SEARCH
Find us elsewhere
On Tap at the Farmhouse

Tap 1: Free

Tap 2: Free

Tap 3: Fresh Hop Pale Ale with Three Horses Cascade

Primary: Red IPA, American IPA

Secondary: Brux Farmhouse, Pilsner, Marzen, Breakfast Stout

Upcoming: Gose, Smoked Saison, Dank DIPA, Cask ESB

Events

Join us at Big Boss Brewing to raise money for ALS research!

Friday
Aug082014

Tasting: Red IPA

Here’s a vivid way to show the many flavors of beer you can create from a single mash.

A month ago, Lara and I brewed a young beer to blend with our homebrew club’s Flemish red ale. Rather than stop there, we brewed a double batch. We treated half as the young Flemish red and half as this brassy, resinous red IPA.

Lord, what different beers we ended up with. With the red IPA, I wanted a beer heavy on resin and pungent forest floor flavors that bordered on scallions and garlic, figuring this malt bill would stand up to such a potent hop burst. More than anything, though, I just wanted to drink a lot of Chinook.

Aroma
I smell all three hops: the rough spice of Chinook, the oniony bite of Summit, and the bright grapefruit of Centennial. If you like this combination, it’s a beautiful thing. There’s plenty of malt underpinning the potency, though---hints of plum and raising from Special B and bready, nutty aromatic malt.

Appearance
Ruddy with a slight haze. It’s deep ruby with caramel notes. A single-finger head of white foam that sticks well to the glass.

Flavor
Summit leads right now. Plenty of herbal spiciness with that expected scallion note. But just beneath that is that classic Chinook resin-and-dirt thing that I love blended with a background note of Centennial. There’s residual sweetness from the malt bill---again, raisin, bread, and maybe some toffee---but it works well with this hop combination. Yes, the malt masks some of the pure hop flavor, but that was by design here. I wonder whether these three hops in a pale, specialty malt-devoid IPA would taste like a rusty razor blade across the tongue.

Mouthfeel
Adequate carbonation. Just prickly enough to be lively without giving much of a carbonic acid bite. Plenty of body given the complexity of the malt bill, but rather than irritating me the way it would in a standard IPA, it’s rather pleasant, a fullness that complements the hops because I went into this tasting expecting a malty, spicy IPA.

Overall Impression
A pleasant success. This is just the sort of thing I want from our double brew days, when we’re brewing with a purpose and double up on the mash to see what sort of outlier we can create from the other half of the wort. There’s plenty of room for experimentation, though. I’d love a stronger hop aroma. What if we dropped Summit for Bravo? What if we dropped the Belgian-style specialty malt in favor of Caramunich, Munich, and Crystal 60? We won’t be brewing a Flanders red ale again terribly soon, so I imagine grist changes will happen next time we tackle this beer. For now, though, I’m going to drink the hell out of this keg.

Saturday
Aug022014

Golden Strong Ale: Group Brew Day

You can’t empty a barrel without refilling it, can you?

Nash Street Home Brew Club’s wine barrel is empty now that last year’s Flanders red is bottled and aging in brewers’ cellars, so we need a beer to replace it. A group of club members gathered at Mystery Brewing on a still, sweltering Sunday to do two things: (1) bottle that Flanders red and (2) brew 60 gallons of Belgian golden strong ale to take that first beer’s place in the barrel.

Once primary fermentation is done, we’ll rack the golden ale into the barrel, where a residual amount of the Flanders red waits to infect it with all sorts of wild goodies. We’ll have to wait and see how long we let this beer barrel age.

We started with a base recipe, which you’ll see below, with some allowances for variety. Wyeast’s Ardennes strain was the preferred choice, but as long as the brewer pitched an aggressive, alcohol-tolerant Belgian-style strain, we’re in good shape.

The golden strong ale is almost entirely pilsner malt plus candi syrup, but we want to build in a little extra complexity, so the various brewers chose to add either a pound of rye, golden naked oats, or wheat to the grist. Lara and I went with rye, but the head count on brew day indicated a nice split between the three.

Here’s the base recipe. Everyone landed close to the target original gravity, and the batches were chugging along nicely within 24 hours.

Target Numbers
Batch: 5.5 gallons
Grains: 14.5 lb.
SRM: 4
IBU: 25
OG: 1.078
FG: 1.010 (before barrel aging)
ABV: 8.9% (again, before barrel aging)

Grains
13.5 lb. Pilsner
2.00 lb. Light candi syrup
1.00 lb. Golden naked oats, rye, or wheat

Hops
3.00 oz. Saaz (assuming 4.0% AA)

Yeast
Wyeast 3522 (Ardennes) or comparable

Water
Hillsborough, NC, water

Mash (~90 minutes)
Saccharification rest: 152°F-158°F (ideally high to leave more complex sugars for barrel aging)
Mash out: 168°F
Sparge: 168°F

Boil (90 minutes)
60: 2.5 oz. Saaz
15: 0.5 oz. Saaz

Fermentation
Pitch: 62°F-ish
Primary: 70°F-ish
Secondary: Ambient depending on the Mystery Brewing barrel room

Given the diversity of brewing equipment, we no doubt have some variety at all stages. Some brewers pitched at higher temperatures than others, depending on their use of immersion coils or plate chillers, and yeast cell count naturally varied from brewer to brewer. Still, with such a deep bench in this club, I’m not worried that most if not all batches will be great.

Look for future updates covering barrel-aging day, bottling day, and various tastings. Given how well the Flanders red turned out, I’m excited about what this beer can accomplish.

Time to get waiting.

 

Thursday
Jul312014

Flanders Red: Blending and Bottling

It finally happened. A full 13 months after Nash Street Homebrew Club huddled at Mystery Brewing to brew 60 gallons of Flanders red ale, that beer is finally in bottles.

The beer spent 1 month in primary and 12 months in a wine barrel, and it was blended with 20 gallons of young beer before bottling to account for barrel loss and to charge it with greater complexity, so this wasn’t as simple a task as a typical homebrew bottling.

Fortunately, a dude with a brewery had just the tools to get that beer out of the barrel quickly.

The Ratio

This is the first critical step. You have to determine a ratio of aged beer to young that produces an ideal flavor profile, one that lets a spectrum of flavors shine but leaves lacto tartness prominent, as you’d expect in a Flanders red.

Four club members brewed a batch of young beer using the same recipe as the original batch. The four tasted different---but different on a relatively narrow spectrum. For example, our batch was the sweetest and maltiest, with mild funk and tartness. Another, brewed with De Bom (Wyeast 3203-PC), was by far the tartest, which makes sense given that that strain is meant to produce sour ale in only a couple months. The other two were right in between. All the young beer was good, though.

After tasting them individually and blended with the barrel beer, we opted for a 2:1 ratio of barrel-aged beer to young beer. The aged beer tasted quite a bit tarter than it did during my 10-month sample this past spring, which was a really encouraging sign, so this ratio should provide fuel for quality aging.

Young beer

Blending

The barrel was too full for us to add the young beer to it, so we racked each 5-gallon carboy of young beer into a 15-gallon drum originally used to hold liquid malt extract. To that we added 10 gallons of barrel-aged Flanders red, and brewers were then free to rack 5 gallons of the blend into their bottling buckets and take it from there.

For simplicity’s sake, we racked each young batch separately for blending, so the bottles may develop slightly differently depending on the blending drum. We didn’t have a vessel big enough to blend all the young beer into a single batch, and honestly I’m happy to see if we notice any differences in the coming months.Racking the barrel-aged beer on top of the young beer

Carbonation

Priming sugar or no priming sugar? Using this fantastic tool from The Mad Fermentationist, Lara and I made a priming sugar solution suitable for the entire 60-gallon batch, aiming for slightly more volumes of CO2 so we could drink carbonated beer in 2014 rather than wait quite a few more months.

However, we ended up bottling without any priming sugar. Enough brewers were worried about bottle bombs and extreme overcarbonation, that we decided to let the yeast slowly work on the residual sugars in the young beer rather than jump start the process with a priming solution. Me, I probably would have used some of the solution, but I didn’t feel strongly enough about it to argue.

I Mean, Yeah, Of Couse We Drank Some of It

And it was good. It’ll be an even better beer a year from now, but at 13 months we have a tart, slightly funky ale with plenty of cherry and oak notes plus hints of chocolate and vanilla. It’s a pleasing tartness that doesn’t skew toward vinegar. It lingers on the tongue after you sip, as does a mild, oaky chalkiness.

It’s been a long process but a rewarding and educating one. Have respect for pro and home brewers who craft masterful barrel-aged beers. They’re sorcerers.

This leaves us with an empty barrel, but we’re already working on that. Stay tuned for a post about the next barrel beer.

Previous Posts

Part 1: Group Brew Day
Part 2: Barrel Aging Begins
Part 3: 10-Month Tasting
Part 4: Brewing the Young Beer

Sunday
Jul062014

Brew Day: Fresh Hop Pale Ale with Three Horses Cascade

You know your brewing culture is strong when you don’t live in the Yakima Valley and hop farms start springing up all around you.

That’s been the case for a while now in North Carolina, so I’m not making any heady projections here, but it’s nice to know you can head out into the country and find bursting hop trellises with owners eager to sell you a heavy sack of hours-old cones.

Our state isn’t an ideal hop climate. It’s hot, humid, and sunny, and we have a variety of creatures that’ll happily foul up a crop of hops. However, some varieties seem to do well, especially Cascade, that classic American bundle of grapefruit and rose.

That’s what we ended up with in this pale ale. Our friend Bryan mentioned that a local hop farm, Three Horse Hops, was harvesting its first batch of Cascade of the year. The harvest happened to come basically 1 day before our next planned brew day, so clearly we needed to add a fresh hop pale ale to the roster.

Three Horses is a gorgeous farm with a variety of tasty hops---from Chinook to Zeus to Nugget---so I’m eager for the season’s upcoming harvests.

Lara captured our trip to Three Horses rather wellThis particular pale ale is a little different than what we usually brew. The grain bill is for the marzen we serve at our Oktoberfest party each fall. With the marzen being the brew day’s first priority, this pale would have to settle for a slightly breadier, nuttier grain bill than we like for most hop-forward beers. Clearly this is perfectly fine, though.

We used our entire allotment---1 pound---during late additions, so we’ll likely dry hop with dried leaves from the homebrew store unless we luck out and Three Horses has more to offer in 2-3 weeks.

And one final note about fresh hops. They retain a bunch of moisture. If you’re using them, plan for two things: (1) use roughly 4 times as many fresh cones as you would pelletized hops to get the same effect (ie, 1 oz. pellets = 4 oz. fresh cones), and (2) plan for those fresh hops to suck up a lot of wort. Calculate ahead so you won’t be stuck with 3.5 gallons of beer in the end.

I’m excited to taste this beer. Notes to come as soon as the beer’s ready.

Target Numbers
Batch: 6 gallons
Grains: 12.8 lbs.
Water: 13 gallons
SRM: 8.5
IBU: 35.5
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.0%

Grains
7.25 lbs. Pilsner
2.50 lbs. Vienna
1.20 lbs. Munich light
1.10 lbs. Caramunich
0.75 lbs. CaraPils

Hops
1.00 lbs. Three Horses Cascade (6.6% AA)
1.30 oz. Centennial pellets (9.9% AA)
1.00 oz. Cascade whole leaf (6.6% AA)*

Water
13 gallons (2:1 RO water/Durham well water)

Yeast
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)

Extras
1 Whirlfloc tablet
0.5 tsp. yeast nutrient

Mash (60 minutes)
Saccharification: 153°F
Mash out: 168°F
Sparge: 168°F

Boil (60 minutes)
30: 1.3 oz. Centennial
10: 4.0 oz. Cascade
05: 4.0 oz. Cascade
00: 8.0 oz. Cascade

Fermentation
Pitch: 70°F
Primary: 73°F (14 days)
Secondary: 73°F (5 days with 1.0 oz. whole leaf Cascade)

* Assuming we don’t end up with another sack of fresh hops, we’ll dry hop with dried Cascade leaves.

Tuesday
Jul012014

Brew Day: Red IPA

Lara and I mashed a double batch last weekend, half of which will become a young blending beer for our homebrew club’s Flanders red ale and half of which is here, transforming into a rich, malty, pungent IPA.

It seemed like a fun contrast to take half of our Flanders batch and brain it with some particularly offensive American hops. If nothing else, we’ll finish this keg before the first bottle of Flanders is even ready to drink.

Had this been a standalone red IPA, I would have made different decisions with the malt bill, specifically cutting back on Special B, adding some rye, and using Vienna as the sole base malt. That’s minor stuff, though. When you have the wort, you roll with it.

Given the richness of the grain bill, we wanted to pick hops that could stand up to the big bready, plummy, toffee-like flavors coming out of the mash. We opted for Chinook’s rough-hewn resin and spice for most of our kettle additions, finishing with the classic grapefruit bomb Centennial and Summit’s earthy shot of scallion and citrus.

Some folks really object to Summit because it can impart onion and garlic flavors. I get it, but I enjoy a pungent, earthy IPA provided it doesn’t lead with onions, and in moderation Summit helps capture that “damp forest floor” thing I want.

Here's to drinking undergrowth.Red IPA in the foreground kettle, Flanders red in the background

Target Numbers
Batch: 5.5 gallons
Grains: 12.00 lb.
SRM: 14.5
IBU: 40
OG: 1.057
FG: 1.010
ABV: 6.0%

Grain Bill
4.00 lb. 2-row pale
4.00 lb. Vienna
2.00 lb. Munich light
0.50 lb. Caramunich
0.50 lb. Aromatic
0.50 lb. Special B
0.50 lb. Wheat

Hops
3.00 oz. Chinook (13% AA)
1.60 oz. Centennial (9% AA)
1.60 oz. Summit (17% AA)

Yeast
Wyeast 1272 (American Ale 2)

Water
12.5 gallons RO water and Durham well water (75% RO/25% Durham)

Extras
1 Whirlfloc tablet
0.5 tsp. yeast nutrient
0.5 tsp. gypsum

Mash (60 minutes)
Saccharification: 153°F
Mash Out: 169°F
Fly Sparge: 169°F

Boil (60 minutes)
30: 0.70 oz. Chinook
10: 1.00 oz. Chinook
05: 1.00 oz. Chinook,
00: 1.00 oz. Centennial, 1.00 oz. Summit

Fermentation
Pitch: 67°F
Primary: 73°F
Secondary: 73°F (dry hopped with 0.60 oz. Centennial, 0.60 oz. Summit, and 0.30 oz. Chinook for 6 days)He's old as hell and, dammit, he likes brew days