Working @UBottleIt and Brewing Like Crazy!

Hello friends!

I’m sure some of you are aware that I just worked my first week at my favorite homebrew store in the world, U Bottle It! I can’t tell you how happy I am to work with Gary and Heather every day. Not to mention the warm and fuzzy feeling it gives me to hook you fine folks of Las Vegas up with your winemaking & homebrewing needs.

Five gallon partial mash kits (designed and assembled by yours truly) for an Oktoberfest as well as a Pumpkin Spice Ale are now available on the shelves and hopefully I’ll get our Holiday Ale & ‘Grant’s Saison’ kits finished up tomorrow.

I’ve never taken much notice of any dry yeasts, but Lallemand’s Belle Saison looks quite interesting and I’ll definitely fire it up on the ‘Grant’s Saison’ kit in the coming weeks.

Above all else though, I really want to express my gratitude towards Gary & Heather at U Bottle It for welcoming me with open arms and wish my good friend Tom Harwood the best of luck in his new position as Assistant Brewer at Big Dog’s. I look forward to drinking a Big Dog’s Rye IPA very soon. 😉

The beauty of working at a homebrew store is that I’m getting a great opportunity to live and breathe homebrewing again. In the last month I’ve brewed 3 Helles lagers, a Russian Imperial Stout, & my Purring Kitten Session IPA. You’d think a beer that did as well as Purring Kitten would’ve been on the agenda sooner, but I was waiting for the seasonal WLP006 Bedford yeast to be available again. And I’d been a little busy. Or something like that.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some info on my latest brews:

Helles 7/28

–          I used the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles.

–          Mashed around 150-151 with 75% RO & 25% Brita filtered & boiled Vegas city water. Sparge was all RO. Salts added were 7g CaCl, 4g Epsom salt, & 2mL lactic acid.

–          I used 1.3oz of German Hallertau for bittering to 19.2 IBU.

–          My gravity came in at 15 plato (1.061) and my efficiency was 88% so this bad boy could easily be  1% ABV or more above the style guidelines.

–          I also set the timer incorrectly on my phone for my first hop addition and ended up boiling considerably longer than 90 minutes. The result being that I think my color is a little too dark.

–          I brewed spur of the minute so didn’t have a starter of the WLP838 made up. Therefore (because Jamil says pitch big for lagers), I pitched 2 vials of WLP838, 1 of WLP833, & 1 of WLP830.

–          Finally, this was my first time using my freezer & Johnson controller in this temperature range so the first few days it was getting as low as 44 until I got it a little better dialed in. Now it floats at 49-54.

Helles 8/4

–          I used the same water profile, grain bill, and mash temp as the previous for comparability.

–          Of course this meant I was going to end up with another 15 plato beer if I got similar efficiency. Of course I got 88% again.

–          I bittered with 0.7oz of Motueka for 18.9 IBU because my Hallertau smelled a little passed its prime.

–          I pitched WLP830 that I took directly from the fermenter of Big Dog’s Pinscher Imperial Pilsner. I pitched a pretty healthy amount and could smell considerable hop aroma from Pinscher.

Helles 8/15

–          Knowing that I was getting pretty high efficiencies helped me to design this beer a little better. I got 85% efficiency and ended up with a 1.050 beer. This might actually be a real Helles!

–          I used 86.8% Pilsner, 7.9% Vienna, & 5.3% Munich and mashed at around 150.

–          The mash and sparge water were all RO and 8g CaCl, 7g Epsom salt, & 2mL lactic acid were added.

–          I hopped with 0.8oz German Opal for 18.1 IBU and threw in the remaining 0.2oz at 5 minutes.

–          Once again I was without starter so I put together a Franken-Lager blend of WLP802, WLP820, WLP833, & WLP862.

Here’s Helles 8/15 cranking away:

promising helles

Russian Imperial Stout 8/19

–          I did this as a ‘demo brew’ for my friends Sean & Andie last Monday and this was my first stout.

–          The grain bill was 77.1% Maris Otter, 8.6% Roasted Barley, 5.7% Special B, 3% Caramunich, 2.9% Pale Chocolate, & 2.8% Chocolate Malt.

–          I bittered with German Polaris for 63.7 IBUs, flavored with Meridian for 7 IBUs, & used 1.5oz Polaris at Flameout. I got such interesting minty ice candy flavors from Polaris the last time around, so I’m hoping those turn out well in a stout.

–          I mashed around 154 and built the water to resemble Dublin’s. The mash was 25% filtered Brita, 75% RO with 1.5g Gypsum, 0.5g Cacl, & 7g Chalk added.

–          I ended up pitching 3 aging vials of WLP090 San Diego Super & 2 vials of WLP001.

Purring Kitten Session IPA 8/23

–          I made a few changes on this re-brew. I was mashing at 151 but found out 15 minutes in that my probe thermometer was reading 3-4 degrees low. I heated to actual 151.

–          I kept the salt additions similar to the last go round but did a 90 minute boil instead of 60.

–          I used all RO and added 5.5g Gypsum, 3.5g CaCl, 8g Epsom salt, & 4g Chalk.

–          My grain bill was 64.7% 2row, 14.7% Goldpils Vienna, 5.9% Flaked Wheat, 5.2% C-40, 3.6% C-60, 2.9% Aromatic, & 2.9% Carapils.

–          My starting gravity was 1.048 versus 1.044 last time. I also spilt the batch on WLP006 Bedford (which I used last time) and WLP002 English Ale.

–          I substituted Chinook for Centennial in the recipe and upped my flameout additions.

–          I also found my probe thermometer untrustworthy with lower temps as my big bucket of water and fermentation was actually running 4-5 degrees cooler than I was being told. Therefore the Session IPAs started pretty low and the Russian Imperial Stout was fermented on the cool end of its desired range instead of the high end.

Here’s my magical bucket of water, frozen water bottles, & fermenting beers:

high tech fermentation

As per usual, it’ll be interesting to see how everything turns out. I should mention that I have been drinking my year old Farmhouse Oktoberfest (on WLP670 American Farmhouse) lately and it has some really interesting funky citrusy Brett notes to it. I can barely tell it ever started as a rich malty beer because now it drinks a little thin with a chewy almost ropey Brett finish.

I should also mention that hopes of heroicness have been revived! I went through the BJCP style guidelines today and picked a style from each of the 23 categories that I would like to brew. That set a lot of wheels in motion but the first recipe resulting from that exercise was a Smoked Dubbel for category 22B Smoked Beer as well as a 16E Belgian Specialty entry (possibly with some Brett B).

My other brews in the works are: a Berliner Weiss, a Belgian IPA using WLP400 Wit yeast and Mosaic & Pacifica hops (because the cask I did of dry hopped Wit at Big Dog’s smelled so awesome), a re-brew of my Sink Spoon Brett Rye IPA (that I will send bottles of to Joseph), & my French Bulldog Rye IPA on Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. Just because I’m no longer with Big Dog’s doesn’t mean I can’t brew the beer I had on deck!

I know, I know. A lot of 16E Belgian Specialty and 23 Specialty. I’m making weird stuff as per usual. My general tastes in beer and desire to innovate will probably mean I re-punch those categories award-wise a fair amount (hopefully).

Finally, for anybody who has been doubting my assistant brewer’s work ethic and helpfulness, here’s a picture of her watering a plant while we were brewing:

watering plants

Alright, I’m off to hunt for more fermentation space on Craigslist. Be well and ferment clean my friends!

I Can Be Your Hero Baby! 4 Awards + 2nd in Best of Show!

Big news guys! Big news indeed! I took one 1st, one 2nd, & two 3rd place awards in the recent SNAFU Memorial Competition. My winning entry in Category 23 Specialty went on to win 2nd in the Best Of Show judging as well! Not bad for a 3.5% Session IPA!

First and foremost I want to say a BIG BIG thank you to my girlfriend who allows our modest apartment to look like a homebrewing bomb went off in it at all times. If you’ve seen a few of the pictures I’ve posted, you know what I mean.

Also, much love to my brewer from another mother Weston Barkley. Not only is he Joseph James’ latest and greatest Assistant Brewer, but he’s also been a huge positive influence on my brewing these last 6 months. Weston & I are pictured below appreciating the finer things in life.

Besides being a bottom, Weston is also an accomplished homebrewer. His 5 awards this weekend put his total into the ‘Dude Let Somebody Else Win Stuff’ classification. Weston & I are supposed to whip up a Raspberry Saison soon for Joseph James to pour at the Montelago Festival on 11/10 (where the ridiculous Polaris DIPA will be flowing), so I am naturally excited. You can’t spell anything in my wheelhouse without farmhouse!

In other news, my homeboy Clyde & I knocked out a heavily hopped Pacific Jade showcase beer yesterday on his awesome Sabco system.

We used Jamil’s Pale Ale with Crystal recipe but got 90% brewhouse efficiency instead of his default 70%, so we have 12 gallons of slightly under-bittered Pacific Jade IPA running right now. The debate now is if 5.6oz of gorgeous Pacific Jade is enough for dry hopping. Regardless, it was a lot of fun to see ye olde Brew Magic in action and I look forward to tasting our first collaborative beer!

Now for the rundown of Saturday 10/20’s SNAFU Memorial Heroic award winners:

1st Place in Category 23 Specialty Beer (and 2nd in Best Of Show) – Purring Kitten Session IPA – Link to recipe I based grain bill & IBU levels on & link to recipe for Purring Kitten itself.

Purring Kitten is an effort I’m very proud of and will soon try to replicate. 2nd out of 160 something entries is a result I’m rather happy with. Dave Otto of Big Dogs, coming off a Silver win at GABF, declared it good but registered his complaints about its lacking ethanol content. That bastard. 🙂

2nd Place in Category 16 Belgian & French Ale for 16C Saison – Feisty Farmhand – Recipe here

While I personally haven’t been blown away by WLP 585 Belgian Saison 3, people have been a fan of this beer. Although, the awards and a recent post by The Mad Fermentationist have me contemplating giving that strain another look.

3rd Place in Category 16 Belgian & French Ale for 16E Belgian Specialty Ale – Sluggish Farmhand – Recipe same as ye olde Feisty one

Hilariously enough, the split batch of Saison De Starter & Saison De Vial that I made a while back became Feisty & Sluggish Farmhand. Sluggish was the side with no starter & I bottled it about a month later than Feisty. I entered both because I’d capped out on entry fees and I wasn’t sure if a Saison with all that late & dry hopping would fly in the 16C Saison category if the judge was a strict traditionalist. On top of all that, Feisty & Sluggish were judged by separate 2 person panels & competed against each other in the mini Best Of Show for the category (of 17 entries).

Honorable Mention in Category 16 Belgian & French Ale for 16E Belgian Specialty Ale – Hay Gurl – Recipe here

Here’s where I really started laughing. Hay Gurl scored well enough for an Honorable Mention and would’ve placed 3rd without the Farmhand saison twins goofing around in there. Admittedly, Hay Gurl is taking an interesting turn now. The Brett tastes a little different from your standard Brett B & besides eating up all the hop aromas it’s also kicking off some chewy meat qualities.

3rd Place in Category 14 IPA for 14A English IPA Burton Hop Party

This was absolutely mind blowing to a hero such as myself. Out of 22 entries, Burton Hop Party placed 3rd. Mind you, this is a beer I don’t particularly enjoy drinking. It seems very muddled, it has some Citra at flameout & in the dry hop, & the finish seems a little off. I got 5 sips in and poured it out about a half hour ago. I plan to re-punch the Category 14 hole. I’m not sure this one was terribly well-deserved. Regardless, it was based on Jamil’s English IPA recipe and I think that’s an even bigger winner if you follow his hop schedule, yeast choice, and all around good advice. I did not and I got a pretty ribbon. Silly stuff.

Just to sum up, I’ve crossed Categories 14, 16, & 23 off the list. These are arguably my best categories, but I’m confident the other 20 ain’t no thing. I definitely need a chest freezer to continue my reign of homebrewing terror.

At any rate, I’m sure more beer shenanigans are just around the corner and I’ll be sure to report them as they come. I’m cracking open a Joseph James Hop Box Imperial IPA right now and intend to enjoy it.

Proost y’all.

English IPA Recipe Formulation

My first beer inspired by this project will be an English IPA. The appeal being that an IPA style beer is relatively in my wheelhouse and the ideal fermentation temps are 68ish. My thermostat is set at 70-72 most of the time (to my lovely girlfriend’s dismay) so a swamp cooler/guest room bathtub could be the ticket.

I love big fruity hops and clean malt bills on my IPAs, so this will indeed force me to open my drinking mind a little. My beers are my babies. I have to love them. Even if they have too much backbone, less than exciting hops & not nearly enough dry hop character. I see I’m selling this style well!

I’m awfully tempted to stick to Jamil Zainasheff’s recipe from Brewing Classic Styles or use an award winner from Homebrewtalk.com forums straight up. No tweaks. Find a baseline.

I don’t know. We shall see.  It’s very difficult for me not to insist on putting my mark on anything I brew, but with styles like this I’m very tempted to go by the book the first time. Surely I could sneak in a little Nelson Sauvin though!

I’ll continue to update as the formulation process moves along. Here are a few links that I’ve found helpful.

http://thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/The-Jamil-Show/English-IPA-The-Jamil-Show-09-22-08

http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style14.php

Yooper’s EIPA recipe: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/need-good-english-ipa-recipe-local-competition-220761/

Award winner from mrbowenz: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/anyone-brewed-ipa-ekg-140192/

Below are my notes so far. You can see where I started debating what style to do and went for the higher fermentation temp. You can also see my blog-related to do list & some commercial examples I can probably find in Vegas.