American Red Ale (IPA) – Recipe and Review

American Red AleAmerican Red Ale, Red IPA, Hoppy Amber Ale, taxonomy aside, I think it’s a great style of beer, especially as a fall seasonal.

As the days get shorter and the leaves turn to hues of red and orange, it seemed befitting to create a hoppy beer that has a nice toasty malt flavor and a little more heft than I typically like in my hoppy beers.This sounds infinitely more appealing than the overly spiced pumpkin beers that tend to corrupt the season. It is also a great opportunity to clean out the freezer of last season’s hop crop in anticipation of the upcoming harvest. This is truly a harvest beer as it pertains to the ingredients found in typical beer. Huh, maybe Harvest IPA is the right classification.

Mind you, this should absolutely not be a sweet beer. Nor should it have too many deep caramel flavors that are better suited in beers where hops are not playing the leading role. This recipe focuses on the toasty and biscuity flavors imbued by melanoidin rich malt rather than leaning heavily on crystallized caramel malts. The beer finishes very dry, giving the beer a high level of drinkability as well as the requisite ability to warm you from the inside out (a key requirement for the fall season).

American Red Ale Recipe

Size: 3.5 gal
Efficiency: 67%
Attenuation: 81.3%

Original Gravity: 1.060
Terminal Gravity: 1.011
Color: 14.26 SRM
Alcohol: 6.3% ABV
Bitterness: 78 IBUs (does not account for whirlpool addition hop isomerization)

Malt Bill:
8 lbs (88.3%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
0.5 lb (5.5%) Briess Victory Malt
0.5 (5.5%) Weyermann Carared
1 oz. (0.7%) Briess Midnight Wheat

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

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

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

Kettle Hopping:
16g Warrior (15.4% AA) – 60m
1 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – 15m

Whirlpool Hopping:
1 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – 15m
1 oz. Citra (13.7% AA) – 15m

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Dry Hopping:
1 oz. Galaxy (16.1% AA) – 2 Days
2 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – 2 Days

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 21B Specialty IPA – Red IPA

Aroma (10/12):
Medium to high tropical fruitiness—overripe mango, pineapple, Juicy Fruit gum. There is a very low caramel malt nose, much less than the color would indicate. Underneath the hops, there is perhaps a touch of lightly toasted bread. The hop combination is primarily fruity / tropical with just a hint of pine resin. Very clean fermentation. No alcohol.

Appearance (1/3):
Medium brown with a reddish tint, though I’d really like the color to pop with a more saturated red tone. The beer is hazy, but not milky. The beer has a great tightly bubbled tan head that persists until the pint is finished.

Flavor (15/20):
There is quite a bit of nice malty character on the palate that is slightly sweet with some nice toasty / biscuity flavors and just a touch of toffee. Somehow, given the high level of attenuation, there remains just a touch of sweetness. The beer has a very firm bitterness that is tempered by this slight amount of residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium body and medium-high carbonation with a fair amount of creaminess / softness on the palate. I am becoming more and more of a believer in the ability of hop compounds to produce a certain lusciousness in mouthfeel for a beer. The bitterness is just a bit astringent / biting.

Overall Impression (8/10):
I had a great time finishing this keg of beer. When super fresh, the beer hits you in the face with awesome bright hop aromatics. Over the period of about a month, the beer dropped bright, much of the punchy hops settled down, and the beer became more of a showcase in balance and malt. It aged quite gracefully; not becoming less of a beer, just a different style of beer. I actually preferred the beer most after about a month of cold storage.

Excellent (38/50)

Double Tap (Vermont Style) Recipe and Review

dipaLove them or hate them, “juicy”, hop-heavy double IPAs in the same vein as Heady Topper are here to stay. These massively hopped fruit bombs have a fanatical following, drawing hordes of thirsty drinkers to the remote wilds of Vermont, Massachusetts, and other New England locales.

Recently, some of the vocal hosts of The Brewing Network have had a good time poking fun at fans of these beers and claiming that they are simple cloudy, poorly made versions of what West Coast breweries have been making for years. The comments are typically made in jest, but they fail to recognize that there is a fair amount of intent involved in making these beers, in terms of ingredient selection and process. The biggest contributor of the haze in these beers is likely a specific yeast strain popularized by a brewery in Vermont and now used by a number of breweries producing these types of hoppy beers. This strain produces a very unique fruity ester that tends to harmonize with hop flavor and aromatics, making excellent hoppy beers. It is also quite dusty, leaving a fair amount of haze in suspension. The combination of this particular yeast strain with an obscene amount of late and dry hopping, flaked adjuncts, and an unwillingness to use heavy filtration, makes for a well-made, albeit very hazy beer.

Curious about this particular strain of yeast, I decided to take my Double Tap recipe, using Giga Yeast’s GY054 Vermont Ale strain and brew up a massive hoppy double IPA. I ended up using a heavy hand of Azacca hops, a strain that I’ve been enjoying quite a bit lately.

Double Tap – Vermont Style – Recipe

Size: 4.5 gal
Efficiency: 74%
Attenuation: 84.0%

Original Gravity: 1.084
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 6.12 SRM
Alcohol: 9.37% ABV
Bitterness: 72.4 IBUs

Malt Bill:
7lb (50.0%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
4lb (328.6%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
1lb (15.4%) Weyermann Munich Type I Malt
2lb (14.3%) Corn Sugar

Mash Profile:
148°F – 60m

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

0.5 oz Warrior® (16.0% AA) – 90 m
1 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – 10 m
1 oz Azacca (10.8% AA) – 10 m
3 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1 oz Azacca (10.8% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
2 oz Mosaic (11.6% AA) – Whirlpool 15m
1.5 oz Citra™ (13.2% AA) – Hop Back
1.5 oz Azacca (11.3% AA) – Hop Back
2 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
2 oz Azacca (10.8% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1 oz Mosaic (11.6% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

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

2L Starter on Stir Plate – Giga Yeast GY054 Vermont Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 22A Double IPA

Aroma (10/12):
A massive, juicy hop aroma explodes from the glass with aromatics reminiscent of mango, pineapple, and other tropical fruit. The beer has an overripe character not unlike a tropical fruit punch. It is hard to get much aroma of anything beyond the in-your-face hop profile. As the beer warms, a touch of hot ethanol reminds you that this is a nearly 10% ABV beer.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a deep golden hue, but muddied by a tremendous amount of haze. The head is big and pillowy with large white bubbles that persists for days.

Flavor (12/20):
The beer’s flavor falls somewhere between hop tea and tropical punch. There is a fair bit of residual sweetness that is emphasized by the fruity hops and the fact that the beer is a bit under-bittered for the gravity it started at. The beer tastes well-attenuated and dry, but is lacking a sharp bitterness for balance. Although similar to the somewhat low-bittered Vermont style IPAs, it needs more sharpness to be in line with the BJCP style definition.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
The beer is extremely creamy, almost oily. I suspect that this yeast strain produces high levels of glycerol that, when combined with exorbitant hopping, gives the beer a very full mouthfeel. This is accentuated by the slightly low level of carbonation in the beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
I absolutely love the aroma of this beer, although it falls a bit flat on the palate. I think this is mainly due to the fact that when you combine an under-bittered beer with a huge mouthfeel, you tend to limit the beer’s drinkability. In future batches I will definitely increase the bitterness in order to account for the beer’s substantial mouthfeel.

Very Good (32/50)

Cream Ale Homebrew Recipe and Review

cream-aleIt’s with a heavy dose of irony that I admit that the largest proportion of beer I drink is industrial American lager. Much of this is attributable to the fact that my go-to after-work happy hour bar serves inexpensive buckets of Narragansett tall boys, but I can honestly say (without much irony) that I frequently enjoy drinking cold, effervescent, dry, and nearly flavorless adjunct lager. I am a firm believer that there is a beer for all occasions, and this is especially true for adjunct lager. The fact of the matter is there are very few craft breweries producing any sort of light American lager so when a situation calls for this type of beer, I am often reaching for an industrial macro lager. Whether it is the economics of tying up tank space or a reaction against Big Beer, it is somewhat sad to me that no one is taking up this style. The closest thing that can be found are cream ales or ‘blonds’; often feeling like they want to be an adjunct lager, but are too self-conscious to describe themselves as such. It’s along these lines that I brewed the recipe below—essentially an ale version of Budweiser with a little extra gravity and flavor. I really enjoyed drinking this beer, and apparently so did the judges at the National Homebrew Competition who gave it a second place ribbon in the first round.

Cream Ale Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 74%
Attenuation: 82.7%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.009
Color: 3.0 SRM
Alcohol: 5.6% ABV
Bitterness: 17.0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
3lb (46.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
2lb (30.8%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
1lb (15.4%) Briess Flaked Corn
0.5lb (7.7%) Corn Sugar

Mash Profile:
151°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

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

22g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (3.8% AA) – 90m

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

Safale US-05 Dry Yeast – 1 Packet

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 1C Cream Ale

Aroma (10/12):
Overall, the aroma is very muted. Malt is apparent with just a hint of bready pilsner character and a touch of graininess. There is a very low pear ester that reminds you this is an ale fermentation. I find a touch of corn in the aroma which I doubt I would have noticed it if I hadn’t brewed the beer myself. Surprisingly, there is a touch of herbal hop character that comes through against the generally muted aroma.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer strikes a very light straw hue with just a hint of haze. The beer is capped by a big white frothy foam with moderate to low persistence.

Flavor (18/20):
The beer is exceptionally clean with a very minimal malt character—just a hint more flavor than the beer’s adjunct lager cousins. There is a very low bready malt component that finishes with a touch of sweet corn and grainy husk. There is a very low bitterness, just enough to balance the slight sweetness attributable to the flaked corn addition. Overall, the beer is exceptionally dry, clean, and refreshing.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
This is an exceptionally lean beer with a spritzy level of carbonation. The beer finishes perhaps a touch watery, but not less than the style would dictate.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a great quenching and dry beer with enough snappy carbonation to make it very refreshing. A tall pint of this would be a great choice for hot summer days when you’re looking for a light lager, but want perhaps a touch more flavor.

Excellent (44/50)

ProAm Collaboration with Yonkers Brewing Company

Mucking out the mash tun.

Big brewer, tiny mash tun. Doing my fair share of cleaning at Yonkers Brewing Company.

Opening a commercial brewery is the ultimate fantasy for many homebrewers.There is something incredibly thrilling (and cool) about taking a beer that you have conceptualized and crafted and bringing it over to the commercial beer world. This is a big part of the reasoning why most homebrewers jump at the opportunity to have one of their recipes scaled up and brewed on a commercial scale.

This is precisely the spot I found myself in a couple weeks ago when I had the opportunity to brew my Oast House Saison at Yonker’s Brewing Company. All of this was the result of winning the Brewer’s Choice award at the Westchester Farmhouse Ale Competition — not a bad prize!

One interesting thing I have realized over the course of this experience is how non-brewers perceive brewers and the work they do; recipe formulation is viewed as alchemy and something to protect. But I’ve always taken the mindset that recipe is fractionally important compared to the technical skills of the brewer. I think it is somewhat absurd that I have been asked multiple times if I am being monetarily compensated for this recipe being brewed at Yonkers. Honestly, the value in seeing firsthand how a commercial brewery operates is far more valuable than the recipe. The marketing and experiential value has been enormous for me — especially as I consider perhaps one day opening my own brewery.

This was my third time taking a personal homebrew recipe and scaling it up to a commercial batch. This is always a challenge as commercial brewers may not have the same stock of ingredients used in the original recipe. Being malleable is critical for a successful ProAm collaboration. Remain humble and realize that this is a profession for those you’re working with and that there are economic considerations that simply don’t exist in homebrewing. Try to stay true to your vision, but allow yourself to be creative in achieving the same end despite the means. It is important to play the role of the humble homebrewer — these types of collaborations are fun and should be positive for all parties involved. I think we achieved this on all ends of this collaboration.

If the case of my beer, I used a complex mixed-culture of saccharomyces, brettanomyces, and lactobacillus to ferment my beer. This fermentation was critical in achieving the appropriate level of acid and funk in my complete beer, but something that could not be achieved at Yonkers Brewing without running the risk of contaminating their brewery. The suggestion of their brewer was to kettle sour half of the batch and then blend it back with the other half that was cleanly fermented with saison yeast. The idea is that the kettle soured half would bring the tartness exhibited by my homebrew while keeping any souring organisms to the hot side of the brewery where contamination would not be a risk. Additionally, we tweaked the recipe slightly, adding approximately 10% corn sugar to encourage the high level of attenuation exhibited by my homebrew and attributed to the atypical fermentation.

Right now the beer is finishing fermentation and conditioning. Stay tuned. I’ll post details soon about when and where the commercial version of Oast House Saison can be enjoyed.

Brew Day Play-By-Play


Grow Your Own – Sante Adairius Cellarman

cellarmanWhy just drink sour beer, when you can also grow up the dregs in the bottles, propagate the sour cultures, and then use them in your own beers? This is the premise of my new ‘Grow Your Own’ series. The idea is simple. I’ll be propagating the dregs from some of America’s best sour beers and then do some basic analytic and sensory analysis on the resulting starter beer. My goal is to eventually maintain a library of unique mixed cultures that have data associated with them which can aid in their selection for future beers. I have created an evaluation form for each culture that captures analytic facts such as pH and specific gravity, while also allowing space for notes and sensory data via a spidergraph chart.

Procedure for Sour Dreg Propagation

1. Spray the cap and a portion of the neck of the beer you’re culturing with isopropyl alcohol. Light it on fire and let the flame burn out.

2. Open up the beer and carefully decant into a glass. Save approximately a 1/2″ of beer in the bottom of the bottle.

3. Pour into the beer bottle approximately 200ml of sanitary 1.030 specific gravity wort. Place a sanitized stopper and airlock on the bottle.

4. Let the dregs begin fermenting at room temperature. It may take up to 3-4 days to see much activity. Let the culture do it’s thing for about 1.5 weeks.

5. Prepare 200ml of sanitary 1.060 wort in a 500ml Erlenmeyer flask. Cool and pour all contents from the bottle into the flask. I am starting with a high gravity wort at this point, as I am counting on the contents of the bottle it is combining with to dilute the sugar content. Let the culture ferment out 2 weeks.

5. Prepare 1000ml of sanitary 1.040 wort in an Erlenmeyer flask. Decant the spent beer off the culture and pour into the new starter wort. Let this ferment for a couple days at which time it is ready to be used in a beer.

Sante Adairius – Cellarman

Sensory and analytic analysis form completed for the Sante Adairius culture.

Sensory and analytic analysis form completed for the Sante Adairius culture.

To begin this project, I started with a phenomenal beer call Cellarman from Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, California. This was one of my beer highlights of 2015 (thus far), and I’m really stoked to have their culture in my micro-library. The culture was very fresh and took off quickly. While fresh, the beer was able to develop some mild acidity, and lots of spicy and slightly funky Brett notes.

In terms of fermentation, the culture performed well:

Starting Gravity: 1.040
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Apparent Attenuation: 80%
pH 3.78

You can read the full analytic and sensory analysis for this culture, here.