Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lactobacillus Plantarum Gose: Sourcing Lacto from Probiotics

There is seemingly a never ending parade of new strains of Saccharomyces, and the last few years Brettanomyces, being released on a consistent basis to both the professional and home brewing world. But the diversity of Lactobacillus species on the market has been sparse to say the least. As sour wort\kettle souring with pure culture strains of Lactobacillus has become even more popular, folks (myself) have been looking for some different cultures other than Delbrueckii and Buchneri which White Labs and Wyeast have carried for years. Especially with the White Labs L. Delbrueckii culture having a reputation of being cross contaminated with cells of Saccharomyces resulting in very little lactic acid in finished beers. 

Labs like Omega and Gigayeast have stepped to the fore with some great blends of various Lactobacillus Species but after reading Matt Humbard's comprehensive research on Lactobacillus I was really interested to try some them on their lonesome. The species that stood out the most to me from Matt's article was Lactobacillus Plantarum. It has a few redeeming qualities that I have been searching for, its Homofermentative, acidifies very quickly and does not seem to need a ton of heat to achieve that acidity. Make sure you read through his article as I couldn't do half as good a job as describing L. Plantarum, among other species, as he can. 

I couldn't locate any labs that sold a pure culture Homebrew sized pitch of L. Plantarum, although there may be for pro brewers. After chatting with some folks on Milk the Funk  I came across these Probiotics from Swanson.  Each capsule is reported to have 10 billion cells of dry L. Plantarum and at that price its hard to beat, so I figured they were worth the try.

Reading post fermentation.

Using the same short brewday sour wort method, and recipe as in the previous post, I brewed up another Gose for further summer enjoyment. I cracked open 3 of the capsules of the Swansons L. Plantarum and got them into 750ml of starter wort, left unstirred and held at 105F for 36 hours. The starter reached a pH of 3.3 in that time, then the whole starter was pitched into 100F wort in a Better Bottle. I held the sour wort at only 95F, since I read Plantarum can acidify a little cooler than other species. After 48 hours of sour worting the pH was 3.31 and it was very tart, I made the mistake of not taking a gravity reading here but have on more recent batches and the gravity drop has been minimal. I pitched some US-05 and fermentation was done about 48 hours later (4 days total) at 1.003 and 3.31pH, the beer was kegged on the 12th day of fermentation. 

This batch was 5 IBUs and L. Plantarum had no problem at all acidifying the beer quickly. In recent batches I have used 8 IBUs and 10IBUs (calculated) reaching pH levels of 3.35 and 3.40 respectively. I plan to test it out at some high IBU concentrations but it's looking like a fairly IBU tolerant strain that suits my boiled, hopped, sour worted method. I will update later on in the summer after I play with some high IBU worts and how L. Plantarum worked. Below are tasting notes for this batch, recipe after the notes.

Nobody Gose there anymore, it's too crowded: with Probiotics.

But do you Milk the Funk?

Appearance: The beer is almost white in color, the photo doesn't do the color justice, extremely pale and hazy. Soapy bright white head, it fades but not as fast as you might think, and there is a decent ring of head that hangs on top the entire glass. Usually head retention in these beers are awful due to the low pH, not in this beer and not in any of my sour worting beers. Not sure why that is, I guess I'm doing something right.

Aroma: Raw malt aromas, like sticking your face in a bag of Pilsner. Slightly bready, a bit rustic, lemony and and noticeably acidic. A bit of funk and spice from the coriander, some Belgian-esque esters that I wasn't expecting.

Taste: Acid upfront as expected, prickly as it crosses the tongue due to the acidity and some carbonic acid but this isn't a highly carbonated beer. Cleanly lactic, subtle Belgian-esque spice following the nose, maybe that's the coriander though. The salinity is very low, and finish is dry and acidic with a slight pucker in the back corners of my mouth. 

Overall: Very refreshing summer crusher, as compared to the last batch it's more sour and light on the salt and coriander character but I dig it. It has a really nice grainy character, like uncrushed raw malt, it's dry and perfect acidity wise, for what I want not as a classic example.  The ease of these L. plantarum tabs make this a real winner for me. I'm wondering it the Lacto added the raw character to the beer, maybe the esters as well. 

I most certainly use these tabs again, I may use them blended with other species of Lacto like Omega does with their blend but just to see how things differ. Its a great cheap source of aggressive Lacto that's readily available to anyone.  

Brew day: 5/25/2015
Multiple fermentations in the dark.
Kegged: 6/6/2015

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 6.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.035 SG
Measured OG: 1.036 SG
Measured FG: 1.003 SG
Beer pH: 3.31
ABV: 4.2%
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 2 Minutes

50.0% - 3lbs 11oz - Weyermann Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
50.0% - 3lbs 11oz - CMC White Wheat (3.5 SRM)

Boil: 2mins - 0.75oz  Strisslespalt [3.9 %] 4 IBU
Boil: 2mins -  0.50oz Sea Salt
Boil: 2mins -  0.50oz Coriander, freshly ground seeds.

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148 F 


No Sparge, full volume of water in the mash, 7.10 gallons.

5ml lactic acid in the mash, Mash ph 5.35.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The summer of Gose.

I would normally use a swing top 1L growler,
to keep the o2 at bay, but it wasn't available.
There may not be a more popular trend in American craft beer right now than the revival of German Gose. Over the last few years the beer community has been focusing more and more on session strength beers and with sours rapidly growing in popularity Gose fits both trends. Gose (pronounced Goes-Ahh) shares some similarities with Berliner Weisse they are both low in alcohol and tart, but Gose is brewed with a saline water profile giving the style a very unique personality. Like Berliner Weisse, Gose is brewed with a 50:50 mix of wheat and barley, spiced with coriander and a small amount of hops in the boil then finally fermented with a blend of lactic acid and Saccharomyces. What you end up with is a slightly salty, light bodied, floral and tart beer in the 3.9%-4.9% ABV range. I don't consider myself an expert on the history of Gose but it has been a dying style over the years, making it very difficult to find classic examples. If you're looking for more background or history check out This articleThis one, or the ever growing Milk The Funk Gose Wiki for more links and information (watch that video, its great).

A few years ago I played with a technique called Sour Worting to brew some tart Berliner Weisse beers (mostly no boil versions, a bit too inconsistent for me), which from the production level, as I mentioned, is quite similar to Gose. The idea behind Sour Worting is to give Lactobacillus Bacteria a head start on creating lactic acid, a key component of the style, under conditions that favor the bacteria. The brewday using this method is quite short, about 2.5-3 hours for a 5 gallon batch in my case and with my second child on the way this fall I see a lot more of these in my future.
co2 purging the Better bottle.

I start by building a 1L starter for the Lactobacillus strain I am using, in this case L. Brevis from White Labs, incubated warm at ~100-120F in an anaerobic environment for 2-3 days. After which I take a PH reading to ensure things are progressing, so long as it's under 3.8pH I assume we are in good shape. I didn't follow these procedures on this batch but check out the Starter Media for Lactobacillus post on Eureka Brewing. I plan to implement his results going forward when build the media for a Lacto starter.

Brewday for this beer is pretty standard until we hit a boil, using a no sparge setup I mash with all my water for 60 minutes then run off to the boil kettle and hit a boil. Once the boil is achieved I add a small amount of hops, 1/2oz of Sea Salt (go light on the salt to start, you can always add more at packaging but can't take any out!) and Coriander. Let the boil roll for a couple minutes, just enough to sterilize the wort, and then cut the heat. Keep in mind that the hopping rate when working with Lactobacillus is key. High IBU concentrations can inhibit certain strains of Lactobacillus' growth and thus their ability to create lactic acid. Keeping the IBU's under 5, or even none at all, is a good guideline to follow. Any more than 5 IBUs and your chosen Lacto cultures may have a difficult time dropping the pH to the levels you desire. 

After the short boil the wort is chilled to 120F its gently transferred to a co2 purged fermentation vessel so as not to aerate the wort, as most strains of Lactobacillus perform optimally in an anaerobic environment (strain dependent, and I've read this may not be the case with Brevis).  At which point I pitch the starter of my Lacto culture, and use a heating pad to incubate at ~100F for 2-5 days, or once desired acidity (or pH) is reached. Pre-acidifying the wort with 88% Lactic Acid prior down to 4.5pH, to pitching your Lacto starter, sets you up with a more optimal environment for Lactobacillus to perform (among other reasons regarding head retention). 
Be warm my babies.

After 48 hours of incubation I pull the first sample to check gravity, pH and give it a taste. If you have an active Lactobacillus culture built up there should already be a big drop in pH and a noticeable acidity, with residual sugars remaining the acidity can be overshadowed so make sure to measure either pH or Titratable Acidity. This example was a little slow, the pH was 3.9, down from 4.5 my vial of Brevis was about 3-4 months old so that could have been the culprit. One thing I would like to mention here is that White Labs states their Brevis (a heterofermentative strain) culture can achieve 80% AA which is fine so long as it creates the acidity I want and ferments out clean. I've been experiencing full attenuation in 3 days using their culture which cuts into the creation of Lactic acid for an otherwise Lactic acid driven beer. This has prompted me to play with other strains and blends of Lactobacillus, mostly of the Homofermentative variety, for the most optimal fermentation, posts on those to follow.

In most cases I would reach my target acidity or pH, chill the fermentor down and add a strain of Saccharomyces or Brettanomyces to ferment out the rest of the beer, most folks find US-05 works well in those low pH environments. But in this case Brevis achieved 85% AA and the beer was cleanly fermented and had a decent acidity finishing at 3.65pH (I wanted a bit more though it tastes great) so there was no need to add a secondary strain. If the beer does not finish as acidic as you would like you can choose to dose the beer with some 88% Lactic acid but use a deft touch as too much can be overwhelming. Some people think it tastes synthetic, or medicinal, in high concentrations but if used lightly it can get the beer closer to where you want it.

This batch was brewed, fermented out, kegged and tapped in 14 days at a pH of 3.65. Below are tasting notes after being on tap for about 3 weeks, with the recipe details below.

Nobody Gose There Anymore, It's Too Crowded

Appearance: Hazy very pale yellow color, almost white-ish, with a wispy bright white head that fades quickly due to the acidity. Moderately high carbonation (carbed to 2.5vol). Always an odd color with these short\no boil beers.

Aroma: First wafts are pretty clean, with a bit of a grainy\earthy character and a touch of spice and lemon zest. The aroma is not huge, but you can tell it's going to be a lactic beer.
Fresh pour, haze abounds, head fades.

Taste: It starts with a slight tartness upfront immediately followed by a bit of salinity. The the wheat character takes over in the middle of the mouth lending more body than you would expect, finally finishing lightly tart with a sting on the sides of cheeks fading and finishing very dry. 

Overall: Its a very delicate tart beer with notes of lemon, grain, and a moderate salinity. The finish is dry and tart, it makes your teeth dry as you clammer for another sip a similar sensation to when drinking a fresh squeezed lemonade. At the 4% ABV range I have been crushing these after mowing the lawn mid-day on a weekend, I'm a suburban Dad now no long a city Yuppie, which makes this is acceptable practice. When I kegged the beer I was underwhelmed as I thought it needed more acidity, I still think that, but it ended up being a very balanced beer that reminds me more of the very few classic German Gose I've had. Although I was reaching for something like Westbrook Gose on the acidity scale I am very pleased with how this came out.

Brew day: 4/28/2015
Kegged: 5/12/2015

Recipe Specifications
Calibrating and measuring pH.
Boil Size: 6.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.035 SG
Measured OG: 1.038 SG
Measured FG: 1.006 SG
ABV: 4.2%
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.10 %
Boil Time: 2 Minutes

50.0% - 3lbs 11oz - Weyermann Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
50.0% - 3lbs 11oz - CMC White Wheat (3.5 SRM)

Boil: 2mins - 0.75oz  Strisslespalt [3.9 %] 4 IBU
Boil: 2mins -  0.50oz Sea Salt
Boil: 2mins -  0.50oz Coriander, freshly ground seeds.

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148 F 

No Sparge, full volume of water in the mash, 7.10 gallons.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Mein Kiwi: An exploration of flavors through blending saison.

I'm in desperate need of a sparge arm.
Over the last year or so I have made a concerted effort to build my palate for blending as much as possible. Whether it's sourcing Lambic right from Belgium to blend with my own sour beer, blending finished beers in the glass or blending my own beer with that of other home brewers, I've been trying to blend as often as I can. This all in an effort to explore different flavors within beers and how playing with different blending ratios can help bring a beer to an entirely different level, and make myself a better brewer\blender of course. 

My buddy Bill and I recently brewed variations of The Farmer in the Rye independently on our own systems, he used some Nelson Sauvin Hops late in the boil while I used Hallertau Blanc, with the intentions of blending them for a finished product that suits our fancy. My beer was cleanly fermented with Wallonian Farmhouse while his was fermented out entirely with the Tired Hands Emptiness culture. The point here was to have similar yet different finished beers so we could make two separate blends, one to be bottled and graded and one to be kegged and served at an event at Memphis Taproom during Philly Beer Week. If you're unfamiliar with Philly Beer Week, just know that it was the first beer week in the country, still the best, and is the reason your town has an organized beer week. To say we are proud of our beer week is an understatement. 

Playing with those ratios.
Bill and I got together about 10 days before the event to blend and package 10 gallons of Saison. We started by pulling samples of each, tasting and discussing what we liked or didn't like about both beers. Bill's, Emptiness/Nelson Sauvin version,  smelled like a glass of pineapple juice with a really nice Brett expression reminiscent of feet and earth, weird I know but I assure it was good. But his beer was quite thin in body and despite having a 1.004 FG didn't finish as dry as we would have liked. Mine, the clean Wallonian Farmhouse/Hallertau Blanc version, had a nice spice like aroma with some subtle notes of tropical fruit, more delicate and balanced than Bill's but maybe not as unique. The body was so silky and smooth despite the bone dry FG of 1.000, with a very dry bitter finish that bordered on being astringent. Between the amazing Pineapple-y/funk of Bill's and the spicy, dry, silky body aspects of mine we confident we could build both a "fresh" and "age-able" blend from the two. 

We started with a 50:50 blend ratio, using a gram scale and a turkey baster, sampled and took some notes then adjusted based on what we were experiencing. We tried maybe 4-5 different blends for ex. 70:30 Emptiness:Wallonian, 65:35 Wallonian:Emptiness etc., all different and all quite good. What we settled on for the blend for the event was a 60:40 Wallonian:Emptiness ratio, it utilized the body and dry finish of mine (Wallonian) coupled with the amazing brett aromas and Pineapple-y-ness of Bill's to tie it all together. My goal for that blend was to make something very drinkable, light on the brett but enough to add complexity to the fruit and spice notes. I want you to be able to enjoy 2-3 of these on a hot day. Using more of mine brought the body to a perfect level between the two and also restrained the brett aromas ever so slightly and yet the Pineapple was still present. 

We then used the opposite ratio of 60:40 Emptiness:Wallonian where the funk was more prominent and yet the body of the beer didn't suffer much. I felt that with the natural carbonation of bottle conditioning it should help boost the body a bit just enough to keep it from being thin. We used a scale to measure both blends while racking into their own 5 gallon kegs, one for the event and the other we added priming sugar and used the Beer Gun to fill a bunch of 29mm 750ml bottles. 

This is going to be a really fun beer to watch it evolve and change over time. I hope everyone at the event enjoys the fresh keg, but I think Bill and I are very excited for the bottle conditioned version to come of age and get weird under pressure of bottle conditioning. I encourage more people to try blending their beer with beer that someone else brewed, its great to get away from your own wort/finished beer at times and really explore the flavors and nuances to figure out how you can manipulate them to fit your desired finished beer. I have a few things like this plan for the near future with some aged sour/funky/weird beers and other brewers. If you're in Philly for beer week please come check this beer out tomorrow at Memphis Taproom from noon-4pm June 6th 2015, cheers!

Tasting notes to follow.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Yeast Bay: Beta Brett Strains

A few months ago Nick from the Yeast Bay sent four Brett strains (1B, 2B, 3B, 4B) he isolated to the Beta Testers (MarshallBrian and I) to test in both a 100% Brett primary beer and secondary a portion from our Saison strain Beta test roundThis post has been a long time coming, maybe I've been subconsciously holding off on sharing it as it's a partial failure on my part but I still wanted to share the experiences.

The 100% Brett batch recently went down the sewer which is no fault of the Brett strains themselves, or Nick of course. All four variants (Same wort split between four 100% Brett Primaries) exhibited a really harsh, unpalatable character that I'm having a tough time describing, but it was a complete dumper. I sent Nick a bottle of each and he had the same impressions, as far as I know the batches Marshall and Brian brewed did not exhibit this issue so it was likely a cold side snafu in my process. I just wish I could pinpoint the mistake, but I think something may have happened when prepping the starters. Before anyone suggests I should have blended it, or any other attempts at saving 10 gallons of crap beer, just don't, it truly sucked that bad. I've learned my lessons on blending down bad beer in the past and don't care to make that mistake again. This is something that comes with the territory when brewing such experimental beers like this, some hits and some misses better to move on a brew more.

On to the more positive results, the same four Brett strains were used in a split batch secondary test as well, which went much more smoothly than the primary. If you go back and look at our analysis of the four Saison strains Nick sent us you can get a little more background. I was to rack a portion of the batch fermented with Saison strain #2 (Saccharomyces), which was heavily under attenuated finishing at 1.020. Low AA% is a characteristic all three of us experienced with this strain with mine finishing the highest. Despite the under attenuation the beer was actually pretty interesting exhibiting some sourness and enticing phenolics. 

With the high level of residual sugar left I was more than happy to add some Brett and let it dry out. I racked a portion of the Saison into four separate one gallon carboys for a secondary fermentation where I added a 30ml vial of each Brett strain into their own carboy. It was pretty amazing to watch fermentation as they all kicked off within a week of pitching and were highly active creating a thick krausen in secondary. Each variation hung out in secondary for 5 months, with strains 1B and 2B finishing up first but all of them going into bottles at the same time. I was very surprised to find that all four strains attenuated the beer down to 1.012 on the nose, still not very dry for a Saison but plenty of attenuation for me to evaluate the strains contributions. 

Tasting Notes: 6 months in the bottle


Light clove, allspice, very delicate, could fool me that this is a Brett beer. Some tartness, like the clean batch, there is a residual sweetness that's distracting but the tartness come back in the end to clean up. If it were drier it would be really nice. All the credit goes to Saison strain #2 for this one though, not sure this Brett strain is bringing much to the beer other than additional attenuation.
Pellicle on strain 2B.


Highly carbonated, huge rocky head, the most carbonated of all four. Phenolic-y, hay, grainy, some pepper, not funky either, another subtle beer. Tart again upfront, the lingering sweetness is not present in this one, appears to be more dry than it is but more body than you want in the style, it's simple but pretty refreshing.


Great peppery nose, most Saison like in aroma, a bit earthy, mushroom, background musty basement like aromas. Nice carbonic bite on tip of tongue, not as tart as 1 or 2 but it's balanced by some nice spicy notes. It appears more dry then it is but more body than I would want, the residual sweetness is there but not distracting. So far this is the best. 


Crystal clear, not much aroma, I get malt, slight citrus/lemon, no hops. Very subtle acidity, fuller body than all 4, pretty clean, not much here, bordering on bland and boring. Wish I had more to say about this one but there just isn't much here.

Final Thoughts:

Ye olde window shot.
All four of these Brett Secondary Saisons are decent beers, So long as you can see past the high levels of residual sugar. Strain 2B and 3B are really the only ones that I think I would use again, but would still benefit being blended with another Brett strain for complexity as they are alone they are interesting but maybe not strong enough on their own. Pouring the 2B and 3B Saisons in a 50:50 mix in a glass and it proved that point for me.However, strains 1B and 4B inexplicably brought very little to the finished beer, I could serve them both to someone and they would never know it was a Brett secondary beer. I do not plan to use either of those strains again. I'm not sure if Nick plans to sell any four of these strains but I do think that adding 2B or 3B into a Brett blend, or a new Saison Brett blend, would definitely be an interesting product. 

The biggest take away from these trials is that the Saison (Saccharomyces) strain #2 is a very very unique strain. After chatting with Nick and the other Beta testers we all agree it would be a perfect strain to add to a sour blend. It somehow exhibits a nicely tart beer without any LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) added and is a low attenuator leaving plenty of residual sugars for few Brett and LAB strains to clean up and acidify. But who knows, maybe it doesn't even need the LAB added. Whether it's added to The Yeast Bay line or not I have propped it up and added it (and 2B/3B) to a blend I am playing with at home, currently I am leaving the LAB out to see how it does without it.

Vitals for the Brett Primary Batches.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Brettanomyces Bruxellensis var. Drie

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a five gallon sized pitch of Brewing Sciences Institute's Brettanomyces Bruxellensis var. Drie, aka "Brett Drie". Up until the recent Brett Trois controversy, a horse that has been beat to a pulp, most of us thought Drie was the same strain as WLP644 Brettanomyces Troisaccusations that have recently been confirmed by White Labs for those still unconvinced. Despite one being S. Cerevisiae and the other Brettanomyces I was still curious to see if the two strains shared any similarities that may have caused folks to think they were the same initially. Or maybe we all just blindly believed they were the same and kept passing along misinformation, that never happens does it? So I brewed a split batch pale ale half fermented with Drie and half with Trois to see what, if any, similarities the two cultures shared.
Is it spelled "Drei" or "Drie"? Im so confused

For the comparison I brewed the HopWards recipe, with some minor hop selection changes that aren't important to this post. The recipe has plenty of Oats in the grain bill to retain some body for the non-glycerol producing Brett strain, Trois tends to need a boost in body as well. Being that I'm a big fan of the strain and using it regularly I had plenty of fresh Trois slurry, but I felt I had to build up the Drie a little more. BSI packages the yeast in these little pouches that come with a vial of sugar solution that you're to feed to the pouch 8-12 hours prior to pitching. It really might be a pitchable quantity after that sugar addition but I felt more comfortable feeding it an extra 500 ml of starter wort right into the pouch, just in case. The pitching rates ended up as a bit of a guess here because I wasn't sure how many cells came in the BSI pack, but it should be more than sufficient for a beer of this gravity.

A sparge arm would be on fleek.
Going into this I was kind of expecting the two strains to be pretty similar, having used Trois a great deal over the years I knew exactly what to expect, but as soon as I took a whiff of the Drie starter there were dramatic differences in aroma. Trois smells overwhelmingly like a tropical fruit drink and while Drie has the tropical fruit aromas it also throws off a rustic, funky edge to it that's so very distinctly Brett. Made me wonder even more if anyone who had claimed the two cultures were the same had ever used the two at all, let alone for a side by side comparison. 

Neither batch received any o2 other than my pumping into the fermenter, I know Trois can handle that and with Drie (and all Bretts) I'm afraid of the acetic acid boogie man. The Trois batch was fermented out and kegged in two weeks with a FG of 1.011, dry hopped and put on tap within three weeks of brewing. The Drie portion took a little longer to wrap up and stayed in the primary for ~4 weeks until it reached a terminal gravity of 1.012 (OG was 1.054 by the way). The AA% was about what I would expect from a 100% Brett fermentation, and just about exactly the same as Trois. I packaged a couple bottles of both the Drie and Trois variants prior to dry hopping for a better analysis down the road, as well as to see how the Drie ages under the rigors of bottle conditioning. 

Early signs of fermentation.
Tasting Notes/Comparison:

Brewday: 2/22/15
Kegged:  Trois - 3/8/15
Kegged:  Drie - 3/26/15
Notes:     4/26/15

Taking the first whiff of the Drie version I am getting smacked in the face with aromas of Mango, pineapple, papaya, mostly very soft stone fruits. Bordering on spoiled fruit everything is of the overripe variety with a rustic peculiar funk to it. Its almost as if you blended a bunch of fruit into a smoothy while sitting in a dingy mildewy basement. While the Trois version has sharp/bright fresh Peach, orange etc, Drie has more of a peculiar fruit character. A slightly similar beer in aroma but Drie favors more rusticity to Trois' bright fruity tropical bomb. Similarl to when I wafter the Drie starter, its is unmistakably wild on the nose that upon first whiff you think its Brett fermented, not so for the Trois version. Actually the Drie starter smells almost exactly like the beer, which is almost never the case.

Mouthfeel of the two beers is nearly identical, they have a soft wheaty oaty body and very very slight dry sharp bitterness on the front of the tongue. The oats are very prominent in the middle of the mouth then the finish starts with a kick in the top back of the throat and then fades back to the wheaty/oaty pillowy softness. The beer as a whole is very soft, nothing overwhelming. Where the two differ is in the finish, the Trois version has a more crisp dry finish where the Drie version hangs onto the Oaty/wheaty character a bit longer than I enjoy. Despite the FG of the two being nearly identical I think the Drie version needs to be more dry, especially with the significant body that remains. It does drink very easily though, the beer is quite good but the finish on it could get a little boring if you have more than a few glasses. 
Check out that bakers table I'm restoring!

Trois just works so much better in this beer, the funkiness of Drie actually seems to clash with the tropical fruit nature of the base beer. I quite enjoy the Drie version but the Trois version is what I am shooting for with this recipe. The proof is in the pudding as I kicked the Trois keg in a few weeks while the Drie variant remains on tap. This is not to say I do not like the B. Drie strain, I actually thinks its one of the most unique Brett strains I have used and have since pitched it into 5 beers since this batch. Its been added to barrels, and soon to added to secondary on a few wacky weird Saisons so this pitch will be going quite far.

Sure, the two strains share some similarities, specifically in the fruity aroma department, and seemed to exhibit similar tendencies in fermentation, i.e. AA%, body etc. But when you drink the same beer fermented with each culture side by side it's obvious that they are not the "same" (not earth shattering news here I know). Drie is more classic Brett than I had imagined it would be, but with the fruity esters it throws off I can see it being very versatile strain for my beers. Both of these strains are going to work for me just fine, yes sir. Did anyone ever do a sensory analysis of the two strains or was this Trois=Drie rumor just a whisper down the lane kind of thing, I'm thinking the latter. 

***I realize that BSI Drie is not available to homebrewers and thus this information may not seem useful but I have reason to believe that it will be available soon. A lot of us have been interested in this culture for quite a while but even more so in light of the reclassification or Trois (thats a good beer name btw) and I know a few labs have noticed the demand from folks. I am not ready to jump to the conclusion that the newly "released" WLP648  Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois Vrai is the same as BSI Drei, but I do plan to put them through some sensory analysis to see how similar they are. We don't want to spread any more misinformation now do we?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Barclay Farmstead: Spontaneous Fermentation

"Coolship" next to the window.
Last fall my family and I gave up city living in Philly and moved to a nearby suburb just across the bridge in NJ. Despite having a lot more space than I previously had, more barrels coming, I was excited because I felt it opened up better possibilities for wild yeast harvesting. Not that I couldn't forage for wild yeast while living in the the city, I mean look where Cantillon is located, but my past attempts proved futile. I tried on numerous occasions by just leaving open mason jars of wort outside only to end up with melted plastic aromas and low attenuation, but it could have been an issue in my process. This is not meant to be a lecture on Spontaneous Fermentation but only to share my experiences and process, if you seek more scientific/detailed information on the topic refer to Wild Brews or American Sour Beers.

I decided to start small for this attempt and just pull off a couple gallons from an existing brew and see how things worked out. If this was a full volume batch I was trying to spontaneously ferment I would have simply left the kettle out overnight to inoculate, which would work well because cooling would be a little slower. Instead I found a shallow 3 gallon hotel pan while digging through my in laws old diner equipment that I thought could work well as a "coolship". At this size, and with outside temps in the low 20F range I am going to be fighting some rapid cooling, which means less time left out for inoculation. But it should work well for as a test run to see what I can catch locally in hope of scaling things up for future "Lambic" brew days, and topping off of the Solera.

I cleaned the hotel pan out thoroughly and set it up on a ladder next to an open window in my garage and proceeded to pump boiling hot FarmWards wort right into the "Coolship" (I should come up with a catchy name for it). There it would sit open to the elements until it was cooled and ready to rack to a carboy. Again, because of the small volume and cold outdoor temps I actually ran the risk of freezing the wort if I left it out for too long so this would be a relatively short exposure. I took some temperature readings every few hours to see where it was at and make sure I didn't have a frozen mass of sticky wort. I was hoping for no less than 10-12 hours before racking as I had noticed that Prairie Artisan Ales had success with Coolship Truck with 14 hours in the elements. Hey look videos!


After about 11 hours the wort had cooled to 35F and I thought it was about time to rack it and warm it back up to ale temps inside. At this point I wasn't very confident that I had caught anything but I stayed the course. Despite knowing that signs of fermentation could take up to 7-10 days I still stressed over no activity everyday that I checked the fermenter. After 7 days I was starting to think it was a lost cause, despite what I said before I just thought maybe the exposure wasn't long enough. But like I said, 7-10 days. Sure enough on the morning of the 8th day we had light activity and by that evening there was a healthy krausen and vigorous fermentation, success! 


The most vigorous fermentation slowed after a few days but still had some light activity for a weeks after, overall a very normal looking fermentation. I pulled a sample at 6 weeks, there was still some light activity going on, and took down some brief tasting notes and vitals.

I do not miss that snow.

Spontaneous FarmWards (6 weeks)
Gravity: 1.005
PH 4.31

The aromas are pretty light but picking up on some Clove and coriander, it is a bit lemony, with an underlying grainy like aroma. 

Its pretty clean, a light spice/dryness at the tip of the tongue, dry but not aggressively,  no astringency at all. No off flavors or funk at all, it comes off as a light Belgian beer. There is still some moderate activity so I will let it finish off for a few more weeks.

Its been over four months now and should be ready to package shortly, it was probably ready a while ago. I wanted to give it ample time to fully attenuate as I don't really know what I am working with here. I could have bottled it at 1.005 as thats very dry but I took the cautious route and waited it out. I had hoped for something a little more rustic and weird, or sour (IBUs were probably too high), but its pretty impressive how clean the beer ended up especially with my past attempts being so terrible. In the meantime I plan to send some slurry off to Jeff Mello at Bootleg Biology as well as a new lab in Canada called Escarpment Yeast , more on them in a few weeks. The seasons have changed here, which means I need to get the coolship filled again and see if I catch something different. Tasting notes of Barclay Farmstead Batch #1 to follow.

Edit: Below is a link to the recipe used/brewday for this beer.
Spontaneous FarmWards

Friday, April 10, 2015

FarmWards Batch #2: The blandest of beers

Try as we might, not every beer turns out as the brewer had hoped. Despite planning, research and analysis of beers past there can always be a mistake, or in this case a mistake in judgement/process. For this beer I had set out to dial in a recipe for a little Saison recipe that was inspired by Tired Hands Saison Hands, what I got was something just north of boring. Now this beer isn't bad, as you'll read below, it is just lacking any real character you would expect in a Saison.

With this tasting notes post I wanted to change it up a bit and get the opinion of someone whom I respect and would give me positive feedback. I reached out to Brian Hall of to see if he would be willing to write me a little review. I really like Brian's reviewing style with beers folks send him for his blog, he is honest, articulate and honest. I can't stress how important it is to have someone whom you can rely on for honest to goodness feedback and I've always gotten that from Brian. I'll jump back in after the review with on how I think we got to this point with this beer but I will let Brian take it from here.

If nothing else its a pretty beer.
I know Ed from conversations when we started beta testing for the Yeast Bay.  Since beginning that project, we regularly send ideas back and forth regarding all things beer and bread. I’ve sent him beers and he’s returned great beers.  One of my favorites from his first package is one I plan on making soon.  
Recently he sent me two beers and asked me to give him a brutally honest review of a Saison he’d brewed up.  I told him no problem, I can do a “Brewtally Honest” review of any beer.  Three days later, they were on my doorstep. Lucky for me, the beer was racked off the keg so I wouldn’t have to let it settle for a week.
I wasn’t given any information other than that the beer was a saison.  Apparently he’d reviewed it himself on his blog, but to be honest I don’t recall reading that particular entry so I was starting with no knowledge (take that as you will.)  I didn’t pull out the BJCP guidelines, as I prefer to simply write about what I observe rather than end up looking for things that are missing.
I took the beer out of our fridge and let it sit for half an hour.  WIth a “kssst” the cap came off and for a second I thought I was in the presence of a gusher (impressive for a keg racking!)  However, it poured great and had an excellent finger of head which remained on the beer throughout most of the tasting.    
Before taking a quick photo, I plunged in for aroma.  And again.  At first (as the beer was a tad on the cool side) I didn’t get much, except for a strong “beer”-like aroma.  I’ll elaborate.  The nose was primarily pilsner malt - the same smell one would get from smelling any of the macro breweries - Bud, Coors, Miller.  In the same way you might describe what chicken tasted like was how I found myself trying to describe this brew - “Well, it smells like beer…”  As the beer warmed and I got past the pilsner, I noticed some very light notes of lemon zest, clove, and what I thought to be noble hops (turns out they were Cascade…)  I’ll reiterate, these aromas were in very small amounts.  I almost thought I got a little whiff of peppercorn spice, but it might have been in my head as I knew this was supposed to be a saison.
After making a few notes, I gave it a taste.  First impression was it was incredibly thin.  In the words of someone who tried my Pumpkin Beer of ‘12, “Is there any malt in here??”  Other impressions was that the flavors seemed somewhat muddled, as opposed to the usual crisp and clean.  Bitterness was low-med, and I perceived a slight astringency in the finish.  Carbonation was great, there was no DMS or diacetyl, or any other off flavors.
While easy to drink, not a huge “deliciousness” factor - sheerly just from the lack of overall flavor.  More hop flavor comes out as it warms.  A very, very thin beer, however beer nonetheless. Ed asked if my impressions would have changed if he would have pitched it as a table beer - my response was probably not.  I probably wouldn’t have “looked” for the peppercorn/spice, but other than that everything was just observation.  Even in a table beer, I’d still like a little more “going on.”  
I spoke with Ed a little about how he brewed this beer and the main thing he told me was that he tried a Ferulic Acid rest during his mash.  Brewing with Wheat states this rest is typically done around 111-115 degrees and - you guessed it - develops ferulic acid.  Supposedly this rest aids in the production of clove like flavors, however there has been debate over whether it works or not.  Did this account for what I perceived to be a light clove flavor?  Perhaps, as I wasn’t aware of the acid rest when I was sampling the beer. 
Would I buy this beer?  Probably not.  It’s not flawed, there wasn’t a “yuck” factor at all, it just came up short with my expectations for a beer simply due to the thinness of the drink.  Would I like to see this brewed again with a little more malt?  Yes please.

-Brian Hall 
So, a pretty forgettable beer in the end. I was happy Brian picked up on the strong Pilsner aroma, "beer-like" is really a great way to describe it, its something that I have gotten from almost every beer that I have brewed with Wallonian Farmhouse. But this character tends to fade with time, to the point that it virtually disappears

I was going for a pretty light beer, but not as light as this beer ended up. I had decided to ferment with Wallonian on the cool side, 67F, to see if I could still achieve a complex fermentation profile as well as a dry beer in doing so. I succeeded in the dry beer department with a FG of 1.002 but the fermentation character is way too clean. When you build a beer that leans so heavily on expressions from a characterful yeast you really need to ensure that happens or you might end up with a "beer-like" character resembling BMC. Yikes, back to the drawing board. 

Thanks again to Brian for his thorough and honest review, and be sure to scope out his site for a lot of great funky beer and cooking posts. Thanks to him and his sourdough culture he shared, bread baking has become a new obsession of mine and Brian knows his stuff in that department. Cheers!