Christmas Warmer 2020

My beer tastes run towards the lighter, lower-alcohol side, but I sure do like a nice and robust beer in that stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I just finished the keg of Stygimoloch Bock, and this year’s Christmas Warmer went on tap in its place.

The goal for this batch was to have something with a bit of character and a bit of kick. I wanted a rich malt character, alongside a bit of spice. I looked through Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes, and found “Christmas Beer” as an inspiration. The malt proportions in my version are pretty similar to Strong’s recipe, but I did a ton of swapping for brand and even malt type. Golden Promise got replaced by Vienna, and Belgian Aromatic got swapped out for Honey Malt, among other things. The original recipe is far more English in character, including the hops and yeast, and I did away with that entirely! Instead of English ale yeast, I brought in Hornindal kveik. My logic was that its orange/citrus qualities would fill that space of orange zest in Strong’s recipe. Plus, I had the kveik on-hand, and thought it would be a fun variation.

Because this was a pretty experimental batch, and because I didn’t want ridiculous amounts of a spiced beer, I knocked the recipe back to 2.5 gallons. This gave me a chance to do a test-run for a small batch on my Foundry system. I quite like the result, but am glad that I don’t have endless quantities of it. Even a good spiced ale is best as a treat in moderation!

Christmas Warmer 2020

  • 3.5 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Munich II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. honey malt (Gambrinus)
  • 0.5 lb. Caramunich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. caramel 40° malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. flaked barley
  • 2 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 1 lb. honey, 1 minute boil
  • 1 oz. robust molasses (Grandma’s Brand)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Steeping spices (steeped for 10 minutes after boil)
    • 2 vanilla beans, cut and scraped
    • 3 cinnamon sticks
    • 6 coriander seeds, crushed
    • 1 whole nutmeg, chopped
    • 4 allspice berries, crushed
  • Hornindal kveik (repitched from previous batch)

Target Parameters

  • 1.068 s.g., 1.009 f.g., 7.7% abv, 19 SRM, 25 IBU, 3 gallon batch
  • Infusion mash, 154°, full volume; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines.

Procedure

  • I mashed in (using my Anvil Foundry) with 4.5 gallons of water at 160°, adding 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust pH. I let this settle down to 154°, mashing for 50 minutes with recirculation. I then raised the mash to 168° over 10 minutes, let it rest for 10 minutes, removed the grains, and brought the runnings to a boil.
  • The mash yielded 4 gallons of wort at 1.041, for 62% mash efficiency. This was a bit below where I wanted to be, so I added 0.5 lb. of extra light DME, to raise the gravity.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding the hops and other ingredients per the schedule.
  • After the boil but before chilling the wort, I steeped the spices in a bag for 10 minutes.
  • I cooled down to ~80°, transferred to the fermenter, and let it run at ambient. Because it was later in fall when I brewed this, ambient was around 70° or so for the start.
  • Starting gravity was 1.061. I brewed the beer on 20 October 2020.
  • I kegged the beer on 6 November 2020, and force carbonated.
  • Final gravity was 1.017, which works out to 5.8% abv. I’ve noticed that this kveik strain seems to underattenuate, measuring 61% to 71% in the batches I’ve done.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Deep amber beer with some haze; pours with a persistent beige head.
  • Aroma
    • Candied ginger, general spice, with a touch of citrus peel. Slight malty/biscuity character, and a slight tartness. There is a hint of cinnamon/spice as the beer warms up.
  • Flavor
    • Medium-low bitterness, and a light tartness (from the kveik?). There is a subtle spice character, with a bit of cinnamon and molasses that become more prominent as the beer warms.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, moderate carbonation. The finish is off-dry and fairly smooth.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a pretty good beer, but still needs a little work. For my personal conception of a “holiday beer,” I’d like a bit more base malt character. For a rebrew, I might use all Munich I as the base, and also add some dark crystal malt (maybe crystal 80 or crystal 120?). The beer could also use a little more sweetness–perhaps from lactose or crystal malt–to round out the profile. The level of bitterness is about perfect. Finally, I might change the yeast to an English ale yeast rather than kveik. In sum, this is a perfectly drinkable experiment, and will be worth a future revision.
  • Overall
    • 6/10

Kveik the Keg Brown Ale

As the days turn towards winter, I’m in a dark [beer] mood. This is the time of year when I really like having a stout, porter, brown ale, or even an amber ale on tap to round out my beer choices.

To kick things off for the fall/winter dark beer season, I brewed up “Kveik the Keg Brown Ale.” It’s a total experiment, pulling together something that’s vaguely an American-style brown ale, with a repitch of the Hornindal kveik culture used in my recent pale ale. The idea was to make a sessionable beer holding ample malt character and a citrus highlight…something like a “chocolate orange” feel. I modified this from the Wasatch Premium Ale recipe in the Brewing Session Beers book by Jennifer Talley, because it looked like it had many of the initial features I was hoping for. For the malt base, I mixed American 2-row and light Munich malt, supplemented by a hefty dose of crystal 75, some chocolate malt, and a touch of Carafa Special III for color. For hops, I used all whole-Cascade hops. The Hornindal culture, which produces a subtle citrus character, would hopefully work alongside the Cascade. As you’ll see in the tasting notes, this was a pretty successful experiment!

Kveik the Keg Brown Ale

  • 6.25 lb. 2-row brewer’s malt (Great Western)
  • 2.5 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
  • 1 lb. crystal 75 malt (Great Western)
  • 2.6 oz. Carafa Special III malt (Weyermann)
  • 2.5 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Hornindal Kveik (Omega OYL-091), repitched from previous batch
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), dry hop in fermenter

Target Parameters

  • 1.044 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.4% abv, 18 SRM, 33 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines.

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.4 gallons of water at 166°, to hit my mash target of 156°. After 40 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of hot water (~175°), to raise the mash temperature to 164°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.75 gallons of hot water, to hit a ~164° mash temperature. I let this sit for 10 more minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.038, for 76% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, and added hops, nutrients, and finings per the indicated schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, chilled the wort down to 89°, and transferred it to the fermenter.
  • I brewed this beer on 19 September 2020. Starting gravity was 1.045, pretty close to my target. I pitched around 8 ounces of yeast slurry (which had been harvested a week prior), and saw signs of fermentation within 90 minutes of pitching the yeast! Within 18 hours, there was vigorous fermentation. What a solid start for this culture! I fermented this at ambient temperatures.
  • On 23 September, I added 1 oz. of dry hops directly to the fermenter.
  • I kegged the beer on 3 October 2020, adding 2.8 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup of water. The keg sat at ambient for ~10 days, before I topped up the pressure using force carbonation.
  • Final gravity was 1.017, down from 1.045, for 3.6% abv.
Kveik the Keg Brown Ale

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Very clear, deep brown beer with a persistent ivory head. It is exceptionally pretty!
  • Aroma
    • Moderate chocolate character to the malt aroma, with a slight citrus character, presumably from the yeast and hops. Very clean!
  • Flavor
    • The beer has a surprisingly rich, bready malt base (must be that Munich malt!), with a dark caramel and chocolate character behind that. Bitterness is at a moderately high level, but not over the top relative to the malt. There is definitely an orangey citrus character in play here.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate carbonation, with a fairly light body and a crisp finish. There is a very slight bit of what might be astringency on the extended finish, but it’s barely noticeable. It’s not harsh at all, but does seem a touch out of balance with the rest of the beer.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! I might make a few minor modifications, perhaps to dial the bitterness back just a touch and maybe reduce the dry hopping level or dry hopping time. I think the beer would also benefit from swapping out the 2-row base malt with a Vienna or Maris Otter-type malt, to enrich the malt character. All that said, it’s overall a pretty good beer. I really like how the kveik culture worked in this beer, and it’s pretty nice to find something for this yeast that’s not yet another oversaturated IPA. I’ll probably be brewing more beers like this down the road!

Kveik Pale Ale

It happened…I’ve given in to a brewing trend, and am trying a recipe with kveik. As you’ll see in some upcoming posts, I’ve in fact tried a few kveik recipes at this point. This is my first one, and admittedly not my favorite.

red package of yeast from Omega Yeast, Hornindal Kveik strain, with cartoon of cat on front
Kveik culture from Omega

For those not familiar with it, kveik is essentially a Norwegian farmhouse ale culture, with a rich cultural history that has likely been over-analyzed by those outside of the original neighborhoods where the yeast originated. I’ve been intrigued by their stated qualities of fermenting cleanly in excess of 90°, which almost sounds too good to be true. It wasn’t, in the end!

The recipe is inspired by a kit recipe from Atlantic Brew Supply, with major adjustments to pretty much everything. Many of the kveik-centered recipes out there are super-high alcohol, and that just doesn’t interest me. Session ales forever! I looked around at a few different kveik strains, and Hornindal from Omega seemed to hit the balance of a citrusy character that I wanted. I went with my usual session pale ale strategy of Vienna plus some Munich and a little crystal malt. For the hops, I grabbed a South African experimental variety, U1/108, from my local homebrew shop.

Kveik Pale Ale

  • 8 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
  • 0.5 lb. Crystal 40 malt (Great Western)
  • 0.75 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • 1 oz. African Experimental U1/108 hop pellets (15.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. African Experimental U1/108 hop pellets (15.0% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 3 oz. African Experimental U1/108 hop pellets (15.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 pkg. Hornindal Kveik (Omega OYL-091)

Target Parameters

  • 1.043 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.3% abv, 6 SRM, 41 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 45 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines and 2 g of gypsum added to boil kettle.

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons at 168°, to hit a 158° mash temperature. I also added 4 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to adjust pH.
  • The mash temperature was down to 156° after 45 minutes. At this point, I added 1.5 gallons for the first sparge, which raised the temperature to 162°. After 10 minutes, vorlaufed and collected the first runnings. Next, I added 3.6 gallons for the second sparge, with a vorlauf after 10 minutes.
  • In total, I collected 7 gallons with a gravity of 1.039, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • In the kettle, I added 2 g gypsum, and the broil everything to a boil. I boiled for 45 minutes, adding hops and other items per the schedule.
  • After flame-out, I chilled the wort to below 185° and then added 1 oz. of whirlpool hops. Hops were between 175° and 180° for 10 minutes. Then, I continued chilling.
  • After I chilled the wort down to 90°, I let it settle for 1 hour and then transferred to the fermenter and pitched the kveik.
  • The fermenter showed minor activity within 6 hours, and vigorous bubbling within 18 hours. At this point, I measured ~85° degrees for fermenter temperature, with 80° degrees ambient in the garage. I started fermentation on September 5, and fermentation seemingly was done by 9 Sept 2020.
  • I kegged the beer on 13 September 2020, adding dry hops in a baggie at that time. As has been my usual practice lately, I did a mixture of keg priming and force carbonation, targeting 2.7 volumes of CO2. I added 2.8 oz of corn sugar dissolved in one cup water for this first stage, and after a week topped up the CO2 using my cylinder.
  • Final gravity is 1.017, for 3.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • A hazy gold beer, with a pillowy, fine, and very persistent white head
  • Aroma
    • Aroma is malt-centered, very bready and showing a bit of caramel. Hop aroma is surprisingly low.
  • Flavor
    • Very hoppy, with a slightly rough bitterness. The malt in the background has a bready and toasty quality.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light bodied, slightly astringent finish, probably from the dry hops. Moderately high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Not with this particular hopping regimen. The malt character is fine, and the yeast character is fantastically clean for having been fermented at high temperature, but the hops just don’t do it for me. I wonder if it’s a combination of the hop variety with the low starting gravity, so that the hops aren’t balanced more by the malt. I also think I overhopped on the dry-hopping, so I can’t blame it all on the hop variety. Honestly, the beer was far better before I added the dry hops! That said, I’m super impressed by the yeast, and harvested a ton for use in some upcoming batches.
  • Overall
    • 4/10