Softland Aleworks

Big Beers Brewed in a Tiny House

Mosaic IPA

Mosaic IPA

Every once in a while, you come across an offer-you-can’t-refuse kind of sale at your local homebrew shop or from an online hops distributor — sometimes it is as simple as “$5 off 8oz EKG”; sometimes (usually to make room for the new crop) it is of an “All hops must go!” nature, significantly more enticing. So it was that I found myself with a freezer full of hops. I was relating the situation to a brewing buddy of mine and was happy to find that he was in the same boat. Whereas I had several ounces each of Cascade and Citra, he had a significant amount of Mosaic (which he had never used before), Nugget, and a number of the New Zealand varieties. We decided to combine our efforts, trade some hops, and do the only sensible thing in such a scenario: Brew an IPA.

My strategy for crafting an IPA is to lay as clean a foundation as possible in order to best showcase the hops. I usually incorporate a blend of domestic 2-Row and Maris Otter (because you want some malt character) and a bit of Crystal. If it is an American IPA, I use WLP001: Tried & True. I tend to use one addition of a clean bittering hop at the beginning of the boil and then really focus my attention on the late hops. This beer was a fun project because I got to try some new varieties, and I was excited to see how Mosaic, Cascade, and Citra played together. Mosaic, which is derived from Simcoe, is a newish high-alpha hop with a citrusy (think lemons, grapefruit, mangoes), piney, herbally character. It sounds great on paper and (I am happy to report) does not disappoint. Citra has been around a bit longer and was all-the-rage a few years ago. I had the opportunity to purchase several ounces of it a while back and jumped at the chance to try out this new variety I had been hearing all about, only to find that, well, I don’t much care for Citra. It has clean, high-alpha bittering potential, which is great. Used as a late hop, Citra is supposed to offer tropical fruit notes. However, I (and it seems many others) get astringent notes of cat-piss in its aroma. So it is that I can pick Citra out of any beer that has it in it, not something I can really say about most other hops. [Side note: This came up recently when a friend poured a pint of Zombie Dust for me –A great beer if you are Citra-inclined.] So too, how I ended up with a several ounces of it sitting in my freezer for months on end. The first beer I brewed with Citra was a single-hop beer, and while that is a great way to see what a new variety can do, I would not recommend using Citra by itself. It is just too much. What I discovered with this brew is that Citra excels best when in concert with other complementing hops.

For a six gallon batch:

10# US 2-Row
6# Maris Otter
8 oz. Cara-Pils

1.5 oz. Nugget (60)
1 oz. Mosaic (10)
1 oz. Cascade (10)
1 oz. Mosaic (5)
1 oz. Cascade (5)
1 oz. Mosaic (0)
1 oz. Cascade (0)
0.5 oz. Nugget (0)
2 oz. Citra (dry hop)

WLP001: Cal Ale

Added Gypsum and Calcium Chloride to the water. Mashed at 148F. 90 minute boil.

OG: 1.065
FG: 1.014
ABV: 6.7%

Appearance: For just having base malts and Cara-Pils, this beer came through with a nice color. However, it is confoundingly hazy. Even though I used Whirlfloc, this is a muddy-looking brew. The upshot is that it has a rich, creamy head and lacing that just won’t quit.

Aroma: As you approach the glass, the hops reach out and meet you half way. Whoa! Probably the best aroma out of any IPA I have brewed. Comes through super fresh, like sticking your nose in a bag of hops. Distinctive Citra aroma; however, cut through with some nice citrus and herbal notes as well from the late addition hops — Not bad! From here on out, I think I will reserve using Citra for the dry hop and leave it out of the boil.

Flavor: Around 80 IBUs is perfect for this beer. Nugget is a great, great bittering hop. Although I got somewhere around 77% attenuation, I still wish that the beer dried out a bit further. The malt character is a bit too present, the sweetness lingering just a bit too long. It distracts from the wonderful flavor component of this beer. On that note, there are a lot of different citrus characters going on — the Mosaic and the Cascade really work well together, with one offering an interesting counterpoint to the other. It is ubiquitous, sure, but there is a lot to be said for Cascade. The star of the show, however, is Mosaic, and I will definitely be using it again in the future.

Notes: IPAs are difficult for me to brew. To date, I have never really made a good one. This brew came close. Part of the problem is that it is a style that I truly love, so I am pretty hard on my own versions of it. Then there is the fact that there are just so many good IPAs out there to drink, and more being released by the day. So, why drink my subpar example? This brew was encouraging, however. If I could have knocked it down a few more points — around 1.011, ideally — and gotten the beer to clear out (maybe use finings in the keg?), I think I would have nailed it.

So what new hop variety is next? I got IPA Fever.


Russian Imperial Stout

Russian Imperial Stout

Ah, winter: The time for drinking big, bold, dark beers. Chewable beers. The kind of beers you can cut with a steak knife.

I recently found myself drinking the Old Rasputin XV Barrel-Aged Stout from North Coast Brewing Company, and decided this was the year I would brew my first stout. The standard Old Rasputin is consistently one of my favorite beers, and these special releases are always worth picking up. As far as recipes go, it seemed the logical place to start. What’s more, having recently come into a freshly-dumped 3.5 gallon bourbon barrel, I was eager to brew something with which to fill it. Unfortunately, I ran into some complications with the barrel-prep (which I will save for a later post) that precluded me from oaking the beer. Nevertheless, I still ended up with a great stout — not a bad problem to have. So, in keeping with the practices of North Coast, I decided to drink this beer fresh (Though, of course, it would lend itself to prolonged conditioning).

Here is the recipe, which was based on the BYO clone of Old Rasputin. For a four-gallon batch:

12 lbs. Maris Otter
1 lb. Crystal 120
1 lb. Carastan
8 oz. Brown malt
8 oz. Chocolate malt
4 oz. Roasted Barley

3 oz. Cluster (6.8%AA) – 75min
1 oz. Norther Brewer (9.6%AA) – 2min
1 oz. Chinook (11.1%AA) – 2min

WLP007 – Dry English Ale

Mashed at 152F

OG: 1.084
FG: 1.019
ABV: 8.5%

Appearance: Pours an inky, viscous, opaque black — I like my Russian Imperial Stouts to look like used motor oil, and this one proves no different. Topped with a creamy, off-white head; Lots of lacing down the glass.

Aroma: A bit of traditional English-ester yeast character on the nose, complemented by the roasted grains.

Flavor: This beer slaps you in the face with a dry, complex roast character, which is followed up by the rest of the malt bill and a very pleasant fruity, English yeast character. It finishes with a bitterness that lasts for days — almost as long as the roast character. The latter is not of a sharp, acrid nature; but rather, comes across as very dry (if a little dominant). One does taste a bit of alcohol — you know you are drinking a big beer — but it is not “hot” at all. The high finishing gravity provides enough sweetness to balance out some of the bitterness. This, in conjunction with the amount of crystal/caramel malts, provides a full, silky mouthfeel that is just beautiful.

Notes: I had terrible efficiency on this brewday, so the bitterness and the roast character are out of balance. The WLP007 performed beautifully, as it always does with high-gravity styles. I should really use this yeast more often, as I am consistently impressed with the beers it produces. If I were to rebrew this recipe (which I suspect I shall), I would try adding the roasted grains in the final 20 minutes of the mash or so — long enough to gain color and a bit of roast character, but short enough to reduce the dominance of the roasted grains on the palate. Alternatively, I have also heard of folks simply cold-steeping the specialty grains (a la extract brewing) and adding them to boil.

As for what to pair with this beer: I would only say that it goes exceedingly well with good company and a warm fire. Perhaps toasted marshmallows as well.


Fall Update

Great googily moogily! Where does the time go? Into the fermentor, it would seem, and not into the blog.

I am planning a barrage of posts to roll out in the next few weeks — Here’s the sneak preview:

Golden Gallows Special Bitter Ale
We have done several repeat brews of what has become my house bitter (first dubbed “Pride of Guadalupe,” now christened, “Golden Gallows”). After having brewed it about half a dozen times, slightly adjusting the recipe or process each time, I am pretty pleased with it. Everybody else seems to be as well — we can’t seem to keep a keg of it around longer than 10 days!

Whiskey Barrel Project & My First Stout — an Old Rasputin Clone
I had the opportunity to purchase a 3.5 gallon used bourbon barrel from a local distillery, and jumped at the chance to procure it in pursuit of a solera project. But first, to soak the oak character from the barrel…and what better way than a Russian Imperial Stout. Barrel-prep hijinks ensued, including a botched partigyle attempt. Buy hey, I still came out with a great beer — my first stout!  Now, which bugs to inoculate with…

Mosaic-hopped IPA
A buddy of mine from the homebrew club came into several ounces of Mosaic and Nugget. I happened to have a bunch of Citra and Cascade to unload. It would seem the fates were leading us down the road of a blissful, citrusy American IPA collaboration. Brewed in the beginning of November, this one looks to be tasty! Look for a full review of the beer as well as these in-demand new(ish) hop varieties.

Biere de Noel
A re-brew of the Biere de Garde we made earlier in the year, slightly adjusted for the holidays: A relatively big beer with a round malt profile, accents of Belgian spice and citrus zest of both sweet and bitter orange peel. Brewed earlier this fall, the Biere de Noel is currently being lagered in the keg, waiting to be tapped — Happy Holidays, indeed!

Book Reviews
Lastly, I frequently cite the beer-books I am reading or use for reference. If I am in a used book shop, chances are you will find me in the Food & Beverage section, looking to see if they have an old recipe book or style guide that I don’t already own. Over the past few years, I have amassed a decent beer library. So, in between tasting notes and brewday reports, I figured I would offer short write-ups on the books I have found particularly helpful, how I use them, what they cover, etc.

So stay tuned, plenty of good beer nerdery and homebrew wankery on the way!

Biere de Garde


I confess: the Biere de Garde was not a style that I knew particularly well, nor really ever had much intention to brew. However, when it was suggested as the style for a collaborative brew, I of course also had no objections. I was familiar with its history and general characteristics from reading Farmhouse Ales, and was able to track down a few commercial examples for reference. The beer we ended up brewing was far off the mark compared to these — being at the high end for the style — and it was this beer that actually won me over to Biere de Garde.

The friend with whom I was brewing has a penchant for brewing huge, bombastic (and delicious) beers. I am inclined towards simple grain bills that (barring a few exceptions) top out around 1.060 or so. We decided to meet half way with a big beer that would really benefit from extended aging (or garde-ing, if you will), but with a relatively simple grain-bill.

For an 8-gallon batch:

17# Belgian Pils
5.75# Light Munich
0.75# C-120
0.75# Aromatic
0.5# Flaked Wheat

2 oz. Czech Saaz (60)
2 oz. German Hallertau (60)
0.75 oz. German Hallertau (20)

Wyeast 3711 – French Saison

2# Honey (at high krausen)

I mashed low (around 149F) to produce a very fermentable wort. This, plus a well-attenuating yeast and honey addition, produced a wonderful dry beer. We brewed this recipe in February 2013 and kegged in April 2013. I lagered it for about a month before being tapped, but would recommend lagering at least 10-12 weeks, if you can muster the patience. It will only improve.

OG: 1.078
FG: 1.008
ABV: 9.1%

Appearance: Pours a beautiful chestnut brown with ruby hints; a rich off-white head that lasts and lasts; high level of carbonation.

Aroma: A very characteristic, spicy 3711 nose; a bit of sweet malt character comes through as the glass warms up as well.

Flavor: Despite being such a dry beer, this beer maintains a rich mouthfeel — not thin at all; I get a rich caramel character mixed with the Munich; the yeast provides a great spicy finish that tingles on the tongue — this is the only point at which you notice the alcohol; the beer is not “hot” at all; the bitterness (around 30 IBUs) is perfectly in balance: firm, but pleasant; I also get a hint of orange and very subtle clove notes (presumably from the yeast); maybe a bit of noble hop character if you look for it; however, I suspect this is largely overshadowed by the yeast character.

Notes: This beer is dangerous — incredibly smooth and refreshing for such a high alcohol content, which has been the downfall of many of its drinkers. I am not generally a big fan of Munich malt; however, in this case it provides a beautiful complement to the rest of the grain bill.  This is the only beer I have  brewed for which each successive draft  was better than the last. Consider me a fan of the style — This will warrant a re-brew.

Note: I was caught unawares when I pulled the very last (and very best) pour off this keg, hence the low-quality photo. It doesn’t do this beer justice by any measure.

All-Brett Belgian Rye

All-Brett Belgian Rye

A few months ago, I posted an update on the wild and sour projects we have in the works. The first of these has come to fruition: the All-Brett Belgian Rye (which I have affectionately dubbed “Sueur de Cheval”).

During my initial sampling in May (some 8 months after it had been brewed), I was blown away by the complexity and variety of flavors this beer has. The gravity was down to 1.012, so I decided to give it a few more months to see if it would dry out.

In the interim, it only dropped one point. This, combined with an upcoming local homebrew club’s meeting focusing on funky ales, led me to call it done just shy of a year after it was brewed. Initially, I was planning to package these in heavy champagne-style bottles with a cork & cage finish. This would allow for continued aging and the Brett character to continue developing in the bottle. However, after tasting it I decided to simply keg it — I had waited long enough and was ready to drink this beer! Plus, those champagne bottles are expensive and in a keg I can dial in the carbonation where I want it.

The flavor profile of this beer is wonderful. If you have never had a Brett Brux beer, I would highly recommend seeking one out — it is like a whole new world of beer. As previously posted, this beer was 100% WLP650 in primary, with no secondary. I was surprised by how tame the barnyard funk of the Brett was; however, I believe this is par for the course when you use Brett for the primary yeast strain. Plus, Brux is pretty mild as far as wild yeasts go. If you are looking for that “sweaty horseblanket” character, adding something more aggressive as a second strain is (as I understand it) the way to go. But as that was not my primary objective here, I am really pleased with how this turned out.

OG: 1.055
FG: 1.011
ABV: 5.8%

Appearance: This beer pours a beautiful hazy gold, with a sizable rocky white head and impressive lacing; Carbed at around 2.5 vol, there is a great effervescence about it.

Aroma: A bit of Brett character, but otherwise pretty mild; no late hop character.

Flavor: The overwhelming flavors when you first drink this beer are all Brett fruitiness — I get a lot of honeydew melon, stone fruit (especially peach and apricot), a bit of mustiness; the bitterness (around 25 IBUs or so) adds a pleasant counter-balance; after the brett fruitiness, I perceive as a metallic note that gives way to a big rye spiciness.

Notes: This beer sat untouched for almost a year. As I mentioned, I hadn’t even tasted a sample of it until 8 months in, so I felt like I had a lot invested in it. It is my first beer requiring patience, and it totally paid it off. I am already planning a rebrew: This time I will skip the late hops, since they did not actually contribute much in the final product and also bring down the rye a bit; I would also like to taste a bit more tartness, perhaps add a bit of acid malt and/or some lactobacilius; lastly, I am toying with the idea of adding fruit (maybe fresh peaches?) for a secondary refermentation. The good news is that I will have plenty of time to contemplate the details as the Brett works its magic in primary.

A Tale of Two Kegs

KegeratorI picked up three cornelius kegs from a buddy in my homebrew club who was downsizing his operation. They were all in pretty good shape, two of them practically mint. At the time I wasn’t in a position to dive into kegging myself, but knew that it was coming down the pike. It seemed so easy, and the idea of having my own beer on draft was just too good to pass up.

Then something occurred that bumped “Get into kegging” higher on my list of homebrew to-do’s: I found a used Sanyo 4912 on craigslist for a song. When I went to pick it up, I explained to the lady (who was utterly baffled by my knowledge of and enthusiasm for this particular model of mini-fridge) that homebrewers scour the Internet looking for these since they have been discontinued — that the 4912 can fit two corny kegs and a CO2 tank perfectly, and since there is no freezer compartment you can drill straight through the top and mount a tap tower. She shrugged and helped me load it into the truck.

Next, to the local welding shop, where I picked up a 5lb CO2 tank: “What you got brewin?” I knew I did not look like a welder, but surely I don’t look that much like a homebrewer. He went on: “My brother-in-law does that stuff. Pretty good, too! I like the dark beers.” I said, “Cheers”, paid my ten bucks, and booked it home: I had just received a package from Austin Homebrew Supply containing my regulator.

I decided to spring for a double regulator, which would allow me to serve beers at different pressures, or to have one carbonating while another is at serving pressure. I figured that this would be useful since I tend to drink a lot of English ales (which traditionally feature lower carbonation) and Belgians (which I like to be pretty effervescent).

There is some debate as to what is the best practice when it comes to carbonating. Some purists say there is nothing better than refermentation in the keg — similar to traditional cask ale. This may be true — I can never wait that long. Some say it is best to hook it up to the gas and let it carbonate slowly over the course of a couple weeks — this way produces a precise serving volume. Again, this may be true, but I can never wait that long. Then, there are those who shake the keg — I am one of those. The practice of shaking the keg consists of putting the beer on gas, but at a high level (think 20-30 psi) and vigorously rocking the keg back and forth, which injects CO2 into the liquid. The trouble with this method (and why some folks don’t recommend it) is that it is very easy to overcarbonate your beer.

To avoid this issue, here is my method, with which I have had good success:

  1. The evening before you want to keg, crash your beer at 34F or as cold as you can get it. If possible, you want it to crash for at least 24 hours. This will aid the clarity of your beer, make it easy to rack off the yeast cake, and chill the beer (which is essential, since CO2 is absorbed much more easily by cold beer than warm).
  2. On the day of kegging, assuming you have washed and sanitized your keg (I wash mine with PBW once every couple brews and sanitize thoroughly every time I keg a beer. I also pressurize the keg and push the starsan through my lines and tap at that time as well), rack your beer into the keg and seal it up.
  3. Hook the keg up to CO2 and “burp” the keg — this refers to letting CO2 fill the headspace of the keg and then releasing it through the pressure-release valve. In so doing, you are ensuring that all the Oxygen (which is bad for beer) has been displaced by CO2 (which has a neutral effect for beer). Once you have done this a few times, your beer is totally safe. I usually turn the keg over a few times and make sure all my seals are intact at this point as well.
  4. Lie the keg on the floor with the “In” post on the bottom side. Place your CO2 tank some place above the keg (so it is elevated and there is no threat of beer travelling up your gas line), connect the gas, and crank it up to 20psi — You will hear the CO2 begin to bubble inside the keg.
  5. Vigorously rock the keg back and forth in sharp, quick movements for 6 minutes (assuming this is a 5 gallon keg). Towards the end of this time you will notice that less and less gas is being absorbed by the beer.
  6. After the time is up, stand the keg back up and disconnect the gas line. What you have on your hands now is akin to a shook-up bottle of beer — it is very agitated. At this point, most folks will put the keg in the fridge and let it settle down for a day or so. What I do, however, is to put a towel over the keg and pull the pressure-release valve. Gas and then a fair amount of foam will spray out, so you will make a bit of a mess (the towel will take care of most of it). Do I waste a bit of beer doing it this way? Yes. But I also get to drink my beer immediately.
  7. Turn down the gas to serving pressure (for me, this is usually in the ballpark of 9-12 psi, at approximately 50F) and connect the lines.
  8. Drink your beer.

This method will get you pretty close to your target carbonation level without putting you over the mark. Some folks recommend shaking the keg at 30psi for 20 minutes, which just seems like way too much to me. Using the method I have illustrated will give you a “head start” towards your target carbonation — your beer will be 100% carbonated withing a few days of being on draft.

*Note: The print featured in the above picture is from a Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project event from a few years back. If you are ever up on the East Coast, it would behoove you to suss out a few of their beers. Send one to me too while you are at it — I miss them terribly.

WLP023: Burton Ale (pt. II)

Old Ale

In my last post, I mentioned brewing a Bitter to build up a yeast cake of the Burton Ale strain from White Labs in preparation for an Old Ale I was planning to brew. This was another attempt at a Big Beer, in this case as a wedding gift for some friends. The idea was to brew an ale that would age well and that they could open on special occasions over the years — anniversaries, moving into a new house, etc.

For this batch, I used a shortcut that I know many homebrewers employ:  pitching onto an existing yeast cake. This practice is kind of poor form for a number of reasons — you are using way too much yeast, you are not washing away the dead yeast cells/break material/etc. — but damn if it isn’t convenient. I can say that for my part, I have not detected any off flavors that resulted from the use of this method in this case. And while I would not necessarily recommend it, it’ll do in a pinch.

The one thing that you will really need to watch for, should you pitch onto a yeast cake, is an explosive fermentation. And I do mean explosive. After about a day of active fermentation I thought I had reached high krausen. The next day, however, I awoke to find that my airlock had blown out of the carboy, hit the ceiling, and landed on top of a cupboard. I spent the morning cleaning up my mess; thankfully, the beer was safe, sound, and bubbling away. Lesson learned: Use a blow-off tube.

In packaging the beer, I decided to cork & cage the bottles in order to give them an extra special presentation. To do this I used the Colonna Corker — I found it to be really easy to work with, and would highly recommend it. I also ordered labels from Grogtag again — this time with better resolution and a crisper image.

Here’s the recipe:

16 lbs Maris Otter
10 oz. Crystal 60
4 oz. Chocolate Malt
10 oz. Dark Molasses (late addition)

3 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.4% AA) – 90 min
2 oz. Fuggles (4.4% AA) – 90 min

Pitched onto the full WLP023 yeast cake

OG: 1.077
FG: 1.020
ABV: 7.5%

Since this was brewed as a gift, I don’t have many bottles for myself. I plan to drink the first one on my friends’ anniversary and will post the notes at that time. One thing I can say after tasting what was left in the bottling bucket, however, is that the strong fruit esters that appeared in the Bitter are not nearly as prominent in this beer. Perhaps it is the gravity, or the fact that I overpitched and thereby subdued any ester formation; or perhaps it is simply that the esters are hidden behind the prominent molasses character. Whatever the case, the beer tasted great and I look forward to drinking it in several months’ time.


WLP023: Burton Ale (pt. I)

Bitter Ale

Those of you keeping track at home will note that I have been focusing on traditional British styles recently. On the hunt for a reliable yeast that I can use for a variety of styles, I have tested a handful of different strains: WLP002, 005, 007, 013; S-04; probably others. And then there is WLP023. White Labs’ description is enticing:

From the famous brewing town of Burton upon Trent, England, this yeast is packed with character. It provides delicious subtle fruity flavors like apple, clover honey and pear. Great for all English styles, IPA’s, bitters, and pales. Excellent in porters and stouts.

Sounds pretty great, right? I’ve had a few experiences with the Burton Ale yeast over the past few months, and overall was more or less nonplussed with it — I never was quite able to make it work for me.

Recently, I made a six gallons of 1.040 Bitter to build up yeast in preparation for an Old Ale I was planning and decided to give WLP023 another try. I ended up getting pretty good attenuation and a dry-ish beer with pronounced bitterness. It came through a little thinner than I expected (a low mash temp and a pound of honey will do that), but the FG really wasn’t that low. What really intrigued me about the beer, however, was the ester profile. I couldn’t quite place it — I certainly didn’t get apple or pear; truth be told, I didn’t much care for it and I wrote it off for the first dozen bottles or so.

Then, as I was nearing the last bottles of the batch, I placed it: Pineapple. All this time I was searching for pear-fruit esters and finding something else. Once I identified what it was I was smelling and tasting (and addressed it not as a defect, but simply as something different), the beer totally clicked for me. Here’s the recipe, which is based on one I found for a Camerons Strongarm clone in Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own Real Ale:

7 lbs Maris Otter
6 oz. Crystal 90
4 oz. Black Malt
1 lb Honey (the recipe calls for invert sugar, but any easily fermentable sugar will do)

1 oz. Target (9.8%AA) – 60 min
0.5 oz. East Kent Golding – 10 min
0.5 oz. East Kent Golding – 1 min
1 oz. East Kent Golding – Dry hop (1 week)

0.8 L starter of WLP023; Fermented at ~65F (ambient temp)

OG: 1.045
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.3%

Bitter Ale 2

I have been on the prowl for an English yeast that I really love*; and while this is not it, I will say it is distinctive and worth a glance.

I would be interested to hear others’ experiences with this — Any recipes in which you have used WLP023 to great success?


* I have since fallen in love with WLP013. More on that soon…

BIAB Barley Wine

Brewing “Big Beers” can be a challenge. The cost of materials is about double, it is labor and time intensive, and you’ve got to wait. So while we are waiting, I thought I would post about a Barley Wine that is “in progress”, brewed in December 2012 and bottled in February 2013.

This was my first and only attempt at doing a beer this big using the “Brew in a Bag” method — and this was its own challenge. Say a typical Barley Wine grist contains north of 20lbs of grain (dry); it is a tall order to fit that much into a bag in your kettle. Foisting this over the kettle and letting it drain, however, is enough to make you drive to the hardware store and buy an igloo cooler right then and there. Some folks build pulley systems to get around this. Since BIAB was just a stepping stone for me, I decided to turn to extract for a sizable amount of fermentables. For such a big beer, one would never be able to taste the difference anyway. I ended up losing a fair amount of runnings simply because I had no interest in trying to hold this heavy bag of wort-soaked grain over the kettle while I let it drain. Color me lazy.

Initially I was going for a simple, Burton-inspired recipe, relying mostly on English pale malt and a long boil for a rich malt character. Ultimately I couldn’t resist adding specialty grains, but I did keep the hops (mostly) traditional with Fuggles being the primary variety.

13# Maris Otter
10 oz. Crystal 60
4 oz. Special B
4 oz. Chocolate Malt
6# Extra Light DME

2.5 oz. Fuggles (4.4% AA) – 60 min
2 oz. Target (9.8% AA) – 60 min
0.5 oz. Fuggles – 15 min
1 oz. Fuggles – 5 min
1 oz. EKG (5.8%AA) – Dry hop (3 weeks)
1 oz. Willamette (4.7%AA) – Dry hop (3weeks)

2.2L starter with washed WLP005 slurry

OG: 1.088
FG: 1.022
ABV: 8.6%

When it was young, this beer was very estery — lots of banana and yeast character. I was disappointed because this was not the profile I was looking for at all. However, after two months in the fermentor, it cleaned up nicely. Proof once again that patience is key for these beers. There is more of a pronounced bitterness that comes through now and a bit of alcohol on the tongue.

I know that the late hop additions were kind of silly — as this beer ages those hops are just going to fade — but I had the hops laying around and figured what the hell. Tasting this beer after 1 month in the bottle, it drinks like an Double IPA that didn’t quite finish dry enough, and has a really great nose on it.  I will refrain from doing full tasting notes since this beer won’t be “ready” for quite some time. Looking forward, I’m hoping that the Special B dark fruit character will come to the fore as the beer oxidizes slightly, and that this will blend nicely with the earthy, tobacco notes from the Fuggles. Cheers!


Merican IPA

I love IPAs, but I don’t love all IPAs. It is a style that seems totally ubiquitous — Just about everybody’s got an IPA. How do you make yours stand out? What separates it from the herd?

Do you go big? Do a DIPA, or (these days) a TIPA? But where does this trend stop? And really, why not brew a Barley Wine?  I would take the delicate nuances of a well-brewed 1.060 IPA over these beers anyday.

Do you tinker with the mash bill? Adding Rye seems particularly popular these days, and for good reason.

Do you meddle with style guidelines? Try a CDA (which I personally love), or a White IPA (which I personally loathe)?

The advice for competition brewing is, If you want to win a medal, don’t bother with the IPA category. Just about everybody’s got an IPA.

For being one of my favorite styles, I haven’t brewed much of it this year. But I feel a bout of IPA-fever coming on, with a recent shipment of new hops from Nikobrew and a wonderful interview of Mitch Steele on Basic Brewing Radio. So here’s the first of several IPAs to be rolled out in the coming months:

6.5# US 2-Row
4.5# Maris Otter
8 oz Crystal 40L

0.5 oz Centennial (9.7%AA) – 60
0.75 oz Citra (14.6%AA) – 20
0.5 oz Centennial – 15
0.25 oz Citra – 15
0.5 oz Centennial – 5
0.5 oz Citra – 5
0.5 oz Centenial – 1
0.5 oz Citra – 1
1 oz Cascade – Dry hop

Good ol’ WLP001 Cal-Ale

OG: 1.067
FG: 1.019
ABV: 6.3%

Appearance: A bit of chill haze; a deep golden color, contributed by a 90 minute boil; about a half-inch of foam that dissipates pretty quickly after the first swig, but leaves a beautiful lacing hanging on the glass.

Aroma: Most of the aroma comes from the late hops — a lot of citrus character from the Citra, but not the blast of Cascade that I was hoping for. One thing I did differently this time was to simply dump the ounce of whole-leaf Cascade into the primary after fermentation had slowed, instead of racking on top of the hops in secondary. My suspicion is that they did not get the exposure they otherwise would have. Note to self: Don’t be lazy.

Taste: A lot of citrus up front, followed by a bit of a pine character and a firm, but pleasant bitterness.  There is a bit of what I can only describe as a “musty” character to the mid-palate hop flavor, which I believe comes from the Citra.  I would like it to be a bit cleaner.  Despite the high FG, the beer is not cloying — you can definitely put a few of these away.  The yeast did a beautiful job of providing a clean beer to showcase the hops — I understand why this is a “go to” for a lot of folks, especially for a hop-forward beer in which you don’t necessarily want a lot of yeast character.

Notes: So much of perfecting an IPA is finding the right blend of hops. The next time I brew this recipe I would add a third hop to accentuate a dank, pine character and add another dimension — maybe a bit of Chinook or Nelson Sauvin.  I would also favor the Centennial over the Citra. I am still figuring out how to best utilize the latter. In this case, it dominates a bit more than I would like. That being said, the citrus and the pine characters do work very well together. I would also plan to mash a bit lower next time to dry out the finish a bit.