Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blonde Ale on Coffee Beans Recipe

Modern Times Black House - Nitrogenated!There are many tropes in brewing. Ingredient and flavor combinations that brewers often select because of their reliability. Pale/dry/hoppy, sour/cherry, and maybe most prominently dark/coffee. I’d wager that 98% of coffee beers are located somewhere on the porter-stout continuum. There is nothing wrong with that; roasted malts and grains help to enhance the coffee character in the appearance, flavor, and aroma. Heck I helped design Black House for Modern Times (which I finally got to drink at the brewery on nitro last week, what a revelation!). There are a few breweries that have experimented with adding coffee to other beer styles; two I’ve enjoyed are Mikkeller Koppi IPA and Stone’s collaborative Dayman Coffee IPA. The combination of citrusy coffee with citrusy hops works surprisingly well in both!

I wanted to borrow that basic concept, with Cascade and Ceremony Thesis Blend in my case, but produce a beer where the hops accentuate the coffee (rather than the other way around). My goal was not to brew a “blonde stout” which I regard as a gimmick (although I'm told it can be a very tasty gimmick). The base beer for my batch is an American Blonde, with a touch of Golden Naked Oats for body, and a pinch of crystal 60 for caramel.

Over the weekend I coincidentally had the opportunity to try Hill Farmstead Walden for the first time (thanks to my friend and kickass homebrewer Sean Gugger). It was remarkable, like so many of their beers, especially that mouthfeel for a 3.9% ABV blonde ale (thanks in part to the 1.014 FG we measured).

Ceremony is a roaster in Annapolis, MD that does a variety of interesting coffees. Thesis Blend was a big help many weekend morning (and afternoons) as I churned away on American Sour Beers. Audrey is a big fan as well. They describe it as possessing: "Cocoa butter and raisin aromatics. Muscovado sugar and tobacco with clementine acidity in a balanced cup." I always suggest brewing with coffee you like to drink. For a similar recipe I’d opt for a light to medium roast, something with bright flavors to mesh with the grapefruity hops.

A very pale coffee bean, a quaker it appears.
As an interesting side note, apparently one often overlooked aspect of coffee quality is quakers. These underdeveloped beans are identified by their paler color post-roast and peanut-like flavor. Apparently "according to Steven Diaz, quality director at Expocafe S.A in Colombia, 'just one quaker bean among the beans that go into one cup can affect the flavor dramatically.'" I only spotted one for removal in the two ounces destined for the beer.

As with my usual process for coffee beers, I added whole beans loose to the fermentor (without sanitizing them). We pulled a sample after 28 hours, and it already had enough coffee to proceeded with kegging. It’s amazing how much character comes through thanks to the extraction by both alcohol and water. I also find that this technique produces a longer-lasting coffee aroma compared to cold brewing in water alone, although that likely won’t matter too much for this batch.

This coffee blonde has been on CO2 for a few days already, still waiting for a spot on tap to become available. I may add a small dry hop addition depending on how it tastes cold and carbonated.

Spent coffee beans after 24 hours soaking in beer.Blonde Coffee Blonde

Recipe Specifics
-------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.75
Anticipated OG: 1.044
Anticipated SRM: 5.3
Anticipated IBU: 27.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 64 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain
-------
46.2% - 4.50 lbs. Rahr Pilsener 
23.1% - 2.25 lbs. MFB Pale Ale Malt
23.1% - 2.25 lbs. Great Western Pale Malt
5.1% - 0.50 lbs. Golden Naked Oats
2.6% - 0.25 lbs. Briess Crystal 60L

Hops
------
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 20 min.
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 10 min.
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 5 min.
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 0 min.

Extras
--------
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
2.00 oz Thesis Blend Coffee Beans - 1 day

Yeast
------
SafAle S-04 English Ale

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

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

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/3/14 with Audrey

2 g CaCl added to the mash and sparge. 1 tsp of phosphoric acid added to the mash. Batch sparge with 175F water with 1 tsp of phosphoric acid. Collected a total of 7 gallons of 1.038 runnings.

Adjusted hops alpha acid down from 7.3%, from Freshops 2013 harvest.

Let sit with 0 min hops for 10 minutes before chilling. Chilled to 65F with water then recirculated ice, topped off with 2/3 of a gallon of spring water, shook to aerate, sprinkled yeast on the surface, left at 65 F ambient to ferment.

8/17/14 Added 2 oz of whole bean Thesis Blend from Ceremony. Picked through to remove "quakers" and  small beans.

8/18/14 Kegged. Plenty of coffee flavor already. Put in kegerator on gas to carbonate while waiting for a tap to open up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

American Sour Beers Book Tour!

Keeping checking back to this post for the latest on where I'll speaking and signing copies of American Sour Beers!

August 10 in San Diego, CA - Sour tasting and presentation at Modern Times (Sold Out)

August 14 in San Diego, CA - Book Signing at Modern Times

September 4 in Boston, MA - Book Signing at Trillium Brewing

September 13 in Elmsford, NY - Book Signing during Sour'd in September at Captain Lawrence Brewing

October 2-4 in Denver, CO - Book Signing at Great American Beer Festival
 
October 18 in Houston, TX - Presentation at Dixie Cup

November 7 in Ashburn, VA - Presentation during MBAA meeting at Lost Rhino


Photo (c) Brewers Association

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Solera Pull No. 2 - Straight and on Flowers

One of the great skills of the lambic brewers and gueuze blenders is identifying which barrels are best blended, fruited, dry hopped, saved, or served straight. It isn’t that the “best” beer is used for one application and the second best for another, they’ve learned what flavor work best for each application (or specific fruit). Instead of deciding on brew day what ingredients you’ll add to a batch of sour beer, try drinking a sample and imaging what flavors might enhance its positives and conceal its flaws (if either is required).

Here is a tasting of two versions of the second pull from the wine barrel solera in my basement!

Tasting the second pull from the solera Nathan and I started back in 2010!Solera Pull #2

Appearance – Slightly cloudy, appears to be yeast particulate (clearly I didn’t stop the pour early enough). Vibrant golden-yellow body. The white head is unremarkable, sinking to a thin ring after a few minutes of inspection.

Smell – Despite an additional pitch of Wyeast B. bruxellensis this wine barrel has consistently produced beers been less funky than most of my batches. It shares many similarities with Petrus Aged Pale rather than a lambic or gueuze. The vinous barrel shows through nicely, really the star of the aroma.

Taste – The flavor starts and ends with bright acidity. Very lactic, and firm while sidestepping harshness. There is a rounded malt flavor that compliments and even balances the acidity successfully. Fruity, faint Granny Smith? There just isn’t as much character here as I’d expect from the second pull from a solera fermented with ECY Bugfarm, I need some funky, earthy, citrusy something!

Mouthfeel – It has a medium-light body with moderate carbonation. Not light and spritzy enough for a lambic, which further enhances the Flemish-pale vibe.

Drinkability & Notes – A solid beer, but I think this one excels as a base for other flavors (with fruity dry hops for example it was transformed into one of my favorite beers). It doesn’t have the complexity that a sour needs to stand on its own. It’s probably passed time for another pull, or a decision that the solera has run its course.

While brewing the classics is always fun, I think most homebrewers enjoy venturing off the well-trod path occasionally. When Nathan (now a "savant" according to the WaPost) and I started our two soleras a few years ago we decided to use it to experiment with some of the more interesting concepts we could come up with: roasted butternut squash, cinnamon, and nutmeg; infused with elderflowers; aged on Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes etc.

This is the same beer as above, but this five gallon portion was aged on one ounce each of dried chrysanthemums and jasmine flowers. We racked out of the barrel in May, 2013 into a carboy with the flowers and bottled a few weeks later.

Flora Solera

Gorgeous pour of the solera aged on chrysanthemums and jasmine flowers!Appearance – A bit more careful on the pour on this one and it has a stunningly clear golden body (thank you protein-munching bacteria). Head retention is actually pretty good for a sour beer, better than the plain portion.

Smell – While it might look like a lager, it certainly doesn’t smell like it. The mums lead with their weird-floral-herbaceous character. I don’t pick out the jasmine distinctly, but I suspect it is keeping the beer more towards the floral than the herbal. Relatively straight ahead sour beer behind that, it projects a touch of acetic/vinegar.

Taste – Big acidity leads. No vinegar, but loads of lactic. The result is a firm acidity, but none of the sharpness I get in the finish from vinegary beers. The jasmine adds a juiciness to the mid-palate, while the mums contribute an interesting almost toasty finish. The flowers combined to add some interest to the relatively bland base.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light body, works well with the slightly elevated alcohol. Firm carbonation, but nothing disruptive.

Drinkability & Notes – Intriguing, but not likely an experiment I’d repeat. The jasmine and mums don’t blend harmoniously with the base beer, they stick out too much. So many interesting flowers available, this likely won’t be the last time Nathan and I brew something “weird” like this!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Priming Barrel-Aged and Blended Sour Beers

In the Packaging chapter of American Sour Beers I included formulas designed to estimate the amount of carbonation that will be produced by the microbes when blending similar sour beers of different gravities. While I believe it is important to understand the logic behind the math, it is certainly much easier to simply plug in the numbers rather than solve equations by hand. A few weeks ago someone emailed a question about the formulas, which sparked me to put together an easier method. I finally found time to refine it, so here I present my Blending Priming Calculator spreadsheet! Unlike the formulas in the book, it can determine carbonation for a blend of up to five beers.

These formulas are only exact if the wort for each component is identical. Having the same carbohydrate profile ensures that the remaining dextrins in one batch would be fermentable by the bacteria and Brettanomyces present in another. You’d expect the final gravity of the blend to approach the final gravity of the driest component, which is why this component must be entered in a specific position in the spreadsheet. Even then there is no way to guarantee the accuracy of the calculation because more attenuative microbes could be "hiding" in a younger/sweeter component.

To use the spreadsheet, start by selecting the number of component beers you will be blending from the drop-down list. This selection controls which formulas are used from the hidden Calculations tab.


Input the peak temperature the beer reached after the gravity stabilized (this is the same as all other priming calculators). If you ferment a beer through a warm summer and it continues to ferment into the fall, but stops before winter, you’d note the temperature it was when you stopped seeing the gravity drop (assuming it didn't get warmer after that). If the beer fermented all winter, but aged into the hot summer, you'd note the hottest temperature it reached during the summer.

I’ve noticed anecdotally that long-term aging in a barrel knocks about half of the assumed residual carbonation out of the beer. The "Residual CO2 Volumes" in red will calculate automatically. If you happen to own a capable CO2 meter (aren't you lucky!), you could override these calculation and simply enter the measured volumes of CO2 in row 5.


At this point enter the current gravity reading for each component and the volumes of beer that you plan to include in the blend. With those pieces of information entered you can see how much residual carbonation the blend will contain at bottling, and after it completes bottle-fermentation (assuming no priming sugar).


Input the target volumes of CO2 desired, and the formulas will display how much table or corn sugar would be required to carbonate the beer to that level. As we are assuming the fermentation of dextrins from the blended beers, it may take 6-12 months of cellaring to achieve full carbonation (as is carried out by traditional Belgian gueuze blenders).









I’ll certainly update this spreadsheet as I think of improvements (and hear your suggestions). At a minimum I'll add a metric tab as the metric formulas are already presented in the book.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Saison 'Merican - Hoppy Funk

Spent hops left in the kettle after this saison.Brewing with newly developed/discovered ingredients is a necessity if you want to keep up. Sometimes I envy the people brewing 15 or 20 years ago when you knew what malts, hops, and yeasts were going to be available. These days it seems like every year there are 15 new yeast strains, 10 malts, and 5 hops. Then you find a great ingredient, but all of a sudden it's impossible to get your hands on again (looking at you Wyeast Brettanomyces anomalus, Golden Naked Oats, and Riwaka). Is it really practical (or even worthwhile) to brew with every new release under experimental conditions?

As much fun as I’ve had with split batch experiments to tease out the contributions of various sugars, hops, Brett strains, etc., in the end I’m not sure how well stripped down recipes answer the question of how to maximize an ingredient. Does using a crystal malt as the lone specialty grain in a low hopped beer really give you an accurate idea of what it will add to a hoppy porter? More than simply tasting and smelling the malt itself? Rather than trial The Yeast Bay’s Saison Blend in a bare-bones classic Dupont-style recipe, I opted to take their “grapefruit and orange zest” description to heart and load up on bold hops! The aroma blend (2:1:1 Mosaic, Citra, and Nelson Sauvin) was cribbed from the dry hopped solera that Nathan and I bottled last year (which skewed deliciously peachy).

This is the fuzzy looking rye malt, I tossed the last pound.The concept for this batch was heavily influenced by the hoppy-funky saisons that Prairie Artisan Ales has released (e.g., Hop, ‘Merica, Potlatch). Basic Brewing Radio has an excellent interview with their founder/brewer Chase Healey (James shipped me a couple bottles of their beer as well). I was surprised to find out Prairie dry hops as if they were IPAs and then pitches Brett at bottling with the beer already below 1P (1.004). I decided to do something similar, by keg-conditioning on the dry hops. I find that Brett produces an assertive character much more rapidly under pressure (key when you are looking to drink a beer like this while the hops are still fresh).

The rye malt from a previous batch, looks much more normal, no fuzz.
The only unexpected variable was the Thomas Fawcett rye malt (freshly delivered from Rebel Brewer). My first whiff was a bit musty, but not in a bad way. It wasn’t until after brewing that I took a closer look at the remaining pound and noticed a dusty coating (compare to say the rye malt in my Whiskey Barrel Rye Stout). Luckily the beer tastes fine, and I haven't started hallucinating....

Saison ‘Merican Tasting

A glass of saison on a sunny afternoon, pretty sight!
Appearance – The beer itself is not too far from orange juice (extra pulp). Hazy, but with a luminous quality. The head is billowy, sticky, and very bright white. Looks like a cross between an IPA and a rustic saison, no complaints here.

Smell – One of those magic sorts of smells with aromatics coming from the hops, saison yeast, Brettanomyces, and malt to form a unified wave of citrus, mango, and funk. Bold and inviting. The divisive Nelson “stink” starts to poke through as the beer warms.

Taste – The hops play lead despite being off them for more than a month, with loads of juicy tropical fruit. They dissolve into the funkier aspects in the finish (nothing too aggressive, more towards hay than horse stall). The saison yeast plays a supporting role with mild pepper. Much more citrusy than then blend in the solera, which I attribute to the yeast as well. Dry, but not bone dry thanks to the Golden Naked Oats. Moderate bitterness lingers for a moment, leaving me with the need for another sip.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light body, with medium-high carbonation. I was aiming slightly fuller than the classic saison to support the elevated hopping rate, and it works well.

Drinkability & Notes – An unequivocal success! One of the best saisons I've brewed (or tasted). This is exactly the sort of beer I love to drink, so much going on in such a neat little package. Not the sort of funk-bomb you need to struggle through, but enough to let you know it’s not a "Belgian IPA." I'll certainly be brewing this one again before too long.

Saison 'Merican Recipe

Recipe Specifics
-------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.75
Anticipated OG: 1.054
Anticipated SRM: 4.2
Anticipated IBU: 37.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain
-------
74.4% - 8.00 lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pils
18.6% - 2.00 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Rye Malt
4.7% - 0.50 lbs. Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
2.3% - 0.25 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated

Hops
------
0.75 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 13.30% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Mosaic (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Mosaic (Whole, 10.00% AA) Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Citra Whole (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

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

Yeast
-----
The Yeast Bay Saison Blend
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Trois
Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. CB2 (Jason Rodriguez isolated)

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

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Sacch Rest - 75 min @ 148F

Notes
-----
Brewed 5/4/14 by myself

Thomas Fawcett Rye Malt (smelled a bit musty).

2 g each CaCl and gypsum to the mash and sparge water. 1/2 tsp 88% lactic acid added to fly sparge. Collected 7.5 gallons of 1.046 runnings. Better efficiency than expected.

Added 0 min hops and allowed to stand for 20 minutes before starting the immersion chiller.

Chilled to 75F. Shook to aerate. Pitched tubes of The Yeast Bay's Saison Blend, White Labs Brett Trois, and dregs from my Single bottled with CB2. Left at 70F to ferment. Added 1/2 gallon of spring water to lower the OG.

5/15/14 Down to 1.011, 80% AA (tastes pretty good). Racked to a flushed keg with dry hops and 3
oz of table sugar. Left at warm room temperature.

5/20/14 Removed the dry hops, left at room temperature to continue conditioning.

6/4/14 Put on gas in the kegerator.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Earl Grey Mild Ale Recipe and Tasting

I've been so distracted with the book release and trip, most recently to the 2014 National Homebrewers Conference in Grand Rapids, that this batch of Earl-Grey-tea-infused dark mild was ready to review before I posted the recipe. So here's a two-in-one recipe and tasting notes spectacular!

A couple months ago, Audrey and I were at a holiday party at our friends Bill and Christie Newman's house. They had a wonderful homebrewed English dark mild on cask that had an ever-so-faint tea-like aroma produced by the combination of English hops and malt. Audrey was so taken with the flavor that she requested we brew something similar, but with actual tea. She selected Earl Grey to add some citrus notes along with the herbal black tea. Sounded good to me, I'd had a sample of Namaste Brewing's gold-medal-winning Bitterama at GABF 2013, which was delicious, but a bit more potent (in terms of both alcohol and bergamot) than what we wanted to have on tap.

Russian Earl Grey Tea with lemongrass, orange peel, and hyacinth flowers.
Over Memorial Day weekend the two of us drove to Charlottesville, Virginia for our first anniversary. We visited Blue Mountain Brewery, South Street Brewery, Albemarle Ciderworks, and drank plenty of other great local beers from the likes of Three Notch'd and Champion (not to mention visiting Montecello, and hiking up to Humpback Rocks). During the drive south we stopped for lunch in Fredericksburg, VA and to walk around the Civil War battlefield. While waiting for a table at Foode, we walked across the street to PA Dutch General Store, which had a huge selection of herbs, spices, and teas. After smelling all the options, we opted for Russian Earl Grey which adds lemongrass, Spanish orange, and what looks like hyacinth flowers.

On brew day, a few weeks earlier, I'd guided Audrey in picking malts for the base beer by eating specialty malts leftover from previous batches. At the moment Golden Naked Oats are tricky to get hold of, but I had a half pound remaining from a funky/hoppy saison. The goal was moderate hop bitterness from a single addition of Czech Saaz.We opted for White Labs English Ale WLP002 (similar to Wyeast 1968), because it leaves plenty of residual body, but not too much fruitiness.

As when using most ingredients for the first time, I opted to dose the tea into the beer to taste post-fermentation. In this case it took about one ounce of Earl Grey steeped in three cups of near-boiling water for a short three minutes. An extraction avoids over-doing a new ingredient and provides a brighter "truer" flavor compared to additions earlier in the brewing process where fermentation can scrub out aromatics. For more details, see this post on my floral gruit from a few years ago.

Coincidentally I have an article in the most recent issue of BYO (July/August 2014) titled: Experimental Homebrewing: Approach Unconventional Beers with Confidence. It covers using culinary ingredients and techniques in brewing, and is a bit more fun than some things I've written recently. I'll be continuing to write articles for them, so subscribe if you haven't already (use that link and I get a cut)! After seeing them talk at NHC, I'm also excited to read Drew Beechum and Denny Conn's forthcoming book Experimental Homebrewing!

Earl Grey Mild Tasting

Appearance – A bit murkier than I expected, especially considering the high flocculation of the Fuller's yeast strain (WLP002 – English Ale). Likely the combo of oats and rye specialty malts are to blame. On the dark end of English Mild, leathery brown. Puts up a small off-white head, the carbonation is low, and the head sinks rather quickly.

A true 20 oz pint of Earl Grey infused English dark mild!Smell – Notes of citrus (not fresh juice or zest – more single tone), not potent enough to definitively say "bergamot" or "Earl Grey." Sweet caramel maltiness behind that with mild yeast fruitiness. Pleasantly citrusy-herbal-malty, not too weird.

Taste – The flavor starts out toasty malt, stops by mild black tea in the middle, then finishes almost roasty. There is a restrained sweetness and minimal hop bitterness. Nicely balanced, smooth, and rounded. I'd like the malt to be a bit more direct rather than bouncing around, didn't need the complexity with the tea already.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light body, low carbonation. Ideal for the style, and solid mouthfeel for such a low alcohol beer.

Drinkability & Notes – The Earl Grey tea ended up about where we wanted it, present, but not dominant. It layers nicely with the caramel-maltiness of the complex grain bill. It drinks well for being about 4% ABV, has enough maltiness that I don't think about it tasting watered-down.

Earl Grey Mild Recipe

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.63
Anticipated OG: 1.040
Anticipated SRM: 14.1
Anticipated IBU: 16.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain
------
87.0% - 7.50 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Malt
5.8% - 0.50 lbs. Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
2.9% - 0.25 lbs. Crisp Dark Crystal (75L)
2.9% - 0.25 lbs. Fawcett Crystal Rye
1.4% - 0.13 lbs. Munton's Roasted Barley

Hops
------
1.75 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 2.70% AA) @ 50 min.

Extras
-------
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 oz Earl Grey Tea @ Kegging

Yeast
------
White Labs WLP002 English Ale

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

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Sacch Rest - 50 min @ 155F

Notes
-------
Brewed 5/10/14 with Audrey

Collected 7 gallons of 1.036 runnings.

OG was at 1.044 at the end of the boil, so we added.5 gallon of water to get the gravity to where we wanted it.

Chilled to 68F, racked clean wort, leaving 1 gallon behind, pitched the yeast directly from the tube, shook to aerate. Left at 65F to ferment.

5/25/14 Racked to a purged keg. FG 1.012 (3.7% ABV, 70% AA).

5/30/14 Dosed with 3 cups of tea brewed with 1 oz of Russian Earl Grey tea from PA Dutch General Store. Used a French press, dosed in stages, mixing and tasting until the flavor was where we wanted it.

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