Affiliate Program – Homebrew Supply

So you will start seeing the Homebrew Supply logo around the site. Homebrew Supply reached out to me and offered me a spot in their affiliate program, which basically allows me to make a small commission on purchases made using my link. If you click the little folder icon in the upper left corner, you’ll see the permanent site link and I’ll be adding it to the bottom of my posts.

Other than that there’s no other planned changes to content, but I wanted to be transparent about why there’s a fancy logo popping up. So if you’re a homebrewer who enjoys this site and you’re planning to buy your gear online, check out Homebrew Supply when shopping around.

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Dialing in an IPA

With Mother’s Day and some shitty weather on Sunday, I had to push a scheduled brew day to Monday afternoon. It seems that whenever I’m not brewing a beer for a club barrel project or for some competition, I’m constantly brewing IPAs. This isn’t exactly the case but it certainly feels that way. Since I started brewing (and subsequently started blogging about my brewing), I’ve been on a quest for a “house” IPA recipe. If you visit my Brewtoad page, you’ll see dozens of IPA recipe variations that I’ve constantly tried to tweak.

And you know what, I’m getting pretty damn close.

As I’m writing this, I’m drinking a just-finished-carbonating IPA #1 aka Eighty-SixedI’ve started numbering my IPAs this year so that I can pick out what I like/dislike from each one of them and incorporate that into subsequent recipes. I also thought this would be a good opportunity to go over my brewing process and talk about how I got to IPA #2 aka Hustle Harder.

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IPA #1 aka Eighty-Sixed. Citrus and delicious.

The Grain Bill

11.0 lb
Pilsner (DE)
2.5 lb Maris Otter Pale (UK)
2.0 lb
Munich – Light 10L (US)
0.5 lb
 Munich – Dark 20L (US)
0.5 lb
 Turbinado

I’ve started drifting towards using Pilsner malt as a base for IPAs because I feel it gives the malt a little more character; it adds a cracker character that I think compliments the type of IPA I like without outshining the hops. I prefer it to 2-row, because – honestly – 2-row is bland. Maris Otter is my favorite malt, and I have it included here to compliment Pilsner’s cracker with a bit of MO’s biscuit. The Munich Malts add a little bit of color and sweetness again without being too powerful in their own right, and the Turbinado is meant to give the IPA a dry finish.

The Mash

I mashed these grains at 152*F for 60 minutes, with a little bit of up-and-down to the temperature due to the windy conditions. Over the course of the 60 minutes the mash probably rested anywhere in the range of 148*F to 154*F. I added 3g of Calcium Chloride to the mash water before stirring in the grains. The CaCl is intended to lower the mash pH, but the reason I’m adding it is because it was recommended to me by Russ Heissner of Barrel House Z, after he sampled my amber ale. Knowing the water profile for the area (I live just south of Boston, and most of Massachusetts derives its water from the Quabbin Reservoir, which is noted for high quality, soft water), he recommended dosing with CaCl in the mash and in the boil. His recommendation was 150ppm or roughly 1.5g; this became closer to 2g because I don’t have a very accurate scale and somehow became 3g because I’m still an amateur and don’t often take good notes.

The vorlaufed and pulled just shy of 5 gallons on the first runnings (7.5 gallons mashed), and an additional 3 gallons from the second runnings (3.5+ gallons sparged) at a combined gravity of 1.050, which was right on target.

The Boil and the Hops

I reduced my usual boil time down to 60 minutes for this recipe, which was largely a function of me not wanting to wait the extra 30 minutes. I haven’t had many problems with off-flavors in my beer from the boil, so I decided to keep it short. Starting with just under 8 gallons of wort, I dropped in 1.5oz of Nugget for first wort hopping. Now first wort hopping might just be a total waste of time, but it’s a lot easier for me to drop the first hop charge right in there and if there’s any actual benefits from it, great. If not, *shrug*. I prefer Nugget as a bittering hop for two reasons, 1. I’ve experienced – and heard from others – it as imparting a smooth, even bitterness and 2. I bought a pound of Nugget, because it was on sale.

Chinook and Centennial. 15 min and 0 min additions.

Chinook and Centennial. 15 min and 0 min additions. (Empty space was where the Nugget was)

Because it was quite windy, the boil didn’t start until about 216*F. Here at sea level, it’s supposed to start at 212*F, so when it finally kicked off it was raging. After more finagling with the propane (and a lot of cursing), I got a nice rolling boil going and proceeded to walk the dog. When we got home, the wort was at 214*F but with no noticeable boiling. So I spent the last 30 or so minutes trying to keep it from going dead or boiling over. Despite the wind-shield on my burner, the strong gusts yesterday really fucked with my system. I curse you, Zephyr, to the very depths of Hades!

At 15 minutes remaining, I added 1.5oz of Chinook, 1.5oz of Centennial and the half-pound of Turbinado, along with my wort chiller. In news that will surprise no one, I forgot to add my whirlfloc tablet. The forgotten whirlfloc tablets keep me up at night. At flameout (0 minutes remaining), I added an additional ounce each of Chinook and Centennial after killing the flame, and began recirculating my wort. I placed the flameout hops in the center of my immersion chiller so the recirculated wort would run right through them.

A couple of spare notes on my process. First, I’m a skimmer.

Skimmin' like a villain.

Skimmin’ like a villain.

I try to skim the hot break protein off the top of my wort as it reaches a boil. My reasoning is simple: less hot break in the wort means less hot break in the fermenter.

Secondly, I use tea and spice infusion balls to hold my hops additions. Usually they work great, but for some reason either the heat or the boil or a combination of the two absolutely dissolved the Nugget hops. My other additions were fine, expanding and staying inside their metal prisons, but the Nugget, man…

Where'd you go?

Where’d you go?

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After allowing the flameout hops to steep for 15 minutes – a relatively arbitrary time limit – I kicked on the immersion chiller, brought the temperature down to 59*F (!) and transferred it to a bucket, where I’d pitch my yeast.

Yeast and Fermentation

WLP075 aka Hansen Ale Blend

WLP075 aka Hansen Ale Blend

The yeast strain I used for this brew is White Labs’ WLP075 Hansen Ale Blend. This is one of their “Yeast Vault” strains that apparently has only been used in-house.

This is a blend of many IPA strain favorites. If you’re tired of only using WLP001, this strain is for you. It has the attenuation of WLP090 and the character of WLP007…
In the Tasting Room, the strain produced dry attenuation, was hop-forward, with minor ester production, and was a great flocculator, according to White Labs Brewer Joe Kurowski.

After checking the notes White Labs provided from their tasting room, I assumed an attenuation of around 78% and asked them to provide a good fermentation temperature for the strain. They suggested 65*F – 71*F. I started my chamber at 65*F and allowed to rise towards 68*F-69*F which is where I plan to let it sit for about 5-7 days before finishing out around 71*F.

I made a starter for this strain and then stepped it up so I could harvest out some additional yeast for my next brew. I may retry IPA #1 with this yeast strain to see how it comes out.

Wrapping Up

I concluded my brew day by force-carbonating IPA #1 and celebrating with Castle Island’s Keeper IPA. As of last night there was some noticeable activity from the fermentation chamber, before I bumped the temp up 2-3 degrees. I expect IPA #2 to have a much more West Coast flavor than #1, as I try to figure out my “perfect” IPA.

I know this was a (much) longer than usual post, and I’d love to here from you all if this is the kind of content you’d be more interested in going forward, as I’m trying to dial in my blog as much as my beer.

Cheers!

New Design

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m fiddling around with the design and structure of Anti-Hero Brewing. I initially tried to have this page with a dark gray background and darker gray sidebar, but some SNAFU within WordPress reverts the sidebar color to off-white. I didn’t like how that looked so I stopped fighting WordPress and reverted to the white-on-white default for the page.

I’m curious what people think of the current design; after all, you’re the ones reading this so your preference is pretty important.

If the poll doesn’t appear at the top of this post, you can vote here: Poll.

Contemplating Changes

“Change is inevitable, except from vending machines” – a joke I read on the Internet before vending machines had credit card swipers

I’ll start with what’s really bugging me: I hate this WordPress layout. It’s probably one of the better ones for the content I have and the information I like to have displayed but it just looks so amateurish (which, I am, but I’m trying not to look it, you know?). I started searching through replacements and anything else that worked just seemed so sterile. That started a long chain of thoughts about Anti-Hero Brewing.

I was reading an article on personal branding (yeah, I know) and it brought up a few salient points that I hadn’t thought about when I started this blog. One thing I had thought of: if I ever want to “go pro,” Revolution Brewing would probably sue the tits off of me. Anti-Hero is a name (and, generally speaking, a concept) that I really like, but beyond that… it’s kind of all over the place. Mostly because I’m all over the place. I lack focus. And a lack of focus means I don’t have a truly unique voice, and without a unique voice you’re really just making noise.

But that’s something that I can adjust. I know what I like. I like making beer, I like drinking beer, and I like writing about beer. With a little time and effort I can craft that into a focus/purpose for my writing, and contribute a little more than fiery word vomit to the already over-flowing toilet of the Internet.

Essentially – from a blogging perspective – I’ve having an existential crisis. I want to start over, but I don’t want to lose what few friends and readers (branding term: “audience”) I’ve made through this blog. A “re-branding” is one thing that I’m considering for the short-term: new logos and links, cleaner layout, more substantive posts, etc. So be on the look-out for an updated look and feel to this site.

I’m going to try to continue to post more often, and also go into a little more depth about what I’m doing with my brews, and how I’m trying to progress as a brewer. I’ll also try to do less whining about the endless list of beer-related news items that piss me off, but some ranting is surely inevitable.

Stay tuned.

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Competition Update

Hey gang,

Figured I’d give a brief update about what’s been going on in my brewing world. Last Sunday morning we had the Launch Pad competition for Barrel House Z. I had entered my rebrew of Uncommon Wrath, my North German Altbier/Amber ale, and was also serving as a judge (for a different category).

I had some hiccups with getting this beer ready. I went to carbonate this beer and the CO2 tank kicked, so I went to get the two tanks I had refilled. I hooked up one of the tanks, set it to 40 or so PSI and left it for a while. So that tank leaked and didn’t carb the beer. I’m not quite panicking because I still have some of the previous brew of this beer around, so I go to bottle that off the keg… and the keg kicks. Now I’m at the 11th hour, so I hook up the second tank and try to force carb the beer, then bottle it and bring it to drop off. Long story short, after a fuckton of issues, I got the entry in there.

And it did surprisingly well. I got placed in the competition’s “Group of Death” and finished second out of the six beers entered in that group. Unfortunately, only one beer from each group made it through to the Best in Show round. The beer that beat mine finished second, with the number one spot going to another guy from my homebrew club. While I’m bummed that I didn’t win, I am happy one of my club brothers did. And I got some free swag from doing the judging.

My latest IPA is currently dry-hopping and should be kegged up this weekend, so look for an update on that soon.

Until then…

Peak Brew Season

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Spring has sprung, and Prince is dead. The two aren’t related at all, and only one has anything to do with homebrewing but I’m a whore for web traffic.

I managed to squeeze in another brew day this past weekend, and after a few consecutive successful brews I was due for a number of screw ups. I brewed a new IPA recipes, Eighty-Sixed (recipe below and here) and managed to knock out the diptube while stirring my wort. Instead of emptying the keggle and trying to re-attach it, I went with the “fuck it” approach, realizing I’d lose some volume. Not a huge deal… until screw up numero B.

I use these spice infuser balls to keep my hop crud from clogging up my equipment or getting too much trub in my fermenter, and being this is an IPA I put a lot of balls (hehe) into this beer. Unfortunately, two of the balls popped open so that may have also contributed to my lackluster pull from this batch… only about 4 gallons.

So we’ll see how this IPA turns out. As you can see in the recipe below, this IPA contains oats and not a particularly flocculent yeast so I expect it to be cloudy; so I’m not too worried about the extra trub/hop crud in the keggle and fermenter. As we speak it is fermenting away in one of the fermentation freezers in my basement.

Also fermenting/conditioning are the rebrew of Uncommon Wrath which received 2 oz of Cascade dry hops a couple days ago. Wrath will be kegged tomorrow and bottled for competition on Sunday (and turned in for competition on Monday!). In addition to Wrath, the second 5 gallons of Carcosa are conditioning on chocolate, vanilla, and bourbon and have been for a couple months now and I’ll probably allow it to stay that way through the rest of the Spring and Summer (unless, of course, the first 5 gallons get kicked and I’m hankering for some stoutly goodness). The first 5 gallons conditioned for only about a month, so it’ll be interesting to see what the longer conditioning period will do for the stout’s flavor.

And lastly, my homebrew club – you know, the Mash Holes – brewed a barleywine to put into one of our club barrels. I brewed my 5 gallons worth of that barleywine the same weekend as Wrath, and that is still fermenting in advance of it going into the barrel next weekend (or the weekend after. I forget. I’m a bad VP).

Looking forward, I’m getting a special yeast from White Labs – Hansen Ale Blend – which I tend to build up and start harvesting and using for IPAs across the Spring and Summer. With any luck (and if it’s any good), I’ll using it for my hoppy beers for a while. The description is below:

This is a blend of many IPA strain favorites. If you’re tired of only using WLP001, this strain is for you. It has the attenuation of WLP090 and the character of WLP007.

Used in the White Labs Tasting Room. Visit here – http://tastingroom.yeastman.com – and search under the appropriate “strain #” for more details.

In the Tasting Room, the strain produced dry attenuation, was hop-forward, with minor ester production, and was a great flocculator, according to White Labs Brewer Joe Kurowski.

Phew! Lots of doings here at Anti-Hero Brewing. Until next time!

 

Eighty-Sixed

Stats

 OG: 1.073
FG: 1.021
IBU: 86
SRM: 5
ABV:6.8%

Batch & Boil

  • Batch Size: 6.0 gal
  • Boil Time: 90 min

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
7.5 lb

Pilsner (DE)

Any Mash 38 1 °L
7.5 lb

Golden Promise (UK)

Any Mash 37 3 °L
1.25 lb

Flaked Oats

Any Boil 33 2 °L
0.75 lb

Turbinado

Any Boil 44 10 °L
0.63 lb

Carapils (Dextrine Malt) (US)

Any Boil 33 1 °L

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.25 oz Nugget (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 14.3%
1.0 oz Chinook (US) 30 min Boil Pellet 12.0%
1.1 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Citra (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 13.7%
3.0 oz Citra (US) 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.7%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
London Ale Yeast White Labs WLP013 71.0%

Extras

Amount Name Time Use
1.5 g Calcium Chloride 90.0 min Boil
1.5 g Calcium Chloride 1.0 hr Mash

Two-Brew Weekend

Let’s get away from my asinine rants on craft beer, and back to why I started this blog in the first place: homebrewing.

Yes, the great thaw is upon us and thankfully I didn’t have to dig my brewing gear out from under 108.3″ of snow this year. In fact, despite a brief April snowstorm, this was a fairly dry winter for my neck of the woods. And I managed to sneak two brew days into the first 3 months of the year (along with two week-long vacations to warm climates). But even with that relatively good start to the year*, I was still well behind my goal of 20 brews and 100 gallons of beer for 2016.

This weekend, due to upcoming commitments, I needed to get my ass in gear. So I brewed back-to-back this weekend, pumping out an amber ale for the Barrel House Z competition, and a barleywine for the Mash Holes’ barrel program.

Uncommon Wrath, Take 3

I don’t do a lot of repeat brewing. After 4 years (happy brew-versary!), I still consider myself a bit of a rookie. So I fitz and fiddle and tinker with different things in my brewing process in my recipe. That said, this is third time I’ve brewed this beer. The first iteration never made it out of the fermenter (long story), but the second version I brought to a club meeting at Barrel House Z and was able to get extremely helpful, professional feedback.

Russ from BHZ, provided me with some helpful pointers around fermentation and water adjustments to help dial in this beer. I gotta say, I’m excited to see if following his tips will bear fruit. Uncommon Wrath will be my entry into BHZ’s Launchpad competition, the winner of which will be able to brew their beer on BHZ pilot system and have it entered in GABF’s Pro-Am. With all that at stake, I took a more subdued approach and brewed a pretty standard – but flavorful – North German Altbier, similar to Alaskan Amber. I’m still debating which dry hops to use, but with the entry deadline of 4/25 I know I’ll have one of the fresher beers entered. Here’s hoping…

This was Saturday’s brew, and all-in-all it went fairly well. I’m getting closer to hitting my targets and slowly starting to narrow in on my system calculations. The weather was a bit back-and-forth, but it was a pleasant/exhausting day.

Barley Barrelwine

My homebrew club – who I’ve mentioned ad nauseum – has been running a club barrel program for about a year and a half now. How it works is we buy used barrels as a club; our designated barrel guys come up with a recipe; whoever wants in on the recipe, brews it and does the primary fermentation; the barrel guys coordinate a drop-off and load the beers into the barrel.

So far, it has produced some stellar beers. A tart and fruit Flanders Red, a puckeringly sour saison, and a hefty but nuanced sour porter. So I have high hopes for the barrel-aged barleywine.

The barleywine was Sunday’s brew, and I was certainly feeling it after Saturday’s session. This brew was a behemoth, with 23 pounds of malt. My numbers were a bit off – a consequence of brewing without the group, and having too high of a mash temp – but close enough that it’ll balance out with the group.

What’s Next

After back-to-back brewdays, I am good and beat. But I’m also thoroughly reinvigorated in the hobby. It felt good to get back to brewing, and seeing my numbers start to line up filled with a lot of confidence and zeal.

So much so that I’ll be brewing again next weekend, and I’m hoping to put together a 10 gallon batch of IPA. I haven’t decided which recipe I’m going to use yet but I’m planning to experiment with some hop extract and with two different dry hoppings (split batch).

Basically, the quest for a “house IPA” continues. I haven’t decided if I’m going to use the more expensive commercial variations of Conan yeast, or if I’m going to try a London ale yeast, but I’m fairly certain I’ve honed in on a “New England style” for my house IPA. We’ll see how it turns out.

Until then, I opened an Instagram account for my brewing. There’s a picture of my awesome assistant brewer/dog on there. So check it out.

Cheers!

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