Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cabernet-English Barleywine Tasting

The DC Homebrewers club is rapidly approaching our fourth anniversary! Three years ago we started an annual tradition of brewing a collaborative beer dole out a couple bombers at a time to celebrate each subsequent anniversary. The goal is eventually to have six or seven different vintages to sample each year. The brew days are good excuses to get together drink a few homebrews, and brew a recipe that none of us would have on our own.

Wine glass seems appropriate for a barleywine fermented with a couple pounds of Cabernet sauvignon grapes.
The first beer was a local smoked/honey stout we brewed at my house. The bottle I brought to the October meeting held at District ChopHouse, their brewer Barrett Lauer provided the yeast, was still in great shape. The second anniversary brew was the Cabernet-grape-spiked English barleywine sitting in front of me now (this is my one bottle opened in payment for buying the ingredients). The third batch was spearheaded by Josh, our current club president, an old ale that was still in secondary last I heard.

DCHB Anniversary #2 – Cabernet Barleywine

Appearance – Rich reddish-brown body, very clear. You might not know there were grapes in there from the color alone. The head is about an inch thick, and slightly off-white. Decent retention, but by the time my glass is half-empty the foam is a fine ring around the edge.

Smell – The nose is relatively vibrant for an 18 month old beer. There is a woodsy-spice from the grapes and oak (a bit too strong), some vinous notes from the grapes and age, and a strong toasted malt aroma Munich and Maris Otter base.

Taste – The flavor is mellow, rounded, and reasonably sweet. I don’t get as much caramel as I had hopped for from the long/concentrated boil. The oak and grapes provide enough character/tannins to counter the sweetness. It doesn’t have the depth of complexity that I expect in a great strong beer, but it is pleasant enough. There is a subtle alcohol warmth, but it isn’t hot or boozy.

Mouthfeel – Medium mouthfeel for a barleywine, not big or sticky. Medium-low carbonation, about right for a strong ale.

Drinkability & Notes – I don’t brew (or drink) many barleywines. The balance never seems to hit the right mark for my palate. They always taste like they are lacking, or that they aren’t “worth” the high alcohol content. Sadly this one falls in that second category, it just doesn’t have anything that draws me in. It isn’t bad or off, and I like it more than a lot of the commercial barleywines I’ve had, it just tastes lacking. Hopefully time will bring some additional complexities.

I’m a bit disappointed with the technique of boiling down passed the target volume and then topping off. Like boiling the first runnings to a syrup, it makes a good compliment to the flavors of caramel malt, but by itself it isn’t enough to replace their flavors in a beer like this. Fun, but probably not worth the additional fuel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Southern Hemisphere Hopped Double IPA Recipe

I think double/imperial IPA is one of the easiest styles to brew an “alright” version of, but one of the most difficult to really nail. Loading a large quantity of bold hops into a recipe can obscure many process flaws. However, to produce an excellent strong/hoppy beer you have to address a number of contradictions. Double IPAs are high alcohol beers that need to be served really fresh. Recipes must contain a huge amount of malt, but the finished beer should taste dry and bitter. The best examples are intensely flavored, but still highly drinkable. It is a style that is young (not much more than 10 years as a bottled, year-round beer), but there are already so many breweries that brew at least one.

My favorite commercial examples of the style are all around 8% ABV. Less alcohol than that and it isn’t really a DOUBLE IPA, higher than about 9% ABV and the booze starts getting in the way of the hop aromatics. Some of my favorites are Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, Lawson’s Double Sunshine, The Bruery Humulus Lager, and Hill Farmstead’s Abner. All of these beers have huge hop aromatics, bitterness that isn’t too harsh, and clean/subtle malt bases.

Two Northern Brewer HopShots, one light one dark.
Hops can be of any variety, as long as they are high in oil content. It would be almost impossible to add enough of a subtle low-alpha-acid hop variety to achieve the required aromatics and bitterness without losing most of the wort to hop absorption. For this beer I paired Rakau from New Zealand with Galaxy from Australia. I brewed a similar recipe last year that was 100% Galaxy and while enjoyable, the result never wowed me. Using hops that are in pristine condition should have been on the list of tips for brewing hoppy beers that I included with its recipe post! Lesson learned, no more buying two-year-old whole-hops shipped directly from Australia. Many of the Southern Hemisphere hop varieties share aromatic commonalities with newer American varieties like Citra; they impart lots of tropical fruitiness, with a hint of dankness in high concentrations.

I’d been underwhelmed by the bitterness of Northern Brewer’s HopShots on their own. It seems much lower than their numbers suggest. The bitterness is clean and soft, perfect for many styles, but not IPA or DIPA. As a result, for this batch I split the bittering addition between hop extract and Columbus. For my palate Columbus adds a wonderful lingering tongue-grabbing bitterness that I think is a hallmark of both American IPAs and DIPAs. I was interested to read in Mitch Steele’s IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale that Shaun Hill uses a blend of extract and hops to bitter Hill Farmstead's James, a black IPA.

Brewing a strong beer that you want to start pouring less than six weeks after brewing, demands minimizing the creation of off-flavors that would need time to age-out. Pitch enough yeast for a strong/healthy fermentation, but avoid over-pitching which strips bitterness from the beer (for this batch I harvested slurry from my Third Hoppy Wheat, but didn't pitch the entire yeast cake). Perform most of fermentation near the lower bound of the yeast lab’s suggested temperature range for the strain, but raise the temperature toward the end of fermentation to guarantee a dry finish. A low final gravity should also be encouraged by a moderate mash temperature, minimal crystal malt, and 5-10% (by extract) refined sugar. Residual sweetness gets in the way of hop bitterness, and can yield a DIPA that taste similar to a young American barleywine.

Ale and Joyce, Ale the cat not shown.I became distracted (playing with our two new kittens, Ale and Joyce) as the wort heated and as a result lost about a gallon to a boil-over. Rather than dilute or add malt extract, I just kept going; having four gallons of DIPA on tap is probably a better idea than five anyway. For Galaxy and Rakau all I could source was pellet hops, so I skipped the hop-back, and revived my old technique of adding additional hops to the kettle right at the start of chilling (after the hop-stand addition has 30 minutes to soak in the hot wort). Luckily the Galaxy smelled much fruitier and brighter than last time.

To make dry hopping a bit easier I have begun vacuum-sealing the dry hop additions on brew day. I tend to add many of the same varieties to both the boil and post-fermentation, so I simply weigh the additional hops and seal the one or two blended additions separately before resealing the bulk hops for storage. When I’m ready to dry hop I sanitize the mesh bag (or nylon stocking) and glass marbles that will weigh it down, and then add the pre-measured hops.

Double IPA NZ-AU

Recipe Specifics
-----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.00
Anticipated OG: 1.078
Anticipated SRM: 7.3
Anticipated IBU: 200.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
------------
85.9% - 13.75 lbs. American Pale Ale Malt
6.3% - 1.00 lbs. Wheat Malt
4.7% - 0.75 lbs. CaraPils
3.1% - 0.50 lbs. Table Sugar

Hops
-----
1.50 oz. Columbus (Whole, 15.00% AA) @ 60 min.
10 ml.    HopShot (Extract) @ 60 min.
1.50 oz. Galaxy (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 10 min.
1.50 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 10 min.
1.50 oz. Galaxy (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Hop-Stand
1.50 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Hop Stand
1.00 oz. Galaxy (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Chill-Start
1.00 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Chill-Start
3.00 oz. Galaxy (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
3.00 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

Extras
------
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Yeast
------
WYeast 1056 American Ale/Chico

Water Profile
-------------
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
----------------
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 153 F

Notes
------
Brewed 11/11/12 by myself

Briess Pale malt base.

Collected 7 gallons of 1.062 runnings, pre-sugar. 1.067 with the sugar added.

Lost about a gallon of wort to a boil-over

30 minute hop stand with the first dose of aroma hops, the second dose was added at the start of the chill.

Yeast harvested from the third batch of Hoppy American Wheat, about one cup of thin slurry. Chilled to 68 F, oxygenated for 45 seconds. Left at 64 F to ferment. Good activity by the following morning.

12/2/12 Added the first dose of dry hops (3 oz), bagged and weighted to the primary fermentor. Firm bitterness, good fruity hop character, slight toastiness from the base malt. FG=1.014 (83% AA, 8.4% ABV).

1/4/12 Tasting notes for a very solid beer, but the the hops didn't translate with the flavor combination/balance I wanted. Too much fruitiness, not enough anything else. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Aromatic Cream Ale Recipe

I’ve brewed a couple “International Session Alesover the years. These low-gravity, easy-drinking beers don't match any established style, and the inspiration for their flavors doesn't draw from a single nation's brewing tradition. They combine malts, yeast, and hops that are not traditionally brewed with in combination. The concept for this batch was inspired by a hoppy cream ale that Jacob (Modern Times' glorious leader) tasted at a homebrew club meeting a couple years ago. He and I kicked the recipe back-and-forth for about two months, as an option for a beer that we could turn around quickly, doesn’t involve an chic hops (e.g., Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic etc.), and that we’d still be excited to drink!

HopRocket, post-infusion
The malt bill isn’t too far from a modern/standard cream ale. It has an American pale malt base, with flaked corn for crispness and corny sweetness, and flaked barley and CaraPils for body and head retention. The hopping is mostly Cascade (fantastically-aromatic 8.3% AA 2012 harvest from Freshops) and Crystal, with a bit of Summit to intensify the dankness.

Fermentation was with WLP007 (Dry English Ale - Whitbread). I really like WLP002 (English Ale – Fuller’s strain), but it doesn't attenuate well enough to produce the crisp beer we are aiming for. WLP007 is a similarly flocculent, relatively neutral, English strain that should give us fermented and clear beer just as quickly, and it's also considerably more attenuative. The only problem with these English strains is that they tend to strip out more hop character from the wort than their less-flocculent American cousins. As a result I may have to adjust the bitterness upward on subsequent iterations.

When it comes to making profitable commercial beers the focus is on speed more than ingredient cost (although clearly that plays a part as well). Having a beer that takes 14 days from brewing to packaging seems pretty rapid, but if you can get that down to 10 days then it is possible to do 36 batches a year compared to 26 in a tank. At 30 bbls per batch, that is an extra 300 barrels (~75,000 16 oz cans) of production each year from one tank. That is without paying higher rent for a larger brewery, investing capital for additional tanks, etc. just more ingredients and cans.

The question is, will we be able to reduce production time while still brewing a beer that meets our standards? We don’t want a beer that is “Impressive given the constraints,” only “Great!” regardless of how long it took or what hops were used. This recipe is unlike anything I’d brewed before, so it will probably take a couple batches to dial in on something we’re completely happy with. For the first batch I didn't want to push the beer into the keg too quickly, we'll save that for the re-brew.

Aromatic Cream Ale

Recipe Specifics
--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.50
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated SRM: 3.1
Anticipated IBU: 37.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain
-------
78.9% - 7.50 lbs. American Pale Malt (2-row)
10.5% - 1.00 lbs. Flaked Corn
5.3% - 0.50 lbs. CaraPils
5.3% - 0.50 lbs. Flaked Barley

Hops
------
0.75 oz. Cascade (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ 20 min.
0.75 oz. Crystal (Whole, 6.15% AA) @ 15 min.
0.75 oz. Cascade (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ 10 min.
0.75 oz. Crystal (Whole, 6.15% AA) @ 5 min.
2.00 oz. Summit (Pellet, 15.6% AA) @ 0 min.
1.50 oz. Cascade (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ Hop-Back
1.50 oz. Crystal (Whole, 6.15% AA) @ Hop-Back
1.50 oz. Cascade (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.50 oz. Crystal (Whole, 6.15% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Summit (Pellet, 15.6% AA) @ Dry Hop

Extras
-------
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Yeast
-------
White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

Water Profile
---------------
Profile: Pale, Medium Hop

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Sacch Rest - 70 min @ 153 F

Notes
-------
11/3/12 Made a ~.6 L starter on my stir-plate.

Brewed 11/4/12 by myself.

DC Tap cut 50% with distilled. 6 g each CaCl and gypsum split between the mash and sparge.

Batch sparged. Collected 7 gallons of 1.038 runnings.

Chilled to 65 F, 45 seconds of pure O2, and pitched the starter. Left at 65 F to ferment.

Small amount of activity after 12 hours, strong after 24.

11/8/12 Gravity only down to 1.025, still appears that strong fermentation is on-going.

11/15/12 Added half of the dry hops to the primary fermentor loose, as fermentation appears finished.

11/18/12 Racked the seeminly clear beer to a flushed keg, added the second half of the dry hops, bagged and weighted. Hooked up to CO2.

12/15/12 Tasting notes of this beer, both on tap and in bottles.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brett Bottle Conditioned Single - Five Way Tasting

Rather than talk in depth about each of the five variants of my second iteration of a Brett-bottle-conditioned Belgian Single individually, I'll give general impressions on the differences between them. They were bottled in early August, so they are still relatively young. 

Five variations on the Brett Finished Single, and the original on the far right.
Appearance - They all look very similar. Each is a stunningly-clear light golden yellow. Thin white head, lacks the thick mousse-like rocky head I'd prefer, despite the addition of wheat this time around. None of them gushed, or appear to be over-carbonated in the glass despite the Brett activity.

Aroma:

Plain (Brett-free) is lightly fruity (pear, and faint banana), with a significant smooth/clean malt component.

Wyeast Brett B provides a slightly funky-earthy character. Not much malt or complexity to speak of.

White Labs Brett Trois has a fruitier aroma, with a more rounded, agreeable balance to the aromatics, but they are somewhat muted.

CB1 already has a classic aged-out Orval character. Very farmyard, but not overpoweringly funky or in any way off-putting.

CB2 is just as potent, it adds some fruitiness to the CB1's funk. Really potent, complex, and enticing.

Taste:

Plain is a bit bland, it doesn't have the brightness or snappiness of the original batch.

Wyeast Brett B has more funk in the flavor than it did in the nose, nicely saturated continuing into the finish.

White labs Brett Trois is shorter, brighter, and not very funky. Some tropical aspects, but without the hops of the IPA I fermented with it, it doesn't taste nearly as much like pineapple juice.

CB1 Really funky in the flavor, more so than in the nose. A bit of the dreaded urinal, not bad, but not great either...

CB2 Well balanced, slight tartness, fruit and funk together, like an amped up version of Wyeast Brett B combined with White Labs Trois. Excellent!

Mouthfeel:

Plain is a bit flatter than I'd like it ideally.

Wyeast Brett B is solid, slightly prickly.

White Labs Brett Trois seems to be the most carbonated.

CB1 is similar to the Brett Trois, but not quite as crisp.

CB2 is similar to the WY Brett B, could use a bit more carbonation.

Driankability/Notes:

Plain is a fine beer, but it needs to be crisper and maybe slightly drier to be great. The second to last bottle of the original batch I opened has held up really well in comparison.

Wyeast Brett B an intro to funky beers, not too aggressive, soft. It should develop with more time as the White Labs Brett B did in my first batch of this recipe (eventually reaching mini-BOS at the final round of the 2012 NHC).

White Labs Brett Trois is really nice, wonderfully fruity, really stands out as unique compared to the rest.

CB1 is a bit funkier than I like, despite its young age. Not entirely unpleasant, but it obscures all of the other characteristics of the beer.

CB2 The winner for my palate, complex, balanced, really delicious. This is a winner, especially considering how young it is. I'll be interested to see how it is in another three or six months.

Conclusions:

It is impressive how much funk/Brett character the strains (CB1 and CB2) Jason isolated from Cantillon produced in such a short amount of time. I'm trying to talk Jacob into releasing something similar to this experiment as a box/gift set or six-pack for Modern Times (3725 Greenwood St. San Diego, CA 92110), same base beer finished with a variety of Brett strains (he doesn't seem to need much convincing).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hoppy Wheat with March Pump, HopRocket, and Therminator

Running my chilling rig to sanitize.The third variation of the Modern Times' Hoppy American Wheat only needed a few minor tweaks. The second version was a bit too light/thin, so we raised the original gravity, increased the mash temperature, and boosted the amount of CaraVienna. A slightly more aggressive hopping rate, not to mention the fresh harvests of Citra and Amarillo, should be enough to balance. That’s about all I’ve got to say about the recipe itself that I haven't said before.

A few months ago I made the switch from the immersion chiller I’d used since I started homebrewing in 2005, to a newfangled Therminator plate-chiller. To use it, I finally put into service the March pump I bought a few years ago and mounted inside a plastic tool chest (inspired by Ryan Lockard's BYO article). In-line chilling also allowed me to start using a hop-back to cram even more hop aromatics into beers. I'm glad I didn't do a write-up of the new equipment immediately, because brewing a half-dozen batches with this setup has taught me a few things.

HopRocket stuffed with Amarillo and Citra.Unlike an immersion chiller, which you can throw into the boil for the last 15 minutes, this setup takes a bit more time and effort to sanitize. While the wort boils, I connect all of the pieces with fittings and heat-resistant hoses (pump > hop-back > chiller), and cycle a few gallons of hot PBW solution through. After draining the cleaner, I cycle a couple changes of hot water through to remove any residue. This is followed by Star San. An acid based sanitizer is especially valuable in this case because its low pH prevents beerstone from accumulating in the tiny capillaries of the plate chiller.

The keggle I have on load from my friend Pete.After draining the Star San I open the hop back (HopRocket) and put two to three ounces of whole hops inside (pellets would clog the screen). I do my best to break up any clumps of hops to allow easier flow. Before I got the HopRocket I'd read a number of complaints, but I’ve never has an issue achieving a reasonable rate of flow even without using the bell/dome that holds less than an ounce of hops.

Luckily for me, my friend Pete recently moved and as a result I borrowed his keggle while he gets situated. Having a kettle with a valve makes priming the pump simple. When the boil is finished I usually toss in a couple ounces of hops for a hop stand. I allow the hops to steep in the hot wort for 15-20 minutes while I connect everything. This keggle has a MacGyver’d hop strainer which works well for whole hops, but I bag any pellets added to the boil.

I connect the hose that leads to the inlet of the pump to the kettle. Opening the kettle's ball valve completely and cracking the pump’s ball valve allows the pump head to fill with wort. It is ideal to mount a March pump so that the inlet is at 6 o'clock, and the outlet is at 12. This orientation allows the pump to be primed easily. It is also smart to always plug-in a pump to a GFI (Ground Fault Indicator) outlet to avoid the risk of electrocution. If you don't have one wired in where you brew, you can pick up a portable one (like the one I use).

March pump mounted in a plastic tool chest.The March pump has two speeds, on and off. As a result you’ll need a ball valve to control the rate of flow. It is best to have a pump pushing against the valve, rather than pulling through it so that it doesn’t run dry and lose its prime. When using the hop-back it is important to open the valve a very small amount initially. This gives time for the hop-back to fill without forcing the hops up against the top screen. Unlike most other hop-backs, the HopRocket fills from the bottom, so the wort filters up through the hops and out the top. This causes any trapped air to rise and be forced out. As a result the near-boiling wort passes through the hops, and is immediately chilled without a chance for the volatile oils to be driven off.

HopRocket in action; the wort enters at the bottom, flows through the hops, and out the top.For the chiller it is a good idea to run the chill water full-blast even before you start your pump even though the wort may not reach the chiller for a couple minutes. That way you won't forget or have to run away from the rig while it is runnings. Ensure you have your chiller positioned in the indicated orientation to maximize the contact of copper separated hot wort and cold water. Once wort is running into the sanitized fermentor, you can adjust the pump's ball valve based on the final wort temperature (the slower you run the wort the colder it will become). Remember that no chiller that relies on ground water can cool the wort below the temperature of that water. As a result, in the summer I still rely on ice-bath pre-chiller to get down to my desired pitching temperature.

When the kettle runs dry you’ll have at least a half gallon of wort trapped in the hoses/hop-back/chiller. I turn off the pump immediately, running it without liquid can cause damage. I then kink the hose that runs from the pump to hop-back and disconnect it from the pump side. It is especially important to have a relatively easy to disconnect fitting here (I use Blichmann Quick Connectors). I then lift the hop-back, turning it over to allow the wort to drain via-gravity through the chiller and into the fermentor. Done.

Therminator chilling near-boiling wort to 68 F at a rate of about half a gallon per minute.After turning off the chill-water and aerating/pitching the wort, it’s time to clean. I have an back-flush assembly that allows me to run water through the wort outlet of the chiller, forcing any bits of hops or trub back out the way they came. Then I run it the other way. Everything else is hosed off/out. Ideally I’d probably re-run the PBW and Star San cycles, but I usually don’t have the effort at that stage of the brew day.

From tasting the pre-dry hoped beer, there is definitely more hop character than I ever got from even massive flame-out additions. However, after a big dose of dry hops, I’m not sure that the difference is discernible. When sanitized correctly, this closed system lowers the small chance of unwanted airborne microbes causing problems. It is especially beneficial if you brew larger batch sizes because the set-up and clean-up are the same, and the actual chilling usually takes less than two minutes per gallon (and will be even faster as my ground water continues to cool with the weather).

Hopefully seeing how I'm chilling will help those of you considering a similar setup. This certainly isn't the only way to use this equipment, but it is what has worked for me thus far.

Fortunate Islands #3

Recipe Specifics
The hop-infused and chilled wort flowing into the fermenation bucket.--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.50
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated SRM: 5.5
Anticipated IBU: 47.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65 %
Wort Boil Time: 105 Minutes

Grain
-------
54.8% - 5.75 lbs. Wheat Malt
38.1% - 4.00 lbs. American Pale Malt (2-row)
7.1% - 0.75 lbs. CaraVienna

Hops
------
5 ml - HopShot (Extract) @ 65 min.
2.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Hop-Back
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Hop-Back
4.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

Chilling rig in action!
Yeast
-------
White Labs WLP001 California Ale

Water Profile
----------------
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
------------------
Sacch - 60 min @ 155 F

Notes
-------
10/26/12 Made a 1.25 L starter on my stir-late.

10/27/12 Brewed by myself.

Filtered tap water cut with 5 gallons of distilled. 4 g of CaCl, and 7 g of gypsum split between the mash and batch sparge. Sparged with 175 F water.

Collected 7.5 gallons of 1.039 runnings.

Flame-out hops left in the wort for a ~15 minute hop stand. Chilled to 68 F, aerated for 45 seconds, and pitched the yeast.

Noticed some small balls of hop extract at the bottom of the pot while cleaning up The Hop extract was also a bit darker than it usually looks...

Left at 63 F to ferment.

11/7/12 Added half the dry hops, loose to the primary fermentor.

11/11/12 Kegged with the additional bagged dry hops. Gravity down to 1.013.

12/5/12 I'm about ready to call this one there. Great hops in the nose and mouth, and well balanced.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Malt Whisky Barrel Rye Stout Recipe

Small dot of concentrated malt whisky, pushed out of the oak staves by the pressure of the CO2 inside.
With the spiced Rumble-barrel-aged Imperial Oatmeal Porter filling the role of something rounded, sweet, and dessert-like, I wanted to barrel-aged another dark beer that would be sharper and more aggressive. For the second fill of the Balcones Malt Whisky barrel I brewed an Imperial Rye Stout. It includes a firmer hop bitterness (despite similar IBUs), and some really dark grains to provide a sharper roast.

The pressure inside the barrel from the dissolved carbon-dioxide of the beers has pushed some concentrated spirits from the wood. It forms small dark spots of sticky liquid on the exterior of the barrels. This is something I first read about on Sean Paxton's blog years ago, but didn't see for myself until recently. Their flavor is amazing, like a condensed whisky extract (oak, vanilla, and char), minus the alcohol.

One of the things that really gets me excited about a big stout is a full, creamy, oily, and viscous mouthfeel. The Russian Imperial Stouts that achieve this through dextrins alone tend to be too sweet for my tastes, especially after a couple years of aging cuts their hop bitterness. To ensure that wouldn’t be the fate of this batch, I added two pounds of flaked rye, which provides body without excessive sweetness. This will be especially valuable as at 1.080 this beer actually started with slightly less carbohydrates than some vintages of Three Floyds Dark Lord finish with (I’m not kidding).

Rye malt on the left, pale barley malt on the right.
Rye is one of those ingredients whose flavor is hard to describe. The Bruery's Rugbrød has one of the most intense rye flavors of any beer I have tasted, but all that means is that it has a particular toasty character. I find rye malt (pictured next to pale barley) to have a more intense flavor contribution than un-malted rye, but this recipe also includes chocolate rye. Despite it's name, this roasted malt is much paler than standard chocolate malt and dehusked, giving it a mellower flavor contribution.

I moved the Rye Stout to the barrel as soon as I determined the Weizen Trippelbock that was its first resident had extracted enough oak and booze (three weeks was already pushing it). This is the last of the four clean beers that will be aged in these two 20 L barrels before I turn them sour (White Labs new WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend arrived today). All told I’ll end up with about nine cases of barrel-aged strong-beer, which should hold me over for at least a few years. I’ll certainly be ready for the DC Homebrewers February High Gravity meeting, if not 2013 then definitely by 2014…

Whiskey Barrel Rye Stout

Recipe Specifics
--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 20.50
Anticipated OG: 1.080
Anticipated SRM: 45.4
Anticipated IBU: 63.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 120 Minutes

Grain
-------
75.6% - 15.50 lbs. American Pale 2-Row Malt
9.8% - 2.00 lbs. Flaked Rye
4.9% - 1.00 lbs. Briess Roasted Barley (300 L)
3.7% - 0.75 lbs. Chocolate Rye
3.7% - 0.75 lbs. Crystal 120L
1.2% - 0.25 lbs. English Chocolate Malt
1.2% - 0.25 lbs. English Roasted Barley (550 L)

Hops
-------
3.00 oz. Palisade (Pellet, 7.35% AA) @ 60 min.

Extras
-------
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Yeast
-------
Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Water Profile
----------------
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
-------------
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 156 F

Notes
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9/28/12 Made a 1.6 L starter on the stir-plate.

9/30/12 Brewed by myself.

Borrowed Pete's Barley Crusher because mine had been having problems feeding grain.

Room temperature pH of the mash was 5.1, so I added 3 g of baking soda (enough to raise the mash water by 72 ppm Carbonate and 27 ppm sodium), and raise the pH to 5.4.

Batch sparged (unaltered water). Collected 8.5 gallons of 1.063 runnings. A bit quicker boil-off than expected, added 1 qrt of water with 15 min left in the boil to compensate.

Chilled to 64 F and pitched the un-decanted starter. Left at 62 F to begin fermentation. Good activity by the following morning.

10/28/12 Racked to the triple-near-boiling-rinsed Balcones Malt Whisky barrel (post-Trippelbock). Left at basement temperature, ~65 F, to age. Finished at 1.024.

11/25/12 Has developed some excess carbonation, switched to an airlock.

12/30/12 Bottled with 2.25 oz of table sugar. Ended up all the way down at 1.015. A bit thin, but otherwise tastes pretty good.

3/20/13 Tasting of this young brash stout. Moderate barrel character, firm roast and hop bitterness. Should age nicely.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wheat Triplebock - Final Tasting

Always hard to convince myself to open the last bottle of any batch, but I had a good excuse to pop the final Wheat Tripelbock tonight (I still have one bottle of the bourbon-soaked oaked version left). BYO wanted a better picture of the finished beer, which Nathan and I featured in an article we submitted about dark lagers for the February issue (which will be my first cover story I'm told!).

A snifter of a Wheat Triplebock, beautiful!
Wheat Triplebock

Appearance – Very dark brown, bordering on black in the wide bowl of my snifter. It has red highlights when held at an angle to the light. Unsurprisingly after a few years in the bottle, the beer is crystal clear. The thin tan head has big bubbles, but still maintains excellent retention.

Smell – Rich and complex. Dominant caramel, but it doesn’t smell burnt. Dark fruit as well, but not as one-note RAISIN like Special B can be. As it warms there is a whiff of alcohol occasionally, but otherwise it is very clean. Despite its age I don’t pick up any oxidation.

Taste – Starts with the caramel and plums from the nose. The middle is dominated by dense bready/toasty malt, Munich especially. Hint of unsweetened cocoa in the finish, a nice twist on the standard dark German beer. Still tastes remarkably fresh for a beer brewed in 2008. Plenty of sweetness, but the alcohol and light roast cut through it well.

Mouthfeel – Thick and full, with soft carbonation. Really rich.

Drinkability & Notes – Much gentler and more balanced than it was a few years ago. Rather than being close to cloying the beer seems drier, despite the fading hop bitterness. This batch appears to have a lot more color than the new version I recently racked from a whisky barrel into a keg for lagering (it has 2% less Extra Dark Crystal).

If you are interested in reading the article about dark lagers, then subscribe to BYO (through my affiliate link ideally). The article includes tips from the brewer that inspired this beer (Steve Berthel of The Livery), as well as Scandinavian brewer extraordinaire Anders Kissmeyer talking Baltic porter, and unstoppable medal winning machine Jason Oliver of Devil’s Backbone and Czech-brewing-encyclopedia Evan Rail philosophizing about decoctions and tmavé.

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