Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tasting : Visually Impaired Sow (Russian River Blind Pig clone)

Even though I've had Russian River's Blind Pig IPA two or three times, I really didn't know what to expect when I brewed this clone in late June. It's probably been at least two years since I've had Blind Pig; I know I really liked it, but I can't remember specifics. So, when I saw the clone recipe posted in Zymurgy, it immediately went in the top section of my list of IPA clones to brew. Even if the results weren't the exact same as Blind Pig, I could tell by looking at the recipe that it would make a tasty beer.

And it did. The result was an American IPA with a healthy amount of hop aroma and flavor, moderate (but extremely smooth) bitterness in the finish, yet some definite malt character in the background. The body is also a bit fuller than a lot of other American IPAs out there now, but it's not chewy. I think I was expecting more hop character in this beer than I got, but the hop amounts in this beer really aren't that crazy. A bit of bittering, a small amount of Amarillo at 30 minutes (which I screwed up and added at 60 minutes... obviously any bit of flavor from that would be next to nothing), and 2 oz of several hops total at flameout. Follow that with 2 oz of dry-hopping... a healthy amount of hops, but not DIPA territory for sure.

The first few bottles struck me as hoppier, overall, but it's settled quickly into a very easy-drinking American IPA. Definitely a tasty recipe; recommended to anyone out there looking for a new IPA to brew, whether you've had Blind Pig or not.

Not as dark as the picture makes it look
Appearance: Pours with a moderate-large, white creamy head that shows very good retention; finally fades to about 1/4-1/2 finger and stays there. Body is golden-colored, with extremely good clarity.

Aroma: Strong hop aroma (but maybe not as strong as I expected)... citrus and tropical, mainly. A bit of dankness in there, too. A touch of sweet malt character, but it’s very light. No diacetyl.

Taste: The hops dominate, of course, again, coming through with a lot of citrus and tropical character, followed by that bit of dankness. Medium bitterness in the finish; mostly dry, but it’s got a bit of sweetness there, too. Quite smooth.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Very nice. I was expecting a bit more hop character (the first couple bottles seemed to have more), but I like how easy-drinking it is. The higher mash temp really helped increase the body (it’s close to medium-full) and leave a bit more malt character. Nice hop presence... an IPA I think that non-IPA drinkers would be able to enjoy, and maybe open up to bigger things.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Brewing a Modern Times Fortunate Islands clone

If you're any bit a beer geek (and if you're reading this, you probably are... or, you're stalking me), you know that the number of breweries in the U.S. and Canada is at an all-time high point, even compared to pre-prohibition numbers. And the amount of breweries in the planning stages is even more staggering. This is fantastic news for all of us, but as a brewery owner, how do you make your brewery stand out? How do you get people excited about your product... before you even HAVE a product to offer? I spend a lot of time reading - mostly online - about beer and breweries, and there is one brewery that has succeeded in accomplishing this better than any other, in my opinion. That brewery is Modern Times.

Based in San Diego, CA, Modern Times has only had their beers available at bars for the past month or so. However, due to a lot of hard work and smart choices by its owner, Jacob McKean, Modern Times has been well-known and much-anticipated in the brewing world for a year or more. For example:
  • Jacob kept an ongoing blog of the trials and tribulations of getting a brewery up-and-running... we all know it isn't easy, but Jacob's blog made the whole process feel more personal. It wasn't long before I was rooting for him to succeed.
  • He got Michael Tonsmeire involved. Now, Mike's blog is probably the most-read and most-respected homebrewing blog out there, and for good reason. He started developing the recipes for the four regular-release Modern Times beers about a year ago, and kept detailed and open records on the recipes, tastings, and subsequent changes. Again, this made it more personal for those of us following along.
  • The Kickstarter campaign. With a pretty-hilarious video to go with it, this campaign managed to raise $25,000 beyond their $40,000 goal, giving out some classy-looking swag and original awards to backers, of which I proudly am one.
I could go on and on here. Basically, Jacob got a lot of people excited about his brewery, and while Modern Times hasn't been producing beer for very long, I've heard a lot of great things about their products. They brew four regular-release beers: Black House, a coffee stout; Blazing World, an "Amber IPA", or hoppy Amber if that's easier to picture; Lomaland, a sessionable Saison; and Fortunate Islands, a super-citrusy and tropical, easy-drinking American wheat beer.

I've been an avid reader of Mike's blog ever since I got into homebrewing, so I followed along (with a lot of other people) when he was tweaking the recipes for the beers above. They all sound great, and I'd be more than happy trying out the recipes for each on my own. However, for this time of year, it was the Fortunate Islands that attracted my attention the most. With a supporting malt backbone and a boatload of Citra hops, it sounds like the perfect summer beer for hop-lovers! After a couple of variations on the recipe, Mike settled on this one.

Regarding the grist, Mike's recipe is fairly straight-forward, with a little more than half of it being Wheat malt, along with some 2-row and a healthy amount of Caravienne. The mash temp is fairly high at 155 F, mainly to provide some body that was lacking in previous recipes.

A lot of hops; more importantly, a lot of Citra!
The real fun lies in the hopping schedule. There's a single "Hop Shot" of CO2 hop extract at 60 minutes to provide the bulk of the bitterness to the beer. Hop extract is becoming popular with commercial brewers and homebrewers; it provides bitterness without leaving a lot of the hop sludge in your wort by the end of the boil. I'll do a separate, small post on hop extract in the future; for now, if you don't have access to hop extract, just know that 5 mL equals about 10 AAU of hops, or 1 oz of a 10% AA hop.

That's the only hop addition during the boil. However, there's a very healthy 11 oz of hops added afterwards... 8 oz (1/2 lb) of which is Citra! The other 3 oz are another delicious, hard-to-get hop: Amarillo. I'd normally be quite wary of adding this much Citra into one beer, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a good amount of it a couple of months ago, so I'm willing to sacrifice 8 oz... this time. In Mike's
homebrew process for this beer, he was able to make use of a plate chiller, March pump, and HopRocket... none of which I have. He goes into detail about this on his post... however, I had to improvise. So, the first flameout addition I let steep for 10 minutes, then I turned on my immersion chiller and made the second addition. Won't be as effective as his method, but it'll have to do with what I have available. There's two dry-hop additions at 4 days apiece; pretty massive, coming in at a total of 5 oz... not bad for a wheat beer!

Yeast-wise, this beer requires your standard, clean California Ale-type. I've been using the dry US-05 for the last several batches of APAs and IPAs, but I had the time here to pick up Wyeast's 1056, and make a starter. A single pack of US-05 would work fine, as well. Fermentation should be in the 66-68 F range, but if it gets a bit higher due to summer temperatures, it shouldn't be too much to worry about, especially if you pitch in the mid-60s.

I didn't make much in terms of adjustments to my water. As I've been doing lately (to varying degrees), I added some gypsum and calcium chloride to mainly boost the calcium, and at the same time bring up the sulfate and chloride a bit. I also added Irish Moss as I normally do to most of my beers; the BJCP lists American Wheat as being "brilliant to hazy", so I aimed for clarity.

I'll be drinking this clone before I ever get to try an actual Fortunate Islands... but, maybe not TOO long before? There's a chance I may be making a trip to San Diego in September; if so, I'll be absolutely visiting the Modern Times brewery and trying as many of their beers as I can, wherever I can find them! In the meantime, I'm really hoping this beer has the huge hop aroma that I'm expecting it to have... a lot of hops are riding on it.

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 73% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.013, IBU ~48, SRM 5, ABV ~4.7%

2.6 kg (55%) Wheat malt
1.795 kg (38%) Canadian 2-row
332 g (7%) Caravienne malt
113 g rice hulls to prevent a stuck sparge

Hop extract - 5 mL @ 60 min
Citra - 56 g (14.1% AA) @ 0 min (steep for 10 min)
Amarillo - 28 g (8.9% AA) @ 0 min (steep for 10 min)
Citra - 56 g @ 0 min (when start chiller)
Amarillo - 28 g @ 0 min (when start chiller)
Citra - 56 g dry-hop for 4 days
Amarillo - 14 g dry-hop for 4 days
Citra - 56 g dry-hop for 4 more days
Amarillo - 14 g dry-hop for 4 more days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale (PD May 21st; with a 1.5 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum, 3 g CaCl in the mash

- Brewed on July 9th, 2013, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 155 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5.75 L of boiling water, resulting temp 166 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.3 gallons in the kettle.

- SG a couple points above target at 1.041. 60-minute boil. Took about 35 minutes to chill to 64 F using pump/ice water. Poured ~5 gallons into Better Bottle. OG a bit high at 1.050. Aerated wort with 90 seconds of pure O2. Pitched yeast at 66 F and set BB in laundry room sink with cold water.

- 10/7/13 - In AM,  good airlock activity, temp 66 F. Temperature had climbed to 70 F by the evening, bubbling 1-2 times per second in the airlock.

- 11/7/13 - In AM, bubbling every second, temp 70 F. Slowing down by the evening, temp still holding at 70 F.

- 23/7/13 - Added first dose of dry-hops directly into primary.

- 27/7/13 - Added second dose of dry-hops.

- 31/7/13 - Bottled with 120 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with max temp of 72 F reached.

- Tasting notes... came out really great - huge hop nose, lots of tropical hop flavors... delicious.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Brewing a Russian River Blind Pig clone

After brewing a Witbier in early June, it's time for another hoppy clone! The clone recipes are starting to get a little out of hand, but I've accumulated so many that I've wanted to brew, and I've accumulated a good amount of hops as well, so I'm going to take the time over the next few months and cross a bunch of them off my to-brew list.

There aren't many homebrewers/beer geeks out there who haven't heard of Russian River Brewing. Vinnie Cilurzo, owner/brewmaster at RR, is one of the main craft beer idols that we all worship; he may not be as Hollywood-ish as Sam Calagione, or as revered as Shaun Hill... but he's somewhere in-between! RR is known for brewing some of the finest American Wild Ales and hoppy beers that you can find; I've been lucky enough to have had several of their beers, and can say that all of the praise they get is completely warranted.

Blind Pig was one of the first beers that RR began producing when their brewpub  opened in 2004. An American IPA, it's still available on tap and in bottles today, and it truly is a great beer. It's not quite as dry as the other RR hoppy ales, but it still packs a big hop punch, showcasing fruity and piney hop aromas and flavors. The "recipe" is included in Mitch Steele's IPA book, but unfortunately there aren't any specifics when it comes to hop amounts to use. Luckily, Zymurgy had an article back when the book came out, and they included several of the book's recipes, but with exact grain percentages and hop weights. On top of all that, Scott of Bertus Brewery did a couple of iterations of the recipe, and reported that his most recent attempt was extremely close to being cloned. I'll trust his opinion; it's been a couple of years since I've had Blind Pig, and Scott obviously has greater access to it than I do, given his location.

Like most of Vinnie's IPA recipes, the grist is fairly simple. It's mostly 2-row, with close to 8% of Crystal 40 L and Carapils combined - high for him, actually; when it comes to DIPAs, Vinnie recommends no more than 3-4% Crystal malt of any sort. The mash temp was quoted as 153-154 F; again, high for a RR hoppy beer, but obviously Blind Pig wasn't meant to be as dry as, say, Pliny the Elder.
Mashtun steaming and ready to go

Surprisingly, the recipe doesn't call for a HUGE amount of hops. There's a small bittering charge of Chinook and CTZ at 90 minutes, a bit of Amarillo at 30, and then four 1/2 oz additions of different hops at flameout for a hop-steep. Other than that, the original recipe called for 1/2 oz each of three hops for the dry-hop. However, Scott had noted that if brewed again, he would increase the dry-hop additions by 25%, so I went with a bit more, at 2/3 oz each.

For the flameout additions, I decided to go with a 10-minute hop-steep before turning on the chiller. When you throw the below numbers into BeerSmith, it comes out with an IBUs in the low-40s. However, calculating for a 10-minute steep actually brings the bitterness to about 62 IBUs, which is about the target for Blind Pig, so that should work fine.

I added a bit of table salt and Gypsum to the mash to help decrease the mash pH and boost the water chemistry a bit, bringing the calcium to 73, sulfate to 108, and chloride to 81. This isn't too far off the targets I had for my Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone, and I was quite happy with how that beer turned out. 

Once this beer is complete, I'll be sure to post the tasting notes post-haste. I vow not to drag my feet doing that for hoppy beers anymore, especially now that we're in the summer months and the days of storing large amounts of beer at proper temperatures are over!

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.059, FG ~1.013, IBU ~62, SRM 6, ABV ~6%

5.5 kg (93.1%) Canadian 2-row
227 g (3.8%) Crystal 40 L
182 g (3.1%) Carapils

Chinook - 17 g (11.4% AA) @ 90 min
CTZ - 8 g (13.4% AA) @ 90 min
Amarillo - 14 g (8.9% AA) @ 30 min
Amarillo - 14 g @ 0 min
Cascade - 14 g (5.5% AA) @ 0 min
Centennial - 14 g (10.9% AA) @ 0 min
Simcoe - 14 g (12.9% AA) @ 0 min           Note: All flameout hops have a 10-minute steep
Amarillo, CTZ, Cascade - 18 g each dry-hop for 7 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05, 1 package, re-hydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g table salt, 7 g Gypsum in the mash

Flameout hops about to be added
- Brewed on June 25th, 2013, by myself. 50-minute mash with 16.25 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~8 gallons in the kettle.

- SG at target of 1.044. 90-minute boil. Mistakenly added 30 min Amarillo addition at 60 min; stupid, but should only increase IBUs by 3-4, and likely won't affect the flavor much. Took about 45 minutes to chill to 70 F (extremely hot day), even using pump/ice water. Poured ~5 gallons into Better Bottle and set in fermentation chamber with temp at 38 F; brought wort down to 66 F after 30 minutes. OG on target at 1.059. Aerated wort with 90 seconds of pure O2. Pitched yeast and set BB in laundry room sink with cold water and ice.

- 26/6/13 - In AM, hardly any visible activity in the airlock, temp 64 F. Drained most of the water from the sink. By evening, temp up to 66 F, airlock bubbling every 2 seconds.

- 27/6/13 to 28/6 - Over this period, consistent activity in the airlock, big krausen... temp got as high as 70 F.

- 2/7/13 - Krausen completely settled, temp 70 F. Took gravity reading of 1.015.

- 4/7/13 - Added dry-hops directly into primary. Temp 72 F.

- 11/7/13 - Bottled with 115 g table sugar, aiming for 2.4 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, max temp of 72 F reached.

- Tasting notes here... a very easy-drinking, citrusy and tropical IPA.