Friday, May 27, 2016

Dandelion Saison

Fresh off my neighbors shitty lawn.
I spend a good amount of time participating in discussions on various Facebook groups, mostly beer/brewing related, and at times a topic or idea will come up that becomes all the rage in that particular circle for a period of time. These may not be a new ideas but it sparks discussion and inspires folks to try out something new or look at something from another perspective. These groups are really great places to learn, get inspired and rub elbows with some really knowledgeable brewers.

A couple months ago in the Saison, Biere de one of those hot topics came up that got everyone going, brewing with Dandelions, specifically Saisons/Farmhouse ales brewed with Dandelions. A Dandelion Saison is something that I have always wanted to do after hearing about beers like Pissenliit and Vera Mae, but two things were holding me back. One reason being I lived in the city and had barely seen a dandelion for over a decade, but the other being I had never even had a dandelion beer so I had no clue what to expect. Well now I have dandelions a plenty in the burbs, actually I have ZERO on my lawn but neighbors have plenty, but I still haven't had a dandelion beer and I may never unless I brew one.

I set out to design a recipe and started by reading Matt Humbard's blog posts, he had brewed a few of these in the past. I was most curious about the amounts of dandelions to use, how to prepare them, and at which point in the brewing process. I noticed Matt felt he needed a bit more in the post I linked so I tried to up the amounts a little but I still wasn't totally sure how to prepare the flowers. I read a bit about Dandelion wine production and a lot of those folks will deflower the weed using only the yellow petals, leaving the greens behind. This was due to a concern that the greens would lead to grassy or vegetal flavors, which made a lot of sense to me but also sounded like a ton of work. 

The day before my early morning brew day my daughter Ella and I, and her Power Wheels as her mode of transport, set out in my neighborhood to collect as many dandelion heads as I possibly could. We had to run onto peoples front lawns to reach the big bunches, sending my 4 year old looked less creepy than me picking weeds off someone else's lawn, child labor? It didn't take us long to collect one pound of heads which I thought was almost enough. I sat down that evening to deflower all of the heads we picked, WHAT A PAIN IN THE BUTT, I cannot imagine Fantome or Hill Farmstead do this. Once I was finished, not sure why I didn't stop mid process, I dug a little more and came across a photo gallery on Hill Farmsteads website from a 2013 Vera Mae brew day, and sure enough they used all of the greens and didn't deflower them. Doh, I should have looked there first, waste of time but wont hurt the beer none I am sure. Next year, no deflowering...
Took entirely too long to deflower these.

With the flowers picked, and for some dumb reason deflowered, I sat down to finalize the recipe for this beer. I took some inspiration from Matt's recipe by adding some honey malt into my grain bill for some malt complexity, paired with Pilsner and a sizable wheat portion rounding it out. I wanted to keep the hop profile relatively classic saison with some earthy/spicy hops and chose Sonnet Goldings to hop the beer throughout the, then finishing the boil by adding the Dandelions in the whirlpool. This winter I have been re-pitching a nice Saison culture that started as WLP565 with cultured Saison DuPont dregs, no Brett or bacteria. It's been fermenting quick and beautifully after 5 generations and will go perfectly for this earthy, spicy, floral and rustic beer. I think, since I've never even had a dandelion beer before *Shrugs*. 

I have no experience with Sonnet, but they were on sale and sound good for Saison.

During the mash I started to think I needed some additional dandelions, and since I wasn't going to deflower them I had plenty of time to collect more during the hour mash. I must have looked insane picking weeds from my neighbors yards at 6:30am, the things we do for beer. Once the boil finished up I cut the heat and dropped in a nylon bag filled with the dandelion leaves total of 1lb 6oz for 5 gallons, the 1lb that was deflowered and the extra 6oz I picked during the mash. I whirlpooled with the dandelions for about 15 minutes and started to chill. I actually ended up with a lower than expected gravity and higher volume which I was miffed about. Turns out my chiller was leaking into the kettle, for this beer it was only 1 gallon, which I didn't realize until my next batch when it ruptured and flooded the entire batch. This one was fine, just cut down a smidge.

I'm looking forward to finding out what this dandelion beer thing is all about, hopefully there will be a next years batch as well.

Tasting Notes: 8/18/2016
Loads of slurry.

Dandelion Jawn

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Measured OG: 1.042 SG
Measured FG: 1.002 SG
ABV: 5.3%
Estimated Color: 6.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

70% - 7lbs 8oz - Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
20% - 2lbs - Wheat
10% - 1lbs - Honey Malt

Boil: 60min - 1.25oz Sonnet Goldings [4.20%] - 19.2 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 15min - 1.25oz Sonnet Goldings [4.20%] -  9.5 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.50oz Sonnet Goldings [4.20%] -  9.5 IBUs
15 Minute Whirlpool 212f - 1lb 6oz Dandelions

2016 Saison Culture (WLP565 with cultured Saison DuPont dregs) Generation 6.

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.0 F 

Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.35, Water Profile ( 113ppm Ca, 6ppm Mg, 10ppm Na, 107ppm Cl, 101ppm SO4). Some acid malt and some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Single Hopped Brooklyn Pale Ale: No not the New York Brooklyn, the one in New Zealand. (Renamed NZ Moutere)

Hop growers all over the world work tirelessly to cultivate new varietals, like HBC438, in hopes of breeding the new Simcoe, Citra etc. but over the last handful of years there hasn't been a hotter region for hops than New Zealand. From Motueka to Waimea, my personal favorite being Nelson Sauvin, the hops coming from New Zealand are super unique and beautifully expressive varietals. So when a commenter here on the blog pointed me to a "new" New Zealand varietal called "Brooklyn" I had to give it a try of course.

Tight vacuum sealing makes for a crappy photo.
Brooklyn, as described on New Zealand Hops website, is a high alpha acid hop with "generous weight of oil" and low cohumulone expressing flavor and aromas of "grapefruit, tropical and passionfruit." That description was enough for me to buck up and order some, which wasn't particularly cheap, but I can't help myself with those descriptors. Right, so the description on NZ Hops has changed since I started writing this post, but the one on has not, so which is it now? I wanted to leave what the initial description that inspired me though NZ Hops now reads "intense fruity oils with top notes of baking spice and sweet hay." not nearly as exciting as originally advertised but is more in line with what I got from the hop. I'm not sure if I would have used this hop the same way had I read that description first.

As a standard practice, I used something similar to my HopWards recipe as the base to build from to put Brooklyn to the test by way of a single hopped beer. I did however tweak things a little bit by using Pilsner as the base malt and Naked Golden Oats instead of Flaked Oats, ended up a split boil batch with a Saison as well. 
One of these days I will get one of those snazzy stainless dry hop tubes, but for now my bags work.

Upon opening the bag on brewday I was bludgeoned with aromas of fruit and some spicy notes which kind of surprised me. I didn't really get the "tropical" note in the description (Erhmm) but still some very fresh smelling hops. Brewday was uneventful, which with two kids is rare, but I did end up with a slightly higher than normal efficiency due to a new bag of Avangard Pilsner I grabbed recently. I might have mentioned it here before but if you use Pilsner and worry about efficiency then grab some Avangard, the points per gallon are super high and you'll see a %5+ jump in efficiency immediately. Its also very competitively priced.

The beer ended up a bit more dry than I wanted at 1.006, some drift in the 5th generation of my 1318 pitch maybe but the fermentation is not where this beer went wrong. Oh, did I mention this didn't turn out great? Spoiler alert this beer didn't turn out great, but first the notes. 

EDIT: Not long after this was posted Brooklyn was renamed NZ Moutere. Go figure.

Tasting Notes: Brooklyn

Appearance: Really what's the point here, it's pale and hazy, as all my beers tend to be. Maybe a touch darker than normal due to the Naked Golden but still pale, moderate lacing and hazy, not murky, which a bright white thick head.

Aroma: Notes of lime, and some non descript fruit in there, not malt character at all. Overall a subdued aroma for such a heavily hopped beer.

Still looks pretty, yes?
Flavor: The first sip is bracingly sharp, dry and a little bit chalky with a lime note. After your palate adjusts to that initial shock, which isn't very appealing frankly, the drink settles in and is a bit better. The chalkiness seems to subside and you're left with a very dry lime-y beer, but still teeters on the edge of being chalky and way too dry. When I say teeter on the edge I mean it's totally falling over that edge and it's definitely beyond the point of enjoyable. 

Overall: Not my best for sure, not a dumper, but I find myself reaching for other beers over this when I stroll to the taps but maybe it will age out nicely, doubt it. That chalkiness is very distracting, combine that with how dry the beer is it's not all that enjoyable. Unfortunately I believe that the hop is mostly to blame for that, the chalkiness sounds like a water thing and maybe it is, or maybe its the sum of them both. But I'm not just randomly tossing out those accusations, I do have some reasoning behind it. This batch was split in various ways, first off it was a big mash and the run offs were split evenly into two separate kettles. I took 10 gallons of the runoff for this batch to be boiled and 10 gallons for a Saison batch to be boiled separately, this grist is versatile for both styles and I like to maximize my brew days with split batches. 

The 10 gallons of this pale ale were fermented together then split off into separate kegs and dry hopped differently. I have the Brooklyn single hopped batch of course and the other keg was double dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Citra, two rounds of 6 ounces for a total dry hop of 12oz for a 5 gallon keg! That Nelson/Citra beer doesn't exhibit any of the chalkiness so I know its not water, mash, fermentation related. It is very dry just as the Brooklyn batch but it is not as "biting" and palate shocking. The dryness hits you and is wafted away by waves of Citra and Nelson, a very good hoppy beer. The Saison, post on that beer coming soon, shares little to nothing with the two hoppy beers.

So it can't be the water alone so I really think it all comes down to overdoing it with the Brooklyn, at least on the cold side since it was totally fine before the dry hop. Shame because the beer pre-dry hop had some promise but this is how it goes sometimes with single hopped beers. There wasn't a ton of information on Brooklyn around the interwebs (and it seems even the site I got information from has since changed its description) so I threw caution to the wind and used my standard hopping rates, just didn't work out. 

So as far as a conclusion on Brooklyn goes, I think it still has promise but not with the ratios I used and possibly not on its own either because this beers hop aroma is one dimensional and fairly subdued. I have a bunch left and plan to use it in some Saisons, that lime-like character sounds like it could work super well. But for over hopped New England style hoppy beers go, use a deft touch or maybe even look elsewhere. 

As I mentioned, I brewed a large batch, but here is a scaled down 5 gallon version.

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.82 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Measured OG: 1.050 SG
Measured FG: 1.006 SG
ABV: 5.8%
Estimated Color: 5.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 46.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

87% - 9lbs 2oz - Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
13% - 1lbs 6oz - Naked Golden Oats

First Wort Hop - 0.25 oz Brooklyn [17.10 %] - 15.6 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 2.00oz Brooklyn [17.10 %] - 25.5 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 3.00 oz Brooklyn [17.10 %]- 5.8 IBUs
Dry Hop: 5 days - 4.00 oz HBC-438 [16.60 %]


Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150.0 F 

Fly Sparge 5.50 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Cherry Hill, NJ Tap water. Mash pH 5.34, Water Profile ( 132ppm Ca, 5ppm Mg, 7ppm Na, 155ppm Cl, 76ppm SO4). Some acid malt and some Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary. 10 gallons was run off into one kettle that was single hops with Brooklyn, 10 gallons was run off into another for a Saison with Nelson Sauvin. 5 gallons of the single hopped Brooklyn boiled batch was dry hopped with Brooklyn alone, the other 5 was dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Citra.

Notes: Fermented at 66f for 7 days, bumped to 72f for 3 days then kegged and dry hopped in the keg for 5 days. Beer was tapped 18 days from brewday. Slurry was harvested via my standard method after kegging.