NZ Union Jack Brew Day and The Trouble With Cat Brewers

I’ve been scheming about it for months. Just salivating at the thought of cloning my new favorite IPA, but replacing the American tried and true with gorgeous New Zealand hops. Today was finally the day! I woke up, pounded my chest, and chugged an Amp energy drink. An amazing IPA was going to be brewed today!

Then I actually started trying to brew it. First I thought my digital thermometer was reading a little high, so I dropped my glass floating thermometer in to check. Dropped being the problematic part. This is why we can’t have nice things. Goodbye 5 gallons of RO water and tiny glass shards of broken measurement dreams.

No worries. I had enough RO & distilled to cover the mash. I just had to run to the store for RO water for sparging while I was mashing. I bet that sentence reads nicely for non-brewers. Anyway, life was still good.

Then during the mash, as I was stirring the grain, I noticed a sizeable hole in my bag. Mind you I’ve been overdue for a new bag. They’ve just been backordered at Austin Homebrew and I hadn’t bugged Heather at U Bottle It to stock them. Regardless, there was a hole. A dozen or so grains were floating around in my pot. Less than ideal. Boiling grain could lead to some astringent grainy flavors. Now I was making Husky Jack. I fished them out as best I could.

At some point I also sloshed wort onto my flip flop. Come to think of it, my foot and flip flop are still sticky. It’s a hard knock life.

However, my favorite moment of the brew day was when I was cooling the wort in the bathtub (with 64lbs of ice from the Breeze Right In). My usually trusty co-brewer, Sapphire, rolls in and proceeds to piss on the very towel my feet are on in front of the tub. People talk about Citra & Simcoe hops having a cat piss aroma but we here at Go Big Or Go Home believe in using only the freshest actual cat piss. It’s a wonder I don’t have suspicious chunks floating in all my beer given the cavalier attitude of my assistant. She couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of this post.

All in all, Husky Jack brew day went pretty well though. The wort tasted great, I got about 5 gallons at 1.072 (1.070 was aim), and generally I felt like I did all the necessary things to make legit beer. Oh, White Labs 002 flocs so well that I ended up accidentally dumping my stir bar into the bucket with the yeast. See you in a few weeks stir bar!

For anyone interested, the recipe for Firestone Walker Union Jack was given out on Brewing Network’s Can You Brew It. I followed that with a few minor changes. My Munich was Great Western organic (15-25L), I used organic crystal 15 in place of Caramalt, & I used Riwaka to replace Cascade & a Motueka/Wataku mix to replace Centennial. I also added an ounce of Galaxy at flameout and bittered with Southern Cross. Practically the same beer. 😛

That’s my Wild Dubbel. I bottled the tamer version a few days ago and named it Throw Up The Dub Dubbel. A reference to one of my favorite Westside Connection songs.

Wow! My furry co-brewer just knocked over my beer in reckless pursuit of a bug. I’d fire her if she weren’t union. Oh well. I suppose every homebrew blogger needs a little beer in his keyboard and mouse to be legit.

Anyway, I thought the wildness might have been starting to settle out but as you can see, that party is in full effect.

Oddly enough, 2 days in the bottle left The Agnostic Tripel tasting much better. I’m really excited about that beer now. The Nelson Pale, now called I Am Nelson, is nice too. There may be an S on my homebrewing chest before you know it.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll leave you with a fun fact I learned today: a refractometer doesn’t read gravity correctly on finished beer. When I acquired this handy tool I thought I was done with breaking glass hydrometers. It turns out that is not the case. It is quite handy before any alcohol gets involved though. In the beer I mean. 🙂

Proost y’all!

New Zealand Hops, Bottling, and My Brett Collection

Big news! I received a box of New Zealand hops from Farmhouse Brewing Supply today! Better yet, four of the varieties were hops I’ve never used/smelled or even chewed on!

Of course I thought it would be fun to bust them open and record my initial impressions, then look up the descriptors for each & smell them again to see if I could pick those things out.

Riwaka 5.2% AA – Got a little spice followed by fruity. A little grassy with a very present citrusy watermelon note. It’s described as a big grapefruity citrus ride. I may be identifying that big note as watermelon-like. Riwaka seems like a very intriguing little hop.

Wakatu 7% AA – Starts a little earthy/musty then goes big artificial cherry. I’m very excited about this hop. Its descriptors are rounded floral with hints of lime. I’d still lean more towards cherry, but an awesome hop nonetheless. Can’t wait to use it!

Southern Cross  12.7% AA – They use this hop in Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere. Hits me mostly grassy with a little unidentifiable fruit. Supposed to be citrus and spice but I’m getting more grass/earth and I’m not blown away by it.

Topaz 16.4% AA – I get a hint of peacheyness followed by slightly dank grassy notes. Descriptors are earthy and lychee. I’ve never had lychee that I know of. Mostly get earthy/grassy. Should be fine for bittering.

Other than burying my poor nose in crazy new NZ hops, I bottled 3 batches in the last 2 days. Cleaning & sanitizing all those bottles in my kitchen sink is not my favorite thing in the world but it did give me a chance to catch up on a decent amount of Brewing Network Sunday Sessions. I have to get a chest freezer & more kegging equipment sooner or later though. Just to preserve my sanity.

All 3 batches were decent or better at the time of bottling. The 6/23 Tripel was nothing mind-blowing from the bucket. Tasted a little grainy. I’m hoping it develops a little in the bottle. The 6/14 Dubbel had promise. A little burnt raisin aroma. Looking forward to that carbing up. The 6/27 Nelson Sauvin Pale was pretty nice. Firm bitterness and plenty of hoppyness. A little cloudy from all the late & dry hopping, but pleasant out of the bucket. So far I’m thinking a touch more crystal/sweetness could be nice, but the point of the beer was a clean canvass to experience the marvelous Nelson hop. In that category I did not disappoint!

I’m still tinkering with names for all 3 beers. My lovely girlfriend wasn’t too impressed with my initial naming efforts. Dubbel For Nothing earned a blank stare. Raisin The Roof is being reserved for a future effort with raisins. The Tripel seemed a little bland so it may spend its days known as The Agnostic.

My other mission of the day was getting all 3 year-round Brett strains (B, C, L) from White Labs stepped up and/or into starters. I’m not entirely sure what Bretted out experiment I’ll pursue in the coming weeks just yet. I’m still shaping a plan to use all 3 as 100% Brett fermentations on the same base recipe. Feel free to comment on what style of grain bill you’d lean towards, dear readers.

Brett B had quite a turpentine-esque aroma and Brett C is looking especially fun. I’d be worried if it weren’t Brett. And even still I’m a little worried.

Speaking of fun with Brett, I checked in on Sink Spoon Rye IPA today as well. Sink Spoon is the 100% Brett batch on WLP644 Brett B Trois that I brewed with Joe 12 days ago. The gravity is down to 1.020 at room temp and there is definitely some delightful funk in the aroma. No sign of sink-related bacteria acting wild.

That’s all this mild-mannered homebrewer has to report for now. I’ll probably tinker around with a recipe for a New Zealand hopped version of Union Jack IPA tonight. One can never have too many IPAs.

Alright, I’m out. Be well y’all. 🙂