Tag Archives: Amarillo

A Serpent and a Cigar Box

I don’t normally write beer reviews, but I felt I had to give a short write up to two fancy American beers that I pulled from my stash the other day. I finally got Peter, my American beer-mule over for dinner the other night which meant that I got to open some of the large bottles he has been bringing me home from America this last while. I felt that with some of the fancier elements of my stash (such as these), I couldn’t really go and quaff them on my own, but how I wanted to!

Lost Abbey Serpent Stout

The first up was a brewery that I had heard of, but never encountered, The Lost Abbey from San Marcos, California. These are supposed to be Belgian inspired beers, and the bottle is a classic large Belgian beer bottle, with a cork. The beer, which is an 11% imperial stout co-opts the story of Eve’s temptation by the snake, and buoyed by the downfall of that pair, the snake goes on to tempt the rest of humanity with Serpent’s Stout.

That is all very well, but the thing that struck me before I even opened the bottle was how amateurish the whole thing was. The labels look like they’re printed at home on an inkjet, they’re lacking that professional sharpness, and there are typo’s on the back, in the first line no less.

From the beginning of time, it was so decreed, “From the this Tree of Knowledge, you shall not eat this fruit.”

It’s a small thing, but basically I have made better labels myself. It just ends up looking amateur. No matter, on to the beer! As you would expect, it poured black as the satanic serpent himself, with a nice tan head, that lasted long enough but not longer than half a glass. What struck me when I tasted it it was that there must be a lot of black malt, and I was immediately put in mind of our very own Diogenes, so I cracked open a bottle for comparison. It hit me then that this beer was too carbonated, and it took away from the flavour. Diogenes was perhaps undercarbonated, but this was off the wrong end. However perhaps they were going for the Belgian feel, their strong beers are highly carbonated. However there was nothing else Belgian here, this was a straight, Roasty, Blackmalt Imperial Stout, the yeast was straight. Comparing this to Diogenes really showed me what the whiskey barrel did, Serpent reminded me of what Diogenes was like before the Barrel. It was a very enjoyable and well made Imperial Stout however, quibbles about the image aside.

Cigar City Humidor IPA

My second conquest was another brewery I had heard of on the Hop-bine, Cigar City Brewing, from Tampa, home of the Buccaneers that Manchester Utd. fans hear so much about. It is part of their “Humidor Series”, which finds their standard beer aged on cedar wood, the traditional cigar case, or humidor wood. Each year they do a different one, and this one was their IPA, normally available as Jai Alai IPA. It was a beautiful specimen, it poured crystal clear, and a lovely amber with lovely light ruby tones. I could have looked at it all day if I had not smelled it. Amarillo late hops I am guessing, and dry hopped with Simcoe I am almost sure, by smell. The first sip got me with a lovely toffee sweetness, stronger than I have encountered before, but the signature of many american IPAs, and that lovely toffee caramel balances the big hops very well. Overall, this beer was heavier on late hops than bittering, and so the balance between the caramel and the orangey hops left quite a sweet taste. I got a little bit of the peppery spice you would associate with cedar, but not much. The only other cedar aged beer I have had was an Ale from Hitachino Nest Beer from Japan, and it was much more prominent there. And in case you’re wondering, this label was very professional. Sipping this made me keen to emulate it, and I have never achieved that toffee/caramel taste so strong in a brew. I may try to get it by using a technique whereby you boil a couple of litres of wort really hard in a pan, so it reduces and caramelises. Both of these beers, but especially the Cigar City beer left me wishing we got more American beer here than we do, but at least it seems to be steadily increasing.



Filed under Beer, Beer Review

Brewing a “Black IPA”

A wonderful new oxymoron from our American cousins, but as Ron Pattinson pointed out last year this ‘innovation’ was already brewed by the brewers at Burton, home of hoppy IPAs at least as early as 1888. The passage from the old brewing book that Pattinson pulls out hits the nail on the head as to what this ‘new’ style is supposed to bring us, basically it will look beautiful and black like a stout, but it will taste like an IPA. Faulkner in “The theory and practice of modern brewing” says

while I can example this by referring to the black beer produced at Burton, which has been universally described as a mere black pale ale—i.e., though black in colour, its palate taste reminds one very strongly of the pale beers produced by Burton firms.

The Grain Bill: Pale, Crystal and Carafa

He is not a fan. But Kev and I were intrigued enough to give one a go. The style that the Great American Beer Festival recognise as “Cascadian Dark Ale”, “India Black Ale” or “Black IPA” seems like a bit of fun. But why is this not just a heavily hopped stout or Porter? Well the key is to get the thing black without giving it a burnt or coffee bitter roast character that a stout might have. The key to this is to use dark caramel malts like dark crystal, and “Carafa®”, a proprietary malt from Weyermann. Carafa is de husked roasted malt, and by removing the husks you remove a lot of the bitterness. Of course the Continental Europeans have long been at this, i.e. brewing black beers (schwarzbier) which taste just like lagers, that is they do not have the roasted character, but they are very dark brown or black. Faulkner in the cited passage basically says this about the Burton example: ‘it might be ok for the euro-types, but it’s not what I expect from a stout”

It will be quite understood that I am not decrying this article; it may and does suit many palate tastes, and is thought a great deal of on the Continent, but at the same time it differs very widely from the accepted standard quality of a black beer as specified

Plenty of Hops

So basically the point was to make an IPA, but add some Carafa malt to turn it black. Here’s what we came up with:

“Black IPA” : 40L : Mash Efficiency 86% : OG 1.076 : ABV 7.2% : 78 IBU : 34 SRM

Grains: 9KG Pale Malt, 1KG Munich, 750G Crystal (55l), 750G Crystal (150l), 500G Carafa® III

Hops: 60 mins: 65G Magnum, 20 mins: 40G Chinook,40G Cascade, 5 mins: 25G Chinook, 30G Cascade, End of Boil: 40G Amarillo, 20G Chinook, Dry Hop: 100G Citra

Yeast: Wyeast West Yorkshire (1469 PC)

We mashed at 66c for 60 minutes, and sparged with 80c water. We treated the water roughly for the “porter” profile on the following calculator with some

Recirculating the mash: Don't disturb the grain bed!

CRS and some Calcium Chloride. We used a mixture of Bairds Maris Otter and Weyermann Pale Ale Malt as the base malt. We are accustomed at this stage to using Magnum as a nice clean bittering hop, and as for the rest, we thought that the sweetness of Cascade would be tempered by Chinook, which I regard as a bit of a ‘rough’ flavour, but rough in a good way. I think Stone brewing Co. use a lot of Chinook in their IPAs, and I once made an all Chinook IPA that was one of my favourites. Amarillo has to my mind a more pleasant aroma to Cascade, so we stuck it in at the knockout. As far as the Citra goes, well, we were already brewing the latest fad from America so Citra, a proprietary hop recently developed for Sierra Nevada (and the talk of the town, where that town is exclusively populated by hopheads) seemed apt. It is used as a dry hop in their beautiful “Torpedo”, in fact it is dry-hopped using the device of the same name, a vessel that is filled with hops while the already fermented beer is pumped through it repeatedly to strip every ounce of flavour from them. I’m really looking forward to it, it is supposed to be very similar to Amarillo, on the orangey side of citrus.

In fact, we realised half way through the brew that we were brewing very trendy; combining the hop-du-jour, Citra, and the latest style from the Pacific Northwest. The July-August edition of Brew Your Own magazine devoted an article to it, “Birth of a Style: Cascadian Dark Ale”. As Kev leafed through it he looked at me, horrified, and said “Do you realise that we’re really brewing to style  here?”, as the article waxed lyrical about the “unexpected flavours” revealed by the interaction between the classic Northwestern hops like Cascade and Amarillo, and the debittered dark malts. I’m looking forward to those!

We mashed a total of 12KG, which is about as much as my mash tun can handle, though I have noticed that my efficiency rockets when I brew this amount.

The blue one is dead. The rest are healthy, but they are very sad. This is like a little yeast funeral.

Last weekend Peter and I brewed a clone of Goose Island IPA (recipe to follow shortly) and my efficiency was up towards 80%. For the Black IPA I calculated it as 86%, which I imagine is down to the increased grain bed depth, I have read that correct grain bed depth is important to efficiency. I recirculated 2L as usual, we ran it off, and had to sparge twice for about 44L pre-boil volume. I added about 2 or 3L extra during the boil to keep it topped up, and I had enough to make a 5L batch of 2nd runnings at about 1.045 OG.

Lately, inspired by Chris White (of Whitelabs) and Jamil Zainasheff’s wonderful book Yeast, I got the old microscope down out of the attic. I had a starter on the go of West Yorkshire yeast from Wyeast, and so I plated up a diluted sample of it, and I added the pigment “methylene blue”, which is used to check the vitality of your yeast cells. The dead cells stain blue, because they cannot metabolise the dye. I’m still waiting for my Hemocytometer to arrive in the post, it’s basically a microscope slide that

Because this beer was such a great idea we decided to ferment it in a giant lightbulb that Kev found.

has a tiny grid etched on it, so you can do a yeast count, and estimate upwards based on how many cells there are in a microscopic square, to how many millions of cells there are per ml. But at least this showed me that very few of my cells were dead, and so the yeast was healthy. It was surprisingly easy to take a picture, I just held the camera up to the eyepiece and twirled the knob until it was in focus.

Our Black IPA is fermenting away strongly now, and as soon as it gets near the final gravity I plan to introduce it to 100G Citra, and they can have a little chat about who is trendier.

Happily fermenting away


Filed under Beer, Hops, Recipe, Uncategorized, Yeast

Randy Williams IPA

This is the story of my latest brew, called Randy Williams IPA. For a long time I’ve been looking to get back in touch with my American side, and do a massive strong multi-american-hopped monster. I want to change my name to Chuck, Randy, or Duke. I’m getting the urge to chest bump people and rock out, and to greet every misfortunate event and depressing situation with an inexplicably optimistic can-do attitude. I’ll need Randy Williams for this.

Malt Sack

There are two immediate antecedents to my glorious conclusion (Randy Williams). The first is that  homebrew stockist new kid on the block Donal, of bestbrew suddenly out of the blue was offering 25KG sacks of Munich malt, kilned by the famous Bamberg Maltster Weyermann for only €26! Couple that with his free shipping at the moment! Couple that with €5 discount if you become a friend on facebook (yes I am now friends with a shop). Only 21 clams! I can’t turn down a bargain. They must have fallen off the back of a truck. But what is a Weyermann truck doing in Athlone? It’s a long way home to Bamberg, and that is a mystery for another post.

But what was I to do with all this munich malt I asked myself? I already had all the malt a boy could want, after the recent massive barrel related purchase from Bairds in England, and this included an unopened bag of Munich. What was I doing with so much specialty malt anyway? Then I remembered that Munich ist kein specialty malt, it’s just a darker, sweeter base malt. Base malt is any malt that is capable of self converting, that is, it contains enough enzymes to convert its starches to fermentable sugars. The more you roast or stew a malt the less of this it has, so you couldn’t brew a beer of all dark malt. Base malt makes up 70-90% of the malt bill in a beer, sometimes 100%. Even in a stout, pale malt can male up 80% or more of the grain bill. The palest malt is Pilsener malt, at about 2 srm. Then Pale malt such as Maris Otter is about 3 srm. Munich on the other hand is about 5 srm, at least my Munich from Bairds is, there are different grades. So it shouldn’t be much darker than a normal pale beer.  Randy Williams should clock in at about 8.5 srm

Odell IPA

The second antecedent is that the other night I picked up my first ever bottle of Odell IPA. Up until then I had thought Dogfish Head’s 60 minute and Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo were the pinnacle of US IPAs, but I was wrong. They are fine beers, but Odell was something really special. It’s true of course that I had been amassing certain american style hops with a thought to making an Epic IPA, and so I decided I needed to find out what was in Odell and make something similar. I trawled the internet and I hope that what I came up with from the various tips and speculation won’t be too far off the mark.

Munich Hopper Randy Williams

At the same time I thought, why not do an all Munich grain, extremely hoppy american beer? And so that’s what I did. The body that the munich malt gives it should be more than a match for my massive american hop schedule.

And Who is Randy Williams? He won gold at the 1972 Olympic games, for the long jump. So you could say it’s a gigantic American hop in Munich.

Here’s the recipe, and some pictures from the brew

It seems 12KG is just about my upper limit for mashing

Randy Williams IPA, 35L, OG: 1.077, 8% ABV, 68.4 IBU, 8.5 SRM

  1. Munich Malt  10KG
  2. Carapils            1KG
  3. Acid Malt       400G

The hopping is immense.

  1. Magnum 35G   60 mins
  2. Chinook 35G    30 mins
  3. Centennial 25G, Chinook 25G, Cascade 32G, 10 mins
  4. Simcoe 25G, Columbus 25G, 5 mins
  5. Amarillo 30G, Centennial 25G, Knockout
  6. Simcoe 50G, Columbus 50G, Dry Hopped

the 5 hop additions ready to go

Yeast is two packets of Safale 05. I added 1tsp of gypsum and 1/2 a tsp of magnesiumto the mash. The mash was 1hr, 65c, PH was 5.4 (due to the acid malt)

A Tun of Steaming Mash


Filed under Beer, equipment, Hops, Recipe, Uncategorized