Brew Day Log: Blackout Brewing – Delicate Psycho batch 3

For our second entry in the Brew Day Log, we decided to join gypsy brewer Adi Oros from Blackout Brewing, as he took over the controls at Bere a la Cluj on August 13th, to brew batch three of his debut IPA, Delicate Psycho. Each version of this double dry-hopped IPA is slightly different, and this one will feature a generous dose of Galaxy hops.

But first, let’s take a quick look at how gypsy brewing started in Romania. Back in 2016, the lads at Bereta managed to convince Ground Zero to let them take over the brewery for a day or two. They pumped out some iconic labels, and since then, gypsy brewing in Romania has been a popular past-time for those who want to get their beer out there, but don’t yet have a brewery to do so. Adi Oros got a taste for it after brewing with Bereta, as part of their Bereta Brewing Community initiative. Shortly after, he launched Blackout Brewing in January 2019, going all out with an imperial stout for his debut. Since then, he’s been unstoppable, brewing various versions of 3 different beers, attending festivals and events, and consistently flying off the shelves.

While Adi has collaborated with other breweries so far (Oriel Beer, Bereta, and Hop Hooligans), he still thinks of brewing at Bere a la Cluj like home. His bold beers are at the other end of the spectrum, compared to the lighter lagers and pale ales of the fostering brewery, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Adi believes that you can make great beer at any brewery, you just need plenty of energy and excitement to make it work.

Delicate Psycho Stats:

  • Style: Double Dry Hopped IPA
  • Malted Barley, CaraPils, Melanoidin, Malted Wheat, Oats
  • Hops: Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy
  • OG (original gravity): 1063
  • FG (final gravity): 1011
  • ABV: 6.5%

If you’ve ever wondered about the name, well, there’s a story behind that. It all goes back to an evening where Adi misheard the lyrics of a song by The Unclued, so instead of ‘delicate cycle’, he got ‘delicate psycho’. The oxymoron was too good to let slide, and as Adi has a tendency for fancy beer names, he stuck with it.

A look around the brewery

Now, we need to explain the brewing arrangements a little bit. Adi is a gypsy brewer, and his core range (non-collaboration beers) is made at Bere a la Cluj. However, Bere a la Cluj are currently in a dire need of a brewer, so they have contracted Norbert, the head brewer from Kutuma, to oversee brew days. And since Andrew is working as a contract brewer for Kutuma, this means that he’s often on the Bere a la Cluj premises making their beers. Not only that, but Andrew has been giving Adi a hand since the very first Blackout beer. For us, this particular brew day is just business as usual, so after swapping biker gear for brewing attire, let’s give you a quick tour.

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Other breweries we’ve visited have more or less been made to measure, with brand new floors and drainage systems fitted as standard. This one is an older facility on the industrial estate that has been repurposed, and as a result, it has acquired a certain patina over the years. 

While there’s no active temperature control here, the brewery is typically a few degrees colder than the outside temperature, and it gets colder the deeper you go in. Even at 8 in the morning, it’s a noticeable drop in temperature on this sunny August day. Pallets line the entryway, loaded with cases and kegs ready to be delivered across the city.

Next, we check out the malt store and milling room. Bere a la Cluj use around three different malt suppliers, and their grains are delivered whole, which means that they do the milling themselves. The mill is small and unassuming, and while it’s slow, it does an excellent job of milling the grains, while keeping the husks largely intact. 

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Into the brew house next, which is also pretty small and self contained. While most breweries use Chinese equipment, Bere a la Cluj features a mixture of Italian brew house (from Marican’s) and fermenting vessels from China. Along one side of the room we see the mobile bottling machine, and the 4 fermenting vessels, one which has a 500 litre capacity, and three with a 1,000 litre capacity. On the other side of the room, we see more of the ‘hardware’: the hot liquor tank, the mash tun, boil kettle, ice water tanks, and the bright beer tank.

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Adi typically brews 500 litre batches, but after his previous beer (batch 1 of Glitch DIPA) sold out within 4 hours of letting his vendors know it’s ready, he’s opted to brew 1,000 litres this time.

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This 1000 litre vessel has already been put to work by Adi, and the first half of Delicate Psycho is currently fermenting away

With the tour over, let’s get the show on the road.

08:10 – Arrive at the brewery

Almost like clockwork, we arrive at the same time as Adi, just a few minutes after 8am. After groggy greetings (we really aren’t morning people), we discuss how the day will pan out.

Since this is a 1,000 litre batch of Delicate Psycho and the brew house is a 500 litre system, it will be made in two batches, over the course of two days. The first half was brewed yesterday, and this brew day log will document the second half. At the end of the previous brew day, the boil kettle was filled with water, and heated to around 60°C. This morning, the temperature has dropped to around 55°C, so the first task is to get it heated up to a strike temperature of around 70°C. First, we run off the excess water, helping the 350 litres we need to heat up quicker.

Running the hot water into the lauter tun serves two purposes: first, the hot water will warm the lauter tun, preventing the mash from cooling too much when it’s transferred, and secondly, the hot water can be used to rinse out the heat exchange and transfer pipes. The heat will sanitize the equipment, while ensuring there are no hop particles or malt debris left inside.

08:15 – Weighing out the water treatments

Adi takes water treatments very seriously, by adding a variety of minerals and salts at various stages of the brewing process. He is very lucky with the water in Cluj, which is supplied by the Tarnița lake, less than 50 km away. This makes the water very good for brewing, as it’s light in minerals (almost on par with reverse osmosis), so it’s quite easy to more or less build up any profile you need.

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A good selection of ‘beer seasoning’

Adi adds a mixture of minerals and acids to the strike water, including gypsum, Epsom salts, calcium chloride, and lactic acid. Each addition adds to the character of the beer, while simultaneously adjusting the PH to the optimum level for mashing efficiently. Epsom salts, for example, round of malt flavours and aid in yeast health (they’re also good for soaking your feet in after a long day brewing), while gypsum adds a dryness to the beer, enhancing the flavour and aroma of the hops.

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As he carefully measures out the water treatment, Adi shares some wisdom with us: ‘You can make good beer with basic ingredients and water from your tap, but to make great beer, you’ve got to manipulate your water profile.’

08:30 – Mashing in

The strike water is now treated and up to temperature, so we begin mashing in. We pour the malt in slowly to prevent it from clumping up, which can cause problems with efficiency, and stop you from getting the most sugars from your grains. 

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We also add 5 kg of rice hulls to the mix, which are great when you’re using oats and wheat, as these huskless grains can become very gelatinous, and cause blockages. The rice hulls replace the missing husks, and help aid filtration in the same way the barley husks do.

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While 66 is the standard mashing temperature, we’re aiming a little higher

08:45 – Mash starts

All the grains are in, and we’ve hit our mash temperature of 67 °C. Mashing in at this temperature, in combination with the use of oats and wheat, will help create a fuller bodied beer, exactly what Adi is going for. His vision for this version of the IPA is to be thick and juicy, with a prickly carbonation and a ton of hop aroma. The mash will be left at 67 °C for around 45 minutes, in which time all of the starches should have been converted to sugars.

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While the mash is doing its thing, we pump the extra hot water from earlier through the heat exchange as a final rinse in the cleaning cycle

We mix the mash every 15 minutes or so to aid the conversion. During this time, Adi also takes a PH reading to check that we’re on target. We’re aiming for a PH of around 5.2.

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It’s early, but the readings will get there eventually

While we wait on the mash, Adi takes the time to look over a list of beers he’s been prospecting for an upcoming tasting session. As a member of local NGO Asociația Vrăjitorilor din Orz, he has to decide which beers will make it on the menu for their next meeting. It’s a lengthy yet exciting process, with Adi needing to order a mix of both new releases as well as classics, while also sticking to the budget.

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And this is how hype is born, kids!

09:30 – Transfer to lauter begins

After a 45 minute mash, we prepare to start the transfer from the kettle (which doubles up as a mash tun), into the lauter tun. The lauter tun is fitted with a filter, enabling us to separate the grains from the liquid, or sweet wort. We open up the valves and start the pump, and notice there’s only a small trickle of water coming from the pipe – looks like the thick, gloopy oats and wheat malt have blocked the pump! 

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While this is a first for us on this equipment, it doesn’t take too long to fix. We simply pump some hot water from the hot liquor tank into the boil kettle, forcing the malt in the pipe to break up. We try again, and the mash starts pouring into the lauter tun.

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09:50 – Transfer complete

It doesn’t take long to transfer the mash from one vessel to the other. Once complete, we let it sit for 20 minutes, to encourage it to form an effective filter bed. In the meantime, we head outside for some fresh air, only to be blinded by the scorching heat.

10:10 – Recirculation and transfer back to the kettle

After 20 minutes of interrogating Adi about his plans for the future (spoilers: he’s gonna keep gypsy brewing), we return to the brew house to begin recirculating the wort. This filters out the finer particles that may have made it through the grain bed and into the wort, and after 5 minutes, it’s starting to look fairly clear. 

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If you think that hose looks precarious, you’re right. Seconds after this photo was taken, it fell off.

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With a sight-glass as pretty as this, we have to snap a photo of the transfer

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While recirculating, we take a small sample to measure the gravity. The first runnings are the sweetest, and will give the highest gravity reading. It’s useful to measure the gravity at this point to see how successful the conversion was. At around 1080, we’re pretty much on target, and know that we can sparge as planned. With a flick of the switch, we stop the recirculation, and start pumping the wort back into the boil kettle.

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10:20 – Start the sparge

Adi’s IPA typically pushes the brew house to its limits, so the spray ball that would normally be used to sparge is half submerged at the beginning of the transfer. So, instead of starting the sparge at the same time as the transfer, we run off a good amount of wort first of all, in order to drop the level of the grain in the lauter tun. Eventually, the level drops enough to expose the sparge spray ball, so we can get the sparge under way.

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The sparge is important, as it rinses the residual sugars from the grains, and dilutes the wort to the gravity we need to make the beer at the correct ABV. By sparging, we spray an extra 300 litres of hot water to the mash, which means we can gather a total of around 600 litres of potential beer.

At Bere a la Cluj, this is a relatively quick process, since the sparge pump only has one speed. Throughout the sparge, we monitor the colour of the wort as it transfers, and also take gravity readings to ensure it doesn’t drop too low, which would lead to astringent off flavours. 

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Just adding a sprinkle of lactic acid to help things along

10:40 – Transfer complete

20 minutes after we started the sparge, we’ve collected over 600 litres of sweet wort in the boil kettle. The heating elements are turned on, and we begin to heat it from around 70°C up to boiling point.

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Checking out the last runnings, and the beer has a gorgeous colour already

At this point, Adi starts emptying the mash tun. As with many craft breweries, the spent grain is given to farmers. Our local farmer is a lovely man by the name of Gelu, who often brings us milk, cheese and eggs in exchange for keeping his livestock happy. 

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We actually asked ourselves whether cows get drunk from eating the spent grains. They’re most likely going to spontaneously ferment at some point, so it is a possibility. We haven’t reached a conclusion to this debate just yet.

After digging out the mash tun, Adi takes a pre-boil gravity reading. At 1060, it’s a little under target, but that’s not a problem, as he’s planning to add a small amount of sugar into the brew. Now, you may cringe and claim that that’s a macro beer trick, but there’s a good reason why Adi, and many other brewers around the world (particularly in Belgium) choose to do this. Sugar will boost the gravity of the wort, but it will also ferment out fully, giving the finished beer a dry character. This makes the beer moreish, making you want to grab another pint, as well as enhancing the hops. Adi adds 3 kg of sugar, which brings the gravity up to the target of 1063.

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No Reinheitsgebot going on in this picture, and that’s alright. In fact, White Labs suggest using 5-10% sugar per grain bill when brewing with Vermont Ale yeast.

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In the meantime, we also get a visit from Norbert from Kutuma, who drops by to make sure we’re on our best behaviour

12:15 – Boil starts

With the mash tun clean, there’s nothing to do but wait for the wort to reach a boil, which is excellent timing, as our pizza order is in.

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Seriously though, if you’re at a brewery and pizza is not on the menu, you’re probably brewing with replicants

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By 12:15, the wort has begun to bubble and boil. Adi is not aiming for bitterness, and is instead focusing on packing a juicy, hoppy punch in the aroma and flavour. As such, we won’t add any hops to the boil. This results in a short, 20 minute boil, which serves to sterilize the wort, and encourage hot break: this is when all the bad stuff we don’t want in the beer clumps together and drops to the bottom of the kettle.

12:35 – Chill down

After the boil, we switch off the heating elements and start to chill the beer down to around 85°C. We do this by running the boiling hot wort through the heat exchange, and back into the boil kettle. This rapidly brings the temperature down, and within 20 minutes, we’re ready to move on to the whirlpool.

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But first, Adi is weighing out his whirlpool hops: 1 kg of Simcoe

12:55 – Whirlpool starts

With the wort at 85°C, we stop recirculating, and switch off the chilling pumps. It’s important to cool the wort down for the whirlpool, as when it’s too hot, the alpha acids in the hops isomerize, which creates bitterness. Taking another bite of pizza, Adi chucks the hops in the kettle.

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We leave the whirlpool running for 30 minutes, in order to get the most from the hops we’ve added. This also ensures that the hops are evenly distributed throughout the wort, before dropping down to the bottom of the kettle. Once that’s done, the whirlpool is switched off, and all the larger particles are allowed to settle to the bottom.

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There’s never a dull moment, so we use this time to purge some yeast from a soon-to-be-released session IPA by Bere a la Cluj

13:45 – Transfer to fermenter begins

After a 50-minute rest, the worst of the hop particles have settled down, and we can begin to transfer the beer to fermenter. The fermenting vessel in question is already filled with around 550 litres of rapidly fermenting beer from yesterday. 

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Adi calls us over to look at the hot break, excitedly telling us that it reminds him of sunsets on Venus. We haven’t been there yet, but we reckon it looks about right.

We pitched Adi’s home-grown Vermont Ale yeast after yesterday’s transfer was complete, allowing it to get going straight away. In this way, the yeast has a good amount of sugars to gobble up, allowing the cells to multiply before we add the second half of the beer to the tank. By the time we add this batch, the yeast will have grown enough to cope with the extra sugars, without being overworked and causing off-flavours.

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We switch the ice water pump on and get the cold water flowing through the heat exchange. Before we start the wort flowing though, we have to run the first few litres off. This normally contains a lot of hop sediment that has made its way into the valve, and would block the heat exchange if we let it flow through. 

The beer starts flowing into the tank at around 20°C, perfectly matching the current temperature. We set the tank chiller down to 19°C, as Adi doesn’t want the beer to ferment at too high a temperature. Fermenting at a lower temperature gives a cleaner yeast profile, while warmer fermentation typically encourage more fruity, estery notes, depending on the strain being used. 19°C is around mid-range for Vermont Ale yeast, ensuring it will offer lightly fruity notes, without becoming too overpowering.

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After just 20 minutes, all of the good wort is in the fermenting vessel at the right temperature. We lose around 50 litres at the bottom of the kettle, where the majority of the hops and malt proteins eventually settle out after the whirlpool.

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Waste not, want not: given the fact that the hoses used are quite long, there’s still a lot of wort left in them. Rather than chucking it down the drain, Adi collects it, to be used in homebrewing.

 At this point, all the pumps are switched off and valves are closed, marking the end of the brew-day, and the beginning of the clean up. 

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‘Yar-ha-har
Swab my deck
Yar-ha-har
Show me how you’re moppin it’

Aaand that’s a wrap! By this point, Adi is already switching gears and getting ready to return to the afternoon scrum meeting at his day job as a programmer. For us, it was a blast, as always, and we’re already looking forward to giving a hand with the next brew Adi has in store.

In the meantime, if you’re in Cluj on the 7th of September, you can join us for the launch of Delicate Psycho – batch 3 at the 4th edition of our Craft Tranzition Party event. See you guys there! Cheers!

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