Sunday, 30 March 2014

Brew day - Black Mamba Rye IPA

One week after the Iron Brewer Challenge it is time for another brew-day - this time without weird adjuncts. On today's menu is the Black Mamba Rye IPA - a bold, strong black IPA featuring a hefty dose of rye malt and the crispness that brings to a beer. In addition, todays brew sees the end of the Cascade hops (about 1oz) that I grew last summer. Indeed, this beer is a celebration of Cascade - other than a bit of Warrior for bittering & a touch of a late addition, all of the hop flavour and aroma will be from Cascade.

This recipe is largely one of my creation and is meant to be simple - the classical Black IPA grains of Victory malt (or Special malt; I have victory on-hand), dehusked dark malt (Carafa Special II), mixed with a 2.5:1 mix of pale malt and rye; typical of many rye-based beers.  The mash is low-and-slow, to give a dry-finishing beer. With the rye this may lead to a too-dry finish, but I have taken two steps to balance that out - I hope.  The first is relying on cascade as a hop - it should give a spicy/citrusy character that will provide a balancing fruitness to the beer.  I am then accentuating that using the legendary Conan yeast, which should provide some additional fruity esters - notably apricot - to further balance the crispness of the rye and the highly fermentable wort.

Recipe & brew-day notes below the fold

Simple Hop Spider

BYO's hop spider
Although I've been brewing for over 16 years now, a series of moves started ~8 years ago led to the loss of most of my kit - meaning, since settling in our new home I've had to begin rebuilding much of the equipment I used to have. In many ways this is a blessing in disguise - in the roughly 12 years since I finalized my last brewing rig, home brewing has changed a lot.  Batch sparging, first wort hopping, yeast starters and the variety of hops & grains available to us today were not available when I started.

One simple invention that has come along since then is the hop spider.  For those who haven't heard of these, the retain pellet hops in the boil, reducing the amount of trub you have to deal with post-boil and preventing clogging of your system. The classic hop spider is a 4" to 3" PCV coupler with 3 or 4 carriage bolts sticking out of the wide portion and a fine mesh bag held onto the bottom with a screw-clamp (see image above). While a brilliant invention, I've always disliked them for two reasons - the get in the way of the lid, and the sized bag usually used concentrates the hops; IMO, likely reducing alpha acid extraction efficiency. Moreover, it doesn't let you adapt to different sized batches in your brewpot.

My hop spider (details below the fold) overcomes these issues - and costs less to build to boot!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Iron Brewer Challenge - African Queen Stout

So its been a while since I've brewed - and to be honest - its been a while since I've enjoyed a pint of beer. Between travel, two rounds of some pretty nasty bugs, and a crazy work schedule life hasn't been friendly to my brewing hobby.

So its damned well time I brew a beer! Even better, todays beer is another "brewing challenge" set by my homebrew club, the London Homebrewers Guild. This will be the fourth such brew I've participated in - the previous ones being a SMaSH challenge, the now infamous grocery store challenge, and and advent brew/beer exchange. This time we're doing an Iron Brewer challenge - like the Iron Chef TV show. Basically, you draw two ingredients out of a hat, and you must incorporate those into your brew.

Our list if ingredients was imaginative - but limited to things you'd find (or would find similar flavours), in beer: Grand Marnier, Cloves, Strawberries, Mint, Amaretto, Chocolate, Blueberry, Lemon, Lime, Honey, Vanilla, Baileys, and Oranges. Some of my fellow brewers received somewhat difficult combinations - strawberry & clove for example. I lucked out - Grand Mariner & Amaretto.

Based on those ingredients I started building a recipe, using cocktails as a basis for mixing my flavours. I originally started with a plan to mimic a B52 - grand marnier, amaretto and lactose (to mimic Irish cream) in a mildly hopped caramel-malt forward beer. But a few mixing the liquors into a commercial pale ale revealed that this would not be a good idea. I then began thinking about dark beers, with their intense roasted flavour. These can be quite similar to coffee & chocolate in their flavour profile, and coffee and chocolate often go well with grand marnier and amaretto. A bit of research found a hot coffee drink - an African Queen - comprised of coffee, grand marnier, amaretto and a bit of whipped cream - AKA the original mix of liquors and lactose I was planning on. I can assure you that extensive testing of this beverage has convinced me that it should work well as a beer - so I planned out a roasty milk-stout (that got converted into a more dry-ish stout due to a shopping error) based on this wonderful coffee beverage.

Not wanting to make too much of this - in case it isn't as good as my porter + liquor tests suggested it would be - I planned a 5L batch, using brew-in-a-bag to prepare the beer. I also forgot to order lactose, so instead I'm doing a high-body mash (69C) to provide some sweetness to counter the bitter liquors I am adding. Lastly, I am adding the liquors at flame-out, to drive off their alcohol while retaining their flavours & aromatics. If I find their character too mild, I can "dry booze" with a little more before bottling.

Recipe & brew-day notes below the fold...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I get email...

While many of my readers reply directly here on my blog, I do get the occasional email asking questions in relationship to some of my posts. While a lot of these are simply requests for clarification, some are seeking details missing from posts, questions expanding on posts, and requests for posts/videos.

I've compiled a bunch of questions from various emailers, and answered them below.

Questions are divided by category:
  • Mailing Yeasts
  • Wild Brewing
  • Yeast Wrangling

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Better Late Then Never - Hail Brett-tanian Tasting Notes

Way back in January I began an experiment to brew a porter fermented solely with Brettanomyces. This was a bit of a scary experiment as brett has a reputation for not playing nice with dark malts - the polyphenols in these malts can be converted by brett into other phenols - phenols which taste like burnt plastic, band-aids and dirt. In addition, brett tends to dry beers out, killing the balancing sweetness/mouthfeel that we look for when brewing with darker malts. If you read my original post you'll see I did a number of things to reduce the risk of these issues - using dehusked dark malts, adding oats for mouthfeel, carefully controlling the sparge temperature, and so on.

Since posting about that brew a lot of my friends have been bugging me for a follow-up. But between travel, work and a couple nasty bugs, I've not been able to get around to a post - and to tell the truth, for most of the intervening time, I've not been able to taste or smell anything for most of that time anyways.

So how did it turn out? It is a good beer, but not exactly what I expected. . .then again, nothing about this beer after brew day was as expected....