Sunday, May 30, 2010

SR4: Dialing it in (hopefully)

The new batch is started and hopefully it will be a lot like the old batch.
SR3, my unnamed original IPA, turned out really well. But there were a few things that I wanted to tweak: the hop flavor, the aroma and color. It was nearly there, but just not quite.

That said, I took SR3 to my first DC Homebrewers meeting last week and it went over well. I've been interested in joining the group for a while, but because I decided to start homebrewing as soon as the baby came along, I haven't had any extra time for it. It worked out, though, because I was able to bring my own recipe to the first meeting and compare it to what the other homebrewers produced. It stood up.
There were a variety of styles at the meeting, from double IPAs, to kolsch beers, to ESBs and Scottish ales (really, not a stinker in the bunch), but I was surprised to find that I was the only person to bring an IPA, easily the most popular style in the craft beer community. I was also surprised to run into Mike Roy, the brewer from Franklin's, and Tammy Tuck, a beer writer for the City Paper, both of whom were at my house for a beer tasting three days earlier. Small world.
If all goes well, SR4 will be a little better than its predecessor. Admittedly, I could've decided SR3 was good enough -- it does have a real nice hop flavor, a good aroma, the proper amount of bitterness and the alcohol content I was going for -- but I picked up some advice on Beer School: in order to make a beer right, you have to make it over and over again.
What a lot of homebrewers do is make a beer, decide it's good or bad and then move on to something else. On the one hand, there's nothing wrong with that. It is all for fun, after all. On the other hand, if you want to create a special beer, or at least get a beer just right, you have to work at it. And that means tinkering with the recipe over the course of a few batches. I think I might have this IPA dialed in with this batch, but I won't know for sure for another six weeks.

So for this recipe, I added another ounce of Simcoe hops at the end of the boil, used a crystal malt with a lighter toast and dumped in another two ounces of whole Cascade hops for dry hopping. I'll also leave the whole hops in for the full two week fermentation, rather than pull them out after a week. I thought dry hopping with an ounce of whole hops was a lot last time, but it was a damn hop salad in that bucket tonight. This should be one hop stinky beer.
You know, that's not a bad name.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SR3: I'm going to need more hops

SR3 is done. On the one hand, it's good, very drinkable. On the other hand, it's not where I want it to be.
First and foremost, it's not hoppy enough, especially on the nose, but also in terms of the flavor. The big hop aroma I got when I transferred the beer from the fermentor to the carboy after a week of dry hopping is gone, or at least greatly diminished. So for SR4, I'll be dry hopping with at least twice as many whole hops (two ounces) for twice as long (two weeks).
I was conservative with this batch because a) it was my own recipe and I didn't know what I was doing, and 2) I wanted to make sure I could drink the beer. Part of that meant I didn't want to keep the whole hops in the beer for longer than a week and risk having them rot, screwing up the beer. As it turns out, the hops were fine when I sparged the beer and could have gone another week or more.
I also think I'll add more flavor/aroma hops. I split up my simcoe hops to help with the bitterness. The bitterness seems about right, but I want more hop flavor and aroma. I need to step up the simcoe next time and I may add another hop varietal to further punch up the flavor.

As you can see, I hit the color I was going after (SR3 in the Big Boss pint, SR2 in the Dogfish Head pint). I liked the darker color of SR2 (a slight variation of Charlie Papazian's Palilalia IPA recipe) so I used amber malt and toasted crystal malt for SR3, too. I may eventually change this, but until I have the flavor dialed in I'll keep the malt as is. The flavor is good and I got the alcohol percentage I wanted (6.7% A.B.V.), so changing it is a matter of aesthetics.
So for a first batch of original homebrew, I would give myself a C+. It's a good beer, a drinkable beer, but there is still much work to be done.


My hop rhizomes finally sprouted! I was almost certain that I'd either killed them or planted them upside down. I didn't (well, I might have planted them upside down, but nature finds a way) and they're looking good. All five hops broke ground and should be big enough to grab the guide rope in a few weeks. I don't know how much yield I'll get this year, but I'll be happy with whatever I can harvest and wet hop this fall.