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Dogfish Head Ta Henket Clone Recipe 1.0

The finished beer
In early August, my wife and I visited Dogfish Head's brewery in Milton, Delaware.  We took their tour, which was interesting and informative, and enjoyed a few samples at the taproom afterward. The whole visit inspired me to think about brewing, and specifically about brewing clones of some of my favorite Dogfish Head beers.

If you asked most folks which Dogfish Head beer was their favorite, they would probably mention 120-Minute IPA (or 90-Minute or 60-Minute), or World Wide Stout, or maybe one of their others. The ones I really enjoy most from Dogfish Head are the Ancient Ales series. Of those, Ta Henket is probably my favorite.  Judging from the fact that they appear to have stopped making it (according to a book I'll mention in a moment), perhaps I'm one of the few "off-centered people" who liked it.

Ta Henket impressed me with its Ancient Egyptian pedigree, its unusual spicy and herbal aroma (which reminds me of what I imagine the inside of a pyramid to smell like), and its unique flavor.  I always found it a very drinkable beer and very one-of-a-kind. I made it a point to buy a couple of bottles whenever I saw it.

When I recently began reading Dr. Patrick McGovern's ("Dr. Pat" around Dogfish Head) book Ancient Ales: Rediscovered and Re-Created, I decided it was time to try my hand at brewing a Ta Henket clone beer.  To get the most true reproduction of the beer possible, I decided to follow the recipe in the book as close to how it was written as possible.  In this case, that meant brewing an extract beer (as the recipes in the book are all extract recipes).

After punching the recipe into BeerSmith, something looked amiss.  The book said that only 3 pounds of light DME were needed, but BeerSmith said this would produce much lower gravity beer than the book claimed it would be.  BeerSmith suggested that doubling the DME amount would get me a beer closer to the gravity Griffith reported.

Ingredients

6 pounds Light DME
8 ounces Caramel 40L Malt
1 pound Wheat Malt
1 pound Emmer Farro grain
1 Tbsp. Gypsum
1 Tbsp. Za'Atar spice mix
0.5 ounces Chamomile flowers
0.4 ounces East Kent Goldings hops pellets @ 6.1% AA
4 ounces Dried Dates
1 tablet Whirlfloc
1 packet Safale S-33 dry yeast

Original Gravity:  1.050 SG or 12.4 Brix estimated (16 Brix post-boil, 12.4 Brix after adding water)
Pre-boil gravity:  1.048 SG or 11.9 Brix estimated (15.5 Brix actual)
IBUs:  12
SRM:  8.6
ABV: 5.0%
Volume: 5 gallons estimated (6.0 actual with addition of water to hit target gravity)
BU:GU Ratio:  0.17

Steeping

The emmer, wheat malt, and Caramel 40L were crushed and steeped for 30 minutes in 5 gallons of water at 150F, treated with the Gypsum.  The grain was removed and the water heated to boiling.  While the wort was heating, I stirred in the malt extract.

The Boil

The Grainfather took a while to bring the wort to a boil. While I was waiting, I took a pre-boil gravity reading which was 15.5 Brix, well above the expected 12.4 final gravity.  I knew I'd need to add some water to bring the gravity down to the target later.

The recipe called for a 65-minute boil as laid out below:

  • 65 minutes - No hops or other additions
  • 60 minutes - Add East Kent Goldings hops
  • 15 minutes - Extract a cup or so of wort, and pour it over the dates. Use a blender or immersion blender to puree the dates in the wort.
  • 10 minutes - Add the pureed date mixture to the kettle.
  • 7 minutes - Recirculate wort through the chiller to sterilize it
  • 5 minutes - Add Za'Atar and chamomile, in a muslin bag
  • 0 minutes - Turn off heat, whirlpool for 5 minutes, then let sit for 15 minutes
After the 15-minute rest, pumped the wort through the counter flow chiller into the fermenter. Wort temperature in the fermenter was approximately 74F.

Fermentation

A gravity reading in the fermenter showed a gravity of 16 Brix, well above what the recipe called for. I added cold water to the sanitized fermenter. By the time the fermenter was showing 6 gallons, it was reading 12.4 Brix on the refractometer.  I sprinkled the dry yeast across the wort and sealed the fermenter.  I'll need to keep an eye on it, as this didn't leave a lot of head space for high krausen.

The recipe calls for the beer to ferment until it's finished and to spend 1-2 weeks in a secondary fermenter to achieve "desired clarity".  I'm thinking that once the fermentation is finished, I'll pitch gelatin in it and give it a few days in the mini-fridge to clear up.

Update 09/23/2017: Fermentation was vigorous for the first 3-4 days after brewing, then slowed to virtually nothing for the past few days. I've decided to bottle it as-is without gelatin finings or cold crashing, since the real Ta Henket isn't particularly clear.  I'm aiming for 2.5 volumes of CO2. The beer is at about 70F and there are six gallons of it, so I'll use approximately 5.4 ounces of corn sugar dissolved in water to do it.

Bottling

Update 10/8/2017:  The beer has completed bottle conditioning now and samples were shared with several of my friends at work on Friday. I'm awaiting feedback.

Notes and Comments

It was interesting to note that for this brew, BeerSmith's estimates of gravity were way off.  I'll have to keep an eye on this as I brew other beers from the book.

Update 10/8/2017:  The beer has a good flavor to it, and reminds me of the real Dogfish Head brew.  Where it differs is in the aroma. With the S-33 yeast, the aroma is primarily the malt, spice, and chamomile.  Next time, I would use a more aromatic yeast like White Labs Bastogne ale, which gives off a distinctive aroma that might be similar to the Egyptian yeast Dogfish Head uses.



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