Hoppy Grinchmas

Hoppy Grinchmas glass

Hoppy Grinchmas

On 11/11/14 I brewed my second winter seasonal beer, Hoppy Grinchmas.  This beer is an Imperial Red Ale.  I’ve been wanting to make one of these for some time.  I had one by Revolution called Red Skull that I thought was great, Lagunitas makes a great one just called Imperial Red, and I also really enjoyed Blood of the Unicorn by Pipeworks.  There are a number of other great beers of this type, these were just the first to spring to mind.  The thing these reds have in common is that while they have a strong hop presence, they aren’t red IPAs.  After the hop bite up front, there is a nice balance of hop flavor and malt.  There should be nice bread like notes, as well as some caramel malt sweetness, and maybe some slight dark fruity flavors.  There should be some nice body to this beer as well.  The holiday season seemed like a good time to brew this beer.  The past two Christmas seasons, I had brewed a spiced ale similar to Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  While I enjoy those beers, I always get tired of spiced beer about half way through the batch, so I decided to try something new.

This beer was a 2.7 gal batch going into my little keg fermenter.  I still have quite a bit of beer in the fridge from prior batches, and I just brewed a big batch of my Black Rye IPA, so I kept this one small.  Plus, this is a new recipe that I’m trying here, so this is a bit of a test batch too.

On to the brew day itself.  I did this on my stove top on my day off commemorating Veteran’s Day.  Thanks to all who served so that I have the freedom to enjoy this hobby, and I have friends and family who are vets, so special thanks to them.  The day went pretty smoothly.  I did a couple last minute recipe adjustments.  These were small, and the main one was adding a couple ounces of DME.  I realized just prior to brewing that I typically have been getting less than 75% efficiency on my small batches, so I adjusted with some DME to correct that.  I mashed at 154 for an hour.

HG brew day

My sophisticated stove top small batch setup. The towels are wrapped around my mash tun/brew kettle to keep the mash temp steady.

HG Boil

I boiled for an hour and then took the kettle outside and ran my chiller.  It was a pretty cool day out, and the water from the outside faucets is getting cold, so chilling a small batch went quick.  I took my hydrometer reading, and the OG was 1.077, just one point off.  I pitched my liter yeast starter of Wyeast 1098.

All in all it was a pretty relaxed brew day.  I was alone, just me and the dog, so I had some movies going all day while I brewed.  Quite a bit different from the social events I like my brew days to be, but it was relaxing.  I’m really interested to see how this beer turns out.  My only fear is the last time I brewed a hoppy style in the Mr Beer keg, it oxidized.  I’m not sure if I messed up the transfer at bottling, or if the Mr Beer kegs lack of an airlock is the culprit.  We’ll see soon enough.  I plan to ferment this for a week and a half, dry hop for another five days, and then cold crash a couple days before fining with gelatin.  In order to appreciate the red color this beer will hopefully be, I need it to be nice and clear.

The water profile was:

Ca- 108       Mg- 0       Na- 0     Cl- 90    S04- 139

Here’s the recipe, just pretty much double everything for a full size batch:

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 2.70 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.078 SG
Estimated FG: 1.021 FG (Though I expect it lower)
Estimated Color: 16.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 85.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 77.3 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
6 lbs 4.0 oz          Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         1        77.8 %        
1 lbs                 Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM)           Grain         2        12.4 %        
5.0 oz                Caramel Malt - 40L (Briess) (40.0 SRM)   Grain         3        3.9 %         
4.0 oz                Caramel Malt - 120L (Briess) (120.0 SRM) Grain         4        3.1 %         
1.5 oz                Roasted Barley (Briess) (300.0 SRM)      Grain         5        1.2 %  

0.30 oz               Apollo [17.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           6        29.8 IBUs                 
1.00 oz               Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Boil 10. Hop           8        29.6 IBUs     
0.50 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min          Hop           9        12.7 IBUs     
0.50 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min         Hop           10       13.8 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0 m Hop           11       0.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0  Hop           12       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] - Hop           13       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] - Hop           16       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days      Hop           17       0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Dry Hop 0.5 Days       Hop           18       0.0 IBUs      

0.52 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining

1.0 pkg British Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1098) 
Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 8 lbs 0.6 oz
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 9.88 qt of water at 165.9 F         154.0 F       60 min        

Tasting Update 12/15/14:  I missed an update at bottling for this one, but it went smoothly.  My FG was 1.013, so a bit dryer than expected, but that’s ok.

Appearance:  This beer pours a nice clear reddish amber color with an off white head that sticks around.  The beer left nice lacing on the glass.  I’m really happy with the clarity on this one, I used gelatin after cold crashing to help clear it up.  I’d like it to be a bit more red though, I’m thinking a bit more of either roasted barley, or sub that with some black malt or something.

Smell:  The aroma of this beer is pretty balanced.  There’s some hop aroma up front, a bit of pine and citrus.  Behind that is a nice bread like malt aroma and some fruity yeast aroma.  A nice smelling beer.

Taste:  This beer is hoppy but still pretty balanced, which is what I’d hoped.  There’s a nice bitterness upfront which gives way to some citrus flavors such as grapefruit and orange.  Behind the hops though is a firm malt body.  There’s a nice mix of baked bread and caramel sweetness.  There’s also some fruity English yeast esters, which are a bit more noticeable than I’d hoped, especially since I don’t think this got above 65 or 66 while it was fermenting.  I had intended on using WLP 007 Dry English Ale yeast over the Wyeast 1098 British Ale, but my LHBS was out of the 007 and told me that 1098 was basically the same strain.  After using both, I find the 1098 to be a bit more fruity and tart, which isn’t what I wanted here.  Next time I think I may just go with an American yeast on this beer.  All that being said, the beer tastes great, jut slightly more “English” than I’d like.  The hops and malt are still the stars of the show here, the yeast doesn’t overshadow that.

Mouthfeel:  The beer is medium bodied, with a bit of a dry finish.  The beer attenuated a bit more than I expected, so the beer came out a bit dryer and stronger than I’d planned, but its pretty easy drinking for an 8.5% abv beer.

Overall:  I’m pretty satisfied with this one, especially for this being my first imperial red ale.  Its got some great malt and hop flavor.  There’s nothing I’d change with the hop bill, and the only change to the malt bill would just be to get it a bit more red.  As I said above, I wouldn’t use the 1098 yeast with this beer again, and will probably use an American yeast next time.  All in all, I’m happy with it, and definitely prefer it to the spiced ales I’ve brewed the past couple winters.

Final Stats:

Measured OG: 1.077

Measured FG: 1.013

ABV: 8.5

IBU: 86

Black December

Black December glass

Black DecemberBrew day for my winter seasonal beer, Black December!  This beer was brewed on 11/09/14.  This was a fun brew day with some ups and downs which I’ll detail in this log, but first lets talk about this beer.

This is actually my second batch of Black December.  I was still partial mashing last year at this time, and still used about three pounds of extract.  Now that I’ve moved to all grain, I’ll post my recipe.  This beer is a black rye IPA loosely based on Firestone Walker Wookey Jack.  My version of this last year followed Wookey Jack a little more closely, but this year I made a few changes.  I used Apollo hops for bittering, where I used Magnum last year.  I also adjusted the hop schedule a bit to really load up on the late hop additions of Citra and Amarillo.  I added a bit of sugar just to help dry things out.  Last year I used S 05 dry ale yeast, but this year I used Wyeast 1098 British Ale 1.  My recipe actually used White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale, but my LHBS was out and this is apparently the same strain.  I’ve been using English ale strains more lately as I really like the subtle esters they give off when fermented cool.  I find that they give just a bit more character to my hoppy beers than American Ale yeast.  I also bumped the rye and Midnight Wheat up just a bit from last year.

BD Mash IN

David on the left and I mashing in.

On to the brew day itself.  It was a bit of a cool breezy fall day, so I brewed in the garage to block the wind.   My Wife and my friend David came over to help brew and drink some beer with us.  My wife Kristin was, as usual, a fine brew assistant.  I mashed the beer at 150 for 60 minutes.  Everything went smoothly for a bit, the neighbors stopped by, we had a few beers, sparging went well, and I got the boil going.

BD Grain bag squeeze

Kristin giving the ol bag a squeeze………yep

BD Boil

The Boil

I usually hover over the brew kettle till it reaches the hot break so I can pull the pot on and off the burner until it evens out.  I got distracted switching something for a minute on my iPod, and thats all it took.  I turn to see my nice black wort bubbling over the side of the kettle!  Thankfully I caught it right as the boil over started and I got it off the burner right away so I barely lost anything.  I took a pre boil gravity reading, and I was a few points low.  I did some calculations in beersmith and figured that increasing to a 90 minute boil should get me to my desired OG, 1.075.  I moved my five minute hop additions to flameout to compensate for the added bittering time.  Around 30 minutes left in the boil, I started losing power in my burner.  I noticed my propane was freezing up.  I’ve had problems with this before, I think the burner pulls the gas from the tank so quick that it actually freezes inside the tank.  I put the tank in a bin of warm water and that solved the problem.  The rest of the boil went smoothly, and I did a 30 steep of all my flameout hops before running my chiller.  Somehow, I ended up with an OG of 1.082.  I must have boiled off more than I thought.  I should have just done my 60 minute boil as planned, but oh well.  I added another half gallon of water and that put me at 1.076.  I figure my 2 liter starter should drop it that last point to get me to 1.075.  There were definitely some hiccups on this brew day, but nothing I don’t think I was able to fix.

I sealed up the bucket and set my fermentation fridge to 65 degrees.  I’ll ferment it for a week and a half, dry hop for five days, then bottle it up.  I’m hoping to have a bottle drinkable for the day after Thanksgiving when we decorate the house for Christmas.  It’ll be young then, but hopefully drinkable.

My water profile for this beer was

Ca- 131     Mg- 0      Na- 0     Cl- 58      S04- 235

Here’s the recipe:

Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.75 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.075 SG
Estimated FG: 1.015 FG
Estimated Color: 41.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 89.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 74.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
12 lbs                Brewers Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.8 SRM)    Grain         1        74.7 %        
2 lbs                 Rye Malt (4.7 SRM)                       Grain         2        12.5 %        
12.0 oz               Chocolate Wheat Malt (550.0 SRM)         Grain         3        4.7 %         
8.0 oz                Carafa III (Weyermann) (525.0 SRM)       Grain         4        3.1 %         
8.0 oz                Caramel Rye (Weyermann) (66.0 SRM)       Grain         5        3.1 %         

5.0 oz Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM) Sugar 12 1.9 % 

1.50 oz               Apollo [17.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           6        77.1 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Amarillo [8.50 %] - Boil 5.0 min    Hop                7        5.1 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min           Hop           8        7.2 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Amarillo [9.20 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0 Hop           9        0.0 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  0.0 m Hop           10       0.0 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Amarillo [9.20 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days     Hop           13       0.0 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Citra [12.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days       Hop      

2.0 pkg British Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1098)

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 16 lbs 1.0 oz
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 19.69 qt of water at 161.4 F        150.0 F       60 min        

Bottling Update 11/24/14:

Ughhh.  This batch has been a pain in the ass, which is a bummer since it’s one of my favorite beers that I make.  So on top of all the little mistakes I made on brew day, I botched siphoning the beer last night.   As I was using my auto siphon to transfer to my bottling bucket, it got clogged with some trub and hop debris because I had it too far down into the trub.  I could see that this was causing the beer to bubble up a bit in the bucket, so I pulled the siphon out.  It was clogged pretty bad.  There was a gallon and a half of beer sitting on the trub still, but it wasn’t enough that I could get my siphon started again without sucking up a ton of trub.  I chalked it up as a loss at first, much to my disappointment and frustration.  I bottled up what I had in my bucket, though I’m thinking it was overprimed a bit since the sugar amount was intended for over five gallons, not 4.  Bottling that part went ok, so I’m thinking those beers should be good, however as I looked at my fermenting bucket, I was not about to just let a gallon and a half of one of my favorite beers go to waste.  I used my beer thief and sucked up the beer and gently squirted the beer right into the bottles.  I was able to get another 12 bottles worth of beer.  There was still some in there, but I couldn’t have gotten it out without getting a ton of yeast cake with it.  I’m sure I oxidized the beer somewhat by doing this, and I’m sure I got some trub in those bottles but I couldn’t just leave it.  I put a half teaspoon of sugar in each of those bottle to prime them, and marked them separately on the cap so I know which ones they are.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can tell a taste difference in which beers were bottled normally and which I tried to save.  I’ll know soon enough!  The FG came in at 1.013, so this should put me at about 8.3% abv.

Tasting Update 12/14/14:

Appearance:  The beer pours a jet black color with a light tan head that sticks around.  The beer leaves nice sticky lacing down the side of the glass.

Smell:  The aroma of this beer is pretty complex.  The first thing to hit your nose is citrus from the hops.  There’s some grapefruit, mango, and other fruity aromas.  I also get some Englishy notes from the yeast.

Taste:  I love the taste of this beer.  There’s a lot going on with the flavor of this brew between the hops, malt, and yeast.  The initial taste is hops, both a nice bitterness and flavor.  There’s some citrus fruit, some pineapple, maybe a hint of mango.  Next I get some spiciness from the rye.  I’m not always a huge fan of rye beers, but I love it in this beer, it adds an extra layer of complexity.  There’s also a nice subtle roast flavor in the finish.  There are some fruity English yeast esters in this beer.  I like an English yeast for this one, but I realized that Wyeast 1098 and the yeast I wanted to use, White Labs WLP 007, are not the same strain.  They are listed as comparable in the charts I’ve seen, but I think the WLP 007 is cleaner.  Next time I brew this, I’ll use 007 if I can find it, otherwise I’d do an American yeast over 1098.

Mouthfeel:  The beer finishes dry, but not thin.  It has a nice, almost creamy body to it.  This beer drinks very smoothly, I’m not sure if its from the rye or what, but I like it.

Overall:  Last year around this time, I had just transitioned to small batch all grain and partial mash, and then full size all grain shortly after.  When I made this last year, it was the most complex beer I had made, and it turned out great.  This year’s batch lived up to my expectations, but there’s room for improvement.  They say black IPAs take more hops that a typical IPA to be the focus over the dark malts, and I find that to be true here.  While the hop flavor is good, it could be better.  I think another couple ounces at flameout and in the dry hop would help the hops pop a bit more.  As I said above, the 1098 yeast was just a bit too estery for me in this beer, and that was even fermented at 65.  I’ll use 007 if I can get it locally, otherwise I’d do California ale yeast like I did in this beer last year.  All in all though, I’m very pleased with how this turned out.

Final stats:

Measured OG:  1.076

Measured FG: 1.013

ABV: 8.3

IBU: 90