Tag Archives: Safale s-04

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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First Split Batch Ever.


At some point, almost all homebrewers will split a batch.  This can mean many things, but usually it means to take one wort and separate it into more than one fermentor and change one variable such as yeast, dry hop, fermentation temperature, etc. This allows for a somewhat accurate (albeit subjective) interpretation of what that variable brings to the table.  It came a surprise to me that I’ve never personally broken up a batch, besides a couple of collaborative brews but one of those was a barleywine and the other a sour ale still fermenting after nine months. If you’ve been following this blog you’ll probably have noticed that I’ve moved up to ten gallon batches, which makes splitting that mich easier.  No need to buy smaller fermentors (three gallon glass or plastic carboys for splitting a five gallon batch) I can just use my standard six gallon joints to get my experiment on.

The first batch on the new ten gallon system was a closet-cleaning batch which I had low expectations for.  I call it a closet cleaner because I tried to use up what I had remaining from previous batches.  That included three different base malts and a pound of special roast that I bought from the Brooklyn Kitchen when I first started brewing about two years ago.  I chose to split the batch up and use two different yeast strains to see how they stacked up against eachother.  I chose two English strains, Wyeast 1187 Ringwood Ale and a dry pack of Safale S-04 Whitbread and used organic New Zealand Rakau hops along with one of my new favorites, Glacier.

Appearance:  Both beers are amber to copper colored but the Ringwood version is much clearer.  I remember that I added gelatin to the Ringwood in order to have it ready for one of Josh Bernstein’s homebrew tours, but ended up serving them both for comparisons sake.  The S-04 is much cloudier and stays in line with my experience of dry yeast being a bit less flocculent than its liquid counterpart (S-04/1098 Whitbread and S-05/1056 American Ale). Dense white head lasts a few minutes.

Aroma: Both have a distinct baking spice and cocoa smell with some toasty bread crust behind it. I also sometimes get some floral notes, possible from the late addition of Glacier. The Ringwood strain gives me a slight cherry note when I really get my nose in there.

Taste: Both of these beers benefit from being served somewhat warmer as the gentle breadcrust notes seem to blend in with the fruity hop profile a little better.  When cold, the toastiness fromt he Briess Special Roast seems to be prominent and a bit harsh for my tastes.  The Ringwood tops the S-04 in this category with gentle notes of peach and cherry that linger in the mid-palate. The S-04 seems a bit bland in comparison and seems somewhat neutral, with a slight tartness.

Mouthfeel: This is also where the Ringwood trumps the dry yeast by being more full bodied and “chewy” without seeming under attenuated and sweet. The S-04 seems a bit thin and not very exciting. The Ringwood version reminds me a lot of a fresh Newcastle Brown.

Overall impression: The recipe needs some work mostly in the hop profile which seems a bit disjointed and generally too prominent for an English style brown. Doesn’t have that intangible quality I look for in a beer that makes you want reach for another sip.  Unfortunately, I don’t plan on working on this recipe but I do feel fortunate that I now have this knowledge of the different strains side by side as well as a good sense of what special roast does in a recipe.

Recipe to follow:

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Diving Head First Into a 26 Gallon Pot.

That’s my dog Betelgeuse, who stopped barking at a plant long enough to help me out with a size comparison.

My new kettle came in and I gave it a run through by brewing 10 gallons of special bitter today.  It’s huge.  I probably bit off more than I can chew by opting for the 26 gallon pot, but my goal is to someday put this to use brewing 20 gallon batches as a pilot system for my dream brewery.  I also got a march pump to make liquid transfers easier, but for the first brew I just wanted to see if my turkey fryer burner setup could even boil 13 gallons of wort.

Started off by filling the kettle one gallon at a time and marking off the increments on a metal yard stick.  I quickly realized that 0.75″ is equal to 1 gallon of water and verified it on the morebeer chatrooms.  I began heating up a majority of my hot water  (12 gallons) for the brew day going from 52F to 170F in about an hour.  I pulled 5.8 gallons of hot liquor into my old kettle and manually doughed-in at 154F, pretty much spot on.  Rested for 60 mins and then juggled the first runnings and sparge water in a series of buckets and transfers but eventually ended up with 13 gallon pre-boil and 1.039 gravity, which was slightly higher than I calculated.  I planned to lose a few percentage points of efficiency (estimated around 80% brewhouse efficiency) because of the larger amount of grains I used by doubling the recipe but instead my efficiency was higher, near 85%.  I recently switched from double batch sparging to single batch sparging in order to purposely lower my efficiency and *possibly* get more malt flavor from the grains.  Results are still out on that as I’ve only done about 4 batches this way. I went back to double batch sparging on this brew simply because I can’t fit 9 gallons of sparge water and 16 lbs of grain in my 52 qt. mash tun cooler.

Yeah, good luck chillin’ that.

I plan on getting either a plate chiller or counterflow unit (leaning more towards counterflow so I don’t have to worry about clogging) but for my simple run through today I had a feeling that my 25′ copper immersion chiller that I’ve been using since I began brewing would do the job, and I was right.  The wort went from 212F to 100F in about 15 mins and down to 65 in another 30 mins.

 They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

The most exciting part about all this is the ability to split batches and do different yeasts. I went with dry yeast just to make things easier on myself.  I chose a new pack of Safale S-04 and a very old pack of Nottingham Windsor that has been in my fridge for over a year and a half that I bought the same day I purchased my aforementioned chiller.  I rehydrated both and pitched at 65F.  In true experimental spirit I used all German Opal hops so I can get a good sense of their bittering and aromatic properties.

The first brew on the new kettle was pretty uneventful and smooth.  I’m sure that when I get the pump and new chiller involved things will really start to fall apart.  For now, I’m happy with how easily this 10 gallon brew day went.  I still plan on brewing 5 gallon batches with my old kettle when attempting a new style or brewing a high-gravity beer.  The 10 gallon and larger batches will be reserved for mostly tried and true recipes as well as brewing for events.  Roughly the same amount of work, double the beer.

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