Differences in Hops

I’ve gotten a number of homebrews under my belt. One way I decided to experiment was to make the same beer in terms of malt and process but change the hops. While it’s helpful to read the hop profiles that people have put together the only real way to figure out how I perceive the profiles is to dive in and and see what happens. The basic idea is that I’d be able to pick out differences in how well a hop bitters, flavors and adds aroma when it comes to my taste buds. So far I’ve only done two of these experiments but the results were enlightening!

The Rules

Hop PelletsTo do the experiments such that I could trust the results I needed to have rules in place:

1. The same DME and steeping grains (if used) must be used for all brews in the experiment
2. A standard IBU must defined to hit. I decided on 40 IBU
3. More than two hop additions must happen during the boil. One addition must be at 15 minutes or under
4. Dry hopping will always be 1 week and will be 1 oz
5. Only 1 variety of hops may be used

Experiment 1: Chinook

My first brew for the experiment was all Chinook. I read a bit about the hop and noted the conventional wisdom was that a little goes a long way. What better hop to try than one that most people think can be overdone! The result of a 40 IBU Pale Ale (closing in on IPA) was a beer that was complex enough to stand on it’s own. The bittering was strong and set up for the flavors to follow. The flavoring brought with it pine, earthy notes and a little orange and grapefruit like citrus. One person described it as “orange rind like”. Aroma is where chinook fell down. Dry hopping did not produce the strong aromas that I would have expected from such a potent hop. While present, the aroma was light. All in all this was both a success for the experiment as well as my taste buds.

Experiment 2: Citra

Citra is a very popular hop addition which is spoken of fondly by many homebrewers and avid IPA lovers. As the name implies it has a strong citrus side but also includes a lot of tropical fruit like characteristics. Citra also produced a good, strong bittering. This I expected based on the Chinook results. as both varieties have high alpha acids. However the flavoring and aroma differences were quite shocking. The flavor is much more citrusy than chinook. This itself was not shocking but what did get me was the simplistic nature of the hop when compared with chinook. I found myself highly enjoying the pint to start and, by the time I was 7/8’s through the glass being bored. The complexity that chinook has is not present with citra but more on this in a moment. The aroma that citra gives is strong and inviting. A combination of sharp citrus notes and smooth tropical fruits. Using this in a dry hop mixture seems like it would produce some great things! Unlike chinook it seemed like citra needs mixing to get the complexity that my taste buds want. The flavor and aroma was pretty much the same (and the bittering was bittering as one expects). So by the time the glass was nearing empty I was bored with citra. I think citra shines best when used with other hops, not as a single hop.

Conclusions

I didn’t expect the two to be that different in their usage. I figured there would be differences in flavor and aroma but not as much in the complexity ability. Both produced good beers but, of the two, the chinook based on is easier to drink more than one while the citra based beer is good for a glass (and fades through the glass). In other words the experiment has already proven useful to me and I’m only two hops into it. I’m eager to find out how other hops fit into the puzzle!

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Second Homebrew: Great Success!

My first homebrew was an experience that taught me a lot but had poor taste results. My second attempt, an American IPA, turned out much, much better. As one would expect my IPA was full of hoppy goodness. Since I’m still new I decided to use a kit from the fine folks at American Brewmaster. The recipe I used called for Summit, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo. I decided to add Columbus for a short dry hop as a way to make the recipe my own.

Hop Bill

After brewing I kept in primary for 10 days and then racked into a secondary for dry hoping. While I probably didn’t need to move to secondary to dry hop I decided it was worth doing due to my worry about keeping the beer on the trub too long (I know now it takes a lot longer than a few weeks to cause a problem ..). Next I dry hopped in secondary for 4 days. Why four days? Mainly because I really wanted to find out if my brew worked out this time and couldn’t wait. So after four days I racked to my bottle bucket with my carb sugar, filled the bottles and capped.

After 1 week of bottle conditioning I decided to see how well carbonation was coming along. This is what I saw after an aggressive pour.

Test Batch #2

I was happily shocked. I was not expecting so much carbonation so quickly! My first brew never got half that carb’d! Like my first try the aroma was amazing but I knew the kicker would come with a first taste. So I took a few bottles and threw them in the fridge for tasting later.

I pulled the bottle and shared it for a testing. Both of us agreed it was quite good. It cleared up a bit compared to the above picture but it still needed some time to settle. Here is my review (of my own beer so take it with a grain of salt…).

Sciential Ale Labs: Test Batch #2

Appearance

Hazy. Color similar to Lagunitas IPA. A finger and a half of slightly off white head which slowly dissipates into small layer of persistant head.

Smell

Slight pine with earthy/herbal notes. Nothing overpowering. Reminds me more of a pale ale.

Taste

Nice and bitter but balanced well with a malty backbone. There is also a very slight ester profile as well which surprisingly works in the brews favor adding a bit of fruit complexity. The hop profile is hard for me to really explain but the closest comercial beer I can equate the bitterness portion of flavor with would be Sierra Nevada‘s Torpedo. As the ale warmed up the bitterness came through even more. Even nearing room temperature the beer still was tasty!

Mouthfeel

Medium mouthfeel with consistant carbonation. Possibly a little creamier than should be due to things still not being settled.

Overall

Happily surprised. For me this is a pretty unique beer (though is probably pretty common in homebrew circles). My rating is 4/5 stars.

Others

I’ve gotten two pieces of feed back so far on my first successful homebrew. The first was simply “Oh, that’s good!” during the shared tasting. The other was an unsolicited text from a friend when he popped the cap and gave it a whirl: “Your beer is excellent.” That feedback made me feel pretty good.

On Deck

I’ve since brewed an Abbey Dubbel and a single hop American Pale Ale of my own design. Both are in primary. If both of these come through successfully I’ll feel pretty confident in my process.

That Darn First Homebrew

While some people remember their first homebrew as something that brought great fun and great taste it’s not my story. My story is one that is far greater than the simple beer that started it all for a hobbyist. See, it was a comedy of errors that taught me much more than a simple yet tasty first batch could have.

My very first attempt at homebrewing was a hefeweizen. I chose a hefeweizen for a few reasons. First it’s one of my favorite styles of beer. There is something about the esters and light ody that draws me in. Then there was the temperature control factor. I believed, correctly I might add, it to be easier to keep my place warm than keep it cool even in winter. Since esters are wanted in the hefeweizen style and esters are more common in higher brewing tempature it seemed like the perfect fit.

What I didn’t think about was that my first try was going to be with such a delicate style. In fact Big Beard Brewconsin even noted this after I wrote my first Homebrew post. It’s not like attempting a hop bombed IPA or a malty stout where mistakes can be overpowered by the primary flavors. With a lighter beer hiding defects isn’t so easy and my beer was full of mistakes.

The first big mistake was in my boil. As I noted previously I let it boil over. Luckily it was only for a second and I was able to recover before losing too much. This was probably the most minor of all your mistakes.

Up next was a common rookie mistake. I didn’t know that the tempature in the primary could be 5 or more degrees warmer than the outside. I had my ambient temperature at 72F thinking that I was keeping the fermentation somewhere around there. In reality in was keeping things somewhere in the upper 70s! I’m sure this caused the yeast to be stressed and put out byproducts.

But the mistakes kept rolling and I let the beer stay in primary too long. The beer really was done after a week and half, maybe two but I kept it in primary for almost three weeks. Why? Because it seemed like that’s what many homebrewers were recommending on forums, blogs, etc.. Keeping that beer for a week and a half after fermentation was done is one of the causes for an infusion of extreme bitterness to not the back end. When it was time to dispose of the trub it had a very distinct smell which was present in the bitter aftertaste of the beer.

When it came time to bottle I misused the autosiphon. I should have had the primary higher and the bottle bucket lower but I put them on the same level. This caused me to more or less pump the beer from bucket to bucket causing a lot of aeration. The taste of cardboard that seeped in is likely from this error.

I believe the first process showed me what can happen when specific things go wrong. So far I’ve avoided all of the mistakes I made with my first try with my second homebrew: A partial grain American IPA. It’s currently in primary and resting inside a slightly larger water container (to help keep temperature). More to come soon, I’m sure!

Homebrew: Second Look

Earlier I posted about my not so great early look at my first homebrew. That was from a test done earlier in this week using a bottle which had matured 1 week and then stayed in the fridge for a little under a week. Today is the two week in bottle mark so I decided to pull one bottle from the batch to pour it and test it. To be totally honest I figured it would be not too far off from my original test but the results were dramatically different.

There is carbonation. A good amount of it. I still think it will be a better move to use the sugar in the bottling bucket next time but this does alleviate one of my fears relating to that I may have to drain the entire batch due to flatness. As a side note I also believe my fridge may have been set a bit too cold as well which could have been a (small) factor in the lackluster carbonation in the first trial.

The smell is much improved. The smell from the first test is hard to describe but the best I can come up with is banana, sugar and some spices. It wasn’t un-heffe like but it was still off. The smell now is much more of a solid banana and spice aroma.

The look has improved as well. The first test had a darker tone to it. Maybe it was related to flatness but, no matter what the reason, this has a darker (but not dark) wheat look to it.

My Hefeweizen in poor light
English: wheat beer Deutsch: Weizenbier
Wheat Beer in amazing light (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This makes me feel a lot better about homebrewing. I’ve been a bit rocky thinking I made too many mistakes and preparing for the worst but things are looking up!

Homebrew: Early Look

And it’s not so hot. At least not right now. Granted it was put in the fridge early as a test run to see where things stood. The problems are making sense to me. First, I think it may be better to try putting sugar in the bottling bucket instead of each bottle individually. The test bottle was hardly carbonated at all even taking into consideration that it was an early pull. Second, there is a bit of a musky after taste. I think this is from the air leaking in during siphoning. It could also be from letting it age too long for the recipe. I’ll be pulling another bottle soon to check carbonation. Here’s hoping it carbs up and the musky after taste mellows out while aging!

My First Beer Is Bottled

Final gravity of 1.010, ABV 5% and bottled on January 19, 2012. I have a feeling that it’s going to be super heavy banana and clove. We’ll see. But like the brewing before, bottling was not frustration free due to me learning how to use the tools as we bottled.

As a quick aside I was slightly worried fermentation wasn’t happening as it should because I saw hardly any bubbles at all in the primary airlock. Turns out the lid just isn’t tight enough to form a good seal.

The first hurdle was with Star San, or more so, it’s label. After making the diluted Star San mix and starting the sanitization process I noticed the front warnings which said all kinds of terrible things. I tend to take things at their word and started to get seriously frustrated that I was going to need to wash my hands for 20 minutes and call poison control due to touching the diluted mixture. After venting a while and speaking with seasoned home brewers I found that lots of people have no issue with the properly diluted mixture.

The next was in using the autosiphon. I followed the instructions exactly as it said to do but yet the siphoning didn’t continue after a few pumps. I tried over and over until I finally realized the tubing supplied was allowing a small amount of air in stopping the siphoning. Right away I was annoyed that air was flowing with the unfinished beer! Once I figured out that air was seeping in I pinched the siphon hard and manually pumped the beer from primary to bottling bucket. Next time I’m going to make sure the tubing in use is way too snug.

The last issue was in filling the bottles. While switching out bottles it wasn’t uncommon for there to be enough pressure in the line to cause beer to spray out of the line/spigot connection point. It wasn’t a ton but still caused issues and forced faster bottling to avoid losing beer. I’m not sure what I did wrong there but I’m sure it was me somehow.

Next batch should go a lot smoother. Both brewing and bottling attempts were huge learning experiences as well as failed experiments with frustration management. I’m looking forward to sampling the results and trying it all again. The waiting is killing me!

Making Beer: Update On First Brew

Yesterday I was able the to take the first reading and find where my hefeweizen’s gravity stands. It’s original gravity a week ago was 1.050. Yesterday’s reading shows it to be at 1.010. I’m thinking it’s at, or at least near, final gravity but am not totally sure just yet. I should know soon. What I can say is that the primary smelled amazing! I was tempted to try it as is but the yeast I saw while taking a sample for measurement convinced me otherwise. The ABV is currently coming to 4% which I’m happy with, especially if the beer tastes as good as it smells!

Making Beer: My First Homebrew

About six months back I got the itch to try my hand at home brewing. After realizing a bit over a year ago that beer can taste good and the trying some homebrew done by some friends and coworkers I wanted in. I headed up to the local brewing store and bought a brewing kit along with malt extract based hefeweizen to ingredient box as a starting point.

I should point out I was given some excellent advice from a fellow beer lover: Don’t make you’re own, just enjoy what other people make. As you guessed I didn’t listen.

With all my ingredients cleaned I started the process of making the wert in my brew pot. The problem came when I started to feel hunger kick in hard. The instead of watching the boiling wert like a hawk I ate food and watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia waiting for the 45 minute low boil to do its magic. Right at the end when I happened to be watching out of the corner of my eye it boiled over. So frustrating! I pulled the lid off and was able to save the wert but lost some amount in the boil over.

When it came time to ice the brew pot the sink refused to hold water wasting a lot of water and ice. Are you kidding me? Argh!

Then the instructions noted the need for sanitizer in the airlock. Sanitizer that we were finished with in step one of the process and dumped due to, well, being done with it.

After all this I felt like I’d not want to do this again due to all the mishaps making me want to give up and dump the wert. Even if this batch is drained I’ll likely try a few more times. The thought of having my own IPA or Belgian style ale adjusted to my taste is just too strong. In any case it’s all in the fermenter now and it’s time to wait. If your curious the starting gravity is at 1.050.

So far here is what I gather: The science and steps of making beer is really important. The foundation. And you can end it right at that and come out with a nice, but simple beer. The fun (and amazing differences) comes from the art that lives after the science.

Needless to say I’m not a good brewer. In fact I’m a pretty lousy one. Good news is I can only get better.