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Old 07-01-2011, 12:41 AM   #1
jimmystewart
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Default Please help me learn by critiquing a recipe.

I'm still a rookie brewer. I've done about 6 batches of beer and 4 of wine over the last 8 months or so, and I'm pretty happy with my results for the most part. I have one clunker here that I'm not happy with the outcome, and I'm interested in hearing what someone else would have done differently. I've probably spent over 100 hours reading threads on these forums dating back to 2007 or earlier, and it has given me a great start. I really wasn't aiming at any particular style here. This batch is a single malt, single hop (SMASH) brew and I am still planning on doing a few similar projects to help me get acquainted with what the different malts and more specifically different hops taste like. So, without further ado:

5 gallons spring water
6 pounds amber DME
60 minute boil
1/2 oz amarillo pellets at 60 min
1/2 oz amarillo pellets at 10 min
1 pack Nottingham after cooling
starting sg = 1.050
finishing sg = 1.014

Bottled in the end of April with 5oz dextrose mixed with 2 cups boiled distilled water, and let it set 4 weeks in the mid to high 70s before trying any. I know I made a mistake by not mixing the priming sugar evenly, so carbonation is very inconsistent with this batch, but no bottle bombs as of yet.

The beer isn't intolerable, but I just don't really like the final product. It's not a dumper, but will probably wind up being a "tax beer" for people who want to dig into my homebrews after I start getting better at this... I think the thing I dislike the most is just the flavor of amarillo hops. I decided to give them a try because the AA% was only a little bit higher than the hallertau that I had experimented with before. (So far, of the couple of different hops I've tried hallertau is my favorite. I have plans to try EKG, fuggle, cascade & cluster and a few of the other noble varieties in the future.) I forget exactly and didn't write it down, but I think the amarillo was about 4.5%AA.

So, let 'er rip. I'm not going to cry. Was it just a lousy recipe, or would moving around some of the hop additions to different times have worked better? Another thing is that I may have actually covered the pot during the boil (I honestly can't remember) and I've read recently that can prevent certain things from boiling off that one would actually want to boil off to improve the end product.

I'm not a hop head, so maybe it's just my own tastes and the next guy might think this beer is awesome? Oh, and I'll warn you, your feedback might result in more questions from me...

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Old 07-01-2011, 12:51 AM   #2
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Well I don't see anything in the recipe that is bad, but covering the pot can cause off flavors. Can you describe the taste that you don't like?

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Old 07-01-2011, 12:53 AM   #3
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Your biggest problem is the lack of any specialty grains. Switch to light DME and steep a pound of crystal 40 and maybe a pound of Munich or Vienna. A half pound of carapils will help with head retention but isn't required.

An oz of Amarillo isn't all that much as far as hops go. However, if you don't have the malt flavor (from the crystal) to back it up I can see how it would come out a little strong.

SMASH styles work best if you are brewing all grain and can control the malt type. I.e., amber extract does not equal a single malt grain.

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Old 07-01-2011, 12:56 AM   #4
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I was about to say... I didn't think extract could be SMASH exactly.

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Old 07-01-2011, 02:43 AM   #5
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Isn't the high 70s a little high for a ferment temp? I always thought that caused issues from what I've read here. Just a thought.

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Old 07-01-2011, 03:20 AM   #6
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Quote:
Isn't the high 70s a little high for a ferment temp? I always thought that caused issues from what I've read here. Just a thought.
If I understand correctly that was just after bottling. The amount of fermentation occurring after bottling I wouldn't think would be enough to cause off flavors, but if the entire fermentation was in the high 70's that could cause off flavors.
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Old 07-01-2011, 03:34 AM   #7
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Did you mix your priming sugar in your primary, or did you rack to a bucket? Then bottle. Sounds like you bottle conditioned in the 70's.Not ferment?Keeping temps below 70 may get you what you what but, there is more to diagnose your process to find out what to do next. You can make good extract beer with a good process,it doesnt look like you had much ibu's to consider it a hoppy beer.
Sometimes my beers go from ok at 4 weeks to incredible in another four, check back on it.Give it time to chill, and are you drinking them without the settled yeast at the bottem?

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Old 07-01-2011, 03:52 AM   #8
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I really can't describe the taste well. It's not one of the commonly referred to off flavors like bubblegum, apples, or band-aids. I guess I would almost call it bitter or floral, so I assumed it was the hops. I haven't been able to find a decent description of what amarillo is supposed to taste like. I put another bottle in the fridge tonight so I can open it up over the weekend and try to give a better description.

Also, I apparently misunderstood the definition of SMASH, but thanks for clearing that up for me. It appears that I did get my idea across though, and you guys (and/or gals) understand what I was thinking when I came up with the recipe.

The specialty grains advice makes sense. I was specifically trying to stay away from these at first because there are so many different types and I wanted to try to become as familiar as I could with the basics before changing more variables.

As far as temperatures, I could have been clearer about that. The mid to high 70s was only after bottling. The 29 day single stage fermentation was a very consistent 70 degrees ambient temperature. I know 70 is the higher end of what's recommended with Nottingham, but I haven't had any other disagreeable flavors in any of my other batches that I could attribute to stressed yeast. In fact, the fermentation temperature and Nottingham yeast have probably been the most consistent factors in all of my beer batches.

Another thing I'll mention that might help to diagnose the situation or come up with suggestions: I brewed a second batch right after this using light LME and fuggle hops and poured it on the yeast cake from the amber DME and amarillo batch after cooling. The same flavor is apparent in the second batch, but to a much lesser degree. It was a pretty poor choice to save about $2-$3 on yeast, but it was something I'd rather learn now before spending big money on a kit and/or specialty grains.

Thanks for all the feedback so far. Keep it comin'!

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Old 07-01-2011, 05:32 AM   #9
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Well, it might be the LME/DME... I had a consistent "off-flavor" when I was using extract and sometimes it was more pronounced than others and I thought maybe it was the recipe (differences in steeping grains) or maybe it was the freshness of the extract, but I think it was the extract itself. Some people say you can't tell if its extract beer if its made well, I guess I have never had an extract beer that was made well then. To me I can always pick out whether or not a beer was made with extract and there is something that is just not quite right. Yes, you can make some very drinkable beers with extract but they will never be what you want them to be. The only way to do this is to use the freshest extract (not easily verified), grains, and hops (that have been sealed properly) and use a proper amount of yeast with proper aeration (VERY important).

These are just my observations from my own brewing adventure and may have no basis in reality so take them with a grain of salt, but I thought I would share.

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Old 07-01-2011, 06:11 AM   #10
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When you dumped the new beer onto the old cake, you mixed up all the yeast, and trub, from the old batch into the new batch. So whatever may have been funky, be it the yeast, some sort of infection, or an off-flavor caused by the hops/extract, we don't really know. Just a heads up for next time I mostly agree with what has been said though. The 3 SMaSH's I've done, I've had at least 3 hop additions (60, 15/10, flameout usually) and using enough hops to get me around 30 ibu's.

I also agree Ravenshead that you should move towards using light DME. I've read/heard that you should use mostly light DME to get your OG near what you want, and then use specialty/steeping grains to get your colors and extra flavors. This advice is often given because lhbs usually don't go through the dark-er extracts as fast as they do the lighter stuff, thus causing freshness issues.

Maybe try a half batch (2.5/3 gal) again, scaling the recipe down but with more hop additions and this time use the light DME and some crystal (as per Ravenshead's suggestion). This way, you can (hopefully) see if it's just the hops you don't like, or if it was just that one batch without potentially wasting 2 cases of beer.

If you need any specific help with scaling down the recipe (I don't know if you have any software or use any software), let me know and I'll be happy to help. Cheers!

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