Doppelbock Recipe and Review

dbockFor me, the best Doppelbocks are pure expressions of German Munich malt. Providing a ton of flavor and richness through its high melanoidin content without bringing too much sweetness to a beer, Munich malt is a favorite of mine to brew with. Melanoidins are byproducts of Maillard reactions and differ in flavor from caramelization in that they lean more towards bready/biscuity/toasty as opposed to the caramel/toffee/burnt sugar exhibited by crystal malts. Varying amounts of Munich malt can bring different qualities to a beer. In small percentages, it enhances the overall malty impression of a base malt. When used in high percentages, such as in this beer, it provides an extremely rich toasty bread crust flavor.

Doppelbocks tend to be rich, highly-alcoholic beers that manage to not bog you down in the ways other high-alcohol beers can. This recipe is a work-in-progress as it continues to feel heavier than I would like. Future tweaks to the recipe will likely push the beer to attenuate better.

Doppelbock Recipe

Size: 3.25
Efficiency: 73%
Attenuation: 71.4%

Original Gravity: 1.084
Terminal Gravity: 1.024
Color: 22.23 SRM
Alcohol: 7.94% ABV
Bitterness: 25 IBU

Malt Bill:
8 lb (67.4%) Weyermann Munich II Malt
3 lb (25.3%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
0.5 lb (4.2%) Weyermann Caramunich Type III
0.25 lb (2.1%) Weyermann Melanoidin Malt
2 oz. (1.1 %) Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt

Mash Profile:
146 °F – 25m
150 °F – 25m
154 °F – 20m
170 °F – 5m

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

1.5 oz Hallertau (2.7% AA) – 60 m
0.5 oz Hallertau (2.7% AA) – 5 m

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

Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager – Decanted 2L Starter on Stir Plate

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 9A. Doppelbock.

Aroma (12/12):
Liquid bread. Rich toasty bread crust dominates the aroma. The malt profile is very complex, possessing some slightly grape-like dark fruit aspects. There is a hint of a floral hop character that is somewhat surprising considering the low amount of finishing hops in the beer. Just a hint of toffee and caramel sits in the background. This beer exhibits a very clean ferment with no ester or alcohols apparent.

Appearance (3/3):
Deep brown with some garnet highlights. Crystal clear with a beautiful tightly-bound tan foam. Foam lasts for days. Perfect appearance.

Flavor (12/20):
This beer hits all the notes in terms of malt richness and complexity. Flavors of freshly baked bread crust dominate, but intermingle with some nice dark fruit components as well as a hint of toffee and perhaps just the faintest amount of dark cocoa. There is a bit of hot alcohol heat that hits the back of the throat. The beer has a considerable level of sweetness that reaches just beyond the range described in the style guideline. Hop bitterness is present, but more of a background balancing note.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
This is a full beer with a moderate level of carbonation. I wish the beer was a touch less full, which would enhance the quaffability of the beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is so close to great. If I can get it to attenuate perhaps another 4-6 gravity points, it would be right up there with world-class examples. The sweetness is manageable, but makes it drink closer to a melanoidin-heavy barleywine rather than a true doppelbock.

Very Good (34/50)

Developing House Sour Cultures – A Bioreactor Approach

Previously I've been keeping my house sour culture refreshed with frequent feedings of starter wort.

I have typically been keeping my house sour culture refreshed with frequent feedings of starter wort.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve cultured and grown up bottle dregs from a variety of commercial sour beers to complete several different projects. These dregs are a great way to add biodiversity to the commercial blends (like Roeselare) that I typically start a sour beer with and tend to produce a more interesting final product. As I acquired these cultures, I began combining them with the intent of developing a variety of house-mixed cultures of bacteria and yeast that I can maintain and use to completely ferment out sour beers. The intent is to continue shaping these mixed cultures until they get to the point where they can consistently produce quality sour beer in a predictable time frame. I fully expect the blend of microbes within the culture to drift, but hope an eventual homeostasis will take hold within the culture. Currently, I have built three different mixed cultures around a spectrum of cultured microbes harvested from commercial beers.

One of the biggest tasks in maintaining a culture like this is the frequent feedings required to keep a culture viable. The idea of maintaining my cultures through periodic feedings of fresh wort that would eventually provide the steady byproduct of sour beer seemed like a great idea. And so, the idea of a sour culture bio-reactor was born. The idea is pretty basic. I’ve put together a schedule of brew days that in theory will consistently provide nutrition for the culture as well as produce a steady stream of sour beer for evaluation. Every four months I brew a different 3-gallon batch of moderate gravity wort that gets split three ways to feed one gallon of fresh wort to each of my three mixed cultures. On brew day I transfer the previous batches of now fermented beer off the culture to a clean glass aging vessel where it will continue to develop for another 8 months (1-year total fermentation time) before packaging. The cultures are then transferred to the freshly brewed wort for a new round of fermentation. After the initial one-year cycle, the bioreactor will consistently output three, 1-gallon batches of sour beer every four months. The beauty of running three cultures in parallel with the same wort is that I’ll be able to compare side-by-side the impact each different culture has on the finished product. My hope is to experiment with different grain bills to better understand the interrelationship between grain bills, mash temperatures, and mixed culture fermentation.

I initially started this project using a single mixed culture. To date, this culture has been through 3 generations of wort. I’ve tasted the first two generations (currently 4-months and 8-months old) and the results have been pretty outstanding; and consistent within the limited sample thus far. I’m optimistic that with some luck and diligence I’ll be able to shape these cultures to the point that they produce sour beer that is both delicious and unique to my brewery.The first round in the bioreactor is complete. The initial recipe was 90% pilsner, 10% carapils with a starting gravity of 1.054.

The first round in the bioreactor ready for fermentation. The initial recipe was 90% Pilsner, 10% Carapils, and had a starting gravity of 1.054.

Eisbock Homebrew Recipe & Review

Eisbock: Silver Medal in Category 5 Bock at the final round of the 2015 National Homebrew Competition

Eisbock: Silver Medal in Category 5 Bock at the final round of the 2015 National Homebrew Competition

In many ways, contemporary American craft beer is constantly chasing extremes. Extreme hops, malt, and alcohol are the norm. Eisbock can be seen as one of the original ‘extreme’ beers. It predates the American craft beer movement, but is equally as intense and flavorful as some of the most coveted craft beers. Eisbock manages to maintain a smooth lager character while being a showcase for the intense malt flavors inherent to many of the great German malts.This recipe has done well in competition, winning a silver medal in the Bock category at the final round of the National Homebrewer Competition in 2015.

The myth of eisbock is that it owes its origin to a brewer who inadvertently left a barrel of dopplebock outside in the winter which led to the freeze concentration of the nectar inside. True or not, the science is sound and methodology similar to what I used for this beer. Alcohol inherently freezes at a much lower temperature than water. This trait can be exploited by brewers, allowing them to effectively concentrate the alcohol in their beers while discarding some of the water content.

When designing an Eisbock, my intent was to specifically formulate a base doppelbock that would be lean on caramel character in order to avoid a cloying sweetness once the flavors are intensified during freeze-concentration. Additionally, I wanted to keep the IBUs low as it is has been my experience that freezing a beer will concentrate the bittering compounds. The same logic can be applied to alcohol heat. Providing for a healthy fermentation is key to avoiding excessive fusel alcohols which will be concentrated in the final beer. My focus was on creating rich toasty notes with a solid Munich malt base while including a touch of high lovibond caramel to throw in a bit of dark fruit flavor that is delicious in these types of beers.

Utilizing C02 and a jumper line to transfer beer keg to keg during the freeze-concentration.

Utilizing C02 and a jumper line to transfer beer keg to keg during the freeze-concentration.

The trick to doing this beer correctly is in the freeze-concentration. I went through approximately 8 freeze cycles utilizing two 3-gallon corny kegs and my kitchen freezer. The basic methodology is to freeze a keg of the beer and then push out the remaining unfrozen liquid to a second keg. It is extremely important to use closed vessels purged with CO2 in order to minimize any risk of oxidizing the beer. Patience is key; multiple incremental freezes that only push a small volume of liquid at a time will help insure you’re pulling out the most concentrated liquid. In the end, I pulled out approximately 32% of the original volume. The liquid that was discarded typically had a specific gravity of near 1.000 meaning that it was primarily water. Sensory analysis of the discarded liquid confirms that it was primarily water. This freeze concentration effectively took my ABV from approximately 7.5% to over 11%.


Eisbock Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 74%
Attenuation: 68%

Original Gravity: 1.084
Terminal Gravity: 1.026 (measured)
Color: 18.88 SRM (Before Freeze)
Alcohol: 7.5% ABV (Before Freeze. Approximately 11% after freeze.)
Bitterness: 22 IBU (Before Freeze)

Malt Bill:
7.5 lb (68.2%) Weyermann Munich TYPE II
3 lb (27.3%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
2 oz (1.1%) Weyermann Caramunich® TYPE III
6 oz (3.4%) Hugh Baird Crystal 130

Mash Profile:
148°F – 60m
155°F – 15m
168°F – 5m

Decoctions used between each step.

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

0.75 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 60 m
0.5 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 10 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

White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 5D. Eisbock

Aroma (10/12):
Rich and decadent malt fills your olfactory nerves. The malt is toasty and reminiscent of heavily browned bread crust. There is a background of rich dark caramel providing additional complexity. Enticing aromas of dark fruit, plum, fig, and perhaps cherry waft from the glass. As it warms, a bit of ethanol is apparent and true to the style.

Appearance (2/3):
Deep brown with only the slightest of tan heads that quickly dissipates. Beer is nice and clear due to the prolonged lagering period.

Flavor (17/20):
Huge display of rich malt. There is some residual sweetness that manages to be kept in balance by some intense toasty, almost drying, malt notes. The malt is wonderfully complex with a round nuttiness, followed by fig, molasses, burnt sugar, and sourdough toast. There is just a hint of hop bitterness and no flavor. Fermentation character is clean with a low level of hot alcohol. No ester or other fermentation character.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Silky full-body with a smooth medium-low level of carbonation. Mouthfeel is just a touch sticky, but otherwise quite luscious.

Overall Impression (9/10)
Beautiful showcase of the melanoiden-rich Munich malt that comprises the bulk of the grain bill. Rich and decadent, it would be tough to consume more than a bottle of this at a time. This Eisbock is a great sipper to spend some time with slowly consuming and contemplating the broad spectrum of flavors it contains. The beer would be absolutely delicious paired with a sharply acidic aged cheddar.

Excellent (42/50)

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)


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.