Aug 16 2016

Acidulous Hop Trip – Tart IPA with Devils Backbone

Months ago, I had mentioned my plan to homebrew a tart IPA to Jason Oliver, the brewmaster at Devils Backbone Brewing. I had heard about a few commercial breweries making this kind of beer and the challenge of making hoppy and sour work together was really interesting to me. To Jason’s credit, he was interested/foolhardy enough to suggest that I come out to his pilot brewery and make it there.

The game plan I had for the homebrew version was to sour an unhopped wort in a carboy for a few days to lactobacillus, and then to boil the wort for a few minutes to pasteurize the lacto. Then crash down the beer to do big, citrus hopstands and dry hopping in order to keep the bitterness very low to ensure that it doesn’t clash the sourness. There would need to be adjustments for the DBB system, but the process would essentially be the same.

My standard malt bill for IPAs is a mix of Maris Otter and American 2-Row with some wheat or oats thrown in for proteins and intangibles. For the most part, we stuck to the base malts with some acidulated malt to create a good pH environment for the kettle souring.

Malt Bill:

52% Maris Otter
38% Superior Pils (Canadian)
7% Acidulated Malt
3% Pale Crystal

Mashing In

The Mash

The batch would be 8.5 bbls and the goal original gravity was 15 Plato (1.060), which we hit. We mashed at 154F for 30 minutes, then raised the mash to 162F for 30 minutes, and then mashing out at 167F. We then brought the unhopped beer up to a 5 minute boil before crashing it down to 105F and pushing CO2 into the wort before the lacto pitch.

One of the biggest question marks for me was the size of the lacto starter for the beer. On the homebrew level, a 1000 or 2000ml starter is enough to sour 6 gallons of wort. But the right pitch for ~260 gallons was not a guess I was ready to make without doing my homework. Since I was using the Omega Yeast Labs Lactobacillus Blend (OYL-605), I made a quick call to them and they assured me that I could take my existing 2000ml starter and ramp it up to 3 gallons the day before and that would be sufficient.

3 Gallon Lacto Starter

3 Gallon Lacto Starter

When it came time to pitch the lacto starter, I let Jason do the honor. I feel pretty good about my ability to handle glass carboys, but if someone is going to invert a carboy into hot wort, I’m going to give that responsibility to the person who runs the brewery 99 out of 100 times.

Pitching Lacto

Pitching Lacto, Better Him Than Me

The wort was held at 105F for 2.5 days and the final pH was 3.3. It was then brought up to a 45 minute boil, and 3.5# of Citra, 3.5# of Comet and 1.75# Hallertau Blanc pellets were added to the whirlpool. The use of Comet was suggested by Jason and it seemed like a cool audible for the batch. Comet hops are not a new, but it sounds like one that had gone out of fashion in the 80s in favor of high alpha hops. It seems to be making a comeback now, and it is described as having a “wild American” aroma. (No, I still don’t know exactly what that means, but I think I might have to brew a clean, hoppy beer in the future featuring Comet to better understand it.)

 

Kettle and Hose

Kettle and, of course, the Hose

We fermented it with Chico yeast which dropped the beer down to a 1.013 final gravity, and a 6.4% ABV. It was finally dry-hopped with Citra, Comet and Nelson Sauvin for a few days before carbonating and packaging.

 

 

On The Menu

On The Menu

 

 

Acidulous Hop Trip

Acidulous Hop Trip

Tasting:
I’m really, really pleased with the final beer. There’s a profound sourness to it, but there’s no real bitterness for it to clash with, and the mix of hops kept it juicy and full of life. The hops were bright and citrusy with aromas and flavors of orange and lime peels. I feel like the Nelson Sauvin enhanced the perceived dryness of the beer, as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few local breweries over the years, and this beer is the most like my wild, experimental side. The most like what I do at home. For that reason alone, it is a success.

 

This might seem counter intuitive to some brewers, but I really don’t have a ton of experience with kettle souring beers. I’ve been brewing sours for about 8 years at this point and the majority of my sourings have come from co-pitching lacto with the yeast, or using pedio for long term souring. So the only thing that I’d change if I could would be to get a more complex sourness like I’m used to in my pedio beers, but that takes a very long time and, honestly, the current sourness makes it perfect for the heat that Virginia is currently experiencing.

 

Unfortunately, you might need to be in Virginia to try this one, but check out Acidulous Hop Trip if you see it around. It is currently on draft at the DBB Basecamp taproom and will be part of the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest this weekend (8/20/2016).

 

The Top Secret Batch:
For a twist on this one, I left the 3 gallon carboy I had used for the lacto starter and asked the guys to fill it with wort before the pitching the yeast. I brought that home and pitched the Yeast Bay Amalgamation Super Brett Blend upon it. I’ve dry hopped that batch, although I could not obtain Comet, and I plan to package that tonight. I’m interested to compare the two beers soon.

 

Thank you to Jason, Aaron and Erik for turning this crazy idea into a beer and playing loose with your brewing system for a few days. You guys rock.

 

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Jul 7 2016

American IPA – Hoppy McHopface

I made an American IPA for the Starr Hill competition and, in the interest of sharing my recipes and current processes, here is the quick story:

A local brewery was throwing a IPA homebrew competition and I decided that it was and good time to play around with a new hop and yeast. I had found some Idaho 7 hops, which it seems has subsequently been renamed 007: The Golden Hop, and I wanted to play with them as they reportedly had a orange/apricot/herbal flavor with hints of black tea.

Coincidentally, I had seen a tweet from Nathan Smith about a week before my brew day where he mentioned that he was enjoying a new IPA from Heretic Brewing:

 

Luck was not on my side as I had come across some Cashmere hops a few months before from PH Farms and had made a nice APA with them, but had none left for this brew. After a quick side conversation with Nathan, he mentioned that Cashmere is its own beast in terms of flavor components, but that it is a cross between Northern Brewer and Cascade, so using a mix of those hops might be worth a try.

In the interest of deviating from my standard IPA malt bill, which is usually a 50/50 base malt mix of American 2-row and Maris Otter, I followed the Heretic model and swung towards more American 2-row and added some crystal 40L.

The new yeast was the Wyeast London Ale III, which wasn’t a new yeast to me, but it was the first time I was planning to use it in an IPA rather than an English ale. The commercial and homebrewed London III IPAs that I had tried, the yeast did an extremely good job of accentuating the malts in the beer, but it can come at the cost of a beer that never truly clarifies and stays murky in the tradition of the New England IPA. (Which isn’t to say that this yeast strain is the primary reason that those IPAs remain cloudy and, as I call them, “some pulp.”)

The brew day was straightforward and easy. There’s little excitement in IPA brew days. (The process and recipe are at the bottom of this post.)

Finished beer:

In terms of hop contribution to the beer, this one ended up very mild. Despite adding 6 ounces of the Idaho 7/Golden Hop from whirlpool to dry hop, there were only a small amounts of the citrus fruits I expected and a light background of the black tea. Perhaps I got an abused bunch of the hops, and as homebrewers we always get the worst hand-me-downs, but I was underwhelmed by their flavor and aroma presence. If you are wondering if this might be the next hot IPA hop, I’ll tell you “no” from this first experience. I think it would be great in a Belgian pale ale, a saison, or a pale lager base. I may have named this Hoppy McHopface, but it was not, indeed, hoppy.

And from these pictures you can tell that tell that the London III did not leave behind a clear beer. I did not expect it to be a pretty glass, but I added whirlfloc to the boil, Clarity Ferm to the ferment, and I cold conditioned the beer at packaging. So I gave the beer every chance to achieve some sort of clarity, but it was having none of that.

Hoppy McHopface

Hoppy McHopface

 

Murky McMurkface

More Like Murky McMurkface

Despite the murkiness, the yeast did its job in terms of giving me a soft and more rounded beer, although it didn’t drag the malts to the forefront like it has done in the past for English ales.

 

Brew Day: 5/8/16
OG: 1.068
FG: 1.014

Bottled: 5/22/16

12 lbs 2-Row
2 lbs Maris Otter
0.5 lb Crystal 40L

Mash: 150F for 60 minutes

1.0 oz Simcoe pellets 12.9% AA (60 min)
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (10 min)
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (10 min)
1.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (10 min)
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (whirlpool)
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (whirlpool)
3.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (whirlpool)

60 minute boil
Wyeast yeast nutrient (15)
Whirlfloc (15)

15 minute whirlpool at 170F

Ferment: 68F with Wyeast 1318: London III (2000ml Starter made)
ClarityFerm

5/20/16
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (dry hop)*
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (dry hop)*
3.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (dry hop)*
*Mixed together, then added as two different dry hop charges

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Jun 28 2016

Saison – Nørwegian Farmhøuse with Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

The devil in marketing is that it can convince you that you need something that you have never previously heard of, or ever dreamed that you needed. I’m not drawing a straight parallel between, say, the Zune and Sigmund’s Voss Kveik, but I think the drive to grab the next, hot thing either plays to your early adopter personality, or you are the type who is happy to let other people test the latest, shiny thing.

As a home brewer, there’s not a lot of downside to trying the latest yeast, hop or adjunct. If things go horribly wrong, you are only out 5 gallons and you’ve learned something. Perhaps only that being an early adopter is a roll of the dice.

When The Yeast Bay announced that they had isolated a single strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae from a Norwegian farmhouse blend, I knew I needed this thing in my life. I also did not have a keg to share at Homebrew Con in Baltimore, and this was an interesting experiment to bring to Club Night.

The kveik, that was supplied by Sigmund Gjernes who does the Lars Garshol blog, is a Norwegian word for “yeast” and refers to, at least in this scenario, yeast is reused for generations and generations in Norwegian farmhouse brewing. The yeast is traditionally captured on these interesting and intricate rings that are covered in the yeast and then hung on a wall to wait for the next batch of beer.

Kveik Yeast Ring

Kveik Yeast Ring picture stolen from http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/291.html 

The beer is made from pilsner malt, saaz hops and water infused with juniper branches, and the kveik is added to ferment. My understanding of the kveik was that is a faster fermenter that throws some spice and orange peel flavors and aromas, while keeping the phenolics and fusel alcohol low despite higher fermentation temperatures.

(For a deeper understanding of this, check out Sigmund’s Voss Kveik post about his brew day, and Milk the Funk Wiki for Kveik.)

I ordered this yeast and planned out a recipe and brew day that mostly mirrored a traditional saison. The reason for this was I wanted to get a good understanding of the yeast before adding traditional flavors like juniper. And I would be using a juniper berry tincture, instead of branches, to make the spice easy to add before kegging. The story behind Norwegian farmhouse beers is very interesting, but this was to be just an initial test of the yeast. 

Yeast Bay Sigmund's Voss Kveik

Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

I built up a 2000ml yeast starter in the traditional way and added it after I had crashed the wort down to 70F. The starting gravity was 1.061 (15 Plato) and I aerated and pitched the yeast planning for it to free rise naturally. In order to understand if it did suppress phenols and fusel alcohol, I needed it to run hot.

Within 10 days, the gravity dropped from a 1.061 to 1.005 (7.4% ABV). I had a few weeks before the batch needed to be kegged, so I let it remain in primary for a little longer. Between the 10th and 20th days of primary, it dropped another 4 points to a final gravity of 1.001. Great attenuation, but more saison-like in terms of speed for fermentation to terminal.

Nørwegian Farmhøuse

Nørwegian Farmhøuse

The final beer, before the tincture, was low in phenols and perceived alcohol despite reaching the mid 80s in fermentation temperatures. There was some spice in the way of a light pepper, but very restrained if you expected saison levels of spice. I sensed a hint of the orange peel, but it was more lemon-like to my tastes and subdued citrus brightness.

Norwegian Farmhouse

Dark Norwegian Farmhouse picture

I added a tincture of juniper berries at bottling to give it a hint of what I thought a traditional Norwegian farmhouse beer would be, but I kept that light so as to not overpower the spice and lemon of the base beer.

All and all, I was impressed with the subtlety of the beer despite the high fermentation temperature and delicateness of the yeast driven flavors and aromas. I have heard others mention that this yeast would be great for IPAs, and I can’t disagree. The dryness and clarity of the final beer would benefit the style and the citrus flavors would support big, bright American hops.

The Nørwegian Farmhøuse (my apologies for abusing the “ø” for my amusement) was poured during Club Night and promptly kicked before 9pm. It got solid feedback and obviously big interest from the crowd. Even drinkers who said they don’t like juniper found it refreshing and easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.

I hope to reuse the yeast for an American IPA, at Belgian yeast temperatures, in the coming weeks. I’ll report back about how that went.

 

 

The recipe I used is below.

Nørwegian Farmhøuse – Voss – 2016

OG: 1.061 (3/26/16)
        1.005 (4/5/16)
FG: 1.001 (4/16/16)

12 lbs Golden Promise
0.5 White Wheat
0.5 Flaked Wheat
1 lb Cane Sugar

Mash: 149F

0.5 Magnum pellets 13.1% AA (60 min)
1.0 Czech Saaz pellets 2.6% AA (10 min)
1.0 Czech Saaz pellets 2.6% AA (0 min)

Whirlfloc
Wyeast yeast nutrient
ClarityFerm

Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

Juniper tincture made and dosed at bottling

Kegged and brought to HomebrewCon 2016

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Jun 22 2016

British Pale Mild – Reckoner

Although my wheelhouse has traditionally been hoppy or sour beers, I am always up for a challenge. Or an absurd dare.

Three Notch’d Brewing had an Art of Craft challenge during American Craft Beer Week last year, and they asked homebrewers to brew English IPAs, the best of which would be made at the brewery. Timing and interest did not lead me brew last year, but this year’s challenge intrigued me.

Art of Craft at Three Notch'd Brewing Company

Art of Craft at Three Notch’d Brewing Company

The style for this year’s Art of Craft was a British Pale Mild, which one of those styles that most of us don’t get to try unless we travel a great distance and get lucky, or we brew it ourselves. The mild style, which almost always refers to the dark version, is a rare one that is relatively unknown to most beer drinkers, and the pale mild is even more rare.

This beer is like a unicorn. With wings. A pegacorn.

The reason why the brewmaster, Dave, chose this obscure style was because it poses some technical and quality hurdles. This low alcohol (3.4-4.1% ABV) beer leaves you nowhere to hide flaws or imbalances. In the GABF Beer Style Categories description below, fruity-esters aromas/flavors and hop aroma/flavor/bitterness all low to very low.

56. English-Style Mild Ale

A. Subcategory: English-Style Pale Mild Ale

English Pale Milds are light amber to medium amber. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Fruity-ester aroma is very low to medium low. Hop aroma is very low or low. Malt flavor dominates the flavor profile. Hop flavor is very low to low. Hop bitterness is very low to low. Very low diacetyl flavors may be appropriate in this low-alcohol beer. Fruity-ester flavor is very low to medium low. Body is low to low-medium.

Original Gravity (Plato): 1.030-1.036 (7.6-9.0 Plato) • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (Plato): 1.004-1.008 (1.0-2.1 Plato) • Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 2.7%-3.2% (3.4%-4.1%) • Bitterness (IBU): 10-20 • Color SRM (EBC): 6-9 (12-18 EBC) 

 

This is supposed to be a malty beer where the body is “low to low medium.”

No, I’m not going to mislead you and pretend that I’m a British beer expert or that I favor British beers in general. But I undertook this challenge because it isn’t a strength of mine, and here is how I went about it.

In retrospect, the process was the easy part. I knew I wanted to make a minor water adjustment to harden the water and I did that with a touch of gypsum in the mash. And I knew I wanted to mash in the 154F range to leave behind some body to this beer, and then to ferment it cool around 68F.

WLP002, English Ale yeast, was an obvious choice for fermenting this British style while leaving some residual sweetness. (Although I always find the yeast’s clumpy cottage cheese look disconcerting, at best.) The hops were simply British pellets (UK Challenger and EKG) that I needed to create low bitterness and a low hop perception.

The thing to (over)think was the SRMs. In order to keep the color pale and below 9 SRM, it limited my ability to use deeply flavorful malts as they would darken the beer out of style. The base grain I split between Maris Otter, for a slight nuttiness, and Golden Promise, for a touch of sweetness. And although I rarely use it anymore, I also used some carapils which is dextrine malt which brings some unfermentable sugars that improve foam, head retention and mouthfeel.

In trying to add more flavor, I also used a British Carastan malt to add some toast, caramel and toffee flavors, and some Crystal 120 for another level of caramel, burnt sugar and raisin. In the end, I think the high Lovibond color of the Crystal 120 kept me from adding enough of that malt to make a flavor difference. In doing this over, I would have probably doubled the Carastan up closer to a pound to make that malt more prominent without concern that the color would increase significantly, as well.

The brew day was uneventful, and the wort came out pretty light. I honestly think I still had a few SRMs to give.

Pale Rack to Carboy

Pale Rack from the Keggle to the Carboy

When kegging the beer with a friend, the beer had no noticeable flaws but seemed a bit mild. Yes, I know the style is “mild”, but the malt flavors were restrained. This made the beer easy to drink, but less flavorful than I had wanted.

 

Final Color - Pre-Carb

Final Color Before Carbonating

The Art of Craft event was a fun one and I forget how fun it can be to share beer with a crowd of wildly varying degrees of knowledge about beer.

Art of Craft Event at Three Notch'd

The Art of Craft Event at Three Notch’d

In the end, I did not win, but the goal for me was to stretch beyond my comfort zone and try something new. I got great feedback from the crowd, and it is easy to forget how nice it is to share something you love with strangers. This recipe might be a jumping off point for you if you decide to challenge yourself to outrageous acts of mildness.

Since this was a difficult challenge, a reckoning of sorts, I called it Reckoner. And because it is one of my favorite Radiohead songs, as well.

In addition, if you have made this style yourself, leave a comment on your recipe and approach.

Recipe:

Reckoner – Pale Mild 2016
4/16/16

OG: 1.032
FG: 1.007
3.3% ABV

3.0 lbs Maris Otter
3.0 lbs Golden Promise
1 lb Carapils
4 oz Crystal 120L
8 oz Carastan 30L

1 tsp Gypsum mash

Mash 154F

0.50 oz UK Challenger (6.1% AA) 60 min
0.35 oz East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) 15 min

1 Tab Whirlfloc
Yeast Nutrient
Yeast Energizer

WLP002 English Ale yeast (1000 ml starter made)

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