Monday, October 20, 2014

Clone Wars Episode II: Heady Topper-ish

This is my second attempt at brewing a Heady Topper clone, or something that resembles Heady Topper. I very much believe that even given a recipe it’s still almost impossible to replicate a beer brewed by someone else due to process and equipment size. However, I’m giving it another try because I wasn’t exactly pleased with my first attempt and if I could get close to the actual Heady Topper, I would be very pleased.

Part of the problem with my first attempt was I think due to some autolysis and mash pH. That beer is what caused me to force myself to sit down and learn about mash chemistry. It’s my assumption that the harsh astringent bitterness I got came from my mash pH being too high. After learning about the importance of mash pH I’ve been adding some acid malt to all of my beers and have noticed an improvement in flavor and clarity. I also recently bought an oxygen diffuser stone so that I can inject pure O2 into my wort. This should help with yeast attenuation and help to prevent off flavors and aromas by improving yeast health. 

My brewday started off slow. I didn’t know that I didn’t have a single charged battery for my drill, which caused my grain crush to take an hour and a half. Although I will say that it was nice to be able to control the crush of my grain. Beyond that I didn’t have any other problems until I stated to oxygenate and the oxygen wand blew out of the hose and into my carboy. On the plus side the actual brewing was smooth and easy. 

I used a previous method for a “hopback” that I used in the past. Essentially I pump the hot wort through my “jockey box wort chiller” but leave the coils out of the ice bath. This will chill the beer to 140F, which is still hot enough to extract hop oils in a reasonable amount of time and preserve the hop aroma but not too hot to extract bitterness. I left the wort on the hops for about 50 minutes including the amount of time to pump it from the keg to the carboy to fully chill the wort. 

Beer Stats
Est OG: 1.077
Measured OG: 1.076
Final Gravity: 1.018
ABV%: 7.6%
SRM: 10o
IBU: 110
Boil Time: 90 minutes
Batch Volume: 6 gallons

Grain Bill
16 lbs - Pearl Malt
1.25 lbs – Carapils
1.25 lbs – White wheat
1 lb – Cane Sugar
0.5 lbs – Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
10.00 ml - Hopshot- Boil 90.0 min
1.00 oz -  Simcoe-  Boil 5.0 min
0.50 oz – Apollo - Boil 5.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus  - Boil 0.0 min
2.00 oz - Simcoe - Boil 0.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Simcoe - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Simcoe - Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.00oz – Amarillo - Hopback 30.0 min
0.50 oz - Centennial - Hopback 30.0 min
0.50 oz - Apollo – Hopback- 30.0 min
1.00 oz - Columbus - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
1.00 oz - Simcoe - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Amarillo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Centennial - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.25 oz - Apollo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
1 oz - Columbus - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Simcoe - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Amarillo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.5 oz - Centennial - Dry Hop 4.0 Days
0.25 oz - Apollo - Dry Hop 4.0 Days

Mash Schedule
Single infusion – 152oF
Mash Out – 168oF

1.5L - Conan Yeast stepped up from a can


10/12/14 – Stock from fridge added to 1L 1.020 starter

10/15/14 – Starter decanted and stepped up to 1.5L 1.040 starter

10/17/14 – Starter placed in the fridge

10/18/14 – Brewed by myself. Mash pH was 5.32 (estimated 5.34). Water profile was 84% RO water with 4 grams of Gypsum and 6 grams of CaCl. Wort chilled to 60oF and decanted starter pitched. Oxygenated for 30 seconds with pure O2.

10/19/14 – Fermentation started 12 hours after pitching.

10/20/14 – Had to take the air lock out and add a blow off tube. I thought I had enough room, but I think the O2 really helped give me a strong fermentation.

10/23/14 - Increased temperature to 70F.

10/26/14 - Removed from chest freezer and placed in beer room to finish out fermentation at ambient temperature.

11/3/14 - First round of dry hops added to new "brite" tank, aka sawed off dip tube in a corny.

11/9/14 - Racked to finishing keg and added a second round of dry hops in a hop bag.

11/15/14 - Bag of dry hops removed and keg placed in the chest freezer under 10psi. Final pH down to 4.63

12/09/14 - First tasting. Under attenuated but much more enjoyable then the first batch. 


  1. You might have better luck with food grade lactic acid- all homebrew shops should sell it. Acid malt can be a bit inconsistent with the amount of lactic present batch to batch and especially maltster to maltster. I definitely noticed an immediate improvement in my beer when I started treating the water, as my bicarbonate levels are absurdly high here.

    One other tip is to add your sparge water calcium additions, if any, directly to the kettle. This ensures enough calcium for the yeast and helps trub coagulate a bit better- I noticed much better clarity after I started doing that and using pure O2.

    - Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

    1. I've thought about using pure lactic acid, which is what I use to acidify my sparge water. I haven't had much of an issue with acid malt though. My estimation for mash pH was 5.33 and I measured 5.32 so I can't really complain.

      Thanks for the advice