Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hop Blend IPA

I'm not very good at making decisions. As some of you may know, when I'm caught up in indecision, it can take me quite a long time to make a choice. Well for this beer I decided to not make a choice. Instead of picking one or two flavor and aroma hops, I'm going with three. And gosh-darn-it, to save me from deciding which goes in first and last...they're gonna be blended together...equally!

The malt base, I think, may be on the sweeter side because of the medium Crystal malts. Since the conversion temperature will be on the low side, some dryness may come through to help out. I also threw in some Biscuit malt for balancing the Crystal. I don't have a favorite IPA (in terms of dryness, fruitiness, citrus or sharp piney hops...etc.), and enjoy any IPA that has a fairly bold presence. So as long as there is a good hop nose and flavor, with some malt character, I'll be very happy.

Not sure what to expect with this hop blend. I've never used any of these hops to any great proportion. In fact, I can't remember using any of them because most of my beers have been Scottish, English and German in origin. Its been such a long time brewing an "American" hopped style. Last year's competition entry..."Swamp Rat Super IPA," was all too strange. Not undrinkable, but not all that great. It was unanimous what the judges wanted to taste more of...those "citrus"/3C hops (Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade). So this IPA is designed to go with their recommendations. I also threw in some Amarillo for the heck of it, and cause I've never used'em before.

Chinook (12%AA, pellets) will serve as the bittering addition at 60 minutes. Then 4 more additions of the "hop blend" will go in at 15, 5, KO and Dry. The blend consists of one part each of Centennial (9.5%AA, pellets), Cascade (7.6%AA, leaf) and Amarillo (8.9%AA, leaf).

Brew day was

Hop Blend IPA...aka..."Hop Blood IPA"

7 lbs. American 2-Row Pale
.5 lb. American Crystal 40L
.3 lb. British Crystal 60L
.25 lb. Belgian Biscuit
.25 lb. Wheat Malt
.03 lb. British Roasted Barley

1 oz. Chinook 12%, pellet, 60min
.75 oz. Hop Blend, 15min
.75 oz. Hop Blend, 5min
.75 oz. Hop Blend, KO
.75 oz. Hop Blend, Dry

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (48 oz. DME starter)

Brew Day Stats:

Brew Day: 6/22/07
Water Adjustment: .75 gallon distilled, 1 tsp Gypsum

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25qt/lb
Mash Ph: low
Sacch. Rest Time: 1 hour
Sacch. Rest Temp: 151*F
Mash Out Time: 10 min
Mash Out Temp: 160 (low)

2nd Batch Sparge: 2.5 gallons at 175*F

Pre-Boil Vol: 5.25 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.045
Boil Time: 1.5 hrs
Post-Boil Vol: 4.5 gallons

OG: 1.052
IBU: 77
Color/SRM: 11
Mash Efficiency: Approx. 76.9%
FG: 1.013
ABW: 4.1%
ABV: 5.12%

Fermentation Temp: 74 on up to about 79*F
Cost: $20.10, $0.42/12oz. bottle, $2.51/6-pack


1. Brewing alone is a bit more difficult, especially when operating in a messy kitchen.

2. Tried siphoning and it when very well. Until the end when I lost the siphon flow and there was about a gallon left. Also, whirlpooling (literally spinning the wort very fast to cause a cone of sediment at the bottom...see photo) only works to a certain point where hops and protein sediment gets sucked into the syphon anyways.

3. Ended up pouring the rest through the funnel screen. It was really muddy. I like squeezing out all the hoppy goodness, but there's now a thick sediment at the bottom of the fermenter. the look on her face, my baby didn't care much for the "hop mud" either. Its her..."Eiew...doggy poo poo" face.

4. It smelled hoppy in the house.

5. Made the DME yeast starter only 24 hours prior. Not enough time to allow complete fermentation, and settling of the yeast. So the wort sat around until the starter chilled to allow more settling. I did pour out a third of the liquid before pouring the rest into the fermenter. Fermentation started in about 5 hours!

6. Mash out temperature was low AGAIN! It's always been very difficult to hit a target of 168-172. Not sure why. I added what I thought was the right amount of boiling water. With batch sparging, its still good to add enough water to bring up the first batch runnings to about half the total pre-boil volume.


1. On June 28, I racked to secondary over .75 ounces of the Hop Blend.
2. The gravity at racking time was about 1.012.
3. Though the fermentation temperature eventually rose quite high (80*F), I thought it might result in higher levels of fruity esters or even solvent-like tastes. Surprisingly, it tasted very clean with low esters and pleasantly on the dry side.
4. Overall, it tastes pretty darn good. Can't wait to see how the dry hops finish the scent and taste.
5. Bottled it on July 12th.
6. First sampling on July 21 at my Belgian Pale Ale summer party. This beer is really really good. At only 9 days in the bottle, it was very fresh and the smooth/soft lighter carbonation made it taste and feel just like a cask conditioned ale. A better discription will be coming soon.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Commercial vs. Home Brewed

There is a small handful of costs that go into brewing quality beer at home. In this post I will compare these costs to that of buying commercial beer. This turned into a longer post than I originally intended. Since I've "gotten into" some advocacy of the hobby, comparing the cost is a big selling point. There really is no comparison...but here goes...

After a number of attempts at a certain style, I've gotten some pretty darn good results. In my own opinion, I prefer some of my better beers over anything commercial. After I break into a fully conditioned batch of "liquid gold," I'm even more tickled to know that the pint I hold in my hand cost only 75 cents to make. Luckily its not a chore to make & bottle it...its really a very rewarding past-time.

In my comparison, the inclusion of equipment costs is sort-of difficult to figure in. On the commercial side, it's also difficult. Since it is a "fixed cost," I will go ahead and exclude it, and any other fixed costs. Also, the way I look at it, paying for cool new equipment is much like paying for a ride at an amusement park...its just FUN!

First up...Commercial Beer...What the heck are we paying for?

Production: barley & grains, hops, yeast, fossil fuel + tax
Packaging: new bottles, caps, 6-pack box, case box
Sanitation: cleaning products
Employees: waged, salary
Distribution: trucking, fees
Alcohol Tax: production, retail level
Mark-up: retail level

a. Avg. price of a good micro-brewed pale ale, 6-pack plus tax = $10.34
b. At that price a 12oz. bottle = $1.72
c. At the local pub, 1 50cent tip = $5.00
d. At a modest consumption of .5 gallon/week, bottled beer cost = $9.10
e. With consistency throughout the year, bottled beer cost = $473.20
f. At a modest consumption of .5 gallon/week, pub pints cost = $20
g. With consistency throughout the year, pub pints cost = $1,040.00
h. At .5 gallon/week, half bottled & half pub pints combo cost = $14.55
i. With consistency throughout the year, combo cost = $756.60

Now onto...Home Brewed Beer...

Production: barley & grains, hops, yeast, fossil fuel + tax/shipping
Packaging: bottle caps
Sanitation: half-cap-of-Iodiphor/batch
Employees: we work for beer
Distribution: basement to frig, glass, mouth, esophagus, belly
Alcohol Tax: None
Mark-up: None

a. Avg. price of an "all-grain" good home-brewed pale ale, 6-pack = $3.36
b. At that price a 12oz. bottle = $0.65
c. A poured pint = $0.75
d. At a modest consumption of .5 gallon/week, bottled beer cost = $3.00
e. With consistency throughout the year, bottled beer cost = $156.00
f. At a modest consumption of .5 gallon/week, pints cost = $3.00
g. With consistency throughout the year, pub pints cost = $156.00
h. At .5 gallon/week, half bottled & half pub pints combo cost = $3.00
i. With consistency throughout the year, combo cost = $156.00

So you can plainly see, after you get your home brewed beer to taste very much like any commercial beer out on the market, you will be saving a lot of money!

It costs roughly 3 times more for commercial beer from your local store!
It costs about 6.7 times more drinking pints at the local pub!

While brewing beer, you could also be putting $600/yr away for better things (vacation, a bike, clothes, CSA food shares, more brewing equipment, a bike, a skateboard, education, investments, cool toys for your kids)

Lastly, see...the big brewery's distribution can potentially lead to pretty disastrous results...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

First Homebrew Tasting

Last night I hosted my first home brew tasting. It turned out to be a lot of fun and all the beers were fantastic. I want to first say thanks to everyone (Brian & Nicole, David, Andrew and Bartek) for coming out on a Monday night. It was one of the only days everyone had free. Thanks to Andrew for bringing by 3 of your tasty home brews. Thank you also to my wife Sarah for taking great photos, and my baby Cadence for being a sweetheart.

Only one apology goes out to Bartek...that it wasn't at all the casual drinking night you had imagined. I hope you now know...I don't joke around. No games...all serious-like. Ha Ha! I really do appreciate all of your good notes. I really had a great time having you all over. I just think its amazing that "we" made these beers from our own hands and from scratch. And in their finality, they all turned out GREAT! Brewing beer is totally worth the time and effort, and sure beats paying crazy high prices in the stores.

We got off to a late start, but the night went on remarkably focused and smooth. Everyone had their own tasting note cards with lots of great responses. We tasted 7 out of 10 beers, and started with what we thought would be easier drinking beers. We finished with Andrew's Coffee Stout and high octane Belgian Tripel and Barleywine. Below I will go through each beer in order and highlight the tasting notes for each one.

1. Belgian Pale Ale - 5.5% bottled from primary 6/1/07
Appearance - Deep golden color with amber & brown hue, hazy, low carbonation/not fully conditioned
Nose - Soft scents of floral & citrus bouquet, some candy sugar sweetness and mild yeast
Taste/Mouthfeel - A sweetness of soft fruits and jaggery, floral & citrus, yeasty, mild tart/tangy bitterness, with a light mouthfeel
Aftertaste - The tang remains with tart bite on the tongue, some bittering, and earthy & dryness
Overall/Drinkability - Smooth and balanced, crisp, good, delicious, drinkable, a nice young Belgian...Andrew says he can't wait till its fully conditioned (full batch still in secondary)

2. Munich Dunkel - 4% brewed 12/3/06
Appearance - Reddish brown & clear as day...sunset perhaps, light/white head lingers
Nose - Clean light yet rich aroma, malty, nutty, biscuit, hint of cherry, grains, wine perhaps?
Taste/Mouthfeel - Super mellow & smooth maltiness, clean, nutty, cocoa powder, grainy, grape, and hint of smoke, velvety mouthfeel
Aftertaste - Clean & light, earthy, more "cocoa" dryness towards back of tongue, slight charred wood and hint of smoke
Overall/Drinkability - Very easy to drink, smooth & mellow, great lager, nice solid Dunkel

3. Czech Pilsner - 5.5% brewed 2/18/07
Appearance - Pale yellow and slight haze, with white head that lingers
Nose - Bold & soft citrus hop scent, floral, sweet "grapes", faint apricot
Taste/Mouthfeel - Smooth but also aggressive, super crisp, bold hoppy flavor, slight caramel, light and tingly, attenuated
Aftertaste - Refreshing, fizzy and clean, not bitter, slight barley, acidity noticed
Overall/Drinkability - Very drinkable..."all day long", great smooth/soft carbonation, interesting, flavorful, refreshing.

4. Citrus Lager - 5% brewed 1/30/07
Appearance - Light amber, golden orange, clear, white head
Nose - Mandarin/tangerine, sweet orange aroma, citrusy & fresh, lemon
Taste/Mouthfeel - Clean, bitter, super orange flavor upfront, lemon and subtle grapefruit, taste mellows with more sips, fuller body
Aftertaste - Bitter, maybe gingery, grapefruit adds quite a bit, lemon, wheat beer-like aftertaste
Overall/Drinkability - Unique, different, aggressive, a bit too much orange, best in small volume, paired well with fruit/citrus desserts and maybe chocolate

5. Belgian Tripel - 9% bottled approx. 1 yr ago
Appearance - Loads of foam with solid staying power, golden with slight amber, hazy
Nose - All around soft aromas, orange, fruits (peach/apricot), mild floral scents, caramel, pepper,
Taste/Mouthfeel - Full flavor and complex, sweet, orange, caramel, subtle coriander and pepper/cumin, full body, good carbonation, a bit high on alcoholic heat that mimics whiskey (like it was aged in whiskey barrels...kinda nice and unique)
Aftertaste - A little sweet citrus, tangy tartness (Weiss-like), whisky-like warming with dryness
Overall/Drinkability - Powerful, complex, tough, seems to have lost some fruity notes over one year, nice warming beer served well in a smaller snifter perhaps at a higher temp to allow all the subtleties to come out.

6. Coffee Stout - 5.5%
Appearance - Transparent dark with ruby hue, clear, no head & low carbonation
Nose - Coffee!, clean, iced-toddy, chocolate
Taste/Mouthfeel - Coffee, rich and original, chocolate notes, mild roast flavor, light body, low watery carbonation
Aftertaste - Smooth, slightly tart/sour, mild roast again
Overall/Drinkability - Good, porter-like, best served with chocolate or desserts or perhaps as an aperitif

7. "Warewolf Flanders" Barleywine - 13% 9/2006 & can age 5 yrs easy
Appearance - Beautiful deep mahogany color, clear, thin head dissipates quickly
Nose - Light complex aroma with vanilla, sweet malt, cherry, cocoa
Taste/Mouthfeel - Big taste with deep complexity, soft, dark fruits (raspberry), oak, piney hops, vanilla, chocolate, sweentess with some fusel alcohols , full mouthfeel with lower carbonation
Aftertaste - Alcohol warms, dark fruits again (currants), mild sourness, mild grain, subtle smoke, alcohol
Overall/Drinkability - Heavier taste, warming, complex sweet & strange, not a typical barleywine, needs more time to mellow (I think I'll hold onto my bottle for another 4 years)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Belgian Strong Dark Ale - Recipe & Brewday Stats

I'm getting in the habit of reusing yeast for at least an additional batch. This time I'm reusing the Wyeast Ardennes from the Belgian Pale Ale to make a 3 gallon batch of Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It's been a kind-of crazy trying to come up with a recipe of a beer I've never brewed before, and have only infrequently tasted examples of.

The malt bill is pretty big, but there aren't any malts too strong or powerful. I'm not going for a very dark color. The SRM should end up at around 16.

With the Belgian Pale Ale, I added some minerals to the water. Without knowing the effect of those minerals, I will still go ahead with additions for this beer.

The beer will be racked into 3 jugs, so I've been pondering the idea of adding some kind of flavoring to one of them. Hops, fruit, or other spice? I'm playing with the idea of adding more juniper tincture at bottling. Anyone have any good ideas?

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Brewday 6/8/07

Grains & Sugar
5.0 lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
1.0 lb Vienna Malt
1.0 lb Munich Malt 10L
.31 lb Belgian CaraMunich 57L
.19 lb Belgain Special B 147L
.25 lb Wheat Malt
.75 lb Corn Sugar
.25 lb Jaggery

Hops & Spices
1.0 oz Styrian Goldings, 4.3%, pellets, 60min.
.25 oz Styrian Goldings, 3.5%, pellets, 60min.
.75 oz Styrian Goldings, 3.5%, pellets, 30min.

1 tsp Juniper tincture, steeped 6 months, 15min.
1/8 tsp Black Peppercorn, crushed, 15min.

Wyeast 3522 - Belgian Ardennes - reused 1+ cup slurry

Brewday Stats

Water Adjustment: .5 tsp. Gypsum, .5 tsp Calcium Chloride

H2O/Grain Ratio: #1 1qt/lb, #2 1.6qt/lb
Mash Ph: low
Sacch Rest Temp #1: 145*F
Sacch Rest Time #1: 45min. no conversion
Sacch Rest Temp #2: 157*F
Sacch Rest Time #2: 30min. good conversion, nice and sticky!

Mash-out Batch Sparge vol/temp: 2 gal/180*F

Pre-boil Vol: 4 gallons
Boil Time: 1.5 hrs
Post-boil Vol: 3.25 gallons

OG: 1.078
IBU: 35
Color: 15-18 (looks a lot lighter and golden)
Mash Efficiency: Approx. 78.8%

Fermentation Temp: 70-73*
Cost: $16.15, .50 cents/12oz., $3/6-pack

1. Mash Ph was pretty low (I think below 5), so when using darker malts with an intended hop bitterness, avoid Gypsum and Calcium Chloride in mash water, and add only to sparge water.
2. The 180* Mash-out Batch Sparge water wasn't high enough to bring the mash to 168*. It only got up to 158*.
3. The color looked very close to that of the Belgian Pale Ale I made a couple weeks ago, so I dipped .5 oz each of Roasted Barley & Chocolate Malt for a couple minutes for some more color. Unfortunately the old tea infuser ball must have had some oils on it.

Fermentation Progress:
6/14/07 - It's been fermenting consistently and actively at about 70-73*F. There's still a lot of movement this morning at a temp of about 68*F. I've never seen so much foam building up during fermentation. This Ardennes yeast strain produces a 5"thick and very creamy/frothy foam that sticks around for a very long time. It takes some agitation, at the end of primary, to settle it into the beer.

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Pours a crystal clear, deep copper with amber/brown highlights into a stemmed Belgian glass. A ½ inch dense, light tan head forms and diminishes gradually to a ring of bubbles around the glass with minimal lacing.
Aroma: Clean, sweet, mellow spiciness (clove, coriander), and mild alcohol.
Taste: Very much like aroma, clean with a smooth sweetness, moderate spice, mostly from yeast.
Mouthfeel: Definitely not heavy, a medium mouthfeel, and lower carbonation for a Belgian strong style.
Aftertaste: Jaggery sugar definitely contributing to a lingering aftertaste, with a faint juniper taste that builds as the time between sips increases. The both of these aftertastes build to an almost rubbery taste, then diminishes over time.
Drinkability: Aside from the low carbonation and peculiar aftertaste, it is very drinkable, especially given its alcoholic strength and lower carbonation.
Final Notes: The Ardennes yeast strain definitely prefers worts with higher gravity, as it shows off more spicy flavors. I'd definitely add much more Special B and try using very dark homemade caramelized sugar. Skip the Juniper tincture and use halved juniper berries, or try a new spice or herb.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Bunch of Belgium Beers

Now that I've got a big healthy slurry of Belgain Ardennes yeast, I figure its a good time to get into a few belgian styles. Five gallons of Belgian Pale Ale I figure is a good starting point. Its now clarifying in secondary right now. Its a wonderful rich golden color. It has a medium gravity with low bitterness. No spices added to show how the yeast works. The fermentation temperature was in the range of 74-78*F.

Next up will be 3 gallons of a strong dark ale. The gravity should be around 1.082 with a medium dark color, and a bitterness from Styrian Goldings hops at about 35 IBU. Since it'll be racked into 3 separate secondary jugs, there may be room to play around with a flavoring experiment. Hops, fruit, spice? Anyone reading this have any ideas?

The last beers will be a mouth puckering sour pale ale and raspberry lambic. Not sure if I'll get to call them a Gueuze and Framboise, but hopefully they will get very sour. I'm planning to sour the mash for a couple days. Then ferment it with a blend of Ardennes and Lambic Blend. Then add raspberries to half of it. And finally let them sit around for a year or two before bottling.

That should be the extent of my Belgian attempts for this year. None of them call any of that coriander/orange peel flavoring. Maybe I'll get to those somewhere in the future...perhaps for David's wedding? Also, I'm very interested in brewing a Belgian/IPA style. David and I tried one of those at the Map Room a while back, and it was simply amazing. So maybe I'll make some room for Belgians again next year...cause I'm gonna have to try and brew that Tripel Karmeliet clone...right honey?