Monday, June 27, 2011

Brew Day: Aussie Cream Ale

Mmm. Cream ale. I've been dreaming of pouring a cold and brilliantly clear cream ale into a frosty mug, on a hot summer day for a while now. While it may not be the most flavorful of styles or excite your average beer nerd like an IIPA, there is something about this slightly flavorful and alcoholic water substitute that just says "America" to me. Cream ale, a beer best drunk when the weather is hot, the fish are biting, and a hammock in the shade is only a short distance away. BBQ goes especially well with cream ale too. While this is not a style I brew very often at all, maybe once a year, I have a big family gathering to attend next month and I figure this should be a crowd pleaser. The recipe for this one is very simple, just pilsner malt and some flaked maize. However, instead of using a neutral American ale yeast like US-05 or WY1056, I'm going to go with some washed WLP009 Australian Ale. A bit ironic yeast choice, yes, though I liked the clean, lager-like character it gave my Sparkling ale so much I wanted to try it out again.

Official beer of camping
No Snazzy Name : Cream Ale

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.50
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.006
Anticipated SRM: 3.4
Anticipated IBU: 18
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

88.2% - 7.5 lbs. Pilsner Malt
11.8% - 1.0 lbs. Flaked Maize

1.0 oz. Tettnang @ 60 min for 18 IBU
1.0 oz. Tettnang @ flameout

Yeast: WLP009 Australian Ale (washed)
Mash 152F for 75 min
Brewed on 27 June

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smuttynose Porter Tasting(s)

Sometime back in early April, I brewed up a batch of Smuttynose Porter, an American style robust porter that is among my favorites of the style. The recipe I used came directly from the brewery, though I had to tweak it a little bit to accommodate the grains and hops I had available. In particular, I used Amarillo hops instead of Cascade for bittering/aroma and (stupidly) went with a cheap, bland Canadian two-row pale for the base malt. At the time, I didn't think these changes would make a huge difference in the final product. Lastly, while I have brewed the standard recipe before, I had never done a side-by-side tasting of my homebrewed version and the real stuff. This should be interesting.

Smuttynose Porter : Robust Porter

Pretty similar.
Appearance – The commercial version pours a deep, ruby highlighted black with an enormous, large bubbled head that takes up half the glass. I have to wait for the head to settle a bit before pouring the rest of the beer. My homebrewed version pours an equally ruby-black color but with just a moderate amount of head (from the keg) that settles to a thin ring. There is some difference in the color of the head, my version is much lighter. Head retention on both beers isn't great, though I suspect mine may not be completely carbonated. 

Aroma – The real stuff is quite potent with strong grassy/citrusy hops and a deep mocha/chocolate aroma. It smells really nice. My version is very similar, though the rough cascade hoppiness has been replaced with an orange/tangerine aroma. The chocolate character in mine is also a bit mellower, more chocolate syrup and coffee than pure cappuccino. 

Taste – Both versions are very similar to one another. As for the malt flavors, both have lots of dark chocolate, mocha, roasty coffee, and complex caramel sweetness. The commercial version has a slight molasses quality about it that I find a bit cloying - I wonder if pasteurization has a role in this? Bitterness levels are similar, though the commercial version has a stronger hop flavor and more bracing finish. My version seems like a slightly toned down version, much of the same flavors though not so in-your-face about them. I'd say my version is a more balanced while the commercial product has a bit of a kick to it.

Mouthfeel – Here is where you can really tell them apart. My version is has a medium - creamy mouthfeel and low carbonation. In contrast, the commercial stuff drinks like a chocolate milkshake - it is wonderfully silky and thick though a high carbonation keeps it from being too syrupy. I suspect their version has a higher finishing gravity and/or higher mash temp. Differences in the type of water used probably come into effect here too. 

Drinkability & Notes – I am pretty happy with my version. While not entirely 'cloned' per se, the flavors are remarkably similar and the beer is very tasty. Overall, I think my version is more drinkable and not as sweet, though it lacks some of the mocha-like complexity of the real thing. If given a pint of my version in a bar and told it was a Smuttynose Porter, I probably wouldn't notice the difference. Next time I brew this beer, I'll be sure to go back to the original recipe and use the proper base malt and hops. I am kicking myself for using that crappy pale malt, as my version lacked some of those toasty-grainy malt flavors that the real stuff had.

O.G: 1.064, F.G: 1.015, 6.5% ABV, 37 IBU, Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bad Beer Tasting II

As much as we home brewers may not like to admit it, not all of our batches turn out as 'well' as we intend. Yet, while some brewers will gladly drink their sh*tty beer and proclaim how good it is - never admitting they might have messed up - I'm a bit more honest than that. Bad beer is bad beer, admit your mistakes, learn from them, and move on. In this instance, I had a batch of English Mild that turned out pretty crappy. The beer was a slight variation on my standard dark Mild recipe and was brewed with the assistance of a friend during a day of BBQ'ing and drinking. That right there is reason enough for a batch to turn out bad - when you are too drunk and full of food to care about proper brewing, how can you expect good things? Adding to the trainwreck of a brew day, I ended up leaving this beer in the primary for 37 days. What a waste of ingredients and yeast.

Standard Mild : Dark Mild

Appearance – Pours a somewhat hazy, ruby-brown color with a low white head that quickly dissipates to a fine ring. Carbonation is a medium-low. Color is not quite right for this batch.

Aroma – Not terribly aromatic; mild roast, toffee, and coffee with some light fruity esters.

Taste – Not what I was looking for. Medium flavor with some light caramel and chocolaty roast and finishes with a lot of watery coffee flavor. No hop aroma or bitterness is detectable. Fruity esters are medium, with pear and pineapple (!). Not very malty or satisfying. 

Mouthfeel – Thin, watery, with a bit of prickly carbonation. Goes down easy, pretty drinkable considering the flavor is not where it is supposed to be.

Drinkability & Notes – Not terrible, but not good either. Reminds me of a beginner's extract brew that  had some fermentation issues. I suspect this batch may have a slight contamination, due to the lack of head retention and the tropical fruity esters. Sitting in the primary fermenter for nearly 40 days definitely did not help this one. I probably won't finish drinking this batch as I got good beer on tap and I don't see the value in getting fat on crap beer. 

O.G: 1.043, F.G: 1.010, 4.3% ABV, 21 IBU, Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Brew Day: Ordinary Bitter Redeux

While my last attempt at an ordinary bitter turned out ok, there were some issues with the beer that I wasn't completely happy about. First, due to work issues, I wasn't able to keg the beer when I wanted to and had to let beer sit in the primary for more than three weeks. Under normal circumstances, I would never let a low gravity beer sit on the yeast cake for such a long time, especially a bitter. Also, my three/four day dry hop turned into a two week one. As a result, the beer had a slightly muddled flavor and wasn't particularly crisp tasting. Moreover, the Essex ale yeast I used left a 'tart' flavor in the beer, even though my ferment temps for the first week were at a steady 68F. While the beer wasn't as good as I had hoped, I have decided to brew a similar version with a few changes. The grain bill is simpler and the beer is fermented with WY1882 Thames Valley II. Also, as I have finally finished off my old supply of (U.K) EKG hops, I will be using fresh (U.K) "Organic" Kent Goldings for this batch. 

The first version
Creek Bitter II : Standard/Ordinary Bitter

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 5.50
Anticipated OG: 1.036
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 9-12
Anticipated IBU: 30
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes 

90.0%  - 5.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter (TF)
10.0%  - 0.50 lbs. Crystal Malt 80L

0.75 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 22.6 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ 15 min for 8.9 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1882 Thames Valley II
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed 19 June

Edit: The smack pack hardly inflated and the resulting starter produced a tiny amount of yeast after two days. While I was going to let it ride and see if it took off or not, I ended up pitching an additional smack pack just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Brew Day: American IPA w/ Invert No. 1

This just might be the most hops you'll ever see in one of my recipes. At nearly a half-pound of hops for a four gallon batch, this should be one of the hoppier beers I've ever made. The idea for this beer came to me after drinking a few pints of Ithaca's Flower Power IPA on cask at my local; the beer was beautifuly hoppy, dry, bitter, and aromatic, though with enough malt backbone to balance the assault of hop flavor. Such a beer could make a IPA drinker out of me! While my version is not intended to be a clone of any sorts, I thought it would make for a light, hoppy pint and it would give me a chance to use up a bunch of Centennial and Amarillo hops I had laying around.The munich and amber malt should provide a rounded maltiness (with a nod to English IPA) and the Invert syrup will hopefully add a honeyish-sweetness and help dry the beer out a bit. I normally prefer an Amarillo/Simcoe hop schedule, though I am nearly out of Simcoe (like everyone else it seems!).  

Invert India Pale Ale : American IPA
Humphreys Hops

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.00
Anticipated OG: 1.065
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 7.4
Anticipated IBU: 66
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes 

80.0%  - 8.0 lbs. Pale Malt
7.5%    - 0.75 lbs. Munich Malt
2.5%    - 0.25 lbs. Amber Malt 
10.0%  - 1.0 lbs. Invert No. 1 

0.75 oz. Columbus @ 60 min for 34.8 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ 15 min for 6.9 IBU
0.50 oz. Centennial @ 15 min for 8 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ 10 min for 5 IBU
0.50 oz. Centennial @ 10 min for 5.8 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ 5 min for 2.8 IBU
0.50 oz.Centennial @ 5 min for 3.2 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ flameout
0.50 oz. Centennial @ flameout
1.00 oz. Simcoe dry hop (7 days)
1.00 oz. Amarillo dry hop (7 days)

Yeast: Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale
Mash 152F for 75 min
Brewed 12 June

Friday, June 10, 2011

American Wheat Tasting

I don't know what I was thinking when I brewed all those big, heavy porter/stouts in the spring. Now that the summer's hot weather has finally arrived, a dark, roasty 7% beer is not what I am looking for after having mowed the lawn... I don't know how those Jamaicans, Nigerians, and Ceylonese do it. However, thankfully, I have lighter fare on tap. This beer was my attempt at a hoppy wheat beer - something that is very drinkable and refreshing, though has the hop flavor and aroma of an IPA. I figure this keg will get kicked pretty quick.

Summer Beer : American Wheat

Appearance – Pours a very hazy, golden-honey color with a low white head that has good retention. Carbonation is a bit low. Color is pretty much spot on, though I would like the beer to be a bit clearer.

Aroma – Soft wheat aroma with a good dose of tropical/citrus hops and honey. Lots of pineapple, mango, and melon hop character. No yeast esters. Smells quite nice.

Taste – Again, soft wheat and honey flavor with some pleasant yeastiness. No clove or banana esters. Hops are very aggressive in the middle with lots of tropical notes. The simcoe hop contribution is very noticeable. Bitterness is quite strong and lingers throughout the finish. The bitterness is a bit too much.

Mouthfeel – Smooth, creamy, full mouthfeel. Goes down exceedingly easy, though the carbonation could be increased a bit for a bit livelier character.

Drinkability & Notes – Overall, I'm pretty happy with this one. The aroma and flavor of this one is great, like a mix between a witbier, Am. wheat, and your favorite IPA. The only thing I dislike about this beer is that the bitterness is about 10 IBU too much. I aimed for 25 IBU, but I suspect my flameout additions of simcoe and amarillo sat around too long in the whirlpool. Next time I'll make sure to cool the wort a bit before adding those additions. I'll definitely brew this beer again. 

O.G: 1.054, F.G: 1.008, 6.3% ABV, 25 (?) IBU, Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brew Day: Australian Sparking Ale

I can't say I've ever had more than a bottle or two of Coopers Sparkling Ale in my life, though when I came across a lonely tube of WLP009 Australian Ale in the back of the brew store's yeast refrigerator, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. Looking back through some old BYO magazines for ideas on how to make such a beer, I came across an old summer issue on Australian brewing and a basic recipe for a Sparkling Ale clone - Bingo! I pretty much followed the recipe to the book, though I used pale malt instead of pilsner and as I didn't have any Pride of Ringwood hops (or Cluster) I used Nugget instead. When the temperature gets up towards the high nineties, this beer should be pretty tasty!

Brewing on the cheap
Coopers Clone : Sparkling Ale

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.25
Anticipated OG: 1.047
Anticipated FG: 1.005
Anticipated SRM: 5-8
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

84.8%  - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt
9.1%    - 0.75 lbs. White Wheat Malt
6.1%  - 0.50 lbs. CaraAmber 

0.50 oz. Nugget @ 60 min for 25 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ flameout

Yeast: White Labs 009 Australian Ale
Mash 150F for 75 min
Brewed 6 June

Notes: The yeast starter on this one produced a pretty pitiful amount of yeast for pitching. Probably was old yeast. Hopefully fermentation takes off without too much lag time.... it took off within 12 hours. Yay.