In another belated blog post, I wanted to circle around and talk about the Iron Brewer Championship Round that I was in at the end of October.
I had won my qualifying round of Batch 2 of Iron Brewer competition, and that let me move on to the Championship round against the other round winners and my dreaded nemesis Hopfentreader.
Ah, yes, if you haven’t already, you should head over to Joseph’s Hopfentreader blog, which is infinitely interesting and inspirational and, also, “Like” his Burlington Beer Company on Facebook, which is a brewery he intends to open in the very near future. I expect amazing things to come out of that new brewery. You know, despite the fact that he is my nemesis. Lex Luthor to my Superman. Tango to my Cash.
As a quick review, Iron Brewer is a fantastic national competition created by Peter Kennedy of Simply Beer. In each round, he outlines three ingredients that need to be used in the beer. You can make any style that you want, and use any ingredients you want, but you must use the necessary three ingredients. I’m the kind of brewer who loves to be creative with my beers and this competition demands that.
To play spoiler, I won the Championship round against some very stiff competition. I’m telling you this because, as a reason to read this post, whether or not I won probably isn’t amazingly interesting. The story of it is how I won the final round.
What is the trick to Iron Brewer? I don’t think there is one. Well, not a simple one.
Start by making a good, technically solid, beer. You are shooting for a faultless beer, but creativity goes a long way in forgiving some fundamental flaws.
Be unusual. Think about the most obvious thing you can make with those ingredients, and then don’t make that. And figure out a way to make all of the ingredients apparent. Yeah, they may not make sense or even work together. You might end up unsuccessful, but everyone in that round is using those same ingredients, so it is a level playing field. Making them apparent is part of the mission, not something you are trying to hide.
For the Championship Round, the three ingredients were Sorachi Ace (a Japanese hop), Weinstephaner (German) yeast, and rye malt. The most logical way to have gone with this round would have been to make a roggenbier, which is a German rye beer that is fermented with that weizen Weinstephaner beer. Roggenbiers are cool and rare, but I couldn’t do the obvious thing and I had made a roggenbier in the previous round.
In the end, I decided to go the opposite direction and make a black rye IPA. I love rye as a grain, with its light spice, bready flavors, and the Sorachi Ace is lemony citrus hop that wanders into hints of light dill. The trick of this one was the yeast. The Weinstephaner strain is a common hefe/weizen yeast, and it strays to banana flavors at normal fermentation temperatures, clove at lower temperatures and bubblegum if you ferment too high. That wasn’t going to make any sense in an IPA, but I intended to ferment it cold to minimize the banana and avoid the possibility of bubblegum, as well.
Rye and Chocolate Rye
My curveball on this one was my choice of rye. At the time of the round, rye malt extract had just become available and I knew Peter included it since it was now an ingredient that could now be used by extract brewers. I had done many batches with rye, but this was a cool opportunity to use chocolate rye, which would be an added dimension of malt and complexity to the beer.
The brew day was pretty straightforward and the rye did not cause any gummy mash problems either, although I did throw in some rice hulls for piece of mind. I pitched a huge starter of the Wyeast 3068 yeast and fermented the batch at 65°. After a week, I dry-hopped the batch with more Sorachi Ace and then bottled it 7 days later.
It ended up something quite complex, despite the hammering away I did with big, late hop additions, and very drinkable. It had a clear lemon character from the Sorachi Ace, and the chocolate rye, and its 250 Lovibond, gave a balanced roast and spice character. Not unlike dark pumpernickel bread.
I was happy with this brew and it barely won against a bunch of other great beers. I think I’ve said this each time, but each Iron Brewer round I’ve participated in has gotten progressively more difficult and competitive. I guess the final bit of advice I’d give you about Iron Brewer is to be a bit lucky, too.
You’re going to need it.
You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out (Black Rye IPA)
Starting Gravity: 1.065 (9/10/11)
Final Gravity: 1.016 (9/24/11) Days
6.5% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 74.4%
Real Attenuation: 60.9%
Mash (60 minutes ~153º)
12 lb Maris Otter Pale Malt 2-row
3 lb Rye Malt
1.0 lb Munich Malt
1.0 lb Crystal 40L Malt
0.75 oz Chocolate Rye
0.50 oz Roasted Barley
1.0 oz Magnum Pellet Hops (13.1% AA) (60 min)
1.0 oz Sorachi Ace Pellet Hops (10.9% AA) (10 min)
1.0 oz Simcoe Leaf Hops (14.1% AA) (10 min)
1.0 oz Sorachi Ace Pellet Hops (11.6% AA) (0 min)
0.6 oz Simcoe Leaf Hops (14.1% AA) (0 min)
0.5 oz Amarillo Pellet Hops (8.2% AA) (0 min)
2.0 0z Sorachi Ace Pellet Hops (11.6% AA) (Dry Hop) (9/17/11)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10 min.)
1 tab Whirlfloc (Boil – 10 min.)
Primary (65º F)
Wyeast #3068 –Weihenstephan Yeast (2000ml starter)
Secondary (º F)
“IBC” on caps
7 gallons of 1.053 collected pre-boil