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.
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!