It’s Competition Time!

One of our goals for 2017 was to get our beer entered, and preferably win, in homebrewing competitions. We took our first step in attaining that goal by entering the National Homebrew Competition (NHC). The NHC is put together by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and it’s the biggest competition in the US. We are both excited and terrified at this concept. This is going to be very constructive no matter what happens. A non-bias critique from certified judges will certainly help going forward.

We decided to enter our Coffee & Vanilla Brown, “Brown Eye Woke.” I have entered this into the category 19C American Brown, but I may change it to 13B British Brown. I haven’t decided yet but both categories are fairly similar.

Grain Bill:

8 pounds                            Pale 2-Row Malt
.75 pounds                          Brown Malt
.75 pounds                          Biscuit Malt
.75 pounds                          Special Roast Malt
.75 pounds                          Victory Malt

Hops:

2 oz                                        Kent Golding      (15 minute and 45 minute additions)

Yeast:

WLP005                                British Ale Yeast

Estimated
OG                 1.050
FG                  1.010

Actual
OG                 1.050
FG

We have been hitting about 70-75% efficiency lately, which is a big step above the 66-69% we were used to getting recently. We hit our OG right on the nose as well as our pre-boil and post-boil volume. We might actually know what we’re doing!

We mashed in at 152F for 60 minutes and mashed out at 151.8F. Not bad for a cooler mash tun. As a bit of an aside we plan on upgrading to the SS Brewtech 10 gallon mash tun very shortly, but I digress. We spraged at 168F with a 10 minute rest and collected 7 gallons of wort.  Going off tangent, again, after I threw the spent grains away I started to feel like I should do something with them. So starting next brew day I’m going to start making dog treats with the spent grains.

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It was a beautiful day Sunday, too beautiful to not brew.

One thing I noticed right away with this second batch was the color of the wort. It didn’t seem to be very dark… it actually looked pale/orange in all honesty. We were a bit taken back by it, and I initially thought they may have given us the wrong grain bill. We decided to press on and mash as we usually do. After the sparge, the color got a little bit darker, but the SRM was clearly different. I’ll touch more on this later.

Moving on, we brought the wort to a boil for 60 minutes with hop additions of .75 ounces for 45 minutes and 1.25 ounces for 15 minutes. Kent Golding hops are pretty non-intrusive hops and the honey and “earthy” component they add to beers meshes really well with this style. I love watching the hot break happen, it’s such an awesome reaction (fuck yeah, science)

.

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Hot break about to… break

 

We recently brewed Dry Hop Naked, our dry hopped honey blonde, again. We had some issues with our new plate chiller. We didn’t have time to do a test run, so we kind of learned on the fly. Results were best described as… mixed. Although the plate chiller took the temperature from 185F to 78F in about 8 minutes, so it definitely did its job. We decided to step things up a bit and save even more water this time around.

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Using the new plate chiller with recirculated ice water. Perfection.

About a month ago we made a carboy washer with a bucket, submersible pump, and some PVC pipe. We toyed with the idea of using our pump to recirculate ice water through the plate chiller. This would not only cut down on wasting water but also streamline the process so we can chill twice instead of once.

It worked insanely well! We used the gravity method to get the wort form the kettle to the chiller into another kettle. We got the temp from 183F to 77F in about eight minutes. Once that was done we transferred from the kettle to the carboy and put it in the fridge, got it down to ~66F and pitched our yeast. It was an incredibly smooth brew day, and it was one of our most efficient ones at that. Hit our target OG on the nose, got everything done in about three hours, and we were able to relax for the rest of the day.

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One thing I still don’t quite understand though is the difference in color. The grain bill is 100% exactly the same from batch one to two.  I’m really stumped on this one… I hope it doesn’t affect the flavor of the finished product, either. After the cold break and pitching the yeast, the color did get darker, but still not as dark as the previous batch. Maybe it’s all mental and I’m imagining things. I have some batch one bottles still so I will definitely do a little side by side when time permits.

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