Sunday, August 31, 2014

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Clone

The past year has seen some major changes in my brew practices, most prominently in the transition from extract to all-grain. It has been fun to stretch my abilities and add new techniques to my toolkit, although not without its frustrations, either. There is a whole new learning curve to master! 

One of the toughest projects has been to master my mash efficiency. Where you can get really, really consistent gravities quite easily with extract (I would rate this as a big "plus" for extract brewing), I've found less consistency in my all-grain. From my reading and conversations with other brewers, "crush" hits the top of the list for improving efficiency. So, with that in mind, I purchased a two-roller mill from Monster Brewing Hardware. Their mills are pretty consistently well-rated, so it seemed wise to follow that reputation. It will be really nice to be able to control my crush more precisely--the local homebrew shop generally gave me good results, but now I can mill grains exactly to my home specs. This also makes it logistically easier to get big bags of my base malts (see photo). By buying in bulk, I can cut the per batch cost significantly.
It took me a bit to figure out what I wanted to brew for the first batch with my new mill. I had thought about a simple amber ale--but, I already have a fair bit of IPA and pale ale on hand (and apparently an amber ale is just a variant of a pale ale--makes sense, but I hadn't thought of it this way before!). So, a good porter seemed like a great alternative. It will round out my beer stock nicely.

After a bit of thought and searching, I elected to go for a clone recipe that I've tried versions of before. One of my favorite beers is the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing. It's tough to find out in California, but I have had it a few times on tap or in the bottle when in the midwest or out east. For this batch, I stuck much closer to the original recipe from the North American Clone Brews book. The only mild variation was to have Cascade as strictly an aroma (steeping) hop at the very end, mainly because I forgot to pick up a little more at the store.

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Clone
  • 10.6 lbs. 2 row malt
  • 1 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 0.66 lb. chocolate malt
  • 0.66 lb. roasted barley
  • 0.70 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets, bittering, first addition (9.9% alpha, 4.6% beta)
  • 0.75 oz. Willamette hops pellets, bittering, second addition (5.3% alpha, 3.7% beta)
  • 0.75 oz. Willamette hops pellets, bittering, third addition (5.3% alpha, 3.7% beta)
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops pellets, aroma, fourth addition (5.5% alpha, 6.0% beta)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 tbs. pH 5.2 stabilizer (for mash)
  • 1 pkg. Danstar Nottingham dry yeast (11 g)
Procedure
  • I mashed in with 4.3 gallons of water at 172°. As measured 20 minutes later, the temperature was stabilized at 154°.
  • After 1 hour, the temperature was down to 152°. I added 0.75 gallons of water at ~185°, stirred, and let it sit for 10 minutes. From this, I collected ~3.1 gallons of wort. I did have a slightly stuck sparge (first time ever!) towards the end of the collection, but was able to unstick it by stirring the top of the mash slightly and blowing air up the tube.
  • Then, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 190°. After stirring, the mash stabilized at 168°. I let the mash rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 7.1 gallons of wort. I suspect I got so much because there was more wort left than usual in the first round of the batch sparge.
  • The 7.1 gallons of wort had a gravity of 1.046. This equals 72% mash efficiency.
  • Once the boil started, I added the Northern Brewer hops.
  • After 30 minutes, I added the first addition of Willamette hops. At this point, the wort volume was down to ~6.75 gallons.
  • After 60 minutes, I added the second addition of Willamette hops. Wort volume was down to ~6.2 gallons at this point
  • After 75 minutes, I added the Irish moss. Wort volume was down to 6 gallons at this point.
  • After 90 minutes, I added the Cascade hops, turned off the heat, and chilled the wort using my wort chiller.
  • It took ~30 minutes to chill the wort to 80°. I whirlpooled the wort, transferred it to the primary fermenter (with the Venturi pump in use for aeration), and pitched the rehydrated yeast. The beer was visibly bubbling within a little more than 12 hours.
  • The end result was 5 gallons of wort into the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.060 at 60°.
  • I am fermenting the beer at 65°. This batch was brewed on 30 August 2014.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Beer Update: Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1, Vaalbara Session IPA

Last night (August 29), I bottled up the Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1 and transferred the Vaalbara Session IPA over to the secondary. Details are below.

Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1

  • This beer had been dry hopping for 12 days. It had a final gravity of 1.011, which works out to 4.7% abv.
  • I filled two mini-kegs, which were each primed with 1.5 tbs. of corn sugar. The remaining beer, totaling 1.9 gallons, was bottled and carbonated with 1.65 oz. of corn sugar to reach a target carbonation  of 2.5 volumes.
  • Total yield was 2 5-L kegs, 4 22-oz. bottles, 2 18-oz. bottles, and 8 12-oz. bottles.
  • This beer promises to be really nice -- a pretty clean flavor and just the Citra hops aroma I was aiming for.
Vaalbara Session IPA
  • After six days in the primary fermenter, I transferred the beer over to a secondary fermenter.
  • I racked the beer directly onto ~1.75 oz. of Cascade hops pellets, with approximately 3.75 gallons transferred. The carboy went into my temp-controlled fermenting freezer, set to 66°.
  • At the moment, the beer is fairly clear and perhaps a little green in flavor, but there is nothing "off" for flavors relative to what a beer should have at this point in fermentation. Gravity is 1.015, down from 1.045, which calculates to 3.9% abv. I will not be surprised if the gravity drops another point or two in the next two weeks before bottling.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vaalbara Session IPA

Continuing my series of pale ales and IPAs named after supercontinents, we are now on to Vaalbara Session IPA. Vaalbara is the theorized "first" supercontinent. It's an appropriate name, because in many ways I'm back to my brewing roots--relatively simple malt bill, and classic American hops. This recipe is modified from that of Oregon Original IPA, as published in North American Clone Brews. As a general aside about this book, it has some interesting recipes, which unfortunately often require a fair bit of tweaking to achieve stated gravity, etc. In any case, they provide inspiration.

My efficiency was rather low on this batch, and I will chalk it up to a abnormally coarse crush on the mill at my LHBS. Usually they are pretty good about staying on top of this, and I've never had an issue before, so I am guessing this is a fluke. While looking at the milled grains, I remember thinking, "Hmm, this looks kinda coarse." That's what I get for not listening to my gut. In any case, it has spurred me to look into getting a grain mill so that I have a little more control and consistency. Additionally, the low efficiency resulted in a lower-than-calculated starting gravity, so I changed the recipe title from "IPA" to "Session IPA".

Vaalbara Session IPA

  • 10 lbs. 2 row malt (2.0 SRM)
  • 1.5 lbs biscuit malt
  • 1 lbs. 20° crystal malt
  • 0.75 oz. Chinook hops pellets (bittering, first addition; 13.00% alpha, 3.4% beta)
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops pellets (bittering, second addition; 7.3% alpha, 5.3% beta)
  • 1.5 oz. Cascade hops pellets (dry-hopping; 7.3% alpha, 5.3% beta)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 pkg. Safale US-05 dry yeast (11 g)
Steps
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 164°. The mash was too low in temperature [note to self: continue to adjust properties for equipment in BeerSmith], so I added 2 quarts of boiling water, which when stirred in brought the mash up to 154° (stable still after 30 minutes).
  • I drained the mash tun, and added 3.25 gallons of water at 186 degrees. This stabilized the mash at 166°.
  • In total, I collected ~6.25 gallons of wort, with a starting gravity estimated at 1.037. This calculates out to 52% efficiency; probably so low due to a coarse crush.
  • I boiled the wort down for 30 minutes at a vigorous boil, to bump up the gravity a touch. By the end of this phase, I had approximately 5.5 gallons.
  • After 30 minutes, I added the Chinook hops (which thus had a total of 60 minutes boiling).
  • After another 30 minutes, I added 1 oz. of Cascade hops (which thus had a total of 30 minutes boiling). At this point, I had approximately 5.1 gallons.
  • After another 15 minutes, I added 1 tsp. of Irish moss (which thus had a total of 15 minutes boiling). I was down to ~4.6 gallons by this point.
  • After a total of 90 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat and cooled the wort down to around 82° with my wort chiller.
  • I ended up with 4 gallons of wort in the primary fermenter. I pitched the yeast, and sealed up the whole thing. I will be fermenting at 66°.
  • I brewed the beer on Saturday, August 23. By the next morning, the fermenter was happily percolating along.
  • Starting gravity is 1.045 at 60°. This should work out to around 4.6% abv.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Beer Tasting: Rodinia IPA


Tonight, I wanted to document my Rodinia IPA, brewed way back in April. I have only a few bottles left, so it's time to formally taste-test the beer.

Rodinia IPA

  • I brewed this on April 12, and bottled it on June 5, 2014.
  • Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.076; final gravity = 1.013; abv = 8.3%.
  • Appearance
    • Quite clear and dark straw color for the beer itself. The head has excellent retention; moderately fine bubbles, white color; thick and as desired for an IPA.
  • Aroma
    • Crisp and slightly sweet, with definite notes of white wine (as promised for the Nelson Sauvin hops used to dry-hopping!) and perhaps even kiwi.
  • Taste
    • Slowly developing bitterness, with lasting edge. Moderate body, but the hops character is much stronger than the malty character.
  • Would I brew this again? 
    • Maybe? It was an interesting to try the Nelson Sauvin hops for dry-hopping, and they behaved pretty much as described; in fact, surprisingly so. The actual white wine aroma was a nice novelty; I was somewhat surprised by the lack of piney or citrusy aroma on this, at least to my nose. That said, I think my overall personal tastes run more towards the citrus/pine end of hops, so although this is a decent enough beer on its own, I probably wouldn't brew it with this variety of hops again. Maybe as a blend with other dry hops, to add more complex character?
  • Overall rating
    • 6.5/10

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beer Tasting: Summer Blonde Ale

The summer blonde ale is at its peak, turning out to be a pretty delightful brew. The full specs are below.

Summer Blonde Ale

  • I brewed this up on June 28, 2014, and bottled it on July 13. Thus, it has had about a month to condition. The sample I am evaluating here is from a bottle.
  • Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.046; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.0%.
  • Appearance
    • Clear, straw-colored
    • Head is white, fine, and low, with fair retention over the course of the sampling
  • Aroma
    • Clean and slightly malty
  • Taste
    • Clean and slightly malty; pleasant
    • A subtle hops finish
    • Good balance between hops and malt
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is perhaps one of the best all-grain beers I've done to date, and it is perfect for sipping on warm summer evenings. As near as I can tell, the recipe (and this batch) nails the style quite squarely, and is very much to my taste. I don't know that there is much, if anything, that I would change; maybe up the malt and hops ever-so-slightly, but that's about it. Probably a bad idea to mess with a good thing.
  • Overall rating: 8/10

Beer Update: Gondwana Pale Ale 1.1

Today I transferred the Gondwana Pale Ale over to the secondary fermenter, following 9 days of primary fermentation. Some highlights:

  • Gravity is 1.012 at 60 degrees, down from 1.048. This works out to 4.7% abv and apparent attenuation of 74%.
  • I racked the beer onto 2 oz. of Citra hops pellets (14.5% alpha, 3.9% beta), and plan a solid 2 weeks of dry hopping before bottling/kegging.
  • In total, 5 gallons of beer was transferred; there was about 0.25 gallons of trub, and another 0.25 gallons of stuff that was just too murky to bother with.
  • The sample is tasted has a slight whiff of Citra hops, presumably from the late addition during the boil. This is quite nice! As with the first version of this recipe, there is a very slight vegetal/off-malty after-taste. Because I haven't really had this with my other all-grain recipes, I wonder if it is something inherent to the malts I used (maybe the Vienna malt?). In any case, the aroma was very transient in the last batch, and is much fainter by comparison in this batch, so I am not too worried.
  • I set the fermenting chamber (i.e., temperature controlled freezer) to 64 degrees, up 2 degrees from the primary fermentation. I may raise it again slightly later this week.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beer Tasting: El Dorado Amber Ale

I've been reasonably good at documenting my brewing process (hence this blog), but haven't done as much for recording the resulting product. This post is a first attempt at formalizing personal evaluations of my homebrew.

  • I brewed this up on March 31, and bottled it on April 27. Thus, it has had a little over three months to condition. The sample I'm evaluating here was from a mini-keg. The character of the beer has changed somewhat from first sampling; definitely a little more mellow in the aroma (a good thing).
  • Appearance
    • Medium amber color. Clear, with only a minor chill haze.
    • Nice head with good head retention
  • Aroma
    • Modestly malty, with a very minor hops aroma
    • When I sampled this beer a month or two ago, the hops aroma was fairly strong and spicy/herbal. Not at all what I expected, especially for how El Dorado hops was described.
  • Taste
    • A moderately malty flavor, but not overly so. There is a modest bitterness, but not too much so.
    • The finish is smooth with a slight caramel flavor, and nicely hoppy
    • Carbonation is moderate; about right for this style of beer
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Overall, this has turned into a decent beer, but not my very best. Particularly in its earlier days, I didn't really care for how the dry-hopped El Dorado aroma came through; far more vegetal than I was expecting, and very little if any of the promised citrus/fruity notes. It wasn't unpleasant, necessarily, just not to my personal taste. I was a little unimpressed by how the El Dorado hops worked for this beer; I might try them for bittering again, but not for dry hopping.
    • All in all, I'm going to test a few other amber ale recipes.
  • Overall rating: 5/10