Cryo Hop Pale Ale – Recipe & Review

Cryo Hopped Pale Ale

Don’t let the condensation fool you, our Cryo hopped pale ale turned out nice and bright.

One of the best things about the National Homebrewers Conference is getting to see new products. At this year’s trade show, I was excited to see Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) debuting a new product called Cryo Hops. Not only was YCH pouring several professionally-made beers using Cryo Hops, they were also giving away samples of the product.

Cryo Hops are created through a proprietary process that uses liquid nitrogen to break apart and separate the hop lupulin glands from the leafy bract material. This separation allows Cryo Hops to contain a much higher proportion of hop resin and essential oils, typically double what you would see in a pellet (by weight). This is a key point of interest for brewers as, in theory, it allows you to get the same hop effect in your final beer while putting less physical plant material into the beer. This should not only cut down on kettle losses, but also perhaps some of the more grassy harsh notes that hops can impart on a beer.

In addition to trying out the Cryo Hop product, I also wanted to test out fermentation hopping. There has been a lot of talk lately about the biotransformation of hop compounds that takes place in the presence of yeast. It seemed intriguing to try and add Cryo Hops to the fermenter early on in primary fermentation to see what the sensory impact would be. In some ways, Cryo Hops are perfect for this as they have less leafy plant material than normal hops. In theory, this means they can withstand the longer contact time needed to get through fermentation and cold crash without the beer becoming grassy—a problem typical of extended dry hop periods.

This recipe contains only a small bittering charge of traditional pellet hops. All hop flavor and aroma comes via fermentation hopping.

Cryo Hop Pale Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 80.7%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.010
Color: 12.37 SRM
Alcohol: 5.5% ABV
Bitterness: 38.7 IBU

Malt Bill:
6.25 lbs. (89.3%) Crisp Maris Otter
0.5 lb. (7.1%) Briess Special Roast
0.25 lb. (3.6%) Briess Carapils

Mash Profile:
150°F – 60m

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

Kettle Hopping:
14 g. Ekuanot (13.6% AA) – 60m

Fermentation Hopping:
Added during high krausen on day 2 of the primary fermentation. Left in fermenter for approximately 10 days until fermentation and cold crash was complete.

2 oz. Mosaic Cryo Hop (22.1% AA)
1 oz. Simcoe Cryo Hop (23.8% AA)

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 18B American Pale Ale

Aroma (10/12):
Very high hop aroma with tropical notes of mango and pineapple. Very bright and juicy. There is just a touch of white pepper on the nose, similar to the spiciness I sometimes get from eating actual mangoes. There is just a slight toasty malt component. Very clean with no real fermentation character or alcohol. No grassiness. Traditional brewing knowledge would lead one to think that a large portion of hop aroma would have been scrubbed by CO2 during primary fermentation. This beer seems to be an outlier from this typical assumption—perhaps the hop compounds metabolized and transformed during fermentation are less volatile?

Appearance (3/3):
The beer pours a deep gold with some slight copper notes. There is just a bit of light haze, topped with a very persistent off-white head. I was expecting much more turbidity given the amount and timing of the hopping. The beer is pleasantly bright.

Flavor (10/20):
The high hop aroma doesn’t seem to carry over to the same degree on the palate. The hop flavor is there, but not nearly as high as I would have expected based on the nose. It is hard to tell whether this is attributable to the lack of any real kettle hopping or the use of Cryo Hops. In either case, there is a certain amount of hop flavor I’d typically expect in a highly hopped pale ale that seems to be missing. The hop flavor is fruity, but a bit one dimensional. There is a nice maltiness to the beer that is toasty and biscuity. A medium bitterness accentuates what is already a very dry beer.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
The beer has a medium-low body with crisp carbonation. Dry. Refreshing. No astringency or heat.

Overall Impression (6/10):
This beer really shines on the nose, giving the pure essence of highly aromatic fruity hops. The flavor,vhowever, is a bit of a letdown considering the boisterous aromas. I like the malty components that are quite apparent, but may perhaps be a bit too flavorful for what was intended to be a very hop-forward pale ale. I think this beer could be improved with a large charge of traditional pellet hops in the whirlpool and perhaps cutting the Maris Otter base malt with a bit of Pilsner or standard 2-Row base malt.

Very Good (33/50)

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Sour Blond with Apricots – Recipe & Review

Sour Blond with Apricots

Sour Blond with Apricots – Light and Refreshing

One of my all-time favorite flavor combinations in beer is that magical concoction of a lightly sour blond ale and ripe acidic apricot. For me, this is one of the preeminent examples of synergistic beer formulation.

This particular beer starts with a lightly tart base beer provisioned with an ample, earthy Brett funk and naturally occurring stone fruit-like fermentation esters. The sour base reinforces the inherent acidity in the fruit while the slightly phenolic Brett funk finds harmony with the somewhat tannic and earthy qualities that the apricot skins bring to the table. Apricot sour beers can easily become overly acidic (to my palate)/ So with this beer I hoped to start with a mellower sour base beer in order to prevent too much sharp acidity after the fruit had been added and fermented out. If you’re looking for an insanely sour fruit bomb like Cantillon Fou’Foune, you probably don’t want to use this recipe (or, if you do, bump up the fruit addition). If you prefer a mellower, more nuanced beer, then this recipe is on point.

Sour Blond with Apricots Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 62% (no sparge)
Attenuation: 83%

Original Gravity: 1.048 (does not consider apricot puree)
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 4.77 SRM
Alcohol: 5.23% ABV (calculated, does not consider apricot puree)
Bitterness: 0 IBU

Malt Bill:
5.0 lbs. (66.7%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
1.0 lb. (13.3%) Briess Flaked Wheat
1.0 lb. (13.3%) Briess Flaked Oats
0.5 lb. (6.7%) Weyermann Carafoam

Mash Profile:
158°F – 60m

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

Hopping:
1 oz. Aged Hops (0.0% AA) – 90m

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

Yeast:
1L – Bioreactor A House Mixed Culture

Secondary Fruit:
3 lbs. 1 oz. – Vintner’s Harvest Apricot Puree. Added after 10 months of primary fermentation. Beer was allowed to referment on the puree for an additional 4 months.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 28C Wild Specialty Beer

Aroma (11/12):
The beer features a complex bouquet of mixed-culture funk. The Brett character is strong with plentiful aromas of wet hay, grass, as well as some fruitier stone fruit elements. There is some acid character on the nose that is tangy and bright. The apricot aroma is somewhat nuanced but well-integrated with the funk, featuring an overripe, fermented fruit character. There is just a touch of grainy malt that sits in the background. I wish the apricot would pop a bit more against the complex fermentation-derived aromatics.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a medium golden with a slightly milky haze. Abundant white bubbles form a soapy head when poured, but quickly dissipate.

Flavor (13/20):
Initially the beer showcases a bright, medium-plus lactic sourness. This acidity is complementary to a bright, juicy apricot note that is reminiscent of nicely ripened fresh fruit. The complex Brett funk that was apparent on the nose is pretty subdued on the palate and gives way to the beer’s other fruity elements. The finish is somewhat short, leaving a one note impression of acid and fruit. There is a slight, plastic phenol on the finish.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
The beer is medium-low in body with medium-low carbonation. The beer feels a bit flat and could benefit from a bit more carbonation.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a nice, enjoyable fruited sour beer. The fruit melds well with the funky base beer, but would could benefit from a bit more concentration. The sourness in the beer is pleasing and clean without being over-the-top and palate destroying. Nice beer, although it may not stand out in a beer competition due to its more nuanced character.

Very Good (35/50)

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

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Cream Ale – Homebrew Recipe & Review

Cream Ale

Cream Ale, Refreshing, Crisp, Clean

Cream ale, for me, is a bit of a compromise beer. Within my circle of non-beer geek friends, I make no secret of my fondness for adjunct-laden light American lager. Within my beer geek and homebrew circles, however, I tend to be a bit more reserved in my endorsement for flavorless lager. This egocentric rationale is probably why I’ve never brewed the style myself.

Instead, I’ll often brew cream ale, which has the ability to fill my desire for a flavor-muted, low-alcohol session beer. It also seems to be a more respectable beer in the sense that there is a bit more flavor, as well as a good historic precedence. That said, I should probably just drop the self-consciousness, bite the bullet, and brew up some shitty American lager. Until then, here’s the recipe and review for my latest batch of cream ale.

Cream Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 74%
Attenuation: 80%

Original Gravity: 1.051
Terminal Gravity: 1.010
Color: 2.84 SRM
Alcohol: 5.3% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 14.2 IBU

Malt Bill:
4.5 lbs. (72.0%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1.25 lb. (20.0%) Briess Flaked Corn

Sugar Additions:
0.50 lb. (8.0%) Corn Sugar (Dextrose)

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m

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

Hopping:
28 g. Hallertaurer Mittelfruh (2.5% AA) – 90m

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 1C Cream Ale

Aroma (8/12):
The aroma is quite subdued and mellow, letting a very low fermentation character with hints of apple, pear, and, perhaps berry ester, come through. There is a low corn character that features a touch of sweetness which is somewhat vanilla-like. The pilsner malt character provides some doughy bread aroma that may be a touch high for the style.

Appearance (3/3):
The beer is very clear with only the slightest hint of haze. There is a nice, foamy white head with great persistence.

Flavor (10/20):
Like the aroma, the flavor is very subdued. Initially, there is a pop of fresh round malt that is bready, slightly sweet, and just a touch grainy. A slight touch of corn flavor is present, but not as apparent as some judges may be searching for. The hop bitterness is very, very low and leaves the beer finishing just a touch sweet.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
Beer has a very light body with sparkling carbonation. The residual sweetness and lack of bitterness leaves the beer feeling a bit flabby. My guess is that this is accentuated by the beer finishing at a relatively high pH as well. Perhaps some addition of pH-lowering mineral salts would help brighten up future iterations of this beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This is a pretty nice beer, but lacks the crispness that I would expect in a cream ale. Additionally, the beer is perhaps a bit too characterful for the style and could benefit from a more toned down pilsner malt profile.

Good (27/50)

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.