Initially wasn’t too impressed with this beer, likely a result of my poor recipe calculation. I stupidly forgot to update the alpha acid content of the First Gold hops in the recipe software (it was assumed to 7%, mine were really 3%), so my IBUs were probably about cut in half. It wound up being a fairly malty beer, but the toasted malt flavors were actually quite pleasant. Happy accident considering I was hoping this would be a hop forward beer. That being said, I always seem to under do the hops when using English Yeast. The yeast tends to mute the hops and I always forget to compensate.
The clarity on this batch was phenomenal, and the shade of red was perfect in my opinion (the photo appears more brown). It’s been tough to hit the color red (too dark and it’s brown, too light and it’s copper/orange) but this SRM level (10, I believe) was just right.
Looking back at the recipe again, the hop additions didn’t really make sense for what I was going for; the whole thing would have probably been better just without the 30 minute Cascade addition. Mid-boil additions haven’t sat well with me recently. They seem to work well in IPAs that have a lot of hops surrounding the mid-boil addition, but not so much in isolation. Although my favorite saison recipe just has 60 and 30 minute additions and that’s it – it seems to give it a nice zippy dry finish. As with everything in brewing, it’s all about how you use it to make it appropriate.
Next up is a red ale, trying to emulate what I remember from Cooperstown Brewing Company’s Old Slugger. It had a delicious malt and hop balance that leaned a little into the toasted malt dimension. I dreamed up this recipe that has a toasty malt component but with moderate hopping. I wanted something that has a touch of a hop bite (not aggressive), with some soft herbal hop flavor and a bit of a floral nose.
- 10.75 lb English Pale
- 1.25 lb Victory malt
- 0.1 lb Carafa II
- 1 oz First Gold, 60 min (3% a.a.)
- 0.25 oz Cascade, 30 min (7% a.a.)
- 0.8 oz First Gold, 10 min (3% a.a.)
- 0.5 oz Cascade, 3 min (7% a.a.)
- WYeast British Ale II (1L starter)
// Mash-in w/ 4.8 gal at 152F for 50 minutes, raise to 168F. 2 tsp gypsum to mash. Sparge w/ 3 gal 168F water. Collect around 6.5 gal 1054 wort. Boil 75 minutes, collect 5 gallons 1062. Chill to 60F. Pitch half decanted starter. Left to ferment at 66F. Brewed 12/27/16. //
12/28/16: Good airlock activity.
1/2/17: Gravity down to 1020. Still slightly sweet but malt/hop flavors are getting there. Will let sit for a few more days then crash.
1/4/17: Moved to fridge to crash cool.
1/5/17: Added gelatin.
1/8/17: Kegged. Super clear. Flavor doesn’t impress me – harsh hop edge with malt flavors that don’t really jive. We’ll see how it turns out once conditioned. Tasting notes.
This beer led me to discovering that my nitrogen gas line has a leak; needless to say this did not make it to the nitro tap. I hadn’t used my handpump in a while so I decided, what the hell, let’s use this as an experiment to see how long a beer would last uncooled and uncarbonated on cask. Usually I reserve casks for parties since it needs to be completely drank within a few days after tapping. After a few days the warmer temperature and oxygen in the headspace spoils the beer.
My procedure for this experiment is as follows:
- Decide that I’d like to have a pint of cask ale (or two). Rarely a difficult decision.
- Vent any excess CO2 from the keg.
- Connect handpump to keg, pull beers until finished, usually leaving the keg “tapped” for 2 to 3 hours.
- After this “session”, disconnect the handpump and put CO2 on to pressurize the keg to 10 psi. Disconnect gas.
- Repeat for each session.
I tapped the keg on 9/6/16 and am pleased to report that it lasted a full 2-1/2 weeks (9/23) before starting to show some noticeable effects of aging. From my experience with previous casks I was expecting it to become “funky”; small amounts of bacteria/wild yeast would eventually become active and create off flavors. However, the effect was more of a general oxidation – the caramel flavors become over-pronounced, slightly harsh and cloying, reminding me of a lot ill homebrew I’ve tasted in the past. Still drinkable, but having tasted it every other day it’s definitely noticeable. By 9/30 there was a noticeable Brett funk that had developed. It actually didn’t taste that bad if you took it as intentionally being funky, but it definitely had deviated too far from the original beer to be passable. Original recipe can be found here.
How it look: Crystal clear, amber, chestnut brown (lighter than the picture shows) with a frothy, airy, sudsy head. Excellent cascading bubbles when pulled from the hand pump. Just like something you’d see in a London pub!
How it smell: Clean English yeast esters with caramel, toffee, and flowers.
How it feel: Flat, but very expressive. Moderate earthy bitterness in the finish.
How it taste: Like a cozy English pub. Toasted malts and hints of caramel initially fading to earthy, floral hops. In the first pour I thought the bittering hops were a little too assertive, but it’s just enough to poke out in the finish and leave you wanting another sip. The aeration provided by the handpump amplifies all of the flavors wonderfully.
How it do: I have an absurd bias towards English cask ales, so naturally this was one my favorites to drink. I can say as objectively as possible that this is on par with bitters I’ve had in the UK. After all, when you use all English ingredients, you’re going to hit the mark on getting all of those characteristic flavors into your beer. I actually thought the beer peaked after about a week in the cask – the malt flavors seemed to develop and become more expressive.
My nitro tap has be vacant for a while, partly due to a leak in my gas line that depleted the tank on my last batch and my unwillingness to go get the damn thing refilled. This should be a nice pick-me-up for the tap; a fairly standard English Bitter with a full bill of English ingredients.
- 9 lb Muntons Maris Otter
- 0.8 lb Muntons Medium Crystal 60L
- 0.1 lb Muntons Extra Dark Crystal malt
- 3 oz UK First Gold (60 min) (3.5%aa)
- 1 oz UK First Gold (10 min) (3.5%aa)
- 1 oz UK First Gold (0 min) (3.5%aa)
- Wyeast London ESB
// Mash-in 2 qt/lb at 154 for 40 minutes. Sparge w/ 3.7 gal 170F water. Collect 7 gallons 1040 wort. Boil 40 minutes. Collect around 4.5 gallons 1.048 wort. Pitch 1L starter. Could only get the temp down to 85F with the hot weather and water temp. Moved to basement to ferment at 65F. Brewed 8/26/16. //
The yeast was dated April, so I made a 1L starter to get it going again. It had no problem fermenting out the starter, and tasted fine before pitching.
Water: 2 tsp gypsum, 1/2 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Nothing to sparge.
8/27/16: Lots of activity, slight blow-off into the airlock.
8/29/16: gravity at 1020. Nice esters and malt flavor, but the hops are sharp and, well, bitter. Hoping this mellows.
9/1/16: Gravity still at 1020, but much better flavor. Hops are less sharp and just tastes like a great English ale. Slightly sweet. Much clearer, too. Kegged and put on the nitro tap at 30 psi. Tasting notes!
This is my first attempt at using a bunch of rye in a beer, and it came out well!
Appearance: Light brown/copper with some red highlights. Slight haze that cleared up after some time in the keg. Fluffy off-white head.
Aroma: Herbal resiny hops, rich toast, and a small amount of dark chocolate.
Mouthfeel: Fairly big body with medium carbonation.
Flavor: Malts and hops both present themselves equally, and they’re massive – earthy dank hops and rich toffee / burnt caramel. The rye plus toasted malt and slight buttery english yeast character play nicely together. The hop flavors are somewhat aggressive and really pierce through in the finish.
Overall: Not the most sessionable beer I’ve ever made, but merits for huge huge flavors – big, toasted malts and coarse earthy hops which seemed to be in a nice balanced state. Switching over to an American yeast would help to dry it out a little more and let the hops shine, which might make it a little more easy drinking, but I thought having the malt flavors out in front was nice too.
This is the dark half of my first split 10 gallon batch where I split the malts, hops and yeast. The main mash consisted of primarily base malt; I steeped some chocolate malt on the side, then added it right at flameout to the 5 gallon boil. It worked out well and created two very different beers!
Appearance: Darkest of browns. Tan head with great retention and lacing. Surprisingly clear for a dark ale – ruby highlights when held to the light.
Aroma: Dark chocolate all the way followed by some toasty, doughy malt.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation and big, silky smooth body.
Flavor: Cocoa, light roast coffee and chocolate malts up front, with a little smoky, slightly burnt/charred flavor in the finish. In general there’s a very strong resemblance to the sensation of eating a piece of dark cocoa chocolate – slight lingering sweetness and bitterness which really begs for another sip.
Overall: A very enjoyable stout / dark coffee brown ale, depending how you look at it. I’m satisfied with how this turned out but I can’t help but think there’s something missing. It’s a good “base beer” but it needs a little finishing accent. This may seem like a weird observation, but coconut would take this through the roof. It reminds me a lot of Maui Brewing Company’s Coconut Porter, minus the coconut obviously. The milky smooth coconut flavor blends so well with the mocha roasted goodness of the malts.
This is a recipe for a low-gravity, darker English mild. I used lots of dark English crystal to really emphasize the toffee and nutty flavors. I made this on my indoor 3 gallon set up (shot for around 1057 OG), then just topped up with water to reach around 4.5 gallons of lower-gravity 1038 wort.
- 5.5 lb Maris Otter Pale
- 0.5 lb Dark Crystal (160L)
- 0.2 lb Chocolate malt
- 1 oz Fuggles (4.1% a.a.) 60 min
// Mash-in at 156 for 50 minutes. Mash-out and sparge w/ 168F water to collect around 3.25 gal 1063 wort. Boil 60 minutes. Add ice to chill to 120F and reach around 3.5 gal. Collect 3 gallons of 1058 wort, add 1.5 gallons filtered water to reach 4.5 gallons at 1038. Brewed 1/26/16 //
1/30/16 Gravity at 1014. Pleasant malt flavor and aroma – caramel and subtle toffee / toasted flavors with a dry finish. Slightly thin, but expected with the lower OG. Moved over to the nitro keg (no CO2 pre-fill).
2/2/16 Still rather flat and no head coming out of the nitro tap. Might have needed some of the CO2, but the last beer I did that with had way too much head. Tastes a bit watery when it’s chilled – might want to consider putting this on the hand-pump to liven it up.
After about a week in the keg this turned out to be a delightfully sessionable and cozy beer. Great with food, or when you feel like having two mid-day without derailing your Saturday. It’s amazing what head retention the nitro gives in a beer that’s this light and with low hopping, too – the pictures show a fairly small head but it lasted throughout the entire pint. The turbulence of the nitro tap definitely helped to boost the body and give the beer some life. Despite being a lower OG ale there was still a modest amount of malt flavor and some buttery English yeast character to bring it home. It’s not an overly complex beer, but it’s not one-dimensional either and keeps your taste buds entertained, navigating through the rich malt character, even though the overall flavor magnitude is less that usual. It was a mild ale by design, but I did think it just a tiny bit thin in the end. I’ve made beers of this strength before on my standard 10 gallon setup, but never with this 3-gallon-then-top-up-with-water method – that may have something to do with it. I will make this beer again, maybe just slightly bumping up the specialty malts. Cheers!