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!