Category Archives: Blonde

American Pils

One of my favorite beer tasting experiences was going to the tasting room at Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto. The beer was so fresh, crisp, and delicious that I still have dreams about that pilsner. I’ve been wanting to make something that comes close, and, given that it’s tough to find Steam Whistle in bottles near me, I did some research online to see if people know what was in it. This recipe is a representation of those findings.

  • 11 lb US 2-row Pale malt
  • 0.17 lb Melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz Perle 60 min
  • 0.4 oz Saaz @ 5 min
  • 0.4 oz Spalt @ 4 min
  • 0.5 oz Spalt @ 2 min
  • 1 pkg Saflager-189

// Mash-in w/ 4.5 gal at 150 for 60 minutes. 2.5 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Mash-out,  sparge to collect around 6.6 gal 1046 wort. Boil 75 minutes. Chill to 55F, collect 5 gallons 1053 wort. Oxygenate 60s, sprinkle yeast on top. Brewed 1/13/17. Left to ferment between 55F and 60F in the basement. //

1/20/17:  Gravity at 1020, great malt flavor and subtle hop profile. Letting it finish out.

1/27/17:  Gravity at 1012. Moved to fridge.

1/30/17: Doesn’t taste nearly as “fresh” as the first tasting, wondering if i let it sit a little too long. Added gelatin finings.

2/1/17: Kegged. Fairly clear, still some hazy beer left near the bottom of the carboy. Tasting notes.

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Filed under All-grain, Almost SMASH, Blonde, German, Lager, Malty, Pilsner

Belgian Single

I recently visited Cooperstown, NY and checked out Ommegang. I’ve always considered their beer as one of the best Belgian “US” breweries (yeah, they’re owned by Duvel, so what?). So I decided to make a fairly standard Belgian Blonde Ale after something I tasted up there.

  • 9.75 lb Pils (Dingemans)
  • 0.25 lb CaraRuby (Dingemans, 20L)
  • 1.5 lb Styrian (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Styrian (5 min)
  • WLP570 Belgian Golden Ale (1L starter)

// Mash-in 4.25 gal at 152 for 60 minutes, 168 for 5 minutes. Sparge w/ 3.5 gallons to collect around 6.5 gallons of 1042 wort. Boil 90 minutes, collect just under 6 gallons of 1052 wort.  Chill overnight to 56, pitch decanted starter. Basement at 64F. Brewed on Grainfather 9/15/16. //

9/17/16:  Lots of blow-off. Great aroma from the airlock, though.

9/22/16:  Airlock starting to slow, took a sample at 1018. Very yeasty and still very cloudy, but great breaded flavor following. Moved upstairs to 71F.

9/23/16:  Definite increase in airlock activity after 24 hours, thin white foam layer on top.

9/29/16: Still bubbling once every 20s, but I’m happy with the flavor. Moved to the fridge to crash cool. Gravity at 1011.

10/27/16:  Came out well, a little ester-y, but very drinkable. Tasting notes soon.

12/5/16:  Keg kicked and I never got around to doing a proper review! However this beer was stellar. Crisp, refreshing, great balance of biscuity malts and floral expressive hops. The yeast esters went down and hops seemed to come out more with age as the beer clarified. Probably kegged a little too soon, but those “young” flavors could’ve been evaded had i filtered at kegging. Will definitely make again!

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Filed under All-grain, Almost SMASH, Belgian, Blonde, Malty

El Dorado SMASH Tasting

This recipe used 8oz of El Dorado hops; it was my first time using them – they’re super interesting and juicy!

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Aroma: All hops – lemon, berries, peach, hint of pine.

Appearance: Pale yellow, cloudy. Medium density white head that leaves excellent lacing.

Mouthfeel: Light, ever so slightly acidic, and refreshing on the palette. Minimal lingering bitterness in the finish despite the level of hopping.

Flavor: All hops again, peach-y citrus all the way. When the beer was young, I thought it had undertones of grape, maybe even plum. These faded after while to only the brighter peach and lemon.

Overall: El Dorado is awesome. A very unique hop that I would compare to a blend of Chinook and Citra – it has the tropical flavors but with some piney sub-flavors. The bright peach and lemon is unlike anything I’ve used. I will for sure be using it in APAs and IPAs to come, maybe even an interesting Saison. Going with all 2-row is the base was a safe bet to really get a feel for the hop in question, but adding a bit of color and body to the beer via dark Munich or a pinch of specialty malts would help to provide a bit more balance; I tried blended 2/3 this and 1/3 of an English Bitter and that worked really well together.

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Filed under Blonde, Hoppy, IPA, SMASH, Summer, Tasting

El Dorado SMASH


My LHBS had a deal going on: 1/2 lb El Dorado hops for $11! That’s a sick deal – $1.38/oz for a hop that normally goes for $2.50/oz. So I picked up a pack and made a recipe to really showcase it; huge late hopping.

  • 15 lb US 2-row
  • 0.5 oz El Dorado 60 min
  • 1 oz El Dorado 15 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 10 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 8 min
  • 2 oz El Dorado 6 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado dry hop

// Mash-in 1.8 qt/lb for 60 minutes, sparge w/ 3.5 gal 170F water to collect 8 gal 1042 wort. Boil 60 minutes, let hops stand for 25 minutes. Chill to 80F, collect 5 gallons of 1058 wort. Lost about a gallon to hop trub. Racked directly onto cake from the Peach cider. Good fermentation a few hours later. Brewed 5/20/16. //

5/22/16:  Fermentation started to slow down, added dry hops loose to fermentor.

5/25/16:  Gravity at 1011. Crazy hop flavor. Tons of citrus, but it’s kind of lemon-like with some subtle grape, dark fruit that weirdly reminds me of crystal malt. Moved to fridge to crash cool.

5/26/16: Kegged. Tasting notes to come.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, Experimental, Hoppy, IPA, SMASH, Summer

Sour Wort Experiment: Lacto/Yogurt Kettle Sour

This was another experiment to try and achieve sourness in a beer using a “quick” method. Rather than adding uncrushed malt to the kettle to achieve lacto souring, I added some yogurt. Yogurt is full of healthy bacteria, and apparently some brewers are now using it to sour beer. I used Wegman’s brand, plain, non-fat greek yogurt.

  • 4 lb Pils malt (Avengard)
  • 2.5 lb White wheat
  • 1 oz Saaz 60 min
  • White Labs Brett Vrai

// Mash-in 152 for 50 min. 1 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Mash-out 168, sparge to collect 3.25 gallons 1.066 wort. Boil 15 minutes, chill to 120 with ice (ended up with 3.5 gallons). Added two dollops of Greek yogurt into the wort, seal top of wort with plastic wrap. Brewed 1/15/16. //

1/18/16  Lots of white bubbles started forming under the surface of the plastic wrap. Looks like fermentation is happening. Shucks. Called it quits and decided to finish off the beer. Skimmed off as much yogurt/yeast residue as possible and boiled for 90 minutes. Collected around 3 gallons of 1052 wort. Let it cool overnight down to 55, let it warm up to 65 before pitch a single vial of Brett.

1/23/16  Finally, first signs of fermentation.

2/27/16  Kegged.  This beer is ultra funky. Very similar to the Brett lambicus cider. Gravity down to 1004.

THE VERDICT

Well, the yogurt did not sour the wort as expected. I read that using unpasteurized yogurt may be needed but I’m still not sure if that’s totally necessary. After all, you wouldn’t want to kill off the probiotic bacteria in yogurt. Anyway, from this data point of a recipe, I did not achieve any sourness using this brand of yogurt. My guesses are that 1) there may have been too little lacto in the yogurt, or 2) I had a wild yeast take-over resulting in the foam under the plastic wrap. The grain-based method has been my only success so far in quick souring.

Even though the beer wasn’t sour, the level of Brett character is this beer was outrageous – it was on par with Brett Lambicus. Super horsey, borderline funky weird cheese. I wound up blending about 1/3 saison and the 2/3 of this together to create a more palatable and mildly funky beer. That being said, this yeast would likely be better suited pitched alongside a standard yeast, like a Belgian saison or a clean yeast. Allowing it to do all the work created a total funk bomb!

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Filed under Blonde, Experimental, Funky / Sour, Small Batch, Sour

Kettle Soured Berliner Weiss

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Omega Yeast Labs makes a Lactobacillus blend that can sour beer at room temperature rather than requiring an elevated temperatures in the 90F-110F range. This is a quick 3 gallon batch sour using the kettle sour method to see what kind of results this blend can produce.

  • 4 lb Pils malt
  • 2.5 lb White wheat
  • 0.5 oz Saaz 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Hallertau 5 min
  • Omega Labs Lactobacillus blend
  • White Labs German Ale / Kolsch

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 150 for 60 min. Mash out and sparge to collect 3.5 gal 1050 wort. Sour for 72 hours with Omega blend. Boil 60 minutes, cool to room temp, pitch yeast. Collected around 3.25 gallons of 1048 wort. Pitch yeast with no starter. Brewed 3/6/16. //

Fermented down to around 1011 in about 1 week. Excellent malt character with just a touch of sourness. Kegged and carbonated to medium/high level.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Light yellow, slight haze. Wispy white head that lasts for a while and leaves moderate lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Bright lemon and lime citrus up front supported by light breaded malts.

Mouthfeel: Extremely light bodied and bubbly.

Flavor: Medium amount of tartness and acidity up front, with lemon/pear. Light pils malts linger in the finish with a touch of citrus, which is almost like a Kolsch with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice.

Overall:  A clean, spritzy, refreshing beverage with some great Berliner Weiss / Gose-like qualities.  I’m not a Berliner Weiss expert but this beer was exceptional for my tastes. It could maybe be just a touch more acidic – using ice to chill the wort definitely cut the sourness down, but there was still an appropriate level that made it very enjoyable.

I highly recommend the Omega lacto blend for kettle souring. It’s very clean and quick which, in my mind, is ideal for this style since it’s not an overly complex sour beer like a gueuze. Personally I’m not a fan Brett character in this style – I think citrus works better than funk here, but that’s just me.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, Experimental, Funky / Sour, German, Small Batch, Sour, Wheat beers

American Helles (Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde clone)

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My wife and I recently took a trip to Hawaii. We drank a lot of great beer. We didn’t come across anything too “adventurous” – mostly lagers, ambers, browns, stouts, a few IPAs, with the occasional coconut, pineapple, and or/coffee infused beer. Overall the quality was outstanding, though.  Maui Brewing Company was one brewery stop on the trip, and their Bikini Blonde quickly became my go-to; extremely drinkable and a wonderfully refreshing beer for relaxing on the beach (the coconut porter was a close 2nd).

  • 19 lb US 2-row
  • 2 lb Dark Munich (avengard)
  • 0.75 oz Magnum FWH
  • 1 oz Willamette @ 10 min
  • WLP090 San Diego Super yeast (1L starter)
  • WYeast London ESB (1L starter)

// Mash-in 1.33 qt/lb at 152 for 50 minutes, sparge w/160F water (propane ran out) to collect 13.25 gallons of 1042 wort. Boil 30 minutes (propane ran out again during the boil), then another 30. Chill to 75. Let sit 30 minutes to settle trub. Collect around 11 gallons 1048 wort. San Diego in PET carboy, english in plastic bucket. Brewed 12/12/15. //

Fermentation complete in both beers in about a week – english stopped at 1016, SD at 1010. Both have great malt flavor with just a hint of a neutral hop flavor in the finish. SD has a slight fruity/apple aroma but overall very clean. Moved english to the nitro tap and SD to force carb.

THE VERDICT

I bought a 6-pack of Bikini Blonde and did a side-by-side comparison against mine. The results were strikingly similar. I even had a few people do a blind taste test – about 50% of people guessed incorrectly in labeling the beers after sampling both a few times prior. That either means the quality was comparable, or that they were just bad beer tasters :). To make it easy, here’s a table of the comparison:

 

Attribute Bikini Blonde American Helles Comments
Appearance Golden yellow Golden yellow Nearly identical shade of yellow, and BB was actually a little cloudier than mine, strangely.
Aroma Classic Helles lager traits – light malt toast with some slight buttery/diacetyl lager-ish things Slightly ale-like, but does have significant pils malt aroma. The aroma on mine is much more subdued, but both have attractive qualities.
Flavor Distinct grainy flavor, subtle but noticeable noble hop character Clean, light malt flavor. Hops rarely poke through. Very similar – both are clean, light, malt-forward. I really like the grain flavor of BB and I wonder how they capture this – maybe some aromatic malt or melanoidin? Or, maybe the lager yeast just helps to accentuate the base malts more than an ale yeast
Mouthfeel Light carbonation Medium carbonation Both are pretty smooth – BB is slightly silkier and has a tad more body.

WLP090 seems to be a great yeast for a fairly neutral yeast flavor while letting the malts shine through. I fermented a little on the warmer side (68-70F), but I’d imagine that if you kept this lower you’d be squeaky clean, borderline lager-ish. I’ll definitely be using this again for anything that I don’t want the yeast contributing too much flavor to.

The nitro version with the English yeast was great, too. It reminded me of a Boddington’s Ale with the creamy light malt body combined with the English yeast character. Not my favorite English beer, but it was very enjoyable on tap. The English yeast did push the malts out in front even more, but I found myself wanting more hops to balance it, like with my hoppy English Pale Ale.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, English, Malty, Pale Ale, Pilsner