Archive for April, 2013

PM#12 – Yo-leven India Pale Ale

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With the re-brew of Big Dawg Imperial Amber bubbling away thanks to the repitched slurry from Way to Amarillo, I decided on impulse to brew my first attempt at a big West Coast style IPA. I’ll be using the other half of the slurry I saved from Way to Amarillo.

“Yo-leven” is going to be an extreme beer. I copied the Big Dawg recipe and removed the chocolate malt and dark crystal, but I added some Munich for some extra malt character. I upped the bittering hops to give a 1:1 gravity-bittering ratio, even though the massive amount of late hops will probably push this way over the 70 IBU calculated by BeerSmith. I realised that I could easily do 7 or 8 hop additions with different varieties of American hops so I’ll be using Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, Columbus, Summit and Cascade. I originally had a 60 minute addition of Magnum but I removed this as my IBUs were way too high and I wanted to include a 30-minute addition to add a different level of hop flavour. I don’t usually do 30-minute additions, but some people swear by them for the bigger, hoppier styles. 30-minute additions seem to be in a lot of Randy Mosher’s recipes.

The hops are all leaf hops apart from the zero minute additions of Columbus and Summit. This is going to be quite a hop monster!

Recipe

Boil Size: 16.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 14.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.070 SG
Estimated Color: 11.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 69.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2.200 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 52.4 %
  • 0.350 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 8.3 %
  • 0.200 kg Munich Malt (10.0 SRM), 4.8 %
  • 0.160 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM), 3.8 %
  • 0.120 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 2.9 %
  • 24 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Boil 30.0 min, 30.6 IBUs
  • 0.950 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0 SRM), 22.6 %
  • 0.220 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 5.2 %
  • 0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
  • 24 g Amarillo [10.90 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 12.9 IBUs
  • 24 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 11.7 IBUs
  • 24 g Citra [14.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 11.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Columbus [14.20 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
  • 20 g Citra [14.80 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
  • 10 g Amarillo [10.90 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Notes

Mash Day 19/04/2013 – Prepared 17 litres of water using half a crushed campden tablet. Decanted 6 litres into separate pot for sparging. Sparged in 15 litre FV. Mashed at 66-68°C. Wort is light coloured.

Finally got around to calibrating one of my 5 gal fermenters using a jug and weighing scales. Surprised to see that the 15 litre mark indicated on the FV is actually spot-on! On so many occasions in the past, I’ve blamed my poor mash efficiency on uncalibrated fermenting buckets. At least I know now!

Boil Day 20/04/2013 – Got OG of 1.070 with volume of 14 litres. Happy enough considering there would have been a huge amount of wort loss from the large hop bill. Wort tastes awesome – really, really, really awesome.

24/04/2013 – Fermentation has mostly finished. The yeast has dropped to the bottom of the FV but there’s still plenty of fizzing at the top of the beer. I’ll be giving this 2 weeks in the FV regardless, as it’s such a big beer.

28/04/2012 – Dry-hopped with 20g of Citra and 10g of Amarillo. I’d originally planned on using 30g of Cascade to add another variety to the hop bill, but I’d just bottled a batch of the Big Dawg which has a big Cascade dry-hop and I wanted to try something different.

03/05/2013 – Anticipating a lower volume of beer than the intended 15 litres, I used only 80g of glucose to prime this batch. I got 16 x 330ml bottles (Duvel) and 13 x 500ml bottles. Pretty pleased with that. The aroma from the fermenter was just something else. Serious tropical aroma, reminded me a bit of Odell’s IPA. If it turns out to be even half as good as the Odell’s, I’ll be delighted. Had a taste from the trial jar – wow, it’s bitter! Not out of balance though, I hope. I really can’t wait to crack this one open.

18/05/2013 – A bit naughty drinking this 7.5% ale after only 2 weeks in the bottle. It does seem a little bit young, but certainly not undrinkable. Big hop flavour of course, and big bitterness. It’s a lot darker than I expected. Surprised how little of the Citra comes across, I was expecting a bit of a mango-bomb on this one. I’ll have to leave this alone for another few weeks I think, and see how it changes.

23/05/2013 – Oops, I opened another bottle of this by mistake! Like most of the beers I’m brewing these days, it’s always nice to drink, but never the beer I set out to brew in the first place. I imagined this would be a golden with a massive fruity hop flavour. But in actual fact, it’s much darker/redder than I intended it to be. It’s also got a lot more dank hop character than I expected, and not enough of that citrus-tropical character that I wanted. I’m already thinking of the re-brew of this. A lighter crystal malt and/or omitting the Munich malt will be a good start. I’ll also be replacing the Columbus and/or Summit with something fruitier. Maybe lots of Cascade, Citra or Centennial. I also think I might shave around 10 IBUs off the recipe as it’s coming across quite bitter. But then it’s not even 3 weeks in the bottle. I’ll make that judgement around the 8 week mark. Also, I wouldn’t go as far as saying the alcohol was “hot” in this beer, but the alcohol is definitely more prominent than that in the “Big Dawg”, even though they have the same ABV. Could this be the fermentation temperature? Or do the malts in the Big Dawg hide the alcohol a little better?

02/06/2013 – A month in the bottle and it’s showing a lot of promise – certainly a lot more promising than the last taste I had. It’s strange, but a week in homebrewing is a long time and can make all the difference between an immature beer and something really perfect. It’s definitely too dark in colour, which will mean changes to the grain bill on the next attempt. It’s also got a lot more malt character, which is coming from the Munich malt mostly. I’ll definitely be omitting the Munich and using a mixture of light and medium crystal malts. Hopping is really good, but I definitely want something less dank in there next time. The attenuation/mouthfeel is really good – quite a dry finish. It would probably take a little more residual sweetness from more crystal malt, but I’m not sure about this yet. As I’m planning on upping the gravity next time, I probably won’t want more crystal in there.

10/06/2013 – I’m starting to consider actually reducing the ABV in the re-brew of this beer. The alcohol is quite prominent and I think I’d like to have something a bit easier to drink. I’ve been drinking it out of the 330ml bottles and the smaller bottle is really the most you would want to drink of it. There’s some fantastic malt flavours in it – really complex. The bitterness does seem very high, though not overly off-balance.

23/06/2013 – This has matured into a really good beer. It’s extremely drinkable because of the corn sugar, so you’d drink a couple of pints of it no problem. Though I wouldn’t recommend it, as it packs quite a punch. It’s like an amplified version of every hoppy American ale I’ve ever made. It’s got more bitterness, more fruit, more alcohol, more grass, more pine, more everything. I actually think it could use a little extra caramel malt to balance all that hopping. I might look into some recipes and see how I can increase this without going overboard. I’m also starting to think that leaving it as an Imperial IPA might be the best way to go – that alcohol is really quite prominent, and I think putting this in the American IPA category might see it dinged for having too much alcohol. I still maintain that I want something less dank/piney/grassy and lots more fruit. So the Columbus and Summit have to go next time. As far as optimum bottle conditioning goes, I think 7 weeks is pretty good. Though I think it was tasting pretty good a couple of weeks ago as well.

25/06/2013 – I have it in mind to do a side-by-side comparison with Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA to see how it measures up. This beer was never intended to a clone of said beer but I’m curious to see how “Yo-leven” compares with a commercial Double IPA. Even though there’s massive differences in ABV and hop bill, I might get some valuable pointers on how to approach my next attempt at this. I had a bottle of the homebrew this evening and it had only been in the fridge for 30 mins. As such, it was quite warm – the hot alcohol has diminished and the malt flavours have really rounded out. I’m curious to see how the CaraMalt will work in this recipe.

28/06/2013 – Appearance – Both examples quite cloudy, with the Yo-leven being cloudier. Surprisingly, the HIPA has a lot of yeast floating about in it! I thought all Brewdog beers including the Hardcore were filtered to some extent. Ignoring the haze and general murkiness, both beers a similar shade of orange with the Yo-leven being a shade darker.

Aroma – The Hardcore has a more prominent hop aroma but you can also get a prominent caramel aroma too. Lots of tangerine in the Hardcore. The Yo-leven has a more ‘general’ hoppiness, but this might change as the glasses warm up.

Taste – As you’d expect, the alcohol is much more prominent in the Hardcore. There’s a very big flavour of tangerines from the Hardcore, which reminds me of odells IPA. A great flavour, I don’t know which hop is contributing this flavour – unfortunately I’ve never been able to get this flavour into my beer, no matter which American hops I’ve used. The Brewdog website lists the hop varieties as Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe. And it’s definitely not the Columbus that’s contributing this flavour. By a strange coincidence, I happen to all of those three varieties in abundance at the moment.

Mouthfeel – The hardcore is fuller bodied and is an altogether more sugary affair. I’m starting to think this isn’t really a worthwhile comparison as they’re two completely different styles of beer.

Overall Impression – Overall, this was a fairly futile side-by-side comparison. When compared with Hardcore IPA, the “Yo-leven” is deinfitely within the designated IPA style guidelines. It’s drier, and more easy-drinking. I think if I’m to make Yo-leven into an Imperial IPA I’ll need to up the gravity, up the crystal malt and maybe omit the corn sugar.

03/07/2013 – I think I’m down to my last bottle of this. It’s such a fantastic drop. I think it’s definitely loitering between the territories of IPA and DIPA. It’s got lots more of that tangerine-citrus flavour that’s in a lot of my favourite IPAs, like Odells. It’s still quite grassy and piney, so I need to dial this back a bit.

Yo-leven vs Sierra Nevada Torpedo

19/07/2013 – After getting some feedback that my beer was similar to Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, I decided to do another side-by-side comparison with my second last bottle. The verdict is this:

Appearance – The Sierra Nevada looks the more attractive beer – a fantastic copper colour with great clarity for such a big beer. The Yo-leven is considerably darker, almost approaching chestnut colour with some copper overtones. Head formation and lacing is much more impressive in the Yo-leven however, and lasts all the way to the bottom of the glass, unlike the Torpedo.

Aroma – The Yo-leven has a very different hop aroma – understandable given the much different hop bills, but the aroma is much fresher than the commercial beer. It’s probably a younger beer though. Unfortunately, Sierra Nevada does not include manufacturing dates on their beers, but it’s well over a year to it’s BB date. A good score on the aroma front as far as I’m concerned.

Taste – The Torpedo has a fantastic grainy flavour, not much tropical fruit flavours coming across despite the alleged use of Citra hops. It’s more toffee-like. The biggest difference is the massive hop bitterness of the Torpedo, perhaps more prominent due to the lighter body? The Yo-leven is much more dank and grassy but with lots of accompanying hop fruitiness. The hops are more complex in the the Yo-leven, but the grain flavours in the Torpedo and more complex. Huge hop flavour in the Yo-leven, a much hoppier beer in general. The Yo-leven has more dark caramel flavour, not as toffee-like as the Torpedo, but it seems maltier. Great grapefruit flavour in the Torpedo.

Mouthfeel – The Torpedo is lighter in body, and much drier even there’s only around 0.3% difference in ABV. Despite the prominent toffee-caramel flavours in the Torpedo, the Yo-leven still seems more caramelly. Surprisingly gentle carbonation in the Torpedo; the Yo-leven is just slightly more lively.

Overall Impression – My opinion hasn’t changed from previous tastings of this. The Torpedo has definitely reinforced my opinion that I need to reduce the colour and soften those malt flavours a bit. The hop flavours are amazing, but still less fruity than I had hoped for. I’m also thinking of leaving the bitterness where it is at 70 IBU. After two months of aging, the bitterness has faded considerably.

Franciscan Well IPA

27/07/2013 – Finally a taste comparison with a beer that is exactly the same ABV as the Yo-leven.

Appearance – Gentle pour on both samples. Yo-leven has slightly better head formation. Both samples served in identical glasses and both very hazy. Franciscan Well IPA is a shade (or two) darker than the Yo-leven.

Aroma – Superior hop aroma coming from the Yo-leven. The Franciscan Well’s hop aroma is there but it’s not very strong. Dark malt aromas, maybe even a bit of chocolate malt creeping through?

Flavour – Definitely roasted malt flavour from the Franciscan Well and some nice hop flavour. Very dark caramel notes in the flavour which puts me in mind of an American amber. Plus there’s something about the bitterness – it’s a little too aggressive and I don’t think it works well with the dark crystal/roasted malts. The alcohol in the Franciscan Well is very balanced, no hot alcohols there. For a single-hopped Citra IPA I would be expecting a lot more tropical fruit flavours than are going on here. Yo-leven has a much bigger hop flavour and more light caramel flavours. Yo-leven also has a better balance of bitterness and residual sweetness. Once again, the dank and grassy notes of the Yo-leven come to the fore. As the glass warms, the Franciscan Well is becoming overwhelmingly yeasty, despite a very careful pour. A bit young, perhaps?

Mouthfeel – The Franciscan Well is surprisingly light-bodied for the high gravity.

Overall Impression – These two beers are definitely in the same ball park! Similar mouthfeel and level of hopping, with the Franciscan being drier and the Yo-leven with more hop character. Both excellent beers, however I would not see either of them going down well stateside. The American IPAs I’ve tasted don’t have that dark crystal thing going on. Franciscan Well have taken things a little further with the addition of some form of roasted malts, probably chocolate malt. This is just inappropriate for a beer styling itself as an American IPA. If someone handed me this beer I might even wonder if it was a heavily-hopped American barleywine that undershot it’s gravity. A very enjoyable beer but doesn’t live up to it’s IPA billing and it just doesn’t have the distinctive Citra character it should have.

PM#11 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale

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It’s funny. I had a blog post all ready to go about how I was going to make improvements to my “Big Dawg Amber IPA” – to lighten the colour, reduce the bitterness, increase the attenuation etc. Well, it’s supposed “flaws” drove me to re-designate the amber IPA to “Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale” as the dark malt flavours made it seem much more like a super-charged American amber. I entered it in the “Specialty” category of Ireland’s first national homebrewing competition where it scored a very respectable 40 points and took the bronze medal in that category. While I’m sure there’s still room for improvement, it seems a bit silly to go tinkering with the recipe now. Here, for posterity is how I was planning to turn the recipe around to make it more like an IPA:

  • I’ll be omitting the Crystal 100 altogether. Even though there’s only a small amount of this grain, I think the heavy caramel flavour comes through and I don’t think it’s appropriate here.
  • I do still want this to be an “amber” IPA, but I’m going to be much more conservative with the colour adjustments this time. I’ll sub the chocolate malt with the pale variety and use half the amount.
  • I’ll be reducing the Crystal 40 to 150g but adding 200g of Crystal 15. This will lighten the colour considerably I hope.
  • I’ll be upping the amount of base malt to 2kg, up to the limit of my mash pot capacity. Instead of taking the easier option by drastically increasing the amount of corn sugar in an attempt to dry out the beer, I’m going to try to achieve this by decreasing the mash temperature. I’ll be aiming for 65C. However, I’ll also be increasing the amount of corn sugar slightly from 180g to 250g.
  • The hop schedule will stay the same as the hop flavour and aroma is fantastic. I’ll be shooting for the same level of IBU aswell, even though I’ll have less residual sweetness in the beer. Hopefully it will work out. I’m going to aim for 7 days of dry-hopping this time.

There’s a lot of merit in these changes I think and they will prove useful when I get around to actually doing an amber IPA again.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to do a re-brew of Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale, an exact copy if I can. I got some feedback from the judge in the competition who said that it was just slightly too bitter for the gravity. I went back and looked at my recipe and realised the AA rating on my Summit hops was incorrect. When I adjusted the AA, the IBUs in the beer climbed to 72.5. So I’ll be paying close attention to my hops this time and I’ll also be reducing the IBUs to around 67. I also want to reduce the carbonation ever so slightly, as the beer was just a bit too lively.

Recipe

Boil Size: 16.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 14.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.071 SG
Estimated Color: 16.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 66.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2.200 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 52.5 %
  • 0.350 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 8.4 %
  • 0.160 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM), 3.8 %
  • 0.120 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 2.9 %
  • 0.039 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM), 0.9 %
  • 0.039 kg Chocolate Malt (530.0 SRM), 0.9 %
  • 10 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 34.1 IBUs
  • 1.100 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0), 26.3 %
  • 0.180 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 4.3 %
  • 0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 8.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 16.4 IBUs
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 5.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 1.0 pkg Safale Fermentis US-05
  • 28 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Notes

16/04/2013 Mash Day – Mashed at 67-68°C.

17/04/2013 Boil Day – Nothing much to report. Used my 15 litre fermenter to sparge. Didn’t bother taking an OG reading.

24/04/2013 – Dry-hopped with 28g of Cascade leaf hops. I used my new marbles to weigh down the hop bag! I used 300g of marbles which was over half the bag, but it still didn’t make the bag sink. I guess I’ll be going for the full bag of marbles next time. Surprising for such a small dry hop. I’ll give this 4-5 days before bottling – depends on when suits best to do my bottling.

28/04/2012 – Bottled with 85g of glucose. The beer was a total of 11 days in fermenter,  just one day less than the first batch. Had no problems with clogged siphon this time and I got 12 x 750ml swingtop bottles and 8 x 500ml regular bottles. Fantastic hop aroma from the dry-hopped Cascade.

18/05/2013 – Pretty good, but it still tastes a little young as it’s not even 3 weeks in the bottle. Will give it another 2 or 3 weeks. Definitely the same beer I brewed before, but the darker crystal malts need a little more aging. Looking good though.

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21/09/2013 – Comparison with Brewdog 10 Heads High – I was very excited to see a few weeks ago that Brewdog had not only released what they were calling an “Imperial Amber Ale”, but that it was 7.5% ABV, the same as “Big Dawg”. I snapped up a bottle as soon as I saw it in my local offie.

Appearance – The Brewdog beer is a definite shade darker than the Big Dawg. Much better head formation and retention in the home brew. Huge globs of yeast in the Brewdog bottle. Please, oh please Brewdog, tell us when your beers are bottle conditioned rather than filtered. This is the third time this has happened to me with BD bottles. We seasoned Brewdog drinkers are just not used to unfiltered beer from yourselves. Sort it out.

Aroma – A little stronger in the Brewdog. Aroma is of dark caramel and tangerine fruitiness. The Big Dawg is quite old at the moment though, and is likely to have lost much of it’s aroma.

Taste – The first difference that hits you is the whack of roasted malt in the Brewdog. That’s not present in the Big Dawg. The difference in hop character is not huge but the Brewdog has slightly more residual sweetness, perhaps lots of that CaraMalt that Brewdog likes using in a lot of their beers.

Mouthfeel – the mouthfeel is pretty much the same in both beers, as is the level of carbonation.

Overall Impression – my chief taster, in a blind taste test, preferred the Big Dawg and pointed out the “smoky” note in the Brewdog which is the roasted malts I referred to earlier. I quite agree, the Big Dawg trumps the pro beer just slightly, though I’d love to taste both beers with a little less age on them.

That’s the last bottle of Big Dawg. I’ll definitely be doing many rebrews of this beer. Excellent.


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