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)
    Extra
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.

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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.

IMG-20180218-WA0007
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 – 1/20/18 “One with the Shadows”

If we have an Achilles heel in regards to brewing it is without doubt stouts. We have attempted to brew stouts a few times and each time had underwhelming results. Whether it be the yeast not fully fermenting (twice) or infection (it was our second batch… and we definitely tried to do too much) we just haven’t had success with stouts. We are hoping that our fortune turns around with this most recent batch.

Note: I didn’t calculate an estimated OG or estimated FG because efficiency tends to be all over the place with big beers. I was hoping to get anywhere from 1.090 – 1.100 and we got 1.094, so I think we did ok. I calculated a 66% efficiency, which while not great, was on par with what I expected.

Grain Bill:                                                        Hops:
8#           Maris Otter                                         1 oz        Magnum           –       First Wort
7#           2-Row                                                   1 oz        Millennium      –       First Wort
2#           Chocolate
1#           Chocolate Rye                                   Yeast:
1#           Pale Chocolate                                  Wyeast 1098      2 packets
1#           Flaked Oats
1#           C-60                                                       Extra:
4 oz        Flaked Barley                                     Yeast Energizer             (15 Minute addition)

Mash:                                                                   Boil:
155F*    90 Minutes                                         120 Minutes

OG: 1.094                            EFG: 1.024^                        EABV: 9.12%

Goal: A nice toasty stout to keep us warm during this rough California winter. I’d like to incorporate roasted malt, caramel, toffee, and chocolate in this recipe. Viscous without being overly thick, coats the tongue after every sip.

*We had some temp issues with the mash tun so it only mashed in at 151F, hopefully the beer doesn’t turn out too dry.
^This is based off of yeast attenuation and calculations.

We have brewed a similar recipe once before and it came in at 1.102 but the yeast ended up dying at around 1.052. It still made a tasty beer, but unfortunately it became over carbonated and ended up detonating a few times. I even added rehydrated yeast to it to try and keep it going to no avail.

The mash temperature fluctuating was the only hiccup in what was a pretty smooth brew day. We heated it up to about 164F and even preheated the mash tun with some boiled water before the strike water was fully heated. Unfortunately because we used 21 lbs of grain it didn’t hold as well as we would’ve liked. I think our next big purchase is going to be a RIMS or HERMS system to keep the mash tun temperature stable. We normally don’t have a problem (give or take a ~.4 difference in F) but this is still something good to have.

I digress, as has been the case with most of our recent brew days this one was very, very smooth. It was pretty long though. We bottled “Grant Us Eyes” v3 in the morning before we started (as an aside, we hit our OG on the head and we hit our FG on the head), then as we started to heat the strike water, we figured out we didn’t have any propane left. Oops.

20180120_151342
Perfect brewing weather

As previously noted our mash temperature was not as constant as we’d have liked it to be. It was a pretty windy day and the sun was at a premium. I tried to boil water to bring it up, and while it worked for 1F, it was still 3F below target temperature. Not the best way to start, but I don’t think it will be too much of an issue. You know what they say RDWHAHB (Relax, don’t worry and have a homebrew).

We added 2 oz of hops (1 oz Magnum and 1 oz Millennium) at first wort and boiled them for 2 hours. I wanted to use 2 oz of Magnum but I only had 1 available to me at the time, again, not a huge deal as Millennium hops are great in stouts. This is probably the darkest beer we’ve made, the wort looked just like motor oil when it was going into the kettle and while it was boiling. The wort smelled fantastic though, I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

After the boil we used our plate chiller to cool it down to pitching temperature. Since the ground water was relatively cold we chilled it to 70F within about 10 minutes. We still dropped the carboy in the fermentation fridge for 2 hours to drop it to 66F, but it wasn’t really needed. Post boil/chilled gravity reading initially clocked in at 1.088 and after temperature correction we calculated it being 1.094.

In order to prevent the yeast from dying or getting stressed we hit this beast with pure oxygen for 60 seconds and also aerated by swirling the carboy. We don’t want to take any chances this time around. I also gave it a swirl on 1/23 (3 days after brew date) to aerate just a little bit more, again, not taking chances. Fermentation has been vigorous and we probably should’ve used a blow-off tube, but it hasn’t been too bad. Luckily we left enough headspace in the carboy.

Competition season is coming up. We are incredibly excited to build off of the momentum we had last year. Brown Eye Woke will be a constant entry and possibly Dry Hop Naked. We would like to maybe enter something else but haven’t really sat down and thought about it. Hoping to take home first place in at least one competition this year!

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.

20161211_114758
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.

20161211_124519
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.

20161211_133931
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.

Cheers.