Thursday, November 21, 2013

First tasting: Clone Wars (Heady Topper Clone Attempt)

I’ve been delaying the review of this beer because I think it needed time to clean up. It’s still very ugly; visually that is, not flavor wise. I’m not sure how much it will clean up or if it ever will. As most people that have brewed with Conan yeast before or know anything about Heady Topper; the yeast have a very low flocculation rate. Maybe once I get through the bottom of the keg it will clear up a little bit but I’m not holding my breath.  

Appearance: Just like Lil’Heady it’s a murky brownish orange with a creamy off white head that lingers and clings to the side of the glass. I would say that Clone Wars does have more of an orange tent when held into the light then the Pale Ale version had but it still looks a little too dark. I’m not sure what would have caused the color variation. I would like to have a Heady (who wouldn’t) to compare it in the same glass just to see how far off I am. 

Aroma: The aroma to me is pretty close to what I remember from the last can I had. There are some subtle peach notes with a hint of apricot. I think I may have made it a little too dank though. There is dankness everywhere in the aroma. I’m thinking the Palisade addition and the extra Columbus hops might have been a little over kill. It also could have been from the order when I added the hops. Next time I might add more of the Columbus to the first dry hopping addition so that it will have faded a little bit. 

Flavor: This for me is the worst part of this beer. It’s too bitter. I’m assuming the reason it’s too bitter is because I came in under gravity. If you recall from my brewing notes, I brewed a 5.75 gallon batch with only enough grain for a 5 gallon batch. This was my fault for miscalculating my system. I attempted to make up the difference with DME but I didn’t have enough on hand. The flavor is dank for sure with a touch of peach. There is a slightly rubbery taste, which I can’t figure out where it came from. I read that you can get that flavor from either too much hopping or from yeast autolyse.  I can’t really see how the yeast could have started to autolyse since they were only separated from beer for a few days. The rubbery taste and aroma has started to fade though. Either the left over yeast are cleaning it up or it could have been me confusing it with the dankness of the hops that have faded a little. 

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is pretty similar to Heady Topper, creamy with a lingering bitterness. I’m assuming I had a younger generation batch of yeast since I managed about 80% attenuation. My carbonation might be slightly too high, but that’s hard to adjust without having a separate CO2 regulator. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how this batch turned out with all things considered. I’m going to have to brew it again for sure. I definitely want to hit my targets and make adjustments so that I can dial in the recipe. Looks like I need to trade for more cans of Heady for “research” purposes of course. I'm thinking next time I might adjust how I do the water profile. I'm starting to think that even if I blend my water with RO water its still too alkaline for an IPA. I'm probably going to only use RO water and add salts from there. I'm also thinking that Calcium Chloride plays a bitter role for hoppy beers then Gypsum, which is traditionally considered the mineral for IPAs. My reasoning for this comes from a quote from Shaun Hill where he expressed he prefers CaCl2 over Gypsum. If I do use my tap water in the future I will definitely use some acid malt or some other sort of acid addition to lower the pH. I plan on experimenting with this yeast a little bit in the meantime. I’m planning on a future brew day where I brew a black IPA with it and perhaps a few other experiments in the future.

Update: After researching my issues I think the problem was my mash pH. I thought about it and the best IPA that I've brewed was a Brett IPA, in which I added acid malt. In Texas I have really alkaline water so I think that adding the acid malt helped lower the pH to at optimal range. I did some calculations and my mash pH would have been pretty close to 5.9-almost 6 pH. This is way to high for mashing, where I would need 5.2-5.4. I also don't do anything to acidify my sparge water so I would assume that my boil pH is well above 5.1 as well. This would probably explain the harsh bitterness and lack of protein break to help clarify my beer a little.  I'm going to invest in some food grade acid for the next time I brew anything pale or hoppy and I need to finally invest in a mash pH.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blackberry Sour

I brewed a Saison for our wedding last December. For the Saison I wanted it to be a reddish color and I wanted to use Fantôme dregs. Well the beer ended up being infected, probably by the Fantôme dregs because not even they know what is in their beer. I decided to see if I could salvage it since it didn’t taste bad I just didn’t want to serve it as a wedding favor, knowing it might be a little too out there for most people. In the meantime I added some Brettanomyces from my Cantillon IPA for some funk and a little extra complexity. 

I knew I wanted to perhaps add fruit to the beer but I wasn’t sure what type of fruit to add. Generally fruit is added to beer during the harvest season. I originally wanted to add cherries but it is well past cherry season and I think it would have been a little much. I eventually decided on using blackberries because they are in season currently and I think they would work well with the flavors I was getting from the beer. 

Since blackberries can have a strong flavor I decided to go with a pound of fruit per gallon. I estimated I would get 4 gallons of beer so I went with 4 gallons of fruit. My process consisted of washing the black berries to remove all chemicals and dirt, etc. Then I put them into a plastic Ziploc and placed it into the freezer to freeze the fruit and break down the cell walls of the fruit. After two days I removed the fruit and let it defrost while I was sanitizing and preparing for transfer into secondary. 

I cut a hole into the corner of the Ziploc bag and used it like a piping bag to squeeze the fruit into my secondary carboy. After all of the fruit was in the carboy I flushed it with CO2 and then racked the sour Saison into the carboy for refermentation on the fruit. It took about 4 days for signs of refermentation so show. The fruit slowly started to float to the top and now there is a good layer of fruit and bubbles and some activity had started to show up in the airlock. 

The plan is to leave the fruit on the beer for 2-3 months and then bottle it. Hopefully by then I’ll have my stand corker and I can cork the bottles. 

Saison Recipe:

OG est: 1.048
OG measured: 1.050
FG est: 1.006
SRM: 15o
IBU: 30.6
Grain Bill:
64% - 12 lbs – Belgian Pils
14% - 2 lbs 10 oz – Vienna Malt
11% - 2 lbs – Dark Munich Malt
4% - 12 oz – D80 Belgian Candi Syrup
3% - 8 oz –Flaked Wheat
3% - 8 oz – Special B
1% - 3 oz – Roasted Barley
Hop Bill:
2.5 oz – East Kent Golding – 75 minutes
0.5 oz – East Kent Golding – 30 minutes
Fantôme Noel dregs (from a starter made a week and a half earlier, stepped up twice)
Mash Schedule:
149oF single infusion saccharification rest for 60 minutes
Four pounds of blackberries
11/3/13 - Four pounds of blackberries added to secondary carboy.

11/7/13 - Signs of refermentation have started.

3/2/14 - Blackberry sour bottled.

6/29/14 - First tasting of the Blackberry sour

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

First Tasting: Lil'Heady (Conan yeast Nano-IPA)

I documented some of the issues with my pale ale in the brewing post. When I took a gravity sample and tasted it I was worried it was going to be ruined. It seemed way too bitter and was lacking mouth feel. I figured I would at least give it a chance to chill to serving temperature and carbonate. Well I’m happy to report that the carbonation and chilling helped dramatically. This is probably one of the best IPA (I say that for a reason) that I have brewed to date. 

Appearance: Honestly this is an ugly beer. I couldn’t really convey the actual color in the pictures but it is a brownish orange that is completely opaque with a creamy white head about 2 fingers thick that slowly fades and clings to the side of the glass. In the picture it is more brown then orange but I assure you it is more orange in person. 

Aroma: The aroma gets big points. Big burst of grapefruit, orange peel, peach, passion fruit, and mango. I’m surprised that the Conan yeast didn’t produce as many peach esters as other people have described but I did ferment it rather low. I decided to ferment it at a higher temperature for the actual Heady Topper clone; hopefully that was a good choice. The predominate aroma is orange for sure, which did surprise me since I had not read of Galaxy hops producing that aroma. 

Taste: Big time grapefruit and orange in the flavor. In fact with the aroma being dominated by orange I was first tasting orange as well but it is far too bitter to be orange. There is a subtle peach flavor which I’m attributing to the Conan yeast. My biggest fear was that the beer would be too bitter and unbalanced, which it is, but if you shift your expectations from Pale Ale to West Coast IPA then it fits the style perfectly. The bitterness is aggressive and lingering. This is definitely a pallet obliterator. 

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a nice medium carbonation and a creamy mouthfeel. My worry of a thin mouthfeel was removed by the Conan yeast. I’ve read that the reason Heady Topper has such a creamy mouthfeel is from the yeast and not from the addition of adjuncts. I’m willing to believe that. For what should be such a thin and light bodied beer it is not at all. 

Overall: I’m very pleased with how this beer came out. Conan is pretty much steroids for hops. Although I vastly over hopped this beer it did not come out as grassy or astringent. And even though I under estimated my efficiency in using the no sparge technique Conan provided enough glycerol to give it a creamy mouth feel. As a Pale Ale I have failed, but as an IPA I have succeeded. The only thing that would keep this beer from being an IPA is the fact that it is about 3% ABV. Things I would change for next time would include, increasing the amount of grain so that my first runnings are a higher gravity, use or borrow an immersion wort chiller so that I can cool to 180oF for a hop stand and not increase the bitterness, and ferment at a higher temperature to bring out the peach esters from the yeast. I’m still pleased with this beer. I like the fact that is like drinking an IPA but it is not 7% ABV.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Clone Wars: Heady Topper Clone

Two weeks ago I brewed a pale ale that used the famed Conan yeast that is the proprietary strain used by The Alchemist to brew Heady Topper. The strain is supposed to produce peach esters and peach flavor. I harvested the yeast a week prior to brewing the pale ale and stepped it up twice. I assumed I would need more yeast then I’m capable of producing on my stir plate so I decided to brew the pale ale. I also wanted to use Galaxy hops. The review for the pale ale will be forthcoming soon. 

I brewed this beer with a friend to teach and explain the brewing process. Everything was going smoothly until I remembered I never put the sugar into the wort during the boil. At that point we were at the hop stand. I grabbed the bag of sugar and dumped it in assuming that at 180oF any bacteria would be killed and that the sugar would still melt and be incorporated. After cooling the wort and empting my kettle I noticed that some of the sugar formed a melted caramel at the bottle of the kettle. My original gravity came under my target, due to the lack of sugar incorporation as well as my miscalculation for volume and amount of grain needed. I calculated enough grain for 5 gallons, when I should have calculated it for 5.75 gallons instead. I added some DME at the end of the boil but was not enough. Without the correct OG it will not be a true clone but it will hopefully still be a good DIPA. 

This was my first time using Hopshot™ and preforming a hop stand. The hopshot was easy to use and definitely helped reduce the amount of hop crude at the end. The hop stand was simple enough I just needed to borrow an immersion chiller so that I could chill the wort to 180oF. Then you add the hops and let it sit for 30 minutes covered. The theory is that it will help to preserve the essential oils that are highly volatile and will normally be lost to boiling. 

In order to brew this beer I spent about a week reading through the giant 160 page thread on Most of the leg work was done by the veganbrewer and this is where my recipe comes from. I have modified it a little bit based off of his comments.

Batch Size: 5 Gallons           
Boil time: 90 minutes
Original gravity: 1.074
Measured: 1.068
Measure Final Gravity: 1.013
IBU: 120
SRM: 6.4o

Grain Bill:

11lb 4oz - Pearl Malt (84.9%)- SRM 2.4
12 oz - Caramalt (5.7%)- SRM 17
12 oz - White Wheat (5.7%)- SRM 1.7
8 oz - Turbinado Sugar (3.8%)- Added at flameout

Hop Bill:

10.00 ml - Hopshot- Boil 90.0 min- 117.8 IBUs
1.00 oz -  Simcoe[13.00 %]-  Boil 5.0 min-8.3 IBUs
0.50 oz – Apollo - Boil 5.0 min -4.0 IBUs
1.00 oz - Columbus [14.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min – 0.0 IBUs
2.00 oz - Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min -0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz - Columbus [14.00 %] - Aroma Steep 30.0 min-0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz - Simcoe [13.00 %] - Aroma Steep 30.0 min-0.0 IBUs
1.00oz - Amarillo Gold [8.50 %] - Aroma Steep 30.0 min-0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz - Centennial [10.50 %]- Aroma Steep 30.0 min- 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz - Apollo [12.50 %] - Aroma Steep 30.0 min- 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz - Columbus [14.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz - Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days -0.0 IBUs
0.5 oz - Amarillo [8.50 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
0.5 oz - Centennial [10.50 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
0.25 oz - Apollo [17.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
1.75 oz - Columbus [14.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
0.5 oz - Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days -0.0 IBUs
0.5 oz - Amarillo [8.50 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
0.5 oz - Centennial [10.50 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
0.25 oz - Apollo [17.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs
1 oz - Palisade [7.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days-0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule:

Mash at 152oF degrees for 60 minutes.  1 tsp gypsum added to mash


Conan yeast cultured from Heady Topper can and pitched onto yeast cake from Lil’Heady


10/12/13 – Brewed with Andrew. Came under gravity and over on my volume after the mash. I’ve made adjustments to my calculator for my new system so it should be better. I blended half RO water and half regular water to lower the hardness so that it is hopefully closer to VT water. Added 0.5 lbs of DME to up the gravity. Forgot to add sugar until the aroma steep and it wasn’t all incorporated. I came in under gravity as stated above. Chilled to 68oF and placed into fermentation chamber at 68oF.

10/14/13 – Still no sign of fermentation still and I have to leave for Detroit for 3 days. 

10/16/13 – Fermentation definitely took place since the blow off tube into the growler shows that some of the krausen spilled over the top. Raised to 71oF to finish out fermentation.

10/20/13 – Chilled to 52oF.

10/28/13 – Racked to a secondary carboy and dry hopped with first dry hop addition.

11/2/13 - Racked to a keg and final dry hop addition added.

11/6/13 - Racked off of final dry hops into keg and carbonated to 2.5 volumes of CO2. Gravity down to 1.013. Attenuation was 79.6%

11/21/13 - First tasting. A little more bitter then I recall Heady Topper being and possibly too dank. Next time I'm going to change my water additions and source as well as adjust my hopping schedule. Probably more Columbus on the front end of the dry hopping and no Palisade. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lil'Heady - Conan Pale Ale

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything new. It’s also been a long time since I’ve been able to brew. Recently it hasn’t necessarily been because of lack of time. It has mostly been due to lack of carboys. I currently have 3 carboys with beer souring in them and one with Brett doing its thing. My only available carboy is a Better Bottle that has been used for Brett fermentation. 

I also recently went on vacation with my wife to New England. While we were in New England we went to Hill Farmstead and to the Alchemist. Since we were able to go to the Alchemist early Monday morning I was able to get some super fresh cans to bring back with me. About a month ago I received some cans in a trade and attempted to culture the yeast. In case you don’t know the Alchemist uses a proprietary yeast strain called Conan. This particular yeast starter began fine. But after I stepped it up I noticed that a pellicle had formed on the top.  My initial reaction was that it was probably because I was maybe not as sanitary as I should have been while pouring my step up. But then I thought about it longer and the infection probably originated from the stir bar. I’ve used this stir bar and flask for a 100% Brett culture. Even though the stir bar is food safe it can still be porous because it’s plastic. In order to avoid an infection this time around I soaked my flask and stir bar in a solution of bleach and water for 48 hours. Then I used a sanitizer twice prior to use. 

I started with a 0.5L starter at 1.040 and used two cans for the yeast. I opened one can and poured 75% of it into a glass then swirled the can and dumped it into the starter wort after flaming the lip of the can. Later after I finished my glass I repeated this procedure. The starter never really showed any signs of fermentation and I was a little worried but I decided to step it up regardless. I chilled the wort and decanted the top off, there was a small layer of sediment on the bottom so I had hopes. I stepped it up with 1.5L of 1.040 wort and placed it on the stir plate. After about 36 hours the first signs of fermentation were starting to show and a small krausen formed. After 48 hours the krausen had risen about half an inch up the side of the flask with no visible signs of infection. Hoping to be able to brew and not infect the actual beer I proceeded with the same steps to sanitize the carboy as I did with the flask. I poured a mixture of bleach and water into the carboy and let it soak for 48 hours then sanitized as usual. Fearing infection again I made sure to give it a sniff test (although unofficial it’s better than nothing) and I noted that the starter smelled of DME and hints of peaches, which is often described as Conan yeast. 

The plan is to eventually brew a Heady Topper clone, but in order to do that I want to make sure I have enough yeast so I’m brewing a pale ale as an experiment first then I’ll use the yeast cake for the Heady Topper clone. I was able to find some Galaxy hops online and since I’ve wanted to try them for a while I bought them and decided to do a single hop pale ale with the Galaxy hops. The recipe and notes are below. 

Est. OG: 1.052
Actual OG: 1.032
Actual FG:1.008
ABV:  3.2%
IBU: 48
SRM: 9o

7lbs 2-Row Pale Malt
2lbs White Wheat
1lb Caramalt

Hop Schedule
20min – 1.5oz Galaxy
5min – 0.5oz Galaxy
Flame out – 1oz Galaxy
30min whirlpool – 1oz Galaxy
Dry hop 3-4 days – 2oz Galaxy

Alchemist Conan Yeast - Cultured from two cans of Heady Topper

Mash Schedule
Single infusion-No Sparge-60min at 154F

(9/28/13) – Brewed by myself.  I added 1tsp of Gypsum to the mash to get the sulfate content up a little. The brew day went smooth until I noticed that the plastic lines in my wort chiller had what appeared to be mold growing inside them. I quickly removed them and used some extra lines I had to replace them and then sanitized the whole system. Chilled the wort to 68F and shook to aerate then pitched my 1.5L starter. Set chest freezer to 62F.

(9/29/13) – No visible signs of fermentation after 12 hours. Still no visible signs of fermentation after 24 ours. 

(9/30/13) –  36 hours after pitching yeast fermentation has begun. Increased temperature to 65F. 

(10/01/13) – Increased temperature to 68F. Krausen is about 1.5 inches thick and is a tan color with clumps on top, looks like a normal fermentation.

(10/09/13) - Gravity down to 1.008 racked to the keg and set the pressure at 30 psi and shook. Placed into the chest freezer and turned the pressure down to 14 psi and the temperature at 42F. I'm worried that my initial gravity was too low and there won't be enough balance. I left the yeast cake in the carboy for the Heady brew. Lots of peach and passion fruit aromas though. 

(11/5/13) - First tasting. I'm not going to call this a Pale Ale anymore, it's more of a Nano-IPA (yes I just made that up).