Hop Harvest IPA 2016

dsc_1148Hop Harvest IPA was brewed on 09/18/16.  This beer marks the first time I’ve had access to freshly picked hops!  A coworker of mine, Steve, is a fellow homebrewer who happens to also grow his own hops.  I showed up to work and found a bag of about three and a half ounces each of freshly picked and dried Nugget and Cascade hops!

I brought the hops home that night, measured them out in 1 ounce bags, flushed with Co2, and then put them in the freezer until brew day a few days later.  The flavor fresh hops impart is supposed to be unique and intense when compared to using pellet hops.  I had about 6 and a half ounces to work with here, so that’s not a ton given that whole cone hops have more plant material that doesn’t impart anything to the beer than pellets do.  I figured to get the most out of this beer I needed to both do a smaller batch to make the amount of fresh hops I had go further, and I needed to supplement them with some pellets.

I bought two ounces each of Cascade and Nugget pellets to use during the boil and first round of dry hops, saving all my fresh hops for the hopstand and keg dry hops.  If you read my blog, you know I make my pale ales in the New England/Northeast style.  I always do a round of dry hops in the fermenter while primary fermentation is still active.  I used an ounce each of Nugget and Cascade pellets in the fermenter just for ease of removal.  Getting bagged whole cone hops out of the carboy would be awful, and not bagging them would make yeast harvesting difficult.  So pellets it was.  An ounce and a half each of my freshies were saved for hopping in the keg.

Cascade and Nugget are not the trendiest types of hops, and I’ll be interested to see what these classic American hops do in the new school NE hoppy style.  Cascades are still citrusy, and I can see Nugget fitting in here too.  Nugget can lean more towards the herbal, pine and spice side of things, but I’ve had strictly Nugget hopped beers that were fruity as well. Cascade and Nugget aren’t the Citras and Mosaics of the IPA world anymore, but that’s kind of appealing here, combining old and new.  I’ll also be excited to see what using fresh hops brings to the table as far as flavor and aroma intensity goes.  In reality, 6 ounces of fresh cones isn’t a lot by today’s pale ale standards, so I’m hopping that by doing a smaller batch I was able to stretch them a bit further.

Brew day was a madhouse, but in a fun way.  I was given two one gallon brew kits by my friend Andy, and I decided to put them to good use.  While I was brewing my fresh hopped pale ale, I had two batches of one gallon all grain beers going on the stove.  Needeless to say, I had my hands full.  Things were pretty hectic, but everything turned out well for the most part.  The Hop Harvest ale went really well, I hit all my numbers.  I mashed in at 152 for 60 minutes, sparged, and got my 60 minute boil going.  I used some of my Cascade and Nugget pellets in the boil, and saved a bit for a flameout addition.  I had a big addition of fresh hops go in right at flameout, and I steeped the hops in a hopstand for 45 minutes to let those freshies really soak in.  After the hopstand I chilled to about 70 degrees, took my hydrometer sample, and poured through my strainer into the carboy.  My hydrometer sample came in at 1.058.  The beer fermented at 68 degrees for 4 days.  I hit it with the first round of dry hops on day 4 and ramped the temp up to 72 to help the yeast finish out.


Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 4.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.058 SG
Estimated Color: 6.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 36.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
5 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt, Golden Promise (Thomas Fawcet Grain 1 64.5 %
1 lbs Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 2 11.7 %
1 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3 11.7 %
6.0 oz Honey Malt (Gambrinus) (25.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.4 %
4.0 oz Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM) Grain 5 2.9 %
4.0 oz Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM) Grain 6 2.9 %
2.5 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 7 1.8 %

0.25 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 15.3 IBUs
0.75 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Boil 10.0 min Hop 9 16.6 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min Hop 10 4.7 IBUs
2.50 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 Hop 12 0.0 IBUs

1 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Dry Hop 1
1 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 1

1.75 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Dry Hop 2
1.5 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 2

London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318)

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 8 lbs 8.5 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 10.66 qt of water at 163.7 F 152.0 F 60 min

Keg Update 09/29/16:  I kegged this beer last night on 2.25 oz of fresh Nugget and Cascade hops.  I used some stainless steel washers to help keep the bag weighted down.  I took my final hydrometer sample and it came in at 1.012, giving me an abv of 6%!  The sample tasted nice already, with citrus and some herbal and pine notes.  I’ll be anxious to see jhow this turns out!

Tasting Notes 10/12/16:

Appearance:  Hop Harvest pours a cloudy orange color with gold highlights.  This beer started with the usual level of juice like haze I get in my New England style beers, but as the keg has gone, it’s begun to settle out a bit.  Its still hazy, but not turbid.  The beer has a nice white head that dissipates fairly quickly.

Smell:  I’ve never used Nugget hops, and its been a while since I’ve used Cascade, so I’m not sure how much the fresh hops differ from the usual pellets, but this beer has a unique smell.  The dominant smell almost reminds me of being in a forest after a rain shower.  Its a very fresh floral and herbal note I think, with citrus and a bit of peach underneath that.  I’m guessing the peach comes from the 1318 esters, while the citrus should be the Cascade.  I’m thinking the herbal and floral notes are from the Nugget hops.

Taste:  This beer benefits from the stirring the keg up periodically, otherwise its a bit bland for a NE style pale.  The bitterness would be mild in a more flavorful beer, but there’s not a ton of hop flavor, so the bitterness sticks out a bit more.  There’s a spicy herbal flavor, with just a hint of grapefruit and peach beneath that.  The Golden Promise and honey malt add a bit of complexity to keep the beer from seeming boring, but there’s a bit of harsher bitterness in the finish.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent beer, but its pretty balanced and certainly not a hop bomb.  Its just a bit bland.

Mouthfeel:  Pretty nice body on this,  but nothing special.  Medium carbonation.  The bitterness in the finish creates a drier feeling on the tongue that interferes with what would otherwise be a smooth finish.

Overall:  I can’t say I’m necessarily let down here since I didn’t really have any expectations for this beer, but I’m certainly not impressed with it either.  I think the issue comes down to the amount of hops used.  The fresh whole cone hops have a lot more plant material by ounce, and while the aroma and flavor they provided was raw and pretty cool, I just didn’t have enough.  I should have done an even smaller batch to really make the most of them, but oh well.  I’d love to try another fresh hop beer though, and it was cool getting to use some varieties that I don’t use much if any of.  In the grand scheme of things, this is a forgettable beer.  I’ve brewed plenty worse, but I’ve certainly brewed better IPA’s.


Oktoberfest -Version 2


Oktoberfest was brewed on 08/28/16.  One of goals in the beginning of the year was to step up my lager game, and brew a couple lagers.  Mission complete since this is lager number two for me in 2016.  Though I’m a hop head for sure, I really enjoy a good Oktoberfest beer once the weather starts cooling off and the leaves change colors.  Its really one of the perfect styles for people who are big beer people and people who drink macro beers.  Its usually malty and not bitter, easy drinking but with good flavor, and sessionable.  They aren’t complex enough where people may be turned off, but there are subtle nuances that can be appreciated as well.


My brew/drinking buddies for the day, Jason, Andy, Steve (Dave not pictured)

There are two types of Oktoberfest beers:  Festbeers and Märzen.  The Festbeer style is closer to being like a more robust Munich Helles.  This is the type of beer you would be served if you attended THE Oktoberfest in Munich.  The Festbeer is smooth, crisp, and easy to drink in quantity despite an abv usually hovering around 6%.  Pilsner malt should still make up the majority of your base, but you’ll see a higher percentage of Munich and/or Vienna malt in there as well than in a Helles.  Specialty malts should be kept to a minimum.

The other type of Oktoberfest is the Märzen.  This style is typically more deep gold to amber colored, and is the more commonly found style in the US.  A lot of examples have a bit more toasty or caramel flavor.  Munich and/or Vienna malt may make up a larger part of the grain bill, and you may find some specialty grains being used like caramunich or other crystal malts.  Their use should still be restrained since you don’t want sweetness.  There’s a clear difference between a good, well attenuated malty beer and a sweet beer, and this shouldn’t be sweet.


Both styles of Oktoberfest have things about them that I enjoy, so I tip-toed the line between them.  This year’s Oktoberfest probably leans more toward the Märzen style, but it it shouldn’t have any of the caramel sweetness that can sometimes be off-putting in that style whn not done properly.  With this beer, I much prefer getting my malty flavors from using larger percentages of Munich and Vienna malt, and I added a half pound of Melanoiden malt.  Melanoiden is a specialty malt that is almost like a super Munich malt.  It adds intense malt aroma and flavor to the beer, but not in a sweet way.  The malt should have notes of fresh baked bread, biscuits and a bit of toast.




Mashing in!  Jason on the left, me on the right.

This year’s beer isn’t too much of a change from the last time I brewed an Oktoberfest.  I substituted a couple pounds of Pils malt for Munich for that added maltiness, and the Vienna is the same.  I upped the bittering charge a bit, and got rid of the second round of hops so that the bittering hops will offset the sweetness, but there won’t be much hop flavor to get in the way of the malt.  I also went with the yeast I used on my Helles, Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager.  It had a profile that I really enjoyed, and it should work just as well here.


Getting all those sugars out!

Brew day was a lot of fun as usual, I had a good group hanging out and helping me.  I mashed in at 150 for an hour and sparged as usual.  This beer called for a 90 minute boil due to the Pilsner malt used.  Since it wasn’t a huge percentage of the grist I may have been able to get away with a 60 minute boil, but why risk it?  I threw in my lone bittering charge at 60 minutes and sat down for some beers and BLT’s with my friends.  I didn’t have anything going on until a whirlfloc addition at 15 minutes, and sanitizing the chiller in the boil at 10 minutes.  I got the beer chilling right at flameout, but this took a while to get to pitching temperature.  Hose water this time of year doesn’t get too cold, so we filled a bucket with ice and saltwater and then coiled the hose in it as a sort of pre-chiller.


Watching for a boil over

We were able to get the beer down to 68 degrees and I decided I’d let the fride to the rest of the work.  I drew a hydrometer sample, poured through a strainer into the carboy, and then I pitched my yeast which I had built up in a starter.  My hydrometer sample was right on at 1.057!


This beer will ferment at 48 degrees for about a week and a half.  After that time, I’ll raise the beer to 65 degrees for a diacetyl rest.  The beer will sit at 65 for two days, and then I’ll transfer the beer to a keg.  I’ll then drop the beer by  5 degrees each day until it gets close to freezing, probably 34 or 35 degrees.  Once I have open space in the kegerator, I’ll trow some gelatin to clear this thing and then start letting it carb!  I expect to be drinking it by mid October, though it should continue to improve with more time in the keg.


My Strainers, Jason and Steve


Right on the money!

Ca+2                  Mg+2                  Na+                Cl-                 SO4-2              HCO
80.3                   11.8                     7.8                  72.0                59.2                4.379

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 8.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
4 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 34.8 %
3 lbs 12.0 oz Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 32.6 %
3 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 3 26.1 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin (Weyermann) (30.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.3 %
4.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.2 %

1.50 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 25.6 IBUs

2.0 pkg Bohemian Lager (Wyeast Labs #2124) [124. Yeast 8 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 8.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 14.38 qt of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F 60 min

Keg Update 09/12/16:  After a few days at 65 I kegged this beer under my usual closed transfer system.  The FG came in at 1.011 giving me my target 6% abv!  The beer had a really nice clean malty flavor already that will only improve with lagering.  I lowered the beer back to 50 and will drop the temperature a few degrees each day until it reaches lagering temps where it will sit a month or so.

Tasting Notes 10/20/16:

Appearance:  Oktoberfest pours a deep gold to light amber color.  The beer has a nice level of clarity thanks to the gelatin used to fine it.  Its not crystal clear, but its not far off.  The beer has a nice white head when poured that sticks around for a bit then clings to the side of the glass.

Smell:  The aroma of this beer is mild, as it should be.  The dominant smell I pick up from this beer is freshly baked bread crust.  There was initially a hint of sulfur, but that has thankfully conditioned out of the beer.  No yeast or hop aroma to speak of in this one.

Taste:  Clean, crisp, and malty is the name of the game here.  The maltiness follows the nose in that it tastes very bread crust like.  Its just a pure malt flavor, no real flavor from the hops come in, just bitterness to offset the sweetness.  The beer is well balanced, could maybe be just a touch hoppier to further balance it.  I’ve had a number of friends sample this at an Oktoberfest party and it was well received, but the constructive criticism I got was to up the hops a bit.  I think a 15 or 20 minute addition might do well here.  This lager yeast fermented very clean, and I’m glad I used it here after the success I had with it in my Helles recipe.

Mouthfeel:  A light to medium bodied beer with lively carbonation.  One of the adjustments I made in the keg with this beer was to blast this with some more C02 while my other keg was disconnected.  I usually have my regulator set to about 12 to 15 psi, which works great for my ales, but setting this at 20 and leaving it overnight about a week ago bumped up the carbonation to a perfect level.

Overall:  A definite improvement over last years, but still not perfect.  I had an Ayinger Oktoberfest the other day, and that beer is on a whole other level.  That being said, I’d put this beer against a lot of other American versions of the style.  The malt flavor in this beer is really nice and clean.  The bitterness could use the slightest bump.  I’d like to add a bit more toasted biscuit flavor, or somehow just make the malt a bit more complex without over complicating the beer.  I’m thinking a higher percentage of Munich or Vienna malt might do that, and maybe a bit of Caramunich.  All that aside, I’m really pleased with this beer, and it’s another solid entry into my very sparse lager portfolio.