Tag Archives: dunkel

Where I Want To Go: Stein Haus

The Stein Haus is almost perturbingly quiet. Like the opening scene in From Dusk Til Dawn, where there’s so few people I’m almost expecting something really crazy to happen at any moment.

Thankfully, nothing does. I think this place may be so empty because of a slight case of not knowing what it is. When this was the Agenda I liked it but then it became a strip club called Assets (which is almost a clever title) and I never went but now it’s a ‘new’ place which makes the third change in as many years. Hard to develop an identity under such circumstances.

I get my beer, an Altborish Dunkel by Ayinger, sit down and all is well. Dunkels are an interesting brew; a bit like the diet version of a more roasted, chocolaty beer. It’s sweet but it finishes very clean, so I don’t get the aftertaste that an actually sweet beer might offer up.

The beer list is tilted towards the lighter, Germanic styles; I see pilsners, dunkles, wheat ales and from brewers predominantly from Europe. Anything that’s local falls into the same category: Pils from the Commons, Octoberfest from Ninkasi, Roggenweizen from Occidental. The exception (sorta) is the India Steinhaus Lager, which I’m told is brewed by Rock Bottom brewery for the Stein Haus. This is probably the hoppiest brew on the menu, I’m deducing, falling into the new ‘craze’ of India Pale Lagers.

The bartender is pretty nice; indulges my questions, gives me a sample of a beer that has no description and tells me where the house Lager comes from. So the Stein Haus has some good things going for it.

I don’t know how this becomes a neighborhood bar-a little more lighting around the beer list would certainly help-but we need more little interesting places to get beers in the outskirts of the city. Maybe this time, the Stein Haus will stick.

So, how’d that dunkel turn out?

Not bad.

It’s a little thin. This is a theme that seems to be coming up occasionally in the beers, where I am doing partial-grain mashes. I may have to work a bit harder on sparging well, or flat out acquire another pot so I can just DO it, instead of slowly transporting water from A to B.

But that criticism aside, the chocolate notes are there and there is enough body to this beer that it doesn’t feel or taste watery, so all in all I’m going to say this is a step forward. Future partial-grain brews will involve as much sparging as I can manage and I’ll keep an eye on the water I add at the end too, when I top off the carboy. It’s possible I am adding an extra gallon or half gallon of water that the beer doesn’t need or want.

Recipe as follows:

Brew Date: 7.13.13

Steeping Grains:
5 lb wheat
6 oz C120
6 oz Carafa 2

3 lb LME

.75 oz US Hallertau @ 60
.25 oz Hallertau @ 30
.75 oz Willamette @ 30
.25 oz Willamette @ flameout

Yeast: reused Chamomile ale wheat

OG: 1.046
FG :1.01

2ndary on 7.18
Bottle 7.23

ABV: 4.8%

Making a Dunkel pt 3


You can catch up from part 2, here.

After a week or so, I transfer the beer into another carboy; this part is called ‘secondary fermentation’. This is done mostly to increase clarity in a beer but it also removes a beer from any dead yeast or other detritus, usually hops, that precipitates out of a beer while it’s fermenting. For most homebrewers I’m told that secondary fermentation isn’t necessary but what I can tell you is that it works for me.

After a few days in secondary, I prepare to bottle everything. This starts with sanitizing bottles and bottlecaps, along with other equipment, like siphons and buckets, in a solution of iodophor and water for 20 minutes.  Then I have to let it dry for a little bit-again, 20 minutes but I’ve shortened or lengthened that time  a little and everything has worked out so far.


With that done, the beer is transferred into a bottling bucket. While this is being transferred, I also add in a simple syrup to provide food for what remains of the yeast, so the beer can become carbonated.

Making the syrup is easy enough; just boil water and add in sugar. I use plain white sugar but I’d imagine that if someone used brown sugar or honey or something else, that might have interesting effects on the way the beer tastes.I also take this opportunity to get a final gravity reading, in order to measure the beer’s alcohol by volume (ABV). It’s easier to do this now, rather then when I bottle because bottling involves the use of a bottling wand and that tool makes getting measurements difficult.


Finally, with everything sanitized and given time to dry, I can bottle. With the bottling wand attached to the end of my siphon, I simply insert the wand down to the bottom of the bottle, fill it and remove the wand. There’s a valve at the bottom that stops the flow of beer when I don’t press down on it, so for the most part, I don’t spill much beer.

I also put bottlecaps on the bottles as I go, and I do this for two reasons: First, I want to prevent anything else from falling into the bottle.  Second: I have been told that putting the cap on like this before sealing it, allows the beer to start pushing out oxygen right away. Oxygen is really good for yeast when fermenting, but really bad for beer flavors once the yeast is done, so any chance I can provide to make this beer better, I will take.


As the penultimate step, I cap the beer. This involves me taking the bottle capper and clamping down on each bottlecap, so a seal is formed. Once that’s all done, I put the beer aside so it can carbonate until I’m ready to drink it.

The final step is merely to clean it all up. Buckets, carboys and siphons all need to be cleaned for the next use and it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean them right away than it is to wait and clean it later.

Making a Dunkel Pt 2

Part 1 is here, just in case.

Concurrent to the events in Part 1, I have also been making a yeast starter. It’s not a very good photo so I’ve collapsed it down but essentially what you have is a jug I’ve sanitized, put a simple syrup in (boiling water and sugar) and then added the yeast I’m going to use for this beer. This is to give the yeast time to grow before being thrown into a solution that’s got so much sugar that the yeast goes into shock. This shock can produce off flavors, which I don’t want. Plus, it’s one of the cardinal rules of homebrewing: use enough yeast. You do that, you’ll be OK. (The other rule: Sanitize everything.)

But while the yeast is propagating, I still have the wort on the stove, boiling away. You can make out some of the hops that I’ve started to add over the hour.

This part isn’t super exciting. I boil water and add hops; there isn’t much to it. Over the course of the hour there are various hop additions: I started off with more Hallertau at 60 and worked my way up to Willamette, until there was just a little Willamette that I added at flameout (when I stop boiling the wort.)

I also added three pounds of light malt extract (LME) with about 15 minutes to go. This way I can ensure that there’s at least some malt sugar to work with, because my method of steeping sugar from grain isn’t very efficient, and 15 minutes means that the malt has enough time in the boil to kill any bugs that might be hanging around.

When 60 minutes are up, I take the wort to the basement and begin cooling it down.

The tubes going in and out of the wort in this photo are what you can see of the wort chiller or heat exchanger. Cold water comes in, runs through copper coils and then comes out hot. After about 20-30 minutes, I have wort that was at about 205 degrees F, to 78 degrees (or less, if the recipe calls for that.) The hot water coming out I put into my washing machine, so I can use that water respectfully, instead of just dumping it on the ground.

You have to do what you can and this is what I can do. Brewing uses a TON of water and anytime I can take advantage of a recycling effort, I feel like it’s my duty to do it.

When the water has cooled down, I take a hydrometer reading to get the original gravity, which in this case is about 1.046. That doesn’t seem right: it feels a little low, given the grains and the malt but the numbers don’t lie. It is what it is.



After that, I put the wort into a carboy to ferment. The pan is there to dump the wort into the carboy by hand, through a strainer, until the pot is light enough for me to lift and pour directly into the carboy. Periodically, I dump the hops that get caught in the strainer into another container, which will eventually be taken to the compost pile.

When that’s done, I add in cold water until I get to about 5 gallons in the carboy.

This is…probably not what should be done. It is likely that I get away with this because Portland’s water is some of the best in the country. Certainly, if I had the means, I would have a larger kettle to boil in, so I could get closer to 5 gallons of pure wort. But I don’t: I probably get 3.5 to 4 gallons and that’s just the way of it.

All that disclaimed; It’s working, so to heck with it.

My last act (before cleanup) is to add in the yeast that’s been munching on syrup for the past three or so hours. At first sight, it looks pretty wild. Check out that line! You can totally see where the yeast is floating on top.

Pretty neat!

And now we wait.

Making a Dunkel pt 1

I’d like to apologize for the formatting in advance. I’ll try to improve it next time.

In all the years I’ve been writing for this blog, I’ve talked a lot about how a beer has turned out but I haven’t done much talking about what my process is for brewing. I don’t know that I’ll do this too often but occasionally I think it will be fun to demonstrate the A-Z of how I make beer.

The first beer I’m making this month is a dunkelweissen which I’m doing because I had an American wheat ale yeast in the fridge to re-use. That’s really the only reason: I’m going a darker beer with the idea that by the time it’s ready to drink, fall will be fast approaching and seasonally, it will fit. I could be way off base but the up side to that is that if I make a good beer, it won’t matter what time of year it is.

This process is using what’s called a ‘partial mash’, meaning I try to get some of my fermentable sugars from the grains I’m using, but I’ll  also be adding some malt extract.

I start with the malt, pictured to the right.

There are 5 pounds of wheat malt, with 6 ounces of Carafa II and 6 ounces of C120 malt. It’s in a grain bag, which I then put into water that’s about 165 degrees F.

Now, generally you want to steep grain in water that’s about 150-155 degrees but I’ve cranked it up because for the next hour, this is going to be in this box:

This is a box I got at an OBC meeting and it’s traditionally packed with dry ice and used to transport medical stuff. I think human organs. So there’s that. However, it’s just a bunch of foam that’s been sprayed and formed into a box. With the lid on it keeps the heat pretty well but I can expect to lose about ten degrees of heat.

Despite there being only 12 ounces of dark malt in there, it really is all I need. After about an hour I pull the wort out to get liquid that looks more like this:

Once I’ve done that, I take the bag out the wort and put it in another pot. While heating the wort up, I also heat water up in a kettle to about 150-155 and pour it over the grains I just took out. I do this to get any extra sugars and flavors from the grain. Liquid malt extract isn’t very flavorful and doesn’t add much in the way of color so I want to get as much out of these grains as I can. It takes a little while but I probably run close to 1.5 gallons over the grains and add them into the pot.

With the grains rinsed off, it’s time to crank up the heat to a bit over 200 degrees but less than 210, and add hops. The German versions of wheat beer use Hallertau and the American versions add Willamette so I figured I’d just do both and see what happens. There will only be 2 ounces of hops added to this beer and with these varieties, I shouldn’t have any issues with getting a flavor that’s too bitter for the style.

That’s how it starts; next time, hop additions, yeast prep time warp and transferring!

A short re-review of a beer I made a year ago

I always set aside a couple beers from every batch I make to drink later. This is mostly to allow people who don’t live in Portland a chance to drink what I make. Generally, this beer gets drunk within a few months but this dunkel which I made last year, escaped my clutches.

Since I found a couple bottles, I thought it would be a neat thing to talk about what’s happened with this beer now.

There’s a slight funk in the nose but a nice, easy chocolate note running through the beer. It’s similar to what I would think chocolate soda pop would taste like, actually, because of the sweet aftertaste. It’s sugary without being sickly or overwhelming, like a soda might be though.

All in all I’m really surprised that it’s this drinkable. My understanding is that most beers can last this long, they generally aren’t meant to, unless designed as such with high alcohol or hop content. Granted, this beer isn’t excellent but after a year? Not bad.

The best beer I should never pour

So, for anyone who wants to know how the dunkel I made turned out…it’s pretty much in the title.

Sad but true. There’s some awesome flavors in the actual beer itself; coffee and chocolate, very smooth and it’s a lighter beer, very drinkable from a mouthfeel perspective.

But if you pour it, as I have done here, then you’re in for a bad time. There’s a very strong sulfur note there and there’s just no getting around the fact that this is very, very offputting to anyone who wants to, say, drink it.

Now, on the upside, I bottle my beer. So if I don’t put this into a glass, voila! Problem (mostly) solved. It’s almost all upside. And it’s way better than the last lager I attempted to make.

Still, it’s not quite there and, though I tried to give the yeast a diacytil rest to cut down on the sulfur note, it was to no avail. Still, there’s always next year.


Brew Date: 2.8.12

.75 lb 2 row
.25 Cafka 2
.25 Caramel

7 lb LME

1 oz Crystal @ 60
.75 oz Hallertauer @ 15

McPolander yeast from Wyeast-this yeast was acquired from Europe and is part of an experiment done with the Oregon Brew Crew.

OG: 1.064

FG: 1.016

TG: 1.024

ABV: 6.25%

Additional notes: Made a starter using 1cup dry malt extract, 4cups water, boiled, put into growler and set aside for a night.
Pitched yeast when wort was approx 54 degrees, set into dark room, hoped for best. No action so after 24 hrs I put it into laundry room: 4 days later it had gone up to 60 and started to get active, put back into subbasement.
3 days in subbasement, sulfur coming off brew (at about 58 degrees) so moved into slightly warmer climes for 2 days, until I didn’t smell sulfur coming off and then back to subbasement, temps got down to about 56.

3.11.12-bottling day
Still a strong scent of sulfur as I put it into the bottling bucket. I’d put it into the laundry room two days prior in order to work off some of those flavors but it doesn’t look like that worked.

Lager Experiment 2012

My previous experience with making lagers went…badly. However, a terrible experience shouldn’t stop you from trying it again, only better, right?

(This idea got me in trouble with women, back in the day. But that’s neither here nor there)

I had an opportunity to make another lager or, at least use a lager yeast for free and free is always a very good price. In an attempt to avoid the mistakes of my past, I went with a dunkel style. It fermented pretty rapidly, then mellowed out until I put it into secondary, here:

dunkel in carboy
The carboy is in my subbasement so that’s why things look a bit stark. But it was at this point when it got all activey and sulfury. Rather: there were sulfur elements in the nose when I transferred it into secondary and then the yeast became active again! Yow.

Oddly enough, what I’ve been told is that a little bit of copper can help reduce some of these elements that come off a lager. Although I may have misheard that an it might be the diacatyl that is reduced instead of sulfur but I believe the two are related, in terms of the process; these flavors come from the yeast. My point is: I boiled a penny in water for ten minutes and then dropped it into the secondary. Worst case, nothing happens. Best case, the beer doesn’t smell quite so offputting.

Still, I think I can bottle this beer soon. With a gravity reading of 1.018 (which is about what I was expecting) that yeast can’t have much more left in it. I hope.