Tasting Notes: Alex’s Amber and BVIP

We brewed our Imperial Amber Ale October 29, hoping to replicate the success of our August brew. The clarity was decreased slightly (okay, it is still a pretty clear beer, just not so clear that you can read a car’s license plate through it). Changes between the brews were

  1. Cascade went from whole hops to pellets. We wanted pellets originally, but our local home brew shop did not have pellets in stock when we brewed in August.
  2. Went from 1/2 tablet Whirlfloc to 1 tablet. This may be the cause of our clarity issue, since too much Whirlfloc can be a bad thing in regard to clarity.
Alex's Imperial Amber on the left and the Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter on the right.
Alex’s Imperial Amber on the left and the Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter on the right.

We are still very happy with Alex’s Imperial Amber. Hop aroma contributes a floral/citrus character; there is also malt and a dried cherry component to the aroma profile. Due to a over vigorous boil, our yield was slightly reduced, so all we can do is enjoy a home brew and make some more.

If we manage to brew this for a third time and achieve similar results, a good beer brewing streak will be established.

We brewed our base Imperial Porter recipe October 22 hemming and hawing over the addition of vanilla and bourbon. We decided to go for it and added vanilla beans at secondary fermentation and bourbon at packaging (~68 mL bourbon/gallon beer).

We did our initial tasting while we were both suffering head colds and were disappointed in how it turned out. Not much roasted character, hardly a hint of vanilla, and just tasted thin. Then our sinuses cleared, and what a difference a clear nose makes.

The roast character was immediately apparent, the mouth feel was fuller. The vanilla was more present, but there is room to add more. The bourbon mellowed nicely after a week with the beer; next time we brew this beer we want to impart bourbon character without adding bourbon or aging in a barrel (bourbon barrel pieces in secondary?).

The porter had a third taster. The HVAC guy saw our brewing equipment in the basement and got to jawing with Dave. Turns out the HVAC guy loves porters and was more than happy to taste test ours. He likes a little more vanilla character (we concur), but overall enjoyed the beer.

We are very happy beer drinkers with both of these beers.

October 29, 2016: Amber Ale

We are attempting to replicate our success from out last Amber Ale brew.

Grain bill:

  • 10 lbs 2-row domestic (Hops and Berries, Fort Collins, CO)
  • 1 lbs 2-row pale
  • 1 lbs Crystal 75L

Hops (Pellet):

  • 2 oz Magnum 12.4% alpha acids, pellets
  • 2 oz Amarillo 8.2% alpha acids, pellets
  • 2 oz Cascade 6.5% alpha acids, pellets


  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#1001271, mfg 9/27/2016)


  • Starting gravity: 1.070
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 73%
  • Final gravity: 1.002
  • Approximate %ABV: 8.798
  • Approximate IBUs: 108.1 (Rager)/109.5 (Tinseth)/11.4(Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner and Homebrewing.com IBU calculators.

Procedure Highlights: We transferred our strike water to the mash tun using a silicon hose and lost less heat than we had anticipated. The end result was we mashed in at 73 degrees Celsius. We quickly added ice and brought the temperature down to 67 degrees Celsius, which was lower than our target of 69 degrees Celsius.

The wort was oxygenated for 45 seconds prior to pitching the yeast slurry. The yeast starter culture was cold crashed after approximately 18 hours of growth in 10% DME (w/v) media. The cold crash was to arrest metabolism and settle the yeast so excess liquid could be decanted.

Fermentation profile for our Amber Ale. Such happy yeast!
Fermentation profile for our Amber Ale. Such happy yeast!

After a week in the primary fermenter (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermenter and kept at approximately 19 degrees Celsius (ambient temperature) for 48 hours. The beer was sampled and no acetaldehyde character was detected. The fermenter was then transferred to -2 degrees Celsius freezer for the cold crash.


  • A vigorous boil resulted in a lower volume of sweet wort.
  • Our efficiency was similar to the last time we brewed our Amber Ale.
  • The lower volume of sweet wort resulted in a slightly higher original gravity (1.070 vs 1.065). This resulted in an approximately 0.7% increase in ABV.

October 22, 2016: Imperial Porter

We have returned to our Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter recipe that we enjoyed in California. We are looking forward to this beer and hope we aren’t disappointed.

Grain bill:

  • All grains were purchased at Hops and Berries in Fort Collins, CO.
  • 12 lbs 2 row domestic
  • 2.75 lbs Munich 15L
  • 1.5 lbs Brown Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Chocolate Malt
  • 1 lb Crystal 120L
  • 1 lb Crystal 60L

Hops (Pellet):

  • 0.375 oz Northern Brewer 7.3% alpha acids
  • 0.875 oz Chinook 11.9% alpha acids


  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#1005271, mfg 9/27/2016)


  • Starting gravity: 1.080
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 85%
  • Final gravity: 1.015
  • Approximate %ABV: 8.316
  • Approximate IBUs: 39 (Rager)/27 (Tinseth)/38(Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner and Homebrewing.com IBU calculators.


  • The city of Loveland has great water. We will pass the water through an activated charcoal filter to remove any chlorine that may be present.
Brew day set up!
Brew day set up!

Procedure: Yeast was propagated in 1.2 L of media (1:10 DME:water) in a 2L flask with stir bar that had been sanitized with Star-San. Media was inoculated from Wyeast Smack Pack. Propagation culture was grown at room temperature with stirring for 16 hours.

Strike temperature was 78 degrees Celsius. A ~2.5:1 water to grist ratio (L:kg) was achieved with 22 liters of water. Mash in temperature was 69 degrees Celsius, 1 degree above target. The mash was fly sparged at 74 degree Celsius until the volume of sweet wort in the boil kettle was approximately 10 gallons. Hydrometer reading of the last wort remaining in the mash tun was 4.0 Brix.

Sweet wort was brought to a vigorous boil and boiled for 90 minutes. All hop addition times are listed as time remaining in the boil. Chinook – 60 minutes; Northern brewer, 1 tablet Whirlfloc – 10 minutes. After whirlpooling and allowing the trub to settle, the hopped wort was cooled to 19 degrees Celsius with a counter-flow plate chiller with a recirculating ice/water slurry. The hopped wort was oxygenated. The yeast starter culture was immediately pitched into hopped wort.  The fermenter was placed in an incubator with temperature monitoring only, until 22 degrees Celsius  was reached. Temperature control was then set in cooling mode, with 20 degrees Celsius being the maximum temperature.

Fermentation profile of some very happy yeast.

After a week in the primary fermenter (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermenter with 5 oz vanilla beans, split and chopped. During fermentation, diacetyl character was noted at time points 28 to 51 hours, but was not present afterwards. The fermenter was kept at ambient temperature (19 Celsius) and was then cold crashed. The beer will be transferred to a keg, where bourbon will be added.


  • The shorter propagation time resulted in a beautiful profile. Happy, healthy yeast make great beers! We are definitely staying with a shorter propagation time.
  • We are now tracking temperature. More data!
  • Our brewhouse efficiency was a whopping 85%. Looking forward to trying to replicate this efficiency.
  • Our boil was not as vigorous as desired, resulting in a larger fermentation volume. We expect our original gravity would have been higher with a more vigorous boil (more evaporation, less volume, more concentrated sugars).

Tasting Notes: White Stout

We cold crashed our White Stout just before we left on our Pacific Northwest adventure. A slower than expected fermentation and a fixed departure date for our trip resulted in us shaving time off of secondary fermentation/beer maturation in order to cold crash the beer before we left. Good things do not come from rushing yeast.

A rather turbid white stout.
A rather turbid white stout.

The aroma is overwhelming one of coffee, to the point of a strong chemical profile. There is underlying hint of malt and acetaldehyde (not surprising considering the rushed secondary fermentation). There are no hints of chocolate on the palate or in the aroma profile. For flavor, Dave thought the white stout tasted cidery. Jess picked felt that the coffee profile masked the cider character. It is also quite turbid. After microscopic review, no yeast was observed.

So where to next? We are dumping this beer (our first dump ever). We will remake but with modifications. The coffee will be reduced greatly and the cacao nibs will be allowed to soak longer in alcohol to extract more of the chocolate flavors. We may also add the nibs to the secondary fermentation. Additionally, we will reduce the amount of lactose added to compensate for less bitterness. And we won’t rush the yeast, and may choose a different strain next time. There is a potential good beer here, buried under some mistakes.