02a: Wheat (k) / 02b: Nest Clone


On Thursday I bottled Beer thirteen (Strong Lagunitas IPA Clone) and partially bottled Beer sixteen (Anchor Liberty Ale educational Clone), dry hopping the rest of Liberty with Cascade.

I commented then that Beer fifteen’s dry-hopping (Muddy Puddle Unpredictable JPA) still hadn’t had much influence. By Sunday it was a different story – the intensity was just at the right level to be lip-smackingly good. The Liberty clone had also reached “my, that’s good!” level – so on Sunday I bottled both Beer fifteen and Beer sixteen.

A few weeks ago I was desperately frustrated that my IPAs/hoppy ales were not coming out well. By monitoring the dry hopping process – checking the taste every few days rather than just leaving it in for 7 or 14 days “default” as many people do (and I did) – I’m having much better success. Hopefully now I can scale this up to a full batch with the same success.

What hasn’t been a great success is Beer fourteen (Orange Wheat). It has come out far too orange. I added 20g more coriander as a “dry hop tea” on Sunday and it has balanced out a little, but it still not ideal.

I think two factors have adversely affected this beer. Firstly, I didn’t monitor the orange taste – and despite the peel I used being sold by Sakeland for making beer, I don’t think the flavour is ideally suited. Once again, monitoring the taste every few days would have caught this earlier – which is why Beer two didn’t go the same way.

Secondly, I’ve been crushing the coriander rather than grinding as I did at Kiuchi for Beer ten – I don’t think crushing has released the intense coriander flavour I wanted. Puzzlingly, Beer two used far less coriander but tasted better – maybe I crushed the coriander better then.

I can still drink this – it just isn’t the flavour I desired. I’ll be trying again over the summer with different orange peel (I have already bought it) and after buying a grinder for the coriander.

I’ve made some decisions about how I’m going to progress my brewing.

Firstly, I’m going to start making 3 US gallon batches instead of 5-6 US gallon batches when I’m experimenting, especially with IPAs. If I make something not great, I don’t want 5 gallons of it hanging around (like I have at the moment). I can always brew more later.

Secondly, I’m going to start partial mashing. With smaller 3 gallon batches, I’ll be able to partial mash with about 1kg (2.2lbs) of grain using this method (very similar to steeping, actually).

Thirdly, my next three beers will be another bitter (from tasting so far, All Goldings Bitter seems like my best so far), an IPA, and a porter. I’ve not decided the recipes for these three yet but for the bitter I may do an All Fuggles Bitter version of the All Goldings Bitter recipe – either a 5-6 US gallon extract or a 3 gallon partial mash.

Fourthly, I’ve worked out a way to brew through the summer! With the purchase of the kegerator, I was thinking of returning my fridge to the role it was built for – being a food fridge! – but yesterday I remembered that the temperature within the fridge was around 10 degrees when I first put the keg and CO2 tank in, before I turned up the cooling. 10 degrees is the perfect temperature for brewing pilsner! So even though I’m not a big lager fan, this summer I’m going to try brewing some.

Bucket status at the moment:
1. Brewferm Kriek – finished primary fermentation at 1.010 (as per kit specifications).
2. All Goldings Bitter – half way through fermentation at 1.012. It’s still fizzy to taste so fermentation is still going on – hopefully it will get down to 1.010 or 1.008.
3. Empty

Completed beer status:
1. Lager kit: Bacteria free but so bad I wont even drink it. Takes like Bass Pale Ale but worse.
2a. Whispering Wheat kit with wheat DME: I only bottled 10 of these. They taste kit like but they are drinkable.
2b. The above dry-hopped with orange peel, coriander, and nutmeg. This is my favourite of the beers I’ve made so far.
3. All Centennial IPA: This was a my first non-kit beer, but it turned out disappointing. The hop taste is too deep and intense with little aroma except sweetness. I think dry hopping would really liven it up but it’s in bottles. I may experiment with pouring some into a PET bottle and adding a little hop tea – see whether that rescues it.
4. Triple Cock(-up) IPA: Black Rock East India Pale Ale kit with DME. Since I added hop tea to the keg, this has actually become OK. It’s a bit light because of the kit origins, but its drinkable.

This weekend in-between rearranging my apartment to fit in the kegerator, I hope to bottle some of the Kriek and rack the rest onto cherries, and to fill the empty bucket with a new beer – most likely an IPA since until All Goldings Bitter has finished fermenting, I can’t really be sure whether the recipe worked.

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.

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.

Apart from Beer one, all my action so far has been getting things into the buckets. Only Beer one has made it out.

But no longer, finally after three weeks in the primary and a dose of Amylase Enzyme, Beer two (Black Rock Whispering Wheat kit with 1kg wheat spraymalt) settled down to around 1.012. While I didn’t check the hydrometer reading over several days to check the gravity is constant, I can tell by the lid of the bucket no longer expanding that little action is taking place now (when the lid swells, I push it down to purge excess CO2 – after the last purge the lid didn’t get close to swelling up again even after 24 hours).

Tasting from the hydrometer sample – before I managed to throw the rest of the sample all over my kitchen floor – it tastes much better now. It still tastes “kit like”, but it’s not as sweet as before and it has a bit of a wheat flavour.

But the kit taste is still there, and after bottling Beer one and not wanting to drink it, I didn’t want 40ish 500ml bottles of “kit” beer. So I decided to experiment. I bottled 5L in 10 x 500ml bottles with 3g of sugar in each bottle for carbonation. To the remaining 15L I added orange peel, coriander seeds, nutmeg (the ingredients in Hitachino Nest White Ale), and a little sugar and left it in the primary to dry hop.

I’ve no real idea of quantities to add for dry hopping these since I’ve only seen a few instances of people adding them after fermentation and generally they don’t say anything more than “I dry hopped with peel” – which always leaves me with questions not just about quantities, but about sanitising, method, etc. So I’m going to write down exactly what I did – keep in mind that as yet, I don’t know whether the quantities are good or the result tasty (if you’re finding this page via Google search after later April, check other posts here to see how it turned out!).

Hassaku

Hassaku

For the orange peel, I chose Japanese hassaku. Not only does this give the beer a Japanese theme, but the skin is aromatic and bitter. Supposedly bitter peel works best, so hopefully these will be a good match. I used the large holed part of a cheese grater (see here for a good pic) to take of the outer layer of rind of two hassaku, leaving the white pith behind. Weighing a bowl without the peel and a bowl with the peel, my scales told me the difference was 77g.

I took a teaspoon and poured coriander seeds on it until they started falling off – approx 3/4 of a teaspoon – and then crushed them with a rolling pin in a kitchen bag (like ziplock). I then put the crushed seeds, peel, and 3/4 of a teaspoon of nutmeg into a small pan (approx 10inch) with 3 tablespoons of sugar and added enough water to cover the peel. After 2-3 minutes boiling, I poured the mix into a sanitised jug with a sanitised thermometer in it to cool.

Why did I add the sugar? I’m adding these to my primary after taking out 5L of beer, which means there will be a large gap at the top. I doubt if there’s fermentable sugar in the peel, so adding a little extra will generate a layer of CO2 padding, replacing the oxygen. If I was racking to a secondary which was the exact size, I wouldn’t need to do this.

Is 2-3 minutes boiling enough for sanitation? According to Google searches, 10 minutes is required to sterilise water – but as brewers we tend to use water that has just been boiled in the kettle and regard that as clean. We don’t need full sterilisation, only sanitation. To be safe, you might want to leave for 10 minutes, but I didn’t. We’ll see whether it works. (Interestingly, I’ve heard people say that it’s OK just to add peel and fruit direct to the secondary because the alcohol would kill bacteria – if that’s the case, why do we bother to sanitise bottles etc?)

After cooling to about 35 degrees, I poured the mix into the primary (splashed a bit much for my liking – should have been more careful) and put on the lid. Maybe I should have waited until the mix was down at 20-25 degrees but I figured it would cool when it hit the beer and so wouldn’t harm the yeast. Within a few minutes the lid was expanding again – excellent.

I don’t know how long I’m going to leave this dry hopping. Once the lid stops expanding – hopefully tomorrow – I’ll take a sample and continue to sample daily until the flavour seems acceptable.

There are several risks trying this – the flavour may be too overpowering from the first sample; it’s been four weeks in the primary which I’ve heard isn’t good; etc – but I’d rather experiment and lose the batch than have another “kit tasting” beer. It might just turn out nice!

I should be bottling Beer three (All Centennial IPA) by the weekend. That’s the one I’m really excited about.

This Saturday I went to the Tokyo beer group “BEERS” annual hanami and was lucky enough to not only taste some excellent homebrew but to meet some of the brews’ creators. These are guys who have years of experience making beer in Japan so should be good people to quiz about getting equipment, recipes that fit in with Japan’s limitations, etc.

With my recent interest in kegging, top curiosity for me was seeing how these homebrewers de-keg their beer – in particular, whether they use CO2 injectors, where they get refills, etc. A man giving out free homebrew is a popular man indeed at a hanami so I couldn’t get a lot of information on the day, but I did make a lot of good contacts and intend following up with people.

I get the feeling that a lot of the equipment on use was brought in or sent to Japan. One guy had a very nifty 5L mini-keg which a tap slides into, sent from the USA – would be perfect if they didn’t only last 6-8 refills. Most of the other kegs being used had been group purchased a few years back, sent into Japan.

One of the guys brought along a dispensing machine, a model that can either be plugged in or filled with ice. I’ve been looking at getting something similar myself – in fact I bid on one on Friday but after the jolly hanami I forgot to login for the end of the auction on Saturday night and lost my place!  – so it was nice to see this in action.

Over the weekend I also checked out Beer three and Beer four – All Centennial IPA and Triple Cock(-up) IPA. After a week in the bucket, Beer three is around 1.018. I’m going to leave it for at least another few days – to the weekend if I can resist. Beer four I just tasted – it’s not as aromatic and flavoursome as Beer three, but it is only a few days old and should hopefully turn out drinkable. Beer two is still fermenting away – I didn’t touch it.

I’ll have at least one bucket free by this weekend – time to think about what Beer five will be. I need to take advantage of the spring weather – once summer hits Japan brewing will be a challenge.

Beer one (Black Rock Lager kit with 1kg sugar) will be “officially” finished tomorrow night, so I’m going to move some into the fridge and crack it open on Friday night. I say “officially” finished because it will be finished according to the kit instructions, though conventional wisdom says leaving it a few more weeks will improve the taste. So far – tasting in unfinished state – I’ve been relatively unimpressed, but I shouldn’t really have been drinking it, should I? ;) And compared to Beer two, which is turning into as saga, I’m going to be happy if Beer one is just drinkable!

Beer two (Black Rock Whispering Wheat kit with 1kg Muntons Wheat Spraymalt) was supposed to be the bees knees but at the moment is the bee gees knees. After restarting stuck fermentation three days ago with Amylase Enzyme, it has been slowly bubbling away. Last night I decided to see how far it has gone and found it hasn’t gone very far at all – about 0.002 points, to around 1.016-18. After posting a “How long does Amylase Enzyme take to kick fermentation to complete?” on various forums, replies have told me I’m in for a couple of weeks wait.

After doing the hydrometer reading, I took a sip of Beer two. It tastes like the beer has been mixed with baking soda – not good! But the beer is very cloudy and I think the Amylase Enzyme and yeast are currently in suspension actively working away, which is probably contributing to the taste. I left the sample out overnight and by this morning the top third had cleared, so I think (hope) the baking soda taste is temporary. It’s currently bubbling away slowly, about one bubble per 30-60 seconds. Maybe in the end this will turn into a star beer – I can only wait!

Beer three (All Centennial IPA extract beer) is the big hope for my first hassle free “gob smackingly good” beer! So far it’s been bubbling away nicely, today down to one bubble from the airlock every 8-10 seconds. I took a tiny sample yesterday. Seems to be some little bits of grain (or something) still floating around, but it is tasting good so far. Bitterness and caramel are a little bit weak and the aroma and centennial citrus taste are a little strong, but this is just after three days. It has another week or so before it is ready to go into bottles, and then another two weeks or so before it is drinkable, so lots of time for the flavours to settle down. Definitely the best tasting so far. Actually tastes like an IPA!

I can’t believe I’ve done all this work and I don’t yet have a beer that is drinkable!

Beer four? My hope was that Beer two would be finished this week and so I’d rack it (move it) to my third bucket with some orange peel and coriander then start Beer four in Beer two’s bucket. However it looks like Beer two will be fermenting away for a while so I think I’ll start Beer four in the spare third bucket. (You followed that OK, right? All these numbers is getting confusing!)

Current choices for Beer four are Brewferm Cherry Kriek kit or Black Rock East India IPA kit (I’ll be adding hops and grain to this). I want to do the Kriek but it takes so long to make (two weeks in the primary bucket plus 6-8 weeks in bottles) and I really need to have some “drinkable” beers made! So I think Beer four will be the IPA – which has the bonus that I’ll have two IPAs ready at about the same time. Will be good to compare the extract IPA with the kit IPA.

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