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Sunday, 21 June 2015

AG #3 - Lemon & Cardamom Hopfenweisse...

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year you will probably be aware of new Manchester super brewery, Cloudwater. They've hit the ground running with some truly brilliant beers, but one in particular really stood out on the debut lineup for me, the Bergamot Hopfenweisse, a really fresh wheat beer with a healthy addition of Bergamot fruit. At a recent ‘Meet the Brewer’ event, Cloudwater’s co-founder and head brewer, James Campbell, revealed that the original plan was to use tangerines, but unable to source any in time for brewday, they decided to go with a seasonal citrus fruit, Bergamot. I was so taken with this beer I decided I would pencil a Hopfenweisse into my next available brewday.

Not being content with just throwing hops in to my brews, I thought I’d would follow suit and I too would include a fruit addition. I had mentally shelved an idea of adding lemon and cardamon to a future brew, it works so well in cakes, why not a beer? That day had just arrived! To accentuate the lemon I went with my old faithful hop, Sorachi Ace, with a simple 10 minute addition that worked so well with previous beers. To keep things even more simple, I went for a grist consisting of a straight 50-50 split of Wheat and Vienna, 3 kilograms each. So far it looked like this was going to be an easy brewday. To throw in with the hop addition I had the rind of three lemons, along with three whole cardamom pods.

When the brewday arrived I endeavoured not to fall for the same mistakes as my first two brews on this new kit (one day I shall stop referring to it as ‘new’). Last brewday I had learned that without some major tweaking, the strike temp calculators I was using weren't going to help me, so I had to rely on my gut instinct. I added two litres of boiling water to the mash tun to warm up the pot whilst I was getting the HTL up to temperature. Knowing how much my mash was out with the previous attempts, I took a punt and bumped the strike temp up to 80°C. I was aiming for a 66°C mash and that’s exactly what I got! Hurrah! Something went right!

Everything else went according to plan.

When it came to cooling, this was the first opportunity I’d had to test drive my new copper coil. Even though it has a large footprint, the coil still protruded out of the wort, which was expected as it was built for 50-60 litre batches. Even still, it managed to get 29 litres of wort down to pitchable temperatures within around 30 minutes which I was pleased with and it gave a good indication that it’ll handle a 60 litre batch with ease.

I pitched the yeast in at 20°C and set the controller to keep it there for a couple of days, then whacked it up to 23 for a few more days. Taste-wise, there was some definite lemon tones coming through with the Sorachi backing it up with bitterness, but the cardamom was severely lacking. Thankfully I had planned to ‘dry hop’ with yet more lemon rind and cardamom a few days before bottling, this certainly did the trick! I had worried that the lemon might come through a bit too sharp, like neat lemon juice (or a radler), but thankfully it comes through more akin to a lemon cake, which is kind of what I was looking for. As for the cardamom, it is definitely shining through now, but playing nicely in the same space as the citrus, giving it some extra dimension.

I was in two minds whether to enter this into the Brewdog Homebrew Competition as it was due to be bottled on the morning I was planning to submit my entries, meaning it would be carbing whilst in their possession. Risky I know, but I had nothing to lose, so I entered it and hoped for the best. Thankfully my punt paid off as it actually ended up winning the ‘Best Bitters’ category, which was basically for any beer between 3.4-5.4%! Result!

Grain Bill...
3 kg Vienna (50%)
3 kg Wheat (50%)

Hop Bill...
100 g Sorachi Ace Leaf (14.5% Alpha) 10 Minutes (Boil)

Misc Bill...
Rind of 3 lemons @ 10 Minutes (Boil)
3 Cardamom pods @ 10 Minutes (Boil)
Rind of 3 lemons @ 2 days (Dry hop)
4 Cardamom pods @ 2 days (Dry hop)

Single step infusion at 66°C for 90 Minutes
Fermented for 2 days at 20°C with White Labs Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (WPL300), then raised to 23°C for 3 days.

OG: 1.050
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5%