Jan 11 2011

The Virginia Estate Ale Experiment

When a local farmer gave me a call about the grain he was growing, I was intrigued. It appears that Virginia Tech’s Small Grains Breeding Program had released a Thoroughbred barley variety.  So far, it seems to have only been used by Copper Fox Distillery (just an hour’s drive from me) to make whiskey. It is a 6-row malt, which I understand is better suited for the Virginia climate, and I can’t remember using anything other than 2-row in my homebrewing before.

The farmer was curious about using it for a beer, so he gave me about 5 pounds of the grains to play with. I initial thoughts circled around testing the quality and efficiency of the malt. How would the sugars I could mash out of the grain compare with the 2-row I normally use? Also, and this is the real bottom line, how would it taste?

When I received the grains they had already been malted and separated into 3 Ziploc bags. From what I understand from his process, he had malted and roasted them at different temperatures and times. Looking at the color of the grains and tasting them, they all seemed pretty similar to me. It looked like all of them were 6-row pale malt.

Since this was going to be a small batch, given the amount of grain he brought me, I set out to devise a simple recipe for this beer that would only feature this grain and some restrained hop additions. It, then, occurred to me that I could make a Virginia estate beer (a la Sierra Nevada’s Estate Ale). The grains would be the local farmer’s, the hops would come from my homegrown hop vines, and the water out of the local system. The yeast would be the rub, but used an American ale strain that I had gotten from Starr Hill. That yeast began in California, but it had surely gone through several generations at Starr Hill and then it had been used by me on several occasions. It was Virginian but nurture, if not by nature.

The brew session went quickly. I had decided to do an American Pale Ale and it would be very similar to a SMaSH brew (which is Single Malt and Single Hop beer). Only the 6-row grain and my homegrown cascade hops.

The grains were very normal looking and most of the rootlets had been spun out by the farmer.

The cascade hops were from last year’s harvest (2010) and I had dried, compacted and frozen them in a bags.

The original gravity of this brew was a 1.044 with an efficiency of ~70%. Given that this was a small batch, the batch didn’t go through my normal mashing process, I know efficiency was lost in that.

The yeast is pitched, and I look forward to tasting this Virginia beer. Definitely not the first of its kind, but maybe the beginning of a new, modern era.


Aug 11 2010

Homebrewed Citra Pale Ale

Citra is a hot, new hop that is used by Sierra Nevada to make their Torpedo IPA, and I finally got around to brewing with it a few months ago.  It is big in alpha acids (weighing in between 10% and 12%) and, although it is a citrus hop, Citra leans less towards the grapefruit and more towards the mango and pineapple side of the spectrum.

I decided to put it into an American pale ale, and to do some hop bursting at the end of the boil with Citra, as well as dry hopping a big dose of it to get a clearer view of its character. Although, as usual, I mixed in another hop to create a little complexity.  And I tried to kick up the malt by using Maris Otter, rather than the standard American 2-row malt that is common to the APA style.

The fermentation and bottling went uneventfully, and I was happy with how this batch turned out. The hop flavor and aroma from the Citra was firm and refreshing. Mangos, apricots (from the Amarillo, I suspect) and a background note of pineapple.

The only things I would look at if I were to revisit this recipe are the malt and the style. The malt didn’t come through as much as I usually like, so cutting back the late and dry hops would help. I might add a little more Munich malt, as well. Also, this one walked the line between an APA and an IPA. The previous reduction of late hops might bring it back into style….if you care about style. And I don’t.

All and all, a very solid beer.  Full of character and very refreshing.

The Recipe:

Citra Pale Ale

10-A  American Ale, American Pale Ale

Recipe Specifics


Batch Size (Gal):         5.50    Wort Size (Gal):    5.50

Total Grain (Lbs):       13.00

Anticipated OG:          1.058    Plato:             14.23

Anticipated SRM:           8.0

Anticipated IBU:          58.2

Brewhouse Efficiency:       65 %

Wort Boil Time:             60    Minutes


   %     Amount     Name                          Origin        Potential SRM


 80.8    10.50 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row)      Great Britain  1.038      3

  7.7     1.00 lbs. Victory Malt                 America        1.034     25

  5.8     0.75 lbs. Munich Malt                Germany        1.037      8

  5.8     0.75 lbs. Wheat Malt                   America        1.038      2

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.


   Amount     Name                         Form    Alpha  IBU  Boil Time


  0.60 oz.    Magnum                    Pellets   14.40  33.8  60 min.

  1.00 oz.    Citra                            Pellets   11.10   8.7  10 min.

  0.50 oz.    Amarillo Gold            Pellets    8.00  15.7  10 min.

  1.00 oz.    Citra                            Pellets   11.10   0.0  0 min.

  2.00 oz.    Citra                            Pellets   11.10   0.0  Dry Hop


Safale US-05

Mash Schedule

Mash Type: Single Step

Held 75 Minutes at 152°

Final Specs:


Starting Gravity: 1.058

Final Gravity:  1.010

6.4% alcohol ABV

Apparent Attenuation:  82%

Real Attenuation: 67.2%