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


1 thought on “Black December

  1. Pingback: Black December Black Rye IPA Tasting Update! | White Pointer Brewery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s