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Hoptober (All Grain)

November 11, 2011

I first brewed this beer last fall.  I was looking for an idea for a good seasonal fall beer because I was tired or brewing Pumpkin Ale.  Truthfully, the Pumpkin Ale wasn’t coming out as good as I was hoping.  Then I tasted a seasonal beer from one of my favorite US breweries, New Belgium, called Hoptober.  I fell in love with this beer.  I was initially worried the bitterness would be overpowering (as indicated by the title) but I was surprised to find this a very pleasant, well balanced beer that was actually a little on the sweeter side.  It does have a very pronounced and pleasant hop aroma and flavor, but the bitterness is not over the top.

It tastes like fall.  There are grassy, autumny, leafy, notes that come through.  Since it is brewed with 5 grains and 5 hop varieties, New Belgium describes it as “cornucopia of the earth”.  This is an accurate description of this complex ale.

I set out looking for a good clone recipe.  The one I used last year was good but didn’t quite get the mouthfeel, head retention, or the initial gravity of the New Belgium.  I modified the recipe a little this year in an attempt to adjust for these factors.  Here is this years version.

Ingredients (5 Gal)
7.5 lbs Pale 2 Row Malt
2 lbs Belgium Wheat Malt
1 lb Rye Malt
1 lb Flaked Oats
0.4 lbs Crystal Malt – 80L
0.6 oz Willamette Whole Hops (Bittering)
0.6 oz Centennial Whole Hops (Bittering)
1 oz Sterling Whole Hops (Aroma)
3 oz Green (Fresh) Willamette Whole Hops (Finishing)
1 oz Cascade Whole Hops (Dry Hopped)
1 oz Willamette Whole Hops (Dry Hopped)
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

The only hop contained in the New Belgium version that I didn’t use is Glacier.  This is because it is very hard to find and it is similar to Willamette.  Since I’m using both freshly picked and dried Willamette, I think this will give it plenty of personality.  What I like to do with this beer is use some of the fresh hops that I pick from my garden as finishing hops.  These Willamettes were picked the same day as I brewed.  The dried Willamette was part of a batch I acquired from a Yakima brewery for free.  I also used some of the  Cascade that I picked from my garden.  I went ahead and dried these and used them to dry hop in the secondary fermentor. Lasts year’s version of this beer didn’t have enough hop aroma or flavor so I bumped up the aroma, finishing, and dry hopping this year.

The New Belgium web page says that they include 80L Crystal malt in their recipe.  This surprised me because the beer so gold in color and 80L darkens up the beer a lot even if you just add a tiny bit.  I wanted to stay true so I did add a little (.4 oz).  As a result the beer did turn out darker than the original.

I used a mash thickness ratio of 1.28 qts water/lb grain.  I mashed at 152-153F for 60 minutes.  I had to boil a gallon of water to get the strike temp up to target.  The strike temp came out about 151 when it was targeting 153.  I will need to adjust the formula for strike temp calc a little.  Formula was adjusted to use a constant of .276 instead of .2 (Palmer).  This is the value that would have predicted 151.  I will have to see if this holds true on the next batch.  I sparged with 165 degree water keeping an inch of water above grain bed.  Water calculator about .35 gal too high.  Had a little too much water.  Beer seems darker than desired, but it will lighten some during fermentation.

Boiled for 1 hour.  I added the Centennial and .6 oz Willamette hops at start of boil for bittering.  With three minutes left I added Sterling.  With two minutes to go I added 3 oz green Willamette.  I forgot to add Irish moss. Added 3 oz of freshly picked Willamette hops from my garden along with 1 Oz Sterling (9%).   Brewery Eff was better than last time but still only 70%.  I think this beer needs a protein rest, or just use a 70% Eff in the recipe formulation.  Volume came out a little high (5.35 gal). 

Fermented for 16 days (7 days in primary).  Beer was very cloudy.  I added some inglass when I moved it to the secondary to try to clear the beer a little.  This did have an effect.  I dry hopped 1 oz of freshly dried (home grown) Cascade hops and 1 oz dried Willamette into the secondary.  Beer was fermented a little cooler than desired (~64F).  However, this didn’t seem to affect the yeast aroma or flavor.

I used 2.4 oz of wheat DME (Briess) for conditioning 1.7 gal of beer. Targeted 2.4 vol of CO2.  I Kegged the other 3.6 gal.

The first batch (last year) didn’t have the hop aroma I was hoping for.  It had a light hop smell.  I couldn’t pull out the Sterlings.  So, this year I used one full ounce of fresher Sterling hops and added it 3 minutes before end of boil (instead of 5 minutes).  I also used 3 oz fresh, green Willamette at end of boil and dry hop with 2 oz (Cascade and Willamette).  I do like the flavor profile of the American II.  I think this is the closest Wyeast approximation to what they use at New Belgium.

The beer was fruity, very pleasant, and highly drinkable.  It wasn’t too bitter at all.  Quite a bit less bitter than the New Belgium version.  This was a very popular beer.  Everyone really enjoyed it.  Refreshing.  It is very popular with people who say they don’t like beer.  The keg got drained within 2 weeks!  The head retention was much better this year than last time.

The hop aroma was much more pronounced this year.  Mission accomplished!  I could really pull out the Willamette.  Perhaps next year I’ll dry hop with some Sterlings as well.

Vol of CO2: 2.6
SRM: 7
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.011
ABV: 6%
Brewery Eff: 70%
App. Attenuation: 81%

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jody Behnke permalink
    November 27, 2016 11:07 am

    I’ve made this beer many times and will again today. It’s a solid beer full of flavor. Thanks for the recipe.

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