Pale Ale v1 Tasting Notes

Some interesting developments at the ol’ homebrewery. I purchased a canning machine from Oktober Design at Homebrew Con, and I finally had the time (and the beer) to take it for a test drive. Unfortunately for my dumb ass, I purchased my cans on sale from MoreBeer and they were 16.9oz cans instead of the 16oz I needed.

Never one to be deterred by rules or “common sense” I pressed onward with my stupid, wrong-ass cans and canned up a brewer’s dozen (18) of the pale ale. And as with all my mistakes brilliant ideas, I decided to share my thoughts here.

First on the canning… holy shit, this is so much better than bottling I can’t even begin to describe it (he said before beginning to describe exactly it). There’s a little more of a learning curve as to when to stop filling the can vs. filling the bottle since you have the opaque vessel, but the cans that I seamed properly seemed (haaaa) to hold the carbonation as good or better than any beers I’ve bottled. Plus, aesthetically the cans – with a couple bare-bones stickers – are just sharp as hell.

In short, I absolutely love my canner and can’t wait to try with the actual, correct sized cans, so that all my seams aren’t janky af and prone to leaking.


Pale Ale Tasting Notes

First, we haven’t reached the naming stage yet with this beer because there’s a handful of changes I want to make to this version. Among those changes, the primary one is that I’d like to rebrew this recipe without messing up the water adjustments. I’m anxious to see if I can get a similar flavor profile but with a drier finish that is more in line with a traditional American Pale Ale or West Coast IPA. Anyways, let’s get into it and I’ll pontificate as we go…

Appearance: Hazy, but not “New England” hazy. After fining with gelatin and cold conditioning I would have expected a good deal more clarity from this beer. I’m planning to write a whole post on my issues with achieving clarity, but suffice it to say I wish this was a little closer to sparkling (with some forgiveness for the ample dry-hopping). Color-wise, it’s right around the 6-8 SRM range, which is what I was aiming for… and now regret. It’s a tinge more orange than what I wanted. It’s not an ugly color (especially if I could eliminate the turbidity), but – and stick with me here – I’d like my pale ale to be a little paler.

Aroma: You every hit a baseball and know instantly it’s a homerun? Shoot a shot and know it’s nothing but net? So confident in your Jeopardy! so you actually form it as a question, even though you’re on your couch and the rules don’t apply? Man, that’s this aroma. On a scale of 1-10, it’s 107. Just big-ass tropical fruit, citrus, mango, pineapple, love, justice, liberty, and self-respect. Smelling this beer actually makes you a better person. Idado Gem, y’all, it’s legit.

Taste: I am… pleasantly surprised. This presents itself as big and juicy, but drinkable. It’s missing the bitterness you’d expect from an American Pale, and the body is too full, but taken on its own merits, I’m definitely drinkable. Huge bursts of fruit – mango, pineapple, citrus, orange – really dominate, but there’s also a little bready/nutty character from the malt that also comes through in the absence of the bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full with a nice, white, rocky head. This comes across fuller and juicier than I had designed. The mouthfeel and body shifts the style of this beer from American Pale to New England Pale. This tastes and drinks like a Session NEIPA. Not the least bit cloying, but may just a little slick. I wish it was drier.

Overall: I set out to make a traditional American Pale with some funky new school hops and honestly, I failed at that. I think the combination of the clarity issues and the mistakes with water adjustment completely shifted what this beer became. It’s funny how small mistakes can take the beer into a completely new direction. That said, this beer is DELIGHTFUL. I think the seal on the cans is letting some of the carbonation out, but outside of a little flatness, this is a really good beer.

A brief story, I had a glass of this Pale Ale after work before heading out to dinner. The restaurant we went to had Trillium’s DDH A Street and Stellwagen’s Modulation #11 on tap, and I preferred drinking this damn homebrew to either one of those (good-to-very-good) commercial beers.


Final Thoughts: I talked a little bit in the Pale Ale brew day post about how I was kind of down on my brewing skills and the beers I’d been brewing. Man, this beer has spun my head a straight 180. With a little forgiveness for packaging defects and minor quibbles with process (and their results in the finish product) this would be a beer I’d pay $8 for at a nice gastropub and go “Oh yeah, I’ll fuck with this.” I can’t tell you how good that feels (he said after spending 900 words telling you exactly that).

Pale Ale v1 Update

Why two tasters? Read on.

It’s been 6 days since I brewed Pale Ale v1, and the fermentation activity is slowing to a crawl so I decided to pull a hydrometer sample and do a quick taste test.

Hydrometer reading was at ~1.010, a little higher than the target FG of 1.007, BUT the OG was also off-target (1.054 vs 1.050), so we’re probably at right about our terminal gravity. (Yay!)

I poured the hydrometer sample into a taster, smelled, tasted and experimented. My first note on the taste was that it wasn’t as bitter as I expected. Thinking back, I remember I screwed up my water calculation. What should’ve been a roughly 3:1 sulfate to chloride ratio, became closer to 1:1 (edging in the favor of chloride).

One of things a higher sulfate to chloride ratio is supposed to do is impart a drier mouthfeel and more perceived bitterness, i.e. closer to what I wanted from a pale. So I decided to perform an ill-formed test.

I poured off a little bit of my taster into a smaller glass and added a pinch of sea salt. Now, two-time chemistry-failure that I am, I (incorrectly) believed the sea salt would increase the sulfate to chloride ratio, despite salt being NaCl or sodium CHLORIDE.

Then a funny thing happened, I tried them both side-by-side… The salted beer has a more pronounced bitterness (with a bit of a lingering effect) and a drier mouthfeel! This could just be the saltiness cutting through the fruitiness/sweetness of the beer, and I’m inclined to believe that’s the case.

I’m going to try salting a taste of the finished beer, though. We’ll see where we land.


Fermentation Day: 6

Hydrometer Reading: 1.010 (+.003 from target)

Smell: Peach, mango (gf), sweet. No noticeable off-smells or odors.

Appearance: A little darker than golden (what I wanted), still turbid. Heavy lacing on hydrometer

Taste: Fruity, sweet. Citrus. Mango, pear. No noticeable off-flavors. Salted: More bitter, maybe a touchy briny, more balance of malt, less sweetness, but still more subtle citrus character.

Mouthfeel: Medium, a bit heavier than desired but not out of style. Salted: drier and maybe a touch lighter? More what I expected.

Overall: I’m anxious to finish fermentation, dry hop, and carbonate this beer. I think it has a lot of potential, and I’ve already got a few variables I want to tweak to see if I can improve.

BREW DAY: Pale Ale v1

A quick note: I am in the process of trying to really dial in a handful of recipes. I enjoy giving beers funky names, and I think that’s why I brew so many different recipes instead of trying to fine-tune them. So for the time being, you’ll be seeing beers with unimaginative names like “Pale Ale v1” until I either decide to name it or get the recipe just right and call it finished.


While I haven’t been blogging about it, I have been brewing albeit less than I would like. I went to Homebrew Con in Providence, RI last weekend and it did a lot to reinvigorate my love for brewing. So here I am today – on July 4th – in the sweltering-ass heat, brewing a pale ale.

The recipe is based on the Firestone Walker Easy Jack recipe from Session Beers by Jennifer Talley. I honestly haven’t read Session Beers cover-to-cover yet, but I was looking around for a nice, easy-drinking pale ale recipe and pulled the book off my shelf. I modified it to add some dry hops that I got for free at Homebrew Con; Idaho Gem and Citra (cyro).

This was also my first time using BrewTan B. I went to a talk by Dr. Joe Formanek at Homebrew Con regarding the use of tannic acids to improve shelf stability, improve clarity, or (in the case of Tannel B) maintain haze. He offered some advice on dosage (1/2 tsp per 5 gal in strike/sparge, and 1/2 tsp per 5 gal rehydrated in 1/4 cup of water in the boil at 15 minutes; make sure to add BTB before any fining agents).

BrewTan B made the water kinda cloudy and a little brown

Things got off to a rocky start. I accidentally misread my water adjustments and added 4.9g of CaCl2 to the strike water. That 4.9g was the gypsum addition for the sparge. I added the BrewTan B after my water adjustments and noticed that the water immediately became hazy and had a slight tan hue. Both faded by the time the water got up to strike temperature…

Even managed to take a picture of screwing up.

… or should I say, 10*F past strike temperature, because I was busy making my notes and let the water heat up to 165*F. Note to self: buy wireless thermometer with an alarm. I stirred the water a bit and transferred to the cold (well as cold as anything can be on an 85*F day with no freaking wind) mash tun. Since I use a converted keg as a mash tun, it absorbed a good deal of the heat… which is kind of great in hindsight because dispersing that heat probably helps to maintain mash temperature. But the reason I moved the water was in the hopes that doing so would lower the temp. It did, down to 160*F. So from there I just stirred and waited until the temperature dropped to 154*F, a degree over my target, and mashed in.

Hey there, fancy new thermometer. Can’t wait to drop you.

I mashed in at 146*F (1*F higher than my target). I stirred the mash at 15 minutes in and checked the temperature; 145*F right on target. At 30 minutes, I raised the mash temperature to 154*F. According to the recipe, I only need 10 minutes at 154*F. That seemed low to me and I’m clearly smarter than someone who actually wrote a goddamn book, so I mashed for 30 minutes at 154*F, stirring at 15-minute intervals.

I mashed out at 168*F and batch sparged with 170*F water. The whole mash out and sparging process was a minor calamity in its own right, more about which in a sec.

I was looking for a target pre-boil gravity of 1.042 at 13 gallons. I ended up with about 12.75 gallons at around 1.046. I’m not used to getting that kind of mash efficiency and I don’t know if it’s because BeerSmith doesn’t account for the step mash or because I mashed extra long at 154*F. Sparging also took a long time as I was worried about volume and decided to stir and re-vorlauf the first runnings before starting my sparge. Maybe I got some extra extraction when the temps dipped back below 168*F?

More questions than answers that this point, but with less volume than expected into the brew kettle I decided to cut the boil from 75 minutes to 60. I also miscalculated my timing and my 10 minute hop addition became a 5 minute hop addition.

Did I mention it was very hot out?

AHB Chief of Brewing Ops, Oberyn

So after whirlpool and chill (not to be confused with Netflix and chill), I ended up with right around 10 gallons into the conical, at 1.054 (target: 1.050). I used the glycol chiller to finish getting the beer down to temp – ground water was running in the high 60s – and pitched my starter at ~62*F. I set the temp controller for 63*F, purged the headspace, and left 5psi of CO2 on top of the beer.

If you’re gonna make bad beer, look good doing it


Final Thoughts:

It felt like I hadn’t brewed since March but I actually brewed two batches in May. I dumped both. 22 gallons into the sewer. That was a real gut punch because the beers that I made in January were good; in fact my Obie’s Oatmeal Stout was probably the best beer I’ve ever brewed, snagging an average score of 41 in a competition. Brewing has felt like “one step forward, two steps back” for a little while. I missed out on some peak brewing time working on our homebrew club’s festival, travelling to Europe, and going to Homebrew Con. Not things I’m complaining about, but stressors that also took me away from brewing. So I haven’t had that ability to brew consistently and maintain that “muscle memory” that keeps these brew days from looking like a circus of second-degree burns.

Homebrew Con helped remind me why I like brewing, and got me excited to get back on the horse. I think part of my brewing process might be screwed up though, because I don’t hear about anyone else using a horse in their process…

Anyway, I’m cautiously optimistic about this batch. It was murkier than I had wanted or anticipated throughout the whole process, but you really can’t tell what it’s gonna be like until it’s carbed and in your glass. I’m away for the weekend, so I won’t get a chance to baby the fermentation until Sunday, but the mental obsession has already begun.

Very needed


Recipe:

For 11 gallon batch

  • 15.5 lb US 2-Row (1 SRM)
  • 2 lb Munich Light (6 SRM)
  • 1 lb Dextrine/CaraPils (2 SRM)
  • 1 lb Crystal 10L (10 SRM)
  • 1 lb White Wheat (2.4 SRM)
  • 1 lb Flaked Oats (1 SRM)
  • 1 oz Midnight Wheat (550 SRM) – for color, end of mash
img_1140

Shout-out to Briess for the free Midnight Wheat

  • 10 mL of 61.1% AA HopShot – First Wort – 43.5 IBU
  • 2 oz Cascade (pellets) – 10 min. [Actual: 5 min] – 7.3 IBU
  • 2 oz Cascade (pellets) – Whirlpool, 30 min, 190*F – 0.1 IBU
  • 2 oz Simcoe (pellets) – Whirlpool, 30 min, 190*F – 0.3 IBU
  • 3 oz Idaho Gem (pellets) – Dry Hop – 4 Days
  • 2 oz Citra (cyro) – Dry Hop – 4 Days

 

  • 2 pkg Wyeast London Ale #1028 – 1.5L starter, shaken

Shaken, not stirred

  • Ca: 50 [Actual: 98]
  • Mg: 0
  • Na: 38
  • Sulfate: 113
  • Chloride: 35 [Actual: 119]
  • Lactic Acid (88%): 3mL, 1.6 mL
  • Bicarbonate: -5

Gypsum aka the adjustment I made correctly

  1. Mash at 145*F for 30 min, increase to 154*F for 10 min [actual: 30 min]
  2. Mash out at 168*F, vorlauf, sparge, you know the drill
  3. Boil for 75 minutes [Actual: 60 minutes]
  4. Ferment at 63*F for 3 days, increase to 66*F until final gravity
  5. Bump temp to 70*F for diacetyl rest
  6. Dry hop for 4 days
  7. Add CO2 and lower temp to 50*F
  8. Add gelatin for fining
  9. Cold crash to 34*F for 3 days
  10. Package and get hammered

See post for additional instructions.

  • OG Target: 1.050 [Actual: 1.054]
  • FG Target: 1.007 [Actual: 1.009]
  • IBU: 51.1
  • SRM: 6 [Actual: 6]