Mt. Rainer Smash — Tasting

Mt Ranier Smash

The recipe for this beer is here.

I fermented the beer at 67F with a temperature control device.  After 8 days, I added 1 oz of the pellets as a dryhop.  The beer then sat for 2 weeks before I could get it kegged.  The final gravity is 1.012, with a IBU/FG ratio of 3.5.  It is 5.2% ABV.  The beer was force carbonated.

Appearance:  Straw colored beer, hazy, almost looks like a hefe weizen.

Aroma:  Slight fruitiness to the beer, green apple and banana both at lower levels, followed by a floral and a bit spicy hop note.

Taste:  Slight, malt sweetness, a bit grassy and green, followed by an earthy bitterness.  There is more of the green apple taste on the back with a hint of the banana, with a spicy bitterness in the aftertaste, pretty smooth.  It leaves the mouth dry, and a touch tart.

Mouthfeel:  coats the mouth well, feels full in the mouth, but leaves a slight drying sensation at the end.

Critique:  First off, the hops.   The hops aroma reminded me of Saaz but the taste has a bit of Golding to go with it.  It is a pretty clean bittering.  I did not get any of the licorice or citrus notes they talked about, it tasted…like a pretty clean noble hop.    I can see this going well anywhere you want more of a clean, spicy/fruity hop profile.  The bitterness was rather pleasant.  Next, the yeast.  Much more fruity then I was expecting.  It is not to the level of many English strains, but there was definitely some apple.  There was also banana going on, but at fairly low levels.  This gives the beer a more sweet perception, but then it actually finishes with a tartness at the end.  Interesting yeast, I doubt it will give the classic hop bite side by side with 1056, but if you want a bit of fruitness in your beers, without going as far as many of the English strains, this would work well.  It actually kinda reminds me a bit of WLP 007, but that had more apple, and less banana then this strain.  I should qualify, those flavors are there, but in the back, they are not overbearing or dominating.  Finally, the grain.  Well, it is pilsnery, without as much of the grassy sweetness.  It is just kinda there in my opinion.  I would make a decent base to play off specialty malts as I think it is a pretty clean palate, but overall, if I wanted to make a pale beer, I would use Pilsner for its sweetness and green flavors, just more interesting.  So, at the end of the day, I have a light colored, well bittered blond ale with some nice fruity esters to keep it interesting that ends fairly dry with a touch of tartness.  A step up from your typical lawnmower beer, I can see this guy going down easily after a day of yardwork.


American IPA, 3 hops, 2 yeasts, 1 wort — tasting

The recipe for this beer is here.

I had a chance to try the IPA’s side by side.  A note before we begin.  I am still working on my mashing process with the HERMs system I built, and yeah, well, I must have screwed it up.  I ended up with a very dextrinous wort.  The finishing gravity on both was 1.025.  Yeah, bummer.  Unfortunately, this has left me with a heavier beer then I intended.  I chalk this up to learning a new process, but I was still miffed it ended this way.  I guess this just means I will have to try again in the future!  The biggest problem is, I don’t really like sweet and heavy with my IPA’s.  I prefer drier beers generally, but particularly in the IPA, which is supposed to highlight the hop.  I have a hard time doing that with too much malt.  Also, I wanted to see how much hop character I could get without dryhopping this beer.  Dryhopping, what used to be a rarity less then 10 years ago, seems to be the norm now.  I now drink a pale ale or an IPA, and if I don’t get smacked in the face with hops, it seems off.  So, this was a bit of a challenge to see how much hops I could get just from kettle additions.

Tasting Notes

WLP 028

Appearance: hazy golden color, well carbonated, hangs on

Aroma: Spicy, herbal hop, some pine and apple

Taste: sweet full maltiness at first, immediately followed by a strong bitterness.  Some apple and some darker fruit esters.   Beer is more hop forward, but there is a malty note in the aftertaste to balance the hops

Mouthfeel:  Full body to the beer, but the hops give a drying sensation on the cheeks.

Wyeast 1056

Appearance:  Hazy golden color, about 2 fingers on the head, dropped a bit faster.  Not as carbonated as WLP 028

Aroma:  citrus, floral, spicy hops.  some malt

Taste:  touch of malt, but quickly moves to a very bitter taste from the hops.  No esters noted.  Hops pop out, and it lends to a fairly dry finish.  The hops outlast the malt on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel:  Medium body, prickly on the tongue.

Critique:  Wow, what a difference the yeast makes.  What impressed me most was the difference in how the hop and malt were balanced.  I felt the WLP028 gave a more balanced beer.  The malt profile was there, but so were the hops.  You also get more esters from it, it is not as clean as the 1056.  However, even though the final gravity was the same in both, it tasted sweeter and fuller, more in keeping with what I would expect from a 1.025 FG beer.  The 1056 has a way of hiding that sweetness.  It accentuates the hops much more, and the citrus note really popped on this beer, where I got more of the pine and herbal notes on the 028.  I would be curious to see which I liked more if I had not mashed too hot.  The hops pop much more on the tongue with the 1056.  It is definitely very clean, I did not get really any esters at all.  However, I am worried the 1056 may actually have made the beer seem too thin, without enough malt to hold up to the hops.  Only way to know would be to retry.  In the end, I concede 1056 is the yeast for the hophead.  They just jump out at you with this yeast, and it gets out of the way to let the other ingredients do their thing.  However, the WLP028 had a nice hop aroma and taste, not as bright, but it definitely was more balanced with the malt.  I can see this being a great yeast where you want more malt expression, but it still plays well with the hops.

As far as the hops go, I liked this blend.  Very “American” but it gives a wide range of hop flavors and aroma that work well with each other.  I will likely play with it a bit, I would like more of a citrus presence, but I think this is a solid starting point for a very classic American hop signature.  There is lots of hops on the nose and on the tongue, but you miss that brightness you get from dryhopping.

Bitter #5

Bitter #5

I have a friend who just turned 50.  His wife is throwing a big bash at his house.  He grew up just west of London, and “proper bitter” is one of the things he misses from home.  He will have several family members visiting from the UK as well, and my gift to him for the party is a “proper pint of bitter.”  He is part of my regular tasting victims, er, I mean panel, so I have a fairly good idea of what he likes.  Nice malt body, decent bitterness in the back and on the palate, nice subtle hop aroma, and “none of those catty, piney American hops.”

For the recipe, I went with a pretty straight forward 90/10 build on the malt bill of 2 row pale malt and crystal.  I also had run out of Kent Golding, so I used some Willamette whole leaf hops I had in the freezer.  There is a new home brew store in my town, and I popped in to grab some malt and check the place out.  Unfortunately, he is just getting started, and while the shop owner is a homebrewer, he extract brews and did not really grasp the importance of good base malts.  He did have some Crisp 2 row pale in a 10# sack, but it was pre ground.   I bought it anyway because I needed it, but I have no idea how long it has been in the bag.  He told me just a few weeks in the store, but at the distributor, no idea. I always grind my own grain, and have gotten used to how my mill works, but I had no idea how good the grind would be on this.  However, I was in a bit of a pinch, so I bought it and gave it a try.

8.00 lb       Pale Malt, Crisp                Grain        91.43 %
0.50 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt Muntons (60.0 SRM)           Grain        5.71 %
0.25 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt Dark Simpsons (150.0 SRM)     Grain        2.86 %
1.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (60 min)           24.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (30 min)           5.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Williamette [4.50 %]  (15 min)            3.7 IBU
1 Pkgs        London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318)        Yeast-Ale

Simple infusion mash at 155F for 1 hour, finished at 152F.  Batch sparged with 6 gallons of 168F water in 2 stages.  The OG was 1.042, giving me a 73% efficiency.  I was not thrilled by this, but it was in the ballpark, I was shooting for 1.045.  This beer will have 33.9 IBU’s with a IBU/GU ration of 0.759.  I had made a 2 L start with London Ale III, and pitched that after aerating the wort with oxygen.  I let it ferment for 2 weeks, ambient was about 66F, and the FG was 1.012.  The beer ended at 3.8% ABV.  I then racked off the beer to a keg, and I added about 1/4 oz of Williamette leaf hop to the keg.


Color:   hazy orange color, has a nice head that just hangs on.

Aroma:  Nice, spicy and a bit earthy hop nose, with some of the dark fruit esters (cherry) in the back, along with some of the crystal malt.  On the back, you get more of the toasty aroma from the grain

Taste:  toasty malt up front, then you get a touch of sweetness that is quickly washed away by a firm bittering at the backend.  There is a spicy quality I think is from the Williamette.  Finishes with a mouth cleaning bitterness, and a slight prickly from the carbonation.  Medium mouthfeel, coats the mouth, but is not thick.

Critique:  I am pretty happy with this beer.  It is actually more bitter and hoppy then I had anticipated, but I really like the Williamette.  There is a nice spiciness and roundness to the hop, and a clean bitterness that makes it very easy to drink.  I did not get as much of the fruit from the yeast as I usually have, and I think it is because the beer was fermented at cooler temperatures then I usually do.  Overall, the net effect is the same, a very easy to drink, refreshing beer that is low gravity.  I will be curious to see how the Englishman take it, my guess it is going to be a touch hoppier then they prefer, but the Yanks will dig it!

Post-Mortum — The beer was universally well received at the party.  Probably 15 people tried it, and most went back for more.  This just cements for me that a nice Bitter is one of the best crowd pleasers out there.  I got the keg back with dregs.  The nice thing about that is, now I have to fill it again!

Brew Day — Mt. Ranier SMASH

I was at a local store, and they had a hop I was not familiar with, Mt. Ranier.  I like the descriptions I saw, more Noble, with hints of citrus and licorice.  I am always looking for new hops to try, particularly outside of the usual “C” hops, just to see what else is out there.  As this is a new hop for me, I decided to make as simple beer, that will really highlight the hops.  I also took this opportunity to try two other ingredients for the first time.  The first up is Lager Malt by Muntons.  Basically, it is the English version of Pilsner, and thought it would be fun to try.  It is pretty light in color, and has more of a grassy note then I usually taste in British malts, but not as pronounced as say a German Pilsner.  To up the complexity a bit, I toasted 1# of the malt at 350F for 10 minutes, just enough to have it start to become aromatic.  This malt lost that grassy taste, and had a touch more of the toasty sweetness.  It did not darken much at all, so I don’t think this will impact the beer much.

First pint out of the kettle, allowed to settle

I usually take the first pint off the kettle when racking to the fermentor to do my gravity testing, and to let it sit to see it clear.  Looking at how it separated, the beer will be a nice golden color.

Finally,  I wanted to try a new yeast.  I have never tried Wyeast 1272, but the description of soft, clean, nutty, and slightly tart sounded like a winner.  I also wanted to bring out the hops more, so I adjusted my water with gypsum and salt to to 154ppm Sulfate and 71 ppm chloride.

9.00 lb       Lager Malt (2.0 SRM)                      Grain        90.00 %
1.00 lb       Toasted Malt (27.0 SRM)                   Grain        10.00 %
1.25 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (60 min)             Hops         25.5 IBU
0.75 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (30 min)             Hops         11.8 IBU
0.50 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (15 min)             Hops         5.1 IBU
1.50 oz       Mt. Ranier [6.10 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop-StHops          –
1 Pkgs        American Ale II (Wyeast Labs #1272)       Yeast-Ale

The beer was infusion mashed.  I did not use the HERM’s this time, and I let it mash at 153F and drift down to 145 over 75 minutes.  I then sparged, and collected 8.1 gallons of wort. This was boiled for 60 minutes, with the hops added as above.  The last hop addition was at flameout, with a 5 minute recirc without the chiller, then I turned on the chiller to bring the temp down to under 100F in about 20 minutes.  I then shut off the pump, let it sit 30 minutes, then racked into my carboy.  OG was 1.052, with a IBU/SG ratio of .083.   Yeast was pitched from a 1L starter, the fermentation temp is set at 67F.

Tasting notes posted here.

Brew Day — American IPA, 3 Hops, 2 Yeasts, 1 Wort

American IPA split between two yeasts

I recently brewed a batch of beer with WLP 028.  I had used this beer in my British yeast experiment, and I thought it may make a nice “clean” beer yeast.  Now, I was drinking this compared to 4 other very flavorful yeasts, so my perceptions could have been skewed.  I had also seen how much a yeast can either accent or suppress hop expression, and according to White Labs, WLP 028 is not supposed to suppress the hops like many British strains do.   So, I set up a side by side, where the same IPA will be fermented with WLP 028, and Wyeast 1056, pretty much the gold standard of clean ale yeasts.

The other piece to this is that I wanted to try some different hop combinations.  Specifically, I wanted to get away from tons of super fruity and citrusy hops such as Cascade, Simcoe, Sorachi and Centennial.  Instead, I was looking for the more herbal, and darker tasting hops, something with some resin, but did not smell too much like marmalade.  I picked out Chinook for its piney notes, Nugget for its more savory/herbal notes, and Columbus, which when I first smelled it, seemed to have quite a bit of spearmint to go with some lighter citrus.  I have used Nugget in the past as a bittering hop, but not much for flavor and aroma, and I have never used Chinook or Columbus before.  I also decided to add these hops in a rotating fashion throughout the brew, hoping to layer the flavors.  I also wanted to focus more on later hop additions to get more taste and aroma from the hops and less bitterness.  I additionally wanted to avoid dryhopping, just to see how much hop aroma I could get, and also because I am going to bottle condition these, so I know I am going to lose some of that bright flavor and aroma anyway.  Instead I chose to add the last addition during whirlpool at 180F.

Finally, I have very soft water.  I usually don’t do to much to my water other then dechlorinate it with campden tablets, but I did add 4g of gypsum to the boil to get some sulfites in the beer, giving me 87ppm.

The recipe is as follows:

9.00 lb       Pale Malt  (Canadian Malting 2 row)        72.00 %
2.00 lb       Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                          16.00 %
1.00 lb       Wheat Malt, Ger (Best Maltz)                 8.00 %
0.50 lb       Simpson’s Medium Crystal Malt           4.00 %
0.25 oz       Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %]  (60 min)   Hops         11.1 IBU
0.25 oz       Nugget [12.20 %]  (50 min)                Hops         9.2 IBU
0.25 oz       Chinook [13.00 %]  (40 min)               Hops         9.1 IBU
0.33 oz       Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %]  (30 min)   Hops         11.3 IBU
0.33 oz       Nugget [12.20 %]  (20 min)                Hops         7.8 IBU
0.33 oz       Chinook [13.00 %]  (10 min)               Hops         5.0 IBU
0.42 oz       Nugget [12.20 %]  (0 min) (Steep Hops/Whirlpool)
0.42 oz       Chinook [13.00 %]  (0 min) (Steep Hops/Whirlpool)
0.42 oz       Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %]  (0 min) (Steep Hops/Whirlpool)

The beer was mashed via an infusion at 153F.  The temp dropped to 150 before I corrected my HERM’s system and was able to bring it back up to 154F and hold it for 60 minutes.  I then mashed out at 166F.  This is my second batch with the HERM’s unit, still getting the hang of it.  The OG is 1.061.  The beer has 53.5 IBU’s with a IBU:OG ration of 0.924.  The beer was split into 2 batches, 2.5 gallons each.  I had made 1L starters of both the WLP 028 and the Wyeast 1056, and I decanted and pitched them both.  As I don’t have 2 temperature control systems for fermentation, I am going to let these guys sit next to each other in a closet in my house, which is 67F currently.

Tasting results are here.

Saison #4

Saison #4

Saisons have become my new favorite style of beer.  This is my 4th version of a classic saison (Saison #1, Saison #2, Saison #3), and this time, I wanted to brew a lower gravity version.  So many of these are made very big now, often coming in very large bottles, and that makes it hard to enjoy on a weeknight.  I was looking for a more moderate alcohol, table saison, that I could have a glass or two with dinner during the week.

I do very much like East Coast Yeast’s #08 saison blend, and  have saved some on a slant so I can grow it up when I please.  I like that it tends to dry the beer out and ferment very quickly, but leaves a much more spicy, peppery note then other strains I have tried.  I also wanted to make this a simpler beer to make, so I decided to not do any dryhopping.  I was just going to do a bittering charge, and then an addition at knockout/whirlpool to see how well the hops aromatics come through with that technique.  I decided to modify my Saison #2 recipe, as I enjoyed it so much before, and thought it made a great warm weather beer.  The recipe is as below.

6.50 lb       Pale Malt (2 row) New Englander (2.0 SRM)
1.00 lb       Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM)
1.00 lb       Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)
0.50 oz       Sorachi Ace [11.80 %]  (60 min) (First Wort Hops)         23.4 IBU
0.50 oz       Simcoe [14.10 %]  (60 min) (First Wort Hops)         25.2 IBU
0.50 oz       Sorachi Ace [11.80 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop — steeping)
0.50 oz       Simcoe [14.10 %]  (0 min) (Aroma Hop-steeping)
1.00 lb       Turbinado (10.0 SRM)    Sugar
Saison Blend (East Coast Yeast #8)       Yeast-Ale

OG 1.047, FG 1.009, ABV 5.3%, IBU/OG: 1.019, IBU/FG: 5.4

The grain was mashed starting at 150F via a simple infusion mash.  The temp dropped 3F over 75 minutes, and then I fly sparged and ended up with just below 8 gallons at the start of the boil.  The beer was boiled 60 minutes.  Hops were added at first wort, and at knockout on the burner.  I let the whirlpool go for 10 minutes, then I turned on the immersion chiller.  The whirlpool caused the beer to chill very quickly, and in about 15 minutes, I shut off the whirlpool, and let the beer sit for another 15 minutes, then poured the cooled wort into a 6 gallon better bottle.  The wort was aerated for 30 seconds with pure oxygen, and I added the yeast.  It was fermented at 78F for the first 3 days, then bumped up to 80F.  After 9 days, the heat was turned off, and I let this cool to ambient, 61F, over the next 5 days.  This was then racked into the keg, and force carbed.

Appearance:  Slight haze, golden color, nice head that drops in a few minutes, but leaves a nice lacing down the glass.

Aroma:  spicy jumps out, pepper and cloves, also banana.  There is some citrus peel and floral notes in the background.

Taste:  light body, some light malt at the front.  There is a slight fruity sweetness, again banana with some background citrus,  that is quickly covered by a spicy, clove, peppery bite.  It finishes very dry, and with a strong bitterness.  Very crisp.

Critique — The nose is more phenolic then I would ideally like, and the hops were more muted then in my dry hopped versions, no suprise.  The beer is also balanced too far to bitterness, and the beer is a bit harsh overall.  There is some malt, but not enough to balance this.  As I was trying to make a lower gravity, every day drinking saison, I think I would tone down the bittering hops.  The taste comes across as very dry, which I usually like, but it is too much so given the bitterness.  In the future, I will cut the IBU’s back by about 20-25%.  I do miss the brightness of the dryhops.  Not my best beer, but I learned quite a bit from it, and I think there is something here too work with.

50/50 Palisade — tasting

50/50 Palisade

For the recipe on this beer, please look here.

A few notes on the fermentation and handling of this beer.  It was in the primary for 18 days.  I set the temperature to 65F for 7 days, then upped it to 66F for another 7 days, before shutting off the heat and letting it drop to the ambient of 61F for 4 days.  I then kegged it, and force carbonated it.  It finished at a gravity of 1.010, giving me a 5.2% abv beer.  The IBU/OG ratio was 0.74, putting it much more on the bitter side, but it ended up drier then I expected, with a IBU/FG ratio of  3.6.  The attenuation was 79.4%, which was higher then I expected.  I am not sure if that is a product of the HERMs system I used to brew it, but I may mash hotter with this in the future.  On to the tasting.

Appearance:  Hazy dirty orange, it has a nice head that hangs on.

Aroma:  Spicy, floral hop aroma, which makes me think more of a European hop.  There is no citrus like many American hops, this is more along the lines of a noble German hop mixed with Goldings.  Hard to describe, but not overpowering.  I really don’t get any esters I can attribute to the yeast, but hard to tell with the hop aroma

Taste:  Toasty malty flavor.  It is fairly crisp, almost lager like, with a little bit of apple, but again, I am not sure if that is not the hop vs the yeast.  Overall, the esters are pretty clean, and there is a nice hop bitterness at the end, very smooth.  The beer is dry, goes down pretty easily.

Critique — well, I set out to make a beer that was a bit maltier but it attenuated more then I expected.  That being said, it is easy drinking.  The malt is there, but not sweet like caramel, and has more of a toasty flavor to it from the Munich malt.  I think this would make a very nice base for a brown ale, with a touch of  caramel and some light chocolate for more nutty/roasty flavors.  It is fairly bitter, but not in a hit you over the head way.  It leave a nice dry, bitterness at the end.  The yeast was pretty clean, which is what I expected, but nice to see my impressions of WLP 028 validated.  It is not a complex beer, pretty straight forward, but will go down easily with the summer weather.  I also learned that Palisade maybe a pretty versatile hop, but I think I would use it in combination with other hops, as it does not have a strong presence on its own, but I can see it playing well with others for complexity, kind of like adding vanilla extract to a recipe.