Tag Archives: Wyeast

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…

May Beer Thoughts

Just a few random beer thoughts a week into May…

Irish Red Ale

I brewed up my second batch of Irish Red Ale because…well, Northern Brewer was offering a free growler with the purchase of this particular kit so I bit.  If there is one truism about homebrewers, it’s that we love us some glassware.  It’s like crack cocaine.

It was about one year ago that I tried this particular recipe for the first time.  The beer turned out well:

Irish Red Ale Part Deux

This style is perfect for brewing up a crowd pleasing batch of beer.  I stuck to the recipe as called out because I felt that I should leave well enough alone.

Like a well-crafted wheat beer or saison, the Irish red ale is easy to drink and pleasing.  No one is going to sing from the mountain top about the notes of licorice and dragon fruit along with a lingering hoppy finish, but no one is going to complain when you crack open a bottle and slide a glass under their nose.

After putting over thirty miles on the bike this afternoon, a cold glass of this particular ginger beauty was a welcome sight.

A Guide to Sustainable Beer

What does it mean for beer to be sustainable?  The good folks over at Grist.org took a shot at the topic.  I agree that sustainable beer starts with craft brewers and ends there because there is no way that the AB-InBevs of the world can be sustainable.  Sorry, but these companies are the liquid equivalent of WalMart and Monsanto.

From there it becomes a question of what you think is sustainable.  Is it local?  Beer can be made and consumed locally.  Heck, it’s better that way.  But what about the ingredients?  You want to source hops locally and do not live in New York or the Pacific Northwest?  Good luck.  You want to go organic?  Some have tried, but the market does not seem to bear the extra cost—even though I personally loved Mothership Wit when it was available.  The discontinuation of that beer was one of the reasons that I started homebrewing in the first place.  Thanks New Belgium.

Post Super Bowl Beer Thoughts

For the first time in a few years I actually watched the Super Bowl in its entirety.  With no skin in the game—either team could have won and I would have cared not the slightest bit more either way—the game needs to be entertaining.  Well, we got that in droves on Sunday evening.  It helped that I was pint deep in beer, both of the homebrew variety and commercially produced.

Northwest Ale

Styles of beer are getting to be so muddied.  Is it an amber ale or an IPA or an oak-aged monkey ale?  I don’t know.  One style of beer that is associated with the craft beer renaissance in the United States is amber ale.  I associate this style mostly with New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, but there are countless varieties.

Homebrewers often cut their teeth on a variation of an amber ale.  Commonly, Wyeast 1056 “American Ale” or 1272 “American Ale II” are used to ferment the beer.  However, those yeasts are known for producing a platform for hops to be showcased in the place of a heavier malt profile.  I wanted to see what would happen if I let the hops take a backseat:

Northwest Ale

So, I started with an American Ale recipe, but instead of the traditional yeasts I chose Wyeast 1332 “Northwest Ale.”  The description, per Northern Brewer, is that the yeast “Produces a malty and mildly fruity ale with good depth and complexity.”  The malty part is what I was going for.  What is the verdict?

Pretty good.  I would be interested to see how two beers brewed the same time using the same recipe, but using different yeasts, would turn out because it is so hard to compare a beer that I brewed in January with one that I brewed in August or February of the prior year.  I lack the palate memory.  The beer is definitely malty.  I would not say that it has a fruity profile in any significant way, which is good because I was afraid of some banana flavors leaking in.  Everyone knows how I hate bananas.

Rye Ale and Rye Stout

I am on a little bit of a rye kick this month.  I have just put a batch of rye ale into bottles and I have a batch of rye stout that is fully krausened right now in a carboy downstairs.

Rye makes an interesting addition to a beer because it is supposed to add a peppery or spicy note to the beer that you just cannot get with malted barley.  I am sure that there are purists who will quote Germanic rules of brewing that say rye cannot be part of a true beer recipe, but I say hokum in my best Sheldon Cooper voice.

Does Fracking Threaten America’s Small Brewers?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing if you want to get all technical, to unleash natural gas in shale formations is booming all over the United States.  It’s part of the U.S. rise to prominence as an energy producer after spending the better part of the past few decades hearing about our dependence on everyone but ourselves for energy.  However, there is a dark side and that dark side is primarily about the impact of the process on the water supply.

It’s one thing to affect my drinking water, but affect my beer and those are fighting words.

Bitterly Cold Beer Thoughts

The mercury or whatever they use in thermometers these days was showing an ambient air temperature below zero for much of the morning here in eastern Iowa.  It’s the kind of cold that feels like someone has just pinched your spine when you walk outside or, rather, run between buildings in an effort to avoid exposure.

It’s on days like these that I wish I could stay home wrapped in blankets drinking a beer.  Instead, my thoughts wander to beer while I look at spreadsheets all day long at work.

Brickwarmer Holiday Red

It’s been about a week since I cracked open the first 22 ounce bottle of the Brickwarmer Holiday Red:

Brickwarmer Holiday Red

The beer turned out okay, but it really lacks some of the flavors in the description.  In particular, the description noted that it would have pronounced citrus flavors but none of that came through in the final product.

However, the beer does seem to hit a lot of the right notes for these cold days.  It is hearty in terms of malt profile and the hops do come through strong without turning into a gut punch.  Or a smack to the teeth depending upon your perception of hop bombs.

I think that next year I will try a recipe similar to this but add some fruit or spices to make a unique holiday ale.  A Christmas present for the beer drinker in my life…me!

Like my second batch of The Innkeeper [insert link] the carbonation of different bottles has been highly inconsistent.  Some bottles are carbonated perfectly while others are quite flat.  It is a problem that is pushing me closer and closer to going the keg route.  I just want to build a keezer.

My Rye Ale

This weekend I brewed up a batch of rye ale that started with the American Rye Ale extract kit offered by the good folks at Northern Brewer.  I have made this exact recipe before, so I wanted to do something a little different.

I felt that the beer really lacked a defining rye characteristic, something that my rye whiskey drinking friend agreed with wholeheartedly.  In an attempt to up the rye quotient without upsetting the balance of the beer I steeped one pound of Weyermann Chocolate Rye Malt for twenty minutes as a specialty grain to add some depth to the beer in general.  It will darken up the beer and add those roasted notes that can really make a beer shine.

When the weather turns warmer and, depending upon the success of this batch, I am eager to try substituting the dark chocolate malt for a lighter Weyermann Rye Malt or Fawcett Crystal Rye Malt.  The other change I am looking to try is moving away from the ubiquitous Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast or the slightly less ubiquitous Wyeast 1272 American Ale II.  This weekend I bottled a batch of American Amber Ale that used Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale.

The “problem” I am having right now is that I can spend hours on my iPad with iBrewMaster crafting new recipes to try come springtime.

What is Craft Beer?

There is a debate raging in the beer world over the term “craft” and what it means.  In December the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based member association comprised of self-identified craft brewers, released a statement entitled “Craft vs. Crafty: A Statement from the Brewers Association.”  While I will not qualify the resulting conversation as a firestorm, it has been a heated debate within the world of beer.

The “traditional” criteria of a craft brewer is one whose production is less than 6 million barrels a year and has an ownership structure where less than 25% is owned by a parent company who is not themselves a craft brewer.  Therefore, a brand like Shock Top would not qualify because it is wholly owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

I feel that some of this argument is reminiscent of the whole debate surrounding organic when the federal government put into place standards that were used to define organic.  While there was general applause over there being standards by which to qualify organic, a lot of people felt that there was a departure away from the spirit of what it means to be organic.  In the debate over craft there is the same tenor.  Is being a craft brewer purely a numbers game, as the Brewers Association’s definition would suggest, or is it about approach?

I would argue that what defines “craft” is approach.  If a brewery is independent of a large parent, but brewing watered down schwag lager to be consumed via beer bongs no one is going to label that a craft brewer.  Sorry, whether it’s 10 million barrels or 2,000 barrels crap beer is crap beer not craft beer.  That is, in essence, the problem with simple thresholds.

BTW, why 6 million barrels as the threshold?  The Boston Beer Company, which brews Sam Adams, is the largest craft brewery in the United States.  In 2011, the company brewed 2.5 million barrels itself and another 13 thousand under contract according to its annual report.  If the largest craft brewer is not even halfway to that number why is it even considered a threshold?

Ironically, included among the list of members for the Brewers Association is AC Golden—a division of the gigantic Molson Coors Brewing Co and part of the Miller Coors Brewing Co joint venture, Goose Island Beer Co—owned by the megasized Anheuser-Busch InBev monstrosity, and others I am too lazy to track down the true ownership structure.  The Brewers Association is going to produce a list in the first quarter of 2013 of the breweries that meet the “traditional” criteria of a craft brewery and that remain independent of a larger parent company.

I am just going to stick to my homebrew.  It’s as craft as you can get.

New Year’s Beer Thoughts

Damn, it’s 2013.  Where did 2012 go?

The Innkeeper Redux

In April of last year I brewed up a batch of Northern Brewer’s Inkeeper recipe kit.  I liked the beer at the time, but Northern Brewer has mixed things up by changing the malt extract.  Now the recipe utilizes Maris Otter malt syrup.

Apparently the new malt extract syrup is supposed to provide a more “real ale” character.  I do not know what the means exactly.  To my palate there was not a lot of difference between the new recipe formulation and the older formulation using light malt extract.

Regardless, the beer turned out well:

Maris Otter Innkeeper

However, some of the beers have been highly inconsistent.  The head on this example is great but two other recent bottles have had very little carbonation and some “off” flavors.  I hope that the batch did not get contaminated during bottling.  Ugh!

Brickwarmer Red and American Amber Ale

The Brickwarmer is in bottles and my take on an American Amber Ale is almost done with its secondary fermentation.  Needless to say, I am going to be “in the beer” very soon.

The big change I made to the recipe was changing the yeast out with the American Amber Ale.  Normally, the kit uses Wyeast 1056 American Ale which is a go to yeast for any type of American-style beer.  Along with Wyeast 1272 American Ale II, the yeast provides a neutral base for a “hop forward” flavor profile.  However, I am a fan of highlighting other aspects of a beer especially the malt profile.

I decided to use Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale.  The description and reviews led me to believe that this would provide a much more “malt forward” as opposed to “hop forward.”  We shall see in about three weeks when the first bottle gets opened and poured.

What is that Malt Flavor?

The good folks over at Serious Eats have a good rundown of the flavors of malt most commonly found in craft beers.  Too often we focus on the hops in beers–yes, I am looking at you craft beer aficionados–at the expense of the malts which can provide a ton of flavor.  I need to start a Malt Forward movement in beer.

Election Night Beer Thoughts

I am sitting in my living room watching the election night coverage on MSNBC and thinking about beer.  It’s actually not much of a stretch because I have been thinking a lot about the President of the United States and beer.

Beer You Can Believe In

President Barack Obama is not actually brewing beer, but his surrogates in the White House kitchen did ferment two different beers—a so-called White House Honey Ale and a White House Honey Porter.  The recipes are available online, following a spirited online petition drive, at the White House’s official site.  Check them out.

Reviews of the beers have trickled in.  The New York Times enlisted the assistance of the good folks over at Brooklyn Brewery to sample the Honey Ale.   As I have read a few reports of these brews I come across as less excited about the prospect of brewing my own.  Why?  The ingredients seem a little heavy on the sweet with not enough hop bittering to even things out.  Brewed with honey from the White House’s resident bees—thank you First Lady—there is a lot of fermentable sugar for both the yeast strain to digest.  The hops used are also not high in quantity and mild in nature, reflecting the British origins as opposed to more bitter American hops that are in vogue right now.

Northern Brewer, my supplier of homebrew supplies, even has kits available for those wanting to try their hand at executive privilege.  Maybe the forthcoming Honey Blonde that is rumored will satisfy my craving for less sweetness and a little more hop forwardness.  We can hope for change!

Scottish 60 Shilling

My most recent beer—a Scottish 60 Shilling ale recipe kit—is out of the bottle:

Mild.  Very mild.  According to iBrewMaster this batch should have come in at about 20 IBU and 2.8% ABV.  I have no reason to disagree with those numbers because this beer is really mild.  Almost too mild.  The maltiness of the beer is not offset enough by hop bitterness.  In essence, the beer is not balanced well enough.

Dry Irish Stout and the Innkeeper

The next beer, which I have to bottle this weekend, is a Dry Irish Stout recipe kit.  I reduced the amount of time the hops were to be boiled to bring the bitterness down.  My hope is that it highlights the malt profile a little more.  I tend to like my stouts to be light and finish very clean, with little or no aftertaste on the palate.

The funny thing about this beer is that it went crazy when I came home from vacation.  Why?  Our house’s furnace was set at 56 degrees for 10 days and went up to 64 the day we came home.  The rise in temperature reanimated the yeast and it started bubbling away again.  I love how alive and unpredictable this entire process can be sometimes.  I really do feel like a mad scientist.

This weekend I am going to make a return to the Innkeeper recipe kit.  I had favorable impressions about this beer the first time around, so I am interested to see if I still like the profile or if my tastes are being redefined in a certain direction.

First Beer Thoughts of Summer

It’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere, so naturally my mind turns to beer.  My most recent homebrew, an Irish red ale, is being poured and another batch is in the carboy, an American wheat.

The only downside, when you drink beer you have to make beer:

Irish Red Ale

Very drinkable.  This is one of those descriptions people give to a beer that I think is the kiss of death.  It basically says to me that nothing is very memorable about the beer five minutes after finishing a glass.  However, I am beginning to think that in the evening following a hot summer day this is exactly the kind of beer you want to drink.  You can see the “color” of the beer in the photo above.

More than some previous “lawnmower” beers I brewed up—notable the AK47 recipe from the good folks at Northern Brewer—the Irish red ale has more personality.  Unlike some aggressively hopped or overly alcoholic beers this particular beer is drinkable in a way that lets you finish a few pints without feeling like you’re bloated on bong water.  Sorry for the imagery, but my friend from St. Louis came up this past weekend with about ten different beers from local breweries down south.  Half of them filled the room with the distinct aroma of a head shop the moment the bottle cap was lifted.  Ugh!

Patersbier and Petitie Saison d’Ete

The next couple of batches that I brew are going to be different styles from anything I have tried earlier.  It is going to be an escape from the trap of American hybrid ales.  Do not be fooled, I am a huge fan of the American style of beer but there is something to be said for spreading one’s wings.

Northern Brewer had two interesting recipes that I just had to try: patersbier and Petitie Saison d’Ete.

Patersbier is the brew that monk’s save for themselves.  Translated literally, patersbier means “father’s beer.”  Usually not served or sold to the public patersbier is a very drinkable and rare treat.  This is one of those styles of beers that makes you glad to be a homebrewer because it is unlikely anyone you know has ever raised a glass.

Another notable element of the patersbier recipe is that is calls for Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity.  A characteristic of this yeast is that is produces few iso-amyl acetate, which are the dreaded banana flavor producing molecules.  You may like banana flavor in your beer, but it makes me want to vomit.

Petitie Saison d’Ete is a session strength seasonal beer.  Of less strength—in terms of alcohol—from beers with similar ingredients this beer represents a continental version of the “lawnmower” beer.

Can Craft Beer Save the U.S. Economy?

Can beer save America?  Or, more accurately, can craft and smaller scale beer save the American economy?  It’s a question posed by David Sirota over at Salon.

I think the question is less can craft beer save the American economy, but can deep craft save the American economy?  It’s not the small scale, in and of itself, that makes many craft beers so attractive and what propels to segment’s growth.  Rather, it is the ability to pay attention to details forgotten by the large brewers because these characteristics do not apply to a broad audience or are too expensive to institute on a large scale.

The same thing could be said for a lot of other segments of the economy.  Whether it’s furniture built with a degree of customization impossible from China or Ikea.  Or, meat raised by ranchers and farmers who actually care about the welfare of the animals and the health of the planet everyone shares.

Maybe it’s just craft for craft’s sake.  Like the light bulb guy in Portlandia.  Maybe that was a low blow.

Uh oh:

I am only listening to what the beer glass tells me to do!