Rather than run out of beer or more correctly, rather than drink all my lambic in a few short weeks, I decided to *gasp* buy some beer today.
Red Hook IPA was a good deal at $12.99 for a 12-pack and I felt it stood a good chance at tasting pretty good.
Apparently I’ve been living under a home-brewed rock for half the past decade or so. Because I’ve missed many iterations of Red Hook’s packaging. I should have known that the alliance with AB would have meant more than better distribution and regional brewing. There’s also the marketing power (e.g. selling packaging)
So I definitely recognize the first one. I have a vague sense that maybe one or two of the middle three existed. And I hold the final one in my hand. It’s cute. The bottle seems so small and light, but yet it is 12 ounces. The caps are fun and have different things under them, like a Magic Hat (but no words).
Oh and the beer. It’s actually pretty good. At first it smells (and therefore tastes) like perfume. That’s a flowery dry hop I guess. I wonder which one. Google is not an immediate help. Willamette? Cascade? I’m not sure either sounds right.
The bitterness is underwhelming, and the overall hop presence is soft and fragrant. I normally like a harsh/abrasive piney/fruity hop presence. Simcoe/Amarillo/Columbus. But this is still pretty good. At 6.5% ABV, it’s in the sweet spot for an IPA, IMO. I can see how this is a good compromise for a brewery that knows how to make great beer, and also needs to appeal to a rather wide audience. I would definitely get this again, should I nearly run out of beer some time in the future, or find myself out where this might be an offering on draft.
A good solid B+/A- in my unscientific book. Way better than $15.99 for 12 Sam Adams any day.
I love getting ready for the Oktoberfest party!
This year, the party’s bigger than ever! I’m making and serving nine kegs!! This makes it so important to me to get the right recipe in those kegs. This year, it’s three Fisher Cats, three Yachtoberfests, and three IPAs.
Fisher Cat is easy. It barely changes from year to year, and it’s always just right. Half wheat, half base malt. Centennials to around 15 IBU. US-05. Done. That test batch is in the fermenter right now, looking cloudy as can be, and should be great!
IPA isn’t too tough, either, given that I make IPA so often. The difference is that I’m going for a kinder, gentler IPA for the masses. So I try to tone it down a bit. But overall, it’s still my IPA. Columbus for bittering and a mix of Columbus, Centennial, and Amarillo for flavor and aroma, favoring the Amarillo. A nice bitter, somewhat pungent, slightly piney and citrusy, very juicy hop treat. That tester is cold and nearly carbonated in the keg – a sample taken tonight is VERY promising.
Yachtoberfest is still the one that I’m not 100% on. For some reason I insist on doing it as a warm fermentation. First year I tried US-05, and it was fine, but not outstanding. Last year I tried WY1338 “German Ale” yeast and it was different but not totally to my liking. This year, I’ve tried WY1272 “American Ale II” yeast. It seems pretty much neutral, like I might as well save $5 and use US-05. I think for this year I’ll use the 1272, but I’m thinking that by next year I should man up and use a real Oktoberfest lager yeast. It’s not like I don’t have a fridge where I could ferment cold.
In the end, I know whatever I come up with will be well-received by the audience at Yachtoberfest. They seem to love whatever I throw their way. I’m especially pleased because the IPA was upgraded from one keg to three from last year. The Cat and Fest have always been popular, but I still keep thinking that normal people don’t like good IPA. Too many Harpoon IPA, I guess… But fortunately I keep being proven wrong. Which is good because I love making IPA. Almost as much as I love drinking 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.
I’ve been guilty in the past of parroting the whole 18th-century-British-soldiers-in-India creation myth for IPA. I even did a style profile article on it in the early days of this blog.
I thought it as good a time as any to direct anyone who wants to know a more truthful (if less concise) account of the origin of “IPA” to Ron Pattinson’s blog. He actually bothers to review actual brewing records of actual breweries making actual beer in actual past centuries. His discoveries are usually interesting and always detailed. Plus he’s a total wise-ass, which is always good fun for reading.
I can never keep track any more, but I have a vague sense that what was originally called IPA was lower gravity than what they called Mild at the time, and not even particularly hoppy.
This, of course, has little relevance to what is now called IPA, which we all know to be a bitter, hoppy, pale, dry, high alcohol beer. It’s OK that they used to call something else IPA, and it’s OK that the defining attributes of IPA have evolved over time. But let’s not assume it’s always been what it is. And let’s try to avoid repeating things for which we have no primary references.
I have been used to US-05 for quite some time now.
But recently I decided I wanted to branch out. Mainly my motivation was looking for a nice “malty” yeast for my faux-toberfest (that’s an Oktoberfest-style beer done as an ale rather than the traditional lagering all summer).
I ended up with Wyeast 1338 “European Ale” because of its supposed low diacetyl (buttered popcorn flavor). There was another (WLP029?) Kolsch yeast that also sounded good but allegedly gave off tons of sulfur aroma throughout fermentation, which I didn’t want to deal with. The only down side of 1338 that I read was it could be slow.
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!
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.
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.
I pull a half-pint of my latest monster – a 10% ABV beer, pale in color, with a moderately high bitterness and lots of late hops. A huge nose of Amarillo and Centennial hits me right away – floral citrus notes assault me like Coltrane’s Sun Ship. Then I take a sip. Bitterness is not that strong, and alcohol dominates the flavor. This beer was meant to be an IIPA. But now I am not so sure.
Kegging has got to be my favorite part of the whole brewing process. Or bottling for that matter, if that’s all you got.
The punch line is that this is the time when I first taste what has transformed from wort to beer. I learn the alcohol content, and I get to do rudimentary quality checks on the finished product.
At kegging, I can tell if it has basically come out OK. Plus I get very close to cold homemade beer. And somewhat close to cold carbonated homemade beer. These are the reasons for the pursuit of the passion. Cold carbonated homemade beer is what it’s all about.
When you strip away the chemistry, creativity, and process, what is left is beer. That’s what’s so great about it all. Not only do you get a great activity to while away a Saturday afternoon, but you also get a whole ton of beer to drink.
For what it’s worth, the IIPA came out 10.1% ABV (FG 1.013), still has a hot alcohol aroma and flavor, that I’m sure will mellow with cold and carbonation. I also expect the hop aroma and flavor to emerge in the next week or so.
The RIS came out at 10.5% ABV (FG 1.020), and good solid stout all around. A bit hot, too, at room temp. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t guess it got any oak if I didn’t know it, but it still looks to finish in a very satisfactory state that’s sure to ensure its demise way before its’ time.
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.