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Topics - Phil_M

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Commercial Beer Reviews / Unibroue
« on: June 20, 2017, 11:04:31 PM »
I know other have a mentioned how great their beers are, but I've only ever had their "A Tout le Monde". (The Megadeth beer.) Which was excellent, but has been hard to find.

Well, the local bottle shop had a 6-pack sample. La fin do monde, A tout le monde, a dubbel, a wit, and two fruit wits.

So far I've only sampled the La fin. I may have a new favorite high ABB beer...

The Pub / What is the Purpose of this Forum?
« on: June 06, 2017, 02:12:19 PM »
I have recently allowed my membership to lapse, and will likely be spending less time on here. (The way I see it, I'm not paying for the forum, so I don't want to "take advantage" of the AHA's graces.) Why did I not renew? Because I feel the AHA, and this forum, are doing home brewers a disservice by not furthering a technical understanding of brewing.

When I first got into homebrewing, this forum was a fantastic resource. Between books I had read/bought, and the AHA webpage, I had the basics down pat pretty quickly. My first extract batch tasted like bananas, and the second was ruined by a rusty dip tube, but by the third batch I was making good beer. (I believe I joined this forum looking for help with that dip tube.) Seeing this as a sign of being capable of successfully brewing all grain, I purchased and electric BIAB system and went to town. I was brewing once or twice a month, and quickly reached the limits of my knowledge.

This is the point where this forum became vital. I'd managed the nuts and bolts of AG brewing, but I was running into issues beyond the basics. Some of my beers had a bad mineral water quality that really detracted from the beers. I learned about managing pH through this forum, got a copy of Bru'n Water, and was able to fix this problem as well. All the while, I was also being schooled on yeast by a member on here. At this point, I felt my brewing was improving at an exponential rate, and I was at least brewing beer that I was truly proud of. Without this forum I'd likely have just continued using 5.2 pH buffer in my mash, and would have probably quit out of frustration.

Now I'm at a point where my brewing has plateaued. I have no desire to start a brewery, but I do want to move on to that level. Before anyone claims I'm moving towards the modern German techniques, I'm not. However, the Germans don't have the market cornered in brewery engineering/science/understanding. The Brits also have done a ton of research, though perhaps less focused on the affects of HSA. This is the sort of information I'm now looking for, yeast management and fermentation systems in particular.

My point in all this is that the main strength of this forum has been the advanced technical help available to members. Recently, many of the members who provided this advanced knowledge have moved on to other forums. An attempt to leveage AHA membership to get access to technical brewing papers was met with disinterest by the AHA. (Though I'll admit, that faced significant hurdles.) The AHA seems happy to just keep evangelizing new brewers, and not really working to provide help for advanced brewing methods.

I've allowed my AHA membership to lapse because I don't see a benefit from it. I have no local AHA member deals. Homebrewcon was a blast last year, but I'm not in a financial situation where access to that on a yearly basis is a perk. Zymurgy is a nice publication, but again in general I feel like it doesn't provide enough advanced technical information. Yes, it could be said that my money helps bring new people into the hobby, but I can also help do that on my own. I will still encourage new brewers to get a membership, the AHA will more than provide the information needed to get to the big leagues in terms of quality. However, if a brewer desires to move on from being a "Brewing Technician" to being more of a "Brewing Engineer", the AHA isn't worth the expense. This saddens me greatly, as this forum was once a place that could provide that function to the few who would want it.

All Grain Brewing / Dealing with Protein/Chill Haze
« on: June 05, 2017, 08:40:07 PM »
We'll see how this goes over...

So, here's the problem: I keep getting excessive amount of chill haze in my beers.

Some background info: I'm currently not using whirfloc, gelatin, or any other clarifying agents. Gelatin is a possible fix for this, but the goal here is to find alternatives. Whirfloc hasn't seemed to make a large difference in chill haze, just how clear the wort is going into the fermentor. This isn't an issue for me, so I haven't been using whirfloc.

I "cold crash" in a keg...when I cold crash at all. My beers are served between 52-55oF, and are still quite murky. Generally I'm using top cropping strains that floc really well, so at fermentation temps the beer brilliant, no discernible haze at all. Chill it to serving temps, instahaze.

While recent Maris Otter batches have had even more ridiculous amounts of chill haze, I'm having the same problem with Rahr pale malt.

Other than gelatin/finings, any other ideas on how to improve this? Letting it sit to settle is also something I wish to avoid.

Other Fermentables / First Mead
« on: May 22, 2017, 12:27:10 AM »
So, I think I'm finally about to jump in.

The local Amish sell keep bees/sell honey, and I've been wanting to make mead from it for a while. As the title says, I've never done this before, so I'm trying to make sure all my ducks are in a row.

I know to use staggered nutrient additions, but I'm curious what others are using.

I'm not sure if I want to just do a straight mead, or add fruits. Strawberries and rhubarb are in season, and I'm wondering if they might work nicely in a mead...though perhaps I'll just stick to plain. Other than those two, there isn't much yet in season.

I don't plan to boil, is any heating required at all?

Yeast and Fermentation / Yeast Vault
« on: March 08, 2017, 02:50:15 AM »
Seems like White Labs is "opening" the vault, releasing all the strains currently available.

Guess I'll finally be getting my Klassic Ale. Also, they're letting folks buy into other strains, even if they haven't been on the waitlist. If anyone has been on the fence, I'd strike now.

The Pub / Good Guy Guinness?
« on: March 07, 2017, 07:57:39 PM »

All Grain Brewing / I feel like a newbie all over again...
« on: March 06, 2017, 01:47:30 AM »
So after being the exception that proves the rule, (I broke Denny's "cheap and easy" method) I bought a SS Brewtech 10 gallon mash tun.

Despite have brewed for several years now, today was my first time brewing on a system with a false bottom. I ended up having a terrible time getting my runoff to the point that it didn't have grain bits in it. In the end I managed to keep a most of it out of the kettle, but sill ended up with some grain particles. I'm not terribly worried, it'll still be beer.

The real issue is how to prevent this from happening again. After taking everything apart for cleaning, found that I'd pulled a large slug of particles out from under the false bottom. I'm not sure if I have the flow rate right when I started my vorlauf, and perhaps this is how so much got under there? How are other folks vorlaufing?

Aside from this the mash tun worked great! Even with my opening the lid 4 times to check the temperature I only lost a degree in a 60 minute mash. The only complaint I have is the included thermometer-it's completely useless. At one point it was reading 137o when my Thermapen was reporting 156o.

Finally managed to get a decent brew day on the books. Irish red for St. Patricks day, turned out 10 points lower than expected but I really don't mind that. (1.032 OG, boil off was way low. Was supposed to be 1.042.)

What I do mind is my mash tun. I've been having issues with lower than expected mash temps, and upped the ante on how I measure temps for this brew...and I lost a whopping 16 degrees. Weather was upper 40's, no wind.

The cooler was about half full. I bought this size cooler with the intent of brewing 10 gallon batches for lower gravity beers, and 5 gallon batches for higher gravity beers. Currently the water supply for my counterflow chiller is not available, so I've been brewing 5 gallon batches so the brew kettle can be carried into the kitchen. There I can use my immersion chiller hooked up to the kitchen faucet.

So did I lose all my heat because the cooler wasn't full enough? I'm honestly not sure that's all it is...temps fell from 156 to 140 in about 50 minutes.

General Homebrew Discussion / Diacetyl
« on: February 02, 2017, 12:50:38 PM »
I swear the more I research this topic, the more I dislike the BJCP and the typical American craft beer snob.

In my ongoing efforts to brew British styles more authentically, I've been working on trying to figure out more on diacetyl being appropriate. So, I went to and ran a search:

Most of the hits are on lagers, that's fine. Usually on how to reduce diacetyl. OK, that's what I'd expect for a lager...

Then I start seeing that Ron mentions several German lagers having diacetyl, and notes that this seems to be a good thing. Fine, but try getting that point across to some...diacetyl isn't evil, and I don't think it deserves the "allergic" response many have towards it.

I guess this is a rant. But I feel better now, so there's that. I'll stop buy and grab a pack of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale on the way home tonight and enjoy my diacetyl in peace.

Yeast and Fermentation / Factors controlling attentuation
« on: January 18, 2017, 06:01:31 PM »
Besides the obvious grist composition/mash temp/yeast strain, how else can we control attenuation?

Numerous times I've brewed some of Ron Pattinson's recipes, and have ended up with a lower than expected final gravity.

Consider a recent stout I brewed, ended up with a FG of around 1.004, down from an OG of 1.041. Grist used was:

36.4% Irish Stout Malt
14.4% Fawcett Optic Malt
14.4% Golden Promise Malt
  7.6% Rahr 2-row Pale Malt
  8.4% Black Patent Malt
  5.8% Brown Malt
  6.3% Invert No. 1 (Lyle's Golden Syrup)
  6.6% Black Invert (Lyle's Golden Syrup mixed with Blackstrap Molasses)

Yeast was Wyeast 1469, from a shaken not stirred starter. Mash temps were between 152-150 for 90 minutes.

The recipe I based this beer on can be found here:

Kristen England's version notes a FG of 1.011, with an apparent attenuation of 74%. I ended up with 90%. FWIW, Wyeast lists the attenuation for this strain as being between 67-71%. I don't see modern malt being the culprit here, as Kristen's version should have had the same issue. Any other ideas?

Yeast and Fermentation / Pre-Canned Starters (NB Fast Pitch Alternatives)
« on: December 16, 2016, 08:41:20 PM »
With NB selling out to the evil 800-lb gorilla in the room, my source of premade wort for starters has disappeared. Does anyone know of any alternatives? I could can my own starters, sure, but I'm willing to pay a little for convenience. I do also plan to start repitching slurry, as I've finally nailed down some favorite strains, but I need a stopgap in the meantime.

I've heard of folks using Goya Malta for starters. Malta is really dark though, not sure how it would work with the SNS starter method.

Kegging and Bottling / Best way to rack to cask and minimize oxygen pickup
« on: November 14, 2016, 12:49:12 PM »
OK folks, I'm about to try and cask a beer for the first time. I'm trying to minimize O2 pickup as much as possible, but I don't have the usual closed transfer options as with a keg.

Ideally, the beer will still be a few points from finished when I get home, and I'll transfer then. Since it'll all still be actively fermenting I'm hoping that will minimize the issue. Other suggestions have been to let the beer ferment out completely, sit for a few more days, then rack/prime/fine.

So, am I better off trying to transfer with a few gravity points left? Or will dosing the beer with primings be enough to reactivate the O2 scrubbing potential of the yeast still in suspension? Would it be worth just sticking a CO2 line and just trickle some gas into the cask to try and blanket everything?

General Homebrew Discussion / Repeatable Boil Off
« on: November 11, 2016, 07:41:26 PM »
This is getting to be my most frustrating issue with brewing. I've been having a terrible time attaining a repeatable boil off rate. As you can imagine, this means my OG levels float about +-.005.

Consistent boil off seems to be a moving target as well...I've tried making a mark on my gas regulator and always boiling at that point...but the weather and propane levels seem to be other variables.

What is everyone else doing about this?

General Homebrew Discussion / 8 weeks in primary...
« on: October 03, 2016, 10:54:18 AM »
I did it, so now you don't have to.

I can definitively say that 8 weeks on the yeast cake resulted in autolysis in my lager.

And it's gross. Toss in what I'm calling astringency (weird back of the mouth drying/bitter grossness) from too much hop matter making it into the fermentor, and this beer is just plain bad...

Wood/Casks / The Great Cask Experiment
« on: September 29, 2016, 12:33:36 PM »
Recently I purchased a pin, along with all the components needed to serve Real Ale via a gravity dispense.

This thread will be where I document my progress this fall in developing a recipe and technique to brew as real an ale as possible. I feel that homebrewing often falls into the "we don't have to do this because we brew on a homebrew scale" trap. Much like how the GBF guys are trying to mimic a modern German brewery, I'm working to mimic a 1900-1950ish British brewery. I'm becoming convinced that little details like this do matter. A co-worker is a Belgian beer geek, and takes a similar approach to trying to replicate Belgian brewing practices. So far all his beer have been spot-on. Why not try the same approach with British ales?


No LODO mash techniques will be used. Great care will be taken to ensure that oxidation only occurs once the cask has been vented. Here's the plan:

Brew a test batch using my old method. I'll be taking gravity readings several times a day throughout fermentation, to try and get as much data as possible. This batch will be bottled, likely bottle conditioned. Might keg condition and get a bottling wand, so it can be tasted and critiqued sooner.

Any recipe tweaks will be applied to batch #2, which will be the first cask batch. Mashing will proceed as normal, fermentation will be like batch #1. When the beer is several points from FG, I'll rack to the cask, along with primings and isinglass finings. This beer is intended to be served on Thanksgiving, so timing will be determined by data from the first batch.

I'll rebrew a third batch for Christmas, again tweaking based on data from the prior batch. Here's where things might get different. Fermentation will be open, with a top cropping strain. (I'm leaning towards Wyeast 1318: London Ale III.) Yeast will be roused and skimmed multiple times throughout the fermentation, in an effort to keep the yeast multiplying and scrubbing O2. Beer will be racked out from underneath the yeast and into the cask, again with primings and finings.

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