Well, it’s over! I have to say I’m relieved, it took way more effort to brew all the beer for my wedding than I expected it would. It was definitely worth it, and I know there are a lot of people out there in the process of planning to do the same thing so here is a post going over everything I experienced and learned while brewing the 11 kegs of beer that I served at my wedding. Continue reading
IPA – Hopily Ever After
Well the wedding is over and I’m finally all caught up on the backlog of blog posts and work stuff. Rebecca and I got married on January 31st and everything went swimmingly! I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts since January so I’m going to post this one before I start working on non-wedding beer posts. We served 11 kegs of unique beers at the reception, and I’ll have a post talking about that and what it was like to brew for such a big event. We spent a week touring Colorado and visiting breweries, so I think I’ll have a post about that too. This is going to be the last wedding beer I write a blog post about since 15 beers is a bit much to blog about. Also there isn’t anything overly exciting or innovative to say about three IPAs using the same process with slightly different recipe. I was able to use the ones so far to give a bit of an overview to my process and recipe formulation though.
This was one of my favourite beers at the wedding. It’s a fairly simple recipe with common ingredients but it turned out fantastic, with that high level of hop aroma that people chase. When it comes to hoppy beers I like to keep the bitterness low, and focus on fruity hop flavours instead of pine, which I find comes off as garlic and onion when used too much. I used a mix of citrus and pine hops at a ratio of more than 2:1 to strike a balance between the two. I find that pine and resin hop flavours punch through much more readily than citrus hop flavours so more citrusy hops are needed to balance things out. In this case I used an oz of Centennial and Simcoe at 5 minutes for flavour and bitterness, the same at 0 minutes with 1.5 oz of Citra added in to up the citrus character and help strike a balance of flavour. In the dry hop I stuck with the same three hops to avoid muddling the flavour, again using higher amounts of citrus focused hops to hit the flavour profile I was looking for.
My IPA grain bill is fairly standard consisting of mostly Domestic 2 Row, a bit of Munich I for colour and a hint of breadiness, and some Wheat Malt for head retention. I use US Magnum to bitter since it is such a clean hop that produces a smooth bitterness. I use San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090) as my house yeast for clean beers. It seems more and more of my blogger friends are starting to prefer Vermont Ale Yeast for hoppy beers so I may give that a try in a future iteration of the recipe. If I hadn’t been brewing this for a crowd I probably would have hit it with some gelatin as well to help clear it out, you can see how cloudy it was when I took this picture about 2 weeks before the wedding. I knew a few wedding attendees were vegetarian so I stayed away from gelatin in respect to them.
Hopily Ever After
Doppelbock 2.0 – Double Diamond Doppelbock
Doppelbock is a style of beer I really love. I love the intense bready/toffee malt character coupled with the clean fermented lager profile. Doppelbock is a traditional German style lager with high level of malt flavour/aroma and higher ABV. Not what you typically think of when you hear the word lager, but remember lager is just a type of yeast (and also a conditioning practice). I previously brewed a Doppelbock back in Feburary 2014 and it turned out fantastic. It even did quite well in a few competitions including a 3rd Best of Show (BOS), my best placing so far in a competition. Naturally I had to brew one for the wedding.
Dark English Mild – Stamford Session Ale
I love Mild. There is just something about this style of beer that speaks to me. I love the toasty flavours with supporting malt complexity, I love the lower ABV that allows you to drink more than one, and I love that, so far, I have had good success brewing this style of beer. Mild (BJCP 11A) isn’t a style you find a lot of in bottle shops or tap lists in North America, usually if a brewery is making a low ABV beer it’s either a Session IPA or some kind of English Bitter. I’m sure part of the reason for this is that low ABV beers with low bitterness don’t tend to keep as well over time.
Historically, as the story goes, the term mild was used to refer to a beer lacking the sourness that aged beers tended to have, unfortunately they didn’t have StarSan in the 1800’s. Today, mild is defined as a style of beer by the BJCP. A Mild is a, low alcohol, malt focused beer with character ranging from lighter malt flavours like caramel and grainy up to dark chocolate or light roast. The bitterness should only play a supporting role to balance the malt, but not distract from it.
This is the second Mild I have brewed in my short brewing career. The first one turned out very well, but had a bit too much diacetyl for my taste, probably due to the WLP005 (Ringwood) strain I used. Keep in mind that low levels of diacetyl can be nice in certain English styles of beer. For this iteration however I wanted to use a cleaner yeast, so I used WLP002, which I already had on hand anyway. I have found that I really like the toasty character that brown malt lends to Brown Ales so I upped the amount from my previous recipe. The pale chocolate is there to give a nice deep brown colour and some light roast malt flavours of dark chocolate. The Crystal 65L is there to give some toffee flavours and to add some body.
Saison isn’t a style of beer I have much experience brewing. In the past I tended to shy away from brewing most styles of beer that focus on esters. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of brewing a clean beer, free of esters and other yeast derived compounds, that allows the malt and/or hops to shine through. For some reason back in September I decided to eschew this and brew a saison, I suspect it’s because it’s so popular with my brewing friends. I needed to brew one to fit in.
Version 1.0 of this beer turned out okay but I decided to make a few changes when I brewed this 1.1 version. I decided that I wanted more wheat character, so I upped the wheat a substantial amount from 9.5% to 36.4%. I love the creamy mouthfeel and bready flavour that high percentage of wheat gives a beer. I had decided to use WY3711 as the yeast in version 1.0 of this beer because many of the saison brewers I know swear by it. I believe that is mostly because of how attenuative it is, and doesn’t have the same sticking problem as the Dupont strain (WY3724). I had already harvested some WY3711 from version 1.0 so I didn’t change that for this iteration. I also decided to add some Amarillo at flame out, to give a more interesting grapefruit flavour, unfortunately at the time I had forgotten how much I hate the 2013 crop of Amarillo. I decided to go with a somewhat neutral water profile, electing to use slightly more sulfate than chloride to help accentuate the crispness of the beer. In the previous attempt I mashed at 150*F and the beer attenuated all the way down to 1.000, so I upped that a bit this time to 152*F hoping the yeast would leave a bit more body. Continue reading
Helles 2.1 – Where the Helles Newton
This may have been my first time re-brewing a recipe without any changes. I last brewed this beer in September and it turned out pretty fantastic. Very clean, low grainy malt flavour, and just a hint of spicy hop in the flavour. The 2.0 was brewed back in September and submitted into a homebrew advent calendar, the 2.1 was re-brewed on Nov 16ᵗʰ for the wedding. The name is inspired by my dog Newton, who is always off somewhere getting into trouble! The below picture is of the 2.0, it is slightly blurry but you can see the perfect clarity and beautiful pale gold colour.
Going back a step, Helles is kind of an obscure style for some people in North American. According to the German Beer Institute it accounts for one out of every four beers consumed in Germany, only less popular than the German Pilsner and Weizen styles. The name Helles comes from the German word “hell” which means light. This style is one of the few with a definite birthday, first released by Spaten Brewery on March 21ˢᵗ 1894. It is the main beer style served in the beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest, and is typified by beers like Hofbrau Original, Spaten Premium Lager, Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold, and many more. Those listed beers are available in the LCBO in Ontario, and it was the Hofbrau Original that inspired me to try my hand at brewing a lager (because it was delicious)!
My thinking behind this recipe was to keep it pretty simple and only add things with a purpose. My original recipe had Munich I and Melanoiden in addition to the Pilsner so this version is simpler. The traditional Helles recipe is just 100% Pilsner malt with just enough hop bitterness to balance. I decided to add a tiny bit of interest in form of Vienna malt and a touch of Saaz as a late boil addition. I’ve found that sufficient lagering time is very important for lager styles since high clarity increases their appeal. Check out how clear the 2.0 turned out!
Robust Porter 2.0 – Plummer’s Porter
The second wedding beer I brewed is a tweaked re-brew of a Robust Porter I brewed back in April 2014, hence the 2.0 designation. We decided to call it Plummer’s Porter as a homage to the place Rebecca and I met, Engineering Faculty at the University of Waterloo. Engineering students call themselves Plummer’s (intentionally misspelled). I believe it came out of embracing some name calling between Waterloo and University of Toronto several decades ago, something about us not being real engineers at the time, who knows.
This post I am going to try to give a short insight to my recipe creation and tweaking process. This recipe is a tweaked version of the original recipe I brewed. When I am looking to brew a beer style that I never have before I start by going to the BJCP guidelines to get an understanding of the style and the main flavours and aromas associated with it. In this case, the key points of Robust Porter are all about the malt. There should be a noticeable roasty aroma accompanied by some supporting malt aromas. The flavour should feature lightly burnt black malt character with everything else supporting and balancing that. With that in mind I start to do some research by looking at some well established recipes. Usually that starts with Brewing Classic Styles (BCS) and then I also look at some well regarded clone recipes of classic examples of the style. For version 1.0 of this beer I ended up adapting Jamil’s Robust Porter recipe to my system volumes and efficiencies.
The last time I brewed this it came out with a bit too much milk chocolate flavour and too low in roast, so I approached this recipe with intent of tweaking it for more roast, and a dryer finish. With this in mind I bumped up the chocolate and black malts by 2 oz each. I mashed this beer at 154*F last time and it finished at 1.018, so I bumped it down this time to 152*F hoping to dry it out a bit more. I also happened to drink a bottle of Edmund Fitzgerald (by Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewery) for the first time a few days before and loved it. Their website says they use Crystal 77L (probably Crisp) so I bumped my crystal from 45L to 65L to get a bit closer. It also just happens to be the #1 example of the style according to the BJCP. Increasing the lovibond of the crystal malt should give less caramel sweetness, and more nutty/toffee which suits a roast porter nicely. Continue reading
Bridal Brau Imperial Stout
The is the first wedding beer I brewed, because I wanted to give it as long as possible to mellow before the big date on Jan 31st 2015. Big imperial stouts often taste quite boozy when they are young. Ideally I would have brewed this many months ago, but it fell by the wayside. I brewed this beer back on October 21st and it was a doozy. 28.25 lbs of grain is a lot to fit in a 10 gallon Igloo cooler so I reduced my mash thickness to 1.0 qt/lbs, which is very thick. In retrospect I should have just brewed a 4 gallon batch instead of my regular 6 gallon batch. That would have allowed me to mash at normal thickness and take all my readings. Ohh well…
I hadn’t brewed an imperial stout before so I decided to look for inspiration from some of my favourite examples. One RIS I really enjoy is Oscar Blues Ten Fidy, with mysterious opaque black colour and intense roast profile. It also happens to be brewed near Denver, Co, where Rebecca and I are going for our honeymoon in February. I did a bit of research and found that someone had made a homebrew recipe with the help of the brewer. I was a bit skeptical because the Oscar Blues website doesn’t mention crystal malt in the recipe, only 2 row/chocolate/roasted barley/flaked oats. I decided to brew it anyway.
I took the percentages of their grain bill and adapted it for my system and expected efficiency (much lower than my usual 75%). Even with the mash thickness set to 1.0 qt/lbs I needed to up my boil time to 2 hours to be able to use a decent amount of sparge water. Since the OG was significantly higher than anything I had brewed before, I decided to set my brewhouse efficiency to 60%, hoping that if anything I would overshoot a bit. Continue reading
Hi my name is Eric and welcome to my brewing blog! I don’t have much here yet but I have several busy months of brewing ahead of me in a bid to make more than a dozen kegs of unique homebrewed beers for my wedding at the end of January. I’m pretty much going to be brewing twice a week for the next two months so I thought what better time to start a blog than when I am neck deep in brew scheduling and planning. I don’t have much experience with blog writing so please bare with me as I learn.
When it comes to planning out beers to serve at a wedding as a homebrewer it is very tempting to go nuts and pick some of the most out there recipes, and at the same time it is tempting to play it super safe and brew beers you know can be enjoyed by more than just your beer nerd buddies. My fiancee Rebecca and I tried to play it down the center when planning out the beer list. We’ve settled on a wide array of styles including easy drinking beers like Munich Helles (description below), and some more beer geek centric styles like Russian Imperial Stout and Brett IPA.
I’m sure the plan will change as I go but at the moment here is the planned beer list, not giving away the names yet:
- Munich Helles – A light flavoured german lager with a malty balance
- IPA – Probably a middle of the road example of the style, possibly featuring a single hop
- Robust Porter – A moderately strong roasty beer with flavours of coffee and chocolate, perfect for a mid-winter afternoon
- Hefeweizen – An effervescent german ale with creamy wheat texture and perfectly balanced flavours of banana and clove
- IPA#2 – Another dry hopped, hoppy ale with focus on citrus, tropical, and pine aromas. No hop combo planned yet.
- Imperial Stout – Already brewed this one. Took inspiration from one of my favourite examples of the style, Oscar Blue’s Ten Fidy. Which happens to be brewed near where we are going for our honeymoon. This one will be north of 10% ABV and hugely roasty.
- American Pale Ale (APA) – This one may also focus on a single hop. Lower ABV than the IPAs, and more balanced with the malt.
- Saison – A style experience resurgence in the homebrewing community due to it’s delicious nature and forgiving fermentation temperature schedule. Another effervescent ale of Belgian origin that finishes very dry and fruity. May be appealing to wine drinkers. Hoping I can brew this outside of my fermentation chambers (which are going to be the main limiter in my brewing schedule).
- Session English Ale – I haven’t decided on the style for this one yet but I want something lower ABV (under 4%) and malty. Going to be one of: Ordinary Bitter, Mild, or Scottish 60/-.
- Cider – Something for the non-beer drinkers. Made with local Ontario cider, fermented by me. Probably a dry or semi-dry cider, not a big fan of sweet cloying ciders.
- Doppelbock – One of my favourite styles, an intensely malty german lager with a warming feeling due to the high ABV. I won a few awards this year with my Doppelbock so I am going to re-brew it with some tweaks. This is going to be brewed as early as possible to ensure adequate lagering time (cold storage), which is a traditional way to clarify lagers.
- Northern Brown Ale – No big plans for this one, may be subject to change, but something middle of the road. I have one on tap now that is drinking very nicely.
- Session IPA – A low ABV (<5%) variant of the IPA style. Similar hopping levels, but less alcohol and a tweaked balance. Really just a hopped up APA.
- Brett IPA – I have one of these in the fermenter right now that is slated for the GTA Brews (my local homebrew club) advent calendar exchange. If it turns out well I may do something similar for the wedding. Thinking some Galaxy and Mosaic/Simcoe for this one.
There are a lot of beers in the works and I’m hoping to chronicle the making of each one on this blog. Not all of them will make it into the wedding, my goal is to brew more than needed and handpick the best ones to increase the overall quality delivered.
I also have a few DIY projects slated for the upcoming months (and a few recently completed) that will be documented on this blog so stay tuned! I’m sure the journey will be an exciting (and tiring) one.