So I’ve been working on a series of beers inspired by cats I know. That sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know about me, but anyway.
Sweetie is my friend Joey’s cat. She’s a foster cat from MaxFund, seems to be some sort of snowshoe mix, and is a nice cat-blend of spunky/playful and cuddly/sweet. She also has kind of a perpetually annoyed, though super adorable, face.
I knew I wanted to make Sweetie a pale ale, because it would be a good mix into the lineup I was starting to envision, and because she seemed the hoppiest of the cats. I originally thought of doing a Sorachi Ace single-hop. I was intrigued by the idea that it imparted a lemon-drop type flavor to beers and felt like it would be a good, crisp, tart/sweet beer and would match Sweetie’s personality.
However, as I did some research, I learned that the main flavors imparted by this hop are lemon and dill and encountered more and more people reporting that the Sorachi Ace beers they’d tried were like drinking a pickle beer. Gross. I’ve tried fruitlessly to decide if there is some measurable factor that leads to one flavor or the other, like growing region, or when it is introduced to the beer, and have come up empty handed.
Sometime around brainstorming this beer, I mentioned Nelson Sauvin hops to Joey as an ingredient I was thinking of using soon, and he told me that was, in fact, his favorite hop.
I’d been considering doing some split batches recently, where I make an almost identical beer but vary one thing, as a way of teaching myself more about what different techniques and ingredients do to a beer.
I decided that I’d make a pair of pales, with the same malt bill and yeast, both with a bit of Columbus in them, but one with Sorachi Ace and one with Nelson Sauvin. I’ll try to bottle roughly even amounts of each solo beer, and a blend. Whichever one tastes the best will be the Sweetie beer. I’d love for it to be the blend, but have a hunch it might end up being the Nelson Sauvin beer. (Pipeworks made a similar hop blend in a double imperial last year, but I didn’t get to try.)
Recipe (quantity per batch):
- 2lb 2oz USA 2 row
- 4oz USA crystal 40
- US-05 1/3pkt
- .11oz Brewer’s Gold US at 60
- .2oz Columbus (.1oz at 60 and 20)
- .4oz Nelson Sauvin or Sorachi Ace (.1 oz at 20, 10, 5, 0)
- yeast nutrient
- irish moss
Mashed in all the grains at once at 161 — this went absolutely to the rim of my mash tun. I immediately realized there was no way that I’d be doing a split batch again without a larger tun or pot. This also didn’t give them much room to breathe and I think impacted my efficiency a lot. Held around 152 for 60 minutes, lauter/sparge. This was also a p.i.t.a. and was accomplished through the use of a lot of measuring devices and receptacles. In the end, I hoped I was pretty close to dividing the wort evenly between my two boil kettles. Time will show if I encountered any hot-side aeration (which may or may not matter). I hopped each kettle according to schedule. I tried my damndest to keep them at a fairly similar boil intensity. However, the two 8 quart kettles I own are not the same shape, one is flatter and wider, the other is taller and more narrow.
At the end of a 60 minute boil I added my steeping hops, and moved both to an ice bath to chill. When they had both chilled, I took gravity measurements. I’ve felt like I’m not getting the hop utilization I want lately, so rather than using a hop bag (which would’ve also been hard given the number of additions) I just tossed them in during the boil. To avoid having a ton of hop material go in the fermentor, I boiled a pair of hop bags (separate ones to avoid any flavor from either hop entering the other) and stretched this over my funnel, which itself has a second fine filter. Then I put them in fermenters, pitched the measured yeast, aerated, and took another temp to make sure I had all the numbers. Despite trying to keep them identical, the following differences occurred:
- The Sorachi (kettle had more surface area) had a higher OG by 2 points, but its volume was a bit low. I added a smidge of boiled, cooled water to get it closer to the Nelson, but didn’t want to overdo it. I found a calculator that told me that this addition had taken it down from 1.049 to 1.046, which is annoying because…
- The Nelson’s OG was 1.047. So in trying to correct volume and gravity I missed gravity again. It’s only one point, so I’m like screw it.
- The Sorachi ended up in the fermentor two degrees warmer than the Nelson. I must’ve measured in a cool part of the kettle (or a warm one of the Nelson kettle) when deciding they were the same, OR the cooled water addition was not at an equal temperature.
So to recap: Sorachi went in 1 point lower in gravity but two degrees warmer pitch than the Nelson.
Both fermentors went into the closet with my usual handtowel-plus-pie-tin evaporative cooling setup, and blowoff tubes.
By the time I went to bed the ambient temp in the closet was 69 (this is lower than it usually is in there, hence the invention of the evap-skirt) and the temp under the skirt was 58. I wasn’t worried about the low temp under the skirt since the first few days of fermentation can generate quite a bit of its own temp and the weather was scheduled to get warmer soon. The Sorachi was already showing a bit of CO2 bubble rafts on top, the Nelson was not; I attributed this to the temperature difference.
By morning both fermentors had a full, creamy krausen and were bubbling away into the blowoff vessel. The krausens were much less full of junk than I’m used to seeing, so I might do the double filter funnel again in the future.
I told them I loved them very much and left for my parents for Christmas, hoping they wouldn’t do anything stupid while I was gone.
They came out pretty good. A little sweeter and maltier than I would’ve wanted. In the future I might reduce the crystal or use a smaller amount of a darker roast. The Sorachi was pleasant, a bit herbal and citrusy; the Nelson had a nice, floral nose, but the flavor was just a gentle pale ale, nothing remarkable. Blended made for a nice beer, but the flavors got muddled overall. Pretty pleased with the end product.