Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tasting : Hidden Duck Hefe 2.0 (Hefeweizen)

As summer comes to an end, it's time for me to finally post the tasting notes to one of the finest summer beer styles out there: Hefeweizen. This was my third attempt at the style, and my first in several years. Basically a rebrew of my last recipe (same grist, same yeast), I brewed this beer in late June, bottled it in mid-July, and it's been tasting pretty great since. I bottled this beer instead of kegging it mainly because it's such a great style to have on hand for travelling purposes, what with going to a couple of family vacation spots back and forth all summer.

I'm no expert on Hefeweizen, but I really do enjoy a well-crafted one. I can't claim to have the most discerning palate, or nose for that matter, but I consider a good Hefeweizen to be well-balanced between clove and banana (if you get a bit of bubblegum or vanilla in there as well, that works) in both the flavor and aroma, with a little wheat character backing it all up. The color should be quite light, the body cloudy from rousing the yeast, and the beer should have a large, white, creamy head that has really good retention. Finish that off with a creamy (but not heavy) mouthfeel, and, importantly, high carbonation. You want this style to be refreshing.

So, I think in the end this came out really well. I believe I hit on all the important points I mentioned above (not really getting any vanilla or bubblegum in there, but that's ok). As I mentioned in the original post, this style of beer really shows how important process is, at least as much as recipe. Use a good yeast, make a starter, aerate the wort appropriately, and keep tight control on your fermentation temperatures, if you can.

I've got a few of these left (I've given quite a few away)... I'll definitely be drinking them as the warm weather unfortunately starts to fade!

Appearance: Poured with a very large, white, creamy thick head that shows fantastic retention. Body is golden-coloured, and cloudy. Effervescent.

Aroma: Nice balance of bananas and clove; I’d say the banana is a bit more prevalent than clove, but not by a lot. No real bubble gum aroma. Very slight background of wheat.

Taste: Again, comes across nicely balanced, with a bit of supporting wheat character. Very easy-drinking, low bitterness in the finish. No hop flavor.

Mouthfeel: High carbonation, medium-bodied and creamy.

Overall: Came out great, pretty much exactly what I was going for. Fantastic summer beer.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Brewing an El Dorado One-Hop Session IPA

Ever since my first foray into brewing a single-hop Mosaic Session IPA last November, I've really been anxious to try it all again, but with another hop variety. I really enjoyed what Mosaic brought to the table (such a fantastic hop), I liked how brewing solely with that hop really helped me identify what aroma and flavor characteristics it added to the beer, and on top of all that, I love a well-brewed Session IPA. I'm a huge fan of having a big hop presence without big alcohol... as long as it's done well. I've had some fantastic Session IPAs over the last year (it definitely seems to be one of the popular "styles" now for an increasing number of breweries), but I've had some disappointing ones, too. My only major complaint about my attempt with Mosaic was that the beer did come out a bit thin, so I hope to remedy that with another try... this time, featuring another fairly-new hop variety - El Dorado.

El Dorado became commercially available in 2010. Developed at CLS Farms in Washington state, it's a high alpha acid aroma/flavor hop variety that doesn't seem to have garnered as much popularity as some of the really big new hops, such as Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and Azacca. However, I had read some positive homebrewer notes about it online, with descriptions of tropical, citrus, and stone fruit, along with pear and, oddly enough, cherry or watermelon Jolly Ranchers (and this is from many sources). I had the opportunity a few months ago to buy a half-pound from the late-2013 crop, and couldn't resist (I'm very weak when it comes to buying hops). It looks like some breweries have tried brewing some beers with all El Dorado, such as Flying Dog, with an Imperial IPA in their Single-Hop series. Unfortunately, I have not tried any of these beers (aside: am I the only one that really despises Flying Dog's labels?).

Like I said, brewing a single-hop beer is a great way to feel out a new hop variety, but something you have to keep in mind is that brewing with one hop does not necessarily work out better than when you combine multiple hop varieties. I'm a big believer that adding too many hop varieties in one beer can easily result in a muddled mess, but there are plenty of beers out there that combine 2 or 3 varieties with better results than a similar beer with just one of the hops. But in this case, I really wanted to continue this experiment, and didn't have any other plans to use El Dorado in the near future, so I went with it. Just wanted to make clear that I understand the risk that comes with this... that is, brewing a beer solely with a hop that sometimes resembles Jolly Rancher candy.

For this recipe, I virtually duplicated the malt bill, but scaled it down to a 4-gallon batch. I thought this grist worked very well for the Mosaic Session IPA; it provided enough specialty malts to help bolster the body slightly, yet the beer didn't come out too malty or sweet. It had just enough malt character... mind you, yes, the beer was a bit too thin, so this time I went with a target mash temp of 153 F, compared to 149 F last time.

As for the hopping, with the Mosaic Session IPA I was worried after brewing it that maybe I had hopped it too-heavily, but I didn't find that to be the case when I finally tasted it. There was no heavy grassiness to the aroma or flavor at all; lots of hops, yes, but it was exactly what I was aiming for in that department. I made only a couple of slight changes this time around: same amounts, but I moved the 10-minute addition to 5 minutes, and steeped the flame-out hops for a shorter amount of time (10 minutes compared to 15 minutes). No real reason for these changes, I just wanted to try moving the hops a bit later, and felt a 10-minute steep would be enough for such a low-ABV beer (since you still get some bitterness when wort temp is above ~180 F).

Everything else is the same as well. Same yeast (US-05, going for neutral character here), same water adjustments (a bit of gypsum and calcium chloride added to the mash). The only big difference involves packaging; now that I have a kegging setup, I'm definitely going that route compared to bottling (as with the Mosaic Session IPA). Hopefully the keg-hopping and minimalized oxygen exposure to the hops (although to be honest, I still don't feel like I've perfected the procedure) will result in a really hop-fresh beer. Since I've started kegging, I haven't necessarily noticed a huge difference in this quality, but the hop freshness does last a lot longer compared to bottling.

If you happen to look up the recipe for my Mosaic Session IPA and compare it to the one below, note that this current batch is for 4 gallons, vs. the 5.5 gallons I typically have brewed in the past. This beer is currently carbing, so look for the tasting notes to follow soon. And once again, forgive me the lack of pictures in this post; summer is a distracting season, you know!

Second from the left in all that mess... that's the one!

Recipe targets: (4 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.011, IBU ~50, SRM 6.2, ABV ~4.9%

2.145 kg (72.2%) Canadian 2-row
330 g (11.1%) Munich
330 g (11.1%) Wheat malt
165 g (5.6%) Crystal 40 L 

Hop extract - 2.5 mL (equivalent to 14 g of 10% AA hop) @ 60 min
El Dorado - 20 g (13.8% AA) @ 5 min
El Dorado - 40 g @ 0 min (with a 10-minute steep)
El Dorado - 60 g dry-hop for 7 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 2 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on July 21st, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 9 L of strike water, mashed in at 152 F, slightly below target temp of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 4 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.25 gallons.
- SG on target at 1.037. 60-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 10-minute steep before turning on the chiller. Final volume ~4 gallons. Chilled down to 68 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. OG on target at 1.048. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry sink with some cold water to try to keep temp down.

- Vigorous airlock activity over the next few days; temp got as high as 72 F before finally settling down when active fermentation did.

- 30/7/14 - Racked to a CO2-purged keg, added dry-hops in a mesh bag and left at room temp.

- 6/8/14 - Removed dry-hops, set keg in keezer to bring temp down to the mid-40s before beginning to carb.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tasting : Hoppily Ever After (Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone)

Well, my brother's wedding went off without a hitch (ha ha, I'm awesome)... great weather, great people, no one got jilted, and most importantly, the beer was a hit! I had high hopes for this Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone, an all-Simcoe American Pale Ale, and I wasn't disappointed. More importantly, neither was the groom or his guests.

Things really worked out well for this beer. The brew day and subsequent fermentation went smoothly - the only aspect that was off was the higher-than-expected efficiency, resulting in an OG of 1.061 (5-6 points above target), but the beer still fermented fine. I then bottled the beer a little over two weeks before the wedding, which gave it plenty of time to carbonate (always easier this time of year), but still allowed it to be consumed very fresh during the festivities.

And it really came out tasty. As I stated in my original post, I was a little skeptical as to how hoppy a beer would be with only 3 oz of hop additions for aroma and flavor (1 oz at flameout, 2 oz dry-hop), but had read a lot of positive feedback on this beer from others who had brewed the recipe. I'm really starting to think that crazy-high hop additions at flameout and for the dry-hop may not be completely necessary, especially if you're using as-fresh-as-possible hops. For this beer, all of the Simcoe I had was this year's crop, so I'm sure that made a difference.

More research is needed, however... which I'm happy to dive into. In the meantime, you can add my name to the long list of homebrewers recommending this recipe. Hoppy, delicious, highly drinkable... and VERY approachable as a craft beer for any population. Brew it!

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized white head that fades fairly quickly to a thin film on the beer. Body is a dark gold color, approaching amber/light copper, with good clarity (despite the picture shown above).

Aroma: Big fruity hop aroma, with a bit of pine... but surprisingly, the fruit is way ahead. A bit of malt sweetness in there, with the grainy pils character slightly noticeable. No flaws.

Taste: Again, the hops are the dominant flavor, but are backed up nicely by the slightly grainy and sweet malt character. Finishes fairly dry with a medium bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, possibly medium-light; moderate carbonation.

Overall: A very tasty beer. Great hop character; the Simcoe definitely comes through with a mostly fruity presence. I really like what the malt bill adds to the beer as well, very supportive for an APA, without overbearing the hops. Quite drinkable, and a nice beer for beer geeks and non-beer geeks alike.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Brewing a Hefeweizen

I don't know about most of you homebrewers out there, but I (usually) keep very-detailed records of my exploits in this hobby of ours. Aside from using brewing software (Beersmith) to come up with my recipes and enter brewing data, I have a binder filled with notes, details and tasting notes on every beer I've brewed since my first brew in November, 2009. I also have my planned brewing schedule, inventory, future brew ideas, etc. stored there. I even keep this binder with me at work, for when I have free time and want to go back to check things. Maybe a bit overboard, yes, but hey, it helps sometimes!

A couple of months ago, I was looking over previous beers I've brewed, and was struck by the fact that I haven't brewed a Hefeweizen (aka Weissbier) in 3 years. I was honestly shocked; a German wheat beer, Hefeweizen has to be one of the perfect summer-beer styles. Spicy and fruity, refreshing and light-drinking, the best ones have a perfect balance of banana and clove aromas and flavors, backed up by the presence of wheat, with high carbonation. Sounds great for this hot weather, doesn't it? A lot of commercial breweries brew a Hefeweizen of their own this time of year, and there's many German examples that are widely available... if you haven't already, get out there and give some of them a try. You'd be surprised how much they can differ. For my money, you really can't get much better than Weihenstephaner's Hefe Weissbier.

I brewed a Hefeweizen my first two summers of being a homebrewer; in fact, my second beer was an all-extract Hefeweizen that somehow won a gold medal in the German Wheat and Rye Beer category in the ALES competition in 2010. The past two years, however, I concentrated on another great summer style, Witbier (like this one from last year, hopped with Belma). As much as I love a good Witbier, I thought it was definitely time to revisit the Hefeweizen style. 

Hefeweizen is a beer style that has a deceptively-simple recipe, yet can be difficult to brew a great example. If you look at the majority of recipes out there, you're going to find a grist of at least 50% Wheat malt (German law actually states that a beer labeled as Hefeweizen must have 50% or more Wheat malt) and 50% Pilsner malt. And that's usually it. You don't want Crystal malt in there, or anything else, really. Sure, some people probably throw in some flaked oats or torrified wheat or something similar, to increase the body/creaminess of the beer, but you don't want it to be heavy-bodied (medium-light to medium is what you should aim for) or sweet, so keep it simple. I've had great results with the 50/50 ratio of Wheat malt and Pilsner, so I chose to stick with it again this time, with a small addition of Acid malt for mash pH purposes. If you're feeling ambitious and nostalgic for the old ways, you can do a decoction mash; for me, I only have so much time to brew, and I've had good luck with a single infusion mash as usual, so that's what I'll be doing here.

For hops, I'm aiming for a classic Hefeweizen, which means basically no hop aroma or flavor. So, a simple light addition of a noble variety (e.g. Hallertauer, Tettnanger) early on in the boil to add a bit of bitterness, and that's all.

What really makes or breaks a good Hefeweizen is the fermentation of the beer; while a Belgian Witbier relies on the addition of coriander and citrus peel to provide at least some of its spice and fruit character, Hefeweizen gets all of the banana and clove components from yeast. Yeast strain, yeast health, and fermentation temperature are extremely important. Yes, they're ALWAYS important in any beer style, but given that the overall recipe is usually so simple for Hefeweizen, they're even more important than usual. Let's dissect each component...
  1. Yeast strain - There are several commercial strains available for brewing Hefeweizen, but I've always used the same one - Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen. It's readily available at my LHBS, but more importantly, it really is a great yeast. Supposedly the same strain (basically) as what the Weihenstephaner brewery uses for their beers, it does a fantastic job of providing both the banana esters and clove phenols necessary for a great Hefeweizen. The balance between the two is generally pretty good, however, you CAN steer it in either direction... whether you mean to or not. Which brings us to the next two points...
  2. Pitching rate - Like in almost 100% of cases, you should make a yeast starter when brewing a Hefeweizen. However, overpitching yeast can actually result in LESS esters being produced, which means the banana character will be diminished, and the clove character (the phenols) will be more apparent. If you like more clove than banana in your Hefeweizen, this is one way to achieve that result. Conversely, underpitching will produce more esters/banana character. I won't get into the exact science, but the harder yeast have to work, the more esters that will be produced as a result. A well-balanced Hefe is preferred by most, so use a yeast pitching calculator like the one at Mr. Malty, and aim for what it recommends. How much is too much? I don't have the experience to tell you, which is why I recommend sticking with a calculator, at least as a starting point. After that, you can start tweaking your process to find what makes the best Hefeweizen for you.
  3. Fermentation temperature - Generally, the thought is that the warmer the fermentation temperature, the more banana esters that are produced, and the less clove character you get as a result. Conversely, the lower you ferment, the less banana you get. However, in Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles, he highly recommends fermenting in the low-60s F, saying that these temps will give you the best-balanced Hefeweizen. I followed this suggestion with my first attempt, and fermented my second Hefeweizen at about 68 F. Both came out pretty well, I thought, with both seeming quite balanced to me. If you have excellent fermentation control, go ahead and try the low-60s; however, for this time of year, if you don't have rigid control over your fermentation temperature, try to aim for 67-68 F and not go too much over, or the banana character may be a bit overwhelming.

Something else you need to remember when brewing this style of beer - there's no need to use any fining agents at all. If you look back at most of my recipes, you'll see I always add a half-tablet of Irish Moss (aka Whirlfloc) near the end of the boil, which helps the clarify a beer. Hefeweizen is one of the few styles where you actually WANT a cloudy beer; in fact, when pouring one, you want to rouse the yeast in the bottle and pour that in your glass as well. So, no Irish Moss, Whirlfloc, gelatin, etc. when brewing this style.

Also, just a warning if you use the Wyeast 3068. I can't speak for the other Hefeweizen yeasts out there, but 3068 is pretty active. Leave yourself a good amount of headspace in your fermentor (Wyeast goes as far to recommend 33% of your fermentor), or at least use a blow-off tube. There will likely be a huge krausen on this beer; I hadn't had any problems in the past, but for this brew day, fermentation started quickly and got a bit violent, and I lost a bit of beer to overflow. Luckily, no explosions with beer on the walls and ceiling, but still, losing beer is not a good thing, ever!
I was very slow in getting this post out, seeing that the beer was brewed a month ago, so look for the tasting notes relatively soon. Remember with this style, it is meant to be consumed fresh!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.049, FG ~1.011, IBU 11, SRM 3.7, ABV ~4.9%

2.1 kg (49%) Pilsner malt
2.1 kg (49%) Wheat malt
80 g (~2%) Acid malt

Tettnang - 20 g (4% AA) @ 60 min

Misc.: 68 g rice hulls, added to the mash

Yeast: Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephaner Weizen (PD May 9/14, with a 1.4 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g calcium chloride added to the mash

Before the near-explosion

 - Brewed on June 24th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 152 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.25 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- SG a bit high at 1.038 (target 1.037). 90-minute boil. Began chilling at flameout, brought temp down to 64 F after 20-25 minutes. Final volume ~5.5 gallons. OG on target at 1.049. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched decanted yeast starter. Placed BB in laundry sink with cold water.

- Despite the fairly-low pitching temperature, airlock activity began about 12 hours after pitching. By the next morning, the temp had climbed to 70 F and the airlock was full of krausen and about to blow, Replaced it with sanitized foil; was able to replace the airlock by that evening. The next day the temp had dropped back to 66 F, and everything had settled after 4 days from pitching.

- 16/7/14 - FG 1.012. Bottled with 190 g table sugar, aiming for 3.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, max temp 70 F.

- 28/8/14 - A little late, but posted the tasting notes. This came out just how I wanted to, basically; refreshing, nicely balanced... the perfect summer beer.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Tasting : Good Day Sunshine (Lawson's Finest Double Sunshine clone)

Sorry for the delay on this one; I had no intentions on letting the tasting notes for a DIPA to go this long. But summer always seems to go by so quickly, and for some reason I don't find the time to write on here as often as I'd like to. Anyway, on to it!

I brewed this beer in late May, and have been drinking it for about a month now. Bottom line: it's quite tasty. This isn't a real surprise to me; any beer that is brewed solely with a healthy amount of Citra hops is probably going to taste at least pretty good, as long as the grist isn't swimming with Caramel malt and there isn't a rampant infection going on. Since I've never had Lawson's Double Sunshine, I can't answer what should be the real question, here - is the beer cloned? So, I'll try to answer the next best thing - is this an EXCELLENT Double IPA?

I would have to say... no, not quite. It's very good, it really is. The first few days, the beer had a strong cat pee aroma that you usually find in beers hopped heavily with Citra, but it didn't last long. Now, it's tasting very fruity, with some dank character in there that I like. Sometimes IPAs and DIPAs can be TOO dank, but I don't find that to be the case with this beer. The fairly-busy malt character doesn't distract too much from the hop character, but it does confirm for me that I prefer a really hoppy beer with less specialty malt. I've had people taste this beer after drinking my Societe The Pupil clone, (about 75% 2-row, 20% wheat malt, 5% Carapils) and they've mentioned - without prompting from me - that they prefer the Pupil clone, especially the malt backbone. I can't put my finger on why, exactly, but maybe the simpler malt bill just allows the hops to shine through more?

Regardless, this Double Sunshine clone is a pretty darned good recipe, and if you're a Citra fan, by all means give it a try. What really strikes me with this beer is how drinkable it is; you'd never guess that it's an 8.3% ABV beer. The hop aroma and flavor could be a bit bigger, and I can't say for sure if it's, again, due to the malt bill or the fact that the Citra I used wasn't as fresh as it could have been. So... try it! Just do your best to find as-fresh-as-you-can-get Citra.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, white head that shows good retention, leaving a bit of lacing on the glass. The body is a burnished-gold color, with very good clarity.

Aroma: Now that it's been pouring a few weeks, the cat pee has faded, and is barely there at all. A big citrusy, tropical fruit punch comes through in its place, with a light dank character that works well. Some background malt presence, but luckily the beer doesn't smell sweet. No flaws.

Taste: Prominent tropical fruit hop flavors, again with a touch of dank. The hop character is a bit less than in the aroma; more malt character (maybe a bit bready, not too sweet) backing up the hops that are there. No real alcohol presence, surprisingly. Quite smooth. Medium bitterness in the finish; still fairly dry despite the presence of specialty malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: An easy-drinking DIPA, with great Citra character throughout. Would like to see it a bit hoppier; a grist that concentrates more on 2-row would help, along with fresher hops. Still, a highly-recommended recipe, especially for Citra-lovers out there (and who isn't, really?).

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Brewing a Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone

Ah, summer. The season of warmer weather, vacations, and of course, beer! Also, fortunately or not, weddings. And next month, my older brother Geoff is getting married. I'm in the wedding party, but luckily I'm not responsible for making any speeches or really doing much of anything, other than standing there and looking pretty. There IS a big party the night before the wedding, however, and I was happy to volunteer to make a batch of beer to go with it.

Like me, Geoff is a big beer fan. He's not into homebrewing, but still loves trying new beers. Also like me, his favorite beers are hoppy ones, especially American Pale Ales and IPAs. I gave him some options of beers that I could brew for the party, and we both decided to settle on an APA - it's always a great style, because if you brew it right, beer geeks can love it, but it can also be fairly accessible for people who aren't necessarily into beer. Think of a hoppy Pale Ale, but not an overly bitter one. There's tons of APA recipes out there, and I have a lot of hops on hand that it would have been pretty easy to throw together a new recipe of my own, but I wanted to brew something that was tried and true, since the opinion of many beer drinkers was weighing on it. After doing a big of digging, I came back to a recipe I had come across a few months ago, a clone of a fairly new APA by Russian River Brewing Company.

The beer is called Row 2, Hill 56. Kind of an odd name for a beer at first glance, but when you read into it a bit, it makes perfect sense. The beer is brewed with 100% Simcoe hops; Row 2, Hill 56 is the location in an experimental hop yard in Yakima, WA, where Simcoe was first created. Now, anyone who is a fan of hoppy beers has experienced Simcoe. Released back in 2000, it's a dual-purpose hop that is mainly used for flavor and aroma purposes, as it gives a very unique profile of both citrus and pine. Russian River uses it in a lot of their hoppy beers (it's very prevalent in Pliny the Elder), as do a lot of breweries and homebrewers.

You don't need me to tell you any more about Simcoe; pretty much anyone reading this is already bored. The clone recipe for this beer was originally posted here, on the popular HomeBrewTalk forum. The recipe and beer stuck out for many reasons: I'm a big fan of Simcoe, but have never brewed a beer using it all on its own; a mid-5% ABV beer with ~40 IBUs sounded perfect - not too high to be accessible only to beer geeks or hop heads; and the recipe appears to have been brewed by many people that stand by its deliciousness. Perfect! Let's get started.

As far as APA grain bills go, this one struck me as a little odd, strictly because the majority of it is made up of Pilsner malt. Most APA recipes incorporate 2-row as the base malt; I'm not sure how much of a noticeable difference there is using Pilsner, but after brewing this recipe, several homebrewers commented on how much they enjoyed the malt bill, so I'm more than willing to give it a shot. There's also a good amount of Pale Malt used (I had Maris Otter on hand); the rest is a fairly small proportion of light Crystal (15 L and Carapils). The mash is performed at a fairly high sacc rest, 154 F, I'm assuming to provide the beer with some body, due to the light use of specialty grains and lower gravity (compared to IPAs, anyway).

Now, look at that hopping schedule below. I will admit, I was hesitant at first. I've brewed a lot of hoppy beers over the past few years, including some APAs with 3/4 lb of hops (or more) per 5 gallon batch. This recipe calls for a comparably scant amount of ~4 oz for a 6 gallon batch; luckily, the majority is used at flameout and for the dry-hop, but 1 oz at FO and 2 oz for the dry-hop is still low when you look at a lot of other APA recipes out there. That being said, I've questioned in previous posts whether there may be a ceiling effect when it comes to hop aroma/flavor; of course we all know there is for perceived bitterness, but what about the aspects that count? I think this will be a good test of that, and again, this recipe has received rave reviews, so I'm more than happy following it as-is, before tweaking it.

The wort is fermented with a neutral American strain (as usual for me lately, US-05) in the high-60s F. For water treatment, I chose not to go too heavy on anything - I didn't add any acid malt to the grain bill to fiddle with mash pH this time. I DID add a very small amount of gypsum and calcium chloride, but that's it. I won't be kegging this beer, unfortunately; the wedding is in our home province of Prince Edward Island, and I likely won't have the room to take a keg and 10 lb CO2 tank with me, so bottles it is!

A lot of Geoff's friends are beer drinkers, so unlike all of my other homebrews, I don't expect I'll get to really consume much of this batch. However, I'll be sure to set a bottle aside to do an official tasting, to post on the blog. Look for that sometime next month!

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.056, FG ~1.014, IBU 41, SRM 5, ABV ~5.6%

Grains & Sugars:

3.325 kg (60.5%) Pilsner malt
1.782 kg (32.4%) Maris Otter
225 g (4.1%) Crystal 15 L
165 g (3%) Carapils

Simcoe - 14 g (12.4% AA) @ 60 min
Simcoe - 15 g @ 30 min
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 (with a 5-minute steep)
Simcoe - 56 g dry-hop for 5 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, 1 package, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 2 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on June 10th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at 153.5 F, slightly below target temp of 154 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.75 gallons.

SG a bit high at 1.046 (target 1.044). 60-minute boil. Added flameout hops for a 5-minute steep, then turned on chiller. Final volume ~6 gallons. Chilled down to 66 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Gravity quite above target at 1.061. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in room with ambient temp at 68 F.

- Over the next few days, fermentation gradually got going until reaching maximum activity in the airlock, bubbling every second, with the temperature getting as high as 72 F (warmer temps made it a bit tricky to keep it down to 68 F). The activity and krausen eventually settled after about a week.

- 24/6/14 - Gravity reading of 1.014, right on target. Added dry-hops directly into primary.

- 2/7/14 - Bottled with 115 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with a max temp of 72 F reached.

- 30/7/14 - Tasting notes up... a delicious beer. Lots of hop presence with low bitterness; a fantastic beer to introduce non-beer drinkers to hoppy craft beers.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Tasting : The Student (Societe Brewing The Pupil clone)

I'm a little late posting the tasting notes for this beer; I brewed it in late April and kegged it almost a month ago. Nothing extreme, by any means, but with it being an American IPA, I really wanted to get my impressions out there while the beer was extremely fresh. However, life can be busy, and I was a bit behind with some other posts, so for those of you who have been waiting to hear how this Societe Brewing The Pupil clone came out, I do apologize. On the bright side... it came out pretty great!

Everything seemed to go well with brewing this beer, from the brew day right down to the end of fermentation. The beer finished close to my target of 1.010 (final gravity was 1.011); Doug Constantiner, the brewer at Societe who gave me some very generous help constructing the recipe, listed the FG as 1.006, but I knew on my system I'd never get it that low with US-05 yeast. After posting the recipe I came up with, Doug suggested that if you can't get to 1.006, add some table sugar to the beer (in place of some of the 2-row base malt) to help get it down to his FG target. He felt that having this beer end up very dry was key.

Now that I've been drinking several pints, I definitely agree with his recommendation. The beer really did come out great; fantastic aroma and flavor of big, tropical fruit... the Nelson is definitely the dominant hop, but the Citra and Centennial work wonderfully to provide a background of citrus character. Mouthfeel is great - the beer is very smooth and creamy; very easy-drinking for its higher ABV. However, the beer could definitely be drier. It's not a sweet-finishing IPA, don't get me wrong (1.011 is hardly a high FG), but I remember The Pupil finishing very dry, but not with a bitterness that was astringent.

Whether you've had The Pupil or not, I recommend brewing this beer. If you're like me and have trouble reaching 1.006 in a beer that doesn't involve an addition of table sugar, take Doug's advice: drop some of the 2-row, and add some table sugar to compensate. Maybe start with 1/2 lb and go from there. That's what I'll be doing when (not if) I brew this beer again!

Appearance: Poured with a medium-sized, white creamy head. Pretty good retention, eventually settles to 1/2-finger size. Body is a light golden color, with pretty good clarity... a bit of haze.

Aroma: Wonderful aroma of tropical fruit; some citrus in there as well, but the gooseberry, tropical character of Nelson wins out. Not much in terms of malt character (a touch of sweetness in the background), but the beer doesn’t strike as harsh or unbalanced.

Taste: A very smooth-tasting IPA; while the tropical fruit character of the hops is what hits you first, the beer has a nice, balancing sweetness to it. Moderate bitterness in the finish at most, quite creamy. Could probably stand to finish a bit drier, but I like it.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Very approachable despite the calculated IBUs; an IPA I think non-IPA drinkers could really enjoy. If it was a bit drier in the finish, I think it would be near-perfect.