Gowanus Brewery


Gowanus American Harvest Amber Ale by Jeremy
September 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, amber ale, beer, hops, naming, northern brewer, recipe

A new season; a new brew.

The “Harvest” of the Gowanus American Harvest Amber Ale is represented, pitifully, by the half-ounce of fresh hops I pulled off the garden this season. I say pitifully, because that’s the entire harvest. A small harvest is typical, though, for newly-planted hops, which can take up to two seasons to reach their full potential.

Still, a half ounce of garden hops is kinda weak for a harvest ale, especially considering that the ratio for fresh hops to pellets, which recipes tend to assume, is 5 to 1. So, to cover all my bases, I’ll add that the spent grain went to the compost for next year’s harvest. So, we’re agreed. It’s harvesty.

Anyway, the beer. I bought the all-grain American Amber Ale kit from Northern Brewer, which they describe as follows:

It’s not quite an alt; it’s not quite a pale ale. Our American Amber borrows from German and British brewing traditions to make a beer that’s uniquely American, perhaps similar to the ales our forefathers brewed in the colonial days. Hearty and smooth, this beer improves greatly with a little extra aging, if you’re patient enough.

It includes 8 lbs. 2-row pale malt, 1 lb. Munich malt, and 1 lb. Caramel 60, 2 oz. Cascade hops (60 mins.), 1 oz. Cascade hops (15 mins.), and an American Ale yeast. I modified the recipe to include a quarter ounce of home-grown Centennial and a quarter ounce of home-grown Cascade for aroma (the Willamette has yet to flower). I’m also going to put 1 ounce of oak chips on this beer during secondary for about a week to add enough extra tweak to feel like I can really call it my own.

Will tell you how it turned out in about six weeks!

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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.