April 16, 2015

Review of American Sour Beers

I've been sitting on this book for about a year and for one reason or another it has taken this long to pour through the book. That has nothing to do with the quality of the book or my interest in the subject matter, I just had a lot going on and my usual reading activity (cardio days at the gym) didn't happen as often as it should have last year. I am pretty sure everybody who wanted to read this book has read it and formed their own conclusions so maybe this review isn't of much value. Nevertheless, it's getting written and you're either reading it or not.

American Sour Beers by Michal Tonsmeire is a moderately lengthy tome on the brewing of sour beers with a focus on techniques implemented by American craft brewers and American homebrewers. The source material for the book is a collection of material ranging from Tonsmeire's personal communications with brewers to material pilfered from brewing podcasts, books, magazines and websites. Although a significant amount of the content will not be new to anybody who has spent a decent amount of time taking in Tonsmeire's blog and other sour brewing resources, it is conveniently collected in a single place and interwoven with content gleamed from his contacts at breweries in his clear and easily digested writing style. There is a lot to like about the book. There are a few things I did not care for that are most likely the result of the editorial stylings of the Brewer's Publications than Tonsmeire's authorship.

American Sour Beers is a process-driven manual for sour brewing with the bulk of the content dedicated to understanding various processes used by commercial brewers and homebrewers. The book contains plenty of introductory material about sour styles and souring critters but the focus is upon each step of the process from wort production to fermentation to aging and into blending and packaging. The best material in the book is the lengthy section on commercial souring techniques. It highlights many of the predictable players in commercial sours in America but clearly explains the process in a way that makes many of them adaptable to homebrewers (or other commercial brewers). Many American sour brewers adopt heavily from European influences but many identified in the book have designed processes and beers that drift heavily from their origins and have uniquely American identities. It would be easy to look at the multitude of techniques presented and develop a unique combination that could be a house process for any brewery or homebrewer. I feel confident that any homebrewer with a small amount of experience could follow a number of processes presented and produce a nice sour beer.

There are some issues with the book that I feel derive directly from editorial style on the part of the Brewer's Publications. BP likes to produce books that range from the inexperienced homebrewer to the moderately experienced commercial brewer. That is a huge chasm to fill in a single book and the effort of trying to cover material from the very basic to the relatively advanced means breadth wins mightily over depth. Scientific discussion is eschewed for more digestible content which sometimes feels like opinion over objective discussion. BP also likes to cover a broad range of content to fit as much of the BJCP approved style guidelines into the book.

You can see these issues all over American Sour Beers. A considerable amount of space is wasted drawing out introductory material and discussing styles already well-covered in Wild Brews and Brewing with Wheat that could be reduced with generous referrals back to those two books (and encourage their sales) as a healthy portion of that content is cited from those two books. Even if the recipes section there are recipes lifted directly out of Wild Brews.There is rarely deep discussion of any particular subject or process beyond the commercial brewing process and discussion on a scientific or advanced level occurs in few places.

Some sections that desperately need more content, like blending, gets the short shrift to include a misplaced section on 100% brett beers (a new style for the 2014 BJCP guidelines) that show little to no sourness or funk. Pages are wasted learning how to drink beer out of a glass that could have been better spent on some of the other topics. Honestly I could have overlooked much of the usual BP breadth-over-depth style if more time had been allocated to blending. Blending, a huge topic for sour brewing with very little material in print or online, gets just eleven pages. I don't know how the editorial decision was made there.

Overall it is a well written book and a good resource for any sour brewer. I wish it had been better focused with less duplicate content from other BP books but that is what should be expected from BP books and should not reflect too heavily on Tonsmeire. He has done the best job of any of the BP authors to try to write a detailed book around Brewing Publications' terrible editorial vision for their books. This book will undoubtedly take the place of Wild Brews as the go-to manual for sour brewing and Tonsmeire is the right guy to have written this book. If you haven't read this book and brewing sour beer is in your current or future homebrewing then you are doing yourself a disservice not picking up this book.


April 4, 2015

Sour Blending Project: The Intro

My 2014 west coast beercations inspired me to delve deeper into the world of blending beer and particularly blending sour beer. I was particularly captivated by the blending programs at Firestone Walker that produce incredible blended sour beers and clean beers out of a range of base beers both barrel aged and non-barrel aged. What is most captivating about Firestone Walker's program (aside from the quality of the beer produced) is the range of base beers tapped for the blended products. The clean anniversary ales assemble everything from porters to barleywines to IPAs into a complex mix while the sour blends are comprised of base beers beyond the typical replication of Belgian sour beer styles. Most notably among the sour beers is what is probably the flagship for their sour program: Agrestic. Agrestic is a blend of barrel aged, soured Double Barrel Ale (DBA). DBA is an English-style pale ale fermented partially in a Burton Union system. It is sweet with oaky vanilla and hoppy with English hops. It's not a beer many would consider a good base for a sour beer but it converts into something unique and wondrous. Inspired by these unusual blends I set out to put together a sour blending program of my own which would include a wide range of base beers that can be combined into a multitude of both blended and unblended sour beers that would deliver beers beyond the expected lambic and Flemish brown and red styles.

My vision for the project is to take a set number of base beers and then split them up across smaller fermentation vessels where I could create a library of base beers with a range of ages and oak treatments. By brewing each base beer every nine to twelve months at five gallons I could sour them in a large vessel and then peel those beers off into one gallon jugs where they can continue to age with no addition or the addition of various oak varieties that have themselves spent time absorbing different wines and spirits. That would in turn allow me to blend individual base beers of multiple vintages as well as blend the different base beers together out of a variety of vintages and treatments. Given my limited space at this time I do not know how many one gallon jugs I can store so early batches will likely have to remain in their five gallon fermentors. I'll just have to see how much space I can occupy with this project.

Rather than start out picking particular styles to flesh out the project I opted to identify the attributes I desired in the base beers and then sought to fit beers into those attributes. So I selected:

1. Rye: I'm a big fan of rye and it tends to work effectively in sour beers (e.g. Bruery's Sour in the Rye).

2. The ability to blend the individual base beers across its own vintages and in conjunction with the other base beers: I mentioned this above but it's worth repeating that I want the beers to be interesting enough on their own to blend within their own vintages but flexible enough to be blended together in various combinations to produce an interesting range of beers.

3. A wide range of maltiness: Consistent with the goal of creating a range of beers I want to run the gamut of very dry, crisp sour beers to the maltier end of the spectrum in the vein of Flemmish reds.

4. A range of body among the beers: I enjoy a dry, spritzy sour beer but sometimes it is nice to find a sour beer with more body so keeping beers with a range of body will help add another dimension to the flexibility of the set of base beers.

5. A range of flavor profiles: I want something different than a handful of brown/red ales or a handful of pale/blonde ales. The base beers should run the gamut of styles as distant as possible while still maintaining their blendableness (not a real word) so the different combinations can capture a broader range of styles.

6. Flexibility to be soured or bretted in different ways: I want the flexibility to use different souring blends and brett strains across different brews of each respective base beer to further expand the variability among the library of beers in the project. I don't want to be trapped into having each beer have the identical fermentation profile.

7. No black/dark brown beers: I find souring beers using significant portions of highly kilned grains is tricky as some brett strains can take the flavor compounds from the darker grains and turn them into some really unpleasant rubber flavors. I don't want to have to worry about whether the rubber flavor will strike or whether I will have to age it out. So that strikes stouts, porters, schwarzbiers and similarly colored beers.

With the combination of these attributes I designed four beers that would give me a wide range of color, body, maltiness, ABV and flavors:

Rye pale ale: This beer will be roughly designed on Firestone Walker's Agrestic, which is based on DBA, which is more English than American. The hops will provide restrained acidity but also provide different flavor compounds to drive a different flavor profile from the typical yeast compound flavor development. This beer will otherwise provide the rye character and moderate the other attributes with mid-range ABV, malt character and body.

Belgian brown ale: This recipe is the same I used in a blended beer several years ago that isn't quite a dubbel but uses some unmistakably Belgian ingredients to make a brown ale. Belgian yeast will provide a platform for the typical sour beer flavors and low hopping will provide maximum sourness. This brown ale will provide more of the malt character than the pale ale but without using the typical caramunich/caravienne to get there.

Adambier: I am also going to use my adambier recipe adopted from the recipe for HOTD Adam in Barleywine to bring the upper limit of ABV and maltiness to the recipe. When soured I expect this beer to be similar to BFM's Bon Chien and I may have to poach the dregs of a bottle of it to find bacteria comfortable souring a beer that big.

Saison: A session-strength saison will provide the bottom end of the range of maltiness and body. The saison can be a good platform for brett character and some opportunity to use some different spices and hops for further complexity.

I expect most of the blends will use the pale ale and/or brown ale in one form or another with the adambier and saisons pulling the blends away from a mid-range amber or brown beer. I won't really know what the blends will look like until I have enough stock to start putting them together so it will be at least nine months (but more likely over a year) before I have anything to blend. So the first step will be getting some of these beers brewed. I will start off with the pale and brown ales and expect to get those brewed shortly.

April 3, 2015

Las Angeles had beer. I drank it.

I feel like the general opinion about Los Angeles and craft beer is that it is at worst a dead space or at best a small second fiddle to San Diego. Of course Orange County's The Bruery could be regarded as a life raft for the greater Los Angeles area. This impression of Los Angeles is wrong. LA might be less developed than its companions in San Diego and San Francisco but there is an exploding number of breweries opening all over the greater LA area. It will only be a matter of time before southern California is a single thicket of craft breweries running from the Mexican border at San Diego and coursing up the major freeways into Los Angeles where the growth seeps out into the inland areas around Riverside and more distant communities in Antelope Valley as it begins its inevitable flow into the San Francisco area. There are already pockets of brewery concentration in some parts of the LA metro area and the spread across the rest of the region seems inevitable.

I found myself in LA this time tagging along on my wife's business trip to visit friends we made on our trip last May to The Bruery anniversary party. We were lured in with the promise of gaining access to his cellar. I also wanted to check out some more breweries in the area and we had some other plans that ultimately fell through. The feller of the couple we met last year is opening a brewery in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles (Transplant Brewing Co.) so I was interested to see his space and talk a little about the brewery plans. It looks like it will be a very nice space with a roomy taproom.

We were definitely treated to wondrous access to his beer cellar. I do not get into the whole beer trading scene so it was nice to gain access to many beers that are not readily available in Texas and generally are tough to come by without delving into the world of beer trading. Between a couple bar visits and his personal cellar I was able to enjoy my first Fifty Fifty Eclipse (green wax) and Dark Lord (2011). That Dark Lord is intensely sweet. We also sampled Winefication 2 and Melange 10 from The Bruery which were both excellent. Cascade Raspberry and Rare Barrel Forces Unseen were two sour beers that helped cut some of that sweetness. I finally pulled in a taste of a Cantillon beer (Rose de Gambrinus) which isn't the most exotic Cantillon offering but clearly demonstrated the quality of what I have been missing. I also had my first taste of a Hill Farmstead beer (Excursions One) which I thought easily lived up to the hype associated with their beers. He also shared with us bourbon barrel and brandy barrel variants of Bravery Brewing The Shroud (imperial stout) which he had a hand in producing. Not a bad group of beers at all.

We did find room for a few breweries so let's move along to talking about those experiences.

Hangar 24 Brewing

Hangar 24 is situated in Redlands in the inland empire. The Redlands has a long history of association with citrus fruit so it is no surprise that Hangar 24 opted to include oranges in its flagship beer, Orange Wheat (which is quite good). Hangar 24 is located across the street from the municipal airport presumably in an old hangar. Our cellar-bearing amigo is a member of Hangar 24's membership society and enticed us to come out Saturday morning to the release of their imperial stout Hammerhead barrel aged and then treated to a variety of additions. I had never been to one of these releases before because most breweries in Texas are not licensed for direct sales to consumers and those that are do not drop these releases anywhere close to where I live. It was an interesting experience and people were quite sharing with their beer.

Hammerhead is a solid bourbon and rye barrel-aged imperial stout and we were treated to several variants including chai tea, mocha and coffee. The coffee beans came from a local roaster who had barrel aged the green coffee beans in Hangar 24's used barrels before roasting. The roaster also brought out cold brewed coffee from the beans which had a very woody character that was too lumbery in my opinion. Unfortunately the variants we liked best were only available by allocation to the members so we only brought home a bottle of the normal version.

We also tried the double IPA which was nice but my favorite beer was a seasonal release called Vinaceous, an old ale with red wine grapes. It was all the maltiness of a barleywine (or old ale, whatever) with the fresh berry flavor of the wine grapes. A fantastic beer sold at a very reasonable price at the brewery. It is a great beer on its own but I would be interested to see this beer aged in barrels, possibly red wine, rye whiskey, or new oak barrels. If logistics had played in my favor I would have brought home some bottles to age and see how the flavors develop.

Monkish Brewing Co.

On Sunday we ventured to Torrence, which is an industrial and business park filled city which has become a hub for breweries. There are a number of breweries in Torrence within a very short drive which is nice for Los Angeles traffic. Rotating through the breweries seems common for the area as we saw several of the same people at each brewery.

Monkish first came onto our radar at the last Bruery anniversary party where we enjoyed Seme Della Vita, a tripel with pistachios and vanilla. Monkish is all Belgian, all the time. There is even a sign in the tasting room that says NO IPA although they do a series of Belgian pale ales single hopped with a rotating cast of the hops you are most likely to find in an IPA these days. Monkish does some solid brewing that ranges from abbey styles to saison to renditions of those Belgian beers that do not tightly fit any particular style. Monkish likes to play with flowers a lot in their beers with hibiscus and rose hips regularly added. I trust that their floral beers are as balanced as the other beers although we did not try them out.

My favorites were the saisons and Seme Della Vita. The saisons are well balanced between yeast character, hops and other additions. The basic saison Demure is a nice saison while the flavor gets turned up with brett additions in Hem & Haw and Funky Habit, both saisons of a darker persuasion with Orval-like brett presence. Monkish's saisons are good examples of beers that are complex without having to punch you in the face with the flavors. I enjoy that.

The other beers we tried and liked were Select Monk 3, Anomaly, Shaolin Fist, Koine and St. Citra pale ale. I would happily drink anything coming off their taps.

Absolution Brewing Co.

Absolution was my first foray into Torrence on my last trip and I was pleasantly surprised by the beers they were producing. Their beers are mostly a combination of hoppy beers brewed in an English meets west coast fusion that pairs west coast hopping with English malts. I'm not sure how well received that is on the west coast but I'd imagine they would fly very well on the east coast. I imagine people either love or hate them depending upon how dry their prefer their IPAs. From my limited experience Torrence appears to be a cloister of breweries less interested in pounding out one formulaic IPA after another and more interested in doing something different so maybe they have a less polarized reputation. The taproom had a decent amount of people so it can't be turning too many people away.

Last trip I savored their white wine barrel-aged saison and dubbel on cask so this trip I turned to the hoppier options. I had Angel's Demise IPA on cask with citra and warrior hops in the cask, Crimson Angel red ale on cask, Possessed Joe coffee porter, Revelation Rye IPA and a California common that may not have had a specific name. The coffee porter was excellent and the other beers had a really nice balance of hop expression and maltiness that clearly is not west coast style but also clearly not English either. These beers are a nice set of IPAs particularly for people like myself who enjoy the taste of hops without the heavy-handed bitterness of IPAs. They aren't quite pale ale malty but almost that malty. Good stuff.

Smog City Brewing Co.

Smog City is another Torrence brewery. Their range of beers have no specific theme but run the gamut of light to dark and malty to hoppy. The taproom provides the standard beers along with seasonals and experimental beers. We were running out of time when we got to Smog City so we didn't try too many of the beers but they seem like they have a good range of beers that I wish I had better explored. The taproom has a weird set up that seems to give up a lot of opportunities for seating and feels somewhat unwelcoming but you'll get over it with some beer.

We only had time to sample the award winning coffee porter (and award winning for good reason), the coffee porter with additions of orange cinnamon and vanilla that was interesting but not a beer I would want in large quantities. I'm not big on cinnamon so that's really my preferences and not a fault of the brewers. I also gave the zwickel rendition of the Little Bo Pils which is a nice Czech pilsner but with the rough-around-the-edges character of a zwickelbier or kellerbier.

Phantom Carriage

I saved the most amusing for the end. This Torrence brewery has been open for just months and has a horror movie theme. It is dark and given a spooky atmosphere with a dim taproom surrounded by barrels. The dour environment makes people talk in hushed tones as though they are scared to disturb the horror. There is a theater room showing old horror movies and a barrel room that is extremely dark. It's damn funny. I told you they are doing it differently in Torrence.

Here's the best part about Phantom Carriage. It's all sour ale and saisons. They brew sour beer in house with a range of guest taps and a reasonable bottle list of sours and saisons.


I apologize for the shoddy photography but I think it's readable. These are their beers. It's an ambitious lineup for a brewery with a soft opening just four months ago. I will say that the house beers did not overwhelm me. The latter two on the list were good beers but the biggest issue with the whole range was that they just lacked the complexity that those styles are begging for. I suspect these beers are all just too young to have developed complexity and Phantom Carriage needed to start putting beer on tap. I really hope they are able to raise the bar on those beers because I would love to make this a regular stop and help drive traffic to them.

Overall a great trip and I am looking forward to seeing Phantom Carriage develop and my friends at Transplant Brewing build into their space and get some beer on tap.

March 7, 2015

Czech It Uut Tasting Notes

It took a while to circle back to this beer which isn't too big of a problem for a malty lager like this. Czech It Uut was designed off the recipe for a Czech dark lager in For the Love of Hops.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown with a nice ruby color around the edges. It has nice clarity with more of a dark ruby when held up to a light. A tan head quickly appears upon pouring but descends into the beer with a lingering patchwork of bubbles on the top that looks like a strange map of Antarctica on a brown ocean.

Aroma: The aroma is mild with a very clear munich profile. It is malty, slightly bready, slightly caramel-y with a hint of grassiness. The aroma is similar to a Munich dunkel or similar malty German lager but not quite as sweet.

Flavor: Initially the beer was very bland with an unpleasant metallic funky note. As the beer started to warm the malt flavor started to show again a very munich-forward character. The malt profile isn't particularly exciting. There is a touch of hop flavor but mostly the hops are offsetting the malt to create a beer that tastes like something between a Munich dunkel and a schwarzbier but not as sweet as the dunkel and not as roasty as some schwarzbiers. The balance is actually quite good and makes the beer dangerously easy to drink. I find some of the German lager styles easy to drink until they get cloying at quantity but this beer is so balanced that one could easily consume this by the liter without thinking twice. As the beer continues to warm the flavor opens and some of the pilsner grainy flavor comes out along with a more complex malty flavor. The lime flavor from the hops also starts to peek out which doesn't entirely fit with the beer. Approaching room temperature the beer starts to develop a chocolate flavor that is actually really delicious.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied but not thin. Without the balanced bitterness the beer would probably feel maltier but ruin the balance that makes the beer such an easy drinker. I always feel like malty lagers leave behind a heaviness on the tongue and while this beer leaves some of that heaviness it is not as tiresome as its German counterparts.

Overall: I don't love the beer but I like it well enough that I won't feel bad about drinking the rest of the batch. I think my dissatisfaction with the beer comes from the use of those stupid celeia hops that I really don't like and thought would leave no flavor impression with only 60 and 30 minute additions. Clearly I was wrong. I dislike the early flavor of the beer served cold. I think the rest of the bottles will get a thirty minute rest in the fridge to drop out any sediment and get it into the high 50s before drinking. I probably won't rebrew this beer because it's just not that interesting and I don't feel like I know enough about the style to do a significantly better job. I'll stick to making hoppier lagers and wait until I visit the Czech Republic to gain a better understanding of the style.

February 28, 2015

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 15 -- Thirteen Months

Did a more robust inspection of the beer this time in an effort to try to figure out what the heck is going on than my previous attempts. I guess I don't really know much more than I did before but I feel increasingly more confident that I should let the beer ride out and keep seeing what it turns into.

It's sitting at around 4.3-4.4 ph (I'm only using strips so I can't be more specific) and the gravity is hovering around 1.019. By those specs it could easily pass off as a generic extract kit wheat ale. However, the flavor is definitely not the generic kit beer. It doesn't even taste like beer anymore. The weird hefeweizen-like flavor is completely gone and now it just tastes like pear juice. Not like Duvel or a beer with pear. Just pear juice. It's about as sweet as pear juice with roughly the same mouthfeel. It's very unusual. The batch is definitely heading somewhere. I'm hopeful it's not heading towards five gallons of nail polish remover.

Visually the weird islands of yeast are still floating on the surface. The surface seems slightly oily but definitely not a pellicle. There are some clumps of tiny bubbles on the surface. They do not appear trapped under a pellicle-like cover, just too lazy to pop. The airlock has some bubbles built up as well. The combination of all these bubbles suggests there is some internal activity. It could be continued release of CO2 from the initial fermentation but the airlock on this beer is far more bubbly than any other sour beer I've seen. By holding an LED light up to the beer I could see that there is quite a bit of suspended material in the beer. Small random shapes about 1-2mm in diameter. They did not appear to be falling off the yeast islands or in any kind of movement, just suspended in the beer. Small bubbles passed by the lit area every few seconds. That might be normal behavior for the beer or the result of my jostling. Impossible to say without jostling the beer for a view.

February 25, 2015

Another Colorado Beercation 2015

I don't know how many people actually read these posts reviewing my beer travels. I assume not many do, which is alright with me. I mostly write these posts for my own purposes so I can go back and review beers and locations from prior trips. I was particularly lazy this trip about taking notes and pictures so this post will probably be of little interest to anybody else. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Crooked Stave (The Source)

Although I have visited Crooked Stave's production facility/tap room in the River North neighborhood of Denver, this was my first trip to the tap room at The Source outside of downtown where Crooked Stave has its coolship installed. The Source is an open concept food market where you can eat, drink and shop (for food items) around an open seating area. It's cool. Crooked Stave has a tap room with a solid set of taps and bottles available and Crooked Stave's bottle shop (The Perfect Pour) where I snagged a bottle of Fantome Boo at a fairly reasonable price.

The tap room has a similar set of beers as the original tap room where I was able to sample fantastic beers like Origins, Motif, Nightmare on Brett Street and a variant of Saison Vieille double dry hopped with moteuka hops. As much as I enjoyed the sour beers I was really in the mood for that saison and it was the winner for the day. I was short on time in Denver for the day so I didn't get to sample as much as I would have but cramming in as much as I do in my Colorado beer trips means great beer always gets left by the wayside.

River North Brewing

River North is a short skip away from The Source so my wife and I decided to stop by for their anniversary beer released that afternoon. My wife is a huge fan of River North so any visit to Denver requires a stop. I've talked about RiNo Brewing in past posts and I'll give out the short description that I am not always a fan of their base beers but I think they are making some very interesting barrel aged beers that are really well done.

This year's anniversary ale is a boozy 17.2% biere de garde. The alcohol was unmistakable but not burning or misplaced in the beer. Stonefruit, caramel, citrus and anise dominate the flavor profile. Although I enjoyed the flavor and found the alcohol integrated it is still a stout beverage and splitting a four ounce taster was the right amount for this beer.

River North also offered its 2013 and 2014 barrel aged Avarice, a slightly hoppy Belgian imperial stout. The hops, predictably, had mostly rolled off the 2013 variant and a spicy-licorice note appeared in both variants. It's definitely not the predictable BBA stout that every brewery seems to be unloading into the market these days.

Manitou Springs Brewing Co.

Manitou Springs is a small tourist town on the west side of Colorado Springs in the foothills of the Rockies. It was originally built as a tourist attraction around the still-running mineral springs and it has the feel of other mountain tourist towns. Located in the town's interior is Manitou Springs Brewing Company, which is more of a brewpub offering house beers with guest taps, wine and spirits.

The house beers span an interesting mix of styles and I believe what was on tap on our trip was their winter set of beers that included a steam beer, a wheat ale, spiced winter warmer, dubbel, ipa and oatmeal milk stout. The steam beer was the best of the bunch with very mixed opinions about the other beers around the table. None of the beers were terrible but several seemed to be recipes in the midst of getting dialed in rather than recipes prepared to be served next to their GABF medal winning BDSA. Maybe we just have difference preferences for some of these styles. The dubbel, for example, was made with a spicier yeast (tasted like the Achouffe strain) than the normal fruity abbey/trappist strains that proved not too popular at the table. I liked it but I think I was the only one of the group who appreciated the unusual direction.

Bristol Brewing Co.

If Trinity Brewing is Colorado Spring's best known brewery, with its unusual farmhouse beers and Office Space references, then Bristol is surely Colorado Spring's second best known brewery. Bristol opened its doors in 1994 during the 1990s wave of craft brewing and recently moved into the Ivywild School, an elementary school built in 1916 and closed in 2009. It was renovated into something similar to The Source with a brewery, restaurant, whiskey bar, bakery, butchery, music studios and a handful of other ongoings. It is an incredible building and the mix of old and new was very well done.

Bristol's range of beers focuses on a core set of what can fairly be considered craft beer's core styles that the industry built itself upon during the 1980s and 90s. Many of these styles, like scottish ale and amber ale, have fallen out of favor among new breweries and beer snobs but can still be readily found at many older craft breweries like Bristol. Bristol also mixed in several Belgian styles and various hoppy offerings. We ordered a flight of the standards plus the winter seasonal and the single hop Warrior IPA. Admittedly, we were not overly impressed by the beers although everybody thought the Warrior IPA was a great beer. None of the beers were bad but other than the Warrior IPA the other beers just didn't stand out well enough that I would make the drive from north Denver to Colorado Springs (past untold numbers of breweries) to get them.

Left Hand Brewing Co.

Left Hand is well known for their milk stout (and among the craft beer industry some grumblings about their trademark of the word "nitro") but isn't thought of as a brewery doing exciting things these days. Left Hand might not be making the most exotic beers but they quietly release a stream of excellent and interesting beers that are tough to find, such as the Ambidextrous series of beers and their cask offerings. I didn't have time for too much beer at Left Hand but my wife and I hit a sampler that included a session IPA out of a series Left Hand is running (Safety Round), a cask of milk stout with coffee and chai, their porter (Blackjack) casked with EKG hops, their coffee ale and a sour beer. The coffee ale is Denile Ale which is brewed for the Old Chicago chain. It's a solid blonde coffee ale and thankfully available in Dallas.

The most unusual and unexpected offering was the sour beer. I had no idea Left Hand was souring beer but like many of their limited offerings it is hard to find much information about them outside of the taproom or stumbling upon them at a bar. They call this WTF Sour Blend and like many of their limited releases there are a number of releases under this name that are numbered off sequentially. I'm not sure which release this is. It was a sour brown with a really interesting flavor profile. There was a strong strawberry and cranberry flavor to it. It reminded me of some of those Ocean Spray cranberry juice blends. However, the blend had a strong acetic acid character that I didn't like and it was a little thin for my preferences. I tried blending a little with the cask porter and found it adjusted the mouthfeel and acidity but lost that great fruit flavor. I don't know for sure what was in the blend but I feel confident in guessing their barleywine (Widdershins) was a significant part of the blend. I suspect with less confidence that their ESB (Sawtooth) was also present.

Oskar Blues

Oskar Blues is well known for its long running line of canned beers but they also have a series of beers that are brewed exclusively or semi-exclusively for their own restaurants and tasting room. It's easiest to find these beers at the tasting room in the production facility in Longmont and more rarely at other Oskar Blues locations. My wife and I made a quick run through the restaurant and tasting room in Longmont on our way out of the state and were able to capture a few of these beers. We found Pump Can, an unimpressive pumpkin ale and Velvet Elvis oatmeal stout, which was a little thin but had a nice flavor. We captured Shipwrecked Circus barleywine which I enjoyed quite a bit. It's a good mix of malt character and American hops. We also snagged some of the Pinner throwback IPA with pineapple on cask which was unusual. The pineapple worked with the more restrained IPA. We picked up a couple cans of other beers that we brought home.

Fort Collins Brewery

I know I've said it several times before but Fort Collins Brewery is a thoroughly underrated brewery. In my opinion they are putting out some of the best smoked beers in the country with a solid range of other beers. The food in the restaurant is excellent and it's an obligatory stop in Fort Collins (along with Funkwerks). This trip we captured the smoked marzen which is fantastic. FCB has also started doing variants on their Double Chocolate Stout and the cherry variant was my favorite (compared to coffee and barrel aged). They also released an Australian sparkling ale (Champagne of Craft) which was bright and dry.

Funkwerks

Funkwerks is among my favorite breweries in Colorado and thankfully they have finally rolled into the north Texas market although we receive a small piece of the Funkwerks offerings and obviously none of the beers that never leave the taproom. I was sad to learn White (a wit fermented with saison yeast) had been relegated to a seasonal offering but thankfully it was on tap this trip so I enjoyed a big pour. Funkwerks also had Blanka, a double wit, which was interesting and full of spices but lacked the brightness I appreciate in White. I also enjoyed Crimson, a cherry-filled sour brown. I didn't find it quite as spectacular as Funkwerks' Oud Bruin but they were clear that this beer was aged for a short period of time while Oud Bruin was aged for considerably longer. We picked up a bottle of Crimson to age and see how it develops. Pale Ryder was a nice rye Belgian pale ale with a nice mix of fruity hops, yeast esters and rye's unmistakable peppery character. I also enjoyed the boozy Quad for all its expected quad flavors. Barrel-aged Deceit was also among my favorites. Funkwerks is aging this beer up to two years before blending it into packaging and the smooth aged flavor really pulls through.

So that was most of my great time in Colorado this month. We also hit Horse and Dragon in Fort Collins but we didn't stay long and I didn't drink too much because I was saving up for the other breweries. We also hit New Belgium but I forgot to take notes on what we drank and that was towards the end of a very long day of drinking. We also stopped by Mayor of Old Town in Fort Collins and tasted some beers from Zwei in Fort Collins who is making some very solid lagers. I also left out a stop in Denver but I want to hold off on talking about that place until the right time.

February 22, 2015

Worm Protein Imperial Gose with Tequila

I'm not a particularly big fan of the gose style. They either seem to be a sort of generic wheat beer or a salty berliner weisse. Neither particularly catches my fancy. I am brewing this beer for a friend as an opportunity to play around with some different techniques. She's a big fan of salt, sour beer and tequila so I am trying my hand at marrying these flavors together. Gose is the natural vessel because salt is a requisite ingredient. It's easy to sour a wheat beer and tequila barrels can work with sour beer so everything works together in this style.


You might be groaning at the idea of another one of these margarita-styled beers floating around. This isn't quite a margarita beer. There's no lime or other citrus fruit going into the beer so that's going to be a significant difference between this beer and a margarita. I'm definitely not trying to make something that emulates The Bruery's Roble Blanco, which is heavy on the lime. The concept for this beer is to balance salt, tequila and oak flavors against a tart but not full-on sour beer. I am using Himalayan pink salt for its floral flavors and sour worting half of the wort to develop some tartness. The purpose of souring the beer is to give the beer a drier, crisper finish that will enhance the floral and citrus notes from the pink salt and coriander with the tequila intermingled. Definitely not a margarita.

Initially I had in mind a beer with a significantly lower gravity than what this turned into but I accidentally threw in too much grain and turned a 5% beer into a 9% beer (not accounting for the souring reducing the ABV). Oops. Not a lot I can do about that after the fact.

FWIW...the name comes from a mezcal-fueled event at a Denver bar in which there may have been a lot of discussion about the health benefits of consuming the worm in a bottle of mezcal. It is, after all, a source of protein.

Worm Protein Sour Worted Imperial Gose with Tequila

Batch size: 1.1 gallon
Est. OG: 1.087
Est. FG: 1.018
Est. IBU: 18
Est. SRM: 7.3
Est. ABV: 9.2%

Grain Bill

2 lb. White wheat malt (2 SRM)
12 oz. German pilsner malt (2 SRM)
12 oz. Munich (9 SRM)

Water Supply

3.25 qt. mash water
1.1 gal. sparge water

Water profile designed in Bru'n Water for yellow balanced

Water Profile

Calcium 50ppm
Magnesium 7ppm
Sodium 5ppm
Sulfate 79ppm
Chloride 59ppm
Bicarbonate 0ppm

Mash Water

Gypsum 0.3g
Epsom salt 0.2g

Calcium Chloride 0.3g

Sparge Water

Gypsum 0.4g
Epsom salt 0.3g
Canning salt 0.1g
Calcium chloride 0.4g
Lactic acid 0.6ml

Mash & Sparge

Mash 3.25qt at 169F for 152F mash for 90 minutes
Sparge 1.1gal at 180F

Mash half grain and water. Sparge with half sparge volume. Bring runnings to boil and pitch grain. Raise to 105F for 1.5 days to sour. Mash remaining ingredients as usual.

Boil

90 minute boil. Combine mash and sour wort in boil.

0.1 oz Belma [12.10%] at 90 for 14.8 IBU
.7 g crushed Indian coriander at 0 minutes
4 g Himalayan pink salt at 0 minutes

Fermentation

Ferment with US-05 at 64F. Add 1/2 oz. oak-aged tequila after fermentation. Adjust with more if necessary. Bottle to 2.7 volumes.

Brew Notes

Sour mash on 12/26/14. Rest of brew day on 12/28/14.

Sour mash ph approximately 4 at time of boil.

Bottled on 1/17/15 with .80 oz. of priming sugar and 1.15 oz (by weight) of oak-soaked tequila. FG: 1.007. Approximately 10% ABV. Some funky character, slight acidity. Salty and citrusy. Interesting.

February 2, 2015

Deflated Balls Sour Brown

As a Jets fan I haven't had much to look forward to this NFL season but the whole Patriots deflategate issue has at least been satisfying to watch our hated rivals squirm. My opinion is that it's nearly impossible that Brady or Belichick or both did not know this was going on and did not have a hand in it. This really isn't the place to get into that debate (or about spygate or the illegal use of the substitution rule in the past couple games) but all the talk about deflated balls is amusing to say the least. I decided the term "deflated balls" would go nicely with all of my other inappropriate beer names, especially for a brown ale brewed on Super Bowl weekend.

This beer is a kitchen sink-type recipe with a lot of different ingredients thrown together out of piles of extra specialty grain I have left over. It's usually a little cheaper to buy by the pound instead of by the ounce so I try to buy by the pound and put together several recipes using the same specialty malts so I don't have too much left over. This recipe doesn't fit into any style. I suppose it's closest to a really busy dubbel grain bill but at roughly a fifth caramel malts it would be too sweet for a clean beer. By souring it I'm hoping to develop that sweet-sour combination typical of Flemish reds but without having to blend in a clean portion. I also find that brett works well with crystal malts. I'm fermenting this beer with a combination of dregs from my lambic solera and a bottle of Cascade something that I'll drink during the game. It should have some solid sourness and a bit of funk.

To be honest, I don't have a good sense of what will happen with this beer. It may turn into a glorious sour brown or it may end up too heavy on the crystal flavors to be a great beer on its own. I'm ok with whatever happens here. If it's good on its own then I'll be happy to bottle it by itself. However, if it's too sweet or lacking in acidity then I'll keep it around for blending to add sweetness and complexity to other sour or brett beers. I've wanted to build up some stock sour/brett beers for blending anyway. We'll see what happens.

Deflated Balls Sour Brown Recipe

Batch size: 1 gallon
Est. OG: 1.071
Est. FG: 1.020
Est. ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 12.8
SRM: 9.5

Grain Bill

73.0% 2 lbs. Pale malt (2.0 SRM)
13.8% 6 oz. Carahell (20 SRM)
6.60% 3 oz. Caramunich III (56 SRM)
6.60% 3 oz. Biscuit malt (23 SRM)

Mash & Sparge

Single infusion 90 minutes at 148F of 3.56 quarts at 159F
Batch sparge 2 gallons at 180F
Water adjuster to amber malty in Bru'n Water

Water Profile

ph: 5.3
Calcium: 53
Magnesium: 5
Sodium: 10
Sulfate: 55
Chloride: 64
Bicarbonate: 35

Mash Additions

Gypsum: 0.2g
Epsom salt: 0.2g
Canning salt: 0.1g
Calcium chloride: 0.3g
Chalk: 0.1g

Sparge Additions

Gypsum: 0.5g
Epsom salt: 0.4g
Canning salt: 0.2g
Calcium Chloride: 0.8g

Boil Schedule

60 minute boil

0.10 oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] at 60 minutes

Fermentation

Pitch dregs from 750ml Cascade and 750ml Lambic Solera Year One and let ferment at room temperature.

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed on 1/31/15.

First runnings: 1.086
Preboil volume: 2.5 gallons
Preboil gravity: 1.036
Mash efficiency: 91.6%
Postboil volume: 1.2
OG: 1.068
Efficiency: 83%

Ended up with way, way too much runnings. Accidentally left beersmith on large system profile so used way too much sparge water. Adjusted boil time to 2.5 hours to boil down runnings.

Also decided to coolship the beer by leaving the open kettle outside after knockout. Temperatures in the upper 40s with a slight breeze so it should cool slowly and pick up some playmates from the ambient environment. Cooled to 85F within 1.5 hours. Transferred to fermentor.

Pitched dregs from a bottle of Lambic Solera Year One and Cascade Figaro approximately 24 hours later.

2/8/15: Visible signs of fermentation showed up approximately four days later with incrementally more aggressive fermentation culminating in a vigorous fermentation on day seven that looked as healthy and active as any clean pitched beer, albeit several days late. Airlock activity dropped off on day eight. Healthy layer on yeast in the bottom. Possibly fermentation driven by Cascade's primary yeast or a particularly aggressive wild strain. Unlikely the five year old saccharomyces from the Lambic Solera was a meaningful participant in fermentation. Flavor is weird. Caramel and diacetyl are prominent. Sweet and oily. Musty.

January 25, 2015

Oh Yeah! A blended beer of rye porter and old ale

Early in 2014 I posted recipes for two beers I specifically brewed with the intent of blending. These beers were Blacula, a rye porter, and Old King Clancy, an old ale. Blacula was brewed in very early March this year and aged on some Canadian whisky that had itself aged on some oak. Old King Clancy was brewed mid-January and aged on Maker's Mark that also had aged on oak. Both liquors went into the beer with an overwhelming oaky flavor and so much tannin it almost hurt your tongue to taste it. I wanted these liquors to simulate barrel aging (and I have planned to talk about my collection of liquors and wines on oak for some time but I want to bottle and taste a few beers using the collection before announcing it a failure or success). Originally I had planned on aging these beers for a year or so before blending but I needed the fermentor space with all the small batches of beers going right now and the portion of the lambic solera I peeled off for later blending. The bottles will age for a couple months before tasting so overall the beer will be about a year old before I crack them open.

My concept for this blended beer would be to create a malty beer with all of the smooth malt notes of an old ale, with subtle sherry-like oxidation, with the more assertive flavors of a rye porter to create a beer that cannot exist on its own as a single beer. The darker malts in a porter have an anti-oxidant effect that prevents those nice fruity oxidation notes in an aged barleywine or old ale. So by combining the beers I can get the best of both worlds. Both of these beers are malt bombs and adding whisky would only bring in more malt flavors. The spicy rye character really helps cut some of that sweetness. So although the beer is undeniably sweet, it isn't meant to be cloying.

To blend the beer I first tasted each component and then worked out a blend. Only having a gallon of each beer meant I had little room to pull samples so I did most of the blending work in my head rather than pouring and mixing samples. Old King Clancy had a candy sweet flavor with a subtle bourbon note. The oats helped keep the beer from being too thin. Blacula had all the great flavors of an aged porter with chocolate, coffee, cocoa, and some nice fruity flavors. The rye was apparent in flavor and mouthfeel. The whisky was subtle but present. I mixed equal portions of each and liked the blend at an even ratio that as I thought through the balance of flavors I couldn't think of a blend I preferred. The 50/50 split tasted exactly like what I envisioned back at the beginning of the year. So I went ahead and bottled all the precious beer I could lift from the fermentors. Ultimately I ended up with a blend that was approximately 55% Blacula 45% Old King Clancy.

When I tasted a sample off the bottling bucket my first thought was, "OH YEAH!" like the Kool-Aid Man so that became the name of the beer. Plus the Kool-Aid Man is awesome.



I try to be honestly critical of my beers but I'm really happy with where this is right now. It is a really thick beer so I'm interested to see how carbonation will treat the mouthfeel. It's the first beer I've brewed that I would call chewy. I'm stoked to see how it turns out after it melds for a couple months in the bottle. I find some aging is necessary when blending beers to really get the flavors to come together and marry into a single flavor profile.

January 19, 2015

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 14 -- 1 Year

This beer is a year old and admittedly I am quite surprised by how disaffected the beer has been by its coolshipped band of yeast and bacteria. Given how quickly an infection can take over a clean beer, I expected to see a lot of activity over the past year and I was encouraged in this belief by the early activity that was almost as vigorous as any beer I had pitched a sour blend into. However, after a couple months of activity I have been left with a relatively clear beer with no pellicle and these weird, hard floating discs of yeast. No brett funk and definitely no sourness. It's frustrating but it seems in line with many of the results of other people who have attempted to coolship beers, although I seem to be the only one fortunate enough to experience these floating piles of yeast. Sometimes I want to just throw in some dregs of some sour beers and bottle it in another year but I am trying to stay committed to seeing where this goes.

I believe part of what has left this beer in its current state is my coolship method. I believe leaving the beer out in multiple vessels in an extremely cold night made the beer cool too fast to pick up a healthy volume of fermenting organisms and I ended up creating conditions that favored development of sugar-consuming yeast over lactic acid bacteria. Jean Van Roy, the owner of Cantillon, in the past discussed the importance of slowly cooling the beer through the right temperature range. My experience seems in line with his contention (although who am I to even suggest he is wrong?).

I also believe the lack of preexisting bacteria and yeast in the fermentor play a role. I subscribe to the premise that coolshipped beer relies heavily on the bacteria and yeast that has taken up residence in the oak barrels after years of brews, and coolshipping new wort serves mostly to replenish the yeast and bacteria that do the heavy lifting early in fermentation and then are eliminated as the alcohol content rises and the ph lowers. With this beer I do not have any preexisting organisms to draw from so everything I need has to grow out of whatever came into the fermentor with this wort. To the extent that I have brett, pediococcus and other late-stage fermentors, they are likely few in number and in need to time to build their numbers.

So although the beer is nowhere near ready for consumption, there is definitely continued activity going on. The sweetness of the beer is declining and the weird hefeweizen type tastes are developing more towards the funky end and there is some green apple in the finish. That could be acetyldehyde produced as an intermediary product of more ethanol production in the beer. At least that is what I hope it is. There is definitely something going on with the beer so that is at least something to appreciate about the beer, even if it is going down a path that will ultimately lead to a drain pour. The ph is reading around the mid 4 range so definitely no sourness going on.

January 17, 2015

Small Batch Mash Tun Redesign

My original small batch mash tun used a two gallon cooler with a grain bag to gain the convenience of BIAB with all the temperature regulation of a cooler mash tun. While I have been reasonably happy with the design from a temperature regulation vantage point, I have been dissatisfied with the  volume of trub ending up in the fermentation vessel after the boil. I know this is a problem across the board with BIAB and for a larger fermentation vessel it isn't a problem. Using five liter jugs as I do, space is at a premium to ensure sufficient headspace so I do not lose beer due to blowoff. So reducing the trub is an important goal.

To remedy this problem I have adopted a modification of the typical cooler design employing a toilet line braid that is located around the internet and the same design I have on my ten gallon cooler mash tun. It's an easy system with parts readily available at any big box hardware store and this particular design can be put together for about $7. I am sure more enterprising brewers could fashion a nicer set up but for my purposes this is sufficient to reduce the trub. If you are familiar with the typical design then  you know it is the stainless steel braided line for a toilet intake line attached to a ball valve where the original plastic spigot was. For this version I left the original spigot intact. On a larger cooler the hot runnings will heat up that plastic spigot to the point it is uncomfortable to hold open and you really don't want to have to sit and hold the spigot open for all that time. On the two gallon cooler the spigot opens by pulling away from the liquid so there is no concern about holding uncomfortably hot plastic and draining a mash tun of this size isn't much of a time concern.

Parts:

  • 1/2" stainless steel pipe clamp screw fastener
  • 3/8" stainless steel pipe clamp screw fastener
  • 3/8" brass pipe plug (Watts LFA-737)
  • 3/8" toilet supply line (get the shortest one you can find)

Equipment:

  • Hacksaw
  • Standard screwdriver
  • Needle nose pliers
The first thing you want to do is take apart the spigot assembly on the cooler. It will be easier to attach the braid to the assembly that way. The assembly is easy to disassemble.

First unscrew the outside piece by turning it counterclockwise until it slides out.


Next do the same for the interior piece.


Third, reach inside the cooler and push out the middle piece of the assembly. It should slide right out.


Fourth, remove the gasket on the inside.


If you have used this cooler yourself you may find the pieces have some mold growth. Now is a good time to clean those parts. It is also good evidence that with these plastic and rubber pieces you need to disassemble the cooler like this and clean all the parts every brew or two.


Fifth, use a hack saw to cut off both ends of the toilet supple line. Discard the end pieces. If you did a rough job with the cuts you can clean it up with wire cutters, if you have some, or just leave it messy. Your beers won't care. Once you can the ends cut off, use needle nose pliers to remove the vinyl tubing inside. Discard this as well.



Sixth, insert the plug threaded side in to the braided line so the non-threaded end is exposed. Then use the 3/8" fastener to hold the plug in place. The plug keeps the end of the braid sealed so grain bits can't get through. It also helps weigh down the end so the braid doesn't float on top of the mash. (see the next two pics)


Here comes the fun part. Go ahead and slide the other fastener onto the braid and it slide all the way to the end with the plug. You need to make this 3/8" braid fit on the outside of this 1/2" spigot assembly. The braid needs to be stretched out. The easiest way to this is to insert the needle nose pliers in the braid and pull the handles away from each other. You need to do this quite a bit and rotate the braid so you get a larger hole. It need to fit on the outside of the second piece you removed from the spigot assembly. It is easiest to put the pliers all the way in and expand the braid and then move them out an inch, do the same and keep repeating until you are expanding the last inch of the braid. Eventually the braid will give up and the hole will expand. Force the braid onto the inner end of the spigot assembly and fasten it as tight as you can (without breaking the plastic) with the fastener. You may find the braid is sloppy after this work with some awkward holes. Roll the braid between your hands (or your fingers) to lengthen it and diminish the diameter, sort of like how as a kid you would roll out snakes out of playdoh.



Last, reassemble the spigot assembly. The middle piece with the male adapter slides in first from the outside. There are three notches on the outside of the cooler that need to line up with this piece. Then slide the washer back into place on the inside of the cooler. There is a small lip on the washer that faces towards the outside of the cooler. At this point don't worry about getting it lined up perfectly, just get it over the threads. Then screw in the outside piece. Now make sure the washer lines up correctly and seals the inside. Finally, screw in the last piece with your braid.


This took me about fifteen minutes, which included writing the blog while I was putting it together. It isn't magnificently attractive but it does the job and doesn't destroy the normal use of the cooler.


January 1, 2015

Be Cool Pale Craft Lager

One of the most interesting trends in brewing right now is the whole craft lager thing that is taking lagers beyond the constraints of the mass-produced lager or the delicious but stuffy continental European styles. The most prominent substyle of whatever we are calling the craft lager style is certainly the India Pale Lager, or IPL. It's unsurprising that American brewers went after transforming lager styles in the same way brewers in the 80s and 90s took English styles and transformed them into hoppy beers flush with American hop varieties. With the popularity of IPA it should be no surprise that commercial brewers went right for the gold mine in craft lagers with IPLs. However, there are lots of interesting and delicious craft lagers that are not so closely tied to IPA and fall more in line with APAs that feature the big hop flavor and aroma of APA but with the malt character and smooth hop bitterness of a German or Czech lager. This particular beer is designed to be in that amorphous APA-like craft lager (APL?) with a mix of American and European hops with a fruity profile.

The genesis of this beer goes back to GABF and an idea born at the end of some solid drinking during the members only session with my wife and the husband and wife team who own the majority interest in Denver's new Tiny Ass Brewery. BSG gave away samples of the Irish Stout pale malt and we decided since we had exactly the same grain from these samples that we would do a head to head brewing competition using the grain. The rules we set out were simple: only this grain can be used for the beer (which ensures a small one gallon batch of ~5% beer); the only manipulation to the grain would be smoking it (so no use of the oven to make specialty malts out of it); the only ingredients permitted are malt, water, yeast and hops; and it has to be a lager. He went straight for the idea of smoking the grain. That's something I would have done but I decided if he was going to take my route in the competition then I would take a page out of his book and brew something hoppy.

The recipe mostly speaks for itself with its lengthy hop schedule but I thought I would make a couple notes about the beer. The hop combination is an adaptation of the hop schedule from my kellerpils and Melting Point Saison which gave me some experience with Aurora and Celeia hops, which have a nice fruity character that seem perfect for a craft lager recipe. I thought those hops would pair nicely with cascade. There is also a small amount of dry hops out of my garden which is an unspecified blend of cascade and mount hood. (The bines were too intertwined to pick out which hops were which so I just dried them all together.)

The other issue to point out (if only for my future reference) is the balance of bitterness. I wanted to capture a firm bitterness in this beer but balance it against the malt to get a crisp character rather than the aggressive bitterness of an IPA. I agree with the general consensus that craft lagers, even IPLs, shouldn't have the same aggressive bitterness as an IPA as it defeats the delicateness of a lager. To accomplish that mix I am using a modified version of a Pilsen water profile with slightly more sulfate. Normally pale ales use a very hard water supply with a huge amount of sulfate but I felt like I got excellent hop character out of my kellerpils and felt like that was a better starting point than a harder water profile. There does not seem to be much discussion about the right water profile for the craft lager styles although everybody seems to agree it does not need the aggressiveness of an IPA or APA.

So with all that in mind, here comes the recipe.

Be Cool Pale Craft Lager

Batch size: 1 gallon
Est. OG: 1.052
Est. FG: 1.016
Est. ABV: 4.7%
Est. Color: 3.6 SRM

Grist

1 lb. Irish Stout Malt [2 SRM]

Water

1 gallon mash water
0.63 gallons sparge water
Water adjusted to custom water profile in Bru'n Water

Water Profile

Calcium: 7
Magnesium: 3
Sodium: 2
Sulfate: 19
Chloride: 6
Bicarbonate: -128
PH: 5.2

Mash Additions

Gypsum 0.1g
Epsom salt: 0.1g
Calcium chloride: 0.1g
Lactic Acid: 0.7ml

Sparge Additions

Epsom salt: 0.1g
Lactic acid: 0.3ml

Mash Schedule

1. Add 1 gallon at 130F for 122F rest for 12 minutes
2. Decoct 1.31qt and boil
3. Return decoction to raise temperature to 146F for 40 minutes
4. Decoct 0.89qt and boil
5. Return decoction to raise temperature to 158F for 30 minutes
6. Sparge with 0.63 gallons at 180F

Boil & Hop Schedule

60 minute boil

0.15 oz. Celeia [4.5%] first wort hop for 13.8 IBU
0.07 oz. Belma [12.10%] at 60 minutes for 15.8 IBU
0.20 oz. Aurora [8.25%] at 10 minutes for 11.1 IBU
0.20 oz. Cascade [5.5%] at 10 minutes for 7.4 IBU
0.10 oz. Celeia [4.5%] at 10 minutes for 3 IBU
0.30 oz. Aurora [8.25] at 0 minutes for 0 IBU
0.10 oz. Cascade [5.5%] at 0 minutes for 0 IBU

0.10 oz. Cascade dry hop for 3 days
0.20 oz. Aurora dry hop for 3 days
0.20 oz. Cascade/Mt. Hood home-grown hop mix dry hop for 3 days

Fermentation

Ferment with slurry of Budvar 2000 with oxygen at pitching
Pitch at 50F and begin raise 1 degree every 12 hours 3 days after fermentation begins until reach 60F.
Raise to room temperature at 90% attenuation and leave for 2 weeks with dry hopping the last three days.
Bottle and carbonate for three days. Then lager in bottles for three weeks.

Brew Day & Fermentation Notes

Brewed on 12/15/14.

First runnings: 1.063
Pre-boil gravity: 1.045
Pre-boil volume: 1.5 gal.
Mash efficiency: 93%
Post-boil volume: 1.2 gal.
Post-boil gravity: 1.055
Efficiency: 91%

12/30/14: FG: 1.015
1/1/15: Dry hopped

 
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