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.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tasting Notes: Centennial Pale Ale - Conan vs. Chico

I have been anxious to get tasting notes posted for the 2 Centennial Pale Ales (well 3 if you count the Trois version). I will start by saying both beers are great on their own, side by side however there is a clear standout.

Chico on left, frothy Conan on right.

Conan FG: 1.010 - 76% Attenuation
Chico FG: 1.012  - 71% Attenuation

Appearance: Poured into identical 8oz Nonic tasting glasses with Chico (WLP001)on the left and Conan on right, the first thing you notice is that Conan pours with a much more rocky head. The head on the Chico version is a bit more appropriate for the style of beer although the thick head of Conan is not distracting but does result in a short pour.

Both beers are the same color, a light orange/bronze with yellow highlights. But the one thing in the photo above that is a little deceiving is the clarity. Chico is actually significantly more clear than Conan, although both beers come with some hops floating around not unlike Heady Topper. Conan is notorious for being a low (or slow) flocculator.

Aroma: Conan's aroma is huge, it hits me without having to put my nose to it, fruity esters, tropical fruits, orange, mango, peach, a little bit of piney-ness as well. Chico has a very pleasant aroma but not quite as big. There is more pine in this one, a little bit of grapefruit and orange. It comes through with classic Centennial aromas where the Conan version there is a big assortment of fruity hops and esters melding together nicely.

Taste: The bitterness up front on the Chico is a bit sharp, not bad but a little biting, it also comes across as much more dry. There isn't much body to the Chico version either, its good and refreshing with strong hop flavors of grapefruit and some pine but finishes quite thin. The Conan version on the other hand, has a nice creamy medium bodied mouthfeel, similar to what you might get from 3711 French Saison, the malt also shines with some toasted bready notes balanced by a smooth bitterness. There is a slight dankness to this one but is balanced with citrus fruit flavors and finishes dry and refreshing.

Overall: If you haven't noticed by now Conan was the winner here. The Chico version was just fine, and normally I probably would have raved about the beer but in this case Conan was a clear favorite. Conan seems to have the ability to amplify hops, and squeeze out many different aromas and flavors, it's really very unique. 

I knew Conan was essentially steroids for hops but I never knew it would add such a smooth full mouthfeel. Thats what struck me the most with this experiment, the malt really showed itself and added another dimension to this beer thanks to Conan. Which was surprising based on the final gravities of the two beers.

  • Ah, the Brett Trois version, how could I forget. The beer went over very well at NHC club night, I was really happy with it served from the pin (although it took about an hour to calm down after it was tapped, it was just spewing foam). I wish I could have had a glass to try alongside these 2. Stone fruits, dry, smooth bitterness, no malt but was still in balance due to the low carbonation. Final Gravity was 1.009.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Supermoose of Norway - A Decoction Mashed Berliner Weisse

My last batch of Berliner Weisse was overly tart and needed some age to clean up an off putting aroma caused by whatever I cultured from the 2-row husks, some Brett dregs did eventually clean that up however. In an attempt to dial in my process for this style I made 2 minor changes for this batch. The first of which was adding a single decoction to the mash schedule. My goal here is to add a bit of body and malt sweetness to balance the sourness of the beer while hopefully getting a bit of graininess as well for complexity.

The second change is the method for which I am souring the beer, harvesting the lacto from grain is just too unpredictable for what I am going for here. This time I am going to go with a commercial pitch of Lacto from White Labs, WLP667. I followed the same fermentation schedule as previous batches where I will pitch Lacto only to warm wort, 110f, and let it go for 48-72 hours then taste to see if I achieved a sufficient level of sourness.

This was my first decoction so I kind of learned along the way, the measuring pitcher I used wasn't the best tool for pulling mostly thick mash so more wort than I wanted was pulled. I will make sure to have one of these around next time around, as seen on Brewing TV's Decoction Day episode. After a Protein Rest of 132.5f, I pulled 15 quarts of the thickest mash I could and boiled it, stirring often for about 10 minutes.

As you can see, the decoction was a bit too thin.

After I added the decoction back to the mash and stirred I took a measurement and I missed the Saccharification, target was 154f and it was reading 149f. It probably would have been fine to let it ride as is but I wanted the saccharification rest to be a little bit warmer in hopes of adding a little bit of body to what can be a thin beer. So I pulled 1.5 quarts of wort from the mash, boiled it briefly, then added it back to the main mash and I hit 154f on the head. A wort only decoction step if you will.

The decoction smelled amazing, and the color it produced was really nice once it was added back to the mash. A much deeper yellow as opposed to the white-ish yellow I was noticing prior.

I pitched the lacto 6 hours after racking to the fermenter once it naturally cooled to 110f, then kept the fermenter on a heating pad for 72 hours. I tasted the wort and it was decently sour, there was no noticeable activity in the fermenter. I removed the heating pad and gave it another 24 hours to cool down to 68f I then pitched Conan ale yeast since I happened to have fresh slurry around. 10 days of primary fermentation and then I racked the beer to the keg to bulk age at room temperature for ~3 months.

The color was amazing, a bright almost neon yellow going into the keg.

I feel confident in my process for this brew session, and my hopes are high for this beer. Tasting notes to follow, I plan to enter it into a local (although quite large at 500 entries) competition, I will post the judges reactions in my tasting notes post down the road.

Full recipe after the jump.