A Whale of a Beer

Have things gotten out of hand in the world of craft beer? Did another brewery jump the shark, or was the shark just moved farther out? When did just making good beer stop being the goal and evolve to carnival act? Apparently, to even be noticed, you have to create something that’s never been done before (or in the case of Dogfish Head brewing, brew a beer that hasn’t been brewed for hundreds of years). Scottish brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie of Brew Dog have become notorious for making outrageous beers, with such beers as Sink The Bismarck! (41% ABV), a quadruple IPA. Wynkoop has brewed a stout ale with rocky mountain oysters.

Now, an Icelandic microbrewery, Steðji (Anvil) has jumped a whale and brewed a whale of a seasonal beer(5.2% alc ABV) with real whale in it. They say it will make you feel like a viking and it will be available for Iceland’s mid-winter festival.

An environmental group, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is having none of it. Vanessa Williams-Grey of WDC says, “[R]educing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get.”

What will the next outrageous beer be?

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This Week on BrewZasters: Bottling Laurel India Pale Ale

Last time on BrewZasters), we lost all of our  Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale clone  from our three Tap-a-Draft bottles.

Tap-a-Drafts are a compromise between bottles and kegs. It’s nice filling only three bottles…The handle has an issue. If you do not confirm that the handle is secure and the locking tab is in place, it leaks… About 15 minutes later the beer had found its way into vegetable crisper (onions, celery, and lettuce were marinating in beer), behind and under the crisper, and onto the kitchen floor…we lost one-third of our product, or about $10 retail. Damn. [Update: Lightning struck twice and a second TAD leaked. The TAD needs to be checked constantly.]

My version of Laurel IPA. Slightly cloudy with a SRM color around 6.

Well, gluttons for punishment that we are, today we packaged our third batch of Laurel India Pale Ale. The initial tastings of the flat beer hint at this being another dynamite batch. This time we filled just one Tap-A-Draft so that we can sample the Laurel sooner but we didn’t expose all our batch to the TAD [I checked that it was still holding product after writing this sentence.] We bottled the remainder in 12-ounce bottles.

We will keep constant vigilance on this batch. It is a sin to spill beer.

Fermentables
Ingredient    Amount        %         MCU    When
Pale 2-row 
Ale Malt     13lb 15oz     94.7 %    7.6   In Mash/Steeped
Carapils Malt  7.20 oz     3.1 %     0.1   In Mash/Steeped
Caramel 40L    5.40 oz     2.3 %     2.5   In Mash/SteepedHop Schedule
Hop                     %Alpha     Amt         Timing
Magnum                 11.0 %     0.77 oz    First Wort Hopped
Cascade                 5.9 %     1.85 oz   60 Min From End
Centennial              9.5 %     0.75 oz   30 Min From End
Simcoe                 12.5 %     0.30 oz   10 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk)     15.5 %     0.30 oz   10 Min From End
Centennial              9.5 %     0.45 oz   At turn off
Cascade                 5.9 %     0.20 oz   At turn off
Cascade                 5.9 %     2.12 oz   Dry-Hopped
Centennial              9.5 %     1.15 oz   Dry-Hopped
Citra                  11.1 %     1.00 oz   Dry-Hopped
Yeast
 White Labs WLP001-California Ale

mashed at 151F using 9 gallons of water
Output:
7.5 gallons wort pre-boil grav 1.044 @ 113F (Corrected pre-boil of 1.053)
Original gravity: 1.065
Final Gravity: 1.013
ABV: 6.9%

BrewingTV visits Dogfish Head Brewing

I am completely jealous. Northern Brewer‘s BrewingTV got a great tour of Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Delaware and their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.

Last summer, my wife and I toured Dogfish Head Brewing on September 1 (note: you need to make reservations in advance). Dogfish’s motto is “Off-centered beers for off-centered people.”We had a great time and enjoyed conversing with the employees and our fellow tour-groupers. After the tour, we tasted 90 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Punkin’ Ale, and Midas Touch; and then went to lunch at their brewpub and tasted their Lawnmower, Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPACask-aged 75 Minute IPA, and Midas Touch.

I’m not head-over-heels in love with Dogfish’s beers; I prefer our west coast style ales. I must be more centered than I knew.

This Week on BrewZasters: Kegging our Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ clone

The finished product.

Last time on Brew Disasters (from now on to be referred to as BrewZasters), we had sampled our clone of Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale and detected  hints of clove (phenolics) and banana (isoamyl acetate) in the aroma and taste.

And we here at Flog This Dead Brewery wondered  if, given these possible imperfections, should we throw the whole batch down the drain, as Dogfish Head Brewing did in nearly every episode of Brew Masters? Hell no! Was our answer. We dry-hopped the bejeezus out of it with  2.33 oz   of  Cascade 1.0 oz of Simcoe, 0.53 oz of Columbus (Tomahawk), 0.45 oz of Perle, and 0.15 oz of Nugget–if a hop was in stock it went into the carboy. And, we hoped time would do its magic and remove the off-flavors.

Tasting Notes – NOT cloned – but not bad

After another two weeks in the secondary, the beer is not a clone but it tastes pretty darn awesome. The hops jump out of the glass and hit your nose like a wave of citrus and pine. It’s light in color (about 5 SRM). When you sip the hops hit your tongue first and it finishes with a bright citrus flavor with some pine in the background.

Troubles in kegging bottling Tap-A-Drafting

For bottling, we added 4 ounces of corn sugar and put the beer in our three Tap-a-Draft bottles. Tap-a-Drafts are a compromise between bottles and kegs. It’s nice filling only three bottles rather than 52 12-ounce bottles. A 16 ounce CO2 cartridge charges up the system and carbonates it. The handle has an issue. If you do not confirm that the handle is secure and the locking tab is in place, it leaks. This is what happened: I missed making sure the handle was completely secured and put it in the refrigerator. About 15 minutes later the beer had found its way into vegetable crisper (onions, celery, and lettuce were marinating in beer), behind and under the crisper, and onto the kitchen floor. Not quite as large a mess as the time the glue from labeler in Dogfish Head Brewing spilled all over, but a mess it was. And, we lost one-third of our product, or about $10 retail. Damn.

 

Sam Calagione has much higher standards than we do. His company has flavor profiles and everything. Whereas our motto is “When in doubt, hop the bejeezus out of  it.”

 

For the hops junkies out there: Randall the Enamel Animal, Jr

You say you just can’t get enough hops (or other spices) in your beer? You say that if the International Bittering Units aren’t off the scale the beer is not worth drinking. Then you need to search no further because the folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery have an answer for you. It used to be that you would have to have your own full-sized Randall the Enamel Animal, but now through the miracle of science (or marketing…one of those anyway)for only $19.99 (it sounds so much less than $20, doesn’t it) plus shipping you can get your own Randall the Enamel Animal Jr.

Here is what the folks at Dogfish Head have to say about Jr:

So you’ve tried to acquire the Randall 3.0 and it’s either out of stock or out of your price range, right? Well, we heard you and here’s the answer! The same concept in a much more convenient size and price tag. The Randall Jr. allows you to infuse your favorite brew with just about whatever ingredients you can think up. Midas Touch with lime and mint? Yes please! World Wide Stout with espresso beans? You betcha! Just place the ingredients in the Randall Jr. and pour the beer right over them. Place in a cold climate such as the fridge for 10 minutes or so and you’ve got an amazing concoction on your hands! Share with a friend…or not…we’re not judging.

It also makes a terrific stocking stuffer for the beer drinker in your life.

Taking a beer with off flavors to 1st place at Battle of the Brews

Oh Well, What the Hell a couple of weeks following bottle conditioning.

As you may recall (well probably not), on December 28 I brewed a beer that was supposed to be a Laurel India Pale Ale. Since the pre-boil specific gravity came in way too low for an India Pale Ale, I decided to make it a Pale Ale. Simple Pale Ales are not simple to make. There is no place to hide any imperfections. And, after 10 days in the fermenter, I tasted slight soapy and buttery flavors in the new beer. According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew” website, a soapy flavor can result from the breakdown of the fatty acids that are in the trub at the bottom of your fermenter. Butter flavors can result from diacetyl. To some extent a buttery flavor might not be bad. But it can also indicate that your yeast did not start on time.

It has 5.5% ABV and and calculates out to 43 IBU.

Given these imperfections, would we bottle or would we throw the whole batch down the drain?

Well, we here out Flog This Dead (Mule) Brewery looked at our flavor profiles and realized we have no flavor profiles. We wondered if our degrees Plato were met, and we had no idea what that meant. Finally, we checked our standards, and realized we had none, well, maybe not none, but extremely low.

So, since we have incredibly low standards (after all, we answer to no one but ourselves) we went ahead and bottled, and hoping to mask the dish soap flavor, we used honey for the bottle conditioning fermentation.

Now, with only moments to go before we have to serve this beer–which we have renamed after some dead guy and claimed that it’s based on a 1200 year-old recipe involving wild honey and monk sweat–at the homebrewers portion of the semi-prestigious Battle of the Brews beer event. Let’s hope the honey will fool people into thinking the stuff tastes okay.

[Norm smiles and opens doors while carrying boxes filled with bottles of beer named after some dead guy and claiming that it’s based on a 1200 year-old recipe]

The Oh Well, What the Hell Pale Ale garnered 36 points at the Battle of the Brews in Santa Rosa, 2nd place had 35 points, and 3rd had 33.5 points. Woo hoo!

Success! Oh Well took 1st place in the homebrewers tasting competition in BJCP #10A American Pale Ale category.

The saga of the “Oh Well, What the Hell” Pale Ale. Off Flavors.

If  you have ever watched an episode of Brew Masters  on the Discovery Channel,  you will have seen Sam Calagione  wrestle with whether they should dump a batch of beer that didn’t quite meet their standards. Unlike me, the folks at Dogfish Head Brewing have standards. They have flavor profiles. They have degrees of Plato (a system of specific gravity). They have all the benchmarks of their beers charted. They have to be consistent.

I, on the other hand, am just trying to make something that tastes pretty good. On December 28 I brewed a beer that was supposed to be a Laurel India Pale Ale. Since the specific gravity came in too low for an India Pale Ale, I decided to try to make simply a Pale Ale. Simple Pale Ales are not simple to make. There is no place to hide any imperfections.

Though it is only been 10 days, which shouldn’t be too long, I can detect slight soapy and buttery tastes. According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew” website, a soapy flavor can result from the breakdown of the fatty acids that are in the trub at the bottom of your fermenter. Butter flavors can result from diacetyl. To some extent a buttery flavor might not be bad. But it can also indicate that your yeast did not start on time.

So, to bottle or not to bottle or not to bottle. That is the question.

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 5, 2011) Aviation...

To bottle or not to bottle or not to bottle. That is the question.(Image via Wikipedia)

Pilsner’s Progress: Postcards from Dogfish Head Brewing

Pilsner’s Progress is obviously a play on The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come. Other than being cute, there’s no resemblance (well, it was a pilgrimage of sorts, though not by a pilsner).

Dogfish Head Brewing headquarters, Milton, Delaware

My wife and I toured Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Delaware on September 1 (note: you need to make reservations in advance). We had a great time and enjoyed conversing with the employees and our fellow tour-groupers. Once you go from the gift shop/tasting room into the brewing area, you go from Heavy Metal to heavy machinery. The scale of everything is magnitudes higher than my 5-gallon homebrewing. If it can be automated, has been automated. The stainless tubes that go from here to there seem to go to ‘infinity and beyond.’ After the tour, we tasted 90 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Punkin’ Ale, and Midas Touch.

The steampunk-themed ‘treehouse’ is constructed of iron and wood and had been at the 2007 Burning Man Festival before Sam Calagione bought it and brought it to Delaware.

After the tour and tasting, we went to their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. You will see in the slideshow the sampler we shared: Lawnmower, Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPA, Cask-aged 75 Minute IPA, and Midas Touch.

None of Dogfish’s lineup that I tasted lit my wick. I admire their methods and philosophy, but their brews follow (lead?) the mold of east coast malt-forward ales. I like hop-forward brews of the west coast. On the east coast, I much prefer the Flying Dog brews such as Classic Pale Ale, Snakedog IPA and Raging Bitch.

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Have you been on the Dogfish Head brewery tour? What do you think of their lineup?

Cloning Dogfish’s Shelter Pale Ale…

Pale Ale

Image via Wikipedia

…And making a delicious hash of it.

A while back I found a clone recipe at Baderbrewing.com for a Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale. I decided that it was as close as I was getting to tasting the real thing, so I brewed it three weeks ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Simco hops for the flavoring at turn-off of heat; I subbed 0.5 oz of warrior hops instead (since Morebeer.com didn’t have Simcoe–in the future I’ll try a 50/50 mix of chinook and Citra as a sub for Simcoe). I also first wort hopped (FWH) this batch. FWHing does not appear to make the beer more bitter than a 60-minute addition.

The Bader Brewing recipe calls for malt extract, but since I wanted to go all-grain, I subbed in 14 lbs of pale ale malt (using a 6.5 gallon outcome with 65% efficiency for the grain calculation). And, instead of using corn sugar for the bottle conditioning (carbonating the beer in the bottle), I tried a commercial method and used speise (unfermented wort).

Directions:

This is a single-step infusion mash at 155º F (68º C) with 14 lbs. (4.9 kg) American pale ale malt grain, 6 oz. (.25 kg) crystal malt, 120°L grain, and 2 oz. (.17 g) amber malt, 35ºL (substitute dark Munich or carastan if needed). Sparge slowly with 175º F (79º C) water.

Mashing grains within a mesh grain bag

Collect approximately 6 gallons (27.3 L) of wort runoff. Add 0.5 oz of warrior hops to wort. Bring wort to boil for 60 minutes. Add yeast nutrient and whirfloc and wort-chiller (to sanitize) after 45 minutes of boiling.

Cool the wort to 75º F (24º C) and pitch English ale yeast. Aerate the wort. Cool to 64º F (20º C). Hold at that temperature until fermentation is complete. Bottle when final gravity has stabilized (around 1.014). Condition for 2 weeks, if you can wait that long.

Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.042 SG
Expected OG: 1.052 SG
Expected FG: 1.014 SG
Apparent Attenuation: 73.0 %
Expected ABV: 5.1 %
Expected ABW: 4.0 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 32.0 IBU
Expected Color (using Morey): 9.6 SRM

Wort (the unfermented raw beer) in the boil kettle.

Beer fermenting in Better Bottle (TM) carboy. The 1/2″ blowoff tube drops into a bucket of water.

Sam Calagione explains the safe harbor idea of Dogfish Head’s Shelter Pale Ale