Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cloning Ninkasi's Tricerahops

I made my second attempt at cloning a commercial craftbeer from scratch, and I'm dying to see how it turns out. Our friends Brooke and Jeremy love Ninkasi Brewing's Tricerahops (and what's not to love about that beer?), but they're new to homebrewing. We were hosting them and another couple, Hillary and Jeff, for a day of homebrewing, and I thought I'd give this one a try.

Courtesy of Ninkasi's website
I started with the brewery's information about this beer, which is pretty helpful, but it's missing a key piece of data. Here's what they have to say


  • First Brewed: 2007 
  • Starting Gravity: 
  • Bitterness: 100 IBUs 
  • Alcohol %: 8.8 
  • Malt: 2 Row Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Carahell Malt 
  • Hops: Summit, Amarillo, Centennial, Palisade
Right. The Original Gravity is missing. I'm not sure why they'd exclude that when there is so much process that contributes to the final profile and giving up OG won't give away any of that. But regardless, it's not given on the website, and I didn't have time to contact the brewery.

As it were, I figured this info combined with a good piece of brewing software or some elbow grease would get me in the ballpark. "In the ballpark" is a euphemism for "another chance to try the recipe later... after taste testing it and tweaking it." 

So I broke out my trusty Beer Tools Pro, and got to work.  My original recipe is posted right below this paragraph. I scrubbed posts on, and the one candidate I found was very similar to this recipe, but there was some chatter about when to time the Summit additions to get you the best balance of Summit flavor and Summit bitterness. If I had used Summit, the timing is where I'd be spending my time.
0.5 lb (4.0%) Munich TYPE II; Weyermann
1 lb (8.0%) Carahell® (Organic); Weyermann
0.33 oz (7.8%) Summit(TM) (17.0%) - added first wort, boiled 90 min
0.67 oz (15.8%) Summit (17.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
0.5 oz (11.8%) Centennial (10.0%) - added during boil, boiled 45 min
0.75 oz (17.6%) Amarillo(R) (8.5%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
11 lb (88.0%) CBW® Golden Light Powder (Dry Malt Extract); Briess 15 min
0.5 oz (11.8%) Palisade(R), YCR4 (7.5%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
1.0 oz (23.5%) Palisade(R), YCR4 (7.5%) - steeped after boil
0.5 oz (11.8%) Palisade(R), YCR4 (7.5%) - added dry to secondary fermenter
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 10 min
1.0 ea WYeast 1272 American Ale II

Unfortunately, as with "the best laid plans of mice and men", this recipe had to be changed. A trip to the Local Homebrew Store (LHBS), required several substitutions, only one of which I was very enthused about.  The one substitution I'm really excited to taste is the wet Amarillo hops. I was glad they had wet hops in, but I've only brewed with wet hops once, and that was very recently. However, it's only one of several substitutions from above. By the time I got done substituting what they had for what I wanted, the recipe looked like this:
0.5 lb (4.0%) Munich 20L Malt; Briess
1 lb (8.0%) Crystal Malt 20°L
0.33 oz (6.6%) Sorachi Ace (15.0%) - added first wort, boiled 90 min
0.67 oz (13.4%) Sorachi Ace (15.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
1 oz (20.0%) Centennial (10.0%) - added during boil, boiled 45 min
1 oz (20.0%) Amarillo (wet, use 5x) (8.5%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
11 lb (88.0%) CBW® Golden Light Powder (Dry Malt Extract); Briess 15 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 10 min
1 oz (20.0%) Willamette (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
1 oz (20.0%) Willamette (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
1 ea White Labs WLP051 California Ale V

A couple things to note about the differences: Summit(TM) has a much different profile than Sorachi Ace. They're alpha acides are roughly equivalent, but the flavors and aromas they impart are like comparing grapefruits and lemons--literally. Everything I can find about Summit indicates it brings grapefruit to the beer, whereas Sorachi Ace is notably described as lemony. Second, I'm not sure how well Palisade(R) and Willamette compare.Yakima Chief is very tightlipped about Palisade's characteristics. Willamette is a well-known quantity with a mild, slightly spicy aroma. I guess we shall see.

In terms of process, again, without talking to the brewer, I had to make some guesses. I advised Jeremy and Brooke to do a first wort addition, and to wait to add the  dry malt extract as a late wort addition. The intent here was to keep gravity of the wort low to try to maximize utilization of the hops. First wort additions are supposed to give a brighter, cleaner hop flavor, so I thought we'd give it a try.  With 11 pounds of DME in the wort, it made sense to wait on adding that until near the end.

After cooling, we racked to the carboys and took a hydrometer reading--we'd made a 1.300 beer! It was then I realized I'd forgotten to actually weigh out the DME. We had used 12 pounds (not the 11 originally planned or posted) minus two cups dry volume. We tried to correct by adding well water (not city tap water with chlorine) to bring the gravity down to 1.078; something low enough our two-quart starter could probably handle.

So far, things are going well. Both the Oakland Bay Amber (a partial extract recipe from the other LBHS) and the Tricerahops Clone are bubbling away madly in the fermentation chamber at a balmy 70F. Stay tuned to see how this turns out.

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