08: All Fuggles Bitter (e)

Just poured some of the America v Britain Superpower IPA which I force carbed on Sunday… and it has “that IPA taste”! (I don’t need to link to it again, right? You know what I mean surely by now.)

There were only three hops in that: Chinook, Cascade, and Fuggles. Just before drinking it I downed two of my Cascade only Anchor Liberty Ale Educational Clone – one with and one without dry hopping – and never noticed “that IPA taste”… I made a bitter with only Fuggles and never noticed “that IPA taste”… could it be the Chinook?

Or… Superpower was the first beer I made at the right temperature, so should I discard all the others tastings as invalid? I do have a feeling it is Cascade related. Maybe because Cascade in a combination with certain bittering hops.

Funnily, before force carbing and chilling Superpower, I never got the same taste. Is it a chilling thing? A carb thing?

Well maybe by the end of this keg I’ll have come to like the damn taste and it will be a mute point!!!

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.

Tonight I tapped Beer eight (All Fuggles Bitter) which I kegged a few days ago and have not touched since. It tastes AMAZING.

This is the first time I’ve made a beer which I’m truly 100% happy with.  This is a milestone for me. I’m the harshest judge of my beers and to find one that I truly think is excellent.. I’m on top of the world.

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.

Yesterday I made Beer eight – All Fuggles Bitter. It’s a variation of my All Goldings Bitter recipe – slightly different steeping grains and more hops.

I kegged All Goldings Bitter on the 26th.  Before kegging it tasted great – malty with a hint of bitterness and hops. But after chilling down in the kegerator the balance has changed completely – obviously I won’t be able to have a bitter and IPA in the same fridge.

The taste when cold has left me not so impressed with AGB, but I have to remember that it’s at the wrong temp and I only started making it on the 19th April. It is still a very green beer and hasn’t had much conditioning time. I probably shouldn’t be drinking it at all! But I was so eager to taste it. The right thing for me to do now is probably to take it out of the fridge and leave it until I finish the IPA, then turn up the fridge temp – then it will have had time and it will be at the right temp.

Since AGB had just a hint of hops, over the weekend I added a hop tea with some more Golding to the keg. I also upped the hops on AFB to compensate.

All Fuggles Bitter

Boil volume: 3 US Gallons
Final wort volume: 6 US Gallons

Predicted OG: 1.035
Actual OG: 1.036 at 30 degrees; 1.040 adjusted to 15 degrees
Predicted FG: 1.009

1.5kg (3.3lbs) Extra-light DME (Muntons spraymalt)
0.5kg (1.1lbs) Wheat DME (Muntons spraymalt)
150g (0.33lbs) Crystal 60L
150g (0.33lbs) Crystal 75L
45g (0.1lbs) Muntons Black 550-600L

Fuggle AA4.7%: 60m 57g (2oz), 20m 28g (1oz), 2m 14g (0.5oz)
(For the Golding I used 48g / 18g / 16g.)

Yeast: S-04

IBU is tricky to calculate – it really depends on which utilisation method you calculate with. Tasty Brew gave me an IBU of 47 for this, based on me adding all the DME at the beginning – but other calculation tools give lower levels. Also, I split the DME addition – adding 1kg of extra-light at the beginning and the rest of the DME before the 20m hop addition – so I’ll get better utilisation. I did the same split for All Goldings Bitter and that wasn’t bitter enough, so what’s important to me now is learning how IBU numbers taste for a certain calculator and utilisation method rather than looking at the numbers as gospel.

Incidentely, I screwed up by leaving the 20m addition in for 5 minutes too long. And that caused me to forget the Irish Moss.

It was fermenting away like crazy this morning – a very good sign. When asking which hops to use for making a British bitter, everyone suggested both Golding and Fuggle, but most people indicated Fuggle as their preference. It will be good to taste them side by side. 

Current bucket status:
1. Brewferm Kriek with cherries (racked onto cherries on 25th April; looks like secondary fermentation is finished)
2. Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA (started 27th April)
3. All Fuggles Bitter (started 29th April)

Once again I find myself with full buckets and impatient to make more…