In the past 6 years I have only brewed twice (including this time). That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my passion for brewing beer. It’s just been difficult to find the time to do it. With the kids getting a bit older now, I should be able to find some more time.
The System: With some Christmas generosity, I was able to order an Arsegan EasyBrew 30 liter brew system. This made-in-China brew system is sold under different brand names like HopCat, Brew Monk, Klarstein Mundschenk, Ace Microbrewery, and many more. While not a fully automated robotic brewer, it promises to cut down the time needed to brew. I’m not going to review this system right now, but once I’ve used it a few times I will post a thorough review.
The Recipe: While cleaning up my desk at work I came a cross some recipe ideas intertwined with some sketches. There were a couple standouts using coffee in paler beers. With my newish passion for coffee I thought what better way to get back to brewing? Initially I wanted to go with something between and English and an American Pale Ale. Something with hop character to play with the coffee notes, but not enough to take away from the coffee. I ended up lowering the hops and adding more colored malt. I’m not sure what category the beer would now fit into now. Perhaps a Special Bitter? Perhaps not. This recipe will grow in complexity as it evolves. This is just a starting point. It’s a sketch of a beer which is looking for some direction. Thats why I am calling this brew a “sketch.”
Penelope (Batch 1):
- Volume: 18.5 liters
- OG: 1.053
- FG: 1.014
- ABV: 5%
- IBU: 30 (Rager formula)
- 91.3% Extra Pale Maris Otter (Crisp)
- 5.4% Flaked Oats
- 3.3% Pale Chocolate (Thomas Fawcett)
Mash: single temp infusion @ 69C (156F)
- Northdown 7% AA – 45min from end (20.7 IBU)
- Northdown 7% AA – 10 min from end (5 IBU)
- Northdown 7% AA – in whirlpool 15 min (5 IBU)
Yeast: White Labs London Ale WLP013
I used to write my brew posts during the fermentation phase. The idea was to go back and add notes to the posts after final tasting. That didn’t happen enough. Now I’ve decided to not write my brew posts until the final beer is finished and in my glass. Then I can already share my thoughts on the recipe and how I could improve the beer.
How did it turn out?
In short, I see a lot of potential with this beer. I wanted a lower alcohol beer with a full body and earthy, almost woody, hop character with coffee and chocolate coming in the middle and riding it out through the finish. Right now its too heavy on the chocolate. I thought the somewhat higher percentage of Pale Chocolate malt would compliment the Sumatra Lintong coffee which also has earthy chocolate notes. It’s too much. I either need to throw out the chocolate malt or choose a fruitier more acidic coffee. Ethiopian Natural Sidamo, one of my favorite all round coffees, would have been a better choice.
The mouthfeel and body are exactly what I wanted. The oats and the higher mash temperature worked their magic to keep the beer from being too thin and watery, while not being chewy. Its definitely a pleasing drinker.
The hops are too subtle, but the character is what I was looking for (cedar, herbal). I am however, left wanting a citrus note on the end. Perhaps a late addition of a citrus forward hop wouldn’t hurt. That would play well with a more acidic coffee. I think a touch of fruity hops to round out the hop character, and bridge to other two hops, wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
The beer is a good starting point but it needs to become a bit more rounded. I have time to think about it, but perhaps something more like this:
92-94% Extra Pale Maris Otter
5% Flaked oats
1-2% Some type of light cara malt
0-2% Pale Chocolate?
40-50 IBU from a blend of Northdown and Hallertau Blanc with a small late addition of Pacific Jade.
Ethiopian Sidamo dry “Beaning” for a few days, then fill in with some fresh brewed coffee to taste.
A little bit about the EasyBrew system:
This Chinese made system is essentially a Grainfather clone for just under half the price. Build quality is better than I had expected but there is still room for improvement. This newest version of the Easybrew is programmable. You can put in all of your steps (multiple step mash), boiling, and all your hop timers. It is capable of going up to 2500kw heating power (programmable for each step) which gets you from step to step quickly and makes it more powerful then the Grainfather. The volume markings on the inside though are way off. These type of systems are essentially a Brew In A Bag system, where the bag is replaced by a metal container, but by adding a sparge step you have a bit of a hyrbid brew system. Like I said earlier, once I’ve had a few brews under my belt with the EsayBrew I will write up a detailed review.