Gowanus Brewery

Cleaners Pale Ale Goes Over by Jeremy
January 28, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale

My girlfriend and I hauled the Cleaners Pale Ale up to Greenpoint last night to a friends place. This extra pale ale was met with unanimous approval. One thought it rivaled Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, which, as a Californian born and raised, really means something. Our friend pictured was trying Gowanus brew for the first time and, as you can see, was amazed. Nobody was more impressed that I was, though.

I bottled the Cleaners almost a month ago and sampled the beer once a week since then to track its progress. To say I was worried the first, second, and even third week, would be an understatement. It was flat and boring. But last night, wow, it was like a new beer. The carbonation was fully developed. The flavors and aroma are suddenly interesting. And it was a pleasure to drink. I’m feeling much better about serving this stuff up at our Superbowl party next weekend.

Extra Pale Ale – Bottled by Jeremy
January 7, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale

I bottled the extra pale ale today, which a few weeks ago I named Cleaner’s Pale Ale, and it all went off without a hitch. Third time’s the charm.

This was by far my most successful bottling. I got 48 bottles of beer out of this batch, compared to about 43 from my first two. This I owe mostly to a change in my bottling method that I discussed previously, which allows me to preserve a maximal amount of beer through the fermentation process. According to the retailers I’ve used, the upper limit here is about 50 bottles.

I made a change to my brew process today that I’ll describe briefly. In the past, my girlfriend and I labored for hours scrubbing labels off old bottles, just to slap on a new label when we were finished. Removing the glue that binds both commercial labels and even our own homemade labels is next to impossible. We tried boiling the bottles, soaking them over night, we even used a citrus-based degreaser. Nothing really seemed to make the job reasonable. The daunting task of scrubbing the hell out of 50 bottles took all the fun out of bottling my second batch of beer, the Chinook IPA. So, this time I did things a little differently. I did nothing.

As you can see in the picture, I just threw the new labels on over the cruft clinging to the bottle after cleaning and sanitizing. For some, that meant the original label was intact and it looked like I was pawning off, for example, Long Trail Blackberry Wheat Ale as my own. For others, that meant the original label was an unreadable, pulpy mess. It’s makes for an inconsistent, raw look, and is completely worth the time saved. As soon as I decided to go this route, a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I got excited about getting to the work of putting this beer to bottle. If possible, I’ll let labels accumulate over time, to build up into thick, uneven layers. Maybe I can craft an aesthetic here, even if it is based on what amounts to laziness. Besides, I feel like slick’s been done and a grungier look is more fitting for a brew produced a block and a half from the Gowanus Canal. Long live Gowanus!

Extra Pale Ale – Update by Jeremy
December 18, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale

On Sunday, I moved the Extra Pale Ale to secondary. I was surprised that it was not as light in color as I expected from an American Pale Ale, let alone a beer called Extra Pale. “Extra Pale Ale,” although referring to the type of malt that goes into it, may always impart on my mind a picture of a bright, amber-colored beer. Also, I was disappointed to see a thorough haze. Much of this will settle out, but it will be far from crystal clear. It tasted excellent, though.

There are two issues that are taking shape as I begin preparing myself to commit to fourth and fifth batches. The first revolves around understanding the root causes of haziness, which, obviously, is part and parcel to controlling it. I read a great blog post on this topic recently that will probably be my starting point on that. The second issue is bitterness. The three batches of beer I brewed up to this point, including the Extra Pale Ale, have taken an ounce and a half or more hops, so I understand they should be bitter. The Chinook IPA and the Extra Pale Ale, though, seem too bitter. I need a better understanding of how the hop schedule correlates to final bitterness. I’m not sure where to begin with that, but it may be with the bitterness calculations that I’ve seen reproduced here and there.

Slick Labels, Tasty Brew by Jeremy
December 17, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: double ipa, extra pale ale, ipa, label

I’ve been using 2″ x 4″ mailing labels from Staples for my beer bottles. There is a template available online to make printing a snap. I’ve spent hours scrubbing labels off bottles, so, as far as I’m concerned, the smaller the label the better. Plus, this size label looks great on a range of bottle sizes, from the taller, 24 ouncers to the shorter, grenade-style bottles.

The Olde Nash is the California Imperial Pale Ale I brewed back in October.

The Chinook Me is the Chinook IPA. I can’t take full credit for naming this one. That goes to my (lovely) girlfriend.

The Cleaners Pale Ale is the Extra Pale Ale, which I actually moved to secondary just this morning. The named seemed fitting for a beer that’s supposed to be crisp and refreshing.

I use GIMP to draw these labels, pulling free fonts from Dafont.com and images from Google’s image search. I used OpenOffice to view and fill the template. I found out (the hard way) that OpenOffice and Microsoft Word handle tables and images slightly differently, which is a problem since I have to print from a Word-only workstation. So, from OpenOffice, I’ve started exporting the completed template as a PDF, rather than a Word document, to sidestep the Microsoft software altogether.

Extra Pale Ale – Naming and Style Review by Jeremy
December 14, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale, naming

Bubbling in the Extra Pale Ale fermenter has tapered off and this weekend I’m moving it to the glass carboy. It seems to be moving along fine and the recipe is so simple I don’t expect to run into any hiccups. Tonight or sometime I’m going to mock up a label for it: “Cleaner’s Ale – We’re All Going”.

My first beer was a Double IPA, the second an IPA, so this, my third batch, will be my first Extra Pale Ale. I know it will be lighter in all respects and won’t be as hoppy as the first two, but I don’t know much more than that. Here’s what Northern Brewer had to say:

Crisp, hoppy, and quenching, our Extra Pale Ale is highlighted with the sharp, citrus aroma of Cascade hops in the new tradition of West Coast ales.

The information posted at BeerAdvocate is right in line and gives some perspective on the use of hops here:

Of British origin, this style is now popular worldwide and the use of local ingredients, or imported, produces variances in character from region to region. Generally, expect a good balance of malt and hops. Fruity esters and diacetyl can vary from none to moderate, and bitterness can range from lightly floral to pungent. American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced.

The contours of this style aren’t clear just yet, but we know that it is an American-style Pale Ale that, through the use of Cascade hops, represents “the new tradition of West Coast ales.” I should note that it seems this beer is known alternatively as Extra Pale Ale and American Pale Ale. It will be a clean and hoppy beer that may also taste fruity.

The Wikipedia entry on American Pale Ale presents a fuller picture what characteristics to expect:

[American Pale Ales] are pale to amber in color and generally their flavor and aroma is centered around the citrusy and pine character of American hops with caramel-like malt flavors and fruity esters from the ale yeast playing a supporting role.

As usual, for the fullest picture, I turn to the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidlines on American Pale Ale. These guidelines are action-packed and I highly recommend you visit the BJCP site for yourself, if only to gloss over the wealth of information available there. The guidelines describe American Pale Ale the same as do the references above, with one exception. BeerAdvocate says diacetyl may be present, while the guidelines say it should not. I’ll have to explore diacetyl’s function in a future post. For now, I’ll try to wrap up this review. First, I’ll point to the ingredients section found towards the end of the guidelines:

Pale ale malt, typically American two-row. American hops, often but not always ones with a citrusy character. American ale yeast. Water can vary in sulfate content, but carbonate content should be relatively low. Specialty grains may add character and complexity, but generally make up a relatively small portion of the grist. Grains that add malt flavor and richness, light sweetness, and toasty or bready notes are often used (along with late hops) to differentiate brands.

Lastly, I’ll throw in the guidelines’ vital statistics section:

OG 1.045 – 1.060
FG 1.010 – 1.015
IBUs 30 – 45+
ABV 4.5 – 6%

After re-reading my notes on the American Pale Ale style of beer, I’m really looking forward to trying this beer. With the citrusy hops, it sounds crisp and cleansing. Plus, as I think I planned, it will complement the Imperial Pale Ale and Chinook IPA well.

Extra Pale Ale – Recipe by Jeremy
December 7, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, extra pale ale, recipe, yeast

Hey just a quick little pre-brew post on the Northern Brewer Extra Pale Ale recipe:

1 lb. Dingemans Caramel Pils

6 lbs. Gold Malt Syrup

1 oz. Chinook hops (60 min)

1 oz. Cascade (1 min)

Wyeast #1056

Here’s what it says on the box:

Pale ale was originally a British invention, a novelty after centuries of dark ales. Now, thanks to microbreweries such as Summit and Sierra Nevada, pale ale has become an all-American beer with a style all its own. Crisp, hoppy, and quenching, our Extra Pale Ale is highlighted with the sharp, citrus aroma of Cascade hops in the new tradition of West Coast ales.

Again, another kit with a Wyeast yeast plus number. Yeast has been a major unknown factor for me in this process. It plays such a central role and yet it is so hard for a homebrewer to quantify, measure, or whatever independent of the box blurb:

Wyeast #1056 American Ale Yeast. Used commercially for several classic American ales. This strain ferments dry, finishes soft, smooth and clean, and is very well balanced. Flocculation: low-medium. Apparent attenuation: 73-77%. Optimum temperature: 62-72.

How do I even begin to verify any of this? How can I develop my own take on a yeast? With barley and hops I can hold two side by side and give them a whiff. And commercial beer, I just run to the market to pick up a sixer and sit down to taste it. For yeast, I would have to brew two identical batches with different yeasts. Even then, I could only contrast the two, without gaining any fundamental insight into the yeast itself. What’s most frustrating is that the yeast seems to be central to so many brewing empires. Chimay, for example, has a “house” yeast that’s almost as guarded as the sacred waters drawn from within the breweries monastery walls.

Anyway, tomorrow, while I’m getting this new batch started, I’m also going to put the Chinook IPA to bottle. It’s going to be one of my holiday gift beers, alongside the California Imperial Pale Ale. Between that, football, and a little holiday gift shopping, my Sunday is shaping up real nice.

Next Batches by Jeremy
November 1, 2007, 4:00 pm
Filed under: beer, chinook, extra pale ale, hops, ipa, northern brewer

I recently received a Northern Brewer catalog and it has both an awesome array of geeky homebrewing equipment and a great selection of ingredient kits. Well, at least the selection is great for my still-learning-the-ropes purposes. Several styles of beer are represented and there are several beers to choose from within each style. Plus, NB makes it easy to choose between the kits by including important basic information alongside each beer. You see the style of beer depending on which section the kit is in and in each caption you get brewing difficulty, original gravity, aging time, and, best of all, a short paragraph describing the beer’s characteristics. This catalog makes choosing what beer to brew for my next batch a breeze.

As I said, I am going to try to build on past experience with each new batch. Now, I have a batch of California Imperial IPA aging and waiting to be bottled, so I am going to stick with ales. In this category, NB carries a kit for a beer called Chinook IPA, which sounds appetizing:

Our take on the American IPA style has a relatively modest gravity and an immodest hop character derived entirely from a single hop variety. Chinook hops have long been used by US brewers for bittering additions, but their intense aroma and flavor have caught on only recently. This kit is a bit lighter in body than our Classic India Pale Ale kit, which enhances the perceived bitterness and reduces the aging requirements. It shows up in the glass with a reddish-gold color and a thick, resinous Chinook aroma that lingers after the glass is emptied.

The Chinook IPA appears simply to be a traditional IPA defined by its hops, Chinook hops. In its most basic form, the IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a pale ale with higher levels of alcohol and hops. And the pale ale is just a style of beer comprised predominantly of pale malt, which is so called because the malt is dried at a sufficiently low temperature to preserve its light color, and fermented with an ale yeast. The higher hops in an IPA add bitterness over the pale ale and, in combination with the higher alcohol, have an antimicrobial effect, which is where the IPA gets its namesake. In the 1700’s, beer would rarely survive the voyage from England to India unless it was heavily hopped to protect against spoilage.

I remember that the hops I used in my last batch, the California Imperial IPA, were also Chinook hops, so I am definitely going to go with this kit. It should have similar, less intense flavor characteristics compared to the Imperial IPA. Unfortunately, the hops are the only similarity in the ingredient list between the two beers, so there will still be a lot of variables at work to set them apart. Specifically, the Imperial IPA used crushed crystal malt 120L, while the Chinook IPA uses Dingemans Caramel Pils and Briess Caramel 120. The Imperial used plain amber liquid and dry malt extract, while the Chinook uses Pilsen liquid and dry malt extract. The Imperial used Nottingham dry yeast, while the Chinook uses Wyeast #1056 American Ale Yeast. Despite the differences, by choosing the Chinook IPA for my next batch, I will have the opportunity to brew a similar style beer and to focus in on Chinook hops.

I don’t know what sets Chinook hops apart from the rest, so naturally I have to look it up. My primary resources for the time being are going to be the Brew Your Own website, the Beer Advocate website, and Wikipedia, although I do have two homebrew guides to draw on as well.

The BYO site has a helpful chart which says Chinook hops have a typical flavor characteristic that is “[m]ild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity.” It says Chinook hops typically appear in pale ales, IPAs, stouts, porters, and lagers. It also says Chinook hops range from from 10 to 14% alpha acid.

Beer Advocate also has a hops chart, which says the following:

Chinook is a bittering variety with aroma characteristics released in May, 1985. It was bred by crossing a Petham Golding with the USDA 63012 male. A high alpha acid hop with a wonderful herbal, almost smoky character when used as an aromatic during the last few minutes of the boil when dry hoping. Excellent for hopping American-style Pale Ales, especially those brewed to higher gravities. (alpha acid: 12.0-14.0% / beta acid: 3.0-4.0%)

Wikipedia more or less says the same:

American cross between Petham Golding and a USDA-selected male. Typical American citric pine hop with notable grapefruit and pineapple flavours. (Alpha acid 12.0–14.0% / beta acid 3.0–4.0%)

In sum, Chinook hops seem to be a relatively new variety, originating in 1985, and typify heavier, American-style pale ales. Its flavor characteristics may include citric pine, grapefruit, or pineapple and the hops may, when added late, add an herbal or smoky aroma. Chinook hops have high alpha acids, ranging between 10 and 14%, and low beta acids, ranging from 3 to 4%.

To be prepared for the third batch and to save a little money on shipping charges, I’m going to order two ingredient kits at the same time. With the Chinook IPA, I am also going to order Northern Brewer’s Extra Pale Ale kit, which will actually include some of the same ingredients as will come with the Chinook. They even use the same yeast, so it will be interesting to see whether these two new beers are more similar to each other due to the shared ingredients, than the Chinook is to the California Imperial IPA because they are similar styles.