Brewing a Kölsch

At the end of April 2017 we were able at last to brew a beer style we had wanted to brew for a long time, Kölsch. We hadn’t brew it yet because we hadn’t been able to get the right yeast for this style. This German style, specifically from Cologne, depends to a great extent on the yeast used to ferment the wort.

When we say that this style in specifically from the city of Cologne is somewhat literal, since outside of the city borders you cannot sell beer with described as Kölsch, as it was stated in the Kölsch Konvention in 1986 by 12 brewers from this city in the West of Germany crossed by the Rhin river.

Talking about the characteristics that define this style, Kölsch are clear top fermented ale beers, the wort has to be 11º-16º Plato (or 1,044-1,065 specific gravity) by law, they are highly attenuated and hop accentuated and have a long lasting white foam. The majority of the production is consumed in the city of Cologne, usually from draft, served in small, 200 mL cylindrical glasses known as stangen. In November 2017 we were able to spend some days in Cologne touring the city and we could live this first hand visiting the city breweries. We also traveled to the nearby Düsseldorf to taste its Altbiers, but we will talk about all this in a future post, let’s talk now about brewing Kölsch.

Temperature at the begginning of the mash

By a quirk of fate, as we were planning our recipe, the 2017 may/june Zymurgy issue arrived and it had an article about Kölsch and Cologne breweries, which served us as a base for the recipe design and for our future trip to Cologne. Following the guidelines from that article, and with a little more information from different books and websites, we learn some things about the style that would help us to define our recipe.

As we previously mentioned, probably the most important thing when brewing Kölsch is yeast. They are very specific ale strains that ferment at a relatively low temperature for ales (15ºC-17ºC or 59ºF-61ºF) and produce clean, dry beers with an ester touch. This is how they describe the yeast we used in the Giga Yeast website, Kölsch Bier Yeast GY021. It is supposed to be sourced from one of the oldest breweries in Cologne. It is a liquid yeast, packed in the characteristic Gold Pitch from this brand and, as their instructions address, it doesn’t need a starter when pitching in 19-20 liters of wort (about 5 gallons).

Apart from the yeast, the rest of the ingredients are not complicated. In the case of grains, a Pilsen malt makes usually the majority of the grain bill, with the possibility of using other additional malts in low percentages to increase body and/or foam (cara-pils, wheat malt) or to add complexity (Vienna malt, Munich malt). Hops, evidently, must be from Germany, usually noble hops, and they are used mostly for bitterness. Last, water from Cologne is slightly mineral.

Kölsch yeast from Giga Yeast

Having all of these into account and, from what we have in stock, we design the following recipe:

KÖLSCH 2017

MALTS/GRAINS
1.00 Kg (2.20 lbs) (45.7%) Pilsner Premium (Weyermann) (2.0 EBC)
0.84 Kg (1.85 lbs) (38.4%) Bohemian Pilsner – Floor malted (Weyermann) (4 EBC)
0.25 Kg (0.55 lbs) (11.4%) Vienna malt (Weyermann) (7 EBC)
0.10 Kg (0.22 lbs) (4.6%) Cara-Pils (Weyermann) (5 EBC)
HOPS
15.00 g (0.53 oz) Spalt Select (4.60% AA) leaf (boil 60 minutes, 18.5 IBUs)
7.00 g (0.25 oz) Spalt Select (4.60% AA) leaf (boil 30 minutes, 6.6 IBUs)
YEAST
Kölsch Bier Yeast from Giga Yeast (1 Gold Pitch sachet, directly inoculated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 9.5 L (2.5 gallons)     OG: 1.046     FG: 1.006     ABV: 5.2%     IBUs: 25.1     Color: 6.5 EBC     BU/GU: 0.546     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 38.5 ppm; Mg: 3.4 ppm; Na: 7.4 ppm; SO4: 12.4 ppm; Cl: 12.6 ppm
MASH
65ºC (149ºF) for 75 minutes, mash out 75.6ºC (168ºF) 5 minutes
BOIL
75 minutes

Kölsch, 12 hours after pitching yeast

As you can see in the recipe above, there are two different Pilsner malts. That’s only because we didn’t have enough of either of them to brew the entire batch, so we combined both. These two malts made a little more than 84% of the grain bill, with some Vienna malt to give some color and complexity and a little percentage of Cara-Pils to enhance body and foam. For this beer we didn’t modify our water since the one in our area is low in mineral content and allegedly suitable for the style. We set mash temperature at 65ºC (149ºF) to try to obtain a quite fermentable wort.

In the morning of the brewday we boiled water for 20-30 minutes to eliminate chlorine, having into account that, after evaporation, we were going to need almost 18 liters (4.8 gallons). At the start of the mash, after adding grain, the temperature was as planned (65.4ºC or 149.7ºF). For a while we kept some heat in the induction hob to keep the mash temperature. After half an hour, we increased the heat since the temperature have dropped a little bit and we left it that way… until we were entertained with other things and when we came back the mash was out of control. The temperature had been raising and now the mash was at 80ºC (176ºF). ¡You have to be careful with these idle times! After the shock, we removed the grain and take a reading of the preboil gravity. It is a few points above the theoretical value (1.037 vs 1.030), so we take a deep breath. The fact that the mash was more than 30 minutes at the right temperature and that we also milled the grain more than usual (we used our old Corona mill instead our roller mill because we forgot to charge the batteries of our drill) seemed to be enough to convert starches into fermentable sugars.

Fermentation days 3, 4, 5 and 6 after pitching yeast

During the boil, we added German noble hops at 60 and 30 minutes to the end of the boil and, when finished, we removed hops and we tried to cool the wort as soon as possible with our immersion chiller. We cooled it until it reached 23ºC (73.4ºF) and then we transferred it to a plastic bucket, previously sanitized, to try to low the temperature a little bit more, since our idea was to ferment at about 16ºC (60.8ºF) during the few first days. We cooled the wort until 17ºC (62.6ºF) and then we splashed it between the plastic bucket and the kettle to get some oxygen. Finally we transferred it to a PET demijohn that was going to be our fermenter for this beer. Original gravity was just as the theoretical value, 1.046. Probably, since we ended with a little more volume than expected, the few points we were off before boiling had been corrected now.

Fermentation didn’t show visual signs for the first 48 hours after pitching, so we increase our fridge temperature until 16ºC (60.8ºF). A few hours later, a krausen started to form and the airlock started bubbling, faster as the time advanced. On the fourth day, the krausen reached its highest point and, from the fifth day onwards, both activity in the airlock and the krausen started to disappear. From the sixth day until the eighth day we increased progressively the temperature until the beer reached 20ºC (68ºF), with the intention of giving the yeast the opportunity of eliminating diacetyl and other undesired compounds.

Sample to measure final gravity before bottling

After a couple of days at 20ºC (68ºF), we set the fridge at 6ºC (42.8ºF) to clear the beer before bottling the next day. We measured the final gravity, 1.010, four points above the theoretical value, 1.006. An apparent attenuation of 77.5%, while the specifications for this yeast describe an apparent attenuation of 79-83%. The causes for this little difference can be several, but we think it could have been due the problems during the mash or to a insufficient number of yeast cells pitched. This number should be enough pitching directly without a starter, but you never know the viability of the yeast without testing it. The thing is nothing serious. Color and appearance of the beer are exactly as we planned, and it has only a little less alcohol, it finished at 4.7% ABV. We added enough sugar, previously dissolved, boiled and cooled down, to get 2.5 volumes of CO2 and we bottled approximately 9 liters (2.38 gallons) of beer, 27 bottles of 33 cL. We kept these bottles at room temperature, 19ºC-20ºC (66.2ºF-68ºF) for 17 days and then we put them in the refrigerator for lagering before consuming them. In a future post we will tell you how it all ended.

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Jockey box

Almost every homebrewer, sooner or later, upgrades from bottling to kegging beer. We took that step a year ago and, although we bottle most of our beer, sometimes we keg some of our beers in corny kegs.

Once the beer is carbonated in the corny keg you have to choose one of the different alternatives to dispense the beer. For us, while the keg is at home and, since our beer consumption is not excessive, we usually dispense our beer from a chromed tap that can be attached to a keg disconnect. We keep the corny keg in a small fridge and when we want some beer is just as easy as attaching the tap and serve. Easy, fast and simple. The problem starts when you want to take your keg out for some event or reunion.

Chrome tap with flow control

For these situations there are several options. You can go with draught beer coolers systems as PYGMY. These are beautiful and very appealing systems, but they also have some cons for the use we intend, mainly three. There are fairly heavy, what makes their transport difficult, they aren’t cheap and it takes some time to clean them well. There are a lot of homebrewers who used them, both at home and out, but their beer consumption is big enough for the beer to stay at its best condition. Because of all of the above, we decided a more affordable option, to build a jockey box.

Jockey box with and without lid

As with all the DIY projects, there are thousands of alternatives to do it and one can do it as complicated as he/she can, as you can see in a lot of online videos. Being our first time, we decided to do a quite simple jockey box, with only one tap. First thing we had to do is get all the different parts to build it. You can check the following list with all the parts we used, with links for those who want more details.

Inside the jockey box

Looking at the pics accompanying this post, you can get a picture of how to assembly everything, since using John Guest connectors is something quite easy. The biggest trouble we had to face was to drill holes in the cooler to pass through its wall the tap in the front and the bulkhead union in the back. To drill the holes the best option is to use either a step drill bit or a sheet metal punch. In our case, my brother was able to use a step drill bit in his workplace, but if you don’t have any of them, you should be able to borrow one from somebody. Another problem we had to face was to cut a fixed nut in the bulkhead union in order to be able to connect it to a 1/2” thread of the John Guest 1/2″ to 3/8” line adapter. A metal sawing machine should do the job.

Jockey box, back

Once these problems were solved, the rest was a piece of cake. We first put the tap in its place. Then we put the bulkhead union in the back, connecting to it both John Guest 1/2″ to 3/8” line adapters. Then we placed the stainless steel coil inside the cooler and we took two short pieces of tubing to connect the coil ends to the 3/8” John Guest connectors. Finally, we connected the dispensing tubing from the back of the cooler to the corny keg. The length of this tubing is something you should decide having into account the diameter and material of the tubing, since it will determine how the beer would be dispensed. There are several online sites where you can find instructions to calculate this length. For our jockey box, the tubing has a length of approximately 3.5 meters (11.5 feet). The connection of the tubing to the corny keg was done with the John Guest 1/4″ FFL female to 3/8″ line adapter, which fits the thread of a ball lock out disconnect. Below you can see the final setup.

Jockey box, complete setup

When everything is in place, the only thing left is to fill the cooler with ice and connect a corny keg full of beer. Then a pressure must be applied in order to dispense beer, with a CO2 tank or portable CO2 cartridges. This pressure depends on the distance the beer has to travel from the keg to the tap, and also on the materials of the tubing and the coil. This pressure can be regulated as the beer is being dispensed, but a good starting point and something that works for us is approximately 1.5 bars (21.8 psi).

The first time we used this jockey box was with our first NEIPA, once we had done some tests with water to prove the system. We were very happy with the results, we could serve the entire corny keg at a perfect temperature by filling with ice only the inside part of the coil, without needing too much ice. In our opinion, a jockey box is an excellent (and relatively economical) option to enjoy beer on tap outside. For those of you who are planning on doing something similar we hope this post can help you do it. And, if you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section, we will be glad to  answer.

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Tasting Smash L&G

One of the first beers we brewed this year was a smash (single malt and single hop), from ingredients not far from where we live. Hops from Girona grown by Lupulina and malt produced by Grannaria in Las Grañeras, a village in the province of León. We already told you about the brewing process for this beer, so if you want to remember it you can go to the corresponding entry.

Smash L&G (Lupulina and Grannaria)

The color is light golden. In the beginning, as you can see in the picture, it was quite hazy. Nowadays, 6 months after bottling and after keeping the bottles in the fridge, the beer had cleared a lot and, although it is not crystal clear, the haziness is very low. Head is white and creamy with medium retention.

For the aroma, citrus tones from Cascade are upfront, with malt in the background. Medium body and medium-high carbonation. Hop is the predominant characteristic in flavor, again with the citrus and herbal character from Cascade hops, and a medium but assertive bitterness. Some bready tones from the malt balance the bitterness and hop flavor.

Now that we have only a few bottles of this smash pale ale left , I think I can say that, of all the beers we’ve brewed through these years, this is one of our favorites. It has also stood the test of time. Obviously, the hop character is not as bright as it was when it was fresh, but it keeps most of the properties that made it a great beer a few months ago.

As a final though, this beer confirms something that we’ve learned through time. A lot of times simple recipes are the most sensible thing to do. When you are new to the hobby, it is easy to get lost among the multiple kinds of malt and varieties of hops at hand and a lot of us made the mistake of planning complicated recipes with lots of malts and hops that were a mess. Nowadays, I think that, for most of the beer styles, one or two malts are more than enough, with three or four being a good number for the rest.

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American IPA + results from IPA Day homebrew competition

Let’t go back in time. Specifically, until August this year. As we told you about in our entry on our first NEIPA, the first week of August a homebrew competition was held for all the homebrewers from the Iberian Peninsula celebrating the IPA Day. Then we told you that, apart from the NEIPA, we also had brewed an American IPA for the competition. Well, in this post we are going to tell you about the recipe and process for that American IPA and then we will take a look at the results for the Iberian Cup competition.

Citra pellets, 2016 harvest

Let’s start with the recipe. This American IPA was based in another one we had previously brewed and enjoyed. The ingredients and process are described below.

AMERICAN IPA FOR 2017 IPA DAY

MALTS/GRAINS
2.50 Kg (4.41 lbs) (82.1%) Maris Otter (Crisp) (5.0 EBC)
0.36 Kg (0.79 lbs) (12.0%) Munich I malt (Weyermann) (15 EBC)
0.18 Kg (0.40 lbs) (5.9%) table sugar or sucrose (2.0 EBC) (added as a syrup with 300 mL of boiled water 4 days after pitching yeast)
HOPS
18.00 g (0.63 oz) Chinook (13.00% AA) leaf (first wort hopping 90 minutes, 61.8 IBUs)
80.00 g (2.82 oz) Citra (14.20% AA) pellets (whirpool 5 minutes, 28.1 IBUs)
80.00 g (2.82 oz) Cascade (6.20% AA) pellets (dry hop, 7 days after pitching yeast, for 3 days)
20.00 g (0.71 oz) Citra (14.20% AA) pellets (dry hop, 7 days after pitching yeast, for 3 days)
YEAST
Safale US-05 (1 sachet, previously rehydrated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 11.0 L (2.9 gallons)     OG: 1.060     FG: 1.009     ABV: 6.6%     IBUs: 60.7     Color: 10.7 EBC     BU/GU: 1.031     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 82 ppm; Mg: 3 ppm; Na: 7 ppm; SO4: 169 ppm; Cl: 89 ppm
MASH
66ºC (150.8ºF) for 60 minutes, mash out 75ºC (167ºF) 5 minutes
BOIL
75 minutes

We obtained the water profile for this recipe starting with our tap water and adding 7.2 mL of 33% CaCl2 to increase calcium and 66 mL of sulfuric acid 1 N to achieve a mash pH of 5.28 according to Bru’n Water. This way, the ratio chloride/sulfate was 0.53, which theoretically should enhance bitterness.

Mash pH

Having into account what we had planned, everything went more or less as expected. As you can see in above picture, mash pH was 5.32, not far from what Bru’n Water had predicted (5.28). After mashing, we added hops for first wort hopping as we heated wort to boil for 75 minutes. When the boil was finished, we added Citra hops and soon we started to cool the wort. When the wort reached 20ºC (68ºF), Safale US-05 yeast was pitched. Original gravity was 1.052, close to the theoretical value of 1.054, due to the fact that we ended with a little more volume than expected. You would have noticed that this original gravity value is not the one that appears with the recipe. This is because that value counts the table sugar, that we added four days after pitching yeast with water as a syrup, with 300 mL of previously boiled and chilled water. This way, we gave the yeast some “dessert” after metabolizing all the sugars from the malt.

After three “extra” days of fermentation due to the table sugar added, we added hops for dry hopping, keeping them in the beer for 3 days. We added hop pellets for dry hopping into a clean and sanitized demijohn, purged it with CO2 and then we transferred the beer with an autosiphon over the hops trying to avoid oxygen as much as we could. From the beginning of fermentation until three days after adding the hops for dry hopping the beer the temperature was about 19ºC (66.2ºF) all the time, keeping the demijohns inside a fermentation chamber.

Dry hopping the American IPA, with our Norwegian farmhouse ale as a witness

Once we finished dry hopping, and looking for the material from hop pellets to precipitate, we set the temperature of the fermentation chamber at 5ºC (41ºF), keeping it that way for 24 hours. Once the hop pellets settled on the bottom of the demijohn, we kegged approximately 6 liters (1.59 gallons) of beer, and the rest was bottled with enough table sugar to get a carbonation level of 2.3 volumes of CO2. Final gravity was 1.012, with an ABV value of 6.0%.

Enough of the process. We will comment on the results of the homebrew competition and our own opinion about this American IPA and the NEIPA previously brewed, both entered into the competition. We will also share some changes to make in future elaborations of these styles. Let’s start with the American IPA, which was the one that was fresher at the time of the competition. The average score was 31.7 (34, 31 and 30 being the individual scores), which at first glance is not bad. Unlike other participants, the three scoresheets didn’t show great differences between them. None of the judges noted any remarkable defect in the beer and the main criticism was that both in aroma and flavor hops were very subtle. After tasting a couple of bottles we kept to drink the beer in the same conditions as the competition judges, I must say that I have to agree with them. I don’t know if the first time we brewed this recipe hops were fresher or the process was somehow different, but both flavor and aroma were brighter that time, and I would also say that bitterness was more pronounced. For future batches, I would add more hops in the boil and also would make some little changes in the hop whirlpool addition, since I think that for this beer we should have kept the hops with the wort warm a little bit longer before cooling. Anyway, we’re satisfied with the score this beer got.

NEIPA, 3 months after brewday

As for the NEIPA, this beer was brewed in the end of May, beginnings of June this year. Freshly brewed, we took a 9.45 liters (2.5 gallons) keg for a weekend with some friends… and it lasted a couple of hours, it was delicious. Hop aroma was awesome, smooth mouthfeel, golden color, hazy and very tasty. When we send it to the competition it was three months since we had brewed it and, of course, it was smashed by the judges. Individual scores of 20, 15 and 20 in the three scoresheets. The bigger defects that judges noted were oxidation and color, too dark for the style, besides a weak or inexistent presence of hops in aroma and flavor. Once again, I have to agree with them. By the time the competition was held, the beer had darkened in a major way (in above picture you can see the amber color after 3 months, when it was light golden when brewed) and it really didn’t show any hop presence at all, with a quite disgusting flavor due to oxidation. All of this confirms a lot of the things people are talking about regarding this beer style. These beers seems to be more or less stable for about 2-3 weeks and then they experiment a huge decline in their properties. If we add to this the fact that in a homebrew level our chances to avoid oxidation are not the best, we have that a wonderful and tasty beer can turn into a bland or weak beer in very little time. For future NEIPAs, apart from playing with other combination of hops and/or yeasts, we’ll have to find a way to keep oxygen levels as low as possible. And when brewing a NEIPA, we won’t be brewing big batches, only enough volume to be freshly consumed. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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Tasting our blonde ale with bananas

Those of you that have been following us for some time will remember that, after returning from the ACCE congress in Burgos, we told you about how we brewed a beer incorporating bananas in the mash. If you want to know more, you can read all the details for the brewing process for this for this beer in the post of our Blonde with bananas, so we won’t be describing them again.

We finished the last bottle of that batch a few weeks ago, so we will base on some notes and our memory to try describing how the experiment with bananas in the mash turned out. In the first place, regarding aspect, although as we told you before it took quite a long time for this beer to clarify once it had fermented, the final appearance is of a clean and clear beer, of a nice golden color and with a white foam with decent retention.

Blonde ale with bananas

In the aroma, some sweet notes that we think must come from the bananas since M10 from Mangrove Jack’s, the yeast strain we used, is known for its clean fermentations. Maybe also a little touch of malt and no sign of hops, something we were not looking for in this beer since we basically wanted to know what would bananas contribute to this recipe.

Taste is similar to aroma, with a fruity and sweet flavor being the most prominent feature. I would not have said this was a banana flavor but we presume that it comes from bananas too. It’s a very pleasant and particular flavor, that nobody who taste the beer could associate with bananas (apart from my brother and I, who knew how it was made), even when we asked them to tell us which fruit they thought we had used for this beer. Hops don’t shine, they only give enough bitterness to balance the sweetness of the flavor so the beer doesn’t become overly sweet. The beer is quite dry, mostly because of the sugar we added at the end of the boil to increase the original gravity. This, which in that moment we though could be harmful for the beer since we could lost some body, one of the characteristics the bananas should contribute, seems to have served as something that made this beer very drinkable due to that dryness.

In short, we are very happy with our banana mash experiment. It seems that the quantities we used are enough to impart a characteristic and easily perceptible flavor and aroma. This has been one of the most drinkable beers we have brewed, with very good acceptance among the people who tasted it. After finding out the effect that bananas can impart in a beer with a recipe designed to specifically show us that effect, we are sure that we will try this mash with bananas with recipes of other styles, to see what can this fruit contribute to them. ¿A Weissbier, maybe? ¿A dark beer like a Porter or Brown Ale? We’ll see and of course we will tell you in this blog.

*This post was first published in Spanish on 18 July, 2017

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Brewing our first NEIPA… + Iberian Cup on IPA day

Without wishing to set a precedent, we are going to start for the last part of the title of this entry. Since 2011, on the first Thursday of August people all around the globe celebrate IPA Day, an event that, with the India Pale Ale style as a flagship, intends to serve as a celebration of the craft beer movement. From then on, multiple events have been organized through these years to celebrate it. Among them, those organized by the ACCE (Spanish Homebrewers Association), that since last year consist in three simultaneous activities: exchange of IPAs between members, a selfie contest and a homebrew competition (of IPAs, of course).

This year the same activities are being held, but in the case of the homebrew competition, due to last year success, the competition has gone a step forward and for this edition homebrewers from Portugal will be also able to enter, so all the homebrewers from all the Iberian Peninsula will have the chance to enter our beers at the competition, called Iberian Cup. You can check all the information in the great website created for the occasion, including the rules for the competition, prizes, sponsors,…

Poster for the Iberian Cup competition on IPA Day

Although it may seem odd after all these years of homebrewing, we have not entered our beers to any competition, but this Iberian Cup looked like the perfect event to finally do it. To do this we just brewed an American IPA, a version of an older recipe that will be the subject of a future post. However, and here we go with the first part of the title of this entry, a couple of months ago we succumbed to the temptation of brewing one of the trendy styles of the moment, a New England IPA or NEIPA. This new sytle is going to be the guest star, so thanks to that, homebrewers are able to enter an additional beer for this category of NEIPAs. As we had already brewed it (and tasted) we will send some bottles for this special category, knowing beforehand that our beer probably has lost some aromas due to oxidation issues because of the time passed.

NEIPAs are said to come originally form New England (in the northeast of USA), hence their name. You can read some of the characteristics of the style in the website for the competition (in Spanish). In short, there are some kind of IPAs in which bitterness is not so prominent and aromas and flavors from tropical and fruity hops are the stars of the show. They also are recognizable by their cloudy appearance and their smooth and creamy mouthfeel. To get all of these attributes, we did some research focusing in some homebrewers that had been brewing NEIPAs for some time. We revised some notes for a talk about this style by Scott Janish, the forum of The Electric Brewery and their Electric Hop Candy and the post about the clone of Tired Hands HopHands in Ales of the Riverwards. Once we reviewed all of these we came to the conclusion that there were some key points to achieve the peculiar characteristics of the style.

Maris Otter, the base malt for our NEIPA

To see these key points we will be describing them taking into account the different ingredients for this beer. First of all the grain; although hops will have the leading role, a good pale malt that imparts some flavor is a great choice as base malt. English malts like Maris Otter or Golden Promise could be a good option. Apart from the base malt, the addition of protein rich adjuncts, like wheat (malted or flaked) or, especially, oats (flaked) could be the key to get that creamy mouthfeel typical of NEIPAs. It appears that a good start point would be a percentage of about 15-20% of these adjuncts. If using crystal malts, you better keep them in a low proportion (around 5-6%).

Let’s follow with the star of the show, hops. We found that to get the aroma and flavor we are looking for, we must chose combinations of varieties such as Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, Amarillo,… or any other variety that can impart some tropical aroma and/or flavor. As we said before, bitterness is in the background, so IBUs shoudn’t go too high. Also, almost everybody agrees that, if not all, most of the IBUs must come from post-boil additions, in the whirlpool. Apart from these additions, what really seems to make a difference for this style is dry hopping and the way to do it. Unlike other hop forward styles, where dry hop charges are added after fermentation is finished, with NEIPAs it is recommended to add the first dry hop charge when fermentation is still active. Some people say they add the first charge of dry hops 24-48 hours after the beginning of the fermentation, while other people even go as far as adding hops right after pitching yeast. What initially could be seen as something against what we had previously been told, that CO2 from fermentation could carry some volatile compounds out of the fermenter, appears to be useful because it seems that yeast can interact during fermentation with some hop compounds and transform them into some others that can contribute flavor and aroma. In many sites this is defined as biotransformation, but the truth is it is still in some kind of scientific limbo and the proper processes are not really known. While we wait for science to shed some light about these processes, we will give a try since it appears the final result is worth the effort.

Grain ready to be mashed in

If we talk about the yeast, some strains are more prone to produce this biotransformation we talked about than others. In particular, the strain nicknamed Conan, also known as Vermont Ale or Vermont IPA, and London Ale III 1318 from Wyest are the most popular strains for NEIPAs, with some room for other English strains. In the case of dry yeasts, it is a matter of trying, because nowadays there is not an equivalent of the strains mentioned above.

Finally, we are going to talk about something that a lot of people don’t really pay too much attention to, and that in the case of NEIPAs it appears to be of importance, and that is brewing water. Here, the key point to be taken into account seems to be the sulfate:chloride ratio. Whereas for classic American IPAs is usual to favor sulfate over chloride to promote bitterness and dryness, in this case chloride prevails over sulfate, with typical ratios of 2:1 or at least 1:1.

With all of these theoretical data collected, we started to plan our recipe, even with the mineral content of our water, being the first time we were going to treat it since we started brewing. (it was about time).

NEIPA 1st EDITION

MALTS/GRAINS
5.00 Kg (11.0 lbs) (78.4%) Maris Otter (Warminster) (4.5 EBC)
0.50 Kg (1.10 lbs) (7.8%) Munich I malt (Weyermann) (15 EBC)
0.55 Kg (1.21 lbs) (8.6%) flaked wheat (2.0 EBC)
0.33 Kg (0.73 lbs) (5.2%) flake oats (2.0 EBC)
HOPS
10.00 g (0.35 oz) Chinook (13.00% AA) leaf (first wort 60 minutes, 14.5 IBUs)
30.00 g (1.06 oz) Citra (13.50% AA) pellets (whirpool 10 minutes, 8.2 IBUs)
30.00 g (1.06 oz) Galaxy (12.72% AA) pellets (whirpool 10 minutes, 7.7 IBUs)
30.00 g (1.06 oz) Mosaic (16.00% AA) pellets (whirpool 10 minutes, 9.7 IBUs)
26.00 g (0.92 oz) Citra (13.50% AA) pellets (dry hop, 48 hours after pitching yeast, for 3.5 days)
50.00 g (1.76 oz) Galaxy (12.72% AA) pellets (dry hop, 48 hours after pitching yeast, for 3.5 days)
50.00 g (1.76 oz) Mosaic (16.00% AA) pellets (dry hop, hours after pitching yeast, for 3.5 days)
48.00 g (1.69 oz) Galaxy (12.72% AA) pellets (dry hop, 5.5 days after pitching yeast, for 4 days)
48.00 g (1.69 oz) Mosaic (16.00% AA) pellets (dry hop, 5.5 days after pitching yeast, for 4 days)
YEAST
Vermont IPA (#GY054) from Giga Yeast (1 pack without starter)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 22.0 L     OG: 1.059     FG: 1.011     ABV: 6.3%     IBUs: 40.1     Color: 10.0 EBC     BU/GU: 0.677     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 141 ppm; Mg: 3 ppm; Na: 7 ppm; SO4: 142 ppm; Cl: 140 ppm; HCO3: 48 ppm
MASH
67ºC (152.6ºF) for 60 minutes, mash out at 75ºC (167.0ºF) for 5 minutos
BOIL
60 minutes

Our first idea was to use a greater percentage of flaked oats and keep wheat flakes apart, but sometimes your stock gives you a surprise, so we had to improvise and compensate our lack of oats with flaked wheat. In the end, flakes (oats and wheat) were a 14% of the total grain bill. You can also see that we added some Munich I malt, a malt we love, and we think it imparts a special touch to complement our base malt.

A separate chapter is needed for brewing water. For our first time treating our water we went with Bru’n Water, the spreadsheet designed by Martin Brungard, a water expert and also a fellow homebrewer. Although at first glance this spreadsheet could seem overwhelming, reading the instructions and watching a couple of video tutorials, its use is not as difficult as it may seem initially.

Water profile for our NEIPA in Bru’n Water

First we did in the morning of the brewday was to boil the water we were going to use to eliminate chlorine. This is possible because in our area water is treated with chlorine. In other areas where water is treated with chloramines, this is not so easy and it usually calls for some type of filter.

For our water profile, we went for a sulfate:chloride ratio of 1:1. To do that, to our source water (checking the most recent analysis we could find), we added 6.4 g (0.23 oz) of CaCl2 and 4.2 g (0.15 oz) of CaSO4. To round everything, we added about 38 mL of sulfuric acid 1 N to adjust the mash pH to a theoretical value of 5.48 as calculated by Bru’n Water.

The brewing process was quite similar to the one we had previously planned, with the mash at about 67ºC-70ºC (152.6ºF-158.0ºF) for one hour. During this time we took a sample from the wort and cool it to read pH. The result, 5.41, not far from what Bru’n Water had predicted.

Mash pH

After mashing out, we remove our grain bag (a brand new one from The Brew Bag) and added Chinook hops while we were heating the wort. We have some experience with first wort hopping and, since the results were satisfactory, we decided to do it again for this brew. We boiled for 60 minutes and remove the kettle. When wort was at about 90ºC-92ºC (194.0ºF-197.6ºF) we added whirlpool hops (Citra, Galaxy and Mosaic), each of them in a mesh bag. We left it that way for 15 minutes and then we cool the wort with a cooper immersion chiller as soon as we could until we the wort reached 24ºC (75.2ºF). We transferred the wort to our Brew Bucket from SS Brewing splashing it to try to oxygenate as much as we could and put the fermenter on a little fridge to cool the wort a little more before pitching yeast, that we had taken from the fridge a while ago so it could be at room temperature. We also take a read of the original gravity, 1.058, practically the same as the one predicted in Beersmith. We cleaned all the mess while the wort was cooling down and when it reached 20ºC (68.0ºF) we pitched a pack of Vermont IPA from Giga Yeast. This packs are supposed to have over 200 billion yeast cells and can be pitched directly, so that’s what we did.

Vermont IPA from Giga Yeast

We set the fridge at 18ºC (64.4ºF), that way fermentation would be at about 20ºC (68.0ºF). During the days fermentation was active we kept adjusting the temperature of the fermentation chamber so the beer was always between 20ºC-21ºC (68.0ºF-69.8ºF). Before the first 24 hours the airlock activity was clearly visible, the yeast had started fast. After 48 hours from pitching, with fermentation very active, we added the first dry hop charge (Citra, Galaxy and Mosaic) with our also brand new dry hopper. Form the third day onwards the airlock slowed its bubbling and, on the sixth day, we remove the dry hopper (sanitizing with star san when opening the lid) and, after cleaning it, we added the second dry hop charge. This time, only Galaxy and Mosaic. Four days later, we remove the dry hopper with the hops and divided the full volume in two PET demijohns (about 19.5 liters, 5.15 gallons, of beer). Three days after this we cooled one of the demijohns at 7ºC (44.6ºF) for kegging and force carbonating in a small corny keg of 9.5 liters (2.5 gallons) and we bottled the beer from the other demijohn. Final gravity was 1.015, a little bit higher than expected. Final result, a corny keg with over 9 liters (2.38 gallons) of beer and 26 bottles of 33 cl (12 oz) carbonated to 2.3 volumes of CO2 of our first NEIPA.

This NEIPA will be entered in the IPA Day competition with our American IPA, bottled yesterday. In a future post we will tell you how the judges treated both beers. Until then, thank you very much for visiting and if you want to stay updated with our blog, don’t forget to follow us on WordPress or our Facebook page.

*This post was first published in Spanish on 14 July, 2017

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Lemonade with hops or Lemhopnade

This entry, as the previous one, has its roots in the past ACCE (Spanish Homebrewers Association) congress held in Burgos last March. Among the full array of beers we were able to enjoy at the Congress bar, an alcohol free option could be drunk. A lemonade with hops that for some of us meant a little recess from alcohol before tasting new beers again. It seemed interesting the first time I tasted it, but the Congress continued so I forgot about it until I arrived home and started looking for some information. It was easy to find a post about this lemonade in the ACCE forum, where the brewer who made it explained the process and the recipe for it. So, props to this brewer, everything you’re about to read is based in the information provided by Beer of Thrones (nick on the ACCE forum). Thank you very much for sharing!

Lemons ready for the Lemhopnade

This was the first time we were going to use our recently acquired carbonator cap, a cap with a thread that fits most of the commercial PET bottles and that can be connected to beer or gas fittings used for cornys kegs. This feature, among other uses, allow you to carbonate liquids in PET bottles. It is something relatively easy to do but very useful for example if you’re taking a sample from your fermenter, transfer it to a PET bottle and carbonate it for a picnic or a reunion, or even to see how your beer is at that moment. There are several other uses for this carbonator cap you can watch in youtube videos with easy and clear explanations.

Freshly made lemhopnade

But let’s focus again on our hop lemonade. Based on the recipe from the forum thread above, the amounts of ingredients we used for a volume of 1,5 liters (0.40 gallons) were the following:

Limonade with hops (amounts for 1.5 liters, 0.40 gallons)

3 lemons
Zest from the lemons
52 g (1.83 oz) table sugar
8 g (0.28 oz) Citra hops (pellets)
Water to complete the volume

First, we heated about 250 mL (8.45 oz) of water where we were going to dissolve the sugar. At the same time, we washed the lemons and peeled them keeping their zests (only the yellow part). Then we squeezed the lemons and mixed the lemon juice with the water and the sugar already dissolved. We transferred this mixture to a PET bottle with the aid of a strainer to keep rests of pulp away. We added some cold water to finish filling the bottle and, before putting it into the fridge, we also added the lemon zests and Citra pellet hops. You can try this lemonade with any hop variety you like, but we thought Citra hops would be a good option for this lemonade. Once everything was in the bottle, we kept it in the fridge for 48 hours.

Lemhopnade after 48 hours in the fridge

After this time, hop debris and lemon zests were settled at the bottom of the bottle. Before carbonating the lemonade we had to get rid of all of that solid rests. To do so, we transferred the lemonade to another PET bottle of the same capacity filtering it through a cloth strainer. While we were filtering the lemonade, Citra and lemon aroma were more than evident. The last step was to put the carbonator cap to introduce CO2 through it with our ball lock gas connector. To facilitate the diffusion of the gas into the liquid we shook the bottle several times.

Carbonating the lemhopnade with a carbonator cap

Time to taste it. It has enough sugar to balance the lemon sourness and the aroma and flavor from Citra hops blend very well with the lemon juice flavor. Gas is also important since it adds some nice fizziness. Although the recipe is similar to the one of the lemonade I tasted at the ACCE congress, the change in the hop variety give this one a different touch. I think is a curious drink and with a lot of room for experimenting thanks to different types of hops you can use. We drank it after a little beer tasting we organized at home and we all liked it. A refreshing drink, perfect for summer days, even for kids (healthier than commercial soft drinks for sure). And also for adults that for one reason or another cannot drink alcohol but still want their hop dose.

*This post was first published in Spanish on 25 June, 2017

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