Friday, December 5, 2008

Magnum Hops - Review

Magnum hops are simply awesome! Magnum hops are close to being one of my favorite bittering hops. With Alpha Acid content ranging from 12%-14% magnums can pack a decent wallop of bittering units in any kind of home brew. But that's not the best part about magnum hops. They have a co-humulone rate of 24%-28%. What exactly does this mean you may ask? Well, the co-humulone rate is what contributes either a "harsh" bitterness or a "clean" bitterness to a beer. Since magnum hops have a relatively low co-humulone percentage then they contribute a nice clean bitterness to home brew.

What is clean and what is harsh bitterness? Well, everyone's palate is going to differ so I'm going based off of my palate. Let's say we're drinking a pale ale, clean bitterness will allow the hop flavor shine through when it touches your tongue, then you'll be able to taste the yummy balancing malt and it will finish with a nice dryish clean bitterness. And that's what I'm talking about. As for harsh bitterness, that's best explained as that initial blast of bitterness you get when you first take a sip of a hoppy beer. Personally, I don't care for that kind of bitterness. I enjoy the clean finishing bitterness that provides.

And because magnum hops are such a clean bittering hop you can use them in virtually any kind of beer . . . german lagers, ESBs, pale ales, IPA's, saisons . . .anything.

If you haven't had a chance to try out magnum hops as a bittering hop then I would recommend using them. As for using Magnums as a flavoring hop . . . I wouldn't recommend that. They really don't have any distinct flavoring attribute and are primarily used for bittering beer.

Bittering and Co Humulone rates provided by Hop Union

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

US-05 Review

Dry Yeasts have been around for a long time now. Within the past 8-10 years dry yeasts have come a very long way and are now available in many different varieties. We, as homebrewers, are very fortunate to have the many various yeasts available. In this review I'm going to focus on US-05.

US-05 used to be called US-56. Why the name change you may ask? Well, Fermentis named it US-56 because it so much resembles Wyeasts 1056, which has the same name as "American Ale Yeast". Wyeast took Fermentis to court over the naming of the dry yeast and Fermentis then changed the name of the yeast. That's it in a nut shell.

Now, on to the real review. What can I not say about this yeast? It's a very clean fermenting ale yeast and can be used in a variety of beer styles. I've used US-05 in Pale Ales, IPA's, Double IPA's, Kolsch's and even Light Lager-style beers. US-05 works great for any range of gravity. It can handle up to 12% alcohol without crapping out on you. Now that's impressive. That being said, US-05 can easily handle Barley Wines or any kind of Strong Beer. For an average beer (1.050) you'd want to pitch one packet, for something like a Barley wine or even a Double IPA I'd recommend 2-3 packets.

And don't bother using a starter with US-05. When this yeast is packaged it's at it's peak performance and the manufacturer drys it at the stage where it actually contains all the nutrients for the yeast. You can't beat that. I've seen fermentation activity in as little as three hours. Talk about fast! And it chews up beer like nothing. Just be wary of your fermentation temperatures. I usually keep it on the cool side when fermenting ales (65-68 degrees), but this yeast can ferment at cooler temperatures (50-55 degrees). Yes, that's correct. A buddy of mine made a light pale ale and fermented at very low temps. I tried it out and he could have told me it was a lager that's how clean it turned out to be. I honestly believe he could have entered it in to a home brewing competition as a lager and no one would have known the difference. Very versatile, this yeast.

The one thing that I don't particularly like about US-05 is that it doesn't flocculate well. What does that mean? It doesn't fall out fast and form a very solid sediment when it's done fermenting. But that's the only real complaint I have about this yeast. Otherwise, it's a fantastic yeast to have on hand all the time, especially as a back up yeast. I've stopped using wlp001 and 1056. Now, I just rely on US-05.

If you haven't tried US-05 out or have any trepidation about using dry yeast, I say toss that aside and give them a shot. I'm sure you'll enjoy this yeast. That's the skinny on this yeast.