Monday, April 1, 2013

Three Modern Times "West" Test Batches

Last week was the Craft Brewers Conference here in DC. I didn't attend, but I had a blast hanging out with people and drinking excellent beers. A few highlights:

On Tuesday night I spoke at a hop symposium at Smith Commons with a wide variety of other brewers and homebrewers. I had a good time, but the venue (loud) didn't lend itself to the sort deep intellectual back and forth I'd hoped for. I enjoyed drinking a glass of New Belgium Felix Love (their unblended sour base beer) for my trouble though.

Thursday I had the guys from Jester King (Jeff, Ron, and Jordan) over for dinner. We drink homebrew from Nathan and I alternating with their beer (including a test bottling of a sour with 200 lbs of raspberries in a single barrel - wonderfully jammy). Those guys are really killing it, so many interesting flavor combinations. We tried beers that melded Brett with hops, smoke, spices, plus interesting wood (Spanish cedar) and barrel (gin) treatments. We even discussed brewing a three way collaborative beer with them, Right Proper, and Modern Times!

On the way to drop Jacob (Modern Times' Founder) off at the airport on Saturday we stopped for lunch at Meridian Pint. There we sampled Nathan's first two commercial batches of WildCraft soda and a few of the many local collaborative beer they had on tap. The most interesting of the beers was Barleyweisse, a recreation of a pre-prohibition sub-3% all-barley "Berliner weisse" that Mike Stein found a reference to in an obscure book about the history of brewing in Maryland (this batch was brewed with Meridian Pint's Tim Prendergast at Union Craft Brewing).

With Modern Times getting a day closer to opening every day, the "actual" brewers have taken over brewing the test batches of clean beer (I'll get to brew more sours again, thank goodness!). Jacob brought along bottles of three of their test batches for me to taste. But before I get to the notes and recipes I need to talk about the Kickstarter campaign!

Over the last year plus, hopefully you've enjoyed following my role in the Modern Times recipe development process. The grand opening is starting to feel like it's right around the corner, the recent arrival of the brewing system was the latest hurdle crossed. Jacob did a stellar job creating incentives for the campaign. The clothing looks terrific, and the League of Partygoers & Elegant People should be a great way to get involved if you are local (including first notification when bottles of sour beers go on sale at the tasting room). There are also some eccentric rewards including getting a velvet portrait commissioned of you for the tasting room, a Christmas light tour with one of the brewers, and joining me for a test-batch brew day in DC! The money will be spent to pimp the tasting room and for two things near and dear to my heart, barrels to age sour beer and lab equipment to ensure those microbes don't cause a problem for the clean beers!

Now back to the test batches. They were brewed by two of the brewers. Alex Tweet was previously at Ballast Point, where he developed some weird/delicious beers like Indra Kunindra (he also recently let me know that his first batch of homebrew was based on one of my recipes). Derek Freese was previously the brewer at Monkey Paw (and before that an avid homebrewer). I got to hang out with Derek and drink a few of his beers while at GABF last year. I came away impressed by both by his knowledge and enthusiasm for brewing, and by what a fun guy he is. Looking forward to working with them (and with the head brewer, Matt Walsh, as well). I'll do my best to keep you updated of continued progress on the recipe front as they are brewed!

Black House Point Loma #1 (PL1)

In one day they brewed three variations on this recipe. This was picked as the clear winner by the executive tasting panel, so it is the one Jacob brought out.

OG = 1.060
FG = 1.018
IBUs = 33

Batch Size: 5.25 gal
Boil Time: 60 min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %

56.0% - 7 lbs US Pale Malt (2 Row) 
12.0% - 1 lbs 8.0 oz Flaked Oats
8.0% - 1 lbs Pale Chocolate Malt 
6.0% - 12.0 oz Caramel/Crystal 60
6.0% - 12.0 oz Carastan
4.0% - 8.0 oz Biscuit Malt
4.0% - 8.0 oz Debittered Black Malt
4.0% - 8.0 oz Roasted Barley
Mash 153 F

Magnum @ 60 min


1.75 oz of crushed coffee steeped for 24 hours before bottling.

Tasting Notes

Appearance – Stout-ish, decent head retention.

Smell – More coffee and chocolate than my most recent version. Could go back to 2 oz of coffee for 24 hours for more “wow!”

Taste – Thinner, more complex maltiness. Needs more sweetness, and also more hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel – Thinner, slight tannic. More oats (16-17%), and a higher mash temperature next time.

Drinkability & Notes – Great nose, flavor and body a bit lacking.

Blazing World PL1

With the fourth attempt overall at this recipe I think we've finally hit upon a winning hop combo. Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe have been there all along, but we tried them with three hops, Palisade most recently, without nailing it. It seems that Mosaic did what the others couldn't!

OG = 1.068
FG = ?
IBUs = 157.5

Batch Size: 6.50 gal
Boil Time: 90 min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %

83.1% - 13.75lb Pale Malt
15.1% - 2.5lb Munich Malt
1.1% - 2.9 oz Roasted Barley
0.7% - 1.9 oz Carafa III
Mash 149 F

1.50 oz. Columbus (Whole, 15.00% AA) @ 90 min.
5 ml HopShot (Extract) @ 90 min.
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ 25 min.
3.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Hop Stand
1.00 oz. Mosaic @ Hop Stand
2.00 oz. Mosaic @ Hop Back
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Hop Back
3.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.50 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Mosaic @ Dry Hop


Tasting Notes

Appearance – Could be lighter, although just slightly. Might just be a clarity issue.

Smell – Big Nelson nose. Fruit, dank. Big “wow!”

Taste – Could be slightly drier, crisper. Saturated, very Nelson heavy. Not just fruit some pine as well.

Mouthfeel – Fuller, sweeter. For the next batch we'll either add a small amount of sugar, or reduce the Munich and mash cooler.

Drinkability & Notes – Really damn close to perfect other than the body/sweetness which should be a simple fix.

Red Rye IPA PL1

Jacob was able to procure a lot of 2012 harvest Simcoe so he wanted to see how the malt bill from this recipe would handle the switch from Cacade/Sterling to all Simcoe. The other half of this batch saw an accelerated 24 hour dry hopping on a Stirhog Black Maxx Stir Plate. Apparently the aroma was fine, but the vigorous agitation extracted some unpleasant polyphenols or tannins from the hops.

OG = 1.065
FG =?
IBUs = 91.6

Batch Size: 6.50 gal
Boil Time: 60 min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %

73.8 % - 12.5 lbs American Pale Malt
17.7 % - 3 lbs Rye Malt
4.4 % - 12.0 oz Carared
3.0 % - 8.0 oz Crystal Rye
1.1 % - 2.9 oz Chocolate Rye Malt
Mash 152 F

1.00 oz. Columbus (Whole, 15.00% AA) @ 60 min.
5 ml HopShot (Extract) @ 60 min.
3.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole% AA) @ Hop Stand
3.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole% AA) @ Hop Back
4.50 oz. Simcoe (Whole% AA) @ Dry Hop


Tasting Notes

Appearance – Not as bright/red as previous batch, this one is a bit duller/browner. May just be a clarity issue.

Smell – Big pine/tropical Simcoe, not much else. Bright, fresh, not green or grassy. Very nice.

Taste – Could be stickier, nice hop character, solid bitterness. Malt comes through more than in the nose.

Mouthfeel – Good carbonation but it could be a little fuller.

Drinkability & Notes – Happy with the direction this is headed. I just worry that the Simcoe overwhelms the malt. We just need to figure out how “IPA” we want this one to be.


Jeff said...

Mike, I had the chance to try these versions (although I had the Lomaland Saison instead of the Back House) a few weeks ago at a MT brewery tour. The Blazing World is just outstanding. I loved that beer, personally I wouldn't change much if at all. The red rye IPA had an amazing nose but faded and was slightly sweet for my taste, i'd appreciate it more if it was slightly lighter. The Lomaland is gonna be amazing. The beer was ultra fresh and had a lingering yeast bitterness still. Its funny, I've been following your blog since 2007, and now my friend and fellow homebrew club member Derek Freese is brewing as part of Modern Times. Small, wonderful world! After all these years reading about your sour beers, I will finally have a chance to try them!

Unknown said...

Do you know what the FG was on the Black House?

danger said...

wait... they put a full fermenter with dry hops on a stir plate?

Unknown said...

I stopped by Union Craft Brewing's Brewery on Saturday and they had the Barleyweisse on tap as well as the collab beer they did with DC Brau (I think) Yonder Cities. Both were excellent. I didn't know what to expect with a 2.7% beer, but I was throughly impressed.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Jeff, glad you enjoyed them! If the recipes are close on our poorly controlled homebrewing systems, I'm confident the results on the big system will be excellent!

I had the FG for the stout posted, it was just labeled IBUs... fixed now. Still waiting for Derek to get back to me with the FGs for the other two.

Yep! Commercial breweries generally agitate their dry hopping beer to increase contract and speed extraction. Pumping is the most common method, but we're looking into a variety of options.

Anonymous said...

I see with your hoppy recipes that you've changed to one late hop addition instead of "hop-bursting". Have you noticed any difference in hop flavor or aroma?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I never really got much from hop bursting, the times I've tried it the results were fine, but a hop stand seems to be a much more effective way to add a saturated hop flavor.

Brian Kaplan said...

I live a mile from MTB, so I thought it would be fun to brew your Red Rye recipe. Modified it a bit, didn't use hopshot or hopback, used Cascade AND Simcoe, but anticipated IBU was slightly lower than your recipe. WAS! I did this as a half size batch. Divided everything in half EXCEPT the hops by accident. Supposedly should be about 150 IBU's, but who's counting at that point. Anyway, realized in time to pitch WLP051 (CA V)thinking the residual sweetness and body it brings might just balance this into a really BIG version (OG was higher as well)of RRPL1. Was pissed, now curious. Only thing to change at this point is dry hopping. Ideas?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Honestly, doubling the bitterness won't have much of an effect considering it was pretty close to saturated (especially considering the high OG). I tend to stick with similar hops for late boil and dry hopping unless I have a plan otherwise. If it turns out well, make sure to drop some by the brewery for Derek/Matt/Alex/Jacob!

Andy Skol said...

Do you have any more info on the stir plate dry hopping? I'm very interested in stir plate dry hopping, but this is concerning:

"the vigorous agitation extracted some unpleasant polyphenols or tannins from the hops."

As I understand polyphenols contribute to perceived bitterness, which is not necessarily bad, but can also be an unpleasant (perhaps band-aid) flavor. How unpleasant was this, and do you think it's avoidable in stir-plate dry hopping? 24 hours with Simcoe does not seem that bad.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I didn't get to taste the test batch that was dry hopped on the stir-plate, but I was told it was really astringent. A lower speed setting would probably help.

Andy Skol said...

Thanks for the quick response. Do you think this is a viable method of getting more intensity from dry hopping? I'm trying to decide whether to move toward the big stir plate or a hopback.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Some sort of agitation seems to be a reasonable option to increase the aromatic yield, but I don't know that a stir-plate is the answer. On the homebrew scale the best answer for me is to just add more dry hops! A hop stand, dry hops after a few days of fermentation, and then more in the keg gets me as much hop aroma as the best commercial DIPAs. If I have to spend an extra $4 on hops, I don't really mind.

Andy Skol said...

Great point, and agreed - I have been able to get lots of aromatics too by adding more hops. I'll stick with that for now. Have you noticed big advantages to using a hopback? I am already doing a hop stand and dry hopping, though only in the secondary.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I really need to do a batch with just bittering and the hopback (no flameout or dry hop) to see how much character it really does add. I haven't noticed a huge leap in my hoppy beers after I started brewing with it though.

Unknown said...

How do you achieve a consistent flaveor and aroma on the black house? tried the one day steeping before kegging/bottling ones have great aromas and flavors, other not so much (more when there is in constant serving in the case of kegged beer)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Consistent coffee beer requires consistent coffee. One big advantage Modern Times has is that they roast their own coffee. At home, sensory is the key. You need to taste the beer and extent aging and/or add more coffee to get the target flavor if required.

Unknown said...


Thanks for posting these recipes. There are the 4 black house recipes on here, plus the one on modern times website. See variations each, which do you suggest is best to try? Will be using 2 row for sure, but can use English ale yeast. Thank you for your time

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

If you are using American 2-row, I'd go with the Modern Times recipe. It was tweaked to replace the flavor of the English pale malt we started with. Either American or English ale should work fine! Best of luck!

Unknown said...

One more question! When "cold brewing" the coffee in the carboy do you drop the temperature for that 24 hour period? Or do you leave it where finished off the beer...? Right now temp is 67 and I used us-04. Thanks

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I leave the beer cool (60s). However, the actual Modern Times Black House process steeps the coffee once the beer has been cold crashed.