Monday, June 27, 2016

First tasting: Hoppy Pilsner

I’m still working on perfecting the perfect Pilsner. As I’ve mentioned before it is one of my favorite styles, especially in the summer. It’s a style that often gets dismissed by beer nerds in favor of big and bold flavors. I’ve noticed though, however, that the longer you’re a beer nerd the more likely you are to revisit beers you originally dismissed. As much as I respect the art of a well blended gueuze, I also respect and admire the brewing skill involved in crafting a great pilsner. It’s very easy to have one or more component out of balance. This was my second iteration of a pilsner and it was much improved from the last time. There are still a few adjustments that I’m going to make in the future; however, I feel I’m on the right track.

More to the point, I believe the quick lager method was a success. I couldn’t discern any yeast produced off flavors and the beer turned out clean and clear in a short amount of time, requiring no lagering. This will be my method in the future for sure. I’m curious if it can be replicated with other lager strains or if it is unique to this specific yeast strain.

Appearance: Straw yellow with brilliant clarity (thanks to the fining agent) and topped off with a white heat that shows some good retention and clings to the side of the glass.

Aroma: Spicy and grassy hop aroma with a touch of bready malt. Clean and no signs of diacetyl or sulfur.  

Flavor: Clean grassy hop flavor and a hint of bready malt with moderate high bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied and medium-high carbonation that causes a prickling sensation on your tongue with a dry clean finish with a mild lingering bitterness.

Overall: I would say it was a success overall. There are a couple of things I would change next time. I would add a touch of melonoidin malt to enhance the bready flavor and cut back on dry hopping. I might also change the choice of hops to a more tradition aroma hop. On top of that the bitterness comes across as a little strong and I think that’s because of the hop extract. I would eliminate that next time and go for a traditional noble hop, perhaps even use first wort hopping. Over time, and with the increased availability, I’ve been drinking more Live Oak Pilz, which I already really enjoyed and I think my palette has begun to shift away from Pivo Pils to LO Pilz. At the end of the day if I could make anything close to either of those beers it would be a resounding success.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Juicy" Pale Ale (100% Galaxy)

Since my New England style IPA turned out so well I wanted to brew it again. Although the beer was very drinkable, it did clock in at around 7.3% ABV, which made drinking a lot of it while remaining functional difficult. I was curious if I could replicate that beer at a lower ABV. Along those lines, I’ve been curious to see if the New England style IPA is due to the yeast, the grain bill, or the hops, as has been much analyzed in beer forums. I’m personally on the side of the type of hops and when they are added that provides the “juicy” flavor and aroma. I also think that the yeast is providing much of the body that is talked about for this style and the hazy appearance.

To test my theory I changed a few things from my juicy IPA recipe. Obviously the lower ABV will affect aspects of this beer so it’s not a true comparison, but I can still get a pretty good idea of what is different and what’s the same. I also changed the hops and went with a 100% Galaxy hopping schedule. The grain bill is built more off of what I would think to be a West Coast style, yet the hops are fruitier than traditional West Coast style IPAs. I chose to use the same yeast and bittering addition, yet I removed the fermentation hop prior to pitching yeast and added a late dry hop after fermentation. I felt that my NE IPA could have used more aroma, which I think it lacked because it didn’t have a traditional dry hop. I’m also not sure what if anything the fermentation hop prior to pitching did for the beer.

What I’m looking for in the end is a similar hazy beer, which is dry but has a fluffy full mouthfeel, with low bitterness and more fruity hop flavor and aroma.  Will a different grain bill affect mouthfeel and hop flavor?

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 60 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.050
Measured Original Gravity: 1.046
Measured Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV: 4.45%
SRM: 9.8o
IBU: 39

Grain Bill
5lbs Briess Pilsner malt
2lbs Pale Ale malt
2.75lbs Maris Otter
1lb – CaraRed
0.33lb - CaraPils
0.5lbs Acid malt

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Hop Extract – 2 ml
30 minutes – Whirlpool - Galaxy – 1.5 ounce
15 minutes – Hopback – Galaxy – 1.5 ounce
12 Days - Fermentation hops – Galaxy – 1 ounce (added after 4 days of fermentation)
7 Days – Dry hops – Galaxy – 2.5 ounces

Mash Schedule
155oF single infusion for 60 minutes


Slurry from NEIPA 1318 London ale III

5/20/16 – Brewed by myself. Using RO water I added 5 grams of CaCl and 0.5 grams of gypsum to the mash. Mash pH was 5.25 and my target was 5.28. Sparged with RO water. Wort chilled to 78F and oxygenated with pure O2 for 60 seconds, then placed in chest freezer for 4 hours to chill to 60F. Yeast pitched after additional chilling.

6/1/16 – Added fermentation hops

6/4/16 – Removed from chest freezer to finish out fermentation

6/6/16 – Added dry hops

6/11/16 – Placed in chest freezer to cold crash

6/12/16 – Racked to keg and set pressure at 25psi

6/14/16 - Reduced pressure to 10 psi for serving

Monday, June 6, 2016

Quick Lager Method (Pilsner)

The last time I brewed a pilsner (and the first time) I wasn’t particularly pleased with the results. I blamed that mostly on the base malt that I used. Maltsters use different malting techniques, which provide different flavor profiles to their grain. On top of that, grain from different parts of the world will also taste different. The best way to get an idea of your grain is to chew on it. Before I brewed my pilsner I was aware of this, but I didn’t really think it would make that much of a difference. I was wrong. For certain styles it probably doesn’t matter that much, unless you’re brewing on a large scale, but for a subtle style of beer your base grain is important. 

This time around I was able to get a bag of Wayermann Pilsner, as opposed to last time where I used Briess Pilsner malt, which I think has a toasty and malty flavor. I wanted to rebrew my pilsner anyway because I wasn’t pleased with it, still had yeast, and really enjoy a good pilsner. Luckily I recently finished all of the beer I had on tap and my homebrew club is able to serve homebrew at our competition (ACCF) award ceremony this year. It sounds strange, but we couldn’t serve homebrew because the award ceremony was hosted at a brewery and according to our TABC representative, that is illegal. This year, however, we changed the location and can serve homebrew. Being only three weeks out it gave me the perfect opportunity to test the quick lagering method that I’ve read about on Brülosophy. The basic concept is to use a lager strain that can ferment clean at elevated temperatures for a quicker fermentation, followed by an extended diacetyl rest to clean up the beer, and finally to clear the beer out with gelatin to avoid having to lager for an extended time. Using this method I should be able to crank out a pilsner in 3 weeks and be serving it for our award ceremony.

One of the best things about homebrewing is the ability to easily experiment with ingredients and/or processes. This is only the third time that I’ve brewed a lager, however, I really enjoy them. The only thing that has prevented me at this point was the time it would take for them to be ready, which ultimately ties up my keggerator for a long time as well.  If this method works out well I’ll definitely be brewing more lagers.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.049
Measured Original Gravity: 1.051
Measured Final Gravity: 1.008
ABV: 5.6%
SRM: 4.5o
IBU: 38

Grain Bill
20lbs Wayermann Pilsner malt
1.5lbs Carapils
1lbs Acid malt

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Hop Extract – 8 ml
0 minutes - Saphir – 2 ounce
Dry hop (70F) 5 days – Saphir – 2 ounce

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


Slurry from my last pilsner (34/70)

5/20/16 – Brewed by myself. Using RO water I added 5 grams of CaCl and 0.5 grams of gypsum to the mash. Mash pH was 5.25 and my target was 5.28. Sparged with RO water. Wort chilled to 78F and oxygenated with pure O2 for 60 seconds, then placed in chest freezer for 4 hours to chill to 60F. Yeast pitched after additional chilling.

5/25/16 – Increased temperature to 70F

6/3/16 – Lowered temperature to 45F and added gelatin for clarification, then lowered temperature to 34F

6/5/16 – Kegged and set pressure to 20psi

6/7/16 - Set psi to 10 for serving

6/17/16 - First tasting. Great clarity, clean and crisp.