Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Southron (Nelson-Galaxy APA) -- Brew Day

Seeing as summer is quickly approaching, my brew schedule is trending to more hoppy, satiating beers than the past several brews have been.  I've decided to start from scratch on this recipe, trying to  combine a few base malt ingredients I've used successfully in different IPA/APA beers before along with some hop varieties with which I don't have a ton of experience.

I've loved the effects of Honey Malt as used in Ithaca Flower Power.  It really gives a nice, round, sweet taste to the beer that expertly balances the bitterness of that hop bill.  I've also loved the texture that comes from using a bit of wheat in an APA.  It definitely provides that silky mouthfeel along with helping with head retention.  I've added a touch of Carastan Malt for color and some caramel/toffee taste as well as a pinch of Biscuit Malt because I'm a whore for biscuits.

As for the hop bill, I just pulled this out of my ass.  I've recently picked up a pound of Magnum for stupid cheap and I have been using this exclusively as the bittering charge in almost all of my beers.  For the flavor/aroma hops, I decided on a blend of Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy.  I've used Nelson a bit in the past and I've been really impressed with its "pretty" flavor.  Galaxy I've never used but have heard that it pairs well with Nelson.  Seeing as Nelson is from NZ and Galaxy is Aussie, I've settled on The Southron as the name for this one.

I wanted to get a respectable ABV on this one but I also wanted a beer where I could kill a few of these and not get stupid.  In addition, I really want to try to perfect my hopping technique.  For this beer, I'll be doing the FWH with Magnum to get around a third of my calculated IBUs.  Then I'll do a 5 minute addition of Nelson/Galaxy.  For the flameout/steeping addition, I'm adding half of the hops indicated below at flameout, steeping for 10 minutes, and then adding my immersion chiller.  Over the next 10 minutes of chilling, I'll periodically add the remaining flameout hops.  My intent is to capture a wider range of volatile hop oils than would be otherwise available.
Due to some recent NCAA March Madness winnings, I also recently sprung for a pH meter.  I went with the Hanna Instruments HI98128 pH/Temperature Tester as well as the accompanying cleaning solution, storage solution and two-point calibration solutions.  I found the calibration to be quite easy.  I use Bru'n Water for all of my acid and salt calculations and generally try to shoot for a 5.3-5.4 pH in the spreadsheet.  Before today, however, I hadn't actually had the means to measure my mash pH and I suspect that this has been somewhat of a culprit in the fluctuating efficiencies that I've been experiencing lately.  For this particular beer, Bru'n Water estimated a 5.3 pH after the addition of some gypsum and lactic acid.

When I actually went to go measure the pH of the mash, I took a sample after mashing for 15 minutes and tossed it in the freezer to cool off.  The electrodes in pH meters are prone to degradation if checking pH at mash temps, even if they have ATC.  I pulled the sample out of the freezer, measured a temp of 95f and put the pH meter in the sample...and it came out to 5.55, quite a bit higher than the spreadsheet had estimated.  Due to the high pH, I added 1.1mL of lactic acid to the mash, hoping to lower the mash pH closer to 5.4.  I waited around 5 minutes after adding the acid and took another same.  This time it came out to 5.38.  Perfect.  From this point out the mash/sparge/boil proceeded as normal.

The Southron (Nelson-Galaxy APA)
5.25 gal batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.057
Est FG: 1.014
Est ABV: 5.6%
IBU: ~48
SRM: 7.6

10lb Maris Otter
1lb Honey Malt
8oz Carafoam
8oz White Wheat Malt
4oz Carastan
2oz Biscuit Malt

0.3oz Magnum @ FWH (15 IBU)
0.5oz Galaxy @ 5 min (4 IBU)
0.5oz Nelson Sauvin @ 5 min (4 IBU)
1.0oz Galaxy @ Flameout/Steep 10 (13 IBU)
1.0oz Nelson Sauvin @ Flameout/Steep 11 (7 IBU)
1.5oz Galaxy @ Dry Hop 4 days
1.5oz Nelson Sauvin @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1300ml starter Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Mash @ 152f for 60 minutes

4/14/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Hit mash temp of 152f on the nose.  Initial pH came in at 5.55, so I added 1.1mL of lactic to lower pH to 5.38.  Ended up having another shitty efficiency at 68%.  Had to add 1.3lb of DME to get up to target gravity.  The crush on this batch seemed to be on the poor side.  I'm thinking about potentially switching up providers again. Gathered 5.25 gallons of 1.051 wort.  I made a starter from one of the mason jars of washed London Ale (WY1028) from my amber ale. Fermentation began within 6 hours.

4/28/2014 -- Added dry hops

5/3/2014 -- Bottled 2 cases with 4.1oz corn sugar for 2.4vol carbonation.  Beer smelled fantastic, had a nice assertive bitterness and floral aroma.  Color was a touch dark and it was cloudier than I would have liked.  Final gravity came in at 1.012 for a final ABV of 5.1%.

5/18/2014 -- Tasting notes.  Came out wonderful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Peon (Imperial Porter) -- Tasting Day

** This beer received bronze in the 2014 Philly Beer Week Mash Bash for Baltic Porters **

This is the last remnant of my dark beer brewing streak from this winter.  I'd never really been a fan of imperial stouts/porters, even after trying many, until my friend left a bottle of Great Divide's Oatmeal Yeti at my house.  Figuring I'd give it a try, I popped the cap and was totally blown away. The strange part is that after the Yeti I was changed forever and really enjoyed drinking imperial dark beers that I had previously despised.  Weird, I know, but the evolution of my palate is weird I suppose.

That being said, I went on a binge of brewing dark beers as previously acknowledged , and this was the last in the series.  Loosely inspired by both Oskar Blues Ten Fidy and Hill Farmstead Everett, I wanted to brew a somewhat boozy, roasty and thick imperial porter.  This is what I came up with after blending some aspects of various clone brews that I found online.

A -- Very deep black with almost no ruby color along the edges.  With a rough pour, you get a tan head around a finger thick that lasts for the first minute or so and then falls into a thin line ringing the glass.  No real lacing.  This should be improved upon for the next iteration.

S -- Roast, chocolate, slight alcohol and a touch of coffee/espresso.  Maybe a bit of toffee as well.

T -- Tons of everything you'd expect in an imperial porter, but without any of the flavors being extremely overpowering.  Definitely a slight touch of alcohol, chocolate, espresso, almond, caramel flavors.  Finishes with some sweetness due to residual sugars from the high finish gravity.  Might benefit from being a bit drier to bring out some more roast flavors.

M -- Extremely thick and viscous.  No real ability to feel the carbonation on this one, but that's entirely appropriate.

O -- This is a really well done beer.  Probably one of the better beers I've brewed.  If you are a fan of the style, this is a solid example.  I'll probably rebrew this in the summer and let it age until the weather turns a bit colder.  When the next major homebrew competition comes around I will definitely submit this.

The Peon (Imperial Porter)
5.25gal batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.088
Est FG: 1.028
Est ABV: 7.95%
IBU: 37.5
SRM: 46.8

15.5lb Maris Otter
1.375lb Caramel 40L
1.375lb Roasted Barley
1.125lb Carapils
1.125lb Chocolate Malt
0.5lb Caramel 80L

0.85oz CTZ @ FWH (37.5 IBU)

1500ml starter of London Ale (WY1028)

Mash @ 159f for 75 minutes

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Barista (Mocha Stout) -- Tasting Notes

** Update:  This one received a score of 35.5 at the Philly NHC competition in the 21A category.  Both judges said that they would "pay for this beer".  Both judges noticed poor head retention and some slight harshness (although they said it wasn't a bad quality in this beer).  One said it could be a bit drier.  I agree with all of their commentary.  **

Back in February, when I was going through a dark beer phase, I brewed up an American Stout with both chocolate nibs and cold, french-pressed coffee added after primary fermentation.  I really wanted to get a nice, chewy stout that would have a balanced finish between chocolate and coffee.  It is a nice recipe, perhaps a bit out of season.  Will definitely brew again, maybe adding up to 8oz of cacao nibs and keeping the coffee as indicated in the recipe.  Tasting notes below:

A - Jet black, slight head formation but quickly disappates to a ring around the edges.  This is a common problem with my dark beers that I've yet to overcome.

S - Quite a bit of coffee on the nose with a bit of chocolate.  Almost smells like my coffee in the morning thats dosed with a dash of chocolate milk.  This is more or less what I was trying to accomplish.

T -  All coffee with a bit of residual sweetness.  Almost no chocolate, maybe a touch on the finish.

M - Quite thick.  Could probably benefit from a slight increase in carb volume, but it feels how a stout should, in my opinion.

O - I'd definitely brew this again, albeit with a few tweaks.  I'd definitely dial back the coffee a bit or spring for some better coffee.  For this batch, I just went ahead with the Peet's Major Dickinson blend.  Living in Philly, I'm surrounded by hipster coffee shops, so I should be able to do better than this.  Also, I'd probably up the dosing of cacao nibs by increasing to 7-8oz instead of the 5oz.  I get a bit of chocolate in the nose, but not at all the flavor I was seeking.  Also, I might mash a tad lower in the hopes of drying it out a bit more to remove some of the residual sweetness.  Definitely will brew this again though in the fall.

The Barista Mocha Stout
5.25 gallon batch -- 60 minute boil
Est OG: 1.069
Est FG: 1.017
Est ABV: 6.84%
IBU: 57.5
SRM: 46

13lb Maris Otter
1lb Chocolate Malt
8oz Carafa III
8oz Carafoam
8oz Caramel 80L
8oz Roasted Barley

1.5oz Magnum @ 60 min (57.5 IBU)

1500ml starter Denny's Favorite WY1450

5oz chocolate nibs in secondary
2oz coffee in 12oz water, cold-steeped overnight added to secondary

Mash @ 153f for 90 minutes