Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year End Thoughts

I'm going to take this opportunity to lay out some of the lessons I've learned as a brewer in 2011.

1. Fermentation temperature control is hugely important. Since I invested in a mini-fridge and a temperature controller, my beers have been more consistent and "cleaner". It's a simple setup - found a mini fridge at Walmart that's big enough for a carboy and invested in a Johnson a4 temperature controller. Total cost: about $150. I hook up the fridge power through the temperature controller, and run a temperature probe into the fridge and tape it to my carboy. I set it so that it doesn't swing more than 2 degrees either direction from whatever my desired temp is (usually in the 60s). It's made a huge difference.

2. Oxygen helps fermentation. I invested in a $50 oxygen aeration system from Williams brewing, and it's also really helped my beers. My friend Jeremy let me use his for my first beer of the year, and I was hooked. it's tough to describe exactly the difference I feel it made, but it's almost a professional taste. I now make beers that don't taste like homebrew - they taste professional.

3. Make sure you have a solid pipeline of beers. If you don't have enough stuff made, you tend to rush the stuff you've made because you are impatient. In my case, I try to make sure I have at least four beers in kegs at any given time. Two of them in the kegerator and two more as backups. This allows me to make sure I have extra beer on hand in case a keg kicks, and it keeps me from rushing things out of the fermenter and into a keg before they are ready.

4. My favorite toy of the year is a carbonator cap. Its a ball lock hookup that screws onto plastic bottles, allowing you to force carbonate things in a 16, 32, or 64oz (2 liter) bottles. I've used it to carbonate samples I've drawn of uncarbonated beers and to make soda for the wife. Pretty good return for a $15 investment. I bought mine from - while I'm not affiliated with them, I highly recommend them. Cheap kegs, fast shipping, and they totally made it right when I had a problem. Solid place.

5. Don't run out of mead! I made a blueberry mead in 2008, and it really hit its stride in the past year. Unfortunately, it's almost gone. I made another batch this May, but I'm going to have about 18 months where I try to ration out the last few bottles of the old batch until the new is ready. Not making that mistake again! I actually made 14 gallons of mead this year, and I have plans for more early next year. I've made 5 gallons of blueberry mead I'm aging in an oak barrel. 5 gallons of orange blossom mead aging on vanilla beans. And a gallon each of hibiscus, pumpkin, blackberry, and raspberry meads. Still, they will probably all need most of next year befo they're high quality.

6. Crush your own grain. You get much greater control over the end product, much higher efficiency (less grain = more alcohol), and cheaper grain when you buy it in bulk. The difference I see between the grain I bought at the local store and what I crushed myself is huge. I can make most batches for $20 or less now, since I can get grain for $1.19 a pound.

Goals for next year:
1. Get a better understanding of how base malts effect beer. I want to try making the same beer with both pilsner malt and 2 row, or Maris otter and 2 row, and see how they influence the flavor.

2. Try to formulate solid pale ale and wheat beer recipes. I feel like I'm close on both, but I want to have that home run beer that people are asking for. A beer that appeals to my non-craft beer drinking friends.

3. Learn more about large scale production. I feel that my recipes can scale up, but I need to research more exactly what the differences will be to make something on a 7 barrel or larger system vs. what I use today.

4. Go to great American beer festival in Denver in October.

Tuesday afternoon Scotch ale brew day

Update 01/12/12: I've decided on a name for this beer: The Shinning.  It's an homage to Groundskeeper Willie and the Treehouse of Horror episode from season 6 of the Simpsons.  If you haven't seen it, check it out.

I took some time off work this week, and it gave me the perfect opportunity for a weekday brew day, which I haven't done in quite a while.

Per my previous post, I decided to brew up the hoppy Scotch 80 Schilling beer. Again, this was a beer purely to play around with, and it's only purpose was to serve as a vehicle to try one of the new hop strains and to build up a Wyeast 1728 yeast cake for the super strong wee heavy I will be brewing next month.

My friends and I opened up the Falconers Flight and Zythos hops I had on hand so that we could decide which variety we thought would go better with this style. We spent a few minutes passing around a pair of vacuum sealed bag of hops and huffing them, a sight I'm certain would have looked a bit strange to anyone passing by. Our consensus was that the Zythos hops had a slight sweetness and piney-ness that made them a better candidate for this beer.

I decided on the following recipe:
11 pounds Maris Otter - standard English base malt
1 pound Carapils - essentially, this was filler. I had it sitting around, and I wanted to make sure this supposedly light beer would have enough body
2oz Roasted Barley - appropriate for style, mostly for color and light roastiness
2oz Chocolate malt- I've always previously used chocolate malt as the only other malt in my wee heavy, and wanted to make sure some was present here, but still see how the roasted barley as a partial replacement influenced it.

1oz Challenger (UK) hops @60 minutes - standard English bittering hop
1oz Zythos hops @15 minutes - flavor addition
1.5oz Zythos hops @5 minutes - aroma addition
1.5oz Zythos hops - dry hop

Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale yeast

I mashed at 156, an extremely high mash temp, but again I was wanting to produce a sweet and fuller bodied scottish style beer.

One other thing I did that was out of the ordinary was to caramelize the first runnings of the wort. I took the first gallon out of the mash, the sweetest and strongest part, and boiled it down to less than half a gallon. This will provide (hopefully) some extra caramel flavor and color.

I did make one mistake - I still had a standard 90 minute boil after the caramelization, and I didn't think to make sure I collected an extra 3/4 gallon of runnings to keep my post-boil volume at the 5.5 gallons I was shooting for.

Due to this, I wound up with 4.75 gallons of wort with an original gravity of 1.072, which is significantly higher than the 1.055 I was shooting for. Basically, I managed to make a strong scotch ale anyway, even though I was shooting for more of a session beer.

I also had one piece of bad luck - I ran out of oxygen about halfway through the aeration time I give my beers. Hopefully that won't be too detrimental to the yeast.

Still, I'm intrigued about this beer. It's a bit of a mess, out of style due to the gravity and the hops, but it could wind up being a great beer. Just have to wait and see!

Update 1/12/12:
Final gravity worked out to be 1.019, which is about where I wanted it for a beer like this.  It keeps it from being too dry, but also from not being too sweet.  It worked out to be 7.1% ABV, which is the same strength my IPA clocked in at. 

I racked this beer over to secondary on 1/07/12 and dry hopped it with another 1.5oz of Zythos hops.  I loved the sample I took.  Even warm and flat, it was full bodied, lightly citrusy, and very smooth.

I'll be racking this off the hops and into a keg on 1/21.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Planning a hoppy Scotch ale

I've decided to make a hoppy scotch ale that's around 5-6% ABV to get some yeast ready for an 11-12% version of the Wee Heavy that I'll probably brew on MLK day.  This beer will be closest in style to a Scottish 80/- (80 Schilling) style beer, but with both Wee Heavy and Pale Ale notes.

My plan is as follows: using essentially a Wee Heavy grain bill and yeast, but add some roasted barley to the mix.  A traditional Wee Heavy apparently can use Roasted Barley instead of the Chocolate Malt that I used the three times I've made it.  The balance will be about 96% Maris Otter (English) malt, with about 2% each Chocolate Malt and Roasted Barley.

So, think reddish brown, with some light sweetness and light roastiness - not roasty like a porter, but roasty like an Irish red. 

In addition, I'll be fermenting this beer cool, to try and bring out some smoky notes from the Scottish yeast.

The question I'm struggling with is the hop profile that I want to have in this beer.  I want that somewhat heavy Scottish ale flavor and presence, but I want to balance it with a pale ale style hoppiness. 

Thanks to my buddy Thomas (and to Black Friday) I've got a number of hops on hand, and it's an issue of trying to figure out the flavor profile I want. 

Here's a few of the options I'm considering:

Glacier - Pleasant aroma of citrus mixed with sweet fruity of pear or apricot.
Zythos (blend) - Tangerine, Citrus, floral, pine and Grapefruit character
Falconer's Flight (blend) - a blend of 14 different hop varieties including Citra, Simcoe and Sorachi Ace. It is described as “…imparting distinct tropical, citrus, floral, lemon and grapefruit tone
Amarillo - A flowery, citrus-like aroma (more orange than grapefruit) with medium bittering value that is gaining acceptance as a substitute for Cascade due to its hardy nature.
Palisade - Aroma described as floral,  Subtle Apricot,  Grassy or  ”Pretty”.  Non-aggressive, smooth hop flavor with a fruity, non-citrusy aroma more characteristic of English style Pale ales

I'm thinking I want to use just one hop (or blend), so I can get a better understanding of the particular flavor profile that it will impart, but I want this batch to be something I'd enjoy drinking throughout the winter and spring months.

I'm really leaning toward a generic, clean English bittering hop up front, and dry-hopping it with Glacier.  But I'm a bit nervous that might be a bit too close to Marshall's McNellies Pub Ale (as it's Glacier hopped).  I want to try and make a beer that's unlike anything I've had before, anything I can get in the store.  I'm sure someone has over-hopped a Scottish ale before, but since I've never had it, I feel I can claim to be first to this particular party ;)

Alternatively, Falconer's Flight might really work well with this beer.  It's traditionally an IPA style collection of hops, but it could be toned down to try and balance out the malty-ness that I think will be present in this Scottish ale.

I've still got a few days (at least) before I have to make this decision, but it's what I'm kicking around.  Any thoughts are welcome.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Precocious Pale brew day

Today I brewed up the Precocious Pale Ale recipe that I formulated in the previous post.

I thought that it might be helpful to walk through my brew day process, so that I can watch it evolve and so that others can (hopefully) take something out of it.

The first thing I did was crush my grain.  I have a 7 pound Barley Crusher, and I crushed my grain directly into my mash tun (which is a 10 gallon rubbermaid cooler I picked up from Lowes.  

Yeah, the neighborhood cats like to wander around and help me out.  What can I say, I'm a softie.

Next, it was time to heat up my mash water. I needed just a bit under 4 gallons to have my desired ratio of 1.5 quarts to 1 pound of grain.  
This is a cheap turkey fryer kit I picked up off Amazon.  I've previously drilled two holes into it - one for a brewmometer about halfway up, and a second for a spout near the bottom.  This is a 30 liter pot, and I've since upgraded to a larger pot for my actual boil, but this pot works perfectly for heating up mash/sparge water.

Today, I was heating up the mash water to 164 degrees because I wanted this pale ale to mash around 154.  As I mentioned in my previous post, this is so that I get a bit more residual sweetness in this beer than I got in the previous beer with a similar grain bill.

Once the water hit temp, I poured it directly over the top of the crushed grain and stirred thoroughly for about 3-4 minutes.  Then I threw on the lid to the cooler and walked away for about 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, I started the sparge water heating on the burner.  I put 4 gallons back in the same pot as before, and started the process of bringing that up to 175 degrees.  Since I batch sparge, I want the second addition to bring the grain temp up to about 165 degrees.

Once the mash had been soaking for an hour, I make the assumption the conversion to extract the sugars from the grain is complete.  Because I don't have a PH meter, I can only assume that it's enough time.  However, most mashes are actually done within 30 minutes, so the hour I gave mine is almost certainly enough.

Next, it's time to vorlauf.  
This process basically consists of slowly running off the wort until it runs clear.  This allows the grains in the cooler to form a natural filter around the braid I have placed in there.  I just pour the wort in the pitcher back over the top of the grain in the cooler until it runs clear.  Normally, I only have to fill up one of these pitchers before it's clear.

Because I was curious about my mash efficiency, I took a refractometer reading at this point.  A refractometer measures the sugars in solution.  Now, this picture was extremely tough to get.  I had to get the sun to shine through the refractometer just right, and get the lens from my iPhone camera aligned perfectly, but this is what I saw when I looked through:

So, my "first runnings" had a value of 15.6 brix.  This correlates to a gravity reading of 1.064.  This is good, because I wanted my pre-boil gravity reading to be approximately 1.040.  Knowing that the first runnings make up approximately half of the wort going into the boil, I found I was on target to hit near those numbers.

Once the mash had finished running off, the sparge water was hot enough.  I threw my sparge water into the mash tun, and took my first runnings and threw it on the burner to bring it up to a boil.  Now that I have a second pot (thanks to my lovely wife!) I can do that - use one pot to collect runnings while the second pot is on the burner.  It helps make the brew day a lot shorter.

After stirring the sparge, I let it sit for about ten minutes and then repeated the vorlauf process from above until it ran clear.  Once it was clear, I started filling the pot with the sparge and took a second refractometer reading:
This one clocked in just a bit over 5, meaning the two numbers should average out to right around 10-11 brix.  Sure enough, once I collected the sparge water and added it to the boil pot, I found out I was right on target:

10 brix, which is right around a gravity of 1.040.  Perfect!

Now it was time to bring the approximately 7 gallons of wort to a boil.  I knew I had a few minutes while it came up to temp, so I started measuring my hops.
In this case, 1oz of hops which will be my 15 minute addition.  I also measured .5oz as a 90 minutes addition, and another 1oz as the 5 minute addition.

As I was measuring the hops, the pot started to boil.

Now the hard work is mostly done!  I just need to let it boil for 90 minutes, adding the first hop addition now, the second with 15 minutes left in the boil, and the last one with 5 minutes left.

Rather than showing you pictures of me waiting, here's an old silent movie style image:

Hey, it's now 90 minutes later!  Cool!  Time flies when you're not actually there...

Anyway, I threw a wort chiller into the pot and cooled it down to pitching temp, and pitched the wort directly on top of an old yeast cake I had left over from a previous brew.
You can see the oxygen tank sitting to the right of the carboy, not pictured is me oxygenating the wort for 30 seconds.  This shot of pure oxygen works as yeast fuel, and is something I just started doing this year on advice of my friend Jeremy.  (It was solid advice - my beers taste cleaner since I started the practice.)

I took an 'original gravity' reading at this point, and found that the boil had condensed the sugars down the way I wanted. 
The value of 11.8 brix here corresponds to a gravity of 1.047, which is just about perfect.

For comparison purposes, this is a screenshot of BrewPal, the iPhone app I used to formulate the recipe.  

So, it expected a pre-boil gravity of 1.038 and a post-boil gravity of 1.045, and I actually got 1.040 and 1.047, which is close enough for government work.

Total, I spent just about 5 hours from starting until I was completely cleaned up.  Got started right around noon today, and I was in the shower while the future beer was in my fermentation chamber by 5:10pm.  I feel like if I hadn't used pilsner grain (which requires a 90 minute boil), I actually could have shaved another 30 minutes off that time.  Also, if I ever get a PH Meter, I could cut down my mash times and maybe even get under 4 hours.  Still, five hours is wayyyy better than some of my early brew days, which were 7-8 hour marathons.  

Now I have to impatiently wait for this to ferment to see how the beer actually turns out.  All the techniques and numbers in the world don't mean squat if you don't have a solid recipe and combination of flavors.  

Here's hoping that what I've learned so far will lead to this being a solid beer.  Even if it's not, it's another chance to continue to learn and refine.  

I love Sunday brew days.  Watching NFL Red Zone and brewing beer is just the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Update 12/27/11: I dry hopped this beer for 10 days from 12/17-12/27, then racked it into a keg. Final gravity was 1.011, giving me a 4.5% ABV beer, which is perfect for a sessionable pale. Tasting it on racking, it has a much stronger initial bitterness than I had figured, and a very mild nose. Still, a very pleasant flavor and much more body than I would have expected from a beer with that low of an alcohol level. Will do a final testing once it's fully carbonated.

Update 01/16/11: Having had this beer on tap for a few weeks now, I have a few observations about it that will definitely influence my next pale ale recipe.

First, there's just a bit too much 'body' to this beer.  It's a bit too thick, and it keeps me from wanting more than one.  Interestingly enough, my porter is light enough I find myself switching to that.

Second, it's just a bit too bitter for my tastes.  The hops come through decently in all phases except aroma, and the bitterness from them tastes much harsher than the expected IBU.  I would use these hops again, but mostly for flavor.  I'd use something less harsh for bitterness and something more aromatic for the finish and dry hop.

Finally, it has a bit of a haze to it.  I'm guessing this is due to the carapils, since my IPA that had pilsner malt and crystal 60 didn't have the same haze. 

These factors are making me think my next attempt at this style will be with a different hop, but also with about half the crystal malt and half the carapils.  I'm hoping that will get me something I'm more pleased with.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dark Night Porter

I'm retroactively creating a post in December for a beer I actually brewed in October.  Hope you'll forgive me :)

I was craving a nice sessionable porter for this winter, and I went into it looking for a few things:

1. I love that roasty/coffee aroma and flavor that you can get off bigger porters, something like Left Hand's Weak Sauce porter.
2. Wanted it around 5% alcohol, so that people can have a couple without getting hammered
3. Wanted it to finish somewhat sweet, to balance out the roast and coffee, but not 'heavy'. Again, looking for something sessionable, so it can't be cloying.
4. Not very hoppy, noble hops with just enough bite to balance the roast

Based on what I've read (since I have very little experience with Porters), I wanted to use roasted barley for the coffee, and chocolate malt for the color and sweetness.

I formulated the following recipe based on this:

9lb Pilsen malt (I have it on hand and prefer it to 2row)
1lb Chocolate
1lb Caramel 60
1lb Flaked Barley (for creaminess and head retention)
.5lb Roasted Barley

1oz Willamette 60min (4.9%)
.25oz Magnum 60min (13.7%) (have it left over, purely to increase the IBUs slightly)
1oz Fuggles 5min (4%)

Mash @ 151 degrees.

I brewed this up on 10/15/11, and I hit my numbers almost exactly.  It wound up having an original gravity of 1.054, and a final gravity of 1.015, allowing it to clock in at 5.1% ABV.  Perfect!

I kegged this beer on 11/04/11, and it's been on draft at the house for almost a month now.

My tasting notes:
Aroma:  Nice and roasty, hint of cofee - smells like a dark beer should smell
Appearance: Black body, nice creamy white head.  Love the way this beer looks.
Taste: Has a light roastyness, only a bit of the coffee I was looking for.
Mouthfeel: It's thinner than I wanted.  I don't have quite the thickness and general 'fullness' I wanted from this beer.
Overall: I'm pretty thrilled with this beer.  It's one of the smallest (alcohol wise) I've ever brewed, and it's very drinkable.  I'm going to need to mash this beer a bit higher next time, so that I wind up with a bit more residual sweetness and body.  Outside of that thinness, I highly recommend this beer for those of you that like a dark beer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Recipe Formulation for a Pale Ale

Every now and then I decide to make a batch based purely on the ingredients I have on hand.

In this case, I'm wanting to formulate a batch based on the following criteria:
1. It has to use Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) because I have a yeast cake of it left over from the IPA I brewed.  Note on this: I know it's bad form to use a yeast cake because you over-pitch your yeast.  However, I don't care.  I've done this a number of times, and it always turned out well.
2. It needs to use 4oz of one of the new hops I picked up on Black Friday from Farmhouse brewing supply, because I really want to get a better feel for the flavor some of these hops impart.
3. It needs to use Pilsner, Caramel 60, and Carapils malt, as that's what I have on hand.

With these limitations in mind, I started thinking about the beers I currently have available and came to the conclusion that I wanted a nice light pale ale.  I wanted to make something a bit more 'sessionable' than the IPA I just finished and that would have a bit of a wider appeal for my BMC friends.  (BMC = Bud/Miller/Coors).

Knowing this, I started with a base recipe of:
8 pounds pilsen malt
1 pound Carapils malt
1 pound Caramel 60 malt

This grain bill should give me a beer that finishes slightly sweeter than the IPA I just finished, and clock in between 4-5% alcohol by volume (ABV).  I'm basing this on the results I saw from that very IPA - using 12 pounds of Pilsen and 1 pound Caramel 60, I got 7.1% ABV from 13 pounds of grain.  Cutting it down to 10 pounds should drop it down under 6% for sure, and swapping 1 pound of Pilsen for Carapils will also drop the alcohol percentage about another half percent.  This is because Carapils is malted in such a way that it's full of dextrins, which are unfermentable by yeast.  This results in a slightly sweeter, but mostly more full-bodied beer.

Now - the hops.  In my opinion, the most important part of a pale ale.  I narrowed down the hops I wanted to use to three potential varieties:  Zythos, Calypso, or Rakau.

Zythos is a new hop blend released this year.  It's a blend of traditional northwest style American hops, and so it would provide the floral, citrus styles of a northwest IPA.  I thought this was too similar to my current IPA I have on draft, so I ruled this one out.

Calypso was very tempting.  It's also a relatively new hop, and it's supposed to provide apple/pear/grassy notes.  I spent a while reading reviews other homebrewers had on the use of this hop, and the general consensus seemed to be that while it smelled great and was excellent for bitterness, the aroma/flavor contribution from this hop would be very limited.  Since I needed a hop that could 'really hold the beer together', I ruled this one out as well.

This left me with Rakau hops.  This is again a fairly new to the market hop, and it's from New Zealand.  I couldn't find much record of people using it here in the states, but the people in New Zealand and Australia who were using it raved about how awesome it was.  Supposedly it will impart a lot of orange and peach flavors and aroma, and I thought that would be nice with a light beer like this one.

The hop schedule winds up being:
.5oz @ 90 minutes
1oz @ 15 minutes
1oz @ 5 minutes
1.5oz Dry Hop (7-14 days)

Goal from these additions is to provide a very light amount of bitterness, but a ton of the peachy/citrusy flavor and aroma.

So, there we go - a Precocious Pale Ale, with Rakau hops.  Looking forward to having the chance to brew this one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Impudent Brewing Company

Welcome to my little beer blog.

This has been created to track my beers and the process around them as I try to build a solid repertoire of high quality beers.

The first entry, seen below, walks through the process I used to build the recipe and brew an IPA I made on November 19th.  This beer, which I originally named Chuck Norris' Tears, has really inspired me to focus in a lot more detail on the process behind how I do things.  In addition, it's inspired me to finally come up with a name for my brewery:  Impudent Brewing Company. 

I don't have a logo, I don't have a tagline, but I stand for simple things:
High quality beer
Not caring about 'style' definitions
Big, bold flavors
Enjoying and sharing good beer, regardless of who made it.

I've been inspired by a lot of people.  My first 'this is great!' beer was none other than a Guinness.  My first 'wow, I didn't know you could do that' was Dogfish Head, out of Delaware.  And my first realization that real people are behind these companies was when I met Eric Marshall, the head of Marshall Brewing here in Tulsa.  There's a lot more people than that who have influenced me, and a ton more who are still going to.  All I can do is continue to make the best possible beer I can, and share it with as many people who will let me.

Impudent Whelp IPA

So, I've developed a real love for IPA style beers over the past year or two. Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA (which we sadly can't get in Oklahoma) is probably my favorite example of the style, followed closely by Stone's Ruination IPA (which we also can't get in Oklahoma).

Last January I made an attempt at a clone of the 90 Minute, and until the Caramel Cream Ale, I was told by several of my friends that it was my best beer. I loved it as well, but the 9% ABV that it clocked in at kept me from drinking a lot of it.

This summer I took a shot at making a Black IPA. It turned out decently, but I screwed up the hop bill.

This leads us to two weekends ago. Knowing it was going to be turning cold, I seized the opportunity of a 70 degree day in November to have a brew day. I decided that this time I was going to brew the hoppiest beer I could make, while still keeping the alcohol reasonably low.

With those two goals in mind, I formulated a fairly simple recipe: 12 pounds of pilsner malt, 1 pound of Caramel 60 malt. That grain bill would give me a beer between 5-6% (ideally), with a mostly clean grain/malt flavor but with just a bit of residual sweetness and a slight tan color. On top of that, I threw in the three bags of hops you see here:
From left to right:
Bag 1: 1oz Cascade, 1oz Centennial. Added with 5 minutes left in the boil, this should provide a flowery and citrusy aroma, and some flavor notes.
Bag 2: 1oz Cascade, 1.5oz Centennial, 1oz Zeus. Added with 15 minutes left in the boil, this is where the majority of the flavor of this beer will come from. This amount of hops at this stage will contribute a decent amount of bitterness, but a whole heck of a lot of herbal, citrusy, and flowery flavors.
Bag 3: 1 oz of Zeus, added with 90 minutes left in the boil. This contributes almost pure bitterness.

Brew day went well, and I wound up with an Original Gravity of 1.065 - basically, I wound up with enough sugars from the grain to get up to almost 7% alcohol if the yeast can really chew through it. But, due to the Caramel 60 and the fact that I mashed a bit warm, it shouldn't exceed 6% and be left with a residual sweetness.

Based on the calculations used to determine IBUs (International Bittering Units), this beer has exactly 100 IBUs worth of bitterness from the hops. I've heard (but haven't verified) that a beer is incapable of truly absorbing more than 100IBUs of bitterness, so in theory this beer is as hoppy as it possibly can get. Someday I plan to test this hypothesis, but for now I'll be happy with 100 IBU :)

It's now been 11 days since I brewed this beer, and it's done fermenting. I've gone from bitter sugar water to a bitter beer, and it's time to try it. To the left, see the beer in my 'fermentation chamber' - a mini-fridge that I hooked a temperature controller to. This investment was WELL worth the money, as keeping fermentation temps consistent and low helps to create a clean and fresh beer.

This brings me to the third picture. In the background you can see the sample I just pulled from the fermenter. It looks like beer! In the foreground you see a bag filled with green leafy stuff - I'll get to that in a second, I promise.

Drinking a warm, flat, somewhat yeasty sample can sometimes make it difficult to detect what a beer is eventually going to taste like once it's cold, carbonated, and all the yeast is completely out of suspension. But in this case, I really have high hopes for this beer. The aroma is pure fruit - I'd have to say I think grapefruit dominates, but there's hints of pure lemony citrus and even some papaya. The taste is like a punch of bitterness, followed by fruity and flowery flavors - EXACTLY what I wanted from a IPA.

I took this chance to measure my final gravity - how much sugar is still remaining that didn't get turned into alcohol. The number I got was 1.011, which means this beer is actually a 7.1% ABV beer. Oops. That's significantly higher than I was shooting for. I really wanted something I could sip on all winter. I can explain why that occurred, but I'll save that for another post.

Finally, I told you I'd come back to the zip lock baggie of foliage that's in the third picture. That's 1oz each of Cascade and Centennial hops. I plan on adding those to a bag and throwing them directly in the keg of this beer when it's in the kegerator. This will provide extra hop aroma to the beer as it's served from the keg, and really provides that extra punch of hoppiness that's found in a really fresh IPA. I've read online that you don't want to keep a beer 'dry hopped' for more than 14 days, but by keeping the hops in the keg, and keeping the keg at serving temperature (less than 40 degrees), I've never had a problem keeping the hops in there for literally months.

All that remains at this point is to get this beer in a keg, get it carbonated, and drink it! Hopefully I'll have that done within the next few days here, and I'll post a follow-up post on that process (assuming people are interested).

Ladies and Gentlemen... I give you... Impudent Whelp IPA.

Note: I had posted an earlier version of this on my Google+ feed, naming the beer Chuck Norris' Tears.  I decided I liked the name Impudent Whelp better for this beer, hence the change.
Update: killed this keg on 12/27/11, so it only lasted about a month. This is by far the fastest I've ever killed a keg, and that speaks to how happy I was with this beer. I fully intend to take another shot at this beer in the next couple months, but probably with a different hop combination - I do have six ounces of Amarillo sitting around...

Update 1/17/11: Had one of these out of the bottle this weekend, and it's aging decently, but I can start to see it sliding past its prime.  I'm surprised with how quickly this beer went through its 'premier' period - I can't recall another beer I've made changing so dramatically in the space of a couple months.

I can't decide if I want to tweak the recipe to help this beer hold up longer, or tweak the recipe so that it's even better when it's young.