Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Adventures in Homebrewing

Last year, I jumped into the craft beer scene head-first. This year, I've begun to brew my own beer. I'm now two batches in and I'm already planning numbers three and four. Here's what I've done so far...

My first attempt (below) was with the Three-Hearted Ale from Northern Brewer. I knew a lot of people who tried this extract mix from NB who all had successful batches. I thought I was getting a Two-Hearted clone, but this beer is rather different. Either way, it turned out to be a very drinkable brew. Anyone who tried it liked it. I was pleasantly surprised myself.

The last beer of my first batch was enjoyed this week.

My only issue with that first batch is that it wasn't really my beer. Sure, I boiled, fermented, bottled, and fermented again, but I did not create this recipe. It felt like I just mixed a box of ingredients and made some beer. I wanted my second batch to go further.

I came up with the idea of a Simcoe-only IPA after enjoying single-hopped beers by Mikkeller and Weyerbacher. There's something about the Simcoe hop that really appeals to my taste buds. It's one of the more grapefruity hops out there. It also works well as both a bittering and aroma hop. I figured a little tweak to the Three-Hearted recipe would yield a drinkable beer.

Besides altering the hop, I used a dry extract that was much lighter than the first batch's liquid extract.

The results of this new beer have been positive. I loved how pronounced the hop flavor has been in this beer. I didn't think it would be possible for me to improve my brews with such minor adjustments to a simple recipe.

I even created labels (as seen above) this time around. My friend Jeff came up with "Simcoe-dependency" as a way to play on a hop-head's addiction to hops. After finding a template online, it was easy to design a label featuring the name and a photo of - what else - hops.

Overall, the entire package was enjoyable to put together. This was my own recipe. I recreated a beer by other brewers I had enjoyed. The labels were just a fun extra.

The best part has been Simcoe-dependency's reception so far. A fellow hop-head proclaimed it to be a tasty beer and I caught him several times smelling the hops, informing me that the little experiment with Simcoe had worked. Also, we had people over for dinner. One of our guests was floored by the beer. He proclaimed it the best homebrew he had ever had. While I don't know that this is true, I do appreciate the hyperbole. The real test will happen once I share the beer with some fellow Columbia Beer Enthusiasts on Monday.

Anyway, here is the recipe. It's so simple that anyone could recreate it. I bet it would even be easy for all-grain folk to come up with something similar.

  • 1 lbs. Briess Caramel 40 (specialty grain)
  • 9.15 lbs. Briess Golden Light DME
  • 1 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (60 min.)
  • 1 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (20 min.)
  • 2 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (5 min.)
  • 1 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (dry hop)
  • Wyeast #1084 Irish Ale Yeast

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