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On Tap at the Farmhouse

Tap 1: El Dorado IPA

Tap 2: American IPA

Tap 3: 100% Brett IPA

Primary: Robust Porter, Hoppy Amber

Lagering: Pilsner, Hoppy Lager

Aging: Brux Farmhouse, Barrel-Aged Golden Strong Ale, Strong Dark Sour, American Wild Ale (Blonde)

Upcoming: Saison, Dank Rye DIPA

Events

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

Monday
Feb162015

Brew Day: Experimental Hops

I married a smart, friendly homebrewer. This pays off all the time but perhaps never more than when we took a trip to Asheville at the start of the year.

We toured the new Sierra Nevada brewery in Mills River, NC, while we were there, and the final stop of the tour features an expansive, generous flight of beers poured by one of the tour guides. Lara, being a self-described f’ing sweetheart, struck up a conversation with the guide---about homebrewing, naturally.

People began peeling away from the tour, so we slowly joined suit, but that guide, who’d been called away to the phone, shouted for us to wait for just a minute. He wrapped up his call, leaned over the counter to us and said, “You guys want some experimental hops?”

Yes. Yes, we do.

He headed deep into the shiny, copper-plated bowels of the brewery and returned with two half-pound vacuum packs, each with a hop code hastily scrawled on it. We left the brewery that day with half a pound each of Idaho #7 and #5256, hops we knew absolutely nothing about except that they were destined to star in their own pale ales.

This guy is also an f’ing sweetheart.

So here we are. I had to do a good bit of searching to find flavor and aroma profiles for these hops given that they’re not widely in use. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Idaho #7: orange, apricot, and black tea with an herbal underpinning
  • #5256: grapefruit, pine, mint, and citrus with a touch of dark fruit and herbs (bred from Apollo and Merkur)

We mashed a double batch of the recipe that follows and split the runnings into two boils so we could focus each on one of the hops. We bittered with Centennial because we didn’t have reliable alpha acid numbers for Idaho #7 and #5256 and because we wanted to focus our experimental additions at flameout, in the hopback, and in dry hopping.

This was a particularly exciting brew day because I honestly can’t say I know how these beers will develop. Going in, I noted that Idaho #7 had a pleasantly tropical, floral aroma and that #5256 smelled like a bulging sack of fresh weed.

Tasting results will follow as soon as these beers finish dry hopping and carbonate.

Just a pinch of Citra hanging out in Sierra Nevada's hop freezerTarget Numbers
Batch: 5 gallons
IBU: 40
SRM: 4.6
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.0%

Grains
15.3 lb. 2-row pale
0.78 lb. Flaked oats
0.62 lb. Vienna
0.41 lb. Crystal 40

Hops
8.00 oz. Idaho #7 or #5256
2.00 oz. Centennial (9.9% AA)

Yeast
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)

Water Profile
Bicarbonate: 104 ppm
Calcium: 84 ppm
Chloride: 102 ppm
Magnesium: 15 ppm
Sodium: 64 ppm
Sulfate: 178 ppm

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

Boil (60 minutes)
60: 2.00 oz. Centennial
00: 2.00 oz. Idaho #7 or #5256
Hopback: 2.00 oz. Idaho #7 or #5256

Fermentation
Primary (14 days): 67°F
Secondary (6 days): 67°F

Dry Hop
4.00 oz. Idaho #7 or #5256 

Sunday
Feb082015

Tasting: Rye Pale Ale

Belated tasting notes for a rye pale ale we brewed with some members of our homebrew club. This beer is long gone, sadly, which is a testament to it being pretty darn tasty.

Appearance
Golden in color with deeper honey tones. Slight hop haze, which is no surprise given the dry-hopping rate. The carbonation looks lively.

Aroma
Ripe. Full of melon, grapefruit and pine. After a few misses in the latter half of 2014, we’ve finally pulled together a hop-forward beer that’s aggressively aromatic. I’m sure there’s some rye in there, but it’s utterly blanketed in Citra and Centennial, so it doesn’t make an aromatic impact to me.

Flavor
Rye makes itself apparent here. There’s a nicely rounded graininess, that slightly rough-around-the-edges spice that rye gives off, hovering just below the hops. Still, Citra, Centennial, and Chinook are the stars here. Citrus and melon dominate, and Chinook gives off just enough resin to deepen the hop punch.

It’s not perfect, though. For a pale ale, this is a bitter brew, with apparent bitterness that would lose it some points in a competition. I also taste minerals beneath the hops and rye...something not unlike calcium and sodium...suggesting I may have overdone the brewing salt additions slightly. That’ll also kick up the perceived bitterness.

Mouthfeel
Again, a slight mineral tinge, but otherwise it’s nicely carbonated and dry without feeling thin.

Overall
A very strong step forward overall. While we need to dial back our gypsum, calcium chloride, and salt additions in future batches, we finally managed to clear up the muddied hop character of our last few tries and had no trouble destroying this entire keg within a couple weeks. We’ll definitely make it again with slight adjustments.

 

Tuesday
Jan132015

Brew Day: Rye Pale Ale

Two things came together on this December brewday: a deep dive into water chemistry and a collaboration with two of the amazing homebrewers in our club.

I’ve complained in recent posts that our last handful of hop-forward beers lacked aromatic depth and the big, clean hop punch I love in some of my favorite commercial brews. The goal here was to take a bright beer full of American hops and dial in a water profile that roughly matches San Diego (a profile I basically cribbed from Mad Fermentationist). Given our well’s soft, bicarbonate-rich water, that means cutting our strike and sparge water with reverse-osmosis water and adding plenty of gypsum, calcium carbonate, and table salt.

We also don’t collaborate with fellow brewers often enough, and Antonia and Travis from our club are a great brewing duo we'd never brewed with one on one. Antonia mentioned wanting to brew a rye pale ale, and this seemed like the perfect pairing to the water profile experiment.

Antonia and Travis joined us on our front porch, and each pair brewed 5 gallons of the same recipe. We then racked into a single fermenter, a 15.9-gallon Speidel.

The recipe, including the water profile, follow. These kegs are already long gone because we really liked the beer, so tasting notes will follow quickly.

Target Numbers
Batch: 5 gallons
IBU: 55
SRM: 4
OG: 1.059
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.8%

Grains
8.25 lbs. Two-row pale
2.30 lbs. Rye malt
1.00 lbs. Flaked rye
0.35 lbs. CaraPils

Yeast
Wyeast 1056

Water Profile (San Diego)
Bicarbonate: 104 ppm
Calcium: 84 ppm
Chloride: 102 ppm
Magnesium: 15 ppm
Sodium: 64 ppm
Sulfate: 178 ppm

Hops
5.30 oz. Citra
4.45 oz. Centennial
3.05 oz. Chinook

Mash (60 minutes)
Saccharification: 152°F
Mash Out: 168°F
Sparge: 168°F

Boil (60 minutes)
60: 1.1 oz. Centennial
05: 1.1 oz. Centennial, 1.1 oz. Citra, 0.8 oz. Chinook
00: 1.5 oz. Citra, 0.75 oz. Chinook
Hopback: 1.0 oz. Citra, 1.0 oz. Centennial, 0.75 oz. Chinook

Fermentation
Primary (12 days): 68°F
Secondary (5 days): 68°F

Dry Hop
2.0 oz. Citra, 1.25 oz. Centennial, 0.75 oz. Chinook for 5 days

Tuesday
Dec162014

Tasting: Tropical DIPA

I’ll tip my hand right away: this is the beer that convinced us to be more aggressive when treating our brewing water.

The goal was to brew a brassy, tropical double IPA that was pale straw in color and jammed with fruit-forward hops---the kind of beer that basically screams summer. We got a good bit of the way there but fell clearly short aromatically. The recipe was appropriate, as were the brewing techniques, so we were left to wonder if something as simple and vital as water chemistry was holding us back.

Our standard brewing water is split evenly between the house’s bicarbonate-heavy well water and reverse-osmosis water that we buy at the store, and our water adjustments skew conservative. For some styles, this works perfectly well, but our hoppy beers have missed the mark the last few times, so clearly it’s time for a change.

Appearance

Pale straw with some hop haze. A white, two-finger head that lingers in large part because of the wheat in the grain bill.

Aroma

Pleasing notes of Simcoe and Citra with that fruity, grassy, rounded Mosaic character in the background. It’s the right aroma, but there’s not nearly enough of it for a double IPA. The aroma is muted, as it’s been in some of the straight-ahead IPAs we’ve brewed this year. This is the sort of beer you should be able to smell across a room. Clearly our hops aren’t bursting, even after double dry hopping, so work is needed.

Flavor

And yet the flavor’s there. It’s a juicy fruit bomb full of pineapple, mango, and grapefruit with a pleasing but not overwhelming bitterness. No notable flaws aside from a possible chlorinic hint deep in there. Adding a proper aroma to this will enhance the flavor even more.

Mouthfeel

Rounded and fleshed out by wheat, and yet still dry. Carbonation is about right.

Overall

A tasty beer for sure, but I can’t help but be disappointed because of the flaccid aromatics. We’re absolutely using appropriate hop quantities, so it’s likely a matter of water chemistry holding us back. For future hop-forward beers, we’re going to more aggressively treat our water with gypsum, CaCl, and salt to see if they give the hops the extra snap they’re missing. Once we dial in the water additions, we’ll give this beer another shot. 

Tuesday
Dec162014

Tasting: Habanero Chocolate Porter

This beer exists because sometimes hot peppers show up at your homebrew club meetings, and sometimes you need to pour something aggressive at a homebrew festival. Habanero chocolate porter it is, then.

We chopped and seeded five habaneros from some friends’ garden and added them to the boil right before flameout. After primary fermentation, the habaneros were such a subtle note you’d have a hard time pulling them out during a tasting. Our friends said their habanero crop wasn’t as potent as usual, but I also suspect we used far too many in the boil.

The fix: have those friends bring a batch of cayenne peppers to the next homebrew club meeting and fashion a tincture out of them. We chopped and soaked the cayennes in vodka for a few days and added the liquid to the secondary fermentor, where the porter was sitting with some additional cocoa nibs.

That absolutely changed the character of this beer.

Appearance

Deep brown with caramel hints near the edge of the glass. A slightly off-white head that hangs out at a finger and a half for a minute before slowly dissipating.

Aroma

Most definitely a porter with hints of coffee, roast, and chocolate, but there’s clearly something unusual going on. If you understand you’re about to taste a pepper-infused beer, you’ll know what’s coming. There’s a fleshy fruitiness hanging behind those classic porter tones, along with something slightly stinging that promises an interesting sip.

Flavor

Fleeting notes of chocolate, bread crust, and coffee before the cayenne peppers take over. What was a balanced chocolate porter is now a festival-ready pepper beer that leaves a distinct lingering heat on the tongue. You largely get that tip-of-the-tongue cayenne heat, which is a touch sharp to be really pleasing to the palate, rather than the rounded fruity intensity you might expect of a habanero. That’s just a product of how we augmented the beer, obviously, because we needed more heat and had handy source.

For me, the cayenne addition makes the pepper character a little one-note to the point where it overshadows the base beer too much. It’s certainly not bad, but I was hoping for a gentle merging of estery English-style yeast and fruity habanero heat.

Mouthfeel

On the mark for a porter: gently carbonated, a touch silky, rounded without feeling overly full. The more you drink, the more heat you absorb, so that could affect some people more than others in terms of the pleasure they have drinking this beer.

Overall

A pretty good go overall. The base beer is quite good (as originally brewed for Robust Porters Four Ways), and the right balance of pepper infusion could make for a fun pint. I don’t think the gentle habanero-meets-fiery-cayenne mix was quite that balance, but I still enjoyed it overall. Different herb or spice additions might be worth considering in a beer like this. I could be convinced to drink a “jerk” porter.