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. Don't it blind, triangle-test for example, 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.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Brett IPA with Citra and Vic Secret - 1/2 fermented with Amalgamation, 1/2 with Brett C

After the "eh" feelings I had about my last Brett IPA (hopped entirely with Azacca, and fermented with Brett brux Trois Vrai), I've been itching to try brewing the style again. When done well, 100% Brett IPAs are delicious beers, exhibiting the perfect balance between bright hoppiness and Brett funk. Unfortunately, the Trois Vrai used in my Azacca Brett IPA wasn't - in my opinion - a good strain to use in such a beer... the funk, while tasty, barrelled through the beer (even in the early days of pouring) and masked most of the Azacca hoppy goodness.

The first two Brett IPAs, however (here and here), were a different story. Fermented with Amalgamation from The Yeast Bay, both beers were closer to what I look for in a Brett IPA - especially the first one, hopped with Amarillo and Hallertau Blanc. For those who don't know, Amalgamation is a "Brett Super Blend" of six different Brettanomyces strains; it works fantastically well in 100% Brett beers. After those two beers, unfortunately my Amalgamation slurry seemed to go south, so I had to toss it. This was a special order online that I had piggy-backed on with someone else, so getting it again wasn't looking like it'd be easy anytime soon.

Luckily, a friend had purchased a vial fairly recently, and saved me a small amount of slurry to brew with. He also had some slurry of White Labs Brett claussenii that he gave me; he had used it recently in brewing a Brett Session IPA (hopped with Citra, Equinox, and Galaxy) which was quite tasty. I had never brewed with Brett C before; White Labs describes it as having "low intensity Brett character", with "more aroma (fruity, pineapple) than flavour contribution". Again, his beer was really good, and the description sounds ideal for a Brett IPA. I had planned to brew two separate Brett IPAs, fermenting one with Amalgamation and one with Brett C, but then I had a thought - what about splitting a batch and comparing two otherwise-exact beers after fermenting with different Brett strains? Done!

This involved a little more work than usual, because I had to grow up (via two starters each) both Brett strains to pitchable amounts (~100 billion cells each, plus a little more to save for another beer), starting from somewhere in the line of 3 billion cells. Of course, I had no idea how many cells I had, but it was a very small amount of slurry for each strain, so I erred on the conservative side.

For the recipe, I used the same grist as for all of the Brett IPAs I've brewed so far. Maybe it's time to change this up, but I find the simplicity of 71% 2-row, 21% Wheat malt (to help bump up the body), and small amounts of Carapils and Acid malt, all mashed at ~153 F, works well in Brett beers. So far with this style and this recipe, I haven't had an issue with the body being too thin, as can be a common problem in 100% Brett beers, due to the minimal production of glycerol.

I pretty much stuck with my normal hopping schedule as well, but I was back and forth on exactly which hops to use. I wanted to keep the hops the same throughout, since the main purpose of this brew is to compare 100% fermentation with two different Brett pitches. I quickly settled on using two varieties, and made the decision of which to go with basically based on inventory. I still had 6 oz of Vic Secret on hand, and some Citra to use up as well; I considered throwing in a third variety, but decided to go with Vic Secret and Citra on their own, in a 2:1 ratio, respectively. As with the other beers, a small bittering addition with Polaris at the beginning of the boil, and then large additions at flameout and when I started chilling, and a single dry-hop.

Once brewed, boiled, and chilled, I split the roughly 20 L of wort into two 3-gallon Better Bottles (yeah, I flip back and forth between metric when it comes to volume; that's just how I roll), and pitched the two starters. As you can see from the pics below, the two beers looked pretty much the same during fermentation. The temperature for both got to 74 F, and while fermentation started fairly quickly, it wasn't long before it was petering off. The airlock for the Brett C half was bubbling slightly more than the Amalgamation half, but otherwise there wasn't much of a difference. After a couple of weeks, I took a gravity reading of each: Brett C got to 1.005, and Amalgamation to 1.003. This was a big difference compared to my other Brett IPAs, especially the Amalgamation ones, where the first beer finished at 1.014, and the second at 1.008. Since the grist and pitching rates for all three are the same, I assume this has something to do with fermentation temperature (the first Brett beer never reached higher than 70 F).

Not the prettiest laundry sink, I know.
I kegged the Amalgamation half, and bottled the Brett C half, simply because I didn't have two tap lines available at the time. Plus, this does allow you to let some of the bottles sit back and change with time, but right now, we're really more concerned with how these beers differ fresh. I mean, we're talking about a single-strain Brett IPA vs. one fermented with six strains, so these beers must have come out quite different, right?

Well, not so much, actually. Let me start off by saying that both of these beers are quite tasty, and in terms of Brett IPAs I've brewed, are rivalled only by the very first Amalgamation IPA. The Citra and Vic Secret work very well together, and with the Bretts, with a pleasant combination of pineapple, citrus and tropical fruit, and a bit of barnyard funk. The beers also look identical, as I expected. The main differences are in the mouthfeel (the Amalgamation is smoother and less carbonated; both of these may have to do with how they were carbonated?), and that the Brett C beer has a low level of phenolic spiciness in the aroma and flavour, that I don't really detect in the Amalgamation.

An interesting experiment! I'll continue to mess around in the future, but for now, Amalgamation remains my go-to fermenter when it comes to Brett IPAs.

Recipe Targets:
 (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.005, IBU ~40-45, SRM 4.1, ABV ~6.8%

3.7 kg (71.2%) Canadian 2-row
1.1 kg (21.2%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.8%) Carapils
200 g (3.8%) Acid malt

Polaris - 10 g (17.7% AA) @ 60 min

Citra - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Vic Secret - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Citra - 28 g @ 0 min (when started chilling)
Vic Secret - 42 g @ 0 min (when started chilling)

Citra - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary, 14 g per fermentor)
Vic Secret - 86 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary, 43 g per fermentor)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: 1/2 batch Brett C, 1/2 Brett Amalgamation (with a starter, ~100 billion cells each)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on September 7th, 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 166 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.045. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.7 gallons; OG 1.056. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into two 3-gallon Better Bottles, ~10 L each. Aerated with 45 seconds of pure O2 per fermentor, pitched yeast at 66-68 F.

- 20/8/16 - Amalgamation FG 1.003, Brett C FG 1.005. Dry-hopped both in primary.

- 25/9/16 - Kegged Amalgamation portion, bottled Brett C portion (with 56 g table sugar, aiming for 2.4 vol CO2).

Appearance: Both beers look identical upon pouring - light-golden colour, hazy/downright cloudy, medium-sized stark-white head that shows very good retention, hanging around for minutes after pouring.

Aroma: Lots of citrus, lots of pineapple and tropical fruit in both, with a low background of barnyard (it's there, but not overly noticeable); very slight phenolic character as well, a little stronger in the Brett C beer.

Taste: Very similar, again, with a pineapple/citrus fruit character coming through strongest. Again, the Brett characteristics (barnyard funk) are there, but not strong... just enough to let you know what you're drinking. The Brett C beer has that slight phenolic spiciness carrying over into the flavour as well. Both finish with a medium-low bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Here's where the beers seem to differ the most - the Brett C beer is carbonated higher (likely because it was bottled) and isn't quite as smooth as the Amalgamation, exhibiting a bit of carbonic bite. Medium-bodied for the Amalgamation, medium-light for Brett C.

Overall: I enjoy both quite a bit, but Amalgamation is the winner, here.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Brewing a New England Pale Ale with Funktown Pale Ale yeast

By now, I think we're all quite familiar with the whole New England (Northeast?) IPA subject, a beer which many in the Northeast USA love, and those in the Western states despise. I actually don't think it's as cut-and-dry as all that, but if you were to read (and I'm sure most of you have) the constant arguments online over this, you'd be easily fooled. It seems to boil down to a beer that is super-hoppy (with an emphasis more on hop flavour and aroma than bitterness), hazy, and with a creamy mouthfeel (but still finishing fairly dry). It seems to be the haze that bothers non-believers the most; I fall on the side that doesn't care about the haze. If the beer is delicious, I'm ok with it; and as I've said before, when I now see a pale, super-hazy beer, I get excited! It's like Pavlov's dogs, but with tasty beer instead of dog treats or whatever he used (maybe he DID use beer, secretly).

There's plenty of commercial and home brewed NEIPAs and NEPAs out there now; even New Brunswick is coming through with some. TrailWay Brewing, here in Fredericton, releases many beers that are big on hop aromatics and flavours, hazy to the point of downright murky, and often sub-5% ABV. It's great! Personally, I've brewed a lot of beers in this area as well, even if I haven't really labelled them "New England" (or Northeast), specifically.

One thing I haven't been doing in my recipes that many others do is add oats (flaked or malted). It's not that I'm against it, it's just that I've had pretty good success in achieving the goals I've aimed for by fermenting with London Ale III, limiting use of fining agents to a bit of Whirfloc near the end of the boil, and adjusting my water chemistry to have roughly equal amounts of chloride and sulfate (in the 100-120 ppm range). When putting together a new Pale Ale recipe early in the summer, I decided to try incorporating oats into the recipe, and immediately remembered that I had always wanted to try brewing the Tired Hands HopHands clone on Ed Coffey's site. Obviously this is a very popular recipe, as there's around 90 comments on that post alone (no wonder he's gone semi-pro now!), and I've seen it pop up on other homebrew sites since.

Ed's recipe is made up of roughly 82% Superior Pale Ale malt, and 18% Flaked Oats; the beer is hopped with equal amounts of Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe, with the emphasis being on a large dry-hop addition of all three. Fermented with London Ale III, he compares it to a "fruit juice cocktail", which sounds pretty damned good to me. However, I decided not to brew this exact beer this time around, although I imagine I will come to doing that, eventually. No, this time I wanted to "borrow" from this recipe, and take it in a slightly different direction.

How? Mainly by fermenting with The Yeast Bay's Funktown Pale Ale, which they describe as a "blend of our Vermont Ale strain and a unique wild strain of Saccharomyces that is well-suited for primary fermentation". The blend is a collaboration with White Labs, so let me just put out there what you're immediately thinking on that description - this is Conan blended with what used to be called Brett Trois (until White Labs confirmed that it's actually not Brett, and reclassified it as a wild Saccharomyces). A friend of a friend had some Funktown Pale Ale slurry left over, and I was lucky enough to get some, so I grew it up over a couple of steps to have enough for a Pale Ale. I hadn't set out to use it with Ed's HopHands clone grist and hopping schedule, but that seems as good a place as any to use it! I've never actually brewed with Conan, either by purchasing it, or growing it up from a can of Heady Topper, but I've heard plenty of good/frustrating things about it. I feel like I've read (from other homebrewers) that after several generations, it can be finicky to finish fermentation, but maybe I'm wrong.

As mentioned, while I kept the hop schedule, I changed two of the three varieties. The Simcoe remained, but I dropped the Amarillo and Centennial, mainly because I'm planning on brewing a Maine Beer Co. Lunch clone very soon, which uses these three varieties as well. So, I gave it some thought and mostly-randomly settled on subbing in Chinook and Hallertau Blanc, two varieties I've used before and always enjoy. With these three, I was expecting to get pine, grapefruit, pineapple, and citrus, which sounds like a decent mix to me. Roughly equal amounts of all three, the dry-hop amounts were a bit skewed due to inventory levels, but the overall amount used for that addition is still fairly large, at a total of 5 oz.

It was a relatively normal brew day; my OG came in on target, no major issues that I noticed. I pitched what I calculated to be about 200 billion cells. Who knows how accurate that is; I estimated to have a very small amount of cells to begin with, 3 billion, and like I mentioned built that up over a couple of starters on my stir plate. Fermentation started by that evening, however, so things were looking good. Unfortunately, when I checked the gravity a week and a half later, it wasn't at the 1.008 that BeerSmith had estimated (based on the apparent attenuation of the Funktown yeast)... it was 1.016! I'm not really sure what happened here - the temp didn't drop, and it appears that I pitched plenty of cells, so I'm going to assume it has something to do with the finicky nature of Conan? I'll never know. When I tried a taste, however, I didn't find it overly sweet, so I wasn't extremely worried. I dry-hopped the beer, and then kegged it six days later and force-carbed.

I'm pretty happy with how it came out in the end. The hops seem to work well together, although I don't really get much pine in either the aroma or flavour; mainly a fruit-blend, if that makes any sense. I can't really pick out any one or two specific types of fruit, but I've never really had a nose/palate for that, anyway. Definitely a creamy, smooth mouthfeel, the beer could still benefit from a bit of a drier finish. It's not sweet, exactly, but another 3-4 points lower in the gravity would improve it.

As for the real question, what does the yeast add to this beer... I'm not sure I can really answer. Since this isn't a recipe I've brewed before, or a yeast I've used before, all I can say is that it's a tasty, wonderfully hoppy brew. But how much does the yeast strain have to do with this? In hindsight, I should have split the batch and fermented half with US-05 or something, but it was the beginning of summer and I had limited fermenting space at this time. So, while I'd recommend the recipe as a whole, I'm not sure how different it would be with a more readily-available yeast strain. I'm interested to hear of others' experience(s) with Funktown Pale Ale, however!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.052, FG ~1.008, IBU ~38, SRM 4.1, ABV ~5.7%

1.95 kg (41.7%) Canadian 2-row
1.95 kg (41.7%) Maris Otter
600 g (12.8%) Flaked Oats
175 g (3.7%) Acid malt

Polaris - 5 g (20% AA) @ 60 min
Chinook - 14 g (11.8% AA) @ 5 min
Hallertau Blanc - 14 g (8% AA) @ 5 min
Simcoe - 14 g (11% AA) @ 5 min

Chinook, Hallertau Blanc, Simcoe - 21 g each @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Chinook - 35 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Hallertau Blanc - 51 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Simcoe - 54 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Funktown Pale Ale (with a starter, ~200 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on June 27th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 150 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7 L of boiling water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.043 (target 1.042). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG on target at 1.052. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Airlock showing activity by that evening, temp up to 68 F. By the next morning, regular bubbling going on, temp at 72 F. Fermentation seemed pretty much done by the next couple of days; temp never got higher than 72.

6/7/16 - Added dry hops into primary; FG higher than planned, at 1.016.

13/7/16 - Racked beer to keg; LOTS of hop sludge left in the carboy that did not settle well, so I left more beer behind than I would have liked. Set in keezer for ~12 hours to bring temp down, then force carbed.

Appearance: Pours a very light-golden colour (lighter than it appears in this crappy picture), with a medium-sized, white head that settles at about 1/2 finger. Quite hazy, as expected.

Aroma: All hops, with the emphasis on fruity (pineapple) and citrus; not really getting much grapefruit or pine, surprisingly.

Taste: A little more malt character in the flavour, but it's definitely still in the background compared to the hops. I wouldn't say a particular fruit flavour jumps out at me; I find it a pleasant mix of tropical fruit. Medium to medium-low bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, very smooth and creamy. Moderate carbonation.

Overall: I enjoyed this beer, and found that it continued to improve over weeks in the keg, surprisingly. One could argue that the hops were a bit muddled at first, but I found the fruit character came through more once it settled down a little. A fine beer that I wouldn't necessarily rush back to brew exactly the same, but I'd definitely experiment with this yeast some more.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Kohatu Session IPA

Nearing the end of my pre-summer brewing step-up (meanwhile, summer is just about over - typical), I decided to brew another beer in my one-hop Session IPA series. While it hadn't been that long since my last one (in March, an all-Nelson Sauvin beer), this is a style - and experiment - that I really enjoy brewing, and even though I've done five different beers in this group already, I have plenty of other hop varieties that I want to try in it.

One of these hops is Kohatu, a variety I've never used in a beer before. Originating in New Zealand, I split a pound of pellets with a friend last fall, pretty much always with the intention of using it in a single-hop beer. Described on the Bear-Flavored Ultimate Guide to Hop Varieties (I use this all the time; thanks Derek!) as having "intense floral characters, grapefruit, pine needles, and tropical fruit", it sounded pretty good to me; kind of like a mash of Chinook and Simcoe, with another fruity Southern Hemisphere variety thrown in. Summer is the perfect time for low-ABV beers with these characteristics, no? Ok, any time of year is good for these beers, really.

Apparently Kohatu is a descendent of Hallertau Mittelfruh; it's been available commercially for the last few years or so. It seems to range in the 5-7% AA zone; digging around a bit more online, I was getting the impression that opinions vary on just how "intense" its characteristics are. That shouldn't surprise me, really, but more brewers than not described is as less punchy than hops like Citra, Nelson Sauvin, Azacca, etc. etc., so I kept this in mind when planning the recipe.

Partially because I was lazy, but mostly because the Nelson Sauvin Session IPA turned out so tasty, I used the exact same grist as last time. This is actually the grist for the very-popular Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone that has been circulating for some time (my attempt at that beer is here); for most of my Session IPAs, I had fine-tuned a recipe of my own, but with the Nelson one I decided to go with this grist, and was happy with it for that beer. The key is to aim for a mash temp of 153-155 F, so that you can help boost the body a bit.

Also with the other Session IPAs, I had come up with a hopping schedule I felt worked well: a little bit of Polaris or hop extract at the beginning of the boil, then one ounce of whatever hop was featured at 10 min, a two ounce addition at flameout for a 15-minute hop steep/whirlpool, and a three ounce dry hop. This time, however, I bumped up the last two additions - I had 8 oz total of Kohatu, so I decided to just use all of it in this batch. Therefore, three oz at flameout, and four for the dry hop.

Once again, as in the Nelson Sauvin Session IPA, I decided to ferment this batch with London Ale III. While all of the others used US-05, I was really happy with how the LAIII worked in the last batch - fruity, juicy, great mouthfeel, and of course, hazy! I also tinkered with the water chemistry, aiming for the "more chloride than sulfate" approach, which I've had good results with.

The brew day went normal, no issues, and fermentation was going strong around 24 hours after pitching the yeast slurry. I kegged the beer a couple of weeks after brewing it, and was drinking it a few days later. I was a little unsure how I felt about it at first, but after settling into its own after several days, I started enjoying it. Is it my favourite one-hop Session IPA I've brewed? No, but it's not my least favourite, either. Kohatu definitely has some of the characteristics mentioned above - it definitely has a light tropical fruit note in the flavour, and a light amount of pine as well. There's also this light spicy character that is pretty interesting, and works well with the other flavours and aromas. I think you could describe Kohatu as complex, if not intense... does that make sense?

As you can see, the key word here is "light"; I definitely would consider Kohatu to be less-punchy than some other varieties. Based on my experience, in the Southern Hemisphere hop category, I'd put it somewhere between Summer and Nelson Sauvin. So, it works well on its own, but may be better put to use with at least one other hop to bolster it a bit. Mind you, this is the only time I've brewed with it, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt (actually, I urge you to always do that!). Either way, a hop variety that I would gladly use again, and a tasty beer that ended up being perfect for summer.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.013, IBU ~34, 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 - 6 g (20% AA) @ 60 min
Kohatu - 28 g (6.4% AA) @ 10 min

Kohatu - 84 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Kohatu - 112 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; 5 g Gypsum and 8 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on June 13th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 153 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 ~5.5 gallons; OG a bit high at 1.049. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 64 F.

- Plenty of activity by the next morning, reaching its peak that evening with a temp of 70 F. Started slowing down after a couple of days - but the krausen remained thick and milkshake-like even a week later (pretty common for LAIII).

22/6/16 - Added dry hops into primary; FG 1.011. Racked to keg five days later and started force carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head with fairly good retention - fades to 1/4 finger or so after a couple of minutes. Body is light golden, with a decent amount of haziness.

Aroma: I wish I could describe it better, but it's kind of a mix of fruit (grapefruit as advertised) and spice, and slightly floral. Surprisingly has quite a lot going on, even if it's not what you would describe as "punchy".

Taste: Mainly a light fruity character accompanied by light spice. This isn't the phenolic spiciness that you see with Belgian yeast, it's something different. Luckily it's mild - it doesn't taste like someone raided the spice cabinet and dumped it in the beer. Medium-light bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, medium-light bodied; smooth.

Overall: A tasty beer, and an interesting hop. I'm curious to what it would be like used with some other variety(ies); depending on what else you added, would the Kohatu be drowned out, or complement the other? Something I'd buy again in the future to experiment with more!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Sour Session IPA (kettle-soured, fermented with Brett)

Shortly after brewing my first kettle-soured beer (a Gose, half dry-hopped with Citra, the other half with fresh lime zest), I've been keen on doing another beer with the same technique. The souring-with-Lactobacillus-sourced-from-L. plantarum-capsules approach worked fairly well the first time; while the pH didn't get QUITE as low as I would have liked, the process was relatively painless, with no purging of oxygen necessary, and lower temps for souring required (compared to using Lacto from grains, or even a direct, commercial pitch). I also have quite a few capsules left, so I might as well put them to use, no?

It was easy to pick what to brew next using this method - I've been a big fan of hoppy sours since I first tried Funky Gold Amarillo by Prairie Artisan Ales last year. What a fantastic beer: the perfect level of sourness, big tropical fruit hop character... just amazing. Hoppy sours are now the next big thing, with many commercial breweries releasing their own iterations. Most of these are quick-soured with Lactobacillus, which makes sense; if you want to focus on hops, you don't want a beer to take months to sour properly. Mind you, the dry hop is really the big thing here, as high bitterness in a beer from large early-boil additions doesn't really work in a sour - the flavours can clash in a big way.

I have to be honest here, and admit that I did not set out to brew a "Sour Session IPA". My original plan was to have something in the 6% ABV range, which is around where most of the hoppy sours out there seem to finish. More on that later. But to start off, I used the exact same grist that I have used for my Brett IPAs (most recently, an Azacca single-hopped beer fermented with Brett brux Trois Vrai), simply because I wasn't looking for something complicated, and this one has worked well in the past. Mostly 2-row and Wheat malt, it has a bit of Carapils and Acid malt as well, and that's it. I was looking for a very pale beer, here, and this gets you in the area of 4 SRM, which I thought was perfect. I mashed at 153 F to give the beer a bit of body, since I was pretty sure I'd be fermenting with Brett after souring.

From what I can tell, most hoppy sours are dry-hopped, and have very little - if any - hops added before fermentation is complete. As I mentioned, high bitterness apparently doesn't work in a beer like this, but I still wanted to get as most hop flavour and aroma in this beer as I could. I finally decided on adding no hops during the boil, but I did end up doing two large additions after the propane was turned off: a 20-minute steep, and more once the immersion chiller began chilling. I chose Columbus (CTZ) and Hallertau Blanc, two varieties that I really enjoy but don't get used as much as I'd like. My thoughts were that the two together would give a nice mix of dank, tropical, pineapple characters. Even with a total of 6 oz between the two being used, the calculated IBUs only came to around 10 (in contrast, Funky Gold Amarillo is listed as having 18 IBUs).

I had way too many ideas of what I wanted to use for the dry-hop additions, and finally decided that my best option here was to split the batch after boiled and chilled, so I could ferment the wort separately and dry-hop with two different varieties. I chose two of my favourite American hop varieties right now: Equinox, a quite-new hop that is very unique ("lime, lemon, papaya, green pepper"), and Citra. And I don't really have to say anything about Citra at this point, do I?

The process I used to sour my wort was the same as I used for my Gose. I made a 1 L, 1.040 DME starter and chilled it to 100 F, then opened and pitched in 5 plantarum capsules. This time, however, I added a very small amount (~0.5 mL) of phosphoric acid to the starter before emptying in the capsules, to bring the pH down to ~5, and give it a head start. Now, I left the flask on a heating pad like the first time, which kept the temperature at 95 F or so. After a couple of days, the pH was only down to 3.85, and I started getting discouraged. However, I decided to leave it a while longer since I wasn't in a hurry. The next morning, my wife inadvertantly unplugged the heating pad while I was at work all day; I didn't notice till I got home, and plugged it back in. The next morning I checked the pH again, and it had dropped to 3.21! Maybe unplugging the heating pad had nothing to do with it, but I'm wondering if maybe L. plantarum works better at room temperature than it does in the 90s? Research by others indicates it should work plenty fine at 95 F, and that it doesn't start having issues until you get above 110 F. Whatever the reason, it seemed to work better this time compared to when I used the same method for the Gose. Maybe the phosphoric acid-induced push had something to do with it?

So I mashed, sparged, vorlaufed, etc. as usual, to a little over 5.5 gallons, heated it all to a boil and chilled it down to 100 F. At this point, I gradually added small amounts (1 mL at a time) of phosphoric acid until the wort pH had reached ~4.5. Lowering the wort pH to 4.5-4.8 has been shown to aid in preventing foam degradation (check out a detailed explanation on the Milk the Funk Lacto Wiki here). The wort was then transferred into a Better Bottle, where I then pitched the Lacto starter. Instead of immediately turning on a heat pad and attaching a heat belt, I waited until the temp got down to the 80s F, and then switched on the pad and belt, which kept the temp in the high 80s. After several days, the pH was down to 3.3 (and tasting sour), which surprised me again, as this was quite lower than I had got to with the Gose, at 3.69. Obviously I got to a better place with the starter this time around, and it worked very well considering the temp never got above 85-86 F.

I continued on, bringing the soured wort to a boil for 5 minutes, then cut the propane and threw in the first hop addition for a 20-minute steep. Once I started chilling, the second addition went in (smelling delicious, by the way), and I chilled it all down to about 64 F. The batch was split into two 3-gallon Better Bottles, both aerated for 45 seconds with pure O2, and then the Brett starter was pitched in an equal volume into both, at 66 F. The OG came in lower than planned, at 1.053, but I wasn't too concerned (or surprised, since my efficiency has been lower than normal lately, and using a good portion of Wheat malt never helps it).

Both beers were undergoing active fermentation by the next morning, and slowed down very quickly, with virtually no airlock activity by the following evening.. Now, the temperature didn't get that warm (maybe 72-74 F at its peak), but I had no reason to be concerned; I checked on the beers regularly, as is my practice, and didn't notice any major spikes or drops in temperature. However, when I took a gravity reading a few days after pitching, it was only at 1.020! D'oh! But I thought, hey, it's Brett, maybe it needs some more time, but alas, after another week the gravity hadn't budged. So, I was forced with deciding whether to give it more time (which didn't seem like it would help), pitching another yeast to hopefully drop it more, or just go ahead and dry-hop it. I went with option #3, and re-classified this beer as a "Sour Session IPA". What I was worried about, however, was bottling this beer. Any beer at 1.020 would make you worry about bottle bombs somewhere down the line, but a 1.020 beer with Brett in it? Exactly.

Ultimately, I kegged one half (Equinox) and bottled the other (Citra), adding sugar to aim for only 2 vol CO2, as opposed to the 2.5 I would normally go with. And when the beer seemed carbed after 5 days, I put as many bottles as I could into the fridge, which was a good thing because this beer is now DEFINITELY carbed to higher than 2 vol; probably closer to 3, in fact!

But how do the two beers taste? There's a lot of similarities between them, but ultimately the Citra dry-hopped half comes out on top. Thankfully, neither tastes sweet to me, which was obviously a worry with the high FG (as an aside, I think this strain may just need extra time; a friend had a beer finish at 1.020 as well, and after leaving it on pineapple for an additional month, found the FG had dropped to 1.005).There's something in the Equinox beer that I can only describe as slightly... clashing. For some reason, the bitterness in this beer - despite only having a calculated IBUs of 10 - feels too high. Not sure if it's the Equinox (can't see it), the dry-hop addition being slightly larger than the Citra half (maybe?), or if I simply got more bitterness out of the steep than I calculated (but that doesn't make sense, because the Citra half had the same steep).

On the plus side, the sourness is pretty much right where I want it. Definitely enough for you to know this is a sour beer, but not TOO mouth-puckering. Nice hop presence, lots of fruit, with the Citra beer being somewhat brighter, without the slightly-harsh finish of the Equinox. The body is smooth, but not overly-full (a worry with that 1.020 FG) and it certainly doesn't taste too sweet.

So, I'm calling this one a success, with room for improvement. For a re-brew, I'd use a less-finicky Brett strain, and cut back on the flameout hop addition; maybe halve it and go from there. Otherwise, a good brew to have on hand for this season, and further proof that souring with Lacto plantarum capsules works!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.014, IBU ~10, SRM 4.1, ABV ~5.8%

3.7 kg (71.8%) Canadian 2-row
1.1 kg (21.4%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.9%) Carapils
150 g (2.9%) Acid malt

CTZ - 49 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Hallertau Blanc - 35 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

CTZ - 49 g @ 0 min (after started chilling)
Hallertau Blanc - 35 g @ 0 min (after started chilling)

Citra - 48 g dry-hop for 5 days (1/2 the batch, in primary)
Equinox - 70 g dry-hop for 5 days (1/2 the batch, in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Bacteria/Yeast: Lactobacillus plantarum capsules (5) in a 1 L starter; after souring, wort fermented with WLP648 Brett brux Trois Vrai (with a starter, ~200 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on May 24th, 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 167 F. Sparged with ~2.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons. Heated to a brief boil, then chilled down to 100 F. Added ~4 mL phosphoric acid till wort pH was 4.5, then pitched Lacto starter.

- 26/5/16 - pH reading of 3.31; moved BB to back room of garage where temp was in the low 60s F, until I was able to complete the brew.

- 31/5/16 - 5-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG low at 1.053. Chilled to 64 F, then split the batch into two 3-gallon Better Bottles. Aerated with 45 seconds of pure O2 per fermentor, pitched yeast starter at 66 F.

- Fermentation going strong by the next morning, very strong in the evening, but visibly slowing by the next morning. Several days later, gravity was reading 1.020. A week later, no change. Added dry hops to the Equinox half and kegged it four days later; waited a few extra days for the Citra half, then bottled after a four-day dry hop, aiming for 2 vol CO2.

Appearance: Both pour with a moderate-sized, white head that, despite the low pH, shows quite good retention. Body is yellow-coloured, with a fair amount of haze.

Aroma: Very big and bright, for both beers, like sour orange juice. 

Taste: More sour orange juice, but the Equinox beer has a slightly-harsh, tinny aftertaste that takes away from the positives. The Citra, meanwhile, all gels together very well and is quite refreshing.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, creamy. Equinox beer, being kegged, has moderate carbonation, while the bottled Citra half is higher, as I had expected; effervescent.

Overall: Citra wins, and I don't know why!