Sunday, April 18, 2010

SR3: Dry hopping rocks!

My daughter slept though the night for the first time last night. Unfortunately, the night ended at 5:30 this morning.
So I was up bright and early to start bottling SR3. As I mentioned before, this is the first batch I dry hopped. It was completely worth the trouble. Even with the coffee pot going, my kitchen was enveloped in hop aroma. And if the aroma is any indication of the quality of this batch, I'm on to something.

For a raw beer, the flavor was pretty good, too. The ounce of Warrior hops and half ounce of Simcoe seems to have added enough bitterness to balance out the 10 pounds of malt. Beer in this state always tastes flat and weird, but this is the first batch I've sampled and kind of liked. I wouldn't order this in a bar, but it wasn't terrible by any means. That also means I didn't infect the beer when I transferred it from the fermentor to the carboy. As long as my bottles were sterile, I should be good.
Speaking of the malt, it occurred to me this morning that I might not have an IPA at all. Rather, I think I made a hoppy ale. You can see in the photos, the beer came out a nice dark orange, but it did so with an amber malt base that included toasted crystal malt. Technically, an IPA should include pale malt. I may be splitting hairs here, but that's what I do.

I also got the A.B.V. I was shooting for. According to my favorite new iPhone app, BrewMath, my projected alcohol content is 6.7 percent (F.G.: 1.020). I tell ya, that's the best $3 I've spent in a long time. I hate doing math, especially when I don't completely trust the outcome. And as influential and successful a brewer as Charlie Papazian is, his A.B.V. equation never seemed to work out quite right, even to the guy at the homebrew supply store. Well, it doesn't matter now, I have technology on my side. So screw you math, I didn't need you in college and I don't need you now!

As I did with my last batch, I'm giving SR3 four weeks to ferment in the bottle. Regardless of how it tastes, dry hopping will be a regular feature of my brewing process.
I was planning on giving a status update on my hops by now. Unfortunately, they haven't surfaced yet. Folks on the Homebrewing Facebook page say that it's not unusual for rhizomes to take a few weeks to come up. I hope that's the case, otherwise it'll confirm my suspicion that I planted all five rhizomes upside down.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

SR3: It's gonna be a bigger beer

SR3 is in the fermentor. There are a lot of firsts with this batch: first time I'm using live yeast (California Ale Yeast, which are good for hoppy beers), first time I did multi-stage hopping, first time I'm dry hopping, first time I'm clarifying, and the first time I'm using my own recipe.

I don't know how it's going to turn out, but I know that it will have a higher alcohol content.
As I've gone on before about Charlie Papazian's apparent penchant for lower alcohol beers (which have tasted quite good, I should add), one of the things I wanted to try was pushing the gravity of my own batch higher. Oh, it's higher.
The original gravity for Papazian's Palilalia IPA (SR2: Cabin Fever IPA) was 1.032. The O.G. for my IPA was 1.070. To put it simply, that is a huge difference.
I used the framework of Palilalia IPA for SR3, which is to say I followed the same boil time as Papazian's recipe, and added the same amount of gypsum and toasted crystal malt to the wort. Otherwise, I ventured out on my own, using an additional two pounds of dried malt extract and a few more ounces of hops I hope will play well together.
For bittering, I picked up an ounce of Warrior, a particularly bitter hop. Given the additional malt, I figured I would need to bump up the bitter to balance out the flavors. I also picked up a couple ounces of Simcoe hops, half an ounce of which were used for bittering. The rest went in at the end of the boil for flavor and aroma.

Because I couldn't just leave things at that, I added an ounce of whole Cascade hops to the fermentor. They'll dry hop in there for a week before I transfer the beer from the bucket fermentor to the carboy. The transfer should also clarify the beer a bit, which will be nice for the aesthetics.

I had an issue with the wort temperature again.
As with SR1, the wort was too hot. Even after adding three gallons of cold water, the temperature was hovering around 1oo degrees. Now that the weather is warmer, there was no way I was going to get the temperature to drop 30 degrees simply by setting it outside. Fortunately, my mother in law of all people had a great idea: setting the fermentor in the wash sink in my laundry room. I then filled the sink halfway with ice water. It took all night to bring the temperature down, but the fermentor was sealed, so the length of time didn't matter.
Now it's a waiting game. I plan to give the beer two weeks to ferment and four weeks to finish in the bottle. That works out to May 16 before it's ready to drink. Here's hoping the waiting will be worth it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The rhizomes are in! The rhizomes are in!

My mother will fall out of her chair if she ever reads the following statement:
I was stoked to do some gardening the other day.
It's not much of an exaggeration to say that I owe my education and station in life to my absolute disdain for landscaping. Growing up, my folks got into the landscaping and irrigation business. That meant that for much of my teenage years I was on the working end of a shovel. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. There are few shittier jobs that weeding greenhouses, digging irrigation trenches and fitting PVC pipe in the Florida sun. In fact, the only job I can think that's worse is raising tilapia in makeshift backyard ponds. I did that, too. I hated that, too.
So the irony wasn't lost on me when I was picking up my hop rhizomes the other day from Maryland Homebrew and working out locations to plant them with the missus. Maybe if those damn plants of my youth were hops and the irrigation lines were full of beer I would've stayed in the business.
No, probably not.
Anyway, I bought five rhizomes: two Willamette, two Cascade and one Centennial. Since then, I've done a bit more research on growing hops -- including listening to an excellent Brewing Network show on the subject -- and realized I should've had at least two rhizomes of each hop in case one of the rhizomes doesn't take. Oh well, I'll keep my fingers crossed that I got a robust Centennial plant. Because hops are vines, I needed a place for them to climb. While I could have done something as simple as hang some twine from the roof, I decided to plant a post along my fence line and run some lines for the hops to climb.

All three varieties are primarily flavor and aroma hops. While I'm willing to grow my own hops, I didn't see the need to screw about with bittering hops, like Columbus, when hop pellets work just fine. With the three hop varieties I bought, I'm hoping to have enough cones this fall to wet hop a few batches of beer. We'll see.

I also picked up the ingredients for my next batch of homebrew. I've decided to do another IPA, but with an ABV in the 6 to 7 percent range. Rather than following Charlie Papazian's recipes, which seem to produce 3 to 4 percent beer, I'm going to use the recipe for his Palilalia IPA as a framework for my own IPA. Lucky for me, the folks at Maryland Homebrew are patient and knowledgeable people who looked over my recipe and stopped me from making an undrinkable toxic wash: apparently four ounces of Warrior hops is WAY too much for five gallons. We dialed it back to one ounce of Warrior and I'm going to use some of the Simcoe I picked up to help with the bittering and flavor. I was also buying too much amber and crystal malt.
So what did I learn: 1. You can't just double the amount of ingredients from one batch to another; 2. hops have different amounts of alpha acids, so they can't necessarily be treated the same; and 3. when in doubt, check with the guy at the homebrew store.
I'll provide more details when I get to brewing (hopefully this weekend). But I've had some success with my first two batches, so we'll see how I do once the training wheels are off.