Tag Archives: Pale Ale Recipe

Hop pellets vs. whole cone hops… what’s the effect on character?

Whole HopsBuilding on my previous hopping experiment where I set out to find The Effect of pH on Hop Character, I decided to try something that I’ve been wanting to explore for some time now, the difference in character between whole cone hops and pellet hops. Honestly, I’ve only ever used pellet hops. Probably because of their ease and availability. They’ve produced excellent results in some cases and less than excellent results in others.

Two of my favourite breweries, Sierra Nevada and Victory Brewing, both swear by using only whole cone hops. I’m going to heed their experience and agree that there must be something to it. But what exactly? I’ve heard the extra processing that goes into pelletizing does have an effect on the resulting character, but again, to what extent? Generally I’m of the mind that the less processing in anything food related, the better. Let’s see if this holds true for hops.

photo 1I brewed 2 batches over the weekend of my standard Sierra Nevada Pale Ale recipe, exactly the same, except I used whole cone Cascades for the 10 minute and flameout additions in one, and pellets in the other. (pellets were used for the magnum & perle additions in both)  Some of you may say that I should have used all whole cone and all pellets to really know the difference, but this is the stock I had on hand. If it doesn’t demonstrate the differences well enough, I will try it again with all whole cone hops. Knowing that the utilization is different for pellets vs. cones, I relied upon Beersmith to calculate the variation and adjusted my additions accordingly to have matching IBU contributions in each batch.

First thing I can say right off the bat, if you’re using whole cone hops for the first time, use a bigger pot, or adjust your batch size to match the pot you have. Whole cone hops are very bulky and will absorb a lot of wort. If in your software (such as BeerSmith) you have the ability to adjust the amount of wort lost to trub, then at least double it as a starting point. (I’d suggest 1 gallon) This will account for the extra wort lost to the whole cone hops.

The second thing I can say is save yourself the frustration of getting your chiller plugged up and use some kind of filter in your brew kettle. A few ways to do this would be to use a bazooka screen, a stainless steel braid, or a blichmann hop blocker.  I didn’t think of this beforehand and had to remove my hoses, clear the lines, sanitize everything (to be safe) and try again, 3 times!. Stupid me, what a pain! haha. As a result, I had a longer stand time than I would normally have before I chilled my wort down. I’ll have to keep this in mind when tasting the final beers as it may have contributed more IBU’s to the finished beer.

I’ll let you know what differences I detect in a couple weeks when they’re ready to compare.

Cheers!

So how did our Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout Clone turn out?

Samuel Smith'sWell, the temperature has definitely dropped here in Toronto, and winter has  arrived after much delay. At this time of year, a look in my beer cellar has me seeking out the darker side of the spectrum. In particular, a nice dark stout. That would do the trick nicely to warm up my cold bones. Just so happens I have the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout clone myself and fellow homebrewers David Thompson and Peter Caira brewed back in November.

Question is, is it any good?

As you will recall from the original post, we tried out WhiteLabs’ Platinum Series Yorkshire Square yeast which we had hoped would bring out a complex yeast character reminiscent of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. We also attempted to mimic the water from North Yorkshire (or at least our best estimate of it’s make up) with generous amount of chalk and gypsum.

Tasting Results

This time around you won’t have to just rely on my opinion, Peter & David, both avid, award winning homebrewers in their own right, have given us their opinion on our collaboration brew.

Hoptomology:

Straight out of the gate it was evident that there was a massive yeast/chalky character. To me it was pretty overwhelming. My guess it’s from the water additions that we added to the boil and the unique character of the Yorkshire Square yeast. The original has a very subdued yeast presence compared to ours. There are so many factors affecting fermentation, that it would be incredibly difficult to get it exactly as Samuel Smith’s does; open fermentation in slate tubs, pitching rate, oxygenation rate, temperatures, etc. The reason I’m citing this is because yeast performance and the resulting flavour characteristics are dependent on these factors. Perhaps we aerated the wort too much, which brought out a greater amount of esters? Over pitched? Underpitched?
Another thing I noticed is that it’s not as full tasting as the original, and it lacks the rich, chocolatey flavour. There is a touch behind the chalky/yeast character, but it pales in comparison to Samuel Smith’s. I thought for sure with all those oats and minerals in the water that it would have a much bigger mouthfeel, but it doesn’t. Then again, we did mash low at 150F. Next time I’d like to mash higher and see how much it changes things. The head didn’t last as long as I’d hoped for either.
 
David Thompson:
 
I have found that the estery quality has subdued a bit; gone is the initial slight banana notes, but has developed into a pleasant fruityness.  It’s nice drinker for sure, but misses the rich chocolately notes of the real deal.  Not sure how to quite account for that; use some brown malt or pale chocolate?  Either way it’s fine beer.

Peter Caira:

Everyone who’s tried it says something like “this is mild for a stout / I could drink that all day” and in one case, a well-informed friend of mine asked if it was a schwarzbier! When I let a pint warm up a bit I get some faint notes of raisin or fig but very subdued.  Roastiness is also in the background there but again, very subdued.  Mouthfeel is nice – I like the level of carbonation and the oatmeal certainly smooths things out.  Aroma is mostly roast/nut quality but again, subdued.

Conclusion:

All in all I’d like to try this one again. I’d omit the water additions, bump up the mash temperature, and try a more standard yeast like White Labs 002 – English Ale. Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on my assessment of this beer, as David & Peter enjoyed it. Although I thought we had made an honorable attempt at cloning Samuel Smith’s Original based on what we knew, I don’t think we succeeded this time around.

Cheers!

Les Brasseries Artisanales de Montréal (The Brewpubs of Montreal)…


View Larger Map

Oh Montreal, how I love thee.

Delicious food, friendly people, hip fashion, beautiful architecture, and of course, GREAT BEER.

This was my 3rd time visiting Montreal, and every time seems to get better and better. I’ve become much more obsessed with beer since my last visit, so I did some digging around to find out where we should go to sample some of Montreal’s amazing selection of beer…

1. Benelux Brasserie Artisanale et Cafe  

245 Sherbrooke O, Montréal, QC, H2X 1X7
514-543-9750
 

We dropped into Benelux on our first night in town. We loved the beer and the outdoor patio so much, that we went back a second time the next night! It isn’t much to look at, decor wise, but it has a very friendly atmosphere, and the beers are impeccable. Every beer I tried, not just here, but also at the following 2 brewpubs, were incredibly clean. Very fresh and well cared for. I could tell that the draft lines are well kept and sanitized. I’m very sensitive to dirty draft lines and always feel like garbage the morning after, even if I only have 1 or 2 pints. Not so with Benelux, and I definitely had more than 1 or 2. My favourite was a Continue reading

Adding a personal touch to your homebrew: roasting your own grains…

If you’re anything like me, you’re always seeking out how to brew a better tasting beer. There seems to be endless possibilities and learning opportunities that can be had when brewing. Thankfully home brewers and craft brewers, by nature, like to experiment. Perpetually fiddling with recipes, equipment and the overall process is what we do.

A fellow home brewer tipped me off to a recipe he thought was amazing called “Lake Walk Pale Ale”. It showcases the famous Amarillo/Simcoe hop combination that I’ve read so much about. Unfortunately, up until recently, Simcoe hops have been very scarce around these parts. I’ve since scored a pound of them, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it. An interesting twist to the recipe is the use of ‘home-toasted’ malt. I had read about roasting your own grains in “Radical Brewing” and “Brewing Better Beer“, but hadn’t really thought much about until now. Since we are so incredibly fortunate to have access to a myriad of different malts from all over the globe, some would say, why bother roasting your own?

I say, why not? It’s something else to do that involves brewing!

You can achieve any number of roasts at home. Try roasting them dry, or try roasting them wet to get a caramel/crystal type malt. You can also play around with the temperature and the length to get flavours that you want. For example, Randy Mosher’s “Radical Brewing” outlines the following flavours you will get at various temperatures: Continue reading

Reviewing my Stone Pale Ale…

Well, the Stone Pale Ale that I brewed is in, and man, this is a seriously good beer. The flavours are very balanced, with a definite caramel flavour to it from the generous amounts of crystal malt (19%). The Ahtanum hops are a unique contribution. Even though I’m expecting the signature citrusy flavours associated with American hops, it’s flavours are slightly illusive, as they seem to really blend in well with the surrounding malt body.  I’ve always remembered the saying that “if you can pick out one particular ingredient, then there’s too much of it”. They’re in there for sure, they just don’t jump out and hit you in the face. This beer is quite complex for having such a straight forward recipe.

One of the reasons, I think, is because of the water profile. I added some Epsom salt (0.55g per gallon) and Calcium Chloride (0.25g per gallon) to my water to match the profile stated in Stone’s book: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. Those levels are:

30ppm Ca / 85ppm SO4 / 12ppm Mg / 40ppm Na / 40ppm Cl

These numbers are not very far off my own water here from Lake Ontario, but the sulphate level is a bit higher at 85ppm as compared to mine of 28.6ppm. I’ve noticed that by using Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) as opposed to Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum), the resulting enhancement is slightly different. I’m not finding it as ‘harsh’ as I sometimes get with having too much gypsum in my beers. Maybe it’s just all in my head, because sulphate is sulphate, right? Maybe it’s the  sulphate/chloride balance? I’m not sure. My point is, I think the water profile definitely made an impact on this beer in the form of added complexity.

The other interesting choice for this beer was Continue reading