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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brewers Gold Tasting

For as long as I have wanted to try a pint or two of Crouch Vale's Brewers Gold, I have also been equally hesitant to brew a clone recipe of it. For there has been so much talk about this beer that seemingly no home brew attempt could ever live up to the hype and fanfare that surrounds this two-time, Champion Beer of Britain. Especially when you look at the recipe and see how simple it is, it becomes painfully obvious that such a beer leaves no room for error. One malt, one hop, some yeast, and a lot of skill are required to get this one just right. Well, after many months of waiting, I finally got around to brewing the recipe, although with a few slight changes. Instead of using lager malt, I used Golden Promise and I went with two hop additions of Brewer Gold instead of one. With that said, while I can't call my version a clone, it should at least be a decent enough representation of what the real Brewers Gold tastes like. Here are the tasting notes...

Brewers Gold: English Golden Ale/Bitter

Appearance - Pours a very clear, pale gold and straw color with a small white head that has decent retention. No finings used with this one.

Aroma - Candied orange and lemon peel, black berries, and a slightly spicy-herbal hoppiness. Some faint tropical fruit character is evident and the malt is mostly clean and neutral. Little to no yeast esters. Surprisingly lager like.

Taste - Similar to aroma. Hops lead the way with their strange mix of American and UK flavors - it is both citrusy, herbal, spicy and earthy - but they don't jump out of the glass in the way they are reputed to. Some tropical fruit notes, but not nearly to the extent of most American/Aussie/NZ varieties. The malt character is very clean, with some soft biscuit flavor. Bitterness is firm and lingering and the yeast is clean and almost unremarkable, save for a touch of mineral character. Beer finishes as clean and crisp as anything I've brewed.

Mouthfeel - Low carbonation makes for an easy drinking pint, mouthfeel is just about perfect.

Drinkability & Notes - Compared to what your average US craft beer geek blogs about, this is pretty boring stuff. It just doesn't have the punchy hop and malt character that people look for and you pretty much know you're drinking a 4.5% beer. On the other hand, I am very surprised how many layers of flavors there are in these Brewers Gold hops and there is something about the simplicity and cleanliness of the beer that immediately brings to mind the image of a hoppy pilsner. I also think I did a good job of brewing it, regardless of how interesting it tastes. Overall, I enjoy drinking this one and am glad I brewed it, although it isn't the beer of my dreams. That said, I'd still love to see what the real stuff would taste like on cask. I'd imagine it'd really shine...

Additional Thoughts:

First off, I will be brewing this one again. Eh... ok, something similar. I like the simplicity of the recipe (it is a testament to the "less is more" way of thinking) and these Brewers Gold hops are worth revisiting. However, I feel my version is missing something. This beer needs more malt or yeast character, or a mix of both. Or, just double the amount of hops.

The yeast. I am honestly befuddled on this one. I can't seem to get a good handle on what exactly this WLP022 yeast is up to. One moment it is yeasty-bready-minerally and the next it as clean and crisp and nice as anything I've used before. Maybe it has something to do the fact that I cultured this yeast from the bottom of a keg, after it had been sitting around at 42F for a month+. Maybe I should do the same thing with this keg? Regadless, I am happy how the yeast performed and the water profile with the low sulfate is nice change of pace too.

4.5% ABV, 28 IBU, Whitelabs 022 Essex Ale. Recipe Here

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brew Day: Harvest Amber

For the past few years now, when September comes around and my brewing interests move on to maltier beer styles, I've brewed what I consider a 'harvest bitter.' While you wont find such a thing in any style guideline, I like to think that harvest bitters and/or ales are amber colored and easy drinking malty beers with an emphasis on caramel malts and earthy hops. And rich yeast esters. With that said, I can't say that I've had the best success executing such a thing. Last year's version turned out merely ok, pretty "meh" overall, and the batch before that ended in complete disaster, getting dumped out, due to fermentation off flavors.

With that mind, the beer I am brewing this time is a step apart from those before, as I am forgoing the whole 'bitter' thing and instead brewing an American Amber ale. As for the recipe, I am using Gambrinus' ESB malt - which is basically a more flavorful 2-row with a lightly toasted grain character - and rounding things out with a light and dark crystal and some pale chocolate malt for color. I have been brewing my amber ales with this malt bill for sometime now and I've been very happy with the results. As for the hops, going along with the 'harvest' theme, I am using a mix of my recently dried Cascade and Northern Brewer hops for flavor, and throwing in some Amarillo for a stronger citrus aroma.

Lastly, for the yeast, I am using WhiteLabs 051 California Ale V. While I've used this yeast with good succes in the past, my principle reason for using it this time is to see how it compares to the Mangrove Jack M44 West Coast Ale yeast. I've been brewing with this yeast quite a bit lately - I made two pale ales and an amber with it, all of which turned out fantastic, tasting notes to come - and I would like to see if the MJ44 strain is indeed just a dried version of Wyeast and Whitelabs 1272/051. From observing the differences in fermentation between the yeasts so far, it seems like they might just be different strains after all. How it compares to Danstar's BRY-97 West Coast Ale (the Ballantine II strain) will be left for another brew day. If the resulting beer is moderately malty and my homegrown hops don't taste like garlic and onions, I'll be happy.

Goldings
Harvest Amber: American Amber

Recipe Specifics: 
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.40
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 14
Anticipated IBU: 30
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
89.3% - 7.50 lbs. Gambrinus ESB Malt
6.0%   - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
3.0%   - 0.25 lbs. Crystal 120L
1.8%   - 0.15 lbs. Pale Chocolate

Hops:
------
0.75 oz. Northern Brewer @ 60 min for 20 IBU
0.50 oz. Homegrown Cascade @ 15 min for 7 IBU
0.50 oz. Homegrown Northern Brewer @ 5 min for 3 IBU
0.50 oz. Homegrown Cascade @ flameout
1.50 oz. Amarillo @ flameout

Yeast: WhiteLabs 051 California Ale V
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 8 September

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irish Stout Tasting

When people ask what got me interested in home brewing, the story always starts the same way; 'There I was, sitting at the bar of an old man pub in Cork, Ireland, drinking a few pints of Beamish Stout....' Looking back, it wasn't so much the beer that I was drinking that peaked my interest in brewing, for Beamish isn't exactly the be-all and end-all of Irish stouts, but rather the setting and beer culture that was seemingly infused in every pint. It was the old weathered bar, photos of Irish saints and sinners, the slow burning peat fire, and the tweed-capped gent who'd sit by the door of the pub each afternoon with a Guinness in hand and quietly read the Irish Times. It was the stillness of the place and the slow, content, passage of time... a far cry from the loud, drunken, and wholly obnoxious boozers back home. A place where once could sit and enjoy a beer without care or concern. That is, until the yobs came out to play.

This being my 200th post and all, of which I hope there will be many more, it is appropriate then that I am reviewing the beer style that started me on my home brewing journey. This beer was brewed in early August and while it is in no way supposed to be a Beamish clone, it sorta turned out that way. The principle difference with this Irish stout and those I've brewed before, is that I went back to using flaked barley and Pacman yeast. I also used a new water profile for this beer, one that was light on the sulfate and high(ish) on the chloride. In the end, I got a tasty beer out of it. Bonus points for those of you who remember Guinness' Brewhouse Series.

Cramer's Lane: Irish Dry Stout

Appearance - Pours an opaque black with a small tan head that quickly settles to a fine ring. Ruby highlights when held to the light. Retention is somewhat poor.

Aroma - Pretty standard for a low gravity dry-stout. Lightly roasted malt, chocolate, and weak coffee. Faint fruity yeast esters and no hop character. Smells nice, although the aroma could be stronger.

Taste - Similar to aroma. Chocolatey-roast and light, Americano coffee. Some bready malt character and the beer finishes clean, smooth, and moderately bitter. No hop character. Tastes like a more flavorful Beamish or Murphys, although it lacks the creamy-smooth contribution that the nitro tap provides. Simple, but good.

Mouthfeel - Pleasantly smooth and creamy, even with the low alcohol and moderately dry finish.

Drinkability & Notes - While it's not the Irish stout of my dreams, it is better than the majority of dry-stouts that I can get around here. It also gets top marks for drinkability and the flavors are quite nice, buuut.... it does seem a bit weak on the malt complexity. Need to work on that. Aside, I recently brought a growler of this beer to a party and it went over very well, with one lifelong Guinness drinker even mentioning that he'd regularly buy it. So that's good, I think? In short, for a 4.2% dry stout, this beer turned out well. Just a few things to work on.

Additional Thoughts:

First, the Pacman yeast did a great job. Fermented quickly, cleanly, and gave the beer a nice mouthfeel, which is important in small beers that need a low FG. Next time, I might increase the ferment temp a little, to try and coax some fruity esters out of the yeast, but all in all I am very happy with how the yeast did. So much better than WY1028 and WY1056. No comparison.

Things to improve on are better head retention/creamier mouthfeel - I'll probably give in and increase the flaked barley to 20% - and I would like more overall malt/roast complexity. Maybe increase the roasted barley %, or try out some other roasted barley. The amount of chocolate malt seems about right. Lastly, I was also very happy with the water profile, low sulfate and high(ish) chloride is the way to go. And no high sodium...

 4.2% ABV, 25 IBU, Wyeast 1764 Pacman. Recipe Here

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Brew Day: English Bitter(s)

With a kegerator full of dark and hoppy beer and nary a session beer in sight, I am feeling a bit ashamed that I haven't got around to brewing a proper English bitter in what seems like ages; especially since my favorite English yeast was released back in July (WLP006 Bedford Bitter) and I haven't brewed a damn thing with it. Well that is soon to change. Today I am brewing two beers, a rather standard special bitter and an interesting, hoppy bitter that uses a resurrected yeast and Brewers Gold hops. Can you guess which beer this one is going to be?

The first beer of the day is another variation of my standard special bitter recipe, consisting of Maris Otter, English dark crystal (75L), and a small amount of biscuit malt. Hopping is all EKG and the yeast is, of course, Bedford Bitter. Two things worth noting about this one. First, I have always been a rather vocal proponent of NOT adding aromatic, biscuit, or special roast to English bitter recipes, as I feel they are not needed in recipes that make use of high quality base malts, but alas, I am breaking my own rule for the sake of trying something new. I actually wanted to use some home-toasted malt, for a bit of that crackery/toasted flavor, but I didn't have any on hand. Secondly, this beer will be brewed with a moderately soft water profile, using around 125ppm of sulfate and low amounts of everything else. The goal here is to end up with a well balanced beer; slightly hoppy and biscuity/honeyed in flavor, with a crisp and clean finish. I am very much looking forward to getting this one on tap!

If you couldn't guess, the second beer is the somewhat legendary Crouch Vale Brewers Gold. Ever since I first came across this beer while browsing through a list of GBBF champions, years ago, I knew I had to brew it. Well, I finally found some Brewers Gold hops and after a bit of back-and-forth about what I wanted to do for a recipe, I settled on something that I hope will get me close enough to the real thing. While the very popular Kris England recipe (found here and here), calls for using only lager malt and adding all of the hops at 15 minutes from flameout, I decided to take a different approach. Having asked a few people that had brewed the recipe what they thought of it, it seemed like the general consensus was that it made a pretty tasty and moderately hoppy beer... but is quite bland compared to what most craft beer drinkers are accustomed to. I decided to use Golden Promise and divide the hopping into two equal parts, one at 15 min and another at flameout. The goal here is to end up with a beer that has more malt character than what the lager malt provides and is also a tad more floral/hoppier. However, I will be using the actual Crouch Vale yeast... the ex-Ridley's... WLP022 Essex Ale. I restarted the yeast from the bottom of my keg of English IPA and it looks to be in great shape.

Saving the yeast
Creek Bitter II: English Special Bitter

Recipe Specifics: 
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.75
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 10
Anticipated IBU: 30
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
88.9% - 6.00 lbs. Maris Otter
7.4%   - 0.50 lbs. Dark Crystal (75L)
3.7%   - 0.25 lbs. Biscuit Malt

Hops:
------
0.75 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 22 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ 15 min for 8 IBU
1.50 oz. EKG @ flameout

Yeast: WhiteLabs 006 Bedford Bitter
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 2 September

--------------------

Brewers Gold: English Golden Ale

Recipe Specifics: 
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.5
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 5
Anticipated IBU: 28
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
100% - 7.5 lbs. Pale Malt, Golden Promise

Hops:
------
1.50 oz. Brewers Gold @ 15 min for 28 IBU
1.50 oz. Brewers Gold @ flameout

Yeast: WhiteLabs 022 Essex Ale
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 2 September
 
The water profile for the Brewers Gold beer is a big change from the norm, using low sulfate (38ppm) and high chloride (70pmm). I wanted to see what type of effect this will have on a yeast that produces a fair amount of mineral character by itself. Will it be minerally or not? Nearly 100% RO water was used for both beers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

East India Porter, Imperial Tasting

After a few months of aging and many more samples enjoyed in the name of testing, I finally put this beer on tap and boy, it is sure to cause problems. I've got more friends waiting for a growler fill of this stuff as there is beer to go around. I guess I'll just have to keep it all for myself! If you are not familiar with the premise of this beer, basically what I did was to take a historical East India Porter recipe - one that makes a fantastic beer by the way - and brew it at Imperial Stout strength with American hops. Given how well the original version turned out, I figured upping the gravity by twenty points and subbing the EKG for something a bit fruitier wouldn't be half bad. I am very happy to say this beer has turned out as well as I had hoped and it is sure to re-brewed in another form sometime soon.

Barclay Perkins 1859 EI : Keeping Brown Stout

Appearance - Pours an inky and opaque black color with a small tan head that has some retention.

Aroma - Piercing citrus and grapefruity hops enveloped in a blanket of chocolate liqueur, coffee, and cocoa. There is little subtlety here, the aroma jumps out of the glass and bludgeons your senses.

Taste - Bitter and resinous grapefruity hops, followed by an intense chocolate and coffee liqueur character that completely overwhelms everything else. Kahlua, espresso, burnt toast, and lightly roasted malt flavors too. The amount of bitterness and hop character in the beer is very high, giving the fleeting impression of a Black IPA, but the hoppiness is quickly smothered by layers of chocolaty malt character.
  
Mouthfeel - Silky and full bodied with low carbonation. The beer finishes medium-dry.

Drinkability & Notes - What to say? I could have easily drunk this beer within a week of kegging, it tasted so good, but nearly three months of aging has only made it better. This is one of the best 'big' beers that I have brewed and the recipe and process is well worth repeating. As for taste comparisons, this beer has same intensity of flavor as many craft brewed Imperial Stouts (Great Divide's Yeti comes to mind) although this beer is a tad lighter and nimbler in character; it packs a wallop, but the flavor doesn't linger with the same oily heaviness.

Additional Thoughts:

I was worried that the use of C-hops in such a beer was going to be too much, but I really like the hop character where it is now. The hoppiness is big and decidedly "American," but unlike many highly hopped dark beers, the hops and roast character in this one don't clash. The beer simply lacks those acidic roast flavors. Also, these Centennial-Type hops are also very potent, considering how little I used and the amount of aroma/flavor I got from them.

Brown malt. There is something about using 20+% brown malt in these recipes that just makes a world of difference. I swear I get more chocolate character using brown malt at these precentages than I do if I were to use a similar amount of regular chocolate malt.

 8.5% ABV, 75 IBU, Wyeast 1056 American Ale. Recipe Here 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nelson-Galaxy Pale Ale, II

When I brewed this beer back in early July, my overall goal was to make an American Pale Ale that had the hop character of an IPA and some of the easy drinking, sessionable qualities of an APA. Basically, an IPA without the the 7+% ABV and high, biting bitterness. Also, as I was using some very tropical-fruity hops (Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin), I didn't want to use a lot of specialty malts in the beer, lest I muddled that amazing hop character. Taking a page from a local brewery that makes a similarly fruity IPA - Ithaca's Flower Power - I went with a simple malt bill of continental pale ale malt and a nearly inconsequential amount of honey malt. As is the case with Flower Power, I like how the simplest malt bills can really help showcase the complex, fruity character of the hops used. For the yeast, I went with a re-pitch of some WLP060 American Ale Bend, as this yeast makes a very clean and crisp tasting beer, and I also wanted to see if the yeast would produce an even cleaner beer with subsequent generations. Shortly put, it does! When all was brewed and kegged, I got a pretty good beer out of it. So good, that even though I just bought a half-case of Heady Topper (canned just over a week ago), I sorta prefer drinking my beer over theirs... although theirs is certainly hoppier and more complex tasting.

Nelson-Galaxy: American Pale Ale
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.25
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 5
Anticipated IBU: 45
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
97.6% - 10.00 lbs. Pale Malt
2.4%   - 0.25 lbs. Honey Malt

Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Nelson Sauvin @ 20 min for 18 IBU
0.50 oz. Galaxy @ 15 min for 13 IBU
0.50 oz. Nelson Sauvin @ 10 min for 9 IBU
0.50 oz. Galaxy @ 5 min for 5 IBU
1.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin @ flameout
1.50 oz. Galaxy @ flameout
1.50 oz. Galaxy @ dry-hop 7 days
1.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin @ dry-hop 7 days

Yeast: WLP060 American Ale Blend
Mash 154F for 60 min
Brewed on 1 July
--------------------------

Tasting Notes:

Galaxy APA: American Pale Ale

Appearance - Pours a hazy, light orange/amber color with a two-finger white head that has decent retention.

Aroma -  Big tropical fruit; papaya, mango, and passionfruit with a piney-musky earthiness. The beer has a prominent "juicy/sweet" character, similar to overripe fruit. Hops, hops, hops.

Taste - Tropical fruit dominates - passionfruit, mango, papaya - followed by a slight piney and earthy muskiness that lingers into the finish. Overall, the hop character is quite strong and IPA-like, although there is just enough malt character to keep everything in balance. Bitterness is medium-high.

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

Drinkability & Notes - Again, this hop combo doesn't disappoint. I love the mix of tropical fruit and pine from the Galaxy and the earthy-dank-fruity flavor that the Nelson hops seems to provide. In many ways, this hop combo is very 'American' in character, although it does lack some of the the punchy, citrus fruit intensity that most "C" hops have. And that is a good thing. It tastes both familiar and completely exotic. No complaints as the beer sits now, although next time I will probably dial back the Nelson (in the boil) and add a small amount of Simcoe to both the flameout and dry hop addition for a bit more complexity. 

5.7% ABV.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Brew Day: Irish Stout

Just over a year ago, I brewed an Irish Stout and in the writeup outlined some of the difficulties that I've encountered while trying to brew the style. In short, while I feel as if I can make a pretty darn good example of the style - at least to BJCP standards - I have yet to brew an Irish Stout that (perfectly) represents everything I like about this type of beer. That is, a complex and balanced beer with a mix of roast, chocolate, and coffee-type flavor... all rolled up into a silky smooth, dark beer. A tough thing to achieve.

This time around, I'm going to build off the success of my last attempt and keep the recipe pretty much the same. The only main difference being that instead of using malted or flaked wheat, I'll be substituting it for a near equal amount of flaked barley. The hope is that the flaked barley will provide a thicker and silkier mouthfeel than the wheat. For the roasted malt, I will be using a mixture of  roasted barley and chocolate malt. Also, after messing about with different yeasts, I will be going back to my old standby and favorite all around yeast for stouts: Pacman! While I used to use this yeast almost exclusively for my Irish Stouts, availability issues and the lure of experimentation put an end to that. Regardless, I like how this yeast ferments out clean and fast (often with some mildly fruity esters), attenuates well, and lends a pleasant mouthfeel even when the level of attenuation is quite low. Lastly, for hopping, I am going simple and clean, using EKG for just bitterness. Looking forward to getting this beer on tap.

Irish Red Ale
Cramer's Lane : Irish Dry Stout
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.75
Anticipated OG: 1.042
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 30
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
77.4% - 6.00 lbs. Pale Malt, UK
12.9% - 1.00 lbs. Flaked Barley
6.5%   - 0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley (Muntons)
3.2%   - 0.25 lbs. Chocolate Malt (Fawcett)

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

Yeast: Wyeast 1764 Pacman
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 29 July

Notes: Yeast was pitched at 60F (with plenty of pure oxygen) and took off within 12 hours. Fermentation rose to a max of 64F, where it later finished fermenting three days later. Good flocculation. Addittionally, I changed things up with the water profile, toning down the sulfate (35ppm) and keeping the chloride high (75ppm). We'll see if it makes much of a difference.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Back at It... English IPA

It has been nearly a month since I've posted anything and while I'd like to say the reason for the lapse has something to do with too much work and a lack of brewing/drinking, that isn't the case at all. I've actually been brewing more than I have in a long time and work has finally slowed to the point that my weekends have become somewhat enjoyable again. Rather, the real reason for not posting has more to do with needing a break from blogging and the growing sense that my home brewing was becoming more about making 'interesting stuff' and experimenting with new ingredients, than just brewing the beers that I like to drink. Also, you can blame my friend Matt, who graciously gave me all 20 seasons of Time Team on DVD. Thanks Matt!

Regardless, back in early June I picked up a vial of WLP022 Essex Ale yeast on a whim and after some back and forth on what to brew, decided on a hoppy English IPA. I actually wanted to use the yeast to make a Crouch Vale's Brewers Gold clone - as this is supposedly the same yeast they use in that beer - but alas, I didn't have the ingredients on hand (again!). For this beer, I used a base of Golden Promise malt, with an almost inconsequential amount of torrified wheat and amber malt, and then loaded the boil with Challenger and First Gold hops. I figured the spiciness of the Challenger hops would pair nicely with the floral, marmalade-orange tasting First Gold. It turned out to be a nice pairing after all.

Golden IPA : English IPA

Recipe Specifics: 
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.00
Anticipated OG: 1.058 
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 5
Anticipated IBU: 48
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
92.5% - 10.00 lbs. Golden Promise
5.0%   - 0.50 lbs. Torrified Wheat
2.5%   - 0.25 lbs. Amber Malt

Hops:
------
0.50 oz. First Gold @ 60 min for 18 IBU
0.50 oz. Challenger @ 15 min for 16 IBU
0.50 oz. First Gold @ 15 min for 21 IBU
0.50 oz. Challenger @ 10 min for 13 IBU
0.50 oz. First Gold @ 10 min for 10 IBU
1.50 oz. Challenger @ flameout
1.50 oz. First Gold @ flameout 
0.50 oz. Challenger @ dry-hop 
0.50 oz. First Gold @ dry-hop

Mash 150F for 75 min
Brewed on 18 June/Kegged 6 July
---------------------
Tasting Notes:

Less carbonated
Golden IPA : English IPA

Appearance - Pours a very clear, golden-yellow color with a thin white head that leaves some lacing.

Aroma - Floral and earthy English hops dominate; orange rind, sweet herbs, lemon, and spice. Some toasty malt character and the yeast is mostly neutral. Few esters, although some mineral character becomes evident as the beer warms.

Taste - First impression is of spicy and citrus-lite English hops with the Challenger hop contribution particularly standing out. Hop character is strong, but not nearly to that of West-Coast IPA standards. The malt character is clean and lightly biscuity and does a good job of keeping the focus on the hops while providing some maltiness in support. Bitterness is high and the beer finishes dry, clean and crisp, with a firm mineral character.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is medium-low and the beer has a pleasant mouthfeel.
 
Drinkability & Notes - Certainly among my best attempts at a UK style Golden Ale/IPA. The beer has good hop aroma/flavor, enough malt and yeast character to keep things interesting, and the beer finishes clean and crisp tasting. Three or four gulps and another pint is emptied...what more can you ask for in a beer? In all seriousness, this beer turned out much better than I expected and I think much of that has to do with the WLP022 yeast. I vastly underestimated it based on my previous experiences and it performed above and beyond my expectations. A definite re-brew of sorts is in the works... although maybe with German/Czech hops for a change of pace (???).

Additional Thoughts:

I've had mixed results with the WLP022 Essex Ale yeast in the past. My impression of it then was that it mostly imparted a bready-tart-mineral flavor to the beer, of which was a tad too much for my liking. However, in this instance, the yeast produced a smashing beer. I kept the fermentation temp low - used the same pitch and oxygenation rate as I normally do - and the resulting beer has a clarity and cleanliness of flavors that very well suits this type of pale, hop-forward beer. There is a noticeable mineral character in the finish, although blends with the hop flavors quite well. 

6.0% ABV, 48 IBU, WhiteLabs 022 Essex Ale.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Graff Cider Tasting

In late September of last year, I brewed a batch of malted cider - or graff - with the intention that I would serve it at my Thanksgiving dinner, as I have done for the past few years now. Well, like most of my home brewing plans, I never got around to bottling the cider in time for the event and the mini-cask idea didn't go anywhere. As such, I bottled the cider sometime in December and the bottles have been quietly aging since then. The process I used to make this graff is similar to those found elsewhere online, although I prefer to blend a mixture of fresh pressed cider with the un-hopped (boiled) wort from a simple English bitter and ferment the whole thing with a characterful English yeast. While some recipes call for 10-15 IBU worth of hopping, this recipe contained no hops at all. Lastly, after 7+ months of aging, I have just started drinking this batch and I am glad I waited as long as I did. A definite re-brew for the Fall. 

Graff III : Malted Cider 

Appearance - Pours a mostly clear, amber-orange color with a small white head that has surprisingly good retention and lacing. Clarity improves as the cider warms.
 
Aroma - Light, fruity apples and malty caramel with a very slight spice character that suggests cinnamon and clove. Clean and neutral yeast character.

Taste - Moderate, clean apple flavor with a semi-sweet, dark caramel malt character. Similar spiciness, which may be yeast related, although the overall yeast character is mostly neutral. No hops or bitterness and the cider finishes dry/tart, but not excessively so.  
 
Mouthfeel - Carbonation is medium-high and the cider has a rather rounded mouthfeel that is nearing "creamy;" unusual considering dryness and low F.G.

Drinkability & Notes - Certainly the best graff cider I have made to date, although I wouldn't mind a stronger apple aroma and flavor. The amount of caramel character seems fine, it really adds some needed sweetness and mouthfeel, and the Thames Valley II yeast did a great job of adding some character and keeping the cider from being too dry. I still don't know where the spice notes are coming from, although these fruitier and lower attenuating yeasts really make for a more pleasant tasting cider than the usual Montracht/Nottingham/US-05 yeasts that people often use. Moving forward, I will certainly brew this stuff again, although I'll cut back the amount of beer wort in favor of adding more fresh pressed cider.
 
6.3% ABV, 0 IBU, O.G: 1.052, F.G: 1.004, Wyeast Thames Valley II. Recipe Here

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brew Day: Irish Red Ale

While I enjoy drinking a well made Irish Red Ale as much as anyone, I don't brew them with any frequency. In fact, the last time I brewed an Irish Red was nearly five years ago and all I really remember about the beer was that it was my first experience with the dreaded S-04 "twang." That is, the unpleasantly estery and tart flavors one can get from fermenting the Whitbread yeasts at too high of a temperature (strain B in particular). Regardless, having spent this past Saturday afternoon relaxing by the lake, drinking a six-pack and a half of Smithwicks, I figure I should give the style a proper go and brew up another batch.

The recipe I am using for this beer is about as simple as one can get, using no ingredients out of the norm. Pale malt, medium crystal, and roasted barley. That is. However, as simple as the grist may look, such basic ingredients can have a huge impact on the flavor of the final beer. For in a beer like this, where getting that balance of buttered toast, toffee, and light roast flavors is quite difficult, it can be easy to overwhelm the beer with one flavor; especially if using large amounts of munich/vienna and caramel malts, as is often the case with many American versions.

To help achieve the toasty-biscuit flavor I so like in Irish Reds, I am using a 50/50 mix of Golden Promise and Gambrinus ESB malt. I figure the GP will provide some sweet maltiness while the ESB malt has a pleasant, clean biscuit character that is a nice mix between regular US pale and toasted malt. I decided against using Maris Otter, as is often used in home brewed Irish Reds, as I want a mellower malt character than the strong honey and biscuit that MO often provides. For crystal malt, I am using Simpsons medium crystal and keeping the percentage somewhat low, as I don't want a lot of caramel flavor. A small amount of roasted barley - I am using an American (350L) - should provide a reddish color and add some toasty flavors as well. Lastly, I am taking somewhat of a chance with the yeast choice, using WLP060 American Ale Blend. This yeast blend makes a very clean, lager-like beer with minimal fruitiness, although it won't provide any of those buttery-diacetyl flavors that can be quite nice in Irish Reds. Hopping is minimal, with EKG for bittering and some aroma.
 Cow...

Fáilid Bó : Irish Red

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.12
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated FG: 1.010-12
Anticipated SRM: 12
Anticipated IBU: 22
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
93.2% - 8.50 lbs. Pale Malt, GP/ESB
5.5%   - 0.50 lbs. Medium Crystal
1.2%   - 0.12 lbs. Roasted Barley

Hops:
------
1.25 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 22 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ flameout

Yeast: WLP060 American Ale Blend
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 24 June

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Interesting Stuff, or Not

As my computer and Blogger have successfully completed their devious plan to delete and then autosave over what I have been struggling to write for the past two and a half hours, I won't be sharing my thoughts on open fermentation, dual yeast strains, and my recent (and most enlightening) visit to one of our local Ringwood breweries. Instead, I will share a picture of an English style bitter...in a pint glass...that I am calling 'Pub Bitter.' This beer was an attempt to brew a darker and maltier version of Boddingtons, of which largely ended in failure. It tastes nothing like Boddies. It does, however, seem to be damn fine clone of Fullers London Pride, with an almost identical malt and yeast character. How and why? I have no idea.

Without further ado:


4.2% ABV, 20 IBU, Wyeast 1318 London III                                   
Recipe Here

Monday, June 10, 2013

Brew Day: English Mild

It has been far too long since I've had a Mild on tap. Once a favorite of mine to brew and drink, I haven't made one in over a year and with Mild month just past, it is high time I get off my ass and get a batch in the fermentor. The recipe I am using for today is a pretty standard affair - similar to the Brown Porter I brewed in April - and it should make for more of a session porter than your typical, caramel-and-light roast tasting Mild. For the base malt, I am using Warminster MO, as it has a wonderful rich flavor, and rounding things out with medium and extra dark caramel, brown malt, and chocolate malt. For milds and similar beers, I generally use a blend of lighter and darker caramel malts (most often either Thomas Fawcett or Simpsons) to add malt complexity and I like some of the burnt sugar/dark raisin type flavors that the highest lovibond caramel malts contribute. Muntons' extra dark (150L) has been a recent favorite of mine... it is hard to not sneak a few grams into every dark beer recipe.

The only thing I am unsure of, with this recipe, is the yeast choice. Whereas I normally prefer to use one of the more malt forward, fruitier tasting yeasts available - wyeast 1968, 1318, 1469 - this time around I am using WY1275 Thames Valley. While this yeast is a good choice for most English styles, I haven't used it in a mild before and I am slightly worried that its 'minerally' and 'bready' flavors might be too much for such a small beer. Mineral character is fine/great with high bitterness and hopping, but not so much with soft maltiness, at least to my tastes. Really, the only reason I am using this yeast is that I was gifted a spare pack and had previously made up a larger starter that I never got around to brewing with. We'll see how it turns out.
  
Pub Bitter
Ploughman Mild : English Mild

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.95
Anticipated OG: 1.038-40
Anticipated FG: 1.010-12
Anticipated SRM: 22
Anticipated IBU: 17
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
79.1% - 5.50 lbs. Warminster, MO
7.2%   - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
5.0%   - 0.35 lbs. Brown Malt
5.0%   - 0.35 lbs. Chocolate Malt (330L)
3.6%   - 0.25 lbs. Extra Dark Crystal (150L)

Hops:
------
0.85 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 17 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley
Mash 158F for 60 min
Brewed on 5 June

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hefeweizen Tasting

Back in early April, I brewed a hefeweizen with a good friend of mine and I had told him that when the beer was ready to drink, he could write up the tasting notes (good or bad) after we had sampled a growler or two. Thankfully, our beer turned out better than we expected and the whole brew-day and subsequent tasting session was a positive experience for the both of us. I rarely get to brew with other people around and it was quite nice to have someone to share the brew day with... not to mention having extra help with all the cleaning, grinding, lifting, boiling, and planning that brewing requires. Without further adieu, his tasting notes:

Hello to all you Perfect Pint readers, my name is Chris and I'm a friend of Will's. He recently invited me over to his house to brew a beer. I was skeptical that it would turn out well, but with his guidance it was not only a fun afternoon but produced a pretty good beer. I chose to brew a hefeweizen, not because I love them (I had never tried one before), but because I have a nice Hacker-Pschorr glass and had recently bought one for Will. Here are my notes for tasting said beer.

Chris' Brew : Hefeweizen

Appearance - Pours a nice yellow/amber color, clear enough for light to pass through. A good look for this style of beer.

Aroma - An excellent aroma that is a blend of apple, clove and a nice hint of banana.

Taste -  Most hefeweizens are heavy on wheat and banana flavors. This has the same flavors, but more subdued and mixed with a nice, tart apple and clove taste. You still get the banana, clove and wheat, but in this, they are in balance with each other.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation needed to a be a little higher to produce the desired head, but it was good as is.
  
Drinkability & Notes - An excellent session beer, perfect for a couple of friends to relax and drink as they watch the world go by. Very thirst quenching, great for a hot and humid day like we had here. This beer was one of my first forays into brewing and with Will's expertise and guidance I feel it really came out well.

Brewing was quite the experience and one that I hope to repeat sometime, provided Will is willing to help me again. It wasn't nearly as hard to brew beer as I thought it would be, just very time consuming, which I did not expect. Will was also gracious enough to teach me some home brew lingo and a lot of history about the beer itself. I look forward to brewing again with Will and hope that my own adventures in brewing turn out half as well as his beers. So thank you Will for helping me craft a nice beer that we were able to enjoy together. 

4.6% ABV, 17 IBU, Wyeast 3638 Bavarian Wheat

My Comments:

In the end, my worries about the yeast producing too much of a sour apple flavor were unfounded. While the beer does have a slightly tart/sweet apple character - almost like biting into a fresh Fugi apple - the overall character of the beer is more towards the clove and (light) banana side of things than anything else. Compared to the beers I brewed with WY3068, I much prefer this yeast, as the banana flavors are largely subdued and the overall character is more like a 'hefeweizen-lite,' than banana bread in a glass. While the yeast did produce some sulfur, it never made its way into the keg. Things to improve for next time are better head retention and mouthfeel - it is slightly lacking - and I might try to bump up the fermentation temp to try and coax more bubblegum flavors out of the yeast, if it is possible. While hefeweizens aren't my favorite style of beer to drink, I'd certainly give them another go with this yeast.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Plain, Simple, Honest...

As I have said before, I haven't been drinking much. Work has me away from home Monday through Friday and I can't be bothered to visit the local watering hole(s), given the selection is somewhat limited. On one hand you have your typical craft beer dive, complete with ten dollar pints of Rogue and the like - served with a complementary beer snob - or your typical American hole-in the-wall that serves nothing but BMC on tap and the same thing in cans... to less than friendly locals. I'd rather spend my money elsewhere.

Anyways, I wasn't going to buy any beer today, figuring I'd wait until the weekend to get properly pissed watered, but alas, I was wooed by the glow of good beer emanating from the local Wegmans. (Wegmans is the North East's equivalent to Whole Foods). Regardless, walking through their extensive maze of beer aisles, I picked up a few bottles of this... a few bottles of that... and a Sam Smith's Stingo for good measure. It's been ages since I've tried the Stingo and I have longstanding delusions of one day cloning it. However, I didn't end up buying any of that stuff. As I made my way down through the 'American beer' aisle, my sights were assaulted by the enormity that is "craft-beer" marketing. In short, it is annoying. It is all about being... bigger, stronger, more aggressive, your-too-weak to drink this, our beer tastes terrible...but look how cool our marketing is, gimmick 1, gimmick 2... so on, ad nauseum.

If there are two American craft breweries that I can say I truly admire and would emulate, should I one day own a brewery, it would be Anchor Brewing Co and Sierra Nevada. Reasons; First, both (once) followed what I consider is the noblest intention of any food industry: Do only one thing and do it better than anyone else. Anchor Steam is, in my opinion, one of the best beers in America. I love the stuff. Simple ingredients make beautiful things. Pale malt, crystal malt, and Northern Brewer hops. I also like their tasteful packaging and the fact that they only brew a handful of beers, instead of chasing the frivolities of the beer-y mob. They also produce a completely unique product that has roots in our own history. Sierra Nevada, is, in many ways, of the same vein. SN Pale Ale is still my favorite American pale ale and they make consistently great beer, even though they have long shed their 'small' brewery image.

Back to the beer. Leaving Wegmans, I did buy a few beers. Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and a single, lonely, $0.95 can of Genny Cream Ale. That's 24 ounces, or 710ml, for less than a buck. I just liked how plain the packaging was and how it is, in many ways, all that craft beer isn't. For one, it's just beer. Simple, easy drinking, no frills, authentic. And it was good.

On a completely serious note, I recommend taking a look at this recent article about Anchor Brewing Co, the brewery and their beer. I was so impressed by it, I picked up the ingredients to try and attempt a clone of their namesake.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Brew Day: American ESB

While it is nearly impossible to find an English style bitter on tap in the States that is anything like those traditionally produced across the pond, what we lack in session strength bitters, we more than make up for in ESB's. For in the land of big beers, where finding anything under 4.5% is most often a lost cause, it seems like ESB's are the acceptable form of bitter for the American palate... as they often contain substantial hop and malt character, with a higher alcohol content to boot. With that said, I am not that crazy about the majority of commercially made ESB's. To generalize things, many brewers seem to either take a very simplistic approach to making them - almost like they are trying to do justice to the original style - or they do the complete opposite, using every character malt and C-hop they have at their disposal. Looking around the web for ESB recipes, you'll find many that contain nothing but pale malt and some crystal, often with a mix of US/UK hops (so often EKG and Cascade), and a painfully neutral yeast - OR - recipes that are jammed with biscuit, aromatic, special roast, munich, honey malt, and so on, all in an attempt to add malt complexity.

So instead of going on and on about the lack of 'good' ESB's and what I would rather be drinking, I am giving in... can't beat them, join them. The recipe I am using today is a good approximation of many American ESB recipes, using a few types of biscuit-type malts with both light and dark crystal. In particular, I will be using a new base malt, Gambrinus ESB malt - as it is supposed to mimic the flavor the flavor of Maris Otter type malts (spoiler alert: it doesn't) - and rounding things out with a light and dark English crystal malts, torrefied wheat, and biscuit malt. For the hopping, I was going to go with Cascade/Centennial/Willamette or something similar, but I decided to take a more British approach using Challenger and Bramling Cross. Yeast will be Wyeast 1335 British II, as it ferments out cleanly (almost too much) while providing a nice maltiness. Just so you know I'm not complaining too much, I fully expect to enjoy this beer... after all, there are somethings worth taking from both sides of the coin.

Anglo-American ESB : Extra Special Bitter

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.00
Anticipated OG: 1.058
Anticipated FG: 1.010-12
Anticipated SRM: 12
Anticipated IBU: 30
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
80.0% - 8.00 lbs. Pale, ESB Malt
7.5%   - 0.75 lbs. Simpsons Caramalt
5.0%   - 0.50 lbs. Torrefied Wheat
5.0%   - 0.50 lbs. Biscuit Malt
2.5%   - 0.25 lbs. Extra Dark Crystal (150L)

Hops:
------
0.75 oz. Challenger @ 60 min for 20 IBU
0.50 oz. Bramling Cross @ 20 min for 6 IBU
0.50 oz. Challenger @ 10 min for 4 IBU
0.50 oz. Bramling Cross @ flameout
1.00 oz. Challenger @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1335 British Ale II
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 26 May

Monday, May 13, 2013

Brew Day: Imperial Porter

With the success of the East India Porter that I brewed over the Winter, I've been wanting to do a re-brew of the same recipe for a while now, but at Imperial Stout strength and with a different hop variety. Going with this idea, I had planned to use Cascade in place of the EKG - in the same quantities as before - but in the end I didn't have enough hops on hand and was slightly worried that the citrusy Cascade hops would clash with the roast flavors. Instead, I will be using Columbus for bittering and Centennial-Type (70/30 blend of Cascade and Columbus) for flavor and aroma. Moreover, unlike the original recipe where I used over a 1/4lb of hops for 4 gallons, this time I am going to take it easy on the late additions, with more emphasis on the bitterness. After all, I would like this beer to taste more like a modern "craft-brewed" Imperial Stout than your typical Black IPA. As per the malt bill, I am keeping everything the same as last time; using pale malt, nearly 20% brown malt, and smaller amounts of amber/black malt. Lastly, instead of using wy1318, I went with some wy1056 slurry that I had on hand.

American Brown
BP 1859 EI : Imperial Porter 

Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.50
Anticipated OG: 1.082
Anticipated FG: 1.012-15
Anticipated SRM: 40
Anticipated IBU: 75
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
72.3% - 8.50 lbs. Golden Promise
19.1% - 2.25 lbs. Brown Malt
4.7%   - 0.55 lbs. Amber Malt
3.8%   - 0.45 lbs. Black Malt

Hops:
------
1.00 oz. Columbus @ 60 min for 54 IBU
0.50 oz. Centennial-Type @ 30 min for 16 IBU
1.00 oz. Centennial-Type @ 5 min for 5 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale
Mash 156F for 90 min
Brewed on 13 May
Original Recipe, Tasting Notes                                           

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brew Day: Ordinary Bitter

Whereas a few months ago I would have gladly spent an afternoon cozied up to the bar of my local with a pint in hand, having a friendly debate about politics or philosophy, these days I'm just not feeling it. It might be that I'm not drinking as much as I used to (barely four pints a week) and that work has me running ragged, but a large part of my lack of enthusiasm for drinking out has to due with the state of our pubs. Shortly put, where there once was ten taps of good and honest beer, we now have sixty of the same damn thing. IPA, IPA, and more IPA clones that all taste the same. The quality and freshness of the beer goes down and the price goes up to support the ever growing selection.

Regardless, the recipe I have for today is a simple 'pub bitter' of sorts... just a low alcohol, malty beer that is full in flavor and perfect for the warming weather. I was originally thinking of making a Boddington clone, but I decided on something with a bit more dark caramel and sweet-malt character. To achieve this, the grist I am using is Golden Promise, dark crystal (75L), and a small amount of honey malt. While I don't normally use honey malt in my English style ales - it is almost never necessary if using good quality, UK base malts - in this beer, it should pair well with the natural sweetness of the yeast. Also, I am interested to see how the flavor of the honey malt compares in place of using a similar amount of invert syrup. Yeast will be WY1318, as it makes a terrific bitter and provides some candy-sweetness flavor in the finish. As I don't want a lot of fruity esters, I'll be fermenting this one no higher than 65F. I should have this beer ready for drinking by the end of the month.
Challenger Bitter

Pub Bitter : Ordinary Bitter

Recipe Specifics: 
---------------- 
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5 
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.70
Anticipated OG: 1.038
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 10
Anticipated IBU: 20
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
89.5% - 6.00 lbs. Golden Promise
7.5% - 0.50 lbs. Dark Crystal (75L)
3.0% - 0.20 lbs. Honey Malt

Hops:
------
0.75 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 16 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ 10 min for 4 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London III
Brewed on 5 May