Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Brewing a Russian River Blind Pig clone

After brewing a Witbier in early June, it's time for another hoppy clone! The clone recipes are starting to get a little out of hand, but I've accumulated so many that I've wanted to brew, and I've accumulated a good amount of hops as well, so I'm going to take the time over the next few months and cross a bunch of them off my to-brew list.

There aren't many homebrewers/beer geeks out there who haven't heard of Russian River Brewing. Vinnie Cilurzo, owner/brewmaster at RR, is one of the main craft beer idols that we all worship; he may not be as Hollywood-ish as Sam Calagione, or as revered as Shaun Hill... but he's somewhere in-between! RR is known for brewing some of the finest American Wild Ales and hoppy beers that you can find; I've been lucky enough to have had several of their beers, and can say that all of the praise they get is completely warranted.

Blind Pig was one of the first beers that RR began producing when their brewpub  opened in 2004. An American IPA, it's still available on tap and in bottles today, and it truly is a great beer. It's not quite as dry as the other RR hoppy ales, but it still packs a big hop punch, showcasing fruity and piney hop aromas and flavors. The "recipe" is included in Mitch Steele's IPA book, but unfortunately there aren't any specifics when it comes to hop amounts to use. Luckily, Zymurgy had an article back when the book came out, and they included several of the book's recipes, but with exact grain percentages and hop weights. On top of all that, Scott of Bertus Brewery did a couple of iterations of the recipe, and reported that his most recent attempt was extremely close to being cloned. I'll trust his opinion; it's been a couple of years since I've had Blind Pig, and Scott obviously has greater access to it than I do, given his location.

Like most of Vinnie's IPA recipes, the grist is fairly simple. It's mostly 2-row, with close to 8% of Crystal 40 L and Carapils combined - high for him, actually; when it comes to DIPAs, Vinnie recommends no more than 3-4% Crystal malt of any sort. The mash temp was quoted as 153-154 F; again, high for a RR hoppy beer, but obviously Blind Pig wasn't meant to be as dry as, say, Pliny the Elder.
Mashtun steaming and ready to go

Surprisingly, the recipe doesn't call for a HUGE amount of hops. There's a small bittering charge of Chinook and CTZ at 90 minutes, a bit of Amarillo at 30, and then four 1/2 oz additions of different hops at flameout for a hop-steep. Other than that, the original recipe called for 1/2 oz each of three hops for the dry-hop. However, Scott had noted that if brewed again, he would increase the dry-hop additions by 25%, so I went with a bit more, at 2/3 oz each.

For the flameout additions, I decided to go with a 10-minute hop-steep before turning on the chiller. When you throw the below numbers into BeerSmith, it comes out with an IBUs in the low-40s. However, calculating for a 10-minute steep actually brings the bitterness to about 62 IBUs, which is about the target for Blind Pig, so that should work fine.

I added a bit of table salt and Gypsum to the mash to help decrease the mash pH and boost the water chemistry a bit, bringing the calcium to 73, sulfate to 108, and chloride to 81. This isn't too far off the targets I had for my Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone, and I was quite happy with how that beer turned out. 

Once this beer is complete, I'll be sure to post the tasting notes post-haste. I vow not to drag my feet doing that for hoppy beers anymore, especially now that we're in the summer months and the days of storing large amounts of beer at proper temperatures are over!

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.059, FG ~1.013, IBU ~62, SRM 6, ABV ~6%

Grains:
5.5 kg (93.1%) Canadian 2-row
227 g (3.8%) Crystal 40 L
182 g (3.1%) Carapils

Hops:
Chinook - 17 g (11.4% AA) @ 90 min
CTZ - 8 g (13.4% AA) @ 90 min
Amarillo - 14 g (8.9% AA) @ 30 min
Amarillo - 14 g @ 0 min
Cascade - 14 g (5.5% AA) @ 0 min
Centennial - 14 g (10.9% AA) @ 0 min
Simcoe - 14 g (12.9% AA) @ 0 min           Note: All flameout hops have a 10-minute steep
Amarillo, CTZ, Cascade - 18 g each dry-hop for 7 days

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

Yeast: US-05, 1 package, re-hydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g table salt, 7 g Gypsum in the mash

Flameout hops about to be added
- Brewed on June 25th, 2013, by myself. 50-minute mash with 16.25 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~8 gallons in the kettle.

- SG at target of 1.044. 90-minute boil. Mistakenly added 30 min Amarillo addition at 60 min; stupid, but should only increase IBUs by 3-4, and likely won't affect the flavor much. Took about 45 minutes to chill to 70 F (extremely hot day), even using pump/ice water. Poured ~5 gallons into Better Bottle and set in fermentation chamber with temp at 38 F; brought wort down to 66 F after 30 minutes. OG on target at 1.059. Aerated wort with 90 seconds of pure O2. Pitched yeast and set BB in laundry room sink with cold water and ice.

- 26/6/13 - In AM, hardly any visible activity in the airlock, temp 64 F. Drained most of the water from the sink. By evening, temp up to 66 F, airlock bubbling every 2 seconds.

- 27/6/13 to 28/6 - Over this period, consistent activity in the airlock, big krausen... temp got as high as 70 F.

- 2/7/13 - Krausen completely settled, temp 70 F. Took gravity reading of 1.015.

- 4/7/13 - Added dry-hops directly into primary. Temp 72 F.

- 11/7/13 - Bottled with 115 g table sugar, aiming for 2.4 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, max temp of 72 F reached.

- Tasting notes here... a very easy-drinking, citrusy and tropical IPA.

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