Brewing my first competition beer – NEIIPA

I have come to be a little obsessed with the New England “styles”. So much so that I really want to keep one on tap at all times. Recently I’ve brewed a pale ale and two iterations of an IPA, so it only made sense to brew a Double IPA next. The timing of this brew lined up closely to a home brew competition that was reasonably close for me to enter, the Big Spruce Home Brew Challenge.

As the title of this post mentions, I had never entered a competition before. Not because I didn’t want to, but because over the last few years the local competition styles haven’t been of interest to me. I’m not one to brew a style I wouldn’t normally just to enter a competition. I mean if I haven’t brewed it before or don’t really plan to brew and work on that style then what’s the point? Between family time and shift work my brew days can be difficult to fit in and so I’d rather use that time accordingly.

scaled-way-up_trillium
Image sourced from http://www.trilliumbrewing.com/trillium-scaled-way-up-double-ipa

I’ve been fairly picky about the way I brew DIPA’s for the last couple of years. I generally want to keep the ABV between 7.5-8%. Once they start creeping towards the 9% range I find that malt sweetness is nearly unavoidable. Or at least it has been when I’ve brewed them in the past and that’s something I don’t enjoy at all. So I tend to keep the grain bill simple and the percentages fairly consistent with my IPA recipes. But push the OG just barely into the IIPA range. The downside to this approach is that if your OG is low at all you’re likely to fall out of the IIPA category if you like to stick by the BJCP guidelines. Normally I don’t concern myself with those guidelines (not that you should ignore them) when brewing hop forward styles. At this point I know what I like in a Pale Ale, IPA, IIPA and so I brew to those preferences.

Planning this recipe was fairly easy, use hops that I love, in this case Mosaic, Equinox, Simcoe and Amarillo. Keep the grain bill simple, mainly 2-row, Maris Otter and flaked oats which would make this more of a NEIIPA I guess. Use LAIII, my go to for New England styles and that’s it.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail describing these hops and what they bring to a beer. I love all of them, especially the Mosaic and Equinox. My only concern was that Mosaic, Simcoe and Amarillo have the potential to be dank. Which I love but combining all three had the potential to push the level of dank into a range some might not enjoy (understandably). More on that later. As usual almost all of the hops used in this recipe were late, steep and dry hop additions. With the latter being split, half on day 3 the other half on day 7 with plans to keg on day 11 or 12.

Brew day and fermentation went as planned and this turned out really well. The first week it was especially juicy and dank and delicious. Here’s the catch. Beer tasting can be completely subjective. Different people pick up on different characteristics in each beer based on their palate and preferences. I gave this beer out to my fellow beer geeks (including two who now brew professionally) and they loved it. I got nothing but great feed back, even from those I knew would be completely honest with me.

The score sheets I received back from the competition however were a different story altogether. The beer was evaluated by three judges, two BJCP certified, the other a Cicerone. They described the beer as astringent and sweaty with onion and garlic in both aroma and flavor. To be honest I was completely surprised and my confidence took a huge hit. Not because I was personally hurt. I have never taken offence to comments about my beer, I want nothing else but brutal and honest feed back. I believe it’s critical to improving your beer. I was surprised because I couldn’t pick up on any of those characteristics in this beer. When I relayed the comments to my fellow beer geeks they seemed equally surprised. I poured this beer day after day, analyzing and attempting to detect the slightest amount of astringency. I never could. Same for the onion and garlic aroma and flavor. I did find the level of dank pushed towards being sweaty once when I let the beer warm for twenty minutes before tasting. Unfortunately those score sheets took away from this beer quite a bit for me as I spent so much time picking the beer apart instead of just enjoying it. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.

As a result of the competition feed back it’s difficult for me to recommend this recipe. I do plan to brew it again with a different hop bill just to see how it turns out. As I mentioned I was really enjoying this beer up until the time the sheets came back.

 

Recipe Targets: 5 Gallons, OG 1.069, FG 1.012, ABV 7.5%, SRM 4.4, IBU 71

Grain:

2.60 kg     2-row (41.9%)

1.50 kg     Maris Otter (24.2%)

1.40 kg     Flaked Oats (22.5%)

0.26 kg     Acid Malt (4.2%)

Hops:

6 g     Polaris (21%)          @60min

28 g   Amarillo (9.8%)      @5min

28 g   Equinox (15%)         @5min

28 g    Mosaic (12.25%)     @5min

28 g    Simcoe (12.7%)       Steep 15mins

28 g    Mosaic (12.25%)     Steep 15mins

28 g    Equinox (15%)        Steep 15mins

28 g    Amarillo (9.8%)     Chiller (temp <180F)

28 g    Equinox (15%)        Chiller (temp <180F)

28 g    Mosaic (12.25%)     Chiller (temp <180F)

56 g    Amarillo (9.8%)      Dry Hop (half on day 3, half on day 7)

56 g    Equinox (15%)         Dry Hop (half on day 3, half on day 7)

56 g    Simcoe (12.7%)        Dry Hop (half on day 3, half on day 7)

Extras:

1 tsp     Yeast Nutrient

Yeast:

LAIII – Wyeast 1318

Brewed October 30th. Mashed in with 15L 160F water, mashed out with 9L of 205F water. Drained mash tun and batch sparged with 165F water. 60 minute boil. Fermentation temp capped at 72F. OG 1.067. FG 1.010. ABV 7.5%

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Apologies for the crappy cell phone picture.

I completely forgot to take a picture of this beer so here’s an image of an awesome beer by Foundation. Epiphany, a “Maine” IPA. Image sourced from: http://foundationbrew.com/beer/epiphany/

 

Appearance: Pours with a 1/2″ white head, dissipates to a thin ring withing a few minutes. Light orange in color, moderate haze.

Aroma: Intensely hoppy, quite dank with some fruit and tropical notes.

Taste: Follows from the aroma, dank followed by fruity and tropical hops.

Mouthfeel: Moderate mouth feel, medium carbonation, finishes dry.

Overall: As I mentioned earlier I really enjoyed this early on. Very juicy and dank, everything I look for in a IIPA. I’m interested to brew this with a different hop bill and get feed back again.

 

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Brewing two NEIPA’s with a yeast comparison

Having just kicked a NEPA I enjoyed I really wanted to brew a NEIPA.  I happened to have a couple of keg lines free so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to brew a double batch and ferment them with different yeast strains for comparison. Initially I had decided to make this the only differing factor between the two batches, but in the end I decided to change the dry hops up a little as well. I didn’t really want to end up with two nearly identical beer if the differing yeast strains ended up being more similar than expected.

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Left: LAIII. Right Funktown.

The first yeast strain was an easy choice, Wyeast 1318 London Ale III. It has become my house yeast strain if there’s such a term in home brewing. The other was one a friend had given me, Funktown Pale Ale from The Yeast Bay.  That was a strain I was inexperienced with, I knew it was supposed to have a blend of Conan and Brett Brux Trois therefore I was assuming it would express some peach and tropical fruit notes.

I won’t go into the fine details of recipe creation as I did that on my last post here on brewing a NEPA. My approach involved a simple grain bill with a hefty percentage of flaked oats (~18%), heavy late hop additions and dry hopping on day 3 and day 7 of fermentation. I’m not saying this is the best approach, simply the one that has worked well for me so far.

Normally I keep hops limited to two or three varieties at most. I like being able to pick out each hop, what they add to the beer and how they work with the other variety(ies) I’ve chosen. This time however I decided to use four (in the LAIII batch), I assumed this would still allow each hop to stand out without getting too muddled. For this beer I decided to go with Mosaic, Hallertau Blanc, Chinook and Equinox. I really enjoy all of them though the Mosaic and Equinox are definitely up there as a couple of my favourite hops.  I love how dank and tropical Mosaic can be, Equinox has the papaya/lime/green pepper thing going. HB is a hop I haven’t used much before but it’s supposed to have some tropical fruit, citrus, floral and herbal character. I was hoping Chinook would add more citrus and piney notes. I mean all that sounds like it would work well together, or at least for the most part. Dank, tropical, fruit and citrus combined with the mouth feel of a NEIPA and yeast strains that exude fruit character.

It did work well together, these were two of the best IPA’s I’ve brewed thus far. I was surprised at just how different they were and how each of them changed over time. Initially they were identical beer simply fermented with different yeast strains. Even early on in fermentation I could tell they would be quite different. The Funktown version was much more pale and beyond hazy, I would even say murky compared to the LAIII. This continued to be consistent through dry hopping, at kegging and right up to the time they kicked.

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Day 2 of fermentation. Left: Funktown. Right: LAIII.
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Day 3 of fermentation. Left: Funktown. Right: LAIII.

I tried numerous blind taste tests and I was able to pick out which beer was which every single time. The equinox dry hop addition for the LAIII really stuck out for me, presumably because I’m familiar with it and it has a distinctive flavor. The Funktown was slightly more acidic and the mouth feel was different, but both were very good in my opinion.

I shared this beer with a number of fellow beer geeks and I have to say it was mostly split on which they preferred. For me I seemed to enjoy the LAIII version just a little bit more. I liked what the Funktown strains brought to this beer but I will be sticking with LAIII for the foreseeable future. I can definitely recommend brewing either or both!

Recipe Targets: 8 gallons, OG 1.058, FG 1.010, ABV 6.3%, IBU 50, SRM 3.7

Grain:

5.40 kg     2-row (65.4%)

1.52 kg     Flaked Oats (18.4%)

0.78 kg     Flaked Wheat (9.4%)

0.38 kg     Acid Malt (4.6%)

0.20 kg     Rice Hulls (2.4%)

Hops:

7.00 g    Polaris [21.00 %] – Boil 60min                             11.6 IBUs
30.00 g  Chinook [11.00 %] – Boil 5min                              5.2 IBUs
30.00 g  Hallertau Blanc [8.00 %] – Boil 5min                   3.8 IBUs
30.00 g  Mosaic [11.30 %] – Boil 5min                                 5.3 IBUs
50.00 g  Chinook [11.00 %] – Steep 15min                         10.8 IBUs
25.00 g  Mosaic [11.30 %] – Steep 15min                            5.5 IBUs        50.00 g  Hallertau Blanc [8.00 %] – Steep 15min             7.8 IBUs        50.00 g  Chinook CHILL [11.00 %] – Boil 0min                 0.0 IBUs
50.00 g  Mosaic CHILL [11.30 %] – Boil 0min                    0.0 IBUs
25.00 g  Hallertau Blanc CHILL [8.00 %] – Boil 0min       0.0 IBUs

FUNKTOWN

25.00 g Hallertau Blanc [8.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
15.00 g Mosaic [11.30 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
25.00 g Chinook [11.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
30.00 g Chinook [11.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
20.00 g Mosaic [11.30 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
30.00 g Hallertau Blanc [8.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 7

LAIII

35g Mosaic – Dry Hop Day 3
35g Equinox – Dry Hop Day 3                                                             35g Mosaic – Dry Hop Day 7                                                                      35g Equinox – Dry Hop Day 7

Extras:

2 tsp   Yeast Nutrient – Boil 10.0 min

Yeast:

Batch 1 – Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

Batch 2 – TYB Funktown Pale Ale

Brewed September 24th. Mashed in with 21.5L of 161F water to hit strike temp of 150F. Mashed out with 12L of 202F water. Batch sparged with 13L of 165F water. Pre boil gravity a point low at 1.049, 60 minute boil. OG a few points low at 1.055. Wort chiled to 60F, split between two carboys.

Fermentation temp topped out at 70F. Dry hops added on day 3 and 7. Kegged on day 11. Force carbed and being served on day 13.

 

Funktown – FG 1.009   6.0%

img_4628

Appearance: Extremely hazy and even murky. Cloudy, pale straw yellow in color. Pours with a ¼” white head which dissipates quickly and leaves a slight ring.

Aroma: A big punch of hops, slightly dank, tropical, fruit and citrus.

Taste: Flavor is consistent with the aroma. Tons of hop flavor, mostly fruit and tropical. Very punchy.

Mouthfeel: Moderate mouth feel. Very slight acidity, finishes reasonably dry. Also seems to line the mouth.

Overall: I was surprised by how murky this beer was, especially early on. I didn’t mind but I could see how some would find it unsettling. Otherwise a great NEIPA, very juicy. I won’t be using this yeast strain combination to replace my LAIII any time soon but I would use it again.

 

LAIII – FG 1.010  5.9%

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Appearance: Pours with a ½” white head which fades to 1/8” eventually but persists. Light golden in colour, very hazy but no murk.

Aroma: Similar to the Funktown with tropical and fruit notes dominating. I could really pick out the Equinox early on.

Taste: Tons of tropical and fruit hop flavor. Tropical fruit salad would best describe it.

Mouthfeel: Moderate to full. No acidity present compared to the FT. Finishes similarly though, reasonably dry.

Overall: Though some preferred the Funktown version, this was the clear winner for me. Extreme haze without the murk. More pronounced fruit aroma and flavour, very drinkable. I’ll be brewing something similar again early in the new year with different hops.

Brewing a NEPA

New England styles have become quite a trend in the last couple of years, a very delicious trend. Many home brewers are attempting to brew this style which is great! It has caused a little tension in the hazy vs clear debates frequently found on social media. But I’m not bothered in the least by the super hazy appearance, in fact I get excited when I see a beer like that. Now I still haven’t had the pleasure of travelling to San Diego and enjoying all the super clear mega hoppy offerings they have. I have had a few from Firestone Walker, Ballast Point etc but let’s be honest. If they have to travel from coast to coast before I get to sample them, they’re likely not in ideal shape. I mean you really want to have Pliny the Elder on tap or a really fresh bottle at the very least, don’t you?

patina
Mmm Patina. Image sourced from http://www.austinstreetbrewery.com/patina-pale/

My trips to the US consist mainly of Portland, Maine. Which is one hell of a beer city. Bissell Brothers, Austin St, Foundation, the list goes on and on. My first glass of The Substance changed the way I looked at hop forward American styles. I’ll be honest, the haze didn’t bother me in the slightest and even if it had, once I tasted the beer I was sold on the “style”. Ever since, I’ve been looking for those hazy, super hoppy beer every time I head down. As far as the pale ale style goes, one of my favourite commercial examples so far has been Patina by Austin Street. I’ve had it on numerous occasions and its solid each and every time, especially when they release a double dry hop version. Locally, Trailway is making some damn fine examples as well such as D’under and Rype. But my favorite has to be Fort Point by Trillium. It was extremely hoppy, the very definition of hop juice. I was very fortunate a friend was willing to share a bottle. I’ve only had it that one time and I still hold it as the best example of a NEPA.

As far as brewing this particular style at home there are a few things to keep in mind to try to get as close as possible to those great beer I mentioned earlier. General guidelines call for a very light beer, too dark and you’ll end up with murk instead of haze. Low IBU’s, the lack of hop bitterness helps to accentuate the juicy quality of a NEPA. A fairly large percentage of oats and/or wheat to increase mouth feel and add to the haze of the beer. Most or all of the hops should be added late in the boil and at flameout, possibly with a steep or whirlpool. Heavy dry hop additions help to really punch the hop aroma and flavor to another level. Finally using a yeast strain that tends to finish hazy and provide some fruit flavor to compliment the hops chosen. I prefer London Ale III, others use Conan which is also a good choice. I’ve read that some claim you need specific water chemistry adjustments as well, but I’ve settled in on a profile that works for me for all hop forward styles. So I keep that consistent from batch to batch. I have heard of some brewers using flour to add haze. But adding an ingredient to mimic a hazy beer seems unnecessary. After all, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen sacs of flour hanging around the Bissell Brothers brewery.

With all of that in mind writing a recipe is fairly straight forward. A simple grain bill with 2-row as the base malt, a fairly large percentage of flaked oats (~15%), and some flaked wheat (~10%). I’d love to try brewing with malted oats but it’s something I can’t get from my LHBS unless I buy a full bag at an unreasonable price. Mash reasonably low so the beer finishes a little dry. Choose punchy hops, those with tropical fruit, fruit and citrus character work really well. For this recipe I chose Equinox, Columbus, Centennial and Simcoe.

This turned out well aside from one glaring issue. Something I have been suspecting on numerous batches recently but it’s been very minimal. For this mash I tried changing things up and I ran a single infusion with a batch sparge. I ended up with a fair amount of astringency, not so much to ruin the beer but I wonder just how good it could have been without it. Not to say this mash and sparge method was the cause, I think it merely helped to accentuate the problem. I’ve since made adjustments to my mash and I’m happy to say I’ve not had the same issue again. Otherwise a great NEPA.

Brewed with my son Setpember 24th, mashed in with 10L of 164F water to hit target mash temp of 152F. Tried a different sparge method for this beer. Added the mash out volume to the sparge water. Batch sparged with 18L of 168F water. 60 minute boil. OG 7 points low at 1.043, I’m assuming this has something to do with the sparge method I tried. Dry hops added on day 3 and day 7. Kegged on day 11, FG 1.008.

Recipe Targets: 4.5 gallons, OG 1.050, FG 1.010, ABV 5%, IBU 51,             SRM 3.3

Grain:

0.11 kg     Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) 2.9 %
2.59 kg    Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) 67.8 %
0.60 kg   Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) 15.7 %
0.39 kg   White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) 10.3 %
0.12 kg    Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) 3.1 %

Hops:

14.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) [13.40 %] – Boil 5 min        5.5 IBUs
14.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Boil 5 min                            5.3 IBUs
7.00 g Centennial [9.00 %] – Boil 5 min                         1.8 IBUs
7.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] – Boil 5 min              2.2 IBUs
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) CHILLER [13.40 %]             0.0 IBUs
28.00 g Simcoe CHILLER [13.00 %]                                0.0 IBUs
14.00 g Centennial CHILLER [9.00 %]                            0.0 IBUs
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) CHILLER [10.90%]                  0.0 IBUs
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) [13.40 %] – Steep 15 min  13.6 IBUs
28.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Steep 15 min                      13.2 IBUs
14.00 g Centennial [9.00 %] – Steep 15 min                   4.6 IBUs
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] Steep 15min            5.5 IBUs
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) DAY 3 [13.40 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
28.00 g Simcoe DAY 3 [13.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
14.00 g Centennial DAY 3 [9.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] – Dry Hop Day 3
28.00 g Equinox (HBC 366) [13.40 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
28.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
14.00 g Centennial [9.00 %] – Dry Hop Day 7
14.00 g Columbus (CTZ) [10.90 %] – Dry Hop Day 7

Yeast:

London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318)

Extras:

1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

nepa-embrace-the-haze

Appearance: Pours with a white head, half finger which fades to a thin ring within a couple of minutes. Pale orange in color, quite hazy.

Aroma: Lots of punchy hop aroma. Fruit, citrus and some tropical character present as well.

Taste: Follows from the aroma with lots of great hop flavor, lime, mango and a mix of fruit. Unfortunately about mid taste astringency starts to come through, moderate intensity.

Mouthfeel: Medium mouth feel which dries considerably due to the astringency. Moderate carbonation.

Overall: A solid recipe. If not for that astringency issue (which has been corrected thankfully) this was likely the best Pale Ale I’ve brewed so far. It again solidifies LAIII as my go to yeast strain for hop forward styles. I would likely increase the oats next time and drop the wheat malt just to see the difference in clarity. If you haven’t tried brewing this style yet I suggest you give it a shot. Even if you’re an advocate for crystal clear hoppy styles, I bet you’ll enjoy how juicy these styles can be.

Pineapple Sour Update

A few months ago I brewed a kettle sour which I posted about here. On brew day I split the batch, 4 gallons to be dry hopped with Mosaic and Vic Secret and the other 2.5 gallons to be racked onto 2.5 pounds of pineapple. I fermented both batches with Brett Brux Trois Vrai.

This strain didn’t drop the gravity as quickly as some other Brett strains I’ve used in the past. So I was interested to see how well it would attenuate on the pineapple batch after an additional 10 weeks. When it came time to sample I was glad to see the gravity finally dropped to a level I was happy with, 1.005. I also happened to have a keg line open up a couple of days prior which was a Brett beer. I had originally planned to bottle this small batch but given I wouldn’t have to change the beer line I decided to keg instead.

I was very pleased with how this turned out. The pineapple really punched through the hops I had used on brew day and the Brett funk was more than subtle but not over powering. The Brett seemed to amplify the over ripe pineapple character and compliment the beer overall. The lower gravity seemed to make the perceived sourness a little more pronounced. The hops surprisingly still came through and added a little complexity. Although they were more restrained due to the time from brew day to kegging, they did add something. I rarely brew a recipe twice as I’m always looking to change and improve any aspect of a beer I can. But I think I would brew this again, pineapple and Brett seemed to be an especially good combination. I’d love to get the base a little more sour next time but otherwise this iteration from my kettle sour was very good.

 

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Appearance: Pours with a light layer of white head which fades to a ring pretty quickly. Golden yellow in color.

Aroma: Sour up front with a moderate amount of ripe pineapple followed by restrained Brett funk.

Taste: Light to moderately sour, over ripe pineapple punches through followed by some light Brett funk. Pineapple, mango and some citrus.

Mouthfeel: Light-moderate carbonation, light acidic mouth feel, finished dry.

Overall: This turned out really well, I was surprised to enjoy it more than the dry hopped version. I’d certainly try something similar again sometime. It kicked fairly quickly and it went over well with fellow beer geeks. It was certainly nice to have a sour on tap for a change. Although I did like what this Brett strain brought to the beer long term, it’s not one I would use as a primary strain again. Or at least not for a hop forward beer that I want to keg within two weeks. As I mentioned earlier it did drop the gravity to where I was hoping but it simply took too long to get there.

Brewing a Hoppy Hefeweizen with expired yeast

A Hefeweizen has to be one of the best styles to enjoy on a hot day. A good balance of clove and banana from the German yeast, silky mouth feel, yet still light and thirst quenching. Last summer I had a Hoppy Hefeweizen near the top of my list to brew.

I ordered a pack of Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen 3068 ahead of time as special orders can take some time at my LHBS. I had my recipe written, yeast in hand and was comfortable with my hop choices. I was hoping for varieties that would compliment the German strain, not over power it. I decided on Cascade because of its citrus character, and I find it to be not overly punchy. I also wanted to use Mandarina Bavaria because it has peach and fruit character, and that sounded like it would all mesh well together. Again, I’ve used this hop before and found it to be mild to moderate in intensity.

The grain bill was fairly straight forward, the majority being Pilsner and wheat malt as well as some oats (not a traditional addition). The wheat  and oats tend to give the beer moderate to full mouth feel and allows the yeast to push into that silky character. It also helps to contribute to the hazy look the style is so well known for. Finally some acid malt for ph adjustment.

With all of that planned, life happened as it always seems to, and this recipe got pushed back for so long that it was well into the fall before I thought about it again. By then I wasn’t in the mood for the style anymore and I ended up moving onto other styles.

Fast forward to a little while ago. I noticed that pack of 3068 still in my beer fridge. I knew it would take a while to order a new pack and I had always been curious about reviving an old yeast pack. This one was 15 months past the manufactured date. So I decided to start with a small starter (250ml) and build the culture from there. Next I stepped it up to 500ml, 1L, and 2L over a two week period. Each step up resulted in noticeable activity so I knew I had grown something.

 

jurassic-park-meme

 

Now to be honest, I didn’t do a ton of research into what would happen using an old yeast pack if I was able to get it going. Most of what I read said that the original yeast should be nearly impossible to propagate at this point. So I was happy just to see activity as I built up the culture.

Looking back I definitely should have asked myself and read more into the possible pitfalls of this approach I was taking. I assumed the yeast would be impacted but I had no idea just how much until I tasted the final product. Not only did this beer not taste like a Hefe in the slightest, it didn’t taste good at all. It had a host of off flavours. Ranging from wet cardboard, grassy notes and an odd mouth feel. I let it sit in keg for about two weeks, sampling every few days to see if any of them were starting to subside. I tried, but failed, on every attempt to drink more than a couple of ounces.

Given the fact that the beer was treated properly in every way aside from the yeast, I had to conclude this was the culprit of all the off flavors. I decided to cut my losses and pour this down the drain. It was disheartening to say the least, I’m sure anyone that’s dumped a batch can attest to how that feels.

 

Recipe Targets: 4 Gallons, OG 1.048, FG 1.011, ABV 4.9%, IBU 24, SRM 3.5

Grain:

0.15 kg               Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM)           1        4.4 %         
1.90 kg               Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)          55.2 %        
1.00 kg               White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)             29.1 %        
0.20 kg               Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)         5.8 %         
0.19 kg               Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                     5.5 %

 

Hops:

14.00 g               Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 10 min               4.6 IBUs      
14.00 g               Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 10         7.1 IBUs      
28.00 g               Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 5 min                5.1 IBUs      
28.00 g               Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 5 min      7.8 IBUs      
28.00 g               Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 0 min                0.0 IBUs      
28.00 g               Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 0 min      0.0 IBUs      

Extras:

1.00 tsp              Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10 mins)

 

Yeast:

Weihenstephan Weizen (Wyeast Labs #3068)

 

No tasting notes, just what I mentioned earlier. I definitely want to try brewing this style next summer, with a fresh pack of yeast. Until then, this was yet another lesson learned. I do wonder if I had built the culture up a number of times over the winter if it would have behaved the same way. But the cost of DME alone would have out weighed that approach compared to simply ordering a fresh pack.

After this experience I can say without hesitation, use fresh yeast; always. When in doubt, buy a fresh pack, the relatively small cost is easily out weighed by the potential waste of grain and especially hops. Not to mention the hit your pride will take.

Brewing Two Iterations of a Grisette

Grisette is a style I see popping up more and more lately. If you’re not familiar with it think light, or session Saison. Though there are some minor differences in the grain bill, the comparison is sound. While most Saisons have a fairly simple, and clean grain bill, a Grisette tends to have more adjuncts like wheat, oats, spelt, etc. Or at least that’s my approach. I won’t pretend to be a purist when it comes to traditional styles.

The first commercial example I had of the style was a great one, Grizacca by Oxbow in Maine. What I enjoyed most about the beer was how well the hops worked with their yeast strain. This is what I believe is the most difficult aspect of brewing hop forward styles with a Belgian strain. See my last blog post here where I made some choices that didn’t work so well.

grizacca
Grizacca – Image courtesy http://www.bonappetit.com/drinks/beer/slideshow/belgian-sour-beers#3

Grisettes are especially enjoyable in the summer, having character of a Saison on a smaller scale. For me they tend to be pale in color, light to medium mouth feel, finishing dry with some subtle spice from a Saison yeast strain. Add some carefully chosen hop varieties to that, and you have a perfect beer for a hot summer day, or any day really.

While planning my recipe I remembered that I have also been wanting to brew a long term Brett Saison of late. I felt that a Grisette comes close enough that I could possibly take care of both beer on the same brew day. I’ve never brewed a mixed fermentation beer, certainly not with a Brett and Sacc strain combined. I’m not sure if I should have pitched either strain ahead of the other to give it a head start. Or simply pitch both at the same time. For simplicity’s sake, I decided to just pitch both as primary strains.  I planned to leave this in carboy for a minimum of six months and see how it’s coming along. Most likely I would bottle half at that point and transfer the other half to a small carboy with a fruit addition. Either way both iterations should be ready by next spring.

The most recent commercial example of the style that I’ve enjoyed would be Saison Brett by Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Quebec, Canada. I loved how crisp and dry it was, backed by just enough Brett funk, yet still had some Saison character coming through as well. I really should have picked up a few extra bottles to age.

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Those styles that need a good amount of time in primary are always hard to fit into my brew schedule. There never seems to be enough time to get everything I have planned into a carboy. Family time takes priority and now with two kids in the picture, brew time is harder and harder to come by. So when I do get the chance to get a brew day in, I tend to go for something hoppy to keep my taps flowing.  A solution to this would be to simply brew larger batches. My system can accommodate 10 gallons of low to moderate abv wort. But, like I said, I have too many ideas and I tend to get tired of drinking the same beer after a while. Especially when those delicious hoppy beer start fading off after a few weeks.

But, why not get two different batches from the same mash, split prior to the boil and voila! A hoppy beer to drink in two weeks and another incorporating both a Saison and Brett strain that I could ferment long term. This does take a little more work and time in BeerSmith, or whatever software you use. You need to plan the 10 gallon batch for the mash, then each 5 gallon batch for the boil and fermentation. It’s not really that much more to take on really, just a few extra things to keep in mind and take note of on brew day. With that decided, I went ahead planning both recipes.

Planning the hoppy Grisette half was pretty easy. I had brewed a clone of Oxbow’s Grizacca following a friend’s recipe (found here) about a year and a half ago. At the time it was the best beer I had brewed to date, likely setting my expectations a little too high this time around. It is fairly consistent with how I brew any hop forward style. Low bitterness with most of the hops used at 10 minute, steep and dry hop additions. I decided to keep most of the recipe intact, though I did want to change the hops a little. That beer was brewed using mostly Azacca (another favorite on mine), and Falconer’s Flight, though the original recipe was a little different. I did have Simcoe, so I could have brewed that exact clone, but I felt using another favorite variety of mine with Azacca would make for an interesting combination.

The descriptors for Azacca are as follows. Aromas of tropical fruit, fruit and citrus. Flavors of pineapple, mango, citrus, lemon and pine. I keep meaning to brew a single hop beer with it, I think it would certainly work well in a SMaSH recipe. I wanted to keep the majority of the hop bill to be Azacca because it worked well the first time around. I also wanted to keep the yeast strain consistent with last time because it’s my favorite Saison strain and it’s always reliable. My favorite hop to pair with the Wyeast 3711 French Saison strain has to be Nelson Sauvin. It’s an elusive hop to describe though goose berry, and sauvignon blanc is commonly cited. I did want to use some Nelson in this recipe, but I only wanted it to add a little complexity and compliment the beer overall, instead of being the stand out flavor.

I kept the grist close to a recipe I brewed before. Bohemian Pilsner for the base backed up with a small amount of malted wheat and flaked wheat along with some acid malt for water chemistry adjustment. I would have liked to use spelt this time around but my LHBS didn’t have any in stock. I also used a small amount of rice hulls as I routinely do anytime I add wheat to a recipe. I’ve only ever had one stuck sparge and I plan to never repeat that awful brew day.

This did turn out fairly well, though I remember enjoying the original version with Falconer’s Flight a little more. This was a big surprise to me considering how much I enjoy both of these hops. Perhaps next time I will just stick with Simcoe, I’m sure it would work really well with Azacca, it obviously did for Oxbow.

As for the Brett Grisette half, I had a hop addition at 75 (beginning of the boil) and of course the grist had to be the same. Only time will tell how that turns out, I’ll update when I finally get to taste it.

 

Hoppy Grisette

Recipe Targets: 5 gallons, OG 1.042, FG 1.006, ABV 4.8%, IBU 34, SRM 3.0

Grain:

0.06 kg      Rice Hulls         1.8 %         
1.80 kg      Pilsner Bohemian  52.4 %        
0.75 kg      Wheat, Flaked     21.8 %        
0.75 kg      White Wheat Malt  21.8 %        
0.07 kg      Acid Malt          2.2 %

Hops:

40.00 g     Azacca [8.24 %] - Boil 10 min           17.0 IBUs
40.00 g     Azacca [8.24 %] - Steep 10 min          8.5 IBUs      
30.00 g     Nelson Sauvin [11.40 %] - Steep 10 min  8.8 IBUs
40.00 g     Azacca CHILLER [8.24 %]                 0.0 IBUs 
30.00 g     Nelson Sauvin CHILLER [11.40 %]         0.0 IBUs
50.00 g     Azacca Day 4 [8.24 %] Dry Hop       
25.00 g     Nelson Sauvin Day 4 [11.40 %] Dry Hop      
50.00 g     Azacca Day 8 [8.24 %] Dry Hop       
25.00 g     Nelson Sauvin Day 8 [11.40 %] Dry Hop

Yeast:

1.0 pkg     French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711)

Extras:

1.00 Items  Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 tsp    Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10.0 mins)

 

Brewed on June 5th with my son, mashed in with 19L of strike water to hit mash temp of 148F for 50 minutes. Mashed out with 11L of 208F water for 10 minutes. Batch sparged with 6.6 gallons of 168F water. Two points  low on pre-boil gravity at 1.030. Wort split between two kettles.

Hoppy Grisette – 75 minute boil, OG 11 points high at 1.052. Chilled to 60F, transferred to primary which was shaken prior to and after pitching yeast starter. Fermentation temperature peaked at 72F. Vigorous within 36 hours, and seemed to be winding down within 72 hours.

  • June 8th – 1st dry hop addition
  • June 13th – 2nd dry hop addition
  • June 17th – Kegged (FG 1.005), pressure set to 35 for 48 hours then reduced to serving

Brett Grisette – 75 minute boil, OG high at 1.045, chilled to 60F and both the Saison and Brett starters were added.

I realized when I measured the OG’s that I neglected to take into account the greater boil-off volume loss splitting this batch. As opposed to simply doing a single kettle boil and splitting afterwards. Lesson learned.

 

hoppy-grisette

Appearance: Pours with a medium white, fluffy head which fades to a ring after several minutes. Golden yellow/light orange in color.

Aroma: Moderate hop aroma. Mango, slight pineapple and citrus.

Flavour: Carries over from the aroma. Mango, pineapple, lemon, light to moderate intensity. Something near the end that detracts from the beer. Perhaps very light astringency. Light bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light mouth feel, medium-light carbonation, finishes dry.

Overall: This turned out pretty well, though not nearly as well as I had hoped. I felt it wasn’t quite as punchy as I expected given the hops I used. The possible slight astringency it barely noticeable, not at all by some that tasted it. Still, something I’ll be looking for in my next batch. The beer you have the highest hopes for always seem to be the ones that fall short of expectations. Still good, but as I mentioned earlier, I remember enjoying my first shot at this clone just a little more.

 

Brett Grisette

Recipe Targets: 5 Gallons, OG 1.042, FG 1.002, ABV 5.6%, IBU 21, SRM 3.0

Grain:

0.06 kg     Rice Hulls                        1.8 %         
1.80 kg     Pilsner Bohemian                 52.4 %        
0.75 kg     Wheat, Flaked                    21.8 %        
0.75 kg     White Wheat Malt                 21.8 %        
0.07 kg     Acid Malt                         2.2 %         

Hops:

28.00 g     East Kent Goldings [5.26 %] Boil 75mins     21.9 IBUs

Yeast:

1.0 pkg     French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711)            
1.0 pkg     Brettanomyces Amalgamation (The Yeast Bay)         


Extras:

1.00 Items  Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10 mins)             
1.00 tsp    Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10 mins)

 

 

Brewing a Brett Session IPA

Not too long ago I brewed my first session IPA of the summer. I hopped that beer with Citra, and Galaxy, both of which are some of my favorite varieties. It was fermented with LAIII, and it turned out quite well if I do say so myself. I wondered, as I was enjoying it one day, how it would taste if fermented with a Brett strain. So, this is a very similar recipe, though I did add in equinox (another favorite of mine) as well. I thought its fruit and lime character would mesh well with Citra and Galaxy. Turns out I was right, this turned out at least as well, though it seemed to need a little extra time to come together. That seems counter intuitive for a hop forward style, but I have found that to be consistent when fermented with a Brett strain. It could be that Brett just needs a little more time to help punch out the over ripe fruit character I love so much.

About six months ago I decided to have a dedicated line for beers fermented with Brett strains. It’s nice not having to worry about scrubbing or changing tap lines every time they kick. Especially during the summer when my brewing schedule slows down, it’s helpful to have a beer on tap that doesn’t have to be enjoyed as fast as possible. I do enjoy how these beer change over a couple of months, instead of simply fading as most hoppy styles do. Brett IPA’s seem to gain complexity over time and continue to be delicious to the last drop.

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Though it may not be a Brett IPA, Little Brett by Allagash is a perfect example of how well Brett, and a well chosen hop variety (Mosaic in this case) can work together to form a delicious tasting “Wild Ale”

I don’t need to go into much detail with respect to the three varieties of hops I used for this beer. I’ve talked about them in previous posts, and they are generally all “winners”. Used in any hop forward style, you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Though, I have been told before by a fellow home brewer that Citra adds too much mango flavor, but what the fuck is that all about? If I’m getting a ton of tropical fruit character from any hop, I’m really happy. Anyway, I digress. Here’s what I love about Citra, Galaxy, and Equinox.

Citra- Tropical, mainly mango, and pineapple as well as citrus character. I find it to be very punchy, and a little dank at times.

Galaxy- Fruit, passionfruit, peach, and citrus. I don’t think it’s quite as punchy as Citra, but it is a fantastic hop.

Equinox- Citrus, especially lime, tropical, and yes green pepper. This is such a unique hop, it really helps your beer stand out from the usual hop forward styles.

As the title suggests this was fermented with a Brett Strain. My favorites so far are Brett C and Brett Amalgamation for hoppy styles. They both display high attenuation, and they seem to get to terminal gravity quickly, meaning they can be turned around in a short amount of time. This helps maximize those hop flavors and aromas we all love so much. I went with Brett C this time, not because I felt it was a better choice, but because I use those two strains interchangeably so I can maintain them more easily. This allows me to build them every couple of months, and I don’t have to worry about doing starters simply to feed those cultures.

The grist was kept fairly simple, and consistent with how I normally brew an IPA. Base malt is almost always 2-row, but this time I split it half and half with Maris Otter. I like to mash fairly low so that the beer finishes dry, because of this I like to add some malted wheat, or flaked oats to re-gain some mouth feel. I opted for the latter this time, along with some Carapils for head retention, Acid malt for water chemistry adjustment, and finally a little Carared.

I was happy with how this turned out. I did find it needed an extra week or so after kegging, before it really came together and hit its stride. While I could pick up on Citra quite easily, Galaxy and Equinox seemed to blend, and were a little more elusive. If you have any experience using these hops you likely could pick them out, but otherwise they mixed to a nice fruity character.

 

Recipe Targets: 4.5 Gallons,OG 1.043,FG 1.008,ABV 4.4%,IBU 49 ,SRM 3.9

Grain:

1.30 kg               Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)         40.6 %
1.30 kg               Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)       40.6 %  
0.30 kg               Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                  9.4 % 
0.10 kg               Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                     3.1 % 
0.10 kg               Carapils (1.5 SRM)                      3.1 %    
0.10 kg               Carared (20.0 SRM)                      3.1 %

Hops:

15.00 g    Citra [13.40 %] - Boil 10 min      11.2 IBUs
15.00 g    Equinox [13.40 %] - Boil 10 min    11.2 IBUs
25.00 g    Citra [13.40 %] - Steep 10 min      9.3 IBUs
25.00 g    Equinox [13.40 %] - Steep 10 min    9.3 IBUs
21.00 g    Galaxy [15.10 %] - Steep 10 min     8.8 IBUs
20.00 g    Citra CHILLER [13.40 %]             0.0 IBUs
20.00 g    Equinox CHILLER [13.40 %]           0.0 IBUs
20.00 g    Galaxy CHILLER [15.10 %]            0.0 IBUs
Dry Hops:
56.00 g    Citra - Day 4 (21g), Day 8 (21g), Keg (14g)
56.00 g    Equinox - Day 4 (21g), Day 8 (21g), Keg (14g)      
56.00 g    Galaxy - Day 4 (21g), Day 8 (21g), Keg (14g) 

Extras:

1.00 Items   Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10 mins)
1.00 tsp     Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10 mins)

Yeast:

Starter      Brettanomyces Claussenii (White Labs #WLP 645)

Brewed by my son, and I June 13th, mashed in with 8.5L of strike water to hit mash temp of 152F for 50 minutes. Mashed out with 4.5L of 200F water for 10 minutes, and finally batch sparged with 3.9 gallons of 168F water. 60 minute boil, 15 minute hop steep, chilled to 62F, and transferred to primary. Carboy was shaken for two minutes prior to, and after pitching yeast slurry. I really need to get an oxygen system someday. OG was 1.044, fermentation was starting within 12 hours, and going strong within 24. Primary fermentation was winding down within 72hours, and the first charge of dry hops were added at this point, second round of dry hops added on day 8. On day 12 beer was transferred to a co2 purged keg, seal added, and keg was purged again (multiple times). FG 1.005. Pressure was set to 30psi, shaken lightly and left in kegerator for 24 hours, pressure then reduced to serving.

Brewed – June 13th

First Dry Hop addition – June 17th

Second Dry Hop addition – June 21st

Kegged – June 25th

IMG_2346
This is what happens when a keg kicks much sooner than expected…

Appearance: Pours with a white head, half finger, and fades to quarter finger within a few minutes before fading to a thin ring eventually. Golden in color, and lightly hazy.

Aroma: Over ripe, and tropical fruit followed by some mild Brett funk.

Taste: Moderate fruit, and tropical hop flavors, mostly pineapple, and mango. Mid taste Brett makes its presence known, but never over takes the hops, light bitterness.

Mouth feel: Light-moderate carbonation, finishing dry.

Overall: This turned out pretty well. Honestly, I was slightly underwhelmed when this was first carbed. A friend told me it tasted like it needed a little time to come together, and he was right. About a week or so later the hop flavors and Brett character really merged, became increasingly tasty, and slightly more complex. Like all the good beer one brews, this didn’t last nearly long enough. I would brew this again, maybe with Brett Amalgamation, just to see how different it could be. I know I’ve talked about how much I love Equinox on it’s own previously. But, I’m really enjoying what it adds to other fruity, and tropical varieties. I wish it was easier to come by because I would definitely use it more frequently.