Monthly Archives: February 2013

Robert the Bruce (Scottish Ale) clone attempt 1

northfarthing.ale

Ahh Robert the Bruce – the man and the beer. We’ll start with the man that inspired the name for this beer – king of the Scots from 1306-1329 (yes I got this off Wikipedia). After brewing this I actually read quite a bit about Robert and was not surprised to see how historically inaccurate Braveheart is, but I still love that movie. It was the first ‘R’ rated movie I ever saw – I still wonder what my parents were thinking – I was maybe 11 by the time I saw it. It’s still a movie I watch once (or many) times a year. I’ve always thought the character Robert the Bruce was the most compelling in the entire film, largely because of the acting of Angus Macfadyen (FAATHHERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!).  If you can get some Robert the Bruce (or another Scottish Ale) there is a fun and simple drinking game to play while watching Braveheart – every time someone on screen says “freedom” you raise your glass and say “Robert!” and take a healthy sip, if the English are on screen you say “dirty English bastards!” and drink.

Because of my interest in both Scottish Ales and Robert the Bruce I was intrigued when a friend of mine told me about a beer called Robert the Bruce by 3 Floyds. It’s a Scottish Ale that falls between the Scottish 80/- and Strong Scotch Ale (so I guess it’s about a 100/- ale) style categories in terms of gravity. Their website says that it’s 7%, but everywhere else has it at 6.5%. I figured I’d target 6.5% and ended up hitting 7% so either way I’m in the neighborhood.  The main info floating around the internet is that it’s bittered with Centennial to about 30 IBU and uses crystal, roasted and melanoiden malts. I found a recipe (below) that was supposedly from Nick Floyd on a forum from a post about 8 years ago and figured I’d try using the recipe as a starting point as it matched up with the rest of what I could find on this beer.

OG:17plato (1.070)
FG:5.5plato (1.022)
Ibus:30 All at begining of Boil (Centennial)
90 Minute Boil
MashIn 162 F Hour Rest
Yeast: Fullers

Colour 18 Srm

Malt 85% 2Row US
1%Black Patent UK
1%Roasted UK
5%Caramunich 40 German
3% Crystal 10 US
2% Melanoidin German
3%Crystal 55 UK
Ferment on the cold side 62-65 F

From there I degassed a sample and saw that it finished at 1.016, not 1.022. I decided to keep the same grist percentages and to target 1.065 OG and 1.016 FG for 6.5% ABV.

Here is the recipe I brewed:

Mash @ 149F

85% Rahr 2 Row
5% Weyermann Caramunich I
3% Simpson’s Medium Crystal (50-60 = 55ish)
3% Briess Caramel 10
2% Weyermann Melanoiden Malt
1% Simpson’s Roasted Barley
1% Simpsons English Black Malt

20 SRM
Centennial @ 90 mins to 30 IBU
WLP002 – ferment at 62*, ramp up to 66* as fermentation slows down.

Homebrew left, Robert the Bruce right

Homebrew left, Robert the Bruce right

It ended up at 1.067 OG and finished at 1.014 (7% ABV) so the mash temp was a bit low. Like most Scottish Ales it really didn’t taste great until it had been cold conditioning for about a month – was almost cloyingly sweet and the flavors just hadn’t blended yet. As you can tell in the picture, the homebrew version is a fair bit darker, it worked out to 19.8 SRM in Beersmith, but I wanted to start with this grist anyway since it was the only recipe I could find online that looked like it could be right. When we tried this side by side the commercial bottle was a bit old and oxidized so we really couldn’t do a true side by side so I’ll just describe how the homebrew version tastes.

The aroma is all malt, caramel, chocolate, dark fruit and just a hint of alcohol and esters. When I first take a sip I get a lot of chocolate and some bitterness and it changes quickly to caramel, dark fruit and just pure Scottish Ale  malt character (sorry I can’t describe that better). It’s definitely got a clean malt profile and the perfect balance of good old Centennial bittering. It’s crazy how the flavors change within a single sip – the finish is dark fruit and than suddenly a hint of chocolate. It’s been a while since I’ve had a fresh Robert, so I can’t really say that this is cloned, but its in the ballpark for sure. Robert is a bit more drinkable so I think getting this down to 6.5% would help. My regulator also went crazy and this is slightly overcarbonated, been slowly degassing it so that would also make it a bit more drinkable. I’ll have to reduce some of the character malts to lighten the color a bit as well. I remember the malt hitting me a bit harder so I will probably increase the melanoiden next time. Some friends might be heading near the brewery in the next couple of months so if they are able to bring back some more Robert I’ll tweak the recipe and rebrew this. In the meantime I’ll probably use a similar grist makeup to make a Scottish 60/- or 70/-.

I entered this in the March Mashness competition as a Specialty Beer with the description, “This is a Scottish Ale brewed between the Scottish Export 80/- and Strong Scotch Ale styles.” Not sure what to expect – never entered a Specialty Beer. I call it “Northfarthing Ale” as I thought the description of the Northfarthing of the Shire to be a lot like Scottland – (from LOTR Wikia):

The Northfarthing or the North Farthing was the least populated part of the Shire.

It was known for having a slightly cooler climate then the rest of the Shire and snow was more common here.

The soil tended to be somewhat rocky but was good enough to allow for farming and was where the Shire’s barley for their beer came from.

There was also much hunting done here.

Cheers

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The Great Northern Brew-Ha-Ha results

medals

The Great Northern Brew-Ha-Ha competition was last weekend and I entered 3 beers. The scoresheets were mailed on Monday and I got mine on Tuesday – pretty cool to get them that fast.

Bagshot Pale (APA – 10A) scored a 38.5 and got 1st place out of 12 other APAs. Interesting that there was not even a hint of diacetyl mentioned where in UMMO they said it was far too high for the style – maybe they had some leftover on their palates from a previous entry or something – who knows. I took some steps to reduce diacetyl anyway in a Bitter brewed last week and will do the same when I brew this APA again. One judge went as far as saying no flaws detected in both aroma and flavor – diacetyl (and marked it as flawless) would have been mentioned if they picked any up. Anyway though, the scoresheets both were quite good and neither noted any real criticisms nor recommendations to improve. 39 is a good score, but it would have been nice if one or both judges had given some feedback on how this would score higher. Aroma was 8/12 on both and I’m thinking it could use a little more malt aroma so I might increase Victory by a little bit, we’ll see though. I think I might also change the hopping slightly.

Ivy Bush Oat Stout (Oatmeal Stout – 13C) scored a 34.5 and did not place (11 entries). I entered this one for feedback, didn’t really expect it to place and I’m pretty happy with the 35. The judges both noted that it needs more oatmeal to get some additional creaminess and oatmeal flavor. One noted that it had poor head retention as I had noticed as well and he said increasing the oatmeal would help. I probably will brew the same recipe as before and will just increase the flaked oats or maybe do flaked oats and Golden Naked Oats. Even with toasting the flaked oats I didn’t pick up very much oatmeal flavor in this one.

Hamfast the Gaffer (Imperial IPA – 14C) scored a 36.5 and got 1st place out of 28 entries. I didn’t realize it until I read the summary sheet that came with the scoresheets, but this was the biggest category in the competition – which makes the 1st place win a little sweeter. I was really impressed with one of the scoresheets, I’ve seldom seen so much writing on one (filled every line and the section between each category as well as some in the margin).  The description and detail was great and I appreciated it enough to email the judge and thank him as well as ask a question as he adjusted the score down to average with the other judge. Essentially he is a really high ranked judge and gave it a 43, but had to average the score down to be in line with the other judge who, in my opinion, didn’t seem to be real knowledgeable on Imperial IPAs. I don’t want to go into it too much or it’ll look like I’m whining, but I’ll just post both sheets below. The 2nd judge gave it a 33 and changed to a 35, but the 1st judge didn’t know that it had changed from a 33 or he would’ve given it a 40 instead of a 38 to be within 5 pts (he confirmed this in the email) which was a requirement of this competition.

Scoresheet 1 (click and zoom if necessary):

14C sheet 1

Scoresheet 2 (click and zoom if necessary):

14C sheet 2

Midwinter Competition is this weekend – they have some cool medals I’m hoping to get at least one. After that I’ll probably enter 2 or 3 beers in March Mashness and there really aren’t many more competitions around here until 1st round of NHC.

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Cask/Session Pale Ale

caskipa1

I had some ingredients left over from previous batches that I wanted to use up and decided it was high time to pour something though the Beer Engine Caskegerator again.

With the ingredients I wanted to use up a Session IPA made the most sense. It’s arguably more of a session APA, but to me it’s closer to an IPA in terms of hopping, but we’ll just call it a Session Pale Ale. I was looking to make something along the lines of 21st Amendment’s Bitter American, but wanted to keep the serving method in mind, which meant that the body needed to be fairly light and the bitterness, although high, could not be aggressive.  I was originally going to late hop this, but to save a bit of time on brew day I ended up deciding to first wort hop and just hopburst the boil.

1.043 OG
Mashed at 156F
60 min boil
51 IBU according to Beersmith4.2% ABV5 finished gallons
78% 2 row
15% Marris Otter
2.5% Crystal 55
2.5% Crystal 120
2% Victory
1 oz CTZ 15.2% FWH
.5 oz CTZ 15.2% 30 mins
1 oz Cascade 5.6% 10 mins
1 oz Cascade 5.6% 5 mins
1 oz Centennial 11.5% 5 mins
1 oz Cascade 5.6% 0 mins
.5 oz CTZ 15.2% 0 mins

WLP001 – 1 Liter starter
Pitched at 63* and fermented at 65*. Raised 1 degree per day as fermentation slowed down to 69*.  Finished at 1.011 – perfect.
.5 oz Chinook Dry Hop 8 days
.5 oz Centennial Dry Hop 8 days
.5 oz Simcoe Dry Hop 8 days
.5 oz Chinook Dry Hop 4 days
.5 oz Centennial Dry Hop 4 days
.5 oz Simcoe Dry Hop 4 days

Added gelatin and 1 oz of corn sugar and let sit for 10 days before moving to the caskegerator set to 50*.
This was very balanced which made it extremely drinkable. The bitterness was there, but didn’t wear out your palate. There was a bit of malt flavor and some toastiness, but it was a bit behind the bitterness. The more I drank these the more I was able to pick up the hop flavor for some reason. The first few pints were good, and the last few were great (hint of catiness became apparent towards the end, but in a good way).

I’d say the CTZ is the most dominant hop flavor, I barely pick up cascade or centennial. It would have been interesting to do a 30 minute hot steep with all the 10 minute and under additions to see if they could then stand up to the FWH CTZ addition. The aroma had a bit of resin and citrus, wasn’t terribly dank or anything. If I were to brew this again I would probably drop the FWH and bitter with CTZ at 60 mins. The rest of the kettle hops would go into a hot steep post-boil. The grist was good as is.

caskipa2

When the head settled there was about 1.5″ – a bit high, but I don’t think you can get less with this setup. The carbonation level was perfect with 1 oz (right between 1-1.5 volumes).

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UMMO Results

UMMO.medals

The scoresheets came back from the first competition we’ve entered so far in 2013 (Upper Mississippi Mashout). As I said in an earlier post, this is supposed to be one of the best judged competitions of the year so I wasn’t really sure what to expect having not entered this one before (or possibly even a competition as well ran/judged as this one).

The results were posted sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning (I checked when I woke up) and the scoresheets were apparently mailed out right away, but there was a postage issue and they had to resend them all out last weekend – no big deal, still had within about 10 days of the competitions which is plenty fast.

We ended up with 1 gold (Mild 3.0), 2 silvers (Scottish 70/- and IIPA)  and 1 beer that didn’t place (APA 2.0). I talk about each beers in the post linked in the top paragraph as well as other posts so I won’t go into great detail in this post.

The Mild that got 1st (39.5) is one that I don’t like and neither has anyone else that has tried it so far. Apparently it’s a good example of the style though, but I won’t brew that recipe again. I am going to enter it in NHC though since it did fairly well and I don’t know what else to do with the rest of the batch. The judges stated it could improve with a little more fruity ester complexity – that’s the problem with competing in the English styles- if they don’t taste like fruit-cake you will hear about it on your scoresheets, I just like my English beers with very limited ester character so I won’t be changing that.

The Scottish 70/- got 2nd (41 adjusted to 39) and was noted to be slightly over carbonated which detracted from the malt flavor – I blame my piece of shit regulator, but ultimately that’s my fault and overcarbonation is something I’m almost never accused of (quite the contrary…). One judge thought it had a little too much roasted grain and slight diacetyl (from WLP001?!?) – this was Jamil’s recipe and I probably wouldn’t tweak much if/when I rebrew it.

The IIPA got 2nd (37 adjusted to 43!) was the 2nd time I brewed a Pliny clone with some minor changes. One judge thought it had too much hop flavor and aroma, the other thought it needed more hop flavor and aroma. Both seemed to like the beer though, but the aroma was a bit subdued from the last batch which, I think, came from using gelatin. Based on the timelines though I had to use it and it really does make the beer sparkle. I think I’ll try to not use gelatin on APAs, IPAs and IIPAs when I can help it though.

The APA didn’t place (28.5) and that really surprised me as I thought it was about as classic of an APA as you can get. It also tasted really clean and I didn’t pick up any flaws. The judges thought it had too much diacetyl, which I either am not sensitive to or the judges maybe had some on their palates from a beer earlier in the flight – I’m not out to make excuses, but it’s got to be one or the other.

I will have to dig in and figure out how to adjust my process if I’m throwing off diacetyl and not picking it up myself. The yeast in question is WLP002, which I’ve had diacetyl comments from in several batches now and it is a pretty notorious strain for diacetyl, but it is still precious to me and I will fight through this.

I’m brewing a Special Bitter this week and the APA (with some adjustments) in 2 weeks both for NHC and both with WLP002 so I need to make some adjustments immediately starting with going from a 1L starter to 1.5L and probably doing my D rest earlier in fermentation than I have been (instead of when krausen drops I think I’ll do this about a day after high krausen (probably 2.5-3 days from pitching). I think I will also rouse the fermenter as I ramp up the temp – not sure what else to do besides leave the beer on the yeast a bit longer (I usually give these about 10 days from pitching, maybe I’ll go closer to 2 weeks). I sent an email to White Labs, but I don’t know if they’ll respond or, if they do, if it will be real constructive.

There are a couple more competitions coming up (this Saturday and next Saturday) so I’m hoping to have more scoresheets back before tweaking my process too much. This kind of feedback is part of the reason I enter competitions – if I truly don’t detect diacetyl (which some people are not sensitive to) than I may be serving friends/family buttery slick beer which is unacceptable, but I wouldn’t have known without getting feedback. I’ll know more once I see the results from the next 2 competitions, but it has identified some simple things I can do to reduce the amount of diacetyl that ends up in the finished product.

I’m still looking for more gold and hopefully a BOS or two this year, stay tuned readers.

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