Friday, September 16, 2016

Helles: The Return of Hell Camino

If you read this blog you should have realized by now my love of pilsners. I have a ton of respect for any brewer and brewery that can brew them well. I feel, however, there is an often over looked style similar to pilsner, that should be much more popular, helles. Think of helles as the maltier, less hoppy, and smoother brother of pilsner. 

This is another post in my never ending quest for the perfect pilsner, but before I continue with that I’m going to point out how the title says helles but I said pilsner first. I first set out to brew a pilsner using the quick lager method from Brülosophy, but I wanted to change the recipe that I’ve used in the past to fit what my pallette has shifted to recently. I wanted a maltier and less hoppy pilsner, something along the lines of Live Oak Pilz. As usual I’m starting with Wayermann Pilsner as my base malt, but this time I’m adding Melonoidin malt to simulate a decoction mash (because I’m lazy and time is important to me). I forgot to purchase Carapils like I normally do for head retention, but it should be fine regardless. I also decided this time to use noble hops for hopping and no dry hop, rather than extract for bittering and Saphir for finishing and dry hop.

Back to my original point, I’ve been drinking this beer for a while and it is definitely not a pilsner. It’s not hoppy enough and it is too malty, however, it’s still very good and it ended up being my second favorite lager style, a helles, which I wanted to brew soon. This was a double batch so I could refill my other barrel and attempt to remove more of the booze and alcohol flavor. Hopefully it will take just one more beer to make it natural like my other barrel.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.052
Measured Original Gravity: 1.053
Measured Final Gravity: 1.011
ABV: 5.5%
SRM: 5.9o
IBU: 28

Grain Bill
20lbs Wayermann Pilsner Malt
0.75lbs Melanoidin malt
1lbs Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Hallertauer – 2 ounces
30 minutes – Tettnanger – 2 ounces

Mash schedule
146F single infusion for 25 minutes
156F Infusion with 5 quarts of boiling water

Two rehydrated packets of 34/70

8/5/16 – Brewed by myself. Mashed with RO 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 60F. Oxygenated with pure O2 for 45 sec then pitched yeast when proper temperature was achieved. Fermentation temperature set to 60F

8/10/16 – Temperature increased to 70F

8/20/16 – Decreased temperature to 45F and added gelatin for clarifying. Decreased temperature to 34F to cold crash

8/21/16 – Kegged beer and set pressure to 30psi.

8/24/16 – Decreased pressure to 8psi.

Friday, September 2, 2016

First Tasting: Celebration Ale Clone

My goal for attempting a clone of Celebration ale was to nail down a recipe that I could use whenever I felt I wanted to dink Celebration out of season. I also liked the challenge of making it because it’s one of my favorite beers. To construct the grain bill and hop bill I went to Sierra Nevada’s website to gather information. Their site list the starting gravity as 16oP (1.065) and final gravity as 4oP (1.016) and 65 IBUs. The hops are Chinook and Centennial for bittering, and Cascade and Centennial for flavor and aroma. The grain is pale two-row and caramel malt and the yeast is obviously Chico. There is no mention of SRM, but there are plenty of pictures and I’ve drank enough (I’m a professional at that part) to have a reasonable idea of what I’m looking for in the end. Somewhere around 18-22 SRM would be my guess.

To create my clone I entered everything into my calculator, playing with the additions and amounts until I ended up with the target bitterness, gravity and color. I was afraid I was using too much Caramel malt, but it is the only malt listed that would provide color. When it came to brew day I forgot to pick up Chinook hops so I just substituted with extra Centennial hops for my desired bitterness. If you recall from my original post it was kind of a screwed up brew day with everything else going on, but I ended up hitting my gravity target, just not my volume target.

Appearance: Mildly hazy, just chill haze as it goes away when the beer warms up, deep ruby-mahogany red, with an off-white head, good retention that clings to the side of the glass. It might be a touch dark.

Aroma: Slightly grassy, pine, grapefruit, and some caramel sweetness. The aroma is spot on from what I remember from Celebration ale, if not perhaps a touch sweet.

Flavor: This is where things get a little off. Rich bready caramel malt with a hint of pine like bitterness, but nowhere near enough to balance the sweetness. Looking back at it now I can see that I used way too much Crystal malt. In fact I don’t really know why I added Carapils.

Mouthfeel: Malty and chewy with a sweet finish and lingering malt flavor. The hops are all but covered up by the sweetness.

Overall: I know where I went wrong; it’s obviously the excess Caramel malt. To be honest, I’m not sure why I didn’t notice how much I was adding. I will definitely brew this beer again but I’m going to decrease the Caramel malt, or perhaps go with a lighter color and remove the Carapils. I’m going to assume all the Crystal malt is the reason for the slight under attenuation, which doesn’t do anything to help the sweetness. It’s not that it’s a bad beer; it’s just not Celebration ale. I can taste aspects of it in between the sweetness, but for someone who doesn’t like sweet things it’s over whelming. I’m slightly biased when it comes to that. When I brought it to a HBC meeting, everyone loved it for its maltiness. This is just an excuse to try again; rarely do I ever feel I nailed a beer on the first attempt.