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Gluten-Free Brew Day #2 June 25 2020, 0 Comments

So after making a decent but not great IPA, I decided to give the Jonesin' for Buck EyePA another try. I switched up a few things but kept a lot of the process similar (changes highlighted below)

The Recipe

  • 13lb Pale Millet Malt (up from 12lb)
  • 2lb Munich Millet Malt
  • 2lb Goldfinch Millet Malt
  • 1lb Medium Crystal Millet Malt (was 2lb)
  • 1lb Light Crystal Millet Malt
  • 1lb Rice Hulls
  • 2 oz Columbus (1 @ 60, 1 dry hop)
  • 2 oz Azacca (1 whirlpool, 1 dry hop)
  • 2 oz Mosaic (1 whirlpool, 1 dry hop)
  • 2 oz Chinook (1 whirlpool, 1 dry hop)
  • US-05 Dry American Ale Yeast
  • 1 cup corn sugar (bottle conditioning)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (@ 10)
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient (@ 10)
  • 1/2 tsp Gypsum (@ 60)
  • 3 Gallons Reverse Osmosis Water (Rest Tapwater)
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (20 min before heating water)
  • Brewing enzymes

The big change from batch one to batch two is the usage of brewing enzymes. I am adding some enzymes to help with the efficiency with the mash. The last batch was give or take 50% efficiency, so we're hoping for a bit higher with the enzyme usage. 

One other change is that instead of digging around the internet for a bunch of different free brewing calculators, I'm using Beersmith for the first time (this will be relevant later).

As for the flavor profile of this beer, I'm still looking for a very hop-forward beer, big but not overwhelming bitterness, and lots of fruit, pine, and dank flavors and aromas.

The Mash

The mash went great! Sort of. Here's a quick breakdown of the mash specifics:

  • 90 minute mash
  • Mashed in with 7.75 gallons of H2O at 162, was 158 by the end of the mash
  • Batch sparged with 3.5 gallons of H2O at 170
  • Pre-boil gravity of 1.051 (1.048 anticipated)
  • Pre-boil volume of 7.75 gallons (7.25 anticipated)

The great part of the mash was the enzymes! When I opened up the mash tun, I could just tell that the starches had been converted. The wort looked like the countless of other brews I've done over the years. A definite change in appearance. And the yield was much higher. I think I went from a 50% efficiency to a 70% efficiency, which is great!

The not so great part of the mash is that I can't read. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the first time I was using Beersmith. When determining how much mash water to use, I accidentally looked at the "Mash Volume Needed" field instead of the "Tot Mash Water" field. Which means I had an extra 1.5 gallons of water in there. And since I'm only using an 8 gallon kettle, I just went into the kettle with .5 gallon of extra wort and dumped the rest.

The reading error also meant I overshot my mash temperature a little bit, so I had to add some cold water to compensate.

The Boil

As mentioned, I extended the boil by about 30 minutes to compensate for the extra volume. It was probably about 10-15 minutes too long, because I ended up being about 1/2 gallon short of the volume I was shooting for. 

I added an ounce of Columbus hops and some gypsum when I started the 60 minute timer and added irish moss and yeast nutrient with 10 minutes left in the boil. The boil went smoothly, no surprises, nice rolling boil the whole time.

Post-Boil

I whirlpooled for 30 minutes, cooling the wort down to about 185F before starting the whirpool and adding an ounce each of Azacca, Mosaic, and Chinook hops. Went into the fermenter with about 4.8 gallons of wort, an original gravity reading of 1.064, and a temperature of 70F. 

Lessons Learned

  • Learn to read more carefully! If I had just read more carefully, my volumes would have been pretty spot on (I'm guessing)
  • Enzymes are you friend. I'll definitely be utilizing the enzymes moving forward. I think the beer will have more body, flavor, and will definitely be more economical.
  • Volume measure for boil kettle. I need to create a dip-stick that allows me to check the volume in my boil kettle. 

I'll be back in a few weeks to discuss how this batch turned out and what we'll try for brew #3. Happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!

Smoking Side Note

Like I often do when I brew (or have a full day off), I threw some meat on the smoker on brew day #2. I made some beef short ribs. Seasoned them with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Smoked them using post oak wood on the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker at ~260F for about 3.5 hours, wrapped them in butcher paper, returned them to the cooker for another 3.5 hours, and then rested them for an hour or so.

They were quite tasty. The fat really rendered down, they had a great bark, but the top layer (away from the bone) was too dry. I should have probably either wrapped earlier or started spritzing with some liquid. But the meat in the middle and by the bone was legit.

Haven't decided what I'll cook on brew day #3, but it'll probably involve some part of a brisket...


Fermentation, Packaging, and Conditioning June 06 2020, 0 Comments

So this ended up being one of my more "interesting" fermentations. It started out great, the US-05 American Ale dry yeast took off after about 18 hours. Fermentation temperature was a steady 66-68F. Fermentation went strong for about four days, slowed down, and the airlock was completely quiet around day six.

Day nine, I added dry hops. A lot of dry hops. 2 oz Centennial, 1 oz Simcoe, and 1 oz Chinook. Gonna be a solid, West Coast-style IPA. 

On day 12, things took the turn for the "interesting." I moved my carboy down to my chest freezer to cold crash the beer. It turned on, started making noise, all of the good signs. Except one, which may be the most important part. It wasn't cooling. At all. 

After a bit of research, it seemed that my chest freezer was kaput. Oh well, not the end of the world, I'll just buy another one. A cost I would rather do without, but definitely necessary at this point. Only one issue. Due to COVID-19 and everyone stocking up on food, everywhere was out of chest freezers, with none to show up for 6-8 weeks at the earliest.

So, on to plan B, with "B" standing for bottling. On day 15, the beer is still looking pretty cloudy, so I decided to use some Dualfine to help clarify the beer a bit. I gently stirred in the clarifier, hoping to wake up the next morning to clarified beer ready to be bottled.

The next morning, the beer had clarified some, but was a little more "interesting." The airlock was giving off a bubble every 30 or so seconds. Perhaps it is just off-gassing post fermentation. Is what I thought, until the next day the same thing was happening. And the next day.

By now the beer has been on the dry hops for over a week. I was shooting for 4-5 days. I considered moving the beer off of the dry hops (to avoid the beer getting overly grassy or vegetal), but I was worried about too much oxidation, so I left the beer where it was. 

On day 18, I had pretty much lost all patience. I mean, I want to drink this brew. Am I wrong? I finally took a gravity reading and got a reading of 1.010, which is a tiny bit below the target final gravity I was shooting for. The beer is still giving off a bubble every 90 seconds or so, but I'm going to risk it. Tasted pretty darn good at bottling...

Two weeks later...

Given all of the firsts that went along with this batch (first brew on the new system, first all-grain gluten-free batch, first brew of the spring), I'm pretty happy with this beer. There isn't nearly as much hop aroma as I was hoping for, and the beer didn't clear up much (Steven called it "muddy"), but I've definitely had worse gluten-full IPAs...

The beer did seem to clarify a little bit the longer it sat in the refrigerator, so hopefully sometime down the road when I can actually purchase a chest freezer, I'll be able to cold crash.

But the beer had a nice but not overwhelming hop bitterness bite, a good amount of fruity hop flavor, a residual dank aroma (from the Columbus), and a balancing malt backbone. I'd rate this batch 3 beers out of six, but it's definitely a 6-pack is half full, rather than half empty :)

Lessons Learned

  • Check your equipment before you want to use it, especially if you haven't used it for a long time!
  • Take a gravity reading BEFORE you dry hop.
  • Just gotta relax, because like Charley K, rock star beersmith at the Wine and Hop Shop says, "It'll be beer," even if everything doesn't go exactly perfectly.
What's Next?

I really was hoping to do a dry hopped lager as batch number two, but without a functioning freezer, I've got to stick to ales for now. I was thinking maybe an Altbier, I really like those, and there is a dry yeast, Safale K-97, that I would like to try with it. But on second thought, I really want another shot at this IPA...

As always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions, critiques, etc. in the comments. Or you can email the Shop as well. Thanks and until the next brew, happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!


Brew Day #1 - American IPA May 18 2020, 0 Comments

I lucked out. Brew day #1 was a beautiful, 60F, sunny day. Not only did I make an IPA, but I had a brisket in the smoker for the first cook of the spring!

Cookin' with the Weber Smokey Mountain!

I knew my first brew would present some challenges. First time brewing in 2020, first time brewing on my new system, and first time making an all-grain gluten-free batch. That's a lot of firsts! And wouldn't you know it, the brew day did in fact live up to the billing by throwing me a few curveballs. But first, let's talk about the recipe.

The Recipe

After some consultation with my buddy Steven, who used to work at the Shop and now brews at Alt Brewing, Madison's dynamite GF brewery, here's what I came up with for a recipe:

  • 10 lb Pale Millet Malt - Looking for a base to add gravity, some body, sweetness, and color
  • 2 lb Munich Millet Malt - Looking for a bready, toasty, malty flavor
  • 2 lb Goldfinch Millet Malt - Looking for a toasty and caramel flavor
  • 1.5 lb Crystal 50L Millet Malt - Looking for some sweetness, body, and mouthfeel
  • 2 lb Rice Hulls - Used to prevent stuck sparge
  • 2 lb Rice Syrup Solids (in boil) - Looking for increased starting gravity
  • 2 oz Chinook pellets (.9 oz @ 60 min, .1 oz in whirlpool, 1 oz dry hop)
  • 1 oz Simcoe pellets (whirlpool)
  • 2 oz Amarillo pellets (1 oz whirlpool, 1 oz dry hop)
  • 1 oz Columbus pellets (whirlpool)
  • 2 oz Centennial (dry hop)
  • US-05 dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Beer Yeast Nutrient (@ 10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (@ 10 min)

Madison has pretty hard water, so i made the following adjustments to my brewing water:

  • 67% tap water, 33% reverse osmosis water
  • Used 1/2 campden tablet to de-chlorinate the tap water
  • Added 1/2 tsp amylase enzyme to mash to increase conversion
  • Added 1/2 tsp gypsum to the boil to help accentuate hop bitterness

The Mash

I was shooting for a 90 minute mash at 161F. I used an online calculator to calculate my strike water temperature. This is where my brew day first started to stray from the plan. Which is funny, because it was pretty much the first part of the brew day :)

After filling up my mash tun with 180F water and then stirring in my grain, my mash temp was a full 10F below what I was shooting for. So I ended up having to put in around 1.5 gallons of hot water to bring the mash up to 160. Which was actually ok, because my mash would have been much too thick otherwise. 

I took a pH reading after mashing for around 10 minutes, and got a reading of 5.1. I was happy with this level, so I did not do any further adjustments (except for the gypsum in the boil). 

So after 90 minutes of mashing, I performed a conversion test with iodine. It showed that the starches had been converted (yea!), so it was time to lauter and sparge. I batch sparged at 170F with 3.25 gallons. I had a real difficult time getting the filter bed to set during the sparge, so more grain chunks got transferred over to the boil than I would have cared for. Also, because I didn't want to reduce the amount of sparge water, I went into the boil kettle with an extra gallon or so of wort.

The Boil

Because the initial boil level was high, I lengthened my boil from 60 minutes to about 110 minutes. I got a little more color and more carmelization that I was shooting for, but I think that is a worthwhile trade-off to achieve the gravity I was looking for.

After about 50 minutes, I added 1 lb Rice Syrup Solids and took a refractometer reading and got a gravity of 1.044, which was my target pre-boil gravity, so I started the 60 minutes timer and added .9 oz of Chinook hops. Because I was at my target gravity, I did not add the second pound of Rice Syrup Solids. The boil went about as smoothly as you could ask for. The only real excitement was the fact that I was running out of propane, and probably had about 2 minutes of cook time left when I shut-off the heat. Thanks homebrewing gods!

Post-Boil

I had planned on whirlpooling the hops at 170F for about 25 minutes. However, I was quite surprised how quickly the temperature dropped, especially when I was recirculating. By the time I took a temperature reading, it was down to 155F. So I whirlpooled there for 45 minutes, which means I'll get a little less bitterness, but should retain more of the volatile hops oils.

Once the whirlpool was completed, I cooled the wort down to 70F, filled the fermenter, and added the US-05 dry yeast. I was shooting for going into the fermenter with 5.25 gallons, but only ended up with about 4.5 gallons. My target gravity was 1.056, and the actual gravity was 1.053, so I'm pretty happy with that. 

Lessons Learned

Lots! Ok, perhaps I should be a little more specific:

  • The millet soaked up more water than I was anticipating. I'll definitely have to put more water in the mash to thin out the mash and maybe remove a little bit from the sparge so I don't go into the kettle with too much volume.
  • My temperature calculation for my strike temperature was low, need to get that corrected.
  • I'll give batch sparging another try, but I hope to find a better way to have the grain filter bed re-form. Perhaps just a little patience, as the great Axl Rose would say?
  • Make sure to check the propane tanks before the brew :)
  • I may install a thermometer in the boil kettle to more easily hit the target whirlpool temperature (I plan on making lots of hoppy beer!)
  • Create a "dip stick" with volume markers for the boil kettle so readings can be more accurate.
  • I was pretty impressed with how powerful the burner was. 
  • I can't wait to try this beer, it tasted sweet and hoppy going into the fermenter.
  • The brisket, while good, could probably have used another 45-60 minutes on the pit.
  • My beautiful, sweet, old dog enjoyed her last brew day with her papa. RIP Buck Jones :(

Buck Jones

See you next time with a wrap-up of how fermentation, dry hopping, packaging, and consuming went. And I'll preview brew number two! Until then, happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!


Building the Gluten-Free Brewery (at Home) May 06 2020, 2 Comments

My first homebrew rig was just that - a rig. I build supports out of angle iron, had three different burners on it, an attached pump, and it was capable of producing 15 gallons of beer per batch. My efficiency was consistently in the 80s, brew day was fast, cleanup was easy, it was pretty sweet.

However, it was way more brewery than I need right now. 5 gallon batches fits how I want to brew / drink moving forward much better.

But how to get started? What to include? It was a bit of a daunting task, since there are so many different options out there. But an exciting task as well.

Upon thinking about it, what I wanted was to build a quality setup, but I also wanted to build more of an "every person" home brewery. I wanted to make a system that would, in some ways, mimic what customers coming into the Shop would have at home, rather than a small-scale professional brewery.

My Gluten Free Brewery

So, here's what I went with:

I'm sure I'll change up the system as I go along, but this definitely got me excited to get brewing. First batch, an IPA! Until then, happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!


Gluten-Free Brewing: A New Beginning April 27 2020, 0 Comments

My name is Ben, you may know me. I operate the Wine and Hop Shop and am part of the team at Working Draft Beer Co. Beer and beer brewing has been a huge, in some ways defining, part of my life for 15+ years. 

What you may not have known about me, is that a few years ago, I started developing strange rashes and digestive issues. What became apparent, much to my chagrin, was that I had developed a sensitivity to gluten.

Over the past couple of years, I've tried lots of things to try and heal my guts to a point that perhaps I could, at least occasionally, drink gluten with minimal to no side effects. Unfortunately, at least for now, abstinence seems to be the only answer that works for me.

I had hopes that Clarity Ferm, an enzyme that White Labs sells that breaks down gluten in beer, would allow me to enjoy glutinous beverages, but alas, while it helped a bit, I still didn't feel well after drinking it, so I had to put that on pause as well.

As you may imagine, this was not an easy thing to come to grips with. Owning a homebrew shop and a brewery, being surrounded by great beer and great beer culture, and not being able to take part in it has been a difficult adjustment.

However, there is a positive light at the end of this tunnel (hence this blog). Steven, who's worked at the Shop for about 1.5 years, recently was hired at Alt Brew to brew their delicious gluten-free beer. Talking with Steven about all-grain gluten-free brewing reignited my desire to make beer.

So I built a new home-brewery (I had given my first rig to Working Draft to use as a pilot system), one that is simpler than my original brewery, but still with enough bells and whistles to help make brew-day more efficient. And I've worked with Trevor at Alt Brew to source gluten-free grains (thanks so much Trevor!!!). 

I plan on doing periodic entries in this blog about my new adventures in all-grain gluten-free brewing. I just brewed my first batch, an IPA, the style should not be a surprise for those who've ever seen my left arm, and I'm looking forward to writing about the things that I learn from each batch.

This new project has really reinvigorated my creative juices. I can't wait to make for beer for me (and my mom, who also can't do gluten) and share with you what I've learned!