Brew Day | Oktoberfest

I do not like cold weather.  OK, I hate cold weather.  Like it got a bit cool recently and it reminded me that Fall was coming, and that reminded me Winter was coming, and that put me in a bad mood in anticipation of the cold weather in 4 months.  I may need to seek counseling for this.  But, as much as I hate the cold I love the beers that come along with the cooler weather.  Stouts, porters, winter warmers, more stouts, Oktoberfests, I even enjoy the occasional pumpkin beer.

In anticipation of this our homebrew club decided to have an all Festbier/Marzen competition.  After careful “research’ of many of the highest rated Oktoberfests as well as a few locals (shout out to my local brewery Red Hare for making an awesome Oktoberfest) we formulated our recipe and got set to brew.


I don’t have any brewday pics so here’s a pic of some dudes all swagged out for Oktoberfest.

This is our first lager brew and we decided to follow Brülosophy’s fast lager method.  There are a lot of positive results shared from those that have used this method and it saves about 3 months over a traditional method.  Not being able to tie up our fermentation chamber for a long lager has been the biggest reason we haven’t brewed a lager before so if we get good results here we’ll probably add more lagers to our brewing plan.

The quick and dirty of this version is that you ferment to 50% attenuation at your initial temp of 50°-55°F, ramp up to 65°-68°F until fermentation is complete and there are no signs of diacetyl or acetaldehyde, ramp down to 30°-32°F and hold this for 3-5 days, then package your beer.  You can have a lager ready to serve in about a month.

Recommended Oktoberfests

We had really bad luck with German Oktoberfests in our tasting.  Even though the stores said the beers were recently delivered each one we tried seemed to be pretty old with papery, cardboard, and lightstruck flaws.  No worries, there are some really good domestic versions available.

  • Red Hare Hasenpfeffer Oktoberfest
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Highland Clawhammer Oktoberfest
  • Sam Adams Octoberfest
  • New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest

Brew Day | Erfolgserfahrung Berliner Weisse

Erfolgserfahrung, the German word for experiencing a feeling of success or accomplishment.  Google translate gives the literal translation as “success experience”.  Hopefully this will be an appropriate name for a our Berliner Weisse.  This is our first venture into sour beer, second if you count Synesthesia American (our Brett saison) which we bottled this weekend.

Omeaga Lacto Starter

Omeaga Lacto Starter

For Erfolgserfahrung we went with a recipe of 57% white wheat and 43% pilsner malt.  For souring we used the Omega OYL-605 blend, containing lactobacillus brevis and plantarum.  One of the benefits that Omega’s strain has is that it performs well at lower temperatures (65-100F) than many other strains that need to be kept around 100F to sour successfully.  We prepared the lacto in a 1L starter for a few days and it reached a pH of 3.36 prior to pitching into 8 gallons of wort.  Fortunately (for the beer, not so much for me) it’s been in the mid 90s in Georgia recently so I was able to sour this by leaving it in my garage where it hovered around 88F most of the time.  I kettle soured for 68 hours and was very pleased to find the wort had no off-putting aroma or flavors, it smelled like a glass of tea with lemon and the flavor was very clean and lemony.  I did make sure to leave very little airspace and sealed the kettle with plastic wrap and a lid.  The pH dropped to 3.00 over the 68 hours.

Berliner pH after 68 hours - 3.00

Berliner pH after 68 hours – 3.00

After souring I did a 60 minute boil with a 1/2 oz addition of Hallertau at 15 minutes.  Due to the vessel size I didn’t have room to use my immersion chiller on this one so I cooled the wort to 100F by blowing a fan on the kettle (this took about 30 minutes) then transferred to a carboy and placed in the fermentation chamber at 67F.  The next morning it was down to temp so I oxygenated and pitched Wyeast 1007 German Ale Yeast to complete fermentation.  Within about 8 hours it was showing signs of activity and by the next morning it had a heavy krausen.

Brew Dog Boo helping me Brew

Brew Dog Boo helping me Brew

I'll have you know that I did not get any boilover.  I'm a kettle ninja.

I’ll have you know that I did not get any boilover. I’m a kettle ninja.

In my limited experience and knowledge this has gone very well so far.  I’ve tried other kettle soured beers that were very cheesy and “feety” after souring and this was super clean.  I hope to get this kegged the weekend of July 11th.  We were originally going to make this with raspberries but instead decided we’re going to make some syrups so we can try this mit schuss. Once this is ready I’ll update with some tasting notes.

Brewing Mexican Bandito Imperial Stout

This beer was a long time in the making.  The idea was conceived almost 2 years ago and there’s a great story behind it.  The super-abridged version is that the beer was inspired by an alleged theft of a bottle of Westbrook’s Mexican Cake at a very eventful bottle share.  We dealt with the situation the best way we know how, by mocking it.

BANDITO! Mexican Imperial Stout

BANDITO! Mexican Imperial Stout

After lots of discussion, retelling of the events that created the idea, drinking Mexican stouts, and planning our recipe, we finally brewed the beer.  It’s our biggest beer to date with over 26 lbs of grain in the mash plus some additional fermentables added to the kettle.  The OG was 1.114 with 65% efficiency for our 6 gallon batch, target FG is 1.027 which would give us 11.7% – our first double-digit beer.  Brew day was pleasantly smooth, other than my messing up and adding too much dextrose and D90 to the boil.  Fortunately it wasn’t enough to throw things off too much, just added about .5% to the ABV.

Mashing Mexican Bandito

Mashing Mexican Bandito

Well oxygenated Mexican Bandito

Well oxygenated Mexican Bandito

After fermenting for two weeks at 68° I added some cacao nibs, 1/2 a Habanero, a vanilla bean, and some cinnamon to the fermenter.  We’ll let this sit for 7 days and then keg it.  The sample I tried pre-spice additions was very rich with an excellent body and a nice, smooth boozy backbone.  I think this is going to be really good, I sure hope so.

Time to spice things up

Time to spice things up


05/30/15 | Beer was kegged.

06/19/15 | First sampling.  Carbonation is still a bit light.   Flavors are really good and quite well balanced, especially considering this is very young for a big stout.  Starts with sweet and rich dark chocolate, moves on to a bit of vanilla and cinnamon, finishes with a bit of Habanero tingle on the tongue.  Those that have tasted it vary from it being just right with the Habanero to thinking it could use just a bit more.  The heat is there, but very light.  I’m on the fence as to whether it needs a bit more.

06/26/15 | Tasting even better now.  Friends who tried it last week and again this week commented that it’s getting even better.  Right now we’re very happy with this beer.

09/07/15 | Really happy with the way this beer turned out.  Very rich, lots of vanilla and chocolate, light cinnamon and habanero.  I recently entered it into the New South Brew Off and scored 38.5, can’t wait to brew this one again.

We should change our name to Trainwreck Brewing Co…

Mostly Mosaic - Mashing the grains

Mostly Mosaic – Mashing the grains

Worst. Brewday. Ever.

I’ve wanted to brew with Mosaic hops for quite a while now and this Saturday we finally got around to making it happen, sort of.  We were pretty excited as we’ve upgraded our equipment and were moving up to 5 gallon batches, over our previous 4 gallon batches.  We had a shiny new 15 gallon brew pot, new carboys, oxygenator, fancy heat-resistant gloves… a pretty big upgrade all around.  In addition to brewing we were also bottling our Just the Tip spruce tip pale ale.

Most (OK, maybe all) of the things that went wrong could have been prevented with some better planning and focus.  To start the day off we had to season our 15 gallon aluminum kettle.  For those that aren’t aware an aluminum kettle needs to have water boiled in it for 30-60 minutes before the first use to oxidized the aluminium.   So we did this and everything seemed fine there.  In the meantime we were cleaning bottles and racking our Just the Tip to the bottling bucket.  We forgot to take a final gravity reading on it, but measurements a week earlier showed fermentation was complete.  What we forgot at the time is that we also use our bottling bucket as an HLT for fly-sparging, and this bit us in the rear when it was time to sparge, we ended up having to batch sparge.  Once the boil was going we thought we were in the clear but then it struck me that we had a lot of mash/sparge water (11.25 gallons) for a 5 gallon batch of beer.  Somewhere in Beersmith I must have had something set incorrectly for the batch size and equipment.  Finally, even though we had a second immersion chiller in a bucket of ice to pre-chill the water, it took almost 50 minutes for our wort to cool to 75F, way too long.  We’ll need an upgrade to our chiller very soon.  To top everything else off, I burnt my stupid self on the propane burner stand.  Apparently those things get hot when a flame is applied to them for 90 minutes… how was I supposed to know?

After all was said a done we missed OG by over 20 points.  There’s no telling what we’ll get out of this but it sure won’t be what we intended it to be.  On a positive note we got our Just the Tip bottled up and it’s napping and conditioning nicely.  Also, whatever beer we did brew on Saturday started fermenting quickly and I’ve been able to hold fermentation temps to 68F.  I guess we’ll see in about a month what we’ve got going on here.

Mostly Mosaic fermenting nicely

Mostly Mosaic fermenting nicely

A Mostly Harmless Brew Day – 04/27/13

A gorgeous day here in Georgia and today we’ll be bottling our Wife Beater ESB and brewing our White House Honies Honey Ale.  We’ve still got our Hair of the Dog Oatmeal Stout fermenting.

We’ve turned brew days into a party up in hurr.  We’ll be sampling a few brews (duh) and there’ll be burgers and dogs on the grill, we might even fire up a cigar or two.  Y U SO JELLY?

Mostly Harmless Ales WBESB

Mostly Harmless Ales Wife Beater ESB

Mostly Harmless HOTDOS

Mostly Harmless Ales HOTDOS