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.


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