Tuesday, May 3, 2016

First Tasting: New England style Juicy IPA

The first time years ago when I had a Heady Topper it blew me away. Unlike the West Coast styles of IPA I was used to drinking, it was hoppy and yet not overly bitter. Don’t get me wrong, I like bitter and enjoy West Coast IPAs, but this was something different. Recently there has been an explosion of these kinds of IPAs (hop flavor forward), many of which are coming out of New England. I personally enjoy because they are incredibly drinkable, despite their high hopping rate and ABV. In direct contract to their West Coast cousins, they are usually medium to full bodied, with a creamy mouth feel and often times very hazy, to the point of being opaque. There are many theories around the intertubes involving achieving the same level of haziness and its importance in the flavor and aroma of “New England” style IPAs.

With all of the debate going on I figured I would go ahead and try and brew one for myself. I was targeting a hazy and hop flavor forward beer with a tropical fruit aroma. The most common term used to describe these beers is “juicy.” So that’s what I was going for in my hop selection. On top of choosing hops that are fruit forward I wanted to late hop the crap out of it to focus more on aroma and flavor.

Appearance: Opaque orange with some yellow hues, definitely turbid, topped off with a creamy white head that lingers and fades to a thin lacing on top of the beer. It passes the eye test for a NE IPA for sure. It is starting to clear up a bit now that it’s been in the keg a little while.

Aroma: Lemon lime, mango, orange, and a bit of the elusive berry note attributed to Mosaic. Lime is probably the most prominent aroma oddly enough. I’m disappointed that the aroma doesn’t burst out of the glass like some of the best versions I’ve had in the past, but my guess is because I chose not to dry hop again after fermentation was complete.

Flavor: Very minimal bitterness, much more fruit forward, citrus, berry, grapefruit, and mango round out the flavors. I would say it’s pretty juice forward with no real malt contribution.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with medium carbonation that provides a nice creamy mouth feel. Honestly if I was going to compare it to a commercial example I would say there is too much body. It doesn’t feel light enough. I might try next time to get the gravity down another two points to reduce some dextrins, while keeping the proteins from the oats for body. It finishes dry with no lingering bitterness. In fact it’s odd the way the bitterness just disappears on the palate.

Overall: For being over 7% ABV this beer is dangerously drinkable, without the lingering bitterness it keeps you coming back for more. There are a couple of things I would change, such as another dose of dry hops before kegging and after fermentation and maybe backing off of the Carafoam to dry the beer out a bit more, but other than that it’s one of my favorite IPAs I’ve brewed to date. I might increase the bittering just a touch, probably either through more extract or a slightly earlier hop addition. Right now it seems to sit right between IPA and Pale Ale.

Friday, April 29, 2016

First Tasting: Hoppy Pilsner

I’ve only brewed one lager in the past so this was my second attempt at a lager. Pilsner is one of my favorite styles of beer, but it is also one of the more difficult styles to get right. Since it’s so light there is no easy way to hide flaws, they will be noticeable. I decided to brew something similar to Firestone-Walker Pivo Pils. It’s clean, bright, very drinkable and hoppy. It is probably my all-time favorite pilsner.

I’ve read in the past that the base malt you choose is crucial to the overall flavor of the beer. While this is true for all beers, it’s particularly important for Pilsner because it makes up anywhere from 90-100% of the malt. The lack of specialty malt is part of the reason that pilsners are so light colored. I’ve also heard that for the best malt character you have to use Weyermann Pilsner Malt. Unfortunately I only had Briess malt on hand, but I figured I’d give it a shot and see how it turns out.

Appearance: Slightly hazy very pale yellow in the beginning, probably from the dry hopping, since it clears up as it sits in the glass to become very clear.  The beer has a rocky white head, with what I consider poor retention for a pilsner. I’ve never brewed a beer this light looking before. I have no idea how it ended up that light.

Aroma: Slight grassy note and a hint of acetaldehyde with little to know malt character. I can’t figure out if I’m getting off fermentation notes or if it’s from the hops.

Flavor: More of the grassy and acetaldehyde in the flavor. Over time the acetaldehyde has died down, so it could have just been a young beer characteristic or I’ve become use to it over time. Very little malt character, which is disappointing. A slight acetic tinge on the back end, not off putting, nor is it from an infection. It might just be carbonic acid.

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp with high carbonation and a dry finish. Despite the other aspects I’m not pleased with, I’m very happy with the mouth feel. Since I don’t have a dual regulator on my CO2 tank I worry about having beers with different levels of carbonation.

Overall: There are definitely parts of the beer I don’t like, but there are other parts I do like. I have acquired a bag of Weyermann pilsner malt so in the future I will use this instead. I feel like a lot of flavor and aroma that I’m getting is due to the base malt. I might also dry hop during diacetyl rest instead of during my ramp down. I feel like the character of the dry hops will be less grassy if I let them sit at 70F instead of 50F, but that could be all in my head. Assuming the malt will make a big difference I’ll probably stick to a simple malt bill like before, however, I’m also contemplating adding some melanoidin malt for color and added maltiness, since I don’t perform a decoction mash.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

New England Style "Juicy" IPA

There has been a recent trend and discussion between home brewers and between beer nerds regarding the clarity of beer and how it affects flavor and aroma. Some people believe that a hazy beer is a sign of “handmade craft” and clear beer is mass produced swill. On the other side of the debate, there is a discussion on whether or not the appearance of a beer changes the flavor. The long standard for IPA has most often come from the west coast. These IPAs are usually aggressively bittered, clear or with slight chill haze, dry finish and usually a combination of citrus and pine flavors and aromas. All of the sudden a different tasting IPA started coming out of New England, mainly Vermont, but has now spread to other areas in NE. These IPAs are usually very hazy, often described as turbid, with a soft creamy mouthfeel, with flavor and aroma usually described as “juicy.”

The debate rages around the appearance of the two different beers. Does the turbidity of the beer drastically affect the flavor and aroma? I personally don’t think that it does as much as people think. But since some of the IPAs that are coming out of NE are some of my favorite beers, I figured I’d attempt making one. I have a bunch of the 2015 harvest that I purchased and needed something to do with them. I believe that the flavor and aroma differences are less dependent on base grains, yeast, and appearance and more dependent on hop varietal selection and timing on hop addition. The grain bill I used is similar to the Mad Fermentationist attempt on a “NE style” IPA, however, I increased the pale malt to up my ABV to something similar to what I see coming out of NE. In the future I’m going to attempt to rebrew this beer using the same hop schedule and a different yeast and grain bill to make it more “west coast” style.

Normally I don’t mess with RO water, since I don’t have an RO system and it’s a pain to have to pick up and transport 5 gallons of water home. However, I decided to use it this time to cut down on my CaCO3 concentration. I feel that when you’re using a large amount of hops the CaCO3 causes an astringent taste and affects the aroma. I used the RO water to sparge so that my mash pH wouldn’t be too low like it was the last time I mashed with RO water.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 60 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.072
Measured Original Gravity: 1.068
Measured Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV: 7.3%
SRM: 6.6o
IBU: 33

Grain Bill
9lbs Briss Pale Ale Malt
5lbs Wheat Malt
2lbs Flaked Oats
0.5lbs Carafoam

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Hop Extract – 2 ml
0 minutes - Mosaic – 1.5 ounces
0 minutes - Cascade – 1 ounce
Whirlpool - 30 minutes - Citra – 2 ounce
Whirlpool - 30 minutes - Mosaic – 1 ounce
Whirlpool - 30 minutes - Cascade – 0.5 ounce
Fermentation Hops – 5 days– Cascade – 0.75 ounce
Fermentation Hops – 5 days– Mosaic – 1 ounce
Dry hops – 6 days – Citra – 1.5 ounce
Dry hops – 6 days – Mosaic – 1 ounce
Dry hops – 6 days – Cascade – 0.75 ounce

Mash Schedule
154oF single infusion for 60 minutes

1.5L starter of Wyeast London ale III 1318

3/28/16 – Brewed by myself. Added 6 grams of CaCl, 2 grams of gypsum to the mash, and 16ml of Lactic acid. Mash pH was 5.45 and my target was 5.28. Pre boil gravity measured at 1.058 and I collected 7 gallons. Sparge water was RO water with no adjustments made. Final boil pH measured at 5.3. Wort chilled to 72F and oxygenated with pure O2 for 45 seconds, then placed in bathroom at ambient temperature of 68F. Pitched yeast and 4 hours later I added the fermentation hops.

3/29/16 – Fermentation has begun

3/30/16 – Huge krausen that nearly came out of the top of the airlock, even with 1.5 gallons of head space.

4/2/16 – Added dry hops to carboy.

4/7/16 – Placed in chest freezer to cold crash. Gravity down to 1.012

4/9/16 – Racked to a CO2 flushed keg and set pressure to 20psi to force carbonate.

4/12/16 – Decreased CO2 setting to 10psi for serving.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hoppy Pils split batch

Ever since I brewed my first lager a few years ago, I’ve wanted to brew another; however, I don’t like tying up my kegerator/fermentation chamber to for extended periods of time. Since I was going to be in Iceland for a few days I decided to brew one of my favorite styles, a hoppy pilsner. Whenever I’m buying beer I usually buy things I don’t brew, more often than not its Firestone-Walker Pivo Pils (actually that was one of the beers I took with me to Iceland).

Lagers are not particularly difficult to brew, especially if you’re not doing any fancy mashing, they just require more temperature control. I have seen some exbeeriments with faster less traditional fermentation, which I plan on looking into in the future. For this beer I wanted to also test out the programing feature that my Black Box temperature controller has built into it. I thought it would be a good idea to learn to use it for future brewing endeavors while I’m away somewhere. The nice thing about a pilsner is that it has a pretty straight forward malt base and hopping schedule, because of this, I decided to brew 10 gallons and use half of it to top up my sour barrel.

I set the fermentation schedule that I have below in my notes. It started at 55F and went up over the next few days for a diacetyl rest, then back down for lagering. Luckily for me I correctly programmed the Black Box and it did all the work for me while I was away. If you have the chance to purchase a Black Box or are in the market for a temperature controller, I would highly recommend it.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Boil time: 75 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.051
Measured Original Gravity: 1.052
Measured Final Gravity: 1.010
ABV: 5.5%
SRM: 3.6o
IBU: 43

Grain Bill
20lbs Briss Pilsner Malt
1.25lbs Acid Patent

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Hop Extract – 8 ml
0 minutes - Saphir – 2 ounce
Dry hop (55F) 5 days – Saphir – 2 ounce (Pilsner only)

Mash Schedule
146oF single infusion for 30 minutes
154oF infusion with 5 quarts of boiling water for 20 minutes

Two packets of W-34/70 Bohemian pilsner

2/19/16 – Brewed by myself. Added 5 grams of CaCl and 0.5 grams of gypsum to the mash. Mash pH was 5.27 and my target was 5.28. Pre boil gravity measured at 1.044 and I collected 13 gallons. Added 10 ml of lactic acid to sparge water. Boil pH measured at 5.15.Wort chilled to 78F and oxygenated with pure O2 for 30 seconds, then placed in chest freezer for 4 hours to chill further. Yeast rehydrated and pitched after additional chilling. I programed my black box temperature controller for the first time since I was going to be in Iceland for the first week of fermentation. The initial temperature was set at 55F.

2/28/16 – Increased temperature to 64F

3/1/16 – Increased temperature to 71F for diacetyl rest

3/4/16 – Slowly decreased temperature to 55F

3/13/16 – Decreased temperature to 34F for lager and set pressure at 20 psi.