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A Taste Of Aloha – Cloning Kona’s Lemongrass Luau

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Introduction

Last year I went to Hawaii. For the first time. With me came my wife, my son, and my mother. Yes, my mother! My mother never wants to be  ANYWHERE other than Austria (her home), but three days into our vacation in Kona on the Big Island she said: “I could live here.” I was shocked but not surprised. Hawaii is… unique to say the least. The fauna, the flora the food the ocean, and the way of life. Coming to Kona, for me, also meant to visit the Kona brewery. My family and I patronized the excellent restaurant and the next day my wife and I took the brewery tour.

At the end of the tour I wanted to take a metal growler home with me. The growler came with a beer of my choice and I chose one I had never heard before: Lemongrass Luau.

It is a blonde ale, cloudy, light in color and body, with a restrained hop bitterness and a citrusy finish. It was just the right thing for a hot Hawaiian day. The growler soon had a disturbingly hollow ring to it and to my disappointment I could not find the beer back here in California.

So what is a brewer to do… he clones it!

First come the investigation.

Kona themselves tell you quite a bit about this beer online:

  • It is made from a simple malt bill of two row and wheat ( I guessed that from the cloudy appearance)
  • Turbinado sugar is used
  • Hawaiian Ginger adds a “pop” (what the hell is a “pop” of ginger?)
  • Hops are Williamette, Northern Brewer, Pacific Gem
  • The beer is filtered through lemongrass that is grown at brewery employees’ homes
  • ABV: 5, IBU:20

Planning

Here is my screenshot form Beersmith

Malt

For the grain bill I decided on at least 20% wheat to produce the cloudy appearance but not brew a hefeweizen. The rest is made of two row.

Hops

Since Pacific Gems are mostly bittering hops, I decided to drop them and get the bitterness from Willamette and the aroma from Northern Brewer.

Adjuncts

The amount of sugar was a guess. The body of the beer is light, but not too light. So I would add around half a pound of Turbinado and tweak that amount in future batches.

Yeast

For a blonde ale I chose White Labs WLP0001 California Ale, for a clean fermentation.

Water

Since I was using very light colored grains I added 20% distilled water to the Arrow Head Mountain spring water.

Other ingredients

The ginger was difficult. I did not remember any ginger flavor in the beer but I could have missed a subtle tone. Under no circumstance I wanted any hot taste, so I decided on 1 oz in the last 10 minutes of the boil for a batch of 2.5 gal

The lemongrass would go in the secondary. I estimated three stalks should do it.

Brewing

Mashing and Boiling

  • I heated 2 gallons of water to 154F. The mash settled at 150F and was kept at that temperature for 60 minutes.
  • The ph kept at 5.3
  • I sparged with 178F water and collected 3.7 gallons.
  • The wort was boiled with the first addition of Willamette at 60 minutes.
  • Second hop addition was the Northern Brewer at 30 minutes
  • 10 minutes before the end I added the sliced ginger in a hop sock, Fermentis yeast food, and the Turbinado sugar.
  • The last aroma hop addition was added after flameout.

Cooling, Settling, Oxygenation, Pitching

  • The wort was cooled for 30 minutes in an icebath.
  • Then it was transferred to a settling bucket for 30 minutes.
  • The original gravity seems to be lower than expected. 1.046 rather than 1.051.
  • After settling it was dribbled slowly into a 3 gallon Speidel Fermenter to oxygenate the wort
  • The WLP001 was pitched and stirred.

Icebottles will keep the fermenter between 60 and 70 F

Update Brewday +1

The wort shows signs of fermentation right away

Update Brewday +4

After 4 days of active fermentation the airlock is slowing down. I have acquired 3 stalks of Lemograss. The stalks are washed with vegetable soap , cut and put into a hopsock. I soak the hopsock for 30 seconds in a Star San solution.

Brewing a Traditional Bock

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Introduction

My brewing setup

Bock is one of those beers that I could drink year round. There are definitely beers that adhere to certain seasons: a light summer ale for a hot day, a thick stout for a winter evening, and so on. Bock, in its big maltiness, is like a celebration, whenever it might take place. Whenever somebody brings a bock to a get together, there is no question what is to be expected: a intense malty flavor with an enhanced level of alcohol.

Brewing a bock is almost a meditation for me. Everything is slowed down. The high amount of grain takes time to heat, mash, sparge and the wort is noticeably sweeter than the worts of other beers. A bock is a celebration of malt and hops, a slow, yet very drinkable reminder of past brewing practices. What it is not, is a race for ABVs. The alcohol should lend a warming note to the beer, and never turn the bock into rocket fuel.

I am following the recipe for Traditional Bock from Jamil Zainasheff in Brew Your Own. Wherever I deviated from the recipe I have made a note.

Planning

Malt

The majority of a bock is Munich malt, with Pilsner making up the rest and some specialty grains thrown into the mix to enhance the malt flavor.  German malts are, of course, the preference here.

Water

Here it gets tricky. For darker beers, water with a higher mineral content and higher alkalinity is preferable. I have decided to forego bottled water and use our tap water, for which I have a water report. The numbers give me some estimates what to expect.

Hops

Bittering is a background note. Hallertau Mittelfrueh is preferred. Jamil’s recipe uses Magnum hops and I use that in my recipe as well. Jamil’s recipe is formulated to 23 IBUs. I have raised the number to 24 IBUs.

Yeast

There are many liquid yeasts that produce malty beers. I don’t have time to do a yeasts starter and do not want to go through the expense to pitch six vials of liquid yeast instead. The answer is my good old dry yeast workhorse Fermentis W34/70 Lager yeast. According to Mr Malty’s pitching rate calculator (http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html) I need 2.7 satchets.

Recipe

I am using beersmith for this recipe. When I put in Jamil’s numbers, it put the OG way over the top of the recommended number to 1.076. I reduced the grain bill a bill to match 1.073.

The screenshot above shows the values in beersmith. I am on the higher end of ABV, and the lower end of the color range.

The mash schedule follows Jamil’s single infusion mash of 155F, but I will add a decoction at the end for some color and flavor additions.

  1. 163F for dough-in to target 155F – hold 75 min
  2. Decoction of a third of the mash – boil for 20 min
  3. Add back decoction and raise slowly to 168F for mashout

Brewing

I am using a 10 gal Blichmann Boilermaker as mashtun with a false bottom. The boiling kettle is 8 gallons.

Mashing

I prepare the tap water by dissolving a campden tablet in 9 gal of water to disperse the Chlorine.

  1. Mash water is heated to 163F, dough in lowers the temperature to 157F, and soon to 155F.
  2. The first pH reading comes to 5.0. I am targeting between 5.3 and 5.5 pH. Over the entire mash I keep adding Calcium carbonate to the mash in small quantities –  31 grams in all. The pH will not rise and will remain at 5.0
  3. After 75 minutes I pull the decoction – one third of the thick mash.

    The decoction

  4. I boil the decoction for 20 minutes and add it back to the main mash.
  5. Slowly the temperature is raised to 168 for mashout.

Sparging

After a vorlauf to set the grainbed, I sparge with 4 gallons of 175F water until I collect 6.7 gal of wort. The pH of the wort is 5.3 at the end of collection. The pre-boil gravity is 1.057, one point over the beersmith prediction.

Boiling

The boil time is 90 min. After 30 minutes I add the Magnum hop pellets. It is the only hop addition. 15 min before the end of boil I add the Irish moss, at the 10 minute mark one capsule of Servomyces yeast nutrient.

After boiling the wort has a nice, golden honey color

Chilling, Settling, Aerating

The wort is chilled for one hour in an icebath to 64F and then transferred to a settling tank.

The icebath

After one hour in the tank a thick layer of solids have precipitated out of the wort. I slowly dribble the wort into a plastic carboy to aerate it.

Aeration

Pitching

Three sachets (11.5g a piece) of W34/70 are rehydrated at 76F and pitched. The carboy is placed in a fermentation cooler bag and held at 50F-55F

Update Brew Day +1

Signs of fermentation are visible on the surface.

Update Brew Day +2

The bubbler on the carboy has started moving

Update Brew Day +3

The wort is fermenting vigorously

Update Brew Day +6

The fermentation is slowing considerably. I am raising the temperature to 61 for d-rest.

Update Brew Day +9

Fermentation has stopped. Im lowering the temperature into the 50ies.

Brewing a Bohemian (Czech) Pilsner

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Introduction

Sometimes tasks that seem to be overwhelmingly complicated are actually quite simple. And then there is the flipside: tasks that look like a cakewalk, have hidden complications that make us regret our earlier assessment. So what could be easier than take a few pounds of Pilsner malt, some hops, and yeast and brew a Pilsner? Well … brewing a Pilsner is not that difficult, I’ll admit that. Brewing a GOOD Pilsner however, that’s another story.

What makes a good Pilsner? Or better –  what makes a good Bohemian (or Czech in export markets) Pilsner?

Well, there is the robust bitterness, that is not harsh, but very smooth and drinkable. There is the grainy taste of Pilsner malt and thicker, more complex malt character. The color is light, but can lean to golden and the appearance should be clear. The Czech Saaz hops have infused the beer with a light, floral spiciness, that tickles the nose and the tongue, but the bitterness does not linger.

This is a cold beer for a warm summer day, sitting in the shade of a tree on wooden benches, a beer to be enjoyed slowly as

A Munich Biergarten

the wind ruffles the leaves above and the grass below, and conversations turn to anything else but work and mundane worries. Pilsners can very easily be noble dinner beers, but for me, the Bohemian Pilsner, has an unbreakable link to Biergartens and everything that is conveyed by the untranslatable German word “Gemuetlichkeit”.

Brewing a beer that evokes all these images puts a lot of pressure on the brewer. Skill and technique are big factors in achieving the balance between maltiness, bitterness, and drinkability. But it is also a question of  procuring the right raw materials, because Bohemian Pilsner, as many beers, is very much a product of its original environment.

Planning

Constructing a Pilsner means going back to the time and place where it all started. In 1842, Josef Groll brewed the first Pilsner in the city of Plzen (Pilsen) in Bohemia . But more about that in the History of the Bohemian Pilsner. Pilsen water is is especially low in minerals and that softness lowers the harshness of the hop bitterness and rounds out the flavor.

For hops Groll used Red Zatec (or Czech Saaz). These spicy floral hops were so highly priced in former times, that smuggling their rhizomes was punishable by death.

The basemalt was Moravian barley, that was only lightly kilned and made for a light, clear, flavorful beer.

Water

In order to replicate the soft brewing water of the Pilsen area, I dilute Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, with 50% distilled water. Arrowhead does not give exact water tables for their Mountain Spring Water, but only ranges. By Diluting it with 50% distilled water, I should soften the water enough to come close to the Pilsen water.

Hops

Czech Saaz hops are readily available and I will target a bittering level of 37 IBU. Bohemian Pilsner ranges from 35 to 45 and I am trying to balance the flavor in the middle with an emphasis on the aroma addition.

Malt

Weyermann produces a slightly undermodified Bohemian Floor Malted Pilsner (38 on the Kohlbach index). I could try a step mash without a decoction, but in this case, to emphasize the malt component, I will use a double decoction mash.

In addition I will use 5% light Munich, and 5% Carapils for mouthfeel.

Yeast

I chose White Labs WLP802 Czech Budovice yeast for this Pilsner. It has a malty fermentation profile and should fit a Bohemian Pilsner perfectly.

Recipe

For recipe formulation I am using Beersmith. The volume is scaled from 5 gal to an experimentation batch of 2.5 gal.

The screenshot above shows that I am targeting the upper end of the OG. The bittering units however will be on the lower end. The beer will be malty, but not too bitter.

The mash will be a double decoction:

  1. 145F for the dough in step – hold 20 min
  2. First decoction, raise to 154 – hold 20 min
  3. Boil decoction for 20 min
  4. Add decoction back and raise mash to 154F – hold 30 min
  5. Second decoction boil for 10 minutes
  6. Add second decoction back and raise to 168F for mashout

Brewing

I am using a 10 gal Blichmann Boilermaker as mash tun with a false bottom. The boiling kettle is 8 gallons.

Mashing

  1. 11 qts are  heated in the mash tun to 151F. Dough in settles the temperature at 143F. I raise the temperature to 145F, holding it there for 20 minutes
  2. Within those 20 min I pull a small liquid sample and check the ph with a strip. It is at  5.1.
  3. After 20 min I pull the first decoction (approx. half of the thick mash). The main mash is held at 145F. The grains in the decoction pot are very light.
  4. The decoction is heated to 154F and held there for 20 minutes. The temperature is hard to control in decoction and it escalates to 160F. I turn the heat off and stir it down to 158F.
  5. The decoction is brought to a boil and is boiled for 20 minutes. At the end the grains are noticeably darker and the wort is very sweet from the Maillard reaction
  6. I add the decoction back to the main mash and rise it to 154. The mash is held for 30 minutes.
  7. I pull a second decoction (approx. ¼ of the thick mash). The decoction is boiled for 10 minutes and added back to the main mash. The grains in the decoction are now noticeably darker.
  8. The main mash is raised to 168F for mashout.

Sparging

The sparging water, same as the mash water is diluted 50:50 with distilled water. I recirculate the wort for 5 minutes to settle the grain bed and sparge with 175F water until I have collected 4.3 gal. The ph of the collected wort is at 5.3 and the gravity settles at 1.037.

Boiling

The time for the boil is 90 minutes due to the fact that the majority of the grain bill is Pilsner malt and Dimethylsulfide is present.

4 hop additions are added according to schedule (see Beersmith screenshot above). At 15 minutes before the end 1 tsp of Irish moss is added to the boils and 10 minutes a capsule of yeast nutrients.

Chilling, Settling, Aerating

The wort is chilled for 40 minutes in an icebath, down to 49F. Then I transfer it to a settling bucket and add a gallon of 50% water diluted with distilled water. The OG is now 1.048.  For the next hour, solids precipitate out of the wort. They layer of solids can be easily seen in the picture below as line near the bottom of the bucket.

My fermenter for small batches is a Mr Beer keg. To aerate the wort, I dribble it slowly from the settling bucket into the fermenter. Afterwards the fermenter goes into the fridge to lower the temperature.

Pitching

At 50F I pitch two vials of the liquid yeast. A starter is recommended, but due to time constraints I have to double up on the yeast instead.

The fermenter is now placed in a cooler and held as close to 50F as possible.

Update – Brewday Plus 5

Yeast took 56 hrs to start showing signs of fermentation. Wort now has a tightly laced foam crown on top. Holdeng at 50-53F.

Standby for updates.

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