Dialing it in: Part One

Hop Nest is a favorite of mine. It has the right amount of complexity while still being an easy drinker. The original recipe was an experiment with 100% Munich Malt paired up with some Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo for an English IPA. That beer went on to win the best of show in the first Vlaamse Hobby Brouwers Forum competition. Hop Nest was now going to serve as a calibration recipe for my new Arsegan EasyBrew system/process. After brewing Penelope, I had a good idea about the efficiency of the system, but the volumes were not correct yet (strike water, sparge water, boil off rate, etc.).

Not only was the EasyBrew new to me but I was also trying out some new brewing software. My normal software, Beer Alchemy, stopped getting updated. Plus, the only way I could find to factor in the large amount of deadspace under the grain basket in the Easybrew, was to play with the water to grain ratio. If all my beers were going to be around the same strength then that would be alright, but I want to brew stronger or weaker beers without having to play with profile settings. It was great for my previous Batch Sparge system, but with the EasyBrew it just didn’t cut it.

BeerSmith seems to be the current market leader for homebrewers, and it offers a lot more settings to play with than BeerAlchemy. So I created my next recipe in both applications. However, even in BeerSmith the volumes of water still weren’t adding up. Starting off I didn’t have a lot of confidence in either program. I don’t want to have to second guess volumes. I want to be able to create a recipe, then follow the directions in the app without having to think. When I think, I over think, and that doesn’t make my life any easier.

Calibration Batch 1 (April 8th 2018)

Hop Nest

  • OG:1.056
  • FG: 1.012
  • IBU (Rager): 59.4
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Final volume: 18 liters (1 corny keg)

Fermentables:

  • 90.9%  Weyerman Munich Malt
  • 5.5% Flaked Oats
  • 3.6%  Crisp Maris Otter (was to make up for the fact that I accidentally didn’t order enough Munich)

Mashing and sparging: Single infusion mash @ 67°C for 60 minutes

As I started to mash in I realized that the mash was way too thick. After doing some quick math on paper (deadspace + water/grain ratio + grain absorbtion), I adjusted my strike water volume. Sparging was easy to figure out on paper too (sparge vol. = boil vol. – strike water + grain absorption). The rest was smooth sailing.

The EasyBrew can be fully programmed to go from step to step by itself without too much input from the brewer, but for these first brews I did not try that out. I wanted to have the freedom to quickly change the wattage depending on what I saw going on in the kettle ( I use the full 2500w to quickly go up in temperature but then only 1600w to 1800w to keep it at temperature).

Boiling:

  • Nelson Sauvin (Whole leaf) 12.8%AA – 60 min. from end (21.4 IBU)
  • Amarillo (Whole leaf) 9.3%AA – 60 min. from end (15.6 IBU)
  • Nelson Sauvin – 20 min. from end (9.1 IBU)
  • Amarillo – 20 min. from end (5.3 IBU)
  • Nelson Sauvin – 5 min. from end (5 IBU)
  • Amarillo – 5 min. from end (3 IBU)
  • Nelson Sauvin – Dry Hop 1g/l for 7 days
  • Amarillo – Dry Hop 1g/l for 7 days

Unfortunately, I forgot to adjust the Alpha Acid content of this harvest of Nelson Sauvin in BeerSmith. I didn’t see that until after boiling was almost done. It’s not a big deal but it means that the hopping will be a little bit off.

My boil off rate needs some work too. I have been playing around with the wattage and seem to have settled around 2000w for a decent rolling boil. However, it may not be vigorous enough. The flavors associated with a weak boil aren’t in my beers though. I am just a bit surprised that I’m only losing about 3 liters over 60 minutes. My previous system was 5 liters. More brewing needed!

Yeast: Safale US-05 (dry)

Beer was fermented in a plastic brew bucket @ 18°C (64.5°F) for 14 days before dry-hopping in the same bucket. That is 21 days on the yeast cake. It still surprises me that this works without giving off any off flavors, but it does. It definitely makes it easy! After dry-hopping, the beer was kegged into 2 of my 9.5L (2.5 gal) corny kegs.

How did it turn out?

The beer turned out really good. It did miss a bit of the crisp citrus and summer fruit hop character that I remember Hop Nest having. Is this because of my Alpha Acid mistake? I think partially yes. I also think that this past harvest of Amarillo just wasn’t the best. There were more harsher grassy notes than there should have been. Most likely from the Amarillo, but I don’t know for sure. The malt character was great. It reminded me why I love Munich malt in high percentages. It creates a much more complex malt character than normal pale malt. Bready and biscuity malt with a touch of caramel. I did miss a little bit of caramel complexity that usually I get from a small addition of a cara malt. The Flaked Oats did’t really add as much mouthfeel as I had expected, but it wasn’t as thin as that very first batch. It was still a great drinker!

My initial thoughts on the mash efficiency of the EasyBrew were confirmed (75% with the grain crush I am now using). The mashing profile in Beersmith has to be reworked though. The first profile was based on the Grainfather but I just couldn’t get the numbers to match with what I had seen on brew day. Back to the drawing board I guess.

a duck on my calendar

Imagine if there was a sort of chart with all the days of the year listed in order. Now imagine that you could plan future events and then note these events on this list of days.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, much to my surprise this magical list already exists and there is even one hanging on the wall in my kitchen! All, joking aside, I am trying to get over my fear/lack of planning. Last year I had a serious problem of having to ditch brewing and barbecuing days because they weren’t planned far enough ahead for life to comply. It seems to be going better now. In fact I just had a  brewday this past Sunday, and there is a serious pork smoking session planned in a couple weeks, and the next brewday is planned in March.

Enter the Ugly Duckling:

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, but smells a bit funky, then it must be the Ugly Duckling American Sour. Sunday’s brewday was another venture into sour beers. A funky and tart sessionable beer with citrus hop notes. Well, that is the idea anyways.

There are several ways to get lactic tartness in your brew (Lactobacilus, pediococcus, sour mash, pure lactic acid) but I decided to try something simple I had heard about from a few pro-brewers, a relatively high percentage of Acidulated Malt (or Acid Malt). This malt is a Reinheitsgebot way of controlling your mash pH but using higher ammounts will also give you some lactic flavor (see this link for some more info.. scroll down to “Berliner Weisse from Weyermann Acidulated Malt”). It won’t be as complex a lactic character as some other methods, but for what I want in this beer it should be good. Especially when considering this will be a 100% brett fermented beer. Oh, and brett favors a lowered pH to do its thing, so win win.

Ugly Duckling American Sour:

  • Wort volume after boil : 20 liters
  • OG: 1.048
  • Expected FG: 1.010 – 1.012?
  • Expected ABV: 4.8% – 5%
  • Expected IBU: the math says 36 but with mash hopping my experience says it will seem lower
  • Expected color: 11 EBC (4.6 SRM)
  • mash efficiency: 76%
  • Boil duration: 60 minutes

Fermentables:

  • 56.5% Pale – 2.2kg (4.85 lb.)
  • 30.5% Munich – 1.2kg (2.65 lb.)
  • 9% Acid malt – 350g (.77 lb.)
  • 4% flaked oats – 160g (.35 lb.)

Hops:

  • 35g (1.2 oz) Amarillo – mash hop

No kettle additions. After aging for a while I will dry hop this with more Amarillo.

Mash:

  • single infusion mash at 67C (153F) for 60 minutes

Yeast:

Ugly Duckling was also a bit of a process re-working for me. Over the years I have tried playing with my process  to raise efficiency, cut time, or just look cool. In the end I wasn’t happy with the stuck or slow sparges, the running around and the extra worry. This time I re-evaluated my technique. I even turned back the adjustment on my grain mill a bit. In return I had a great brew day! It was very easy and relaxed and I was even able to pull off a brew in less time than before. My efficiency was slightly lower (76% instead of 80%), but I was expecting that.

Notes:

February 13th 2011 – brewed: Brew day went very well. It was perhaps my most relaxed brew day to date.

March 15th 2011 – racked this over to secondary so it can age a while before dry-hopping. It was sitting at 1.010 SG. I’m finding these all brett beers are best after about 5 months or so.

July 17th 2011 – dry hopped this beer with 30g Amarillo whole leaf hops. The aroma before dry hopping was quite funky. Good barn-yardy notes!

July 29th 2011 – The duck is in the bottle! FG went a bit lower than expected 1.006! Bottled 17 liters (damn dry hops soaked up my beer) primed to get me 2.7 vol CO2 carbonation. Beer is tasting quite nice. Big orange notes. A good lactic  sourness with big fruity brett and amarillo all combining to a sort of orange and lemon juice combo.

hop nest

hopnest_label090702That’s the name I have given my munich malt IPA (still working on the label). This brew has turned out to be quite a fantastic, balanced IPA. It has the necessary hop bite, tons of hop flavor and a dreamy aroma. It does not have the harshness and finess of a sledgehammer that so many IPA’s do. This could be the beer to turn me to the hop side. So really, how is the beer? Well, I will try to give it the good old ratebeer analysis.

The beer pours a hazy deep copper with orange edges. A tall slowly fading creamy yellowed head sits proudly on top. Pungent hop nose with grapefruit zest and some musty pine resin. Some indeterminate fruitiness blows in as the hops dance around. Very complex hop notes that are a bit hard to nail down. Heavenly if you like the smell of hops! I can pick up something that you could describe as “winey.” Could this be the famed character of the Nelson Sauvin hops or am I just looking too hard for it? No, as it warms up that character comes out more. A touch of simple sugar and malt make their way upfront after a while, but the nose is definitely hop forward. First impression in the mouth is a good stiff bitterness coming from deep with some grassy notes. Not astringent at all but definitely assertive. Some malt and thinned out caramel try to work there way upfront but are pushed back by waves of citrus hops. Some pine is noticed in the throat. Good lightly fruity tones. Quite nice. Malt does finally make its way forward and join the grapefruit and “wine” for a decently long finish. Medium to light mouthfeel with a dry finish. CO2 level is just right.

Score: aroma 8/10, appearance 4/5, flavor 8/10, palate 3/5, overall 16/20: total score 3.9/5

hopnest_tasting090702This is pretty much exactly what I was shooting for. The only thing that I would like to change is that the beer is just a touch too thin. That is not really surprising since this was an experiment with only munich malt… nothing to build mouthfeel. I have already adjusted the recipe in BeerAlchemy to include a touch of crystal. It will definitely be brewed again. I am also now in love with Nelson Sauvin hops!

bottling day

bottling_munichIPA_090607Yesterday I bottled up the munich IPA I brewed a few weeks ago. The aroma is absolutely fantastic. There is obviously a big dose of hops covering a nice range from citrus to the coveted Sauvignon Blanc aroma from the Nelson Sauvin. What a wonderful hop this is turning out to be. It mixes very nicely with the amarillo and the Munich malt. I am a little surprised at how deep and complex the malt character is considering there is only one malt in it! The hydrometer sample was damn tasty too with a nice grapefruit zest and grape-skin on top of a deep malt with toasted bread, biscuit notes and something faintly chocolatey, but I don’t know where that would have come from. I can’t wait to try this with CO2. I think this brew is turning out really well. Above and beyond my non-hophead expectations. Both Munich as a base malt and the use of Nelson Sauvin hops get a big thumbs up… but I do need to wait till the bottles are ready before I make a final call on this brew. Oh yeah, I was reminded with how tedious and time consuming bottling is. It is definitely not the most fun part of brewing.

What happened since I brewed it: I let the beer ferment for 2 weeks before I added 10g of Amarillo and 10g of Nelson Sauvin whole leaf hops into the primary for dry-hopping. I have heard that you can bring out some berry esters when you dry-hop while the beer is on the yeast cake, but I wasn’t detecting that in the hydrometer sample. The beer sat on the hops for another week and then I bottled. I ended up with 9 liters (damn those hops for soaking up so much of my beloved brew!) of a FG 1.010 IPA, OG was 1.057. Now, lets hope I didn’t screw up anything when bottling.

My cellar smells like hops!

munichIPANow, I am no hop-head, but living in “the land that hops forgot” it is nice to blow my senses away with some Humulus Lupulus now and then. When I started my brewday on saturday, I was having one of my hop cravings. So what did I do? I upped the hops on the recipe for the 100% Munich malt IPA. It should be more of an American IPA now, rather than the barely-an-IPA I was going to brew. It was a bit of a last minute decision, but when I smell the hop aroma coming out of the fermenter, my senses thank me for the change in recipe. I decided to up the hops, but I also decided to make a smaller batch this time. I wanted to save enough of the Nelson Sauvin hops for some Brett brews that are planned. I only made about a 12 liter (3.2 US gallon) batch as opposed to my normal 20 liters (5.3 US gallons). Since this was a smaller batch I decided to use my old small mash tun. Its nice to have a small mash tun like that but I realized that I need to rebuild it. I will probably be using the smaller mash tun more than the big one so I can brew smaller batches but more often. One thing I forgot to take into account was the different boil-off rate on the stove inside that I discovered on the last brew, so my OG was 1.057 instead of the calculated 1.062. I am trying to be less anal about my brewing so officially this doesn’t bother me, but inside I am kicking myself. Overall, the brew day went alright, but I am still a bit rusty since this is only my second brew since my year long hiatus. Guess that means I need to brew more!

OG 1.057 (target was 1.062)
IBU 59 (Rager formula)
60 min boil
boil volume 17 liters
batch size: targeted 12 liters but final volume is unknown (a lot of hop material made it hard to measure.

3kg Munich

7g Amarillo whole hops (60 min)
7g Nelson Sauvin whole hops (60 min)
8g Amarillo whole hops (20 min)
8g Nelson Sauvin whole hops (20 min)
7g Amarillo whole hops (5 min)
7g Nelson Sauvin whole hops (5 min)

I will most likely be dry-hopping this beer also. Perhaps 10g of both the Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin.

The beer is happily chugging away in the cellar with US-05 yeast. Since this was a smaller batch I decided not to split it and ferment half with S-04.