Thursday, 20 December 2012

Brewing a Smuttynose Finestkind IPA clone

Smuttynose Brewing Company is probably one of the more well-known craft breweries in New England. Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, they are the sister company of Portsmouth Brewing, and have been brewing great beers since 1994. They brew several seasonal beers each year, monthly to bi-monthly editions of their "Big Beer" series, and, of course, their regular-release beers, my favorite of which is their Finestkind IPA.

Finestkind has often been described as the East Coast's version of a West Coast IPA. With what West Coast IPAs are now, this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's definitely a very tasty beer. Quite piney, with some complementing citrus, and a very firm bitterness in the finish, it still manages to be very drinkable, and is easily an IPA that you could drink in quantity. The Smuttynose website page for Finestkind provides some helpful information to brewing a clone at home: OG and FG, IBUs, as well as the types of malts and hops used. However, there aren't percentages or amounts listed, which are obviously needed if you want to have a good chance at replicating the beer. Luckily for me (and other homebrewers), Mitch Steele's (of Stone Brewing Co.) latest book, "IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale", has plenty of additional information to help.

In addition to an extremely thorough history of India Pale Ale, Steele's book has a large recipe-section (probably at least 40 recipes), with information and notes provided by many breweries. Some recipes have more-detailed info than others, and, happily, the Finestkind recipe is one of these. With my Alpine Duet clone completely gone, and my Kern River Citra DIPA clone dwindling fast, attempting this recipe was an easy decision.

The Finestkind grist is quite simple, with the majority being 2-row malt, a small portion listed as "Pale ale malt" in the book (the Smutty website specifically mentions Crisp brand), and a tiny bit (3%) of Crystal 60 L. My personal experience has shown that simple malt bills like this typically make a more-drinkable IPA. What sets this apart from a lot of other IPAs is the high mash temperature: 155 F. However, the FG is still listed as 1.010, which is quite dry (as an IPA should be), so maybe the small proportion of specialty malts isn't enough to provide too many unfermentable sugars. I didn't have any Crisp Pale malt, so I subbed with Maris Otter (both have the same Lovibond rating and are fairly interchangeable).

Now, the important part for any good IPA: the hopping. Like a lot of other recipes in Steele's book, the hops are listed in percentages, specifically here 41.2% Magnum at the start of the boil, 24% Simcoe in 5-minute increments for the last 30 minutes, and 19.9% Centennial and 14.9% Santiam during the whirlpool. This approach makes it a bit tricky when trying to make your own recipe, since you don't know the final weight of all the hops, so you have to play with your brewing software a bit to a) come up with the correct percentages, and b) make sure your final IBUs come in correctly (since AA% will play a role). I did have to sub for the Santiam; Tettnanger and Hallertau are listed online as possible substitutes, so I went with Hallertau since I had it on-hand. Finally, after crash-cooling, the beer is to be dry-hopped with Amarillo for 7-10 days at a rate of 0.13 oz/gallon, or about 3/4 oz for your typical 5 gallon homebrew batch.

Other tips for the recipe include treating your brewing water with gypsum at 2.16 g/gallon (of course, your source water profile could cause varying results), and fermenting the beer with an American Ale yeast at 68 F. I had a packet of US-05 on hand, so used that. Otherwise, that's mostly it. For the recommended whirlpool, I stirred the wort at flameout and whirlpooled for 10 minutes before starting chilling. So, the IBUs will likely be a bit higher than calculated.

I'm a little confused by the listed color of the beer in the book; at 10.6 Lovibond, it seems higher than what the beer actually looks like, and Beersmith figures a color of 6.4 SRM from the recipe. From what I understand, Lovibond and SRM are close to interchangeable, but you normally see Lovibond reserved for malt color, and SRM for beer color. Either way, 6.4 SRM sounds closer to the real thing to me.

Luckily, for this clone, the actual commercial beer isn't impossible for me to find. Houlton, Maine isn't TOO far from here, and has a first-rate beer store (I know... in Houlton!), so I'll try to buy some Finestkind (and hopefully, fresh) to compare.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.060, FG 1.010, IBU 73, SRM 6.4, ABV 6.6%

4.64 kg (84%) Canadian 2-row
727 g (13%) Maris Otter
159 g (3%) Crystal 60 L

Magnum - 49 g (10.25% AA) @ 60 min
Simcoe - 24 g (11% AA), 4 g each @ 30, 25, 20, 15, 10 and 5 min
Centennial - 21 g @ 0 min (for 10-min whirlpool)
Hallertau - 14 g @ 0 min (for 10-min whirlpool)
Amarillo - 13 g dry-hop for 7-10 days
Centennial - 8 g dry-hop for 7-10 days

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

Yeast: US-05 Safale (1 package, rehydrated)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; treated with 16 g gypsum (11 g mash, 5 g sparge)

- Brewed December 17th, 2012, by myself. 60-minute mash with 16 L of strike water, mashed in at 155 F. Mashed out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7 gallons in the kettle.

- SG 1.048 (target 1.049). 60-minute boil. 10-minute whirlpool at flame-out. Chilled to 62 F in about 20 minutes with immersion chiller. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle. OG a touch low at 1.059. Pitched rehydrated yeast at ~62 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after pitching. Placed BB in room with ambient temp set to 68 F.

18/12/12 - Temp was only at 64 F, and airlock activity was low. Turned on a space heater in the room to bump the temp up some.

19/12/12 - Better airlock activity, temp up to 68 F, now. Continued for several days before stopping.

2/1/13 - Racked beer to secondary and placed in fermentation chamber with temp set at 45 F.

6/1/13 - Added dry hops. Realized that I didn't even have 21 g of Amarillo as the recipe calls for, so I made up the difference with Centennial.

15/1/13 - Bottled with 98 g table sugar, aiming for 2.25 vol CO2 for 4.75 gallons, with a max temp of 74 F reached (due to being in warmer environment with Saison). Also added ~1/4 package of Nottingham yeast, rehydrated.

29/1/13 - Some early tasting notes... drinking nice, but the hop aroma/flavor is too subdued compared to the real thing (from what I remember). Maybe an issue with hop freshness?

5/2/13 - Oddly tasting much better now... the hop flavor/aroma is coming through quite well. I definitely see the similarities to Finestkind.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Tasting/Recipe : Stone Vertical Epic 090909 clone

An increasing number of craft breweries are releasing special beers once a year that are, of course, highly sought-after and therefore difficult to get. Some off the top of my head include Portsmouth Brewing's Kate the Great (of which I brewed a clone last November), Three Floyd's Dark Lord, and Boston Beer Company's Utopias (actually, I think that's every TWO years). One yearly-beer that is easier and cheaper to get your hands on comes from one of the most popular craft breweries in the U.S., Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA. I'm talking, of course, about the Vertical Epic series.

Since 2002, Stone has released a Belgian-style ale every year, on the same-numbered month and day of each year (i.e. February 2nd, 2002, March 3rd, 2003... the last beer in the series was just released yesterday, December 12th). The beer is different every year, varying from a Belgian Wit to a highly-spiced Saison, to a "Belgian Imperial Porter", which is the beer that I brewed in August of 2011. The VE090909 was the first of this series of beers that I tried, and I really enjoyed it. It had a lot of chocolate-character to it, some roastiness, with a slight background of fruit, oak, and characteristic Belgian-spiciness.

Luckily for all of us, the people at Stone have been good enough to release very-detailed homebrew recipes of each of their VE beers, about a year after they've been released. The recipe that I followed (to the best of what I had available) is found here; Stone even encourages sending in your homebrewed clones for a little competition, but only the year after the beer was originally made (putting mine out of commission).

This beer was by far the most-complicated recipe I had brewed at the time, and it probably still is, actually. It involved seven different malts in the grist, two hop additions (just at the bittering stage), some dark Belgian candi syrup, some spices in the whirlpool, and a short aging period on French oak. I used an equal amount of Bohemian Pilsner and Canadian 2-row to substitute for the recommended "Pale Malt". Aside from an additional substitution in the spices (I had no idea how to get dried tangerine peel, so I went with dried sweet orange instead, which I'm sure was a perfectly-suitable replacement), I was actually able to follow the recipe pretty closely.

The brewday went very well - I hit my numbers almost perfectly, had a healthy starter of Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes going... perfect. I pitched the yeast starter at 66 F (Stone fermented this beer at 72 F to maximize fruity esters) and set the Better Bottle in a laundry sink with some ice water. It was a very hot August day, and I knew temperature-control would possibly be an issue, so I aimed to keep the temp in the mid-to-high 60s until fermentation activity upped it to the low-70s. I had read that Wyeast 3522 was a bit of a powerhouse yeast, but I wasn't worried. Only 8 hours after pitching, however, the airlock had a lot of activity; however, the temp was still just at 68 F, so I went to bed and didn't think about it.

I woke up the next morning to my first (and so far, only) major beer explosion. The airlock had exploded out of the BB, and the walls, floor, ceiling, and door of the laundry room were completely covered in beer. It took hours to scrub off. A word of advice: use a blow-off tube when you can! Surprisingly, I didn't lose as much beer as I thought, but I'd say a good 3 litres were gone. After three weeks in primary, I racked the remaining beer into secondary and added the sanitized French oak chips. The Stone recipe recommends tasting the beer every 3 days until you get the oak character that you want; being afraid of overdoing it, I only keep the beer on the oak for 6 days. Therefore, the amount of oak character in my homebrewed version is very low, but it IS slightly detectable!

I plan on doing more of these Vertical Epic beers in the future, as the 090909 recipe does make a very tasty beer, and it ages great. My next attempt at this series will likely be the 020202, a high-gravity Witbier.

Appearance: Poured with a medium-sized, light-brown head that sticks around for a good while before finally starting to fade. Body is jet-black and opaque.

Aroma: Lots going on here. First off, the chocolate comes through pretty prominently, but it's backed up nicely by some complementing caramel/toffee sweetness, just a hint of oak, and a little alcohol. No hop aroma, as expected.

Taste: Dark chocolate, some caramel sweetness, and coffee. Finishes sweet, but with a firm, moderate bitterness and some nice spiciness from the yeast. Maybe a bit of astrigency. The flavors have mellowed now compared to a year ago, now that it's had some time to age. The oak and vanilla are there, but are pretty mild, as is the orange peel. Nice to see that they don't overpower the beer at all.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation. A slight amount of alcohol warmth that is actually welcome on a cold night!

Overall: Very tasty. I was lucky enough to have the real thing for the second time just a couple of weeks ago... it was among other beers, but I'd say the homebrewed version is pretty close. The commercial beer is definitely smoother, however.

Recipe: (5.5 gallons, 70% efficiency) OG 1.080, FG 1.018, IBU 54, SRM 46, ABV 8.1%

2.86 kg Bohemian Pilsner
2.86 kg Canadian 2-row
772 g Crystal 80 L
409 g Chocolate malt
341 g Aromatic malt
136 g Black Patent malt
136 g Carafa II

Magnum - 28 g (9,4% AA) @ 90 min
Pearle - 28 g (8.3% AA) @ 90 min

227 g Dark Belgian Candi Syrup (D2) @ 15 min
1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min
14 g Sweet Orange peel @ flameout
2.5 g Vanilla Bean (chopped) @ flameout

23 g French Oak chips, at 40 F, for 6 days

Yeast: Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes (with a 3 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, mash and sparge water treated with 1/2 tablet of campden.

- Brewed August 9th, 2011, by myself. 60-minute mash with 20.69 L of strike water, mashed in at 151 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 180 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. SG 1.059 (target 1.057). 90-minute boil. 10-minute whirlpool at flame-out. Chilled to 67 F with immersion chiller. Poured into Better Bottle. Pitched yeast slurry at ~66 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after pitching.

- Airlock activity quite high after only 8 hours; complete blow-out by next morning. Temp got as high as 75 F at one point, but mainly was able to keep it at ~72 F by keeping the BB in the laundry sink and continually adding ice water daily.

- Racked to secondary on August 30th and put in fermentation chamber with temp set at 40 F. Added sanitized French oak chips a few days later. After 6 more days, bottled with 111 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Brewing an Extra Special Bitter

Extra Special Bitter (ESB), one of the English Pale Ales, is one style of beer that even most non-beer geeks can say that they've tried at some point. This is mainly due to the wide availability of Fuller's ESB, probably the most well-known ESB around. If you can get it in the Maritimes, what does that tell you? It may not be the best ESB out there, but it's a classic example of the style that I always enjoy.

ESBs (also known as Strong Bitters), while exhibiting a medium to medium-high bitterness and hop flavor, as well as some hop aroma, still have a strong, supporting malt backbone and usually fruity esters to varying degrees. Despite the name, don't expect an English version of an American Imperial IPA. Usually reaching up to about 6% ABV, they're really not overly "strong", especially when compared to a lot of other beer styles. They're meant to be quite drinkable, if not sessionable like the Standard and Special Bitters of the same class.

The third beer I ever brewed was the ESB recipe from Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles. I enjoyed that beer, but it was an extract batch with a partial boil, so I didn't get the hop utilization that you'd really want for this style. As a result, the bitterness was too low. For today's ESB, I decided to try something different. I looked at the recipe online ('Guvnah', by Matt and Jake Tucker) for the English Pale Ale gold-medal winner of the 2010 NHC. Substituting ingredients that I had on hand, the recipe below is what I came up with.

This is the first time that I've ever used a first wort hop (FWH) addition, where you add the hops into the boil kettle right before you drain the first runnings into it from the mashtun. You continue filling your kettle as normal; meanwhile, the hops are sitting in the hot wort, releasing their oils and resins. A lot of brewers have claimed that performing a FWH results in a better hop aroma and a less-harsh bitterness. I plan on doing a separate post on FWHing in the near future, so I'll get into more details then.

I also decided to alter the water profile for this beer, with a specific target in mind: England's Burton-on-Trent, an area that has a very important history in the brewing of English Pale Ales and IPAs. The water in Burton-on-Trent has a very high mineral content, especially calcium and sulfate, meaning that IPAs and Bitters brewed here had a crisp, dry finish that accentuated the hop bitterness very well. Because the sulfate level in Burton-on-Trent water is SO high (ranging from 650-850 ppm, depending on who you ask), and I'm a bit worried of overdoing it (which can happen quite easily when you start adding brewing salts), I decided to add 25 grams of gypsum (calcium sulfate) for an end target of about 250 ppm calcium and 500 ppm sulfate. I'll be splitting these additions between the mash and the sparge water.

For the fermentation of the first ESB, I used Wyeast 1968 London ESB (the Fuller's strain). This is a great English Pale Ale yeast, producing a good amount of fruity esters, and it has an extremely high flocculation rate, making for a very clear beer. However, since I've used it several times, and because I already have some Wyeast 1028 London Ale slurry on hand from the Southern English Brown I brewed last month, I decided to switch things up this time and go with the 1028.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency): OG 1.060, FG 1.014, IBU 48, SRM 9.6, ABV 6.0%

4.43 kg (82.7%) Maris Otter
454 g (8.6%) Crystal 40 L
227 g (4.2%) Honey malt
132 g (2.5%) Flaked Barley
113 g (2%) Wheat malt

East Kent Goldings - 56 g (3.5% AA) - FWH
East Kent Goldings - 49 g @ 60 min
Fuggles - 28 g (5% AA) @ 5 min
Fuggles - 28 g @ 0 min

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

Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale (~1 cup slurry, harvested Nov 21/12)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; treated with 25 g gypsum (divided b/w mash and sparge)

- Brewed Dec 2nd, 2012, by myself. 50-minute saccharification rest with 15 L of water for a mash temp of 154 F. Mashed-out with 4.25 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Let rest for another 10 minutes, then vorlaufed 3-4 L and drained into kettle. Sparged with ~15 L of 168 F water, stirred well, and left for 5 minutes before vorlaufing and draining into kettle again, for a total volume of ~6.75 gallons (slightly under target of 7 gallons).

- SG 1.049 (target 1.047). 75-minute boil. Began chilling at flameout; took about 25 minutes to get to 62 F. Poured into BB with a little more hop sludge than I would have liked; volume lower than expected, maybe 5 gallons; as a result, OG a bit high at 1.062. Pitched yeast slurry at 63 F, aerating by shaking well for several minutes before and after. Placed BB in room with ambient temp set at 64 F.

3/12/12 - 4/12/12 - Lots of airlock activity, bubbling a couple of times per second, and a large, fluffy krausen sitting on the beer. Temp 68 F. Activity slowed quickly within a couple days, temp hovering in the high 60s.

30/12/12 - FG only got to 1.019 for some reason. Bottled with 67 g table sugar, aiming for 1.9 vol CO2 for 4.5 gallons with a max temp of 68 F reached.

2/3/13 - Tasting notes... came out oddly over-carbonated (likely due to the high FG and residual sugars), but I'm really enjoying the effect of the high gypsum addition.