Kegging Update: Fade to Black IPA, Odell Isolation Ale Clone

I’ve gotten two of my batches kegged during the past couple of days.

First up was Fade to Black IPA. Final gravity was 1.016 (down from 1.065), for an abv of 6.5%. I added the dry hops at the time of kegging, on November 27. The beer just went on-line tonight (4 days later), and is pretty tasty even at this young state. The balance of roasty malts and earthy hops promises to shape up as something special!

The Odell Isolation Ale Clone was kegged on November 30. Starting gravity was 1.061, final gravity was 1.015, and thus the beer is 5.9% abv. I am currently carbonating this, and it will go into the rotation once a tap has freed up. At the time of kegging, the beer was gloriously clear and flavorful.

Beer Tasting: Centennial IPA

20160714_204030My Centennial IPA has been in the keg and cold conditioning/dry-hopping for nearly a month. Because I’m taking off soon for a few weeks, and because IPA’s are best fresh, now is as good of a time as any to do a tasting.

Centennial IPA

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.063; final gravity = 1.010; abv = 7.0%; estimated IBU = 59
  • Aroma
    • Very lightly sweet malt aroma, with a moderate hop aroma that is citrusy (slightly orange-hinted) and lightly floral.
  • Appearance
    • A hazy beer with a moderately deep gold color. The off-white head is fine and persistent, with modest lacing.
  • Flavor
    • As it should be, this is a hop-forward beer, with a smooth but assertive bitterness that fades in and then gently fades out. The bitterness has a piney note to it. The modest malt flavor tends toward the grainy side.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a fairly dry beer, with a relatively light body. Carbonation is moderate, as is appropriate for the style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a solid traditional American IPA–I would characterize it as squarely middle of the road; not in a bad way, just that it is tasty but not adventurous. In the original recipe, Gordon Strong noted that the recipe would be a solid base for any single hop American IPA; I agree! For this particular run, I feel like I’m getting a nice feel for what Centennial is as a hop. Compared to recent varieties such as Mosaic or Citra, Centennial is so “yesterday.” But, it has a character all its own that deservedly places it in the great pantheon of hops. I can’t say I’ll change much (other than hop variety) when I brew this again; it would definitely be OK with other American yeast varieties, but in terms of malt bill and brewing technique it’s spot-on.
  • Rating
    • 9/10

Special Beer Review: Heady Topper

A friend was out east recently, and brought me back a can of Heady Topper! I’ve never had this legendary beer before, so I thought I would really slow down and savor the experience by doing a formal tasting. Here it is!

I disobeyed the directions on the can, and poured most of the contents into a glass. I left a bit in the can, though, and talk about the distinctions at the end of the post.

  • Appearance
    • Hazy light gold beer, with a thick and sticky cream-colored head that leaves some fine lacing on the glass.
  • Aroma
    • Piney and slightly dank aroma, with a hint of peach/apricot behind it. As the beer settles down, the aroma is milder.
  • Flavor
    • Definitely hop-forward, with a smooth and well-rounded bitterness that ramps up as I drink it. The hop character is quite resiny and piney. I don’t pick up much in the way of other flavors, but that might just be my palate. Malts are in the background; I can’t say anything in particular about them.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a medium body, with a slick mouthfeel; it really coats the tongue. I’m guessing that must be the hops.
  • Overall
    • This beer definitely lives up to the hype, although I am curious how I would view it in a blind tasting. The hype is probably part of the experience, and definitely set me up to want to enjoy it. It’s interesting reading reviews on Beer Advocate and places like that…there is a very subjective element (I think the technical term is “BS”). Really…passionfruit and cracker alongside 20 other flavors? I suppose…

Is it that different in the glass versus from the can? Not in flavor, certainly. I perceive the aroma as different, but I think that’s largely because of the metallic aroma from the can itself. This shifts the overall aroma more towards the citrusy side–very interesting, but definitely not a “real” character of the beer.

Transatlantic IPA

“Conan! What is best in life?”
“Crush your malted grains.
See them mashed before you.
Hear the fermentation of their wort.”

It has been a long time since I’ve done a straight-up, full-strength American IPA (January, in fact). I’ve also been itching to try out some new yeast strains, particularly after hearing good things about “Conan.” I found the Vermont ale yeast via Yeast Bay, which is supposed to be just that. Most local shops don’t carry it, so I mail-ordered and planned out my brew.
The name for this batch honors its ingredients’ roots spanning North America and Europe. This batch is aiming to be an “East Coast” style IPA, with a little more malt character as well as an interesting yeast. So, I designed a recipe that had Maris Otter and Vienna as its backbone, with a bit of Belgian Caravienne to round things out and some pale chocolate malt for color. I’ve been doing a lot of ultra citrusy-type hops lately (especially Citra), and I worry that they would clash with the malts and yeast, so I’ve switched things up a touch. The bittering hops are all Columbus, with an aroma/flavor addition of Cascade. I plan to dry hop with Simco and Galaxy.

Transatlantic IPA

  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Caravienne malt
  • 0.15 lb. pale chocolate malt
  • 1 oz. Columbus hops pellets (13.4% alpha, 4.4% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1.3 oz. Columbus hops pellets (13.4% alpha, 4.4% beta), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (est. 5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (est. 5.5% alpha), steep/whirlpool
  • 2 oz. Simcoe hops pellets (13% alpha), 2 week dry-hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hops pellets (13.7% alpha), 2 week dry-hop in keg
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. Vermont Ale Yeast (The Yeast Bay), prepared in 1.25 L starter


  • I mashed in with 5 gallons of water at 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 151°. The mash was down to 150° after 30 minutes, and 147° after 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.5 gallons of water at 180°, let rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the mash tun to collect 3.25 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the overall mash temperature to 165°. I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All together, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.053. This translates to a mash efficiency of 73%, nearly exactly on the nose for my calculations.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the bittering charge. After 50 minutes, I added the Whirlfloc tablet. After 55 minutes of boiling total, I added the additional Columbus and an ounce of Cascade hops. At flame-out, I removed the Columbus hops and added the remainder of the Cascade hops, to steep while I chilled the wort.
  • I chilled the wort down to 80°, transferred it to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast starter. Approximately 5.5 gallons of wort went into the primary.
  • The starting gravity for this beer is 1.064, exactly where calculated by my software. I’ll ferment this at 68° for two weeks (perhaps with a slight temperature increase at the end to maximize attenuation, as suggested by Yeast Bay).
  • I brewed this beer on November 23, 2015.

Pannotia White IPA

During my European travels last year, I sampled a heavenly brew called Vergött White IPA, brewed by Birrificio Artigianale Lariano of Dolzago, Italy. It was my first time encountering a White IPA, which is essentially a Belgian wit ramped up with hops. In my memory, the brew was crisp, tart, and citrusy–a really fun combination of flavors and aromas. Upon my return to the United States, a little more research turned up additional information on this burgeoning style. I tracked down some bottles of Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA, which was good, but just a little heavier and sweeter than my own tastes and as compared to my memories of the Italian beer. So, I set off to create a new recipe that would bring together the best of all worlds. I have no idea how it will turn out, and I suspect it may get iterated through a few batches.

This was the first batch where I used yeast cultured on my new stir plate. The yeast was culturing for around 24 hours when I pitched it, looking to be at high krausen. Also, it was my first time working with pilsner malt.

Per my usual custom, I am naming this IPA after a supercontinent–Pannotia this time around.

Pannotia White IPA

  • 7 lbs. Pilsner (Weyermann) malt
  • 3 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 8.10 g gypsum (added to boil)
  • 1.73 oz. whole Cascade hops (first wort hopping and 90 minute boil; 2014 crop, estimated 4.29% alpha acid)
  • 1 oz. whole Cascade hops (first wort hopping and 90 minute boil; 2013 crop, estimated 2.61% alpha acid)
  • 0.35 oz. bitter orange peel (added for last minute of boil)
  • 0.15 oz. coriander seed (lightly crushed, added for last minute of boil)
  • 3 oz. Citra hops pellets (added at flame-out; 13.2% alpha, 3.7% beta)
  • 1 oz. whole Cascade hops (added at flame-out; 2013 crop, estimated 2.61% alpha acid)
  • Belgian Wit ale yeast (WLP400), prepared 24 hours in advance with 1.5 L starter
  • 3 oz. Citra hops pellets (14 days dry-hop, 13.2% alpha, 3.7% beta)
Anticipated statistics
  • 1.059 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 6.5% abv
  • 50.2 IBU
  • 3.7 SRM


  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 159°. The mash stabilized at ~147° within 5 minutes, which was a little on the cool side for my taste. So, I added 1 gallon of ~185° water, stirred it a bit, and got the mash  to 151° within a minute. The mash still measured 151° after 10 minutes and 149° after 40 minutes.
  • I drained the mash tun, collecting ~3 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.064. The hops were in the kettle starting at this point. Note that I adjusted the alpha acid for the calculations based on the age of the hops, using the hops aging tool in BeerSmith.
  • For mash-out, I added 3.5 gallons of water at ~185°.
  • All told, I collected 7 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.045. This works out to ~74% efficiency.
  • I added the gypsum and brought the wort to a boil. Because I used pilsner malt, which is supposed to have a higher susceptibility to DMS production, I boiled for a total of 90 minutes.
  • One minute before flame-out, I added the coriander and bitter orange peel. At flame-out, I added the Citra hops pellets (contained in a mesh bag) as well as the whole Cascade hops.
  • I cooled the wort down to ~70°, transfered to the carboy (aerating with the Venturi pump along the way), and pitched the yeast (starter and all).
  • This beer was brewed on Monday, April 6, 2015. Starting gravity was 1.057, just a touch below my predicted gravity (1.059). This is likely due to a slightly lower boil-off rate. Total volume was 5.25 gallons. I placed the carboy in my fermenting chamber, and set the temperature controller for 70°.
  • In less than 12 hours, the fermentation was proceeding quite vigorously. Score one for using a starter!
Pannotia White IPA at high krausen