Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cascade Pale Ale Clone, version 2.0

A good friend of mine loved Stevens Point Brewing's Cascade Pale Ale. Since the beer is no longer made, I tried to get the recipe from the brewery itself but failed. Based on the available data, I knew it had three malts in it: 2-row Pale, Munich, and Crystal.

I made a version 1.0, but was very disappointed with it. Compared with the original, it lacked much of the flavor and aroma of the Cascade hop. It was darker, and lacked the sweetness of the original beer. In short, it wasn't even in the ballpark. Time to go back to the drawing board.

Version 2.0 research had me searching various online forums for award-winning pale ale recipes by homebrewers. Specifically, I wanted to try to find a recipe that used only Pale, Munch, and Crystal malts and came out in the color and alcohol ballpark of the Stevens Point beer. I found a Lara Pale Ale recipe that used Goldings, Fuggle, Amarillo, and Cascade hops. I scaled that recipe down from 23 gallons to 5.6 (which in my system works out to ~5.0 gallons in the fermenter).

This left me with a pale ale recipe that used four hops varieties, where the Stevens Point beer used only one. I fiddled around a bit to mimic the pattern and percentage of hops additions from the original recipe, replacing the other hops varieties with Cascade. My thinking was that this would deliver the right mix of bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

The Recipe

9.25 pounds 2-row Pale Malt
13 ounces Munich Malt
3 ounces Crystal 10L Malt
0.75 ounces of Cascade hops pellets (6.8%) @ 60 minutes
0.65 ounces of Cascade hops pellets (6.8%) @ 30 minutes
0.80 ounces of Cascade hops pellets (6.8%) @ 10 minutes
0.80 ounces of Cascade hops pellets (6.8%) @ 5 minutes
0.90 ounces of Cascade hops pellets (6.8%) @ 0 minutes
1.00 ounces of Cascade hops pellets (6.8%) as dry hops for 3-4 days
1 tsp. Super Irish Moss @ 10 minutes
1 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer during the mash
1 packet Safale US-05 dry yeast
1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm

(The original recipe called for Crystal 15L but I didn't find that from my regular suppliers, so I went with 10L.)

Given my equipment profile, BeerSmith tells me this will generate a beer with the following characteristics:

Estimated Original Gravity: 13.1 Brix (actual was 14.5)
Estimated Final Gravity: 3.1 Brix
Estimated Bitterness: 35 IBUs
Estimated Color: 4.2 SRM
Estimated ABV: 5.4%
Estimated BU/GU Ratio: 0.658

The Mash

The plan for the mash is a 90-minute mash, with two steps. One at 153F to convert most of the starch to small sugar that will be easy for the yeast to consume, and one at 156F to yield some unfermentable sugar to sweeten the beer and add body.

4.25 gallons were added to the kettle and treated with a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine from the tap water. An additional 3.25 gallons were added to my sparge water kettle and also treated with part of a Campden Tablet.

The Grainfather was heated to 153F and the mode switch changed to "Mash". The grains were crushed, mixed, and gently stirred into the kettle.

The first 60 minutes of mash time were spent at 153F. The last 30 minutes at 156F.

The wort was heated to 168F for mash-out. The grain basket was lifted from the kettle and locked into position. When it was mostly drained, the sparge water was added to the grain basket.

As the grain was draining and sparging, the kettle temperature was set to 200F to make it quicker to get to a boil later.

The pre-boil volume was planned to be 6.6 gallons and pre-boil gravity expected to be 12.9 Brix. Actual pre-boil volume was around 6.3 gallons at a gravity of 11.2 Brix.


The Boil

I chose to do a 90-minute boil here. For the first 30 minutes, no hops were added, to allow proteins to coagulate and fall out of the beer.

For the final 60 minutes, the schedule was:
  • 60 minutes: Add 0.75 ounces of Cascade pellets
  • 30 minutes: Add 0.65 ounces of Cascade pellets
  • 15 minutes: Add 0.80 ounces of Cascade pellets
  • 15 minutes: Add Super Irish Moss
  • 7 minutes: Begin recirculating wort through counter flow chiller to sterilize
  • 5 minutes: Add 0.80 ounces of Cascade pellets
  • 0 minutes: Turn off heat and add 0.9 ounces of Cascade pellets for aroma, stirring the wort to get a whirlpool going
At the end of the boil, the cold water side of the counter flow chiller was started to cool the chiller. When the water running out of the chiller was cool, The Grainfather pump was started to begin transferring the cooled wort into a sanitized fermenter.

Wort reached the fermenter at approximately 76F. This was good enough for the yeast, so I pitched the dry yeast and White Labs Clarity Ferm and stirred well. Then I moved the fermenter to my insulated chamber, attached my Cool Zone cooling jacket, and set the temperature controller to get the beer down to 68F and keep it within a degree above or below that.

The Fermentation

Final fermenter volume was 4.5 gallons at 14.5 Brix. That's a bit higher than the 13.1 Brix I estimated, but about a half gallon lower in volume, too.

The beer will spend 7 days in primary fermentation at 68F. Cooling would be used to keep the beer within 1 degree of that temperature. Since the ambient temperature in the area is 65-68F, no heating will be used.

After 7 says, the beer will be racked to a secondary fermenter and held at 68F for 3 days. After that, a sanitized bag of hops pellets with a stainless steel weight inside will be added to the fermenter. The beer will then be moved to a mini-fridge and controls set to keep it at 40F for 4 days. This should clarify the beer and the dry hopping should add aroma.

Bottling

The beer will be removed from the mini-fridge the night before bottling and allowed to warm up to room temperature.

Water and 5 ounces of priming sugar will be boiled, then added to the bottling bucket. Since this beer will spend days at refrigerator temperatures, it may need fresh yeast to carbonate fully.  Additional water will be boiled and cooled, to rehydrate champagne yeast to be used for carbonation. I use champagne yeast because it's inexpensive, adds no flavor, and is a strong fermenter.

The beer will then be transferred from the secondary fermenter onto the sugar in the bottling bucket and gently stirred to mix it up. The rehydrated yeast will also be added during this stir.

Bottles will spend a week in a cooler with a seedling mat heater which keeps the interior temperature at a cozy 76F. This helps the yeast to condition the beer quickly and fully.

Post-Mortem and Other Observations

My goals for this version of the recipe were:
  • Lighten the color relative to v1.0
  • Sweeten the beer relative to v1.0
  • Remove the harshness of the hops flavors in 1.0 and better showcase the Cascade hops
  • Improve the beer's clarity over v1.0
We won't know for a while if I achieved any of these goals.

11/20/2016: I took a bottle of the beer, about 5 days into bottle conditioning, and refrigerated it as an early test sample. I can already say the following about version 2.0:

  • Hops bitterness is stronger, but less harsh than v1.0. It might even be slightly more bitter than the Stevens Point beer.
  • The malt backdrop is a little sweeter, but still not where the Stevens Point beer is.
  • I can't compare the clarity and color yet, as the beer is still undergoing conditioning. After I put a bottle in the fridge for a couple of weeks I should have a better idea of that.
Depending on how the beer turns out in a couple of weeks, I'm thinking that the following changes will probably be needed for version 2.1:
  • Change the mash to 30 minutes at 153F and 60 at 156F to generate more unfermentable sugars and sweeten the beer.
  • Increase the amount of Munich and/or Caramel malt to sweeten it more.
  • Use gelatin finings to clarify the beer.
My version 1.0 recipe was not a good pale ale. It had an unpleasant, almost chemical-like bitterness and no real hops flavor to complement the bitterness. It was also very dry. This made it nothing at all like the real Stevens Point Cascade Pale Ale. The new version has a better hops flavor, lacking the harshness of the 1.0 recipe and increases sweetness slightly. I'm hopeful that I can do a version 2.1 that gets even closer.

The beer has completed conditioning and made its way out into the world. A co-worker who is a big pale ale fan said that he'd rate it a 9 out of 10. Others who tried it and liked pale ales in general, also seemed to like this one. Although I'm not a pale ale fan myself, generally, I've actually enjoyed this one.

Between White Labs Clarity Ferm and weeks in a refrigerator, version 2.0 is a very clear beer. There is definitely some chill haze there, however. If you leave a glass sitting out long enough and compare it to fresh, cold pour, the warmer beer is visibly clearer.

Compared with the real Stevens Point beer, this version needs a little bit more hops bitterness. It's also still a couple of shades darker than the real beer.  In the next version, I plan to use Pilsner malt and possibly dial back the Munich malt slightly. Increasing the mash temp at the end of the mash made a big difference in sweetness, too. It's maybe a little sweeter than the real beer. Dialing back the Munich will probably help some with that.

Still, all things considered, this version turned out a massive amount better than v1.0. It's still not quite where it needs to be to become a true clone of Stevens Point, but this version is much closer than the first. People who have tried this version generally like it or love it. 

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