Tuning a Recipe

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 03.13.11 under Brewing, Hops, IPA

In the course of being a homebrewer, I think you go through some stages. At least I did. At first I wanted to make a bunch of different basic stuff. A stout. A brown. An IPA. An APA. And so on.

Then I wanted to try for consistency. That didn’t last long, because I kept wanting to try new things. So began the experiments. Trying new things, like manwich in a beer. Some came out better than others.

Last year I was still somewhat experimental, but I thought that I was getting more towards trying consistency. But my planning was not that great and more often than not it seemed I had more experiments available to drink than actual good beer, and variety was usually less-than-ideal.

This year I’ve planned out things rather well. I admit that I need to make an IPA every month, so that I am never without one. And I’m planning ahead, like I’m going to make the RIS and Barleywine in the summer for winter drinking.

This is the ideal time to hone my IPA recipe, as I make an IPA every month. Which hops to use, and when? How long to dry hop for, and how much? What mash temperature? Beer color? IBU? ABV? Yeast? Ferment temperature? I know about where I want all these things but it’s time to get right down to perfect.

So far, I figure 1.065 OG, shooting for 6.5% ABV. That leaves FG as 1.015 – kinda dry but not too extreme. This translates to a mash temperature around 152. I’m using US-05. I have been fermenting on the low end, like 62-64F, but I’m thinking of upping that to like 68. I want it pale, around 8 SRM. And I’ve found that 1:1 IBU:OG is too low for me for an IPA. So my plan for my next batch is 80-90 IBU. I’m still committed to Columbus for bittering and throughout the boil as well as dry hopping with it, but I’m still looking for its perfect partner. Neither Amarillo nor Centennial has done it for me so far. They’re OK, but I’m thinking of trying Simcoe or Chinook. Or maybe even something a bit mellower.

It’s interesting to see how it changes from batch to batch. It’s easy to compare because I have the old one and new one side-by-side often, or at least separated by just a few days. The problem is that there’s a lag. I make a change, but I don’t know how that’s affected the result until after I’ve brewed the next version. So there’s a bit of flying behind the plane, but it seems to be working well enough. After all, I’m not making a space shuttle here, just making beer.


[ Comments Off ] Posted on 04.01.10 under Brewing, Hops, IPA, Kegging

It might still be a little early to judge, but I just kegged my latest (I)IPA, all Columbus. Bittered to nearly 100 IBU with an OG of 1.075 and dry hopped for a week with two ounces of Columbus. This beer is incredible right now!

Aroma? YES!
Flavor? YES!!
Bitterness? YES!!!

If it holds up over the next few weeks as it cools and carbs, I’ll post the whole recipe. But for now, I’m basking in it.

Getting Out The Trub

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 01.05.10 under All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Lambic, Stories, Zok

I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy over a week of paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s. With such an extended stay at home, it’s almost a given that there should be a time to brew somewhere in there. As it turns out, the holidays are busy times full of seeing family and stuff like that. But in the end, I managed to carve out a perfect brewing day – January 1st. I still haven’t decided if it was Brew Year’s Day or New Beer’s Day, but either way the pun is bad.

I have had these bacterial cultures in my fridge for a while, and I decided to finally put them to work. I made a lambic. Half malted wheat and half pale malt, with a handful of what we dubbed “bunny hops” boiled for 60 minutes. I skipped the whole raw wheat turbid mash four hour boil thing, and went pretty standard with an infusion mash around 148°F for this one.

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Dry Hopping

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 10.26.09 under Brewing, Hops, IPA

So I made an IIPA and an RIS a week and a half ago on October 17th. This past weekend, I gave them both something special.

The RIS got a dose of oak. Two ounces of Hungarian Oak cubes. I was going for American Oak chips, but Hungarian Oak cubes is all they had at the LHBS. So you get what you get. Toasted in the oven for 20 minutes at 300F, they smelled quite oaky and I gladly dumped them into the still active beer. I am eager for a taste of that tannin-infused vanilla-flavored RIS at kegging time this weekend.

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Vacuum Sealer

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 06.14.09 under Brewing, Hops

For Christmas, I got a vacuum sealer. I have been wanting this for brewing purposes. It seems everything has a brewing purpose in some way or another.

A while back I got a few pounds of various hops from various sources. I was excited to have such a large amount of hops in one simple package so I could use them very easily.

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(I’m A) Roadrunner

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 05.18.09 under Hops, IPA, Tasting

widmer-drifter-6packI was totally expecting to be disappointed. I mean, when I first read about Widmer’s Drifter Pale Ale, it sounded great. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. But then I came to believe it sounded too god to be true. I mean, a lot of people claim great hop flavor and aroma, but it’s such a subjective thing. Every hop is different and “a lot” can vary from palate to palate.

I am happy to say that Drifter is a great beer. It really is a highly hop flavored and scented beer, with really hardly any bitterness there. Frankly, for my tastes, I’d prefer a bit more bitterness, but the flavor is great.

It has that nice sweaty citrus hop scent to it, with the citrus kick to go along with it in the flavor department. The carbonation is a little light, but it’s not the end of the world.

In the end, Drifter is a nice readily available beer that feeds the hop flavor demon without a boatload of alcohol (only 5.7% by volume) and without tongue-lashing bitterness. A good one to keep around and use as a “normal beer” in between 90 minute IPAs and oak-aged Insanities. At the same time, you might be able to lure Joe Sam Adams into a glass of Drifter for a taste of some incredible American hop flavor.

Amarillo es Bueno!

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 02.17.09 under All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Tasting

Of course, I’m not talking about the color yellow, but rather the hop named Amarillo. This is an American hop that I don’t know too much about other than that it’s really tasty. It’s billed as citrusy and flowery. It really reminds me of juice. I like to refer to my beer that’s heavily late hopped with Amarillo as “hop juice”. I just love it. Almost as much as the kids love juice boxes. Or maybe even more, in fact. I mean, their juice boxes probably shouldn’t contain 6.5% alcohol by volume.

I made a beer that was meant to educate me on the bittering effects of Colombus. But I also happened to dose it with several ounces of hops late in the boil. So I guess Colombus makes a fine minty assertive yet not harsh bittering hop, but all I can say for sure is that I love Amarillo. Me gusto mucho los Amarillos!!

Admittedly, the intensity of hop flavor may be too much for some wussies (who shall go unnamed) to handle. But I trust that the real IPA fan, the hop loving beer drinker, will drop to their knees much as I do every time I sip the sacred citrus beery nectar, upon tasting the latest revision of my IPA.

So here it is:
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Careful With That Hops, Eugene
Brewer: Keith Brainard
Style: American IPA
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.061 SG
Estimated Color: 10.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 61.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount    Item                              Type        % or IBU
1.50 lb   Extra Light Dry Extract (3.0 SRM) Dry Extract 12.00 %
7.50 lb   Base Malt (2.0 SRM)               Grain       60.00 %
1.25 lb   Crystal 40 (40.0 SRM)             Grain       10.00 %
1.00 lb   Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)             Grain       8.00 %
0.75 lb   Carahell (11.0 SRM)               Grain       6.00 %
0.50 lb   Wheat Malt (1.4 SRM)              Grain       4.00 %
1.00 oz   Columbus 12.2 [12.20 %] (45 min)  Hops        34.0 IBU
2.00 oz   Centennial 9.1 [9.10 %] (15 min)  Hops        27.4 IBU
1.00 oz   Columbus 12.2 [12.20 %] (0 min)   Hops        -
2.00 oz   Amarillo 8.0 [8.00 %] (0 min)     Hops        -
1.00 tsp  Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 min)        Misc
1.00 tsp  Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 min)    Misc
1.50 Pkgs Fermentis #US-05                  Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule:
Total Grain Weight: 11.00 lb
Step Time  Name         Description                       Step Temp
60 min     Mash In 3:1  Add 15.84 qt of water at 167.6 F  155.0 F

Regarding the grain bill, I am trying to expand from all Crystal malts for color and character, but I can’t really say what effect the Munich had, because the late hops are so in control here.

It is my opinion that having hops boiled for no more than 45 minutes helps smooth the bitterness. Though I may skip the high alpha hops at flameout next time. In fact, I might just use one ounce of Amarillo next time, in the interest of the common man’s (er…person’s) palate.

And the only reason I’m using Dried Malt Extract is because my mash tun is too small to make a beer of this gravity. I’d recommend adding base malt to top off the gravity if you could.

Finally, use Mr. Malty’s pitching calculator to tell you how much yeast to use. It’s really cool.

In summary, I like Colombus for bittering to this IBU, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Amarillo for flavor at any level. If you like a West Coast IPA, then make this one, and you won’t be disappointed.

Galena Hops

[ 2 Comments ] Posted on 01.15.09 under Brewing, Hops, IPA, Stout, Tasting

In mid-November, I made two batches of beer. An Imperial IPA and a strong Stout. Both were bittered with my latest hop, Galena. I bought the hop as a substitute for Columbus. Even though I haven’t really used Columbus yet.

In the IIPA, it came out very rough and harsh. I was not pleased with the bittering qualities. It was very bitter, even though the IBU weren’t that high. Almost as harsh as Wormwood for bittering. Fortunately, two ounces of dry hopping took care of that bite and replace it with a ridiculously abundant hop aroma and flavor. The end result is great.

In the strong Stout, on the other hand, it is awesome. The stout is 7% ABV, with plenty of dark malts amounting to 40 SRM. Even with a FG of 1.010, this beer has loads of malt character. This blends incredibly well with the harsh bite of Galena.

The moral of the story is Galena?Stout:IPA. Or in other words, if Galena, then Stout, else IPA. Actually that’s still not too clear.

Galena is a great bittering hop for a Stout, but avoid it for your IPAs. I think it would be pretty good for a Belgian style, too, but not for IPA or anything really in the Pale Ale/Amber Ale/Pilsner family.

I’ll be making Columbus IPA soon, and I’ll report on those results in about a month.

Sam Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 10.23.08 under Hops, Pilsner

I just recieved notification that we have the Hallertau here in Southeastern CT! Ed Cramer from the great and powerful Gordon’s Yellow Front Package Store in New London, CT, has let me know that he has some of this sweet hop nectar in. I remember my first taste of this one last year. I bought it on a whim, probably because the box is so cool looking, and the word “Imperial” still puts me in a zombie-like state of blind grabbiness.

At around the same time, I had the Dogfish Head Golden Era Imperial Pilsner, and the Sammy really knocked the DFH around, by pure hop content. And who doesn’t love that? I never thought that noble hops could make a hop bomb until I had the Hallertau.

So allow me to recommend the Sam Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner to you this season.

The Perfect Age

[ 2 Comments ] Posted on 10.22.08 under Bottle Conditioning, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Kegging, Tasting

I made an IPA on September 2nd. As usual, it didn’t last long, and now I have about six bottles left. Make that five. I had one tonight. I found that this beer was the best it’s been yet. It’s amazing how a beer changes with time, especially when it’s young. Even more amazing to me is that an IPA is better after a little time.

I always thought of hop flavor and aroma as fading as soon as the wort stops boiling. But it is not the case. This one is full of late hops, as an IPA should be, and I thought that the hoppiness it had on bottling day was as far as it was going to go. Then I was sort of disappointed as this hoppy goodness seemed to fade pretty quickly after it was bottled and conditioned.

I figured it was all downhill from there. After all, everyone always says that hops decline with time. I guess that it’s not just linear from day one, but rather it peaks sometime after packaging before it begins to decline. I think now, based on tonight’s tasting, that the peak for this IPA is falling somewhere in the 6-8 week after brewing range. I’ll see if I can find some patience for the next IPA I make.

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