Wildfire IPA

I love IPAs, but I’m also a bit burnt out on brewing them. Often if I want this style, I’ll just buy a four- or six-pack, and that will satisfy my temporary craving. There are tons of really good (and many great) IPAs out there, but they start to blend together after awhile. The contemporary Citra/Mosaic/etc. versions are tasty, but honestly there’s not always a lot of difference from one to the next. I like the taste of many hazies at first, but get tired after half a glass. The theme in many contemporary IPAs is tropical fruit notes…which can be fun, but gets monotonous after awhile. Can you tell that I’m bored?

More and more, my flavor preferences come back to the “old school” IPAs. Pine, low-key citrus, and herbal notes are all something I crave. It’s hard to find these in many of the newer (and dominant) commercial IPAs! Even the local breweries that have otherwise excellent IPAs aren’t filling this flavor-space anymore. I can’t blame them, if this IPA variant doesn’t sell well. As a homebrewer, though, I can more easily tailor my beer to personal tastes!

I recently received a copy of the Homebrew Recipe Bible, which is a nicely written and expansive tome of recipes. Their recipe for Wildfire IPA immediately appealed to me. It had a hefty blend of old school and newish-hops, while also dodging Citra and Mosaic tropes. I made some small modifications for ingredients on-hand, but otherwise it’s as-written.

Wildfire IPA

  • 12.75 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western)
  • 1.25 lbs. Dark Munich malt (Viking), 11 SRM
  • 0.75 Crystal 30 malt (Great Western)
  • 0.6 oz. Chinook hop pellets (13.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.6 oz. Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) hop pellets (15.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.6 oz. Centennial hop pellets (9.3% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (13.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (7.7% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (~5.5% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 2 pkg. US-05 American ale dry yeast
  • 1 oz. Ahtanum hop pellets (6.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 0.5 oz. Cascade Cryo-Hops (12.5% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 150°, 60 minutes, batch sparge
  • 1.066 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 7.0% abv, 68 IBU, 7 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, with 1/2 tsp (~2 g) of gypsum added to boil kettle

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 5 gallons of water at 161.8°, to hit a mash temperature of 149.8°. I added 8 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to adjust the pH.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.6 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.10 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.053, for 70% mash efficiency.
  • In the kettle, I added the 1/2 tsp. of gypsum and brought the mixture to a boil, adding hops per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I added the whirlpool hops and let it sit for 10 minutes before chilling.
  • As I transferred the wort to the fermenter, I noticed a lot of trub. This is due to the heavy hop load. Like, a lot of trub. For future recipes, I’ll need to adjust my kettle leavings (~1 gallon) to ensure I have a full 5 gallon batch.
  • I fermented the beer at 66°, following my brew day on 9 February 2020.
  • I kegged the beer on 29 February 2020. Starting gravity was 1.053, and went down to 1.008, for 7.7% abv. At the time of kegging, I added the dry hops in a weighted mesh sack.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Deep gold color and hazy but not cloudy, with a persistent and creamy white head.
  • Aroma
    • Pine, citrus pith, slight dankness
  • Flavor
    • Hop forward (as it should be), with a wonderful piney and bitter citrus character. Malt has a slight caramel, bready quality (likely from the Munich malt).
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately light body, off-dry, moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a very solid “traditional” West Coast IPA recipe, like something that would have been popular in the early 2000’s. I can’t think of much to change with this one…the only minor “ding” would be the slight haziness, but I’m pretty willing to tolerate that. Overall, it’s exactly the beer I wanted.
  • Overall
    • 9/10
Posted in IPA, tastings | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s Brewing? (Late) March 2020 Edition

March has been an…interesting…month for brewing. I didn’t have much activity during the first half of the month due to busy weekends, and there hasn’t been much brewing during the second half due to a global pandemic. Nonetheless, there are a few newsy bits.

My brew club is doing a barrel project (planned prior to the pandemic-related closures), with a Russian imperial stout. Members are brewing 5 to 10 gallon batches, which will go into a 53 gallon Maker’s Mark barrel for extended aging. This is probably one of the biggest beers I’ve ever made, filling the entirety of my mash tun. The grist used nearly 27 pounds of grain, and target starting gravity was 1.110. I hit 1.105–not shabby at all! I brewed the beer on 23 February, and it took off with a very vigorous fermentation. This created a bit of a mess in my temperature-controlled chamber, so I added a blow-off tube. The beer was was at 1.030 when I checked gravity on 7 March. I agitated the fermenter at that time, to hopefully re-rouse any dormant yeast and knock back the last few percentage points. I don’t expect it to end up south of 1.025. Due to the current health crisis, it’s a bit up in the air when we’ll be able to get it all into the barrel, but we’re working out some ways to safely move the beer where it needs to be without gathering a bunch of people together. The good thing is that this beer won’t be too awfully hurt by sitting for awhile. That’s the point, after all!

That’s one full mash tun!

My other brew for March was a rebrew of the Schell’s Pils Clone I did last year. This was one of my favorite pilsners, and I would love to have it on tap again! Plus, it fits nicely into my 2020 brewing goal of exploring more American equivalents of German hops. I brewed the beer on 7 March 2020, hitting a starting gravity of 1.053. It’s fermenting at 52°, and should be ready to keg soonish.

I still have my kölsch in the lagering chamber, and I kegged the Czech dark lager on 22 February 2020. Right now, I’ve got my red rye lager, Crystal pils, and Wildfire IPA on tap. All of them are drinking beautifully! It’s a shame I can’t more easily share them in the midst of social distancing restrictions…as a result, I’m not going through the beer as quickly as normal. This means a longer lagering time, which is perhaps the single silver lining to the current situation.

In the equipment upgrade realm, I’m now trying out the Clear Beer Draught System. This system replaces the dip tube in the keg with an intake that floats at the top of the liquid. The idea is that this area should typically have clearer beer than the stuff at the bottom of the keg where a normal dip tube would be. I will have a better idea of its efficacy in a month or two (the only beer on tap with it is my IPA, which has a giant hop load and thus is hazy by nature).

April will probably be pretty light in brewing. I’ve got an altbier and a weissbier on the horizon, but no formal brew date set yet. The former will reuse the yeast from my kölsch (which I have stored in the fridge), as a bit of an experiment. The latter will be a very quick turnaround, because the style is intended to be served quite fresh. Depending on events, their brew date may not even happen until May! There’s no rush…

Posted in What's Brewing? | Tagged | 1 Comment

Red Rye Lager 1.1

Back in late 2017, I came up with one of my best from-scratch recipes: Red Rye Lager. It’s been over two years since that batch, so I decided to give it another go. This fills a nice niche of a malty, moderate body, good-for-winter lager. It’s basically the same recipe, just with some modifications for malt brands and hop types. Following my 2020 goal of trying more American hop varieties, I went with Mt. Hood for the hops instead of Hallertauer and Magnum. Also, I used crystal 120 instead of The end result is pretty nice, as before!

Red Rye Lager 1.1

  • 6.75 lb. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western Malting)
  • 3 lb. BEST Munich malt (BESTMALZ)
  • 1 lb. Viking rye malt
  • 0.5 lb. Carared malt (Weyermann)
  • 6 oz. Caramel 120°L malt (Briess)
  • 2 oz. Carafa Special III malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Cablecar yeast (Imperial yeast #L05)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 154°, 60 minutes, batch sparge
  • 1.053 o.g., 1.015 f.g., 5.0% abv, 21 IBU, 14 SRM
  • Water adjusted to hit target of 52 Ca, 10 Mg, 11 Na, 43 SO4, 53 Cl, 109 HCO3, RA 46 ppm.

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 4.5 gallons of RO water, with 2 g epsom salt and 3 g CaCl added and 5 mL of 88% lactic acid, in order to hit a 152° mash temperature for 60 minutes.
  • I used tap water for the sparge, starting with 1 gallon at 185°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then I added 3.75 gallons at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.042, for 73% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and other items per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I chilled to 75°, whirlpooled, and let the wort sit for around 40 minutes.
  • I transferred to the fermenter, added the yeast directly from the package, and let the beer ferment at ambient (56°).
  • I brewed the beer on 29 December 2019. Starting gravity was 1.055.
  • I kegged the beer on 31 January 2020. Final gravity was 1.010, for 5.9% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Reddish amber and clear, with a creamy, persistent ivory head. It’s a beautiful beer!
  • Aroma
    • Caramel and rye spice aroma; very clean yeast profile. Not much for hop aroma.
  • Flavor
    • Malt-forward, with a nice (but not overwhelming) rye character and a caramel note with that. The bitterness comes through on the back end; it’s firm, not over the top, and keeps the malt from being too cloying. It’s maybe a touch sweeter than I might like, but that’s only a very minor degree.
  • Body
    • Medium body, not as light as I would expect for the lowish finishing gravity. That said, the body is perfect for this beer. Moderate carbonation, with an off-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yep! This is a winner of a recipe, even in the second iteration. It’s definitely among my favorite beers. Both this and the past iteration (version 1.0) are quite solid. I might ditch the crystal 120 to dial back the sweetness slightly, but that’s a fairly minor tweak.
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10
Posted in lager | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Crystal Pils

One of my current brewing goals is to try out American noble-type hops, to see how they stack up against German varieties. I theoretically should be able to get American varieties that are fresher and slightly cheaper than their German counterparts, although freshness is my main concern in the quantities I use.

For this batch, I’m making a German-style pils, with American malt and American hops. Crystal is my focus for this batch–it is often described as a substitute for Hallertauer Mittlefrueh, which made this American variety a logical choice.

Otherwise, the batch is a pretty straightforward pilsner. I upped the effort a bit with a double decoction, to improve mash efficiency as well as flavor. I also experimented with boiling the water prior to brewing to precipitate out carbonates. Finally, I made an additional water treatment of gypsum and calcium chloride. Our tap water here is a bit low in sulfate, and I also thought a bit more calcium and chloride wouldn’t hurt. I have had perpetual issues with minor haze, so it seemed worth a try. Similarly, I think that decoction may be helpful. This is all bad experimental science of course, because I’m changing way too many variable at once, but in any case I was feeling adventurous.

Crystal Pils

  • 9.5 lb. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western Malting)
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. German lager yeast (WLP830), prepared in starter

Target Parameters

  • Double decoction, with 60 minute rest at 145°, 20 minute rest at 158°
  • 1.048 o.g., 1.006 f.g., 5.5% abv, 32 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, boiled and cooled prior to brewing, with 2 g gypsum and 3 g CaCl added.

Procedure

  • Two days prior to brewing, I brought the tap water to a rolling boil and let it cool, in an attempt to precipitate out carbonate. I carefully decanted the water prior to brewing. I added 2 g of gypsum and 3 g of CaCl to increase the overall calcium and sulfate levels.
  • Also two days in advance, I made a 1.75L starter, let it run, and cold crashed for 12 hours prior to pitching.
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 156°, to hit 145°. I added 6.25 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to adjust mash pH. Because I didn’t know the exact chemistry of my water, I did a few test scenarios and found that this amount would keep me in the acceptable pH range for most possible water chemistries.
  • After 30 minutes of mash rest, I decocted 6 quarts of thick mash, raised the temperature to 160°, and let it sit for 10 minutes. I boiled for 15 minutes, and added it back to the main mash, to hit 152°. This was a bit below my intended target of 158°, so for next time I’ll want to decoct a larger volume–perhaps twice what I needed?
  • After 20 minutes, I decocted two gallons of thick mash, boiled for 10 minutes, and added it back to the main mash. This hit a temperature of 166°, so I stirred and added 1 gallon of water at 160°. This brought the mash down to 162°.
  • I let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collecte the first runnings. I added the remaining 3.6 gallons of water, and collected second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.1 gallons of water with a gravity of 1.040, for 81% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, boiling for 60 minutes and adding hops, nutrients, and finings per the schedule.
  • I chilled down to 85° and let the kettle sit for 4 hours. Trub settled out nicely–a long rest might be a good procedure for future beers where I care about clarity.
  • I transferred to the fermenter, chilled to 48°, oxygenated, pitched the yeast, and let the fermenter free rise to 52°.
  • I brewed the beer on 26 December 2019, and fermented at 52° for the first 11 days. The yeast threw off a ton of sulfur in the first few days of fermentation.
  • On January 6 (11 days post-brew), ambient temperature in my garage was 58°, so I moved the fermenter out of the fermentation chamber. Temperatures in the garage were between 55° and 62° for the next three weeks.
  • After 20 days at ambient, I kegged the beer on 26 January 2020. I transferred the beer semi-closed transfer into a CO2-purged keg. I conditioned at 33° for awhile, before moving it on-tap.
  • Final gravity was 1.010, down from 1.045, for 4.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Light yellow, clear (but not quite brilliant), with persistent, fine white head. Gorgeous! It’s a shame it’s not brilliant, but that would probably just take a bit more time and patience.
  • Aroma
    • Slightly spicy hop aroma, with a lightly sweet malt note. Very nicely balanced between the two.
  • Flavor
    • Slightly sweet, grainy malt character. Firm but not overpowering bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately dry, smooth finish with a residual bitterness that pleasantly lingers. Moderate carbonation; a bit reduced because I have to do an extended pour thanks to the massive head!
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a delightful beer, which is a darned good approximation of the German pils style using American ingredients. I would be a bit happier if it was brilliant rather than just “vey clear,” but that’s about the only ding on this otherwise great brew. It seems that a decoction didn’t make much difference for clarity here. Even so, the thing I love about pilsners is that they are simplicity in recipe with maximum enjoyability in flavor!
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10
Posted in German pils, lager, pilsner | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

What’s Brewing? February 2020 Edition

stainless steel fermenter in fermentation chamber
The new fermenter, bubbling away with a Czech dark lager

Excitement at the brewery! I just got my first stainless steel fermenter, thanks to a clearance deal at my local homebrew shop*. The fermenter is nothing fancy, but the price was right and I have been meaning to start transitioning away from glass carboys in the name of safety and easier sanitation.

Since last report, I have had three brewing sessions, for a kölsch, a Czech dark lager, and an American IPA.

Kölsch is my homebrewing club’s March contest beer. I vacillated a bit on recipe design, but settled for a version without wheat, which supposedly better matches “typical” kölsch in Cologne. Pilsner malt makes up 2/3 of the grist, and kölsch malt (from Schill malting) makes up the remainder. I elected to run with American hops, swapping in Liberty instead of German varieties. It seems to be moving along pretty well, and I will keg it in a week or two before lagering until the contest.

The Czech dark lager is the inaugural batch for my new stainless steel fermenter. I’ve never brewed this style before, but wanted to try it as a dark lager option for the taps.

Finally, the American IPA is taken from a recipe in Homebrew Recipe Bible. It used some hop varieties I haven’t brewed with much (particularly Ahtanum, along with CTZ and Chinook), and some familiar favorites (Cascade, Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe). Although I’m fairly comfortable formulating an American IPA recipe, I think it’s good to sample some external recipes on occasion, to see what flavor combinations others like. It keeps me out of a rut!

In the lagering chamber, I have the German pils and red rye lager. I had a near disaster with that a few days back, when I shifted some things around and didn’t notice that the probe on my temperature controller had fallen out of the chamber. The result was an overnight freeze of the kegs! Luckily, the damage seems to be minimal, and I thawed them out over a day or two. One interesting phenomenon–as the beers thawed, they stratified heavily, forming a sort of eisbock. Unfortunately, it meant I had to agitate the kegs a bit to remix the beer, setting back a week of quiet lagering. Hopefully the haze will continue to settle before I serve. When I tasted the beers following thawing (and after agitation), I didn’t notice any major flavor damage. I normally tape the temperature probe in place on a fermenter (to make sure the fermenter temperature is accurately measured), but leave it loose when lagering in the keg. I learned a valuable lesson–find some way to secure the temperature probe inside my lagering chambers!

Right now, I have a festbier, a session porter, and a pale ale on tap. It fits my tap philosophy well, of having something lighter, something darker, and something hoppier on tap at all times.


*If you’re in the San Dimas area, Pacific Brewing Supplies is an awesome, family-run (and family-friendly) business. They have a broad, well-stocked inventory, and the owners are super knowledgeable.

Posted in What's Brewing? | Tagged