Gowanus Brewery

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.

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.

American Wheat Beer – Started by Jeremy
February 25, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, recipe, wheat

I just finished brewing the American Wheat Beer that will be the model for my competition beer.

It comes from Northern Brewer which describes the beer as a “spritzy, refreshing warm-weather crowd-pleaser” with more hop character than its German counterpart and fermented with a milder-tasting yeast. To make it mine, I plan to do two or three things. I’ll adjust the grain bill and mash to produce a lighter, crisper beer. I’ll add a homegrown adjunct, probably heirloom raspberry. Also, I plan to grow hops this summer, but they won’t be ready for harvesting until the end of summer, which may be too late for competition.

The recipe is straight forward. It calls for four pounds each of Rahr White Wheat and Rahr 2-row Pale, and one ounce each of Willamette (60 minutes) and Cascade (15 minutes). The yeast used is Wyeast #1010 American Wheat Yeast. The recommended mash schedule is single-step at 153 degrees. The target original gravity is 1.040 and my actual was 1.038.

During the brew, I hit two major snags–one new, one old.

First, to bring the mash from the protease rest at around 125 degrees to the saccharization rest at 153 degrees, I added about four gallons of boiling water, which I should not have done. The temperature shot way up past 153 degrees to about 180. Visiting 180 degrees for enzymes is like staring at the sun for us. The water I added should have been at or below 200 degrees. Fortunately, I was able to bring temp down to the 150’s by adding an additional gallon of cold tap water. On the bright side, since my starting gravity turned out fine, I got to see first hand that grain enzymes are robust enough to handle an occasional screw up.

The second issue I ran into I dealt with in my last batch. I just couldn’t get the wort cooled fast enough towards the end of the brew. Instead of hauling the MegaPot up to the bathtub this time, I let it cool on the range down to about 180 and drained it to the primary fermenter, a plastic bucket. I sealed it, put an empty water lock in place with tin foil wrapped around it, and just let it sit overnight to cool slowly. When I got up this morning, the wort was near room temperature and I was able to pitch the yeast. This isn’t ideal, but, as long as we can avoid contamination, I think it may be our best bet for the time being.

First All-grain Batch by Jeremy
February 15, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, equipment

Finally, I got around to brewing my first all-grain batch of homebrew.

I assumed, if I was going to screw anything up, it would be getting the temperature rests right. And I did, sort of. The water was too hot when I first added the grain, so it didn’t really get to sit at the dough-in temperature. Afterwards, though, controlling the temperature was simple, I just adjusted the burner up or down to add heat (at high heat, five degrees per minute) or take it away (with the range off, five degrees per ten minutes). The real obstacle it turned out was cooling the wort during the end game.

This MegaPot, which really is mega, is much harder to cool down with an ice-bath than the smaller four-gallon enamel pot we used before. The first reason is that the only basin big enough to put it in is the bathroom tub, which is, considering the full pot weighs in around 60 pounds, very inconvenient. We tried our sink first, but it’s such a tight fit it actually displaces nearly all of the water. The second reason is that there is just a lot more volume and not much more surface area with the MegaPot. I’m not sure what we’ll do the next time around, but we are definitely going to take a second look at plate chillers and other cooling options–equipment I had written off as too luxurious for the Gowanus.

But, what do I know?