Alta California Lager

It’s late spring in California…theoretically, this should be a warm time of the year. A few months back, I wanted to have a clear, clean, tasty Mexican-style lager on hand for the anticipated afternoons out on the patio. It’s ended up being a cooler and rainier stretch than I expected, but that hasn’t hampered my enjoyment of this beer.

I’ve never brewed a Mexican-style lager in the vein of Corona or Modelo before, so this challenge started with some research. Corn is a key ingredient–but when I stopped by my local shop, they had just sold out of their last flaked corn (everyone else had the same recipe plans, I guess)! So, I took the suggestion to try a cereal mash with corn grits. This contingency plan apparently made all of the difference.

My recipe is based primarily on the Light Mexican Lager recipe in the May/June 2017 issue of Zymurgy (by Amahl Turczyn). The name for this recipe is an homage to the old provincial name for my part of California. It has little link with anything historical, because Alta California ceased to exist before German brewing techniques were widely adopted in Mexico…

This beer is going down as a legendary batch–I had fun brewing it with my dad (we rarely get to brew together because of the distance), and the beer tastes amazing. The cereal mash was a ton of work and substantially lengthened my brew day, but the results were worth it.

IMG_20190402_072248

White corn grits, ready to go into the cereal mash

Alta California Lager

  • 5.5 lbs. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 lbs. white corn grits
  • 1.5 lb. Vienna malt (Great Western)
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.35 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. WLP940 Mexican Lager yeast (White Labs), prepared in 1.75 L starter

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash with cereal mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.055 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 5.7% abv, 44 IBU, 8 SRM
  • “Mexican lager water”, built from ~8.5 gallons of RO water with 1.5 g of calcium chloride, to hit ~13 ppm Ca and 23 ppm Cl, -9 RA

Procedure

  • This was a complicated brew session! Lots of moving parts, all happening at roughly the same time.
  • A few days in advance, I made a 1.75L starter, letting it ferment out and then cold-crashing. The supernate was decanted off before pitching.
  • My cereal mash procedure followed recommendations from Milk The Funk. I combined 0.5 lb. of the pilsner malt with the 2 lb. of white corn grits, adding water until things were at the right consistency. This was around a gallon of RO water. I added water until the grains approximated a “thin gruel” consistency, and held it at 158° for 5 minutes. Then, I heated the cereal mash to a boil, stirring constantly for 30 minutes. We added water as needed to keep it from getting too thick.
  • As the cereal mash was nearing its end, we started the main mash, using 3 gallons of RO water with ~0.5 g of CaCl, heated to 138°. We hit a mash temperature (for just the barley, exclusive of the barley and corn in the cereal mash) of 133°. I added 6 mL of 88% lactic acid, and then added in the near-boiling cereal mash. This brought the temperature up to 145°. I added another 0.5 gallon of water at near boiling to hit around 148.5°.
  • After 75 minutes, the mash was down to 143°. I added 1 gallon of water at 200° to bring the mash up to 149°. I let this sit for 15 more minutes, and then used an iodine test to check for conversion. Success! The mash was converted completely.
  • I collected the first runnings, and then added 4.5 gallons of RO water with 1 g of CaCl, to raise the mash up to 160°. After 10 minutes, I vorlaufed and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, we collected 7.1 gallons of runnings, with a gravity of 1.037. This equates to 79% mash efficiency!
  • Because my gravity was a little low and my volume a little high, I boiled the runnings for 20 minutes before adding the hops. This was followed by a 60 minute boil, adding the various ingredients per the recipe. Towards the end of the boil, the gravity was up to 1.048, a little higher than I wanted. So, I added 0.25 gallon of RO water for adjustment.
  • After the full 80 minutes of boiling, I chilled the wort down to ~80° and transferred to the fermenter. I chilled it down further to 50° before oxygenating (30 seconds) and pitching the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 2 April 2019, starting with a 50° fermentation temperature as mentioned above. On 3 April, I raised the temperature to 53°. On 9 April, I raised the temperature to 60°, because I wanted to kick this through quickly.
  • I raised the temperature to 62° on 12 April, and 67° on 14 April.
  • Final gravity was 1.010, which equates to 4.6% abv. I cold crashed to 33° on 16 April 2019.
  • I kegged the beer using a closed transfer on 24 April 2019. This was done to reduce oxygen pick-up and keep the beer fresher for longer.
  • I force-carbonated the beer,noted that it had dropped pretty clear within about 2 weeks, and crystal clear within about 3 weeks. By the time of my tasting (~4 weeks after kegging), this beer was brilliant!

IMG_20190514_161406

Tasting

  • Aroma
    • Clean, slight hint of corn, a little bit of hop spiciness
  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, light gold in color. The tall white head settles down to a rim around the glass as the beer is consumed
  • Flavor
    • Crisp and clean; the grainy malt has a hint of corn behind it, and that is backed up by an assertive but not overwhelming hop bitterness. The finish is tilted towards the bitter end versus the malty end, but not overly so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Off-dry, moderately high carbonation, smooth finish
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is (modestly speaking) an amazing beer! I’m incredibly impressed by how this one rounded out. It’s eminently drinkable, and ridiculously beautiful in appearance. When I brought it to my brew club meeting, several people thought that I had thrown a commercial ringer into the mix! I’ve never had a lager clear so completely and so quickly. I suspect it’s a combination of the yeast strain and cereal mash–next time I brew this recipe, I won’t be making any changes or taking any shortcuts!
  • Overall
    • 10/10
Posted in lager | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Classico Pale Ale

Following on my series of IPAs and pale ales, I recently worked on a “classic” American pale ale. Again, I wanted to avoid the really tropical notes (which I like, but have been getting burned out on), and elected to highlight the Falconer’s Flight blend here. It was a good success!

Classico Pale Ale

  • 5 lb. Maris Otter Malt (Bairds)
  • 5 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 8 oz. crystal 40 malt (Great Western)
  • 8 oz. crystal 60 malt (Great Western)
  • 0.7 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (~4% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Falconer’s Flight 7C’s hop pellets (9.8% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Safale US-05 American Ale dry yeast
  • 1 pkg. Mangrove Jack’s M44 US West Coast Yeast
  • 3 oz. Falconer’s Flight 7C’s hop pellets (9.5% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.055 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 5.7% abv, 44 IBU, 8 SRM
  • Claremont water with 1 tsp. of gypsum added during boil

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 164°, to hit a mash target of 152°. After 60 minutes, I added 1 gallon of water at ~185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected first runnings. Then, I added 3.3 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.046, for 76% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding everything per the recipe. After 60 minutes of boiling, I added the whirlpool hops, waited 5 minutes, and then began to chill the wort.
  • I transferred the wort to the fermenter, pitched the yeast, and set it to ferment at 67°.
  • I brewed this beer on 1 April 2019. Starting gravity was 1.054, and final gravity was 1.012 when I kegged it on 14 April 2019. This works out to 5.5% abv.

IMG_20190508_202711

Tasting Notes

  • Aroma
    • Hop-forward aroma, with light citrus and pine together, and a mild caramel quality behind that.
  • Appearance
    • Light copper color, hazy, with a persistent off-white head.
  • Flavor
    • The hops are at the front of the flavor, but aren’t overpowering. The hop flavor profile is a combination of citrus and tropical fruit with a hint of pine behind that. The malt flavor is slightly grainy/bready, with a faint caramel note. Really nice!
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, with appropriate level of carbonation. The finish is smooth and off-dry.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! I really like this particular recipe, and think it pretty well represents what an American pale ale should be. The only minor concern (were I brewing this for competition) is the haze, which would undoubtedly settle out given more time. Otherwise, what a great beer!
  • Overall
    • 9/10
Posted in pale ale, tastings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Warrior’s IPA

IMG_20190216_213732

Transferring the wort into the fermenter

Today’s American IPAs are awesome–I love hops like Mosaic and Citra, to the point where I have been starting to hit fruity hop fatigue. The antidote? Make a beer with the most piney, resiny, harshest old school hops I could find.

Warrior’s IPA

  • 12 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 1.5 lb. rye malt (Viking)
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 60 malt
  • 4.4 oz. crystal 80 malt
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (6.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (~3.5% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 2 pkg. Safeale American Ale yeast (US-05)
  • 3 oz. Columbus hop pellets (14.0% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 154°, no sparge
  • 1.065 o.g., 1.016 f.g., 6.5% abv, 61 IBU, 9 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, augmented with 1 tsp. gypsum

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.75 gallons of water at 162°, to hit a mash temperature of 151.7°. After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed and collected 5.75 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.055. This equated to a fairly miserable measured mash efficiency of 60%. (After this, I re-aligned my mill, in case that was the problem–I also figure the percentage of rye might be partly to blame, too).
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, added the whirlpool hops, let sit for 5 minutes, and then chilled.
  • I transferred the beer to the fermenter, and fermented at 66°.
  • I brewed the beer on 16 February 2019, and kegged on 9 March 2019.
  • Starting gravity was 1.065, and final gravity was 1.011, for 7.2% abv.

Overall Impressions

I served this beer for a party, and it kicked before I could really get a good tasting. I didn’t even get a good picture! It was really popular with the hopheads, definitely delivering on the hop flavors and aromas that I wanted–rich, resiny, and piney. I felt like it needed a bit more time to mature, because the malt flavors weren’t quite there yet. Another few weeks might have helped. Oh well…I guess that means I have to brew this again!

Posted in India Pale Ale, IPA, tastings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pale Ale 2019

Completely uncreative name. I needed a pale ale, this was the first one I brewed in 2019, this is what I got. This batch was a bit of a mutt, with pilsner malt as most of the grist, American hops, and Nottingham yeast. I basically wanted to play around with ingredients, and see what a pale ale outside of the norm might be like.

Pale Ale 2019

  • 5 lb. 14 oz. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 lb. 15 oz. Vienna malt (Great Western)
  • 1 lb. 12 oz. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 8 oz. Crystal 40 (Great Western)
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha est.), 60 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha est.), 1 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham yeast (Lallemand)
  • 2 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (13.6% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (9.3% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, no sparge
  • 1.049 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.9% abv, 39 IBU, 6 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, augmented with 5 g of epsom salt and 2 g of calcium chloride.

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 158°. It was too hot, so I dropped in a frozen water bottle.
  • The mash was down to 153.6° after 40 minutes. I elected to do a 45 minute mash with this batch.
  • I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.043, for 69% mash efficiency. This is slightly lower than if I had done a batch sparge, so no surprises here.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and other ingredients per the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled to 70°, transferred with aeration, and pitched the yeast. Starting gravity was 1.050.
  • I brewed this beer on 5 January 2019, and fermented at 67°.
  • I kegged the beer on 24 January 2019. Final gravity was 1.015, down from 1.050, for 4.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Clear, gold beer, with a persistent white head that continues as an even blanket over the surface of the beer.
  • Aroma
    • Hop-forward aroma, with citrus and piney notes.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately bitter, with a flavor tipped towards the hoppy side. The tropical and citrus aspects of the hops come through, although there isn’t much in the way of malt flavor.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side for my preference. Carbonation is appropriate for the style, and the finish is nicely rounded.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Probably not, at least in its current form. Pilsner malt just doesn’t make for a pale ale in my flavor wheelhouse, so I might swap that for 2-row. The hop profile is dead-on perfect, especially for a good springtime pale ale. This beer has improved greatly as it matured–I didn’t care for it at all when first kegged, and now it is a pretty drinkable brew.
  • Overall:
    • 6.5/10
Posted in pale ale, tastings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

GBP70 – Bohemian Pilsner Recipe & Tasting

In honor of my dad’s 70th birthday (he introduced me to homebrewing, after all!), I brewed a Bohemian-style pilsner. It was pretty tasty, and sadly didn’t last long enough even for me to do a formal tasting. I made the mistake of serving it at a party, and the keg was finished before I could blink!

GBP70 (Greg’s Birthday Pilsner 70)

  • 10.5 lbs. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2.3 oz. melanoidin malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.3 oz. Carafa Special III malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 2.25 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. W34/70 Saflager Lager Yeast (Fermentis)

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 150°, no sparge
  • 1.049 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 5.2% abv, 38 IBU, 5 SRM
  • Water built from RO to hit targets of 7 ppm Ca, 2 ppm Mg, 2 ppm Na, 5 ppm SO4, 5 ppm Cl, 15 ppm HCO3

Procedure

  • To 7.75 gallons of RO water, I added 0.6 g baking soda, 0.4 g CaCl, and 0.3 g gypsum.
  • I heated the mash water to ~160°, added to the mash tun, allowed to cool to 155.4°, and then added the grains along with 10 mL of 88% lactic acid.
  • I hit 150.7° on the mash temperature–not too bad! It was down to 148.7° after 45 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I collected 6.5 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.041. This works out to 67% efficiency. That’s a fair bit lower than my typical efficiency (73 to 75%), but not unexpected given the no-sparge methods. I added 0.25 gallons of RO water to bring up the volume in the kettle.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops and other ingredients per the schedule.
  • I chilled the wort to 75° in the kettle, and chilled the rest of the way down to 49° after transferring to the fermenter. I oxygenated for 60 minutes at this point, and then pitched the dry yeast directly into the wort.
  • Starting gravity was 1.046 on 12 January 2019.
  • I raised the brew temperature to 64° on 26 February 2019, and cold crashed on 28 February 2019. I kegged the beer (using a closed-transfer technique, directly into the CO2-purged keg) on 9 March 2019.
  • Final gravity was 1.010, down from 1.046. This equates to 4.9% abv.

IMG_20190327_202833General Tasting Impressions

I didn’t get to do a formal tasting for this one, and it was finished before it really hit its ultimate peak, but overall I’m pretty happy with it. The malt flavor was spot-on, and I think I’ve finally iterated into a good balance of melanoidin malt within my no-decoction Bohemian pilsner recipes. The beer was pretty clear, but would have cleared to brilliant with another week or two in the keg. The head and head retention were fairly good also, but not the best I’ve ever had. Not sure why that was. I’m still chasing a perfect Saaz hop aroma in my Bohemian pilsners; it’s just a matter of finding the right hops with the right freshness. The ones I used in this batch weren’t awful, but they weren’t awfully exceptional, either. Overall, I would give this recipe 8/10, with targeted improvements to mainly chase the best possible hop flavor.

Posted in lager, pilsner, tastings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment