Full Steam Ahead

Brews
August 19, 2011 / By / Post a Comment

I made my first steam beer about six months ago. It was my first brew of the year (not counting mead) and my first attempt at coming up with my own recipe. While there were a number of milestones that came with that brew, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the resulting beer. It wasn’t bad, but try as I might, I just could never find anything particularly noteworthy about it.

I thought it still might have potential so I’ve been keeping it in the wings, waiting for the right opportunity to revisit the recipe. Now, six months and six brews later, it’s finally time to give it another try. The impetus was my joining a local homebrewing collective experimenting with a Community Supported Agriculture approach to homebrewing. As a brewer, I could provide 40 bottles out of any batch I made to the group roughly once every 5 weeks. Members receive variety six packs consisting of contributors’ brews and provide feedback on each one.

Revisions

I’m starting with the original formula and making a few adjustments to see if I can improve the recipe. This time I’m omitting the biscuit malt from the grain bill and redistributing the percentages of Munich and crystal malts. The hops will also get some small changes. While my
original plan was to keep with Willamette as a finishing hop, when it came to brew day it turned out that my inventory management system had fallen out of sync with what I had in stock. With no Willamette on hand I decided to substitute Cascade for the aroma addition.

I’ve also made one small brewery change since my last brew. The bulkhead and valve components of my mash tun got an upgrade. The original components had begun to show some signs of discoloration and I was starting to worry about the possibility of any negative effects on the wort. The original bulkhead that was cobbled together with brass plumbing fittings, steel washers, and rubber o-rings were replaced with a solid plastic piece with matching plastic nut and rubber washer. The fittings adjacent to either side of the new bulkhead as well as the valve assembly were all replaced with stainless steel components. All of these pieces were also upgraded to 1/2” from their original 3/8” inner diameter.

Recipe information
The Commoner (v2)
Batch Size 5.5gal

Boil Size 7gal
California Common
Boil 60 min Brewhouse Efficiency (71%)
% or IBU
Bill
2 Row Pale Malt 8# 12oz 81.4%
Crystal 60L Malt 1# 4oz 11.6%
Munich Malt 12oz 7%
Hop Schedule
Northern Brewer 7.9% .5oz @60 13.3 IBU
Northern Brewer 7.9% .75oz @30min 15.3 IBU
Northern Brewer 7.9% .75oz @15min 9.9 IBU
Whirlfloc @15min
Cascade 5.9% .5oz @Flame Out 0 IBU
Yeast
White Labs WLP810 San Francisco Lager
O.G. 1.050 SG F.G. 1.010 SG
IBU 38.5 ABV 5.2%
Mash 60 min
Strike Temp 164.2°F
Mash Volume 13.44qt Temp 153°F
Sparge Volume 2.59gal Temp 168°F
* The Recipe is based on a standard simple single infusion all-grain mash using modern well modified grains.
The values are calculated based on an average 70-80% brewhouse efficiency, so your values may change depending on your system capabilities.

Final Thoughts

My only hope going in was that my tweaks would move the beer in a positive direction. As it turns out, that’s just the case. It’s still not mindblowing, but it’s definitely better than the original. Maybe with a few more revisions I’ll be able to turn this into something truly worthwhile. While I’ve shared my brews with friends and family before, this is the first time I’ve really put something out for critique. The reviews are generally positive, too. Comments describe a light and refreshing lager with some slight fruity notes and overall good flavor. It’s a good start, and plenty enough to keep this around for a bit more tinkering in the future.

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