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 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 Wheat Beer Goes Over by Jeremy
April 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, recipe, review

I served up the Gowanus Wheat beer at my buddy’s studio opening party last night and, aside from a little confusion over the name, it went over well.

Q: Cow anus?

A: No. Gowanus.

The only real difference between this brew and the Gowanus Raspberry Wheat Ale is the mash temperature and duration. For the raspberry wheat, I lowered the temp and lengthened the mash to make a lighter, drier beer. But I don’t think those are necessarily positive characteristics for a standard wheat beer. There’s certainly a place for that sort of thing, but I think lagers are always going to be my preferred thirst-quenching summer beer. Next time around, my wheat beer will be full-bodied, as it should.

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.

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.