Update 8/25 - Bottled, and a wee bit smoky, but very nice bourbon and brandy. Just waiting waiting waiting now.
Update 8/4 - SG at 1.011! Either the honey fermented or didn't get mixed in well and sank. A little boozy at the current ~12%. Racked to secondary, bourbon/brandy-soaked oak cubes tossed in. Fridge temp reduced to 55F.
Update 7/21 - Added the buckwheat honey with a little warm water to make for easier mixing, and stirred gently in the carboy to rouse the yeast. The sample I pulled was still a bit sweet (SG~1.020 before adding honey), but had a nice base malt character and a little tropical fruit and citrus from the El Dorado. Esters aren't too strong from the yeast, but are definitely there. Nice rosy alcohol (~8%abv right now). The oak cubes are still soaking. I'll check back in on the yeast in about a week to see how the honey's fermenting out. If the yeast have done their job, I'll rack to secondary and add the oak.
This is the beginning of a possibly years-long brewing project. It started about a month ago, at the Firestone-Walker Invitational Beer Fest, where I had my very first (second, and third,...) taste of Helldorado. It was delicious. It is not available except in the Anniversary blends, and occasionally in the brewery in Paso Robles. No growlers, no bottles. But I wanted more. The tasting notes at the brewery gave some hints: 10.8%abv, 24IBU, 8 SRM ("deep gold") - Brewed with buckwheat honey and 100% El Dorado hops [my source], aged in bourbon and brandy barrels. After finding the honey and the hops, I played around with some recipe calculations to work out a grist that should give a complex malt character, the right color, and just a bit of caramel sweetness. To be honest, I really just made something up. For the second run, I'll dive deeper into various tasting notes and try to pry a few hints out of the brewers - but I have heard that FW uses cheap CA-grown malt and some light crystal/cara to add complexity. I may not end up with a perfect match to the original, but it has certainly inspired me and given me something to shoot for. In separate containers, begin soaking oak cubes (American medium+ toast): 1/2 oz oak in bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace) and 1/2 oz in brandy (E&J XO).
Helldorado Clone First Attempt, for 3 gallons
8lbs Golden Promise
1lb German Pilsner
4 oz American Crystal 15L
2 oz American Victory
1.5lbs Buckwheat Honey* (sourced locally in CA Central Valley)
0.25 oz El Dorado, 15.3%AA (60m)
0.25 oz El Dorado, 15.3%AA (15m)
0.5 oz El Dorado, 15.3%AA (1m)
1/4 tsp CaCl2, in mash
WLP007 - Dry English Ale Yeast, 1.5L starter
*Add at end of boil or after fermentation begins. I "chose" to do the latter, since I forgot to bring the honey from Merced this weekend.
Mash in with 11qts at 145F, soak for 75min. Raise to 160F by direct heat on mash over ~10-15min. Batch sparge with 8qt at 160F to collect 3.5 gallons at ~16P. Boil 60min, chill to 66F, oxygenate using compressed O2 for ~1min. Pitch yeast and ferment between 66 and 70F.