Hoptastic Brewday: Wonmisan Castle Black Wildling IPA (With Rowan Chadwick)

My friend Rowan flew back in to Korea sometime on Friday; by Saturday afternoon, he was brewing again already.

Now that’s dedication!

I invited him over to help me brew up my next beer, a “black IPA” (which may or may not end up being black) I’ve named Castle Black Wildling IPA in honor of a certain TV series Miss Jiwaku and I love. (Neither of us has read the books, though I’m sure we both will eventually.)

In any case, I had a few concepts in mind for this beer:

  • Brew up a Black IPA (also known as a Cascadian Dark Ale), preferably one too hoppy for our friend Bill to enjoy. (This is a hard, hard challenge!)
  • Use up a whole one-pound bag of pretty-old Bravo hops.
  • Brew with the cake of Brettanomyces Lambicus I had ready at the bottom of a carboy-full of ale ready to be kegged.

When Rowan arrived, we caught up a bit while messing with the recipe. We made a few changes in terms of the grain bill, calculated how much of the hops we could put into the mash, and then got the brewday going. 

Grain Bill:

  •  4.3kg Pilsner
  • 0.666kg Agave Syrup
  • 0.8kg Belgian Special B
  • 0.5kg Muscovado Sugar
  • 0.4kg Carahell
  • 0.35kg Caramunich II
  • 0.32kg Quaker Quick Oats
  • 0.225kg Belgian Biscuit Malt
  • 1.5 tsp Gypsum (mash)
We boiled the wort for an hour. The hop schedule was as follows:
Hops:
  • 115 grams Mash Hops
  • 35 grams @15 min.
  • 50 grams @10 min
  • 100 grams @5 min
  • 100 @flameout
  • 2 x 60 grams Dry Hop Addition in keg.
If that looks crazy, well, check out the photo gallery at the end of this post. It was crazy.

Mash: We tried to mash at a medium temperature of about 68C, but when we returned to the mash tun after a longer-than-expected wait (we had lunch at the time) we found it had dropped to the high 50s. I’m not sure what exactly this did to the enzymatic behaviour, but the beer may end up slightly dried than it would have with a more stable temperature. That’s fine by me.

For this brew, we did something neither of us had done before: we heavily hopped the mash. Next time I get a chance, I want to hop the mash even more aggressively, just to see what happens. When we ran off the wort, even the first runnings didn’t taste at all bitter. Weirdly, we found that the hops had a strong aroma when the mash was disturbed, but we didn’t find a lot of hop aroma in the wort itself. I do think I detected some flavors from the hops in the wort, but I’m not sure.

One of the big problems with brewing something this heavily late-hopped, with this many hops, is that the hops absorb a lot of the wort at the end. We didn’t know how much we’d lose, so I ended up adding more water into the mash tun without calculating carefully… and from my calculations, it looks like we got about 68% or 69% efficiency… but we produced an extra gallon of wort. Therefore, I’m increasing the amounts of adjuncts I’ll be adding (up to 1kg of agave syrup, and 0.6kg of Muscovado sugar); I’ll be boiling those up tomorrow and adding them before the fermentation slows down too much. They will help bring up the ABV to about 6.9%, where I’d planned for this beer, and they will also help moderate the extreme bitterness of the wort: we forgot to add these adjuncts toward the end of the boil, and so we ended up with a whole bunch of extremely bitter 1.051-ish wort.

(And just this evening, I finally strained the wort from the remaining hops left in the pot, and found we’d left behind probably 3/4 of a gallon, all told — including everything I squeezed out of the hops. I’m thinking of boiling it up, adding some adjuncts, and then fermenting that, to see what I get. It just goes to show you: if it looks like a lot of wort in a 50L pot, you probably should keep boiling it. Or… measure your strike water and sparge water…

(That said, we weren’t seriously off the target OG for our wort: we just were more efficient than expected, and had a hell of a lot more of it than expected.)

Anyway, in the end we ended up racking about six gallons of wort into the carboy and didn’t bother to aerate it. When I woke this morning, I found that the carboy cap was about to burst off — some hope debris managed to get into the carboy and had plugged up the bottom of the airlock. Right now, it’s still bubbling away at a healthy clip, though I’m raising the temperature slowly, to help the Brettanomyces express its character a little more.

While Rowan visited, we tried a couple of the ales he brought back from England:

  • The Drei Fonteinen Oude Geuze was very apply and sour, with a kind of crisp dryness, but I wasn’t nuts about the back-of-the-palate flavors: something odd was going on there. Still, the bugs were interesting so I dumped them into a keg where I have a culture languishing, ready to have some Saison dumped on top of it.
  • The Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier was very enjoyable, quite smoky but also sweet (it is after all a Marzen) and flavorful. I really enjoyed it, though perhaps I’m crazy about smoke: I imagined it would be smokier than it was, from all the reviews. Personally, I am still on a quest to make something even smokier than that in the next month or so!

All in all, it was a great brewday and I’m looking forward to seeing how this beer comes out in the end. The end, of course, is some time off, given how much dry-hopping this beer is going to need… but I figure sometime in December, we’ll be able to give it a taste and see what we think!

UPDATE (21 Nov. 2012): This beer is still fermenting, which surprises me given that it’s in my living room, where it’s relatively warm. Still, it was bubbling slowly earlier today, before I added most of the missing adjuncts boiled up in about a liter of water. (Which is to say, it was close to — but not quite — a syrup when I added it.) Within about 20 minutes, the yeast had gone wild again, and now the carboy is bubbling at about triple the rate of Soyoung’s Apple Pie beer, which is fermenting in the same room with Nottingham yeast.

Brett: it’s some hardcore stuff. And the aroma from the fermenter is very clearly pie-cherry, which has me very interested and excited to see how this brew turns out!

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