It’s been a month and a half since my last newsletter, so I have a lot of news to share with you. There are two brews in secondary fermenters at Mac’s brewing (plus one aging in a bourbon barrel). I hope to brew two more batches before I knock off for the summer.
Smack Down: I brewed Smack Down on April 11, 2013. So what is it, you ask? Smack Down is an imperial IPA. Last year I modified a Pliny the Elder recipe and called it Phat Pliny. This year I modified it more, adding an extra half pound of Carapils (for additional body) and doubling (+ .75 lb) the crystal malt to darken (amber) the beer a little and add a little extra caramel flavor. I did not change the hops (Phat Pliny is so over the top that no additional hops are necessary to counter the additional malt sweetness). So what difference will these changes make?
Now I’m going to get a little technical here (refer to the Terms and Definitions category of this blog if you need any help understanding what some of these terms mean), so bear with me while I act like a beer geek for a moment. I got one additional gravity point out of my mash (1.066 Smack Down vs 1.065 Phat Pliny). That’s not much difference, and actually my efficiency was down because I used an additional 1.25 lbs of grain but only have one point to show for it. Hmmm, that’s not a good thing, but my efficiency was still decent (69%, compared to 74% for Phat Pliny) and some of the crystal malt was a year old and probably a little stale. After a 90 minute boil my original gravity rose to 1.087 (in addition to increasing the sugar concentration by boil-off, 1 lb of corn sugar was added to increase the gravity). Phat Pliny had an OG of 1.088, so I started the Smack Down boil one point higher and ended one point lower than Phat Pliny (I’m pretty sure why – go ahead, ask me – I think it has to do with the boil dynamics). Is that one point important? Not really, especially when you’re talking about a high gravity beer like this. I just find it interesting, and since you’re reading this news letter, I assume you must be interested as well.
I took a hydrometer sample when I racked Smack Down to the secondary fermenter (after 10 days in the primary fermenter). It’s now 1.016 and still fermenting (very) slowly, but that means it’s already 9.44% ABV. When the fermentation and conditioning are done, it will probably lose not more than one or two more points and finish around 9.6 – 9.7% ABV. Phat Pliny ended up at 10.1%, but who really needs a 10% beer, when I’ve go a 12% beer aging in a bourbon barrel right now? Smack Down is currently dry hopping and should be ready for bottling in about two more weeks.
Mac’s Apricot Wheat Ale: Mac’s beach house vacation brew is an apricot wheat beer this year. I brewed this as per requested by someone who follows this blog (ok, she also happens to be “the boss of me” – just ask her, she’ll tell you), so if you have any suggestions or requests, let me know, I just might honor your request as I did hers.
Mac’s Apricot Wheat was brewed on April 22, 2013. This ale is Mac’s basic wheat ale recipe (60% wheat, 40% barley, low hops) with the fruit – in this case pureed apricot – added to the fermenter. Last year I brewed Mac’s Cherry Wheat (same recipe, substitute pureed cherry for apricot) and ended up with a very tart fruit beer. This year I changed the yeast and hope to have the finished beer a little sweeter. I racked it to the secondary fermenter yesterday and took a little taste. The apricot is subdued (that’s what I expected) right now, and not too tart. I will add 5 oz of concentrated apricot flavoring when I bottle it, which will further bring out the apricot flavor. It’s about 7.5% ABV right now, and the fermentation is all but complete (Mac’s Cherry Wheat ended up 6.8% ABV). It may be in the bottle before Smack Down, even though it was brewed 11 days later.
As is typical with a beer fermented with real fruit, it has taken on the color of the added fruit. This beer, which was a nice hazy, pale yellow (think hefeweizen), is now a pale orange (although not overwhelming) since the fruit was added 5 days into fermentation. I think this should be a real refreshing and thirst quenching summer ale.
Whatchamacallit: I bottled Whatchamacallit on tax day (April15th). It ended up 6.5% ABV, which is fairly high for a Marzen (Oktoberfest) recipe. I tasted it a few days ago after just two weeks in the bottle. It’s fairly clear with a slight chill haze, medium amber to red in color, with a slightly sweet aroma. After only two weeks of carbonating and conditioning, it is quite well carbonated and produces a nice creamy white head with lots of staying power. The taste is slightly sweet with a very slight caramel flavor and a very nice malty aftertaste.
I think it’s a good beer, though not great, and not a winner, but will enter it into the Orange County Fair Home Brew competition. I don’t expect this to win any awards – it’s entered into the “Specialty Beer” division because it’s a Marzen recipe (that’s Oktoberfest), which is a lager beer, but fermented with an ale yeast. I brewed this same recipe in 2011 but used a different ale yeast. It ended up looking and tasting a lot like a lager. It was quite dry, but very good. I decided to try a different yeast this time, attempting to leave a maltier flavor profile. This current batch does have a more malty character, but tastes a slightly “washed out”, so I’m a little disappointed. Next time I will use the Kolsch yeast like I used the first time. Again, I don’t expect to win anything with this entry, but am interested to read the judges comments.
Nut Case (Mac’s Chocolate Hazelnut Stout): I wrote about this one in my last newsletter (March 19, 2013) just after bottling it. I tasted it a couple of weeks ago, to assess it’s worthiness for the OC Fair. I think this one is a winner. It’s 9.2% ABV, dark as midnight, and a great Imperial Stout. The hazelnut adds so much to this beer. The aroma is so rich and sumptuous that it invites you to taste it. The flavor doesn’t disappoint. The hazelnut flavor jumps out at you, but the underlying stout is so rich and complex that the hazelnut doesn’t overwhelm it. Now this is what a winner tastes like. If it doesn’t win an award at the fair, I have to conclude that the fix is in. Even Sheila, who absolutely doesn’t like stouts (especially imperial stouts) tasted it and raved about it [RUSS, I HOPE YOU’RE CREATING A NUT CASE LABEL TO ENTER INTO THE LABEL COMPETITION – YOU WILL DEFINITELY WIN (as should the beer)].
I just bought the ingredients for two batches of Mak’s Hefeweizen today, so before the end of May I need to brew two more times Sheila agreed to be Mac’s assistant brewer on one batch (she loves my hefe, so I will have her assist with one of these batches); that should make brew day a fun experience.
I’m enjoying an Arrogant Bastard (Stone Brewing) right now, and experiencing the end of a rather hot and windy day in May. Summer is coming soon, and Mac will be on hiatus from brewing until Fall (but two more batches first). Maybe then I can finish my kegerator this Summer????
Good luck at the Fair!
Thank you. I think Nut Case should win something. If it doesn’t, then I will cry “foul”, and drink one to soothe my raw nerves.
You certainly have been busy! I hope you win at the fair, and we get to ride the bus again! I wish I liked beer, because you make it sound so good!
Even if I don’t win, we can still ride the bus to the fair and have some fun. Make sure Mike is on board with that – I know he really hated that little outing last year.