Tuesday, February 17, 2009

At Long Last - The Tale of the IPA

I'm really not keeping this up like I want to, but sometimes you just can't. So here I am now; I finally got around to brewing my IPA on 01 February, aka Superbowl Sunday. I got much more out of my brewing experience that day than I did the Superbowl, which I tried to get officially re-named "Who Gives a Rat's Ass" since the Patriots weren't in it.

In the interest of keeping the learning curve steep, I stepped up to partial mashing. I was happy with how I handled the nuts and bolts of boiling, adding hops, cooling and racking, so I figured I'd up the difficulty.

First, the recipe (I make 6 gallons to end up bottling 5):

3.5 lbs American Pale Malt
1 lb Crystal Malt 20°L
0.5 lb Victory Malt
6 lbs Munton's Extra Light DME
0.75 oz Chinook 13%AA - 60 min boil
0.75 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - 60 min boil
0.75 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - 15 min boil (flavor)
0.5 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - end of boil (aroma)
0.75 oz Cascade 7.4%AA - Dry Hop (add to secondary)

Predicted OG is 1.066, 60 IBU (BU/GU ratio is 0.91 - pretty hoppy)

I've read some bad things about Chinook hops - too resiny, too piney, blah blah blah. I have used them in the past and found that if I stay under an ounce and make sure I have a good, vigorous boil, I get good results.

I mashed in a min-mash bucket that I lined with a 24" x 24" mesh bag. Once I mixed the grain and water I dumped them into the bag, covered the bucket and insulated it.

I used an old sweater to insulate the bucket. It did the trick - the mash pretty much held at 150° the whole time.

Mashing is easy. Just sit there and enjoy the starch conversion. Sparging sucks though. The general instructions stated to draw off the wort at a rate of 1 cup per minute while slowly adding hot (175°F) water on the top. Since I used a bucket there is no built-in sparge, so I had to slowly ladel the water on top. When I cracked the drain the grain bag was drawn into the drain valve, all but stopping up the flow. So getting 1 cup/min was a laughable chore. I was "left holding the bag" straight up and away from the bung the entire time so the wort could flow out.

My kingdom for a proper mash tun! The entire sparge lasted about an hour (with recircs and interruptions) so I guess I got it sort of kind of right. The water at the end of it all looked light but not too light (not that I have much experience to compare it to) so I don't think I got too many husky tannins in the wort.

When all was said and done, I collected 2.5 gallons of wort at SG 1.041. The goal was 3 gallons but I was out of patience and out of sparge water. The quick math tells me 102.5 GU, which when diluted to 3 gallons would have been an SG 1.034. Target would have been 3 gal at 1.036/7, so I can assume I came close to the sugar extraction I wanted. So I pumped the wort volume up to 6 gallons, began heating and carried on as normal.

Cooling once again went on in a snow bank - and it took way too long. I haven't detected any DMS in my latest sample, so I guess I'm okay, but I'm sure the stuff will be hazy as heck. I compensated with malt during the boil and water after transfer to get as close to a 1.066 OG as possible. Of course I forgot to measure "final" OG so I'll just assume I'm in the ballpark (within .003). Fermentation got a fast start, and blowoff was noisy and frequent for several days.

Happiness is a blow off tube full of yeast...that box contains the Chocolate Porter in secondary. Ten days later I transferred to secondary.

The weight on my hydrometer is uneven so it doesn't float straight up and down. SG was in the vicinity of 1.016 at transfer, so right now the beer is in the low-mid 6% ABV range. It tasted great, too. A good pale ale taste, with some of the toastiness of the Victory Malt, with serious but not out of control bitterness. An evident citrus/grapefruit character to the bitterness.

I'll be keeping the beer in secondary for around three weeks, the last two of which it will be dry-hopped, and possibly oaked as I found some sweet-looking French oak chips at my local homebrew shop. It's a bit cloudy, so I plan on fining with some gelatin before bottling. I still don't think that will be enough to eliminate haze completely. To remedy this, I have finally purchased a wort chiller and will also pay much more attention to racking the wort off the break post-boil instead of just transferring as much as I can. That method will get tested tomorrow when I brew my next batch.

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