Thursday, 23 February 2012

Tasting : Alpine Duet clone

Well, this beer has only been bottled for 2-3 weeks now, but since IPAs are usually better when they're young (and since this Duet clone has by far had the most page views of any other posts I've made), I thought I'd put up some tasting notes now, before the beer starts to deteriorate.

Appearance: Pours a medium-golden color (pretty light for an IPA), with a moderate-large, creamy white head that seems to have pretty good lasting power. Leaves a bit of lacing on the glass as it gradually fades to a full finger of foam. The body exhibits very good clarity, despite the recent dry-hopping in the fermenter.

Aroma: Big, citrusy hops... lemons, oranges. Some pine in there as well, but not as much as I was expecting. I'd prefer more pine, to be honest.

Taste: Just a touch of malty sweetness at the beginning, followed by (again) big citrusy hop flavor. Juicy. The pine comes through more in the finish, as does the moderate bitterness (close to moderate-low, as expected with the lower-IBUs compared to most IPAs). The 7% alcohol is hidden very well. No real flaws to complain of.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Do I like this as an IPA? Yes. But, the real question, is this a clone of Alpine's Duet? The only way I could tell for sure is if I HAD a Duet to do a side-by-side tasting, and I don't... and I'll be lucky to ever try it again. I remember Duet as having an even BIGGER hop aroma and flavor, and to be more prominent on the pine. The Simcoe hops I used were purchased from my local homebrew shop, which is really more of a wine-making store, and I really can't vouch for how old the hops were, OR how they were stored. If I were to brew it again, I'd make sure the hops were as fresh as could be (Simcoe hops are notoriously difficult to get when they become available) AND had been stored properly. I'd also make larger hop additions at all points. The look and feel of the beer is about as I remember Duet being... I just think this is, unfortunately, a more watered-down attempt.

UPDATE: I've had 10-15 of these beers now, and I think now that the recipe I used got a little closer to the real thing than I originally thought. Once the Amarillo started to fade a bit in the aroma and flavor, the Simcoe came through more. Definitely a great IPA, either way!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


After racking the Munich Dunkel that my brother and I brewed last month, I washed and saved the Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager slurry to use for another lager. I like brewing two lagers back-to-back, since my deep freezer/fermentation chamber has enough room on the bottom for two Better Bottles or other form of carboy. This way, you can ferment one lager, transfer to secondary, brew another style of lager (and possibly reuse the previous yeast, if appropriate), ferment THAT one while the other is sitting in secondary, and then lager both beers at the same time.

Last year I had brewed a Traditional Bock; I've always really enjoyed that style, and the beer turned out pretty faithful, I think. This time I decided to tackle the bigger version, a Doppelbock. Doppels are maltier, with higher ABVs; like Bocks, they have virtually no hop aroma, flavor, or bitterness. The style definitely is wide enough for some wiggle-room on the part of the brewer... the color range is quite spread out (SRM 6-25, although most versions seem to be a dark brown), as is the OG and resulting ABV. A couple of excellent examples that you can find (but not at the NBLC, of course) are the Ayinger Celebrator and Weihenstephaner Korbinian.

As usual with a style I've never brewed before, I first turned to Brewing Classic Styles for some ideas. The Doppelbock recipe in this book is actually very simple... a majority of Munich malt for the malty toastiness, some Pilsner malt, and 2 lbs of Caramunich. I also came across some other, more complex malt bills in other recipes, and decided to use most of the BCS one, except I cut back on the Caramunich (and had to use Caramunich II, as it was what I had on hand), and added a bit of Pale Chocolate and Crystal 80 L for a bit more character (hopefully). I would have liked to have done a mashout, but with the large amount of grains (18.5 lbs), my 10-gallon mashtun wouldn't have been able to accommodate all of that water.

The hop additions are very simple, as expected... with only 20 IBUs (in a 1.086 beer, no less), the couple of adds are really just to prevent the beer from becoming TOO sweet. I decided to pitch about 500 mL(s) of the 2206 slurry... the pitching calculator at (which I always refer to) called for about 330 mL(s), but I thought I'd err on the side of caution. Otherwise, I'll be following my normal fermentation routine for lagers, and when I rack to secondary and actually begin lagering this beer, it'll be for at least 2-3 months.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 70% efficiency): OG 1.086, FG 1.020, IBU 20, SRM 20.2

5.68 kg Munich Malt (8 SRM)
1.82 kg Bohemian Pilsner
682 g Caramunich II
113 g Crystal 80 L
113 g Pale Chocolate

Hallertau Mittelfruh - 49 g (3.4 % AA) @ 60 min
Hallertau Mittelfruh - 14 g @ 30 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager (~500 mL slurry, cultured on Feb 18/12)
- Brewed Feb 21, 2012, by myself. 60 minute mash with 21.88 L of strike water, mashed in at 156 F (target was 155 F). Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 170 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90 minute boil.

- Chilled down to ~60 F with immersion chiller. OG came in on target. Poured into Better Bottle, final volume about on target. Set in fermentation chamber with temp set at 45 F. When cooled down more to below 50 F, pitched yeast slurry, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after. Set back in fermentation chamber with temp set to 48 F.

29/2/12 - Fermentation has been quite steady for the past week... started to visibly slow down today, so I moved the BB to the laundry room to warm up to the mid-60s for a diacetyl rest for a couple of days.

13/3/12 - Racked to secondary and began decreasing temp in fermentation chamber by 1 F every 12 hours or so, to a final lagering temp of 38 F.

25/9/12 - FG 1.023. Bottled with 95 g table sugar (and ~1/4 pack of rehydrated Nottingham yeast), aiming for 2.25 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with a max temp of 65 F reached.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tasting/Recipe : Suits Us Amber

While there are many beer styles that are not, unfortunately, available for purchase here in Fredericton, one that you can find almost anywhere is American Amber. A popular style to brew due to its quick turnaround (if desired), and relative drinkability for most everyone, most North American breweries have at least one Amber that they have available year-round.

There are basically two types of American Ambers that you see... the "normal" one, which is more balanced in terms of maltiness and bitterness/hop flavor and aroma, with it usually tipping towards malty, if anything; and the "West coast U.S." side, which some also often refer to as an "Imperial Amber" or "Red IPA", which is bigger, bolder, and pretty huge with hop flavor and bitterness.

I enjoy both sub-styles very much. One of the really enjoyable regular American Ambers I've had is the Anderson Valley Boont Amber. It's an interesting beer because it's quite malty, with very low hop bitterness, even for the style (15 IBU!), but it still has a nice hop presence in terms of aroma, and to a lesser extent, flavor. Luckily, this was one of the beers that the team from the Can You Brew It podcast decided to tackle, contacting one of the brewers at Anderson Valley and obtaining as much info as possible about how to brew this beer at home.

Back in June of 2011, Geoff and I decided to try this recipe while he was visiting again. You can find a text version of the recipe here, along with all of the CYBI recipes. I was able to get quite close to the recipe, with just a minor change here and there due to available ingredients. The recipe has a large Crystal malt presence, with a total of 2 lbs. Hop additions are generally very low, except for 61 g of Cascade added at flameout, to give that nice, citrusy hop aroma. Anderson Valley uses the equivalent of the Wyeast 1968 London ESB (the Fuller's strain) for their house yeast, which is easily obtainable and provides a lot of character when used. While I only have a few bottles left, this beer has held up quite well, despite the fact that it was bottled over half a year ago.

Appearance: Pours a dark copper/reddish color, with a moderate-sized, off-white head that sticks around for a good while before fading to 1-finger after a minute or so. Body is extremely clear.

Aroma: Sweet, bready malt, with a some caramel sweetness present in the background. Some mild fruitiness from the Cascades is definitely there as well.

Taste: The malt definitely dominates in this beer, but I’m having trouble placing the exact flavor of malt. It’s definitely a bit crackery and slightly sweet. Hop bitterness is quite low (too low for the style, but that’s what the Boont calls for). Hop flavor is low.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with moderate-high carbonation.

Overall: I can’t remember if this is close to the Boont Amber or not, only having tried it once (over a year ago). It’s a very decent Amber regardless. I'd be happy to brew it again.

Recipe: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency): OG 1.054, FG 1.013, IBU 18, SRM 14.7

3.98 kg Canadian 2-row
500 g Caramunich II (45 L)
500 g Crystal 80 L

Magnum - 4 g (10 % AA) @ 90 min
Magnum - 4 g @ 60 min
Tettnang - 10 g (4.8% AA) @ 20 min
Chinook - 4 g (12.5% AA) @ 20 min
Cascade - 61 g @ 0 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1968 London ESB (12.5 mL slurry from early May, with a 1 L & 1.75 L starter)

- Brewed June 13th, 2011, with Geoff. 60 minute mash with 16.43 L of strike water, mashed in at 152 F. Sparged with ~5.25 gallons of 173 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90 minute boil. Added half of Cascade hops at flameout, and the other half a couple minutes into chilling.

- Chilled down to 66 F with immersion chiller. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle. Pitched decanted yeast starter, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- Active fermentation for several days, reaching as high as 71 F. When it began to visibly slow, put the fermenter in a room with the heat on for a diacetyl rest, getting up to 74 F.

- Bottled 3 weeks after brewing with 125 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons.

- 30/7/12 - Finally, the comparison with the real thing.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tasting/Recipe : E-C-K-E-S No. 7

Ah, the freedom of formulating your own recipe! There’s nothing like actually starting a recipe from scratch: having an end product in your mind, and putting together the right grain bill, hop additions, yeast strain, etc. etc., and having it turn out just as good, or even better, than you had hoped.

And, of course, there’s a flip-side. Putting all that thought and work into a beer, and having a big disappointment when you finally take that first sip. E-C-K-E-S No. 7, an American Pale Ale whose name I won’t even begin to try to explain, is that type of beer for me.

Back in September, I was ready to brew another APA. I always like to have at least one APA on hand... the good ones are flavorful, hoppy, bitter but not overly-so, and with an ABV that generally shouldn’t knock you out after one pint. I had a surplus of hops left over from a bulk order a while back, and wanted to use a couple of newer varieties that haven’t been out for too long. One of these was Citra, a high-alpha acid hop that is known for its intense citrusy aroma. The other was Sorachi Ace, which has been available in Japan for quite some time, but is relatively new to the U.S. and Canada. Also quite high-alpha acid, it has a unique lemongrass, lemon-peel aroma and flavor. In terms of the malt bill, generally I wanted to keep it fairly simple, but hopefully with enough character so that the hops wouldn’t COMPLETELY dominate.

Looking back, it seems pretty obvious now that any beer that uses two “intense” hops in equal amounts may have some problems, and that’s how this beer comes across to me. I can never really place exactly what it is, but every time I smell it or taste it, the citrus and lemongrass seem to be fighting against, instead of complementing, each other. Of course it’s entirely possible that I screwed up somewhere in the process, but I followed the usual routine that I use, had a clean fermentation from what I could tell, used a fairly neutral American Ale yeast... not sure. It’s definitely a shame, as I like both of these hops when I’ve had commercial beers that have specifically put one or the other front-and-center. Maybe they just weren’t meant to be combined! Still, it was an interesting experiment to say the least, and the beer certainly isn’t undrinkable... in fact, some people who have tried it actually enjoyed it. But in the end I definitely won’t duplicate this recipe again, or even likely use Citra and Sorachi Ace hops in the same beer.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, white, creamy head that exhibits pretty good retention. Fades slowly to 1/2-finger. Body is dark gold/light copper, with good clarity.

Aroma: Very strong citrusy hop aroma... orange, mango, grapefruit... and the lemongrass is pushing in there, too.

Taste: Strong hop flavor, again, very orangey and citrusy, and then, again, the lemongrass, ultimately giving an odd, half-sweet, half-fruity flavor. Low malt presence... maybe a bit grainy. Moderate bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Definitely a very hoppy (but not overly bitter) APA... as I mentioned above, ultimately I’m disappointed with the flavor clash. I think it would have been better just showcasing ONE of the two hops, and maybe using a more-neutral, earthy hop in the background. However, I’ve made worse beers... I DO like how the fermentation finished clean, and there’s no off-flavors that I can detect.

Recipe: (5.5 gallons, 78% efficiency): OG 1.055, FG 1.012, IBU 37.5, SRM 7.6

2.05 kg Canadian 2-row
2.05 kg Maris Otter
227 g Wheat malt
227 g Victory malt
227 g Caramunich II (45 L)

Magnum - 6 g (9.4 % AA) @ 60 min
Sorachi Ace - 28 g (9.5% AA) @ 10 min
Citra - 28 g (10.3% AA) @ 10 min
Sorachi Ace & Citra - 14 g each @ 5 min
Sorachi Ace & Citra - 28 g each @ 0 min
Sorachi Ace & Citra - 42 g each dry-hop for 7 days

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale (PD July 19/11) (with a 1.75 L starter)

- Brewed Sept 6, 2011, by myself. 60 minute mash with 15.75 L of strike water, mashed in at 154 F. Sparged with ~5 gallons of 170 F water for final volume of 6.75 gallons in the kettle. 60 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 66 F with immersion chiller and pump with ice water. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle. Pitched decanted yeast starter, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- Active fermentation for several day, temp getting up to 72 F. After 3 weeks, racked to 5-gallon secondary fermenter, and dry-hopped as indicated. Set fermenter in fermentation chamber with temp set to 50 F to cool-crash.

- Bottled with 122 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons. Also added ~1/4 pack of rehydrated Nottingham yeast.

Munich Dunkel

A couple of times every year, my brother Geoff comes for a visit... usually a fairly long one at that, and a couple of weeks ago was no exception. It always results in 7-10 days of drinking good beer, with usually a short trip thrown in... to drink good beer. This January, we made a quick jaunt down to Portland, ME for a one-day pub crawl, and then did the same in Bangor so that he could check out the new beer bar there, Nocturnem Draft Haus.

On top of that, in early January my wife and I were also in Portland for a few days. On one of those days we made the hour-drive down to Portsmouth, NH, so that we could finally visit the Portsmouth Brewery and Brewpub. It didn't let us down... great food, and more importantly, great beer. One of their drafts I got to try was their Munich Dunkel. Up to this point, I don't think I'd ever had a beer of this style. Quite enjoyable, a well-made Munich Dunkel is a dark lager that has an aroma and flavor rich in Munich-sweetness (like bread), with optional notes of chocolate, caramel, and/or toffee. There's virtually no hop aroma/flavor, bitterness is low, and it shouldn't have any of the burnt flavors that you see in stouts and porters. Being a lager, it's meant to finish clean, with no fruity esters.

So, when Geoff and I were trying to pick out a style to brew while he was here, Munich Dunkel was the winner. I was looking to brew another lager, and the Portsmouth version was so smooth and easy-drinking, it felt like a good style to try. When deciding on a recipe, I was initially leaning towards the Brewing Classic Styles version, which is essentially all Munich malt, and some Carafa Special II for color and a bit of flavor (a darker malt, it doesn't provide roastiness to a beer when used in reasonable quantities, due to the fact that it doesn't have a husk). I also found a winning recipe from the NHC in 2010, called Tara's Slam Dunkel (brewed by Shekhar and Paula Nimkar), that used a majority of Munich malt, some Pilsner, and 1/4 lb of Chocolate malt. I ended up going with a mishmash of both recipes, hopefully to the point where it won't become roasty.

Hallertau pellet hops were used... while there isn't a lot of hop character in this style, I still like to use hops from the beer's "original" region, if I can. One bittering addition and a very small flavor addition was all it took. For fermentation, I used the Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast... I've used this yeast before, in last year's Oktoberfest, and I was really happy with the malty, not-overly-sweet flavors that it helped produce, while remaining nice and clean like a Lager yeast should. Once fermentation is complete, I'll rack the beer to a secondary fermenter and let it lager for about 2 months or so. Being a medium-gravity beer, at best, it shouldn't need to sit at lagering temps for much longer (as opposed to something like a Doppelbock, which ideally should be lagered for 6 months or more).

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency): OG 1.052, FG 1.014, IBU 21.7, SRM 18.4

3.41 kg Munich malt (8 SRM)
795 g Bohemian Pilsner malt
113 g Carafa Special II
91 g Chocolate malt

Hallertau - 67 g (2.2% AA) @ 60 min
Hallertau - 21 g @ 20 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager (PD Sept 27/11) (with two 2.1 L starters)

- Brewed Jan 26, 2012, with Geoff. 60 minute mash with 12.13 L of strike water, mashed in at 154 F. Added 6.43 L of water at ~200 F for 10 minute mash-out. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 170 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90 minute boil.

- Chilled down to ~55 F with immersion chiller. OG came in high at 1.056. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle, final volume a tad low (say a bit under 5.5 gallons). Set in fermentation chamber with temp set at 45 F. When cooled down more to below 50 F, pitched decanted yeast starter, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after. Set back in fermentation chamber with temp set to 50 F.

28/1/12 - 31/1/12 - Slow, steady fermentation, never really going over 3-4 blips per 10 seconds in the airlock.

1/2/12 - Fermentation appeared to be slowing some, so I moved it out of the chamber and left it on top, to try to bring the temp up for a diacetyl rest. Never really got over 62 F over the next few days.

5/2/12 - Took a gravity reading of 1.018... I'll be lucky if it drops even another point or two. Moved the fermenter back into the chamber and gradually decreased the temp by 3 F every day until it was resting back at 50 F.

18/2/12 - Racked to secondary and kept in fermentation chamber with temp set at 45 F. Ideally would begin lagering now, but I need to share the space for the Doppelbock that I'll (hopefully) be brewing in a few days.

13/3/12 - Now that the Doppelbock has been also racked to secondary, I started decreasing the temp by 1 F every 12 hours or so to a final lagering temp of 38 F.

24/4/12 - FG 1.016. Bottled with 106 g table sugar (and ~1/5 packet of Nottingham dry yeast, rehydrated), aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 4.75 gallons, max temp of ~64 F reached.

12/5/12 - Tasting notes...