Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chimay Blue clone

This is my favorite of the Belgium Chimay's. A bit on the dark side and full of flavour that lingers on the palette. The yeast contributed nicely with that familiar Belgium Ale taste.

I decided to bottle this and although I'm tasting this only two weeks after bottling I plan to age this for at least six months (October).

The flavour seems spot on. Comparing this to the real thing is premature. The Chimay is crisp, clear and dry. My brew still needs to complete bottle conditioning for at least 3 weeks and then lager for a few months.

Jan 19, 2014 - After 9 months this has turned into a nice Belgium Beer. It continues to get smoother. Compared to the original this is much more malty and has more body. I wanted to have a high degree of bubbles but this resulted in over carbonation and each beer is a potential bomb of foam. A cold crash and proper in bottle fermentation would have made this better. I belive that mashing at 149F would have improved this beer too.

Nov 30, 2014 - way over carbonated so pouring this beer a a slow process. Flavor is spot on however it's just to heavy which I would attribute to a too high mash temp. This would be better in a keg so the yeast slury is not an issue. 

Chimay Rouge (Red), 7% abv. In the 75 cl bottle, it is known as Première. It is a dark brown colour and has a sweet, fruity aroma.
Chimay Bleue (Blue), 9% abv darker ale. In the 75 cl bottle, it is known as Grande Réserve. This copper-brown beer has a light creamy head and a slightly bitter taste. Considered to be the "classic" Chimay ale, it exhibits a considerable depth of fruity, peppery character.
Chimay Blanche (White), or Chimay Triple, 8% abv golden tripel. In the 75 cl bottle, it is known as Cinq Cents. This crisp beer bears a light orange colour, and is the most hopped and driest of the three.

Chimay Blue
Recipe Type: All Grain
White Labs 545 (Belgium Strong Ale)
Yeast Starter: no.
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Batch Size (Gallons): 8 (wort started at 10 gals)
Original Gravity: 1.084 (Clone recipes target 1.090)
Final Gravity: 1.015 (with bottle aging this will be lower)
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 14 @ 65 - 70
ABV 9%
Bottled 44 large bottles and plan to age for 6 months. 2 month at 68F and the remaining time in the fridge
Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.84 gal
Estimated OG: 1.092 SG
Estimated Color: 25.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.9 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes
13.25 lb Pilsner (Weyermann) (1.7 SRM) Grain 77.66 % 13.521.60
1.00 lb Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 5.86 % 11.60
0.50 lb Caramunich I (Weyermann) (51.0 SRM) Grain 2.93 % 0.50.80
0.38 lb Aromatic Malt (Briess) (20.0 SRM) Grain 2.20 % 0.380.61
0.25 lb Special B (Dingemans) (147.5 SRM) Grain 1.47 % 0.250.40
0.19 lb Chocolate Malt, Pale (Crisp) (350.0 SRM) Grain 1.10 % 0.190.30
0.50 oz Galena [13.00 %] (90 min) Hops 19.3 IBU 0.50.80
0.50 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] (15 min) Hops 3.3 IBU 0.50.80
0.25 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] (2 min) Hops 0.3 IBU 0.250.40
0.13 tsp Seeds of Paradise (Boil 15.0 min) Misc 0.130.21
0.13 tsp Seeds of Paradise (Boil 2.0 min) Misc 0.130.21
0.50 tsp Orange Peel, Bitter (Boil 5.0 min) Misc 0.50.80
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc 11.60
1.50 lb Candi Sugar, Amber (100.0 SRM) Sugar 8.79 % 1.52.00
1 Pkgs Belgian Strong Ale (Wyeast Labs #1388) Yeast-Ale
Total grain25.312
Mash Schedule: 152F Single Infusion, Light Body, running Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 15.56 lb for 5 gallons
Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
Notes on Wort: Tasted dry and smooth with caramel. Slight dieletics (butter).
Notes on the size: My 10 gallon mash ton max's out with 26 lbs of grain. The recipe was scaled up to max out my mash tun.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

High Temperature Mash Ales

Can you get a great beer if your mash is at 166F? Here is proof that you can however your beer is going to be different.

The Brewers Window is shown to the right at being from 147F to 158F. This would suggest that mashing over 158F gives you less fermentables sugars and going over 166F would give Even less. With 12 lbs of base malt I was able to get 2.4% ABV.

So why did I risk fermenting such a high mash temperature in the first place? My thermometer was not calibrated. I discovered after the mash that I was off by 11 degrees F. So my 155F mash was actually 166F.

Original gravity was 1.053 which is low for 12 lbs of base malt. Most of the sugars here are non-fermentable. My beers (yes I did this a few times) resulted in smooth malty drink that I and my friends enjoyed. The changes in the beer also resulted in low ABV. Final gravity was 1.031. Color was slightly darker. The biggest down side of these high temperature mashes are that beers are very filling. Having more that two in one night is a challenge.

Two lessons learned here. 1) Calibrate your thermometer frequently. 2) High mash temperatures on flavour grains delivers very nice smooth malty flavours.

I will consider doing separate mashes where I separate my base and flavour grain. (160F ish) from my flavour grains (150F ish) when I mash the base. I believe this will deliver better malty smooth beers while still delivering the ABV you expect.

IIPA Rahr 2-Row- July 20, 2012

Rahr 2-Row 12 lbs
Carapils ½ lbs
Crystal 40L ½ lbs
Magnum 2 oz
Simcoe 2 oz
Columbus 2 oz
Willimette 2 oz
Mash Schedule

Minutes left Gals Temp (F)
65 5 158
25 3.5 161
15 2 166
This produced 9 gals of wort
Hop Schedule

90 min boil
Minute left Adjunct
60 Magnum
15 Simcoe, tablet, coil
5 Columbus
FO Simcoe
Yeast Whitelabs 001

OG 1.053 or 13.2 Brix, FG 1.031 or 10.9 Brix, ABV 2.4%

Initial impression. I could let this age for a month and I think it would be a great bitter. This fermented for two weeks in the fridge at 68F.

Aug 4th - Kegged

Aug 12th Tasted this from the keg - plenty of body but still easy to drink. Nice aroma but not strong. Typical of a good FO hops. Very nice and worth doing again.

Sept 7 - All round good ale. Does not have a strong hops aroma nor does the little aroma smell that impressive. Actually a bit grassy. However the ale is smooth and nice to drink. The hops flavour comes through very well.

Sept 18 - This is one of the best IPA ales I’ve ever made. Beautiful malt flavour. Hops has a nice bitterness and nice hop flavour. Very little aroma. Make this again. Again got rid of the grassiness.
It was discovered later that the mash temperature was at 166F rather than 155F based on the calibration issue.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Motueka Plus Three - American IPA (Updated 2013/4/22)

Recipe here: Click here

Here's another one of my favorite Ales. A hoppy aroma and smooth full body beer. This beer is the first beer that I'm using viles of hop extract to replace the bittering hops I normally use. These viles are about the same price but without the debris in the boil and need for a hop bag.  Read below on how this turned out for bittering the beer.

The Boil and Fermentation  
With the low mash rate of 148 F the Carared and Crystal 15L added little. To minimize the trub from hops I've choosen to use hop extract from a syringe. I'm told that each syringe is equal to 2 oz of bittering hops at the 60 minute boil mark.  These cost about $1.50 each at BrewBros. The star of the show here are the hops. I've chosen four hops  toward the end of the boil for a more aroma and some flavour. Columbus, Simcoe, Centennial and NZ Motueka. These hops should deliver a full spectrum of fruit, pine and herbal qualities.

Dry hopped starting on April 14. 2 oz each of Simcoe, Citra and Columbus in primary. I choose these hops based on the experiment in the previous blog post. All were placed in a hop bags and hung using dental floss for 5 days. This was done after fermentation completed yet still in primary. I'm aiming for lots of pine and fruit aromas. I'm doing this for a shorter time period to hopefully get the qualities I want and not pick up any grassy quality. I've never had issues with 7 days of dry hopping before but if I can get all the good news I want in 5 days this will be my new method.

The Results

Hop Bitterness - mild bitterness. Adds to the smoothness with the hoppy beer. These viles present a neutral bitterness suitable for beers not know for their bitterness. This would work well in Ales and Guinness for example.

Hop Flavour - loads of flavour that fills the pallet. Grapefruit and hoppy flavours dominate.  

Hop Aroma - Wow! Soft citrus abounds. The Citra hop dominates but the combination of hops rounds this out nicely.   

Dry Hopping vertical tasting

13 hopped beer
Picking 13 varietals of hops we dry hopped them for a week in Corona. 4 to 5 pellets were placed in a Corona at 65F for 5 days and shaken daily then chilled to 41F for the final two days prior to tasting. I choose Corona based on its neutral flavour. I would love to report to you that I could rate the fruitiness, herbalness etc in an accurate table but the fact of the matter is that hops are complex in how they present there aromas and flavours. If two hops are piney, the type of pineyness and the many other flavours could all be different. That being said there are some interesting lessons I learned. Here are my impressions of the hops.
  1. Zythos - Bitter medicine, not much happening
  2. Citra- Abundance of lemons and some fruitiness
  3. Falcon Flight - Pine, vanilla with lots of fruit
  4. Sothern Cross (NZ) - Lemon, reminiscent of a German Pils 
  5. Saaz (CZ) - Smells like Pilsner Urquel
  6. Pacifica (NZ) - Dry crisp taste, very mellow
  7. Motueka - Lemon Citris with herbal overtones.
  8. Warrior - Hoppy smooth complex
  9. Centennial  - Sweet fruit with herbal finish, grapefruit
  10. *Chinook - BAM! Lots of aroma, Lime 
  11. *Simcoe - Pine clean flavour
  12. Amarillo - Puckering hoppiness
  13. *Columbus - Pine with lots of fruit.

* - Top Aroma hops

Hop flavours are complex. To break down the flavours into fruitiness  herbalness etc is watering down what the hops have to offer. My ah-ha moment is that these hops have pairings that start to make sense. For example. I think the fruitiness of a Columbus and the Lemon of Citra may go well together. Falcon Flight may pair with Chinook to give a more balanced flavour.

Based on this experiment I'm now dry hopping a 10 gallon IPA with 2 oz of Citra (Fruit, Lemon), Simcoe (Pine) and Columbus (Pine and Fruit). I'm hopping that the Pine and Fruit balance nicely. More on this later in my next post.

I plan to do this again and will change three things. Add more hops (10 pellets per bottle) to get more of what the hops have to offer, secondly focus on a style of hops for a certain beer category and, not use beer but vodka cut with water to make it 5% ABV. 

The chart below is nice but note the exceptions. Like I said hops are complex.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pliny the Hoser

Russian River Brewery has grown famous not just for their many wonderful Belgium and American Ales but also because of the very hoppy American Ales. Specifically Blind Pig, Row 2 Hill 56, Pliny the Elder and the ever so special, Pliny the Younger. This beer is made in the same style and like its brothers, it is high in ABV, has a lot of hops especially toward the end of the boil and has been dry hopped.

About the recipe. This brew started off with a lot of base malt and very little Cara-foam and Crystal 40 malts for mouth feel. The mash temperature is about as low as I've ever gone, 148F. This beer is about making the hops the star of the show. The flavour and aroma hops are equal amounts of Simcoe, Centennial and Amarillo.

My Recipe Original Recipe

NA Target OG: 1.088
NA Target FG: 1.012
Estimate 8% Target ABV 10.5%

I did not take any measurements. :-(

Malts Malts
15lbs 2-Row 20 lbs 2-Row
1lb Carafoam 1 lb Carapils
12 oz Crystal 40 12 oz Crystal 40

Note:  Use the first 6 gallons for this wort is collected for this recipe. I ran out of 2-Row so this is going to result in a lower ABV.  
Mash  148F Mash 148F

Boil Boil
70 Magnum hops  2oz 60 Magnum hops  2oz
20 Columbus hops 2oz, whilflox, coil 20 Columbus hops 2oz, whilflox, coil
FO Simcoe, Centenial, Amarillo 2 oz each FO Simcoe, Centenial, Amarillo 2 oz each

Note:  The only difference here is that I should get a slightly more bitter beer with the 70 minutes.

Clone Recipe (close to it)

Dry Hop (65F+)
Dry Hop 1: 1oz ea: Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial
Dry Hop 2: 1oz ea: Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial 2 days later
Dry Hop 3: 1oz ea: Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus then 2 days later
Dry Hop 4: 1oz ea: Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus then 3 days later, 7 days later  keg

My Dry Hop Schedule

Dry Hop (65F+)
Dry Hop 2: 1oz ea: Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial

This simplified dry hop schedule is based on what I consider the biggest bang for the buck. Not having a conical fermenter and also believing that loose hops  (not in a bag) yield better results has me making this a one shot dry hop process.

Yeast: US-05

Fermented in primary for 14 days then transferred to dry hop for 1 week. Then transferred to keg.

My technique at FO dramatically influences the beer. I have been of the believe, which I am questioning, that once the boil is over you should cool the wort to 80F ASAP. Using a large 50 ft copper coil I can routinely get the wort from boiling to 90F in 7 minutes. Then lower the temp down to 80F with a transfer into the fermentation vessel. In the future when aroma is important I will consider bringing the temp down to 120F then leaving it for 15 mins and then continue the cooling process. This process should develop much more aroma.  I'm not concerned about contamination.

The Results. The aroma is a solid yet not overwhelming lemon honey. It's enough to put a smile on your face but not enough for you to exclaim the abundance of hops. The flavour is immense with hops. The bitterness is tame but still present balancing the beer. Slight aftertaste telling you  this is high in ABV but the aftertaste is hops hops hops. The mouth feel is light with the hops dominating the malt flavours. This beer tastes more like the Row 2 Hill 56 with the smooth balance of hops. I would consider this a peer that could stand toe to toe with Russian River's hoppy Ales.

What would I do differently next time? I think I could get a lot more aroma if I let the hops at FO sit in the beer for 45 minutes at 100 F. Stay tuned for more on this later.

Overall, I'm really happy with this beer and I'll do this again.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Growing Hops 2013

2012 Hops
Just planted 5 new rhizomes in my yard. Centennial x2, Chinook x 2 and Cascade. I dug a hole that was about 12 inches deep and filled with near equal parts of sand, potting soil and organic fertilizer. After one week the rhizomes have grown up through the soil (2 inches) and sprouted leaves. This rounds out my hop crop to the list below. Stars indicate amount of crop produced in 2012. Note my Sterling hop died in 2011 after one year.
Chinook Rhizome
  1. Cascade x 2 (*****)
  2. Zeus x 3 (****)
  3. Magnum x 2 (*)
  4. Chinook x 2  (new for 2013)
  5. Centennial x 2 (new for 2013)
  6. Willamette x 1 (***)

Notice the white dots on the rhizome. These I'm told by Thyme Garden are the rhizomes reaction to being too moister  These dots will disappear  when they are planted and start to grow in the ground. From the first signs of growth this week there seems to be nothing wrong with the rhizomes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Guinness Clone (Updated 10/20/13)

St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin

Below are 3 Stouts that are all very successful. The 3rd strays from the Guinness recipe with Chocolate Wheat and Cold Press coffee but it's still creamy and wonderful. Guinness has got to one of the easiest beers to replicate.

Eight Guinness freshly poured in Ireland
The real thing in Kinsale Ireland

April 10, 2013 - Batch #1 - Guinness
Batch #1. Guinness Clone

I've had my eye on making a Guinness clone for a long time but it was not until earlier this year I purchased the Nitrogen/CO2 tank and Nitro tap to dispense this stout in the style it deserves. This is my first attempt at a Guinness clone. There are a few recipes of Guinness on the web and I took a middle of the road approach with some of the ingredients. I've never seen a 'certified' or 'this is it' recipe. I was hoping for some hints when I visited  Guinness Factory in Dublin. It was a real treat but they were not about to give away their recipe. They did mention that they used non-milled roasted grain in their beer but that really wasn't helping me much.

MY GOAL - What am I aiming for with this recipe? Two traits, creaminess and drink-ability. The head needs to be thick creamy and persistent. The stout needs to slip down the gullet and not fill you up. 

MAKING GUINNESS - This recipe is is very simple. Three grains. Base malt, roasted barley and flaked barley for the foam. I mashed at 153F to give a bit of body. The boil was again simple. 60 mins with two hop additions. 

Downward cascading bubbles

HOPS - When it came to hops I want to create the flavour that many refer to as the sourness or slight nip. I chose Northern Brewer for my bittering hop and Cascade for my flavour hop. I know Guinness does not use these hops but I figured that hops are not the star of the show here and I consider these two hops are very clean tasting. Next time I'd try this with more traditional hops but I don't think it would change things much. Some recipes call for adding a can of Guinness that has been open and stood at room temperature for three days. To me this just does not seem right from the point of view of creating your own beer from scratch.

My Recipe


1 lb roasted barley
2 lb Flaked Barley
8 lb 2-Row

60 Minute Boil

2 oz Northern Brewer 60 mins
2 oz Cascade 15 mins,
Copper Cooling coil, 15 mins
Whirlflox , 15 mins

Yeast Saf 04

Mash 153F

OG 1.047
FG 1.016
ABV 4.1%
Reference Recipe


1 lb roasted barley
2 lb Flaked Barley
8 lb Maris Otter

60 Minute Boil

1 oz Fuggle 10.8% 60 mins
1 oz KG 9.5% 15 mins,
Whirlflox , 5 mins

British Yeast

Mash 152F

This fermented in about 5 days to its FG. I let it rest for 3 more days and then kegged it.

DISPENSING A GUINNESS - This beer should be kegged with Beer Gas. Getting this beer to be 'nitro'ed' is simple.  

1. Pressurize to 40 PSI with beer gas (75% Nitrogen and 25% CO2). It's important to note that I have a defusing stone that adds beer gas into the beer instead of the typical pressurizing the gas cavity at the top of your keg. Without this stone it took meet about 2 weeks to get similar results.
2. This resulted in the same cascading Guinness pour you would see in a fine pub. Click here for a short video showing the cascading Guinness bubbles.
3. Pouring a Guinness the right way is important. Pour into a room temperature glass 2/3 full and let rest until it has settled to black. Then complete the pour and serve. Drink only after the Guinness has had a chance to stop it's cascading.  Failing to do this does affect the texture of the stout.
NITROGEN GAS - A nitro tap is different in the way is pours beer. There is a small widget in the tap that basically does the whole Pespi-Mentos experiment while pouring. The Beer Gas is at 40 psi that pushes the beer through the tap. Beer gas is 75% nitro and 25% CO2. Some Nitro does get mixed into the Guinness and this is important however the quality of Nitro is that it generally is very hard to mix with Guinness so the added gas is minimal. Nitro allows the Guinness to be under high pressure without foaming to much. The Nitro creates a finer bubble and smoother head. 

This keg will go fast and considering how easy this was and how well it turned out, I'm doing it again soon.

UPDATED 4/22/13

This clone truly is a clone. Very very similar to the real thing. Beer was a tad on the bitter side towards the final pints. 

May 19, 2013 - Batch #2 - Guinness

Brewed Guinness again. Similar ingredients (Maris Otter) as above using 1 oz KG hops at 60 min and 1 oz Fuggle at 15 min . (I should have switched the hops, KG has better flavour and is more in keeping with UK style beers.)

  • 151F Mash. 60 mins
  • Sparged to make 6.5 gallons
  • Boiled down to 5.5 gallons
  • OG  13.3 BRIX, FG 6,5 BRIX, ABV 6.0
  • 1.054 to 1.008
  • Comments:

Despite this being the same recipe this came out with more alcohol, more body and more dark barley flavour. Still excellent but this does not taste identical to Guinness like the first batch. This is kind of like its older brother. Bit more body and so a little less drinkable than the first.

Next time use 2-Row not Maris Otter and mash at 153F. Sparge to produce 6 gallons and boil down to 5.2 gallons. This means light boil for 45 minutes and harder boil for the last 15 minutes.

Sept 20, 2013 - Batch #3 - Guinness

Well two things are different with this batch. Roasted Barley was substituted with Chocolate Wheat and I've added 2 oz of Acidulated Malt. The Chocolate malt was done based on the availability of the malts at Morebeer. From early tastes this is getting me thinking of doing a Red Stout. I would replace the Roasted Barley with Red Cara Malt. The acidic malt is done to test out comments on the internet brew forums that this adds the Guinness sour twang. We will see.

  • 1 lb chocolate wheat (this is a substitute) 
  • 2 lb Flaked Barley 
  • 8 lb 2-Row 
  • 3 oz Acidulated Malt, German (trying this for the first time to add sourness)
  • Mash 152F 
  • Sparged at 167F to produce 6.5 gallons 
  • 1 oz Fuggle 10.8% 60 mins 
  • 1 oz KG 9.5% 15 mins, 
  • Whirlflox , 5 mins
  • WLP007 

OG: Brix 12.85 reading , 1.0505 reading
FG: Oct 19, 2013 1.012 (5% ABV)

Comments: taste wort prior to fermentation. Lite and chocolaty. Chocolate wheat comes across liter and more chocolaty that its barley chocolate brother.

I added cold brewed coffee. Twice I added 10 table spoons of medium ground medium coffee grounds to a 2/3 full cold water french press over night and then added the coffee to the keg. This has resulted in a stout with a mild coffee aroma and coffee flavour that adds a wonderful dimension to the stout.