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Old 04-22-2014, 10:57 PM   #1
Kingbogart
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Default No aroma or bitterness

I recently entered my first competition hoping to get some feedback I can use to improve my beers. I didn't do very well, scoring only a 20, but also had reasonable expectations.

Looking at the sheets, it appears that technically everything was executed well, I missed on style more than anything. The main notes being that the aroma is absent, and there is no roast or hop bitterness, all of which are necessary for the category, 13F, Russian Imperial Stout.

I used an all-grain recipe for Great Divide Brewing's Yeti, from BYO, and have found other online stores selling the same recipe as kits to within 1/4lb of base grain, so I have reason to expect that the recipe when all is done well is in fact an Imperial Stout. Additionally, Yeti is listed by BJCP as an example for the style.

Here is the recipe for reference:
5 gallon/19 L, all-grain; O.G. = 1.090; F.G. = 1.018; IBU = 75 SRM = 98 ABV = 9.3%

Ingredients:
15.25 lbs (6.9 kg) American 2-row malt
1.0 lb (0.45 kg) crystal malt (120 L)
12 oz. (0.34 kg) chocolate malt
12 oz. (0.34 kg) black patent malt
10 oz. (0.28 kg) roasted barley
8.0 oz. (0.23 kg) flaked wheat
8.0 oz. (0.23 kg) flaked rye
14.3 AAU Chinook hops (60 min) (1.1 oz./31 g of 13% alpha acids)
7.2 AAU Chinook hops (30 min) (0.55 oz./16 g of 13% alpha acids)
5.3 AAU Centennial hops (15 min) (0.50 oz./14 g of 10.5% alpha acids)
Irish Moss (15min)
0.5 oz. (14 g) Centennial hops (5 min)
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) yeast (3 qt./~3 L yeast starter)
0.75 cups corn sugar (for priming)

Step by Step:

Mash at 150 F (66 C). Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops as indicated above. Ferment at 70 F (21 C).


I didn't have a water report at the time, but have since ordered one. I assume they don't fluctuate too horribly. The only thing I did for this brew was add campden to deal with the chlorine


For my brewday, it was super cold, so I had to kick on the Direct fire mash tun more than once, and got some stratification of the bed. About 1/2 the time was spent at 150, but there was at least a portion where part of the bed was at least 156. My efficiency was slightly lower than usual, with my OG coming in at 1.083. I cooled it to around 65 in about 5 min, and pitched my yeast. I had made a 3 step 3L starter on a stirplate, 1L each step. Temperature controlled at 68 for 3 days, then bumped to 70 per the recipe and let it go for 7 days. After the 10 days, it was down to 1.024, read 3 days later and still there.

Racked to a secondary and let it sit for about a month and a half. I was under the impression this would help it age but this could be where I lost my hop bitterness. After the 6 weeks, I bottled with ~3oz of table sugar per Brewers Friend Calculators. It was a slow carb, but it finally started coming around after 8 or so weeks.

I am basically looking for hints/suggestions for what may have caused the aroma and bitterness to be absent, as well as the overall beer being muted. My thinking is that with my mash temps being high, I ended up with more unfermentables and that accounts for the high finishing gravity. My efficiency was low, accounting for the lower than expected OG, and those together meant a much lower ABV than expected. The lower OG made the overall brew lean toward the malt side, and it became more balanced than bitter. As I mentioned I didn't have the water report on this brew day, but from fiddling with Bru'n water, it looks like my pH may have been spot on magically, but if I were to shoot for a "Black Bitter" profile I'm obviously lacking significantly. Were the missing salts the issue? Any ideas?


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Old 04-22-2014, 11:07 PM   #2
alane1
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from my experience mash ph can mess with flavors, with all that dark roast your ph may be too low. My stouts used to come out flavorless until I got a ph meter and adjusted with salts.


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Old 04-23-2014, 01:05 AM   #3
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I added the recipe to Bru'n water and it showed the water pH would be about 5.3. As I mentioned I didn't adjust the water other then Campden, so I didn't do any sparge acidification or add salts. I was thinking that adding the salts would improve the beer, but wasn't aware that not adding them would leave the beer with no aroma at all.
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Old 04-23-2014, 12:31 PM   #4
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If that pH is what really occurred, then it should be fine. The calcium and chloride might be a little low so you might add a bit of CaCl. You could also add some gypsum, that will increase the calcium and sulfate and can accentuate bitterness, but I'm not sure I'd go that route. It can be kind of harsh, back of the throat bitterness.

Do you agree with the comments? Have you tasted it next to some examples and find it lacks aroma and bitterness? Its possible that the judges aren't right. I know I've judged some categories that I'm less familiar with and probably given scores that are wrong. I try not to, but its possible.
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Old 04-23-2014, 12:59 PM   #5
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I actually do agree with the judges. I've also let some of my homebrew friends try it and we all have the same opinion. You can stick your nose all the way inside a tulip of it, and still just get the faintest whiff of chocolate. Tasting, there are chocolate, and coffee flavors but it doesn't have that stylistic bite of roast bitterness. The beer is very tasty, though maybe a little sweet. I'm guessing from off-setting the balance a little bit on the OG and FG. It comes off almost like a milk stout.
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Old 04-23-2014, 05:02 PM   #6
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I was hoping for a few more opinions. Since the mash pH looks like it might have been decent it would have had to go downhill at sparge for pH to be the issue. I fly-sparge, about 1/qt/min. Without acidification the pH probably went up a fair bit, but not sure how far and I don't have a measurement. Any other ideas?
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Old 04-23-2014, 05:20 PM   #7
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What about ingredients - were they old or anything? Crushed 7 months ago? Anything like that? Its hard to imagine with all that dark malt not having some bitterness and aroma come through.

What about carbonation. Does it have a decent head on it? You mentioned it carb'd up slowly. Sometimes carbonation can help increase both perceived bitterness and increase aroma.

It does seem that if your process is dialed in and your fermentation is good, then its time to move onto water. Even without a pH meter, you might try again with all RO water and add a bit of CaCl. Water supplies do sometimes change over the year. You may need a bit of baking soda or pickling lime to up the alkalinity (a little goes a long way - be careful).

I think you're not getting many opinions cause you seem to have everything dialed in. Good problem to have!
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Old 04-23-2014, 05:37 PM   #8
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Yeah, having the information is nice. I was hoping someone would see something I didn't. The ingredients were fresh, brewed a week after I got them, as I had to make that big starter. The carbonation was noted by one judge as "head thin, with mainly large bubbles", the other "medium head retention". I have the beer on tap now, to around 2.2 volumes and I don't have any aroma or bitterness either. I guess I could increase the carb and see if it's just carbed too low. Thanks for the idea.


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