26 October 2013

posted by benjy edwards

First off, it’s our son Owen’s fourth birthday today, so congratulations to him!  He is growing up fast and getting very much bigger.  He is especially strong for his age.  Colin celebrated his seventh birthday on Tuesday, so it has been a fun and busy week.  Both Colin and Owen were around brewing today.  Today we are back in full swing with a double batch of cask session ale, with the tried-and-true Hophead clone (this time with Belma instead of Cascade) and another version of our Boathouse Bitter, with a trial combination of Amarillo and Citra for flavour and aroma.

The American pale ale brewed last week appears to have fermented well, so while today’s mash was finishing, we kegged it up.  Each corny has a blend of Simcoe, Columbus, and Citra for the dry-hop, and racking gravities were different from the two fermenters, which is most likely caused by my unevenly distributing the yeast starter between the two carboys.  One reached 1.012 while the other got to 1.014.  The beer is really nice right from the primary though, with a strong bitterness along with the citrusy and fruity hop notes.  The goal was a slightly lighter-alcohol version of the Headhunter IPA, and it seems to have been achieved.

The grist today was all Maris Otter, with the wort split evenly between the two kettles.  Due to some luck and perhaps a bit of brewing skill, the original gravities actually were identical, at 1.042, which is two points higher than the slightly-pessimistic target that I set.  It’s better to be a couple of points high than low when working at the low end of the gravity scale.  As noted above, the Hophead clone was hopped entirely with Belma, mostly because we have a surplus of this hop from 2012 and a shortage of the same year’s Cascade.  I don’t want to delve into the 2013 supply which recently arrived, until we use up most of last year’s crop.  Water treatment for the mash and boil is the same as we have followed for about a year now, for our hoppy light-coloured styles like pale ale, IPA, and double IPA.

The last hop combination I attempted with Citra was to pair it with Simcoe (see the small batch of pale ale brewed from second runnings on 15 June), to see how that combination works.  The result was good, but I prefer the beers we have made from 100% Citra to the blend.  This time I thought I would try to combine it with something else, and since I love the tropical notes of Citra and the strongest flavour I get from Amarillo is grapefruit, these flavours seem like a great mix – like a Caribbean punch or daiquiri.  We bittered with Columbus at 60 minutes, then added equal amounts of Citra and Amarillo at 30, 15, 5, and 0 minutes left in the boil.  The Hophead clone was the first to boil, so while we chilled the wort for that batch, the Boathouse Bitter had a steep for the hops for about 15 minutes before it was cooled.

Thankfully, everything went smoothly today, with a six hour very busy schedule.  Fermentation began promptly, showing the first signs at the end of the night and active fermentation on Sunday morning.  The plan for next week is another double batch, an IPA and a pale ale.

19 October 2013

posted by benjy edwards

After a two month break, we are back to brewing.  As usual, we start with a single batch of lowish-gravity so as to build up the yeast count for later double batches.  Instead of a cask session ale, however, we opted for a hoppy American pale ale.  The target gravity was 1.056, which is exactly what we achieved.  The malt bill is domestic two-row along with carapils, wheat, and caravienna.  Since I really like the hop character of the Headhunter IPA clone that we recently brewed, I chose to use the same hops except omitting the Centennial mash-hop, since I wanted to dry some of the spent grain for using in a granola blend.  We did a 75 minute boil, with the bittering (Columbus) hops added at 60 minutes, then a combination of Centennial, Citra, Columbus, and Simcoe for the flavour and aroma hops.  A pound of cane sugar was added with ten minutes remaining.

The chill went well, with a good cold break.  The wort temperature in the fermenter was 62, which I warmed up to 64 once the yeast was pitched.  Fermentation was active next morning, and we raised the temp again to 67 for the most active stage of fermentation.  Of course there was no previous batch to rack, so it was a quick and smooth day.  Next weekend a double batch of cask beer is planned, most likely the Hophead clone and a session ale using Citra and Amarillo.  The 2013 hop harvest is now available, so we have been stocking up on the exotic hops like Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Calypso.  Simcoe is the last one that we need to obtain before it is sold out.