Tag Archives: wort

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.

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…

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.

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.