Saturday 27 July 2013

Brewing a Modern Times Fortunate Islands clone

If you're any bit a beer geek (and if you're reading this, you probably are... or, you're stalking me), you know that the number of breweries in the U.S. and Canada is at an all-time high point, even compared to pre-prohibition numbers. And the amount of breweries in the planning stages is even more staggering. This is fantastic news for all of us, but as a brewery owner, how do you make your brewery stand out? How do you get people excited about your product... before you even HAVE a product to offer? I spend a lot of time reading - mostly online - about beer and breweries, and there is one brewery that has succeeded in accomplishing this better than any other, in my opinion. That brewery is Modern Times.

Based in San Diego, CA, Modern Times has only had their beers available at bars for the past month or so. However, due to a lot of hard work and smart choices by its owner, Jacob McKean, Modern Times has been well-known and much-anticipated in the brewing world for a year or more. For example:
  • Jacob kept an ongoing blog of the trials and tribulations of getting a brewery up-and-running... we all know it isn't easy, but Jacob's blog made the whole process feel more personal. It wasn't long before I was rooting for him to succeed.
  • He got Michael Tonsmeire involved. Now, Mike's blog is probably the most-read and most-respected homebrewing blog out there, and for good reason. He started developing the recipes for the four regular-release Modern Times beers about a year ago, and kept detailed and open records on the recipes, tastings, and subsequent changes. Again, this made it more personal for those of us following along.
  • The Kickstarter campaign. With a pretty-hilarious video to go with it, this campaign managed to raise $25,000 beyond their $40,000 goal, giving out some classy-looking swag and original awards to backers, of which I proudly am one.
I could go on and on here. Basically, Jacob got a lot of people excited about his brewery, and while Modern Times hasn't been producing beer for very long, I've heard a lot of great things about their products. They brew four regular-release beers: Black House, a coffee stout; Blazing World, an "Amber IPA", or hoppy Amber if that's easier to picture; Lomaland, a sessionable Saison; and Fortunate Islands, a super-citrusy and tropical, easy-drinking American wheat beer.

I've been an avid reader of Mike's blog ever since I got into homebrewing, so I followed along (with a lot of other people) when he was tweaking the recipes for the beers above. They all sound great, and I'd be more than happy trying out the recipes for each on my own. However, for this time of year, it was the Fortunate Islands that attracted my attention the most. With a supporting malt backbone and a boatload of Citra hops, it sounds like the perfect summer beer for hop-lovers! After a couple of variations on the recipe, Mike settled on this one.

Regarding the grist, Mike's recipe is fairly straight-forward, with a little more than half of it being Wheat malt, along with some 2-row and a healthy amount of Caravienne. The mash temp is fairly high at 155 F, mainly to provide some body that was lacking in previous recipes.

A lot of hops; more importantly, a lot of Citra!
The real fun lies in the hopping schedule. There's a single "Hop Shot" of CO2 hop extract at 60 minutes to provide the bulk of the bitterness to the beer. Hop extract is becoming popular with commercial brewers and homebrewers; it provides bitterness without leaving a lot of the hop sludge in your wort by the end of the boil. I'll do a separate, small post on hop extract in the future; for now, if you don't have access to hop extract, just know that 5 mL equals about 10 AAU of hops, or 1 oz of a 10% AA hop.

That's the only hop addition during the boil. However, there's a very healthy 11 oz of hops added afterwards... 8 oz (1/2 lb) of which is Citra! The other 3 oz are another delicious, hard-to-get hop: Amarillo. I'd normally be quite wary of adding this much Citra into one beer, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a good amount of it a couple of months ago, so I'm willing to sacrifice 8 oz... this time. In Mike's
homebrew process for this beer, he was able to make use of a plate chiller, March pump, and HopRocket... none of which I have. He goes into detail about this on his post... however, I had to improvise. So, the first flameout addition I let steep for 10 minutes, then I turned on my immersion chiller and made the second addition. Won't be as effective as his method, but it'll have to do with what I have available. There's two dry-hop additions at 4 days apiece; pretty massive, coming in at a total of 5 oz... not bad for a wheat beer!

Yeast-wise, this beer requires your standard, clean California Ale-type. I've been using the dry US-05 for the last several batches of APAs and IPAs, but I had the time here to pick up Wyeast's 1056, and make a starter. A single pack of US-05 would work fine, as well. Fermentation should be in the 66-68 F range, but if it gets a bit higher due to summer temperatures, it shouldn't be too much to worry about, especially if you pitch in the mid-60s.

I didn't make much in terms of adjustments to my water. As I've been doing lately (to varying degrees), I added some gypsum and calcium chloride to mainly boost the calcium, and at the same time bring up the sulfate and chloride a bit. I also added Irish Moss as I normally do to most of my beers; the BJCP lists American Wheat as being "brilliant to hazy", so I aimed for clarity.

I'll be drinking this clone before I ever get to try an actual Fortunate Islands... but, maybe not TOO long before? There's a chance I may be making a trip to San Diego in September; if so, I'll be absolutely visiting the Modern Times brewery and trying as many of their beers as I can, wherever I can find them! In the meantime, I'm really hoping this beer has the huge hop aroma that I'm expecting it to have... a lot of hops are riding on it.

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 73% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.013, IBU ~48, SRM 5, ABV ~4.7%

2.6 kg (55%) Wheat malt
1.795 kg (38%) Canadian 2-row
332 g (7%) Caravienne malt
113 g rice hulls to prevent a stuck sparge

Hop extract - 5 mL @ 60 min
Citra - 56 g (14.1% AA) @ 0 min (steep for 10 min)
Amarillo - 28 g (8.9% AA) @ 0 min (steep for 10 min)
Citra - 56 g @ 0 min (when start chiller)
Amarillo - 28 g @ 0 min (when start chiller)
Citra - 56 g dry-hop for 4 days
Amarillo - 14 g dry-hop for 4 days
Citra - 56 g dry-hop for 4 more days
Amarillo - 14 g dry-hop for 4 more days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1056 American Ale (PD May 21st; with a 1.5 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum, 3 g CaCl in the mash

- Brewed on July 9th, 2013, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 155 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5.75 L of boiling water, resulting temp 166 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.3 gallons in the kettle.

- SG a couple points above target at 1.041. 60-minute boil. Took about 35 minutes to chill to 64 F using pump/ice water. Poured ~5 gallons into Better Bottle. OG a bit high at 1.050. Aerated wort with 90 seconds of pure O2. Pitched yeast at 66 F and set BB in laundry room sink with cold water.

- 10/7/13 - In AM,  good airlock activity, temp 66 F. Temperature had climbed to 70 F by the evening, bubbling 1-2 times per second in the airlock.

- 11/7/13 - In AM, bubbling every second, temp 70 F. Slowing down by the evening, temp still holding at 70 F.

- 23/7/13 - Added first dose of dry-hops directly into primary.

- 27/7/13 - Added second dose of dry-hops.

- 31/7/13 - Bottled with 120 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with max temp of 72 F reached.

- Tasting notes... came out really great - huge hop nose, lots of tropical hop flavors... delicious.


  1. I'm a huge fan of hoppy wheats. I was wondering where you got your hands on extract, did you buy a can? How stable are the shots after opening them?

  2. I bought a 100 g can from ; good price, fast shipping. The stuff was a real bitch to work with, though! Drawing it up into syringes took a LOT of heating of the can before the stuff would go throw an 18-gauge needle.

    So, YVH says that the extract is only stable for a little while after opening the can; however, I've read of a lot of others using it for a long time after. The key is to draw it all up into syringes at once, and then put all the syringes in ziplock bags in the fridge right away. Then, you just take them out as needed. Just brewed the Pliny the Younger clone a couple days ago; it used EIGHT hop shots... 40 mL! That's the equivalent of 7 oz of Warrior 10% AA at 90 min, then another 1 oz at 45. Crazy!