Friday, September 26, 2014

Falling Leaf Brown

It's Fall on Cape Cod and I am a seasonal for a little change of pace.  A few years ago I brewed my first English Brown Ale (mostly a Southern).  I left on a trip and had left the window open just enough to allow the temp in the "fermentation chamber," aka, my extra bedroom, to stay in the low 60's...But...I neglected to tell my significant other, the significance, of the partially opened window.  When I returned home I found my brew not only at 72 plus degrees,, but all over my ceiling!  Bomb!

Of course, my mind turns directly to the question, "Is my beer ruined," answer, Nope.  The more i  brew the more i come to realize just how hard it is to infect a beer.  You may not be able to use more than 3 pitches of yeast before your contamination load becomes too great, but an initial pitch will out compete most bacterial levels you'll encounter...Even if there was no airlock on the fermenter for 4 days.  Keep in mind that once the brew starts fermenting it is spitting out CO2, conversely nothing is actually able to "get into" the fermenter.

As an aside, it is worth noting here that airlocks are more novel than anything else.  They, of course, serve a very important purpose, and are very functional when letting a beer sit for extended periods, but in the short term remember this, bacteria, bugs, yeast, it all travels on dust.  Dust, does not travel, "up," unless it is being carried on a breeze.  It will only travel down, with gravity.  This is one reason that when working with your yeasts, it is best to do so in a room where the air is still.

OK, enough side notes, its beer time.

This brew is based on the "next batch" notes from the Brown I brewed a few years back.  It was a top five beer and all I really wanted to see was a change in the Chocolate character from mellow to more bitter and forward with the deletion of Pale Chocolate and addition of Chocolate malt.  

Brew day: 9/27/14
Brewed with Eric

OG - 1052
FG - 1008
Mash Eff - 62%
SRM - 22
ABV - 5.8%

10lbs - Maris
12oz - C40
12oz - Victory
6oz - Chocolate
4oz - C120

Northern Brewer - .4oz - 15IBUs (60)
Yeast - WLP 007 - Dry English Ale

Mash 160/60

Pitch temp - (70) - I did a 500ml warm-up of the yeast for 24 hours - intermittent shaking.  Excellent start and rigorous action throughout. Peak temp 77.

Tasting Notes

10/19/14 Initial tasting - over carbonated leading to a thinner mouthfeel than desired.  Plus, as a brew few she needs some time on gas to let final carb settle in and for nucleation sites to settle out.  I think she'll catch her rhythm around 6-8 weeks. I should bottle some just to be sure I don't run her dry before that!  

She has a beautiful deep deep brown, off white head lasts beyond the pour.  Lightly malty aroma, slight fruit water apparent.  Just have to bring around that mouthfeel.

Initial impression is the chocolate malt substitution detracted from prior brew.  The pale chocolate seems to allow the "smaller beer" to enjoy the chocolate notes without an disguise from the bitter aspect of the chocolate's a dry bitterness, where I enjoy the more rounded chocolate charcter of the pale chocolate.  

10/24/14 - starting to round out a little.  

Tasting notes - 10/25/14
A - Deep deep brown.  Off white head.  Right bubbles. Retention holds throughout majority of pour 
S - no hop, minimal esters. Slight malt scent.  Not exciting.
T - very thin and dry...too dry....malt balance.  A slight tang on back and sides of the tongue.  Chocolate barely conceivable. Caramel lost to dryness. Just too thin.
M - medium
O - to far attenuated.  Yeast pits off few to no esters in this profile.  Chocolates bitterness seems to have balanced out the caramel sweetness leaving a balanced brown ale with little character.   This beer did well to build up the yeast for the Barleywine.

If using this yeast you need to build more mouthfeel through oats, a higher percentage of crystal and a cooler fermentation. 

Next brew.  Wouldn't hurt to have flaked oats in this grist. Change the yeast, increase % of crystal and go back to pale chocolate.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Traditional Wee Heavy, split batch

I was recently tasked with creating a pumpkin beer and using the Wee Heavy style to do so.  My good friend Gates of Bear In Boots Restaurant Falmouth, MA is both the owner and proprietor of this esteemed establishment in Falmouth, MA and when a chef of his caliber thinks the flavors will compliment, then less figuring and more brewing is on the docket!

Ps. Bear In Boots is hands down the best craft beer/artisan restaurant on Cape Cod, fact!

In preparation for this bohemouth, I  reviewed Jamil Z's article in BYO, a great recipe found here and looked back in my notes from pumpkin scotch ales and traditional Scottish ale recipes I have done.

Originally the dark hues and caramel character of these beers were a product of long boil times.  The longer the boil, the greater the reduction of the brew resulting in ever-increasing caramel flavors and the development of a darker finish.  There were no specialty malts, there were no C120, or Melanoiden malts! Boy, what those folks would have brewed had they had access to our grocery store of grains! 

A few things to consider when brewing this beer:
1. The process of creating the base beer
- Traditional method plus some chocolate
2. How to impart the pumpkin character 
- roasted pumpkin purée 
3.  What adjustments I need to make based on the introduction of the pumpkin.
- pumpkin batch will receive additional yeast 

Split batch - half Wee Heavy, half pumpkin wee heavy

Because I do not want 5G of pumpkin anything, I'm going to use a Wee Heavy recipe, but I'm going to add some chocolate.  Pumpkin, chocolate cheesecake comes to mind an I just can't help myself. Pumpkin and chocolate marry so well together in that forum. Imagining the sweetness of the caramel from the kettle caramelization an the body of this beer, I feel the chocolate will play beautifully to the pumpkin.  Style guide be damned!  

Stats if base beer
5G batch

Marris Otter - 18lbs
Chocolate - 6oz (2%)
Roasted barley - 3oz (1%)

Half batch: Canned and roasted Pumpkin - 3lbs (HORRIBLE IDEA) _ You ended up buying sweet pumpkins (good idea) and roastng them, seperating the skins, then re-roasting them.  This mixture went in the boil.  NEVER AGAIN.  From now on its just pumpkin thinly sliced into mash and pumpkin spice at 10 on the boil....Done.


19lb@1.5qt/lb = 28.5/4 ~ 7G

Absorbtion: ~2G

7-2 = 5 requiring 3G sparge to make 8G minus 1G for caramelization minus 2 additional gallons for 2 hour boil leaving 5G plus .5G starter and .5G transfer loss resulting in 5G batch.

Total water: 10G

Water - treated for dark beer profile
Likely 2.5tsp gypsum for calcium, 2.5tsp baking powder for alkalinity.

19b@1.5qt/lb at 158 for 90.

Sparge and boil

Homework: pour 1G into "stovetop" boil pot and measure.  Pour 2 cups in and measure.  

1. Collect 1G first runnings to stovetop boil pot. Boil of 50 min.  At this point we should be close to 2 cups remaining - Logic - 2c = .125G = 1/8G...60/8 = 7.5, therefore if we evaporate 1G per hour it should take about 52 minutes to boil 1G to .125G or 2cups.

2. Add sparge water (3G) to remaining mash (double batch may be required) and mix and continue running remaining to kettle until measuring 6G.

3. Boil. (Removing carmelized runnings no later than 52 minutes) At 60 add carmelized runnings.  Total volume after 60 minute boil should be 6.125G, regardless boil until 6G and proceed.

3. At 6G in pot, take gravity and hop N.Brewer for .2 BUGU.

4. Boil to 45 minute mark.

5. Pour 2.5G to stovetop kettle.  (Yes, you will have a little more traditional wee heavy an that's fine)

5a. Stovetop - Add 3lbs heavily roasted pumpkin purée and nutrient to stovetop portion and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Prepare ice bath.

5b. Kettle - insert chiller and nutrient, gently boil 10 minutes.

Stovetop - whirlpool (to seperate pumpkin) and ice bath 
Kettle - immersion chiller 

Stovetop - While above 80, filter through hop bag with course cloves, nutmeg and all spice in hop bag to fermenter.  Fermenter back into ice bath to 62.

Kettle - normal transfer.

Yeast - Scottish Ale - 2L starter - half to each batch.

Both - Pitch at 62 to account for free rise. Primary/secondary for 21 days.

Brew Day!

Brewed with Eric
2.5 tsp gypsum, 1tsp baking powder (targeting Edinborough water on
Final Stats
OG - 1090
FG - 1010
ABV - 10+
SRM - Dark:)  cant get a real SRM with the additon of the carmelized portion of the batch...She is dark-dark brown.

Mash 158
Yeast - Edinborough - 2L starter split half to each batch.

Fermentation - In bucket, pitch 70 - free rise toppped at 75.  

10/2/14 - Gravity at 5 days was below FG target, clear on top of beer.

Transfered off pumpkin to carboy - use sanitized slotted spoon next time, then attempt to syphon (or dont use pumpkin puree:)- terrible transfer t carboy - purged carboy with CO2 and crashed in fridge to 45 for 2 weeks.


Good plan and execution.  1G of first running took 1.5 hours to boil down before all water was boiled off and scorching began on the sugars.

BE CAREFUL - do not leave this unattended after 1 hour.  Once it starts to burn it burns very quickly!  Good thing Eric was i nside at the time or we may have ruined the carmelized portion of the batch.


FG from Brix reads 10.2 translating to 1.010, don't buy it based off OG could have been off from kettle carm add back...anyway, it's close and it tastes clean and scary. (Not boozy).  Bottled with sugar tabs - ready 11/1 on carb...age.....,,

Pumpkin batch racked to keg and force carbed at 30psi (shaking) for 4 minutes.  Bottled and corked.  Expedited ran to be ready for Halloween.
Taste of pumpkin apparent and front.  Spice is mellow.  Taste requires time.

10/17/14 a bottled both.  Two sugar tabs to each traditional and direct from bucket.

10/21/14 - didn't cage bottles, 6 blew.  Poured them direct to keg and force carbed.

10/24/14 - tasting from keg, pretty dam good beer!  Side by side of unpopped bottles could yield some differences but for now I'm happy with this result.

A deep deep brown with very slight ruby hued center, topped with a thick creamy white head.

Aroma of toasted bread, very light warming alcohol on the nose and slight dark fruit.  Maybe a perceived banana character in there.  

Taste - smoooth.  Round. Good balance between the roast, and malt characters.  A very strong perceivable center on the pallet of dark caramel and plummy fruit.  No hop aroma or taste.  Future tastings will be more appropriate as she should have at least 2 weeks, cold and on gas before a real sense of the beer comes forward.  But a great start! 

11/20ish/14 - The beer is delicious!  I would argue that it is a little cloying, but not too the point of being "too cloying."  It is a little one dimensional, as is the case with the traditional method of brewing this beer, but I really enjoy it!  Im excited to see how it ages, but I call this a very successful recipe.  A nice off white head dissipates by half of the beer.  Its a smooth draw with a medium mouthfeel and very little residual sweetness.  The beer is not complex, it is simple with some light esters coming through  and no hop charcter whatsoever.  The beer is slight malt forward with a great caramel to dark caramel middle.  The chocolate is barely discernible, but I have yet to make a beer where the chocolate character was truly perceptible to me.  The roasted malt does not come through either.

If I was going to do this beer again I would stick to the process, but I would try adding more of the Chocolate for fun.  I dont know that I'll be brewing this beer often as it is a little less complex than what I am looking to brew these days, not to mention it is one long brew day!  

In other news, we have a success here with the Pumpkin!  I think this is an excellent style for making a base beer to either a Pumpkin or Winter/Spice Ale.  The Pumpkin Ale come out very nicely with a bit more residual sweetness and a bigger mouthfeel, but its still relatively dry.  This beer attenuated really well and allowed the Pumpkin to accompany the final product nicely.  With the holidays coming to a close I am hopeful that a bomber will make it to next year and a little oxidation accompanies the pumpkin.

As stated earlier, I will never, ever, work this Pumpkin process again.  Far too much work and absolutely unnecessary.

Case Closed :-)

Monday, September 1, 2014

90 Minute Nor'Easta'

Inspired by Dogfishhead's prolific, creative, and hell, visionary ways, I constructed a recipe that had one sole purpose, to use as much of my Northern Brewer hops as possible.  A bulk order has left me with a hop that deserves to get used sooner than later and later was coming up quick.  So...

How about we do a continuous hopping of just Northern Brewer hops, 90 minutes, and engineer this puppy to give me that smooth IPA profile I so much enjoy, smoooth.  How???

The plan was as genius as it was simple, or just increase the continuous hop rate as the boil moved forward.  In other words, making the beer's hop profile derive more from the "late hopping"characteristics of the hop than early hopping.

I pulled up Dogfishhead's 90 Minute IPA and aligned their BUGU with my own to get a similar bittering, and then I played with my brewing software until I came to a hopping schedule that was easy and  manageable.  

90-60: .5 oz - Gotta layer in that vegetal  character, but not too much!
60-30: 1 oz
30-0: 3oz
Dry Hop: 2 oz

6 oz's of hops, yes, that should do the trick. 

OK, we have the hops figured out but what about the yeast?  Well, I dont have any 001, but I do have some 3rd gen 1469 Yorkshire!  Hmmmm, English IPA anyone?  Never made one, and there is no time like the present.

A quick perusal of the style guide for some general outlines and I was off and running.  The rest...

Water - London profile
Yeast - moderate to high esters (personal choice) as Id love to see the yeast character push through the hops, and compliment, not overwhelm
Malt - a moderate malt backbone, darker than your standard IPA.

Done!  Where did we land.....?

OG - 1069
FG - 1009
ABV - 8%
IBU - 63
SRM - 6 (should have colored it up more)

2-Row - 15lb
Bisquit - 1lb
Sugar - 8oz

All went quite well with the boil, except at 10 minutes my new brew buddy Sandwich Dev, unknowing of the effect of hop schedules, tossed in the rest of the 30-0 hops...So I decided to up my dry hop from 1oz to 2oz to compensate for the potentially lost hop aromatics.  And, its another reason to toss in more hops!  Who could complain about that?

I got a 65%+ efficiency which is mind boggling to me as i could not even get 60% on another beer made the same way on the same day and nearly the same size!  More hmmmmmmmmm.

Into the fermenter she goes.  As per usual I was trying to keep the fusels low, but on this summer day i was never quite able to get her below 70 and logistics of my schedule dictated the pitch was happening whether I liked it or not, so in they went!  

A standard lag of about 18 hours off of the super thick 1469 slurry and she was ripping!  Free rise landed at 75 and the rest is still to be seen.

Keg, carb and dry hop! (yes, this dry hop goes in the keg).  At the cooler temps of a kegged dry hop I have had no trouble with the vegetative character of a long, warm dry hop, especially if you drink the stuff!  It may hangout as long as two weeks before its time to toss in another beer (as i only have two kegs) and the rest will get bottled.  So, once again, no worries on the vegetal character. and time will tell....

9/15/14 - FG of 1009, kegged and conditioning. Initial tasting is too yeasty to do her justice.  She needs 7-10 days.

Tasting notes:

9/22 - Beer is definitely green - banana notes apparent, i think its the yeast more than anything.  More time and a few more beers need to be pulled to clear.

10/8 - these tasting notes are being done after the fact.  Needless to say this beer went down like a dream and was enjoyed by all.  Yes, 5G of 8% 90 minute IPA was taken down  by you and eric and phish and others in less than 3 weeks....and Dev never even got a bottle!  Dam it Dave!  We owe him one for that....
A - straw, mostly clear.  Head was white but did not hold long
S - smell had some banana notes, never could figure that one.  Perhaps growth from the English yeast and a higher ferment combined with the hops?  Not sure.  Anyway, it also had a dankness and mildly pungent hop aroma.  Not very piney, but very earthy, slightly fruity.  Pleasant, not overpowering. Additional Columbus hops added at 1G never really took hold.  I would like to see more complexity in future iterations.  More on that below.
T - Glorious!  After 10 days this beer really shined!  The fusels were totally masked and the alcohol was hidden.  Smooth on the palate, slight hints of fruit, dry, highly drinkable.  1.0 BUGU is very easy on the palate for me.  The hops were earthy, woody, slight pine, and perhaps vegetal notes could be derived.  Estery for sure.  Banana again...once it was pointed out it was hard to miss.  It wasnt very complex, and not surprising, but it was very very good, not great, but very good.
M - dry - easy to drink - reaching for another pint was a dream, but the following mornings were not:)
O - Overall Id say I was very pleased with how the beer turned out.  It was well received.  I nice aroma, not overwhelming, but too much banana ester left you a bit confused before you drank it.  This is by far my biggest complaint.  Each pint was smooth on the bittering, as planned, and finished dry allowing for a pleasant experience.  the alcohol was well masked and the malt backbone was very sufficient.  I definitely like 1.0 BUGU on Imperial IPAs. We will go higher in coming iterations.

1. Change the yeast to 001.  No brainer there.
2. Hops - layer in Amarillo for bittering to add that grapefruit note, then Centennial/Cascade at 10.  This will leave an earthy start from 90-60, then add complexity in the bittering/flavor of grapefruit over the woody/earthy/piney NB Hops and finish with the citrus.  Dry Hop with Columbus/Cascade/NB