Friday, July 6, 2018

Wheat beer, and Wheat in Beer

Wheat beers have a long history and wheat was quite possibly the original grain used to make the first grain-based alcohol beverage, but in reading the history of that matter, there seems to be quite some argument about what came first, so we won't get into that. In either case, while these days barley certainly is king when it comes to the base grain used to make beer, the addition of wheat can make for a very refreshing and palatable drink that can come in many forms. Hefeweizen is probably the most obvious, but there are also Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, American Wheat, Belgian Witbier, Berlinerweisse, Gose, Grätzer, and other styles where a little wheat is appropriate. In fact wheat can be added to almost any style to gain some extra body and head retention.

The June recipe was an American Wheat with Citra hops. This is a really easy beer to brew, and an easy beer to drink that can be enjoyed by almost all beer drinkers. The trick with many wheat beer styles is time. Many beers benefit from a few weeks of aging/conditioning before they are drank. However, the low alcohol and hazy nature of wheat beers lend themselves to drinking young. This is opinion of course, when any fermented beverage is “best” is entirely up to the drinker. But, drinking a wheat based beer fresh is a different experience than letting that same beer age. The nuanced flavor of the wheat shines through, with a soft “wheat flavor” reminiscent of wheat crackers and fresh baked whole wheat bread. Unfortunately this character tends to fade pretty quickly.

There are some tips when brewing your own wheat beer:
Use rice hulls. If your grain bill includes more than 20% huskless grain, such as wheat, rye, or flaked grain, then you need to add the husk back in. Rice hulls are a great way to do this. If you do brew-in-a-bag mashing, then I wouldn't worry about rice hulls until you get into the 80% range.

Use a blow-off tube. Wheat beers can ferment pretty aggressively, and if you have a 5 gallon batch in a 6.5 gallon fermenter, you will likely lose beer out the top. Using a blow-off tube can make this loss less violent.

Watch those fermentation temps. This is a good idea with any beer, but especially when using the weihenstephaner hefe weissbier strain of yeast, you can get a drastically different tasting beer with the temperature you ferment at. Warmer (69º+) can give you big banana flavors, while cooler temps (low 60ºs) can emphasize the clove phenolic flavors of the yeast.

We always hear people say, “I don't like wheat beers.”, but after talking with them, they have really only tried German Hefeweizen style beers, that probably are not very fresh. Wheat can do so much more. So, experiment with this versatile grain and maybe try something you haven't had from the liquor store. If you have been a wheat naysayer, you might just change your mind.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Using Fruit In Beer!

Should you add fruit to a beer? Well, fruit in beer isn't just a recent fad, in fact it is probably how most fermented grain beverages started. While there may be a lot of debate to what came first, wine or beer, from the research I have done, it seems like early feremnters put whatever items could ferment together into a fruit/grain mixture that would get them drunk. Fast forward several thousand years, and the German/Belgian/France area of Europe started adding fruit mixes to their (now well defined) beer in the early 1900. These were called Radlermass or just Radler, and then in England changed to Shandy. These were typically 50/50 blends of citrus juices mixed with a light beer style. These big fruity beers can stretch the definition of what most beer lovers call "beer", but they are a nice drink to have in the hot summer months.

You don't have to go to a 50/50 mix however. Both homebrewers and craft brewers alike, love to add subtle fruit flavors to their base beer styles, and when done correctly, can be pleasing to even the most staunch beer geek. So, how do you do it?

There are a couple things to consider when adding fruit to beer:
Simple is probably better. You don't want to muddy up the waters too much. While you can find complex mixtures that work well, having a simple beer style for the base will let the fruit flavor show up better and brighter in your beer. Also, too many fruits can leave people confused about what they are drinking. You might like Bananas, Strawberries, and Cantaloupe on a fruit plate, but those might not mix well in a beer.

Pasteurize your fruit. Picking up apples from your backyard, crushing them and throwing them in your fermenter might feel like a throwback to simpler times and more "natural", but there is wild yeast, mold, and bacteria all over the fruit even when washed and throwing them into a sugary environment could create off flavors, or spoil your beer. Mash up your fruit and heat it to 160 degrees for 10 minutes to kill the unwanted microbes. Don't boil it though, this can kill some of the fruit flavor and coagulate proteins that can leave your beer hazy. Using a pre-packaged puree can let you skip the pasteurizing process, since it has already been done for you.

You can put fruit in your beer at any time during the process. The mash, the boil, the primary fermentation, or secondary. As a rule-of-thumb however, the later on in the brewing process any flavoring is added, the brighter that flavor will be during consumption, so there are some things to consider. If you want to simultaneously make your beer and pasteurize your fruit, you can add your fruit to the end of your boil (flameout, while cooling). If you don't typically do secondary, you can add pasteurized fruit to the end of your primary (it will ferment again for a bit and push out the oxygen that was introduced when adding the fruit). If you want to add it to secondary, you can add the pasteurized fruit to a sanitized bag and add it there too. The bag will help with clarity before you bottle or keg.

How much fruit to add is a popular question, however this is very subjective. What is a lot to one person may be too subtle for another. I would say that 2-5lb of pureed fruit is most common in a 5 gallon batch of beer, but remember, that the base style of beer matters too. While 2lbs of raspberries might be almost too much for cream ale, it may barely register as a fruit beer in an imperial stout. See the AHA chart for a good jumping off point.

Extract vs. actual fruit? Chances are, if you have had a commercially made fruit beer, there was no actual chunks of fruit used in the process. Most of the time a "natural" fruit extract is used. These can be quite good, and leads to a brightness or fruitiness that you might not be able to achieve with real fruit. Unlike actual fruit which contain high amounts of sugar, Extracts don't ferment, so there is an advantage to adding them right before you bottle or keg, so you can get the flavor level you want in real time. In my opinion there is a flavor base, or a backbone, that brewers get when using real fruit, that just can't be achieved with extract only. Conversely there is a brightness that just can't be achieved when using only fruit. Some of the best beers I have tried used a secret ratio of both... the secret is... it's up to you.

So, go out and try different fruits in different beers and do what sounds good to you!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Make this beer a lager... if you want.

We always like to encourage people to try their hand at lagering. Lagers are crisp and clean, and typically really easy to drink, and they don't have to be light in color and flavor, but if you are new to brewing you might have some questions about lagers. Cold fermentation temps is the key difference between ales and lagers, but there is more to know about it if you want to start lagering your beers. Here is a quick breakdown of cold fermentation using most lager strains of yeast. 
Lagers typically have a reduced ester profile with discernible malt character. It is very important to recognize that pitch rate is directly related to the amount and intensity of ester production. Increasing the quantity of yeast pitched is the most effective method of reducing the ester profile in the finished beer. You will need to double the yeast you would typically need in an ale fermentation.

Fermentation should take 2-4 weeks at 52 °F. The best temperature will depend of the yeast strain used and what you want to get out of the flavor profile. After fermentation you will want to raise your temperature as close to 62ْF as possible. This is called a diactyl rest. The increase in temperature will both assure fermentation is complete, drive of any remaining CO2 that might cause “of favors”
and clarity issues, and finally, it will allow the yeast to absorb the diacetyl produced by fermentation. 
A secondary fermentation at a temperature below the primary fermentation allows for a slow reduction of any remaining fermentable sugars. This secondary fermentation can take from one to three weeks at temperatures starting between 39-45 °F and slowly falling to as low as 33 °F. The length of the secondary depends on the amount of fermentable sugars remaining.
Lager roughly means “store” in German. It is a time when harsh favors from fermentation are mellowed. Yeast re-absorb some of the ester compounds from fermentation as well as some of the sulfur compounds. Malt tannins coagulate with haze-forming proteins and precipitate out along with some sulfurous compounds. Temperatures should remain very stable during lagering, generally in the range of 33-36 °F. Contact with oxygen at this point is very detrimental to beer favor and should be avoided at all costs. Lagering time depends on many factors. If a cold secondary fermentation was employed, then the length of the lagering period can generally be decreased. A lagering period of two to eight weeks is typical.The higher the ABV of the beer the longer you may want to lager also.

While many homebrewers have converted refrigerators or freezers with external thermostats to carefully manage their lagering temperatures, you can make a good lager with just a cool basement. If you can get sub 60 °F in a basement or cellar for your primary fermentation and secondary fermentation, then keg or bottle from there, you can make a decent lager that can be crisp and refreshing without the added cost of a dedicated feremtation chamber. Give lagering a try this winter if you can, the worst thing that will happen is you will make beer... and that's not so bad.

 If this quick rundown peaked your interest in lagering there is another article you can read from the American Homebrewers Association

Friday, January 5, 2018

Adding Coffee To Your Beer

We usually like to include a historical reference to what we are writing about, but there doesn't seem to be much historical documentation on this. The Founders brewery seemed to have stumbled upon their Breakfast Stout when a chocolate covered espresso bean was eaten at a bar, then washed down with a stout. The resulting beer has been a popular seasonal ever since. Homebrewers however, have been adding this for decades, from what we have heard stories of, and it makes sense since beer and coffee have a lot in common. We're sure there is a big middle section to the Ven diagram showing the crossover between people that like coffee, and people that like beer. There are even similarities in the detractors of these beverages. Prohibition against beer consumption is well known, but attempts have been made over the history of coffee to outlaw its use as well. Not to mention some religious opinions on the consumption of both coffee and beer.

The similarities are not just social however. Indeed, when talking about the popularity of IPAs and how some do or don't like the bitterness of them, we liken it to coffee drinkers. More than likely when someone starts drinking coffee they don't love the bitterness, and end up buffering the seemingly acrid taste with milk or cream, or sugar, or chocolate... or all of these, but as coffee drinkers become more used to the taste, they realize it is the bitterness that is drawing them in. Same with bitterness in beers. It is there to balance the sweetness of the drink, but people find themselves pushing that bitterness level to the extreme, because there is an appeal to that sensation when done correctly. So, it makes sense to add coffee flavor to not only stouts, but even light colored beers. Combining the two products is something akin to providence (take that religious groups), it was just going to happen.

So how do you do it, well we pieced together the following from several sources including our own experience.

Grind or smash whole beans to a coarse or medium grind then cold brew or hot brew the coffee to add to your beer. Or, you can add the grounds (or whole beans) directly to your secondary fermentation.

Hot vs Cold brewing coffee:
- Hot brewing is just regular old coffee making. It’s an easy way to pasteurize your coffee if you are adding it later in fermentation, and while it does pull flavor out of the beans quickly, it can pull some acids and bitterness out of the beans.
- Cold brewing uses cold or room temperature water to get the flavor out of the beans, but without as much bitterness. leave sit for 12-24 hours then strain your grounds from the water.

When to add the coffee to your beer:
- Pre-boil/boil additions can give you better head retention in your final beer, and totally pasteurize your coffee, but can minimize the coffee flavor and kill delicate aromatics of fancy coffee you might be using.
- Primary fermentation additions will increase coffee flavors and retain most subtle flavors of beans, but can reduce the head retention of your beer. Coffee bean oils = reduced head.
- Post fermentation additions are easy to do, and you can do it to taste before you keg or bottle. Just add till you get the desired coffee flavor amount you like in your beer. Head retention could suffer, and using cold brewed coffee could potentially be harboring infection causing contaminates.

How much coffee to add:

- 12-20 oz of coffee per 5 gallon batch
- Amounts can very wildly however due to the strength of coffee being brewed, the kind of beer it's being added to, and personal preference of the person drinking it.

Dry Beaning (like dry hopping):
- Add your ground beans to secondary. Use a fine mesh bag, to reduce grounds in your final product. Leave beans whole for less color extraction of the bean, but this will extend the steeping time needed to achieve the desired flavor contribution to your beer.
- Use whole beans if your want less dark color extraction, but you will want to increase your steeping times for the same amount of coffee flavor. 

Or take it from the experts.
Cold extraction process =
Add .5 lbs of coffee to 24 oz of cold filtered water in a sanitized container. Allow to sit in the fridge for 24 hours. Then run it through a coffee filter. All or part may be added depending on taste.
-from "Radical Brewing" By Randy Mosher.

 For subtle coffee notes try a coffee malt like the recipe found on the Montly Brews site.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Speaking English - Bitters and Pales

Pale Ales and Bitters can be very similar in flavor, so why the different naming conventions? Well, there seems to be some debate on why different people, in different parts of the world name beers the way they do, and indeed even the source material used to figure things out seem to contradict each other. But, it seems that generally speaking, Northwestern Europeans, prior to the 16th century called grain based fermented beverages that were flavored/bittered with a myriad of botanicals “Ales”, what we might now call “gruit”. After the adoption of hops for bittering, the newer standardized naming convention was "beer". It would take some time, but Ale then became synonymous with beer, and would be used interchangeably in most parts of the world. Starting in the 19th century, brewers and malting companies started to produce a paler malt product that could be used to make very light colored beers, to which many breweries in northwest Europe started referring to as Pale Ales as a general term for light colored beers.
While we here in the US might think of the Standard Bitter as being an age old British product for hundreds of years, it seems the term wasn't really used much, or at all, until World War II. Then the word Bitter was more of a distinction from Mild ales to note the more-bitter version of beer that was being produced, and was not derived from a branch of Pale Ales brewed at the time. So while a hop forward British Pale Ale of the time may have closely resembled an English Bitter, they came from different styles of beer making and (I'm guessing here) were probably separated more by the marketing devises of the time than actual stylistic differences.

Today, the BJCP does distinguish between Pales Ales and Bitters. Style 11 - British Beers, splits Bitters into 3 categories: Ordinary Bitter, Best Bitter, and Strong Bitter. Style 12 – Pale Commonwealth Beer, uses this vernacular to describe light colored “...bitter ales from countries within the former British Empire.” and also refers to 18b. American Pale Ale, and 24b. Belgian Pale Ale.

It seems that for now “Bitter” has been solidified as purely a naming convention for British beers while Pale can originate from not only England but from anywhere. Bitters however can easily be defined as Michael Jackson notes in The New World Guide to Beer, “...full of flavor -- the flavor of hops, and to some extent, of good British malt. 

So, when brewing a Bitter of any kind, work on that strong malt backbone with traditional English malts, then hop it to a amount very noticeable while still balanced, and you will create your very own Bitter! There is a great recipe available on the Monthly Brews website for November you can fill it at your Local Homebrew Shop, or right from their website. Note your IBUs and ABV if you plan on entering it in competition so you know in which category to enter.

Friday, October 27, 2017

 A New Venture From Salt City Brew Supply!

The homebrew-of-the-month subscriptions you have seen in the past lock you into a recipe every month, provide you with nothing new to play with, and leave nothing to the imagination, and imagination is why all of us homebrew in the first place, isn’t it?

 So, what is it!
The Monthly Brews is scaled for homebrewers in either a one, two, or five gallon product, so almost everyone can join. The goal is to provide brewers access to ingredients they may have never tried before, either because their access to a homebrew store is limited, or they see the different ingredients, but are not sure how they would work with a recipe. Monthly Brews has simplified this, giving brewers fresh ingredients that are less commonly found, that taste amazing in many different beer recipes and… here is the innovation of the Monthly Brews… lets the brewer decide how to use them. That’s it!

Never heard of Idaho Seven hops before? Heard of Ahtanum hops, but never used them? Wanted to try some floor malted pilsner, or Red X malt, but your local homebrew shop doesn’t carry it and you don’t want to buy a 55lb bag, or are unsure how to use it? Well that last one is a mouthful, but it’s a common issue. Monthly Brews will send you cool grain, hops, and yeast every month with the hope that you haven’t ever used at least some of the items in your box before. We keep everything separate so you can use them how you want, and when you want, but don’t worry, we also provide a recipe suggestion to use every ingredient… if that is what you want to do.

The recipe included is created/brewed/taste tested with an award winning brewing group with over 40 years combined experience, including 2 BJCP certified judges, 2 homebrew supply store owners, and a professional brewer. Monthly Brews takes pride in its recipes, but no matter how much we like our beer, we encourage you to make it yours and experiment.

This isn’t just a recipe of the month club. It is a recurring subscription box of cool brewing ingredients, and something extra. We also include an item with your ingredients subscription to try out and evaluate for yourself. These mystery items are just a cool gift from us to help keep your interest, in case awesome brewing ingredients wasn’t enough. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Use your Mr.Beer® Fermentor for All-Grain Brewing

Use your Mr.Beer® Fermentor for All-Grain Brewing

You got a Mr.Beer® beer making kit, and have brewed a batch of beer or two, and the beer is turning out OK, but where to go next? You want to make the beer "your own" instead of just mixing a can together with warm water and adding yeast. How do the breweries do it? There is a natural "next step" in the hobby of home brewing, and if you have been enjoying it so far, it's time to start brewing like the breweries, but on a much smaller scale. 

What is the difference between Extract brewing (Mr.Beer®) and All-Grain brewing?
Beer is made from grain (specifically the sugar from grain), hops, water, and yeast. The grain (barley, wheat, or rye) is malted by large malting companies like Briess and sold to breweries and homebrewers. Malting companies will also Extract the grain sugars from the Malt kernels and create a syrup, or spray dry the syrup into a powder. These products are called Liquid Malt Extract (LME) and Dry Malt Extract (DME) respectively. LME, and DME are commonly referred to as just "extract" and are used by homebrewers only since they are an easy source of fermentalbles for beer. Some malting companies will go one step further and infuse LME with hop oils to impart the bittering and some flavor from the hops. With hop infused LME all the homebrewer needs to do is add water to dilute the LME and then add yeast and ferment. This is called extract brewing, and it makes beer, but limits the control the brewer has over the beer. In fact, one might call this "beer fermenting" rather than "beer brewing"

Steeping some specialty grain like a tea, and then adding it to LME or DME and boiling it all together with hops is called grain/extract brewing and while this is still not the same process that breweries use to make beer, it is closer than a pure extract fermentation. The brewer is picking from hundreds of kinds of grains, and hundreds of kinds of hops added at different times during the boil to create almost limitless variations of beer. These kinds of recipe kits are the standard for most "stove top brewers". They are easy and create awesome beer. 

All Grain brewing is the process that breweries use to create beer. Instead of paying a malting company to extract the malt sugar into a concentrate, they do it themselves in a process called "mashing", which is just a fancy term for steeping or soaking. When malted grain is held at a certain temperature in water, the natural enzymes in the grain start to convert the starches to fermentable sugar. This is easy to do at home with small batches. You just need a kettle to hold the hot water and a straining bag to hold the grain. For example, a 2 gallon batch will require about 4lbs of grain steeping in at least 1.5 gallons of 150 degree water for 60 minutes. This will create the sugars you need. You can then pull out the bag of grain let it drain and rinse it with more hot water. All that sugary water you collect is the same now as when you add the LME or DME to water to dilute it. Now you just need to boil it with hops to create your "wort". Cool the wort, add it to your 2 gallon fermentor and add yeast. This is the exact same process that breweries use to make beer. You are just using equipment that is cheap and easy to use in your kitchen.

What is needed to start making All Grain beers with the equipment I already have?
Luckily if you have a Mr.Beer® kit, you already have a fermentor, and once your beer is fermenting, the process is no different than you are used to. However, you will need to hold a bunch of water and grain, then do a boil, so a kettle (a large stock pot) is a must. A 5 gallon kettle works great. It will give you some room to spare, and is about the biggest you can go for stove top brewing. You will also want a couple of straining bags. One for the grain and one for the hops. That is it. It isn't a complicated process. it is just a couple more steps in the process than you are used to, but you will have the same control over your beer as a professional brewer, and can make any kind of beer you have ever heard of... in your own home. You can put together your own recipe, find a recipe on the internet and scale it to 2 gallons, or get one that is scaled already at Salt City Brew Supply.