Tuesday, 14 January 2014

BIAB #3 - Portland Steam...

Having had some relative success with the Black Forest Stout and despite my eagerness out weighing my actual experience, I wanted to go simple with my next brewing attempt. My orignal plan was to make a single malt, single hop brew, but it didn't take long for things to escalate. I had a variety of grains that I had only made a dent in, so I thought it'd make sense to use them up rather than let them go to waste. So after a quick browse through the recipe books I landed upon an American Amber Ale, a smooth easy drinking malt-heavy beer (think Rogue's American Amber Ale or Anchor Steam) which covered a lot of the ingredients I had in the pantry. The IBU can vary quite a bit with this style, but I wanted to brew something rather mellow this time so decided upon around 40 IBUs. As for the hop addition, I still had a good portion of loose leaf Willamette left over from my Black Forest Stout, which still had that great scent of raisins I had fallen in love with. It's a low alpha acid hop that will modestly bitter, but it's generally used for aroma, which suited my brew plan down to the ground. Also, as it's named after the river flowing through Portland, Oregon, the name of the beer came as a no-brainer.

So with the style and ingredients nailed I set about planning the recipe. With just half a kilo of Maris Otter in the cupboard, the only thing I needed to buy was some more base malt, ordered from The Malt Miller. Purely by accident I ended up with Pale Ale Malt, rather than another sack of Maris Otter, but on closer inspection it all worked out well as it had a slightly higher EBC. I set about compiling the recipe using BrewMate, a great free piece of brewing software that I have recently discovered and migrated to. It's through this I was able to fine tune the grain bill and hop amounts to get the desired colour and bittering.

 Name Type EBC Percentage Amount
Pale Ale MaltGrain5.773.33 %2.2 Kg
Maris Otter MaltGrain5.516.67 %0.5 Kg
Crystal 120Grain1206.67 %0.2 Kg
ChocolateGrain9501.67 %50 g
Flaked OatsAdjunct31.67 %50 g


 Name AA% Amount Use Time
Willamette7.1%20 gBoil60 mins
Willamette7.1%15 gBoil15 mins
Willamette7.1%5 gDry Hop0 mins

Out with the old...
With ingredients weighed, I calculated my liquor and sparge volumes and put the kettle on the boil. Five litres into filling the stock pot with hot water I dug out my digital thermometer, only to realise it had died a death. Note to self: check your kit before you begin! So with brewday paused, I ran into town and paid a visit to a local kitchenware store to pick up a new thermometer. This time I went for one with a probe, which would take the effort out of having to periodically check the temperature. So with new kit in hand, time to resume brewday.

McGyver at work.
With the liquor temperatures now precisely measured, the grain sacks were submerged, stirred, and the mash was a-go. The stock pot that came with the Massive Brewery kit is pretty lightweight and I had noticed it leaked heat from it's contents. With this in mind I fashioned an insulating jacket from some specialist thermal wallpaper, which is nothing more than thick card backed with a layer of polystyrene, but never-the-less it did the trick. It worked a treat with the boil resulting in a quicker, more vigorous boil than previous attempts. Card probably isn't the best material to use around liquids, however I did manage to keep it dry, but I will be looking for a waterproof alternative for next time.

With brewing done and the yeast pitched, I checked the gravity which was slightly out from what BrewMate had predicted - 1.044, instead of 1.060 - but this was fine as it still equates to around 4.5% ABV. I think I lost some efficiency in the mash due to using a slightly lower water volume, plus I don't think the narrow grain sacks I'm using are helping either as it's a pretty tight squeeze in there. I think next time I shall return to using 2.5 litres per Kg (rather than 2.4 litres) and will look to sewing a couple of new sacks with a bit more room to manoeuvre (well, the wife will be doing the work as I have zero experience with a sewing machine).

Anyway...the brew is currently bubbling away in the 10 litre FV and I shall be dropping a sack of Willamette in there in a few days time to impart some of that fantastic aroma! Fingers crossed it'll turn out how I envisioned.


Despite using only a tiny amount of Chocolate malt it really stood out in the young bottles. Whilst it wasn't unpleasant the beer didn't turn out how I had envisioned, so I was slightly disappointed, however Dom from Thornbridge attended the following brew club meetup and he rather liked it, stating that Chocolate malt was he favourite malt, which cheered me up no end. As the beer aged the flavours began to merge a little and what I ended up was half decent mild. So, not a bad brew after all.