07: Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA (pm)

I can’t say conclusively whether it’s more time having passed or whether it’s having tasted more “homebrew” IPAs at the weekend, but tonight Flasher tastes MUCH better – enough that it has become the favourite of all my beers.

I think there may have been a difference between my idea of an “IPA” (commercial IPAs) and those brewed by the homebrew community – the later has a much stronger hop taste which can be unnerving at first, but once you get used to it there’s no turning back. Just like when you can no longer eat food without chili.

I think I’m starting to become a hop addict. Just like I’m a chili addict.

Freezer pr0n

Freezer pr0n

As seems to be the constant since starting brewing, my weekends have become consumed by beer.

Saturday I attended a party put on by one of the homebrewers I know in Japan. There were only six homebrewers there (plus friends and partners) but amongst us six was the winner of the Japanese homebrewer of the year (or “Grand champion sumo wrestler” as Excite translated his title) and a guy who worked in one of Japan’s craft breweries until it closed last year.

I took along three of my beers for them to try and get feedback on.

The first was my All Fuggles Bitter, the only beer than I’m proud of. Unfortunately it was cracked open after drinking a seriously hoppy IPA (similar to my Unpredicatble PA) and consumption of an awesome chili (which I completely failed to get the recipe for), so the only comments I received were “I can’t taste anything”. Bitter – real bitter, not Best or ESB – is light and consumed at room temperature and as such just couldn’t compete with those flavours. It was stupid to crack it open then. I was gutted at the reaction.

The second was Flasher. General opinion wasn’t that Simcoe is overpowering, but that fermenting at room temperature (mid 20’s) with the yeast I’m using (UK S-04) is causing the overly fruity flavour. The guys suggested better controlling fermentation temperature and/or switching to US-05.

The third beer I didn’t even open. Fuggles was supposed to show people I could make a decent beer, and it failed. Flasher clearly wasn’t up to standard, as I’m not even happy with it. And the last time I met those guys and let them taste my first three beers, they obviously were not good (being my first three beers ever). I just felt too ashamed to bring out another and subject them to my sub-standard crap, especially when there was such other great beer on offer. When no-one was looking I surreptitiously took the bottles of my third beer out of the freezer and packed them away in my bag (so no-one would drink them accidently).

It’s clear to me now that I need to focus my attentions on temperature and yeast. I need to keep a constant fermentation temperature in the right range and I need to work out which yeasts are good for me. What’s the point of my having spent a fortune on a hops, grain, a kegerator, kegs, and all that jazz if I’m not able to achieve perfection? Yeah, I like (some of) my beers but there’s only so much of watching other people desperately wishing they hadn’t poured my beer that I can take.

On the positive side, this is the kind of thing that drives me on. I’m the worst critic of myself, and despite being in this game for less than three months, I’m judging myself by the best of the best in Japan. It’s through watching and learning from masters that you succeed, so this can only help me, even though it is painful.

Sunday was bottling, kegging, and dry hopping day.

Mid way through fermentation, Orange Wheat tasted little of coriander or orange, but yesterday it tasted very strongly of orange – almost to the “feck me” level. So I decided to rack it to a keg, leaving behind all the orange peel and coriander in the process. I then boiled a teabag of 20g of cracked coriander seeds with 200ml of water, and after a few minutes boiling, added the water and teabag to the keg. That should balance out the orange taste.

Lagunitas IPA and Unpredictable JPA, I bottled 6 x 330ml of each and then dry hopped. Lagunitas OG 1.079, FG 1.017; Unpredictable OG 1.053, FG 1.009.

Lagunitas was to be dry hopped with 10.5g each of Centennial and Cascade for 3 US G. I had 2.1G left after bottling so scaled down 10.5 / 3 * 2.1 to give roughly 7g each.

JPA was due to be dry hopped with 5.5g each of Amarillo and Centennial. I screwed up and ended up dry hopping with 3g each of Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo. Since all three hops were used for flavouring and aroma, I don’t think it’s a major disaster. Again, I had less than the full 3G left so didn’t use as much as the 11g suggested for 3G.

Conventional wisdom of homebrewers states that you should dry hop for 1-2 weeks – but I’ve recently found out that some commercial brewers, including Lagunitas, dry hop only for 4 days. I’m convinced that Flasher tasted better after half a week dry hopping than the full week, so I’ll be monitoring this dry hopping closely, probably bottling most after 4 days and a few after 5-6 days. When it’s finished, I’ll have versions of Lagunitas and JPA with and without dry hopping – it will be a great way to taste and smell the difference dry hopping makes.

Speaking of hop experiments, the Anchor Liberty Ale Educational Clone is almost done and it has a pretty strong Cascade taste, despite only having a 60m bittering addition. It just goes to show that not everything you read (I’m thinking of “doesn’t matter which hop you use for bittering since the original flavour of the hop ia almost lost” type comments) should be believed verbatim. Anchor should be done fermentation in the next few days – again I’ll be bottling some and dry hopping the rest. It tastes good so far.

Right now I’m thinking about how I’m going to achieve consistent fermentation temperatures. I know I can use my fridge to ferment at lager temperatures of 9 degrees, but that will only allow me to ferment one lager, and wont work for ales. I’m strongly considering buying the freezer I saw at the party at the weekend (currently on special at Labi) and a temperature controller and throwing it in the space the ironing board currently occupies. Total cost to wallet: 40,000 yen. Enhancement to beer making skills: priceless.

I opened a bottle of Flasher tonight, which has been carbonating for a week. When I bottled it I said:

Flasher is just over-powered by Simcoe, and for me it isn’t bitter enough. It’s better than All Centennial but it follows the same pattern – too little bitterness, overpowered too much by one hop, and a little sweet. People say that a strong IPA takes a good month to condition so maybe it’ll get better.

After a week the taste is exactly the same, but I was wrong about one thing: it IS bitter. It’s just the intensity of the Simcoe is so intense and the flavouring of the bittering isn’t crisp, from the small sample I tried at bottling I misinterpreted.

Tomorrow I’m meeting a bunch of Japanese homebrewers. I’m going to take Flasher along and see what they think about it. The rest I’ll leave – after all, a strong IPA is supposed to get better over time, right?

Today I tasted Beer twelve (Chocolate-less Coffee Stout Experiment) before bottling and Beer seven (Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA) which was bottled a few days ago.

Coffee tasted great a few days ago – but now the coffee taste has disappeared and the taste remaining is… I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t know whether it’s because the sugar has now turned to alcohol and the remaining coffee is competing with the hops, or whether it’s an infection. I added more coffee before bottling (same amount as I added initially) and we’ll see how it turns out – if it is infected I’ll find out when I crack open the bottles. For Coffee I used a water container rather than a fermentation bucket and there wasn’t a proper airlock (I left the cap slightly unscrewed) so that may be the problem.

Flasher is just over-powered by Simcoe, and for me it isn’t bitter enough. It’s better than All Centennial but it follows the same pattern – too little bitterness, overpowered too much by one hop, and a little sweet. People say that a strong IPA takes a good month to condition so maybe it’ll get better (but none of my other beers have significantly changed after bottling so probably now). For the moment the perfect IPA eludes me. However I am learning something: I need stronger bittering, and to be careful with strong hops in the flavouring. 

Flasher was mostly Zeus and Simcoe. I have a suspicion that between all the hops from the monster hop order, the Zeus is quite old and the Simcoe quite new. I think Simcoe ended up overpowering everything, especially in the dry-hopping, and I don’t think Zeus gave the bittering its AA% promised.

Today I made a new beer with some friends (I’ll write about the beer tomorrow). It was supposed to end at 1.064. Boil gravity seemed significantly higher than expected but I ended up with around 1.053. I’ve no idea what went wrong.

Then before pitching I discovered that the cherry beer has made the bucket stink of cherries.

This new beer will certainly be interesting.

Final failure: After rereading the instructions on my hydrometer I discovered it is calibrated to 20degrees and not 15. Then after testing with water, I discovered that actually it gives the correct reading at 25. I’ve gone from not really adjusting for temperature (usually measuring at 25), to adjusting to 15. Now I discover that was wrong! Doh!

We all have days like this. Everything will be better tomorrow, won’t it?!!

…this man needs a plan!

Last night I bottled Beer seven (Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA) and Beer nine (Mini IPA), leaving Beer twelve (Chocolate-less Coffee Stout Experiment) because the gravity was a little above where it should be – as it has only been in for 6 days I thought I’d give it some breathing space. As I said yesterday, Flasher hit its FG exactly; I didn’t measure the FG of Mini IPA because there’s so little of it.

I now have three free buckets. It’s a joy to see them – all waiting to be filled with lovely beer! Today I’ll receive a delivery from Advance Brewing which includes:

6kg of American 2-row
4kg of German Weyermann Wheat malt
1kg of German Weyermann Munich
1.5kg of German Weyermann Pilsner
1kg of UK Chocolate
0.6kg each of C40 and C15
0.3kg each of C150, Flaked Rye, Flaked Oat, Flaked barley
200g Saaz pellets (I’ll need more Saaz than I currently have if I’m to make pilsners over the summer)

I didn’t have exact recipes in mind when ordering these – I did the order before leaving for the airport when I was in Korea because I knew I needed o-rings, and decided to add some grain to bring it over the free delivery limit. As it turned out Advance Brewing screwed up the delivery date and didn’t have all the o-rings in stock, so I may as well have just waited till I came back.

In retrospect – now that I have researched recipes – it would have been good if I’d ordered some C60, C75, and extra flaked rye, etc. Still, at least I have grain to get creative with!

This is what I’m thinking of:

1. A 3 US Gallon version of the Lagunitas IPA clone mentioned in this podcast from Jamil. The 6 US Gallon recipe given in the podcast has an OG of 1.060 and IBU of 46.8 according to Jamil. When I plug it into online calculators, I get the same OG but an IBU of 37 – I’ve tried different calculators and get the same result, so Jamil must be using different utilisation values for the hops.

I feel 1.060 is going to be a bit light for an IPA and I want something stronger so the version I’m working on is a 3 US Gallon recipe with an OG of 1.076 and an IBU of 40 (from the same calculators that gave 37). I’m keeping this as a 3 gallon version because (a) it is experimental, and (b) it made it easier to work out the hops (The original recipe is based on a boil size around the same at the batch size. I can’t do a 6G boil so I would need a 3G boil with 6G batch, which would have meant scaling up the hops because of the higher gravity 3G boil – too risky.)

2. Two 3 US Gallon white ales. Both will have wheat and pale malt. One will have flaked rye added to the mash; the other will use orange peel, coriander, and nutmeg. Both will use a Belgian yeast. I only have one pack of the yeast, hence splitting the batch – 3G also is better matched to the small amount of rye I have. Will be fun to compare these – Rye vs Spice.

3. A porter, and all grain bitter, and a pilsner. I’ve not even thought of recipes yet – whether or not the porter and bitter are possible depends on the weather. The porter will most likely include the oats and/or barley.

The weather is getting hotter in Japan so I want to start these as soon as I can, while my hallway is still around 24-26. The Lagunitas IPA will be first since I’ve almost finished the recipe.

It’s exactly two months since I bought the “homebrew kit” in Tokyu Hands and started homebrewing. Since that time I’ve:

What I’ve not achieved yet is making an IPA that I’m happy with. But I’m working on it. By the end of tonight I’ll have all 4 of my buckets free again, and by 9pm tomorrow I’ll have received a large batch of assorted grain (two row, wheat, chocolate, etc etc) to fill them up again with. It’s time to start planning more beer!

Last night I bottled Beer five (Brewferm Kriek racked onto cherries) and kegged Beer eight (All Fuggles Bitter). It wasn’t entirely a smooth event – the tap for the Kriek kept getting clogged up with cherries and the tap for the Bitter kept getting clogged up with hop leafs. I need to get better at “clearing” my beer – I need ensure the leaf hops are not transferred into the primary, and I need to remember to put in that Irish Moss (not that Irish Moss will help transferring, just that I always forget it).

Beer eight had a FG of 1.013-12 at 21 degrees – 1.014-13 adjusted to 15 degrees – which is higher than the predicted 1.009. I possibly should have left it a little longer, but it had been in for 12 days already. Unlike All Goldings Bitter, I’m not going to force carbonate this one – hopefully if there is any fermentation left to do, it will naturally carbonate the beer. I’ll leave it for a few days with some low power CO2 trickling in to help it along – but I’d be happy to drink this beer “flat”.

Tonight I’ll bottle Beer seven (Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA) since it will have been dry-hopping for a week. A few days ago it tasted fantastic – so much like citrus that I had to wonder whether I’d thrown peel in there in my sleep. Last night it smelt great but tasted a bit too strong – I hope this doesn’t go the same was as All Centennial IPA. Update: I just tried some again before bottling and it tastes fantastic. FG 1.017-16 at 25, about 1.019 at 15 degrees – exactly on target.

I’ll also bottle Beer twelve (Chocolate-less Coffee Stout Experiment). From the tasting last night, this has really turned out to be a fantastic beer. Depending on the hydrometer reading, I may not add any priming sugar to this – if it still has a little fermenting to do. Again, I’d be happy to drink this close to “flat”.

Final beer to tackle tonight will be Beer nine (Mini IPA). I had some of this last night and it wasn’t how I imagined it would turn out! Again, my quest for an IPA recipe that really makes me should “Man, that’s goooorgeous” is still ongoing.

Popped cherries

Popped cherries

With all the excitement of the kegerator at the weekend, I forgot to update on Beer five, the Brewferm Kriek kit.

The Kriek finished fermenting the middle of last week. Taste at the moment leaves a lot to be desired – very bitter and little cherry taste. Brewferm say the kriek should spend 6-8 weeks bottle conditioning before being consumed so it’s possible the taste may improve, but I doubt it, so I decided to bottle just a little of it and rack the rest onto cherries. There are only 9 x 190ml bottles of this little kriek, one of which has already found a home elsewhere. Six of those bottles are Coke bottles – Cherry without the Coke :)

After phoning around various places, I found tinned cherries in National Azabu (no frozen cherries anywhere) so made a trip there to get them. As a bonus, they have huge boxes of Oxi-clean on special at the moment – it’s probably still more expensive than Costco, but I’m glad I don’t need to waste the day on a Costco trip.

The tins actually contain far less cherries than I expected – about 250g of 480g if my memory serves me right. I poured the contents of four into my spare primary and then racked the beer on top (no need to boil the cherries since they’ve already been pasteurised).

I expected with all the extra syrup and cherries for the remaining yeast to spring into life and for the fermentation to go wild, but very little happened for a long time. Only two days later did secondary fermentation really become active. Last night I took a sample to do a hydrometer reading – it now stands at 1.020 (it was 1.010 when I bottled) but the taste is much improved, almost like Belle Vue Kriek now.

Beer seven: Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA

Last night I did my first partial mash – another attempt at an IPA. This is a version of the Green Flash West Coast IPA featured on the Jamil show. I’ve taken the recipe posted by Nathan here, the guy who created it for the show.

I’ve copied the hop schedule identically but converted it to partial mash using the grains that I have at home – I don’t have the exact grains in the recipe. I’m also using a 3 gallon batch rather than 6 gallons. I used various online calculators to adjust grain, DME, and hops quantities to match the range of the original recipe.

The original recipe calls for these grains:
14.00 lbs Pale Malt (2-row) America
1.31 lbs Crystal 40L America
1.31 lbs Carapils Dextrine Malt

I replaced these with:
1kg (2.2lbs) Base Malt EBC3.3
1kg (2.2lbs) Ale Malt EBC6.6
0.3kg (0.66lbs) Carared 20L
2kg (4.4lbs) Extra Light Spraymalt DME 19th May 2009: Typo here. Actual was about 2lbs – need to confirm later!

The base and ale malts I ordered from Homebrewing Service when getting Starsan. Instead of crystal 40L I had the choice of carared 20L or crystal 60L, I decided to go for the carared because it’s about two weeks old now (so needs to be used soon) and because my base malts are probably darker than the original recipe (hence using a lighter crystal).

Hop schedule is:
90m: 9g of Simcoe 12.9%
60m: 5g each of Zeus (Columbus) 16.4% and Simcoe.
30m: 5g each of Zeus, Simcoe.
15m: 13g each of Zeus, Simcoe.
10m: 16g of Cascade 7.2%
1m: 9g each of Zeus, Simcoe.

After 7 days it will be dry hopped with 9g each of Amarillo, Centennial, Zeus, Simcoe, and optionally 4g of Cascade.

This is the process I used for the stove top partial mash – I’m using 3 pots, one 16L, one 7L, and one 4L. (My process was based on this guide – I didn’t have two large pots so I improvised.)

1. Heat 9L of water to 71 degrees in the 16L pot then add the grain bag with all the grains. Use heat where necessary to keep temperature around 67 degrees for an hour. I stirred this quite often during the hour to improve circulation.

2. After an hour, take out the grain bag and let it drain through a colander into the 4L pot (the grain stays in the grain bag, I just placed the bag on the colander). Pour the hot wart from the 16L pot into the 7L pot and then heat 6L of water in the 16L pot. When at 73-80 degrees, put the grain bag into this water and leave for 15 minutes. Again I circulated often. About half way through I applied heat to raise the temperature back to 67 degrees.

3. Pour the wort from the 4L pot into the 16L pot and then put the grain bag on the colander again, to drain into the 4L pot. Add the wort from the 7L pot to the 16L pot and start to boil. When the grain stops dripping, add the wort from the 4L pot also.

At this point I took a sample to do a hydrometer reading and work out efficiency. The Tasty Brew calculator had given me an expected gravity of around 1.052 for a 75% efficiency at 11.5L. I got 1.046 at 35 degrees, which is 1.051 adjusted to 15 degrees. I think I had a bit more water though, maybe 3.25G or more – difficult to tell because my pot doesn’t have markings, but I was pretty near the rim.

Since I think I had more water, I wanted to try to calculate efficiency myself.

My rough attempt at ppg efficiency based on 3.25G is:
Efficiency = gravity (51) x gallons (3.25) / lbs of grain (5.06) = 32.7ppg.

According to How to Brew, 30ppg+ is the range to shoot for, so I’m in the right ballpark – not bad considering I don’t have any specialist equipment.

Another way to calculate efficiency is look at the theoretical maximum fermentables you can get out of grain. 46 points is the theoretical maximum and I used 5.06lbs, which gives me a max of 232.76.

For 3.25G, I would have an efficiency of 51 x 3.25 / 232.76 =  71.2%. Not too far from the 75% used on Tasty Brew. I really need to get a pot with markings.

4. Add the hops as per schedule. Before the 15M addition, I took out the hops, stirred in the DME, and when melted and boiling again, returned the hops with the 15M addition. I should have added Irish Moss here but forgot!

5. Continue with schedule, then cool, transfer to bucket, top-up, and pitch rehydrated S-04.

The whole partial mash process was actually pretty simple – the only point where I fell down was cooling the wort (not much cold water to add and a freezer full of hops so I couldn’t make ice!) I actually found doing partial mash to be more relaxed than steeping since I have time during the mash to prepare other things.

Starting gravity turned out to be 1.078-80, bang on the 1.079 predicted by Tasty Brew (FG is predicted as a rather high 1.020). Since Tasty Brew uses 75% utilisation and I got the predicted values, I guess I hit 75%

When taking the hydrometer reading before adding the DME, it dawned on me that if I was making a bitter, I could do a full mash this way – 1.046 is quite high for an ordinary bitter. I should do a full mash and see how it turns out.

I finished the night off by transferring Beer six (All Goldings Bitter) to a keg. I forgot to purge oxygen with CO2 before transferring but I think it should be OK. We don’t purge when we rack to secondary, right? This leaves me with one bucket free again – time to think about Beer eight!