Freedom Hawk (Formerly Garbage Night)- Cream Ale


Freedom Hawk

Brewed 06/19/15.  My neighbor and friend Phil had been wanting to split a batch with me for a while, and the plan was originally to do an Oktoberfest.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get to my usual LHBS, and the smaller one near my work was low on yeast, so I couldn’t get enough to do a lager.  Phil is a Miller Lite kind of guy, but he loved my Oktoberfest and other craft lagers I’ve given him.  Since I couldn’t do a lager, I decided on a cream ale.

Cream ale is a great entry into the craft beer world.  They are light colored, easy drinking, mild, refreshing, and with just a bit more flavor than your typical BMC beer.  The beer should finish relatively dry to maintain a crisp finish.  When you hear the term “lawnmower” beer, cream ales are a style that comes to mind.  Hop and malt flavors should both be relatively light in a Cream Ale, though there’s some room for interpretation.  These are basically light lagers with ale yeast, so I figured this would be a great summertime beer to split with Phil.  I don’t drink a ton of cream ale, but there is one that I really enjoy:  New Glarus Spotted Cow.  They call it a farmhouse ale, but if we’re labeling things here then it’s basically a cream ale.  Its a nice light beer that appeals to the BMC crowd, but it still has some really great flavor.  I looked at some recipes on Homebrew Talk and I got some ideas there.  Northern Brewer also released a clone recipe called Speckled Heifer.

As usual, I’m not particularly interested in cloning a commercial beer, Spotted Cow included, but its a great starting point for my recipe.  The grain bill for this beer was pretty light.  Its just 2 Row, Carapils, Flaked Barley, and Flaked Corn.  The carapils will add some body and head retention, so will the flaked barely.  The corn will impart some fermentable sugars without much flavor or color contribution.  These are the ingredients found in Spotted Cow apparently, though I’m not sure what the grist percentages are.  The hops in Spotted Cow are allegedly Cluster hops, and these seem like they should do nice in a Cream Ale.  They should have some spice and floral qualities and are frequently used in American Pilsners.  I went just a bit heavier on flavor and aroma additions than is probably typical for the style, but I needed to spice things up just a bit.

I debated between using Wyeast Cream Ale or Wyeast Kolsch.  Yeasts for a cream ale should obviously be top fermenting, but a combination of ale and lager yeast can be used, and that is apparently what Wyeast Cream ale blend is.  Spotted Cow reportedly uses Kolsch yeast, so I leaned towards that.  Kolsch yeast has very lager-like qualities.  Once properly conditioned, Kolsch yeast will produce a very clean, crisp beer that bears a strong resemblance to a lager.  This can be further aided with extended cold conditioning.  All in all, this beer should be very crisp and refreshing with some nice flavor.

The Freedom Hawk name is joke between Phil and I with our wives.  Since I’m splitting this with my neighbor, I figured this would be a fun name for the beer.

Phil on the left and me on the right towards the end of the brew night

Phil on the left and me on the right towards the end of the brew night

This was a Friday night brew night.  I got home from work, Phil and I went to the LHBS, and got brewing around 8.  The other neighbors came over and my wife got home from work.  We wrapped up around 2 am.  In between was a whole lot of beer, pizza, dancing, and a bit of table hockey.  I was on my game despite all the fun stuff around me, and I hit my mash temp and my OG of 1.045 on the dot.  It was nice not having to work with a ton of ingredients in this beer, and especially nice not having to filter a ton of hop matter before going into the fermenter!

My neighbors Sara and Jeremy

My neighbors Sara and Jeremy

Table Hockey!

Table Hockey!

I plan on fermenting beer for two weeks at 58 degrees, raising to ambient temps for a couple days, and then cold crashing and fining with gelatin.  This will then go in the bottles to carb for a couple weeks, then in the fridge for some cold conditioning.  I’m thinking this will be great by August after its cold conditioned, but I’m sure I’ll have a few by then.

My water profile for the beer was:

Ca+2       Mg+2       Na+      Cl-       SO4-2        HCO
68.7         0.0           0.0        83.2      52.0          0.000

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.045 SG
Estimated FG: 1.010 FG
Estimated Color: 3.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
7 lbs 12.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 80.0 %
12.0 oz Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM) Grain 2 7.7 %
8.0 oz Barley, Flaked (Briess) (1.7 SRM) Grain 3 5.2 %
8.0 oz Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM) Grain 4 5.2 %
3.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.0 %

0.50 oz Cluster [7.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 12.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Cluster [7.00 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 8 6.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Cluster [7.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 9 2.4 IBUs

2.0 pkg Kolsch Yeast (Wyeast Labs #2565) [124.21 Yeast 10 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs 11.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 12.11 qt of water at 165.9 F 152.0 F 75 min

Update:  I bottled half of this batch for Phil and kegged my half over the weekend.  The beer dried out a bit more than intended, but that’s ok.  The FG came in at 1.007, giving me an abv of 4.9%.  Thats still pretty crushable and perfectly in line for a cream ale.  Still, on my session style beers, I seem to undershoot my fg pretty often.  I may need to start subbing a bit of carapils in most of my recipes for base malt!  I had a sample last night after this had been in the keg for a few days.  It already tasted really nice, but was still hazy as hell.  I fined this beer with gelatin when it went into he keg since I’d like this style to be clear, but I know Kolsch yeast can take a while to flocc out.  I’ll do some tasting notes after this one’s had a bit to cold condition in the keg.

Tasting Update 07/21/15:

Appearance:  This beer pours straw colored.  The beer is pretty clear, with just the slightest haze.  The beer has a persistent head and some nice lacing.

Smell: Freedom Hawk has a pleasant bready yeast aroma that is very reminiscent of a lager.  There’s also just a hint of floral and spice notes from the Cluster hops.  A very mild aroma to this one.

Taste:  A mild easy drinking beer for sure.  There’s an easy bitterness upfront that quickly gives way to a light grainy malt flavor.  There’s a very light and faint fruit flavor, but its very mild.  The Kolsch yeast leaves a very clean lager like profile.

Mouthfeel:  This beer is dry, but there’s a nice bit of body to keep it from feeling thin.  I’d like to have this one a bit more carbonated, but I don’t have the equipment to keep my kegs at different PSI.  The beer has a very crisp lager like quality, and it would be easy to chug this one!

Overall:  This beer certainly isn’t reinventing the wheel, but its a very good example of the cream ale style.  I probably could have lagered it longer for better clarity, but its drinking fine as is, and should continue to improve until the end of the keg.  I’m really satisfied with this one and there’s nothing I’d really change, maybe just lowering the abv a bit.  This beer also satisfied my lager loving friend Phil so I consider it a success!  This isn’t a style I drink much of so I’m not sure when it’ll be back, but next time I need a Cream Ale, I’d gladly come back to this one!

White Death (Version 4)-Northeast Style DIPA

White Death 4

White Death 2

This beer was brewed on 06/12/15.  As the title suggests, this is my fourth crack at this recipe.  The funny thing is, if you go back and look at the first take on this beer it will resemble this one more than versions 2 or 3.  I’ve gotten away from trying to get this more like a Heady Topper like beer specifically and more like a general “Northeast Style IPA.”

A Northeast IPA isn’t really a sub-category of IPA or DIPA, but it may as well be due to the similarities these fantastic hoppy beers in that part of the country have.  I’ve had hoppy ales from The Alchemist, Trillium, Lawson’s, Hill Farmstead, Treehouse, Bissell Brothers, Foundation, Tired Hands, and a few others from the Northeast.  Not bad for a guy living in Chicago.  The hoppy beers from these guys are exactly what I want for my beers and specifically my “flagship,” White Death.  A lot of the beers from these guys are light colored, hazy, have a creamy soft mouthfeel, low in harsh bitterness but huge on hop flavor.  That’s not to say you can’t find beers like that in other parts of the country, but these breweries in the Northeast seem to just “get it” when it comes to the hoppy styles.

While not truly sub-categories of IPA, most people will admit that there is East Coast IPA and West Coast IPA.  The standard East Coast variety tends to be a bit darker and maltier, maybe using more specialty grains, a bit fuller bodied, and not usually total hop bombs.  Think Dogfish Head 60 or 90 Minute IPA as a good example of this.  The West Coast IPA’s are usually a bit lighter in color and body, bitter, dry, and are huge in hop flavor with little in the way of malt.  Think Stone IPA and Pliny the Elder.  The Northeast IPAs seem to find a balance, taking the best parts of these two IPA types and combining them into an amazing whole.  Most of them have a hazy blonde or orange color that ranges from 4 to 7 or so on the SRM scale.  The mouthfeel of a lot of these beers is absolutely incredible.  They have a smooth, creamy, and soft mouthfeel that sets them apart from other IPAs.  The bitterness on these beers is noticeable, but rarely too assertive.  These beers tend to load up on late and dry hops to get huge flavor and aroma.  The balance of flavors a lot of these breweries pull off is incredible.

I’m trying to get White Death to encompass all the things I love about the beers from this part of the country.  I’m still using the Heady Topper Conan strain on this beer since I love the fruitiness and mouthfeel the yeast leaves.  I’m still chasing the incredible body that beers from Hill Farmstead, Trillium, and Tired Hands seem to have so I made a few adjustments with this goal in mind.  I added some of the oats back into the recipe from the 1st version as well as adding carapils to keep the beer from drying out too much.  I also changed the water profile by upping chloride and dropping the sulfate to smooth things out further.

After working with both Golden Promise and Pearl malt a few times each, I’ve found I prefer the Golden Promise.  Much like in the 1st version of this beer, I went with a 2 Row and Golden Promise mix.  Golden Promise has a sweet bready flavor that I really like, and I was tempted to use a higher portion of it, but in the end I went with a 50/50 split with the 2 row just in case that sweetness would take from the hops.  I still like the Pearl malt, but I find it more grainy rather than bready which is what I want in this beer.  I kept the pound of White Wheat I’ve been using in this recipe.

I simplified the hop bill a bit by cutting out the Apollo hops and upping the Columbus additions as well as using Columbus for bittering.  I actually like Apollo hops a lot, but my LHBS doesn’t stock them and I got tired of having to pay for shipping just for hops.  I tried to make Simcoe and Columbus the stars of the show more, with Mosaic and Citra supporting.  With Conan yeast adding fruity flavors in addition to the Mosaic and Citra, I felt loading more Simcoe and Columbus would bring out more of the pine and dank notes to balance the fruit.

This brew day was done on a Friday night, with just me and Kristin.  I love my busy brew days with my friends, but this was a nice low key change of pace.  This is my favorite beer I make, and I wanted to be focused on my process to get it perfect since this will be its first trip to the keg.  The brew night went perfectly, no steps were missed and no mistakes were made.  I hit my 152 mash temp on the dot.  I boiled for 60 minutes and chilled to 180 to do a 30 minute hopstand.  The OG came in at 1.075.  The first round of dry hops went into the primary at day 5.  They’ll sit there for 4 or 5 days until I rack to the keg for the second round of dry hops.

Here’s my water profile:

Ca+2           Mg+2         Na+         Cl-         SO4-2          HCO
153.6           0.0            0.0          194.9      104.0            0.000

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.075 SG
Estimated FG: 1.015 FG
Estimated Color: 5.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 95.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
6 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 39.8 %
6 lbs Pale Malt, Golden Promise (Thomas Fawcet Grain 2 39.8 %
1 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3 6.6 %
12.0 oz Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM) Grain 4 5.0 %
8.0 oz Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 5 3.3 %
5.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 6 2.1 %
8.0 oz Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM) Sugar 7 3.3 %

1.50 oz Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] – Boil 60 min Hop 8 70.1 IBUs
2.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 9 15.6 IBUs
1.00 oz Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] – Boil 5 min Hop 10 9.3 IBUs
2.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
1.50 oz Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] – Hop 12 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] – Steep/Whirl Hop 13 0.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 m Hop 14 0.0 IBUs

1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Dry Hop 1
1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 1
0.5 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] – Dry Hop 1

0.50 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 2
0.50 oz Mosaic -Dry Hop 2
1.00 oz Simcoe – Dry Hop 2
1.00 oz Columbus – Dry Hop 2

2.0 pkg DIPA Ale (Omega Yeast Labs #OYL-052) Yeast

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 15 lbs 1.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 18.20 qt of water at 163.7 F 152.0 F 60 min

Update 06/24/15:  The beer went in the keg last night for a second round of dry hopping.  It’ll sit there at room temp for 4 more days and then I’ll remove the hops and get carbonating.  The gravity sample came in at 1.014, right where I was hoping.  The sample tasted great.  One thing I noticed was the bitterness on this version.  I don’t think I’d ever bittered with Columbus until now and the bitterness is a bit sharper than Warrior or Apollo.  That’s not to say I don’t like it, and it’ll be interesting to see how it is with another week of conditioning and with carbonation.

Tasting Update 0717/15:

Appearance: The beer pours a beautiful hazy golden/orange color.  This version looks just like the previous batches.  The beer is hazy, which is fine by me for this type of beer.  Kegging helps the head stick around nicely and the beer leaves nice lacing on the glass.

Smell:  This batch had heavy orange citrus aroma.  There are hints of grapefruit, pineapple, and peach as well.  There also a heavier pine and earthy element to this batch.  The aroma of this one was pretty strong, I like what layering the dry hops does for this one.

Taste:  The bitterness in this version is sharper than previous ones from the use of Columbus as a bittering hop.  Its still a great beer, but the bitterness is a bit sharper than I’d prefer.  Some people would like this, but I want the flavors in this beer to be a bit rounder.  The bitterness of this beer lingers longer than I’d prefer.  This version of the recipe is very resiny.  There’s a bit less fruit than previous versions, but its still there.  The fruity hop flavors follow the nose with orange, grapefruit, peach, and pineapple.  The malt body has a nice bready flavor thanks to the Golden Promise, but I may just go with straight 2 row for simplicity’s sake next time.

Mouthfeel:  This is an area that improved over the previous versions.  I’m really like liking the higher levels of chloride in my hoppy beers.  That combined with the oats, wheat, and yeast really do wonders for the body of this one.  The beer has medium carbonation.

Overall:  This beer took a couple steps forward in some areas and a couple steps back in others.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still really happy with this beer, but there are things I’d like to change before I brew it again.

Lets start with what works.  Kegging helped this beer in a number of areas.  Its held up way better than any of the batches of this that I bottled.  The aroma has been clearer and more powerful.  The flavors seem a bit bolder.  The mouthfeel is smooth, almost creamy, but still dry enough to stay very drinkable.

As far as improvements go, it’s mostly fine tuning at this point with one or two bigger things.  I’m going to bitter with a cleaner hop next time like Warrior, the Columbus was too sharp for my tastes.  I went a bit heavy on the Columbus in the flavor and aroma additions as well.  I need to bring some of the fruity notes from the Mosaic and Citra back into focus, this batch was a bit more resiny than I wanted.  For the malt, I may try going just 2 row as the base.  I’ll keep the wheat and oats, and likely add a bit of caramalt in place of the carapils.  The last charge is a maybe: yeast.  I really like Wyeast London Ale III when I used it in my summer ale.  I plan on doing a side by side with London Ale III and Conan in an APA as a test before I decide this for sure.  I really like both yeasts, and it will be the only way I can choose between the two.

All in all, this was still a great beer and I know what I need to do to perfect this recipe.

ISO: Whalez, Bro!—Imperial Stout Aged on Bourbon, Oak Chips, Cocoa Nibs, and Vanilla Beans


This beer was brewed on 06/07/15.  The name on this one is a bit of a joke that anyone who frequents beer trading forums will get.  Whales are those hard to find rare beers that people go nuts trying to acquire.  ISO is In Search Of on the forums….so you get the picture.  I’ve been waiting to do a beer like this for a loooooooooooooooong time.  I’ve been on a string of light colored ales lately, so it was time to bring in something black.  I guess the only things really holding me back from brewing a monster stout like this was whether I wanted a ton of imperial stout around the house since I don’t drink a ton of stout, and the cost of a beer this big.  Those concerns where alleviated when my friend David offered to split the batch with me.

With the financials out of the way I needed to decide just what kind of stout I wanted to do.  I’ve brewed a few stouts to date, though only one has been on this blog.  My coffee milk stout, Voodoo Rookin Phantom, was a pretty big success for me, but I wanted to do something different.  I figured I’ve done coffee in that beer with some success, and I was tempted to use it here.  I wanted to work in some other flavors though, especially a bourbon barrel feel.  Its easy to throw a whole mess of ingredients into a beer and hope it turns out great, but finding the balance is key.  I know that bourbon, toasted French oak, and vanilla beans are going to go well together.  I also thought cocoa nibs might accentuate the chocolate malt flavors in the beer.  I was soooo tempted to add coffee here, but with everything else going on in this beer I felt it may be over kill.  In the end, I decided to add 4 oz cocoa nibs, 2 vanilla beans, 2 oz of medium toast French oak chips, and 8 oz of Elija Craig 12 year bourbon.

I did a bunch of looking into how much of these various ingredients to add into this beer, but I’m sure it’s going to be a trial and error sort of thing.  It seemed that a cup or so of bourbon seemed to be the consensus for a five gallon batch.  Since this was a bit bigger, 10oz, a cup and a quarter or so, seemed like a good number.  My LHBS didn’t have oak cubes so I went with the French oak medium toast chips.  French oak medium toast are supposed to be milder, so I figured that would be a good place to start since I had never used them.  I went with 2 oz since chips supposedly impart a lot of oak flavor very quickly.

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to bourbon, though I do enjoy a good sipping bourbon on the rocks.  I figured I needed something better then a bourbon like Jack Daniels, but something that wouldn’t break the bank.  After all, this is going in a beer. While the bourbon needs to be good, I’m not sure I’d be able able to tell 10oz of world class bourbon from just good bourbon when its in 5.75 gallons of imperial stout.  My friend David, who enjoys his bourbon and is splitting this with me, recommended Elijah Craig 12 year.  I had a couple fingers of this with an ice cube on brew day, and it should do nicely.  It has just a bit of heat, but some great flavors that should go with the stout very well.  I had heard about oak chips adding a lot of harsh wood flavor, so what I did was soak the chips in Jack Daniels for a month prior to brew day.  The thought here is that the Jack will soak up any of the harsh flavors.  I then soaked the chips in the Elijah Craig for 3 weeks.

The vanilla beans and cocoa nibs seem like fairly standard amounts from what I’ve seen online, but again I have no personal experience with them so we’ll see when this beer is done!  The ingredients were added to the chips and bourbon 2 weeks after brew day and will soak for a week.  The whole chip/bourbon/nib/bean mixture will be added to the secondary and left to sit for a week prior to bottling.

After I had the flavoring figured out, I needed to pick out a recipe for the base beer.  I looked at the recipe online for a Founders KBS clone and that seemed like a good place to start.  I also looked at a number of other imperial stout recipes, and I eventually settled on what I used for this beer.  I wanted a decent amount of chocolate flavor to compliment the cocoa nibs.  I also wanted the beer to be decently roasty to get a bit of dry coffee flavor without actually having to add coffee.  I used a bit of crystal 120 to add a hint of sweetness, and a bit of carafa III for color.  The oats will lend a silky body to what I expect to be a nice chewy beer.

The brew day was nothing outside the usual.  I was pretty on point, though I wasn’t sure what to expect with a beer this big.  I maxed out my 8 gallon mash tun, and that was even with getting 4 pounds of fermentables in after the mash.  I used 3 pounds of light DME to compensate for lowered efficiency with a huge grain bill, and I used a pound of sugar to help the yeast out.  My efficiency wound up being 62%.  I boiled this for 100 minutes to concentrate the liquid to get close to my expected OG, but I still came up a bit short.  I was initially trying to hit 1.110.  I actually hit 1.100 on the dot, so I’ll be anxious to see where this beer finishes.  I adjusted the recipe below with those numbers.  I chilled and pitched two packs of S 05 American Yeast.  I thought about using one of my usual suspects, like Conan, 1318, or WLP 007 as far as yeast goes, but I didn’t want to make a monster starter and I wanted something neutral.

My water profile was also an experiment with this batch since I’ve never adjusted for residual alkalinity.  I used baking soda for that purpose though I didn’t have to add much.  My profile was:

Ca+2       Mg+2       Na+       Cl-         SO4-2         HCO
82.7         0.0           44.5       84.9       83.1            115.75

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.100 SG
Estimated FG: 1.023
Estimated Color: 48.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 81.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 62.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
14 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 64.0 %
1 lbs Chocolate (Dingemans) (340.0 SRM) Grain 2 4.6 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 3 4.6 %
1 lbs Roasted Barley (Briess) (300.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.6 %
8.0 oz Carafa Special III (Weyermann) (470.0 SR Grain 5 2.3 %
6.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 6 1.7 %
3 lbs DME Golden Light (Briess) (4.0 SRM) Dry Extract 7 13.7 %
1 lbs Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 2 min](0 Sugar 11 4.6 %

1.00 oz Warrior [15.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 38.4 IBUs
1.00 oz Warrior [15.00 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 9 29.5 IBUs
2.00 oz Willamette [5.50 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 10 14.0 IBUs

2.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) Yeast 12 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 21 lbs 14.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 22.34 qt of water at 168.2 F 156.0 F 60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 3 steps (Drain mash tun , 2.73gal, 2.73gal) of 168.0 F water

*Note:  Due to the nature of conditioning this beast it’s probably going to be a while before I can post tasting notes.  I’ll probably crack one open at the end of summer and post my initial impressions then.  I’ll do another post with my impressions on how it’s aged around winter sometime.

Update 06/18/15:  I transferred this beer to the secondary today on top of the bourbon/oak/vanilla/cocoa mix.  The aromas coming off of both the beer and the bourbon mix were incredible.  I took my hydrometer sample and wound up drinking the whole thing.  The sample came in at 1.024 giving me a 10.1% ABV!  The sample was obviously rough for a big beer that young, but the chocolate and roast coffee like flavors were already nice.  The bourbon mix will bump the ABV up to 10.6%, and I can’t wait to try the beer with those added flavors at bottling in a week.

Tasting Round 1– 08/25/15:  This is the first round of notes for this beer, after its got a bit more age on it, I’ll post again!

Appearance:  What you would expect from a beer like this.  It’s jet black with a thin tan head that quickly fades and clings to the side of the glass.  This beer just looks thick.

Smell:  The aroma of this beer is fairly complex.  The nose is balanced between bourbon, a bit of oak, chocolate, and a just a hint of vanilla.  There’s some coffee like roast in there as well.  Its a nice smelling beer for sure!

Taste:  A good mix of bourbon, oak, and dark chocolate are what stands out the most initially when this beer sipped.  The bitterness is just enough to balance this beer, but there’s not much in the way of hop flavor in this.  There’s still some heat from the alcohol, but this beer is still young for how big it is.  There’s definitely some coffee flavor from the roasted malts, but its not overpowering.  The oak flavor could still use some time to mellow, but it’s not harsh and doesn’t overshadow the other elements.  This beer should continue to come together with more time.  I’m surprised I’m not getting much vanilla in this.  I can detect it, but if I didn’t know it was in there, I might miss it.

Mouthfeel:  Nice thick and chewy body on this beer.  The carbonation is maybe just the slightest bit high for the style, but I’m being nitpicky.

Overall:  The beer could use more time to age, but for a beer this big, I’m really happy with how this one is coming along.  I can’t wait to have more of this when the late fall rolls around.  I think this will be drinking really well by then.  I’m very happy with the base beer as well, and it’ll be fun to play around with other fun ingredients with future batches.  This isn’t my final review of this beer, check back in a few months to see how it’s progressing !

Tasting 04/23/16:  Lets try this again with almost a year of age!  The appearance and mouthfeel haven’t changed, but this beer has come a long way in a year.  Dark chocolate is the predominant flavor, while the oak and bourbon have taken to the background.  I’m getting only faint hints of vanilla.  Some flavors from oxidation have set in, but they are pleasant in this beer.  This thing is basically a chocolate bomb though, and while that’s not a bad thing, I wish there was a bit more nuance to it.  Still, I’m excited to see how this thing continues to age!

Serrated Summer Ale 2.0


Serrated Summer Ale (1)

Nothing like brewing a summer beer when temperatures are in the high 50’s/low 60’s!  Unfortunately that’s the reality in the Chicagoland area this time of year.  I’ll be in the 80’s one day and then drop 20 degrees the next.

The goal of this brew day was obviously to brew a nice easy drinking summer beer that has great hop flavor, but a light smooth bitterness.  The other goal here was to test out Wyeast 1318 London Ale III.  I’ve been a huge fan of Conan yeast, and as of now I intend to use it as a house yeast for the majority of my beers.  Before I commit to that plan, I wanted to try out London Ale III and see if it lives up to the good things I’ve read about it.  The yeast is supposed to be fairly clean, decent attenuation, lets the hops pop, and lends a creamy mouthfeel.  This is also supposedly the yeast Hill Farmstead uses, and if I can get anywhere near their quality and mouthfeel then I’ll be thrilled.  I wrote an article about my thoughts on a house yeast, you can read it here for more detail HERE.  

This beer is a bit of a departure from my recipe last year.  Without knowing what their recipe was, I based the idea of this beer last year on Two Brothers Sidekick Extra Pale Ale.  It’s a light, dry APA thats really drinkable and perfect for summer days.  I still love that beer, but I had a beer from Treehouse recently that I felt would be an even better summer chugger.  Treehouse Eureka (the Citra version) is a cloudy, creamy, hoppy blonde ale that tiptoes the blonde/APA line.  As I was drinking it, I thought about how it would be the perfect beer to drink a sixpack worth while sitting on my deck on an 85 degree day.  I didn’t set out to brew a clone of this beer, and Treehouse is apparently pretty tight lipped on their recipes anyway.  I wanted a ton of tropical and citrusy hop flavor without a lot of bitterness.  I used Zythos, Citra, and Galaxy in this beer last year, along with Nelson Sauvin.  For this year’s version, I dropped the Nelson hops and focused on achieving a smooth body by using oats and white wheat.  I also kept the higher chloride ratio to boost the body of the beer.  I loved the impact this had on my 527 DIPA.  The hops still popped, but the beer was so smooth, and the bitterness wasn’t harsh.  That same approach should work really well in this beer.  I used some light caramalt for a hint of sweetness to sit under the hops and to get a bit of color.  If all goes to plan, this beer should blend elements of a blonde ale and an APA.  I’ll call it a blonde, but this beer definitely won’t fit neatly in the style guidelines.

Givin' the ol grain bag a squeeze

Givin’ the ol grain bag a squeeze.  I’m holding the bag, my neighbor Phil is doing the squeezing

I was really happy with how this brew day went, and I was determined to have a mistake free day.  As usual, we had our friends and neighbors over, but I laid out my ingredients on a table beforehand and kept my process tight.  I hit my temps and numbers, coming up just one point high on my OG, winding up with 1.050.  I did a 30 minute hop stand at 180 degrees after my 60 minute boil, then chilled to 70 and pitched my yeast.  It’s been fermenting away for a week, and I’ll give it a few more days before transferring to the keg for dry hopping!

Water profile:

Ca+2       Mg+2       Na+        Cl-        SO4-2         HCO
141.9       0.0           0.0         180.9      95.1           0.000

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated FG: 1.014 FG
Estimated Color: 4.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 35.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 78.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
6 lbs 12.0 oz Brewers Malt 2-Row (Briess) (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 71.5 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 10.6 %
1 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3 10.6 %
8.0 oz Caramalt (Thomas Fawcett) (15.0 SRM) Grain 4 5.3 %
3.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.0 %

0.13 oz Apollo [17.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 8.3 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 7 9.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 8 10.5 IBUs
1.00 oz Zythos [10.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 9 7.5 IBUs

1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 m Hop 10 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Zythos [10.90 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 12 0.0 IBUs

1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 14 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 15 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Zythos [10.90 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 16 0.0 IBUs

2.0 pkg London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318) [124. Yeast 13 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs 7.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 11.79 qt of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F 60 min

Update 06/12/15:  I transferred this beer onto the dry hops in the keg last night.  The FG came in at 1.011, a bit drier than I had wanted, but the beer should have a nice light body for summer drinking.  The other downside of the beer drying out was the abv comes in at 5.1 now, rather than the 4.7 I was shooting for.  It’s not quite the low abv session beer I was aiming for, but this thing should still be light and chuggable.  It’ll sit on the hops for a few days and then I’ll start carbing it!

Tasting Update 06/22/15:  I’m thrilled with the way this beer turned out!  The beer is so smooth with great hop flavor and a nice light malt body.

Appearance:  The beer pours a bright gold with hints of orange.  The beer is hazy and unfiltered just like Eureka from Treehouse Brewing.  It pours with a nice creamy head and sticky lacing that hangs around.  A really nice looking beer if you enjoy the unfiltered look (I do!).

Smell:  Nice fruity aroma consisting of orange, grapefruit, and some pineapple.  There are hints of yeast esters.  The hop aroma isn’t overpowering and goes well in this beer.

Taste:  Very mild bitterness gives way to bright citrus hop flavor.  There’s some orange and grapefruit, but aside from the citrus there’s also passion fruit and mango notes.  The malt base here is pretty light and grainy with just a bit of sweetness in the finish.  There’s a hint of English yeast esters, but they compliment the flavors in this beer really well.  Overall the yeast profile was pretty clean.

Mouthfeel:  This is one of the ways this beer shines.  I really like the silky smooth body that the Wyeast 1318 leaves.  The beer is light in body, but this yeast keeps it from ever seeming thin or watery.  The beer still finished dry enough to be really refreshing and drinkable.

Overall:  I really could not beer more pleased with this beer.  I’d be interested to see what this beer would be like with Conan yeast, but I really like what the 1318 brings to the table here.  This was a great trial run for me with 1318, but I’d like to use it in a DIPA or something a bit bigger before I come to a final opinion on it.  I will say that it lived up to my expectations!  I would maybe add some carapils in place of some basemalt to keep a bit more body in the beer, but I’m kinda nit picking.  I’d like to keep the abv down just a bit more, somewhere around 4.5 to 4.7 or so, but again, that’s a pretty small complaint here.  I’m very satisfied with this beer, and any recipe tweeking will be minor!

Searching for a House Yeast Part 1: Conan VS Wyeast 1318 London Ale III


Photo credit: Flickr user Duncan H

Now that I’ve started kegging and transferring my hoppy beers in a closed system under Co2, my hoppy beers have improved by leaps and bounds, both in terms of quality and longer term stability.  So, now that I’ve gotten that hurdle behind me, what’s next?  Dialing in the details!  Right now the biggest detail for me is finding a house yeast to use with my ales.  Most professional breweries have a go to yeast that helps define their flavor profiles for their ales.  Anything from Sierra Nevada has a somewhat familiar flavor due to the Chico yeast strain that they use.  Same with Stone, Lagunitas, and so on, all have a house yeast that helps define them.  I’d like to dial in the White Pointer flavor profile, and maybe start harvesting and reusing yeast, which is something I’ve never done.

I’ve used a bunch of different yeasts over the past few years and some have been great, some not so much.  The Chico strain and other American yeasts I’ve used are fine, but I like to have some subtle esters, so those are out.  For English yeast, I loved the convenience of Safale S-04, but there was a hint of tartness that I just wasn’t fond of.   I really liked WLP 007 Dry English Ale and it was almost my first choice until I used Conan.  The 007 is clean, attenuates well, clears on the beers that I care about clarity enough to use gelatin on, and has just a hint of ester aroma and flavor.  007 was great with my hoppy beers, but Conan edged it out.

I use the DIPA yeast from Omega which is the Conan strain found in The Alchemist Heady Topper.  This stuff is steroids for hops and lends an awesome peachy/apricot/pineapple note to the beer.  Despite what others have said about the strain, I haven’t had any attenuation issues with Omega’s version of it, usually getting around 80%.  I also really enjoy the smooth palate that this yeast helps create, but it remains drinkable.  My only complaint with this strain, and I haven’t used it on a maltier style yet so maybe I’m wrong, is it seems a bit one dimensional.  The several beers I’ve used it on all have a Heady Topper-esque flavor to them.   Now take that criticism with a grain of salt since most of my hoppy beers tend to be lighter colored “Northeast Style” beers anyway.  As much as I like Conan’s flavor profile, I’m concerned using it as a house yeast may be a bit one note.  The other issue is Conan’s low flocculation, though this is a much smaller concern for me.  I actually like my hoppy beers to be hazy.  The more fruit juice looking my APA’s, IPA’s, and DIPA’s are, the better in my opinion.  I don’t brew hoppy styles exclusively though, and there are certain styles that I’m not sure I’d use Conan on.  I’d be interested to see how Conan works in an American Amber or Imperial Red for example, two styles that I feel look better clear.   That being said, Conan is my favorite yeast that I’ve used so far and is my leading candidate for being my house yeast for 90% of my beers.

This brings me to my other option, and I just used it for the first time:  Wyeast 1318 London Ale III.  I used it on my most recent version of my Serrated Summer Ale (Brew Day post coming soon!).  This beer is in primary, so I have no personal experience with it, I can only go from what I’ve heard until I keg my summer ale and get drinking.  Rumor has it that London Ale III is the strain that Hill Farmstead uses.  Anyone who’s had their beer knows why I’d want to emulate them.  Their hoppy beers are usually light colored, cloudy, have great hop flavor and aroma, and are smooooooooooth.  I’m talking smooth like drinking a glass of OJ.  The mouthfeel is so soft, it just makes these beers incredible.  Now of course it isn’t just the yeast that does this, its water and brewing technique as well, but the yeast is an important contributing factor.  People who have used this yeast report that it accentuates hop flavors well, is clean with subtle esters when fermented at lower temperatures, and has mid range attenuation leaving a creamy body.  That all sounds exactly like what I’m looking for.  I’ve heard that, as with Conan, clarity can be an issue, but the vast majority of the time I don’t care about that.

I’ll be updating this post with my thoughts on London Ale III and how I feel it stacks up against Conan once I’m able to drink my summer beer enough to form an opinion on it.  I’m considering brewing a small batch of IPA and split it between the two yeasts to do a proper side by side comparison, but I’ll make that call after seeing if my summer ale is enough to make that judgement.

Update 06/25/15:  I’ve had a decent amount of my beer, Serrated Summer Ale, that used the 1318 London Ale III.  I have to say, I’m a big fan of it.  All of the things that I read about it are pretty true.  The yeast left what I can best describe as a “roundness” in the body and flavors.  The yeast, combined with my malt bill and water treatment, left a nice silky mouthfeel.  It attenuated at 77% so that’s pretty good for a beer that I mashed at 154 degrees.  The hop flavors and aromas of the beer popped nicely.  The beer left some residual sweetness, but it was pleasant, not at all cloying.  The ester profile was subtle, with some slight fruitiness that blended well with the hops I used.  I fermented the beer in the mid 60’s, so the yeast stayed pretty clean.  I wouldn’t be afraid to let it ferment warmer in the upper 60s.  All in all I’m very pleased with it.  I can’t say for sure that this is the yeast used in beers from Hill Farmstead or Tired Hands like the rumors suggest, but its at least a VERY similar strain.

The question is, how does it stack up against Conan, and which would I use as a house yeast?  Well, more research is needed for me to commit entirely to one or the other just yet.  In reality, I think I’ll need to brew a split batch of APA or IPA and do a side by side with these yeasts.

Both Conan and 1318 complimented the hops well in the beers I’ve used them in.  So you can’t go wrong with either of these in a hoppy style.  I routinely get around 80% or more with the Omega DIPA Ale version of Conan and I got 77% with the 1318.  If brewing a bigger beer, I’d want to maybe use some simple sugar to help the 1318 out.

Conan is definitely the more expressive yeast, throwing off some peach and apricot flavors and aromas.  It’ll be be hard for me to go away from this yeast on my IPA’s due to the fruity esters that play with the hops so well.  The 1318 is more subtle for sure, fruity, but not like the Conan.  I think you could probably get a more diverse array of flavors with this yeast though since everything with Conan will have that/peach apricot profile to some degree.

Both yeasts provide a soft mouthfeel, with the 1318 just edging Conan out here.  The beers that I’ve used Conan on seem to have a bit more “pop” to them though.  Both yeasts leave a pleasant sweetness to the beers I’ve used them in as well.

Both of these yeasts are winners in my book and I’d feel confident using them both in an wide range of beers.  I’m not sure I’ve settled on one or the other being a “house yeast” for me, if I even decide to go that route.  I need to use 1318 a few more times, and I really need to do a side by side.  I hope this write up helps anyone deciding to use either of these yeasts, you certainly won’t be disappointed in either!

UPDATE!  I decided the only way to truly decide between these yeasts was do do a side by side test.  Read about my experiment HERE! 

I’ve noticed that the Part 2 Side by Side tasting gets fewer clicks, so in the interest of streamlining info, here’s Part 2 if you don’t feel like clicking the link above!

Searching for a House Yeast Part 2: Conan Vs Wyeast 1318 London Ale III Side by Side
Posted on July 28, 2015

On the left is Conan, on the right is London Ale III

In my never ending quest to dial in my recipes, I’ve been trying to decide on a house yeast for most of my ales. I’ve used both Conan and London Ale III and really liked what both have to offer, but which yeast better fits my needs? If you read my Part 1, you’ll see my thoughts on both of these yeasts. Well, The only way to determine which yeast I like better for sure is to do a side by side comparison! I took a pale ale recipe that I haven’t brewed yet, but had been meaning to. I did a 3.5 gallon batch.

3.5 Gallon Batch Size
OG: 1.046
IBU: 40

4.5# 2Row
.5# White Wheat
5oz Caramalt 15L
.5# Flaked Oats
2oz Acid Malt

.25oz Warrior 60 min
.5oz Simcoe 5 min
.5oz Citra 5 min
.5oz Amarillo 5 min

1oz Simcoe 30 min hopstand
1oz Citra 30 min hopstand
1oz Amarillo 30 min hopstand

.5 Simcoe dry hop
.5 Citra dry hop
.5 Amarillo dry hop

My water profile was typical of my pale ales, heavier on the chloride with a smaller gypsum addition.

After the boil and hopstand were complete, I split the batch between two carboys. I pitched London Ale III in one, Conan in the other. Both batches of beer are fermenting at around 66 degrees. I’ll bottle the two batches at about the two week mark, give it a week to carb, and then toss some in the fridge to test.

I’ll post back here with an update as soon as this experiment is over!

Update 08/08/15: I bottled both batches yesterday. I was surprised that both batches finished at 1.006, I had expected the Conan batch to finish just a bit dryer. Both samples already smelled and tasted great, It’s going to be hard to decide which I like better. I plan on waiting a week to carb and then putting the bottles in the fridge for a day. I’ll then do the side by side!

Update 08/13/15 Tasting: Here’s the moment I’ve been waiting for! Let me start by saying that I really like both of these yeasts. They each have strengths and you truly can not go wrong using either. That being said, I have to say that London Ale III is my preferred yeast between the two.

The appearance of both beers was pretty close as you can see in the picture above. The London Ale was just a hint more hazy and bright, the Conan just slightly darker and clearer. Both were pretty looking beers and anyone who reads this blog knows I enjoy hazy hop forward beers.

Both beers smelled really nice. The London Ale had an intense citrus aroma, more orange than grapefruit, with maybe a bit of pineapple. There was also a bit of pine as well as some English ester aroma. A really good smelling beer for sure. The Conan had a more peachy and apricot aroma that blended with some citrus and pine. This isn’t surprising as Conan is famous for that apricot/peach profile. The aroma of both beers were fairly intense, and its hard to say which was more appealing.

The taste of these beers weren’t too far apart, but I slightly preferred the London Ale III. I feel that both yeasts accentuated the hops and malts well, but I like that London Ale III was just a bit more neutral. Don’t get me wrong, the London Ale had some nice subtle ester character to it, but I feel it was the more neutral of the two yeasts. This will let the individual ingredients of the beer shine though in my opinion. Conan was slightly bolder in flavor. The hop profile of the beer was the same obviously, but Conan added that peach/apricot note, while the London Ale was more citrusy. The flavor of the London Ale beer seemed rounder to me if that makes any sense. The bitterness faded quickly, the citrus from the hops was there, and then it had a slightly sweet, juicy finish. The Conan’s bitterness seemed to linger just a bit longer and its flavors seemed sharper. Conan also left some nice sweetness in the finish as well.

The mouthfeel of these beers where both really nice, but I have to give the edge to the London Ale III. This beer just seem so soft. There’s a creamy feel that London Ale gives the beer that Conan, while close, just falls slightly behind. Conan was a bit crisper, while the London Ale III had that roundness I mentioned previously.

Like I said earlier, you really can’t go wrong with either of these yeasts. For my tastes, London Ale III just barely wins over Conan. Conan will likely make for a sharper, bolder beer, while London Ale makes a super balanced, round, and juicy pale ale. I also feel like the London Ale would work better in a wider variety of beers, so if reusing yeast is a concern then that may also impact the decision.

All in all this was a really fun experiment to try. I really like both of these yeasts, and a direct comparison was the only way I was going to be able to choose between them. I encourage anyone who is considering these to try this experiment as well. Taste is subjective, so your opinion may vary from what I found here. I hope this post helps any fellow brewers who are looking to dial in their recipes!