April 2009

Starring Paris Hilton IPA, Kate Moss Pale Ale, and Naomi Campbell's Brixton Porter

Starring Paris Hilton IPA, Kate Moss Pale Ale, and Naomi Campbell's Brixton Porter


I did nothing this weekend that wasn’t homebrew related, which makes me wonder how I filled my weekends before I started making beer. Oh yeah, I had other hobbies then. What happened to them?

This will be a long update from the bottling of Friday, to the regulator search and buying CO2, to the party on Saturday, to receiving the keg delivery, to viewing an old fridge, and finally ending with my first kegged beer.

Friday night I bottled Beer three (All Centennial IPA). It had been in the primary 2 1/2 weeks, bubbling finally slowing down to almost non-existent on Friday. I might actually have left it a few more days but I wanted to take some to the homebrewing party on Saturday. I thought it safer to just bottle the lot rather than take one PET bottle full (the plan being to add carbonation to the PET bottle using a carbonator cap).

In honesty, I have to say I’m a little disappointed with All Centennial IPA. It appeared to be maturing along nicely in the fermenter and the tastings showed promise, but the result (so far) is a bit too intensely hoppy to me. Not a light fresh intenseness, but a deep, dark intenseness. Maybe some time in the bottles will fix that. One thing is for sure, every time I have tasted All Amarillo IPA it has been different, so who knows how it might turn out.

Friday night I continued with my search for a regulator. I wanted to find a dual gauge model but I couldn’t. According to Advance Brewing, his supplier has stopped making them so there will be no more from him.

In the end I found four sources of single gauge (how much gas is left in the tank) and gaugeless regulators:

  • Beer-server.com – 13,000yen. Beer server is the most expensive of the three, and they were not particularly knowledgeable when I called them.
  • Homebrewing Service – one gaugeless model at 7,800yen.
  • Greens – The best selection so far, including 2 way, 3 way, two mini regulators, and an adapter for using mini CO2 tanks on full regulators. Best prices outside of Yahoo auction.
  • Yahoo auction – Searching for 減圧弁 or ビールサーバ can bring up regulators occasionally. On Saturday I bid on a 2 way model and had it right up to the last minute when someone outbid me by 100yen. On Sunday I searched a couple of times, then late Sunday night a new regulator popped up for an auction price of 3,000yen and a “buy now” price of 3,500yen. I bought it now. Total price including delivery and auction fee was 4,200yen.

Yahoo auction is the cheapest, but it can be difficult to be sure whether the regulators will work with beer or not. Even Advanced Brewing almost got it wrong – recommending a regulator to me on Yahoo auction and then mailing me later to say it doesn’t work with CO2 (Advance Brewing were very helpful though, providing me with the link to beer-server.com). I lucked out by finding a new one on auction, and since it says it’s for use with a beer server (ビールサーバ), I shouldn’t have any problems.

Several homebrewers have said they were able to scrounge regulators from their CO2 suppliers. I’ve tried 5 so far and no luck, however the last place – one minute from my house, where I finally bought my CO2 – is going to speak with their suppliers and see if they can get one, and a beer delivery guy that I accosted on the street said he’s going to have a look for one in his warehouse and give me a call this week, so you never know. Now that I have one from auction it is less urgent, but it would be good to have a spare.

Saturday I went to a party hosted by one of the homebrewers I met at the hanami a few weeks ago. As well as the excellent beers of the host, many other homebrewers brought samples of their beers. It was good to taste Lost in Fermentation‘s Foreign Extra, Extra … Extra Stout – nice to try a beer you’ve read about!

One thing that is continually surprising about the homebrew community is how helpful and friendly people are. There’s no arrogance or ego like you get with some other “hobbies”. Everyone just wants others to succeed.

Under partial duress I brought along samples of my beers to get feedback. It can’t say how embarrassing it is to be taking along the first beers you ever made and present them to people who have years of experience – but I got valuable feedback from it. I only wish my IPA had turned out a bit better so they got a better impression of my skills.

Sunday morning the kegs order arrived – minus carb cap (Advance Brewing’s mistake) and with a gas hose which wouldn’t fit the regulator I borrowed. Yet again an example of people’s kindness, a quick mail to the guy who lent me the regulator with the query “Is this hose really supposed to fit in here?” and he replied back with “No” and offered to give me the right host later that evening.

So while waiting for the evening to arrive, I made more beer. Beer six is my “All Goldings Bitter”. It’s my own recipe, made with the help of the Tasty Brew calculator. I varied the recipe I posted a week or so ago, mainly because when fed it back into the calculator at Tasty Brew it gave me different values – I don’t quite understand why even now. Update: Turns out there was an error in the calculation a week ago.

Beer six: All Goldings Bitter

1.5kg Extra Light DME
0.5kg Wheat DME
0.3kg Crystal 40L (pre-crushed; steeping)

Hops: East Kent Goldings AA 4.6% Leaf

60 Minutes: 48g
20 Minutes: 18g
2 Minutes: 16g

I was aiming for 1.5oz, 0.5oz, 0.5oz of hops (42.5g, 14.2g, 14.2g) but the hops were a block of youngsubrew and I used a knife to cut the block before separating it out, hence the quantities above. Since the AA was a bit lower than I’d hoped, I just left the hops at those weights. 2.5 US Gallon boil; total 6G. IBUs should be around 34.

Process was as follows:
1. Steep C40 for 30 minutes in 68-73 degrees water
2. Remove grain and turn up the heat. As the wort is heating up, add the extra light DME.
3. Once boiling, boil for 5 minutes until most of the foam has disappeared from the top, then add the first hops addition. 40 minutes timing starts now.
4. After 40 minutes, remove the hops and add the wheat DME. Boil for 5 minutes then add the second hop addition along with the first hop addition. 20 minutes timing starts now.
5. After 5 minutes add a teaspoon of Irish Moss.
6. With 2 minutes to go, add the final hop addition.
7. When finished, cool the wort then proceed as usual.

I used S-04 yeast, rehydrating while the wort was boiling. I could only get the wort down to 30-32 degrees. Rather than wait and risk airborne infection, I pitched the yeast at this temperature – I figured that since the yeast was hydrated at 35-40 degrees, the higher temp shouldn’t kill it and might even help it get started.

Starting gravity was 1.035, which should give me a nice light beer – I want an easily drinkable (without getting too drunk) beer for the summer.

The first keg

The first keg

After picking up the gas hose and a few nice beers at the Nakameguro Taproom, I then went to look at the most dirty fridge in the world – a complete waste of time save for the fact that I found a hardware store on the way there – and back home to start kegging.

I have to say that I was pretty nervous about handling the CO2, but it was fine. Putting the beer into the keg was a doddle. What wasn’t a doddle was carbonation. I tried the “add CO2, shake, add CO2, shake” technique but it was taking forever and I was getting no-where fast and very painful arms. Quite possibly the beer was too warm to absorb the gas, or my technique was just bad. I ended up sticking the keg and CO2 in the fridge and leaving it there with the CO2 switched on. It should carbonate that way but more slowly than I would have liked. Later today I’ll look for “how to carbonate” videos on You Tube.

Tonight I’m getting the carb cap which Advance Brewing forgot to send. Tomorrow or Wednesday I’ll get the regulator. At some point this week or next week I’ll get the hops. At the moment I have a free primary. I’m drawn towards making another beer while I wait for the hop order (it will most likely take another week to arrive), but on the other hand it would be great to have a primary free for when the hops arrive. Decisions decisions.

Update: The hops have arrived! Pretty good delivery – ordered 14th April, arrived 20th April.

My fridge

My fridge

Yesterday I had a thought. Instead of trying to find a fridge of the right size second hand and a delivery company that doesn’t charge the earth, what if I just take everything out of my current fridge and use that instead?

That’s not actually as crazy as it sounds. My fridge is a medium sized fridge with three distinct spaces: freezer (bottom), vegetable fridge (middle), and standard fridge (top). Anything dairy I could keep in the standard fridge in the door (milk, cheese, yoghurt); the rest (like kimchi, miso, salsa) I could move into the vegetable section.

Yes, it would be a squeeze – but entire families use fridges smaller than this, and let’s face it, half the main fridge is beer anyway. I’ll just avoid drilling holes in the door.

My only fear is that the fridge could topple over from being top heavy. But that’s unlikely, right?

So energised and with a plan, I set out to buy the gear. This being Japan though, nothing could ever be that simple. Homebrewing Service is out of 11,480yen 2nd hand kegs, despite having them available to order on the website (waiting time is two months). Advance Brewing has new 16,500yen kegs but all their regulators are sold out.

Thanks to the kindness of one of the homebrewers I met at the hanami a few weeks ago, I’m able to borrow a regulator until I can try to organise one from elsewhere. I can’t import one because the fittings are different in Japan. Current plan is to try to scrounge one when I get my CO2 from the local beer place – I hear other homebrewers got regulators that way, whether I’ll be so lucky waits to be seen.

A month into my “hobby” and I think I must have spent close to 100,000 yen on kit and ingredients – and I don’t yet have a proper beer to drink (I’m excluding Beer one because it’s terrible). Last night’s order alone was 50,000 yen for two kegs, pipes, picnic taps, steeping grain, and 10kg of DME. And I still need to pay for gas, a regulator (potentially), fermentation fridge, and full grain setup. I no longer want to think about the price per beer. I’ll just keep in mind that at some point, the spending on gear has to stop – right?

Last night marked six days since partially bottling Beer two (Whispering Wheat with Wheat Spraymalt) and then dry hopping the rest with hassaku, coriander, and orange peel (details here). I wanted to leave the dry hopping for longer but thanks to stuck fermentation, Beer two has been in the primary for nearly a month now. It’s a miracle Beer two has survived at all – the last thing I want is to risk off flavours from leaving it too long in the primary. So since last night I decided it was time to finally get the rest of Beer two out of there.

It actually tastes pretty damn good after six days dry hopping – I don’t think this beer is going to last very long before it is gone. I tried a bottle of the pre-dry-hopped version (there were only 10 bottles, now 9) and it tastes kit-like. The dry hopping made a big difference.

Beer five was going to be my extract bitter creation but I didn’t have time to make it last night, so instead I made up the Brewferm Kriek kit (my final kit). I was a bit lazy in my sanitisation at a couple of points – eg, after using the stirrer and putting it down, I just washed it with cold water instead of resanitising it when using the stirrer again, and when I rehydrated the yeast, I used the jug that I’d dissolved the cane sugar in. It may come back to bite me, but I think I’ve been a bit anal about sanitisation lately. For example, the cane sugar solution is going into the kit, right? If there are nasties in there, they’re in the beer anyway.

So Beer six will become my extract bitter creation, after the IPAs are ready to bottle. I’m actually thinking to make Beer seven a bitter also, but varying the malts and hops used. I liked having two IPAs come together at the same time, so it will be good to do the same for the bitters. One of them will be a “traditional” bitter with only goldings hops, the other will use goldings for bittering but centennial or another hop during flavouring – inspired by one of Baird‘s bitters.

Last night I had a friend around to watch the bottling process. After it was finished we sampled the two IPAs. The dry hopping of Beer four (Triple Cock(-up) IPA) has really made a difference – my friend actually liked it better than the extract Beer three (All Centennial IPA). I can’t wait to get these into bottles this weekend.

There was a time when I bought my first kit when I thought “This is amazing! For the price of a 2000 yen kit and 1500 yen in malt I can make 70 bottles of beer! I’m going to save so much money!”

Not on your nelly.

Once you replace “kit” with malt and hops, the cost doubles. Then you start looking at fridges, dispensing machines, kegs. And that’s before even thinking about going onto full grain.

The latest expense for my obsession: a $200 monster hop order (plus about $40 delivery) from Freshops.

This is what should be gracing my doorstep in about 2 weeks time:

12oz 2008 Amarillo hops
12oz 2008 Cascade hops
8oz 2008 Centennial hops
8oz 2008 Chinook hops
2oz 2008 Crystal hops
8oz 2008 Fuggle hops
6oz 2008 Golding hops
4oz 2008 Magnum hops
2oz 2008 Mt. Hood hops
4oz 2008 Nugget hops
4oz 2008 Perle hops
2oz 2008 Czech Saaz hops
4oz 2008 Simcoe hops
2oz 2008 Sterling hops
4oz 2008 Willamette hops
8oz 2008 Zeus hops
2oz 2008 Organic New Zealand Hallertauer hops
2oz 2008 Organic Pacific Gem hops

That’s a total of 94oz, equivalent of 23.5 packs of 4oz. I went a bit crazy, huh? But that’s what happens when you live in Japan and you can’t get hops.  If I assume one 4oz pack per beer and 3 beers per month, I could do almost six months of brewing without needing new hops.

The equivalent to buy these in Japan would be around $500, if I could get them. So not only am I getting hops I can’t find in Japan, I’m getting them half price! (You can see how I convinced myself to go ahead with this purchase, can’t you?!)

How did I work out what to buy? I started off by selecting the “staple” hops I want for the beers that I like, IPAs and bitters, biasing the quantities toward recipes I already have in my mind. That gave me amarillo, cascade, centennial, chinook, fuggle, golding, and zeus (columbus). Then I added some other hops which I’ve seen appear sometimes in recipes for those styles so that I have variants: magnum, nugget, perle, simcoe, willamette. Finally I just thought “sod it” and decided to add 2oz of everything remaining (except sorachi ace which is apparently a waste of hops) so that should I find a recipe that needs them for flavour or aroma, I wont be kicking myself for not having ordered them.  (I’m sick reading recipe ideas only to find out I don’t have the hop and can’t get it in Japan, such as All Amarillo IPA.)

Freshops was recommended to me by one of the homebrewers I met at the hanami a few weeks ago as one of two suppliers he knows who will ship to Japan. The other was Hops Direct. While Hops Direct is cheaper ($21 for a pound of cascade vs $32 from Freshops), the minimum order of any hop from Hops Direct is 1lb. With Freshops I can get a little of everything.

Now the thought of a kegerator with attached freezer is becoming more and more appealing. I’ll need somewhere to keep those hops..

My All Centennial IPA is based on a recipe for All Amarillo IPA on homebrewtalk, which was touted as a well balanced IPA – not too hoppy, but good citrus and bitterness.

All Centennial IPA still isn’t ready so I can’t really tell yet what the final taste will be like, but from the hydrometer sample, my personal preference would be for a little more flavour and a little less bitterness.  That combined with barely even noticing the cascade I added to All Cock(-up) IPA (though I think that was probably just Morgan’s Finishing Hop pellets being not very good), I wanted to learn more about timings to add hops to affect aroma, flavour, and bitterness.

This graph from brewsupplies.com seemed to put into pictures what I had been reading – but I’m wondering whether there’s a flaw in it.

Hop Utilisation

Hop Utilisation

The graph seems to say this:

  • Adding a hop about 7 minutes before the end of the boil will give maximum aroma. The aroma will start to disappear if the hop is left boiling for longer than 7 minutes but the hop will start to influence flavour.
  • Optimal time for flavour is boiling for around 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, flavour will start to disappear and bitterness will increase.
  • After about 40 minutes the hop is bittering only, with maximum bittering effect around 60 minutes.

Using this graph I can see what effect adding a hop at a particular time will give me. For example, if I add a hop at 30 minutes, it will have no influence on aroma but some influence on both flavour and bitterness.

So what’s the flaw? Flame-out. According to this graph, adding at 0 minutes – which many recipes do – has no effect on aroma, flavour, or bitterness.

I’ve always felt uneasy about adding at 0 minutes. My understanding was this: Add the hops when switching off the gas, leave for about a minute, transfer to the cooling sink and take out the hop bag, then cool the wort down. Maximum time the hops would be in for is 1-2 minutes.

So, is my interpretation of flame-out wrong? Or should I be following the graph and adding at 7 minutes rather than flame-out?

Even with this uncertainty, the graph is still useful because it gives me a rough idea of the times that affect bitterness, flavour, and aroma. That will be useful when planning my own recipes.

Update: General opinion is that the Aroma section of this graph is wrong. Basically any boiling of the hops will take away the aroma. For peak aroma, add the hops at flameout or 1 or 2 minutes before flameout. Also, since it takes different people different lengths of time to cool the wort it’s difficult to be generically accurate about any times related to aroma and flavour.

All Centennial IPA (Beer three); Triple Cock(-up) IPA (Beer four); Orange Coriander and Nutmeg Whispering Wheat (Beer two)

All Centennial IPA (Beer three); Triple Cock(-up) IPA (Beer four); Orange Coriander and Nutmeg Whispering Wheat (Beer two)

That’s how I felt at the weekend: all dressed up with nowhere to go. Over 200 bottles ready to be filled, ingredients for Beer five delivered, yet all three beers still seem to be fermenting away. Since I’m putting these into bottles, I don’t want to risk bottling too early in case I get bottle bombs.

Both IPAs are currently around 1016. The extract (Beer three; All Centennial IPA) is bubbling about 3-4 times per minute, the kit (Beer four; Triple Cock(-up) IPA) about twice a minute.

Tasting the hydrometer sample difference between these two IPAs was like night and day. All Centennial IPA had aroma and taste – it’s perhaps a little more bitter and a little less citrusy than I would have liked, but it still has to mature. In comparison, Triple Cock(-up) IPA had only a little bitterness, but almost no aroma and citrus taste – quite disappointing given that I added grain and hops. Drinkable, but left me feeling kind of empty compared to All Centennial.

So I decided to dry hop Triple Cock(-up) IPA with 15g centennial leaf hops. I had wanted to keep the beer as cascade only but since the flavour isn’t coming through and the only cascade I have access to is the same ineffectual pack I used for the boil, I went with centennial instead.

Dry hopping with centennial. The floating bags are the cascade hops from the boil.

Dry hopping with centennial. The floating bags are the cascade hops from the boil.

I considered to dry hop All Centennial IPA also, but I’ve had enough IPAs which are “too hoppy” and I’ve never dry hopped with hops before so I decided to leave it alone in case I push the taste too far. It’s still nice as it is.

Beer two (Whispering Wheat kit with wheat spraymalt, dry hopped with orange peel, coriander, and nutmeg) is now at 1010, that’s 2 points less than when I bottled some before dry hopping the rest! I guess that adding the sugar not only brought the yeast to life (remember there is two packs in there with enzyme), but gave it enough “energy” to break down some more of the harder sugars. I certainly hope it doesn’t mean the 10 bottles I have of the pre-dry-hopped are going to explode!

The taste after dry hopping for a few days is pretty good. There’s a subtle but refreshing orange taste with just a hint of coriander and nutmeg at the end. I hope a few more days, until activity stops, will bring out the tastes further. I think this will end up disappearing very fast once it’s ready! It’s already tasting good.

So the bottles sit there, empty. The grain, hops, and malt for Beer five sit there waiting. Hopefully by Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll be able to bottle at least one so that I can start Beer five, then finish the rest at the weekend.

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