28 November 2009

posted by benjy edwards

We like to brew a Christmas Ale every year, and last year we missed the opportunity, so for 2009 we got the batch done before December rolled around (just).  The recipe is based on the highly-acclaimed Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland.  It contains honey, ginger, and cinnamon.  We usually add all three ingredients to the boil, but this time we held back on the ginger and cinnamon and will add those to one primary fermenter soon after active fermentation has subsided.  The reason is so that we can preserve an un-spiced five gallons from this batch to have a different beer on tap.  Five gallons of Christmas Ale is enough!

The mash was Maris Otter, crystal, wheat, and honey malt, with a couple of ounces of roast barley for colour.  Two ounces of roast may have been too much, it looked a bit dark in the boil kettle in the fermenters.  Original gravity was 1.062 after the addition of two pounds of honey at flameout.  Hops are simple: Galena for bittering and some Willamette at 15 minutes, IBU of 44.

By mid-week we’ll add the ginger and cinnamon to half the batch and then sample it on racking out of primary to see if more spices should be added in secondary or in the keg. The other half of the batch will be dry-hopped for a straight-forward strong pale ale.

We racked the Old Ale we brewed last week to a couple of corny kegs.   The gravities on both fermenters had dropped to 1.013 and the beer tasted good, without any over-the-top cloying sweetness from the large proportion of crystal malt.  It turns out I probably could have used one-sixth of the grain bill as crystal malt, as Harvey’s does, because the 14% I used was not too much.  There is a raisiny flavour that we were seeking, but it could be more pronounced, and the colour is not dark enough – it should be black rather than a dark brown.   Next time round we need to increase both the dark crystal malt and the black treacle.

21 November 2009

posted by benjy edwards

Today we brewed our first old ale, although with an original gravity of 1.045 it is a running beer rather than a traditional old ale.  The recipe is based on Harvey’s Sussex XXX Old Ale, which is only 4.3% alcohol by volume and available during fall and winter.  The brewery says it is brewed with pale malt, 16% dark crystal, and “black sugars”.  That is a very high proportion of crystal, so we used slightly less, at 14% of the fermentables.  We used Tate and Lyle’s Black Treacle for the sugar, which is an English molasses, added with five minutes remaining in the boil.  Hops were First Golding, Bramling Cross, and Kent Goldings, with an IBU of 25.

The Hophead has had a week in primary, so it was racked to a couple of corny kegs and dry hopped with Amarillo.  First impressions were good, with a grapefruity hop presence and noticeable bitterness.  Both fermenters dropped t0 1.010.

Earlier in the week I kegged up 2.5 gallons of the Son of Satan imperial stout in a 3-gallon corny keg, adding 1.5% cold-brewed coffee and .5% of the vanilla-infused bourbon.  We tapped it today and it is very nice – the coffee and bourbon are subtle while the vanilla is more pronounced.  The stout is less noticeable than in the first keg (to which we added nothing), but now we have two versions.  There is still 2.5 gallons left in secondary for other experimentation.

14 November 2009

posted by benjy edwards

Today we brewed another batch of Dark Star’s Hophead, but this time instead of hopping entirely with Cascade, we used 100% Amarillo.   At 40 IBU, we will see if that is enough hops to make it very grapefruity.   Brew went without a hitch, other than hitting an OG of 1.039 in place of the expected 1.041.

We racked the Harvey’s Best Bitter from primary to corny kegs, dry hopping each with 1.5 ounces of Kent Goldings.  Gravities on both fermenters dropped to 1.011.

7 November 2009

posted by benjy edwards

The second batch for this yeast culture is a clone of Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter, one of my favourite traditional bitters.  The malt bill is Maris Otter, dark crystal, a couple of ounces of Special B for added colour, and flaked maize.  Happily, we hit the 1.041 target gravity with no adjustments needed.

Hops in the original beer are Progress, Bramling Cross, Fuggle, and Kent Goldings.  We used three of those, but had to substitute First Gold for the Progress.  Target IBU is 40, with hop additions at 60, 30, and 0 minutes left inthe boil.

There was no beer to rack from the primary today, so we used the time to enjoy the recently-kegged Son of Satan Imperial Stout.  Everyone agreed that it was better not to add any of the vanilla-infused bourbon to the keg.  While the bourbon does give it hints of vanilla, it mainly tastes of bourbon and masks the malt complexity.   We also vented and tapped the firkin of Palmer’s Best Bitter, which turned out very well.  Right now it is on the sweet side of balanced, but that will likely change in the next week or two as it further conditions.