Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hurricane's Barrel Aged Triple

A fellow homebrewer (Tom) purchased another Dad's Hat Barrel and contracted the group to fill it as I did recently with the Quad , so the barrel fleet among my Homebrew friends has doubled. I was recently accused of having "first world problems" when I mentioned we may get sick of Barrel Aged beers soon. Why would I say such a foolish thing? Its good timing to as it seems we are staggering the fills fairly well so that it doesn't feel like a chore to keep each barrel filled. I am getting anxious to get some bugs in these barrels, but there are clean beers to brew first.
Beautiful color going into the fermenter.
Both barrels currently sit in my neighbor Chris' basement, my barrel with some delicious Quad in it which we snuck an encouraging taste a few weeks ago, he has the space and a great set up for the barrels to hang out. With it being Tom's barrel we left the recipe formulation up to him this time, and his idea was to brew a big , fairly classic, Triple. The only non traditional aspect are the hops, where we bittered with Willamette and used a dash of Amarillo late in the boil because, you know, Amarillo is pretty awesome. Everything else is fairly classic, until it hits the barrel of course. 

Vigorous Fermentation.
The plan, as we did for the Quad, was for four brewers (Chris, Tom, Sean and myself, Bill took this round off) to brew the same recipe and then rack ~3.75 gallons of each batch into the barrel and the other 1.25 gallons blend together into secondary for a non barrel aged version. All went well with our respective brewdays, with OGs varying in the 1.082-090 range (mine was 1.089). Only hiccup, is that I missed the memo on what yeast strain we were using and went with WLP530 once again while everyone else used WLP500. It may add a layer of complexity to the finished beer with the varying yeast driven flavors, but only time will tell if I goofed it up or not. The other beers were significantly more dry than mine going into the barrel, however mine was only 14 days old when we racked to the barrel (mine was 1.019 the others were around 1.009). We figured that mine will finish off the the barrel fairly well and we should still have a dry Triple in time.

I am looking forward to trying more of the beers from these barrels, the Philly Breakfast Stout turned out fantastic and I'll have tasting notes posted this weekend. If the Quad and the Stout are any indication on how this Triple will turn out, we are in for a complex unique beer in a few months time. Great pick Tom. Soon, it will be time to refill the Quad barrel...First world problems continue.

Hurricane's Barrel Aged Triple

Brew day: 3/10/2014
Kegged: 3/24/2013 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 8.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.082 SG
Measured OG: 1.089 SG
Measured FG: 1.019 SG (1.010)
ABV: 10.1% (after blending)
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

84.4% - 13 lbs 8 oz - Pilsner (1.5 SRM)
12.5% - 2 lbs - Cane Sugar 1.6% -  4oz - Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)
 1.6% -  4oz - White Wheat (3.5 SRM)

Boil: 60min - 1.50 oz Willamette [5.50 %] - 26.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 5.4 IBUs

1 pkg - WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast - 1.5L starter (although the other 3 brewers used WLP500, complexity right?!)

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 149.5 F 

Fly Sparge 5.35 gallons 175f

60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant.

Pitched at 62F and let it free rise naturally to 74F. I held it at 74F for a full 14 days before racking to a keg, it was still working a little bit but barrel fill day was planned and scheduled .(It was transferred to a keg so I could transport it to the barrel in Chris' basement across the street).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Yeast Bay - Wallonian Farmhouse Strain

These are heady times for yeast aficionados, East Coast Yeast blazed a trail for small artisanal yeast labs, and it was only a matter of time before others would follow suit. There is a small handful of startup yeast labs popping up all over the country with new interesting strains of yeast but it wasn't until recently that one of these new labs really caught my attention, and pulled away from the pack quickly.

Exploding on to the scene this year was The Yeast Bay, a small but burgeoning artisanal yeast lab founded by Nick Impellitteri and crewlocated in CA. What grabbed my attention initially, and I would assume others as well, was their Vermont Ale culture, which we all know is the highly sought after Conan (don't we?). One thing that sets The Yeast Bay apart from other new labs is that they have contracted with White Labs to bank and package their vials, so you know you will be purchasing world class cultures. 

Once Nick released his line of strains for sale I noticed they have a lot more that I am interested than just the Vermont Ale. As a fan of Saison and Brettanomyces I grabbed a few strains that were of interest to me.  The three yeast blends, BeerselBrussels, Lochristi, but the one that really got me excited was the Wallonian Farmhouse strain. Wallonian huh? The name even had me interested. Here is what they have to say about the strain on their website. 

There is a lot to like about that description, "absurdly high attenuation" and "slightly funky and tart" sound perfect to me. I wanted to get an idea of what this strain can do so I decided to use my Farmer In the Rye Saison recipe since I am very familiar with the beer and have tried many different Saison strains in it over the last few years. I brewed a 15 gallon batch and split it a few ways, ~9 gallons got Wyeast 3711 for primary which was then split between the three Yeast Bay Brett Blends in secondary (more on that in a future post). The remaining ~6 gallons got a healthy 1.5L starter of an absurdly fresh(I think it was 10 days old) Wallonian vial.

The following is information on the Wallonian strain fermentation only. I aerated for 45 seconds with pure o2 through a stone and pitched the entire starter at 64 F, I didn't have enough time to crash and decant the starter. Fermentation was active within 4 hours, showing some light foam on top (below) at 66 F. There was some moderate co2 off gassing at this point.
4 Hours after pitching.
By 30 hours into fermentation things were really getting going at 71 F, with a frothy white krausen and a steady bouncing airlock. After 48 hours of fermentation we reached high krausen at 73 F, which was pretty fast but a fresh healthy pitch and aeration will do that for you. About 3-4 days in and the krausen started to fall but I kept the temperature at 74-75 F for a full 14 days, throughout that time there was lingering fermentation with tiny bubbles shooting to the surface. There was never more than a 1-2 inches of krausen on the beer as you can see below, but there was very vigorous fermentation that was fast and efficient, with some time at the end to work on the more complex sugars.
30 hours into fermentation.
48+ hours into primary fermentation, high krausen.
The final gravity was 1.007 down from 1.060, a dry beer indeed, especially with a modest Saison fermentation profile that only maxed out at ~75 F. I racked it to a keg on the 14th day and put it on 30psi for 6 days then tapped it on the 7th day, so 21 days grain to glass. Below are my tasting notes about 30 days from brew day.

Farmer In the Rye - Wallonian

Appearance: Hazy golden color with a white frothy 2 finger head, tiny bubbles shooting up the glass. Still a bit early carbonation wise, but passable. Significant lacing on the glass throughout.

Aroma: Notes of hay, coriander, some black pepper, earthy, reminds me of pulling dandelions. There is a subtle lemon zest aroma as it opens up. Mild funk is certainly a great way to describe it, the aroma is classic rustic Belgian Saison. The whole aroma smells like walking into an Herb garden in late spring as everything around is full of life just starting starting to flower.

Taste: There is a dry bitterness on the front of the tongue that quickly rakes across your tongue with earthy pepper notes. It then finishes and lingers with a faint tartness on the back and side of the palate. I get a significant crisp malt presence in this beer that I have never gotten before, the Pilsner is upfront and on display. In the past this beer had no real Pilsner character but with the Wallonian strain you can taste a beautiful Pilsner note that gives way to spicy Rye earthiness, the malt and yeast character really blend well together.

Overall Impressions: This beer, which I usually love with 3711, has been taken to another level with the Wallonian strain. I actually didn't think that was at all possible, after all the 3711 version took 2nd place and scored a 40 in the first round of NHC 2013, but this version is significantly better than brewed with anyt other strain. If I told people I used spices in this beer they would believe me, not in a heavy handed way but a subtle balanced spice that ties everything together. Then you add in the Pils/Rye malt that seems to be amplified instead of over shadowed its really a nice ride of flavors. There is something about this strain , even with a modest low 70's fermentation, that seems to tie everything together beautifully.

The Wallonian strain has a permanent spot in my homebrewery, the subtle spicy and dryness that all ties together well with the other flavors is exactly what I am going for in a classic Saison. Next I will put Wallonian to the test at some higher temperatures and something hoppier and more modern in a new batch of Jah-Rod

***On a semi-related side note, Nick from The Yeast Bay posted on Reddit that they were looking for Beta testers for some new strains he recently isolated. I am pleased to announce that he selected myself and two other homebrewers as Beta testers for some possible upcoming strains of both Sacchromyces and Brettanomyces. So be sure to check back soon, I will have a post coming on the split batch with all three Brett blends and results from the strains we will be Beta testing. Very exciting stuff coming up, and I am honored that Nick has given me the opportunity.

Brew day: 3/1/2014
Kegged: 3/15/2014

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 17.80 gal
Post Boil Volume: 15.70 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 gal
Kegging Volume: 14.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.007 SG 
Estimated Color: 4.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 91.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

75.5% - 20 lbs Avangard Pilsner 
15.1% - 4 lbs Rye Malt
3.8% - 1 lb Munich 10L
5.7% - 1lb 8oz Cane Sugar

Boil: 75 min - 1.00 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 19.7 IBUs
Boil: 30 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [7.20 %] - 7.4 IBUs
Boil: 15 min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablet + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5 min - 1.75 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 1.9 IBUs
Boil:  5 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [7.20 %] - 1.9 IBUs
Boil:  0 min - 1.75 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 0.0 IBUs
Boil:  0 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - 0.0 IBUs

1x pkg The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse (1.50 L starter 36 hours in advance of brewday)
260ml slurry of French Saison (Wyeast #3711)
1x pkg The Yeast Bay Beersel Brett Blend (Secondary w/3711)
1x pkg The Yeast Bay Lochristi Brett Blend (Secondary w/3711)
1x pkg The Yeast Bay Brussels Brett Blend (Secondary w/3711)

Sacch rest - 90 min @ 148 F 

Fly Sparge 13.10 gallons of 172f

Misc: 45 seconds of pure O2 for each carboy.Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, 7.9 grams Gypsum,  2.1 grams Baking Soda, and 1.4 grams Table Salt in the mash.

Notes: Unimportant to the Yeast Bay stuff, this was my first time using Avangard Pilsner and the PPG must be significantly more then they post on the malt analysis, there is no way I am getting 91% efficiency. I've already brewed Jah-Rod again with it and again I over shot by 10 points, on each occasion I modified the hopping slightly to stay in line with the recipe. In hindsight I should have just watered down the boil and went with a higher volume but I tend to like to run with it and adjust for next time.

Monday, March 31, 2014

We Talkin 'Bout Practice: A juicy DIPA in training

Since brewing HopWards not too long ago, and being really happy with how the first batch of it turned out, I've wanted to brew a DIPA using the same Tired Hands-esque hoppy brewing principals. This is not a clone of any beer that they make, more of another recipe in a series of beers I am brewing following the flavor profile that Jean and the folks at Tired Hands have been succeeding with. This recipe will likely be a work in progress, it may take me a few batches to dial this in, but this is a start. 

Its been a while since I brewed a double IPA, its probably because there are just so many spectacular commercial examples both seasonal and year round (Enjoy By, Sucks, Dirtwolf, Nugget Nectar (DIPA?), Chillwave, notice I didn't mention Hopslam) that I've been brewing for some variety on my taps. What I am envisioning for this beer is something with a creamy full body/mouthfeel, pale in color, no crystal malts, and an over the top citrus/fruitiness. As far as flavor and aroma goes I want something that could almost be mistaken for a glass of Orange, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Guava, Mango juice all blended into one glass. Sound good? Well it does to me.

The grain bill will be made up of mostly Pale Malt with %25 of the grist comprised of Oats and White Wheat to get a simple but creamy full body on the beer. To achieve this fruit cocktail hop character I chose a blend of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Citra for flavor/aroma and a HUGE dry hop. I decided to go a little heavier on the Simcoe in hopes of amping up the grapefruit while the other 2 should give me a nice tropical juicy cocktail. There will be a small bittering charge of CTZ and then fruit cocktail will be used at 5 minutes left in the boil and later.

I had a big healthy pitch of S-04 from batch #1 of HopWards so no need for a starter. Although I have been enjoying this yeast, its life in my brewery may be short lived as I plan to switch back to Conan now that I have a new vial of Vermont Ale (much more to come on The Yeast Bay stuff). I have been much better recently about planning a few batches in advance and continually pitching some lightly washed slurry from batch to batch. Consistent brewing frequency really helps with that, less starters, less wasted yeast, more saved money. Not to mention a strain starts to get comfortable in your brewery after a few pitches, which helps with consistency.

One thing I am starting to learn about these hoppy beers with Oats (and wheat) is that I may need to mash a little lower to ensure a drier beer. I mashed this beer at ~152f and the final gravity was 1.019, despite the cane sugar, for 72%+ AA which is fine but I would like a drier beer in the end. This can especially become a problem when I am aiming on the low side of the IBU range for these beers. I hate overly bitter, highly alcoholic DIPAs, huge turnoff to me and this will be the opposite of that, for better or worse.
Nearly an entire pint glass of dry hops.
***The night I was brewing this the 76ers were retiring Allen Iverson's number, so this was an easy beer to name, it also fits as a name for a recipe/brewing style I am dialing in. I give you...

We Talkin 'bout Practice

Brew day: 3/1/2014
Kegged: 3/10/2013 
-(dry hopped in keg for 5 days at room temp)

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.85 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.081 SG
Measured OG: 1.079 SG
Measured FG: 1.019 SG
ABV: 7.9%
Estimated Color: 6.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 69 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

69.7% - 11lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
18.2% - 3lbs - CMC White Wheat
6.1% - 1lb - Flaked Oats
6.1% - 1lb - Cane Sugar

Boil: 60min - 0.65 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 34.2 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.75 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 14.0 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.25 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 6.6 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.25 oz Citra [12.00 %] - 9.3 IBUs
30 Minute Whirlpool 180f - 1.75 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 1.4 IBUs -
30 Minute Whirlpool 180f 1.25 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 1.7 IBUs
30 Minute Whirlpool 180f 1.25 oz Citra [12.00 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.25 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] 
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.25 oz Citra [12.00 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.25 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]

175ml of Safale S-04 Slurry from HopWards

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152.1 F 

Fly Sparge 4.59 gallons 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, 4 grams Gypsum + 1g Baking Soda in the mash.

Notes: Fermentation was quick, fermented at 66f throughout and kegged on the 9th day. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Barrel Beer #2: Belgian Quad

Chunky wort racking to the carboy.
While the Philly Breakfast Stout was resting comfortably in the rye whiskey barrel we wanted to try to get the second barrel beer brewed and fermented out so we would have it ready when we removed the Stout, which wasn't terribly long. This time around we will have 4 brewers, we added two local brewers Chris and Tom to spread the barrel wealth. Each brewer will brew and ferment out their own wort with the same recipe then we will reconvene once it is time to fill the barrel. We kicked around a few different style ideas, English Barleywine, Tripel, among a few other styles but decided on a barrel aged Quad. There are a few commercial examples out there but not a ton so its semi unique? Eh, I think its a style that will work well with the flavors in this barrel. Style research would ensue. 

Belgian Quad, or Belgian Dark Strong, is a style that I really enjoy and yet, surprisingly, have never made myself. No secret here, but I look to Brewing Classic Styles first when exploring a style I have never brewed before, it gives you a great base knowledge on the style and a recipe for consideration. In this case though we decided to go a different route than the recipe Jamil has in the book. After som more research it seems that there are two schools of thought on the grain bill/fermentables, the first is the new world approach which you utilize the myriad of specialty malts we have at our disposal to achieve a characterful wort (Jamil's recipe). The second method more traditional method, the way many of the Trappist breweries go about it, is a base of Pilsner/Pale Malt and a huge addition of Belgian dark candi sugar to get the dark fruit flavors and deep amber color.

I wised up and added the blowoff.
I see recipes on the internet using the new world approach and they all look like a malt soup to me, Jamil's included. They have 7-8 different malts being used in all different quantities all to get a final product that can effectively be achieved by using a a high quality Dark Belgian candi sugar. I'm sure these recipes are fine but with so many variables I would worry it ends up in a muddled mess, then again I am huge proponent of simple grists. What we chose to do was keep the grist relatively simple, similar to the traditional grist but with 2 small additions to keep it malty and rich enough to withstand the oak and whiskey.  We started with a base of Pilsner malt, balanced with some Pale Malt to keep the Pilsner from overpowering, Munich to boost the maltiness, Special B to amp up the dark fruits, and of course D-180 Candi syrup. Oh and some Turbinado to boost the alcohol and promote a drier beer, Turbinado over Dextrose because we're snobs. This grist is relatively simple but hopefully complex enough to give us a rich flavorful base beer that can carry the oak and whiskey flavors that remain in the barrel.

I really enjoy WLP530 for Belgian beers like this, I don't use it all that often but I have some experience using it in Belgian Pales and Dubbels so I am comfortable working with it. Its a strain that is low on fruitiness, alcohol tolerant and highly attenuative. All four of us probably fermented differently but I like to pitch in the mid 60's, let it free rise into the low to mid 70's then ramp to close to 80 after 7-10 days to finish it out nice and dry. This profile ends up relatively clean for a Belgian but enough esters to remind you it is after all a Belgian beer. Starting it cool also limits the hot/fusel alcohols i taste in a lot of homebrewed Belgians, which is something I despise.

This beer was fermented out and transferred to the barrel within a month. We transferred about 1.25 gallons of each of the 4 batches to a 5 gallon carboy to be bottled as a non-barrel aged version. The rest of course will age in the barrel until we feel that we've reached our desired oak flavor. 

Riverwards 10

Brew day: 1/20/2014
Kegged: 2/8/2013 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 8.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.100 SG
Measured OG: 1.095 SG
Measured FG: 1.016 SG
ABV: 10.5%
Estimated Color: 22 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

59.3% - 12lbs - CMC Pilsen Malt (1.5 SRM)
19.8% -  4lbs - CMC Superior Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
 9.9% -  2lbs - Munich (9.0 SRM)
 1.2% -  4oz - Special B (180 SRM)
 4.9% -  1lb - D-180 Dark Candi Sugar (180 SRM)
 4.9% - 1lb - Turbinado Sugar

Boil: 60min - 2.00 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] - 28.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 10min - 1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 4.2 IBUs

1.0 pkg - WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast - 2L starter

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152.1 F 

Fly Sparge 12.23 gallons 170f

90 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant.

Pitched at 64f and let it free rise naturally to 72f. After 72 hours I started to add heat to the fermenter and it rose slowly until day 7 it hit 80f. I held it at ~80f for another 2-3 days then it finished at 74f before racking to a keg  on the 14th day.(It was transferred to a keg so I could transport it to the barrel that is now stored in my neighbors basement across the street).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tasting Notes: Blazing Wards

Nelson Sauvin can do no wrong in my book, and I can't use enough of it in my beers. When it came time to dry hop Blazing Wards, my Blazing Worlds clone, I was drowning in Nelson Sauvin flavors and aromas from Jah-Rod, and wanting more. So I modified the dry hop on this beer a little bit, the amounts are documented in the recipe post, and went very heavy on the Nelson. For my tastes I got what I wanted with that audible, but as far as cloning Blazing Worlds it was a turn in a different direction. Cloning beers is more about finding an inspiration to start from and hopefully growing it into something to call your own. I love Blazing Worlds but beer is subjective and everyones tastes are different so you brew to your own tastes. Not to say my version here is better than Blazing Worlds but its an interesting take on a hopped up amber ale.

Blazing Wards:

Appearance: A rich deep copper color, off white head that lasts well through the glass leaving significant lacing. Moderate carbonation running up the glass, a slight haze most likely from the dry hops.

Aroma: Passionfruit, white grapes, faint biscuit malt character in the background, no pine or dankness, all fruit.

Flavor: Dry with a nice sharp hop bit up front, tropical fruits that give way to some malt sweetness then finishes dry and a touch bitter. Its an interesting flavor ride of flavors from bitterness to tropical fruit with a supporting biscuit finish and dry.

Overall: This is a really nice hoppy Amber, I don't think its a spitting image of Blazing Worlds but it is in the same vein. If I wanted to stay in line with the original I would have used more Simcoe in the dry hop to balance out the fruitiness of the Nelson, or to amp up the Piney dankness. Overall, its a very nice beer that seems to go well with the cold wether we are still climbing out of here. Some warm biscuit malts with a tropical note to remind you spring is coming, at least I hope so.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tasting Notes: HopWards vs HopHands

HopHands on the right and HopWards on the left.
I am pretty happy with this beer, especially for my first crack at cloning HopHands. It holds up, if nothing else, as a solid session beer in my house and its going fast. Granted I have been giving away bottles/growlers at a higher than normal rate. Including a bomber I left for Jean at Tired Hands, maybe they will try it maybe not but its worth the shot at feedback.

However, the recipe needs some work for it to be considered cloned, as you'll see in my side by side tasting notes below. I grabbed a growler of HopHands the other night and poured it and HopWards in the same glasses for inspection. Below are my findings.

Appearance: A deep straw golden yellow with significant haze on both, head on both is thin bright white, HH and HW both leave significant lacing on the glass. Carbonation on HopWards is visibly evident with a steady stream running up the glass from the etching at the bottom, HopHands is much more soft on the visible carbonation. But you really have to look closely and hold it up to the light to see the carbonation on either. The overall appearance on both is identical,as you can see in the photo, I actually had to mark one glass so I didn't mix them up.

Aroma: HopWards is more tangerines, orange, with some pineapple and significant a bready malt aroma, kind of like shoving your face in a bag of oats filled with tropical citrus fruit, too much of those oats actually. HopHands is littered with citrus aromas as well, pineapple, orange, some grapefruit, a very faint malt aroma in the background. A tie here with a slight edge to HopHands as the malt aroma may be distracting in HopWards, hop aroma on mine is actually brighter and more inviting though. They are both probably equally as fresh as TH plows through beer as fast as any.

Taste: HopHands has low to moderate bitterness, just enough to outshine the malt so you know its a hoppy beer. Smooth body upfront with citrus notes throughout, finishes drier than I expected. HopWards has a creamy mouth feel, no real hop bite almost a porter like body, citrus notes that give way to a crackery malt character. The finish is fuller bodied, not dry and a much softer hop bite on the back of the palette. Edge HopHands.

Overall: So my "clone" stands on its own pretty well, but when put up against the original it shows some its deficiencies, although they are very easily remedied. The color is spot on, as you can see, so is the carbonation and the appearance in general. One thing to note is that the yeast character in comparison is spot on, clean fermentation, slight fruit esters that seem to meld well with the hoppy notes and help to to shine.

I think the big issue in not calling it cloned is mine certainly is heavy on the Oats, possibly not dry enough, and maybe low on the bitterness, although I think a drier beer would help in perceived bitterness. All in all I think I am very close, a few minor changes and I think I have it. On the next batch I will dial back the Oats to 12-13%, make up for it in base malt, and mash lower. I am inclined to increase bitterness but I want to keep it to two minor changes for now.

The other half of this batch is still sitting in a keg with Brett Custersianus, my issues with the Oats in this batch will probably work well with the Brett addition actually. In the future I could see this being a beer that I brew 100% Brett batches of, probably as soon as batch 2.

Cloned? Maybe maybe not, but for the first attempt I got very close. Stay tuned, I plan to re-brew this with two small tweaks in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

HopWards: Tired Hands Brewing HopHands clone

Nestled in a renovated old physician's office, on a not so quite street in an affluent town on the Main Line just outside of Philadelphia lies a "Brew-Cafe" that is all the rage these days. If you have visited Philadelphia in the last 2 years and have not made a stop at Tired Hands Brewing Company then you did yourself a severe disservice. 

Owner/Head Brewer Jean Broillet and the Tired Hands crew pride themselves on brewing small batch "Beautiful, Forward-thinking, and Strange Beers", sourcing local ingredients, all while taking inspiration from both classic French/Belgian farmhouse brewers and the modern American brewers that have paved the way. Wether you're sampling something hoppy like HopHands and The Light That Spills Out Of the Hole In Your Head, or something from the "Saison Dungeon" (as Jean likes to call it) like HandFarm, you are sure to have your mind blown with bright, bold, and interesting flavors.

From the beginning Tired Hands has vowed to have their two flagship beers on tap at all times, HopHands and SaisonHands (formerly FarmHands), while the rest are a rotating array of one off's and experimental "weird" beers. On every visit to Tired Hands I leave with a growler of HopHands, its session-able, vibrant, hoppy, citrusy and satisfying. On a recent visit I tried to pick Jean's brain on their approach to brewing hoppy beers to get an idea on how to clone HopHands, although he is a bit tight lipped on their recipes he did divulge some useful information. Here is the description of the beer from their website.

HopHands: Our Exceedingly Aromatic Pale Ale. 4.8% Brewed with oats and hopped with a blend of Amarillo, Simcoe, and Centennial.
                  -Notes of  lush citrus, fresh cut grass, under-ripe kiwi, and slight pineapple.

I spoke to Jean for a moment a few months ago while my wife and I had lunch and a beer. One thing he mentioned is that they never brew an IPA/PA over 60 IBUs, which didn't surprise me because their beers tend to be more bright, and citrusy, rather than bitter, dank hop bombs. I asked him how he hops his IPAs/PAs, heavy late additions, whirpool? He said they do late kettle and whirlpool additions but its more about the massive dry hopping rates they employ instead of heavy hopping in the kettle. I wanted to get an idea about the yeast strain they use but all he would say is that he gets it from a "friend in Vermont". I may have offended him a bit when I pressed on but he did confirm that it is not Conan (we talked about that strain for a moment) and deflected when I asked if it comes from Sean Hill. He recommends an expressive English strain, fermented cool to suppress esters, and that homebrewers have gotten close on clones by using Safale S-04 in the past.

I didn't get specific about a HopHands clone but figured the info he gave me coupled with their description on the menu/website would be enough to get close for now. A lot of their beers are a very pale color, I took a glass of HopHands and put it up against an SRM scale I printed out and it was somewhere between 4-5 SRM, leaning closer to low 4. I am assuming because of the color and because there isn't much sweetness to the beer that they are not using Crystal malts or anything for color. Scrounging through pictures on their Facebook page I saw them delivering Pale Malt so I will use that as my base. This is actually my second time with this grist, the last beer had ECY29 attenuation issues and was hopped differently, the first time I went with 10% Oats and I didn't get that silky mouth-feel you expect with HopHands so I doubled it to nearly %20, this does feel a bit heavy handed but we will see. So Pale Malt and Oats in a ~80/20 grist, simple, done.

I probably shouldn't be submerging that probe so far.
He never mentioned if they bitter with a different hop then they list in the description but I would guess it is something clean like Magnum/Warrior or something with high AA% like CTZ, I chose to go with CTZ because I had it on hand and could do a small 60 minute addition to get most of my bitterness from there. We do know they hop the beer Amarillo, Simcoe, and Centennial but at what ratio? None of the three seem to dominate the flavor or aroma to me so I went with an even blend of all 3 throughout, this may require tweaking in subsequent batches. I realize the kettle hops seem a little bit low, but I am hoping to make up for it with a huge dry hop as Jean says they do, 6oz per 5 gallon keg. I do believe, however, that this will get me reasonably close, but I expect to have to tweak this a bit as I am working almost completely from scratch and this is the first attempt at this clone, it will most certainly need to be tweaked

I dry hopped one keg with 6oz of the blend mentioned below, while the other keg got an active 500ml starter of ECY19 Brettanomyces Custersianus from a culture that Jeffrey Crane sent me quite a while back. If all goes well, I may pour that keg alongside a fresh batch for an event during Philly Beer Week this summer. Tasting notes to follow in the coming days, I am going to drink this one very fresh and brew it again soon.

Tasting Notes: HopWards vs HopHands


Brew day: 1/20/2014
Kegged: 2/8/2013 
Sample while racking to the fermentor.
Lots'O Proteins.
-(dry hopped in keg for 7 days at room temp)

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 13.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 10.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Measured OG: 1.050 SG
Measured FG: 1.016 SG
ABV: 4.7%
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

80.4% - 16lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
19.6% - 4lbs - Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.50 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 16.3 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablet + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 3.1 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 3.6 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 4.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 1.4 IBUs -
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 1.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 7 days - 4.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] 
Dry Hop: 7 days - 4.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
Dry Hop: 7 days - 4.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]

2 packs Safale S-04 - rehydrated in 90f sterile water

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152.1 F 

Fly Sparge 12.23 gallons 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, 4 grams Gypsum + 1g Baking Soda in the mash.

Notes: Quick start to fermentation at 64f, fermentation was held steady between 64-66f for the duration for fermentation. I then crashed the beer to 55f for the last 3 days before transferring to the kegs. I dry hopped one keg with 6oz of the blend mentioned above, while the other keg got an active 500ml starter of ECY19 Brettanomyces Custersianus.