Beer Tasting: Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

My schwarzbier has been kegged for over a month, and seems to be at its peak. Tasting time!

20170903_151314Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

  • The Basics
    • 1.046 o.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.2% abv, 26 estimated IBU, 28 SRM
  • Appearance
    • Clear brown beer with a slight ruby tinge. The head is a light tan color and persistant.
  • Aroma
    • Light chocolate aroma with a slight roastiness; very nice!
  • Flavor
    • Clean and smooth, with a nice bready maltiness backed up with a bit of roasty chocolate and slight coffee notes. There is a modest bitterness, which melds quite well with the malt.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Smooth, light, and crisp; moderate carbonation and a gentle bitterness to the moderately dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Indeed! This beer has matured into a delicious and very drinkable lager. I feel like I nailed the style pretty well. Although we are squarely in the heat of summer, this is one dark beer that I don’t mind having around. It’s surprisingly refreshing! Overall, there is very little I would change about this beer. It’s nice to have another reliable session beer in my portfolio, too.
  • Overall
    • 10/10
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Peach IPA

This is a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for quite awhile…fruit beers intrigue me, and a well executed fruit IPA can be exquisite. This particular recipe is modified from the Peach IPA recipe by Mitch Steele in the March/April 2016 Zymurgy magazine. I adjusted the base malt, hops, etc., to match some of what I had in stock. I also upped the dry hop quantities to provide the more intense hop aroma that I like.

Peach IPA

  • 11.25 lb. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 0.75 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. Carapils malt (Briess)
  • 1.10 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hop pellets (14.0% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 2 oz. Helga (Southern Hallertau) hop pellets (5.6% alpha), 10 day dry hop
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hop pellets (14.0% alpha), 10 day dry hop
  • 1 oz. Mosaic hop pellets (12.25% alpha), 10 day dry hop
  • 4 oz. peach puree, added on day 3 of fermentation
  • 1 pkg. California Ale yeast (White Labs WLP001)

Target Parameters

  • Single infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minute rest, batch sparge
  • 1.063 s.g., 1.014 f.g., 6.5% abv, 64 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Water adjusted to 113 ppm Ca, 22 ppm Mg, 24 ppm Na, 194 ppm SO4, 42 ppm Cl, 170 ppm alkalinity, 76 ppm RA


  • Two days before brewing, I prepared a 2L yeast starter, and let it go for 36 hours before cold crashing in the fridge. I’ll set aside ~0.6L for a later batch.
  • I prepared my mash water and sparge water in two equal batches of 4.25 gallons. To each, I added 3.1g gypsum, 1.7 g epsom salt, and 0.7 g calcium chloride. To adjust the mash pH, I added 2 tsp (10 mL) of 75% phosphoric acid.
  • I mashed in with 4.25 gallons of water at 160.5°, to hit my mash target of 152°. After 45 minutes, I was down to 150°.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 185°, let rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.5 gallons of sweet wort with a gravity of 1.053, for 75% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops and other ingredients per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I added the final hop dose and then turned off the flame before chilling as far as I can.
  • I got the wort down to about 85°…that’s the best I could do in the midst of this heat wave! So, I transferred the wort into the fermenter and put it in the fermentation chamber overnight to chill down to 66°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.062. I brewed this beer on 1 September 2017, and pitched the yeast on 2 September 2017.
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Beer Tasting: Countdown IPA

20170827_131705This recipe isn’t my best IPA, but it’s a pretty darned good IPA.

  • The Basics
    • 1.064 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 7.1% abv, 68 estimated IBU, 9 SRM
  •  Appearance
    • Light copper color with a slight haze, pouring with a dense white head that leaves lacing on the side of the glass as it subsides to a persistent ivory colored blanket.
  • Aroma
    • Moderately prominent dank, piney aroma; quite nice and classic! I could up the aroma a touch, but it’s generally OK.
  • Flavor
    • This beer is dominated by a smooth, piney bitterness, backed up by a smooth and doughy malt profile.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately dry, with a smooth and extended bitter finish. Carbonation is moderate and appropriate for the style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Probably. This is a nice, middle-of-the-road American IPA. The hops are nice, although I should I say I don’t find the CryoHops notable one way or another. I was perhaps expecting a bit more hop character from them, given they were touted as providing twice the aroma for a given mass of hop. Maybe it’s more like 1.5x? I might up the aroma a touch, with perhaps a bit more Simcoe. As usual, the general base recipe is pretty solid.
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10
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Festivus Simplex

Time for another lager! I’ve been doing a decent number of fairly simple and light German and Bohemian style lagers; with the changing seasons, why not try something more fall-appropriate? I put together a “simple” recipe that is in the general vicinity of a festbier/Oktoberfest, with a focus on Munich malt. It doesn’t precisely fit the BJCP category, though. So, it gets a pseudo-Latin name of Festivus Simplex!

20170826_075936 (1)One goal of this recipe was to really highlight Munich malt–I had initially considered 100% Munich, but thought that might be a bit overboard. So, the grist was balanced out with pilsner and Vienna malt, along the lines of some festbier recipes I found.

For the hops, I used US Tettnang (sourced from YCH Hops)–they are absolutely delicious smelling! This is the first time I’ve sampled a hop purported to be “spicy” that really was what I think of as spicy…almost like a spice poundcake, or something. I’ll be using more of this in the future.

I was on the fence about whether or not to do a decoction, right up until the point of mash-in, but in the end I went for it! For simplicity, though, I did just a single 15 minute decoction at the end; the goal is to burnish up the color and add a bit of extra flavor character.

Festivus Simplex

  • 4.5 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 4 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann Malting)
  • 2.25 lbs. Vienna malt (Great Western Malting)
  • 1.5 oz. U.S. Tettnang hop pellets (3.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. U.S. Tettnang hop pellets (3.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp. Fermaid-K, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Saflager lager dry yeast (W34/70)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 150°, 60 minutes, 15 minute thick decoction at mash-out, batch sparge
  • 1.056 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 5.9% abv, 21 IBU, 6 SRM
  • Water adjusted to hit target of 85 Ca, 10 Mg, 13 Na, 39 SO4, 105 Cl, 115 HCO3, RA 47 ppm.


  • I built up the water, using RO with minerals for the mash and plain Claremont tap water (with Campden tablet) for the sparge. For the mash water, I used 3.75 gallons of RO water with 1 g Epsom salt and 6 g calcium chloride, along with 2.5 mL of 75% phosphoric acid (for pH balance).
  • I mashed in with the strike water at 160°, to hit my target of 150° nearly spot-on (it was about 0.4° high, but I didn’t worry because I figured it would drop over the course of the mash).
  • After 45 minutes, I pulled ~2 gallons of thick mash, raised it to 160°, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, I brought it to a boil and boiled for 15 minutes before adding it back to the mash. This raised the mash temperature to 161°.
  • I let the mash rest for a few more minutes before adding 1.25 gallons of sparge water at 165°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the mash tun.
  • Then, I added 3.4 gallons of water at 165°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the mash tun again.
  • In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.051–this equates to 84% efficiency! A higher efficiency than usual is pretty typical of my decoction mashes.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added ingredients per the schedule in the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled down to 85°. I couldn’t get much cooler with the current tap water, and completed the rest of the chill in the fermentation chamber. Once I was down to to 52°, I pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.056. I will be fermenting at 53° for ~2 weeks before doing a diacetyl rest.
  • I brewed this beer on 26 August 2017.
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Citra Blonde Ale 1.1

I desperately needed to get my taps fully filled before a new baby arrived (I was down to only two armed and operational faucets, and one of those was ready to give out at any moment!). I had a schwarzbier and an IPA spooling up within the next few weeks, but wanted to have a light and drinkable beer to replace my wheat ale once that keg kicked. Something with fast turn-around and tasty, interesting drinkability.

Time for another batch of my Citra blonde ale! This beer turned out excellent last time (nearly two years ago), and is worth another go.

Compared to my last batch, I made some very minor edits for my ingredient stockpile (different brands of malt, etc.). I also went with a single infusion, rather than multiple infusions to hit different temperature rests.

Citra Blonde Ale 1.1

  • 5 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 5 lbs. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 0.75 lb. Munich II malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. caramel malt 20L (Briess)
  • 1 Whirlfloc pellet, 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 package American ale dry yeast (US-05, Safale)

Target Parameters

  • Full volume infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, no sparge
  • 1.050 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.1% abv, 20 IBU, 5 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter
  • Water adjusted to hit 83 ppm Ca, 5.4 ppm Mg, 5.6 ppm Na, 79.4 ppm SO4, 87 ppm Cl, 50.7 ppm HCO3


  • For the mash water, I mixed 1.8 gallons of Claremont tap water with 6 gallons of RO water, in addition to 3 g gypsum, 1 g epsom salt, and 5 g calcium chloride. I also added 3.1 mL of 75% phosphoric acid, to adjust the calculated pH.
  • I heated the sparge water to 160°, added it to the mash tun, and added the grain when the water hit 156.6°.
  • After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed and then collected 6.25 gallons of runnings. These had a gravity of 1.047 (a bit higher than expected), so I added 0.25 gallons of RO water to bring the gravity down to 1.045 and increase the overall volume a bit.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding ingredients per the schedule.
  • After flame-out and the whirlpool addition, I chilled to 80° and finished the rest of the chilling in my fermentation chamber. Once the wort hit 66°, I pitched the dry yeast directly.
  • I brewed this beer on 15 July 2017, and fermented at 66° for two weeks. Starting gravity was 1.052.
  • I kegged the beer on 29 July 2017. It had a final gravity of 1.008, which works out to 5.8% abv. Then, I force carbonated.


  • The Basics
    • O.G. = 1.0542; f.g. = 1.008; 5.8% abv; 5 SRM; 20 estimated IBU
  • Appearance
    • Light gold and beautifully clear. The beer pours with a thick white head that settles to an even blanket.
  • Aroma
    • Lightly grainy and slightly sweet malty aroma; a hint of citrus behind that.
  • Flavor
    • Light, very slightly sweet and candy-like aspect, with gentle maltiness; there is a bit of orange citrus behind that. Very clean flavor, with a mild and smooth bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate carbonation, light body, with a gentle and moderately dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • As always, this is a very nice beer! I slightly prefer Great Western 2-row as a base malt, but Rahr is also respectable. I target mash-in a touch higher if doing a single infusion mash, or else follow the multi-rest schedule, because the beer ended up a bit more attenuated than expected, but that’s a minor point. The late-hopped Citra comes across really nicely, and this is a winner. As an additional variant for next time, I might follow the original Gordon Strong recipe a bit more closely and mix some Galaxy hops in with the Citra.
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10
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