Sunday, June 28, 2015

West Coast Wheat Beer

We're getting low on the summer blonde ale, our easy-drinking summer beer, so before we get in a bad spot I figured it was time to brew up another light-and-tasty ale for the California summers. This recipe is based loosely on the American Wheat Beer recipe provided by Gordon Strong in Modern Homebrew Recipes. I modified it slightly to match my preferred yeast brand (White Labs) and to end up with a smaller quantity into the fermenter. Additionally, I wanted to use up some ingredients I had on-hand, so I used a different hops selection (the American blend of Falconer's Flight, instead of primarily European hops). Additionally, I'm using a straight-up batch sparge technique rather than the step and decoction stated in the recipe.

Of course, this overall departure from "beer scripture" might freak out some...but it's all in the tradition of "Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew." I had the good fortune to catch Strong's talk at the 2015 AHA meeting, and he emphasized that his recipes are guidelines, not proscriptions for or against certain techniques. He noted that everyone has different equipment and different preferences, all of which can generate excellent beer. I like this philosophy!

West Coast Wheat Beer
  • 5 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 3.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich malt
  • 0.75 lbs. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Falconer's Flight hops pellets (9.6% alpha, 4.4% beta; alpha acid adjusted for age), 20 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Falconer's Flight hops pellets (9.6% alpha, 4.4% beta; alpha acid adjusted for age), 1 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale V (White Labs WLP051), prepared 24 hours in advance in 0.75 L starter
  • I mashed in with 13.4 quarts of water at 160.4°. This precisely hit my mash target of 150°. The mash was at 149° after 30 minutes and 146° after 60 minutes.
  • I added 1.25 gallons of water at 175°, which raised the temperature of the mash bed to 152°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3 gallons of water at 182°, which raised the temperature of the mash bed to 166°. Once again, I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • I had a total of 6 gallons of wort at 1.045 gravity, which works out to ~73% efficiency. The gravity was a little higher than I wanted, so I added a half gallon of water to bring the total boil volume up to 6.5 gallons.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and let it boil for 40 minutes before I added the first charge of hops. One minute before flame-out, I added the last charge of hops.
  • After flame-out, I chilled the wort down to 80° using my wort chiller (couldn't manage much cooler with the warm weather!) and transferred the wort into my fermenter. I pitched the yeast starter and sealed it all up. I placed the yeastified wort into my fermentation chamber, and set the temperature for 68°. I will lower it a touch once fermentation has started, down to 66°.
  • All total, I ended up with 5 gallons of wort in the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.048.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Beer Tasting: Summer Blonde Ale 1.1

My Summer Blonde Ale 1.1 has been carbonating and conditioning in the keg for the past month, so now is as good of a time as any to sample it. We've really been enjoying this beer, and I think it's definitely earned its place as a "go-to" summer recipe.

  • The Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.047; final gravity = 1.009; abv = 5.0%; IBU = 21 (estimated)
  • Appearance
    • Clear (but not brilliant), light golden color; fine and fairly persistent white head.
  • Aroma
    • Lightly malty and ever so slightly fruity.
  • Flavor
    • Smooth and very lightly fruity maltiness; a delicate bitterness but certainly not prominent on that end. 
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium carbonation, within bounds for the style; a light and smooth body with a nice light finish (just a hint of malt and hops).
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Certainly! This is my second iteration of the recipe (and first one to be kegged). Pretty much everything about it is spot-on as an easy-drinking summer beer. It also got pretty good marks at the recent homebrew club meeting, so I'll count that as a positive too.
  • Overall rating
    • 9/10

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Brewing Update: Old Speckled Hen Clone and Red Oak Ale

Red Oak Ale sample
Tonight I transferred the Old Speckled Hen Clone and the Red Oak Ale (right) out of their respective primary fermenters and into their kegs. Visible fermentation had long since ceased for both.

Old Speckled Hen Clone
This beer had been in the primary fermenter for 10 days, with a reasonably vigorous fermentation. The Nottingham dry ale yeast was a little slow to start relative to the liquid yeasts I've been using lately, and didn't display signs of active fermentation until nearly 24 hours after pitching.

This beer had fermented down to 1.011, and is still a little hazy. I'm expecting that should settle out as the beer chills. The beer has a nice toffee color, and was a little more bitter than I expected. I think it is mainly because I had memories of a much more malt-forward beer; I expect this will come back to the fore as the beer conditions and the yeast continues to drop out. The distinct hops flavor is also probably due to the "spicier" English hops (where I usually have been using American hops in my other beers--I had forgotten how big the difference was!). Starting gravity was 1.055, which works out to 5.8% abv.

The kegged beer (~4.5 gallons) went directly into the keezer, where it is force carbonating under 13.5 psi at 42°.

Red Oak Ale
This beer showed vigorous fermentation within 9 hours of pitching the yeast. I agitated the beer a bit after 3 days (and once or twice more after that), following notes from yeast reviewers that the WLP041 strain tended to slow or stall out if left alone. I figured this was a good idea given the relatively high starting gravity, too (1.070).

The beer had fermented down to 1.015 over the past 18 days, with a gorgeously clear burn umber color (see above picture). This works out to 7.3% abv, one of the "bigger" beers I've done in some time. So far, I'm pretty happy with how it is turning out.

Before sealing up the keg, I added a mesh bag with 2 oz. of Willamette hops pellets for dry hopping. They'll stay in for ~14 days (or maybe even permanently). Tomorrow, I'll add 2 oz. of French oak chips (medium toast), boiled in water and contained in a mesh sack. Those will stay in for just a week before being pulled. I'm leaving the keg at room temperature for at least the next week.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Old Speckled Hen Clone

Time for another new recipe. One of my favorite English beers readily available in the USA is Old Speckled Hen, an ale that falls somewhere in the English Pale Ale / Extra Special Bitter style. A quick internet search turned up this recipe at (also available on the BeerSmith recipe cloud). BIABrewer user hashie posted the recipe, so it has their name at the helm. The original recipe was developed for the brew-in-a-bag technique, so I had to modify the grain bill slightly for my own batch sparge setup.

Hashie's Old Speckled Hen
  • 8.25 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 120° crystal malt
  • 0.90 oz. U.S. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha, 4.6% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 0.50 oz. U.K. Goldings (4.8% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. U.K. Goldings (4.8% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 lb. Lyle's golden syrup, 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham yeast (Danstar)
  • I mashed in with 3 gallons of water at 164°, hitting 151.4° for the mash start. The mash temperature was at 148.5° after 35 minutes and 146° after 60 minutes. 
  • I added 1.3 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 151°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 2.75 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash bed temperature to 168°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.2 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.043. This works out to ~69% efficiency. It's a little less than my best brews (~75%), so I wonder if that's because I didn't use 5.2 pH stabilizer on this batch.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the Northern Brewer hops.
  • After 45 minutes, I added the first dose of Goldings. After 50 minutes, I added the Irish moss. After 55 minutes, I added the second dose of Goldings and the golden syrup. The syrup has a really nice toffee note to it--I am interested to see how that will translate into the overall beer.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort down to ~78°.
  • I transferred ~4.9 gallons of wort into the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.055.
  • After pitching the yeast, I sealed everything up and put it in the fermentation chamber. Temperature is set for 66°.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer Blonde Ale 1.1 Kegged

Tonight I kegged the Summer Blonde Ale that I brewed up on May 10. It has been in the primary for 12 days, with a very vigorous fermentation. Starting gravity was 1.047, with a final gravity of 1.009. This calculates out as 5.0% abv, nearly identical in stats to the first iteration of the recipe. The flavor is clean and lightly malty, at least in its uncarbonated state. Approximately 4.75 gallons of beer went into the keg. I'll be force carbonating this, with an aim to have it on tap within a few days.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Beer Tasting: Pannotia White IPA

My Pannotia White IPA has been on tap for about two weeks; it seems like a great time to evaluate the beer and reconfigure it for its next iteration (and there will be another iteration!).

  • The Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.057; final gravity = 1.012; abv = 5.9%; IBU = 50 (estimated)
  • Appearance
    • Hazy, light golden hue; head is tall and persistent, with a creamy appearance and off-white color. The beer has gotten slightly less hazy since the first tastes a week or two ago.
  • Aroma
    • Dominated by citrus, secondarily with some floral and passionfruit aroma; very clean and fresh
  • Flavor
    • Hop-dominated; very citrusy and slightly floral. Any maltiness is subtle at best. There is an extended, smooth, and slightly sweet finish for the hops.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Nicely carbonated; body is perhaps a touch thin
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! The white IPA style is a delightful and very drinkable variant change from the overbearing single/double/triple/quadruple American IPAs that are the norm for many microbreweries. My original goal was to recapture my memories of the Italian-made Vergött White IPA. I got partway there--particularly in its appearance and refreshing drinkability--but am lacking the somewhat lemony aroma and flavor that I recall from the original. Some more sleuthing on Italian-language websites revealed indications that they dry-hopped with Galaxy hops (and possibly some Mosaic), that the alcohol clocks in at 5.5% (rather than 5.9%), and that oats are part of the mix too. I would also like a little more body in my beer. So, I think for the next iteration I will use 2-row malt instead of pilsner malt, mash at a slightly higher temperature (perhaps ~152°), add some oats, notch the alcohol down a touch, and dry-hop with Galaxy instead of Citra. I will likely maintain the first wort hopping with American hops (probably Cascade), because the background hopping on this one is about perfect.
  • Overall rating
    • 8/10

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Refractometer Calibration

This is more of a sticky note for myself than anything...I did a bunch of calculations and regressions based on my brewery setup and my refractometer, and established the following equation to convert from the specific gravity reading on my refractometer to a close approximation of specific gravity from my hydrometer:

where h is the hydrometer reading (s.g.) and r is the refractometer reading (s.g.)

This equation seems to do a very good job of matching my previous values.

Note: I estimated a Brix correction factor of 1.0645 for my system.