Saturday, February 28, 2009

On the road

First, an update, about last weekend's Brew Day: It was successful (perhaps predictably so), despite the weather. It went from merely cold, to cold and rainy, to sleet, to slushy snow, to cloudy, to breezy, to sunny and actually warm. I'm sure a couple of weather types were missed, but there's only so much time in a brew day.

The beer itself shows all signs of being good. There having been nothing darker than pilsner malt in it, it's going to be light in color. I turned the heat on the kettle before running off into it, so the heat caramelized the first bit of running as it came in. This should add a bit of color, as well as creating some melanoidins for mouthfeel. The Nugget hops had a better smell than I remember from the last time I used them; They'll add a (hopefully) good bittering, and a nice spiciness. The French Ale yeast seemed a bit slow to take off, but it was fermenting happily as of Tuesday.

In the meantime, I'm down in Georgia with my parents, helping out with a sick relative. I brought a pile of stuff to help with research into upgrading my Brew Rig. I've ordered a heating element for the heat-exchanger; I think I know what I'm going to use for the exchanger. The controller is going to be the difficult part; I've some ideas, though. This is going to be one of the slower equipment upgrades--the expenses for some of what I want to do could become somewhat prohibitive. But, I want to do this right, so--well, perfection takes time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Equipment upgrades

I'm brewing this weekend, on Sunday, and will be doing the initial run with a new sparge-arm. This one is much more elegant than the drilled copper hoop I had been using; I was inspired by a sparger I saw in the most recent Zymurgy. It's made of PVC, with a bolt and some washers providing the 'spray' aspect. I've extended it a bit so that the hose from the pump won't get any kinks, and I think it'll work like a champ. We'll see on Sunday, I suppose. (Photos to follow; I'll try to take some during the brew day.)

I'm also deep in the planning stages for conversion of my rig to a HERMS-style system. I've got the process flow mapped, and know what I need (in broad strokes) to make it work. I'm looking into various possibilities for automating the recirculating/heat-exchanging. I'm leaning towards something either based on the Arduino platform, or something that looks innovative (and, more important, simple) called "PICAXE". At this point, only time will tell. I am not, unfortunately, an electrical engineer, nor have I been a computer programmer for decades, so there's absolutely no telling how half-assed this will turn out. All the same, I'm optimistic.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SMaSH update

So, I've become more intrigued by the SMaSH concept of brewing. I'm now certain that that's how I'll do my next batch (a week and a half from now); I think I'll follow that up with a slight modification for the batch after that.

Rather than doing a basic Pils-style beer, I'll probably use an ale yeast, most likely one that will ferment at slightly cooler temperatures (the unseasonal weather we're having right now can't last). Also, to help add a bit of complexity, I think I'll play the Scottish Ale game and caramelize the first runnings a bit. That should darken things just a hair. (I'm debating using a Scottish yeast; I may go that way, or I may use an Alt yeast...)

Then in March, I'll repeat the technique as best I can, and use the same recipe, subbing a pound of the base malt for the pound of carawheat I picked up out of curiosity, not knowing what I'd do with it. I'll probably even pitch onto the yeast cake from the earlier batch. If I play my cards right, I should be able to do a nice side-by-side taste test; this would show me exactly what (if anything) the carawheat is good for. Heck, I could probably continue the experiment, subbing out the carawheat for other specialty grains (Munich, Victory, Crystal 80, Honey malt, etc.), and finally determine what each of those specifically does to a beer. I could even go all-out crazy, and decide which basic one I like best, then spend next year playing with different yeast strains for that beer. The year after, I could go with different hops. Hah! If I didn't get tired of the same beer month after month, I'd have some interesting data to play with later.

Maybe I'll do this, but after next month, hold it to every other brewing session...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

SMaSH brewing

So, I've been feeling the urge to do something rather basic for a brew. Something to highlight the complexity possible from a very simple recipe. A batch using just one grain, and just one hop, fermented as far as the yeast will take it. A quick search of the various brewing bulletin boards (such as my favorite, the Green Board) showed that I wasn't the first to think of such a thing. They call it "SMaSH" brewing--Single Malt and Single Hop. The predominant brew for this seems to be Scottish Ales, but there are others. At least one person did an all-Munich Malt brew (which would be yummy); there was one I recall that focused on Golden Promise malt. Hops seemed to be whatever was available and to the brewer's taste; yeast likewise.
In considering this for my next Brew Day (the 25th of this month), I'm looking at what I have on hand. While I've got some Saaz hops, I think I'll save those, and use some Nugget--it's stronger, so I won't have to use as much for a balanced bitterness. The malt is a no-brainer; I just picked up a sack of Pils malt. Where to go with the yeast is really the question. Pils malt with a single hop looks a lot like your standard Pilsner-style lager, but where's the fun in that, really? I mean, there's a whole world of yeast to explore. Any suggestions from you, my loyal reader(s)?

Recommended Books