Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cellarmanship

Recently I have fine tuned my cellarmanship practise, and if I do say so myself, the condition of my beer at present is excellent. When I first played at cask conditioning beer in corny kegs I was much helped by George Busby at the Wassail Brauhaus. His advice was to not prime the kegs, it was advice I followed until recently. Ale was racked into the corny at the end of primary fermentation, oxygen purged from the head space with co2 and the beer then left to drop bright and build some condition with the small amount of fermentable sugars that were left. This method served me well, however as I have learnt more and more about real ale I have grown to demand a decent level of condition in my beer. Some batches would struggle to achieve a head and as I am loath to use a sparkler to hide the lack of condition it had gradually become clear that I would need to prime. At the same time I had been striving to achieve crystal clear beer. It often amuses me to hear American and Kiwi homebrewers talk of how real ale must be cloudy because it is naturally conditioned, what rubbish. A long time ago I had played with gelatine as a fining agent, my then status as a vegetarian hadn’t been the issue, the fact that you couldn’t boil it and that you often ended up with lumps of jelly at the bottom of the corny had. Then I stumbled across agar, boilable, effective and traceless it has worked a charm. So now an addition of boiled sugar and agar goes into every corny as its filled and the results are sexy, as the picture of a pint of Berhampore Best reveals, cheers.


12 comments:

Greig McGill said...

Interesting. Like yourself, I tend not to prime, though I do usually fine with gelatin if the beer needs it. I might play around. What are your proportions of sugar/agar for a keg of, say, BBB? Also, what kind of agar do you use, and from where do you source it?

Thanks again for the beers the other night, had a great time as always. :)

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

1x handfull of caster sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of agar.

Its pacific Harvest agar, I get it free from work ,when ever packaging gets damaged from customers dropping it ect.

Whorst said...

I've always primed and used gelatin finings. I find that about 2.5 oz. of corn sugar works very well. The finings will make a beer brewed with Safale-05 look like it was filtered. I love a crystal clear pint that's not been filtered. Anyone who says real ale is supposed to be cloudy doesn't know what the *&^% they're talking about.

Barry Hannah said...

I use gelatin too, in pre-boiled water. Not been a hygiene problem as yet.
Cloudiness doesn't concern me so much for appearance sake, I'm more worried about the taste - I reckon if there's something in there murking things up it has to be affecting the flavour.

Boak said...

How long does it take to get into that condition?

We've having some conditioning issues, partly to do with the russian roulette nature of bottling, I think. We're using similar amounts of primer, but are mostly getting fizz rather than lasting head retention, and I don't know why as we've got bags of protein in there. It does seem to improve with time, but I'm not sure I want to wait three months before our beer is well-conditioned.

John said...

Have you tried fining most the yeast out of the brew when the gravity is a couple of points higher than your desired final gravity and putting it somewhere cool for the remaining yeast to bring it into condition? I have found that this achieves the type and amount of condition I prefer in my beers, the bubbles seem to be much smaller than the ones I was used to priming with caster sugar.

I use gelatine in the primary and then rack to my secondary when the brew is almost bright.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Boak: 2 weeks in primary, one week conditioning. Bottle conditioning is pretty different it does take more time, do you get the bottles nice and warm? when bottling (something I do very little of) I wrap the bottles in an electric blanket for 48 hours. I know of a pro brewer who has a chiller that has a warm room setting for the same purpose.

John: I don't like the method you describe as the risk of leaving diacetyl or acetal aldehyde in the beer increases, I have no issue with sugar in my beer.

Boak said...

Sorry to sound stupid - warm before you add the beer or after?!

We usually keep the bottles at room temperature. In theory we take them out to the "cellar" (i.e. the garage) after a few days, but at the moment (a) we're too lazy (b) the "cellar" is about the same temperature as our front room in the summer, so there's no point.

Matt said...

Foregoing priming has never worked for me.

For a 5 gal US corny I use about 1/2 ounce of sugar. Beersmith suggests that gets me up to 1.2 volumes at around 70F (if I recall correctly). I suspect it is my imagination but I seem to need less than an equal amount of beer that is bottled.

My issue with cornies is clarity. It takes ages for the yeasties and other stuff to drop all the way down my kegs. In contrast to bottles and party pigs which cleared relatively quickly. I need to get back to fining!

hoptopic said...

I use a similar method to you. Depending on the gravity, a week in primary, rack to kegs, prime the kegs with sugar and fine with Isinglass. A few days in the warm then down to cellar temps to vent and stored until they're ready.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Boak, I meant do you get the bottles warm once they are full of beer and priming? The yeast needs to be nice and warm for a period to condition.

Boak said...

Our room temperature is usually around 20-21 deg C, which I'd understood to be warm enough. Perhaps I'll put the next batch in the airing cupboard...