Honey | Orange Pale Ale – Recipe and Review

_DSC1871Synergy between ingredients is something that I often seek out when writing a new beer recipe. In this particular case, I started with the premise of wanting to use orange blossom honey in a beer. Orange blossom honey has a delicate orange flavor as well a soft floral honey bouquet. Building a beer recipe around these attributes, I started with a Belgian Pilsner malt base which I’ve found to produce a honey like sweetness in my beers. From there, the base malt was accented with a small amount of Gambrinus honey malt to emphasize the honey character. Additionally, I delicately hopped the beer with Mandarian Bavaria hops which I’ve found to have a pronounced sweet orange (not pith) character that would be delicate enough not to overpower the honey.

Honey | Orange Pale Ale Recipe

Size: 3.75 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 80%

Original Gravity: 1.050 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 SG
Color: 6.07 SRM
Alcohol: 5.28% ABV
Bitterness: 20.3 IBU

Malt Bill:
5.5 lb (72.1%) Pilsner Malt (Dingemans)
0.75 lb (9.8%) Munich TYPE I – (Weyermann)
6 oz (4.9%) Honey Malt – (Gambinus)

Mash Profile:
146 °F – 60m
168 °F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2g Gypsum (to mash)
4g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

16 g Mandarina Bavaria (7.2%) – 90 m

Note: After boil was complete, the kettle was topped up with cold water to lower temperature to 180°F.

2 oz (43.8%) Mandarina Bavaria – 180°F Steep – 15 m
1 lb (13.1%) Orange Blossum Honey – 180°F Steep – 15 m

2 oz (43.8%) Amarillo® – Hop Back (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) -  15m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™- Starter on stirplate to achieve 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 60°F wort and allow to free rise to 64°F. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 70°F.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

_DSC1966Aroma (10/12):
Low to moderate floral honey notes. There is a medium to medium-high sweet citrus / orange / tangerine hop aroma. Some soft candy-like malt sweetness is in the background. No alcohol, DMS, or diacetyl. The is a touch of grassy hops in the background.

Appearance (2/3):
Color falls somewhere between a light copper and a deep blond. There is a slight haze to the beer. Fluffy white persistent head.

Flavor (17/20):
Moderately high hop flavor that is like sweet or candied orange. None of the pithy bitter citrus flavors that are often associated with traditional types of citrus hops. Honey is strongly present and quite floral. Malt is soft and bready with a light crackery character. The hop bitterness is medium-low and leaves behind just a hint of malt sweetness. There is a wonderful honey flavor that persists through the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Crisp with a medium to medium-low body. Quite balanced. No astringency. Beer has a medium-high carbonation which is slightly biting.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a very nice balanced pale ale that showcases the honey content. The beer is exceptionally balanced with layer of flavors; none of which stick out or feel out of place. Very well crafted beer.

Excellent (40/50)


2014 Sour Beer Solera Brewday


5-gallon corny kegs make excellent Solera vessels.

5-gallon corny kegs make excellent Solera vessels.

Solera is a traditional production method commonly utilized by wine (Sherry, Maderia, Port) and vinegar (Balsamic, Sherry) producers to craft long-aged products. In a nutshell, Soleras work by never completely emptying the vessels in which the liquids are aged. When a product is packaged, a percentage of the liquid is left in the storage vessel and topped up with fresh un-aged liquid. The idea is that a percentage of aged liquid is always left in the aging vessel, effectively allowing all packaged versions to end up with a final product containing a variety of vintages, some of which can be extremely old depending on the age and number of cycles a Solera has been through. This can help to unify any seasonal variation between batches, but also allows products containing substantial amounts of young liquid to taste much more aged than it would taste on its own.

Reading Michael Tonsmeire’s American Sour Beers convinced me that building a sour beer Solera was a wonderful idea. Solera production lends itself perfectly to sour beer production due to the inherent aged nature of these beers, and the similarities between Solera and traditional Gueuze production.

To start, I’ve dedicated 5-gallon Corny keg to Solera sour beer production. Initially I filled the keg with 5-gallons of beer that was fermented out in a primary vessel using Wyeast’s Roeselare blend of microbes. The base beer I am shooting for will be a fairly neutral golden sour that can act as a somewhat generic background for future Solera batches. My plan in a year is to pull half of the contents of the Solera and package it as-is. From there I will top it up with another fresh batch of beer and begin the process again. In theory, this will create an annual pipeline of sour beer which I can package as-is, or use for other projects (other blends, fruiting, dry-hopping, etc.). Additionally, the new beers added annually to the Solera can be used to steer the flavor profile of the beer in the Solera, through both recipe formulation and microbe content, in different and hopefully interesting directions.

2014 Sour Solera Recipe
(Golden Sour w/ Underlying Crackey / Grainy Notes)

Recipe Specifications:
Size: 5.06 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 90% (anticipated)

Original Gravity: 1.049 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.005 SG (anticipated)
Color: 7.95 SRM
Alcohol: 5.83% ABV
Bitterness: 0.0 IBU

Grain Bill:
6.5 lb (65.0%) Belgian Pils (Dingemans)
1.5 lb (15.0%) White Wheat Malt (Briess)
1 lb (10.0%) Munich 10L Malt (Briess)
0.5 lb (5.0%) Victory® Malt (Briess)
0.5 lb (5.0%) 2-Row Carapils® Malt (Briess)

Mash Regiment:
The mash was taken through the steps below. I use a direct fire recirculating mash to transverse the steps.

113 °F - Ferulic Acid Rest – 10min
144 °F – Beta Rest – 20min
154 °F – Alpha Rest – 30min
168 °F – Mashout Rest – 5min

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2g Gypsum (to mash)
6g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

2 oz AGED Cascade (0% AA) – 90 m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m

WYeast 3763 Roeselare Ale Blend – No Starter
Ferment at room temp until activity ceases. Rack into 5-gallon corny keg. Monitor pressure on corny keg and occasionally pull pressure relief valve to prevent the keg from becoming overly pressurized.

Brew Your Own Malt Vinegar

Vinegar is often a hushed subject amongst brewers. A veritable boogeyman, the bacteria (acetobacter) responsible for one of my favorite condiments and cooking ingredients can easily spoil a batch of beer. The thought of our carefully crafted libations (and their inherent ethanol content) being transformed into acetic acid sends shivers up many a brewer’s spine. Acetobacter must be respected, and never invited into our breweries…

Homebrewing your malt vinegar is a delicious off-shoot of homebrewing beer.

Homebrewing your own malt vinegar is a delicious off-shoot of homebrewing beer.

…or so we have been told. The truth of the matter is that acetobacter exists in every brewery. Its omnipresent existence is evidenced by the fact that nearly any liquid containing ethanol will spontaneously transform into vinegar provided it is left exposed to oxygen. Basic good sanitation practices and keeping your ‘funky’ equipment separate from your ‘clean’ brewing equipment will allow you the creative freedom to ferment outside the bounds of typical brewing.

Once I decided to begin producing my own malt vinegar, I was somewhat surprised to find the Internet nearly devoid of good information as it relates to producing malt vinegar. This is not to say that there isn’t a lot of information out there, but most of it is very basic in terms of real detail. By-and-large, the articles out there focus on the economy of producing vinegar. Their focus is on vinegar production as a means of transforming an unwanted alcoholic beverage into something of value – a happy byproduct for unwanted hooch. What is one to do with a half-consumed bottle of wine, decanted yeast starter wort, or a bad batch of beer? Turn it to vinegar (or so says the Internet). The problem with this approach is that it over-simplifies vinegar production. Will a haphazard approach to vinegar production produce a passable product? Probably so. My interests however are in producing a truly artisanal product with as much complexity and diversity as the alcoholic beverages that serve as their base.

Bragg unpasturized, unfiltered vinegar acts as a starter culture.

Bragg unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar acts as a starter culture.

The pathway to vinegar production is very basic. All that is needed is an alcoholic liquid, a culture of acetobacter, and oxygen. Acetobacter will oxidize ethanol into acetic acid, transforming your alcoholic base into a non-alcoholic vinegar. Making vinegar is as simple as fermenting out a beer (or really any alcoholic beverage), pitching a acetobacter culture (this will occur spontaneously with enough time), and leaving the liquid open to oxygen. Eventually the ethanol in the liquid will be converted to acetic acid, and you’ll be left with vinegar.

Like beer production, your recipe formulation will have a profound effect on the final vinegar. Finding good information about how recipes for vinegar should be formulated was a challenge. My base assumption is that I can take much of what I understand about beer formulation and expect those same types of flavors to be carried through to the final vinegar. The biggest variable to account for is starting gravity. This variable impacts both the residual sweetness in the vinegar, as well as the final level of acidity in the vinegar. These two components affect the sweet/sour balance of the final vinegar. At the very least, it seems prudent to produce roughly an 8% ABV beer in order to achieve a final vinegar with approximately 8% acidity.

As brewer’s, we know that there is a tremendous diversity within the broad category of ‘beer’. A standard industrial lager and barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout are both ‘beer’ but are world’s apart in terms of the impression they leave us with. This diversity can easily be applied to malt vinegar. Malt vinegar does not have to be a generic product. It can be equally as diverse and complex as the beer we produce. For my initial attempt at vinegar I wanted to try and produce something a bit richer than the industrial malt vinegars most of us are familiar with. With hints of dried fruit, a subtle sweetness, toasty malt character, and sharp acidity, my hope is to produce something closer to the fine aged balsamic vinegars of Modena.

Dark Malt Vinegar Recipe

Size: 1.25 gal
Efficiency: 80%
Attenuation: 63%

Original Gravity: 1.108
Terminal Gravity: 1.040
Color: 25.23 SRM
Alcohol: 9.08& ABV (before transformation into vinegar)
Bitterness: 0.0 IBU

Malt Bill:
3.75 lb (78.9%) Maris Otter (Muntons)
0.5 lb (10.5%) Special B Malt (Dingemans)
0.5 lb (10.5%) 2-Row Caramel Malt 60L (Briess)

Mash Regiment:
149 °F, 60 min

Kettle Additions:
0.25 Tablet Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.25 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

1/2 pack Safale S-04

The Process

  1. Approximately one-gallon of wort was produced using a brew-in-a-bag no sparge method.
  2. The initial beer was fermented out cleanly using Safale US-04 yeast for approximately 1.5 weeks at ambient room temperatures. Once fermentation was completed, the fermenter was chilled to compact the trub and yeast cake.
  3. The beer was carefully decanted off the initial yeast cake into a clean 1-gallon glass fermenter. The beer was purposefully allowed to splash into the secondary fermenter to allow for some oxygen pickup. 1/4 c. of Bragg unpasturized vinegar was added as a starter culture. 1/8 oz. heavy toast American Oak cubes were added to the liquid. A mesh bag was rubber-banded over the top of the secondary fermenter to allow for oxygen exchange.
  4. Vinegar was allowed to age and acidify for approximately 4-months at ambient temperatures. pH readings and tastings were taken at regular intervals:
  • After 2-weeks: pH 3.58
  • After 4-weeks: pH 3.14
  • After 8-weeks: pH 2.99
  • After 14-weeks: pH 2.81 – Bottled despite somewhat high pH. Taste is quite sour. Next time I will shoot for a pH of 2.4-2.7.


_DSC2096The vinegar is quite fruity on the nose, almost grape-like. There is a residual grainy character and a relatively sharp acetic acid note, although not quite as piquant as commercial vinegars. The flavor however is sharpely acidic. Once the initial burst of acidity subsides, there is a nice crackery malt finish with a faint hint of caramel and dark fruit. There is a low to moderate amount of residual body and sweetness that helps soften the sharp acidity, although this lacks the concentration and depth of flavor found in a good balsamic vinegar.

Triple IPA Brewday & Review

_DSC1886Take a ridiculously hoppy double IPA, increase the hopping and alcohol to ludicrous levels, and you have a decent outline for crafting a triple IPA. These are fun beers to brew, and a great way to use up any extraneously hops that may be buried in your freezer. This beer is very much in the same spirit as coveted beers like Pliny the Younger (you can read more about my club’s attempt at cloning the Younger, here).

This is a tough beer to brew as it can easily fall victim to common faults. The most frequent and egregious fault with American-style IPAs is not achieving adequate levels of attenuation. Nothing ruins a big hoppy beer’s drinkability quicker than excessive residual gravity or caramel flavors. This is even more apparent when you’re pushing the beer to triple IPA levels. Controlling fermentability with the addition of simple sugars and low mash temps will take you most of the way. From there, it is key to pitch a big healthy population of yeast, adequately oxygenate the wort, and carefully control fermentation to keep higher alcohols in check.

_DSC1888The second most common fault would likely be harsh or grassy hop flavors. This most commonly occurs when brewers leave dryhops in contact with the beer for excessive periods. Many sources cite the fact that the majority of hop oils are extracted within the first 24-48 hours of contact with our beer. Anecdotally, I’ve definitely experienced this and typically now only leave dry hops in contact with my beers for 2-3 days, maximum.

Lastly, it is extremely important to limit oxygen pickup post fermentation with your hoppy beers. Hop compounds are extremely susceptible to oxidation. Very few factors will contribute to the destruction of a hoppy beer quicker than oxygen. Purging vessels, pushing beer with C02 in closed loops, and cold storage can greatly increase the shelf-life of your hoppy beers.

Triple Tap Triple IPA Recipe

Size: 4.5 gal
Efficiency: 67%
Attenuation: 92%

Original Gravity: 1.088 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.007 SG
Color: 8.3 SRM
Alcohol: 10.65% ABV
Bitterness: 55.7 IBUs (Doesn’t account for substantial bitterness achieved with whirlpool additions)

Malt Bill:
12 lb (76.2%) Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
1 lb (6.3%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
.25 lb (1.6%) Caramalt 15 (Bairds)

Mash Profile:
147 °F – 60m
154 °F – 10m
168 °F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
6g Gypsum (to mash)
3g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

0.25 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 60 m
1 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 20 m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7%) – 20 m

2 oz Citra™ (13.7%) – Whirlpool 20m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7%) – Whirlpool 20m
2.5 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2%) – Whirlpool 20m

2.5 oz (17.5%) Amarillo® – Hop Back (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

2 oz Galaxy (14.0%) – Dry Hop @ Room Temp 3 Days
2 oz Citra™ (12.0%) – Dry Hop @ Room Temp 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
2.5 lb (15.9%) Corn Sugar – 15m
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) -  15m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™ – Large starter on stirplate to achieve 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 60°F wort and allow to free rise to 64°F. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 70°F.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

_DSC1976Aroma (10/12):
Huge, punchy hop-nose. The hops are extremely juicy and tropical — reminiscent of mango, orange, and pineapple. In many ways, this beer reminds me P.O.G. (passion fruit, orange, guave) juice. There is a moderate amount of grassy, plant-like aromas. By and large the hops are almost uniformly fruity with very little pine or resinous aromas. Malt character is slightly bready. No alcohol, DMS, or diacetyl are perceptible.

Appearance (1/3):
Beer pours a muddy copper color. Extremely hazy with hop compounds. Beer is capped with a bright white, thick, persistent head.

Flavor (10/20):
Taking a swig from the tasting glass fills your mouth with huge, round, hop flavors. The flavors are very fruity and tropical, although there is a slightly biting, resinous, bitterness on the finish. There is a bit of residual sweetness that keeps the beer feeling slightly full and heavier than I would like. As the beer warms, some warming alcohol dances across the palate.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium body and carbonation. Some light hop astringency is present on the finish and detracts from the overall drinking experience. The hops seem to lend a creamy texture to the mouthfeel.

Overall Impression (6/10):
This beer pushes the level of hoppiness that I am able to enjoy almost to the breaking point. The beer is young and brash with bold assertive flavors that come off a touch green. It is very much in the same vein as beers like Pliny the Younger, which are best enjoyed in small glasses and shared with friends.

Very Good (31/50)


Hoppy Rye Saison with Brett Trois – Recipe and Review

More and more I’m beginning to think that there is real potential to create delicious beers by exploiting the synergies that can take place between fruity American hops, and fruity yeast strains. To achieve this end, it is important to select the appropriate hop varieties that lean more towards the fruity/tropical rather than pine/resin end of the flavor spectrum. To further investigate these possibilities, I decided to brew up a super hoppy saison that would be complemented by the pleasant fruitiness provided by the Dupont saison yeast and intense tropical esters provided by Brettanomyces Trois (which may or may not actually be a Brettanomyces strain). Additionally, my goal in pitching a Brett strain along with the traditional Dupont strain would be to allow the Brett to finish up the ferment where the Dupont yeast typically stalls out.

Rye Saison

Hoppy Rye Saison with Brett Trois

Recipe Specs:
Size: 3.31 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 84%

Original Gravity: 1.050
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 3.87 SRM
Alcohol: 5.5% ABV
Bitterness: 30.6 IBU
Mash Temp: 144°F 90 min., 154°F 10 min.

Grain Bill:
5.75 lb (79.3%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
.75 lb (10.3%) Weyermann Rye Malt
.75 lb (10.3%) Briess Flaked Rye

0.75 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – 90 m

1 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – 180 degree hop stand – 20 m
2 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – 180 degree hop stand – 20 m
1 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – 180 degree hop stand – 20 m

2 oz Amarillo® (8.5% AA) – Hop Back

1 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 3724 Belgian Saison™ – Added to 2 gallons of wort
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces Trois – Added to 1 gallon of wort

The Saison strain and Brett strain were pitched on brew day into two separate fermentation vessels. Once the Saison yeast stalled (typical of this strain), the two fermenters were combined and allowed to co-ferment.

Water Treatment:
Soft NYC municipal water with 3g Gypsum and 2g Calcium Chloride added to the mash.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 16E Belgian Specialty Ale

Aroma (11/12):
Initially there is a big hit of meyer lemon-like fruit up front, followed by a massive amount of tropical fruit. The beer is almost reminiscent of POG (Passion Orange Guava) juice. Very bright and refreshing aroma. The impression of fruitiness is huge, but it is unclear where the hops and yeast character begin and end. A great melding of aroma compounds. Malt is soft and bready. No grassiness, alcohol heat, or other off-aromas. Just a hint of pepper — not as much as you’d find in a typical saison.

Appearance (1/3):
Murky gold. The hop haze and high-protein rye have produced a very muddy beer. Glass is capped with a nice persistent white foam.

Flavor (16/20):
Huge tropical notes fill the pallet. Very delicious and refreshing. Low amounts of pepper-like phenols are present and add to the beer’s dry impression. The base malt is in the background and nondescript. The rye is evident and provides a spicy kick. The overall impression of dryness is very high and gives a great refreshing impression. The is a firm hop bitterness that is high for style, but works well in this beer.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
This is where the rye really shines. The beer has an immensely pleasurable silky mouthfeel that prevents a dry beer like this from feeling too austere. The silky body balances well against a prickly level of carbonation.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a fantastic, refreshing, and complex beer. In many ways, it feel more like a Belgian IPA than saison due to the immense hop aroma and flavor. The synergies that are happening between the potent hopping and yeast derived compounds work well. It will be interesting to see where this beer goes as the hops begin to fade and the yeast derived flavors come more to the foreground.

Excellent (42/50)