Brew Day: Rye Pale Ale

It’s Football season (finally) and what does Football season call for? Session beers. Nothing beats getting our sloth on and vegging out for 7 hours with friends and some beers while watching the games. We’ve been wanting to keg for a while and this just gave us the shot in the arm to do it. This will be our first kegged beer, and it will be tapped at our friends backyard BBQ in the next month or so. While we are excited, we also need to make sure we make a nice sessionable beer that won’t intimidate our non-craft drinking friends.

We decided on a Rye Pale Ale with Denali and Mosaic hops (mostly late additions and dry hops). Denali is a hop I’ve heard a lot about but never used, so why not give it a shot?

Goal: Sessionable drinker that is high on flavor and mild in ABV. Citrus with a shot of tropical fruit on the nose and taste, creamy body, and dry enough to keep you wanting more.

8#           2-Row
2#           Rye Malt
.5#          C-20

.5 oz       Mosaic                  First Wort
.5 oz       Mosaic                  30 Minute
1 oz        Denali, Mosaic    10 minute
2 oz        Denali                   Flameout/Hopstand (20 minutes @ 180F)
Dry Hop                               2 oz Denali, 1 oz Mosaic

Safale US-05


Expected OG:                    Expected FG:                     Expected ABV:
1.048– 1.052                       1.010 – 1.008                      4.97% – 5.7%

Actual OG:

Mash Temp:                       Boil:
154F       60 minutes          60 minutes

One thing to note: We mashed this one a little on the high side. I wanted to try something, we have been getting unreal attenuation our past 3 batches and I’m not sure why. Our NEIPA (which is tasting phenomenal at the moment) got all the way down to 1.008 from 1.064, which not what we expected. We figured it would’ve been 1.012 or 1.010 tops, but it got lower. The beer itself didn’t suffer though, I expected it to be thin and dry, but it actually has a nice body (probably from all the oats) and the flavor is huge. I figured why not experiment with a relatively cheap batch?

Without going into it too much I do believe our fermentation fridge is having issues as well. Maybe not the fridge itself but our temperature controllers’ thermometer may be a bit wonky. Seems the bottom keeps too cold, even though the probe is attached the middle-bottom part of the carboy. I think I solved this issue in the simplest way possible: I put a tray that raises 3 inches under the carboy. It sits higher now and the temp is consistent throughout. Occam’s razor, sometimes the simplest solution is the correct one.

Moving on, the actual brew day was insanely smooth. We started our boil late this time at around 9am. The weather was perfect for brewing, overcast with a high of 77F. Putting a TV in our brewing area (re:garage) was the best decision I think we’ve made. We got to brew and watch football as well as enjoy homebrews. One would call that the trinity.

We got our boiling rolling at about 11:20AM and started adding our hops. The hop additions followed as stated above (60, 30, 10, hop stand). We collected 5.1 gallons of wort with an OG of 1.050, right on par with what we expected. The one thing we did forget to do was add the half pound of flaked oats. Oops. It may have increased the gravity by .02, if at all, so it isn’t the end of the world.

First hop addition, Mosaic.

We chilled the wort down to about 78F after one pass and threw it in the fridge for a couple of hours to bring it down to pitching temp. We let it get to 66F and pitched our yeast and tucked it away in fermentation cooler where it is currently bubbling away.

Hop stand after the boil.

Brown Eye Woke 3.0 has finished fermenting and is currently sitting on about 6oz of coffee beans from Mostra. I had a cup of the coffee today and it is incredible, it will definitely play nicely with the base of the beer. There is another homebrew competition we are entering. It is actually in the town that we grew up in and the brewery that our friend owns is throwing it (Ohana Brewing). I’m looking forward to getting back with him and submitting our beers.


Brew Day: Brown Eye Woke 3.0

This will be our third iteration of Brown Eye Woke, it’s been probably our best received beer since we started brewing. Though a friend of ours made a comment that rang pretty true in regards to this beer: it is pretty one note. This is actually very true. We then decided that we should switch the grain bill up and tweak the recipe just a bit. This led to two things: a bit of extra grain (1 pound extra, no big deal really) and the removal of biscuit malt. We removed biscuit in order to add Chocolate malt and a bit of C-40.

The goal was to add a bit of body to the beer and make the coffee complement the base malts instead of taking it over. Chocolate malt was mainly for color as we only used a half pound. Based off the initial tasting of the wort and the higher original gravity I think we are on the right track.

Grain Bill:
8#           Maris Otter
.8#          Victory
.8#          Brown
.75#       Special Roast
.75#       C-40
.5#          Chocolate Malt

.75 oz    East Kent Golding (45 minute addition)
.75 oz    East Kent Golding (15 minute addition)

WLP002 – English Ale Yeast

Yeast Energizer @ 15 minutes
Whirlfloc            @ 15 minutes

151F                       60 Minutes

60 Minutes

Estimated OG:                  Actual OG:
1.056                                     1.054

Estimated FG:

Estimated ABV:

We started up by heating our sparge water to 160F to keep the mash temperature at 151F during the full hour. It spiked up to 151.7F for a few minutes and then went down to 151F and stayed there for the remainder. I figure this was because of the weather outside. It was 101F while we under our canopy and the clouds kept coming in and out, pretty strange day in that regard. We ended up mashing in a little too much water and had about 7.8 gallons in the kettle instead of 7.5, because of this we missed our target OG by .002 points. I should’ve known to boil for a bit longer but it didn’t even occur to me at the time, call it heat exhaustion.

Mashing out, color and smell on point so far.

First thing that pops to me during the mash out is the color of the wort. Definitely more in line with what the color of a brown ale should be, especially after the 2nd batch was a little on the light side. The aroma coming from the kettle was remarkable as well; nutty, toasty, and caramel/chocolate. It’s a step in the right direction and hopefully the end result is a bit bolder.

We got the boil rolling pretty quickly and added our hops at the scheduled times. We opted against the hop spider for this specific batch because we only used 1.5 ounces of hops. I whirlpooled a little during the transfer through the plate chiller and it got a little clogged but we fixed that issue quickly. We cooled it from 210F to 85F in about 4 minutes. We weren’t happy with the fact we still had to drop the temp 17+ degrees, but it was hot outside so we didn’t want to do a second pass. We threw the carboy in the fridge and cooled it to 68F in about 3 hours.

We pitched our yeast, got everything working in the fermentation chamber and sealed her up. Once the beer has fermented completely we are going to add coffee, as always. This time we are using Mostra coffee. The specific bean being used is Costa Rica Tres Rios Aguas Claras single origin. Mostra describes it as Bordeaux wine, chocolate, and wet wood.  I think that will play very nicely with the base of this beer.

It’s been a while since we have experimented with our batches, so we decided to do exactly that with this one. We are going to siphon off 1 gallon once it has completely fermented and been infused with coffee we will then transfer it onto oak. We previously did something similar with a stout we brewed, we transferred that to a 1 gallon carboy with apple brandy soaked oak. Unfortunately, that batch got pretty oxidized because the bung blew off while I was on vacation. For this specific batch it is going to be just regular oak with no bourbon.  I’m thinking either American or Hungarian chips will be best for this beer.

As a side note, we got the results back from the Maltose Falcons home brewing competition. We didn’t place in either category, but we ranked pretty high with our Saison. We ended up with a 32, which is decent. The pale ale did not fare so well, it ended up with a 22. The pale ale was disappointing because it never rounded into what it was supposed to be. The hop flavor was very diminished, it wasn’t clear, and it never carbed up fully. While it is kind of a bummer, but we are going to continue improve and take home some ribbons eventually. Cheers.

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

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)

Wyeast 318         London III

Yeast Energizer @ 15 minutes

152F       60 Minutes

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.

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.

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

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

3 packages                          Safale S-23

60 minutes         @            153F*

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

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)

1 packet               US-05

152F                       60 minutes

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.

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.

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.


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.

75 minutes @ 149F

90 minutes

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

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

WLP090                              San Diego Super Yeast

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

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

1 pkg       Bootleg Biology “The Mad Fementationist Blend”

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.

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.

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.

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

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

1 pkg US-05

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

60 minutes at 154F

10 minutes at 168F

60 Minute

OG: 1.047                          FG: 1.010                         ABV: 4.84%

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.

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.

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!

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.

10 lbs                     Golden Promise

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)

1 packet               Safale US-05

Mash Temp:
152F                       60 minute

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, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.