English IPA – Homebrew Recipe & Review

English IPA

English IPA – A Balancing Act of Traditional Hops and Toasted Malt Flavors

“Balance” is one of the most overused (and misunderstood) terms used to describe beer. It is a characteristic thrown around by brewers and beer geeks alike as a silver bullet for communicating a positive impression of a beer. It is often cited as the end game which all beers should strive to achieve.

Discussing balance is problematic as the concept is not often understood as a way to describe the interplay between a broad spectrum of flavor, aromatic, and mouthfeel sensations within a given beer. For many beer drinkers, implicit to the concept of balance is the thinking that for each polarizing character a beer may possess there must be a counteracting character of equal stature to achieve “balance”. This neutralizing character is almost always malt character and sweetness. Malt seems to be the agent of neutralization for hop bitterness, roasted bite, sharp acidity, alcoholic heat, overly dry attenuation…the list goes on and on.

I believe that this concept of balance is somewhat limiting. I prefer to use balance as a metric for describing where a beer lands on the continuum of various traits. Parity between divergent traits may mean a beer has equal balance, but a beer can be also be balanced towards any number of traits and still be viewed as equally delicious. A beer can be malt-forward, hop-forward, barrel-forward, acidity-forward, or described in any number of other ways. This allows us to look at the commercial spectrum of highly acidic sour beers, fruit bomb IPAs, and sugary sweet barrel-aged beers, and realize that equal balance is not always the most sought after type of balance in a beer.

That said, this recipe for an English IPA strikes a balance between malt and hops which makes it incredibly enjoyable and sessionable. I’m a huge fan of the floral, and slightly earthy, character a large does of East Kent Goldings gives this beer.

English IPA Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.057
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 11.23 SRM
Alcohol: 5.9% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 23 IBU (does not account for significant whirlpool isomerization)

Malt Bill:
5 lbs. (69.0%) Crisp Maris Otter
0.75 lb. (10.3%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
6 oz. (5.2%) Thomas Fawcett Crystal Malt I
6 oz. (4.2%) Torrified Wheat
4 oz. (4.1%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Sugar Additions:
0.75 lb. (10.3%) Corn Sugar (Dextrose)

Mash Profile:
151°F – 60m

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

Hopping:
0.5 oz.Target (10% AA) – 60m
1.0 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.5 oz.Target (10% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.0 oz. Cascade (5.5% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

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

Yeast:
Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 12C English IPA

Aroma (12/12):
The beer introduces itself with a very appealing soft, yet sophisticated malt nose featuring a gentle toastiness and very light touch of toffee sweetness. There are some very low fruity esters that are fairly subdued for a British style ale. A very pretty, medium hop aroma complements the malt with elements of marmalade jam paired with a floral, dried rose element. Very nice.

Appearance (3/3):
The beer pours a striking copper with crystal clarity. A tight, frothy head of tan foam caps the glass and persists through the end.

Flavor (18/20):
The malt flavor of this beer is really great. Moderate in intensity, the malt manages to be interesting but not overbearing. Like freshly baked bread, the beer is very inviting and barely wafts just a whisper of caramel sweetness. There is quite a lot of hop flavor showcasing floral elements with a touch of sweet orange flesh. The bitterness is firm, but smooth and does not linger. There is just a touch of mineral sharpness on the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium body with slightly prickly carbonation that is perhaps a touch high. Beer is very crisp and clean.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a fantastic beer that showcases the soft nuances of British malt and hops. I love the way that this beer manages to be simple yet sophisticated at the same time. In a world where we frequently chase maximum flavor intensity in beer, we’re reminded that simple beers that showcase quality ingredients and careful craft can be every bit as enjoyable as the most complicated craft-brewed concoctions.

Excellent (45/50)

Belgian Golden Strong Ale – Recipe & Review

Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Belgian Golden Strong – Not My Finest Moment as a Brewer

A natural temptation for any homebrewing blogger is to write only about their greatest achievements. After all, for most of you reading this, your only way of judging my brewing abilities is through the write-ups I share.

Though this approach to sharing would undoubtedly boost my ego, I find it misleading and limiting as we all seek to better ourselves as homebrewers. Sometimes, I brew a beer that simply sucks. Whether through flawed recipe creation, poor technique, fickle yeast, or acts of God, bad beer happens. This is a fact for most homebrewers and one of the truths we can own without facing any real consequences. Sometimes the cost of a batch isn’t worth choking down a sub-par beer. Luckily this isn’t a big deal for us since our costs are low and we’re not driven to sell our creations—something, perhaps, that some commercial brewers could learn from.

Rant aside, this beer was unfortunately a dumper. While the recipe itself is solid, I made two critical mistakes.

First, I rushed the process, crashing the fermenter and bottling the beer way too early. When I crashed the beer, I was left with an overly sweet, under-attenuated malt bomb. This particular strain of yeast likes to take its sweet time to completely attenuate and I simply didn’t allow it to. After I bottled and stored the beer at room temp, fermentation began again, creating dramatically over carbonated beer. Luckily I bottled the beer in very thick Belgian bottles, which prevented any bottle bombs.

My second mistake came when I cold crashed the beer. Hoping to prevent air suck back through the airlock as the beer chilled and lost volume, I decided to bung up the Better Bottle. Unfortunately, some CO2 was still being generated by the ferment, which popped off the bung, and left the carboy open to the atmosphere for about 16 hours. This oxidized the beer and gave the malt a honeyed sweetness that didn’t help what was already a sweet beer.

Needless to say, I learned from these mistakes and hopefully won’t repeat them. If this can prevent even a single beer being dumped by others then my work was worth the effort!

Belgian Golden Strong Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 75% (target was 93%)

Original Gravity: 1.072
Terminal Gravity: 1.018 (target was 1.005)
Color: 4.66 SRM
Alcohol: 7.12% ABV (calculated) (target was 8.69% ABV)
Bitterness: 15.9 IBU

Malt Bill:
7.25 lbs. (81.7%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
2 oz. (1.4%) Weyermann Acidulated Malt

Sugar Additions:
1.5 lbs. (16.9%) Dextrose (Corn Sugar)

Mash Profile:
122°F – 5m
146°F – 40m
154°F – 20m

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

Hopping:
28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – 60m
28 g. Styrian Goldings (2.8% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

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

Yeast:
Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 25C Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Aroma (7/12):
Lots of intense fruit aromas jump from the glass. There is plenty of pear and apple esters as well as just a minute amount of cherry. There is a medium-plus banana or bubblegum ester which I’m particularly sensitive to (and not a huge fan of). There is a hint of peppery phenolic spice that adds a bit of complexity to the fermentation character. While the nose is dominated by fermentation byproducts, the malt comes across as quite bready and sweet with some honey-like undertones. The malt is just a touch oxidized with some prune-like aroma.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a very light blond color with some haze. The beer pours with a big white head with cascading bubbles from the ample carbonation. Good retention and lacing.

Flavor (11/20):
The beer has a lot of malt flavor, frankly more than I’d hope to find in this style. There is a honeyed pilsner character that is particular to Belgian pilsner malts that I’ve used in the past. Unfortunately, there is also an undercurrent of light oxidation with some subtle dark fruit notes. There is a bit of low sugary sweetness that is the antithesis of the hallmark of the style. The fruit flavor is high with lots of characterful fermentation elements including fruity pear and apple esters. The high fruitiness blends with the residual sweetness to give an overly sweet impression. Bitterness is very low—a bit more would be welcome.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
High carbonation bursts from the beer giving a very prickly, almost sharp mouthfeel and scrubbing what would otherwise likely have been a somewhat syrupy beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is a bit too boisterous in its fruit character compared to the quiet elegance of a beer like Duvel, the quintessential Belgian Golden Strong Ale. Additionally, the overly sweet impression and slight oxidized notes detract from the drinkability that is key to achieving a good Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Good (28/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this beer at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.

English Brown Ale – Homebrew Recipe & Review

English Brown Ale

I keep coming back to this humble English Brown Ale recipe.

If you frequently visit this blog, you’ll notice that there are certain beer styles I tend to rebrew on (at least) an annual basis. This is certainly the case with Northern English Brown. My affinity for brewing this beer mainly revolves around the fact that it is a low alcohol, sessionable, malt-forward ale that packs a lot of flavor into a fairly small package. The Maris Otter base gives an awesome bready, slightly toasty base, that is further enhanced with the addition of other melanoidin-rich specialty malts.

Another reason that I frequently rebrew this style stems from the fact that back in 2012, I managed to score a gold medal in the final round of the National Homebrew Competition with a Northern English Brown ale. Every year since, I’ve attempted to recreate that beer’s magic by rebrewing very similar recipes and entering them back into the competition. I haven’t yet been able to get this beer back into the final round, although luckily, it is still a delicious beer to have on hand. This recipe is much more toast and melanoidin-forward than what is typical for the style, but I’m still holding out hope that I’ll eventually get it back onto the medal stand.

English Brown Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 62% (No Sparge)
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.051
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 17.49 SRM
Alcohol: 4.98% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 29.0 IBU

Malt Bill:
5 lbs. (66.7%) Crisp Maris Otter
1.5 lb. (20.0%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
8 oz. (6.7%) Crisp Crystal 77
6 oz. (5.0%) Briess Special Roast Malt
2 oz. (1.7%) Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m

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

Hopping:
28 g. East Kent Goldings (5.1% AA) – 60m

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

Yeast:
Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 13B British Brown Ale

Aroma (8/12):
Up front are medium to medium-plus esters that are quite British in their character, reminiscent of berry, cherry, and perhaps just a whisper of banana. There is a very high toasted bread crust aroma, rich in melanoidin, which has a Grape Nuts cereal character. Beyond the toast, is a bit of burnt sugar and deep toffee that almost approaches the dark fruit / raisin end of the spectrum. The nose is all about heavy malt that is not particularly delicate.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer strikes a deep brown hue with reddish and copper highlights. The beer is generally clear, but does have some light haze. The beer has a big frothy head with plenty of persistence and lacing.

Flavor (10/20):
This beer is all about big toasty malt. There isn’t much sweetness other than just a touch of dark fruit, caramel, and toffee. This is perhaps a bit out of style from the BJCP guidelines. On the finish, a very slight touch of drying roast is apparent, complemented by a bit of dark grain acidic twang. The bitterness is firm but smooth, keeping in balance with any residual sweetness. The heavy toastiness lingers through the finish becoming borderline astringent.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
The beer has a medium body with medium-plus carbonation that may be a bit out of style. The acidic tang in the flavor slightly curls the back edges of my tongue.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is intensely toasty and perhaps not as caramel-rich as the style guideline would dictate.The brash toast character detracts a bit from the smoothness I’d like to see in a style intended for sessionability. This is however a very characterful beer, especially considering the ABV of less than 5%. My tasting for the beer was completed only two weeks from brewday so perhaps it will mellow out with a bit more time.

Good (27/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this English Brown Ale at the 2017 National Homebrew Competition First Round (NYC judging center).

Irish Stout – Recipe & Review

Drinking Guinness at St. James's Gate

An early sighting of this Pour Reporter at St. James’s Gate way back in 2003.

Update 4/2/2017 – This beer placed 3rd in the first round of the National Homebrew Competition and will be moving on to the final round at Homebrew Con in Minneapolis.

Back in the day, I remember feeling a certain bravado and sense  of sophistication when ordering a pint of Guinness.

It’s dark! It’s so thick! Look at the head and those bubbles!

Today I consider Guinness the bunny hill of craft beer slopes. But back then, it was GUINNESS. It was different, so much older than the American macro lager I was accustomed to. Something with flavor. Something exotic. Something authentic. In spite of the feelings I have today, Guinness will always invoke a sense of nostalgia and serve as a delicious reminder of when I first started exploring the world of beer.

Somewhat ironically, I had always thought of Guinness a filling beer, something thick. Only with age and beery wisdom, have I come to see it as something quite the opposite. A session beer that happens to have tons of flavor without imposing heavy caloric tariffs on my waste line or alcoholic ones on my liver. So in honor of St. Patrick’s day, an homage to one of my earliest beers of choice. This version has a bit more roast character, but I think it is on par in sessionability and deliciousness to the original Irish Stout.

Irish Stout

Don’t let the snifter fool you, this is a beer built for sessionability.

Irish Stout Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.047
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 32.8 SRM
Alcohol: 4.2% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 37.3 IBU

Malt Bill:
4.25 lbs. (69.4%) Crisp Maris Otter
1.0 lb. (16.3%) Briess Flaked Barley
6 oz. (6.1%) Muntons Roasted Barley
4 oz. (4.1%) Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt
4 oz. (4.1%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Mash Profile:
150°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2 g. Gypsum (to mash)
5 g. Chalk (to mash)

Hopping:
1 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.1% AA) – 60m

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

Yeast:
Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 15B Irish Stout

Aroma (8/12):
Moderately high aroma of roasted malts, with some complexity including notes of dry baker’s chocolate, coffee, and a touch (perhaps too much) of ashy and smoky roast. The roast is somewhat aggressive and pushes the upper end of the style limit. Beyond the roast is a very nice bready, slightly sweet malt component that is quite inviting, like baking bread. No crystal sweetness, hop character, or fermentation esters.

Appearance (3/3):
Quite black, although if you hold the edge of the glass to the light you see some very dark ruby notes. Large, soapy bubbles build a nice persistent tan head.

Flavor (17/20):
The roasted flavor is a bit less than the nose would have hinted at, but has a nice round baker’s chocolate character. The roast is quite drying on the tongue. There are some pleasant toasty malt flavors, but the beer is devoid of any sweet caramel or toffee character. There is a firm medium-plus bitterness that leaves the palate quite dry, especially when combined with the roast.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Medium body with a nice fullness that avoids being too filling. The mouthfeel is pretty exceptional considering the low starting gravity of this beer. There is a slightly acidic tang that brightens the palate and gives the beer a bit more personality.

Overall Impression (7/10):
The is a great iteration of Irish Stout; though it pushes the upper limit of roast that I would expect in this style, especially when compared to a macro commercial example like Guinness. The roast has a slight acrid note that I’d prefer didn’t exist in the beer and probably could be eliminated by choosing a different maltster, other than Muntons for the roasted barley.

Excellent (40/50)

English Bitter Homebrew Recipe & Review

bitterMalty. Dry. Balanced. These are the characteristics I prize most in a well-made British session beer. I am a firm believer that the judicious use of high quality English base malts like Maris Otter will take you most of the way in achieving an interesting and nicely balanced bitter. A touch of crystal, herbal hops, and fruity yeast act as the seasoning that takes you the rest of the way.

With all the hoppy, sour, and high alcohol beers I’ve been brewing, a sessionable bitter was a great change of pace.

English Bitter Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 67% (measured)
Attenuation: 72% (measured)

Original Gravity: 1.048
Terminal Gravity: 1.011 (measured)
Color: 32.8 SRM
Alcohol: 4.8% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 14.11 IBU (does not account for IBUs created by whirlpool hop addition)

Malt Bill:
6lb (92.3%) Crisp Maris Otter
0.25lb (3.8%) Thomas Fawcett 45L Crystal Malt
0.25lb (3.8%) Bairds Crystal 130

Mash Profile:
150°F – 60m

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

Hopping:
1oz East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) -60m
2oz East Kent Goldings ((5.7% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

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

Yeast:
Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 8B Special Bitter

Aroma (10/12):
Moderately intense fruity esters upfront that have almost an apricot and perhaps cherry character. Below this is a round toasty malt note with just a hint of caramel and toffee. The inviting nose finishes with a whisper of herbal and floral hops that have just a hint of a rose character.

Appearance (1/3):
Light copper with a noticeable haze. Head is bright white with great persistence.

Flavor (16/20):
Medium-full malt greets you with notes of freshly baked bread, toasty crust, and just a hint of deep caramel and raisin. There is a good amount of toffee as well. The hop bitterness is medium-low, enhancing an already dry finish. There is a slight mineral character on the finish.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium-low body with a full creamy mouthfeel. Carbonation is medium-low and to style. There is a slight minerally astringency on the finish.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a beautifully balanced beer where none of the constituent ingredients feel out of place with the overall beer. The yeast character is really unique among English strains and gives the beer a delicious character not seen in many English bitters. Really nice.

Excellent (39/50)