Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Lug Wrench

Another year has passed, and today we give thanks for all that we have been blessed with.  Tom and I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that everyone had the chance to reflect on friends and family that enrich our lives.

After a year of personal challenges, this Thanksgiving was more important than most and we were very pleased that things have turned out how they have.  Here's hoping that the coming year will be just as fortunate and enjoyable. 

Cheers to all and hopes that everyone has a great beer and great company during this holiday season.



"What event is more awfully important to an English colony than the erection of its first brewhouse?"
-Rev. Sydney Smith

Monday, November 25, 2013

Heady Topper - The Taste of Hops

My good friend, Jeff, recently presented me with an awesome treat - a can of Heady Topper.  Heady Topper is a Double IPA that is brewed by The Alchemist Brewery, located in Vermont.  Its intense flavors and limited distribution have resulted in a cult-like status surrounding the beer.  Heady Topper has earned top marks on beer rating sites like ratebeer and beeradvocate.  The Alchemist was featured in the March/April 2013 issue of Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine, which provided interesting back story on the brewery and beer, some fun anecdotes of people trying to get cans of Heady Topper, and a clone recipe.

The beer pours a very hazy clover honey color with a thick white head that thinned relatively quickly.  My wife's glass had chunks at the bottom, which the can label identifies as hop resins.  The aroma features a huge burst of grapefruit, lemon zest, and pine tree resin.

The flavor of Heady Topper is as intense as its aroma.  It begins with a burst of citrus fruit character that slaps your taste buds around.  The middle of the flavor features a strong pine resin character, along with a hint of sweetness.  It also features a substantial mouth feel, including the prickly sensation of carbonation.  The beer has a long finish, with a bracing bitterness and alcohol warmth in the back of the throat.  The finish lasts for at least 30 seconds or more, but is not cloying in any way.

Heady Topper is certainly an intense tasting experience, but certainly not something I would have as an every day beer (my wife likely differs with me here).  I found the beer changed flavors as it warmed, featuring more citrus qualities over pine resin and more sweetness over the length of the tasting.

The labeling recommends that you drink it directly from the can to help reserved the intense hop aromas and present them directly to your palate.  An interesting thought, but I think I would rather see the beer in a glass than drink it from the can.

What a fantastic beer.  Given our enjoyment of Heady Topper, and my wife's love of hops, I think I may have to try the BYO clone recipe sometime in the future.  If you have already done so, please leave a comment to this post, as I would love to hear about it further.

Thanks again to Jeff for his incredibly generous gift.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Lug Wrench Brew: Cait the Grate, Imperial Stout

It has been nearly four months since our last blog post, and nearly 18 months since our last Lug Wrench collaborative beer.  Shame on us...we know.  Tom and I have the best intentions of continuing to fuel the blog with more content, but many times life just gets in the way. 

We were fortunate in that last weekend Tom and his family made the trip up to Rhode Island for a long over due get together of the families.  And while both our wives rolled their eyes at the mention of brew session, Tom and I made sure it happened.  The style: a Russian Imperial Stout.  Why?  Because we have never done one before and its the perfect beer for long term storage and aging.  Plus, when done right, they are oh so good.

After a bit of conversation, we decided to go with a RIS recipe from a friend of Tom's down in Virginia (thanks Jeff!).  Modeled after a famous RIS brewed annually by the Portsmouth Brewery, this homebrew version came with thumbs-up recommendation of having produced good results in the past.  While, our intent was to follow the recipe as written, our last minute attempt to get ingredients together caused us some foibles and we had to made a few substitutions.  The two largest changes was first that the LHBS was out of flaked barley when we stopped in, which caused us to improvise by adding a combination of flaked oats and wheat.  Secondly, our pre-boil gravity appeared to be much lower than expected, causing us to add in all the DME I had in the house along with brown sugar (neither which was in the original recipe) to bump up the gravity. 
To make the brewing session a bit more "special", because of the large amount of grain we used and the assumed low efficiency, Tom and I decided try making a second beer via a partigyle method with the mash.  After the primary boil kettle was full, we ran another 3 gallons of hot water through the mash tun into a smaller kettle that could be boiled in on the kitchen stove.  This second beer, which was hopped in the direction of an American Stout, had an OG in the 1.065-70 range.  We'll try to put up a separate post on this beer shortly.

At the time this post's writing, it is obviously too early to tell how well the beer will turn out.  However, it was yet another good Lug Wrench Collaborative Brew Session that kept us on our toes.

Below are the notes and recipe for the collaborative imperial stout.  The notes will be updated as the beer continues to ferment, aged, and be tasted.

Cait the Grate, Russian Imperial Stout

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.0 (6 gal left in the kettle, 5 gal in the carboy)
Total Grain (lbs): ~32
OG: 1.118 (target: 1.012 without sugar additions)
FG: 1.034 (69% apparent attenuation)
SRM: 57.8 (Rager)
ABV: 11.3%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60% (dropped to accommodate lower efficiency with big beers)
Wort Boil Time: 75 minutes

Grain / Extract / Sugar
24.5 lbs American 2-Row Malt (Briess)
2.0 lbs White Wheat Malt
2.0 lbs Extra Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)
1.12 lbs Special B Malt
0.94 lbs Carafa Special II
0.81 lbs Aromatic Malt
0.63 lbs Crystal 60 Malt
0.63 lbs Roasted Barley
0.50 lbs Flaked Oats (instant quick oats)
0.50 lbs Brown Sugar
0.32 lbs Black Patent Malt
0.32 lbs Crystal 120 Malt
0.32 lbs Chocolate Malt (English)

3.1 oz Newport Pellet Hops (9.8%) at 75 minutes
0.3 oz Centennial Pellet Hops (10%) at 10 minutes
0.6 oz Palisade Pellet Hops (7.5%) at flame out
0.4 oz Styrian Goldings Pellet Hops (5.4%) at flame out
0.4 oz Williamette Pellet Hops (5.5%) at flame out

28 drops of Foam Control in the boil

2.5 packets (11g per packet) of US-05 dry yeast, hydrated before pitching

Mash Schedule
60 minutes at 148° F
Batch sparged to get 7 gallons in the brew kettle

Brewed on 11/3/13 by the Wallace Brothers.  Eighth collaborative session brew

Aeration was accomplished via an oxygen tank and diffusion stone, run for 60 seconds.

Beer was about 59° F after aeration.  Pitched the 2.5 packets of hydrated yeast (hydrated in 2 cups of 90° F pre-boiled water) into carboy and placed the setpoint of the fermentation fridge to 64°F.  Since there will be a lot of activity that will generate heat once fermentation kicks off, the setpoint was set low to keep the temp from spiking.

Activity kicked off in the carboy in less than 48 hours after pitching yeast.

11/24 - Racked the beer into a sanitized keg for aging.  FG was measured at 1.034, which gives a 69% apparent attenuation and an ABV of 11.3%.  I would have liked to seen it get below 30, but a 70% attenuation on this size beer is not bad.
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