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!