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.


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.