Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Saison New Zealan’ Tasting

Saison New Zealan’ is the spiritual and microbiological successor to Saison ‘Merican. It was hopped exclusively with varieties from the island (late additions of Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, with Rakau for bittering). In addition I added a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc directly to the keg to enhance the citrusy-terroir of the hops.

Saison New Zealan’

Appearance – It sure is a looker. The sunrise-yellow body is hazy, without appearing muddy. The white head is dense, prodigious, and sticky.

Smell – Despite the competing aromatics, the Nelson still leads with its distinctly divisive-pungent aroma. The Motueka and wine manage to soften it, sending it off on a somewhat citrusy tangent. The Brett (Trois and CB2) is mild, adding some fresh cut hay as well as mingling with the citrusy-funk of the Southern Hemisphere hops.

Taste – Saturated hop flavor that lives up to the nose. The grape(fruit)y wine comes through a bit more emphatically as well, assisted by the mild acidity from the Lactobacillus. The bitterness is just the right level to play with the lactic acid without clashing. The resulting balance is reminiscent of grapefruit juice cut with seltzer water, refreshing not bracing. The alcohol is present as it warms, but remains clean like a dry cocktail.

Mouthfeel – Light and crisp, firm carbonation, and downright refreshing for a beer above 7% ABV. A dangerous thing indeed!

Drinkability & Notes – I’ve said it before, but adding wines rather than wine grapes is the great option unless high quality grapes are easy to source. This is another win for my slowly developing mixed-house saison culture, when this keg kicks I’ll have to hang onto the lees to brew something else. Maybe continue the world tour with Hull Melon and German Riesling, or Galaxy and Australian Chardonnay?

Monday, October 20, 2014

American IPA Recipe, Tips, and Tasting

You can see the difference in the krausen texture between the beers with and without hops.Hoppy beers are some of my favorites to brew at home. The four things that kill hop aroma are heat, time, oxygen, and aroma scalping. Serving the finished beer in a well-purged keg addresses all three. I won’t buy bottled hoppy beer unless it is labeled with the packaging date, or I know it was recently released. A beer that is delicious at bottling can be mediocre at best after only a couple months. Like bread, once you have a taste for fresh hoppy beer it is hard to enjoy it stale!

The IPA recipe below was half of a split batch, and I don’t have too many new things to say about IPAs. My focus was on the other half, which was an “IPA” flavored with spruce tips and grapefruit zest (an American-hoppy beer without any hops). More on that one next week.

Instead of sending you back to my old posts about brewing IPAs, here are my 10 quick tips for brewing hoppy beers:

1. Treat your water to have minimal carbonate, and moderate-to-high chloride, sulfate, and calcium.
2. If the raw hops don’t smell great, neither will your beer.
3. Steep flame-out hops for 20-30 minutes before force chilling.
4. Add dry hops as fermentation slows.
5. Add more dry hops after fermentation ends.
6. Purge everything the fermented beer touches with carbon dioxide.
7. Ferment with a yeast that imparts some (but not loads of) character.
8. Force carbonate rather than naturally condition.
9. Store the finished beer as cold as possible.
10. Drink the carbonated beer ASAP.

There was recently an informative Q&A session with Peter Wolfe of AB-InBev on Reddit's r/beer. His responses include information about glycosides and his process for dry hopping homebrew. JC from Trillium Brewing (brewers of many excellent hoppy beers - Double Dry Hopped Congress Street IPA is super-fantastic Galaxy-goodness) dropped his tips for mimicking their process in a BeerAdvocate thread not too long ago as well. Seems like a real shift from the advice to chill the wort quickly and dry hop bright beer that were so popular when I started brewing.

“Real” IPA Tasting

A glass of the finished IPA.
Appearance – Golden beer. Light dry-hop haze. Nice head retention, white, dense, sticky. Certainly looks like an IPA.

Smell – Solid hoppy, piney, orange aroma. Not a jump out of the glass hop, but stronger than many commercial IPAs. Not as juicy as I was hoping for, more classic-American than new-American. Not much else in the aroma yeast or malt-wise

Taste – Firm bitterness. Drenched with hops through each sip. A mix of citrus and more resiny flavors. The hops lack a certain vibrancy and freshness. Certainly the hops being harvested 12 months ago doesn’t help, but I suspect the Centennial in particular (I've had bad luck with Centennial from Freshops before - and these didn't smell terrific).

Mouthfeel – Crisp body, which doesn’t get in the way. Solid carbonation. No complaints here from me.

Drinkability & Notes – A good IPA, maybe even very good, but not great. I love balance, but when the hops lead they need to be outstanding, and here they are just a bit dampened or muddled.

"Real" IPA Recipe

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 26.69
Anticipated OG: 1.064
Anticipated SRM: 3.8
Anticipated IBU: 38.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69% (inc. parti-gyle)
Wort Boil Time: 70 Minutes

60.0% - 16.00 lbs. Rahr Pilsner
30.0% - 8.00 lbs. Great Western Pale Malt (2-row)
7.5% - 2.00 lbs. Weyermann Wheat Malt
2.6% - 0.69 lbs. Simpsons Golden Naked Oats

2.00 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 10.45% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA) @ Keg Hop

1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 156F

8/22/14 - Made a stir-plate 3 L starter with 2 tubes of WL007. Aiming for 450 billion cells - for 10 gallons. Crash chilled after 24 hours.

Brewed 8/24/14

5 g CaCl and gypsum added to the mash along with 2 tsp of phosphoric acid. Diluted with 2 gallons of distilled. Collected 7 gallons of 1.075 first runnings. Same treatment for the 7 gallons of 180F batch sparge water. Collected 7 gallons of 1.035 second runnings. Mixed so there were 7 gallons of 1.055 runnings in each pot.

Rakau adjusted down from 11.4% AA. The rest of the hops were nearly a year old from Half flame-out allowed to steep 30 min before chilling, remainder added at start of chill. Boiled down to 4.5 gallons at 1.075. Chilled to 70F. Diluted with .75 gallon of distilled water, OG 1.064. Left at 65F to ferment.

8/28/14 Added the first dose of dry hops as the fermntation slowed.

8/30/14 Moved to warm ambient basement to ensure complete fermentation.

9/9/14 Kegged with the keg hops bagged and placed into the keg before purging. Hooked up to CO2 and left to force carb gently.

10/13/14 Tasting notes above (posted about a week after writing). It is a solid IPA, but not spectacular, hop character isn't quite where I want it, but otherwise everything is spot on.

Monday, October 6, 2014

American Blonde Ale with Coffee Beans

Here are the tasting notes for a coffee beer that isn’t brown, black, inky, syrupy, or opaque. The key for this American blonde recipe was adding a coffee that melds with the light malt, i.e., one that is bright, acidic, and citrusy. Ceremony Thesis in this case. There are many ingredients that are easy to oversimplify or overlook, like: chocolate, fruit, and coffee. For each of these there are people who are just as nerdy about the variety and processing as we are about hops!

When I posted about this recipe originally, I got plenty of suggestions on my Facebook and Twitter for other pale beers with coffee from all over America: Noble Ale Works Naughty Sauce, Black Acre Brewing Coffee Bitter Life, Monday Night Brewing Bed Head, Fort George Brewery Java the Hop, Carton Brewing Regular Coffee, and for Brazilians Morada Cia Etílica Hop Arabica! If you aren't sold on the combination, seek one out (or next time you are bottling a hoppy beer, toss a couple coffee beans into one).

American Blonde Ale aged on Coffee Beans.
Coffee American Blonde

Appearance – Similar in color to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. If you really wanted to brew a coffee beer and have it remain “blonde,” likely you’d need to go all Pilsner and wheat. The color from the C60 and Golden Naked Oats I added for deeper malt flavor combined with the the coffee to result in the honey color. Mildly hazy. Wonderfully creamy white head suspended on top.

Smell – Lemony coffee leads. It is still vibrant after more than six weeks in the keg. More like the aroma of grinding coffee beans than a freshly brewed cup. Not quite as aromatically hoppy as I expected from the four ounces of oily Cascade I added near the end of the boil. Nice supporting toasted, almost Butterfinger candy bar, maltiness.

Taste – Crisp, with moderate hop bitterness. Coffee doesn’t dominate, but it is the most prominent flavor. Not roasty or burnt, but still distinctly coffee. The citrusy hops linger into the finish, grapefruit mostly. Not an astoundingly complex or mind-bending beer, but it is balanced, and there are great flavors through each sip

Mouthfeel – The body is not too thick, not too thin, just right for a slightly more flavorful blonde ale. Carbonation is spot on too, prickly without being spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – A wonderfully pleasant session beer. The coffee is the highlight without dominating. Amazing how few beans can completely change the flavor of so much beer. Next time I’d add a small charge of dry hops just to get the hop aroma up to play with the coffee a bit more. I might also skip the specialty malts to get them out of the way of the coffee and hops. Simplify man.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lemon Berliner Weisse Recipe

Berliner weisse is the only beer style that is rarely served without augmentation in the glass. In Germany it is considered strange to drink it without a dose of sugary neon-colored syrup. I love to drink it straight, but its mild wheaty flavor and bright lactic acidity make a wonderful backdrop for bold fruit (as so many breweries in Florida have discovered)! Without raspberry, woodruff, or passionfruit Berliner weisse is usually compared to lemonade, so why not add actual lemons?

The wort for this batch was second runnings from a saison flavored with wine and hops both from New Zealand. Despite that, the brewing process was pretty much my standard for a Berliner weisse, mashed with a hopped decoction, with wort subsequently heated nearly to a boil to sanitize, but not actually boiled.

I’ve been disappointed by the acidity imparted by commercial Lactobacillus in previous batches. Luckily both Wyeast and White Labs recently released more aggressive Lactobacillus brevis cultures. At a pH above 4.5 an enzyme produced by Lactobacillus denatures the proteins responsible for head retention. To combat this, I added refined lactic acid to lower the pH of the wort prior to fermentation. I’m looking for a finished pH below 3.5, so the refined lactic acid will represent less than 10% of the total acidity.

A big starter of Wyeast L. brevis ensured a quick start to fermentation. This is important because Lacto needs carbohydrates to produce lactic acid. I pitched US-05 without rehydration after I saw some good activity from the Lacto. I didn’t want to risk waiting too long because a low pH can disrupt the ale yeast's fermentation. That night I drank a bottle of Boulevard's Saison Brett (generously sent by James Spencer) and added the dregs from it to the fermentor as well.

After two months, with fermentation finished as indicated by a stable gravity of 1.002, I added strips of zest harvested from three lemons with a vegetable peeler. My goal was to impart a brightness to the aroma, without turning the beer into furniture polish (24 hours seemed to be plenty of time). For many previous citrus-peel infused batches I've turned to a Microplane grater. Last summer while I was working at Modern Times I was amazed by how much citrus aroma we achieved in a "Five-Alive" version of Fortunate Islands using a vegetable peeler (maybe because it gets a bit deeper into the skin?). I still try to leave most of the bitter white pith behind, but invariably a small amount is taken with the colorful zest.

For half of that batch that was all the lemon it received. Once I was left with two gallons in the bottling bucket I pulled a sample for a quick taste test. I decided to reinforce the remainder with 25 g of True Lemon (ingredients: citric acid, lemon oil, lemon juice, vitamin C, and maltodextrin). I've been experimenting with adding it to beers by the glass for a few months (along with the Lime and Grapefruit variants). They are very easy to overdo, but in the right combination they are actually pretty convincing.

Lemliner Weisse

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.50
Anticipated OG: 1.030
Anticipated SRM: 2.4
Anticipated IBU: 2.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77% (with parti-gyle)
Wort Boil Time: 0 Minutes

66.7% - 11.00 lbs. Rahr Pilsener
33.3% - 5.50 lbs. Wheat Malt

1.38 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 2.70% AA) Mash Hop

Zest from 3 Lemons in Fermentor

Wyeast L5223-PC Lactobacillus brevis
Safale US-05 American Ale Yeast
Boulevard Saison Brett Dregs

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 90 min @ 148F
Sacch Rest #2 - 15 min @ 155F (Decoction)

7/26/14 Made a 1L starter (50 g DME, nutrient, chilled to 112F, put on stirplate on low) with Wyeast L. brevis (two weeks from manufacture). Strong activity by the next morning, already a bit tart.

Brewed 7/27/14

Added 3 g of CaCl and 1 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid to the mash (along with a couple handfuls of rice hulls. Decoction didn't raise the temperature as much as I expected. Same treatment for the 170 F sparge water.

Partigyle batch sparge.

Swapped wort back and forth to achieve 7.25 gallons @ 1.052, and 5.5 gallons at 1.034.

Lemon Berliner - Brought just to a boil, added yeast nutrient, chilled to 85F, added 7.5 g of 88% lactic acid (aiming for 4.5 pH), pitched Lacto, left at 65F to ferment. OG 1.030. L. brevis and Saison Brett dregs for the first 24 hours - activity by 12 hours, then US-05 (11 g, not rehydrated) (down to 1.024 already).

Sitting at ~75F ambient after two-three days to ensure complete fermentation.

9/27/14 Down to 1.002, added strips of zest from three lemons (still in primary fermentor).

9/28/14 Bottled 4.75 gallons with 5 5/8 oz of tablet sugar. After more than half was in bottles, added 25 g of True Lemon to the remaining 2.1 gallons

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Membrillo (Quince Paste) Saison

Quince is a close relative of apples and pears. All three are in the Rosaceae family, but unlike the other two quince are almost never eaten raw. If you cook quince down with sugar the result is membrillo, a thick, floral, jelly. Dulce de membrillo is actually the correct term (membrillo is just the Spanish word for quince). This paste is traditionally served with cheese (often Manchego), and as a result can be purchased from many well-stocked cheese counters.

The only quince beer I can recall drinking is Jackie O's Quincedence (a tart, wine-barrel-aged, smoky wee heavy served as the base). In that beer the quince was a bit lost in all of the other flavors. Apples, pears, and quince all have relatively subtle flavors, so concentrating them or using a condensed form can be a good option.

I originally planned to add rhubarb to the fifth annual incarnation of the dark-ish sour-ish saison that Alex and I brew each fall, but when a sample revealed that batch was sour enough already, I audibled to 20 oz of membrillo. The rhubarb found a better partner in an under-soured Berliner weisse.

Saison de Membrillo

Appearance – Orange-red (cinnamon?). Not quite clear, a bit of that countryside. Pectinase likely would be needed if a clear beer was the goal. The buff head leaves sticky crescents of lacing behind as it gradually recedes.

Smell – Subdued aromatics. Hints of apple, well quince, but I’d forgive you if you didn’t know what one smelled like. Pear-like and floral, but with some distinct apple-sauce notes as well. Light clove-spice, and a hint of caramel malt as it warms. Certainly seems seasonally appropriate. Minimal Brett funk.

Taste – Pleasant, almost refreshing tartness. The acidity melds beautifully with the general pomme fruitiness. Less distinctly membrillo compared to when it was freshly bottled. Marginal saison character remains after the microbes and fruit, but the finish is long, dry, and spicy. Beautiful!

Mouthfeel – Crisp, but it could be crisper. Medium carbonation, and it could be punchier. I didn't want this beer to be Saison-Dupont-dry/sparkling, but the goal was saison!

Drinkability & Notes – I really enjoy this weird beer. It doesn’t exhibit the layers of complex Brett aromatics I hoped for from the ECY Bugfarm and bottle dregs, but it is nicely balanced with plenty of appealing flavors. For my first time tasting a beer brewed with membrillo, I think 20 oz in five gallons provided enough to taste, but not enough to dominate. Drinking this is getting me in the mood to brew dark/funky saison #7 sometime in the next couple months and add cranberries to dark/funky saison #6!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flemish Red with Red Wine Yeast: Tasting Notes

Yet another advantage of being a homebrewer, no worries if a batch of sour beer necessitates a year (or two) more aging than expected! When I brewed this red-wine-yeast-fermented Flemish Red (in June, 2011) I made the mistake of pitching BM45, a “killer” red wine strain, alongside East Coast Yeast’s Flemish Ale blend. The brewer’s yeast in the blend is susceptible to the wine yeast’s toxin, and the resulting autolysis was the most likely source of a lingering yeasty-rubbery flavor. Luckily the Brett eventually cleaned up the flavor and saved the batch!

Flemish, Red Wine Yeast

Appearance – Remarkably good head formation and retention for an aged-out sour beer. Deep Burgundy when held to the light. It is darker than many traditional Flemish Reds, more in line with Oud Bruins if not for the crimson hue. Time cleared it beautifully, which helps it appear darker as well.

Smell – Red-berry fruitiness, and some darker notes more reminiscent of dried cherries and plums. Possesses a stronger vinous character than a standard Flemish Red, i.e., one not aged in a fresh red wine barrel. Ephemeral perfume from the elevated alcohol and age, especially during the first few minutes. Otherwise no negative signs of oxidation.

Taste – The cherries from the nose are back in the flavor, pleasantly jammy. Leathery, almond, sherry, and mild milk chocolate. The sourness permeates the flavor, but isn’t heavy handed; it is lactic throughout not showing any acetic "burn." The autolytic flavors this beer battled for a couple years are thankfully gone. There is some warming alcohol, but the microbes mostly conceal it as they often do.

Mouthfeel – Medium-thin body considering the 7.4% ABV and 1.012 FG, but the acidity helps to boost the mouthfeel. Moderate carbonation, which is about right for a strong/malty sour beer. Considerably more and it would become spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – One of those beers that I might have drank too young... before I had a thousand bottles of homebrewed sour beer piled up in the basement. There are few feelings worse than having the last bottle of a batch be the best one and that could have been the case here. Next time I try a wine yeast primary fermentation, I’ll pitch a blend of souring microbes that doesn’t include Saccharomyces!

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