Saturday, July 26, 2014

FarmWards and WardFarms: An homage to Tired Hands SaisonHands and HandFarm

Ingenuity! I added this to the cooler mash tun ~3 years ago,
works great for vorlauf and sparging.
Earlier this year I spent some time trying to emulate one of Tired Hand's flagship beers, and after only a few tries I got extremely close, if I do say so myself. In doing so I got a few emails, tweets, HBT private messages, etc., asking if I was going to try to "clone" their other flagship beer, SaisonHands. By the way, I'm not the biggest fan of the phrase "clone", these are more like "beers inspired by X" but thats a debate for another post. After all, we have to get our inspirations from somewhere.

SaisonHands (formerly FarmHands) is a pretty simple Saison meant to emulate those given to the workers on the farm way back when in the Wallonian region of Belgium, but with a little American kiss of Cascade hops. Its a light, refreshing, characterful beer and is a standard order for me when I visit the Brewcafe. Below is how Jean describes the beer on the menu.
Thats about all of the info I have to work from on this beer, when I was trying to deconstruct HopHands I was able to chat up Jean (owner/brewer) and try to get some info. For this beer I don't have a ton of questions aside from how heavily they hop the beer with Cascade and what ratios they use for the Oats/Rye/Wheat. So for this attempt I am going to take a bit of a shot in the dark on the how much to use of each. 

I would imagine that the Saison strain of yeast they use is fairly important to the beer, but I plan to continue to use The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse as it has quickly become my house Saison strain. I do know Tired Hands uses Canada Malting Company malts, which I happen to have on hand as well, but when tasting the original I did not get an overwhelming Pilsner malt character but I could be off. In my case I will be using a Pilsner base, although I have a hunch that they use some basic Pale 2-row, pairing it with Oats/Rye/Wheat to round out the grain bill. 
Emptiness slurry, and post boil sample. The color is spot on perfect. Oh,
the mason jar is blue, hence the green slurry, I assure you its normal yeast.

The hopping is a bit of a guess as well, I assume they bitter with something high in Alpha like Warrior/Magnum/CTZ and the beer probably comes in somewhere around 25-30 IBUs as thats a pretty typical Saison bittering range. SaisonHands has a nice citrus, earthy and spicy nose that I assume is helped by some from late hopping with the aforementioned Cascade. So I chose to go with a decent sized 5 minute addition followed by a flameout/15 minute whirlpool addition. I know the beer is not dry hopped, when I didn't see it on tap during my last visit the bartender told me the dry hopped Saison that was on tap was actually SaisonHands...accidentally dry hopped.

I suppose some of the citrus notes of the beer could be yeast derived, and maybe I am being heavy handed with the hops, but it seems to me that Tired Hands is always a bit heavy handed with hops. I believe this will get me relatively close, even if not, this has the makings of a damn fine little Saison. 

A portion (5 gallons) of this batch will be fermented entirely with dregs from a bottle of The Emptiness is Eternal that my friend Bill cultured up. The plan is to age it for a period of time on Chardonnay soaked oak cubes to mimic HandFarm which is SaisonHands aged in Chaddsford Chardonnay oak barrels with their resident microflora, funky. I am most excited about this portion of the batch, but it will take a few months to age out before I bottle all of it. I hate bottling, but something magical happens to a bottle conditioned Saison, it makes it all worth it in the end. 

FarmWards Tasting Notes: 10/1/14


Brew day: 6/28/2014
Kegged: 7/12/20134
-I actually brewed 15 gallons but its easier to share the recipe as a 5 gallon version.

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.042 SG
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Measured FG: 1.007 SG
ABV: 5.0%
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

83.7% - 7lbs 11oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 6.1% - 9oz - CMC White Wheat (3.5 SRM)
 6.1% - 9oz - CMC Rye (2.5 SRM)
 4.1% - 6oz - Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.35 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 23.8 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 6.6 IBUs
Boil:  0min - 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 0.0 IBUs

Generation 4 - Wallonian Farmhouse Slurry - 150ml/5 gallons (175b cells)

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.2 F 

Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, 4 grams Gypsum, 2ml lactic acid. Mash ph 5.35.

Notes: Pitched 350ml of healthy Wallonian Farmhouse slurry into 10 gallons of FarmWards and 250ml of Emptiness slurry courtesy of Bill. Both fermentations took off within 6 hours of pitching. FarmWards was basically done in 3 days. Hilariously I forgot to open the blow off valve on the Spiedel fermenter and I almost had a bomb go off in my fermentation chamber but I caught it just in time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tasting Notes: Barrel Aged Philly Breakfast Stout

A quick over night soak with more Dad's Hat
between the Quad and Stout.
Its been quite a while (nearly 8 months) since my friends Dave, Bill, and I brewed the Philly Breakfast Stout, the first beer to go into our Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey barrel (of which now there are two a group of us are working with.) Although we had planned for this beer to be something we could age for a while it turns out its just not really necessary. We brewed this beer on a "system" cobbled together with some of mine and Bill's equipment using 2x 10 gallon mash tuns in order to fit all of the grain in this batch which resulted in some modest (crappy) efficiency and a beer that was about 2-3% abv lower than we had planned. 

In spite of that the beer is delicious, and we are all very happy with how it came out, but we learned a few things throughout the process that we have already begun applying in subsequent barrel projects that are in the works now. On each barrel fill since, as documented here, we have four brewers brew 5 gallons at their leisure and come together for barrel fill day. This has some logistical issues as well but each brewer knows their system and can hit numbers more efficiently. So far it has worked well and with ~20 gallons of finished beer we blend a portion of each for a barrel aged version and some for a non barrel aged version.   

When I posted about the brewday back in December Chris from commented that we would have our hands full. At the time I didn't think it would be too difficult but these group barrels take a fair amount of planning. The most difficult issue is getting a group of people together on one single night/day to empty/fill barrels, damn real life and resonsabilities. Its really a lot of fun, but you need to be organized and keep the beers going in and out of the barrels. We try to have the next beer fermented out and ready to go by the time we removed the previous beer from the barrel so that it never sits empty more than about an hour at a time, mine was empty for a few nights between the Stout and Quad as seen in the photo above. Soon these barrels will be new Solera Projects and will require much less work over longer periods of time, until then, we have lots of barrel aged big beers piling up for the fall/winter...

Don't mind the dog hair on the rim of the glass,
I drank it anyway. 
Philly Breakfast Stout

Appearance: The beer is pitch black, as it should be, with a thin quarter inch tan head, leaving significant lacing on the glass. Subtle carbonation, the appearance is right to style.

Aroma: Big whiffs of chocolate, vanilla, and some coffee in the background all playing very well together. Not a ton of whiskey aromas coming off this thing but I definitely get the oaky notes for sure.

Taste: Silky smooth body, maybe just a tad bit thin, coffee roast, milk chocolate like, and very smooth across the tongue. There is an upfront biting bitterness on the front of the tongue and sides of the mouth probably from the coffee and roasted malts that really helps to balance it all out. It goes down very easily for a barrel aged beer, maybe too easily?

Final Thoughts: This beer is incredibly balanced no one note dominates as you drink it you get a wave of flavors as the Beer crosses your tongue and then the finish your left with a lot of chocolate. It is a tad bit thin on the body and there isn't enough whiskey in the nose, but the oak is balanced really well with the coffee and chocolate this beer is dangerously drinkable. Dont get me wrong, you know this is a whiskey aged beer, but I was kind of hoping that would smack you in the face. 

Maybe this is better though, its a borderline session barrel aged stout if that makes any sense at all. It goes down very easily, unlike much bigger beers like KBS and Bourbon County Brand Stout (abv obviously comes into play when comparing PBS with those two.) We plan to brew this beer again next year, maybe some tweaks to keep things interesting, maybe we will start the next barrel with batch #2 of this.

I need to find somewhere else I can take a snazzy photo, this window is played.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

HopWards Batch #2 Tasting Notes and Recipe Tweaks

Normally when I'm trying to adjust a recipe to get it to where I want it to be I will change only one variable at a time so that I know what each change has brought to the finished product, and if that change got me closer to my goal for the beer. But in a constantly evolving brewing world with new Yeast strains/Hop varieties etc. it can be difficult to stay the course. For batch #2 of HopWards I caved a little bit and changed two variables from batch #1, so shoot me.

In the first batch of HopWards, my Tired Hands HopHands "clone", was damn near spot on to the original and just about how I want my own version of an "inspired by HopHands" beer to be. The late hopping was perfect, it had a uniquely creamy body from the use of the Oats, it was bright citrusy and very refreshing. If there were"flaws" in that beer it would be that the Oats were a bit over powering at 20% of the grist, and that it could use slightly more bitterness. The high % of Oats resulted in a beer that I felt needed to be a bit more dry in the end, not by a lot but enough that may even help to accentuate the bitterness. 

For Batch #2 I decided to lower the percentage of Oats to 12.5%, I had planned for 15% but I came up a bit short on what I had on hand with no time to run out to get more. I figured that by using a smaller amount of Oats ( I also mashed just a little bit lower at 150F to help here) I should achieve a drier beer that I hoped would show off the bitterness more without having to increase my 60 minute hop addition (16-17IBUs) from batch #1.

The last change to the beer was to go from using Safale s-04 to The Yeast Bay's Vermont Ale, aka Conan, which I have a history with dating back to late 2012 when I cultured from a can and re-pitched it for nearly a year. I have a had a love/hate relationship with the strain, I had a lot of hits with my can culture but the ECY29 was a bit of a mess for me. So I am hopping that I can have better success with Vermont Ale, but maybe Derek is right when he says "Conan will only ferment cleanly and attenuate for those with the purest of hearts".

Flocculate much Conan?

HopWards 2.0 Tasting Notes:

Extremely hazy, hay like color, very pale, almost looks like a hefeweizen, which has always been the case for me with Conan. Thin bright white head that faded slowly but leaves significant lacing on the glass, easily mistaken for a freshly pour glass of OJ.

Aromas of Peach, orange, and many other citrus fruits. When this beer was young I was getting a distracting phenol, but after a few weeks this has seemed to fade, green beer? Maybe, but maybe not as I got the same phenol when I used ECY29 in the past, but in those beers it never dissipated.

Soft bitterness but a nice tingle on the front of the tongue, smooth across the middle of the mouth then a pleasing hop astringency on the back end. Citrus, mostly orange, mango, peaches, pretty much any tropical fruit you can think of. I get something different with every sip, its a pretty fantastic hop profile but not entirely different from the s04 batch. There is an interesting aftertaste, or maybe its after breath, thats not entirely unappealing, it could be a fermentation flaw but I cant really put my finger on it.

It's definitely very similar to batch #1 but the body is a little bit thinner, and the oats aren't as noticeable but still there, which was a goal in this version. Actually I think this is may even be a bit too light on the oats. But the bitterness level is just about where I wanted it to be, a slight bitterness upfront then giving way to hops and creamy oats. In the end I like it just fine but it may have been just a bit better with s04, which is really surprising. 15% Oats are where its at in this beer.

As for Vermont Ale, it is significantly better than what ECY had put out, the attenuation is solid, you get those Peach-y notes that Conan can throw off and The Yeast Bay can get you a super super fresh healthy vial. There is something about Conan that has always been a steroid for hops, and malt actually, and this is no exception. I might prefer s04 in this particular beer at the moment but I plan to keep using Vermont Ale for quite some time.

HopWards 2.0

Brew day: 5/31/2014
Kegged: 6/14/2013 
-(then dry hopped in keg for 5 days at room temp)

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 10.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Measured OG: 1.048 SG
Measured FG: 1.014 SG
ABV: 4.5%
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

87.5% - 8lbs 12oz - Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
12.5% - 1lbs 4oz - Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.25 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 17.0 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 0.51 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 3.1 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 0.51 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 3.6 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 0.51 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 4.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 0.51 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 1.4 IBUs -
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 0.51 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 1.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 0.51 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 7 days - 2.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] 
Dry Hop: 7 days - 2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
Dry Hop: 7 days - 2.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]

500ml starter - The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150.1 F - Mash PH 5.42

Fly Sparge 5.60 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant,11g Gypsum + 2.2g Baking Soda, 8.4g Epsom salt, 4ml Lactic Acid in the mash.

Notes: Smooth brewday, nothing really to note, fermentation was quick and as expected.