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!

Working @BigDogsBrewing and Polaris and Pacific Jade Impressions

Big news again friends! Big news indeed. Ye olde humble homebrew blogger will be starting work at Big Dog’s Brewing Company on Monday! The gig is going to start out part time and the brewer, Dave Otto, assures me it won’t be glamorous, but it’s a huge step in the right direction and I can’t wait to get started! I’ve also cranked out my first post for Hooked On Hops and I’m sure you’ll enjoy that too! Hell, before you know it I might actually be ‘somebody’ in the beer community!

As you may be able to tell, I also got all my awards from the SNAFU competition! I almost feel like a real boy now! And I’m using too many exclamation points!!!

On a more ominous note, I realized as I was pitching a blend of Wyeast German Wheat 3333 and White Labs Belgian Saison Blend 568 into my latest homebrew batch, that I may be straying from the goal of total BJCP category domination. Regardless, I can’t wait to taste the mix of banana from the kristallweizen strain with the clove & funk from the saison blend. I also threw in some Chinook & Bravo hops because Ton Brewhouse has turned me on to that combo. It should be a big hot sexy farmhousey mess.

If you’ve been following along you know that I’ve also been doing some beers that heavily feature hops that intrigue me. If you made it out to the Brew’s Best festival at Lake Las Vegas you may have gotten a taste of my Polaris Double IPA. The aroma I pick up from shoving my nose into a 4oz bag of hops is certainly a little different than how the hops came out in the beer. While the hops give off A LOT of dank with a hint of orangey citrus in the background, the beer itself was pretty smooth and maybe even a little minty. At this juncture I view Polaris as a strong candidate for efficient & smooth bittering (assuming it were widely available), but wouldn’t recommend loading up on it late for flavor & aroma.

The other surprise in this hop featuring frenzy was the Pacific Jade Pale that Clyde & I brewed. We found the pepper & orange descriptors rather misleading based on our findings. We were picking up artificial grape, white pepper, earthy mushroom, a touch of citrus, & maybe a little white wine. You could barely tell we dry hopped with 6oz of hops. I was hoping to find something that could hold a candle to hops like Citra & Nelson Sauvin, but instead I found Pacific Jade to be a little understated and strange. It could be rather interesting in a lager. Anyway, we’ll see how the beer comes along as it carbonates.

Otherwise I’m just pumped to start cleaning kegs and graining out the mash tun at Big Dog’s on Monday! I’m going to start working on a project I call ‘Dank Dog’, which will be a saison with big late additions of Columbus (and possibly other danky hops). Apollo certainly hasn’t been ruled out.

While Dank Dog’s day in the sun may not be on the immediate horizon, I see the project being fun anyway. I’m leaning towards WLP565 Belgian Saison I, but haven’t ruled out WLP568 Saison Blend or WLP560 Classic Saison Blend (which I just ordered 3 vials of from Austin Homebrew). Maybe I’ll just load up on Columbus and try them all. I’m pretty sure I can find friends to help me drink all of that beer.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now. Check out Mad Fermentationist & his buddy at Brew Science if you’re into fun with plating Brett strains and yeasty experiments in general.

Proost y’all.

I Love @greenflashbrew Rayon Vert and Recipes For Good Saisons and Session IPA

Hi brewing brothers and sisters!

I’m writing this with 2 whistling airlocks serenading me, which I’d bet most of you agree is a beautiful thing. Anyway, I was working on a (still incomplete) piece for Hooked On Hops the other day about the coming wave of Brett beers and couldn’t quite remember the exact beer that got me interested in Brettanomyces. Today it hit me. Meet Rayon Vert!

Today I found Green Flash Rayon Vert had made its way to town and that gorgeous little 4 pack of goodness jogged my memory. Rayon Vert appears to be Green Flash doing its version of Orval: a fairly straightforward Belgian Pale bottled with Brett. Of course I prefer Rayon Vert because it was my first love, but also because its hopping is a little fruitier & base probably just a touch lighter. Rest assured Orval, your (fairly thick) bowling pin bottle will always be my first choice in a bar fight.

All of that segues (amazingly I knew how to spell that) into yesterday’s double brew day. After a strong 2 hours of post SNAFU meeting sleep I arose and brewed the second coming of my first beer on the White Labs 670 American Farmhouse strain (Hay Gurl) to bring the world Hay Gurl 2: My Boyfriend Brett Is Back. Labeling someday will be a nightmare.

Besides that, anybody that follows my brewing at all knows re-brewing any batch is almost unheard of. I’m too busy bouncing around from one Platinum strain to the next with the latest hops etc etc. I’m a big ball of brewing creativity which results in the occasional amazing beer, a lot of mediocre beer, & a fair amount of back-to-the-drawing-board beer.

But what can I say? I’m a sucker for fruity hops, saison yeast with Brett, & people enjoying my creations. That sums up Hay Gurl. RECIPE HERE. Also, yes…I do wish I’d have given the beer a slightly less ridiculous name that didn’t involve a Ryan Gosling reference.

But beyond that, getting to taste Rayon Vert nearly a year after my first encounter makes it clear that I’m striving to brew a fruitier hoppier version of my first love. While my beer knowledge & brewing abilities have probably quadrupled, I realize I’m unconsciously trying to tweak an ‘old’ favorite. The less romantic version of that story is that I love hoppy Belgians, fairly clean malt bills, & Brett. Of course I’m trying to combine all of the above.

At any rate, I shot for more sessionable (OG 1.052) with a bigger hop addition at flameout for Hay Gurl Deuce. (You may recall that Hay Gurl aka the 48% efficiency batch was originally going to be more on the sessionable side, but a broken hydrometer made me think it was less than banging.) Anyway, the aroma of my last 4oz of Citra wasn’t as killer as usual, but the Simcoe is still holding its shooting arm in the air on account of how baller it is. So yep yep, Hay Gurl 2 is off and running. It’s actually trying to blow off its lid 2 feet away from me. Good times.

My second batch of the doubleheader was the brainchild of myself, Aaron from The HopHead Report & Luis from Hooked On Hops. Everybody seemed interested in a lighter bodied Double IPA using my newly acquired pile of 21% AA Polaris hops, so I went ahead and whipped something up (using Jamil’s DIPA base recipe). Hopefully it’s yummy and we all agree it should be proudly poured at the Montelago Beerfest on 11/10. At 284 IBU with a hop that big and danky, I’m just excited to try it period. Worst case I’ll age half the batch on Brett and throw the other half at passing motorists in Ziplock bags. 🙂

Besides Hay Gurl, I have 10 other entries in this Saturday’s SNAFU competition. I have 2 others that have enough promise to share the recipes for. The Saison De Starter side of my 585 experiment (recipe here) turned out to be fairly popular and my Purring Kitten Session IPA #1 (recipe here) on White Labs 006 Bedford has earned high praise so far as well.

Wish me luck in the big competition this weekend! I’ll be judging Friday & Saturday and since I failed to enter a beer in EVERY single category, they’ll likely put me to good use. As always, feel free to ask for any help or guidance on the Cicerone test.

Proost y’all!