Tag Archives: Hops

Return of the Barrel: Rotunda’s Revenge

Doughing in (mixing grain and water)

Anyone who has read my blog will undoubtedly have seen one of my frequent links to ‘The Great Barrel Project’ that I undertook with two brothers in brewing, and worse, anyone who has met me will probably have been regaled with the tale of Rotunda the Bourbon barrel, and how she came to be filled with a dark and potent stout called Diogenes. I’m probably like one of those parents who finds it hard to discuss anything other than their child. I think all three of us would agree that it was far and away the high point of our distinguished brewing careers to date though; who can blame us if we talk too much about it? So it’s probably no surprise that after some serious procrastinatin’ and prognosticatin’ we’ve started to refill our beautiful barrel.

We considered a number of beers we could do: perhaps a nice raisin heavy

Kevin’s thermometer, better known as ‘The Geiger Counter’

Belgian ‘dubbel’ style beer? Maybe a barleywine loaded with English hops? In any case it had to be strong, after all it now needs to stand up to not only the original whiskey flavours of the barrel but also a 10% abv stout that was absolutely loaded with black malt. In the end, we decided to brew what we are going to call a ‘Double IPA’ (not that we coined the term, but that we think this is what most appropriately describes our beer. Beer styles are for losers in any case).

Sometimes brewing makes you feel a bit like a drug dealer. It’s calcium chloride flakes for the mash yer’ honour.

To give a brief sketch of the beer itself, the original gravity will be in the region of 1.090 – 1.100, which we hope will ferment to below 1.020, giving us a beer that is something in the region of 9.5% abv. We found with the last brew that time in the barrel increased attenuation, so we should get to our projected 1.018. Our yeast is White Labs’ ‘Super San Diego’ yeast, wlp090. Where malt is concerned, we’ve kept it simple with about 85% pale malt, and the rest being made up by some crystal malt, some Munich, and some sucrose to lighten the body a little. Hopping is high, with flavour additions at 30 minutes and at the knockout, and

The ph of the mash is important so that the enzymes can convert starch to sugar. This one was bang on.

we’re using a tag team of the classic American Cascade, and a hop that has only recently found its way into the homebrewer’s repertoire, Marynka. This Polish hop is cheap, reasonably high in alpha acid at about 8%, but it also has an interesting flavour and aroma. It is a descendent of the classic European hop Saaz, probably crossed with a high alpha hop like

There were so many hops going in to this we didn’t want to clog the tap, so we used some nylon net to form a huge hop bag.

Magnum. I brewed a single hopped ale with it, and at high concentrations I found I was getting a lot of peach, both in flavour and aroma, so let’s hope something like that comes through in this beer. Our software tells us that the IBU (international bittering units) will be high on this, perhaps 180, although tests have shown that these measurements make less sense the more you go over 100.

We got together recently to brew this, and we managed between us to brew 70L. We need a good bit more, since Rotunda is in the region of 214L, but between us, another epic collaborative brewday should do it! We’re not sure what our Double IPA is called yet, so, answers on a postcard. All will be considered, and the winning entry can be sure of a couple of bottles for his or her trouble.

And there were a lot of hops left after we took the net out!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Beer, Hops, Recipe, The Barrel Project

Italian Craft Brewery: Toccalmatto

Toccalmatto Brewery near Parma

Come here ’til I tell you something: there’s more to Parma than just the ham and cheese. The whole of Italy is making a bit of a splash lately when it comes to beer. The general direction of contemporary Italian birra seems to be a beautiful mix of the sensibilities of the two greatest brewing nations on Earth, that is the Belgians and the Americans.

Gear

Italy is unburdened with the ball and chain of tradition, instead it has the freedom to experiment. You can find all the fleeting trends that we see in American brewing, wood aged beers, big beers, hoppy beers, sour experiments, and all manner of hybrid styles. Yet at the same time, they take their beer seriously, in a way that reminds me of Belgium. Craft brewing is really young in Italy, but from the outset it seems to have allied itself with excellent food. Probably the best range of beer I saw in Italy was the selection carried by the trendy grocery/lifestyle store Eataly in Bologna, where many Italian beers rubbed shoulders with the best of Belgium, America, Britain and the rest of the world. Perhaps what really made the Belgian connection for me though, was the preponderance of 75cl bottles, they were everywhere.

Line 'em up

Toccalmatto is a small, young brewery – less than two years old – in Fidenza, not far from Parma. They only bottle in large bottles, and I asked Bruno Carilli, the owner/brewer whether it was hard to shift these in bars. “Italy is a wine country” he told me, “so it’s normal to share a bottle. Anyway, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking that my beer just another beer.” Don’t worry, there’s no chance we’ll be confusing this with Peroni or Moretti any time soon.

Well decorated!

It was really refreshing to see Toccalmatto’s brewery. It’s a simple affair, it doesn’t take up much space, it doesn’t have a huge capacity, it is well organised, but overall it’s simple. They bottle by hand with a simple gravity filler, and the beer is bottle conditioned. Good beer doesn’t need to come out of fancy equipment Bruno says. Perhaps there are limits though – he has recently come back from a visit to the Great British Beer Festival, and he visited Kernel brewery in London. “But they are crazy” he tells me. He shows me some pictures he took of their brewery, which I recently visited myself. It is in a tiny space under a railway arch. “But they brew beer right beside these people who are making cheese!” he tells me in disbelief, adding once more that they are crazy. We agree that Kernel make some very nice beer nonetheless.

Obscene dry hopping alert! Probably "Zona Cesarini"

Toccalmatto make quite a few different beers, many of which I was lucky to taste during my visit. First up was their Saison, Sibilla. It was an excellent saison, up with the best of the Belgians. It was very pale, and there was a citrus quality to the hop flavour. Bruno told me that the yeast strain he used also caused that citrus flavour, it was not the Dupont style yeast “because I am not making a version of Dupont”. Fair enough. It had a very dry finish, which did not last. All of the flavour was up front. Bruno seemed happy with this appraisal, telling me that “drinkability” was a key thing that he was trying to achieve, He wanted his beers to leave you wanting more, they should not be heavy, or filling. They should be tasty but easy drinkers. I have read that this is a trait also prized by the Belgians, who use sugar for this same reason – to make beers “digestible”.

Stray Dog Bitter was up next. This one was funny. It features a bulldog on the label, and a green white and red Union Jack. Bruno rather proudly showed me a certificate from the website Ratebeer.com which had it as the top rated bitter, above the British renditions that we all know and love. He seemed quite happy with himself to have upset the apple cart with an Italian version of the quintessentially British beer. As we go to press it has just been pipped by Jolly Pumpkin, for all these things are worth! I found that it had a thinner body than I expected. Styrian Goldings hops were certainly in attendance. It had little caramel, and again the drinkability was key.

Some of the barrels in the cellar

We tried a beer called Zona Cesarini, which was a twist on an American styled hoppy beer. Pointedly, non-American hops were forward, including Motueka and Sorachi Ace. The name was polysemic, it refers to Cesarini, a 1930s Italian/Argentinian footballer who had a habit of scoring in the last few minutes of the 90, in what is still called the “Cesarini Zone” by Italians. Furthermore the label features a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, referencing the Japanese (Sorachi) element, and also the “last minute” aspect of the beer: just like Cesarini’s goals, most of the hops don’t go in until towards the end of 90 minutes! For that reason it has very little bitterness, but a huge Motueka Pineapple flavour, Citra’s signature tangerine flavour makes an appearance, and Sorachi Ace are renowned for being lemony hops. All in all it’s a fruity affair; I very much liked it—it reminded me a little of Metalman’s Windjammer.

And the beer kept flowing. Bruno opened a bottle of Surfing Hop, which he described as a “Double IPA with artistic license”. Again there was a little subversion of the normal style. Sure, there were some American hops, but the malt was French, the yeast was Belgian, and it was quite dark. I was impressed by this, because when I brew, I find that the Belgian yeasts that I love can be too dominant to let me achieve the American style of late hop flavour which I also love, but Surfing Hop pulls it off.

At this stage Bruno revealed that he had a cellar. What was in the cellar? Barrels! Now you know I am a fan of barrels, and I was mightily impressed already at the beers that this simple little brewery was producing, but the experimental beers that we tasted then were really special. The first was a really big Barleywine that we sampled straight out of the Caol Ila barrel that it was aging in. Caol Ila is a lovely Islay single malt, a style I am really fond of because of those smoky peaty flavours that are associated with it, and this really didn’t disappoint, it was big and sweet, but it had picked up a really nice peaty flavour from the whiskey barrel.

One that got away: Jadis, a really interesting sounding Wit beer, rested on red grapes. There was no time to try it!

But there was stillmore. An Imperial Stout, which I think was in a calvados barrel. Bruno had whiskey, wine, calvados, a number of barrel types. This was no straightforward barrel-aged imperial stout (how passé) – it had the wild yeast brettanomyces added during aging. For all you myco-geeks, he stressed that this was not brettanomyces clausanus, but rather the kind that is found in gueuze and Flanders red, I presume he meant brettanomyces bruxellensis. In any case, this stout was incredibly complex. The big malty flavour was still there, but there was that wild acidic flavour right in the middle of the taste. My notebook says “v. hard to describe” so I’ll stop there. The barrel projects were both in the development stage, but they seemed pretty promising to me! He confessed that he had consulted his friend Jean Van Roy of Cantillon when he initially planned his barrel project. No better man.

King Hop

We had been there several hours at that stage, so we decided to let Bruno get home, the couple of other brewers he employs had long since left. I picked up a bottle of Re Hop (King Hop) to take back to the hotel with me, since it’s one of their best sellers. I can easily see why. It’s a 5% moderately hopped golden ale, in fact it’s extremely pale. The malt base is Pils, and I would guess not much else. The hopping is a mixture between the signature American Cascade flavour, and some late German Perle addition. It poured with a frothy, lasting head, and it was a little cloudy. It reminded me of some of the modern hoppy Belgian pales that the likes of Senne are producing. It had a very dry finish, due to the minimal crystal character. I found the European/American hop balance very pleasant. The beer wasn’t even cold, but 75cl seemed to disappear quite fast – drinkability topped the agenda once more. It was a lovely way to finish a great day, I really enjoyed meeting Bruno, seeing the gear, the beer, and the barrels. I think they’re doing something really special over there, and I hope they make it up in our direction soon. Importers take note!

4 Comments

Filed under Beer, Beer Review, Brewery

Kev’s New Kit: Brewday

In the attempt to meet a certain important academic deadline, I haven’t been posting. I have

How Rustic!

been brewing, and now that I’m back to blogging who knows what delights will appear in due course.

The post that takes me out of my hermit-like exile is devoted to a Saturday’s brew day at the brand new shed-brewery of my brewing associate Kevin, in Dublin’s north city. Poor Kevin finally has a shed of his own, which is the unalienable right of every man and woman interested in fiddling and tinkering with objects, and above all, brewing beer. It’s not a huge shed, and it’s an odd little shape, nonetheless it contains a brewery capable of boiling probably 80L, though we only brewed half that.

The Elements of KevBrau

The Kit: The boiler and the Hot Liquor Tank are 100 litre pots that were sourced in France. I bagged one too, which I use as a fermentor. Kevin has taps on his, and they are both heated by quite impressive gas burners. The gas bottles live outside the shed, and with the window and door open there is no danger of any fume buildup. The mash tun is a picnic cooler with something like a 65L capacity. The transfer between the vessels is via a little 12v pump, a solid little workhorse despite its size! There is a vent that is happily situated right beside the boiler. In time I think this could be hooked up to a lid with a flexi pipe, to direct the boil off steam straight out of the shed.

For our brewday we made a simple stout, something along the lines of an “export strength” beer. We brewed 40L, our recipe was straightforward, if I remember correctly there was 12 KG of Pilsner Malt, 800 G of Roast Barley, 700 G of Chocolate Malt, and 500G of Black Malt. There may also have been a little crystal in there, I’m sure Kevin can fill us in in one of his “witty” comments. The Og was to be in the 70s somewhere. The water was treated with calcium chloride flakes, at least, it was the second time around. Kevin already had it measured out and dissolved in a pot of water, waiting to be added to the mash. I tipped it out because I thought it was just dirty water. That’s what happens when two people try to brew a beer.

Nom Nom Nom

The mash smelled incredible as usual. My favourite mashes are the really dirty looking ones where there’s heaps of dark malts, like this beer. The smell of chocolate, coffee, just general roastiness is almost irresistible. I wanted to scoop some out and eat it like porridge. We ran the wort off into the boiler, sparged, and added the second runnings, getting about 45 litres.

The brew took most of the afternoon, and in between waiting for this to heat up, or that to cool down, we played, at a rough estimate, 30 games of Pro Evolution Soccer 8 (Kevin has recently upgraded from PES06), getting through such classic matches as France vs Germany, Brazil vs Argentina, MUFC vs Chelsea, several “El Classicos” and of course, em, Sweden vs Denmark.

The beer was hopped with Northern Brewer, a mid strength hop which has quite a spicy smell. Around 80 G went in at the start, with a couple of additions towards the end of the boil. The beer should be around 70-80 IBU, which might sound like a lot, but the higher the strength of a beer the more it needs to be balanced by higher hopping, or else it can taste cloyingly sweet, even if it is 40 or 50 IBU on paper. This is especially true of big stouts.

We pitched some very fresh yeast that I had taken from an active fermentation only that morning. The stout had taken off by the following morning, so here’s hoping it ferments out well. The yeast was originally White Labs 028 (Edinburgh Ale), which I had cultured on to slants in the fridge.

All in all, an epic brew day, with the new setup performing extremely well!

**Special Edit!** I neglected, in this post, to mention the awesome cookies, not to mention the bean soup that Hazbo made us while we were fearlessly brewing. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my admiration for Hazbo, and add that she looked fantastic on saturday on her way out on the lash with to meet some knitty types for cocktails and sushi. Knitters are clearly classier than brewers.

Post-Brew Gunk

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A Proper English IPA

I have been brewing a lot, don’t you worry, I just haven’t posted much about it. That’s going to change. My hops have already climbed as far as the roof of the house outside, and I’m turning over a new blogging leaf. Here, to ease me back in, is a short recipe post.

India Pale Ale is craft beer’s most popular style, I would imagine. But its meaning is not clear. In Britain, it doesn’t seem to mean much anymore, the glass hits the floor with the style’s nadir, Greene King ‘IPA’, a lightly hopped beer boasting only 3.6% ABV. How the mighty have fallen! I would struggle to call it a Mild. It has been suggested of English IPA that the term is just used interchangeably with “Bitter”, perhaps IPA sounds more appealing. There are some nice IPAs in Britain, but I find the majority of them quite disappointing.

Contrast this with one of the greatest family of beers on the go at the moment in my opinion, the big American IPA. Beers from Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada, Stone, Odell, and countless others. These beers are golden amber with a caramel body, backed up with often up to 100 international bittering units (that’s a lot), and the standard strength seems to be about 7.5% ABV

Historically, the American recreation seems closer to what the style should be. I’ll leave picking apart the history of how the English got to be the way they are to Zythophile , needless to say, I know which one I prefer.

And yet, what a history India Pale Ale evokes! Beers from London and Burton, brewers like Alsopp and Hodgson loading strong, massively hopped beer in to barrels for shipping to India. Beer crossing the equator twice, four months on the rolling, foamy brine. I decided to brew one.

The Durden Park Beer Circle have a nice little booklet full of historical recipes that they have pulled from old brewing logs. When scaled down for homebrewing they are usually as simple as Pale Malt, Fuggles, Yeast. Things were simple back then. I couldn’t find my copy, but I found a recipe in Camra’s IPA book which I thought would do the trick. It’s a beer from an author called Amsinck, I think it’s from the mid 1800s.

Pilsner Malt, and 400g of East Kent Goldings

I rounded the recipe up and down a little, but it’s basically the same. for 22L I mashed 6KG Pilsner Malt, I boiled for 90 minutes, with 400g East Kent Goldings hop pellets. The IBU that this will have is purely academic, it’s off the scale. Something like 180. In practice no one ever gets much more than 100, hence the author of the book qualifies this with “probably not relevant”. I will dry hop this with another 100g EKG pellets after the primary fermentation has wound down. I fermented with Wyeast West Yorkshire yeast.

Why Pilsner Malt you say? Isn’t this supposed to be British? Well, what’s more British than a nice yellow Pilsner? Seriously though, the historical recipe calls for “white malt” which apparently wasn’t even toasted as lightly as modern pale malt. Unless I was going to make some myself (I wasn’t), the closest thing to do was use pilsner malt, which is a whiter shade of pale. I don’t know how the body will turn out, I’m pretty sure it won’t be caramel like the Americans. I did follow the advice in that book and I mashed at quite a high temperature though, to produce more unfermentable sugars. I mashed at about 68c.

I think this is the simplest recipe I’ve ever brewed. The 400g of EKG really soaked up some wort, but not as bad as you’d expect. There was a lot of gunk at the bottom of the boiler. I don’t think I’d attempt this with cone hops, like this guy did, there’d be no beer left!

24 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Two New Brewing Techniques

I was recently reprimanded by one of my viewers (Herr Doktor Kev!) for letting my blog descend into too many introspective beer reviews, with not enough brewing info, and perhaps that’s true. So here is some news from the coalface of my recent brewing toil, a couple of new techniques that I tried out at the weekend.

New techniques, well, new to me anyway; but why? Well I love all sorts of beers, but two types stand out. The first is the big Trappist style dark rummy beers, beers like Rochefort 10 that I have eulogised elsewhere. The second beer that I just want to come back to all the time is the ever popular big American IPA. Beers from Dogfish Head, Stone, Sierra Nevada,  and some of my recent favourites, a cedar aged IPA from Cigar City, Odell’s IPA which I thought was my favourite until I recently tasted Anderson Valley “Hop Ottin”, and now I’m not so sure.

But these last three have something in common which my own brews have been missing. I have managed to get the big aromatic juicy hop character that I love, like in one of my favourite of my own recent beers Randy Williams, but what eluded me was a character that they share in body. It is important to balance hoppy beers with enough malt character so that you don’t just get a thin and bitter beer. What these three lovely IPAs have is a sort of toffee sweetness. It’s not just caramel of the type that some English beers have, but real toffee, like one of those chewy sweets was dissolved in it. I have read that this sort of flavour can be caused by direct fired kettles that have hot patches near the bottom that scorch some of the wort on the way in, caramelising it and causing the lovely toffee flavour, but my boil kettle is electric, what to do? The first of my two techniques then, is an attempt to get this effect, and it involves taking a certain

Boil a few litres of the first wort collected to try and get that toffee flavour!

amount of the early (and thus strongest and most sugary) wort from the mash tun, and boiling it vigorously in order to reduce, concentrate and caramelise it. I took 3L of wort and set the largest gas ring to full, and in the space of about 30 minutes I reduced it to 1L on the stovetop. I waited and added it back in to the kettle just before the end of the boil in the hope of keeping some of the flavour. I tasted a little, and it was very concentrated, but definitely tasted of toffee. It’s all fermenting now so I live in hope.

The second technique is a technique commonly used by commercial brewers , especially in America, and it’s called whirlpooling. I was inspired to try it out by the homebrew guru Jamil Zainasheff, on his Mr. Malty page. Basically it is a way of chilling the boiled wort as quickly as possible, with as much wort movement as possible so as to minimise the risk of too much hop acid isomerisation, which would make the hop oil less aromatic but rather contributing more bitterness. I have worried lately that my late hop additions, such as at 5 minutes and even at the knockout have just failed to live up to expectations when I come to taste the finished product. I want the aroma to jump out and grab you like it does in those American beers I mentioned.

The basic method involves chilling the wort via an immersion chiller as I have always done, whereby cold tap water is run through a copper coil that acts as a basic heat exchanger, heating up as it passes through the hot wort and transferring the heat from the wort to the running water, thus cooling the wort. On top of that for added cooling speed and efficiency the wort is transferred from the tap back in to the top of the kettle via a small (but mighty) 12v pump, available from this very helpful gentleman. These small pumps are

Cooling setup- Green hose for the immersion chiller. Blue tubing for the pump (it's the tiny cream coloured thing attached to the small plank of wood)

cheap, food grade, and heat tolerant. The benefit to hop aroma is explained by Jamil on his site

With a counter flow or plate chiller, you let the bulk of the wort sit at near boiling temperatures while you chill a small amount. Sitting at near boiling will continue to isomerize the hop acids and drive off the volatile oils that good hop aroma and flavor depend upon. A number of folks have noticed that hop aroma decreases on switching from an immersion chiller to a counter flow This is the reason. By contrast the whirlpool immersion chiller knocks enough heat off of the entire wort in the first minute or two to retain that beautiful hop character. If you’re going to use a counter flow or plate chiller, better buy yourself a hopback.

So those two techniques are my latest attempt to brew a big American IPA with the beautiful hop aroma tempered by toffee sweetness that I love so well. The fermenter smells incredible, but only time will tell whether the difference is noticeable. For anyone who is interested, here is the recipe I brewed. I went with Columbus, a big, spicy aromatic hop, paired with Cascade for citrus sweetness. I loosely based it on brew365’s recipe for the aforementioned “Hop Ottin”

“Columbus IPA” : 30L : OG 1.073 : 7% ABV : 74 IBU : 13 SRM

Malts: 7KG Pale Malt, 1KG Munich Malt, 1KG Crystal Malt (55L), 300G Wheat Malt

Hops: 60 mins: 35G Magnum, 20 mins: 30G Columbus, 40G Cascade, 10 Mins: 40G Cascade, 5 Mins: 35G Columbus, Whirlpool: 35G Columbus, Dry Hop: 70G Cascade

Yeast: Wyeast West Yorkshire

Other Notes: Mash at 66c for 60 minutes. Boil for 60 minutes. First 3L of wort runoff was vigorously reduced on the stovetop to 1L and re-added just before the knockout. Whirlpool during immersion coil wort chilling.

10 Comments

Filed under Beer, equipment, Hops, Recipe

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.

7 Comments

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

6 Comments

Filed under Beer, Hops, Recipe, Uncategorized, Yeast