Tag Archives: carboy

House Pale Ale #3

The attempt to solidify a “house” pale ale recipe for my keezer is a frustrating process. First, there is the lead time inherent in homebrewing. It is four to five weeks between batches because I prefer to allow the batches to keg condition much like you would bottle condition. Second, small variations in the process can produce some pretty divergent results. Your yeast could produce bubblegum esters or your hop profile could come out flat. Argh!

Each of these “house” pale ale recipes is going to seem a little derivative, but that is the point. My recipe was as follows:

  • 1 lbs. Briess 2-Row Caramel 20L, steeping grains
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
  • 1 lb. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • 1 oz. Willamette pellet hops, 15 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minutes
  • Safale S-05 yeast

iBrewMaster figured that the beer came in at ~3.7% ABV and ~32 IBU. Fairly light and easy drinking for the higher temps of early summer. What was the result:

House Pale ALe #3

It’s a very light beer in terms of body and alcohol. Unlike my prior house recipe there is a more pronounced hop character, even though the IBU rating is the same, which I am chalking up to the use of Cascade hops. The hops’ resin character can stand up to a full 60 minute boil better than some other varieties…yes, I am looking at you Citra.

The beer came out very similar to my prior House Pale Ale #2, which was to be expected considered that the primary departure between the two recipes was the change in hops. I also changed the steeping grains from a Caramel 40L to a Caramel 20L which did result in a slightly lighter body.

I would like to say that this beer is a 2.5 mug rating, but I am not going to start parsing mugs down into fractional units. Therefore, it gets two mugs because I like to err on the side of pessimism.

Beer Ratings

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House Pale Ale #2

It’s been a rough go of it lately in terms of quality homebrew. I have not put forth a batch that I loved since I finished my keezer. Is it the keezer or is the brewer? I am inclined to place the blame squarely on my own shoulders.

Granted, part of this has been the process of refining a “house pale ale” recipe. Initially, I thought that I wanted to go with something that was similar to Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue with its big punch of Citra backed flavor. However, I think that flavor profile is better suited to an occasional beer that is enjoyed for its unique quality rather than an everyday, drinking beer.

After a departure to make a Pale Wheat Ale, it is back to more traditional American-style pale ale. #2 differs in several ways from #1. The biggest difference is that Cascade hops are the primary bittering hop and Citra is used toward the end.

I also used one pound of Briess 2-Row Caramel 40L as a steeping grain prior to the sixty minute boil. A fairly simple extract ale recipe that was as follows:

  • 1 lb. Briess 2-Row Caramel 40L, steeping grains
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
  • 1 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 5 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale S-05 yeast

iBrewMaster figured that the beer came out at ~3.7% ABV and ~32 IBU. Fairly mild numbers, but how did it taste:

House Pale Ale 2

It is a good, if unspectacular, beer. The lack of any real Citra flavor confirms my personal suspicion that the hop is better suited to dry hopping as opposed to being used in the boil. I think it is a great addition as a dry hop. Something just gets lost when it is exposed to any kind of heat for any period of time. This leaves the beer dependent upon a small amount of Cascade hops to really “bring the lumber” in the aroma and bitterness department. In the end, the amount of Cascade hops was not up to the challenge.

The body of the beer, however, was nice and neutral base for which to experiment with hops of varying kinds in a variety of ways. I believe that this will be the standard base recipe going forward.

I feel like I am making progress on my house recipe.

Beer Ratings

Pale Wheat Ale

I have been on the hunt to create a “house ale” recipe in the pale ale style. For some reason, I decided to depart from that a little bit with this recipe and incorporate some wheat ale elements. I have no idea why I decided to do such a thing.

I poured the first glass when I was recovering from surgery:

Pale Wheat Ale

The recipe was similar to recipes in the recent past and is as follows:

  • 1 lbs Caramel Wheat Malt, steeping grains
  • 3 lbs Munton’s Wheat DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
  • 1 lbs Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes.
  • 1 oz Citra pellet hops, 5 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale S-04 yeast

iBrewMaster calculated that the beer would come in at ~5.3% ABV and ~28 IBU.

I had hoped to force carbonate this beer using one of the speedier methods, as opposed to set it and forget it, but my system developed a slow leak somewhere and the pressure crashed overnight. Whoops.

The body of this beer was very malt forward, a product of heavy steeping grains and wheat malt extract I suppose. It was to the point of completely overwhelming whatever bitterness, granted it was designed to be a mild beer in terms of IBU, was present.

For the past few batches of beer—two that have been dispensed and a third that is keg conditioning as I write—Citra hops have been a major player. Unfortunately, with this beer I think I am realizing the limits of that hop. Used in dry hopping Citra is amazing. It adds a strong grapefruit aroma that is just unique. Used in a more traditional boil and those unique notes are totally lost. I could have used any hop with a more “durable” flavor profile in the boil and gotten more impact out of it. For my next batch I am using a combination of Cascade and Willamette, traditional craft brew hops, to create a base recipe. My intent is to make an analogous batch that utilizes Citra as a dry hop.

Yeast is a funny thing when it comes to homebrewing. You read descriptions on packages and troll the message boards. Once you finally decide what yeast to use it gets pitched into the carboy and away begins the fermentation. Except the end result can be markedly different depending upon a number of factors.

I utilized Safale S-04 for this batch of pale wheat ale and I think that the yeast or my usage of the yeast contributed to several flavors that I found unappealing. Most notably the beer had a yeasty or doughy aroma and taste that was not objectionable, but it was not what I wanted in my beer. If you have ever walked into a bakery that moves a lot of bread and smelled a batch rising you know the aroma I am talking about. It’s not that horrible Subway bread smell that knocks me on my ass every time I walk past that place.

There was also a fruity or sweet taste—some say bubble gum, but my nose did not detect that note—that lingered a little too long on the tongue. Again, this was not an objectionable flavor but it was not what I wanted at all. In the next two batches I used Safale S-05 hoping to avoid these particular flavors.

Not my favorite homebrew:

One Mug Homebrew

House Pale Ale #1

Somewhere I read a line that really stuck with me. It described brewing a lot of different types of beers as a “series of one night stands.” It was meant to convey that the results might be satisfying, but you were only skimming the surface of your possible skill set because there was no baseline from which to grow.

Okay, it was a metaphor that was meant to shock a little bit and I am sure the writer was not trying for a bit social commentary. The idea, however, is solid. To get the most out of your talents as a brewer and to make the best beer possible you need to focus on creating a single so-called house recipe.

With my keezer finished and pouring pint after pint, as well as the occasional growler, it seemed like a perfect time to start devising a house recipe of my own.

My goal is to create a beer similar to my new favorite—Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue. I wanted to produce something that had a lot of Citra hop notes and was light enough to drink more than one:

House Pale Ale No 1

The recipe was a fairly simple extract brew with no steeping grains and a low level of hops. It went as follows:

  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 30 minutes
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale K-97 yeast
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, dry hopped after one week of primary fermentation.

Primary fermentation was for 2 weeks, with the dry hopping one week in, and the beer was keg conditioned for 2 weeks prior to hooking it up to the keezer.

I put this beer into the keezer under pressure and waited a few days to serve. The first few glasses were…um…disappointing. The dry hopped Citra notes were overpowering and there was not enough body in the beer to hold up the flavors. iBrewMaster calculated the batch to have 4.6% ABV and 36 IBU.

A few days later the pints went down better, as if the beer had mellowed somewhat in the keezer. Subsequent pours in the following weeks have confirmed that this was a beer that needed some additional time to have the flavor profile blend and mellow somewhat. Oh well, my desire to drink my homebrew got the best of me.

Overall, a minor failure for my firs go at a house pale ale recipe.

One Mug Homebrew

The biggest change I am going to make in recipes going forward is to reincorporate some specialty grains steeped prior to the boil. I believe that this will add some needed complexity and body to the base of the beer so that it can handle bolder hop profiles. We shall see.

Rye Ale from the Keezer

I think that I finally have my keezer dialed in and there have been no incidents with its operation over the past couple of weeks.  My original pale ale is gone and I am on to my second Cornelius keg of homebrew.

This recipe is a rye ale.  In the past I have experimented with various rye ales to varying degrees of success—one recipe was a little too aggressive and others were a little more palatable—but no real knock it out of the park recipes.  So, it was off to try again:

Keezer Rye Ale

Unlike prior extract recipes that used steeping grains, this recipe uses a technique called “steep to convert” or partial mash because I am also using some liquid malt extract.  It was a pretty heavy load of grain that was steeped in the beginning:

  • 16 oz. Flaked Rye
  • 12 oz. US 2-Row Pale Malt
  • 8 oz. Honey Malt
  • 4 oz. Briess Munich 10L
  • 2 oz. Briess Vienna Malt

Once this was done steeping for 45 minutes, 3.3 lbs of Munton’s Light LME was added at 60 minutes and 20 minutes into the boil.  For bittering 1 ounce of Columbus hops were added at 30 minutes and 1 ounce of Citra hops were added at 10 minutes.  A Whirfloc tablet was thrown in with five minutes left in the boil.

The results were…meh.  I did not notice an appreciable difference from the truckload of grain that was steeped at the beginning of the boil compared with recipes that used significantly fewer grains, so that feels like a wasted effort.

Even though the beer was dry hopped with Citra hops, quickly becoming one of my favorite hops, I tasted none of the citrus or grapefruit notes that the hop is known for.

iBrewmaster calculated the final ABV at 5.11% and the bitterness at ~52 IBU which seem right when I drink a pint from the keezer.  It’s not a bad beer, per se, but a beer that really does not have a defining trait that makes you want to brew another batch which I feel is the death knell of any homebrewed beer.

It took a little fiddling with the gas settings on my keezer to get the proper pour, but even then the beer just sort of slides across the palate and leaves no memory of its presence:

One Mug Homebrew

SMASH American Session Ale

2014 is going to be the year of session beers.  You cannot swing an empty growler without hitting another variation of the theme.  You know how I know it is going to be the hot trend?  The term session has become almost meaningless like IPA before it.

Why meaningless?  You see brewers calling beers session ales that have alcohol levels ranging from under 3% ABV to over 8% ABV.  Bitterness levels are equally all over the map.  This is okay, but it does confuse the beer drinker.  It just requires a little leg work and tasting.  First world problem, I know.

Keeping myself on trend, I brewed up a batch of Northern Brewer’s SMASH American Session Ale:

SMASH IPA

iBrewMaster calculated the beer to be 3.8% IBV and ~48 IBU.  Ignoring the voluminous head of some of the bottles in this batch, it’s a pretty well balanced beer.  The bitterness is about perfect and the dry hopping adds a resinous after taste that lingers just long enough to enjoy without becoming annoying.

The beer could use a little more body to it to balance out the bitterness and “hoppyness.”  I would not suggest upping the alcohol content because I found this to be a very drinkable ale, but I would rather find a way to incorporate a malt structure that has a better chance of supporting the excellent flavors present.

I am a recent convert to the powers of dry hopping.  Between this beer and my recent dry hopped Chinook IPA  I am prepared to forgo my former opposition to the practice as gimmicky and embrace the effort to enhance the flavor or beer.

I did not like this beer as much as the second Chinook IPA, but that is not to say that I did not like this beer a lot.  I have been drinking this beer for the past couple of weeks and the great flavor has been appreciated during this recent cold snap and holiday break.  Even when I was sick and nothing tasted like much else there was something refreshing about a glass of dry hopped goodness bursting through to my taste buds.

In the past I have been leery of the Simcoe hop variety.  Beers I have tried using this hop always tasted like something was burnt or ashtray like.  It was not a flavor in the body of the beer, but something that sat in the back of the throat.  After drinking this beer I am going to chalk my suspicion up to the execution of the brew rather than the ingredient.    It would be interesting to duplicate this recipe using a different hop variety.  Citra, perhaps?

The verdict?

3 Star HomebrewMy New Year’s “beer resolution” is to develop a so-called house beer to have on tap in my newly constructed keezer setup.  The idea is to refine a single recipe rather than trot out singular attempts—dubbed a series of one night stands by a beer writer—in order to really nail down the finer points of that particular recipe.  Brew on.

Scottish 70 Shilling

Over a year ago I poured a glass of Scottish 60 Shilling and found it to be a little too mild for my tastes.  The beer was very low in alcohol and bitterness.  Thinking back on it, I should have described it as a dark and malty version of you average American light beer.  I do not think that this is a bad thing, per se, but the beer’s appearance and its drinking character were kind of at odds.  Call it beer drinking dissonance.

This time I moved “up the ladder” and brewed a Scottish 70 Shilling:

Scottish 70

Fermented with Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale, the beer comes out true to description as neutral and clean per the yeast strain description.

As a “far cry from a Wee Heavy” according to the lads at Northern Brewer, this is a good drinking beer for cooler temps.  I bottle conditioned this batch, but per the description at Northern Brewer’s website this would be a great beer carbonated at a slightly lower level and served with food that could be termed rustic.  It is hopped to what is considered the high end for the style.  Consider, however, that this means approximately 1.5 oz of US Fuggle hops in total.  Compared to a lot of modern American Pale Ales this is downright tiny.  Also, US Fuggle is a pretty mild hop variety having about one-half the alpha acid content to the more common craft beer hops like Cascade or Willamette.

When you drink beers that hew toward the traditional styles of the United Kingdom—in whatever iteration you want to consider the United Kingdom—it’s easy to see why people considered beer to be liquid bread.  You can almost taste the structure of baked bread in these beers.  Heck, it almost makes me want to sit down to a plate of bangers and mash while watching Everton eek out another mildly impressive season considering the resources at the club’s disposal.

It’s my belief that beers like this do not get enough attention because so much time is focused on the over the top or gimmicky beers coming from the countless craft breweries that are opening their doors across this great country.  Everyone wants to stand out in some way as that is the path toward longer term success in a marketplace that is increasingly saturated.  However, modest and drinkable beers are the ones that we, as beer drinkers, will return to time and time again.

Often derided as “house” beers, much like table wine is derided by wine snobs, these are the types of beers that occupy our refrigerators for a pint or two on a Wednesday night.  That is not a shame.  Rather it is an honor.

Next up is a SMASH American Session Ale.  It’s also going to be the last batch I put into bottles because I am moving into the world of kegging over Christmas break.  Check back to see my keezer build.