Getting Started with Relentless Brewing!

Hello heroes!

I apologize profusely (once again) for the 6 month delay in updates. However, I am really excited to be able to tell you, my teaming masses of followers, that I’ve taken a Head Brewer position with Relentless Brewing Company! What’s even more fun is we’re just getting started, so I get to help grow a wonderfully innovative little brewery right out of the gate!

I am really pumped to be working with James & Doris. We have similar beer tastes, visions, and an appreciation for barrels, Belgians, sour, and funk. I’m quite hopeful this opportunity will create a perfect storm of beer awesomeness. Without further ado, I’ll give you a look at the behind the scenes beer awesomeness so far.

Here’s me manning the valves below/ keeping an eye on an R&D brew while James (literally) knocks the dust off of our super sexy 10 bbl brewhouse:

IMG_7194While we’ve been putting the finishing touches on the big brew system (which includes two 10 bbl fermenters, one 20 bbl, & one 20 bbl bright tank), I’ve been steadily knocking out 10 gallon batches on my buddy Ken’s homebrew setup. Thank you Ken! If you’ve seen what my average brew day used to look like, then you know chugger pumps, false bottoms, and a plate chiller are amenities I’m happy to have:

IMG_7156

It’s so much fun to work on R&D batches and collaborate on creating a lineup of brand spanking new beers. So far we’ve been tinkering with a wide variety of beer styles. We’ve played around with 100% Brett kettle soured Gose, numerous IPAs, Oatmeal Spelt Stout, Cherrywood Smoked Dubbel (which you may recall from my homebrewing days), Belgian Session Rye, Lemondrop Dry Hopped Saison, and the list goes on. All fun things. We’re basically just kids in a brewing candy store.

Also, here’s the obligatory ‘brewer stares at beer’ picture. The sweat lets you know it’s authentic:

IMG_7190

So that’s a little bit about what we have going on. I’ll be sure to post about our first brews and when we’re going to allow the public to stare at our beer like I get to. I might even get a selfie stick for work because I enjoy being ridiculous.

Before I go pitch yeast in today’s DIPA brew, I would like to take the time to thank the homebrewing community at large, The Brewing Network, and everybody else along the way that helped me get to where I am today.

Whether you hired me, fired me, or brewed shirtless with me in a sweltering garage, you’ve been a part of my journey here. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it being a mere 3 years ago that I wasn’t even sure if I could win homebrew awards, let alone go pro.

Because of my experiences in this industry so far, I’m all about paying it forward and helping fellow brewers. If you’re a homebrewer, please know that you should always feel at home in our brewery. Fire as many questions at us as you’d like, bring us good AND questionable homebrews, and remind us that we’re living the dream.

Stay Relentless my friends! Cheers!

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Refuge Gone Wild 2: The Long Overdue Update

Hello again heroes & friends!

Since we’re starting a new year, I thought it might be nice to share more developments regarding all the fun and funky endeavors we have happening at Refuge. I still can’t believe my last update was 6 months ago. Time keeps flying. Anyway, here’s our current funk inventory in all its humble quarantined glory:

funk program

First in funk news, it appears a good number of Refuge’s local fans got to enjoy our Batch 2 anniversary beer as well as Batch 2 with strawberries & Yeast Bay Lochristi Brettanomyces blend recently.

The base beer for our 2nd anniversary was our Refugee Tripel with Viognier grape must, aged in red wine barrels. The so-called Batch 2 Berry version (which has the red wax instead of black) still resides in a red wine barrel, due to the solera technique I’ve been experimenting with, and it gets funkier by the day.

batch2brett

The first limited release of bottles sold out the night of the anniversary party, but we still have a keg of the beer on tap at the brewery. As I mentioned, we’ve been trying out a sour beer technique called solera, where you pull only some beer from the barrel and top it back up with fresh beer. In this case, all 3 times that I’ve pulled either a quarter or half of the barrel, I’ve also added more and more fresh pureed strawberries.

It has been fun to watch the flavors as they’ve changed, with the current version on draft having been pulled 2 months ago, the now sold-out bottled version having been pulled 3 weeks ago, and the next keg on deck to go on tap being a part of the 3rd pull a couple days ago. The latest version seems to be getting more and more barrel character and what was once big strawberry shortcake in the nose appears to be morphing towards spicy vanilla tannins & tangy lemon zest notes. In a perfect world, I’d be giving this beer a little more time between pulls, but you guys keep drinking it all!

The most recent pull from the barrel allowed us to top it back up with the base beer, some basic Tripel, & a funky blend of 3 experimental 5 gallon trials that I’ve dubbed ‘Funkapotamus’. That mix contains both the Lochristi Brett blend and White Labs Brett Clausenii, not to mention potential wild yeasts from the added fruits in the trial batches. I’m really excited to pull a keg or two off of the barrel in a couple months (hopefully) and see where things are headed. If it’s anything like the beers in Funkapotamus, it’ll be fruitier and more acidic.

If you’ve been into the brewery lately, you know we’ve started serving more and more funky beers on our barrel-aged reserve taps as well.

ReservesBoard

It’s now not unusual for us to have 3 to 5 Brett influenced beers on tap at any time, not to mention any small experimental 5 gallon batches I might sneak on. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I can funk & fruit beers fairly quickly in rather neutral barrels, versus the aging and barrel needs of our bourbon barrel program.

We currently have 5 Brettanomyces beers on tap. Besides the Batch 2 Berry, we have Bretter Off Red, a Merlot barrel version of our Rampart Red with Brett B Trois, the Lochristi blend, & Brett C. The result after 9 months of barrel aging is a very wine-like creation with big floral and funky Brett notes in the nose and plenty of barrel character right behind it.

We also have Life of Lemons and The Razz Fairy. The base beer is the same for both and I’m using a similar single barrel solera technique in this one as I am in the anniversary beer. The beer is white wine barrel aged Citra Saison with Yeast Bay Beersel Brett blend, Meyer lemon zest, and more recently it has also included raspberries. The raspberries were added after the initial 2 keg pull of Life of Lemons, and more were added after the recent pull of a keg of The Razz Fairy. Here’s The Razz Fairy barrel on the left, still going strong and hungry for more raspberries:

citra+oracle

The other offering currently on tap, that I strongly suspect has a Brett Brux variation in it, is Old Soul. We did not intentionally funkify this particular barrel of Refugee Tripel. We just let it age for 14 months in a pinot noir barrel with plums, pluots, & blueberries added over the last couple months (once Brett character became apparent). Old Soul has been a hit with most of the staff thanks to its smorgasbord of intensely interesting flavors and I’m excited to work with more blueberries (and hopefully pinot barrels) in the future.

That covers what’s on tap, but if you know me you know I’m far more excited about what we have in the works!

As I mentioned above, we still have barrels going of the Batch 2 Berry and the Life of Lemons (that has morphed into The Razz Fairy with the addition of raspberries).

We also have:

– 2 wine barrels of Paint The Town Brown inoculated with White Labs Lacto D & Yeast Bay Amalgamation Brett blend. They’ve been rocking out for about 4 months now and it’s really interesting to taste how different the two are right now.

– 2 wine barrels of Session Citra Saison. One has Yeast Bay Brussels Brett blend, strawberries and Cara Cara oranges. It was delightfully tangy and funky before the fruit went in. The other has Yeast Bay Lochristi Brett blend, White Labs Brett Clausenii, raspberries, and blackberries. Both have healthy pellicles going and I suspect I’ll be pulling a keg or two of one of them soon. One of the aforementioned pellicles:

pellicle fun

– 2 wine barrels of Citra Saison. One has White Labs Brett Brux, passion fruit, and Temecula Ugly tangerines. The other is the same minus the passion fruit. So far Temecula Uglies have shown a fair bit of promise as far as interesting local fruit to add.

– 1 wine barrel of Oracle, an abbey ale with Juniper berries. I recently added plums and Wyeast Brett Lambicus to this (hoping to incorporate some of that sour cherry pie flavor they describe).

– 1 Heaven Hill Corn Whiskey barrel of our IPA of the Day (hopped with Summer, Columbus, & Palisade) with White Labs Brett Clausenii, Temecula Uglies, apricots, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, & plums. This barrel has been quite interesting to sample over the last 4+ months. The IPA already had big white grape and peachy flavors and the whiskey barrel character keeps getting heavier. The last time I tasted it, it was hard to tell there was much fruit or Brett in the mix.

As a result, it has become the recent fruit dumping ground for any pureed fruit that I can’t fit in its intended barrel(s). Usually I’ll top up my barrels every couple of months to make up for evaporation, but in this case we just keep feeding the head space more strange fruit. I have no idea where this particular ride is headed, but whenever we decide to pull Fruit Salad IPA out it should be fun.

In general, I’m getting to play around quite a bit now with single barrels in hopes of finding combinations that can be ramped up, somewhat repeated and bottled. Fruit Salad Brett Corn Whiskey IPA aside of course.

Also, I thought I’d share a couple of Brett pellicle pictures. This one’s just getting going:

peliicle beginning

And this is Yeast Bay Lochristi after 5 months:

Lochristi Pellicle

I also want to take this opportunity to wish a number of my co-workers that have moved on continued success. A toast to you Brett Harwood, as you continue your career at a little known brewery called Ballast Point:

toast to brett

To Jared & Katie, it was awesome rocking out with you guys and I hope our paths cross again soon. Minnesota is cold btw:

jared yeast party

san diego event

And a way overdue shout out to The Manimal, my first Assistant Cellarman man crush, David Leal. In the words of Tupac, Temecula Ain’t Hard To Find:

daveEvent

 

Finally, I want to say a GIGANTIC thanks to Jay Goodwin, of The Rare Barrel, and The Brewing Network. Jay has started a new show with the BN, called the Sour Hour, and the interviews with other sour producers (not to mention Jay’s info) have been a great resource for a newly funked out cellarman like myself. Keep up the good work Jay!

This hero is out!

Capturing The Spirit Of 3 Floyds Gumballhead

Hi fellow heroes!

I have been planning on taking more runs at 3 Floyds Gumballhead cloning because I never really did it properly and my post on cloning Gumballhead is by far my most popular. My blog has a total of 11,745 hits to date and that single post has been responsible for 1,404 of them. Almost 12%.

However, I’m here to tell you that I am not an absolute cloner of beers. I’m much more into capturing the spirit of a beer but putting my own personal twist on it. My latest 3 Gumball-esque endeavors all demonstrate that very well. The 3 Floyds guys wanted a summer wheat beer that didn’t suck with great hop character and that’s my mission too. With that said, I am happy to share my recipes and thoughts.

Here’s the guidance Brewing With Wheat gives:

2012-07-24 13.27.21

It appears Gumballhead may have changed over time as 3 Floyds’ site now says it’s 5.6%, 35 IBUs, and only mentions Amarillo hops. Having worked in a professional brewery, I can confirm that beers can change based on ingredient availability, new supply channels, a brewer’s whims, etc.

Fortunately I only want to make nice hop-forward American Wheat beers that capture the spirit of Gumballhead, so I won’t agonize over IBUs or hop selection.

With that said, on 10/7 I brewed Grant’s Golden Gumball. I was trying to nail down the Gumball malt bill but because I couldn’t get any Amarillo at the time, I played around with some other hops I liked and/or found potentially intriguing.

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 9 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.13 gal
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 4.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 79.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 91.1 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
7 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         1        71.2 %        
2 lbs 8.0 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        25.4 %        
5.3 oz                Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                 Grain         3        3.4 %         
28.00 g               Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.30 %] - Boil  Hop           4        16.5 IBUs     
27.00 g               German Brewer's Gold [6.20 %] - Boil 10. Hop           5        4.6 IBUs      
28.00 g               German Brewer's Gold [6.20 %] - Boil 0.0 Hop           8        0.0 IBUs      
29.00 g               Galaxy [13.70 %] - Boil 0.0 min          Hop           7        0.0 IBUs      
28.00 g               German Brewer's Gold [6.20 %] - Boil 5.0 Hop           6        4.0 IBUs      
2.0 pkg               California Ale V (White Labs #WLP051) [3 Yeast         9        -             
28.00 g               Citra [14.10 %] - Dry Hop 12.0 Days      Hop           10       0.0 IBUs      
28.00 g               Galaxy [13.70 %] - Dry Hop 12.0 Days     Hop           11       0.0 IBUs

German Brewer’s Gold did deliver on some of the spicy black currant notes, but it was fairly mellow and balanced. The additional Galaxy & Citra were nice, but I think I’ll mull over the BJCP guidelines for 6D American Wheat and consider a more aggressive dry hop than 2 oz on future versions. I thought California V WLP 051 did just fine.

My biggest complaint was there was a strange lingering slightly nutty note in the finish, which almost has to have been the Aromatic. Mind you, I love Aromatic and use 4-6 oz of it in many of my recipes, but even the 5.3 oz in this recipe seemed too much. Perhaps it melds a little better if you use the WLP 002 English Ale that Gumball uses. Yeast can play a huge factor in whether or not a grain bill works.

The water additions to 5 gallons of RO in the mash were: 2mL Lactic Acid, 4.5g Gypsum, 7.2g Epsom, 1.4g Canning Salt, 3.2g Calcium Chloride, & 1g Pickling Lime and the mash pH was 5.6. I sparged with 4 gallons of un-altered RO. (I am indeed starting to read up on whether or not I should acidify my RO sparge water by the way.) Mash temp was 149.

Anyway, Grant’s Golden Gumball turned out pretty nicely overall. Apparently fest-goers at Brew’s Best at Lake Las Vegas tore through 5 gallons of it and 2 other kegs of mine. Here’s a pic of it (in the middle):

brews best beers

On a side note, I know a couple of brewers that I’ve turned onto German Brewer’s Gold have had good results. My buddy Clyde took 3rd (behind me :P) in the Nevada State Championship with his Belgian Pale featuring Brewer’s Gold. (Interestingly enough, we brewed those at his house on the same day.) Speaking of the NV Championship, here is the cover sheet for my score sheets:

nv champ scores

I’ll put up pics of my bad self acting ridiculous with all 6 NV State Championship medals soon. I put them all on when they were awarded to me at the SNAFU meeting last Friday. I felt like a fat, bearded Mark Spitz. Here’s the link to a pic of him for those that don’t understand.

Anyway, based on thinking even 5.3 oz of Aromatic was a touch overboard I brewed 2 more versions of Spirited Gumball two days ago. The first was also on Cal V WLP 051 but with 3 oz Aromatic and 4 oz Carapils. I hopped it with Nelson & Chinook. I was going to do a Nelson & Chinook beer at Big Dog’s on a Belgo IPA, so I thought it’d be fun to see how that combo turned out in this arena.

I added 2.5mL Lactic Acid, 4.5g Gypsum, 4g Calcium Chloride, 7.2g Epsom, 1g Pickling Lime, 1.4g Canning Salt to the 5 gallon RO mash. Sparged with 4 gal RO un-altered. Mash came in a touch low at 5.2 ish. Mash temp was 149. I ended up dry hopping with 43g Nelson & 47g Chinook for 8 days before kegging.

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 9 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.13 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Estimated Color: 3.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 29.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 83.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
7 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         1        70.4 %        
2 lbs 8.0 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        25.2 %        
4.0 oz                Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM)             Grain         3        2.5 %         
3.0 oz                Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                 Grain         4        1.9 %         
2.0 pkg               California Ale V (White Labs #WLP051) [3 Yeast         12       -             
9.00 g                Nugget [13.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           5        16.0 IBUs     
10.00 g               Nelson Sauvin [12.60 %] - Boil 10.0 min  Hop           7        3.5 IBUs      
10.00 g               Chinook [11.40 %] - Boil 10.0 min        Hop           6        3.1 IBUs      
15.00 g               Nelson Sauvin [12.60 %] - Boil 5.0 min   Hop           8        4.3 IBUs      
10.00 g               Chinook [11.40 %] - Boil 5.0 min         Hop           9        2.6 IBUs      
28.00 g               Nelson Sauvin [12.60 %] - Boil 0.0 min   Hop           10       0.0 IBUs      
14.00 g               Chinook [11.40 %] - Boil 0.0 min         Hop           11       0.0 IBUs

That same day I started straying away from pure Gumball-ishness towards something in my wheelhouse. I went with 4 oz of Aromatic but added 4 oz Flaked Oats and 2 oz Victory malt. I also ran it on WLP 028 Edinburgh and hopped it with Citra, Motueka, & Mosaic. This version especially starts to encapsulate how I will take a beer as inspiration and then make it into my own animal.

In this beer I had to tweak additions a little because I was out of Calcium Chloride. In the 5 gallon RO mash I put 3 mL Lactic Acid, 4.5g Gypsum, 7.2g Epsom, 2.3g Canning Salt, & 1.5g Pickling Lime. Mash pH was 5.26. Mash temp was 150. I dry hopped this one with 29g Citra, 28g Motueka, 28g Mosaic for 8 days as well.

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 9 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.13 gal
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG
Estimated Color: 4.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 84.1 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
7 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         1        69.2 %        
2 lbs 8.0 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        24.7 %        
4.0 oz                Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                 Grain         3        2.5 %         
1.9 oz                Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)                  Grain         5        1.2 %         
4.0 oz                Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                   Grain         4        2.5 %         
2.0 pkg               Edinburgh Ale (White Labs #WLP028) [35.4 Yeast         14       -             
9.00 g                Nugget [13.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           6        16.0 IBUs     
10.00 g               Citra [14.10 %] - Boil 10.0 min          Hop           8        3.9 IBUs      
15.00 g               Motueka [6.70 %] - Boil 10.0 min         Hop           7        2.8 IBUs      
12.00 g               Motueka [6.70 %] - Boil 5.0 min          Hop           10       1.8 IBUs      
12.00 g               Mosaic [11.50 %] - Boil 5.0 min          Hop           9        3.2 IBUs      
10.00 g               Citra [14.10 %] - Boil 0.0 min           Hop           11       0.0 IBUs      
10.00 g               Motueka [6.70 %] - Boil 0.0 min          Hop           13       0.0 IBUs      
10.00 g               Mosaic [11.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min          Hop           12       0.0 IBUs

Based on how those 2 beers turn out, I should have a better feel for what yeast and hops work best. Regardless, I strongly suspect both of those last two brews will be very tasty beers.

Besides all of those shenanigans, I recommend checking out Mad Fermentationist’s latest post on mash pH and the latest Brewing Network Brew Strong’s Water Q&A with Jamil & John Palmer. 

Purring Kitten Version 3 off of the kegerator is quite nice, so I should probably go ahead and brew the next batch soon. Breakfast In Antwerp Oatmeal Saison is on the docket to be brewed soon too. I should be kegging up my Ordinary Bitters & Attack Of The Blends IPA in the next few days.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I attended the Modern Times grand opening…but Mad Fermentationist AKA my homeboy Mikey T was a great guy to talk to. Really smart, humble, super friendly, etc. A seeker and sharer of truth and goodness.

Seriously guys, my crew was fairly in the bag (as this was our 4th brewery stop) and he and I were discussing random Brett strains as the bouncer was kicking us out (at the end of the night), but he walked us to the door – not missing a beat. Great guy and the beers were awesome. Shortly after our encounter I noticed my blog was getting hits from a link he provided on his.

In short, nothing but love for guys like Mad Fermentationist & Jamil & John on The Brewing Network. I keep trying my best to follow in their footsteps.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Be well and brew even better my brewing brothers and sisters!

2 More Awards + Many Beer Updates

Hello again everybody!

Version 2 of my Purring Kitten Session IPA has won awards in Redmond, Washington and here in Vegas over the last two weekends!

XBrew 2013 in Redmond, WA had a separate category for Session IPAs and then it somehow ended up lumped in with 35 other entries in category 14 India Pale Ale. I still haven’t gotten the score sheets back, but Purring Kitten got 2nd to some lucky bastard’s IPA. Presumably that means it won their made up category 56A Session IPA.

In SNAFU’s 2013 Memorial Competition we were only competing for best beer with a starting gravity over 1.060 aka Best Big Beer or Best Use Of Hops. My Mr. Bubbles Russian Imperial Stout won its mini Best Of Show round at its table, but got 5th or 6th in the overall Best Big Beer judging. Big time congratulations to my buddies Clyde & Tom as they took 2nd & 3rd for a delicious fruit mead and a very nice Rye IPA respectively.

Best Use Of Hops aka The Sheldon Jackson Award was where Purring Kitten picked up another 2nd place showing out of 26 entries. U Bottle It‘s U Hop It IPA partial mash kit beer also took Honorable Mention, so I was proud of that effort.

Prepare for more news as I have 7 entries in this weekend’s Nevada State Championship in Reno, 4 entries in this weekend’s Novembeerfest in Washington, and 4 entries in next weekend’s Land Of The Muddy Waters Competition in the Quad Cities aka Iowa/Illinois.

Unfortunately I found my first experience with the beer gun to result in some under-carbed beers, so 3 or 4 of my entries that went to Reno will get dinged pretty heavily for that. You live you learn.

The real fun this weekend will be when the Purring Kitten run on WLP 006 Bedford British competes in Reno and the other half of the batch run on WLP 002 English Ale, aka Unwanted Kitten, competes in Washington.

In other news, we had a lot of fun doing a demonstration brew in U Bottle It’s parking lot this last Saturday. I re-brewed Purring Kitten with a few tweaks and my buddies Tom, John, & Jeff all brewed and talked to anyone interested about their processes etc. I continue to greatly enjoy working for Gary & Heather and interacting with our lovely little homebrewing community on a daily basis. Here’s a pic of some of the early crew:

ubottleitbrewday1013

Thanks to all my buddies and new friends that came out for that event. Hopefully you all went home and brewed great beer!

Otherwise I thought I’d post updates on how all of my latest brews are progressing:

7/28 Helles – I ended up dry hopping this with 1oz Falconer’s Flight and 1oz Motueka since 8/15 Helles came out so well and this bad boy was weighing in in the low 6’s. Now I have a strange dry hopped Dortmunder Export on my hands. This should be pouring at the upcoming Brew’s Best Lake Las Vegas Festival at the SNAFU booth.

8/4 Helles aka Dortmund! Borussia Dortmund! – Coming in around 6.4% so this is definitely a heavy Helles. I just entered it in a couple competitions as a Dortmunder Export and it drinks quite a bit like one. I drank some of this tonight alongside Ayinger’s Jahrhundert (a very nice beer), and while my beer is fairly different I think it might fit the BJCP style description a little better. The only thing I might get dinged on are some of the citrus notes. We shall see.

8/15 Helles aka Helles Too Good For You – This beer drank super money right out of the fermenter. Very similar to Weihenstephaner Original Premium. Carbonation has made a few notes a little sharper, but I still think it has a very good shot in the next few competitions it’s in. Regardless, I’m going to re-brew it because I thought it was amazing to put in my face hole.

8/19 Mr Bubbles Russian Imperial Stout – As I mentioned, it had a fairly good showing in the SNAFU Memorial. It’s been quite popular with my beer geek crew and it’s competing this weekend in Reno. Unfortunately I only have 1 bottle left.

8/23 Purring Kitten Session IPA – Kicking ass and taking names. I thought the split side on WLP 002 English Ale ended a little bitter and didn’t bring the same pleasant malty finish to the party as the WLP 006 Bedford. Version 3 in U Bottle It’s parking lot is on WLP 041 Pacific Ale for a little more fruit & body. I also snuck in a couple ounces of Special Roast for some light biscuit notes in the finish.

9/11 Wit IPA – I tasted both of these (it was split on WLP 400 & 410) and thought I went a little overboard on the hops. It smelled absolutely heavenly though, so I’m on the right track. I decided to blend the 2 and add WLP 644 Brett B Trois but had a small mishap during transferring:

carboy disaster

So all I ended up with was that little bit of the WLP 410 side. I went ahead and ran that on top of the Brett B & L side of Fuzzy Bunny Slippers IPA. Because why not?

9/12 – Fuzzy Bunny Slippers IPA – Burtonizing one’s water is ever so slightly insane for an IPA with little malt base. The mineral/salt flavors linger on your tongue minutes after you’ve taken a sip. Just way over the top. Good cautionary tale for new water builders. 🙂

9/15 Smoked Dubbel – I’ve sent the side on WLP 575 to a couple competitions now and it hasn’t done well in terms of ribbons. I’ll have to get together with Kyle from Joseph James soon and talk to him about tweaking it. It turned out almost exactly how I wanted it, but it may need more smoke to win any hardware.

9/16 Kohatu Pale – The sweaty pineapple is strong in this hop. Not impressed. Base recipe with WLP 006 Bedford works though. I used the cake today for a new IPA.

9/17 Wag The Dog Northern English Brown – Just sent this off to a couple competitions. The flavors are really starting to come together. Nice notes of toffee, caramel, a little butterscotch & chocolate. Drinking this while looking at the BJCP guidelines makes me optimistic about its chances.

9/17 U Bottle It U Hop It IPA – The kit is selling well at the store and just got Honorable Mention for Best Use Of Hops! I’ll be doing a few tweaks on it for the new kits I make, but for the first partial mash beer I’ve made in years, I’m calling it a success.

9/19 Berliner Weiss – I just bottled this the other day. The lacto was starting to kick in but not yet quite where I want it. Unfortunately I only took a gravity towards the end of bottling, so I bottled a bunch of Berliner at 1.013. Easily 4 or 5 points high. I figured 5 weeks was plenty, but I guess not. I added a little strawberry extract to a couple gallons and I find that quite pleasant. Have to watch for bottle bombs. Lesson learned.

9/22 Hoppy Oatmeal Saison – Was trying to make an Oatmeal Blond, but the spicy citrus notes from the French Saison 3711 and the Mosaic & Nelson made it much more of a strange and wonderful Saison-ish beer. I re-brewed this on 10/21 with only tiny tweaks. It’s entered in the Reno competition but that bottling run was on the low side for carbonation.

10/2 Best By Yesterday Double IPA – I split the batch on WLP 001 Cal Ale & WLP 500 Trappist. It’s got some experimental hops, rice, & a pile of Simcoe & Citra. I’ll probably have the Belgian side pouring at the Brew’s Best fest.

10/7 Grant’s Golden Gumball – I get a ton of hits with people looking for 3 Floyd’s Gumballhead clone recipes so I thought I’d finally take another crack at my spin on it. I hopped it with German Brewer’s Gold, Galaxy, & Citra and ran it on WLP 051 Cal V yeast. I dry hopped it a week ago, so a post with tasting notes shouldn’t be too far off.

10/8 Lacto Wit/Belgian Shenanigans – I took the Oatmeal Saison recipe, hopped it to 9 IBUs, and gave a single vial of WLP 677 Lacto a crack at it warm for 2 days. Then I pitched Wyeast Forbidden Fruit. Still haven’t sampled it. Should be weird.

10/13 Black Wit – I brewed this because more dark beers were requested for the upcoming Brew’s Best fest. I’ll be zesting oranges, lemons, limes, & a grapefruit in the next few days to add to the keg. I used de-husked Carafa II for color.

10/21 Hoppy Oatmeal Saison re-brew – Going to dry hop this bad boy tomorrow! Can’t wait to have it back on tap!

10/23 Ordinary Bitter – I was inspired to brew this by one of the new Brewing With Style Shows on The Brewing Network. I used Liberty & Aussie Pride of Ringwood hops and split the batch on Wyeast Ringwood & WLP 013 London Ale. I’ll probably dry hop the least competition-worthy of the two.

10/26 Purring Kitten re-brew – Went down fairly well considering it’s hard to field 20 questions and brew a beer. I tweaked the water, put some Special Roast in, simplified the hop bill, and ended up letting the hops steep after the boil for over an hour (while waiting for a chiller). It seemed to come out a little dark. Should be interesting.

10/28 Attack Of The Blends IPA – Brewed this today. Used Zythos, Falconer’s Flight, & Falconer’s 7C’s. Also had to sneak in a little Mosaic & Citra at flameout. Very stripped down grain bill and pitched part of WLP 006 cake. I was going to run it on WLP 090 San Diego Super but my starter wort tasted like I picked up some wild yeast or lacto.

If anybody would like recipes, more detailed notes on process or results, or for me to send them a bottle or two just let me know. Here’s what I’ve become very acquainted with lately: Entry forms and bubble wrap!

mailing entries

Be well my brewing brothers and sisters. Hero out!

Building Water and Brewing Goodness!

Hello my brewing buddies!

Following up on last post, all of my contest entries for the 11/2 Nevada State Homebrew Championship are brewed and in various stages of fermentation, dry hopping, carbonating, etc.

The Mr. Bubbles Imperial Stout finished out at 1.029, so it’s sitting at 7.75% and very rich and roasty. I’m on the fence about trying to dry it out more. The Polaris flameout addition is also really shining through. Big ice candy & mint when you’re expecting roast in the aroma is both fun and a little weird.

I dry hopped both sides of the King Kong Ain’t Got Ish On Me Belgian IPA with Mosaic & Pacifica. It’s pretty easy to tell which side is WLP 400 & which is 410, as true to White Lab’s description, Wit II is better at flocculating. It appears I was out of hop bags when I brewed this one, as there is quite a bit of hop matter along for the ride. Here they are:

king kong wipas

I also dry hopped Fuzzy Bunny Slippers IPA today with Citra, Galaxy, & Kohatu. I forgot my Nelson & Mosaic at Clyde’s place so those might be a part of the second dry hop addition. With Jamil’s talk of double dry hopping being more effective and my remembrance of early experiences with it myself, I’m heading that way with all of my IPAs. Here are my brewing brothers Clyde & Mike. (Clyde was doing a Belgian Pale on Wyeast 3711 French Saison and I was doing an Oatmeal Belgian Blond on a blend of French Saison and WLP 500 AKA Chimay yeast):

clyde and mike

Other than all those fun things, I keep heading further down the water building rabbit hole. I’m now using Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, Epsom Salt, Canning Salt, Pickling Lime, Lactic Acid, & Chalk in various amounts depending on what profile I’m looking for.

For 3 of my latest Belgian brews I’ve shot for Chimay’s (unboiled) water profile. My Smoked Dubbel, Berliner Weiss, & Belgian Oatmeal Blond are all on “Chimay water”. I’ve found that often in order to hit the ideal mash pH I need to wait until the kettle to add some of the salts, especially the Pickling Lime.

11/6/13 EDIT: I’ve since found out you SHOULD NOT add anything that raises pH, like Pickling Lime, to the kettle. If your mash pH is good all should be relatively well.

I think it’s interesting to note that the Chimay brewery is drawing off of a well within the monastery walls, so obviously profiles you find like this one in Bru N Water shouldn’t be viewed as gospel. Especially since the brewer could be boiling the water or treating it in other ways before using it. However, Bru N Water’s Chimay profile matches that which is given in Brew Like A Monk and Bru N Water also provides the profile for boiled Chimay water. Here’s a Belgian water chart from Brew Like A Monk:

belgian water profiles

Regardless, I’ve gone with the Chimay water for its relatively low mineral content, its balanced Sulfate to Chloride ratio, and because I very much enjoy their beers. I’m drinking their dubbel, the Chimay Red, right now and the finish is very pleasant. Not too dry and not overly rounded and malty.

Other good resources for building water I’ve found are all the water profiles at Brewer’s Friend, this Homebrewtalk thread, & this Brewing Waters Of The World page.

In other news, because my homebrewing was taking over the house again, I’ve been given my own room:

brew room 1

brew room 2

My trusty Assistant Brewer Kitty is not quite sure what to make of losing her room to homebrewing, but she’s shown great ability to adapt over the years.

Here are my friends U Bottle It U Hop It IPA, Wag The Dog English Brown, & Berliner Weiss all having a good time together (before their strenuous move to their new room):

u hop it brown and berliner

Ok, brew on my friends! I’m going to relax and have another beer.

Brewing Contest Entries

Hi friends!

In my last update I laid down the gauntlet for myself and decided I was going to max out my entries for the Nevada State Homebrew Championship. Nevermind the fact that most of the beers weren’t brewed.

True to my word I’ve brewed 4 times since the last update and will brew at least 2 more beers this week. Here’s the NV Championship rundown:

1. Purring Kitten Session IPA – Because I wanted to use the 2 three gallon carboys this batch was in and I’d heard Jamil discussing the surface area benefits of double dry hopping, I transferred both the WLP 002 & 006 sides to kegs and added Mosaic & Citra hops (as well as Biofine). The Kitten will be a slightly different animal than last time with the higher gravity & added hopping. I didn’t taste the beer but both sides smelled like hops were making sweet love to my whole olfactory situation.

2. Helles Too Good For You is still lagering away happily. Color looks good. For some reason I have total confidence in the 4 different lager yeasts I blended for it. I transferred the previous Helles batch that was on Big Dog’s Imperial Pilsner WLP 830 yeast and it tasted nice. Fairly dry and a touch bitter but good malt aroma.

3. King Kong Ain’t Got Ish On Me Belgian IPA – Both sides (WLP 400 & 410) cranked along pretty well. This was my 2nd experience with 410 aka Belgian Wit II. My first experience involved some open fermenting and a near cat fatality. Despite leaving a solid amount of head space, this second experience was quite similar. I awoke to a big yeasty mess. The cat escaped unscathed but the airlock on the left launched out of the carboy on the far right:

airlock launch

It took me a moment to realize just how serious things had gotten:

yeast on ceiling

Those spots are yeast and hops on the ceiling. We have very high ceilings. It’s probably at least 15 feet high at that point. I figured running the Wit II at a fairly well-controlled 67-69 with ample head space would take care of things. No need for a blowoff tube. Man was I wrong. If you ever want to murder someone by fermentation, fire up some well placed Wit II fermenters and give it a day.

Regardless, I have high hopes that the Belgian IPA on the WLP 400 Belgian Wit will be delicious.

4. It’s A Celebration Bitches! Smoked Dubbel – The brewday didn’t go too badly. The Briess Cherrywood Smoked malt smelled like gorgeous hickory smoked bacon, so I think it should play well with the Dubbel flavors. The one problem I did have was that it was 11pm and I ran out of propane just as my boil started. Sane people would go to a local store for more. I decided to fire it up in 4 pots on my stove:

no propane no problem

Figuring out the hopping was a little goofy, but luckily I only needed to hit it with 1oz EKG. My volume and gravity ended up pretty money and the wort smelled and tasted great, so we’ll see what the split of WLP 530 Abbey Ale & WLP 575 Belgian Style Blend can do with it. I chose those 2 because the 530 will be more dry and spicy and the 575 should be a little more ‘general Belgian’. It’s hard to know which side I should put my money on for coming out the best.

5. Kohatu For Dummies Pale Ale – I brewed this beer today and I think it has real promise. The Kohatu is 6.8 AA and not super over the top but it definitely has some intriguing pine & tropical notes. It’ll be fun to see all 50 IBUs of it shine on a pretty stripped down pale ale base. Unfortunately WLP 001 California Ale has been in high demand at U Bottle It lately, so I went with the 2 vials of WLP 006 Bedford British I was saving for a potential session IPA re-brew. I figured that if it worked for Purring Kitten, it’d work in the hoppy pale.

6. Wag The Dog Northern English Brown – This beer has still not been brewed. I’ll be brewing it tomorrow after work on either WLP 005, 006, or 041 depending on availability and if I’m in the mood to split it and acquire more 3 gallon carboys.

7a. Fuzzy Bunny Slippers IPA – The plan was to enter this hop-riffic homage to homebrewing and being able to get such coveted hops. I Burtonized the water so it’ll be interesting to see how hard a hop bomb hits with extreme IPA water (using 27 grams of gypsum) and 104 IBU of lupulin goodness. Here’s Fuzzy running into the kettle & first wort hopping:

citra fwh

Funny enough, I got up at 6am and brewed this beer (and obviously first wort hopped) and on my way to work in the afternoon I listened to Jamil’s latest style show on Double IPA. It turns out Jamil makes very solid points on why he thinks the practice is total BS and I have been converted. No more first wort hopping for me unless it’s a big Double IPA where I’m cramming hops everywhere I can.

7b. U Hop It IPA – I told my buddy Gary at U Bottle It that I’d put 7 entries in the contest and he said I should brew U Bottle It’s U Hop It IPA kit and enter that. Mind you I designed the recipe and have quite a bit of faith in the power of Simcoe, Columbus, Falconer’s Flight & Chinook. The problem with this plan is you can only enter 1 beer per subcategory, so 14B American IPA just became off limits to Fuzzy Bunny Slippers. All in all, I’m excited to put my U Bottle It mini-mash IPA recipe in the competition and see how it stacks up. Plus this will be the first time in 3 or 4 years that I’ll get to brew a mini-mash beer. Also, I’ll be using all RO water as usual but I’ll be building my water to the Vegas water profile which lends itself well to pales and IPAs with its friendly Sulfate to Chloride ratio. Here’s the kit on the shelves (next to Hop Delivery DIPA that I also made):

U Hop It Kit

Anyway, I’ll give detailed recipes and notes on anything that wins or scores well. Also, there’s another contest coming up through SNAFU that I already have 7 entries in. The SNAFU competition will consist of 2 categories: Best ‘big’ beer (OG over 1.060) and best use of hops. I’ll be sure to share more details as things develop. I’m planning on trying to uncap, re-yeast & prime a few bottles of both my Throw Up The Dub Dubbel & Agnostic Tripel. Both beers are about 15 months old and taste quite nice, other than their continuing lack of carbonation.

Other than all these competition beers, I’ve been scheming up a Nelson Sauvin hopped Oatmeal Belgian Blonde which I might brew at Clyde’s on Sunday. I’ll either do that on Wyeast 3711 French Saison or White Labs 500. I also need to brew a Berliner Weiss sooner rather than later because I want it in my kegerator and I need to perfect a recipe for my wedding in March!

Alright friends! I’m tired from early brewing so I’m headed to bed. Be well and prosper!

Munich Helles Is The Mission

Hi all!

First, big thanks to everyone that came out and survived the downpour(s) at Summerfest on Saturday. We raised the bar again for best day in Draft House history, so needless to say I’m excited to try and help kill it again for Dogtoberfest.

Anyway, on Thursday I’m hoping to brew a Helles here at home. It will be both my first brew in the new place & the first lager I’ve ever brewed. I’m shooting for brewing 3 or 4 different recipes in the next couple weeks, but we’ll see what brewing life brings my way.

Assuming any of them turn out good I’ll either have a few of my certified judge friends grade them, ship them off to contests all over the country, or both. Mostly I’ll drink them.

Before I go any further I do want to acknowledge that my interest in this style was almost exclusively kindled by my good friend & brewer at Joseph James, Weston Barkley. If he weren’t a pro brewer himself I’d be tempted to stage a fake Big Dog’s Pro-Am contest just to be able to brew his Helles recipe on a large scale. And drink it on a healthy scale too. I’ve reached out to him to see if he has any interest in sharing the recipe for you fine folks.

Assuming Weston won’t come to your house and brew a Helles for you, I’ve found Mahr’s Hell to be a pretty nice (albeit not cheap) replacement.

The first book I look to whenever I want to brew a new style is Brewing Classic Styles. The second is usually Designing Great Beers. I strongly urge you to buy both books as they are very useful references and they support very worthwhile people. I’ll post a few relevant pages of both and hopefully my favorite brewcasters and my Cicerone Godfather don’t get too upset.

Here’s Jamil & John Palmer’s Helles recipe. I’ll likely brew it as is first to have a baseline:

bcs_helles

Here are Ray Daniels thoughts on the style, a couple loose recipes, & a Munich water profile:

daniels_recipes

daniels_chart

daniels_munichwater

Daniels seems to have taken a little more hop forward approach, which is something I’ll steer clear of to start with. If anything I’ll keep the bittering charge around 18 IBU & do a whirlpool or dry hop addition of something fun & fruity. Motueka comes to mind. The other thing that stands out to me is the Munich water profile that Daniels shares. A 2:1 Sulfate:Chloride ratio should make for a more dry & bitter tasting beer if anything Jamil & Palmer have taught me is true.

In one of their water shows around the 27 minute mark they discuss water profiles for Czech pils, German pils, Helles & Dortmunder Export. Helles is discussed specifically at the 33 minute mark. My notes from listening say:

Munich Helles – Med mineral content water, 50-70ppm Ca levels, now you want Chloride to dominate more than Sulfate, softer less bitter, build Ca level with more CaCl. 

Palmer isn’t very specific about what ratio should be shot for so I’ll probably shoot for 1.5 times more Chlorides than Sulfates. I’ll also use RO water directly from Big Dog’s so that whatever water profile I end up with is as close as possible to doing a 15bbl batch. I’ll likely also sparge with RO as a scientific-minded buddy of mine thinks that is the way to go. Any mineral additions meant for post-mash will go into the ‘kettle’.

It is at this juncture that I wish I were the R&D brewer for some place like White Labs or New Belgium. I’d love to try the same recipe with a ton of different yeasts, water profiles, fermentation temps, etc. We’ll see what I can get my bad self into. My freezer will only fit 3 or 4 carboys at time. It’s a hard knock life.

As I said, the first recipe I brew will be Jamil & Palmer’s:

90.9% Pilsner, 6.8% Munich, 2.3% Melanoidin. (Single infusion mash at 150 as a protein rest & various step mashing procedures would be difficult to pull off at Big Dog’s.)

Other notable grain bills are Ray Daniels’ (I’m assuming Ayinger Helles malt is close to Pilsner):

77% Pils, 10% Wheat, 10% Carapils, 3% Belgian Biscuit AND 80% Pils, 11% Carapils, 9% Munich

Daniels definitely seems to hop a touch more aggressively, as he addes 20 & 5 minute additions.

I also found a recipe on Homebrew Talk that looks interesting and the NHC site has recipes for Gold medal winning Helles recipes from ’07, ’11, & ’12.

Also, I re-listened to a little bit of the old Brewing Network Jamil Show Helles episode where Jamil & Jon Plise started discussing the merits of protein rests, carafoam, etc. A very worthwhile listen if you’re crafting your own crack at the style.

Hopefully all the resources I’ve hunted down are pretty good for pointing not only myself, but anyone else interested in brewing this style in the right direction. I personally think the style has some potential openings for some good old Americanizing with dry hopping, but that’ll come in due course.

Finally, I’ll be going with Jamil’s recommended yeast strain WLP 838 Southern German Lager for the first brew. White Labs rates it perfect for the style.

I also have WLP 830 German Lager (which rates a 2 of 4 for Helles by White Labs) and WLP 833 German Bock Lager (which rates a 4). It’d be interesting to brew the same recipe on all 3 strains, although I doubt I’ll have that level of discipline.

Well, that’s all the Helles talk I have for now. I’ll report back when I’ve started cranking out brews!

I’ll leave you with a pic of my lady Rachel AKA Penguin and our good buddy Sarah doing some solid day drinking at the new Pizza Port location in Carlsbad (which is awesome by the way).

new pizza port

Be well brewing brothers and sisters!