Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mild or Porter, Scottish Ale

After a long while of not brewing and not wanting to brew, I'm slowly coming around. I recently brewed an India Pale Lager, loaded with Nelson Sauvin and Brewers Gold hops, and before that I made an Imperial Stout that I aged on cocao nibs and vanilla beans. At just over a month in the keg, that beer is tasting mighty fine. This week, I feel like brewing something a little closer to the heart, especially since I finally got a hold of a yeast that I've always wanted to brew with... believe it or not, Belhaven's house strain. A Scottish styled "something" is in order.

Following my new brewing manta, "don't take stupid s*** too seriously," I am trying to avoid following set beer styles. After years of following the BJCP guidelines for nearly all my beers, there is something about taking a bunch of ingredients and combining them in a way that doesn't quite fit an established beer style that feels rather liberating. For this beer, all I want is something that is dark, malty, and mildly porter-ish tasting, coming in around 3.8% abv. To achieve this, I'm going with a base of Gleneagle Marris Otter and combining smaller amounts of medium and dark crystal, brown malt, chocolate malt, and a wee touch of roasted barley. Hopping is all UK fuggles. Fermentation will held in a plastic bucket, so I can easily harvest all the wonderful, doughy yeast that settles on top of the fermenting beer. And that yeast will be used to brew something else. Something properly Scottish. Maybe from Orkney Brewery?

Malcontent : Mild/Porter       

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.42
Anticipated OG: 1.038
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 22
Anticipated IBU: 18
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
83.1% - 7.00 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
5.9%  - 0.50 lbs. Medium Crystal
3.6%  - 0.30 lbs. Brown Malt
3.6%  - 0.30 lbs. Chocolate Malt 
2.4%  - 0.20 lbs. Extra Dark Crystal
1.4%  - 0.12 lbs. Roasted Barley
  
Hops:
------
1.00 oz. UK Fuggles @ 60 min for 15 IBU
0.50 oz. UK Fuggles @ 10 min for 3 IBU

Yeast: Belhaven Ale
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 23 March

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ain't Dead Yet

Hard to believe its been two months since I've posted anything. The short and simple reason for the lapse has to do with a new job, being around lots and lots of beer every day, and sorta feeling burned out after seven years or so of constant home brewing. For a while there I thought I'd just delete the ole' blog and start something completely new, say, like taking up snowboarding or long distance running. Haha. Seriously though, home brewing is a lot of fun and with hard work, you can make better beer than the big boys, but don't take it too seriously.

Anyways, as my carboys have largely sat abandoned since November, I figured I'd brew something quick and easy. I was originally going to go with a super simple, malty English bitter, but I have a ton of 2012 hops taking up freezer space and I really need to use them up. Therefore, I'm keeping the English malt base and going with a blend of random odds and ends. This blend is mostly Galaxy, Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe. Water is all RO, built up to around 150ppm sulfate and 30ppm chloride. Yeast is some very fresh MJ44 slurry.

Lastly, as a little treat for myself, I opened up one of my last bottles of Gale's Old Prize Ale, date unknown. I was a little worried the beer was going to be a dumper when the cork completely disintegrated as I tried to remove it, but on trying the beer, all was good. Like really freaking good. Unlike the other Old Prize Ales I've sampled, most of which had a meaty-oxidized-yeasty flavor, this one was in top shape, exuding flavors of sherry, balsamic-cherries, and lots of prune and raisin. Like a unsoured version of Rodenbach Grand Cru. I just hope my other bottles taste as good. I'm current trying to culture Brett from the bottle dregs.
                                                                                                           
Hoppy Bitter : American Pale Ale         

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.75
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 9
Anticipated IBU: 40
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
90.3% - 7.00 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
6.5%  - 0.50 lbs. Dark Crystal
3.2%  - 0.25 lbs. Amber Malt

Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Columbus @ 60 min for 13 IBU
1.00 oz. Hop Blend @ 20 min for 16 IBU
1.00 oz. Hop Blend @ 10 min for 11 IBU
3.00 oz. Hop Blend @ flameout

Yeast: MJ44 American Ale
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 9 February

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pale Ale Tasting

For the past few months now, I've had the chance to brew with a number of interesting hop varieties, some of which are experimental and haven't been released to the public. Others are like this hop, Columbia, which has been around for decades but has never seen the light of day. If your not familiar with this hop, there is a good reason why. Apparently, this variety was developed for AB back in the Seventies, in an attempt to create a cultivar that was similar to Fuggles; but it was shelved to obscurity when the AB brew master selected Willamette as their hop of choice. You can read more about the story of these two hops, here and here.

Anyways, a while back, I got a hold of few ounces of Columbia and having previously heard how nice, yet, unappreciated these hops are, I knew I had to use them in a solo-brew. After going back and forth over the recipe, I settled on a basic pale ale, using just Pale Malt (Durst) and around 5% UK medium crystal. Hopping was all Columbia, with additions at 60, 20, 10, and knockout. Yeast was WLP090 San Diego Super, which is fast becoming my favorite yeast for hop-forward, US style beers. In the end, I got a nice beer out of it.

Deep Water ain't bad either...
Columbia: American Pale Ale

Appearance - Pours a slightly hazy, light amber color with a thin, foamy head that leaves nice lacing.

Aroma - First impression is of an earthy and floral hop character with notes of lemon peel and pine needles. The malt is bready and sweet.

Taste - Somewhat restrained hops; sweet citrus, earthy pine, and herbs. The malt character is neutral-bready and has some caramel flavor. Bitterness is smooth, medium-high, and the yeast is clean. A well balanced beer.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is low and the beer has a pleasant, medium mouthfeel.

Drinkability & Notes - Overall, just a nice and sessionable pale ale. The Columbia hops have a pleasant earthy-citrus character that is not unlike Willamette - no surprise there - but the intensity is greater and the flavors are more pungent. They don't have the same citrus character as the big "C" hops, although I could see them finding a special place among the myriad of hoppy craft beers. I would certainly use them again... although as part of a blend. I bet they would go great with Cascade and some of the floral, lighter flavored UK varieties. If you can find some of these hops, give them a try.

O:G: 1.048, F:G: 1.010. 5.0% ABV. 28 IBU. WLP090.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Hop, Old Favorite

Back when I was drinking my way around the UK, one of the first English IPAs that I tried was Caladonia's Deuchars IPA. While most people these days would be hard pressed to consider anything under 6% abv worthy of the name IPA, back then Deuchars was a very nice beer with its floral, citrusy hops and diminutive 3.8-4.4% stature. For an evening spent at the pub, you could drink a lot of the stuff and the casks always seemed to be in good shape. That said, I always thought it tasted best after a few pints. Regardless, I've been wanting to brew an IPA along the same lines as Deuchars for a long time now and I'm finally ready to give it a go.

The recipe I am using is very simple, a mix of Maris Otter and Golden Promise with a small amount of torrified wheat and medium crystal. I want the beer to have a nice malt background, but without the heavy caramel flavors that many English IPA's seem to have these days. Also, as I will be keeping the gravity low (1.045), I want to keep the focus of the beer on the hops, which are a new UK variety from Charles Faram that had its first planting in 2012. Named Jester, this hop is supposed to showcase some of the fruity, citrusy, and "new-world" aromas and flavors found in American and Southern Hemisphere varieties. From what little info I could find, the only commercial beer that has been brewed with these hops so far (that I know of) was Moor's Empire Strikes Back and tasting notes from that beer indicate that it largely lives up to its intended character.  We'll see how it does in my beer. As for the yeast, I'll be using my favorite, WLP006 Bedford Bitter and using a fair amount of sulfate for the water, with a final profile around 150ppm sulfate, 30ppm chloride, and very low alkalinity. Should be good.
  
Galaxy-Nelson Session
Jester IPA: English IPA

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.75
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 6
Anticipated IBU: 42
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
51.4% - 4.50 lbs. Pale Malt, Golden Promise
40.0% - 3.50 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
5.7%  - 0.50 lbs. Torrified Wheat
2.9%  - 0.25 lbs. Crystal 55L

Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Challenger @ 60 min for 14 IBU
1.00 oz. Jester @ 20 min for 15 IBU
1.50 oz. Jester @ 10 min for 13 IBU
3.00 oz. Jester @ flameout

Yeast: WhiteLabs 006 Bedford Bitter
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 17 November

Monday, October 28, 2013

Brew Day: Brown Porter

I have a kegerator full of good beer that desperately needs to be drunk and a fermentation chest filled with stuff that needs to be kegged. I've been brewing like a madman, yet I can't say I've been drinking much. Like practically nothing. Part of the reason for this, and I hate to admit it, is that most of the stuff I have on tap isn't what I would normally sit down and drink more than one pint of. Missing are the bitters, milds, brown ales, and other session-style beers that go down easy and leave you with that "I think I'll have another," moreish feeling. Well, today I am putting that situation right, brewing what I hope will be an easy drinking, session-y porter. Something toeing the line between a porter, mild, and brown ale. Light roast and caramel flavor, with a mellow bitterness and some brown malt toastiness. And not too heavy. The recipe I am using is pretty standard for what I normally brew, although I am trying out a new yeast, a once dual-strain that came from now unknown UK brewery* and has since been in the hands of a very generous yeast rancher. I am told it produces clean and malty beers. We shall see...

Yeoman Porter: Brown Porter
Bitter!
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.70
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 27
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
80.5% - 7.00 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
8.6%  - 0.75 lbs. Dark Crystal (75L)
5.7%  - 0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt
2.9%  - 0.25 lbs. Brown Malt
2.3%  - 0.20 lbs. Pale Chocolate

Hops:
------
1.00 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 25 IBU

Yeast: BH-001
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 27 October

*Apparently, this yeast may have come from the NCYC or Whitbread yeast archives, as an unused selection from a brewing trial many years ago. Little else is known about it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Black IPA Tasting

Admittedly, I am not much of a fan of most commercial black IPAs, or whatever you want to call the style. There is just something about mixing strong pine and citrus character with your typical stout-like roast and chocolate flavors that does not go well together. Often times, BIPA's come across as an overly hoppy American stout or devolves into a train wreck of clashing hops and malts. Nine times out of ten, I'd rather drink something else. With that said, a few breweries do make good examples of the styles, one of which being Wookie Jack, a beer I will gladly drink whenever I can find it on tap.

Regardless, back in early August I had some Wookie at one my locals and figured such a beer would be a nice thing to have on tap when the weather got cold and miserable. With that in mind, I brewed what I think is a pretty good approximation of the real stuff. The recipe I used is close to the real thing, using a sizable amount of rye malt, with smaller portions of cara-rye, carafa, and roasted wheat malts. For hopping, as I had a bunch of odds and ends that I wanted to use up, I went with an unusual mix of varieties, including Columbus, Mt. Hood, Centennial, and Simcoe. After a month+ in the keg, this beer has really turned into something nice.

Wookie II: American Black Ale
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.05
Anticipated OG: 1.068
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 31
Anticipated IBU: 70
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
74.7% - 9.00 lbs. Pale Malt, 2-Row
16.6% - 2.00 lbs. Rye Malt
2.9%   - 0.35 lbs. Cara-Rye
2.9%   - 0.35 lbs. DeBittered Black
2.9%   - 0.35 lbs. Midnight Wheat

Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Columbus @ 60 min for 38 IBU
1.00 oz. Mt. Hood @ 20 min for 14 IBU
1.00 oz. Columbus @ 10 min for 18 IBU
1.00 oz. Simcoe @ flameout
1.00 oz. Mt. Hood @ flameout
1.00 oz. Centennial @ flameout
1.00 oz. Columbus @ dry-hop 7 days
1.00 oz. Centennial @ dry-hop 7 days 
1.00 oz. Mt. Hood @ dry-hop 7 days

Yeast: Wyeast 1764 Pacman
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 13 August
--------------------------

Tasting Notes:

Wookie II: American Black Ale

Appearance - Pours an opaque, ruby tinted black color with a moderate tan head that has good retention.

Aroma -  Aroma on this one jumps out of the glass; a pleasant mix of grapefruity citrus, pine, and lightly-dank hops with a clean and neutral chocolaty malt character.

Taste - Hops lead the way with strong citrus/grapefruit-piney-dank flavor, followed by a spicy and smooth rye malt character. Besides the rye, the malt profile is quite neutral, with very little dark malt. Some chocolate, but that's about it. Bitterness is high and the beer goes down smooth, clean and crisp. Again, Pacman yeast does a fantastic job in dark beers.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is medium-low and the beer has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

Drinkability & Notes - While I can't say this would pass for a Wookie clone, due to the hops, the malt profile is quite similar and the restrained roastiness keeps the flavors from clashing. With that said, I am not completely happy with my choice of hopping; using Mt. Hood was sort of a throw-away choice, since it is much too neutral to impart any character as a mix and while I do like the citrusy-dank contribution that Columbus makes, it seemed to overwhelm everything else when the beer was young. Overall, this is by far the best Black IPA I've brewed and one well worth re-brewing... although without Mt. Hood and the Columbus dry-hop.

7.6% ABV.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Brew Day: Brett IPA

For the past few years now, an increasing number of brewers have begun experimenting with all Brett fermentations (Brett IPA being the classic example) and given how nice these beers taste, I figured it was about time I brew one of my own. For those of you who may not be familiar with Brett fermented beers, the process is as simple as the name suggests. Basically, instead of using a regular Saccharomyces yeast, the entire fermentation is carried out with a Brett culture, namely Brettanomyces bruxellensis, claussenii, or anomalus, among others. The resulting beer tends to exhibit a fruity and mildly funky character, sometimes with a slight tartness. My first introduction to this beer style was with Russian River's Sanctification and Ithaca's wonderful collaboration brew, Super Friends; a hoppy and funky IPA. Since then, Brett fermented beers have become common among US home brewers, especially now that WhiteLabs has made the Brett Trois strain available year-round. 

For my first Brett IPA, I am going with a standard IPA recipe, using a 50/50 mix of pale and pils malt, with smaller amounts of rye, cara-pils, and honey malt. From what I have read on the subject, Brett fermentations can leave the beer with a thin mouthfeel, so it is common for many recipes to contain wheat, oats, rye, caramel malts, and other 'body' boosting ingredients. I figure the specialty malts in my recipe should help with the mouthfeel and keep the beer from tasting watery. As for the hops, I am really changing things up, using two varieties that I have never used before; Santiam and El Dorado. Both of these hops are supposed to have mellow citrus flavors, with the former imparting a citrusy-spicy character and the latter producing flavors that can be described as stone fruit and candied watermelon. Regardless, I figure they should make for an interesting pairing for the Brett yeast. Depending on how the beer tastes out of the primary, I may dry hop it with El Dorado or use another stronger variety.

Oatmeal Stout
Brett IPA: American IPA

Recipe Specifics: 
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.75
Anticipated OG: 1.060
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 5
Anticipated IBU: 48
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
85.1% - 10.00 lbs. Pale and Pils Malt
8.5%   - 1.00 lbs. Rye Malt
4.3%   - 0.50 lbs. CaraPils
2.1%   - 0.25 lbs. Honey Malt

Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Santiam @ 60 min for 10 IBU
1.00 oz. Santiam  @ 15 min for 10 IBU
1.00 oz. El Dorado @ 15 min for 15 IBU
1.00 oz. Santiam  @ 7 min for 5 IBU
1.00 oz. El Dorado  @ 7 min for 8 IBU
1.00 oz. Santiam @ flameout
2.50 oz. El Dorado @ flameout
3.00 oz (???) @ dryhop

Yeast: WhiteLabs 644 Brett Trois
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 1 October

Pitched a decanted, large yeast starter, with primary fermentation at 68F.
10/13 - Gravity is down to 1.012.