Beer Tasting: Cerveza de Jamaica

IMG_20180706_162520I kegged this batch on 12 May 2018. It has been on tap for awhile now, and I’ve really been enjoying it. Better do a tasting before it’s all gone.

Cerveza de Jamaica

  • The Basics
    • 1.048 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.8% abv, 11 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Appearance
    • Pours with a tall and dense pink head, which persists wonderfully as the beer is consumed. The beer itself is a purplish pink color and slightly hazy. The beer has cleared up considerably since it first went on tap.
  • Aroma
    • Hibiscus, with a bit of tartness and spice behind that.
  • Flavor
    • Tart, with a slight hibiscus note next to a smooth and subtle maltiness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Fairly light-bodied and highly carbonated, with a medium dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a wonderful beer, and perfectly refreshing for the current warm weather. In tasting opinions from other folks, it was suggested to up the hibiscus just a touch (to help it come through more distinctly in the taste) and also to add a bit more citrus character. To this end, I’m going to increase the amount of hibiscus in my next batch, and also up the citrus peel.
  • Overall
    • 9/10
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Thumbspike Saison 2.2

The Lake Arrowhead Brew Festival is around the corner, and I’ve promised to bring some beers for my club’s booth. A nice saison seems in order–it’s the same recipe I brought last year, with only a minor change for the pilsner malt variety (Barke instead of Château Pilsen). I really liked this beer, and it went over well at the festival, too. I guesstimated on the hop alpha acid, following that from last year’s laboratory-verified measurements.

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Thumbspike Saison 2.2

  • 9.25 lbs. Barke Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.8 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.056 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 6.9% abv, 25 IBU, 6 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • 60 minute mash at 150°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 1.5 gallons of RO water and 2.2 gallons of Claremont tap water (3.7 gallons total) to hit a mash temperature of 150°. I added 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer. The mash was down to 147° after 60 minutes. At this point, I batch sparged with 1.2 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings) and 3.5 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings).
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.044, for 74% efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops per the schedule.
  • After cooling, I transferred to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.055, pretty much right on target.
  • I brewed this beer on 7 July 2018, and am fermenting it at 75°.
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Beer Tasting: Try Again Bohemian Pilsner

My recent version of a Bohemian pilsner has been on tap for a few weeks, and is at its peak for enjoyment. Today, I did a head-to-head with the classic flagship for the style, Pilsner Urquell.

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Head-to-head Bohemian pilsners! Pilsner Urquell is in the glass on the left, and my homebrew version is at right.

Try Again Bohemian Pilsner

  • The Basics
    • 1.053 s.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.2% abv, 36 IBU, 5 SRM
  • Appearance
    • Pours with a fine white head with excellent persistance. The beer itself is a golden hue, nearly an exact match for Pilsner Urquell but perhaps just a notch lighter. It is very clear, but not quite brilliant (Urquell has a slight edge here). In terms of appearance, mine is equal in color, better in head (and head retention), and needs slight improvement in clarity.
  • Aroma
    • My beer tips a little bit more towards malt prominence; there is a very slight spice note from the Saaz hops, but that’s still not quite where it should be. Urquell has the hop note perfectly, so I give it a slight edge on this count.
  • Flavor
    • Bitterness levels are not quite evenly matched between Urquell and mine; Urquell comes across as a bit more bitter. Mine has a nice malt character, but this is slightly at the expense of the hops. The malt on my homebrew is rich and bready, and the bitterness stands well against that. The finish is balanced well. Relative to Urquell, it tips more towards the malt than bitterness on the finish, and I prefer the hoppier Urquell version a bit more.
  • Mouthfeel
    • My brew has a medium body and moderate carbonation. Urquell is definitely drier than my beer, with a more extended and more bitter finish. The finish on mine is smoother yet I prefer the Urquell “bite” just a touch.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes, with a few minor modifications! There is lots I like about my beer, such as the appearance and malt character. I do feel like it could be a bit drier and crisper (relative to Urquell), because the hops are just a tiny bit “flabby”. My main adjustment would be to increase the hopping, and mash at a slightly lower temperature to dry out the beer a bit. I might also try halving the melanoidin contribution; I think it might be contributing some unfermentables that keep the beer from being as dry as it might be. The Barke pilsen malt that I used in this recipe has plenty of character on its own, anyhow!
  • Overall
    • 7.5/10

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Summertime Session IPA

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-YMy previous session IPA didn’t turn out terribly great (not even worth a blog post), due at least in part to a clash between the hops and malt. Munich just ain’t a good base for even a session IPA, so lesson learned! For a second try, I am switching over to Vienna malt and using up some hops in the freezer. The Cascade hops are whole hops that my dad sent. These are interesting, in that they are a bit more earthy/herbal than I typically think of for Cascade. Terroir, I suppose. I also used some Falconer’s Flight hop pellets, free courtesy of a brewing friend.

Summertime Session IPA

  • 7 lbs. Vienna malt (Great Western Malting)
  • 1 lb. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 0.5 lb. flaked oats
  • 0.5 lb. white wheat malt
  • 0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Empire Ale Yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M15)
  • 3 oz. Falconer’s Flight hop pellets (9.1% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 o.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.1% abv, 44 IBU, 5 SRM
  • Infusion mash to hit target of 155°, 45 minutes, batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons of water heated to 166.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 153.5°. After 15 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of water to raise the temperature to 155°. After 45 minutes of total mashing, I drained the mash tun and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I sparged with 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.7 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.039, for 78% efficiency.
  • After starting the boil, I added the hops and kettle finings per the schedule. At flame-out, I added the whirlpool hops and let it sit for 10 minutes before chilling to 74°.
  • I transferred the wort to the fermenter, added the yeast, and fermented the beer at 68°. This batch was brewed on 16 May 2018.
  • Starting gravity was 1.046, and final gravity was 1.016, for 3.9% abv. A perfect session beer!
  • I kegged the beer on 27 May 2018, adding the hops to the keg in a bag. I let it sit at temperature for a few days while carbonating, until 2 June 2018, when I moved it back to the fermentation chamber and dropped the temperature down to 34°.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

Initial Impressions

This is a decent enough beer, but nothing remarkable. Because I used older hop pellets for the dry hopping, there’s not a ton of aroma. Bitterness versus maltiness is fairly perfect, and I’d be pretty happy with this bittering level as well as this malt combination in future recipes. This is a highly drinkable beer, so I suspect I’ll be going through this fairly quickly even if the flavor/aroma aren’t exceptional for an IPA.

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Try Again Bohemian Pilsner

I’m craving a good Bohemian pilsner…especially that nice flavor and aroma of Saaz. My last effort was fairly disastrous, thanks to a bum batch of hops. Pro-tip: if it smells way too grassy before throwing them into the wort, throwing them into the wort won’t improve things.

In any case, I’ve got new hops, new grains, and a new recipe. I’ve cheated a bit with the grain bill, kicking in some melanoidin and Carafa III for a bit of extra malt flavor and color, respectively. For my interpretation I’ve amped up the Saaz a bit on the late-hop side, too.

Try Again Bohemian Pilsner

  • 10 lbs. Barke Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. Melanoidin malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.2 oz. Carafa III malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (2.2% alpha), 20 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Bohemian lager dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M84)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 149°, 60 minutes, batch sparge.
  • 1.052 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.5% abv, 36 IBU, 5 SRM
  • Water built from RO with 0.5 g CaCl, 0.5 g epsom salts, with 6.5 mL of 88% lactic acid added to mash to adjust pH

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 160°, to hit a mash temperature of 150°. The mash was down to 145° after 65 minutes. I added 1.25 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.5 gallons of water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.046, for 83% mash efficiency!
  • I started the boil, adding hops and various finings and nutrients per the schedule above. After 60 minutes of boiling, I turned off the flame and added the final charge of hops.
  • After 5 minutes of whirlpooling, I chilled down to 75° or so. Then, I transferred the wort to the fermenter, and let it chill overnight (~10 hours), down to 48°.
  • I brewed the beer on 12 May 2018. On the morning of 13 May 2018, I oxygenated the wort for 45 seconds and pitched the yeast (rehydrated in 1 cup of boiled and cooled water).
  • Starting gravity was 1.053, nearly exactly on target.
  • After pitching, I set the temperature on the fermentation chamber to 52°, letting the beer free-rise from 48°.
  • One day after pitching (14 May 2018), no fermentation activity was yet visible, but the fermenter gave off bubbles when I agitated it gently. By the morning of 15 May 2018 (48 hours post-pitching), visible krausen was forming.
  • On 20 May (7 days after pitching the yeast), I raised the fermentation temperature to 54°.
  • On 23 May, I raised the fermentation temperature to 56°.
  • On 25 May, I raised the fermentation temperature to 58°.
  • On 27 May, I raised the fermentation temperature to 60°. At this point, the gravity was 1.014.
  • On 2 June, I cold crashed down to 33°.
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