Friday, June 29, 2012

Parallel Lines - The Blonde Ale

When I create a recipe, I start with the beer itself, deciding on what malts, hop and yeast to use.  Then I wonder what I should call it.  Once I got a brewing software program, I spent my time actually making up recipes more than actually making them.  I noticed that I had a lot of themes around rock bands or album titles. As I was organizing all these recipes, I made a folder called "Rock and Roll Series".  In this folder resides such recipes as "Rocka Rolla" (the title of a Judas Priest album, inspired by Magic Hat's "Roxy Rolles" amber), and the various Black Sabbath recipes for Imperial Stout.

It was obvious that I would name a blonde ale after the band, Blondie.  It's low-hanging fruit.  Yes, I should try harder.  I did grow up listening to Blondie.  The band was probably not a top five favorite of mine during the grade-school years, but in sixth grade, I did tell people that "Dreaming" was my favorite song.  You can read more about my relationship with this band here.

You could almost lump the blonde ale into a series of beers named by their hue: Blonde, Amber and Brown. Traditionally, all of these beers are English in origin, malty, and have just enough hop character to preserve them for a decent amount of time.  Overall, I appreciate well-made beers.  While the traditional styles of these beers are drinkable, I would only opt for one if I had limited options.  I like a bit more bite when it comes to my beers, unless it's a Belgian-style beer, in which case, I'm mostly interested in the aromas, most of which are produced by the yeast.

They had a sale on a variety pack of hops over at Austin Homebrew Supply earlier in the year.  I decided that I would also add a few ounces of Amarillo and a new hop, Zythos, to my order.  This set me up for brewing all the IPAs and Pale Ales I so enjoy for the 2012 season.

The original Parallel Lines was made from ingredients I bought from Shoreline Brewery.  I was curious about the Sladek hops they had for sale.  I used an ounce of Liberty at 60 minutes, and an ounce of Sladek at 20 minutes.  Overall, I didn't really think this beer was very good.  I thought the hops were more bitter than I would have liked, and weren't as floral. It didn't appear balanced, even though the IBU were within the guidelines for a blonde ale.  Even though I put a pound and a half of Carahell (10*L) in the recipe, the Golden Promise was maybe not the best choice for the base malt.

This time, I decided I would utilize all 3 oz of the Zythos hops plus an ounce of Warrior.  It looks as though I didn't use enough crystal malt in this one either, but, for some reason, the beer finished at 1.022, which appears to have given the beer a slight sweetness to balance the hops.  The Zythos remind me of Amarillo, but just slightly different.

Parallel Lines Blonde Ale

Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.38
Anticipated OG:1.057 (14.15)
Anticipated SRM: 6.1
Anticipated IBU: 42.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 60    Minutes

11.00 lbs. 2-Row Malt
1.13 lbs. Carahell Malt
0.25 lbs. CaraMalt 

0.50 oz.    Warrior @ 60 min.
Whirlfloc & Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 oz.    Zythos @10 min.
2.00 oz.    Zythos Dry Hop
0.50 oz.    Warrior Dry Hop

WYeast 1056 Amercan Ale/Chico

I don't know what's been up with the 1056 I've been receiving by mail order lately.  It shows up and it looks as though it's already been smacked.  This one slowly started expanding on me, and instead of brewing a Doppelbock with another yeast, I decided to brew this one.  I made a yeast starter, but I am still baffled at how my yeasts are performing lately.  I usually get ales to finish around 1.014-1.016.  I'm hoping for more of a 1.010-1.012, but I just don't get that.  It would upset me if I thought my beers were too sweet, but I even had my friends, Justin and Amy, who are recognized BJCP judges taste one of my beers that finished high and state that it was dry.  So, with this beer, I've created a Session beer, which wasn't what I was going for, but, at 4.4%ABV, I've created a florally, hoppy session beer.  It's rather quite nice.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quad City Lager

If you're from the midwest, moreso the Chicago area, and you know your Illinois geography, you might have heard of the Quad Cities.  Of course, anyone who has been to the towns of Davenport, Bettendorf (on the Iowa side), Moline, or Rock Island (Illinois) will likely have heard the term "Quad Cities" or "Quad City Area" and understand that this group of cities shares a part of the Mississippi River.

While I went to school in Davenport from Kindergarten to Fifth Grade, and returned to finish my Junior year at Bettendorf High School and then graduated from Davenport North in 1987, the Quad Cities I'm referring to in this lager are not even in this country.  While thinking about the different malts that were named after cities, I came up with the following recipe:

Quad City Lager

Batch Size (Gal): 5.5 
Anticipated OG: 1.055 (13.63)
Anticipated SRM: 5.9
Anticipated IBU: 28.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

3.00 lbs. Bohemian (Moravian) Pilsner
3.00 lbs. Koelsch Malt
3.00 lbs. Munich Malt(light)
3.00 lbs. Vienna Malt 

1.00 oz. Halletauer @ 60 min.
0.50 oz Czech Saaz @ 60 min.
Whirlfloc and Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.50 oz. Czech Saaz @ 10 min.

Wyeast 2487 Hellabock Lager

See what I did there?  I was trying to figure out what kind of style this beer would end up being were I to enter it into a competition, and I decided that it was closest to the "Export" style, or "Dortmunder Export".  While the Koelsch, Munich and Vienna malts add a tinge more darkness, as does the 90-minute boil, it still just makes it under the required color style.  I've always brewed a pilsner, but truth be told, when just a lad of 15 and 16 years old in Germany, I had not yet gotten used to the hoppy German pilsners, and since most of the choices I had at the places I drank were "export" or "pils", I went with "export".  Even though I use Czech Saaz hops (a favorite of mine), this is my quintessential "German" beer.

"You like that German beer?"
"Yes. I. DO!"

I gotta admit - I didn't use the Moravian Pilsner.  I had some Franco-Belges left over from a 55-pound bag I bought, so I used that to make this.  You know what?  It's still good.  Smells of clean yeast (I would use the Hellabock yeast for all lagers other than Czech ones if Wyeast made it available year round.  I heard it's the Ayinger yeast, although Wyeast won't tell you where they get their strains from; I am told that the year-round White Labs 0833 is also the Ayinger yeast.  Might need to change yeast companies...) and malt.  No real hop aroma here, although I really wouldn't expect it.  At 28.1 IBU, it's hopped nicely, but again, doesn't punch you in the face like a pilsner.

Quite enjoyable, and tapped just in time for the summer months.

Friday, June 15, 2012

ESPer Czech Dark Lager

When I grew up in Germany, I knew about the original Budvar and Pilsner Urquell.  Those pilsners are still some of my favorite beers; simple malt bill, a clean yeast with some stinky residuals, and the wonderful zesty aroma and bitterness of Czech Saaz hops.

It wasn't until I started brewing, though, that I stumbled onto the animal known as Czech Dark Lager.  Similar in malt bill to a Munich Dunkel, the Czech Dark uses Czech yeast and Czech Saaz hops to provide something just a little different.

I actually had a couple of versions of this style, one was from Trader Joe's, and I actually had the same one not knowing it was the same brand (only the style was listed on the menu), at a local restaurant.  I wasn't too impressed by these - they had the same kind of maltiness akin to a brown ale, not necessarily a bad thing, it's a personal preference, and while I've had some nicely made brown ales, the style itself does not excite me.

Then, a couple of Januarys ago, I was dropping off some beer to be judged in Aurora, Illinois.  The family came with, as we decided to make a day of shopping, and we stopped into a Gordon Biersch Restaurant/Brewery, and the seasonal special was a Tmave Vycepni.  I asked the waiter to pronounce it, and he asked me to please not make him say it.  The description, though, was obvious - this was a Czech Dark lager.  It came in what appeared to be a glass shaped like a Weizenbier glass.  It smelled of roasted malts and, surprisingly, citrus.  It tasted a bit chocolatey with orange/citrus overtones.  I decided right then that I wanted to make one of those beers one day.

After doing some research, I came up with the following recipe:


Batch Size (Gal): 6.00  
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.69
Anticipated OG: 1.049 (12.09)
Anticipated SRM: 16.6
Anticipated IBU: 35.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

6.00 lbs. Pilsener (FB)                
1.50 lbs. Caramunich II               
3.00 lbs. Munich Malt (NB)        
0.19 lbs. Carafa III (Dehusked) 

2.00 oz. Czech Saaz (3.5%AA) First WH
1.00 oz. Czech Saaz (3.5%AA) @ 15 min.

Wyeast 2782 Staro Prague Lager

Some notes: First of all, I missed the window on the limited edition Staro Prague yeast.  Instead, since I had never used it before, I decided to try the Bohemian Lager yeast.  While the yeast made a good beer, I think I would prefer a more stronger aromatic strain, like that of the Budvar yeast or the Staro Prague.  I've made great beers with both of those yeast, and I think that I'd like to make the Budvar my Czech Lager yeast of choice.  The Staro Prague (which I believe is the Staropramen yeast) imparts a clean aroma with a tiny bit of sulfur.  Some people claim that this is a flaw.  It doesn't smell like a recently lit match, it's more of a hint, and with the Czech Saaz hops providing a nice, grassy smell, it's truly a fine thing.

The beer itself, depending on the glass, is a dark brown with some red highlights around the edge of the glass.  It smells of roasted malt and the "clean" yeast smell you get from lager yeasts.  There's not really any aroma of Czech Saaz in this one - could be it's masked by the malt and yeast smells.

The taste is similar to other dark beers - a nice roasty graininess with just a perfect hint of astringency - not burnt tasting like in some stouts.  The hops add a slight zestiness, and provide a nice amount of bitterness - they don't punch you in the face like a Czech pils.

I utilized this recipe for U Fleku for inspiration.

The name was inspired by a Loudness song from their "Disillusion" LP.  I thought Esper was some kind of ghost, but it turns out it might mean a person who has ESP, or "ESPer".  I have no idea.  The photo I found for the label was sort of cool looking, though.