Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yes, Warrior Hops ARE Legendary

Well, it's been a couple months since my last post, and as usual, a lot has happened.  We've been to weddings, celebrated birthdays, and we even managed time for a vacation.  Of course, Jennifer has been training for her first triathlon, which is now just two short weeks away.

But something else happened in there that didn't quite get the recognition it deserved.  About a month ago Jennifer and I hit our two year anniversary.  We had decided to forgo buying gifts for each other, since we were trying to save up for the vacation and since we couldn't really think of anything to get each other anyway (aside from unromantic, practical gifts -- what else is made from cotton??).  Instead, we decided on a simple date night at a nice restaurant.  We even had a gift card my boss gave us last Christmas that would cover most of the bill.

So it was all set.  Since our anniversary fell on a Monday night, we enlisted Jen's mom to watch B.  We were finally going to have a nice, romantic dinner together -- something we hadn't done in quite some time.  The day of our anniversary I called the restaurant to make a reservation but all I got was an answering machine.  When I went to the website, I discovered they are closed on Mondays.  Go figure.

Even though we didn't make a big deal of it, I can't tell you how much it means to me.  I've been married to my best friend for two years now.  I swear it feels like it's only been a few months!  I love the person I've become with her, and I love the life we've created for each other.  I love how we motivate each other, and how we've discovered what's possible when you have the support of someone close to you.  Hands down, marrying her was the best decision I've made so far.

And while we're talking about her, check out this huge tree that was blocking the bike path Jennifer and I were riding on the other day.  We had to carry our bikes over it!  But it didn't slow us down -- we still finished our 16 mile ride in under an hour and a half.

I've also recently made two more batches of beer that we're going to take with us when we have a little adult getaway to Gulf Shores in October.  The first was brewed last Saturday, and it's the second version of the Cook's Light Cream Ale I made earlier this year.  So far, that's the only beer I've made that Jennifer has liked, so hopefully she'll like this version as much or more than that one.

Since she liked the last batch, I didn't want to change too much.  However, there was something I didn't really care for about it -- it had some kind of off-flavor (nothing overpowering, but not exactly pleasant, either) that didn't really belong.  So this time around, I brewed it using the same recipe, but I changed up the yeast I used from Danstar Munich to Safale-05.  (I know this means nothing to most people.  Honestly, it doesn't mean all that much to me right now either, but I'm documenting it for future reference.)  I'm hoping the Safale-05 yields a cleaner flavor to the beer.

I'm also fermenting this batch in a water bath, where the primary fermenter sits in a big bucket of water to help regulate the temperature.  Most ale yeasts need to ferment between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Since our house stays around 74 degrees, and since a strong fermentation can raise the internal temperature of the wort by up to 10 degrees, I was thinking the off-flavor might be a byproduct of the yeast fermenting too high.  With the water bath, and by dropping in a few frozen water bottles twice a day, I can keep the temperature of the wort in the mid-60s, so we'll see if that has any effect on the flavor.

The other beer I'm making is a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA clone.  It's no secret that I'm big into hops, which is what IPAs are known for.  And it shouldn't come as a surprise that my favorite of all the beers I've made so far was OCD IPA (a Stone Ruination clone) that contained 6oz of hops (compared to just 1oz in Cook's Light Cream Ale).  I've only had one bottle of DFH 60 Minute, but it's a very nice IPA.  I think what I like best about it is it's a good balance of bitterness, hops, malt, and alcohol.  Because of that, it's an interesting beer to drink.

The reason I decided to make it and not any other IPA recipe is the way it's hopped.

If you'll recall, the basic process of making beer involves bringing water to a boil, adding hops and malts, boiling the wort for 60 minutes, cooling it back to room temperature, pitching yeast, and bottling after fermentation is complete.

Most boil schedules (i.e. - what ingredients are added during the boil and when) include only a few hop additions.  Usually, you have bittering hops that are added at the beginning of the boil, and aroma hops that are added at the end of the boil.  Hops added in the middle of the boil will contribute both to the bitterness of the beer, and the hop aroma/flavor of the beer.

Dogfish Head's IPAs are unique because they are continuously hopped.  So instead of 2 or 3 hop additions, there are literally 60 hop additions in their 60 Minute IPA.

Since I don't have their continuous hopping machine, I decided to divide my hops into 30 little Jello shot cups, allowing me to add a cup every 2 minutes.

The first hop addition, right at the beginning of the boil, was a half-ounce of Warrior hops.  Warrior hops are high in alpha acids and make a good bittering hop.  When B came into the kitchen and saw me dividing the hops up, he asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was making beer, and how hops go into beer to give it flavor.  "These are called Warrior hops," I said.  "Are they legendary?" he asked.  Why yes, I believe they are.

The next twelve additions of hops were all Warrior hops as well.  With 34 minutes left in the boil, I began adding a mixture of Amarillo and Simcoe hops.  Amarillo hops have a nice citrusy/flowery aroma, and Simcoe have sort of a spicy/piney aroma.  Based on the hop schedule, this beer should have a clean bitterness to it, with a primarily citrusy hop aroma and flavor, backed with a slight piney-ness to it.

Here are some pictures of the brew process:

Steeping one pound of Caramel/Crystal Malt 40L:

After adding in all of the malts (two cans of light liquid malt extract, and one pound of extra light dry malt extract):

Notice the layer of foam on top?  After adding in the dry malt you really have to be careful -- the wort foams up really quick, and can easily spill over the sides of the brew pot.  I usually have to move it off the burner 2 or 3 times before it finally calms down.

Finally back to a rolling boil, ready to start hopping!

Here's all the empty hop cups.  I wish I could carry them around with me so I could smell them all the time...

And here are the two brews, happily fermenting away in our coat closet.  The Cook's Light 2 is in the front, and the 60 Minute clone (dubbed Vacay IPA) is in the back:

I really hope these beers are good for drinking while sitting on the beach.  Then again, I can't think of a bad beer to drink if you're sitting on a beach...


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