Sunday, July 19, 2009

IPA Insanity!

Last year was marked by a distinct lack of hops in a lot of my beers. Partly, it was due to THE GREAT HOP SHORTAGE OF '08 (NO!), but I think it was mostly due to my being a fairly new brewer. I was loathe to make something undrinkable because I just plain hopped the shit out of it.

This year I'm much more comfortable with my hopping rates, pairings, and also with how I'm using the malts to balance that. My first IPA this year was absolutely fantastic. I've given a few out to taste, and it's gotten some pretty rave reviews. Of all my beers, I would feel comfortable putting that one on a shelf in a store right now.


Maris Otter- 9 lbs
Crystal 90- .125 lbs
Brown Malt- .125 lbs
Flaked Barley- 8 ounces

Willammette- .5 oz- First Wort Hopped
Willammette- 1 oz- 60 minutes
Vanguard- 1.5 oz- 15 minutes
Vanguard- 1.5 oz- 5 minutes
Vanguard- 1 oz- Dry Hopped

151/165- hot water infusions

Wyeast 1968 London ESB- yeast cake from the Come Hell or High Water Ale

Gravity- Target/Actual-/Final/ABV

The grain bill in this one turned into another attempt to use up what specialty malts I had. I forgot to get some Crystal 60, and I used up all my Crystal 90, which turned out to be less than half of what I had planned on using. So, I pressed the Brown Malt into service. Roasty flavors in IPA's are not completely out of place, but I went with a really light hand on it. Maris Otter: what can I say? I would use it in every ale if I could. While my first IPA this year was a high alpha acid brew, this one used some pretty low versions, but with a very respectable 42ish IBU's. I'm hoping for more of a spicy hoppiness in this one, where the first one was more fruity. The London ESB yeast fermented last week's batch super quick, and the Chinook hops were right up front in that one, so I think this one will be really good.

I'm really hoping to get in a couple of Saison's before the weather turns cooler, although it hasn't been real hot in Chicago this summer. But I'm torn between that and maybe getting in one more fun late summer ale on this yeast cake before I do some darker ales in September and October. We will see.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Come Hell Or High Water Ale

My plan this weekend was to do a Saison. The warm weather is perfect for just letting a fermentation take off without worrying about how warm it gets. The trouble was that when I got to the brewing store Saturday afternoon, they didn't actually have a single ingredient that I had gone in there to purchase, the most devastating of which was the yeast. My Saisons last year were all done with regular Belgian Ale yeasts, but this year I really was looking to brew them with a true Saison yeast to see how they improved.

Faced with this crushing defeat, standing in front of the disappointingly empty racks shelves where grain usually sit (lots of specialty malts, but very little base malts), I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to brew on Sunday. I came up with the following recipe:

Officially: CHOHW Ale

Muntons Mild Ale- 5 lbs
Maris Otter- 2 lbs
2 row pale- 1 lb
Victory Malt- 8 oz
Crystal 90- 4 oz
Black Patent- eh...oz. I used up whatever I had left. I think it was about .125 oz

Chinook- .5 ounces- 60 minutes
Chinook- 1 oz- 15 minutes
Chinook- 1.125 oz- 1 minute

Wyeast 1968- London ESB

154/168- Hot water infusions

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

The thing I'm most excited about with this beer is the yeast. Most of my regular American Ales I've done have been done with the same yeast strains (one from White Labs and one from Wyeast, but I think from the same brewery). I've never used this London ESB before, and while Chinook hops wouldn't normally be your first choice with this strain, I had some that needed to get used, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. It was also my first chance to try out hopping a pale ale with an eye toward super charging the hop flavors by doing most of the hop additions later in the boil. The grains were mostly chosen from what they still had at the store, and what I had left over in my pantry that needed to get used up (i.e., the single pound of regular 2 row pale malt, and all of the specialty grains).

I liked the way my Stonebridge Pale Ale turned out earlier this year with the higher mash temperature to make the beer seem bigger, so that definitely informed my mashing decisions. I plan on kegging this beer for use at a BBQ or party in our garden later this summer, so regular readers of my blog (all three of you) can start kissing up to me now if you want to be invited. Joking.