Friday, August 2, 2013

Brewing a Heady Topper Clone - Recipe & Group Brew Day In Pictures

Click on any picture to enlarge and start a slideshow.


When I first read an interview with John Kimmich extolling the virtues of his proprietary Conan yeast strain, I was intrigued to hear a world class brewer suggesting that yeast could form the crucial, flavor-packing backbone of his huge hop-bomb IPA. I was determined to culture this secret-weapon-yeast, and I did, and it was awesome. Of course, I wasn't the only person to come to this conclusion, and not long after I posted my original write up on Conan last year, an epic forum thread popped up on HBT devoted to cloning Heady Topper. While I've never been hugely motivated to tackle commercial beer clones, it's not that I'm not interested — it's more that I'm too ADD, too easily distracted by a million other ideas, I think. Cloning a beer requires a lot of devotion to chipping away at one recipe; not even attempting to perfect it, so much, as to hone in on what already exists. My background as a writer means that I'm fidgety — editing and tweaking things down to the last second.

However, tackling a clone recipe of one of my absolute favorite beers as the first collaborative group brew between me and a few members of the Beacon Homebrew Club seemed perfect. This wasn't a recipe of my creation, and we weren't using my equipment, so I hardly had to do any work... can't say no to that, can you? We split up the ingredients amongst the three of us and brewed at my friend Chris' house. Chris and Phil will be fermenting 5 gallons each in their homes, and later kegging as well. Since this batch is pretty much out of my hands after pitching the yeast, I just wanted to document the brew-day and process here. The recipe follows at the end of the post.

My hope is to acquire some fresh Heady Topper right around when this is ready to drink, and do a Group Evaluation with the whole club and blind taste test both brews side by side. 



This was my first experience brewing on a Blichmann Top Tier system. It was certainly a thing of beauty, and I could definitely see myself getting one someday (unless I can set up an all-electric basement brewhouse first). Here, Phil fills a kettle to heat up the mash water. This being a 10 gallon batch, a great deal of water was harmed in the making of this beer.



Chris' brewing system has approximately four hundred times the capacity of mine.


This 10 gallon batch of beer will use about 2 pounds of hops, plus hop shots for bittering, when all is said and done.


Upon assembling all the ingredients in a Natural Helix formation, we offered the appropriate incantations to Nephropidaesar the Awoken. I had left my Warding Stones at home, so Chris let me borrow an extra set. The ritual passed Fourth Phase without Nephropidaesar casting his Shadow, and accepting as the Elder Gods seemed pleased, we checked the temp on the strike water and began the 60 minute mash.


No two brewers seem to have the exact same approach to brewing, much less the same set of equipment. We enjoyed a thorough discussion on the merits of fly sparging vs. batch sparging.


A significant amount of the hops in this recipe are (/should be) added as a two-stage whirlpool hop addition. Read up on the advantages of whirlpool hopping / hop stands here. (Due to Chris' fancy setup, we were able to get an actual whirlpool going, which I can't do at home).


Phil lathers himself in Star San, while Chris secretly watches him through a spyglass.



Plate chillers involve a lot more tubing than I'm used to. Since we whirlpool hopped, we did not use a Hop Rocket or any such device. Before pitching the yeast, I aerated each 5 gallon fermentor with 70 seconds of pure O2.


Conan yeast and iced coffee: important staples of my average brewday.

The recipe for this beer was laboriously investigated, tweaked and refined over the last year by the members of HomeBrewTalk, and in particular by Danny (aka theveganbrewer) of Signpost Brewing. I've tried to keep up with that thread and contribute where I could, but since I haven't brewed a clone attempt previously, those contributions were obviously minimal. Anyone brewing a Heady Topper clone owes a huge debt to Signpost Brewing and all the time he's spent pinning down the components of this unique recipe. Most of the ingredients for this recipe have been verified either by feedback from John Kimmich, or by information gleaned from the Alchemist brewery / website / blog / promotional videos. The only thing up in the air at this point are the percentages and ratios, and the process and technique quirks that the Alchemist may employ. I can say already that this recipe is very very close to the real thing, as Phil brewed an earlier, simplified version of it — with my feedback and yeast assistance — earlier this year. It was missing a few grains and a few hops, but it tasted pretty much like a homebrew version of Heady Topper. I expect this will be even closer.

Of note, too: you could do an extract version of this recipe with the exact same hop bill, but it won't be a real clone. The grain bill is simply impossible to duplicate with contemporary malt extracts. Which is not to say it's not worth trying: you should still end up with an awesome beer, it just won't be a perfect clone. Similarly, there is just no substitute for Conan yeast. I have yet to encounter another strain that tastes and performs like Conan. Fermenting with American Ale yeast or WL 007 will earn you a very delicious double IPA, but it won't be Heady Topper.

We brewed a 10 gallon batch on Chris' system. The recipe below is for 5 gallons, which we simply doubled. Tasting notes and a side-by-side evaluation next to the real thing have been posted here.


Recipe-
5 Gal., All Grain
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Mashed at 150 F for 60 minutes
90 minute boil
Fermented at 68 degrees F (raise to 70 after 3 days)
Brewed: 7.28.2013
Kegged On: 8.18.2013
OG: 1.073
FG: 1.016
ABV: 7.5%

Malt-
85% Pearl malt
5.7% white wheat malt
5.7% CaraMalt
3.7% Turbinado sugar

Hop Schedule-
10.00 ml hop extract @90 min
3 oz Simcoe @0 min
0.5 oz Apollo @0 min
1 oz  Columbus @0 min
1 oz  Columbus when 180 F - whirlpool 30 min
1 oz Simcoe when 180 F - whirlpool 30 min
1 oz Amarillo when 180 F - whirlpool 30 min
0.5 oz Centennial when 180 F - whirlpool 30 min
0.5 oz Apollo when 180 F - whirlpool 30 min

Dry Hop Schedule-
(for better effeciency, split dry hops into two separate additions, 4 days + 4 days)
1 oz Columbus dry hop 8 days
2 oz Simcoe dry hop 8 days
1 oz oz Amarillo dry hop 8 days
1 oz oz Centennial dry hop 8 days
0.5 oz Apollo dry hop 8 days

Yeast-
The Alchemist - Conan


37 comments:

  1. I have been meaning to do the newest recipe Danny had come up with. I was pretty active in that thread very early on, brewing 2 of the first few tries last winter. But like you I wasnt able to keep up, I like changing it up instead of brewing the same beer over and over. I'm excited to hear how yours turns out.

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  2. Rad. Looking forward to the follow-up. Thanks, and thank you, theveganbrewer.

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  3. Looking forward to know the FG. I just did the BYO clone recipe of HT, using Conan, but ended up with FG 1.020, the beer being a bit too sweet...

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    1. Conan is definitely tricky, given what it goes through to get to us. Our clone fermented much more slowly than I would've liked, or have ever experienced previously. It eventually hit the FG we wanted, at least, but for a week we were worried it might stall out. Unless you have the equipment to check it out under a scope, it's hard to determine how healthy the yeast is out of the can. It's a pretty big variable, I guess.

      Hopefully the beer was still tasty despite the high FG!

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  4. My local homebrew store doesn't carry hop extract and I'm curious if you know what type of hop could be used as a replacement.

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    1. Northern Brewer or Magnum would be good substitutes — you just want something that'll give you a nice neutral bitterness (hop shots are very clean) and of course hit the IBU figure without adding a ton of hop matter. I'm of the opinion that the hop shots are one of the less critical components of the recipe, so a substitute should do you fine. Conan is really vital, and the Pearl malt to a lesser extent, whereas the hop shots are, I think, mostly for the practicality and economics of avoiding trub loss.

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  5. Thanks for the feedback. As a heads up, the recipe's SRM/IBU's are missing from this page. I'm about an 8-hour drive away from the picking up the Conan strain - looks like American Ale yeast for me. Once I get back to Vermont though it will be interesting to brew this again and taste the outcome side-by-side.

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    1. Absolutely, I've also been thinking I should do a side-by-side comparison of Conan and some other yeast strain if I ever do a rebrew of this clone on my own. Would be a very cool experiment!

      SRM for this should be around 6.2, I believe, though the appearance of Heady is really not comparable to most other IPAs. Conan is a horrible horrible flocculator, and Heady pours looking like an orange juice milkshake, as you probably know. However the color for this clone is spot on.

      IBUs should be 130 for the bittering addition. This doesn't take into account the whirlpool hop additions, which Beer Smith calculates as 0 IBU, but I don't think those IBUs are taken into account by the Alchemist's IBU calculations either.

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  6. According to my calculations, you should be quaffing a pint of this very soon? Would love to know how it came out. Thanks for the great blog!

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    1. Your calculations are correct! My friends kegged each of their portions last weekend, and just delivered some Blichmann Beer Gun-filled bottles to me yesterday. I am drinking one right now, and I can say that it's very very close, though not all the way there. I think there were a few process hiccups and likely some ratios and percentages in the recipe not 100% there yet, but still... very close! In my experience, Heady has a ton of inconsistency between batches, and I would put this on par with a lesser batch, in that it's got the "right" flavor, just not as intense or vivid as it could be.

      I'll have a full write up and hopefully a side-by-side comparison in a week or two!

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  7. I always kind of assumed that Heady goes through fresh hops one last time, as its being canned. Kimmich has a couple of clever little gizmos up there, most of which are repurposed tanks intended for other purposes (ie the old brite tank he "top crops" into). I wonder if something as simple as that could put it over the top.

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    1. Great point, you know, I always had that thought in my head too. No idea how it would work honestly, since he seems to be going to greater lengths to clear the beer up lately. But I could swear I used to hear talk of him hopping the beer right before it hit the canning line, so who knows; it might be the thing that sets it over the top.

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  8. Any ideas on Signpost's change of recipes from late May to mid June. Notably the Simcoe diminished quite a bit and the Columbus went up. It looks like you used a recipe from late May or earlier. If you brewed in August, I'm curious as to why you chose that route rather than the diminished Simcoe and added Columbus with his later clone recipes.

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    1. We used the most recent recipe he came up with, the 4.0 version. His website went offline, but it's the same recipe that was regularly updated at the front of the HBT thread too (and is still up there). I can't remember if he offered any thoughts for future changes, but that was the latest version at the time we brewed.

      Having said that, I don't think this was heavy enough on the Columbus, still. I remember him going back and forth on that, and adding some Apollo in to up the dankness, but it could still use more.

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    4. Here are the guts of the mid-June recipe. It was weird, he had recipe 4.0 posted and he made changes to the published recipe (all titled 4.0). So, it was listed with slightly different hop configurations at different times. This is heavier on the Columbus than you went with. Any ideas what happened to his website? I just tried to view it; it's being sold for $1299.00!!! Crazy. Good man to have that thing ripped from underneath his feet. I have brewed this recipe, and I like it a lot. Are you adding the Turbinado after the boil?

      Ingredients
      11 lbs 4.0 oz Pearl Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 1 84.9 %
      12.0 oz Thomas Fawcett CaraMalt (12 SRM) Grain 2 5.7 %
      12.0 oz Canada Malting Group White Wheat (3.5 SRM) Grain 3 5.7 %
      8.0 oz Turbinado (10.0 SRM) Sugar 14 3.8 %
      Hops
      10ml Hopshot [3.45 %] – Boil 90.0 min Hop 4 117.8 IBUs
      1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 5 8.9 IBUs
      0.50 oz Apollo [12.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 6 4.0 IBUs
      2.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 7 0.0 IBUs
      1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 10 0.0 IBUs
      1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Aroma Steep 30.0 min Hop 8 0.0 IBUs
      1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Aroma Steep 30.0 min Hop 9 0.0 IBUs
      0.75 oz Amarillo Gold [8.50 %] – Aroma Steep 30.0 min Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
      0.50 oz Centennial [10.50 %] – Aroma Steep 30.0 min Hop 13 0.0 IBUs
      0.50 oz Apollo [12.50 %] – Aroma Steep 30.0 min Hop 12 0.0 IBUs
      1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Dry Hop 8.0 Days Hop 16 0.0 IBUs
      2.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 8.0 Days Hop 15 0.0 IBUs
      1.00 oz Amarillo Gold [8.50 %] – Dry Hop 8.0 Days Hop 17 0.0 IBUs
      1.00 oz Centennial [10.50 %] – Dry Hop 8.0 Days Hop 18 0.0 IBUs
      0.50 oz Apollo [17.00 %] – Dry Hop 8.0 Days Hop 19 0.0 IBUs

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    5. Interesting! Thanks for posting that. It looks like he added a few more ounces of Columbus, which is pretty much how I have been feeling as well. I still feel there may not be enough Columbus in the dry hop — the aroma to me is very heavy on Columbus and Simcoe, but of course, with so many hops working in tandem, it's a real pain trying to guess at exact ratios. I am only guessing for sure.

      Wow, that's a pretty big chunk of change! I have no idea what the story is there, to be honest.

      Yep, sugars like the turbinado I usually add a few days after fermentation has commenced.

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  9. I was putting in to beersmith but don't understand the grain bill in %'s. Can you explain please?

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    1. I give the grain bills in percentages in the hopes that it's easier to scale for people with different systems (I typically brew weird batch sizes), but for a 5 gallon batch with this recipe, the grains should come to:

      11 lb 4 oz Pearl malt
      12 oz white wheat
      12 oz Caramalt
      8 oz Turbinado sugar

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  10. In your hop schedule what do you mean by 'when at 180F' is that on the way up to boiling or on the way down when you cool it. Is there a concern with whirlpooling hot wort and introducing the chance for oxidation. I am just curious because I am starting some Conan yeast and I want to make sure I understand all of the steps to ensure the best brew. :) Thanks for posting this recipe.

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    1. Hey Katherine, the 180 F is a "hopstand" addition... in other words, when the wort is cooling down. You'll see that some of the additions are at flameout, or 0 min. By waiting until the beer cools down to 180 F before adding the second addition, you can extract a greater range of flavors. It's a technique called whirlpool hopping or hopstand, and if you're interested in reading about it in more detail, here's a whole article explaining lots of details: http://www.bear-flavored.com/2013/07/the-benefits-of-hop-stand-whirlpool.html

      Hope that helps! Happy brewing!

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  11. One of the things I'm interested in for this beer is water profile, which I think is huge for this beer. Not having done very much research on a Heady clone, has there been much talk about water profile? What sort of water profile did you select? Thanks so much for posting this.

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    1. Great question. Very very important question. Water is always the secret ingredient that people don't talk about much, but that is likely the secret weapon in the best hoppy beers being brewed now. I don't post too much about the water adjustments I make at the moment, because I feel like I still have so much to learn. I'm making slight tweaks to each batch and will write more about it in the future when I feel like I have a better grasp of what happens with each adjustment.

      And of course, the Vermont guys are all very secretive about their water. Shaun Hill gives hints now and then, and makes me think the Chloride level is much more important for hoppy beers than one traditionally thinks.

      For this batch, we went with a fairly standard IPA water treatment, not really knowing what else to aim for. I honestly can't remember the exact amount, because the calculations never made it to my notes, but we added a very standard amount of gypsum. I imagine he keeps the levels moderate, but maybe a bit higher than other Vermont brewers. The actual Heady was definitely more bitter than our clone. I'd aim for 250-ish ppm for SO4.

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  12. Quick question - When you say dry hop for 4 days then 4 is that the last 8 days in the secondary? I usually let my beer sit in the primary for 7 days and then 3 weeks in the secondary - so should I plan on adding dry hops 13 days after going into the carboy? I've done other IPAs and just dry hopped over the entire 3 week period with no ill effects.

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    1. Yeah, pretty much. I think you could do your usual strategy just as well and see how it goes. The thing with this beer is — we're still guessing on a lot of things. Kimmich has confirmed a few specifics and general techniques, but not everything. I'm a big fan of dry-hopping in two stages, with the first stage having contact for about a week, and the second addition of dry hops having contact for four or five days. I think it helps to make sure you'll drinking the beer before the aromatics start to fade. But I think you can adapt it to your process, as everyone's setup is a bit different.

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  13. I like how the pics of the brewers obscure their identities so that they are not stopped on the streets for autographs ;)

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    1. Haha, all totally accidental as far as I know, but they sure did have a knack for remaining obscured!

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  14. Some information in this Q&A that may be helpful, with another clone: http://chopandbrew.com/2014/03/10/chop-brew-episode-22-john-kimmich-from-the-alchemist/

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I actually have another kind-of riff on Heady Topper planned for brewing in the next couple weeks. Someone else sent me this video last week and I've been slowly making my way through it! Kimmich is an awesome guy, I'm really happy they recorded this.

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  15. I may have missed this, but what do the huge late additions of Apollo do? M understanding of this is a super high alpha buttering hop and not much more. Seems like it would be equivalent to adding huge hits of magnum or warrior late. Ay chance there are some pacific rim hops like mosaic, zythos or even galaxy in this beer? I feel like those are a distinct possibility and I also seem to recall reading speculation of the same. Thanks for posting this, great article!

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    1. I wouldn't call the late additions of Apollo huge, it's the most minimal addition out of all the hops. However, I don't think the comparison to Magnum or Warrior is accurate either. Apollo is actually a pretty flavorful hop, unlike those, it's just not very commonly used or appreciated for its flavor properties. It's even danker than Columbus, and it's got a really intriguing "orange citrus" character that I find unique in Heady. There's definitely more experimentation needed, but to be honest, I think we didn't use quite enough Apollo in this recipe. I'll be playing around with ratios some more.

      Remember that Kimmich has been brewing Heady for around a decade, and while the recipe has been tweaked since, it probably hasn't changed too drastically in the last 4 or 5 years, especially when it comes to the hop varieties. Zythos and Mosaic are far too new to be in this. And he's also confirmed that Heady is all American hops — Alchemist has dedicated acres at a hop yard in Oregon growing the hops for this year. So Pacific Rim and Galaxy are definitely out too.

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  16. Interesting, I read one profile of Apollo and it said neutral. Then I checked on my retailer where I buy bulk hops and it matches your description. After reading your posts, the flavors I'm catching from heady are indeed yeast derived and not from hops! One other question , what about using Columbus or mag/warrior @ 60min as opposed to extract @90? Like you, I'm not much of a cloner, but this brew is my white whale. Thanks again!

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    1. I think that would work just fine. On the homebrew scale especially, it's not as huge of a deal to keep the extra hop matter out of the fermentor, though it's nice. As far as just flavor goes though, I don't think you'll not notice much difference with Magnum or Warrior. Something clean and neutral.

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  17. I'm going to try this recipe next weekend but I'll be using extract. I was going to sub 8.5lbs ultralight extract for the 11 lbs pearl malt. What should I do about the white wheat. I remember reading that you can't steep it. Any recommendations?

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