Thursday, January 29, 2015

First Tasting: Juicy IPA

My IPA has been ready for a few weeks now but I’ve been avoiding drinking it because I don’t have a lot of it and I want to be able to enter it into NHC, because this is one of the best beers I have brewed. I brought it to my homebrew club to share and I received probably the best compliment I’ve ever been given for one of my homebrews. I was told by a member, who has judged at NHC that it was better than a lot of the beers that he judged. I personally am amazed how this beer turned out because I used city water, whereas I normally use RO for IPAs, and I just threw together a grain bill and a hop schedule while I was mashing. 

I think I’ve determined that the best IPAs come not necessarily amount of hops but how they are used, at what proportions they are utilized, and your mash/ wort pH. Adding hops at different specific times during brewing affects flavor and aroma and knowing your hops allows you to use them in specific proportions so that they can complement each other and bring out specific highlights.  

Now just to see if I can hold off on drinking all of it over the next two weeks…

Appearance: Pours a slightly hazy orange-yellow with a creamy rocky head that fades to a nice lacing that stays they entire time I’m drinking. The clarity does pick up a bit as it warms up. 

Aroma: This is one of the first times that I’ve brewed an IPA that you can smell as soon as you open a growler and before you start pouring. For me this has always been a hallmark of a great IPA. The aroma best reminds me of Lagunitas Sucks with a slightly fruitier side. Grapefruit, citrus, orange, and some underlying dank notes and just a touch caty. It’s clean and all of the aromas shine through and burst from the glass. 

Flavor: With the high final gravity I was expecting the beer to be sweeter than it actually ended up. I think any residual sweetness is transformed into fruity hop flavor. Again I find the flavor similar to Lagunitus Sucks with fruity notes and underlying dank/ piney flavor. This is where the Moasic flavor really shines. 

Mouthfeel: Despite the higher then I was expecting final gravity the beer finishes dry crisp with a lingering fruity finish. The mouth feel is also light to medium bodied with medium carbonation. I think that my water treatment really helped in this area of brewing. I increased the amount of gypsum that I normally add, which I think has given the perception of dryness that is not really there. 

Overall: I’m super pleased with how this beer turned out and will definitely be rebrewing it. It’s one of the few beers that I’ve brewed where I’m not sure if I would change anything. This beer is pretty much everything I look for in an IPA, complex layers of hops, fruit forward, dry and drinkable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No-Decoction Hefeweizen

I’ve brewed this recipe a couple of times and I’ve always enjoyed how it has come out. The only issue is that I’ve never actually hit the targets I’ve wanted (that I’m aware). I chose to brew my Hefeweizen for competition because I feel it is straight to style and I’m curious to see how it fairs against other competition and to see what a panel of impartial judges thinks. 

For some reason I had trouble brewing this beer again. I added rice hulls to the mash tun to aid in efficiency; however, it still came in under gravity. I made adjustments during the boil to increase my gravity by extending the boil. I wasn’t too concerned losing volume because I have more than enough beer already, but I was concerned with hitting targets. Apparently though I made a miss calculation and boiled off too much and ended up 0.010 points over my target, which would lead me to believe that I was at the right pre-boil gravity. I’m not sure what happened, but I added about a gallon of water to bring it into the target range.  Adding the water won’t lower my calculated IBUs too much and since it’s a Hefeweizen they are low to start. Who knows maybe the extended boil will add some extra melanoidins that I would get from a Decoction if I were not so lazy (that’s why I add Melanoidin malt).

On top of all of my brewing problems the week following brewing the temperature dipped as a cold front came through. Normally I ferment my Hefeweizens at 64oF to keep the yeast esters in check, but I had trouble getting it warm enough. If I brought it inside it would be too warm, but outside in my chest freezer it was too cold. I’m sure some time I’ll actually brew this beer without any added trouble, but at the end of the day I can’t really complain because it’s always been good. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5 gallons
Boil time: 135 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.048
Measured OG: 1.046
Measured FG:
IBU: 15
SRM: 6.8o

Grain Bill
5.0 lbs – Wheat Malt
4.5 lbs – Pilsner Malt
0.3 lb – Acid Malt
0.25 lb – Melanoidin Malt

65 min – Hallertauer – 0.75 oz
25 min – Hallertauer – 0.25 oz

Mash Schedule
151oF – Saccrification Rest – 60 minutes added 2 grams each of CaCl and Gypsum

Wyeast 3068 – 1L starter made the day before the freshen up the yeast

1/17/15 – Brewed by myself. Mash pH measured at 5.39. Added 3.1 grams of CaCl and Gypsum to the sparge water. Pre-boil measured at 1.030 with hydrometer. Added time to the boil to condense the wort. Chilled to pitching temperature and measured gravity, 1.058 this time. Added 1 gallon of chilled boiled water. Gravity down to 1.046. Added 45 seconds of pure O2 and pitched the yeast starter. Placed in chest freezer to ferment. 

1/18/15 – No signs of fermentation, probably because it’s too cold, chest freezer temperature is at 50oF. Fermentation started 36 hours later.

1/19/15 – Temperature up to 52oF.

1/20/15 – Temperature up to 54oF.

1/22/15 – Brought up to beer room to finish out fermentation. Room temperature at about 70oF.

2/3/15 - Placed in chest freezer to cold crash some of the floaties.

2/4/15 - Bottled with 175 grams of table sugar targeting 3.8 volumes of CO2.

2/18/15 - First tasting. Really pleased with the results. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Tasting: Pecan Porter

I brewed this beer as part of my father’s birthday present in Austin. My goal was to get as close to (512) Pecan Porter, however, I had no idea what their process is for adding pecans. Through some research I found two different ways that seem to be pretty popular. The first is adding pecans to the mash and the second is to create an extract and add at bottling. I chose to use both methods. I figured if I mash with the pecans and don’t feel like I get enough pecan aroma then I could always add some at bottling. I also figured that I might get two different results from mashing, which would provide flavor, and extract, which would provide aroma. 

The only downside to brewing this beer away from my house was that I could not control the temperature of the fermentation and being a high ABV beer there is a possibility of fusel alcohol.  I also didn’t have my O2 system that I had just purchased because the wand blew off into a previous batch of beer and I couldn’t get to it until I racked the beer. With this beer I would have liked to have the option to add O2 for yeast health, but it’s not like I had been using it for years, I could make a good beer without it. 

Appearance: Pours black with a thin tan head. The carbonation might be a little low, but it doesn’t appear that the pecans hurt the head retention at all. I was concerned that the pecan oils would inhibit head stability, but I think the crystal malt made up the difference. With a hard pour I can get some head, but it looks like most of the CO2 is trapped in solution.  

Aroma: Subtle dark fruit, some chocolate and roasted notes with a hint of nuttiness. I think the pecans are coming across more as a fruity-nutty aroma. There is also a possibility of the stressed yeast producing some fruity aroma, but American Ale yeast is not too bad about that normally, even when stressed. 

Flavor: More of the same nutty-fruitiness that I get in the aroma, mixed with some chocolate and roasted astringency. I don’t mean astringency in a bad way, but the kind of astringency that you would get from slightly burnt food. I might want to boost the pH a bit to help with the astringency. Are the pecans in the flavor? It’s hard to tell honestly, but I don’t think I’ve ever found (512) to be super pecan. 

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation with a medium-thick mouthfeel. I think the carbonation might be a touch too low, but I’m pretty pleased with the mouthfeel. I think it ended up dry enough to not leave residual sweetness, but it has enough body to make it a robust porter. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how the beer came out; however, there are a few adjustments that I would make if I brewed it again. Perhaps I would add more pecans to the mash and I would probably increase the carbonation a bit as well. I wouldn’t say this beer is spectacular, but its balanced and drinkable, which are both the characteristics that make (512) Pecan Porter stand out. I’m hoping that maybe in another week or two the carbonation might pick up a bit more, but it’s doubtful.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dark Mild: Brewing for Competition

This year my goal is to start entering beer in to competitions. I’ve never entered anything before but I would like to get some feedback from someone that doesn’t know me and will give honest feedback. I feel my beers are good, but it will be nice to see what others think. Normally I tend to not brew to “style,” put prefer to think of what I would like to drink and then create a beer based around that idea. I will be entering beers into style categories where I think they’ll fit but I also plan on brewing some beers specifically to fit style guidelines. The way I prefer to do this really isn’t that different then my normal process for creating a recipe. I read the BJCP style guideline for the specific style and design a recipe based off of the parameters provided and the taste that I would prefer. 

My English Dark Mild was my first attempt to specifically brew a beer based off of BJCP style guidelines. I think it came out quite well but there were some small adjustments that needed to be made to dial it into the style requirements. It was probably a touch too sweet, so I reduced the Crystal malt a bit, which also helped it to fit better into the alcohol percentage range. Previously it was on the high end of the style range. The other issue was that it was definitely over carbonated. I’ll have to work on that because I keg the beer and don’t have a duel regulator, so this will be a challenge. The entry of the competition is about a month away and the judging is about a week after that so I should have time to cold condition for a few weeks to help clarify the beer. 

I’ve also started to determine the corrective factor for my refractometer. I didn’t learn until recently that refractometers are not calibrated to measure wort so their measurements will be off from what they are reading. On top of that the standard gravity scale on a refractometer is virtually useless because Brix to SG is not a linear relationship. In order to correct my refractometer measurements I take a reading with a properly calibrated hydrometer followed by a reading with my refractometer and then use the following equation 


More information on the subject can be found here. Thanks to this revelation I found out that instead of being constantly under efficient, I’m much more efficient then I thought I was because my refractometer was not calibrated and I was reading the standard gravity measurements. Your average corrective factor should be between 1.1 and 0.9.
Beer Stats
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil Time: 90 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.038
Measured OG: 1.038
Measured FG:1.010
ABV: 3.68%
SRM: 25o
IBU: 18.5

Grain Bill
7.5 lbs - Pearl Malt
0.65 lbs – Crystal 80L
0.25 lbs – Chocolate Malt
0.5 lbs – Golden Naked Oats
0.5 lbs – Brown Sugar

Hop Schedule
1 oz – Fuggles – 60 minutes

Wyeast 1335 – Brittish Ale II

Mash Schedule
154F –Single Infusion – 60 minutes

1/9/15 – Brewed by myself. Added 1.5 grams of CaCl and 0.5 grams of Gypsum to the mash and 2.4 grams of CaCl and 0.8 grams of Gypsum to the sparge water with 6.4mL of 88% Lactic acid. Measured pre-boil gravity 1.038, added 1.25 gallons to bring it back down to 1.032. Accidently added hops at 90 minutes but ended up only boiling for 60 minutes to hit target gravity. Pitched 1L starter made the night before and added 45 seconds of pure O2. Placed in beer room at 64oF. Fermentation started that night.

1/11/15 – Fermentation up to 68oF.

1/12/15 – Fermentation up to 71oF to finish out the fermentation.

1/25/15 - Placed in chest freezer at 35F to cold crash.

1/27/15 - Racked to a keg set to 8 psi to add some carbonation. It might not need that much in the end. 

3/4/15 - First tasting. There is definitely an infection. Now it's a Stock ale :)