Wet Dog Pale Ale
Season 1 of my hop crop harvest culminated this past weekend with – what else – a wet hop brew day! October 1st seemed an appropriate a day as any to pick the last of my hops and dump ’em into a boiling batch of pale ale. Fortunately I had some much needed help from my buddy Dave to get all those wet hops picked while the grains were still mashing.
In addition to the roughly 10 oz. of hops I’d picked and dried (which was roughly 60 oz. wet) in the three separate harvest days prior to this, Dave and I managed to pick about 18 oz. (wet) on brew day which, if dried, would have been roughly 3 oz.
As you may have noticed, I’ve generally shied away from brewing standard or classic styles since I started nearly two years ago. I’ve sought out more adventurous recipes because 1) I can get bored of the basic styles and if I have 5 gallons of the stuff on hand, that can be a problem, and 2) it’s a lot easier to know that I messed up slightly if I I’m brewing a standard recipe, and knowing that reduces my enjoyment of the batch. BUT… I decided a basic pale ale recipe would be a great choice to show off my very own hops grown in the back yard. No complex malt profile or yeast characteristics to hide behind. The hop profile will be right up front and the batch will live or die by it.
Base: 11.5 lbs. American 2-Row
Specialty: 1 lb. caramel malt 60L
Other fermentables: none
Hops: 3 oz. wet (would have been .5 oz dried) homegrown Centennial (75″), 3 oz. wet (would have been .5 oz dried) homegrown Cascade (75″), 1 oz. dried homegrown Cascade (30″), 6 oz. wet (would have been 1 oz. dried) homegrown Centennial (20-3″), 6 oz. wet (would have been 1 oz. dried) homegrown Cascade (20-3″)
Yeast: White Labs WLP051 California V Ale (1600 ml yeast starter, 1 c light DME)
Irish moss (15″), yeast nutrient (10″)
OG pre-boil was 1.042 (with volume at 7.75 gallons). Post boil, we got it up to 1.057 (with volume down to about 5.5 gallons). The entire boil probably lasted 80 min., but I can’t say for sure. We were a little busy tasting some homebrews.
You’ll notice the aroma additions (12 oz. of wet hops) went into the boil over the course of nearly 20 minuets. We added them incrementally this way because I’d read that adding large charges of wet hops all at once can increase the possibility of grassy flavors developing in the beer. Adding them little by little somehow combats this. The bitter and flavor additions went in all at once in hop bags, making them very easy to deal with after the boil was done. And by the way… I will ALWAYS use whole-leaf hops moving forward if I have the option. I will pay more to use them. They are SO MUCH EASIER to clean up after and you’re not left with hop sludge in your wort after the boil. Though you loose some volume through it being soaked up by the whole hops, you might just gain it all back by not having to leave a bunch of sludgy wort left in the bottom of your kettle when transferring to primary. Damn that was awesome not to leave liquid of any kind in the kettle.
I did a few other things differently to increase my yield on this brew day. I had read about “whirl-pooling” online before and heard on brewery tours how the brewers will “send the wort to the whirl pool to take sediment out after the boil, but no one online had explained how homebrewers employ this tactic. When buying my supplies at Northern Brewer for this batch, I had asked about purchasing a false bottom so I could get a higher yield. The guy asked if I was whirl-pooling, and I said no. I guess you literally just take a spool and swirl the cooled wort like a whirl pool and let it sit for a few minutes before transferring it to secondary. Too obvious, right? In addition to trying that (not that I really needed to because of the whole hops I used), I purchased a kettle screen to screw into the ball valve on the inside of the brew pot. This prevented all of the whole hops left in the kettle from draining into the primary fermenter. I was worried that the hops might all stick to the sides of the screen and stop the flow. This happened slightly, but Dave was able to help get most of the liquid out just by tilting the kettle up as I held the hose going into the fermenter.
Regarding the yeast, I had planned on going with WLP001 California ale yeast for this batch, as I was really happy with the clean flavors it produced in CUJO SPICE v2.0 and it’s excellent flocculation (especially for a rye beer!). Turns out it’s quite popular though, and Northern Brewer was actually out of it when I stopped by to pick up supplies. Instead, I tried WLP051 California V ale yeast. It doesn’t attenuate quite as much and throws off a bit more of the typical fruity ale yeast characteristics. Seems like it’s still a relatively versatile, well-flocculating version of it’s cousin though, so I’m optimistic. Also, for my next batch (which will be brewed 6 days after this one – taking Friday off work) I’ll be employing the same process I used for my amber kölsch back in April, which is to say that I’ll be pitching my next batch directly on the huge (and versatile) yeast cake left over by Wet Dog. What’s the next batch gonna be? My first attempt at a Christmas beer. When all is said and done, it should be a 7-9% ABV oak-aged chocolate cherry stout. Mmmmmmmmmm… Stay tuned.