Monday, 10 April 2017

Brewing a Coffee Milk Stout

When you're really into hoppy beers and sours, sometimes it's a little too easy to get caught up in brewing those styles, so much that it can lead to forgetting to brew other, almost-as-delicious beers. By late December (yeah, I'm behind in posting again), it occurred to me that I hadn't brewed any really dark beers in quite some time; when I looked at my brew log, I was surprised to see it had been even longer than I originally thought. I brewed a Black IPA in November, 2015, and that's still a hoppy beer; the last time I had brewed a Stout was in May of 2014. Yikes!

For someone reading this blog, you couldn't be blamed for assuming I don't normally drink dark beers like Stouts or Porters. While my beer consumption definitely leans heavily towards lighter, hoppier (or Belgian) styles, I still really do enjoy darker beers as well. The last Stout I brewed was a Sweet Stout (aka Milk Stout); this was the second time brewing this recipe, with a few tweaks, and it was a very tasty beer. Sweet Stouts are great because they give you plenty of roast character, plus a little bit of extra sweetness and mouthfeel from the addition of lactose powder. Throw in that they're in the 4-6% ABV range, and you're laughin'.

I was originally going to just brew up the same Sweet Stout recipe as before. However, I've been drinking more and more excellent Coffee Stouts lately, and the more I thought about it, the more I figured coffee in a Sweet Stout would be a fabulous addition. And it turns out I'm not the only one, as there's plenty of commercially brewed Coffee Sweet Stouts out there; I just didn't discover them until after. Oops.

When it comes to adding coffee in beer, there are many methods. I won't do what others have done and list them all here, but brewers definitely feel strongly about some over others. Personally, I had no desire to add coffee beans in the mash, or the boil, or in primary, as I suspect (and others have confirmed) that at least some coffee character is ultimately lost during fermentation. I narrowed it down to two other approaches: adding cold-brewed coffee at packaging, or adding coffee beans for a short time in secondary.

The former approach seems to be the most popular one used, and I can see why, especially when you're talking about a commercial-size batch. You can brew a concentrated, large batch of coffee and add it to a brite tank, as opposed to trying to add (and eventually remove) a crapload of beans. We homebrewers, luckily, don't have to worry about stuff like that! While I initially was planning on taking the cold-brewed approach, I decided on adding beans in my dry-hop keg with the beer - the filter I have in there would work perfectly for transferring the beer to the serving keg (via CO2), with very minimal clean-up. And after talking with Derek Dellinger of Kent Falls Brewing, who has had success with this method as a homebrewer, it made more sense to me.

But, how much coffee? I really didn't have anything to go by, experience-wise, but after speaking with several friends who have brewed with coffee, I settled on 150 grams of beans for a 5.5 gallon batch. I preferred to use coffee that wasn't your typical blend, and luckily had recently met up with Kent and Tanji, two good friends who live in Freeport, ME. They own a coffee roasting business, Freeport Coffee Roasting, and they're turning out some really excellent products (I suggest you check them out and order some... don't worry, I don't work for the White House, nor do I have any business ties to any coffee companies, so it's ok!). I used their Kenya Kichwa Tembo, a medium-roast described as "citric, floral, with medium acidity" (Note - this is why I like coffee beers - you could use so many different types of excellent coffee and always have a different result).

For my grist, I went with the same recipe as I've used in the past - Maris Otter as the base, some Black Patent, CaraMunich, Pale Chocolate malt, and a full pound of lactose sugar added during the boil. In my experience, this produces a beer that is roasty, creamy, and only slightly sweet. Bittered to just ~20 IBUs (use whatever variety you want at 60 mins), I fermented the beer with London Ale III. Why? Because it was the only English strain I had on hand. I've used Irish Ale before, and that worked great, but I figured with the roast character and coffee, LAIII would do fine.

I brewed and fermented the beer, then racked it to my dry-hop keg on top of the coffee beans. After about 30 hours (Derek had said roughly a day should do the trick), I pushed the beer to the serving keg with CO2, and carbed it up. It was really nice to have a dark, non-hoppy beer on tap for a change (the beer just kicked a week or so before I finished this post), and for my first go at a coffee beer, I was pretty happy with it. The coffee character was perfect for me; I've definitely had coffee stouts with MORE coffee presence, but too much coffee can overwhelm some of the actual beer, in my opinion. The beer is pretty creamy; I think the lactose could come through a bit more, which may have to do more with the coffee shadowing it a bit. I can't imagine more than a pound of lactose powder is necessary.

So, what would I change? I think I'd cut back on the coffee just a bit (maybe down to 125 grams to start), and I'd like to try a coffee blend with a little less acidity, which I think would let the lactose sweetness come through some more. Overall, though, a really nice beer that was very popular with most of my beer-drinking friends (yeah, yeah, it's free, of course they're going to say they liked it!), and definitely one I'll be coming back to tweak in the near future. My recent trip to San Diego allowed me to bring back some Modern Times coffee, so look for a follow-up, soon.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.060, FG ~1.020, IBU ~21, SRM 37, ABV ~5.3%

Grains & Sugars:
4 kg (74.7%) Maris Otter
400 g (7.5%) Black Patent
300 g (7.1%) CaraMunich
200 g (3.7%) Pale Chocolate malt
454 g (8.5%) Lactose sugar (added during the boil)

Polaris - 10 g (17% AA) @ 60 min

1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min
150 g Coffee beans (Freeport Coffee Roasting Kenya Kichwa Tembo blend)

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g Gypsum and 6 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on November 30th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 14 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 152 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.75 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~3.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG 1.062. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 70 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 65 F.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-low, tan-coloured head that fades fairly quickly to a thin ring. Body is jet-black in colour and opaque.

Aroma: Even weeks after kegging, the coffee aroma is still coming through wonderfully - roasty, slightly floral as promised.

Taste: Big flavours of roast from the coffee, and I'm really digging the slightly acidic, citrusy flavours that go along with it. Slightly sweet, could probably be a bit higher in that department.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, medium-low carbonation.

Overall: For a first attempt, I'm pretty happy with this one. I think this particular coffee works really well in a stout like this - the blend of acidity, roast, and citrus and floral notes is spot-on. Changing the grist a bit, and decreasing the coffee slightly, may help bring out the sweetness a bit more; I don't really think adding more lactose powder is the answer. I'm also happy with doing the bean-steep as a means of adding coffee, as it's pretty simple and effective, from what I can tell.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Belgian Dubbel (with vanilla bean)

Disclaimer: This post is, uh, a few months overdue. Just go with it!

Another Christmas season, another excuse to brew a Christmas-giveaway beer! This has become an annual tradition for me, where I brew a new beer with the intention of giving most away as Christmas gifts to fellow beer geeks, and even a few who aren't. Two years ago was my first, a Red IPA, and last year was a DIPA. It's no secret I'm a fan of the hops, but I like many other beer styles as well, especially those with a Belgian influence. Looking back at all of the hoppy beers I brewed in 2016, I decided it was time for something a little different.

There's plenty of delicious Belgian-style beers, but I think if I had to narrow it down to my favourite (outside of Sours), I'd go with the Dubbel. Such a wonderful, complex style that somehow manages to focus on a blend of malt character, caramel, fruity esters, and spicy phenolics, with a bit of warming alcohol (but not hot), and little to no hop presence. When brewed well, it all comes together perfectly, resulting in a truly-fantastic beer. And there's plenty of great examples out there, with the obvious ones coming from several of the Trappist breweries, some of which are fairly-readily available (if you don't live in New Brunswick, that is).

I've brewed two Dubbels before, one in 2010, and another in 2013. They weren't the same recipe - the first was taken from Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles, and the second was from another great book, Brew Like a Monk, by Stan Hieronymus. The latter recipe came from The Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur, and featured a hefty grain bill that showcased seven different malt types, along with some Dark Belgian Candi Syrup (which I will refer to as DBCS, due to laziness). Both beers came out well (I can't remember if I had a preference or not between the two), with a nice balance of toast, fruit, and spice... but there seemed to be something missing.

What I think it was in both cases was the presence of dark fruit; fruity esters is one thing, but it's the raisin/plum/etc. character that really makes a Dubbel different from many other styles. While some brewers actually add these ingredients to their beer, most of the time they come from two sources: a dark malt like Special B, and DBCS; and really, it's the DBCS that makes the biggest difference. Look at some of the most revered dark Belgian beers out there, and a lot of the really good ones (such as many brewed at Trappist breweries) consist of Pilsner malt, DBCS... and that's it.

There are different varieties of DBCS available, made by different companies. They also come in varying degrees of darkness... I guess that's the best way to describe them? As expected, the darker they get, the more of that dark fruit, chocolate, roasted character you're going to get. Luckily, the roast character is actually kept to a minimum; you don't want a Belgian Dubbel or Quad tasting like a stout, but having some chocolate character is still ok.

For the recipe, I decided to go with the Brewing Classic Styles one. It still has quite a few different malt types (mostly Pilsner, but with another 25% of the grist includes six others), which may not be necessary, but I do remember enjoying that first beer, so I decided to follow the recipe again. However, this time I went with a DBCS that is 180 SRM (D-180 from Candi Syrup, Inc.), much darker than my first Dubbel, as well as my second. As a result of this, I actually used less (just half a pound); going with the full pound would have resulted in a very dark beer, too dark if you're really trying to stay in Dubbel territory. With the descriptors of "subtle notes of anise, dark chocolate, dark stone fruit, caramel, with a hint of dark-toasted bread" for the D-180, I hoped that I was adding enough to bring that out.

I would have loved to have used a Belgian yeast strain that I haven't yet tried, but unfortunately I didn't plan enough ahead (it can take weeks to get a new yeast smackpack around here). Luckily, I did still have some extra Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale slurry on hand; this is the Chimay strain, and I've used it in a few beers and always have been happy with the results. I find it gives a nice balance between spicy phenolics and fruity esters, so I was happy to use it here.

I decided before brewing this beer that I wanted to take it in a slightly different direction than before. When I was planning to brew my Milkshake IPA (which I had ready to go directly after the Dubbel), it was the first time in years that I had used vanilla bean in a recipe. It got me thinking to how much I enjoy vanilla in a beer... when it's used appropriately - that is, in the right circumstances, and in the right amounts. Too much vanilla can easily be cloying and off-putting. But it was pretty easy to see it working in a Dubbel, so I planned on adding a full bean when bottling. I scraped out the "flesh" of the bean, chopped up what was left, and soaked it all in a small amount of vodka for a week or so, then strained and added the vodka into the bottling bucket.

Here's where I had a moment of stupidity. For some reason on bottling day, I started wondering if the vodka was going to be adding some additional sugar to the beer... and if it did, shouldn't I therefore aim on the low side for target CO2, in case I ended up with bottle bombs? Pfft. Anyway, of course I didn't, and as a result the beer came out undercarbed. Dammit! Not flat, of course, but more like around 2 vol CO2 instead of the 3 or so I'd like to see in a Dubbel. Not to mention I underestimated the total volume (because I'm so used to brewing hoppy beers that leave lots of hoppy sludge behind)... sigh.

But on the bright side, the beer is really tasty! Unfortunately, the appearance kind of blows because there's basically no head retention due to the carbonation, but it smells ans tastes quite nice. The vanilla is just about where I wanted it - you can notice it, and it works well, but it doesn't overpower the beer. And this DBCS is great, easily the best of the ones I've used so far. Plenty of dark fruit character in the beer, accompanied by some light phenolics from the yeast.

This recipe has got me thinking that vanilla bean would work well in some other styles, so don't be surprised if I incorporate it again in the near future!

Note: Sorry for the lack of posting lately... no excuses, but I do have my next post on my Coffee Sweet Stout ready to go, look for that one within a week or so. I'm heading to San Diego next week with my family, which will - of course - also manage to revolve around beer!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.063, FG ~1.015, IBU ~17, SRM 18, ABV ~6.4%

Grains & Sugars:
4 kg (70.8%) Bohemian Pilsner
400 g (7.1%) Munich
400 g (7.1%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.5%) Aromatic
200 g (3.5%) CaraMunich II
150 g (2.7%) Special B
75 g (1.3%) Acid malt
227 g (4%) Extra Dark Belgian Candi Syrup (180 SRM) (added during the boil)

Polaris - 8 g (17.7% AA) @ 60 min

1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min
1 x Vanilla bean, scraped & chopped, soaked in 1/4 cup Vodka; vodka added at bottling

Yeast: Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale (with a starter, ~270 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 6 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on November 2nd, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.75 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.047. 90-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG 1.063. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Active fermentation by the next morning, really picking up by the evening, temp at 70 F. Turned up the heat in the room to boost it a bit higher, reaching 74 F by the next morning. Already started slowing down by that evening.

- 15/11/16 - FG 1.014. Strained vanilla/vodka liquid and added to bottling bucket, along with 137 g table sugar (boiled and cooled), aiming for 2.7 vol CO2 with max temp of 74 F reached.

This is the best I could do 3 months after Christmas...

Appearance: Pours with a small, rapidly-fading head that is virtually gone within seconds. Body is a dark brown colour with ruby highlights, and excellent clarity.

Aroma: Caramel, toffee, nice amount of dark fruit (cherry, raisin), and a mild-to-moderate presence of vanilla. No alcohol.

Taste: The caramel and dark fruit characters blend well together, and dominate; the vanilla follows and lingers into the finish. Low bitterness, still finishes fairly dry. Smooth.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium carbonation (after several months; was only medium-low at first).

Overall: A really nice beer. The appearance and carbonation was a bummer at first, but they've finally come around a little (now that I only have a few bottles left!).

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Orange Creamsicle IPA - my first attempt at a "Milkshake" IPA

With the number of commercial breweries at an all-time high, it's not surprising that new beer styles are popping up on a fairly regular basis. I use the word "styles" very loosely, of course; some people don't really like seeing that word used when these beers aren't actually official styles, at least according to the BJCP or other organizations. Me? I don't really care; if you want to call your beer a "Purple Yak Juice IPA" style, go for it. As long as I don't have to drink it.

One style I've been hearing about for months now is the Milkshake IPA. I believe Tired Hands was either the first, or at least one of the first, to start brewing such a beer (as to how that got started, I suggest you Google it... it's a pretty funny story!). But even Atlantic Canada is starting to hop on the Milkshake train, with at least two breweries releasing their own: Tide & Boar in Moncton, New Brunswick, has released several iterations with different fruit (such as Peach Ale Shake), and Nova Scotia's Big Spruce Brewing currently has their take on the style out, Liquid James Brown.

So what exactly is a Milkshake IPA? It takes the growing popularity of the Northeast/New England IPA (cloudy, pale-coloured, creamy, and super-hoppy without high bitterness) to the next level...
  • Lactose powder is added to the beer to give some residual sweetness, and bump up the mouthfeel even more.
  • Vanilla bean is usually added to bring the aromas/flavours associated with vanilla milkshakes.
  • Fruit is often added (but not always), bringing even more to the aroma and flavour.
Of course, you need to add lots of hops in whirlpool/dry hop additions; Flaked Oats are often used to help the beer get plenty cloudy; and it's quite common to see London Ale III used for fermentation, in true classic-Northeast IPA style. Some brewers even add flour to the mash (and maybe even the boil?) to enhance cloudiness, but I dunno... this seems like an unnecessary step to me.

The more I read about Milkshake IPAs, the more I wanted to brew one, and not because I thought it was a slam-dunk style. If anything, this type of beer strikes me as one that could be either really tasty, or a complete mess. There's a lot of different ingredients working together! If you add too much lactose, your beer could be TOO full-bodied, and maybe a bit too sweet (although lactose is only 1/6 as sweet as table sugar, I believe). Too much vanilla? That's an ingredient that could overwhelm the hops pretty easily. But I was intrigued enough to give it a try on my own, even though I didn't really have anything to go on. Giving it some more thought, I moved towards making this beer orange-heavy; combined with the vanilla, this would give it an orange creamsicle-ness in the aroma and taste - I hoped, anyway.

I started with the grist, putting together a recipe that looked like it would work well for a Northeast-style IPA: 2-row and Maris Otter make up the base, with a good amount of Flaked Oats (~15%) to provide the creamy mouthfeel and haze; I also added a little bit of Carapils and Acid malt. The lactose powder is of course meant to be added in the boil; I didn't really know how much to go with, here. With the Flaked Oats already boosting the body, I was worried that too much lactose would overdo it, not to mention the potential to add too much sweetness. The only time I've brewed with lactose in the past was for a couple of Sweet Stout recipes, where I added a pound for each 5 gallon batch. I decided to halve it for this beer, figuring it'd be better to go too light than too high.

Now, for a truly orange creamsicle-type aroma, I would add Galaxy and Citra to this beer. Orange characteristics are present in plenty of different hop varieties, but I find it particularly strong in these two. However, I didn't have a lot of Galaxy or Citra on hand. What I DID have a lot of were two other varieties I really enjoy, Equinox and Azacca. I've seen "tangerine" and "citrus" used when describing Azacca, and Equinox definitely has some other citrus characters that I thought would work well, so this was the combo I chose. I went with my fairly-standard approach of an ounce each at 10 min, a good amount for a hop steep/whirlpool addition, and then two separate dry-hop additions (with the second dry hop made up of Equinox, and the remaining Galaxy in my inventory). With a touch of Polaris at the beginning of the boil, the IBUs come in at a calculated mid-50s range, which seemed perfect to me. With the majority of the 10 oz of Azacca and Equinox being added after flame-out, I was going for lots of fruity, citrusy hop aroma and flavour.

After fermentation with LAIII was complete, I dry-hopped the beer in primary for 5 days, then racked to my DH keg (which has two filters surrounding the dip tube) along with more hops. This was where I also added the orange zest; I went on the seemingly-heavy side, adding 9 g zest (that's about 0.5 g/L) in a sanitized, mesh bag, weighted down with some marbles, and held suspended in the keg by some dental floss. After 4-5 days in this keg (I roused the hops frequently by picking up the keg and basically turning it back and forth a few times every day), the beer was pushed via C02 to the serving keg.

This is when I added the vanilla bean, another ingredient that I was worried about adding too much. Instead of adding a full bean as I've done in the past with other beers, I went with a half. I suspected this may be at the low end, but again, I didn't want the vanilla too strong, where it could start hiding the hops. I had scraped and chopped the vanilla bean about a week previous, and soaked it in a bit of vodka for that period (this method had worked well in my recent Belgian Dubbel). That liquid was then strained into the serving keg before transferring the beer onto it.

After chilling and carbing the beer, I had my first taste... and was quite happy, especially considering it was a first attempt with several things I thought could have went wrong. Because I've been behind on blogging, this beer has now kicked, but many people got to try it, and feedback was good. The beer was definitely cloudy, with a very smooth, creamy mouthfeel. The aroma and taste had a lot of hop character - plenty of citrus, fruit, and yes, some orange - with some slight sweetness coming through... but thankfully, not too much. Bitterness was medium-low, right about where I wanted it.

In terms of what I'd like to see changed, the vanilla character was definitely too low. Yes, there was some there, but I think for this style there needed to be more. A friend had brewed a Milkshake IPA as well, which I got to try after I had brewed mine. He had added two vanilla beans to his, and while the beer was tasty, the vanilla character was too strong, and definitely overwhelmed the hops (this was easy to confirm because he had split the batch, with half getting no vanilla at all). I'd say you could safely add one vanilla bean, and have a better chance of hitting that sweet spot. Finally, the beer could be a bit drier; not sure why, but my final gravity was several points high at 1.022. Keep in mind that high number is because of the lactose, which isn't fermented by the yeast, but it still would have been a better beer if it had finished at 1.018, as the recipe called for.

Ultimately, this was a good beer, and I think a pretty decent recipe. Azacca and Equinox sure aren't the easiest hops to find, but I'm sure there's a multitude of substitutions you could make and still have a great beer... maybe even better! Hopefully some of you try this recipe, and have equally good results.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.068, FG ~1.018, IBU ~54, SRM 4.6, ABV ~6.8%

Grains & Sugars:
2.9 kg (47.2%) Canadian 2-row
1.75 kg (28.5%) Maris Otter
900 g (14.7%) Flaked Oats
180 g (2.9%) Carapils
180 g (2.9%) Acid malt
227 g (3.7%) Lactose powder (added during the boil)

Polaris - 8 g (17% AA) @ 60 min
Azacca - 28 g (7.8% AA) @ 10 min
Equinox - 28 g (13.4% AA) @ 10 min

Azacca & Equinox - 42 g each @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Azacca & Equinox - 28 g each dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Equinox & Galaxy - 42 g each dry-hop for 4 more days (in DH keg)

9 g orange zest (in DH keg)
1/2 vanilla bean (scraped and chopped, soaked in vodka for a week, strained and added in serving keg)

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (~240 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on November 16th, by myself. 50-minute mash with 16 L of strike water; mash temp on target at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 8.5 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.053. 60-minute boil; added the lactose in the final 20 min. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG a bit low at 1.066. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head; nice retention, some sticky lacing as the beer recedes. Body is a beautiful light-orange colour, very hazy/cloudy.

Aroma: Lots going on here - interesting mix of orange, tropical fruit, and light vanilla. No alcohol.

Taste: I'd say in decreasing order of intensity, I get tropical fruit hop character, orange, and vanilla, with a lingering low amount of sweetness. Very smooth. Medium/medium-low bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, medium carbonation.

Overall: This turned out better than I had really expected; obviously, luck was a big factor here. I'd love to experiment with this style - different fruit, different hops - but I'd definitely keep the grist, mash schedule, and yeast as-is.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Northeast Double IPA (with five hop varieties)

Because five hop varieties is better than four, right?!?

No, of course it isn't, and anyone who reads this blog even semi-regularly probably knows that I don't usually use more than 2-3 hop varieties in any beer, with a few exceptions (namely clone recipes that I put together, where I know that the beer in question contains more than a couple of different hops).

The day after brewing my Experimental Sour entry for the 4th Annual Big Spruce Home Brew Competition - a Gose dry-hopped with Chinook and grapefruit zest - I brewed my entry for the Imperial IPA category. I don't normally do back-to-back brew days, but in this case I didn't have a lot of choice. It's difficult brewing these styles of beers for competitions - you really have to time it well, so that your beer is definitely ready in time to have it entered, but also, you don't want it ready TOO early, when you're talking about a style that is better fresh.

I should say right off that if you're brewing a DIPA for a BJCP-certified competition, brewing it in the style of a Northeast version - pale-coloured, cloudy, low bitterness - probably isn't the best idea, if you're really trying to win. Why enter if you're not trying to really win? Great question, you've got me in a box here. In this case, I guess I just really wanted to brew what I like to drink; with several bottles going to the competition, that's a lot of beer leftover. And I'm just no longer a fan of sweet-tasting, Crystal-laden, extremely-bitter DIPAs. So, I thought I'd brew a beer that I knew I'd like (on paper, anyway), enter it, and see what the judges thought.

The grist you see below is basically an amalgamation of several hoppy recipes I've brewed and enjoyed: 2-row and Pilsner malt, with almost equal amounts of Flaked Oats, Carapils and Wheat malt, plus my usual ~2% of Acid malt for mash pH adjustment purposes. Mashed low at 149 F to keep the beer dry, it is, as you can see, purposefully devoid of any real Crystal malts, resulting in a calculated SRM of just 4.5. The BJCP lists the range for DIPA as 6-14, which is pretty wide. Whenever I pour a new-to-me DIPA and see it on the higher end of that range, I cringe, as I'm usually expecting a Crystal-y, low-hop aroma to follow (which isn't always the case, of course, but...). I also added a good portion of table sugar to help dry out the beer further, which I boiled in a bit of water, cooled, and added to the carboy when primary fermentation showed signs of slowing.

As I mentioned above, I don't normally use more than 2-3 hop varieties in a beer, but I had come up with a combination that I was looking to try. I've been enjoying Chinook lately (which I used in the mentioned Gose and a 100%-Chinook Session IPA), and have always been a fan of Columbus (CTZ), so I decided to throw an ounce of each in at 10 minutes. At flameout, more Chinook for a hop steep, along with one of my favourites, Galaxy. After that steep, and when my immersion chiller began its job, I added two other favourites, Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe. I knew from my own experience and many commercial beers that these hops work together well, so I finally went with a single, fairly-large dry-hop addition of the big three, Galaxy, Nelson and Simcoe. With a small Polaris addition at the beginning of the boil, the total calculated IBUs comes in around 65, at the low end of the BJCP range of 60-120.

It probably comes as no surprise that I fermented this beer with London Ale III, which seems to be the go-to yeast now for many northeast hoppy style beers; I'm no exception, as I think it's a great strain for hoppy beers. Once again, I knew that the resulting cloudiness could easily be a negative factor for the judges, if they were judging strictly by-the-book. However, I also know that a lot of BJCP judges probably enjoy a DIPA that is cloudy and pale... and I've never had any problems with a beer coming out cloudy with LAIII - it's pretty much a guarantee when I ferment with it. Throw in an addition of Flaked Oats, and it's probably going to be even cloudier.

This one was brewed in mid-October, the day after the Gose, and kegged on November 8th (Election Day). I definitely didn't have to leave it this long before kegging, but I was doing my best to time its readiness for the competition. I was, from the start, quite happy with how it turned out - yes, it was cloudy, and yes, the bitterness wasn't extreme, but the beer had a very nice (to me) blend of tropical fruit and pine. Creamy, smooth mouthfeel, slightly warming from the alcohol, but still goes down easy. Was it the best DIPA I've ever brewed? No, but it was far from the worst, too.

Like my Gose, however, this beer did not place in the competition. While it received better scores than the Gose did, the judges commented that the beer's colour was too light, and that it wasn't bitter enough. And they're exactly right, by BJCP standards. So I definitely was not surprised by the results. Luckily, though, I really liked the beer! It hung around on tap for a couple of months before finally kicking just the other day.

So, for a DIPA that I brew for me, this was a good beer. I'd definitely brew another DIPA with the same grist, and maybe play around with the hops a little (of course), and likely dial it back to 3 varieties instead of 5. But if you've got these ones on hand and were looking for a new DIPA to brew, I think I can safely recommend this one.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.074, FG ~1.014, IBU ~65, SRM 4.5, ABV ~8%

Grains & Sugars:
2.8 kg (42.9%) Canadian 2-row
1.8 g (27.6%) Bohemian Pilsner
500 g (7.7%) Flaked Oats
475 g (7.3%) Carapils
475 g (7.3%) Wheat malt
125 g (1.9%) Acid malt
+ 350 g (5.4%) Table sugar (added when fermentation slows)

Polaris - 7 g (17.7% AA) @ 60 min
Chinook - 28 g (13.7% AA) @ 10 min
CTZ - 28 g (10.9% AA) @ 10 min

Chinook & Galaxy - 42 g each @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe - 28 g each when started chilling

Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Simcoe - 42 g each dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 8 g Gypsum and 10 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on October 18th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 8.25 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.055. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG 1.074 (taking future sugar additions into account). Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- High activity in the airlock the next morning after pitching; unfortunately, it was quite warm outside during this period, and I didn't try to keep the temps down with water, ice, etc., so over the next couple of days the temperature climbed to 75 F - much higher than my usual fermentation. Luckily, it was pitched low and climbed only gradually.

- When fermentation began to show signs of slowing, the sugar was added in two halves (about 12-16 hours apart) after being boiled and cooled in water.

- 31/10/16 - FG 1.015. Dry-hopped in primary the next day.

- 8/11/16 - Kegged and force-carbed for 36 hours at 30 PSI.

Appearance: Pours with a light-golden colour in the body, medium-sized white head, sticky and holds on for awhile before fading. Very hazy.

Aroma: Nice blast of tropical fruit, pine, with some of that Nelson-specific white wine character coming through. No real malt character here, it's all hops, as wanted and expected.

Taste: Again, hops all the way, but I find the malt supports them enough so that it doesn't come across as astringent or overbearing. Lots of fruit, juicy. Medium bitterness in the finish, dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, creamy; medium carbonation.

Overall: I really enjoyed this beer; I'm a big fan of the creamy body yet dry finish, and the hop combo works quite well.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Gose dry-hopped with Chinook and Grapefruit Zest

November, 2016 featured the 4th Annual Big Spruce Home Brew Challenge, a homebrewing competition in the Maritimes held by Big Spruce, a craft brewery out of Nyanza, Nova Scotia. Last year I had entered a beer, Inherit the Red, in the Red IPA category; surprisingly, it won gold, and owner/brewer Jeremy White invited me to Big Spruce to assist in brewing the recipe in February. That beer was launched at the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival that March, under the name Meek Thy Maker (his idea!).

I decided to enter two beers in this year's competition, one in the Experimental Sour category, and one in the Imperial IPA category (the third and final category was Mild). Both beers were brewed back to back over a two day period, with the Sour brewed first. I always have a lot of ideas of different beers to brew (and not enough time... don't we all?), especially in the sour category, but I was particularly interested in brewing a Gose again. The last Gose I brewed, I split the batch and dry-hopped half with Citra, and added lime zest to the other half; both came out quite nice. I had kettle-soured the wort using a starter made from Lactobacillus plantarum capsules, and the method worked out well for me. For more details on the whole process I used, check out that post.

With this new beer, I wanted to take the same approach to kettle-souring the wort - I had plenty of L. plantarum capsules on hand, and the ability of L. plantarum to work at warm room temperatures (not to mention not having to pay strict attention to oxygen ruining your beer, causing aromas of vomit and such) makes it a no-brainer for me to use. I have a heating pad and a heat belt, but no really effective way of keeping wort in the 100 F range, especially this time of year.

In terms of what to do with this Gose, I had quite a few ideas, some of which I regretted not doing soon after I finally settled on one (this is a pretty typical problem with me in homebrewing). As I mentioned, I was happy with both the lime zest and Citra-dry-hopped Gose versions I did before, and started thinking that maybe combining these two approaches would work well. I finally settled on brewing a Gose dry-hopped with both Chinook and grapefruit zest - I usually get grapefruit character when I use Chinook in hoppy beers, and figured that some additional zest would bring this out even more.

For the recipe, I used the exact same as the lime and Citra Gose. A very straight-forward grist (close to 50/50 Pilsner and Wheat malt, with ~4% Acid malt), mash at 150 F, and you've got your wort all ready to be soured! Hopefully. Bring that to a very brief boil to kill off whatever bugs are there already (or even bring it close to 200 F or so and hold it for a few minutes), then cool to 100 F and transfer into your fermentor. At this point, I actually added 5 mL of phosphoric acid (80%) to bring the wort pH down to ~4.6. Aside from giving the Lacto a bit of a head start, this has been shown to help improve head retention, which can often be an issue in sour beers. I tried this with my last kettle-soured beer, a Sour Session IPA, and it definitely made a difference.

I did my best to keep the wort warm, which actually wasn't too difficult, as the heat pad and belt managed to keep the temp at about 90 F. After a couple of days the pH had dropped to 3.23, so I transferred back to the kettle and started a very short, 5 minute boil. A bit of Polaris for a small bittering charge was added, along with the coriander seed and sea salt. I then chilled down to the low 60s F, pitched a full pack of rehydrated yeast, and let it ferment out. The gravity only got down to 1.010, with a pH of 3.48; neither budged after another week, so I racked the beer to my dry-hop keg and threw in the Chinook (loose) and grapefruit zest (in a mesh bag with marbles to weigh it down, dangled in with dental floss). Eight days later, I did an oxygen-free transfer to the serving keg and carbed it up.

Well, I knew when I drank this beer for the first time that while the idea was sound, the resulting product probably wasn't going to win any competitions. It's lightly tart, fruity, with - yes - some nice grapefruit presence... but, the grapefruit isn't where I wanted it to be (despite the dry-hop keg, after empty of beer, absolutely reeking of grapefruit), and the beer isn't sour enough. I'm starting to think that with kettle-soured beers, if the only hops going in are in the dry-hop, you have to be really aggressive to get a lot of hop character. If I brewed this again, I'd go up to 5 oz of Chinook, and maybe even a bit more grapefruit zest.

As for the competition, nope, it didn't win, or place. Both judges thought it should be more sour (for an Experimental Sour beer, anyway; apparently they thought the sourness was ok for a straight Gose), and both also said it was too salty. Personally, I like the salt level in this beer - I definitely don't find it a kick-in-the-head for saltiness.

All this being said, I still enjoy the beer, and at only 3% ABV it's by far the most sessionable thing I have on tap right now! While far from perfect, it doesn't really have any really glaring flaws (to me), and I like the mouthfeel - light, yet creamy. More Chinook character (and a little more grapefruit) would likely improve this beer.

Note: The majority of my readers are in the United States; I don't like to enter political territory on this blog, but I have to note that both of these competition beers were kegged on November 8th (Election Day), which helped with the naming of both. This one? There Gose America.

Recipe Targets: (5.8 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.033, FG ~1.008, IBU ~7, SRM 2.9, ABV ~3.3%

1.4 kg (47.9%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.4 kg (47.9%) Wheat malt
125 g (4.2%) Acid malt
+ 100 g rice hulls

Polaris - 14 g (17.7% AA) @ 5 min

Chinook - 84 g dry-hop for 8 days (in dry-hop keg)

Irish Moss - 1/2 tab @ 5 min
Coriander seed (ground) - 14 g @ 2 min
Sea salt - 25 g @ 2 min
Grapefruit zest - 12 g in dry-hop keg for 8 days

Bacteria/Yeast: Lactobacillus plantarum capsules (6) in a 1 L starter; after souring, wort fermented with 1 pack rehydrated US-05

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on October 17th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 9.5 L of strike water; mash temp on target at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.032. Heated to a simmer, then chilled to 100 F. Added 5 mL phosphoric acid to bring wort pH to 4.61. Racked to carboy, pitched Lacto starter, attached heat belt and set carboy on heating pad. Two days later, the pH had dropped to 3.23 with the wort temperature in the range of  80-90 F.

- 19/10/16 - Transferred wort back into kettle, brought to a boil. Started 5 minute boil, added hops, coriander and salt at time above. Chilled down to 62 F and poured into BB. Aerated for 60 seconds and pitched yeast at 64 F.

- 31/10/16 - FG high at 1.010, pH reading 3.48. Racked beer to the dry-hop keg, added Chinook (loose) and grapefruit zest (in sanitized mesh bag with marbles to weigh down, floss to hold in beer).

- 8/11/16 - Pushed via CO2 into serving keg, carbed at 30 PSI for 36 hours, then set at 10 PSI.

Appearance: Very light-golden coloured beer, with a fair amount of haziness. The head is surprisingly moderate-sized (or even a bit larger), white and fluffy, with respectable staying-power; slowly settles to about 1/4-finger size.

Aroma: Fruity and slightly sour; yes, the grapefruit is there, but the hops are not as prevalent as expected from the size of the dry-hop.

Taste: The tartness from the Lacto and fruitiness from the Chinook are there, but I'd like to see more of each. The hop flavours do blend very nicely with the grapefruit zest; bumping it up would only help this beer, I think. Finishes dry on the palate, low bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation. Could stand to be a bit lighter.

Overall: Tasty, but next time I'd add more Chinook, and bring the pH lower to accentuate the sourness. I'm satisfied with the combination of grapefruit zest and Chinook, however, and would encourage others to try the same.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Chinook Session IPA

I've been trying to make it an "unofficial" target of mine to brew one of these one-hop Session IPAs at least a few times a year, and oddly enough, I've been doing really well at accomplishing that. My first one, featuring Mosaic, was brewed about three years ago. The one I'm writing about today was my seventh. Most of these beers turned out quite well, especially the Equinox Session IPA, which I re-brewed with barely any changes.

This Chinook Session IPA is the first time I've brewed one of these beers and featured a hop that has actually been around for a while. It began to be used in brewing back in the mid-1980s, and is truly one of the first 'C' hops. A high-alpha acid variety, Chinook's usual descriptors include citrus, spicy, and pine, with grapefruit being another one that pops up. I've used it in other beers - and quite enjoyed it - but have never brewed with it all on its own. I'm a big fan of grapefruit characteristics in beer, so I wanted to see if it really gave off THAT much grapefruit. Plus, I had quite a bit of it on hand, so that worked too!

Is this beginning to seem like one of those unplanned beers? I wouldn't go that far, but I definitely didn't have this one sitting on the back burner for months. I have a large list of single-hop Session IPAs I'd like to brew, so finally tackling the Chinook option seemed like a good idea. I always like to have at least one sub-5% ABV beer on tap, and Session IPAs are pretty much delicious any time of the year.

Once again, I stuck with the Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone grist, where the bulk is Pilsner malt and Maris Otter, and a little light Crystal, Carapils, and Acid malt thrown in. My hopping schedule stayed the same as well - a bit of Polaris at the beginning of the boil to about 15 IBUs or so, then an ounce of Chinook at 10 min, 2 oz for a 15-minute steep, and a 3-oz dry hop. For fairly-punchy-or-higher hop varieties, this approach has worked well for me in the past.

For fermentation, I would have loved to have used London Ale III again, but unfortunately my stir plate crapped out on me when I would have made a starter. Sure, I could have gone back to the old "intermittent shaking" approach, but it's really tough to revert to a method that a) requires twice the amount of starter volume, and b) actually involves effort, compared to using a stir plate. The hell with that! So, I used a package of rehydrated US-05.

This is probably my shortest post ever, but there really isn't much else to say! I've gone over this recipe many times. The brew day and resulting fermentation went fine, the bulk of active fermentation was complete after a few days, and the dry hops were added into primary a week after brewday. Another five days later, I kegged the beer and started carbing.

As I had hoped, this is another easy-drinking, hop-forward beer that - while not being exactly ground-breaking - hits all the right notes for a Session IPA. Hopping with all Chinook has given the beer a very-balanced mix of citrus fruit and pine in both the aroma and flavour, but I don't really get a lot of the grapefruit I was expecting. There's definitely more clarity in this brew compared to the previous Session IPAs where I used London Ale III, which just confirms that using that yeast can often be enough to get a cloudy beer (if that's what you're looking for).

Tasty! It's proven to be a dependable Session IPA recipe, regardless of which hop(s) you want to feature. In this case, it's extra-enticing when you consider that Chinook is easily 1/2 - 1/3 of the price as many newer varietals.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.012, IBU ~45, SRM 4.5, ABV ~4.8%

2.3 kg (57.1%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.35 kg (33.5%) Maris Otter
160 g (4%) CaraRed (20 L)
120 g (3%) Carapils
100 g (2.5%) Acid malt

Polaris - 6 g (17.7% AA) @ 60 min
Chinook - 28 g (13% AA) @ 10 min

Chinook - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Chinook - 84 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05, 1 package, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum and 8 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on October 4th, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water; mash temp slightly high at 154 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5.5 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.040 (target 1.039). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.7 gallons; OG a bit low at 1.047. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 65 F.

- 11/10/16 - FG 1.012; dry hops added into primary.

- 16/10/16 - Racked to keg, carbed at 30 PSI for 36 hours, purged and set at 12 PSI.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head - pretty decent retention, fades after a bit to 1/4-finger. Body is a burnished-gold colour, with good clarity (definitely a difference when using US-05 vs London Ale III!).

Aroma: Pleasant aroma that first reminds me of Rockets (the candy); it's slightly sweet right away, but then comes through with a nice mix of citrus fruit and pine. Maybe a touch of grapefruit.

Taste: Very nicely-balanced between the citrus and pine, with a just-lightly-sweet supporting malt backbone.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium carbonation.

Overall: May not be up there with the very best Session IPAs I've brewed, but it's still very enjoyable. Great balance of pine and fruit, and proves that Chinook is a fantastic hop variety... especially considering it's price.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Brewing a Maine Beer Co. Lunch clone (No. 8 in the Maine Beer Clone series)

Another year, another attempted clone of a Maine beer! It never ceases to amaze me how many awesome breweries this state has. My wife and I took a beer trip to Portland in May; it was our first trip without kids to Portland in about a year and a half... that was a real eye-opener to me, since I regularly used to make it to Portland about four times a year before my daughter was born. With that big of a travel gap, there were a few new breweries that had popped up, and it looks like some more have opened even since then. My point is, there are plenty of great beers brewed in Maine, and therefore plenty of great beers to try to "clone" at home... but I keep coming back to the classics, most of which are brewed by Maine Beer Company.

Lunch was MBC's fourth release (after Peeper, Zoe, and Mean Old Tom), and their first American IPA. Let me tell you, even though it's been years now since they started brewing it, it is still considered - rightly so - a fantastic IPA. Here's how the brewery describes it:

Intense hop flavours and tropical, citrus fruit and pine aromas dominate the flavour profile, balanced by subtle malt sweetness.

That's actually a perfect summation of this beer. If you look at the many pictures snapped of Lunch, you can see immediately that it doesn't look quite as pale-coloured as many IPAs are now; it definitely is on the dark-golden/light-amber side of things. That's not to say this is a sweet beer; it certainly isn't, thankfully. But there's more malt character than a lot of newer breweries put into their hoppy beers. But with Lunch, it all works perfectly. Hoppy, yet balanced. Bitter to a degree, but smooth and easy-drinking. A great beer! And, interestingly, not named after the meal, but after a whale that swims (swam?) off the coast of Maine that had a bite out of its fin, and was named Lunch by the locals as a result.

I've always wanted to brew a clone of this beer. I've done many other MBC clones in my Maine Beer Clone series, and Lunch has been the next one planned for some time. And I'm certainly not the only homebrewer to have tried to clone Lunch; there's plenty of attempts out there that have been documented on blogs, homebrew forums, etc. But this time around, I didn't have to do any work. Nope, no digging, no bugging brewers, no analyzing the beer at all.

You may be wondering, has he developed some sort of a psychic sense when it comes to homebrewing? No, I can assure you that if I had, I would be making better beer. What happened was months ago, someone emailed me and we chatted about at least one of my MBC clones. That person eventually told me that they had been giving a photo taken of the MBC actual brew log, turned to a double-brew day of Lunch. They asked if I'd like a copy; I said sure, even though I admit I was skeptical. But when they sent it along, I had to admit that it looked genuine! I guess only a brewer at MBC could confirm, but it really does appear to be authentic. Everything is there: grist and percentage of each grain, exact hop times, amounts, and alpha acids, pH readings... everything. EXCEPT the dry hop. However, this person told me they had questioned Dan Kleban (MBC's co-owner and head brewer) on this, and that he confirmed they use a total of 2.3 lbs/BBL, shared equally between all three of the hop varieties in the beer (Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe).

I've actually had this recipe for months now (maybe even over a year?), but only got around to brewing it in September. I'm no fool; I know that recipe is only part of what makes a beer great, with technique being at LEAST half of it. But I wanted to give it a try! I've had Lunch about ten different times, so I'm at least a little familiar with it, and had an idea what to expect it to look, taste, and smell like. So I finally found the time to fit it in my brewing schedule, and scaled the recipe down from ~400 gallons, to 5.

The grist is made up mainly of 2-row, with small amounts (~4%) of Crystal 40 L, Munich 10 L, and Red Wheat, and an even smaller amount of Carapils. I also threw in some Acid malt as I always do for pale beers, to bring my mash pH into range (MBC's mash pH for Lunch is ~5.4). I will note that I asked Dan Kleban a while back if they did pH adjustments when making large dry-hop additions (e.g. Dinner), and he responded by saying that they didn't do any pH adjustments. I assume this means no adjustments throughout the brewing process at all, and the brew log seems to indicate this; I see no mention of Acid malt, phosphoric acid, etc. The OG I was aiming for was 1.063; Lunch is a 7% ABV beer, and MBC lists their OG as 1.059. Personally, I can't get the attenuation they seem to be getting, so I always aim for several points above their target when brewing one of their beers, to make up for that. I should also note that the Lunch mash temp is listed as 149 F.

As with all their beers, MBC lists on their website the hop varieties used in each. Lunch uses Warrior, Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe. Without seeing what is, apparently, the actual recipe for Lunch, I would probably come up with a clone that involved large additions of all three flavour hops, late in the boil (or maybe even just a flameout addition), and a large dry-hop... I would have been half-right.

Check out that hopping schedule! Let me begin by saying their 60-minute addition is actually Warrior, not Centennial; I'm not sure what I was doing. Maybe lowering the IBUs to where I wanted them? Dunno, but if you want to follow the MBC recipe, use 3 grams of Warrior (17.7% AA) at 60 minutes. Otherwise, there are many additions throughout the boil, but they're SMALL additions. I can see why they're not large; it's not like you're going to get much aroma or flavour at 45 or 30 minutes, and they weren't going for high IBUs. Obviously this approach works for them, so while it was against how I normally brew now, I followed their schedule to a tee. Minus the 60-min addition, of course. The flameout addition I used was also changed; MBC lists a whirlpool addition at half of what I have, 12 g of each variety for 5 gallons. I upped it because I assume their whirlpool is longer than 20 minutes at that size, so I made a hopefully-educated guess. A single, large dry-hop (almost 6 oz total), and you're set! Ferment the beer with a neutral American strain, of course (WP001, Wyeast 1056, US-05, etc.).

So, the beer was finally brewed and fermented, with no real issues to report; I admit it felt a little weird adding so few hops before chilling the beer, but I had faith. I pitched a rehydrated package of US-05, and fermentation took off quickly. The FG made it down to 1.011, which was about what I expected. The dry-hops went into primary for about 5 days, and then I kegged the beer and carbonated it with my typical 36-hours-at-30-PSI approach, which usually works well.

This was one of those beers where I really liked it at first, then felt that both the hop aroma and flavours dissipated quickly... and then came back a few days later. I'm still not sure if this is actually a part of the process, or one of my... quirks, but it can certainly be frustrating! Now that the beer (or me) has settled down, I'm enjoying it. While it's certainly not the best IPA I've brewed, it's got a pleasant blend of pine and citrus, with a fairly powerful aroma, and moderate bitterness. But how does it compare to Lunch?

Well, luckily I recently made a trip to Portland, and had a friend pick up a super-fresh (as in, bottled two days before I bought it) bottle of Lunch for me! And now that I've done a side-by-side with these beers, I can say that this recipe will get you VERY close. Complete tasting notes are below, but these beers are extremely similar: they look virtually identical, and the aroma and taste are pretty much spot-on as well. The biggest differences were that my clone smelled a bit hoppier, while the real thing had the edge in the taste department, with a smoother balance between the malt and hops.

If there's one thing this beer has taught me, though, it's that IPA tastes and expectations have changed in the last couple of years. I really enjoy Lunch, but it's not the type of IPA I usually seek out now. It's still a great beer, no doubt about that, but it doesn't really seem to be in line with the REALLY great IPAs out there, such as Bissell Brothers The Substance - hazy/cloudy, super-hoppy, with little perceived bitterness.

But if you're a Lunch fan - and I think most of us still are - give this recipe a try! I don't think you'll be disappointed. And a big shout out to the person responsible for sending it to me; I apologize for losing the email and forgetting your name!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.063, FG ~1.011, IBU ~50, SRM 6.9, ABV ~6.8%

4.75 kg (82.3%) Canadian 2-row
250 g (4.3%) Crystal 40 L
250 g (4.3%) Munich
250 g (4.3%) Wheat malt
150 g (2.6%) Acid malt
125 g (2.2%) Carapils

Centennial - 5 g (9% AA) @ 60 min
Centennial - 7 g @ 45 min
Centennial - 5 g @ 30 min
Amarillo - 4 g (8.7% AA) @ 30 min
Simcoe - 3 g (12.2% AA) @ 30 min
Centennial - 11 g @ 15 min
Amarillo - 6 g @ 15 min
Simcoe - 5 g @ 15 min

Amarillo, Centennial, Simcoe - 24 g each @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Amarillo, Centennial, Simcoe - 58 g each dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale (1 pack, rehydrated)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum and 7 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on September 27th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 149 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 8.5 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.050 (target 1.051). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.7 gallons; OG low at 1.061. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Airlock bubbling strong by the next morning, continuing on for a few days before slowing down. Temp got up to 72 F during the peak.

- 4/10/16 - FG 1.011; added dry hops into primary.

- 10/10/16 - Racked beer to keg, cooled, and carbed to 10-12 PSI.

Lunch on the left, homebrew on the right

Appearance: Colour is about exactly the same; the homebrew is just slightly lighter in colour, and more clear. In the commercial version, the head lasts longer and there's more lacing.

Aroma: Virtually identical, hard to tell the difference. The homebrew is a bit stronger in the hop department - fruity and citrusy - while the commercial beer has a bit more malt presence.

Taste: Again, extremely close, with the commercial beer having the hops come across as smoother, somehow; lots of hops in both, citrusy and fruity, balanced by a bready malt backbone. Medium bitterness in both.

Mouthfeel: The real thing is slightly creamier. Both are medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: You can tell them apart, but not by much. Doing it blind (the triangle-test would be best) would make it even more difficult. I'm going to give the edge to Maine Beer Co. though, thanks to the smoother body and flavour profile.