Sunday, July 18, 2010

JDP1: Yeah, it's a big beer

Just bottled the case of JDP1 and as expected, it's a very big beer. The final gravity came out at 1.035, which means I got about 10 points of attenuation resulting in a 13% A.B.V. beer -- nearly three times the alcohol content of the average beer.
Despite all that alcohol (which you could smell and taste), it didn't taste that bad. Even in its raw state, the flavor was much better than I expected. I dumped a whole bunch of malt, honey and brown sugar in the wort, which resulted in the 13% alcohol content, but the beer wasn't particularly sweet and certainly not cloying. The malt flavor was there, but so was a strong bitter note and a bite, which where were due to the hops and the secret ingredient.
The flavor and final gravity also benefitted from the Scottish Ale yeast I used. Clearly, it was a good call to use twice the amount of yeast I needed for a 2.5 gallon batch, because the yeast thinned out the body of the beer fairly well, giving it a bit of a dry characteristic (well, as dry a characteristic as a 13% malt bomb can have). The color was also good, a real nice dark, dark amber.

Getting ready to bottle the beer, I was struck by the amount of trub that settled in the bottom of the carboy. I haven't produced that much gunk in the 5 gallon batches I've made, including the 7% IPA I recently finished. It just shows you how much malt and yeast went into the 2.5 gallon batch of beer.
So now it goes into the closet to bottle ferment for the next seven weeks (or so). I'll probably pop open a bottle toward the end of August to see how it tastes. Based on some recommendations I've gotten from other homebrewers, I may let a few of the bottles age for up to a year or more just to see what happens. If the beer is as good as I think it may be in a month, it will be absolutely fantastic in a year.
Regardless of how good it was, though, the alcohol level was way too high. I'll name this batch when it's ready and try again in a couple weeks. I need to get the recipe worked out by the end of the year, so I was happy to land somewhere in the ballpark of a Scotch ale. It's not perfect, but it ain't bad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

SR4: At least it's hoppier

So I need to dial back on the amber malt.
One of the main things I wanted to do with SR4 was lighten the color. As you can see, though, it looks exactly like SR3 (SR3 is on the left, SR4 is on the right). In fact, when I asked my wife to pick between them based on color, she thought SR3 was the lighter one.
Well, shit.
I reduced the toast on the crystal malt to try and lighten the color some for SR4, but obviously that wasn't enough. For the next batch, SR5, I'll swap a couple pounds of amber malt for a couple pounds of plain, or light, malt. I'll also go back to the darker toast on the crystal malt. Now that I know it doesn't really effect the color of the beer (at least not much), I'll go with the darker toast because I prefer the flavor.
The dry hopping worked better this time and I like the flavor of the beer a bit better. For this batch, I dry hopped three ounces of whole Cascade hops for two weeks. The result is obvious. Close your eyes and stick your nose in the glass and you can smell the difference between SR3 and SR4. However, it could be better.
Listening to an old Brew Strong show the other day, I learned that I've been dry hopping too early. Rather than adding the hops at the start of primary fermentation, I should be adding them toward the end of primary fermentation. Apparently, I can also be even more aggressive with my hopping. Three ounces for a five gallon batch is about the minimum I should be using. So for SR5, I'll be dry hopping with at least five ounces of whole hops after about 10 days.
So SR4 isn't a bad batch, it's just not as polished as I wanted it to be. Hopefully with SR5, I'll be able to work out the color and dry hop kinks, slap a name on the beer and move on to the next recipe.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

JDP1: It's a malt monster

I looked again. After all, it was 5:20 in the morning. There it was, though, 1.130 at 64 degrees. I'd made a malt monster.
To clarify, my original gravity of SR3 was 1.070, which eventually resulted in 6.7 percent alcohol by volume. So an O.G. of 1.130 puts me in double digit A.B.V. territory, when I was shooting for around 8 percent, or an O.G. of 1.075 to 1.085.

This is my first crack at making a Scotch ale, so I knew I wouldn't get everything exactly right. However, I didn't expect to produce a barleywine. The problem is, I added way too much malt, and the more malt you have the higher the gravity. So for JDP 2, I'll probably cut about two pounds of malt and see where the I end up. Hopefully at a more reasonable gravity.
As for this batch, because I'm still in the testing phase, I only made two and a half gallons, but used a full package of yeast. Given how much malt and sugars are in that carboy, those yeast have plenty to eat. And with some luck, all that yeast will help the beer attenuate down to something a bit drier and drinkable. We'll see.
Man, can you imagine the alcohol bomb this beer would be if I aged a 10 or 11 percent beer in my bourbon barrel? The guys at Brewdog might recruit me.
So that's might first obvious problem. There were some bright spots, though. The wort tasted pretty good. Understandably malty, of course, but not cloyingly sweet, and the bitterness of the hops and bite of the secret ingredient came though (a small miracle, really).

Also, the color is spot on. The dark caramel amber is exactly what I wanted. It's a result of the very dark toast on the crystal malt and probably the honey. Yeah, and the use of honey and light brown sugar seemed to go well. I expected those flavors to be too sweet in the wort, but they didn't dominate the flavor at all. And because they're fully fermentable sugars, the yeast will make short and compete work of them.

As for the yeast, I used a Scottish Ale yeast from Wyeast that came in this crazy pouch. There was a small yeast packet suspended in a solution within the pouch that I had to pop the day before. A few hours before pitching, I pulled the yeast out of the fridge, shook it and the pouch swelled until it looked like a brand new Capri Sun. Pretty cool. Bob at the homebrew store said the yeast were hearty and would attenuate well in the beer (yes, attenuation is the word of the day). I hope he's right. There's a lot of sugars to process.

Bob and the homebrew store are in Frederick. I had to run by the Flying Dog brewery on Friday to pick up some T-shirts, so I decided to hit the Flying Barrel and save myself a trip to Columbia or Falls Church (lot of flying shit in Frederick, no?). It's a nice little shop a couple blocks off Market Street, the main drag through the historic district. And when I say little shop, I mean little shop. I was standing across the street and it still took me a minute to spot the place. That said, it's probably a little bigger than myLocal-Home-Brew-Shop in Falls Church, but it just disappears in the warehouse building it's located in. Nevertheless, Bob had everything I needed, so no complaints.