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Mangrove Jack’s IPA Barrel Brown

The Recipe

Name: Mangrove Jack's IPA Barrel Brown
Batch size: 5 gallons (partial mash)
Expected OG: 1.076
Expected IBU: 58
Mash: 2 hours @ 148°F

 3.0 lbs Pilsen LME
 4.7 lbs Mangrove Jack's IPA pouch kit (LME)
 1.0 lbs Maris Otter
12.0 oz  UK Pale Chocolate 350L
12.0 oz  Briess C40L
 8.0 oz  Briess Goldpils Vienna
 4.0 oz  UK Dark Crystal 150L
 2.0 oz  Special B
 2.0 oz  Roast Barley

   Whatever the IBU of Mangrove Jack's IPA was in 5 gallons
   2.0 oz Cascade  5.5%AA @ 5m

1 pack Safale S-04
1 pack Mangrove Jack's M07 (British Ale)

Notes

This was a clean-the-house brew.  The Pilsen LME had been sitting around (albeit refrigerated) for at least 8 months.  The Mangrove Jack’s IPA pouch kit was “Best Before End 03/2017”.  The C40, Special B, and Roast Barley came from a Midwest Supplies Irish Red Ale kit’s steeping grains, also at least 8 months old.  Finally, the Briess Goldpils malt was also at least 8 months old and didn’t taste very fresh.

Why the hell not?  To make it even better, we’re going to barrel this for a month or two and have a strong barreled brown ale.

We got 1.25 gallons of partial mash wort at 17° Plato wort (1.070, or 1.018 in 5 gallons).  We then added the Mangrove Jack’s and Pils extracts and topped up to 1.8 gallons for our short boil.  Topping up to 5 gallons we achieved an original gravity of 1.076, right on target.  After minor oxygenation we pitched two packs of rehydrated yeast, Safale S-04 and Mangrove Jack’s M07.  Both are apparently Whitbread-derived strains so the profile should be similar.

Unfortunately, after two weeks at 67°F fermentation stopped at 1.023, or about 7.4% ABV.  That’s not good enough, so we made a large starter of Wyeast 3711 French Saison (which is recommended for stuck fermentations) and pitched that.  Fermentation started up again and is still going after a week.  The yeast combination should be interesting, especially after it’s been in the barrel for a while.

Mangrove Jack’s

There are a few Mangrove Jack’s pouch kit Youtube reviews from New Zealand (where Mangrove Jack’s is based) but nothing from the northern hemisphere.  They seem like a step up from Munton’s or Cooper’s pre-hopped kits.  Plus Adventures in Homebrewing keeps having $16 sales on them.

We also picked up the London Bitter and American Pale Ale with Dry Hops pouch kits, which we’re going to brew straight-up, though with Briess Pale Ale DME instead of the included 2.2lbs of corn sugar.  We’ll review each of them in their own right, so you have some clue whether they’re the king of the pre-hopped mountain.

Quick English IPA

The Recipe

Name: Quick English IPA
Batch size: 5 gallons (partial mash)
Expected OG: 1.066
Expected IBU: 62
Mash: 30m @ 148°F

 6.0 lbs Maris Otter LME
 3.0 lbs Maris Otter malt
 3.0 oz  UK Dark Crystal 150L

   1.0 oz Target             12.5%AA @ 20m
   1.0 oz East Kent Goldings  4.6%AA @ 20m
   1.0 oz East Kent Goldings  4.6%AA @ 10m
       Yeast nutrient and Whirlfloc

1 pack Safale S-04

Notes

The goal for this batch was “can we brew it in 3 hours?”.  We started heating strike water at 8:10am and were cleaned up by 11:30am.

We saved time in a couple ways:

  1. 30 minute mash with a fine crush; our recirculating E-BIAB system can deal with finely ground grain, which speeds up conversion.  We reached full conversion (tested with iodine) with time to spare.
  2. Short boil: we used high-alpha bittering hops to increase bitterness from the 20 minute addition, which is calculated at 53 IBU between the Target and EKG.
  3. No-chill; we dump boiled wort directly into sanitized kegs for fermentation, so there is little risk of infection by not chilling.  This also increases bitterness as the hop alpha acids are still being isomerized while the boiling wort is chilling.  We left the wort in an unheated space at 35F for 24 hours before pitching yeast.

We achieved 80% efficiency on our mash, with 4 gallons of 1.028 wort, to which we added the 6lbs of Pils extract.  Our original gravity into the fermenter was right on target at 1.068.

Unfortunately, fermentation stopped at 1.019, quite a bit higher than we were hoping. Whether that’s because of the malt extract, too little pitched yeast, or oxygenation not working well at 200F, we’re not sure.  But it tastes pretty good and is currently carbonating itself with a spunding valve.

Update

Having stopped at 1.019 it was a bit too thick of a beer.  So we grew a starter of Wyeast 3711 French Saison (which Wyeast recommends for stuck fermentations) and pitched that into the warmed keg.  Let’s see what happens…

Muntons Connoisseurs Export Pilsner

What if we took what some would consider mediocre ingredients and tried to make great beer from them?  Let’s see:

The Recipe

Name: Muntons Connoisseurs Export Pilsner
Batch size: 4.75 gallons
Expected OG: 1.050
Expected IBU: ??
Mash: none

   1 can Muntons Connoisseurs Export Pilsner hopped extract kit
 1.0 lb  Brewers Crystals
 1.0 lb  Turbinado sugar
         Yeast nutrient

2 packs Wyeast 2000 Budvar Lager

Notes

This isn’t a total slum-brew since we’re not just using 2 lbs of table sugar.  Instead, we had some Brewers Crystals lying around which we decided to use.  These look like corn sugar (dextrose) and are in fact made from corn, but mimic the fermentability profile of regular barley wort by containing mostly maltose and some unfermentable sugars.  They boost alcohol without losing body.

We’re also using Turbinado sugar because why not; maybe they’ll add some interesting flavors to an otherwise lower-gravity kit.  It might turn out that the flavor doesn’t quite work in what’s supposed to be a pretty clean beer, but we’re hopeful.

We hit 1.052 original gravity and lazy-chilled to 53°F before pitching 2 packs of Wyeast Budvar Lager.  We did not aerate, though we probably should have.  10 days after pitching we raised the temperature to 63°F for a diacetyl rest and to help the yeast finish the ferment.  11 days after pitching the gravity had dropped to 1.018, and 16 days after pitching it was still dropping at 1.016.  We haven’t checked it again yet but we’d like to end somewhere around 1.013.  Whenever it’s done, we’ll cold-crash for a few days then rack over to a serving keg for the lagering process.

3/26/2017 Update

It finished at 1.014 and tasted like Chardonnay during kegging.  We’re not sure if that’s due to lager yeast not liking Turbinado sugar or what.  It cleaned up in the keg, but it still has a wine-like taste when it gets warm.  But serve it chilled at 35 degrees and it’s kinda like Grain Belt: kinda-not-really hoppy, with a slightly sweet finish. It’s actually not bad for what it is, but we were hoping for a cleaner beer.

Next time: maybe use Pils malt extract or dextrose instead of Brewer’s Crystals and Turbinado.

Cascade Fresh Hop

 The Recipe

Name: Cascade Fresh Hop
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.057
Expected IBU: 62
Mash: 60m @ 154°F

 9.0 lbs De Swaen Pale
 1.0 lbs Briess Goldpils Vienna

   0.75 oz  Warrior     15.0%AA @ 60m
   0.25 oz  Warrior     15.0%AA @  5m
   16.0 oz  Wet Cascade         @  5m
         Whirlpool for 45 minutes

1 pack Safale S-05

Notes

Cascade hops were picked during the mash and tossed right into the boil.  Kept the grain bill simple to see what the Dutch De Swaen malt tastes like.  Though subtle, it’s good and we’d definitely use it again.  OG of 1.055 fermented down to 1.014 for a smooth 5.4% ABV.  Hop flavor was excellent.

Centennial/Simcoe/Cascade IPA

 The Recipe

Name: Centennial/Simcoe/Cascade IPA
Batch size: 15 gallons
Expected OG: 1.069
Expected IBU: 90
Mash: 70m @ 149°F
Salts: 9g gypsum

37.0  lbs Rahr 2-row
 1.5  lbs Briess C10L
 0.75 lbs Briess C40L
 0.5  lbs Briess Carapils
 2.0  oz  Black malt (for color)

   3 oz  Centennial  8.9%AA @ First Wort Hops
   3 oz  Centennial  8.9%AA @ 60m
   3 oz  Cascade     6.6%AA @ 15m
         Yeast Nutrient     @ 10m
   6 oz  Simcoe     13.0%AA @  5m
   3 oz  Centennial  8.9%AA @  0m
   3 oz  Cascade     6.6%AA @  0m
         Whirlpool for 15 minutes
   4 oz   Simcoe     (dry hop 8 days)
   2.4 oz Centennial (dry hop 8 days)
   2.9 oz Cascade    (dry hop 8 days)

6 packs Safale S-05

Notes

For whatever reason, efficiency was great on this one.  Began fermentation at 1.072 and ended at 1.012 for 7.8% ABV.  After two weeks in primary, it got kegged, dry hopped, cold conditioned for two weeks, and served.  Tasted like a great IPA, and after six to eight weeks tasted like a great double IPA without the alcohol burn.

Double IPA

 The Recipe

Name: Double IPA
Batch size: 3 gallons
Expected OG: 1.087 (65% efficiency)
Expected IBU: 100+
Mash: 90m @ 150°F

 6.25 lbs Muntons Maris Otter
 2.0  lbs Best Pils
 0.75 lbs Turbinado sugar
 0.5  lbs Briess C10L

 1.0 oz  Columbus 16.6%AA @ First Wort Hop
 0.75 oz Columbus 16.6%AA @ 60m
         Yeast Nutrient   @ 10m
 3 oz    Simcoe   12.3%AA @  0m
         Whirlpool for 20 minutes
 1 oz    Simcoe   12.3%AA (Dry Hop 5 days)

2 packs Safale S-05

Notes

Hit 1.085 and fermented down to 1.014 for 9.3% ABV.  Good after 8 days in the keg, and gets better with time.  But judged too harsh at 2016 NHC.

Imperial Barrel Aged Amber

 The Recipe

Name: Imperial Amber
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.094 (65% efficiency)
Expected FG: 1.024
Expected IBU: 180
Mash: 90m @ 152°F

13.5 lbs Muntons Maris Otter
 2.3 lbs Briess Victory
 2.0 lbs Weyermann Dark Munich 10L
 2.0 lbs Thomas Fawcett Amber
 1.0 lb  Briess C40L
 1.0 lb  Briess C120L

   2 oz  Warrior    15.0%AA @ 60m
   2 oz  Cascade     6.4%AA @ 10m
         Yeast Nutrient     @ 10m
   2 oz  Cascade     6.4%AA @  5m
         Whirlpool for 15 minutes

2 packs Safale S-05

Notes

We nailed the original gravity at 1.094.  But since it was fermented at ambient temperatures during February it got down to 59°F at night it only finished around 1.035.  Regardless, we barreled it into a freshly dumped 11 Wells 6 gallon whiskey barrel.  To help reduce the gravity further we brewed up a 1 gallon batch with 3.15lbs of Amber LME and 1oz Centennial @ 8.7%AA boiled for 10 minutes and fermented it for 3 days with one pack of S-05.  At peak fermentation we added the small batch to the barrel.  One month later we kegged and got 5.5 gallons of 1.024 wort for a final ABV of 9.5%, not including any whiskey from the barrel wood.

It’s great and it keeps getting better.

Pumpkin #2

The Recipe

Name: Pumpkin #3
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.067 (75% efficiency)
Expected FG: 1.016
Expected IBU: 45
Mash: 90m @ 152°F

 8.0 lbs Rahr 2-Row
 3.5 lbs Weyermann Dark Munich 10L
   8 oz  Briess Victory
   8 oz  Muntons C60L
   8 oz  Briess C120L
   8 oz  Belgian aromatic
   3     pie pumpkins (6.5 lbs before roasting)

   1 oz  Northdown   6.2%AA @ 60m
 0.5 oz  Northdown   5.5%AA @ 60m
   1 oz  Willamette  5.5%AA @ 15m
   1 oz  Willamette  5.5%AA @ 10m
 1/2 tsp cinnamon           @ 10m
 1/4 tsp ginger             @ 10m
 1/8 tsp nutmeg             @ 10m
 1/8 tsp allspice           @ 10m
         Whirlfloc          @ 10m
         Yeast Nutrient     @ 10m
   1 oz  Willamette  5.5%AA @  5m
 0.5 oz  Northdown   5.5%AA @  5m
         Whirlpool for 15 minutes

1 pack Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Notes

We wanted a maltier flavor so we swapped out some of the 2-row for an equal amount of dark Munich and bumped up the aromatic malt a bit.  We also wanted slightly more bitterness, so we added some hops at the 60 minute mark.

Wyeast 1272 is very active fermenter, blowing foam out the airlock both times we’ve used it even with Fermcap S.  Unfortunately that also blows out some of the spice mixture, resulting in somewhat muted pumpkin spice flavors.  We’ll probably use HDPE buckets next time instead of kegs to preserve the spices.

But this beer doesn’t quit.  We brewed it in early December and blew the keg in early April, and it was just as good at the end.

Wet Hop Pale

Last Time (2014)

halfhopOur previous Fresh Hop IPA had a flavor we can only describe as “plastic”.  We attribute that to two things.  First, we picked the hops on a Saturday and brewed with them on a Monday.  While the hops were stored in a cool, dry place during that time, they did begin to oxidize.  Second, we used almost 5 pounds of fresh hops, which may have contributed a distinct grassy flavor.  How can we do better this year?

This Time (2015)

wethop-pickedThis year we went back to the basics.  A simple pale ale of just two-row, a touch of wheat, and a pinch of the lightest crystal you can buy.  We used a good clean bittering hop at the start and all our wet hops at the end, allowing the wet hops to shine through in the flavor and aroma without too much malt interference.  Commercial bittering hops will provide a known level of IBUs that we simply couldn’t estimate if we used our own wet hops.

We also picked the hops during the mash and pre-boil and ran them 30 feet back to the kettle to toss them in at the end of the boil.  You can’t get any fresher than that.

The Recipe

Name: Wet Hop #2
Batch size: 5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.051 (75% efficiency)
Expected FG: 1.014
Expected IBU: 50
Mash: 90m @ 149°F

  8.75 lbs Rahr 2-row pale
  1.0  lbs Rahr white wheat malt
  0.25 lbs Briess Crystal 10L

  1.0 oz Warrior 14.7% AA @ 60m
  3.5 oz Fresh picked Cascade @ 5m
  3.5 oz Fresh picked Cascade @ 0m
    1 hour hopstand
  1 pack Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

The Brew

wethop-mashinThis is a 5 gallon batch, but we brewed it on our 3 gallon system to a higher gravity and diluted with filtered water up to 5 gallons.  Using the 3 gallon BIAB system meant we could brew outside, right next to the hops, enjoying the last gasps of fall before the long, cold winter.

The mash went well and we started our boil with 3.9 gallons at 1.068.  We boiled down to 3 gallons, picking our Cascade hops right off the vine during the boil and throwing them in at the 5 minute and 0 minute marks.  After a long hop-stand when the boil was done, we got a bit over 3 gallons of 1.083 wort and diluted that with 1.5 gallons of cold filtered water to a final 4.5 gallons of 1.055 wort.

After fermentation at 67°F for two weeks got the beer down to 1.008 for 6% ABV, quite a bit higher than we expected.  But the beer was excellent, well balanced, and a huge improvement over last year.

 

Growing Hops

baby-cascadeLast year we brewed a wet hop IPA with hops we picked from some friends. For reasons we’ll talk about later, it didn’t turn out that well.  But we had enough fun picking the hops that we thought we’d plant our own this year.

Nobody except hop breeders grow hops from seed.  Instead you buy rhizomes, which are short pieces of hop root from which the hop vines (actually called bines) will grow.  Rhizomes can typically be pre-ordered in February, are cut from existing hop plants around late March or early April, and shipped to your door in an opaque, sandwich-sized bag.  They must be kept cool and moist until the ground is thawed enough to dig, but late enough that the hop shoots won’t get hit with too much frost.

Planting

Hops grow quickly and often take over whatever structure or plant they are near.  But they also spread quickly underground too, expanding their root system through the rhizome.  Since the hop vines can grow at any point along the root system, it’s common for new shoots to pop up far away from where the original plant is established.  Most people seem to just mow them off or remove them.  To us, that seemed like a lot of work over many years, and we’d rather do a lot of work once and never again.

rhizome-barrierInstead you can buy “rhizome barrier”, which is thick flexible rolled plastic typically used for bamboo, another plant that spreads vigorously through rhizomes.  This should be buried 18 inches below the surface around the entire area where your hops will be growing, with a few inches left above to ensure the hop roots don’t jump over the top.  When the roots hit the rhizome barrier they have nowhere else to go.  Simple!

Hop rhizomes should be planted 1 or 2 inches deep in a hole filled with compost or soil mixed with slow-release fertilizers.  Don’t over-do it on the fertilizer since you can always add more later, but tons of compost is fine.  Hop rhizomes actually have a “top” side, but if you’re not sure which side is which, planting them horizontally is fine too.

Growing

baby-willametteHops require lots of nutrients and water, but if you’re fertilizing them it’s easy to use the wrong mix or the right mix at the wrong time.  It’s also easy to over-water them, so make sure they are planted in an area with good drainage.  Short, frequent watering is better to ensure the soil doesn’t stay too wet.   But you can’t go wrong adding more compost around the plant, especially after harvest, and mulching is a great option to conserve water and keep weeds away.

Once you have shoots about a foot long, choose the strongest two or three and clip the rest.  While it may seem like you’re going to kill the plant, you won’t.  Selecting the the best shoots lets the plant concentrate its energy towards growing hop cones instead of growing hop bines.  Train the shoots up a trellis or hop coir (thick twine) to a rope strung between poles, though any high anchor point like the side of a building will do.  If you don’t have poles you can grow them horizontally along a fence too.

stakesAt some point they stop growing up, and start growing out by creating “sidearms” from the branch of the leaves and the main vine.  These are where the hop flowers will actually grow instead of on the main vine.  When the sidearms get long enough you’ll need to make sure they have somewhere to grow too, by either training them up the main bine or letting them attach to a trellis if you have one.

Harvesting

halfhopSometime in August or early September, depending on your climate, the cones that grow from the hop flowers will be ready to harvest.  Since this is nature, different parts of the same plant and even different plants might be ready to harvest at different times, so you need to monitor their progress.  When the hop cones have a papery feel, when they spring back to shape when you press them, and when they have that great hop aroma when you crush them by rolling them around in your hands, they are ready to pick.  You can also cut one in half vertically with a sharp knife and look for the lupulin glands in the middle of the hop; if they are abundant and bright yellow, it’s probably ready.

After picking you must either use the hops within 24 hours or dry them.  Hops will oxidize, spoil, rot, and mold if left too long, so if you can pick them and immediately toss them into boiling wort you’re doing it right.  But if you want to dry them for later use, putting the hops onto a window screens on top of box fans will do the job after a few days, provided you turn the hops periodically.

After the harvest you can cut the hop bines near the base and discard the bines and leaves.  Don’t compost them if they had any kind of disease.  Then cover the base of the hop with some compost and mulch, and leave for next year!