August 30, 2020 - 1 comment.

The Great Estibrew Challenge

es·ti·brew
/ˈestə,bro͞o/

nounestibrew; plural noun: estibrews
a type of beer brewed partially or entirely through human-sensory estimation.

verb: estibrew
past tense: estibrewed; present participle: estibrewing
to make (beer) using varying degrees of human-sensory estimation.

Folks and friends, first time readers and foes,

Have you ever wondered whether you had the brewing chops to brew a competent beer based purely on estimating each end every variable by feel alone? I'm talkin' grain bill, water chemistry, hop additions, water volumes, water temperatures, the lot?

Sounds fun, right?

Well maybe - it really depends on you. Perhaps you are new the world of homebrewing (if so, welcome) and don't yet have an intimate enough familiarity with your process or equipment to attempt an estibrew. Or, perhaps part of the reason you so enjoy homebrewing is in fact due to the undeniable rewards yielded from precise measurements and calculations (apparently, most of us are engineers). If so, you're sure to appreciate all the charts in this post!

keezer and brewing malt

Sitting atop the barley is our first recipe notebook. Had to do some diggin' to find her.

These Covid days are strange, and as a result my moods and mental states have been up, down, all around, looping, quacking, and occasionally recovering to homeostasis before bed. I think I'm bored. I also miss my homebrew club GTA Brews.

Whatever the case, I convinced myself it would be a fun challenge to brew what I'm calling an "estibrew". I thought, If I were stranded on a desert island with some friends and only brewing ingredients and basic equipment at hand, could I be the bringer of joy or would I just be my usual dullard self?

For my first estibrew, I decided to play it safe and created a recipe for a beer that sits somewhere between an American Pale Ale and a New England IPA. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) describes them as the following:


18B. American Pale Ale

Overall Impression

A pale, refreshing and hoppy ale, yet with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable. The clean hop presence can reflect classic or modern American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of characteristics. An average-strength hop-forward pale American craft beer, generally balanced to be more accessible than modern American IPAs.

Vital Statistics

IBU

30 – 50

SRM

5 – 10

OG

1.045 – 1.060

FG

1.010 – 1.015

ABV

4.5 – 6.2%


21B. Speciality IPA: New England IPA

Overall Impression

An American IPA with intense fruit flavors and aromas, a soft body, and smooth mouthfeel, and often opaque with substantial haze. Less perceived bitterness than traditional IPAs but always massively hop forward. This emphasis on late hopping, especially dry hopping, with hops with tropical fruit qualities lends the specific ‘juicy’ character for which this style is known.


Vital Statistics

IBU

25 – 60

SRM

3 – 7

OG

1.060 – 1.085

FG

1.010 – 1.015

ABV

6 – 9%

 

Estibrew Guidelines

Here are the limitations I imposed on myself:

  1. Estimated amounts may not be adjusted once they’ve been measured.
  2. Your only tools are your five senses.

That’s it, really. This means no scales, thermometers, sight lines, etc. If you want to really get hardcore you could do it without timers and fermentation temperature control. If you know your system decently well, I think you should do fine. Maybe even more than fine.

If you’re feeling apprehensive about attempting this you could by all means “warm up” by measuring out varying increments of your ingredients and getting a “feel” for them before estimating your real amounts. I did not do this as I thought it may detract from the fun of it.

I did however receive help. My partner Sara measured all my estimations. This allowed me to stay blind to the variables added to the fun because it prevented me from getting too anxious about my misses. This estribrew challenge is of course possible to attempt solo style, but it wouldn’t quite be the same because you’d invariably be able to dial in your estimations with each “miss” and at each step. I invite you to try whatever makes the most sense for you and your style.

GRAIN BILL TARGETS VS. ACTUAL

Target

Actual

Difference

OG

1.055

1.051

-0.004

Pale Ale Malt (Barn Owl)

2.50 kg

2.21 kg (45.3%)

-0.29 kg

Wheat Malt (OiO)

1.25 kg

1.67 kg (34.2%)

+0.42 kg

Vienna Malt (Weyermann)

1.00 kg

1.00 kg (20.5%)

0.00 kg

TOTAL DIFF

+0.13 kg


“Oh s*** that’s too much”, I said, “I’m overestimating”

Turns out I only actually overestimated the wheat malt measurement, and actually underestimated the Pale Ale malt measurement. The Vienna malt estimation I got pretty much exactly right (1007 g to be precise)!

girl weighing malted grains for brewing

Sara measuring my pale malt estimation.

WATER VOLUMES & MINERALS TARGETS VS. ACTUAL

Target Actual Difference
Mash 16 L 18 L +2 L
Sparge 18 L 19.2 L +1.2 L

TOTAL DIFF

+ 3.2 L

I wasn’t too concerned with going over the water volumes because I figured I could just stop collecting runoff once I reached what I thought would be an appropriate boil volume. I did a batch sparge. The liquor to grist ratio ended up being pretty high which resulted in a pretty thin mash leading me incorrectly adjusting my hunch, “Oh no, I’m low on grain!”

man brewing collects sparge runoff from cooler

Time to collect my first runnings.

MASH WATER TARGETS VS. ACTUAL

Target

Actual

Difference

Phosphoric Acid (75%)

6 g

5.98 g

+0.02 g

Calcium Chloride (CaCl)

5.5 g

2.24 g

-3.26 g

Gypsum (CaSO4)

3 g

0.62 g

-2.38 g

Mash pH

5.20 pH

5.60 pH

+0.40 pH

Strike Water Temp

71.5 C

68.9 C

-2.6 C

Conversion Rest Temp

66.5 C

63.5 C

-3 C

To estimate the mash strike temperature, I just touched the side of the brew kettle as it was heating. I knew I’d be pretty close to strike temperature just based on the rhythms of my average brew days (by the time I’m done milling, I’m generally nearing my target strike temperatures). When I touched it though, it felt too hot, and so I added a few ice cubes to cool it down. When the brew day was done Sara remarked, “... you were actually really close before you put the ice in”.

man touches brew kettle

While milling I usually come close to strike temperature. I touched the kettle and figured it was probably too hot before adding ice.

SPARGE WATER TARGETS

Target

Actual

Difference

Phosphoric Acid (75%)

4 g

2.17 g

-1.83 g

Calcium Chloride (CaCl)

0.5 g

0.62 g

+0.12 g

Gypsum (CaSO4)

2.5 g

0.51 g

-1.99 g

Sparge Water Temp

80 C

80.9 C

+0.9 C

Enzymatic Stop Temp

76 C

75.2 C

-0.80 C

(note: the density of phosphoric relative to tap water is about 1.57. Because Bru’n Water gives me the ml amounts for my phosphoric acid and I like to measure it by weight, I accordingly multiply the volume by the volume suggestion amount to hit my targets)

man measures phosphoric acid additions during brew day

I underestimated my acid additions but only a little bit. I find weight to be more accurate than volume.

HOP ADDITIONS

Whirlpool (10 minutes)

Target

Actual

Difference

Centennial

30 g

40.24 g

+10.24 g

Galaxy

50 g

69.08 g

+19.08 g

Vic Secret

30 g

37.88 g

+7.88 g

TOTAL DIFF

+37.2 g

Confession time: when I was measuring the Galaxy hops, I instinctively flickered my gaze towards the scale and noticed that I had pretty significantly overestimated my Galaxy estimate. This made me anxious and led me to change the hop addition from a 5 minute to a whirlpool addition. Tsk tsk. Can we even call this a true estibrew?

homebrew hops

This represents only a fraction of the hops in my freezer. It's getting out of hand.

Dry Hop Additions

Target

Actual

Difference

Galaxy

100 g

93.27 g

-6.73 g

Cascade (Cryo)

-

28.35 g

n/a

Mosaic (Cryo)

-

28.35 g

n/a

The Cryo Cascade and Mosaic hops were from sealed Cryo YCH packets we’d kept in the freezer since Homebrewcon 2018. I opened them, they smelled good, and so I gave them their day. If I'm only doing one hop charge, I usually add them when fermentation is nearly complete (I'd estimate about 0.005 SG points away from FG) to allow the yeast to scrub out any oxygen I'm introducing with the charge.

WHIRLPOOL & CASTOUT

Target

Actual

Difference

Whirlpool Temperature

92 C

93.6 C

+1.6 C

Castout Temp

18 C

20.2 C

+2.2 C

homebrew brew day whirlpool

The whirlpool. The estimations weren't too bad.

YEAST & FERMENTATION

SafAle US-05 American Ale Dry Yeast – I chose this yeast because it’s a clean fermenter and is relatively inexpensive. I figured, if the beer doesn’t turn out I won’t have wasted an expensive liquid yeast on it. I fermented at around 18 C.

Vital Stats Summary

OG

1.051

FG

1.010

ABV

5.4 %

Estimated IBUs

48.6

Colour

4.7 SRM 

wort oxygen aeration

Wort aeration. I try and keep it classy,

What the Critics Are Saying...

I dropped off five samples to friends and colleagues for their thoughts and a letter grade. The main concern seemed be that the bitterness was a little too high.

homebrewed pale ale NEIPA

Nick Lang - Head Brewer at Folly Brewing:

Hmm, this is very aromatic. It's actually really good especially considering you didn't measure anything. Sure, the bitterness is high, but it's not bad. I’d say it’s just a mild balance issue. B

Andew Smyka - General Manager at Folly Brewing:

It's really good! A-

Pietro Caira - Head Brewer at People's Pint Brewing:

The aroma is really nice. I'd say it's a touch bitter, but I often complain about bitterness. The flavour isn't quite as bright as the aroma but it's still really good. B+

Mark Hubbard - Full Circle Ales:

Damn, this is good for not measuring anything!! "A" for sure. Pretty much everything I want in a pale ale. Definitely a New England style one. Only flaw I’d say is maybe a touch too bitter for the style. Did you go over your calculated bittering addition/IBUs? A

Devin Wagner/Sir Picklefeather III:

It's really tasty dude. It tastes sessionable. Easily destroyable. No hop bite either... Everything was nicely defined. Not muted or whatever. "A ++++++++++"

Average: A-

neipa pale ale in the sun balcony

Fresh pour.

How I Think I Did

Here's my breakdown by BJCP judging categories. I'm going to refrain from calculating numerical scores since this beer really is its own thing.

Aroma: Very high citrusy west-coast American hop aroma of orange and grapefruit supported by high levels of pineapple, and peach. Moderate New World hop aromas of grape skin, and gooseberry. Fermentation derived esters are low to none. Malt aromas are low to none. No off flavours.

Appearance: A very hazy pale orange with excellent head retention and lacing.

belgian lace lacing on a pale ale neipa

Gorgeous lacing. Couldn't be happier.

Flavour: Very high hop derived notes of grapefruit, and orange, lead to high bitterness and a mildly pithy aftertaste. Low levels of wheat malt, and supporting crackery notes come through in the finish providing some balance.

Body & Mouthfeel: Moderate levels of carbonation lend to the creaminess of the beer. Moderate to low fullness. No alcoholic warmth. No hop burn.

Overall: I’m very pleased with how my first estibrew turned out. On its own, this beer is excellent. As a classic representation of either an American Pale Ale or a New England IPA, the beer misses the mark slightly. I find it to be closer to a New England IPA than it is to an American Pale Ale as it is very hazy and hoppy, and has little malt presence. It's also not far from an American Pale Ale because its fermentation characteristics are clean, its mouthfeel isn’t too full and the alcohol content is low.

(As a New England IPA): B

(As an American Pale Ale): C+/B-

As its own thing: A-

Ultimately it was a pretty tasty concoction for a first go at an estibrew. I think other styles that may lend to this could include pale saisons, lagers, and American IPAs - anything with a fairly simple grain bill or whose focus is on yeast or hop characteristics over malt complexity. It might, for example, be easy to overdo roasted malts in an Irish Stout, but really, the world's your oyster.

How Will You Do?

Attempting an estibrew ended up being a lot of fun for us. It went against my every instinct to force myself to not worry about precision, but the end result ended up being one of my better pale ales. While I don’t think attempting an estibrew will be for everybody, it could prove to be a fun change-up for those with several brews under their belt.

I encourage all you brave souls foolish enough to give it a shot. May Ninkasi hear your plea. Good luck and godspeed!

#EstibrewChallenge

milling grain thumbs up

 

 

Published by: Matt in Brewing, Techniques & Tips

Comments

Nick L
August 30, 2020 at 10:23 pm

I’ll admit publicly I advised strongly against the idea. This concept gave me nothing but anxiety as soon as it was introduced. Finished beer was an extremely positive surprise at a “B” grade. Great intuition, good beer!

Thoughts?

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