EXP 1210 Single Hop Beer

EXP 1220 Single Hop Pale Ale

I brewed a single hop beer a while back using another experimental hop from Hop Steiner, unostentatiously name “EXP 1210”.  I fell back on the Russian River Hop 2 It recipe because of it’s ease of brewing, delicious results, and I had the ingredients readily on hand.  I actually poured this beer at the most recent National Homebrew Conference in Philadelphia, and got some very positive feedback.

Appearance.  Looks spot on for a pale ale.  Orange copper with nice lacing.  I transferred this to a serving keg after using finings for clarity and it  made the beer brilliantly clear, even after transportation to and from Philly.

Aroma.  Beautiful bouquet.  I’ve never actually said that out loud but maybe I would for this beer.  Really nice nose to it, plenty of citrus: lemon, grapefruit, orange, some strawberry, a little less blueberry, some stone fruit like peach or apricot.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Slight caramel sweetness is nicely balanced by the smooth bitterness of this hop.  Nice and dry.  Many of the aroma notes carry over into the taste, but more generally citrus takes over for me, the sweet berry riding shotgun.

Overall Impressions.  Very drinkable.  It’s not often that you get a single hop beer that can stand on it’s own.  While I think this American pale ale could be rounded out a bit with some pine, resin, and dankness, I would be totally okay paying for this in a bar.  I came to the conclusion that this hop was like a blend of 75% Cascade and 25% Amarillo.  Much more impressed by this hop than the EXP 6300, but maybe I should give the 6300 a chance in a pale ale, as I heard Tasty McDole of the Brewing Network made a good IPA using that hop.  It would be cool if this hop could stay in my own personal stash as a “secret” hop, but with a flavor this bangin’, I’m sure this hop will get a trendy name and be hard to come by in a few years.

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Dry Hopping Miller Lite (Round 2)

Dry Hop Experiment in Fridge

Protected from Partygoers.

I performed another dry hop experiment for this month’s Brooklyn Brewsers meeting and wanted to report back with some of our findings.  Used some pretty interesting hops with some even more interesting aromas.

Galaxy: Strong aroma, floral, watermelon, pineapple, slight pear, touch of onion, pumpkin, cucumber, children’s vitamins, Overall: Good could be great.

Palisade: Mild Aroma, Huge Tea note, black tea, earthly tea, earl grey, herbal, some blueberry and a little strawberry, okra, not as pungent as Galaxy.

El Dorado: Strong aroma, lime, lychee, green mango, honeydew melon, kiwi fruit, sweet melons, juicy fruit bubble gum, orange. Very interesting and unique.

Wakatu: Somewhat weak aroma, kimchi, beets, grassy, slight lemon, not very exciting, maybe old hops not stored well?

Meridian: Full aroma but not powerful or overpowering, sweet, citrus, strawberry, rhubarb, strawberry daiquiri, blended fruit juice, lemon merigue pie.  Very nice hop.

Mosaic: Big Aroma, very complex, papaya, melon, some onion, juicy fruit, lemon rind, berries, chive.  Hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on thus the “complex” and “true to name” descriptors we heard from the tasters.

This iteration was very fun and the next batch will hopefully be with some more classic varieties like Cascade, Chinook, Columbus so we can have some sort of baseline for all the unique new varieties and aromas we’ve been getting over the past two meetings.

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Golden Promise + EXP 6300 SMaSH Beer

GP/6300 SMaSH Beer

Hop Steiner recently released four experimental hop varieties (dubbed the EXP series) to homebrewers.  I picked up two of the more interesting (to me) hops and brewed a couple single hop batches with them.  For one batch I brewed Vinnie Cilurzo’s Hop 2 It single hop pale ale recipe (the subject of a future post), and for the other batch I brewed a single malt and single hop beer, a “SMaSH”.  I have never brewed a SMaSH before, but I’ve tasted quite a few at homebrew meetings.  The goal of a SMaSH beer is to learn what a specific ingredient brings to a finished beer without any extraneous flavors getting in the way.  For my SMaSH, I chose Simpson’s Golden Promise malt because I had two bags laying around and I really enjoy the clean, slightly biscuity malt flavor.  I use it often in my English bitter recipe and previously used it as the base malt for my house IPA before switching to American 2-row.  I would characterize Golden Promise as somewhere between standard American 2-row (very clean, neutral) and English Maris Otter malt (more biscuit, bready).  Because I had a good grasp on what the malt would taste like, I was better positioned to test out the new EXP 6300.  There would be very few interfering flavors, as long as I got a nice clean fermentation.

Appearance.  Nice copper hue with a bit of haziness.  Not sure where the haze is coming from as I usually don’t experience much chill haze and didn’t change my process for this beer at all.  Still hazy after being in the keg for over a month at near freezing temperatures.

Aroma.  Things got weird.  Most noticeable is coconut, pineapple, vanilla, and general tropical notes.  Smells sweet, the combo of coconut and pineapple makes me think of piña colada and suntan lotion.  Or the beach in general.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Aroma of sweetness carries over into the taste, some grassiness, coconut and vanilla.  Not a very harsh hop, smooth bitterness.  Alcohol heat present, which is not the hop’s fault.

Overall Impressions.  This has lasted a while in the kegerator because this hop isn’t very enticing on it’s own.  I also let the fermentation rise too high and created a noticeable alcohol flavor that took a while to fade.  I haven’t done a SMaSH beer before, mostly because I feel single hop beers can’t really stand on their own, and this is no exception.  I had good luck with HBC 342 single hop, but the character of the EXP 6300 is too simple and just isn’t tasty enough to warrant going back for multiple pints.  I think pairing this hop with a standard citrusy American variety like Cascade would remind the drinker of a more classic hop profile and be easier to drink.  Or maybe something like Simcoe or Citra for a general fruit hop bomb.  Pairing with a more expressive yeast would be interesting, something like a German weizen yeast (banana, cloves) or saison (earthy, mineral, spicy) would make the beer more interesting by adding complexity.  I’ve still got the better part of a pound left of these hops, so maybe one of those ideas will make it into the brewing schedule.

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Dry Hopping Miller Lite

Brewsers Dry Hop Experiment

When I saw this dry hop experiment floating around on the internet, I thought it would be great to do with my local homebrew club.  The basic idea is use pellets to dry hop a commercial light lager in the bottle for a few days, cold crash it, and then do a sensory analysis (mostly olfactory) on the effects of different hop varietals.  Any light beer will work, so I bought a case of Miller Lite and dosed six sets of four, each with a different hop.  I used a combination of classic hops as well as some new experimental hops to see what kind of unique aromas we could find.  Here are a few of the descriptors I pulled from the homebrew club audience of about 25 people.

Dry Hop Experiment Bottles

Amarillo: Mild aroma, dill, flowery, slight onion, perfume, very slight tropical note.  This was the surprise of the bunch.  I ran a test prior to dry hopping the entire case on a six pack and found amarillo to be underwhelming.  Needs something to amplify it, possibly in combination with kettle hopping (which usually happens anyway) or paired with another varietal in the dry hop.

Centennial: (Older package) Not a great aroma, flowery, grassy, muted, semi-dull.  I think I will attempt this variety again because the hops I used were from a one-pound package from the 2011 harvest which I have slowly used over the past two years.  Loosely packed pellets created tons of floaties and was generally unappealing.

Simcoe: Powerful aroma, cat pee, tropical notes, fruit punch, nettles, pine, pineapple, nose-bomb.  This was the clear standout and my personal favorite.  I also did a pre-test with this hop and gladly drank the entire bottle after sensory analysis.  Made Miller Lite taste like a delicious craft beer.

Hop Steiner EXP 1210: Mild aroma, Pineapple, English cask like, light citrus, burnt orange.  This hop smelled delicious upon opening the bag and persuaded me to brew the Hop 2 It recipe to bring to this year’s National Homebrew Conference.

Hop Steiner EXP 6300: Suntan lotion, wet leaves, crab shells (?), coconut butter, oily, cinnamon.  Very weird hop.  I recently did a single malt and single hop (SMaSH) beer with this, and it definitely is a very unique hop.

Crystal: Mild Aroma, slight tea leaf, spicy, flowers, earl grey tea, herbal, noble like character.  Very nice, gentle hop to go against the other aggressive varietals.  This hop, with it’s thin, very densely packed pellets caused the only problem when dosing the beers.  Every time I would drop a pellet in it would cause the beer to foam out uncontrollably, losing a bunch of beer.  We were still able to evaluate the beer, but it was messy and generally sucked.

Overall, the experiment was received well and we’re planning to do another batch at the next meeting.  Stay tuned for those tasting notes.

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HBC 342 Single Hop Beer

HBC 342 Hop 2 It

The Brooklyn Brewsers recently did a single hop experiment in which everyone participating brewed the same American pale ale recipe but used different hops.  Everyone used the same amount of hops (1 oz.) for the 30 minute, flame out, and dry hop additions.  Other than the hop varietal, the 60 minute bittering addition was the only variable between batches.  The batches using hops with higher alpha acid percentages used fewer hops for bittering and those with lower alpha acid percentages used a bit more (we had a chart to help us out) with the goal being that all of the beers would be the same bitterness IBU-wise.  I chose the still unnamed HBC 342 hop that I picked up from Farmhouse Brewing Supply.  I had previously brewed with this hop in the Lagunitas Fusion 9  but we also used Citra and another experimental variety so it was tough to pick out exactly what HBC 342 brought to the table.

Appearance. Looks like an American pale ale, deep copper, brilliant clarity with a dense white head.  Really appetizing.

Aroma.  Dank, resinous, hoppy, grassy when poured.  Subsides after a bit and begins to open up into beautiful floral and herbal notes with some citrus.  A few tasters also suggested sweet mint.  Just a hint of tropical/berry something that is hard to put my finger on.  Maybe the watermelon aroma people seem to always reference in connection with this hop?

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Very smooth bitterness with a touch of lemon peel and minty herbal notes.  Very pleasant.

Overall Impressions.  At the single hop tasting, people were really blown away by this hop and it’s dankness.  I’d like to do some more late-hopping with this variety to see if I can really bring out the watermelon.  This beer has been a go-to with the warming weather even with all five taps on my kegerator pouring pretty good beer.  Super easy-drinking with a distinct but pleasant hop nose.

Everyone in the group did a great job sticking to the recipe and we got to sample some great hops.  My only complaint was that I wish we got to try more hops!  HBC 342 actually won the overall vote for most impressive hop (which I can’t take credit for) but Mosaic was another standout.  I was blown away by the peach and apricot bomb of Glacier.  I brew an all-Glacier bitter recipe that has never tasted that good.  This experiment was such a success and a great learning tool that I have planned two more Hop 2 It batches using some experimental Steiner hops that I just picked up.

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Hoppy American Wheat

Drinking outside is always better.

I’ve been doing malt focused lagers and ales over the past few months. With Spring right around the corner I felt it was about time to get some hoppy beers on the brewing schedule. I had a leftover Brooklyn Homebrew Hefeweizen beer kit that I picked up a while back, so I decided to leave the grain bill pretty much the same, ferment with neutral ale strain at cooler temps, and dump a buttload of hops into it. It has received quite a reaction from tasters over the past month so I thought I’d post some tasting notes.

Appearance. Cloudy bright yellow with a dense rocky head that lasts forever from the use of 50% wheat malt. Wheat is a wonderful contribution to any beer in my opinion.

Smell. Bright citrus peel, grapefruit, tropical notes of mango and papaya and a background spicy note. Lemon meringue pie also comes to mind. Aroma is still jumping out of the glass after six weeks in the keg thanks to an unusually large dry hopping.

Taste and Mouthfeel. Bold bracing bitterness up front and not quite enough malt behind it to back it up. I added a small bit of melanoidin malt to replace my normal decoction mash schedule that I would do for a hefeweizen. Mouthfeel could be fuller to balance the hops, but I think next iteration I will opt for low crystal malts instead of the melanoidin malt like carapils of carahell, mostly because I keep those around for other beers. There is a minerally edge to the bitterness, probably due to the IPA-like dosing of gypsum in order to bring out the hop perception. There is a spiciness that I believe is coming from the dry hop NZ Rakau that seems a bit out of place to me.

Overall Impressions. This is a really great beer. Super refreshing, hoppy, and goes down easy for when Spring (finally) comes around. I think for my next iteration, I might reduce the bittering charge and lower the amount of gypsum and CaCl to try to eliminate the mineral/chalk taste on the tongue. I will also leave out the Rakau to possibly eliminate the spicy note (I believe I only used it because I had it set aside with the Nelson Sauvin for another beer) but other than those few things, this beer is going into the brewing schedule rotation.

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Saison Nine Ways.

Saison Brett Bottles

Do try this at home?

In my preparation for Homebrew Alley 7, I brewed a ten gallon batch of saison and split the wort into two fermentors.  One would be a traditional Belgian saison and one, with the addition of a can of cherry puree, would be a cherry saison.  I started with the Brooklyn Homebrew recipe kits for the Belgian Saison and Cherry Bomb Saison. The two recipes were not exactly the same, but I combined both grain bills since they were very similar and the kits included hops for bittering and aroma that were very close substitutes for each other.  I mashed lowed for attenuation (as is normally done for saisons) at 148F and proceeded to the boil.  I added one pound of Domino cane sugar and one pound of Belgian Simplicity Candi Syrup because it was included in the kit.  Both batches would test out the new Belle Saison dry yeast, although the recipe kits call for different yeast strains.

I chilled down to 63F, a little lower than I planned, but I also didn’t want to start fermentation too high like brewers tend to do with Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison.  (Fermenting warm, sometimes into the 90F range, is used to get the characteristic earthy and spicy flavors out of the yeast.)  I allowed fermentation temperatures to free rise to 75F where they stabilized for a day or so, and then I dropped them down to the ambient temperature of 72F.  I added the cherry puree after high krausen began to fall and fermentation picked back up again.  After about a week I checked the final gravity of each batch.  The plain saison was 1.003 and the cherry version was at 0.998 (!!).  The plain saison exhibited some cidery flavor I equate with using too much sugar and fermenting warm.  It seems other people have experienced similar results, so it may mean this yeast benefits from a slightly higher mash temp (150F+) or possibly an all malt grain bill (meaning no additional sugar added to the boil or fermentor).

I kegged and carbonated the cherry saison.  My first impression was that the beer had dried out too much, tasting a bit like wine, and the cherry flavor was almost undetectable.  I decided to bump up the body so I boiled 4 oz. maltodextrin with 400mL of water and added it to the keg to bring the gravity up to 1.003.  I also dosed it with some cherry extract (~1 oz.) and some lactic acid to give it a bit of bite.  So far these efforts haven’t increased its drinkability so I’m going to stash this one in the cellar for a few months and revisit it later on.

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Different Brettanomyces Strains (Not shown: Wyeast Brett Bruxellensis)

I made the experiment even more elaborate by using Mad Fermentationist’s idea and dosing the plain saison with seven different Brett strains at bottling.  I used all of the commercially available strains from White Labs and Wyeast as well as some bottle-isolated strains from BKYeast.  Choosing so many different strains may not have been the best idea because it only allowed me to have six bottles per strain (I bottled a few extra plain saisons for consumption/tasting).  This means I’ll have to schedule when to taste them and stick to that schedule.  My plan is to do 3, 6, 9, and 12 month tastings to allow the Brett character to evolve.  I will post tasting notes for all nine variations.

Here is the Brettanomyces strain breakdown:

WLT= White Labs Brett Trois (Slurry from Matt Chan)
WLC= White Labs Brett Clausenii
WLL= White Labs Brett Lambicus
WYB= Wyeast Brett Bruxellensis
BK2= BK Yeast Brett C2 (Cantillion Iris Isolate)
BK3= BK Yeast Brett C3 (Cantillion Iris Isolate)
BKBW= BK Yeast Berliner Weisse Brett (Wyeast PC 3191 Isolate)
 
The Help.

Got a little help corking and caging.

 
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100% Brettanomyces Beer

All Brett Beer

Dmitri (of BKYeast) dropped off some Brettanomyces cultures at Brooklyn Homebrew a few months back.  He had isolated three cultures from a bottle of 2008 Cantillion Iris (C1, C2, and C3) and one from a smack pack of Wyeast 3191 PC Berliner Weisse.  I decided to brew an experimental 100% Brett Beer using the C2 and C3 cultures. I pitched both cultures into a singe 2-liter starter on a stir plate for ten days.  I tasted the finished starter wort, and there was a distinct sourness along with some earthy, peach and apricot fruit aromas.  I then brewed a simple recipe of 75% German Pilsner malt, 8% wheat, 8% munich, and per Chad Yakobson’s recommendation, 8% golden naked oats to boost the body and mouthfeel.  Since the beer was experimental by nature, I decided to make it a single-hop beer as well and used all Meridian hops.  I fermented the beer for four weeks and then dry-hopped for two weeks using a big dose (5 oz. in 5 gallons) of Meridian pellets in the fermenter.  I then kegged and cold-crashed the beer for two weeks.

Appearance.  Hazy golden amber with a dense rocky head.  Despite two weeks of cold crashing at near-freezing temperatures, the low-flocculating nature of Brettanomyces left the beer cloudy even until the final pour from the keg.

Smell.  When I first tapped the keg, the massive amount of dry hops gave the beer a huge aroma of grapefruit, citrus, and lemon.  Towards the end of the keg, the citrus notes receded slightly and the telltale aroma of Brettanomyces — barnyard, pineapple, and mango — came strongly to the forefront.  This is the most aromatic beer that I’ve ever brewed, which I think is due to the combination of Brettanomyces and big dry-hopping of the Meridian hops.  The beer definitely had the wow factor upon the first sniffs of members of my homebrew club.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Because the beer finished at 1.003, the first thing I noticed about this beer is how dry it is.  The citrus aromas carried into the taste, along with some strawberry-like flavors, which I think was the result of the Brettanomyces and naked oats.  The addition of oats was important in this recipe because of the low finishing gravity.  Brettanomyces is known to thin out beers because it is so attenuative, so the oats allowed for a fuller body to counteract the Brett.

Overall Impressions.  One of the most refreshing, aromatic, and easy-drinking beers that I’ve brewed.  About halfway through the glass every time, I would get the distinct impression that I was drinking a wit beer.  Because of the risk of contaminating my other beers and long turnaround time, this 100% Brett beer probably will not make it into my regular rotation.  But when I’m ready for more experimenting, I’d like to try this again with some of Dmitri’s other cultures and some of the commercial Brett cultures that are available.

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2012 New York Wet Hop Amber Ale

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I had the opportunity to brew a wet hop beer this year using locally grown hops from Long Island, NY.  Brooklyn Homebrew received the hops from Farm to Pint just a few hours after picking.  Benjamin (the owner of Brooklyn Homebrew) and I brewed an American amber ale to highlight the wet hops.

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Yeah, the wort is actually in there somewhere.

The brew day was a bit unusual because of the large amount of hops.  We used over two pounds of whole cones in the boil.  Most brewers only get to do this once a year so we weren’t quite prepared for so much vegetable matter.  They absorbed more wort than we had anticipated, even after increasing our pre-boil volume to compensate.  Because we didn’t know the alpha acid content of the fresh hops, we decided to bitter at 60 mins. using processed whole leaf hops with a known alpha acid to make sure we had sufficient bitterness to back up the substantial malt backbone that included 2 pounds of Munich and 1.25 pounds of Crystal 20L.

After fermentation was complete, there was very little hop aroma coming from the carboy and hydrometer sample.  This was surprising because of the quantity of hops used.  We split the keg and I decided to dry-hop my half with some of my dried home grown Cascade and Columbus hops to boost the aroma.  Here are the tasting notes on my half of keg.

Appearance: Cloudy and hazy, most likely from the whole leaf keg-hopping.  Amber colored with orange highlights.

Aroma: Initially this beer had very little in the way of hop aroma even with (seemingly) a ton of delicious fresh hops.  All you could smell going into the keg was sweet malt and alcohol, not very promising.  Dry-hopped in the keg with one ounce each Cascade and Columbus, both home grown, dried, vacuum-sealed, and stored in the freezer.  The keg hops brought out delicious strawberry, hay, and fresh cut grass that only lasted a few days.  Bubblegum is also present I think as a combination of the mixed berry and sweet malt flavors.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Too much crystal malt, cloying sweetness that is not balanced by wet hop flavor.  Makes this beer hard to drink.  Only positive aspect is the nice biscuit note from the Munich malt.

Overall:  Definitely too much crystal malt, but I’m not sure where we went wrong as far as hop aroma/flavor.  The hops smelled great when they arrived in the crate but we were unable to get that character into the glass.  It’s possible that we didn’t use enough hops, but after listening to Sunday Session with Steve Dresler from Sierra Nevada about wet hop beers, our ratio of 8 oz. wet for every 1 oz. of dry hops (we would have used in a normal batch) was very similar to his ratio.  Next season, I’ll dial back the crystal malt quite a bit.   I may even make it a pale ale and increase the quantity of fresh hops towards the end of the boil to capture that great aroma.

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Looks great, tastes meh. 

9 lb (70.6%) Standard 2-Row; Rahr – added during mash
.5 lb (3.9%) White Wheat; Rahr – added during mash
2 lb (15.7%) Munich TYPE I; Weyermann – added during mash
1.25 lb (9.8%) Organic Caramel Malt 20L; Briess – added during mash
19 g (2.1%) Columbus whole leaf  – added during boil, boiled 60 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 20.0 m
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 20.0 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 15.0 m
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 15.0 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 5.0 m
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 5.0 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil
1.0 ea WYeast 1272 American Ale II™
1 oz Cascade Dry Hop – added to keg
1 oz Columbus Dry Hop – added to keg
Chalk: 4 grams in the Mash
mash pH: 5.68
Gypsum: 5 grams in the Boil
Actual IBU’s should be around 45, since the bulk of the hop additions were “wet”
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“Welcome to Brooklyn”

Extra Virgin Shoot

Just a quick post for anyone relaxing in front of a TV tomorrow.  I make a guest appearance on the Cooking Channel’s show Extra Virgin with Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos.  It was filmed this past summer and airs tomorrow, December 25 at 6:30 PM EST.  I teach them to brew a batch of beer and also bring over some of my homebrew to share at their backyard BK barbecue.  I haven’t seen the episode yet, but I’m hopeful that there’s a cable TV somewhere in my extended family.

If you miss the “Welcome to Brooklyn” episode tomorrow, you can catch it again January 12 at 10:00 PM or 2:00 AM or February 2 at 9:30 AM.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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