There’s a closet in my basement that hovers near 50 degrees in the winter. So before spring arrives, I wanted to take advantage of my natural “temperature control” and brew a lager. I don’t brew many lagers, but the provocative Brulosophy experiments on lager yeast fermentation temperature gave me peace of mind that if a warm spell comes through and the room gets a little warmer, it’ll be fine.
This was a convenience recipe in other regards. I used dry yeast to avoid needing a massive starter and I used up half a bag of leftover pils malt. And I ran off 5 gallons of wort before adding flame-out hops, to ferment with an ale yeast and use to top up the 53 gallon barrel at my house that is mostly full of funky dark saison. It’s nice to get rid of the headspace in the barrel, and we wager no one will notice 10% of hoppy Belgian ale blended in.
This is one of my favorite parts of using a plate chiller: being able to split batches by running off and chilling part of the brew, then adding and boiling as needed for the remaining share.
I’ve made country wine with Concord grapes, and wine from a kit that cost $2/bottle but tasted like $8/bottle. But I’d rather drink beer than wine I can get for $8/bottle. So I thought I’d try a kit that costs $6/bottle and see if it makes wine I actually want to drink.
In late 2016 I purchased the Winexpert Eclipse Lodi Ranch 11 Cabernet Sauvignon kit. Not sure what year that makes the grapes. I’m not going to write much about ingredients or process since I followed the kit directions, unless otherwise noted.
2017-02-04: “Brewed” this with my 2 y/o son. Despite the helper, kept good sanitation. OG was around 1.093, though perhaps more sugars dissolved in from the grape skins.
Fermentation temperature bounced around from the minimum (72F) up to the mid-80s, as I crudely warmed it through a Michigan basement in winter.
I stirred the grape skin bag back down into the must, near-daily, for the first week.
2017-02-13 – 9 days: racked to a glass carboy. Gravity is about .992! Wine yeasts don’t play.
This is the 5th beer we’ve put in the 53 gallon Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve oak barrel that lives in my basement. We decided to brew a dark saison, and came up with a recipe very closely based on this one by Michael Tonsmeire, his 6th, though others in the barrel used different yeasts from what’s listed here.
A friend came into a 53 gallon Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 year whiskey barrel that now lives in my basement and houses homebrew. We’ve done a Russian Imperial Stout, a Scotch Ale, and an Oud Bruin. The fresh barrel contributed a massive oak character, but over 3 batches and 1.5 years, the oak faded. When the barrel naturally went sour during the Scotch Ale, we switched to intentionally soured beers and added 8 sachets of the Flemish Ale F4 blend from Blackman Yeast.
Next up is a sour stout, very low on hops (<10 IBUs), inspired by The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness. The low IBUs are friendlier to souring microbes and also avoid the clashing of bitterness and acidity.
The 2nd beer in the Knob Creek barrel collaboration.
I brewed two 5-gallon shares of this beer, in collaboration with a fellow barrel members. Others used different recipes. We brewed in summer 2015, then aged the beer in the barrel for about 6 months, pulling it January 2016. It went naturally sour in the barrel, making the sour aspect of this lambic-esque in that it spontaneously soured from organisms present in the surrounding environment.
I aged my ~4.5 gallons on 1.5lbs of wild black raspberries for another 4 months in a secondary carboy. It took a while to carb up, the result of have aged for over a year. I’ll add yeast at bottling for future barrel-aged sours. But carbed up eventually, and it’s good.
Summer 2016: this beer placed 2nd in the American Wild Ale category at the 2016 Michigan Beer Cup.
March 2017: funny that I originally worried about whether this would carbonate; it has continued to ferment in the bottle and now gushes upon opening if not very cold. Not coincidentally, it’s developing a more prominent Brett funk. If I had a 4th slot for this year’s Nat’l Homebrew Competition, I might enter it – which also means it’s not one of my top 3 beers right now. But it’s still quite nice.
I saw a preview of this bucket-based grain mill hopper in Zymurgy’s gadget edition, but when I read the details it wasn’t simple enough for me. So I made a simpler version of a plastic bucket extension for my hopper:
This hopper extends the low-volume hopper that came with my Schmidling Maltmill, allowing me to mill my entire grain bill in one go.
Time: ~1 hour
Malt mill with hopper that you want to extend
Plastic bucket. I got a used 3 gallon food-grade bucket from a local ice cream parlor (Kilwin’s).
Over the 4th of July, I smoked about 3 lbs of Pils malt on an old potbelly stove. It smoked with mesquite chips for a few hours in two batches, then was left to condition for ~7 weeks in an open paper grocery bag.
I first brewed a smoked porter with home-smoked malt in 2011. I used alder chips then, in an homage to Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Smoked Porter. It turned out well and the bottle I opened yesterday as I brewed the 2015 version has aged nicely. The biggest flaw is that the smoke flavor is too phenolic. I tried to avoid chlorinated water throughout the process but may not have succeeded.
My in-laws have an old potbelly stove sitting around. Some research indicates it was made around 1900. I smoked about 3 lbs of Pils malt on this stove on the 4th of July, and decided I’d see if it could crank out enough heat to brew a 5 gallon batch of beer.
The answer: almost.
It heated about 4.5 gallons of mash water fairly well, heating it 86.7 degrees in an hour. The slope leveled off a little as it reached strike temperature:
This performance of 390 degree-gallons per hour (when heating water starting at room temperature) is not too much worse than this same pot when I’m heating with a 1500W, 120V electric element – that setup yields about 480 degree-gallons per hour. Continue reading Homebrewing on a Potbelly Stove→