AG#3 – Buckshot Flag Irish Red Ale

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This beer was a bit of “spur of the moment” job. I hadn’t planned on doing an Irish Red this year, but I’d messed up the gravity on my English brown ale due to grain crushing issues and I wanted to do a little practice brew to sort those efficiency problems out.

I’ve done a red ale before and it scored 38/50 in last year’s National Brewing Championships. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the beer, to be honest, but I entered it in the competition regardless just to get the feedback. Even though it scored highly it failed to take a medal, so there’s obviously room for improvement in my recipe.

I’m using the Leann Dearg recipe as a base, but making some changes to the malt bill. There was too much heavy dark crystal flavour and it was making the beer seem overly roasty also. So I’ve replaced the Crystal 100 with Crystal 75 which has a completely different character in the finished beer. I’m also adding a small percentage of amber malt which really accentuates the malty flavours in beer. I’m also adding a significant portion of wheat malt to aid head retention. Of course, this time I’m also using an all-grain recipe with almost four and a half kilograms of Maris Otter.

For yeast, I did consider repitching some of the WLP007 yeast cake from my Penny Lane Brown Ale, but that will probably give an inappropriate level of esters for the style. So I’ll be using a fresh sachet of US-05 which I will be sprinkling straight into the wort. Hops will be East Kent Goldings, just the bittering addition and a small flavour addition at 5 mins.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 25.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 13.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

4.450 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 85.8 %
0.250 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 4.8 %
0.200 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 3.9 %
0.125 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM), 2.4 %
0.100 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM), 1.9 %
0.060 kg Black Barley (Stout) (500.0 SRM), 1.2 %
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 60.0, 23.4 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 5.0, 4.3 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5.185 kg
Mash In           Add 14.52 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 17.05l) of 77.0 C water

Notes

17/11/2013 – Heated strike water to 80°C which had dropped to 75.3°C after transfer to mash tun. Rather than add cold water to reduce the temperature by just one degree, I just stirred vigorously and splashed the water up the sides of the MT a little. This did the trick and dropped the temperature to 74.3°C. Time to dough in.

Added grain and stirred, then took another temperature reading. Settled on a mash temperature of 67°C, which is 1°c less than intended. However, after mashing for 1 hour, I took another reading to check if the temperature had dropped during the course of the mash, and I was surprised to see the thermometer reading 68.1°C! A degree more than I had originally recorded. I must remember to take a few readings at different areas of the MT in future.

Heated sparge water to 85C as I was banking on the grain bed being at 77°C after batch sparging. However, I was slightly off with my measurements as when I took the temperature of the sparge it was at 74.4°C. Not catastrophic, but still slightly off. I left to settle for 10 minutes before running off.

I had just over 25 litres pre-boil gravity but I ended up chucking a little (say half a litre) of my sparge water as I was concerned about having too high a pre-boil volume, as I had last time. For the first time, I took a pre-boil gravity reading and it came out just slightly higher than BeerSmith predicted at 1.044.

After boiling was finished, I had 22 litres post-boil volume and got 19 litres into the fermenter, though I think there was a lot more break material in the fermenter this time. Though I did tilt the boiler slightly at the end of draining. Great to have my efficiency issues mostly sorted, after only 3 brews with my new system. Toasted my success with the last bottle of Von Smaullhausen, not a bad drop considering all the trouble I had with it.

Chilled to 17°C and sprinkled a new packet of US-05 and snapped the lid on before transferring the FV to “Der Fermentationsraum”.

18/11/2013 – Still dark and flat as a pancake when I got up this morning, though in fairness, it had only been 9 hours since pitching. A very small patch of yeast fermenting yeast, I think. Brought the fermenter into the kitchen. Took a temperature reading when I got home from work: 18°C. Just worried about it getting too warm.

19/11/2013 – Took another temperature reading of 18.5°C.

10/12/2013 – Bottled with 110g of dextrose (17l @ 2.5 vol). In actual fact, I got more out of the fermenter than expected, just over 17.5l so will end up with slightly less carbonation than intended. Got 35 bottles from the batch.

18/01/2014 – Got some decent comments about this at a tasting meet the other night. It’s actually much nicer tasting when you drink a full pint of it and can appreciate the colour in a full-sized glass. The colour is not as red as the last Irish Red I did, it’s more “amber verging on red”, but I’m still pleased with it. A very pleasant flavour, though I think slightly more roasted barkey dryness would be appropriate. The amber malt really makes itself known, despite using only 125g in a 19l batch. It really is an awesome grain, but has to be used judiciously in anything that’s not a porter/stout. Head formation is awesome and lasts pretty well to the bottom of the glass. Excellent level of carbonation also.

31/01/2014 – Excellent result, though it could definitely do with another smidge of roasted barley. I’ll probably reduce the amber malt slightly too as it might be just a little too prominent.

12/03/2014 – On side-by-side comparison, the head formation in the O’Haras is surprisingly good, and the homebrew is quite poor for a change. The head formation and retention in this beer is normally pretty good. Must be a grimy glass or something. The first thing that immediately strikes you is that O’Haras is a slight shade darker and much clearer, because it’s filtered obviously. The flavour and body is quite different. Normally, my side-by-side comparisons yield a clear winner, but in this case, I think both beers are equal. The O’Hara’s is a lower gravity beer, which makes it quite refreshing. The homebrew has a lot more body and crystal malt sweetness. The amber malt also lends a massive malt flavour punch which makes it quite different. But still, with the homebrew, you’re left in no doubt that’s an Irish Red you’re drinking. The O’Haras has more roasted barley character that I think is missing in the homebrew. It also has a little chocolatiness which is very pleasant. The homebrew definitely has a more prominent hop bitterness; I might even consider taking this downa notch or two next time.

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