Saturday, December 8, 2012

Impudent Whelp the Fifth

I've discovered over the past year that my true beer loves are IPAs and Stouts.  I spent a lot of time when I first started brewing exploring all the different styles that were available to be made, and making as many as I could.

I wound up with some surprisingly awesome beers, like my caramel cream ale, and some real clunkers, like the first ESB I attempted.

But I keep coming back to my house IPA recipe.  I blogged about my first attempt at this beer, almost exactly 1 year ago.

Since then I've made it four more times - 1/22/12, 5/11/12, 7/01/12, and most recently on 11/9/12, which is the subject of this post.  This is the only beer I've brewed more than twice in almost 5 years of making beer.

Each time I've brewed it I have tweaked a few things.  The yeast, the grain bill slightly, and the hop bill.  I've settled on a really solid base grain bill:
11lb 2-row
1lb Munich
.5lb Light Crystal (carapils, crystal 15, even tried CaraRed once)
mashed around 151, fermented around 64 using American ale yeast (Wyeast 1056 or Safale S-05)

The hops are a bit more fluid, but I've found that I really like the combination of Columbus, Centennial, and Citra.  This past batch I swapped out the bittering addition of Columbus for Magnum, and that was a poor choice.

For last month's attempt, I went with the following hops:
1oz Magnum @ 60
1oz Citra @ 15
1oz Chinook @ 15
1oz Centennial @ 15

1oz Citra @ 5
1oz Chinook @ 5
1oz Centennial @ 5
1oz Citra Dry Hop
1oz Centennial Dry Hop
1oz Chinook Dry Hop

As you might imagine, that makes for some sizable hop additions to the boil, especially using leaf hops.

For scale, the purple and red glasses are either 16 or 20 oz sized, so that's a lot of hops.

In fact, it was enough hops that the boil had a greenish tint to it:

There was quite a bit left over after the boil that had to be trashed.  I have to be careful with my used hops - hops are poisonous to dogs, and my wife's dogs have yet to meet something that they didn't want to eat.

There was even a green tint to the fermenter.
 It did eventually settle out - this is after six days of fermentation - ferment is complete, and the yeast and hop particles that were transferred in have settled out to the bottom.

I've had this beer on draft for a couple weeks now, and it's just now coming into its own.  I think it'll be even better in another couple weeks.

I added an extra 8oz of base grain, and had a longer boil this time to up the gravity slightly, and I think that was a mistake.  This beer has settled in at 7.6%, which is just a bit stronger than I want in a beer I'll be drinking frequently.  The higher alcohol meant it needed a bit more time for the alcohol burn to cool off, while also allowing the dry hop additions to permeate the whole keg with their contributions.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my dry hop additions usually consist of adding the hops to a sanitized hop bag, weighed down with sanitized whiskey stones, and kept in the keg for the life of the beer.  I've had a lot of success with that approach, and have kept a solid fresh hop aroma for up to 4 months (the longest a beer has lasted on draft so far).

Appearance: standard IPA look and feel - lingering thick white head, clear enough to see through, light golden color.  The head fades a bit fast right now, but I expect it to last longer as the dry hops continue to contribute.
Aroma: hops, but not quite as extreme as I'd hoped.  The 1oz of centennial I used for the dry hop had been in the freezer for quite some time, and it wasn't quite as fresh as normal.  It was the last of that batch, and I've ordered fresh for the next round.  The Citra, as always, is pronounced.  The Chinook is a bit milder than I expected, and contributes an interesting counter-balance to the Citra.  If you've ever had Arrogant Bastard from Stone, that beer only uses Chinook.  I find it adds a piney, almost peanut butter influence to both the aroma and taste of the beer.
Mouthfeel: Just about right - in that nice balance between thick and thin.  Thick enough to balance the hops, while thin enough to drink easily.  It has a slickness to it - I think that comes from the Chinook.
Taste: This is why I love this beer.  It's just so damn drinkable.  Smooth with a firm bitterness, lots of floral and citrus, with some pine and a finishing bitterness that's a bit strong.  I'm not using Magnum again for bittering - it's harsher than the Columbus I normally use, and I'm going back to that. I also am not sure I'd combine with Chinook with the Citra again.  I think the Chinook is a bit overpowered, and maybe works best on its own or with a milder hop. Finally, the alcohol burn is also a bit strong.
Overall: Another IPA that I'm happy to have on draft.  It'll last 3-4 months, and I'll make another version of it, and I'm already excited about that.  Each time I brew this beer I refine my recipe a bit more, and I get excited about all the potential opportunities I still have with this beer.  Next time I'm going to switch the chinook out for something like Cascade or Centennial, and the Magnum back to Columbus, while bringing the ABV back under 7%.

This is the beer I'm proud to call my house beer, and I always love it.

It tastes even better when my lovely wife hand delivers a glass of it.

12-12-12 Bottling Day

It's been almost a year since I brewed up the 12-12-12 Wee Heavy.

It spent from 4/14/12 - 11/03/12 in an oak barrel, and then the month of November in my kegerator.

The original intent of this beer was for a bunch of us on the homebrewtalk forums to all brew a similar recipe, and then swap bottles of a beer one year later.  The ultimate goal was for all of us to share each others beers on 12-12-12, and then provide feedback.

I don't think the 12-12-12 date is going to be hit, as I just shipped out my bottles yesterday (12/07), and I don't know if my trading partners have shipped theirs yet.

But that's ok - if their beers are anything like mine, a 12% ABV beer with this much sweetness is not something I want to drink multiple glasses of in a night.

Anyway, when it came time to get the beer bottled to do a swap, I figured I might as well just bottle the entire keg, and free up the spot on my kegerator for something I'll want to drink a bit more frequently.

My bottling setup is pretty low tech.  I've got a machined metal piece that fits securely in my perlick taps, which I picked up on the forums as well.

This is then fitted tightly into a length of 1/4" food grade tubing, with a plastic racking cane at the other end.  You can see there's a rubber stopper on the racking cane - that's used to form a seal on the top of the bottle.  Assembling the piece and the cane together took some work - I had to actually boil the tubing to get it flexible enough to hold both pieces.  I wound up doing this because my initial attempt at this used 5/16" tubing, and the pieces would pop apart under pressure.

Basically, my process begins when I sanitize everything - bottles, caps, capper, the bottling wand, even the tap - and set up a station next to my kegerator.  I fill the bottles inside a large Tupperware container to handle any potential spills and to have a sanitary surface to work in.  I have a glass pitcher full of sanitizer that the wand sits in between rounds, as I only fill and cap 8 bottles as a time.  To fill a bottle, I have the tap shut off and I put the bottom of the racking cane in the bottom of the bottle.  I then slide the rubber stopper down the cane to create an airtight seal at the top of the bottle, and turn on the tap.  I burp the stopper up during the filling to release the pressure, but this process keeps the beer from foaming in the bottle, and reduces the amount of oxygen introduced while bottling.

All told, it takes about 10 minutes to sanitize 8 bottles, drain the sanitizer out, fill, cap, and set up for the next round.  I was able to get 33 bottles of the Wee Heavy bottled.  I probably drank about 6 bottles worth, lost at least half a dozen in evaporation while in the barrel, and lost a few more bottles during the numerous transfers this beer went through:
Fermenter -> Keg -> Oak Barrel -> Keg

This is a crazy beer.  The first few glasses I had, I wasn't sure I liked it.  It has a heavy sherry and boozy flavor from the barrel.  This is due to a combination of oxidation in the barrel, and the booze flavors it picked up from the barrel itself.

But the beer grew on me - it's unlike anything else I've ever had.  It finishes a bit sweeter than I'd like, and I don't think I'll ever want a full bottle just to myself.  But I'm glad I made it - it was one hell of an experiment, and I know a lot more about doing something like this if I ever choose to again.

I'll throw up another post in a couple weeks with a side by side tasting of mine vs. the others I traded with.