Belgian Spice #1

Frank’s inspiration for this brew came from the Stone Brewing, and their Vertical Epic series. The beer in particular is the 11.11.11 variation. You can find more info on the beer here, and here.

In this brew, the Belgian yeast does its thing – imparting the usual fruity banana and clove notes. The fun part about this particular beer is the add-ins, and how the add-ins work with the yeast to create something special. I must add that if the beer stood out for Frank, it must indeed be something special. (Frank has been known to enjoy some very fine beer.) For this brew, we’ll be mimicking the Belgian yeast, as well as throwing in some very interesting add-ins.

The Add-Ins

The beer calls for two special add-ins:

•   hatch chiles, sourced from New Mexico

•   cinnamon

We used both of these wild and crazy ingredients in our own home brew attempt. For the primary fermenter, the hatch chilies were sourced from Amazon, where they came cooked and peeled – pasteurized in a can. We put in just 1 oz. for our recipe. (Frank attests to success when using the excess chiles on pizza.) Not that a lot weight comes from water, so how just how much flavor is actually going into the wort at this time may be slight.

hatch chiles to clone brew the stone epic 11.11.11
The elusive dried and crushed hatch chiles!

Ideally, crushed and dried hatch chiles would be used. In a pinch, we made a substation to the canned product. As such, we’ll be reporting on this recipe as it was executed. For the secondary carboy, one oz. of dried and crushed hatch chiles are used. Again, the dried and crushed chiles are the most ideal form when utilizing the add-in.

The Wort

The color of the wort is your standard for a Belgian, if slightly darker. The attractive copper color hints at the American – Caramel / Crystal 120L malt used. For you beer geeks, “L” in the American – Caramel / Crystal 120L refers to a metric that accounts for the degree to which the barely is roasted. (Greater roasting means a darker beer). Consider that Caramel / Crystal 10L is available – with this recipe calling for 120  – and thus the relatively darker copper-colored beer, at least relative to a larger, such as Coors, Miller, etc.

belgian wort
Home brewed wort ready for the sampling.

When sampling the wort, the add-ins were indistinguishable. Given time (six weeks out), and the existing chiles already in the wort, and the additional chiles added to the secondary fermenter, chiles and cinnamon do ultimately impact the final product.

The Original Gravity (OG)

We missed the target original gravity by 0.004, with our actual result being 1.077. This occurred even with a 60% efficiency target. (We are using the brew in a bag technique for our homebrewing.) As we continue to refine the brewing process, we’ll come to create our own efficiency metric (perhaps 55%?) that we can use in crafting future recipes. Best practices dictate that in the future, achieving our target gravity can mean squeezing the bag of malts more aggressively following their 150 degree bath. Alternatively, the malt can be “sparged” via boiling water over the grains and into the brew kettle below. In the end, 0.004 is a small difference.

 

DSC_0466
Brewmaster Frank checking the original gravity our Stone Vertical Epic home brew clone.

As the homebrewing forums assured us, this difference was inconsequential – with our final ABV being perhaps half a percent (0.5%) short of our target. I imagine that such a small difference would also be unnoticeable to the palate.

The Verdict

As is standard in our home brewing process, the wort ferments in the primary fermenter for two weeks. The beer is then transferred to the secondary fermenter. Additional add-ins are then added in. Another two weeks later, the beer is bottled. After another final two weeks, the beer is enjoyed. It is at that time that the yeasty Belgian flavors present themselves, with a little bit of heat and spice thrown into the mix. The add-ins are very subtle.

Belgian Spice #2

Moar! It may be worth increasing the add-ins in a successive round. For me, I’m looking for something that knocks you on your butt, to say:

Hello. My name is Hatch Chile. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

For me, I didn’t quite get that from this brew. But that’s just one man’s opinion. For a successive iteration of this twist on a Stone clone of a Belgian brew, I’d like to double (if not triple) the amount of add-ins. Pureeing the fresh hatch chiles may be an additional option to imparting more flavor to the beer.

The Recipe

Molé IPA

The inspiration for this beer came from a short bought of insanity. Having recently been enjoying New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé and having an uninspiring IPA brew kit lying around, I decided to invent a new beer: the Molé IPA. It’s just like regular IPA, but with all the add-ins that go into a molé. It may just be the most awful beer ever made.

If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.

xocoveza-the-inspiration-for-our-home-brew-clone-mole-beer.jpg

Wort

Thick! It’s so thick from all the stuff floating around in there. Going forward, I would extracts where possible for substitutions – and brewed coffee instead of coffee grains. This would help to clarify the beer. But, I will never make this beer again – because it’s terrible.

Add-ins

Just scroll down to the recipe below to see all the good stuff I threw in there:

•  vanilla extract
•  ground coffee
•  cocoa powder
•  cinnamon
•  jalapeno

add-ins-for-our-mole-IPA-homebrew-beer-using-brew-in-a-bag.jpg

Check out the photo above. You can see the bit of the jalapeno floating towards the top of the fermenter. Down towards the bottom of the glass carboy, you can see everything else – everything that will contribute it’s flavor to making our molé IPA.

Gravity

final gravity of our mole IPA, for homebrewing using brew in bag

The Verdict

The nose is floral. However, you can tell that there are lots of other things going on there. The heat is subtle, but lingers all the way down your esophagus. And then it stays there for a long time. It’s almost like getting heartburn. The other flavors are there too: cinnamon, coffee. The coffee is most subtle.

Jpeg

It’s not nearly as terrible as I thought it would be, but it’s still pretty bad. I poured myself a 12 oz bottle and I won’t be finishing it. All that said,I don’t think the mole IPA is a bad idea. It’s just the execution was a failure. Will I make a further iteration – testing the validity of the mole IPA idea? Maybe. But it probably won’t be anytime soon.

The Recipe

Molé Brown #1

The inspiration for this brew came from a couple different beers – but mostly from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé. If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.

xocoveza-the-inspiration-for-our-home-brew-clone-mole-beer.jpg

 

Another simply fantastic molé beer is made by San Diego brewery Stone Brewing Co. Their Xocoveza has come out the last two holiday seasons – with the more recent release being even better than the first. It’s a combination of peppers, chocolate, vanilla, coffee and other spices. The beer is very flavorful, but not overly heavy.

The Malt

Our clone brew for the New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Molé clone starts with the malt. As with all dark brews, we used a combination or light and dark malts. This includes rye, in addition to the usual barely. The grain was finely milled, once. We fined milled the grain to help us better achieve our target original gravity. Fine milling, over coarse milling, helps to further open up the malt, exposing their sugars that will be captured by the boiling water.

mole chile beer homebrew brew all grain in a bag - small

The Add-Ins

For our own attempt at a mole beer, we’ve limited our add-ins to just three very special ingredients:

•   whole cinnamon sticks

•   retail chile powder

•   100% pure cacao

All of the ingredients we used are available at your local retail grocery market. Though the add-ins are unusual for a beer, they are easy to obtain – as opposed to some of the more special hops we’ve used in our brews.

Original Gravity

As with our previous brews, the original gravity of the wort clocked in at 1.045 – which was short of our recipe’s calculation of 1.051. As a side note, we measured the original gravity with both an inexpensive hydrometer as well as more expensive refractometer. We’ve been experimenting with the repetition and level of milling. Even with milling the grain finely (as opposed to coarsely), we still fell short of our target gravity.

measuring original gravity of the homebrew mole chile beer using brew in a bag (BIAB) - small

The Wort

Sampling the wort, the add-ins were barely distiniguishable. Perhaps only the chili powder made itself known. However, there were ample hops in the brew that stood out in the wort sample. Will this beer be molé-y? We can only know that six weeks in. It will, however, definitely be bitter from the hops.

The Verdict

It’s not bad, if not a little underwhelming. The base of the brew is good with some chocolaty notes present. Then there is also a small to moderate kick coming from the chili and cinnamon powders. It’s not bad. But I want more – more of everything: more chocolate, more cinnamon, more peppers – and I want coffee and vanilla and nut meg too. In short, I would consider this a sort of mole-light. It’s a good introductory beer for those who are just ever so slightly adventurous.

our homebrew version of a mole beer using brew in a bag, a sort of a stone xocoveza clone

What’s more, the character of (some of) the add-ins persevered over the course of a few weeks. This is different from some of the other brews we’ve concocted – where the character contributed by the add-ins fades exponentially with age. Two and half weeks after the “drink” date (the drink date is usually two weeks after bottling), the presence of the add-ins were still there. Yay!

Iteration #2

As mentioned, I’d like to try additional add-ins, especially vanilla and coffee – closer to the style that Stone Brewing puts out in their Xocoveza. I’d also like to see what adding more cacao does – or what happens when introducing these add-ins at different parts of the brewing process. For example, instead of going into the primary fermenter – these add-ins could go into the boil. They may – or may not – help to impart more flavor of the add-in into the final brew. A final option for tweaking the add-ins could involve changing the granularity of the add-ins. Specifically, using a whole chile pepper instead of just chile power, or grading/shredding the cinnamon sticks and bit of cacao.

The Recipe

Jalapeno Blond #1

The inspiration for this brew came from the absolute best chile beer I’ve had in my life – at a restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado. Normally, when I am out on a beer tasting adventure I drink as little of each beer as possible – so that I can try a lot of different beers. However, this beer was so good that I had to order seconds. The brew had lots of chile flavor, with very mild heat. It was incredibly well balanced, light, crisp and refreshing – and this from a guy who isn’t a fan of blond ales. But the malt wasn’t the key; it was the add-in, that made this beer special.

The add-ins

In an attempt to mimic this chile beer we opted for fresh jalapenos – not knowing what the original brewers used in their “Hot Blonde.” Jalapenos are a natural choice because they are inexpensive and easily available at your local retailer.

cutting jalapenos

The jalapeno was initially cut into slices as per the photos. This, however, did not make it through the funnel into the primary carboy. In a successive brew, we actually minced the jalapeno with a Cuisanart. The minced jalapeno was added at the end of the boil. The tasting notes at the end of this post, however, refer to the former experiment.

The Wort

Given the addition of jalapeno to the wort, the wort faintly smelled and tasted of jalapeno when we sampled. We ended up adding the same thinly sliced jalapenos into the primary carboy. Best practice dictates cutting the jalapenos into smaller pieces – as per using the Cuisinart. To get even more out of the jalapenos, one could puree them. For this batch, we’re reporting on the results we got with coarsely cut jalapeno chunks.

home brew jalapeno blonde boiling wort

The Difference in Original Gravity

The difference in original gravity was just -0.002. Of our batches brewed for the day, this was some of the smallest differences we saw. The difference should be negligible. In this instance, the efficiency calculation of just 60% was spot on. This is despite milling the grain only use.

The Verdict

After two weeks in the primary, two weeks in the secondary, and a final two weeks of bottle-conditioning the brew was ready to enjoy. When sampling the brew, it was easy to identify the jalapeno notes on the nose. (It smelled like jalapeno.) It was not entirely subtle. Multiple folks who sampled the beer reported getting a whiff of pepper before ever drinking the beer. The nose is just plain fun, but misleading because the nose is more prominent than the flavor or heat existent in the actual beer. But perhaps it’s a good balance for white people. That is to say that the heat was also present, but mildly so. In total, the beer itself is good.

additional-peppers-for-the-jalapeno-blonde-hombrew-using-brew-in-a-bag-BIAB.jpg January 6, 2016 247 kB

Thought, while it is good, but I want a lot more pepper flavor and a bit more heat. It’s the pepper flavor that I recall from Colorado that was my inspiration for this beer. I want more of it! However, adding more jalapenos to get more flavor would also result in more heat. So what’s the solution? Adding peppers without heat – like the sweet red peppers in the photo above.

Jalapeno Blond #2?

Going forward, it would be interesting to try some tweaks on this same recipe. Some ideas include:

•   Adding more sweet peppers

•   Adding sweet peppers at multiple stages of the process

•   Before the boil

•   At the end of the boil

•   In the primary fermenter

•   In the secondary fermenter

•   In the bottle!?

•   Pureeing the jalapeno (previously mentioned)

•   Experimenting with other chiles, instead of just adding sweet peppers to the jalapeno chiles

•   Adding capsaicin extract

The Recipe