Sunday, June 5, 2011

My First Creation... An American Strong, Dark, Rye, IPA Type-Thing.

Yesterday we bottled a Citrus Weiss beer, a heavily modified Midwest Supplies kit beer that I brewed a few weeks back. It is likely the finest beer I've brewed so far and I'm really not sure why I haven't written about it yet. The summery aroma filled the apartment and lifted up my spirits.

After bottling, we went to Tremont Tap House, had some tasty burgers and I enjoyed a delicious Rooster Fish Hop Warrior Imperial IPA. Words cannot describe how quickly I fell in love with the Hop Warrior - it's everything I could want in an IPA. The perfect balance of bitter hops, sweet malts; flavorful and aromatic. It's exactly the type of beer I was planning to brew next. As far as beer goes, yesterday was a glorious day!

Drinking a home made American Strong Ale while I write this blog.
Coming off that high, I was excited to brew this morning. I woke up without an alarm ready to steep grains only to realize I didn't have any bottled water. Our tap water is pretty junky and I don't want to ruin good, or even mediocre, beer with it. So, I end up at the Eagle to grab some. It was already hot out, I was under caffeinated and before you know it, I was mega-grumpy, rushing to cook up some breakfast and generally being a pain in my wife's ass.

Somehow I always forget that brewing requires a fair amount of planning and is hard work. I needed to take a step back before I brewed up five gallons of old, wet yak back. I drank some coffee and laid out my game plan - a really good thing because I would have started tossing hops into the kettle at random and rushed intervals, forgotten to sanitize something, like my air lock, and ultimately wasted time and ingredients.

The ingredients, sans grains - they were in the pot.
Ah, coffee; the most important beverage in the world. The second, of course, being a delicious home brew.

Today's brew is my first creation. No kits, no step-by-step recipe, no turn-by-turn directions. Okay, well, maybe that's a little bit of an overstatement; I guess it's more of a pseudo-creation. I used the Midwest Supplies Superior Strong Ale, a kit I've already brewed, as a basis for this recipe. At least that was the plan. JW Dover didn't have the stuff I needed, but like any good cook, I improvised. Here's what I end up with:
  • 8 oz of Rye Grain (improvised replacement for 8 oz Brown Malt)
  • 8 oz of Cara 45 °L Grain (improvised replacement for 8 oz Cara 40 °L)
  • 3 lbs Dark Dry Malt Extract
  • 5 lbs Amber Dry Malt Extract
  • 1 oz Yakima Magnum Pellet Hops
  • 2 oz Willamette Leaf Hops
  • 2 oz Cascade Leaf Hops
  • 1 oz Kent Goldings Leaf Hops
  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

The hops are a complete improvisation from the original source recipe, which called for 2 oz of Mount Hood hops for bittering and 1 oz of Tettnang for aroma. The Yakima was an unexpected find at JW Dover, replacing the Magnum hops I had intended to use. Based on some message board and blog reading, I was interested in using the Kent Goldings for aroma.

I really wanted a hoppy beer, something balanced and drinkable, not ultra-piney; enter the Cascade and Willamette hops. I had used both before in my Blonde Ale and Citrus Weiss and I really liked their flavor and aroma, plus I read about several people using them in low IBU IPAs. My goal was to balance the maltiness of the Superior Strong Ale with the bitter, fruity, slightly spicy blend of hops. Hopefully I'll get somewhere close.

The boil.
Happily, the brew process went off about as perfectly as it could have. Much like my last two batches, I put the hops in muslin bags to contain the mess. After a sixty minute boil, I squeezed the hop bags so they've give forth all of the delicious brew they'd soaked up. Then the brew pot took a chilly swim in the bath tub and once it got below 150°, I dumped in into the fermenter, already loaded with a half gallon of ice water and seven pounds of ice.

Two minutes later the ice was gone and the temperature was 59°. Fastest. Cold. Break. Ever. Okay, maybe not ever, but the fastest I've every had. I topped it off to the five gallon line, stirred in some air using old fashion man power and then pitched my yeast. Total brew time, two hours and thirty-three minutes.

The brew procedure:
  • Sanitize everything
  • Pull the yeast out of the fridge, break the activation pack and allow to come to room temperature
  • Bring 3 gallons of water to 155°
  • Steep the rye and cara grains in a nylon (that's new) bag for 18 minutes
  • Squeeze the grain bag to drain as much liquid as possible, discard grains when finished
  • Add the DME, one bag at a time, stirring thoroughly to combine before adding the next bag
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add 1oz Yakima Magnum pellet hops in a muslin bag, boil for 20 minutes
  • Add 1oz Willamette leaf hops in a muslin bag, boil for 10 minutes
  • Add 1oz Cascade leaf hops in a muslin bag, boil for 10 minutes
  • Add 1oz Willamette leaf hops in a muslin bag, boil for 10 minutes
  • Add 1oz Cascade leaf hops in a muslin bag, boil for 10 minutes
  • Add 1oz Kent Goldings leaf hops in a muslin bag, boil for 5 minutes
  • Squeeze each bag of hops to drain as much liquid as possible, discard hops when finished
  • Chill brew kettle
  • Mix brew kettle contents, ice and cold water to fill a 5 gallon fermenter
  • Measure temp, the target was 65°, but I got it to 59° 
  • Aerate the wort by stirring vigorously for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Pitch liquid yeast
  • Lid up, add the air lock and keep in a cool, dry place

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