Mowbrew IIPA

For those homebrewers in Cape Town, the Southyeasters homebrew club is a must. Even if you never attend a single meeting, the mailing list alone makes it worth it.

That said, the meetings are cool too, and the bi-monthly “people’s choice” competitions are a great way to get feedback on your beers, and to taste a whole bunch of other people’s beers for free.

The upcoming March competition is a slight variation from the norm, in that, whereas it’s normally a free-for-all and you can brew what you want, with whatever you want; this time the ingredients have been predefined, and we have to brew with those, and those alone.

The list of allowed ingredients is:

Pale Malt
120-150 Crystal Malt
Southern Promise Hops
US-05 Yeast

Southern Promise hops are a South African variety, primarily used for bittering, so this was going to be a challenge. I reckon there will a be a lot of pale ales, brown ales, and IPAs in the running, come competition time on the 12th of March.

I wanted to do something a bit different, so I decided to do a IIPA (an imperial IPA). This is like a normal IPA, but with everything turned up a notch – more alcohol, more bitterness, more hop flavour and aroma. Of course, it shall be called “Mowbrew IIPA” ;)

Having never made an IPA myself, and since I was coming up with this recipe from scratch, I decided to play it safe, and make a smaller batch than usual.

Last year, for my birthday, my wife and parents gave me a gift voucher to use at Beerguevara. I’d held back on using it, since there were no imminent hardware needs for my current setup. The proposition of doing some small brews, however, gave me the opportunity to finally “break” the voucher, and purchase a 5l glass carboy fermenter and a few other odds and ends, converting the remainder of the voucher into store credit.

Here’s all the stuff I picked up yesterday:

The spoils of the beer store (note the shake-it siphon resting on the grain-bag)

The spoils of the beer store

And here’s a recipe I came up with (full recipe available here):

Grain Bill:

2kg Pale Malt

0.2kg Crystal Malt


15g Southern Promise (First wort hops)

10g Southern Promise (30 mins)

10g Southern Promise (15 mins)

10g Southern Promise (10 mins)

10g Southern Promise (5 mins)

10g Southern Promise (0 mins)

15g Southern Promise (Dry hop 7 days)

15g Southern Promise (Dry hop 3 days)


Safale US-05 Dry Yeast

Since I like round numbers, I was shooting for 100 IBUs and above 10% ABV.

100g of Southern Promise hops

100g of Southern Promise hops

...and of milled grain

…and of milled grain

I mashed in at 64C, and left it for 90 minutes. Since it was a smaller batch my cooler box was only about half full. I’m not sure what the reason was, but I didn’t hit my target post-mash gravity (it was meant to be 1.077, I was about 1.05). Regardless, I chucked my wort in the pot, along with my first wort hops (another new technique I was trying for the first time) and started the boil.

Hops going in (don't under-estimate the coordination it took to take this photo)

Hops going in (don’t under-estimate the coordination it took to take this photo)

One advantage of the smaller batch is that it got up to boil really quickly. Whilst that was happening, I weighed out the rest of the hop additions and started sanitising the siphon and fermenter.

Weighing out the hops

Weighing out the hops

Sanitise all the things!

Sanitise all the things!

Chilling the wort after the boil was a mission since it was so hot. The ambient air temperature was about 28C, so getting the wort down to below 25C was nigh impossible. Once I finally did get it down to 28C I siphoned it off into the carboy and decided to leave it to cool before I would add the yeast. My OG was 1.084, less than intended, but I’ll still end up with a 9.5% beer, if fermentation goes as planned.

Oh – a word on the siphon – I was going to buy an easy-siphon from Beergeuvara, but they didn’t have stock of the one I wanted. What they did have, however, was a new stock item called a “shake-it-siphon”, which sells for less than a third of the price (R70, versus R260). You can see it in the first picture, leaning on the grain-bag. It’s not yet listed on their website, but they had about 10 on the shelf when I was in there yesterday.

Shake-it siphon

Shake-it siphon

Shake-it siphon, the business end

Shake-it siphon, the business end

It works as follows: stick the red end in the liquid, and shake it until the flow has started. It takes a little getting used to (you really need two free hands, or a decent clip to hold it place) but it gets the job done very cheaply, plus you can use it with hot water (eg for mashing/sparging) which, I’ve read, you can’t do with an easy-siphon as the plastic is too thin.

Mmmm, brown juice

Mmmm, brown juice

OK, back to the (slowly) cooling wort: It started out looking quite murky (a LOT of hops for such a small quantity of wort), but separated pretty quickly as the hop matter started to drop.

Starting to separate, also featuring a glass of Dead Guy clone

Starting to separate, also featuring a glass of Dead Guy clone

Finally, at about 8pm last night, after sitting the carboy in a pot of cold water for a few hours, it finally got cold enough to pitch the yeast. I pitched the whole packet, since it’s a fairly big beer, and by this morning a nice head had formed, and the bubbler was doing it’s usual dance.

Bubbling in its blanket

Bubbling in its blanket

I’ll dry hop it in about a week’s time, and bottle it a week after that. I’m not really sure what to expect from this one, but it’s been an interesting learning experience nonetheless, and nice to get back in the game after not brewing for over a month due to holidays, weddings, etc.



Report back:

On tasting the beer, we were pleasantly surprised. It was bitter (oh, so very bitter), but had a nice hint of fruitiness that I wasn’t expecting from the Southern Promise hops. One issue I did notice was the unfortunately large amount of yeast in each bottle, a result of our inexperience bottling from a glass carboy with no auto-siphon.

The results of the competition, however, were not as good as expected. Despite getting decent feedback during the tasting (apart one gentleman who immediately remarked “infected!” and tossed his sample into the pitcher belonging to the brewer adjacent to us) this did not convert into votes, and we were left in last place (out of 7 entries). Somewhat humbling, but at least we learned something along the way. Also, we enjoyed it, and we didn’t die, and that’s all that really counts in homebrewing at the end of the day.