Thursday, 26 November 2015

Brewing a 100% Brett IPA (with Galaxy and Southern Cross)

In late July, I posted about my first 100%-Brett IPA, a light-coloured beer with plenty of late-hopping: all Amarillo after knockout, and a big dry-hop of Hallertau Blanc. Fermented with The Yeast Bay's Amalgamation, a "Brett Super Blend" featuring six different Brettanomyces strains, the beer came out really tasty. It had just what I was looking for in a Brett IPA, with lots of tropical, fruity hop aroma and flavour, with just the right balance of Brett funk. Mouthfeel was creamy and very smooth, with - for me - the perfect amount of bitterness (let's say medium-low).

In that post, I threatened to brew the same recipe again and change the hop varieties, and that's exactly what I did in late September. I felt absolutely no need to change the grist for this beer; as mentioned above, the body was perfect. Despite my initial worries that the Brett strains would not produce the glycerol needed to boost mouthfeel, the combination of a good proportion of wheat malt (21%) and higher mash temp (153 F) seemed to do the job nicely. When I initially made the starter for the Amalgamation blend, I built it up enough to have twice as many cells as I needed. Yes, it had been three months since then, and I needed to make another starter, but the slurry looked and smelled healthy enough to me. So, I got the Brett into some more wort and onto my stir plate, aiming for ~300 billion cells (200 for this batch, and another 100 to have on hand for another time). The starter seemed quite active; there was a large krausen that actually overflowed from the flask a little, before settling down as activity slowed.

For this batch, I wanted to stick to two hop varieties again. While I had considered doing a single-hop brew, I had so many I wanted to experiment with Brett that I knew I'd have to pick at least two. Like last time, I was mostly looking at hops that would offer a lot of tropical fruit and/or citrus character, to complement the fruity/pineapple aspects that you often see in 100% Brett IPAs. I finally settled on two Southern Hemisphere varieties: Galaxy and Southern Cross. I've brewed with both before, but never together. Australia's Galaxy is found in plenty of commercial beers, and is well-known for adding plenty of tropical fruit. I had used Southern Cross (New Zealand) in my Alpine Nelson clone, and really liked how it worked with Nelson Sauvin: it's citrusy characteristics paired perfectly with the gooseberry of the Nelson.

Otherwise, I kept everything about this beer exactly the same - grist, mash temps, Gypsum and calcium chloride additions, etc. This time around, my mash efficiency was a little low (compared to a little high the first time), which I can't really explain. Aside from that, the brew day went smoothly. I had cold-crashed the Brett starter several days prior, decanted the large amount of beer off, and then "woke up" the yeast with another 500 mL of wort on the stir plate for a couple of days, before pitching the starter at 66 F into the chilled wort. I then aerated with pure O2 for 75 seconds. This is exactly the same procedure I followed for my first Brett IPA; by the next morning for that beer, fermentation was coming along nicely.

Not this time. When I checked on the carboy the first morning after brew day, there was zero visible activity. The airlock wasn't bubbling, there was no krausen; you could see the trub/yeast cake sitting on the bottom of the Better Bottle. I was confused. The temperature was still 66 F, and there wouldn't have been any drops in temp overnight. When I checked on it again that evening after work, there was no change. By the next morning, I was starting to panic when there was STILL no activity. I knew I had pitched enough yeast and aerated well, but I pitched a little more slurry (approx 40 billion cells) just in case, as a last-ditch effort. My plan was if it wasn't doing anything by that evening (which would be a little over 48 hours since the original pitch), I'd have to add some US-05 and see what happened.

Luckily, when I got home from work, there was finally bubbling in the airlock. Fermentation grew strong and continued nicely, bringing the beer to a final gravity of 1.008 (quite a bit lower than I had achieved with the first Brett IPA). But why did it take 48 hours to get going? Yes, the slurry I had saved from the original starter was about 3 months old, but I took that into consideration when calculating the booster starter size, and should have had plenty of cells pitched into the wort. Not to mention the fact that the starter was extremely active, as noted. Whatever the reason, I was slightly nervous as to how the end result was going to taste.

After about 2 weeks, I dry-hopped the beer in primary for 5 days, and then kegged it. The first time around, I had bottled the beer so I could get a good idea of how it developed over time with the Brett. It still tasted great after four months (when I consumed the last bottle that I had saved), but the hop character, as expected, had faded considerably. And it was when the beer was really hoppy that I enjoyed it the most, so I was looking to keg it for this batch, to keep the hoppy goodness around as long as possible.

This turned out to be a very interesting beer. Despite the fact that the only real change to the recipe was the hops used, it tastes a lot different than the first batch, to me. The first time I poured a sample, before carbonation was really where I wanted it to be, I got a huge blast of pineapple and tropical fruit... and I mean HUGE! I immediately loved it. But since then, I haven't been as crazy about it. Not to say I don't like it, but for the next several pours, I wasn't sure where this beer was headed. I hate to say it, but I swear with the second or third pour I was tasting and smelling... urinal. I wasn't sure if it was how these particular hops were working with the Brett strains, or if it was that the Brett had really taken a turn for the worse somewhere down the line, but I was starting to get worried again.

However, now the beer is tasting fine. I must say I prefer the Amarillo/Hallertau Blanc beer, but the Galaxy/Southern Cross combo really settled into its own after a little time. That pineapple and tropical fruit presence is still there in spades, but the funk backs it up quite well. I find the "funk" different than in the first beer, and I wish I could explain exactly how... but I can't. It's just different. Not unpleasant, but not the same.

I really need more people to try this beer, but only a few others have as of right now. Those that HAVE tried it seem to really enjoy it, but I'd like some more input. I've been drinking it for about a month and haven't noticed it changing too much, yet; the kegging has definitely helped in that regard. My real concern now is, is the small amount of yeast slurry I've saved for the next batch trustworthy? I'm planning on brewing another 100% Brett beer soon, so I guess it won't be long before I find out...

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.010, IBU ~52, SRM 4.1, ABV ~6.5%

3.7 kg (71.2%) Canadian 2-row
1.1 kg (21.2%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.8%) Cara-Pils
200 g (3.8%) Acid malt

Hop extract - 5 mL @ 60 min (or 28 g of a 10% AA hop variety)

Galaxy - 35 g (12% AA) @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Southern Cross - 35 g (13.5% AA) @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Galaxy - 35 g @ 0 min (when start chilling)
Southern Cross - 35 g @ 0 min (when start chilling)

Galaxy - 63 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (in primary)
Southern Cross - 63 g dry-hop for 5-7 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Yeast Bay Brett Amalgamation (slurry, ~200 billion cells)

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

- Brewed on Sept 22nd, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.75 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- SG 1.045 (low, target 1.047). 60-minute boil. Final volume a bit high at 5.75 gallons; OG 1.055. Chilled to low-60s F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast slurry at 66 F.

- After about 48 hours, activity finally became apparent - bubbling in airlock, krausen forming. Continued quite vigorously for 2 days, then began to slow down. Temp got up to 72 F.

- 7/10/15 - FG 1.008. Dry-hopped in primary. Kegged 5 days later and set in keezer to bring temp down before starting to carb the next day.

Appearance: Pours with a small-moderate sized white head, which fades fairly quickly to a thin film on the beer. Body is a light-golden color (that picture isn't the best representation), and very hazy, almost cloudy, even after a month or so of being kegged.

Aroma: Definitely an interesting aroma - while it's quite obvious this is a hoppy beer, with it's strong pineapple, citrusy smell, there's a very strong funkiness that comes through easily as well as the hops. It's not really barnyard; I can't quite put my finger on it.

Taste: A little more well-rounded than the aroma, I'd say the hops win - slightly - here. Lots of powerful fruit flavours coming through, but yes, still a good amount of funk. Medium to medium-low bitterness in the finish, quite dry and a bit tart. More white-wine like than the last Brett IPA.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation. Quite smooth and creamy.

Overall: Very tasty. I'm happy with the mouthfeel and finish of the beer; definitely a bit drier than the last one. I don't think the differences in this beer are completely due to the different hops used, but either way Galaxy and Southern Cross are working really well together, here. Let the experimenting continue!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Brewing a Columbus Pale Ale (inspired by Epic Pale Ale)

With summer over (yeah, it's been a couple of months already, but I'm way behind), the annual brewing-lull has come to an end. Time to get back into it!

Around the beginning of September, I needed to brew. The summer was really busy with the usual combination of work and being away for vacations, so I was looking to brew up something fairly simple that didn't involve a lot of planning, and that I could quickly turn around and have on tap within a few weeks. I have a short list of beers that I would like to rebrew, and after a quick scan I picked out an Epic Pale Ale clone that I brewed years ago, just a few months after starting this blog. Epic is a great brewery in Auckland, New Zealand; I've had several of their beers, back when they were distributing to Maine (I assume they are no longer? I don't recall seeing their beers on recent trips to Portland). Their Pale Ale is brewed with all Cascade hops; the clone recipe I followed was one from the old Can You Brew It? podcast. Featuring plenty of Cascade, it was a great clone recipe, so I thought it would be a nice beer to brew again.

However, before I entered the recipe into BeerSmith again, I did a quick scan of my hop inventory. I had just enough Cascade to brew a smaller batch of this beer, but realized that I had more than twice as much Columbus. Now, I've always planned on brewing a Columbus single-hop beer; it seems like such an underrated hop variety to me. It's used in plenty of beers, but because it's been around for a long time, it often gets overlooked, what with all the fancy new varieties out there (I'm admittedly a victim of this overlooking, myself). I've used it in several beers with one other variety, and I always like what it brings to the table. It seems to offer a combination of dank and resiny tones, with some fruity qualities as well. With extra on hand, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally brew a beer that brought Columbus front and center.

The grist for this recipe is definitely for an "olden-days" APA; that is, it's not just a super-light, lower-ABV IPA (I DO love those types of APAs, by the way). There's a fair amount of Crystal malt in it (over 20% is CaraRed and Carapils, combined), but luckily it's still mashed low at 148 F, to keep it as dry as possible. The rest is made up of equal amounts 2-row and Maris Otter; I of course planned on adding some Acid malt to bring down the mash pH, but when brew day came along, I forgot yet again that I was out of Acid malt. Dammit! Oh well, the first time I brewed this beer I wasn't using Acid malt, so I figured the beer wouldn't suffer too much. I also added some gypsum and calcium chloride to the mash this time around.

This APA, however, is still hopped pretty heavily for the style... 9 oz of hops in total, with most of that being from flameout on. Two separate flameout additions are used, one for a hop steep, the other after chilling begins (the original recipe calls for a 10-min steep, then ANOTHER 10-min steep, so I changed it up a bit this time), and then two separate dry-hop additions after fermentation ends. The beer was fermented with US-05; I should point out that the original Epic Pale Ale recipe calls for Wyeast 1272 American Ale II. I didn't go through the trouble of ordering it when I actually brewed the clone recipe, and I didn't have a chance to here, either. However, if you're looking to actually clone Epic Pale Ale, I recommend you try to track down the 1272, at the recommendation of Epic's brewers.

I was pretty happy with how this beer came out. It's definitely a bit sweeter than most of the APAs I've been brewing lately; I think part of this is due to the grist, and partly due to Columbus. While the beer's aroma and taste are both quite dank and resinous, there's this kind of sweet, candy-like quality in there... reminds me a lot of Rockets. Oddly enough, it all works. The bitterness is about perfect, probably in the moderate category, and the beer finishes just dry enough to make it easy-drinking, but balanced with enough maltiness to make it clear that it's not an IPA. While not my favorite APA I've brewed, it IS tasty, and an interesting experiment to focus on the Columbus hop.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.052, FG ~1.010, IBU ~42, SRM 6.5, ABV ~5.7%

1.7 kg (39.1%) Canadian 2-row
1.7 kg (39.1%) Maris Otter
600 g (13.8%) CaraRed
350 g (8%) CaraPils

CTZ - 14 g (10% AA) @ 60 min
CTZ - 35 g @ 10 min

CTZ - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
CTZ - 42 g @ 0 min (after started chilling)

CTZ - 56 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

CTZ - 63 g dry-hop for 5 more days (DH keg)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

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

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g Gypsum and 4 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on September 9th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 148 F. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity a bit low at 1.040 (target 1.042). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG low at 1.048. Chilled to 66 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast at 68 F (a bit higher than I like, but the ground water was still quite warm).

- Good fermentation activity over the next few days; the temperature luckily never went higher than 70 F, thanks to keeping the BB in my laundry sink with some water and ice packs.

- 16/9/15 - Added first round of dry-hops into primary. FG 1.010.

- 22/9/15 - Racked beer to DH keg, added second round of dry-hops, purged again with CO2.

- 27/9/15 - Transferred beer to serving keg and began carbing to ~2.3 vol CO2.

Yeah, yeah, don't remind me
Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, slightly off-white head that shows very good retention, before fading to 1/2-finger. Body is dark orange/light amber coloured, with very good clarity despite the two dry-hop additions.

Aroma: Resinous, slight candy-like aroma that is definitely interesting, and something I don't really recall experiencing before. Pleasant malt backbone keeps the beer out of IPA territory, but still does a nice job of allowing the hops to express themselves.

Taste: The hop characteristics in the aroma pretty much come through the same in the taste, with a resiny/dank overtone that is quickly followed by that candy-sweetness. It finishes more on the dry side, with a moderate bitterness that kind of sticks around a bit.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Enjoyable. Don't think I'll probably go out of my way to brew it again, but I wouldn't mind doing one of my one-hop Session IPAs with Columbus, to really let the hop express itself more. Would probably work really well in a SMaSH beer, too.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Brewing a Hoppy Saison (based on my Prairie 'Merica clone)

After brewing my Maine Beer Co. Peeper clone in late June, my stretch of frantic brewing (for me... 6 batches in 6 weeks!) was over. Enter the summer months... temperatures are a lot higher, making it more difficult to control fermentation adequately (my fermentation chamber became my keezer over a year ago), and I'm often away on weekends off. During the months of July and August, I only brewed one time... and I wanted to make it count; I really had to think hard about what exactly to brew.

It actually turned out to be an easy decision; weeks before, I had ordered one of my favorite Saison yeast strains from my LHBS; because they don't regularly keep it in stock, it can easily take 4 weeks or longer, so I ordered back in early June. Wyeast 3711 French Saison has always given me good results - I like the combination of fruity and pepper flavors that it gives, and I like that it isn't finicky... it's never once crapped out on me and left me wondering if the beer was ever going to finish. With this yeast, I was armed to do a re-brew of one of my all-time favorite homebrews of mine: the Prairie Artisan Ales 'Merica clone, originally brewed almost two years ago.

That beer - a SMaSH Saison brewed with Pilsner malt and hopped heavily with Nelson Sauvin, and dosed with Brettanomyces at bottling - was a real winner. Juicy and tropical, dry, and a touch of funk from the Brett (I actually split the batch, dosing half with Brett and leaving the other half without), it was definitely one of my homebrew highlights of 2013, and likely in the top 10 of all-time. I put the recipe together based on some info I found online (mostly through the brewery's website); after I posted the recipe, they tweeted back to me a couple of recommended minor adjustments to the hop schedule. Since then, I've been wanting to rebrew it, which is what I finally planned to do for my solo summer brew day.

I was initially going to do the exact same recipe, but with everything scaled down to a lower-ABV beer. My 'Merica clone had an OG target of 1.056; the non-Brett portion finished at 1.006, for an ABV of 6.7%. This time, I aimed for 1.048. No particular reason, I just didn't really need a higher-ABV beer. Otherwise, I planned on following Prairie's recommendations... but I changed my mind very close to brew day, and made several alterations:

1) I decided to back off the Nelson a little bit, and add two more varieties, Citra and Centennial. Not that I have anything against Nelson; quite the contrary! However, it IS an extremely expensive and hard to obtain hop, and I really wanted to play with a combination of the three. These three varieties were used in my Societe Brewing The Pupil clone I brewed last year, and worked great together. I wanted to see what this combination would be like with a Saison yeast. Note from the recipe below that Nelson is still the most-used hop.

2) I went with a hopping schedule more similar to my first beer then Prairie's recommendations. Not because I think mine would work better, but because I know my original one worked well on my system the first time. The minor changes include a very small hop addition at 60 minutes (I used Nelson because the package was open; at only 7 grams, I figured it wasn't a big deal to use it), and I took out the 5-minute addition.

3) I added a dry-hop addition; the first (Nelson and Centennial) would be in primary, and the second (Nelson and Citra) a keg-hop before transferring to the serving keg. Not that the first beer didn't have tons of hop flavour and aroma; I just wanted to really try to maximize the hop presence, and see if a keg-hop addition would boost it even more.

So, this beer ended up being more "inspired by" my original clone than a simple rebrew. The mash temp was kept the same as before (151 F). When I went to weigh out the grains (and mill them) the night before brewing, I realized I was almost completely out of Acid malt. Now, I didn't use any Acid malt when I brewed the 'Merica clone, but I use it for almost all my beers now to adjust mash pH. I had planned on using close to 2.5% of the grist as Acid malt, but I only had a mere 22 g on hand... that's about 0.5%. Even with the bump up of salt additions to the mash this time around, my mash pH was still calculated to be higher than I would like (I usually try to target 5.4 or so). But at this point, there was no changing it, so I just had to accept it.

Otherwise, the day went well. My OG came in a bit high (1.051), but I was ok with that. I pitched the yeast at about 64 F and decided to just let it go on its own; being a Saison yeast (Wyeast 3711 French Saison, my typical go-to Saison yeast), I wasn't worried about it getting over 70 F. A couple days after pitching, it got up to 76 F, and started dropping slowly the next day as active fermentation petered out. After close to two weeks, the first round of dry-hops were added to primary, then the beer was racked to the designated dry-hop keg, where the second addition was thrown in. Transferred to the serving keg after another 4-5 days, and carbed.

I have to say that, despite being a very tasty beer, I prefer the original 'Merica clone. This beer DOES have plenty of tropical fruit and citrus in both the aroma and taste, and the Nelson is quite apparent (being so dominant as usual), but it was just SO in your face when used completely on its own... in a wonderful, wonderful way. I also find this beer to have a slight carbonic bite in the finish; the bitterness isn't too high, but there's just something that was a tad bit off.

In the end, though, still a really good beer, I think. We had no problem polishing this keg off a few weeks ago (I really have to start posting more), and I think lovers of hoppy Saisons would be impressed with the hop presence in this beer. If you can get your hands on some Nelson and Citra, give it a try!

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.004, IBU ~45, SRM 3.5, ABV ~6%

4.25 kg (99.5%) Pilsner
22 g (0.5%) Acid malt

Nelson Sauvin - 7 g (11.6% AA) @ 60 min
Nelson Sauvin - 28 g @ 10 min

Citra - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
Nelson Sauvin - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)

Centennial - 40 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Nelson Sauvin - 42 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Citra - 28 g dry-hop for 5 more days (keg)
Nelson Sauvin - 42 g dry-hop for 5 more days (keg)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 3711 French Saison (with a starter)

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

- Brewed on July 29th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 151 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- SG 1.038 (target 1.036). 90-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG high at 1.051. Chilled to low-60s F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast starter at 64 F.

- Great fermentation over the first few days, temp hovering around 70 F for the first day, eventually rising to as high as 76 F by the second day. Began to slow after day 3, temp dropping only slightly ever day. FG finally reached as low as 1.003.

- Added first round of dry hops to primary on August 11th; five days later, racked to CO2-purged dry-hop keg and added second dry hops. Cold-crashed five days later and transferred to serving keg and began carbing with CO2.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized head that quickly fades to 1/2-finger... too fast for the style. Body is a light yellow color, and quite hazy/murky (I assume from all the dry-hopping). Not the prettiest beer.

Aroma: Nice smack of tropical hop goodness, with a fair amount of citrus in there, too. There is definitely a background of Belgian phenolic spiciness from the yeast, but various fruit wins out by far.

Taste: Ditto; very tropical and citrusy. Nelson sticks out more than anything else with its characteristic gooseberry flavour, but this beer has more citrus than the first iteration, with a little spicy phenolics backing it all up. Moderate bitterness in the finish; bit of a carbonic bite. Quite dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with carbonation that borders somewhere between medium and medium-low... could definitely be higher for the style.

Overall: Very enjoyable, but in the end I'd have to say I prefer my straight 'Merica clone, i.e. all Nelson Sauvin.