Friday, April 25, 2014

Tasting Notes: We Talkin 'bout Practice?

When I set out to brew this IPA/DIPA (White IPA?) hoppy wheat beer thingy, I have no clue what to call this, I wanted something that bordered on a tropical fruit juice, minus the acidity I guess. I think I succeeded in some aspects but need some reassessment in other areas. This is certainly a citrusy, tropical, juicy beer, no mistaking that. But the beer doesn't have the zippy finish I was hoping for and lacks some hop complexity. The final gravity was 1.019 which was a lot higher than I really wanted, but the bitterness seemed to cut through that fairly well leaving a silky smooth beer despite a somewhat flabby finish.

I have mentioned it before but with these hoppy beers with Oats (and Wheat) I really need to mash lower to make up for the unfermentables added with the Oats, S04 isnt highly attenuative but there are still some long chain sugars in this beer that need to be broken down more. 

I'll be rebrewing this soon and the changes i'll make are small but should be significant to the final product. First of all I will mash at 148 F, for the drier beer I mentioned, and will be using TYB Vermont Ale (love me some Conan and I've read the AA% increases with the second pitch, and its already working on HopWards Batch #2 as we speak). I plan to leave the hops largely the same but increase the Simcoe to go for pine and hopefully a more complex hop character, the grist will be exactly the same for batch #2. 

We Talkin 'bout Practice?

Light pale, almost burnt orange hue with gold highlights. Two finger white head that leaves a more than moderate lacing on the glass after each sip. Wheat, Oats and hops don't hurt in that department. 

Aromas of orange, peach, mango, many other tropical fruits I can't put my finger on. No real malt presence on the nose, a very very mild resinous background aroma.

Upfront tingly bitterness giving way to huge tropical fruitiness and a smooth full silky mouthfeel. Subtle tingly carbonation on tongue, to style. Finish is sweetness then cut by bitterness leaving a slight pucker at the back of the mouth, the beer starts off better than it finishes.

Could use more hop punch, all the hops meld well together but maybe one should stand out and smack you in the tongue. Overall this is very enjoyable, I am nit picking but it should be drier, and maybe lean heavier on one of the 3 hops it lacks a bit of hop complexity, does it need onion and garlic? Damn it I hate that character when it's aggressive but I understand how it helps in layering hop complexity. But don't expect me to put that bullshit Summit in my beers. I hate oniony beers...burn the Summit fields down.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hurricane's Barrel Aged Triple

A fellow homebrewer (Tom) purchased another Dad's Hat Barrel and contracted the group to fill it as I did recently with the Quad , so the barrel fleet among my Homebrew friends has doubled. I was recently accused of having "first world problems" when I mentioned we may get sick of Barrel Aged beers soon. Why would I say such a foolish thing? Its good timing to as it seems we are staggering the fills fairly well so that it doesn't feel like a chore to keep each barrel filled. I am getting anxious to get some bugs in these barrels, but there are clean beers to brew first.
Beautiful color going into the fermenter.
Both barrels currently sit in my neighbor Chris' basement, my barrel with some delicious Quad in it which we snuck an encouraging taste a few weeks ago, he has the space and a great set up for the barrels to hang out. With it being Tom's barrel we left the recipe formulation up to him this time, and his idea was to brew a big , fairly classic, Triple. The only non traditional aspect are the hops, where we bittered with Willamette and used a dash of Amarillo late in the boil because, you know, Amarillo is pretty awesome. Everything else is fairly classic, until it hits the barrel of course. 

Vigorous Fermentation.
The plan, as we did for the Quad, was for four brewers (Chris, Tom, Sean and myself, Bill took this round off) to brew the same recipe and then rack ~3.75 gallons of each batch into the barrel and the other 1.25 gallons blend together into secondary for a non barrel aged version. All went well with our respective brewdays, with OGs varying in the 1.082-090 range (mine was 1.089). Only hiccup, is that I missed the memo on what yeast strain we were using and went with WLP530 once again while everyone else used WLP500. It may add a layer of complexity to the finished beer with the varying yeast driven flavors, but only time will tell if I goofed it up or not. The other beers were significantly more dry than mine going into the barrel, however mine was only 14 days old when we racked to the barrel (mine was 1.019 the others were around 1.009). We figured that mine will finish off the the barrel fairly well and we should still have a dry Triple in time.

I am looking forward to trying more of the beers from these barrels, the Philly Breakfast Stout turned out fantastic and I'll have tasting notes posted this weekend. If the Quad and the Stout are any indication on how this Triple will turn out, we are in for a complex unique beer in a few months time. Great pick Tom. Soon, it will be time to refill the Quad barrel...First world problems continue.

Hurricane's Barrel Aged Triple

Brew day: 3/10/2014
Kegged: 3/24/2013 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 8.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.082 SG
Measured OG: 1.089 SG
Measured FG: 1.019 SG (1.010)
ABV: 10.1% (after blending)
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

84.4% - 13 lbs 8 oz - Pilsner (1.5 SRM)
12.5% - 2 lbs - Cane Sugar 1.6% -  4oz - Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)
 1.6% -  4oz - White Wheat (3.5 SRM)

Boil: 60min - 1.50 oz Willamette [5.50 %] - 26.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 5.4 IBUs

1 pkg - WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast - 1.5L starter (although the other 3 brewers used WLP500, complexity right?!)

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 149.5 F 

Fly Sparge 5.35 gallons 175f

60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant.

Pitched at 62F and let it free rise naturally to 74F. I held it at 74F for a full 14 days before racking to a keg, it was still working a little bit but barrel fill day was planned and scheduled .(It was transferred to a keg so I could transport it to the barrel in Chris' basement across the street).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Yeast Bay - Wallonian Farmhouse Strain

These are heady times for yeast aficionados, East Coast Yeast blazed a trail for small artisanal yeast labs, and it was only a matter of time before others would follow suit. There is a small handful of startup yeast labs popping up all over the country with new interesting strains of yeast but it wasn't until recently that one of these new labs really caught my attention, and pulled away from the pack quickly.

Exploding on to the scene this year was The Yeast Bay, a small but burgeoning artisanal yeast lab founded by Nick Impellitteri and crewlocated in CA. What grabbed my attention initially, and I would assume others as well, was their Vermont Ale culture, which we all know is the highly sought after Conan (don't we?). One thing that sets The Yeast Bay apart from other new labs is that they have contracted with White Labs to bank and package their vials, so you know you will be purchasing world class cultures. 

Once Nick released his line of strains for sale I noticed they have a lot more that I am interested than just the Vermont Ale. As a fan of Saison and Brettanomyces I grabbed a few strains that were of interest to me.  The three yeast blends, BeerselBrussels, Lochristi, but the one that really got me excited was the Wallonian Farmhouse strain. Wallonian huh? The name even had me interested. Here is what they have to say about the strain on their website. 

There is a lot to like about that description, "absurdly high attenuation" and "slightly funky and tart" sound perfect to me. I wanted to get an idea of what this strain can do so I decided to use my Farmer In the Rye Saison recipe since I am very familiar with the beer and have tried many different Saison strains in it over the last few years. I brewed a 15 gallon batch and split it a few ways, ~9 gallons got Wyeast 3711 for primary which was then split between the three Yeast Bay Brett Blends in secondary (more on that in a future post). The remaining ~6 gallons got a healthy 1.5L starter of an absurdly fresh(I think it was 10 days old) Wallonian vial.

The following is information on the Wallonian strain fermentation only. I aerated for 45 seconds with pure o2 through a stone and pitched the entire starter at 64 F, I didn't have enough time to crash and decant the starter. Fermentation was active within 4 hours, showing some light foam on top (below) at 66 F. There was some moderate co2 off gassing at this point.
4 Hours after pitching.
By 30 hours into fermentation things were really getting going at 71 F, with a frothy white krausen and a steady bouncing airlock. After 48 hours of fermentation we reached high krausen at 73 F, which was pretty fast but a fresh healthy pitch and aeration will do that for you. About 3-4 days in and the krausen started to fall but I kept the temperature at 74-75 F for a full 14 days, throughout that time there was lingering fermentation with tiny bubbles shooting to the surface. There was never more than a 1-2 inches of krausen on the beer as you can see below, but there was very vigorous fermentation that was fast and efficient, with some time at the end to work on the more complex sugars.
30 hours into fermentation.
48+ hours into primary fermentation, high krausen.
The final gravity was 1.007 down from 1.060, a dry beer indeed, especially with a modest Saison fermentation profile that only maxed out at ~75 F. I racked it to a keg on the 14th day and put it on 30psi for 6 days then tapped it on the 7th day, so 21 days grain to glass. Below are my tasting notes about 30 days from brew day.

Farmer In the Rye - Wallonian

Appearance: Hazy golden color with a white frothy 2 finger head, tiny bubbles shooting up the glass. Still a bit early carbonation wise, but passable. Significant lacing on the glass throughout.

Aroma: Notes of hay, coriander, some black pepper, earthy, reminds me of pulling dandelions. There is a subtle lemon zest aroma as it opens up. Mild funk is certainly a great way to describe it, the aroma is classic rustic Belgian Saison. The whole aroma smells like walking into an Herb garden in late spring as everything around is full of life just starting starting to flower.

Taste: There is a dry bitterness on the front of the tongue that quickly rakes across your tongue with earthy pepper notes. It then finishes and lingers with a faint tartness on the back and side of the palate. I get a significant crisp malt presence in this beer that I have never gotten before, the Pilsner is upfront and on display. In the past this beer had no real Pilsner character but with the Wallonian strain you can taste a beautiful Pilsner note that gives way to spicy Rye earthiness, the malt and yeast character really blend well together.

Overall Impressions: This beer, which I usually love with 3711, has been taken to another level with the Wallonian strain. I actually didn't think that was at all possible, after all the 3711 version took 2nd place and scored a 40 in the first round of NHC 2013, but this version is significantly better than brewed with anyt other strain. If I told people I used spices in this beer they would believe me, not in a heavy handed way but a subtle balanced spice that ties everything together. Then you add in the Pils/Rye malt that seems to be amplified instead of over shadowed its really a nice ride of flavors. There is something about this strain , even with a modest low 70's fermentation, that seems to tie everything together beautifully.

The Wallonian strain has a permanent spot in my homebrewery, the subtle spicy and dryness that all ties together well with the other flavors is exactly what I am going for in a classic Saison. Next I will put Wallonian to the test at some higher temperatures and something hoppier and more modern in a new batch of Jah-Rod

***On a semi-related side note, Nick from The Yeast Bay posted on Reddit that they were looking for Beta testers for some new strains he recently isolated. I am pleased to announce that he selected myself and two other homebrewers as Beta testers for some possible upcoming strains of both Sacchromyces and Brettanomyces. So be sure to check back soon, I will have a post coming on the split batch with all three Brett blends and results from the strains we will be Beta testing. Very exciting stuff coming up, and I am honored that Nick has given me the opportunity.

Brew day: 3/1/2014
Kegged: 3/15/2014

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 17.80 gal
Post Boil Volume: 15.70 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 gal
Kegging Volume: 14.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.007 SG 
Estimated Color: 4.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 91.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

75.5% - 20 lbs Avangard Pilsner 
15.1% - 4 lbs Rye Malt
3.8% - 1 lb Munich 10L
5.7% - 1lb 8oz Cane Sugar

Boil: 75 min - 1.00 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 19.7 IBUs
Boil: 30 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [7.20 %] - 7.4 IBUs
Boil: 15 min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablet + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5 min - 1.75 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 1.9 IBUs
Boil:  5 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [7.20 %] - 1.9 IBUs
Boil:  0 min - 1.75 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 0.0 IBUs
Boil:  0 min - 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - 0.0 IBUs

1x pkg The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse (1.50 L starter 36 hours in advance of brewday)
260ml slurry of French Saison (Wyeast #3711)
1x pkg The Yeast Bay Beersel Brett Blend (Secondary w/3711)
1x pkg The Yeast Bay Lochristi Brett Blend (Secondary w/3711)
1x pkg The Yeast Bay Brussels Brett Blend (Secondary w/3711)

Sacch rest - 90 min @ 148 F 

Fly Sparge 13.10 gallons of 172f

Misc: 45 seconds of pure O2 for each carboy.Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, 7.9 grams Gypsum,  2.1 grams Baking Soda, and 1.4 grams Table Salt in the mash.

Notes: Unimportant to the Yeast Bay stuff, this was my first time using Avangard Pilsner and the PPG must be significantly more then they post on the malt analysis, there is no way I am getting 91% efficiency. I've already brewed Jah-Rod again with it and again I over shot by 10 points, on each occasion I modified the hopping slightly to stay in line with the recipe. In hindsight I should have just watered down the boil and went with a higher volume but I tend to like to run with it and adjust for next time.