Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Czech Pilsner Tasting

It is commonly thought that clean, lightly hopped, pale beers are the hardest styles to brew.  The thinking is that, in a beer without too much character of its own, any flaws are easily noticeable. After my first attempt at a pale lager I can easily understand where this thinking comes from, and, while I tried to avoid many of the flaws that can occur by pitching a heavy amount of yeast and fermenting at a cool temperature, I still wasn't able to completely nail this one.

A- Pale gold (looks lighter than pictured) with a moderately tall head that fades to a thin layer.  Fairly, though not brilliantly, clear.  Looks like a pilsner, though the clarity and head retention could be better. Gelatin in the keg might fix the clarity and a touch of wheat in the mash might help with the retention, though I don't know that either is necessary.

S- A bohemian Pilsner should have some malt, balanced by some spicy Saaz, and maybe a touch of diacetyl on the nose.  While all three components are here, they are not in the proper balance with the buttery diacetyl showing first and heaviest, the sweet malt also coming through, and the Saaz hops being just perceptible.  Serving at nearly 50F might accentuate the diacetyl, but it's higher than it should be regardless.

T- Grainy, lightly buttery, sweetness is swept aside by a refreshing, spicy, moderate bitterness that lingers for just a moment on the tip of the tongue.  Again, a little bit high in the diacetyl though not as noticeable and better balanced by the hops than in the nose.

M- Moderate carbonation with a moderate to light body.  The diacetyl here seems to be adding to the body, keeping it from being overly thin.  No complaints with the mouthfeel of this one.

O- For my first attempt at this style, and for lagers in general, I'm fairly happy with this beer but can see a few obvious flaws.  Not doing a diacetyl rest until after fermentation had fully completed clearly detracted from the overall character of this beer.  Other than the one (moderate) flaw the beer is well rounded, and really pretty tasty.  This is a beer that I could see both BMC drinkers and beer nerds drink, but not rave about.  If I were to brew it again I would only make slight changes to the recipe (maybe a touch more finishing hops) and a slight tweak to the fermentation process (diacetyl rest before the end of fermentation) but all around I'd say this is a winning recipe, and the water chemistry, grain bill, and yeast definitely worked well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#45 - Imperial India Pale Ale

After brewing a number of brett saisons and sours over the last year, I've dialed back the funk and overall weird factor in the last few months with an Oatmeal Stout, Bohemian Pilsner, and, today, an imperial IPA.  The beer is inspired in part by a beer that I've never had (Heady Topper) and a number of clones of that recipe (which I've also never tasted).  My recipe is, in no way, a Heady clone but instead attempts to use some of the best aspects of it (4 varieties of American hops, high levels of pale malt, sugar to dry out, around 100 ibu's) in an entirely unique way that should suit my tastes.

The malt bill is fairly simple: 14 lbs British Pale Malt (in place of the Pearl used for Heady), 1 lb Carahell (in place of any caramalt/etc), and 1 lb of Turbinado (in place of white sugar).  For the hop bill I decided to go with Nugget, Cascade, Chinook, and Amarillo.  While I originally had Palisades in the mix, I subbed them out for Chinook in order to get more of the classic pungency and pine of American hops that seems to be missing from my hoppy brett Saison which also featured large doses of Amarillo.  For the yeast I'm hoping that the lightly peach character of Wyeast West Yorkshire Ale will give a somewhat similar profile to what is often described for the Alchemist's Conan strain (which is also said to originally derive from a British ale strain).

When I first began brewing and writing this blog I didn't have much of a taste for hoppy beers with IPAs being more of a novelty that I could respect but not enjoy.  Overtime that has changed and I've become more interested in the world of hops and, with that, some of my best brews to date have been either straight to style American IPA's or interesting takes on the IPA style.

I have high hopes for this beer but it is my first time brewing an Imperial IPA (or Double IPA depending on your preference) and it is still not a style that I tend to gravitate towards, with most examples of the style having an overly bitter profile that voids any complexity from the hops and malt bill.  In the end, I'm hoping this one will be balanced enough and provide a nice alternative to on tap to the roasty Oatmeal Stout, the moderately bitter but otherwise clean (and halfway done lagering) Bohemian Pilsner, and (a just kegged) Cyser.

After rapid and forceful fermentation for the first 48 hours the airlock is now mostly still. Loosening the bucket revealed a a thick, gelatinous krausen that looks a bit like a thin dough. Pulled a small sample: cloudy, with thick haze, not sure if it is just active yeast or some proteins. Smell is extremely hoppy with taste being biting bitterness and alcohol. A little worried about this one in a few ways at this point but I am hoping another week and some dry hopping will calm it down.

Pulled a sample, flavor is much improved, piney, citrusy, and fairly bitter. Gravity all the way down to 1.012. Added dry hops (1 oz Cascade, 1 oz Chinook, 2 oz Amarillo, 2 oz Nugget). Planning to keg in the next 3-5 days.