Sunday, January 7, 2007

Where's the brewing?

I know. You are asking, where's the brewing stuff? Well, I haven't brewed a batch since January 1st. My next batch is going to be a ESB. Something close to Red Hook. I love microbreweries that list details about the beers they brew. Obviously, they don't give away all of the secrets to making their beer, but it is interesting and useful if you brew your own beer.

For example: Red Hook ESB is made from 2-row Klages barley and Caramel 60. The hops used are Willamette and Tettnang. The bitterness is 28 IBU and the original gravity is 1.05454. My hydrometer doesn't measure to 6 significant digits, so I'll just get it close to 1.05. The alcohol by volume is 5.77%

What the specific gravity indirectly tells me is the amount of malt in the brew. The % ethanol by volume can be used to calculate the final gravity. An OG of 1.055 and a ABV of 5.77% translates to a FG of about 1.015 The bitterness tells me the amount of hops (soon, I'll write a post on the chemistry of hops). With this data and an authentic sample (i.e. samples) of Red Hook ESB, I should be able to get a pretty good clone.

The major and most critical component is the yeast. The yeast make the beer what the beer is. Everything depends on the yeast. There are a lot of yeasts available and they all make beer a bit differently. Yeast do not just make ethanol. They make a whole lot more chemicals (someday, I'll go into this in more detail as well). I'm sure if I asked the folks at Red Hook for a sample of their yeast, they would politely tell me to piss-off. However, the good biochemists and microbiologists at Wyeast Labs will gladly sell me anything they have.

The bottom line is that in about 2 months, I may or may not have a beer that tastes likes Red Hook ESB. If not, I'll have a beer that still tastes pretty good.


Matt Jenks said...

Have you ever thought about wrangling yeast from authentic samples? I know that's how Wyeast started and is, as far as I know, completely legal. I guess they would take something like an unfiltered beer and smear the cake from the bottom of the bottle on an agar plate and see what grows. One of my homebrew friends is thinking about doing this, but then again, he's also a biochemist and a bit more trained in the raising of microscopic colonies of living creatures.

Chemgeek said...

I have. But most beers are now filtered. The likelihood of finding viable yeast cells in the beer is low. There are a few breweries that do not filter their beer. The yeast settles to the bottom of the bottle. This may or may not be the same yeast they use for brewing. Sometimes, the yeast in the bottle was used to bottle condition (i.e. carbonate) the beer after the brewing yeast was filtered out.

It is very common and easy to recycle yeast. I take the slurry from a few bottles of my beer and give it some food (malt extract) and oxygen. In a few days, the yeast has multiplied into the millions and is fermenting away.

Woller's Disciples said...

I think you should let the world know about how to make a wort chiller. I assembled one using Menards sodering equipment. Also I think you should put some pictures on the site if possible.

What is the m.p. of plastic?

Chemgeek said...

It depends on the plastic.

I hope to get to the pictures eventually. For now, this little thing called teaching has gotten in the way.