Friday, July 26, 2013

Centennial Pale Ale - Conan vs. Chico

In October of 2012 a friend visited The Alchemist and picked me up a case of the world class Heady Topper. Obviously I was excited to drink the beer, but also because I had just recently read Derek's article at Bear Flavored about culturing the yeast up from a can of Heady. After a bit more reading I learned this proprietary yeast strain called "Conan" was what John Kimmich, Brewer/Owner of The Alchemist, claims is the key to making Heady Topper the great beer that it is.

I have been using Conan for my hoppy beers exclusively for a few months now, 6 generations, but I've been meaning to do a split batch to compare the profile of the strain to something a bit more clean. Each beer has had a distinctive peachy aroma that reminds of you Heady Topper, its attenuative and really lets the hops shine, its like steroids for hops. But if I am going to go through the trouble of caring for this strain until I get more I want to see how it compares to what is readily available to see if its worth it.

At the same time I have been trying to dial in a standard Pale Ale grist over the last few months, something I can use a for all pale ales and just mix up the hopping from batch to batch. My last batch had a bit too much Crystal, so I dialed it back in favor of more Vienna. I am leaning towards an 80/20 2-row/Vienna split but went with a minor tweak for now.

I had a lb of 2012 Centennials in the freezer so I went with only Centennial on the hot side, with some Cascade and Columbus in the dry hop. Centennial is my favorite (non trendy) hop available, I love the fruity, citrusy notes of the hop even by itself. Cascade always pairs nicely with Centennial and the Columbus should add a slight dankness for complexity.

Brewday was pretty uneventful, I hit my numbers for the most part. I whirlpooled and cooled the wort to 190f then shut off the chiller and added the Aroma Steep hops and continued to whirlpool for 30 minutes. The wort dropped to 177f over the 30 minute hop stand and I turned the chiller back on to cool to pitching temps. The wort was split into 3 fermenters, 2 Better Bottles and 1 glass carboy each pitched with their own cultures.

Tasting Notes.

Brett Trois version racking into a pin to be served at NHC 2013 Club Night.
Unfortunately I won't get to do a side by side with this one and the other 2.

Brew day: 5/18/2013
Kegged: 6/8/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 16.41 gal
Post Boil Volume: 14.66 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 14.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 13.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.043 SG
Estimated Color: 5.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

79.2% - 19 lbs US 2-Row 
14.6% - 3.8 lbs Vienna

4.2% - 1 lb Carapils
2.1% - 8oz Crystal 60L

Boil: 60min - 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 15.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] -  15 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablets + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Boil: 5min - 2.75 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 1.8 IBUs
Boil: 0min - 6.45 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 0 IBUs - 30 min Aroma Steep
Dry Hops: 1oz Cascade and 0.5oz of Columbus for 5 days - per Batch

1L Starter - 
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (WLP644) harvested slurry
500ml Starter - 1.0 pkg California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
200ml Conan Ale Yeast Slurry

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152 F

Fly Sparge 11.79 gallons of 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2 for each carboy. Philadelphia filtered tap water plus 2tbsp of Gypsum in the mash.

Notes: Each fermenter got ~4.75 gallons of wort and their own pitch of each strain.

Tasting notes: 8/6/13


  1. Awesome experiment, been meaning to get around to something like this myself eventually. Looking forward to reading about how it turns out!

  2. Cool thanks Derek, and thanks for the inspiration on Conan. Ive shared it with a ton of people since I first cultured it up. I actually emailed Al Buck from ECY in November and offered to share it with him, he said he didnt know Heady was unfiltered but would culture it up himself. Fast forward to today and now even he is selling it!

  3. How did the Brett Trois version go over at NHC?

    1. Spoiler Alert! It was the best of the 3, big tropical fruit aromas, moderate bitterness, soft carbonation, dry but not too thin, and refreshing. It was much better from the pin then I had expected, I got some great comments on it as I was pouring for a good 2-3 hours at our booth. John Palmer tried the Chico version and I was too busy pouring that I didn't get a chance to ask him what he thought.

      It was a shame though bc we had far too much beer, and the pin did not kick. There was about 1.5 gallons left in it that ended up going down the drain. If it was my pin I would have taken it home and racked it to a keg but it wasn't so I couldn't.

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