21 February 2016

posted by benjy edwards

For the end of the life cycle for this yeast, it is time for an IPA.  My favourite new IPA to come out commercially has been Sierra Nevada’s seasonal Beer Camp release for the spring, Tropical IPA.  The name is apt, as it is very fruity and citrusy.  Sierra Nevada kindly provides the ingredients on its website, so we know that it uses two-row, Munich, and honey malt, and the beer is bittered with Amarillo and combines Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado, and Comet for late hopping.  I have all of the hops except Comet, and so substituted Nugget for that.

We know the ABV too, so we designed the recipe for an original gravity of 1.062.  However, I believe that I added an extra 5 pounds of two-row to the mash, because we weigh base malt out in 5 pound increments and I lost count after 3 additions, and so probably added the fourth increment twice, using 30 pounds instead of 25.  The rest of the grist was 5 pounds of Vienna in place of Munich and 1.5 pounds of honey malt.  The result was a pre-boil gravity of 1.059 and despite a relatively low boil, still reached 1.066 OG.

Four ounces of Amarillo was added at 60 minutes, and then 1.5 ounces each of El Dorado, Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget at 10 and 5 minutes left, then 1.5 ounces each of Citra and Mosaic at flameout.  We chilled and racked to the full quantity of yeast after four previous pitches.  Sometimes we remove some of the yeast cake to avoid overpitching, but the cake wasn’t that large, and with an OG of 1.066, a lot of yeast is a good thing.  Blow-off tubes were fitted because with a full 6 gallons in each fermenter and that much fermentable sugars, a very vigorous fermentation is guaranteed.

We kegged the hoppy brown ale, and it is tasty, and although the higher mash temp left us with a bit of residual sugar, the high hopping rate means that it doesn’t taste sweet.  The beer is going to be less than 5% ABV, so I considered serving at least one keg on handpump, but decided against it, as we are more in need of co2 beers, not cask.  We dry-hopped one keg with the rest of the Cascade leftover from the boil, and used Centennial in the other.  The colour is perfect for a brown ale, so adding a couple of ounces of debittered black malt during wort collection was a good idea.

14 February 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Brew day this week happened to fall on St. Valentine’s Day.  The recipe wasn’t decided upon in advance, which is very unusual.  In brewing, not planning ahead can lead to problems, and that is in fact what happened this time.  Not needing to brew two IPAs with this run of yeast, we had to find something else, and we are in need of something darker than a pale ale or IPA, so we settled on a brown ale.  The recipe was loosely based on our last hoppy brown ale from a couple of years back, but not having any treacle, we needed fermentables and colour from another source.  Previously, the grist was Maris Otter, Special B, and aromatic malt, which this time was supplemented with pale chocolate and coffee malts, and a bit of debittered black malt for colour adjustment.  The black malt wasn’t added until about halfway through wort collection, once the colour of the beer was determined.

The original gravity was calculated to be 1.052, but for some reason we hit 1.046.  Such a large discrepancy is quite unusual, and difficult to explain.  Perhaps the lower than expected mash pH played a role, or maybe it was the higher mash temperature (155F), or perhaps both together.  In any event, this will be a very sessionable strength brown ale, and how the hops interact with the added dark malts will either be interesting and pleasant or a train wreck of flavour.  If the latter, I have no reason to be upset, by not having done our homework ahead of time.

The next recipe will be an IPA, and is likely to be a clone of the new Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA, which is my favourite new IPA since Loowit’s Shadow Ninja and Hopvine from Schooner Exact.

During the mash and recirculation, we racked last week’s pale ale to a couple of kegs.  The dry hop was equal parts Lemon Drop and Eureka.  The gravity dropped to 1.013, so it should be around 5.5% ABV.  It tasted very good from the primary, and the hop character is definitely unusual, as expected.  The two anticipated flavours were lemony and earthy/piney, and it turned out more citrusy than piney, which I attribute to more Lemon Drop added during the boil than Eureka.  It will be interesting to try this again after the dry hop and carbonation.  We force carbonated one keg but not the other, so as to be able to serve the latter via handpump.  Comparing the two methods of dispense will add further interest.

6 February 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Today the plan is to brew an American pale ale, one that can be served both via co2 and beer engine.  We have a good selection of new hop varieties with which we are unfamiliar, and using them either singly or in combination are both good ways to explore the new flavours.  Last time we brewed a single-hop pale ale with Meridian, which turned out well but didn’t exactly set the brewing world on fire.  This time I think we may have come up with something truly different, dare I say unique?

Two of the varieties are Lemon Drop and Eureka, which was formerly known as 05256 and got quite a lot of attention.  Lemon Drop, as the name suggests is supposed to be fruity and lemony, while Eureka is described as “pine fruit”, which is a combination of pine needles and grapefruit.  Whether these two vastly different hops would work well together was the question, and probably worth brewing blind just to see if it is a marriage made in heaven or a train wreck of flavours.

However, we didn’t need to fly blind, because it turns out that a new craft brewery back in my old stomping grounds of Columbus, Ohio, just brewed an IPA featuring these two hops (Magnon IPA from Actual Brewing).  The reviews were that it was indeed unique, and on a gamble, I asked my friends in Ohio if anyone had tried it.  No one had, because it is a new beer, but one good friend managed to find it on tap yesterday, tasted it, and reported his findings.  Result!

He found it to be unique, with an earthy component and a lemony one.  He preferred the lemony aspect, and thought that the malt backbone was a little too heavy.  Based upon this information, I changed the hopping from equal parts Lemon Drop and Eureka, to more Lemon Drop and less Eureka.  I had already planned on a very light colour and malt character, so the mash was just domestic two-row, some Munich, and a bit of biscuit malt.

Bittering hops were added at 60 minutes (Nugget is what we had on hand) for about 45 IBU, and then the Eureka and Lemon Drop were added at 30, 20, 10, and 0 minutes.  The brew day went swimmingly, and we hit an original gravity of 1.052, 2 points above our target.  The mash was again only 30 minutes, and the higher than expected gravity is yet more confirmation that the shorter mash rest does not affect conversion or extract yield.

During the brew, we racked the Golden Arrow clone brewed last Sunday to a corny keg and a pin for cask conditioning.  Two ounces of Styrian Goldings were dry-hopped in each vessel, and it tasted great out of the primary, and had dropped to 1.013 for each fermenter.  The plan is to serve the Golden Arrow from the pin at the Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference in Vancouver, WA in March, along with a corny keg of the dark mild, so that the attendees can see two methods of packaging.  Whether we will serve the pin via gravity or via handpump is yet to be determined.  I prefer the slight agitation of serving through a beer engine over the gravity tap, but the condition of the beer can play a role here.  If the pin is as lively as I expect it to be after a month in cask, serving via gravity may be the best way to go.

The next batch is likely to be either an IPA, or we may brew another batch of the milk stout, so as to have that on hand at all times.