Adventures in Home Brewing: Rantlers! Bottling

After two weeks of primary fermentation, it was time to get my homebrewed Christmas ale, Rantlers!, into bottles for their final conditioning stage.

Final Gravity came in at somewhere between 1.014 and 1.017. I always have trouble reading the gravity on this stuff. It’s all approximate, but it’s still in the appropriate range I was expecting, and gives me an ABV of around 6.4% (give or take). I swear, even the calculators out there aren’t consistent, but this is around what I was expecting, and represents somewhere around a 74% attenuation, which is about right.


This is basically in line with what I was shooting for, so all seems well there. It smells really nice for sure, but maybe the spices weren’t as strong as I remembered from previous batches (despite using the same spicing regimen)… but then, we’ll see what happens after it bottle conditions.

Speaking of which, I didn’t do much in the way of fancy bottling techniques, but I did make some fortified versions, utilizing the last of an Elijah Craig Cask Strength store pick that clocked in at 66.5% ABV. This fortification technique is something I tried out with my last homebrew. Unfortunately, the base beer didn’t turn out well and the Scotch I used wasn’t my favorite, so the results were encouraging but not amazing (it was certainly an improvement over the beer by itself, so that’s why I say it was encouraging).

This time around, I’m going with a much higher proof bourbon, which is likely to pay better dividends. If my calculations are correct, a mere 60 ml of that EC bourbon should bring this beer up to around 15% ABV. It will most likely not carbonate at all, but that’s to be expected (and the sort of “still” beer experience is something I’ve found interesting of late – some breweries are doing interesting things in that space). One of these days, I should try a full on kegging of the fortified treatment (which would allow for some carbonation), but I digress.

In a week or two, these suckers should be ready for drinking, allowing for plenty of time for gift giving and such. Merry Christmas season to all, and now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of cleaning to do…

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #21: Rantlers! Christmas Ale

My last homebrewing adventure started during the pandemic and… wasn’t as successful as I’d have liked. Undertaken on a lark too late in the season to control fermentation temperatures, so the resulting beer developed a distinctly savory umami character (think soy sauce), probably caused by autolysis. Not great!

Anywho, one way to recover from such a mishap is to rebrew a successful beer from your past, and since the season approaches, I’m taking another swing at my fabled Kaedrin Christmas Beer (first brewed way back in 2011). It’s probably the best all-around homebrew I’ve made, and it’s something I rebrewed again in 2016 to similar success. That second attempt did require a lot of substitutions and tweaks from the initial beer, mostly due to ingredient availability. It still turned out great, but for this third attempt, I was able to mostly source what I needed to recreate the original.

Also of note, I stumbled on a pretty great name for my homebrewed Christmas ale: Rantlers! A portmanteau of “reindeer antlers” coined by the one and only Rocky Balboa in Rocky V. Granted, not a good movie, but I love Rocky and this bit is great and it’s a perfect name for a homebrewed Christmas ale.

Beer #21: Rantlers! Christmas Ale
November 19, 2023

1 lb. Crystal 40 (specialty grain)
2 oz. Roasted Barley (specialty grain)
3.3 lb. Golden Light LME
3 lb. Amber DME
1 lb. Golden Light DME
0.85 oz. Northern Brewer Hops (Bittering @ 11.4% AA)
1 oz. Hallertau Mittelfruh Hops (Flavor)
1 tsp Irish Moss
1 tsp Bitter Orange Peel
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Coriander
2 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Whole Cloves
Wyeast 1056 – American Ale Yeast

Homebrewed Christmas Ale ingredients (Rantlers!)

Pretty much identical to the original recipe, with the only caveat being that the Norther Brewer hops came in at 11.4% alpha acids, so I used slightly less (thanks to an uncooperative scale, I mostly just eyeballed it, but it should be good enough).

Same process as well. Steeped specialty grains at 150° F – 160° F for about 20 minutes, added the DME, brought the result to a boil, and added the bittering hops. 30 minutes into the boil, added the LME, and 15-20 minutes later added the flavoring hops. With 5 minutes remaining, I added the spices. After bringing the temp down in an ice bath, dumped into the fermenter, topped off with water, and pitched the yeast.

Original Gravity: 1.065. Assuming 75% attenuation, that puts me at around 1.016 and a 6.5% ABV. This is just about exactly between the two batches I’ve previously made, but I’m definitely a little looser on the measurements these days. Should still turn out great.

For the record, I did forget the Irish Moss because I… don’t know where it is. Ah, the perils of only brewing once every three years. It’s not a big deal in any real way (it’s not a flavor/aroma thing, it’s a wort thing), but I figured I should mention it.

Anywho, I have high hopes for this sucker. Looking forward to sharing some around the holidays. I might also do a fortified version, like I did with Barlennan (that worked more than I thought, but it should be better with a better base beer and bourbon instead of a middling Scotch). Up next on the homebrew front… I’m not sure! I have a bunch of old ingredients sitting around, so I might just make something with those (I’ve long had the idea for a “Clusterf*ck ale” along those lines), but only time will tell…

Adventures in Home Brewing: Barlennan Bottling & Cookies

After three and a half weeks of sedate secondary fermentation and conditioning, my home brewed Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy was ready to be bottled. I’m calling it Barlennan, mostly because I’m a science fiction nerd, but also because “Barl” is the start of barley and “ennan” sounds like the suffix to a vaguely Scottish surname. Aren’t you glad I over-explained that? Anyway, as per usual, I learned many lessons (i.e. I made many mistakes) and I figured I’d also recount my attempt to make spent-grain cookies.


Home Brew Bottling Day

As I’ve already mentioned, I split the five gallon batch into two secondary fermenters. I added oak cubes that had been soaking in Aberlour Scotch to one, and left the other alone. At bottling, I split the batch into four different variants:

  1. Plain old Barlennan
  2. Aberlour Scotch Oak-Aged Barlennan
  3. A blend of Plain and Oak-Aged Barlennan
  4. Fortified Barlennan

The first three are self-explanatory, but I should explain the fourth because this is the first time I’ve practiced that sort of alchemy. So I just added around 80 ml of straight scotch to three bottles. According to my calculations, this should bring the ABV up to around 15% for these bottles. Incidentally, if I had used Aberlour A’Bunadh, it’s cask strength potency would have probably made this more like 18% ABV. The Aberlour 16 is only 80 proof, so it couldn’t do as much. Regardless, my prediction is that these bottles will not carbonate at all and will be ridiculously boozy, but I figure it’s an experiment worth trying. Mad science has to start somewhere.

Bottled home brew

I ended up bottling about a case and a half of this batch, and dumped the rest into a keg. The initial tasting revealed a huge fruity component, but also the notes of rich caramel and vanilla that I wanted. I attribute the bigger fruity notes to the higher ambient temperature during fermentation, which seemed to have an impact on this batch. This is why I normally only brew in the colder months. I blame the pandemic.

Bottles of home brew with waxed caps

I’m still waiting for the bottles to condition, but I’ve been sampling the kegged portion and I’ve observed some things. The fruity notes have gotten even more pronounced and I’ve noticed a distinctly savory umami character. So far, it’s not unpleasant, but I this could turn to an overwhelming soy sauce flavor at some point. Apparently, this has to do with autolysis; basically when alcohol is aged on dead yeast cells. Once again, I think this is due to the higher fermentation temperatures I subjected this batch to, as well as the more extended aging. I might also attribute this to my less-than-stellar skills at kegging beer. I’m hoping the bottles will fare better. I mean, I dipped some in wax, which has to make them taste better, right?

Spent Grain Cookies

After brewing, you’re left with a bunch of barley that’s been soaked in water and thus most of the sugars have been extracted. I usually throw this spent grain out, but I tried something different this time. I saved some grain and to dry it out, I put it in the oven at very low temperatures for a while.

Spent grain flour

It took around 6-7 hours to really dry it out, but once dry, I put it in my blender and turned it into as fine a powder as I could manage. I did some research and found that the general rule of thumb is to substitute about half of a given recipe’s flour with the spent grain flower. I did this for a basic cookie recipe, and huh, it turned out to be a very dark batter.

Cookie batter using spent grain flour

Since I’m an extract brewer, all of my spent grain was specialty grain, which tends to be darker. I also suspect the long drying process added some color. Next time, I might spread it out on a pan and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight. This should remove moisture and thus result in shorter time in the oven.

The cookies did bake up just fine though, so there is that. If I were doing this again, I might use a little less in the way of spent grain, as it does add an earthier note to the cookie. They were still tasty though.

A spent grain cookie

Ultimately, I’m not sure if it was worth the effort, but it was nice to not waste the grain after its first use. I’ll probably try it again (especially if I use some lighter specialty grains in future batches). Maybe I’ll make banana bread instead of cookies…

So there you have it, another home brewing batch in the books. Next batch probably won’t be until fall/winter, so as to avoid higher temperatures. I always did that before, but the pandemic forced my hand. But you live/brew and learn, I guess.

Adventures in Brewing: Barlennan Secondary

After three weeks of glorious fermentation, I transferred Barlennan, my homebrewed Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, to two secondary fermenters. Fermentation appeared to be vigorous and healthy, like a conquistador who drank from the fountain of youth (sorry, I read a silly thriller whilst cooped up in lockdown and I’m a little loopy right now). After an intense battery of tests and measurements, my initial readings were pleasantly surprising in that I achieved a pretty high attenuation ferment. Of course, by “intense battery of tests” I mean that I splashed some beer on my refractometer and quickly eyeballed the measurement, a process that is far from rigorous and has undoubtedly yielded wildly inaccurate results. I’m the worst!

Barlennan Secondary Fermenters

Final gravity was approximately 12.1 Brix, which roughly translates to 1.022. Given the OG of 1.096, this leaves us with 76% attenuation and about 9.6% ABV. This is well over the normal range for the Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale yeast (which is 69% – 73%), but I’m wondering if the relatively high ambient temperatures kept the fermentation going stronger than I usually maintain (I typically don’t brew during the warmer months due to temperature control issues, but this seemed to work out fine). The beer certainly smelled great, tons of rich, caramelized malt and a very nice fruity note that comes across well. Supposedly higher fermentation temps result in more esters from the yeast, which could be part of that fruity character.

I mentioned before that I’d been soaking the oak cubes in Aberlour A’Bunadh for about three years or so. The resulting scotch wasn’t particularly great (it had a sorta grainy, bitter astringency, and it tasted like burning), so I dumped it (sad!) and got myself a fresh bottle of Aberlour 16 and did a quick rinse of the cubes with a small amount of scotch (about 60 ml). I went with Aberlour for a couple of reasons. One, it’s not an Islay Scotch, so no one will be wondering who put their cigar out in my beer. And two, it’s at least partially finished in sherry barrels, which I think could be a harmonious combination of flavors.

While transferring the beer to secondary, I split the batch into two, one getting the oak cubes (and I dumped the 60ml of scotch in there while I was at it – no sense wasting that precious, pricey juice) and the other I left alone. As with previous oak aged experiments, I plan to let this one sit 3-4 weeks and bottle some of the regular, some of the oak-aged, and some of a blend of the two. I may also court perilous levels of extremity by making up a few bottles of fortified beer, adding some Scotch until a given bottle reaches some ridiculous ABV. Or maybe I’ll dump a bunch into a keg and see what happens. Time and assorted levels of laziness will tell.

As an aside, have I mentioned how much the PLCB sucks? Since Covid-19, all of the liquor stores in Pennsylvania have been closed. Over the last month or so, they’ve slowly been reopening for curbside pickup (and now, I believe, they’re starting to actually open up stores again). I gave it a shot, but I called a couple of local stores approximately 20 times over the course of a few days and always got a busy signal. Instead of continuing with that mess, I just went to TotalWine in Delaware and grabbed a bottle (for what I assume is a cheaper price than PA would have). I think I’m done with the PA state stores. Anywho, I’ll check back in in a few weeks when it’s time to bottle (or maybe Keg)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #20: Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale – Barlennan

According to my voluminous records, it’s been over two years since my last batch of homebrew, so I’ve officially lost any and all superpowers conferred by the home brewing fraternity of zythophilia. I could list out some excuses, but it ultimately comes down to having an excess buildup of world class beer in my house already. Alright, fine, I should probably just admit that it’s sheer laziness, but I do, in fact, have a lot of beer in my house.

Anywho, now that I’m in lockdown, I thought it might be a good time to reignite that homebrewing flame and make the Scotch Ale I’ve been threatening to brew for nigh on 4 years now. It will join Trystero and Bomb & Grapnel in my little series of oak-aged homebrew experiments (using a similar process that will result in some base beer, an oaked version, and a blend). Let’s get into it:

Beer #20: Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale – Barlennan

Full-Batch (5 gallons)

May 19, 2020

0.5 lb. English Medium Crystal Malt (specialty grain)

0.375 lb. Belgian Biscuit Malt (specialty grain)

0.125 lb. English Roasted Barley Malt (specialty grain)

12 lb. Gold Malt Syrup (LME)

1 oz. German Northern Brewer Hops (bittering @ 8 AA)

Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast (1 smack pack + starter)

Barlennan ingredients

I originally wanted to do an even simpler recipe, but my preferred homebrew shop is far away and their Scotch Ale kit had peated malt in it (this isn’t an actual historical thing, but for some reason a lot of recipes call for it), so I just ordered this Northern Brewer kit that seemed pretty close to what I was going to do anyway. My initial version had a little less in the way of specialty malts, but the kit is still pretty simple stuff. Mostly just a base malt with some specialty grains for flavor, a single hop addition for bitterness (historically, Scottish ales are not known for pronounced hop character owing to the fact that they had to import their hops from *groan* England). Simple ingredients, but I’m going to do some decidedly non-simple stuff for the rest of the process.

It’s a high-ish gravity brew, so I did a yeast starter using some old Bavarian Wheat DME that I had laying around (this is not what I mean when I say non-simple – I just should mention it). It had solidified into a brick, so I had to soak it in some warm water first to dissolve it, but the general yeast starter recipe (3 parts water, 1 part malt) worked well enough, and resulted in a reasonable 600ish ml starter. The Northern Brewer kit came with two Wyeast smack packs, so I used one for the starter, and just saved the other to pitch at the same time as the starter. I did the starter on Saturday and brew day was on Tuesday (probably should have been Monday, but no big whoop).

Barlennan boil

The only real deviation from standard brewing practices here is that I followed the apparently infamous skotrat technique that he developed for a Traquair House Ale Clone (incidentally, that’s probably my favorite Scotch Ale that’s actually from Scotland that I’ve had). Basically, the technique has you removing a small portion of the wort and giving it a really hard boil to caramelize it. He says to reduce two gallons down to a pint, but that recipe is for a much larger batch. Also, my readily available cookware for this is limited and I didn’t feel like spelunking through my basement to find something bigger, so my portion was more like 1.5 quarts reduced down to about a cup (maybe a cup and a half, I didn’t measure it). It was noticeably darker than the base brew, so hopefully it got some good caramelization on it that will come through in the finished product. Honestly, this might be something I want to do for all of my high gravity stuff, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

As mentioned above, after about two weeks or so, I’ll rack to secondary, splitting the batch into two 2.5 Gallon fermenters, one of which will get oak cubes that have been soaking in Aberlour for about 3 years (remember when I said I’ve been planning this beer for four years?) At bottling time, I’m going to split this up into three different bottlings. One with the base, one with the oaked version, and one with a blend of the two. Depending on how I feel, I may also do something like a fortified beer, adding enough Scotch to a couple bottles to bring the ABV up to about 20% ABV.

Hopefully, all these little tweaks to the process will make up for my continued engagement with extract brewing.

OG: ~23 Brix = 1.096.

This is a little higher than the original target OG of around 1.083, but I’m fine with the higher gravity because I want this to be a big, chewy, oak aged monster of a beer. That said, assuming something like 70% attenuation, I’ll get about 9% ABV out of this (FG of around 1.027), which should be a good base for the oak aging. One concern with the fermentation right now is that the ambient temps in my house are hovering around 70° F, which is pretty much the max temp for this yeast. Fortunately, we’re having a cool spring, so I should be able to keep it slightly lower for these critical first few days (update: I’ve been able to maintain an average of 69° during the most active periods of fermentation – nice.)

As for the name of the beer, in accordance with my other high gravity brews, I’ve selected an appropriately nerdy (and obscure) reference from science fiction literature: Barlennan. If you already know what I’m talking about, we are probably kindred spirits of some kind. If not, well, it’s from a 1954 Hal Clement novel called Mission of Gravity. That review was from almost exactly three years ago, and when that character’s name showed up in that book I thought it would be an exceptional name for a beer, mostly just because “Barl” is also the base for barley, but also the notion of “high gravity” fits with the events of the book (I suppose we’re talking about different concepts, but still). I’m glad I’m finally able to make this beer. Hopefully it will live up to the years of hype. It’s bubbling away happily right now, so we’re certainly on-track… stay tuned!

The Session #132: Homebrewing Conversations

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around Jon Abernathy wants to talk homebrewing: “the good, the bad, your experiences, ideas, (mis)conceptions, or whatever else suits you, as long as it starts the conversation!” That sounds good, so I’m just going to talk about each of those things, though not necessarily in that order. I know, that probably doesn’t make sense to you, but you’ll get it in a minute, I promise. Wait, where are you going? Stahp!

My Experiences: I’ve been homebrewing for, huh, 7 years? But that’s incredibly misleading, as I don’t brew very often, and I think I’ve only made something like two batches in the past two years. However, I did just keg an Northeast IPA, which should be ready for the SuperBowl (go Iggles), so there is that. Also, I’m pretty basic with my setup, still doing extract brewing. I’ve played around with oak aging and even Brett once, to mixed results. Basically, I have an idea of what homebrewing is all about, but I’m far from an expert.

The Good: One of the reasons I started home brewing is that I spend most of my time working in a virtual world. Everything I produce for my job is digital in nature, and most of my home projects are also digital, so I really appreciated the idea of making something out here in meatspace. And when I manage to make a great batch of homebrew, it tastes so much better. Plus, getting familiar with the process of making beer is a great way to learn about beer, and you start to understand how various aspects of the process impact even beer you didn’t make. Finally, I really enjoy huffing empty hop packets.

The Bad: Well, I’ve managed to make some rather lackluster batches, and, well, having five gallons of a lackluster beer sitting around isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. One of the good things about having made a decent batch is that you get to share with friends and family… but when you make a bad batch? Nope! This is all compounded by the fact that it’s pretty rare that I drink the same beer over and over again. I mean, I’m getting better at drinking beers I’ve had before without thinking of it as a moral failure, but I’m still a novelty whore at heart, so drinking lot of the same beer, even when it’s decent, can still get me down. In addition, my eyes are bigger than my liver, so I almost always have way too much beer on hand at any given time, and homebrew only adds to that.

Ideas: I like the experimentation that a lot of homebrewers engage in, and I’ve done a little of that, like making an Earl Grey Bitter. I haven’t quite cracked the oak aging process, but my last attempt, a barleywine I calle Trystero did turn out pretty good (though I did have some issues with carbonation). My next batch of beer will include some oak aging, this time using oak cubes soaked in Aberlour A’Bunadh Scotch. As with my previous oak aging batches, I plan on splitting the batch in secondary, with some aging on oak, some not, and then when I get to bottling, do some plain, some oak aged, and some blend of the two. Then! I’m going to do few bottles of what I’ll call “fortified beer”, meaning that I’ll add some more straight Scotch to a small proportion of beer, bringing the ABV up to 15-20%. Could be a disaster, but hey, it’s worth trying, right? Whatever, I’m doing it anyway.

Misconceptions: I hope you are very patient and that you like cleaning things a lot, because you’ll need both of those things.

I’m really glad that I’ve played around with homebrewing and would definitely recommend the experience for anyone interested in learning more about beer. Or drinking a lot of the same thing. Whichever.

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #19: Untitled Conan Project

It’s been over a year since my last brewing escapade, so let’s change that, shall we? First up is a quickie variant of Crom Approved, my Northeast IPA that I keep screwing up. Some differences in malt/hopping mean I should probably call this something different. Also, I’m guessing that Crom did not approve of my previous batches. Anywho, here’s the nerdy details:

Beer #16: Untitled Conan Project

Full-Batch (5 gallons)

January 14, 2018

16 oz. CaraPils (specialty grain)

7 lb. Breiss Extra Light DME

1 lb. Breiss Wheat DME

8 oz. Turbinado Sugar

1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @13.6 AA)

1 oz. Amarillo (flavor)

1 oz. Amarillo (aroma)

1 oz. Citra (aroma)

1 oz. Citra (first addition dry hop)

1 oz. Galaxy (first addition dry hop

2 oz. Citra (second addition dry hop)

GigaYeast GY054 Vermont IPA Yeast

Ingredients for my homebrewed IPA

(Some malt not pictured, click to embiggen)

Very similar to previous batches. More CaraPils, no crystal 20, a little extra base malt, and some minor tweaks to the hopping. Moar Citra, less Amarillo. The all-important Vermont IPA yeast is the key to the recipe though, and I think I got a good pitch this time.

Original Gravity: 18.8 Brix, which runs about 1.079, higher than I was aiming for, but should result in something around 7.5%-8.5% ABV depending on how well the yeast does (I probably should have done a starter for this, but we’ll see how it turns out).

I originally wanted this to be a bit toned down from the past couple of batches, but I must have done something wrong in my recipe app, as I ended up using too much malt, which is what brought the OG up. Still, this should wind up in the 8% area, and the higher Alpha Acid Simcoe hops actually yielded more IBUs this time, so I should be in decent shape there.

Activity started in the airlock almost right away, so I think I’m in decent shape here. If all goes well, dry hopping commences next week, and then I put this sucker in a keg on the weekend of 1/27… Fingers crossed.

As for the name, I’m not sure. This recipe has mutated enough from its initial batch that it warrants a new name. Current candidates include The Riddle of Steel, something about The Atlantean (i.e. Conan’s Sword), or some sort of play on one of Robert E. Howard’s Conan story titles (i.e. Rogues in the Hops, The Hops of the Dragon, The Hops in the Bowl, Hops of Gwahlur, etc…) Funnily enough, the “Untitled Conan Project” name that I chose as a placeholder is actually growing on me. It’s the sort of thing you saw on Jason Mamoa’s IMDB page, like 5 years ago or whenever they were making that movie.

Up next on the homebrew front is that Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy I’ve been threatening for a while now. This will be another split batch, with some oak aged, and some not. Or maybe I’ll just oak it all. I’m hoping to get to this in relatively short order too (though obviously the oak aging takes a few extra weeks).

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #17: Christmas Ale Rebrew

I have been woefully neglectful of my homebrewing hobby, but it’s no use crying over spilled milk and there’s no time like the present, so let’s get this show back on the road. Enough idioms for you? Good, let’s get to it:

Beer #18: Kaedrin Christmas Ale

Full-Batch (5 gallons)

November 28, 2016

1 lb. Crystal 40 (specialty grain)

2 oz. Roasted Barley (specialty grain)

3.3 lb. Golden Light LME

4 lb. Amber DME

1 lb. Golden Light DME

1 oz. Comet (Bittering @ 9.3% AA)

1 oz. Hallertau Hops (Flavor)

1 tsp Irish Moss

1 tsp Fresh Orange Peel

1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg

1/4 tsp Coriander

2 Cinnamon Sticks

3 Whole Cloves

Wyeast 1272 – American Ale II Yeast

Christmas Ale Rebrew

(Click to Embiggen)

So this is basically the same recipe as Beer #6, brewed way back in 2011. Most of the differences stem from availability rather than any sort of meaningful consideration. That original batch turned out fantastic and may be my overall favorite batch of homebrew, so I didn’t want to change much. I’m cutting it a little close in terms of timing this year (started about 3 weeks earlier back then), but it should be ready to go by Christmas, which will be good enough for me.

No changes to the steeping grains. I added one extra pound of Amber DME because I thought I was a little under target last time (as it turns out, I probably wasn’t). I am using Comet hops instead of Northern Brewer, mostly because the homebrew shop didn’t have the latter and the former has a comparable (slightly higher) Alpha Acid percentage (which, since I’m using more malt, should work out). I’m using fresh orange peel (I peeled it off an orange myself!) because I forgot to get the bitter orange peel when I was shopping and fresh is probably better anyway, amirite? Finally, I went with American Ale II yeast this time, again because homebrew shop had just ran out of regular 1056 American Ale yeast (which is actually pretty surprising).

Original Gravity: 1.072. Hoo boy, I miscalculated something with this beer (target was 1.060, I’m guessing the use of LME is screwing up my normal calculations). Refractometer readings were 17.5-18 Brix. That being said, assuming 75% attenuation, this puts the beer at about 7.3% ABV, which should be fine by me.

I have high hopes for this. I loved the original beer, but I haven’t really attempted to make the same beer very often, and this one has more variables than normal. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll end up enjoying this stuff.

Up next, I’ve been meaning to do a Scotch Ale aged on oak cubes (that are currently soaking in Aberlour A’Bunadh) for a while, so that’s certainly a candidate. Crom Approved might be up for another at bat soon as well. And I also want to do a funky saison, brewed mostly with Brett. Will I get to all of these this year? Probably not! But I’ll give it a shot.

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #17: Crom Approved Rebrew

I’ve been woefully neglectful of my homebrewing hobby of late, and recently decided that I must rebrew my recent failed IPA. As you probably do not recall, I made an IPA using copious amounts of my favorite hops and fermented with the infamous Conan yeast (aka Vermont Ale yeast), then dry hopped with more of my favorite hops. It turned out fantastic, but when I kegged it, I was a little careless and allowed too much dry hop sediment into the keg, which clogged the whole thing up. I tried to salvage the beer by transferring to another keg, but that only served to oxidize the whole thing and basically ruin the batch. Which is a terrible shame, because the limited amout of the stuff I got to try when fresh was fantastic and exactly what I was going for. I mean, perhaps not Heady Topper good, but in the same league as the Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Tired Hands IPAs that I love so much. Drinking the oxidized remnants was a major disappointment, so I thought I should do something I almost never do and rebrew the original recipe. For posterity, here it is, in all it’s glory:

Beer #16: Crom Approved Double IPA

Full-Batch (5 gallons)

November 28, 2015

12 oz. CaraPils (specialty grain)

8 oz. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)

6 lb. Muntons Extra Light DME

1 lb. Muntons Wheat DME

8 oz. Turbinado Sugar

1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @11.1 AA)

1 oz. Amarillo (flavor)

1 oz. Amarillo (aroma)

1 oz. Citra (aroma)

1 oz. Citra (first addition dry hop)

1 oz. Galaxy (first addition dry hop

1 oz. Amarillo (second addition dry hop)

1 oz. Citra (second addition dry hop)

GigaYeast GY054 Vermont IPA Yeast

Crom Approved DIPA Ingredients

(Click to embiggen)

This is basically identical to the previous batch. Minor differences include the fact that the Simcoe hops I procured for the bittering addition were slightly lower in alpha acids, but that only resulted in a dip of about 2 IBUs, which I judge to be fine. Indeed, the original goal with this brew was to produce something light and aromatic, not something punishingly bitter. Also, my turbinado sugar addition was slightly different this time due to the fact that I did not have as much in the pantry as I thought, so I had to compensate with a bottle of liquid sugar that I had laying around. I’m pretty sure I got that amount right, but my guess is that there’s slightly less simple sugar added in this batch. Otherwise, the recipe is the same, and the key component is really the Conan yeast.

As with the last batch, the target is an aromatic 8% ABV Double IPA with attenuation in the 75-80% range (maybe slightly less). The specialty grains and wheat addition will provide a nice malt backbone and platform for the hops, while not being too bitter. IBUs are targeted for slightly less than 50, which is a little low for the BJCP guidelines, but I’m shooting for that newfangled juicy, bright, and citrusy IPA rather than the old school dank and bitter IPA.

Original Gravity: 17.1 Bx, or 1.071, which is slightly lower than the target 1.074. This is not at all troubling since the last batch attenuated higher than expected and got us to something higher than 8%. This batch might hit closer to that target, assuming the yeast does its work.

Once again, I have high hopes for this batch, though I am cautiously optimistic. The last batch turned out great, but I will admit the fermentation of this batch started slow. I brewed this on Saturday, and the airlock was essentially inactive until Monday. It’s bubbling away now, which is heartening, but now that I think about it, I did have the yeast in the fridge for a while, and perhaps it was not as viable as the last batch. Fingers crossed! Dry hopping will commence after this weekend, and this sucker will be kegged by 12/13. It will be a nice Christmas present, I think.

Next up? I’m not sure. I was thinking about making a small batch of wild ale (not sure what exactly I’ll patter that after, but I’m looking at a full Brett/bacteria fermentation, rather than my previous mixed fermentation approach), but I’ve also been planning a Scotch Ale (which will, of course, be partially aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes). Only time will tell. Since both of those are time intensive, I might even get to brewing them sooner rather than later, even though they won’t be ready for a few months (at which time, I’m sure the keg will be clear of Crom Approved!) At this point, I’m leaning towards Scotch Ale, because we’re heading into winter, and that boozy, malty style is probably better suited for the season… We shall see. In the meantime, may Crom bless my current batch of beer. I’m sure the god of steel would appreciate such a brew!

(Cross Posted to Kaedrin Weblog)

The Enigma of Dry Hopping

My Crom-approved, Conan yeast DIPA (tentatively titled The Enigma of Steel) has been happily fermenting away for about two weeks now, and it’s been dry hopped for the past week or so. In previous batches, I only dry hopped with 1 or 2 ounces, but this time, I went with two additions of 2 ounces, because why not? Can’t have enough aroma, I say. So here’s what I used:

1 oz. Citra (first addition, about 8 days)

1 oz. Galaxy (first addition, about 8 days)

1 oz. Citra (second addition, about 3 days)

1 oz. Amarillo (second addition, about 3 days)

That Galaxy smelled absolutely fantastic, and makes me want to do a down under IPA of some sort (incorporating stuff like Motueka and Riwaka, maybe Nelson Sauvin). Anywho, kegging will commence in the next couple days, and I’m really looking forward to this sucker. The fermenter itself smells rather awesome. Cannot wait.

Update 3/26/15: And it’s in the keg! It smells absolutely amazing. All sorts of juicy tropical fruits, just a little floral character, pretty much exactly what I was going for. Now I just need to force carbonate it. This is going to be so great. The little sample in the picture below is a bit on the turbid side because all the sediment is coming out of the keg right now, but it has a nice light color and will look great once the yeast settles and gets expelled…

Crom Approved

Final Gravity: 9 Bx, which translates to 1.012 and about 8.1% ABV. This is definitely a higher attenuation than I was expecting (somewhere around 83%), but it seems to be working out well enough. The bitterness in what I sampled seemed pretty light (exactly what I wanted), so the high attenuation actually matches my strategy well.

Trying to decide what my next batch will be. I was originally thinking about some sort of summer saison, but I might be able to squeeze something in before it gets warmer out…

Update 3/29/15: It appears that my zeal in dry hopping and lack of vigilance in transferring the beef from the fermenter to the keg means that too much hop sediment made its way into the keg and have now clogged up the dip tube (i.e. the tube thingy that the beer goes through on its way to the tap). This is most distressing! I tried letting it sit a couple of days, I tried agitating the keg a bit, and I even tried throwing the CO2 line in through the out connector (i.e. shooting CO2 down the dip tube), but it’s still clogged. I was really hoping to get this resolved without having to crack open the keg, but that seems unlikely at this point. I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose some aroma when I release the pressure, and I want to avoid doing that as much as possible. I actually grabbed another keg, and will be racking the beer from the clogged keg to the new one, being extra careful while transferring to ensure no sediment makes its way through (will probably use one of those mesh strainer bags over the end of the racking cane to minimize debris). Lesson learned!