Now that my cousin/brewing collaborator Andy is settled into his new home, and said home no longer has a backyard filled with snow, we were finally able to go out and brew some all-grain batches outside. As a housewarming gift I bought a sparge arm to help better control the flow of the hot sparge water over the grain bed. Pa’s Videoboard Lager finished much lighter than we had hoped, and I think where we went wrong was that we sparged too fast and did not rinse as much fermentable sugar off the grain as we had planned.
On what was a double brew day we brewed Andy and his brother-in-law Greg’s Cabot Street RYE-PA. When Andy and Greg brewed together Greg was more of the creative force that developed their recipes. Now Greg has three boys under the age of six, so leaving home for an all-day brew day is understandably difficult.
If you are looking for consistency from batch-to-batch, or are looking to improve from batch-to-batch, note taking is essential. You need to know what you did before so you avoid repeating mistakes, or conversely know how to replicate what you have done in the past that did work.
Greg and Andy have taken a casual approach to this over the years. As we were about to start the boil for the RYE-PA, Andy realized he didn’t have the recipe and was not sure what the hop schedule was. He asked me what I thought it was. My best guess was 1 oz of Columbus at 60 minutes, and the late hop additions was pure guesswork. Luckily Andy found the hop schedule scribbled in the margins of a past ingredient purchase order.
The second beer we brewed was originally supposed to be brewed at my house. Andy wanted me to show him and his wife Juli how we brew at home on our stove top. We never got around to doing that over the winter, even though I bought the ingredients months ago. Between holidays, Andy buying his new house, selling the old house, moving, stuff we had going on, we just never got around to it.
At his old house Andy had home grown hops. Growing hops at home deserves its own post in the future so I won’t go too in-depth here. Knowing that he would be selling his house, Andy froze the hops he harvested last fall and asked me to come up with a recipe that would work with his hops. I asked him and Greg what hop variety they were, but they were not sure having originally planted the bines several years ago. Greg’s best guess is that they were Cascade or Centennial. Over the years the plants could have easily cross-pollinated so who knows what they are now anyway.
For the Cabot Street Hop Harvest IPA I wanted to create a recipe that featured and accentuated the one-of-a-kind Cabot St. hop blend. Unless hops are analyzed by a lab it is impossible to know what the Alpha Acid levels in the cones are, which determines how much bitterness they will add to the beer. For that reason it is best to use home-grown hops for flavoring and aroma, while using store-bought hops for bittering early in the boil. For this recipe I chose Warrior hops because they are high in Alpha Acids and provide a very clean bitterness without contributing much flavor.
The grist was just 2-row barley, some flaked barley for added body and head retention, and some corn sugar to boost the alcohol level without adding too much body. Safale S05 yeast will finish nice and clean with good attenuation making sure the beer doesn’t finish too malty.
Every ingredient in this beer is intended not to clash with the home-grown hops. In a perfect world the hops would have been dried, and vacuum sealed in a non-plastic container impervious to light because light and oxygen are what cause hops to degrade. Luckily the hops seemed to have kept well in Andy’s freezer in a ziplock bag.
Andy did replant the hops at his new home. Even if they do take, it will likely take another year before we have enough of a yield to do another batch again. I am anxious to see how this one-of-a-kind beer comes out!