It’s a brew party and third time is a charm?

Brewing is a involved endeavor. To plan and pack all of my brewing gear into my car and spend an afternoon brewing at a friend’s house is quite a feat. In August when the invite appeared from Mike to a brewing party, I put it on the calendar. IMG_2826.JPG
I assumed that life would some how get int the way, and I would have problems making it, but I thought it would be fun. The weekend came, and even though I brewed the prior week, I busied my self writing a pack list, and making a starter. The only decision left was what to make. I’ve wanted to take another swing at my hoppy wheat (2am Maiden) for some time. Knowing I still had a pitch of 1968 and a freezer full of hops, it was a no brainer. The tweaks from last time are enough to consider this a new beer, but it’s the same quest for a hoppy ale that can compare to Three Floyds Gumballhead. One of the best beers I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve had any beers available locally that come close. In my last attempt at a hoppy american wheat, I used fresh amarillo hops, and it was a failure. I noted some significant changes after reviewing the beer, when all was said and done, I decided on.

All grain, 55% wheat, 37% pale, 8% Crystal light. Moving away from single hopping, hop bursting with amarillo and citra, and dry hopping with amarillo and centennial. The idea was to increase the fruitiness, hop flavor, and lose the bitterness. My initial thoughts moved the beer too far away from Amarillo, which is a hope I really enjoy.

This is the recipe I followed:

The planning and prep started the week prior. I started setting aside my equipment. I had to mentally go through my brew process a number of times to note all the things I needed to bring. Even with a crazy mind map for the brew day, I nearly left w/out my burner. As it was my gear just barely fit in my subaru wagon, I’m glad I was using the 2.5 gallon setup, I doubt my 6 gallon stuff would have fit.

I arrived, unpacked, and setup my gear. I had considered bringing my water along, but since I don’t know much about it, and don’t make specific adjustments for it, I just let it be. Mike and I did a side by side water taste test with the different filter setup, and the results were inconclusive. I was the first there, and pretty much got right to brewing. One unfortunate aspect of a brewing party is the distractions. It’s pretty easy to get off track, tasting some beer, or talking about something you just did, so much that you don’t remember your timeline, and forget to do the basics, like, oh say taking a single gravity reading. Needless to say I didn’t take great brew day notes. However I did hit my desired mash temps. I’ve slowly been making adjustments to my equipment in Beersmith. I’ve adjusted the cooler weight, the thermal mass, and been more aware to adjust grain and tun temperatures. It has been helpful for hitting my mash temp w/in a degree. I do still recommend hitting the cooler a a little hot, and string down to your target strike temp, since that will just happen naturally. While I hit my mash temp, I had a bit more of a challenge hitting my runoff volumes.  With the high wheat percentage in my grist, it was very helpful to have an extra hand mashing in, but it was still a gummy mess. The small cooler mash tun doesn’t really lend itself for a quick mash in w/out smashing the braided filter. Despite the metric ton of rice hulls and 170* sparge water my run off was terrible. I managed to get most of my volume, but I’m certain my efficiency suffered. Compounding the grain bill, I had an issue milling, and reran them through the mill. The boil was uneventful, no boil overs, and hit all my hop additions. I did forget however that I wanted to bag the hops. I wanted to bag the hops for two reasons. I wanted to remove all the non 0 minute hop additions. I also wanted to help simplify wort transfer. So much for that!

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I chilled to 180, and added my amarillo and citra burst/whirlpool hops, and boy did they smell great. Everyone was commenting on the wafting aroma. After a 20 minute hot steep, I chilled to 65x, and tried to transfer to my carboy. I first put my sanitized funnel in the carboy, followed by a hop sack. I then poured the wort through the sack into the carboy. Spilling wort, and hop matter everywhere. Needless to say the nearly 3 oz of mixed whole and pellet hops in about 3 gallons of wort was a slow filter. But I was able to avoid hop significant losses due to hop sludge.  Once I filled the fermenter it needed to take an hr journey to my house. About 4 hours after knockout, I hit with a full 10 count of 02, and a 1.5l yeast starter of 1968. I decided to see how well it worked at the ambient basement temperature, and with in 12 hours it was bubbling away. I added heat at 48 hours, as fermentation started to slow, I wanted to maintain an active ferment, but still get a clean ferment. I’m going to let it rest warm for a few days to clean up. Then it will get racked and dry hopped with Amarillo and centennial. I can’t tell you how eager I am to get this on tap, It’s been so long since I had a _fresh_ hoppy ale on my tap.


Plans for next batch of 2 AM Maiden

Work on water additions to maximize hop flavor, without making it harsh or minerally.

Sort the volumes on the small setup. I knew the 10g / 10.5 setup well enough, I need to calibrate myself to the smaller batches I am doing.

Adjust the mill gap. I bought the mill second hand, and have never adjusted the rollers. I’ve always assumed the crush was too fine, due to the amount of flour / powder.

Get a ball valve and a false bottom on the small kettle.


Resources / Alternate recipe sources

Mad Fermentationist’s Hoppy American Wheat – where I turned when I decided to rewrite this as an all grain recipe, and move away from single hops.

MeekBrewing’s Clone of Fortunate Islands – A clone of Modern Times Hoppy American Wheat, Mad Fermentationist’s wheat made on a production scale.

Brewing with wheat by Stan Hieronymus* – This contains a recipe for GumballHead (and I get a referal for purchasing on amazon)

Bertus Brewing : Wedding Batch #1 Hoppily Ever After – Another take on hoppy american wheat.


***One thing I forgot to mention about this brew day is that it is my 20th batch. I’ve come a long way in my understanding of brewing, but feel like I’ve only started to pencil in the framework of that knowledge. Here’s to another 20 batches filled with incremental improvements, and hopefully more lessons along the way. Thanks for following along as I learn what I don’t know.

About Aaron

Homebrewer, Cyclist, locavore, Craft Beer lover, husband, father, blogger, photographer, alpaca farmer, New England sports fan, all around Geek.

2 comments on “It’s a brew party and third time is a charm?

  1. Congrats on batch #20! Hope it’s a success; I just had my last Fortunate Islands clone last night… it was actually still pretty awesome even having been bottled for 3 months.

    • Thanks. I am excited to be on track for 12 batches this year, and to have a fresh hoppy beer back on tap. I have a feeling this will fly if it’s good.

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