Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Woody: an oak-aged American barleywine

This is probably only interesting to me, and anyone else born between the dates of February 19th - March 20th, but here was my most recent horoscope from Free Will Astrology:

If a cow is given a name by her owner, she generates more milk than a cow that's treated as an anonymous member of the herd. That's the conclusion of a study done by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK. "Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name," said Dr. Catherine Douglas, "can significantly increase milk production." Building on that principle, Pisces, I suggest that you give everything in your world names, including (but not limited to) houseplants, insects, cars, appliances, and trees. Of course this is always a good idea, because it enhances your connection with all of creation. But it's an especially smart approach now, when getting more up-close and personal should be your specialty.

I thought I could relate this idea to my brews. Generally I only name beers if they are going away as Christmas presents, or if I think the recipe is in a fairly finalized form. I guess I have been naming them more on the blog here just so I have a way of distinguishing them. It's not like yeast give a damn if you name them or the beer, but I do think a name can give a recipe a central idea that can lead the recipe development as it progresses.

I had an idea to do a strong ale aged on American oak as a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Funny thing is, I probably know way more about the story of Woody Guthrie and the incredible musicians he influenced than I know of Woody's actual music. I'm a big fan of "old-timey" music and stuff like Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Mason Jennings, and generally anything you could listen to while sitting around a campfire or on the front porch of a log cabin. I like Woody's music too, I just need to copy some stuff from Ray so I can listen to more of it. He was a great American songwriter, and he deserves a great American beer. It should be something that wouldn't seem out of place on a cross country boxcar trip, warming up your bones on a chilly night.

I didn't have this blog up last time I did a barleywine, which was with Ray. It was a very similar recipe, but I used a lighter base malt this time and extra light DME. Last time we used some Marris Otter extract and the beer was almost too sweet. It was a little too heavy on the raisiny flavors, but it was balanced because it had a shitload of hop bitterness too. So this time I was going for a slightly better attenuation and lighter color, and a little less bitterness so it will still be balanced.

Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 6 gallons post-boil, 5 in the fermenter.
Grain with extract
O.G. 1.100 F.G. 1.025 ABV 10% IBU's 108

14.5 lb. Rahr 2-row pale malt
6 oz. Crystal 35
6 oz. Crystal 80
6 oz. Special B
3.5 lb. Extra-light DME

56 gr. Chinook whole hops 13% (Mash Hop)
28 gr. Horizon pellets 10.9% 80 min
28 gr. East Kent Goldings pellets 6% 20 min
28 gr. American Goldings whole 5% 10 min
28 gr. American Goldings whole 5% 0 min

2 oz. American oak cubes (medium plus toast) in the keg.

Mash: 4 gallons of water + 1 tsp gypsum. Mashed in to 147 degrees for 1 hour, with the mash hops (easy to forget!). After 1 hour, added 2 quarts of boiling water and heat. Raised mash temp to 170 over 30 minutes. Rested for 15 minutes at 170.

Sparge: 5 gallons at 170. Collect 7 gallons of wort at 1.064 = 80 % efficiency.

Boiled 80 minutes, adding some foam control at the beginning of the boil.
Added the DME 50 minutes from the end of the boil.
1 whirlfloc tab at 15 min.
no yeast nutrient - whoops, no big deal

Chilled to 62, whirlpooled and rested for 30 minutes.
Racked 5 gallons to a carboy, pitched an appropriate-sized starter of Wyeast 1056
Added 10 drops of foam control and aerated by hand for 8 minutes.
Ferment: 68 degrees for 1 week, 70 degrees for 16 days, then slowly crash cooled to 50 degrees.

Racked to keg on 3/30/09, and added the oak cubes, which had been steeped in 1 cup hot water to sanitize. Added the water too. Gravity was at 1.026ish. The flavor was very clean, with no alcohol aroma at all! It tasted a little worty, so I'll keep the keg at room temp & agitate frequently to encourage it to drop a few more points.

4/30/09 Chilled and force-carbonated. It tastes very nice, the oak is really coming through well. It's a little sweeter in flavor than I wanted. I think this is due to not getting as much IBU's from the mash hop addition as my recipe program calculated for. It tastes like an 80-85 IBU beer, and luckily the oak seems to fill in a little for the lack of hop bitterness.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Dirty 30" Double IPA

Super-thick mash

Thuglas and Sean - damn it was cold!

Injecting the hop-steroids

Just some of the hops we used.

I'm turning 30 March 5th! Ray and I brewed this up at his place on February 1st, and Doug* was there to watch his first all-grain brew. With luck it will be ready just in time for the celebration on March 7th. This is based off of looking at a lot of IIPA recipes: Tasty's, Nate's, Jamil's, and most importantly, Vinnie's. We made hop substitutions as necessary, especially at the dry-hopping stage when we really wanted Centennial and Columbus, but had to make do with what we had.

Out of the primary this tasted great. The hops are raging, but not too bitter as I feared. You can't even taste the alcohol, so I guess making the shitty Scottish ale for a starter really paid off! (There is some sort of incredibly cloudy thing going on with that Scottish beer right now that makes it look like drinking a mudpuddle. I guess I might get some gelatin and fine it.)

Here's the recipe. Volumes we hit were:
  • 13.75 in the boil kettle, plus .5 gallons for top-up halfway through the boil.
  • 12.5 gallons post boil volume
  • 10 in the carboys, and 9.5 total in the kegs
O.G. 1.078 F.G. 1.012 Calculated IBU's 208 ABV 8.9%

28 lb. 2-row pale malt
2 lb. wheat malt
1.5 lb. Carafoam
1 lb. crystal 35
2 lb. table sugar

I'm not even listing hop AA% because it's not relevant. All hops in the kettle were pellets and all mash hops were whole. We used the "Hopshot" product from Northern Brewer for even more hop impact.

4 oz. Chinook Mash Hop
2 oz. Warrior 60 min
1, 5 ml Hopshot 60 min
2 oz. Simcoe 45 min
2 oz. Northern Brewer 30 min
2 oz. Centennial 15 min
2 oz. Columbus 5 min
3 oz. Centennial 0 min
2 oz. Amarillo 0 min

Dry hops (pellets, added in large tea bags, to the keg on 2/20/09)
1 oz. Rainier
2 oz. Simcoe
2 oz. Cascade
4 oz. Columbus
.5 oz. Amarillo

Mash: It was very cold outside which is why we drastically undershot our mash temp at first.
Also, we forgot the 4 tsp. of gypsum we were going to add to the mash, so we added it to the beginning of the boil instead.

8.5 gallons of water, mashed in to 140. Pulled .5 gallons almost immediately, brought it to a boil, and added it in. We were able to raise the temp to 151ish at about the 20 minute mark. Held at 151 for 60 minutes. Total Mash time = 80 minutes.

Sparged with 11.5 gallons at 170. Collected 13.75 gallons at 1.064 + .5 gallons which we used for top-up volume halfway through the boil. Efficiency = 74%.

Boiled 60 minutes adding sugar at 60 minutes, 1 tab whirlfloc at 15 minutes, 1 tsp Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.

Chilled really well (too well!) to about 50 degrees and let the kettle settle over an hour to really drop out the hops and break. When we finally siphoned the wort it was crystal clear! We used a siphon as opposed to the spigot so we could accurately keep the trub out of our beer.

Aerated by hand for 10 minutes and pitched the yeast at 58 degrees. We used one whole yeast cake from 5 gallons of the Scottish beer (Wyeast 1056 American Ale).

Fermented for 3 weeks, gradually getting up to 68 and staying there. Racked to kegs on 2/20/09. Room temp for 1 week, then chilled and carbonated with the hop bags in until 3/7/09.

1 keg was served on 3/7/09 for the birthday party. This was an amazing beer! The fermentation was flawless, and the hop impact was incredible. The glass presentation was great, with a hazy orange glow and a lasting head. I would only ask for a little more hop aroma, which might have been achieved by a longer dry hop, and I think getting some Centennial in the dry hops would have helped increase the aroma also. I would say this beer could score in the low 40's as an imperial IPA.

3/16/09 The other keg was left on the hops longer (mainly because when Ray was trying to fish it out, the string broke!) It is now carbonated and we will bottle some of it for competition next week. I am hoping that we get a little more hop aroma from this batch.

*Thanks Doug for the helping hand and hanging out while we were brewing this one. Most importantly, you brought the Pliny and the Damnation to keep the gears lubricated!

Monday, February 16, 2009

American IPA #1 2009

This weekend was supposed to be my first day interning at Sixpoint Craft Ales, but unfortunately they are closed for brewery renovations, and next week they will be in Boston for the Extreme Beer Fest. So my first working day with them will be February 28th, and I have a couple more weekends to brew. If these beers are ready, and tasty, I might even be able to get them bottled for NHC regionals in April.

As promised, I'm going to get back to some of my old recipes and refine them. The last IPA I brewed had a serious problem, in that it had some hot alcohols which I believe were due to aerating with one of these. I've sworn off using the aquarium pump setup, preferring the time-honored carboy rocking method until I can decide which oxygenation setup to buy. Also, I really prefer IPA's on the lighter alcohol end, like 6%, just clean and relatively quaffable. Right now my favorite is Blind Pig IPA from Russian River, which I have only had once or twice. So I'm trying for a light bodied beer with just a hint of sweetness, a clean, lasting bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma jumping out of the glass.

Recipe is for 6 gallons in the kettle post boil volume.
Before a slight dilution: O.G. 1.066 IBU's 69
After dilution: O.G. 1.063 F. G. 1.014 ABV 6.5% IBU's 66

11.5 lb. Rahr 2-row pale malt
10 oz. Munich malt
.5 lb. Crystal 15
.5 lb. Crystal 35
.5 lb. wheat malt

30 gr. Chinook whole hops 13% 60 min
28 gr. Columbus pellets 12.2% 15 min
28 gr. Amarillo pellets 8.2% 10 min
28 gr. Cascade pellets 6% 0 min
28 gr. Amarillo pellet dry hop
28 gr. Columbus pellets dry hop

Mash: 4 gallons water + 2.5 tsp gypsum heated to 160
Mash in to 150, rest 60 minutes (took a pH reading at 30 minutes with my new Colorphast strips, it looked like 5-5.1)
Raised to 160 for 5 minutes, then mashed out to 170.
Total mash time = 85 minutes

Sparged with 5 gallons water at 170

Collected 6.8 gallons at 1.059. thats 84% efficiency! WAY higher than my recent IPA's, and I think the fact that I used a little more gypsum must have acidified the mash slightly and helped with the better efficiency.

Added .25 gallons top-up water to the boil kettle, and 3 drops of foam control.
Boiled 60 minutes, with hop additions as noted.
1 whirlfloc tab at 15 min
1/2 tsp. Wyeast nutrient at 10 min

Chilled to 64 degrees, whirlpooled and settled for about 45 minutes.
Collected 5 gallons in the fermenter at 1.066.
Aerated by hand for 8 minutes, pitched an appropriate sized starter of Cali 001 yeast.
About an hour later I added a quart of pre-boiled water to bring down the O.G. to 1.063.
Some light airlock bubbling was visible within 3 hours. Fermenting at 68 degrees, and it was about to blow off at 24 hours. So I dropped in a few drops of foam control and shook it around a bit, which worked great.

Fermented for 2 weeks at 68, warming to 72 during the last 2 days to finish it up more quickly.
Racked to keg on 2/28/09.
Dry hopped on 3/9/09 using tea bags.
Chilled and carbonated on 3/18/09 with the hops still in.

Damn, I ran out of this beer before I did an official tasting. I guess that's a good sign. Just a quick review of this recipe then: Great color and aroma. great hop profile, but somewhat impeded by the crystal malt. A little too much crystal made it not exactly sweet, but a little too "balanced" for an American IPA. I would only make 1 change: take out the .5 lb. of crystal 15 and substitute with .5 lb. of carafoam instead.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moratorium on new Recipes

Ahh... We are now finished with Homebrew Alley 3, the annual NYC Homebrew competition, and I can finally relax! Much of my recent time and mental energy was involved in organizing this competition and making sure it went off right.

Also, I entered about 8 beers, one of which took first in Dark Lagers & Bocks: JZ's Schwarzbier recipe (which I never posted here, sorry!) I thought I had some other really strong beers though, and I was sad to see that they got only middling scores. I have not seen the scoresheets yet, but I know the Dubbel, based off Jamil's recipe, scored only a 27 and I know this was a really nice beer. Also, the smoked helles, which I am drinking like water off the tap and loving every sip, scored a 30.

Well, this is the way competitions go and as long as the judges provided detailed feedback, it's their right to score them as they see fit. Above all, it's important not to base the strength of a beer off of the results from only one competition.

However, I also think that a lot of the beers I have been brewing are not quite up to my own personal standards. In that spirit, I am going to try to display more discipline and focus in on some of the recipes that I already have.

As boring as this may sound (or maybe it's exciting?) I am going to put into effect a moratorium on any new beer recipes, until I have gone back and really improved on the recipes that I am already brewing. For instance, Mr. T: This beer, which I entered as a Tripel, received 1st place in Belgian Strong Ales in one competition, and at Homebrew Alley it scored a 22! I have no idea how that can be. There was no bottle inconsistency issue, so I can only guess that in one competition, the judges liked it too much, and in the next, they were too eager to slam it. Now granted, I never thought Mr. T was good enough to deserve a 1st place ribbon, but I certainly think it was a 30 point beer at least. There is much room for improvement and I know where it is, even without seeing any scoresheets.

Maybe this can be some sort of meditation on style...I mean, the people who look down their noses at brewing to style never really give enough credit to the vast room to play that there is within a style. And here I am, 90% of the time being perfectly content brewing to style, yet knowing full well that there is so much room for interpretation and self expression within these parameters. You have to start by imagining the beer you want to brew, and in trying to actually make that happen you may come across some happy surprises, but ultimately you want end up with the beer you imagined. If you can't see it in your head before you brew it, maybe you shouldn't try?

At the same time, I think you have to be comfortable with your beers, if you know they are great, because beer judges are not always right, and quite frankly some are much better than others. Sometimes they just pick the wrong beer to advance. Sometimes your beer is good, but it was just a big flight and somebody's beer was better than yours.

Oh yeah, and with the organizer points from this year's competition, I should be a national judge by the next cycle! Cool...