Gowanus Brewery

Power Burner by Jeremy
March 31, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment

You may wonder how it is that we at the GB can get away with working exclusively indoor on a cheap-o range.

The answer is simple: the Power Burner!

Our range has one classic, all-American, over-sized burner that produces more than enough BTU’s to achieve a full rolling boil, or to deep fry the family dinner. It’s powerful enough to bring upwards of 7 gallons of wort to a boil, even uncovered. It takes a while, but it’s doable. Of course, it’s even easier covered.

The Power Burner is a beautiful thing. The only real downside is that we may never have cause to invest in one of those outstanding outdoor propane burners.


Yeast Starter by Jeremy
March 25, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: yeast

Life has been keeping me busy lately, but this weekend I got around to experimenting with yeast starters.

I poured off the yeast slurry from my last two batches of wheat beer to save and reuse. The first was a German wheat yeast and the other an American wheat yeast. They’ve been sitting in sanitized beer bottles in our refrigerator for a few weeks covered with aluminum foil. By adding just the yeast that settled at the bottom of those bottles to a small amount of fresh beer wort, I can propagate these two strains indefinitely.

The primary benefit of propagating your own yeast is to save money. I haven’t done the math, but we’re talking pennies on the dollar. The second major benefit is that you gain control over the amount of yeast you pitch for your beer to achieve a more efficient fermentation. I’ve read that it is ideal to pitch yeast at a rate in the neighborhood of one part yeast slurry to ten parts wort.

This weekend, I’m brewing up another batch of the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale and I’ll pitch the yeast I grew this past weekend.  We’ll see how it goes!

Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale – Recipe Rewrite by Jeremy
March 18, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, competition, label, recipe

I’m working on a recipe to enter into competition and, after finishing up the Gowanus Wheat Beer the other day, I’m making a couple of changes.

The first most important change is to not screw up the mash. Last time, when bringing the mash from the dough in up to the sugar rest, I added water that was too hot and the temperature shot way up to 180 degrees. That definitely denatured some of the beta-amylase resulting in a beer with higher levels of unfermentable sugars and a fuller body, even though I eventually brought the beer down to the appropriate range. The other change is a little more subtle.

For homebrewers new to all-grain the recommended sugar rest is typically around 153 degrees, which is what I did for both the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale and the Gowanus Wheat Beer. At that temperature, both alpha- and beta-amylase are active and you get a medium-bodied beer. The alpha-amylase chops starches at arbitrary points into big pieces. It’s active at higher temperatures, works fast, produces unfermentable sugars and a full-bodied beer. The beta-amylase chops starches into small pieces, like glucose and maltose, but it works only from end points. It’s active at lower temperatures, works slowly, produces fermentable sugars and a lighter beer with higher alcohol content. The second change I want to make is to lower the sugar rest temperature to promote the beta-amylase for a lighter, drier beer. The trick is that the rest has to be much longer because this enzyme works much more slowly.

According to BYO, the sugar rest for Anheiser-Busch’s Bud Light, which has the profile I’m going for, is at 140 degrees and it’s held there for three hours. For the past couple batches, I’ve held the wort at 153 degrees for an hour, but for the next batch I’m going to do what A-B does: lower temperature, longer rest.

Here’s the latest incarnation:

4 lbs. Rahr White Wheat

4 lbs. Rahr 2-row

1/4 lb. Flaked Wheat

1 oz. Willamette (5 mins)

4 lbs. raspberries (frozen, add to secondary)

Sugar rest at 140 degrees, three hours. Edit: Based on advice from other homebrewers, I’m going to try 145 degrees for two hours.

These are big changes and should really improve the brew.

Gowanus Wheat Beer – Bottled by Jeremy
March 17, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, label, naming, wheat

Yesterday, I bottled the Gowanus Wheat Beer, which is what I named the American Wheat Beer I brewed a few weeks ago. I’m over the clever names. It’s just Gowanus Wheat Beer.

Bottling went great, but something went screwy with the fermentation. OG was 38 and final was 16, which means ABV is about 3% (rather than the 5% that an OG should produce). What’s odd is that the specific gravity was 16 when it went in secondary a couple weeks ago. There was no change between then end of primary and yesterday. It stopped, prematurely.

In Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, he suggests that the most common explanation for stuck fermentation is high levels of dextrin. Dextrins are starch chains of four or more glucose molecules and are unfermentable. Smaller starch chains and individual glucose molecules are fermentable. The ratio of the sugars depend on how the mash goes. If the temperature is on the high end, you promote beta-amylase and get more dextrins. If it’s on the low end, you promote alpha-amylaze and get more fermentable sugars. In the future, I’m going to do this mash at 150 degrees to promote alpha-amylaze. I’ll also have to hold the rest longer because this enzyme is relatively slower than the other. In the end, this beer should be drier and lighter than it actually came out.

The label came out great, even if the ABV isn’t totally on point.

Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale – Kegged by Jeremy
March 16, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, kegerator, raspberry wheat

Kegged the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale a couple weeks ago. Not too happy about how it turned out.

The color is OK and the mouthfeel and head retention and all that are fine, but the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat just tastes bad. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but wet cardboard comes to mind. I took so many missteps with this beer that I could only guess which screw up did what to ruin the outcome. Ruined might be too harsh, but the end product came out far from how it should have.

Anyway, lessons learned.

Chinook Me – Revisited by Jeremy
March 3, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, ipa, review

I just revisited the Chinook Me that I brewed in November last year and it’s still great, maybe better than ever.

It pours brilliant amber, with rocky foam that lasts a good while. It has a powerful, piney hop aroma and flavor that is, to my nose, unmistakably characteristic of Chinook hops. It has a great malty backbone, medium body, and a lot of carbonation.

Did I say a lot of carbonation? I should say too much carbonation. The bottle in the pictured popped like a champagne bottle when I flipped the top. Last month, I had one that gushed and half the pint flowed away in a river of suds before it was done. I had one bottle actually explode on me!

Usually, over carbonation occurs for one of two reasons. Either the beers were bottled too early or too much priming sugar was added at bottling. The likely culprit here is too much priming sugar, because this beer sat for a full five weeks following the initial fermentation. The gusher, though, had less to do with over carbonation than it did with the beer being too warm. Carbon dioxide is less soluble in warm beer than in cold, so carbonation tends to rush out of beer the warmer it is.

I have two or three bottles of the Chinook Me sitting around the apartment. If they don’t detonate first, I’d really enjoy having another.