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.