Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tasting Notes: Australian Sparkling Ale

When tasting as opposed to merely drinking a beer I always go back to the question, "Does the beer taste like it is supposed to taste?". This Australian Sparkling Ale is the first example of the style I have tasted, but drinking the beer it feels like it does. Australia in the 19th Century wasn't too dissimilar to the American West. This is a beer I can imagine drinking out of the bottle in the sweltering heat of the Australian Outback.

The beer pours an orange-ish copper. The head is foamy and white with very good retention.  The clarity is brilliant when this bottle-conditioned beer is poured carefully.



Honey and melon esters are prominent in the aroma. Hop aroma is low and blends nicely with the esters. As the beer warms there are low notes of bread crust consistent with the high percentage of pilsner malt.


The mouthfeel is medium-low bodied, carbonation is medium to medium high, and the finish is balanced nicely. Any more corn sugar in the boil would have made the beer a bit harsh. The malt flavor in the beer is understated. There is some low caramel notes overplayed with a graham cracker flavor. Like a graham cracker with a little extra honey. The hop flavor is medium-low, but assertive and unique. I would describe the hop flavor as a mix of pine and spearmint.

The Pride of Ringwood hops are not like any American, British, European, or Southern Hemisphere hop that I have brewed with. It is an acquired taste to a degree, but a flavor I have learned to enjoy. The last hop addition in this beer was at 20 minutes left in the boil. I have seen clone recipes for Cooper's Sparkling Ale, the preeminent example of this style, that call for hops at five minutes and flameout. It would be interesting to try someday, but I am skeptical how it would work.

This recipe is perfect based on the description on the website. This beer is "patterned after a descendant of Burton Ale". After brewing and drinking the beer it reminds me of Bass Ale, but with the distinctive Pride of Ringwood hops. I suspect if I swapped out the Pride of Ringwood hops with an English hop like Goldings, the beer would be pretty close to a Bass clone.

It was an easy beer to brew and it is enjoyable to drink. Regrettably when I tried to review the kit on the Northern Brewer website it appears the kit is no longer available. The PDF of the instructions is still online. There is nothing to stop someone from buying the ingredients ala carte and brewing this up. I would encourage anyone looking to brew something easy or something different to give this a try.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Dry Yeast vs liquid yeast


Like glass versus plastic equipment, there are pros and cons to using dry yeast or liquid yeast. I eluded to some of them when I purchased my stir plate.

Most brewers start with dry yeast because it's the easiest to work with. The instructions on the sachet say to sprinkle the yeast onto the wort and call it a day. Most brewers, myself included re-hydrate their yeast. Essentially you add the yeast to some water about half an hour before pitching the yeast. This gives the yeast time to reconstitute itself into it's natural, liquid form before devouring all the sugars in the wort.

Another aspect to the ease of using dry yeast is that if does not require a yeast starter. Unlike liquid yeast, most dry yeasts contain more than enough cells in the package to ferment most worts. If brewing a high-gravity beer all you need to do is buy another package.

It's always good to have a few packets of dry yeast on hand at your homebrewery. Whereas liquid yeast loses most of its vitality after a few months, dry yeast is good for up to two years if kept cool in a refridgerator or freezer. If you have a spontaneous brew day and haven't prepared a starter of liquid yeast, dry yeast is always ready to go. If there is something wrong with your liquid yeast, dry yeast can always be used as a Plan B like with my recent Curly's Milk Stout brew day.

The dry yeasts available today are excellent. They are every bit as good in quality as liquid yeasts. Many commercial brewers use dry yeast. I spoke with one at a local bottle shop who described the huge bricks of Safale S05 they pitch into their worts. Many home brewers have followed suit. My cousin and occasional co-brewer Andy uses dry yeasts almost exclusively in his recipes and kits that he brews.

Dry yeast is less expensive, but dry yeast manufactures do not recommend reusing dry yeast. If you have several batches lined up that are similar styles or will use the same yeast, liquid yeast can be more affordable if you reuse it.

Marshall Schott aka Brülosopher, developed a method of overbuilding and harvesting yeast from his starters to save for future. It is also possible to freeze liquid yeast. I have a frozen container of The Yeast Bay's Vermont Ale Yeast from the summer of 2014. With any luck I'll be able to thaw it out and slowly step it up with a series of yeast starters on my stir plate next time I want to use it.

Regular readers of the blog will know, but a lot of other people might not realize the profound effect yeast can have on the flavor, aroma, and appearance of the beer. There are many more varieties of liquid yeast available than there are dry yeast. The Geary's clones we brewed a few months ago would have been perfectly good if fermented with dry yeast, but the beer wouldn't have been as close to the commercial versions if we didn't ferment it with Ringwood Ale yeast. Ringwood is only available in liquid form.

There are plenty of commercial and homebrewers that use Chico (1056/WLP001/S05) as their house strain. As a brewer I like to differentiate my beers by using different yeasts. For that reason and the reusability I gravitate more toward liquid yeasts. The last couple beers I made that called for Chico like my Celebration Ale clone, I used the dry S05 version because it was cheaper and easier.

Every brewer should have a few packets of dry yeast on hand. I try to keep at least one packet of S05, Safale S04 which is a versatile English strain you can never go wrong with, and Nottingham which can be used in almost any style depending on the fermentation temperature.

With liquid yeast you can have a yeast bank at home. You can do this via Brülosopher's method of overbuilding and harvesting, or you can harvest yeast from a finished beer, rinse it, and repitch it into a future batch. This is what most commercial breweries do. They also have the technology to make sure the yeast they are reusing hasn't been overly stressed or mutated. For a homebrewer I would suggest freezing any yeast you don't plan on using within the next four to six months.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Brew Day: Curly's Milk Stout 1.4



After Ales for ALS I was probably overdue to brew my next batch of Curly's Milk Stout, my flagship brew. I still have about six bottles left from Batch 1.3, I found four bottles from Batch 1.2, and still have a 22 ounce bomber from the beer's first iteration Batch 1.1. Once this batch is complete I'll have to do a vertical tasting of all four versions and notate any perceived differences.

Recipe-wise I had to make some last-minute changes. Whenever I buy a lot of ingredients at once I always forget at least one. This time it was the Medium English Crystal malt which augments the sweetness of the lactose. Instead of going out of my way to buy one pound of grain I substituted a half pound respectively of 60L American Caramel Malt and German Caramel Wheat Malt. These were leftover malts from earlier batches. Since I mill my own grain at home they were still fresh. I don't anticipate this having much of an effect on the flavor, but I could be wrong.

 

One change I do think will have a noticeable effect is that this batch will be fermented with a different yeast. I haven't used the Burton Ale yeast the recipe calls for in several months. I had a jar of yeast that I harvested from the Midlands Mild back in July. I tried to use it to make a yeast starter for this batch to build up enough yeast cells for fermentation and to save for future batches.

 

The first problem I ran into was that I couldn't find a yeast stir bar. That's the pill-shaped magnet that goes inside of the flask and stirs the yeast. In a year and a half I have lost three of them. I still thought I could make my starter without one by adding pure O2 to the starter and shaking it every so often. After two days there was no sign of krausen inside the flask, and there was a noticeable sulfur aroma. At this point I didn't have time to buy new yeast and build a yeast starter.

 

Situations like this is where dry yeast can be a lifesaver. All you need to do is hydrate the yeast and pitch it into the wort. I used a packet of Nottingham yeast that had a "best by" date of February 2016, so it is good that I used it beforehand. Nottingham has a much cleaner profile than Burton Ale. When I do my vertical tasting of all four batches I can decide which yeast works the best in this beer.

 

Procedurally I experimented with boiling more of my wort. My electric stove-top isn't capable of boiling the full volume of the batch. I tried to boil four gallons in my eight gallon kettle when I brewed my English Golden Ale. The boil was very soft and the resulting beer was cloudy. When I reduced my boil volume in my Cream Ale, the clarity greatly improved. Here I mashed in my right gallon kettle before transferring to my five gallons kettle to boil. I was able to brew about four and a half gallons this way. The lack of airspace in the smaller kettle and smaller diameter (which placed more of the wort over the burner) made a huge difference.

 

I still plan to make coffee and chocolate variants.  I will use half the amount of coffee and double the amount of chocolate I used last time as I perfect the amount of both to add.
Click here for full recipe

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tasting Notes: Curly's Chocolate and Coffee Milk Stout

It is coming up on time to brew another batch of Curly's Milk Stout, my flagship beer. After Ales for ALS I was down to a half dozen bottles. I have been hoarding the chocolate and coffee variants since I ended up with about eight bottles of each. Overall I am happy with how both came out.

The coffee in the aroma of the coffee is dominant. It is earthy with notes of fresh pot soil. The velvety dark chocolate aroma in the chocolate variant plays a supporting role with the other aromas from the base beer.

The chocolate has an frothy, off-white head with fair retention. The coffee has fizzy, a soda-like tan head that disappears almost immediately.



The chocolate version doesn't have an overpowering chocolate flavor. It compliments and enhances the chocolate notes from the base beer. If I wanted more chocolate flavor I might try to add more chocolate at the end of the boil, during primary fermentation, as well as secondary fermentation as I did during this batch. That of course would require brewing a separate, chocolate-only batch. For a split batch I could add some chocolate extract at bottling. I think the beer is perfect as it is. The level of chocolate flavor is a matter of preference.

As the aroma and appearance would suggest, the coffee flavor is dominant in the coffee version. Adding an extra scoop of coffee may not have been the best idea. The beer is good, especially if you enjoy rich, black coffee. Jennie preferred the coffee version. Again, it's a matter of personal preference. Next time I probably would dial back the amount of coffee just a little.

After drinking both side-by-side I blended the dregs from the bottles together. I blended approximately one part coffee, two parts chocolate into a tasting glass. This mocha blend was quite good. The bitterness from the coffee was muted, but there was still plenty of coffee and chocolate flavor.



For my next batch I think I am going to tweak the coffee and chocolate variants. I think I'll use less coffee and more chocolate to compare with this batch.

 

 
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Time for my beer to grow up

This carboy is full of beer, the way it should be!
This carboy is full of beer, the way it should be!


I have four five-gallon glass carboys for secondary fermentation. At the time I purchased them would rack my wort into a secondary fermenter, just to free up my primary fermenters to make more beer. I was also brewing lagers at the time which would sit in the carboy for secondary fermentation of up to eight weeks.

There is great debate about whether a secondary fermentation is necessary. Technically in most cases a secondary fermentation is not an actual fermentation; it is more about the beer aging and maturing. I feel my beers are clearer and brighter when I use a secondary, but over time I have gotten away from doing it. Most of my beers are low enough in alcohol that they do not need extended time to age. Skipping a secondary is also just easier; it's one less step.

Frequently now when I do rack to a secondary it is when I am too lazy to bottle, and just want to get the wort off the trub and avoid any associated off-flavors. This is precisely what we with the Geary's HSA clone we brewed. Andy's kegs were full so we decided to bottle. After four weeks in the primary we racked to a carboy until we would have time to wash enough bottles. When we racked the beer to the secondary I was scared the beer was ruined by autolysis, an off-flavor caused by the beer sitting on dead yeast. We racked the beer and hoped for the best. The beer sat in Andy's basement for another month before bottling day.  When I tasted the beer on bottling day I'll be darned if it didn't taste like an HSA!

Bigger beers like Hampshire Special Ale need time to mature. The high levels of sugar that is fermented also creates a high level of byproducts which give the beer off-flavors. Additional time to mature gives the yeast time to clean up those byproducts. Even after being racked to a secondary vessel, there is still enough yeast in suspension to do the job.

A high gravity beer with a lot of flavors is a lot like a lasagna. It is great when it is fresh, but often times it is even better after it has sat in the fridge for a couple of days. The same can apply to a beer. The higher alcohol levels in a bigger beer can make the beer taste and feel hot and alcoholic when it is young. That character will mellow with time.

The HSA was the first beer I have brewed that was over 7% alcohol in a long time. For the most part my five gallon carboys have been sitting empty for months. If they are going to take up space, they may as well have beer in them!

The other nice thing about higher gravity/higher alcohol beers is that they age well. If I brew five gallons of IPA, the hop character will dissipate over time. After a few months in the bottle, the flavor and aroma will be so degraded I won't want to drink it anymore. It is almost a race to drink it all. A strong stout or scotch ale will age nicely in the bottle. I won't have to worry about drinking it all in a short period of time.

These are beers I am exited to brew, give as gifts, and see how they evolve over months and years. I may even buy a new computer and printer so we can design and make labels for these brews.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brew Day: 1905 Holiday Ale (Pre-Prohibition Amber Ale)

I was extremely happy with how my Hot Stove Porter came out last year. I actually still have a few bottles left. I recently popped one open that had been in my beer fridge. The hop aroma was gone, there was still some hop flavor, but the malt flavor was much more prominent. The beer has aged nicely.

For some reason though I felt like brewing something different for the winter this year. I am also downsizing the amount of beer that I brew. That I still have bottles of last year's Hot Stove Porter demonstrates that I have been brewing too much beer.

In September I came across this article on the Brew Your Own website with two Pre-Prohibition recipes from a brewery in Connecticut. Prohibition was certainly a cataclysmic event in American brewing. There has been a perception that Pre-Prohibition beers made in America were bold and flavorful, unlike mass-produced lagers that dominated after Prohibition and into the second half of the 20th Century.



There is a romance to Pre-Prohibition beer, the notion that we have a lost history of brewing flavorful beer in America. When I came across this recipe for 1905 Holiday Ale, I wanted to try it. Eyeballing the recipe I expect the beer to have no hop flavor or aroma. The high volume of corn sugar in the recipe makes me think this beer will finish dry and harsh. The high amount of dark caramel malt must be where the balance comes from. The fact I am so unsure of this recipe makes it perfect for a one gallon batch. If the beer is terrible, I am only out a few dollars and I can dump the beer.

In the article the author said he used an English yeast, which seemed like a solid choice given the British influence on American ale makers of the time like Ballantine, but he said he wished he used an American yeast like 1056. I used the dry version of Chico, S05. I brewed this at the same time I brewed my Celebration clone. It was easy to hydrate the dry yeast, pitch most of the liquid in the Celebration, and the rest in this beer. My first choice would have been to use Old Newark Ale, or 1272 American Ale II. For a one gallon batch the dry yeast was easier and cheaper.


  
On brew day I noticed I only had 0.1 oz of Cluster hops. I used some leftover Perle and Liberty hops from Pa's Video Board Lager. These German-derived hops are two hops that are not entirely dissimilar to the hops that were available back then. As it is, the beer should have little to no hop flavor.

Historical beer recipes were records for the brewer at that time. They tend to have a lot of short-hand making them not always easy to read and decipher for a modern brewer. Ingredients also change and evolve over time. For example, the brown malt used to make London Porter in the late 1700s no longer exists. Replicating the flavor of a historical beer involves a certain level of conjecture and comprimise. I am curious to try a taste of re-created history!

See the full recipe here

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Goose Black Friday

I am not a patient person. The longest I will wait for anything is usually 20-30 minutes. I also loathe waking up early. Goose Black Friday combined both.

My aversion to waiting usually extends to beer. I am not the type of person who will typically wait in line to buy a rare beer. Even when we drive up to Maine a few times a year I think the longest I have ever waited at Bissell Brothers is probably half an hour. Last week I made an exception.

Every Black Friday Goose Island releases their Bourbon County line of beers. These beers are highly sought after and sell quickly. These beers are in excess of 12% alcohol by volume and aged in used Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for at least six months.


The Bourbon County Brand Stout was one of the first barrel-aged beers when it was first released in 1992. Since then Goose Island has added several variants, and every year releases different ones. The variants are harder to come by than the stout. Last year I was able to buy the stout and barleywine locally in Beverly. I wasn't able to buy and bottles vanilla rye or coffee, but I was able to find the coffee on draught at Sylvan Street Grille.

This year I saw online that Redstone Liquors in Stoneham was having a Goose Island sponsored event on Black Friday. They would be selling the stout, coffee, and regal rye. Redstone probably has the best selection of craft beer and bourbon on the North Shore. They recently moved to a new space. The new location actually has a classroom for tastings. The first event in the new classroom would be a special Goose Island tasting event. When I was able to score Jennie and I a couple of tickets on Wednesday I decided to make the trip down for the release at 6:00 a.m. That was when the line started, the store didn't open until 8:00 a.m.

We arrived at Redstone right around  six and there may have been 5-10 people in front of us in line. Goose Island brought donuts and coffee. There was enough stout to go around for the folks who arrived early, but the variants were very limited and there were games to determine who would have the opportunity to buy one.

They started with trivia. The first question was where was the original Goose Island brewpub located. Jennie yelled out "Lincoln Park!" which was correct. She had her choice of Coffee or Regal Rye. I told her to get coffee, so she chose rye. Welp. After that chuckle I asked how she knew the answer. While we were driving to Stoneham, she was reading about Goose Island on Wikipedia.  Luckily I was able to win the chance to buy the coffee playing cornhole so it all worked out.

  
In the end we were able to buy both variants, four bottles of the stout, and a bottle of the stout from 2014. Redstone also has a tap system in their new store for sampling. Going forward the plan is to charge $2 per sample of rare beers with all of the proceeds going to charity.

The classroom session was excellent. We viewed videos produced by Goose Island showing how Bourbon County is made, The Grit and the Grain, while sampling brews. Seeing the effort that goes into producing these beers gave me even more appreciation for them, especially as a brewer myself.

We got to try two previous Bourbon County beers, and several of the even more elusive "Sour Sisters". The Sour Sisters are sour beers made by Goose Island in even lower quantities than Bourbon County. They were all exceptional and it was a great experience to try them.




 

 

I can't ever see myself hunting for "whalez bro" or being an avid beer trader. More often than not I am content to buy beer at the store that is readily available. I told myself if I only resort to waiting in line for beer on special occasions I am not like those retail customers that I used to hate who waited for hours on Black Friday to buy a crappy TV.

Out of curiousity I looked to see if there were any Bourbon County clone kits available. An all-grain kit was $82.95 and extract was $118.25. In contrast my typical 5-gallon batch costs anywhere from $20-45. That is just a small example of what goes into making these special beers.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

In Memoriam: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Massachusetts brewing company, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project announced they were ceasing operations on Tuesday. Some were shocked, but followers of the brand should not have been. The company was purposely called a "project" instead of "company" because projects are by definition not permanent. As a fan, it was a day I knew could happen at some point, but was saddened that it happened now.


Pretty Things was my favorite Massachusetts brewer. Every year I would always grab a bomber of Fluffy White Rabbits, Our Finest Regards, American Darling, and the rest of their beers as they were released. I also loved their Once Upon a Time series of historical brews they made in collaboration with brewing historian Robert Pattinson.

After hearing the news I stopped in at Bogie's in Beverly to pick up some of their beer. A year or so ago the owners of Pretty Things Dann and Martha Paquette hosted a tasting of Pretty Things on a Thursday night. They then stuck around for Bogie's regular Thursday tasting with Bogie's patrons, and bought some beer to take home. Unfortunately, I wasn't there, but everyone who was had noting but great things to say about Dann and Martha. I've seen similar stories online in the past couple days. That will make their absence in the local craft beer scene felt even more.

I was thinking about why I loved their beer so much. I think my brewing on a much smaller and inferior scale is not dissimilar their approach. We both brew the beer we want to make and to drink. Like myself, Pretty Things brewed a wide array of styles. Their beers were unconventional, while still being traditional. Instead of throwing in weird and exotic ingredients into their beers just for the sake of being weird and exotic, they would push boundaries by doing things complicated multi-step decoction mashes and combining traditional ingredients in nontraditional ways. Their flagship Jack D'or saison is a traditional saison with American hops. Saint Botolph's Town a brown ale, uses both a German and British yeast, while Fluffy White Rabbits uses English malt in a tripel.


As a brewer, beer drinker, and nerd, I love when a beer or a brand can teach as well as entertain. Enjoying Pretty Things' beer did all of that. They also demonstrated that you can brew traditional beers that are truly excellent. I can only hope the eclectic, mostly traditional beers that I brew will compare to theirs.

Dann has been involved in craft beer for over twenty years. Hopefully him and Martha will come out with a new project of some kind at some point in the future.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Brew Day: Pa's Video Board Lager

Last year I brewed two versions of this beer: a ten gallon all-grain batch at Andy's, and a simplified malt extract version for Learn to Homebrew Day. When I tasted the beers side-by-side, the all-grain version was better, if a bit lighter in alcohol than the extract version.

The recipe was a slightly modified version of a Charlie Papazian recipe from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. I imagined the beer as a bigger and hoppier version of his recipe. Seeing how alcoholic the extract version tasted, and how crisper the all-grain version was, inspired me to scale back the recipe a bit for this year. The all-grain was supposed to be similar in alcohol to the malt extract version. Improving our efficiency, the amount of fermentable sugars we extract from the grain, and maintaining a consistent level of efficiency on  Andy's system has been a challenge. As it was,  our all-grain beer not finishing as heavy as intended was probably fortuitous.

Last year we had a lot of Pa's Lager left over after our family Christmas get-together. I think it took us until March to kick both of the five gallon kegs. Both of Andy's kegs are full at the moment. For this year my plan is to brew a three gallon batch and keg it in one of my three gallon kegs like Fort Dummer and Shareholder's Saison. This is also an excuse to show up with my awesome new jockey box.

Under the old 2008 BJCP Guidelines the beer was a cross between a Premium American Lager and a German Pilsner. One of the new styles added to the new 2015 guidelines is International Pale Lager.

Overall Impression

A highly-attenuated pale lager without strong flavors, typically well-balanced and highly carbonated. Served cold, it is refreshing and thirst-quenching.

When scaling the recipe I set my target starting gravity and bitterness at the absolute top end of the style parameters. "Highly attenuated" means the beer should finish dry. The California Lager yeast will give the beer the crispness of a lager, but it's attenuation is low. I am going to mash as low and as long as I can, to produce a highly fermentable wort that will make the beer attenuate as much as possible. With any luck the beer should finish around 5% alcohol by volume.



One change I made was adding a couple of drops of Lactic Acid to the mash to lower the pH of the mash. A couple of members of the North Shore Brewers emphasized the importance of pH in the flavor of the beer. I have a pH meter and have been logging my pH, but I haven't been doing much to adjust it. On their suggestion I picked up a bottle of Lactic Acid to take more control. Most of my beers to this point have been in the acceptable 5.2-5.5 range, but on this brew day I was able to get my pH right to 5.2. In light beers like this the pH can creep up without the acidity that comes from darker malts.

Brew day went fairly smoothly. I was able to hold my mash temperature, and had a rolling boil on my stove-top. I siphoned my wort from the kettle into a five gallon carboy, and topped off with a gallon of distilled water. I wasn't able to take an accurate measurement of my volume, or starting gravity. I'll measure both at packaging time. Going forward I need to do a better job of measuring these when I brew three gallon batches.



Even though I brewed the beer at home, I took my carboy to Andy's to ferment in his cool, unheated basement. The temperature there is right in the appropriate range for the California Lager yeast. Even with my thermostat set at 65F, it can still get up to or over 70F in my apartment on a sunny day. The jostling around in transit will help aerate the wort.

Pa Chalifour dabbled in homebrewing. I wish I had a chance to talk to him about it. He was a man who every time you saw him was involved in a new hobby, interest, or scheme. None of his schemes made him rich, but he was rich in family. We will remember him by drinking a beer he would have loved.

See the full recipe here

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tasting Notes: Midlands Mild

When I started brewing I thought the first beer I made was world class. It blew my mind I could make something that good at home. Over time I became increasingly critical of my beer, but every once in awhile I brew something that brings back that old feeling from my early batches.

When the cap is popped the beer makes a very light hiss hinting at the low carbonation in the bottle. Midlands Mild pours espresso brown with a ruby hue. The off-white head is thin and frothy. I poured the beer mostly in the middle of the glass to help the head rouse. The retention isn't great which is to be expected in a lightly carbonated beer.


A mild is a perfect canvas for English yeasts that produce fruity and floral esters, and this example is no exception. Notes of honey and melon are prominent in the aroma. There are also faint notes of cocoa lying in the background.

The low carbonation and high percentage of specialty malts give the beer a medium body with a creamy mouthfeel. The beer starts sweet, but the finish is sufficiently balanced with hop bitterness and roasted malt flavor. There is some cocoa powder and licorice in the finish, but nothing that by any means dominates a 3.5% alcohol by volume beer.

This beer is everything I wanted it to be. As a brewer formulating a recipe you start with an idea of how you want your beer to look, feel, and taste. When I brew something that finishes exactly how I intended it brings me back to when I first started brewing.

I shared this beer at a recent North Shore Brewers meeting. The meeting was to discuss cask ales. I brought Midlands Mild because its low carbonation is intended to replicate a cask ale in a bottle. The response was very positive at the meeting. I also threw in a bottle with some beer mail I sent to fan of the blog Todd S. in Minnesota. He gave the beer a more than respectable 3.75 on Untappd.

This is one of my favorite beers I have brewed. It is a beer that works in any season or occasion. There is nothing about the beer I would change. I developed the recipe and ordered the ingredients several months before I made time to brew the beer. When I revisited the recipe on brew day it looked overly complicated. I couldn't figure out exactly what I was trying to accomplish with my ingredients and almost changed the recipe on they fly. Thankfully I did not.

I have hit on a new house recipe. Whenever I brew a mild it will be this recipe.

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Brew Day: Sierra Nevada Celebration Clone

The first year Andy and I brewed Pa's Video Board lager, our family kicked the five gallon keg in a few hours. Last year we brewed a ten gallon batch to make sure we had enough. As it turned out our family Christmas gathering was on a Sunday and people didn't have the same beer-drinking vigor knowing they had to work on Monday. We had a ton of leftover beer. By the time all that Pa Lager was gone I think we were all bored of it.

This year I brewed a three gallon batch in honor of Pa Chalifour, but I also decided I wanted to brew another beer the family could enjoy during the holidays. My thought was to brew a West Coast IPA for my hop-loving cousins.

As a beer drinker seasonal creep drives me nuts. I loathe it to the point that I developed the definitive guide for seasonal beer. Usually seasonal creep is an annoyance. I can still wait to buy a beer like Samuel Adams Octoberfest at the seasonably appropriate time. However, when a seasonal beer is an IPA that is best enjoyed fresh is when seasonal creep becomes problematic. The hop flavor and aroma in will diminish as it sits on the shelf.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is a classic West Coast IPA. In that sense it is a beer that can be enjoyed rear-round as opposed to drinking a 10% alcohol-by-volume imperial stout during our recent 75 degree weather. Maybe it's the snow covered cabin on the label, but it is a beer I want to enjoy, and enjoy fresh, during the holidays.


Brew Your Own magazine published a clone recipe back in 2004. A brewer named Chris Dibble loaded a version of the recipe into his BeerSmith cloud account. I downloaded Chris' version to my account, scaled it on my iPad to a 3 gallon batch, tweaked the recipe to use some ingredients I already had and to match specifications listed on the Sierra Nevada website. It is entirely possible they Sierra Nevada has made changes to the beer since 2004, and that the website's information is more current.

I would have thought the recipe would have called for more hops late in the boil and more dry hops. I did tweak the recipe with a small addition of Cascade and Centennial hops near the end of the boil. This is what Sierra Nevada's website seems to indicate. Celebration isn't a new-school, juicy, East Coast hop bomb. A West Coast IPA should be more bitter. I am interested to see how the hop flavor compares to my recent nouveau East Coast ales.

Sierra Nevada put the "Chico" yeast strain on the map. It is the house strain at too many craft brewers to list. Many home brewers use it exclusively. I prefer using different strains to make my beers different. I haven't used Chico in so long I dumped my jar of WLP001 from my yeast bank because it was so old. I have to use Sierra Nevada's yeast in a Sierra Nevada clone. I went the cheap and easy route by picking up a packet of Safale S05 dry yeast.

Racking my beer to the carboy. Trying to leave the boil hops
in the kettle. 
Needed a little extra water to hit my target volume.


Hydrating my S05 yeast. 

I still boiled off more of my wort than expected. The green duct tape on my carboy are gallon markers, I was about half a gallon short. I topped off with more distilled water to hit my target volume of 3.15 gallons.

This will be the second brew I have on draught for the holidays. I can't wait to do a side-by-side of my clone and the original.

See the recipe here.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Brew Day: Alan's Stepchild (American IPA)

When conducting research for the Geary's Summer Ale clone, I learned about the profound influence Alan Puglsey, and by extension Peter Austin, had on many early East Coast craft breweries. Leaning heavily on English brewing traditions, "Ringwood Breweries" like D.L. Geary, Gritty McDuff's, and Shipyard share a few common characteristics: the use of mostly English malts and hops, open primary fermentation, and the distinctive Ringwood yeast.

The IPAs produced by these breweries are English IPAs, or malty, old-school, East Coast American IPAs. When I brewed Fort Dummer it was in the style of a contemporary New England pale ale/IPA. To surmise these contemporary beers are characterized by: juicy hop flavor, soft mouthfeel, low bitterness, and a hazy straw to gold appearance.

The idea behind this beer is to marry the old and the new. My thought was what would I do if I brewed at one of these older craft breweries, and attempted to design a new IPA that people could get excited about. What I would do is make a contemporary New England IPA, but one that wasn't a complete departure from what these breweries have been doing for 20-30 years. If I poured this beer at Geary's or Shipyard I would want to to still taste like a Geary's or Shipyard beer while still being contemporary.



Open-fermenting with Ringwood yeast seemed like a must. My only concern is losing some of the hop aroma and flavor during open fermentation. To compensate I will add a second dry hop in a closed vessel to contain the aromatics from the hops. If the hop flavor is lacking, I can always brew this or a similar beer again employing closed fermentation.

This beer was my first one gallon batch I have brewed since I have started to scale back the amount I brew. That is the beauty of small-batch brewing.  If I have only 8-10 bottles of less than awesome beer it's not the end of the world. I open-fermented in the above state-of-the-art fermentation vessel that also works great for serving iced coffee.



In lieu of caramel malt this recipe calls for a healthy amount of un-malted flaked wheat to add body. In a nod to tradition the base malt is Halcyon. I bought it awhile ago just to try it. Upon researching a bit more Halcyon doesn't finish as sweet as some British barley varieties, but it does have some of the characteristic nutty flavors British malts are known for. I do want the beer to have some malt flavor, so I think this might work out perfectly. I also toasted a small amount of malt for color, body, and flavor as well.

The hop additions are a first wort hop before the boil starts, a steep at the end of the boil, and two dry hop additions. The idea is to have a juicy hop flavor and aroma with minimal bitterness. The hops I chose are a blend of Britain and America. Challenger is an English dual-purpose hop with a spice and citrus flavor that works well in classic English ales. Mosaic has such a complex flavor it should blend nicely. I blended it with three or four other hops of varying terroir in my Hot Stove Porter.

This one-gallon recipe uses 2 ounces of hops, which is probably the highest hopping rate I have ever employed for a recipe I developed myself.

I boiled off much more water than I had expected. I also had more trub loss at the bottom of my kettle than I was expecting. I ended up with less than half a gallon in my open fermentation vessel. Hopefully this won't effect the bitterness of the beer or lead to cause my beer to caramelize. Either could make the beer overly sweet.



I topped off with filtered water to get to a full gallon. About 12 hours later active fermentation had begun and I added my first dose of dry hops. With all of the hops in this batch they will probably absorb a fair bit of the beer. I'll probably finish with less than a gallon.

Going forward I'll dial in my process with these small batches. I have two more in the pipeline.

Click here for full recipe and brewer's notes.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Ales for ALS Homebrew Competition - Essex

On October 24 I finally tapped the kegs of Fort Dummer and Shareholder's Saison at Ales for ALS in Essex. I also brought two 12-packs of bottles from the last batch of Curly's Milk Stout. I'll have more detailed tasting notes on all three of those brews down the line. For now I will say that I was happy with all three.


I still bottle almost all of my beers. Last year I purchased four 3-gallon kegs and a CO2 tank. I haven't used them that much because I still don't have a kegerator at home to keep the kegs cold. For this event I purchased a "jockey box" while Northern Brewer was offering 20% off of a single item.



The device is relatively simple. There is an 18' coil inside the metal plate at the bottom of the cooler. The plate is covered with ice which cools the beer as it passes through the plate, and the cooler makes sure the ice doesn't melt too quickly. The day of the event everything worked perfectly. My kegs were probably room temperature, but the beer was ice cold as it came out of the taps.

Not having a kegerator makes it hard to force carbonate beers with a CO2 tank. At colder temperatures the beer will absorb more CO2. Not wanting to use up a bunch of gas to carbonate at room temperature, I kegged conditioned with corn sugar 12 days before the event. The carbonation of the beers was a little lighter than I would have liked, but was sufficient. As long as I didn't show up with infected beer, I wasn't overly concerned.

There were two prizes at the event. There were a panel of judges, and a people's choice award. Both of the beers that won were excellent. Jake Rogers' Flanders Red that won the people's choice award was excellent. He is an excellent brewer we will be hearing more from in the months and years ahead. I have four empty glass carboys at home. I need to get into sour beer brewing and put those to use.


I submitted Curly's Milk Stout as my competition beer. I knew it was good so I was more comfortable entering it in a competition like this as opposed to two first-time brews. I glanced at the voting during the event. Although my beer didn't win, it did have a respectable showing. One attendee who is a brewer compared the beer to a Grateful Dead song in that there was a lot going on in the beer, but it all works.

The food was excellent. I am trying to limit my intake of grains to the liquid form, but I did cave and have some of the Iggy's bread. The people were really nice. Pete Frates' uncle thanked us and appreciated that I was wearing my Team Frate Train "Strike Out ALS" shirt. The attendees ran the gamut from brewers and beer geeks to people who had no idea what a milk stout or a saison was. The responses to our beers was almost universally positive.

We helped raise money for a great cause. The new beers came out excellent. We didn't run out of any beer which was my other worry. It was a great time and I look forward to participating again next year.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tasting and festival fun!

Note: Newburyport Brewing asked if I would like to write some posts for their blog on the brewery website. This is a post about my experiences working events for the brewery. 

My name is Jason Chalifour. I am a homebrewer, blogger, Recognized Beer Judge Certification Program judge, craft beer fan, and have been working on the Event Team at Newburyport Brewing Company since May. As a side job there are worse things I could be doing than meeting people and talking about beer.

The first event I attended was at a bottle shop in Hingham. My first day I learned a very important lesson, never drive through Boston. Ever. It is never safe. Even at 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday there can and probably will be traffic.

My second event was at O'Neils in Salem. They usually have at least one Newburyport beer on tap. At the time they had both Green Head IPA and Plum Island Belgian White on tap. We were pouring samples and giving away t-shirts to customers who bought pints at the bar. I even had two bands ask if and how they could play at the brewery.

Folks always ask if we do tours and tastings at the brewery. When I tell people that we do, how Metzy's is at the brewery every Thursday, and that there is live music with our 5PM Sessions they always light up. Not being from Newburyport, I hope I have been giving clear directions to the brewery.

Some of the events I've worked haven't been your typical beer geek crowd. On Fathers Day I was pouring at Jewell Towne Vineyards. People who aren't beer drinkers, or are light beer drinkers really enjoy Plum Island Belgian White. It's not overly hoppy or bitter. Wine drinkers enjoy the fruitiness from the orange peel in the beer.

Craft beer drinkers that try Green Head for the first time really enjoy it. Most traditional East-Coast IPAs are fairly malty and by current standards, lightly hopped. Traditional West-Coast IPAs are hoppier but the hops dominate, making the beers a bit one-note.  Green Head more than any beer I have tasted melds both traditions by combining a nice malt flavor with a potent hop flavor and aroma. The IPA fans I encounter feel the same way when they try it.

The Pale Ale is my personal favorite. I always talk to customers about how the English Maris Otter base malt gives the beer a perfect balance. With Melt Away, some customers are not familiar with session beer. I usually describe it as a beer you can have a six-pack of on Tuesday, and still make it to work on Wednesday. The Citra and Amarillo hops in Melt Away also give the beer a different flavor from Green Head.

Going to tastings and festivals really is a lot of fun. Maybe I will see you there!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tasting Notes: Rounders Brown Ale, the importance of fermentation temperature

In home brewing, brewers will spend time researching ingredients, crafting recipes, pondering things like whether the last hop addition should be with five or ten minutes left in the boil. What many don't pay adequate attention to is what happens after brew day. Often after brew day the fermenter is plopped in a closet, basement, or under the stairs and forgotten about until racking or packaging.

Managing fermentation temperature is as important as recipe formulation, if not more. Commercial breweries have professional equipment to precisely set the temperature of their tanks. Advanced home brewers will equip a refrigerator or chest freezer with a temperature controller to control their fermentation temperature. A would-be like myself working within the limitations of brewing in an apartment has limited control over the temperature my beer ferments at.

Every yeast strain has a suggested fermentation temperature range from the manufacturer. The flavor the yeast provides can vary greatly depending on where exactly within the temperature range you ferment at. Guinness was able to brew a crisp and clean lager with their house ale strain at a low enough of a temperature. At a higher temperature would have been more fruity esters found typically produced by ale yeast. Where within the range the beer is fermented is one of the tools at the disposal of a skilled brewer. Brewing outside of the recommend range can lead to off-flavors that ruin your beer.

Rounders Brown Ale pours a beautiful mahogany color. When decanted carefully the clarity is brilliant. The beer has a foamy white head, average in size and retention. The beer is gorgeous. That part of the beer I nailed.

If only the beer tasted as good as it looks.

Something is off in the aroma. There is some caramel malt aroma, especially as the beer warms, but there is a medicinal aroma that muddles everything.

The flavor similarly has a light but noticeable solvent quality. There is a harshness that lingers in the palate as the beer finishes with a faint burn.

The beer is drinkable, but it is not good. If I was a broke student I could probably drink an entire batch of it. As an adult with plenty of other beers in the house that I would rather drink, I will dump the batch and move on.

The culprit is almost certainly my fermentation temperature. The suggested temperature range for the yeast I chose, WL007 Dry English Ale is 65-70F. Brewing the beer in late-August I was confident that I could keep the beer in that range. I asked Jennie if I could place the carboy in the coolest room in out apartment to be safe, the bedroom, and she refused. I thought I could still keep the beer cool enough in our kitchen with a swamp bucket and evaporative cooling. Evidently I could not. The unseasonably warm August and September we had didn't do me any favors.

IMG_1188.JPG
 I used a similar set up to this, except I covered my fermenter in a t-shirt to facilitate evaporative cooling. It wasn't enough


Sadly this beer is a loser. I feel like Teddy KGB just took every dime I own. Maybe I don't feel that bad, but I am disappointed. If I had fermented cooler or used a more forgiving yeast like Safale S-04 I could have had an excellent beer. Since this was an extract batch my ingredient costs were higher than normal.

Brown Ale is an easy style to brew. It is dark enough to hide minor flaws.  Kettle carmelization from the use of extract is less of a concern in a style that has some underlying sweetness to it. Only an idiot like me can screw up two of them in a row after my last brown ale ended up becoming a porter.

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Big beer is getting bigger and I don't care

The two largest beer companies in the world, AB InBev and SABMiller have agreed to a takeover of SABMiller by ABInBev. Freelance writer Jason Notte wrote a reaction piece 5 ways the A-B InBev-SABMiller deal will ruin your beer. I thought it was an interesting, if alarmist take on the situation and tweeted the link.



Notte replied to my tweet and them mention tweeted:

Notte

I corrected Notte and told him that I never said what he accused me of saying. Will any "good" come of this proposed merger for craft beer? Probably not. Will it change my drinking habits? No. Do I think it will change the options available to me at local bars and bottle shops? No.

I can't imagine big beer doing anything to make the barrier for craft beer higher than it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Back then there was no concept of craft beer or microbrewed beer. A beer darker than Budweiser was almost foreign. Is the growing segment of the population that consumes craft beer going to all-of-a-sudden go back?

Craft beer drinkers will vote with their wallets. I choose which restaurants to go to based in large part on their beer selection. If The Indo copied Buffalo Wild Wings beer menu (which is still passable) I would stop going and would find another bar. Regardless of how this deal may affect beer distribution, I can still buy great beer direct from the brewery at Newburyport, Riverwalk, Cape Ann, Jack's Abby, Trillium, and The Tap all within driving distance. I can't imagine local bottle shops like Bogie's, Depot Liquors, and Steve's Quality Liquors all of a sudden abandoning craft beer.

Perhaps to Notte's point, in areas not blessed with as much great local beer and food this will have a tangible effect. Outside of New England there are places where Domino's is the best pizza in town, Olive Garden is considered Italian cuisine, Red Lobster is considered food, and the only place you can buy beer is at a supermarket. Maybe in those areas there will be a squeeze.

Some are concerned that a new brewing behemoth could corner the market on ingredients and supplies like hops and aluminum cans. There is already a shortage of cans. I guess it is possible, but it would be a publicity nightmare.

I don't see much of what big beer does affecting my life. I also don't think of big beer as some malevolent force of evil. If I am at The Outback with my dad, I will thoroughly enjoy a Budweiser. If Goose IPA is the best beer I can find at Gillette Stadium I will enjoy circling back to a beer that I don't drink that often.

The ultimate hedge is that I can brew almost any kind of beer I want.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Brew Day: Geary's Summer Ale Clone

As a homebrewer it is possible to brew hard to find beers like an Australian Sparkling Ale. It is also possible to attempt to clone specific commercial beers. Homebrew shops and websites sell tons of commercial clone kits, occasionally they have hilarious names that thinly veil the beer the kit is attempting to clone. A year ago I attempted my own clone of The Substance by Bissell Brothers Brewing in Portland, Maine. At the time it was the hot, new IPA on the market. One year later people still line up outside the brewery. This time around I am cloning a beer from New England's oldest craft brewery.

Traditional brick boil kettle designed by Alan Pugsley.
Mash tun at the DL Geary brewery.

DL Geary Brewing was incorporated in 1983, one year before Samuel Adams, and started producing beer in 1986. David Geary spent three years in Britain learning his trade.  He spent time at the Ringwood Brewery owned by influential English craft-beer pioneer Peter Austin. Another disciple of Peter Austin named Alan Pugsley, who would later become head brewer and partner at Shipyard Brewing, helped set up the brewery.

Geary's produces mostly British-style ales. As the market has become dominated super-hoppy American ales and IPAs, Geary's traditional English ales are sometimes lost in the shuffle. My cousin/brewing partner Andy, his brother, and now his wife are huge fans of Geary's. My favorite Geary's brew is the Hampshire Special Ale (HSA), which under the 2015 Beer Judge Certification Guidelines I'd classify as a British Strong Ale. We tried brewing a clone of HSA two years ago. We didn't pitch enough yeast, drank a lot during that brew day, and from what I was told the beer was probably infected. Determined to get it right we purchased this clone kit and will try again.

Geary's Summer Ale might be Andy's favorite summer beer. During a recent visit to the brewery we brought back an extra 12-pack for Andy. Geary's Summer Ale is an interesting "summer ale". It's darker and sweeter than most summer beers, with a dry finish. While drinking the beer I was curious if there was a clone kit, or if anyone had attempted a clone recipe. Unfortunately after several minutes of thorough and rigorous research I wasn't able to find anything online. I checked the Geary's website for clues. Here are the brewer's notes:
The style of this ale is traditionally European, similar to a German kolsch: full bodied with a spicy hop tang and a rich, crystal clear golden color. Alcohol content is approximately 6% by volume.

Looking at and tasting the beer it is clearly not a kölsch in the . My guess is "similar to a German kolsch" means the beer is an Altbier, a malty and bitter German amber ale. Long Trail Ale would be the most prominent example that's locally available. Altbiers typically use mostly base malts, with small percentages of caramel/Cara Munich malts to add body and malt flavor, and roasted malts can be used for color and to dry out the finish.

The ingredients were also listed on the website as: Two row English malt (clarity, wheat and caramalt); Magnum, Tettnang and Saaz hops. I played around with the amounts of English base malt, light English Crystal malt, and chocolate malt in BeerSmith until I matched the color. I initially thought the dry finish was the result of a small amount of chocolate malt. I also couldn't match the color without it. In the end I added a very small amount of chocolate malt as something of a compromise even though it is not listed on the website. The rest of the malts are all very light in color and flavor.

Holding a Geary's Summer Ale up to the light to try and match the color.
The Alstom brothers on Beer Advocate made note of the distinctive esters from the Ringwood Ale yeast. German ale yeasts typically used in altbiers have a much cleaner flavor and have a higher attenuation than Ringwood ale yeast. To compensate I will mash at a lower temperature to make sure the beer finishes as dry as possible. The somewhat high starting gravity, wheat, and caramalt will still give the beer the "full body" touted in the description.

Compared to other breweries that use Ringwood yeast like Shipyard, the esters and buttery diacetyl flavor in Geary's Summer Ale are much more restrained. We pitched more yeast to help the beer attenuate and finish with as clean of a flavor as possible. I gave the beer a burst of pure oxygen from my tank and diffusion stone to help ensure a complete fermentation.

I adjusted the water for each beer as well. This is an area where even when brewing a kit the brewer has some additional latitude within a recipe. Some brewers will copy the water of certain brewing regions depending on what he/she is brewing. For example, if brewing a stout a brewer may try to copy the mineral content of the water in Dublin. For the Summer Ale I attempted to match the water of Dusseldorf where altbier is prominent. With the HSA clone I attempted to match the water in Edinburgh which is ideal for rich, malty ales.

Like Geary's we will be open fermenting the beers. We carried our fermentation buckets down to Andy's basement and left the lids off. There is an element of danger that the beers could be infected. Any wild yeast or bacteria that tries to find it's way into the beer will have to deal with several hundred billion cells of yeast that we pitched. Once active fermentation is done after a few days we will put the lids back on.

Geary's IPA in an open fermenter. The layer of yeast at the top protects the wort from the elements.
After our first experience, an HSA clone was our white whale so to speak. I have been waiting to brew the Summer Ale clone since we visited the brewery this past summer. This is my first time brewing with Ringwood yeast and open fermenting. I am anxious to see how these beers turn out!

Click here for the Geary's Summer Ale Clone recipe.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Brew Day: Shareholder's Saison

Brewing for me started as something my girlfriend and I could do together. In the early days we would brew, rack, and bottle together. After our first batch we started developing our own recipies. If I came up with one on my own, she would come up with one of her own. Slowly the hobby sucked me in more than it did her. She liked brewing, but maybe not enough to want to do it every other weekend.

In the early days she found out about the Ales for ALS event in Essex and wanted to participate. When I volunteered for this year's event and realized we would have to brew a couple of batches to bring to the event, she was as excited about brewing as she had been in a long time. I took this as an opportunity to make her more involved again and suggested she choose the style of one of the beers and develop a recipe.

I suggested several styles where we could go from grain to glass in a four week window. I was throwing out ideas, and when I suggested a saison her eyes lit up. Over the next few days she researched different recipes for ideas. When she was trying to fine tune how much to add of certain ingredients, I gave her a crash course in how to use the Beer Smith Mobile application on my iPad. Full credit to her for putting the recipe together. The only help I gave was that when she thought the beer might be too light in color, I suggested adding a little bit of Munich malt to darken the beer ever-so-slightly.

For ingredients she went more out of the box than I have in recent batches. In a traditional saison the spiciness and unique "funky" flavors come from the yeast and high fermentation temperatures. The finish is quite dry thanks to the liberal use of sugars. She wanted her beer to be different and elected to add additional spices to her beer. When I asked what type of flavor she was going for, she shrugged and said the beers and breweries she enjoys are a bit non-traditional like Dogfish Head, and that was what she wanted to do with her beer.









The yeast she selected, WLP760 American Farmhouse Blend contains a mix of saison yeast and brettanomyces or brett. Brett is a yeast that is a cousin of your typical brewers yeast, saccharomyces. When blended with saccharomyces, brett will give a beer funky, fruity, or barnyard type flavors. Brett works more slowly than brewers yeast and can ferment sugars in a wort that regular yeast cannot. This can cause a brett beer to change in character over the course of months or even years.

I haven't brewed with brett before. My only concern is that given our short window that the brett will not be done fermenting before we package the beer. The plan is to keg three gallons to bring to Ales for ALS, and bottle the rest. I hope we don't end up with gushers or bottle bombs as the brett continues to ferment the beer and release CO2. What I may do is fill the keg, and rack the remaining beer to smaller growlers to allow the rest of the beer more time to ferment and mature.

The yeast and spice additions were all her choices for her beer. My girlfriend really took ownership of the recipe. When 2 oz of Chocolate Malt meant for the Geary's Summer Ale ended up mixed in with her grain she spend over an hour removing the Chocolate Malt kernel by kernel. The only area where she did slack was when it came to brewing the beer. After attending Bogie's Oktoberfest she left that to me!

Click here for the full recipe.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Brew Day: Fort Dummer (American Pale Ale)

For years aggressively hopped IPAs have been marketed as "West Coast" IPAs. These were IPAs where the malt and yeast exist mostly as a canvas for the hops. The best examples from the West Coast widely available in the Boston area are from Stone and Ballast Point. Local brewers like Ipswich Ale and Newburyport Brewing have released IPAs that they market as West Coast. The proximity of major hop-growing regions in the Pacific Northwest helped the West Coast IPA as it came to be known evolve.

East Coast IPA traditionally resembled an English IPA with American hops. It has more malt flavor and often yeast esters than West Coast IPAs. Ipswich's original IPA, Fisherman's IPA, and Shipyard Monkey Fist are a few examples that come to mind. East coast pale ales generally followed a similar pattern.

In the past several years New England brewers have started producing juicy, hoppy ales and IPAs. The mouthfeel is soft, malt flavor understated, and hop flavor massive. Several examples are available in Vermont, at Trillium Brewing in Boston, and in Portland, Maine. The mouthfeel and cloudy appearance comes from un-malted adjuncts liked flaked barley, oats, or rye.

In a post on his blog, Michael Tonsmeire also indicates that several of these new-school New England pale ales and IPAs have a bit more yeast character than beers that use the ubiquitous Chico yeast strain. In his recipe, Tonsmeire used one of my personal favorite strains London Ale III 1318.

I had been planning to brew my own New England IPA before I decided to cut back on my beer production. Then last week I received an email that there was a spot available at Ales for ALS in Essex. I volunteered immediately, then realized I would need to brew some beer! While my house is overwhelmed with beer, I didn't want to bring in a kit beer or bring in a 12-pack of eight different brews.

I needed to brew two batches to bring to the event, and I needed to go from grain-to-glass in four weeks. Given the short window I scaled down my original IPA recipe to a pale ale to make sure the beer had enough time to ferment. I also adjusted my ingredients based on the ingredients that Beer & Wine Hobby carries as I didn't have time to have all of my ideal ingredients shipped in. The ability to buy all of my malt by the ounce was a huge help and made sure I had exactly what I needed.


The grist was simple: Munton's Maris Otter malt and malt extract, flaked barley, and flaked oats. I loved how Irish Ale 1084 worked in a hoppy beer like Summer Somewhere. It's low to medium attenuation will give the beer a bit more body and will hopefully provide my desired soft mouthfeel. I chose two new, fruity hop varities Equinox and Azacca. The second dry hop will be leaf Ahtanum hops.



The other issue I had was that I already had plans to attend Bogie's Oktobeerfest on brew day. We ended up buying ingredients in the morning, going to the festival, and brewing at night. I was brewing until 2:00 a.m. I couldn't tell you if I held my target mash temperature or if my starting gravity is on target.

The unseasonably warm weather caused the beer to ferment in the low to mid 70s, outside of the yeast's target range. After 36 hours active fermentation was over. I am scared that the beer will be too light and/or will have all kinds of off-flavors due to my failure to control my fermentation temperature. The beer will be double dry-hopped. With any luck that can mask any imperfections.

We will be pouring this beer, Curly's Milk Stout, as well as a saison my girlfriend developed at Ales for ALS on October 24. It is a great event and you should come!

Click here for the recipe.
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