Gowanus Brewery

Chinook Me – Revisited by Jeremy
March 3, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, ipa, review

I just revisited the Chinook Me that I brewed in November last year and it’s still great, maybe better than ever.

It pours brilliant amber, with rocky foam that lasts a good while. It has a powerful, piney hop aroma and flavor that is, to my nose, unmistakably characteristic of Chinook hops. It has a great malty backbone, medium body, and a lot of carbonation.

Did I say a lot of carbonation? I should say too much carbonation. The bottle in the pictured popped like a champagne bottle when I flipped the top. Last month, I had one that gushed and half the pint flowed away in a river of suds before it was done. I had one bottle actually explode on me!

Usually, over carbonation occurs for one of two reasons. Either the beers were bottled too early or too much priming sugar was added at bottling. The likely culprit here is too much priming sugar, because this beer sat for a full five weeks following the initial fermentation. The gusher, though, had less to do with over carbonation than it did with the beer being too warm. Carbon dioxide is less soluble in warm beer than in cold, so carbonation tends to rush out of beer the warmer it is.

I have two or three bottles of the Chinook Me sitting around the apartment. If they don’t detonate first, I’d really enjoy having another.


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.

Dry Hopping and Trub by Jeremy
December 13, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, dry hopping, ipa

I mentioned that I dry-hopped this batch of Chinook IPA and that I bottled it over the weekend. I wondered, especially after the first day when the hops had fully dissolved, whether I had stepped in over my head. There was a thick, foamy layer of hops across the surface and a new, growing layer of trub at the bottom. In between, there was enough suspended hops to cloud the entire carboy. I thought I might have to put together some sort of filtration system, but the hops eventually settled, for the most part. In the picture to the left, the top yellow-green layer is settled hops and the bottom cream layer is settled yeast. As you can see, there is substantially more hops than yeast, but, unlike with the yeast, the layer is loose and fluffy.

That the hops had not compacted like the yeast was a factor in bottling. Despite working as carefully as possible, I still kicked up plumes of hops that ultimately made it into some or all of the bottles. I can’t imagine all that plant mass adds anything positive to the mix. For the next batch, I’ll try filtering my dry-hopped beer through a muslin or cheese cloth for a brighter, clearer result.

Too Late to Dry Hop by Jeremy
December 5, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: chinook, hops, ipa

Apparently it never is.

I was flipping through my Beer in Blogs feed and happen to read a post that casually mentioned adding dry hops to beer at the same time you move it to secondary. This is known as “dry hopping”. As I said, I forgot to do this step with the Chinook IPA, but, even two weeks after moving to secondary, I think it may not be too late. I’ll throw those bad boys in tonight.

I love to catch a break every now and then.

Over at Brew Your Own there is an in-depth article from 2003 on dry hopping that answers all the basic questions that have loomed in my mind for the past several weeks and several others that never occurred to me. For instance, I didn’t realize dry hopping was such a broad term: “[d]ry hopping refers to any hop addition after the wort has been cooled.” To learn just that a beer has been dry hopped, actually tells you little about the dry hopping process.

The most important part of the article for my purposes describes the underlying purpose of dry hopping:

Due to the fact that no volatile oils are boiled off, the benefit to dry hopping is that the brewer can get as much flavor and aroma possible into the final beer… What dry hopping does not add to the beer is bitterness. Boiling is necessary to convert the alpha acids in the hops to iso-alpha acids to create bitterness.

In other words, the purpose of dry hopping is to infuse hops’ essential oils to the wort, which adds a floral aroma, without increasing its bitterness.

Dry hopping will still affect flavor, if not by adding bitterness. The BYO article says that dry hopping adds “grassy” or “oily” flavors and warns this may be a drawback. I assume whatever affect this has on flavor, it must be strong and distinct to warrant the warning. I will try to cover this when I review my Chinook IPA.

The other topic that interested me was choosing hops. Personally, I’ve come in contact with fewer than 10 varieties of hops, but I know there dozens, if not hundreds out there. Here, unfortunately, the article is not especially clear:

It is common for these hops to have relatively low alpha acid ratings, often around 6% or less… Of course, one of the beauties of homebrewing is that you do not have to follow anyone’s suggestions; you can try whatever you want. This being said, some homebrewers dry-hop with high alpha acid varieties like Centennial and Chinook.

Confusingly, it recommends choosing hops with low or high alpha acid ratings, suggesting at least that hops’ alpha acids content may be relevant. The Wikipedia article on hops discusses alpha acids and leads me to believe that the alpha acid rating is probably irrelevant:

The degree of bitterness imparted by hops depends on the degree to which otherwise insoluble alpha acids (AAs) are isomerized during the boil, and the impact of a given amount of hops is specified in International Bitterness Units. Unboiled hops are only mildly bitter.

So, there you have it. The only relevant factor, which the BYO article does finally point out, is taste. The article recommends, “if you like the results of using a particular hop variety in the last 5–10 minutes of the boil then you will probably like the results of dry hopping with the same variety.”

One last note here, about when to take the hops out. They can be left in contact with the beer for days or weeks or months, according to BYO. Apparently, the only only real limit is that the hops must be separated out before bottling.

Chinook IPA – Recipe by Jeremy
December 3, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: ipa, recipe

The Chinook IPA ingredient kit included the following:

0.75 lbs. Dingemans Caramel Pils

0.25 lbs. Briess Caramel 120

6 lbs. Pilsen Malt Syrup

1 lb. Pilsen Dry Malt Extract

1 0z. Chinook Hops (60 min)

0.5 oz. Chinook Hops (10 min)

0.5 ox. Chinook Hops (1 min)

1 oz. Chinook Hops (dry hop)

Wyeast #1056 American Ale Yeast

Oh man. Looking at this list now I realize I forgot to dry hop the final ounce of hops. Way to go champ. It may have been irrelevant because the seal was broken on that last pack of hops. I may have skipped the step if I had remembered to do it. Eh, but, probably not.

In a previous post I discussed Chinooks Hops and now I am going to take a look at Pilsener malt extracts.

According to Wikipedia:

Pilsener malt, the basis of Pilsener lager, is quite pale and strongly flavored. Invented in the 1840s, Pilsener malt is the lightest-colored generally-available malt, and also carries a strong, sweet malt flavor. Usually a Pilsener beer’s grain bill consists entirely of this malt, which has enough enzymatic power to be used as a base malt. The commercial desirability of light-colored beers has also led to some British brewers adopting Pilsener malt (sometimes described simply as “lager malt” in Britain) in creating golden ales. In Germany, Pilsener malt is also used in some interpretations of the Kölsch style.

Northern Brewer, from whom I bought the kit, had the following to say:

This is the lightest-colored 100% malted barley extract available — 1.5 – 3.0° L. Produces a very crisp clear wort with a subtle, malty flavor and is an excellent base for all beers, especially pale styles.

I looked briefly for other online references with information on Pilsener malt extract, because these two together don’t really give me a clear picture of what to expect. For some reason, I couldn’t find anything more. I know at least that that this is a pale malt that produces a clear wort. It can stand alone on a grain bill and makes an excellent base for golden or pale ales. What I don’t know is what type of wheat it is based on and what sort of flavor characteristics it produces. Northern Brewer says it produces a subtle malty flavor, while Wikipedia says it carries a strong, sweet malt flavor. Obviously I would defer to Northern Brewer on this one since it’s their product, but I have to keep my eyes and ears open for a third perspective on this one.

Chinook IPA Started by Jeremy
November 28, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, equipment, ipa, oxygen

Chinook IPA Ingredient KitLast week, I started the Chinook IPA, which I discussed in an earlier post, and this past weekend I moved the beer to the secondary fermenter. I changed slightly how I transfer the beer from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter and it worked out really well.

Before, I used a standard bucket with a grommeted lid for fermentation, but I lost a lot of beer when I went to move it to the secondary fermenter. This was with my California Imperial Pale Ale, which netted only 43 bottles, about a six pack short of what this kit would otherwise produce. First, with a standard siphon, some beer is allowed to run off to create the siphon, so loss is inherent with each use. Second, actually I lost suction as I siphoned the beer from one container to the other when the level neared the bottom of the bucket. So, I had to restart the siphon, which meant pouring off more beer. And, while doing so, I clumsily kicked up the trub so that it made more sense to cut my losses and discard what was left. In restarting the siphon, I also had to touch the end of the siphon hose to fill it with tap water, which unnecessarily introduced a new source of potential contamination–another issue that concerned me.

Primary Fermenter with SpigotFor the Chinook IPA, I traded out the standard bucket for a bottling bucket. The only difference between the two is that a bottling bucket has a spigot attached to it. The spigot is high enough from the bottom that you can pour off the beer without disturbing the trub. I still used a hose and bottling wand, but gravity does the work of the siphon and the whole process becomes much simpler. Plus, as the bucket empties, it is possible to draw off the very last of the beer by gently tilting the bucket toward the spigot.

It is definitely a more efficient and sanitary way to transfer beer to your secondary fermenter, but there were two new, small issues I encountered. First, the spigot assembly must be cleaned and covered in foil or plastic wrap at the time of primary fermentation to keep it clean until it’s time to use it. Second, the spigot may be clogged initially from settling hops or yeast, or it may become clogged during the pour. This happened to me and to unclog it I simply raised the end of the hose so that beer flowed back into the bucket, clearing the blockage.

There is actually a third issue that is equally relevant to both methods of moving the beer to secondary, but I need to do a little more research to resolve it. The main purpose of moving beer to secondary is to separate the beer from the trub, which would otherwise produce off flavors and affect clarity. I have read, though, that there is a third purpose, which is to introduce new oxygen to the beer to repopulate the yeast. Yeast population falls off during fermentation and exposure to oxygen promotes yeast reproduction. The issue for me is that using a hose to transfer beer from primary to secondary, whether by siphon or spigot, appears to minimize the exposure of beer to new air, potentially robbing me of an opportunity to improve my brew. On the other hand, there may be enough oxygen in the new air in the secondary fermenter to get this positive effect. I will keep my eyes and ears open for additional information on this issue.

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.