Sunday, August 29, 2010

One year later

Wow, time flies. A brewing recap of the past 367 days (believe me, the counterflow chiller was put to good use):
  • Cider and pale ale for a Halloween party
  • Stout and "estate" rye pale ale for New Year's Eve/Housewarming party
  • A mild and wit for some friends' wedding in May
  • Switched to Beersmith for brewing software (off an inherited Access database)
  • A wit for the National Homebrewers Conference in June
  • Bought two more kegs and a Johnson Controls digital temp controller
  • Wrote an article on hop harvesting. I'm looking for feedback
  • A cider, a rye pale ale, a kolsch, and a Southern England brown ale for a curling function (yes, I curl and you should too!)
  • The 2010 Brauerei Hop Harvest. It was a banner year for Cascade hops in Rochester.
Over the next few weeks I plan on expanding some of those points into their own posts. What's coming up?
  • I'm headed to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO this September. As my first real vacation all year I'm taking a few extra days to tour breweries around Ft. Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Golden.
  • My local homebrew club's Iron Brewer competition (random mystery ingredient)
  • Halloween party
I plan on keeping your better informed over the next few weeks. Stayed tuned!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Waaaaay back, over the Fourth of July to be exact, Chris and I built ourselves a counterflow wort chiller.

Basically, we followed the instructions on the ever-so-useful RonBlog. A few changes:
  • 50' of copper tubing and garden hose (for ultimate chilling!) Copper tubing was on sale at Lowes so...why not?
  • Extra pairs of hose clamps on the garden hose input/output interfaces. I found that one set of clamps still allowed leaks, no matter how tight or loose the clamps were. Adding the second set stops all leaks.
  • 7/16" ID vinyl hose for the copper/wort interfaces. These creates a tight seal which prevents air from entering the hose.
What's a story without pictures?

The tee fittings (without inner copper tubing). The inner tubing is soldered to the caps to create a tight seal.

Shiny tubing!

Not so shiny tubing!

Here you can see the tee in place with the inner copper tubing soldered in place. It took a lot less work to place the tubing in the garden hose than thought. It did get difficult toward the end but it was still manageable.

Using a bucket, we wound the chiller into a coil, adding zipties as we went.

The mostly finished chiller. All that's left is adding the final tee and more zipties.

Finally, after almost two months of waiting and testing, I finally took the chiller for a test drive this past weekend. Here you can see it chilling an Irish red ale:

The chiller was so efficient that the chill water was turned almost completely off. Even with the chill water so slow, the output "waste" water was still lukewarm. The wort output? Cold. Colder than room temperature.

I made a hefeweizen the next day (sorry, no pictures). Now that was incredible. Hot, clear, yellow wort went in, cold, cloudy, whitish wort came out. I assume cloudiness was cold break and protein haze. Pretty awesome.

I plan on buying/building an inline thermometer to determine what the output temp is.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Sorry, no beer in this post but it does involve a lot of strawberries...about 3 qts to be exact.

What to do with 3 qts of strawberries? Well, make liqueur, and a nojito called Strawberry Smash.

What's a nojito you may ask? Well mojito's popularity of the past few years has created a bit of a backlash so a nojito is anything that's not a mojito but is just as refreshing.

Some pictures of the process:

My first strawberries of the season. It was very difficult to keep from eating the strawberries as I cleaned and hulled them.

The smashed together basil, rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice and sugar. I went the extra mile and attempted to bruise/break apart the rhubarb pieces. I don't know if it was necessary but it was a great stress reliever.

These ingredients needed to chill out in the fridge (ha!) for three hours while the sugar drew out the juices from the strawberries and rhubarb and so the basil could infuse said juices.

After straining out the pulp (and adding a little vodka as a preservative) I gathered just about a pint of juice.

The final suspects.
  • 4 oz of the strawberry-rhubarb-basil infusion
  • 2 oz of Lillet
  • 1 oz of gin
  • juice from a quarter lemon
Add all ingredients and shake over ice. Note: This makes 3-4 cocktails.

Garnish with a bit of basil.

It's a bit of work but I highly recommend this drink. The basil plays background to the rhubarb and strawberry. The Lillet and gin complement the fruit flavors by adding a floral component.

Very refreshing. In fact, I think I'll have one now...

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Year's Brewing (1)

New Year's was to be a Double Feature. The double feature wasn't meant to be as the Cream Ale wasn't yet finished. I had a low OG and a sloooooow primary. As a result the cream ale was all mine.

Cream ale is an interesting beast. BJCP gets it right when they call the cream ale "(a)n ale version of the American lager style." Instead of adding maize I opted for cane sugar as my adjunct. I hoped the simple sugars in sugar would yield a speedy fermentation but, in my experience, that was not the case here: Primary fermentation never seemed to end.

I did sample the brew between primary and secondary and between secondary and keg... if ever a beer could taste like likker this was it! Tasted like straight rocket fuel. I let the beer cold condition in the keg for a month before I pulled a second taste. Thankfully the cold aging helped immensely.

Appearance -- Crystal clear and straw yellow (the picture below is off due to the camera's flash). Thin white head that dissipates quickly. The reduced head may be caused by low CO2 head pressure in the keg as I've turned off the CO2 to that keg while I force carbonate a hefeweizen.

Smell -- What smell there is reminds me of field (dent) corn and apple cider. The cider comes from the massive amount of white cane sugar I added to the boil. Big surprise: no hop aroma.

Taste -- Lots of mouthfeel, which is unusual for this style of beer (could be due to low carbonation). Very slippery (fusels?). Lots of apparent sweetness and some residual, well-balanced, bitterness from the Cluster. Some fruity, cidery flavors and a hint of alcohol heat.

Drinkability -- Very drinkable and incredibly easy to have one too many. I'm sure there are some fusel oils as the next day can be quite rough after only two glasses.

Batch Name: Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper Cream Ale

Date Brewed: 20-Dec-08

Original Gravity: 1.057

Final Gravity: 1.005

Alcohol: 7.0%

Fermentables: Quantity: UOM: Desc:

7 lbs. 2-Row Malted Barley - Pale (Rahr, USA)

4 lbs. Granulated Sugar

0.75 lbs. Honey Malt

0.25 lbs. Biscuit Malt

Yeast / Other: Quantity: UOM: Desc:

1 Pkg. Wyeast 1056 American Ale

1 tsp. Irish Moss

0.75 tsp. Gypsum - Calcium sulfate

0.25 tsp. Salt - NaCL


Hop Variety: Alpha Acid %: Quantity: Min. Boil: HBU Total HBU: 31.86

Cluster 7.7% 1 oz. 60 31.862

Brewing Notes: Dec 20, 2008

I tried to perform a step infustion mash which included protein and saccharification rests along with a

mashout. I also altered the distilled water chemistry by adding gypsum and noniodized salt.

Protein - 20 minutes - @123F - Inufused @133 - 9.20 qts H2O (Ratio 1.15)

Saccharification - 30 min - 155F - Infused @Boiling - 5.87 qts H20 (1.88)

Mashout - 10min - 170 - Infused @Boiling - 7.09 qts H20 (2.77)

***There was no sparge!***

Collected appx 4.5 gal of wort @ what I thought was 1.024. Started boil added hops at 60 minutes. After 15

minutes I stopped the boil and added 4 lbs of granulated sugar before restarting boil. Added Irish moss at 15


Left overnight to cool in garage.

December 21, 2008


Transferred wort to primary. Appx 3.5 gallons of wort. Took gravity measurement: 1.090!11!!! Added water

to reach 1.057

Airated and added Wyeast 1056.

January 10, 2009
Transferred to secondary.

January 17, 2009
Kegged at 25 PSI

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Years Brewing (2)

Over Thanksgiving weekend I volunteered to provide two kegs of beer for a New Years party. I originally set upon making two different recipes: something light and drinkable, like a cream ale, and something maltier, like a brown ale. Fate, it seems, decided otherwise.

During my last visit to the Twin Cities some friends and I stopped at Northern Brewer to pick up recipe supplies. Unfortunately I forgot both recipes at my friend's apartment. Forced to improvise I set upon using two of NB's all-grain recipe kits, one for cream ale, and by complete happenstance, one for "The Innkeeper."

Why "The Innkeeper?" Two reasons. First, it uses a Wyeast Private Very Special Strain (VSS) called West Yorkshire Ale (1469). From Wyeast:

This strain produces ales with a full chewy malt flavor and character, but finishes dry, producing famously balanced beers. Expect moderate nutty and stone-fruit esters. Best used for the production of cask-conditioned bitters, ESB and mild ales. Reliably flocculent, producing bright beer without filtration.

Attenuation 67-71%
Alc. Tolerance 9%
Flocculation high
Temperature Range 64-72°F (18-22°C)

Second, as an ale (and an English ale at that), this beer has a quick turn around from brewing to serving. In fact, I brewed this beer December 20, 2008, kegged it Dec. 28, and served it New Year's Eve.

This beer received rave reviews from everyone at the New Year's party. One reported comment was: "Claussen brews way better beer than I do." It's all subjective but it was nice to hear it.
Quantity SKU UOM
0.25 Crystal Malt - 150°L (Briess) lbs.
6 Golden Promise lbs.
1 Granulated Sugar lbs.
1 Salt - NaCL tsp.
3 Gypsum - Calcium sulfate tsp.
1 Wyeast 1469 - West Yorkshire Ale (VSS) Pkg.
1 Irish Moss tsp.

Quantity SKU UOM BoilTime AlphaAcid HBU
1 Fuggles oz. 65 0.046 19.034
1 Goldings oz. 50 0.054 22.345
1 Styrian Goldings oz. 5 0.048 5.149

Altered mash water to match that of Burton-upon-Trent
Single infusion mash.
Heated 2.11 gallons H20 to 164°F, poured water into tun, added grain. Bed stabilized at 153°F (ideal temp). Ratio was 1.35 qts/lb. Let mash for 60 minutes.

In meantime heated 2.875 gal water to 178°F.

Vorlauf and collected first runnings. Added sparge water, stired bed, and let rest for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, vorlauf and collect second runnings. Total collected: 4.5 gallons. Topped up to 5 gal. Brought to a boil and added sugar and hops at prescribed times.

Left cool overnight.

Transferred to primary. Wort volume appx 3.5 gallons.

Kegged at 25 PSI

Served at 5's a hit!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brewing break

Sorry for the dry spell. Between these posts I've gone on vacation (thrice), started a new hobby (photography), and tried to prepare for the upcoming holidays.

I say holidays because I consider New Year's a set of holidays, too. I get the days off so why not call them holidays?

As such I've volunteered to brew two Cornelius kegs (five gallons each) of beer for our New Year's party. These brews will be unique in that I have but two "free" weekends between now and Dec. 31. I'm planning to brew up a storm (har-har) December 19-21 to kick-off primary fermentations. Why a whole weekend for two beers? I don't have a wort chiller! I depend on the ambient temperature of my garage to cool wort to the proper yeast pitching temperature.

Since the two brews (recipes forthcoming) are ales I expect primary fermentation to complete within a week. At this point I have three options:
  1. Place primary fermenters into garage for a few days before racking to kegs
  2. Rack directly to kegs and carbonate
  3. Rack each into secondary for two days in the garage.
#1 will force any remaining yeast to flocculate and drop out of the beer before kegging. Unfortunately the beer will remain on the trub (flocculated yeast, coagulated proteins, and hop residue) for a few days which may alter the beer's flavor profile.

#2 is quick and easy but I'll need to discard the few pulls from each keg to get rid of the flocculated yeast.

#3 removes the beer from the trub and ensures the "cleanest" possible finished beer.

Monday, September 1, 2008

More like "Brewing Day"...

...than "Labor Day."

Last Wednesday I declared this weekend my brewing weekend. I had lots of brewing projects on the schedule that needed to be: a) started, b) worked on, and, c) finished.

Let's begin.

New England-style Cider
Every year, about this time, I make a hard cider. In my years of brewing I've made two "regular" ciders, a raspberry (lactose sweetened) cider, and a New England-style cider (NE cider). A NE cider requires the addition of sugar and, sometimes, raisins or other dried fruit to the ferment. Last year's NE cider (I'll get to it in a moment) turned out successfully so I thought I'd try a variation on the same recipe.

New England Cider (II)

SG 1.080
5 gallons
  • 12 oz. raisins
  • 4 lbs. dark brown sugar
  • 5 gal. Cider (I use Indian Hills Cider from Cub Foods. No preservatives)
  • 1 drop olive oil
  • Wyeast 1098 - British Ale yeast
9/1/2008: Pour all ingredients into primary fermentor. Affix airlock.

Flanders Red
I love sour beers. Rodenbach Grand Cru is one of my favorite beers. This is my second intentionally sour beer. The recipe is from the Jan-Feb 2007 issue of Brew Your Own. I may split this batch and add fruit to half and/or blend it with an almost year old red currently brewing.

Flanders Red

5 gallons

  • 5 lbs. 5 oz. Vienna malt
  • 2 lbs. 8 oz. Pils malt
  • 15 oz. aromatic malt
  • 15 oz. CaraVienne malt
  • 2lbs. 2 oz. raw wheat
  • 5 oz. special B
  • 1 oz Hersburcker hops (60 minutes)
  • Wyeast 3763 - Rosalaire blend
9/1/2008: 4.33 gallons @ 170F strike water. 162F final mash temp. Mash for 90 minutes. Begin vorlauf and collect all wort (I collected 2.9 gal). Added 4.33 gallons of 178F sparge water for 10 minutes. Vorlauf and collect all wort (I collected 4.1 gallons). Total of 7 gallons collected.

Bring to boil. After an hour add hops. After second hour turn off heat. Should have five gallons of wort. Chill and rack to primary. Add Rosalaire blend.

Wild grape wine

Wild grapes are in season in SE MN. I went to the local dog park and picked 9.5 lbs. of wild grapes Friday night and Saturday morning. After cleaning and freezing the grapes I placed them in a nylon bag in a plastic bucket to thaw. Freezing breaks the grape cell walls causing extra juice extraction. Be forewarned: wear gloves when juicing wild grapes. I started to juice bare-handed but stopped because my hands started to itch. I'm waiting until tomorrow after work before I continue juicing. Recipe to come when done.

Worked on
Rhubarb Wine
I made this wine back in July from rhubarb picked and frozen by my parents. I racked the wine to secondary. It definitely needs more time to kill the "rocket fuel" taste.

New England Cider (I)
was a fortunate accident. I realized too late that I bought phosphated (yeast-inhibited) cider. Phosphates prevent yeast from reproducing. When I discovered my mistake I had already invested three days into the ferment. I decided to forget about the bucket and let whatever happened happen. That was October 2007.

I re-discovered the cider in March 2008 and found it had indeed fermented. SG was 1.071 and the reading then was 1.024. I transferred the cider to secondary and let it sit until July when I added a second packet of yeast to help dry-out the cider. The added yeast didn't help; I kegged this batch on Aug. 30 with a FG of 1.022. Had I tried to bottle I would have had still cider.

New England Cider (I)
SG 1.071
FG 1.022
Alcohol: 6.6%
5 gallons

  • 8 oz. raisins (organic)
  • 8 oz. dried cranberries (sweetened)
  • 2 lbs. dark brown sugar
  • 5 gal. Cider (I use Indian Hills Cider from Cub Foods. No preservatives)
  • Wyeast 1187 - Ringwood Ale
10/7/2007: Steeped the raisins and cranberries in .5 gal of cider (medium heat) before adding to primary with 2lbs dark brown sugar. Accidently used phosphated cider. oops

3/11/2008: transferred to secondary 1.024

7/2008: Yum! Need to keg or bottle for fall! Added second pack of 1187 to dry out cider.

8/30/2008: Kegged it @ 25 PSI. FG 1.022. In a word: Delicious.

Raspberry Mead (Melomel)
Raspberry Melomel
SG 1.100
FG 1.013
Alcohol: 11.6%
1 gallon

  • 3 lbs. honey
  • 3 pints rasberries
  • 1 tsp. Go-Ferm
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient
  • Wyeast 4184 - Sweet Mead
9/4/2007: Added all ingredients but raspberries to one gallon container. Very vigorous ferment.

11/4/2007: Racked and added frozen and thawed raspberries. Freezing and thawing aids juice extraction. Beautiful red color.

3/2/2008: transferred to tertiary.

7/19/2008: transferred again.

9/1/2008: bottled seven beer bottles. Let aging begin. Tastes "boozy."