20 April 2013

posted by benjy edwards

Although the weather was predicted to be wet, which is partly why I chose to brew today, it turned out to be a dry, partly sunny day.   I have never regretted brewing a batch though, so I was glad to have spent the day brewing.  The recipe is a double IPA based on the Citra Double IPA from Kern River Brewing in Kernville, California.  They won gold at the 2011 GABF with this beer, and I have heard nothing but rave reviews from people who have tried it.  Never having tasted it didn’t prevent me from wanting to brew it, as I love Citra hops and our Copperhop with Citra is almost gone.

The commercial recipe is domestic two-row, carapils, crystal 10, Munich, wheat, and honey malt, with an OG of 1.070, colour of 7 SRM, and 75 IBUs.  Hops are Nugget for bittering, Citra throughout the rest of the boil, and Citra and Amarillo for multiple dry hop additions.  Not having any American two-row or crystal 10, I substituted our staple Maris Otter for the base malt, and went with some Vienna instead of the crystal.  The other malts were as specified.  Kern River uses a very low mash temperature of 148F in order to achieve high wort fermentability for a dry beer.  I followed their example, and the result was that I was very short on the pre-boil gravity, as in around ten points low (1.048 instead of 1.058).  At first I thought I must have mis-measured the malt and left out five pounds of Maris Otter, but I thought about it and realised that I had been careful to weigh all of the grain properly.  I think what happened is that the low mash temperature really reduces the extract efficiency from the grain.  The last double batch we brewed, the Hop Venom Double IPA clone and the Boathouse IPA, had a similar mash temperature and we also were low on gravity for those beers.

Rather than end up with an IPA instead of a Double IPA, I chose to add sugars to the wort.  First I put in 1.5 pounds of corn sugar at the beginning of the boil (the total boil time is only 60 minutes).  That helped to boost the gravity, but testing the wort again with the refractometer near the end of the boil showed that we were still low, so in went a pound and two-thirds of honey.  This changes the recipe to be 10% sugar, but should not only help achieve a dry beer, but also the sugar will help reduce the extra malt character provided by Maris Otter used in place of the domestic pale malt.  The original gravity turned out to be 1068, so only a couple of points shy of the target 1.070.

We used Columbus hops for bittering, and Citra at 15, 10, and 5 minutes remaining.  I let the wort stand for 15 minutes after the boil before beginning the chill.  Wort runoff was clear and quick due to the use of whole hops.  The colour was a nice light gold and the wort smelled great.  The wort was racked onto the yeast from last week’s Kiwi Crossing IPA.  We have no further plans to re-pitch with this yeast culture, which will allow us to dry-hop the Citra clone in the primary.

The Kiwi Crossing IPA kit from Midwest Supplies that we brewed last weekend was kegged and dry-hopped while the Citra Double IPA was being brewed.  Gravity on the Kiwi Crossing is down to 1.014, right on target.  It was very interesting to sample the Kiwi Crossing from the primary.  The colour turned out to be a dark amber/red, which is certainly at the dark end of the colour scale for IPA, but not out of style.  As for the flavour, the New Zealand hops definitely come through on this beer, lending characteristic Sauvignon-blanc white wine notes of tropical fruit and a spritzy citrus finish.  Without carbonation and still young, it is very nice as it is, and will no doubt improve from dry-hopping, further conditioning, and carbonation.  So far, so good.

13 April 2013

posted by benjy edwards

I hadn’t planned to brew again so soon, but the weather for the weekend looked pretty atrocious, and I happened to have an all-grain kit on hand from Midwest Supplies.  I was interested to try a kit after more than fifteen years since using the last one, and I have heard they have come a long way since then, as with homebrewing ingredients in general over the years.  As many of you will realise, using a kit takes out the steps of having to formulate a recipe and also acquire and measure out each individual ingredient.  It certainly is convenient.  The downside to this of course is a lack of control over the recipe specifics, but one can’t have everything!

On the other hand, I could have taken the kit and added things to it, or substituted the hops, but I chose to brew the kit exactly as Midwest Supplies created it, so as to test out how well their recipe is put together.  The all-grain kit they have that really caught my eye is the Kiwi Crossing IPA, since it uses all New Zealand hops, which are very difficult to find.  The few beers that I have tried which contained New Zealand hops have had a very nice light, fruity, tropical hop character.  The hops in the kit are Super Alpha, Motueka, and Pacifica.  Before I received the kit I had only heard of the Motueka, but it’s one that I have wanted to try based on the reviews.

The first thing that I noticed about the kit is that it contains chocolate malt.  I find this unusual for an IPA, as I would never consider adding that dark of a malt to an IPA.  When I put the malt bill into my spreadsheet, it calculated the colour at 12 SRM, which is red.  I have to say that when collecting the wort in the boil kettle, it did look rather dark as well.  I followed their recommendations on a 152F mash temperature and 1.25 quarts per pound mash thickness, which is my default rate anyway.  Since the kit specifies an hour boil, that is what I did, rather than my standard 90 minutes.  The only beer I brew on a 60 minute boil is the Boathouse Dark Mild.  To compensate for the shorter boil, I collected a little under 14 gallons in the kettle rather than the usual 15.

Before brew day, the big planning that I had to do was to come up with a way of brewing a batch entirely with pellet hops, which is what is in the kit.  Researching online, I found various recommendations, most of which were either 1) bag all of the pellets in the boil, 2) put them in loose, then whirlpool the wort after knockout and wait until the hop mass settles into a cone in the centre of the kettle, then draw the wort off from the side of the kettle, and 3) transfer all of the hop mass from the kettle straight into the fermenter.  The last option I dismissed immediately, firstly because I may choose to repitch the yeast into another batch, where the hops from the previous batch would be in the fermenters with the next batch.  Secondly, I was very concerned that all of the hop material would clog the counterflow chiller on its way into the fermenters.  The other options both seemed reasonable, so I decided to do a mixture of both.  The bittering hops were added in a mesh bag, which I suspended in the wort from the drawstring.  All of the later additions, which were Motueka at 15 minutes, Pacifica at 10 minutes, and both at knockout, were added loose.   After an hour boil, I turned off the burner and stirred the wort into a whirlpool, which I left for 20 minutes before beginning the chill.

A couple of days before brewing, I had soldered some 1/2″ copper tubing and a couple of elbows into a short racking arm that threads into the inside of the kettle.  This allows the wort to be drawn off from the side of the kettle, which I thought might work better than just the kettle opening, which may cause more suction from the centre of the kettle.

After the boil was over, with much trepidation, I slowly opened the ball valve after connecting up the chiller, and lo and behold – the wort flowed nicely into the chiller and fermenters.  Success!  I thought my last hurdle would come when I needed to lift the kettle to the higher tier of my structure in order to get the last of the wort out of the kettle.  However, I didn’t take a gravity sample until the fermenters were almost full, and by filling the graduated cylinder I inadvertently stopped the siphon when the wort in the kettle was almost at the level of the ball valve.  In order to get it going again, I put the kettle (very carefully) onto the higher tier, without tipping it forward, as I would usually do with whole hops.  When I opened the valve, there was no wort flow.  You can guess what my words were at that point.  However, with some slight tipping and many words of encouragement to the wort, it slowly began to flow through the chiller.  After a few minutes, it built up enough momentum to draw off the rest of the wort.  When the pellet sludge began to flow through the hose, I closed the kettle valve.  There was less than half a gallon of wort left in the kettle, so it worked very well, on the whole.  I think if I take the wort sample earlier during the chill, I won’t have the problem of interrupting the siphon, since with more wort in the kettle the pressure is greater.

The original gravity turned out to be 1.062, which is right in the predicted range of 1.061 to 1.065.  Midwest says the IBUs are 60, but I use a lower predicted utilization percentage than most brewers, so mine calculate it at just over 45 IBU.  I got five gallons of wort in one fermenter and 5.5 gallons in the other.  Overall, the brew went better than I had expected from using all pellets.  It’s not to say that I will be making the switch, however!  After aerating with oxygen, I pitched a yeast starter of WLP002 that I prepared last night.  The kit instructions don’t say what temperature to ferment this yeast, so one would defer to the strain specifics.  Since this is the yeast I use all of the time, I will follow my procedure, which is to start at 66F and allow it to rise to 68F after a day or two of natural warming due to the fermentation activity, then once fermentation slows, raise the temperature to 70-71F for diacetyl reduction.  I’ll dry hop and keg this next weekend.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out.