Archive for March, 2013

PM#10 – Way to Amarillo Brown Ale


Most of the dark beers that I brew tend to be of the English variety – milds, bitters etc. As much as I like those styles of beers I always find myself asking “I wonder what this would taste like with a huge blast of Amarillo or Cascade?”. I suppose I just love that American hop flavour. I’ve had my eye on an American brown ale recipe in Jamil’s “Brewing Classic Styles” since I bought the book over a year ago. For one reason or another, I never got round to doing it. This time though, I’m determined to use lots of my fresh 2012 Amarillo hops in this brown ale recipe. I’ll be making just a few changes to the published recipe, replacing the Nugget bittering hops with Magnum and adding an extra charge of Amarillo, just because I don’t think you can have too much Amarillo in any beer. I’ll use pale chocolate malt instead of regular chocolate malt as the US chocolate malt tends to be kilned a little lighter than the varieties we get here. I used a smaller amount of pale chocolate malt in a recent mild I did and I really liked the result. Plenty of my favourite specialty malt in Jamil’s recipe too – biscuit malt! I’ll be following Jamil’s bitterness-gravity ratio and hopefully this will make a tasty, hoppy beer.


Boil Size: 16.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 14.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 20.00 l
Bottling Volume: 20.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated Color: 19.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 35.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


2.000 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) 48.5 %
0.300 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) 7.3 %
0.225 kg Pale Chocolate Malt (300.0 SRM) 5.5 %
0.200 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) 4.8 %
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) 4.8 %
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) 3.6 %
0.100 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM) 2.4 %
10 g Magnum [14.20 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 20.1 IBUs
0.950 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0), 23.0 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
25 g Amarillo [10.90 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 7.7 IBUs
25 g Amarillo [10.90 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 6.4 IBUs
50 g Amarillo [10.90 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

Mash & Brew Day 29/03/2013 – Mash and boil conducted together. Treated 17 litres of water using campden tablet and set aside 6 litres of sparge water in small pot. Doughed-in at 74°C and after a little adjustment with both hot and cold water, settled at a mash temperature of 67°C. Sparged again in my 15 litre fermenter and allowed to steep for 10 minutes or so. The wort had that distinctive cooked corn smell you get when using CaraPils. Wort is a fantastic colour – deep mahogany. Topped-up to just under the 20 litre mark and got an OG of 1.050. Pitched about 500ml of US-05 slurry from the Downtown Train Pale Ale and a big fermentation had taken off less than 12 hours later. Nothing to report apart from my immersion chiller dismantling in front of my eyes and spraying water all the kitchen, just a loose jubilee clip.

09/04/2013 – I got only 33 bottles out of this batch which is surprising for what was supposed to be a 33 litre batch. Had slow siphon problems again – this time the culprit was those funny little seeds that you sometimes get in hops. I need to do some research on what these actually are. Primed with 130g glucose.

24/04/2013 – First taste. It might have been whatever I’d eaten or drank beforehand, but this hasn’t turned out at all like I expected. I expected a bit of a hop bomb but it’s like the chocolate malt is masking the hop flavour. Maybe it needs a couple more weeks conditioning, but with the huge amount of Amarillo that went into this, I expected it to be a more hop dominated beer. Though it is very tasty – the pale chocolate malt and crystal are making themelves known. Try again in a couple of weeks. Maybe row back on the chocolate malt next time.

23/06/2013 – Someone tasting this remarked that it reminded them of another beer, which happened to be a black IPA. After I reeoved this feedback, I can’t get the thought out of my head and I’m now myself thinking of this as a scaled-down version of a black IPA. It’s got quite a subtle roast flavour, but it doesn’t use an de-husked roasted malts, as most black IPA recipes seem to include. I presume this is because the pale chocolate malt is more subtle than the regular version. The flavours seem to have softened and mingled a little more and I think it’s drinking a lot better. It’s funny though, how someone else’s comments can change your perception of your own beer.

06/07/2013 – Wonderful stuff. A few months aging have really done wonders for this beer. It’s definitely got overtones of ‘black IPA’. Hops and caramel melting into each other, but some lovely notes of coffee and chocolate also.

BIAB#4 – Downtown Train Pale Ale


I really enjoyed making my first all-grain beers, a series of English ales. Using the BIAB method I made two special bitters and a mild, rolling over the yeast cake from one batch to the next. At 4% ABV they are very refreshing and make a nice change from the somewhat larger beers I was brewing at the end of 2012. Each very different beers but using very similar ingredients. I’ve enjoyed drinking them, though I think the S-04 yeast let me down a bit and they scored respectably in the recent competition, though nothing earth shattering.

2013 is going to be the year of the session beer, I think. I recently hunted high and low for a bottle of Brewdog’s “Dead Pony Club”, a 3.8% heavily-hopped pale ale. It isn’t available from the usual Brewdog stockists and I’m still dying to try it. You have to love BrewDog. Like a lot of craft beer enthusiasts, I hate their bolshy (and hopelessly unoriginal) marketing, but you can’t fault the product. The beers are a hop lovers dream, packed with flavour using mostly trendy American and New Zealand varieties like Nelson Sauvin, Ahtanum, Motueka and Amarillo. For a long time, I was under the false impression that a heavily hopped beer necessitated a high gravity and a high level of bitterness, but that isn’t so. Dead Pony Club is by all accounts a cuddly little hop-monster with a reported bitterness rating of only 25 IBU. So challenged by someone to make a low-alcohol pale ale, I’m using Dead Pony Club as a template, even though I haven’t tasted there beer. The BrewDog tells us that the hops used are Citra, Simcoe and HBC. I don’t have any HBC (reported to be Mosaic) so I’ll just be using lots of Simcoe and Citra. The website also hints at using plenty of caramel malts to provide mouthfeel in what is a fairly light-bodied beer.

Mash & Brew Day 09/03/2013 – I doughed in at 73.5°C and settled on a mash temperature of 67.5°C. I probably would have done better to have mashed at 70°C which would have left more dextrins in the wort and thus provided a bit more body, but I’m happy enough with that. The temperature had dropped to 65° after 30 mins so I applied some heat to get it back up to 67.5°C. I sparged in a different way this time. I had treated 17 litres of water in total and I decanted about 5 litres into the smaller brewpot, leaving 12 litres to do the mash with. When the time came to sparge, I gave the grain bag a small squeeze over the large mash pot and transferred the bag to a clean 15 litre fermenter. I then poured the 5 litres of water from the small brewpot over it and stirred to mix in the grain. The mixture was looser than I expected. Even the lid from the large brewpot fits perfectly into the 15 litre FV. I left it to steep for about 5 or 10 minutes and got some nice sugary wort from the sparge.

It seemed really strange not to be using a traditional 60-minute bittering addition, but I fought off the urge to make a last-minute change to the hop bill and sling some Magnum in there at 60 mins. I held off until the 10 minute mark to do my first hop addition. I did make one unplanned change though – I decided to do a hop “stand” for 15 minutes at flameout in order to get maximum flavour and aroma plus a little bitterness from the late additions. If it works out, I’ll dispense with the hop stand next time. Sample tastes like it has plenty of bitterness so no worried there. The only problem is that once again, I have misjudged my efficiency because I was doing my sparging in a different way. I topped up a little to just under the 15 litre mark and I had an OG of 1.010! Bit more water into the fermenter so.


Boil Size: 15.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 13.00 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.039 SG
Estimated Color: 7.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 55.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 55.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


  • 2.550 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) 73.8 %
  • 0.340 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 15L (15.0 SRM) 9.8 %
  • 0.225 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) 6.5 %
  • 0.225 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) 6.5 %
  • 0.115 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) 3.3 %
  • 0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
  • 10 g Citra [14.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 6.7 IBUs
  • 10 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 5.5 IBUs
  • 15 g Citra [14.80 %] – Boil 1.0 min, 7.3 IBUs
  • 15 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 1.0 min, 6.5 IBUs
  • 15 g Citra [14.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 15 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 1 pkg Safale US-05
  • 15 g Citra [14.80 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
  • 15 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs


18/03/2013 – Dry-hopped with 15g of Simcoe and 15g of Citra. Beer has completely fermented and yeast has flocced out. Coincidentally, I also picked up several bottles of “Dead Pony Club” today, but I have tasted them yet. How will the “clone” stand up against it?!

22/03/2013 – Bottled using 85g dextrose. Nightmare bottling session (along with Black Widow stout) where it took an absolute age to siphon into bottling bucket. Due to the huge amount of trub in the primary FV. I’ll have too look into some way of removing trub now that I’m mashing much larger amounts of grain. Still happy to get 24 bottles from the batch. Saved a thin yeast slurry into two flasks.

03/03/2013 – First taste and all I can say is “wow”! You’d never think this was such a low ABV beer – plenty of body and decent head retention. Absolutely bags of tropical and grapefruit flavours. It’s perhaps lacking a little character in the malt department so I might increase the Munich and/or biscuit malt next time. Or perhaps use some crystal 40 instead of the CaraMalt, for a little more character. The crystal sweetness might be a little too prominent for such a low level of bitterness, I’m not sure. I think the recipe needs further tweaking, but I’d be inclined to increase the bitterness slightly rather than reduce the amount of crystal malt which will affect the nice mouth-feel the beer has.

I’ll be doing a side-by-side comparison with Dead Pony Club in a few days; maybe even a blind tasting with my “chief taster”! 🙂

04/03/2013 – Here’s the adjustments I’m going to do on this beer next time:

0.275 kg Crystal 40, 0.225 kg Cara-Pils, 0.3 kg Munich Malt, 0.15 kg Biscuit Malt

I’ve reduced the crystal malt just slightly and used a higher lovibond crystal. I’ll also increase the IBU slightly to 30.

11/04/2013 – As has happened in the past, I’m now in two minds about this beer. I had a bottle last night and while I still think it’s a decent beer, it’s definitely a little one-dimensional in terms of malt complexity. Lacking flavour. The trouble is, I don’t know if it can be fixed by increasing the amount of specialty malts. I suspected it was because of the low gravity, but there are lots of low-gravity beers out there that pack a punch in terms of flavour. Perhaps the neutral US-05 is the wrong yeast to use in a beer like this. I could increase the amount of Munich and biscuit malts, but who knows what I’d end up with then. The only way to know is by re-brewing this with the Crystal 40 instead of the CaraMalt, and adjusting the Munich and biscuit. The hop character is great. I’m also in two minds about the bitterness level aswell. On further tasting, I think the bitterness might be spot-on for the gravity. I’ll do the side by side tasting with “Dead Pony Club” at the weekend in an attempt to improve the recipe. I’m not really aiming for a clone here, but I want to see how the various elements of my beer (malt flavour, bitterness, mouth-feel) stack up against a well-regarded commercial ale.

12/04/2013 – Appearance: Not much difference in colour, pleasant copper colour. Strange that I managed to get a very similar match on colour without having even seen a picture of Dead Pony Club. I pored two samples of each beer into different sized wine glasses; the sample in the larger glass is showing the clone to be a shade darker. The differences are not so noticeable in the smaller glass. The clone also seems just a little hazier. Pretty happy with appearance.

Aroma: Big difference. The hop aroma is more pronounced in the DPC. And the lack of HBC is also contributing to the aroma differences I’m sure. But the DPC also has a caramel aroma that the clone lacks.

Taste: Tasted clone first; big hop flavor, light-medium body, prominent bitterness. Tasting DPC, there’s more caramel flavor, probably darker crystal malts as I suspected. The aroma of the DPC is much more pronounced than the clone when actually tasting the beer. On further tasting the hop character is quite different – there’s an oily, resiny character to the hops in the DPC that isn’t there in the clone. The hop bitterness seems slightly harsher in the clone.

Mouth-feel: More body in the DPC, but that was to be expected. Gentler carbonation than the clone too.

Overall Impression: Not bad for a first clone attempt, considering I’d never tasted nor seen the original. The DPC is more satisfying – chewier mouth-feel, more malt aroma, more balance between body and bitterness.

PM#9 – Black Widow – Anniversary Stout 2013


Recently, I got the idea of brewing a big beer for consumption in October to celebrate my third year of being a homebrewer. A barleywine is an obvious choice, but I think I prefer the idea of a high-gravity stout which will fall somewhere between a foreign extra stout and an imperial stout. It will be around 8% ABV and I’m planning on using some darker crystal malts which will smoothen out over 8 months aging and should lend the beer some intense vinous flavours. I’ll use a good quantity of roasted barley also which will also mellow into a smooth roastiness during the extended aging period. Hopping will be kept simple with a single bittering addition of Magnum and a large charge of Northern Brewer for flavour. I’ll be targeting a robust bitterness of 55 IBU which will mellow slightly between now and October.

I was planning on using this beer to make my first foray into the world of oak-aging, using an ounce or two of medium-toast American oak chips. But I’ve decided to leave the oak for my next stout, which is going to be a bigger Imperial stout.


Boil Size: 15.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 13.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.082 SG
Estimated Color: 37.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 55.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


2.300 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) 47.0 %
0.275 kg Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) 5.6 %
0.240 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) 4.9 %
0.160 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM) 3.3 %
0.160 kg Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) 3.3 %
0.160 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) 3.3 %
0.400 kg Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM) 8.2 %
14 g Magnum [14.20 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 34.1 IBUs
1.200 kg Light Dry Malt Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0 SRM) 24.5 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
40 g Northern Brewer [9.00 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 16.5 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

Mash Day 04/03/2013 – At the last minute, I decided to increase my gravity to bring this beer up to 8.5% ABV. I mis-calculated with the temperature of the strike water. It was 72°C and after doughing-in it had dropped to 65.5°C. I attempted to put some heat under the small mash pot but I was worried about the grain bag melting on me. I also figured that a more fermentable wort might be a desirable in such a big beer. (Thinking about it now, I’m not sure I’d want this in a big stout. I like them to be pretty chewy.) Let the mash stand for 60 mins anyway. I didn’t stir during the mash.

Brew Day 05/03/2013 – Pretty uneventful brew day, until I measure my OG. I had confidently topped up to the 15 litre mark on one of the large fermenters and took a gravity reading. My OG stood at 1.076 instead of 1.082. Not entirely disastrous but still not what I was shooting for. I’ll likely end up with a beer just under 8% now. The wort looked and smelled great but not the syrupy consistency I expected. Could this be the lower mash temperature? I suspect the drop in mash efficiency was due to the lower temperature mash, but it’s also conceivable that I was off with my volume of top-up water. I think the beer will still be pretty good; it’s hardly likely to be thin in body when it’s 7.8% ABV. But I am concerned that the gravity and body won’t stand up to the extra 10 IBUs I added to compensate for the increased target OG. The sample from the trial jar did not taste hugely roasty either – but there was a huge amount of sweetness there which could have masked it. Fresh sachet of US-05, rehydrated with boiled water.

06/03/2013 – Small layer of kreusen on top this morning. I’m expecting this to be a very volcanic fermentation given the high gravity and the high proportion of roasted malts.

12/03/2013 – Surprised to see the kreusen has completely dropped in this, which is most uncharacteristic for US-05. Maybe I had a bigger pitch rate than I thought? 1 sachet in a 15-litre batch? I’m worried that the recent cold temperatures may have made the yeast drop out. Moved into kitchen to warm up, just in case it has gone to sleep.

13/03/2013 – No activity this morning and it looks and smells like beer. It’s still got a few small bubbles rising to the top, so it looks like it’s fermenting or at least cleaning up. I’ll leave it a few more days and take a gravity reading. If it’s fully fermented out, I’ll probably leave it another week. With such a big OG I don’t want to be rushing this off the yeast.

22/03/2013 – Bottled using 80g dextrose. Got 14 bottles regular stout, 10 bottles of vanilla bourbon stout – each primed with 10ml of vanilla-infused bourbon, and finally two bottles of an experimental stout: bottled aged with chipotle chilli. Each bottle got half a chipotle with the seeds and pith carefully removed.

11/08/2013 – This is actually my second taste of this, and it’s really good. Great caramel and body. Could probably use a touch more roast to balance all that caramel, but the balance is not bad at all. The burnt aftertaste is really nice. It’s quite boozy, but the alcohol isn’t hot or overpowering. Even though it’s at the lower end of the scale of ABV for Russian Imperial Stouts, it certainly drinks like an RIS. It’s got the body and the alcohol presence to push it firmly into the “Imperial” category. Plenty of balancing bitterness there, I just hope there will still be plenty of bitterness for next years competition.

26/08/2013 – Had a bottle of this last night. Didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the last bottle, but that could have been because my palate was shot with several hoppy IPAs. It’s really smooth and caramelly. The alcohol is noticeable but it’s quite smooth also. I’m not sure if the bitterness level is going to stand up to another 6 months aging, but we’ll have to see. I’m planning on opening a bottle of the bourbon version soon too.

28/08/2013 – I was just reading on John Palmer’s online version of “How to Brew” that roasted barley has “less of a charcoal bite to it than does Black Patent”. This might explain why I’m not getting the same lovely burnt toast aftertaste that I got with my Pork Chop Porter, which used black malt.

See here:

06/10/2013 – Even though I planned on “cellaring” this beer for my 3-year anniversary, there’s actually few bottles left. I gave a few of them away and have been periodicaly sampling the odd bottle too. But I do have a couple left with which to toast my 3-year anniversary as a home brewer. The beer did not turn out quite as I hoped; it’s not nearly as roast as I like my big stouts. It also missed it’s gravity by quite a few points and the low mash temperature also means it’s lighter bodied than I’d hoped. Having said that, it’s still a great beer and the alcohols have aged out to the extent that you’d never know this was an 8% beer you were drinking. While the body is relatively light, there is plenty of caramel malts peeking through. It’s very complex, in fact. The bourbon version is also delicious, plenty of vanilla and bourbon flavour showing through, but not overwhelmingly so. I might even push the dosage to 12ml (or even beyond) on subsequent versions of this. I hope to crack open another bottle of this on the 10th!

17/10/2013 – I finally opened a bottle of the Chipotle-aged stout and all I can say is “wow”! A really good result, but I think the level of heat would be too much for most people. You are left in doubt as to what sort of beer this is. There’s a huge smoke flavour from it too, really complex. I’ll definitely do this again, though I might consider reducing the amount of pepper I put in each bottle. I’ll try a quarter of a dried pepper next time and see what that does to the flavour. I can report that the chili stays intact in the bottle which is something I was a little worried about. But it sinks to the bottom of the bottle and easily drops out of the bottle with the beer dregs. It’s a really good experiment to try as you get a second beer out of your batch of stout. And you can experiment with flavours on a bottle by bottle basis. My next stout is going to be bulk-aged with some ancho chilis, along with some other Mexican flavourings to produce a mole stout.


11/01/2014 Pre-competition Tasting – Pours with an impressive, thick head. Aroma is sweet caramel and roast. Not a huge amount of alcohol on the nose. Taste is absolutely fantastic! Roasty and sweet and the level of alcohol is really subdued for a beer that’s almost 8%. Great raisin-fruit flavours in abundance, even though the beer is pretty cold in the glass. Should improve immeasurably as it warms in the glass. Finishes dry. Perfectly balanced after the extended aging period. A definite entry for 2014’s competition, but most definitely in the “Foreign Extra Stout” category, not “Russian Imperial Stout”!

12/01/2014 – Wow! The vanilla-bourbon version has held up extremely well! As happened with the last time I did this treatment to a porter, it has taken on an extraordinary chocolate-like quality. It’s got a real smoothness too, which puts me in mind of an intense coffee-chocolate milkshake. For that reason, I’m going to enter it in the competition as “Five Dollar Shake”. Tastes absolutely fantastic. Very impressive head which lasts very well, a half-finger of dense, mocha-coloured foam. Wonderful. Hope the judges think so.

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