Category Archives: Homebrewing

Historic IPA recipe from Mitch Steele’s IPA

A few weeks ago I recieved a copy of Mitch Steele’s IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. While a significant portion of the book is dedicated to the history of British brewing and IPAs, there are a number of recipes in the back of the book. These recipes are not only for historic IPAs, but also modern IPAs, including double and black variations.

I found that the historic sections of the book, as well as the historic recipes were most interesting, largely due to how insanely hoppy the IPAs of the 1700s and 1800s were. You have to wonder about a hoppy beer being aged in oak for 1-3 years, and still being hoppy — that’s a lot of hops in the beer.

I’ve had a stockpile of Fuggles for a while, and was wondering what to do with them (they aren’t exactly my favorite hop variety), when I stumbled upon a recipe in the book that uses a massive amount of hops — 1.54oz/gallon in the boil, and 0.25oz/gallon dry hopped, for a total of 120 IBUs in a 5.8% beer. Additionally, the grain bill is just British pale malt.

From IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale

“This is a moderate strength ale with a heavy dose of hops…. each recipe varies a bit, but this one epitomizes the theme. A single malt. A single hop. This beer is decidedly different from the ones to come later in the century. The hop flavor is truly through the roof. At nearly 5 pounds per barrel at a moderate gravity, saying this is hoppy is an understatement.”

Tasting notes: “Herby, hay-ey, grassy; ladyfingers crawl through the hop mist. Thoroughly, rippingly hoppy. Hops. More hops. Hop resins. Very long, dry, and crisp finish leaves a touch of malt sweetness shellacked and varnished with hops. Delicious hop burps. Hmmmmmmm…… hoppy.”

I did some calculations assuming loss in the kettle due to all the hops, as well as dry hopping, and also due to the fact that my Fuggles were lower alpha than what the book assumes, and so my recipe had slightly more hops than what I initially calculated.

Recipe: Fuggle IPA
Style: 14A-India Pale Ale(IPA)-English IPA

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 8.75 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.50 US gals
Volume Transferred: 6.50 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.042 SG
Expected OG: 1.057 SG
Expected FG: 1.014 SG
Expected ABV: 5.7 %
Expected ABW: 4.5 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 122.5
Expected Color: 5.2 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 75.0 %
Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Fermentation Temperature: 68 degF

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 13lb 5oz (100.0 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
UK Fuggle (4.0 % alpha) 4.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
UK Fuggle (4.0 % alpha) 4.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 30 Min From End
UK Fuggle (4.0 % alpha) 4.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 15 Min From End
UK Fuggle (4.0 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used Dry-Hopped

Yeast: Wyeast 1028-London Ale

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Step: Rest at 156 degF for 60 mins

As per my usual MO, the 60 minute hops went in as first-wort hops, and in this photo, you can see the boil trying to break through the cake of hops floating at the top. Keep in mind this is only 33% of the kettle hops.

fuggle-ipa-boil

I’m glad that I scaled up the recipe, because there was a lot of hop goo at the bottom of the kettle, and I also had a massive blowoff during fermentation. It’s about 3 days from going into the keg, and I can’t wait to see what it tastes like.

A note to new brewers

I was recently approached by an old friend who was curious about getting into the hobby of homebrewing, and wanted to know what I thought he should know and do to get started. As my mind began swimming with particulars from my experience, I also was trying to keep from overwhelming him with details that wouldn’t matter, and I thought that writing a post might be a good way to organize my thoughts.

The two absolutely most important things to care about are sanitation and temperature control. These sound incredibly uninteresting and boring, but they really will make the biggest difference in your end product.

Understand that brewing is a combination of creativity and science. To have fun and make good beer, you need to be able to respect both parts of the process, even if you lean towards one or the other (most do).

For beginning brewers, there are a handful of pieces of equipment that you need.

  • A good reference book (I recommend How to Brew by John Palmer)
  • An ample supply of PBW (or OxyClean) and star-san (or sani-clean) for cleaning and sanitizing
  • A large stockpot (at least 4 gallons, preferably 6)
  • Fermenting buckets/carboys (carboys are great because you can see what’s going on, buckets are easier to clean — pick which one is more important to you)
  • An auto-siphon
  • Packaging materials (either bottling equipment or kegging equipment)
  • A thermometer (I’ve come to prefer digital after breaking about 5 glass ones)
  • A hydrometer

There will be other ingredients in a new homebrewer’s kit, but these, in my opinion, are essential.

You can, of course, buy a kit and follow the directions, but I believe you’re rolling the dice with that approach. Take the time to either take an in-shop brewing 101 type course (usually a couple of hours), or seriously read the basics sections of the How to Brew book. Understanding the process, even just at the surface level, helps you to understand the relevance of the steps in the kit directions. Your beer and your tastebuds will thank you for it.

Lastly, a very common mistake for new brewers to make is to want their first batch to be a barleywine with chili peppers and ginger aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes (or something equally outrageous). You need to get some practice with your process and equipment before you take on something like that. Pick a simple recipe, like an american pale ale, or a stout, or an IPA. Something not too big, not too complex, and something that you can compare to a commercial beer you also like. Then, with the help of some more experienced homebrewers, you can try your homebrew alongside a commercial brew, and talk about the process, ingredients, and what you like (and dislike) about both your beer, and the commercial beer. Then you can start to tweak recipes and make them your own — in my opinion, the very best part of the hobby.

There are a million other things that are helpful, important, and also common stumbling blocks, but let’s be honest — there are only so many things you can keep in your head at once. This is an attempt to provide simple advice, and to highlight things that I think are important. The very best thing you can do is to brew with a friend who knows more about it than you do. Make sure they let you do the work yourself, but they can keep you from going too far astray.

Like Charlie Papazian says, RDWHAH (relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew).

Double Brewday: Ordinary Bitter & American Amber Ales

march-301-dbl-brewdayThis past Saturday, I brewed two batches in a single day, back to back. While this did make for a very long day, I was able to gain some overlap without any additional equipment.

The way I did it, was that as I was running off the second runnings of the first batch, I was heating the strike water for the second batch. This gave me the ability to mash my second batch while boiling my first. Not a huge gain, but I imagine that I gained at least an hour.

These batches were fun, experimental batches. The first was a substatial change to my bitter recipe, a regular in my keezer. The two major changes were that I used Ringwood yeast instead of London Ale III, hoping to really boost the malt profile of a very low-gravity beer. I also replaced a pound of base malt with Victory, in hopes of getting a profile somewhat closer to Maris Otter.

Recipe Overview

Volume At Pitching: 5.25 US gals
Expected OG: 1.039 SG
Expected ABV: 3.6 %

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 5lb 0oz (71.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Victory Malt 1lb 0oz (14.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz (7.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Wheat Malt 4.00 oz (3.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 4.00 oz (3.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt 0.50 oz (0.4 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
US Willamette (4.5 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
UK Golding (4.9 % alpha) 0.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 25 Min From End
UK Golding (4.9 % alpha) 0.28 oz Loose Pellet Hops used At turn off

Other Ingredients

Yeast: Wyeast 1187-Ringwood Ale

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (66C/151F)
Step: Rest at 151 degF for 60 mins

The second recipe was a repeat, albeit with further modifications, of a low-gravity version of Gordon, an Oskar Blues beer. It’s now called G’Knight Imperial Red due to a lawsuit over the name Gordon, ridiculous, but so it is. It’s a bit big, but one of my favorite big hoppy beers, so I enjoy trying to make a 5% version. It’s mostly about the Amarillo hops in the finish, so the basic beer recipe isn’t that critical.

Recipe Overview

Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.042 SG
Expected OG: 1.045 SG
Expected FG: 1.011 SG
Expected ABV: 4.5 %
Expected ABW: 3.6 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 33.7
Expected Color: 12.0 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 74.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 78.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 7lb 0oz (71.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Victory Malt 2lb 0oz (20.5 %) In Mash/Steeped
Breiss Crystal 20 12.00 oz (7.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt 0.20 oz (0.1 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
US Centennial (9.0 % alpha) 0.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
US Columbus(Tomahawk) (13.0 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 5 Min From End
US Amarillo (8.0 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used Dry-Hopped

Other Ingredients

Yeast: Wyeast 1056-American Ale

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (69C-156F)
Step: Rest at 150 degF for 75 mins

Table Saison

OK, so, I’ve learned some lessons now after doing two saisons. First, Saison yeasts are highly attenuative. If you build a recipe like you would for an American yeast, or even worse, an English yeast, and then use a Saison yeast, you’re in for a shocker when it comes to ABV. Second, due to the really high level of attenuation, you need to watch your bitterness ratio. Bittering like an IPA is unnecessary, there’s no need for it. Keep the hops in the back end, and go easy on the bitterness.

Now that I’ve solidly learned (read: violated) those guidelines, my intention was to formulate a Saison as a table beer. Something between 3-4% alcohol, easy to drink, but lots of flavor from the Saison yeast and from the hops. The Saison strain that I’ve been using comes from East Coast Yeast, and has a brettanomyces strain as well. This is now the 4th generation, so it’s hard to say what the culture balance is, but it still tasted great on the last batch.

I also wanted to go for more of a rustic grain character on this batch, so I used unmalted wheat and munich malt, in addition to 2-row barley, malted wheat, and a small addition of C20.
table-saisonFor the hop bill, I opted to try a hop-bursting technique, which consisted of only a 20 minute, 5 minute and flameout addition. Despite the low utilization rate on these hops, they were all high-alpha hops (Nugget and Columbus), so I was able to achieve a respectably high bittering ratio with no more than an ounce at each addition.

My plans were all well and good, but I achieved an unexpected level of efficiency on this batch (87%), for which I was able to cut out a planned sugar addition, but I still overshot my gravity by 10 points. So, if it attenuates as planned, I’ll be looking at about a 5% saison. Not too bad, but I’m going to have to take my very high level of efficiency into account when formulating the next batch. My efficiency seems to increase with lower grain bill volumes.

Style: 16C-Belgian And French Ale-Saison

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 7.75 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.00 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.50 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.027 SG
Expected OG: 1.035 SG
Expected FG: 1.008 SG
Expected ABV: 3.6 %
Expected ABW: 2.9 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 32.7
Expected Color: 4.7 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 77.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 77 degF

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 4lb 0oz (51.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Soft White Winter Wheat 1lb 4oz (15.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Wheat Malt 1lb 0oz (12.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Munich Malt 1lb 0oz (12.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 20L Malt 8.00 oz (6.5 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
US Nugget (13.0 % alpha) 0.75 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 20 Min From End
US Nugget (13.0 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 5 Min From End
US Columbus(Tomahawk) (15.5 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used At turn off

Other Ingredients

Yeast: ECY03 Farmhouse Brett

Mash Type: Full Mash
Step: Rest at 148 degF for 90 mins

Brewday recap: Dark Lambic #2 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

DSCN2243This post is long overdue, but needed to be written. The weekend immediately following Lambic #1, I prepped a second wort for a sour pitch. I had an ECY20 pitch sitting in the fridge that needed to be put to work.

I made a starter several days before, as the yeast had been refrigerated for 2 months. The starter took off right away, and had a much funkier (barnyard) smell than the ECY01 did. This would prove to carry over to the primary fermentation as well.
DSCN2248After some serious waffling and consulting, I decided to brew a darker wort than the first lambic, and also to give it a little more food. I still followed the turbid mash technique, and used a good bit of unmalted wheat. What I’m hoping for is a wort profile similar to an Oud Bruin, but with a much more complex flavor profile due to the microorganism cocktail from Easy Coast Yeast.
DSCN2246I filled my brew kettle to the rim as with the previous batch, and there was so much wort that I actually needed to boil it down some before I could add all the second runnings. Partly why I got such a high efficiency, but also makes for a really long boil (and uses a lot of propane).

Recipe: 2012 Dark Lambic

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 9.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.045 SG
Expected OG: 1.074 SG
Expected FG: 1.021 SG
Expected ABV: 7.1 %
Expected ABW: 5.5 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 24.4
Expected Color: 14.4 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 90.0 %
Boil Duration: 180.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 68 degF

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 7lb 0oz (56.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Unmalted Soft White Wheat 3lb 0oz (24.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Munich Malt 1lb 0oz (8.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Light Crystal 8.00 oz (4.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz (4.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
Caramel Munich Malt 4.00 oz (2.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Chocolate Wheat Malt 2.00 oz (1.0 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.40 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Other Ingredients

Yeast: ECY20 – Bug County 2011

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Turbid Mash

Notes:
DSCN2249The primary fermentation happened fairly quickly, and there’s now some lingering bubbles on the surface, along with a very barnyard-y smell from the airlock. Time to put it away and forget about it for a good, long while. I will be adding oak in a couple of months, but there’s really no rush on that at all.

Brewday recap: Lambic #1 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

Last weekend, on MLKJr day, I brewed my first lambic. Technically it was a pseudo-lambic (or pLambic) because I pitched a culture rather than letting nature inoculate the wort.
DSCN2216There are many ways to get a souring culture, one of the most common is to buy a bottle of lambic beer that isn’t pasturized, and grow up a culture from the bottle dregs. I went a different route, largely due to the overwhelming popularity of the results. I bought a pitch from East Coast Yeast of Al’s BugFarm 5 (the 2011 variant) and made a starter.

Making a pLambic isn’t necessarally super hard, you can do a regular infusion mash and just pitch a mixed culture to make a sour beer, but after reading Wild Brews and nagging Michael Tonsmeire. for advice on a number of occasions leading up to brewday, I decided to make it in as traditional a manner as possible, which most importantly includes a turbid mash.

If you want to know all there is to know about a turbid mash, I’d recommend you read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, and then proceed to Wild Brews. In a nutshell though, it’s a specific mash process that leaves a significant portion of the starches from your cereal grains as they are, which sets them aside to be food for the non-brewer’s yeast to tear apart and eat over the 1-3 year fermentation cycle. A traditional mash breaks them down into simpler sugars, so that brewer’s yeast can easily convert them to alcohol and other by-products.

OK. So, I was a little anxious about the turbid mash, because it was a deviation from the process that I know so well, so I referred to Michael Tonsmeire’s website, Wild Brews, and a third article by the Cult of the Biohazard Lambic Brewers in order to make myself a spreadsheet, outlining the various infusions and runoffs. I was able to move through these steps on brewday fairly flawlessly, with the exception that there’s one step towards the end, where it would be handy to have a third pot and second burner. Oh well, minor delay. If you want to know what steps I followed, read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, he has the same steps all laid out with photos.
DSCN2236The boil is where this really becomes a drag. Due to the high volume of water used in the mash process, you end up with a 9-10 gallon pre-boil volume, which can take a really long time to boil down. I have a Bayou Country propane burner, and it took me about 4 hours to get to my final volume.
DSCN2226

Hop selection is also of concern when making a pLambic — you don’t want to use high-alpha hops for bittering, even if you only use enough to hit your 20 or so IBUs — you want to use low-alpha hops that have ideally been aged a few years to have even less bittering power. I used 4 year old Challenger hops, that I calculated to be at 2.7%AA. And as the books say, yes, they do smell like cheesy, smelly feet. I put them in the boil early to make sure that I blasted out all the smell and flavor.
DSCN2240

Fermentation was fairly mellow, and it seemed to finish it’s primary phase in 4 days. The krausen has now fallen, and I’m sure the secondary microorganisms are now taking over the show. I’ll post some followup photos here as things change, I know it’s going to be a long process.

Recipe: 2012 Lambic #1
Style: 17D-Sour Ale-Straight (Unblended) Lambic

Wort Volume Before Boil: 10.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.25 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.50 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.032 SG
Expected OG: 1.053 SG
Expected FG: 1.015 SG
Expected ABV: 5.0 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 19.2
Expected Color: 3.9 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 98.0 %

Fermentables
UK Pale Ale Malt 6lb 12oz (71.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Flaked Soft Red Wheat 2lb 12oz (28.9 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Yeast: East Coast Yeast ECY01 – BugFarm 5

Mash Type: Turbid Mash