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.