Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Yeast Bay Beta Testing: 100% Brett Pale Ale (It's not a sour Bro)

Four Carboys, one mini-fridge.
The second round of Beta testing for The Yeast Bay is the one I was most looking forward to. The four strains we tested in round one were all Sachromyces Saison strains used in the split batch Les Quatre Saisons, all very unique and a great learning experience. For this round Nick sent us 4 new strains of Brettanomyces that he has isolated and built up for us. In my opinion the tide has shifted, brewers are no longer content with only 3 strains of Brettanomyces available in pure culture, especially with a seemingly infinite selection of Sacchromyces strains to choose from. The Yeast Bay are doing their part to grow the library of available Brettanomyces cultures and I am happy to be a part of it. Maybe one day we will be free of the "Brett beers are Sour", or "Brett is always funky", stereotypes because Brettanomyces can be oh so much more than just barnyard funk.

We set the experiment up similarly to how we did Les Quatre Saisons, we would all brew the same recipe with only small variations in both mash and primary fermentation temperatures. We were each assigned a mash temp, and a primary fermentation temp range so that Nick could get a feel for how the strains work in a slightly varied wort. This time it was decided that we would keep the mash temps within a more typical range of 150F-152F, as opposed to the 148F-156F range we employed for the Saison. We just felt that there was more to be learned from the fermentation temps then the vast differences in the mashing temps.

No rubber bands were harmed
in the making of this beer.
Nick sent us some healthy vials but we all decided to get them going in some starter wort in advance of brew day anyway. The brewday was uneventful, in a good way, I mashed at 151.1F (0.1 above my target temp of 151F), chilled the wort and pitched each culture into its own ~3 gallons of wort in 3 gallon Better Bottles. Prior to pitching I aerated each carboy with only 15 seconds of pure o2, on normal batches I would aerate longer but I fear the acetobacter monster. As fate would have it, all 4 Better Bottles fit snugly into my little fermentation fridge, so a consistent fermentation temp of 71F was maintained throughout.

I took gravity readings and samples to taste at 8 weeks, preliminary tasting notes are below. I was comfortable with the gravity each one was at, but since we don't know the true attenuation of the strains I decided to let them ride a bit longer, then life got in the way and they rode longer yet. All told they spent just under 3 months in primary before I packaged them, that may seem long and maybe it is but I've went that long with 100% Brett beers in the past without issue (never for a sole Sacchromyces ferment however, unless you like the taste of burnt rubber). I am glad that I waited though because the gravity moved at least a point (3 points for 2B)  by the time I packaged, these Bretts were working for a while.

Fermentation went as expected, all four strains kicked off in the same amount of time with very little lag times. I brewed at 6am and pitched the yeast mid day after I let them cool longer in the fermentation chamber, all four showed activity within the few hours before I went to bed. There was noticeable activity for up to 5-6 weeks with some small tiny bubbles shooting up, especially in strain 1B which seemed to the most active the longest, and the numbers show.

8 Week Samples with Tasting Notes:
There's that window shot again, real original Ed.

  • Strain 1B- 1.007 the most clear. Lactic acidity, fruity nose. Stone fruits, sweet tarts, dry, pepper in background. Really awesome.
  • Strain 2B- 1.014 woody funk, cedar!, subtle acetic nose. Sweet upfront, medium body, light tartness, fruity with a bit of spice on the back.
  • Strain 3B1.013 body odor, sweaty aromas but not overpowering. Candy like tartness, a bit sweet on the back.
  • Strain 4B1.014 earthy, dirt, wood-y nose. Earthy, woodsy, some malt balance not in others.

All four seem to run the gamut of Brett flavors/aromas, some really unique stuff from the early tasting especially with strains 1B and 3B. But I would think that they will vary by the time I do a final bottle conditioned tasting next week. Below are the final numbers for myself, Marshall, and Brian, you can look forward to tasting notes and more info from them on their blogs. You can see how much each strain dropped over that last 4 weeks or so from the samples I pulled above.

Where some of the Saison strains we tested last were hit or miss I think all of these Brett strains are a hit in one way or another. Now I cant be certain until we taste all four in their final state, but the early tasting notes have me optimistic. As of this posting they have been in bottles for ~3 weeks so I will get to tasting shortly, we are all really excited about these strains. I will leave you with a slide show of fermentation and pellicles, really only 2B had a cool pellicle but its very wild looking (probably because it was the only one with an orange carboy cap).

TYB Beta 100% Brett Pale Ale

Brew day: 5/25/2014
Packaged: 9/1/2014

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 15.20 gal
Post Boil Volume: 12.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 12.00 gal 
Bottling Volume: 11.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.055 SG
Measured OG: 1.055 SG
Measured FG: 1.006/1.011/1.012/1.013
Estimated Color: 6.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

70% - 16 lbs 7 oz - Pale Malt 
20% - 4 lbs 11 oz - Munich 10L
10% - 2 lbs 6 oz - Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.81 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 20.0 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2x Whirlfloc + 2tsp Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 10min - 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 3.5 IBUs
Boil:  0min - 1.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 0.0 IBUs

The Yeast Bay Beta Brettanomyces - #1B, #2B, #3B, #4B

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 151.1 F 

Fly Sparge 10.55 gallons of 170f

Misc: 15 seconds of pure O2 per carboy. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, no salt additions.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Barrel Aged Saison: It's All Gravy, Delicious Gravy.

Crushed Sunflower seeds, absolute bitch to crush.
It's been a while since i updated on the barrel aged beers, with Barrel #1 we have already aged the Philly Breakfast Stout  and the Quad (tasting notes coming soon), both beers holding a fair amount of oak and whiskey flavors, but the whiskey aromas are waning. I have been a bit anxious to get some Brett into this barrel and felt it was about time to get going, a nice Saison with some fruity Brett strains seemed appropriate. I am a still a bit concerned that there is too much whiskey flavor hanging in there but we will monitor it and hopefully not over do it, I certainly do not want whiskey overpowering this beer.

We came up with a recipe that wasn't too high in ABV but something that packed a punch and can withstand the flavors/aromas that we will be pulling out of the barrel. I had a few pounds of Malted Sunflower seeds that I used in a very floral delicate Saison a while back, they add a grainy-ness to the flavor of the beer, and help to add body so we tossed a bit of them into the grist. The base grain was Pilsner malt of course, with some White Wheat, Naked Golden Oats, and Munich for some malt complexity, finished off with Turbinado for dryness and because we are snobs.
Frothy, fruity, funky starter of
the Beersel blend.

A fruity, tropical, Brett barrel aged Saison needs Nelson Sauvin if you ask me, we bittered with Magnum and late hopped the beer with Nelson at 5 minutes and flame out. Going into the barrel this thing was more Nelson forward than I could have hoped for, which is great because we want it to hold up for a few months in the barrel.

I distributed some Wallonian Farmhouse slurry (and some Sunflower seeds) to the group, four of us each brewed 5 gallons again with portions of each racked to the barrel and some not barrel aged. On barrel fill night we sampled each of The Yeast Bay Brett blend beers I brewed to decide what blend would be best, the group favored the Beersel blend over the other two so I built up a starter and added it to the barrel. I may have thrown some Brett Brux Trois dregs into the starter as well! 

There was a bigger difference in all of our beers going into the barrel then we have experienced in past group barrel projects. One was a bit more astringent, another was darker then we expected, another was lighter and way more Nelson forward (was awesome actually). I kind of like the variability in the batches, its interesting having each brewers own stamp on the portion being blended in and see how it all comes together in the end. There were aspects of each that I liked, or felt the Brett would enjoy working on, pretty excited for this one to finish. Now we wait...

It's All Gravy, Delicious Gravy

Brew day: 6/28/2014
Kegged: 7/12/20134

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 8.00 gal
A keg and 3 fermenters waiting to be racked and
I cropped Chris' face out of this one,
it was not pretty.
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG
Measured OG: 1.064 SG
Measured FG: 1.007 SG
ABV: 7.5%
Estimated Color: 6.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 36 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

64.8% - 8lbs 8oz - Pilsner
  9.5% - 1lbs 4oz - White Wheat 
  9.5% - 1lbs 4oz  - Golden Naked Oats 
  4.8% - 10oz - Malted Sunflower Seeds
  3.8% - 10oz - Turbinado

Boil: 60min - 0.35 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 17.5 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 2.00 oz Nelson Sauvin [11.20 %] - 0.0 IBUs
Boil:  0min/Whirlpool - 1.00 oz Nelson Sauvin [11.20 %] - 0.0 IBUs

Generation 5 - Wallonian Farmhouse Slurry - 250ml/5 gallons (230b cells)
The Yeast Bay Beersel Brettanomyces Blend (100ml slurry woken up in 250ml starter, pitched into the barrel)

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 149 F 

Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

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

Notes: Pitched 250ml of healthy Wallonian Farmhouse slurry, then 500ml starter of the Beersel Brett blend + Trois dregs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We share 'round these parts: Lambic via Brouwerij-Chugach

The entrance to Brouwerij-Chugach.
The other week I had the pleasure of enjoying a few of Marshall's sour beers , and to complete the trifecta on The Yeast Bay beta testers tastings I was granted the opportunity to try some Lambic brewed by Brian from Brian was actually the one who started our little cross country beer sharing thing here. He reached out to Marshall and I and said he would be sending us some bottles of his beautiful Lambic. Who in their right mind would not be excited about an email like that, come on.

Brian and I share a lot of similar views on Farmhouse brewing and the sense of place you get from the house character of someones mixed fermentation beers, and food. Since Nick "introduced" us we chat regularly about all things beer and baking, bouncing ideas off of each other etc. Brian's site is new but already has a wealth of information on mixed culture fermentation practices and bread/pizza baking. He has become a mentor of sorts for me when it comes to baking bread and pizza, I went from making some mediocre stuff to blowing my own mind, he even sent me some of his leaven to get me going.

But we are here for the Lambic, and it comes from his rustic cellar from which , I imagine, many a bug thrive. Brian adheres to most traditional methods of wort production/and sour beer aging, turbid mashing, aged hops, and barrels upon barrels are used to create this LambicI would love to visit and get a tour, but unfortunately its quite a drive to Maine from Philadelphia. Who knows, maybe I will get a chance to try some of these commercially some day :) But for now I am perfectly happy receiving bottles of Lambiek Zomer in unlabeled bottles, you should be jealous.

Lambiek Zomer

Appearance: A brilliantly clear straw yellow color, very minimal carbonation as is appropriate for an unblended Lambic. Thin white head that dissipates pretty quickly.

Aroma: More fruit than funk, the funkiness is very subdued, I get a fair amount of stone fruit with a hint of lemon, some toasted malt aromas even. 
Picture courtesy of, because I
neglected to snap a photo that did this beer justice.

Flavor: Nicely tart, but not mouth puckeringly sour. There is a nice sweetness that cuts the sourness just as it starts to pucker, a good balance of fruit and sourness going here. 

Overall: This is a very well balanced unblended Lambic, its actually pretty impressive how balanced it is with it being, obviously, unblended. It can be difficult to get those bugs to do what you want, not saying that balance is what Brian was going for but its a difficult thing to nail on these beers, thats just the nature of mixed fermentation. 

It is certainly to style as far as unblended Lambic is concerned, I've only ever had one commercially and it was at Brasserie Cantillon pulled right from the barrel. Brian's version is much more fruit forward than that of Cantillon where the funkiness was more dominant, which I am sure varies barrel to barrel. This stands alone very well for me though, but would be a great blending component as well. Its not overly sour (which I've had issues with) although some sips I took I did want a little more pucker I think that the balance is what makes this pretty special. Great stuff Brian.