Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tasting notes: Barrel Aged Riverwards 10:

Not the best ever, but an argument could be made...

Belgian Dark Strong, or Quad, is really a great style and is a great change of pace as a sipper over the Imperial Stouts we all love in the colder months. I'll get this out of the way early, this beer we brewed here is fantastic, which is a testament to the group of us who brewed it. Myself and three other Brewers all brewed the same recipe, the one that I designed with a fairly simple grain bill and dark candy sugar, then blended it all into the barrel. When we got together, each with a keg in hand, I was curious to see how different each persons batch would be. To my surprise, they really weren't much different at all, and each came out as I had envisioned them to . They were all fermented cleanly, dry, with complex dark fruit notes all indicative of the classic notes of the style. Before they were all blended into the barrel, where it will age for 4 and 1/2 months, I knew we would have a winner.

I discussed in the Brewday post on the classic vs new world techniques to brew this style. I took a little from both but kept it mostly quite simple while relying on the dark candy sugar and a good fermentation to achieve a complex big beer. I like to keep my grain bills quite simple so as not to end up with a muddled malt soup, but at the same time I wanted the base beer to be able to hold up to a fairly aggressive barrel character. I'm happy to say that this recipe worked really well as both a barrel aged and a non barrel aged beer(notes comine up on the base beer soon). There was really nowhere to hide off flavors here, turns out we didn't need to. 

Barrel Aged Riverwards 10:

Appearance: Deep dark Mahogany color with red highlights, Crimson red when held to the light (Roll Tide?). Off white Rocky head, leaving a ring on the glass with every sip, legs for days as some might say.

Aroma: Vanilla, oak, whiskey, dark fruits, all blending together beautifully. A really complex inviting nose.

Flavor: Silky smooth body, which I attribute to the barrel because this beer was quite dry. Whiskey, giving way to some dark fruits, dates, raisins and vanilla from the oak. It's like whiskey dipped, vanilla covered dates and raisins. No real alcohol burn, smooth and warming but the heat isn't there. 

Final thoughts: This beer screams drink me by a fire in the fall/winter, I am actually surprised that it has lasted as long as it has as I have been hitting this tap quite often. The barrel character in this beer is really perfect, the whiskey is subtle but the oak pairs very well with the dark fruits. It has some similarities with Boulevard's BBQ, minus the cherries of course, but a more robust barrel presence. I must say, I am in love with this beer.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

PhiLambic Solera Year Two: Top off wort

Lots of wheat.
Bottling the first pull of the Solera prior to brewing the top off batch gave me the flexibility to make some changes to the wort composition based on the flavors and aromas I was getting from the beer. I did however brew this prior to tasting a finished bottle but my overall impressions did not change much. As I lamented in more detail in both tasting notes posts the beer was a little one dimensional, tasting nice but may have been better served as a blending component then bottling straight. I am very critical of my own beer, and sometimes it may sound like I do not like it, not the case here, I am just striving for perfection. I wanted to make sure I got to know my Solera from grain to unadulterated glass in year one so I knew what I will be working with and what I may or may not want to change.

I planned this top off batch with a few goals in mind, balance out the acidity, add some malt complexity, and increase the Brett funkiness. There is a local Philly funky brewer who uses 6-Row as the base malt in all of his wild ales and they always have a nice rustic malt backbone that seems to balance the acidity really well. So I chose to pair 65% 6-Row with 35% un-malted Wheat for the grain bill and a boat load of aged hops to bitter. I know some folks don't agree but I feel that aged hops come through in the aroma of the finished beer, a character that is missing slightly in Pull #1.
Sacch rest.

In lieu of a Turbid Mash or the wort only decoction I utilized for the initial batch I decided to mash in at 113F for a Ferulic Acid rest then ramp up to 160F for conversion. The logic behind the Ferulic Acid rest is to promote the creation of spicy, clove (4 vinyl guiacol) like phenols which Brett can convert to 4 ethyl guiacol aka funky/horse blanket phenolics. I picked this info up on a post on where Mike goes into a little more detail. This method seemed perfect as its exactly what I am looking to add to the Solera, hopefully by using this mash schedule and a more funky Brett blend I can add some complexity.

I chose to start fermentation of the top off batch in a carboy before I racked it to the Solera. I pitched a single vial of WLP 530 and some slurry of TYB Brussels Brett Blend, which throws off more of the classic Barnyard/Horsey Brett Funkiness I am looking for. Once krausen dropped, but fermentation was still active, I racked right into the Sanke keg. I did this for a few reasons, mostly due to o2 exposure but also to minimize acidity of the top off batch. The active fermentation should blow off any o2 that got in the headspace since it sat between bottling day and racking day. But more importantly is that I moved two weeks after brew day and I wanted to move the Solera while there was still some active fermentation. I took other measures including purging and sealing the keg to minimize o2 pickup, lets see how that all works out.
A massive sack of aged hops.

One last change I made here is that I decided to scale back the size of this Solera from the Sanke keg to a 6 gallon Better Bottle filled to the very top. I added this top off batch to the Sanke, let it age for 2+ months and then racked it all into 3 separate carboys (a 6g Better Bottle and 2x 5g carboys). The other 2 carboys, nearly filled with Solera beer, was given to two friends of mine for a base to start their own Solera's with. I am actually excited for this because I will get to taste the results of how they maintain their Soleras and see how it differs from mine despite the base all originating here. 

A 6+ gallon Solera for myself seemed like plenty as I plan to only remove 2-3 gallons on each pull, plus I can do a smaller quicker brewday for top off batches. This also gives me the ability to start another Solera if I decide to, where I can stagger the timeline and use each for blending and not worry about having too much beer (if such a thing exists).

Aside from that, nothing has changed, it now rests in my crawlspace at a consistent 58-64f. Its dark and dingy down there, I think Jean Van Roy would be pleased. 

PhiLambic Solera Year 2

Brew day: 9/28/2014

Recipe Specifications
The 6 gallon Better Bottle Solera,
which originated in the Sanke.
Boil Size: 14.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: Pfft, who knows?
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

65.9% - 13lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 34.1% - 7lbs - Unmalted Wheat from Whole Foods (~3.0 SRM)

Boil: 75min - 1lb aged hops via HopsDirect
Boil: 15min - 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

5 gallons got WLP 530 and TYB Brussels Brett Blend slurry prior to racking into the Solera. Remaining wort got ECY Bugfarm.

Ferulic Acid Rest - 15 min @ 113FSacch rest - 60 min @ 161.0 F 

Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, no salts. 

Notes: The other half of this batch was fermented out with ECY BugFarm slurry, that will age as an unblended Lambic to be used for blending for next years Gueuze. This was the final beer brewed and fermented in Fishtown Philadelphia prior to my move to dirty Jerz.

Sour Solera article for HomebrewTalk

A while back Austin from asked if I would like to contribute an article for the site, the topic was up to me. I kicked around a few ideas and settled on an Intro to Sour Solera article. This is just meant as a cross post to the article incase anyone missed it when it went live a while back, and as a means to archive for anyone who wants to easily go back and review it.