With the Belgian pale ale and Belgian dubbel both done fermenting and going into kegs, it was time for me to get one last batch out of this yeast. I figured that it’s been a long time since I made a big beer, so now was the time to get back into it.

Belgian quads, or dark strong ales, have been a personal favorite for a long time, but I’ve never actually brewed one. I started with aromatic malt and special b to build up the malty backbone of the beer and all of the dark fruit and caramel flavors. To keep the beer from getting too thick while increasing the alcohol, I used Turbinado sugar, which gives a hint of dry molasses to a beer (in my experience). So the whole grain bill was:

  • 15.50 lb Pilsner malt
  • 2.50 lb Munich malt
  • 1.75 lb Aromatic malt
  • 1.25 lb Special B
  • 2.00 lb Turbinado sugar

The hop schedule was light and mellow, as they’re really only there to balance some of the sweetness and add a little complexity to the aroma.

  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (9.6% Alpha Acid, 60 minutes)
  • 0.75 oz Northern Brewer (15 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz Spalter (5% Alpha Acid, End of Boil)

The one spice I used in the beer was 10 grams of licorice root. We use it in our Abbey Ale at work, and I really like that kind of mouthfeel it adds to a dark beer. This was added 15 minutes before the boil ended.

For such a large beer, the lauter was extremely smooth and uneventful for this batch. It took about 40 minutes to collect a bit over 8 gallons of wort. As it was really thick, I wound up under-boiling it, so I got 7 gallons post-boil and ran 5.5 gallons of that into the fermentation tank. The gravity came in a little low because of the underboil. 1.094 is still fine, and still gives me 75% efficiency with my system, which is higher than I was expecting for a high gravity beer.

The water additions were minor in this one. Two grams of calcium sulfate, three grams of calcium chloride, and four grams of calcium carbonate. The mash pH was 5.53 and the temperature was 149F, so perfect conditions to get a highly fermentable wort. The yeast was pitched at 68F, and I’m hoping to get it to rise up to about 75F over the next day or two to really get that yeast’s character to show through.

Now it’s on to planning my 100th batch…

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In my continuing quest to improve, and become satisfied with, my mocha porter, I made a revised version of it yesterday. This was the first time I’ve made it since I got my pH meter, and all of my dark beers have been on the low side for pH, so I made some adjustments to the water chemistry.

The first two versions of this beer had a bit of a dry, bitter bite to them. That was more evident in the first, and was cut down in the second as I dropped some hops out and added the cocoa after the boil was over. This time I jacked the calcium carbonate up a bunch to help buffer the pH, and added some crystal malt to add some sweetness to balance any bitterness.

The pH of the mash came in at 5.45, which fits perfectly in my target range of 5.30-5.50. Keeping the mash pH from getting too low will help avoid extracting tannins from the grain, and it will let the enzymes work at a more optimal rate to ensure good efficiency. Of course you’ll find lots of opinions on what the optimal pH range is, but I try to keep it safe and go with 5.30-5.50. That range WILL work, so I see no need to change things.

So the grain bill changed a little bit from last time. I dropped the Munich malt down a bit and replaced what was lost with more pale malt. Some of the oats were replaced with my remaining Simpsons Golden Naked Oats, as I forgot to buy a second pound of Quaker instant oats (oops). I also decided to replace the small amount of Carafa III Special with more Carafa II Special, as the little bit of III that was in there didn’t seem like enough to make a flavor difference. It also helped simplify my grain bill, which I always like to do. The big change, though, was the addition of some 80L crystal malt. That’s a darker crystal malt that will lend some dark caramel flavors and some supporting sweetness to the beer.

  • 11.25 lb Pale Malt
  • 18 oz Flaked Oats
  • 8 oz Golden Naked Oats
  • 1.50 lb Munich Malt
  • 1.00 lb Carafa II Special
  • 0.75 lb Crystal 80L

The hops and cocoa were left pretty much unchanged

  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (5 minutes)
  • 2.00 oz Challenger (End of Boil, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 5.00 oz Unsweetened Baker’s Cocoa Powder (End of Boil)
  • 1.00 oz Lightly Crushed Coffee Beans (dry hop addition) [not sure yet which type of coffee I’ll use this time]

So, all the other details of this guy… I used my standard 1.25 quarts per pound ratio for the mash, and mashed at 156F for 60 minutes. Because I don’t use a mash-out procedure to denature the enzymes, I start vorlaufing 15 minutes before the mash is over. It’s been working pretty well, and speeding up the brewday somewhat, so I just keep rolling with it.

The boil volume was 8.12 gallons, which got down to 6.70 gallons. 5.20 gallons were pitched onto the yeast cake from my previous Dark Mild, which was a Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast. I pitched it at 68F with a starting gravity of 1.069, giving me 80% efficiency. The wort pH was on the money at 5.24.

Oh, the water additions were as follows:

  • 3gm Calcium Sulfate (in the mash)
  • 4gm Calcium Chloride (in the mash)
  • 8gm Calcium Carbonate (in the mash)
  • 4gm Calcium Sulfate (in the boil)
  • 5gm Calcium Chloride (in the boil)

So yesterday before I went to work, I got back to brewing English session beers. I wanted to make another dark mild ale, as that tends to be my favorite lower alcohol beer to keep around, but I decided to use it to experiment with a couple malts I’ve been curious about.

The first malt I wanted to try out was mild ale malt. It’s an English malt that’s kilned a bit higher than pale malt, so it’s a bit darker and I wanted to see what kind of flavor difference it would give. The other malt was pale chocolate malt. I’m not really sure what kind of difference to expect, but I was hoping maybe it’ll smooth out the flavor profile a little bit.

The malt bill wound up being:

  • 7.00 lb Mild Ale Malt
  • 10 oz Crystal 60L
  • 8 oz Pale Chocolate Malt
  • 6 oz Carafa II Special

The hop profile was basically the same as all the other dark milds I make:

  • 0.50 oz Northern Brewer (60 minutes, 9.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Northern Brewer (15 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Northern Brewer (End of Boil)

The mash profile was pretty standard: 2.5 gallons of mash water, 154F mash temperature for an hour, 6.75 gallons of sparge water. The water additions were: 4gm calcium sulfate, 8gm calcium chloride, and 2gm calcium carbonate. My efficiency wound up over 80%, and the original gravity was 1.040.

Overall it was a pretty smooth brewday. And the best thing is that this style is usually in a keg for me about a week after I brew it, so I’ll be able to try the experiment pretty soon.

This weekend I had a friend from Albany in town to help me brew. He’s getting ready to upgrade his system so he can do all-grain batches, and wanted to see an all-grain brewday in person. I had Ryan help me brew my favorite recipe, the Amarillo IPA.

The Amarillo IPA is my best house beer, and the only change I had to make to it this time was recalculating the hop additions based on the higher alpha acid content of this year’s Amarillo crop. The only issue during the brewday was that we oversparged a bit, so I tacked on 15 minutes to the boil and we wound up hitting our gravity and volume targets perfectly. It’s currently bubbling away in the fermentor.

Just in time for this weekend, I found a place to get my CO2 cylinder refilled so I could get my chest freezer full of carbonated kegs. The dark mild ale, pale ale, and Munich pale ale are all carbonated and on tap now, finally.

Dark Mild – This current version of the dark mild came out really nice. The increased hop rate helped the hops come through just enough to be noticeable. Adding flaked oats and reducing the crystal malt gave the beer a smoother and less cloying body. All in all this batch really came out well, and tastes significantly bigger than the 3.9% ABV that it contains. I may play with the recipe again at some point, but for now I’ll call it finalized.

Munich Pale Ale – This was just an experiment to see what a beer would be like if it was almost all Munich malt. It’s a very deep amber color with a rich malty sweetness. Galena and Northern Brewer hops give it a slightly sweet citrus aroma and flavor with some nice spiciness in the background. The bitterness is pretty well balanced and the body is fairly full. I’d say it was a successful experiment, and could the base for a really nice amber ale in the future.

Pale Ale – Given how few beers in Cooperstown are remotely hoppy, I made this beer to be strongly bitter up front with lots of hop character. When I tasted it near the end of fermentation I thought I had gone too overboard with the bittering addition. Now that it’s carbonated and chilled, I really like where it is. The aroma is full of citrus, resin, and pine. The body is light, with a dark straw color. Up front, the bitterness is strong and prominent, but smooth and resiny. The bitterness lingers, but not for long. I really like how this turned out. I’m considering brewing it again with a higher gravity to make an IPA out of it. That could turn out really nice. At 5.3% ABV, it’s not gonna last long.

Last month I brewed a batch of a mocha porter that was a combination of two recipes I made last year, a chocolate porter and a coffee porter, after mixing the two beers together and finding it to be awesome. The recipe didn’t come out exactly as I’d hoped, so there were several issues I needed to deal with the next time I brewed it.

The main issue with the beer is that it had a bitterness that too strong and overwhelming to the rest of the flavors. It’s kind of a sharp, lingering bitterness on the back of the tongue that makes the beer less drinkable. To combat this I actually looked at a number of solutions. First up was reducing the bittering hop addition. I dropped the bittering addition from 30 IBUs, which was way too high, to 21 this time. Coupling a strong hop bitterness with lots of acidic roasted malts and coffee beans and cocoa powder means it’s easy to go overboard.

The next thing I looked at was the roasted grain in the recipe. I used a combo of chocolate malt and carafa II special. Carafa II special is a German malt that is roasted to the level of chocolate malt and dehusked. Removing the husk reduces the level of astringency you can extract from a roasted grain, so it lends a smoother roasted character than a chocolate malt or a roasted barley would. For today’s batch I dumped the chocolate malt entirely and went with a mix of carafa II special and carafa III special. That should help raise the mash pH and kill any astringency from the grain.

The last change I made for the sake of reducing bitterness was small, but important. Last time I added the cocoa powder with 15 minutes left in the boil. In all of the chocolate beers I’ve ever made, I’ve NEVER added the cocoa powder before the end of the boil. I honestly have no idea why I moved it back by 15 minutes, but it was silly. I’ve corrected that mistake today.

In addition to above, the other major concern was that the coffee flavor and aroma were overpowering all the other aspects of the beer. This time I’m planning to reduce my coffee addition to one ounce in the secondary so, hopefully, it’ll come out more subtle than last time.

Mocha Porter

 

 

Boil Volume: 8.40 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.78 gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5.00 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.069

Efficiency: 81%

Malt

  • 10.50 lb Pal Malt
  •   2.00 lb Munich Malt
  •   1.50 lb Flaked Oats
  • 18.00 oz Carafa II Special
  •   6.00 oz Carafa III Special
Hops
  • 1.00 oz N Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 2.00 oz N Brewer (5 minutes)
  • 2.00 oz Challenger (End of Boil, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
Water Additions
  • 4 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 4 gm Calcium Sulfate
  • 8 gm Calcium Chloride
Yeast
Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast cake
Mash
  • Strike with 4.75 gallons at 170F
  • Mash at 156F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 6 gallons at 180F

 

 

Since the last post I’ve managed to get two batches bottled, and brewed a new one today. It’s been six days since I bottled the mocha porter, and two days since I bottled the amber ale.  I did a carbonation test on the mocha porter earlier tonight and it was really solid (though not fully carbonated yet). It has a nice roasted coffee aroma, a sweet chocolate taste up front, and a lightly bitter coffee flavor at the end. I’m quite pleased, though I’d probably tone the coffee down just slightly next time.

The sample of the amber ale that I tried after bottling it was also quite nice. It came in at 4.2%, which is what I wanted. There’s a nice rich malty character with a balanced bitterness and a solid up front hop American hop character. This will be a full flavored session beer through and through. I like the pine aroma combined with a subdued citrus character.

Today’s brew was kind of an experiment. The only base malt I have at the moment is Munich, which is kilned higher so it’s sweeter and maltier than pale malt. I decided to make a pale ale using mostly Munich malt to see what I could get out of it. A little caramel Munich will give it a bit of body and sweetness. I used a combination of Northern Brewer and Galena hops to give it sort of a noble earthy character to go with the rich malty character from the Munich malt. I guess this could be considered an American ale version of the Munich Dunkel dark lager style from Germany. It should be a decent session beer regardless.

Pale Ale

Boil Volume: 8.33 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.50 gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5.00 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.053

Efficiency: 80%

Malt

  • 11.00 lb Munich
  •   0.75 lb CaraMunich
Hops
  • 0.50 oz Galena (60 minutes, 11% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz N Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz N Brewer (15 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz Galena (5 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz N Brewer (End of Boil)
  • 1.00 oz Galena (End of Boil)
Mash
  • Strike with 3.25 Gallons at 168F
  • Mash at 150F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 6.75 Gallons at 180F
Water Additions
  • 3 gm Calcium Chloride
  • 8 gm Calcium Sulfate
Yeast
Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale Yeast

Yesterday I finally got around to brewing my first attempt at combining the coffee porter and chocolate porter recipes that blended really well last year. Because the mix that was so good was a 50-50 blend, I started with halving the ingredients of each recipe and putting them together. After some modifications to clean up the recipe, I think I have the beginning of a really good winter beer.

Chocolate Coffee Porter
Boil Volume:                 8.06 Gallons

Batch Volume:             6.90 Gallons

Fermenter Volume:   5.00 Gallons

Starting Gravity:       1.066

Efficiency:                     75%

Malt

  • 11.75 lb Maris Otter
  •   1.25 lb Chocolate Malt
  •   1.25 lb Munich
  •   1.25 lb Flaked Oats
  •   0.75 lb Carafa II Special

 

Hops

  • 1.50 oz Northern Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (15 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (End of Boil)

Additional Ingredients

  • 5 oz Unsweetened Baker’s Cocoa Powder (15 minutes before end of boil)
  • 2 oz Nicaraguan Segovia Coffee Beans (lightly ground, added to secondary)
Mash

  • Strike with 5 gallons at 174F
  • Mash at 152F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 5.75 gallons at 180F

 

Yeast
1098 British Ale Yeast

 

Water Additions

  • 2 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 4 gm Calcium Sulfate
  • 8 gm Calcium Chloride