Tuesday 1 May 2012

All-Grain Brew #2 - Charlie Brown (a big IPA)

As per previous posts, I love IPAs, especially if they're loaded with big, piney American hops. For my second all-grain brew, I wanted to try to do something in that vein - and to banish the memory of the extract brew ruined by over-sanitation. The starting point for this was the evocative IPAs being created by Evin O'Riordan and company at The Kernel, which I find fascinating for being both extreme in their hop flavour but also, perversely, quite malty and rich to provide the right balance. I'd also been reading a bit about decoction mashing, and how Bavarian brewers use multiple steps to create a malty flavour through the production of melanoidins. I had no idea how I'd accomplish multi-step mashing on my equipment, but I did come across melanoidin malt while looking for ingredients - a modified malt designed to produced those melanoidin flavours in a single infusion mash. Ideal for the lazy brewer (or one out of his depth).

So the recipe came together as follows - keep everything simple, with pale malt as the majority of the bill and a little melanoidin malt for flavour and colour. I wanted to use the melanoidin malt very generously - firstly, so I could taste its effect on the malt bill clearly, but also because I wanted to load up on hops and didn't want to be disappointed that I'd created an astringent monster that no-one else I knew would want to drink. I settled on 6kg of Pale Malt and a kilo of melanoidin - a huge percentage (a shade under 15%), and right on the maximum of what I'd seen recommended online. I knew it would make the beer quire brown, but it turned out slightly darker than expected - a, er, brown IPA.

The mash was very painless - I managed to retain 68 degrees throughout, and the lautering was much, much easier than with the breakfast stout I made for AG#1. My notes aren't great for this brew, but I recorded that I collected 14l from the first runnings, and sparged with 10l to collect 21l. In hindsight, I should have collected more - I didn't take hydrometer readings towards the end to make sure I wasn't oversparging, a habit I keep repeating - but I'll come back to this later.

For the hops, I definitely wanted to use Citra hops, the star of my favourite Kernel beer (the Citra IPA), but I only had 100g of these, and as I wanted to use most of them late, I used some Cascade both for bittering and to use the grapefruity flavour to complement the lighter, tropical character that I associate with the Citra. Given that it was very much trial and error at this point, I didn't want to introduce a lot of variables, and I'm glad I didn't. For the yeast, I used Wyeast's version of the California Ale yeast I've used before, Wyeast 1056, so the malt and hop flavour would be unencumbered by anything unusual from the yeast. As I don't have any brewing software, all this was worked out using Hopville, an online brewing calculator... it's not very sophisticated, but it helped give me an idea of what I was doing. This is my brewsheet...

Charlie Brown IPA

6kg (86%) Pale Malt
1kg (14%) Melanoidin Malt

Single infusion - Mash at 68C for 60 mins

50g Cascade (7%) @ 60mins
25g Citra (15%) @ 30mins
25g Citra (15%) @ 15mins
50g Citra (15%) @ 5mins
50g Cascase (7%) dry hop for 10 days

15g Irish Moss @ 15mins

OG came out at 1074 - which according to Hopville puts my efficiency at 67%, which I'm pretty happy with at this stage. You remember I only collected about 21 litres? That was a mistake - once I'd drained the wort through the 150g of hop flowers in the bottom of the boiler, I estimate that I'd lost about 3-4 litres to the hops and the boil. The yeast was pitched at 24C, and held at 22C (using a heatpad due to the cold of early February), and bottomed out at 1022 after 14 days, giving an ABV of 6.8%. I had been expecting this to go lower, but it didn't seem high enough to be properly 'stuck'... Any thoughts welcomed! To be honest, 6.8% seemed strong enough anyway.

The remaining 50g of Cascade from the 100g packet I'd broken into were used as dry hops for 10 days in a secondary - more losses there, as the hop flowers sucked up another couple of litres. In all, I only got 25 half-litre bottles out of the batch - not a great return on all that time and effort...! Something to bear in mind for next time.

Cracking the first one after a couple of weeks conditioning, the hop aroma and flavour came through beautifully. The maltiness was a lot bigger than I expected, almost like honeycomb, but with the fresh hop flavour it seemed to just about balance out. That was back in February - more than two months on, I've just cracked open the last of them that I'd been saving, and the difference seems really clear already. The hops have died back a lot, leaving an oddly sweet centre that remind me a bit like a slice of malt loaf spread with Oxford marmalade. I can understand now why everything I'd read about melanoidin malt suggested that it should be used sparingly. It's still quite drinkable, but it's nowhere near the Kernel IPAs I was aiming at. I'm already planning my next attempt...

Just as an addendum, I brewed this immediately for my third brew, I wanted to see if I could recreate this exactly, seeing as I was so disappointed with the volume and wanted some more bottles of the same beer. I followed the notes I had for this almost exactly, taking the same quantities from the lautering and into the boil, and using the same hop additions. However, during the cooling process - disaster. I left the room while the immersion chiller coil was running, and came back to find the boiler almost overflowing - a leaky crimp between the hose and the copper had caused an extra 3-4 litres of cold water to seep into the wort. I was tempted to pour the batch away, but pitched anyway - this batch ended up down at 1008, but with no idea of the OG, I can't really make any notes on what happened here. In this version, the melanoidin malt seems even more pronounced, sweet and caramelly and off-putting. The hops are distant, and it just doesn't work. Ironically, because of the leak into the wort, I have much, much more of this beer than I'd want... The home brewer will never have enough of the beers that they want to drink more of, but will always have a surfeit of those that are less successful.


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