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On Tap at the Farmhouse

Tap 1: Marzen

Tap 2: Pilsner

Tap 3: Gose

In the Cooler: Red IPA, Jasmine Shandy

Primary: Cask ESB, Habanero Chocolate Porter

Secondary: Tropical DIPA, Belgian IPA

Aging: Brux Farmhouse, Barrel-Aged Golden Strong Ale

Upcoming: Saison, Best Bitter, Gose, American IPA


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


Brew Day: Habanero Chocolate Porter

When a friend gives you hot peppers, you throw them into a hot kettle.

At our last homebrew club meeting, one of our members showed up with a big pile of habanero peppers from her and her husband’s garden. Lara and I had already planned to make a pepper-infused porter for the upcoming Homebrew for Hunger, so this was a true stroke of good timing.

This is actually our first pepper beer of any kind. I’ve had several good ones (Birdsong’s jalapeno pale ale comes to mind as does Hot Pistol stout from our buddies Glenn and Dave) but hadn’t felt compelled to try one until Lara suggested it recently.

There are a couple ways to prepare hot peppers for brewing: (1) simply open them up so you can seed and slice before adding them to the boil and (2) infuse a neutral spirit with the peppers and add the infused spirit to the fermentor, keg, or bottle.

We opted for the first choice this time. I removed the vast majority of seeds and gave them a rough, ½-inch chop before adding them to the last 5 minutes of the boil. The benefit here is speed and ease because preparing the peppers took very little time. The downside, though, is that you don’t really know just how hot the peppers are. They naturally vary from pepper to pepper, and habaneros range from 150,000 to 300,000 on the Scoville scale. That means one pepper can be intense but citrusy and pleasant, and another can lay you out for the day.

That’s where the second option is superior. By making an infused liquor, you can control the heat addition to the beer more precisely. You chop the peppers and remove as many seeds as you prefer, then top the peppers with enough vodka to cover them. After a week, you have an infusion that you can taste test at different volumes in a sample of the beer.

Because I chose to chop them and put them directly into the end of the boil, we won’t know until we check gravity and taste toward the end of primary exactly where this porter stands. We have a few more peppers that we can use during secondary if the heat level is too low, and we can only hope the beer isn’t already a capsaicin blowout.

Another thing I’ve read is that hot peppers can infuse bitterness if boiled for too long, so it’s best if they’re added within the last few minutes of the boil, if not simply at flameout and/or in secondary fermentation.

The base beer is our robust chocolate porter, last brewed for our 2013 Oktoberfest party.

Target Numbers
Batch: 6.0 gallons
Grains: 12.65 lb.
SRM: 23
IBU: 35.5
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.3%

Grain Bill
9.10 lb. Maris Otter
1.20 lb. Caramunich II
0.90 lb. Flaked oats
0.58 lb. Crystal 60
0.58 lb. Chocolate malt
0.29 lb. Roasted barley

2.70 oz. Willamette (5.5% AA)
0.40 oz. Centennial (9.9% AA)

Wyeast 1275 (Thames Valley Ale)

12.5 gallons RO water and Durham well water (50% RO/50% Durham)

7 habanero peppers (5 chopped and seeded, 2 remaining for secondary fermentation)
0.5 lb. Videri cocoa nibs
0.5 lb. 1 Whirlfloc tablet

0.5 tsp. yeast nutrient
0.5 tsp. gypsum

Mash (60 minutes)
Saccharification: 155°F
Mash Out: 169°F
Fly Sparge: 169°F

Boil (60 minutes)
60: 2.20 oz. Willamette
20: 0.50 lb. cocoa nibs
05: 0.50 oz. Willamette, 0.40 oz. Centennial, 5 habanero peppers

Pitch: 69°F
Primary: 70°F
Secondary: 70°F

Once we taste the fermented beer, we’ll make a decision about adding the remaining peppers to secondary fermentation. An update will follow in a couple weeks.


Brew Day: Tropical DIPA

This is one way to burn through a freezer full of Citra and Mosaic. I’d been meaning to brew an imperial IPA for a while. We’d cranked through several versions of our base IPA and a new red IPA this summer and figured it was time for something a bit brawnier.

This being a bit of a freezer clear, we opted for Centennial for a small bittering charge over my original choice, Bravo, and we leaned heavier on Mosaic because we didn’t have any Jade or Galaxy on hand. While not technically a “hop burst” beer, we did pull most of our IBUs from big hop additions toward the end of the boil.

Grain-wise, this is a typical IPA for us: almost entirely two-row pale, a touch of wheat, and just a pinch of crystal malt. We added half a pound of candi sugar during the boil to boost the alcohol and dry out the body.

Fermentation took off quickly and vigorously. We pitched the yeast cake from our latest red IPA into the wort, and the cells were healthy and hungry. The blowoff tube was making a mess within 24 hours of pitching.

The tropical DIPA is right in the middle of our fermentation shower, causing all sorts of trouble and spilloverWe plan to serve this beer next month at Homebrew for Hunger, a great charity homebrew event in Carrboro. Head here for details and tickets. In the meantime, I’d better start brewing the other four beers we’re supposed to have at the festival.

Target Numbers
Batch: 6.0 gallons
Grains: 18.75 lb.
SRM: 6.5
IBU: 65
OG: 1.083
FG: 1.012
ABV: 9.3%

Grain Bill
16.5 lb. 2-row pale
1.00 lb. Torrified wheat
0.75 lb. Crystal 40

6.20 oz. Citra (12% AA)
6.20 oz. Simcoe (13% AA)
5.20 oz. Mosaic (11.6% AA)
0.80 oz. Centennial (9.9% AA)

Wyeast 1272 (American Ale 2)

12.9 gallons RO water and Durham well water (50% RO/50% Durham)

8.0 oz. Beet sugar
1 Whirlfloc tablet
0.5 tsp. yeast nutrient
0.5 tsp. gypsum

Mash (60 minutes)
Saccharification: 151°F
Mash Out: 169°F
Fly Sparge: 169°F

Boil (60 minutes)
60: 0.80 oz. Centennial
10: 1.00 oz. Citra, 1.00 oz. Simcoe, 1.00 oz. Mosaic
05: 1.20 oz. Citra, 1.20 oz. Simcoe, 1.20 oz. Mosaic, 8.00 oz. beet sugar
00: 2.00 oz. Citra, 2.00 oz. Simcoe, 1.00 oz. Mosaic

Pitch: 70°F
Primary: 72°F
Secondary: 72°F (dry hopped with 2.00 oz. Citra, 2.00 oz. Simcoe, and 1.00 oz. Mosaic in two charges, each half of the bill and each for 5 days)


Brew Day: Red IPA 2

Behold the beautiful cold break and all its pulpy protein.

This should prove to be a vibrant beer, and it had better be because it’s destined for company. This is a tweak on our recent red IPA, brewed in July as a lark when we needed 5 gallons of wort to blend with a Flanders red ale. Imagine our surprise when the Flanders red malt bill paired magically with Chinook, Summit, and Centennial hops to create a pungent hop bomb with a satisfyingly rich and complex grist. Sometimes those larks land on your regular brewing roster.

We brewed largely the same beer as last time with one exception: we swapped the traditional wheat addition to a Flanders red for rye. We loved the original beer but wanted to see how an intense, spicy grain like rye would play in this concoction.

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

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

Wyeast 1272 (American Ale 2)

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

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

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)


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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)

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

3.00 oz. Saaz (assuming 4.0% AA)

Wyeast 3522 (Ardennes) or comparable

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

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.