Friday, August 29, 2014

#26 Heady Topper Clone - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 130
Serving Temp: 35F
Carbonation: 2.8 vol
Grade: B-

So after brewing two IPA's that underattenuated pretty severely, I'm pretty sure the GigaYeast Vermont Ale yeast I used is not actually the famous Conan strain.  Conan is known for tearing through high gravity worts like Arnold Schwarzenegger through a cast of extras, but I only got 72% ADF before and 74% on this beer.  And that's with a highly fermentable wort and half a pound of corn sugar.  It's pretty disappointing since I prefer dry IPAs, and this one certainly isn't.

The aroma isn't bad--plenty of hops--but with the wide variety of ... varieties I used, there are no individual flavors that stand out.  At first sip, the beer is heavy with residual sugars.  The hops peak out from behind the pale malt--I like the mango of the Amarillo as it's not overbearing--and one could even call it "balanced" if they were so inclined, but it's certainly not the balance I was shooting for.  The finish is just enough bitterness to balance the malt (meaning a lot).

Your Mom (our championship-winning rec softball team) enjoyed this beer at her post-season party, and I've had some friends prefer this over the session IPA, but I can't say I share their enthusiasm.  There is nothing technically wrong with the beer, but as it turned out, it's not something I would normally choose to drink just out of personal taste.

Edit 9/10/13:
Now that the keg is almost gone, the beer seems to have dried out just a bit.  The session IPA brewed with this yeast seemed to do the same thing, so it must have continued to work very slowly in the keg.  That seems rather odd considering the cold temperature, but I guess it's possible.  I prefer the beer much more now; it's still a bit heavy but the hops pop a little more, and the flavor is very nice.  I do think the hop bill is great with it's balanced orange citrusiness, so I could see using it as a starting point for another IPA in the future.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#25 Session IPA - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 3.9%
IBU: 41
Serving Temperature: 36F
Carbonation: 2.8 vol
Grade: B+

One thing you don't get to experience (or have to struggle with) buying commercial beer is how much a beer changes as it ages.  I touched on it briefly in my post on bottle conditioning, but merely sealing a beer in glass (or steel in this case) doesn't stop the myriad chemical processes happening inside the beer.  IPA's in particular are known to change rapidly in the first couple months and this beer even more particularly.  Instead of breaking down the beer tasting by sense, I think this time I'm going to do it chronologically.

3 days in the keg:  Ok first off, just pouring a glass you could smell the hops across the room.  This seems excessive and it probably is.  At this point the flavor was also surprisingly malty with a ton of that sticky/saturated hop flavor and aroma.  The dry hops still tasted pretty rough as they always do right at kegging (plus I had issues siphoning and may have got some bits from the Mosaic pellets in the bottom of the keg), and the hop flavors didn't really mesh.

2 weeks in the keg:  Now that the hops have settled in, it's starting to taste much better.  The hops are still bold and in-your-face, but I think I can finally make some observations about the hops.  I originally based my hop schedule off Topcutter IPA from Bale Breaker, and the similarity is obvious.  It has that same deep, dark, citrusy hoppiness, though theirs is a little more balanced as I went overboard with the Mosaic.  I haven't brewed a straight Citra beer, but I have had a couple IPAs where Citra was the lead actor (RPM and Purebread), and I can certainly see the similarity between Citra and Mosaic.  Citra has a more multifaceted flavor than Amarillo, with bold orange and classic american hop aroma that stops short of pine, while Mosaic has the same flavors, but a bit smoother and in a darker shade.  Some people say it has hints of blueberry, and while maybe that's what I mean by "darker," I don't think I can pick out blueberry specifically.

The malt is interesting as well.  The pale malt and Carastan form a nice smooth base, and the Victory malt jumps out with a surprisingly sharp Ritz cracker flavor.  At only 3.9%, this beer is really light on alcohol, but the malts still holds its own as interesting in its own right.  If you look specifically for the alcohol, you won't find it, but I don't know that anyone actually does that.  I could see this grain bill being really nice as the focal point, say in an English bitter. Unfortunately it just doesn't mesh with the hops.  Maybe a few more IBU (as in 5?) would help balance it out, but the sharpness from the Victory is just too much.

1.5 months in the keg:  Oh no it's almost gone!  Since the last update, the body has continued to lighten just a tiny bit.  Or maybe it's the contrast with the heavy imperial IPA on tap next to it instead of the dry belgian table beer from before?  I don't know.  The whole package just seems lighter and less saturated before which is nice.  The victory/cracker flavor has settled into place too.  The hops seem to have faded only slightly, but it seems like it's all come from the citrusy side, leaving the smooth not-really-blueberry side as the dominant hop flavor with maybe a touch of crispness from the Simcoe.  Mosaic is a cool hop, and I see why it's so popular, but like Amarillo, I think it's too fruity and mellow to really carry a beer on its own.  Maybe paired with Nelson Sauvin or Columbus?  No wonder brewers get addicted to hops, the options are tantalizing.

Overall, the individual components came out really well.  But as I said in the recipe post, there were kind of three separate ideas driving this beer, and they never really came together.  Brewing my own beer usually makes me feel like a boss, but in this case I needed to promote more synergy between the various pieces of the recipe. Still one of my better beers though.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#15 Pineapple Wine - Tasting

Recipe     -     Tasting

ABV: 8.2%
Serving Temp: 32F
Grade: C+

So now that this one’s almost gone I guess it’s about time to write up my tasting notes.  Pineapple wine was kind of an odd experiment, and indeed it came out tasting pretty odd.  Just like most fruits, sweetness is a big part of the flavor we associate with pineapple, so tasting a completely dry pineapple wine threw a lot of people for a loop.  I wouldn’t say it’s bad (although some people definitely did), but it’s pretty unique.  I bottled 5 different variants to get a feel for what goes well with pineapple and here’s how they turned out.

Plain (15):  The bulk of the pineapple wine was bottled still with no additive.  If you can imagine pineapple juice without the sweetness, then you’ve pretty well got this one nailed.  At 8.2% ABV, the alcohol is well balanced, not a primary flavor, but maybe just an edge in the background to remind you not to take big swig.  It’s just missing something.  It’s an interesting flavor as an experiment—tart and pineappley--but there’s nothing there to draw you back for another.  Also, this wine was best ice cold.  As it warmed, the background flavors—besides the bright acidity—came out more, and it felt like the wine unraveled, exposing almost a lactic the hole in its flavor profile.  Now that’s easy to account for, serve it cold, but not ideal for something that needs to be slowly sipped.

Sparkling (15s):  I bottled part of the straight pineapple portion with carbonation tablets for just a bit of carbonation.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough sugar in there for the carbonation to be very noticeable.  The single most common feedback I received on any of the variants was that it needs more carbonation, so next time I’ll add a few more bubbles and turn it into a pineapple champagne.

Raw Coconut (15rc):  One of my grand plans for this batch was to flavor it with coconut.  I think the raw coconut version was my favorite, out of all 5 variations.  Coconut and pineapple is a proven combination, and the pairing here was as natural as I had hoped.  The coconut aroma was wonderful--I think pineapple on its own is kind of weird--and the taste helped round out the body of flavor.  It also seemed to remain more palatable as it warmed, maybe because the nice clean coconut flavor masked some of the pineapple’s funkiness, or at least filled in the gaps. 
Unfortunately I went hard on the coconut though, so next time I’ll have to dial it back just a bit.

Toasted Coconut (15tc):  I’m not sure why I thought toasted coconut would go well with pineapple.  Maybe because that’s how it has been used occasionally in porters?  Maybe I just had an extra jug and thought I might as well try it?  Regardless, the toasted flavor didn’t really fit with the tart pineapple.  The sweet, toasty aroma was phenomenal, probably my favorite part of any of the variants.  However it didn’t match with the pineapple flavor that followed.  It was pretty similar to the raw coconut, but with a faint roastiness.  There is no reason to revisit the toasted coconut, since the raw coconut was a better fit in every way, but I would love to do something else with toasted coconut, like the aforementioned porter.

Hops (15h):  The last version was a dry-hopped pineapple wine.  Unfortunately this didn’t turn out as well as the Anthem hopped cider that inspired it.  The hops added a harsh bitter edge that maybe clashed with and maybe accentuated the acidity of the pineapple.  I thought it was disgusting and never even opened a bottle for myself, but thankfully I had a friend who absolutely loved it.  Who’d a thunk it.

So given these impressions, I think next time I’ll go with a sparkling version of the raw coconut pineapple wine.  In addition, I think next time I need to do a solid cold crash or maybe even a brief lagering period.  I ended up with significant pectin haze in this batch, and while it mostly settled to the bottom after refrigeration, it was light and wispy enough that it snuck its way into the glass with a normal pour.  The coconut versions also had some congealed globs of coconut oil around the neck of the bottle.  A good cold crash ought to settle out both of these imperfections and let the product seem less amateur.

Overall I would say this pineapple wine didn’t turn out quite as well as I hoped, but I have some easy improvements I can make, and I definitely want to try it again.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

#30 Cascade Wet Hop IPA - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

I really try to keep my beer costs as low as possible; I'm a brewer on a budget!  So when I found out I could get 30 oz of fresh Cascade hops, I knew I had to strike while the iron was hot.  Unfortunately I have too many irons in the fire because I had to brew it on the same day as the blackberry saison.

The mash went pretty well, but I ended up with a bit too much water, so I extended the boil by abut 20 min.  Then when it was time to add the first dose of hops, I missed the timer.  I decided to extend the boil again, to maintain the timing on the late hop additions.

After an hour and 40 minute boil, I ended up w only 4.3 gal of wort in the fermenter, so I had to add a bit of top up water.  That brought the SG down to 1.060 which was lower than planned, but that's not a big deal for this beer.

30 sec O2, yeast pitched at 66, placed in fridge at 68F.

7 Days: Looks done fermenting, added dry hops.

13 Days:  Racked to keg.  I didn't cold crash, so siphoning was a pain.  FG is only down to 1.018 which is much higher than I expected.

#29 Blackberry Saison - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

I think I'm finally getting used to brewing with the cooler mash tun, and using BeerSmith to calculate strike water temperature.  I pretty much nailed my mash temp at 152F.  I'm just not getting the temperature up for the mash out like I'm expecting.  1.5 gal of boiling water only brought the temp up to 160 instead of the expected 165F.  I'm not sure whether it was that or the sparge temp (also low), or just the crush, but I haven't been able to push the efficiency above about 66%.

During the boil, I got slightly less evaporation than I anticipated, so there was a bit more wort at lower gravity, but that shouldn't be a big deal since this is a loose recipe anyway.  I suppose I could have turned up the burner a bit, but I was trying to do a double brewday, mashing the wet hop IPA at the same time, so I was a little distracted.

30 sec 02, yeast pitched from smack pack @ 63F, set at ambient temperature in brewshed to ferment.

(1 Week): Looks like the ambient temperatures were cooler than I expected, so it's currently at 65F.  I know saison yeast likes it warm, but it's especially apparent since it still hasn't finished fermenting.  I needed to rack onto the berry skins though, so I racked to the bucket used for the last batch of blackberry wine, making sure to suck up lots of yeast.  Placed it in temperature control at 72F.

2 Weeks:  Time to keg.  Fermentation is complete and the yeast has dropped out.  Unfortunately there are some tiny white flakes floating on top of the fruit bag; it looks like the early stages of a brett pellicle, not that I've ever seen one in person.  I was too disgusted to take a picture and admit defeat so I went ahead and kegged it before I thought any more about it.  It doesn't taste infected, just super tart from the berries, so we'll try to drink it before anything goes wrong.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#30 Cascade Wet Hop IPA - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

The other day I was looking for brewing equipment on craigslist when I stumbled upon a guy offering free homegrown Cascade hops.  My brewing schedule is already jam packed with a quad, a wheat, 2 batches of blackberry wine, and a blackberry saison all in various stages of production, but I can't say no to fresh hops.  Few brewers have the opportunity to brew with fresh picked hops unless they live in the Pacific Northwest, so I had to take him up on the offer.  Thanks Phil!

To showcase the hops, I put together a pretty straightforward IPA recipe (as if I haven't brewed enough hoppy beers lately).  Hops are normally dried for storage, so they weigh considerably less than freshly picked "wet" hops.  I've read that you should use 4 to 6 times the weight in wet hops to get the same flavor intensity as dried hops.  For this batch, I wrote a recipe in units I was comfortable with (i.e. hops by dry weight), then on brewday I'll multiply the hop weights by 5 to get my actual measurements.

I added a little English crystal and dark caramel malts to a base of Great Western 2-row in hopes that just a touch of sweetness would compliment the juicy flavor of the fresh Cascades.  Last but not least, yeast: I chose the Guinness yeast since that's what I have on hand from the wheat ale, plus I loved it in the Irish red and have been wanting to try it in a hoppy beer.

Cascade Wet Hop IPA
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Estimated ABV: 6.6 %
Estimated OG: 1.067 SG
Estimated FG: 1.017 SG
Estimated Color: 9.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 52.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 77.4 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt          Name                                     %/IBU
14 lbs       Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           94.1 %
8.0 oz       Carastan - 30-37L (35.0 SRM)             3.4 %
6.0 oz       Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)   2.5 %
0.75 oz      Columbus [16.10 %] - First Wort Hop      35.1 IBUs
2.00 oz x 5  Wet Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 20.0 min     17.6 IBUs
3.00 oz x 5  Wet Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min      0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg      Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)            -
1.00 oz      Cascade [5.50 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days      0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz      Columbus [16.10 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days    0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion 152F 60min, Mash Out 160F 20 min Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 14 lbs 14.0 oz
Estimated Cost: $28.79

#29 Blackberry Saison - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Let me start off by saying I don't like saisons.  I think the whole "style" is silly.  Let's take a concept--"Belgian farmhouse ales"--that if you think about it isn't too appetizing to begin with, romanticize it because it's old and Belgian, brew something that's only vaguely related, and then convince ourselves that we like it.  No thanks.  Or maybe I just haven't had many that I liked.  I know there are great beers brewed under this name, and some people really enjoy it, but it's just not for me.  These beers were originally brewed seasonally--in French "saison" means season--so since I have some seasonally available ingredients, I'll bite the bullet and hop on the bandwagon.

Over the last few weeks, we've picked 50 lbs of blackberries for the wine, and I got thinking there must be a way we could use these for beer as well.  I don't want to steal berries from the wine, but after we pull the berry skins from the fermenting wine, it seems like there's still a good amount of flavor left to use.  What that flavor is I have no idea.  My guess is that with most of the sugar and acid dissolved into the must, there will be mostly tannin still in the skins, along with whatever juice is bound up in the mass of berry bits.  That means it will be pretty bitter, and not necessarily add the kind of juicy berry flavor one would expect.

I decided to pair the berries with a saison because saisons (and Belgian beers in general) are amenable to a wide range of fruits and spices.  The low hop bitterness will leave room for the tannic bitterness from the berries, and the fruity/peppery yeast will both compliment and contrast the more juicy berry flavors.  Layer on top of that a healthy dose of Saaz hops, bringing more spice and a squeeze of lemon, and it should be delicious package.  I hope.  This is all a very seat-of-the-pants kind of experiment, so fingers crossed that it works out.

Blackberry Saison
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Estimated ABV: 5.7 %
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG
Estimated FG: 1.010 SG
Estimated Color: 5.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 77.4 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt         Name                                     %/IBU
9 lbs       Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)            78.3 %
2 lbs       Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM)                17.4 %
8.0 oz      Munich Malt - 30-35L (32.0 SRM)          4.3 %
1.00 oz     Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min      21.9 IBUs
0.50 oz     Saaz [4.00 %] - Boil 20.0 min            3.5 IBUs
1.00 Item   Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)        -
0.50 oz     Saaz [4.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min             0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg     French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711)        -

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion 152F, Mash Out 165F, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 8.0 oz
Estimated Cost: $22.57

Sunday, August 10, 2014

#28 Blackberry Wine - Process

Recipe     -     Process     -     Tasting

So as I mentioned before, my friend Kristin's house is backed against the Holy Grail of blackberries.  If milk and honey were blackberries, then this would be Canaan.  Not only were there more than enough ripe berries to supply the wine--with hundreds of pounds to spare--but they were the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious berries I've had.  We dragged several friends out there to help us pick and had 33 lbs of fresh berries in short order.  Thanks guys!

That night, I mixed up the ingredients (except the yeast), mashing the berries in a bag in the fermentation bucket with a wire potato masher.  Unfortunately I didn't measure the SG before adding the sugar so the next day when I pitched the yeast, the SG was off the charts!  Literally.  My hydrometer only goes up to 1.160, but this was probably closer to 1.180.  That translates to 24% potential alcohol, which is well above the tolerance of the Lalvin 71B yeast, and probably a lot stronger than anyone wants to drink.

I figured at this point the obvious option would be to dilute the must, but I was already at 5.5 gal in a 6 gal bucket, so that option was out.  On top of that, I didn't want to dilute the amazing blackberry flavor, just the sugar.  Instead I decided to just pitch the yeast and let the 71B attenuate as far as it could go, then ferment a second batch of wine to blend back in.  There will still be some residual sugar, so if the yeast doesn't wake up to finish it off I'll have to add some EC-1118 to do the job.

Anyway, after sitting for 24 hrs (8/10) to let the pectic enzyme and Campden tablets do their work, I pitched the yeast and let it ferment at 70F next to the wheat ale.  I had my sister Hope stir it everyday to mix the cap and a bit of oxygen back in.

4 Days: Pulled out the bag with the berries, skins, seeds, etc.

2 Weeks (8/23): Racked to secondary.  Gravity has dropped to 1.026.  Still way too much sugar, but it's already 20% alcohol!  Taste is super sweet, similar consistency to grape juice, somewhat sweet with mild carbonation.  It tastes amazing, no hint of alcohol, but I'm definitely feeling a buzz after just the gravity sample.  I added about half a gallon of water to top up to the neck of the carboy

At this point, we also mixed up the second batch of wine.  My sister and I picked 19 lbs of black berries and dropped the added sugar but otherwise kept the recipe the same.  This batch of berries was nowhere near as good as the last batch.  They're noticeably more tart, and not nearly as sweet.  To contrast with the first batch where the OG was 1.180, this one only 1.026.

1 Week: Racked to secondary.  SG at 1.004.  After removing the berries there's only about 3.5 gal left so I didn't bother to top up.  It tastes really tart but I guess it's not a surprise given the berries we used.  As soon as the wine was off the berries, I racked the saison onto it.  I'm excited to see how that little experiment comes out as well.  Meanwhile the original batch is still slowly fizzing as the yeast continue to nibble at the remaining sugar.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

#27 Classic American Wheat - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

This brewday started off a bit later than usual, but I actually finished in record time, six and a half hours.  I undershot my mash temp by a sizable margin, all the way down at 145F, but I want this one to come out dry anyway, so I decided this wasn't a big deal and let it ride.  With the 160F mash out to kick start the a-amylase, I assumed I would get full conversion anyway.  I ended up with low efficiency (63%) so maybe the low temperature had something to do with it, or maybe the cool (159F sparge) didn't help either, I don't know.  My roommate Chris joined me as I got ready to sparge, helping clean things, which really accelerated the end of the brewday.  As I said, efficiency was low leading to an OG of only 1.045, but this is still well within the scope of the style.

30 sec. O2, yeast pitched at 66F, set in fridge at 66F

2 Days:  Actively fermenting.  There wasn't much headspace so there's some blowoff.  Temp bumped up to 70F for the blackberry wine.

2 Weeks:  Racked to keg.  Gravity down to 1.007.

#28 Blackberry Wine - Recipe

Recipe     -     Process     -     Tasting

As I noted when I made the apple cider, fruit wines are awesome because they're so easy to make.  They take a bit longer to age than most beers, but there's not really a lot of actual work to be done; just pitch the yeast and let nature take it's course.  They can also appeal to non-beer drinkers and people who don't know how to eat--I mean are allergic to gluten.  My last couple batches have turned out reasonably well, so it's time for the next round: blackberries.  My family loves raspberries, so my original goal was to make a raspberry wine, but they're incredibly expensive and I couldn't find a good deal anywhere to buy them in bulk.  Fortunately blackberries grow everywhere around here, and my friend Kristin happens to have a particularly rich blackberry patch by here parents' house that we can raid.

I think blackberry wine is going to be a little bit tougher to pull off than the cider and pineapple wine were though.  Blackberries contribute color and flavor to the wine by fermenting on the skins, much like grapes, and controlling the amount of time spent on the skins is important in shaping the flavor of the finished product.  With no experience in real wine making--grape or blackberry--this will be a bit of a krapfenschutz.  (I do not think that word means what I think it means.)

According to this blog, the full sugar and acid content of blackberries can be extracted in the first 24 hours after macerating the berries and adding pectic enzyme to further break them down.  After that, the color will continue to darken for a couple more days, but he writes that this is largely independent of flavor.  It seems like tannins could continue to be extracted as it darkens, but that's just a personal guess.  With that said I plan to leave the juice on the skins for 5 days, then let it ferment out another week before racking.

As for yeast, I've read advice from a number of places and it seems that most wine yeasts will work well.  I ended up going with Lalvin 71B since it eats a small portion of the malic acid in the berries to give it a smoother character if the berries are a bit tart.  It also does not produce a kill factor, so if I take the spent skins and reuse them in a beer, the wine yeast won't massacre the ale yeast.

The rest of the ingredients and process are pulled from Jack Keller's full bodied blackberry wine recipe.

Blackberry Wine
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal

Amt                   Name
30 lbs                Blackberries
10 lbs                Sugar, Table (Sucrose)
5.00 Items            Campden Tablet
5.00 tsp              Pectic Enzyme
1.0 pkg               Lalvin 71B-1122

Estimated Cost: $10

Friday, August 8, 2014

#27 Classic American Wheat - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

It's funny, although I love stouts, the style I've brewed the most frequently is American wheat ale.  (Well, that's assuming you don't lump all pale hoppy styles together.)  They've mostly been citrusy, hop forward recipes inspired by Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin', but I haven't been happy with how the hops paired with the wheat flavor.  Lagunitas filters their beer, removing all the protein that's a key part of a fresh wheat beer's flavor and mouthfeel, so my versions came out tasting very different.  This time, I'm going to shift gears and just let the wheat do the talking.

The malt bill here will be pretty similar to my last batch of wheat: half wheat, half barley, with a touch of Munich for a richer flavor and a bit of depth.  The round, broad, wheaty flavor will take center stage with a couple ounces of Hallertau Hersbrucker to try something different, and because I have them on hand.  And again, like that last batch, I'll be using English yeast.  I really liked the Guinness yeast in the beers I used it in last spring, so I'm bringing it back to try it in something lighter, and to build up enough yeast for some upcoming high-gravity beers.

Classic American Wheat
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Estimated ABV: 5.3 %
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG
Estimated FG: 1.010 SG
Estimated Color: 4.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 83.3 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt         Name                                      %/IBU
5 lbs       Red Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)                  50.0 %
4 lbs       Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            40.0 %
1 lbs       Light Munich Malt - 6L (6.0 SRM)          10.0 %
0.50 oz     Columbus [16.10 %] - Boil 60 min          24.0 IBUs
1.00 oz     Hall. Hersbrucker [1.60 %] - Boil 20 min  2.9 IBUs
1.00 Tablet Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins          -
1.00 oz     Hall. Hersbrucker [1.60 %] - Boil 0 min   0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg     Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)             -

Mash: Single Infusion 148F, Mash Out 160F, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs
Estimated Cost: $19.95

Thursday, August 7, 2014

#23 Belgian Single - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 5.1%
IBU: 41
Serving Temp: 38F
Carbonation: 2.8 vol
Grade: D+

Well this beer wasn't perfect.  To paraphrase Robert Plant: "I put a lot of work into my recipes. Not all my stuff is meant to be scrutinized, though. Beers like this are blatant let's-do-it-in-the-bath type things."  This batch was somewhat thrown together to get some drinkable beer and learn about ingredients while serving as decoction practice and a good yeast starter for the following quad.  Unfortunately it shows.

First off, this beer is hazy; no this is past hazy, past cloudy, all the way to murky pond water status.  Some beers have a bit of a protein haze or hop haze, but there is visually something wrong with this beer.  The head is nice and fluffy as ever though.  I had a friend literally take a spoon to it to dig her way down to the surface of the beer.

The aroma is nice, with primarily banana esters.  At first the banana was over the top, but since it's been conditioning in the keg, the banana has faded into it's place.  It's still mostly banana but maybe with a tiny hint of hops.

The banana also faded from the taste as well, and is now properly balanced by a bit of clove and lemony citrus spice from the Saaz hops.  I'm surprised how much lemon the hops imparted; I usually read noble, herbal and spicy as characteristics of Saaz, but there is definitely a squeeze of lemon, and with a final pH of 4.64 it's definitely not acidity.  The malt character is nice too, with a wonderful dry breadiness that I think I've only tasted in a couple beers: fresh Pilsner Urquell, and in Fuller's London Pride (albeit watered down).  I really like it and would be curious if its from the Pilsner malt, or from the decoction process.  However in the aftertaste there is a strange musty, hot-bread, spiciness that seems out of place when I'm looking for a dry, crisp finish.  By the bottom of a glass, it really overwhelms and ruins anything positive you could say about this beer.

Although the beer finished dry, the mouthfeel is a bit thicker than authentic Belgian pale beer, even when compared to stronger beers like Westmalle Tripel and Tripel Karmeliet.  If I were to brew this again, I would like to lighten up the body a bit while maintaining the malt flavor and the low alcohol.  I'm not sure how this would work, but that's a problem for next time.

So with all that in mind, what went wrong with this batch?  Starch haze.  I mean, I already explained how the decoction mash was all sorts of f'd up, but those are temperature issues.  They explain the low efficiency but things still attenuated sufficiently, so that's not the main concern.  The issue, as I later learned, was because I took a thick decoction for the last one. That interview explained that early decoctions--i.e. before the saccharification rest--are pulled thick to leave behind enzymes (which are dissolved in the wort) while boiling the kernels to burst open the hard bits of the endosperm so the enzymes can get at them.  Once conversion is nearly complete and the enzymes are nearly spent, you don't want to introduce fresh starch in solution because there will be nothing to break it down.  But that's exactly what I did.  Unfortunately I didn't discover this in time to correct course for the quad, so it could develop similar problems.
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