AG#25 & 26 Prohibition APA

This is the write up from my brewday from Sunday gone.  It’s an American Pale Ale that will serve two purposes; my entry for the Revolutions Brewing Co. competition (AG#26) and my test brew for the Northern Craft Brewers event in April (AG#25).  As this is an American Pale I wanted to use US hops, opting for trusty Galena for bittering and then Cluster as the main copper hops.  I chose Cluster hops having decided to try a new variety and was happy with my choice.  During the boil I was reading a little more about Cluster hops and stumbled upon this by Beervana;

By the turn of the 20th century nearly every hop grown in the country was Cluster (96%). After Prohibition, Clusters continued to dominate; in 1935, they occupied 90% of the market – Beervana

From a quick read of Beervana’s blog post you learn that Cluster hops were gradually overlooked over the years, and in their place came the ‘C’ hops we enjoy in many of the beers we enjoy today.  Despite all of this I started focusing on one of the comments made at the bottom of the blog;

If you see any brewers talking about them, the phrase they generally use is “catty,” or “cat piss.” They aren’t being catty themselves, cluster literally smells like a litterbox – Daniel Warner

I was 20 minutes into the boil when I read this and started doubting whether Cluster were the right hop for this brew….I had in mind an easy-going, fruity APA (nothing wrong with a bit of cat piss aroma right!).  I Tweeted my dilemma and with 10 minutes to spare before needing to make the hop addition, the ever-friendly Jay Krause (Quantum Brewing Co.) tweeted some sense into me and I stuck with my original plan.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.052
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 5.6%
Colour (SRM): 9.3 (EBC): 18.3
Bitterness (IBU): 40.0 (Average)
Brew length: 21.0L

3.000 kg (82%) Pale Ale Malt (Dingemans)
1.500 kg (10%) Golden Promise Pale Malt
0.600 kg (6%) Crystal 40
0.200 kg (2%) Pale Wheat Malt

14g Galena (12% Alpha) @60 minutes from the end (boil)
20g Cluster (8.1% Alpha) @30 minutes from the end (Boil)
50g Cluster (8.1% Alpha) @5 minutes from the end (Boil)
10g Cascade (7.8% Alpha) @5 minutes from the end (Boil)
25g Cascade (7.8% Alpha) in secondary for 3-4 days (dry hop)

Water treatments: Campden tablet (HLT), 1 tsp gypsum (mash). My weighing scales aren’t great and I only need 3-4g, which is a tsp (approx). Same rule for the epsom salts in the boil.

Strike temp of 75C, 13.2L liquor for 5.300kg grain.  Mashed in at 67C, a degree higher than my target as my mash tun loses a bit of heat (single step infusion).  Mashed for 60 minutes and temp dropped to 66C.  Sparged at strike temp of 87C, to sparge at 78C, 18L liquor.  The boil was scheduled for 60 minutes.  All went to plan, Galena in at 60 minutes (from the end of the boil), followed by additions of Cluster at 30 minutes and Cluster and Cascade at 5 minutes.

I collected 21L of wort post boil with SG of 1.052 and ran this off into two FVs:

  • Pitched US-05 at 18C into FV2 (10L) and liquored back 1.8L (total 11.8L) to achieve an OG of 1.044.  I’ve also tweaked this batch with another ingredient, but more about that once the judging has taken place.
  • Pitched WLP090 at 18C into FV3 (11L) leaving the OG at 1.052,  I’ll be dry hopping both batches  Cascade (in primary FV).

Updated 23/01/13

Interesting to see the progress of the different yeast strains.  The only real difference being the OG.  US-05 had taken the SG in FV2 to 1.012 in 3 days, whereas WLP090 (the highly flocculant San Diego Super Yeast) had only managed 12 points in the same time, SG 1.040.  I’ll take another reading today, but here’s how they look (and by the way, no cat piss yet, just lovely fruity hop smells):

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Brewing People are Good People

There is a saying in the beer world that ‘beer people are good people‘, (sometimes known as “good people drink good beer“) it’s more a notion than a fact, but you don’t have to look too far to find examples of it in practice.  My understanding of the saying will be different from the next persons, but I see it as a reference to a small part of the global beer community.  I’m not talking about beer geeks, tickers or reluctant-scoopers, I’m talking about anyone who engages with beer as a drink that can enrich your life, in one way or another.  The sceptical among you will argue that  “beer is just a drink”, or that “industry people have a ulteria motive to their actions”.  This may well be the case, but if you see beer as just another drink then fine, move along and find something that makes you happy, and if you think the industry is just out for your wallet then you may have missed the point.

Breweries are engaging with each other more than ever before, nicely put by The Pub Diaries writing for Melbourne based The Crafty Pint when discussing the “Beer Revolution, Beer Renaissance, Beer Revival” in London (roughly this time last year).  With the London Brewers’ Alliance epitomising the efforts being made locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to collaborate and benefit from shared knowledge, experiences and in some case resources.  I can understand the forming of these alliances, there is a natural tendency to draw your camp closer together when the wolves are circling, but I suspect the alliances would live on despite the lack of a tangible need.  What is more difficult to comprehend is an increasing trend of breweries extending their circle to include and support homebrewers.  It’s more apparant why a brewery would collaborate with another brewery, blogger or publican, but homebrewers?  Once again, the cynics will have their say; “nothing is free”, “you’re being used” etc.  Yes, there are benefits to a brewery getting creative with their marketing and engaging with niche customer bases, like homebrewers, but the benefits are largely in favour of the homebrewer.  Being suspicious of strangers bearing gifts is only natural and it’s a sad part of being human, but many pro brewers started as homebrewers and maybe the reasons for this relationship is to give support where they didn’t have it, or to increase the profile of brewing in general.

This post is probably going to make most sense to those homebrewers who have already benefited from help via social networks, invitations to brewdays, opportunites to compete and win the chance to experience their recipe being produced commercially.  I only have local examples of these kinds of activities, but Saltaire Brewery’s support of the Northern Craft Brewers and Leeds Homebrew group welcoming representatives from Thornbridge, Revolutions and Ilkley breweries to it’s meetings.  Encouragement, recognition, a free beer or two, call it what you want, but they are interesting times and long may this continue to develop.

(Edit: It turns out there may be some villains too, boo!…hiss!)

Nomadic Blogging and Brewing

Image: Kristina B

I think most beer bloggers would accept that their writing or photography is cyclical, to varying degrees.  Themes and ideas are revisited but are not necessarily repetitions.  Within a new blog post or article it is common practice to reference similar material, like-minded or conflicting, to give context and as a way of documenting and archiving developments in a particular topic of interest.  I’m finding that when I consider writing a blog post, I can choose a current talking point, or I can review a topic that either I or someone else has previously commented on.  It can of course be both of these things.  One other option is to write collaboratively or to guest blog with another blogger, something I tried in 2011 and will be looking to expand on this year.

As a homebrewer and someone who harbours serious aspirations to be involved in the brewing industry, I mostly revisit ideas involving brewing, kind of an appraisal of my brewing activity, a ‘where am I now’ and ‘where do I see myself in five years time’ type exercise.  I feel it’s important to do this every so often regardless of the subject, to renew focus or to change direction.

As it is the beginning of a new year and having read that yesterday is the day of the year that people are most likely to look online for a new job, I found myself thinking things over.  I know how easy it is to switch jobs to freshen things up a little, I’m lucky enough to be able to do this If I choose to.  Having said that, I don’t look at this in the same way as I did five years ago.  I no longer take my employment for granted and see little point in starting a new job that is essentially the same as the last.  So if I had the opportunity or the resources to take brewing a step further I’d take it.  I’ve looked at my options when it comes to brewing, not in as much detail as would be needed if I was about to do it tomorrow, but know that there are three options available to me: 1). Find a job with an existing brewery, 2). start a brewery, or 3). brew professionally using someone elses brewery.  There is of course a fourth option to carry on homebrewing, enjoy it for what it is and stick to the day job.

Cuckoo brewing is basically a practice whereby a brewer pays to use spare capacity at someone elses brewery.  A shining example of this approach being Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and his marvelous Mikkeller beers, I also regard him, along with a more local example in Revolutions Brewing Co, as my main inspiration in looking to progress from kitchen brewing.  Will Hawkes recently wrote about Bjergsø as The Gypsy Brewer and Intelligent Life magazine – the lifestyle publication from the Economist – have written a piece in their Jan/Feb 2012 edition: “Move over, Carlsberg: the gypsy brewers are coming“.  I need to explore this business model and brew plenty more beer at home before proclaiming this is where I’m heading, but it’s certainly an interesting approach.   I’ll revisit this again on my blog in six months time and try and keep my goal in sight.