Friday, September 25, 2009

Live on WBEW - 89.5 FM

Earlier this week, I was invited to appear live on WBEW 89.5FM radio, to talk about how I brew beer. Starting at 3pm today, it's a special day of how-to's, with short demos about all sorts of things. Being hosted at the WBEZ studio on Navy Pier, it should cool. Maybe I'll see you there, or tune-in online. Check out the details at

Brewing for 7 years now, I've stepped into a lot of the finer elements that would be considered "advanced" brewing. So, I hope to show some special steps in the "all-grain" brewing process that makes for a predictable and satisfying beer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hop Blend IPA 2

I don't think I've brewed a better tasting IPA since the Hop Blend IPA in 2007. A lot of well hopped beer since then, but that one had an excellent balance going on, with a super clean bitter bite deep down.

A recent addition to the line-up of hop selection at the LHBS are plugs. Without any experience using plugs, I figured they'd be much fresher by their packaging. After this brewday, I'm convinced! Much fresher, and well worth the price!

The only difference in this repeat is the overall strength. The OG was dropped a few points, and hop bitterness was scaled back a little. The balance in this beer should still be right on.

Substituting half the water for distilled is much more than the first IPA, but I hope it will bring a softness and clean taste. Didn't add too much salts, but enough to provide the beer with needed calcium, sodium and nitrates.

Half this batch will be kegged straight. The other, a dry hopped version with 1.5oz of the 1:1:1 Cascade/Centennial/Amarillo blend. Can't wait to note the differences in hop noses!

Hop Blend IPA 2

17.5 lbs. Organic 2-Row
1.00 lbs. Amer. Crystal 20L
0.50 lbs. UK Crystal 45L
0.50 lbs. UK Crystal 65L
0.75 lbs. Belgian Biscuit
0.42 lbs. Belgian Wheat
0.13 lbs. CaraPils

0.50 oz. Magnum, 14%, pellet, 60+min
0.50 oz. Columbus, 14%, pellet, 60+min
1.25 oz. Centennial, 9.1%, pellet, 60+min
1.50 oz. Hop Blend, 8.7%, plug, 15min
1.50 oz. Hop Blend, 8.7%, plug, 5min
1.50 oz. Hop Blend, 8.7%, plug, KO

Dry Hops half batch/one keg
1.50 oz. Hop Blend, 8.7%, plug, Dry 7 days

Wyeast 1056: American Ale yeast cake

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 9/7/09 Labor Day
Racked: 9/14/09
Bottled: 9/21/09

Water Adjustment:
Half Volume: Distilled
Strike: 2.8 tsp Gypsum, 3.5 g Epsom, .75 tsp Acid Blend
Fly Sparge: 2 tsp Gypsum, 3 g Epsom, .3 tsp Kosher, .5 tsp Acid Blend

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.2 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4-5.5
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 151°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: n/a
1st Running SG: 1.081

Pre-Boil Vol: 13.5 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.044
Boil Time: 60+min
Post-Boil Vol: shy of 10 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 65%

OG: 1.051
IBU: 61
Color/SRM: Burnt-Copper/8
Ferment Temp: 73°F

FG: 1.013
ABW: 4%
ABV: 5%

1. Half the batch was racked to a keg for secondary. Then pushed out a bunch of yeast before adding priming sugar on 9/21/09.
2. The other half was racked to 5 gal secondary over 1.5 oz. of the hop blend, then kegged 7 days later on 9/21/09.
3. The dry hopped version is bursting with hop flavor and aroma that lingers. Fantastic! The straight half of the batch is kind-of missing hop aroma, but maybe after carbonation, it might be fine.

Tasting Notes

this is it!

Appearance: Pours a beautiful copper/orange, some haze, a one finger head with good retention and a lingering coating of fine bubbles across the entire surface
Aroma: Smooth and light citrus hop scent with slight pine notes, and a little sweet malt aromas come through
Taste: Definitely hop forward with a strong bitterness with a medium hop flavor, then clean malt flavors slide in briefly till the bitterness lingers
Mouthfeel: Light and crisp mouthfeel actually goes well with the brisk bitterness, and full carbonation
Aftertaste: Hop bitterness lingers long with an almost pine/sap-like taste which detracts from the initial cleanliness
Drinkability: A drinkable beer indeed, but a little harsh in bitter flavors, great for the ESB/Bitter beer lover, but probably goes better with a meal
Overall: This is the first American style pale ale I've made that carries a real clean crisp pallet much like many commercial versions I tend to buy. A great success and new benchmark. It's probably from the distilled water and gypsum. So now with this water profile, the BU:GU ratio can come down a bit, especially from the 60min additions

Dry Hopped...even better!

Appearance: Pours a beautiful copper/orange, some haze, a one finger head with good retention and a lingering coating of fine bubbles across the entire surface
Aroma: Assertive citrus hop scent with pine notes, definitely hop forward with a hint of malt notes
Taste: Much more hop flavor/aroma presence in this dry hopped version, sense of high bitterness is tamed by the aroma/taste, some clean malt flavors slide in briefly
Mouthfeel: Soft and velvety mouthfeel may come from water softening
Aftertaste: Hop bitterness does linger, but not as noticeable as the non-dry-hopped version
Drinkability: A drinkable beer indeed, the fry hopping is great, and reminds me of the first brewing of my hop blend IPA
Overall: Dry hopping is really a critical part of home brewing a great hoppy pale ale, in order to get the right aroma more hops is definitely better than less!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2 Year Old Barleywine

A wonderful surprise on a coincidental two year anniversary. A few days ago I opened a small bottle of the Barleywine brewed at the end of August 2007. It really took this long for it to mature properly.

This beer was made BIG. Huge 107 OG, and 123 calculated IBU's. The color is a deep saturated burnt amber. While young, it had much difficulty getting carbonated. It's "hot" alcoholic presence and intense bitterness, masked any flavor subtleties.

After 2 years, this monster brew is absolutely delicious! It pours a crystal clear deep amber/red with medium-light carbonation helping the formation of a ring of fine/smooth bubbles to hang around the edge of a New Belgium stemmed glass.

Both the alcohol and bitterness has mellowed just enough to allow some smooth maltiness to come through. With the level of carbonation pushing out the aromas and flavors, complex and rich malt and caramel notes blend nicely with subtle dark fruit flavors. I really like how the bitterness still held on, giving it the unmistakable barleywine taste.

This beer sure took a long time to mature to the point where I finally like it...rather love it. It was well worth the wait and stashing a few bottles into the far corner of the basement storage. There may only be one bomber left, but it will be awesome to share with close friends this Autumn.

Its funny...I usually don't care for this style, and rarely buy them, but knowing I can create one this tasty feels good. I will definitely make plans to brew another, with full intentions of aging, and perhaps experimenting with subdivided gallons on oak and hops. With two years more experience, I also have tweaks that should make an even better barleywine.