Posts Tagged 'american amber'

AG#31 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale

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This is the fourth time I’ve brewed this beer now, with only minor changes on each re-brew. I love the great balance of malts in it, though it did come out a lot darker than I wanted that last time. I did consider replacing the chocolate malt with pale chocolate (like I did with my American barleywine) but I don’t want to alter the character of the beer too much. I was worried that if I used pale chocolate malt it would simply be there as a colour adjustment, but I want to keep the hint of roast that the chocolate malt provides. So I’m going to use 20% less than last time, so 40g instead of 50g.

I’m going to leave out the massive Citra flameout addition this time and replace it with Centennial. I’m also reducing the alcohol, to make it a bit more sessionable at 6.5%. I’ve also reduced the bittering hops while keeping the same gravity to bitterness ratio. But on this recipe, I’ve also utilised BeerSmith’s ability to calculate IBUs for steep/whirlpool additions, something I normally ignore. This gives me an IBU rating of 61, which will hopefully be enough to balance all that crystal malt.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.92 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.92 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l  
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.062 SG
Estimated Color: 24.5 EBC
Estimated IBU: 61.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

4.900 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 81.1 %       
0.450 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC), 7.5 %        
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC), 3.3 %        
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC), 2.5 %        
0.050 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (236.4 EBC), 0.8 %        
0.040 kg Chocolate Malt (886.5 EBC), 0.7 %        
9 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 22.6 IBUs    
0.250 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 4.1 %        
30 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 8.1 IBUs     
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 12.6 IBUs    
50 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Steep/Whirlpool  10.0, 7.0 IBUs     
50 g Centennial [11.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool, 10.8 IBUs    
25 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs     
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) (400ml yeast slurry from Easy Company)
25 g Cascade [7.8 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
25 g Centennial [11.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs     

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 6.040 kg
Mash In           Add 16.21 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min       

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 18.01l) of 77.0 C water

28/03/2015 Mash Day – Very slow run-off from mash tun for some reason. I screwed up my strike temperature again and got a mash temperature of ~65C.

29/03/2015 – Absolutely chucking it down today, so I had to deploy the parasol on the deck where I do my boil. I used my fine mesh hop bags and got great run off from the boiler. I don’t think this has ever happened before when brewing Big Dawg. Fantastic aroma from the wort.

08/04/2015 – I had my fermenter, siphon, yeast bottles ready to transfer this beer over to secondary and dry-hop when I realised the beer was still fizzing! I did want to get the dry-hopping out of the way, so I ended up leaving the beer in primary and putting the hops into it. I used 60g Cascade pellets. A little more hops than intended because I couldn’t get any hop aroma off it. Though that could be because of the cloud of CO2 on the beer and also a terrific whiff of sulphur, which was a surprise. I’d probably been fermenting this too cold. I have the fermenter in the kitchen now anyway where it’s warm. this should finish off the fermentation nicely and allow good extraction of oils from the dry hops.

09/04/2015 – Checked the fermenter this morning and the sulphur aroma is gone, replaced by a massive blast of hops. [Update: just realised why this damn thing hadn’t finished fermenting! It’s only been in the fermenter for 11 days! I thought it had been in there longer. No matter, the leftover fermentation will drive off  any oxygen present in the hops. Will remove the hops after 5 days and cold crash. I’m not sure yet if I’ll do a secondary. I could also do a second dry-hop stage, but I probably won’t.

13/04/2015 – Removed the bag of hops from the fermenter and moved to a colder room to let any residual yeast settle out.

15/04/2015 – Bottled with 138g corn sugar (18 litres at 2.6 vol). Got 17 x 750ml bottles and 11 x 500ml bottles.

07/05/2015 – I was a bit worried about how this one was going to turn out having reduced the OG significantly, but it’s really good. The flavours are great but the head retention isn’t as good as usual. Beautiful red color, the best it’s ever been – I think I have the level of roasted malt and dark crystal just right in this attempt. The bitterness is a little overwhelming but should fade over the next few weeks. A tasty beer for the summer months ahead.

17/05/2015 – This is tasting terrific. Even though I would have said that the grain and hop bills are entirely different, it tastes remarkably similar to Brewdog’s 5AM Saint, one of my favourite beers of all time. Very tasty stuff. It doesn’t quite taste the same as “regular” Big Dawg, as it’s 1% less alcohol, but a great beer nonetheless. Only a few 750ml bottles left. I must try a session version of this again.

12/08/2015 – I just accidentally happened upon a bottle of this, thinking it was a bottle of California Common. Still very drinkable, lots of bitterness there, and poenty of hop flavour, though not as intense as when first opened. Great beer, but far too much bitterness for the gravity, compared to the original incarnation of Big Dawg.

AG#24 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale

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This is, without a doubt, one of the best beers I’ve done to date. The recipe was a little bit of accident. It was originally intended to be an amber IPA, but it came out darker than I intended and with a lot more dark crystal character than I wanted. It also had far too much residual sweetness to be considered an IPA, a style of beer which is supposed to be reasonably dry and easy to drink. However, the residual sweetness was perfectly balanced by the 70 IBU and beer turned out to be a delicious hoppy monster. I did a re-brew of it last year and it turned out well, but not quite as good as the original. This is my third attempt and my first all-grain version of the recipe, so I have high hopes for it. I hope to get as close to the original by closely watching my mash temperatures and volumes.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 26.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated Color: 25.9 EBC
Estimated IBU: 70.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.1 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

5.800 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 82.9 %
0.450 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC), 6.4 %
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC), 2.9 %
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC), 2.1 %
0.050 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (197.0 EBC), 0.7 %
0.050 kg Chocolate Malt (886.5 EBC), 0.6 %
32 g Magnum [10.70 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 47.5 IBUs
0.300 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 4.3 %
30 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 7.9 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
30 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 14.7 IBUs
60 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
60 g Citra [14.40 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
30 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)  (500ml slurry from Little Dawg)
50 g Centennial [8.0 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge

Total Grain Weight: 6.995 kg
Mash In           Add 18.75 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 15.36l) of 77.0 C water

07/12/2014 – Good brew day, all additions made at the right times. Mashed at 66-67C. Pitched yeast pretty cold as it was so cold outside. The yeast slurry I pitched was pretty rank looking (lots of pellet hops and trub) but I’ve done this before and had no issues. Likewise, I had the same trouble I always have separating the boiled wort from all the hops and break material. But I’ve always had the same problem with this beer and had no problems. Finished just after lunch but seeing fermentation before night fall. Got an OG of 1.070, so 2 points under target.

08/12/2014 – Impressive kreusen on the beer.

15/12/2014 – Fermentation has completely finished and cleared so I started sanitising siphon etc. in order to do racking and dry-hopping – then I realised it’s only been in the fermenter a week!! Will leave it on the yeast for another week. Might do a first dry-hop in the primary.

23/12/2014 – Dry-hopped with 48g of Centennial pellet hops, just because I had them open. Unfortunately I gad some problems with the siphon and I was forced to give up after getting only 15 litres into the secondary fermenter. Great nose off the beer.

28/12/2014 – Bottled with 99g of corn sugar (15 litres at 2.5 vol). Got 9 x 500ml and 12 x 750ml bottles from the batch.

25/01/2015 – I’d better post a tasting update on this before it’s all gone! Really delicious, as always. There’s little roasted flavour coming through, but it’s a little bit darker than I want it. I think I’ll cut the chocolate malt down by 25% next time. It’s currently more brown than amber. The hop flavour is a tiny bit grassy still, but that will dissipate. Great aroma and very good head retention. The topical flavours of the Citra are definitely poking through on both aroma and flavour. Might a little more carbonation.

11/02/2015 – Down to the last few bottles of this and it tastes amazing. Definitely a shade too dark. Will use a bit less chocolate malt next time. Hopping is great, but might substitute Citra with something different next time too, like Amarillo or Centennial.

AG#22 – Little Dawg Amber Ale

American amber ale has always been one of my favourite styles of beer, with Brewdog’s 5am Saint, one of the first hoppy craft beers I tried and my favourite for a long time. I tried to make several clones of this beer and had a reasonable level of success with my “Pie-O-My” ale. I also made a very decent version using a kit hack. As good as the attempts were, they were never quite good enough. So for this amber ale, I’m changing my approach and doing a scaled down version of my Big Dawg recipe, one of the best beers I’ve ever done. It has plenty of crystal malt for body and flavour, an insane amount of Cascade and Summit hops, and just a touch of dark crystal and chocolate malts to enhance the colour and the flavour of the beer. I know the balance of malts is excellent and provides a great malty base to layer hop flavours on.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 25.38 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 25.8 EBC
Estimated IBU: 39.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

4.300 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 81.1 %
0.400 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC), 7.5 %
0.200 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC), 3.8 %
0.150 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (3.9 EBC), 2.8 %
0.150 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC), 2.8 %
0.050 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (236.4 EBC), 0.9 %
0.050 kg Chocolate Malt (886.5 EBC), 0.9 %
7 g Summit [17.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 17.8 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
50 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 9.2 IBUs
25 g Summit [17.00 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 12.7 IBUs
50 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
50 g Citra [15.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
30 g Summit [17.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
40g Citra [15.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5.300 kg
Mash In           Add 14.84 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 16.35l) of 77.0 C water

Brew Day 16/11/2014 – An uneventful brew day, but started a lot later in the day than usual. I do prefer kicking these things off as early in the day as possible. The wort was a lovely colour, sort of copper/mahogany. Wort was very clear also. The only problem was the huge amount of hop material in the boiler. I had bought new hop bags which have a really fine mesh, thinking they were going to hold all of the hop pellet material. I was using all pellet hops today. But they didn’t hold much more than the regular muslin bags! I did notice that when I opened the Citra hops that they went to mush straight away. But I’ve frozen pellet hops before and they remained intact when thawed. Naturally, I got a shitload of hop and break material in the fermenter. I also got a lower volume, which seems to be happening more and more. I think its because I’m boiling with two elements more often now and getting more evaporation, but I’m getting reasonably accurate OG readings. My post-boil volume is a little less than it should be. This all points to problems with my efficiency and a need to increase my evaporation rate in BeerSmith. Pitched yeast about 7pm.

17/11/2014 – Early signs of fermentation in the bucket, despite the cold temperature in the room. Wort smells amazingly hoppy.

24/11/2014 – Fermentation almost finished, but will leave another week until the yeast fully drops before racking and dry-hopping with some Cascade.

30/11/2014 – Racked to secondary fermenter and dry-hopped with 40g of Citra pellets. I’d planned on using Cascade, more in line with the original Big Dawg recipe, but I had the open bag of Citra, and I thought it would be nice to ring the changes, given that I’ll be doing a batch of Big Dawg before the end of the week anyway. The beer was really clear for such a heavy hopping rate. I did something slightly different with the hop bag this time given that I was alarmed by how fine the hop particles in the Citra when i used them in the boiler. I boiled the hop bag as normal, then sanitised in star san and weighted the bag with marbles. I then secured the bag with a sanitised bag clip. I saved two flasks of yeast slurry, but it looked pretty grim, with lots of green hop material.

05/12/2014 – Bottled 3 x 500ml bottles and kegged the rest. There was only about 16 litres of beer in total, because I got slightly less than volume than usual. Great aroma and colour. Can’t wait to get this carbed and ready for drinking, hopefully just in time for Christmas. I haven’t done a really hoppy beer in months.

AG#5 – “Pie-O-My” Amber Ale

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This is my fourth attempt at my American amber ale, “Pie-O-My”. I don’t think I’ve done any beer style before that has always fallen so far of the mark. My previous attempts have always tasted closer to a pale ale at the amber end of the spectrum, rather than a fully-fledged, caramelly amber ale. Though I’m not really one for doing clone recipes, I suppose what I’ve been shooting for is something like Brewdog’s “5am Saint”. It was one of the first American-style ales I tasted and more than any other beer is probably the one that got me started with craft beer and home brewing.

This recipe attempt has some dark caramel malts (just 125g of crystal 100) in addition to the last grain bill I used. I’ve also used some more wheat malt this time. Plus, this attempt will be fully all-grain.

I’ll be hopping things up fairly aggressively – using a lot of Amarillo, Columbus & Nelson Sauvin. They’re expensive hop varieties, but I want to emulate that 5am Saint taste. I’ll also be doing two separate dry-hops, using Cascade, Centennial, Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe.

Recipe

Boil Size: 25.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 15.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

3.950 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 68.4 %
0.500 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 8.7 %
0.400 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 6.9 %
0.400 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM), 6.9 %
0.250 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 4.3 %
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 2.6 %
0.125 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM),  2.2 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
20 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 4.7 IBUs
20 g Nelson Sauvin [12.30 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 6.7 IBUs
10 g Columbus [15.90 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 4.8 IBUs
20 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 3.9 IBUs
20 g Columbus [15.90 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 7.9 IBUs
20 g Nelson Sauvin [12.30 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 5.6 IBUs
20 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Amarillo [7.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Columbus [15.90 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Columbus [15.90 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Nelson Sauvin [12.30 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Nelson Sauvin [12.30 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale US-05 (400ml of slurry from November Irish Red Ale)
20 g Cascade [6.90 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
20 g Centennial [10.00 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
25 g Nelson Sauvin [12.30 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
50 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5.775 kg
Mash In           Add 16.17 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 15.99l) of 77.0 C water

16/12/2013 Brew Day – Largely uneventful brew day but I came in 3 points under-gravity again. I think the boil-off volume is not as high as was configured in my BeerSmith, so I’ll have to reduce that slightly and see if it makes a difference. The mash water was 78.7°C after transfer to mash tun so I had to cool that down by lifting jugs of the water out of the MT and pouring it back in. Took a few minutes, but I settled on a strike temperature of 74.5°C. After doughing in, the mash temperature was at 67°C, a degree lower than I was shooting for. I screwed up my sparge water temperature yet again! The water measured 92°C in the boiler and I put the lid on a left a few mins while I got my first runnings. When I transferred the water for batch sparging, the temperature of the grain bed was only at 73.5°C, not the 77°C I wanted.

The Nelson Sauvin hops smelled amazing and are very reminiscent of BrewDog beers. It was great fun weighing out those huge hop additions. I allowed 60g of the three hop varieties to stand for nearly 10 minutes before starting the chiller and then added another 60g once the temperature of the cooling wort had hit 80°C. My new dial thermometer, which had been in the boil all along, came in really handy for this.

I had some serious difficulties draining the boiler with all that hop pellet material. The wort was barely trickling out and had completely blocked up the bazooka screen when it got to the 10 litre mark. I was forced to scrape the bazooka screen with a paddle to keep the wort flowing out of the boiler. In the end I got 19l of horrible murky wort with far too much break material in it. I hope it won’t have an effect on the flavour. It was a good job I’d decided to run the wort off into a sieve as it was full of crud.

I brought the bucket straight to the fermentation room as it’s colder in there and I want the American ale yeast to be very clean on this beer. Big fermentation going on this morning when I checked. The smell from the fermenter is great. Will leave two weeks before dry-hopping. I might even do a transfer to secondary this time so that I can re-use the yeast in an IPA.

22/12/2013 – Kreusen has dropped completely though there’s still a bit of bubbling going. Dry-hopped with 20g of Cascade and 20g of Centennial. The hops didn’t smell particularly aromatic but I used them anyway. I’ll dry-hop for about 5 days before removing the hop bag and replacing with a fresh dry-hop.

27/12/2013 – I need the yeast from this batch for a pale ale/IPA that I’m planning on doing in a couple days. I racked to a secondary fermenter (it’s been ages, years, since I employed a secondary) and I did a fresh dry hop of 25g Nelson Sauvin and and 50g of Simcoe. That brings this batch of beer up to 345g of hops! I hope it’s worth it. I’ll leave the beer for another 5 days before bottling.

28/12/2013 – I had a taste yesterday from the trial jar. While it was very promising, it had a very sharp, harsh, resiny bitterness that had me worried for a moment. I’ve figured it’s just the dry-hop and those flavours will settle out as the beer conditions.

01/01/2014 – Bottled with 125g of dextrose (17l at 2.7 vol). Even at this early stage, the taste of the beer is absolutely amazing. Huge fruity hops. The colour and malt profile are absolutely spot-on. Very like 5am Saint. It’s a bit resiny, but you’d expect that after just pulling a huge sack of hops out of it. Got 10 x 750ml bottles and 17 x 500ml bottles (gold cap).

18/01/2014 – Not very long in the bottle, but I fancied something hoppy and couldn’t resist opening a bottle. Really good. Certainly as close to 5am as I’ve ever been. From memory, the grain character is spot-on and the hops even more so. Though I think the original is fruitier and mine is more dank. This is probably down the Columbus hops I used, which 5am does not have. The grassiness will age out though, and this should taste amazing in a few weeks time. Might row back just slightly on the C100 next time. Very promising. The dry-hop character is absolutely perfect.

22/02/2014 – Not too sure how close it is. I’ve got a cold at the moment, and my smellers and tasters are a little out of whack. That didn’t stop me trying to do a side-by-side tasting with 5am Saint. The first thing that strikes you is how clear the 5am is compared to the homebrewed version. The aroma in the 5am is not as dank as my version either. The same goes for the flavour, more fruitiness in the 5am Saint, and a lot less of that grassy character. Don’t get me wrong the home brew is still pretty damn good, but it still doesn’t compare to the homebrewed version. One thing that struck me about the commercial beer was the clean, grainy flavour in it. I’ve tasted this grain character in Galway Hooker before, and that uses an English C60 malt. I think I’ll replace the C75 with the C60 (not a huge difference in colour, I know, but it’s likely to be from a different maltster). I’ll also have to omit the Columbus hops this time, as they are surely contributing to the dank, grassy character in the “Pie-O-My”.

07/03/2014 – Colour-wise, there’s not much in it, with the homebrew half a shade darker. The 5am is a little bit more red in colour and unlike the homebrew which is a good deal murkier. Great head formation in both. With the Pie O My there’s a bit of dankness, cattiness even, creeping through on the aroma. The flavour whos huge differences between the beers, with the 5am being fruitier. The Pie has a lot more body and sweetness, but you’d expect that as there’s 0.8% more alcohol in the home brew. More fruit flavours in the 5am. It’s funny, I have fond memories of the way 5am Saint used to be and if you gave me both beers in a blind tasting, I might even say that the home brew was in fact, 5am Saint. In my memory, 5am is more caramelly and hoppy than it currently is. I do think the recipe has changed considerably over the last few years.

PM#15 – “Pie-O-My” Amber Ale

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There’s always a new recipe to try. A new hop or yeast strain to experiment with. For that reason, I don’t do a lot of “re-brews” – tweaking recipes of previously brewed batches. It’s definitely something I want to address because I think tweaking recipes will really improve my skills as a home brewer.

I have a big glut of American hops at the moment so I was thinking of a strong, heavily-hopped American IPA or pale ale. But I’ve had really good results with my pale ales lately and there’s one style of beer which I still haven’t managed to reproduce – the American amber. I’ve done two example in the past, “The Hopinator” and “Pie-O-My“. Both beers were lacking the smooth mouthfeel and luscious caramel flavours that are prevalent in my favourite examples of the style. They were also too bitter, so I’m going to be watching my IBUs very carefully this time.

I’ll be re-brewing the “Pie-O-My” recipe, but using elements of the first amber recipe I did, such as the Munich and wheat malts. I also want to get some elements of the “Big Dawg Imperial Amber” like the satisfying mouthfeel, but without the high ABV. I’ll be increasing the crystal malts by a considerable amount to get that caramel flavour and residual sweetness. For hopping, I’ll be scaling back the hops to 35 IBU and starting the chiller at flameout instead of leaving the flameout additions to stand for 15 mins before chilling. I suspect that I was getting a lot of extra bitterness from this technique and it’s too unreliable for a moderate gravity/bitterness beer. For flavour and aroma, I’ll use the same amount of Amarillo, but I might sub the Centennial for Simcoe, as I have plenty of Simcoe and I want to use it while it’s fresh. Simcoe and Amarillo are supposed to be an excellent combination.

I’ll be rolling over the US-05 yeast cake from the Monkey Feet Pale Ale so a quick and clean fermentation will be assured. Then, I’ll probably re-use the yeast from this beer to re-brew the medal-winning Big Dawg Imperial Amber.

Recipe

Boil Size: 16.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 14.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 19.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 15.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 35.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

1.300 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 32.5 %
0.500 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM), 12.5 %
0.400 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 10.0 %
0.400 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM), 10.0 %
0.200 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 5.0 %
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 5.0 %
6 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 30.0 min, 6.1 IBUs
1.000 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0  Dry Extract), 25.0 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
25 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 13.2 IBUs
20 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 6.7 IBUs
25 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 8.2 IBUs
25 g Cascade [7.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
30 g Simcoe [13.20 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Mash & Brew Day 15/06/2013 – Target OG was spot-on at 1.051. I was a bit worried about my efficiency with all that specialty malt. Would it affect my normal 65% efficiency? Sample from the trial jar is already telling me that the colour is lighter than expected. I also don’t get the dark crystal quality I was after. I might have to replace the C75 with C100, or at least a portion of it. There’s a lot of sweetness in the sample obviously and a worry lack of bitterness, but I’m sure most of the sweetness will ferment out as always and leave the bitterness more obvious.

17/06/2013 – Looks like I’ve had a really fast fermentation! Most of the kreusen has already dropped. Will leave to settle for at least another week and I’ll get it in the bottle.

21/06/2013 – Dry-hopped with 30g of freshly-opened Simcoe. Will bottle in the next 5-7 days.

27/06/2013 – Bottled with 125g of glucose and got 32 bottles from the batch. I got a bit of a shock when I saw something unusual floating on top of my fermented beer. It looked different from yeast, almost waxy or flaky. I had to stop and consider what to do when I took a sample for tasting – I got a pretty sharp flavour and I immediately thought ‘acetobacter’. It has been pretty warm for the last couple of weeks so I wasn’t that surprised. There was no vinegar smell, just a great smell of fruity hops. After leaving the sample to stand for a while I went back and had two separate tastes and didn’t get the ‘off’ flavour. Funnily enough, I got a slight vinegar flavour from initial samples of the last American amber I did also. I think I’m now reasonably confident that there’s no infection there, but I’ll give it a month in the bottles before checking. I was planning on saving the yeast slurry but didn’t think it was worth the risk, so I chucked it. I can tell already that the flavour is not where I want it – I think I’ll need more darker crystal malt in there.

26/08/2013 – I’ve had quite a few bottles of this now, and it’s not bad. I’m pleased to report that there doesn’t seem to be an infection there. Though at times, I wonder if I do pick up a slight astringency. The body is too light – it needs lots more residual sweetness and dark crystal malt malt character. My next attempt at this is going to have nearly 25% crystal malt! The hop character is good – very, very fruity. So fruity in fact, that sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a little Belgian yeast character in there. Hop fruit flavours, or a hot fermentation? In any case, I’ve decided that the combination of Amarillo and Simcoe is not doing it for me. I’m going to give these hops a wide berth for the next couple of brews and see if I have better luck.

30/08/2013 – I got some really overwhelmingly positive comments on this at a meet last night. When I suggested a few ways in which I intended to improve the beer (more crystal, more hops), I was told “don’t change a thing”. Nice comments to get, but I’m not happy with either the grain bill or the hop bill. Next time I’m thinking 450g C15, 450g C40 and 200g C100. I’m unsure about the C100 addition, whether 200g might be too much, but I’ll research it in the meantime. The hop bill needs something more pungent in there, to balance all that fruit from the Simcoe and Amarillo. I’m thinking of big charges of Columbus, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin in the kettle and then chuck the kitchen sink at it in terms of dry hops.

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.

PM#8 – “Pie-O-My” Amber Ale

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It’s New Year’s Day and I’ve already got two brews done for 2013! I was feeling very pleased with myself after getting my second BIAB bitter in the fermenter and I had a quiet house, so I decided to do a partial mash American ale. It was all very “spur of the moment”, both in the planning and the execution. I decided it was time for another stab at an American Amber Ale. My last attempt didn’t go so well due to missing my target OG by 4 points! As such, what should have been a luscious, caramelly beer turned out thin, overly bitter and weak in flavour. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on myself. It wasn’t too unpleasant to drink, but it took me a lot longer to get through the 19 litres than I expected.

So I’ve decided go for a slightly different style of amber/red this time. Instead of relying on dark crystal malts to give colour and flavour, I’m going to do a beer which is more typical of an American pale ale, but I’m going to use a small charge (70g) of pale chocolate malt to give a nice hue to the beer. I’ve not used pale chocolate malt before so I’m not sure whether what colour this is going be when it’s in the glass. Flavour-wise, I want a hint of roasty character, but not too much. I’m using a mix of light and medium crystal malts and a decent portion of biscuit malt. In my haste, I forgot to add something like CaraPils or wheat malt to aid head retention. My last few beers have included malts like these and I’ve been very pleased with the results. However, there is a full pound of crystal in this so I’m not expecting any issues with body or head retention.

I recently got my grubby mitts on some 2012 Amarillo and Centennial so generous additions of these hops will provide the flavour and aroma for this beer. I’ll use a small addition of Columbus for bittering. I’ll be shooting for 40 IBU and watching the AA rating on my hops closely this time.

Recipe

Boil Size: 12.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 10.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 20.00 l
Bottling Volume: 20.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 12.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 39.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

1.600 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
0.250 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 15L (15.0 SRM)
0.200 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM)
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)
0.070 kg Pale Chocolate Malt (300.0 SRM)
0.500 kg Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)
10 g Columbus [14.20 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 19.7 IBUs
1.100 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0  SRM)
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
25 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 7.1 IBUs
25 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 8.5 IBUs
25 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
25 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
30 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days
30 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days

01/01/2013 – My quiet house inevitably turned to chaos during the brew and the concentration started to lapse – I forgot the late addition of malt extract and only realised my error with one minute left in the boil. I had a choice – add the extract and boil for another 10 minutes (which would extract a lot more bitterness out of my high-alpha flavour hops) or add the extract at flameout and risk an infection with extract that isn’t fully sanitised. I decided to add the extract and keep it on the heat for a couple of minutes (it never came back up to boil). Adding the extract to boiling wort surely killed any nasties in there and I didn’t want an overly bitter beer.

I got an OG of 1.052 when topped up to just under the 20 litre mark. Pitch the dry yeast directly into the fermenter, as the brew day had been long enough at that point with the hassle of rehydrating yeast.

All in all, an unsatisfactory brew day. There’s nothing wrong with the recipe per se, but it wasn’t the recipe I actually wanted to do. My forgetting to add the late extract could have been partly due to the fact that my last two brews have been BIAB/AG and I haven’t needed to carry out this step. I think I’ve been bitten by the all-grain bug as the BIAB method I used just seemed really simple. A full-size boiler and the move to all-grain beckons it seems.

11/01/2013 – Dry-hopped with 60g of hops. I jammed the floating hop bag down to the bottom of the fermenter using a sanitised paddle. I think this might be my biggest dry-hop to date.

20/01/2013 – Bottled with 130g of table sugar. Got 33 bottles from the batch. Cold crashed in the shed for two days before bottling.

09/02/2013 – With only about three weeks in the bottle this is drinking extremely well. I wish I could say the same about my series of BIAB English bitters! The amber ale has a decent hop presence but really only reveals its charms when the beer warms up to “cellar temperature”. It’s like a scaled-down version of the Big Dawg Imperial Amber. It would be good to do a side-by-side comparison but I’m fast running out of bottles of the Big Dawg. I think the next amber ale I do will be following Jamil’s recommended 35 IBUs. The 40 IBU of this beer fights the caramel sweetness just a little too much. I was concerned about having no wheat malt or CaraPils in this beer. Out of habit really, I’ve been including it in most of my recent American ales, but the head formation and retention is great.

18/02/2013 – I think I’ve changed my mind about this. The last couple of bottles I’ve had have been quite bitter, astringent almost. I think the dry-hop might have been too much, even though it falls within the generally accepted guidelines for dry-hopping. It does seem very grassy. I’ll leave another couple of weeks before tasting.

20/02/2013 – I think I’ve figured out the problem with this beer. I think the astringency I’m tasting is actually just hop bitterness. I’ve been doing some reading up on the effects of hop steeping or flameout additions on IBUs. Some people calculate their IBUs using the final kettle addition at the 1-minute mark, even if the hops are only added at flameout. It seems to make sense. A lot of the podcasts I’ve listened to have commercial brewers telling us about the bittering contributions they get from whirlpool additions. As an experiment, I changed the two flameout additions specified in the recipe above (25g Amarillo, 25g Centennial) to 1 minute. The result? The IBUs shot up from 39 to 53!! You are definitely going to taste an extra 14 IBUs in a 1.052 beer with a moderate amount of crystal malt. I think I’ll definitely be doing some further experimentation with this. It seems that the last few pale ales I’ve brewed have been really over-bittered. I’d like to do some playing around with hop-bursting also, adding all of the hops in the last 15 minutes or so, with no traditional bittering addition at 60 minutes.

08/03/2013 – Definitely too bitter but the hop flavour in this is just lovely. Big-ass grapefruit from the Centennial. A decent American Amber Ale is still beyond my reach it seems! Next time I’ll be dropping the IBUs drastically and increasing the crystal malt by 50%.


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