Softland Aleworks

Big Beers Brewed in a Tiny House

Category: Tasting Notes

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.


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.

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.

Fall Update: Brewing English Ales, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Malt

Time for another catch-all post, this time focusing on a new love of mine: English styles.

English Ales: Tasting Paddle

Special Bitter

I decided that I wanted my first all-grain batch to be a style that was not overly difficult to brew. However, I found that one can always find ways to make a mess of things — but that’s all part of the joy of homebrewing, no? In this case, I was working with Jamil’s recipe for an Ordinary Bitter from Brewing Classic Styles. It is an easy beer to brew and I was curious to try a proper Bitter, which (to my knowledge) I had not had. I went to my LHBS to procure the grains and misreading the scale ended up with much more Special Roast than I had intended. Now, Special Roast imparts a sort of tangy sourdough character to a beer, which when done right lends it an interesting (and, I’m told, authentic) biscuity quality.  However, with it being out of ratio, the sourdough tang easily took over. I suspect that I also miscalculated my other specialty grains, which in conjunction with a surprisingly decent efficiency gave this beer the gravity of a Special Bitter rather than an Ordinary Bitter. Unfortunately, I did not discover my error until after I had bottled and tasted the beer — way too late to adjust the hop schedule.  To my palate, it ended up out of balance and too tangy. Interestingly, the guys at my local homebrew club loved this beer. Go figure.

Lesson learned: Measure twice, crush once.

Spiced Pumpkin Ale

One of the things I look forward to ever year is the oncoming of the holiday spiced ales. Much like Egg Nog, every year I buy up all the Pumpkinator, Punkin’ Ale, Pumking, and whatever else I can get my hands on, and then promptly burn out on the style until next year. This year, I decided to try my hand at brewing my own Pumpkin Ale. After searching around the Internet for recipe ideas, I hit upon one that seemed vetted and successful. It is more or less a clone of Dogfish Head’s Punkin’ Ale, which has a Brown ale as its base (though not technically an English Brown — I am going to sneak it in this post anyway), with additions of baked pumpkin, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. I baked the canned pumpkin the evening before and steeped it in a bag as the water came to strike temp. This seemed to be more than enough time for the pumpkin to produce a rich color and some fermentables too (you don’t get much flavor from the pumpkin itself). Doing it this way also prevents the pumpkin mush from clogging up your brew system. The rest of the brew day went pretty smoothly. When it came time for bottling I found that the 1.5Tbs of spice I added 10 minutes before flameout had mostly boiled off and had produced only a soft hint of spice, where I was looking for a more bold flavor. I simply added another 1.5 Tbs to the bottling sugar as it boiled. In hindsight, this was perhaps a bit overzealous. Next year I think I will move the spice addition in the boil to flameout and cut down the bottling addition to 1 Tbs. I found that the downside to adding spices at bottling is that they tend to lay on top of the other flavors, as opposed to blending and integrating. That being said, I was very pleased with how this beer came out and am inspired to incorporate spices (albeit more subtly) in other brews. More on that below.

Newhouse Porter

I was in New York for a wedding and put in a respectable session at the historic McSorley’s Old Ale House, where you have two options: Light or Dark. The former is an Amber Lager and the latter a Porter (what they call a Stock Ale). They come in small pours, one for $3 or 2 for $5, and are impressively delivered by barmen who carry upwards of two dozen of the small mugs in one go. It’s incredible. The beer is respectable, but it’s not revelatory. The experience, however, is. The place is full of history and it is easy to get swept up in the adopted nostalgia of it all. Afterall, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt drank here! The decorations on the wall are older than your parents. You get the idea.

So it was that after a few mugs of their Stock Ale, I started to ruminate about the pubs of yore that, like McSorley’s, had their house beers and that’s what you drank. No exotic casks. No tap takeovers. No frills. Just beer. It helped that I had recently discovered the variety that exists within the bounds of a Porter and had been reading up on the history of the style. So I decided to give it a go — to design a light, refreshing, yet roasty and fortifying ale that would serve as one of our own “house beers” — something to have on tap year round, a crowd-pleaser.  Brewed in honor of our moving into a new home, the recipe for our Newhouse Porter is all British malt, including a healthy dose of Brown Malt (common in more historical recipes) and a pinch of Black Patent (I’ve read somewhere that one uses Black Patent for Porters, Roasted Barley for Stouts). I mashed at 152F and fermented around 67F.

7# Maris Otter
1.5# Brown Malt
1# Crystal 60
4oz Black Patent

1.5oz EKG (60)
0.5oz EKG (15)
0.5oz EKG (5)


Cardamom Brown Ale

After you have been homebrewing for a while, you start experiencing flavors differently. You might be eating a muffin and think to yourself, “What is that spice? I think I could use that!” After my first spiced ale experiment, I thought it might be fun to see what one could do with these different flavors. I had a hunch that Cardamom could lend an interesting complement to a malty brown ale and decided to give it a try.  As with any spiced ale, the key is restraint. A heavy hand on the spice rack is what gives these beers a bad rap.  Done well, and you offer just a hint in the background; Done poorly, and you will ruin that spice forever after. My hope with this beer was to achieve the balance that one encounters in spicing Saisons: If you can single out or identify the spice, you have added too much.

We just bottled this up last nite, and I’ve got to say it tasted pretty good. Tasting notes to follow in due time.

Notes on the Augustus Saison

Augustus Saison

I was on one of those classic LHBS trips…

It is not too often that I have the opportunity to shop in-person at my favorite shops (Austin Homebrew Supply, Defalco’s, etc.), so when I do, I try to take advantage of it and see what is new, different, anything that sparks an idea.  On this summer day, I happened to be wandering the aisles of AHS’s newish storefront and arrived in front of the hops cooler. Staring me right in the face were packs of Hopunion’s Citra hops.  I had been hearing a lot about this new breed — a lot of good things.  As the name implies, Citra hops impart a nice citrusy, fruity flavor and aroma, and are additionally a great high-alpha bittering hop as well.  So I picked some up, and they sat in my refrigerator…

I was busy brewing a lot of specialty beers, like the gluten free “CeliAle” and the Oud Bruin, which gave me all kinds of hell.  So it was a while before I roused myself to brainstorm a recipe idea for the Citra.  It being July in Texas, I was using a lot of Belgian yeasts and, in particular, Wyeast 3711, which was recommended to me by a brewing buddy, and which I have really come to like — it is fast, dependable, and great for a Saison (I have heard of it going below 1.000 — now that’s a dry finish!).  It seemed plausible that the citrusy character of the hops could complement a Saison, which frequently includes additions of lemon zest, etc. As I wanted to really see what this hop can do, I used it for all stages of the boil.  I didn’t want this to be a “Belgian IPA” so much as an aggressively hopped Saison, so I kept the bittering charge to 0.5 oz and used very small additions for flavor and aroma: 0.25 oz every five minutes from 25min til flameout.  All in all, it is estimated to be somewhere around 42 IBUs, so nothing crazy.

The mashbill was pretty straight forward with mostly extra pale LME, some wheat malt LME, and a late addition of 1 lbs Orange Blossom honey that I threw in just because I had it laying around.  I also added 0.25 oz each of cracked coriander and ginger root at 10 minutes as well.  Lastly, I dry-hopped with 1 oz of Citra for 1 week.

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.005
ABV: 7.5%

Appearance:  It has a lovely, hazy golden color to it; a foamy white head, with great retention.

Smell: A beautiful hop aroma; maybe out of character for the style, but really lovely. When I tasted the hydrometer samples of this beer during fermentation, the mix of yeast and hops produced an aroma oddly reminiscent of cat urine. As one could imagine, this was pretty off-putting; thankfully, this seems to have “worked itself out” either through the addition of dry hops or the yeast simply cleaning itself up — definitely something I will be conscious of in the future. Just one more example of the “Never give up on your brew” adage — the finished product can surprise you, if you give it time.

Taste:  The small additions of hops worked really well for this beer, as it has a very soft hop character that is really interesting;  I was afraid that the strong Belgian yeast character would compete with the hops, and I think that that is the case to an extent — the next time I brew this I will ferment at the low end of the recommended temperatures in order to subdue the yeast character and provide a bit cleaner finish; still, a really beautiful and complex palate; I don’t get much from the coriander or ginger — I wonder if I would notice their absence in future brews, or if they are simply in perfect balance…probably the former.

Notes: I think this was a successful experiment!  One of the most frustrating things about Citra hops is how popular (and therefore difficult to procure) they are.  My idea for the Augustus Saison, which will be our “house” version of the style (whenever I settle upon the right recipe) is an aggressively, but not overly, hopped version that is refreshing and finishes dry.  I like the idea of playing around with different hops to see how I can achieve this and what unique character each brings to the beer.

We will be brewing this beer again this weekend.  This time, however, it will be all grain, with no spices and 2 lbs of honey to really dry it out.  I just ordered a bunch of different hops from Nikobrew, including 8 oz of Citra.  Perhaps I will try recreating this same recipe, or maybe trying different combinations.  Now that I know what Citra can do, I am interested in seeing how well it plays with others!

Orange Blossom CeliAle

Orange Blossom CeliAle A while back, I decided to try my hand at brewing a gluten-free beer.  Having never had a sorghum-based beer, it was a bit of a shot-in-the-dark. Nonetheless, I drew up a pretty simple recipe, in the hopes of making something light and refreshing.  Here are some tasting notes, by way of follow-up:

OG: 1.055
FG:  1.007
ABV: 6.3%

Appearance: A very clear beer, with a brilliant white head on it.  As I understand it, head retention for sorghum beers is pretty much nil —  I found that to be my experience as well.

Smell: Very light on the nose, with no hop aroma. If anything, a little bit of the coriander.

Taste: This beer could easily be called “The Lemondrop.”  I used way too much coriander for the recipe, which dominates the pallet.  I do get a fair amount of the sorghum (what I perceive as a sort of mineral-y flavor) as the coriander subsides. Having never had a commercial example of the style prior to brewing, I was not prepared for this flavor, which I think is something that grows on you — It is not a bad flavor per se, but simply a flavor that one does not encounter in most beer.  The dominance of the spices helps to mask the sorghum a bit, which is I suppose an unintended benefit.  Lastly, the late addition of honey did not add much in the way of flavor; however, it did serve to dry out the beer, giving it a crisp, refreshing mouthfeel.

Notes: Having had a number of these over the course of several weeks, I will say that I have come around to the sorghum flavor.  I had the opportunity to try Dogfish Head’s G-F offering, Tweason’ale, and found (much to my surprise) that I quite enjoyed it. And while I would not go out of my way to brew or drink gluten-free beers, I think all-in-all this beer was a success.  In the next round, I would definitely ease off the spices, maybe use a yeast with a bit more character, and play around with hop combinations. As a variation on the recipe, I would consider adding cranberries, which I think would add a nice, complementing tartness.