Aftershock Amber Ale

Craft beer is more common than ever, but it still seems like the style landscape has contracted. Hazy IPAs are everywhere, and of course you can get double IPAs and the barrel aged stouts. These are great from time to time, but every once in awhile I long for one of those “classic” styles that disappeared as breweries expanded their repertoire and chased the latest trends. I want a beer that tastes like it came from around 2002; something you might find at the local “microbrewery” alongside a plate of greasy boneless wings from the kitchen in back. What is more classic than an amber ale?

IMG_20190825_122630I love the American amber ale style. It can fit just about any time of year and any occasion, and the best ones bring a nice dose of maltiness and hoppiness into a cohesive package. I also like that they’ve been mostly immune from the double-triple-imperial crazes, and clock in between 4.5 and 5.7% (by the 2015 BJCP style guidelines). They’re fairly simple to brew, but also have a broad stylistic interpretation that rewards experimentation.

I put together a recipe that would have a nice dose of malt, drawing on Munich I (Weyermann) for nearly 50% of the grist, backed up by 2-row pale malt. To add a bit of zest, I put in a dose of rye malt, along with a generous helping of two kinds of crystal malt. The results came together in one of my favorite beers as of late!

I brewed this batch on 6 July 2019, just after two days of fairly large earthquakes in southern California. There was no choice for the name, then, other than “Aftershock Amber Ale.”

Aftershock Amber Ale

  • 5 lbs. Munich I (Weyermann)
  • 3 lbs. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 1 lb. 1823 Heritage crystal malt (Bairds), 75°
  • 1 lb. rye malt (Viking)
  • 4 oz. 2-row crystal 60° malt (Great Western)
  • 3 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8%), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (~5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.2% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.048 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 4.9% abv, 34 IBU, 13 SRM
  • Claremont tap water

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 162.5°, to hit a target mash temperature of 152°.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.3 gallons of water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Next, I added 3.6 gallons of water at 185°, and did the same procedure before collecting the rest of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.042, for 73% efficiency.
  • I brought everything to a boil, adding hops and finings per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, chilled the wort, transferred it, and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.048. I brewed this on 6 July 2019, and fermented it at 68°.
  • I kegged the beer on 17 July 2019. It had a final gravity of 1.011, for 4.9% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Beautiful, fairly clear, reddish amber hue to the beer, with an ivory-colored head that is fine and quite persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Mild rye aroma, with a bit of caramel behind that. Not much for hops.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately bitter and highly malty, with a pleasant rye flavor at the forefront. The malt and bitterness are nicely balanced against each other; it’s not too sweet, but just about right. The hop character comes across as somewhat piney and woody…there’s less citrus than I would expect, probably because of the malt overriding the hops.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body, moderate carbonation, with a slightly dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! I love the mouthfeel and flavor on this; it really is exactly what I hoped for. I think I would probably ditch the dry hops on this; they aren’t really perceptible and might even clash with the malts a bit. Plus, they don’t really seem necessary.
  • Overall
    • 9/10
Posted in amber ale, rye ale | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pannotia White IPA 1.7

I skipped a round last year, but decided that I needed to do another batch of my old favorite, Pannotia White IPA.

As I brewed this a few weeks back and as I enjoyed it now, I reflected on the fact that the (now long since past) white IPA mini-craze laid groundwork for the current hazy IPA mega-craze. White IPAs share some important features with the hazy ones, including haze and a juicy-fruity hop bill. They’re a distinct beast though, distinguished in large part by their drier body and distinct Belgian character. Personally, I find white IPAs a lot more enjoyable, but then again I also find the vast majority of hazy IPAs to be pretty mediocre.

In any case, this version of my white IPA recipe is pretty similar to the last time I brewed it, with the only minor distinction being the lack of lemon zest tincture. No particular reason I skipped that–I just forgot. Ah well!

IMG_20190713_123502

Pannotia White IPA 1.7

  • 7 lbs. 2-row malt (Rahr Malting Co.)
  • 3 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 0.5 lbs. flaked quick oats
  • 0.5 lbs. rice hulls
  • 2 oz. Amarillo hops pellets (7.7% alpha), 45 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hops pellets (7.7% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Citra hops pellets (13.2% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hops pellets (13.8% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Citra hops pellets (13.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hops pellets (13.8% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Mosaic hops pellets (11.3% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 8 g gypsum (added to boil)
  • 0.35 oz. bitter orange peel, 1 minute boil
  • 0.15 oz. coriander seed (crushed), 1 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Belgian Wit Ale yeast (WLP400, White Labs), prepared in 1.25L starter, chilled and decanted

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.059 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 6.1% abv, 60 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Claremont water, with 8 g gypsum added to boil

Procedure

  • I began a starter a few days in advance of brewing, and cold crashed it for two days.
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 163.6°, hitting a mash temperature of 152°. I added 10 mL of 88% lactic acid to hit my pH estimate.
  • With two collections of runnings (one after 0.75 gallons of water at 185° and one after adding 3.35 gallons at 185°), I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings in total with a gravity of 1.046, for 73% efficiency.
  • I brought everything to a boil, adding hops and such per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled to pitching temperature.
  • I brewed this beer on 18 May 2019, fermenting at 66°. Learning my lesson from past experiences with an extremely vigorous fermentation for WLP400, I used a blow-off tube for initial fermentation. I moved it to ambient temperatures on 2 June 2019, and kegged on 22 June 2019. The hops were added to the keg in a mesh sack at this point.
  • Starting gravity was 1.057, and final gravity was 1.011, for 6.1% abv.
  • The tasting was done about a month after kegging; two months after kegging, this beer is still holding up really well!

Tasting

  • Aroma
    • Tropical fruit forward; it’s like a nose punch of passionfruit, guava, and citrus all at once! There’s just a hint of the Belgian ale spice behind that.
  • Appearance
    • Slightly hazy, with a pale gold color. The head is low but persistant.
  • Flavor
    • Definite tropical hop flavor at the front of this, with a smooth bitterness and the spicy Belgian ale yeastiness around that. Malt character is in the background, and is pretty clean (as expected for the grain bill).
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate carbonation, moderate body, very slightly dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yep! This is a good recipe as always. The head could be a touch better on this one, I probably should have added the lemon tincture, and I suppose there should be a little more haze, but nonetheless it’s a great beer.
  • Overall
    • 9/10
Posted in IPA, white IPA | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

No Latitude Tropical Stout

IMG_20190519_191408Summer fun doesn’t mean I have to be limited to light lagers (and I do love light lagers!). I think there is a place for dark beers in the warm weather, given the right recipe and the right mindset. So, a “tropical stout” seemed like a good ticket. I had initially thought I would make something with coconut, but realized I didn’t necessarily want a full batch of a coconut beer. Why not just a simple, clean(ish), flavorful stout? So, I checked out Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes book and found his Jamaican Eclipse recipe. The general concept is to take a stout recipe and ferment it with lager yeast at ale temperatures. In my reading, there seems to be a lot of lore around tropical/Caribbean stouts and yeast type, and I wonder to what extent any of it is true. Either way, even a “Fantasy Island” version of the recipe is intriguing to me.

I followed Strong’s grain bill only loosely, making many substitutions and adjustments. I had no idea how much I might like this, so I scaled it for a 3 gallon batch. The result? Pretty flavorful, and a definite re-brew candidate!

No Latitude Tropical Stout

  • 6.25 lb. Maris Otter malt (Bairds)
  • 8 oz. crystal 80° malt
  • 6 oz. roasted barley
  • 4 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 2 oz. Blackprinz malt, 2-row (Briess)
  • 10 oz. corn sugar (dextrose), added to kettle before boil
  • 0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax
  • 2 pkg. Saflager (W34/70) lager yeast, Fermentis

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.064 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 7.1% abv, 39 IBU, 32 SRM
  • Claremont water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 2.75 gallons of water at 163°, to hit a mash temperature of 153°. It was down to 149° after 20 minutes, likely due to the smaller thermal mass involved here.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 2.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 4.65 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.044, for 75% mash efficiency. I added the corn sugar prior to the boil.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and other ingredients per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled down to 67°. I transferred to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • I fermented the beer at 67°. Starting gravity was 1.060.
  • I brewed the beer on 15 April 2019 and cold crashed on 28 April 2019, kegging on 29 April 2019.
  • Final gravity was 1.013, which works out to 6.3% abv.

Tasting

  • Aroma
    • Roasty, chocolatey malt aroma, but not much in the way of hops. Really nice! As it warms up, I pick up a slight alcohol note, but this is permitted within the bounds of the BJCP style description.
  • Appearance
    • Thick and persistent brown head; the beer itself is fairly clear, and brown with a faint reddish tinge
  • Flavor
    • Chocolate-forward, with a bit of roast behind that. The bitterness is moderate and clean, but not over the top. Not much in the way of hop flavor. The finish is evenly balanced between hoppiness and maltiness. This is a very smooth, highly drinkable beer.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body, but not so much as to kill drinkability. Moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! Maybe it’s a bit of a psychological thing, but this definitely does seem like a good warm-weather stout. It’s smooth, quite drinkable, and doesn’t taste like it is 6.3% alcohol. I don’t see much in the way of improvement needed, although I could kick the fruitiness and body up a notch. A bit of crystal 120 might help with that.
  • Overall
    • 8/10
Posted in stout, tastings, tropical stout | Tagged , , ,

Kölsch Simple

IMG_20190628_144212As I continue my explorations of German-style brewing, a kölsch-style ale seemed like a good next step for the summer months. My local brew shop had a kolsch malt from Schill, that was supposed to have a really nice flavor. It’s a touch on the dark side (4.5 SRM), but I thought what the heck, let’s roll with it anyhow. I’m glad I did, because the malt character really is spectacular (rich and bready), even if the beer is too deep in color to satisfy kölsch purists! The beer has drastically improved since I first kegged it. This particular yeast strain has nice background character, but takes forever to drop clear (which I would have realized if I had read about it in more depth). As a result, the beer was a sort of muddy, unattractive mess for the first few weeks. Thankfully, this could be fixed by time and cold…

Kölsch Simple

  • 9 lb. Kolsch malt (Schill)
  • 1 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. carapils malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. white wheat malt (Great Western)
  • 2 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.35% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 0.6 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. SafAle German Ale dry yeast (K-97, 11 g)

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 149°, batch sparge
  • 1.048 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 5.0% abv, 24 IBU, 6 SRM
  • “Cologne-ish water”, built from 8.5 gallons of RO water with 1.5 g baking soda, 1.4 g of epsom salt, 1.25 g of calcium chloride, and 0.75 g of gypsum, to hit 16 ppm Ca, 4 ppm Mg, 13 ppm Na, 30 ppm SO4, 19 ppm Cl, 34 ppm HCO3, RA=14 ppm, alkalinity=27 ppm

Procedure

  • I built my strike water with 3.75 gallons of RO water augmented with 0.75 g gypsum, 1.25 g CaCl, 1.4 g epsom salt, 1.5 g baking soda, and heated it up to 160°. This hit my 148° mash temperature target. I added 0.5 tbs. of 88% lactic acid to the mash.
  • I sparged with RO water, in two batches. First, with 1.25 gallons at 185°, added to the mash. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected first runnings. Next, I added 3.6 gallons, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.044, for 80% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled the wort for 60 minutes, adding the various hops and finings as in the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled before transferring.
  • I chilled the beer in the fermentation chamber down to 65° before pitching the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.050. I brewed this beer on 19 April 2019, and there were preliminary signs of fermentation by the next morning.  Primary fermentation was at 65°.
  • I cold crashed the beer on 16 May 2019, and kegged it on 18 May 2019. Final gravity was 1.011, for an overall abv of 5.1%.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Clear, but not brilliant, with a slight haze (it has cleared considerably over the past few weeks); deep gold color; frothy white head that is pretty persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Bready malt note, with a bit of spicy hop aroma behind that; a slight hint of fruitiness.
  • Flavor
    • Bready, with a modest bitterness behind that; bitterness is smooth and rounded. The beer has a slightly fruity yeast character, which has subsided considerably since the first tastes.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body, with smooth finish; moderate carbonation
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Not in this form. I would cut the kölsch malt with pilsner malt, perhaps 50/50. I would also look for another yeast–perhaps the White Labs equivalent? This is a nice German-style ale, but not kölsch in the traditional sense.
  • Overall
    • 6.5/10
Posted in kolsch | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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 , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment