Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hey now, you're an all star

I hate reading blog postings where the author makes excuses about the infrequency of his work and promises to do better. You know why? They sound like I wrote them. Instead of a pro forma mea culpa, today I'll follow up with the results of the most recent two kegged batches and describe a new recipe I made.

Kegged and tapped: 100701 Honey Half-Wit and 100702 Geordie-Boy

In the last post I talked about some newfound awareness on my part regarding how to hit the right mash temperature using my process and equipment. I have moved two batches through the process to consumption since then, and they are both pretty good. The Geordie-Boy is nowhere near as malty tasting as its recent forerunners have been, and the Half-Wit tastes as good as ever.

The Half-Wit was scheduled for a 154 F mash and it held that the whole time, but the OG came in several points short (1.036 measured vs. 1.041 predicted). I still don't know if this is due to the honey not being sufficiently dissolved at the time I take the sample, but the number makes the efficiency appear to be around 51%. The FG was 1.008 so the yeast at least took care of what little it could find. As I was racking this to the keg, it almost appeared that there was a layer of honey at the bottom of the carboy, but that might have been my imagination.

The Geordie-Boy is better than it has been. I had the mash adjusted down to 152 F and managed to start at 153. The OG into the boiler was 1.039, somewhat above the predicted 1.035, and the FG showed a corresponding overage of 1.044 vs the predicted 1.041. Since the resulting beer is a little hoppier than I perceive to be normal, I guess that overabundance of sugar was offset by the change to the hop schedule I had to adopt. During the brew day, I realized that I didn't have the right bittering hop and I had to make an adjustment on the fly, using Cascade instead of Target. I tried to adjust the IBU by adding more Cascade (at its 7% alpha acid rating) to take the place of the 11% AA Target. It worked out mathematically, but it might not have worked in the wort. It's not overbearingly hoppy, just more than I expected.

I ran the Geordie-Boy through the filter in an attempt to clean it up a little as well. I probably would have been better off to have used gelatin in it, because the amount of yeast residue that still showed up in the first few pints seems to indicate that the filter didn't do a whole lot of cleaning. Still, it's drinkable.

Didn't The Offspring have an album about this?

For the first batch of August, I wanted to try something new. Looking back on what I've made to date, one thing stands out: the recipes all have a fairly complicated grain bill, and none of them would pass muster under the German Reinheitsgebot beer purity law because of all the adjuncts I have used. (Fortunately the law doesn't seem to apply in Alabama outside of a few mile radius of the Mercedes plant in Vance.) With the recent process issues, I felt like I needed to get (back) to basics and see about creating a beer that was simple enough to help me troubleshoot further.

I have read in various places (including about a concept called SMaSH - Single Malt and Single Hop. The premise behind SMaSH is that if you really want to know how a particular grain or hop affects the flavor of your beer, you have to isolate them so you know what they're bringing to the recipe. Many people on HBT say that the SMaSH recipes they have made are among their best tasting beers.

For this batch I decided to build a SMaSH directly within BeerSmith. To keep it simple, I opted to use domestic 2-row for my base malt, even though many people have said it's almost too mild for this purpose and the resulting beers are very light tasting. I kind of see that as a virtue compared to what I've been making, and it might get some of the fence-sitters to try one of my beers. For the hops I chose Cascade, mostly because I had some.

When modeling the recipe I wanted to aim for a balanced beer that was neither malty nor hoppy. Not being a real beer scientist, I turned to an expert's advice to see how to do this.'s Biermuncher posts an interesting chart with each of his recipes showing the relationship between OG and IBU (the international bittering unit, a measure of hop content), annotated with sensory bands indicating the degree of maltiness or hoppiness a given OG/IBU ratio has. For an example, look at the chart in the thread for the brown ale recipe that was the original basis for Geordie-Boy. I can't tell where the chart originally came from to provide proper attribution, but I found a copy of the chart hosted at

I wanted the recipe to be balanced, neither malty nor hoppy. I didn't want it to have a real high ABV, but preferably somewhere in the 4% range. I also figured I wanted to stick with a simple hop addition schedule, so I started out by planning to add equal quantities at 60 minutes for bittering and at 15 minutes for flavoring.

My first action was to add enough 2-row to the recipe to raise the OG to the point where the ABV would be in the right area assuming 70% efficiency. I settled on 8 1/2 pounds, for a predicted OG of 1.041 and an ABV of 4.16%. Next, I began adjusting the hop additions so that the resulting IBU prediction would be around 21-22, a number I selected from the chart as being in the center of the "evenly balanced" range. After several iterations I settled on 0.7 oz of Cascade at 60 minutes and 0.6 oz at 15 minutes, which leads to a predicted IBU of 20.7. I decided to use Safale US-05 yeast, as it's a pretty clean yeast and should allow the flavors of the ingredients to dominate the taste of the finished product. The most important decision was what to call this recipe, of course. I settled on Smash Mouth Volume 1, since I doubt it will be the only SMaSH I make and it will save me from having to think up clever names for Volumes 2, 3, and so forth.

Brewed: 100801 Smash Mouth Volume 1

I got the 2-row already crushed and measured out from Alabrew, and got a pleasant surprise in that it was only 99 cents a pound. With the yeast and the hops, this whole batch came in at under $15.00, making it by far the least expensive one I've made. Chalk that up as another potential plus for this idiom.

I picked 150 F as the mash temperature and almost hit it, coming in at 151 F instead, still well within the beta amylase range. The SG into the boiler was 1.038, which gave me an actual efficiency of 76% into the boiler, and with an OG of 1.043 I got 73% efficiency overall. The wort was exceptionally clear coming out of the mash tun, and it maintained its clarity through the boil (except for the hot break proteins floating around, of course). I tried to whirlpool it after it cooled and transferred it to the carboy with a siphon, and I succeeded in leaving a lot more trub than usual in the kettle.

Even with the slightly higher than planned OG, I'm "in the zone" for an evenly balanced beer. The Cascade hops smelled great when I added them. I am really interested to see how this turns out.

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