Where’s the Time Gone?

Well, damn.

Time flies when you’re an adult (in the legal sense, not the – ya know – maturity sense). A lot has happened since the Jambo update. So let’s go through the highlights.

The Return of Symphony of Decay

Last year I brewed two pumpkin beers, and entered a pumpkin milk stout into our club’s annual Pumpkin Beer Competition. Two things of note: I won the first year of this competition, and the trophy is named after me. When the pumpkin milk stout didn’t win, I had to hand over my beloved trophy.

Me, crying over lost trophies

Me, crying over lost trophies

So for this year’s competition, there was no fucking around. I rebrewed and slightly retooled Symphony of Decay for this year’s competition and well… the trophy is back where it belongs. Below is the updated recipe for Symphony of Decay:

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
11.5 lb

Maris Otter Pale (UK)

Any Mash 38 3 °L
1.0 lb

Maple Syrup

Any Boil 30 35 °L
14.0 oz

Crystal 20L

Any Mash 34 20 °L
0.5 lb

Rice Hulls

Any Mash 0 0 °L
0.25 lb

2-Row Chocolate Malt

Briess Mash 34 350 °L

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
0.75 oz Northern Brewer (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 9.0%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
San Diego SuperYeast White Labs WLP090 79.5%

Extras

Amount Name Time Use
30.0 oz Pumpkin 0.0 min Mash
1.0 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice 5.0 min Boil
30.0 oz Pumpkin 60.0 min Boil

Notes:

  • Mash at 154*F for 60 minutes
  • The pumpkin is Libby’s Organic Pumpkin Puree. This is available at most grocery stores in 30oz cans
  • I spread the pumpkin across a cookie sheet and roast it at 350*F for 60 minutes
  • The first 30oz goes in with mash water before the grains. I have no scientific reason for this (or anything I do) but my thinking on it is that adds more orange color to the wort and makes it less likely to create a stuck sparge. Again, I base this on absolutely zero facts.
  • The second 30oz of pumpkin is added at 15 minutes left in the boil
  • The maple syrup goes in at 5 minutes
  • Boil time is 90 minutes

2016 Changes

  • The pumpkin pie spice addition is always more art than science. This year I used 2tbsp of McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice with 5 minutes left in the boil.
  • Along with the pumpkin pie spice, I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice. This was all based on feel (or rather, smell). If I had to estimate I’d say I added a tsp of cinnamon and 1/4tsp each of nutmeg and all-spice.
  • I also added a tbsp of vanilla extract with 5 minutes left. I can’t say that this was noticeable in the finished product and might be something I adjust for next year’s batch.

Presidential Election

The United States will soon be run by a fascist Cheeto, and in similar fashion my homebrew club will be trading down from a competent leader to an inexperienced buffoon. In the case of the Mash Holes, that buffoon might end up being me. Our long-term president has decided to step down. As the Vice President that will make me the de facto leader if no one else decides to step up. Club elections are in two weeks so we’ll see how that all shakes out.

The December meeting is also our Wee Heavy competition. It’s the last of our four club competitions that will ultimately decide our Brewer of the Year for 2016. I still need to brew an entry this week, which is going to be difficult with the weather, but I’m shooting for Thursday as a brew day. It doesn’t give me a lot of time for fermentation and aging, so my entry will be a bit young, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Non-Controversial Pipeline

As far as other brews in the pipeline, I have Obie’s Oatmeal Stout about to go into the keg. It’s another “classic” recipe that I’ve updated as I’ve gotten more experienced at brewing. The club just brewed a Russian Imperial Stout to into a Woodford Reserve barrel two weeks ago. That’ll probably spend 6 months in the barrel. We’re also working on pulling out a barleywine in the next few weeks and replacing it with a golden sour ale.

Back here at Anti-Hero Brewing, I plan to do something really crazy: science. Brulosophy recently did an ExBEERiment on flaked oats in New England Style IPAs. The purpose was “[t]o evaluate the differences between a NE-Style IPA made with flaked oats and the same beer made without flaked oats but an otherwise similar recipe.” The idea being that flaked oats impart some of the smooth mouthfeel and haziness typical of NE IPAs. I’ve written about NE IPAs before, and one of my theories is that it’s the dry-hopping timing has the biggest impact on haze. So I’m planning on doing my own *gasp* exBEERiment to test this theory.

Closing Up

So 2016 is winding down to a close, and I intend to do a year-end recap next month, so be on the look-out for that. It looks like I’ll miss my goals in some areas and hit them in others. As of now I’ve brewed about 70-75 gallons of beer this year, which is easily a personal record. I’d like to shoot for 100 gallons next year.

Until then.


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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.

IMG_1076

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?

IMG_1055

IMG_1069

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!

Beer Recipe Creation: How I Do It

A lot of you have been asking (i.e. someone might have asked once, maybe) how I go about creating recipes for the beers I brew. I don’t think it is a particularly involved process, which is great because I’m lazy and that makes it pretty straightforward to write. Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Style

My first step is determining what type/style of beer I want to brew. This is largely influenced by the weather; I love stouts, porters, scotch ales and barleywines, but when it’s over 90*F and the humidity is at 120% I don’t want to be drinking them. Since beer usually takes about a month from grain to glass (at its shortest) I have to think about a month out. Foresight and fore-planning aren’t my strong suit which is why I had pumpkin beers at Thanksgiving and Christmas beers for Valentine’s Day.

Either I have a particular style already in mind, or I think about the types of beers I like to drink. That’s the more interesting/fun approach. For example, I had Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale at jm Curley’s in downtown Boston a few months ago. I then bought a sixer of it from the Craft Beer Cellar in Braintree because it reminded me of how much I like brown ales. Ultimately, I ended up making a brown ale earlier this week (despite the fact that it’s probably not in my Top 10 Styles I’ll Want to Drink in June).

2. The Basics

This is where I cheat do some serious research. Being a child of the Internet, my favorites folder is filled with stupid memes, pictures of naked people, and (relevant for this post) a whole bunch of websites/articles containing different homebrew recipes. I also have the very useful Brewing Classic Styles book by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. That book is usually my first stop to get an idea of what the style markers are. These are notes like ‘it should have a subtle caramel flavor,’ ‘little to no hop aroma,’ or ‘light mouthfeel.’ This gives me an idea of what the style is supposed to taste/feel/smell/look like… as a baseline.

3. Common Parts

Since I have all these various recipes at my disposal, I next look at the common parts. A perfect example is the hoppy wheat ale – R’lyeh – that I brewed recently. In looking for hoppy wheat ales, I came across two well-regarded beers that I haven’t tried before: Three Floyd’s Gumballhead and Modern Times’ Fortunate Islands. I looked up a clone recipe for Gumballhead and went to the Mad Fermentologist for Fortunate Islands. I noticed they have very similar malt bills: About 50-60% wheat malt, 30-35% US 2-Row and 5-10% of some caramel/crystal malt. Given that these are well regarded beers, I figured that this made sense as a baseline malt bill for my beer.

4a. Customization

One aspect I almost never steal borrow from a recipe is the hop bill. Hops are the big sexy thing in beer ingredients these days (my money is you’ll start hearing show-off nerds asking bartenders about “water profiles” next), largely because they can have such an impact on the flavor and aroma of the beer, and obviously on the bitterness/sweetness as well. I vary my hop bill for two reasons: personal taste and hop availability. I’m often limited to what is available at my local homebrew store, and if they just sold out of Citra and my recipe called for Citra… well now my recipe has to call for something else (in the case on the Bandito IPA that something else was a metric fuckton of Mosaic).

But outside of the hops, I will also take some liberties with the malt bill components (usually I’ll sub in Maris Otter, my favorite malt) or the yeast strain (Cheeky Bastard was made with Heady Topper’s Conan yeast… because I had some). For the brown ale I made on Tuesday – named Arctos after the Latin species name for a brown bear Ursus Arctos, because it’s a brown beer, you see, and I’m a Bruins fan and no I don’t want to talk about it – I took the common parts from a few American Brown Ale recipes, subbed in Maris Otter for the base malt (10 pounds of it) and replaced the yeast with Denny’s Favorite (WY1450), which is supposed to give the beer a creamier mouthfeel.

4b. Personalization

I love sharing my beer with, well, anyone brave enough to drink it. But if we’re being honest, the person who ends up drinking the majority of any batch is me. This is why the Customization step is very much tailored to my personal preferences. For example, most brown ales are supposed to be smooth but relatively light, but I like my beers with fuller bodies and a lot more of a creamy texture (don’t). That’s why I subbed in the Denny’s yeast, and I also love the nutty, biscuity flavor of Maris Otter so I made sure to have a good amount of that in the malt bill.

5. If It Fits Your Macros

I stole this term from the diet industry, and I like it even though it is not applicable at all. What I do here is I take my ingredients and plug them into some brewing software. I use BrewToad because it’s quick, easy, clean and free (I’m cheap).  BrewToad will tell me if my combination of ingredients fits within a selected style. It will also help me estimate my possible alcohol content, and will help with some mash water calculations and recipe scaling. I also log my brews using their Brew Log feature so I have the data to go back to.

6. Tweaking – Part One

If I don’t like the way the beer’s stats are lining up, I will make small tweaks to the recipe. If it looks like I might have too much booze, I may raise the mash temperature or remove some of the base malt to compensate. Or if my IBUs are too low, I may add more hops at 60 minutes. And so on. After that’s dialed in, I go and buy my ingredients (and tweak again based on availability of the hops and malts) and perform the alchemy that ultimately results in beer.

7. Tweaking – Part Two

Beer’s done, and I’m usually the first person to taste the finished product. So how close did I get? Is it too bitter? Too astringent? Not creamy enough? The Homebrewer’s Curse is that no beer is ever perfect. But if I’m pretty close on a recipe I can take some notes, figure out what I like/don’t like and adjust the ingredients (or brewing style) accordingly. Usually I’ll edit the recipe directly or create a variant (Bandito is a Cheeky Bastard variant) for a rebrewing, and then basically repeat this process ad nauseum.

 

So that’s pretty much how I do it, with varying degrees of success. If you have any questions about the process, or want more details, let me know in the comments.

2014 First Trimester Brewing Goals Update

Now that April is officially behind us, the first third of 2014 has come and gone. Where does the time go? Anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to check my progress on the 2014 Brewing Goals. You can read about them at the original post, but I’m re-posting them here along with my updates

 

2014 Brewing Goals

Compete in a Homebrew Competition. Pretty straight-forward. The best way to improve is to have your beers critiqued. While I appreciate the general thumbs up/thumbs down from my friends, so more pointed criticisms should help me as a brewer.

Status: I haven’t gotten around to this yet. There were a few at the beginning of the year but I didn’t think I had anything worth entering.

Join a Homebrew Club. I sought to do that in my first year as a brewer, but I’ve struggled to find one whose time and geography fit my schedule. Since I travel a lot for work, weekday meeting nights don’t really work for me. I also don’t want to drive more than 30 minutes away from home if I can avoid it.

Status: I mentioned in my last post there would be news about this coming up; I have been in contact with a couple of people who are starting new homebrew clubs. One of which is actually being started by my local brewshop. First meeting is tomorrow night, so I’m pretty excited for that.

Improve my Homebrew Setup. This is one-part buying new/better equipment, and one-part analysis of my setup to better understand where I’m losing efficiency and how I can make my brewdays more productive.

Status: Thanks in part to my brother James buying me a false bottom for Christmas and my decision to finally start using my outdoor burner, I can say that I’ve crossed this item off. I do, however, want to do an inventory of my brewing equipment and purchase some upgrades/replacements especially for my plastic and vinyl.

Re-Brew Cheeky Bastard. Cheeky is probably my most successful brew to date. The aroma on this brew was awesome – 5 outta 5 awesome. I’d like to dial in the bitterness and mouthfeel on this beer because I think it could help me with…

Status: Another success on a technicality. Bandito is a very similar recipe to Cheeky Bastard. I’ll probably continue to fine tune this as my IPA recipe. Once I get that dialed in to where I like it, I may try something new in the IPA range.

Develop a “House” Beer. I want to start establishing a “roster” of beers that are 1. good and 2. re-brewable so that I can start dialing them in and perfecting them. Obviously an IPA should be one of those brews, so I think Cheeky will make the short-list. I’m also enjoying Winter Sun, but want to wait to see how Hairy Dog’s Breakfast turns out before settling on a stout.

Status: Some contenders but no stand outs for this one. Hairy Dog and Winter Sun could potentially be the stout of choice at Jackson-Jackson: The Disco. I’m also waiting to see how Bandito turns out.

Switch to Kegging. This is something I almost pulled the trigger on multiple times this year. So far the more consistent problem I’ve had with brewing is carbonation. I pitched extra champagne yeast into Cheeky and that sort of threw off  the mouthfeel of that brew; Suicide by Hops, 187 and Midnight In the Garden all failed to carbonate.

Status: No progress. With a broken chest freezer I don’t even have a fermentation chamber at the moment. If I pick up a new freezer and find a way to fix the old one, I think that’s a good opportunity to make the switch.

Improve My Yeast Ranching. Part of the reason I believe those beers failed to carbonate was due to poor yeast ranching on my part. I want to improve my ability to wash, harvest and propagate yeast. I have some Conan from Cheeky that I plan to propagate for another brew.

Status: No progress, largely due to my time constraints with work travel that don’t allow me much lead time to make a starter. I did finish reading Yeast though.

Finish Reading BrewingYeast, and Hops. I have been buying/reading various different brewing books, but I haven’t finished one since How to Brew. I plan to sit down and focus on reading a few of these books to help improve my brewing knowledge.

Status: One out of three isn’t bad for a third of the way into the year. Yeast is done and I’ve started on Hops. With less plane travel coming up my reading will probably decrease but I’m going to try to read a few pages before bed each night.

Brew 20+ Time in 2014. This is a pretty ambitious goal and comes down to one brew every 2-3 weeks for a year. I think I can hit this target and if the brews keep improving, I should make for some interesting beers.

Status: Only 3 brew days so far this year; the Matt Brown Marzen, Bandito (1.5) and R’lyeh. I’m definitely trailing behind on this one, but if I can get a little more time at home I think I can bust out a few beers over the spring and take advantage of the nice weather and temperate fermenting conditions (since my chest freezer is busted).

Homebrew Review: Cheeky Bastard

To what do you owe the distinct honor and pleasure of back-to-back homebrew reviews? Honestly just a bit of bad timing and good luck. I’ve had some issues with carbonating my homebrews. I haven’t quite nailed down my fermentation process yet, and through either under-pitching or over-stressing the yeast I’ve ended up with some flat beers.

I thought Symphony of Decay would suffer this fate, but thankfully it just needed a little (a lot) extra time to finish carbonating. Not wanting to take any chances with Cheeky Bastard, I decided to add half a packet of dry champagne yeast in addition to the yeast that was already in solution. This probably ended up being unnecessary, given the level of carbonation that ended up in this beer.

Did you hear that everybody? They said they’re not that drunk! Cheeky bastards!
– Pim Scutney, Beerfest

Cheeky Bastard 1

This beer was largely an excuse to use the vial of Conan yeast I purchased from YeastGeek (which I believe is now defunct). For those who don’t know, Conan is the yeast strain used by the Alchemist to brew the world famous Heady Topper. The strain apparently started at the Vermont Pub and Brewery in Burlington, VT and has also been used by Hill Farmstead in some of their earlier beers. Conan is supposed to give Heady its trademark creaminess and citrus/peach/apricot flavor. So how did it fair in my amateur hands?

The recipe is available here. There is an additional 0.5 oz of Centennial and 0.25 oz of Northern Brewer hops in the dry hop addition due to having it laying around, and well, fuck it let’s toss this in there.

Appearance: Much like its infinitely superior cousin, Heady TopperCheeky is an ugly beer. Okay, that’s being a little harsh, but it is a very hazy brew. The Conan strain does not flocculate well (drop out after fermentation. High flocculation leads to clearer beers), and as such the beer looks murky. It is a very striking red-orange color though, with a just-off-white head. The head is massive on this beer due to the champagne yeast that was added to aid carbonation. The lacing is thick and lingering.

Smell: No one will accuse this beer of having a weak aroma. Wow. I normally have trouble picking up the aroma of a beer unless it is super-potent, and this is one pungent brew. There is a great big tropical fruit and citrus aroma. I get peaches, apricot, mango, lemon, orange and grapefruit. The smell reminds me of Stone’s Gotterdammerung. Very pleasant and fruit.

Taste: Again, subtlety is not the strong suit here. Big orange flavor with some mango, grapefruit and peach as well. Not very bitter, surprisingly, but also not too sweet. There is a bit of a bitter aftertaste that comes in to help the beer finish dry. Very fruity and pretty damn tasty. I wasn’t sure if I liked the first one I tried today, but this is my third one and I gotta say that it is growing on me fast.

Mouthfeel: I’m very pleased with the creaminess of this beer. I gotta think that is the work of the Conan yeast. As I mentioned above, the bitterness comes in toward the end and helps this beer finish dry. It leaves me wanting to take the next sip. It is lacking in overall bitterness though. I think if/when this gets brewed again, I’ll add some more hops earlier in the boil.

Final Verdict: 4.0 out of 5. 

This may be my best brew to date. I’m still partial to The Abyss Stares Back because it was my first, and stouts hide a lot of sins. This ended up being a pretty solid and tasty brew, if a little lacking in bitterness. But hey, it could be a lot worse.

Cheeky Bastard 2

Homebrew Review: Symphony of Decay

It is time once again for me to pretend that I’m capable of being unbiased about something I created. Yes, time for another homebrew review. Today’s beer is Symphony of Decay, a pumpkin ale brewed with 4 pounds – four f*#%in’ pounds – of pumpkin puree.

Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.
– Robert Browning

Symphony of Decay - Finished Product 1

I’m a huge fan of pumpkin beers, but I’m always slightly disappointed there’s never a ton of real pumpkin flavor. Sure there’s a lot of spices and all that jazz, but for it to be a pumpkin beer the pumpkin should be the focal point. Well, I made sure of that by roasting 2 pounds of pumpkin puree and adding it to the mash and then adding 2 more pounds (unroasted) in the boil.

The recipe is available here. and I also wrote about it here.

Appearance: This game out a LOT darker than I had anticipated. The target SRM was 16 and this is closer to 26-30; that’s in the porter range. It’s slightly murky but that’s hard to tell because of the darkness. There’s a nice red-orange tint when held up to the light, a more orange shade of crimson or garnet. The head is huge and rocky, and a nice tan color. Lots of tiny bubbles, with some larger ones and a lot of lacing left on the glass.

Smell: Not a lot of your traditional pumpkin pie spices coming through, but there is a nice roasty aroma along with a backbone of sweet pumpkin smell. You can pick up some very slight hints of cinnamon as well. There’s no real hop presence which was to plan. I was really hoping for a stronger, spicer aroma. But the smell is actually quite pleasant. The bready, roasty notes mix well with the pumpkin.

Taste: Would you be surprised if I told you this tasted like pumpkin? It definitely does, but that roasty characteristic very strong. It’s a toast-like character that blends in with a bit of bitterness from the hops and bit of zest from the cinnamon. I’m not picking up too much maple syrup flavor, but it could be lost amidst the pumpkin sweetness. There’s a bit of a clove characteristic as well that I’m assuming is from a stressful fermentation. Overall it is a pleasant taste and unlike anything else I’ve ever drank before, which is something.

Mouthfeel: This is the mouthfeel I want in a pumpkin beer. This is super creamy. It’s not as viscous as a stout or porter, but it is strong bodied. Not quite a dry finish, but it doesn’t finish sweet or cloying either. The bitterness and roastiness balances it out and that’s what lingers on the front of the tongue.

Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5. 

It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I am pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. There’s a lot of refinement I’d make to this beer, but the finished product is rather enjoyable.

Symphony of Decay - Finished Product 2

Winter’s Revenge

Today I had my buddy Mike over to brew. He’s one of a couple of friends I’m slowly brainwashing convincing to take up homebrewing. The plan was to brew a sweet stout, Winter’s Sun. Mike came over yesterday to bottle the IPA that we brewed a few weeks ago – Cheeky Bastard – and since he was around, I took him for his first trip to my local homebrew store, South Shore Homebrew Emporium. So he got to see the process from purchasing up through brewing.

The brew day went fairly well. For the first time I started taking measurements of how much wort I was collecting and boiling off, so that I could have a better idea of my system’s efficiency. We came in under our target gravity (1.052 vs. 1.060) and I think that it was due in part to the fact that I estimated losing 2 gallons to evaporation and we only lost 1.75. That extra quart would have concentrated the beer a little closer to the target, but I’m unsure if it would’ve gotten us all the way to 1.060.

Regardless the missed target wasn’t the biggest snafu of the day. I like to chill my boiled wort outside to allow the ambient temperature to speed the cooling process and aid my immersion chiller. I thought we’d have a nice quick chill since it was below freezing outside. Unfortunately, because it was below freezing – and my house has a screwy water system – my hose was frozen solid with ice. We couldn’t get a steady flow of water through the immersion chiller. After trying to hook the chiller up through my showerhead (a failure), we opted to rack the still hot wort into the carboy, cover it with tinfoil and leave it outside in order to cool off.

It’s about 2-3 hours into the process now. The wort is noticeably cooler, but still nowhere near the 68*F target that I’m looking for to pitch the yeast. We’ll see how close it is by the time I head to bed. The recipe is below. It is an adapted version of the sweet/milk stout recipe that appears in Brewing Classic Styles

Winter Sun

Grain Bill

Fermentable Amount Use PPG Color
 Maris Otter Pale (UK) 7.5 lb 69% Mash 38 3 °L
 Caramel/Crystal 80L (US) 1.0 lb 9% Mash 33 80 °L
 Lactose (Milk Sugar) 1.0 lb 9% Boil 41 0 °L
 Pale Chocolate Malt 200L 0.75 lb 6% Mash 34 200 °L
 Black Patent (UK) 0.57 lb 5% Mash 27 525 °L

Hops

Hop Amount Time Use Form AA
Golding (US) 1.5 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 5.0%

Yeasts

Name Lab Average Attenuation
Wyeast Whitbread Ale Wyeast 1099 70.0%

Mash steps

Step Heat Source Target Temp Time
Saccharification Rest Infusion 152.0 °F 60 min

Notes

Alt. Yeasts: WLP006 Bedford; WY1084 Irish Ale.

Mill the grains and dough-in targeting a mash of around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound of grain (a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight) and a temperature of 151 °F (66 °C).

Hold the mash at 151 °F (66 °C) until enzymatic conversion is complete. Infuse the mash with near-boiling water while stirring or with a recirculating mash system raise the temperature to mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is around 5.9 gallons (22.3 L) and a gravity of 1.051 (12.6 °P).

The total wort boil time is 60 minutes. I prefer to mix in the lactose with the first runnings, which gives me lots of time to make sure it gets dissolved before firing up the kettle. Add the first hop addition as soon as the wort reaches a full boil and then start your timer. Add Irish moss or other kettle finings with 15 minutes left in the boil.

Chill the wort to 68 °F (20 °C) and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 2 packages of liquid yeast or 1 package of liquid yeast in a 2-liter starter. Ferment at 68 °F (20 °C). When finished, carbonate the beer to approximately 1.5 to 2 volumes.