13: Strong Lagunitas IPA Clone (pm)

At the beginning of this month I posted “Equipment upgrade fortnight”:

Over the next two weeks I will hopefully complete the following:

  1. Fermentation chamber
  2. Immersion chiller
  3. Mash tun

The fermentation chamber is complete but I’ll be making revisions to it over the next few weeks to improve efficiency. The version I made before was quick and cobbled together from 4 cool boxes, and it struggles to maintain 19 degrees due to badly fitting joins – but as a proof of concept it worked, and this week I’ve been collecting more cool boxes to put together a chamber with better sealing.

I’ve ditched the idea of an immersion chiller after borrowing a friend’s for the last two brews. Instead I’m going with a plate chiller, imported from Beerbelly in Australia (they seem to be in the middle of redesigning their site at the moment so I can’t link direct to the PC). At around 12,000 yen it’s about twice the price of an IC, but it is much closer to a professional brew setup than an IC. How many craft brewers do you think shove copper coils into their boiling brews 15 minutes before the end?

I used a PC at Kiuchi for my beers; professionals use a PC in the commercial environment – if I’m ever going to get my brewery launched, I want to get as close to a commercial setup as I can now. Obviously space has it’s limitations but a PC is a step in the right direction.

I’ve made no progress on the mash tun, mainly because I’ve been researching plate chillers. However I have a plan and it’s simply a case of getting over to the not-so-local home store and buying the picnic cooler, some copper, and the relevant attachments. I’ll probably build it around the time I add a weldless tap to my aluminium pot.

In addition to all of the above, I’ve also bought a March pump from the US – and will hopefully have it next week. Not only will I be able to use this with the plate chiller, but I’ll be able to set up a HERMS system.

I’ve also bought one of these, for opening European (and therefore Japanese Asahi) sanke kegs. The reason I bought it wasn’t actually for opening, but for safely releasing gas from sanke kegs for when all that comes out the kegerator is bubbles (my kegerator came with an Asahi sanke attachment). However I have to admit that I’ve always had a curiosity for sanke kegs and would really like to see how they tick. I can see myself buying a small keg of Yebisu, drinking it over the summer, then playing around with it and returning it before I leave Japan.  

On top of that lot there’s the four thermometers I bought, plus an auto-siphon, several disconnects and picnic taps, and a copy of Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery on their way – phew!


Last night's beers

It has become increasingly apparent to me recently that I need to keep a better record of the beers I’m drinking – because otherwise I just forget what I’ve drunk and what I thought about it.

With my iPhone, my blog has become my “on the go” record of what I’m brewing, so what better place to record the beers I’m drinking also? As a reader, this should also give you an idea of what influences me. I don’t intend to comment on everything – but if something is special in a good or bad way, I want to record it so that I can remember later.

Last night’s beers I’ve been wanting to try for a while – beers aged in whisky casks from Scotland. I anticipated a lot from these – sadly I was very very disappointed.

Here’s a photo of some of the Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 year old in a glass:


Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 Year Old

Very very dark – much darker than I expected. Sadly, the whisky taste is overpowering – it really does taste like mixing 4 shots of rough 12 year old whisky with a beer. There was a slight hint of the base beer, but really it just tasted like whisky.

The 18 year old had less roughness than its 12 year old sibling and a weaker overall whisky taste. 18 year old whisky does tend to be smoother and more refined than 12 year old – and though I’m not a huge whisky fan, I do really love the way an old whisky melts in the mouth. However whether the weaker whisky flavour in the 18 year old is due to the whisky or just them being more sparing with the time in the barrels, it’s difficult to say – certainly the weaker whisky of the 18 year old revealed that the base beer itself is rather flavourless.

But at least the Harviestoun’s were drinkable. The Brew Dog Storm Islay Whisky Cask Aged IPA was so bad I had to throw it away – the smoke taste was unbearable. As one reviewer on Beer Advocate says: “One of the most unpleasant beers I ever spent eight bucks on”. I couldn’t find it listed on the beers page on Brew Dog’s site, so maybe they have thrown it away also.

To clear my palette I had one of my Kiuchi IPAs and then moved on to the Lagunitas IPA. What can I say? First taste the beer felt a bit weak for an IPA, though nicely hoppy – and unlike some American IPAs in bottles, it had a bite at the end, not a downer. But the more I drank it, the more I liked it. It actually tastes like unfermented wort which has been dry-hopped – and as any beer maker knows, unfermented wort has a lovely hoppy, sweet and satisfying taste (usually because you made it) though it tends to be a very bitter. Dry hop it to offset that bitterness and you’d have the Lagunitas IPA taste. Very nice.

I brewed a clone of Lagunitas IPA without ever tasting it and so I’ve been wanting to taste the original for a while. I’d love to taste this on draft. My clone? I deliberately made my clone stonger in alcohol and IBUs, so it tastes quite different. It also needs a little more time to mature. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll do a proper comparison.

Hmm, I didn’t intend to write this much – but the whisky beers were unique (and bad) enough that they deserved comment. If you’ve tried them, let me know what you thought.


On Thursday I bottled Beer thirteen (Strong Lagunitas IPA Clone) and partially bottled Beer sixteen (Anchor Liberty Ale educational Clone), dry hopping the rest of Liberty with Cascade.

I commented then that Beer fifteen’s dry-hopping (Muddy Puddle Unpredictable JPA) still hadn’t had much influence. By Sunday it was a different story – the intensity was just at the right level to be lip-smackingly good. The Liberty clone had also reached “my, that’s good!” level – so on Sunday I bottled both Beer fifteen and Beer sixteen.

A few weeks ago I was desperately frustrated that my IPAs/hoppy ales were not coming out well. By monitoring the dry hopping process – checking the taste every few days rather than just leaving it in for 7 or 14 days “default” as many people do (and I did) – I’m having much better success. Hopefully now I can scale this up to a full batch with the same success.

What hasn’t been a great success is Beer fourteen (Orange Wheat). It has come out far too orange. I added 20g more coriander as a “dry hop tea” on Sunday and it has balanced out a little, but it still not ideal.

I think two factors have adversely affected this beer. Firstly, I didn’t monitor the orange taste – and despite the peel I used being sold by Sakeland for making beer, I don’t think the flavour is ideally suited. Once again, monitoring the taste every few days would have caught this earlier – which is why Beer two didn’t go the same way.

Secondly, I’ve been crushing the coriander rather than grinding as I did at Kiuchi for Beer ten – I don’t think crushing has released the intense coriander flavour I wanted. Puzzlingly, Beer two used far less coriander but tasted better – maybe I crushed the coriander better then.

I can still drink this – it just isn’t the flavour I desired. I’ll be trying again over the summer with different orange peel (I have already bought it) and after buying a grinder for the coriander.

Last night I tried sampled the Lagunitas IPA and Unpredictable JPA to see how much affect the dry hopping had after four days.

While Unpredictable tasted a little weak with its 9g of dry-hopping, Lagunitas was starting to edge towards the intense side with its 14g. Whether this can be attributed directly to the weight of hops used, I don’t know – Lagunitas is stronger but has less IBUs than Unpredictable (OG 1.079/FG 1.017/IBU 40 vs OG 1.053/FG 1.009/IBU 66). Unpredictable is also a mix of three hops, whereas Lagunitas is a mix of two.

I decided to bottle Lagunitas before the flavour becomes too intense and leave Unpredictable for another day or two. It might have been nice to bottle only half of Lagunitas and leave the rest, but really I’ve got enough bottling on my hands at the moment (as you’ll see below).

I also tried my Anchor Liberty Ale Educational Clone – the beer where I only used a single bittering addition with no flavour and aroma hops. All I can say is that I will never ever believe comments that say bittering additions impart minimal flavouring, if any at all. Whether you call it “flavouring” or “bittering characteristic of the hop”, there’s little doubt that this beer is seriously Cascade.

I bottled 10 Anchor bottles with this “bittering only” version – because actually, it tastes damn good. The rest I’ve added 4.5g of Cascade leaf AA 7.2% and I’ll leave it for 4-5 days. Will be really interesting to compare the “bittering only” and “bittering + dry hop” versions.

I’m now left with two free primaries, plus another which will become free this weekend, and another which will become free next week. Usually that would set me racing to make beer but I’m trying to hold off at the moment until I get my fermentation chamber sorted out – the thermostat failed to arrive last night (delivery company screw up) and I still need to work out how I’m going to materialise this fermentation chamber. I may bite the bullet and make a pilsner this weekend though, since I can ferment that in my fridge.

I’ve also been doing a bit of reading and it’s become clear that as well as fermentation temperature, my attitude of “it’s ok to pitch when the temp is high as long as it doesn’t kill off the yeast” is probably not helping. From How to Brew:

The third factor for a good fermentation is temperature. Yeast are greatly affected by temperature; too cold and they go dormant, too hot (more than 10°F above the nominal range) and they indulge in an orgy of fermentation that often cannot be cleaned up by conditioning. High temperatures encourage the production of fusel alcohols – heavier alcohols that can have harsh solvent-like flavors. Many of these fusels esterify during secondary fermentation, but in large amounts these esters can dominate the beer’s flavor. Excessively banana-tasting beers are one example of high esters due to high temperature fermentation.

High temperatures can also lead to excessive levels of diacetyl. A common mistake that homebrewers make is pitching the yeast when the wort has not been chilled enough, and is still relatively warm. If the wort is, e.g. 90 F, when the yeast is pitched and slowly cools to room temperature during primary fermentation, more diacetyl will be produced in the early stages than the yeast can reabsorb during the secondary stage. Furthermore, primary fermentation is an exothermic process. The internal temperature of the fermentor can be as much as 10F above ambient conditions, just due to yeast activity. This is one good reason to keep the fermentor in the proper temperature range; so that with a normal vigorous fermentation, the beer turns out as intended, even if it was warmer than the surroundings.

Brewing in the summertime is a definite problem if you don’t have a way to keep the fermentor cool. My friend Scott showed me a neat trick though, he would immerse (not completely) his fermentors in a spare bathtup during the summer. The water in the tub was slow to warm during the day even though temperatures would be in the 90’s, and at night the water would be slow to cool, even when the temperature dropped to 45 F. In this way he was able to moderate his fermentation temperature between 60-70 F, and the beer turned out great. I have used this method myself with wash tubs and had great success.

It’s the second paragraph that’s important here – I’ve included the rest for completeness.

I’m sure I read this all when I started homebrewing, but at that time it was way over my head – I was still just getting the general process. Now it’s making more sense to me and I’m going to make sure that my next beers have the yeast pitched at the right temperature even if it means I have to let them do the final cooling in the fridge.

Temperature control

Temperature control

The thermostat has been purchased and should be delivered tonight. Having spent close to 10,000yen, that means I will have a fermentation chamber – I’m just not sure how yet.

Options are:

1. Turn the kegerator into a fermentation chamber
2. Buy a chest freezer and use it as a fermentation chamber
3. Build the Alien Pod
4. Buy a mini fridge and then turn my entire shelf using into a fermentation chamber – like this (although I’ll be cooling instead of warming)

I’ll be deciding before the weekend.

Tonight I’m supposed to be tasting the dry hopped Lagunitas IPA and Unpredictable JPA, hoping to catch them while the hop aroma is vibrant rather than intense. Only trouble is I have a medical booked for tomorrow and shouldn’t drink anything tonight. Doh! A couple of sips wont hurt, right?

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.



...lovely grain...

...lovely grain!

I was quite annoyed at Advance Brewing sending my order late and missing an o-ring (which I now need to order somewhere else), but after seeing all that lovely grain, all is forgiven!

I’ll need to use it quick though because it’s all precrushed, so wasting no time, last night I brewed my version of the Lagunitas IPA recipe featured on Jamil’s Can You Brew It podcast.

My modifications were:

  • Changed from 6 US gallons to 3 US gallons. A smaller batch makes resizing the recipe easier and is safer for experimentation.
  • Changed from all grain to partial mash using extra light DME.
  • Increased the OG from 1.060 to 1.076 and the IBUs by 3 points to match – I prefer a stronger alcohol IPA to get the right level of “bite”. Jamil calculated the IBUs at 46.8; the online calculators I tried gave me 37 for the same recipe. My recipe gave me 40.
  • Substituted Zeus (Columbus) for Summit and Magnum for Horizon. I had neither Summit or Horizon – Columbus was recommended as a substitute for Summit; Magnum I found as a substitute for Horizon by searching online. Of course I adjusted the hop quantities based on IBU.
  • Changed the Crystal 10L and 60L to 15L, 40L and a little 150L. The original Lagunitas recipe called for 15L and Jamil changed it to 10L so his recipe was an approximation anyway.

Strong Lagunitas IPA Clone

Boil volume: 3 US Gallons
Final volume: 3 US Gallons

Anticipated OG: 1.076 (based on 68% mash efficiency)
Anticipated FG: 1.019
Actual OG: 1.079 at 31C, giving 1.083 at 15C

Grain (all precrushed) and DME:
1kg American 2-row
197g Wheat malt
186g Munich
265g Crystal 15L
147g Crystal 40L
30g Crystal 150L
1.3kg Extra-light DME (Muntons Spraymalt)

60m: 3.1g Zeus 16.4%, 5.7g Magnum 14.2%
30m: 14.6g Willamette 5.1%, 8.7g Centennial 9%
Flameout: 17g Cascade 7.2%
Dry hopping: 10.5g Centennial 9%, 10.5g Cascade 7.2%
Update 25th May 2009: See here for the actual dry hopping used.

All hops were leaf hops. For the 30m Centennial I actually used about 2-3g of some 9.2% leaf Centennial I had leftover before cracking open the new 9%. The 9.2% actually smelt fresher.

S-04, 1/2 a packet (since one pack does 6G).

1 teaspoon Irish Moss at 15m

Method – similar to Flasher.

  1. Mashed the grains in 9L of water at 70 degrees, applying heat when it dropped to 66-68. Agitated the grain frequently since I was conscious that my grain back was quite small.
  2. After 60m, poured the wort out of my main pot and heated up 7L of water to 75 degrees. While that was heating, I let the water from the grain drip into the collected wort.
  3. “Sparged” the grain in the 7L of water for 15 minutes. When done, took the grain out and poured back in the collected wort. By this time, a lot of gunk from the collected wort had fallen to the bottom – I didn’t pour that back into the main pot.
  4. Added the DME and boiled, then added the first hops when the top started clearing. Continued with the hop/Irish Moss schedule.
  5. At flameout, added the Cascade and agitated for 1m, then transferred the pot to the sink for cooling in water – also added some ice to the wort. Left the Cascade in for about 5 minutes.
  6. Whirlpool then leave for a further 5-10 minutes.
  7. Transferred to the primary by pouring, leaving behind the last inch of wort and gunk. Aerated, then pitched rehydrated yeast, then aerated again.

Once again I couldn’t get the wort temperature down – I overestimated the effect the ice I added would have. Once again, not having a cooler and having my freezer filled with hops is killing me. I need to do something about this because while the wort is still warm, effectively the hop addition time is being extended.

I pitched at around 34 degrees – way too high but it was 1:30am and I needed to go to bed. To compensate I put the bucket in the fridge to cool down. When I woke up this morning, temp was at 20 degrees and a crust was already forming on the top of the beer.

I’m really looking forward to trying this IPA – it tasted great going into the fermenter. After All Centennial IPA turning out not great – I think it’s too light on bittering and alcohol, tasting a little too sweet – I really want to make a great IPA.

As an aside, I got a lot more break gunk this time but it came quite late in the boil. It’s the first time I’ve seen break gunk appear – since it appeared late, I think I better do a bit of reading up on whether that means anything or not.