Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Saison New Zealan’ Tasting

Saison New Zealan’ is the spiritual and microbiological successor to Saison ‘Merican. It was hopped exclusively with varieties from the island (late additions of Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, with Rakau for bittering). In addition I added a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc directly to the keg to enhance the citrusy-terroir of the hops.

Saison New Zealan’

Appearance – It sure is a looker. The sunrise-yellow body is hazy, without appearing muddy. The white head is dense, prodigious, and sticky.

Smell – Despite the competing aromatics, the Nelson still leads with its distinctly divisive-pungent aroma. The Motueka and wine manage to soften it, sending it off on a somewhat citrusy tangent. The Brett (Trois and CB2) is mild, adding some fresh cut hay as well as mingling with the citrusy-funk of the Southern Hemisphere hops.

Taste – Saturated hop flavor that lives up to the nose. The grape(fruit)y wine comes through a bit more emphatically as well, assisted by the mild acidity from the Lactobacillus. The bitterness is just the right level to play with the lactic acid without clashing. The resulting balance is reminiscent of grapefruit juice cut with seltzer water, refreshing not bracing. The alcohol is present as it warms, but remains clean like a dry cocktail.

Mouthfeel – Light and crisp, firm carbonation, and downright refreshing for a beer above 7% ABV. A dangerous thing indeed!

Drinkability & Notes – I’ve said it before, but adding wines rather than wine grapes is the great option unless high quality grapes are easy to source. This is another win for my slowly developing mixed-house saison culture, when this keg kicks I’ll have to hang onto the lees to brew something else. Maybe continue the world tour with Hull Melon and German Riesling, or Galaxy and Australian Chardonnay?

Monday, October 20, 2014

American IPA Recipe, Tips, and Tasting

You can see the difference in the krausen texture between the beers with and without hops.Hoppy beers are some of my favorites to brew at home. The four things that kill hop aroma are heat, time, oxygen, and aroma scalping. Serving the finished beer in a well-purged keg addresses all three. I won’t buy bottled hoppy beer unless it is labeled with the packaging date, or I know it was recently released. A beer that is delicious at bottling can be mediocre at best after only a couple months. Like bread, once you have a taste for fresh hoppy beer it is hard to enjoy it stale!

The IPA recipe below was half of a split batch, and I don’t have too many new things to say about IPAs. My focus was on the other half, which was an “IPA” flavored with spruce tips and grapefruit zest (an American-hoppy beer without any hops). More on that one next week.

Instead of sending you back to my old posts about brewing IPAs, here are my 10 quick tips for brewing hoppy beers:

1. Treat your water to have minimal carbonate, and moderate-to-high chloride, sulfate, and calcium.
2. If the raw hops don’t smell great, neither will your beer.
3. Steep flame-out hops for 20-30 minutes before force chilling.
4. Add dry hops as fermentation slows.
5. Add more dry hops after fermentation ends.
6. Purge everything the fermented beer touches with carbon dioxide.
7. Ferment with a yeast that imparts some (but not loads of) character.
8. Force carbonate rather than naturally condition.
9. Store the finished beer as cold as possible.
10. Drink the carbonated beer ASAP.

There was recently an informative Q&A session with Peter Wolfe of AB-InBev on Reddit's r/beer. His responses include information about glycosides and his process for dry hopping homebrew. JC from Trillium Brewing (brewers of many excellent hoppy beers - Double Dry Hopped Congress Street IPA is super-fantastic Galaxy-goodness) dropped his tips for mimicking their process in a BeerAdvocate thread not too long ago as well. Seems like a real shift from the advice to chill the wort quickly and dry hop bright beer that were so popular when I started brewing.

“Real” IPA Tasting

A glass of the finished IPA.Appearance – Golden beer. Light dry-hop haze. Nice head retention, white, dense, sticky. Certainly looks like an IPA.

Smell – Solid hoppy, piney, orange aroma. Not a jump out of the glass hop, but stronger than many commercial IPAs. Not as juicy as I was hoping for, more classic-American than new-American. Not much else in the aroma yeast or malt-wise

Taste – Firm bitterness. Drenched with hops through each sip. A mix of citrus and more resiny flavors. The hops lack a certain vibrancy and freshness. Certainly the hops being harvested 12 months ago doesn’t help, but I suspect the Centennial in particular (I've had bad luck with Centennial from Freshops before - and these didn't smell terrific).

Mouthfeel – Crisp body, which doesn’t get in the way. Solid carbonation. No complaints here from me.

Drinkability & Notes – A good IPA, maybe even very good, but not great. I love balance, but when the hops lead they need to be outstanding, and here they are just a bit dampened or muddled.

"Real" IPA Recipe

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 26.69
Anticipated OG: 1.064
Anticipated SRM: 3.8
Anticipated IBU: 38.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69% (inc. parti-gyle)
Wort Boil Time: 70 Minutes

60.0% - 16.00 lbs. Rahr Pilsner
30.0% - 8.00 lbs. Great Western Pale Malt (2-row)
7.5% - 2.00 lbs. Weyermann Wheat Malt
2.6% - 0.69 lbs. Simpsons Golden Naked Oats

2.00 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 10.45% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA) @ Keg Hop

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

White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 156F

8/22/14 - Made a stir-plate 3 L starter with 2 tubes of WL007. Aiming for 450 billion cells - for 10 gallons. Crash chilled after 24 hours.

Brewed 8/24/14

5 g CaCl and gypsum added to the mash along with 2 tsp of phosphoric acid. Diluted with 2 gallons of distilled. Collected 7 gallons of 1.075 first runnings. Same treatment for the 7 gallons of 180F batch sparge water. Collected 7 gallons of 1.035 second runnings. Mixed so there were 7 gallons of 1.055 runnings in each pot.

Rakau adjusted down from 11.4% AA. The rest of the hops were nearly a year old from Half flame-out allowed to steep 30 min before chilling, remainder added at start of chill. Boiled down to 4.5 gallons at 1.075. Chilled to 70F. Diluted with .75 gallon of distilled water, OG 1.064. Left at 65F to ferment.

8/28/14 Added the first dose of dry hops as the fermntation slowed.

8/30/14 Moved to warm ambient basement to ensure complete fermentation.

9/9/14 Kegged with the keg hops bagged and placed into the keg before purging. Hooked up to CO2 and left to force carb gently. FG = 1.015 (6.4% ABV)

10/13/14 Tasting notes above (posted about a week after writing). It is a solid IPA, but not spectacular, hop character isn't quite where I want it, but otherwise everything is spot on.

Monday, October 6, 2014

American Blonde Ale with Coffee Beans

Here are the tasting notes for a coffee beer that isn’t brown, black, inky, syrupy, or opaque. The key for this American blonde recipe was adding a coffee that melds with the light malt, i.e., one that is bright, acidic, and citrusy. Ceremony Thesis in this case. There are many ingredients that are easy to oversimplify or overlook, like: chocolate, fruit, and coffee. For each of these there are people who are just as nerdy about the variety and processing as we are about hops!

When I posted about this recipe originally, I got plenty of suggestions on my Facebook and Twitter for other pale beers with coffee from all over America: Noble Ale Works Naughty Sauce, Black Acre Brewing Coffee Bitter Life, Monday Night Brewing Bed Head, Fort George Brewery Java the Hop, Carton Brewing Regular Coffee, and for Brazilians Morada Cia Etílica Hop Arabica! If you aren't sold on the combination, seek one out (or next time you are bottling a hoppy beer, toss a couple coffee beans into one).

American Blonde Ale aged on Coffee Beans.Coffee American Blonde

Appearance – Similar in color to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. If you really wanted to brew a coffee beer and have it remain “blonde,” likely you’d need to go all Pilsner and wheat. The color from the C60 and Golden Naked Oats I added for deeper malt flavor combined with the the coffee to result in the honey color. Mildly hazy. Wonderfully creamy white head suspended on top.

Smell – Lemony coffee leads. It is still vibrant after more than six weeks in the keg. More like the aroma of grinding coffee beans than a freshly brewed cup. Not quite as aromatically hoppy as I expected from the four ounces of oily Cascade I added near the end of the boil. Nice supporting toasted, almost Butterfinger candy bar, maltiness.

Taste – Crisp, with moderate hop bitterness. Coffee doesn’t dominate, but it is the most prominent flavor. Not roasty or burnt, but still distinctly coffee. The citrusy hops linger into the finish, grapefruit mostly. Not an astoundingly complex or mind-bending beer, but it is balanced, and there are great flavors through each sip

Mouthfeel – The body is not too thick, not too thin, just right for a slightly more flavorful blonde ale. Carbonation is spot on too, prickly without being spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – A wonderfully pleasant session beer. The coffee is the highlight without dominating. Amazing how few beans can completely change the flavor of so much beer. Next time I’d add a small charge of dry hops just to get the hop aroma up to play with the coffee a bit more. I might also skip the specialty malts to get them out of the way of the coffee and hops. Simplify man.