Two dark beers in a row!?! I know, this isn't my usual M.O., but tis the season for dark beers. Quite a few months ago I remember reading that Stone was going to release a Coffee Milk Stout, and thought, hrm that sounds pretty tasty. Since I couldn't get my hands on a 6 pack of this, I just decided to brew something similar myself.

I didn't particularly set out to clone Stone's beer, but it definitely served as in inspiration of sorts. From a recipe standpoint, I borrowed pretty heavily from the Milk Chocolate Stout I brewed roughly a year ago. I'm using the same malts in this recipe, only tweaking the amounts since this is a much lower gravity beer. I'm amping up the amounts of crystal malt, and dropping the amount of roasted malt to account for that. Based on my recent experience with session IPAs and WLP090, I'm also cranking the mash temp up to 158* to retain as much mouthfeel as possible.

Another part of the motivation for brewing this beer was to get a pitch of yeast ready for a 10 gallon batch of Pumpkin Porter I planned to brew the following week. Whenever possible these days I've been trying to avoid making big starters, and rather make a smaller gravity batch of beer. With that said, despite the high FG of this beer, the OG is still into the territory where I'd feel more comfortable making a starter than not. A few days prior to brewing this I made a small 1L starter, which was then crashed and decanted before pitching.

This brew day went well despite the fact it was still blazing hot outside; it was 110+* pretty late into the summer this year. I try to wake up pretty early for summer brew-days, but sometimes I just can't quite drag myself out of bed. Nonetheless, the mash went smooth, hitting all my numbers, and I counted down a 60 minute boil. The lactose went into the kettle with about 10 minutes left. Chilling the wort with ground water temp in the 90s isn't super fun, but I'm sure the local 'water and ice' stores love me. 40lbs of ice later, and I was down to pitching temps in a pretty reasonable amount of time.

Brewed: 08-30-14
Kegged: 09-06-14
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.024
ABV: 4.0%
IBU: 25
6 Gallons

7lbs 2-row
1lb English Medium Crystal
12oz Chocolate
10oz Munich

6oz Roasted Barley
6oz Carafa III Special
1lb Lactose 
Mash @ 158*
16g Apollo @ 60
WLP090 - Super San Diego Yeast
2oz Cold-Steeped Sumatra coffee in primary


Fermentation started a within 18 hours, and this was completely fermented out by around day 5. Two days before, I started cold-steeping two ounces of coffee in roughly 12 ounces of water. I let that sit in the fridge for a full 48 hours before pressing out the grounds, and adding the coffee into the primary. Everything stayed like that for another two days before I went ahead and racked this beer to keg.

So enough of the details, let's get down to how the beer turned out. Overall, really quite well. I might look into different methods of dosing the coffee, but we'll get to that in a minute. The beer is a rich, pitch black hue, with a nice dark head that doesn't hold quite as long as I wish it did. I guess I attribute that to the coffee oils. The aroma is definitely dominated by rich coffee notes, with some malty things going on behind that. The lactose is completely lost in the aroma, but that's not to say it's ever all that dominate in milk stouts. The beer does tastes more like a milk stout though. There's a strong chocolate malty flavor with some lactose sweetness mixed in. The coffee hits hard in the finish, and while not unpleasant, it has a quality to it I don't love. The mouthfeel is quite full thanks to the lactose and the high final gravity. Despite the coffee character I'm not in love with, this beer still turned out pretty great, and everyone who has tried it thus far has loved it.

While I don't brew coffee-flavored beers all that often, this one definitely left me thinking about the best way to infuse coffee-flavor into a stout. I'm starting to think that cold-steeped coffee might not be the best approach. There's a slightly sharp, maybe harsh, quality to the coffee flavor that became more apparent after the first couple weeks on tap. I think it has something to do with the carbonic acid and the coffee, although that's pure speculation. I've heard some people have good success simply using whole coffee beans in the fermenter, so I might take that approach next time. Judging the amount of beans to use might be a little tricky, but I think it's worth experimenting with. There's always something to tinker with, right?

Cheers!



In words of the great Ladies Love Cool James, "Don't call it a comeback."

It's time for me to start writing again. I want to start by saying thank you to all the loyal readers.  I've received countless emails and comments(yes, I'm definitely still alive) over the past year with nothing but nice things; you guys rock. I have to admit, I underestimated the ebbs and flows of writing(or any long term hobby) until I hit a bit of a lull. If anything it's a testament to some of those blogs that have been going consistently for the better part of a decade; it's not easy. With that said, the keys are clicking again.

I've spent the past couple weeks thinking about how to get the gears in motion, and finally I decided to just document the past few brew days, and start moving forward again. Truthfully, the details about brew days from 6 months ago, and how those beers tasted are getting a bit fuzzy. I take detailed brew day notes, but not detailed enough to write about them here.

In terms of what's new with me: The wife and I had two awesome weeks in Europe, I started a new job, the storage tank on my RO system took a crap, Summer sucked, the Sun Devils and Cardinals are KILLING it, and it's finally Fall here in Phoenix. With that out of the way, let's get back to what we all care about: the beer.

Pumpkin beers are pretty ubiquitous these days, and not to sound pretentious, but most suck. First, the seasonal creep is past the point of ridiculous now. I dont want pumpkin flavored things in August. It's still an oven in Arizona in August, and a humid oven at that. I'm not thinking about pumpkins or pumpkin flavored things. Secondly, most pumpkin beers are entirely overspiced, over sweet, and just not that good. (Don't even start with Southern Tier Pumpking. That fake, cloying marshmallow/vanilla flavor is disgusting.) As I step off my soap box, I will say there are some breweries that make some amazing pumpkin beers. Four Peaks here in Tempe has a Pumpkin Porter that's fantastic. They've made it for years, and while some years are a little better than others(it's hard to dial in those spices), they tend to always get it right.

I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me sooner, but a robust porter just makes a better base for a pumpkin beer than an Amber-ish beer does. The roasty notes blend well with the pumpkin flavors, and the creaminess that pumpkin meat adds makes the porter that much better.

In terms of developing a recipe, I started with a Porter that I brewed a few years ago. I like to spread the roasty flavors between a couple different malts, so I kept that theme going. I've been using Carafa III quite a bit in my dark beers lately, and I also cut out all hop additions except for the bittering. I'm making a 10 gallon batch this year, as it's nice to have on-tap throughout the Halloween/Thanksgiving season.

The brew day itself was kind of a mess. I forgot to buy rice hulls this year, and I don't think I need to remind anyone that canned pumpkin makes for a sticky mash. I had to stop the pump and stir the mash probably about 15 times during the hour-long mash. With that said, I was able to hold the mash at at least 150* for the length of the mash. After that, things proceeded normally. A 60 minute boil was followed by a quick chill down to pitching temps. I pitched WLP090 yeast from a Coffee Milk stout brewed the week before (we'll talk about that in an upcoming post), and both fermenters fermented out pretty quickly.

Brewed: 09-06-14 
Kegged: 09-13-14
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: ~35
12 Gallons

17lbs 2-row
2lbs Carastan
2lbs Munich
10oz Black Patent

10oz Chocolate Malt
8oz Carafa III
90oz Pumpkin (canned)
Mash @ 151*
32g Apollo @ 60

1tsp Vanilla @ Flameout
Spice Blend (1tsp Pumpkin Spice, 3/4tsp All-spice, 1/4tsp cinnamon) @ Flameout
WLP090 - Super San Diego
During Kegging/Bottling(per keg): 1/4tsp Pumpkin spice, + 1/8tsp cinnamon, 1/8tsp All-spice 

Once fermentation was complete, I kegged both fermenters, and added the additional spices. These carbed up for a couple weeks before the first one went on tap.

Let's quickly take a minute to talk about spices, as they are probably the most critical part of getting a pumpkin beer right. I use a Pumpkin spice blend that doesn't have all-spice in it, hence the added all-spice. The spice blend is also about 2 years old. Keep in mind the spice additions listed are for a 10 gallon batch, and you might consider going a little light on spices. Mine are a little old, and you can always add more at kegging/bottling. It's very easy to add too much spice, and getting that right is definitely the most important part of this beer. Exercise some caution.

As for the how the beer turned out: pretty awesome. This is definitely the best pumpkin beer I've yet to make. The beer is black with ruby highlights with a light tan head. The aroma is chocolatey malts first, followed by some soft pumpkin spices. The flavor is pretty similar to the aroma. Smooth chocolate/roasty notes followed by pumpkin spices. The canned pumpkin, while adding little to no flavor, adds quite a bit of body and creaminess to the beer. Overall the beer is well balanced, and very drinkable. I had no intent to clone Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter, this beer compares quite well. My beer has significantly more body, which makes me wonder how much pumpkin they use. Nonetheless, it's a pretty good idea what this recipe tastes like.

Well, that will wrap up this post. Stay tuned for a couple more posts from recent brew days, and other recent musings. Thanks again everyone. It feels good to be back.



Short post today, as the wife and I are off to Europe for the next couple weeks. We're going to Amsterdam, Brussels, Ghent, Brugges, Cologne, and Dusseldorf, and would love to see if any of you guys have any beer-related advice (breweries, bars, or beers to try).

We've already checked out the European Beer Guide (great reference), as well as looked into going to Westvleteren (too far), but I was wondering if anyone had personal recommendations from their experiences.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm sure I'll have some pictures and stories in a couple weeks when we get home.



Of all the beers I made last year, one of my absolute favorites was my American Amber Ale. It wasn't the biggest, it wasn't the hoppiest, and it might not have been the most exciting, but I really enjoyed having it on tap. So it was long over due that I made another batch of this.

I like to tweak my recipes. I'm not sure why; it's just one of those urges that is hard to fight. So for this beer, I really tried to do my best to resist that urge. I kept the malt bill identical, and only slightly tweaked the hops due to availability, and what I felt like using up in my freezer.

To be perfectly honest, I'm a few batches behind in regards to updating this blog. Unfortunately, that also means my memory is getting a little fuzzy as to the particulars of the brew day. Nothing really stood out as good or bad, so I can really relay is my notes. I mashed for 60 minutes, and boiled for 60 as well. I whirlpooled the wort for 15 minutes after flameout before chilling down to 62F. Due to convenience, I've been using US05 as of late. It doesn't ferment or flocculate as quickly as WLP090 does, but when you don't have time to make a start, it gets the job done.

Brewed: 01-19-14
Dry Hopped: 01-26-14
Kegged: 01-30-14
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.8%
IBU: ~50
6 Gallons

10lbs 2-row
1.25lb Munich
14oz English Crystal
7oz Crystal 120

2.5oz Chocolate Malt
Mash @ 154*
.85oz Apollo @ 60
1oz  Cascade @ 15
1oz ea Centennial/Amarillo @ 0
US05 - Cali Ale Yeast

Dry Hop - 1oz Citra & .5oz CTZ

Fermentation moved along a little slow, as US05 tends to do. After about 7 days, it was wrapping up, and I racked to secondary for dry hops. The beer sat on those for another 5 days, before I racked to keg for fining and carbonation.

After a good 10-12 days under CO2, this beer really started to wake up. The aroma was a touch dull at first, but once the carb levels come up, it really comes alive. The beer itself is a beautiful dark red with a nice white sticky head. The aroma is mainly fruity hops, with a nice big resiny note. There's a fair mix of malt in the aroma as well. The flavor is pretty similar, but the malt hits you first. The mouthfeel is full, but the beer isn't cloying in any way, with a nice fruity/citrusy hop character in the finish. Overall it's just a really fantastic beer that I can't get enough of.

Every time I brew this beer I tell myself: "I should really keep this on tap more often", but I somehow never manage to follow through with that. So considering this keg is running dry, I'm going to pencil another batch of this in shortly. My hophead friends love it, as well as those that are a little less lupulin-inclined. Anyway, thanks for all the comments and support. Cheers!



So, confession time: I've never brewed a Russian Imperial Stout. I had planned on brewing one a few years ago, but for whatever reason, I pushed out the brew day. Then for some other reason, I never got around to brewing it. With winter approaching, I figured it was finally time to get around to making a big, massive, roasty stout.

I pieced this recipe together between looking at some of the NHC winning recipes, and looking at my 6-7% ABV stouts that I've liked. I added a nice healthy amount of Munich for some maltiness, and spread the roasted grains out between a couple different types. The idea was that Chocolate malt and Carafa would give a more chocolate-like character than Roasted Barley alone. There's a little Crystal for some sweetness, and I a big healthy dose of Apollo hops to bitter with. In the end, I'd like to think I ended up with a relatively uncomplicated RIS recipe.

Brew day went really well. It was a pretty thick mash, but I didn't have any issues. I boiled this for 90 minutes, and started to chill it immediately after flameout. I ended up with a shade under 5.5 gallons in the fermenter at 1.102. I hit this with 90 seconds of O2, and pitched a 3-4L starter of WLP090.

Lesson time: Don't brew a 1.100+ RIS before leaving town for three days. I brewed this on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Kristen and I then took off to California to spend Turkey-day with her family. Despite keeping the fermentation temps low and using a blow-off tube....ya.... I came home to a bucket that was on the verge of exploding, and a couple cups of blow off on the bottom of my fridge. Thankfully the lid never blew, and after a little clean-up, everything was fine.

Brewed: 11-27-13
Kegged: 12-07-13
OG: 1.102
FG: 1.022
ABV:  10.5%
IBU: ~70
6 gallons

21.5lbs 2-Row
2lb Munich
10oz Roasted Barley

10oz Chocolate Malt
8oz Carafa III
8oz English Medium Crystal
8oz C120

Mash @ 152
1.75oz Apollo @ 90
.75oz Apollo @ 15

WLP090 - Super San Diego

Fermentation wrapped up after roughly 6-7 days, and I left this in the primary for another few days to finish up before racking it in a keg to rest in. It spent another 2 weeks in a keg before I finally dropped it in the kegerator to carbonate.

So I actually still have this beer on tap, and I have to say, it turned out really, really nice. It was very good after a couple weeks, but it's excellent now after a few months. The aroma is deep rich roasted malts with lots of chocolate and raisin aromas, and no real hop aroma to note. The appearance is a thick viscous jet-black with a thick tan head. The flavor definitely follows the aroma with a smooth roast character, lots of chocolate flavors, and a full finish. Fermentation character is super clean, which is something I was worried about considering the big blow-off. I wouldn't call the beer sweet, but rather full, for lack of a better word.

Anyway, ya. This turned out to be a damn good RIS. I'd like to play around with this recipe in the future with some vanilla, chocolate, or coffee, but for now I'm happy to say I have a nice stock RIS recipe.



So in keeping up with the beers brewed last year, it's time for a post on the Southern Hemisphere Pale Ale. This beer was basically an attempt to brew something like Stone's Enjoy By IPA in a 5.5% ABV Pale Ale. Obviously the beers would be different, but my hope was to hold onto the core flavor profile, in a beer that's much more drinkable.

The major component of Enjoy By is the dry hop, which consists of a 50/50 blend of Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy. I started the recipe there and worked backwards. I simplified the 15min and flameout additions a little bit, but I tried to keep the overall theme the same. The hopping quantities were cut back significantly as well. The grist is where I really had to make some changes. Straight 2-row in a beer like this would come off a little too blah, so I really upped the specialty malts to try to replace that big ABV character. Lots of carapils for body, some carastan for sweetness, and some munich for maltiness.

This was another batch I split with my friend Kiernan, so everything is doubled compared to a 6gal batch. I got a starter of WLP090 ready, and brew day went smooth. 60min mash, 60min boil, and a 10min whirlpool before knockout. This fermented out clean and quick, and I tossed half the dry hop into the primary near the end. After a few more days, I racked both fermenters to secondary, and added the second half of the dry hop. Finally after 8-9 days later I racked this one to keg.

Brewed: 11-10-13
Dry Hopped: 11-16-13
Kegged: 11-25-13
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 43
12 Gallons

19lbs 2-row
24oz Carapils
24oz Munich
20oz Carastan
Mash at 152*
1oz Apollo @ 60
1oz ea. Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo @ 15
2oz ea Citra & Centennial @ Flameout
Whirlpool for 20min
WLP090 - Super San Diego Yeast
Dry Hop 1: 1.5oz ea Nelson Sauvin & Galaxy
(Dry hops are for each fermenter)

This beer didn't exactly turn out how I intended. There was a little bit of diacetyl early on, but that faded. The big issue seemed to be this year's crop of Nelson I received. I really can't put my finger on the flavor, but whatever it is, I don't like it. Overall the beer wasn't bad. I like the malt character, but the hop aroma just really detracted from the beer. It very much reminded me of the HBC342 beer I made a couple years ago. Not bad, but not great.

I ended up getting through about 3-4 gallons of the keg before I drain-poured the last bit to make room for other beers. Life is too short to worry about a couple gallons of so-so beer. I ended up brewing nearly the same recipe a couple weeks later with Citra and Amarillo as the dry hops. It was a much better beer, but we'll get to that in another post. Cheers!



Whew, I'm back from a short writing hiatus. Between the holidays, getting a new puppy, work, and just not making the time, it's been a little while. On the bright side, I have been brewing in the meantime, so I'll have a bunch of new content up shortly. For the sake of keeping thing chronological, let's start with this Scottish I brewed to have on tap for Thanksgiving and Xmas.

I've said it a few times before, but I really like having a low-gravity session beer on tap most of the time. It's nice to be able to have a pint or two and still be a productive afterwards. This is nearly the same recipe I brewed last time, with only a couple changes. I went with C60 rather than carastan for a little more caramel flavor, and I switched out 2-row for some Marris Otter. Other than that, nothing terribly new.

As for the brew day, it wasn't too interesting. I am noticing that my mash tun isn't terribly well suited towards super-low gravity beers due to the wide diameter (17.5 or 18", i forget). I really have up the strike water volume to near 2qts/lb to have enough liquid to recirculate. Anyway, aside from that, it was smooth. 60min mash, 60min boil, and I chilled down to 64F. We had a beautiful fall here in AZ, and the temps made chilling wort much easier.


Brewed: 10-26-13
Kegged: 11-02-13
OG: 1.037
FG: 1.011
ABV: 3.4%
IBU: 16
6 Gallons

5.5lbs Marris Otter
1lb Carastan
8oz Munich
8oz Honey Malt
4oz C120
3oz Chocolate Malt
Mash @ 158*
9g Apollo @ 60
WLP090 - Super San Diego Yeast

Thanks to how quickly Super San Diego ferments, this was done in like 3-4 days, and in the keg on day 7. The picture up top was after about 10 days in the keg, and it continued to clear up to a brilliantly clear deep red hue after about a month.

As for how it turned out? Pretty damn good. The Marris Otter definitely gave the beer some extra needed depth of flavor it was missing. The aroma is all malt, literally zero hop. The flavor pretty much follows. Sweet caramel and toasty malt flavors, no hop flavors to speak of, and a clean finish. I won't say this recipe is finished, as I still would like to see what a few changes would make, but overall this was a really nice low ABV beer for fall, and went over really well with the fam for the holidays.

Anyway, stay tuned, as I have like 3-4 beers to write about in the next week or two. Oh, and Jacob Dennis, shoot me an email, you never responded, and I owe you 8oz of Amarillo.

Cheers!


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