Black December 2.0 – Black Rye DIPA

Black December

Black December

This beer was brewed on 11/08/15.  This is my third year brewing this beer, but I was still doing partial mashes the first time around, pre blog days.  This beer started off as a direct clone of Firestone Walker’s Wookie Jack.  If you haven’t tried that beer, do yourself a favor and find it.  Get it fresh of course since unfortunately Firestone beers can sometimes sit around for a bit, at least around Chicago.  The dark malts and rye lend a really cool blend of flavors that play really nicely with the Amarillo and Citra hops.

Last year I tweaked a couple things from it being a direct clone, such as upping the bittering a bit, and a different yeast.  I also increased the late hops.  The type of hops used remained the same, and the malt bill received only minor tweaks.

For this year’s Black December, I’ve made a few more, mostly minor tweaks.  Most of these changes fall in line with my current brewing practices, such as loads of late hops in styles appropriate for it, 180 degree hopstands, and higher chloride water for mouthfeel and smoothness.  The two major changes would be the addition of Mosaic hops, and using my new love, Wyeast 1318 London Ale III.  I have loved everything I’ve used this yeast on so far, so I expect this will be no different.  I feel it compliments both malt and hops equally well, and should go great with this beer.  The Mosaic hops have quickly become one of my favorite varieties in my beers.  They have such a variety of flavors and aromas that you would almost think they could be a hop blend like Falconers Flight.  There are times where I think they are citrus, sometimes tropical fruit, berries, and other times they seem dank and earthy.  I wanted to kick the hops in this up a bit, and Mosaic with Citra and Amarillo should be a citrusy fruit bomb.

I’m surprised that more breweries haven’t made beers similar to this one.  The way the rye adds another dimension to a black IPA is wonderful.  It lends a bit of spiciness and smoothness to the finish that adds a little more complexity than your typical Black IPA.  I’ve had a few other examples of Black Rye IPA’s, but for the accolades that Wookie Jack has gotten, I’m surprised more breweries haven’t had a take on it.

On to the brew day.  Really, there’s not a whole lot to say about the brew day itself.  It was pretty quiet for most of the day, and I was alone for much of it.  My wife was in and out, as were a couple of the neighbors, but it was a calm day.  This was probably for the best, as I was HURTING from the Hoppy Grinchmas brewday/bottle share from the night before.  I mashed in at 152 for an hour, and got the boil going.  No boil overs unlike last year!  The hour long boil went smoothly, nothing was forgotten or missed.  I killed the heat after the hour was up, let the temp drop to 180, and then hit it with a big hopstand addition for 30 minutes.  The beer came in a couple points high, so I diluted it with just a bit of distilled water until I got back to my intended SG of 1.074.

The beer fermented at 68 degrees for 5 days when I dded the first round of dry hops.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I like to do the first round of dry hops while fermentation is still slightly active.  You lose a bit of aroma due to the C02  scrubbing it, but it adds another dimension to the flavor and aroma of the beer.  There are some yeast/hop oil biotransformations that happen here that I will not even pretend to fully understand, but I love the results even if I don’t understand the science behind it!

Keg Update:  The beer was kegged after the beer had 4 days on the first round of dry hops.  The FG of the beer came in at 1.012, so I should have an ABV of about 8.2%, consistent with what I was shooting for.  The sample tasted amazing at keg time, and that was without another big dose of dry hops!  I can’t wait to start drinking this one!

I lost my notes on the water chemistry for this one, but if I recall correctly my calcium was around 130ish, sulfate was 150ish, and chloride was near 200.

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.073 SG
Measured OG: 1.074
Estimated Color: 41.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 71.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
11 lbs Brewers Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.8 SRM) Grain 1 71.0 %
2 lbs Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 2 12.9 %
12.0 oz Chocolate Wheat Malt (550.0 SRM) Grain 3 4.8 %
8.0 oz Carafa III (Weyermann) (525.0 SRM) Grain 4 3.2 %
8.0 oz Caramel Rye (Weyermann) (66.0 SRM) Grain 5 3.2 %
12.0 oz Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM) Sugar 6 4.8 %

1.25 oz Warrior [15.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 56.6 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 8 7.2 IBUs
1.00 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] – Boil 5.0 mi Hop 9 7.4 IBUs
2.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 m Hop 10 0.0 IBUs
2.00 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] – Steep/Whirl Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Amarillo [9.20 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 12 0.0 IBUs

1.00 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] – Dry Hop 1
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 4.0 Days Hop 1
1.00 oz Amarillo [9.20 %] – Dry Hop 3.0 Days Hop 2
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 3.0 Days Hop 2
1.00 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] – Dry Hop 2

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

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 15 lbs 8.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 18.44 qt of water at 164.4 F 152.0 F 60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (0.65gal, 3.49gal) of 168.0 F water

Tasting Notes 12/27/15:

Appearance:  Black December pours black as the name implies, with hints of ruby or brown along the edges when held to the light.  The beer had a nice tan lingering head that clings nicely to the side of the glass.

Smell:  Hop forward, but the rye and dark malt is evident too.  The hop aroma is mostly citrus and a bit of pineapple and passion fruit.  The hop aroma isn’t quite as strong as I would have thought for the amount used, but its still pretty good.

Taste:  Really well balanced.  The bitterness is really smooth, and lingers just a little bit from sip to sip.  The hop flavors are orange citrus heavy with notes of pineapple as well.  The rye is pretty evident as well.  I’d like to dial the roast flavors back just a bit for next time, though they certainly aren’t overpowering.  Maybe cold steeping them would help, or maybe I just need to tweak the recipe a bit.  Its really good though, so I wouldn’t do much.

Mouthfeel:  One of the biggest improvements over last year.  This beer is sooooo smooth and creamy without losing its dry bite or feeling thick.  Between the 1318 London Ale III yeast, the higher chloride in the mash, and the rye, the body on this one is incredible.

Overall:  This beer is pretty damn close to being dialed in, and it lived up to my expectations.  Its one of my favorite beers that I brew, and this batch was the best of this beer that I’ve brewed.  I have no doubt that kegging this for the first time helped, but I really like the other changes over prior batches.  I love the nuances that the Mosaic hops added to the aroma and flavor.  I’m thrilled with everything I’ve used the 1318 yeast in.  I’d like to maybe go a bit lighter in the specialty malts to let the hops come through just a bit more, but its 95% there.  All in all, I’m very pleased with this one!

Hoppy Grinchmas (Version 2) – Imperial Red Ale-


Hoppy Grinchmas

This beer was brewed on 11/07/15.  This is my second take on my holiday Imperial Red ale.  This is a style of beer that I’m surprised doesn’t get more love.  I said this last year and I’ll say it again.  These aren’t just Red IPAs.  There’s nothing wrong with Red IPA’s and I enjoy them, but there is a strong malt presence and a fuller body in an Imperial Red to back up the big hop flavors and aromas as well.  They often have some great caramel notes, some dark fruit flavors, and sometimes a bit of toastiness under a big hop punch.  If you’re unfamiliar with this style, do yourself a favor and pick a few up, and I know I mentioned some of these last year, but it bears repeating.  Lagunitas makes a nice one jut called Imperial Red.  There are a couple in the Chicagoland area that are really nice;  Blood of the Unicorn by Pipeworks and Revolution Red Skull.  Trillium in Boston puts out Deciduous, and given everything else from them I’ve had has been pure gold, I’m anxious to try it.

I didn’t alter this beer too much from last years version.  I brewed a 5 gallon batch this year rather than a half sized version.  My usual batch size is 5.5, but all I had free was my 5 gallon carboy, so I had to scale back a bit.  I bumped up the Munich malt some, and dialed back the crystal malt a bit.  I wanted more breadiness in the malt, and a bit less caramel sweetness.  I also included some Victory malt to add some toasted bread qualities.  I replaced standard C120 with Belgian Special B.  I had special B on hand, and I’ve seen in used in some of my favorite Reds listed above, so I thought it would be a good choice to provide some raisin/dark fruitiness.  I kept the hop bill pretty much the same, just adjusted the schedule to be more consistent with my usual hoppy beers with lots of late additions and a 30 minute hopstand.  The only hiccup as far as recipe goes was that they did not have enough Wyeast 1318 London Ale III to cover this batch and the second beer I intended to brew.  My other Christmas beer, Black December, is a black rye DIPA.  London Ale III does not clear at all on heavily hopped beers.  I love this fact as I enjoy the fruit juice look of Northeast IPAs.  On a black IPA, clarity makes no difference regardless.  On a Red, clarity could be more important (That is if you put any importance on that anyway).  A cloudy look on a Red may look muddled, rather than that beautiful juice look in an IPA.  I had still intended to using London Ale III on this beer, but since they didn’t have enough I went with WLP 007 Dry English Ale, another of my favorites.  This yeast clears well, and accentuates both hops and malt nicely.


Kristin and I, it was a chilly brew day!


My friend Parth helping me mash in

This was a really fun brew day as we had a pretty good crowd.  My good friends Scotty, Jess, and Parth all stopped by, and the neighbors brought some beer loving friends as well.  They brought some bottles of some pretty good stuff, so the group did not go thirsty on this brew day!  Despite my pretty solid level of buzz, I hit my numbers pretty close.  I came in low on my OG, hitting 1.071 rather than 1.074, but it’s not a big deal.  Other than that, the day was smooth.  Well, smooth for brewing at least, disaster struck in my basement bar.  I had recently acquired a Sam Adams 25th Anniversary bar mirror.  A coworker of my wife gave this to us since he had no where to put it.  I’ve always wanted a bar mirror, they just look so damn cool, and I set it on a chair in my basement.  I assume you all know where this is heading.  I knocked that son of a bitch over of course, shattering it into little, depressing pieces!  I only include this in the blog entry so that my future self reading this will hopefully have learned not to put awesome glass decorative pieces waiting to be hung up in areas where people walk.


Left to Right: Steve, John, our neighbors Phil and Julie


My friends Parth, Scotty, and Jessica

I accidentally closed out my water brewing calculator without saving the numbers for this recipe, but the numbers were around 130 for calcium, near 200 chloride, sulfate was about 130 or 150.  the other mineral were negligible.

Here’s my recipe:

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 4.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.074 SG
Measured FG: 1.071
Estimated Color: 16.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 76.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
10 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 74.3 %
2 lbs 12.0 oz Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 19.5 %
8.0 oz Victory Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 3 3.5 %
4.0 oz Special B (Dingemans) (147.5 SRM) Grain 4 1.8 %
2.1 oz Roasted Barley (Simpsons) (550.0 SRM) Grain 5 0.9 %

1.00 oz Warrior [15.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 50.5 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 8 8.1 IBUs
1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Boil 5.0 Hop 9 9.4 IBUs
1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 10 8.7 IBUs
2.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 m Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] – Hop 12 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 13 0.0 IBUs

2.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days Hop 15 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [15.50 %] – Hop 16 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 0.5 Days Hop 17 0.0 IBUs

2 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007) [35 Yeast

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 14 lbs 2.1 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 17.66 qt of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F 60 min


Keg Update 11/24/15:  I racked this beer into the keg last night.  FG came in at 1.014, giving an ABV of 7.5%.  The hydrometer sample tasted fantastic, but the dry hops should kick this up some since the malt was a bit more forward than expected.  Carbonation will help bring the hops out too.  Can’t wait to tap this one.

Tasting Notes 12/27/15:

Appearance:  Hoppy Grinchmas pours a deep red/amber color with good clarity, though its hard to see that from the picture above.  When held to the light this is a very traditionally pretty looking beer and not one of the hazy hop milkshakes I like in a lot of my beers.  There’s a nice persistent off white colored head.

Smell:  This beer has a surprisingly complex aroma that has a nice balance of the malt and hops.  I expected the hops to come forward more, but the toasted biscuit and plum/raisin aromas from the malts stand up to the citrus and pine from the hops.  There’s also hints of caramelized sugar.  Its a really nice smelling beer.

Taste:  Very well balanced between hops and malt, just like the aroma.  The bitterness nicely balances the sweetness.  The malt flavor is pretty complex.  Toasted bread crust and sweet dark fruit flavors are what come through the most.  The raisin flavor from the Special B is too heavy.  That’s surprising given the small percentage I used.  Perhaps its the Victory or Munich malt that’s adding too much?  There’s a bit of a sharp flavor in there somewhere that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I don’t think it’s from the hops, and its not a pleasant flavor.  Either way, I’d probably dial those malts back a bit for next time, or drop them entirely.  Its a slippery slope though, because I’m not sure I want this to be a Red IPA, I do like a nice malt flavor in this beer too.  The hop flavor in this blends well with the malts with some citrus and resiny bitterness coming through.

Mouthfeel:   The mouthfeel on this beer is very nice.  Medium bodied, but nicely drinkable.  Very smooth on the palate with medium carbonation.

Overall:  I have to admit, I’m somewhat disappointed at how heavy on some of the toasted crust and raisin flavors this beer is.  I like the malt bill from last years version better, and I might go back to something more similar to that when I do this again.  I’m my own worst critic though, and while this isn’t an awful beer, its just not that good either.  I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with it that was from my process, I just think I messed with the recipe too much.  I know I can make a better Imperial Red.