NE IPA: The Gathering Storm

New England IPA’s are the latest and greatest craze in the craft beer world and there is no denying it. They were started on the East Coast (as their name would infer) and focus on a different aspect of IPAs; a fruity, or even “juicy” side. Beers like Heady Topper, Sip of Sunshine, and Susan helped bring this style to life. NEIPA’s are typically unfiltered and have yeast that heavily flocculates giving the beer itself a “hazy” appearance. There is still a lot of research to be done regarding these hazy IPA’s, including why are they hazy? Yeast, Hop residue, and additives such as flour have all been cited as reasons for their appearance, and they all hold some merit. There is no “right” way to make a NEIPA, at least before you start dry-hopping.

One thing about NEIPA’s that are so polarizing is the fact that their very appearance goes against what most brewers are taught from the time they first start brewing: clarity is important. Some commercial examples of these beers look like the trub was dumped directly from the fermenter in your can or bottle. They aren’t particularly nice to look at, but they taste great. The typical west coast “dank” that IPA’s are commonly associated with is all but gone with this style. This is because of a ton of late hop additions in the boil to emphasize the hop flavor and not the bitterness. Typically you see NEIPA’s made with Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic, Denali, Huell Melon, and Amarillo hops—hops that are associated with tropical fruit tastes and smells.

That was a very long winded introduction, but I hope it was at least informative. With that said, this past weekend we re-brewed one of our NEIPA recipes “the Gathering Storm.” We changed things up a bit this time and instead of using Simcoe hops we opted for Mosaic. The first two times we brewed this it was a bit too bitter, and I suspect Simcoe was the culprit. We also changed all of our hop additions around—before we were using a half ounce of hops at first wort and then hopping everything else at 20 minutes, 5 minutes, and a whirlpool. For this iteration of this beer we did not use any bittering hops and waiting until 10 minutes left in the boil to start hopping, with much larger quantities.

Grain Bill:
77%        2-Row
10%        White Wheat
10%        Flaked Oats
3%          Honey Malt

Hops:
5 oz        Citra (10 minute 1.5 oz, Flame out 1 oz, First Dry Hop 1.5 oz, Second Dry Hop 1 oz)
5 oz        Galaxy (10 minute 1 oz, Flame out 1.5 oz, First Dry Hop 1 oz, Second Dry Hop 1.5 oz)
4 oz        Mosaic (Flame out 1.5 oz, First Dry Hop 1.5 oz, Second Dry Hop 1 oz)

Yeast:
Wyeast 318         London III

Other:
Yeast Energizer @ 15 minutes

Mash:
152F       60 Minutes

Boil:
60 Minutes

EOG: 1.062-1.066              EFG: 1.014-1.016               EABV:6.29%-6.55%
AOG: 1.064

One other thing I’d like to note: this is the first time we have used WY1318 in any of our NEIPAs. We’ve used it in our Blonde (Dry Hop Naked) but not in the NEIPAs. Why? We always wanted to try something different and see if we can replicate the style with a less “traditional” yeast. We’ve used; WLP090, WLP023, WLP005, WLP644, and WY1335 all of which have had decent results (aside from the WLP023, that was a stinker). So we figured we’d give it a try this time.

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Our new toy… SS Brewtech Mash Tun

We warmed our strike water to 163F and used our BRAND NEW SS BREWTECH MASH TUN. Man, it feels great to say that. We’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on it for so long and with the Cooler mash tun developing a leak (re: I broke it) it was finally time to splurge. It worked like a dream and held a constant 152 for most of the mash time. We had a bit of difficulty with the sparge arm but with a gravity set up it’s to be expected. We are going to do some test runs next time.

I’d say this brew day was pretty boring… I mean that because without any hop additions until nearly the end of the boil it gave us a lot of time to talk about future plans and upgrades. We added our first hop addition with 10 minutes left in the boil and it smelled incredible. We haven’t used Citra or Galaxy in sometime and it’s always a treat when they start boiling and releasing those sweet, sweet tropical fruit notes.

Once the boil was over we added our next hop addition as a hop stand. We dropped the temperature from 210F to about 185F and held it there for 30 minutes. Once that was done we got as much wort out of the hop spider as we could and began to chill the wort to pitching temperature.  The temperature was dropped from 180F to 68F in about 10 minutes, incredibly efficient. We pitched our yeast package (pre-swelled) right after and hit it with 20 seconds of oxygen. Put it in the fermentation fridge and let it rest. Our first dry hop addition will be 8/9 and the second will be 8/15. We are hoping to have this bottled by 8/17, which is the day before we leave to Oregon for the eclipse.

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Some turbid wort, wouldn’t you say?

We are still waiting for our results from the brew competition held by Maltose Falcons, once we get them we will definitely update you! Cheers.

West Coast Pilsner + Updates

With our fermentation chamber finally built and operating properly we are finally able to brew lagers & pilsners. Not exactly my favorite style of beer, but a good lager is a benchmark of how well you can actually brew. I say this because a lager doesn’t hide behind adjuncts (mostly) and is supposed to taste clean and simple. Any off-flavors are going to be exaggerated because there isn’t a whole lot going on there. With that said, this isn’t an ordinary pilsner.

This is called a “West Coast” pilsner because it’s brewed with a pilsner grain bill but hopped like an IPA. I wanted to call this “Pilsnear” because it’s nearly a pilsner (hur hur) but I was met with anguish towards the name… sometimes I feel my wit goes unappreciated. Anyway, the idea is to create a moderately hoppy summer crusher with a little backend sweetness that you would get from a more traditional pilsner. We had some issues with our mash tun (I broke it opening the garage) and we had a bit more boil off/evaporation than I had originally accounted for so we overshot our OG by about .10 points. That is with a dip in our usual efficiency as well. Our efficiency was about 73% for this batch, down from 77% and 79% from our last two brew days, respectively.

Overall the brewday was fairly simple and we yielded a little less than we wanted, 4.5 gallons, but it’s not the end of the world.

Grain Bill:
10.75 lbs                               Pilsner
.75      lbs                              Cara-Pils

Hops
2 oz                                        Saaz Hops
2 oz                                        Noble (Tettnang)
2 oz                                        Cascade
2 oz                                        Amarillo (Dry Hop)

Yeast:
3 packages                          Safale S-23

Mash:
60 minutes         @            153F*

Boil:
90 minutes

Expected OG: 1.056 –1.058
Expected FG: 1.012–1.014
Actual OG:1.066
Adjusted FG: 1.015–1.019
Expected ABV: 6.51%–6.7%

*I want to defend my  decision to mash a bit higher than a traditional pilsner for a second. I know the purists hate deviation from the norm, but I feel it is warranted. This is not a traditional pilsner and I want to truly make this a hybrid between an IPA and a pilsner. I will also say this though; because of our cracked mash tun our actual mash temp was about 150F, so I guess it technically worked out…

Semantics aside, it was a very easy brew day. We started at 8:00am and finished by 12:30pm, one of the quickest we’ve had in a long time as well. As noted earlier the mashtun now has a hole in it (that we didn’t notice until about 40 minutes into the mash) so we lost some volume + efficiency on it. We still got 6.9 gallons of wort, though.

We boiled this one for 90 minutes to try and eliminate all the possibilities of producing some DMS in the wort/beer. Granted I don’t think it was 100% necessary I also don’t think it would hurt the beer. We used the hop spider again to get all the nice German hops from clogging our plate chiller. This gave us a really nice cold break and a pretty clear beer, as well.

We brewed this on July 15th and added the dry hops on July 27th. Fermentation was just about done and I raised the temperature from 51F to 66F to get rid of any lingering diacetyl. Once that is done, which I suspect should be by 7/30. I’m going to cold crash and “lager” it for 2 weeks before we bottle.

That’s it when it comes to the brew day, but I have a few more updates I’d like to share.

First would be that we entered another competition. This one is the Maltose Falcons LA county fair homebrew competition. We submitted two beers: The Dark Saison and the SMaSH Volume II. The Dark Saison came out killer. I think it’s the best beer that we have brewed so far. It’s really complex; Caramel, dark fruits, leather, and just enough acidity and funk to keep you wanting more. I have high hopes for it. The SMaSH was entered just to see how well our basics of brewing are. The grain bill is extremely simple (2-Row + African Queen hops) so hopefully if any bad practices/flavors stick out we should be able to fix them relatively quick.

Second would be our hop plants. We planted some Cascade and Centennial hop rhizomes in late May/early June (I forget when exactly) and they are started to sprout some hops. The Centennial bines went crazy and the Cascade bines were lagging behind, looking like a low yield. However over the course of time the exact opposite has happened. The Cascade is full of hops and the Centennial is looking a bit lackluster. Once they are ready to harvest we are going to make Dry Hop Naked 3.0. This is a few months out, but still the thought of brewing with hops we grew is exciting. Cheers.

SMaSH Series Volume II: 2-Row & African Queen

One of my worst kept secrets is that I love drinking and in turn making (or trying to make) overly complex beers. When we first started this brew-venture I decided to run full speed before learning the basics. It was a humbling experience that I have definitely strayed away from since then. I’ve come to appreciate simplicity in grain bills and making easy drinkers is pretty satisfying, this is especially true when it is nearly 100F outside on a consistent basis.

Volume II of our SMaSH series was brewed on 7/1. It was made with African Queen hops, that we bought without having to support ABinBev and 2-Row malt. I think the overall goal of this is to have a dry crushable pale ale with some fruity notes. African Queen hops are pretty complex in their own right—citrus, apricot, cherry, and maybe a little bit of spice. We used them in a Dark Saison from a few months ago, but I’m pretty curious to see how they impact a simple pale ale.

One thing I’d like to point out is that we upped the amount of hops in this batch from 4oz to 5oz, because as good as the SMaSH I was, it fell off relatively quickly. Hopefully adding more hops to the recipe aides in that.

Grain Bill:
10 lbs                     2-Row

Hops:
5 oz                        African Queen

Hop Schedule:
.5 oz                       First Wort
.5 oz                       30 minutes
1 oz                        15 minutes
1 oz                        Flameout
2 oz                        Dry Hop (4 days)

Yeast:
1 packet               US-05

Mash:
152F                       60 minutes

Boil:
60 Minutes

Expected OG: 1.050—1.053
Expected FG: 1.012—1.014
Expected ABV: 4.9%—5.1%
Actual OG: 1.052

This was another pretty standard brew day, all things considered. We started early, hit our numbers on point, and finished quickly. We first started heating the strike water to 161F (to account for temperature loss when transferring) and added the grain and water treatment to the water. Since we built the gravity table our efficiency has went up a consistent 5%, which is absolutely welcomed. We collected about 6.9-7 gallons of wort and began our boil.

If you recall we were mulling over the idea of building a hop spider because of our recent issues with the plate chiller clogging. We decided to just build it, because why not? This was our first brew day with it in action. My only issue at the moment is the fact that we used PVC pipe to build the base. It’s the higher quality of PVC that has a higher heat threshold, but it still kind of sketches me out. I think we are going to use a sink drain in the future because stainless steel is an infinitely better option.

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First hop addition – 1/2 ounce @ 60 minutes

We added the hops in as we normally would while utilizing our shiny new hop spider. The hop additions were added as listed in the recipe information. One thing about the African Queen hops; when they are being boiled they smell almost exactly like apricots. Probably one of the better smelling hops I’ve had the pleasure of using.

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Rolling boil with our new hop spider!

We chilled the wort from 210F to about 77F in 5 minutes, and put the carboy full of wort in the fermentation fridge set at 38F for an hour until it hit the pitch temperature of 66F. After it cooled down to pitching temp we took a gravity reading: 1.052, right in line with where we wanted it to be. Next we pitched the packet of Safale US-05 and within 24 hours fermentation was under way.

All in all, successful and smooth brew day. No clugs, no hiccups, nothing except good times and an overall fun day. We bottled the dark Saison we brewed back in May so we should be able to sample those pretty soon. The black IPA is done conditioning as well, we will crack open one of those this weekend on our next brew day.

Next up is the Hoppy Pilsner! This should be fun to mesh a traditional German beer with the classic West Coast Dank. Exciting!

Oh, one more thing. We entered another competition for August. We were going to brew Brown Eye Woke again to submit that but getting word of the competition so late in the registration process we may just send over the Saison or the Black IPA, the taste test this weekend will determine which brew we send. Cheers.

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Brew Day: Black Double IPA (Irrational Gaze)

Another hoppy beer, another brew day marred with issues with our plate chiller, oh the joy. It seems whenever we make anything with aggressive amounts of hops our plate chiller seems to get clogged very early in the cooling process. We did a hopstand at for 30 minutes to try and draw everything to the middle but it still did not work. It’s starting to get frustrating, if it continues we may end up buying a hop spider. Maybe building one would be a better idea.

Anyway, Josh has wanted to do a black IPA for quite some time and we finally got it started this past weekend. Pretty standard  West Coast IPA grain bill with some added Carafa Special III malt for … the DARKNESS! We ended up overshooting our OG by a few points, but it’s ok because we pitched a healthy amount of yeast and added a lot of hops.

Mash:
75 minutes @ 149F

Boil:
90 minutes

Grain Bill:
14#                                         2-Row
1#                                           C-60
.5#                                          Carafa Special III

Hops:
Warrior                                90 Minute
Amarillo                              30 Minute, Hopstand
Centennial                          30 Minute, 15 minute, Hopstand
Cascade                               15 minute, Hopstand

Yeast:
WLP090                              San Diego Super Yeast

Extra:
Yeast energizer                15 minutes
Whirlfloc tablet               15 minutes

eOG: 1.071 – 1.076          aOG: 1.081
eFG: 1.018 – 1.012
eABV: 6.9%  – 7.6%

It was nearly 100F outside when finally got to mashing in this beer. We put a few things together before we started brewing so that contributed to our late start time. We mashed in at 149F with brewing salts for a double IPA. We mashed in, spraged (with our new method) that has taken our efficiency to new heights. We collected 7.4 gallons of wort and started our boil.

We used Warrior hops to bitter this beer, it’s pretty much the quintessential bittering hop for IPA/IIPAs, at least in our opinion.  Since this was 90 minute boil we waited until 30 minutes for our next hop addition. This was a half ounce of Amarillo and a half ounce of Centennial.

Next we started to do our late additions. We added .5 oz of Cascade, 1 ounce of Centennial at 15 minutes and 1 oz Amarillo, 1 oz Cascade, and .5 oz of Centennial during the hop stand. We let the hopstand run for 30 minutes at 200F and whirlpooled once it concluded.

This is where we started to have some issues though. The plate chiller clogged up after collecting about a gallon so we were in scramble mode. We ended up disconnecting the plate chiller and using our good old fashioned immersion chiller. It’s been a long time, old friend. We ran our recirculation pump with ice water to the immersion chiller and it actually brought the temp down to 66F in 20 minutes, which isn’t terrible.

We took a gravity reading and overshot our gravity by about .004 points, which is ok. We pitched a very healthy amount of yeast, and it’s high attenuating at that. The beer itself is currently fermenting away in our freshly built fermentation fridge. That was actually pretty simple as well. We are going to make a collar for it eventually.

Since we are about halfway through the year Josh & I mapped out brews for the rest of the year. We want to do 10 so we can hit our target number of brews for the year. So far we have mapped out:

  • Stout *
  • Porter *
  • Dry Hop Naked (dry hopped blonde)*
  • SMaSH Series II: 2-Row & African Queen
  • Gose*
  • Pale Ale with Denali Hops
  • Hoppy Pilsner
  • Grant Us Eyes (NEIPA w/ Nelson + Mosaic)*
  • Brown Eye Woke (Coffee + Vanilla Brown Ale)*
  • Black Kolsch

Anything with a * indicates we have brewed it once before. I think this is a solid list of beers to round out the year. Cheers.

Brew Day: Funky Dark Saison

I was one of the lucky ones to get my hands on Bootleg Biology’s yeast “The Mad Fermentationist” blend. I immediately began to think about what kind of base beer would work with this unique blend.  The blend itself is a combo of Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, and Lactobacillus with characteristics of a Saison (peppers, clove, and citrus). Apparently if you ferment at around 80F you get stone fruit and cherry notes as well, so that’s what we are aiming for with beer.

We came with an idea to make a Funky Dark Saison tentatively named “Cookie Cutter Hooded Executioner.” We think that the combination of dark malts with the natural stone fruit/cherry phenols from the yeast would work really well with together. We had originally planned to just use Horizon hops for a more classic Saison character, but I was able to get some African Queen hops from my LHBS without having to support AB-InBEV. So that was definitely a win for us.

Grain Bill________________________________________________________
30%        Maris Otter
30%        Dark Munich
30%        Vienna
8%          Wheat
1.5%      Special B
.4%         Acid Malt
1 lb         Flaked  Oats
.5 Lb       D180 Candi Syrup

Hops_____________________________________________________________
1 oz        African Queen (45 minute addition)
1 oz        African Queen (Dry Hop—haven’t decided if we want to do this quite yet)

Yeast_____________________________________________________________
1 pkg       Bootleg Biology “The Mad Fementationist Blend”

Extra_____________________________________________________________
1 tsp        Yeast Nutrient

Brewing Information_______________________________________________
Mash:     75 minutes @ 153F
Sparge:  10 minutes @ 168F
Boil:        75 Minutes

Expected OG: 1.058 – 1.061
Expected FG: 1.010 – 1.006
Expected ABV: 6.2% – 7.2%
Actual OG: 1.060
We started this brew day relatively late because we had to bottle Smeagol’s Precious: Blueberries. There was a small bit of a sulfuric aroma coming from the fermenter even after primary had finished. I was hoping that extra time on the blueberries would get the smell out, which thankfully, it did. That beer has an amazing color and tastes like a perfect “lawnmower beer,” I’m happy with the pre-carbonated version.

We started mash in at 163F, with a 10 degree drop after we transfer the water to the tun. We transferred our strike water to the mash tun at 153.4F and left it to mash in for 75 minutes. Once the 75 minutes was up we started our sparge. For this brew, we finally got a chance to use our gravity table we recently put together, so we experimented a bit with the sprage. Instead of batch sparging as we normally do we did a fly sparge and had a constant stream of strike water flowing on top of the grain bed. We kept the grain bed submerged until we were out of water and ended up with 7 gallons of wort. As an aside, we were both pretty psyched to use the gravity table. It seemed like it made the process much more efficient and moving around was a lot easier. This was definitely a much-needed upgrade.

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Our gravity tables maiden voyage

Overall the wort boiled for 75 minutes and in those 75 minutes we; added 1 oz African Queen hops at 40 minutes, added a half pound of D180 Belgian Candy Syrup at 30 minutes, and a yeast energizer at 15 minutes. When it was finally done boiling we were in awe with the color. The wort was a deep ruby red, it looked phenomenal. From the kettle it smelled like caramel, cherries, and tobacco—it hit every note we wanted it to.

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Mashing out into the brew kettle–beautiful color

We cooled the wort down from 216F to 78F in 10 minutes. We collected 4.8 gallons of wort during the transfer from the kettle to the carboy. We hit the upper end up of our expected OG at 1.060. We pitched the yeast at 78F and hit it with a bit of oxygen (30 seconds) and put it away until bottling day. I intend to sample it after 2 weeks to see where it’s at, but I think I’m going to let this one sit for about a month before we bottle it. The blend of yeast used has a lot of unique characters, and I’d like them all to be on display for this one.

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OG 1.060, picture taken before wort was cooled down completely

We haven’t decided if we want to dry hop this with some more of the African Queen hops. I only have 3 ounces of it left and I would like to use them in a SMaSH Pale Ale, mostly late hop additions. I’ll wait until after primary finishes and an initial tasting to see if we want to go that route.

This was our first brew day in a little over a month and a half, we had both been chomping at the bit to get back in the swing of things. Everything went amazingly smooth, I don’t think we could have asked for a better brew day to get things rolling again. Up next on our agenda:

  • Fermentation Chamber
  • Keezer/Kegerator
  • Black West Coast IPA: “Temporary Lapse of Reason”

Smeagol’s Precious: Blueberries

Our previous brew, which I did not chronicle for reasons I will soon get into, was for a “brett” IPA (fermented with WLP644) that we brewed back in 2015. I chose not to document the brew day because it just so happen to be the brew day from hell. Murphy’s law was absolutely in full affect that day. Some of our issues included; a stuck sparge, plate chiller getting clogged THREE times (!!), forgetting to take a gravity reading, and last but not least about 1 gallon of trub in the fermenter. Initial sample tasted… pretty great! We bottled it when we brewed this next beer.

Wheat beers are admittedly not my favorite style, they just aren’t very exciting. We have made in the past two wheat beers; Smeagol’s Precious: Oranges. We tried it with cara-cara oranges which came from our good friend Smeagol’s (Denys) backyard and with cuties. I gave most of mine to friends and let them be the judge. They were both pretty successful, everyone really liked them. I had a preference to the cara-cara oranges because the cuties version seemed a bit too sweet for me.

We decided to brew it for a third time to have it for the summer and for our trip to Hawaii. We both agreed to switch it up, we didn’t want to do oranges again. It was between strawberries and blueberries, and because we haven’t much success with strawberries we decided to use blueberries. I think 6-7 lbs of pureed blueberries should be enough. We will be adding it once primary fermentation has ended.

Grain Bill:
45%       2-Row
45%       White Wheat
5%         Munich
5%         Flaked Wheat
Rice Hulls

Hops:
2 oz Hallertauer Blanc
1 oz at 60 minutes
1 oz at 30 minutes

Yeast:
1 pkg US-05

Extra:
1 tsp Yeast energizer
7lbs pureed blueberries after primary fermentation
1 whirlfloc tablet

Mash:
60 minutes at 154F

Sparge:
10 minutes at 168F

Boil:
60 Minute

Expected:
OG: 1.047                          FG: 1.010                         ABV: 4.84%

Actual:
OG: 1.046                          FG:                                   ABV:

We were hoping for a better brew day this time around and the beer gods rewarded us with just that. Our mash went off without a hitch and we hit our target temps right on the nose. Our mash out temp was 153.6F and our sparge temp was 168F. We collected 7.3 gallons of sweet wort and started our boil. We undershot our 7.5 gallon wort expectancy by .2 gallons, but it wasn’t enough to where it really made a difference. Pre-boil gravity was at 1.035.

There really wasn’t anything particularly interesting about this brew day, other than the fact that it went off without a hitch. While we were brewing this batch we started talking about certain things we’d like to start doing. One of them was vorlaufing, as previously noted clarity is not something that we have really been concerned with. Now though, as we are getting more and more experienced (and we have a hoppy pilsner on the horizon) we would really like to establish some clarity with our new brews. Granted, we didn’t do it for this wheat, next brew day will be different.

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Adding 1 oz hops to the boil

At the 30 minute mark we added the second ounce of hops to the boil and patiently waited for the 45 minute mark. Once that arrived we added our whirlfloc tablet and yeast energizer. We then started to prep our plate chiller and ice bath. I guess the one thing extraordinary that happen on this batch was that our plate chiller, in one pass, cooled our wort down from 199F to 58F in about 10 minutes. This is absolutely insane. When we checked the temp we both thought our thermometer was off, but it turns out it wasn’t. I’ve never seen that type of efficiency on the plate chiller and after the disaster that was last week… it was a nice surprise.

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Wort running from the kettle to the plate chiller.

We collected 4.4 gallons of wort and cut it off, trying to minimize the amount of hop and grain residue in the fermenter. We took a gravity reading and it was 1.046, .001 off our target gravity. Pitched one packet of Safale US05 yeast, attached a blow-off tube and tucked this batch away in the depths until it’s time to add the blueberries.

It can’t be stated how easy this brew day was. Nothing went wrong and things actually exceeded expectations. We unfortunately don’t have any of the old batch of Smeagol’s Precious: Oranges to do a side by side, but since this is blueberries it isn’t the end of the world. We had also thought of taking a gallon of this and adding vanilla and cinnamon, like a blueberry pie. Maybe.

Battle of the Wokest

Stupid post title aside, this is actually kind of an important post. We have a problem sometimes with not saving beers to do side by side comparisons from one batch to the next. Granted, not all styles age very gracefully so you have to pick and choose which to save and which to consume fresh, but I digress.

I saved a bottle of Brown Eye Woke batch 1 for specifically this purpose. I want to see how it’s holding up to the test of time (7 months) and how similar or different batch 2 may be. We used a different type of coffee but the grain bill was exactly the same. Moving forward, let’s get started!

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Batch 1 on the left, batch 2 on the right

Appearance: You can see right away the batch 2 is much lighter. I touched upon this a bit in my previous post when going over the brew day. I’m still not sure why the difference, I’m assuming a specialty grain was either given in a smaller quantity or given the wrong one entirely. A much bigger head on the batch 1 bottle, which is strange — both were carbonated at the same volume. I think a good color would be somewhere in between the two. We will make the necessary adjustments.

Aroma: I’ll just go ahead and throw this out there now. Batch 1 has completely fallen off. Very light coffee smell with a slightly metallic twang at the end. Batch 2 on the other had smells great! Heavy coffee with an amaretto like nuttiness rounding it out. I get some decent malt character as well, a slight roasted chocolate smell.

Body: Pretty similar between the two of these. Batch 2 has the better body, but that could be due to the higher carbonation level of Batch 1. Very similar though, very drinkable but not exactly thin. I’d say for a brown the body is right where it needs to be — medium.

Taste: Same grain bill, same yeast, different coffee. Things should be pretty similar right? Not really. Batch 1 is noticeably worse at this stage. The coffee has completely fallen off and the aftertaste went from a hazelnut/walnut finish to a iron like flavor. Very disappointing ending to my favorite batch from last year. Batch 2 though… even better than batch 1 was fresh. Intense coffee taste on the front with a roasted malt backbone to round it out. It has a sweet-amaretto like flavor in there as well. Much more complex than the first batch and already better.

Overall: I’m curious to see how batch 2 ages considering batch 1 tanked pretty hard in a relatively short amount of time. If batch 2 suffers the same fate we may have refine how we add our coffee. I know coffee tends to fade over time, but this is a relatively fast drop off. We normally dry bean, but maybe cold brew is the correct way to go.

Batch 2 is the clear winner right now, but in reality I think the real winner was us. Getting to compare and contrast previous iterations of the beer we’ve created is pretty special.

We will make sure to do a batch 2 vs. batch 3 comparison when the time comes.

 

 

SMaSH Series Volume I: Golden Promise & Belma

One thing both Josh and I vowed to do this year was take a more simplistic approach to brewing. Running before you’re able to walk is a mistake that is made pretty frequently in many aspects of life; brewing notwithstanding. We admitted to each other that some of the risks we took were definitely out of the realm of our experience threshold. This isn’t a bad thing – we gather useful information for future brews and learned a lot about process and maintenance of living cells. With that being said, 2017 is focusing on rebrewing old recipes. In addition to trying to tweak and better old recipes we are also starting our first “series,” we call it: The SMaSH series.

SMaSH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop. It’s a very basic grist that is also very useful when it comes to identifying grain profiles as well as hop profiles. Getting a better grasp on base malt flavors (and in some case specialty malt) flavors is not only an excellent step in the right direction of designing recipes but also in comprehending which of these grains complement one another best. For our first entry in the SMaSH series, we used Golden Promise malt and Belma hops for a pale ale.

I’m going to talk a bit about the malt and hops we used for this batch, just to kind of get a scope of what I expect this beer to taste like when it’s completed. This is obviously in a vacuum, and it will obviously be a little more nuanced once it is done fermenting. Golden Promise is a Scottish malt, one of my favorite base malts for pale beers. It is sweet, malty, and even has a little bit of biscuit flavor at the end. It is like a less intense version of Maris Otter (which is also a favorite of mine). A very mild base malt that lets the hop character shine. Belma hops are hops that I personally have never used before. I first got word of them when another local brewer used them in a saison. He said they gave his beer a nice bright citrus flavor with some hints of berries; specifically blueberries and strawberry. This seems like a cool hop to play with in clean ales.

When all is said and done I would like this beer to be crisp, lightly malty, with aromatics of stone fruit and citrus and a nice berry finish. I think given the ingredients (or lack thereof) this is very reasonable goal for this ale.

Grain:
10 lbs                     Golden Promise

Hops:
4 oz                        Belma Hops

Hop Additions:
.5 oz                       60 minute
.5 oz                       30 minute
1  oz                       15 minute
1  oz                       Flameout
1  oz                       Dry Hop (3 days)

Yeast:
1 packet               Safale US-05

Mash Temp:
152F                       60 minute

Boil:
60 Minutes

Expected OG:    1.048 – 1.050
Expected FG:     1.014 – 1.010
Expected ABV:  4.71% – 5.24%

Actual OG:          1.048

This was a very standard brew day, it was over as quickly as it started. After our last batch, we forgot to get our propane tank refilled so we had to do that before we got started, but everything else was smooth sailing. Mash was stable at 152F for 59.5 minutes (it was 151.9F for the last 30 seconds of the mash, because we had to move it inside). Mashed out at 168F and collected 7 gallons of wort.

We tried a few different things with this batch that I’d like to point out. We played around with water chemistry for the first time. Shoutout to Ty at www.watersbrewer.com, if you haven’t taken the plunge into constructing your water this is a very solid place to start and build that foundation. He sells prepackaged brewing salts for distilled or reverse osmosis water.

Once the boil started and the hop break subsided we added our first addition of hops. We only added half an ounce at first wort because we wanted to get as much aromatics/taste from the hops with as little bitterness as possible. The whole point of this is to get as much data and information from each ingredient in this beer. The less bitterness present in this beer the better, in my opinion.

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I never get tired of looking at a hot break

We added our hop additions as normal at the 60 minute, 30 minute, 15 minute, and 1 minute (flameout) times. We also added a whirlfloc tablet for the first time. Clarity of the wort/beer isn’t something I’ve really been concerned with but for this beer we figured we’d give it a go. No real motivation behind other than to experiment a little bit with an inexpensive batch. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up preferring to use whirlfloc tablets from now on! We also added a bit of yeast energizer because it doesn’t hurt to do it.

Our plate chiller wasn’t as efficient this time, for whatever reason. It may have been because it was a bit hotter outside on this brew day. We got the wort from 196F to 88F in about 5 minutes using the same method; recirculated ice water. The process is always smooth, but hopefully we can figure out a way to better get the temperature down for the next batch. We ended up just putting the carboy in the chest freezer for about 2 hours to get in down to pitching temperature (66F). It worked out well enough.

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Plate chiller to caryboy

We took a gravity reading with the rest of the leftover sweet wort from the kettle. I was shocked when I saw it read 1.032. I thought there was no way we only hit 55% efficiency with this batch. That is absolutely impossible. The more I was thinking about what went wrong the further away I was from the actual answer. It hit me after a while that we didn’t adjust the hydrometer reading based off of the temperature of the wort. We took the gravity reading while the wort was still at 150F, duh! So using the online adjuster tool with our hydrometer calibrated at 66F it adjusted to 1.048, which is 75% efficiency. We were happy with that.

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Gravity reading without the calibration/temperature adjustment

Overall I know we can improve with our efficiency, maybe not with the cooler mash tun that we are currently using but definitely once we upgrade. The SS Brewtech insulated mash tun is going to be ours soon and it is going to be amazing. With that said, I will end this with a picture of a beautiful cold break.

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Fantastic looking cold break!

We are both really looking forward to the end result of this beer. The SMaSH concept is such a simple one, but it is extremely important. I look forward to making more experiments with this in mind. I have a few hops on my mind for the next in the SMaSH series: El Dorado, Equinox, J17, Southern Passion, or possibly Mouteka.

It’s Competition Time!

One of our goals for 2017 was to get our beer entered, and preferably win, in homebrewing competitions. We took our first step in attaining that goal by entering the National Homebrew Competition (NHC). The NHC is put together by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and it’s the biggest competition in the US. We are both excited and terrified at this concept. This is going to be very constructive no matter what happens. A non-bias critique from certified judges will certainly help going forward.

We decided to enter our Coffee & Vanilla Brown, “Brown Eye Woke.” I have entered this into the category 19C American Brown, but I may change it to 13B British Brown. I haven’t decided yet but both categories are fairly similar.

Grain Bill:

8 pounds                            Pale 2-Row Malt
.75 pounds                          Brown Malt
.75 pounds                          Biscuit Malt
.75 pounds                          Special Roast Malt
.75 pounds                          Victory Malt

Hops:

2 oz                                        Kent Golding      (15 minute and 45 minute additions)

Yeast:

WLP005                                British Ale Yeast

Estimated
OG                 1.050
FG                  1.010

Actual
OG                 1.050
FG

We have been hitting about 70-75% efficiency lately, which is a big step above the 66-69% we were used to getting recently. We hit our OG right on the nose as well as our pre-boil and post-boil volume. We might actually know what we’re doing!

We mashed in at 152F for 60 minutes and mashed out at 151.8F. Not bad for a cooler mash tun. As a bit of an aside we plan on upgrading to the SS Brewtech 10 gallon mash tun very shortly, but I digress. We spraged at 168F with a 10 minute rest and collected 7 gallons of wort.  Going off tangent, again, after I threw the spent grains away I started to feel like I should do something with them. So starting next brew day I’m going to start making dog treats with the spent grains.

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It was a beautiful day Sunday, too beautiful to not brew.

One thing I noticed right away with this second batch was the color of the wort. It didn’t seem to be very dark… it actually looked pale/orange in all honesty. We were a bit taken back by it, and I initially thought they may have given us the wrong grain bill. We decided to press on and mash as we usually do. After the sparge, the color got a little bit darker, but the SRM was clearly different. I’ll touch more on this later.

Moving on, we brought the wort to a boil for 60 minutes with hop additions of .75 ounces for 45 minutes and 1.25 ounces for 15 minutes. Kent Golding hops are pretty non-intrusive hops and the honey and “earthy” component they add to beers meshes really well with this style. I love watching the hot break happen, it’s such an awesome reaction (fuck yeah, science)

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Hot break about to… break

 

We recently brewed Dry Hop Naked, our dry hopped honey blonde, again. We had some issues with our new plate chiller. We didn’t have time to do a test run, so we kind of learned on the fly. Results were best described as… mixed. Although the plate chiller took the temperature from 185F to 78F in about 8 minutes, so it definitely did its job. We decided to step things up a bit and save even more water this time around.

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Using the new plate chiller with recirculated ice water. Perfection.

About a month ago we made a carboy washer with a bucket, submersible pump, and some PVC pipe. We toyed with the idea of using our pump to recirculate ice water through the plate chiller. This would not only cut down on wasting water but also streamline the process so we can chill twice instead of once.

It worked insanely well! We used the gravity method to get the wort form the kettle to the chiller into another kettle. We got the temp from 183F to 77F in about eight minutes. Once that was done we transferred from the kettle to the carboy and put it in the fridge, got it down to ~66F and pitched our yeast. It was an incredibly smooth brew day, and it was one of our most efficient ones at that. Hit our target OG on the nose, got everything done in about three hours, and we were able to relax for the rest of the day.

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One thing I still don’t quite understand though is the difference in color. The grain bill is 100% exactly the same from batch one to two.  I’m really stumped on this one… I hope it doesn’t affect the flavor of the finished product, either. After the cold break and pitching the yeast, the color did get darker, but still not as dark as the previous batch. Maybe it’s all mental and I’m imagining things. I have some batch one bottles still so I will definitely do a little side by side when time permits.

2016: A Beer in Review

2016 has certainly been… something, there is no denying that. Rather than dwell on what was without a doubt one of the most tumultuous year I’ve ever been a part of, I’d rather focus on the positives. What is a bigger positive than beer? There really isn’t any. This really was a great year for us in terms of brewing (not to mention drinking). Our general knowledge, understanding, processes, and ability to create all jumped up exponentially over the course of this year. We did about 20 batches this year, and we are itching to do more.

There were definitely some dudes this year and we weren’t without our issues (infection, carbonation). These issues are to be expected though and as long as you continue to improve and not make the same mistakes twice they can be more of positive than a negative. Without a doubt we did some beers that were probably (read: definitely) above our level of expertise… with very mixed results. I’m not upset with the fact that they didn’t come out perfect, that’s the beauty of this. A bad beer is very easy to remake and improve upon, it isn’t a terrible thing. The only way to get better is to fail, I strongly believe that. We’ve shown some pretty remarkable improvement this year, and I expect us to continue to trend upwards. I’d like to reflect on some of our better beers.

  1. Dry Hop Naked: A blonde dry hopped with Comet and Citra hops. The perfect mix between a light easy drinker and hoppy. The dry hop gave it the aroma of peach and mango while the beer itself was light on stonefruit and dry. Easily one of our best. We used Wyeast 1318 (London II) to ferment this and it was a huge success.
  2. Unnamed Robust Porter: There is actually a name for this, but everyone hates it… so back to the drawing board for that one. Really easy drinker this one was; roasted coffee and chocolate dominated the nose and the body followed with the same. It also had a nice biscuit flavor at the end. It finished a little high (1.024 from 1.066, FG was supposed to be 1.018) but it wasn’t overly sweet. The body was great for a porter, too.
  3. Gose: Fairly easy beer to make, but always delicious. I made a write-up about it on this blog, so I won’t get big into details. We’ve brewed this several times since our first attempt in March and it is always refreshing. We will continue to make improvements to it. We always kettle sour it, but maybe we can do a long term project next. We also added apricots to a part of this, it was phenomenal.
  4. The Gathering Storm/Grant Us Eyes: I put these two together because they are the same base malt recipe, with different hops. It’s our take(s) on a NEIPA, the newest haze craze sweeping the West Coast. TGS was hopped with Citra, Galaxy, and Simcoe and was also amazing. Passion fruit, Mango, and Grapefruit up front with a nice backend of pure dank. We used WLP090 for this one, which wasn’t the best choice (the beer dropped pretty clear) but it made little to no difference. Hopefully next time we can use the correct yeast so the beer can improve. For GuE we used a hop bill of Nelson and Mosaic. White wine and grapes is the perfect way to describe this beer. It was very balanced (not too bitter, not too malty) and always left you wanting more. Excited to revisit these next year.
  5. Brown Eye Woke: American Brown ale with Coffee and Vanilla. This is probably the best beer we made this year. We used Madagascar vanilla beans and Cloud Ripper (Modern Times) coffee for this one. The aroma is pure roasted coffee, there’s also some nutty type of smell that can be described as almonds. That isn’t a bad smell, in fact it really enhances the overall aroma of the beer. Upfront this beer is almost purely coffee with the nut-roast-chocolate (?) flavor coming behind it. There isn’t much vanilla here, but you can get a faint hint of it as the taste dies down. Maybe next time double down on the vanilla.

These are what I would consider our best beers this year – we do have a few beers that are not fully carbonated yet (Berliner Weiss, BW w/ raspeberries and blueberries, Saison w/ 6 strains of brettanomyces , peaches, and strawberries). So this list is subject to change!

We can’t list our best beer without going over our worst ones, either.

  1. One With the Shadows: A Russian Imperial Stout that just never worked from the get go. OG of 1.099 and a FG of… 1.065? What? Not enough aeration on the wort pre-pitch and maybe the starter wasn’t big enough, but it crapped out, and it crapped out quick. I even tried to pitch a second starter to get it moving, it did no good. After 2 months we decided to bottle it and needless to say, bottles exploded and walls were coated. It’s a shame, really. The beer itself tasted pretty solid. We are going to attempt this one again sometime soon.
  2. Impeached: A blonde ale fermented with 100% Brettanomyces (Brett bruxellensis and drei) and refermented on fresh peaches. Where to start on this one? Completely oxidized with no real flavor. All the initial samples of this beer were very positive. I assume our old bottling process had something to do with this. It took nearly 8 months to fully carbonate (I’m still not sure why?) and when it finally did there wasn’t much to it. It smelled great, like overripe peaches with some mild funk. The taste was a different story though… cardboard and mineral water pretty much dominated. Highly disappointing, but we are going to give it a go again next year.
  3. 2/16: Our first long term sour project. We brewed this in February of 2016 (hence the name) and just bottled it a few days ago. Smell is nice and funky with a sharp lactic bite, not a bad one either. The taste is pretty rough though; Tetrahydropyridine all over the place. Initially it tastes like a nice, complex sour. It is quickly dominated by biscuit-cracker-cheerios, aka THP. This is pretty disappointing considering we waited nearly 10 months for this to age. However, the taste was from the sample and I know that THP can be cleaned up by brett with time, so there is still hope. I had to include it because I’m severely disappointed.
  4. Yo, Homeboy: I want to preface this by saying that this isn’t a bad beer in anyway shape or form, but it didn’t come out how we intended. We had made a recipe for a Pliny the Elder clone with a few tweaks here and there. We were spot on with our gravity readings, IBU, SRM, and wort volume. Everything was going well until it was time to pitch the yeast. Our first choice of yeast (WLP090) was not available at the time so we went with a recommendation. The yeast itself was more of a lager yeast. It fermented at an insane pace for two days and blew the top off of our carboy twice (!). All the hop flavor dissipated and left us with what was essentially a lager. It was crystal clear and extremely light. Did I mention this beer was nearly 10%?

We plan on doing most of, if not all, of these on the list so we expect improvements to be made.  I think of the beers mentioned Yo, Homeboy has the potential to be the best. Everything about that beer until the final product was top notch. I fully expect that to be rebrewed several times in the foreseeable future.

You can’t have a retrospective without listing some goals for the next, because if you aren’t getting better you’re getting worse.

  • Continue to refine our brewing processes and recipes
  • Enter (and preferably win) in Homebrew Competitions
  • Create a better space for our brewing equipment
  • Have four (4) beers that always in rotation (constants)
  • Play more with water chemistry and begin the addition of adding oak to beers

These are very basic, yet can prove to be very effective goals for the upcoming year. We will strive for consistency, which is without a doubt a key component to creating something “living.” Josh and I both are both looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us. Ideas are flowing and it’s nigh time to execute them. Beer.