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Juicy IPA Summer 2019

Despite the ordering, this will be an immediately follow-up brew of my New England IPA.  It was so good, that I’m brewing a bigger (i.e., higher gravity, more hoppy) double batch (10 gallons).

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Spring Pale Ale – Homegrown Cascade

I’ve long been interested in growing hops. Despite my brewing reduction (honestly, I hardly brew at all anymore), we planted some root clusters last growing season (2018). I say “root clusters” because they were more than rhizomes. They appeared to be full-fledged, dug-out-of-the-ground plants with their bines snipped off.

We had one cascade and one goldings since 1) cascade are a pretty versatile staple and 2) goldings since I tend toward british beers. Only the cascade produced, giving me ~4 oz. of dried hops. Given my aforementioned reduced brewing pace, they sat in my freezer (in double-bagged ziploc gallon freezer bags) over the winter and now part of the spring. At one point I worked up a quick pale ale recipe to feature them and now I’m finally going to brew with them.

For what it’s worth, the hops are starting to come out again this season. My cascades are shooting up with almost a dozen bines at ~2 ft. tall. The goldings are still way behind with maybe half-a-dozen bines less than an inch out of the ground. Hopefully they’re just slow but they’ll produce something.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Pre-Brew

Seeing as how I haven’t brewed since (let me check the last post)… last August(!), I figured a thorough clean was in order. It sucks that cleaning is the worst part of the brew day, but it wasn’t so bad to get in with some Straight-A (I’m cheap and it costs less than PBW) and scrub a little. My brew kettle is easily the cleanest it’s been since I got it. I scrubbed off literally year’s and dozens of brew day’s worth of accumulation. As an aside, I remember a podcast with Jamil Zainesheff where he mentioned that people are amazed at the look of his brew kettle considering he’s so famously clean and sanitary with his bottling. He made the comment that the brew kettle goes through an hour or more of intensive heat every session, so he’s not so concerned about its cleanliness. That stuck with me, so I very rarely do more than spray mine out with a garden hose at the end of a session. Maybe I take it too far, though…

Recognizing how much cleaning sucks, I had spent a little bit of cash and little bit of planning to get a sort of clean-in-place (CIP) system set up. I used that for the pre-brew cleaning to avoid hauling my kegs outside for the final rinse. Really, the only expense for that setup was a little side pickup kit from Bargain Fittings (https://www.bargainfittings.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=46_71&product_id=151) (I love that place, BTW. The prices are pretty great and I’ve had great service every time I’ve ordered from them.) This allowed me to pump the cleanser and the rinse water out to my lighter stainless steel kettle to dump out in the sink inside.

Brew day (4/7/2019)

Pre boil: 11.33 brix (1.044)

Pre boil volume: 6.9 gal.

Cooldown (accidentally reset timer => from memory)

<140°F: 2:30

<100°F: 4:50

Finish at ~75°F (rose back to ~80 before running off to carboy)

Starting gravity: 1.050

The hop aroma is awesome! I didn’t have high expectations. The hops had kinda turned to yellow before they really dried out and were harvested and there wasn’t much aroma to speak of during the harvest or drying. During the brew day, the ziploc bags were coated in a great yellow powder, my hands were sticky with resin while I grabbed handfuls out to measure, and the boiling wort smelled like an intense pale ale.

This was probably my most laid-back brew ever. I didn’t have any other commitments this day and I didn’t feel guilty for brewing because I hardly ever do it now (so I didn’t feel bad leaving my family to themselves). When things got close to the end, I was a little behind setting up the chiller, measuring out the whirlpool hop additions, etc. but I just took it easy setting up the garden hose and measuring out the addition. I still hit my flameout time pretty well so my 15-minute flavor additions didn’t sit too long, but the reduced stress and toll on the body were significantly reduced.

I used my sort of CIP plan after the session to get everything reasonably clean. No more hauling the 1/4 and 1/2 bbl kegs out to the yard, spraying them out a couple times, flipping them over. That killed my back and wore me out. I was still pretty beat after the brew day and needed a good shower, but I wasn’t dripping in sweat and barely able to get out of bed the next day.

Fermentation

Pitched at ~6:00 PM on brewday. Beginning formation of head the next morning. Proper, steady blow-off tube activity by lunch.

After 6 days: 1.010

ESB Summer 2018

Well, it’s become clear that my off-taste is due to an infection. Probably in the keezer lines. I didn’t get to drinking the 2nd 5 gallons of my last ESB for longer than normal which led to a pretty funky beer that’s pretty clearly an intense version of the more subtle off-flavor I’ve been tasting.

In response, I’ve torn apart, cleaned, and sanitized everything metal that touches my chilled wort and replaced everything plastic. Knowing that I can make a pretty solid ESB to test the effectiveness of my cleaning operation, I’m repeating my previous 10-gallon ESB.

I also got a new bulkhead fitting so I can attach a proper pick up tube (my previous bulkhead is messed up with welding slag – see my Brewing Stand slideshow), hoping to be able to perform a 3-tier cleanup operation rather than lugging my kettle out to the yard, spraying it out and flipping it over a few times (not to mention leaving less wort behind in the kettle).  It’s not great for the back.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew Day (8/20/2018)

I assumed my ~1 oz. of goldings leftover and another 2 oz. from the brewshop would be enough.  That was clearly wrong, since I needed to replace 1.5 oz. of 17.5% Columbus.  Luckily I found some ~15% Nugget.  I still think I under-hopped, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Knowing my pick up tube would give me more volume, I didn’t runoff to my normal mark during lauter.  It turns out I underestimated what I needed.  I was able to fill up my 6-gallon fermenter pretty well, but my 5-gallon fermenter was only about half full.

Finally, I accidentally bought whole leaf hops instead of pellets.  A mistake I’ve been pretty good at avoiding.  This is the first time I’ve made it since I got my pump and whirlpool setup and it was a bummer not to be able to use it this time because the pick up tube got clogged immediately.  I ended up using a sanitized racking cane, instead.

Fermentation

Vigorous fermentation after more than 12 hours, but less than 20 (16-ish?).  I setup the blowoff tube on the full fermenter.  I’m thinking that was pretty necessary.

New England IPA

Like many, I’ve become fascinated with the “New England IPA” fad. Also known as a “juicy IPA” or “hazy IPA” I expect this is really a “hey, we make good hoppy beers, too” situation, but at least it’s a neat innovation (when done properly).

Admittedly, I’m coming to the party late. This style has been around a while and I’ve only recently heard of it. Honestly, it really just sounds like a good idea: emphasizing fruit flavors of some hops. I haven’t had a lot of examples, and what I have had hasn’t been earth shaking. That said, I still wanna brew one, especially after finding a pretty neat-sounding recipe from Gordon Strong at BYO.

I don’t know when I might make it, but I want to post this to capture some thoughts I’ve had while they’re fresh.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Notes

The following process does not quickly chill the wort. Most importantly, it lengthens the time >140 °F which is when DMS is formed. Given the 75-minute boil and highly modified malts, this is probably not a problem. It will also tend to reduce the effectiveness of the cold break, but this is fine for a beer that’s expected to be hazy.

0-minute Amarillo gets added at knock-out
Other 0-minute additions get added to whirlpool once below 180 °F. “Allow to stand for 20 minutes then chill to 64 °F (18 °C) and rack to the fermenter.” Based on these instructions, I think I should just leave the wort whirlpooling without turning on the hose for chilling until the <180 °F additions have been in the whirlpool for 20 minutes. In other words, start the whirlpool as usual, ~5 minutes before knock out. At knockout, add Amarillo. Once below 180 °F, add remaining 0-minute hops. After 20 minutes, turn on hose for typical chilling regime.

“Oxygenate, then pitch the yeast. Start fermentation at 64 °F (18 °C), allowing temperature to rise naturally as fermentation progresses. Mix the dry hops and divide into three equal portions. The first portion gets added after two days of active fermentation. The second portion gets added at the end of fermentation.

The third portion gets added three days after fermentation ends. Allow each dry hop addition to be in contact with the beer for two to three days, then remove.”

Brew Day (5/19/2019)

The plan for today was to eliminate all non-essential additions. Luckily a hazy IPA, particularly this recipe, was mostly fine with two big eliminations – Whirlfloc and my chiller. I have come to hold my chiller as the prime suspect in my off-flavors since that’s one of the only things that hasn’t been replaced and contacts chilled wort. Also, I tend to have off-flavors after each of our moves, and for a while after we settle somewhere, and the chiller is certainly something that could get a little bit of funk on it that’s hard to clean off during that process.

Pre boil: 12.67 brix (1.050 measured)

Periodic measure of the volume showed a rapid boil off, though it didn’t look too vigorous. Volume into the fermenter a little low in the end.  Forgot to take OG sample, but based on boil-off, it’s probably pretty high.  Hopefully not too high for the hopping.

Chilled via ambient without chiller for fear it was the source of the off flavor.

Pitched at 9:30.

Fermentation

Notes on dry hopping

I bought pellets since they work best in my kettle (I don’t have a strainer protecting the pickup tube) so will have to use them for dry hopping. I’m surprised not to read that pellets are a bad choice since they break down so fine. If I would have been thinking, I would have bought whole flowers for dry hopping since they’re easy to throw in a bag and know they’re going to stay in there. I also have a FerMonster so I don’t have to worry about a narrow opening.

Anyway, I have pellets and I think I’m just going to use some gelatin for fining in the fermenter. This should apparently work on the hops as well as the other proteins in the beer. I’ve never tried gelatin, since I’ve been pretty happy with Whirlfloc in the boil. As mentioned previously, I avoided any of my non-essential additions this time to try to avoid off-flavors. While a “hazy” IPA probably doesn’t really want any fining, the fact is, my beer is very cloudy, likely due to the flaked grains and intentional, but I don’t mind getting some clarity with fining because the haze is mostly a gimmick anyway.

Scratch the above.  Statement that “each dry hop addition to be in contact with the beer for two to three days, then remove,” means I should be able to remove them.  Given the long contact time the first would have, I think this is best, so I’ll have to get myself a fine-mesh bag.  Not sure if muslin will cut it, though.

Progress

24 hours: beginning to form krausen, low airlock (blowoff tube) activity.

<36 hours: full steam ahead.  Good krausen formation and steady airlock activity.

FG: 1.011

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping went as planned.  I bought a fine mesh bag since I inadvertently bought pellet hops for everything, including the dry hops.  It worked pretty well.  Once I added the first dose, I let each sit for 2.5 – 3 days and immediately put the next one in when I removed the previous.  All in all, about 7 or 8 days of dry hopping.

Impressions

My keezer died a while ago.  My last beer, I just siphoned off a growler or two at a time (I have 1 1-gallon DrinkTank growler and 2 half-gallon growlers).  It was a pretty bad beer, so I don’t think it suffered for it.  This time, I realized I could keg just fine and use my Blichmann beer gun to fill growlers and bottles at my leisure, even if they’re not cold.  The refrigerator can handle that.

Kegged ~6/1/2019 with ~4 oz. corn sugar, placed under 40 psi just to seat the lid.  I let the pressure stabilize down to 20+ psi.

First taste: ~6/5/2019

The aroma is awesome!  I missed out on 1 of the hop varieties (Galaxy, I think), and compensated with what was left over of others.  The aroma and flavor certainly didn’t suffer and I’d like to taste it with the proper selections some time.

The foam was very dense, almost like nitro.  The mouthfeel was velvety.  All in all, the mouthfeel was very much like a Guiness on nitro.  Very excellent.

Flavor was clean yeast, good maltiness; kind of sweet (shoot, I should take an FG reading…), but the malt takes a definite backseat to the hops.  Good, solid, balanced bitterness with a wealth of hop flavor.

Later impressions (6/7/2019)

The velvety smoothness has gone away.  It’s still fine, but the head is more typical and the mouthfeel, while still smooth and a little silky, is not nearly as smooth and mouth filling as originally.  I’m chalking it up to something about the initial carbonated poor and the subsequent head.  I still think the smoothness from the flaked grains (oat, at least; I honestly don’t know what flaked wheat is all about) is there, but it’s not as pronounced as the first pour.

Hop aroma is still excellent.  There’s a little bit of a bubble gum though, too.  Maybe it’s more of a gummy candy, though. (I recently had a Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion and was surprised to read the description – on the bottle – of “Strawberry Gummy”, along with “Honeydew, etc.  Apparently this isn’t an unheard of perception with modern hops.)  Either way, it seems pretty consistent with the style and I’m all for it.

One thing about this beer – ever since brew day – it’s very hazy.  I know that’s another name for the style (hazy IPA) but I think that’s stupid.  Hazy is not a good quality.  I’ll absolutely accept hazy if the flavor/aroma/mouthfeel/etc. are awesome (which this style has, for sure, in good examples), but to name it after an unfortunate byproduct of it annoys me.  Anyway, this beer is very hazy.  I’ll accept it, since I think major contributers to the haze – the flaked oats, the copious hops – add significant value to the aroma/flavor/mouthfeel.  Still, I’m surprised it’s so hazy.  If I wasn’t being paranoid about my process, and removing Whirlfloc, I’d like to see how clear I can get it and keep the other benefits.  Maybe some day…

Trying to Make Good Beer Again

As described above, this brew eliminated all non-essential elements in an attempt to remove and identify the source of off-flavors in my beers since moving to Oregon.  The only real removals were my chiller and whirlfloc.  And really, only the chiller had much chance of being an element since I’ve bought fresh whirfloc since moving here.  On top of that though, I re-pitched the harvested yeast from my last brew…

Ultimately – granted within the first week of kegging – this seems to be a pretty good brew, free of the off-flavors I’ve supposedly identified before.  Unfortunately though, having repitched yeast from a previous brew that was pretty horrendous, should really rule out my chiller – or any other modification – as the problem, since obviously, any flaw should propagate from the yeast to the new brew.

I wonder now if my tastes are the main culprit in my belief that my brews are bad.  Since coming to the west coast, and its propensity for IPAs – to the effective exclusion of other styles – has possibly trained me toward a specific flavor.  My malty english-style beers might now just seem flawed to me with respect to the clean, hop forward, malt-light beers that dominate the west coast offerings.

Maybe I should just transition to more appropriate styles for the region for a while and build up a process and confidence of good beer brewing before returning to those old staples.

ESB Spring 2018

While I’m not super happy with how my beers are turning out, they’ve been drinkable, so I’m going back to 10 gallon batches. Just dusting off a somewhat old recipe here for the old standby.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew Day (6/10/18):

Using 4 pints of starter wort from my canned starter brew. Missing my Erlenmeyer since move last summer and couldn’t get the stir plate to not throw the bar on the curved bottom of a 1 gallon jug so I resorted to two separate administrations of a few seconds of oxygenation followed by intermittent shaking. After each side of oxygen, I let the jug sit undisturbed for 30+ minutes before shaking.

Pre-boil:. 1.051

Cool down:

  • <140°F: 5:18
  • <100°F: 5:03
  • <80°F: 6:00
  • ~70°F: 6:12

OG: 1.056

Not looking like I got proper boil off, though the surface was certainly turning over. I guess with double the volume, it needs to be more vigorous to get the same percentage. I need to refresh my memory on how that’s desirable. Naively, a constant vigorous-ness is what you want for color and flavor development – such that there is in the boil – but that will lead to a constant boil off volume. I recall a constant percentage being desirable, though.

Beyond the low O.G., I had quite a bit of leftover wort in the kettle after filling the kegs. I saved a liter for gyle but ended up collecting an additional 1+ gallons of clear wort that I dumped. I’ll need to do some calculations to see how much was too low a boil-off and how much was too much into the kettle. I ended up adding a gallon or so of water after the lauter.

Fermentation

Pitched at 6:30 on brew day from starter.

In Rubbermaid cooler at 70°F setup with blowoff tubes.

Slow bubbling after 12 hours, ramping to rising krausen and rapid bubbling in<24 hours. After 36 hours, blowing off.

Awesome, characteristic ESB aroma.

Sample after 6 days: 1.013. light color, just a shade darker than straw. Light caramel flavor, warming alcohol.

Starter

Going to make 2 gallons of starter wort for canning (1.5 gal) and for starting a yeast repitch for my Belgian Dark Strong that’s stalled out.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Belgian Dark Strong – Winter 2018

Brewed the same recipe as previously. I recall it being really good, though I didn’t give any updates in the blog post.

Recipe

Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew Day (3/11/2018)

Terrible.

Actually it didn’t turn bad until the end when I started the cooldown. I forget how exactly, but a hose popped off my pump when I was recirculating, causing wort to spray all over the garage. After that my garden hose outlet popped off twice spraying the garage with hot water. I was an idiot and had the outlet crimped shut by a propane tank sitting on it. I popped the hose off twice before I realized.

After all that, I succeeded in getting a little under 5 gallons into the fermentor at 1.107. Much better OG than last time.

Pitched about 1 cup of yeast collected from my dubbel about three weeks ago. Aerated with O2 for 1 minute.

Fermentation

In Rubbermaid in garage with aquarium heater at ~68.

Krausen and airlock activity after <20 hours, continuing pretty vigorously for 4 or 5 days. It actually steadily grew in intensity until it started blowing off. I didn’t initially set up a blow off tube, thinking the <5 gallons in a 6.5 gallon carboy would be fine.

Pretty soon after blowing off, fermentation slowed considerably.

Sample after ~6 days: 1.070! Very sweet, as expected based on the gravity, but not bad. Bitterness is very minor and alcohol is smooth. I was worried that I was fermenting too warm for the gravity, but I would expect the fusel alcohol to have come out by now if it would, so the smoothness is a relief. Bumped up the aquarium heater a couple degrees to hopefully kick fermentation up a little. There’s an awful lot of sugar to still finish off. I may need to throw in a higher-attenuating yeast if it doesn’t keep dropping steadily.

Sample after ~10 days: 1.060. I kicked up the fermentation temperature a few degrees since the start. Initially it was about 66F for a few days, then up to ~68F for a few more, and now up to ~70 or so. Booziness in the aroma, sort of a rum and coke smell. Not nearly as sweet and more firm bitterness especially on the back end. No noticeable alcohol.

Sample after 15 days: 1.052. Still chugging along, at least. Maybe it will eventually finish. Not much has changed flavor- or aroma-wise since the last sample. Still sweet, though not sickly sweet. Firm bitterness. Most alcohol is apparent in the aroma, not so much the flavor.

Sample after 23 days (after returning from vacation): Still 1.052. I roused the yeast by shaking the carboy. If I don’t see a gravity drop after a couple days, I may need to pitch some new yeast. Given the time (close to 4 weeks), I think I’ll rack to a secondary and pitch. 4 weeks is in my head as a guideline for getting beer off the yeast, at least at ale temperatures.

Sample after 27 days: 1.050, so it actually dropped a couple points. I don’t think that’s enough to where I’ll give it more time to finish up. I’m going to pick up a packet of dry yeast (US-05, maybe) and add it after I rack to secondary. The taste, aroma, mouthfeel, etc. are basically unaffected, which is to say, pretty tasty.

After previous sample, racked to secondary, leaving most trub behind. Pitched hydrated and grown (in ~1.5L starter) packet of Safbrew T-58 ~28 days after initial pitch (was same price as US-05, so I figured I might as well). Steady airlock activity after <6 hours, so maybe I have some hope to get this down to a respectable FG.

Sample after 33 days: 1.033. Decent attenuation after ~5 days of the repitch. Carboy slowly bubbling (every 10 seconds or so), having kept fairly steady activity the whole time.

Impressions

Going off memory. I bottled up 4 bombers, naturally carbonated, for posterity but otherwise the keg’s been dry for a few weeks. My recollection was that it was pretty good except for the cloying sweetness. I’ll have to give a more thoughtful impression once I crack into one of the bottles.