PeeBee's Brewday - Session Beer (Crisis Beer!)

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peebee

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On the back of my (seemingly popular?) "low-alcohol" thread I thought I could apply some of what I learnt to session beers. Beers with an OG of about 1.035-1.042. I wouldn't like to try these techniques on anything stronger. The idea is to get a fast-turnover form of brewing when attention is focused on something else. Or "Crisis Beer" if you like?

I was develop these ideas on another forum site, but I think folk here might care to see it (bigger audience on this site, but some here will have seen it)? There are a few issues which might cause some problems, but I'm sure a bit of creativeness will cover them over. I'll deal with those issues first.

The "issues" all relate to fermenting in the dispensing keg. So ...

ONE: You need a pressure keg, this method is not for bottling. Although if you have a means of counter pressure bottle filling the beer could be finished in a pressure vessel and then transferred to bottles or small kegs. I'm counting on this should the "third issue" start to arise.

TWO: All my Corny kegs are fitted with floating beer extractors. If your Corny keg uses the original "liquid out" dip-tube (the case for the vast majority of brewers) you may have problems with murky beer unless you can come up with something imaginative to deal with the extra yeast in the keg. I'm offering no tried solution apart from using floating beer extractors. You might sacrifice a few pints to clear the yeast out (as people already do, but dealing with less yeast and sacrificing less beer) - such action will mitigate "issue 3" too.

THREE: Leaving the beer in contact with a lot of yeast can develop off flavours. But this is fast drinking, low alcohol, session beer (<4.5% ABV) so I'm counting on there being no problem within a month, perhaps two? I'm still drinking unaffected low-alcohol beer fermented in the keg 8 months ago. But low-alcohol beer will not create as much yeast.

Still with me? That out of the way let me start with a recipe and get the equipment together.

PREPARATION

EQUIPMENT
30L+ Boiler with bag for BIAB, else Grainfather or similar one-pot system. Plus a stirring spoon and perhaps a hop spider.
19L Corny keg with floating beer extractor, or similar.
Spunding valve on a Corny keg gas-in disconnect or suitable secondary regulator.
CO2 gas cylinder and primary regulator.

There is nothing simpler than the "Brew-in-a-bag" technique. But I'm using a Grainfather to "emulate" BIAB. Any one-pot system should do? BIAB is supposed to be a no-sparge technique, but if boiler size forces some sparging to make up the volume, so be it. The Grainfather has a 30L capacity and will handle an 18L batch "no-sparge" with ease. Grainfather seems to discourage "no-sparge" even to the point of having an article suggesting no-sparge produces inferior beer ... utter cobblers. Some very minor alterations makes no-sparge in a Grainfather easier and involves having two small jubilee clips. If using BIAB you can make some modifications to gain one of the advantages of using one-pot systems (i.e. recircuation) ... see here

I use a "hop spider" when boiling the hops 'cos I'm using pellets which disintegrate into mush.

A 19L Corny keg or similar pressure vessel. What, no fermenter? Nope, we're skipping that step completely! Along with all the time consuming transfers, priming or carbonation, spoilage risk, etc.

A spunding valve. I don't like spunding valves 'cos they're so crabby. I use small regulators (Shako NR200, but others may work). Regulators have the disadvantage of requiring "back-pressure" on the input port (connected to gas supply, via the primary regulator, NOT directly!) even though it doesn't use the gas, but you can turn this to an advantage. You can also get "Blowtie" devices for spunding valves, but I've yet to try one.

And a gas cylinder to serve the finished beer (and for "back-pressure" as above). Not forgetting a tap for serving.



RECIPE
This was an example recipe ("Centennial Blonde"). The recipe mashes at 66C for 1 hour:
65% Lager Malt (3EBC)
15% Dextrin Malt (2-3EBC)
10% Cara Malt (30EBC)
10% Vienna Malt (9EBC)
Looking for a SG of about 1.040.

But you can use 97% Pale Malt and 3% 100-150EBC Crystal Malt and anything in between and I doubt they'll be much difference.
It is then boiled for an hour with four about equal hop additions at 0, 25, 40 and 55 minutes; the first two Centennial hops and the remainder (late) hops as Cascade. I used the "BBC pellets" because they have superior keeping qualities and the American "C" hops are otherwise pretty dismal if not fresh. Again you can use other hops, possibly an ideal time to try different hops? Looking for 20-22IBUs.

1/2 Protofloc tablet to be added near end.

I used "Beersmith" as the recipe builder, but use whatever you are comfortable with. Beersmith includes a BIAB (full-boil-volume-mash) mode which simplifies the volume calculations. You may need to tune the "grain absorbance" and "boil off" volumes to customise the water calculations; I'll need to do a bit more tuning of these before another attempt (you can of course just roughly "wing it", but I like the comfort these calculators bring when tuned right).
CenntenialMelyn.JPG



WATER
I chose a fairly inane "yellow, dry" profile out of "Bru'n Water" because this is a new-world recipe with little emphasis on malt and more emphasis on the perfumed hops. In this exercise I was pitching "Bru'n Water" against "Mash-Made-Easy"; the salt calculations were the same using Gypsum, Calcium Chloride solution (7.4%) and Epsom Salt but the pH predictions were quite different (using same quantities of Phosphoric Acid).

Note Calcium Chloride is a pain to use dry, because it is so hygroscopic. Making a solution of 8-10% and knowing its OG is much easier (warning: it can get very hot when dissolving). Bru'n Water appears to stick to grams when configured to use a solution: Ignore it, it is measuring in millilitres really (March 2020, may change in future?).
CenntenialMelynBW.JPG


CenntenialMelynMME.JPG



Next "Brewday!".
 

peebee

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BREWDAY!
Okay, we get started by printing out the "worksheet":
CentennialMelyn-page-001.jpg

Worksheet (PDF) A readable copy to download from my "public" Google drive if the above is too small. It should fill in for the preceding post's images as well.

Ignore the clap-trap about "hydrate yeast". I'll do that when the time comes and wont be wasting time with "GoFerm". You can also ignore the "strike" mash step ... that's my kludge to get the Grainfather to automate the "strike" step (Grainfathers have no concept of "strike"), but "Connect" connectivity with the Grainfather Website is pants at moment (victim of "lockdown"?) so the Grainfather is being used manually.

I prepped the water the previous day to allow chlorine to vent off (no chloramine here).
20200326_111206_WEB.jpg

Note the jubilee clip on the telescopic centre tube. This fixes the tube to stop it "telescoping". Another jubilee clip fastens the overflow nut onto the top plate. So when the top plate is fitted, it stays in one place 'cos there isn't much grain in the mash to support it. Note that is the entire quantity of water for the recipe (water to grain ratio is about 8 litres per Kg grain, Beersmith calculated this for me).

20200326_121740_WEB.jpg

The mash is on. The top-plate is high and dry, but still doing its job of diffusing the circulation flow so it doesn't dig up the mash grain. The glass lid can be fitted and the re-circulation pipe. The temperature has been set at 66C (it was previously 69C for heating strike water) and the pump switched on.

After 15 minutes the pH was taken. So which water calculator wins? pH is 5.25. Damn, Bru'n Water steals the day. I was convinced on recent measurements the higher prediction of Mash-Made-Easy would have it win easily. Especially as the tap water was coming out as 9.0, the highest I've ever measured it! I re-calibrate quick ... seems my meter is over-reading by 0.1, which makes matters worse! Guess my water hasn't stabilised to 2017 levels even now. Minor digression, now lets get back to the job in hand ...

Mash is finished and malt-pipe raised to drain grains. This may be a BIAB emulation, but you can't squeeze the malt-pipe like you can a bag! Just let it drain while the wort heats up to 98C. But draining is very efficient. Collect 23.7L when only expecting 22.9. Tweak the grain absorption next time.

Malt-pipe off, ramp up to boil, fit hop-spider, boil for 20 minutes to get rid of excess wort and throw in first lot of pellets.
20200326_144456_WEB.jpg

Continue boil, adding hops at right times, and 1/2 Protofloc tablet near end.

Start cooling in the boiler until output below 20C (I've got a GF "Wortometer" fitted), at which point the outflow pipe is put into the keg. Yes, that isn't a mistake! I'm skipping the fermenter and filling the keg now!
20200326_162050_WEB.jpg

The yeast is hydrated. No aerating the wort, this isn't strong beer and the dried yeast is supplied with enough oxygen requirement to see it through. In goes the yeast and the keg is sealed.

Next, the fermentation ...

(If you see "Melyn" pop up in any of these piccies, don't worry, I haven't changed the recipe. "Melyn" is "Blonde" in Welsh.).
 
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Clint

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Interesting...could this work in a standard plastic pb,letting it vent itself during fermentation? Then like you say, sacrifice a couple of pints to start..
 

Hopsteep

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Cracking idea peebee! Keen to see how it turns out
 

peebee

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I've posted the "Brewday" as an edit of an earlier post, so here I can skip to Fermentation:

FERMENTATION
I left the keg in a warm place (16-17C) overnight without the spunding valve (risky?) and next morning there was a distinct "phsss" released from the PRV. Fermentation was starting. So the improvised spunding valve was attached. Paranoia had me fit a large trap because this was the first time I'd fermented a moderately highish OG beer in a keg and I imagined a "foam-over".
20200328_100055_WEB.jpg

That evening, with the pressure having been maintained at 12PSI, it was obvious there was going to be no "foam-over" (I suspect the pressure will discourage foam) so the trap was removed. I'd be confident now to fit the spunding valve without the trap at the start in future.
20200328_185638_WEB.jpg

After a couple of days the SG was 1.011 and fermentation pretty much done. This is where using a regulator as a spunding valve has a clear advantage: The regulator was dialled up to 18PSI and the keg moved somewhere cooler (12-13C). It is force carbonating to about 2.3 volumes (it will be served at about 7C which should see the pressure drop to about 12-13PSI).
20200329_135231_WEB.jpg

Pinching samples is easy, just fit a tap to the keg! This is where it's at towards end of day 4:
20200329_142616_WEB.jpg

Very fragrant! But this is very green beer and has that distinct "grab". It's not ready yet!

The regulator was removed a few hours later. But this could have been premature. Into the sixth day the pressure had built to 25PSI and SG dropped to 1.006. I thought it would stop about 1.009-1.010, but the beer had other ideas. It was vented back to 20PSI and prepared for sinking in the "fridge" (an unfinished kegerator build) set at about 7C.

Towards the end of Day 7: The beer dropped another point of gravity (1.005), is now at serving temperature (7C) and has cleared a lot. This beer hasn't been fined so I expect it to be a bit hazy for a while yet (I have fined a pressurised beer before now - injecting the finings from a "carbonation capped" bottle into the "gas in" disconnect - but I haven't bothered for this beer). The green beer "grab" has diminished but could moderate a bit more (couple more days). Very lemony - I'm surprised that there is no hint of the usual US hop 'grapefruit', just lemon.

End of Day 8: Beer is very drinkable. Hazy, but should clear this week. Looks like it's accompanying pizza!
20200403_222007_WEB.jpg

Can't say I've ever had a head quite like on this beer. Lasts a good while too ...
20200403_224332WEB.jpg
 

peebee

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Interesting...could this work in a standard plastic pb,letting it vent itself during fermentation? Then like you say, sacrifice a couple of pints to start..
I can't vouch for using a plastic pressure barrel because I haven't used one for 11-12 years. But I do encourage trying if you think the inbuilt PRV will handle it. And tell us all if it goes okay!

Loads of room for experimenting. Little oxygen contact. Little CO2 "scrubbing" of hop aroma. Sounds ideal for some of these contemporary beers? Lots of people use the US-05 yeast which is very weakly top cropping, perhaps the method will handle 1.050-1.060 beers? But possible yeast autolysis (and associated off-flavours) remains a problem if keeping long. The "Fermentasaurus" vessel was designed to be used like this.

Cracking idea peebee! Keen to see how it turns out
Thanks! But it's not a sudden idea 'cos I was doing it with "low-alcohol" (<1% ABV) for a while and had always wanted to try it on stronger beers. The current "virus" event has just nudged things along.
 

eyuptm

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Great idea, been thinking along these lines for a while, to avoid oxygen exposure... Just ordered a F'zilla from BKT, be interesting to do a comparison... Thanks Peebee, will report back!!
 

peebee

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Here we go again! But slight (eh? Make that "big") twist this time. Last week I was brewing a 45L batch of full-on SG60+ beer. It was an old recipe (Usher's 60/- PA from 1886 - courtesy of Durden Park Beer Club) and fairly strong with loads of hops. As I was using 2017 hops the amount had been bumped up to even greater quantities to allow for time-reduced α-acid content. There was 1/3Kg hops in this 45L batch. The result was a seriously clogged hop filter. I managed to run off 36-37L of wort before giving up.

I was left with a large amount of soggy hops! So I set about removing the hops and squeezing out (by hand) the wort. I was left with 10L (including that in "dead spaces") of wort at SG 1.064. I couldn't put it back with the main batch because of the unsanitary way I treated it. So I pasteurised it (heated to 75°C) and left it for later.

What I chose to do was create another brew from the recovered wort, treating it as hopped extract. So it was made up to produce an 18L batch with tap water, 330g golden syrup added, and boiled for 5 minutes. Cooled to 85°C and 30g EKG hops steeped for 1/2 hour. 18.5L was collected (SG 1.044) into a keg come fermenter (18.5L 'cos I forgot, no hops to soak up excess allowed for in the calculations). S-33 yeast sprinkled on before closing. The overfill rekindled worry about a foam over so the spunding valve was left off and the trap prepared for later. And this time my worries weren't unfounded ...
20200502_145456_WEB.jpg

As if you need proof Corny kegs don't seal at low pressures!

Trap fitted, a jab of gas added to seal the lid (!) and regulator (acting as spunding valve) set to 6PSI. At 10-11PSI the regulator starts venting and controlling the pressure. Fermented under pressure (11PSI) for 3 days. Day 4, gravity at 1.009. Spunding valve removed and keg placed in keezer (set at 4°C). This will later be allowed to warm up (about 15°C), vented, and put on hand-pump. Another "test"; I never envisaged this "ferment in a keg" technique for a "Real Ale" style.

This has all gone well so far. I might make this technique more planned when brewing strong beer in future as it certainly relieves the stress running off such hop laden beers and you get an extra keg of "drink now" "small beer" to be going on with. (I'll report if it turns out okay!).
 

peebee

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Run into a bit of a problem with this technique. Two weeks on and my "recovery bitter" is still murky. I even began to think my keg's "floating extractor" had sunk! This was the only time I've purposely "cold crashed" (yeuck - I still dislike that phrase) so I wasn't impressed with its performance. The Centennial Melyn brewed six weeks ago had been hazy up until very recently, when it did start to pour clear.

I'm not using finings, but the yeasts used (Nottingham and S-33) clear fairly quickly on their own. And the floating beer extractors should be taking from the clearer beer near the surface not the sludge forming at the bottom.

But it's now occurring to me: These are top fermenting yeasts and I'm serving out of what has been the primary fermenter. There is going to be a lot of yeast floating about on the surface of the beer that would normally have been left behind.

This is going to require some careful thinking out. Fining isn't going to work on its own. Perhaps swirling the keg after fermentation? Perhaps different yeast (but not "powdery" ones like US-05), one that is very weakly top-cropping?
 

peebee

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Gave up waiting for the murky "recovery bitter". Lid off, 10g more priming sugar in, isinglass finings in, lid on (with new, thicker, seal 'cos this Corny proved to be one of those "wont seal at low pressure" kegs - see earlier fermentation picture) purge, pressure and swirl. I'll see what that comes out like …

I'm toying with the idea of adding an extra step to the process - a "pressure transfer" to a new keg after clearing. But this does undo much of the novelty behind the method. It does remove the need for "floating extractors" though which might make the process of more interest to more people? No "autolysis" worries either. Damn, am I going around in a circle to end up with conventional brewing practice? I'll get on and refine the approach and test it later.
 

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Nice one peebee. I still ferment in buckets but am planning to switch to fermenting in kegs - the plan is to ferment in one, use the fermentation gas to purge the intended serving keg then transfer the beer with a few points of gravity left and spund to desired carbonation level. So closed transfer and less use of CO2, although I'll obviously still need it for serving and perhaps initially sealing the lids etc.
 

peebee

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'Tis 4 months since starting this project. The "Centennial Blonde" is a passing memory, though even after ten weeks sitting on all that yeast from the primary ferment the flavour of the beer wasn't marred at all. So the experiment gets repeated! Three weeks ago a brew was started in an identical manner.

Small change to the recipe. This won't be a "blonde", it'll be a "red". The base malts replaced with "Red-X", the crystal (Cara-malt) replaced with "Cara-red". The rest the same, but the higher roasted malts being predicted to be slightly more acid meant no Phosphoric Acid was suggested by the water calculators.

One or two "gotchas" encountered, hence it was worthy of this update.

As before I'll start by printing out the Beersmith "worksheet":

CentennialCoch-page-001.jpg


Worksheet (PDF) Again, a readable copy to download from my "public" Google drive if the above is too small.

First "gotcha": "Red-X" is a continental malt (Germany) and I've had this before (using Belgium malts). Mashing for 60 minutes is fine for UK malt, but doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to continental malts. My efficiency was rubbish; 64% (mash, not brew-house) when I'd normally expect 80-85%. So aiming at OG 1.040, got 1.034.

Second "gotcha": I allow headspace in the keg (18L batch, 19-19.5L reaches the keg's gas-in dip-tube. So it is really dumb to squeeze out that extra 1/2 litre. Fortunately I have enough intact pessimism to have fitted that "trap" again …
20200706_134244_WEB.jpg

That is over a pint of expelled beer in the trap. Next time stick rigidly to my assumed "safe" volume in the keg, and perhaps even reduce the batch size to 17 or 17.5 litres? The expelled beer wasn't wasted. Being fermented under pressure means it was carbonated, and therefore got drunk!

The finished beer (still in the same keg) took longer to come drinkable than the "blonde", even exhibiting excessive bitterness initially. But after three weeks (from start):
20200726_150519_WEB.jpg

A red hue? Certainly tastier than the blonde (from the Red-X and Cara-red). But not the "Mr Whippy" head of the blonde so thinking the Carapils was responsible for it was perhaps wrong? Maybe I didn't allow the carbonation to get so out of control.
 

BeerCat

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Great read Peebee. Interesting you had less efficiency with the RedX. I have not noticed it but always mash for ages. I just bought some more to do another red lager. I found the cara red did not add enough colour so i will be trying red crystal next. Beer looks lovely!
 

peebee

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... I have not noticed it but always mash for ages. ...
I think that's the key. I always used to mash for 90 minutes, but have got used to 60 minute mashes with UK malt. Even though continental malt is not to be considered inferior extraction-wise, I think you still need to treat it with some extra respect. I convinced myself by mashing "Chavallier" barley malt (i.e. heritage UK malt) for a longer period and was astonished by the difference in efficiency it made.
 

peebee

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I'm completely sold on Chavallier malt! But I need to try it in a few more recipes yet.

There are apparently two "groups" of barley. One "group" has Chavallier in it, the other has Maris Otter and most of the other barleys used for modern malt. So it's not a surprise to find Chavallier barley malt to taste very different from beers made with modern malts. Yet I can't truthfully discern the difference between beers made with different modern barley malts.

But I am finding you need to treat Chavallier somewhat differently to get the best out of it. Inspired by an old recipe, I'm currently trying the "Hochkurz" mashing technique with it, a continental (German) alternative to decoction mashing, hence my comments above about treating continental malts with a bit more respect.

EDIT: I was discussing it here: Durden Park - Old British Beers
 
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