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.

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.



We have a problem… a Ghost Problem

For better or for worse Pumpkin ales of all sorts are a staple of the fall season. They come in many varieties; sours, stouts, ambers, IPA, etc. Whether or not they are good pumpkin beers is an entirely subjective matter. Personally I have had enough pumpkin beers to know that there is a solid foundation to make some really tasty pumpkin beers.

We have been throwing around an idea for a stout for a little over a year now, it was originally supposed to be a Halloween beer but we never got around to brewing it on time. We decided that even though the season (for all intents and purposes) was over we would still go through with making our pumpkin beer. This one has a bit of a twist on the traditional styles though. This would be a smoked pumpkin stout with vanilla beans. There is most definitely going to be a lot going on here, but we feel the flavors will meld together with time.

We decided to call this; Ghost Problems: A Spooky Stout

10 lbs     Maris Otter
1 lb         C-40
1 lb         Chocolate Malt
8 oz        Roasted Barley
2 lbs       Peachwood Smoked Malt

3 oz        Crystal Hops

1.5 lbs   Roasted Pumpkin

1 TB        Pumpkin Spice (Allspice, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg)

Original Gravity:      1.060           Final Gravity:            1.012

ABV: 6.28%

Actual OG:                 1.056           Efficiency: 60%

We had a few options in regards to adding the pumpkin to the beer. We could’ve done a mash infusion, boil, or add it to the secondary. Of the options we were presented with, I liked the idea of boiling it the most. Mash was a close second on the list – but the idea of a stuck sparge and messy mash tun didn’t necessarily get me excited.

I had originally planned for the mash to be at 163F but decided that was probably a bit too high, so I changed it to 153F, which is a pretty safe temperature. We did a single infusion mash with a batch sparge (strike water heated to 170F and rest for 15 minutes). You immediately smell the light smokiness of the peachwood smoked malt we used, but it wasn’t overbearing. It was definitely there, but it was very subtle; exactly what we wanted.

We ended up with more wort than originally anticipated, but with a 90 minute boil it wasn’t the end of the world, but still had a slightly lower OG because of it.

Hot break about to pop

We did two hop additions, one at 30 minutes of ¾ ounces and another at 75 minutes of 2 ¼ ounces. When it came time to add the pumpkin at 70 minutes, rather than throw the pumpkin inside the kettle we added it our hop bag and set it aside. With 10 minutes left in the boil we added a yeast energizer and our pumpkin spice. The pumpkin spice was a mixture of; allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. It smelled awesome going into the boil and left a lingering aroma of pie.

Nice rolling boil with all additions of hops, pumpkin, and pumpkin spices!

The addition of the spices and the pumpkin made the wort have a pretty great looking orange hue. The color combined with the rolling boil was almost hypnotic to look at, and the smell only added to the mesmeric allure. We chilled it down to 66F, hit it with 120 seconds of pure O2 (thank you, diffusion stone) and added two packs of WLP007. Within 12 hours it was bubbling away like crazy. We used a blow-off tube for this one, but it might not have been necessary, oddly enough.

Wort going into the carboy

We are going to add vanilla beans once primary fermentation has completed. I may also add a bit more spices depending on how much they come out. Based on the sample it wasn’t spice heavy, and we could maybe use a bit more. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it though.

Josh and I are both really excited for this beer, not only because we’ve been talking about it for over a year now, but also because the sample was very promising. If it all goes well this may be something we brew every year for the holidays.