My latest session IPA was a bit of a kitchen sink beer, but also one where I wanted to create a slightly more “traditional” northwest IPA. That means citrus and pine for the hops, and no fear of the crystal malt. To ground my malt character, I used Vienna malt as the base, with a healthy dose of rye malt on top of that. I used about 7% crystal malt to add some body and depth. The overall results were pretty fantastic!
8 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
1.5 lb. rye malt (Viking)
0.5 lb. crystal 40 (Great Western)
0.25 lb. crystal 60 (Great Western)
2 oz. rice hulls
0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alph), 60 minute boil
0.4 oz. Chinook hop pellets (13.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 3 minute boil
1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1 pkg. American West Coast Ale yeast (BRY-97)
1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
0.5 oz. Cryo-Cascade hop pellets (12.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
0.4 oz. Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) hop pellets (15.5% alpha), dry hop in keg
1.047 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.5% abv, 7 SRM, 46 IBU
Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
Claremont water, with 3 g gypsum and 5 g epsom salts added to kettle during chilling, to hit approximate mixture of 51 ppm Ca, 32 ppm Mg, 71 ppm Na, 156 ppm SO4, 75 ppm Cl, ~100 ppm HCO3
I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water, heated to 167°. Once it had cooled down to 163°, I added the grains, and hit a mash temperature of 153°. I added ~2 mL of 88% lactic acid to bring the mash pH down a touch.
Around 30 minutes in, I added 2 gallons of water at 175°, to raise the mash temperature to 157°.
After 60 minutes of mashing, I collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3 gallons of water with 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to neutralize carbonates. This should result in around ~100 ppm HCO3.
I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and such per the recipe.
After 60 minutes, I began the chilling process. At this point, I realized that I had forgotten to add the gypsum and epsom salts I had intended to add earlier, so boiled them in a cup of water and put this into the wort.
Once I had chilled a bit, I transferred to the fermenter and then chilled the rest of the way, down to 68°, in my fermentation chamber.
I brewed this beer on 8 August 2020, and fermented at 66°. Starting gravity was 1.048.
I brought the beer up to ambient garage temperature (78° to 80°) on 15 August 2020, to finish out fermentation.
I kegged the beer on 21 August 2020, adding 2.85 oz. of corn sugar for natural carbonation along with the dry hops in a bag. I let it sit at ambient for about a week, before chilling and finishing carbonation via forced CO2.
Deep gold in color, with an orange tinge, and only a slight haze. This beer dropped surprisingly clear after ~2 weeks in the keezer! A persistent off-white head holds modest lacing along the side of the glass.
Hop forward, with citrus/orange at the front, and a bit of earthiness behind that. Yeast character is clean, and not much in the way of malt is noticeable.
Bitterness level is moderately high, with an orange/citrusy character. It’s distinctly tilted towards the hops, with the malt in the background in terms of balance. Malt character is grainy with only a hint of caramel notes, and avoiding any perception of sweetness. I get a touch of rye spice as the beer warms up, but I’m surprised the rye doesn’t come through more prominently. That’s probably an okay thing, though, in that it doesn’t overwhelm the beer. As I finish more of the glass, the pine character of the hops starts to shine through.
Medium-light bodied, with an extended dry finish and a lingering bitterness. Moderate carbonation.
Would I brew this again?
This is one of the better session IPAs I’ve done over the years. It’s got sufficient character to be interesting, and enough body to keep it from seeming thin. The citrus character is very nice, and I think the blend of hops is spot-on for this kind of beer. It’s squarely in the northwest IPA tradition, with plenty of citrus and not much of the tropical fruit character so common in IPAs nowadays. It’s interesting that the pine character manifests a bit late as I drink the beer, and same for the rye notes. That’s okay by me, though. I could certainly play with the hops more, but the grain bill is pretty close to perfect.
The past month of brewing has been a bit scattershot, with various styles in progress and various styles on tap. I’ve not been bored, though!
Beer Batch Updates
Last weekend (September 5), I took the leap and fermented a batch with kveik. This yeast culture of Norwegian origin has been all the rage lately, but I’ve been a bit hesitant to dip my toes into the water. Nearly all of the recipes I’ve found have been in the 7 to 10% range of abv, which just doesn’t interest me that much, at least in keg-sized quantities. Also, I have a love/hate relationship with many very “character-rich” yeasts (e.g., some Belgian strains). Eventually, I found a pale ale recipe that was ~5%, which I modified further for hops and gravity. In the end, I am making a session-strength American pale ale using experimental African hops. I brewed on 5 September 2020, right in the midst of a major heatwave. It was over 110° on brew day, so a natural fit for kveik. The yeast packet (an Omega Yeast strain, Hornendal) had a really intriguing citrus aroma–this bodes well! I pitched at 90°, and the blow-off tube showed slow activity within 8 hours, and it was vigorously bubbling along less than 18 hours later. Visible fermentation activity had ceased within about 5 days, and I pulled a sample yesterday. It seems to be dropping surprisingly clear already! The yeast character is less strong than I expected, too, with not much in the way of esters. I’ll probably keg it either this weekend or in the next few days.
I’ve got two lagers in progress at the moment, the German-style pilsner mentioned last time as well as a Vienna lager. The Vienna lager is a historical-type recipe, using strictly Vienna malt and Saaz hops. It will be a bit lighter than what is usually sold as Vienna lager, but I’m honestly okay with that. The German pilsner had around 18 days at fermentation temperatures around 54°, and the Vienna lager had about 10 days at those temperatures. I raised the fermenters to 60° over a multi-day period, with a 12 hour rest at 60° before cycling back down with ambient temperature drops of ~5° per day. Right now, they’re both sitting at around 33°, and will be kegged fairly soon.
What’s On Tap?
The session RyePA just went on tap (I finally kicked the amber ale keg!)…it had about two weeks of cold conditioning, and initial samples taste really good. If I didn’t know, I would have expected the beer was much richer than the 4.5% abv that it clocked in at. Expect a full tasting on this one soon.
My Berliner weisse is drinking really well on summer afternoons. I’ll be a bit sad when this keg is gone, but I think I’m also just as glad I don’t have five gallons of the stuff, no matter how tasty it is. A small 6 to 10 ounce pour is usually plenty for me or my wife at any one time, so we’re definitely savoring the beer as we go along. Perhaps it will become an annually brewed recipe!
The Munich helles has cleared up absolutely perfectly, and is such a delicious lager. Two weeks after my post on this, the beer is definitively brilliant in appearance. It really was worth the extra lagering time!
What’s Coming Up?
I’m….not sure what I want to do next. I should probably do an ale or something relatively quick turn-around before going back to a sequence of lagers. I’ll be looking through my recipe books to see what’s good! At the moment, I’m leaning towards a brown ale, but we’ll see.
I’ll be repitching the yeast from my German pils (WLP820) once the beer is kegged. I’m thinking a Munich malt-dominated lager, and/or a rebrew of Stygimoloch Bock.
Other Than Beer
I’ve been experimenting with some of the non-alcoholic spirits and mixers out there, to have flavorful alternatives for mixed drinks. Here are some quick reviews:
Monday Non-Alcoholic Gin is pricey, but one of the better ones I’ve tried. It’s not a perfect gin substitute, but it is interesting in many of recipes. I find it doesn’t work well in a martini, because it just seems a little thin (I used real vermouth in that attempt). Straight-up on ice, it gets watered down pretty quickly, too. But…as a G&T, it’s quite good (esp. with my homemade tonic), and it did well in a Bee Sting as well as a blackberry-balanced drink (see the picture below). So, the short assessment is that if you have other interesting ingredients, the Monday N-A gin does well; on its own it’s just not quite the same.
Ritual is one of the more affordable (i.e., cheaper) lines of non-alcoholic spirits, and also pretty variable.
The whiskey equivalent is…not terribly great. It’s just a little too cloying, and the wood flavor needs to be very carefully balanced to avoid too intense of a peat flavor. The consistency is almost (but not quite) syrupy, which is a bit disconcerting on the tongue.
The gin is the better of the ones I’ve sampled. Cucumber is the dominant note on this one, and like the Monday “gin” it really needs to be mixed with other stuff rather than enjoyed on its own. It makes for a nice variant on gin and tonic.
I have a bottle of the tequila substitute, but haven’t used it in any drinks yet. The taste and aroma are in the ballpark, I suppose.
My go-to mid-afternoon refresher is a bit of Amoretti craft puree in some carbonated water. I’ve got both the blood orange and peach flavors on hand right now…the blood orange one is my favorite of the two!
The cost per bottle of puree is somewhat pricey (~$29), but assuming you get about 90 12-oz. servings of sparkling water, it’s far cheaper than the flavored waters at the store. I figure it’s around 24 cents of ingredients per 12-oz. serving of flavored water made at home (12 cents puree, 12 cents carbonated water made by Soda Stream), versus between 37 and 72 cents to buy flavored sparkling water, depending on brand. So, it’s cheaper and generates far less waste!
As summer and summer temperatures drag on here in southern California, I’m spending my brewing energy on light, flavorful, and refreshing beers. This often means lagers, but sometimes it’s nice to play on the sour side of the street. A few years back, I brewed an award-winningBerliner Weisse, which tasted fantastic. I’ve been wanting to revisit that style and that recipe for awhile, and finally made some time this summer.
For my 2020 brew, I rolled with a similar recipe to my 2016 version, except for the sour pitch. Last time, I used Omega Labs OYL-605 lacto blend. This time around, I had a satchet of Lallemand’s Wildbrew Sour Pitch, which had already been opened for my Raspberry Belgian. Not wanting to waste a good culture, I made the decision to use this instead. I didn’t have to make a starter, which was a nice bonus. I switched in 2-row for pilsner malt, to up the malt character a little for such a low gravity beer. Finally, for the main fermentation, I made the very minor substitution of US-05 instead of WLP001.
0.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 8 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1 pkg. Amercan Ale Yeast (US-05)
1.031 s.g., 1.007 f.g., 3.2% abv, 3 SRM, 5 IBU
Full volume, no-sparge infusion mash, 152°; 10 minute initial boil, kettle sour; 60 minute secondary boil with hops, nutrients, and finings
Claremont water, unadjusted
I mashed in with 4.8 gallons of water at 155°, to hit 151° in the mash. I added 2 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust mash pH.
After 20 minutes, the mash was down to 149°. After 60 minutes of total mash time, I vorlaufed and collected the runnings. I only had a gravity of 1.026, for 65% efficiency.
I boiled for 10 minutes, chilled the wort down to 102°, and added 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to bring down the pH. Then, I added 5 g of Sour Pitch culture, and let it sit on a heating pad for ~100° temperature maintenance. This was started on 24 July 2020.
After 24 hours, I sampled the wort. It wasn’t quite tart enough yet, so I decided to let it go another 24 hours. When I sampled it on 26 July 2020, it was less tart than expected, but I figured 48 hours at 100° was enough time for the bacteria to work their magic.
I boiled the soured runnings for 60 minutes, and added the hops and other finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I chilled the wort and transferred it to the fermenter.
Starting gravity was 1.031, with ~3.25 gallons into the fermenter on 26 July 2020. I started fermenting at 66°.
I moved the beer to ambient temperature on 8 August 2020, to let it finish up.
I kegged the beer on 13 August 2020, putting it in one of my 2.5 gallon kegs. I added 3.95 oz. of corn sugar for natural carbonation, sealed it up, and let it sit for awhile.
Final gravity was 1.008, down from 1.031, for 3% abv. At the time of kegging, the beer had a gorgeous floral aroma, almost like orange blossom honey.
I checked on the natural keg pressure over a few days, as the keg sat at ambient temperatures. On 21 August (8 days post kegging), the keg had hit 32 psi (~2.4 volumes of CO2). On 23 August, the keg had hit 40 psi (~2.8 volumes of CO2). I gave it another day or two, there was no change in pressure, so I put the keg in the lagering chamber and topped up the carbonation level.
I measured the final pH at around 3.6.
Pale straw color and hazy, with a creamy white head that completely subsides after a few minutes.
Tart, citrus blossom aroma, with a bit of floral honey. Really pleasant! There is a bit of a raw bread dough character behind all of it.
Lemony tartness dominates, with the doughy malt character in the background. The level of sourness is moderately high, and it is a clean sour. I don’t really pick up any hop notes, which is expected given the low level of hopping.
Crisp and dry, but not astringent. Effervescent and highly carbonated, with a light body that makes this very easy to drink.
Would I brew this again?
Yes! This isn’t a style I want all of the time, or in massive quantities, but it’s really nice every once in awhile. This is a different take on the beer from the 2016 version I made, as expected with a different sour culture. It seems a bit less sour, but is still really nicely balanced. The aroma really is fine on this one, and a true highlight of the beer.
I’ve been trying to get out ahead of my lagering schedule, by having a few lagers in the pipeline at a time. A minor, but consistent, flaw in my lagers has been that they have a slight haze when first put on tap. I primarily suspect that’s because I just don’t give them enough lagering time. Typically, they might be only 4 or 5 weeks post-brewing, with perhaps only two weeks at most of cold conditioning (<35°) prior to tapping. That’s just not enough time. I’m also not (usually) inclined to rush things with gelatin, because it’s another potential point of oxidation on what are often fairly delicate beers. If I’m going to all the work of making a lager, I want it to taste just as great at the start of the keg as at the finish of the keg!
So, this summer I’ve been working to build up a backlog of beer to allow a bit more time for full conditioning. It’s not always successful–“Mow the Damn Lawn, Farke” was on tap only two weeks after kegging–but I’ve certainly gotten better.
For this round, my base recipe followed Gordon Strong’s helles in Modern Homebrew Recipes, with some modifications for ingredients on-hand as well as process. I did a shorter step mash schedule, skipping the 131° rest in the original recipe and going straight to 148° for the first rest. I also used W34/70 instead of a bock yeast, with a repitch of the yeast cake from my Tremonia Lager. I didn’t have Belgian aromatic malt on hand, so I used Carahell instead. Also, I used Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets instead of US Vanguard, a rare case as of late in which I am using the German variety instead of American hop equivalents!
8.75 lb. Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
1 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
0.25 lb. Carahell malt (Weyermann)
2 oz. Carapils malt (Briess)
1.55 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (3.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
Saflager W34/70, repitch of yeast from previous batch
1.046 o.g., 1.008 f.g., 17 IBU, 4 SRM, 5.0% abv
Full-volume infusion step mash, 40 minute rest at 148°, 15 minute rest at 158°, 15 minute rest at 168°
Claremont tap water, alkalinity neutralized by 88% lactic acid
For my 4 gallons of initial strike water, I added 3.6 mL of 88% lactic acid to neutralize alkalinity, along with a Campden tablet.
I mashed in at 155°, to hit a 147.8° mash temperature. I added 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust pH. The mash was down to 145° after 25 minutes.
45 minutes after the initial infusion, I added 6.25 quarts of near-boiling water to raise the mash temperature to 157°. The water was added over a 5 minute period. After 15 minutes, the temperature was down to 154° or so.
At this point (~60 minutes into the mash), I added the rest of my hot water (~3 gallons) to hit a final mash rest of 167°.
After 10 minutes, I vorlaufed and collected the full volume of runnings in the kettle. I got 7.1 gallons at a gravity of 1.041, for 77% mash efficiency.
I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the schedule.
After a 90 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled down to ~75°, before transferring to the fermenter.
I let the fermenter chill the rest of the way down to 50°, and gave it a 30 second burst of pure oxygen before pitching the yeast.
I brewed the beer on 24 June 2020, with a starting gravity of 1.047.
The first week of fermentation was at 50°, and I let the fermenter free-rise to 54° on July 1. I let it further rise to 58° (July 3) and 60° (July 4), before chilling to 55° (July 5), 50° (July 6), and then 45° and 40° over an 8 hour period (July 7). I chilled further to 35° (July 8) and 33° (July 9), and let it lager on the yeast at that temperature until kegging.
I kegged the beer on July 24, using a closed transfer followed by force carbonation. The beer was pretty clear, but not perfectly clear at this point.
Final gravity was 1.008, down from 1.047, for 5.2% abv.
Pours with a beautiful, full white head, that is quite persistent. Pale gold in color and very clear, but just a touch off of brilliant. It’s a gorgeous beer!
Malty and ever-so-slightly sweet, with a touch of hop spice.
Full maltiness, with a really pleasant and rounded character. A clean but firm bitterness; I would say the bitterness tilts towards medium/medium-low, with a slight spice character. The bitterness could be notched back very slightly, but not by much.
Moderate carbonation, with a smooth and slightly dry finish.
Would I brew this again?
Yes! This is a really enjoyable recipe, and I feel like it nails the malt character quite well. It’s a much better version of a Munich helles than my last one, and it definitely benefited from a longer lagering time than I often get. I might edge the bitterness back a tiny bit. Also, I will probably play around with malt brands and hop varieties in future version, but the proportions and balance are pretty much right where I want them. This is a refreshing late summer lager!
The past month has been a fun one for brewing, with some kettle souring experiments and a bit of kegging. Pacing hasn’t been too frantic, and I’ve had some enjoyable warm evenings to slowly savor a glass on the patio.
Beer Batch Updates
On August 8, I brewed a session “ryePA”, aiming for a nice drinkable West Coast-style beer with a relatively traditional hop profile. The recipe is 77% Vienna malt, 15% rye malt, 5% crystal 40, and 3% crystal 60. Warrior and Chinook hops make up the bittering additions, with a late hop addition of whole cone Cascade and BRY-97 for the yeast. Once it is fermented out, I will be dry hopping with Amarillo, CTZ, and Cryo-Cascade. Brewing targets are for ~4.5% abv and ~45 IBU.
My Munich helles-style lager has been lagering for nearly a month now, and it’s super tasty. It clocks in at 5.2% abv, with a starting gravity of 1.047 and a final gravity of 1.008. I’m glad that I stacked up a few back-to-back lager brewing sessions, so that at least a few of them will get some proper lagering time before they go on tap. I expect this helles should have at least another week before I’ll have it on the main set of taps in the house.
For my first kettle souring project of the summer, I did a rebrew of my Raspberry Belgian sour. I’ve madeit a few times in the past, and it’s one of my favorite recipes (and my wife’s too!). Because it’s so quick on turn-around, it was ready just as my one of my taps opened up. I soured the batch on 18 July, boiled and pitched the main Belgian wit yeast on 19 July, added the raspberry puree on 23 July, and then kegged on 1 August 2020. It went on tap on 8 August, so just under three weeks from grain to glass.
My second kettle sour of the month was a Berliner weisse-style beer. I did a small batch of ~3 gallons, using a 50/50 mix of 2-row malt and wheat malt. I kettle soured with Lallemand’s Wildbrew Sour Pitch, for a total of two days. I was a bit surprised that it didn’t become as puckeringly sour as I expected–a quick check of the fermented showed it at around a pH of 3.8. The sample I drew from the fermenter yesterday has an absolutely delightful floral and citrus aroma, and I think this will be a superb beer when I get it on tap. I soured starting on 24 July, and boiled/pitched the main yeast on 26 July 2020. This one got kegged on 13 August, with 3% abv.
My kolsch-style ale cycled on tap and got kicked over just a few weeks…we were drinking it pretty steadily, because it made such a nice beer at the end of a warm day, and I did some growler swaps with it too. I was really pleased with how the beer stayed super fresh and drinkable through the entire run of the keg, with no real signs of oxidation that I could detect. The aroma and flavor were just as great on Day 1 as they were on the final glass!
Last weekend, I brewed a German-style pilsner, with the hope that it will age for awhile before going on tap. I’m aiming to have it be in the <4.5% abv range, but we’ll see how it turns out overall!
I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for some time, and am pretty pleased with the results. I’ve done a few pilsner-style beers with 2-row now, and I’m continually interested to note that you can definitely taste the difference in malt character versus pilsner malt. 2-row is just a little richer and more “malty,” and can help jazz up the flavors on a beer that’s otherwise intended to be otherwise inoffensive.
What’s Coming Up?
Tomorrow I’m brewing some sort of lager. Not sure what yet. All I know is it will use W34/70, because that’s what I’ve got for dry yeast.