Just for kicks, I sent a few bottles of my Gold Rush California Common and Vanilla Pale Ale to the St. Louis Brews Happy Holiday Homebrew Competition. Their contest is a qualifier for the MCAB XII.
I was pretty happy with my California Common, and the Vanilla Pale was a real longshot, but I always like to get feedback from judges so I can improve my brew.
Out of 11 entries in Category 7 Amber Hybrid Beer, my California Common got a 2nd place! I'm real happy with this since the guys who got 1st and 3rd, also ended up getting 3rd in the Best of Show round with their smoked beer.
So here is a run-down of how I made my Gold Rush Common:
6lbs Pale Liquid Extract
1lbs. Light Dry Extract
.9lbs Crystal Malt 45L
.45 lbs Munich Malt
Bittering hops: Northern Brewer
Flavor and Aroma hops: Cascade
Irish Moss for fining at end of boil
White Labs San Francisco Lager #WLP810
Pretty straight forward extract brew. I steep the grains in about 160F for 30-40 minutes in 3gallons water. I used straight tap water with no mineral additions. I rinse the grains with another 1/2 gallon water to rinse of as much sugar as I can. Then add the extract and bring to a boil. At hot-break, I add the bittering hops and boil for 60 minutes, adding flavor and aroma hops at various points throughout the boil.
At end of boil, I put my kettle into an ice bath to bring down the temp. I can get the temp down to about 60 degrees in under a half hour now. When the temp is down to 60F, I pour into my carboy and then add preboiled and then cooled water to the carboy to get about 5.25 gallons. Then I shake the carboy around for awhile to aerate (I haven't stepped up to an aeration system yet), then I pitch my yeast, which has been happily started days before in a little over a pint of wort for a starter. Then I put the carboy in my beer cave in the garage which at that point was about 64-66F and stayed that way for the whole fermentation. My target original gravity was 1.056 and I ended up at 1.062 so a bit off, but no big deal.
One thing I did a bit different with this batch was the technique of Krausening. During the brew, I saved about 10% of the wort and bottled that up and put it in the refrigerator. I also saved some of the yeast starter. After about 7 days I took the saved yeast and wort and brought them up to temperature the fermentation was at, and mixed the yeast and wort making a new starter. After three more days when the starter was bubbling away nicely, I pitched this into the already fermented beer. This is called krausening. It's how most beers used to be done, and especially with California Common, they would krausen the beer in the casks it was shipped in so it would naturally carbonate in the final serving vessel. Now, my technique is a bit different as I krausened in the fermenter, not my final keg. Two reasons for this. First, this was my first kegged homebrew and I was afraid of naturally carbonating in the keg without using a bleeder valve to maintain right amount of pressure. Second, I had read that krausening helps to finish off a beer since the new yeast active yeast cleans up alot of the unwanted junk from the primary fermentation. After another 9 days, I racked into keg and force carbonated. Final gravity was 1.018 putting ABV at 5.74% That's a bit higher than the style allows, but not by much, and my measurements could have been off anyway.