Home Brew: Some sort of Dark and Hoppy

A few weeks ago I got together with my Dad to brew beer. My family has a vineyard and has been making wine for many years. I started to get into drinking craft beer just about the same time as my Dad was. From making wine we already had some of the equipment necessary for brewing, and this past fall he got serious about home brewing and bought the rest of the equipment necessary to brew. His decision to brew probably had something to do with cost of buying good beer, whereas I really want to get in and make some creative concoctions using local ingredients.Since it’s his equipment, I’m assisting for the time being until I can prove that I’m capable of using it on my own. My Dad is a huge IPA fan, so what we brew will be on the hoppy side of things.

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When we met up we weren’t too sure what we wanted to do. Our last brew together was a bit weak on the body, and in my opinion a bit overboard on hops. This above image isn’t the starting recipe, but the brewing notes. I added it at the beginning here to give a better idea of what we did as we went along.

grainselect
Aside from our base of 2 row malt, we had a few dregs of other malts to chose from. We decided to darken our brew a bit with what we had left of chocolate, and add some body with a pound of crystal.

Grain
The final selection, ready for grinding.

grind

The grinder has been a big pain in the ass, it isn’t a high-grade piece of equipment, and frequently gets stuck grinding, especially with finer grinds. After half an hour of fidgeting with it, I suggested we grind coarsely, then dump it back in at a finer grind. This isn’t ideal, however, as the size of the final product isn’t reliable, and we produced more flour than we would have wanted. We learned at a CAMRA meet up recently that we can maybe fix this problem by putting an o-ring on the moving roller in order to maintain friction on the static roller. That would be a much cheaper fix than a new grinder for sure, so I look forward to trying that out.

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After grinding

setup

Our outdoor brewing set up, complete with brew dogs. We mash in the middle cooler, and sparge from the top cooler. We have some issues maintaining temperature on colder days, but today it was fairly warm out, so this helped keep the mash at the right temperature.

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Adding the grain into our mash tun.

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The mash-paddle, affectionately known as “The Zombie Killer”. I’m telling you, don’t mess with a brewer in the zombie apocalypse.

mash

After we combined ground-up malted grains, and hot water, we let it sit for a while creating a watery porridge-like substance – The Mash. Once drained the liquid beginnings of beer are known as wort.

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While waiting for the mash, we had a nice, healthy lunch along with a couple glasses of the IPA we made last brew.

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We drain a small amount of wort out, and the suction draws the grain husks towards the spigot, creating a natural filter bed from the husks.

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Then we drain the wort from the mash tun into the boil kettle. Once we have drained the mash tun, we add more hot water from the cooler up top and repeat the process. This is called sparging, and it ensures that we have gotten as much of the usable wort out of the mash as possible. Don’t you love all these strange old brewing terms? I’ve been having a tough time myself figuring them all out and using them properly.

hopselect

We spent a few minutes trying to figure out which hops to use. I wanted to do something a bit less hoppy than our previous brew – as that one had so many hops there really wasn’t any other flavour present. We have some dried whole hops from our friend who grows locally, Steve, and selected his Chinook as our main bittering hop.

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We tossed in the sack full of 2 oz of Chinook and started up the boil

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Watching the wort jump up and down in the spyglass is always a fun way to pass the hour while boiling

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Our brew-dog, Bohdi, kept an eye on things for us as well

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The boil

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Stirring after an addition of Amarillo hops. I kind of feel like a witch at a cauldron, except what I’m brewing is probably much tastier.

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The last addition of Amarillo hops, at 5 minutes left in the boil.

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Setting up the Therminator heat exchange, to cool the wort quickly in order to reach fermentation temperature and minimize the risk of infection from the temperature “risk zone”

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Whirlpooling – stirring the wort to create a vacuum to settle out the hop particles before straining the wort out of the kettle

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Checking the temperature on the wort as it fills the fermentation vessel – a highly technical food-grade plastic bucket in this case

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Draining out of the kettle

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Mixing up the yeast, Safale US-05

trub

Hops and other remnants -known as trub – at the bottom of the kettle. The round can thing is called a hop collector and helps keep the larger particles out of the finished wort as we drain it out.

almostdone

Almost finished, we’ve just pitched the yeast in, and are about to oxygenate to stimulate the yeast activity

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Oxygen tank and a microbubbler stone to create small bubbles of oxygen in the wort. The yeast needs oxygen to survive, so introducing small bubbles ensures that the bottom of the wort doesn’t become a dead zone for the yeast and stall fermentation.

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Our oxygen tank was out of gas and we had to resort to vigorously stirring by hand. Here’s hoping it turned out okay!

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The final product – well not completely. There are a few more steps taken to get rid of sediment, and I think he may have dry-hopped it too. I’m hoping to be able to stop by my parents this weekend to check in on how it went, and see if it’s ready to try yet. I’ll be posting an update once I do!

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