort seemed as though you would not taste the spice. However, once we added it, we realized that a little spice goes a long way.

We used a London ESB for both brews because my American Ale yeast that I was going to use did not take the way that I had hoped.

Currently, both 5 gallon batches have been been racked over twice. There was a lot of traub from the primary to the secondary, and from the secondary to the third vessel, it was much less. We had both seen a lot of input from folks saying that the starch from the pumpkin caused a lot of yield losses that we didn't want. In the racking from primary to secondary, Nick took the extra and put it in a 3 gallon carboy he had and topped it off with some DME wort he threw together.

We did that Sunday and we are considering bottling/kegging this Sunday while we brew a cider (cyder?).

In racking it over I had a few little sips, this is a damn fine brew. It's pretty dark for the style, but not too crazy.

The OG was 1.048 and the FG was 1.011.

More to come...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

1 Week hiatus

I know that I have not written anything about the pumpkin ale brew day, I am going to post pictures and details in the very near future. I was out of town for the last week in Jamaica enjoying the fine local lager Red Stripe. I have to admit, I was kind of a hater on this beer before going to Jamaica, but after having some both out of the tap and out of the bottle, it's a pretty damn fine brew.

Anyway, while I was out, Nick racked over both his and my Pumpkin Ale's into secondary. He said that there was quite a bit of traub (slurry?) at the bottom, so it was good that we brewed extra. We are going to rack it a second time Sunday to help clear it up before we bottle/keg it.

There were some good questions and comments on the original Pumpkin Ale recipe so here goes on answers:

Adam said...
Good luck! Never did brew one a them there
punkin' ales. (Not sure why I'm slipping into country bumpkin' speak.) Sounds
interesting.I like the idea of using two different yeasts. I've done that and I
couldn't believe the difference between the California Ale yeast and a German
Ale yeast. Worlds apart.

Adam - Unfortunately I was not real confident in the American Ale yeast I tried to get out of the secondary from my Brown Ale because I dry hopped with leaf hops. there was so much lost that I thought I would not get a good, usable yeast. They were both pitched with the London ESB. Another experiment for another day.

Brian said...
Really looking forward to hearing about how
yours turns out. I actually hit up the local homebrew shop yesterday and picked
up my grain/hop bill for my first pumpkin beer as well, should be brewing this

Brian -Yea it's nice when there are a bunch of brewers all working on the same thing. It's great to read about how people do things differently.

Ted Danyluk said...
Hi Travis,I've been wanting to do a
pumpkin ale for 2 years now. Still haven't gotten around to it. Perhaps next
year. I did find a recipe and procedure that's pretty detailed that includes the
pre-roasted pumpkin in the mash.It is very important to use the right kind of
pumpkin. I noticed in your photos some big carving pumpkins. Did you use those
in your brew? My manager at TJ's confirmed that those aren't grown for cooking,
and that they will simply turn to water if cooked. Not much flavor at all from
those.The small "pie pumpkins" are grown for culinary applications. They have
lots of flavor and texture. Did you use these in the brew, and then carve some
pumpkins on the side? Just curious? Please let us know how this one turns

Ted - As always you have some good observations. The picture that is associated with the recipe is just something that came up when I Googled "Pumpkin Ale" on Google Images. I thought it was pretty funny.

Anyway, I will have to ask Nick, but I am assuming we used the regular carving pumpkins. I am not positive though. I am also going to ask him to detail how he treated the pumpkin before we brewed.

It actually made for a longer brew day than normal, but if Nick had not prepared the pumpkin ahead of time it would have been 12hrs (no exaggeration).

Nick is a food buff so he very well may have gotten cooking pumpkins, but I am not sure. One thing I can tell you is that once we started the runoff into the brew pot, there was not much to smell. It was not really much of anything. However, once we added the spices it was CRAZY how much it smelled.

Adam said...
Mmmmm...pumpkin. I think most pumpkin ales are mostly spices
and not much pumpkin. I'd love to taste one that was fermented pumpkin.Does
anybody really know what pumpkin tastes like or is it all nutmeg, cinnamon, et.

Adam - I would say it's 80/20 at least (80% spices, 20% pumpkin). Like I said in the previous response, the pumpkin didn't seem to lend much to the brew until we added the spices. With that said, you could smell it in the mash a lot and the smell became more pronounced as the boil went on. With that said, the spices really took over once added.

After making this brew, I totally understand how people can make a pumpkin ale using spices alone. As much as the pumpkin adds character and a good story, it's natural flavor is like any other gorde.

That's it for now, more to come once I get my self back on track!