Saturday, April 12, 2014

#21 Oaked Arrogant Bastard Clone - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Well this brewday went well, not much to report.  The sun even came out, and took a peak at what was cooking.

I was able to keep the mash temperatures surprisingly stable, never wavering from the mid to high 140's.  Considering the relatively low temperature, I opted for a 90 minute mash, so this ought to be a highly fermentable wort.  The combination of a 90 minute mash and a 90 minute boil made this a long if uneventful brewday--7.5 hours as opposed to 6.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few to fill the remaining space on this post:

I harvested the Whitbread yeast (Wyeast 1098) from last week's brew--the American wheat ale--to pitch today.  I left enough beer on top of the yeast for maybe 1/3 to 1/2 a gallon total volume.  I swirled this up and poured it into a gallon jug to let the trub settle out..  This never really happened, so I just used the yeast slurry as is.  The Mr. Malty yeast calculator recommended only about .1 gallon so I poured the other .5 gallon into a smaller jug and stored it in the refrigerator.  I'm not sure if I'll have anything to brew with this soon, but it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Pure O2 for 45 sec., 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient, .1 gal yeast slurry pitched at 60F, and placed in fridge set to 64F.

3 Days: Temperature raised to 70F.  It looks like the krausen is starting to drop, but there is still plenty of yeast in suspension.  I would have liked to do this a day or two earlier to make sure it gets as dry as possible (unlike the wheat sitting next to it), but that didn't work out.

1 Week: Racked onto 2 oz. medium toast American oak cubes.  The recipe called for 2 oz. French oak chips but I didn't have time to get to the homebrew shop with the full selection so I couldn't get those.  It's tough to tell how the flavor will translate.  American oak is supposed to be more bold than French, while chips are supposed to extract the flavor more quickly than cubes.  After one week I'm hoping the flavor is noticeable but not overpowering so I can stick to my planned schedule.

The final gravity was 1.013, pretty much right on the money, so no worries regarding the yeast health or fermentation temperature.  It's interesting to note that the uncarbonated gravity sample feels so much thicker than that of the wheat ale which finished at 1.017.  You would expect that low gravity implies less dissolved sugars implies thinner mouthfeel.  However ethanol is significantly lighter than water--.794 SG--so the stronger beer actually has more dissolved sugar than the FG comparison would suggest.  If we take into account the starting gravity, we find that the real extract (dissolved sugars instead of net density) of both beers is actually very similar at about 6 degrees Plato.  (Here is a great article from BYO magazine regarding the various ways to measure beer strength.)  So why does the Arrogant Bastard still feel significantly thicker?  Well there are a million things that go into mouthfeel besides dissolved sugar mass: sugar species (simple sugars vs. longer dextrins), longer chain carbohydrates (for example beta-glucans), protein content (especially from non-barley grains), hop resins, alcohol level, other yeast byproducts (glycerol comes to mind), tannins (from hops, grain, oak etc.), carbonation and more.  These other pieces can be hard to measure and their effects in sum are poorly explained in homebrew literature.  This is one of the things I would really like to understand as I experiment more.  But at the end of the day, it's still too early to tell because after carbonation it's a whole new ballgame.  Stay tuned for the tasting notes to see how it turns out!

2 Weeks:  The oak isn't quite as bold as I hoped, but it's definitely there so I kegged it anyway.  Since the last update, I listened to the Brew Strong episode on mouthfeel and John Palmer mentioned that pH can affect the mouthfeel.  Well when I measured the pH going into the keg, I found that it was 4.58.  That could possibly be a reason it seems so much thicker than the over-acidifed wheat ale.  The pH of a finished beer should be below 4.5 to ensure microbial stability (fancy speak for discouraging foreign bacteria), but up to that point, a higher pH is generally preferred for flavor.  I couldn't find much information on what goes into this final pH, besides water alkalinity and the speed and ferocity of the fermentation: ales tend to have faster fermentations and higher pH than lagers, with quicker ales edging close to 4.  Alkalinity was pretty low here, but maybe the low temperature contributed to the higher pH?  That's pretty much speculation at this point, and in the grand scheme of things (and by that I mean how this beer turned out) it's not really a big deal either way.

Friday, April 11, 2014

#21 Oaked Arrogant Bastard Clone - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

It's been awhile since I've done this, but it's once again time to clone a commercial beer.  It always seems like they turn out more like Pigly, but this time will be better I swear!  The great thing about brewing clones is that there is a gold standard against which to compare my beer; I can find flaws in my process (and sometimes recipe) by comparing my version head to head against the professional version.  Usually that's not a fun experience, but I've learned a lot since my last clone attempts, so we'll see what happens when I tangle with this guy.

The beer this week is Stone's Arrogant Bastard.  I assume you've heard of it.  It's literally everywhere--in bottle shops, in grocery stores, in my fridge, hiding in the bushes, watching you while you sleep...--you have no excuse for not having tried it.  It's awesome.  But what's even better (and unfortunately ridiculously expensive) is the oaked version.  As in aged on oak chips.  If I'm going to brew this thing I might as well go for the gusto, and try out oak aging for the first time.

In order to avoid an attack of the clone, I've done some thorough research on this beer this time.  Or rather I read about people who actually did research.  The Can You Brew It podcast on the Brewing Network did a series on cloning Arrogant Bastard where they figured out the deep, dark secrets of Stone's masterpiece, then some guy on the internet perfected the oak aging.  He's totally trustworthy I'm sure.

So with all that in mind, here is the recipe I'll be working with.  It seems the secret ingredient is the Special B malt, and after tasting the grains at the homebrew shop I'd have to say I'm pretty stoked about this.  I can't explain the flavor, but if you taste the beer you'll know what I'm talking about since it's the only specialty malt.  The recipe is also loaded with Chinook hops which I stocked up on last summer in anticipation of this beer, but I'm just now getting around to actually getting it brewed.  And like all hoppy beers, once it's ready it's best consumed fresh, so I'll need some serious help with the final step in the brewing process: quality control, sensory analysis, etc.

Arrogant Bastard Clone
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Estimated ABV: 7.7 %
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated FG: 1.014 SG
Estimated Color: 18.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 92.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 57.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.6 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt             Name                                  %/IBU
16 lbs          Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)        90.1 %
1 lbs 12.0 oz   Special B Malt (115.0 SRM)            9.9 %
1.00 oz         Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 90.0 min     39.6 IBUs
1.00 oz         Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 45.0 min     34.0 IBUs
1.00 oz         Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 15.0 min     18.4 IBUs
0.25 tsp        Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 oz         Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min      0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg         British Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1098)
2.00 oz         Oak Chips (Secondary 7.0 days)

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body
Total Grain Weight: 17 lbs 12.0 oz
Estimated Cost: $33.28

Sunday, April 6, 2014

#20 Hoppy American Wheat - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Well balls.  This brewday started off with a minor catastrophe.  When I was making my water adjustments, I added too much lactic acid.  Way too much lactic acid.  I needed just a bit to bring the pH down into the optimal range (wheat is more basic than most base malts, and there were no dark grains to lend some acidity), but when I went to look up a unit conversion on google I got the ratio flipped.  After a couple teaspoons (when I only needed half), I decided that couldn't be right so I went back and double checked my math, so it's not as bad as it could have been.  I ended up adding some baking soda and chalk in hopes that the carbonates would neutralize some of the acid.  Hopefully that helps.

Other than that the rest of the brewing went smoothly.  Chris stopped by to hangout and help with the brewing, which was awesome.  The mash temperatures were again out of control--not as bad as the Irish stout--but I don't think I'll really be able to fix that until I move on to a traditional mash.

Efficiency was a bit lower than expected, and boil-off was a bit more than expected, so in the end the gravity came out dead on but just missing a quarter gallon.  The hops certainly didn't disappear however so the IBUs will be a little higher than I would like.  I used first wort hops for bittering, which is said to give more IBUs than bittering hops added to the boil, but with less perceived bitterness.  So far it doesn't seem overly bitter, so fingers crossed it stays that way.

This beer will be a glorified yeast starter for my next batch, a clone of Oaked Arrogant Bastard, so I'm pitching straight from the Wyeast smackpack.  Pure O2 for 30 sec., yeast pitched at 60F, and placed in fridge set to 62F.

After 2 days it looks like fermentation is happening, but not aggressively.  I bumped the temperature all the way to 68F to get it going.

1 Week: Racked onto dry hops.  Gravity has dropped to 1.017 which is four points higher than expected.  Part of it could have been imprecise temperature control in the mash, but maybe the yeast weren't quite ready to work.  (EDIT: The Wyeast and White Labs pages for this yeast list the minimum fermentation temperature as 64F and 65F respectively, so temperature was likely the culprit.)  Between the under pitch from not using a yeast starter and the low temperature, maybe they never really built up enough steam to ferment it as low as I hoped.  The sample doesn't taste too sweet, though that could be because it's a bit tart from the lactic acid. Thankfully the lactic acid isn't overbearing, only noticeable if you know to look for it.  It's almost like someone squeezed a bit of lemon in my glass...  Anyway, this is going back in the fridge next to the Arrogant Bastard clone at for the next week.

2 Weeks: Racked to a keg.  The SG hasn't budged, but it tastes a little more dry/thin/bitter after the dry hop.  The hop aromas aren't as prominent as I expected either.  I think both these observations will change once it's carbonated, but I'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Planting Hops

We now grow hops!  Today my dad and I planted four hop rhizomes in the planting bed in the lower field at the Watts Estate.

This idea was planted last year when I found out my friend Elise's family has two hop bines at their house.  They originally planted Hallertau and Cascade when her brother was homebrewing a few years ago.  As they love German beers, we put together a recipe for a roggen/alt inspired wet-hopped rye ale that turned out pretty well.  When he heard about it, my dad said, "They grow hops in their yard?  That's pretty cool."  I'm not sure how serious he was, but that was all the opening I needed.  I looked into it--found some good resources on growing hops and some rhizomes at the local homebrew shop--and next thing he knows he'll be tending four out of control hop bines.

In choosing the varieties, I tried to picture what types of beers I would be brewing with them--specifically what kind of fresh-hop beers I could brew with them.  While it is possible to dry and homegrown hops, it's certainly a whole lot easier just to plop them right in the boil, plus wet-hopping is really a unique opportunity that I can't get any other way.  So first off the bat, I plan on rebrewing the rye ale again this year.  We were a little short on hops last year--even with their powers combined Hallertau and Cascade were no Captain Planet--so goal number one is to top up this beer.  Hallertau are a family of German noble hop varieties from the Hallertau region, and like all hops, they don't do as well when transplanted to the opposite side of the world.  For our hopyard, I instead chose Mt. Hood.  This one is an American descendant of the original Hallertau Mittelfruh, that is well adapted to the climate and soil conditions of the Pacific Northwest, and from what I've read best matches the character of its progenitor (there are other similar American varieties such as Liberty and Crystal).  If this plant grows well, I'm hoping we can pull the Cascade from the recipe and use all Hallertau and family.

Not that the Cascade will go unloved.  Not only loved, but I planted two more Cascade rhizomes to keep it company.  The other wet-hopped beer I'm planning is more of a classic American IPA, and since Sierra Nevada transformed pale ale in 1980, there is no more classic American hop than Cascade.  I'm not sure how using them wet will change the beer flavor, but I also planted some Columbus to go along with them.  I imagine Columbus--another classic American hop and member of the "3 C's" club along with Cascade and Centennial--will lend that dank, grassy character I associate with fresh hops whether or not skipping the drying process actually makes a difference.  This won't necessarily make the ultimate IPA, but it should be fairly robust to changes in hop volume, so whatever we grow we will be able to use and enjoy.

Long story short, we should have fresh homegrown hops this fall and some delicious wet-hop beers as a result.  Will the bines survive in rainy Bothell?  Will the hops taste as good as I imagine in my head?  Or will something go horribly awry as it tends to when you don't know what you're doing?  Stay tuned to find out.

UPDATE 5/16/14:  Well nothing sprouted.  I have a feeling it's far too wet to grow hops in our yard--there is standing water surrounding the planting bed--so I'm giving up hope.  Good thing my brewing skills are better than my gardening skills.

#20 Hoppy American Wheat - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

One of the first beers I really liked was Widmer Hefeweizen.  It was one of my Dad's favorites and much better than the cheap stuff that was everywhere in college.  April 2nd was the 30th birthday of Widmer Brewing Co., so it seems like a good time to brew my version of the style they pioneered.

For their "Hefeweizen," the Widmer brothers took a grain bill similar to a Bavarian hefeweizen--half malted barley and half malted wheat--and fermented it with a clean German alt yeast, dropping the signature banana and clove flavors in the process.  Since then, many others have imitated the beer, spawning the American wheat ale style.  While I still enjoy Widmer, I definitely prefer Little Sumpin' Sumpin' from Lagunitas.  It takes the style and bumps up the alcohol to around 7.5% and adds a metric boatload of American hops.  You could say this makes it more of an IPA, but whatever.  It's still tasty and goes well with barbecues, concerts, and/or volleyball.

I brewed a clone of Lil Sumpin Sumpin last summer that turned out well, but now it's time to try my own version.  I think the 7.5% ABV is a little excessive for something that I want to be fairly light, so I'm going to dial it back to around 5% or so with some Munich malt like the Widmer version.  Still enough malt to make it flavorful and full bodied without putting you to sleep after one beer.

For hops I want to feature Amarillo.  It's bright and citrusy, with a very smooth orange/mango flavor that fits well in lighter summery ales like Fremont Summer Ale.  Not to mention I have a ton of it.  However I'm not as in love with Amarillo as some brewers; I think it tastes pretty one dimensional on its own, and can easily overwhelm the hop aroma if used in the dry hop (the biggest flaw in my Little Sumpin' Sumpin' clone).  Simcoe is a popular dance partner--as in Ballast Point's legendary Sculpin IPA--but I just polished off the last of my Simcoe stockpile on my pseudo-Kolsch, so I'll have to be a bit more creative.  Instead I'm going to use the sharper character of Centennial--I get lemon and black pepper--in the boil to add some texture to the hop profile.  While I like all this citrus action in the flavor hops, I'm going to add some piney Chinook in the dry hop to keep the Amarillo from overwhelming the aroma.  Traditional wisdom advises against loading too many hop varieties into a single beer to avoid muddling things, but I think aromas are easier to distinguish than flavors so it should be fine to throw that extra variety in the dry hop.  Lil Sumpin' Sumpin' features 6 varieties in the dry hop after all.  Given all that, here's the recipe I've put together:

American Wheat #2
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Estimated ABV: 5.4 %
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG
Estimated FG: 1.013 SG
Estimated Color: 4.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 54.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt          Name                                    %/IBU
5 lbs        Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           41.7 %
5 lbs        White Wheat Malt (2.0 SRM)               41.7 %
1 lbs        Munich Malt (6.0 SRM)                    8.3 %
1 lbs        Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)                  8.3 %
1.00 oz      Amarillo Gold [10.60 %] - First Wort 60m 36.6 IBUs
0.50 oz      Centennial [10.30 %] - First Wort 60m    17.8 IBUs
0.25 tsp     Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 oz      Amarillo Gold [10.60 %] - Boil 0m        0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz      Centennial [10.30 %] - Boil 0m           0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg      British Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1098)
0.50 oz      Amarillo Gold [10.60 %] - Dry Hop 5 Days 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz      Centennial [10.30 %] - Dry Hop 5 Days    0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz      Chinook [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 5 Days       0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: BIAB, 152F
Total Grain Weight: 12 lbs
Estimated Cost: $28.17

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#14 Stone Imperial Russian Stout Clone - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 9.3%
Serving Temp: 45F
Grade: B

Since imperial stout is my favorite style, this ought to be my favorite brew so far.  Unfortunately it's not.  This was the last of the beers brewed with filtered well water, and now looking back, the beers I've made since have been a significant improvement.  It's hard to identify exactly what the effect is, why the character is so different, but it's noticeable, and I'm glad I put so much time and effort into learning about mash chemistry.

So what does it taste like?  Well a giant imperial stout of course.  It's dark, thick, sweet, bitter, and dry in roughly that order.  There's no head, and at first sip, it has quite an oily viscosity with a rich chocolaty flavor.  As it warms, the carbonation seems to wake up and breathe some life into the beer.  The body lightens a bit and the subtle fruitiness of the English yeast comes out, but also a hint of something off.  I've become especially sensitive to plasticy flavors after my early misadventures, so that was my first thought, but a better way to describe this one is more like a breath of pure oxygen with the beer.  It's not burnt rubber, but just enough of something off to be noticeable.  Despite the heavy body and the initial sweetness, the stout finishes quite dry.  If I had to pick my favorite quality of this beer, that would certainly be it.

Overall this beer is ok, but not great.  Chris pointed out that it is certainly better than some commercial imperial stouts we've had, and I would agree, but it's also no Firestone Walker.  My first problem with this beer--aside from the fact that it was a huge mess--is that it's a little undercarbonated.  I let it bulk condition for over a month and didn't add fresh yeast at bottling, so it took a couple months to carbonate.  Even now it could use a bit more carbonation.  Lesson learned.  Next up is that strange oxygen flavor.  I suspect the yeast are reacting to the water somehow--perhaps in cahoots with the bittering hops and alcohol--but have no way of knowing besides my beers since have been just fine.  Fingers crossed that this is the last time I have to bring this up.

Despite these flaws I really like some aspects of the recipe itself.  It's a really rich beer, but with enough bitterness that it finishes dry, necessitating a next sip.   I may have to revisit this one, but if I continue to experiment as I have been, it may be awhile before the recipe comes up again.  I just had Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch which reminded my how great the oatmeal-coffee combination works in a stout, so that may end up being my winter stout this year...
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