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.

testing testing

As previously posted I will be supplimenting my all-grain brewing with some quick extract batches in the hopes that I can experiment more often. Well, after a friend (one of the few Mexicans in Belgium) handed me a bag of Chipotle peppers straight from the mother land, I knew my first experiment had to be a Chipotle pale ale. Chipotle peppers are not exactly common here in Belgium so I was very happy to receive these. I know I’m not the first brewer to throw some peppers in a beer but I’ve never done it and thought it was time to try it myself. Time for the innaugural “Test Pilot” brew!

The things I want to test with this 10 liter (2.6 US gallons) batch are:
  • the handling and amount of peppers to use in a beer
  • the combo of Nelson Sauvin and firey spice
  • smoke (from the smoked peppers) in a pale ale
  • only using late hop additions (30 min or less in boil)
  • chipotle peppers and hops

    I kept the malt extremely simple. I did however use some old extract I had in the cupboard as a portion of the total DME bill…. hmmm, maybe that wasn’t the best idea though. A touch of chocolate malt was steeped in the kettle before adding the malt extract and boiling. The roasted malt will hopefully support the smoke and give a touch of earthiness. Since extract has already had the snot boiled out of it in it’s creation, a full 60 minute boil is not needed, and since I was only adding late hops I only boiled for 30 minutes. I added the small amount of chipotle peppers with 5 min to go in boil and let the wort sit for 20 minutes before cooling. The sample I tasted did show a very low spice level in the back of the throat and a nice level of smoke. We’ll see what the yeast does with this. If the final flavor and spice level seem to be a going in the right direction than I do plan on brewing a more “serious” all-grain version. Man, I really hope that old DME won’t get in the way too much. Damn my cheapness!

    feeling the funk

    funkadelicNo, not that funk. Just a quick brewing update. I have probably mentioned before that I want to get more experimental with my homebrew and walk on the wild side of fermentation. From now on most of my brews will be fermented, at least in part, by critters such as Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus rather than traditional Sacchromyces strains. To start this new love affair off, back at the end of April I racked batch one of New Addition to secondary and added a smack pack of Wyeast Lambic Blend . Being impatient, I popped it open and took a sample. It’s now at 1.014 and has a very light brett character with hints of sour cherry and some cola, but overall the bugs have not had too much influence yet. It definitely is going down the right path, but the path seems to be long. At least a pellicle just started to form. That will be fun to watch (for a beer geek like me).

    baby_brewer090913Hop Nest batch #2 was brewed last Sunday. The recipe was modified from the original test batch. Rather than 100% Munich I added a touch of Aroma malt. The hopping schedule stayed the same but I slighlty lowered the amount of Amarillo and upped the amount of Nelson Sauvin. So where’s the funk? Well I split the batch into two fermenters. One received the same US-05 yeast as the original recipe but the second fermenter received a large pitch of Wyeast Brettanomyces Clausenii. This is supposed to be the “cleanest”, and possibly fastest of the Bretts. I hope it will give me some of the pineapple aroma that is can produce, although the reported success of this seems to be spotty. After 48 hours I wasn’t seeing any activity in the Brett fermenter. I read from several people that they were seeing lag times of 3 days, but I was still worried. Thankfully I was greeted by an enthousiasticly bubbly airlock when I came home from work on the third day. Reports say that this brett can ferment out a beer in 5 weeks. I hope thats true because I intend on serving this beer at the Alvinne International Homebrew happening on Nov 7th, next to the “normal” version.

    Further, I plan on starting with the Grand Funk… Lambics. I figure each year I will try to brew one Lambic and then in a few years I can start to play with blending a Geuze. Also in the pipes is a series of 100% Brett beers with all the other Brett strains I received from Chad. Maybe my imperial stout will also get the funky beat with some critters and oak thrown in after primary fermentation.

    – The Funk Soul Brewer

    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.