Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tasting : Deschutes Black Butte Porter clone

Even though I bottled this clone about 6 weeks ago, I really took my time writing up an actual review of the beer. I've had several of them over the past few weeks, and was a little wary of it overall at first. The carbonation took longer to develop compared to most of my beers. I'm not sure if this was due to pooped-out yeast or not, but I'm quite sure it had nothing to do with temperatures, as the bottles were sitting in a room set at about 70 F, which is my typical bottle-conditioning temperature. After awhile, however, the carbonation finally came around.

I was also worried that the beer would be too sweet, as my FG was high at 1.018, compared to the 1.012 target given by the brewer. I admit that that number seems a bit odd to me; with the target OG of 1.058, a FG that low would give an ABV of about 6%, which is much higher than the actual 5.2% listed by Deschutes for the real Black Butte Porter. This would also indicate an apparent attenuation of 79%, much higher than the average of 69% for Wyeast 1968. Either way, I'm pretty happy with how the beer came out. As usual, I don't have any of the commercial beer on hand to compare, unfortunately!

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-large, very creamy tan head. Pretty good retention, sticks around for quite awhile before fading to 1/2-finger. Body is a very dark brown, even black, and appears opaque... but when held to bright light, yields some ruby highlights and excellent clarity.

Aroma: Aroma of mostly dark, rich chocolate... slightly sweet. Some coffee and roasted notes as well, but maybe not as much of the roasted character as their should be. Perhaps a touch of spicy hops in there.

Taste: Again, while there ARE roasted and coffee notes present, the chocolate really wins out in this beer. There is a touch of tartness that may be from the wheat malt. Hop bitterness is moderate-low in the finish, which is more on the sweet than dry side. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate-low carbonation. Just a bit of astringency (ok).

Overall: My porter experience is much lower than with other beer styles, but this is a pretty tasty beer. I don’t remember the Black Butte being overly roasty, and wouldn’t have expected as much with this recipe, so I think it’s probably in the ballpark of the commercial beer. Pretty enjoyable overall.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Tasting : #makingitwork

I'd love to be able to try every beer style out there, and many versions of each style, but it's just not possible right now in New Brunswick. This is where homebrewing comes in handy; you can basically dive in to any beer style and give it a go. However, when evaluating the beer when it's finally ready to be sampled, someone like myself is at a disadvantage - I don't have a commercial example to compare it to. I also don't have full confidence in my palate yet, or my ability to express what I'm smelling or tasting in words.

However, I DO know what I like, and the BJCP style guide is always a big help. So, when I got to sample my Munich Dunkel a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised overall. This beer was brewed back in January, and was lagered for at least 2 months before being bottled. I had hoped to get a very malty, smooth, easy-drinking dark lager, and I think this beer fits the bill.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, light tan, thick and moussy head. The head is very long-lasting, before finally fading to almost a full-finger of foam. Body is dark brown with ruby highlights when held to the light, with excellent clarity.

Aroma: Very malty (bready). Slightly sweet, with a touch of milk chocolate. No hops.

Taste: Malty and rich. Not overly sweet at all - the breadiness from the Munich malt far outweighs any sweet characters in the beer. Again, some milk chocolate is present. Just a touch of spicy hop flavor, with moderate-low bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with medium carbonation. Smooth.

Overall: Like I said, pretty happy with the results of this beer. If anything, it could probably be even MORE malty... I wouldn't mind trying one of those recipes where the entire grist is Munich malt, just to see what the results would be like.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Brewing a Standard American Lager

There's a lot of arguments in beer-related forums on the internet about what exactly separates a "beer geek" from a "beer snob". In my opinion, a beer geek is simply someone who is really into beer (homebrewing not necessarily included), while a beer snob is usually a beer geek that looks down on others based on what they're drinking - usually a macro, fizzy yellow beer.

Those fizzy, yellow beers actually do have their place. If I've just mowed my lawn, a cold, light beer can be really refreshing. Would I generally prefer a more flavorful beer, such as a Blonde Ale, Czech Pilsner, or Dortmunder Export? Usually, yes. Are these American Lagers beers that I want to drink all of the time? Definitely not. But I have nothing against enjoying an equivalent to a Budweiser during the right occasion, and when you get right down to it, American Lagers are still what the majority of people drink.

Somewhere under all this is a mashtun
So, I decided to actually try brewing one of these beers, for three reasons:
1) Summer is approaching fast.
2) A lot of my family members aren't into craft beer too much, so I thought I could donate most of this batch to the summer cottage.
3) American Lagers are generally thought to be one of the trickier styles to homebrew. It sounds kind of laughable at first, because the recipes usually aren't complex at all, but when you think about it, it makes sense. They're supposed to be quite clean, easy-drinking beers, that don't have a lot of ingredients to hide behind. Flaws would be easily detectable (a little DMS or green apple is ok). Plus, they're lagers, so you have the complications of lager yeast/fermentation thrown in as well.

According to the BJCP guidelines, there are three types of American Lagers (under the Light Lager category): Lite (e.g. Bud Light), Standard (e.g. Budweiser), and Premium American Lager (e.g. Red Stripe). All normally use an adjunct (usually flaked rice or corn) in the grist to provide a grainy/corn-like sweetness, and to lighten the body, with more barley/less adjunct being used from Lite to Premium. Also, bitterness and ABV% increase slightly, as do aroma and taste complexity as a result.

I decided to split the difference and brew a Standard American Lager, using the very basic recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. This was my first time using flaked corn in a beer, which made up about 18% of the grist, with the remaining being Canadian 2-row. The mash temperature is pretty low at 149 F, and BCS recommended a long mash of 90 minutes, due to the time needed to convert the flaked corn. I went with a bit lower time of 70 minutes, since I also planned on doing a mash-out. A small addition of Hallertau at 60 minutes provides a scant 12 IBUs of bitterness. That's the recipe... simple. As for the yeast, I ordered the Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager that BCS recommended, which apparently is based on the Budweiser strain (according to the yeast chart on Wyeast describes it as being a mild and neutral strain, with minimal sulfur and diacetyl production, which is great for this type of "naked" beer.

I'll probably lager the beer for about 4 weeks when primary fermentation is complete, and should have it bottled and carbonated in time for early July... a perfect time to have this type of beer on hand - even if I still do prefer more flavorful, complex beers!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 83% efficiency): OG 1.046, FG 1.008, IBU 12, SRM 3, ABV 4.85%

Grains & Other:
3.09 kg Canadian 2-row
682 g Flaked corn

Hallertau - 28 g (3.4% AA) @ 60 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager (PD Apr.10/12, with a 2 L and then 1.25 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; mash water treated with 2 g of Gypsum, 2 g CaCl2

- Brewed May 7th, 2012, by myself. 70-minute mash with 12.45 L of strike water, mashed in at 149.5 F. Mashed out with 6.25 L of boiling water to 163 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90-minute boil. Chilled to 60 F with immersion chiller. OG 1.048. Poured/filtered into Better Bottle. Placed BB in fermentation chamber with temp set to 45 F. Pitched yeast at ~50 F hours later, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after. Placed back in ferm. chamber with temp set at 50 F.

- 9/5/12 - Visible activity in airlock, bubbling about 3-4 times per 10 seconds.

- 10/5/12 - Same activity in AM, so increased temp to 53 F. By evening, bubbling 5-6 times per 10 seconds.

- 13/5/12 - Activity starting to slow a bit, so I took the fermenter out of the chamber and left it at room temperature for a diacetyl rest... temp raised up to 66 F by next day. Placed back in the fermenter 16/5/12 and decreased temp back to 50 F gradually over a day or two.

- 3/6/12 - Racked beer into secondary, 5-gallon fermenter, and decreased temp in fermentation chamber by 1 F every 12 hours or so, aiming for a final lagering temp of about 38 F.

- 25/6/12 - FG a bit high at 1.012, but still just within range for the style.

- 26/6/12 - Bottled with 151 g table sugar, aiming for 3 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with max temp of 66 F reached.

- 22/7/12 - Tasting notes...

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Brewing an American IPA : My NHC replacement beer

I consider myself very lucky, as a beer-lover, to have been able to visit San Diego for a beer trip last September. I'm also lucky to have been able to try, both on tap and bottled, the Alpine Beer Co. Duet, a fantastic American IPA. I was also lucky enough to have been given some brief notes on the recipe for this beer by the owner/brewmaster of Alpine, and made a homebrewed clone-attempt in early January. While almost impossible to compare it to the real Duet since I don't have access to it here in Canada, I still enjoyed the result enough to enter it into the ALES Open in Saskatchewan this month, which is the Canadian qualifier for the final round of the National Homebrewing Competition in June.

Ok, so I was lucky once more! The beer won a bronze medal in the IPA category (my Oktoberfest also won a gold in the European Amber Lager category), which means that it can now move on to the final round of the NHC. However, my "clone" has already been bottled for over 2 months, and its wonderful hop aroma and flavor is fading as we speak. I would never even hope to win a medal at the NHC, let alone in a category as competitive as IPA, but if you're going to enter, you might as well go for broke, right? While I would love to be able to brew the exact same recipe again, both Simcoe and Amarillo hops - which are used in equal amounts in this beer - are in very short supply right now. I may be able to find them through online ordering, but I don't have the time for them to be delivered to Canada, brew up a new batch, and have it finished in time to ship to the NHC. I'm down to 3 oz of Simcoe on hand, and I'm completely out of Amarillo.

So, I decided to brew a new American IPA recipe. You're actually allowed to do this... as long as it's a beer in the same category for what you've qualified for, you can change whatever you want, brew a whole new recipe, enter in a different subcategory, etc. I kept the grist close to the same as the Duet clone, except I split the base grains into both 2-row AND Maris Otter, and upped the Crystal and took out the Victory malt. I also added 5 g of gypsum to the mash to try to accentuate the hop bite a little.

I DID make some more noticeable changes in the hop schedule, however. I made a larger Magnum addition at the beginning of the boil to increase the IBUs for the beer, and instead of equal Simcoe/Amarillo throughout the boil, I went with equal Crystal/Centennial at 10 minutes and flameout (with a 10-minute whirlpool before chilling). Once fermentation is complete, I plan on splitting the batch in two, and dry-hopping one half with Simcoe/Citra, and the other half with Columbus/Nugget. I imagine I'll enter the Simcoe/Citra half, but I'll try to taste both and make my mind up then.

Mash temps, boil length, yeast, and fermentation temperatures are otherwise the same as for the Duet clone. I'm hoping for a good beer; while it may not come out as good as the Duet clone, I should still have lots of IPA on hand for the summer, medal or no medal!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency): OG 1.066, FG 1.012, IBU 54, SRM 8.4, ABV 7%

Grains & Other:
2.27 kg Canadian 2-row
2.27 kg Maris Otter
454 g Wheat malt
304 g Caramunich II (45 L)
150 g Crystal 30 L
114 g Acid malt
227 g table sugar

Magnum - 29 g (9% AA - adj. for age) @ 60 min
Magnum - 14 g (11.6% AA) @ 60 min
Centennial - 28 g (7% AA - adj. for age) @ 10 min
Crystal - 28 g (1.8% AA - adj. for age) @ 10 min
Centennial - 28 g @ 0 min, whirlpool for 10 min
Crystal - 28 g @ 0 min, whirlpool for 10 min
Citra/Simcoe - 42 g each dry-hop in 1/2 batch, for 7 days
Columbus/Nugget - 42 g each dry-hop in 1/2 batch, for 7 days

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; mash water treated with 5 g of Gypsum

- Brewed April 22, 2012 by myself. 60-minute mash with 14.5 L of strike water, mashed in at 150 F. Mashed out with 9.25 L of ~203 F water to 168 F. Sparged with ~3 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of 6.75 gallons in the kettle. 60-minute boil. Chilled to 65 F with immersion chiller. OG 1.061 (so, 1.065 after sugar addition in fermenter). Poured into Better Bottle. Pitched yeast at 65 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- 23/4/12 - In AM, airlock hardly bubbling at all, temp 64 F. Increased temperature in the room. By PM, bubbling almost every second, temp up to 66 F.

- 24/4/12 - In AM, bubbling more than every second, temp 68 F. When it started to slow a bit in the evening, added sugar (boiled in ~1 cup of water and then cooled).

- 25/4/12 - In AM, airlock blown off carboy, temp still 68 F. Activity gradually slowed again by evening.

- 6/5/12 - Gravity reading of 1.014. Racked beer into two 3-gallon carboys (about 10 L each) and dry-hopped as indicated in recipe. Left in room at room temperature.

- 15/5/12 - Bottled 2 days late, both halves with 59 g table sugar each, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 2.5 gallons, max temp 68 F reached.

- 7/8/12 - NHC Final Round results... 

- 4/9/12 - Finally got around to posting the tasting notes. Both dry-hop versions are good IPAs, but they play second fiddle to the Duet clone.