As I mentioned yesterday, I brewed with all of the hops from my backyard on Wednesday, the same day I harvested said hops. Overall, I got right around a pound of wet hops. That translates to just under four ounces of dried hops, which is a decent amount for a five gallon batch of pale ale. And thus: Moist is born.
Almost half of my hops were Centennial. Willamette made up a tiny portion, only a few cones. Of the rest, there were more Nuggets and an even distribution of Cascade and Mount Hood.
Before I dive into how I used those hops, I’ll explain my grain bill and yeast decisions. I used British Pale Malt for the base grain. Then I added a generous proportion of Red Wheat and a smaller addition of Crystal 60L. I have not used Red Wheat before, but I plan to again soon if I like the results here. It is close to the same color of the Crystal I used, which is the standard set by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
I chose this grain bill for a couple of reasons. First, I just wanted to try the Red Wheat. As I said, I plan to use it in an upcoming beer that I’ve been planning for a long time but keeps getting pushed back. Descriptions of the malt say it adds “creaminess” to the beer along with the characteristic grainy wheat properties. I’m not sure what that creaminess means, but I’m anxious to see. I already mentioned Sierra Nevada and I will again after this. Their Pale Ale is THE Pale Ale. They use a ton of Crystal 60L in that beer. Now a days, it may seem like too much, but they defined the style. If I’m making an American Pale Ale, SNPA is my main inspiration. I wanted some Crystal Malt sweetness, so 60L seemed like the obvious choice. I love the color and it is full of character without getting too close to the roasted flavors of darker Crystal Malts.
Beyond just wanting to try Red Wheat, I thought it would add something interesting to the beer just in case my hop yield was not as good as I hoped. Last year, my harvest ale was extremely disappointing. It was a very small batch with commercial hops for bittering and all of my fresh hops at the end of the boil and it still had almost no hop flavor. It was boring. I thought this malt bill along with a slightly higher mash temperature would give enough malt character to be interesting even if the hops didn’t make it, while not being so complex as to overwhelm the hops.
I kept the gravity low for a couple reasons, too. This should finish right around the session beer cutoff of 4.5% ABV. At that gravity, there is not enough alcohol to get in the way. It also means that the beer can be enjoyed more quickly and in higher volumes, which is good because the whole point of a harvest beer is to capture the freshness of the crop.
Staying on the Sierra Nevada bandwagon, I used US-05 for my yeast. This is the same as California Ale, Chico, WLP001, Wyeast 1056, et cetera… It Sierra Nevada’s yeast. US-05 is the dry yeast version available, which I prefer when possible. Dry yeast comes with a larger cell count than liquid and with the low gravity of this beer, a quick rehydration was all that was needed to pitch. It is clean, reliable and gives a good focus on the hops. Speaking of which…
I decided to first wort hop with two and a half ounces each of Centennial and Nugget, which adds up to about one ounce of processed hops worth of bitterness. I was making this up as I went as I was still harvesting hops when the mash was finished. I had already planned to use Centennial and Nugget, but I wanted to wait to see how much of each I actually got before I decided on the proportions. I added this into my brewing software later and it says, as a very loose estimate as I don’t know the Alpha Acid and am not sure exactly how much water is in these hops, that I should have gotten about forty-five IBUs from this addition.
Now I wish I had entered this earlier because I probably would have cut back on that addition and saved more for flameout. Forty-five IBUs is not bad, but I think I’d be okay with less to get more aroma hops.
And yes, that is what happened to all of the other hops. I dumped them all in at flameout and then began chilling as quickly as I could. That is not particularly fast as it is still pretty warm, though. I got the wort down to a bit under 75º and racked to the carboy. I would have liked to have it a little cooler, but that is about the temperature in the house, so it would not have lasted long anyway.
Racking to the fermentor took a bit longer than usual. I caught the hops in my strainer, but I left them all in there as I poured the rest of the wort through. Periodically, I stopped and squished the hops down to strain as much wort out of them as I could. I kept them all there to run the wort through one last time and try to get as much flavor and aroma as I could.
I raised my sparge volume by about half a gallon to compensate for wort loss to the whole hops, but because I squeezed them in the strainer, most of that extra volume ended up in the fermentor. I hit my target gravity exactly but ended up with close six gallons of wort. I’m not complaining, but I will have to keep a close eye on the cop of the carboy for the first few days of fermentation.
My plan is allow the full fermentation to take place in the primary fermentor. I want to get this bottled as soon as it is clear because, again, I’m going for freshness. Hopefully this will be bottled in under three weeks and I can be drinking it in barely over a month.
I’ll get to my recipe in a second, but one final note on its formulation first. I knew I had a lot more Centennial hops than anything else and that had a lot to do with my recipe. If I were to brew this without the fresh hops, I may go all Centennial. Some Cascade for aroma or some Nugget for bittering might make it in, too, but the focus is meant to be on the Centennial. If you wanted to brew this with pellets, I’d definitely simplify the hop bill.
Half an ounce of Centennial first Wort hop and half an ounce of Nugget for sixty minutes in the boil would be good for bittering. Then I’d do maybe an ounce of Cascade towards the end of the boil, with a couple minutes left and an ounce and a half or two ounces of Centennial at flameout. That sounds pretty good. Anyway, here is the recipe I actually used.
Style: American Pale Ale/Harvest Ale
Brew Date: September 9, 2014
Serve Date: October 12, 2014
Expected FG: 1.012
Approximate ABV: 4.5%
71% British Pale Ale Malt
21% Red Wheat Malt
8% Crystal 60L Malt
2.5 oz Wet Centennial @ First Wort
2.5 oz Wet Nugget @ First Wort
5.2 oz Wet Centennial @ Flameout
1.8 oz Wet Nugget @ Flameout
1.7 oz Wet Cascade @ Flameout
1.7 oz Wet Mount Hood @ Flameout
0.1 oz Wet Willamette @ Flameout
US-05 (Chico, California, etc…)
18 quarts of water at 166º to achieve mash temp of 154º
Mash for one hour
16 quarts of water at 170º for batch sparge (extra water to make up for volume loss to whole hops)
60 minute boil
Ferment at room temperature until clear, two to three weeks