Friday, December 20, 2013

Tasting: FItR w/Mangos

In February of this year I had a batch of the Farmer In the Rye stall at 1.020, Dupont culture and too cool a fermentation was the culprit. Instead of just adding Wyeast 3711 to dry it out, as I've been known to do, I decided to pitch some ECY03 Farmhouse Brett slurry that I had laying around. I have used this blend before and really enjoyed it, the rumor is that one of the Brett strains in the blend is a Fantome isolate, among other strains of Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces. 

The beer attenuated to 1.003 pretty quickly, in about 4 weeks time, and since I had already done 4 beers with the ECY03 blend I wanted to try something a bit different. Around that time, roughly May, Mangos were in season and thought it would be an interesting fruit to age the beer on. So I skinned, cubed, froze, then pureed the mangos (~1lb per gallon of beer) and racked the beer onto the puree to age. Fermentation kicked back up for a few days with a small 1/2 inch krausen, then for a month or so there were some fine bubbles shooting up to the surface. After 2-3 months the beer dropped clear and I bottled to 3.0 vols of co2.

FItR w/Mangos

Appearance: Slight gusher, I had to pour relatively quickly but it didn't make a mess. Pours with a fluffy bright white 2 finger head that dissipates to a thin covering on top. Effervescent tiny bubbles shooting up the glass, almost champagne like. Very hazy with some chunks of fruit. Beautiful straw yellow with almost a neon tint.

Aroma: Notes of hay, fruity acidity, barnyard funk. Peppery spice.

Taste: Prickly carbonation up front, very carbonated, light body. Mango forward, slight tartness, spice (pepper), with a dry finish. It does finish a little watery, there isn't much after taste, it's off your palate pretty quickly. It does leave you wanting to take another sip, pretty refreshing.

Overall:  I enjoy this beer for what it is, which ultimately is a beer with a meandering path to its final flavor profile. When I brewed the beer I did not intend for it to be a funky Saison aged with Mango puree, but it works and I am happy with it.

There are two issues I have with the beer that keep it from being better than just good. The first, and really least important to me, is the amount of chunks of mango in the bottles that ultimately get pulled into suspension when the bottle is opened. It doesn’t bother me but I imagine it might not be appealing to some people. The other issue is it is a bit watery/thin in body, my guess is that can be attributed to just how dense the mangos I had were. I do think my choice to puree the fruit did not help in both these departments, if I had just cubed and froze the fruit I think both of these issues could have been minimized to an extent.

This little beer gave me an idea to do some variations on my FItR recipe, I plan to continue the fruit series with Peaches (also ECY03+WLP565) coming up next and also dive into a commercial dregs series with this base beer. Currently in the fermentor is Logsdons Seizon Bretta dregs, and Hill Farmstead dregs variants.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tasting Notes: Farmhouse Festbier

In the past I have not been great about brewing a beer in advance for the up coming season. I usually have a list of beer ideas, experiments that I want to do, or ingredients I want to try and tend to focus on those themes. So sometimes the beers of a certain season are put on the back burner and then its too late. 

For this fall I tried to buck that trend and brew something ahead of time that would combine both my idea of a fall/winter seasonal beer and my love for farmhouse style beers utilizing a platinum strain of yeast I had never used before. While also using a technique I call "capping the mash" that I have been trying recently to get more color in a beer without the harsh astringency from highly kilned malts that I think can clash in styles as delicate as Saison. This method was talked about alot in Gordon Strong's presentation at the NHC this year.

Obviously, this beer is served out of a Can!

Farmhouse Festbier:

Appearance: The beer pours a maroon-ish brown color with orange highlights when held up to the light, opaque and murky clarity. There is a small off-white head and seems slightly under carbonated, the keg version was very carbonated and pours with a thick off-white head. Moderate head retention with decent lacing on the glass as I take a few sips.

Aroma: Notes of mild chocolate, a bit of a cracker aroma. Slightly phenolic but only faintly, there isn't a huge yeast aroma but seems to playing nicely with the malt profile. Pretty subtle, no off aromas, almost clean for a Saison (too clean?).

Flavor: Low carbonation, not how I had intended. A slight maltiness, with a nice bready note to it to counteract the mild chocolate, light to medium body fading to a slight dryness but very smooth for 7%+ beer. Earthy, rustic but not as much as I wanted, there is a slight tartness but only on the middle of the tongue. I could be confusing it with dryness or some alcohol flavors. No hot alcohol character however, or burn as it goes down. A very cleanly fermented beer.

Overall impression: These cans did not hold the carb worth a lick due to the low fills levels but it didn't take away from the character of the beer too much, I still very much enjoyed it for what it was. The high carbonation I normally got with this prior to canning made it a much better beer, the spritzy carbonation made for a more refreshing drink and added some complexity allowing more of the yeast character to come out in the nose. 

In the different light you can see the orange highlights.

As is I enjoy this recipe quite a bit, if I would change anything it would either be the yeast or my fermentation schedule. I ramped this beer up to a max of 78f since I was not too familiar with this strain I didn't want to go too high. The resulting beer has a very mild yeast character, but it could also be overwhelmed by the malt and even the honey used. Next year I'll use WLP565 and really ramp the fermentation temps up to 90f as I normally do, as well as source some local honey. Otherwise, I am very happy with this beer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Helianthus - a Malted Sunflower Saison

I am always looking for new ingredients to use in a Saison/Farmhouse Ale, whether its yeast or a fancy aromatic hop, I love tinkering with the style. Earlier this year on Basic Brewing Video and Basic Brewing Radio James brewed a beer with Malted Sunflower Seeds and interviewed Jason Cody, the president of Colorado Malting Company the company sells the Malted Sunflower Seeds. The interview was great, he touches on how they got into Craft Malting and some of the different things they are testing out. It all sounded perfect to me for a Farmhouse ale.

I reached out to CMC to place an order but unfortunately they were out, it seems that they do limited malting runs on these lesser used ingredients. Over email I asked Tim Cody, Home Brewer Product Advocate (what a title), about availability and he said to check back late summer. I did just that and sure enough it was back in stock, Tim was very helpful over email, I wish they had an online store but Tim helped me get the order through.
The plan was to brew something simple so I could really see what the Sunflowers brought to the beer, if anything at all.  I and I had plenty of Pilsner malt and whole leaf East Kent Goldings on hand, so I settled on ~75% Pilsner, 20% Malted Sunflowers, some sugar and all EKG's in the boil. I took a bit of a shot in the dark on the sugar potential in the seeds and guessed at 1.020, I either guessed right or got lucky, I think the latter. CMC's website lists the color at 3.0L so this should be a pretty pale beer.
There were some holes in the bag when the job was done, 
but the crush seemed sufficient.

For testing purposes I like to brew smaller 3.5 gallon batches on my stove top at times with new ingredients. I also do this for some big beers or DIPA's, anything I don't need a large volume of.
Post "crush".

I reached out to James from Basic Brewing about dealing with the Sunflowers, since he mentions in the video that they were "tricky" to mill. His method was to open and close the gap on his mill to get them to go through the rollers. I opted for the rolling pin method, not very exact but it got the job done with some elbow grease. All of the Pilsner malt was of course run through my mill as usual.
Floating in the mash.

Originally I had a theory that the Sunflower might act as a filter to help in sparging, not that I needed it in this simple grist, but maybe it could help in some beers with Rye or Wheat. As soon as I dough'ed in I was proved wrong, these things float right to the top. 

The only problem this caused me was it was difficult to judge the level of liquid on top of the grain bed during the sparge. There was all of these Sunflowers floating, then a layer of water then the Pilsner on the bottom. So I sat a small strainer on top of the grain bed so that I could judge the liquor level on top of the grain bed so it wouldn't run dry.

The rest of the brew day was pretty straight forward, I bagged all of the EKGs in thew boil in hopes of having a clean slurry at the bottom of the fermenter to wash and reuse again. Going into the fermenter the wort tasted pretty simple, not unlike some Saisons with just wheat and Pilsner that I have made in the past but I will reserve judgment until I try the finished product. 

Full recipe can be found below.


Brew day: 11/2/2013
Kegged: 11/28/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 4.25 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 4.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 3.70 gal
Estimated OG: 1.045 SG
Measured OG: 1.046 SG
Measured FG: 1.006 SG
ABV: 3.8%
Estimated Color: 7.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71.6 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

76.7% - 5 lbs-12 oz Pilsner
20.0% - 1 lb-8 oz Malted Sunflower Seeds
3.3% - 4.0 oz - Turbinado sugar (added at high krausen)

Boil: 60min - 0.75 oz East Kent Goldings [6.60 %] - 25.7 IBUs

Boil: 15min - 0.50 oz East Kent Goldings [6.60 %] - 8.5 IBUS
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Boil: 5min - 0.75 oz East Kent Goldings [6.60 %] - 3.9 IBUS


Harvested Slurry of: WLP585 Belgian Saison III + WLP565 Belgian Saison I

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.3 F

Fly Sparge 3.62 gallons of 170f water.

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Philadelphia filtered tap water, 1/2tsp Gypsum in the mash. 

Tasting Notes: 1/24/14

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tasting Notes: The Speedy Cyclists

This beer has been on tap for about 2 months now, and over that time it's gone through multiple identities. When it was young it was bright, yeasty, but a little bit hot, then that gave way to a muddled astringent mess. But after about a month in the keg things started to come together, the astringency has faded and the Nelson Sauvin aromas and flavor are starting to shine more. When I was creating the recipe for this beer I wanted Nelson Sauvin to be at the forefront, and ultimately I achieved that goal, albeit being a little rough around the edges..

As I documented in the brewday post, I had to make some last minute decisions as my local shop was out of my first 3 choices of yeast, which led me to using WLP550 and some 3711 to ensure dryness (not sure that was necessary). When I brew this again I may drop the Saaz, I dont think its really bringing anything to the table here, and will certainly use either WLP565 or Wyeast 3711 as originally planned. I will also opt for a simpler grist, dial back the Munich a little bit, which I would let Nelson shine a bit more. Don't get me wrong I enjoy this beer fine but in its current state its not exactly as I intended. After having Prairie 'Merica recently, I have different ideas on how I would like to use Nelson in the future, and it may involve cloning that beer. But thats for a different, more Brett filled, post.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Clear deep golden with hints of orange. Dense 2 finger white head that dissipates to 1 finger and lingers throughout the glass leaving nice lacing. Fine bubbles shooting up the sides of the glass rapidly.

Aroma: White pepper aromas, grapefruit, phenols, very reminiscent of white wine as the Nelson description goes. Some slight alcohol aromas as it warms.

Taste: Dry upfront, a slight bitterness that may be accentuated by the dryness giving way to a slight bready malt to balance it out a little bit. Grapefruit, with a bit or tartness in the finish, maybe best described as "tangy". Some alcohol bite is felt in the back of the mouth in the after taste, with a slight astringency on the back end that seems to be fading in this beer as time goes on.

Overall Impression: there is an interesting ride in the flavor from the first sip to the finish. It really evolves as it goes across your tongue. I think it could use a little more malt presence and maybe a dry hop of Nelson but this beer is enjoyable. Nelson is extremely unique, I've not come across a hop character that carries a beer so well with such complexity as this hop does, the recipe itself needs work but I think I am on the right track.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I heard its darker when it comes out of a can.

I haven't met very many beer nerds who are against craft beer in a can, although I am sure they exist. Portability, less waste, no broken glass, no skunky light struck beer, etc. There are many advantages, the more craft beer in a can options the better, who doesn't want a flavorful low alcohol beer in a can to tailgate, camp, picnic, etc with?

If I were to list all the craft brewers who can we would be here forever, it's becoming countless these days. From Oscar Blues, who really got things going, to The Alchemist who cans Heady Topper (one of best beers in the world mind you), the different styles of beers that can be canned are limitless.

So the pros have jumped on the bandwagon over years, but what about us homebrewers? Well that brings us to the Mobile canning companies that have been popping up all over the country. Not only are they helping small brewpubs with limited canning runs, but they are also teaming up with Homebrew clubs to can Homebrewed beer, wine, cider, anything in liquid form.

This past weekend my club, the Philly Homebrew Club, did exactly that by teaming up with We Can Mobile Canning to can members Homebrew (for a $35 fee of course). If you attended the National Homebrewers Conference this year in Philadelphia you probably remember the infamous exploding cans from Round Guys Brewing, We Can Was actually the canning company that packaged that beer. It was interesting to chat with those guys about that, it was obvious he was sick of hearing about it though.

The first of my beers being filled.
To share a bit of my experience with the canning of my beer, and these are things I wish I would have know ahead of time. I canned my Farmhouse Festbier, the beer was carbonated to 2.8vols and was stored in my kegerator at 40f. It turns out the beer needs to be 33f and 2.9vols or lower, so I was up against it. Next time I will can something slightly less carbonated and turn the fridge down to 33-35f, maybe even something funky.

This resulted in some foamy beer and low fills, which I wasn't worried about and I did end up with nearly 3 cases while everyone else had 2. It was interesting to "work" (or watch and drink) the canning line while the guys explained the workings of the system. We had a Barleywine, Patersbier, Saisons, Porters, IPAs, Sour Beer, and Wine canned, you name it (even gin an tonic!), it was canned that day.

The plan is to have my wife who owns her own Graphic Design firm, WFGD Studios, design a label for the cans and give them away during the holidays. I dont plan on aging more then maybe 2-4 cans for any extended period of time. Most of them will likely be gone by New Years.

I guess this is more of a brag than an informative post, so be it. But hopefully this will inspire folks to give this a try given the opportunity. But here are a few shots of the beers being canned. Click Here for the full album.

In this shot you can really see the bubbles in the lines, a lot of the other beers looked still going through.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tasting Notes: Boat Bitter

Well that didn't last long, it's been 6 weeks from the Boat Bitter brew day and all 10 gallons are gone (save for a 4 pack I Beergun'ed). Now, I didn't drink my way through 4 cases of beer in a month and a half, a keg each were poured at a friends wedding and my block party. At each event I got some great feedback, comments like "very session-able , "nutty, and malty", and my favorite "Reminds me of Cask Ale from when I was in London". 

Fining with Gelatin results in some crystal clear beer.

I don't brew for events terribly often, maybe 2-4 times per year, but I really enjoy sharing my beer with people and talking about it a bit. Even after just one batch I think this will be a staple I bring to events along with my FitR, depending on the crowd. 

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Light copper in color, fluffy white head that dissipates to about half a finger and lingers there throughout the glass. Moderate lacing on the glass. No noticeable carbonation bubble, looks to be very soft carb. Great clarity.

Aroma: Some fruity esters on the nose, no noticeable hop aroma, earthy, malty and nutty.

Taste: Soft carbonation, to style. Light bodied beer that starts with a smooth mouthfeel, low bitterness but balances the malt really well in the middle of the mouth. Finish is all malt, nutty, biscuity. The malt is more prevalent as it warms, certainly has that cask conditioned feel to it.

Overall: I am really happy with this beer, it's easy drinking, light but complex despite it's subtlety. Next batch I would like to up the bitterness just a little bit but the beer is balanced well but leans slightly to the malt. I would love to get this in a Firkin for an event at some point.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Farmhouse Festbier: A Fall beer without Pumpkins or spices?

As of this posting its officially Fall, maybe it wasn't on brewday but you have to think ahead you know? For alot of craft beer drinkers that means Pumpkin beers, and lots of them, the more the better some might say. I guess I'm not "some", sure I'll have one or two when the leaves start to change but most of them just don't do it for me. 

It's not that I don't like Pumpkin, I am actually a fan I love Pumpkin pie, what I don't like is the heavy handed spicing so many brewers tend to use, and don't get me started on Pumpkin beers released before Pumpkins are even harvested. Libby's canned Pumpkin is actually made with Squash (Dickinson's Pumpkins). I'm sure Dickinson's are good, but most people are picturing their jack-o-lantern Pumpkins in their beer. It really boils down to Spiced beers in general for me, they come off as a muddled mess to me, and believe me I have tried brewing them and tasting many, I prefer my spice to be yeast driven.

So no Pumpkin beer being brewed, and no Holiday spiced beers, what to brew for the fall weather? My goals for this batch were, something yeast driven, Saison/Farmhouse-y, something earthy with a slight malt presence and a deeper amber color, some funkiness from the yeast (without Brett, although I may bottle dose a 6-pack) and a citrus component to tie it all together. 

I have been playing with a method some are calling "Capping the mash", meaning saving your dark roasted malts and adding them prior to vorlaufing. The idea here is that you will get the color you're looking for without all of the roast flavors/aromas which is exactly what I am going for with this beer. This method its perfect for Dark Saisons or Black IPAs in my experience.

Dark runnings after capping the mash.

This will also be my first time trying out WLP585 Belgian Saison III, It sounds like an interesting strain that may bring out some of the biscuity flavors of the Victory malt to go along with some tartness that the yeast apparently throws off. Other than I just wanted to try a new Platinum strain for the hell of it. 

To help dry the beer out, and hopefully add a more Rustic feel to the beer, I added a boiled mixture of the Golden Blossom honey (a blend of White Clover, Orange Blossom, and Sage Buckwheat) 48 hours into fermentation. I do my sugar additions in all of my Saisons in the fermenter to ensure the yeast ferment the complex malt sugars before they feast on the easy to ferment simple sugars. In addition to that, when I add the sugar I am usually at the point that I want to ramp the fermentation up a little higher and adding the sugar tends to do so.

Farmhouse Festbier

Brew day: 8/18/2013
Kegged: 9/7/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 13.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 10.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.058 SG
Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 7.2%
Estimated Color: 7.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.60 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

65.6% - 16 lbs Pilsner
12.3% - 3lbs Munich
12.3% - 3lbs Wheat
  4.1% - 1lb Victory
  1.5% - 6oz Chocolate Wheat (Capped the mash)
  4.1% - Golden Blossom Honey (Added during Primary Fermentation)

Boil: 60min - 1.00 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 25.2 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablets + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Boil: 10min - 2.50 oz Saaz [3.60 %] - 5.8 IBUs
Boil: 00min - 2.00 oz Cascade [6.20 %] - 0.0 IBUs

WLP585 Belgian Saison III

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148 F

Fly Sparge 8.75 gallons of 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Philadelphia filtered tap water, no salt additions. 

12-16-13 Tasting Notes from the can.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dawson's Boat Bitter

I've spent all summer brewing Saisons almost exclusively, its what I wanted to drink and have been dragging my feet on temp control for the big 60L Spiedel fermenter. Needless to say, the kegerator could use some variety in its portfolio and something session-able for watching football in the fall wouldn't hurt either. Friends of ours also asked if I would brew a batch for their fall wedding so something that a wide range of people would enjoy, and enjoy a few of, was in need.

As fate would have it Michael Dawson posted the recipe for, what he calls, his Boat Bitter. The beer certainly piqued my interest, simple grist, single hopped, interesting yeast strain all things I like to play with. Despite the fact that I don't brew many English beers, I was very interested, but it was posted mid-summer and there was Saison to brew. A few weeks later Chip posted the episode for this beer on Chop and Brew, and with the wedding (and Eagles football) coming up it was time to give it a try. There was so much great info in the brewday episode, and the beer looked fantastic, its a must watch Dawson is a wealth of knowledge.

I had about 15 pounds of Marris Otter laying around so I did not use the Floor Malted version as Dawson did in his recipe, I also had plenty of Crystal 60L on hand so I adjusted to use that instead of the 80L, and the LHBS did not have First Gold so I subbed Challenger, per Dawson's recommendation. So, after all of that I suppose its not true to what Dawson envisioned but it should get us in the ballpark.

Cask Ale Starter.

Kegging the beer 10 days later, biscuity maltiness, really nice. Pre-post kettle finings.

So this is how my version looks...

Brew day: 9/7/2013
Kegged: 9/17/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 13.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 10.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.036 SG
Measured OG: 1.040 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 3.8%
Estimated Color: 7.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 79.10 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

97.3% - 14 lbs 10oz Marris Otter
2.7% - 6.5oz Crystal 60L

Boil: 60min - 2.00 oz Challenger [6.90 %] - 28.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1.00 oz Challenger [6.90 %] - 7.0 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablets + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 00min - 1.00 oz Challenger [6.90 %] - 0.0 IBUs

Wyeast 1026 British Cask Ale

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 153 F

Fly Sparge 10.5 gallons of 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Philadelphia filtered tap water, no salt additions. Ferment at 67f for 10 days, or until terminal gravity is reached.

*I used half a packet of Knox gelatin to fine the beer in the keg.

**I boiled off more then expected, post boil was 9.5 gallons at 1.045, I added a gallon of boiled and cooled filtered water to dilute to 10.5 gallons at 1.040.

10/26/13 - Tasting Notes

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tasting Notes: Supermoose of Norway

Ive been drinking this beer for a while now, I probably only have a glass a week but mostly because I have 4 Saisons on tap at the moment that I am enjoying. My wife has really enjoyed it however, and she is not a huge beer fan in general, I think its the refreshing tartness and especially the low alcohol that has her enjoying it. Just one of these 6oz taster glasses with a salad is really a good pairing.

I documented my process in the brew day post for this beer, but after trying the Bruery's Hottenroth Berliner I was amazed that they were able to maintain a bit of a malt complexity that I had never noticed in the style. It was a bit grainy, kind of toasty with a bit more body then I would have expected, it was fantastic. So I set out to figure out how to get that character, with some experience with the style I tweaked my process from previous batches in hopes of dialing in a good recipe/technique.

Appearance: Whitish yellow in color, high carbonation with rapid bubbles almost Champagne like, thin white head that dissipates but not nearly as quickly as most Berliners I have had. I have a feeling this is due to Conan. Crystal clear at this point, bordering on brilliant clarity.

Aroma: Is of lactic sourness, a bit of green apples, no malt aromas or yeasty esters really just all lactic on the nose.

Taste: Medium body, high carbonation, a nice tartness on the tongue that lingers for a moment after you take a sip. The acidity/tartness is right in line with what I was going for, its upfront and apparent but is'nt overpowering. The beer doesn't appear as dry as it ended up (FG 1.007). The presence of wheat is somewhat low, there is a slight graininess in the middle of the mouth that shows up more as the beer warms. I get a bit of an apple juice thing going on, which is something I am not loving. Its probably just my interpretation as nobody has mentioned it to me but for me its out of place.

Overall: It is tart and refreshing, which is what I am ultimately going for but I think as a whole it missed the mark. It's a good beer but the recipe needs work needs to be a little more more memorable. It should show the dryness more, I thought Conan would help in this beer but it left a little more body then I had desired. In this version I used no hops, I believe it helped in ensuring that the beer was tart but I wonder if a small bit of hops in the decoction wouldn't help with some complexity. 

The next batch, which will be in a few weeks once this keg gets light, I plan to make a few changes to this existing recipe. A few minor changes I plan to make will be adding ~1/2oz of noble hops to the decoction, using a more neutral american strain like WLP001 and increasing the percentage of Wheat closer to 50%. I am tempted to add Brett Claussenii to the next batch but I'll keep with the 3 minor changes for now. I am determined to dial in a recipe for this style.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Speedy Cyclists

At this Years NHC 2013 there was a club that was pouring all single hopped IPAs, which I thought was a great idea. All the same base recipe but with a different hop in each, there was Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, Simcoe, Belma, Motueka, and many more. But the one that stood out to me was the Nelson Sauvin version, it was just so unique with some white wine fruitiness, sweet berrie notes and low to moderate bitterness/dankness. Nelson Sauvin is a fairly new varietal from New Zealand that has started popping up over the last year or two and has long been a hop I wanted to try out.

The character of Nelson Sauvin seemed perfect to use in a Saison, with a big addition of Nelson Sauvin late in the boil, or even in a whirlpool addition. I took my normal Saison grist of Pale Malt, Wheat, and Munich but added a small amount Carafa II for a slight Amber color. I didnt want any flavor or aroma from the Carafa, only color, so I added it during the Vorlauf instead of mashing it. 
Adding the Carafa during the vorlauf.
There was a very slight color difference in the wort after adding the Carafa, I took a sample in a glass of each side by side. On the left is before and right after the addition, next time I will add a little more but I think it worked in getting me a more copper colored wort as opposed to blonde. These are also first runnings so they are a bit darker then the finished beer may be.
My LHBS was out of WLP565 which is what I planned on using for this batch, they didnt have WLP566 or WLP568 either, so I went with WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast instead. This strain can reach 85% attenuation but I wanted to make sure this beer would be as dry as possible so I planned on adding 3711 French Saison ~4 days into fermentation to ensure it fully attenuated. I needed ~400 Billion cells for this batch so I built up the 550 to 325 billion cells and planned for 75 billion cells coming from 3711, so a 3:1 ratio of 550:3711.

This will be the first time I get to use my shiny new Speidel fermenter, coincidentally they raised the price almost $30 since I bought it. I am excited about being able to fermenter my 11 gallon batches in one vessel, and with the easy transfer via the racking adapter at the bottom I will save having to clean and sanitize my auto-siphon.
Perfect Ambient fermentation temps for this beer.

Brew day: 8/6/2013
Kegged: 8/20/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 14.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 10.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.059 SG

Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.005 SG
ABV: 7.2%
Estimated Color: 7.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 81.60 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

77.3% - 19 lbs US 2-Row 
10.2% - 2.5 lbs Munich

8.1% - 2 lbs Wheat
2.1% - 1.5 oz Carafa II (412.0 SRM)
4.1% - 1 lb Turbinado Sugar - added 48 hours into fermentation

Boil: 60min - 1.00 oz Magnum [14.00 %] - 24.8 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1.50 oz Saaz [4.00 %] -  5.3 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablets + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:   5min - 1.00 oz Nelson Sauvin [12.50 %] - 4.4 IBUs
Boil: 0min - 180f - 2.50 oz Nelson Sauvin [12.50 %] - 0 IBUs - 30 min Aroma Steep

WLP 550 - ~300 Billion Cells
3711 French Saison - ~75 Billion Cells

Sacch rest - 75 min @ 148 F

Fly Sparge 9.5 gallons of 170f

Misc: 90 seconds of pure O2. Philadelphia filtered tap water, no salt additions.

Tasting Notes 11/21/13

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PhiLambic Solera - Brew Day

With my Plan in place I prepped for the brew day, normally I will crush my grains a day in advance but I didn't have the time leading up to brew day  With everything weighed out, I filled the hopper in my mill and... the drill was dead, no worries I have a spare battery on the charger, the charger was unplugged...ugh...Not a good start here. Luckily I have a homebrewer as a neighbor and he saved the day only a few moments later with a corded drill, I really should have one. Back on track.

As I documented in the previous post, I will be using wort only decoctions to reach all of my mash rests. I have done this before only with a Berliner Weisse but I think it will work well. I doughed in at 113f Acid Rest for 10 minutes then pulled 8.5 quarts of wort via the ball valve from the mash and brought it to a boil. I stirred a bit while the decoction reached a boil, then added it back to the main mash and stirred. I took a temperature reading and was 4 degrees low on my Protein Rest, my target was 134, I decided to just run with it and not mess with it too much.

After the 25 minute Protein Rest I pulled 10 quarts of wort from the mash and boiled the decoction. Since I was 4 degrees low on the Protein Rest I decided to decoct an extra 2 quarts above what Beersmith suggested. It almost worked as I reached 149f, my target was 150f, for the 45 minute Saccharification rest. One final wort only decoction of 7.5 quart to reach another Saccharification rest of 162, rest for 20 minutes then I was ready to sparge with 180f water and begin heating the runnings in the kettle. I am hoping the hot sparge water, as is tradition with Lambic, would help raise the mash temp to 168f for mash out if not the runnings started being heated once I had 1 gallon in the kettle. But it should also help in the Sparge process to keep from getting a stuck sparge with all of this wheat in the mash.

Early starchy runnings.

After a 60 minute sparge I had 17 gallon of 1.040 wort already reaching a boil since we were heating the kettle the entire time. My efficiency was much better than expected, with stronger runnings and more wort pre-boil but nothing I am concerned about. The wort going into the kettle looked very starchy, there was alot of protein floating around in there so either my mash process worked or the addition of the flaked wheat helped. Probably a little of both.

I boiled for 90 minutes, adding my old cheesy hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. I then pumped the boiling hot wort directly into the Sanke keg to let it cool outside overnight with tin foil covering the top, with a rubber band holding it down. If it catches something wild so be it, if not, thats ok to but I doubt it will. Overnight the wort cooled to 107f, at which point I carried it into my basement where the ambient temps were around 66f. By that evening things had cooled to 69f and I pitched 2 vials of ECY01 Bugfarm (1 vial was 1 month old and the other about 6 months old). 

After about 48 hours from pitching I had not had any activity, so I rehydrated some Belle Saison and gave the fermenter a little swirl. In about 4 hours active fermentation began, I knew I was under pitching with the 2 vials but I had expected fermentation to get going a little quicker. Obviously I would have had a more active start to fermentation had I chilled, aerated etc but I wanted to somewhat stick with Lambic tradition by under pitching to stress the saccharomyces a little bit for more ester production for the Brett and Bacteria to metabolize.

About a month in and fermentation has really slowed, there was active fermentation for up to 3 weeks at 72f wort temp. I can still see some action but the majority of the fermentation is finished. I likely will not take a gravity reading until the 4 month mark at which point I may top it off a bit to get rid of the 1 gallon of headspace. But for now it will sit in my utility closet where the current ambient temps at 68f.

Recipe Below

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

PhiLambic Solera - Planning Stages

Ever since reading the Sour Solera Barrel post by Michael Tonsmeire I have wanted to start my own project just like it. I kicked around the idea of getting a group together and filling a large 50-60 gallon oak barrel, but the logistics of getting everyone together to brew/empty/refill and not to mention store that huge barrel proved ambitious.

Solera, if you are unfamiliar, is a method of aging/blending for many types of products including Wine, Sherry, Balsamic vinegar, Port, Beer, and more. The basic idea is you have numerous barrels of different ages from which you will pull from to blend and bottle then transfer liquids from youngest to oldest in chronological order down the line. With this process you are creating a complex product of an average age, where the average age gradually increases over the years.

On a homebrew level its very impractical to have many barrels of aging beer, but with the use of one vessel we can pull portions of the fermented beer at various intervals for packaging/blending. Then the vessel can be topped off with fresh wort to create the same effect as a traditional Solera.

Since I cannot fill a 50+ gallon barrel with my own equipment I started to explore some smaller options. The 5 gallon barrels are too expensive and allow far too much o2 diffusion, especially for how long I plan to age this beer. I did find 15 gallon Rye Whiskey barrels for a good price locally, but after having a few beers that were aged in these barrels the oak and whiskey character was just too strong and it would take a long time to make it neutral. Which brought me to the 15.5 gallon Sanke keg, which I figure will be perfect for this project for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the size is more manageable to fill on my system, and store in my basement. I also won't have to worry as much about o2 exposure so long as I keep the keg topped off and possibly hard bunged after the active primary fermentation has finished. To mimic the barrel I will be adding some stripped Oak cubes so the brett and bacteria can get cozy.

Thats me turbid mashing on Big Brewday 2013.

Wort production was another dilemma I had when putting this plan into place, it basically boiled down to Turbid mash or not? In May of this year I participated in in a group Lambic brewday with my club, we all performed a Turbid Mash and racked the beer to a 53 gallon barrel to be stored at the LHBS for 1 year. It was an long and arduous process, I am happy I did it but was hard to enjoy everything else that was going on at the same time.

What I decided on was to do a step mash, full volume at 1.25q/lb, and do Wort Only Decoctions to reach each rest (113, 134, 150, 162, mashout in the kettle) . I have read about, and heard about, others using this method to create a wort that leaves enough dextrins for the Brett and bacteria to work on over time while still leaving enough simple sugars for the saccharomyces to work quickly on. With all of the Saison strains in this blend it should dry out to the 1.010-12 range pretty quickly then hopefully the rest will be taken care of by the funky stuff.

For my Clubs Lambic we used ECY01 Bugfarm 6, which is the same blend that I will be using for my Solera, plus a myriad of bottle dregs. Granted there will be other differences in the 2 beers that may throw off any comparisons (barrel, inoculation rate, etc). But it should be interesting to compare the Turbid mashed Lambic to a different technique in wort production.

The grist will be comprised of domestic 2-row, I have plenty on hand but no Pilsner but I don't think it will matter much, White Wheat and some Flaked Wheat for some added starches. As in traditional Lambic I am looking for the preservative qualities of the hops with little to no bitterness, to achieve that traditional Lambic producers use hops aged for up to 3 years. 

In preparation I placed a few ounces of hops in brown paper bag in the hottest part of my 3rd floor closet roughly 18 months ago. When I opened them the day before brew day I was hit with a parmesan cheese aroma that reminded me exactly of walking through Brasserie Cantillon

This post is already getting a bit longer then I had planned, but I wanted to document my line of thinking for the decisions I made with this brew. I put a lot of thought into this, but admittedly am cutting some corners i.e. no Turbid mash and Malted Wheat, I hope it pays off as I will be investing a lot of time and space to this beer. In the next post I will chronicle the brewday.