Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Brewing a Sweet Stout

I don't really know why, but it suddenly occurred to me the other day that I haven't brewed a Stout in a very long time. Looking through my records (yes, I keep homebrewing records), I realized it had been a REALLY long time... the last stout I brewed was a clone recipe of The Portsmouth Brewery's Kate the Great, a Russian Imperial Stout, in November of 2011 (it was actually the first recipe I posted on this blog). I generally don't brew a lot of darker beers; not because I don't really enjoy them, it's just that IPAs, APAs, Ambers, Saisons, etc. are the beers I enjoy the most.

The first Stout style I ever brewed was a Sweet Stout... this was back when I was still brewing with extract and steeping specialty grains. I had just purchased Jamil's "Brewing Classic Styles", and although I had never (to my knowledge) tried a Sweet Stout before, the description in his book really appealed to me. A lot of aspects of the style gel with what your immediate expectation of a Stout would be: flavors and aromas of coffee and chocolate, moderate bitterness in the finish; basically... roasty, with a middle-of-the-road ABV (4-6%). What sets it apart from other Stouts is the presence of a "medium to high sweetness", and a medium-full to full body with a "high residual sweetness".

What makes this style so sweet? It's not a super-high mash temp, or even an extremely high presence of specialty grains... it's usually due to the addition of lactose powder (hence the other known names of this style, "Milk Stout" or "Cream Stout"). Unlike a lot of the other sugars involved in brewing, lactose is completely unfermentable by the yeast we use in homebrewing. So, when you add it during the boil, it bumps up the OG, the sweetness, and the mouthfeel of the beer. Don't get me wrong, it's not an OVERLY sweet beer (lactose has something like 1/6 the sweetness of sucrose); when brewed well, a Sweet Stout can be a really nice beer. As a result of the unfermentable lactose, the FG of a Sweet Stout is generally quite high, ranging from 1.012 to 1.024.

I brewed Jamil's recipe (again, with extract), and was really happy with how it turned out. Since then, I've been able to find a few commercial Sweet Stouts on my travels (the stand-outs were Duck Rabbit Milk Stout and Mikkeller Milk Stout), and I don't think my homebrewed beer was a nice representation. Since it has been over four years since I brewed that beer, I decided to give it another go.

Jamil's recipe has quite a large amount of dark grains... close to 20% of the grist is Black Patent, Crystal 80 L, and Pale Chocolate. At first glance, it may seem like too much, but I can assure you, with the lactose powder addition (pretty high as well: 1 lb), it all evens out in the end. Yes, the beer is roasty and chocolatey, but is nicely balanced by the sweetness. Keep in mind that Pale Chocolate malt is a much milder form compared to your typical Chocolate malt - it's normally about half the SRM, and really adds more chocolate notes to your beer, as opposed to the roasted flavors and aromas of regular Chocolate malt. If you don't have access to Pale Chocolate malt, you can add Chocolate, but go with about half the amount. The mash temp of all this grain isn't too high... aim for about 151 F.

Depending on your water, you may want to add some bicarbonate to make sure your mash pH isn't too low... I encourage you to check out the EZ Water Calculator and enter your water specs, if you know them. My water works fairly well for this style of beer; I added a bit of calcium chloride and gypsum, not to lower the mash pH, but to bump up the calcium levels to an appropriate range.

Normally in my posts, the hop paragraph is the biggest one, but this couldn't be much simpler. Grab an English variety of some sort (Goldings is a popular one), and add enough at 60 minutes to give you about 30 IBUs. I went with WGV, another English variety, since I didn't have Goldings on hand. It doesn't matter, you really don't want any hop character in this beer at all... just keep it to bittering and nothing more.

Jamil's recipe calls for this beer to be fermented with Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale. When I first brewed it, I planned ahead and put in a special order from my LHBS. Unfortunately, I didn't have the 3-4 weeks it can take to receive a special-order yeast this time around, so I looked into it a bit more and saw that the 1084 Irish Ale is also recommended for brewing Sweet Stouts (aside: talk about versatile... Wyeast says that 1084 can be used in 16 different beer styles!). The strains definitely have similar characteristics; I think the key is to keep the fermentation temp down in the low 60s if possible, as Wyeast says that higher than 64 F can increase the production of fruity esters. Now that outside temps are finally getting warmer, this may be a bit tricky (especially with temps still getting cool at night), but I'll do my best. My fermentation chamber has been converted into a 4-tap keezer, so for the moment, no more fermentation temperature control for me!

I haven't made a final decision on how to package this beer, yet. While it would be nice to have a Stout like this on tap, I think I'll likely end up bottling it. I seem to recall that the first Sweet Stout I brewed held up quite well with time. Not to mention that I've only got so many kegs, and so many taps! I'm probably going to stick with keeping the hoppy beers in kegs, and the darker, stronger beers in bottles.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.060, FG ~1.019, IBU 29, SRM 38, ABV ~5.4%

4 kg (81.6%) Maris Otter
400 g (8.2%) Black Patent
300 g (6.1%) Crystal 80 L
200 g (4.1%) Pale Chocolate malt

WGV - 35 g (6.7% AA) @ 60 min

454 g Lactose powder @ 15 min 
1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale (PD April 11th, with a 1.8 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g Gypsum and 6 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on May 20th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13.5 L of strike water, mashed in at 152 F, slightly above target temp of 151 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7 L of boiling water. Vorlaufed and drained into kettle. Sparged with ~3.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- SG a bit high at 1.043 (target 1.044... keep in mind this is before the lactose addition). 60-minute boil. Final volume  of slightly under 6 gallons... too high. Propane started to get lower during the last half hour, so the boil wasn't as vigorous as normal. Chilled down to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. OG on target at 1.060. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched decanted yeast starter. Placed BB in room with ambient temp at 64 F.

- 21/5/14 - In the AM, already bubbling in the airlock pretty rapidly, about every second, temp about 67 F. Ditto in the evening.

- 22/5/14 - In the PM, airlock activity to every 5 seconds, temp holding at 67 F.

- Tasting notes here... really happy how this came out, lots of roasted character and mild sweetness from the lactose; great beer.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tasting : Munich Bear (Munich Helles)

The beauty of brewing a lager in the Light Lager category of the BJCP guidelines is that because they have a low OG, you're not talking about a big beer that has to be lagered (cold-aged) for a long time. Certainly, in most cases, the longer you can lager the beer, the better (although I'm sure there must be a tipping point at some time?), but a beer that comes in at under 5% ABV is probably ok being lagered for 4-6 weeks before you start drinking it.

And, with my first time brewing a Munich Helles, this was definitely the case. I'm happy to say this beer came out pretty much exactly how I wanted it to - easy-drinking and light, but with enough malt character to separate it from your typical Lite American Lager. 

What made this beer successful wasn't just simply the recipe, of course. Good temperature control is also very important for any beer, especially lagers, and I used my fermentation chamber as I have with all the lagers I've brewed in the past - pitch low, in the high 40s F, let it rise a few degrees over the first week or so, then bring it up to the mid 60s F for a diacetyl rest for a couple of days. Drop slowly to 50 F for another week or two, then transfer to secondary and slowly drop the temp to ~38 F for lagering.

But, what really set this beer apart from many of my lagers was that I got to the FG range I was aiming for. Most of my previous lagers had FGs that were 4-5 points higher than target. I think this one came out better because it was the first lager I've brewed since buying a William's Oxygen Aeration System (no, they did not entice me to write that... unfortunately). Aerating with pure O2 really is the easiest and most effective way to ensure that your yeast are getting the amount of O2 they need to properly ferment your beer. Building up a big enough starter is important, of course, but if you can't provide enough O2, the yeast still may not be able to do a proper job.

I really recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a nice, light beer style for the warmer months that are HOPEFULLY on the way. I kegged mine and have been enjoying it the last few weeks; I'm going to try to set it away for a while longer, so that I'll have some on hand when it's lawnmowing season...

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, white fluffy head with good retention. Body is a burnished-gold color, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Nice malt character in a bready way, accompanied by a sweet pilsner aroma. No noticeable hop aroma. Maybe a touch of DMS, but ok for the style. No diacetyl.

Taste: Pleasantly sweet from the pilsner malt, with the bready malt character in the background. No hop flavor. Low bitterness in the finish. Very clean and easy-drinking.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Basically exactly what I was aiming for... light, easy-drinking, but with enough flavor and aroma to set it apart from an American Lite Lager or something similar. Very happy with how it came out.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Brewing a Societe Brewing The Pupil clone

I've gone on (maybe ad nauseam) before about a couple of trips I've taken to San Diego over the past few years, and how fantastic the beer scene is there... of course, this is well known by any beer geek worth his/her salt, but you need SOME sort of opening to a blog post, right? You don't just want me to post a recipe, do you? Ok, maybe you do, but I can write what I want, dammit!

Now, if that didn't grab you, I don't know what will! But seriously, I've brewed several clone recipes of beers from breweries in California, some of which have turned out really great (namely Isles of Fortune, a Modern Times Fortunate Island clone, and two attempts (here and here) of Alpine Beer Company's Duet), and in a lot of cases I've been lucky enough to try the actual commercial beers. But, ever since my most recent trip to SD last September, there's been one beer that I've been more anxious to try to clone than any other... that beer is The Pupil - an American IPA from Societe Brewing Company, a fairly new brewery in San Diego.

Photo credit: Societe Brewing Company
A bit of info on Societe Brewing - the owners/brewers are Travis Smith and Douglas Constantiner, two guys that seem to be extremely passionate about beer, and have a pretty successful resume between the two of them, working/interning at highly-respected breweries such as Russian River, Pizza Port, and The Bruery. I won't regurgitate their story, but I recommend you read about the both of them here. The beers they brew mostly seem to be hoppy beers and Belgian ales; Societe has only been open for close to two years, but when I visited SD in September they already had a really good reputation, as I had heard about them online and knew to seek out whatever beers of theirs I could find.

Luckily, several of the beer bars I visited had Societe beers on tap (unfortunately, a planned trip to their tasting room didn't work out for me... still one of my major disappointments on that trip). I had three: The Apprentice, a really tasty American IPA; The Scrapper, a "San Diego Dark Ale" that you could probably consider as a hoppy American Brown, or maybe a Black IPA; and my favorite of three already-excellent beers, The Pupil. In an area with a seemingly-endless supply of fantastic hoppy beers, The Pupil was hands-down one of the best hoppy beers I had on this trip. Maybe even THE best. Intensely fruity in a tropical way, not overly-bitter, and extremely easy-drinking, this met the definition of a perfect IPA, in my opinion.

Photo credit: Societe Brewing Company
When I arrived home, it wasn't long before I was emailing Societe to ask them for help with a homebrew recipe for this beer. I didn't take my usual approach, where I try to do some research on my own to build up my own idea of a clone attempt, and then ask the brewer(s) for suggestions... no, I blatantly contacted them and told them how much I loved their beers, and asked if they'd help me out with a recipe for The Pupil in particular. Shameful!

Luckily for me, the people at Societe seem to be as nice as their beer is tasty... Douglas Constantiner responded very quickly, with a very-detailed recipe. Here was his full response:

Hey Shawn,

Thanks for the kind words.  Please see below for some notes and tips for The Pupil...

O.G.: 1.062
F.G.: 1.006
20% Malted Wheat
75% North American 2-Row
5% Carapils
Single infusion mash - 150degF (or whatever will get you about 90% attenuation or finish at 1.006).
I'm not sure about your water source but i suggest using CaSO4 and CaCl to your desired levels.
90 minute boil.
Bitter to about 30 BUs (Rager calculation will get you close to what ours is) with first addition - Magnum or other high AA hop or extract.
Bitter 20 BUs at the 20 minute mark - Citra and Nelson at a 1:2 ratio.
Go crazy at flameout with Centennial:Citra:Nelson at a ratio of approx. 1:2:4 - try to get 10-15 BUs from this phase. We whirlpool in our kettle so the hops are in contact with the wort for about another 40 minutes once we kill the steam.
Chill and ferment at 65degF with California Ale (White Labs 001 or Wyeast 1056).
When fermentation is complete, crash beer to 60 to drop yeast out of suspension and rack to a new vessel.
Dry hop #1 Centennial, Citra, and Nelson with the focus on nelson with about 3-5 days contact time.
Transfer beer again to get it off the dry hops and repeat the same process. Hold the beer at 65degF throughout the dry hopping phase.
Carbonate to 2.5 vol. of CO2.
I think that should cover it!  If you're not happy with 2 dry hops, do a 3rd.

Let me know if you have any questions.

What do you think... detailed enough? I would have been more than happy to put some work into this beer on my own, but hey, I'll gladly give this recipe that came straight from the brewer a try, first!

For the grist, I pretty much followed Doug's recipe, with two minor changes. First, I aimed for an OG of 1.066... I know my system, and have a good amount of experience with California Ale/US-05 yeast, and I've never had a beer drop as low as 1.006, even with very low mash temps. So, I bumped up everything to 1.066, and mashed a bit lower at 148 F to get a very fermentable wort. I also took away a bit of the 2-row and replaced it with a small percentage of Acid malt to bring my mash pH into a more desirable range (~5.5).

Lots of hop sludge...
The first couple of hop additions were easy. I used hop extract at 60 minutes to get to 30 IBUs as directed, and then enough Citra and Nelson at 20 minutes to 20 IBUs. For the flameout addition, I went with the ratios that Doug suggested, except I divided the total addition into two - half at flameout for a 15-minute steep (I didn't think 40 minutes was necessary for my small system, and I was actually brewing with limited time anyway), then I turned on the chiller and added the other half when the wort temp was just below 180 F (above which hop isomerization occurs). On further thought, I actually wish I added MORE flameout hops; if I brewed it again, I would probably increase the total amount by 25-33%. I plan on doing two dry-hop additions as indicated below; I'll rack the beer into a keg when fermentation is complete, and keg-hop twice.

*Side-note: I love the smell of Citra and Nelson in the morning. Seriously, it's been a while since I've brewed with these hops, and I had forgotten how fantastic they are; they're definitely my two favorite hop varieties right now.

The rest of the recipe is pretty straight-forward... fermented with a neutral American yeast (US-05 in this case), in the mid-60s F if possible. Hopefully two dry-hop additions will do the trick; I've had success with this approach in the past. As long as fermentation takes off and stays strong, I don't think there will be any issue getting the beer down to a FG of 1.010... this is important with any good American IPA, but is especially essential for this beer, since The Pupil finishes nice and dry, and really allows the hops to shine. As you can probably tell from the grist, this is a light-colored IPA that doesn't involve a lot of Crystal malts... a result of the brewers' time at Russian River and Pizza Port perhaps?

I'll be sure to post tasting notes on this beer as soon as it's ready. Thanks again to everyone at Societe Brewing; from the initial email from Doug, to chatting with Mike about using some of their photos in the post, they've all been extremely friendly and helpful. I'll absolutely be dropping by their brewery and tasting room on my next trip to San Diego, and strongly encourage anyone else visiting the area to do the same!

UPDATE: After publishing this post, Doug got back to me and made a small suggestion... he feels that a final gravity of 1.006 or close is very important, so if you think you can't get down that low (as I did), replace some of the 2-row with table sugar. I had considered that, but eventually decided to leave it out. If you're brewing this recipe, however, I encourage you to follow his advice.

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 72% efficiency) OG 1.066, FG ~1.010, IBU ~60, SRM 4.7, ABV ~7.3%

5 kg (73.3%) Canadian 2-row
1.36 kg (19.9%) Wheat malt
340 g (5%) Carapils
125 g (1.8%) Acid malt

Hop extract - 5 mL @ 60 min (or 28 g of a 10% AA hop)
Citra - 10 g (12.7% AA) @ 20 min
Nelson Sauvin - 20 g (12% AA) @ 20 min

Centennial - 14 g (10.9% AA) @ 0 min
Citra - 28 g @ 0 min                                             *Half flame-out hops have a 15-minute steep; the other half
Nelson Sauvin - 56 g @ 0 min                                added after chilling starts, when wort temp below 180 F

Centennial - 14 g dry-hop for 3 days
Citra - 14 g dry-hop for 3 days
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g dry-hop for 3 days
Centennial - 14 g dry-hop for 3 more days
Citra - 14 g dry-hop for 3 more days
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g dry-hop for 3 more days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, ~1 & 1/4 packs, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum and 4 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on April 29th, 2014, by myself. 60-minute mash with 20.5 L of strike water, mashed in at 149 F, slightly above target temp of 148 F. Sparged with ~4.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- SG a bit low at 1.053 (target 1.055). 60-minute boil (my fault; I had misread the email which clearly indicates a 90-minute boil). Added last hops at flameout and let them steep for 15 minutes. Turned on chiller; temp of wort was below 180 F within a few minutes, added second half of flameout hops. Final volume ~6 gallons. Chilled down to 64 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. OG on target at 1.066. Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in room with ambient temp at 68 F.

- Vigorous fermentation over a 4-5 day period. After 10 days or so, FG measured at 1.011.

- 8/5/14 - Racked beer to CO2-purged keg, added dry hops in a mesh bag. Each addition for 3 days, then removed hops and hooked up to CO2 to carbonate.

- 16/6/14 - Tasting notes posted. This beer came out delicious, full of tropical fruit and citrus... the only change I'd make is to follow Doug Constantiner's later recommendation of adding table sugar to dry the beer out more.