What’s Brewing? January 2022 Edition

January has blown by, and I’ve been able to get back into a rhythm of regular brewing!

Beer Batch Updates

  • MoreBeer had a sale on Pliny the Elder kits, so I picked one up and began the brewing process on December 27, 2021. I made a self-built recipe last year, and it turned out okay, but not great. For this time around, I’m adjusting the hop techniques a bit, to see if I can get some improvement. After initial fermentation, I did a closed transfer into a purged keg (on 15 January 2022), and then (quickly) added hops to the keg. This keg had a floating dip tube with a mesh screen, so that I could do a closed transfer off the hops and into the serving keg. The goal is to avoid hopping in the serving keg, so that the beer clears up nicely; the closed transfer is intended to preserve the hop aroma a bit longer. The beer is now transferred and carbonated–while it drops clear for a few days, I’ve started some tastes. It’s pretty nice, although quite a bit of hop haze.
  • I started a kolsch-style ale on January 8. The plan is to close-transfer and then let it condition for a few weeks to drop clear. Although I’ve previously used K-97 as my primary kolsch dry yeast, I’m trying Lallemand’s version this time around.
  • I brewed my Alstadt Alt recipe again on 22 January. It’s pretty much the same as before, because I love this beer so much!
  • I kegged my German pils on 26 December 2021, and the beer is now lagering in the serving keg.

What’s on Tap?

  • Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout is drinking pretty nicely. I’ll do a tasting soon.
  • The dark mild has been really delightful, and I think I’ll be sad when it’s gone. For serving, I’ll often let it warm up to around 50 degrees, and the dark malts shine through beautifully.
  • Dimorphos Kellerbier has cleared to brilliant, and tastes amazing. It has been really enjoyable to follow a beer through from young-and-fresh to mature-and-lagered. This recipe has weathered really well, and just keeps getting better.

What’s Coming Up?

  • I’m brewing a pale ale this weekend, using some HOPBOX hops–El Dorado and Strata will be front and center.
  • In preparation for Lent, I’m doing a Belgian SMaSH that I’m calling “The Simple Monk.” It will be pilsner malt, whole Cascade hops, and Abbaye Belgian yeast. The beer is intended to be no muss, no fuss, no temperature control, just let the ingredients play out for a flavorful low-abv beer.

Other Notes

  • A few weeks ago, I cracked the final bottle of the Gingerbread Winter Warmer, brewed way back in late 2016. It was delicious–but I’m also glad I didn’t save it any longer.
  • During the holidays, I started a ton of fermentation projects.
    • A new batch of sauerkraut is going.
    • I started a new batch of miso paste, because my previous batch is just about gone.
    • For something new, I am making malt vinegar! I put a bit of unpasteurized cider vinegar into a pint of a recent weissbier–it created a gorgeous vinegar mother, and I think the vinegar is just about ready to use.

Dark Mild 2021

As part of a general interest in brewing session beers, I recently tried my hand at a dark mild. Thanks to Ron Pattinson’s excellent work on historic English brewing, I’ve learned that the original dark milds were in fact beyond session strength, and have evolved to be low alcohol. Either way, the modern take is supposed to be a style that is full of flavor and light on ethanol.

My particular version was formulated after looking at a few other recipes, with consideration of what supplies I had on hand. Conveniently, I had some Maris Otter to finish out, and a few other English malts. I had planned on using a packet of English ale yeast from Cellar Science, but it just so happened that I kegged an oatmeal stout right before brewing the mild. Because the stout used Nottingham yeast, I decided to pitch the mild directly onto the yeast cake (after removing a cup or two, to reduce the potential effects of overpitching). I’ll admit this strategy also served my laziness, because then I didn’t have to completely clean and sanitize a new fermenter right in the midst of the brewing process.

To go for a more “authentic” cask-like serving style, I carbonated the beer to only 2.0 volumes. My keezer is set a bit cooler than ideal (~40°), so flavors don’t really start to pop until the beer warms.

Dark Mild 2021

  • 6.75 lb. Finest Maris Otter ale malt (Crisp)
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 75 (Bairds)
  • 0.25 lb. Carafa Special I (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. coffee malt (Simpsons)
  • 2 oz. black malt (Briess)
  • 0.75 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Nottingham ale yeast (Lallemand), pitched onto partial yeast cake from previous batch

Target Parameters

  • 1.036 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 3.3% abv, 20 IBU, 20 SRM
  • Mash held at 156° for 60 minutes, and 10 minute mash-out at 168°
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I heated 6.75 gallons of water to 161°, and mashed in with the grains to hit a temperature of 156°. I added 5 mL of 88% lactic acid to hit ~5.35 pH (estimated), and held at 156° with recirculation for 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I raised the mash temperature to 168° for 10 minutes, and then removed the grains.
  • In total, I collected 6.1 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.035, for 73% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled down to pitching temperature (~68°).
  • Starting gravity was 1.040, a bit higher than targeted.
  • I transferred the beer onto the yeast cake from my previous batch of Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout. Prior to transfer, I removed ~2 cups of yeast in order to avoid overpitching.
  • Once the yeast was pitched, I sealed up the fermenter and moved it indoors to ferment at ambient of around 65°.
  • I brewed the beer on 11 December 2021, and kegged it on 26 December 2021
  • Final gravity was 1.020, for 2.6% abv. I carbonated to around 2.0 volumes. Within about a week of kegging, the beer had dropped completely clear.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Pours with a light tan head that rapidly disperses; the beer itself is pretty clear and a deep mahogany in color.
  • Aroma
    • Light chocolate and coffee on the nose, and no major yeast character.
  • Flavor
    • Coffee and dark chocolate and some faint roasted notes, and a bit of biscuit character in the malt. There is faint dried stone fruit quality in the yeast. Bitterness is low, and the finish very much tips towards the malt.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light body, low carbonation, off-dry finish with very slight astringency.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I really like this beer! For such a low alcohol brew, it packs a really punch of malt character. It is eminently drinkable, but also very interesting in flavor. I wouldn’t mind a little more yeast character, perhaps some extra fruity notes, but that is a fairly minor critique. I may well try this recipe again, and will certainly brew a dark mild again. It is a style with a fair bit of latitude, which is worth exploring.
  • Overall
    • 8/10

2022’s Brew Year’s Resolutions

Once again, it’s time to look ahead to the new year of brewing. What would I like to achieve in 2022?

  • Session Beers
    • I’ve always had session-strength beers as a regular part of my brewing rotation, and have had some really great successes. I’ve done well with IPAs and stouts, and would now like to branch out a bit. I recently made a session strength dark mild, which I just put on tap and am really enjoying. A Scottish 70-/Heavy is on the schedule, and I might even aim for a patersbier soon.
  • German Pils
  • Pre-Prohibition Lager
    • I recently had the 1903 Lager from Craftsman Brewing Company (Pasadena), and this beer was amazing as a pre-Prohibition style lager that clocks in at 5.2% abv. The malt character was fantastic, against some really nice hop qualities. It’s hard to find much information on this beer, so I’m going to need to look around a bit in the world of pre-Prohibition lagers to figure out a comparable recipe. In any case, this is a beer style I want to make!
  • IPAs
    • I’ve made some good IPAs, and even some great ones, but I’ve not yet settled on a “house” recipe. I need to change that. I have found that “traditional” West Coast IPAs with a heft measure of Centennial and Cascade are most to my taste, so I want to revisit previous successes and see if I can’t replicate those. I might even return to a session rye IPA, to hit the session beer goal again.

Follow-Up: 2021’s Brew Year’s Resolutions

I made a few brewing goals for 2021, and with the turning of the calendar page, it’s time to assess the damage (or progress).

  • Kveik.
    • I set a goal to brew more with kveik, and did get two batches in with this family of yeast cultures, both IPAs. They turned out OK, but not great. I’ll probably play around more with kveik in the future, but I feel that the trend has perhaps run its course for my brewing tastes and needs.
    • Final Score: 5/10
  • Pilsner.
    • I set out to perfect a German pils, and came close. I’ve figured out my general grain bill and bitterness regimes, and now it’s just a matter of continued iteration. The Pilsnerpeton batch is perhaps the best from 2020/2021, and Farke’s Best Pils also came out pretty great. I just need a little more practice, and I’ll get there.
    • Final Score: 7/10
  • Big Beers in Small Batches.
    • I’m feeling really great about this one. I ended up with three small-batch beers higher than 7% abv, including the excellent Winter Dream Ale. Although I could have brewed more of these, I am actually pretty satisfied with where I landed on this goal. Each of the beers turned out fairly well, and it was about the perfect quantity for what I had energy to drink (or share).
    • Final Score: 8/10
  • Belgian Beers.
    • I didn’t do great on this one, probably because I got distracted by other brewing projects. Alongside the aforementioned Winter Dream Ale, I fermented three other beers with Belgian yeast. Two of these were old favorites (Raspberry Belgian and Pannotia White IPA), and another was a big quad for a homebrew club barrel project. So…I really have work to do here next year. Maybe a patersbier for Lent?
    • Final Score: 4/10

Overall Assessment of 2021: 6/10 for brewing goals — not great, but not awful. I still had fun, though!

2021’s Homebrew Highlights

This was a big year for my brewing, even if I had busy stretches with minimal time. As I enter the last few minutes of 2021, here are my thoughts looking back…

  • Favorite Batch
    • This was a tough one to pick! I had a decent number of beers I really liked, and so I chose the following two as my favorite batches:
      • Ill-Tempered Gnome. I don’t make American brown ales very often, but this one was just awesome. The hop character is particularly memorable, and I definitely want to make it again sometime.
      • Alstadt Altbier. I feel like I perfected my altbier game on this latest version of the recipe. Again, a very memorable beer!
  • Least Favorite Batch
  • Experimental Recipe with Most Potential
    • Winter Dream Ale. High-alcohol beers are not the sort of thing I do all the time, but this particular recipe was really enjoyable in the Christmas to New Year’s stretch. It had a nice mix of flavor and body, making an interesting beer without addition of spices or strange adjuncts.
  • Most Fun New Style/Recipe to Try
    • I had fun putting together an amber kellerbier, in Dimorphos Kellerbier. I really freestyled it in the recipe, and achieved a tasty result.
  • Upcoming Beer With Most Potential
    • I have another Pliny the Elder clone fermenting right now, and I’m crossing my fingers that it turns out well!
  • Best Technique Added to Repertoire
    • I’ve been using a Hochkurz mash semi-regularly, and like the results in terms of extract yield as well as fermentability and flavor.
  • Best Ingredient Added to Repertoire
    • The HOPBOX was a lot of fun to play with, and gave me a nice IPA as a result. I’ll be enjoying the next iterations as they arrive this year.
  • Favorite Book(s)
    • For Christmas, I received a copy of Dark Lagers: History, Mystery, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (by Thomas Kraus-Weyermann and Horst Dornbusch)…it has been a fun one to browse! The historical information is interesting, the recipes seem solid, and the food recipes are also something I’ll look forward to trying.
  • Other Milestones
    • I had some fun with other fermentables this year, including creation of miso paste as well as injera bread. I’ve continued with sauerkraut and homemade mustard, all of which are fantastic accompaniments for beer and sausage.
  • Overall Stats
    • I brewed 31 batches of beer this past year, totalling around 150 gallons of beer produced.
    • No particular beer style dominated 2021, although I had three batches of German pils and two batches of American IPA as the most frequently brewed styles. Expanding into IPAs as a general category, I brewed seven recipes in the IPA world (including American, English, white, and double IPAs).