Friday, November 20, 2015

Something "New"

This brew comes from Mr Rufus Brewing Co, based on an exchange on Facebook.  Whomever is behind the "Mr Rufus" had posted a picture of a sample of a beautiful golden brew, and included, "So much honeydew, berries, and even some mango from the Galaxy hops!"  That got me to thinking...I'd like to try that! And when I say "try", I mean both make and taste.  The "Mr Rufus" folks graciously shared the boil volume and hop schedule (thanks!), which I converted for my brew volume.

When I refer to this as something "new", I'm not suggesting that it's new, in's just new to me.  I've had beers infused with fruit, mostly wheat or wit beers that have some sort of fruit puree or zest added during the brew process (I've added grapefruit zest to one or two of my IPAs), but I'm also interested in the aromas and flavors you can get from just hop additions and dry hopping, especially the unusual ones, or ones you don't necessarily see in available craft brews.

I was able to pick up the hops from Jay's Brewing, a home brew supply store in Manassas.  They've come a long way since I visited last June, and Jill was very helpful.

One of the things I've said that I really enjoy about home brewing is that if I want a wit beer or a hefeweizen after a long afternoon of shoveling snow in the middle of winter, I can have one.  Something else I've figured out that I like about home brewing is not only trying beers like this one, but then having small amounts (partial ounces) of left-over hops that I can then combine into something really unusual.

Brew Day: 20 Nov

Partial Mash:
8 oz Gambrinus Honey Malt
8 oz 2-Row malt
1 oz Carapils

I followed my usual partial mash process; bring 2 qt water to 156 deg F, pour into the 1 gal cooler.  Add above grains in a muslin bag, pushing down gently with a spoon in order to ensure that the water circulates throughout.  Seal the cover for an hour.  At about 45 min, bring 4 qt of water in the brew kettle to 170 deg F.  Once the grains have sat for about an hour, loosen the top on the cooler and manually circulate the wort through the grain several times.  Once this is done, gently remove the grain bag from the cooler, allowing the water to drain, and move the bag to the brew kettle, steeping for about 10 min.  At 10 min, remove the grain bag, add the wort from the cooler and bring the wort to a boil.

Boil (60 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME

Yeast: Safale US-05

Warrior: AA ~ 15%
Galaxy: AA 14.5%
Huell Melon: AA 4.5%

7 g Warrior (@ 60 min)
7 g Melon (@ 10 min)
7 g Galaxy + 7 g Melon (@ 5 min)
7 g Galaxy + 7 g Melon (@ flameout)

Addendum, 24 Nov: Activity had settled down enough that I replaced the blow-off tube & bottle with an airlock.  I'll dry hop this one right around the time that I bottle the Hop-Bomb (tentatively an IPA).

Addendum, 30 Nov: Dry hopped tonight.  I'm looking forward to bottling this one in a week.
Dry hop: 14 g Melon

Addendum, 7 Dec: Bottled today; smelled incredible!

Addendum, 23 Dec: Tasted one of the beers today...very good!  The beer pours with an orange-amber color, and with a nice substantial, white head.  Carbonation is good, as is lacing throughout the time it took me to finish the beer.  Definite notes of sweet fruit in the nose, and the flavor has a bitterness on par with a Bell's Two-Hearted, albeit without the citrus/grapefruit notes.  There's also a slight sweetness from the malt.  As a hop-head, I definitely enjoy everything about this beer, from the color, the appearance of the head, to the flavor.  I'm going to try this one again, but the next time, I'm going to use a slightly different dry hopping schedule, and go for a 2-step dry hop, each for 3 days.

Here's what I'm thinking...bitter with a hop with some high alpha acids, and then two Melon hop additions, one at 5 min, one at flameout.  Then do a 2-step dry hop, each for three days.  All additions will be 14 g, for a total of 2 oz throughout the process.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Unnamed IPA, or "Hop Bomb"

A bit ago, I ran across a lone ounce package of Brewer's Gold hops at a local home brew supply store, and something compelled me to grab it and find something to do with it.  I know, I admit...I have a problem.  While described as a bittering hop (at 10.5% AA, I get it...), it can also impart a "spicy aroma" that is described as having a "black currant" characteristic.  I thought this might make a nice aromatic/flavor addition to an IPA using Mosaic hops.

I also have some (14 g) HBC-438 hops left over from a previous single hop brew, so this may be a good opportunity to use it up.  Also, it would be a good counterpoint...see what the single hop beer is like when contrasted to this one.

Brew Day: 13 Nov 2015

Partial Mash:
8 oz 2-Row malt
5.5 oz Weyermann CaraRed
5.0 oz Briess GoldPils
1.0 oz Briess CaraPils

Just to be clear, the malt bill for the partial mash had more to do with what I had left/available than anything else.

*I used my usual partial mash process.

Boil (60 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME (@ 60 min)
3 oz corn sugar (@ 60 min)

7 g Mosaic (12.1% AA) (@ 60 min)
3 g HBC-438 (15.7% AA), 4 g Mosaic (12.1% AA), 4 g Brewer's Gold (10.5% AA) (@ 15 min)
3 g HBC-438 (15.7% AA), 4 g Mosaic (12.1% AA), 4 g Brewer's Gold (10.5% AA) (@ 0 min)

Yeast: Safale US-05

*Followed my usual process for the boil, as well as for aerating and pitching the yeast.

Addendum, 14 Nov:  Checked on the fermenter this morning, about 11 hrs after pitching the yeast.  Things are looking good, as you can see from the picture to the right.  Nice activity through the blow-off tube, some material collecting in the blow-off bottle.  You can't tell from the image, but there are lots of tiny bubbles rising up from the trube that's already settled at the bottom of the fermenter.  Things seem to be progressing very nicely at this point, we're off to a good start.

Addendum, 18 Nov: Activity had settled down enough for me to put an airlock on this one.

Addendum, 24 Nov: Dry hopped tonight.
Dry Hop:
6 g HBC-438 (15.7% AA), 4 g Mosaic (12.1% AA), 4 g Brewer's Gold (10.5% AA)

So far, looks like it's doing very well, and I'm looking forward to bottling this one next week.

Addendum, 1 Dec: Bottled, with 1 oz table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water.

Addendum, 15 Dec: Pours to a very light brown color, with moderate head and lacing.  Carbonation is good.  Sweet fruits or berries both on the nose and the palate.  A small bit of the malt peaks out from behind the hops, very slightly.  A small bit of pine in the aftertaste.  Definitely an IPA, but without an overpowering piney or citrus bitterness.  Very drinkable, and quite part because it's not like anything I've ever had an opportunity to taste.

Addendum, 25 Dec: My daughter's boyfriend came over and spent some time with us, and the rest of the family, and had one of these.  He's not a huge drinker, but liked it so much that he wanted another one!  My brother-in-law tried this one and really liked it.  I don't have any tasting notes at this point, because I didn't get to have one, but those who did try this one really liked it.

Addendum, 9 Aug: A bit ago, I found a 22 oz Belgian and three of these beers sitting in the back of a cabinet.  I tried one not long ago, but didn't do any updates.  I'm having another one tonight, and it's really good.  REALLY.  The beer is a golden amber color and poured with a nice, thick head.  The head dissipated during my first few sips, but there's some good lacing going on.  The flavor is distinctive...a light cedar flavor from the HBC-438 hops, with a little bit of fruit, but none of the sharp bitterness found in many commercial IPAs.  Very distinctive and enjoyable.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

HBC-438 IPA, ie '38 Special

A bit ago, I was reading about a new hop varietal that's still experimental, called HBC-438 (you can read a brief history of the varietal here).  What I read said that it was being released to home brewers for testing, and the characteristics of this hop sounded fascinating (described as stone fruit, lemon, honey, tropical fruit, mint, and herbal), so I ordered 2 oz from Northern Brewer.  The alpha acids are pretty high with this one, so using it for bittering as well as aroma/flavor shouldn't be a problem.

It turns out that NB also has a recipe for The Luckiest Man Alive Pale Ale, which uses these hops...and about a third of each kit goes to benefit research to find a cure for ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's disease".  Brewers are kind of awesome people, aren't they?

Part of the reason I'm looking forward to trying this particular hop is that it's similar to Medusa hops (Medusa doesn't have the alpha acids that the HBC-438 does), a variety I heard about in the spring, and an ounce of which was graciously provided by the good folks at Northern Brewer.  Unfortunately, I lost the initial batch to a cracked fermenter cap, but I was able to use some of what was left with another brew.

Brew Day: 5 Nov 2015

Partial Mash:
1 lb 2-Row malt
1 oz Carapils

*I used the same process for the partial mash that I always use.

Boil (60 min):
1.7 lb Gold LME (@ 60 min)
*I went with a bit more LME this time for two reasons: I didn't want to add any corn sugar, and it was what I had left...better to use it than to waste it.

Hops - HBC-438 (AA: 15.7%, Beta: 5.9%)
7 g HBC-438 (@ 60 min)
13 g HBC-438 (@ 10 min)
7 g HBC-438 (@ flameout)

*This recipe leaves me with a small bag of 14 g of HBC-438 hops (out of a total of 2 oz) to use in a complex IPA that uses multiple hops.

Yeast: Safale US-05

Addendum, 6 Nov: About 13 or so hours after pitching the yeast, the beer is doing very well.  Good activity through the blow-off tube, with some material (not a lot) in the tube and blow-off bottle.

Addendum, 7 Nov: Checked in on the fermenter this morning...after some of things that have happened over the months that I've been home brewing, I tend to check the fermenter(s) on a daily basis...and things are going very well.  There's a bit more activity, with bubbles flowing through the blow-off tube with greater frequency than yesterday.  Also, looking closely at the fermenter, I can see thousands of tiny bubbles flowing up from the bottom of the's very cool to see this kind of positive activity!  In fact, I've been closing the door to the bathroom (the fermenters are all in the tub) and when I go to check on the fermenters, the room has a distinctive aroma of stone fruit.

Addendum, 16 Nov: Dry hopped with 14 g HBC-438.  The brew is doing well...wonderful, orange-golden color, lots of good fermentation activity going on (i.e., the airlock cap was riding high before and after the dry hopping).  If my schedule allows me to bottle no later than 23 Nov, this one will be ready on 7 Dec.

Addendum, 18 Nov: The airlock cap is no longer riding high or floating in the airlock, but I'm not really worried about it and I'm not going to freak out.  I've seen this with a couple of beers so far, albeit not with this yeast.  I'm usually pretty careful with cleaning and sanitizing my gear. I re-used the muslin bag that I put the hops in, and started the way I always do...boiling the bag itself in a cup of water, nuked in the microwave.  After I poured out the boil water, I covered the bag itself in a small amount of sanitizer while I prepped the rest of my gear.  I then put the hops in the bag, and stuffed the bag down inside the fermenter, and then racked the beer on top of it.  I'll give this one a day or two more before bottling.

Addendum, 23 Nov: Bottled tonight, with 1 oz of table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  I got nine good bottles out of it...I'm really looking forward to trying this one!

Addendum, 11 Dec: Taste test went very well tonight, very happy with this one.

When I first opened this one, I did a gentle pour, so the head wasn't very thick.  The color is a little darker than others I've done, a dark amber color with an off-white head.  A thick head didn't persist, although there were bubbles left over the whole time it took us to get through the glass.  The second beer I had later in the evening had a thicker head, because I wasn't so gentle with the pour.  In both cases, there was some mild lacing that persisted.

I put my face in the mouth of the glass and caught a definite and pronounced aroma of berries in the nose as the bubbles from the head were bursting.  It was a sweet fruit aroma, not citrus or spicy.

No pine or bitter citrus at all, not even in the after taste.  I did catch what I first thought was cinnamon on the palate, but when I had a second beer later in the evening (no other beers in between), it came across more as something floral mixed in with the malt (from the LME).  This hop is mild enough to allow the malt to be more pronounced.  This definitely one I'd do again as a single hop brew, and next time I'll definitely go for a lighter malt bill, both in color and flavor.

We decided on a name for this one - '38 Special.  The apostrophe is for where the '4' would's silent.