Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Little Laska Blonde - Brewing

Yesterday I decided to brew up my first batch of Laska Blonde. It was a fun day and I learnt quite a bit along the way. What I want to do here is share with you a little about the day and my hopes for this particular beer.

First off, I went out and bought some grain and hops. Here's a pic of some of the ingredients:

now, you'll notice that there are several different malts as well as a few different hops. Not all of these are going into the Laska Blonde, oh no! but I intend to brew a few other styles in the upcoming weeks so I bought all the grain, unmilled, at the same time.

Water Quality
Laska Bottled Water has the following composition:

Ca 2+ 6.4 ppm
Mg 2+ 1.92 ppm
Na - 1.82 ppm
HCO3 - 18.3 ppm

SO4 2- Unknown
Cl- Unknown

This water, is the softest of the waters I profiled and is a moderately reasonable match for the Pilsen Water Profile. It's not the same, but without salt additions or dilutions, it's close enough considering the different bottled waters on offer here in Hanoi. So, This should be good for a Blonde style beer.

Style Guidelines
The style I decided to aim for was an Light Hybrid Beer - Blonde Ale, using all Czech Malt and Hops.

So we're aiming for:

an IBU (bitterness) between 15 - 28,
an SRM (colour) between 3.0 - 6.0,
an OG (specific gravity) between 1.038 - 1.054,
finishing with an FG (specific gravity) between 1.008 - 1.013

What does this all mean? Well, nothing much at all, if you are not taking gravity readings, measuring and tweaking various parameters such as mash pH, mashing temperature etc. or particularly care about colour and malt/bitterness balance.

Here, I'm trying to design a basic, localized, Hanoi Beer style using ingredients on hand. I'd like for this recipe to hit somewhere about, "near enough," so that anyone else brewing it can be reasonably confident they can: a) reproduce the same type of beer, b) predict and make a familiar beer style, and c) produce a beer with a comfortable flavour base that can be tweaked to some degree.


5 kg Czech Malt - Single Step Infusion Mash at 65 deg. C for approx. 1 hr 30 min - 2 hours
40 g Czech Saaz Hops bagged and added at Start of Boil. Length of Boil is 60 min
13 g Czech Saaz Hops bagged and added at 15 min prior to End of Boil

Now, a little about the yeast. My mate, Peter's Extra (from the New Hanoian, Hanoi Handcrafted - Brewers Guild Group) gave me some out of date Ale yeast to try out on this brewing experiment. It was an Activ-Trocken-Bierhefe obergärig (7g) dry pack suitable for Kölsch, Alt, Ale and sonstige obergärige Biere. It should be rehydrated in lukewarm water for about 30 min. and it's optimal temperature range is between 18 and 25 deg. C which is pretty much ambient temp at around this time. The potential trouble was that it's Useby Date was listed as April 2007!!

Ok, enough talk, let's brew some beer!

Post Brewing Notes
This wasn't a totally problem free Brew Day. I was worried that the yeast would not take off and do it's thing, so I made a yeast starter with some lukewarm sugar water (4 tbsn white sugar in 2 cups water) beat the living daylights out of the yeast in the water and put it aside to rehydrate and bubble, hopefully. Good job! It worked! It's Alive! (cue maniacal laughter...)

Another problem was that the Mash-In Temp was a little low, so I had to draft of some of the mash water and heat it up then add it back in. Watching the mash over the time period, I had to do this a couple of times. Also when Mashing In it might pay to add the grain to the water rather than water to the grain as quite a bit of air gets trapped and bubbles semi-explosively through the mash as you stir it. If you've added water to the grain, stir it well to make sure you don't get any dough balls or trapped air pockets. It also helps to ensure the whole mash is at the same temp.

During this brew, I used a solid block of ice and broke it up with a hammer. It pays to cover the ice with a cloth it was wrapped in so as the splinters don't go scattering all over the kitchen. In the future, I think I'll just stick to pre-crushed ice.

Now, drops and drips and spills do occur so it's essential to clean up as you go. This stuff is some sticky liquor so have a mop bucket with hot water on standby - your partner will love you for it. Also, as you finish using your buckets and sieves and equipment rinse them straight away as this will make cleanup so much easier. I like to use the big basin as a dunking bucket so that anything that need rinsing can be dropped into it and when I have a free moment I can then finish rinsing stuff off. This is essential if you are using minimal brew equipment, like here.

More soon with the progress of the fermentation and bottling. Now its,

Your Shout, Mate!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Brewing Three Distinct Hanoian Beers

A while back I was researching the effect of water quality and ion concentrations on beer styles. this prompted me to look at several different bottled waters that we have available here in Hanoi. After a while I settled on three potentials each with quite distinct and different ion profiles. These were, bottled, still, drinking water from Laska, La Vie and Kimboi. I then proceded to match them to particular well-known beers styles, like Blonde, Amber and Dark beers, and developed three recipes using Beer Alchemy (I'm on a Mac) to adjust ingredients towards something that might be characteristic of a particular style.

The only problem was that I'd never actually brewed these recipes to see how they'd turn out - Oh the shame, the shame!

Now, it's easy to be an armchair expert and pontificate from the sidelines! However, there's no substitute for real experience. so, I bit the bullet, I had to brew these beers, a Laska Blonde, a La Vie Amber, and a Kimboi Brown. They are all ambient temperature brews using an ale yeast, so technically they are Ales.

The Blonde is a pale ale, sort of the typical colour we're all used to when we crack a commercial beer. I expect it to be a little cloudy, so the beer that comes to my mind at least, commercially, as representative of the style is Cooper's Sparking Ale.

The Brown is targeted at approx. the middle of the style. I had a lovely English Brown Ale recently, it was a medium brown with a slight reddish tinge and I'm hoping for something similar from the La Vie Amber.

The Kimboi Brown is targeted at the bottom end of a Black Beer/Stout. It's meant to be a very dark brown bordering black. So we'll have to wait and see how that turns out. Hopefully it's come in somewhere around a Milk Stout like colour.

Now, I just have to get off my tail and away from the iMac and start doing some real brewing. Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!