BIAB#4 – Downtown Train Pale Ale

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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.

Recipe

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Notes

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.

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