F+ Beer

Adventures in Homebrewing and All Things Hoppy

Slow Education ESB

OK, so I’ve been busy with working full time, school part time, etc., so I kind of let this blog go right away.  Plus, I already got irritated with the new-guy tone of this blog.  Also, I got too lazy to feel like spelling out all of the details/steps I was going through, so I’m just going to post whatever the hell I feel like.  Tonight I’m going to finally record notes on my first beer…

Weeks ago I brewed an American-style ESB.  I’m lucky enough to have a very home-brew-experienced friend who was able to advise and oversee the process (thanks, Joseph!).

Slow Education ESB

Type: American Style ESB

Brew Date: 11-13-11

Base Malt (Extract): 8 lbs. light malt extract

Steeping Grains: 8 oz. Victory Malt and 8 oz. English Crystal Malt

Yeast: White Labs California V Ale Yeast, 1 vial

Hops: 2 oz. Cascade (C) at 9.3 alpha and 2 oz. Willamette (W) at 5.6 alpha

Hop Schedule:

  • 1.5 W for all 60 min
  • 1 C for 2o min
  • 0.5 C for 15 min
  • 0.5 W for 10 min
  • 0.5 C for 5 min

Additional Additives: None

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.045 at pitch 12:25pm 11-13
  •  1.018 at primary-to-secondary racking, 2:00pm 11-26
  • (unknown at bottling[shitty record keeping], on 12-07)

Estimated ABV: 3.55%

Bottling Notes: 3/4 cup corn sugar (though recipe said 1c).  What a mess (see below).


  • Goddammit.  During primary-secondary racking (somewhat) and especially during bottle racking, I could not keep a siphon.  Air bubbles like crazy were really stressed me out.  Once bottling was done (and I wasn’t so scared of contamination), I played around with the auto-siphon and eventually determined that the hose they gave me was slightly too big for it (hence the air entrainment).  I exchanged the oversized hose for another one (sold as part of my initial kit).  This F-up was not my fault (the rest of the F-ups below are totally my fault), though I may have noticed it better during primary racking, and my lack of experience didn’t help in seeing the problem sooner.  I found out that this oversized-hose problem seems to be pretty common around here.
  • Stupidly, I literally threw the specialty grains into the pot of water without putting them into a grain bag first.  There was an ugly boilover followed by Joseph doing damage control and determining a way to slavage the batch.
  • I dropped a full bottle of beer on my host-brewer’s concrete patio, shattering it of course.  Also, my brewing problems were a distraction to the all-grain batch he was producing at the same time and may have compromised his mashing process.  Sorry, Joseph!

Other Notes:

  • Overall, this turned out OK for a first brew.   The siphon/air problems did lead to fairly noticeable wet cardboard notes (from oxidation) as expected.  Also, it’s hard to tell over the cardboardness, but there is probably some astringency attibuted to the boiling grainwreck I caused.  Though not a good beer, the off flavors aren’t so extreme as to make it unenjoyable to drink.  Don’t get me wrong:  I’d be pretty critical if I bought this in a store, but again, it is enjoyable enough.  My wife and I like it (I know what you’re thinking, but she’s not just being nice–we both tried some at primary-secondary racking and both clearly thought it was pretty terrible, but it really improved).  Interestingly, the first bottle opened seemed better than the next ones (we left town for over a week between #1 and #2).  I think the oxidation hadn’t quite kicked in as much when we drank the first one.
  • At primary-secondary racking, this beer had very strong off-flavors, especially (I surmise from the sharp, sour flavor) acetyldehide.  I was pretty worried that it was infected and doomed to an early end in the drain.   Turns out, it does not seem like infection was a problem, and I might have tasted it while much of the yeast was still mid-process.
  • Because of some clearly defined issues with this batch, I decided my second batch would be the same recipe (essentially), primarily because I want to learn from my mistakes and better understand how to detect and prevent off-flavors.
  • I initially, based on early tastes, was going to assign one of a couple of very obscene names (I better not expound, as I don’t yet know who will be reading this) to this brew, but, as I said, it turned out to be pretty drinkable.  Thus, the appropriate Sliver-Jews-inspired name.
  • I mistakenly used 3/4 cup sugar (per Papazian) instead of 1 cup (per recipe) for bottling.  I’m glad I did this, as it seems to be the right amount of carbonation for an ESB (respecting the English tradition, it’s definitely enough for the ESB style, but not as much as other beers might have).  I think I’ll use 3/4 cup on the next batch as well.

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