Saturday, March 21, 2015

Revisiting The Yeast Bay Brett Blends

It was around this time last year that I brewed a split batch of the FItR with the three original Brettanomyces Blends (Beersel, Lochristi, Brussels) that The Yeast Bay first went to market with in 2014. With the way Brett can change a beer over time, especially in the bottle, I thought it might be beneficial to post some update tasting notes on each of the three beers to better understand what each blend can do.

It had been a few months since I tried any of the three variations so I did not have a fresh idea of what each beer had to offer. Although I had an idea of what my favorites were back in August of 2014 I did not review those tasting notes prior to tasting again so as not to influence any nuances I picked up on. 

One thing I will note here is that by fermenting the beer out with Wyeast 3711 prior to adding the Brett blends I achieve my goal of a quicker turnaround but I think in the end I sacrificed some yeast character. Each beer is discernibly different, but are lacking in complexity that you might expect with a beer like this. I attribute that entirely to virtually no sugar remaining in the beer prior to the Brett being added leaving virtually only phenols, esters, and other fermentation byproducts for the Brett to metabolize. So if I seem underwhelmed by any of these beers you can blame it on my process and not the blends themselves. After that disclaimer, below is how I perceived these beers one year and one week from brewday.

FITR Brussels blend notes
Appearance: Brilliantly clear, very pale with a bright white pillowy head that sitting on top, very highly carbonated.
AromaFarmy like funkiness, slight acidity, phenolic, spicy. Opens up as the beer warms, was subdued when too cold. 
TasteLight peppery spice on the tip of the tongue, hops bitterness is practically gone. Very dry, delicate and moderately funky. 
OverallIt's light and refreshing but falling off a bit, it's held up ok but with the hops dropping off its losing some of the balance. The beer is very dry but has a hint of sweetness on the back that i attribute to the abandoning hops. It appears that this blend can help achieve an effervescent carbonation, but also drops very clear.

FITR Lochristi Blend notes
Appearance: Not nearly as clear as Brussels, it's has a nice haze that I would prefer in a Saison. The carbonation looks a lot lighter, but still a fairly high level. Interesting in that these were all carbed with the same amount of sugar. Thin white ring of head along the sides of the glass.
AromaRipe fruit, really unique nose, no funk at all just a big bouquet of pineapple, honeydew and melon. Some malt lingering in the nose surprisingly.
TasteLight carbonation, dry but not overwhelmingly so. Light body, bright and refreshing. Not much spice pretty much all light fruit. 
OverallA very ethereal beer, the Pineapple, melon nose is super unique. It's something that reminds me of walking past one of those food carts in the city that sells only bowls of mixed fruit. Bright, refreshing wafts of melons. I'm a big fan of this blend, it needs a delicate beer behind it though bc it's a slow worker but given the time you're going to be rewarded.

FITR Beersel Blend

Appearance: High carbonation, thick white head sitting on top throughout the glass just like Brussels. 
Aroma: Fruity, light notes of Pineapple and guava, and another fruit that I can't put my finger on. There is a faint rustic funkiness in the distance, something that I would compare to an old house during renovation. Weird I know.
Taste: Follows the aroma minus any funk really, light pepper, fruity. Very little hop bitterness, but enough to keep it balanced.
Overall: Not in your face with Brett character, I had to search for something here but it did open up as it warmed. It's enjoyable but might even pass for something clean. There is a slick, oily mouthfeel to this one, kind of buttery...


After nearly a year Lochristi aged the best or at least changed for the better. When they were younger I liked the Beersel better than Lochristi but I noted that due to the sluggishness of Lochristi I felt it still had time to hit its stride. At this point, in this beers lifecycle, the Lochristi was far and away the most unique. Tons of delicate pineapple and melons, it's unlike any Brett blend on the market and your patience will be rewarded. A lot of people get strawberry from the blend, that hasn't been my experience but it could have to do with the base beer.

Beersel was previously my favorite, and I still really like the balance between fruity Brett character and the supporting funky weirdness. If Lochristi hadn't aged so well I would probably still prefer Beersel of the three, but Beersel hadn't really changed all that much after this time. Its a great blend, and it will continue to have a home in my beers. 

The Brussels blend is good to, just not as unique as the other two and did not change much at all. It did work the quickest for me, so if you want a quicker brett character and classic farmyard funk then its for you. I happen to like the fruitier Brett strains so its Lochristi and Beersel in my beers theses days. If you have the patience, and if you're brewing mixed fermentation beers you better, do yourself a favor and pitch the Lochristi into a saison and watch it age very gracefully.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

FarmWards: Batch #2 Analyzing and Tweaking Recipes

Recent upgrades to my system, shiny.
There is value in repetition, tasting a beer that you brewed, evaluating, and determining what you might need to change to get it exactly the way you want it. There are so many variables that you can change, and most homebrewing is quite manual resulting in batch to batch variability making it feel like youre chasing a moving target. The key though is to keep the changes in the recipe to a minimum, if you change 3-4 variables every batch you may have no clue which of those changes made the impact on the final beer. By making one, maybe two, small changes it should be easy to pinpoint whether or not you are on the right path. This is all assuming your process is at least close to repeatable, its very difficult to analyze impacts of an ingredient change if you cannot repeat your brewing process.

This type of meticulous analysis and experimentation over the last few years has really helped me to become a more precise brewer, and taster, of beer. This is especially important with Beta testing for The Yeast Bay, I want to be as precise and unbiased as possible when brewing and tasting. Not to say I have reached ultimate brewing accuracy, brewing consistency is always a work in progress. This is even more important when trying to emulate a great, very delicate, beer like Tired Hands SaisonHands as I am here. Techniques need to be consistent so that the differences in your recipe changes stand out in the end product, especially in a low gravity Saison where there is really nowhere to hide.

So with the second batch of this beer I made 7-8 changes, kidding, the changes here are very subtle and could possibly even go unnoticed. When I brewed FarmWards the first time I was trying to emulate SaisonHands without very much recipe info to go from. The result was good, not great, and definitely not a clone, it needed some subtle changes to satisfy my own palate. I am not 100% sure what those changes need to be, but with an educated guess I can narrow the options down batch to batch. Maybe I will even nail it this time.
White Wheat from Canada Malting Company.

I opted for a first wort hopping addition instead of a 60 minute bittering charge, same as I use in my hoppy beers, but with Magnum instead of CTZ hoping for something a little less aggressive. I lowered the Oats very slightly in favor of a very slight increase in Wheat and Rye. Instead of using a single infusion mash temp I chose to dough in for a Ferulic Acid then direct fire the mash to raise to saccharification. The Ferulic Acid rest should do a few things,  should lighten the body a bit, but more importantly I am hoping to encourage the production of 4VG (Spicy, Clove like) for a more complex fermentation profile. 

So thats technically three changes, shoot me, but they are each so subtle that I should be able to detect the impact.If not, I will revert these change back to the original recipe and make another subtle change which may or may not get me what I want. Even if they don't get me to my goal the journey of exploring the variations can be a learning experience more valuable than actually achieving that perfect recipe.

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: 1.044 SG
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Measured FG: 1.002 SG
ABV: 5.5%
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

83.1% - 7lbs 11oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 6.8% - 10oz - CMC White Wheat (3.5 SRM)
 6.8% - 10oz - CMC Rye (2.5 SRM)
 3.4% - 5oz - Flaked Oats

Boil: First Wort Hop - 0.35 oz Magnum [14.00 %] - 21.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 6.4 IBUs
Boil:  0min - 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 0.0 IBUs

1L starter - Wallonian Farmhouse

Ferulic Acid Rest - 15 min @ 114.5 F (direct fired mash with ramp time of ~10 mins)Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.7 F 
Mash Out - ramp time 10 mins to reach 170 F
Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Tap water, Mash PH 5.39 targeting Markowski Farmhouse water profile.

Notes: Pitched and active 1L starter of Wallonian Farmhouse at 68F, let free rise to 75F and held there for 14 days resulting in a FG of 1.002. This resulted in a much stronger beer than I really wanted at 5.5% but I am most concerned with flavor profile than an extra 1% ABV.