Friday, July 26, 2013

Centennial Pale Ale - Conan vs. Chico

In October of 2012 a friend visited The Alchemist and picked me up a case of the world class Heady Topper. Obviously I was excited to drink the beer, but also because I had just recently read Derek's article at Bear Flavored about culturing the yeast up from a can of Heady. After a bit more reading I learned this proprietary yeast strain called "Conan" was what John Kimmich, Brewer/Owner of The Alchemist, claims is the key to making Heady Topper the great beer that it is.

I have been using Conan for my hoppy beers exclusively for a few months now, 6 generations, but I've been meaning to do a split batch to compare the profile of the strain to something a bit more clean. Each beer has had a distinctive peachy aroma that reminds of you Heady Topper, its attenuative and really lets the hops shine, its like steroids for hops. But if I am going to go through the trouble of caring for this strain until I get more I want to see how it compares to what is readily available to see if its worth it.

At the same time I have been trying to dial in a standard Pale Ale grist over the last few months, something I can use a for all pale ales and just mix up the hopping from batch to batch. My last batch had a bit too much Crystal, so I dialed it back in favor of more Vienna. I am leaning towards an 80/20 2-row/Vienna split but went with a minor tweak for now.

I had a lb of 2012 Centennials in the freezer so I went with only Centennial on the hot side, with some Cascade and Columbus in the dry hop. Centennial is my favorite (non trendy) hop available, I love the fruity, citrusy notes of the hop even by itself. Cascade always pairs nicely with Centennial and the Columbus should add a slight dankness for complexity.

Brewday was pretty uneventful, I hit my numbers for the most part. I whirlpooled and cooled the wort to 190f then shut off the chiller and added the Aroma Steep hops and continued to whirlpool for 30 minutes. The wort dropped to 177f over the 30 minute hop stand and I turned the chiller back on to cool to pitching temps. The wort was split into 3 fermenters, 2 Better Bottles and 1 glass carboy each pitched with their own cultures.

Tasting Notes.

Brett Trois version racking into a pin to be served at NHC 2013 Club Night.
Unfortunately I won't get to do a side by side with this one and the other 2.

Brew day: 5/18/2013
Kegged: 6/8/2013

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 16.41 gal
Post Boil Volume: 14.66 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 14.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 13.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.043 SG
Estimated Color: 5.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

79.2% - 19 lbs US 2-Row 
14.6% - 3.8 lbs Vienna

4.2% - 1 lb Carapils
2.1% - 8oz Crystal 60L

Boil: 60min - 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 15.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] -  15 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablets + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Boil: 5min - 2.75 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 1.8 IBUs
Boil: 0min - 6.45 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 0 IBUs - 30 min Aroma Steep
Dry Hops: 1oz Cascade and 0.5oz of Columbus for 5 days - per Batch

1L Starter - 
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (WLP644) harvested slurry
500ml Starter - 1.0 pkg California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
200ml Conan Ale Yeast Slurry

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152 F

Fly Sparge 11.79 gallons of 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2 for each carboy. Philadelphia filtered tap water plus 2tbsp of Gypsum in the mash.

Notes: Each fermenter got ~4.75 gallons of wort and their own pitch of each strain.

Tasting notes: 8/6/13

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bottle Conditioning With Brett

I keg all of my clean beers, and some of my funky beers like a  Berliner Weisse. But I do like to have a few bottle conditioned examples of each beer to either age, share with friends, or more importantly to see if the beer is better refermented in the bottle (which is the case with my Saisons, but I like to drink em quick so in the keg they go).

To mix it up a little bit I have been dosing bottles with Brett when bottling these Saisons, which is a good way to try out a few Brett strains without committing to an entire batch. What I will do is keg the beer as normal, purge the headspace with Co2. Clean and sanitize a 6 pack of bottles (or more), grab a vial of any Brett strain (in this case Brett B slurry a friend gave me), or slurry that you have cultured up. Prior to filling each sanitized bottle I will drop 2-3 Conditioning Tablets in lieu of priming solution.

Then I will hook up the Blichmann BeerGun ( in the past I used the Biermuncher Bottle Filler which works perfectly fine especially considering the beer is still at this point) and use Co2 to push beer and fill each bottle. I will then use a sanitized medicine dropper to add ~1ml or Brett slurry to each bottle, then cap and age for a few months. 

Caution: Keep in mind, this technique really only works with dry beers like Saisons. Normally my Saisons are in the 1.002-1.006 FG range, even then you risk bottle bombs as Brett will slowly work on the long chain sugars remaining in the beer, the drier the better. I also try to use thick walled Belgian bottles that can handle the high carbonation levels whenever possible, Orval bottles work great.

Petite Dosé Saison

Appearance: Hazy deep yellow color, slight gusher, high carbonation, bubbles rapidly traveling up the sides of the glass. Big foamy white head that lasts, took a few minutes to pour the beer but this is only a 10oz glass.

Aroma: Funky barnyard, some citrus notes, leather, hay, peppery spice.

Taste: Moderate bitterness up front probably from the beer being so dry, spritzy carbonation on the tongue almost champagne like. A slight tartness from the wheat, cracked black pepper in the middle and finish. Big Brett character all over this beer.

Overall: I am very happy with this beer, the bitterness on the front end is a little more then I am looking for but it might be amplified by how dry the beer is. I have 5 more of these beers kicking around and may have to drink them soon as the carbonation level is quite high already. I may carefully pop a few and re-cap them quickly and see how that works. I used 3 carb tabs on each bottle this time, up from 2 the last time as this beer finished at 1.002. I may go back to just 2 tabs.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NHC First Round Results, Better late then never.

Its a bit late for this, especially since the final round results have been announced, but I wanted to post the scoresheets, especially for the Rye Saison.

I was not planning on entering any beers into the National Homebrewers Competition this year but I figured with the conference being in my hometown I would try to represent. I entered 2 beers that I felt were quite good and I always enjoy the feedback that you can get from a BJCP score sheet, good or bad.

The two beers I entered were my Farmer In the Rye Saison (the 3711 French Saison version), and a 100% Brett C ESB (that I call ESBrett) that was bottled February of 2012 and is drinking very nice right now.

I entered the Saison in category Saison 16C naturally, but in hindsight I made a mistake entering the ESBrett into Category 23 when I really should have entered it into Belgian Specialty 16E. My thought process was that the base beer was an ESB with a twist being fermented with Brett, however at this point this beer comes across more as a Farmhouse Ale of sorts as it has no characteristics of an ESB like it did when it was young. You'll notice in the scoresheets the judges mentioned as much.

Category 23A: 100% Brett C ESB - Score: 29
I wont go into much detail on this beer but the base beer was Jamil's ESB recipe from Brewing Classic Styles but fermented with WLP645 Brett C. As you can see in the score sheets this beer is no longer an ESB, when it was young it had a nice malt backbone, a noble hop presence with a very mild brett nose. Now the Brett character dominates, there is little to no malt left, slight hop character remains and the soft carbonation of a year ago has given way to a spritzy saison like carbonation, which I actually enjoy.

Category 16C: Rye Saison - Score: 40 - Place 2nd
This one is the Farmer In the Rye Saison, you can read more about the beer in the previous post. This is becoming a staple in brewing schedule, its low (ish) abv, dry, peppery with some fruity notes and very refreshing. It is kind of interesting that both judges mentioned wheat although I know there is no wheat in the beer I am surprised that it was something they picked up on. I entered the beer as a Saison and did not specify it as a Rye Saison. When people hear rye they get a certain idea of what they are looking for in a rye beer and if they don't find it they will dismiss it as being a flaw. 

UPDATE: Unfortunately the Saison did not place in the final round of the NHC in Philly, but it was an honor to be nominated. Next year, and competitions in the future, I will enter my 100% Brett beers into Belgian specialty.