Monday, July 25, 2016

Beer Recipe Design: First Time

My in-depth recipe design post generated enough interest last November to already land it as my 7th most view post of all time! However, several people rightly pointed out that some of the steps were overkill for a new homebrewer working on their first few all-grain recipes. So here is my simplified version at around 30% the length!

Design a Beer Recipe in 10 Easy Steps

1. Select a style you want to brew. Read the BJCP Guidelines, as well as relevant blogs (the list of those I follow), magazine articles, and books (my book reviews). Drink fresh examples and visit the breweries’ websites to get ideas for ingredients to use and avoid.

2. Determine if there is anything required for the style that you do not have available (fermentation temperature, ingredients, time etc.). If there is, pick a new style for now!

3. Select a batch size, the amount of wort you want to finish the boil with.

4. Determine the malt bill:

    Select a base malt suitable for the
    style:

       • American 2-row brewers malt
       for American styles.

       • English pale ale (including
       varieties like Maris Otter) for
       English styles.

       • Pilsner for pale Belgian and
       German styles.

       • Vienna or Munich for darker
       Belgian and German styles.

    Select up to two specialty malts to achieve the desired flavor profile. Use .1 lb/gallon (.012 kg/L)
    for a light flavor or .2 lb/gallon (.024 kg/L) for a strong flavor:

       • Crystal malts add honey sweetness on the pale end
       (10-20L), caramel in the middle (40-60L), and
       dark fruit into charred sugar at the dark end (80-
       150L, including CaraAroma, special B, etc.).

       • Toasted into roasted malts start bready (dark
       Munich), to biscuit/cracker (Victory, amber, and
       biscuit), burnt toast (brown), coffee (pale chocolate,
       Kiln Coffee), chocolate (chocolate, roasted barley),
       and finally char (black malt, black barley).
       Dehusked roasted malts (Carafa Special, Blackprinz)
       have a mellower flavor with less acridness than
       other malts of a similar color.

       • Flaked or malted grains other than barley can
       provide body (e.g., wheat, rye, and oats) or make
       the beer crisper (e.g., rice and corn) depending on
       their protein content.

       • Up to 20% of the fermentables can be derived from
       sugar if the style calls for it. Select table sugar
       for pale beers (e.g., tripel) where you want to dilute
       the malt flavor, and dark candi syrup for darker beers
       (e.g., dubble and Belgian strong dark) where you
       want to add a unique flavor.

       Pay attention to the maltster not just the generic type of malt, and taste the grain before adding it.

    The amount of malt/sugar should be enough to produce an original gravity within the style’s
    range. As a general rule at 70% efficiency use: 1.5 lbs of grain per gallon (.18 kg/L) of finished
    wort for a session beer (1.038), 2 lbs/gal (.24 kg/L) for a moderate gravity beer (1.050), 3 lbs/gal
    (.36 kg/L) for a strong beer (1.075), and 4 lbs/gal (.48kg/L) for a really strong beer (1.100). With
    75% attenuation the alcohol by volume will be approximately the last three digits with a decimal
    after the first two (e.g., 1.100 is 10.0% ABV). A hydrometer and recipe calculator will help you
    track and predict your original gravity based on your efficiency.

5. Select a yeast strain – White Labs and Wyeast both provide charts suggesting which of their strains work best for each style. However, if you aren't interested in making a starter, dry yeast is an excellent option! Plan to start fermentation at the low end of the lab's suggested range to prevent excess fusel alcohol and ester production. Once fermentation begins to slow, allow it to warm so that it finishes near the high end of the range to ensure complete attenuation and clean up.

6. Mash with 1.5 quarts of water (bottled, carbon-filtered, or metabisulfite-treated) for each pound of grain. Target 152°F (67°C) for moderate attenuation (near the middle of the yeast lab’s stated range), 156°F (69°C) to lower the attenuation, or 148°F (64°C) to increase attenuation. Fermentable sugars will also increase attenuation above the stated range even with a moderate mash temperature. Sparge to collected the required pre-boil volume (pre-boil volume = post-boil volume + evaporation + losses to hops/trub).

7. Select a hop variety based on the flavor descriptions or your preferences. For one gallon at flame-out add 1 oz (28 g) for a strong aroma, .5 oz (14 g) for a present aroma, or .25 oz (7 g) at 5 minutes for a subtle aroma, or none if you want to showcase malt/yeast. Use a recipe calculator to determine the weight of hops to add at 60 minutes to hit the target IBUs based on the style guideline and hop alpha acid percentage (AA%). Try to keep the ratio of IBUs in line with the style, i.e., if your gravity is near the top of the guideline so to should your IBUs and vice versa. Add a .5-1 oz (14-28 g) dry hop per gallon as fermentation slows for additional aromatics if desired. Always smell your hops before adding them to learn what the aroma should be for each variety.

8. Add spices, fruits, or other flavorings at the end of the boil after chilling the wort to 180°F (82°C). This is hot enough to kill any unwanted microbes, but gentle enough not to degrade the flavor excessively.

9. After fermentation is complete, bottle with the amount of sugar suggested by a priming sugar calculator taking into account the volume of beer in the bottling bucket, and the highest temperature the beer reached after the end of fermentation.

10. Take notes, taste, and rebrew based on your results! Great recipes come from knowing your ingredients and process. Learning how to fit together flavors from a variety of places to create an overall experience that suit your palate! You may end up prefering a dubbel brewed with Maris Otter, but best to stick to tradition when you are starting out!

--------------------------

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Westvleteren" Blond with Brett!


Westy Blond clone bottle conditioned with White Labs Trois VraiWe all suffer from brewer’s block once in awhile. After more than a decade intermittently standing next to a mash tun, I’ve come up with seven tricks for coming up with something to brew:

1. Tweak a favorite recipe
2. Highlight a new ingredient
3. Research a style you’ve never brewed
4. Brew a proven recipe that strays from your standard approach
5. Mash-up two styles to create something unique
6. Approach a style as brewers from another country would
7. Imagine a collaboration brew from two favorite breweries

This recipe was a combination of techniques #4 and #7, a what-if Trappist collaboration between Westvleteren and Orval! Both abbeys brew fantastic Belgian pale ales. Westy Blond/Green is clean, with a blend of banana, pear, fresh maltiness, and firm noble hops. Orval’s eponymous beer is similar when fresh (a bit more hop aroma, a bit less yeast character), but slowly becomes funky as the Brett works in the bottle (I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that they are beginning to age with Brett and then pasteurize... anyone have confirmation of this sad development?).

I split the 10-gallon batch, with half served fresh on tap and the rest split at bottling between WLP648 Brett Trois Vrai and my house saison culture (just shipped a vial of it to Jeff at Bootleg Biology for analysis and possible propagation…). I knew I was onto something with the repeatedly repitched microbe blend when I got a series of texts and emails from my friends Jacob and Andrew at Modern Times wondering what delicious "tart" saison I had left in the cold box... it was a bottle of Alsatian Saison filled directly from the tap before I visited a year ago!

I actually preferred this beer just a couple months after bottling, when the Brett was apparent, but before it went feral. This batch is closing in on six-months in the bottle, but a little splash of the clean version from the tap brings back the 4-vinylguiacol and isoamyl acetate that the Brett so ruthlessly removed!

Westy (Orval'd) Blond

Westy Blond clone bottle conditioned with my House Saison CultureAppearance – Fraternal twins, pale golden with some chill haze. The heads pour up above the rim, but settle down to wispy sheets in a couple minutes. The House Saison's being slightly more durable, likely owing to more carbon dioxide nucleation.

Smell:
Trois Vrai – Combo of leather, bruised red apple, and aspirin. Not much malt or hop character gets through the Brett. The primary yeast still adds a touch of light banana.

House Saison – Less fruity, more funky. Less distinct: hay, faint pineapple, pepper, and garden soil. Occasional notes of a rougher Brett character that is tough to pin down, the price for noticeable Brett character after a month!

Taste:
Trois Vrai – Similar blend of fruit and funk to the nose, with the addition of a faint Belgian pale malt toast. The finish has just a hint of banana bread. Pleasant, but not captivating, until the second pour with a bit of yeast stirred up (which added more depth).

House Saison – Slightly acidic in comparison to its brother, not sour, but brighter and snappier. Finishes with some toastiness as well. A touch of melon, really lively and bright!

Mouthfeel:
Trois Vrai – Thin, dry, and moderately carbonated. A Belgian single with Brett... not much body expcted, but it isn't obnoxiously thin.

House Saison – I enjoy the slightly higher carbonation, hopefully it is about done at six months at cellar temps (only a six-pack left anyway). Otherwise similar.

Drinkability & Notes – I enjoy both of them... but the House Saison blend is the winner for my palate! I liked it even more before the Brett completely took over (I was briefly thinking best batch ever), but it is still delicious as is. The Trois performed well, but I enjoyed it more as a primary strain!

Changes – As with the clean-version, I would swap out some pale for more Pils to soften the maltiness. A small dose of CaraPils or wheat to enhance the head retention might be nice as well. This would have been nice to have in a keg, so I could have chilled it down after 6-8 weeks when it still had a mélange of Belgian yeast, hoppiness, and Brett. Interested to take advantage of the bottles to see how it continue to evolve!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

New England APA: Conan and London III

Baltimore’s HomebrewCon 2016 has come and gone. I posted a preview, but don’t expect to see a summary (if you missed out, get the scoop from Brülosophy, Ales of the Riverwards, Five Blades Brewing, or Brouwerij-Chugach). Also expect about five podcasts from Basic Brewing Radio with me, including tastings at my house, and discussions with Christian Layke at Gordon Biersch Rockville, Josh Chapman at BlueJacket, and of course Nathan Zeender at Right Proper's new production space!

I was in the midst of brewing and kegging samples for my talk about Hoppy Sour Beers (slides and audio will eventually be posted here for AHA members) when my friend Scott Janish suggested I brew a New England-style IPA to serve next to his at the DC Homebrewer's club booth. Being a native-New Englander and hophead how could I refuse that challenge? I used the same hop combination that I did for the three beers for my presentation: Simcoe/Mosaic/Citra (a personal favorite from Simcoe & Sons and Indië Wit). If you stopped by the DC Homebrewer’s booth on either Thursday or Friday night let me know what you thought in the comments! I really enjoyed Scott's rendition as well, a fun side-by-side with a bit more hop aroma and bitterness than mine.

GigaYeast Vermont IPAYou'll likely recognize the rest of the recipe: characterful non-phenolic yeast, moderate IBUs, 100-150 PPM of both chloride and sulfate, easy on the crystal malt, dry hopped during fermentation, and served super-fresh! The only significant twist on previous batches was that I pitched a blend of Wyeast London III and GigaYeast Vermont IPA (sounds like their isolate of The Alchemist's Conan). Conan has a tendency to walk all over aroma hops. While that can result in a delicious beer (juicy peach when it is on), it conceals the varietal character in a way that London III (Boddingtons) does not. My goal was to tame the classic Conan character without discarding it entirely!

While the recipe at the bottom of this post indicates 35 IBUs, that is from the 60 minute bittering addition only. Brülosophy has performed tests suggesting that blind tasters can't reliably distinguish between beers brewed with a 20 minute boil addition and a 20 minute hop-stand or hop stands at flame-out and in wort chilled to 170F. Of course you can't use the transitive property to imply that people wouldn't be able to distinguish 20 minute boil additions from a 170F hop stand! If I moved the hop-stand addition move to 20 minutes, ProMash estimates it would total 108 IBUs. I don't think it tastes that bitter, but it is also well over 35 IBUs (what you would get if you steeped the hops below alpha acid's isomerization temperature). I suspect the perceived bitterness is somewhere between the two, perhaps 55-65 IBUs.

Simcoe & Daughters

Smell – The Conan stone fruit leads with lively grapefruit zest following. Minimal “true” nose-in-the-hop-bag aroma – it has actually gotten less green with extended contact to the keg hops. What it lacks in variety it makes up for in intensity; I can smell the hops when someone is drinking a glass next to me! Nothing unappealing at all.

Appearance – In the narrow glass this is more hazy-than-cloudy – on the clear end of the New England “style.” Yellow gold, with the opacity makes it appear a couple shades darker than the estimated 4 SRM would suggest. Much more appealing than my last, murky/gray, attempt at a NEAPA. Stellar retention from the airy, stark-white head.

Taste – Before it was fully carbonated I was worried that I had undershot the bitterness, but it has balanced out nicely in the three weeks since. Enough IBUs to bring citrus zest to mind, orange and grapefruit especially. It isn't harsh or lingering. As it has sat the hops have evolved towards fresh peach rather than the rawer flavor they contributed initially. The Conan seems to be expressing itself despite the cold storage temperature. Just a touch of grainy malt and bready yeast in the finish.

Simcoe & Daughters NEAPA in my back meadow.Mouthfeel – Carbonation is moderate, nice. Really soft mouthfeel, no harshness from excess sulfate, carbonation, IBUs, or raw hop punch.

Drinkability & Notes – It is difficult to top a really good homebrewed hoppy beer: no issues with age, heat exposure, aroma scalping, or filtration!

Changes for Next Time – Not much to adjust on this one. At this point I’m not sure how much the WY1318 in combination with the GigaYeast really accomplished. When it was first kegged the Conan was muted slightly compared to the isolates I've used from The Yeast Bay and East Coast Yeast, but it reminds me more and more of a pure Conan beer. There are always new hop varieties and combinations to try out, but the base is stellar as is! Eventually I’ll have to try adding some honey malt which is a popular option, Golden Naked Oats might be nice too!

Simcoe & Daughters

Recipe Specifics
---------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 12.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 27.50
Anticipated OG: 1.062
Anticipated SRM: 4.0
Anticipated IBU: 34.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain
--------
85.5% - 23.50 lbs. Rahr 2-row Brewer's Malt
14.5% - 4.00 lbs. Flaked Wheat

Hops
------
1.75 oz. Ella (Pellet, 10.20% AA) @ 60 min.
3.00 oz. Citra (Pellet, 11.50% AA) @ 30 min Hop Stand
3.00 oz. Mosaic (Pellet, 13.00% AA) @ 30 min Hop Stand
3.00 oz. Simcoe (Pellet, 13.00% AA) @ 30 min Hop Stand
2.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 11.50% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Mosaic (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 11.50% AA) @ Keg Hop
2.00 oz. Mosaic (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
2.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ Keg Hop

Extras
------
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 5 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min.

Yeast
-------
WYeast 1318 London Ale III
GigaYeast GY054 Vermont IPA

Water Profile
----------------
Profile: NE IPA

Mash Schedule
------------------
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 155F

Notes
-------
5/21/16 Made a 1 L starter with WY1318 on the stir-plate. Added the GigaYeast Vermont IPA to the same starter when I started brewing just to get it acclimated/oxygenated.

5/22/16 Brewed by myself

7 gallons of distilled with 9 gallons of filtered DC tap water. 12 g each CaCl and gypsum. 1 tbls 10% phosphoric. pH=5.48, a bit high so I added an additional teaspoon of phosphoric. Cold sparge with 2 gallons of distilled water. Collected 14 gallons of 1.053 runnings.

18 month old pellet hops added to the whirlpool immediately at flame-out. 15 minutes recirculation, 15 minutes settling. Chilled to 66F, then allowed to settle for 20 minutes. Ran off into two 8 gallon fermentors, oxygenated for 30 seconds with pure O2. Pitched half of the starter into each. Left at 62F to ferment.

5/25/16 Dry hopped each fermentor with 1 oz each of Mosaic/Citra/Simcoe (bagged and poorly weighted). Occasional agitation. Temperature up to 66F ambient.

6/1/16 Racked to two kegs with addition of bagged/weighted identical dry hop additions. Immediately into the kegerator and onto 20 PSI to carbonate quickly. FG 1.017, final pH 4.47.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Drinking Beer in Oslo and Drammen, Norway

A glass of Schouskjelleren IPA!Sales of American Sour Beers will never make me wealthy (I’m hoping that by the time it goes out of print I'm up to minimum wage). However, the success of the book has opened up so many opportunities (e.g., collaborating with breweries, invitations to speak around the world)! While I’d love to say “yes” to everyone, I still have to show up to the job that pays the bills most day. I could go to more if I was willing to land, speak, and head back to the airport the next day; I try to make a trip worth the travel time by turning it into a vacation, seeing and drinking the area.

Dessert at Håndverker Stuene.While Belgium had been on our list for next European trip, how could I say no to speaking at the Norbrygg Hjemmebryggerhelgen 2016 at Haandbryggeriet in Drammen! Norway has a long history of beer brewing and drinking, being too far north for wine grapes. Like many other places, craft beer has taken hold over the last decade. Americans may be familiar with exported bottles from Nøgne Ø Bryggeri and Haand; both brew riffs on American and European craft-brewing staples and also play with local ingredients and flavors. Luckily there were also beers from dozens of other interesting local craft breweries that aren’t exported!

For the first week Audrey and I stayed at an Airbnb in Grünerløkka, a hip area about a mile north of Oslo city center. Our first night we visited Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri, located in the lagering cellar of the historic Schous Bryggeri (talk about a beautiful place for a beer)! In general, the beers were very good, although sadly the mango sour was a butter-bomb (they were nice enough to swap it out once Audrey alerted them to the diacetyl).

Amundsen Southern PassionAnother beer highlight was dinner at the Håndverker Stuene beer bar/restaurant, which had a delicious and reasonably priced nightly sampler board of food (smoked shark, pickled herring etc.). They also had a couple sours on tap, including the unique Lervig Café Sur - tart with light coffee (for dessert I also had their 3 Bean Stout, flavored with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and tonka beans).

At Amundsen Bryggeri we split a bottle of Southern Passion, a nice IPA brewed with Southern Passion (South African) hops and a touch of actual passion fruit – it would have been nice to try it without the fruit, but it was delicious as is. Lokk had some delicious and interesting food like fried cod tongue (although each entree may have had a few too many components); I drank the bright and yeast-driven Lokkebrygg hoppy saison brewed for them by Little Brother Brewery, while Audrey had the Salty Surprise (passion fruit gose) from Cervisiam Bryggeri.

I was surprised to see as many American beers as I did (many that I can’t get regularly): Alesmith, Ale Apothecary, Ballast Point, Crooked Stave, Oakshire etc. Prices were high, but not outrageous compared to the local beers (excluding Ale Apothecary of course). Brooklyn Brewing has a deal with Carlsberg, and as a result is really all over. Crowbar & Bryggeri had an especially good selection of beers from Oregon, although I focused on drinking their clean dark lager (much better than their coconut sour).

Crowbar & Bryggeri's brewhouse. In general bar prices were a bit steeper than we were used to in DC, but not by much. The dollar-krone exchange rate is better than it was a few years ago (above 8:1 rather than below 6:1). Part of the issue is psychological, when you see the equivalent of $9-10 for a full pour you have to remember that includes the tax and a living wage (although small tips are still customary for good service). The high taxes certainly play a role in the popularity of homebrewing though!

Tim Wendelboe's coffee roaster.The other thing to be aware of is that any beers over 4.5% ABV can only be sold at a Vinmonopolet (“wine monopoly,” aka government liquor store) – there had recently been a crackdown where some had tested much higher however. The Oslo Meny supermarket had more than 100 session beers, but in general I wasn’t impressed by the freshness of the ones I purchased. Most had best by dates well in the future, but I’d always rather see bottled on dates. The Vinmonopolet had a nice selection of weirder beers, which seemed to fair better.

A few other memorable things were the hipsterific (and delicious) coffee roasted and served at Tim Wendelboe. The chicken sandwich ( at Stangeriet in the Mathallen Oslo beautiful indoor market (which also contains Hopyard, where I drank a balanced Lervig/Põhjala Walnut Porter). Café Sara was another great, albeit crowded beer bar.

One evening we stopped for an after-dinner drink at Himkok
(literally “home-cooked,” their term for moonshine), the largest and fanciest “speakeasy” I’ve ever been to. The bartender was terrific (we ordered three cocktails, but sampled about six liquors and four beers). Their aquavit (caraway liquor) was the most interesting. As I understood the tour, they are only allowed to buy already distilled spirits and re-distill them with aromatics. A bit of shtick, but they push the distillate out of Corny kegs allowing it to drip into clear vats set behind the bar. They also have a cider bar in the same space, barber shop, and room for hundreds of people on nights more popular than the one we visited.

The bar at Himkok.

Don’t have the impression that all we did was eat and drink. We had the good fortune to arrive on a weekend of Oslo Open Art Festival, when hundreds of artists’ studios are open to visit. We grabbed a map and wondered into them whenever we happened to be close-by.

The stave church at the Norweigen Folk Museum.Many museums are located on a peninsula that is easily accessible from the Oslo docks via a public ferry. We visited two of them, first the fantastic Viking Ship Museum (which houses three ships and their contents that were buried for more than a millennium). We also walked around the nearby Norsk Folkemuseum, which features dozens of traditional buildings moved from all over the country, including the Gol Stave Church, which was built around 1200 and reconstructed with mostly new materials in the mid-nineteenth century (it had an aroma of wood and pine sap I wish I could capture in a beer).

The Vigeland Park is also well worth a visit if the weather is nice (we didn’t go into the sculptor’s museum). The Norway's Resistance Museum was also worth the visit, but it is more intensive on reading than some. Not bad for a little less than a week?

I had one more day is Olso by myself, I spoke to the Oslo Sour Rangers! Luckily English is spoken by most (especially younger people), although it was sometimes tricky for me to understand Norwegian names/places. The Sour Rangers are a club/event that draws both homebrewers and sour beer enthusiasts. Smak Selv, which organizes/hosts the events, had recently installed a small brewery (an early sample from one of their barrels were promising).

The Oseberg Viking ShipAs is expected from the country with huge oil wealth, and the foresight to spend the money not invested in their nearly-trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund in infrastructure, the trains are frequent and immaculate! The trip from Oslo to Drammen was smooth, with trains running every 20 minutes (in comparison for me to go the similar distance from DC to Baltimore on the MARC commuter train for HomeBrewCon, I had to be on the 8 AM train or wait until 3 PM).

Drammen is an older industrial city that has been going through a revival the last couple decades. It is home to both Aass Bryggeri (and their eponymous bock) and Haand. Haand is in their third brewery, but may need to move again sooner than expected as a large hospital is planned for the land they currently occupy. It is a shame as the building is beautiful. I talked to their head of souring, who started working for the brewery through a government program that pays the salaries of young workers for a few months for risk-free experience (a wonderful answer to the paradox of entry-level jobs that require three-years of experience).

The foeders at Haandbryggeriet.As with homebrew conferences anywhere in the world it is difficult to go thirsty. I had the chance to try many delicious homebrews at the opening event at Aja Bryggeri, the second building Haand occupied (so many I didn’t try the brewery’s own beers), and throughout the conference as people pulled me aside. Whenever we would go to a bar, beers would miraculously appear in front of me, often while my glass was still half full!

Norbrygg Banquet.While there was a lot of excitement for beers from other places, I was glad to see the passion for resurrecting and experimenting with local traditions and ingredients. Homebrewers gave me a couple cultures of kveik to bring back with me - for what it's worth microbes don't count on the prohibition on “cell cultures” when you are going through customs. These are true farmhouse strains, mixed Saccharomyces cerevisiae cultures that have been repitched for many human generations, shared between homebrewers. The really unique thing about them is that they are often fermented near 40C/104F. I’ll have much more on the cultures I brought back later, but if you are interested in experimenting there are isolates available from Omega Labs (HotHead Ale) and The Yeast Bay (Sigmund's Voss Kveik). Traditionally paired with juniper-branch-infused brewing liquor, and smoked malts (see Larsblog, and Lars Marius Garshol's section in All-Star Homebrewers, a book that features me as well)!

The final night was the banquet and award ceremony, have to say the food outclassed most similar American events I’ve attended! As always, it was an honor to be invited and a pleasure to get a perspective on a country from the people who live there! You start out talking about beer, but I get just as much from the eventual talk of food, family, politics, and life!

Four samples of kveik.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

HomebrewCon (NHC) 2016 Baltimore (and me)!

BSI primary yeast for the GB collaboration.It’s the best week of the whole year, and this year it is happening less than an hour from my house!

Wednesday I’ll be making the rounds with James Spencer and co. recording content for Basic Brewing. I first appeared on his podcast way back in September 2006… damn! We’ll start our morning at Gordon Biersch Rockville (where I’ll get my first samples of the four red wine barrels of collaborative sour red that head brewer Christian Layke and I brewed a few months ago). Then onto BlueJacket/The Arsenal (the gorgeous brewery/restaurant from the group behind ChurchKey and a dozen other great DC beer spots) for a tour from head brewer Josh Chapman. Then onto Right Proper’s production facility in Brookland so James and Nathan can finally meet! Finally, back to my house to recover… and drink a couple bottles of homebrew from the cellar!

Thursday night at HomebrewCon Baltimore, my club (DC Homebrewers) will be pouring beer alongside craft breweries from the region at the Craft Beer Kickoff. I’ll be serving a keg of Simcoe/Mosaic/Citra New England IPA fermented with a blend of GigaYeast Vermont IPA GY054 and Wyeast London III WY1318. The second keg is already on tap and tasting like hoppy guava juice (final pH of 4.46)! My friend Scott Janish is pouring one of his NEIPAs too, stiff competition to be sure (he took first of 35 with another batch in the first round of National Homebrew Competition this year).

First slide from my presentation.Friday I’ll just be hanging around, grabbing lunch with BYO folks, hitting the Milk the Funk meetup, going to seminars, and of course club night (with Audrey)!

Saturday I’ll be signing copies of American Sour Beers (or whatever people bring) from 12:30-1:30 PM in the Homebrew Expo (next to Mary Izett and Steve Piatz!). Then I’ll be presenting on Hoppy Sour Beers from 2:00-3:00 PM in room 314-317. I asked to only speak once because I couldn’t brew enough sour beer to satisfy two crowds, so they put me in a room that seats 900… I’d suggest getting there early and sitting towards the front! The talk covers the science and techniques to overcome (and capitalize on) the three inherent contradictions of brewing a beer that is both hoppy and sour:


1a. Hop aromatics are best fresh…
1b. Sour beers often require aging

2a. Hops have anti-bacterial properties…
2b. Some beer-souring microbes are sensitive

3a. Hops provide bitterness…
3b. Assertive bitterness and acidity clash

I’m sure that five gallons of each of the three example beers will go quickly, so here are preview process and tasting notes for those who can’t make it (or who sit in the back). The first two were from a split batch brewed a month ago, the third has a bit more age on it!

Beer #1 – Mixed-Fermentation Saison
85% Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
15% Flaked Wheat
180F whirlpool with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra

Fermented with my House Brett Saison culture and Omega Lacto Blend

Keg-hopped (.5 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra) during two weeks of natural conditioning

Final pH = 3.87

Tasting Notes: Big/fresh hop nose (truer than the NEIPA, but still more fruit than green). Bright, lively Brett character, tropical, but not juice. Finish brings in some funk, impressive for such a young beer. Acidity is tangy at best, more saison than sour.

Early pour of the NEIPA I'll be pouring!Beer #2 – 100% Lacto then 100% Brett
85% Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
15% Flaked Wheat
No kettle hops

Soured with Omega Lacto Blend for 24 hours

180F pasteurization with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra

Fermented with a big starter of WLP648 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois Vrai

Keg-hopped (.5 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra) during two weeks of natural conditioning

Final pH = 3.52

Tasting Notes: Big tropical fruit (pineapple and passion fruit), floral, with some classic-Brett-funk riding the coattails. Flavor is lively and tart, acidic but more quenching than sour. Amazing how little the fruit aroma resembles the raw hops!

Beer #3 – Dry Hopped Solera Pull #3
Malt… who knows at this point (originally batch was brewed in 2010)
Minimal hopping

Blend of sours aged in a red wine barrel with East Coast Yeast BugFarm #3 topped up with Malt Extract Lambic.

Dry hopped cold with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra during force carbonation

Final pH = 3.27

Tasting Notes: Big sour-orange rind nose, sharp lactic acid (with a hint of acetic), finish is a bit juicy (softer than the nose suggests). Hops are the mildest, despite the highest dry-hopping rate!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Courage Russian Imperial Stout: Second Attempt

For the last nine Christmases running, while visiting my parents in Massachusetts, I've opened a bottle of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone stored in the closet off their garage (or bring one back with me to share). My friend James and I brewed it in 2007, and considering we split four gallons, I'm amazed it has lasted this long! Sadly, with two bottles remaining I needed a replacement to maintain the holiday traditional that has now spanned more than a quarter of my life!

I coordinated with my friend Scott to brew and split a 10 gallon batch, but at the last minute he had a family emergency... the result is a whole lot of strong/dark beer for me! Thankfully I had a second set of hands provided by Chris, an NYU grad student who was visiting to work on a profile of me for a class and potential magazine article.

The base beer was only slightly tweaked from that original batch: more brown malt, dropped the white sugar, and a couple convenience adjustments to base malt and hops. With five times as much beer as last time, I also decided to split the batch: half bottled clean, half with Brett prior to bottling.

Not what Brett anomalus dregs should look like.I attempted to grow up the Wyeast Brettanomyces anomalus dregs in the last bottle of 100% Brett beer I brewed with the same pack that went into the original batch. Wyeast discontinued the strain soon after because it was miscategorized (likely B. bruxellensis). Sadly the nine-year-old dregs didn't grow anything suggestive of Brett, just some mold(?) after a couple weeks. The beer itself was nearly as disappointing, oxidation was the primary flavor.

Then I got a Tweet from Ron Pattinson letting me know he'd sent an old bottle of Courage RIS to White Labs to have them attempt to isolate the original Brett! I checked with Kara Taylor, White Labs' Analytical Lab Manager, but sadly all they got (oddly) was Saccharomyces. So, I opted for my final resort: White Labs Brett claussenii, which I enjoyed it in a similar role for my Funky Old Ale... nearly ten years ago!

I'll be following the same process I used for that first batch of Courage: waiting until the beer reaches 1.020, then fining with gelatin, racking, and killing the Brett with potassium metabisulfite (campden tablets). The brewer's yeast stopped at a higher gravity than the first batch's 1.030, spot on the 1.040 Ron reported for Barclay Perkins 1924 IBS Ex in his recipe-dense The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beers. More on why that's relevant, and the history and rebirth of this beer on his blog.

Rather than chemically-Pasteurize the whole batch, I may even leave a gallon with live Brett to see how far it will dry it out. I'll be interested to taste the different between the two (or three) versions as they age for decades to come!

Kegs are great for aging... but don't make for great photos.Courage Russian Imperial Stout #2

Recipe Specifics
--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 11.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 45.25
Anticipated OG: 1.106
Anticipated SRM: 58.3
Anticipated IBU: 54.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 80 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
---------------
66.3% - 30.00 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter
13.3% - 6.00 lbs. Crisp Amber Malt
6.1% - 2.75 lbs. Crisp Brown Malt
5.5% - 2.50 lbs. Simpsons Black Malt
4.4% - 2.00 lbs. Candi Syrup, Inc D-90
4.4% - 2.00 lbs. Candi Syrup, Inc D-180

Hops
-------
4.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 75 min.

Extras
--------
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

Yeast
-------
WYeast 1028 London Ale

Water Profile
----------------
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
------------------
Sacch Rest - 40 min @ 158F

Notes
-------
2/13/16 Made a 4.5L stir-plate starter with one three-month old pack of WY1028. Crash chilled after three days.

2/20/16 Brewed with Chris. Started with 16 gallons of filtered DC tap water. Mash pH 5.38. Added 4 grams of baking soda. Sparged with 3 gallons filtered DC tap.

Collected 14 gallons of 1.096 runnings, including candi syrup (D-90 and D-180) added to the kettle during run-off.

Chilled to 65F. 60 seconds each of pure O2, followed by pitching the decanted room temperature starter. Left at 58F ambient to begin fermentation.

2/25/16 Raised ambient temperature to 65F, fermentation visibly slowed.

3/23/16 Bottled 5.5 gallons with rehydrated Pasteur Blanc and 95 g of table sugar. FG 1.040 (8.8% ABV, 62% AA). Racked the other half to a keg, waiting on Brett.

5/16/16 Pitched a tube of WLP645 White Labs Brett C and 4 Xoaker Medium Pus Toast French Oak balls (.75 oz) into the keg. Left at 65F to work for a few months.

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