Well, I’m not normally very impressed with my own beer but I must say that this one is worth writing home about. This beer had a worthwhile story anyway, and given the number of “learning experiences” I had making it, it really should have turned out tasting like fermented dishwater. At any rate, Here goes:
07.08.2007 – Brew Day!
Nothing beats waking up late on a Sunday and planning a brew day. It usually takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours to cook up a batch of beer, so I typically start just after lunch. Why not just start first thing in the morning? So I have an excuse to drink a very fine beer that tastes similar to the beer that I am brewing. Behold! Avery Brewing’s Maharaja Imperial India Pale Ale! Avery makes some fantastic beer, and this Summer seasonal was no exception. Their website lists the hops and malt they used, which would have made this one easier to pinpoint had I thought to check it first (poor planning on my part). Had I known I would have used a different set of hops to get that citrus flavor this one is packed full of. Here is my ingredient list and schedule:
Grains & Extracts:
- 2.5 lbs British Pale Malt
- 10 lbs Light DME
- 3 oz Cascades @ 5.1 AA for 1.5 hours
- 1 oz Cascades @ 5.1 AA for 1 hour
- 2 oz Kent Goldings for 15 min
- 3 oz Centennial for 15min
- Dry-hopped at Secondary w/ 1 oz Cascades, 2 oz Kent Goldings, 3 oz Saaz
- White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale
- 1 hr grain steep (add cascades in at 30 min, start 1.5 hour)
- Bring to boil
- add extracts
- bring to boil again
- Add hops per time remaining (see above).
- Irish Moss added at 15 minutes
I was able to cool this one in under 10 minutes, but alas, no cold break. This one is going to exhibit some chill haze. As usual this went exactly as planned. It was a straightforward brew day where I sit and read or play my guitar relaxing around a boiling pot of proto-beer (wort). At the end of the day I racked the wort into my carboy, pitched in the yeast, and relocated my primary fermenter to somewhere dark and cool to ferment.
07.15.2007 -An Unexpected turn of Events
I had purchased a cheap device to turn my carboy into a upright fermenter, supposedly allowing me to drain off trub when it began to collect at the bottom, and saving me the trouble of racking from primary to secondary. Its called a Fermentap. As usual, my failure to research a product before buying it got me into trouble. Everything seemed to be going nicely until I went to drain off my first batch of trub. Turns out the nozzle had clogged full of…whatever, and refused to drain anything at all. I debated long and hard and finally decided to just forgo the Fermentap system, bottle to secondary, and move on with my life. Personal Endorsement: Don’t bother with the Fermentap.
Before racking over the beer I noticed something very peculiar. I had started with a 6 gallon boil, and after heat evaporation had 5 gallons of beer. Standard. WHY THE HELL ARE THERE ONLY 3 GALLONS OF BEER IN MY CARBOY? I still have no explanation for this. I have never lost more than 1/4 gallon during fermentation due to evaporation or whatever, how do 2 gallons of beer disappear without a trace (fraternity brothers, don’t answer that).
With much chagrin, I dumped it all over to a standard bucket for secondary fermentation and threw in the dry-hop material. This part at least lifted my spirits, I had never dry-hopped a beer before. How exciting. Now to wait three more weeks…
08.05.2007 – Bottling
I hate bottling beer. Believe me when I tell you that bottling is by far the most tedious, filthiest, least fun part of making beer. First you have to clean and sanitize a bunch of bottles (56 to be exact), then wait for them to dry. Then one at a time, fill them slightly less than full, so they don’t explode on the shelf. Then one by one cap them all. If this explanation seems boring, imagine having to do it. Blah. My keg system can’t come soon enough.
Anyway, it took me all of five seconds to spot the egregious error I had made when I began to set up for the day. I had done my secondary fermentation IN my bottling bucket. This means that the pour sport that would normally drip my clean beer into the bottle was clogged with crap. It got worse. I dry-hopped this beer, which meant that every time I would fill up a beer, it would re-clog this vent with more left over hops. I could have risked moving it over to another vessel, cleaning it out, then moving it back, but it would have taken just as much time, so I elected to just press on. It took the better part of 2 hours to finish bottling it all. Ugh. I bottled everything with a 3/4 cup of priming sugar, more than enough for 3 gallons of beer.
On the other hand I did have a little taste of my uncarbonated masterpiece…it was going to be good.
I really wanted to wait for a weekend to try this beer. Bottled in 22 oz not 12 oz bottles, and weighing in at roughly 7.5% alcohol, I would have preferred to drink a few on a Friday night and sleep it off in the morning, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. I cracked open the bottle and a smile when I heard the living brew gasp for air. The tiny column of vapor that spills over the lip of a well conditioned bottle of beer never gets old. It poured masterfully, a 1 1/2 in. stack of tiny bubbles mounted at the top, and with surprisingly little residue in the bottle. It was hazy of course, but expected that, and it of course has no effect on the taste of the beer. It smelled better than I expected, though with less grapefruit and citrus notes than I was expecting. Finally, I tasted the damn thing. Nice. Bitter as hell, but without the acidic aftertaste. The grassy hop flavor and light malt are pretty well balanced, the advice I got on starting the hops early during the grain steep was worthwhile. Thick mouthfeel. This is the big beer I was going for. being a little on “high gravity” side, it needs some time to rest and age, but this is by far my best effort in the brewing category.