Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Cooper (Bourbon-Oaked Robust Porter) - Brew Day

Like most beer nerds, I'm obsessed with Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout.  The velvety, luscious, pancake syrup of a stout blends perfectly with the character that the charred bourbon barrels add to the base beer.  There beer is paired perfectly with fireplaces, bear rugs, well-trained dogs eating a bone laying next to arm chairs, and other bourgeois endeavors.
My HPRIMS system...Hand-Powered Recirculating Infusion Mash
There are a myriad of clone recipes out there, all with seemingly varying success, but I decided to take a slightly different tack.  Instead of full-on trying to clone the beer, I thought about what beer in my recipe database would lend itself to this type of process.  The one that I kept coming back to was my batch of The Peon, a Hill Farmstead's Everett-inspired porter.  This porter, while lower in alcohol, had the same velvety, syrupy sweetness that I get from BCBS.

For this iteration of the recipe, I did a mash more in line with what Sean Hill of HF uses.  Namely, a shortened mash time -- 30 minutes -- with the dark, roasted grains only added for the final 5 minutes. Additionally, I upped my IBUs a bit for this beer, as some of the oak additions, detailed below, should add some vanilla-like sweetness that would probably benefit from some balance.

For the oak addition, I went with 1.50oz of Medium Toast French Oak (I happened to have a lot of this on hand) that had been soaking in Maker's Mark for several weeks.  After primary fermentation, the bourbon will be strained off of the oak and the bourbon-infused oak will be added to the beer.  The beer will sit on the oak for at least a couple of months or until I feel the bourbon and oak character has melded well.  I'm not ruling out adding actual fresh bourbon to the batch as well, although I'm hoping I don't have to do this.

The Cooper (Porter with Bourbon-Soaked Oak)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.080
Est FG: 1.026 (but will probably finish higher)
Est ABV: 7.2%
IBU:  46
SRM: 42

14.5lb Maris Otter
1.25lb UK Caramel 40L
1.25lb Roasted Barley
1.00lb Carapils
1.00lb Pale Chocolate Malt
0.50lb Caramel 80L

1.1oz CTZ @ FWH (46 IBU)

1000ml starter of WY1028 London Ale

1.50oz Medium Toast French Oak soaked in Maker's Mark

Mash @ 159f for 25 minutes (non-roasted grains only)
Mash @ 159f for 5 minutes (add dark grains)

12/20/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Efficiency came in a little lower than usual, around 75%, probably due to the large grain bill.  Had to add a little DME to the boil to bring up the gravity.  Gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.082 wort.  Bubbling away within a few hours at 64F.

12/28/2014 -- Added 1.50oz of bourbon soaked oak.

1/15/2015 -- Added 1.25 beans of Madagascar Vanilla, cut and scraped.

1/23/2015 -- Bottled to 2.2 vol.  Finished at 1.030.  Blended in some fresh Makers Mark to taste.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Les Lèvres Rouges (Sour Ale Aged on Cherries) - Brew Day

So, in the interest of experimentation, I'm going to be attempting to brew a sour in a quicker fashion than your usual lambic.  I'm hoping that my process (detailed below -- and similar to a Berliner Weisse), will result in a sour beer that can go from grain to glass in a matter of several months, rather than the normal 12-18 months required as a minimum for most sours.  I fully imagine that this will result in a "less complex" soured beer, but I'm planning to age it on cherries for some time to add some complexity and try to emulate some of the characteristics of a kriek.

My plan is to produce a moderately fermentable, traditional grist, lambic wort from a mid-range mash temperature.  After the sparge, I'm going to adjust the pH of the wort pre-boil to a touch below 4.5.  The reason for this is that Lactobacillus has an enzyme that denatures head forming proteins at a pH above 4.5, and I want there to be an acceptable head on this batch.
L. brevis starter along with some Brett Trois
After boiling, I'll pitch a culture of Lactobacillus brevis once the wort is chilled to around 100F.  This will be hooked up to my temperature controller and the FermWrap will be attached to keep the carboy at around 80f for a couple of days.  I'm going to take daily pulls of the beer to check the pH levels and taste for acidity.  Ideally, I'd do an acid titration as the pH can fall pretty rapidly once the buffers have been overcome, but I don't have the equipment (nor, coincidentally, do I have any idea how to do it).

Once the pH has fallen into the mid-low 3 range, I'm going to pitch an active starter of Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. drie (Brett Trois) and proceed with a primary Brett fermentation.  After this has subsided, I'm going to give it a taste.  If there's a decent amount of sourness and a pleasant funk, I'm going to pitch it onto sour cherries at a rate of 1.5lb/gallon.  If it is mediocre, and could be better, I may do a split batch with cherries in both but an additional Brettanomyces strain in one of the carboys with the idea of blending them down the line.

This probably won't work, but fuck it.

Of course, on brew day my pH meter decided to completely go haywire.  I fucking hate those things.  I used my brewing chemistry spreadsheet to try to figure out the acid addition required to drop the wort pH below 4.5

Les Lèvres Rouges (Sour Ale Aged on Cherries)
Est OG: 1.049
Est FG: 1.008
Est ABV: 5.45%
IBU: 5
SRM: 5

7.50lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
4.00lb Flaked Wheat
0.62lb Aromatic Malt

0.30oz Willamette @ FWH (5 IBU)

1pkg Wyeast Lactobacillus Brevis WY5223
1pkg White Labs Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois
1pkg White Labs Brettanomyces Clausenii (maybe)

7.5lb Frozen, thawed tart cherries

Mash @ 151f for 60 minutes

12/9/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash efficiency came in at 83%.  My pH meter conked out and failed to calibrate at one of the most inopportune times possible, so I was unable to check if my spreadsheet estimates of the acid required to drop the wort pH down to below 4.5.  Anyways, gathered 5.5 gallons of wort at 1.051 gravity.  Pitched lacto starter when the wort was around 100F.  I have the FermWrap set to 85f, but I think its too cold in my basement for it to hold that temp.  It was probably around 78f through the night.

12/10/2014 -- Figured out that I needed a new electrode for my pH meter.  Amazon Prime same day shipping is a wonderful thing.  I measured the pH of some wort that I had in a hydrometer tube from last night and that came in at 4.86.  My pH is now down to around 3.85 less than 24 hours later, which is a pretty nice drop.  There is a slight lactic tartness in the nose, and even less in the taste, but the taste is tough just because its still fairly sugary wort.  I'm going to resample tomorrow evening and most likely pitch my Brett Trois starter.

12/12/14 -- Down to a pH of 3.6. Going to keep her going for a while.

12/13/14 -- pH down to 3.55. Still truckin.

12/15/14 (Morning) -- So, pH still at around 3.55.  I managed to put the carboy into my fridge with the FermWrap on and had the temp raise to around 95f.  It doesn't seem like it's make much of a difference.  I have a smackpack of Wyeast Oud Bruin that I might toss in as well tonight if there's still no budge in pH.

12/15/2014 (Evening) -- Added the smackpack of Wyeast Oud Bruin.  This is one of their Private Collections and contains a fast-acting Lacto (probably another dose of Brevis) and a Sacc strain.  I do want some Brett character in this so I'll be adding that Brett starter as well.  It'll be interesting to see who wins -- Sacc or Brett -- as the strain that does the primary fermentation.  My bet is on the Brett, given its in a starter and then Sacc is in a somewhat old smackpack.  Lets see how this does.

12/17/2014 (Morning) -- Some activity in the fermenter.  Took a pH sample this morning and it was down to 3.52.  So, some slight progress.  Will check again tonight and potentially pitch the Brett.

12/17/2014 (Evening) -- pH dropped down to 3.50.  Definite activity in the carboy, although not a lot of krausen.  Really hard to tell if it was the alleged brevis in the Oud Bruin blend or the sacc strain.  It definitely didn't look like a sacc fermentation to me.  Anyways, I pitched the starter of Brett Trois and lowered the temp in the fridge to 80f from 95f to bring it more into line for a Brett fermentation.

12/18/2014 -- pH down to 3.40.  Nice light lactic tartness that I hope continues to develop.

12/28/2014 -- pH remains at 3.40.  Like before, there is a nice lactic bite to this one, not super strong, but I'm sure that will develop over time.  At almost three weeks, it is similar to 6-7 month sours that I've had in my pipeline.  I'm pretty happy about my approach on this one, as I believe the fruit and other additions I'm toying with will complement this nicely lactic, although one-dimensional, beer quite well.

1/3/2015 -- Split the batch into two carboys.  One half got 5lb of apricot puree and will get some vanilla bean and cinnamon stick before bottling.  The other half got 5lb of tart cherries.  Sample before fruiting was a soft lactic.  Added half a vial of Brett Brux to each.

1/25/2015 -- Racked off of fruit to clear before bottling.  Added 0.33 beans of vanilla to the apricot portion.

1/29/2015 -- Bottled both batches to 3.1 vol.  Finished around 1.004.  Bottled with Brett C.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Provocateur (American Pale Ale) -- Brew Day

So, since I'm waiting for a few pounds of hops from the 2014 harvest -- dammit Label Peelers send me my hops! -- I decided to do an APA that was somewhat of a blend of my grain bill for The Gentleman and that of Tired Hand HopHands.  I really love how the blend of Pilsner and 2-Row highlight the hops in an APA, but I also loved the texture provided by flaked oats that can be found in the Tired Hands lineup.

When I brewed the HopHands clone earlier this year, it retained a bit of a vegetal taste for a few weeks after it was ready.  I've attributed this to the large dry hop that I probably left on for a little too long.  I've since shortened my dry hopping contact times to around 3-4 days.  I've found no deterioration in hop flavor (arguably more) and the vegetal character has essentially disappeared.  I've made some slight changes to the hop bill from my clone before (more hops!), but this should be similar to the last brew, with maybe a more crisp grain bill.

Brew day was pretty standard.  My mash efficiency continues to be ridiculous since I bought the new mill.  I'm trying to compensate for the increase, but it's still a little erratic depended on the size of the grain bill.  I'll get it one of these days...

The Provocateur (American Pale Ale)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.047
Est FG: 1.011
Est ABV: 4.6%
IBU: 41
SRM: 3

5.00lb Pilsner Malt
3.00lb 2-Row Malt
1.50lb Flaked Oats
0.50lb Carapils

0.30oz Magnum @ FWH (15 IBU)
0.50oz Amarillo @ 5 min (3 IBU)
0.50oz Centennial @ 5 min (3 IBU)
0.50oz Simcoe @ 5 min (4 IBU)
1.50oz Amarillo @ Steep 5 min (4 IBU)
1.50oz Centennial @ Steep 5 min (5 IBU)
1.50oz Simcoe @ Steep 5 min (6 IBU)
2.00oz Amarillo @ Dry Hop 4 Days
2.00oz Centennial @ Dry Hop 4 Days
2.00oz Simcoe @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1000ml starter of WLP200 Best of Both Worlds

Mash @ 152f for 60 minutes

12/8/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Brew day went pretty normally.  The new Brew Bag that I ordered is fantastic and fits perfectly in my cooler and kettle.  Mash efficiency came in at a whopping 88%.  My efficiency on these lower OG batches are simply outrageous since purchasing my own grain mill.  Ended up with 5.5 gallons of 1.050 wort, pitched starter and I'm letting it ferment at ambient (room temp around 62f) in my basement.

12/28/2014 -- Added dry hops.

1/1/2015 -- Bottled.  Finished at 1.009.  Tasted slightly vegetal.

Tasting Notes: The Patriot & The Great Unknown

The Patriot (Nelson Saison)

Appearance -- Fluffy white head that lasts for around a minute and dissipates into a small froth.  Color is distinctly golden/straw, with an opaque haze.  Tough to tell if the haze is chill haze or from the dry hopping.

Aroma -- Fairly distinct Belgian character in the nose.  Lots of fruity esters.  Tough to distinguish what is from the yeast and what is from the Nelson Sauvin hops.  I have to admit that despite the generous Neslon hopping on this one, the characteristics of the hop don't seem to be shining through in the aroma.

Taste --  Lots of Nelson on the tongue with a ton of almost "spicy" flavor.  Surprised by the amount of spice to be honest given there wasn't any rye in the recipe.  It must be the saison strain throwing all of that off.  I wasn't blown away by this beer, but others really enjoyed it.  I was hoping to get some of that fruity flavor Nelson can impart, but this just doesn't have any of that.

Mouthfeel --  Medium body, probably aided a touch from the higher carbonation.  I'd say it came out a bit on the thicker side despite ending with a fairly low FG.

Overall --  I liked this beer, but it really wasn't my favorite.  I think I may try this again in the future, maybe with some Galaxy thrown in.  This would probably work out much better with WY3711.  This beer did score a 36 and took 3rd in Belgian Specialty at Monk Melee IV out of 20 beers in the category, though.  Maybe I'm just picky.

The Great Unknown (Modern Times Beer Neverwhere) -- 100% Brett IPA

Appearance -- Golden, slightly darker than what could be considered "straw colored", but definitely on the paler end of the spectrum.  Pours with a thick, fluffy, white head that subsides after a few minutes into a light froth.  Some chill haze from the dry hopping and the Brettanomyces.

Aroma -- All tropical fruits.  It literally smells like some sort of fruit punch.  It's hard to tell what's from the hops and what's from the yeast.  Usually this hop combination wouldn't be this damn tropical.

Taste --  The taste follows the nose with wonderful notes of tropical fruit, melon, and pears.  Tastes almost like a Fruit Roll Up...really brings me back to my elementary school days.  A hint of grassiness, potentially from the huge amount of hops, but its tolerable given the flavor and barely noticeable.

Mouthfeel --  Medium body, almost creamy -- probably should be a bit thinner although I tend to enjoy a beer like this in the winter.  Subsequent to brewing I read that 100% Brett beers should be brewed with a VERY fermentable wort as it likes to kick out at around 1.012 or so.

Overall --  I'm really happy with how this one turned out, given it was my first 100% Brett beer.  Next time around, I'm going to create a more fermentable wort and cold crash this one for a longer time.  Chad Yakobsen mentioned on TBN that he cold crashes his beers sometimes for up to 2 weeks to clear the Brett haze.  I don't know if I would go to that length, but maybe some gelatin fining would help.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Barista Batch #3 (Breakfast Stout) -- Brew Day

My last attempt at a breakfast stout came out pretty wonderfully, in my opinion.  The beer finished a little bit higher than I had planned and it carbonated less than I had expected, though.  I've always tried to carbonate my stouts at the 2.1 volumes that most of the online calculators spit out, but that has always resulted in a less than sufficient carbonation.  Due to the under-carbonation, head retention and occasionally body has suffered as a result.  Despite these shortcomings, the beer scored a 35 at a local competition and took a silver medal in the Stouts category.

Comments from the judges centered around the inadequate carbonation (I agree), the domination of the coffee (a slight ding, but I brewed it to be like that), and a lack of character from the base beer (agree and disagree).  The carbonation will be fixed this time around.  The overpowering coffee character that they noted isn't really shared by my palate.  I really enjoyed the nice, roasty flavors that the coffee addition brought to the table.  In terms of the base beer lacking character, I had a hard time classifying the base beer.  I put it down as an imperial stout, but in all honesty it was a little weaker than that and I think that hurt the score.  In reality, there isn't a BJCP category for a fuller flavored, higher ABV American Stout.

In this iteration, I'm going to be largely following the initial recipe with a replacement of the 2.5lb of malted oats in the old recipe to be swapped by upping the flaked oats to 5lb.  I didn't really think that they added anything detectable that flaked oats don't add, but they had the added bonus of being an utter bitch to source.  Additionally, I'll be monitoring the fermentation a little closer in order to ensure I get to the final gravity I want.  This beer was a big hit and I'm excited to have some more around.

The Barista Batch #3 (Breakfast Stout)
Est OG: 1.085
Est FG: 1.022
Est ABV: 8.25%
IBU: 76
SRM: 8

8.00lb Pilsner Malt
5.00lb Flaked Oats
2.00lb Pale Chocolate Malt
1.15lb Brown Malt
1.15lb Caramunich Malt
1.15lb Roasted Barley
0.65lb Rauch Malt

1.50oz Centennial @ FWH (39 IBU)
0.80oz Chinook @ FWH (26 IBU)
0.50oz Cascade @ FWH (10 IBU)
1.00oz Cascade @ Flameout (2 IBU)

1.00oz low acid, cold-pressed coffee -- pressed in 12oz of water added 2 days before bottling

1250ml starter of WLP090 Super San Diego (House Culture)

Mash @ 153f for 60 minutes

11/22/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Still trying to hone in on my efficiency with the new grain bill.  This batch came in at around 80%.  Seems like my higher gravity stuff comes in a bit lower, so I'll have to compensate for that in the future.  Gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.082 wort and pitched my WLP090 starter.  Fermentation rocketed off within a few hours.

12/11/2014 -- Added coffee.

1214/2014 -- Bottled.  FG came out to 1.030, higher than expected -- the same as last time.  There must be something the BeerSmith is calculating wrong because if there was something in there that was fermentable, I'm positive that WLP090 would have taken care of it.  Carbed to 2.2 vol -- higher than the calculators say, but I've always felt like my stouts were a touch under carbonated based on the calculators.  Sample was good, really dominated by coffee, probably more so than the last batch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Squatch Batch #3 (American Amber) - Brew Day

I've always been a lover of the "idea" of an American Amber.  Before I turned into a hophead, I thought it was a great style with a beautiful copper color and a restrained hop profile that really showcased the caramel malts used in the grist.  Now that I have turned into a total hophead, I basically want all of a shitload of hops.

I've made two other honest attempts at brewing what I really want.  The first was probably a strange hop combination and definitely ended up too dark.  The second ended up darker but nicely showcased the Centennial hops.

This time around, I'm mashing up in the higher end of the range and "capping the mash" with the darker malts.  I'll be holding the chocolate malt out of the mash until the final 20 minutes in order to allow conversion for the paler malts in a more hospitable pH environment and to try to restrain the astringent character of the roasted stuff.

The hops schedule on this one should be a nice combination of pine and fruitiness.  I've always felt that unrestrained fruitiness just feel out of place in an amber, completely due to the color of the beer.  Something that trends to the more piney, resinous side of hop flavors always seems much more appropriate to me.  I'm hoping to crash this one fully, potentially with some gelatin, to attain a really nice, clear American hoppy amber ale.

The Squatch (American Amber)
5.5 gallon batch -- 60 minute boil
Est OG: 1.074
Est FG: 1.016
Est ABV: 7.7%
IBU:  75
SRM:  13

10.8lb Vienna Malt
3.50lb Maris Otter Malt
1.00lb Flaked Oats
0.50lb Caramel 120L
0.10lb Chocolate Malt 450L (add last 20 minutes of mash)

1.00oz Simcoe @ FWH (37 IBU)
0.50oz Magnum @ FWH (20 IBU)
2.50oz Nelson Sauvin @ Steep 5 min (8 IBU)
2.00oz Columbus @ Steep 5 min (7 IBU)
1.00oz Simcoe @ Steep 5 min (3 IBU)
2.50oz Nelson Sauvin @ Dry Hop 4 Days
2.00oz Columbus @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.00oz Simcoe @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1250ml starter of Super San Diego WLP090 (from prior slurry)

Mash @ 154f for 60 minutes.

11/16/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash efficiency came in around 85%.  I overshot my boil volume a little bit as my lighter crush doesn't seem to hold as much liquid.  Ended up with 5.5 gallons of 1.071 wort.  Pitched house culture of WLP090.

12/1/2014 -- Dry hopped. Gravity down to 1.012, more than expected. I had been worried that the WLP090 wouldn't fully ferment because I have had issues with it bottle carbing in my basement from temps in the low 60s, but it appears to have torn through everything.

12/4/2014 -- Cold crash.

12/7/2014 -- Bottled.  Beer finished at 1.013.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Le Fleau (American Farmhouse Ale) - Brew Day

Two winters ago I brewed a wonderful Saison that was spiked with Brettanomyces Clausenii.  It was a traditional Saison single-hopped with Czech Saaz throughout the boil.  I used the DuPont strain to ferment that one and pitched the vial of Brettanomyces c. once fermentation had subsided.  I let it bulk age for around 2 months and then bottled it in heavy Belgian bottles and finished it with a cork and cage.  After that beer had around another 4-5 months on it, it was just beautiful.

My goal today is to recreate that beer, however, I want to make it a little bit more complex.  I'll be borrowing the general grist from my house saison, throwing in a bit of rye and munich for some malt complexity.  I also usually add candy sugar, but I took that out (along with a change in the mash schedule) to leave some more complex sugars for the Brettanomyces.

In addition, the hop schedule is changing from strictly Saaz to a bittering charge of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh and a small pop of Cascade for a short whirlpool.  After this has the funk character that I'm looking for, I'll be dry hopping with one ounce each of Citra and Mosaic.

In order to supply some more complex sugar and other interesting molecules for the Brettanomyces, I changed up my mash schedule from a single, low-end temperature infusion to a step mash.  The first step will be a ferulic acid rest.  This rest is pretty common in German hefeweizens when you want to introduce a lot of clove character from the 4-vinyl guaiacol that this mash produces.  An interesting tidbit is that apparently Brettanomyces strains metabolize this molecule and poop out 4-ethyl guaiacol.  Basically they eat your clove and poop out more funk.  Delicious.  I'm also raising the saccharification rest to be a little higher than normal to encourage more complex sugar formation for the Brettanomyces to munch on and adding a small amount of French Oak cubes.

Brew day went pretty normally, except for my ridiculous mash efficiency courtesy of my new grain mill.  This time I got it up to 92%.  That's insane.  My whole brewhouse efficiency has improved to be better than my mash efficiency in the past.  Looks like I'll have to redesign every recipe I ever want to brew again.

Le Fleau (American Farmhouse Ale)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.058
Est FG: 1.004
Est ABV:
IBU: 25
SRM: 5

9.00lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
2.00lb Rye Malt
1.00lb Munich Malt
1.00lb White Wheat Malt

2.00oz Hallertauer Millefrueh @ 60 min (24 IBU)
1.00oz Cascade @ Steep 5 min (2 IBU)
1.00oz Citra @ Dry Hop 3 Days
1.00oz Mosaic @ Dry Hop 3 Days

1.25oz Medium Toast French Oak Cubes (added after fermentation subsides)

1 vial The Yeast Bay Saison Brettanomyces Blend

Mash Schedule
Ferulic Acid Rest - 113f for 15 minutes
Saccharification Rest - 154f for 60 minutes

11/15/2014 -- Brew day was pretty uneventful.  Used the new B&D drill for the barley crusher which was a little difficult to get right, but once I got the hang of it, it was MUCH better than hand cranking.  My mash efficiency came in at 92%, which basically threw the rest of the recipe to the high side in terms of OG.  All said, I gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.062 wort.  Could have been worse.

12/3/2014 -- Added 1.25 ounces of medium toast oak cubes after boiling them for 5 minutes.

12/30/2014 -- Dry hopped.  I audibled to 2 ounces of Mosaic as my 2014 crop of Citra hadn't arrived yet.

1/3/2015 -- Bottled.  Carbed to 3.0vol.  Finished out at 1.005.  Interesting character, very complex.  Will be fun to see how this one ages.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Scholar Batch #3 (American IPA) -- Brew Day

So, I know I used to condemn brewing batches over and over in order to fine tune them, but maybe that's because I didn't find a bunch of batches that I really loved and to which I really wanted to dedicate my brew time.  This most recent batch of The Scholar, an American IPA featuring Nelson Sauvin and Citra, has become one of my favorite beers.  In a Philadelphia home-brew competition only open to American ales, my The Scholar took gold in the IPA category with a score of 40.

For this batch, I really want to work on a few things.  The first is temperature control.  In the previous batches when I brewed this beer, I didn't have a temperature controller hooked up to a fridge in order to control my temperatures.  This has been a recent purchase of mine so now I'll be able to ferment this on the cool side and hopefully make a very clean, hoppy IPA.

Second is working to really dry this beer out.  When I was fortunate enough last week to get out to San Diego to try the beer that inspired mine, Society Brewing's The Pupil, I was amazing at how dry it really was.  I'm lowering the grains in the original and replacing it with a half pound of corn sugar to dry out the final beer.  This will serve to up the OG a little bit as well.

Third, I really want to make this seem hoppier.  I changed some of my water chemistry around to up the sulfate content to 160ppm.  Usually, I shoot for around 75ppm on my hoppier beers.  I've always been worried about accentuating the bitterness of hops instead of the flavor, so I've kept my sulfate levels restrained in the past.  However, I just figured I'd experiment a bit this time.

This batch is also the first time that I've been able to utilize my new Barley Crusher grain mill.  Unfortunately, the drill that we own wasn't powerful enough to spin the rollers and I had to use the hand crank on this which was a major bitch.  Consider it a given that a new drill has been ordered.  The one thing that my new grain mill contributed was an insane efficiency of 85% that bumped my OG up to 1.070, thus giving me a 8.2% ABV beer.  I'll adjust for that the next time (I figured something like this would happen), but I'm not going to dilute this one to bring it back to recipe.

The Scholar Batch #3 (American IPA)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.062
Est FG: 1.007
Est ABV: 7.3%
IBU: 66
SRM: 4

10.0lb 2-Row Pale Malt
3.50lb White Wheat Malt
0.75lb Carapils
0.50lb Corn Sugar (added at end of boil)

0.50oz Magnum @ FWH (24 IBU)
0.66oz Nelson Sauvin @ 20 min (14 IBU)
0.33oz Citra @ 20 min (7 IBU)
2.00oz Nelson Sauvin @ Steep 10 min (13 IBU)
1.00oz Citra @ Steep 10 min (6 IBU)
0.50oz Centennial @ Steep 10 min (3 IBU)
2.00oz Nelson Sauvin @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.00oz Citra @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.00oz Centennial @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1500ml starter of WLP090 Super San Diego

Mash @ 148F for 90 minutes

11/11/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Used grain mill for first time and got an 85% mash efficiency.  Brewhouse efficiency kicked up to 70% with a 1.070 OG.  Pitched yeast, saving some of the starter in a ball jar.  Strong fermentation began within 10 hours.  Happily bubbling away at 66F in the ferm chamber.

11/27/2014 -- Dry hopped.

12/1/2014 -- Crash cooled.

12/2/2014 -- Added a half packet of gelatin, rehydrated in 2/3 cup of 155f degree water.

12/3/2014 -- Bottled.  Final gravity came out to 1.007, so given the higher OG, this baby came out to 8.6% ABV.  That a tad more than I had wanted, but I suppose it is winter and a heartier beer does a body good.  I added a 1/3 packet of S04 as I've had trouble with WLP090 carbonating at the lower winter temps of my basement.  Carbed to 2.4vol CO2 with 4.1 ounces of corn sugar.  Other than the gravity miss, this one came out beautiful, at least at bottling.  Wonderful aroma, great hop taste, and a crystal clear straw color.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Much Overdue Tasting Notes

So, I totally suck.  With our recent move, I actually just drank most of these beers without doing an in depth tasting and putting down some thoughts to improve on the brews.  There's a few in depth notes, but I screwed the pooch on a few of these.

The Southron Batch #2
So, no in depth notes on this one, but that's not all that depressing to me.  Overall, I was under impressed by this beer.  The problem lay in my attempt to combine some interesting ingredients I'd been using recently from several different styles.  The problem is that they came through quite a bit muddled.  Honey Malt and Flaked Oats are not entirely compatible in a hoppy IPA.  While the phrase "honey oat IPA" sounds delicious, in fact the manifestation of it is quite the opposite.  Don't get me wrong, it was entirely drinkable, but I think a drier, more simple recipe is what really makes the hops shine.

The Trapper (Chardonnay Oak Aged Saison)
Appearance - Pours a straw-colored, crystal clear beer.  I'm actually quite shocked at how clear this beer came out.  Can't complain.  The head is quite fluffy, but quickly dissipates to a light froth.  I'd take a couple of points off for that.  Despite how high I carbonated this, there isn't a lot of bubble action.

Aroma - I think there's a little too much of a fusel type smell on this one.  Could be some white pepper from a high fermentation temperature, but it's not an aroma that's especially pleasing nor present in many of the saisons I've made in the past.  This was my first attempt with actively heating a brew (and it was in the summer).  That probably has a lot to do with it.  Some wood character shines through with a distinct Chardonnay scent as well.  I'd probably go with a little more wood and a little less wine next time -- or a less flavorful wine (or no wine).

Taste - When this was around three weeks old, it wasn't all that pleasant.  It's quite a bit less green now at a few months old and the wood comes through nicely.  It's almost like a somewhat peppery, oak-aged helles.  There is definitely a bit of fusel alcohols in the background that detract from the beer.  Unfortunately, this one didn't turn out as I had planned in the flavor department.

Mouthfeel - As a saison should be, this beer is pretty thin.  The carbonation is probably less than ideal, which is surprising because I did pay a decent amount of attention to this factor.

Overall - I have to admit, this was a bit of a disappointment.  This was a beer that I tried to get creative on (perhaps too creative) and the slapstick nature of it is very apparent.  I think the idea is decent, it was just a flawed execution.  The changes I would make for the next time is maybe hop with more noble hops, ferment with WY3711 on a more restrained temperature schedule and carbonate to a higher degree.

The Acolyte (Trappist Single)
So this one got completely cashed out before I could do detailed tasting notes.  What I'll say is that it was a really nice, easy drinking Belgian beer.  The "Belgian" taste of it was quite restrained, but given the low OG, the yeast didn't really have much to work with.  In other words, it was a Belgian Single.  I think in the future, I'd prefer a higher OG, more ester-filled Belgian ale.  If you're looking for a nice, quaffable Belgian beer though, I'd give it a try.

The Scholar Batch #2 (Societe Brewing The Pupil Clone)
So no detailed tasting notes here either.  I think I preferred the first batch of this clone that I made, but I think I'm going to make some changes going forward with base malt, fermentation temperature and yeast.  Nonetheless, this beer ended up winning a Gold Medal and scoring a 40 at the Philly Homebrew Cup - Made on American Street Competition.  The color was a bit darker than I would have expected and next time I'm going to use a blend of Pilsner and 2-Row as base malts.  I'm going to use Super San Diego yeast but make sure that I have an appropriate cell count.  I've had issues with the health of this yeast from the online home-brew stores, so I'll be harvesting this from my latest batch to keep at my home yeast bank.  Additionally, now with my new fermentation chamber, I'm going to keep this thing at 65f for the duration of fermentation to get a nice, clean, hop-focused flavor.

The Scout (Modern Times Blazing World)
Appearance - Pours a VERY deep amber color bordering on black.  Some slight red hues around the edges, but it's largely opaque.  Fluffy lighter than tan head that's pretty persistent.  It's not really an amber, to be honest and the appearance is a touch muddled.  Not the prettiest beer.

Aroma - Tons of hops come through on the nose, potentially some berry from the Mosaic hops.  A lot of friends who are less familiar with hoppy ambers/black IPAs have been very surprised by the nose and were expecting something more stout-like.

Taste - Very smooth, hoppy flavors.  Some pine, some berry, some darker stone fruit type flavors but that could just be psychological with the darker color.  The flavor, like the color, is a little bit muddied as well.  I've had a difficult time getting some of these ambers to turn out how I want with some of the newer hop varieties.  I'm not giving up yet, but I'm beginning to think that maybe more traditional varieties like Cascade, Centennial and Nugget.

Mouthfeel - Moderate carbonation with a creamy mouthfeel.  I'm pretty happy with this aspect.  It's really a nice, chew mouthfeel.

Overall - I think that this beer has some potential with maybe a lower amount of roasted malts to slightly lighten up the color and possible some fining agents and a cold crash.  This beer hasn't scored that well in competitions, but the average friend I have has gone out of his way to complement it.  I've generally placed it in the Amber Ale category, which to be honest it doesn't really fit, so that's resulted in some point deductions.  Perhaps this would be a nice single-hopped Mosaic beer with a lighter color profile.

The Barista Batch #2 (Imperial Breakfast Stout)
Appearance - Pours a deep, dark, opaque black.  Forms a thin, tan head on the pour that lingers for a moment and bubbles away to a slight ring.  Head retention has always been a problem for me with the higher ABV dark beers, perhaps carbonation is the issue?

Aroma - Distinctly coffee from both the cold-press that was added but there's definitely a dark roast scent from some of the malts in this.  There's also a little bit of sweetness that comes through on the nose, not entirely unexpected given the FG.

Taste - Lots of coffee and roastiness.  The front of it comes off as quite bitter, but really softens within a second.  I think the higher than expected FG might have helped this one from being too much on the bitter side.  The balance between hops and malts is pretty spot on.

Mouthfeel - Nice and thick/chewy.  Could potentially benefit from a little more carbonation, but I'm being picky.

Overall - So, I really like this brew.  I think next time I might mash a bit lower or use a different yeast to get a lower FG.  This one is potentially a little too much on the sweet side, and although it balances some of the bitterness, I think a little more bitterness might be nice.  This brew took a silver medal in the Philly Homebrew Cup in the Spices, Vegetables and Herb category.

The Gambler (Sorachi Saison)
So, no detailed notes on this batch either.  Overall, I think the massive flameout hop addition led to a grassy flavor that just doesn't age out.  I also forgot to put a paint strainer bag on my auto-siphon (which is what I usually do) so a decent amount of hop material made it into the bottling bucket and then into the bottles.  Perhaps this contributed to the vegetal taste that sticks around.  I think this beer could be a success with a more measured hopping rate.  I haven't had a lot of success with excessively hopped saisons, and maybe this is for a reason.  Appearance, aroma and mouthfeel were all great.  It was simply the taste was a bit grassy.

Appearance - Pours a gorgeous, blood orange hue with a bright white, two finger, fluffy head.  The beer is semi-transparent, probably would be clearer if it weren't for the dry hops.  After a minute, the head drops down to a nice, white film that lingers for the entire beer.  Besides the slight clarity issue, appearance is great on this one.

Aroma - Lots of light, enticing fruit flavors in the nose.  A little bit of sweet apple with a lot of nectarine aroma in the back end.  The hops are definitely shining through.

Taste - Just beautiful.  It packs a ton of juicy, citrus, passionfruit flavor that you would expect could only be present in a higher gravity IPA or DIPA.  Lots of citrus up front with a blast of tropical fruit on the finish.  This is a really nice escape from the typical piney/dank West Coast APA.

Mouthfeel - Light to medium bodied, exactly as an APA should be.  Medium carbonation supports a lingering head.  No qualms here.

Overall - This is really a fantastic American Pale Ale and probably one of the better beers that I've brewed, which is surprising because I didn't really spend a lot of time crafting this.  The blend of Pilsner and 2-Row malts in a light colored beer is really a better base for hoppy beer than 2-Row alone.  This is going to become my House Pale Ale.

The Great Unknown (Modern Times Beer Neverwhere)

As I had mentioned in previous posts, I did a bit of a bulk yeast buy from The Yeast Bay outside San Francisco.  I've been itching to do a straight, 100% Brettanomyces-fermented IPA for a long time now.  The combination of super fruity, citrusy American hops along with the slight hint of barnyard funk, but also complementary fruitiness, of a brett primary fermentation has always seemed so interesting to me -- at least in theory.  As widespread brewing with brettanomyces is a relatively new endeavor in the North American craft brewing scene, 100% Brett IPAs are somewhat difficult to find in a commercial offering.

In a 100% Brett-fermented beer, the typical "horse blanket" funk of brett strains is relatively restrained.  Instead, the finished beer is similar to a clean fermented beer with just a slight touch of funk which grows as the beer is aged.  Obviously, in a beer like this, the yeast is pretty important.

The Yeast Bay recently released a blend of Brett, called Amalgamation, described thusly:

Amalgamation is the union of our six favorite Brettanomyces isolates from our microbe library.  Each isolate produces a unique bouquet of bright and fruity flavors and aromas, and the combination of all of them into one blend results in the coalescence of these unique flavors and aromas into something truly special.

Expect this blend to create a dry beer with a bright and complex fruit-forward flavor and aroma, accompanied by some funk on the palate.

Umm, fuck yeah, that sounds awesome.

Since this is my first foray into this style, I chose to go along with a recipe that has been proven for Brett IPAs -- that of Modern Times Beer Neverwhere, as taken from The Mad Fermentationist's blog. This recipe is INCREDIBLY high in its hop-driven fruitiness, so it'll be interesting to see how this is complemented by the sole Brettanomyces fermentation.

The Great Unknown (Modern Times Beer Neverwhere)
5.5 gallon batch -- 75 minute boil
Est OG: 1.064
Est FG: 1.012
Est ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 100
SRM: 4

11.25lb Pale Malt
3.75lb Wheat Malt
0.625lb Carapils

1.50oz Centennial @ FWH (50 IBU)
0.75oz Magnum @ FWH (35 IBU)
2.00oz Centennial @ Steep 5 min (6 IBU)
2.00oz Citra @ Steep 5 min (7 IBU)
1.00oz Chinook @ Steep 5 min (4 IBU)
2.00oz Citra @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.50oz Centennial @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.00oz Chinook @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1400ml starter of Yeast Bay Amalgamation (stepped up to 500 billion cells)

Mash @ 153f for 60 minutes

10/26/2014 -- Brewed.  Brew day went incredibly normal.  Mash efficiency came in slightly low so I ended up adding a quarter pound of DME to compensate.  No big deal.  Gathered 5.5gal of 1.064 wort and pitched an incredibly active brett starter.  Set the fermentation chamber for 65.

11/7/2014 -- Dry hopped.

11/10/2014 -- Cold crashed.

11/11/2014 -- Bottled with 4oz of corn sugar to prime to 2.4vol CO2.  FG came in at 1.012,  Taste samples were really fruity, almost mango/melon.

12/9/2014 -- Tasting notes.  This is a really nice beer, but I'd make some changes around next time.

The Butler (English Mild Split Batch) -- Brew Day

English mild. This is a style that's almost always been on my list of "to-do" brews, but for some reason has never come to fruition. Maybe it's that I'm just not really a fan brewing low gravity session ales, or really even English ales at all. Maybe it's that I'd rather not waste a whole brew day on a very mild, easy-drinking beer when I could be brewing an epic hop-bomb. Either way, with our extended family coming in for Thanksgiving this year, I've used this as an excuse to brew up my first English Mild and add some diversity to my pipeline.

It's really hard to find good examples of this once popular session beer in the States. Really, the only Milds I have had are the ones made by American brewers inspired by the traditional English ale.  Goose Island Mild Winter is a really nice example if you ever see it in the stores. 

For this batch, I'm going to do something a little bit different than usual. Due to limited carboy space from my recent brewing on an epic scale and also from my burgeoning sour pipeline, I'll be putting this batch into two separate, three gallon carboys. Both carboys will get the same yeast, London Ale WY1968, however one batch will be getting about an ounce of whole bean coffee beans added the day before bottling. I'm thinking, and hoping, that this is a nice combination.

The real struggle in brewing these low gravity, session ales is to have enough body in the beer to make it feel more substantial than just brownish water.  I'm mashing this one at 158f to hopefully avoid the "weak coffee" feel that I've seen in a lot of other amber session beers.

The Butler (English Mild)
5.5 gallon batch -- 60 minute boil
Est OG: 1.033
Est FG: 1.010
Est ABV: 3.0%
IBU: 21
SRM: 17

6.0lb Maris Otter
1.5lb Caramel 60L
0.25lb Chocolate Malt (350L)

0.8oz Fuggles @ 45 min (12 IBU)
1.0oz Fuggles @ 15 min (8 IBU)

1 package WY1968 London ESB (no starter)

Mash @ 158f for 60 min

Split batch into two 3 gal carboys.  One carboy will get an ounce of whole coffee beans added one day before bottling.

10/21/2014 -- Brewed.  Efficiency came in around 80%, probably because of the light grain weight.  Gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.033 wort.  Fermentation kicked off within 12 hours despite a starter.  The initial fermentation looked surprisingly brett-like, which scared the shit out of me.  However, it died down after around 24 hours and I don't detect any brett characteristics.  It must have just been a sign of a low gravity fermentation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Sickle (Belgian Golden Strong Ale) -- Brew Day

The last non-hoppy light Belgian beer that I brewed was my Belgian Single, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The one change that I would have made with it though would be a little higher in gravity and taste a little more "Belgian-y". So, basically that's a Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

The recipe design for this one was essentially an amalgamation of various BGSA recipes that I found online, centered around Vinnie Cilurzo's recipe found in Brew Like a Monk.  I've always been a big fan of Russian River's Damnation, so I'm hoping that the recipe that Vinnie supplied is fairly close to the one he uses for Damnation.

Despite a fairly medium bodied mash temperature at 150f, this should finish dry from the Turbinado added at flameout and the high attenuation of the Belgian yeast strain.  As noted in a prior post, I did a relatively large yeast buy from The Yeast Bay in California.  One of the strains in the purchase was the Dry Belgian,

The Yeast Bay's website describes the strain thusly:

Dry Belgian Ale is single strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolated from a unique golden strong ale. The profile is a complex and balanced mix of apple, pear and light citrus fruit with some mild spicy and peppery notes. The apparent attenuation of this strain ranges anywhere from 85-100%, depending upon the mash profile and the grist composition.

For a yeast that's as dry as it is, it creates beers with a surprising amount of balance even without the use of specialty grains or adjuncts. While we haven't completed our own tests in house, this yeast is used at the brewery from which it was isolated to make big beers that are in the neighborhood of 12-16% ABV and sufficiently dry. Use Dry Belgian Ale as a primary fermenter in any big Belgian beer, or to unstick that pesky stuck fermentation.

To achieve high attenuation, we recommend fermenting with this strain at 70-71 ºF for the first 2-3 days, and then bumping up the temperature to 74-75 ºF for the remainder of fermentation.

The blogger over at Brulosphy did a test with this yeast for The Yeast Bay and had a pretty interesting writeup.  In his experience, this yeast attenuated below 1.000 and left very nice, subtle fruity and pepper Belgian esters without any of the bubble gum flavors that can be present in a warm-fermented Belgian.

I'm planning to carb this bad boy up to around 2.8 - 3.0vol to have it ready for Thanksgiving.  The brew day went pretty normal, with efficiency and OG coming in on target.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this finish much dryer than predicted by Beersmith, though.

I'm tired...touch meh.

The Sickle (Belgian Golden Strong Ale)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.067
Est FG: 1.009
Est ABV: 7.7%
IBU: 32
SRM: 6

11.0lb Pilsner Malt
2.0lb White Wheat Malt
1.0lb Munich Malt
0.5lb Carapils
1lb Turbinado Sugar (add at end of boil)

1.0oz Styrian Goldings @ FWH (19 IBU)
1.0oz Styrian Goldings @ 30 min (12 IBU)
1.0oz Saaz @ Steep 5 min (2 IBU)

1000ml starter Yeast Bay Dry Belgian

Mash @ 150f for 60 minutes.  Ferment free rise in the mid 70s.

10/16/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Nothing to note during the brew day.  Strong fermentation started quickly. Krausen subsided after a few days.  Beer is still pretty cloudy, perhaps the yeast isn't that flocculant and could benefit from a cold crash.

11/6/2014 -- Cold crashed.

11/8/2014 -- Cleared up nicely.  Great clean Belgian flavor.  Bottled and carbed to 2.9vol.  Final gravity came in at 1.006, one of the driest beers I've brewed without brettanomyces.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Nanny (Kona Pacifier IPA Clone) -- Brew Day

And the brewing binge continues.  I cashed my last bottles of The Scholar IPA at our early Halloween this party, so I will be needing another batch of IPA for our Thanksgiving celebrations.  I had taken down the recipe for Kona Brewing's The Pacifier out of a BYO magazine from earlier this year.  The recipe caught my eye as being very high on the citrus/fruity element with its focus on Galaxy and Citra hops.  I always have a pound of Citra laying around and I've started to experiement more with Galaxy, so I felt that this recipe would be a nice fit for the holidays.

In addition, this is the first recipe that I'll be using my new Danby 4.4cuft mini fridge as a fermentation chamber.  I've always made nice IPAs, but I've gotten dinged in competitions for some flavors that have been contributed from a slightly higher than optimal fermentation temperature.  But I will get dinged no longer.  I've plugged the fridge into my Ranco dual-stage temperature controller and set it for 65f with a 2 degree differential.

The brew day went along normally with a somewhat higher than expected mash efficiency.  I still don't have a grain mill, so I'll be suffering inconsistent mash efficiencies for the time being.  Fermentation began pretty quickly with a 1000ml starter of WLP090, Super San Diego yeast.  I will be attempting to cold crash this beer as well (my virgin cold crash), so I'll update with the details on that.

The Nanny (Kona Pacifier IPA Clone)
5.5gal batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.064
Est FG: 1.009
Est ABV: 7.25%
IBU: 64
SRM: 6

9.0lb Pilsner Malt
5.0lb Pale Malt
0.5lb Carapils
0.3lb Caramel 60L

0.50oz Magnum @ WH (23 IBU)
0.75oz Galaxy @ 30 min (25 IBU)
1.25oz Galaxy @ Steep 10 min (10 IBU)
1.00oz Citra @ Steep 10 min (7 IBU)
2.00oz Galaxy @ Dry Hop 4 Days
2.00oz Citra @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1000ml starter WLP090 Super San Diego

Mash @ 148f for 60 minutes.  Ferment 21 days @ 65f.

10/15/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Higher than expected mash efficiency was offset with water added to the kettle.  Gathered 5.5gal of 1.063 wort.  Fermentation began by the time I came down to check on it in the morning.

11/2/2014 -- Dry hopped.

11/4/2014 -- Cold crashed.

11/6/2014 -- Bottled to 2.4 vol.  Finished out at 1.010.  Samples at bottling were really fantastic.

The Patriot (Nelson Saison) -- Brew Day

We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, our first one ever, so there's going to be some pretty heavy brewing taking place in order to have some decent beverages lined up for the family coming into town.  For this one, I decided to continue with my infatuation with Nelson Sauvin and do a single-hop beer.

I just picked up another pound of Nelson because its been figuring so prominently in my beers, especially IPAs.  For how much I use it, though, I've never done it in a single-hopped brew to really let it shine.

I had done a bulk purchase of some new, interesting yeast from The Yeast Bay, one of which was a blend of two different saison strains.  Feeling lazy and wanting to try a new recipe, I did a quick search for Saisons featuring Nelson and found that Prarie 'Merica, a delicious beer, is basically a Nelson SMaSH recipe.

Another quick Google search led me to the pages of another homebrew blogger, Meek Brewing.  He had actually reached out to Prarie and asked for the recipe and they happily obliged.  His recipe, which I tweaked a touch for my system, was essentially just Pilsner Malt and Nelson.  Sounds good to me.

The brew day proceeded as normal with my usual BIAB mash coming in on target for efficiency.  My pH meter seems to be busted, probably a bad electrode, so I couldn't check the pH of this one.  I did use my water chemistry spreadsheet and the acid addition were similar to what I normally need to get to a 5.3pH.  I'm going to let the temperature on this free rise to wherever my Belgian yeast wants to take it.  Hopefully this comes out nice and dry.

The Patriot (Nelson Saison)
5.5gal batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.060
Est FG: 1.009
Est ABV: 6.67%
IBU: 30
SRM: 4

14.0lb Pilsner Malt
0.50lb Carapils

0.50oz Nelson Sauvin @ 60 min (18 IBU)
1.00oz Nelson Sauvin @ 5 min (7 IBU)
1.50oz Nelson Sauvin @ Steep 5 min (5 IBU)
3.00oz Nelson Sauvin @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1000ml starter of Yeast Bay Saison Blend

Mash @ 148f for 75 minutes.  Allow fementation temp to free rise into the mid 70s.

10/13/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Efficiency came in at 73%.  Gathered 5.5gal of 1.060 wort and pitched my starter.  Happily fermenting away with a pretty voracious krausen within 5 hours.

10/21/2014 -- Dry hopped.

10/25/2014 -- Bottled and carbed to 2.8vol.  Final gravity of 1.010.  Smelled and tasted great.

12/9/2014 -- Tasting notes.  This wasn't a favorite of mine, but it scored well and other's enjoyed it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Gentleman (American Pale Ale) -- Brew Day

Several week ago I brewed the Russian River Hill 2, Row 56 single hop simcoe clone.  I never posted about it because I was lazy, but it turned out to be a really nice beer.  For comparisons sake, it's identical the recipe below, except solely with Simcoe.  It came out as a really nice, clean APA that wonderfully showcased the hops.

The grain bill comes out basically 2/3 Pilsner to 1/3 Pale Malt with a touch of C10 and Carapils for sweetness and head retention.  If you're looking for a very well rounded grain bill for a house APA, then this is definitely it.

For the time around, I wanted to change up the hops based on what I had on hand.  A quick search on some forums led be to go with pairing Amarillo and Citra with the Mosaic hops that I knew I wanted to include in this brew.  I've been heavily trending towards Nelson in all of my hoppy beers lately, so I wanted to do something a little different this time.

No pictures for this brew day, but everything went pretty normally.  Just make sure to boil this for 90 minutes due to the heavy pilsner malt backbone.

The Gentleman (American Pale Ale)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.057
Est FG: 1.013
Est ABV: 5.9%
IBU: 41
SRM: 4

8.50lb Pilsner Malt
4.50lb Pale Malt
10.0oz Caramel 10L
8.00oz Carapils

0.25oz Magnum @ FWH (13 IBU)
1.00oz Amarillo Gold @ 5 min (5 IBU)
1.00oz Citra @ 5 min (7 IBU)
1.00oz Mosaic @ 5 min (7 IBU)
1.00oz Amarillo Gold @ Steep 5 min (2 IBU)
1.00oz Citra @ Steep 5 min (4 IBU)
1.00oz Mosaic @ Steep 5 min (4 IBU)
1.00oz Amarillo Gold @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.00oz Citra @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.00oz Mosaic @ Dry Hop 4 Days

750ml starter of WLP200 Best of Both Worlds

Mash @ 151f for 60 minutes

9/24/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Got mash efficiency of 72% and ended with 5.5 gallons of 1.055 wort -- a little low due to some lack of boil off.

10/2/2014 -- Dry hops added.

10/6/2014 -- Bottled with 4.2oz of corn sugar for 2.4vol CO2.  Finished at 1.010, a little drier than the recipe called for but that's fine with me.  Taste and aroma were fantastic.

11/7/2014 -- And here are some tasting notes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Le Peste (Traditional Lambic) -- Brew Day

This is one that I've been waiting a long time to brew.  Lambic, and its more refined offspring gueuze, are two of my absolute favorite beer styles.  To this day, one of my favorite experiences has been having the opportunity to sample these beers at Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels.  The allure of these beers are complemented by the length and mystery of their mixed fermentations.

Lambics have been written about as nauseum by beer nerds the world over, so I won't pretend to replicate what they've written before.  Needless to say, given the quasi-rarity of these brews, and the cost once you can actually find them, homebrewing is almost a necessity for any devoted sour fan.

Historically, these have been brewed using unmalted wheat and a specialized mashing regime to arrest conversion of starches.  I had a hard time actually getting crushed unmalted wheat, so I went ahead and used flaked wheat instead.  Several other homebrewers had indicated that they've gone this route before with fantastic results, so I figured why the hell not?

The turbid mash on a lambic is very similar to a double decoction, except instead of pulling the thick part of the mash, you pull just the wort and heat to above sacc temps.  The mash took around 2 hours or so, but other than that it was fairly uneventful.

I acquired a full pound of 3 year old Williamette leaf hops from HopsDirect.  This comes in a package that looks IDENTICAL to a kilo of weed.  It luckily smells similar as well.  The two ounce of leaf hop additions is a decent amount of vegetal volume making me realize why we generally use pelletized hops.  It also makes for some interesting siphoning (it clogged the shit out of my auto-siphon, causing me to accidentally break it.

My plan for this one is to leave it for at least twelve months, adding oak cubes and dregs of various lambics and guezes as I see fit.  After it's developed character, half will be bottled straight and the other half will go on tart cherries for a few months to make a nice kriek.

Le Peste (Traditional Lambic)
5.5 gallon batch -- 120 minute boil
Est OG:  1.047
Est FG: 1.008
Est ABV: 5.0%
IBU: ~7
SRM: 4

7.50lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
4.00lb Flaked Wheat

2.0oz Aged Williamette Leaf @ FWH (7 IBU)

1pkg Wyeast Lambic Blend -- various lambic and gueuze dregs to be added later

Mash Schedule
Add 0.625 gallons of mash water for 20 minutes rest @ 113f
Add 1.000 gallons of mash wter for 5 minute rest @ 133f
Pull 0.250 gallons of wort and heat to 180f in side pot
Add 1.500 gallons of mast water for 30 minute rest @ 148f
Pull 1.000 gallons of wort and heat in 180f in side pot
Add 1.250 gallons of mash water for 20 minute rest @ 155f
Sparge as normal

9/14/2014 -- Brewed with Oscar.  Mash took a while and had some temp hitting issues.  Efficiency came in at 78%.  Gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.059 wort.  Fermenting away quicker than I would have thought at around 75f.

9/22/2014 -- Added dregs of Tilquin Gueuze.

10/11/2014 -- Added dregs of Brasserie Cantillon Classic Gueuze.  Pellicle has been starting.

12/3/2014 -- Added 1 ounce of medium toast oak cubes -- later than I had wanted but I kept forgetting to buy more oak cubes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Gambler (Sorachi Saison) -- Brew Day

The nice part about moving to a new section of Philly is exploring all of the local bars in the immediate neighborhood that I never would have ventured to check out given I was previously living across the city.  There are a bunch of great beer bars in the area that see some good attention and cycle through draft lists quickly.  Plus they have fucking great burgers.

Burgers aside, one a recent dinner outing, I ordered a tulip of Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace.  I've known about this beer for a long time, and I could have sworn I'd had it, as it's one of the more popular saisons alongside DuPont and Hennepin as well as the signature showcase of the under-utilized Sorachi Ace hop.  The beer, on draft, was just fantastic.  It had a fantastic body to it and the bright, lemon character for which Sorachi is so famous.

There are numerous recipes floating around for this online, I believe as the result of a "clone" published in BYO a few years back.  The alcohol content was a little high for my tastes given that I've been brewing 7-8% beers recently, so I knocked out the 1lb sugar addition.  Given this mash schedule, the beer should be light-bodied enough without the boost from the sugar.  In addition, I added a pound of Carapils to ensure some head retention and used a vial of Westmalle yeast that I had laying around.

I've never been a fan of step infusion mashes as I don't brew with a direct-fired mash tun.  I've found it hard to rely on strike temps indicated by brewing software and other calculators but I would say this mash went along fine.  I tend to over heat my strike water and have some ice cubes handy to fine tune settled temperatures.

The Gambler (Sorachi Saison)
5.5 gallon batch - 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.060
Est FG: 1.012
Est ABV: 6.3%
IBU: 51
SRM: 4

14lb Pilsner
1lb Carapils

0.50oz Sorachi Ace @ FWH (21 IBU)
0.50oz Sorachi Ace @ 30 min (14 IBU)
5.00oz Sorachi Ace @ Whirlpool 5 min (18 IBU)
2.00oz Sorachi Ace @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1000ml starter WLP500 Trappist Ale

Mash Schedule
Infusion @ 122f for 10 minutes
Infusion @ 146f for 60 minutes
Infusion @ 152f for 15 minutes

9/10/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Efficiency came in decent at 72%.  Sorachi smells awesome.  Ended up with 5.5 gallons of 1.058 wort.  A tad low, but whatever.  Fermenting away at around 74f.

9/22/2014 -- Added dry hops.

9/25/2014 -- Bottled 4.75 gallons with 5.1oz corn sugar for 2.8vol CO2.  Had some trub get over into the bottling bucket because I forgot to affix my paint strainer bag at first.  Taste was okay, we'll see how it ages.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Barista Batch #2 (Imperial Breakfast Stout) -- Brew Day

Third brew in one week.  Solid.

As the weather will slowly be turning cooler (winter is coming...), my brew calendar has started planning for some darker beers.  I attempted a medium strength coffee stout last year, and while it scored pretty well, it just wasn't what I was really envisioned.  For this year's attempt, I wanted to style something more along the lines of a Founders Breakfast Stout or Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Stout.  Both of these beers to me embody strong, chocolate notes with a nice, round, subtle coffee/espresso character.

The recipe for this batch is going largely along the lines of the Mikkeller brew with some grain adjustment and a change in yeast.  Beer Geek is brewed using a higher attenuating American ale yeast, but I'm imaging something that has a little bit a fuller body than the Mikkeller beer.  As such, and since I've been enjoying these yeast lately, I'm using the new(ish) White Labs WLP200 American/English ale blend.  This should finish slightly higher than the straight American Ale, by probably 3-4 points, but will lend a rounder character to the finished brew.

I've always been a fan of the brew days for two types of beers: 1) IPAs, just because the sheer amount of hops is always a pleasure, and 2) stouts/porters.  The mash on a dark stout or porter is one of the most glorious smells, in my opinion.  I wish that I could avoid some of the fermentation compounds and harness that raw roastiness right there.

I've been battling efficiency issues lately that I think are a combination of pre-crushed grains, water chemistry and my own laziness when it comes to the BIAB process.  For the grains issue, although I'd love my own mill, I don't see this as a realistic purchase within the next 2-3 months.  The water issue should be solved soon enough.  My tap water sample that I send off to Ward Labs came back tainted somehow with a pH of 3.7, so they offered to retest it for free.  Nice guys.  The laziness aspect with regards to stirring and whatnot has no known cure.

The Barista Batch #2 (Imperial Breakfast Stout)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.082
Est FG: 1.025
Est ABV:  8%
IBU: 74
SRM: 60

9.12lb Pilsner
2.50lb Flaked Oats
2.50lb Malted Oats
2.37lb Chocolate Malt
1.37lb Brown Malt
1.37lb Caramunich Malt
1.37lb Roasted Malt
0.75lb Smoked Malt

1.30oz Centennial @ FWH (38 IBU)
0.70oz Chinook @ FWH (27 IBU)
0.50oz Cascade @ FWH (8 IBU)
1.00oz Cascade @ 1 min (1 IBU)

1000ml starter WLP200 American/English Blend

1oz cold-pressed coffee in 12oz water added 2 days before bottling

Mash @ 153f for 60 minutes

Fermentarium coming along nicely
8/27/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash smelled incredible and almost filled my 10gal mash tun.  Efficiency sucked at 65%, but that sometimes happens with big, dark beers.  Gathered 5.5 gal of 1.078 wort, a little short of target.  I didn't have a chance to make a starter for the WLP200, so after it hadn't started up in 24 hours, I added some S-04.  Kicked off quickly from there.  Dense, dark krausen.

9/22/2014 -- Added 1oz of cold pressed coffee in 12oz of water.  Used Starbucks Verona for its high body and low acidity.

9/23/2014 -- Bottled with 3.2oz of corn sugar for 2.1 vol.  Finished a tad on the high side at 1.029.  Tasted fantastic, very much on par with Mikkeller.

11/7/2014 -- And here are some tasting notes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Scout (Modern Times Blazing World Clone) -- Brew Day

Given my lack of brewing over the past few weeks as we'd been preparing to move across the city and our hope to have a housewarming party in the next couple of months, I'll be accelerating my brew schedule for the time being.  As for right now, I plan to have a cache of homebrew consisting of my Quad (straight and oak-aged), French Cider, Belgian Single, two IPAs, a coffee stout and a Sorachi Ace clone (time permitting).  Last night, I brewed one of the two IPAs (The Scholar Batch #2) and tonight I will be brewing the other.  Both IPAs are quite heavy on their Nelson Sauvin presence, but NS is a beautiful hop so I'm happy to run this risk (is this a risk?).

Mike Tonsmeire, the blogger at The Mad Fermentationist and the author of the new book American Sour Beers, consulted for a time at Modern Times Beer before and during its relatively recent opening in San Diego.  Mike fully documented the planning phase for the brewery's flagship beers and posted about the recipe evolution over a period of several months.  While I have tried a couple of MT's beers, I haven't had the opportunity to sample Blazing World, their heavily-hopped amber/red ale.  The beer has been well received on Beer Advocate and seeing as I have a new pound of Nelson Sauvin to put to work, I figured this would be a very appropriate recipe.

The grain bill for this recipe is pretty standard for an IPA save the small amount of roasted malt added for color and a touch of taste.  I toyed with the idea of "capping the mash" with the roasted malts near the end of the mash schedule but in the end I just tossed everything in the mash together.  This recipe has probably one of the largest flameout/steeping additions, ringing in at a full 7 ounces.  After weighing them out on the scale, I gave the bowl a quick shake to distribute the hops and then I motorboated the shit out of it.  It was wonderous.

The Scout
5.5 gallon batch - 60 minute boil
Est OG: 1.065
Est FG: 1.013
Est ABV: 6.87%
IBU: 90
SRM: 14

13.75lb Floor-Malted Maris Otter
2lb Munich Malt
3.0oz Roasted Barley
2.0oz Debittered Black Malt

1.0oz Magnum @ FWH (40IBU)
1.0oz Simcoe @ 25 min (26 IBU)
3.0oz Mosaic @ Steep 5 min (11 IBU)
3.0oz Nelson Sauvin @ Steep 5 min (10 IBU)
1.0oz Simcoe @ Steep 5 min (4 IBU)
3.0oz Nelson Sauvin @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.0oz Mosaic @ Dry Hop 4 Days
1.0oz Simcoe @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1000ml starter WY1056 American Ale

Mash @ 149f for 75 minutes

8/20/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash went well.  Efficiency came out to 70% with some additional stirring and a longer dunk sparge.  Boil proceeded as normal.  Chilled down to 75f and gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.065 wort.  Was only able to pitch one packet of WY1056 as I didn't get an opportunity to make a starter.

9/4/2014 -- Dry hopped per recipe.

9/6/2014 -- Bottled with 4.1oz corn sugar for 2.4vol C02.  Finished at 1.012.  Seemed a little muddy colored, but I'm hoping that's mostly from the dry hops and will settle out a bit.

11/7/2014 -- And here are some tasting notes.