Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bell's Two Hearted Ale Clone

As much as I love NEIPA I also really enjoy other more traditional IPAs. For me there will always be a special place for Bell’s Two Hearted ale. It was the first craft beer I had that really blew me away. It tasted so different and foreign from everything I had that I had to try more. When I first moved back to Texas there was a severe lack of options on the beer shelf at the liquor store, however, after some of our laws changed we’ve been experiencing an influx of new options. Yet out of them all there was one large brewery that we still don’t have that I wanted more than the others. That would be Bell’s. Luckily a few months ago the announced their decision to finally expand distribution to Texas, now I will have room in my suitcase when I visit Michigan for beers other than the 15 pack of Two Hearted.

Oddly enough I’ve never attempted a clone of Two Hearted. My guess was because after my first IPA attempts I decided not to brew IPAs until I started kegging and when I started kegging I was fascinated with NEIPAs, so that’s all I brewed. I figured it was finally time to brew one since I had the left over hops from my Celebration ale clone and all of the required base malt. The first step was determining the yeast I needed. I knew Bell’s used a specific house yeast strain, but I had to figure out what would be closest. After some research I gathered that Cal ale V was probably the closest thing to Bell’s house yeast if you can’t culture it from one of their bottles (they bottle condition and I’ve heard their pale ale is your best option if you can go that route). If you do a little research you can also find the clone recipe that John Mallet gave out for Two Hearted, which is helpful since their website doesn’t provide much information. I did find it odd that the clone recipe has a different starting gravity than the website.

As far as the brew day goes it was a little strange. I thought I came in under gravity, but I think I was just measuring my gravity incorrectly. I’ve changed the way I measure my pre-boil gravity as a result. I now either vigorously stir or wait for the wort to come to a boil before I pull some off and chill it. This process gives me a more accurate measurement. However, this time I ended up adding some DME to bring the gravity up, which subsequently brought it over my target, requiring me to add water later in the boil to balance it out. All in all it worked out.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5 Gallons
Boil time: 75 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.066
Measured Original Gravity: 1.066
Measured Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV: 7.1%
SRM: 5.9o
IBU: 47

Grain Bill
10lbs Briess 2-row malt
2.85lbs Pale Ale malt
0.5lbs Cara-40 malt
0.5lbs Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
45 minutes – Centennial – 1.2 ounces
30 minutes – Centennial – 1.2 ounces
5 Days Dry hop – Centennial – 3 ounces

Mash schedule
151F single infusion for 60 minutes

1.5L starter of WLP051

7/29/16 – Brewed by myself. Mashed with SAWS water, pH 5.28 added 5 grams of gypsum and 0.5 grams of CaCl. Sparged with RO water. Chilled to 82F, the best I can do with my ground water in the summer and placed in the chest freezer to bring down to 65F. Oxygenated with pure O2 for 45 sec then pitched yeast when proper temperature was achieved. Fermentation temperature set to 68F

7/28/16 – Temperature increased to 70F

8/5/16 – Dry hops added and temperature set to 60F for pilsner fementation

8/10/16 – Beer placed in chest freezer to cold crash, gravity down to 1.012

8/17/16 – Beer racked to keg and placed CO2 set to 30psi

8/19/16 – CO2 lowered to serving pressure

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sierra Nevada Celebration Clone

Every year I buy a slim keg of Sierra Nevada Celebration ale because I realized that I love that beer and normally buy close to that amount in bottles. Why not buy the same quantity and keep it in a closed system? In theory the beer will stay fresher longer than if I were buying it in bottles, but really time is not a factor since I try to consume it quickly. I’m a professional, remember? Due to the fact that I always buy a keg of it I’ve never attempted to clone it. I also generally don’t like cloning beers that I can buy, because what’s the point? However, I can only buy Celebration seasonally, which means if I want to drink it now I can’t. Unless I’m drinking really old bottles. After looking into it I realized I basically only needed two different hops, aside from one addition in the beginning, I just needed Centennial and Cascade. I was low on Cascade and its cheaper to buy hops in bulk, so I put in an order for a pound of each. I didn’t need a pound of Centennial, but it gave me an excuse to try a Two Hearted clone (which is also one of my favorite beers that I’ve never tried to clone). Before anyone says anything, I’m aware that Celebration ale is a wet hop beer and I’m not using wet hops, but I’m trying to make a beer as close as possible without using the exact same ingredients.

I’m going to start by saying there were definitely a few issues during this brew day. I normally brew alone so when I brew with someone else it usually throws me off and I become distracted. On top of that I thought I planned to rack off a gallon to be used in a cider, but I didn’t take into account the volume difference, just the gravity. Then just for good measure my whirlpool hose clamp decided to not hold the hose and spray hot wort all over the garage. All and all I ended up with about 3 gallons of beer when I was planning on 5 gallons. Slightly disappointing, but since this is the first time I’ve brewed this recipe I’ll probably want to tweak it and rebrew in the future, I just don’t have to wait as long with only 3 gallons.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.067
Measured Original Gravity: 1.065
Measured Final Gravity: 1.018
ABV: 6.1%
SRM: 17.4o
IBU: 67

Grain Bill
12.5lbs Briess 2-row malt
1.75lbs Crystal 40L
0.5lbs Caramel pils malt
0.5lbs Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Centennial – 1 ounces (Should have been Chinook, but I forgot to buy it)
15 minutes – Cascade – 1.5 ounces
15 minutes – Centennial – 1.5 ounces
Whirlpool - 15 minutes – Cascade – 1.5 ounces
Whirlpool - 15 minutes – Centennial – 1.5 ounces

5 Days Dry hop – Cascade – 2 ounces

Mash Schedule
155oF single infusion for 60 minutes


1.5 L starter WLP001


7/16/16 – Brewed with Melody. Added 5 grams of gypsum and 0.5 grams of CaCl to the mash. Sparged with RO water. Mash ph measured at 5.27. Racked one gallon from the kettle to do a side boil for the cider. Pre-boil gravity 1.055. Chilled to 80F, which is as cold as I can get it in the summer, added pure O2 for 45 seconds and placed in chest freezer to chill wort to 65F. Yeast pitched 3 hours later after wort is correct temperature.

7/21/16 – Increased temperature to 68F

7/23/16 – increased temperature to 71F

7/25/16 – Placed in bathroom downstairs and added dry hops

7/29/16 – Kegged and set psi to 30, gravity only down to 1.018

7/30/16 – Lowered psi to serving pressure

9/2/16 - First tasting, overly sweet, way too much Crystal malt. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Zombie Barrel: How to bring an old barrel back to life

About a year ago I was presented with the opportunity to brew a beer with Freetail Brewing at their new commercial brewery. When we were finished they gave me 5 gallons of the Berliner we brewed to take home and ferment. However, this post isn’t about that beer. Before I left they also asked if I wanted any barrels (5 gallon barrels) since they don’t have any use for them at a large production facility and they had been sitting there for a long time. I only know a brief history of these barrels. I believe they are Balcones Distilling barrels, but I don’t necessarily know which product was in them. Based off the smell of mine I think it was a blue corn whiskey barrel. These barrels sat at the pub unused for a few years and then in the dock of the production brewery for at least a year, before I took one, where it sat in my upstairs guest room for over a year. I never planned on using the barrel for beer, just to break it down and use it for decorations. But then I was given another barrel, which was in pretty rough shape. Now that I had two barrels I thought to myself, “why not try to salvage the old one and see if it can make a drinkable beer”? I figured the worst thing that happens is that I’m out of 5 gallons of beer, or I never fully seal the barrel and can’t use it. The best outcome is that I have another barrel that I can make more sour beer with for blending and added biodiversity.

Step 1: Involved seeing if the barrel could even hold liquid. I placed the barrel in the sink, which had remained plugged from the time I took it and while it was at the brewery, and attempted to fill it with water. Right away there was a problem. The barrel was leaking water from between the staves faster than it could fill up. As a barrel dries out the wood shrinks, which causes gaps between the barrel’s staves, which is why it’s important to keep a barrel filled.

Step 2: After realizing I couldn’t fill the barrel to swell it I decided to fill the sink with water and fill the barrel as full as I could get it, hoping this would cause the barrel to hold water and start to absorb it to swell the wood again. The issue I had with the sink is that it was not deep enough to fully submerge the barrel and I didn’t have a bucket big enough to hold the barrel. I left the barrel right side up for 24 hours and then rotated the barrel upside down. I repeated these steps twice over the next few days. After rotating the barrel I could see an immediate difference in the look of the staves.

Step 3: After draining the barrel and removing it from the sink I attempted to hammer some of the rings closer to the center to tighten the staves.

Step 4: I drained the sink and checked to see if the barrel was leaking. Since it was still wet it was hard to tell. I filled the barrel until it was full and removed the barrel from the sink and placed it on a paper towel on its stand to let the outside dry to check for leaks. As the barrel dried it was clear there were still leaks on the bottom and around the head, through some of the staves and the bottom of the barrel head.

Step 5: I drained the barrel and filled it up with boiling water in an attempt to melt the wax that is in the barrel to plug up any holes. This worked for the staves on the head and the staves on the bottom of the barrel, but the barrel was still leaking around the head. The problem was the fact that the barrel was missing its ring that fits round the head. I didn’t have it and who knows where it was located.

Step 6: Lucky for me I had the backup barrel I wasn’t planning on using for beer. I decided to use one of the rings from it to replace the missing one and hopefully stop the leak. The problem was that my backup barrel was a different shape, so its smallest ring was too big for the head of my barrel. I decided to cut the rivets out of the ring and re-rivet it to the correct size. This process was pretty easy. I used my Dremel to cut the rivets out and I bent the ring as tight as I could around the head and marked it. I let the ring over hang a little bit knowing I would need it to be smaller than what I could bend it to tighten the head. After it was marked I drilled two holes through the ring and used the hand riveter I picked up to re-rivet the ring together. Once that was done I drained the barrel and hammered the ring to the head. Finally I refilled the barrel and left it to see if it would hold water.

Step 7: The next day I confirmed that the barrel was no longer leaking water and thus needed beer in it to find out if it could still make something drinkable. Luckily I had beer sitting around for blending and didn’t need all of it. I drained the barrel and gave it a smell test. I figured if it smelled awful then there was no point in using it. It didn’t smell bad, a little musty and it didn’t have the blue corn whiskey aroma any more, probably from all the rinsing, but well enough to where I thought I would refill it with beer. I filled it with my generic Saison recipe that I use, about 4 gallons worth, and topped up the remaining head space with a beer containing my house bug blend. I was not planning on using this barrel to get any clean beers out of it.


7/7/16 – Filled the barrel with beer.

8/7/16 – Pulled my first tasting from the barrel that I am attempting to bring back from the dead. Big barrel aroma, some booze, clean tart flavor. I might have actually saved it. I don’t think I’ll use this beer for fruit or anything yet since the barrel character is still really strong. I’ll need to give it a few batches until it becomes neutral. I might dry hop it. 

8/15/16 - Added 2 ounces of Galaxy dry hops

8/25/16 - Bottled 4 gallons with 180 grams of table sugar

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

First tasting: Tart Saison

I’ve been neglecting posting updates lately, which gives me a lot of new post in the next coming weeks so get ready for some hot and fast blogging in the next coming weeks. I’ll start with a beer that I’ve had for a while and never got around to reviewing. Partially out of the fact that he beer wasn’t ready and partially out of laziness. I brewed this beer a few weeks prior to blending for my “gueuze” so that I could use it to cut acidity if need be and to make some other blends at the same time. I have an ongoing quest to create the perfect tart saison. There are a few professional breweries that make great examples, slightly tart, dry, effervescent, spicy and fruity, and most important highly drinkable. I’ve attempted a few different methods in the past:

1)      Pitching sacc and bugs at the same time, which generally turns the beer into a sour beer and not a tart saison.
2)      Pitching only sacc and blending with a separate sour beer into it post fermentation. Results are nice this way and it allows me to control acidity post fermentation.
3)      Brewing exclusively with sacc and pitching bugs post fermentation – only attempted once and it might have been the closest to what I was looking for in the end

I have yet to try fermenting a beer separate from my barrel and then adding it to the barrel for a secondary fermentation, but it’s in the works. For this beer I went with method 2 since I had plenty of already soured beer around for blending.

Appearance: Pours clear golden yellow with some chill haze topped with a fluffy white head, moderate head retention.  

Aroma: Grapefruit up front with some underling grainy malt character and some spicy saison fermentation products.

Flavor: Tart grapefruit, citrus, lime, with a touch of bready malt and spices. The acidity is approaching the sour side of things, which takes away from the saison base.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, crisp mouthfeel with a bone dry finish and lingering acidity. High carbonation

Overall: I’m pretty happy with how the beer turned out overall. I think it’s a good beer, but I think it lacks some of the saison character that I’m looking for in this beer. I might want to up the maltiness with some melanoidin malt, which I would normally say would be too malty for a saison; however it might hold up better with the acidity. I’m also thinking dry hopping with some type of spicy noble hop might increase the perception of spicy yeast characteristics. While I enjoy this beer I think there are some tweaks that can be made to improve it.