Category Archives: British

Quick English IPA

The Recipe

Name: Quick English IPA
Batch size: 5 gallons (partial mash)
Expected OG: 1.066
Expected IBU: 62
Mash: 30m @ 148°F

 6.0 lbs Maris Otter LME
 3.0 lbs Maris Otter malt
 3.0 oz  UK Dark Crystal 150L

   1.0 oz Target             12.5%AA @ 20m
   1.0 oz East Kent Goldings  4.6%AA @ 20m
   1.0 oz East Kent Goldings  4.6%AA @ 10m
       Yeast nutrient and Whirlfloc

1 pack Safale S-04


The goal for this batch was “can we brew it in 3 hours?”.  We started heating strike water at 8:10am and were cleaned up by 11:30am.

We saved time in a couple ways:

  1. 30 minute mash with a fine crush; our recirculating E-BIAB system can deal with finely ground grain, which speeds up conversion.  We reached full conversion (tested with iodine) with time to spare.
  2. Short boil: we used high-alpha bittering hops to increase bitterness from the 20 minute addition, which is calculated at 53 IBU between the Target and EKG.
  3. No-chill; we dump boiled wort directly into sanitized kegs for fermentation, so there is little risk of infection by not chilling.  This also increases bitterness as the hop alpha acids are still being isomerized while the boiling wort is chilling.  We left the wort in an unheated space at 35F for 24 hours before pitching yeast.

We achieved 80% efficiency on our mash, with 4 gallons of 1.028 wort, to which we added the 6lbs of Pils extract.  Our original gravity into the fermenter was right on target at 1.068.

Unfortunately, fermentation stopped at 1.019, quite a bit higher than we were hoping. Whether that’s because of the malt extract, too little pitched yeast, or oxygenation not working well at 200F, we’re not sure.  But it tastes pretty good and is currently carbonating itself with a spunding valve.


Having stopped at 1.019 it was a bit too thick of a beer.  So we grew a starter of Wyeast 3711 French Saison (which Wyeast recommends for stuck fermentations) and pitched that into the warmed keg.  Let’s see what happens…

Ringwood Old Thumper

Continuing the fine tradition of Using Stuff Up, we have another British clone.  Oddly we’re almost all done with the bag Maris Otter we bought in April, which means we’re about 6 months ahead of the last bag we bought.  Keeps things fresh.

This one is another clone from Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale (3rd Edition).  We really wanted to do something else from Pattinson’s The Homebrewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer but almost everything in it seems to require invert sugar and we didn’t have 4 free hours to make any.  No fear though, we’ll do that soon.

Wheeler lists Old Thumper at 5.7% ABV, while Ringwood itself gives 5.1% ABV.  Old Thumper might have previously had a higher ABV, or possibly the bottled version has a higher ABV than the cask version which is sometimes the case.  No clue about that, but we’ll take the high end.

The Recipe

Name: Ringwood Old Thumper
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.056 (75% efficiency)
Expected FG: 1.013
Expected IBU: 39
Mash: 90m @ 151°F

 9.4 lbs Munton's Maris Otter
  10 oz  Briess Torrefied Wheat
   7 oz  Munton's Crystal 60L
   1 oz  UK Chocolate 350L

   1 oz  Challenger    8.7%AA @ 90m
 0.4 oz  Kent Goldings 6.5%AA @ 10m
 0.6 oz  Kent Goldings 6.5%AA @  0m

1 pack Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire

Our recipe has higher IBU than Wheeler specifies due to the alpha acid of the hops we had.  We’re also using Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire yeast, a strain we’ve had great luck with in British ales.

The Brew

Not much interesting here.  We hit our pH target (5.35) using carbon filtered city water with no lactic acid required.  Mash-in was a bit cool at 142°F but we fixed that in due time.  The sparge yielded 8 gallons at 10° Plato (1.040) which we boiled vigorously for 105 minutes, to 5 gallons @ 15° Plato (1.060).  Right on target.  Chill, oxygenate, pitch, and done.

Fermentation was very active, even with Fermcap S in the fermenter.  We lost a pint or so to blowoff through the airlock.  Upon kegging two weeks later, it landed at 1.012 for 6.3% ABV.

And it tastes great; there’s a new-ish local fish and chips place, and what better to drink with fine cod/haddock/walleye than a fine real ale?  Cheers!

1867 Barclay Perkins EI

beerguideIf you haven’t read Ron Pattinson’s “Shut up about Barclay Perkins” blog or leafed through a copy of his recent book The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer, you’re missing out, especially if you like British beer.  The book is crammed full of recipes for historic British ales, painstakingly recreated from actual brewing records.  It’s a gem, and a must-have addition to your British real ale library along with Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale and Dave Line’s Brew Beers Like Those You Buy.  We’ve had Vintage Beer in our library for a while, just looking for an excuse to brew something from it.  Given the cooler weather and leaves and pumpkins and stuff, we thought a porter would be perfect.

The Recipe

Name: 1867 Barclay Perkins EI
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.061 (70% efficiency)
Expected FG: 1.019
Expected IBU: 85
Mash: 90m @ 152°F

 8.5 lbs Munton's Maris Otter
2.25 lbs Munton's Crystal 60L
   2 lbs Brown malt
   8 oz  Black malt

   2 oz  Fuggles       5.7%AA @ 90m
   1 oz  Kent Goldings 6.5%AA @ 60m
   1 oz  Fuggles       5.3%AA @ 60m
   1 oz  Fuggles leaf  4.9%AA @ hopback
1 pack Safale S-04 Yeast (rehydrated)

The original recipe specified Goldings all the way through, but we had few Goldings and many Fuggles.  The hopback addition is also not in the original recipe, but when you’ve got bling you have to use it or you loose a lot of cred with the cool kids.

Note the use of brown malt, which is a 1867maltrarity these days in commercial brews, supplanted by much more efficient pale malts with small amounts of black malt for color.  Only Fuller’s still uses brown malt in quantity for their London Porter.  But with the rise of craft brewing you can find brown malt just about anywhere.

Also note the higher percentage of Crystal 60L compared to most other recipes you might have seen.  Crystal malts contain more unfermentable sugars than base malts like 2-row, Maris Otter, and Pilsner malt.  Furthermore, higher mash temps like this recipe specifies favor less fermentable sugars during the mash and thus contribute mouth-feel to the finished beer.  So we expect this porter to be fuller-bodied and sweeter than most other English beers we’ve brewed.

The Brew

Our mash efficiency was good, resulting in a much stronger pre-boil wort (8 gallons @ 12° Plato) than we expected.  But our boiloff estimate was too low, resulting in less-but-stronger wort at the end of the boil (4.5 gallons @ 18° Plato).  Ideally we would have diluted the initial wort, boiled off the same amount, and ended up right on the money.

1867boilOne reason our mash efficiency was better was that we flipped around the worn washers in our Chugger pump heads.  Since they’re almost 18 months old, and washers do wear down, the large washer at the rear of the pump head against which the impeller rides had developed a concave appearance.

This caused the impellers to rub against the rear of the pump head when the output flow was restricted, which is exactly what want when you’re sparging.  Our previous two brews suffered efficiency because our sparge rate was too high, caused by opening the pump outputs more to prevent screeching due to the worn washers.  We’re trying to track down replacements, but apparently it’s hard.  Do other brewers just not run their pumps as much as we do?  In any case, we’re glad to have found out what the issue was, and fix it for at least a couple more brews.

1867hopbackOn a side note, we’re having trouble hitting our mash temps using the Brewer’s Friend strike calculator, probably because our mash tun is a 25 gallon stainless kettle that we’re not pre-heating at all.  So all that strike water hits cold steel and chills down pretty fast.  In the future we’ll start raising our strike water temperature in an attempt to more accurately hit mash targets, which is all part of dialing your system in.

We kegged 4.5 gallons of 1.074 SG wort pumped through our hopback, and fermented at 67°F for two weeks, ending up with 1.026 SG beer for an ABV of 6.3% ABV.  That’s a much higher finishing gravity and lower ABV than we expected, which could be due to the high percentage of Crystal 60L malt.

What’s Next?

How should we use up the rest of our Maris Otter?  We’d love to brew a “stock ale” from The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer so maybe we’ll try making our own invert sugar, which most of these recipes seem to require.  Till then!

English Stout Rebrew

After the previous batch ended up on the floor of the freezer, we re-brewed the Use-it-up Stout last month.  This time we’ll call it English Stout, because we had used up all the old Maris Otter malt and had to buy more.  Now that we’ve been able to sample all five gallons we think it turned out very well.

This time we also entered it in a local homebrew competition in the American Stout category (13E) and it received a mediocre score.  We believe this was for three reasons:

  1. It was brewed about 25 days before the competition and did not have sufficient time to carbonate correctly, despite having been shaken at 30psi and then left at 16psi @ 40F for a day or two.  When bottled for competition the beer was almost flat.  Unfortunately, a week later it was correctly carbonated.
  2. The beer is best after about 4 to 5 weeks of aging, so the beer we sent to the competition was still too green and the flavors had not mellowed enough.
  3. American Stout was probably the wrong category for this beer, and it was docked points for not being to style.  Unfortunately, we’re not sure what category it does belong in, but re-reading the style guidelines, it may fit better in the Foreign Extra Stout category.  We’re not sure why we didn’t pick that category in the first place.

So if you’re going to enter a competition, do your research and pick the right category.  Also, know when your beer is at its prime, and make that the time when the judges crack the bottle open.

Use-it-up Bitter


The Maris Otter is almost gone.  Seriously.  And seeing as how it’s no longer cold outside a nice, simple, drinkable beer is required.  Digging deep into Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale we came up with Big Lamp Bitter.  Here we’ve adjusted the recipe for US/Standard measurements and added a few IBUs so that we don’t have any partial ounces of hops left-over.

Name: Big Lamp Bitter
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.042
Expected FG: 1.010
Expected IBU: 30
Mash: 90m @ 152°F (Brew-in-a-bag)

  7.1 lbs Muntons Maris Otter 3L
    6 oz  Muntons Medium Crystal 60L

1 oz Goldings      5.5% AA @ 60m
Whirlfloc + yeast nutrient @ 10m
1 oz Fuggles       5.7% AA @  5m

1 pack Safale S-05 Yeast

OK, so it’s not really a traditional bitter since we’re using S-05 yeast instead of a real British variety.  And we’re only hopping for 60 minutes while Wheeler adds the hops at the start of the 90 minute boil for all his recipes.  But whatever.

The Brew

This time we decided to use the Brew-In-A-Bag (BIAB) method instead of the traditional 3-vessel setup, mostly to see if we’d hit the numbers and if the brew day would be shorter.  If you’re not familiar with BIAB, here’s the basic process:

  • fill your kettle with the full pre-boil volume of water, plus whatever the grain will absorb
  • heat all the water to the strike temperature (be sure to use a calculator for this, since there’s more water the temperature will drop less than regular methods after adding the grain)
  • secure your bag in the kettle, then mill your grain and dump it into the bag
  • stir the grain in the bag to break up dough-balls
  • proceed with your mash
  • pull out the grain bag, optionally rinse to extract more sugars, and squeeze to get as much liquid as you can
  • proceed with your boil

In theory BIAB should take less time and less equipment, and for the most part that’s correct.  We’ve actually done BIAB on this system before we finished building the HLT and the mash tun, so we have some data to go by.


We heated almost 9 gallons of strike water to 155°F and added the grain, which dropped the mash temperature to the expected 152°F and a pH of 5.6, which we adjusted to 5.4 with lactic acid.  A half-hour into the mash the wort was 6°P.  But now it was dinner time so we let the mash recirculate for a total of 2 hours.  Upon return, after squeezing all the liquid we could out of the grain, we ended up with 8.5 gallons of 6.5°P (1.026) wort, while we actually wanted 8 gallons of 1.028 wort instead.  Boil-off time!

After 30 minutes of boil-off, we had 8 gallons of 7°P wort (1.028) and started the real boil.  Uneventful.  90 minutes later we had 5 gallons of 1.040 wort and an excellent hot break, all of which we dumped into the fermenter.

Did BIAB save us time?  Yes, some, but not a lot.  We keep trying to save time and never quite do it, so maybe the problem is us…  Did we hit the numbers?  No, not really, but we weren’t that far off.  Had we mashed with less water, and boiled less vigorously, we may have gotten closer to the expected gravities.  But did BIAB make cleanup easier?  Definitely; only one kettle to scrub!

The Beer

big-lamp-bitter10 days later, after fermenting around 65°F, we transferred the 1.009 beer to a keg.  A week after that we had a light refreshing beer with a sessionable ABV of about 4%.  It’s not very complex (obviously) but it’s a great summer beer.  We’d brew this again, which means we Brewed It Right™.

Use-it-up Stout

Continuing the fine tradition of using stuff up, our next attempt at disposing of the year-old Maris Otter and British hops is a stout.

Name: Stout
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.062
Expected FG: 1.016
Mash: 90m @ 152F at 1.3 qt/lb

  9.25 lbs Muntons Maris Otter 3L
  1.0  lb  Briess Chocolate 350L
   12  oz  Muntons Medium Crystal 60L
   12  oz  Muntons Dark Crystal 150L
    6  oz  Briess Black Malt 500L  
    6  oz  Torrefied Wheat

1 oz Challenger    8.7% AA @ 60m
1 oz Fuggles       5.7% AA @ 15m
1 oz Challenger    8.7% AA @ 10m
Whirlfloc + yeast nutrient @ 10m
1 oz Fuggles       5.7% AA @  5m

1 pack Safale S-04 Yeast

The Maris Otter, VIctory, and C60 are the oldest malt of the bunch, bought at the same time as all the hops in March 2013.

The Hose

A burst water hose provided the entertainment for the day.  When building our setup we used a two-foot section of silicone high-temp hose (the same as we use between our kettles) from the wall-mounted water hookup to the cartridge filter mounted on our brewing bench.  Hey, we already had it, so why not?

BOOM goes the hose

Unfortunately, standard silicone hose that home-brewers use has a max working pressure of about 10PSI.  Most houses have a pressure of 40 – 60 PSI, so clearly this wasn’t going to work for long.  A loud BANG followed by the sound of gushing water first scared the crap out of us, then horrified us as we scrambled to shut off the water and mop up the floor.  The hose broke into three sections, with the center section burst right down the middle.

Carbon filters remove chlorine well, but only remove chloramine effectively when the flow rate is around 1 gallon per minute or less.  We had drilled a 1/16″ hole in a quarter and placed this into the camlock which is hard-plumbed to our water supply, which reduces the flow rate.  We thought it would also reduce the pressure in the hose, but apparently it takes a lot of pressure to push water through a carbon cartridge filter, at least more than silicone hose can take.

So we’ll be re-working our water supply to use high-pressure food-grade PVC hose from the wall hookup to the filter, since we don’t really want to clean up all that water again.

The Brew

With the fun all over, we lost a few degrees between the HLT and the mash tun when transferring the strike water, which we’ll have to compensate for in the future.  Instead of mashing at 152F, like we intended, the mash stayed around 148F.  But like we mentioned before, since the heat exchanger in the HLT was at 152F, some conversion still happens at the right temperature even if the mash is a bit low.

Dark grains, light grains

pH settled right on target around 5.3, from the strike water’s original pH of 7.0.  Since the recipe uses a fairly high percentage of dark grains, it’s not surprising the mash pH dropped this low.

Continuing a tradition, we batch sparged for a third time.  For the first batch we ended up with 5.25 gallons at 13.5 Plato (1.055).  We added another 4 gallons of 152F water and recirculated for a few minutes, and then drew off 4.5 gallons at 5.5 Plato (1.022) for the second batch.  Combining the entire first batch and 2.25 gallons of the second batch gave us 7.5 gallons of 10.5 Plato (1.042) wort to start the boil.

Dark mash is dark

After the boil, we used our new whirlpool arm to circulate wort from the boil kettle through the pump, to the counterflow chiller, and back to the kettle.  We then drained the boil kettle directly into a keg which we oxygenated and then pitched the packet of S-04 without rehydrating. This procedure does increase the risk of infection, since chilled wort is in contact with more surfaces (boil kettle, pump, chiller, hoses) than our usual direct-to-fermenter procedure.

Whirlpool time

Our whirlpool produced a somewhat slower whirlpool than we were hoping, but it did have the desired effect.  All the trub (hop bits, grain bits, hot break, and cold break) concentrates in the middle due to the magic of physics. We then drain clear wort from the side, using a 90 degree side pickup, leaving the junk in the middle.

In the end, we got 5 gallons of 14 Plato (1.060) wort into the fermenter, about what we expected.  Thankfully we put the keg into a spare plastic dishpan, since we woke up the next morning to foam and splatter out the airlock, despite using Fermcap S.  Didn’t loose much beer, but next time we’ll just put less wort in the keg.

Use-it-up ESB

We bought hops and malt in bulk last year, thinking we’d brew more than we have.  Well, that’s not true, we thought we’d brew more British beer over the last 12 months.  But we didn’t, and now we need to use it up.

What better way to use British malt than brew a British beer?

Name: ESB
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.055
Expected FG: 1.014
Mash: 90m @ 151F at 1.3 qt/lb

  9 lbs Muntons Maris Otter 3L
  1 lb  Briess Victory 28L
  6 oz  Muntons Medium Crystal 60L
  6 oz  UK Crystal 150L

1 oz Challenger    8.7% AA @ 90m
1 oz Kent Goldings 5.5% AA @ 15m
1 oz Kent Goldings 5.5% AA @  5m
Whirlfloc + yeast nutrient @ 10m

1 pack Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire

The only ingredients that are “fresh” are the yeast and the Crystal 150L.  Not that older ingredients will make bad beer, but obviously the fresher the ingredients, the better the beer will be.  But don’t get us wrong, we just like beer so we’ll drink it anyway.

The Brew

We mashed at 151F for 90 minutes, and then batch sparged again (mostly to refine our process).  The first batch yielded a respectable 5 gallons @ 13P (1.053).  Next we added another 5 gallons of 150F water, recirculated for 15 minutes, and drained off 4 gallons @ 5.25P (1.021).  We combined the entire first batch and 3 gallons of the second batch in the boil kettle, for a total of 8 gallons @ 10P (1.040).  We thought the low gravity required a volume reduction, so after 30 minutes of boil-off, the real boil started with 7.5 gallons @ 11.25P (1.045).

At the end of the 90 minute boil we got a bit less than 5 gallons at a much higher gravity than we expected: 1.068 OG.  What happened?  It turns out these numbers are completely expected.  We simply started with too little wort; instead of boiling off a half-gallon, we should have begun with all 8 gallons of 10P (1.040) wort and boiled down to 5.5 gallons over the 90 minute boil (at a 1.67 g/hr boil-off rate) to achieve the target gravity of 1.055.  Oh well.

We also over-boiled our oxygenation stone when cleaning and sanitizing it, which broke the stone away from the MFL fitting that connects the stone to the oxygen hose.  So we used the tried-and-true pour method of oxygenation, dumping the cooled wort from the keg into a sanitized bucket, and then back into the keg through a funnel.  The funnel provided a bigger pour target and a more concentrated stream into the keg, which produce quite a bit of foam and thus oxygenation.  So much so that it foamed out of the keg and onto the floor.  Oops.

The Beer

After 18 days of fermentation between 59 degrees (night) and 65 degrees (day) we racked to a secondary keg.  Oddly, flocculation was awful.  Final gravity ended up at 1.014 for a healthy 7% ABV, which like the OG, was way over what we expected.  That’s 78% apparent attenuation, which is quite high for this yeast.  Maybe the yeast nutrient we added or good aeration helped the yeast be extra-efficient?

A month after brew day, the beer was clear and drinkable.  It lacked some body due to the lower mash temperature (151F) and low percentage (7%) of crystal malt.  Next time, we’ll try mashing a bit higher (153F) and if that doesn’t work well enough, we’ll up the crystal to 10% or 12% of the grain bill.  The higher alcohol content caused an unwelcome bite versus the IBUs (~50), which created a slightly off-balance final product.  Correctly managing the boil gravity will solve that problem next time.

But it looks good, and tastes OK, and we like beer.  We’ll drink it!

Bonus Bitter Update

Half a bitter please, barkeep!

A few weeks ago we brewed a Jubelale 2009 clone which we partigyled into a Bonus Bitter.  The beer started at 1.036, finished at 1.008 for 3.6% ABV, and is indeed a nice, light, easy-drinking bitter.  But there was a flavor problem: good bitterness at the front and maltiness at the back, but a huge black hole of nothing in the middle.  It’s hard to describe; the initial bitterness changes to a slightly tannic taste without any body at all (like a glass of bitter water) before the final malt appears.  What can plug that hole?

bitter-sugarBrown sugar just happens to have the right flavor profile to complement the tannic note and add some body to the hole in the middle.  The molasses notes are just a bonus, but still to style as British brewers often use various brown sugars, caramels, or molasses for color and flavor.  The only question was how much to add…

A solution of 3 parts boiling water to 1 part sugar was made, whisking the sugar until completely dissolved.  Three 6oz glasses of the beer were poured.  The first was the control with no sugar added.  The second received one teaspoon of sugar solution, and the third glass two teaspoons.  Results indicated that one teaspoon was the best amount; it was a noticeable improvement over no sugar at all, while two teaspoons was too sweet.  Calculating from one teaspoon per 6 ounces to the 4 gallon batch gave about 1.75 cups for the whole keg.

Problem solved.

Fuller’s London Porter and Cider Updates

Refractometer Crash Course

We’ve got two fermenters to check.  But we don’t want to pull a whole hydrometer sample for either of them.  What to do?  Use a refractometer!

New Toy!!!
Brew It Right’s latest new toy!

Since a refractometer takes a few drops of sample at a time, it’s trivially easy to measure fermentation progress.  But remember, they are calibrated for water not alcohol, so after fermentation starts you need a calculator to get the correct gravity.  Also, refractometers typically measure in Brix, a scale normally used for wine.  So until you’re comfortable with readings in Brix (or the practically equivalent Plato scale), you’ll want to convert between Brix and Specific Gravity using a different calculator.  Yay Internet!  So many useful calculators!

A refractometer works by measuring how light changes when is passes through a liquid.  Plain water bends light differently than does a solution full of sugar or a solution of sugar and alcohol.  By looking at how much that light bends, you can measure how much sugar is in solution.  Distilled water should always show a Brix/Plato value of 0 (1.000 SG), while unfermented wort typically starts anywhere from 10 (1.040 SG) to 20 (1.083 SG) depending on the beer.

Since the sample is so small, a refractometer is also extremely useful while fly sparging, to ensure gravity doesn’t fall below the magic 1.010 where tannin extraction might occur.  The two or three drops required for the refractometer cool within seconds, as opposed to 5 or 10 minutes for a full hydrometer sample in an un-agitated water bath.

So, fill a bowl with water, add your favorite sanitizer (StarSan or Saniclean), and sterilize your pipette.  Be sure to suck some sanitizer into the pipette and squeeze it out too, instead of just sanitizing the outside.  Next, open your fermenter and suck up a few samples and squeeze them into a glass.  Do this until you have enough for a taste.  Then, use the pipette to cover the prism of the refractometer with beer,and flip the sample plate down.  Hold the refractometer up to the light, look through it, and note where the color change occurs on the scale.  That’s your reading in Brix.

Teh Porter

It’s been two weeks since the porter was brewed, so how’s it doing?  Well, airlock bubbles have slowed to about 30 seconds-per-bubble, but as everyone knows that’s not a reliable indicator of anything.  But gravity is!  So using our trusty refractometer [ed – how trusty can it be already if it’s so new?] we pipette out a sample and measure it: 9 Brix, about 1.019 SG.

Huh, that seems pretty high, since we were expecting around 1.014.  There could be a few things going on here; first, the yeast (Wyeast 1968 London ESB) only attenuates 67 – 71%.  Second, we may have overshot the mash temperatures a bit, resulting in a less-fermentable wort.  Third, the grain bill may simply be less fermentable, and indeed, reviews of the brown malt I purchased from Northern Brewer indicate this: “Be warned, however, that this malt produces a poorly attenuating wort unless you use it in moderation and mash at a slightly low temperature.”  Oh well, the sample still tastes great!

Tomorrow I’ll try to rouse the yeast with a large sanitized spoon, but we may be near the end on this one.  Last resort: pitch some WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast and hope the alcohol shock doesn’t kill them all.

Teh Cider

In the other corner, the cider is still chugging away.  It’s been fermenting for a month, which is pretty common for a cider.  Last week I measured 7 Brix (1.014) and this week it’s at 6 Brix (1.006), with bubbles still about 8 seconds apart.  The sample has a ton of apple character, but is somewhat thin due to the lack of residual sugar.  It seems my strategy of using a low-attenuating/low-alcohol tolerant yeast (WLP002) to retain some sugar just isn’t going to work…

So we’ll sit on this one for a while, at least until the gravity sample stays unchanged for a few days and the airlock activity is slower.  Then we bottle!

British Series: Fuller’s London Porter


Double IPA blah blah Belgian blah blah.  Nobody seems to care much about Porters these days, but they have a long and storied history starting in the working-class neighborhoods of London.  And Autumn is a perfect time to brew one.

I was intrigued by the use of brown malt in Fuller’s London Porter, as it used to be the only malt you could get (until the Industrial Revolution foisted “smokeless” fuels upon the world) and thus adds historic character to the recipe.  Since I can’t recall any craft beer I’ve tasted that uses it, I’ll have to fall on that sword and try it out.

But there’s a problem.  Wheeler has one recipe, while Brew Your Own has a different one, and the Interwebs have many others.  Which one is right?  Wheeler’s recipe (converted from 19L) clocked in at 19 SRM and low on alcohol, but it does use a 90 minute boil like most British recipes.  BYO, on the other hand, used a 60 minute boil, but all of the stats checked out, and the recipe was reviewed by Fuller’s themselves.  Thus BYO it was.

For yeast, sources recommend Wyeast 1968 London ESB or White Labs WLP002, both of which are reputed to be Fuller’s yeast.  This strain doesn’t have very high alchohol tolerance, and doesn’t attenuate very well, leading calculators to indicate my FG would be high around 1.018 or 1.019.  I’m hoping it decides to outperform.

The Recipe

Expected OG: 1.054
Expected FG: 1.014
Mash: 90m @ 153F at 1.3 qt/lb

8.3 lbs Muntons Maris Otter
1.0 lb Muntons Light Crystal 60L
1.5 lbs UK Brown Malt
0.75 lbs American Chocolate

1.25 oz Fuggles @ 60m
0.75 oz Fuggles @ 10m
Whirlfloc @ 10m

Wyeast 1968 London ESB

The Brew

Due to bad planning I didn’t have enough Chocolate malt, so I had to substitute 4 oz of roast barley.  I also added 1oz black malt for a slightly darker color as the BYO recipe also didn’t come out quite as dark as I wanted.  Neither of these changes will have much effect on the flavor, thankfully.

Grains money shot…
Damn that hopper is big...
Only 11 lbs of grain.  Damn that hopper is big…

Mash-in is somewhat complicated because I try to keep the HERMS coil underwater in the HLT to ensure mash temperature is as stable as possible.  So after reaching strike temps in the HLT, I run the strike water to the MLT and set up recirculation through the HERMS coil to ensure the strike water remains at strike temperature.  Once that’s done, I shut off the mash pump, dough in, and let the mash rest while I refill the HLT with cold water until it has dropped to mash temp, which takes a few minutes.  Then I start up the mash pump again and off we go.

Starting at 164F and adding the grain set the mash temp right on target: 153F.  The large proportion of dark grains dropped the mash pH to 5.4, which I adjusted down to 5.3-ish using lactic acid.  Most brews with lighter grain bills start around pH 5.8 with my city water, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Mash time!
Mash time!

First runnings were 1.052, and the sparge ran long at almost 1 1/2 hours to collect about 7 gallons with a boil gravity of 1.044.  That gravity seemed a little low for a 60 minute boil, so I ended up doing a 90 minute boil to reduce volume and bump up the gravity.  I stuck with the hop schedule though, adding the hops with 60 and 10 minutes left in the boil.  Ending gravity was 1.062 into the fermenter.

Which means some number is wrong.  I’m very confident that the 1.062 is right, meaning that the boil gravity reading is somehow incorrect.  There are two possibilities here.  First, perhaps I didn’t stir the boil kettle enough before drawing off a sample;  wort does stratify in the boil kettle since the first runnings are higher gravity than later ones.  Second, since hydrometers don’t work well over 80F I have to cool wort samples down, and I do that in a bucket of water.  I may have let some of that water get into the sample, diluting the gravity.  Solving this second problem requires buying a refractometer, which uses small samples that cool very quickly.  Solving the first problem requires not being lazy.

Regardless, the airlock is happily bubbling away at 66F, and in two weeks we’ll know how awesome it tastes.  Cheers!