Jan 3 2013

(Not Quite) White IPA – Iron Brewer Championship Round – Wahoogaarden

I was lucky enough to win the Iron Brewer Championship last year (2011) with my black rye IPA, and that gave me a free pass to the championship round this year (2012). That is quite a boon, because some great and creative brewers enter the competition and it is difficult to win a qualifying round, let alone win the championship round.

The final round ingredients were announced as: Honey Malt, Lime Peel and Cascade Hops.

That’s an interesting but mixed bag and, with Iron Brewer, there’s is always an ingredient that throws a monkey wrench into recipe formulation. The lime peel and cascade hops were easy to wrap my head around as they impart a similar kind of citrus character.

It was the honey malt that was the problem. I had used that grain before in a Belgian beer years ago, but I didn’t remember much about it. In doing some research, it’s a lot like crystal malt, but without the caramel and roast. It only imparts color and sweetness.

In the end, I decided to do something silly (again) and figured I’d take a shot at a White IPA. Yes, White IPAs are yet another “new” (also read as: “made up”) IPA style, but there was something interesting about them. I had tried a Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA during one of my trips to Oregon, and I thought it was nice. Cut to the chase, it is basically a hoppy wit beer. The Deschutes version used orange peel and cascade hops, and was frankly close enough for me to take a shot.

Deschutes is kind enough to supply homebrew recipes of their beers, but they don’t exactly hand over the keys to the kingdom. The Chainbreaker clone recipe was helpful enough to get me on the right path of pilsner and wheat malt, centennial and cascade hops, and coriander and orange peel. I followed that basic structure and then threw in some honey malt. I knew that the honey malt would have a big impact to the color of the beer (which couldn’t be helped) and that it had to be used in moderation in order to have the malt come through the final beer, but not make it too sweet. I decided, in the end, to use 0.5 of a pound of honey malt.



Honey Malt

Honey Malt


Honey Malt Close-Up

Honey Malt Close-Up


In terms of the lime peel, I decided to be fancy and use key limes. In retrospect, I wasn’t fancy at all because all of the other Iron Brewers used key limes, too.



Key Lime Peels

I ended the boil with the typical wit beer ingredient of coriander and, my secret wit weapon, chamomile.

Chamomile, Coriander & Key Lime Peel

Chamomile, Coriander and Key Lime Peel

The brew day went as planned, which was surprising since I hadn’t brewed in two months and I’m prone to screw-ups when I’m rusty.

I fermented it for seven days at 68º F and let it roll up to 72º F before the end of the week. I dry-hopped it with cascade in primary on the 7th day, and let it go for another week. I bottled it without secondary since I was pressed for time and clarity isn’t a necessity for the style.

 (Not So) White IPA - In the Glass

A (Not So) White IPA (This is a bad pic. It isn’t quite that dark)

I liked how this beer turned out, but it’s certainly not a white IPA in most regards. The color is off, the lime is too bright in the flavor and aroma, and it is a bit sweet in a way that hides the spices. But that is how the Iron Brewer competition should go. The three required ingredients need to shine above all other components, and you can’t judge it by style.

All that being said, I was happy with the way that beer this turned out.

As it has aged, the lime aroma and flavor was been the first thing to drop out and the coriander has come to the forefront. I’d like to try to make a proper white IPA one day, and I think this recipe is a good foundation once you strip out the Iron Brewer pieces.

It did well in the Iron Brewer competition, but not well enough. I came in 2nd to a superior beer from Robert (a great and seasoned homebrewer), who delivered a fantastic cream ale with the same ingredients. Congratulations to him and, with that, another fun Iron Brewer year comes to a close.

I look forward to 2013 for…REVENGE.


Wahoogaarden (Iron Brewer 2012) – (White IPA) – 6g
Starting Gravity: 1.050 (11/4/12)
Final Gravity:  1.010 (11/18/12) 14 Days
5.3% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 79.3%
Real Attenuation:65.0%

Mash (60 minutes 154º)
6 lb Pilsner Malt
5 lb Wheat Malt
0.5 lb Honey Malt  

Boil (95 min)
1.0 oz Magnum (14.7% AA) Pellet (60 min)
0.50 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (10 min) 
0.50 oz Centennial-Type (9.7% AA) Pellet (10 min)
2.2 grams Wyeast Nutrient (10 min)
1.5 oz Key Lime Peel (5 min)
0.1 oz Ground Coriander (5 min)
0.25 oz Chamomile (~5 tea bags) (5 min)
0.50 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (0 min) 
0.50 oz Centennial-Type (9.7% AA) Pellet (0 min)

Primary (68º F)
1 smack pack Wyeast 3944 – Belgian Witbier – Starter made
2 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (Dry Hop)  (from Day 7 to Day 14)


Dec 27 2011

Black Rye-IPA – Iron Brewer Championship Round – You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out

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



Dec 2 2011

Wet Hop Ale – Hopped Hard and Put Up Wet – Barlow Brewing

I’m horrendously behind on blog posts, so I wanted to get this one out about the wet hop ale that I brewed a few months ago.

The quick background on this is that hops are quickly dried after harvest to reduce their perishability. But they can be taken fresh off the vine and used immediately in a beer. The effect is that the beer will have a very, very fresh hop flavor and aroma. When one of the local homebrew stores extended the offer of wet hops, how could I say no?

So I ordered a pound of Amarillo, and a pound of Citra wet hops. When harvest time came around, they could only get in Amarillo hops, so I ended up getting 2 pounds of that. Having no idea what I wanted to do with them, I figured I could either make a American pale ale, in order to really maximize the effect of the hops, or I could make a malty IPA base in an attempt at a balanced beer. I decided to go with the IPA base but, in the end, that didn’t seem to matter at all.

So I went with my usual IPA base, Maris Otter, which I prefer over American 2-row for this style for a fuller and nuttier malt flavor, and some Munich and crystal malts. I wanted a firm bitterness, too, but I had to do that with pellet hops since the wet hops are only good for late additions to the boil. For that, I used an ounce of 13.1% AA Magnum hops for 60 minutes.

The Amarillo hops finally came in and the volume of hops, which I knew would be absurd, was…absurd. I’ve been growing my own hops for many years, but I’ve never used that much in one batch.


A few of the Amarillo wet hops


Back to the grind


In an attempt try to keep my system from clogging up forever, I put the hops into bags for the boil.

While weighing out the hops, I discovered that I had over 2 pounds of wet hops, so I threw 5 oz in the mash just for giggles. The rest of the hops were broken into two 14 ounce charges. One went in with 10 minutes left in the boil, for flavor, and the other at flame out, for aroma. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but weights are deceiving. It seems to be a given that 5 ounces of wet, and therefore heavier, hops equal an ounce of the dried cones.

The only real concern for me was the amount of wort that I knew the hops would absorb. To counteract that, I started with 8 gallons of 1.053 wort. In the end, that was still too little because after evaporation and absorption, I was only left with 5 gallons in the carboy. My only real screw up of the day was forgetting to put Whirlfloc into the boil, but this beer probably would have been insanely murky no matter what I did.


Check out the crazy oils just floating on the top of this beer.

The wet hop IPA in the glass

I tried to turn this around as quickly as possible since this type of beer diminishes quickly. I let it sit in primary for a little over 2 weeks, although I did cold crash it during the last three days, and then bottled it right out of primary.

How did it turn out? I really like this beer, and I’ve gotten very positive feedback from friends and other brewers about it. But it was nothing at all like I had expected. I knew there would be some grassiness in the beer, but the grass was big and dank. And I knew that hops and marijuana were closely related, but this beer removes all doubt.

My biggest takeaway was that the wet hops just laminated over my malt and bittering hops. The bitterness from the charge of magnum was non-existent, and all the delicious British malt that I put into the beer just disappeared, too. The hop oils took over and dominated the beer. But not in a deeply bitter, and hugely citrus American way. In a way that was earthy, moist, and dank. Strange, but strangely addictive. But it led to no munchies.

I’ll try to make another one next year. Perhaps on an APA base. Damn the torpedoes, and all.


Hopped Hard and Put Up Wet – (Amarillo Wet Hop IPA)
Starting Gravity: 1.065 (9/5/11)
Final Gravity: 1.012 (9/21/11) 16 Days
7.0% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 80.6%
Real Attenuation: 66.0%

(60 minutes ~152º)
12 lb Maris Otter Pale Malt 2-row
1.0 lb Munich Malt
1.0 lb Crystal 20L Malt
4.0 oz Crystal 60L Malt

5.0 oz Amarillo Leaf Wet Hops (Mash)
1.0 oz Magnum Pellet Hops (13.1% AA) (60 min)
14.0 oz Amarillo Leaf Wet Hops (10 min)
14.0 oz Amarillo Leaf Wet Hops (0 min)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10

(68º F) Crashed down to ~35F during the last 3 days
Safale 05 – 2 packets

( º F)

“WH” on caps

8 gallons of 1.053 collected pre-boil


Jul 10 2009

Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration Ale Review

I grabbed a Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration Ale on draft at Timberwood Grill on the way home from the gym last night.  It is an Imperial Red ale and it clocks in at 9.5% ABV.  Stone says they used more hops per barrel in this brew than any beer that they’ve made before, which is impressive in and of itself.  The starting gravity is 22.5 Plato (about 1.094 by my messy math) which means they backed up those hops with a ton of malt, too.

stone 13th label small

This one came in a brandy snifter, and the color was that of a dark mahogany with sparing ruby highlights.  The head was creamy, beige and persistent.  The smell was what I was expecting: a nosegasm of simcoe pine and centennial grapefruit.  In the end was a bit of sweet melon.  Perhaps honeydew or cantaloupe.  The resins were tangible, and almost seemed to add a sort of texture.

stone 13th

The taste continues that theme, but the malt kicks in with some sweetness and noticeable alcohol warming.  In another beer, these two attributes would be overwhelming but they are keenly balanced with the landslide of hops in the 13th.

As it warms, the malt blossoms a bit more and the hops settle down for the ride.  Amazingly, despite the size of this beast, it is very drinkable.  I could certainly have a few of these over the course of an evening.

As a side note, I thought the back label on the bottle (I have an unopened one at home) had an interesting line:

“No matter where you are, we are thankful and hugely flattered when you choose Stone.  However, if you’re outside of our region and you often choose a quality craft beer that is more local, we understand.”

This is a very cool sentiment that echoes Greg Koch’s mission to encourage locavores.  The label also alludes to Stone rolling through their teenage years, which is a departure from Arrogant Bastard-speak of the past.  I had heard that Greg mentioned needing to write the label for this brew during the SAVOR weekend in DC.  It is easy to see how the camaraderie of brewers of that event facilitated those words and beliefs.  It was strange for me to read at first, but it sounds like a company that is growing up and becoming a leader in the craft brewing industry that it deserves to be.

On the bottle, they tell you to drink the Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration Ale now and to not age or cellar it. 

Good advice, I say.