Watermelon Wheat 2015

>> Sunday, June 28, 2015

Time for another brew session. Today I'm brewing what I consider to be a quintessential summertime beer, Watermelon Wheat. You do have to really like watermelon to enjoy this beer, and I do. The watermelon really comes through in this beer in both the flavor and aroma. I haven't been able to figure out why, but this beer tends to age fairly well and the fragrant watermelon almost takes on a floral perfume-like quality with age.

I haven't made this beer in a long time, but it's always been a crowd pleaser. Usually I wait to brew this beer until late summer when the Green River Melons folks have started showing up at the local Farmers Market. It's still a bit early for that, but Sam's Club had seedless melons for $4 so I decided to pick a couple up. These early season melons tend to be hit or miss, but fortunately the ones I picked up turned out to be really good.

To prepare the fruit, a few days before brewday, I diced up the meat and used a potato masher to puree the melon. This was then poured through a strainer with the juice going into one container and the pulp into another. Both containers went into the freezer. Freezing the pulp will help break down the cell walls allowing us to extract a bit more juice. Freezing the juice just keeps it from going bad before we use it in secondary. I'll also be treating the juice with some potassium metabisulfite before adding it to secondary. This helps ensure we don't get any unexpected critters into the secondary.

For those that have never made a watermelon beer before, don't expect this beer to turn out pink. The red part of the melon drops out with the yeast, so you'll be left with a straw colored wheat beer.

I changed up a couple things this time, primarily the hops. I've been wanting to try Huell Melon hops for a while and based on the description, I think they'll work well in this beer.

6 lbs 8.0 oz Fruit - Watermelon
6 lbs Rahr Pale 2-Row
4 lbs White Wheat Malt
8.5g Columbus (60 min)
28g Huell Melon Hops (5 min)
Rice hulls
1 Pkgs US-05

Don't forget the rice hulls in the mash (helps avoid a stuck sparge). Mash at 152F for 1 hour, 90 minute boil, ferment at 62F

Add fruit to secondary

Brewing Notes
No issues with the brew session. Fermenter is currently in the ferm chamber chilling.

Update 7/9/2015
I thawed out the watermelon juice/pulp overnight and put it into the secondary today. I also added 1/8 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite dissolved into 1/4 cup RO water. This should help kill off any wild bugs that could have made it into the juice. This will sit overnight with a 1 gallon paint strainer bag stretched over the mouth (keeps bugs out while letting the juice off-gas). I'll rack the beer into the juice tomorrow. Oh and I ended up with about 1.5 gallons of juice.

Update 7/10/2015
Racked to secondary this morning. Believe it or not this pink beer will end up straw colored.
Update 7/20/2015
I started cold crashing this beer over the weekend to get the yeast and watermelon to drop. So far it's clearing up nicely but it still has a touch of pink. I'll let it continue to chill throughout the week before racking to a keg.

Update 11/22/2015
So this keg has been sitting around. The beer is good but my taste in beer has definitely changed since the last time I made it. One of the guys in my brew club brought an accidental sour watermelon saison to a meeting not too long ago. It was delicious. The lactic acid really brightened up the watermelon character. I decided to intentionally sour this beer and see what happens. For the souring, I added the oak cubes from the CS Experiment beer.

Update 5/27/2016
Pulled a little sample tonight. It's subtly sour right now, definitely much improved over the last time I tasted it. I'm going to let it ride a little longer and see what happens. It definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. 


Smoke & Wood Imperial Porter

>> Sunday, June 14, 2015

Smoked and wood-aged beers are styles that people tend to love or hate. I think one reason is smoked beers are very phenolic and some people are very sensitive to those compounds, so even the slightest smoke character can be overwhelming on their palate. Another reason is sometimes it can be hard to find good commercial examples.

One smoked beer I really enjoy and that I've mentioned before is Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing. Another is Smoking Wood from The Bruery. Smoking Wood showcases the wonderful flavors that come from combining smoked grain with aging on wood, and it is the inspiration for this recipe. The last time I was at The Bruery, I think they had about six different variations of Smoking Wood on tap.

I formulated this recipe based on Denny Conn's famous Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter. For smoked grains, I'm going with the new Mesquite-smoked malt from Briess, plus Rauch malt from Weyermann. For wood, I'm going to be using a new product for me, Honey Comb Barrel Alternative from Black Swan Barrels (HCBA). I recently ordered the sample pack from Black Swan, so I may try splitting the batch after primary and dosing with different varieties.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

8.0# Muntons Pearl 2-row
2.0# Avangard Munich
1.25# Crisp Brown Malt
1.25# Briess Mesquite-smoked Malt
1.25# Weyermann Rauch Malt
1.25# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.75# Patagonia Chocolate Malt (350L)
28g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
WLP001 Cali Ale yeast
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast nutrient
1" per gallon HCBA

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F

I used 9 gallons distilled water using Beersmith's London water profile for this beer. I wasn't quite as concerned about the water profile on this beer other than I wanted to make 100% sure that there wasn't any chlorine that could result in chlorophenol (band-aid) character.

Brewing Notes
The only issue I had was the OG came out higher than anticipated. I adjusted for efficiency, but I think my pre-boil volume was a tad low and my boil-off rate seemed higher than normal. I was shooting for 1.079 and measured 1.099 with a volume of 4.5 gallons. I decided to top off to 5.5 total volume, so that should bring the gravity down to 1.081. Wort tastes great, not too much roast and smoke character is noticeable but not dominating.

Update 6/15/2015
And we have blow-off. Fermentation kicked off strong with about 1.5" of krausen this morning. After work it was at about 3".  Sometime between then and now (10pm) it started pushing up into the airlock. I've hooked up a blow-off hose and I'll keep it there until fermentation slows down.

Update 6/21/2015
I brought this beer in the house last night. Fermentation had slowed substantially so I'll keep it at room temperature to finish things out. This also allows me to dial the temp of the ferm chamber way down so I can start lagering my Czech pilsner.

Update 6/27/2015
Adding the wood today. Gravity finished out at about 11 brix (1.021) which puts me in the neighborhood of 8.3% ABV. This is a full body beer but it's not sweet or cloying. Aroma is not overly roasty, with a bit of smoke and some toasted bread character,. Bitterness is really nice and it has a little more smoke in the taste than in the aroma. Smoke is complimentary, not dominating and not harsh whatsoever. No chlorophenols whatsoever, so that's good. I decided to go with hickory for this beer. From Black Swan's site, the hickory has the following characteristics:
Honey, BBQ, hickory smoked bacon, apple sauce, cocoa coconut
I treated the hickory by steaming it for about 10 minutes to help make sure it's as sanitary as possible. I'll be pulling samples fairly often to make sure I don't extract too much wood character.

Update 7/6/2015
Pulled a sample tonight after realizing I hadn't tried it since adding the wood. This is a really nice beer. Wood character is still on the subtle side. I'd like to get a bit more out of it so I'll probably let it go a couple more days before pulling another sample.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took gold for 32B Specialty Smoked Beer. I really like the way this beer turned out. This will get made again with some other woods.