Tag Archives: iBrewMaster

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

Advertisements

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

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.

First Pour from the Keezer

Here is the first pour from the keezer:

First Pour

Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s actually the second or third pour because I had to purge the liquid lines of any residual sanitizing solution.  Looks pretty good, eh?

iBrewMaster puts the vitals at 4.45% ABV and 48.85 IBU.  The alcohol sounds right given how the beer drinks, but the bitterness seems low because a lot of hop flavor lingers in the back of your throat.  Not in a bad way, per se, but more than I would have thought from a beer that was not dry hopped.

I am working on developing a “house” pale ale and this was my first attempt.  The recipe that I began with was modified from a very common extract recipe for American pale ale.  It’s pretty simple:

  • 1 lbs Briess 2-Row Caramel 20L steeped for 20 minutes prior to boil
  • 3.3 lbs Munton’s Light LME boiled for 60 minutes
  • 2 ounces Cascade pellet hops boiled for 60 minutes
  • 3.3 lbs Munton’s Light LME boiled for 20 minutes
  • 1 ounce Citra pellet hops boiled for 5 minutes
  • Safale K-97 dry yeast pitched after wort cooled
  • Primary fermentation for ~2 weeks
  • Keg conditioning for ~2 weeks, assuming that my ability to seal a keg was up to par

My plan was to produce a base pale ale recipe that was easily replicable and that could serve as a platform on which to experiment with dry hopping, different varieties of hops, etc.  I do not think that this is the base recipe from which I am going to work for a number of reasons.

First, the two ounces of Cascade hops boiled for 60 minutes gave the beer an overwhelming wallop of both bitterness and aroma.  Normally, this is a good thing but it totally overpowered the subsequent addition of Citra at the end of the boil.  I am a big fan of Citra hops and was disappointed to taste little of that variety in this recipe.

Second, the steeping grains definitely added body but little else to the beer.  No complexity or depth of flavor, so it really begs the question about the necessity of the addition.

Last, canned liquid malt extract (LME) just does not do it for me because I feel the product is generally not as fresh as it could be.  One of the primary reasons that I brew my own beer is to make sure that I have fresh product oozing forth from my faucets.  Starting with a product that is old makes for a beer that is preternaturally old.

If this sounds like a loser of a beer I am sorry because the beer is a very drinkable pale ale and a good first effort to come out of my kegs.  It’s just not what I was going for:

One Mug Homebrew

Chinook IPA Redux

This past summer I brewed a batch of a single hop IPA using the Chinook hops variety.   I was a fan of the beer, noting that at ~52 IBUs, as calculated by iBrewMaster, it seemed to be perfectly balanced with its modest alcohol level.

Not being one to leave good enough alone, I recently returned to the same recipe:

Chinook IPA Redux

This time, however, I changed the hopping a little bit.  The recipe actually calls for the beer to be dry hopped approximately one week into fermentation depending upon the activity in the carboy.  For my first batch I did not actually dry hop the beer.  I do not know why exactly.  It probably had to do with some recent sour experiences with dry hopped beers that were over the top in terms of hoppiness.

So, one ounce of Chinook hop pellets were put into the carboy and it was sealed for another three weeks.  The results really speak for themselves.  This may be the best beer that has ever been made by my hands.

Whereas the first batch was a pretty standard IPA the dry hopped version is outstanding.  The extra resinous flavors and aromas, without the accompanying bitterness that would have been contributed via boiling the hops in wort, produce a wonderful assortment of palate sensations.  This is a beer that is never boring.

Slowly I have been coming around to the idea of dry hopping beers.  It is the effect of having tried beers that use the technique to produce a unique beer without being a gimmick.

What would be really interesting going forward is to execute a similar recipe using another variety of hops, perhaps Citra, or play around with some different malts and specialty grains.  As the weather turns toward winter’s cold I might want to see what this recipe would be like using some rye malt.  Hmmmm, winter beers…

The Little Orange

I cracked opened a bottle of my latest homebrew this weekend, Northern Brewer’s La Petite Orange or as I like to call it the Little Orange:

Little Orange

First off, this has to be the most inconsistently bottle conditioned batch of beer that I have had the pleasure of drinking.  Some bottles almost foam out the top upon opening.  Other bottles barely have enough carbonation to produce a thing ring of head around the interior rim of the glass.  I do not get what happened with this batch, but it is one more push toward force carbonating my beer with a keg system.

The estimates from iBrewmaster put the alcohol at 5.37% and the bitterness at 19.  It’s a little hard to believe the estimate of the alcohol content because after a couple of these you start to feel things get soft around the edges.

One of my fears was that the yeast used—Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey—is known for producing banana esters at higher temps.  Naturally, I decided to brew this recipe when we went through a period of three weeks where the temperature barely ticked below ninety degrees and commonly topped out closer to 100.  We were fried and I was afraid my beer was going to come out like mofungo.  Good news is that my fears were not realized and the beer does not taste of bananas.  Whew!

Note to anyone using Wyeast 1214: it’s a slow start.  However, once this batch got going it was explosive.  I was afraid my blowoff preventer was not going to be able handle the volume of gas being belched out.

I really wanted to like this beer.  It seemed, from the description of the recipe, that it would really hit the spot as a late summer/early fall beer to drink on those days when the temperatures drop as the sun sinks below the horizon.  You know, something to bridge the season between the lawnmower beers of summer and the “heavier” beers of the cooler months.  It just did not come together in a way that I found satisfying.

The real problem that I had with this beer was that it was too sweet without any accompanying bitterness or body.  It sort of reminded me of the honey ales that friends have made where the sweetness of the honey added later in the brewing process overwhelms any other flavors.  With only 1 ounce of Styrian Goldings hops to provide bitterness, you are not likely to get much balance against six pounds of malt extract and a pound of candi sugar.

If I were to brew this recipe again, I would opt for a more potent hop or more hops in general to provide some bitter balance to the sweetness of the malt and sugar in the wort.

Next up is a batch of American Amber Ale and a Chinook IPA.  Stay tuned to see if I go the keg route and skip the horror that is two hours of my life spent bottling.

First August Beer Thoughts

The weather the past couple of weeks has bordered on perfect for Iowa in mid-August.  I am talking about mid-70s during the day, abundant sunshine, and temps that drop into the 50s at night.  Perfect for sitting around a patio fire and enjoying a few homemade beers.

Lefse Blonde Ale

The Lefse Blonde recipe kit from Northern Brewer really intrigued me because it was described as “this Belgian-style blonde ale features the same generous malt profile and spicy yeast character of stronger Dubbels and Tripels, but its more modest gravity means you can enjoy a couple and remain upright and hard-working past Compline.”

For the past month or so, I have found myself imbibing stronger and stronger beers which usually means my nights end earlier and my mornings start later.  Or at least start a little slower.  Nothing starts later when you have two children below the age of six in the house.

The first pour was promising:

lesfe blonde

According to my iBrewmaster calculations this beer have it coming in at ~5.2% ABV and a modest ~26 IBU.  The alcohol in the estimate seems a little high after having had a few pints, however I know that some beers drink lighter than the stated alcohol level would have you believe.  Based on mouth feel alone I would have pegged it at around 4% ABV.  Oh well.

The real winning aspect of this particular beer in the heat of Iowa in August is that it is effervescent.  It’s not just about the bubbles, but having long lasting bubbles in the brew helps.

The recommended yeast was Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II, which according to its description is known for its dry finish.  True to the description the Lefse Blonde really does finish dry and clean.  Not quite lager-like, but much cleaner than American style pale or amber ales.

This is a real winner of a recipe.

Phat Tyre Amber Ale

The Phat Tyre Amber Ale kit, also from Northern Brewer, intrigued me for a different reason.  By the name you can guess that it is a take on New Belgium’s classic Fat Tire Amber Ale.  I remember a time when Fat Tire was not distributed widely in the Midwest and people treated it like some kind of golden liquid from a faraway land.  My father may have talked about a time when people bootlegged Coors from Colorado, but for my generation we bootlegged Fat Tire Amber Ale from Fort Collins.

It looked right after an initial pour:

phat tyre ale

Something however is just not right with this beer.  Even though it used the same yeast as the Lefse Blonde—Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II—the flavor was very different.  I am not talking about the malt profile or the hops, but the flavors that the yeast is primarily responsible like those arising from esters.  Thankfully, the beer does not have that banana smell that I cannot stand.  Nothing will ruin my mood more than having a batch turn out to have banana aromas or flavors.  It does not go down the drain, but it quickly becomes the beer that I serve my guests.

Part of the problem may be that the room in which the beer was fermented probably had temps a little higher than normal.  Another issue may be that Belgian-style beers or ones that use Belgian-style yeasts are prone to developing different flavor profiles over time.  I may just need to allow the beer some extra time in the bottles for the flavors to really mellow or even out.  At least that is my hope.

What’s Next?

Right now I have a batch Le Petite Orange in the carboy.  It is about halfway through its primary fermentation, so I am quite a few weeks away from any tasting.