Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2016 Orange Summer Wheat Ale Kegged

Tonight (24 February 2016), I kegged my latest orange wheat ale. It had dropped from 1.043 to 1.010 gravity, for 4.3% abv. I added the orange extract (I had filtered out the peel pieces, leaving just the liquid), and it has added a great aroma and flavor. Now it's carbonating, and should be ready to tap in a few days!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Transatlantic IPA 1.1

My Transatlantic IPA recipe turned out really well--in fact, I probably count it as the best full-strength (non-session) I've ever brewed. I wanted to give it another go, both to keep my yeast culture active and also to use up some of the hops I have on-hand. Although I really liked the

This batch is slightly modified from the last version, with the modifications nearly entirely in the hops. I also added a bit of gypsum to the boil.

Transatlantic IPA 1.1

  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Caravienne malt
  • 0.15 lb. pale chocolate malt
  • 1 oz. Bravo hops pellets (13.2% alpha, 3.5% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. U.S. Fuggle hops pellets (4.5% alpha, 3.1% beta), 20 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. Falconer's Flight 7C's 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 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (5 minute boil)
  • 1 tsp. gypsum (added at beginning of boil)
  • 1 pkg. Vermont Ale Yeast (The Yeast Bay), prepared in 1 L starter
  • I made a two-step yeast starter, with the first step initiated on 14 February, 2016. This used 0.5L of water with 55 g of extra light DME and a bit of yeast nutrient. On 16 February, I cold-crashed the starter. On 17 February, I decanted most of the spent wort and then added another 1.5L of starter (165 g DME dissolved in the appropriate amount of water). On 20 February, I decanted 0.6L of the starter to a jar for storage (assuming this reached a little over 100 billion cells), and the remainder was set aside for the beer.
  • Because my software calculated such a small addition for the first round of batch sparging (0.43 gallons), I figured I would just skip the first sparge round. I did notice that my wort had a little more grain material coming in from the mash tun than normal; I will have to check my crush. I also noticed on the past few batches that I've been drawing off a bit more water than anticipated (approximately an extra half-gallon); I'll have to adjust my dead-space downward on the software, too.
  • I mashed in with 5.3 gallons of water at 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 152.5°. The mash was down to 149° after 40 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed collected the first runnings.
  • 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 7.1 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, for a mash efficiency of 73%.
  • I added all of the hops and other goodies per the schedule above, and turned off the heat after 60 minutes.
  • I chilled the wort down to 76°, transferred it to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast starter. Approximately 6 gallons of wort went into the primary.
  • The starting gravity for this beer is 1.060, a bit lower than calculated. I had the boil set a bit less vigorous than typical, so that along with the larger-than-anticipated wort volume likely contributed. I'm starting fermentation at ambient (65°), and will move it to my fermentation chamber once that frees up. I brewed this on 20 February. When I checked on the beer the next morning, about 8 hours after pitching the yeast, fermentation had already started.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Beer Tasting: Dad's 3P

My first foray into a pilsner is nearing the end of its keg, so I wanted to make sure to get a tasting in before it was gone. I served it at a recent party, which depleted a good chunk of the supply, and gave away a few growlers, also. It's not that I don't like the beer--I do!--but I didn't want to tie up too much equipment with something that required unique handling for serving temperature (cold, cold, cold) and carbonation pressure (high, high, high).

Dad's Pre-Prohibition Pilsner

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.051; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.5%; estimated IBU = 30.
  • Aroma
    • This beer showcases a crisp and slightly spicy hoppiness, with a hint of corn sweetness behind that.
  • Appearance
    • Clarity is a touch off of the brilliant I was aiming for; there is a very faint chill haze, which is unfortunate (more on this later). The beer has an exceptionally tall and thick white head when poured, almost meringue-like in its texture and fineness. Retention is excellent; it sticks around as a full blanket over the beer until the very end. Despite the very minor chill haze, the effervescence of the beer gives a very nice visual too. The beer itself is a pale straw color.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor profile is quite clean, with crisp hops at the front and a clean but simple malt bill behind that. I definitely taste the corn backing up the rest of the beer, and perhaps a hint of the rye spiciness (although I don't think I would pick it up if I didn't know it was supposed to be there). It's a reasonably bitter beer, but not overly so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a light-bodied beer, with high carbonation (as appropriate for the style). The finish is dry, and very clean. A lingering but not overpowering hop bitterness rounds out each tasting.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I feel like this is a very solid, but not perfect, first try at a pilsner. There's a lot that hit the mark with this brew. The flavor and aroma are incredibly clean, without any DMS or diacetyl or fruitiness. It's a tasty, easy-drinking beer, perfect for warmer weather. The color is a bit too light for the Classic American Pilsner style, and the slight haze is also an issue in terms of the strict style. That said, these don't matter much for me in terms of taste enjoyment, although they are things I want to work out for the next batch of whatever pilsner I do.

      I think the haze in this case was compounded by two things. First, I added the gelatin to the keg, rather than the fermenter. I think next time I'll add to the fermenter and let it work its magic in there for a few days before kegging. Second, I let the keg warm up a bit one night after serving, coupled with a bit of movement/sloshing, that probably didn't help things either. So, I'll aim to be a bit more careful with my handling next time, and see if that fixes things.

      For my next pilsner, I'll probably go with something a little more "traditional", just to see how that goes.
  • Overall
    • 6 / 10

Friday, February 19, 2016

Beer Tasting: Red Star Imperial Stout

More than two months after brewing and about 5 weeks after kegging, I wanted to do a taste-test of my imperial stout. This tasting was done prior to our club competition, so as to not bias my opinion on it one way or another. In the competition itself, it was at the top for the homebrewed entries, although just barely! A two year old entry from another club member was just behind mine in the overall scoring.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.098; final gravity = 1.031; abv = 9.1%; estimated IBU = 66.5.
  • Aroma
    • Aroma is rich and moderately roasty, with a faint earthy note and a very slight alcohol tinge in the background. As the beer warms up, the booziness comes a little more to the forefront, but is not overwhelming. The aroma is rich enough that it blows out the smell receptors pretty quickly. I don't pick up any level of fruitiness.
  • Appearance
    • This beer is black, or a rich chocolate brown when viewed at an angle. The head is low, thin, and brown, which rapidly subsides to a ring around the edge of the glass. This bit of head is pretty persistent, though.
  • Flavor
    • Flavor-wise, this beer has a prominent malt character that is distinctly roasty (coffee-like) and a tad burnt on the finish. As the beer warms up, I get some chocolate notes, too. There is a tinge of alcohol heat, but that is definitely in the background. This is balanced against a hefty dose of bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This beer has really great body, and a slightly creamy feel on the tongue. The finish is medium-dry, with a lingering roasty finish. It has maybe a touch more bitterness on the extended finish than I care for, but this is fairly minor in the overall beer. Carbonation is moderate and seems appropriate for the style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This beer turned out pretty well, particularly for a "big" style that I haven't attempted previously. For what it is (imperial stout), it's a pretty good beer. I'm missing out on a bit of the malt complexity in the flavor (I think), but that also could be my unrefined palate. Attenuation seems spot on--I was worried this might have underattenuated or ended up a bit cloying, but that is definitely not the case. So would I brew this again? Sure, I think it's a pretty good recipe, although not so exceptional that I wouldn't try others, too. I'll be curious to see how that assessment changes as the beer ages. I also should say I don't see myself making imperial stouts that often--I just don't care for "big" beers, and it's a lot of effort for a beer that I'm only moderately interested in (even if I think it tastes pretty decent).
  • Overall score: 7/10

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Beer Tasting: Alt-Alt Ale

My altbier has been on tap for over a month, and seems to be at peak flavor. Time for a tasting!
  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.052, final gravity = 1.008, abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 28.
  • Aroma
    • Exceptionally malty, with a strong caramel/sweet note (thank you, honey malt!). I do not pick up much in the way of hops, esters, or other components.
  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, with a deep amber, almost copper, hue. The head is low and ivory colored, with excellent retention.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately-high degree of maltiness, which is predominated by caramel aspects at the front end and a bit of breadiness at the back. It is rather bitter, and the bitterness has a distinct but clean character. There is a very modest perception of sweetness, but it is not overwhelming. The maltiness and hopiness are really nicely balanced, although it is definitely the bitterness that lingers longest on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a medium-bodied beer, with medium-high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I quite like this beer, particularly as a way to try out a new style along with some malts that depart from my usual repertoire. The gelatin definitely did the trick for fining this out (particularly so when melded with the ingredient of time in the keezer). It departs from the altbier style in some ways (e.g., head is a bit lower than optimal for the style, and I didn't use much in the way of German ingredients), but as a variation on that theme, it's darned good. I can't say it is in my "brew and drink every day" category (it's a little too 'massive' of a beer for that), but it's definitely in the "brew every once in awhile and enjoy" category.
  • Overall rating
    • 8 / 10

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Special Beer Review: Heady Topper

A friend was out east recently, and brought me back a can of Heady Topper! I've never had this legendary beer before, so I thought I would really slow down and savor the experience by doing a formal tasting. Here it is!

I disobeyed the directions on the can, and poured most of the contents into a glass. I left a bit in the can, though, and talk about the distinctions at the end of the post.
  • Appearance
    • Hazy light gold beer, with a thick and sticky cream-colored head that leaves some fine lacing on the glass.
  • Aroma
    • Piney and slightly dank aroma, with a hint of peach/apricot behind it. As the beer settles down, the aroma is milder.
  • Flavor
    • Definitely hop-forward, with a smooth and well-rounded bitterness that ramps up as I drink it. The hop character is quite resiny and piney. I don't pick up much in the way of other flavors, but that might just be my palate. Malts are in the background; I can't say anything in particular about them.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a medium body, with a slick mouthfeel; it really coats the tongue. I'm guessing that must be the hops.
  • Overall
    • This beer definitely lives up to the hype, although I am curious how I would view it in a blind tasting. The hype is probably part of the experience, and definitely set me up to want to enjoy it. It's interesting reading reviews on Beer Advocate and places like that...there is a very subjective element (I think the technical term is "BS"). Really...passionfruit and cracker alongside 20 other flavors? I suppose...
Is it that different in the glass versus from the can? Not in flavor, certainly. I perceive the aroma as different, but I think that's largely because of the metallic aroma from the can itself. This shifts the overall aroma more towards the citrusy side--very interesting, but definitely not a "real" character of the beer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2016 Orange Summer Wheat Ale

One of the better brews during the "early" stage of my homebrewing career was an orange wheat ale. Inspired by Hangar 24's offering, my overall recollection is that I got some nice orange flavor into the mix. I would like to make this again, but with the massive changes in my brewing techniques (particularly the switch to all-grain), I needed a nearly complete reformulation. I'm also adjusting the recipe for the hops I have on-hand.

It's still a fairly simple recipe, and one that I hope turns out well. My other experimental change this time is to modify the way I handle the oranges. In the previous batches, the whole oranges (crushed) went into the fermenter along with the zest. For this iteration of the recipe, I'm going to soak the zest in vodka and add it at kegging.

2016 Orange Summer Wheat Ale
  • 5.75 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 2.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.5 lbs. 10° L crystal malt
  • 0.25 lbs. rice hulls
  • 1.25 oz. Mt. Hood hops pellets (5.75% alpha, 30 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. American Hefeweizen Ale yeast (White Labs WLP320), prepared in 1.25 L starter
  • Zest of 3 medium to large oranges (1 navel, 2 Valencia), steeped in a few ounces of vodka
  • The day before brewing, I made a starter of 1.25L water and 125 g of light DME. I added the yeast culture, and let it run for around 20 hours.
  • I mashed in with 3.6 gallons of water at 164.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. The temperature was down to 149.5° after 40 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.25 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash temperature to 154°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 190°, and a little ice to cool the mash down, and got a temperature of 165°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the runnings.
  • All told, I collected 6.9 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.036. This equates to 74% mash efficiency.
  • I started the boil, and added the hops after 30 minutes. After 60 minutes total, I turned off the heat and chilled the beer to 72°. I pitched the yeast and sealed the fermenter. 
  • Starting gravity was 1.043, with 5.5 gallons into the fermenter. Fermentation had taken off within 12 hours. Because my fermentation chamber was currently on hold for lagering, I am fermenting this beer at ambient temperature. This means the brew is about 68°, give or take a degree.
  • I brewed this up on Monday, February 9.