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Here is my first run through of an Extra Special Bitter which served as a test batch more than anything for Simpsons Golden Naked Oats which I wanted to try.  Overall, pretty good!  I like it.  The Naked Oats provide a little bit of a berry nut flavor which is definitely unique and I will be trying again.  

I based my recipe off some of these links as well as Ray Danielle's Book Designing Great Beers although I obviously tossed in the specialty oats at my own discretion.

90% Floor Malted Maris Otter
5% Medium English Crystal
5% Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
60 minutes EKG hop addition to 20 IBUs
15 minutes EKG hop addition to 20 IBUs
0 minute EKG hop addition
Fermented with a ton of British Ale II

Changes I would make for round two would be firming up the body a bit which is a tad lacking.  Either mashing a bit higher than 150*, adding a bit more crystal malt or maybe switching to a lower attenuating English yeast like the Wyeast ESB strain.  Other than that, maybe increasing a tad the IBUs from that first addition but it's pretty tasty as is.   

Here's the tasting video.

              While fantasizing about the coming summer weather one thing that I couldn't help but think about was gardening and while thinking about gardening one thing I couldn't help but think about was growing hops.  Last summer I planted a Nugget hop rhizome in the backyard mostly because a Midwest Supplies catalog said they grew well in all climates and had a higher Alpha Acid content.  I knew nothing about them but decided to go for it because it sounded cool and easy to grow.  With a lot of time away from the house leading to poor care and a generally dry summer I finally got some cones growing at the end of the year but the two dozen or so that sprouted never came close to maturity leaving me without any homegrown hops.  And without any homegrown Nugget hops I still have not used the hops that I am growing in the backyard. So, long story short I was pondering this over the other day I decided a little research was necessary. had this to say:
11-16% All Purpose  
Strong heavy and herbal, spicy aroma and high bittering value (along with desirable growing traits) has brought this hop variety to the forefront of the industry.  Selected from a cross between Brewer's Gold and a high alpha male.
Used For: Extremely bitter. All Ales, Stouts
Subs: Chinook, Galena, Cluster 

The beerbecue, which I'm assuming is another homebrew blog out there, went a tad deeper: 
These are a common bittering hop, but some use them later in the boil, or for dry hopping, for the flavor and aroma they impart. The flavor and aroma are generally pungent, herbal, and spicy, much like the Columbus hop. Although, Columbus hops have a higher alpha acid content (bringing more bitterness to the beer), and Nugget hops lose less flavor and aroma from their essential oils over time due to their better storage stability.
Their similarity is no surprise, however, as apparently Nugget and Columbus hops share the same mother: Brewers Gold.

And had this telling bit of information:
A high alpha acids hop with a good aroma profile

So basically what I’m getting here is spicy, herbal, pungent and strong.  Not really a whole lot of variety from description to description but at least this confirms my belief that they are a good hop to grow with desirably easy traits.  So now the question is what should I do with them.  Well, I guess the answer is to toss them in an IPA.  I think SMaSH brews are a bit boring although they would serve the best vehicle for experimenting with new hops but instead I’m going to shoot for a plain old IPA with some domestic 2-Row, a bit of Munich and a splash of Crystal-20.  Hopefully this will be a recipe that will give a bit of backbone to the beer but will not overpower the hop flavor which will be derived from a 60 minute bittering charge and then hopbursting and dry hopping at the end.  

Results to come.  Anyone have any experience with Nugget hops?  Like them?  Love them?  Hate them?
Finally the In House Brew Pumpkin Beer is being drank!  Looking back through the notes of Part One (Research), Part Two (Designing a Recipe) and Part Three (Brewing) this journey started on August 21st and is now finally being consumed on November 29th but better late than never right?  The end goal of this project was a drinkable Pumpkin Beer; something that wasn't going to slap you in the face with spices or sweetness the way several examples of the style do.  An idea that originated over the quandary of what to do with garden pumpkins evolved into learning something new about autumn brewing. 

So what does it taste like you ask?  Is it too overbearing?  Too subdued to notice?  Nicely balanced?  Or maybe just muddled and confused?

Well, the smell comes in right off the bat as a mixture of a biscuity goodness with a hint of cinnamon.  There’s very poor head retention and the color is a bit darker than anticipated but over all a decent enough looking brown ale.  There’s a hint of caramel sweetness and a bit of bready flavor mixed with a tad of roastiness and followed by a lingering pumpkin spice flavor that remains after going down.  Normally when the term “lingering” is used in the description of a beer it is a bad thing but there is just enough there to remind you it is a pumpkin beer without blowing you out of your mind.  Overall: success!

If it needed to be done again, which I sure it will next fall, it may be aided from some body and head enhances.  The initial thoughts were for flaked wheat or maybe even flaked oats but they were nixed for the sake of simplicity.  Perhaps either of those would be good additions.  With the spices it almost tastes a little too bitter so using slightly less spice, lowering the IBUs or perhaps mashing higher to achieve a little more sweetness to round that out would work.  Overall though; not bad at all for a first run through.  

Type: All Grain 
Batch Size (fermenter): 2.50 gal 
Boil Size: 3.88 gal 
End of Boil Volume 3.13 gal 
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 % 

Ingredients Amt Name Type # %/IBU 
5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 76.9 % 
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 2 15.4 % 
4.0 oz Amber Malt (22.0 SRM) Grain 3 3.8 % 
4.0 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 4 3.8 % 

0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 16.5 IBUs 
0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 6 6.0 IBUs 
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon Ginger, 1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon Clove.

1.0 pkg British Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1098) 

Est Original Gravity: 1.057 SG 
Measured Original Gravity: 1.055 SG 
 Est Final Gravity: 1.013 SG 
Measured Final Gravity: 1.015 SG 
Bitterness: 22.5 IBUs 
Est Color: 25.4 SRM 

Mash Name: BIAB, Medium Body  152*

Aroma:  No esters, no hops, no caramel.  Just straight  up Munich and Vienna malt aroma.  

Appearance:  A deep, orangish red hue with a slightly off white head. Head retention could be better but nice clarity and color.

Flavor:  A bit of a malt bomb upfront with the combo of triple decocted Pilsner, Munich and Vienna but finishes fairly dry.  There are some hints of alcoholic warmth which are mostly hidden with heavy malt flavor and the spiciness from the hops.

Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied, well carbonated and smooth. Could have a little more body but due to decoction mashing the wort was extremely fermentable leaving little residue sugar behind.  

Overall impression:  Good!  I like it quite a bit but that may just be the work I put into the decoction mash talking. I don’t drink a ton of German beer so this is far from my specialty but this is going down pretty easily for a 6.5% brew.  Definitely smooth and rich but with more spiciness than I would have thought from just the one flavor addition I did.  Next time I will have to make sure to figure in the added efficiency for the decoction because I clearly overshot my target leading to the Imperial Festivus naming of the beer.  I don’t know, I may bottle this one up just for fun and send off a couple for competition.

One last thing.  It should be mentioned that this beer was fermented warm using a giant Bohemian Lager yeast starter.  As seen in the Brewing TV episode Lager Workarounds studies at Wyeast have shown that this strand can ferment well at 60-65*F while maintaining lager characteristics.  While I have access to a fermentation chamber now, I did not when this was brewed so this was my test run of this yeast and I think it turned out pretty well.  No obvious flaws so give it a try.

Decoction Posting:

Like many American craft brew lovers I’m a big fan of hops.  That said I’m not such a fan of only being able to drink a few of my favorite hoppy beers because of the alcohol content.  Now of course I love a good IIPA but now that it is football season I like to sit back and have a handful of beers so I decided one of my brewing goals will be to create a low gravity, hoppy Pale Ale.  Basically an American session beer.  Working off of my previous Galaxy Pale Ale recipe I’ve tweaked a few things resulting in this: 
5 lbs 4.0 oz Rahr 2-Row Pale (1.7 SRM) 58.3 % 
2 lbs 12.0 oz Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) 30.6 % 
12.0 oz Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM) 8.3 % 
4.0 oz Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) 2.8 %
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min 10.7 IBUs 
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 15.0 min 5.3 IBUs
0.50 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min 9.9 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 5.0 min 2.1 IBUs 
0.50 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min 5.4 IBUs 
1.0 pkg American Ale II (Wyeast Labs  #1272) [124.21 ml]
1.00 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0  Days
 0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Dry Hop 7.0  Days
Thanks to the help of a brewing forum I recently decided I should try to stir more aggressivly when batch sparging so after draining the
first runnings and mixing in the 180* water I vigorously stirred for two minutes.  Low and behold my pre-boil gravity was almost ten points higher than anticipated and when everything was all said and done I overshot my final gravity by eight points upping my overall brewhouse efficiency from 72% to about 80%. So much for an Americanized session beer though as this tipped me over 5% ABV. 

Yet another new trick I tried on this brewday was whirlpooling my wort before chilling.  The first thing I needed to do was rig up a copper diptube in place of the bazooka screen I had been using to keep hops out of the plate chiller.  Easy enough process once the right tools were found.  Next step was testing out the whirlpool action so I stirred my wort with a large sanitized spoon and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  I’ll admit the chilling process was a bit nerve racking as I was just waiting for the plate chiller to clog but everything went smoothly and I ended up with a nice little pile of hops in the middle of the pot with very little wort left behind.

So, all in all a nice brewday.  I learned a few things which I don’t know why I hadn’t tried yet but better late than never right? 
Also, I ended up with potentially a pretty nice Pale Ale that I may or
may not end up scaling back to hit somewhere between 4-4.5% ABV.  

This was the best picture I got although I was alble to suck a little more wort out of this guy before all was said and done.
So first off let’s discuss the name because I loved it.  This was supposed to be a test batch of a Russian Imperial Stout however somewhere along the line I messed up on a few fronts.  It was supposed to be 1.089 but due to this being my first big beer on the stove top BIAB system I undershot and wound up at 1.074.  Then there was the color.  It was dark but not as black as I would have liked it to have been. So therefore, with the low ABV% and the lacking depth of darkness a friend of mine decided it was not a brew fit for the Czars of Russia so we named it the Kazakhstani Imperial Stout. Added bonus, this also allowed for me to put Borat on the label.  After tasting it at a month in the bottles I’d say it was pretty well on its way to becoming a passable Stout.

But (because there’s always a but) it didn’t ferment out properly.  My notes indicate it finished fermenting very quickly and only reached a 70% attenuation finishing at 1.025 after three weeks.  I wish I could say how much priming sugar I added but my computer crashed and I lost all of my files to Beersmith and didn’t write it down on my paper copy of the recipe.  So, we’ll just have to assume that I added too much based on the high final gravity.

The Galaxy Pale Ale
84% Rahr 2-Row Pale
8.5% Biscuit Malt
8.5% C-20

60m- 26 IBUs Palisade
10m- 18 IBUs Galaxy
5m- 5 IBUs Palisade
Flameout- Galaxy

So this beer started off as a way to unload a bit of Biscuit Malt and some C-20 that I had laying around and while I was at the local brew shop I decided to pick up and try some Galaxy hots that I had been eying up for a while.  Overall, a bit overly hopped and perhaps too much Biscuit for my taste but all in all not a terrible beer.

Aroma: Floral, fruity citrus coming off the first wafting of this beer. Nothing overpowering but it's definitely there from the late Galaxy and Palisade hop additions. Anything else from the malt is hidden behind.

Appearance: Rich golden color with a long lasting, slightly off white head. Moderate clarity but this beer is still relatively young and I didn't use the usual isinglass clearing routine on this one so I'm pretty satisfied with the way it looks.

Flavor: Heavy hop presence right off the bat and through the finish. This is probably due to the fact that I messed up one of the hop additions and added it sooner than I had planned upping the IBUs to almost 50 with a bitterness ratio of .94 making it more mouth puckering than I would have liked it to be for a low gravity APA. The nearly 10% Biscuit Malt lends a bready, saltine cracker flavor lining deep underneath all of the aggressive hoppy goodness while the C-20 adds almost nothing noticeable to the beer at all. Hop taste and bitterness lingers longer than I would like it too.

Mouthfeel: Overly carbonated and I'm wondering if the fact that I force carbed only three gallons of it in a five gallon keg at 35 PSI has something to do with this. Overall though I'd say it's a light bodied, easy drinker provided you love your hop bitterness.

Overall Impressions: A lack of attention on the timing of the hop additions has really bumped this beer into the overly-hopped category. Without much backing it up in terms of flavor from the yeast or any caramelly or malty flavors it really dominates while I think if brewed the way I had planned this might have been a pretty decent beer. Given a little time in the keg to mellow out it may turn out better but as of right now it's a bit much to handle. That said the Galaxy hops, which are really the reason I brewed this beer, provide a very interesting flavor. More fruity than citrusy, they are an intriguing hop variety that I could easily end up liking a lot for APAs or IPAs.

If I brewed this again I think I would have to drop the IBUs down and I might lower the Biscuit and Caramel to 10% total to make things a bit more simplistic. A Galaxy dry hopping might not be a bad idea either.  Might get around to doing this guy again some time in the future.

Time for some tasting notes from my second incarnation of the Redheaded Rye-child.  Here is a link to the recipe in case you missed it but basically this is an American Amber Ale with a quarter Rye Malt and some dry hops. 

Aroma:  Picking up a bit of the spicy, herbal notes that can come from Sterling hops but not really getting much of the Cascade right now.  The malty sweetness is coming through as well.

Appearance:  Looks pretty damn good for a red ale I think.  Clarity came through after a week on tap in the freezer.  Great head retention with all that Crystal.  Color is pretty good and I'll admit I borrowed the idea of the C-120 in combination with Special B from an online forum.  With most beers I wouldn't fret about color but when making a Red Ale I feel like it should be RED.  Next time I think I'll try a full half pound of C-120 and Special B each to see if I can get a deeper red color.  

Flavor:  I think I've achieved a nice balance on this beer between the caramel sweetness of the C-120 and Special B and the dryer spiciness of the Rye Malt.  While it starts off sweet it finishes mostly with the Rye flavor and the Sterling hops lingering.  Still not much to be heard from the Cascade.  Not bad, but next time I think I will drop the Sterling hops and stick strictly to a citrus based hop combination.

Mouthfeel:  This beer has a nice full body resulting from the higher percentage of crystal malts and the high mashing temperature.  Finishes well and goes down pretty easy.  

Overall Impressions:  Pretty much what an American Amber Ale with 27% Rye Malt and some dry hops should taste like.  More full bodied than an APA but more heavily hopped than a traditional American Amber.  It's getting there.

Next Time:  This beer falls into the weird specialty category working off a American Amber Base per the BJCP and the questions for next time mostly revolve around whether or not I should keep it there or up the hops and gravity and just turn it into more of a Red Rye IPA.  I feel like I have a decent start on this beer after two trys and think a Red Rye IPA could be a completely different beer (that I will need to make) but I'll stick with what I have going on this one.  I know I like the combo of the C-120 and Special B and will try upping those as previously stated to achieve a more reddish tone.  The rye is good, but I might even up it a little bit further.  The hops I like but think that a more citrus based hop combination with more backloaded toward the end of the boil will improve the recipe.  As for everything else I think it stays as is so until next time, bottoms up!    

So after looking through my first post and what I gathered as the basic guidelines for a Pumpkin Beer I had some thinking to do.  First off I needed to decide on the style.  My initial thought was a stout or a porter but neither are my girlfiends favorite style so in the end I decided on going with English Style Brown Ale.  My recipe is going to come out somewhat of a hybrid between the Northern Brown and the Southern Brown in that it will be more lightly hopped like the Southern version although the gravity and color will fall in line closer to that of a Northern Brown Ale.  Each uses similar malts, hops and yesat so that wasn't an issue.

69.2% Maris Otter
15.4% Crystal 80
7.7% Flaked Wheat
3.8% Chocolate malt
3.8% Amber Malt
One pound baked and skinned pumpkin cubes

16 IBUs EKG at 60 minutes
8 IBUs EKG at 15 minutes

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon Ginger, 1/8 teaspoon, Nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon Clove.
After it is all thoroughly mixed use half at the end of the boil and reserve the rest to add later depending on how much flavor/aroma you want.

London ESB Wyeast 1968

Est SG 1.057
Est ABV 5.6%
22 IBUs
25 SRM
Fall is approaching, the leaves could change at any point and the garden ready for harvest.  So what does that mean for the homebrewer? Pumpkin beer!  Honestly though I’ve never made one of these and have never been crazy
for the style but the girlfriend likes them and this could be an interesting  adventure so I’m out to make my first Pumpkin Ale.

Above are a handful of links I found useful in researching this beer.  It seems
there are at least a few guidelines to follow when putting together a recipe.  
First:  It seems like you could chose any base style you want so long as it is
not overly hopped so all you IIPA fiends will need to tone it down. 
From what I’ve read about 20IBUs should be good so some solid starting
points could be a lightly hopped Pale Ale, an English Brown, a Porter or
Stout.  Mostly you want something
that doesn’t compete with the pumpkin spices and flavors.  

Second:  It seems most people mash pumpkin in with the grain although you can also
add it in to the end of the boil which is less tricky. 
Mashing is problematic and rice hulls are advisable because a stuck
sparge with a bunch of pumpkin in your mash is pretty common. 
Also, make sure to adjust your strike water for the added mass.  Either raise your initial temperature,
heat more strike water than planning and/or have a tea pot of boiling water on
hand to adjust.  

Third:  Baking the pumpkin first will caramelize it a bit and provide more flavor. 
Sixty minutes at 350* should do the trick. 
Gut the pumpkin, cut it into halves and cook it before pulling it out and
chopping it up further.  One site I
read said one pound minimum for five gallons while five pounds or more will
provide a healthy dose of pumpkin flavor.

Fourth:  Many people argue that the pumpkin itself adds little to the beer in terms of flavor or fermentable sugars and that a good pumpkin beer is all about the spices.  This however seems like a copout to me because I like doing things the hard way.

Fifth:  It is very easy to over spice your beer to the point of it being undrinkable so take it easy.   One teaspoon per five gallons should be noticeable.  You can always add more post fermentation but you can’t take it out. 

Sixth:  Make sure  you like pumpkin beer or know someone who does!

That's all for now.  Be back shortly when I devise a recipe.