Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Brewing a Hill Farmstead James clone - Version 2.0

This year, I'm taking a slightly different approach to deciding what beers to brew. Over the past 4&1/2 years of homebrewing, I've rarely brewed the same beer twice. For quite awhile, I was usually even brewing a different style almost every time, except for when I'd return to an APA, IPA or American Amber, but even then the recipes were always quite different than before. It's great doing this, because it opens you to styles of beer you weren't really into before, and in a lot of cases, allows you to brew a beer style that you can't even find commercially in your area.

The downside? What about those beers that you've brewed and really enjoyed? Aside from wanting to have that beer bottled or on tap again, maybe rebrewing it is a good opportunity to see just how consistent your brewing practices are. It can be difficult to make a delicious beer; I think it may be even harder to brew the same beer and have it come out just as tasty as before. This is why I plan on rebrewing several of my favorite beers that I've brewed in the past, with maybe some slight tweaking to the recipes to try and improve on the previous attempt.

That's what I did earlier this year when I rebrewed my clone of Alpine Duet. I made a couple of small changes to the hop schedule, but that was basically it. The beer came out quite tasty... the same as it was two years ago? No idea. I'm not going to pretend to be able to remember specific details from that far back, but the tasting notes for both looked pretty similar. I really enjoyed it again, which is what's important, I guess.

Another beer I brewed recently (about a year ago) was a Hill Farmstead James clone, a Black IPA from one of the highest-rated breweries in the world. The recipe was based on one included in Mitch Steele's IPA book, with some adjustments that I made based on some conflicting things I had read online, and due to ingredients that I did/didn't have available to me. I was very pleased with the results; the beer had a bit of roast character, but like most Black IPAs, really let the hops shine through. The combination of Columbus and Centennial worked perfectly.

That was the first and last time I had brewed a Black IPA, and I've been anxious to give the style another try. While I had thrown around a lot of ideas on my next Black IPA to brew (including completely original recipes, and a clone attempt of Lawson's Finest Liquids Toast), I decided to come back to the James clone, due to the reasons mentioned above... I wanted to see if I could equal, or even improve on, the results of my first attempt.

So, there were very few changes that I made to the original recipe (check out the original blog post for my first try, as it details what I changed from the recipe in Steele's book). I kept the grist virtually identical, except I had to use all Carafa Special I based on what I had in my inventory (my LHBS doesn't sell any Carafa Special at all, so I was lucky to have what I did). The hop schedule? Also identical; I didn't feel the need to change varieties, increase/decrease additions... I felt the first time worked perfectly. I even kept the minor changes to my mash water the same, with a small addition of both calcium chloride and Gypsum.

What I DID change was the yeast. The first time around, I used Wyeast 1098 British Ale, which I've used several times before and liked; it's an English Ale yeast, but one that is more neutral than others. It's well-known that Hill Farmstead uses an English yeast, but I'm not sure that anyone has really determined what strain it is, or what commercially-available strain is closest. But I've heard speculation as to what may approach it, so I tried something different - Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale. Wyeast describes it as having a "light malt character, low fruitiness, low esters and is clean and well balanced". I'm not sure if the difference between the 1275 and 1098 will be noticeable in a style like Black IPA, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

So, I brewed the beer pretty much like last time. I'll ferment it in the 68-72 F range for the most part, and likely rack it to a keg and dry-hop in there. I decided to go with a smaller batch (4 gallons) which I coincidentally did with the first James clone. I regretted it then, because it came out so tasty, but I've been brewing a fair amount lately, and have to be realistic about how much beer I can consume and share, and still have it be fresh. You may see me taking that approach more often in the coming months, especially with bigger-ABV beers.

In closing, I have a small confession to make... in the post on my first attempt at cloning this beer, I mentioned that I had had the real James on a trip to Vermont in 2011. I realized only recently that I HAVEN'T actually tried this beer! The Hill Farmstead Black IPA that I had on tap in Burlington was actually Foster, which they actually refer to as a "Black Wheat IPA". Anyway, it was delicious!

Recipe targets: (4 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.065, FG ~1.013, IBU ~100, SRM 26, ABV ~6.9%

3.76 kg (85.7%) Canadian 2-row
300 g (6.8%) Carafa Special I
175 g (4%) Carapils
86 g (2%) Flaked Oats
66 g (1.5%) Crystal 150 L

CTZ - 7 g (10.5% AA) FWH
CTZ - 28 g @ 60 min
Centennial (8.5% AA) - 24 g @ 45 min
Centennial - 25 g @ 10 min
CTZ - 58 g @ 0 min
Centennial - 31 g @ 0 min
CTZ - 28 g dry-hop for 7 days
Centennial - 28 g dry-hop for 7 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale (slurry, cultured last month, "woken up" with 500 mL starter)

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

- Brewed on April 9th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at 153 F, slightly above target temp of 152 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.25 L of boiling water, resulting temp 166 F. Sparged with ~2.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.25 gallons.

- SG a bit low at 1.050 (target 1.051). 60-minute boil. Added last hops at flameout and began chilling immediately. Final volume ~4 gallons. Chilled down to 64 F, then poured/filtered into Better Bottle. OG on target at 1.065. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast starter. Placed BB in room with ambient temp at 68 F.

- Over the first few days, the temp stayed around 65 F, airlock bubbling every few seconds. I turned up the temp in the room a bit, and by the third day the temp had climbed to 70 F and the airlock was bubbling more frequently. Active fermention appeared complete by day 5.

- 22/4/14 - FG high at 1.018. Racked to keg, added dry hops in mesh bag with sanitized marbles, purged keg and set back in room with temp ~68 F.

- 27/4/14 - Removed dry hops, set keg in back room of garage where ambient temp is ~50 F. Will start carbonating tomorrow with CO2 to ~2.3 vol. 

- 4/5/14 - Tasting notes posted. A very tasty Black IPA, but sadly not quite as good as my first attempt.


  1. Did you find it hard at all to limit your changes or were you satisfied enough with the base results that only minor tweaks were called for?
    I feel like in dialing in a recipe, I have an urge to make too many changes at once.

  2. I found this recipe really easy to limit my changes... mainly because I enjoyed the last beer so much, it was easily one of my favorite homebrews of 2013.
    I agree, though, sometimes it's tough to know what to change... if you change too many things, you'll never really know what exactly it was that improved/changed it.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I am going to try my hand at this recipe this weekend. I too will be forgoing the Simcoe and sticking with what's on the HF website. I cannot get a hold of any CO2 extract or Sinamar extract but I hope I'll still be able to make a tasty beer. After some research I am going to try the London Ale III yeast from Wyeast for this one.

    1. It's funny you mention that, I'm just about ready to post about an IPA I brewed recently with London Ale III, based on the rumors that it's a strain similar to what HF uses! I used it in an APA clone a while back, and really enjoyed it.

    2. Well then I'll look forward to reading about it! I am excited to try this yeast.