Monday, November 30, 2009

Fun and games with WLP925

A lot of people have asked me about the WLP925 yeast that used recently, so I thought I'd provide an update.

First of all, I'm really treating this first batch like a big yeast starter. I had some problems with this past brew, and I don't want to truly evaluate this yeast strain based on this batch. Some of the problems were my fault - screwed up chilling my wort and didn't get it nearly as cool as I wanted when I pitched the yeast. And some of the problems were related to this yeast strain and the new process associated with using it - had some trouble getting my spunding valve dialed in to 15psi, so the pressure on the fermenter fluctuated throughout fermentation.

Also, this yeast appears to be pretty non-flocculant. I had to pitch the entire four liter starter because the yeast just wouldn't settle out to the bottom of the flask. I hate dumping starter wort/beer into the five and a half gallons of wort I've just worked so hard to create. Yet another reason I'll reserve judgement on this batch.

I actually changed up my original plan to do a helles type lager and brewed something more along the lines of a dunkel. It came in at 1.054. When I racked to a secondary last night, it measured out at 1.014. 74% attenuation is about what I would have expected, so I was happy with that result. The beer is also pretty well carbonated since it's been under pressure all this time. That's one of the benefits of using this yeast, but it also makes racking, measuring gravity, and washing yeast a bit treacherous.

As for the sample, it was tough to get a good read on it. It was very cloudy, again confirming my observations that this yeast strain doesn't flocculate well. I'll probably have to do some kind of fining in the secondary, which I'd really rather not do. Especially since the beer is already carbonated. We'll see. Maybe a week at 35F will do it some good.

The toasty malt character that I was going for in the dunkel recipe that I brewed was definitely up front, so that was a very good thing. However, it was very yeasty tasting, which made it difficult to really evaluate well. More on this next week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Upcoming brew plans and SCH competition

A big thanks to the Stoney Creek Homebrewers whose second annual competition was a huge success this past weekend. I went down to the General Lafayette Inn with some entries and to judge. I wound up judging Belgian Strong Ales in the morning (as usual) and Amber Hybrids in the afternoon.

It was a real treat to have two short flights. The more competitions I judge, the more I find that doing shorter flights (in this case eight in the morning, seven in the afternoon) makes the whole process much better. I think that it makes the day go more smoothly for everyone involved and allows the judges to provide better feedback. I don't care what kind of expert you are and how great your palate is, once you start to get into ten, twelve, even more beers in a flight, you're going to have some fatigue. So great job by the SCH crew in keeping it tight.

I was also quite pleased to place with a few of my entries. I was particularly happy with how my Dortmunder Export did, as that's a recipe that I've been tweaking and trying to perfect for a while now. The feedback from the judges was definitely very flattering.

Speaking of lagers, I've got my WLP925 yeast starter working as of last night. I plan on brewing Friday night. I'll get my spunding valve all ready to go this week in preparation. The brew will be something along the lines of a helles. I have a bunch of Weyermann Pale Ale malt laying around and I want to use it up before it goes bad, plus for the first try with this yeast I want to do a very clean, basic kind of a beer. I think I'm going to do almost 100% base malt (with a dash of cara-pils) and no aroma or flavor hops. Boring, I know, but I think that this will be the best way to judge the flavor profile of this yeast.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New NJ Beer Book - Jersey Brew

There's a new book out about the history of brewing in New Jersey. Sounds like a pretty interesting read. Hopefully Santa leaves a copy under the tree for me this year. He knows I've been good...

New Jersey was once a huge center of brewing in America - particularly in Newark. I'll look forward to reading up on this history. It's also nice to read that the author spent some time on the current craft breweries in the state and is giving them some publicity. We need more people advocating for New Jersey breweries like this. The more people talk about and take an interest in NJ beer, the more local bars and stores will get interested in carrying them.
$19.95 at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I came across this op-ed piece in the Asbury Park Press about the NJ state liquor license policy and it left me scratching my head. The gist of the it is that NJ does not make a beer/wine only license available for restaurants, making it much harder for joints unable to secure a liquor license to stay in business. Basically you're either a BYOB establishment or you have a full liquor license.

And anyone who's done any research on opening a bar or restaurant will know that you don't just apply for a liquor license, wait for the state to process some paperwork, and you're in business. Liquor licenses are controlled by municipalities and the number available is fixed based on the population of that municipality. According to the state's ABC handbook, it's one liquor license per 3,000 residents (with exceptions, of course). And I think you'd be hard pressed to find a municipality that has available licenses. 99.9% of the time a license is transfered when someone sells an existing business.

The head scratching on this author's part comes from having dined in NJ establishments where there's a limited selection of beer or wine only available for sale. I know that I've been in places where you can buy beer or wine or bring your own. I don't want to name names because I don't want to get anyone in trouble if they're bending any rules. But with no liquor license, how is an NJ restaurant selling beer or wine?

One thing I can say for sure is that if there were a beer/wine only license available, it would definitely make the opening of a certain someone's fantasy idea brewpub much more feasible. Just throwing it out there, Trenton.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

River Horse - Meet the Brewer Night at LITM

Thought I'd take the opportunity to post some actual Jersey City beer news. From the Garden State Craft Brewer's Guild newsletter:
Come by to LITM to meet River Horse reps and sample
great beers. The event takes place Wednesday, November 18th from 6 to 9 PM.
Featuring all year round beers plus two special releases.

There's nothing on either brewery's site yet about this, so this is all the info available that I know of at this time. River Horse makes some pretty good beers - I especially enjoy the Special Ale. They're starting to get some more distribution up in Hudson County, so check them out.


On the homebrew front, I'm about to start revving up the WLP925 yeast in a starter for my next brew. I can't wait to see how this yeast performs. I don't really care about all of the German tradition and having to lager a beer for six weeks. If I can get good clean lager beer in two weeks, I'll be super pumped.

I've also got two versions of R's Favorite Oatmeal Stout now - same recipe, one fermented with lager yeast, the other with an ale yeast. Should be tapping up the ale version soon, so it will be interesting to see how they compare. I have a feeling that given the strong malty flavors in this beer, the impact of the yeasts on the flavor will be subtle.

I also have one of my all time worst beers on tap now, a Dunkelweizen fermented with a dry wheat beer yeast strain. It's pretty brutal. Some of it is recipe, some is the yeast. I'm about ready to give up on dry yeasts at this point.

A week and a half until the Stoney Creek Homebrewer's Amateur Brewing Championship at the General Lafayette Inn. What are the chances that they'll have the PPV of the Cotto-Pacquiao fight at the bar? Slim or none?