Monday, January 23, 2017

StarTropics 3.0

What makes a beer a beer? I don't mean to ask what beer is so much as what makes a particular brand of beer that brand.The bottle of beer in my hand is, at some level, chemically different than any other beer with the same label even if from the same six pack. At the professional level brewers work hard to have quality control so that every Budweiser tastes like a Budweiser and every Heady Topper tastes like a Heady Topper, but even then there is an acceptable level of variability.

When I first set out with the goal of making StarTropics I envisioned it as a cross between a red IPA and a Brettanomyces saison. The goal was to get a beer that had a gorgeous red color, tons of tropical fruit hop character, fruit and slight funk character from the brettanomyces, with a finish that was dry, slightly spicy, and refreshing. Over time the goal has been somewhat pared down, first transitioning to a 100% brettanomyces beer to reduce some of the funky and spicy character, then to dropping the brettanomyces all together. Today I am brewing a beer that has little in common with my original design: it is no longer intended to be red, or have a large amount of yeast derived characteristics. So is this still StarTropics or just a New England IPA that uses a hopping bill that I liked? Does any of this matter? Not really, but it's fun to think about the recipe creation process from all angles and sometimes the branding can be one part of what shapes a recipe.

This beer came out almost exactly how I had hoped for: light colored and fairly cloudy with huge hop aroma and flavor and only moderately high bitterness. The beer won (well tied) for crowd favorite at the DC Homebrewers annual BBQ competition where I got lots of great feedback. I likely won't change much about this recipe the next time I brew it except possibly to increase the dry hopping rate.

Doing a tasting after over a month in the keg, the cloudiness and hop aromas have faded some but still an enjoyable beer.
Appearance- Deep gold, moderately hazy, some hop particulate noticeable. Head is large and pillowy

Smell- Tropical fruit and pine lead the way giving - mango, papaya, resin, grapefruit. A little more typical American IPA and less complex than when fresh but still a nice mix.

Taste- Hop flavor - again tropical, light pine, citrus fruit - lead the way, some malt sweetness - not caramelly or malty as just a light sugar sweetness, followed by a moderate bitterness that builds slightly in the finish to fully balance and then overtake the sweetness.

Mouthfeel- Super smooth and silky medium body. Hard to tell how much the oats contribute versus yeast and other grains but the balance works great regardless. Carbonation is medium - the beer has been at 10 PSI in the mid 30s for a while now.

Overall - Even over a month old this beer is drinking very nicely. It's not the best NEIPA I've had (we can't all be Scott Janish) but it's one of the best hop dominated beers I have brewed.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hawaiian Breakfast Stout (Oatmeal Stout #3)

My last two oatmeal stouts have been so successful that I've been wanting to brew another one since before the last one even kicked. Batch 2 was still going strong around the time I took a trip to Hawaii and, while my most consumed beer there was actually a hoppy blond, I felt that many of the flavors of breakfast in the islands, including luscious coconut and complex coffee, would go great in my breakfast stout, and Hawaiian Breakfast Stout was born. The recipe is largely a reconstruction of my first attempt at oatmeal stout, with the oak and coffee additions of the second attempt, plus coconut additions that were influenced by The Madfermentationist coconut-vanilla milk stout.
Racking half onto the coffee and coconut.

7/15/16
Brew day. Couldn't get below 80F with immersion chiller, let finish cooling overnight prior to pitching starter of Wyeast West Yorkshire in the morning. Fermentation extremely active within 12 hours.


7/24/16
Fermentation has dramatically slowed but large krausen remains. Added 1 oz medium toast oak cubes.

The Hula Daddy coffee before bagging
8/6/16
The beer is tasting very good. Racked about half to the keg and racked the other half on top of 7 oz of coconut and .75 oz Hula Daddy Red Bourbon Kona coffee. The coconut was bagged coconut slices that had a bit of a rum smell to them but tasted fairly good. They were toasted in a stainless steel pan on medium-low for a little over 10 minutes.


8/9/16
Racked coconut/coffee version to keg. I'm recovering from strep throat so I had a very small tasting and the results from it might not be accurate. Smell had some definite coconut while flavor seemed more the base stout with light coffee.

8/20/16
Finally getting to taste these without a sore throat. Base beer is surprisingly dry and a touch acidic. Hawaiian version is dominated by the coffee with the coconut not really making an appearance. Hopefully a more thorough review to come but next time I would up the amount of coconut, switch to shredded over sliced, and possibly skip the toasting.
Toasting the coconut. Toasting ended up pretty uneven with some pieces getting brown and crispy with a slight bacon-like toasty character while others stayed fairly white and tasted like very mild coconut.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

#62 Golden Ale and #63 Best Bitter Double Brew Day

Following from my last parti-gyle batch I decided to up the ante with 2 five gallon batches of low gravity beers. While both splits of my last parti-gyle were close to the expected gravities this batch had a much larger swing between the first wort pull and the second runnings/second mash. Both beers were aiming for an approximately 1.045 gravity but the first runoff (Dope Calypso a hoppy American blond) came out closer to 1.051 and the second beer (English Breakfast a would be Best Bitter, now more in the Ordinary Bitter realm) came out with just 4 gallons at just 1.034. I will need to pay closer attention to mash water amounts and sparge rates on future parti-gyles to make sure they come out a little more in line with expectations.

The special bitter. It came out fairly tasty with a nice toasty malt character and plenty of bitterness. I would have liked more citrus and spice from the First Gold hops but it was enjoyable enough. 
I stopped keeping a regular system of tracking my beers with numbers when I began kegging but, depending on how you count a beer as being distinct, this parti-gyle would make for my my 62nd and 63rd brews.

5/2/16
Kegged the bitter with an additional 2 oz of First Gold hops, tasting great so far.

Golden ale has taken on an infection with a bubbly pellicle on the top. Tastes fine so far but needs to be Kegged ASAP, unfortunately I was out of useable kegs.

5/7/16
Kegged the golden ale. Tasting has some definite apple character but not a lot of hop character all around and a touch too high bitterness and toasty malt in the finish. Will probably add keg hops to try to balance the malty/bitter character.

8/18/16
Not sure why I never posted this one, guess I was looking to do full tastings but never got around to it. Both beers kicked in July, only a couple months after kegging. Netiher beer was terrific, and I seem to still have a hard time nailing down these British beers with the exact characteristics I want, but both were enjoyable for what they were and gave a clear impression of what Maris Otter tastes like in a pale beer.


Two of my hobbies collide with a refreshing homebrew while I design and build guitar pedals. This is the "Golden Bitter" but it looks quite dark here between the poor lighting and the haziness from the London Ale III.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Maisonette 7.0

So I've moved straight beyond Maisonette 6.0 and directly to 7.0, what gives? 6.0 was brewed, I just didn't take great notes. It was "essentially" 75% barley (in this case Maris Otter), 20% malted spelt, and 5% sugar (turbinado). Why didn't I record it? Well, it's a complicated story that includes blending beer, stepped starters from dregs, and a beer that included a large portion of wheat extract. In the end the beer was a little lower in gravity than my typical batch but tasted pretty good and got strong responses at Homebrew Con where I was even interviewed by Basic Brewing Radio.

For 7.0 I took a few ideas (especially of using 6-row barley) from Dave Janssen's presentation on grisettes at Homebrew Con and used 6 row barley, with a blend of 4 adjuncts. Sound similar to my witbier recipe? It was actually a double mash day where the wheat influence came entirely from second runnings of the wit.

While the mash process was drastically changed from past batches the beer also under saw a slight tweak to the hop additions, still 4 oz of Mosaic but with 3.65 of them coming only post boil and in 3 separate hop steep additions of near equal amounts at 180, 140, and 120. The long whirlpool was influenced by my previous experience and Scott Janish's recommendations, while the temperatures of the whirlpool had more to do with personal experience and Jamil Zainashef's comments on Can You Brew It where he mentioned that flameout/whirlpool hops will still be above isomerization temperatures.

Fermentation was split between a starter of a repitch of 3724 for 3 gallons and 3 gallons with Jester King and Off Color dregs that had been previously used in variations of version 6.0.

7/9/16
Brew day

7/23/16
Fermentation still very active on DuPont half at 70F ambient temps. Tasting great so far, hoppy but in a juicy, fruity way, not the overly dank/hop bag character I sometimes get from Mosaic (especially when dry hopped).

Fermentation on JK/Off Colour half is much slower and beer is clearer but will give it more time. Less hops and more spice forward, good but not much Brett/funk.

8/6/16
It's amazing what a couple of weeks has done to these beers. The 'clean' half has had its hop bite fade substantially to the more expected juicy fruit/chamomile/pineapple character that I expect from this beer.

The 'Funk' version has much more pronounced Brett characters now with a mix of pineapple/overripe fruit and a touch of barnyard, pretty similar to most Jester King saisons I've tried. Racked both to 3 gallon kegs and added 10 psi of carbonation.

9/20/16
Tasting of bottled versions of each.

Straight version

Appearance: golden pale (lighter than the photo), fairly clear with a small but consistent head

Smell- Light banana, juicy fruit, light spice and citrus. Close to what I expect from this beer.

Taste/Mouthfeel- less fruit forward than expected, moderate spice, moderate body (a little too high).

Overall- less fruity and less refreshing than this beer usually finishes but still enjoyable.


Funk Version

Appearance- almost identical, less head retention.

Smell- light Brett funk, more classic hop character 

Taste/Mouthfeel- Brett funk, light sourness, some slight grape character, dry

Overall- while I had one person describe this as a "diacetyl bomb" I don't get much if any diacetyl. To me it's more funk/lightly sour/grape juice in a way that reminds me of some Jolly Pumpkin offerings.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Witbier Attempt 2 (gone sour)

Orange peels were zested with a cheese grater. Under the 17g of peel is the 10g of coriander and 1g of grains of paradise. I also added 4g of chamomile.

It's been a long time since I attempted to brew a witbier. While that beer was alright at first, it seemed to develop a metallic taste over time  and ended up not being all that enjoyable. For this attempt I hoped to use some of the advice I've learned over time, especially from Randy Mosher's great Radical Brewing. Some of those tips include using fresh citrus peel, opting for Indian coriander, and adding chamomile into the mix. I also threw in some of my own twists by including grains of paradise and including 3 types of wheat (unmalted (raw), torrified, and malted) and golden naked oats, along with 6-row barley (more on that in another post).

4 different adjuncts: bottom/right: malted wheat, left: golden naked oats, top center: torrified wheat, top right (small amount of light colored grains) unmalted (raw) wheat.
Note to self: use rice hills when brewing a wheat beer. This one got so stuck trying to runoff I ended up disconnecting the barb on the out spigot from where it attaches to the inlet under the false bottom, making sure that there was no chance of runoff. I ended up having to put the wort/grains through a double colander filtering setup. Very low efficiency rate, tons of frustration, plenty of lost wort and grains spilled everywhere, but hopefully all is not lost as I still ended up with a wort that showed moderate signs of fermentation less than 12 hours after pitching.

In the end I added 6 oz. of dry wheat malt extract to the 6 gallons of pre-boil wort to up the gravity from the drastically low 1.025 level. 


This beer seems to have gotten infected, probably time to trash the bucket. The beer has some slight off flavors with a bit of a pretzel/chemical smell in the nose and a touch of plastic in the flavor. Rather than give up on the beer already I added a few vials of blends I have been saving but didn't have any specific plans for. The contents of these vials include several commercial saison strains, Brettanomyces Lambicus, Lactobacillus Delbruekii, and BKYeast's C2 strain. While not undrinkable the beer isn't what I wanted it to be so I'm hoping these strains can improve the beer even if they take it in a very different direction.

8/31/16
Tasting pretty pleasant, slightly tart but with more citrus character than it had in the last tasting and no noticeable off flavors.

9/25/16
Gravity at 1.007. Kegged 3 gallons straight, blended the rest with the bottom of my sweet cherry lambic (mostly purée). Flavor is candied orange, bread dough, cherry pie, and low-moderate tartness.


Fermentables





Amount
Fermentable
Maltster
Use
PPG
Color
4.5 lb
6-Row (US)
Any
Mash
35
1 °L
2.0 lb
Torrified Wheat
Any
Boil
36
2 °L
1.0 lb
Unmalted Wheat (BE)
Any
Boil
36
2 °L
1.0 lb
Wheat Malt (DE)
Any
Boil
37
2 °L
0.5 lb
Golden Naked Oats (UK)
Any
Boil
33
10 °L
0.35 lb
Dry Malt Extract - Wheat
Any
Boil
42
3 °L
Hops





Amount
Hop
Time
Use
Form
AA
1.0 oz
East Kent Golding (UK)
30 min
Boil
Pellet
5.00
Yeasts





Name
Lab/Product
Attenuation



Belgian Wit Ale Yeast
White Labs WLP400
0.76



Extras





Amount
Name
Time
Use


1.0 g
Grains of Paradise
5.0 min
Boil


4.0 g
Chamomile (Dried)
5.0 min
Boil


10.0 g
Coriander Seed
5.0 min
Boil


16.0 g
Orange Peel
5.0 min
Boil


Mash steps





Step
Heat Source
Target Temp
Time


Protein Rest
Infusion
115.0 °F
15 min


Saccharification Rest
Infusion
155.0 °F
60 min


Friday, June 17, 2016

Belgian Golden Strong Tasting

I decided it would be a fun experience to taste test my "Belgian golden strong" side by side with Duvel, the commercial staple of the style.

Appearance: both beers are light blonde, with white heads, with mine being barely lighter in color and slightly more hazy. The most striking difference is clearly the huge head and tons of lacing created by the Duvel (pictured on the left) compared to my tiny ring of bubbles.

Smell: mine gives lemon, bubblegum, banana, spice, herbal hoppiness. Duvel gives a much more malt forward profile with crackers and toast leading and just light banana and pear.

Taste: mine gives light lemon tartness, vanilla, and white wine characters up front followed by a moderate to high bitterness and some noticeable alcohol. Duvel is much maltier with just light fruitiness, spicy hop character and moderate bitterness that gives a long pleasing finish with no alcohol presence.

Mouthfeel: mine is super thin with very low carbonation, it certainly needs more time in the keg. Duvel is dry but fuller bodied than mine with very high carbonation.

Overall: two takeaways from this tasting: my beer is quite different from Duvel and Duvel is better but mine has its own charm. I assume a large difference between the two is the base malt used with Duvel likely being 100% Belgian Pilsner, whereas mine was primarily a blend of American 2-row and German Pilsner. Duvel is a lot like a Leffe on steroids, and I think the Belgian Pilsner malt is what really gives these beers their defining character with the yeast and hops playing noticeable but secondary parts. My beer is lacking in the malt department with the pale malt presence giving only a tiny bit of sweet, neutral character and the hops and yeast dominating. It will be interesting to see if this beer improves with some more time and adequate carbonation but it is enjoyable, if not to style, as is. Were I to brew it again I would likely use up to 50% of a Belgian Pilsner malt to give more of that character and maybe dial the amount of sugar back to eliminate the noticeable alcohol.

Note: a few months after this taste test my beer has developed increasing sourness over time, adding to the lemony character. The beer has also developed an intriguing light spice (pepper/cinnamon?) character that I like. I believe there may have been resident microbes in the bucket I brewed the beer in and the extended time in the keg at low temperatures have allowed them to give off just a little character.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Belgian Golden Strong and Smoked Helles Parti-gyle

Just over 2 years ago I brewed a series of Belgians, including an interesting take on a Belgian Golden Strong. Belgian Golden Strong Ales (BGSAs) have been one of my favorite styles since the first time I tried Duvel Green on my 21st birthday and was opened to a whole new world of Belgian beer. With only one beer currently in my kegerator I decided I should throw together something that could be both interesting and refreshing now that spring is here. I also didn't want to solely commit to a BGSA and decided it would be a good time to perform a pseudo parti-gyle in order to get 2 different beers.

I decided that the smaller beer could be a good base for my third attempt at lagering since the kegerator/ferment chamber had space available. Playing around with the numbers I realized that by adding just a little pale malt, and some specialty malts I would be able to make a smoked Helles. While I haven't had a smoked Helles before, it seemed like another fitting beer for spring with a balance of both intriguing components and moderate drinkability.

I brewed the beers on the last day of winter in a cold mix of rain, sleet, and snow. While the weather added some difficulty and I didn't do everything quite as efficiently as I could have, the day went well overall and hopefully I'll come out of it with 2 tasty beers for only a couple hours more work than I would have had to do for 1. The addition of grains required a second mash and made this not a true parti-gyle but allowed me to give more variability to the beers produced and I plan to perform similar split batch procedures in the future. One goal moving forward will be to better line up the timing for the two batches to minimize how much additional time is required.

Designing the two recipes was a somewhat iterative process as I came up with a general idea for each recipe separately, then used a parti-gyle calculator to identify that I would need a 1.045 OG at 6 gallons, then came up with the overall malt bill, then went back and refined the individual recipes. the recipes shown below are my best attempt to show how to recreate the beers if not done together and have been adjusted slightly due to hitting higher efficiency than expected. The base malts used aren't traditional but I was making due with what I had including the last of my bags of Pilsner and 2-row and just enough Maris Otter to hit my required amounts.

Future Laws:
Belgian Golden Strong Ale
OG
1.083
FG
1.017
IBU
29
SRM
 3
ABV
9%

Fermentables
Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
4.0 lb
 2-Row (US)
Briess Mash 37 1 °L
2.0 lb
 Pilsner (DE)
Weyermann Mash 37 1 °L
1.5 lb
 Sucrose
N/A Boil 46 0 °L
0.67 lb
 Maris Otter Pale
Thomas Fawcett & Sons Mash 38 3 °L

Hops
Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.5 oz Strisselspalt (FR) 45 min Boil Pellet 2.80%
1.5 oz Strisselspalt (FR) 15 min Boil Pellet 2.80%

Yeast
Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Golden Pear Belgian Gigayeast 80.00%

Mash steps
Step Heat Source Target Temp Time
Saccharification Rest Infusion 146.0 °F 30 min
Saccharification Rest Infusion 154.0 °F 30 min

Of Greater Things:
Smoked Munich Helles
OG
1.054
FG
1.013
IBU
15
SRM
4
ABV
5.40%

Fermentables
Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
2.0 lb
 Maris Otter Pale (UK)
Thomas Fawcett & Sons Mash 38 3 °L
1.5 lb
 Pilsner (DE)
Weyermann Mash 37 1 °L
1.5 lb
 2-Row (US)
Briess Mash 37 1 °L
0.5 lb
 CaraHell (DE)
Weyermann Mash 34 11 °L
0.5 lb
 Smoked Malt (US)
Briess Mash 37 5 °L

Hops
Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.0 oz Strisselspalt (FR) 45 min Boil Pellet 2.80%

Yeast
Name Lab/Product Attenuation
German Lager Yeast White Labs WLP830 76.50%
German Lager Yeast White Labs WLP830 76.50%