Tag Archives: dry hopping

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

American Amber Ale

The latest batch of homebrew is done bottle conditioning and it was ready to drink over the weekend.  This time it is an American Amber Ale:

American Amber Ale Part Deux

I have brewed this exact recipe kit before, most recently last February when I chose to use Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale in place Wyeast 1056 American Ale.  The results of that batch were good, so I chose to brew a batch using a more traditional strain of yeast and see what happened.  And?

This is a beer that definitely benefited from an extra week in the bottles.  The first bottle that I tried, not pictured above, was bottle conditioned for the minimum of two weeks.  The beer was not heavily carbonated and the flavors were kind of sharp instead of melting together.  It drank like a young beer.  It is odd sometimes to think of beer ageing, but it is critically important to remember that un-pasteurized homebrew is a living organism.  It is what allows the beer to bottle condition and it can dramatically change the flavor profile over time.  Usually this ageing improves the beer.

I waited an additional week to crack the next couple of bottles and was surprised by the difference.  There was more carbonation, almost the perfect amount, and the malt profile no longer felt like it was trying to punch the hops out of the room.  Some of the residual sweetness that was left on the tongue with the first bottle was totally gone.

iBrewMaster figures that my American Amber Ale will be of both middling bitterness (~41 IBU) and alcohol (4.6% ABV).  Both numbers feel about right for the beer that I let age additional week in the bottles, but the alcohol felt a bit higher across the tongue on the younger beer.  Overall, this is an excellent example of a modern American craft beer and it is very forgiving for the average homebrewer to take on.

It is my belief that amber ale and modern IPAs define the American craft beer renaissance.  No two styles are crafted in as many variations by as many breweries with as dramatic a range of results.  Partly this is due to just how versatile a base the basic recipe of either of these styles can be and the forgiving nature of the yeast, which seems amenable to just about any brewing condition unlike more temperamental ale strains.  Do not even get me started on the prima donna yeast strains of the lager side of the house.  Enjoy.

Next up is a dry-hopped Chinook IPA that is bottle conditioning right now and a Scottish 70 Shilling that is bubbling away in a carboy which would make it ready for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Bring on the cranberries.

Iowa Beer Trail Stops in Okoboji

Spend enough time in the state of Iowa and you will begin to wonder about this place called Lake Okoboji.  You will see people with stickers on their car proclaiming their allegiance to such a place and people will wear sweatshirts telling you that they are a proud alumnus of the University of Okoboji.  Too bad there is no university bearing such a moniker.

Lake Okoboji and the town of Spirit Lake have given us beer.  From Okoboji Brewing in particular.  On a recent trip to Des Moines to enjoy some back to school shopping and the horror that is Adventureland, I picked up three different varieties of beer from Okoboji Brewing at a HyVee in West Des Moines.  I was actually looking to procure some of the recently available canned beer from Confluence Brewing, but that was a no go.  I was hoping for a pleasant surprise from a brewery I had not known about prior.

Things were looking good with Boji Blue:

Boji Blue

Boji Blue is described as an American Pale Ale.  I am starting to have a hard time telling the difference between American pale ale and IPA anymore.

Using a combination of Cascade and Centennial hops to provide a middling bitterness (45 IBU) there is a definite “hoppiness” to Boji Blue.  It almost comes across like it was a dry hopped beer when the aroma hits your nose.  No mention of dry hopping was to be found.

Overall, a pretty solid effort that made me excited to crack the next two cans.  I should have stopped when I was ahead, but I opened a can of The Hole in Hadrian’s Wall:

The Hole in Hadrians Wall

It’s described as a Scottish ale.  It’s a pretty heavy beer (9.5% ABV) with a mild bitterness (19 IBU) and it is brewed with heather tips to provide an interesting accent.  None of this matters because the dominant flavor of the beer is an extreme sourness that just bulldozes anything else.  It’s not the cloying, multi-layered sour profile of actual sour ale.  No, it’s just sour like the beer went bad.  I actually thought I had a bad can of beer so I cracked another.  Guess what?  Equally as sour.  Ugh!

Ironically, the can’s label describes the style of beer, known in Scotland as “wee heavy,” having been served in smallish 6 ounce packages.  Here it comes in a 16 ounce can.  I challenge anyone to finish a full pint of this liquid.

I was hoping for redemption with 33 Select Brown Ale:

33 Select Brown Ale

This beer seemed a little gimmicky with the inclusion of maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I have had some beers that really pull off using maple syrup, particularly porters or stouts, and many beers include cinnamon to good effect.  Vanilla?  I cannot think of one example that I have tried where vanilla was a conscious inclusion.

What’s the verdict?  The beer comes across a little flat and thin.  It’s sweet, which is easy to understand given the inclusion of maple syrup, but the vanilla flavors just dominate to a point where the beer comes across surprisingly one note.  It sort of felt like I was sucking on a vanilla candle at one of those horrid “olde tyme candle shoppes.”  Unlike The Hole in Hadrian’s Wall, which went down the drain, I was able to repurpose 33 Select Brown Ale as brat boiling liquid for a weekend get together of friends where we cracked open quite a few homebrews.  If a beer gets relegated to brat duty—like the cans of Coors Light I keep in the refrigerator for my father—it should be considered a failure of brewing.

The sad thing is that I had hope that Okoboji Brewing would be a surprise.  They seemed interested in pushing some stylistic boundaries and they were saying all the right things, especially about putting beer in cans.  Alas, the results speak for themselves.  Nothing to see here.

All is not lost in the area, however, as I have high hopes for the good folks at West O Beer which opened in May of this year.

Surly Fest & Coffee Bender

I am a big fan of the work that Surly Brewing is doing up in Minnesota.  I like a lot of the beers coming out of the brewery and the company has been a driving force in loosening some of the more insane restrictions placed on breweries.  Now, it will be possible for breweries in Minnesota to have commercial taprooms on site which makes the entire idea of a microbrewery more economically feasible.  Thank you Surly.

This trip to the Twin Cities brought Surly’s Fest and Coffee Bender to my refrigerator.

Fest is an oddity.  Wrapped in a label which evokes the season Oktoberfest beers that dominate the shelves at this time of year, the folks at Surly have made it a point to say that this is not an Oktoberfest beer in any way.  Huh?  Rather, it is “single hopped, dry hopped, rye lager bier.”  Whatever that means:

The beer is not overly strong (6.0% ABV) nor is it overly bitter (34 IBU).  Maybe I was expecting an Oktoberfest beer or a marzen because the dry hopping really stood out to me.  Dry hopping is a technique where hops are added after the boil, usually after primary fermentation but brewers are trying all different kinds of timing.  Because the hops are not added during the boil, the aromatic oils that may normally be destroyed by the high temperatures are preserved.  When you open a bottle or can of a dry hopped beer you get hit with a fistful of hop aroma.  Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it is overpowering.

Remember in college when a stoner would open the door to his dorm room and it smelled like the inside of a bong?  A beer that has been aggressively dry hopped can have that effect.  Fest does not fall victim to that pratfall.

Overall, this is another well-executed beer from Surly.

In the past, I have written about Bender.  This is about Coffee Bender:

What can I say?  These guys took a beer I liked and added something that I really like—coffee!  Coffee Bender is the same strength (5.5% ABV) and bitterness (45 IBU) as the regular Bender, but the coffee flavor adds so much to this beer.  Unlike some other beers where coffee has been added, the regular Bender seems like a perfect platform to let the coffee flavor and aroma really shine.  It’s not lost in a mountain of hop aroma or bitterness.  The coffee also contributes a bitterness that is all its own.  This may be one of my new favorite beers.  Uh oh!

This beer has inspired me to try adding coffee to some of my forthcoming homebrews.  Maybe a coffee stout.  Until then, I will just have to bootleg Coffee Bender from the Twin Cities.

The claim is that you will not know whether to start or end your day with a Coffee Bender.  My fear is that I would finish of a half dozen of these and be wired to the gills for the rest of the evening.

My only complaint with the folks at Surly Brewing is the limited distribution of their beers.  In order to meet local demand, distribution is limited to the Twin Cities metro.  Seriously, why do you have to be so mean?