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.

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

Hops:
.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

Yeast:
Safale US-05

Extra:
None

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

Actual OG:
1.050

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Yeast:
WLP002 – English Ale Yeast

Other:
Yeast Energizer @ 15 minutes
Whirlfloc            @ 15 minutes

Mash:
151F                       60 Minutes

Boil:
60 Minutes

Estimated OG:                  Actual OG:
1.056                                     1.054

Estimated FG:
1.008

Estimated ABV:
6.2%

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.

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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.

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.

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.