22: Axis of Evil IPA (ag)

Filling the keg with Evil

Filling the keg with Evil

I finally kegged Axis of Evil last night and started the force carbonation. It’s been chilling and settling overnight, and hopefully, if I’ve got the carbonation right, I’ll be able to try some tonight.

I finished off the small PET bottle that I force carbed a few days ago – I can’t quite put my finger on whether the smooth taste is 100% down to the hops or whether it’s from the Carahell or even from mashing (remember I was using new equipment and new techniques). I need to views of an expert I think.

I’m planning to make another Pilsner this weekend if I can get away with emptying the fridge again to put in the fermenter without the girlfriend killing me. It’s quite likely that this will be the second last beer I make in Japan as I wind down my homebrew and beer stock in case I go to Singapore later in the year.

You’ll notice that my kitchen still has bits lying around from when I made Evil a few weeks ago (see the plate chiller in the basin on the floor?). Also on the counter are various bottles of beer – I had to clear out the kegerator to take out Mass Destruction and put in Evil (the kegerator still looks similar to this as I’ve been buying beer at similar rates to I’ve been consuming it – I just keep seeing new bottles out there, as evidenced by the brown bag which contains three bottles bought last night!)


Axis of Evil IPA is ready for the keg – but I only have room for one keg in the kegerator and it still has Mass Destruction in it. I’ve been frantically drinking Mass Destruction this week and I can’t seem to get to the end of it. I seem to have a bottomless keg.

One thing’s for sure though – I’ve tasted Axis of Evil IPA (force carbed in a PET bottle) and I definitely prefer Hops of Mass Destruction IPA. The Chinook, Amarillo, and Simcoe combination has resulting in a smooth orange cirtus flavour than the sharper Magnum and Centennial pairing. Maybe the extra couple of days dryhopping while I wait for Mass Destruction to finish will change things?

Over at Beer in Japan I’ve written a post about Baeren Brewery – a brewery created in Japan less than 10 years ago from equipment imported from Germany, some of it over 100 years old: Baeren Brewery and Beer Pub, Morioka.

I really want to make a Pilsner again – but with my current lack of fridge space (exemplified by having nowhere to put Axis of Evil IPA), I can’t see how that’s going to be possible.

30g of Amarillo and 23g of Simcoe on Axis of Evil

30g of Amarillo and 23g of Simcoe on Axis of Evil

Finally got around to dryhopping Axis of Evil IPA last night – with 30g of Amarillo and 23g of Simcoe. Took another hydrometer sample while I was at it – 1.012, so it looks like mashing at a lower temperature worked.

The beer tastes a bit too smooth to me though, almost like I’m drinking orange juice but with a bitter kick at the end. I’m not sure whether some of that smoothness is coming from the carahell (ie, an attribute of carahell) or whether it’s because there’s just a tad too little crystal (ie, I overestimated the effect that the carahell would have on sweetness and flavour and reduced the crystal too much) – what it does leave though is a beer which is primarily flavoured from the hops, hence the fruity taste and strong bitterness.

I’m hoping that the 5-6 days of dry hopping will add some hop oils into the mix and give the beer a bit of bite.

Axis of Evil IPA

Axis of Evil IPA

Ok, so I should have dusted the side of the TV before taking this photo – but here we have a sneak preview of Axis of Evil IPA.

Fermenting for 5 days so far, gravity is already at 1.016 – and there’s still a bit of activity going on. Looks like mashing at a lower temperature has paid off.

Taste wise, it’s fruity and bitter. Here’s some that I frantically force carbed:

Do I look tempting to you?

Do I look tempting to you?

Still tastes a little sweet but hopefully the gravity will come down by another two points – and it’s not dryhopped yet. I’ll leave it for another few days before dryhopping.

With all the hassles of getting the equipment setup and the long brew days I’ve had recently, my enthusiasm for homebrewing has dulled a little. Drinking my creation has brought it all flooding back.

I like the phrase “Do I look tempting to you?” I think I’ll call my next IPA “Temptation IPA” (though my next beer wont be an IPA – it will most likely be a repeat of my Toasted Coconut Porter at the girlfriend’s request.)

Five from Sankt Gallen

Five from Sankt Gallen

As I’ve mentioned before, Sankt Gallen has a bit of a reputation amongst homebrewers for being inconsistent in their beers, so when I was in Shinanoya in June and saw a bunch of Sankt Gallen beers on sale – including limited edition Fathers Day beers – I decided to get them.

Last night I finally opened them – mostly because I wanted to see whether the Amber Ale really does taste like Tokyo Ale. Tokyo Ale is rumoured to be a rebadged Sankt Gallen Amber Ale.

From left to right: Fathers Day limited edition (white label), Brown Porter, Kokutou Sweet Stout, Amber Ale, Fathers Day limited edition (black label).

Starting from the left, the Fathers Day limited edition (white label) was awful – it had a Duvel type yeasty taste which I’m sure shouldn’t be there. Either there is something seriously funky with the yeast going on here or the beer is oxidised. I’ve kept all the beers in the fridge since buying them, so they’ve been stored in perfect condition.

The Brown Porter and Kokutou Sweet Stout were less offensive but I still wouldn’t buy them again.

The Amber Ale was not bad. Definitely different from the Tokyo Ale I tried at Fuji Rock – whether that’s a difference between bottle and kegged beers or a recipe difference, it’s hard to tell though. The Amber Ale was definitely heavier, less crispy, more malty bitter. Update: September 2009 – I’ve since tasted Tokyo Ale in bottles at Kimono Wine Bar and it tastes identical as far as I can tell to Sankt Gallen Amber Ale in bottles.

The star of the five was the Fathers Day limited edition (black label) – a dark stout like beer, it had a lovely complex vanilla like flavour (but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t actually vanilla in it). I could drink a few of those.

So one beer out of five that was excellent, one that was good, two that I wouldn’t give the time of day to, and one that I’d expect to be used as a weapon of torture. If you include my favourite Yokohama XPA that’s 3 good/excellent beers and three not to my taste – I think most breweries would have a similar ratio.

I’m really confused about that white label beer – was it really supposed to taste like that? I wish I had a second bottle that I could keep and take with me on a brewery trip sometime.

Axis of Evil IPA update

I pitched the yeast on Monday – a little high at around 22 degrees, but much better than the 30s I was pitching at before. The high temperatures in Tokyo seem to be challenging the fermentation chamber though, temperature wandering between 19 and 21 rather than a constant 19 degrees. Poor fridge can’t seem to handle the heat. We’ve also had two more earthquakes this week – which makes three big earthquakes since starting this beer.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the second I finished Axis of Evil IPA and set off the whirlpool, Japan was hit by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The Japan Meteorological Agency says a magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Tokyo and surrounding areas on Sunday.

The quake swayed houses and rattled furniture in the city at 7:56 p.m. No damage was immediately reported by national television networks.

The epicenter of the quake was a pot of boiling wort in central Tokyo which was hopped to dangerous levels, the Meteorological Agency said. Whirlpooling 100+ kick ass IBUs was bound to cause some disruption but there was no danger to any Superdry consumers may have had in their fridges, the agency said.

In love hotels throughout Tokyo screams of “Sugoi” filled the air as many young ladies thought they really did feel the earth move for the first time.

At my place, the quake was so violent that the wort was almost spilling over the top of the pot. Scary stuff – the thought of losing valuable wort.

As a first time to use all the equipment, things didn’t go all that bad. I ended up with 21L of 1.067 wort, and I should end up with a nice tasty beer. But there were a couple of surprises along the way.

Crushed grain

Crushed grain

Firstly, crushing the grain – or more specifically, how fine to crush it. The mill came to me set by the previous owner at their ideal setting, but to me it seemed like it was coming out too powdery. I adjusted to so that the crush was still good but not too powdery, but whether that was a mistake or not – I don’t know. What is the ideal setting? This was something I never really considered before.

Keeping in the heat

Keeping in the heat

Secondly, temperature control. Difficult enough to estimate when you’re trying to work out how much heat would be lost to the grain and the tank – made impossible by another Ikea temperature gauge giving erratic readings and then going tits up.

During mashing, I had to add boiling water to the mash-tun to get the temperature up to 65 degrees – no big deal except that the extra water combined with less water being absorbed by the grain than I expected led to me extracting 16L of first wort rather than 9L.

But sparge water… Once I got it into the HLT the temperature probe reported it as 10 degrees less than the erratic Ikea thermometer. I tried adding boiling water but it made little difference (I could only heat 1L at a time in the kettle). Once I added it to the grain, I was 13 degrees less than I wanted to be. Again, I tried adding boiling water but after 3L, I was still 5 degrees away from where I wanted to be.

End result I collected almost 30L of wort in total – 5L more than I intended. And the sparging hadn’t been done at the ideal temperature. I estimated 30L would give me approx 25L, resulting in a lower than planned starting gravity. To counteract this, at the end of the boil I had to add 500g of dry malt extract or be faced with a pale ale which probably wouldn’t have the alcohol to balance the hops.

But this leads me to my third surprise – how much wort I actually collected.

Collecting the wort

Collecting the wort

Interesting lens distortion, right? That’s courtesy of my new 7-14mm wide angle lens (14-28mm equivalent in 35mm terms). I need to play with it more to learn how to minimise the distortion, but it should be handy for bar shoots.

I digress.

From the approx 30L, I only collected 21L of wort. I was expecting more – so where did it all go? I’m not actually sure but here’s my best guess.

Working back from the final gravity of 1.067, I should have collected 23L if my efficiency was 70%. That means I lost approx 7L to steam while boiling, and 2L before getting into the fermenter. That’s probably about right – half a litre discarded at the beginning to flush the sanitiser from the pipes, and 1.5L lost to the hops and trub. The 130g of whole leaf hops and trub was 2 inch thick after draining out the wort – there was a lot of water in there.

But if that’s right – and I can’t imaging there was more than 2L lost – that means I lost 7% to the boil, over 20% in 60 minutes. Yes, I had a rather vigorous boil as you can see: 

Rolling boil

Rolling boil

But even so, 20% seems like a lot. Usually you would expect 10-15% – and from 24L I usually lose about 3L. So either I did lose that much to the boil or I lost more in the hops but got less than 70% efficiency. Difficult to imagine more than 1.5L lost to the hops though.

It all turned out well in the end, even though I did have to add DME – but it leaves me with a number of things I need to fine tune before the next time I use this equipment.

Plate chiller

Plate chiller



The plate chiller and pump got the temperature down to the early 30’s – not a bad effort given my tap water is also in the early 30s. This little steel scrubby (105yen for a pack of 8) stopped any of the of the whole leaf hops getting into the plate chiller:

Hop protection

Hop protection

All in the brew took 8 hours from crushing the grain to finishing cleaning up – but hopefully I can get that down to around 5-6 hours in the future once I’m used to the equipment.

I’ve yet to pitch the yeast – rather than pitch in the early 30s, I’ve put the bucket in the fermentation chamber to cool to pitching temperature. I’ve been guilty of pitching too high before – hopefully this extra patience will pay off with absense of off flavours from the yeast.

Final recipe details:

Axis of Evil IPA – as made

Boil volume: 30L
Wort collected: 21L (+2L lost to hops and cooling equipment)

Actual OG: 1.067
Predicted IBU: 134IBU + FWH

5kg Maris Otter 2-Row
0.5kg Vienna
0.5kg Carahell
0.3kg C60
500g Extra-light DME (added just before flameout)

60m + FWH: 70g Chinook (13%AA)
20m: 20g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 15g Simcoe (12.9%AA)
15m: Irish moss
10m: 20g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 15g Simcoe (12.9%AA)
Dry hop: 30g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 22.5g Simcoe (12.9%AA)

a.k.a. Planning Evil – part 2 (be sure you’ve read part 1!)

A rare moment in history: Ahmadinejad and Bush sing a hop duet

A rare moment in history: Ahmadinejad and Bush sing a hop duet

The weekend is almost here so it’s time to finalise the plan for Sunday. This post is mainly to give me a plan to follow on Sunday, but it’s also a good indicator of the work that’s involved in a typical brewday.

The equipment I’ll be using for making Axis of Evil IPA is:

  • Grain mill
  • Aluminum kettle (pot) with weldless kit (tap)
  • HLT (insulated tank for hot water, with tap)
  • Mash tun (insulated tank for mashing – steeping – the grain, with tap)
  • Plate chiller for cooling the boiled wort
  • Pump for making the beer flow through the plate chiller
  • Stove for heating and boiling
  • Fermentation bucket
  • Lots of tubing
  • Stainless steel aeration stone and pump

This is how I’ll be doing it – remember I’m using all the equipment here for the first time.

Part 1: Mashing

  1. First I’ll try using the plate chiller with the pump since I’ve not used the place chiller yet. When it comes to use these for real, I’ll be pumping boiling water from the pot into the chiller which could be dangerous if I screw something up. So first I’ll try it with cold water and make sure there are no surprises, then I’ll try it with some boiling water to get an idea of the chilling power and whether the plate chiller heats up or not. Finally, I’ll run some no rinse sanitiser through the pump and chiller. Then I’ll disconnect everything.
  2. Next I’ll rinse the HLT, mash tun, and a basin. I’ll dry the basin with kitchen towel because I’ll be putting grain into it.
  3. Once that’s done, I’ll start to heat water in the pot. For the first stage I’ll need the water to be 65 degrees after I add the grain, and I’ll need 19.73L – so I’ll heat up this amount of water to 73 degrees (allowing 8 degrees because I’ll lose heat when I transfer to the mash tun and again when I add the grain).
  4. While the water is heating, I’ll pour a litre of boiling water into the mush tun, swirl it around a little and then put on the lid. This will start to heat the mash tun and reduce the amount of heat I lose when I pour in the 73 degrees water.
  5. Also while the water is heating, I’ll weigh the grain and grind it into the basin. My grain mill is manual and it’s my first time to do this  – I have no idea how much it’ll whack me to grind 6+kg of grain. I’ll also weigh out the hops at this point and set them aside with the Irish Moss with labels for timings.
  6. Once the water is at 73 degrees, I’ll empty the boiled water from the mash tun, connect a hose to the tap on the pot (I may need to cool the tap slightly with ice if it’s too hot), put the mash tun onto the floor, and transfer the water to the mash tun by gravity, then disconnect the hose again. I’ll then put the temperature probe into the mash tun, put on the lid, and wait until the temperature readout stabilises.
  7. I’ll then add the grain, stir, and check the temperature again. It should be 65 degrees. If it is much less I’ll add some cold water; much more and I’ll add some hot water.
  8. Once the temperature is stable at 65 degrees, I’ll lift the mash tun onto the counter, cover it with a blanket and start a timer – I’ll be mashing for an hour. Over the hour, I’ll stir approx every 15 minutes. I’ll also monitor the temperature – if it falls by more than 3 degrees, I’ll add more hot water. Hopefully the mash tun is good quality and it wont.
  9. While mashing is going on, I’ll heat up the second batch of water in the pot. I calculated I need 16L for a target temperature of 76 degrees. To allow for a fall in temperature when I transfer to the HLT I’ll aim for 80, and to allow for needing extra water I’ll heat 20L. While I’m heating the water, I’ll pour some boiling water into the HLT, swirl it around, and put on the lid – this will heat up the HLT.
  10. Once the water is at 80 degrees, I’ll empty the boiled water from the HLT, connect a hose to the tap on the pot (I may need to cool the tap slightly with ice if it’s too hot), put the HLT onto the floor, and transfer the water to the HLT by gravity, then disconnect the hose again. I’ll then put a lid on the HLT and cover it with a blanket to keep the heat. The HLT has a temperature probe so I can monitor the temperature easily.
  11. After the hour of mashing is complete, I’ll recirculate the wort in the mash tun until it becomes clear – this is done by taking a litre of water at a time out the tap and pouring it back into the mash tun at the top, repeating until the wort runs out clear.
    Note: I’ve decided not to do a mashout – since I’m doing batch sparging, I don’t think it’s necessary.
  12. Once the wort runs clear, I’ll do an iodine test. If there is still unconverted starch, the iodine will be dark blue or black – if that happens, I’ll mash for a bit longer. It’s unlikely to happen though.
  13. Once the test is successful, I’ll put a metal scrubber inside the tap of the pot – this will prevent any hop matter getting into the plate chiller later (very important!).
  14. After the hop filter is in place, I’ll put the bittering hops into the pot (First Wort Hopping) and then transfer the wort to the pot a litre at a time – I’m doing it this way rather than using a hose so that I can work out how much wort I get out. I should get 9L.
  15. Now I need to work out how much water to use for stage two – it should be 16L but if I get less/more than 9L then I’ll need to adjust.
  16. After the wort has all been transferred, I’ll move the mash tun to the floor and the HLT to the counter. I’ll then connect the hose between the HLT tap and the mash tun lid and transfer the correct amount of water minus 2L (16L +/- adjustment) to the mash tun. I’ll then stir, check the temperature and add the remaining 2L in the form of HLT water, hot water, and/or cold water as appropriate to get 76 degrees.
  17. Once the mash tun is full again, I’ll move the HLT out the way, move the mashtun to the counter, put on the lid, cover, and start a timer. I’ll leave this for about 20 minutes.
  18. After 20 minutes, I’ll recirculate until clear and then transfer to the pot a litre at a time. Hopefully I’ll get exactly 25L, but if it’s less or more I’ll need to live with it and learn.
  19. Mashing is now complete. I’ll stick a temperature probe into the pot with an alarm at 98 degrees, and start to heat. While I’m waiting for the boil – probably a good 30 minutes – it’s time to clean up.

Part 2: Boiling

Not much to say here – 60 minute boil, adding the hops and Irish Moss at the right times. While the boil is going on, I’ll sanitise the plate chiller, fermentation bucket, a thermometer, and any hoses which have not yet been sanitised but which will touch the wort.

Part 3: Chilling

  1. After the 60 minute boil is complete, I’ll cut the heat and “whirlpool” – using the stirrer to create a whirlpool effect.
  2. I’ll leave the wort sitting for about 15 minutes. During this time, I’ll chill the tap on the pot with ice then connect the pot to the pump, the pump to the plate chiller, and a hose from the plate chiller out to the fermentation bucket via another tap to regulate flow. I’ll also connect the cold water tap to the plate chiller and a hose from the water out of the plate chiller. If I’m ambitious, I’ll try to collect this water to use in the washing machine later (it’s just warm clean water) – if I’m not, it’ll go down the sink.
  3. After the 15 minutes has elapsed, I’ll open the tap from the pot, switch on the pump, and regulate the flow from the plate chiller so that I get a reasonable temperature out. With Tokyo water, I’ll be lucky to get 25 degrees – more likely to get 30.
  4. Once all the wort has been transferred I’ll turn off the pump, cover the wort, fill the airlock with sanitiser, and then stick the bucket in the fermentation chamber. I’ll leave it in there until it hits yeast pitching temperature, which might take a few hours.
  5. Time to clear everything up – I’ll need to run boiling water through the pump and plate chiller, probably using the HLT as a source, and clean up the pot and other equipment.

Time elapsed so far will be somewhere in the range of 5-6 hours I expect – maybe more since it’s the first time to do all this process together.

Part 4: Yeast

  1. Once the temperature of the wort is at 19 degrees (hopefully before midnight, but I might need to leave it overnight), I’ll rehydrate some yeast in boiled and cooled water.
  2. As the yeast is rehydrating, I’ll take a hydrometer reading to determine the initial gravity of the beer. I’ll then add some wort to the rehydrating yeast.
  3. Next I’ll sanitise the aeration stone. Once that’s done I’ll put the stone into the wort, switch on the aeration pump, and spend the next 30 or so minutes bubbling the wort to ensure there’s enough oxygen there for a healthy fermentation.
  4. After 30 minutes, I’ll add the yeast (assuming it reacted to the test wort, meaning it’s healthy) and do some extra aeration – splashing with a sanitised ladle.
  5. Once that’s done, I’ll put back on the lid of the fermentation bucket and stick the bucket in the chamber.
  6. Final step: clean up the aeration gear.

That’s it done. Now it’s just a case of waiting for the first bubbles to appear over the next 24 hours, and for a week of hopefully healthy genki fermentation! The beer will then be dryhopped for 5-6 days before being kegged, force carbed, and consumed with a very big smile!

I’m exhausted writing this – but I also feel better to have everything planned out. Making beer was so much easier when I just used extract, steeping grain, hops, and a sink of cold water to chill!

Next Page »