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Homebrew #15: Honestatis (Mk. III)

by Rob Friesel

Homebrew number fifteen, and the third evolution on what’s becoming my signature beer, Honestatis.

Honestatis (Mk. III)

Originally, I was going to wait until early 2016 to brew the third batch. But I had a not-quite-but-basically-almost-panic moment after I unassumingly grabbed the second-to-last one that I had in my beer fridge. “Wasn’t this,” I asked myself, “the beer I was to always have around?”

Running out seemed unacceptable.

As such, I got down to the business of figuring out what iteration 3 of this would-be signature beer was going to look like. The first tweak I decided to make was that I needed to get back to the recipe’s roots; it was never meant to be a “big” or even a “biggish” beer1 and so why not see if I could make the 1.054 I’d always intended?2 The second choice was to go partial mash; that had worked out well for the past couple beers, and it felt more… pure? Regardless, it made sense. Decisions first and second led to some small tweaks in the grain bill. But those I don’t count as “third” because they fell out naturally from those other two decisions. As such, the malt ingredients remained mostly the same; it’s the proportions that shifted slightly:

constituent % of Mk. II % of Mk. III
flaked barley 5% 8%
crystal rye 14% 22%
smoked malt 5% 8%

And then the extracts to round out what was needed for the target gravity. That said, thirdly I wanted to change up the hops a bit. It wasn’t so much that Fuggles disappointed me as they hadn’t impressed me. I kept the Galena3 but decided that Willamette at flame-out was the way to go. And that was supposed to be it for changes… but The Universe had a fourth tweak in store for me: no US-05 at the HBS; I had to go with Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast.

And so that sets the stage.

About two days ahead of time, I got a 1 liter starter going for the 1056. Come brew day, I got my BIAB mini-mash going, starting at 155°F coming down to just 152°F over 75 minutes. Mashed out at 168°F for 10 minutes. A refractometer reading gave me 4.8%Br — so about 1.020.4 Got the wort to boiling, added the Galena and first round of extracts and off we went. See recipe (vide infra) for how the rest of this story goes. Original gravity read 1.058, got the wort down to 68°F, and pitched.

Not a bad way to spend a day off. #homebrewing

Fast forward two weeks and (yawn) racked from primary to secondary. Gravity had come down to 1.015 — right where BeerSmith estimated it would finish.

Honestatis Mk. III - racking day

Another two weeks in the carboy to let things clarify and condition. Bottling day arrived. Gravity hadn’t budged (not that I expected it to) and we filled up 9 × 1 pint flip-top bottles, and another 37 × 12 oz. bottles — a 4.6 gallon yield.5

Honestatis Mk. III bottling day. Finishing gravity 1.015 (down from 1.058). And look at that color compared to the first batch from back in May. #homebrewing

As for how it turned out?

On bottling day, I was concerned about it. There was an off-flavor that I couldn’t quite place, one that I usually associate with wheat beers. It wasn’t so much that it was bad, but that it wasn’t quite what I expected, and didn’t sing out with the same flavor as earlier tasting samples from this batch. A little bottle conditioning will do it some good, I said to myself.

Luckily, this turned out to be (mostly) true. I sampled the first “finished” beer about a week into the carbonation/bottle conditioning phase. It definitely needed some more time to get the bubbles going, but that off-flavor I’d been concerned about had cleared up. Seemed about right, but I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

A week later, carbonation had more or less finished up — not quite the head I was looking for, but some decently vigorous bubbles. The color was great; clarity was also pretty good, though not quite the “clear” that would be perfect.6 From an aroma perspective, it’s fairly mild — some mild esters (more on that in a moment) and a vaguely pungent earthy/spicy undertone from the late-addition Willamette hops. The flavor and mouthfeel… Well, to borrow from Chuck Palahniuk, “disappointed” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.

Mouthfeel is a little bit thinner and lighter than I’d thought it would be — not that I was going for something “oily” or “mouth-coating” or “heavy”, but this batch has almost no cling at all. Flavor-wise… it’s a good flavor, but considering that I was originally going for something that “hinted at smoke and spicy rye, with something earthy as its base” then it’s easy to conclude that I veered off-course. There are some spicy rye notes, and there are some earthy hop notes, but the smoky flavor I’d hoped to achieve with the smoked malts seems absent, even at 8% of the overall fermentables.

Instead, I seem to get this markedly sweet ester that hints at cherry — which, okay, the smoked malts are cherrywood smoked, but that shouldn’t actually result in a cherry flavor, should it? Similar notes had been cited by Dan Sartwell in batch #2, but again… where could that be coming from? The yeast? Batch #2 was US-05 fermented around 70°F; batch #3 was (again) Wyeast 1056 fermented around 68°F — both right in the middle of their respective ranges, and neither noted as having particularly strong esters. So… where does that come from?

Again… not that the flavor is bad, but that I may not quite have (shall we say?) “stuck the landing” quite yet. Regardless: tastes good, and I won’t have any trouble drinking what I’ve made here.

As for next time? Likely more rye, more cherry-smoked malt; swap out some of the extract for base malts, perhaps convert to a 3-gallon all-grain BIAB recipe. Maybe a little more Galena to up the bitterness. Oh… and I think I like it better as a 7% beer after all.

Recipe

The partial mash recipe for Honestatis (Mk. III) is as follows.

Mash Grains

  • 10 oz. flaked barley
  • 1¾ lb. crystal rye
  • 10 oz. cherry-smoked malt

Fermentables

  • 2 lb. amber DME
  • 3 lb. extra-light DME (15 min. late addition)

Hop Schedule

  • 1 oz. Galena (60 min.)
  • 1 oz. Willamette (5 min.)

Yeast

  • Wyeast 1056

Prepare a 1 liter starter 2-3 days before brew day.

Brew Day

  1. Collect 11.24 qt. (approx. 2.8 gal.) water and heat to 160°F. Add 10 oz. cherry-smoked malt, 10 oz. flaked barley, and 1¾ lb. crystal rye to filter bag and add to water. Hold at 152°F for 75 minutes.
  2. Mash out. Heat to 168°F over 7 minutes; hold for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort.
  4. Top off to approx. 3 gal.
  5. Bring mini-mash to a boil. Add 2 lb. amber DME and return to boil. Add 1 oz. Galena hops.
  6. With 15 minutes remaining in the boil, add 3 lb. extra-light DME.
  7. With 5 minutes remaining in the boil, add 1 oz. Willamette hops.
  8. Cool to 70°F as rapidly as possible and top off the fermenter to reach 5 gal.
  9. Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 1056 yeast from starter.

Beyond Brew Day

  1. After fermentation completes, rack to a carboy.
  2. Allow beer to condition for approx. 2 weeks.
  3. Use corn sugar to carbonate on bottling day. Rack beer into bottling bucket and bottle.
  4. Allow at least 2 weeks to carbonate.
  5. Enjoy.

Details

Honestatis (Mk. III), an original amber ale by Tilde Gravitywerks

Original Gravity 1.058 (13.6%Br)
Final Gravity 1.015 (7.0%Br)
ABV 5.7%
Attenuation 74.14%
IBU 33.6
SRM 17.9
Links Untappd
Flickr
  1. Remember when I called it an “accidentally extra” amber? []
  2. It’s worth mentioning here that I had a slight crisis of conscience about this, albeit briefly. After all, Honestatis is not only a beer that I added to Untappd, but the 7.4% ABV version is the one that I took to a competition. I mean… Strangers drank it; checked into it on Untappd; some even loved it. If a lower ABV version felt like “the one” to me, was I to go and edit the Untappd listing to reflect this? Or was it a totally different beer? Paradoxes of authenticity and primacy swirled around me. But in the end I said fuck it and decided to brew it under the same name because who cares? It’s my beer and I’ll keep the name on it if I want to. []
  3. I might be falling in love with that hop. I can’t explain it. It’s supposedly not a big flavor/aroma hop, but is a big bittering hop but… I don’t know, maybe it just brings out the best in the other hops? []
  4. Putting the “mini” in “mini-mash”, I suppose. []
  5. Side note: for fun, I had the last of the original batch (minus the one set aside for 12-month aging) while I bottled this third batch. []
  6. To be fair to myself, getting a “clear” amber is going to be tough without going all-grain, without gelatin finings, and without force carbonating. To be fair to the style, I’m not even sure that an amber ale should be all that clear. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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