Perlick 545 Rebuild

I use Perlick 545s on my kegerator and I am a huge fan of them functionally.  It is great to have the ability to serve 2 volume to 3.5 volume beer and not have to change anything in my kegerator except rotate the flow control on the 545.  They also provide a nice smooth pour and the forward closing setup does work to prevent sticking.  The issue is they use a pretty complex design which, in general, usually leads to reliability issues and these are no different.  The have a tendency to leak if anything goes wrong – a little bit of hop matter gets in there, the pressure is a bit high, if the wind blows from the west etc…  A good cleaning and swapping o-rings if any are damaged usually does the trick.   That said, there are 8 billion o-rings so I finally decided to figure out what size o-rings are used so I can buy them in bulk rather than way overpaying.  I do the same thing for keg rebuilds and have saved a bunch of money over the years.  Also, Perlick seems to only sell a subset of the o-rings – the ones in the bonnet, the one in the front that actually controls beer flow and the coupling gasket.  the 3 o-rings that are part of the flow control assembly don’t appear anywhere on their website from what I can tell.So, I measured all the o-rings with digital calipers and have ordered 100 packs of all of them so I’m good for a while (forever?).  Here is my partlist from McMaster Carr:
Buna-N O-Ring, AS568A Dash Number 014, packs of 100
Buna-N O-Ring, AS568A Dash Number 204, packs of 100
Buna-N O-Ring, AS568A Dash Number 012, packs of 100
Buna-N O-Ring, AS568A Dash Number 015, packs of 100
Metric Buna-N O-Ring, 2.5 mm Width, 10 mm ID, packs of 100
And here is where they all go:

Automated HLT

One of the early projects I took on when I moved to All Grain Brewing was a way to automate my HLT heating so that I could set my HLT water temp and go off and do other things and know that when I came back it would be at the proper temperature and ready for mashing in or for sparging.  For my first go at it about a year ago, I frankensteined a system together that I will hopefully get around to documenting more fully.  Sometimes your failures are better learning experiences than your successes!  My first build used high pressure propane and the appropriate solenoid and a needle valve inline before the pilot light.  I controlled it with a PID – a fairly similar setup to my new build.  The big problem with my first setup was that the pilot light would often go out since i was trying to lower the pressure from high pressure (10-15psi) to low pressure (0.5 psi) for the pilot which the needle valve let me do but it was very finicky and when it would go out I would have to leap to action to get it re-lit it so that I didn’t spew propane everywhere.  Not really confidence inspiring.  The other issue was that the solenoid just sat on the ground which in a brewery isn’t such a great thing.
So, I decided to go more the route of Brutus 10.  But, since I brew on my back porch that won’t fit a Brutus 10 full time (i.e. my wife would kill me) I decided to do just one third of the Brutus 10 and I only brew 5 gallon batches – so maybe a Bru 5?  I am in the process of learning to weld but I’m not quite there yet so I tried to figure out some alternatives for building the stand.  Fortunately I ran into an interesting article in Zymurgy (Vol 36, No 3 – Strutting your Stuff) that talked about building brewing frames out of electrical strut.
Since this is a pretty big build I’ve broken the article out into multiple parts.  Frame, Gas System and Electrical System.  Here are a couple videos describing the system and showing how it works.
I have never really worked with metal before, outside of shop class in middle school, so in order to build the frame I needed to go buy a couple power tools – twist my arm!  Of course I also needed to buy the strut and strut parts.  The main power tool I needed was a chop saw which is basically a miter saw but with a metal cutting disc.  I also picked up an angle grinder so i could clean up all the metal I’d be cutting.  I looked at the dimensions from the Brutus 10 as well as what homebrew academy did and decided to raise the burner a bit and lower the honeywell unit to make sure I had plenty of space and didn’t have to worry about the honeywell getting hot.  I put together a partlist and basic diagram.
2 x Superstrut 1-5/8 in. x 10 ft. (cut into 4 x 28″ and 8 x 12″ pieces)
8 x Superstrut 1/2 in. 3-Hole Flat Corner Bracket
8 x Superstrut 4-Hole 90-Degree Bracket
12 x Superstrut 3/8 in. Channel Spring Nuts  (5 pack)
60 x 3/8 in. x 1-1/4 in. Stainless Steel Hex Screw (probably could have gone shorter)
4 x self tapping metal screws (look similar to this and used to attach wind shield to sides)
1 x Superstrut 3-3/16 in. U-Bolt Beam Clamp (holds gas pipe in place)
2 x 2ft by 12inch sheet metal (cut into 12inch by 12inch pieces and used for wind shields)
4 x 6 inch hangar strap (similar to this but thicker – found it with sheet metal at lowes.  used to install burner)





Gas System:
Based on the experiences of Homebrew Academy and others I decided to give the Honeywell solenoid a go.  This unit requires natural gas or low pressure propane and since I am running off propane tanks and don’t have a low cost way to run natural gas to where I brew that decision was easy.  This is my first low pressure propane system – my previous work was all on high pressure propane – so I had to figure a few things out.  The big one was getting the right low pressure regulator that can sustain the level of BTUs I want and the other was to pick a burner and orifice that will work with the low pressure regulator.  I had hooked up the same pilot light from honeywell before so that part was pretty straight forward.
Some things of note for those who have used high pressure liquid propane (LP) but not low pressure.  For starters, there are some benefits – quieter, more efficient and works with the off the shelf automated controllers and pilot lights like the Honeywell.  The main downside is I have not found a way to get it to burn as hot as high pressure and so things will, obviously, heat up slower.  For me, I can heat 10 gallons of water with a high pressure burner in 20 minutes and it takes 40 minutes with my low pressure burner.  That works with my brew day since I start it heating up first thing and go off and do other things before mashing in and it will heat back up during the 1 hour mash, but certainly something to be aware of.  Some things you can do to get more out of low pressure setup:
1) Higher flow regulator – still has to be ~10.5 WC (~0.5psi) of pressure but you can get more output – think same amount of pressure but bigger hole so a higher volume of gas.  I ended up using the Camco dual stage regulator listed below but with the green ACME fitting, 3/8 flare fitting and hose from the tejas smokers regulator, also listed below.  Tejas smokers also offers an adjustable dual stage regulator (GR9448) that offers higher BTUs but I haven’t tried it so you may be able to eek out some more BTUs that way.  On a side note, I have seen in forum postings that people have had issues with ACME fittings because they have safety features that prevent overfill but also prevent them from being open without being connected to something (ie just spewing gas).  To fix this they use old school POL fittings which don’t have these safety features.  Either work on the types of propane tanks you pick up at your local grocery store.  I have not had any issues with ACME connectors but it is probably because I am just hooked straight into the Honeywell.  The systems that seem to have issues are using a shared gas beam.  When you first turn on the gas that gas beam is large enough to appear to the valve to be a wide open connection and so it shuts itself off.
2) Use shorter and larger diameter hoses, pipes and couplings.  as you can see on this chart there is a huge difference in BTU potential between long, small diameter runs and short, large diameter runs.  I could maybe get some more BTUs by using 1/2″ all the way through rather than some sections of 3/8″.  It is about as short as it can get length wise and I honestly didn’t notice a difference in output when I hooked the regulator straight to the burner for testing so not sure it really matters but worth looking at.
3) Adjust your burner height.  I started with my burner at 4″ below the pot and by moving it to 3″ I saw a significant heating increase.
Another partlist and diagram:
1 x 1/2″, 24 Vac Standing Pilot Gas Valve
1 x 24″ Thermocouple
1 x Honeywell Q314A4586 Pilot Burner
1 x 1/4″ x 5′ Pilot Burner Tubing w/ Fittings
1 x Brass Flare Male 90 Elbow – 3/8″ x 1/2″mips
1 x Brass Flare x Mips – 3/8″ x 1/2″ Mips
1 x 90° Elbow 1/2″
1 x 4″ long x 1/2″ diameter black iron pipe (i bought mine at lowes in the plumbing section)
1 x Stainless Steel Gasflex – 1/2″od x 12″ – with adapter to 3/8″fip x 3/8″fip
1 x Bayou Classic BG14 Burner
1 x low pressure orifice for BG14 (CVO250 at tejas smokers – MAKE SURE TO HAVE IT DRILLED OUT FOR LOW PRESSURE BG14)
1 x low pressure, higher output regulator or this
1 x Rectorseal (gas leak = bad)

Electrical System:
No soldering!  After a few builds with a bunch of soldering it was nice to have one where I just crimped.  I had built a very similar control box for my old system and I’ve built a couple BrewPis for fermentation control so this was actually one of the easier parts of the project.
I used a NEMA rated box that I have used a few times before and really like.  It is plastic so it is easy to do the cut-outs for the various buttons, switches and PIDs using a dremel tool with it’s router kit.  My first few cuts were not so pro but after some practice I have gotten pretty decent.
The switches I used were recommended on this site  but I’m on the fence with them.  The Main and PID switches work pretty well with this box but the Pump Switches can pop out.  It seems they were more designed for a thin metal box rather than thicker plastic.  I have used other buttons and switches and prefer the ones with a lock nut like this which I have used on another project but make sure the switches you pick can support the proper amperage.
I would recommend you be careful with wire gauge and the quick disconnects and spades.  You want to make sure the wire will fit in whatever you buy and still crimp solidly.  Also, disconnects and spades with plastic covers are not a bad safety precaution so you don’t short anything out.
I tried a few different terminal blocks and have found I like the ones from Radio Shack the best.  You can just shorten the jumper to whatever length you need so you can create the number of interconnected screw terminals so you can power / ground everything.  Be VERY careful with setting up your terminals cause this is the most likely place you will create a short and can cause some real damage.
For the PIDs I’ve used both Love and Auber and both are fine.  I prefer the Auber b/c I can see both the actual and the set temp at the same time and they can do a tenth of a degree granularity.  I also really like Auber’s RTDs and their connectors and cables.  They come pre-made so you don’t have to mess with soldering or building cables and they are very sturdy and reliable.  Highly recommended.  As I said, I’ve used Love with Brewer’s Hardware RTDs and they work but they require more work to install and the ones I’ve used required compression fittings which are the most likely to leak in my experience.
The Auber parameter settings I changed from default are:
Inty – P 10.0 (for RTD and 0.1 degree granularity)
outy – 4
Hy – 0.5 (i may mess with this since it does cut on a bit but I do like to be within half a degree)
The first transformer I bought weighed about nine thousand pounds (honeywell transformer) so I replaced it with a much smaller unit with no instructions but after some work with a voltmeter I was able to figure out what was going on.
The way I hooked up the controller to the honeywell was just using a long 3 prong power cord that I cut one end off of and put another male connecter so it is a 3 prong male to 3 prong male extension cord.  I then took an extentions cord and cut off the female end with about 2 feet of cable left and hooked the non -ground (line and neutral) cables to the honeywell connectors using quick disconnects.  So far so good.
1 x Control Box
2 x Wall Outlets
1 x Main Switch
1 x PID Switch
2 x Pump Switches (i don’t love these so go with others is you prefer 🙂
1 x Power Jack
3 x 16 AWG wire (white, red, green)
30 x female quick disconnect
50 x block spade
2 x terminal
2 x jumpers
1 x HLT Auber PID
1 x Mash Auber PID
2 x RTD sensors ( order 8′ deluxe cable)
1 x 110V / 24V transformer
2 x extention cords w/ ground (I use this to hack together cable to connect control box to honeywell)
nuts and bolts to attach terminal, power jack and transformer to control box which i get at mcmaster carr







I have brewed with the unit only once but it worked flawlessly.  Yay!  Of course, nothing is perfect so here are the pros and cons I see versus my old high pressure propane setup.
Pros: Very reliable and just worked out of the gate without any tuning
Hits temp settings very accurately and keeps the temp very close – overshoot much less of an issue
Nothing laying on the floor other than propane tank so much safer than old system (hopefully)
Hella fun to build
Cons: Stand is VERY heavy.  Holy cow.  I can carry it by myself but I have handcramps after walking 20 feet with it
It does not put out the BTUs that a high pressure system does so heats about half as fast
Cost and time – I love DIY’ing it and it is one of my favorite parts of the hobby but there are cheaper and faster ways to do this

Keg Line Cleaner

As with most DIY projects, this one was built in response to a problem.  Although now that I think about it a lot my projects create as many problems as they fix 🙂  I had a couple beers in a row that were great when they first went on tap but then after a few weeks would start to take on a buttery character that is typical of diacetyl.  Then, when a keg kicked I noticed around the edge of the beer post that a there was a bit of mold and a streak of dried beer that had run down the side of the keg.  After lots of research, I realized that half my kegs had the wrong posts (Type A instead of Type B (ie Cornelius)) and had been very slowly leaking.  I think what happened is the small beer leak had allowed a lacto or pedio infection to take hold in my beer lines which can cause Diacetyl.  Or maybe I’m crazy.  Anywho, I fixed all my keg posts but also realized my lines needed a very thorough cleaning.  So, I rigged up a recirculating keg line cleaner using a pool cover pump I use for my immersion chiller (which I hope to document soon).  Basically, I remove the tap I want to clean and take it apart, put the parts in a a standard 5 gallon bucket with 3 gallons of hot PBW solution (~140F which is my tap water at it’s hottest) and I then pump that using my pool cover pump up through the tap down through the keg line and back into the bucket.  This means it is in the reverse direction of how beer is served.  Pretty simple but works awesome.  After recirculating the PBW for 30 mins, I recirculate hot water for 10 mins to clean out the PBW.  Then just before putting my next beer on tap I run Star San through the lines to sanitize.  Since I started the new process, I have had no issues so maybe it worked or maybe its massive overkill!  My one concern is the hot water is not good for the pump, but I’ve been running the setup for a few months now without issue.  I guess time will tell.
Part List:
Qty 1  Little Giant PCP550 Pool Cover Pump $55
Qty 1 Hose Adapter $3
Qty 1 Tap Faucet Adapter $8
Qty 6 3/8 ID hose (ie 6 feet) $5
Qty 2 Hose Clamp $2
Here is a video of the setup running:
Here are the two connectors (left goes in the tap base and right is garden hose adapter that goes to pump):

Here is the pump connected to 3/8″ ID tubing that goes up to the tap base:

Here is a wide angle shot of the setup but with the pump out of the bucket.  Do not run the pump dry!

Here is the actual setup running.  Notice that the hose that runs from the keg up into the tap is feeding back into the bucket.

An aerial view of the bucket with everything running.

Berliner Weisse Experiment 1 (Lacto Sources)

For some reason, I’ve become particularly intrigued by Berliner Weisse (BW) as of late.  I really love the style especially in the crazy heat of summer and, maybe more importantly, my wife loves a nice tart beer (read: Festina Peche).  My first attempt (that is still souring – fingers crossed) used the Jamil method of pitching the yeast and lacto at the same time.  Clearly this method produces a great beer since the last BW winner at NHC used Jamil’s method.  That said, I’m not really interested in waiting 6 months everytime I brew one.  So, I started to do some research into different ways to sour a BW and there is a decent amount of information but nothing very extensive, well tested or documented.  So, I decided to run a set of my own experiments to find out how can I make a BW that sours very quickly, tastes great, maybe keeps cost and complexity in the check and can be served on draft without concern of infecting everything it touches.  All that said, I’m not interested in making a really crappy beer quickly so if to make the best beer takes time or I have to serve it in bottles rather than draft then thats what I’ll do but it seems the only way to know for sure is the run some experiments.  I didn’t want to start totally from scratch so I took the test data from Jess Caudill of Wyeast that was presented at NHC ( and built from there.  It is clear in Jess’ preso that for the lacto to sour quickly and produce a lot of tasty lactic acid it is best if it doesn’t compete with yeast at the beginning but let it sour first then use a yeast that works well at low pH to finish things up.  Makes total sense – the less the lacto has to compete the better.  But in dorking around on the web there seems to be little consensus on the best source of lacto.  So my first set of tests are to try different sources and see how quickly they sour and to what level do they drop the pH and how does it taste/smell as it goes along.My plan is to do 3 x 1 gallon test batches at a time where I boil a little over 3 gallons of 1.030 muntons wheat DME wort for 15 minutes, cool to around 100F and then pitch the sources of lacto and hold at 90-100F and take daily pH and aroma/flavor notes till the pH stops dropping, the pH gets to the level of sour I want, or the batch goes rancid.  My plan is to test raw 2-row, raw acidulated malt and different “pure” lacto cultures from labs (white labs, wyeast etc..) as well as probiotic sources.   Unlike Jess’ experiments, assuming the 1 gallon batch is not rancid, I plan to boil the wort again to kill the lacto (so it could then be served on draft), ferment using german ale yeast and then bottle condition at ~3.5 volumes to see how the finished beer comes across.
For later experiments, I’d also like to try:
-not reboiling the wort to leave the Lacto alive
– using Brett rather than German Ale as the primary fermenter,
-fermenting with German Ale and  bottle conditioning with Brett
– making it bigger (1.050+)
– making it much hoppier than normal versions with boil/whirlpool/dry hopping experiments.
– lowering the pH using lactic acid before pitching lacto since this appears to speed things up and help with head retention without really effecting the flavor profile.
And I’m sure I’ll come up with other ideas.
So, first the lab setup:
 IMG_3050 IMG_3052 IMG_3053 IMG_3054 IMG_3055 IMG_3056
The fermenters are just standard 1 gallon jugs with universal bungs and some tubing to run over to a jar of sanitizer.  The chamber is just a nice big cooler with a lizard lamp in it hooked into my old brewery automation box that I’m just using to keep the temp in the cooler at 95F.  not super precise but should work well for this experiment and the temp swings went from 93-96F so not too bad.  of course this is all outside to keep the family at bay :)For round 1 I tested1) 1 oz uncrushed weyerman acidulated malt
2) 1 oz uncrushed 2 row from Canada Malting
3) 50 tablets of Lactobacillus Acidophilus that are 100 million cells per tablet
Everything I’ve read on people kettle souring, the amount of grain put in is always “a handful” so I thought I’d be a bit more precise and actually measure the amount of grain by weight 🙂
For the tablets, Jess recommends >= 5 million cells / ml which is about 19 billion cells / gallon but I didn’t really want to use 190 tables.  Instead I used what should be a bit over 1 million cells / ml which still did well in Jess’ tests it just took a bit longer and allowed me to buy less probiotics 🙂  Here is a picture of the Acidophilus I used:

I’m keen on trying “probiotic” strains of lacto since I can buy them at the pharmacy, they are fairly inexpensive, a lot of them don’t even have to be refrigerated and from reading different forums it appears other have had good luck with them.  There are a lot of blends out there but I’m looking to stick to pure strains, at least for now, so I can see the performance and flavor profile of each individual strain.The initial numbers are OG of 1.031 and initial pH (pre-pitching) of 5.8.

Day 1 (ie 24 hours in):
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.81 malty sweet, not sour. clean.  no fermentation activity.
2 (2 row): pH 4.14 a little sour like apple juice.  still worty and sweet.  no fermentation activity.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.97.  similar to 2 but just a hair more sour.  no fermentation activity.Day 2:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.59  big foamy kreusen with a strong horse blanket / goatie aroma with an edge of dirty diaper.  no malt aroma.  seems very sketchy so not tasted.  very hazy.
2 (2 row): pH 3.89 super weird foam that is like big soap bubbles that are a bit reflective and alien looking.  really strange.  malty aroma w/ a little lactic tart nose.  also very sketchy so not tasted.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.77 no foam at all.  malty aroma w/ a hint of sour aroma but comes across more malty then sour.  pretty tart flavor.  5 on a scale of 1 to 10.  clean sourness surrounded by of Day 2:
1 (acidualted malt)

2 – (2 row)

3 – (acidophilus):

Day 3:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.05  no kreusen.  odor is a bit of sour lactic and some funk -> brett.  tasted it since no sick smell.  worty.  funky – bretty.  a bit sour.
2 (2 row): pH 3.40 no kreusen.  smell is sweet wort w/ an edge of sour.  otherwise clean.  flavor is sour – 7 out of 10 (10 being the most sour beer i’ve had).  a bit of sweet wort flavor.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.42 still no kreusen.  seems to have dropped clear?  nose is mostly wort (more than 2) w/ just an edge of sour.  flavor is also pretty worty but 6 out of 10 on sour scale.Day 4:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.09 no change
2 (2 row): pH 3.28 similar to day 3 but a hint more sour in nose and flavor.  get a bit mouth puckering.  nice level of sour.  8 out of 10.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.40 similar to day 3 but a shade more sour.  7 out of 10.Day 5:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.05  no change
2 (2 row): pH 3.14 nose is a bit more tart.  flavor is similar but getting very tart.  throat constricting 🙂  9 out of 10.  about the level i would want if i’m looking for a very sour beer.  clean.  still malty/worty.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.34 similar to day 4.  nice and tart but not as tart as 2.  clean.  still malty/worty.  7 out of 10.
Day 6:
Work ….  Boooooo
Day 7:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.09  no change
2 (2 row): pH 3.10 similar to day 5.  i’m really enjoying these samples 🙂  pretty darn tart.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.30 nice sour level but not as sour as 2.
Day 8:
1 (acidulated malt) : no change.  dumped.
2 (2 row): pH 3.08 similar to day 7. TART.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.30 similar to day 7.
I took 2 and 3 and did the following:
put through strainer into boil kettle to remove solid matter.
boiled for 15 mins with ~5 IBUs of centennial (.15 oz) since that is what i had laying around
cooled to ~60F and pitched half a smack pack of german ale into each (~50ml of slurry)
pitched on 12/13/14
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): has thin kreusen and seems to be bubbling a little bit but not much
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): 1″ kreusen and steady bubbling but nothing crazy

2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): still kreusened but bubbling has slowed12/16/14
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): still kreusened but bubbling has slowed to ~4 sec12/17/14
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): still ~4 sec
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): kreusen dropped.  bubble ~60sec
no activity
2 (2-row) FG = 1.019 pH = 2.99.  aroma – sweet worty smell with a sour edge.  flavor – VERY sour but sweet malt edge.
3 (acidopholus) FG 1.010  pH = 3.21  aroma – lightly sour and yeasty with a bit of cardboard.  flavor – good level of sour.  clean.  slight malty sweet flavor and a bit oxidized.
I dumped 2 due to high sugar content (bottle bombs) and very low pH.
I bottled 3 targeting 3.5 volumes.  It was .85 gallons @ room temp so I boiled 1.2 oz of sugar in 1/2 cup of filtered water and mixed that in with beer in bottling bucket.  this ended up filling 6 bottles.  I have them stored in a plastic bin with a locking lid in one of my bath tubs and fully expect to hear some explosions at some point.  fingers crossed 🙂
Success!  The one batch (3(acidopholus) that I had marked BW1-3) that I bottled carbed up to what seems like the targeted 3.5 (super duper carbonated) and is actually a really nice beer!  Definitely no head issues either initially or with retention.  Big fluffy pillow that lingers till your done.  Probably my only complaint is the weird malt off flavors which are subtle and that it is too dark.  Both of these I just chalk up to using wheat DME.  I see no flavor issues from the lacto or yeast.  And did I mention it is really damn sour 🙂  Here is a picture.

lessons learned:
1) raw grains seem fairly risky.  acidulated malt was an abject failure.  not sure if there was lactic acid but not much lacto or the other bugs just outcompeted.  2-row seemed to work pretty well as far as souring but there was some definite funk so I wouldn’t use this for a large batch since the probability of failure seems high.  it works but i have my doubts that it would work consistently.  at the very least I would make a starter first and make sure it is clean before pitching into a bigger batch.
2) store bought probiotics seem to work fairly well.  it will be interesting to see the difference between the store bought acidophilus and the lab grown delbrueckii and brevis. 
3) take gravity readings before boiling 🙂  it seems that one of two things happened with the 2-row.  there was some yeast or heterofermentative bacteria that generated alcohol which I then boiled off 🙂 or the german ale yeast did ferment some but conked out in a sub-3 pH.  But I won’t know since I didn’t test to see if the gravity drop from 1.031 to 1.019 took place before boiling or after.
4) even low pH friendly beer yeast like german ale have their limits and it appears to be in the < 3.2 pH range since #3 seemed to finish out but #2 never really got started.  another experiment 🙂  find at what pH level to pitch the yeast or use really low pH friendly  wine yeast or brett.

Bohemian Pilsner 2

New Year, New Brew!  It’s the last of my NHC beers.  I’m getting a bit nervous since I’m not sure I have 3-4 really solid beers.  Hopefully this one will turn out well!  I did my normal research – Brewing Classic Styles, old NHC winners and reread the Bohemian Pilsner section in the Classic Style series.  In the end I remembered an old Annie Johnson interview on The Brewing Network where she talked about winning a Pilsner Urquell clone competition so I thought that would be a good start.  Her recipe (scroll down to “this budvar’s for you” ) is a decoction so I basically took her recipe but added some Munich Dark to get a bit of a decoction character and to darken it up to get it from straw to gold (hopefully).  Since I’m repitching German Lager (White Labs 830) rather than a Czech strain I added a bit of Carapils to round it out.  I wanted to use all Czech Saaz but my homebrew shop only had 4 oz so I used Warrior for bittering.  This is my last brew on the old propane setup before starting on my new Electric BIAB so it was a little sad.  I’m sure I’ll use the old rig again but probably not nearly as often.  Brew day was pretty standard.  I actually hit all my numbers which is pretty much unheard of.  No adjustments necessary.  Maybe that’s bad 🙂
Bohemian Pils 2
2-B Bohemian Pilsener
Size: 7.5 gal
Efficiency: 95.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Original Gravity: 1.052 (1.044 – 1.056)
Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (1.013 – 1.017)
Color: 3.39 (3.5 – 6.0)
Alcohol: 5.13% (4.2% – 5.4%)
Bitterness: 41.7 (35.0 – 45.0)
10.25 lb (87.2%) Best Malz Pilsen Malt – added during mash
.75 lb (6.4%) Best Malz Munich Malt Dark – added during mash
.5 lb (4.3%) Briess Cara-Pils® Malt – added during mash
4 oz (2.1%) Weyerman Acidulated Malt – added during mash
.60 oz (13.0%) Warrior® (15.7%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 oz (21.7%) Czech Saaz (3.6%) – added during boil, boiled 30 m
1 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
1.5 oz (32.6%) Czech Saaz (3.6%) – added during boil, boiled 10 m
.75 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
1.5 oz (32.6%) Czech Saaz (3.6%) – added during boil
500 mL White Labs WLP830 German Lager
mash salts:
2.2g Gypsum
2.2g CC
sparge salts:
5g Gypsum
5g CC
acidify sparge to below 5.8 (~10ml of 10% phosphoric in 10G of water)
should give mash pH of 5.4 -> was 5.2
11.75 lb of grain
1.5 qt/lb = 17.625 quarts = 4.4 gallons
mash @ 154
mash in water temp 165.5 but have been hitting low so going 14F over at 168 to see how that goes. -> did 169 and hit 153 and dropped over an hour to 150
pitch @ 48 (actually pitched at 49) and ramp to 50 over 2 days then hold to day 14 -> ramp 5 degrees a day to 60 and hold till day 21 -> rack to keg and drop 2 degrees a day to 38 and lager for one month.  rack to clean keg and force carb to 2.5 volumes.
1/5/15 brew day.  pitched @ 1 pm ~500ml of thick slurry at 49F
1/6/15 @8am no activity
@2pm no activity but a little kreusen forming.  leak?
@10pm no activity but definitely a kreusen forming.
1/7/15 @ 7am no activity but 1/2″ kreusen so definitely a leak.  took apart carboy cap and retightened and started to bubble.
1/9/15 @ 8am still 1/2″ kreusen and strong bubbling
1/10/15 @ 4pm same but seems to have slowed a bit
1/11/15 still steady bubbling w/ kreusen but slowed a bit more
1/12/15 kreusen started to drop
1/13/15 slowed a bit more.  yeast seems to have started to drop
1/14/15 kreusen dropped.  bubbling ~ every 5 secs
1/17/15 no activity dropped fairly clear
1/26/15 transferred to keg
FG – 1.014 pH – 4.37 ( a bit low but not bad)
aroma – herbal / spicy hops.  low grainy malt.  a hint of sulfur
apperance – a yeasty sample from bottom so hazy.  gold in color?
flavor – bitter but not overwhelming.  similar to aroma but yeasty.  clean.  no off flavors other than a bit of sulfur that should lager out.

Dortmunder Export 2

This was my last brew of the year and nothing went super wrong but nothing went quite right.  Basically I missed on about every number.  Mash was low again.  It started at 150F (target was 152) but within 3 minutes it has dropped to 147.  Usually my mashtun holds temp really well but it was ~35F outside so I guess it isn’t shocking.  I added 3 Quarts of boiling water which brought me back to 150 and I did a 90 min mash instead of 60 to make sure everything converted.  My efficiency was a bit higher than expected so I had to add a gallon of water to hit my OG but still came out a hair high.  I adjusted my 60 min hop addition to keep my bitterness level the same.  I also had a minor boil over since I brainfarted at the end of the boil and put the lid on before cutting the heat.  icing on the cake 🙂  pitched at 45F with 300mL of pretty thick slurry from vienna 3.
Dortmunder Export 2
1-E Dortmunder Export
Size: 7.5 gal
Efficiency: 85.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Original Gravity: 1.055 (1.048 – 1.056)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (1.010 – 1.015)
Color: 4.96 (4.0 – 6.0)
Alcohol: 5.44% (4.8% – 6.0%)
Bitterness: 30.4 (23.0 – 30.0)
11 lb (79.3%) Best Malz Pilsen Malt – added during mash
2.5 lb (18.0%) Best Malz Munich Malt Dark – added during mash
6 oz (2.7%) Weyerman Acidulated Malt – added during mash
.75 oz (27.3%) Northern Brewer (9.9%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 oz (36.4%) Liberty (4.5%) – added during boil, boiled 20 m
1 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 20 m
1 oz (36.4%) Liberty (4.5%) – added during boil, boiled 5 m
300 mL White Labs WLP830 German Lager slurry
mash salts:
3.1g Gypsum
3.1g CC
sparge salts:
6g Gypsum
6g CC
acidify sparge to below 5.8 (~10ml of 10% phosphoric in 10G of water)
should give mash pH of 5.3 (was 5.2)
13.88 lb of grain
1.5 qt/lb = 20.82 quarts = 5.21 gallons
mash @ 152
mash in water temp 165.2
pitch @ 48 and ramp to 50 over 2 days then hold till 14 days and raise 5 degrees a day to 60 then hold through 21 days.  rack to keg and drop 2 degrees a day to 40 and lager for one month.  rack to clean keg and force carb to 2.5 volumes.
12/8/14 @ ~2pm pitched @ 45F w/ brewpi set to raise to 50F over 48 hours.  then hold till day 14 and raise to 60 over two days and hold.
12/9/14 @ 8am no activity > at 47F
12/9/14 @ 10pm still no activity > WORRIED
12/10/14 @ 8am can see a little bubbling and spots so seems like its getting going
12/10/14 @ noon kreusen is forming but activity is still low
12/12/14 1/2″ kreusen and steady bubbling.  solid sulphur odor.
12/13/14 fermentation is a bit more vigorous but similar
12/14/14 still vigorous
12/15/14 still vigorous
12/16/14 kreusen has started to drop and bubbling less vigorous but still steady
12/17/14 still steady but slowed some more
12/18/14 steady but slowed to every ~2 sec.  starting to clear
12/19/14 ~4 sec
12/21/14 ~7 sec
12/22/14 still ~7 sec.  raising 5F a day to 60 using brewpi.
12/23/14 up to 55F ~4sec
12/26/14 seems done.   dropped pretty clear.
12/31/14 racked to keg
FG 1.013 pH 4.50
aroma-some sulfur but low level.  low malt / breadiness.  low herbal/earthy/spicy hop.  some yeast tang.
appearance – nice gold color.  cloudy.
flavor – solid pilsner / munich malt character.  solid bitterness.  moderate herbal/spicy hop flavor.  notes of diacetyl maybe?  hard to tell if it is just the munich or some diacetyl.  didn’t do a forced diacetyl test but it was well over a week at 60F so hard to believe there is any diacetyle.  all in all very tasty but in retrospect i would probably cut the munich in half and maybe switch it to munich rather than dark munich.

Traditional Bock 3

This is the 2nd beer in my NHC 2015 run.  I repitched about 350ml of thick slurry from the Schwarzbier 2.  I have brewed this beer before and it was my first BOS placing (Honorable Mention) so I didn’t do anything to the recipe except change the yeast to 2308.
Bock 3
5-B Traditional Bock
Size: 7.2 gal
Efficiency: 80.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Original Gravity: 1.068 (1.064 – 1.072)
Terminal Gravity: 1.017 (1.013 – 1.019)
Color: 20.32 (14.0 – 22.0)
Alcohol: 6.75% (6.3% – 7.2%)
Bitterness: 23.2 (20.0 – 27.0)
5.5 lb (30.1%) Pilsner Malt – added during mash
8.5 lb (46.6%) Munich TYPE I – added during mash
2.5 lb (13.7%) Munich TYPE II – added during mash
.75 lb (4.1%) Caramunich® TYPE III – added during mash
.75 lb (4.1%) Crystal 120 – added during mash
2 oz (0.7%) Pale Chocolate – added during mash
2 oz (0.7%) Chocolate – added during mash
.7 oz (100.0%) Magnum (14.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1.0 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 10 m
.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m
1 ea Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager™
mash salts:
1.4g G
4.1g CC
sparge salts:
2g G
6g CC
acidify sparge to 5.5 (~10ml of 10% phosphoric in 10G of water)
should give mash pH of 5.3
18.25 lb of grain
1.5 qt/lb = 27.375 quarts = 6.8 gallons
mash @ 152
mash in water temp 162.4 > make sure to check with thermometer before mashing in
pitch @ 48F and raise over 24 hours to ferment @ 50 till fermentation slows > up to 60 degrees 5 degrees a day hold till total ferment time is 3 weeks > keg > drop 2-3 degrees per day to 40 and put in lager fridge for 2 months > carb to 2.4
10/17/14 normal brew day.  mash temp was again a hair low (150F) so need to work on that.  tried a new technique to pitch a bit colder.  so when i turned off my whirlpool i left the immersion chiller running with ice water which held the beer at 45F so this time I pitched at 46F.  success!
10/18/14 bubbling but thin kreusen
10/19/14 nice 1/2″ kreusen and solid bubbling
10/23/14 finally seems to be slowing down

Schwarzbier 2

This is the first beer of my NHC 2015 run.  It is a rebrew so I’ve taken the feedback from competitions and from my BJCP judging group and from myself 🙂 and modified the recipe.  The general feedback I got was it was too roasted / porter-ish but otherwise a great beer.  It took 2nd and 3rd in the two competitions I entered it in so far so it’s not bad, just needs a little tweeking.  So, I decided to cut the Munich I a bit from 40 to 30% and replace that with Pilsner (floor malted Weyerman b/c they ran out of standard Weyermen) and then cut the Roasted Barley in half from 3 to 1.5% and replace that with Crisp Chocolate malt.  The only other change is I moved from Wyeast 2206 to 2308.  So minor tweaks but we’ll see how it turns out.
Schwarzbier 2
4-C Schwarzbier (Black Beer)
Date: 4/1/14
Size: 8.0 gal
Efficiency: 93.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Original Gravity: 1.050 (1.046 – 1.052)
Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (1.010 – 1.016)
Color: 25.26 (17.0 – 30.0)
Alcohol: 4.92% (4.4% – 5.4%)
Bitterness: 26.7 (22.0 – 32.0)
7.5 lb (58.3%) Pilsner Malt – added during mash
4 lb (31.1%) Munich TYPE I – added during mash
8 oz (3.9%) Caramunich® TYPE II – added during mash
8 oz (3.9%) Carafa Special® TYPE III – added during mash
3 oz (1.5%) Chocolate – added during mash
3 oz (1.5%) Roasted Barley – added during mash
.15 oz (4.8%) Magnum (14.2%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
2 oz (63.5%) Tettnanger (3.9%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 oz (31.7%) Tettnanger (3.9%) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
1.0 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 10 m
.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m
2 ea Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager™
mash salts:
1g Gypsum
2.4g CC
sparge salts:
2g Gypsum
5g CC
acidify sparge to below 5.8 (~10ml of 10% phosphoric in 10G of water)
should give mash pH of 5.4
12.88 lb of grain
1.5 qt/lb = 19.32 quarts = 4.83 gallons
mash @ 152
mash in water temp 162.7 -> check temp with thermometer before mashing in
pitch @ 48 and ramp to 50 over 2 days > hold till day 8 then ramp 5 degrees a day to 60 and hold for a total of 3 weeks minimum.  rack to keg and drop 2 degrees a day to 40 then put in lagering fridge @35 and lager for two months.  rack to clean keg and force carb to 2.4 volumes.
9/19/14 made 2.5L started w/ 2 pouches of wyeast 2308.  lots like stir plate may have spun off stir bar at some point but yeast growth looks good.
9/22/14 pretty standard brew day.  mash temp came in a bit low at 150.  efficiency was off the charts at 90%.  whoa.  had to add a little magnum to keep bittering on target.  cooled to 45 but creeped up to 51 by the time i pitched.  cooled to 50 over 12 hours.  10pm no activity.
9/23/14 no kreusen but slow bubbling
9/24/14 nice 1/2 inch kreusen and solid bubbling
9/27/14 finally started to slow but still solid kreusen and bubbling
10/10/14 kegged.  FG 1.012 pH 4.69 (a bit high)  clean -> not infected.  a bit yeasty but dropped nice and clear.  wonderful flavor.  very promising.  set to slow drop 3 F a day to 40
10/15/14 moved to lagering fridge at 35

Berliner Weisse 1

I recently finished Michael Tonsmeire’s new book -> American Sour Beers.  Pretty good although I felt it was lacking in a few areas.  I’m really looking for a technical manual that gives me step by step details and that I can refer to when I hit issues.  Something similar to “How to Brew” but for Sour beers.  For example, do I need to make a Lacto starter and if so what is the best way to do it?  Not in the book.  That said, it covers 80% of what I would want and it is a fun read ta boot.  Of course reading the Sour Beer book made me want to finally make my first sour!  I figured I’d start with a bit of an easier one with Berliner Weisse (BW) and just get my feet wet.  I’m also in between brews so I don’t have an available temp controlled fermenter and I don’t have the time for an all grain brewday.  So….I decided to do an extract beer and just ferment it at room temp.  The brewing nerd in me is not happy!
As far as recipe goes, the last NHC winning BW was Jamil’s recipe from what I could tell so I figured I give that a go and see how it turns out.  Also, Wyeast has decided to make this quarter the quarter of the bugs so they have a bunch of funky, buggy products one of which is Lacto Brevis.  Brevis is supposed to be the strain that Cascade Brewing uses and as opposed to the very popular L Delbrueckii is supposed to be more aggressive (ie sour faster) and be a bit more hop tolerant.  There is really very little info on the web about Lacto especially when compared to Saccharomyces so I mostly relied on Brewing Classic Styles, American Sour Beers and, most of all, The Mad Fermentationist website.Berliner Weisse 1
17-A Berliner Weisse
Date: 7/6/14
Size: 3.84 gal
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 85.0%
Original Gravity: 1.029 (1.028 – 1.032)
Terminal Gravity: 1.004 (1.003 – 1.006)
Color: 3.48 (2.0 – 3.0)
Alcohol: 3.21% (2.8% – 3.8%)
Bitterness: 3.1 (3.0 – 8.0)
3.3 lb (100.0%) CBW® Bavarian Wheat Liquid (Malt Extract) – added during boil
.2 oz (100.0%) Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.5%) – added during boil, boiled 20 m -> ended up using .15oz 5.3% fuggle since I had it laying around.
1/2 teaspoon wyeast yeast nutrient
1 whirlfloc
1 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05
1 ea   wyeast 5223-PC lacto brevis
boil salts:
2.7g CC
pitch @ 65 and let sit at room temp (72) > hold for a total of 3 weeks. rack to secondary and store in cellar till acidity is right (~3.5 pH).  bottle condition at 3 (.5~233 grams of corn sugar for 5 gallons).
8/13/14 first sour beer so a bit of an experiment.  pretty normal extract brewday.  once again the extract was darker than expected.  it was 6 months old which for extract isn’t too bad but definitely had a bit of an oxidized flavor.  i’m pretty sick of this happening with extract and I don’t think I will be doing another extract brew.
pitched 1 pouch of lacto brevis (5223) that is pretty fresh (6 weeks old – 7/1/14)
rehydrated 11g of US-05
cooled to 65, racked to fermenter and pitched both bugs and yeast.
no temp control, just put it in bathtub.  taped a temp probe on side of fermenter in insulation and dangled fridge probe in tub.
so, pitched at about 66 and at 48 hours it was up to 75.  my guess is that is about the end of fermentation since temp then dropped back down to room temp.  I think US-05 will be fine at those temp and lacto should be happy but we’ll see how it turns out.
9/11/14 transferred to secondary and held at ~70F
gravity 1.006
crystal clear.  gold in color.  a slight caramel/oxidized note probably from the old extract.  not bad.  slightly sour but a ways to go.  pH = 4.3.
10/12/14 seems unchanged.  gravity is 1.006.  pH = 4.32.   a little worried the lacto has kicked the bucket but will just let it sit for a few more months to see how it progresses.
11/14/14 pH = 4.21 didn’t check gravity.  seems a tinge more sour but just a hint of sour.
12/14/14 gravity is still 1.006.  pH = 3.87.  Progress!!!  had a thin layer of something on the top.  looked like a 2mm thick layer of cream cheese.  it is noticeably more sour but still a ways to go.  maybe a 3 out of 10 sour-wise.  noticeable and slightly mouth puckering but miles from tart.  sadly the caramel/oxidized not isn’t getting any better although seems pretty unchanged.
1/11/14 pH = 3.90 ruh roh.
not any more sour and starting to take on a broth flavor i’m assuming from autolysis.  i’ll give it one more month and then dump.
2/13/15 gravity is 1.006 still.  pH = 3.79.
not much progress at all.  tastes like bad apple cider beer and the brothy flavor is worse and it is also getting darker in color.  dumped.
lesson learned – now that i’ve done a good number of lacto experiments it is clear that the lacto in this beer got totally out competed by the yeast.  i would certainly pitch more lacto and give it at least a few days head start before pitching the yeast so that the beer sours much more quickly.

Northern German Alt 1

The lager run has ended.  Long live Ales.  Well….hybrids.  Errrr….nevermind.  After four lagers in a row it is time to go back to Ales.  Sort of.  I felt like brewing something new and knocking out another style but kinda made a bad choice.  First, I picked Northern German Alt but basically ended up making a Dusseldorf Alt that is a little less hoppy.  Second, a few days before brewing Gordon Strong announced the new Style Guidelines and there is no longer a Northern German Alt!  Well, it is moved into International Amber or some such thing so I guess it’s still a new style.  Anywho.  I did my usually research in BYO, Zymurgy, Past NHC winners, reread the Alt Style Series book, reread the section in Brewing Classic styles as well as trying Alaskan Amber and realized that the modern day Northern German Alt is not very interesting to me.  It is kind of a bland amber lager that is a bit more bitter but not really.  Compared to a Dusseldorf Alt kinda lame in my opinion.  Which is probably why last years NHC winner was a Northern German Alt but it was basically Jamil’s Dusseldorf Alt recipe.  Maybe it hops had faded so it came across a bit maltier.  Who knows.  But I took a cue from that and some of my recent brews and came up with the following recipe.  Dusseldorf Alt Lite?  Basically my Dusseldorf Alt with less aroma/flavor hop additions and a bit lower bitterness and some grain bill tweeks.  Not super crazy but hopefully will make a delicious beer.
Northern German Altbier 2
7-A Northern German Altbier
Date: 4/1/14
Size: 7.5 gal
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Original Gravity: 1.050 (1.046 – 1.054)
Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (1.010 – 1.015)
Color: 17.61 (13.0 – 19.0)
Alcohol: 4.95% (4.5% – 5.2%)
Bitterness: 39.9 (25.0 – 40.0)
10 lb (66.9%) Pilsner Malt – added during mash
3 lb (20.1%) Munich TYPE I – added during mash
.75 lb (5.0%) Aroma 100 EBC Malt – added during mash
.75 lb (5.0%) Caramunich® TYPE III – added during mash
5 oz (2.1%) Carafa Special® TYPE III – added during mash
2 oz (0.8%) Acidulated Malt – added during mash
1 oz (50.0%) Magnum (14.2%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 oz (50.0%) Tettnanger (3.9%) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 ea Wyeast 1007 German Ale™
2.5L starter and 1 x 1007 smack pack
mash salts:
3.3g Gypsum
1.7g CC
sparge salts:
6g Gypsum
3g CC
acidify sparge to below 5.8 (~10ml of 10% phosphoric in 10G of water)
should give mash pH of 5.4
14.94 lb of grain
1.5 qt/lb = 22.41 quarts = 5.6 gallons
mash @ 152
mash in water temp 162.7 so 163.7 into mash tun
pitch @ 58 and ramp to 60 over 24 hours > hold a total of 3 weeks minimum.  rack to keg and drop 2 degrees a day to 40 then put in lagering fridge @35 and lager for 1 month.  rack to clean keg and force carb to ~2.5 volumes.
6/30/14: pretty normal brew day albeit a hot one.  about 90F by the time I pitched.  strangely I was 2 degrees high on my mash which is unlike me.  The water was about half a degree high before mashing but I didn’t think much of it.  I also may have had a bit more water as well.  and it could be that since it’s just hot out that there is less loss.  will keep and eye on it  so mashed in at 154 rather than 152.  not a huge deal.  also a bit high on my sparge which settled in at 173 but didn’t come across as astringent so i think that is also OK.  Not the best day for hitting the numbers but nothing really beer effecting.
What may have a little effect is I ended up pitching at 62 when I wanted to pitch at 58.  Like I said, it was about 90F so even thought I cooled the wort to 55 buy the time I got it in the carboy it was up to 62.  I just did a 2 degree drop over 24 hours to 60 and will hold there for 2 weeks assuming a normal ale fermentation and diacetyl test goes well.
Efficiency was close to 80% again so added a gallon of water to get the gravity to 1.050.
6/30/2014: 1:30pm pitched
6/30/14 @ 9pm : thin kreusen and steady slow bubbling.  wow!
7/1/14 @ 8am : 1 inch kreusen and strong steady bubbling.
7/2/14 : power outage for 1 hour but temp only went up 1 degree so hopefully no real impact to the beer.  still steady ferment although starting to slow just a little
7/3/14: slowed a good deal but still bubbling every 2 sec
7/4/14: ~10 sec apart
7/5/14: very slow, almost done
7/14/14: transferred to keg.  FG 1.014 (new and calibrated hydrometer 🙂 ) pH 4.27  both are spot on nice and clean – no infection.  still yeasty.  not a very flocculant yeast at all.  very nice malt          character.  bready with a slight caramel edge.  bitter with dry finish and a hint of noble hop flavor.  not astringent.  very excited!!!  Harvested yeast for Biere de Garde 1 and got an extra 2L that I’ll carbonate and give a try in a few days.  Will slow drop to 40F over 7 days then put in lagering fridge at 35 for 6 weeks or so.