Blitzen’d – New England Style Christmas IPA

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A little blurry, but shows the color better

Blitzen’d was brewed on 11/11/16.  I’m getting around to this brew day post almost two weeks later after the beer has already been kegged on the second round of dry hops.  Oh well.  This beer is another in my line of New England style hoppy beers, but it’s a bit different than the juice bombs I usually make in this style.

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Brew day was a cool, clear evening

The inspiration for this beer was Sap by Tree House.  I never set out to clone beers though, and cloning Sap wasn’t my goal here, especially since I’ve never even had it.  I love the idea behind the beer though.  Sap is brewed primarily with Chinook hops to get those pine and herbal notes that the hop is known for.  Sap started off as Tree House’s Christmas IPA, though it apparently is in regular rotation now.  I love the idea of a Christmas tree inspired piney IPA mixed with the New England juicy style.  I imagine that Sap is truly reminiscent of pine sap, the Chinook giving that pine aroma and flavor while the NE IPA base calling to mind that golden stickiness of tree sap’s consistency.  Most of these types of beers, mine included, are made with hops like Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado and so on.  It’s fun to try other types of hops in this style to see the results.

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The burner, up close and personal

In keeping with Sap’s spirit, I mostly used Chinook hops in this beer.  This might be my first time ever using Chinook hops now that I think about it.  Simcoe takes a supporting role to give the beer a bit more depth of flavor, as well as a bit of fruitiness.  Simecoe is also known for having a very unique pine aroma, but I’ve also gotten pineapple and citrus from it was well, especially when used in a NE style IPA.  I’ve always used Simcoe with fruity hop varieties though, never with another piney or herbal hop.  I’m really excited to see what happens with this beer.

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Prepping my brew water

I’m also trying out a new hop schedule that I’d like to implement in all my future New England style IPAs/DIPAs.  Almost like a template to get my bitterness and flavors where I want them.  I’ll be using .5oz of Apollo hops for bittering, and then 1oz of Apollo at 10 minutes.  All flavor and aroma hops then go into a hopstand and massive dryhops.  I had been using hops like Citra and Galaxy or whatever in 10 minute additions, but when you do a 30 to 45 minute hopstand on top of that, I’m wondering how much flavor those are really contributing in the end or if its more bitterness?  I’m thinking rather than potentially wasting expensive flavor and aroma varieties in an addition where I might not be maximizing their use, why not use just a single ounce of Apollo to get the same bitterness and maximize my whirlpool and dryhops.  Every clone recipe I’ve seen for Trillium beers uses this method, just with Columbus rather than Apollo.  I prefer Apollo since it seems less sharp to me.  Blitzen’d is my first shot at what will hopefully be my IPA hop schedule template going forward.

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Staying warm around the kettle

The grainbill is a bit different from my usual New England base beer, but not by much.  Most of these beers I make are a golden/light orange color, very orange juice-like in appearance.  I’m going for a more deep glowing orange appearance for this one.  I had some English dark crystal on hand that I used in a previous batch, so I used a bit of that for color.  I also had some light caramalt to had just a bit of sweetness.  I skipped my usual honey malt in this one.  Honey malt is great for adding a bit of fruity sweetness to help with the juiciness of my NE IPAs, but I didn’t want that sweetness to detract from the pine of the Chinook and Simcoe.  I figured a small amount of the light caramalt will still contribute just enough to add some depth of flavor.  Other than that, my usual flaked oats and white wheat are there to achieve the creamy body that the style is known for.

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Brew day was pretty smooth for the most part with one exception.  I overshot my mash temp by about five degrees, and then overshot my sparge temp as well.  To compensate for this I added ice to bring me to my 150 degree mash tempt and 168 degree sparge.  Well, that turned out to be a problem because I undershot my OG of 1.068 by a few points in the end due to the added water volume.  The recipe posted here was adjusted with the new OG of 1.065, which isn’t a bit deal, but its worth noting.  Other than that, everything went smoothly.  The beer was boiled for 60 then I did a 30 minute hopstand prior to chilling.  The beer fermented for 3 days at 65 degrees.  I added the first round of dryhops on day three and ramped the temperature to 70 to help the beer finish out, though activity had slowed by then.  The beer was fermented for another five days on the dryhops.  I normally have these posts typed prior to kegging, but I’m a little behind.  I’m typing this on 11/23, two days after I kegged this……soooooo see below the recipe for the keg update like I usually do.

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Alyssa’s first brew day!

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10 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 68.4 %
2 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 13.7 %
White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3
Acidulated (Weyermann) (1.8 SRM) Grain 4
Caramalt (Thomas Fawcett) (15.0 SRM) Grain 5
Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM) Grain 6
Crystal, Dark (Simpsons) (80.0 SRM) Grain

Apollo
Chinook
Simcoe

Kegging Update:  This beer was kegged on 11/21/16 on the second round of dryhops.  The transfer went smoothly under my usual closed Co2 transfer process.  The FG came in at 1.015, a point or two higher than I would have liked, but thats ok.  The ABV on this beer is 6.5%.  The hydrometer sample tasted really good, it definitely had some pine notes mixed with a bit of grapefruit and pineapple.  I should be ready to drink in another five days or so.

Tasting Notes 12/05/16:

Appearance:  Blitzen’d pours a deep golden orange with a white head supported by fast, tiny bubbles.  It has the typical juice-like appearance of my other New England IPA’s which in my opinion is a thing of beauty.

Smell:  The aroma of Blitzen’d is pretty interesting.  There’s definitely pine from the Chinook and Simcoe, but there’s more fruitiness than I would have expected.  There’s prominent aromas of orange citrus, a bit of peach, some papaya, and some pineapple.  I dare say the fruit is even more prominent than the pine.  I’m sure some of the fruit comes from the Simcoe, but I think the 1318 yeast probably provides a lot of those fruity aromas as well.  I get a lot of those same citrus/peach/pineapple aromas in most of my pale ales using this yeast, so I’m sure its a contributing factor.

Taste:  This beer has a pleasant mild bitterness that quickly gives way to a predominant herbal flavor that I’m pretty sure is the Chinook hops from what I remember from other beers I’ve had where they feature.  There’s just a hint of piney resin in there as well.  The Simcoe hops provide a bit of pineapple and citrus in addition to the resin, and the 1318 yeast flavor profile tends a bit towards a peach flavor when used in beers like this.  There’s a bit of underlying sweetness here, but it’s not juicy in the way most of my beers of this style are and that’s good since juicy wasn’t the goal here.

Mouthfeel:  Medium carbonation with a medium body.  As usual with beers with this percentage of oats and wheat, there’s a smoothness and fullness without feeling heavy and chewy.  The beer remains dry enough that it’s easy drinking.

Overall:  I’m really interested to try Tree House Sap after this beer, I’d love to know what flavors they get out of those Chinook hops, and what they do with the malts to balance it.  All in all, this is a fine, tasty beer, but if I’m being 100% honest I expected more.  Maybe I’m not the biggest fan of Chinook hops since I had a pale ale from Goose Island featuring Chinook that didn’t do a whole lot for me, and it had a similar flavor.  This beer is different being a New England style beer than anything I’ve ever had from Goose, and I DO like it, but it just doesn’t blow me away in the way I’d hoped it would.  Again, I admit I’m being really picky here.  I’d be interested to brew this beer again with some major tweaks.  I think I’d make Simcoe the star of the show and either scale the Chinook back or replace it entirely.  I’d also make it a bit darker orange, just to set it apart a bit more than my usual pale ales.  I’m not sure what I’ll do next year though, I kind of missed brewing my Black December this year, but I’d like another crack at this with some changes.  We’ll see next year!

Juleøl 2016 – Norwegian Spiced Christmas Ale

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Brewed 09/30/16.  Its that time of year again!  I had attended my friend Scotty’s wedding earlier in the month when I ran into my friend Alex.  Alex was the driving force behind me brewing this beer last year, and he asked that we brew another batch this year after last year’s success.  Always up for a brew day, I agreed!

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Heating some mash water

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This year’s version of Juleøl is the same recipe as last year, only adjusted very slightly for an extra quarter gallon in the batch size.  I’m not going to go in depth on what a Juleøl is, you can read last year’s post for a more thorough explanation on the history of the beverage and what Alex and I were trying to achieve.  In short, a Juleøl is a Norwegian Christmas Ale made in a farmhouse tradition.  Norwegians would use ingredients they had at hand to make their winter beers to get them through the cold, dreary months.  These beers would often include a number of specialty ingredients including spices and sometimes even smoked malt.  Alex had visited Norway and had a Juleøl while he was there that he fell in love with.  After he described the beer to me, it sounded a lot like it was basically a spiced strong ale.  I put together a list of ingredients that met the flavor profile that Alex described and we brewed it.  The beer turned out to be a success, so much so that Alex told me that he wouldn’t change a thing.

For this year’s Juleøl, I followed Alex’s advice and barely made any modifications.  One thing I wanted to try was to use better spices this year.  I used actual cinnamon sticks and ginger root in this years version rather than ground spices.  I did still use ground all spice and clove, but those are supporting flavors next to the cinnamon and ginger.  I used one ounce of sweet orange peel as well.  The malt and hop bill stayed the same since Alex thought that the raisin and dark fruit flavors from the specialty malts were right on the money in my last attempt.  Wyeast London Ale III remains my go to yeast for most things, and it worked well in this beer last year so it returns here.

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Alex squeezing the ol sack….I’ll never stop making that joke

Brew day, or night I should say, didn’t get going until after work and I had a chance to buy my ingredients.  It was a cool September night into a cool October very early morning, so the weather set a nice tone for brewing a spiced ale.  I hit just a degree shy of my mash temp which works just fine for me.  I sparged via my usual batch sparge method, and got this beer boiling.  Once I added my 60 minute Warrior hop addition, I didn’t have much going on until the last 20 minutes or so of the boil for this beer.  I added my late hops and spices at their set times, and then turned the burner off.  It was nice not having to worry about a hop stand, and was able to chill this beer down to 70 degrees relatively fast.

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Scotty, post local Oktoberfest visit, and Jason

I did have two hiccups on this brew day, but neither were a big deal.  First, one of these days I need to learn to just trust that I have my water volumes figured out correctly.  When we mashed in, the mash looked thicker to me than usual.  I added an extra quart of water to thin it a bit.  I think I accidentally added an extra quart to the sparge as well.  I was able to correct this with a bit of malt extract that I keep on hand for just such an occasion.  Second, I forgot to add a Whirlfloc tab to the boil.  I noticed its taking a lot longer for things to drop in the carboy as this beer ferments, but I’m hoping it shouldn’t have any impact on the beer since it will condition in the bottle for a good amount of time.

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Alex prior to playing some lever hockey

Recipe Specifications
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Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated Color: 21.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 28.9 IBUs
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
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Amt Name Type # %/IBU
11 lbs Pale Malt, Golden Promise (Thomas Fawcet Grain 1 75.9 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.9 %
1 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3 6.9 %
12.0 oz Special B (Dingemans) (147.5 SRM) Grain 4 5.2 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 5 3.4 %
4.0 oz Chocolate Wheat Malt (400.0 SRM) Grain 6 1.7 %

0.50 oz Warrior [15.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 24.0 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min Hop 11 3.2 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 12 1.8 IBUs

2 Cinnamon Sticks at 15 minutes
0.50 oz Ginger Root at 15 minutes
1.00 oz Orange Peel, Sweet at 15 minutes
0.25 tsp ground Cloves at 5 minutes
1.25 tsp ground Allspice at 5 minutes (The 1 tsp was added at bottling, the .25 was brew day)

2.0 pkg London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318) [124. Yeast 14 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 14 lbs 8.0 oz
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Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 18.13 qt of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F 60 min

Bottling Update 10/20/16:  The FG of this beer came in at 1.017 giving me a final ABV of 7.2%!  Thats a nice number for a winter warmer.  I had mentioned that beer looking cloudy in the fermenter, but that wasn’t an issue by the time I bottled as everything had settled out nicely.  What was an issue was the level of ginger I was getting from the hydrometer sample.  This thing was a ginger bomb for sure, the intensity of the fresher spice over the ground stuff was huge.  To help balance it out, I made a tincture with a tsp of allspice.  I blended that into the bottling bucket and the sample I tried afterwards was better.  The beer is spice heavy right now, but it should mellow in a month to be a really pleasing Christmas beer!

Tasting Notes 12/23/16:  

Appearance:  Juleol pours a deep brown with ruby highlights at the edges of the glass.  The beer has the appearance of a glass of cola.  When the beer his held to the light it has a pretty nice level of clarity.  The beer poured with a consistent off-white head.

Smell:  Cinnamon and allspice lead the charge when you hold your nose to the glass.  There’s a slight hint of clove and ginger as well.  Its like sticking your nose into a bag of Christmas cookies!  Nothing in the way of hops or malt aroma makes it past the spices in this year’s version.

Taste:  Holy allspice!  I definitely went way heavy with the allspice addition at bottling to try and correct the dominating ginger flavor.  This beer is certainly not undrinkable by any means, its just way to spice heavy for my taste.  I get hints of cinnamon and ginger as well, but the allspice dominated all else.  The spice leaves just a lingering bit of harshness.  I’m not getting much from the malt, but there is an almost vanilla like sweetness under the spice and I’m not sure where it came from.  Maybe its just a bit of malt sweetness  coming through.  I wish there was more balance here.  I really miss the dark fruit and bready flavors from the malt bill that were in last year’s version.  Hopefully they’ll become a bit more evident as the beer ages and the spice fades.

Mouthfeel:  The feel of this beer is on the heavier side of medium bodied with medium carbonation.  There’s a bit of bite at the end that reminds me a bit of drinking a less carbonated Coke, its certainly not unpleasant.

Overall:  I can’t help but be disappointed with this beer, mostly because I brewed it for someone else with their money.  Its not a bad beer, but the spice balance its off from where I wanted it to be.  I think if I would have left the beer alone at bottling, the ginger would have subsided to an acceptable level by now.  I way over corrected with the allspice to the point where its the dominant flavor of the beer.  Like I said, I’m just bummed because I did this beer for Alex, and I hate giving someone a product I’m not as proud of.  I need to reduce the initial ginger addition and probably drop the allspice all together.  I kept about 12 bottles, so I’ll age some to see how it goes as the spice fades.  In the words of almost all beer fans in regards to an annual release:  Last year’s was better!