Friday, June 10, 2011

Copperhead Redux

It is nearly 2 years now since Mrs Velkyal and I left the winding streets and plentiful pubs of Prague for a life in Virginia. It was this time 2 years ago that I spent many a day travelling around the city writing notes for the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague and looking forward to doing my first homebrew session once I got to our new flat.

That first homebrew Stateside was a Transatlantic Pale Ale, hopped with Amarillo and East Kent Goldings and using White Labs Burton yeast for the fermentation, a fermentation that went nastily awry. It simply didn't ferment and I ended up chucking 5 gallons of beer down the drain. It was, however, that experience which forced me to reconsider how I was going to brew in the circumstances I found myself in. Firstly, I ditched the white plastic bucket and got some clear 3 gallon carboys, it had been such a pain in the arse brewing 5 gallons in a small flat that I decided to make my standard batch size 2.5 gallons instead. Secondly, I vowed never to use White Labs tubes of yeast again, I have never had a case of dried yeast or Wyeast not fermenting on me, though I have had a couple of overactive fermentations that needed a bit of cleaning. I also learnt that just because the tube say it will ferment 5 gallons without a starter doesn't mean it actually will, but 1 smackpack/pack of dry yeast will happily do 2.5 gallons with no starter.

Recently I have been experimenting with partial mash beers, brought on by the International Homebrew Project milk stout that was brewed back in March, and that piqued my interest in going to all grain brewing. However, the same limitations in terms of apartment size and storage space still exist and so I didn't want to get some insane setup that would sit in the corner intimidating me in to not brewing, so I decided to stay small and learn my new setup with some simple beers.

The key component of the new setup is my 2 gallon Igloo cooler which in the short term will be used as a "brew in a bag" mash tun. It has a tap on the front which will eventually be replaced with something that doesn't need pressing continuously when sparging. But I digress. I calculated that said cooler has the capacity to hold about 5lbs of grain, with a water to grain ratio of 1.3 quarts per pound. In trying to decide what beer would be my first all grain, I thought to myself that keeping it as simple as possible would be the way to go. So I decided to revisit the recipe for the original Copperhead Pale Ale, and modify it a bit. This is the recipe I will be brewing this weekend:
  • 4lbs American 2-row Pale
  • 1lb American Caramel 10
  • 0.5oz 8.2% Amarillo @ 60 minutes
  • 0.3oz 8.2% Amarillo @ 15 minutes
  • 0.2oz 8.2% Amarillo @ 1 minutes
  • 1 packet Safale US-05 dry yeast
I decided to shoot low on my expected efficiency, and so if I get 65% my OG will be 1.047, or 11.7º Plato. At that OG, I expect some 35 IBUs from the Amarillo. Also this weekend I will be bottling the three witbier variants that I brewed a couple of weeks back, which have been sat happily at 68ºF and should be ready for drinking in time for July 4th, a most important date, my wedding anniversary.


  1. I'm a big proponent of 2.5 gallon batches! It's cheaper, you can brew them faster, and you end up with a greater variety of beer that is more easily (and quickly) consumed!

    I have exactly the same brewing set-up. Although I removed the tap on the cooler and replaced it with heat tolerant tubing, connected with an in-line valve. That really helps with wort flow.


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