Brew Day: 3/17/18 West Coast IPA with Citra and Vic-Secret hops

I’ve been kind of quiet on this blog lately and that’s really just because our past two brew days have been unmitigated disasters. Brown Eye Woke v4 was mashed too high only fermented to 1.030, I added a starter culture to try and drop it down even just a bit more to no avail. We don’t know what to do with the leftover wort… Josh and I were debating on pitching some Brettanomyces and turning it into “Brett’s Brown Ale” but we are unsure. It may be going to dump city USA soon.

Our other planned brew day was for this West Coast IPA, we originally “brewed” it on 03/03/18 and again had temperature problems. Big ones. We heated the strike water to 167F (it was raining and pretty cold outside) and when we preheated the mash tun everything seemed to be fine, however our mash temperature was only at 145F. Panic mode! We decided to just do a batch sparge instead of a fly sparge as we normally do. Long story short, the water at its peak reached about 148F. Not high enough for an IPA, of course.

We decided to just boil as usual and make a Berliner Weiss or Gose. It was at that point we remembered we adjusted the water profile for an IPA… not exactly ideal for a soft bodied sour. We ended up dumping the batch and saving the Hops and Yeast for another brew day. That day was on the 17th. We used the same recipe and hoped everything went well this time … spoiler alert … it did!

Grain Bill Estimated Original Gravity Mash
10#   2-Row 1.050 – 1.054 60 Mintues  @ 151F
1#     C-10 Actual Original Gravity  
  1.054 Boil
Hops & Schedule Estimated Final Gravity 60 Minutes
.5 oz Vic-Secret @ 30 mins 1.010 – 1.012  
.5 oz Citra           @ 30 mins Actual Final Gravity Mineral Additions
1 oz  Vic-Secret @ 10 mins   5.8g Gypsum (Mash)
1 oz  Citra           @ 10 mins Estimated Alcohol by Volume 3.5g Epsom Salt (Mash)
2.5oz Vic-Secret@ Flameout 5.24% – 5.76% 1.9g Calcium Chloride (Mash)
2.5 oz Citra         @ Flameout   4.6g Gypsum (Boil)
1 oz Vic-Secret   5 Day Dry Hop   2.8g Epsom Salt (Boil)
2 oz Citra             5 Day Dry Hop   1.5g Calcium Chloride (Boil)
Yeast   Yeast Energizer @ 15 mins
A24 “Dry Hop” Imperial Yeast   Whirlfloc Tablet@ 15 mins

This grain bill actually turned out more of a Pale Ale, but we hopped it like we normally would an IPA, we expect the balance to be perfect. We mashed in at 150F and some change, a little under our target temperature but not the end of the world (hopefully…). We have been having issues with our mash temperature and it’s pretty frustrating. I’m having trouble comprehending why we spent so much money on a SS Brewtech Mash Tun if it won’t hold temperature any better than the $50 cooler we converted. I’m sure we are overlooking something dumb and this will turn around, soon. Ugh.

This may not be a traditional West Coast IPA, it’s more of a hybrid. We have been experimenting with these types of styles for a few months and we are continuously making tweaks to the recipes and to the brewing process. The main components we have been exploring has been the hop schedules and water profile. The most recent pale we made (Medusa-Oblongata) used a softer water profile, sort of like a New England IPA. It came out delicious, but it was lacking a bit of crispness you get from a pale ale. With that said we decided to add a bit of Epsom salt to this batch, to emphasize the hop character.

Anyhow, we mashed out and collected 7.2 gallons of sweet wort and started our boil. We added our first hop charge at 30 minutes we wanted to give this one a bit more bitterness than the most recent batch that used only late addition hops (10 minutes, 5 minutes, flameout). It wasn’t a huge charge, only 1 oz total, but it should be enough to impart some of the bitterness we are looking for.

After our boil we ran our wort through the plate chiller into our carboy. We collected about 4.5 gallons of wort, aerated it for 30 seconds, and cooled to pitching temperature. Our plate chiller brought it down to about 75F, it wouldn’t have mattered if we pitched at that temperature, but we still brought it down to 66F before doing so. I was expecting a bit of a quicker start from the Imperial Yeast “A24 Dry Hop” because of the higher cell count, but it took about ~22 hours for activity to start.

We are going to dry hop on 3/26/18 and bottle that Saturday. That is also our next brew day. What a coincidence! We are planning to rebrew Brown Eye Woke (call it version 4.5?) if the last batch is as dead as I believe it to be. There is a bit of schedule for our upcoming brews as well, and I’d like to share it with you.

Upcoming Beers:
3/30: Brown Eye Woke – Coffee Brown Ale, Gose – kettle soured (splitting into 4 separate fruited batches; hand picked prickly pears, cherry & hibiscus, raspberry, and strawberry kiwi).

Dates TBA:
West Coast Pilsner – Hoppy Pilsner style lager
Porter – Robust porter with Apple Brandy oak cubes and coconut
Idaho 7 Pale Ale – Idaho 7 New England inspired pale ale
Grant Us Eyes – Nelson and Mosaic New England IPA

These beers should keep us busy for next couple of months. Definitely looking forward to the porter, I’ve been looking to make a coconut beer for quite some time. Actually “Brown Eye Woke” was originally brainstormed as a coffee and coconut brown. Then it became a coffee and vanilla brown ale. We all know now it is a coffee brown ale, sometimes less is more. Cheers.


Brew Day: 02/17/18 Brown Eye Woke v4

With competition season starting up soon we decided to brew our only award winning beer to try and build upon our success from last year. Enter Brown Eye Woke: our brown ale aged on coffee beans. We received two medals for it last year (it would’ve been three had I submitted the bottles on time… oops). We always use a different coffee in each version. This year we opted for Four Barrel Nicaraguan el Diablo beans. We hit our numbers on the mark (with a bit of increased efficiency even!) and the brew day went incredibly smooth. Initial wort sample was nice and roasty/sweet. I’ve got a good feeling about this one. Do I smell a first place medal?

Grist: Hops Mash:
8#      Maris Otter 1 oz East Kent Golding @ 60 60 Minutes @ 154F
.8#     Victory 1 oz East Kent Golding @ 15
.8#     Brown Malt Boil:
.75#   Special Malt 60 Minutes
.75#   C-40 Yeast
.5#     Chocolate Malt WLP002 (English Ale Yeast)
Estimated OG: 1.054 Actual OG: 1.054 Extra
Yeast Energizer @ 15
Estimated FG: 1.010 Actual FG:
Age of coffee beans after
Estimated ABV: 5.77% Actual ABV: Fermentation has completed
For two weeks

A few things to note, other than my beautiful organized table for our recipe, are some minor tweaks to the recipe. Two things stick out – a higher mash temperature and a half ounce more of hops. When we submitted our beer last year, two points of constructive criticism stood out. One was that it needed more hops and the other was that it was a little thin. With those remarks in mind we took what we feel are the necessary steps to making a better beer. Only time will tell!

We heated our strike up to 165F and we preheated our mashtun this time, however we may have over done it. The mash temp was at 155F for most of the mash duration which is unfortunate but we hope it won’t affect the fermentability of the wort too much. We collected 7.5 gallons of sweet wort and started our boil.

In order to make the hop presence and bit more prominent we decided to forgo our usual hopping schedule and do a first wort hopping, and made it a full ounce as opposed to ¾ oz. We kept the 2nd hop charge at 15 minutes as we normally do. Hopefully this adds a bit of complementary bitterness to the roasty notes of the grain bill and coffee.

A small rolling boil about to form after a hot break

After boiling for an hour we chilled the wort down to 77F and dropped it in the fermentation fridge until it cooled to about 70F. Then we pitched our yeast (WLP002) and closed it off until we are ready to add the coffee beans. We collected about 4.8 gallons and hit our original gravity numbers on the mark. It’s always a good feeling to hit our numbers but it was especially nice to hit them on the nose while we brewed a beer for a competition.

We did a lot of other things this past weekend as well. Most notably, we bottled 15 gallons of beer! We bottled:

  • “One with the Shadows” Stout –Roasty-Chocolate Stout
  • “Medusa Oblongata” – Medusa & Victoria Secret Pale Ale
  • “Destination: Terror” – A Rye Honey Saison with Lime Zest added

It was definitely a long brew day but it was also a very satisfying one. I can’t wait for these beers to condition so we can taste them as the initial sample going into the bottles was great. Of the bunch I’m most excited to try the stout, reason being that stouts are the last key to our homebrew puzzle. Hopefully this is a winner. Cheers.


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.

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.