2012 Brew Year In Review

By V1rgilmdm

In all, we brewed 14 different beers in 2012—up 4 from the 10 we brewed in 2011. We thought we’d share each brew with you, what we learned, and some other key developments including upgrading to a 50L batch size, and winning a home brew award.

Tartan Eater Strong Scotch Ale (All Grain)

28.7 IBU, 18 SRM, 6.4% ABV Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Carastan, Roasted Barley, Smoked Malt, Belgian Biscuit Malt
Hops: Perle, Fuggles, Willamette
Yeast: WYEAST 1084 Irish Ale

We decided to mirror our first brew of 2011 (which also happened to be our first brew ever) but this time we re-brewed the recipe as an all-grain. We hosted a tasting and compared our scotch ale with other commercial brews (such as Cannery Brewing’s Squire Scotch Ale, Russell Brewing’s A Wee Angry Scotch Ale etc. ). After the praise we received from friends and family, we decided to enter it into the Vanbrewer Competition—where it went on to take first place in it’s category!

Key lesson: We received great feedback from the competition! There isn’t much we would change, except maybe add a bit more peat smoked malt.

Maple Barley Wine (Extract and Grain)

43.3 IBU,18 SRM, ~11% ABV Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale Extract Syrup, Carastan, Chocolate Malt
Hops: Fuggles, Northern Brewer, Goldings
Adjuncts: Maple Syrup
Yeast: WYEAST 1028 London Ale

This brew was our first attempt at a high alcohol beer. We used extract for this recipe because of the size limitations of our mash tun. We added maple syrup for a distinct flavour and to provide some extra sugar to kick up the alcohol content (at least that was our intent). The brew tasted good when it was young (several weeks bottle-aging), but we could tell it was young and lacking carbonation. Unfortunately, as it aged it started to taste more and more like cola syrup and was sickly sweet.

Key lesson: When brewing a monster (brew with high ABV), use as much all grain as possible to lend complexity to the brew, and make sure it carbonates!

Hopful Monk Imperial IPA 3.0 (Extract and Grain)

86.2 IBU, 12 SRM, 7.3% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Pale Extract Syrup, Honey Malt, Carastan
Hops: Simcoe, Chinook
Yeast: WYEAST 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

The third variation of our Imperial IPA (check out the previous attempts)—this time with more hops and Belgian strong yeast. Again we did a half extract, half grain due to size limitations of our mash tun.

Key lesson: Even similar strands of yeast (Belgian Abbey, Belgian Strong) will have a huge impact on flavour.

Dark Star Apprentice Licorice Stout (All Grain)

63.3 IBU, 26 SRM, 8% ABV, Batch Size 19L
Malts: Pale, Black Patent, Roasted Barley
Hops: Fuggles, Willamette
Adjuncts: Molasses, Dark Brown Sugar, licorice root, fennel
Yeast: WYEAST 1084 Irish Ale

This was our first attempt at brewing a licorice stout. We based it on Dark Star licorice stout by DogFishHead (from the book Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione), but converted it into all grain with adjuncts added.

Key lesson: Tea shops carry a plethora of home brewer adjuncts.

Black IPA (All Grain)

78.5 IBU, 34 SRM, 7.6% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Carastan, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Crystal 60L
Hops: Zeus, Chinook, Citra
Yeast: WYEAST 1084 Irish Ale

Based on our Imperial IPA recipe, we made this one dark and added Citra hops. This brew turned out delicious, with citrus and piney flavours and a dark creaminess.

Key lesson: The dark side has chocolate.

Ginger Ninja Ale (All Grain)

34.5 IBU, 7 SRM, 5.3% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Honey
Hops: Mt. Hood, Goldings
Adjuncts: Nettles, Dried Ginger Root
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

Using a Golden ale base, we tried to re-create a golden nettle ale from Saltspring Island Brewing. During the boil, the aroma of the dried ginger root ended up smelling stronger than we anticipated. To balance this, we ended up using more nettle then we thought we would. This ended up softening the ginger in the final brew and created a more ‘herby’ beer—not what we were going for, but a great beer nonetheless. Next time we’re going to try fresh grated ginger root instead for a better balance.

Key lesson: Fresh is best! (Especially with ginger)

Imperial White IPA Witbier (Extract and Grain)

79.2 IBU, 5 SRM, 7.7% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Wheat, Pale, Pale Extract Syrup, Flaked Oats
Hops: Zeus, Saaz, Cascade
Adjuncts: Flour, Orange peel
Yeast: WYEAST 3463 Forbidden Fruit

This was the first of two brews we did on a double brew day. We had a stuck sparge and ended up having to use extract to bring up the gravity. The extract caused the primary to be very muddy. Then we accidentally over-pitched the yeast, giving the brew some very strong clove flavours. This one was bottled too soon, leaving too much yeast in and making it spicier than we had hoped for.

Key lesson: Let the yeast do its thing—and die.

Pineapple Volcano White IPA (All Grain)

74.7 IBU, 8 SRM, 4.5% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Wheat, Honey
Hops: Perle, Citra, Chinook
Adjuncts: Pineapple puree
Yeast: WYEAST 3463 Forbidden Fruit

The second wheat beer on our double brew day. This one turned out rather well, despite some interesting complications—the primary foamed over forcing us to utilize a blow-off bucket.

Key lesson: Fruit sugars ferment rapidly—think volcano!

Volcano Half Wit IPA

Grapefruit IPA (All Grain)

78.9 IBU, 7 SRM, 6.0% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Honey, Carastan
Hops: Citra, New Zealand Cascade
Adjuncts: Grapefruit Zest
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was a brew just for the sake of brewing. A stripped-down version of the Hopful Monk, with some fun New Zealand hops we found at Bosagrape. The grapefruit zest was added to lend a citrus flavour. In hindsight, we should have used pink grapefruits.

Key lesson: Keep better notes. We’re not even sure when we brewed it, let alone the specific gravities.

American Pale Ale (All Grain)

49.7 IBU, 6 SRM, 5.6% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Crystal, Carapils, Carastan
Hops: Cascade, Willamette, Chinook
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was our first requested brew! The request was for something plain that could be enjoyed by everyone, and it was well received. We made the plainest pale ale we could think of—and then added more hops!

Key lesson: Push comfort levels.

Hopful Monk Imperial IPA (All Grain)

94.6 IBU, 11 SRM, 6.5% ABV, Batch Size: 50L
Malts: Pale, Honey, Carastan
Hops: Zeus, Chinook
Yeast: WYEAST 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

This was our first brew using our new 50 litre equipment. We wanted our first to be a familiar recipe, so we went with the Hopful Monk since we’d done the most variations with that one. This one worked well, we re-used the false bottom from the mash tun, and utilized our 50,000 BTU Blichman burner. Everything turned out very well—best first time ever!

Key lesson: Never get rid of working equipment, you may find a new use.

New Burner

Ghoulish Ghourd Pumpkin Pie Ale (All Grain)

22.7 IBU, 16 SRM, 5.3% ABV, Batch Size: 50L
Malts: Pale, Biscuit, Carastan, Carapils,
Hops: Fuggles, Goldings, Hallertau
Adjuncts: Brown Sugar, Cooked Pumpkin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This ended up being one of our best brews ever. It tasted delicious and we served this at a Halloween party from a keg. It was a bit heavy on the specialty malts, and for future batches we may scale that back slightly.

Key lesson: Grinding cinnamon sticks and smashing nutmeg is tiresome. Just buy the spices from the store.

1030 Cranberry Vanilla Russian Imperial Stout (All Grain)

42.4 IBU, 62 SRM, 9.3% ABV, Batch Size: 50L
Malts: Pale, Chocolate, Flaked Oats, Roasted Barley, Crystal
Hops: Magnum, Crystal, Goldings
Adjuncts: Brown Sugar, Molasses, Frozen Cranberries, Vanilla Beans
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was an ambitious monster brew, with mixed results. The goal was a chocolaty, strong stout with a vanilla flavour profile and a hint of berry bitterness. Initial samples were promising, but the result was more like cold, strong coffee. Also, it did not carbonate well. To save time (we’re lazy), we used wine bottles and added a corker to our repertoire. When we make this again, we will most likely use cranberry juice and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Key lesson: Proper carbonation is important for carrying flavour.

Gingerbread Beer (All Grain)

30 IBU, 20 SRM, 6.7% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Chrystal, Wheat, Special B, Roasted Barley
Hops: Hallertau, Cascade
Adjuncts: Brown Sugar, Molasses
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was an experimental Christmas beer. I had been told of a beer (Cookie beer) that was filtered through sheets of special Belgian biscuits, and I thought, GINGERBREAD! We thought it would be a fun thing to try. So using a winter ale base, and a great gingerbread recipe, we painstakingly filtered the wort through sheets of gingerbread before putting it in the primary. Results were not as strong in flavour as we would have liked, but it was definitely interesting. Next time, to up the flavor, we think we’ll also add spices to the primary.

Key lesson: Travel to Belgium to see how they do it.

Like every great idea, this one involved Ninjas!

Like every great idea, this one involved Ninjas!

What’s next?
We are on to 50 L batches with a brew group of 5. We want to do more batches, create more styles and definitely enter more competitions. Our first brew of the year, a red lager, is currently sitting in the primary. We chose a lager to take advantage of the cooler weather.

2012 had some great experiments and we will continue to work on those recipes to lock them down.

We’re also tossing about the idea of creating a Youtube channel and filming some video reviews and brewing tutorials—so stay tuned for those.

What would you like to see? Leave your comments below.

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