Reviewing My King Henry Clone Attempt


Goose Island Bourbon County Barley Wine on the left, homebrew variations in the middle and right.

Late in September 2013, I took a shot at brewing a clone of Goose Island’s King Henry barrel aged barley wine. The beer was left to rest on oak cubes which had been soaked in different spirits (Weller 12 Bourbon and Christian Drouin Calvados). After about 3 months on oak, I packaged the beer in individual bottles and decided to taste them blindly against Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine — the closest beer I could track down that would resemble King Henry.

Rather than do an extensive review of each beer, I’d like to focus on the elements that are clearly different. The recipe I used came directly from Goose Island’s brewsheet for King Henry, so I am relatively confident in the grist make-up and hopping. That being said, I definitely did not achieve a clone due to the various reasons outlined below.

vertBarrel Character
The biggest thing separating my beers from the commercial example was the dramatic difference in barrel character. The Goose Island beer is extremely rich, with robust amounts of vanilla, toffee, and even a bit of sweetness coming from the barrel. Comparatively, the homebrew was almost thin, with a one-dimensional raw woody character that was dramatically different. I went through an exercise of adding slight amounts of bourbon back to the homebrewed beer, and while it helped, the character it imparted was more spirit-like in its booziness and lacked the depth and roundness of barrel notes the commercial beer contains. I’ve always been aware of the dramatic differences between simulated barrel aging, and actual barrel aging. Having these two beers side-by-side made this difference extremely obvious.

The only real omission from the brew sheets I formulated my recipe off had to do with yeast selection. I ended up using Wyeast 1098 British Ale which left my beer with a distinct ester character, not found in Goose Island’s beer. My beer had much more British character than the Goose Island product. For the next iteration of this I brew, I will definitely be revisiting my yeast choice.

The commercial example I am comparing my homebrew against is considerably darker in color. Previously I had discounted the statement I’ve heard in the past that the commercial beer picks up some color from the imperial stout which previously resided within the aging barrels. It’s tough for me to explain the color difference, so perhaps there is some truth to this.

While I wasn’t able to clone the beer, I still ended up with a really nice brew. It is somewhat one-dimensional in its oak character which I hope will evolve a bit with some age. The biggest take-away for me is that there truly is no substitute for genuine barrel aging. For my next iteration, I plan to obtain a 5-gallon whiskey barrel and see if I can get closer to the barrel character that Goose Island is able to achieve.

Fun with Fermented Veggies – Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, pork sausage, German potato salad, with some grainy mustard.

Sauerkraut is a great accompaniment to many different dishes. I like it best as a traditional side served with pork sausage, German potato salad, and some grainy mustard. Serve it with a stein of Munich Helles and you’ll be good-to-go.

Making sauerkraut seems like something that should be difficult. In reality, it is just about as easy as it gets in terms of food fermentation. I was inspired to begin fermenting vegetables after reading Sandor Katz’s book The Art of Fermentation. Sauerkraut is an excellent introduction and foray into the rabbit hole that is food fermentation.

Cabbage and salt. About as simple as it gets.

Sauerkraut ingredients ready to go.

Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage and salt that is mixed and allowed to ferment using the natural microflora present on the cabbage. There are a million variations which typically include the addition of different spices and perhaps other vegetables. You can go nuts trying different styles of kraut, but a simple version with just cabbage and salt is pretty delicious in its own right. The key, like most fermentation, is setting an environment that is conducive to producing a good, lactic fermentation, and not spoilage.

The first step is to take a head of washed cabbage and shred it finely. It is then mixed in a bowl with an ample amount of salt. I prefer coarse Kosher salt, but the type doesn’t really matter. Typically the amount of salt should equal approximately 1.5 – 2% of the cabbage’s weight. This is a general rule of thumb; experiment to see what best suits your taste. I generally don’t weigh the salt and instead sprinkle salt in between alternating layers of cabbage.

Once the salt and cabbage is mixed I manually compress and crunch the cabbage to allow the salt to draw water out of the cabbage. It is very important to draw out enough moisture so that it completely submerges the cabbage.

Once the cabbage begins giving up its moisture, it is time to pack it into a jar or bowl. I’ve found the easiest thing to do is pack it into a stainless steel mixing bowl. I then lay plastic wrap right on top of the cabbage and push out any air pockets. Your goal is to encourage lactic acid bacteria to ferment the cabbage by denying other microbes access to oxygen. The moisture in the cabbage mixture and plastic wrap seal should keep out most oxygen. On top of the plastic wrap I set a plate with a couple cans on top in order to further compress the cabbage and keep it submerged. Lastly, I cover the entire top with a piece of cheese cloth to keep out any fruit flies.

After amount a week, I like to taste the kraut. It should have picked up a nice tartness and be relatively clean tasting. If there is dark or oddly colored mold or putrid off-smells, it may have gone-off and should be tossed. That being said, I’ve never had a batch of kraut go off. Common sense should dictate your decisions. If it smells off, then you probably don’t want to eat it.

The final product ready to eat.

The final product–ready to eat after a week or so.

With a week of fermentation, the kraut will still be pretty crunchy and only mildly sour. The more time you give it at room temp, the tarter it will become. Once it is at a level you like, it is best to refrigerate it to retard any further fermentation. Once in the fridge, it should stay good for at least a couple months.

Citrillo American Pale Ale Review

apaTasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 10a American Pale Ale.

Aroma (8/12):
Big, juicy, citrusy hops upfront that feature notes of orange, tangerine, and some tropical mango. Aroma is very citrus forward, although there are some hints of piney hops in the background. There is substantial malt presence that is very bready and offers a whisper of sweetness. The fruity hops and malt sweetness combine for an almost candy-like impression. No alcohol or other off-aromas present. Clean fermentation.

Appearance (2/3):
Deep gold with some orange hues. Capped with a persistent white head. Beer is quite hazy.

Flavor (10/20):
Each sip fills the palate with big, juicy hops that are very citrus-forward. This is balanced against a substantial, sweet and slightly, toasty malt character. The beer is a touch sweet, which is accentuated by a bitterness that is low for the style. On the finish there is a bit of a minerally astringency that detracts.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
Medium-full bodied. Again, a touch of astringency on the finish detracts. The carbonation is a bit low, which gives the beer a very creamy mouthfeel.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This is a nice citrus-bomb American Pale Ale. Unfortunately, the beer is a bit under-attenuated giving the beer some undesirable sweetness and excessive mouthfeel. Additionally, the water feels overmanipulated and minerally. In the future, I will dial back my water additions and make adjustments to this recipe that will lead to better attenuation.

Total: 27/50 Good

Read the full recipe here.

Northern English Brown Review

brownTasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 11c Northern English Brown Ale.

Aroma (10/12):
The first thing that strikes you is the deep biscuity malt followed by some toasted sourdough bread notes. There is a hint of caramel that is pleasant and nuanced as well as some light bittersweet chocolate notes. The English yeast strain is quite apparent with esters reminiscent of apricot. Perfumey and slightly herbal hops are very low and in the background. No diacetyl or other off-flavors.

Appearance (1/3):
Very deep mahogany brown. Clear, with a tan, persistent head. Beer is a bit too dark for the style.

Flavor (15/20):
The beer is dominated by round malt flavors which emphasize deep, toasty, melanoidin filled flavors. There is only a hint of caramel-like sweetness. The malt character is slightly drying with a touch of tart acidity from the chocolate malt. Beer starts out a hair sweet, but finishes quite dry. There is a low hop bitterness that is just enough to balance and is true to the style. Malt is perhaps just a bit too intense.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium-bodied with a nice creamy level of carbonation. Just a hint of roasty astringency.

Overall Impression (7/10):
This is a really well-balanced English Brown Ale. The malt is complex and toasty almost to the point that it exceeds the limit of the style. Very sessionable with malt complexity to keep you interested and modest alcohol levels to keep you coherent. A very nice beer.

Total: 37/50 Good

Read the full recipe here.

Citrillo Pale Ale Recipe and Brewday

citraUpdate 3/25/14: Tasting and Review

I have a bit of nostalgic love for the humble American Pale ale. I can only assume this sentiment is shared by a large number of craft beer drinkers that came of age during the beginning of the craft beer explosion we’re currently in the midst of. Experiencing the relative extremity of a beer like Sierra Nevada pale ale for the first time was somewhat shocking and admittedly, not instantly pleasurable. To my inexperienced palate, the beer was extremely bitter and intense, something radically different from the adjunct-laden lagers I cut my consumption teeth on. It took some time to acclimate, but since those early experiences with SNPA, I’ve rarely looked back.

Revisiting SNPA today makes me realize just how much my palate has changed. The  transition my drinking habits have made towards bigger and bolder closely aligns with the shifts that we’ve seen within the APA category. SNPA would now barely register as a pale ale compared to the highly alcoholic hop bombs that are the most popular examples of the style today. My goal with this recipe is to capture the intense tropical and citrusy hop flavor and aromatics that today’s most popular APAs possess (Zombiedust comes to mind) while pairing down the alcohol to be more in-line with something like SNPA.

Citrillo Pale Ale Recipe

Size: 4.0 gal – My goal is to net 2.75 gallons into the fermenter after hop-related and equipment losses.
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 78.0% (estimated)

Original Gravity: 1.056 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 SG (estimated)
Color: 8.82 SRM
Alcohol: 5.76% ABV (estimated)
Bitterness: 4.5 IBU – Note, my software doesn’t take into account isomerization during the whirlpool where I am getting the majority of my bitterness.

7.75 lb (81.6%) 2-Row Brewers Malt (Briess)
1 lb (10.5%) Vienna Malt (Weyermann)
6 oz (3.9%) 2-Row Caramel Malt 40L (Briess)
4 oz (2.6%) 2-Row Caramel Malt 10L (Briess)
2 oz (1.3%) Acidulated Malt (Weyermann) – Used for pH Adjustment

2 g Citra™ (13.7% AA) – 60 m
2.75 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Whirlpool 20m
1.25 oz Amarillo® (8.7% AA) – Whirlpool 20m

3 oz Amarillo® (8.5% AA) – Hop back. Unfortunately, my hop back broke during the brew day. In lieu of the hop back addition, I ended up adding the hop back hops to my kettle with 5 minutes left in the whirlpool.

1.5 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
0.75 oz Amarillo® (8.5% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablet – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™ (1 very fresh packet)

Mash Regiment:
Saccharification Rest – 154 °F – 60m
Mashout – 168 °F – 5m

1. Chill to 60°F and let rise to 64°F. Hold until activity begins to slow.
2. Raise temp to 70°F until all activity is complete.
3. Dry hop at room temp (74°F or so)
4. Crash to 32°F 2 days then package.