Thursday, 9 February 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, for a truly orange creamsicle-type aroma, I would add Galaxy and Citra to this beer. Orange characteristics are present in plenty of different hop varieties, but I find it particularly strong in these two. However, I was out of Galaxy. What I DID have a lot of were two other varieties I really enjoy, Equinox and Azacca. I've seen "tangerine" and "citrus" used when describing Azacca, and Equinox definitely has some other citrus characters that I thought would work well, so this was the combo I chose. I went with my fairly-standard approach of an ounce each at 10 min, a good amount for a hop steep/whirlpool addition, and then two separate dry-hop additions. With a touch of Polaris at the beginning of the boil, the IBUs come in at a calculated mid-50s range, which seemed perfect to me. With the majority of the 10 oz of Azacca and Equinox being added after flame-out, I was going for lots of fruity, citrusy hop aroma and flavour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, medium carbonation.

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

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Northeast Double IPA (with five hop varieties)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe - 28 g each when started chilling

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

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, creamy; medium carbonation.

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

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Gose dry-hopped with Chinook and Grapefruit Zest

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misc:
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%

Grains:
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

Hops:
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%

Grains:
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

Hops:
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%

Grains:
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

Hops:
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%

Grains:
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

Hops:
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.