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Australian Sparkling Ale 1.0

A bottle and glass of the finished beer
In September 2015, I read an article in BYO magazine about the Australian Sparkling Ale style, which included a recipe for the beer. The main characteristics of the style are the use of Australian hops, particularly Pride of Ringwood hops, a more dry flavor, and lots of carbonation.

Update 06/04/2017:  This beer took second place in its category at the Ohio State Fair's 2017 Homebrewing Competition.  It was one of five beers I took to the fair and the first time I've competed in any brewing competition, so seeing the beer do so well is very exciting and makes me feel better about the effort I've put into improving my brewing process and learning about brewing. At the Barley's Homebrewing competition the next day, it didn't fare quite as well, getting scores of 30 and 34 out of 50.  At the Ohio State Fair, it received an official score of 36 and individual scores of 35 and 37.

The Recipe

3.5 pounds of Bohemian Pilsner Malt
3.5 pounds of 2-Row Pale Malt
5 ounces of Caravienne Malt
1 ounce of Carafa III Malt
1 pound, 12 ounces of cane (table) sugar
0.9 ounces of Pride of Ringwood hops pellets @ 9.0% AA - at first wort
0.3 ounces of Pride of Ringwood hops pellets @ 9.0% AA - at whirlpool
1 packet of Cooper's dry ale yeast
1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer

BeerSmith data for the recipe:

  • Estimated OG: 1.046 (actual was 1.046 SG or 11.5 Brix)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.029 SG (actual was 1.031 SG or 7,9 Brix)
  • IBUs: 29.3
  • Color: 6.6 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 5.0%
  • Total Grains: 8.63 pounds
  • Total Hops: 1.2 ounces
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.632
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.008 SG
  • Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.0%
  • Batch Size: 6.1 gallons
  • Boil Time: 90 minutes
The Mash Schedule

This beer was brewed in iMake's The Grainfather RIMS system, so mash and sparge amounts are based on the vendor's formula.

3.25 gallons of mash water were heated to 144F and treated with half of a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine.

5 gallons of sparge water were heated to 168F and treated with a full Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine,

A 90 minute mash with the following schedule was performed:
  • 70 minutes at 144F, adding pH 5.2 stabilizer immediately after the grains
  • 10 minutes at 158F
  • 10 minute mash out at 168F
  • Add 0.9 ounces of Pride of Ringwood and sparge with 5.0 gallons of water at 168F
This was expected to yield 7.3 gallons at 7.3 Brix (1.029 SG). The actual yield was 7.3 gallons at 7.9 Brix.

The Grainfather's recirculating arm leaked after I walked away from it, spilling possibly as much as 12 ounces of wort on the floor which had to be cleaned up. I'm still trying to understand why this has happened recently, usually only after several minutes of no leaking.

The Boil Schedule

The recipe features a 90-minute boil with the following schedule:
  • While still sparging, you should have added the bittering hops.
  • 10 minutes left in the boil, add the cane sugar, yeast nutrient, and whirlfloc tablet
  • 7 minutes: Recirculate wort through the counter flow chiller to sterilze it
  • 0 minutes: Shut off heat and add 0.3 ounces of Pride of Ringwood
  • For the next 15 minutes, let the last hops addition steep in the whirlpool
  • Cool the counterflow chiller by running cold water through it
  • Pump the wort into the fermenter
This yielded a little over 6 gallons in the fermenter at 11.5 Brix, exactly as expected.

The Fermentation Schedule

This was my first chance to use my Inkbird 310 temperature controller. I took it out of the box and calibrated it with a known good thermometer. I then set it with the following schedule:
  • 1 day at 68F
  • 1 day at 69F
  • 1 day at 70F
  • 1 day at 71F
  • 10 days at 72F
A heat wrap was taped to the fermenter and connected to the InkBird. Given the low ambient basement temperature I opted not to use a cooling device on this batch.

Given how full the fermenter was, I attached a blow-off tube and snaked it into a half-gallon of water in a gallon jug.

After this, I cleaned all the items used during brewing, including The Grainfather itself.

Update 04/14/2017: Cooper's Ale Yeast is a monster to ferment with. At the height of fermentation, it blew beer and yeast through the blow-off tube, into the jug of water, out of the top of the jug of water, across the shelf on which the jug sat, and expelled enough liquid to send a stream about four inches wide from the fermenter's location to a drain in the basement floor about ten feet away! I've never had any brew expel so much. The water jug's contents are now a rich brown with about a quarter inch of yeast across the bottom. The blow-off jug looks like it's brewing its own beer (and it may be).

Note the nice light color in the transfer tube as the beer goes into secondary

Yeast residue on the lid of the fermenter after 1 week
Yeast residue inside the fermenter after primary
Yeast mess in the blow-off jug and tube. Note how dark it got the water!

Yeast cake and dregs in the bottom of the fermenter

Update 04/15/2017: Checked the gravity today. As you'll see in the image below, my refractometer registered somewhere in the 4.5 to 5.0 Brix level. That works out to a final gravity in the ballpark of 1.004SG and an alcohol content around 5.6% ABV.  This is higher than I expected for the brew. I was expecting an alcohol-adjusted reading in the vicinity of 5.7 Brix, so it's safe to say this beer attenuated extremely well. I did this after transferring the beer to a sanitized secondary fermenter. I also kept a large sample of the yeast for future use.  Since the beer was still quite cloudy (which isn't out of line for the style) I decided to pitch some gelatin finings and cold crash it to see if I could clear it up a bit.

Final Gravity Reading - calculates to approximately 1.004 SG

Bottling and Conditioning

I'm planning to calculate 3.1-3.2 volumes of CO2 for this one and prime accordingly. The sty;e guide calls for priming from 3.0 to 3.5 volumes. I'm concerned based on things I've read that carbonating it to 3.5 volumes could burst the bottles, so I don't plan to go quite that high.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

Apart from the leakage of wort from the recirculation arm, which has happened on a couple of recent batches for reasons unknown, this brew went off without a hitch. The morning before I brewed it, I weighed and crushed all the grains. The gap between the rollers in my crusher seemed large, so I adjusted it down to a smaller setting, which seemed to work very well. My efficiency for the batch was measured at 79.7%.

The original recipe in BYO called for using distilled or RO water and adjusting it to match Australian chemistry. I probably should have done that but didn't want to take the time. It was brewed with standard Hilliard, Ohio, tap water with Campden to remove chlorine and chloramine, but nothing else.

I'm expecting to move this to secondary on April 15, then add gelatin finings and chill it. I'll plan to bottle it some time during the week of April 17, 2017. After two weeks in the bottle, I'll chill some and see how the carbonation, clarity, and flavor turned out. So expect an update in early May.

Update 04/14/2017: A sample of the beer extracted earlier in the week showed that there is absolutely no residual sweetness to the brew. It was incredibly dry, a bit cloudy, and mildly to moderately hoppy.

A sample of the ale from the bottom of the bottling bucket

April 20:
The beer spent several days in the mini-fridge with gelatin finings and is now nice and clear. I decided to bottle it and place it in a 72F "hot box" to carbonate.  I'm expecting to be able to try my first bottle later this week to confirm that it's carbonating properly.

May 10: The beer has been shared with coworkers and family. Those who have reported back have told me they really liked it. Although I am not a certified beer judge, when I compare the beer against the official criteria for the style, I think it hits all the important notes.  It's brilliantly clear, has a nice coppery golden color, lots of carbonation, a creamy white head that lasts a while, an aroma that hints at iron and fruit, and a flavor that seems to showcase the Australian yeast and the Pride of Ringwood hops. I'm really pleased with it.

May 22:  Perhaps the best thing I can say about this beer is that I've chosen to enter it in two different homebrew competitions this year. One is a more local competition, while the other is state-wide. I won't know until mid-to-late June how well it's done in the competition, but you can be sure I'll come back to share the results of judging.

Judges' Notes and Scores

Following are the first of the two judges' notes about this beer:
  • Aroma: Moderate yeast esters mixed with medium bready aromas. Light floral herbal hop aroma in the finish. Medium low caramel/banana aroma. Score: 7/12
  • Appearance: Copper golden color, brilliant clarity, off white head. Score: 3/3
  • Flavor: Stale/cardboard like flavor dominates with hints of herbaceous hops at the end. Beer finishes with noticeable bitterness. Score: 10/20
  • Mouthfeel: Light body, spritzy effervescent carbonation, light stickiness and/or creaminess in the finish. Score: 4/5.
  • Overall Impression: No off flavors or aromas perceived except for some oxidation. Beer seems a little aged with the malt/hops being muted. Try rebrewing and entering younger if beer was old. Score: 6/10. 
  • Total: 30/50
The other judge's notes were:
  • Aroma: Seems appropriate for style. Could benefit from some esters. Score: 8/12
  • Appearance: Gorgeous beer. Score 3/3
  • Flavor: Malt/grain flavor and hop flavor are subtle. Seems dry but not much hop bitterness which negatively affects balance. Score 12/20
  • Mouthfeel: Body seems appropriate. Score: 4/5
  • Overall Impression: Somewhat lacking in beer flavors. Any hop flavor or aroma is lost. Subtle grain could be more prominent, maybe a richer malt and more hops would help. Not a bad beer. Maybe different yeast and/or warmer for malt. Score: 7/10
  • Total: 34/50
The first of the state fair judges had the following comments:

  • Aroma: A sweet, honey-like malt sweetness. Some pear character coming in. No hop. Score: 8/12
  • Appearance: Light amber in color, a fluffy off white hear. Score: 3/3
  • Flavor: Grainy, with a malty sweetness. A slight floral, spicy hop bitterness. Pear is peeking in as it warms. Score: 14/20
  • Mouthfeel: Medium light body with a medium carbonation. A creamy dry finish. Score: 4/5
  • Overall Impression: A good beer, the carbonation seems to be just a touch low. It also has some sweetness there, needs more attenuation. Score 6/10
  • Total: 35/50
The other state fair judge said:
  • Aroma: Moderate aroma with hops slightly to the front. Score 10/12
  • Appearance: Good head and color per style. Score: 3/3
  • Flavor: Slightly bready malt flavor. Good balance of malt/hops bitterness. Score: 12/20
  • Mouthfeel: Good bubbles throughout judging (spritzy throughout) not sweet but crisp. Score: 4/5
  • Overall impression: Good ale, no real problems found. Score: 8/10
  • Total: 37/50
One of the silver medals I was awarded in the Ohio State Fair in 2017
Next Time

Although this beer fared poorly at Barley's, it did relatively well at the State Fair and my friends and family enjoyed it quite a bit as it was.  For being a "first time" brew, I am very pleased with it.  Still, you can nearly always improve things, and here's what I think I'll do with this brew next time:

  • Source fresher ingredients:  I had a good dialog with one of the judges by email. He said that he remembered the beer because it was unusual and that his comments about oxidation were more from the possibility of stale grain than from mishandling during transfer and bottling. It's likely that some of the grain I used to brew it had been in storage for a while. He suggested six months for base malts is as long as you should store it, and no more than a year for specialty malts.  That will be my rule for any beer made for competition from this point on - base malts and hops need to be as fresh as possible.
  • Boost the hops additions:  While I followed the hops schedule in the original BYO Magazine recipe, the judges clearly felt it should have more aroma and flavor, and I tend to agree.  Maybe because it took me a while to source Pride of Ringwood the beer suffered due to older hops. Maybe it just needs a boost in amount. Either way, I need to improve the hops aspect next time as it's a critical element of the style.
  • Drop the mash temp a little:  Cooper's Ale Yeast seemed pretty voracious and active, but the beer was a touch sweeter than it should have been.  I think keeping Cooper's yeast is probably still the right move, but I need to drop the mash temp to make the wort a little more fermentable and use my full temp control system to help keep the yeast under control.
  • Shift the base malt balance slightly: I think I might shift the base malt balance a little, too.  Maybe changing from 50/50 Pilsner and Two-Row Pale to more like 40/60.

I think these changes would dry the beer out a little, improve the hops flavor, and make it better overall.


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