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



Sep 10 2010

Black IPA Homebrew – Moor is Better

The Black IPA……. Here’s a beer that isn’t a style yet that doesn’t have a name that anyone can agree upon. So, like all imaginary things, I had to make one.

For the purposes of this email, I’ll call it a Black IPA because that makes the most sense in casual conversation. There is no official style guideline for this beer because it hasn’t been declared a style. Some just think it is a hoppy porter or American stout, and they probably have a point. The guys in the Pacific Northwest are claiming to have brewed it first, but most evidence points to it being first brewed by Greg Noonan up in Vermont (although I think the west coast obviously gets the credit for tweaking and perfecting it.  Whatever “it” is….)

And the name. Well, the beer is a strange hybrid (on paper) of a stout and an American IPA. Some are calling it a Black IPA, although it is only part IPA and really owes nothing to the “India” part of India Pale Ale. Some are calling it a Cascadian Black Ale (referring to the mountains in the NW, not the hops) and some favor American Dark Ale (which I like the best, but it isn’t all that descriptive.)

So, it is not a style, it doesn’t have a name, and there’s no rules as to how to make one of these things.  So I did what I always do: I made shit up.

I wanted it to be a clear combination of a roasty stout and a hoppy IPA. I could have just bought some Sinamar (which is just a dark liquid made from Carafa malt you can add to beers while imparting only a small amount of a roasted or burnt character) and dumped it in there, but then it would have just been an IPA that was black in color.  So I used roasted barley for the, duh, roast and some Carafa III, which is a debittered black malt, to mostly impart color. I, also, hopped this one up quite a bit. I used a lot of Amarillo (apricot, mango) and Simcoe (pine, grapefruit) hops at the end of the boil and dry-hopping.

I really like this homebrew, but it took me a few moments to get my head around it. I dig the way the pine seems to roll with the roast. I’d recommend a commercial version, but I really haven’t had one that I loved. I think the 21st Amendment’s Back in Black is very good, but nothing else comes to mind.

So there you go. This one is called “Moor is Better”.

Moor is Better – (Black IPA)

Starting Gravity: 1.054 (7/22/10)
Secondary Gravity: 1.011 (8/5/10)
Final Gravity:  1.011 (8/13/10) Days
5.7% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 78.9%
Real Attenuation: 64.6%

Mash (65 minutes ~152º)
12 lb American 2-Row
0.75 lb Crystal 60L
0.75 lb Carafa III
0.50 lb Wheat Malt
0.50 lb Roasted Barley

Boil (60 min)
2.0 oz/ 56.7 grams Chinook (11.4% AA) Pellet Hops (60 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Amarillo (7.2% AA) Pellet Hops (10 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Simcoe (12.7% AA) Pellet Hops (10 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Amarillo (7.2% AA) Pellet Hops (1 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Simcoe (12.7% AA) Pellet Hops (1 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Amarillo (7.2% AA) Pellet Hops (Dry Hop) (7/29/10)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Simcoe (12.7% AA) Pellet Hops (Dry Hop) (7/29/10)

Primary (68º F)
Yeast – Safale-05


Oct 13 2009

Homebrewed Chocolate Cherry Robust Porter Split Batch

So here’s the story of the chocolate cherry robust porter.  It was my latest split batch, and it ended up going three ways.

The inspiration for the chocolate cherry brew came from the cocoa nibs I won from the Dominion Cup homebrew competition.  I won a little over 2 lbs of Askinosie Chocolate cocoa nibs (which are the same ones used by Dogfish Head for their Theobroma beer) and knew that I had to work them into a beer somehow.

I had planned to do a porter, and it seemed like a good time to combine the cherries (which I had bought months ago and frozen) with the cocoa nibs to create some sort of black forest porter.  The cherries will add some sweetness to the beer, and I figured the nibs would help balance that out.

I think this story will have a happy ending.  We’ll see.

In my continuing mission to spin out a lot of different beers out of single batches, this one started as a robust porter towards the lower end of that style.  It began as 6.5 gallons of 1.055 OG robust porter. (Definitely at the low end of the style.)

I took 1 gallon of the cooled wort and pitched Safale 04 dry yeast into it, which is a quick fermenting English ale yeast.  I let that go at room temperature, and it appeared to be done within 48 hours. A later tasting will tell me if it fermented a little too hot, but it dropped down to a 1.010 FG.

The remaining 5.5 gallons where racking into a carboy, and I pitched Safale US-05 onto that, which is a neutral Cal Ale-type yeast.  That was ramped up from 68° to 72° F degrees over primary fermentation, and it finished out at a 1.011 FG.

I racked about a gallon of the US-05 robust porter into a small jug, and I set that aside. 

Here’s where it gets interesting.  I decided to put the remaining 4.5 gallons of US-05 robust porter on cherries and cocoa nibs.

First I thawed and de-pitted 8 pounds of cherries. This always ends up being a harder and messier work than I remember from the previous time. 

 Cocoa Cherry Porter - Cherries

Only 2 pounds when I took this shot

Cocoa Cherry Porter - The Pits

The pits

There are many different ways and times to add fruit to beers. If you are working with fresh fruit, it is a good idea to freeze them at some point. The freezing process will help rupture the cell walls of the fruit, making it easier to extract flavors from them. Freezing is also a good way to insure that you can capture the fruit at peak ripeness.

If you are adding fruit to primary fermentation, you’ll want to steep them in the wort at flame out, or hold them at 160° F to sanitize them.  Since I wanted the freshest fruit flavor possible, I added them to this beer in secondary.  Sanitation is important at this stage as always, but once a beer is past primary, the alcohol level is high enough and the pH level is low enough to discourage the growth of contaminating organisms.

Keeping as clean as possible, and having a sink full of a Star San mix nearby, I prepared the cherries and then pureed them in the blender.  I added that 8 pounds of cherries to the secondary carboy and, on top of that, add 6 ounces of cocoa nibs. 

Cocoa Cherry Porter - Nibs

6 ounces of Cocoa Nibs

With all the those additional sugars being added, I made sure to suck up a little yeast when I was racking the beer over and it promptly started to re-ferment again.


Cocoa Cherry Porter - Carboy

Cocoa Cherry Porter - Carboy Close-Up

Who dumped a Slurpee in my carboy?

Yeah, it looks unsettling, but the samples I’ve taken so far taste really, really good.  Like drinking a chocolate covered cherry with liquor inside.

It is going to be hard to figure out what the ABV for this will be.  The cherry puree floats on top and the hydrometer read 1.014 right after secondary racking.  It looks like it has dropped back down to a 1.012 again which might put us in the neighborhood of a 6.3% ABV beer.  Honestly, that number is probably wrong, and I’m not all that worried about it.

This one was put into tertiary last weekend, and will be bottled soon.  More on that later.

I’m looking forward to comparing and contrasting the differences between the S-04 and the US-05 yeasts.

In the end was left with:

1 gallon of Robust Porter fermented with Safale S-04 at 6.0% ABV
1 gallon of Robust Porter fermented with Safale US-05 at 5.8% ABV
4 gallons of Robust Porter with cherries and cocoa nibs fermented with Safale US-05 (??% ABV)

I’m also still working on a name for this one. Maybe a foreign name for black forest.  Perhaps it will be Forêt Noire .

A recipe will follow with the tasting notes.