Sunday, January 13, 2008

Vinnie’s Blind Pig IPA

It’s been over two months since I brewed last and was itching to brew an IPA. Due to the world wide hop shortage, it’s difficult to find the correct hops for most hoppy recipes. I ended up buying one of the only IPA kits left at It is a recipe by Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company and is the original double IPA version he created while working at Blind Pig Brewing. The beer is considered the first American Double IPA ever brewed commercially.

I haven’t moved to all grain brewing yet, so the recipe was a malt extract kit. Steve Hawk came over to help out with the brew, take in all the aromas that 5 ounces of hops give off, and share some of his personal home brews.

The recipe was pretty simple and went as such:

Malt Extracts
9.0lb - Ultralight Malt
1.0lb - Bavarian Wheat

Grains (steeped 30min)
0.5lb - Carapils
0.5lb - Crystal 40L

2.0oz - Centennial (60min)
0.5oz - Cascade (30min)
1.0oz - Cascade (15min)

Water Treatment
1 - Whirfloc (15min)
1tsp - Gypsum (15min)
1 - White Labs Servomyces Capsule (15min)

Secondary Fermentation
0.5oz - Cascade
1.0oz - Centennial
1.0oz - American Oak Chips

4.0oz - Corn Sugar

Since this is only my second brew ever, I am learning and trying new things. I ended up doing a couple steps different this time, hopefully for the better.

The first thing I did different was creating a yeast starter. This was a fun experience and I am hoping it pays off at the end by really dropping the specific gravity way down, helping dry the beer out.

The boil went smoothly. I tried another new method with the boil. I only added half the Malt extract at first to the boil and the second half with only 15 minutes left. This was to keep the specific gravity down of the wort in the kettle. I did this to allow the centennial hops to isomerize. Since I am only boiling 3 gallons in the kettle, the SG is really high during the boil. Then I add the extra 2 gallons in the fermentor to get me up to 5 gallons. The acid in the hops will not bitter as well in high gravity wort. By only adding half the Malt, the hops have a better chance to isomerize cleanly and really add some good bitterness. By adding this to the last 15 minutes, the malt will still pasteurize. Be careful, the added malt may cause another hot break and boil-over.

I treated my water for the first time in this brew. I added Gypsum to help protect against a soapy taste some IPA’s sometimes get. It does so by lowering the PH a little and making the beer a more acidic. The next new addition to the boil was a Whirlfloc tablet. This is a water clarifier like irish moss. My first beer was a wheat beer and wheat is supposed to be a little cloudy. I wanted the IPA to be as clear a possible, without having to use a filter. I was going to go with the Irish Moss, but have read better things about the Whirlfloc tablets.

With this brew, I bought an oxygen system. The system is basically a Bernzomatic Oxygen tank with some tubing and a stainless steel air stone. I aerated the hell out of the wort with pure oxygen before pitching and I aerated again 5 hours after pitching the yeast. This should help the already increased yeast supply grow more vigorously.

The yeast has been pitched in and I am waiting for it to start fermenting. I think with these new techniques I used will make the IPA come out awesome. There is still so much to learn and I hope to add new methods to my techniques for the next brew. I will update the blog with the IPA’s progressions.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yeast Starters

The more I read up on home brewing, the more I get fascinated with the science and biology of the process. One aspect that I find interesting is the yeast. These little animals are extremely important to the overall brewing process and are probably the most mysterious part of the process too.

When first starting out, a lot of kits use dry yeast. After the brew, the directions usually say to sprinkle the yeast on top of the wort. This works fine, though it often takes time for the yeast to rehydrate, start reproducing, then start fermenting. Some people believe that dried yeast just doesn’t add to the complexity in taste that live yeast does. One thing is true though, there are many more varieties of liquid yeast then there are dry yeast.

Using liquid yeast usually helps in the quickening of the process from cooled wort to fermentation. That is a crucial time in home brewing, a time when things can go wrong. The quicker the yeast start doing their jobs, the less chance of contamination to occur.

For most average gravity brewing styles, a single White Labs tube or Wyeast smack pack of yeast is enough for a 5 gallon batch. When creating a high gravity or lager beer, it is best to help the wort out by pitching additional yeast. This can be done by purchasing multiple tubes or you can create a yeast starter that can turn one tube into the amount you need. Since my next brew is going to be a double IPA with a starting gravity of about 1.070+, I decided to create a yeast starter.

I purchased a 1000ml yeast starter kit from It was pretty cheap, only $12. The kit included a 1000ml Erlenmeyer flask, 1/2 pound of dried malt extract (DME 10), and 1oz of yeast nutrients. The process is pretty simple.

I first mixed in 1 cup of DME 10 and a pinch of nutrient with about 800ml of Brita filtered water. I placed the Erlenmeyer flask on the stove and brought it up to a boil for 15 minutes. I boiled in the beaker cause it seemed like a cool idea and it brought me back to my high school days. Though, it has it’s issues. Since the flask gets extremely narrow up at the top, the littlest boil over would go shooting up and over. This would happen so quick that it was hard to catch. It only happened one major time, I would recommend using a small sauce pan and then funneling in the cooled wort into the flask after. And on another note, you don’t need a flask at all. An old sanitized mayo jar would work too, though they are glass and if you pour pour hot wort or cooling hot wort in it, the glass may crack. It is best to always use cooled wort if using regular glass. Since I boiled in the Erlenmeyer flask, i just took the flask and put it in an ice bath in the sink. 5 minutes later, it was pitching temperature.

With my order from, I also bought a Oxygen system to get the most out of my wort. The system came with a regulator, some tubing, and a stainless steal air stone. The oxygen had to be purchased separately, so I had to run out to the local Lowes Hardware Store and purchase a disposable can of BernzoMatic Oxygen for about $8. After sanitizing everything, I stuck the air stone in the wort and turned the knob to the gas. Billions of the tiniest bubbles came out and created a Guinness style draft head on the wort. Adding Oxygen will greatly help the yeast grow and reproduce. Since I don’t own a stir plate yet, I would just swish it around every so often to help keep in oxygenated.

I plan on brewing my Blind Pig Double IPA clone tomorrow and I now have a healthy amount of yeast to pitch. By looking at the flask, I think I have about 3-4 times the amount I started with. I plan on sticking the flask in the refrigerator tonight to have the rest of the active yeast fall to the bottom of the flask. Then I will siphon or pour off some of the spent wort. This way I don’t contribute to off flavors by adding different wort to my IPA wort. Most people just throw it all in, but I don’t want to get any off flavors by using a different style wort. I could have always made 1000ml version of the double IPA and pitched it directly in, but that will be later on in my home brewing career. This was my first starter and I think it turned out great.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beer For The Bosses?

So this week is the big industry show and all my bosses and Veeps will be in town. My Imperial Stout is aging nicely and its in great gift sized 220z bottles. Of course the obvious dilemma I face is whether to share this beer with those who will decide in the next few weeks how much I will make in 08. Now its not like I just want to drink all this beer by myself. I want to share it but is the gift of Homemade Brew sending the right message? Does it say, "I'm innovative and varied in m tastes. I can be an asset because of my many skills and talents" or "I am a drunk, so much so I make my own booze. In fact I'm drunk right now."? Thoughts comments?