“Craggy Head” head retention?

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Mar 9, 2010
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Santa Monica, CA
I’m still working on the “craggy” head thing. That’s what I call this.

(Perhaps there is a better, or more recognized, name for this phenomenon? I see the word “krausen” as specific to yeast action in fermentation. Maybe not.)

Every now and again I’ll get this kind of constellation of bubbles that you could seemingly hide ping pong balls in and under. I think it’s frickin’ art! Much love.

Arrogant Bastard about twice a year provides a great example. However, it’s definitely not always the case. I don’t know if it’s a batch/seasonal dependent phenomenon or perhaps, more logically, dependent on where exactly within the ~320~ barrel batch my particular bottle of beer comes from. Andersen Valley Hop Ottin’ also does this occasionally. There are others.

I think it is part and parcel to what we refer to as “head retention”, but I don’t see it as the same thing exactly. I can buy beer (and occasionally brew it) where 10min later it has just about as much head as it started with (flat/even). I can buy beer where 15min later I can see rings for just about every sip I took; all the way down the glass. (I equate this to “legs” in wine drinking lingo, although it’s not exactly the same.) I think of all these things as “head retention”, but craggy head, like in these examples, may or may not be a part of that particular experience.

This is my understanding of “Head Retention 101”:
1.) Make sure zero oils and surfactants are present in drinking glass and just about everything that ever touches the grain-to-beer process. (Check!)
2.) Don’t remove your hot break. (In my case, I can vouch for this adding generally to head retention, but not this Craggy head thing specifically.) (Check!)
3.) I remember a Jamil/Palmer podcast on the brewing network that claimed 15min max for protein rest – otherwise you’re “using a blender” and chopping all those large and mid sized sugars up too small – over doing it. (However, with my ales I don’t do a protein rest.) (Check!)

What else could be contributing to this?
- Bus sized volumes of beer, creating pressures that can’t be replicated by a homebrewer?
- A particular fraction of cold break left in?
- Adding a handful of wheat/carafoam?
- Leaving very small strips of bacon out for the land wights during the first week of fermentation?
- ?

- https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/weird-head-ipa-187353/ (says “craggy” – lucky bastard.)
- http://beersmith.com/blog/2008/06/25/enhancing-beer-head-retention-for-home-brewers/

But.. but.. that last link says high mash temp improves head retention – but I believe it is generally accepted the Arrogant Bastard is a low, drier, mash temp at like 148° for 90min. So I discount that. (My clone – that I’m drinking right now, head to head with an OEM bottle, is dead nuts on.)

This pic isn’t strictly related, because it’s a “center plug”, but this plug remained almost exactly intact all the way to the bottom of the glass, btw.

This example below is of an odd Arrogant Bastard I had in late 2008. This bottle produced the Craggy head, but this shot was more amazing. No – it did not taste soapy or “off” in any way. Just these different head properties.

I’m pretty sure it’s an all-grain/mash thing, but I’ll ask this in General Techniques.

Does anyone have any idea what I’m prattling on about? This has been a mystery for me for like a decade now. Any good info is much appreciated on how to recreate this Craggy Art in a homebrew environment.


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Dec 16, 2011
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Subbed. I have no input, but this is relevant to my interests ;)

Captain Damage

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Apr 22, 2008
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Lowell, Massachusetts
I associate a rocky head (what I call it) at least in part with dry hopping. Arrogant Bastard is certainly heavily dryhopped, so I think that's at least part of your puzzle. I first achieved it with my first IPA which was and extract beer. The IIPA that just became ready to drink has a thick rocky head, though not as thick as your AB pictures. All grain, mashed at 152F, dryhopped with 3 oz of cascade, with 5 oz of cascade in the boil. I don't separate out any of the hot or cold break material, nor filter out hops from the boil - everything goes into the fermenter.


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Jul 31, 2011
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Them Scary Woods
If it is related to the hops, I can vouch for Stone Brewing using a hops rocket on Arrogant Bastard. Since it's a single hops beer, if you're looking to clone it, use chinook hops and run it through a randalizer filled with chinook just prior to bottling.


Ale's What Cures You!
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Jun 4, 2006
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UP/Snowbird in Florida
I get lacing in my glass with all of my beers, and I usually do have a nice head but not "rocky" for most beers.

Wheat definitely contributes to that "craggy" head, as does flaked barley. Carafoam and other cara-malts help as well. And like was mentioned before, hops will give you more head with more retention.