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Homebrew #32: Honestatis (Mk. VI)

by Rob Friesel

Since the bottles from batch #5 went so quickly, I was… forced to brew this again. And apply the lessons learned from the judges’ feedback. Honestatis (Mk. VI), my extra amber ale:

Honestatis Mk. VI - first (official) pour

I began on this brew basically as soon as the Make the Cut judging feedback arrived in the mail. This being my house favorite, I knew I was going to be brewing it again, but it was good to get some impartial feedback. A lot of what came back overlapped with my own impressions, and that reaffirmed the shape that the re-formulation was taking.

  1. I dropped the Galena hops for all Columbus, and boosted the overall hopping rate.
  2. I boosted the rye, coming from 36% up to 43%.
  3. Between boosting the rye, and having (about) the same amount of Munich and crystal malts, I thought I could get it closer to the red hues I wanted.
  4. Given the affinity that I developed for Wyeast’s 1332 strain, and given that I had a fresh batch of slurry collected from Younger Sister… that was what I’d pitch.

Meanwhile, I backed off of my choice to reduce the proportion of smoked malt.[1]

The tricky part going into brew day was going to be figuring out the water/grist ratio. Just using the BIAB profile from BeerSmith was going to get me into trouble — I would overflow my poor little kettle after mashing in. I looked back over a few previous formulations and ran the numbers to see if I could make this work from a volume perspective. A ratio around 1.4 qt./lb. would just barely allow me to mash all those grains without spilling over. I wasn’t quite sure what this would mean for my extraction and/or efficiency but I also felt the need to move ahead.

Brew Day

I got my strike water going on the burner that morning and heated it to 159.1°F, mashing in and starting the saccharification rest at 152.1°F and a pH of about 5.55. I let that go for about 90 minutes, all the time shaking my head at how stupidly full this kettle was. Just shy of 14.8 quarts and then 10.5 lb. of grain.

10.5 lb. of grain w/ 1.4 qt./lb. water...

At the end of the rest, my refractometer read 13.2%Br (1.051). After removing the bag and squeeeeeeeezing as much wort from it as I could, that same instrument gave me 19.2%Br (1.075) but I was about a half gallon shy of my target pre-boil volume. I rinsed the grain bag (“faux sparge”) with that half gallon of water yielding some 5.8%Br (1.022) wort that I could use for dilution/top-off. According to BeerSmith, this would yield a pre-boil gravity of 1.067; my actual reading was 16.5%Br (1.064). Close enough to move ahead. And anyway, manhandling a wet grain bag that started as 10.5 lb. was getting tiresome.

10.5 lb. of wet spent grain

The boiling and hopping part went as usual. No surprises. So, you know: basically the boring part.

Where things got a little interesting is with the whirlpool hops. In previous batches, I’d added them at flame-out and stirred. This time around, I chilled the wort down to 170°F before add the 2 oz. Willamette. After the five minutes was up, I resumed chilling, bringing it down to 67°F before transferring to the carboy.

The boil yielded about 2.75 gallons of wort that the refractometer measured as 29.4%Br (1.120). To get to my target fermentor volume would require 2.25 gallons of water, but BeerSmith’s dilution tool estimated my wort would be 1.066. That would still be decent, but it wasn’t the 1.074 I had targeted. I thought it over and decided to follow my “usual” rubric and favor batch size over gravity. And that’s what I did — I added the 2.25 gallons to the carboy, then transferred the wort from the kettle to get my full 5 gallons. My hydrometer reading confirmed the software estimates: 1.066 after temperature calibration and offset adjustments.[2]

hydrometer confirms: 1.066

After that, I pitched my yeast (250 ml of slurry harvested from Younger Sister just two days prior) and set up the carboy in the fermentation chamber at 67°F (±2°F).

2nd generation 1332

Fermentation

It was really only a few hours before my first fear was allayed. I had worried that my first attempt at yeast harvesting was going to yield nothing but junk and I’d be sitting on wort that was doing nothing. Instead, the morning after pitching, I spied through the glass of the carboy that a layer of krausen was already forming, and bubbles were happily gurgling away in the blow-off bucket. By the time we were +40 from pitching…

+40 hours post-pitch

A few hours later, I observed something I’d never seen before: “burps” in the blow-off bucket. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’d gone downstairs to (neurotically) check on how things were going in the fermentation chamber. As I listened to the bubbles in the bucket, they seemed slow. Then they started to speed up. Then they sped up even more. Then: BURP! One big ol’ bubble. Weird!

Another day or so and I bumped the fermentation chamber’s set temperature to 70°F (±2), as well as a shot of 2½ tsp. yeast energizer. I let this run for a few more days again before I started taking gravity readings, 2-3 days apart each. The final gravity settled at 1.015. It was time to fine, cold crash, and package.

Packaging

First, I started the cold crash. I dropped the temperature in the fermentation chamber to 35°F for about 24 hours. Next, I mixed up some gelatin to use as a fining (following Brülosophy’s method) and held the temperature in the fermentation chamber steady. I let the fining do its magic on the beer for two days, then I racked it over to a keg. And took a small sample to see how it was tasting…

kegging day sample

(SPOILER ALERT: it was tasting pretty great.)

I used my CO₂ tank to purge any oxygen from the headspace and stashed the keg in my beer fridge for a few days before space freed up in my kegerator. And then I got it on the gas and followed my force carbonation protocol. It would soon be time to taste this batch and see if it lived up to my hopes…

Overall Impressions

Batch #4 was “very close to perfect”, and while batch #5 was good, it also coulda-shoulda-woulda been better than that and maybe-just-maybe I pulled too many levers at once.[3] So I took Mk. V’s lessons learned, and applied them creatively to the Mk. IV formulation.

Honestatis Mk. VI - first (official) pour

The results, I believe, were outstanding. This batch is hands-down the clearest yet, and has the best deep red color. Smoke and rye spice dominate the aroma. The flavor profile is malt-forward inasmuch as it has strong rye notes (spicy, very slightly grainy) with the smoky notes playing a supporting role, giving it some depth and complexity; the caramel malts provide just a touch of sweetness to balance out what’s otherwise a pretty dry beer. Hops don’t contribute that much to the aroma (low amounts of earthy and peppery-floral undertones) but provide a good amount of bitterness to balance the malt. Mouthfeel is moderately dry and smooth. I would have liked it to be just a wee bit stronger from an ABV perspective, but otherwise I couldn’t be happier with the results.

If Mk. IV was 95% of what I was going for then this is… 98%.

So very pleased with these results. When I go to make batch #7… I don’t believe that I’ll make any changes at all.

Recipe

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

Mash Grains

  • 6 lb. PQM Rye Malt
  • 2 lb. 12 oz. Briess Pale Ale 2-row Malt
  • 1 lb. 6 oz. Briess Cherry Wood Smoked Malt
  • 4 oz. Briess 40L Caramel Malt
  • 3 oz. PQM Crystal 250

Fermentables

3.3 lb. (1 can) Briess Munich LME (15 min. late addition)

Hop Schedule

  • ½ oz. Columbus (60 min.)
  • ½ oz. Columbus (30 min.)
  • ½ oz. Columbus (15 min.)
  • ½ oz. Columbus (5 min.)
  • 2 oz. Willamette (5 min. steep/whirlpool at 170°F)

Yeast

Approx. 250 ml Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale slurry (2nd generation, harvested from Younger Sister)[4]

Brew Day

  1. Collect 14.79 qt. water and heat to 159.1°F. Mash in; hold at 147.9°F for 90 minutes.
  2. Mash out. Heat to 168° 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. Sparge with 2 qt. water. Pre-boil kettle volume should be approx. 3.25 gal.
  4. Bring to a boil. Boil for 75 minutes, following hop schedule described above. Add 3.3 lb. Munich LME with 15 minutes remaining.
  5. After knock-out, chill to 170°F as rapidly as possible. Add 2 oz. Willamette hops and steep/whirlpool for 5 minutes.
  6. Cool to 65°F as rapidly as possible and top off the fermentor to reach 5 gal.
  7. Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale yeast.

Beyond Brew Day

  1. Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 1-2 weeks).
  2. After reaching terminal gravity, consider cold crashing for 1-2 days before packaging.
  3. Rack to keg. Purge oxygen from headspace with CO₂. Drop temperature to 38-40°F and store refrigerated until ready to carbonate.
  4. When ready to carbonate, connect to CO₂ at approx. 25 PSI. After approx. 48 hours, shut off gas and purge headspace. Resume CO₂ at 10-12 PSI. After 2-4 days, shut off gas and purge headspace again. Resume CO₂ at serving pressure.
  5. Enjoy.

Details

Honestatis (Mk. VI), an extra amber ale by Tilde Gravitywerks

Original Gravity 1.066 (17%Br)
Final Gravity 1.015 (8.6%Br)
ABV 6.7%
Attenuation 76.1%
IBU 40
SRM 14.7
Links Untappd
Flickr

Formulation History

  1. Honestatis Mk. I (brewed 4/10/2015)
  2. Honestatis Mk. II (brewed 7/4/2015)
  3. Honestatis Mk. III (brewed 11/2/2015)
  4. Honestatis Mk. IV (brewed 8/14/2016)
  5. Honestatis Mk. V (brewed 12/4/2016)
  1. The cherrywood smoked malt proportion belongs at 10%. []
  2. A BRIEF BUT CRITICAL ASIDE ABOUT TECHNIQUE: I really should have seen this one coming. I had just finished (in February) Mosher’s Radical Brewing which contains a pretty clear illustration of mash factors that affect wort fermentability. So yeah, I should have known that a thicker mash (i.e., lower qt./lb. ratio) was likely to yield poorer conversion. This was an important lesson for me learn — not that there was anything else I could have done about it, except maybe boost the gravity 8 points with another… 1 lb. of DME? And while I’m not opposed to boosting with DME, a whole pound seems like it might have changed the character of the beer too much. Maybe this is just all the more reason to seek out a larger and better equipped kettle? []
  3. That is to say (Mk. V vs. Mk. IV): all-grain vs. partial mash, 3 gallon vs. 5 gallon, 3.2% caramel malts vs. 7.7%, 75 minute mash vs. 90 minute, 75 minute boil vs. 60 minute — and some of those being quite big levers to pull! []
  4. Obviously (??) I don’t believe that it’s strictly necessary to pitch this specific second generation re-harvested strain; a starter for a fresh pack of 1332 is perfectly fine. []

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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