Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Jarrylo Session IPA

For my last brew of 2015, I'm making a session IPA that is a modest departure from my previous session IPA. This is primarily to adjust for and use up ingredients on-hand, but also in order to try out a new yeast strain with some promise for session beers ("Conan"). I used WLP002 (English ale) for my last session IPAs, and liked it, but thought that the potentially low attenuation of Conan also has promise for a session IPA. We'll see how it works!

The other twist on this brew is that I'm using Jarrylo hops, a relatively new variety. They're not particularly intended for IPAs, but an IPA seems like a good way to showcase hop character, particularly in the late additions and dry-hop. Because Jarrylo is described as having notes of banana, pear, and spice, I figured some more citrusy/fruity varieties would meld well for the bittering and flavor hops additions. So, Citra and Mosaic are also in the mix. When smelling the Jarrylo hops pellets, I get a fair bit of pepper and maybe some fruitiness behind that. Perhaps it's a mistake to dry hop with this one for an IPA, but that's what homebrewing is all about!

Jarrylo Session IPA
  • 5.25 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 3.75 lbs. Borlander Munich Malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lbs. caramel Munich 60L (Briess)
  • 1 oz. Citra hops pellets (13.2% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Mosaic hops pellets (12.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Jarrylo hops pellets (14.2% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Jarrylo hops pellets (14.2% alpha), 2 week dry hop
  • 1 pkg. Vermont Ale ("Conan") yeast, The Yeast Bay (prepared in 1L starter)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 169.8°, to hit a mash temperature of 156°. The mash was down to 153.5° after 25 minutes and 150° after 45 minutes. After 50 minutes, I added 1.1 gallons of water at 190°, to raise the mash temperature to 156°. I elected to use a shortened mash procedure in order to add a tiny extra bit of body to the final beer (per the session beer workshop I went to at AHC). So, only 60 minutes passed between when I mashed in and when I collected the first runnings.
  • I vorlaufed and collected the first runnings, and added 3.75 gallons of water at 179°, which raised the mash bed to 166°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • I collected a total of 6.9 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.037. This equates to an extract efficiency of ~75%.
  • I started the boil, and added the hops per the schedule above.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to 70°. Then, I pitched the yeast and set the beer to fermenting, at 68°. I brewed this batch on 30 December 2015. Starting gravity was 1.047.
  • Note on the yeast starter: Because I am liking the Conan strain, I overbuilt my starter. I made 1.6 L of a 1.040 gravity, and set aside 0.6 L for my next batch (~100 billion cells, approximately). 

2015's Homebrew Highlights

My beer of the year, Citra Blonde Ale
Looking back, 2015 was a banner year for my brewing. Speaking immodestly, I produced some excellent beers. Just as importantly, if not more so, I really stretched myself in terms of new styles and techniques.
  • Favorite Batch
    • Citra Blonde Ale
      • This blonde ale nailed every single aspect--in fact, I might say it is one of the best beers I've brewed over the years.
  • Least Favorite Batch
    • I didn't have any batches that totally went south, but I did have some that were just not quite where I wanted them. My Live Long and Porter was squarely mediocre, as was my attempt at an Old Speckled Hen Clone. The former was mostly a result of recipe--the latter was, at least in part, the need to age for way longer than I was willing to give it.
  • Experimental Recipe with Most Potential
    • Pannotia White IPA
      • I've done two iterations of this recipe now, and each time have dialed it in just a little closer to my overall goals. One more, and I think I should have it where I want it! This is my "brew to watch" for 2016.
  • Most Fun New Style/Recipe to Try
    • Berliner Weisse
      • I've long been hesitant to brew a sour beer (and truth be told, I think that sours are a bit overdone), but I couldn't pass up a chance to try kettle souring. It was super easy, and the result has been pretty tasty!
  • Best Technique Added to Repertoire
    • I tried a lot of new things this year (different hopping schedules, session IPA's, kettle souring, brew-in-a-bag, and oaking, to name a few), but I think the biggest addition to my toolkit has been kegging. I absolutely love the convenience--so much less scrounging, scrubbing, and sanitizing--and it also makes hosting people easier (no more piles of bottles on the counter). I'll admit that the "cool factor" of a few taps on-hand is nice, too. It's nice to be able to just have a few ounces if that's all I want, rather than committing to a full 12, 18, or 22 ounce bottle. A win all around!
  • Most Frustrating Technique/Tool to Master
    • I would say that mastering my refractometer has been among the most frustrating aspect of brewing this year. It is a handy little tool, but wow, is the scale off major time. It took quite a few iterations and the development of an instrument-specific equation to get it to the point where I feel comfortable with it.
  • Best Ingredient Added to Repertoire
    • I have to say that WLP400, White Labs' Belgian Wit yeast, is probably one of the most enjoyable strains to work with, in terms of quality of the results. I've used it in both of my White IPA batches, and I'm hooked.
  • Favorite Book
    • Hands down, it's Gordon Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes. Every single recipe I've tried or modified from there has been excellent. It has also helped me to really think about my process, and the effects that process can have on each batch (e.g., late hopping, adding dark grains at the vorlauf, etc.). A close runner-up is Mastering Homebrew by Randy Mosher. Not only is it informative, but it's got the best (and most helpful) graphics of any homebrew book I've seen yet. Strong's book has pushed my technique the most, but Mosher's has solidified the basics the most. They are a good duo of publications!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Beer Tasting: Transatlantic IPA

My Transatlantic IPA seems to be at its peak--no better time to give it a close look!
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.064; final gravity = 1.015; abv = 6.5%; estimated IBU = 64
  • Aroma
    • The aroma is very hop-forward and pleasant, but not overwhelming. I pick up citrus (orange) and floral aromas, with a hint of fresh apricot. There is a faint malty aroma that comes through as the beer warms up.
  • Appearance
    • Relatively clear, with a minor bit of haze. The head is quite prominent, white in color, and fine-bubbled, with excellent retention. The beer itself is a beautiful gold color.
  • Flavor
    • This is a pretty well-balanced IPA. There is a low degree of malty flavor, with a slight caramel note to it, but not enough to take it out of character for what I intended. The hops are of course prominent, tending towards the floral and piney side of things. The bitterness is strong but not over the top, and it definitely has a piney and slightly resinous finish. I detect a very modest ester background, perhaps some of the stone fruit (peach/apricot) that characterizes the yeast strain.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a medium body, with an appropriately moderate degree of carbonation. The finish is slightly dry, but not ridiculously so. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a really nice "winter IPA", and nails pretty much everything I was hoping for in the beer. I really like how the Conan strain plays against the hops and malt. Additionally, the hops combo stands up pretty well too. It's complex, but not muddled. The beer is probably a bit heavier than I would want outside of the cold months, but that isn't a flaw in my view. I was a little curious when formulating this recipe as to how much the Maris Otter base malt would show through--not much, in the end! It provides a good base, but doesn't get in the way of the other ingredients.
  • Overall rating
    • 9/10

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Beer Tasting: The Celtic Elk Stout

My Irish stout ("The Celtic Elk Stout") has been on tap for a few weeks now, and is definitely ready for a tasting.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.048; final gravity = 1.018; abv = 3.9%; estimated IBU = 36
  • Aroma
    • Strong and ever-so-slightly sweet coffee aroma, with a roasty chocolate note behind it. 
  • Appearance
    • Clear as near as I can tell, but pitch-black in the glass. When you hold it up to the light, you can glimpse a dark brown color with a red tinge to it, but that's only if you have the thinnest sliver of beer against strong backlight. The head is dark tan and thin, with a fine texture and good retention.
  • Flavor
    • This beer has a very coffee-like quality, in terms of being quite roasty in flavor with a bitter finish (more from the barley than the hops, though, in terms of the bitterness character).
  • Mouthfeel
    • The stout has a moderate-low body, with moderate and fine carbonation. It is a pretty dry (but not puckering) beer, as befits the style. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This beer is a darned good Irish stout, and I'd definitely use the recipe again in the future. It hits exactly what I was looking for, in terms of dryness, drinkability, fairly low alcohol content, and intangibles. I like this one!
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10
And a label!
On a whim, I drafted a beer label in honor of the original "Celtic Elk," Megaloceras. It brings in one of the "Irish elk" skulls along with a Celtic knot. Maybe it will make a good t-shirt someday?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Beer Tasting: 80 Shilling Ale

With nearly a month in the keg, the 80 Shilling Ale is ready to formally assess. So, how does it look?

  • Aroma
    • Quite malty, with a distinct caramel and a faint whiff of butterscotch as the beer warms up. No detectable hops on the aroma.
  • Appearance
    • Clear, with a fine, low and persistent off-white head. The beer is a deep copper in color.
  • Flavor
    • Very malt-forward, with a strong caramel component. The hops are extremely subtle, but tend towards the earthy/spicy side. Butterscotch (presumably from kettle caramelization) was pretty forward in the earlier tastings, but has tapered off some since.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a fairly dry beer, with a moderately light body. Carbonation is moderate, with very fine bubbles.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a very solid (and delightfully simple) recipe, with a tasty result. It has been nice to have on-hand as my "light" ale during the cold months, and fits this bill pretty well. As near as I can tell from the BJCP guidelines, the recipe is also a pretty good approximation of the style. That said, it's not such an engaging style for me that I'm going to brew it every day. It probably falls in the category of "fun to try every few years when I get the urge." All that said, I'm glad I expanded my brewing horizons a bit!
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10

Alt-Alt Ale

With a little extra time over the holidays, I wanted to brew up a few batches. I've never made anything along the lines of an altbier before, so a recipe in the November 2015 issue of Brew Your Own caught my eye. It's a clone recipe from the Milwaukee Brewing Co., called Louie's Demise. From what I know of the style, the recipe hits most of the notes for an altbier, but takes an American bend in the malts (unspecified 2-row malt, which I presume is usually brewed with an American variety rather than Pils malt) and the yeast (WLP051, California V, rather than a German ale yeast). I made a few additional tiny modifications for my ingredients on-hand, and thus beer is titled the "Alt-Alt Ale". It has a ring to it, and also vaguely reminds me of the AT-AT's from Star Wars.

One interesting thing about this recipe is the use of honey malt. My eye has been on this for some time, but I've never actually brewed with it. This malt has a very strong aroma, with a thick, sweet and raisin-like character. It's almost reminiscent of crystal 80, but much stronger. I think it's going to be quite good, but I also think it would be something to use with caution in other recipes. This is a malt that's nice to use when you need it, but could overwhelm a brew if competing with more delicate ingredients or aromas.

Alt-Alt Ale
  • 7.25 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Brewing Co.)
  • 1.5 lbs. honey malt
  • 1.25 lbs. Borlander Munich malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lbs. Munich 20°L ("Dark Munich", Briess)
  • 0.31 lbs. Carafoam (5 oz., Weyermann)
  • 0.06 lbs. roasted barley (1 oz., Simpsons)
  • 0.75 oz. Mt. Hood hops pellets (5.7% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Perle hops pellets (7.3% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Czech Saaz hops pellets (2.6% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • California Ale yeast (White Labs, WLP001), harvested and made in 1L starter
  • From the yeast harvested at last batch, I prepared a 1L starter to aim for ~200 billion yeast cells (I "needed" 188 billion). I had only intended for it to sit overnight, but due to illness and then Christmas it ended up cold-crashing for another six days in the refrigerator. Because the starter should (theoretically) have been at full-strength, I didn't figure that this was too big of a problem. One interesting thing I noticed is that the yeast this go-around seemed to be a bit more flocculent than I am used to for WLP001, with behavior closer to that which I normally see for WLP002.
  • This recipe called for a somewhat thinner mash than I usually do, at 1.4 quarts of water per pound of grain. I mashed in with 4.78 gallons of water at 159.1°, which hit a mash temperature of 148.1°. This was effectively dead-on for my target (148°). The mash temperature was down to 145.5° after 30 minutes, and down to 144.5° after 45 minutes.
  • After a 60 minute mash, I added 0.25 gallons of water at 210°, to raise the mash temperature to 145°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then I added 3.78 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 160°. I let it sit 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • Altogether, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.045, for 74% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled the wort for a total of 60 minutes, adding the hops and Irish moss at the intervals indicated above.
  • After the boil, I chilled the wort down to 76°, transferred to the primary fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
  • I had approximately 6 gallons of beer in the primary, with a starting gravity of 1.052. I brewed the beer on 26 December 2015, and plan to ferment it at 67° for around two weeks.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Transatlantic IPA Kegged

After 13 days in the primary fermenter, I kegged my Transatlantic IPA tonight. During the primary fermentation, I roused the yeast once or twice, to help attenuation along. In the end, I had a final gravity of 1.015, down from 1.064, for 6.5% abv and 75% attenuation. At the time of kegging, I added 3 oz. of hops pellets (2 oz. Simco, 1 oz. Galaxy), for dry-hopping. In my initial tasting, I'm pleased with what the Vermont Ale yeast has done so far (although I'm at the very low end of its attenuation range--will have to see how it tastes in the final product to decide if I want to do anything about it). The keg is now carbonating, in wait for the time when I can finally tap it!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Red Star Imperial Stout

My homebrew club occasionally does style competitions, where we each make our own interpretation of a particular target style. I have found it to be a really fun way to stretch my brewing legs and play with styles or techniques that I don't normally do. Our February competition focuses on imperial stouts--definitely a new style for me.

I usually like the commercial imperial stouts that I sample, but when I homebrew I prefer recipes that are lower in alcohol. Five gallons of kegged imperial stout would just sit around forever. So, I elected to make a 2.5 gallon batch and bottle it. The recipe for this batch is based loosely on the Katherine the Strong Imperial Stout recipe from Gordon Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes book. I modified it a fair bit, to account for ingredients on-hand. Because of the small batch size, I decided to do Brew-In-A-Bag for the mash. With the high target gravity, this resulted in a fairly low efficiency (~67%). So, I added half a pound of DME to bring things up to par.

In a new technique for me, I decided to try overbuilding my yeast starter. This recipe calls for WLP001, which I use fairly frequently in-house. In fact, some of my upcoming batches will us it too, so I figured that I would harvest enough to save on buying more yeast later. Using the BrewUnited yeast starter calculator for guidance, I made a 2L starter with 202 grams of light DME and ~1/8 tsp. of yeast nutrient. After two days on the stir plate, I poured 1L (~170 billion cells) into a mason jar (December 3, 2015) for later use.

Red Star Imperial Stout
  • 8 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 0.5 lb. golden light DME (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. flaked barley
  • 0.5 lb. pale chocolate malt
  • 0.25 lb. British crystal 70/80 malt (Bairds)
  • 0.25 lb. roasted barley
  • 0.25 lb. Victory (biscuit) malt
  • 1 oz. Bravo hops pellets (13.2% alpha acid), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 tbsp. pH 5.2 stabilizer (in mash)
  • 0.5 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 0.25 tsp. yeast nutrient (5 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. California Ale yeast (White Labs, WLP001), prepared in 1L starter
  • I added the grains to 4.85 gallons of water and kept the mash at 154° to 156° for 60 minutes. I raised the temperature to 165° for a 10 minute mash-out.
  • I removed the grains and drained them. I had approximately 3.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.066, for an extract efficiency of 67%. So, I added 0.5 lb. DME (as mentioned above).
  • Once the wort was at a boil, I added the hops and boiled for 60 minutes. I added the Irish moss and yeast nutrients at the appropriate times.
  • After the boil, I chilled the wort, transferred to the fermenter, and shook to aerate it.
  • The starting gravity was approximately 1.093, with 2.5 gallons into the fermenter. I pitched the yeast and set the fermentation chamber for a temperature of 68°. It was fermenting vigorously when I checked on it 12 hours later.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Beer Tasting: Pumpkin Ale 2015

My latest pumpkin ale is nearing the end of its run this year, so I wanted to do a tasting before the keg was kicked. I've served this beer to a number of friends, to rave reviews (well, except for one person who doesn't like any pumpkin beer, period, but I accept that the style isn't for everyone!). It has done a good job of satisfying my pumpkin beer cravings for another year.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.064; final gravity = 1.017; abv = 6.2%; estimated IBU = 13
  • Appearance
    • The beige head is of a medium consistency on the bubbles, moderate in size, and quite persistent. The beer itself is clear and medium amber in color, with no evident haze.
  • Aroma
    • This beer smells just like pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top! I pick up vanilla and nutmeg fairly prominently, with a faint vegetal/pumpkin background. Somewhat surprisingly, I don't get any cinnamon immediately on the aroma, but I think that's my nose. A freshly poured glass sampled later had a very prominent cinnamon aroma. I detect no distinct malt or hops aroma.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor is moderately malty, with a light caramel character. Bitterness is moderate too, and evenly balanced against the malts. I don't really pick up much spicing, if any, in the flavor itself, except perhaps a hint of cinnamon at the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The body is moderate, with good carbonation as I would like in a beer like this. It has a slightly sweet finish, which pleasantly lingers.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! Overall, this beer drinks quite smoothly and has the spices very well balanced (to my palate), so it's more than the typical pumpkin ale which is just a lager with some cinnamon and nutmeg. This is a very solid recipe, and the beer was well-received by most people who have sampled it. My only minor change might be to dial back the cinnamon a touch next time, but that's an easy fix.
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Celtic Elk Stout Kegged

I kegged The Celtic Elk Stout tonight, with 5 gallons as the end product. The final gravity was 1.018, down from 1.048, for 3.9% abv. Flavor is pretty nice so far!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Raspberry Syrup

Smushing the raspberries for syrup
Now that my Berliner Weisse is carbonating, I wanted to have some syrup on-hand for the first taste. Raspberry syrup seemed like a good first one, so I grabbed a pack of Trader Joe's frozen raspberries. The recipe I'm using is from a recent issue of BYO, very slightly modified.

Raspberry Syrup
  • 12 oz. package frozen raspberries (3 cups)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • I combined all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and stirred occasionally while I brought the mixture to a boil.
  • Once the mixture boiled, I let it sit for about 45 minutes.
  • I pureed the mixture with a immersion blender, and then strained it through a fine-mesh colander to remove the seeds.
  • Finally, I transferred everything to a bottle. It made a little less than 1 liter of syrup.
The syrup is just about the right consistency to mix easily with my Berliner Weisse. The results are quite tasty!

80 Shilling Ale Kegged

Today I kegged my 80 shilling ale - it has been in the primary fermenter for just over two weeks. Final gravity is 1.016, down from 1.053, with a resulting abv of 4.9%. The beer is a beautiful amber color and has an accompanying malty and caramel flavor that is pretty nice. Time will tell how it tastes with a little aging and carbonation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beer Tasting: Pannotia White IPA 1.5

The second iteration of my white IPA recipe is just a touch closer to perfect, with only a few last things to tweak. So close, but not quite there yet.
  • Aroma
    • Strong hops aroma, but not overpowering; citrusy with slight hints of tropical fruit. I don't get much if any malt coming through in the aroma.
  • Appearance
    • Very clear and straw-colored, with a low but persistent fine white head. This beer has cleared up considerably since the keg was first tapped.
  • Flavor
    • The balance is towards the hoppy side, with citrusy and floral hops at the front of this beer's flavor. There is a very light malty background. The bitterness is surprisingly low, more in pale ale than IPA territory. What bitterness is there is fairly smooth, with a gentle but noticeable finish. 
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a light-bodied, moderately dry beer. The moderate carbonation is appropriate for an IPA.
  • Would I brew this beer again?
    • Yes, with some changes. I feel like the aroma is pretty close to what I want, nicely balanced between Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy, although I'm still lacking the lemon aspect that I remember from the original white IPA I sampled. I think instead of using 3 oz. of Citra in the steeping phase, I might mix it up with a mix of the same Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy as used to dry-hop, for a slightly more complex flavor. The body is pretty close to perfection, although I feel like I could go to just 2-row and wheat malt for the next batch, rather than a mix of 2-row and pilsner alongside the wheat. I'm also going to up the bitterness a touch; I think the fairly low bitterness was the result of the homegrown whole hops, which can be a little unpredictable. I suspect the alpha acid content was a bit lower on this year's Cascade crop that I received, so I might swap those out next time for a definitive ~5% alpha hop pellet.
  • Overall: 7.5/10

Monday, November 23, 2015

Transatlantic IPA

"Conan! What is best in life?"
"Crush your malted grains.
See them mashed before you.
Hear the fermentation of their wort."

It has been a long time since I've done a straight-up, full-strength American IPA (January, in fact). I've also been itching to try out some new yeast strains, particularly after hearing good things about "Conan." I found the Vermont ale yeast via Yeast Bay, which is supposed to be just that. Most local shops don't carry it, so I mail-ordered and planned out my brew.
The name for this batch honors its ingredients' roots spanning North America and Europe. This batch is aiming to be an "East Coast" style IPA, with a little more malt character as well as an interesting yeast. So, I designed a recipe that had Maris Otter and Vienna as its backbone, with a bit of Belgian Caravienne to round things out and some pale chocolate malt for color. I've been doing a lot of ultra citrusy-type hops lately (especially Citra), and I worry that they would clash with the malts and yeast, so I've switched things up a touch. The bittering hops are all Columbus, with an aroma/flavor addition of Cascade. I plan to dry hop with Simco and Galaxy.

Transatlantic IPA

  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Caravienne malt
  • 0.15 lb. pale chocolate malt
  • 1 oz. Columbus hops pellets (13.4% alpha, 4.4% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1.3 oz. Columbus hops pellets (13.4% alpha, 4.4% beta), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (est. 5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (est. 5.5% alpha), steep/whirlpool
  • 2 oz. Simcoe hops pellets (13% alpha), 2 week dry-hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hops pellets (13.7% alpha), 2 week dry-hop in keg
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. Vermont Ale Yeast (The Yeast Bay), prepared in 1.25 L starter
  • I mashed in with 5 gallons of water at 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 151°. The mash was down to 150° after 30 minutes, and 147° after 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.5 gallons of water at 180°, let rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the mash tun to collect 3.25 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the overall mash temperature to 165°. I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All together, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.053. This translates to a mash efficiency of 73%, nearly exactly on the nose for my calculations.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the bittering charge. After 50 minutes, I added the Whirlfloc tablet. After 55 minutes of boiling total, I added the additional Columbus and an ounce of Cascade hops. At flame-out, I removed the Columbus hops and added the remainder of the Cascade hops, to steep while I chilled the wort.
  • I chilled the wort down to 80°, transferred it to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast starter. Approximately 5.5 gallons of wort went into the primary.
  • The starting gravity for this beer is 1.064, exactly where calculated by my software. I'll ferment this at 68° for two weeks (perhaps with a slight temperature increase at the end to maximize attenuation, as suggested by Yeast Bay).
  • I brewed this beer on November 23, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Claremonter Weisse Bottled

After about a month in the primary fermenter, I finally got around to bottling my Berliner...err, Claremonter...Weisse. The beer has a pale straw color and a definitively tart flavor, with just a touch of grainy malt alongside that.

The final gravity was 1.010, down from 1.032, which translates to 2.9% abv. I had a yield of approximately 4.5 gallons total, which I primed with 4.05 oz. of priming sugar (dissolved in 2 cups of water), for a target of approximately 2.6 volumes of CO2. This is approximately in the middle of the range for the Berliner Weisse style (2.4 to 2.9 vols).

I made the decision to bottle rather than keg, because this doesn't seem like the kind of beer that I really want to plow through quickly. It is supposed to keep fairly well due to the high acidity, so I'm happy to let it stick around for awhile. Bottling yielded a total of 6 22-oz., 5 18-oz., and 24 12-oz. bottles. I'll let this carbonate for awhile before sampling (and will also make some syrups).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Celtic Elk Stout

Dark grains set aside to add during vorlauf
As we inch closer to the dark days of winter, I'm in a mood for some good, robust beers. Robust for me usually doesn't require high alcohol content (although it can)--I think of it more as something with a strong malt backbone, prominent flavors from specialty grains, and perhaps some nice yeast character. Following on the heels of last weekend's 80 shilling ale, tonight I brewed an Irish stout.

The recipe is based on Gordon Strong's recipe from Modern Homebrew Recipes, with some modifications for the grains and hops I had on hand. My goal with this batch is to get a robust beer, but one that clocks in lower on the alcohol side of things (in this case, 4.3%). The beer is actually a bit outside the 2015 BJCP guidelines for the Irish Stout style, in terms of original gravity and color. The latter point surprised me--the BJCP lists 40 SRM as the maximum for this style, and to me it seems a little silly to set an arbitrary maximum for a beer explicitly described as "black" in the style guidelines.

The name for the batch stems from the famed Irish Elk, Megaloceras. Because why not?

The Celtic Elk Stout
  • 6.5 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 1.25 lbs. flaked barley
  • 0.25 lbs. Carapils malt
  • 0.75 lbs. 80° crystal malt (added at vorlauf)
  • 0.67 lbs. roasted barley (Simpsons, 550 SRM, added at vorlauf)
  • 0.5 lbs. pale chocolate malt (225 SRM, added at vorlauf)
  • 0.375 lbs de-bittered black malt (Dingemans, added at vorlauf)
  • 1 oz. Newport hops pellets, 40 minute boil (10.7% alpha, 6.4% beta)
  • 1 Whirlfloc pellet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. Irish Ale Yeast (WLP004), prepared 12 hours in advance in 1 L starter
  • I mashed in with the Maris Otter, flaked barley, and Carapils, using 4.1 gallons of water at 168°. The mash stabilized at 157°, and was down to 153.5° after 40 minutes. [note: I did not use 5.2 pH stabilizer in this batch]
  • I added the dark grains (cystal malt, roasted barley, chocolate malt, and black malt) along with 0.75 gallons of water at 160°, let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3 gallons of wort.
  • I then added 4 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash temperature to 164°. I let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • All told, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.040. This works out to ~73% efficiency, right where I had been hoping.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops and Whirlfloc at the appropriate times (aiming for 40 minute boil and 10 minute boil, respectively). After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort down to 78° using my copper coil chiller.
  • I transferred ~5.5 gallons of wort into the fermenter and pitched the yeast in its starter. I plan to let the temperature slowly equilibrate with the fermentation chamber overnight.
  • The beer had a starting gravity of 1.048, exactly where expected. It was brewed on Saturday, November 21, 2015.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

80 Shilling Ale

In the continued effort to expand my brewing universe, a Scottish ale seems in order. AHA recently posted a recipe for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 80/- Shilling, an award-winning brew for a style that I've not made previously. I'm greatly intrigued by its simplicity--only two malts and one hop! The technique and flavor combinations promise to be something tasty for the winter season, too. I made only a few small modifications, for hops availability (I've got a bunch in my freezer, so it didn't seem right to buy more) as well as for batch size (scaling down from 12 gallons to 5 gallons).

80 Shilling Ale
  • 10 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett brand)
  • 0.25 lb. roasted barley
  • 1 oz. Cluster hops pellets (6.8% alpha, boil 60 minutes)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (boiled for 8 minutes)
  • 1 pkg. Edinburgh Ale yeast (WLP028), prepared in 1.5 L starter, with spent starter decanted
  • Four days in advance, I prepared a 1.5 L starter use extra light DME and yeast nutrients. After 2 days on the stir plate, I cold-crashed the starter in order to settle the yeast.
  • I mashed in the grains with 4 gallons of water at 169°. This resulted in a mash temperature of 157°, which was down to 154.6° after 30 minutes.
  • Next, I vorlaufed and collected 2.2 gallons of wort. I brought this to a hard boil for 30 minutes (pictured at right), which brought the wort down to 1.6 gallons.
  • I added the barley to the mash tun and then added 5.25 gallons of water at 175°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and then drained the mash tun into the kettle until I had a total of 6.4 gallons of wort. With the two rounds of wort and a total of 6.4 gallons, this worked out to around 74% efficiency.
  • I started the boil and added the hops. Because my hops bags were all in use for dry-hopping and because I didn't want to get out the hop spider, I just tossed the pellets into the pot directly.
  • I boiled for a total of 60 minutes. With eight minutes remaining, I added a Whirlfloc pellet.
  • I chilled the wort down to 76° using my cooling coil and transferred the wort to the fermenter. This was the point where I realized the lack of hops bag was a mistake; hops matter clogged my screen pretty quickly, so I decided to just dump the wort into the fermenter directly. Lesson learned!
  • The starting gravity was 1.053, with around 6 gallons in the fermenter. I plan to start fermentation at 67°. Although the original recipe suggested 62°, White Labs results indicated that the lower temperature could potentially tend to stall out with their strain.
  • This batch was brewed on November 14, 2015. I plan to ferment for around two weeks before kegging.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Beer Tasting: Clonal Common

With a little over a month in the keg, it's time to test out the Clonal Common! The recipe is intended as a clone of Anchor Steam, in the California Common (steam beer) style. For the sake of comparison, we also picked up a 6-pack of commercial Anchor Steam beer.

Clonal Common
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049; final gravity = 1.012; abv = 4.8%; estimated IBU = 35
  • Aroma
    • A sharp woody/minty aroma is prominent (I can only assume this is from the Northern Brewer hops), but not overwhelming. I also pick up a caramel malt aroma in the background. Overall, a clean and pleasant aroma. 
  • Appearance
    • Very clear, but not quite bright, with a medium-gold color. The off-white head is moderately fine and prominent when poured, and sticks around for awhile.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor is nicely balanced between the hops and malt--both have a light and pleasant touch. The bitterness is there, but not over the top. The malt character is a combination of caramel with a bit of toastiness faintly at the rear. There is a very light apple/pear fruitiness on the finish, which is pretty pleasant. 
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a beer with medium-light body, moderate carbonation, and a medium-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • As this beer has matured, it has turned into a very quaffable drink. I wouldn't say this is my favorite style of all time, but it definitely is a very solid recipe and one that I'll brew again. There's not much I'd really change on this.
  • Overall score: 7 / 10

Beer vs. Beer (homebrew on left, commercial version on right)
Anchor Steam
  • The Basics
    • abv = 4.9%; additional data not available
  • Aroma
    • Malty with a caramel-forward note; some fruity esters in the background. No noticeable hops to my nose.
  • Appearance
    • The head is low and moderately-fine, with an off-white color. Head retention is reasonably good. The beer itself is a light amber or medium gold color.
  • Flavor
    • Prominent caramel malt flavor, almost butterscotch-like. The bitterness is subdued and most evident on the finish, rather than being hops-forward. The hops finish is slightly woody.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, with moderately high carbonation. Moderately dry finish.
  • General comments
    • A good beer, and I suppose the epitome of the California Common style, but I like mine a bit better, in terms of its more subdued malt. Both my wife and I agreed that my homebrewed version was more to our tastes. The commercial version was just a little too fruity and cloying.
  • Overall score
    • 6 / 10
Overall Comparisons
The commercial Anchor Steam has a far more prominent caramel aroma and flavor than my homebrew version, which is slightly more prominent in the hops and toastiness of the malt. Anchor Steam itself is slightly more carbonated, too. However, the body, color, and abv match up quite closely. In all, I like my clone quite a bit (and actually prefer it), even if it's very definitely a different beer from the commercial product. I suspect the differences come down to process and ingredients. This has been a fun exploration of a beer style--I'll have to try one of these side-by-side comparisons again with another style!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pannotia White IPA 1.5

In my quest to achieve a perfect white IPA, I've modified my previous recipe just a touch (based on my tasting evaluation). I brewed this up a few weeks ago, but only just now got a chance to post it. Here are the details!

Pannotia White IPA 1.5
  • 4 lbs. 2-row malt
  • 3.5 lbs. Pilsner malt
  • 3 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 0.5 lb. flaked oats
  • 0.5 lb. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (assumed 5.5% alpha, first wort hopping, boil 60 minutes)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (assumed 5.5% alpha, boil 30 minutes)
  • 3 oz. Citra hops pellets (12% alpha, steep 5 minutes)
  • 1 oz. Citra hops pellets (12% alpha, dry hop in keg)
  • 1 oz. Australian Galaxy hops pellets (13.7% alpha, dry hop in keg)
  • 1 oz. Mosaic hops pellets (12.8% alpha, dry hop in keg)
  • 8.1 g gypsum (added to boil)
  • 1 pkg. Belgian Wit Ale yeast (WLP400), prepared in 1L starter)

  • I mashed in the grains with 4.75 gallons of water at 164.5°. The mash stabilized at ~153°, and was down to 152° after 30 minutes. After 65 minutes, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 180°. From this, I vorlaufed and collected the wort (adding the first ounce of Cascade hops at this time). Then, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, and mixed to reach 169°. Then, I vorlaufed and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All told, I collected 7.5 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.043. This equates to an efficiency of 71%. I added 1 oz. of gypsum to the wort prior to boiling.
  • After 30 minutes of boiling, I added the second ounce of Cascade hops.
  • For the final minute of the boil, I added the orange peel and coriander seed.
  • At flame-out, I added 3 oz. of Citra hops pellets as well as the final ounce of Cascade hops. These were steeped while I cooled the wort using my wort chiller. Once the wort was cooled to 80°, I transferred it to the fermenter.
  • The starting gravity was 1.053, slightly below my anticipated target (1.059). Next time, I may boil a little longer.
  • I pitched the yeast, and set the fermentation chamber to 70°, and lowered it to 68° after 12 hours. At this point, there was a very vigorous fermentation, which topped out through the airlock. This yeast strain could probably use a blow-off tube next time.
  • The yeast was pitched on October 6, 2015. On October 25, 2015, I kegged the beer and added the dry hops. At this time, I also started carbonating (at room temperature, ~70°)
  • The final gravity was 1.013, which equates to 5.2% abv. The beer has a clean, citrusy taste, and I think should be quite tasty after dry-hopping!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkin Ale 2015 Update

Today I kegged my Pumpking Ale 2015. The final gravity is 1.017, down from 1.064, which equates to 6.2% abv. The beer has a beautiful golden color as well as a tasty, cinnamon-forward flavor. I am eagerly awaiting the chance to sample this in carbonated form!

Claremonter Weisse

Wort in the kettle, after souring
and just before the boil
Sour beers don't do much for me; like most brewing fads, the majority of examples I have tasted are too over the top to be enjoyable for more than half a glass. Occasionally, something grabs my attention--for instance, I experienced a Lichtenhainer at NHC that was absolutely delicious and refreshing. More recently, fellow homebrew club member Jason brought a tasty Berliner Weisse to our club meeting. I was intrigued, but didn't think souring was for me. I had heard that once you go down that road, you basically have to commit a set of fermentation equipment to sours (to avoid cross-contamination of non-sours). It didn't seem worth it for a type of beers I don't plan on brewing frequently. This all changed when I learned that Jason's Berliner Weisse was made using a technique called kettle souring*.  Basically, everything is soured before the boil--no need to contaminate carboys, hoses, or kegs! Quick, easy, and mostly painless. With some additional information in hand (both from Jason--who also gave me an extra lacto culture--as well as an online presentation via Five Blades Brewing), I set out to give souring a try.

The grist for this is simple, and the techniques (outlined below) are fairly simple too. Although it's technically a Berliner Weisse, more or less, there are enough American twists that I renamed the beer to reflect its geographic influences. Apologies to my German friends.

*This is a great example of how joining a homebrew club has paid off for me; I've tasted all sorts of styles I wouldn't have otherwise, and have been clued in to new techniques by my friends in the club. I probably never would have made a sour beer if not for my homebrew club!

Claremonter Weisse
  • 2.5 lbs. Pilsner malt
  • 2.5 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (whole), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Lactobacillus Blend (Omega Labs, OYL-605), prepared in 1L starter
  • 1 pkg. California Ale yeast (WLP001), prepared in 1L starter 8 hours in advance
  • On Tuesday, October 20, I prepared a 1L starter at ~1.040 gravity (100 g of extra light DME in 1 L water), and adjusted the pH down to 4.4 using 88% lactic acid. I boiled the starter in a 2L flask, and cooled it down to 100°. Then, I added the Lactobacillus culture and let it propagate for two days.
  • Because this was a fairly small batch, and because I wanted a quick mash with minimal equipment to clean, I followed a brew-in-a-bag protocol for the mash. On Thursday, October 22, I heated 6.85 gallons of water to 154°, and added the grains in a big bag. The mash stabilized at 150°. After 30 minutes, I added a little heat to slowly bring the temperature up to 152°, and let it ride back down slowly until 60 minutes had passed after mash-in. At this point, I raised the temperature to 168°, and let it sit for 10 minutes. In the end, I had 6.1 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.027. This is 86% efficiency!
  • I added ~3.3 tsp of 88% lactic acid to the wort, to bring the pH down to ~4.5. I added some ice packs to cool the wort to 95° and pitched the bacterial culture. I covered the wort with saran wrap to minimize oxygen. 12 hours later, I turned on a heat pad to help raise temperature a bit, to 85°. I let the Let sit until 2 pm on Saturday, October 24.
  • The pH was down to 3.4 by Saturday afternoon. A thin white pellicle covered the entire surface, and the wort had a slightly cidery aroma. I took the relatively pleasant odor as a good sign.
  • I removed as much of the pellicle as I could, and started a very hard and vigorous boil. After 40 minutes, I added the hops for 5 minutes and then removed them. After a total of 50 minutes on the boil, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort to 78°. I transferred approximately 4 gallons of wort into the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • The official starting gravity is 1.032. The yeast was pitched on Saturday, October 24, 2015, and I had signs of fermentation by that evening, with a good krausen by the next afternoon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beer Tasting: Packrat Porter

  • The Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.054; final gravity = 1.017; abv = 5.1%; estimated IBU = 38
  • Aroma
    • Lots of malty aroma, with a grainy and roasty character to it. I don't pick up much in the way of hops or yeast esters.
  • Appearance
    • The beer is deep brown in gross examination. When held up to the light, a deep ruby tinge is quite apparent, as well as excellent clarity. It's very pretty! The head is beige, fine, and moderately low, with excellent retention during the course of consumption. 
  • Flavor
    • The beer is malt-forward, with a primarily grainy and chocolate character backed up by roasty notes (in the overall same ballpark as the aroma). The bitterness is moderate and smooth, but not overwhelming.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a moderate body and a pleasant, fine carbonation with a slightly creamy sensation. The finish is relatively dry and tasty. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! For something that was thrown together from odds-and-ends, it turned out exceptionally well. Although I am unlikely to duplicate this exact recipe ever again, I think the overall 'feel' is a definite winner. The beer is a solid improvement on my last porter, most probably in my choice of a less attenuative English ale yeast as well as a healthy addition of flaked oats, which added some needed body over the previous recipe. I would note that this probably is best classified as a "hybrid porter"--the starting gravity is a bit higher than conventional for an English porter and the graininess is apparently slightly out of character, but it's not quite aggressive enough to be an American porter (no 'burnt' characteristics and the hops are fairly tame). Ignoring the BJCP, though, it's a great beer! I would definitely brew a simplified version of the recipe (cut the micro-additions of various grain sample packs), or perhaps even switch it up by using Maris Otter for the base malt.
  • Overall rating
    • 8.5/10

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pumpkin Ale 2015

Pumpkin beers are perhaps one of the most divisive styles I know, and for good reason. Too many take the "just add spice" approach, and are basically a light lager with an overdose of cinnamon and nutmeg. However, I know that there are good pumpkin beers out there, as evidenced by some reasonable success on last year's pumpkin ale. Following a string of successes with recipes from Gordon Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes, I opted to give his pumpkin ale recipe a try (in very slightly modified form to adjust for ingredient availability). His recipe is intriguing for its sheer amount of pumpkin--9 pounds--as well as for its complex grain bill that I think will make the background beer more interesting in its own right.

Pumpkin Ale 2015
  • 5 lbs. Golden Promise malt
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt
  • 2 lbs. Munich II ("Dark Munich") malt
  • 0.5 lbs. brown malt
  • 1 lbs. flaked oats
  • 1 lbs. flaked wheat
  • 1 lb. Belgian Caramel Vienne malt (17 SRM)
  • 0.25 lb. pale chocolate malt (225 SRM)
  • 9 lbs. Libby's pumpkin puree (5 large cans, added at vorlauf and transferred to boil kettle in bag)
  • 3 oz. Grandma’s Original Molasses
  • 0.5 lb. Turbinado sugar
  • 1.65 oz. Hallertau hops pellets (4.3% alpha, 5.6% beta), 20 minute boil
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (in mash)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 vial English Ale yeast (WLP002), in 1.5 L starter
  • Spice blend including:
    • 6 large sticks cinnamon, broken up and crushed
    • 1.5 tbs. crystallized ginger, chopped up
    • 1 whole nutmeg, coarsely ground
    • 10 whole allspice, coarsely ground
    • 2 vanilla beans, split, scraped, and chopped
    • 4 black cardamom pods, peeled from husks and crushed
    • 0.25 tsp. ground mace
  • Prior to brewing, I put the pumpkin puree into a few baking dishes, so that it formed a layer 1-2" thick in each. I roasted the pumpkin in a 400° oven for 1.5 hours, stirring it up every 15 to 20 minutes. By the end of this, a lot of the excess moisture had been driven off and the pumpkin had darkened up a bit too. After it all cooled, I placed it in a big mesh grain bag and set it aside for the mash
  • I mashed in the grains with 5.1 gallons of water at 168°. The mash stabilized at around 156°, and was down to 154° after 40 minutes. After 60 minutes, I added the pumpkin and 1 gallon of water at 180°. I vorlaufed after 15 minutes, drained the mash tun, and added 4.1 gallons of water at 185°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the rest of the wort. I transferred the pumpkin over to the boil kettle, and let it steep while the wort came to a boil.
  • In total, I collected 7.5 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, which equates to 68% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and at this point removed the pumpkin. I saved the pumpkin to recycle for a pumpkin soup. The wort boiled for 60 minutes total. I added the hops during the last 20 minutes, a Whirlfloc tablet during the last 10 minutes, and the spices at flameout. I let the spices sit in the hot wort for 10 minutes, before removing them and chilling the wort as usual.
  • Once I had cooled the wort down around 80°, I transferred it to the fermenter and pitched the yeast. (The yeast had been cold-crashed, so I decanted most of the spent starter).
  • Starting gravity was 1.064, a touch higher than initially predicted (1.060). The cinnamon is pretty prominent--I am a little worried that it might be too much so (I suspect the recipe's 6 cinnamon sticks were smaller than the one's I used!), but maybe that worry will be unfounded. I started fermentation on October 3. The beer was happily krausened when I checked on it ~12 hours later, and had a robust fermentation. I will leave it in primary for at least 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Beer Tasting: Seven Seas Session IPA

After 5 weeks in the keg, it's a good time to formally taste my latest session IPA! Overall, it seems like I'm about one iteration away from the "house recipe."

Seven Seas Session IPA
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.052; final gravity = 1.018; abv = 4.3%; estimated IBU = 50.
  • Appearance
    • Very persistent ivory head with a little bit of lacing on the glass; it starts quite high, and lowers a bit as I drink the beer, but never disappears. The beer itself is a rich gold with a slight haze.
  • Aroma
    • A strong but not overwhelming pine and grapefruit dominate. I don't pick up much in the way of malt (except towards the end of the glass, when the beer is warmed up a notch).
  • Flavor
    • The malt is in the background on this one, but definitely there. It supports a prominent bitterness from the hops, which is quite pleasant at the forefront but fades perhaps a little more harshly on the finish than I care for. In other words, the bitterness sticks around.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The body is just about perfect on this one; moderate, but not overly thin or overly chewy. Carbonation is moderate and on-point for an IPA.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes, with only slight modification. The appearance, aroma, and mouthfeel are exactly perfect for me, so I wouldn't change the malt bill, mashing schedule, yeast, or dry-hopping. The only minor issue that I would care to fix would be to tone back the nature of the bitterness a bit; something a little more subtle might be nice. It's not bad in this way (as discussed at my homebrew club when I brought it), just slightly outside my personal preference. So, I would probably change up the bittering hops for this recipe; dial them back just a touch, and aim for something with a smoother bittering profile (?Cascade). The beer is definitely a big step closer to my house session IPA recipe. Once I get the bittering hops figured out, I think the recipe is set!
  • Overall rating
    • 7/10

On Falconer's Flight 7C's: I quite like this hop blend. It basically says "West Coast IPA." And despite the slight shortcomings for the bittering profile in this particular recipe, I think it would be fine for bittering in a bigger beer (i.e., a standard strength IPA). It's just a _touch_ much for a session IPA.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Clonal Common Kegged

Tonight I kegged my Clonal Common (a California steam beer intended as an Anchor Steam clone), which had been fermenting for two weeks. It spent a week at 60°, three days at 64°, and three days at 66°. For the last day, I sent it back down to 62° in preparation for kegging.

I transferred a full 5 gallons of beer into the keg. Final gravity was 1.012, down from 1.049, which works out to 4.8% abv. All of the other vitals seem to be on track; color is right where anticipated, and the aroma/flavor/bitterness are all spot on. This should be a really tasty beer, and a nice transition from the light summer ales into fall beers.

Once kegged, I added a bit of CO2 and set the temperature for the whole apparatus to 34°. My plan is to lager this for at least a week, until I have to switch the fermentation chamber back into ale fermentation mode again.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beer Update: Packrat Porter and Clonal Common

Today I kegged my Packrat Porter, which had been in the primary for just over two weeks. Final gravity was 1.017, down from 1.056, which works out to 5.1% abv. This is about spot on the nose for what I had anticipated. The flavor is pretty nice, but I can't say much other than that it tastes like porter. I plan to speed carbonate this one, so that it's ready for serving by the end of the week.

The Clonal Common appeared to ferment nicely over the past week. To help it finish out, I edged the temperature controller up to 64° from 60°. I'll let it sit there for 3-4 days, edge it up to 68° for a day or two to help things finish out, and then cold crash it prior to kegging.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Clonal Common

One of my current goals is to brew some styles new to me. Near the top of the list is a California Common, or "steam beer." I rather like Anchor Steam, and it seems like a brew that has broad cross-appeal. For a first attempt, I thought I'd go straight for a clone of this commercial brew, based in part on a recipe I found on the AHA website, and in part on a recipe from BYO magazine (this or a similar recipe has run several times in the publication). The AHA version used pilsner malt with crystal 40 and special roast malt, whereas the BYO version used standard 2-row with just crystal 40. I figured that I would dodge the "requisite" 90 minute boil for pilsner malt and add a bit of complexity onto straight crystal 40, so the final malt bill is a combo of 2-row, crystal 40, and special roast malt. Hops and yeast are pretty much the same.

As for that yeast...the vial I had for WLP810 (San Francisco Lager) was dated as "best by" mid-June, so I figured it would take a mongo starter to get things into the shape I wanted. So, I did a two-step process. First was a 1L starter, which I ran for 24 hours, cold crashed for 24 hours, ditched the supernate, and pitched the yeast into a 2L starter. This ran for 24 hours on the stir plate, and then I cold crashed it again. It was kinda fun to try out a new technique, and I suspect I'll do it again in the future.

Clonal Common
  • 9 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. special roast malt
  • 0.5 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha acid), boil 60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha acid), boil 15 minutes
  • 1 oz. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha acid), steep ~10 minutes (during chill)
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (added to mash)
  • 1 tablet Whirlfloc (boil 10 minutes)
  • 1 vial San Francisco Lager yeast (WLP810), in 2L starter
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 161°, which stabilized at 151° and was down to 148° after 60 minutes. Then, I added 1 gallon of water at 190°, which raised the mash bed to 152°. I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.66 gallons of wort. Then, I added 3.75 gallons of water to raise the mash bed to 160°. I let it sit for another 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All told, I collected 7.25 gallons of wort total with a gravity of 1.041. This works out to 78% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the first round of hops.
  • After 45 minutes of boiling, I added the next round of hops.
  • After 50 minutes of boiling, I added the Whirlfloc tablet.
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the heat and added the final ounce of hops. At this time, I also began chilling the beer.
  • I was only able to get the beer down to 85° or so, so I transferred it into the fermenter at this point and let it chill in the fermentation chamber overnight to get down to 60°.
  • The next morning (~8 hours after transferring to the carboy, on September 12, 2015), I pitched the yeast. I'll be fermenting at 60° for the first week of fermentation, and then will raise it to 66° to finish out.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Beer Tasting: Citra Blonde Ale

Time to taste the Citra Blonde Ale! It has been in the keg for about two and a half weeks, and turns out to be an incredible beer.
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049; final gravity = 1.015; abv = 4.5%; estimated IBU = 19
  • Appearance
    • Clear with just a very faint haze. The head is white, medium-fine, of moderate size, and persistent. 
  • Aroma
    • Very lightly malty, with a refreshing hint of citrus.
  • Flavor
    • "Juicy" is the best descriptor; that flavor is robust but not overwhelming. The hops are definitely in the foreground, and I can pick out light citrus. It's really interesting how "juicy" this beer is - I can't say I've ever picked up on this before in my beers, but it's definitely there. It's almost like a bit of watermelon was squeezed into the beer. The hops are noticeable more for the flavoring and aroma than bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body and carbonation, as is appropriate for this style. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is an incredibly tasty beer, which really nails a unique set of flavors and aromas. I love pretty much everything about it! The special techniques--including no-sparge--as well as the Citra hops added up to something quite nice. It's interesting how different it is as a blonde ale from my other favored recipe, the Summer Blonde Ale.
  • Overall Rating
    • 10 / 10

Packrat Porter

Yeast sludge settling out
I'm always interested in expanding my skills and homemade brewing equipment, and it seemed like an opportune time to take a big step forward. I've been curious about washing and reusing yeast for some time, but just haven't made the effort to enact the process. So, when I kegged my Seven Seas Session IPA, I saved the sludge from the bottom of the primary fermenter. I added a bit of boiled and cooled water, and then decanted the slurry into two quart mason jars. Each jar was about 2/3 full (a little too full, in retrospect), and I then topped each up with more cooled and boiled water. I let them sit for awhile, and then decanted the liquid as well as the top layer of sludge into another quart jar. This, too, was topped up with water and then placed in the fridge for a week. Last night, in preparation for today's batch, I prepared a 1L yeast starter and added the yeast from the bottom of the jar. This stirred overnight and into the afternoon, at which point I was ready to pitch the yeast. The starter looks and smells quite healthy, so I'm optimistic about this little experiment. Next time, I may instead overbuild a primary yeast culture and save that, instead of reusing yeast from a previous batch.

I also decided to try adding the dark grains and crystal malts during the vorlauf, following a technique suggested by Gordon Strong in his recent homebrew recipes book. This was a little tricky when it came time to calculate the various water volumes required, and I missed the target by a little bit (I had done the calculations without the various crystal malts, and I also presume the oats soaked up a bit of extra water). I improvised by washing the grains at the end with a final pulse of water, and that brought me right to my volume and gravity target. Lesson learned!

The final major addition to today's brew process was the construction of a hop spider. I essentially followed directions from BYO magazine, but instead used a food-grade straining bag instead of a paint-straining bag. It worked quite well during the boil, and will definitely be easier than wrangling multiple bags during more hoppy brews.

Today's brew was an American(ish) porter, named in honor of a resident of our quarry this summer. It was also appropriately named as the dumping ground for a whole bunch of leftover ingredients and free samples, as well as my first attempt at yeast washing. I am under no illusions that some of the smaller grain additions will have a detectable effect, but I can't stand the idea of throwing out those little packets, either! Given my experience with the last porter I brewed, which was a touch thin, I beefed up the recipe with a pound of flaked oats.

Packrat Porter
  • 8.55 pounds 2-row malt (Great Westerning Malting Co.)
  • 1 lb. flaked oats
  • 1.4 oz. Borlander Munich Malt (Briess)
  • 1.4 oz. Victory malt (Briess)
  • 1 lb. chocolate malt, added at vorlauf
  • 0.75 lb. 60° caramel Munich malt (Briess), added at vorlauf
  • 0.37 lb. 40° crystal malt, added at vorlauf
  • 1.4 oz. 60° caramel malt (Briess), added at vorlauf
  • 1 oz. Newport hops (10.7% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1L starter of English ale yeast, WLP002 (reused)
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (in mash)
  • 1 tablet Whirlfloc (10 minute boil)
Hop spider in action
  • I mashed in with 3.1 gallons of water at 168°, which stabilized to around 155°. The mash had dropped to 152° after 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added the dark and crystal grains, as well as 1.27 gallons of water at 185°. I let this sit for 15 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.15 gallons of wort. Then, I added 3.65 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 164°. I let this sit, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort. This totaled 6.1 gallons at a gravity of 1.046. This was a little under my target on both counts, so I added 0.75 gallons of water at 120°. I drained this for the final collection.
  • All told, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.048. This works out to 75% efficiency.
  • Once the wort came to a boil, I added the hops and boiled for 60 minutes. With 10 minutes to go, I added the Whirlfloc.
  • At flame-out, I chilled the wort down to about 80 degrees and then transferred it to the carboy. I placed it in the fermentation chamber and cooled it for an hour or so, and then pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.056, which should result in a final abv of around 5.1%. The unfermented wort has a nice dark color and a good taste. I plan to ferment this for 2 weeks at 68°.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Seven Seas Session IPA Update

After 5 days in the primary fermenter, the Seven Seas Session IPA appeared to have finished up fermenting. So, I raised the temperature from 65°to 70°, to help things clean up a bit. After a total of eight days in the primary fermenter, I kegged the beer and added the dry hops (August 30, 2015). The yield was a full five gallons. Final gravity was 1.018, down from 1.052, which works out to 4.3% abv. The beer has a great flavor, with a definite hops character. Both the level of bitterness (higher than my last session IPA) as well as the body (more full than the last version) are greatly improved. I plan to let this dry-hop at room temperature for at least a week before carbonating and cold-conditioning.

As an experiment for my upcoming brew (titled "Packrat Porter"), I'm washing and reusing my yeast. More on that in the next post!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Seven Seas Session IPA

My first real attempt at a session IPA was adequate, but needed some work. So, I've tuned up the malt and hop bill a bit in order to bolster the brew all around. The result: Seven Seas Session IPA. The name is a bad pun on the hops variety, Falconer's Flight 7C's.

Seven Seas Session IPA
  • 7.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1.25 lbs. 10° Munich malt
  • 1 lb. white wheat malt
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 60° malt
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 15° malt
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer
  • 1 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 15 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. English Ale Yeast (WLP002), prepared in 1 liter starter, 12 hours in advance
  • 2 oz. Falconer's Flight 7C's Blend hops pellets (10.3% alpha, 4.9% beta), 14 day dry hop
  • I mashed in with 16.75 quarts of water at 170°, to hit a mash temperature of 159.7° at the start. After 10 minutes, the mash was at 159.5°, 157.6° after 45 minutes, and 154.5° after 60 minutes.
  • I added 0.8 gallons of water at 210°, which raised the mash temperature to 160°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.25 gallons of wort. Then, I added 3.8 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash temperature to 168°. This was then vorlaufed after 10 minutes at the remainder of the wort was collected.
  • All together, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.043. This works out to 74% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the first ounce of hops at 45 minutes, two more ounces at 50 minutes (along with a Whirlfloc tablet), and the final ounce of hops at 55 minutes. 
  • After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort as much as I could. Given the high temperatures (and the warm-ish tap water), I was only able to chill down to about 90°. I transferred the wort into the fermenter, and then set it to chill in the fermentation chamber. Once I reached 70° (after about 3 hours), I pitched the yeast. I started fermentation at 68°, and will drop the temperature to 65° once visible fermentation was under way (persumably within a few hours).
  • In the end, I had 5.25 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.052. I plan to ferment for at least 10 days before dry hopping.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Citra Blonde Ale Kegged

After 11 days in the primary, I kegged the Citra Blonde Ale tonight (August 19, 2015). Final gravity was 1.015, down from 1.049, which works out to 4.5% abv. The beer is definitely a touch more malty than my usual blonde ale recipe. Because the wheat beer is just about out and I hate the thought of an empty tap, I'm speed-carbonating this batch (40 psi at 36° for 24 hours, then down to 25 psi for 24 hours, and then adjust down to serving pressure).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beer Tasting: Azacca Session IPA

My first intentional attempt at a session IPA has been in the keg for about a month. A perfect time for a tasting!

Azacca Session IPA
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.045, final gravity = 1.015, abv = 3.9%, estimated IBU = 38.
  • Appearance
    • The head is white and fairly thin, but still pretty persistent. The beer itself is slightly hazy and light gold in color. Quite pretty!
  • Aroma
    • Fairly weak, considering that it was dry-hopped for so long. There are slight tropical fruit notes, with perhaps a whiff of citrus.
  • Flavor
    • Light and hop-forward, with a pleasant floral and tropical fruit taste; very smooth on the finish. The bitterness is noticeable but restrained; I might up the hops a bit for any future iterations. There is a slight (but not unpleasant), rounded mineral taste at the finish. The malts are very much in the background, perhaps too much so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Pleasant and fine carbonation; the body is adequate but perhaps a touch thin. 
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes, but with some modifications. I quite like the concept of session IPAs, which hit all of my buttons (hop-forward, not numbing in alcohol content). Truth be told, I was a little disappointed with Azacca hops. My personal preference for an IPA is to have a big nose punch, and Azacca just isn't there. It has pleasant aroma and great flavor, but is restrained to the point where it might be better suited for light dry hopping in a blonde or perhaps plain pale ale. Next time, I'm going to try something different from the hops, and perhaps a little more for bittering. I also would like to up the maltiness on this just a touch--a small amount of crystal malt (perhaps crystal 60) might be what I need. Finally, I'm thinking about a little wheat to aid with head formation and retention. All in all, I feel like I'm on the right track with this brew, but have a little work to do to dial it in.
  • Overall rating
    • 5.75/10

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Beer Tasting: West Coast Wheat Beer

As my first all-grain wheat beer (and an American wheat beer at that), this batch has been a complete success. Check out the details below!
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049, final gravity = 1.012, abv = 4.8%, estimated IBU = 23
  • Appearance
    • The head is white, creamy, and fine; almost meringue-like in consistency. It is incredibly persistent, too; even though it thins out some time after pouring, the head sticks around down to the very end of the glass. In fact, if anything the head is a little too dramatic - it takes a slow pour, a steady hand, and a bit of patience before the glass is full and ready to drink. I initially had chalked this up to potential over-carbonation, but now I'm pretty satisfied that it is a happy consequence of an all-grain beer with a heavy percentage of wheat. The beer itself is light gold and modestly hazy (it has clarified some over the 2-3 weeks since tapping the keg).
  • Aroma
    • Tart and lightly malty, with perhaps a hint of tropical fruit. Delicious!
  • Flavor
    • Slightly tart taste, balanced against a clean malt backbone. Smooth and light bitterness. Wonderfully balanced! 
  • Mouthfeel
    • Crisp and light bubbles; it could be carbonated a touch more, but is still within style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I would brew this beer again and again. It's one of the best brews I've made to date, and is quite popular in our household. 
  • Overall rating
    • 10/10

Citra Blonde Ale

During the warm months, it's nice to have some refreshing beers on-hand. The wheat beer is rapidly dwindling, and I suspect the same will be true also for my session IPA. So, it's best to get out in front of the inevitably empty keg and brew up a replacement!

In the interests of maximum drinkability to the greatest number of friends and family, I'm aiming for a blonde ale. Although my "house" blonde recipe is quite tasty, I wanted to branch out and try something different.

Gordon Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes had a beer called "New World Blonde," which was intriguing in terms of the malt bill as well as the technique. The malt bill was interesting because it was a little more complex than my usual blonde ale recipe. The suggested technique departed from my usual, in that it was a no-sparge step mash. The single wort collection schedule is supposed to provide a slightly richer malt flavor. The step mash is presumably to incorporate a protein rest for the pilsner malt. Because I am just mashing in a cooler, I am somewhat limited in the types of steps I can incorporate, but this recipe was simple enough (target of 132° to 152° to 168°) that I could approximate it. Of course, I couldn't quite raise the final step as high as needed (I maxed out at 161°), but for my purposes I deemed it sufficient.

I made a few minor changes from Strong's recipe, primarily to use all Citra hops (his called for 1 oz. of Australian Galaxy too, but I didn't want to buy yet another bag of hops that would only be partly consumed) as well as to switch to WLP051 from the recommended Wyeast 1272. In terms of overall process, I hit my temperature targets fairly well, and my actual efficiency was a bit better than estimated prior to the brew.

Citra Blonde Ale
  • 5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 5 lbs. Pilsner malt
  • 0.75 lbs. 10° Munich malt
  • 0.5 lbs. Caravienne malt
  • 0.5 oz. Citra hops (13.2% alpha, 4.0% beta), 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Citra hops (13.2% alpha, 4.0% beta), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Citra hops (13.2% alpha, 4.0% beta), 5 minute steep
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (added to mash)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale V yeast (WLP051), prepared in 0.75 L starter 12 hours in advance
  • I mashed in with 5.1 gallons of water at 139.5°; the mash temperature settled at 133.8°. After 15 minutes, the mash was down to 133°.
  • Next, I added 2 gallons of boiling water, which raised the mash temperature to 153°. Temperature was down to 150.4° after 30 minutes and 148° after 45 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes (past the first boiling water addition), I added 7 quarts of boiling water for the mash-out, which raised the temperature to 161°.
  • After 15 minutes, I vorlaufed and then drained the mash tun completely.
  • In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.042. This works out to 75% efficiency - a bit higher than expected!
  • I brought the wort to a boil, for a total of 90 minutes.
  • At 10 minutes and 5 minutes remaining, I threw in the appropriate hops additions. At flame-out, I removed the first two hops bags and added the final bag (1 oz.).
  • I chilled the wort down to 80°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.049 (confirmed on both refractometer and hydrometer). The beer showed signs of fermentation within 7 hours of pitching. I brewed this beer on August 8, 2015.