Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Brewing a Gose (using Lactobacillus plantarum capsules)

I've been promising myself over and over that I would start brewing more sour beer styles; I really love drinking them, and have only attempted a few different ones in the course of my homebrewing career: a Flanders Red that turned out pretty great (1/2 the batch aged on cherries), a Berliner Weisse that wasn't nearly sour enough, and an Oud Bruin that I've finally been drinking the past six months, that I'm pretty happy with. When you're brewing sours by pitching a mixture of bugs and yeasts, you can end up with some truly wonderful beers... the problem, however, is that it can take one hell of a long time till the beer is where you want it. Both the Flanders Red and Oud Bruin were a good 16-20 months before I bottled them.

The solution? Kettle souring. I'm sure most if not all of you have heard of this method by now; it's quickly gained a lot of momentum in the commercial and homebrewing communities. In a nutshell, you mash and sparge as usual, bring the wort to 190 F or so to pasteurize, chill down to a warm temp to pitch your Lactobacillus (the ideal temp will depend on the strain), pitch the Lacto and keep the wort warm until the pH drops to where you want it (3.3-3.5, roughly), transfer back to your kettle and boil the wort briefly to kill off the Lacto, then chill as usual and pitch a neutral yeast strain or Brettanomyces to ferment out the beer. I couldn't explain it any better than many who already have; check out the Milk the Funk wiki on Sour Worting, as well as their Lacto wiki - highly informative and extremely-well researched. Mike Tonsmeire's American Sour Beers is also an excellent resource, one of those books that I keep going back to again and again.

The idea behind all this is that you can sour the wort within several days, and if you then boil it, you don't have to worry about bacteria coming in contact with your kegerator, post-fermentation equipment, etc. Of course, if you don't care, you don't have to boil the wort; just pitch your regular yeast and be done with it. If your wort pH gets down quite low, say, below 3.4, using a Brett strain is a good idea since it ferments better in the presence of acidic wort than a lot of Saccharomyces strains do.

Will this method give you as complex a sour beer as the standard, "old-fashioned" way? Probably not. But if you're looking to brew a hoppy sour, a sour with fruit, or something similar, it's a great way to give you a tasty sour beer without the months of waiting. Or so I've heard; I'm certainly no expert. But I have had several commercial version of kettle-soured beers that were great; I really do love the hoppy sour beers that are coming out now, and more and more breweries are coming up with their own twists on the "style".

But what about a Gose? A lot of brewers have brewed this German style - sessionable, tart, salty - via the kettle sour method, with great results. I've had several commercial Gose beers and have really enjoyed many of them; it's something I've always wanted to brew, so I thought it would be a great one to try with a faster-souring method. I was initially going to order another pack of Lactobacillus from Wyeast (or maybe White Labs), but I had been reading more and more about people sourcing Lactobacillus from Swanson Probiotic capsules. Unlike a lot of probiotics that you see, these ones only contain one type of Lacto, Lactobacillus plantarum, a species that is surprisingly quite effective at lower-than-usual temperatures, between 80-90 F. For someone like me, who doesn't have a lot of options for keeping wort hot (above 100 F), this is a great option. I quickly ordered the capsules on Amazon, and then kind of forgot about them until recently.

I finally got around to making a Lacto starter in April. Of course, there are different thoughts on the approach you should take; the Milk the Funk wiki mentioned above has a very detailed one that I did not see in time. Ultimately, I ended up taking the approach that Ed documented in his attempt: four Lacto plantarum capsules in 1 L of wort. No need to set it on a stir plate of course; I simply set the flask on a heating pad for a few days, where the temp stayed at about 90 F. After 48 hours or so, the pH was down to 3.53. I was hoping to go lower, say 3.3 or so, but even after adding another capsule, it didn't budge. 3.53 isn't horrible, so I decided to press on and brew the beer.

NOTE: Just to make clear, depending on your Lacto source, you sometimes have to be very careful about keeping as much oxygen as possible out of your wort, starter or otherwise. Apparently with the L. plantarum capsules, this isn't an issue. Just keep in mind that if you're sourcing Lacto from grains, it's very important to purge with CO2 whenever possible, so you don't end up with the vomit, cheese, or fecal aromas/flavours from other organisms popping up due to exposure to oxygen.

Putting together a recipe was pretty easy; the grist is just a 50:50 blend of Pilsner malt and Wheat malt, with some Acid malt added in to bring the mash pH down to ~5.4. Goses are usually pretty low-ABV; most seem to be < 5%, so I aimed for an OG of only 1.033, and mashed pretty cool at 150 F. Once the vorlauf, sparge, etc. was complete, I brought the wort up to 190 F or so for a few minutes, then immediately chilled it down to 100 F. Racked into a Better Bottle, I pitched the entire 1 L of Lacto starter and set the whole thing on a heating pad, with a heat belt attached, and let 'er go. I was able to hold to the wort temperature in the high 80s F with this method. After a few days, the pH was 3.69, and it didn't get any lower than that. Again, not 100% ideal, but it did taste slightly tart, so I transferred the wort back to the boil kettle and continued.

A traditional Gose features the addition of both salt and coriander in the boil. The typical approach appears to be 1/2 an ounce (14 g) of each, but I've had many homebrewed Goses that didn't strike me as salty enough. You don't want to be drinking beer that tastes like sea water, but you DO want to notice it. A friend had recently brewed a Gose using 3/4 oz (21 g) of salt, which brought it closer, but not quite there (in both our opinions). I finally settled on a bit more - 25 g - along with 14 g of freshly-ground coriander seed, added during the last 2 minutes of the boil. For the hops, I wasn't looking for much bitterness for this style; since I was only planning on boiling the wort (after soured) for 5 minutes, I added 14 g of Polaris at 5 min, giving 8 IBUs. The wort was then chilled to the low 60s F, and I pitched a full package of rehydrated US-05. I didn't feel fermenting with Brett was necessary; with a pH of only 3.69, US-05 could easily handle the job. However, it's best to still err on the side of caution and pitch more yeast than is necessary in this case, hence the full pack of US-05 for a 1.033 beer.

It didn't take very long, of course, for fermentation to be complete (FG was 1.006). Now, I had to decide where I wanted to go with this beer. I had originally planned on splitting the batch - dry-hopping half with Citra, and keeping the other half plain. However, I knew it wasn't going to be as tart as I had hoped, so I figured it best to add something else to the plain portion. Lots of options, naturally, but I settled on fresh lime zest. I figured it would work well with a Gose, giving the beer an almost Margarita-like quality to it, thanks to the salt (no, do not start thinking about Bud Light Lime-a-Rita!).

Another question... how much lime zest to add? You don't need a lot; lime zest is pretty potent stuff. Mike Tonsmeire mentions in his book to start with 0.5 g/L when adding citrus zest. I was looking at about 10 L of beer, so I went with just a touch more, 6.5 grams (0.65 g/L), to make sure I noticed the lime (hopefully without it tasting like pure lime juice). I racked the beer like so: half into a 3 gallon Better Bottle, and the other half into my dry hop keg, where I added the Citra. I added the zest to a mesh bag and dunked it in Star San for a couple of minutes, before dangling in the BB with dental floss. A smarter way, I now know, is to simply dunk the limes and your zester in Star San before zesting. Oops!

After about 5 days, I kegged the Citra dry-hopped portion and bottled the lime zest portion. Now that I'm drinking both, I have to say that my preference may be for the lime Gose, which surprises me. Both are refreshing, palate-cleansing beers; light and easy-drinking, the salt level is spot-on. I don't get much coriander from either beer; admittedly, the coriander seeds weren't the freshest, but they smelled great when I was grinding them. Maybe going to 0.75 oz next time would be a better amount? As for the sourness level, the beer is definitely tart, but I'd like to see it with more tartness. Not a lot - you don't want Lambic-level sourness - but a bit more would be just the ticket.

The Citra Gose is enjoyable enough, but despite a dry-hop of 2.5 oz (the equivalent of about 5 oz for a 5 gallon batch), I'm not getting near as much Citra in the aroma or flavour as I would expect. Meanwhile, I think I lucked out in my lime zest addition for the other half - there's definitely a really nice, obvious lime presence, but it didn't come out on the heavy side, which I started worrying was going to happen. I ended up naming that one "Margarita Gose", as it comes about as close to a Margarita beer as you would want.

So, I'm happy with the amount of salt used (I don't think I'd change it at all), and the amount of lime zest. I'm still torn on the Citra addition; maybe one can only expect so much hop presence to come through in a beer like this? The equivalent of a 5-oz dry hop for a 5 gallon batch seems like plenty to me. If I tried again, I think I'd experiment with adding some Citra at flameout for a 15-20 minute hop steep; yes, you'd give the beer more IBUs this way, but maybe it would work.

I would also like both beers to be more sour. Again, NOT a Flanders Red or Lambic sourness, but just a hair above where they are now. Now that I've been reading more on the subject, I think a couple of things would need to change for next time on this front:
  1. Use phosphoric or lactic acid to lower the wort pH - There's a couple of reasons why this is a good idea; one is because for someone with water like mine, the wort pH comes out higher than ideal, especially in lighter-coloured beers. Lowering the pH, at least slightly, kind of gives the Lacto a head start, if that makes any sense (this applies to the starter and final wort). On top of that, it's been shown that lowering the wort pH to ~4.5 before pitching the Lacto can help aid in reducing foam degradation (see the Milk the Funk Wiki link for more details). If you can get it, I'd use phosphoric acid, as it won't affect the taste like lactic acid can.
  2. I think it's possible that the Lacto starter was too warm for the L. plantarum to lower the pH where I wanted it. I'm not positive here; the evidence would indicate that L. plantarum is still fine up to 90 F, and probably up to 100 F; but I can tell you that I've brewed a hoppy sour since this beer, and accidentally had the heat pad unplugged for the starter, where the pH jumped from a seemingly-stalled reading of 3.9 to 3.3 in a short matter of time. More on that in a future post.
Overall, though, I'm enjoying both of these beers, and for my first foray into kettle souring, I'm quite happy. The capsules worked well enough for me to warrant using them again, especially now that I know to try a slightly different approach next time.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.033, FG ~1.009, IBU 8, SRM 2.9, ABV ~3.2%

1.4 kg (47.9%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.4 kg (47.9%) Wheat malt
125 g (4.3%) Acid malt
+ 100 g Rice hulls

Polaris - 14 g (20% AA) @ 5 min

Citra - 70 g dry hop for 5 days (in dry hop keg) for 1/2 of the batch

1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min
14 g freshly-ground Coriander seed at 2 min
25 g Sea Salt at 2 min

Lime zest - ~6.5 g in secondary after fermentation is complete, for 5 days for 1/2 of the batch

Bacteria/Yeast: Lactobacillus plantarum capsules (4) 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 April 19th, 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 1.033 (target 1.032). Heated to ~195 F, then chilled to 100 F. Racked to carboy, pitched Lacto starter, attached heat belt and set carboy on heating pad. Four days later, the pH had dropped to 3.65 - with the heat belt and pad, the temp was about 80 F, so I had panicked and turned on a space heater in the room, which brought it up to around 90 F or so.

- 26/4/16 - 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. Fermentation visible by next day, continued for two days and then petered off.

- 4/5/16 - pH reading 3.69. Split the batch by racking half into dry-hop keg and added 70 g Citra, other half racked into 3 gallon carboy (~10 L) and added 6.5 g lime zest (sanitized by dunking mesh bag, marbles and zest in sanitizer before adding to carboy).

- 10/5/16 - Bottled lime half with 60 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 2.5 gal, max temp 70 F reached. Racked Citra half into serving keg and set carb to PSI 30 for 24 hours.

Lime zest on the left, Citra on the right
Appearance: As you can see from the picture, they look pretty identical. Both pour with a moderate-sized, white head that fades fairly quickly, as expected. The Citra head lasts longer, however... due to being force-carbed, or is the lime zest causing that head to fade a bit quicker? Lime body is just slightly darker, but both beers are pretty pale. Touch of haziness.

Aroma: Moderately salty, touch of coriander; the Citra portion has a light fruitiness and a little dank character. The lime beer definitely has the lime zest coming through in the aroma, more prominent than the salt; works very well.

Taste: Citra half: the Citra hits first, pleasant low fruitiness, followed by a moderate-low tartness on the tongue. Finishes lightly salty, with low to no bitterness. Dry and refreshing. Lime half: great amount of lime character in the flavour, followed by the saltiness to make it seem that much more maragarita-like. Same tartness as the Citra half... pleasant, but not quite enough. Great summer beer.

Mouthfeel: Both are light-bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Refreshing, easy-drinking; I enjoy both, but give the edge to the lime zest portion. I think the salt level is perfect, could use a bit more coriander. Expected and wanted more Citra presence in the dry-hopped version. And, of course, both could benefit from some more tartness.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Brewing a Trillium Scaled Up clone

Back when I wasn't as picky a beer drinker, I thought that DIPAs were one of the easier styles to brew... you basically just had to throw a lot of hops in! Luckily (?), I'm not that naive anymore... it's just not that simple. I now know exactly the type of DIPA that I love, which means there's now a lot of DIPAs out there that I really don't enjoy. I want my Imperial IPA to be light in colour; an absolutely-huge hop aroma that's big on tropical fruit, citrus, and pine; ditto for the flavour, with a bit of supporting malt character, but no noticeable Crystal/caramel malt, and a moderate bitterness, finishing dry. In short: not dark amber, sweet, and bracingly bitter, which too many DIPAs are (in my opinion).

Now, if all that sounds good to you, and you're looking for a brewery that can provide you with such a beer, let me just say that Trillium Brewing is the place to go. I probably don't need to tell you that; if you're into hoppy beer I'm sure you've at least heard of Trillium. Based in Boston, they opened in 2013, with a second location outside the city, in Canton, opening a few months ago. Check them out on Rate Beer, or Untappd, or any rating-based website, and you'll see that virtually all of their beers are consistently rated extremely highly. I've had several different bottles, and I can attest that this is not simple hype talking... they really are that good, and they're brewing some of the best New England-style (Northeast?) IPAs around. A friend picked me up several beers on a trip last year, and they were all great.

After that, another friend was in Boston and brought back some Trillium to share; one of these was Scaled Up, one of their DIPAs. When people ask me, "What's the best beer you've ever had?", I can never really answer the question. I've had so many great beers, all at different times, different places, different circumstances, that I could never really select one best beer. But now I can say without a doubt that Scaled Up is definitely up there with the best beers I've had, probably in the top 3. I know some people hate using "juicy" as a descriptor for beer (I guess because it's too vague or something?), but Scaled Up is the epitome of juicy. It looked, smelled, and tasted very much like orange juice... but more. Super-hazy, super-fruity and tropical, super-smooth... super-everything. And I wasn't alone in my love for this beer; everyone else in the room agreed it was one of the best DIPAs they'd ever tried.

Naturally, I was curious as to what went into this beer, and I wanted to try cloning it. It's been awhile since I've brewed a clone beer, so just to confirm - I never really expect to brew an exact replica of a commercial beer when I set out to "clone" it, I'm just looking to see if I can brew something close... I guess that's the best way to put it. With this beer, Trillium's website did a pretty good job explaining what went into it, ingredient-wise:

The first Double IPA produced at our Canton brewery. Featuring four powerful aromatic hop varieties, Galaxy, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and Columbus, Scaled Up emits dank, spicy aromas that lead into fruity, citrusy flavors of peach and orange on the palate. Lighter in body than most of our other DIPAs, Scaled Up finishes dry and smooth with a pleasant bitterness.

Of course, I reached out to the brewery via email - twice - to see if I could sneak a bit more info out of them, especially regarding the hops and what ratio they were used at. Unfortunately, I never received a reply, which is completely understandable. That didn't deter me, though, so I just got to work putting a recipe together on my own.

Thankfully, the Trillium site also listed the ingredients for the grist: Pilsner, White Wheat, Flaked Wheat, Dextrine, Dextrose, and C-15. I would assume that these were listed in decreasing order, in terms of % used, but of course I couldn't be sure. I ended up putting together something that looked good to me, with several substitutions:
  • 2-row replaced Pilsner (because I found out on brew day I was low on Pilsner... stupid)
  • Carapils replaced Dextrine (all I could get, plus it seems to me they're about the same thing)
  • Flaked Oats replaced Flaked Wheat (all I had on hand)
  • Table sugar replaced Dextrose (I've never felt it was worth it to pay more for Dextrose)
  • CaraRed replaced C-15 (the closest I had; CaraRed is ~20 L)
As you can tell, I certainly didn't put work into planning this too far ahead, for some reason. Plus, I've always had issues with inventory through BeerSmith; I think I'm the only one who has this problem, but it constantly fluctuates despite my keeping up with it. Even when I completely zero out a hop variety, for example, I'll see it pop up again a week later, saying I have 10 oz or something. Weird. Anyway, I still thought the grist looked good. I aimed for a mash temp of 149 F to try to keep the beer dry, and added Acid malt as usual to bring the mash pH into the 5.4 range.

I'm not sure what the IBUs are for Scaled Up; they're not listed on the website, but I really didn't care too much, anyway. I know where I wanted them based on my tastes; I was thinking around 60 would be sufficient. Low for a DIPA, yes, but this beer did not taste overly bitter to me, and in my hoppy-brewing experience lately, aiming in that range for a DIPA works well. I bittered at 60 min with a small amount of Polaris; this hop isn't listed by Trillium, but I don't feel that the bittering variety makes a difference. Columbus (CTZ) is listed, and maybe that's the hop they use for a bittering addition; then again, maybe they don't even add anything before the last part of the boil. In the end, I decided to use CTZ and Mosaic at 10 min, CTZ, Mosaic, and Nelson at flameout for a hop-stand, Galaxy, Nelson and Mosaic when I turned on my chiller, and two dry-hop additions (one in primary, one in my DH keg) of all three. I didn't go for huge amounts in the dry-hop, but a total of 6 oz seems like enough to me, now. In fact, I'm always a bit hesitant going above 3-4 oz in the dry-hop for my beers, after some previous not-great results and from reading about beer pH being increased with larger dry-hop additions. I was hoping 6 oz would be right for this beer.

I don't believe that Trillium makes it perfectly clear on their website which type of yeast strain they use, but based on their beers that I've tried, and the how they smell, taste and look, I immediately thought of using London Ale III (Wyeast 1318). I won't go on about how great this strain is; I've already done that on many of my recent hoppy-beer posts. But if you haven't brewed with it before, I suggest you seek it out. If you don't have access and want to use a neutral, American strain like US-05, I'm sure that you'd still have a very good beer. However, try to get LAIII; I don't think you'll regret it!

So, I seemed to be all set. The brew day went well, targets were mostly hit (OG was a couple of points low), and the wort smelled - as expected - pretty damned amazing after being chilled down to the low 60s F. I aerated with 90 seconds of pure oxygen and pitched the yeast slurry at 64 F; fermentation took off by the next morning and was soon going strong. When I saw signs of it slowing down after a day or two, I added the sugar (boiled and cooled in some water) and it picked up again, continuing actively for about a week. It was around 2 weeks or so that I added the first dry hop charge into primary (I took a final gravity, and it looked, smelled, and tasted just like OJ, which got me totally psyched) when the krausen had finally settled; five days later I racked to my dry hop keg with the second dry hop addition.

I've been drinking this beer for a little over a week now, and it's been on kind of an odd evolution. The first pour from the keg was, while a bit undercarbed, completely delicious. Similar to when I took the FG, it was very orangey, fruity, tropical. I made myself wait a few more days before trying it again, and I couldn't believe how different it now was. While it certainly wasn't as nasty as my experience trying to brew a Dinner clone (Maine Beer Co.'s white whale DIPA), it reminded me of it. The hops were more muted, a bit spicy and onion-y; also, quite dank. A few days later, it had improved slightly, and now it's back to being pretty good again.

Ultimately though, while I enjoy this beer, it's nowhere near as great as Scaled Up. And I'm ok with that; I don't expect miracles to happen. But I'm still a bit disappointed that, considering the hops that were used, the beer didn't come out very tropical or juicy; at least, not to the level I was hoping for. It definitely has a big berry character, and it's plenty dank... but I wasn't really going for dank. I also wonder if on my system, 6 oz total of dry hops is just too much? What would this beer have been like if I hadn't dry-hopped it at all?

So, what would I change? Aside from obviously using Pilsner malt instead of 2-row, I'd try dialling the dry-hop back a bit... say, 1.25 oz of each of the three used, as a single addition. Drop the CTZ from the hop steep, and replace it with Galaxy. I think London Ale III is a good yeast to go with, and the grist seems solid, at least until I can get the hops more where I'd like them to be, and then start adjusting other aspects of the recipe. If you're thinking of trying this recipe, I suggest you go with those changes, and expect a quite-good DIPA, but maybe not the BEST THING YOU'VE EVER TASTED.

In closing, however, I poured another glass of this beer last night for the picture below, and damn if it wasn't tasting even better! It's been on for several weeks now... maybe it really needed some time to settle into its own? If anyone ever has doubt that beer is like a living organism...

UPDATE: Someone on Reddit was kind enough to let me know (shortly after posting) that Trillium has said in the past that the yeast they use is the equivalent of White Labs 007 Dry English Ale; the Wyeast equivalent is 1098 British Ale. So, obviously I also recommend going with either of these two strains, as they would definitely differ from LAIII.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 70% efficiency) OG 1.070, FG ~1.012, IBU ~60, SRM 5.5, ABV ~7.7%

5.3 kg (79.5%) Canadian 2-row
325 g (4.9%) CaraPils
275 g (4.1%) Wheat malt
200 g (3%) CaraRed (20 L)
125 g (1.9%) Acid malt
90 g (1.4%) Flaked Oats
350 g (5.2%) Table sugar (added in primary when fermentation slowed)

Polaris - 7 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

CTZ - 28 g (10.5% AA) @ 10 min
Mosaic - 28 g (11.9% AA) @ 10 min

CTZ - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Mosaic - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Galaxy - 42 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Mosaic - 42 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Nelson Sauvin - 7 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Galaxy - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Mosaic - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Galaxy - 28 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in keg)
Mosaic - 28 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in keg)
Nelson Sauvin - 35 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in keg)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~250 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on April 12th, 2016, by myself. 60-minute mash with 18.5 L of strike water; mash temp on target at 149 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.051 (target 1.052, before sugar addition). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG a bit low at 1.062 (so, 1.068 with sugar addition). Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Great fermentation by the next morning, and was even showing signs of slowing down a mere 48 hours after pitching. I added the sugar at this point, and activity quickly picked up again and continued for several more days. After close to two weeks (FG 1.011), added the first round of dry hops into primary for 5 days, then racked to the dry-hop keg, added the second dry hops for 5 more days, then transferred via CO2 to the serving keg and began carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white fluffy head; good retention, sticky lacing left on the glass. Body is a very light amber colour, with better-than-expected clarity (although there's definitely still haze present).

Aroma: Lots of berries, basically. A bit dank, and just the slightest hint of alcohol.

Taste: Big hop blast - again, mainly berries and dankness - balanced slightly by the bready malt character; but, ultimately, yeah... hops. Should be more tropical, but it's still very tasty. Medium-high bitterness in the dry finish, more than expected from the ~60 IBUs for a 7.5% ABV beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Very good; I enjoy it as a DIPA, I like the berry hop character and dryness, but since I was hoping for - if not expecting - a closer version of Scaled Up, I have to admit I'm a touch disappointed.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Nelson Sauvin Session IPA

It's been awhile since I've brewed a new entry in my series of one-hop Session IPAs; while I did rebrew the Equinox Session IPA a few months ago, the last new entry was almost a year ago, when I brewed one with Summer hops. While not a bad beer, it was the least enjoyable out of all of them (Mosaic and Equinox were both great, El Dorado was quite good); it was the first and only time I've brewed with Summer, and the hop aroma and flavour was extremely mild compared to the other Session IPAs I've brewed. I always enjoy having a sessionable, hoppy beer on tap, so it was definitely time for me to re-visit this series, and I had a lot of hop varieties I was anxious to try out.

Before choosing a hop, however, I decided to make this a completely different Session IPA from the other four I had brewed. For those, I was happy to have dialled in a grist, mash temp, hop schedule, and yeast that I felt were all where I wanted them to be for a beer like this. The grist was made up of ~70% 2-row, 11% each Munich and Wheat malt, 5.5% Crystal 40 L, and ~2% Acid malt. I mashed high (~155 F) to keep the body up, which is of course always a challenge when you brew beers in the 4-4.5% ABV range (or lower). I fermented all of the Session IPAs with US-05, which I had been using for basically all of my hoppy beers then.

But, I've really been enjoying fermenting hoppy beers with London Ale III; if you follow along with this blog, you can definitely attest to that. My last six hoppy beers have all been fermented with this strain, and I love how it works with the hops I've used, giving a really fruity beer with a fantastic, creamy mouthfeel. I wanted to try using this strain in a Session IPA, of course, but felt that I didn't really need a grist with 30% specialty malt; I was pretty sure a simpler grain bill with the proper mash temp would be sufficient with LAIII.

It was easy for me to decide on a grist after picking out the yeast strain. Even though I've only used it twice now, for a simple, delicious malt bill that pairs great with hops and LAIII, I feel that you can't go wrong with the Row 2, Hill 56 clone: Pilsner and Maris Otter, light Crystal and Carapils, and a bit of Acid malt. I used it recently in an APA with Azacca and Galaxy, and that beer was one of my favourites I've brewed in a while. I scaled down the recipe to an OG of 1.048, and decided to aim for a mash temp of 154 F; while not completely sure, I was pretty confident that it would give enough body in the beer.

There, everything decided! Oh wait, the hops. While I had many varieties on hand that I had never used on their own before, I couldn't help but be drawn back to maybe my favourite variety, Nelson Sauvin. Ah, what a wonderful hop. I know I don't have to tell you that, but I can't help it. It's so delicious. And surprisingly, I had quite a lot of it on hand, so I was really interested in brewing another one-hop beer with it; the first one was a completely different beer, my Prairie 'Merica clone, a SMaSH Saison. I really loved that beer, and it was two and a half years ago that I brewed it, so it was settled - Nelson Sauvin Session IPA it is. I kept the hop schedule for this beer the same as what I had used before: a little bit of a bittering addition at 60 (I used Polaris, and only 4 g, to get ~9 IBUs), then Nelson at 10 minutes (1 oz), at flameout for a 15-min steep (2 oz), and a dry-hop (3 oz). Six ounces total for the batch, definitely nothing crazy, but I've had great results with this method, and Nelson is pretty expressive to say the least.

Aside from fermenting with LAIII, I added some Gypsum and calcium chloride to my mash as I have done for all hoppy beers over the last six months or more. While I may not have everything completely dialled in yet, I feel like I'm getting pretty close, for my tastes anyway. Aiming for a chloride:sulfate ratio of about 1:1, with both numbers in the 100-150 ppm range, seems to work really well. If you haven't tested your water or tracked down a water report, I suggest you do. You don't necessarily have to be a water expert; obviously, the more you know, the easier it is to understand and tweak, but if you're into hoppy beers (and I assume you are if you're reading this), this higher-chloride-than-we-used-to-think-was-a-good-idea approach really does help in brewing some tasty beers.

Well, now that I'm drinking this beer, I definitely have a decision to make about future Session IPAs, because I really like how this turned out. That's easy to say when you're brewing with Nelson, but aside from how well the hop comes through in this beer, I think I may prefer this style with the R2H56 grist and fermenting with LAIII. The beer looks fantastic, pale-gold-coloured and hazy, just like I like it to look; huge tropical aroma (I admit I wouldn't know what a gooseberry smells like, but if this truly is it, then I gotta buy me some gooseberries to string into a necklace so I can wear it all day long); I admit the flavour isn't quite as punchy as I expected from the aroma, but it's still very good. Smooth and creamy, as are so many beers (I've found) when fermenting with LAIII.

I also think that ~6 oz is enough hops for this style of beer; I've had other homebrews that used more hops, and they didn't strike me as hoppier in either aroma or flavour, really. I'm a firm believer now that there is a too-many-hops point for beer; whether this is due to hop-flavour-overload/contrasting, pH changes with increasing dry-hopping, or something else, I don't know, but there it is. If this beer could use any changes at all, the only one I would make would be a longer hop steep, which would likely bump up the flavour intensity a little bit. Otherwise, I'm happy with this, and at the calculated ABV of 4.3%, it's perfectly sessionable, and about right where I want a hoppy beer to be in terms of appearance, aroma and flavour.

It's just too bad that Nelson Sauvin is so damned expensive and hard to get...

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.013, IBU ~35, SRM 4.5, ABV ~4.5%

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 - 4 g (20% AA) @ 60 min
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g (10.5% AA) @ 10 min

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

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

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~175 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on March 21st, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water; mash temp a bit low at 153.5 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5.5 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.038 (target 1.039). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 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 64 F.

- Good airlock activity by the next morning; 24 hours after that, it had slowed significantly; temp never got higher than 68 F.

- 4/4/16 - FG 1.013. Added dry hops into primary.

- 10/4/16 - Racked beer to keg, set in keezer overnight to bring temp down, then force-carbed at 30 PSI for 36 hours before dropping down to 10 PSI.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white fluffy head that shows good retention, eventually fading to 1/4-finger or so. Beautiful, light-golden colour for the body, quite hazy.

Aroma: Yeah, that's Nelson alright! Tons of fruit, very berry-like, maybe just a touch of dank. It's basically all hops in the aroma, and I'm ok with that.

Taste: Same; lots of berry fruitiness, very juicy, as expected. Finishes with a medium bitterness, dry and refreshing. Nice supporting malt character, just a light breadiness that works perfectly.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation. Very smooth and creamy.

Overall: I don't use the word crushable, but if I did, I'd certainly use it here. Up there with the Equinox for my favourite Session IPAs I've brewed so far.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Belgian APA with Equinox and Mosaic (inspired by Schilling Racogne)

First off, let me say that I realize the term "Belgian APA" sounds kind of ridiculous. It's tough with a beer like this, though. You know what I'm getting at here, right? A Belgian IPA, basically, but in APA territory for ABV, as in roughly 5-6%. But I can't call it a Belgian Pale Ale, can I? There's already a style for that, and that one isn't considered a hoppy beer. So, while Belgian APA struck me as odd at first, I'm comfortable with it now; if you really think of it, it's no more crazy than saying "Belgian IPA".

What brought me to brewing a beer like this, you may ask? Well, when my wife and I drove to Vermont last June, we went out of our way to stop at Schilling Beer Company in Littleton, NH. I had been looking for a decent place to stop, and this place looked perfect. It was quite literally right on the way to VT, the beers brewed there (and the food) were rated really well, and I loved how what they were serving was a mixture of German, Belgian, and hoppy American styles, and beyond. It looked awesome, and we weren't disappointed.

The Schilling Brewery; photo: John Hession, NH Magazine

We were greatly in need of a beer or two when we arrived there after many hours of driving. Getting one of the last tables on their deck (beautiful little spot, by the way, overlooking the river), we ordered a couple of sampler trays, and I was impressed by most of what I tried. My favourite, however, was their Racogne. A "Belgo Pale Ale" (hey, maybe that's what I should have called this beer!), it's a 5.5% beer that the brewery describes as follows:

Hazy orange in appearance with a medium mouthfeel, Racogne (“Ra-con-ia”) showcases Mosaic and Equinox hops and a Belgian yeast of medium flavor intensity to produce mellow tropical fruit aromas and ‘juicy’ hop flavors.

I can tell you, it smelled and tasted as advertised. Hugely juicy and tropical, the beer took two of my favourite hops and made them work perfectly with whatever Belgian strain they used for fermentation. I could have drank a heck of a lot more than a sampler size, that's for sure. I never thought I'd be disappointed to have to get in the car and continue on to Vermont! Ok, maybe not quite, but close. Ever since, I've been meaning to brew something along the lines of this beer. Maybe not a clone, per se, but something along the same lines. I love Mosaic and Equinox - I've done a single-hop Session IPA with both (Mosaic here, Equinox here), but haven't used them together before. And I've been meaning to do another Belgian-style hoppy beer, so it all seemed like a good excuse to give this a try!

Before diving in, I thought I'd at least TRY emailing Schilling to ask them if they'd be willing to share a bit of info on the beer. I was curious about several things: the grist, whether they used Equinox and Mosaic in equal amounts, and mainly, what type of Belgian yeast are we talking about here? So, I sent out a friendly email, and got a quick reply from their Head Brewer and President, John Lenzini. He was very appreciative, but said that their current policy is not to share recipe info, at least not until they become more established and start distributing to a larger degree.

So, I was on my own. I decided to keep things as simple as possible, and developed the grist based on my previous recipe for a Belgian Session IPA, scaled up to an OG of 1.052. I had enjoyed this grist in the Session IPA, and the colour seemed about right for this beer. It's made up of mostly Pilsner malt, with small amounts of Aromatic, CaraVienne, and Wheat malt, and Acid malt. I find this gives a nice supporting malt character while allowing the hops to dominate; mind you, this was with a Session Belgian IPA, but really, this APA is only 7 gravity points higher than that one, so it should be fine. I still aimed to mash fairly low, at 150 F, to keep the beer pretty dry.

The hop schedule was pretty easy. I went with slightly more Mosaic than Equinox, simply because I had more Mosaic on hand. I decided to once again try dropping a bittering addition, with no hops being added until 10 minutes, where I threw in 2 oz of Mosaic. Three oz total for a hop steep, another couple after the chiller was turned on, and then equal amounts (1.5 oz each) of Mosaic and Equinox for the dry hop, giving a grand total of 10 oz of hops. Not bad; I don't think more than this would be necessary, assuming the hops are fresh.

I was mostly guessing when it came to choosing a yeast strain. As I mentioned in the Belgian Session IPA post, it's trickier pairing yeast with hops when you're working with Belgian strains, compared to American ones. There's a lot of Belgian strains out there, and they all have varying degrees of esters and phenolics, and can clash easily with certain hop varieties. I haven't brewed a lot of Belgian IPAs; the Belgian Session IPA used Wyeast 3787 (the Westmalle strain), and I really liked it. However, this brew day wasn't planned too far in advance, and I'd have to special order that one to get it again. My LHBS did have Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey in stock, which is supposedly the Chimay strain. Oddly enough, I don't think I've brewed with this strain before. Chimay doesn't brew any hoppy beers to my knowledge, but I'm a fan of their regular three-beer lineup, so I thought I'd finally give the strain a try and see how it worked with Equinox and Mosaic.

Well, the brew day brought no surprises, and I was drinking this beer within a few weeks (kegged, of course). While I honestly can't say if this is even close to Racogne, it is one tasty beer! I don't think I've brewed a hoppy, Belgian-style beer that had the hop aromas and flavours blend so well with the Belgian yeast. The aroma is probably 75% hop fruit bomb, with 25% Belgian fruity/spicy phenolics blended in... probably the same in the flavours. The beer is hazy, although NOT as hazy as that picture below would indicate (that was taken shortly after bumping the keg a couple of times when moving my CO2 tank around), with a medium-light body and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel (the feel and look of the beer would make me think it was fermented with London Ale III, if it wasn't for the Belgian characteristics).

So, in short, great beer, would absolutely recommend you give it a try if you're so inclined. Mosaic and Equinox aren't the easiest hops to find, by any means, but if you can, brew it! It'd be interesting to split the batch and ferment it with a couple of different Belgian strains, see how that affects the final beer; I may try this in the future. In the meantime, I'm really sad to see this one go... the keg kicked two nights ago, dang it.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.052, FG ~1.011, IBU ~45, SRM 6, ABV ~5.3%

3.9 kg (83.4%) Bohemian Pilsner
225 g (4.8%) Aromatic
225 g (4.8%) CaraVienne
225 g (4.8%) Wheat malt
100 g (2.1%) Acid malt

Mosaic - 56 g (10.5% AA) @ 10 min

Mosaic - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Equinox - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Mosaic - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Equinox - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Mosaic - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Equinox - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale (with a starter)

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

- Brewed on February 24th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13.5 L of strike water; mash temp a on target at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.25 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.041. 90-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG on target at 1.052. Chilled to 60 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Fermentation was a bit slow to start with this batch; didn't really see a krausen till the evening of the 25th, with vigorous airlock activity by the next morning, temp at 74 F. By the next morning, the krausen had already receded quite a bit, and the airlock was silent... very fast!

- 9/3/16 - Final gravity of 1.012. Added dry hops into primary.

- 15/3/16 - Racked beer to purged keg, set in keezer to bring temp down and then started carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head that shows good retention, eventually fades to a thin film on the beer. Nice lacing on the glass. Body is a light orange color, with a lot of haziness.

Aroma: Wonderful combination of big, tropical, fruity hops and Belgian phenolics; the spiciness follows the hop blast, as I had hoped. The nose is definitely reminiscent of Equinox, with the Mosaic character coming through well.

Taste: Ditto, fruity blast, green pepper slightly (or maybe I just know to look for it with Equinox?), followed by the phenolics. Medium-light bitterness in the finish, fairly dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation. Smooth and creamy.

Overall: Beautiful beer, one of my favourites lately. I'd brew this again and not change a thing, although I am curious as to what a different yeast strain would contribute, or take away.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

India Pale Lager (Cascade, Comet & Vic Secret)

For me, the months of January and February equal Lager Season. Not necessarily drinking, of course, but brewing them. Ever since I purchased a separate freezer and a temperature controller in 2011 (my first major homebrew equipment purchase), I've brewed 2 or 3 lagers each year. Now, with a temperature-controlled freezer, I could technically brew a lager any time of year, but it's just so much easier in the winter, when ground water temps are a lot lower. Lagers aren't my favourite class of beer to brew, but I completely appreciate the talent it takes to brew a really good one. You have to pitch a lot of healthy yeast, you have to aerate properly, you have to pay close attention to fermentation temps and diacetyl rests and lagering periods... it goes on and on. It's not easy to brew a really good Pilsner, and that gets missed a lot by people who don't know a lot about brewing.

Last year was the first time since having the freezer that I didn't brew any lagers. This happened for two reasons: 1) I was kind of on a big hoppy kick and kept brewing APAs, IPAs, etc., and 2) my fermentation chamber had become a keezer; with 3-4 taps flowing at a time, there just wasn't enough room for a carboy, let alone two. This year, however, I figured that I could take the time to brew at least one or two; by cleverly using the back, closed-off room of my garage for fermentation (acting as my beer cellar, it's kept at a perfect 48-50 F thanks to a simple digital thermostat), and the garage itself for lagering (it's typically 2-4 F during January and February), I thought I could make it work.

So, in early January I brewed a Festbier (think paler, more-bitter Oktoberfest) using a private collection strain from Wyeast, Munich Lager II. I've used this strain before in a Vienna Lager and a Schwarzbier, and was quite happy with it... good malt character, decent attenuation, less diacetyl-producing. The Festbier turned out pretty decent, and - as usual for my method to brewing lagers - I kept lots of slurry to re-use for another beer. I had full intentions of brewing a bigger beer, like a Bock or Doppelbock, but as usual, all those hops in the freezer were calling to me...

While India Pale Lager is not a defined "style" of beer (at least, it isn't in the BJCP), that - as usual - doesn't keep plenty of commercial breweries from brewing it. I don't think I have to get too technical here: an IPL is basically an American IPA fermented with a Lager yeast strain. I believe the idea is that since Lager strains generally give a very clean beer (if brewed properly), an IPL should bring the hops (and supporting malt) even more forward than when used in an IPA (even one featuring a generally-neutral yeast strain, such as US-05). I can't really comment on whether this is true; I've never brewed an IPL, and I haven't tried many of them either. The standout for me is one that is definitely impressive to have been brewed well, TrIPL, a 10% monster with CTZ, Chinook and Citra from Jack's Abby, probably one of the best Lager breweries in North America.

Well, I decided to give it a go, if only to see if there was really a difference between a heavily-hopped Lager vs. a heavily-hopped Ale. When putting together the recipe, I didn't want a beer that was too dark, of course, but maybe something that wasn't Light Lager yellow, either. I was originally going to go with all-Pilsner malt for the base, as I would with a lot of pale Lagers, but after a bit of reading online, I decided to add some 2-row in. I made up the rest with some Munich, Wheat malt, and Melanoiden, trying to give the beer a bit of body and provide some breadiness. A bit of Acid malt, as usual, and that was that. I mashed fairly low, at 150 F; I wanted a fairly-dry beer, and with the attenuation of the Munich Lager II not being super-high, I hoped this would give me a good balance of enough-body with not-too-sweet.

I went with three hop varieties, one that I've used plenty of times, one I've used once and really enjoyed, and one that I've never brewed with before:
  • Cascade - We've all used Cascade, and it often gets forgotten in the mad rush of new, hot hops out there... and it's a shame. Sure, it may not be as potent as Galaxy, Azacca, Citra, Mosaic, etc., but its citrus and grapefruit characteristics can be truly wonderful in a hoppy beer, and I've been trying to use it more often lately.
  • Comet - I think this one has been around for awhile, but I hadn't brewed with it since my 2015 Meek Celebration (Christmas giveaway beer), and I really liked it in that beer. Described by the Bear Flavored hop guide as "intense wild American grapefruit/citrus character, extremely dank"; it doesn't disappoint. So obviously, I'm looking for grapefruit in this beer.
  • Vic Secret - A new (~2013) Australian variety, this hop has been doing well - I see it popping up in a lot of beers lately, and I tried a single-hop beer from Fredericton's TrailWay awhile back that was quite good. Described as exhibiting flavours of passionfruit, pineapple and some light herbs and resin, I thought it would work nicely with the Cascade and Comet.
I mixed it up a bit as per the hopping schedule below, with an ounce or slightly more (when using up stock) of all three in a single dry-hop. But that raised the question: what is the best way to dry-hop an IPL? Do you lager the beer first, and then dry-hop? Or is the lagering period also the dry-hop period? Problem is, even light lagers are lagered for longer than your typical dry-hopping time (which is often no longer than 5-7 days, or even shorter). I looked into it some, and turns out that - surprise! - there are a lot of different opinions on the "best" way to dry-hop a lagered beer. So, I chose the following method: brew the beer, ferment cool as expected, raise temp for a short diacetyl rest, bring back down to ~50 F again, then after a couple weeks total, rack to a keg and lager the beer. After several weeks, throw the dry hops in that keg, move the keg inside to a warmer temperature for 5 days, then transfer the beer from that dry-hop keg into the serving keg, chill and carb. Make sense?

The brew day was fine, if a little longer than usual - with a 90-minute boil, a hop steep of 15 minutes, and having to chill to 50 F or lower, it definitely stretched out compared to an Ale brew. Fermentation was going about 24-36 hours after pitching, and in true Lager fashion for me, never got crazy... the airlock bubbling every 2 seconds for several days is what I'm used to for Lagers. After about 5 days the bubbling started slowing down, so I moved the fermentor inside for a 2-day diacetyl rest in the mid-60s F, then moved it back to 50 F ambient. After two weeks total, I racked the beer to my "dry-hop" keg and left it in the garage to lager... not exactly the most regulated way to do so, but my garage was holding at about 40 F or so, consistently, so it would have to do. Two weeks later I threw in the dry-hops, moved the keg inside for 5 days, and then transferred via CO2 to a purged serving keg, and started carbing.

And how did it turn out? I've got to say, I quite enjoy this beer. Really smooth and creamy, it's got a fruity, candy-like sweetness to it that in no way overshadows the citrusy, fruity, slightly-herbal flavours from the hops. The malt also complements the hops well, but be very clear, this is a hop-forward beer. It just seems a little less dry than a lot of hoppy ales I've brewed, but it's still juicy. That's the best way I can think to explain it. I'm sure a different Lager yeast with a bit higher attenuation would result in a drier beer, but I like how this tastes, and I'm a big fan of the mouthfeel.

This is something I'll definitely try again, although now it's probably going to have to wait until next winter. Lots of room for experimentation here - with many Lager yeast strains to play with, not to mention all those wonderful, wonderful hop varieties, this is a style I look forward to revisiting again. In the meantime, I need to track down some more commercial examples...

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 72% efficiency) OG 1.063, FG ~1.014, IBU ~52, SRM 5.7, ABV ~6.4%

3 kg (50.6%) Bohemian Pilsner
2 kg (33.8%) Canadian 2-row
300 g (5.1%) Munich
300 g (5.1%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.4%) Melanoiden
125 g (2.1%) Acid malt

Polaris - 10 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

Cascade - 28 g (6.4% AA) @ 10 min
Comet - 28 g (7% AA) @ 10 min

Comet - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Vic Secret - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Cascade - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Comet - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Comet - 44 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Cascade - 30 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Vic Secret - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2352 Munich Lager II (slurry)

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

- Brewed on February 10th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.75 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity 1.047 (target 1.048). 90-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG 1.064. Chilled to 48 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 120 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 50 F and set fermentor in back room of garage, ambient temp set for 50 F.

- Airlock showing signs of activity by the next evening, with steady bubbling occurring for the next week. When activity slowed, moved carboy inside for two days for a diacetyl rest at ~64 F. Moved back into 48 F temp for another 10 days or so.

- 1/3/16 - Racked to CO2-purged keg, set in back of garage where temp was approximately 38 F.

- 15/3/16 - FG 1.014. Added dry hops to keg, purged again, brought keg inside to sit at room temp.

- 20/3/16 - Transferred via CO2 to serving keg, began carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-large size white head that shows good retention, eventually fading to 1/2-finger. Body is a deep-golden colour, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Pleasant bready malt character, with a strong hop presence that is fruity and tropical, for the most part. Clean, no diacetyl, no sulfur.

Taste: Lots of hops, tropical, citrusy, with a bit of an herbal-like quality that two fellow beer geeks picked out. Backed by the malt sufficiently, but definitely a hoppy beer. Finishes crisp and fairly dry, smooth and easy-drinking.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation. Very smooth and creamy.

Overall: Very enjoyable; I haven't had a lot of IPLs but this is one of the better ones I've had for awhile. Definitely a recipe to play around with; changing hop varieties and yeast strains really opens the possibilities.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Brown IPA with CTZ, Galaxy, & Simcoe, fermented with London Ale III

About a year and a half ago, I brewed my first Brown IPA. This was right around the time that the draft of the 2015 BJCP Guidelines had come out, where it was being suggested that Brown IPA become a new category, or more accurately I guess, a sub-category of "Specialty IPA". I won't bore you with the details on how a Brown IPA differs from an American Brown Ale... you can check out the BJCP Guidelines or click on the link for my first brew. In my original beer, I went with a five-malt grist, hopped fairly aggressively with Citra, CTZ and Nugget. I liked it: with a toffee/caramel sweetness, it had a prominent nose of earthy, spicy hops (Nugget made up the majority of the additions), and finished fairly dry with a moderate-high bitterness.

But this is kind of a tough style to brew, simply because I don't think I've had many Brown IPAs. And really, I don't know if I want to. That sounds bad, but there's something about this style that I just can't get excited about. God knows I love hoppy beers, and I'll happily brew and drink any variety of American IPAs, Session IPAs, APAs, etc. I really enjoy a well-crafted Red IPA or Black IPA... so why is it that I can't get excited about a Brown IPA? Is it because I haven't had many, or because it's one of those styles that seems like it was created as an afterthought? Maybe the whole 114 categories of IPA and counting is starting to wear a bit thin? I don't know, and maybe even suggesting such things is blasphemous. But I know how to really test this out... brew another one!

Sure, why the hell not? I was looking to mix things up anyway, so I decided to revisit this recipe. Here's where I made a mistake: because I made the decision to go this route a bit too-close to brew day, I simply used the same grist as with the first beer (but with a little Acid malt added for the mash pH). I should have re-read my post, because that grist gave a beer that was too dark. The style SRM range is 11-19, and the grist I selected brings it in to 23.That's slightly below Black IPA territory, but that's really not a big deal... I'm certainly not using a lot of dark, roasted malts in this beer. It's mostly 2-row, a couple of caramel-type malts, and some Victory and Chocolate malt as well. I also added some Gypsum and calcium chloride as usual, and aimed for a mash temp of 151 F, trying to keep the body medium-light, with a mostly-dry finish.

I wanted to approach the hops differently for this beer. While the first Brown IPA did have some CTZ and Citra - so, you're getting some fruit character - Nugget, as mentioned, made up the majority. I initially went that route because I thought the combination would work well in this style, and it did. But this time around I wanted to go more in the direction of an APA or American IPA; read: fruity, citrusy. I chose three varieties: CTZ again, because I feel it really does work well in this style of beer, and Galaxy and Simcoe, to hopefully really boost the tropical fruit, and maybe add some pine as well. I followed my general schedule: a bit of Polaris at 60 to ~17 IBUs, then an ounce each of CTZ and Simcoe at 10, followed by some Galaxy and Simcoe for a hop steep, CTZ and Simcoe after starting the chiller, and an ounce each of all three in the dry hop (plus a little more Galaxy to use up the rest of that package).

As I've done many times over the last few months, I fermented this beer with London Ale III. The first beer was fermented with US-05, but I've been using LAIII a lot lately, with good results, and honestly, I really wanted to brew a Brown IPA and ferment it with this strain, if only to see how many people would get angry when I posted a pic of the resultant beer, all cloudy and brown. If some people get upset about a beer that looks like orange juice, imagine their reaction if it literally looks like shit!

Ok, I'm kidding. And actually, while I'm on the side of those who get excited when they see an IPA that looks like pulpy juice, there IS something different about seeing a darker beer with the same haze/cloudiness. Juice is one thing. Mud is another. But it wouldn't bother me to the point of not drinking it, that's for sure, especially if it was delicious!

Where was I? Oh, the beer. So, yeah, that's the recipe. When I brewed it I was under my target gravity by 4 points (my efficiency has definitely been lower lately; maybe an issue with my grain mill?), but as usual, I wasn't too bothered. The FG was also higher than expected, at 1.017, so overall the beer did come in at quite a lower ABV than expected. I dry-hopped the beer in primary for 5 days, then kegged it.

While, again, I don't feel like I have a lot of beers to compare this to, I'm pretty happy with how it came out, and I think I like it a little better than my first Brown IPA. Sure, the grist is the same, but I think the hops selected here do work better - there's a nice piney and slightly dank overtone to it, but it's a little more fruity than the first beer. I definitely don't think the Galaxy comes through like it would in a paler beer, but it works. Still too dark, naturally (actually, being such a dark brown prevents it from looking muddy!), but the high breadiness and very light chocolate comes through in the aroma and flavor as I was hoping. The bitterness comes across as in the medium range, with a fairly dry finish. Overall, though, the beer is quite smooth and creamy.

In the end, though, I don't think I'm a big fan of Brown IPAs. While I've definitely embraced Black, Red, White, and Belgian takes on the IPA style, Brown is definitely at the bottom of the list for me. Could be because I haven't had a really great example of one, could be because it's just not for me. I'll continue to try commercial (and other homebrew) versions as they're available to me, but I won't be rushing out to brew one again any time soon.

And no, it's not because it's a cloudy, brown beer!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.066, FG ~1.013, IBU ~58, SRM 23, ABV ~6.9%

5.1 kg (82.7%) Canadian 2-row
325 g (5.3%) Caramunich II (45 SRM)
265 g (4.3%) Chocolate malt
235 g (3.8%) Victory malt
165 g (2.7%) Crystal 60 L
75 g (1.2%) Acid malt

Polaris - 7 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

CTZ - 28 g (13.4% AA) @ 10 min
Simcoe - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min

Galaxy - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

CTZ - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

CTZ - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Galaxy - 37 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Simcoe - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~250 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on January 26th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp a bit low at 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.75 L of boiling water to 165 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity low at 1.050 (target 1.054). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG low at 1.062. Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Fermentation was off and pacing by the next morning, going strong over the first few days with the temps staying comfortably in the 67-68 F range. The krausen, as usual for LAIII, was thick and milkshake-like for many days after fermentation signs stopped in the airlock.

- 18/2/16 - Added dry hops into primary, FG 1.017.

- 22/2/16 - Racked into CO2-purged keg, set in keezer to bring temp down and began force carbing the next day.

Appearance - Poured with a medium-sized head that fades after a few minutes to a thin film on top of the beer. Body is a very dark brown colour, and seems virtually opaque when held to the light.

Aroma - Quite balanced, with the toffee-like, chocolatey malt character melding well with the piney, dank, slightly fruity overtones from the hops. Otherwise clean, no flaws.

Taste - Very nice flavour blending here: light chocolate, dark bread, toffee, with similar hop character noted in the aroma. Finishes slightly dry, but balanced well with the sweetness, medium bitterness. Smooth.

Mouthfeel - Medium-bodied, medium carbonation, creamy.

Overall - I enjoy this beer, even if it's far from my favorite IPA style. If I brewed it again, I'd try to drop the color by at least several SRM points, and maybe dial the bitterness back by 5-10 IBUs. I wouldn't mind also switching up the hops again, maybe even dropping the CTZ in favor of another fruity variety, such as Azacca or something similar.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

American Pale Ale with Azacca and Galaxy, fermented with London Ale III

In 2014, I brewed the widely-available clone recipe of Russian River's Row 2, Hill 56, a Simcoe single-hopped American Pale Ale. I had been looking to brew something for my older brother's wedding, and I had heard good things about this beer. Simcoe is a great hop, and despite being used in relatively-small amounts in this recipe (only 4 oz for a batch; compared to a lot of hoppy recipes nowadays - my own included - that's really not that much!), the beer had a great aroma and flavour, and was enjoyed by non-beer-drinkers and beer geeks alike.

Since then, I've always meant to brew that recipe again, except change up the hop(s) used. I know other homebrewers have used that recipe to feature other varieties, continuing the trend of single-hopped beers. But for me, I more just wanted to stick with the grist and go from there. I don't know why the grist seems to work so well, but it does. The combination of Pilsner malt and Maris Otter (instead of just using 2-row, which is pretty common in APAs) works really well at providing enough of a slightly-bready malt character to the beer, topped off with a little bit of light Crystal (~20 L) and Carapils. As usual for my system, Acid malt is also added to bring the mash pH down to the 5.4 region; I've been doing this consistently now, and I've been quite happy with the effect it's having (I fully acknowledge that a blind-tasting has not been done to confirm this!).

So, with the grist already decided, I had a hell of a bunch of hops to pick from. I've made several hop orders since late fall, and along with quite a bit left from last year's crop, there were all sorts of options. I wanted this beer to be REALLY juicy; ever since I was lucky enough to have tried Scaled Up, a DIPA from Trillium Brewing, a month or so ago (have you tried this beer? It's amazing!), I've been craving hops even more than usual. Damn these delicious beers for spoiling me! Luckily, many of the hop varieties I have in my freezer should be more than satisfactory, so, what to pick?

Ultimately, I settled on two varieties, to keep things relatively simple. And I picked two that are becoming two of my favourites as I use them more and more - Azacca and Galaxy. I really don't think you can go wrong with either one, and as I was giving it some thought, I realized that I hadn't actually used them together before. Travesty! But what better beer to showcase how these two blend than a fairly simple APA? And how could these not work together, right? They've definitely got to be two of the more-tropical, fruity, citrusy varieties out there, in a world with one heck of a lot of fruity hop types.

I didn't follow the hopping schedule for R2H56; I went with what I almost always use now for hoppy recipes that I develop on my own: a small bittering charge at 60 minutes (to only 10-15 IBUs; in fact, I'm starting to drop this altogether in some beers), an ounce at 10 minutes, then large WP and post-chilling additions, along with a dry-hop of 3 oz total. I've had good results with this method, and don't usually stray too far. The ratio is skewed slightly towards Galaxy (5.5 oz vs. 3.5 oz of Azacca), but only because I had more Galaxy on hand.

For fermentation, I went once again with London Ale III. I've brewed several different variations on the IPA style with this strain now, and you can count me as yet another believer... it is truly great with hoppy beers. It doesn't attenuate as highly as US-05, usually finishing for me to 1.013-1.014, giving the beer a nice, creamy mouthfeel without tasting under-attenuated. I find the beers I brew with this strain come out very hazy/cloudy in true Hill Farmstead/Trillium fashion, but that's ok with me! I know not everyone is thrilled by a hazy beer, but many of the best hoppy beers I've had have been cloudy, so I kind of expect that, now.

The brew day for this beer was uneventful, everything going smoothly. Fermentation was going strong by the next day - normal for my experience with London Ale III - and after 10 days or so I dry-hopped the beer in primary for about a week, then transferred to a keg and started carbing. I was really looking forward to this beer.

And what a tasty beer this is! I have to say, if Azacca and Galaxy were easier to get, this would be my new house APA. I've made very few beers juicier than this - big blast of tropical fruit and citrus, with maybe just a touch of pine in there. Lately, as the keg is getting down, the beer looks and tastes a lot like OJ, and of course I mean that in a good way. Creamy, smooth body, but it still finishes quite dry with a moderate bitterness. It's definitely been one of the best-received of my homebrews; it's rating on Untappd is the highest of any I've brewed, tied with my Equinox Session IPA.

Ok, so it's no big deal that I've confirmed what we all would have guessed: Azacca and Galaxy work great together, especially when fermented with London Ale III. But hey, I'm still glad I took the time to try it!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.056, FG ~1.013, IBU ~45, SRM 5.2, ABV ~5.6%

2.9 kg (57.7%) Bohemian Pilsner
1.65 kg (32.8%) Maris Otter
200 g (4%) CaraRed (20 L)
150 g (3%) CaraPils
125 g (2.5%) Acid malt

Polaris - 5 g (19.8% AA) @ 60 min

Galaxy - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min

Galaxy - 56 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Azacca - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Galaxy - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)
Azacca - 28 g @ 0 min (when begin chilling)

Galaxy - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Azacca - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (with a starter, ~200 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on January 13th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 151 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.5 L of boiling water to 166 F. Sparged with ~3.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity 1.044. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG 1.055. Chilled to 62 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 64 F.

- Active fermentation by the next day, continued for 2-3 before settling down. Dry-hopped in primary on January 25th; FG 1.013. Kegged on February 1st.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white creamy head (not normally as large as in that picture) that fades to about 1/2-finger and sticks around. Body is a light-orange colour, and very hazy/cloudy.

Aroma: Big punch of orange juice, along with a tropical fruit character that I unfortunately can't pick apart to actually name which fruit(s). Very little malt character.

Taste: A little more malt presence here - lightly bready, maybe a touch of wheat character? - but still mostly juicy, fruity hops. Bitterness in the finish comes across as medium-light, to me.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, very creamy, moderate carbonation. Smooth.

Overall: A great beer, made great by great hops. Will brew again, and don't think I'd change anything... at least not to a large degree.