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).

April 26, 2016: Tasting Notes – Amber Ales, Belgian Blond, and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

Wanted to provide updated tasting notes on the dry-hopped Amber Ales, Amber Ale version 2, Belgian Blond, and the Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (VBIP). The Belgian Blond and VBIP were initially tasted during the height of allergy season and the only thing that could be determined with any certainty was beer was being consumed. The dry-hopped Amber Ale was first tasted in mid-March prior to dry hopping. Under attenuated, under hopped, these beers were almost undrinkable. We combined the kegs and dry-hopped with 2 oz of Amarillo pellets. Finally, the Amber Ale version 2, brew day was discussed here. In a perfect world the tasting notes would have been posted two weeks ago, but clarity issues existed.

VBIP: %ABV – 9.8, IBU – data not captured

Aromas of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla. Mouth feel is creamy. Roasted flavors with hint of vanilla and bourbon. No alcohol burn despite ABV.

Belgian Blond: %ABV – 4.9, IBU – 10

Aroma is phenolic, reminiscent of cloves. Flavor is dry, slightly astringent, with phenol character. Color is darker than expected, and is very similar to the amber ale in color.

From left to right: dry-hopped amber ale; amber ale version 2.0

Dry hopped Amber Ale Combination: %ABV – ~4.79, IBU – 41

Aroma is citrus, with orange being prevalent, and malty. Sweet, but not as cloying as it was prior to dry hopping.

Amber Ale, version 2: % ABV – 6.3, IBU – 100

Aroma is citrus and malt. Flavor is sweet, with lingering bitterness that is not unpleasant. Some chill haze. Tasting notes were delayed due to microbiological haze (yeast). During transfer to the keg, some yeast was siphoned off from the secondary fermenter. Took a couple weeks for yeast to settle and to be purged from the fermenter (poured and dumped pints until clarity improved). Remaining haze is chill haze as concluded from the observation that the beer becomes clear as its temperature increases. We are pleased with this beer.

Yeast responsible for microbiological haze of amber ale, version 2.0
Yeast responsible for microbiological haze of amber ale, version 2.0

March 31, 2016: Tasting Notes – Belgian Blond and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

Belgian Blond (left) and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (right).

These are the tasting notes from our Belgian Blond (BB) and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (VBIP) extract/grain combination brew days. It should be noted that with this tasting Jess is suffering from allergy related stuffiness and could only be confident she drank beer; we are relying on Dave’s impressions since he is the less allergy-struck party. We will re-taste when our sinuses clear and most things no longer taste like well-chewed paper.

Belgian Blond

  • Original gravity: 1.043
  • Final gravity: 1.006
  • % ABV: 4.9
  • IBU: ~10

Visual Impressions: BB was darker than we were expecting (straw). Chill haze. Initial pour had good head, but foam stability is poor.

Aroma Impressions: Smelled strongly of cloves. No hop character. This was consistent with the aromas noted during fermentation.

Flavor Impressions: Dry. No hope bitterness. Phenolic after taste.

Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

  • Original gravity: 1.083
  • Final gravity: 1.010
  • % ABV: 9.8
  • IBU: Data for calculations not captured

Visual Impressions: VBIP is dark. Initial pour had some head, but foam stability poor.

Aroma Impressions: Vanilla. Bourbon. Hint of leather (phenolic). No prominent hop aroma.

Flavor Impressions: Vanilla and bourbon present, but not overwhelming. Bitter after taste, but not harsh. Dry. Creamy mouth feel.


  • We forgot again and did all our fermenter and keg cleaning with water straight from the tap. The chlorination could be why the phenolic aroma is present in the VBIP and enhancing the natural phenolic character (due to yeast strain) of the BB.
  • The starter culture improved our attenuation. Forced fermentation wort studies will be conducted on wort batches in the future to determine final attenuation.
  • DATA! Still need pipetters for performing accurate dilutions, but once these are obtained, Jess is looking forward to constructing yeast growth curves to go along with the specific gravity curves. This is a late developing thought, but the pH of the fermentation can also be tracked, logged, and graphed.

March 15, 2016: Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter

It was Tuesday! Jess was in class, Alex was in daycare, the sun was shining, and Dave took full advantage to brew. The selected beer was a simple Imperial Porter from Experimental Homebrewing (Beechum and Conn, pg 122) as a combination dry malt extract (DME) and grain brew (see below for malt extract/grain bill).

The milled grains were steeped at 70 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. 6 lbs of DME was dissolved and the sweet wort was boiled for 60 minutes. Hops additions were at 4o and 10 minutes. Wort was cooled to 20 degrees Celsius and the wort was inoculated with a 1.1 L of a 36 hour starter culture. Wort was aerated with oxygen for three 30 second intervals. The Speidel 30L HDPE fermenter was transferred to a 20 degree Celsius incubator. Original gravity was 1.083.

Graph of specific gravity of Imperial Porter wort.
Graph of specific gravity of Imperial Porter wort.

During fermentation, specific gravity readings were taken at approximate 12 hour intervals and graphed. The final gravity achieved by fermentation was 1.010, reached by Thursday evening. On Saturday, we decided that we would transfer the Imperial Porter to a secondary fermenter and add vanilla bean (usually we just use our keg as our bright tank). Bourbon will be added at kegging, so the final beer will be a Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter.

What went well?

  • The starter culture gave led to a vigorous fermentation. Happy yeast make good beer.
  • Our set up. Everything went smoothly on Dave’s second brew on the system. Hoses weren’t falling on the ground and everything was consolidated in a single location.
  • The extract kit with specialty grain steep was easy. Doesn’t mean we are giving up whole grain, but when you need to save some time or perhaps your mash tun isn’t quite big enough to handle doubling the grain bill, DME as substitute for the base malt is easy.
  • Taking the gravity at intervals. It is nice knowing how the fermentation is progressing.

What went poorly?

  • Missed capturing some information (hop alpha acids %, weights, yeast lot number, amount of water used) but we are working on a spreadsheet to capture all the data. Yes, there are programs, but why go electronic when there is good old paper and pen?
  • Not that this went poorly – we are just going to have to wait ~ 2 to 3 more weeks before we can taste. Patience. Bah!


  • 6 lbs DME
  • 2.75 lbs Munich Malt (10L)
  • 1.6 lbs Brown Malt (70L)
  • 1.38 lbs Chocolate Malt (350L)
  • 1 lb Crystal Malt (120L)
  • 0.5 lb Crystal Malt (60L)
  • 0.75 oz (?) Magnum Hop Pellet (40 minutes)
  • 0.5 oz (?) Progress Hop Pellet (10 minutes)
  • Whirlfloc (10 minutes)
  • 2 vanilla beans, scrapped (into secondary) and chopped (into secondary)
  • 375 mL Bourbon (into keg)
  • Yeast: Wyeast 1056