Monday, March 24, 2014

Fortunate Islands - Homebrewed Yeast Variant

While I was working in San Diego last summer, my favorite beer in Modern Times' core-lineup turned out to be Fortunate Islands: under 5% ABV, bright, citrusy/tropical hops, quenching, everything I want in a warm-weather beer. Luckily it seems like plenty of beer nerds agree as it’s currently sitting at a solid #3 (of 1,121) on BeerAdvocate’s list of most popular American Pale Wheat Ales (slowly gaining on the two fantastic beers ahead of it: 3 Floyds Gumballhead and Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’). Granted all three have hopping rates well above where the style was founded (i.e., clean fermented "hefeweizens" from breweries like Widmer, and Pyramid), but I’d rather brew beers “to flavor” rather than “to style.”

Adding the second dose of flame-out hops to Fortunate IslandsTo avoid demanding that Jacob ship me a case of Fortunate Islands can each month, I decided it would be easier to simply “homebrew” my own version of the recipe that I helped develop. I'm incapable of brewing a batch without a twist though, so I took advantage of the opportunity to try out The Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale strain (their version of Conan) – the Modern Times original is brewed with Cal Ale. I'm hoping for a strain with higher attenuation than the East Coast Yeast isolate (North East Ale), but with the same great burst of peachy-fruity-estery complexity that I got in Simcoe & Sons.

As the most hyped hops become more competitive to obtain (Citra and Amarillo in this case), using a more characterful yeast strain to bolster subdued/available hops will be a valuable route to investigate. Many of the compounds found in hops are also present in other herbs and spices, so that’s another approach to consider. Luckily there are all sorts of exciting new hop varieties that will be coming out each year as breeders rush to catch-up with brewer's new found interested in unique aroma hops. Hopefully that push combined with the ramp-up in acreage relieves some pressure from other varieties.

I kept the malts and hops identical to the original recipe, with only a few adjustments to timing and amounts for my system. Rather than go through the effort of setting up the hop-back and plate chiller, I staggered my flame-out hop additions. Before adding the second dose, I allowed the wort to naturally cool for 15 minutes to preserve some of the heat-sensitive essential oils that are usually driven off with a standard hop-stand. Anytime you see one of my recipe with hop-back additions, a similar adjustment is an option.

My kitchen (and as a result my water filter) has been out of commission since early January for major remodeling. I needed to buy bottled water, which provided a good excuse to experiment with a water treatment schema advocate by Gordon Strong in his book: Brewing Better Beer. I used 90% distilled water and relatively small mineral additions. The idea is that minimal buffering capacity (carbonate) makes lowering the pH much easier. It also reduces variation by allowing you to start at the exact same place every batch (where tap water varies with the seasonal sourcing). I’ll be interested to see how the character of the finished beer differs from the higher mineral levels I usually employ.

This batch was kegged a week ago, so expect tasting notes sooner than later. Hopefully now that my work on the book is completely finished, as are the classes I taught through LivingSocial, I’ll get back into a more frequent posting rhythm! Although I’ve got another BYO article due in a few weeks (I’ve already submitted one on solera blending sour beers, plus a Zymurgy article on the influence of the mash on sour beers). Expect some trimmings from the book to make it to the blog as we ramp-up for the mid-June release of American Sour Beers!

A vial of The Yeast Bay's Vermont AleFortunate Islands #4

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.38
Anticipated OG: 1.051
Anticipated SRM: 5.5
Anticipated IBU: 44.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

53.0% - 5.50 lbs. White Wheat Malt
38.6% -  4.00 lbs. American Pale Malt
7.2% - 0.75 lbs. Belgian CaraVienna
1.2% - 0.13 lbs. Acidulated Malt

1.00 oz. Horizon (Pellet, 10.00%AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ 0 min.
1.50 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ -15 min.
0.75 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ -15 min.
1.63 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ Dry Hop
0.88 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ Dry Hop
1.50 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ Keg Hop
0.75 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00%AA) @ Keg Hop

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

The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale

Water Profile
Profile: San Diego, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
Sacch 45 min @ 149F
Sacch II 15 min @ 161F

2/28/14 Made a 1 L stir-plate starter with Yeast Bay Vermont Ale.

Brewed 3/1/14

Strike water - 3.5 gallons distilled .5 gallons spring, 2.5 g gypsum, 1 g CaCl

Mash had a pH of 5.3 at room temperature.

Batch sparge water the same blend, minus the minerals. Collected 7 gallons of 1.044 runnings. Added a quart of reserved sparge water to dilute.

1.5 g of CaCl and 2 g of gypsum added to the boil.

Added hops right at flameout, then the second 15 min later with the temperature down to 192F. Waited 15 min before starting the immersion chiller. Chilled to 64 F, pitched entire starter, shook to aerate, and left at 67 F to ferment. Post boil pH, 5.1 at room temperature.

Fermenting after 12 hours, moved downstairs where the temperature is about 62F at that point.

24 hours later, fermentation already seemed to be slowing, so I moved the fermentor to 67F ambient. Moved next to the radiator the next day, hopefully a degree or two warmer.

3/4/14 Added the first half of the dry hops, loose, as fermentation finished up.

3/15/14 Kegged with the keg hops, bagged. Put onto gas in the kegerator. Turned out only down to 1.016, so similar to the ECY strain. I probably should have warmed it up more near the end of fermentation as suggested.

4/3/14 Tasting notes. Turned out to be a very good beer, but the yeast didn't add the huge peachy-stone fruit aroma I was hoping for. The alternate water treatment regimen didn't change the character of the beer appreciably to my tastes.


Amos said...

I brewed a recipe with a very similar malt base using the Yeast Bay Vermont Ale strain. I followed their temperature suggestions, fermenting at 68 and then raising it to 72 after a few days. The beer finished at 1.014, not as dry as I wanted: I'm hoping that I might be able to increase attenuation on the second or third pitch. In the recent Chop and Brew episode, John Kimmich says that his Conan is at its best from the second pitch onwards.

jbakajust1 said...

Have you tried the WY 1469 West Yorkshire strain? I get between 72-75% app att with it and it throws off lots of peach/apricot esters. Plays very well with hoppy beers, have super fruity IPA on right now that I used it in with Mosaic, Simcoe, Chinook, and Blisk. It is amazing!

Unknown said...

Amos, what was your O.G.? From our own tests and from what we have heard from others, the attenuation is anywhere from 72% to 76% AA in primary. On subsequent pitches, the attenuation ranges from 76% to 80%.

Unknown said...

"1.5 g of CaCl and 2 g of gypsum added to the boil"

I've never heard of mineral additions added after mashing.

Can you explain the benefits?

Ed Coffey said...

Great post Mike, I'll be using Vermont Ale in a Tired Hands HopHands clone I have been dialing in shortly. I love Conan but wasnt happy with the attenuation of the ECY culture either.

Amos said...

Nicholas, it was 1.052, so about 72% attenuation, right where you said it should be. Glad to hear attenuation increases on subsequent pitches.

James said...

I usually ferment my Conan at 68 and then ramp it up to 71F to finish it out after a few days and get around 80% attenuation. I guess it technically shouldn't matter but I us Conan that I cultured from a can.

Johnny in Texas said...

DOing a similar version of this with
Nelson bittering, 2 oz of amarillo and 2 oz of citra at flame out. Same amounts in the dry after about two weeks. Using American Hefe WL300 yeast from white labs.. trying to mix the hefe yeast flavor together with the american hops .. Not sure how it will turn out. I might use the chico yeast just to get the clearer beer. Not sure what to do .. might have to do both beers with the same wort. 2- 2 Gallon batches with same hops but with different yeasts...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The mineral addition to the boil is for flavor. A certain amount of calcium helps the mash, but it doesn't really assist in the sparge. Minerals can be left behind in the spent grain, easier to add just the right amount directly to the wort?

I repitched the Vermont Ale, but into a mixed-fermentation, so not much to judge on. For what it's worth, I got much higher attenuation with the second pitch of the ECY as well.

Unknown said...

Hello Mike,
If I am bottling would I adjust the dry hop levels to match the additional keg additions?

Patrick said...

The 'original' recipe only has 1 oz in the whirpool steep, while this version has 5.25 oz. Is this because you expect less efficiency based on not having an actual whirpool tank with constant wort movement?

I got a little confused here with the new whirpool functionality in Beersmith, because your recipe gives me up around 90 IBU. And while I acknowledge that BS is not exact science, I wonder if I can really expect that much effect from whirlpool I've never really whirpooled before.

Is the difference between a typical homebrew setup and a commercial whirlpool tank so drastic?

Johnny in Texas said...


You will get significant amounts of IBUs if you whirlpool above 185 degrees.. that is the flashpoint for the Alpha Acids and is what causes bitterness. I always whirlpool at 180 or below to make sure and get maximum hop flavor without additional IBu

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

If you are bottling, I'd probably add the first dry hop addition as is. After fermentation is complete and most of the yeast has dropped out, I'd add the rest of the dry hops, wait 3-4 day, then bottle. That way you'll get that last touch of raw hop aroma I get from the keg hops.

One of the major things we found from converting the recipes from 5 gallons to 30 bbls was how much more bitterness we get from flame-out additions. In 20 minutes the wort has already dropped 20 degrees at home, while at the brewery the wort is still at ~210 after nearly an hour. I like this two step addition, but you can certainly force chill (I'd just worry that the temperature would drop low enough that you wouldn't be pulling aromatics out as efficiently). This recipe is also designed to get some bitterness from this addition, so you'd have to increase the bittering addition to get the same balance.

At home I don't have to worry as much about efficiencies. The more you add the lower the return per ounce, but I just want to cram in as much hop aroma as I can.

SeƱor Brew™ said...

I think I'm going to have to try a Fortunate Islands. I'm usually not a big fan of wheat beers, but this one might win me over. If I like it, I can brew your version at home.

Gene said...

As an aside concerning solera blending, what's your thoughts on a simple pale ale in a perpetual souring barrel, and drawing from it a couple times of year for blending with all manner of beers...stouts, must beers, hopped wheats, whatever....let the solera act as a simple souring base beer?

Jerad Traudt said...

So when you make a starter is that not taken into account as far as generations go? I would think that if you made a starter with a fresh vial of yeast, you would be pitching a second generation yeast into your beer. Just something that has always confused me...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I actually have an article for BYO coming out shortly that profiles a similar method at Off Color Brewing. The problem is you'd need to kill the microbes before blending, or blend and serve on tap quickly. Otherwise the microbes from the solera will takeover whatever it is blended with (causing both flavor and carbonation changes).

Talking about the influence of yeast generations is out of my area of expertise. However, my understanding is that there is more to generation than how many times the yeast has been pitched (mutations). The amount of growth you get will determine the distribution of different cell ages (more growth means a younger average age). A starter is also a much less stressful place to grow in terms of oxygen, alcohol, hop compounds etc. The way yeast is harvested also impacts what cells are selected for. Odds are a starter is closer to a 1st generation than a second (how do you think the yeast lab propagates yeast?).

Mr. Jammin said...

I was curious as to your mash profile. I'm assuming your Sacch II rest is your mash out? I'm still new to the homebrew scene and I wanted to make sure I was reading your recipe correctly. Thanks for the blog. A huge inspiration in getting me started in homebrewing.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

When I'm using a cool Saccharification rest I'll often boost the temperature to ensure conversion is complete and speed run-off. Probably not necessary, but when I'm doing a batch sparge I need to have the mash tun full before the initial run off or I won't have room for enough sparge water.

Unknown said...

Mike, thanks for posting the various versions of this brew. As I look over your #1-4 and the Meek Brewing recipe I notice that it seems all the recipes call for a mash temp in the 152-55 range which produces a fuller body. Modern Times list a 1.007 FG. Having not had the pleasure of trying to real deal (until this november), does it sounds reasonable for me to mash a little lower to try to hit the 1.007 FG? Is there something we lose on a homebrew scale that is benefited by the slightly higher FG?


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You can certainly mash cooler. There are several sources that suggest that dextrins aren't as essential to body as conventional wisdom suggests. Modern Times' Monster's Park has crazy body at 1.022, so 1.007 would be doable for a hoppy wheat!

Anonymous said...


First off, really love this blog! It has taught me a lot!

Just curious how you calculate your IBU. Whenever I try to calculate from the same amount of hops that you use my calculated IBU seems to be way too high in comparison! I've used both BeerSmith and an excel doc I got from a friend, and for this recipe I got about 73,5 IBU's compared to your 47,8. For the Vienna Session IPA I also got the numbers way off. Any tips or pointers would be greatly appreciated!


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It has changed over the years. Up until maybe three years ago I was using ProMash with Tinseth, which assumed 0 IBUs for all flame-out additions. Now I use BeerSmith, but I've adjusted the Steep/Whirlpool Correction Factor to 35% as 50% seemed to overestimate for my palate.

In general I'd suggest using my recipes and not worrying about matching the calculated IBUs. It's always a guess, but the tasting notes are based on the flavor rather than the number.