Friday, May 19, 2017

Tired Hands Alien Church Clone-ish kind of thingy

The title here is misleading since this didn't exactly start that way, but after nearly two years of playing with a recipe inspired by the venerable Alien Church from Tired Hands Brewing Company I've landed on something that's a little bit me, and a little bit Ardmore PA. 

The line of Milkshake IPA's from Tired Hands garner all the attention, and while I think those are culinary masterpieces, they drink more like a cocktail than a beer to me and are a single serving beer for me. The hoppy beers that excite me most are the ones that are exceedingly drinkable, refreshing, capable of blowing your mind, all the while maintaining the ability to be an everyday beer worth a few pours in a sitting. For me, among many other beers, Alien Church ticks all those boxes. Sometimes I drink it and marvel at the pungent aromas, or the silky smooth body. Other times I realize i've thrown back 3-4 without thinking about it as I am thoroughly content and enjoying the moment...I love Alien Church.
Ed's keg pour on the left, and the Alien Church can pour on the right. Hazy, not murky or turbid, no tricks.

So now that I've expounded on my love affair with drinkable beer, how did I arrive at the recipe below? As I mentioned earlier, I originally set out to make a clone recipe for Alien Church but after 8-10 iterations of the recipe and coming to grips with the fact that I have literally zero inside info on the beers production, I started dialing it in on my own preferences. That all said, this beer is very very similar to Alien Church, see photo below for lack of color differences, whatever the hell that's worth. My version is brewed with Oats, hopped with Mosaic, Citra, Chinook, Centennial and Columbus, just like Alien Church. It's fermented out with London Ale III, it'
s ~7% ABV, same (we think) as Alien Church. Similar ingredients, it tastes similar, smells similar, and looks identical to Alien Church, why isn't it a clone? Meh, I suppose it is to an extent but I made a few personal tweaks that I am pretty sure Jean at THBC does not do, but the end result is very Church like so maybe it is a clone.
As homebrewers, we need a better source for Thomas Fawcett Malted Oats by the sack.

The major difference in my recipe and what I believe THBC does with Alien Church is the type of Oats used. Over the course of the many iterations of this recipe the percentage of Oats, and the type of Oats, have changed a bunch. Ratios and timings of hops have changed as well but those tweaks never proved as noticeable as the Oats. Last summer Jean revealed on an episode of Steal This Beer that THBC uses Thomas Fawcett Malted Oats (TFMO), which are awesome, but when I started this I didn't know for sure that they used them so I started with Flaked Oats. 

Yittle bit a dis, yittle bit a dat.

In my experience there is a threshold where too much flaked oats can dominate a beer's flavor profile, on the other hand, the malted oats you can use at much higher proportions. When using only Pale malt and TFMO in the grist I feel the beers body is a little less full/creamy, and the flavor contribution from the flaked oats is missing for me. So after brewing batches with %30 Flaked, 50% Malted, 20% Flaked, etc etc, I found myself a nice little balance when using a Pale Malt base and both Flaked and Malted Oats. As I mentioned before, I have no insiders information on this beer, so Alien Church might have more than just Pale Malt and Oats (kinda doubt it) but this base is perfect to smash hops into.
Oh yea, I am full on BIAB at home now. I'll never go back, I hate wort making, love the cold side.

Alien Church has been out for a few years now, and after the many different batches I've tasted I always had a tough time pinpointing any one of the hops the stand out as predominant, as if thats an easy thing to do. But it kind of makes me think it fluctuates, or has fluctuated, a little but I'm just guessing. The below hop schedule is what I've used over the last 3-4 batches and has resulted in a solid Alien Church-esque bouquet and flavor profile. To the point that you could be tricked into thinking its is AC, both exuding tropical fruit aromas and a restrained but balanced bitterness. One thing I have found is Alien Church has a slightly more dank character than a lot of NEIPA style beers, something I have been able to hit with a small amount of CTZ in the dry hop and whirlpool. I've played with it in this recipe and others and I really like the subtle dank character it adds in the finish and aroma.

Both beers are littered with tropical fruit aromatics, while mine has a slightly stickier ickier aroma. Upfront bitterness on the two are very similar, it hits the tongue then wafts away, both beers finish with a slight bitterness but mine is more pronounced and heavier handed. The silky smooth body of both mine and AC are very similar, though I like to tell myself mine is fuller bc of the flaked Oats, but I can't say I can pick that out in a blind tasting. But I do taste the Oat difference in the two, maybe I'm using more Oats than THBC but I kind of doubt that. Overall the beers are very similar, but mine does stray into its own zone at times, with mine being a little more bitter. Both insanely drinkable beers, perfect this time of year, especially now that its 90F on the east coast.

So here it is, this is not the best clone in the world, this is just a tribute. 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.82 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.067 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 7.2%
Estimated Color: 5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 63 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

67.8% - 9lbs 8oz - Pale Ale Malt
14.3% - 2lbs - Thomas Fawcett Malted Oats
14.3% - 2lbs - Flaked Oats
  3.6% - 8oz - Table Sugar *late boil addition*

First Wort Hop - 0.75 oz CTZ [14.00 %] -  22 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 2.00 oz Mosaic [12.90 %] 
Boil:  5min - 1.50 oz Chinook [12.00 %] 
Boil:  5min - 1.00 oz CTZ  [14.00 %]
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 1.75 oz Citra [12.70 %]
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.75 oz Mosaic [12.90 %]
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.25 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.00 oz CTZ [14.00 %] 
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.50 oz Chinook [12.00 %] 
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.50 oz Citra [12.70 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.50 oz Mosaic [12.90 %] 
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.00 oz CTZ [14.00 %]
*Dry hops were split into two additions, half in primary during fermentation and half in a dry hop keg*


Mash: Full volume BIAB
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152.0 F 

Misc: 45 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.27, Water Profile 2:1 Chloride:Sulfate ( 132ppm Ca, 19ppm Mg, 7ppm Na, 147ppm Cl, 74ppm SO4). Some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary.

Notes: Fermentation temp was 64f for 5 days then bumped to 70f for another 5 days, on the 3rd day of active fermentation half of the dry hops were added directly to primary, the other half was added in a dry hop keg on the 11th day. Tapped 14 days from brewday.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How in the hell did I weasel my way into this magical experience?

Have you ever live one of those moments that while you know is really happening but just feels so surreal that that you question your own sanity? Something that you've maybe dreamed of for years, see others partake in, but are never convinced you'll be able to experience first hand? This happend to me just two weekends ago, while sitting in the back of a hot, steamy, box truck. Sometimes we sat in silence, sometimes we cracked bad jokes, but for some of us first timers it was a very unique experience. Here's some of that moment...

Oh that's just a few of us filling a coolship with 15bbl of turbid mashed wort in the back of a box truck in Southern New Jersey, no biggie. This came about because I successfully weaseled myself and Kelly Green Brewing Co.'s way into this dreamy collaboration with James & Melissa of The Referend Bier Blendery, Alex from Troon Brewing, and Amanda and Sean from Tuckahoe Brewing Co. who hosted the brew day.  After a few weeks of emails, and an in person planning meeting over pizza and beers, we all met up at Tuckahoe Brewing Co at the ripe hour of 7 am two weekends ago. 

I had worked on a much more detailed blog post recapping the brewday, but James from The Referend did such a fantastic job on a post of his own that I found it redundant so I dialed this back to my own musings on the experience. James is also a much more eloquent writer than I, and his buddy Justin takes some snazzy photos to spice it up even more. Please visit his blog post and marvel at it for a deeper look at how the day went especially since he pulled most of the weight on the day.

We set out to brew an all New Jersey ingredients Saison type thing, turbid mashed with hay and malts from Rabbit Hill Malt, coolship'd, then barrel aged with each breweries mixed cultures in their own barrels, 100% spontaneous in the case of The Referend. Once mature we plan to all reconvene to blend and package this Biere de Coupage in bottles for sale. The wait on this one is going to incredibly difficult, but like anything of value, well worth the time invested.

Sean making a nest of hay in the mash tun, which we then stirred all up mashing in anyway.
Shame, he did such a nice job ;)

Sean's nest.

Sean's nest destroyed.

Unmalted Spelt that Melissa and James harvested themselves with a real live Scythe!
Which makes the beer taste better of course.

It was an early start to the day and lasted long into the evening hours. The mash was super thick upon the first infusion of water and everyone took their turns stirring it. What made that stirring job eve more difficult was the hay substrate we added to the mash, once wet it got pretty stringy and wrapped around the paddle. The smell that engulfed the brewhouse throughout the mash was something to behold, really smelled of a farm due the use of the hay. We had hoped the hay would maybe add a rusticity to the wort, some added sugars and maybe aid in the lauter, tough to say for sure but it was certainly an interesting mash. Very milky, gooey, due to the hay, raw wheat/Spelt, turbid schedule.  At least that's what we're telling everyone because frankly we dont know why it looked like it did.

Super milky, starchy first runnings after the thick 113F mash rest.

Some nicely aged NJ grown hops from a farm nearby The Referend called The Fir Farm.

It was a long mash, combined with a three hour boil making for a lengthy brewday, but a great learning experience for me. Aside from the contribution of my mixed culture and shoveling the grain out of the mash tun with Melissa, I just kind of stood around and watched everyone else do hard work. But I did make two key contributions, I smashed the digital thermometer we relied on to measure the mash temp, end result can be seen here

But for serious, it was a super fun day hanging with some new friends. We had more pizza, shared some beers, both ours and others, and hopefully made some good beers, time will tell. But the wort that went into the coolship tasted mighty unique to me, malty, some hop aroma, but a nice slate for our individual cultures to express in. 

Here are a few keys points that everyone needs to know about this collaboration, inside jokes may abound.
  • Trenton Sheet metal is located in Trenton
  • I can eat a lot of bagels, and am an expert at spreading cream cheese, the sound effects are free of charge.
  • Sean and Amanda made a Barleywine, boiled for 9 hours, aged in a Rye whiskey barrel that is totally mind blowing. Look for it at Tuckahoe.
  • I only eat pizza when I hang out with this crew, except when I eat bagels.
  • Don't leave digital thermometers anywhere near me, I resist urges to smash them on a daily basis. You've been warned, I should have warned Sean.
  • Hilary and Blair from Rabbitt Hill Malt are good peoples, please seek out their malts, i'll be using them shortly.
  • Luckily Alex was there to pitch our mixed cultures the day after, James is out of practice but assured me Alex is an expert yeast pitcher.

James filling his coolship with sweet wort, someone tell James to get out before he burns himself!