Funky Tap – Brett Trois IPA

The last batch of Single Tap IPA I brewed ended up producing an extra gallon of wort that wouldn’t fit into my fermenter. Rather than toss the excess, I racked it to a 1-gallon glass jug and fermented it out with standard WYeast 1056 American Ale yeast before inoculating it with a secondary Brettanomyces Trois strain (White Labs WLP644). There has been quite a few commercial brewers producing Brett IPAs, especially using Brett Trois, and there seems to be some pretty nice flavor synergies between hops and this particular Brett strain.

Funky Tap

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

Aroma (5/12):
The are some obvious Brett aromas coming from this beer. Esters smell almost like over-ripe pineapple and blend nicely with the potent citrusy / mango-like American hops jumping from the glass. The synergies between yeast and hop derived aromas is quite evident. The Brett has a low phenolic component that is both peppery and features a low amount of plastic-like aroma which feels a bit out of place. There is a slightly skunky / light-struck component to the aroma which is off. A low, honey-like component to the malt makes me think the beer may be slightly oxidized.

Appearance (3/3):
Medium copper and clear. This beer has dropped quite bright with a bit of age and cold conditioning. Persistent white fluffy head.

Flavor (11/20):
Lots of round citrusy/fruity hops. I’m a bit surprised how hoppy this is given the age and lack of dry hopping. It is tough to tell where the Brett derived flavors and hops begin and end, but the sum of the parts is quite nice and juicy. Malt is soft, bready, and round, but a bit oxidized. Bitterness is gentle, but balancing.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Dry yet round. Somewhat of a paradox, but the mouthfeel sensation is quite pleasant.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This is a pretty nice beer and dramatically different than the non-Brett version. The melding of Brett flavors and hops works quite well. The only exception being the hint of pepper/plastic phenol which is a bit clashing. Additionally, the skunky aroma and oxidation stick out like a sore thumb to my pallet. This beer was a bit of a bastardized experiment generated by leftover wort. My normal process and care in transferring and storing the beer were not followed, and appear to have resulted in some off-flavors. Regardless, this beer really does illustrate the synergies that can take place between Brett derived esters and hop character.

Good (29/50)

Single Tap IPA (4.0) Recipe and Review

Brewhouse pug Daisy striking a less-than-impressed pose.

Brewhouse pug Daisy striking a less-than-impressed pose.

Single Tap is my constantly evolving attempt to brew what I consider to be the perfect IPA . I’ve now brewed iterations of this beer on four different occasions. The recipes have constantly evolved, converging towards a unified goal – making an extreme IPA where the process and recipe are tuned to produce the brightest and most intense hop aromatics possible. I question whether any beer, commercial or made at home, can ever be hoppy enough to satiate the most extreme hop heads. This is my attempt.

Let’s talk strategy. The more times that I’ve brewed this, the more I’ve realized that it would be difficult if not impossible to over-attenuate a beer like this. The drier I’ve pushed this beer, the more easily I’ve been able to get the hop aromatics to jump to the foreground. This beer went from 1.072 to 1.012 — 83% apparent attenuation, and could easily be pushed a bit further. Copious additions of simple sugar and low mash temps are key, and produce none of the oft-cited negative flavors that many brewers attribute to brewing with sugar. The grain bill derives a touch of malt complexity through the use of lightly kilned base malts (Vienna) and a token addition of low lovibond crystal. The malt character should be in the background and provide a clean backdrop for the hops.

Hopping levels in this beer are a bit absurd and dramatically loaded to the back-end whirlpool. In selecting the hop varieties, I focused on tropical fruit-forward hops. I’m not a huge fan of the more resinous/dank IPAs out there (like Stone Ruination), so I avoided certain hops like Columbus, Simcoe, and Chinook which can be a bit abrasive. During the boil, there was a small addition at the beginning to help keep the kettle foam down and lay down a low base of bitterness. The amount of bitterness required to balance this beer is minimal due to the low residual sugar levels. The key is obtaining nearly all of the bitterness during the whirlpool rest, which has the added benefit of imbuing a high level of hop flavor and aroma to the beer. Once kegged, I treat the beer with a huge dry hop.  I tend to limit the contact-time with dry hops since I’ve found that only bad flavors (grassiness) are gained after day three. It is important at this stage to thoroughly flush the vessel you’re dry hopping in with CO2 as oxidation in hoppy beers can seriously impact the life of the beer.

Single Tap IPA 4.0 Recipe

Recipe Specs:
Size: 4.25 gal
Efficiency: 75%
Attenuation: 83%

Original Gravity: 1.072
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 8.16 SRM
Alcohol: 7.9% ABV
Bitterness: 32.6 IBUs (Doesn’t account for significant bitterness obtained during the whirlpool)
Mash Temp: 147 °F

Grain Bill:
4.25 lb (43.0%) Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner Malt
4 lb (40.5%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
12 oz (7.6%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
8 oz (5.1%) Briess White Wheat Malt
6 oz (3.8%) Briess 2-Row Caramel Malt 40L

8 g Citra™ (13.7% AA) – added first wort
0.5 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – 10 m
0.5 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 10 m

2 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Whirlpool 25m
2 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – Whirlpool 25m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7% AA) – Whirlpool 25m
1 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – Whirlpool 25m

3 oz Amarillo® HOPBACK (8.7% AA) – Hop Back

0.5 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1.5 oz Amarillo® (8.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1 oz  Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

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

WYeast 1056 American Ale™ – Build appropriately sized starter
Pitch yeast once beer is at 62°F. Keep beer at 64°F during the start and peak of fermentation. Slowly raise to 70°F as signs of fermentation taper off.

Water Treatment:
Soft NYC municipal water with 6g Gypsum and 3g Calcium Chloride added to the mash.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 14B American IPA

Aroma (11/12):
This is quite possibly the hoppiest IPA I’ve ever stuck my nose into. The intensity of the hop aroma could very well have surpassed the limits set by the best commercial hoppy beers out there. Huge amounts of tangerine-like citrus, mango, and sweet orange jump from the glass. The hopping levels exceed the levels described in the BJCP guideline which currently doesn’t reflect the intense aromatics found in the best examples of contemporary IPAs. A low bready malt character is barely apparent behind all the hops.

Appearance (1/3):
The beers pours a light golden hue with a high level of murky hop haze. A fluffy white head forms and easily persists to the bottom of the glass. This is not a pretty beer… and I’m okay with that.

Flavor (17/20):
The hop bombardment carries through to the flavor, leaving only just a hint of any malt behind. The hop flavor fills your mouth with intense fruit flavors and a hint of pine resin. A touch of grassiness was apparent when the beer was initially kegged, but eventually dropped off as the beer aged out. A bit of warm alcohol is apparent and reminds me that this beer pushes the alcoholic boundaries for a standard IPA. The bitterness is medium high and lingers a touch in the finish, along with a huge amount of hop flavor. Very dry malt, with fruity hops giving a slight impression of sweetness.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Somehow this beer manages to feel dry and round at the same time. My suspicion is that the hop oils contribute a beautiful silky mouthfeel.

Overall Impression (10/10):
This beer goes above and behind the levels of hops that the BJCP describes for American IPAs. That said, it truly reflects contemporary examples of the best IPAs currently produced in the commercial craft market. The beer is dangerously quaffable. A world-class hop delivery vehicle.

Excellent (44/50)

Spawn of Duvel Review

Belgian BlondTasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 18a Belgian Blond. Recipe can be found here.

Aroma (7/12)
At first pour the nose is a bit biting due to an abundant amount of CO2 coming out of solution. This sharpness combines with a strong ester character making it a bit over-the-top. Aromas of under-ripe pear and a touch of nondescript berry dance from the glass. Once some of the carbonation dissipates, softer honey-like malt components become apparent and are quite inviting. No phenols or alcohol apparent. As the beer warms, a light touch of banana ester becomes barely perceptible.

Appearance (2/3)
Medium golden in color with a light chill-haze that clears up as the beer warms. High carbonation levels (to style) push forth a large billowy white head that is constantly replenished and very attractive.

Flavor (14/20)
The potent ester character found on the nose is much more subdued on the palate. The beer strikes a nice balance between fermentation character, and a beautiful soft pilsner malt backbone. The Belgium pilsner malt has a honey-like sweetness that is very nice. There is a touch of herbal hop flavor coupled with a balancing medium level of hop bitterness. The flavor is very round and soft, but finishes quite dry with a slight mineral note.

Mouthfeel (4/5)
Bright prickly carbonation; perhaps a touch high for style. The beer is medium bodied and has a pleasant dry finish.

Overall Impression (7/10)
This is quite a pleasurable beer that changes dramatically as the beer warms in the glass and loses carbonation. At first, the beer is quite brash. After some time in the glass, the beer flavors round out, making for a softer, much more nuanced beer. In the end, the balance of fermentation flavors and very attractive soft pilsner malt character make this a solid rendition of the style.

Total: 34/50 Very Good

Note: This beer was entered into the Second Round of the National Homebrew Competition. It did not place in the competition, but it did receive a 36.

Wild Cider Review

Wild CiderTasting Notes:

This cider started off as a 1-gallon experiment in which I took a preservative-free farmer’s market apple cider and fermented it with a mixed culture of microbes grown up from a number of different sour beers. The cider went from 1.050 OG to 0.99 leaving behind a whopping 7.84% ABV.

Aroma (6/12)
Initially there is a faint whisper of bruised green apple which is quickly overcome by the by-products of fermentation. There a pleasant barnyardy Brett character that is slightly musty and borders ever-so-closely to the mousey descriptor often used in funky beers with negative connotation. There is just a hint of tannic/earthy apple skin on the nose. There is no hint of the phenolic plastic / adhesive strip aromas that seem to dominate many of the Spanish / Basque funky ciders.

Appearance (2/3)
Straw yellow — almost looks like a white wine. There is a light haze. Bubbles form around the rim and quickly dissipate, much like a sparkling wine.

Flavor (10/20)
Apple character is almost non-apparent and comes off slightly watery. Austerely dry with no apparent alcohol. The is an interesting grain-like nuttiness reminiscent of Cheerios that is somewhat intriguing, but perhaps a touch out of place. The funky Brett character perceived on the nose isn’t quite as intense in the flavor.

Mouthfeel (3/5)
Moderate carbonation that quickly dissipates. The combination of carbonation and acid leaves the cider with a slightly sharp impression.

Overall Impression (6/10)
This was a fun experiment and good foray into the world of funky ciders. In the end, the amount of apple flavor left behind was a bit disappointing. Additionally, the mixed fermentation did not create as much acid as I had hoped. Further back-sweetening to enhance the apple character, as well as a dose of acid would dramatically improve the overall impression of this cider. In future experiments, using a blend of apples selected for their suitability in hard cider production would likely create a better end-result.

Total: 27/50 Good

SMaSH Mandarina Bavaria vs Hallertau Mittelfruh Pilsners

Both SMaSH pilsners were brought the annual NYC Hombrewers Guild picnic --- the perfect beer on a hot summer day.

Both SMaSH pilsners were brought the annual NYC Hombrewers Guild picnic — the perfect beer on a hot summer day.

About 6-weeks ago I brewed a couple of SMaSH pilsner lagers, inspired by Firestone Walker Pivo Pils, and featuring 100% Weyermann Pilsner malt. For hopping, one was brewed solely with a new German varietal called Mandarina Bavaria, where-as the other was brewed with the more traditional Hallertau Mittelfruh.

Rather than do a full BJCP-style evaluation of each beer, I’ll describe the malt and yeast  character present in both beers, and then attempt to describe the real hop character differences that exists between the beers.

Malt Character:
Clean and crisp is the best way to describe this malt. I was able to achieve 80% + apparent attenuation which lends a nice lean character without becoming watery. Although I missed the very high level of attenuation found in Pivo Pils (88%), this beer still captures the dryness that makes Pivo so great. The standard Weyermann Pilsner malt I used has a nice light bready, and ever-so-slightly grainy character that is very nuanced. This is a great neutral malt that begs to be set down as a base to bounce other flavors against. The Weyermann malt does not feel as round and bready as other pilsner malts I have used, in particular Dingemans pils from Belgium which features an almost honey-like sweetness. Using this malt in this manner clearly illustrates how similarly colored malts from different maltsters can have dramatically different characteristics.

Yeast Character:
Unfortunately, the homebrew shop I purchased from did not have the Wyeast 2124 lager yeast used by Pivo Pils in stock. As a back-up, I brewed with my go-to lager yeast WLP833 from White Labs. This yeast performs superbly, attenuating well, and cleaning up any residual diacetyl. There is a very light fruity ester present in the beer, but other than that, the beer is clean and neutral, setting the table to showcase the hops and malt.

Hallertau Mittelfruh Hop:
This hop look you straight in the eye and without blinking proudly proclaims its German heritage. This hop features a classic, and very nuanced herbal quality. When searching, there is a low white pepper note as well. On the finish is a slightly grassy, almost tea-leaf like flavor which I attribute to the fact that I needed to use nearly twice as much of this hop to hit the same IBU levels provided by the higher alpha Mandarina Bavaria. The quality of the bitterness in this beer is very smooth, and does not linger.

Mandarina Bavaria Hop:
Mandarina Bavaria is often cited as a next generation German varietal being bred to compete with the novel hop varieties being grown in the Pacific NW. True to its name, this hop has a nice round sweet mandarin and tangerine flavor that comes across almost as candied orange that while present, is much more subtle than the citrus displayed by other types of hops. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be any of the bitter, pithy citrus character that is found in many varieties. There is none of the pine or resin flavors which dominate other hops. This hop does not match the brash intensity and massive oil levels found in the newer American hops. This hop works really well in this beer, providing a sweet citrus component without dominating the malt or other lager characteristics. Mandarina Bavaria shines in more nuanced beers, but probably won’t be able to stand up to the Simcoes, Citras, or even brasher South Hemisphere hops that dominate the IPA world. That said, there is a definite place for this hop in the ever-expanding tool chest of hops modern brewers have access to.