Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SR6/JDP5/ZG1: Beer is bottled, beer is fermenting, beer is enrolled

JDP5 in the front, ZEE German in the back.
I need to update more before the title becomes all project acronyms.
SR6, the double IPA I made for the Sam Adams competition is officially entered in the Sam Adams competition. I still have a month before I turn in my entries, which will give the beer about a month and a half in the bottle. That's more than enough time for the beer to carbonate and the flavors to come together. When I tasted it during bottling, it's was pretty damn bitter. Admittedly, there is a mess of hops in the beer (by design), but the bitterness should recede and even out with the malt.
The final gravity on the beer put it clearly in the double IPA category: 1.020, which worked out to 8.1% A.B.V. So all I know is that SR6 is a big, bitter DIPA that smells great. In another couple weeks I'll be able to sample the finished beer and find out if it tastes good, too.

As JDP4 continues to age in the bottle, I made another batch, JDP5. I liked the recipe for JDP4, so I stuck fairly close to it. However, I tweaked a few things, like using dark brown sugar instead of light, using dark malt extract instead of amber, and doing a decoction on the wort. Although all the proportions were the same, the tinkering made a difference. The original gravity of JDP4 was 1.090. For JDP5 it ticked up to 1.10. Now it's a matter of seeing how hungry the yeast are.
The yeast were another experiment. Because the JDP batches are all half size, I only used half a vile of yeast for JD4 and saved the rest of JDP5. Thankfully, the yeast were still alive after a month in the refrigerator when I pitched them for this latest batch. Homebrewers do this all the time (they even harvest yeast from finished batches and save the yeast), but because this was the first batch that I used saved yeast and I didn't relish the idea of dumping 2.5 gallons of wort down the drain, I was a bit nervous. But in a matter of days, the yeast were eating and farting away, so all is well.
This weekend, JDP5 goes in the whiskey barrel for three or four weeks and should be ready to drink by May.
The same day I brewed JDP5, I brewed up the inaugural batch of ZEE German. I made it for the DC Homebrewers' June IPA meeting so I could've waited a couple more weeks. But the missus was kind enough to give me the day to do a double batch, so I went ahead with it. ZEE German is either a hoppy imperial Koelsch or a German IPA (O.G.: 1.064). Take your pick. I made it like an IPA, but used all German hops (all of them I think) and German Koelsch yeast. The traditional Koelsch style beer uses very little hops, so the potpourri of Perle, Saphir, Tettnang, Hallertau and Spalt it a little over the top for the style. In fact, the only popular German hop I didn't use was Saaz, which is the typical hop used in Koelsch beers. However, it's not a particularly aromatic or bitter hop. And since Saphir is my primary flavoring hop, Saaz got left out.
I dry hopped the beer on Sunday, and the thing smells just like a rich lager. That shouldn't be much of a surprise given the Koelsch yeast, but it still is. Although all Koelsch beers are ales, they smell and taste like lagers. So this beer should taste quite a bit like a lager ... a hoppy, hoppy lager. To further accentuate the lager-like characteristics, I'm going to try and cold crash it next weekend. By bringing the temperature down to 40 degrees or so, a lot of the yeast and other particulate should fall out of the beer and make it nice and clear for bottling.

A passel of sprouting Cascade hops.
Finally, I have a hop update. Much to my surprise, all my hops have sprouted. After last year's anemic showing, I expected the rhizomes to die off during the winter. But a little plant food, fresh soil and a few handfulls of mulch, and the hops are going gangbusters. Hopefully that means they'll produce hop cones this year and allow me to make a couple batches of my wet hop IPA.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SR6/JDP4: Playing to the Kingfish; The Final Stretch

I met Jim Koch a few years ago during the first Savor event. Unfortunately, it was toward the end of the event and I'd had too much to drink and too little to eat. Still, I was able to work out a genuine compliment for the founder of Sam Adams beer: I told him he was the kingfish of craft beer. He was the guy all the other brewers were aspiring to be. He chuckled at the comment and refilled my glass.
Good guy, that Jim Koch.
I told this story to one of his marketing reps the other night.  The guy, Mike, showed up at the DC Homebrewers meeting to announce a new homebrew competition Boston Beer Company is sponsoring. Because it's the first year of the competition, the rules are a bit loose. Basically, participants can enter any style of beer they want. The top three win a prize, including a bottle of Utopias, tickets to Savor and tickets to the Great American Beer Festival.
Sounds good to me.
So I'm taking this opportunity to return to the SR series and crank out a hop heavy double IPA for the competition. Because the competition will be limited to the members of the homebrewers club, I'm fairly confident that there will be 22 Belgian-style beers and a smattering of other styles, so I'm hoping my DIPA will stand out.
For this batch, I've pushed up the original gravity up a bit (1.080 vs. 1.070 from SR4) and added more hops and a larger variety of hops. For the first four SR batches (the fifth batch was the wet hop IPA), I was going with a mix of Warrior and Simcoe hops for bittering, flavor and aroma, and Cascade for dry hoping. This time, I've added Citra for flavor and aroma, and I'm including Amarillo and Sorachi with the Cascade for dry hopping. This should produce a very honey, orange blossom floral beer.
Hopefully, it'll also produce some schwag from the Kingfish.

I also got a chance to finally bottle JDP4. After three weeks in the Early Times barrel, the Scotch ale finally took on enough of the whiskey character. It was delicious. Even through the beer still needs to age at least another month, it's already rich with slight caramel flavors and a very slight rye bite (finally!). It's taken several months and several batches, but the beer is coming together at long last.
The barrel aging also added a nice bit of color to the beer, bringing it to a warm hazelnut brown hue.
So it looks like the first batch of the JD Project is in the final stretch.