Gowanus Brewery

Gowanus American Harvest Amber Ale by Jeremy
September 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, amber ale, beer, hops, naming, northern brewer, recipe

A new season; a new brew.

The “Harvest” of the Gowanus American Harvest Amber Ale is represented, pitifully, by the half-ounce of fresh hops I pulled off the garden this season. I say pitifully, because that’s the entire harvest. A small harvest is typical, though, for newly-planted hops, which can take up to two seasons to reach their full potential.

Still, a half ounce of garden hops is kinda weak for a harvest ale, especially considering that the ratio for fresh hops to pellets, which recipes tend to assume, is 5 to 1. So, to cover all my bases, I’ll add that the spent grain went to the compost for next year’s harvest. So, we’re agreed. It’s harvesty.

Anyway, the beer. I bought the all-grain American Amber Ale kit from Northern Brewer, which they describe as follows:

It’s not quite an alt; it’s not quite a pale ale. Our American Amber borrows from German and British brewing traditions to make a beer that’s uniquely American, perhaps similar to the ales our forefathers brewed in the colonial days. Hearty and smooth, this beer improves greatly with a little extra aging, if you’re patient enough.

It includes 8 lbs. 2-row pale malt, 1 lb. Munich malt, and 1 lb. Caramel 60, 2 oz. Cascade hops (60 mins.), 1 oz. Cascade hops (15 mins.), and an American Ale yeast. I modified the recipe to include a quarter ounce of home-grown Centennial and a quarter ounce of home-grown Cascade for aroma (the Willamette has yet to flower). I’m also going to put 1 ounce of oak chips on this beer during secondary for about a week to add enough extra tweak to feel like I can really call it my own.

Will tell you how it turned out in about six weeks!

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – In Primary by Jeremy
May 31, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, strong ale, wheat

The brew day for the Strong Wheat was a long one, but everything worked out amazingly well.

The only unknowns for the day seemed to revolve around volumes: How much of my pot would 19 pounds of grain take up? (About 1 gallon) How much water would all that grain hold onto at lauter? (About 2.75 gallons) How much water can I boil off per hour? (About .75 gallon)

In the end, I collected 7.5 gallons of wort instead of 8 and boiled it down to 5.5 gallons instead of 5. The original gravity was approximately 1.100, which equates to a mash efficiency of about 68%, and, after adding the yeast starter, my total final volume is about 6 gallons.

By the way, my 1-liter yeast starter packed more than enough punch to jump start fermentation on this beer. Knowing there might be substantial blow off, I split the 6 gallons evenly to two 5 gallon carboys, and, as you can see in this picture taken about 6 hours after pitching, there was already a lot of foam developing; after 12 hours, it was being forced out of the air locks.

Gowanus Strength Wheat Ale by Jeremy
May 30, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, naming, recipe, wheat

The grain bill for the Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale was huge, so I could take a third running for a second batch of beer. It’s the Gowanus Strength Wheat.

The last run off the grain, which was about 50% wheat, 40% pale malt, and 10% liberty malt, gave me a gravity of about 1.030. During the boil, I added one ounce of Willamette hops and one pound of amber Belgium candi sugar at 60 minutes and, at flame out, I added one pound of honey. The resulting original gravity was about 1.040. To top it all off, I pitched a 500 mL starter of German wheat yeast.

Under BJCP guidelines, this is a Specialty Beer, a category that includes beers that don’t fit well into other established categories because unusual techniques, ingredients, or ingredient combinations have been used. I’m not sure if using the third running for this beer qualifies as an unusual technique, but honey is specifically named as an unusual ingredient. We’ll see how special it tastes in a few weeks.

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – Recipe Rewrite by Jeremy
May 10, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, recipe, strong ale

Many thanks to the members of the New York City Homebrewers Guild and to Friar Smith for helping to refine this recipe.

Based on their advice, I’m reducing the total amount of Liberty malt and hops, as well as adjusting the hop schedule. It was suggested that these ingredients might be overpowering and I want to ensure that this brew is still recognizable as a wheat ale when all is said and done. Also, Friar Smith made me aware that, at least in his experience, a little honey goes a long way, even at half the volume I intended to use. So, I’m cutting that down as well.

8 lb. Wheat malt
8 lb. American 2-row
2 lb. Flaked wheat
1 lb. American victory
1.5 oz. Newport (13% AA, 60 min.)
1.5 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 15 min.)
1.5 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 0 min.)
1 lb. Basswood Honey (boil flameout)

Mash 145-155 degrees Fahrenheit, 120 minutes; boil 90-120 minutes; age six months.

For this beer, I have to use a modified mash schedule. That’s because mash efficiency tends to be lower for higher gravity beers, which requires collecting more wort than usual. High gravity beers also require substantially larger yeast starters that have volumes in the .5 to 1 gallon range and must be figured into your final volume. With those two factors in mind, this is the plan:

  1. Collect Water: In the primary kettle, add 6 gallons water and bring to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In second kettle, add 4 gallons of water and bring to 170 degrees.
  2. Add Grain and Heat: Add grain to primary kettle, heat to mash temperature of 150 degrees. Hold for 120 minutes.
  3. Mashout and First Sparge: Raise temperature to 170 degrees and collect 4 gallons wort.
  4. Second Sparge: Add the 4 gallons of water from the second kettle. Collect 4 gallons wort.
  5. Boil: Boil 8 gallons wort down to 5 gallons, adding hops and adjuncts at appropriate times.
  6. Pitch Yeast: Pitch .5 gallon yeast starter for final target volume 5.5 gallons.

This brew will represent many homebrewing firsts for me. I’m anxiously looking forward to getting started on it.

Gowanus Strong Wheat Ale – Recipe by Jeremy
May 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, naming, recipe, strong ale

Six months from now–when it’s once again dark and dreary–it will be time to indulge in this new brew, the Gowanus Strong Wheat.

You need at least six months aging time for a strong ale, which according to the BJCP guidelines, is “usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery… Normally aged significantly prior to release. Often associated with the winter or holiday season.”

Although I haven’t fully committed to the proportions, the final grain bill will closely resemble the following:

8 lb. American 2-row
8 lb. Wheat malt
2 lb. American victory
2 lb. Flaked wheat
2 lb. Basswood Honey
1 oz. Newport (13% AA, 60 min.)
1 oz. Newport (13% AA, 45 min.)
1 oz. Newport (13% AA, 30 min.)
1 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 30 min.)
1 oz. Argentina Cascade (3% AA, 15 min.)
1 oz. Argentina Cascade (aroma)

This will (theoretically) produce a wort with a starting gravity near 1.115 and a final alcohol content in the neighborhood of 12%. Because the alcohol content on this style of beer tends to be so high, it’s common to see them referred to as barleywines or barleywine-style ales. Of course, this particular beer would be best described as a wheat wine, owning fully 50% of its total weight to malted and flaked wheat.

This isn’t strictly about big beer and big alcohol. I’m interested in pushing the limits on my technique and equipment and continuing to experiment with wheat beers. It’s also an opportunity to experiment with a new adjunct: honey. I’m adding honey to provide some complexity and to unify the overall beer aroma and flavor, but it will also provide additional fermentables and color. This particular type of honey is supposed create a lingering flavor similar to green ripening fruit.

Gowanus Brewery Mash Efficiency by Jeremy
May 5, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, equipment

I’m happy to report that Gowanus Brewery is more efficient than I hoped.

I’m cutting a new recipe from whole cloth, a strong wheat ale, and that requires taking stock of our mash efficiency. Mash efficiency, in short, is a measure of the amount of sugar extracted from grain compared to the total sugar potentially available. This information is useful to predict, among other things, alcohol content. I won’t complicate this post by discussing precisely how mash efficiency is measured, but, simply put, for one pound of malted grain mashed in one gallon of water it is possible to extract a fixed amount of sugar.

With our set-up, I’m extracting 78% of available sugar.

Home brewers typically have a mash efficiency in the ballpark of 75%, so we’re doing fine. I’m surprised because we cut some corners in certain equipment-related decisions we made months ago, but still… we’re ahead of the curve!

UPDATE: I made an apparently classic mistake by using the post-boil specific gravity, rather than the pre-boil. What’s the difference? Well, we have the same amount of sugar at both points, but a different volume and that means a different concentration. Bottom line, I figured 78% and it’s more like 68%. That’s a bummer, but we’re still in the ballpark of 75%. Kind of.

Raspberry Wheat – Bottled and Labeled by Jeremy
April 22, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, label, raspberry wheat, yeast

Whipped up this label a few minutes ago and finished bottling the Raspberry Wheat Ale before that.

I haven’t had the free time lately to put more creative energy into my labels, which is why the last few have been so similar: background picture + cool font. It’s boring, but it’s the beer that’s important right!

Anyway, I tasted the raspberry wheat again while bottling and it still tastes very good. Any concern I had over using too few raspberries went out the window tonight. Overall, the beer is dry, light-bodied, and the raspberry flavors stand out pretty well. I think the primary reason halving the amount of raspberries you would typically add worked out so well is that I used an American wheat yeast, which ferments dry and clean. German wheat yeast produces rich flavors like bananas and cloves and would compete with the berries. Of course, I’m still curious how this beer would have tasted with five, or even ten, pounds of raspberries…

The Raspberry Wheat is On Point by Jeremy
April 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, raspberry wheat

I took a quick sample while transferring the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale to secondary and, incomprehensibly, it’s perfect. Light and dry with a perfect gold color.

At this point, I’m just sampling what will be a backdrop to the raspberries that hopefully won’t turn out to be a syrupy-sweet mess. My aim is to produce a final product that’s crisp and refreshing, which is why I added only 2.5 pounds of raspberries instead of the usual five pounds home brewers add to a batch of fruit beer this size.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be something you reach for pool side on a sweltering summer day and, based on this in-between tester, I think it’s well on its way.

Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale – Started by Jeremy
April 1, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, raspberry wheat

Happy to say that the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale is all brewed up and represents my first truly problem-free all-grain batch of beer.

I hoped to achieve a lighter, drier beer with this recipe, so I utilized a cooler and longer sugar rest. In the end, although I was thinking I could hold it right at 145 degrees for the 90 minutes, the temperature of the wort fluctuated between 140 and 150 degrees as it cooled and was reheated. That range is optimal for the enzyme I was trying to promote, so still all went well. Unfortunately for me, I forgot to measure the starting gravity before I pitched the yeast, but I will estimate approximately 38 based on the last batch.

Next weekend, after I move the beer to secondary, I’ll add whole frozen raspberries to add flavoring and some color. They’ll sit for two weeks and the beer should turn out delicious. Later in the summer I’m going to have some homegrown berries to work with, so for the time being I’m just using some organic red raspberries from the Brooklyn Co-op.

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.