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Monday, August 14, 2017

Saflager S-23 Review

I'm a big fan of dry yeasts. Many brewers believe that liquid yeast is the only way to go and that dry yeast is inferior. That may have been the case in the past but dry yeast processing has come a long way in recent years. I use lots of US-05 in my homebrews, especially when I am in recipe development mode. For Big Brew Day 2017 I brewed up a "Polish Ale" kit from AIH but it was actually a lager because I used Saflager S-23 from Fermentis. S-23 is a dry lager yeast. It is recommended for the production of fruity and estery lagers at 51F-59F. I have had beers fermented at typical larger temperature range with this yeast and it produces quite a bit of fruity esters. When fermented at ale temperatures something magical happens. It ferments out to an unbelievably clean lager.

That was the last beer that I brewed before I got my fermentation fridge so I was very tempted to pitch US-05 but some fellow club members told me about their experiences with S-23. One guy, in particular, has used it a lot. He said that for clean results treat S-23 just like an ale yeast. My experiences confirmed his advice.

We have used S-23 a few times now at the No Ragrets Brewatorium and we are now building a big healthy culture of this yeast to keep on hand. For most of my S-23 beers, I use the following fermentation schedule:
  1. Pitch re-hydrated S-23 into well-aerated wort at 52F.
  2. Immediately start the rise to 64F and allow beer to ferment for 7 days
  3. Bring the beer up to 68F for 4 days.
  4. Bring the beer up to 70F for 3 more days.
    We are now at the two-week mark for fermentation.
  5. Drop the temperature to 64F for 1 days.
  6. Drop the temperature to 58F for 1 days.
  7. Drop the temperature to 48F for 1 days.
  8. Drop the temperature to 44F for 1 days.
  9. Drop the temperature to 40F for 1 days.
  10. Drop the temperature to 37F until bottling day.
    This profile fits my system and your values may vary from mine. The crash phase is extended but is planned around my beer rotation. Crashing can be done in as little as 2 days but more time should yield better clarity.
After bottling I let these beers sit at room temperature for carbing and conditioning for two weeks and them "lager condition" in the bottle for another week by placing them in the refrigerator. After that, the beer is ready to drink. Please note that I have only been using this yeast for beer in the 4.5% to 6.5% range so a higher gravity beer will need more conditioning time and possibly more primary fermentation time.

I have noticed a long lag time using this yeast of up to 3 days but once it starts it moves fast. A diacetyl rest is advised since this is a lager strain but I cannot say that it is necessary because I have always taken the time for that step when using S-23. Safale says that the attenuation numbers on this strain are a little low but I have gotten up to 88% attenuation using a big healthy pitch that was harvested from the fermenter and rinsed.

Get a pack or two of S-23 and give this yeast a shot. You will be surprised at how easy you can craft a nice lager without all of the typical lager troubles and legwork. Treat your beer like an ale, add a diacetyl rest and voila, you have a homebrewed lager.

Get some S-23 from AIH by clicking HERE.
Get some S-23 from MoreBeer by clicking HERE.

Note: I am bottle conditioning an international pale lager that included S-23 now. I am currently fermenting an IPL (India pale lager) with S-23 and those recipes will be linked here when the beers are ready.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Recipe:Huntress IPA version 1.1

Huntress 1.0 was a really nice beer and I will brew the recipe under another name. It wasn't exactly what I was shooting for so I developed the Huntress 1.1 recipe in an attempt to dial in my perfect IPA that is tuned specifically for me. That is the beauty of homebrewing. A brewer knows what they want and they can make it rather than settling for a commercial beer that they just like a lot. In the end, Huntress will be a tropical melon bomb with a touch of over-sweetness. The dialed in Huntress will also have a big silky body. There is no strict goal for the appearance.

Huntress 1.1 almost hit my goals on the head but it does require some more tweaks. The hop profile is spot on, the body is exactly where I want it to be but the sweetness a little more than what I want and the alcohol level is too high. Even though this version isn't exactly what I want I will reuse it again. An aggressive Belgian yeast strain would make a great Belgian IPA with a big estery juicy profile...yum.

To summarize Huntress 1.1:
The aroma smells like opening a bag of Amarillo hops and taking a whiff. (....well maybe not THAT strong) It tastes like a big juiced up Bell's Two Hearted IPA with heavy melon and citrus note4s. There is very little lingering bitterness and a very silky mouthfeel. The head retention isn't very good and that will be tweaked and could be a product of too much FermCap S used at the end of the boil. At 8.2% abv this tasty treat is sneaky after a fair amount of conditioning time.

This is certainly a recipe worth re-brewing and sharing with all of you fine folks. Here it is:

Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons   Bottling Volume Target: 5 gallons
Targets: OG: 1.070  ABV 7.3%  IBUs: 56   SRM: 5.4  Mash PH: 5.2

  • The mash step temperature is 152 F for 60 minutes for a medium body
  • Primary fermentation should be 65 F
  • Dry hops are 5 days before bottling
  • Bottling calculations are for 2.4 volumes of CO2
  • Let this beer condition for a full 4 weeks and cold condition for at least 5 days
I had some fermentation temperature spikes, a stuck sparge, and too fine of a mill on the grain so this brew session wasn't without problems. I ended up with an OG that was higher than expected and an FG that was lower to make up 8.2% abv. My volume was a little short so my boil off was a very high rate. I decided to let it ride. After running the numbers I could have topped off the batch to the volumes specified by BeerSmith and been right on my OG target. Due to the reduced volume, I experimented with rehydrating the dry hops before pitching them into the beer in order to reduce hop absorption. I used 1.5oz of sanitized and cooled water per ounce of hops. I will do this every time I dry hop from now on.

So far all of my bottles are a little darker than my gravity samples. I believe that they were slightly oxidized but that is a problem with my process and not the recipe. You folks with CO2 access and kegs shouldn't have that problem.

To see the grain to glass video visit our YouTube channel by clicking HERE. I should have waited another week before sampling the beer. If conditioned out some of the flaws that I was picking up during the tasting portion of the video.

If this recipe peaks your interest brew it up and let us know what you think on our social media pages. You can see those links on our Connect page. If you use the links provided we will get a small commission that goes towards more brewing and more brewing means more content for HopHeadHardware.com. Cheers!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Next Up: Frankenbier 001

So..... I may have gone on a few too many shopping binges at our affiliate sites. I have a bunch of ingredients that I need to use up before they start aging on me. We're doing a "Frankenstein" brew and calling it Frankenbier 001. It will be an India Pale Lager and should be ready by the hottest time of the year here in Tennessee. Late August is pretty brutal here with triple digit temperatures and jungle level humidity. This batch is definitely an experiment, but hey...... isn't the experimentation half of the fun. We didn't name our home brewery the No Ragrets Brewatorium for nothin'. Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see how this one turns out. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see me rambling and for brew day videos.

UPDATE 7/24/2017: This brew day was pushed back by one week. We're letting another beer lager and cold crash for an extra week before proceeding with Frankenbier 001.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Independent Craft Brewers Seal

I'm not always a fan of the moves that the Brewer's Association makes. I find some of their policies to be overreaching, such as their Advertising and Marketing Code. That was nothing more than censorship that they are imposing on craft breweries. You can read more about that HERE. They got this one right though. The Brewer's Association has launched an official seal for independent craft brewers. The idea is that truly independent craft breweries can use the official seal on their packaging to help distinguish themselves from the evil empire owned brands. Nowadays it can be tricky to weed out the macro soldiers in the cooler.
overreaching and counterproductive. I was most recently bothered by updates to their

The guidelines to qualify for the seal are fairly simple. A brewery must prove that they meet the following criteria:
1: Valid TTB Brewer’s Notice.
2: Meet the BA’s craft brewer definition.
3: Sign a licensing agreement.

The Brewer's Association is not currently restricting approval to its members only. They do cite that there may be an administrative fee for breweries that are not members of the organization. For now, it's free to any qualifying brewery.

How does this affect us, the beer drinkers? If breweries actively participate in the program we will be better educated when making our purchasing decisions. Some of us don't care but some of us really care who we are buying from, or not buying from. I love a few of the beers from Boulevard Brewing, particularly Tank 7 and The Calling. Until last week I didn't know that they were owned by AV-InBev. The lack of the independent craft brewer seal would not have told me about their allegiance to the empire but if the bottle next to it on the shelf did have the approval I would know that it is not affiliated with them. With this seal, we will now have a way to distinguish the truly independent brewed beers from those that are part of a conglomerate without researching or making an attempt to track brewery acquisitions.

You can read more about the seal from the Brewer's Association HERE.

Friday, June 9, 2017

I have played along for too long now. Enough is enough.

{June 9th, 2017}

The craft beer boom has been a real thorn in the side of crap beer producing mega-conglomerates for a while now and none of them are taking action more aggressively than AB-InBev. Through brewery acquisitions, supply chain disruption, and control of beer related press AB-InBev is waging a war against small independent breweries across the world. For many of us, craft beer is a large part of out lives and we must decide how involved we are in the realm of craft beer.

"If the beer is good, I'll drink it." -my old view

I tried to stay out of the politics of my hobby for a long time. But recent moves by AB-InBev have forced me to re-think my position. At first, AB-InBev started getting into the distribution of craft beer; at some point, they realized that the trend was here to stay. I was ok with that. Soon after, they released some "craft beers" of their own. Some of them were actually really good if we're being honest. Many of the great beer lovers wouldn't buy it and crap beer drinkers wouldn't try the new offerings. The AB-InBev "craft" brands failed with a few exceptions. AB-InBev then started buying up small craft breweries. I was ok with that at first. Breweries are businesses after all. When Elysian sold I started to be a little concerned but it wasn't that big of a deal. AB-InBev purchased Northern Brewer, a homebrew supply shop, and the alarms started sounding for me. That is when I realized how far the conglomerate was willing to go to disrupt the craft beer movement.

Craft beer nerds went into full meltdown mode when AB-InBev purchased Wicked Weed Brewing out of Asheville, NC. Frankly, the reaction was ridiculous and over the top. Soon after AB-InBev purchased the hop yards of South Africa and immediately cut off the South African hops hop supply to any company that was not affiliated with them. This was and is a direct disruption of the supply chain. Northern Brewer touted the South African hops in their latest catalog with an over priced grab bag of hops and expensive homebrew kits. I wasn't much of a fan of Northern Brewer to begin with. I always found their shipping times to be too slow compared to their competitors such as MoreBeer, Adventures In Homebrew, Label Peelers, Great Fermentations, and others. Now Northern Brewer is dead to me.

The latest AB-InBev news is about their purchase of part of popular beer rating website Ratebeer.com. In fact, the purchase was made months ago but only recently announced. Many of the craft brewing industries leaders are voicing their concerns about AB-InBev owning RateBeer. Not only does AB-InBev have their foot in the door in the ownership, supply chain, and distribution of craft beer, now they are in on craft beer related journalism. Sam Calagione,
the well known President of Dogfish Head Brewery, is leading the charge against this latest acquisition. Citing conflict of interest and issues with journalistic integrity. Dogfish Head has asked RateBeer to remove all of their beer reviews and mentions from the site. Many other breweries are following suit. You can read Sam's letter be clicking HERE. PASTE Magazine posted a good article about this that you can read by clicking HERE. RateBeer is reportedly ignoring breweries requests to remove them from the site. Personally, I have always preferred Beer Advocate and Untappd. Ratebeer is a meeting place for trolls and fanboys and those who thought they were a cicerone but can't tell the difference in a hoppy pale ale and a double IPA.

I'm ok with playing hardball business. What I am not ok with is using power and slimy tactics to snuff out small businesses just to appease stockholders. In a perfect world, AB-InBev would realize the potential of small craft breweries and instead of trying to squash them AB-InBev would capitalize by helping with distribution. I have drawn my line now. I will no longer knowingly purchase AB-InBev affiliated or owned products whenever possible. No more purchases from Northern Brewer, or Goose Island, or Elysian, or Wicked Weed, or Devil's Backbone, or any of their other affiliates. I'm not arguing that everyone should boycott AB-InBev products or even care. I am saying that everyone should draw a line in the sand and stick with it. If you're are against AB-InBev be sure not to line up for Bourbon County.

I could cite more to back-up some of these facts but a quick Google search will lead you to good sources.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

NEIPA, Wait.....What?

Original photo courtesy of Bearded Iris Brewing.
The New England India Pale Ale has certainly taken the craft beer world by storm. The juicy, delightfully hazy, soft characters of the style send us beer nerds into a frenzy. To beer purists, the style is an abomination but very few of them would denounce its appeal. Personally, I love most examples of the style that I have had the pleasure of drinking. I hate the name though.

New England India Pale Ale, or NEIPA, doesn't make much sense. If you have found this post you probably already know the history of the India Pale Ale. If you aren't in the know read up HERE. NEIPA suggests a variation of a variation of pale ale; don't we already have enough of those without adding two regional descriptors to a style name? If the IPA is a variation of a pale ale wouldn't the New England India Pale Ale just be a New England Pale Ale, or NEPA? Drop the 'India;' these beers aren't brewed for a long trip. The Brewer's Association recently released it's 2017 style guidelines. The NEIPA isn't in there yet.

The trend of making soft, hazy, hop forward beers isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Bearded Iris out of Nashville, TN recently released Light Beam. It is a hoppy pilsner but it drinks like a big juicy pale ale. It's absolutely delicious. The trend has taken the nation by storm. The haze is being brewed all around the country now and as a lover of hops, I'm thrilled.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Big Brew 2017 Fail

Enjoying a Bearded Iris Homestyle IPA from a plastic cup during the boil.
Our local club, The Barley Mob Brewers of Chattanooga, had a nice Big Brew 2017 event behind Sigler's Craft Beer and Cigars. I brewed one of the six (maybe seven) batches that we did that day. We all brewed extract kits. I opted for the AIH "Polish" Ale kit which is essentially a Kölsch with Polish hops. I was thinking that the beer would be ready for the hot summer days that are just around the corner.

Yep, I managed to mess up an extract batch. I chose to do a full volume boil instead up just boiling half up the volume and topping up in the fermenter. It just looks cooler and my burner/keggle combo has a very high boil off rate. While collecting water I realized that I shorted myself by one gallon so I added it. I then got distracted and added the forgotten gallon again. OOPS! I didn't realize what I had done until after my final hop addition. I chilled and collected 6 gallons of wort and I collected an additional gallon into growlers to use as starter wort for the WLP090 that I'm going to build-up.

Now I have a fermenter full of 1.034 wort that should have been 1.054. OUCH! I put the fermenter in the 37 degrees Farenheight in the walk-in cooler at the store that hosted the event while I contemplated what to do. I can either boil up more extract and add to the batch or just "let it ride." It's a session beer but I'm going to just "let it ride." The plan is to pitch the S-23 yeast and let it do its thing at 65 degrees. The 20 IBU beer should have been 5.4% abv but I'm probably going to get something more like 3.8-4% abv. I'm chocking this up to a learned lesson. I still expect a tasty and refreshing beer. I will sample before bottling and will dry hop to add some flavor if needed.

Because I failed I will have to attempt this batch again. AIH has an all-grain version of the kit so I will be brewing that soon. I will update this post when the beer is ready to be sampled. Until then....Cheers!

Update 5/23/2017: After fermentation, a diacetyl rest, and some cooling to 66.5°F I took a gravity reading. It came in at 1.006 after adjusting for the sample temperature, or 3.7% abv. I'm OK with that considering the issues laid out above. The flavor is very light and reminds me of an American Lager with an ever so a light citrus finish. The body is very thin and I'm hoping it improves some with carbonation. This beer will sit in the fermenter for a few more days before cold crashing and bottling. I wasn't sure about the S-23 but after the sample I tasted I might be a fan. We will see after this batch is conditioned.

Update 5/24/2017: I'm still thinking about dry-hopping this batch to add a little flavor to this very light beer. If I proceed I will use Idaho 7 Hop Hash. Unsure, of how much to use I turned to r/homebrewing. You can read that conversation HERE.

Update 5/29/2017: I decided to proceed with dry hopping. One ounce of the Idaho 7 Hop Hash was dissolved into 4 oz of vodka and heated to 160 F. The warm hop slurry was pitched into the fermenter immediately. If the hop aroma and flavor is lacking on bottling day I will make a hop tea and priming sugar solution with Mandarina Bavaria and add it to the bottling bucket.

Update: 6/28/2017