Monday, 28 September 2015

Brewing a Maine Beer Co. Peeper clone (No. 7 in the Maine Beer Clone series)

After my attempt to brew a clone of Maine Beer Company's highly-coveted DIPA, Dinner, I didn't want to wait too long to try brewing another one of their beers. Why? Because that clone attempt came out pretty crappy. Probably one of my worst homebrew attempts of all time. If I hadn't had so many people that wanted to still try it, it probably would have turned out to be my first drainpour batch. It didn't, in the end... but it wasn't too far off. More on that failure in the link above.

Anyway, time to move on, right? I've had several successes since then, and have learned from the experience; this is what homebrewing is all about. I know now that a pound of hops for a 5 gallon batch dry-hop is probably a WEE bit too much. And I've had some good results with some other Maine Beer Co. recipes, with one I'd been sitting on for awhile that I've always been wanting to try - a clone recipe of their very first beer, Peeper.

When Maine Beer Co. came on the scene in Portland six years ago, they initially only had one beer available. Spring Peeper was an "American Ale", basically a really hop-forward APA that was dry, refreshing, and immensely hoppy. I remember my very first trip to Portland's Novare Res Bier Cafe in the fall of 2009; one of the bartenders there insisted that I had to try this beer (even though "the brewery name is kinda crappy"...!). They didn't have it on tap, but they did have the 500 mL bottles available (which were being delivered, I believe, to bars and beer stores in the area by owners/brewers Dan and David Kleban, who still had their day jobs at the time as well). The hype was real - this beer was delicious. And it was, of course, eventually followed by many other amazing beers over the years.

The name was eventually changed to Peeper (I assume so people wouldn't be confused and think it was only a seasonal release?), but the beer stayed the same. Peeper is like Coors Light in Portland - it's hard to go into a beer bar, restaurant, etc. and NOT find it... which speaks volumes as to the awesomeness of Portland. Several years ago, I came across a post on Home Brew Talk where someone included a clone recipe of Peeper that they had received from Dan Kleban. I've had great luck and lots of help from Dan on other clone recipes of his beers, but this was even more... it was quite detailed. I assume that he was simply less busy back then, and had a little more time to answer pesky homebrewer's emails! I held on to this recipe for quite awhile before I finally decided to brew it. Here it is in its entirety:

I use American 2-row base malt (88%), then red wheat (3.5%), Vienna (3.5%), and C-10 (5%). U.S. Magnum as bittering charge, then equal amounts Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo at beginning of whirlpool. Dry-hop equal amounts Centennial and Amarillo only (4.5 oz/5 gal). House yeast is a variant of Wyeast 1056. Mash at 150 F and sparge with 180 degree hot liquor to raise runoff to 172ish. 60 minute boil. 

OG: 1.053
FG: 1.011
IBU: approx 45
SRM: no idea

My secret: extreme late hopping (up to 50% of IBUs come from whirlpool hops)

Pretty helpful! I imagine that most of their hoppy beers follow the same approach, where a good hunk of the bitterness comes from whirlpool additions. All of their beers are so smooth and easy-drinking, with tons of hop aroma and flavour; this is the approach I've used with all my Maine Beer Co. clones (not to mention a lot of other recipes).

So, obviously the grist was extremely easy to put together. I threw in 100 g of Acid malt, as per usual for my pale beers, for mash pH purposes. I also didn't have any Crystal 10L; I first thought of just using Carapils, but I have a lot of CaraRed, which is about 20 L. So, I used that one, but decreased the amount to ~3% to hopefully-account for the slightly-darker color. For the hops, I went with 1.5 oz each of Amarillo, Cascade, and Centennial at flameout, for a 15-minute steep (I basically just went with a quantity that would yield about half of the 45 IBUs I was aiming for). I probably should have steeped longer, since there were no other flavor/aroma additions until this point, but I was on a tight schedule and have had good results with 15-minute steeps in the past. For the dry-hop, I followed the instructions exactly... and assumed that it was 4.5 oz TOTAL, not 4.5 oz of each hop.

That's about all the work I had to do with this one. The brew day went smoothly; while taking place in June, the temperatures really weren't that high, so the groundwater was still manageably cool, and the fermentation never got out of control.

I was quite happy with how this one came out. While I've had Peeper plenty of times - like I said, it's everywhere - the last time I had it was in March. And of course I don't have access to it here, and unfortunately I haven't been to Maine in months... so, no side-by-side tasting, which would have been great. I can say that the beer is very tasty - while there's a pretty good background note of bready malt, the hops are quite prevalent. But this isn't your typical BANG hops in your face hoppy beer... I find them somewhere between subtle and prevalent. That sounds contradictory, but it's hard to explain. Fruity and kind of tropical, not quite in the background, not quite overpowering. Maybe just really nicely balanced?

Either way, it's good. I think the beer, despite cutting back on the CaraRed, is a touch too dark for a Peeper clone. It seems darker than the calculated 4.5 SRM, to me. Now that I look at the website, I see that Carapils is listed as an ingredient for Peeper, not C-10. And I feel like Peeper finishes drier, which wouldn't surprise me since Maine Beer Co. normally has extremely high attenuation in their beers (the OG and FG provided in the recipe must have been adjusted for homebrew purposes (they list the beer as 1.047 on their site, which means for 5.5% ABV it would be finishing at about 1.005).

So, if you're a fan of Peeper, or just of hoppy, tasty Pale Ales, give this recipe a try. I suggest subbing in Carapils for C-10 or CaraRed or whatever. Cheers!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.053, FG ~1.010, IBU ~45, SRM 4.5, ABV ~5.6%

4.25 kg (87.8%) Canadian 2-row
170 g (3.5%) Vienna
170 g (3.5%) Wheat malt
150 g (3.1%) CaraRed (20 SRM)
100 g (2.1%) Acid malt

Hop extract - 2.5 mL @ 60 min (or 14 g of a 10% AA hop variety)

Amarillo - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Cascade - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Centennial - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Amarillo - 63 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (in primary)
Centennial - 63 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, 1 pack, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on June 16th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 150 F. Sparged with ~5.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Forgot to take a gravity reading pre-boil. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG on target at 1.053. Chilled to low-60s F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast at 64 F.

- Good fermentation over the next couple of days, slowed down quickly by the third day. Temp never higher than 70 F. FG close to target, 1.011.

- Added dry-hops in primary about 12 days after pitching, kegged beer 5 days later and started carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a medium-sized, white head; retention isn't bad, but the slightly-low carbonation has it fading a bit faster than I'd like. Body is a burnished-gold color, with very good clarity.

Aroma: I get fruity, citrusy hops in the aroma, but with a firm background of bready malt. A bit of sweetness in there, too. Otherwise, clean.

Taste: Again, nice presence of malt character in this beer. The hops win (tropical and fruity), but as mentioned above, it's not an overpowering presence, but they're firmly there and linger perfectly. Medium-low bitterness in the finish, which is somewhere between dry and sweet, with the tilt towards dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium-low carbonation.

Overall: Quite enjoyable. Somewhere between one of your classic APAs where the malt comes through more (think the original Stone Pale Ale) and one of the way-more-hoppy APAs you see more often today.

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