Friday, May 27, 2016

Dandelion Saison

Fresh off my neighbors shitty lawn.
I spend a good amount of time participating in discussions on various Facebook groups, mostly beer/brewing related, and at times a topic or idea will come up that becomes all the rage in that particular circle for a period of time. These may not be a new ideas but it sparks discussion and inspires folks to try out something new or look at something from another perspective. These groups are really great places to learn, get inspired and rub elbows with some really knowledgeable brewers.

A couple months ago in the Saison, Biere de Garde...group one of those hot topics came up that got everyone going, brewing with Dandelions, specifically Saisons/Farmhouse ales brewed with Dandelions. A Dandelion Saison is something that I have always wanted to do after hearing about beers like Pissenliit and Vera Mae, but two things were holding me back. One reason being I lived in the city and had barely seen a dandelion for over a decade, but the other being I had never even had a dandelion beer so I had no clue what to expect. Well now I have dandelions a plenty in the burbs, actually I have ZERO on my lawn but neighbors have plenty, but I still haven't had a dandelion beer and I may never unless I brew one.

I set out to design a recipe and started by reading Matt Humbard's blog posts, he had brewed a few of these in the past. I was most curious about the amounts of dandelions to use, how to prepare them, and at which point in the brewing process. I noticed Matt felt he needed a bit more in the post I linked so I tried to up the amounts a little but I still wasn't totally sure how to prepare the flowers. I read a bit about Dandelion wine production and a lot of those folks will deflower the weed using only the yellow petals, leaving the greens behind. This was due to a concern that the greens would lead to grassy or vegetal flavors, which made a lot of sense to me but also sounded like a ton of work. 

The day before my early morning brew day my daughter Ella and I, and her Power Wheels as her mode of transport, set out in my neighborhood to collect as many dandelion heads as I possibly could. We had to run onto peoples front lawns to reach the big bunches, sending my 4 year old looked less creepy than me picking weeds off someone else's lawn, child labor? It didn't take us long to collect one pound of heads which I thought was almost enough. I sat down that evening to deflower all of the heads we picked, WHAT A PAIN IN THE BUTT, I cannot imagine Fantome or Hill Farmstead do this. Once I was finished, not sure why I didn't stop mid process, I dug a little more and came across a photo gallery on Hill Farmsteads website from a 2013 Vera Mae brew day, and sure enough they used all of the greens and didn't deflower them. Doh, I should have looked there first, waste of time but wont hurt the beer none I am sure. Next year, no deflowering...
Took entirely too long to deflower these.


With the flowers picked, and for some dumb reason deflowered, I sat down to finalize the recipe for this beer. I took some inspiration from Matt's recipe by adding some honey malt into my grain bill for some malt complexity, paired with Pilsner and a sizable wheat portion rounding it out. I wanted to keep the hop profile relatively classic saison with some earthy/spicy hops and chose Sonnet Goldings to hop the beer throughout the, then finishing the boil by adding the Dandelions in the whirlpool. This winter I have been re-pitching a nice Saison culture that started as WLP565 with cultured Saison DuPont dregs, no Brett or bacteria. It's been fermenting quick and beautifully after 5 generations and will go perfectly for this earthy, spicy, floral and rustic beer. I think, since I've never even had a dandelion beer before *Shrugs*. 

I have no experience with Sonnet, but they were on sale and sound good for Saison.

During the mash I started to think I needed some additional dandelions, and since I wasn't going to deflower them I had plenty of time to collect more during the hour mash. I must have looked insane picking weeds from my neighbors yards at 6:30am, the things we do for beer. Once the boil finished up I cut the heat and dropped in a nylon bag filled with the dandelion leaves total of 1lb 6oz for 5 gallons, the 1lb that was deflowered and the extra 6oz I picked during the mash. I whirlpooled with the dandelions for about 15 minutes and started to chill. I actually ended up with a lower than expected gravity and higher volume which I was miffed about. Turns out my chiller was leaking into the kettle, for this beer it was only 1 gallon, which I didn't realize until my next batch when it ruptured and flooded the entire batch. This one was fine, just cut down a smidge.

I'm looking forward to finding out what this dandelion beer thing is all about, hopefully there will be a next years batch as well.
Loads of slurry.

Dandelion Jawn


Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Measured OG: 1.042 SG
Measured FG: 1.002 SG
ABV: 6.4%
Estimated Color: 6.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


Grain:
70% - 7lbs 8oz - Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
20% - 2lbs - Wheat
10% - 1lbs - Honey Malt

Hops:
Boil: 60min - 1.25oz Sonnet Goldings [4.20%] - 19.2 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 15min - 1.25oz Sonnet Goldings [4.20%] -  9.5 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.50oz Sonnet Goldings [4.20%] -  9.5 IBUs
15 Minute Whirlpool 212f - 1lb 6oz Dandelions


Yeast:
2016 Saison Culture (WLP565 with cultured Saison DuPont dregs) Generation 6.



Mash:
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.0 F 

Sparge:
Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.35, Water Profile ( 113ppm Ca, 6ppm Mg, 10ppm Na, 107ppm Cl, 101ppm SO4). Some acid malt and some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Single Hopped Brooklyn Pale Ale: No not the New York Brooklyn, the one in New Zealand.

Hop growers all over the world work tirelessly to cultivate new varietals, like HBC438, in hopes of breeding the new Simcoe, Citra etc. but over the last handful of years there hasn't been a hotter region for hops than New Zealand. From Motueka to Waimea, my personal favorite being Nelson Sauvin, the hops coming from New Zealand are super unique and beautifully expressive varietals. So when a commenter here on the blog pointed me to a "new" New Zealand varietal called "Brooklyn" I had to give it a try of course.

Tight vacuum sealing makes for a crappy photo.
Brooklyn, as described on New Zealand Hops website, is a high alpha acid hop with "generous weight of oil" and low cohumulone expressing flavor and aromas of "grapefruit, tropical and passionfruit." That description was enough for me to buck up and order some, which wasn't particularly cheap, but I can't help myself with those descriptors. Right, so the description on NZ Hops has changed since I started writing this post, but the one on Brewshop.co.nz has not, so which is it now? I wanted to leave what the initial description that inspired me though NZ Hops now reads "intense fruity oils with top notes of baking spice and sweet hay." not nearly as exciting as originally advertised but is more in line with what I got from the hop. I'm not sure if I would have used this hop the same way had I read that description first.

As a standard practice, I used something similar to my HopWards recipe as the base to build from to put Brooklyn to the test by way of a single hopped beer. I did however tweak things a little bit by using Pilsner as the base malt and Naked Golden Oats instead of Flaked Oats, ended up a split boil batch with a Saison as well. 
One of these days I will get one of those snazzy stainless dry hop tubes, but for now my bags work.

Upon opening the bag on brewday I was bludgeoned with aromas of fruit and some spicey notes which kind of surprised me. I didn't really get the "tropical" note in the description (Erhmm) but still some very fresh smelling hops. Brewday was uneventful, which with two kids is rare, but I did end up with a slightly higher than normal efficiency due to a new bag of Avangard Pilsner I grabbed recently. I might have mentioned it here before but if you use Pilsner and worry about efficiency then grab some Avangard, the points per gallon are super high and you'll see a %5+ jump in efficiency immediately. Its also very competitively priced.

The beer ended up a bit more dry than I wanted at 1.006, some drift in the 5th generation of my 1318 pitch maybe but the fermentation is not where this beer went wrong. Oh, did I mention this didn't turn out great? Spoiler alert this beer didn't turn out great, but first the notes. 

Tasting Notes: Brooklyn

Appearance: Really what's the point here, it's pale and hazy, as all my beers tend to be. Maybe a touch darker than normal due to the Naked Golden but still pale, moderate lacing and hazy, not murky, which a bright white thick head.

Aroma: Notes of lime, and some non descript fruit in there, not malt character at all. Overall a subdued aroma for such a heavily hopped beer.

Still looks pretty, yes?
Flavor: The first sip is bracingly sharp, dry and a little bit chalky with a lime note. After your palate adjusts to that initial shock, which isn't very appealing frankly, the drink settles in and is a bit better. The chalkiness seems to subside and you're left with a very dry lime-y beer, but still teeters on the edge of being chalky and way too dry. When I say teeter on the edge I mean it's totally falling over that edge and it's definitely beyond the point of enjoyable. 

Overall: Not my best for sure, not a dumper, but I find myself reaching for other beers over this when I stroll to the taps but maybe it will age out nicely, doubt it. That chalkiness is very distracting, combine that with how dry the beer is it's not all that enjoyable. Unfortunately I believe that the hop is mostly to blame for that, the chalkiness sounds like a water thing and maybe it is, or maybe its the sum of them both. But I'm not just randomly tossing out those accusations, I do have some reasoning behind it. This batch was split in various ways, first off it was a big mash and the run offs were split evenly into two separate kettles. I took 10 gallons of the runoff for this batch to be boiled and 10 gallons for a Saison batch to be boiled separately, this grist is versatile for both styles and I like to maximize my brew days with split batches. 

The 10 gallons of this pale ale were fermented together then split off into separate kegs and dry hopped differently. I have the Brooklyn single hopped batch of course and the other keg was double dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Citra, two rounds of 6 ounces for a total dry hop of 12oz for a 5 gallon keg! That Nelson/Citra beer doesn't exhibit any of the chalkiness so I know its not water, mash, fermentation related. It is very dry just as the Brooklyn batch but it is not as "biting" and palate shocking. The dryness hits you and is wafted away by waves of Citra and Nelson, a very good hoppy beer. The Saison, post on that beer coming soon, shares little to nothing with the two hoppy beers.

So it can't be the water alone so I really think it all comes down to overdoing it with the Brooklyn, at least on the cold side since it was totally fine before the dry hop. Shame because the beer pre-dry hop had some promise but this is how it goes sometimes with single hopped beers. There wasn't a ton of information on Brooklyn around the interwebs (and it seems even the site I got information from has since changed its description) so I threw caution to the wind and used my standard hopping rates, just didn't work out. 

So as far as a conclusion on Brooklyn goes, I think it still has promise but not with the ratios I used and possibly not on its own either because this beers hop aroma is one dimensional and fairly subdued. I have a bunch left and plan to use it in some Saisons, that lime-like character sounds like it could work super well. But for over hopped New England style hoppy beers go, use a deft touch or maybe even look elsewhere. 

As I mentioned, I brewed a large batch, but here is a scaled down 5 gallon version.


Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.82 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Measured OG: 1.050 SG
Measured FG: 1.006 SG
ABV: 5.8%
Estimated Color: 5.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 46.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


Grain:
87% - 9lbs 2oz - Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
13% - 1lbs 6oz - Naked Golden Oats

Hops:
First Wort Hop - 0.25 oz Brooklyn [17.10 %] - 15.6 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 2.00oz Brooklyn [17.10 %] - 25.5 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 3.00 oz Brooklyn [17.10 %]- 5.8 IBUs
Dry Hop: 5 days - 4.00 oz HBC-438 [16.60 %]


Yeast:


Mash:
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150.0 F 

Sparge:
Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.34, Water Profile ( 132ppm Ca, 5ppm Mg, 7ppm Na, 155ppm Cl, 76ppm SO4). Some acid malt and some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary. 10 gallons was run off into one kettle that was single hops with Brooklyn, 10 gallons was run off into another for a Saison with Nelson Sauvin. 5 gallons of the single hopped Brooklyn boiled batch was dry hopped with Brooklyn alone, the other 5 was dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Citra.

Notes: Fermented at 66f for 7 days, bumped to 72f for 3 days then kegged and dry hopped in the keg for 5 days. Beer was tapped 18 days from brewday. Slurry was harvested via my standard method after kegging.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Forest and Main Brewing Co.: Exploring their indigenous culture

Kids allowed, which is always a plus for me.
Situated in an old Victorian house at the corner of Forest Ave. and Main St. in Ambler PA you'll find one of the most unique brew pubs you will find anywhere in the world. Forest & Main Brewing was founded in 2012 by brewers Gerard Olson and Daniel Endicott in that 19th century Victorian home that the two renovated from house to pub and brewery. Gerard and Dan have their own brewing focus' with Gerard's being Saison/Farmhouse inspired and Dan's, who spent time studying brewing in England, English ales. The two viewpoints come together to craft a tap list that ranges from the funky to the malty and sessionable with a some hazy IPA's mix in as well. The beers, the space, and the food come together in a very harmonious manner making for a comfortable and inspiring atmosphere that you won't soon forget upon entering the foyer of the quirky home turned pub.

That atmosphere, more specifically the house's Terroir, is on display in their farmhouse style beers in the form of wild indigenous cultures that the fellas cultivated from their surroundings in Ambler. I reached out to Gerard to describe their vision for this line of beers, which I was already a fan of, but didn't realize how exciting and unique their process was. I will let Gerard describe it...
"It's our intention to create a sort of saison vintage with these cultures. We will use a given culture for roughly that entire year. Each spring, we'll begin again, and embrace the differences that new sources, weather, or other influences may provide." -Olson
I absolutely love this idea, not only do the beers represent a sense of place through local microbes but that sense of place will vary year to year with the consumer being able to experience the changes first hand. This feels like a throwback to the old days of Farmhouse brewing where the brewers did not have the option to send a culture out for isolation, analysis, and banking to be used every year. Those brewers of the past had to do what Gerard and Dan are doing out of necessity, something that's been lost in most modern brewing where consistency is more important. Myself, and many others, enjoy the batch to batch or seasonal variations in beers brewed with this method.


Taking a bottle to go from the bar.
On a recent visit to the pub, trips that don't happen nearly as often as I would like, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of Solaire Reserve for sale. This is a non-barrel aged Saison brewed with the aforementioned culture. It's a travesty that these bottles last even the few days they do, but I am glad some lingered long enough for me to grab one. According to Gerard this beer is brewed with the 2015 culture...


"The 2015 culture was grown off cherry blossoms (from the tree in the front yard) and lilac blossoms (from a bush/tree in the backyard) - all on the brewery property." -Olson

Solaire Reserve was a delicious beer, delicately balanced like most of F&M's beers, evoking floral notes, some fruit, white pepper and a dry finish with a subtle acidity to finish. A delicate beer with unique and inviting nuances that was supremely refreshing. I once again reached out to Gerard for some info on the 2015 culture (he's surely sick of the questions by now), fermentation temps, attenuation, if there was a bottling strain in the mix etc. Once he confirmed it was fresh and culturable for brewing I got the dregs in 500ml of wort and onto the stir plate. Within 8 hours things were lively and frothing vigorously, as Gerard said it likely would. I then fed the culture a fresh 1L of starter wort and called that good for a 2.5 gallon batch. One thing I noticed is that it flocculated out very hard after a few days in the flask and dried out the DME wort very quickly. If I could produce a beer half as good as Solaire Reserve with it I will be happy.

Culturin'
I brewed a big batch of a Nelson Sauvin hopped Saison and put the culture, I've since dubbed Dan & Gerard's seed, to work in a portion of that batch. I didn't use an airlock, a standard Saison practice for me, during primary fermentation opting only for a foil cover to reduce pressure and stress on the fermentation that may inhibit its ability to dry the beer out. Gerard mentioned that he was curious to see how it performed in a cooler environment but that they don't normally ramp the temps up too high anyway letting seasonal temperatures dictate. So i went for a cool and very unscientific "room temperature" fermentation. He also mentioned that in a low hopped wort the acidity is more prevalent, so at 35 IBU there may not be much bacterial activity but I didn't want an overly acidic beer.

Over the years I've found well used cultures to be more hop tolerant than a fresh lab pitch anyway, but time will tell. This culture has never been looked at under magnification or streaked out on plates so I really dont know what lives in here, but I imagine it's a heavy mix of various organisms. 


24 Hours since I pitched there was a mess to clean up.
I pitched the whole starter into 2.5 gallons of wort and gave it 30 seconds of shake aeration, within 24 hours I had vigorous frothy fermentation. The most active fermentation calmed down after 72 hours at which point I bunged and airlocked the carboy. After 10 days visual fermentation mostly ceased, save for some light co2 off gassing. I waited a full 21 days before I pulled a sample and the gravity was 1.002 and totally finished so I kegged it up, and filled a 6 pack of bottles to condition naturally. It was interesting that the beer did not flocculate out as dramatically as the it did in the starter, but that could be due to the wort composition among other factors.


Dan & Gerard's Seed: Batch #1



AppearanceDeep yellow, mustard like color but not your stupid yellow mustard. Like Champagne mustard that comes with a holiday Ham. All my beers are practically the same color but this one is a tick darker yellow thanks to the Naked Golden. Medium carbonation with a wispy white head that fades and leaves a ring on the top. Moderate to high lacing. 

AromaI was having a tough time pinpointing an aroma descriptor at first but after a few glasses it hit me, it smells like roses! Wow, just now hit me. It really smells like roses, pretty wild. I do pick up on a slight acetic note but not as strong as balsamic or anything but its there. Some bready malts, melon, and earth, mixed in with the aforementioned roses in a floral note..

TasteSlight dryness on the tip of the tongue, some spice in the middle with a tick of sweetness giving way to an acidic finish that's dry and linger, biting the back corners of your mouth. The sweetness almost gets to be too much and then the spice comes and the bam, the acidity hits and cuts it all off in a timely manner. As it warms the sweetness amplifies a little but it's a really nice ride of flavors, complex yet drinkable. 

ImpressionsThis has changed a ton since packaging. When I first kegged/bottled it was heavy on the hops and very tropical from the Nelson, that's really faded away and now it's a more well rounded bouquet. This is a refreshing and complex beer that's beautiful for spring. The acetic note is a surprise but it's a nice level of complexity at such a low level. It did not seem to bat an eye at the 35 IBUs I threw at it, plenty of acid was created. Beautiful blend of aromatics and flavors in such a small simple beer. 

Thanks to Gerard for fielding my questions about their beers and this culture in particular. I plan to use this culture a bunch more going forward to see how it evolves but I am also going to try my hand at a similar practice with yearly indigenous cultures as Gerard described above. It's such a cool idea and really jives with old school farmhouse brewing traditions. Oh, if I haven't yet sold you on making a trip to Forest & Main then we probably can't be friends.



Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.82 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Measured OG: 1.052 SG
Measured FG: 1.004 SG
ABV: 6.4%
Estimated Color: 6.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 43 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


Grain:
87% - 9lbs 4oz - Pilsner Malt (Avangard) (3.2 SRM)
13% - 1lbs 6oz - Naked Golden Oats

Hops:
Boil: 60min - 0.63 oz CTZ [14.0 %] - 31.2 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.25oz Nelson Sauvin [11.40 %] - 10.1 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 1.25oz Nelson Sauvin [11.40 %] - 1.5 IBUs


Yeast:
Dan & Gerard's Seed: Generation #1


Mash:
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150.0 F 

Sparge:
Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.33, Water Profile ( 113ppm Ca, 6ppm Mg, 10ppm Na, 107ppm Cl, 101ppm SO4). Some acid malt and some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary. This was part of a big split batch, the other will have a post shortly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Gueuze Showdown: Je Suis Bruxelles!

After the tragic terrorist attacks that took place today in Brussels I had considered not posting this entry today as planned due to this post's relation to Belgium and its indigenous beer, Lambic. But instead decided to carry on and pay my respects to Belgium herself and the family and friends of the injured and deceased. Terrible and senseless violence that blows my damn mind, too scary out there sometimes. Je Suis Bruxelles!

-cartoon by artist Plantu as posted by newspaper Le Monde


Beer drinkers tend to judge beers before a drop of it even touches their glass, we are all guilty of it. Whether it's something world renowned like Cantillon Gueuze or something new that you may or may not like the branding of its hard not to judge a book by its cover. It can really be hard to be impartial when you finally get a hold of that white whale bottle you've been dying to taste for some time. For those reasons blind tastings, a key to the success of Brulosophy.com, of commercial beers helps remove the hype and branding of the beer and really just evaluate it for what's in the bottle. Not a novel idea of course, but something everyone should do from time to time with any style, the results just might surprise you.

I recently lined up a blind tasting for my buddies and I of some of my favorite Gueuze examples that I was able to procure. To add a little wrinkle to the tasting, and to prove just how shitty of a blender I am, I snuck in a bottle of a Lambic blend I did over a year ago. It had been a while since I had a bottle and wanted to see how it has aged but also to see if it I, or the other tasters, could pick it out as the odd bottle of the group and how it held up to the real experts.

From my visit to Brasserie Cantillon.
Gueuze, and Lambic in general, is one of the most fascinating beverages in the world. Depending on what brewery/blender the beer is from the Gueuze will vary based on many factors including terroir, blenders taste, among others, and yet from producer to producer each example is unmistakably Gueuze Lambic. You would think with a spontaneously fermented product, aged 1-3 years, then blended the end results would be totally unlike each other from blender to blender. Sure there are flavor nuances and differences between brewery/blenders offerings but with the methods used to brew and blend these beers it's amazing that they share such similarities. It's a real testament to the tradition and craft that these brewers/blenders are able to produce such beers of quality and consistency. Did my blend achieve that unmistakable Lambic character? Doubtful. Here are the contenders.
Ed's homebrew blend, Girardin 1882 Black Label, Boon Gueuze Mariage Parfait,
Tilquin Gueuze, Lindemans Cuvee Renee, Cantillon Gueuze 100% Bio

Some heavy hitters in the mix here with Cantillon, Tilquin, Girardin as some of my personal favorites, sadly couldn't find a Drie Fonteinen bottle. But also some readily available options with the Cuvée Renee and Mariage Parfait (higher alcohol % I know but still fits). I know I shouldn't be pulling favorites but I secretly hoped to like The Cuvée Renee the best because of it's availability and price point, or maybe I should have hoped to like my own better? All bottles were poured out for the tasting by a third party to ensure blindness, using mostly all the same glasses but unfortunately we were a little short. I was trying to keep all variables the same but we could only procure so many small tasting glasses. 

Here are some quick notes I took on the beers, blindly of course. 

A: Picked out as Ed's Homebrew blend immediately, ethyl acetate, tart but a sweetness in end cuts it. Clearly stands out...as not a blend by a classic Gueuze blender :(
B: Boring aroma, not very tart, very carbonated, champagne like. 
C: Beautiful funk, sweaty, dry, lightly tart, effervescent. Awesome. 
D: Cloudy, light funk, quite tart, effervescent, dry, acidic, peppery, lingering tartness. Very nice. 
E: Sweaty Brett funk, similar to C in aroma, hay, slight vinegar, acidic, dry and effervescent
F: Smells of crackery malt, boring Brett/fermentation aromatics, sweet, not very acidic. An otherwise snoozefest of a Gueuze.

Thanks to our independant pourer, can you tell she used to tend bar? Me neither :)

Palate fatigue really set in with this tasting, it might have been wise to cut the number of bottles in half because it felt like a lot of repeating characteristics and became tough to differentiate some of them. There were some clear standouts and clear losers right away. First of all it was incredibly easy for me to pick out my blend, it was the most "un-Gueuze like", especially when put on display side by side with against folks who grew up blending Lambic. It's still a good blend and is aging well but it cannot hold a candle to what the experts with years of experience can accomplish. My blend actually has some of the same Lambics these folks use in their blends and yet it is not like the others, even a little bit. Amazing what guys like Pierre Tilquin, Jean Van Roy, etc. can do. My blend all boils down to one bad blending component, when I was working on the blend I felt it helped add body and complexity but after some aging there is still an underlying sweetness in the finish that's very distracting. I do believe it can and will continue to change with time, but the lesson learned is if a component isn't great on its own keep it out of the blend. There are about 7-8 bottles left and they have been locked away and will not be touched again for at least a year, thinking I will only pop them once a year until they go.
The Coolship at Cantillion, an amazing place to visit.
Each of us ranked the beers on our own, which was really difficult to do actually and felt like splitting hairs due to palate fatigue, plus I had a toddler hanging on my leg. We took those rankings and averaged them to get a group "consensus". Most definitely a very small sample and most of us dont have more than a few Lambics per year so please dont consider us experts. We tried to guess which was which, a futile task really but I did accurately picked out the Cuvée Renee (something I drink on a regular basis) and the Girardin, likely dumb luck. Three of the four tasters (the fourth being me) actually ranked mine as the best, but that's likely because it stood out from the others, for the wrong reasons if you ask me, while the Belgians were consistent. The number indicates the ranking the taster assigned the beer, the lower total number the better, BOLD are my rankings.
  1. Ed's Lambic Blend: (1, 1, 1, 5) Total: 8
  2. Mariage Parfait: (2, 5, 4, 1Total: 12
  3. Cuvee Renee: (3, 2, 6, 2Total: 13
  4. Cantillion: (4, 2, 3, 6Total: 15
  5. Girardin: (6, 5, 4, 3Total: 18
  6. Tilquin: (5, 6, 3, 4Total: 18
The numbers are skewed it you ask me, mine was clearly not the best, I rated it a 5, but thems the numbers I guess. Its interesting to see how wildly different we ranked them, all but my blend received at least one last place vote. Probably has more to do with palate fatigue and lack of some folks experience with these beers but still interesting. I was very disappointed to see the Cantillion Gueuze 100% Bio as sample F, it was just so lifeless and boring when put up against the others. I actually enjoyed it less than my own blend, the other tasters rated mine higher as well. Bottle age varied greatly here and aside from my blend the Cantillon and the Tilquin were the youngest, something I think came into play with our impressions of them both. I will continue to buy and drink Tilquin and Cantillion of course, but in this lineup they didn't fair well. But it would have been nearly impossible for me to line up similarly aged bottles, and this was meant more as a learning experience and not a scientific one. Oh well, was a fun and eye opening learning experience for us all. When it was all said and done the dregs found their new home in one of my barrels, oh except for the dregs of my blend :)