Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How I Dry Hop: Maximizing aromas on a homebrew scale.

I've tried virtually every dry hopping method imaginable in my hoppy beers over the years, in the early days I learned quickly that throwing loose pellets in carboy wasn't ideal. But over the last year or two I've cobbled some ideas from other folks to create a process that keeps o2 exposure limited resulting in a super aromatic hoppy beer. My process is pretty similar to what Derek at Bearflavored.com posted excep you don't have to modify a keg and there are really only a few pieces of equipment you need. It's so similar in fact that I considered not posting it and just directing people to his site, but I like the no modification part enough that I wanted to share. As you'll see, the prerequisite for my method is that you are kegging your beers, it's really the only way to get commercial quality hop aroma on a homebrew scale. Here is the equipment you will need, if you're kegging you likely have most of this around...
The key here is reducing o2 exposure, which is something that's very difficult to control when you're not kegging. It’s not only about the beer being fresh, cold storage and keeping the beer away from o2 are keys to preserving and maximizing your hop aroma. We've all picked up an old poorly store IPA at the store that tastes like carboard, its miserable. This is why I cringe when I see people racking to secondary in a glass carboy and dumping in some loose pellets. You might get a decent short term result but the beer is going to drop off a cliff quickly after being exposing to that much o2. 
Pushing sanitizer from one keg (dry hopping keg) to the next (serving keg), sanitizing my racking equipment
in the process. The outsides of the tubing don't touch the beer, fret not.

Get started by cleaning and sanitizing your kegs using whatever methods you employ, the second (serving) keg won’t be used until the dry hop is done but you should have it ready ahead of time. Tie some unflavored dental floss to the drawstring of your nylon hop bag and boil the bag and a few pieces of stainless (they are used as weights so the bag doesn’t float in the keg) for a few minutes to clean and sterilize, then soak it all in Star-San to sanitize.
Plenty of space in this bag to fit 6oz with room to spare.
Fill the nylon hop bag with all of your dry hops and the stainless weights then suspend it in your dry hop keg with the dental floss tied to one of the keg posts. The floss is thin enough that the keg O-ring can still make an airtight seal and yet strong enough to handle the weight of the bag and its contents. With the bag suspended in the dry hop keg, seal it up and purge with co2 sufficiently leaving a bit of head pressure to ensure a tight seal. I rack the beer to the keg using a similar process as the Brulosphy method but the beer is pushed via co2 into the keg through a ball lock disconnect connected to the beer out post for a fully closed system transfer. I push co2 into the headspace of the Better Bottle (I would never do this with glass, but do pressurize my Speidel and BB's) then pull the pressure relief pin on the dry hop keg and watch the beer flow. Once the keg is full you can purge it again to be sure and pressurize, then store at room temp (68-72F) for 5 days. 

You can kind of see the dental floss tied to the post, hanging in there is the tied off bag.
This setup works decently well, sometimes the orange cap doesn't make a great seal so I have to wire
 tie it tight. This was a 100% Brett IPA by the way. This is the part you need to crew in the co2 line, 
I also have a tailpiece connected.
Transferring in a closed system, minimizing o2 exposure prior to dry hop.
Some professional breweries, Tired Hands being one, will rouse the hops during dry hopping by bubbling co2 through the bottom of the conical tanks to get more uniform contact with all of the hops. This also helps in scrubbing any o2 that came along with the addition of dry hops. At home that’s tough to emulate without a conical, but I have gotten great results from giving the keg a light shake once or twice a day during the dry hop. With the keg being fully purged there is no risk of introducing o2, the shaking will rouse those hops that are hanging in the bag loosening them up enough to get the most aroma extraction possible. It might sound like a small step but in my experience it makes a huge difference.
Sanitizing the jumper while emptying the serving keg of the sanitizer.
Once the 5 day dry hop is through I set up to transfer the beer to the (cleaned\sanitized\co2 purged) serving keg, leaving the spent dry hops, bag, and some settled yeast behind in the dry hop keg. This is where you will need the keg jumper, which is just two beer out ball lock disconnects joined via beer line linked above. Connect the keg jumper to both the dry hop keg and the serving keg via the beer out, we will drain via the dip tube and fill the serving keg via the same, nice and gentle on the transfer. With the jumper in place, connect co2 line to the dry hop keg and set the regulator pressure to 2-3psi and pull the relief valve on the serving (receiving) keg and watch it fill. We want to keep this transfer nice and gentle and o2 free so be patient and do it slow so as not to blow off all those aromatics we've worked so hard for. Once transfer is complete you can force carbonate and serve the beer as usual, and clean out the dry hop keg of course. 

If you want to simplify this even more you can actually forgo the transfer to the serving keg and leave the dry hops in the keg for the duration of that beer's life. So long as you suspend the bag high enough that once you have drank a gallon or more the bag is suspended above the beer and no longer in contact with it, it shouldn't be an issue. I have a few friends who use this method and their beers are great, based on older posts I think Mike Tonsmeire leaves the bag inside as well. For me though I like to remove the hops to be safe in case I need to move the keg and something ends up getting clogged or caught in the dip tube. Not to mention I'll need to own 3-4 dry hop bags as I will always have them tied up in kegs since my beers stay on tap for 2-3 months. 
Close up of the jumper while the beer is being transferred. Serving keg in the foreground, dry hop keg in the back.
Hoppy beers like HopWards and Riverwards IPA are so heavily reliant on the late hop and dry hop aroma that care needs to be taken to maximize it. Whether you perform that final transfer or not I assure you this process will take your hoppy beers to the next level, especially with the shaking. However you go about it, be gentle with the transfers and keep the o2 exposure at a minimum.

Friday, September 4, 2015

From End Table to Aging Vessel: Reconditioning an old barrel.

The beer world has been hungry for barrel aged beers for quite a while now, clean or funky, and we homebrewers are no different. However, not all barrels come in pristine ready to be filled condition which is something I learned when a friend very kindly gave me (actually I still owe him Pho lunch) an old dried up Dad's Hat barrel he had been using as an end table. I have some experience with these barrels, one of which is mine and another I have helped a friend fill, but they have always been water tight and ready to receive beer. This one was far from that, so I set out to see if I could breathe new life into this barrel and actually get some good beer to come out of it.
WOOOOOOOOOD
I reached out to a few brewers via Milk The funk for advice as well as refer back to the two great posts on Embrace The Funk regarding barrel maintenance, so I had a plan in place. When I first got the barrel home I pulled the bung and took a look inside to see if I could find any mold or anything else nasty in there, but it was completely dry and clean from what I couled tell. In hindsight I wish I had popped the head off because I couldn't see the top inside by the bung hole, oh well. Things looked clean but the gaps between the staves were so big you could see tons of sunlight shining through, I knew it was dry but wow. I attempted to fill it with water but it would drain as quickly as I filled it. See this fancy video below.



Since I needed it to swell and couldn't get it to retain water I resorted to floating it in a big Rubbermaid tub for a day or two until the staves swelled up enough that I felt I could try to fill it again. This time I filled it with 170F water in hopes that the heat would help melt the barrel wax that's already in there so it would then dry and harden over some of the holes. Another tip I got from a MTF'er was to use a mallet and hammer the hoops back into the middle of the barrel as it swelled. Good thing I did because they were very loose and everything really tightened up as I did this. After all that the barrel was nearly watertight save for a small leak in one of the heads which I sealed up with melted down paraffin wax that I painted over the leak. As seen in the video below, still in the plastic tub.



It took me ten days and 4 fills\dumps to get this fella sealed enough that I felt comfortable filling it. But since I wasn't going to get around to filling it with beer for another 2 weeks I filled it with a holding solution of 56 grams of Citric acid and 112 grams of Potassium Metabisulfite (2g\L of Potassium Meta, 1g\L of Citric Acid). The barrel smelled great prior to this but the holding solution should keep the barrel clean of unwanted bacterias but also help kill off nasties that may have grown in the barrel while it was an end table. When the time came to fill the barrel I dumped the holding solution and rinsed it well, REALLY well and let it fully drain. You don't want any of that stuff lingering in your next beer.
I should have been using this thing years ago, oh and more wood.
There was still a strong oak aroma coming from the barrel so I figured I wouldn't be aging beers in there for terribly long so my plan was to use it as a pseudo-Foeder. No sense in aging a clean beer in this one, since it's kind of a crap shoot anyway. So I brewed up a 15 gallon batch of The Farmer in the Rye with some late addition Hallertau Blanc for fun with loads of Brett strains and no intentional LAB pitched. A Suburb House ale as I have been calling it, I can't pass this garage off as a Farmhouse you know? I pumped the cooled wort right into the barrel, pitched a healthy Wallonian Farmhouse slurry and practically every Brett strain I had in my bank and hoped for the best. 


Didn't even have to use sanitizer that day.
Only 13 gallons went into the barrel for fear of blow off and the rest went into a Better Bottle to use as top off. There wasn't much of a blow off so I was able to blend the two together quite early and age in primary in the barrel for the duration. After 8 weeks I pulled the first sample and gravity was already 1.000, a lot can be said for well seasoned cultures. The aromas were of the fruity Brett variety which played well with the late addition Hallertau Blanc. There was a nice subtle oakiness in the middle of the palate and balancing acidity in the finish, but with as much Rye as was used the body was silky smooth. Great results thus far but we will see once it's packaged. I pulled the batch out and brewed a second batch straight away and right into the barrel that second batch went. Some of batch #1 was kegged, some was canned by a mobile canner (more on that in the tasting notes post), and the rest was racked onto fruit for this years fruited Farmer in the Rye.

Tasting Notes: 10/16/2015

An Ocean Between the Staves:

Brew day: 6/1/2014
Packaged: 8/4/2014

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 17.80 gal
Post Boil Volume: 15.70 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 gal
Kegging Volume: 14.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG
Measured OG: 1.052 SG
Measured FG: 1.000 SG 
Estimated Color: 4.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 36.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain:
76.9% - 20 lbs Weyermann Pilsner 
15.4% - 4 lbs Rye Malt
3.8% - 1 lb Munich 10L
3.8% - 1lb Turbinado Sugar

Hops:
Boil: 75 min - 1.00 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 20.0 IBUs
Boil: 30 min - 1.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [7.20 %] - 11.2 IBUs
Boil: 15 min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablet + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5 min - 1.55 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 1.9 IBUs
Boil:  5 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [7.20 %] - 1.9 IBUs
15 Minute Whirlpool 185f - Hallertau Blanc [10.50 %] - 2.1 IBUs

Yeast:
500ml of 3 week old The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse Slurry propagated in a 1L starter 
Lot's of Bretts including - Brux, Claus, Lambicus, Custer., Drei, Vrai, 4x The Yeast Bay Beta strains, BBY009, BBY031

Mash:
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148 F 

Sparge:
Fly Sparge 13.10 gallons of 172f

Misc: Small adjustments for mash pH with Lactic Acid and some Gypsum to approximate Markowski's Saison profile, very approximate. Markowski's profile is...Ca-52, Mg-17, Na-35, SO4-107, Cl-20, HCO3-350