Monday, January 26, 2015

The Farmer in the Rye with Plums

Jammy Plums and Apricots.
For the last couple of years I brew an annual batch of my Farmer in the Rye Saison then age it on fruit with different various strains of Brettanomyces. The first year of the series I used cherries (pre-dates this blog) and it turned out just ok, two years ago's batch was aged on Mangos with pretty decent results but not exceptional. After of a few years of ok results last years Peach version was one of the best beers I have ever brewed, Luckily I still have 5-6 750ml bottles stored in the crawlspace.

And yes, I added 10% of the
pits to the fermenter.

The wise move would probably be using Peaches again but I wanted to stay the course and change it up once again this year. I came across some Plums and Apricots at a local farmers market while in season and decided on a blend of the two in an 70:30 Plum to Apricot ratio. The Plums I chose (the variety escapes me) were tart, prune like and rich with a dark purple skin that that should lend a unique color to the pale base beer. I threw the Apricots in there to balance some of the prune/grape like dark fruit flavors a bit, hopefully the plums do not overpower the fairly delicate pale base beer. Using about 1.25 lbs/gallon the beer should be very fruit forward once again.

I prepared the fruit, as I have in the past, by giving it a quick rinse then cutting them up into cubes so that they would fit down the neck of my carboy, then storing them in ziplock bags in the freezer until I needed them. Once it was time to rack the beer, I added the fruit to the carboy first then the beer went on top. This years batch got a blend of Brettanomyces starting with cultured dregs from a bottle of Logsdon's Seizon Bretta that was pitched at the start of fermentation on the base beer. I blended in 1 gallon of a fresh batch of Jah-Rod, that I had added The Yeast Bay Beersel Blend, into 4 gallons of Farmer in the Rye at the same time I racked onto the fruit. The beer aged on the fruit for a little over 2 months before it was kegged where it would naturally condition with a fresh addition of priming sugar.

The Farmer in the Rye with Plums:
This photo does not do the appearance justice.

Appearance: The beer is an amazingly beautiful deep purple, very murky and cloudy with some fruit chunks. Has a thick pillowy pinkish head that hangs around for the entire glass, its not super highly carbonated but still within the style. Visually, this is a very eye catching beer.

Aroma: Jam like plum aromas, reminds me a lot of pomegranate juice actually. Just big juicy plum, prune, pomegranate nose. No hops, or much Brett presence to speak of just dark fruit.

Taste: A nice pop of acidity hits the tip of the tongue quick, spritzy carbonation keeps it crisp. Very dry and quite tart, light body making it pretty drinkable and then a smack of plum sweetness in the back of the palate. Almost no hops left as the beer is over a year old. You could easily mistake this for a highly carbonated plum wine with notes of pomegranate and subtle cherry. 

Final Thoughts: The plums do dominate the base beer a little bit but not so much to be overpowering, its just that the base is unrecognizable. It's surprising that there is little to no Brett presence but I think it might also be overwhelmed by the plum. This is super enjoyable, and a nice change of pace from the lighter fruits I had used the last two years. I will definitely use Plums again, but maybe blend in a heartier darker beer to help balance out the Plums a bit. I've had a lot of friends love this beer and say it was one of my most unique beers, I enjoy it alot as well but I am just so damn critical of my own beers.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tasting Notes: Riverwards IPA on tap from 2nd Story

Photo courtesy of @brewerwible.
A few weeks back 2nd Story Brewing held an event to celebrate the tapping of Riverwards IPA, for which I invited as many people as I possibly could. I wasn't really sure what to expect the night of the tapping, I will admit though I was a bit intimidated and nervous at first. Im not quite sure why, as it was mostly a group of friends, family, homebrew club members, and beer people, many of whom have had my beer before. But never had my beer been the main draw for bringing people out, both gratifying and intimidating all at once. I got over it quickly.

Chatting with people about the beer that night was a lot of fun, listening to what they liked, about it, or even what they didn't like. One comment from a friend stood out, he said "tastes like a lot of the hoppy beers you brew". Which I took as a compliment both because I know he enjoys those beers I brew and while this was commercially brewed it stood out as having my finger prints on it. Assuming people were telling me the truth of course, the beer was quite well received. I still find myself checking the Untapped page for the beer far too often but the comments there seem to reflect what I heard from most folks who have had it. 

It was interesting to see how it differed on a commercial scale as compared to the recipe brewed at home. John had mentioned that his culture of Conan could achieve a high AA% but I thought the wheat and oats would counteract that. The beer finished much more dry than I had planned at 1.007, which accentuated the bitterness a little more than I was expecting but ended up working out really well. I am very happy with how the beer turned out.

Riverwards IPA - on tap at 2nd Story Brewing Company

This glass was smashed to bits moments later, not by me.
Appearance: Cloudy with a thin white head, hazy straw yellow, pretty typical of a lot of the beers that I brew in both appearance and color.

Aroma: Tropical and aromatic, mango, orange, peach, grapefruit, very fruit forward. I don't pick up on much of the malt in the aroma, mostly Conan and the hops. Not there is much of a complex malt bill but you can pick out the oats in the aroma on HopWards.

Overall: It is lightly bitter upfront that gives way to a massive fruit juice character, silky smooth body and pungent hops on the middle of the tongue. It then finishes dry with a slight lingering bitterness that teeters on the edge of being too bitter before it suddenly falls off leaving you wanting more. Its a pretty great roller coaster ride of flavors and even at 6% ABV can be drank all night, Ive done so on numerous occasions. As of this posting, the beer is still on tap, but when its gone its gone.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Riverwards IPA: brewing on a commercial scale

Ed/John, brewing is serious biz.
I recently had the opportunity to design and brew a beer with my friend, and head brewer, John Wible at 2nd Story Brewing Company in Philly. Back in April of 2014 I won 2nd Best Of Show for batch #1 of HopWards in the Philly Homebrew Cup, the prize was the aforementioned brew day. John and I have brewed together in the past and chat about hoppy beer brewing quite regularly so I was looking forward to working with him on a commercial scale.

Once I got the inevitable question of "Can we use Brett or bacteria in your brewhouse?" out of the way (the answer was "hell no" btw) we settled on our shared passion for hoppy beers and set out to build an IPA recipe. Due to contracting and limited availability its not as easy to acquire some of the trendy hop varieties on a commercial scale as we can as homebrewers. Luckily though, John already had Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe on hand so we could run with what would essentially be batch #2 of We Talkin 'Bout PracticeI tweaked the grain bill quite a bit from that initial batch, using 10% Wheat and 10% Oats with the rest base malt, and dropping the sugar.

We blended equal parts Citra and Amarillo late in the boil, and even more in the whirlpool to achieve a tropical fruit juice character. To finish it off it was dry hopped with a 40/40/20 ratio of Citra/Amarillo/Simcoe, adding the Simcoe in for a little bit of piney complexity to keep from being too one dimensional. The end goal is a super fruity, tropical juice forward IPA with a creamy texture and a subtle pineyness. 2nd Story uses Conan (from BSI) as their house yeast strain so pair that with the above and we the makings of some tasty IPA.
I got to the brewery early in the morning, boots on, and let John know that I was ready to get my hands dirty. 2nd Story brewing is in the Old City section of Philadelphia, and if you're familiar the area you'll know that space in these old buildings is at a premium. For the neighborhood however, the brewpub is actually quite big, but the brewhouse itself is a bit tight especially with me and a few friends tweeting and snapping photos all day. A lot of thought went into laying out the brewhouse to maximize what limited space there is, its an impressive system.
Pretending to stir the mash, note the strike water and grist are already fully integrated.
You can see the arm that the auger and HLT tubing meet and excrete the mash.
We started in the basement where we opened 1,000 pounds of grain sack by sack and fed it into the mill which is transferred up to the second floor brewery via the auger. John already had our water measured out and heated to our strike temperature in the HLT before I got there, we hooked up a few hoses and started to mash in. This is the point where I was supremely impressed by the ingenuity of this system, the strike water and milled grain are fully integrated as it is pumped/auger'd meeting in the same tubing that is then dropped right into mash tun, video proof. Despite the obligatory mash stirring photo, there is absolutely no stirring necessary. 

The brewhouse uses steam jackets to heat the kettle and HLT but the mash tun is just an insulated vessel with a loose fitting lid. However, the false bottom and simple pick up tube on the mash tun are very efficient at leaving virtually all grain particles behind leaving no reason to recirculate. After the mash was complete we used the grant to prime the pump, then pumped right into the boil kettle. With such a large volume of wort in a huge boil kettle its hard to see the rate at which the runnings are flowing.  With a smaller volume of liquid in the Grant you can more easily monitor the flow rate coming out of the mash so you can match the flow of the sparge with some consistency. 
Thats the grant, on left is the panel you connect stainless tubing to transfer liquid via all vessels so there is not a web of hoses all over the floor. Another bit of genius engineering due to space constraints.
As the first runnings filled the boil kettle we turned on the lower jacket to bring the wort to a boil and added the FWH addition of CTZ. After the whole kettle was filled we fired up the second (upper) jacket and we reached the boil in short order. Another bit of ingenuity that impressed me was all of the steam coming off of the boil (its a lot) is captured and condensed back into water then moved over to the HLT to be used for cleaning, so awesome.
I had to change my shirt, it got soiled.

After a 60 minute boil we turned the jackets off and sent the wort through the chiller and back into the kettle to bring the wort temp down to 185F for our whirlpool addition of Citra/Amarillo then rested for 45 minutes. When the whirlpool rest was complete the wort was pumped through the glycol chiller and chilled to 55F, aerated inline, then through the yeast brink and into the FV, all closed system as you can see on the right. But before the wort was aerated and pitched John filled a few of my fermenters with chilled/unpitched wort for me to use various yeast strains and methods at home. There will be multiple follow up posts on all of the different ways I split the 20 gallons he allowed me to take, from 100% Brett (some new blends) to a barrel aged version using my Tired Hands Emptiness culture, this wort will produce many a variation.  
Gimme that wort John, the aromas filling the brewpub at this point were amazing.
Grain gets shoveled onto the floor, then down an 8" pipe that leads to the basement and into trash bins.
You can barely see the green pipe between my legs.
There were a few takeaways from the day for me most importantly that the process itself is not much different than what we all do at home, only bigger and surprisingly easier due to pimped out equipment. Grain out and cleaning the mash tun was a ton of work, hot, sticky and messy but as a one time thing it was actually kind of fun. It was a truly great experience, and I am grateful to John and the Philly Homebrew Club for offering up the opportunity to win the prize. I look forward to winning again in 2015 and making John introduce some Brett to his brewhouse :). As of this posting Riverwards IPA is still on tap, despite my best efforts to drink the entire tank, so if your local go buy a pint and say hi to John. Tasting notes to follow.
You want me to get inside the mash tun to clean it?
Photos courtesy of my buddy Bill Shouldis, you can see the full album Here.

Riverwards IPA

Brew day: 12/4/2014
Kegged: ask John

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.85 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG
Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 6.3%
Estimated Color: 4.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 42 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

78.8% - 10lbs 4oz - Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
10.6% - 1lbs 6oz - CMC White Wheat
10.6% - 1lbs 6oz -Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.25 oz CTZ [17.00 %] - 16.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.25 oz Amarillo [8.90 %] - 7.7 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.25 oz Citra [14.50 %] - 12.5 BUs
45 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.50 oz Amarillo [8.90 %] - 1.7 IBUs
30 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.50 oz Citra [14.50 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.50 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] 
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.50 oz Citra [12.00 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]


Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150 F 

Fly Sparge 4.60 gallons 170f

Misc: Filtered Philadelphia Tap water. The commercial batch actually had an OG of 1.056 since John's pitch of Conan achieves 80%+ AA and finished at 1.007, but the above is how I brew the recipe on a homebrew system.

Notes: 5 gallons at home was pitched with 500ml of fresh "Brett" Trois slurry, ironically 2 days before the new broke that it may not be a strain of Brettanomyces. 13 gallons was pitched with my Tired Hands Emptiness culture, and racked into my 1 year old Dad's Hat barrel blended with 2 gallons of 1 year old Farmer in the Rye. The final 2 gallons was split into 1 gallon fermenters split with 2 brett blends that Richard from Mark of the Yeast. There will be a post on all of these variations as they materialize, with the barrel aged version last of course.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tasting notes: Barrel Aged Riverwards 10:

Not the best ever, but an argument could be made...

Belgian Dark Strong, or Quad, is really a great style and is a great change of pace as a sipper over the Imperial Stouts we all love in the colder months. I'll get this out of the way early, this beer we brewed here is fantastic, which is a testament to the group of us who brewed it. Myself and three other Brewers all brewed the same recipe, the one that I designed with a fairly simple grain bill and dark candy sugar, then blended it all into the barrel. When we got together, each with a keg in hand, I was curious to see how different each persons batch would be. To my surprise, they really weren't much different at all, and each came out as I had envisioned them to . They were all fermented cleanly, dry, with complex dark fruit notes all indicative of the classic notes of the style. Before they were all blended into the barrel, where it will age for 4 and 1/2 months, I knew we would have a winner.

I discussed in the Brewday post on the classic vs new world techniques to brew this style. I took a little from both but kept it mostly quite simple while relying on the dark candy sugar and a good fermentation to achieve a complex big beer. I like to keep my grain bills quite simple so as not to end up with a muddled malt soup, but at the same time I wanted the base beer to be able to hold up to a fairly aggressive barrel character. I'm happy to say that this recipe worked really well as both a barrel aged and a non barrel aged beer(notes comine up on the base beer soon). There was really nowhere to hide off flavors here, turns out we didn't need to. 

Barrel Aged Riverwards 10:

Appearance: Deep dark Mahogany color with red highlights, Crimson red when held to the light (Roll Tide?). Off white Rocky head, leaving a ring on the glass with every sip, legs for days as some might say.

Aroma: Vanilla, oak, whiskey, dark fruits, all blending together beautifully. A really complex inviting nose.

Flavor: Silky smooth body, which I attribute to the barrel because this beer was quite dry. Whiskey, giving way to some dark fruits, dates, raisins and vanilla from the oak. It's like whiskey dipped, vanilla covered dates and raisins. No real alcohol burn, smooth and warming but the heat isn't there. 

Final thoughts: This beer screams drink me by a fire in the fall/winter, I am actually surprised that it has lasted as long as it has as I have been hitting this tap quite often. The barrel character in this beer is really perfect, the whiskey is subtle but the oak pairs very well with the dark fruits. It has some similarities with Boulevard's BBQ, minus the cherries of course, but a more robust barrel presence. I must say, I am in love with this beer.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

PhiLambic Solera Year Two: Top off wort

Lots of wheat.
Bottling the first pull of the Solera prior to brewing the top off batch gave me the flexibility to make some changes to the wort composition based on the flavors and aromas I was getting from the beer. I did however brew this prior to tasting a finished bottle but my overall impressions did not change much. As I lamented in more detail in both tasting notes posts the beer was a little one dimensional, tasting nice but may have been better served as a blending component then bottling straight. I am very critical of my own beer, and sometimes it may sound like I do not like it, not the case here, I am just striving for perfection. I wanted to make sure I got to know my Solera from grain to unadulterated glass in year one so I knew what I will be working with and what I may or may not want to change.

I planned this top off batch with a few goals in mind, balance out the acidity, add some malt complexity, and increase the Brett funkiness. There is a local Philly funky brewer who uses 6-Row as the base malt in all of his wild ales and they always have a nice rustic malt backbone that seems to balance the acidity really well. So I chose to pair 65% 6-Row with 35% un-malted Wheat for the grain bill and a boat load of aged hops to bitter. I know some folks don't agree but I feel that aged hops come through in the aroma of the finished beer, a character that is missing slightly in Pull #1.
Sacch rest.

In lieu of a Turbid Mash or the wort only decoction I utilized for the initial batch I decided to mash in at 113F for a Ferulic Acid rest then ramp up to 160F for conversion. The logic behind the Ferulic Acid rest is to promote the creation of spicy, clove (4 vinyl guiacol) like phenols which Brett can convert to 4 ethyl guiacol aka funky/horse blanket phenolics. I picked this info up on a post on where Mike goes into a little more detail. This method seemed perfect as its exactly what I am looking to add to the Solera, hopefully by using this mash schedule and a more funky Brett blend I can add some complexity.

I chose to start fermentation of the top off batch in a carboy before I racked it to the Solera. I pitched a single vial of WLP 530 and some slurry of TYB Brussels Brett Blend, which throws off more of the classic Barnyard/Horsey Brett Funkiness I am looking for. Once krausen dropped, but fermentation was still active, I racked right into the Sanke keg. I did this for a few reasons, mostly due to o2 exposure but also to minimize acidity of the top off batch. The active fermentation should blow off any o2 that got in the headspace since it sat between bottling day and racking day. But more importantly is that I moved two weeks after brew day and I wanted to move the Solera while there was still some active fermentation. I took other measures including purging and sealing the keg to minimize o2 pickup, lets see how that all works out.
A massive sack of aged hops.

One last change I made here is that I decided to scale back the size of this Solera from the Sanke keg to a 6 gallon Better Bottle filled to the very top. I added this top off batch to the Sanke, let it age for 2+ months and then racked it all into 3 separate carboys (a 6g Better Bottle and 2x 5g carboys). The other 2 carboys, nearly filled with Solera beer, was given to two friends of mine for a base to start their own Solera's with. I am actually excited for this because I will get to taste the results of how they maintain their Soleras and see how it differs from mine despite the base all originating here. 

A 6+ gallon Solera for myself seemed like plenty as I plan to only remove 2-3 gallons on each pull, plus I can do a smaller quicker brewday for top off batches. This also gives me the ability to start another Solera if I decide to, where I can stagger the timeline and use each for blending and not worry about having too much beer (if such a thing exists).

Aside from that, nothing has changed, it now rests in my crawlspace at a consistent 58-64f. Its dark and dingy down there, I think Jean Van Roy would be pleased. 

PhiLambic Solera Year 2

Brew day: 9/28/2014

Recipe Specifications
The 6 gallon Better Bottle Solera,
which originated in the Sanke.
Boil Size: 14.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: Pfft, who knows?
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

65.9% - 13lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 34.1% - 7lbs - Unmalted Wheat from Whole Foods (~3.0 SRM)

Boil: 75min - 1lb aged hops via HopsDirect
Boil: 15min - 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

5 gallons got WLP 530 and TYB Brussels Brett Blend slurry prior to racking into the Solera. Remaining wort got ECY Bugfarm.

Ferulic Acid Rest - 15 min @ 113FSacch rest - 60 min @ 161.0 F 

Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, no salts. 

Notes: The other half of this batch was fermented out with ECY BugFarm slurry, that will age as an unblended Lambic to be used for blending for next years Gueuze. This was the final beer brewed and fermented in Fishtown Philadelphia prior to my move to dirty Jerz.

Sour Solera article for HomebrewTalk

A while back Austin from asked if I would like to contribute an article for the site, the topic was up to me. I kicked around a few ideas and settled on an Intro to Sour Solera article. This is just meant as a cross post to the article incase anyone missed it when it went live a while back, and as a means to archive for anyone who wants to easily go back and review it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

PhiLambic Solera: Pull #1 tasting

I am repeating myself here but Its has been a painstakingly long wait to try the first bottle from my newest Solera. I decided to bottle the first pull straight so that I could get an idea of how things were going and determine what I would want to change for the top off batch. When I tasted the uncarbonated beer at bottling I was concerned it was a little bit one dimensional, especially because I believe that blending is so crucial with mixed fermentation beers. But I decided to stay the course so I could get to know this Solera from grain to glass.
Oh its clearly very clear.
Lambics are usually hopped with 3-4 ounces/5 gallons of aged hops while I used 2 ounces of semi-aged low alpha % hops for 8 IBUs, so I was a little concerned the initial batch may have been underhopped. Its not that I was concerned about the bitterness level but aged hops add a funky rusticity to the finished beer that I felt this could be missing. It is quite sour, bordering on being too sour but that may be because its lacking in some complexity to balance it out. Overall this is a really nice sour beer and a nice start to this Solera, I look forward to making some tweaks to the top off batch to add some complexity and round it out into a more finished product. Some more detailed tasting notes below.

Under the stress of bottle conditioning Brett does some wonderful things.
PhiLambic Solera Pull #1 - 2014

Very clear Golden yellow, moderately high carbonation tiny bubbles shooting up from the center of the glass. The head last for a while but very thin just around the edges of the glass.

Fruity forward aroma, a little bit Apple, light Funk in the background, lactic acidity. No hops or malt. A slight ethyl acetate aroma as the glass warmed to room temperature.

Tart right upfront, Lightbody, somewhat prickly carbonation. It's dry but has a little bit of a sweet bite on the back of the palate, finishes quick off the tongue leaving you with a dry puckering mouth. It is pretty refreshing and drinkable.

When I tried to first bottle of this almost 2 months ago I thought it was little bit one dimensional, and maybe lacked some complexity but its really coming along in the bottle. This reminds me a lot of Brian Hall's Lambic with a lot more carbonation. It's fruity in the nose very little barnyard, tart, dry and refreshing. It might be lacking a little bit of complexity but i think as an unblended product it holds up well. I let some of it warm up to room temp to let it open up a bit and there is a slight ethyl acetate aroma, it is very slight but something I will want to keep an eye on as the Solera ages. I am quite pleased with how this is drinking and look forward to seeing how this ages over the months to years.