September 29, 2013

Colorado Drinking September 2013 -- Part 2

Alright, now it's time to talk beer and breweries. Let's stick with Denver today.

Prost Brewing

Prost Brewing is a small brewery in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver that focuses on German beer styles, both top and bottom fermenting styles. Prost has a fun atmosphere in its taproom, blending a welcoming beer garden design with just enough cheesy German fanfare to make it a fun place to hang out and drink some damn good beer. Prost doesn't lean on the more unusual side of German brewing, like Gose and berliner weisse, instead Prost brews the basic German beer styles very, very well. The beers are clean and well constructed. No imperial stouts, barrel aging, or hop overloads. Instead, they are beers brewed with the precision German brewing demands. They are the types of beer beer douches on the rating sites demean because they aren't imperial stouts or IPAs. However, there is a lot of subtle flavor and they are ideal beers to split among beer geeks and non-beer geeks. My favorites were the marzen and dunkel. Both did a great job of showcasing a lot of malt character without being cloying.

Hogshead Brewery

Hogshead is a small brewery in Denver in the Slo-Hi neighborhood that focuses on English beer styles and cask presentation. As you can see in the picture of the brewhouse to the right, it's not a fancy system. There is a 10 BBL system and a 1 BBL system (according to the website. I didn't see the 1BBL system). Like Prost, Hogshead focuses on making traditional beers within their selected country's styles rather than bastardizing them as we tend to do in this country. No fruit beers, no American hop blends. Just straight up, solid versions of English beer styles.

Cask presentation is a big part of of what Hogshead does. You can often get beers on both draft and cask, which allows for an interesting side-by-side comparison. As a huge fan of cask beer, I was really excited to see multiple beer engines in the taproom. Unfortunately, the problem with serving on cask is that you can't just switch out casks when a cask runs out, like you can with kegs. When we showed up early Saturday night, there were only a couple beers on cask. That made me sad but we didn't have too much time to stick around so I made both my beers cask pours.

I enjoyed both the ESB and pale ale on cask. In my mind, ESB and (English) pale ale are not different styles although ESBs tend to stick to East Kent Golding for hop character while pale ales may be a little more diverse. Both beers were distinctly different. The ESB was a little sweeter and more malty than the pale ale. The pale ale was a little drier and showcased a more dominant hop character.

Crooked Stave

Crooked Stave needs no introduction for fans of sour and funky beers. Chad Yakobson's brewing company puts out a mix of sour and brett beers that are highly sought after by beer geeks. As a plack on the taproom wall states, he is the Hipster Beer King. Yakobson is probably the world's foremost expert on brett brewing and it shows through his beers. The beers are complex and in my opinion, have improved since his first runs when he was brewing out of Funkwerks. What I found most interesting about Crooked Stave was how divided our group was over which beers we liked. Outside of one or two beers, all four of us had very different likes and dislikes. Several of the beers are very different from what you find elsewhere, even from other sour brewers. As you can see from the picture above, Crooked Stave employs a wide range of fermentation vessels, from fifty-some-odd gallon wine and spirit barrels to large foeders to traditional stainless steel fermentors.

Crooked Stave's staple beer is Surette Provisional, a multi-grain saison fueled with brett and wood aging. It's funky and slightly sour. Surette Provisional is one of Crooked Stave's original beers, having appeared at the initial location at Funkwerks as Surette and a second version as Surette Reserva. Earlier versions felt like the flavors did not meld well together, as opposed to the current version which is well constructed and complex. Easily among one of the best saisons produced in the country.

Crooked Stave also produces St. Bretta, an all-brett beer that is slightly funky and dry. Each season the beer gets treated with a new fruit. It seems like this year is all citrus (I'm not sure if it is always citrus and will always be citrus). Spring was tangelo, Summer and Fall were blood orange and Seville orange but I forget which is which. The tangelo version was a big hit among everybody. I really enjoyed St. Bretta both with and without the fruit. A nice, light beer that doesn't pack the huge punch of some of the other beers but still has a lot of subtle flavor going on.

The favorite at the table, myself included, was Sucker Punch, a big 10% ABV sour with a sharp tartness and a deep complexity. Caramel comes through the sourness without creating the weird balsamic vinegar character of most sour beers with big caramel notes. I believe this beer is a sour version of Good Glory, Crooked Stave's biere de garde. The keg died while we were there but it was replaced with a Flanders red (which I forget the name of) that was also excellent. I would have drank more of the replacement beer but we were all getting hungry so we departed for Hops and Pie.

September 28, 2013

Colorado Drinking September 2013 -- Part 1

I haven't posted in a little over a week because I just returned from a week long visit to Colorado, where I drank... a lot. I have several other Beer Adventures that I've posted about in the past, including my prior trips to Colorado. They are good opportunities for me to organize notes about breweries and beers and give some promotion for breweries/beers I enjoy. Usually I try to wrestle out some information or access to parts of the brewery that isn't usually available to the public but this trip I spent the majority of my time just enjoying good beer and absorbing the drinking experience. As I usually do with these series of posts, I'll start off with some general observations.

General observations about Colorado brewing/beer

Denver is definitely swelling with breweries and the rest of the state is not far behind. People talk about the craft beer bubble and how in a few years we will probably see a contraction in the market and a lot of young breweries collapse. I generally agree there will be a bursting of the bubble but I'm not sure we are that close, at least nationally or in areas like Dallas/Fort Worth where I live. Places like Denver and Bend have neighborhoods with a number of breweries in walking distance. Here, we have a handful of breweries and we're the fifth largest consumer market in the nation. What Denver shows is that the beer tourism is a key part of developing and sustaining a vibrant beer scene because people will go places where they can try lots of beers, whether it is walking a neighborhood or a bar with 1000 taps. The ability to brewery hop in a neighborhood also makes it much easier for smaller breweries under 5BBL to survive thanks to the foot traffic. It may also be significant that cities like Denver and Bend have strong neighborhood identities where people can spend the day enjoying eating, drinking and shopping in the same area.

However, it may be a double edged sword. Denver brewers are moving into popular areas to take advantage of the foot traffic but that premium space comes at a price. Popular neighborhoods can demand several thousand dollars per month in rent. While that space markets itself, a lot of beer has to be sold to break even. A small 1-5BBL system is going to have little choice but to deploy all or the vast majority of its production to serve the taproom. That's not necessarily a bad thing and I'm told that many of the small breweries around Denver are turning at least some profit on that model. It's definitely an easier model to sell all your beer on premise than to worry about running a bottling line or trying to keep up with keg sales to bars; however, it seems like a very difficult business model to scale up and even a challenge to generate a lot of profit, particularly if you have a lot of investors with their hands in the cookie jar.

The popular neighborhoods can also be a double-edged sword thanks to their popularity. The "in" neighborhoods change over time in many cities, especially in large cities. Popular areas today may not provide the foot traffic in a few years that they do today. On the other hand, too much popularity can invite too much competition from other brewers and bars. If you don't have beer that is competitive in quality then you might get crowded out by your neighbors, although it seems like even in the most brewery-crowded areas that is at least a few years away. I'm certainly no expert in the issue. I didn't choose a storefront model for my law firm, although I intentionally picked an area with a lot of vehicle traffic, at the intersection of two major freeways.

Another trend that I noticed is the division in brewing strategies between breweries that focus on their taproom and those that focus on production brewing for packaged sales. This isn't just a Denver thing but it is something I noticed in the midst of so many breweries. Breweries that don't focus on on-premise sales tend to sell a small number of beers. Usually there are 3-5 staples plus a handful of seasonals. This shouldn't be very surprising. The brewery needs to produce beers in volume to supply their accounts (both distributors and direct sales to bars) to keep the accounts happy. You won't keep a lot of bar business if you can't fill their demands. (In Texas, we just changed our laws this summer to allow on-premise sales so most breweries are still operating on this model.) Brewers who focus on taproom sales, especially small breweries, tend to sell a wider range of beers. This is for a fairly obvious reason: it's easier to keep people in your taproom buying beers if you have a lot for people to sample. It also lends itself to the high margin taster tray. It's not uncommon to see taprooms with more than seven beers currently on tap. I saw some brewers featuring over a dozen beers at once. My wife and I's friends in Denver (who are working on starting a brewery of their own: Tiny Ass Brewery) tell us a lot of new brewers improve their beers after a year or so of sales. That makes sense. Trying to perfect a dozen beers takes some time.

Ok, enough about the brewing business. Here's something new I learned about beer. Apparently brewing with carrots is becoming a big thing. Maybe I have missed hearing about this in the past or the trend hasn't hit here in Texas but apparently that's a thing now. It makes sense. Carrots are starchy and sweet, which makes them good candidates for brewing. I'm sure they make for interesting beers and probably more to my liking than the round of beet-infused beers that were popular a year or two ago.

That's a good start to my blabbering about Colorado beer. In the remaining post or two I'll talk about beer and brewing and leave the business talk behind.

September 18, 2013

Wet milling versus dry milling

Wet milling, sometimes referred to as malt conditioning, is something I have read about plenty but never actually tried. Most of the homebrewing literature I read discussed malt conditioning as making it easier to mill and lauter but it never struck me as a more efficient use of time because if you have to take time to condition the malt then that is putting time back in your brew day that you are saving by quicker milling and lautering. I just finished reading an interesting article from a professional brewing journal that gave better reasons why wet milling can be more advantageous or less advantageous than dry milling. I thought that made for some useful content to put into non-scientific, homebrewing terms.

Before moving into the wet versus dry milling debate, I should explain what I'm talking about.Normally when one mills grain before mashing, the grain is dry and when the barley gets milled, the husk gets torn up because it is fairly papery in texture. You can condition the grain by spraying it down. Usually I see homebrewers doing this by tossing it in a garbage bag and spraying the grain with a small amount of water from a soaker hose and moving the grain from one side of the bag to the other so it gets evenly wet. (I found this, more descriptive explanation on another website but you can google for other brewers' processes.) You don't want to soak the grain. It should only soak the husk but the actual seed inside should remain mostly dry. The effect of this soaking just prior to milling is that the husk becomes more pliable and tears apart less. The seed still gets milled the same but the husks stay intact better. As a result, you should get a better filtering effect during lautering. Obviously, for BIAB brewers, employing this technique may be less valuable because you are relying on the bag to act as your filter.

Ok, so you can see how brewers using a mash tun set up would benefit from an improved filtering from wet milling. The article confirms that wet milling increases the speed at which lautering occurs. It didn't speak to whether it made milling any faster but a key point made is that the pliability of the husk allowed grain to more easily and evenly mill through a two-roller mill and produce similar crush as a six-roller mill on dry grain. For brewers like myself using corona mills, that is an enticing idea. I am not entirely in love with the crush I get from my corona mill, although I accept its results, so conditioning the malt may be a good way to improve my relationship with my corona mill even if it doesn't save any time on brew day. That's a win for wet milling.

The article goes on to identify that wet milling resulted in a higher level of protein in the wort than dry milling. The article did not identify why there was a difference but posited the increase was a result of either more efficient mashing or improved filtration. I'm not sure I understand either of those premises, nor did the article attempt to explain why, but the article did point out that elevated protein levels are not always a benefit. Sure, if you have a wheat-forward beer it's not bad to have lots of protein and protein will help put body into a brett beer (protein is one of the few things brett generally doesn't metabolize well). In lower levels it is good for foam stability and some body. In high levels it adds haze and results in a lot of trub. This could be a win or a loss. Depending on how much protein you are getting, it may improve things about your beer that you currently find missing or it may create problems you didn't have before.

Another difference identified in the article is varied levels of ferulic acid and other phenolic compounds. Ferulic acid is a precursor to the clove flavor in weiss beer. Phenolic flavors can be pleasant when they bring earthy spice flavors like clove and nutmeg. Not so much when they are medicinal or fecal. The article suggests the wet-milled grain produced a wort lower in phenolic compounds and that result is likely due to keeping the husk more intact because the husk is the primary contributor of phenolics from the grain. Less exposure to the phenolic compounds inside the husk made their extraction less efficient. Again, this could be a win or a loss. For wheat beers in particular, both wit and weiss, that clovey character is a desired product so wet milling may not be advantageous. On the other hand, most other beers do not benefit from phenolic flavors so reducing the phenols can produce a cleaner beer.

For most beers, wet-milling is likely a good candidate for improved control over flavor and body. It seems particularly valuable for brewing lagers due to the ability to reduce phenols in the beer. The increased protein can be dropped out with finings and lagering. Probably also a good candidate for beers with a lot of rye or adjuncts in the mash due to the improved lautering ability. I'm sold on the idea, at least to try it out. I'll probably give it a whirl on the next beer or two.

Do you wet mill? Have you wet milled in the past? What is your experience?

September 15, 2013

Belma hops revisited

I first wrote about Belma hops when they hit the market after the 2012 hop harvest as myself and other brewers were picking up this strange new variety from Hops Direct at the strangely low price of $6 per pound. Now that I have had the chance to brew with them in a few different capacities I thought it made sense to offer some thoughts on the back of my experiences. Belma has suffered a lot of negative critiques due to the accurate observation that Belma comes through with a very gentle flavor and aroma, especially when compared to the New Zealand/Australian and American varieties that scream flavor and aroma. However, there are some overlooked opportunities with this hop, especially if Hops Direct is going to continue to sell this hop in the $6/lb. range. Here are some thoughts about different uses for Belma based on my experiences:

Bittering hops

Belma makes a fine bittering charge at 12.1% AAU. It may not compete against some of the newer varieties putting out close to 20% but 12% is nothing to complain about. The key piece about using Belma as a bittering hop is that it is not going to give you that bracing, enamel-stripping kind of bitterness that most American varieties offer. It reminds me more of the neutral bitterness of Magnum. Also in low quantities can give the similarly gentle bitterness of noble hops that makes Belma a good alternative for lagers, should you choose not to burn fine aroma hops in your bittering charge.

Some people reported very thick beers when using a lot of Belma in their beer, particularly with IPAs. While some hop compounds can add body to a beer (discussed in For the Love of Hops) I'm not sure I buy some of the reports that it turned IPAs into milkshakes. Personally I have only used Belma to bitter up to around 40 IBUs so maybe there is a threshold exceeded by people using lots of Belma for bittering, flavor, aroma and dry hopping.

Summary: Good choice for bittering hop for beers that do not require assertive bitterness, such as English, Belgian and German/Bohemian beer styles. Cheap alternative for bittering many styles. May not be appropriate for bittering IPA/IIPA/American barleywine.

Flavor hops

When I say "flavor hops" I mean hop additions in the 30-5 minute addition. In this range, Belma adds the flavors it is commonly described as producing: melon, strawberry, some orange and other citrus flavors and slight grassy notes. It has some similar traits to Citra but less citrus and as many have observed, an extremely mild flavor contribution. I see a lot of people using Belma in combination with bolder hops, such as NZ/AUS hops and loud American hops, and it's easy for Belma to get lost in that mix. It's like trying to yell over a group of people who all have megaphones. Belma will add some flavor contribution but it's going to fade far in the back in those kinds of blends. On its own, Belma doesn't provide a lot of punch. It's fine for session strength beers where you want a little fruity hop character but ounces-for-ounce it doesn't give enough flavor on its own to make a highly regarded beer.

Instead, Belma works well in blends with gentler hops. Specifically, it plays very well with European varieties, both English and continental, which tend to have mild flavors and tend to be more herbal, earthy, spicy and grassy. The fruity notes from Belma contrast the flavors from these hops much easier, which allows the fruit character to stand out. You still won't get big fruit notes but if you're trying to round out the hop character with a little fruit then it's a good option. I find EKG plus Belma makes for an interesting combination that reminds me a little of Styrian Goldings. (When Belma was first being tested, Hops Direct sent Belma to an English brewer that brewed a pale ale and found the flavor pretty disappointing. I think that agrees with my premise that Belma won't be the star of your flavor hops but instead a solid contributor with European hops.)

Belma also works really well with spice/fruit additions. I have had good luck using Belma with spices and fruit peel (in separate beers). In particular, the American wheat I brewed in the spring used Belma in combination with sweet orange, lemon and ugli fruit peel. In spite of the amount of fruit peel used, the Belma hops really came through with a big melon flavor. I'm not sure why these ingredients seem to amplify Belma more than other hops but that can be filed as one of those areas of hop science not yet understood.

Summary: Belma works well in combination with milder European hops or on its own. Also works really well with spices and fruit additions. On its own, Belma does not provide enough punch to satisfy most drinkers.

Aroma hops

Let's call aroma hops everything from the last five minutes of the boil to a post-knockout aroma steep and hopback to dry hops. Like flavor additions, Belma is very mild in aroma so you need to add a larger-than-normal charge of aroma hops. Belma works as an aroma hop similar to its use as a flavor addition. It plays well in the same combinations for aroma purposes.

One particularly interesting use for Belma is used in combination with brett. I've had good results dry hopping wild and brett beers with Belma. These hops add a pleasant mix of citrus, grassy and melon aroma with the funk but brett transforms something in the hops into a very interesting mix of fruit and funk. Curiously, brett seems to boost the prominence of the aroma of the hops. While Belma is usually not assertive, brett seems to make it more assertive. It's still not Citra or Mosaic, but it's definitely not overlooked.

Summary: Works with the same as flavor purposes for aroma. Works extremely well with Belma hops.

Conclusion

Belma may not be the typical American aroma hop but it has multiple uses and plays well in interesting combinations that differ from the usual American hop use. Lots of interesting flavor combinations can be made. In my opinion, the most interesting use of Belma is in combination with brett beers. However, I'm also aging a few ounces at room temperature for use in future lambic batches so I'll see how they progress over a couple years and whether they become good candidates for that use.

If you can keep picking up Belma at $6/lb. I think it's good value for bittering and worth exploring in those Belma/European hop combinations and brett beers.

September 12, 2013

Polyphenols & Your Beer

Since I've freed myself from feeling like I have to post multiple times per week I'm finally feeling up to the challenge to spend some time putting together some information about more technical brewing aspects; at least breaking down more technical information into useful information for those of us who are not science-minded and look at how that information can be useful for homebrewers. Today I thought I'd start off with a discussion about polyphenols.

What are polyphenols

Polyphenols are a group of flavor-contributing compounds introduced from grain and hops. Roughly 80% of polyphenols are grain-originated. They contribute flavor, astringency, perception of bitterness, haze, oxidative effects and antioxidative effects. They are not well understood, at least as far as their flavor contributions. Polyphenols tend to be filtered out of beer, especially pale lagers (think industrial light lagers), because they contribute to haze and reduce long term stability. Most polyphenols are oxygen-reactive so their removal before packaging improves the stability and shelf life of beer. They contribute to many of the aged beer flavors, from toffee and caramel flavors to some of the cardboard aroma that can appear in aged beers. Some of those flavors can be valued in aged beers, particularly in big beers like barleywines and imperial stouts. However, not all polyphenols produce pleasant flavors over time.

Not all beers are designed to benefit from the existence of polyphenols in the packaged product. Beers intended to be consumed within months after production generally are designed to remain stable over expected shelf life, rather than develop aged flavors that can come across as stale (especially when poor packaging practices introduces a lot of oxygen and the oxidative reactions result in cardboard and wet paper aromas). Add that some, but not all, polyphenols are precursors to haze and you get another great reason to use filters or other methods to try to remove them from the majority of beer styles. Polyphenols also contribute astringency and the perception of bitterness. At high levels they can add an unpleasant dryness but at moderate levels help add to that bracing bitterness in IPAs and IIPAs. So if you are trying to make beers that are "smooth" or "easy drinking" like BMC-type light lagers you also want to remove that dry mouthfeel.

Interesting research is being performed in how polyphenols affect beer based on storage conditions. Beers that lack polyphenols suffer far greater staling in flavor and aroma when stored at warm temperatures. Beers with polyphenols scored less on taste and aroma panels in cardboard aroma (oxidation) even after six weeks of storage at warm temperatures.

The desire to avoid excessive vegetal matter in the kettle has led to an increasing use of hop extract in brewing, especially for bitterness additions. Research indicates people find the use of pellet hops (the research did not also compare whole flower hops) to produce more pleasant tasting and smelling beer, due to the presence of the polyphenols removed during the extract process. Additionally, the use of pellets when the beer was stored warm--even up to 80F--produced a more stable beer. As an aside, perhaps an extrmely important aside, the same studies found the use of pellet hops with a 90 minute boil developed a harsher bitterness than beers with a shorter boil time. Hop polyphenols, studies suggest, improve flavor stability while malt-based polyphenols tend to produce both desired aged-beer flavors and undesirable stale flavors.

Many of the industrial brewers are developing hop extracts from spent hop material that can be used in subsequent beers that are indistinguishable from actual hops in flavor and aroma. (This subject is discussed in For the Love of Hops.) This leads to interesting opportunities to not only extend the value of hops but also to construct flavor/aroma combinations that do not naturally exist in a hop variety. It also allows brewers to put together combinations of polyphenols that have the flavor and aroma of hops but add greater amounts of stability, improving the shelf life of beer. Maybe someday that will make Stone's Enjoy By series terribly anachronistic. However, the research into this field is still very young.

What polyphenols mean for homebrewers

We're not out there working with a lot of hop extracts, although some homebrewers are using hop extracts for bitterness, but polyphenols appear in our beers just as much as commercial beers. The key takeaway for us is not terribly different from our professional companions: beer packaging, storage and production techniques should reflect our best ability to produce a great product.

  • Oxygen pick up should be reduced as much as possible regardless of the packaging method (keg or bottle). Because bottling typically risks greater oxidation than kegging, removal of polyphenols is probably not a great idea for those of us regularly bottling.
  • For those of us who cannot keep all our beers cool after carbonation, hop-based hpolyphenol removal should be avoided because it will reduce the stability but in low-hopped beers polyphenol removal may be a good idea.
  • Beers intended to be aged can benefit from polyphenol presence so filtering and other polyphenol removal techniques may be detrimental to the aging process. That should be a planned decision during the design process.
  • Beers intended to be consumed within months (but more than weeks) may be good candidates for polyphenol removal, especially if they are not hoppy beers, to keep them stable over the course of months. 
  • The most popular polyphenol removal technique involves the use of PVPP resin, which is not available to homebrewers, but less effective options to filter or fine can have some positive results. One thing that can be detrimental about polyphenol removal that is available to homebrewers is when dry hopping, which adds polyphenols, cold crashing or filtering the beer before dry hopping will help remove yeast, which will bind with certain hop polyphenols and not only reduce the flavor and aroma of the dry hops but the polyphenols that bind with the yeast are some of the same ones that will keep your beer from staling. It's lose/lose not to cold crash and/or fine before dry hopping. 
  • Since most of us are not filtering or adding advanced brewing chemicals like PVPP, alternative methods can be used to reduce polyphenols in the package, if that is your goal. Lagering will help drop out many polyphenols. Cold crashing will help but lacks the same effect of a longer cold period. Fining with gelatin, isinglass and Irish moss can also help drop out polyphenols. Silicon will also help clear out polyphenols but normally requires filtering afterwards.

September 2, 2013

STD ESB -- A Beer Designed for the Cask

When I first started thinking about using my party pig as a cask last year I intended to try out an ESB recipe I had bought the grains for back in 2011. I retooled the recipe to adopt to cask conditions instead of bottling. 2012 ended up a busier year than expected so I am finally getting around to brewing the ESB and shoving it in the cask. A warmer fermentation will increase the prominence of the yeast character. The malt character is driven by a maris otter backbone and a light blend of crystal malts. Flavor and aroma hops are all EKG.

Extra Special Bitter - ESB

An extra special bitter, or ESB, is at or near the top of the ladder for traditional English pale beer styles that run the range from mild, bitter, special bitter, extra special bitter and sometimes up to premium bitter. The English brewing industry historically has not accepted strict uses of these terms (like the brewing industry of every other country) so in spite of the American beer drinker's rigid adherence to style guidelines the English beers do not always fit perfectly in those molds.

ESB is generally within the realm of what is also sold as English pale ale. It is hoppy in flavor and aroma but lacks the hoppy bitterness of American pale ales. The malt character plays a strong role, with dark crystal malts and brewing syrups introducing chocolate, raisin, stone fruit, molasses and similar dark malt flavors. Many people add Special B to their recipes to get that raisin-like flavor but that is probably not the traditional English approach nor is a prominent raisin character necessary. The yeast will also add some flavor, unlike American pale ales. English strains fermented in the upper 60s will add bready, slightly sour and fruity notes that help create a beer that has a lot of complexity while remaining easy to drink. When I think ESB I automatically expect the hop character to be entirely or almost entirely East Kent Golding. However, not all ESBs are EKG-only beers. It's common to find ESBs with Cluster, Challenger, Northern Brewer, Fuggles and other Golding variants like Styrian Golding. Unlike American pale ales, which have simplified malt bills and little to no yeast character, ESBs do not require complex hop character to create an interesting beer. ESBs have more flavor and aroma contributions from the yeast and malt.

Designing the beer for the cask/party pig

Most brewers do not design beers differently or alter beers when putting them on cask. There is nothing wrong with that. However, cask ale tastes and smells different from draft and bottles (albeit to a lesser extent when the bottles are gently carbonated) due to the lower carbonation, warmer temperatures and eventually oxygenation. Probably the biggest difference I notice is that bitterness mellows under those conditions, even when the cask is fresh and oxygen has not had the opportunity to work on the hop character. (That's why cask is my favorite way to drink IPAs.) Knowing that the beer is only going to go in cask creates an opportunity to think about how that beer will pour from the cask and tweak the recipe to maximize the benefits of a cask pour.

For a beer like an ESB, it's going to lose most of the bitterness but keep all the hop flavor and aroma. I didn't want to completely lose all of the bitterness and let the beer drift towards cloying, so I have bumped up the bittering charge to the higher end for ESBs to keep a more balanced profile in the cask.(Additionally, the EKG I have are pretty old, so I would be surprised if they are even contributing half the IBUs BeerSmith says they should.)

Here comes the ESB recipe

Recipe Details

Batch size: 2.5 gallons
Anticipated OG: 1.051
Anticipated FG:  1.014
Anticipated IBU: 50.2
Anticipated SRM: 10.3
Anticipated ABV: 5%
Anticipated efficiency:  72%

Grain bill

89.3% 4lb 4oz Maris Otter [3 SRM]
5.3% 4oz C40 [40 SRM]
2.7% 2oz Aromatic malt [26 SRM]
2.7% 2oz C120 [120 SRM]


Mash & Sparge

Water profile: Bru'n water amber bitter profile starting with RO water
Mash water volume: 6.19qt (1.54 gallons) at 169F infusion for 60 minute mash at 154F
Sparge water volume: 2.18 gallons at 180F

Mash water additions:

0.5g gypsum
0.9g epsom salt
0.2g canning salt
0.5g calcium chloride
0.2g chalk

Sparge water additions:

0.7g gypsum
1.3g epsom salt
0.2g canning salt
0.7g calcium chloride
1.2ml lactic acid

Boil schedule: 60 minute boil

60 minutes: 0.3oz Belma [12.1% AAU] 26.2 IBU
20 minutes: 1oz EKG [5% AAU] 24 IBU
10 minutes: 0.5 tsp Irish moss
Flameout: 1oz EKG [5% AAU] 0 IBU

Fermentation

Repitch 50% S04 slurry from prior 2.5 gallon batch
Ferment 10 days at 67F
Cold crash 3 days
Dry hop 1oz EKG for 3 days at room temperature
Package in party pig with 2oz table sugar
Carbonate 2-3 weeks

Brewday notes:

First runnings gravity: 1.0817
Pre-boil gravity: 1.041
Post-boil gravity: 1.051
Volume: 2.75
Measured efficiency: 76.8%

Fermentation notes:

FG: 1.010

Taste at gravity reading kind of bland; Yeast flavor is very noticeable but pleasant. Hop flavor not very bold. Not as caramel/malty as I had hoped. Definitely not 50 IBUs. As I suspected, the hops were pretty old and not adding too much flavor. Hopefully the beer will pick up some life after dry hopping and carbonation.

9/17/13: Packaged about two gallons in party pig-cask with two ounces of priming sugar. Beer seemed substantially more cloudy than it did before dry hopping although the beer was cold and had not been moved as much prior to dry hopping. More pronounced bitterness but likely from roused yeast and other trub material. Plan to let beer carbonate for 2-3 weeks until pig feels pressurized. Chill for 24 hours and serve. This will be the first test run of the pig repressurizing with CO2. More on that later.