Monday, July 25, 2016

Beer Recipe Design: First Time

My in-depth recipe design post generated enough interest last November to already land it as my 7th most view post of all time! However, several people rightly pointed out that some of the steps were overkill for a new homebrewer working on their first few all-grain recipes. So here is my simplified version at around 30% the length!

Design a Beer Recipe in 10 Easy Steps

1. Select a style you want to brew. Read the BJCP Guidelines, as well as relevant blogs (the list of those I follow), magazine articles, and books (my book reviews). Drink fresh examples and visit the breweries’ websites to get ideas for ingredients to use and avoid.

2. Determine if there is anything required for the style that you do not have available (fermentation temperature, ingredients, time etc.). If there is, pick a new style for now!

3. Select a batch size, the amount of wort you want to finish the boil with.

4. Determine the malt bill:

    Select a base malt suitable for the
    style:

       • American 2-row brewers malt
       for American styles.

       • English pale ale (including
       varieties like Maris Otter) for
       English styles.

       • Pilsner for pale Belgian and
       German styles.

       • Vienna or Munich for darker
       Belgian and German styles.

    Select up to two specialty malts to achieve the desired flavor profile. Use .1 lb/gallon (.012 kg/L)
    for a light flavor or .2 lb/gallon (.024 kg/L) for a strong flavor:

       • Crystal malts add honey sweetness on the pale end
       (10-20L), caramel in the middle (40-60L), and
       dark fruit into charred sugar at the dark end (80-
       150L, including CaraAroma, special B, etc.).

       • Toasted into roasted malts start bready (dark
       Munich), to biscuit/cracker (Victory, amber, and
       biscuit), burnt toast (brown), coffee (pale chocolate,
       Kiln Coffee), chocolate (chocolate, roasted barley),
       and finally char (black malt, black barley).
       Dehusked roasted malts (Carafa Special, Blackprinz)
       have a mellower flavor with less acridness than
       other malts of a similar color.

       • Flaked or malted grains other than barley can
       provide body (e.g., wheat, rye, and oats) or make
       the beer crisper (e.g., rice and corn) depending on
       their protein content.

       • Up to 20% of the fermentables can be derived from
       sugar if the style calls for it. Select table sugar
       for pale beers (e.g., tripel) where you want to dilute
       the malt flavor, and dark candi syrup for darker beers
       (e.g., dubble and Belgian strong dark) where you
       want to add a unique flavor.

       Pay attention to the maltster not just the generic type of malt, and taste the grain before adding it.

    The amount of malt/sugar should be enough to produce an original gravity within the style’s
    range. As a general rule at 70% efficiency use: 1.5 lbs of grain per gallon (.18 kg/L) of finished
    wort for a session beer (1.038), 2 lbs/gal (.24 kg/L) for a moderate gravity beer (1.050), 3 lbs/gal
    (.36 kg/L) for a strong beer (1.075), and 4 lbs/gal (.48kg/L) for a really strong beer (1.100). With
    75% attenuation the alcohol by volume will be approximately the last three digits with a decimal
    after the first two (e.g., 1.100 is 10.0% ABV). A hydrometer and recipe calculator will help you
    track and predict your original gravity based on your efficiency.

5. Select a yeast strain – White Labs and Wyeast both provide charts suggesting which of their strains work best for each style. However, if you aren't interested in making a starter, dry yeast is an excellent option! Plan to start fermentation at the low end of the lab's suggested range to prevent excess fusel alcohol and ester production. Once fermentation begins to slow, allow it to warm so that it finishes near the high end of the range to ensure complete attenuation and clean up.

6. Mash with 1.5 quarts of water (bottled, carbon-filtered, or metabisulfite-treated) for each pound of grain. Target 152°F (67°C) for moderate attenuation (near the middle of the yeast lab’s stated range), 156°F (69°C) to lower the attenuation, or 148°F (64°C) to increase attenuation. Fermentable sugars will also increase attenuation above the stated range even with a moderate mash temperature. Sparge to collected the required pre-boil volume (pre-boil volume = post-boil volume + evaporation + losses to hops/trub).

7. Select a hop variety based on the flavor descriptions or your preferences. For one gallon at flame-out add 1 oz (28 g) for a strong aroma, .5 oz (14 g) for a present aroma, or .25 oz (7 g) at 5 minutes for a subtle aroma, or none if you want to showcase malt/yeast. Use a recipe calculator to determine the weight of hops to add at 60 minutes to hit the target IBUs based on the style guideline and hop alpha acid percentage (AA%). Try to keep the ratio of IBUs in line with the style, i.e., if your gravity is near the top of the guideline so to should your IBUs and vice versa. Add a .5-1 oz (14-28 g) dry hop per gallon as fermentation slows for additional aromatics if desired. Always smell your hops before adding them to learn what the aroma should be for each variety.

8. Add spices, fruits, or other flavorings at the end of the boil after chilling the wort to 180°F (82°C). This is hot enough to kill any unwanted microbes, but gentle enough not to degrade the flavor excessively.

9. After fermentation is complete, bottle with the amount of sugar suggested by a priming sugar calculator taking into account the volume of beer in the bottling bucket, and the highest temperature the beer reached after the end of fermentation.

10. Take notes, taste, and rebrew based on your results! Great recipes come from knowing your ingredients and process. Learning how to fit together flavors from a variety of places to create an overall experience that suit your palate! You may end up prefering a dubbel brewed with Maris Otter, but best to stick to tradition when you are starting out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Westvleteren" Blond with Brett!


Westy Blond clone bottle conditioned with White Labs Trois VraiWe all suffer from brewer’s block once in awhile. After more than a decade intermittently standing next to a mash tun, I’ve come up with seven tricks for coming up with something to brew:

1. Tweak a favorite recipe
2. Highlight a new ingredient
3. Research a style you’ve never brewed
4. Brew a proven recipe that strays from your standard approach
5. Mash-up two styles to create something unique
6. Approach a style as brewers from another country would
7. Imagine a collaboration brew from two favorite breweries

This recipe was a combination of techniques #4 and #7, a what-if Trappist collaboration between Westvleteren and Orval! Both abbeys brew fantastic Belgian pale ales. Westy Blond/Green is clean, with a blend of banana, pear, fresh maltiness, and firm noble hops. Orval’s eponymous beer is similar when fresh (a bit more hop aroma, a bit less yeast character), but slowly becomes funky as the Brett works in the bottle (I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that they are beginning to age with Brett and then pasteurize... anyone have confirmation of this sad development?).

I split the 10-gallon batch, with half served fresh on tap and the rest split at bottling between WLP648 Brett Trois Vrai and my house saison culture (just shipped a vial of it to Jeff at Bootleg Biology for analysis and possible propagation…). I knew I was onto something with the repeatedly repitched microbe blend when I got a series of texts and emails from my friends Jacob and Andrew at Modern Times wondering what delicious "tart" saison I had left in the cold box... it was a bottle of Alsatian Saison filled directly from the tap before I visited a year ago!

I actually preferred this beer just a couple months after bottling, when the Brett was apparent, but before it went feral. This batch is closing in on six-months in the bottle, but a little splash of the clean version from the tap brings back the 4-vinylguiacol and isoamyl acetate that the Brett so ruthlessly removed!

Westy (Orval'd) Blond

Westy Blond clone bottle conditioned with my House Saison CultureAppearance – Fraternal twins, pale golden with some chill haze. The heads pour up above the rim, but settle down to wispy sheets in a couple minutes. The House Saison's being slightly more durable, likely owing to more carbon dioxide nucleation.

Smell:
Trois Vrai – Combo of leather, bruised red apple, and aspirin. Not much malt or hop character gets through the Brett. The primary yeast still adds a touch of light banana.

House Saison – Less fruity, more funky. Less distinct: hay, faint pineapple, pepper, and garden soil. Occasional notes of a rougher Brett character that is tough to pin down, the price for noticeable Brett character after a month!

Taste:
Trois Vrai – Similar blend of fruit and funk to the nose, with the addition of a faint Belgian pale malt toast. The finish has just a hint of banana bread. Pleasant, but not captivating, until the second pour with a bit of yeast stirred up (which added more depth).

House Saison – Slightly acidic in comparison to its brother, not sour, but brighter and snappier. Finishes with some toastiness as well. A touch of melon, really lively and bright!

Mouthfeel:
Trois Vrai – Thin, dry, and moderately carbonated. A Belgian single with Brett... not much body expcted, but it isn't obnoxiously thin.

House Saison – I enjoy the slightly higher carbonation, hopefully it is about done at six months at cellar temps (only a six-pack left anyway). Otherwise similar.

Drinkability & Notes – I enjoy both of them... but the House Saison blend is the winner for my palate! I liked it even more before the Brett completely took over (I was briefly thinking best batch ever), but it is still delicious as is. The Trois performed well, but I enjoyed it more as a primary strain!

Changes РAs with the clean-version, I would swap out some pale for more Pils to soften the maltiness. A small dose of CaraPils or wheat to enhance the head retention might be nice as well. This would have been nice to have in a keg, so I could have chilled it down after 6-8 weeks when it still had a m̩lange of Belgian yeast, hoppiness, and Brett. Interested to take advantage of the bottles to see how it continue to evolve!

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