Olde Persica Porter

I’m getting that itch again, to brew with new styles and new ingredients. With winter on the horizon, I want to stock up on some beers that will serve well on a chilly night next to the fire. I also recently realized I haven’t brewed with smoked malt before. So, a smoked porter seemed like just the thing to try.

In assembling the recipe, I drew heavily upon an Alaskan Smoked Porter clone from the American Homebrewers Association website. This was augmented with a Smoked Robust Porter recipe, also from AHA. Because I wanted this to be a fairly rich base porter that would stand up to the smoke, I elected to go with Vienna malt for the majority of the grist. Conveniently, I also have a decent bit still in stock. To add an American emphasis, I’m going to use whole Cascade hops from South Dakota as the bittering hops, with a charge of Willamette at the very end.

Once I got to the homebrew shop, I discovered that they had several different kinds of smoked malt in stock. I had been planning on using a beechwood-smoked rauch malt, but the owners suggested trying a peachwood-smoked malt instead. I was intrigued!

The malt itself is from Copper Fox Distillery, a Virginia-based operation that specializes in small-batch whiskeys and such. They have also started a brew malt operation, with a handful of products. Because the maltster is so new and so small, it is very difficult to find any specific information on the malts. Their website didn’t have any real information, but Southern Hills Homebrew Supply did. I also learned a bit in chatting with a local person who is helping to distribute Copper Fox malts in California. The bottom line is that this is a floor malted, smoked 2-row barley malt. The aroma and flavor profile are supposed to be a bit gentler than in traditional beechwood-smoked malt. Based on what I tasted and smelled during the brew, this very much seems to be the case. The aroma is delightfully aromatic and smoky, but the flavor in the wort is not at all overpowering.

As for the name of this recipe? Well, because I am using peach wood malt, I wanted to honor peaches. The scientific name for a peach is Prunus persica, reflecting its close kinship with plums (and thus prunes) as well as the fact that domesticated peaches entered Europe via Persia. However, peaches themselves have a deeper origin in China; the oldest fossil peaches clock in at around 2.6 million years old. As a frame of reference, our genus Homo was just getting started around that time, and the modern Homo sapiens was still 2.4 million years away!

Olde Persica Porter, just into the primary fermenter

Olde Persica Porter, just into the primary fermenter

Olde Persica Porter

  • 7 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 3 lbs. peach wood smoked 2-row malt (Copper Fox Distillery)
  • 1 lb. 80° crystal malt
  • 1 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. black (patent) malt
  • 0.5 lb. chocolate malt
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Willamette hop pellet (4.1% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Willamette hop pellet (4.1% alpha), 1 minute boil and 5 minute steep after flame-out
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 0.25 yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • White Labs California Ale yeast (WLP001)

Target Parameters

  • 1.065 o.g., 1.017 f.g., 6.3% abv, 37 IBU, 36 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter


  • Five days before brewing, I made a 2L starter. After two days, I split the starter (to create a yeast culture with 100 billion cells for later), and cold crashed the remainder in the flask for pitching on brew day.
  • I mashed in with 4.3 gallons of water at 166.7°, to hit a mash temperature of 154.5°. After 60 minutes, the mash was down to 151°. At this point, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 165°, to raise the mash to 152°.
  • I let the mash rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.5 gallons of water at 175°, let everything sit for 10 minutes, and then collected the second runnings.
  • Altogether, I collected 6.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.054, for a mash efficiency of 77%.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, and added hops and other stuff per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to 80°. Our groundwater is still too warm to get much below that!
  • Starting gravity is 1.060. This is a bit below my target (1.065), most likely because I didn’t have the boil as vigorous as it usually is. I pitched the yeast, and will be fermenting at 68°.
  • This beer was brewed on 22 October 2016, with vigorous fermentation underway within 24 hours.
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Gingerbread Winter Warmer Kegged

Today (October 16, 2016), I kegged my Gingerbread Winter Warmer. It has been fermenting for just about a month, so it seemed like a good time to keg it. I roused the yeast three or four times during primary fermentation (about once a week), to keep things moving along. Even so, the brew was a bit underattenuated–it had a final gravity of 1.030, or 10.3% abv. I think two factors might explain the relatively high gravity. First would be the high mash temperature, which should limit overall fermentability. Second, and probably most important, was the high gravity of the beer. I aerated as best I could, but am guessing that a shot of oxygen would have helped out. Now that the beer has been agitated on the ride over to the keg, I might expect a little more fermentation (but probably not much). For now, I’ll let the 2 gallons of beer in my mini-keg condition and carbonate at room temperature for about a month before tapping.

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Beer Tasting: Gondwana Pale Ale 1.3

The latest version of my Gondwana Pale Ale finished recently, but I managed to get a formal tasting in before the keg was emptied. Here’s the review!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.045; final gravity = 1.010; abv = 4.6%; estimated IBU = 39
  •  Aroma
    • A strong impression of passionfruit for me, along with other tropical fruits; really nice on the aroma.
  • Appearance
    • Wonderfully clear; there is a tiny bit of hop debris from the dry-hop bag, but that doesn’t get in the way of how nicely this beer has cleared. The beer itself is a light gold color, with a fine off-white head, that sticks around for quite awhile as a decent blanket over the beer, and then subsides to a persistent ring of foam around the edges of the glass.
  • Flavor
    • There is a definite tropical fruit impression on the hops. The malt is clean, and in the background.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a pretty dry beer–not overly so, but definitely dry. I’m not a huge fan of the finish on this–it is a bit astringent, and I’m not sure of the cause. Part of this could be due to an overly thin mash, or perhaps the mash-out temperature being too high initially? Or maybe it’s something with the hops? Is the IBU level more than anticipated? Could it be the relatively low starting gravity as compared to previous batches? I’m not sure. In any case, this is a bit different from previous batches, which were quite a bit smoother.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • The aroma and appearance on this are pretty wonderful, and the flavor is decent. Mouthfeel and finish could really be improved, though. I think more careful attention to mash conditions (temperature and volumes) would help. Given my success with previous versions of the recipe, I’ll still be brewing it again.
  • Overall
    • 5/10
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Beer Tasting: Lithographica Pilsner

The keg for my Bohemian pilsner is long past kicked, but better late than never, right?

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.053; final gravity = 1.011; abv = 5.5%; estimated IBU = 39
  •  Aroma
    • Light bready aroma, with a moderate spicy hops note. I might detect a very, very faint fruitiness, but this seems to come and go, so I’m not certain it is really there.
  • Appearance
    • Clear, but not brilliant, with a moderate yellow color. The head pours rather high when first poured, but settles down to a low head with good coverage. The head is fine and white.
  • Flavor
    • A moderate hoppiness is at the fore, moderately balanced against a decent but not overwhelming maltiness. The malt has a bready/grainy character. As I drink this, the hoppiness fades out nicely on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a beer with modest body and a medium rather than dry finish. Carbonation is moderately high.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This beer is a pretty respectable first go at a Bohemian pilsner. It’s quite drinkable, and there isn’t anything I would call a major flaw. If I do this recipe again, I would up the maltiness a touch, darken the color to more gold than yellow, and work on improving the clarity just a little. Clarity could be fixed by more careful racking, and a little bit more time lagering before initial tapping. For increased maltiness, I might add another grain or two to the malt bill (e.g., Carapils), or else boil the decoctions for a longer stretch. This would also help burnish the color to the golden sheen that is more appropriate for the style.
  • Rating
    • 6/10
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Hell Creek Amber Ale

bottleGimmick beers can be a fun way to liven up familiar styles, especially when there is a good pun involved. A friend recently located some wild (or more likely, feral) hops growing on an old homestead in eastern Montana. This happens to be right on top of the Hell Creek Formation, a ~66 million year old package of rocks that preserves some of the last dinosaurs to live on the planet. It also yields fossil amber…and a pun was born!

Hell Creek Amber Ale makes a great name–but could I capitalize on it any further? How could I build a recipe around the concept?

Early on, I made a decision to use ingredients primarily from the home region of the Hell Creek Formation (Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota). I had a small quantity of wild Hell Creek hops on-hand, and supplemented them with a few ounces of my dad’s Cascade hops from South Dakota. Malt presented a bit of a challenge, though. After some research, I learned about MaltEurop’s Montana malting facility. Fortuitously, one of their flagship products is billed as being malted from barley “grown in and around Montana.” The recipe was rounded out with a few non-thematic malts, to produce a nice American amber ale.

The base recipe is a modification of the American Amber Ale from Zainasheff and Palmer’s Brewing Classic Styles. However, I used American malt instead of English malt, and substituted Special B malt for some of the darker crystal malts suggested by the recipe. The latter gambit was to create a slightly richer flavor, evoking the deep color of fossil amber as well as the rich aromas that must have permeated the ancient Hell Creek landscape. I also modified the hop additions a bit–the only late addition was that of the wild hops, with a steeping to allow any interesting aromas and flavors to come to the forefront. The dried hops had a moderate herbal aroma, which I expect should play nicely with the caramel qualities of the specialty malts.

Hell Creek Amber Ale

  • 9 lbs. 2-row American pale malt (MaltEurop)
  • 1 lb. Munich malt
  • 0.8 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. Special B malt
  • 0.5 lb. Victory (biscuit) malt
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.44 oz. wild Hell Creek hops, 10 minute steep after boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale Yeast (White Labs, WLP001), in 1L starter

Target Parameters

  • 1.059 o.g., 1.014 f.g., 5.9% abv, 33 IBU, 14 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter


  • I mashed in with 4.75 gallons of water at 167.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 156°. It was down to 153° after 40 minutes.
  • I added 1 gallon of water at 185°, stirred, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and then collected the first runnings. Subsequently, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 180°, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, adding hops per the schedule above. At flame-out, I added the wild hops and then let them steep for 10 minutes before chilling the wort down to 80°.
  • Approximately 5.5 gallons went into the fermenter, and I pitched the yeast immediately. I’ll be fermenting the beer at 66°.
  • This beer was brewed on 10 October 2016.
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