Saturday, December 23, 2017

Late-Hopped Blonde Ale

The finished beer, poured a little too hard
Earlier this year, I built from scratch a recipe designed to be a vehicle to deliver orange flavor in a beer. I created a blonde ale recipe, adding sweet and bitter orange peel, orange blossom honey, and hopping with Mandarina Bavaria hops - known to impart a mandarin orange flavor.  That beer took second place in the 2017 Ohio State Fair's Fruit Beer category.  The judge mentioned in the notes that the base beer probably tasted great, too.  I decided to find that out.

I stripped the recipe down to the malts, hops, water, and yeast, then scaled it to a 1.2 gallon batch for the Zymatic.

At right, you see a glass of the finished beer. It's a slightly hazy gold color with thick, white, long-lasting head that leaves behind tiny clouds of lacing. Aroma is mildly hoppy. The flavor is malty with a moderate bitterness with hints of orange and grapefruit.

Ingredients

1 pound plus 14 ounces of 2-row Brewer's Malt
9 ounces of Munich Malt
2 ounces of Cara-Pils/Dextrine Malt
0.5 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops @ 6.8% AA (10 minutes)
0.25 ounces of El Dorado hops @ 12.8% AA (5 minutes)
1.62 gallons of tap water in the Zymatic keg

The Picobrew web site predicts the following characteristics for the finished beer:
  • Original Gravity: 1.054 SG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 SG
  • IBUs: 23
  • SRM: 5
  • ABV: 6%
  • Batch Size: 1.2 gallons (the approximate size of my smaller fermenters)
Mash

I used the high-efficiency mash parameters in the Picobrew recipe editor, as these were the closest to what I had done to make the original beer in The Grainfather.  This means a mash schedule of:
  • Dough in: 102F for 20 minutes
  • Mash step 1: 152F for 30 minutes
  • Mash step 2: 154F for 60 minutes
  • Mash out: 175F for 10 minutes
A sample of wort tested at 1.050 SG after the mash, and before the boil, so I think it should be no problem to hit the gravity target of 1.054 SG after the boil.

Boil

A 75-minute boil was scheduled:
  • 75 minutes: No hops additions
  • 10 minutes: Mandarina Bavaria hops added
  • 5 minutes: El Dorado hops added
Despite there being no hops additions for the first hour of the boil, the beer should still finish out at 23 IBUs and a BU:GU ratio in the vicinity of 0.42.

After the boil, the wort was pumped into a kettle and an immersion chiller used to reduce the temperature to yeast-pitching levels.  

Fermentation

The wort was then poured hard into a little Big Mouth Bubbler and the yeast pitched into it.  The beer was allowed to ferment out at ambient basement temperatures, which are 60-65F this time of year at my house.  Following fermentation, the beer will be bottled with carbonation drops and allowed to bottle condition for two weeks before taste-testing.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

The Zymatic is definitely unleashing my brewing creativity.  It's great to be able to formulate a recipe, scale it down to a 1-gallon size, measure the grain and hops, crush the grain, measure the water, load the Zymatic, and set it to work.  I don't have to worry that I will screw up the mash schedule, miss a hop addition, or make other timing-related mistakes that could alter the finished beer's flavor.  

So far, the biggest drawback to the Zymatic for me has been the 9-pound grain hopper size limitation.  If you make a full-size 2.5 gallon batch, even when using the high-efficiency mash schedule, you have a definite upper limit to gravity that is much lower than The Grainfather.  This gravity limit can be compensated for by adding malt extract to the brew, but this means it will be difficult to scale the batch up for an all-grain brew in The Grainfather or another system - since malt extract contains an unknown mix of malts and an unknown mash schedule.  This means I will probably still use The Grainfather for my high-gravity brews like Belgian Quads and the like.

I'll be back to discuss the beer more when it's been bottled.

12/24/2017:  A quick check this morning showed a thick, healthy-looking krausen atop the beer, and plenty of airlock activity.

01/02/2018:  The K-97 yeast did a number on the fermenter, creating a very thick krausen that left a mess on the inside of the fermenter. Fortunately, it'll clean up easily enough. There is little or no krausen left on the beer right now, so primary fermentation seems to be finished. The question now is whether I bother to transfer it to a secondary fermenter, hit it with gelatin, and chill it.  For a batch this small that is mostly experimental, I'm not sure the effort is warranted.

01/06/2018:  The beer was bottled. Yield was ten 12-ounce bottles. Each bottle was primed with a Coopers Carbonation Drop before capping, rinsed off and dried, labeled, and placed into my 80F "hot box" to finish carbonating. I expect the beer to be drinkable as soon as next weekend.  A taste left over in the bottling bucket was very interesting. Intense fruit aroma from the El Dorado and Mandarina Bavaria hops, moderate bitterness, and hits of cantaloupe and orange to the flavor.  I'm looking forward to trying it when it is ready. The refractometer measured the final gravity at 5.9 Brix, which (after adjustment and correction for alcohol) works out to 1.005 SG and an alcohol content of 6.5%. That's a bit more attenuation than I expected and a slightly higher alcohol content. According to BeerSmith, it's 90.3% apparent attenuation and 74% Real Attentuation.

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