Friday 21 April 2023

American Amber Ale - BrewZilla Brew Day

We put together our Amber Ale Recipe Creation Guide and Amber Ale Recipe quite some time ago, and with the weather starting to cool down here with Autumn finally settling in, we decided it was time to bring this one to life.

A couple of substitutions to our recipe needed to be made - firstly, the base malt needed to be changed from Maris Otter to American Ale malt as our local home brew shop didn't have sufficient supply. The same for yeast - we had initially planned to use US-05 for this one but ended up going for BRY-97 as that was all we could get. In any case, the result should still be good!

Here's our ingredients all laid out - though we've opted to skip Nottingham this time around and go with BRY-97.

Our pale chocolate malt wasn't milled yet either, but since we need such a small amount we decided to DIY it with a zip-lock bag and a rolling pin. Because why not?


We setup our BrewZilla 3.1.1 and Digiboil to pre-heat their water for mashing and sparging duties.


Whilst waiting for our water to heat up, we weighed out and added our water salt/mineral additions with the 3 usual suspects (calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate and calcium chloride), along with a campden tablet for removal of chlorine from the water.


We added some phosphoric acid to our sparge and mash water to get the pH down to within the 5.2 - 5.6 range as well.


After our BrewZilla reached strike temperature we added the grain - it's definitely easier and preferable to make this a 2 person job so one can add the grain and the other can stir it in - this definitely seems to help reduce clumping and dough balls from forming.


After leaving the grain bed to settle for 10 minutes, we took a pH meter reading to find we were spot on with where we wanted our pH to be - around 5.3. Pretty amazing how accurate brewing software like Brewfather can be with predicting this.


We then began recirculating the wort via the built in BrewZilla pump. A lack of wheat in this grain bill meant recirculation was fairly good and didn't require much extra effort or attention.


We mashed this one a little higher than normal at 67°C to help promote a fuller body and have less fermentable sugars in the wort.


After an uneventful 60 minute mash, we pulled the grain basket and began sparging. 


The flow of sparge water back through the grain bed was pretty good so we reached our bre-boil volume of 26.5L reasonably quickly.


We set our BrewZilla to "HH" for boil and took a pre-boil gravity reading using our digital refractometer whilst we waited. 1.051 had us 2 points higher than our expected reading of 1.049.


Next we weighed out our bittering hop addition - 12g of Columbus (CTZ) hops.


Once we reached a boil they were unceremoniously added into the BrewZilla - plenty of foam and hot break forming!


We started our timer for our 30 minute boil and then proceeded to weigh out our other hop additions to be added with 10 minutes left, along with some yeast nutrient and whirlfloc.


The 10 minute additions were then added after 20 minutes had elapsed in the boil.

A late inclusion was to add some centennial hops to the flame out/whirlpool addition to help add some additional flavours. American "C" hops are known to work, so centennial, chinook and columbus seems like a pretty safe bet.


At the end of the boil we chilled the wort down to 85°C and added our flame out hops and let it recirculate using the recirculation arm for 10 minutes before we continued chilling down to yeast pitching temperature.


We then transferred to our Apollo Snub Nose Fermenter.


This is only our second brew using whirlfloc tablets, but the difference they make is significant. These 2 photos were taken about 10 minutes apart, with the first being right after the conclusion of our wort transfer from BrewZilla to fermenter.



You can see how much has settled to the bottom of the fermenter in such a brief period of time, and the snub nose design means it settles into a nice little cone, meaning more of the wort (and beer) can later be harvested from the top after fementation.

Next, we took a gravity reading which gave us a starting gravity of 1.053.


This was confirmed with our floating hydrometer which gave a reading more or less the same - perhaps more like 1.054.


We then pitched a single packet of BRY-97 yeast and left it to do its thing.


Fermentation went relatively smoothly and we had a FG of around 1.014. There was a pretty decent krausen that stuck to our Hydrom and skewed the readings so the true FG was never reached/shown according to the Hydrom.



This FG was a little higher than we anticipated, but in a style like that which allows for a fair amount of residual sweetness we don't anticipate it to be a big issue. Also means the ABV is a bit lower than planned, coming in at 5.1%.

Check out our post with the Review and Tasting Results for our American Amber Ale.

Friday 14 April 2023

Cream Ale - Tasting Results & Review

Our Cream Ale/International Lager in the Craftd Freddy glass

Straight off the bat, in terms of overall quality, balance and flavour profile, this is probably the best beer we've made to date. Constant tweaks to water chemistry, in particular making sure our mash and sparge pH levels are within the 5.2 - 5.6 range has made all the difference in eliminating all off flavours our palate is capable of detecting. We also made a conscious decision to really strip things back to a really simple and straightforward recipe, without loads of hop flavour like we've been doing in many previous brews.

In terms of being a "cream ale" - it arguably is, however we've found it more closely resembles an international pale lager. With the use of lager yeast (W34/70), it technically is a lager, but also the classic noble hop of hallertauer mittelfru, some corn based adjunct (maize) and a bit of simple sugar (dextrose). To our taste it came out very much like a Heineken. A true cream ale would perhaps be better suited with some new world hops and a clean fermenting ale yeast like US-05 - which is what we'll try next time. If you look at the BJCP guidelines for the two styles (international pale lager and cream ale), you'll notice there's quite a bit of overlap between them anyway.

We're super happy with how this one turned out even if it wasn't exactly how we had planned, but sometimes accidents and missing the mark aren't an entirely bad thing!

Let's dig a bit deeper into how it turned out;

Appearance

Super pale in colour and by far the clearest beer we've ever brewed, it's certainly appetising to look at. The whirlfloc tablet worked wonders and this is something we'll be including in all future brews with the exception of course of hazy styles. It needed a good few weeks to drop fully clear in the keg, but we’re pleased with where it’s at without needing any additional cold side finings. A nice clean white foamy head (perhaps a little too large on initial pours from a warm kegerator tap) is apparent and has some good staying power.

Aroma

There is not a huge amount of aroma as you'd expect from a beer like this - since the grain bill is fairly neutral and there isn't a great deal of hops at play. It's all in balance as it should be, but you do get a slight hint of the lager yeast on the nose up front.

Flavour

This one is very easy drinking and to our taste has no noticeable off flavours. It was fermented warm (around 20C) and under pressure (around 10psi) which certainly worked to suppress any esters and off flavours from developing. We were particularly worried about the warm fermentation termperature imparting some off flavours, but the W34/70 yeast certainly wasn't phased by this, and more than likely having the fermentation happen under pressure helped too.

The yeast profile is very neutral and provides the perfect backdrop for the hallertauer mittelfruh hops to do their thing. As we previously mentioned, there isn't a huge amount of hop flavour, but there is as much as there needs to be to keep the malt and hop flavours in balance. In our opinion the balance is spot on so we'll be keeping this hop schedule as a basis for future recipes.

The malt provides a nice clean, cracker-like platform for the hops - and the overall flavour is very much reminiscent of European lagers.

Conclusion & Changes for Next Time

We plan on entering this beer into an upcoming competition to see how it ranks as an international lager - no one needs to know we actually brewed it to be a cream ale, right? But as we mentioned, the styles have quite a bit of overlap so we're hoping it will do well.

As for changes for next time, the only things we'd change is using a new-world variety of hop, and would also try using a clean fermenting ale yeast like US-05. The base recipe and hop schedule would remain the same.

We were very impressed with the W34/70 yeast and will definitely be using it again. We got a very crisp, clean result and it was turned around just as quickly as a typical ale fermentation - faster actually. The 2 packets of W34/70 finished fermenting in under 2 days! 


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