Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Matt: Adam with Calvados and Candi Syrup

It is interesting to drink two glasses of beer side-by-side made from wort separated 18 months ago (recipe post). In addition to the recipe differences between these two Adam-variants (maple syrup and bourbon vs. dark candi syrup and calvados) the aging and serving were also different. I recently reconnected the maple/bourbon half (tasting) to the stout/nitro tap now that the weather has cooled off. The candi/calvados half has been aged at cellar temperature in bottles. The maple half is cleaner, with less dark fruit. Its ethanol is also more up front, although it is also a somewhat stronger beer.

A glass of Adam with Calvados and Candi.HoTD Matt - Inspired

Smell – Interesting blend of dark fruit and earthy smoke. Much less direct than the maple-bourbon. The smoke melds in with dried fruit, caramel, and aged maltiness.

Appearance – Dark russet, amber crema. Head falls relatively quickly. Good clarity when held at an angle to the light.

Taste – Sticky, reads sweeter than the maple (less simple sugar and liquor to dilute the malt). Saturated with dark fruit, dates especially. The malt is rich, caramel and cocoa powder. No apple specifically, but a nice baked fruitiness. Finishes pleasant campfire singe.

Mouthfeel – Full, but the medium carbonation is a bit disruptive, more than I’d prefer.

Drinkability & Notes – Warmer aging and lower alcohol have resulted in a beer that has aged faster and perhaps peaked younger. The smoke, intense malt, and fruit-brandy blend into a unique combination I haven’t tasted before. This beer is based on a German style as brewed by an American brewery with Scottish yeast and malt, infused with Belgian candi syrup and French apple brandy... a real mutt!

Changes for Next Time – Clean up my bottling process… given that approximately one in three bottles have picked up a mild Brett character. Otherwise the "clean" bottles are what I wanted them to be! Still haven't had the beer that inspired it, Hair of the Dog's Matt, so can't judge how close I came.

Bonus Quick Tasting: Hoppy Halloween Adam
Before flying back to DC after a couple days in Fargo, ND for Hoppy Halloween 2015, I stopped by a brew day a few local homebrewers were having at Eric Sanders' house. They were brewing a 20 gallon batch of Adambier, so I brought along the last bottles of my original and "authentic" batches. When I bumped Tom Roan (the guy who had coordinated the whole thing) at NHC in Baltimore, he handed me a couple bottles of that batch (plus one of his delicious wheat wine)! Finally getting around to drinking one now that a rich smoky malty beer sounds good!

Eric Sanders milling the grain for Adam.The results are really pleasant, good balance of intense-malt and apparent smoke. Dark fruit is more subdued than mine. The result is somewhere between my more and less authentic batches. Interested to try a sample of the version they fermented with Roeselare some day!

OG: 1.094
IBU: 42
SRM: 32.7
Boil Time: 90 min

70.1 lbs. Munich Malt
7.5 lbs.  Dark Munich Malt
7.5 lbs.  Smoked (Bamberg)
7.5 lbs.  Torrefied Wheat
3.0 lbs.  Thomas Fawcett Pale Chocolate
1.5 lbs.  Weyermann Carafa Special III
1.5 lbs.  Weyermann Caramunich II
1.5 lbs.  Dark Crystal

Magnum Pellet to 42.0 IBU - First Wort

Wyeast German Ale 1007

A glass of Adam from Fargo.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Testing Alternative Brewing Cleaners

Cleaning is as important as sanitizing. Without a debris-free surface a sanitizer loses most of its efficacy. This is worse for some than others, StarSan supposedly retains more sanitizing power in the presence of organic material than Iodophor for example, but it is never ideal. While scrubbing with a mesh pad to remove krausen and residue is fine for stainless steel and glass, the less abrasion applied to plastic the better because scratches provide shelter for microbes. The best solution is a soak or recirculate hot water laced with cleaner. Commercial breweries use caustic, but the care required for safe handling means it generally isn't used at home (although it is available as line cleaner). Most homebrewers use longer contact with milder alkali percarbonate cleaners like Five Star PBW (.75-1.25 oz per gallon - $6.75/lb) or OxiClean Free (1-2 oz per gallon - $3.66/lb) for their fermentors, gear, and kegs.

What the cleaners were up against.I had a bunch of dirty one-gallon jugs from splitting five gallons of wort nine ways (three yeast each fermented at three starting pH values) for my December BYO Advanced Brewing article (subscribe) Acid Tolerance of Brewer's Yeast. I realized I had four alternative cleaning products on hand. I took five of the jugs, dumped out the beer, and let them dry for three days to give the cleaners a real challenge.

All prices listed are for "reasonable" 3-5 lbs containers (most links support the blog). Although suggested concentrations vary (listed), I used 1 fl oz per gallon (8 ml per L) for all for a fair comparison.

Hot Water
For a control I filled one jug with hot (110F/43C) tap water water. Even after a week it really didn't seem any cleaner. The krausen ring was still almost completely intact.

Seventh Generation Free and Clean Natural (~.3 oz per gallon - $4.84/lb)
After a week soaking with Seventh Generation DetergentThe 2X version is suggested by BetterBottle at a rate of 1 oz in 6 L. It is enzyme-based and won't degraded plastics like long-exposure to alkali cleaners can. While it removed most of the krausen ring, some remained even after a week (pictured). I wasn't even able to rinse the rest off with hot water, it required another soak with a different cleaner. It might do a fine job on fresh krausen, but even with triple the suggested usage it was the worst performer of the cleaners.

Craft Meister Alkaline Brewery Wash (1-2 oz/gallon - $5.70/lb)
This is a PBW competitor manufactured for brewing. It did a good job, with the sides looking completely clean after 12 hours without any scrubbing or agitation. I don't care for their packaging though (it leaked in transit, and doesn't seal tightly enough to prevent moisture ingress during storage).

Blu Aktiv Brewery Cleaner (1-2 oz/gallon - $8.25/lb)
I've been using this for about a year after the company sent me a sample of their more eco-friendly (no EDTA or NTA, low phosphate) brewery cleaner. Luckily it still performs admirably, and cleaned the fermentors in similar time to the Craft Meister. However, for me the greenness likely won't be enough to justify the added expense and effort to procure once my supply is depleted.

Logic One Step (.5 oz/gallon - $6.00/lb)
I used OneStep on my first two batches as both cleaner and sanitizer. While it isn't certified as a sanitizer, there are many brewers who use it like one with good results. The surprise was that it removed the fermentation residue in about six hours, beating the two specialized cleaners! While it is twice as expensive as OxiClean Free, the suggested rate is considerably lower.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Voss and Muri: Kveik Strains

The most enjoyable aspect of traveling to talk about brewing is the front-row seat to local beer culture. Whether Brazil, Fargo, or New Zealand (March 2017), the Internet and travel allow homebrewers to get excited about styles and breweries that aren’t available locally. However, wherever I visit I’m interested in how brewers are using local ingredients, sensibilities, and tradition to create something unique!

Jars and tubes of Voss and Muri kveik brought back from Norway.While I was in Oslo and Drammen last spring for Norbrygg Hjemmebryggerhelgen (travel log) there was plenty of American-style (and American) craft beer available, but what caught my tongue were beers brewed with recently publicized kveik strains. Alu by Norse with its balanced smoke, juniper, and orange-peel yeast was a particular standout (and some bottles do make it across the ocean). Unlike the stories of Belgian saison brewers trading strains between farmhouses, with little to connect the history to the present strains, many of these multi-strain Saccharomyces cultures were obtained from farm-brewers within the last decade!

Rather than parrot the hard work that Lars Marius Garshol has done on kveik, I'll direct you to his fantastic Lars Blog (I’d imagine his book is even better… but I can’t read Norwegian). I appreciate both his process posts, as well as technical information like this one about the genetic lineage of kveik! Lars also provided a good looking recipe and instructions in Denny and Drew’s Homebrew All-Stars (where I’m featured as well).

I brought back yeast samples from Norway courtesy of two homebrewers… but you can buy your own for a few dollars from either The Yeast Bay (Sigmund’s Voss Kveik) or Omega Labs (HotHead). One of their most unique traits is a pleasantly clean fermentation at temperatures in excess of 100°F (don't ask me how Norwegian brewers maintain fermentation temperatures that warm). These strains are good options for those who do not have access to temperature control in the summer, or want to co-ferment with Lactobacillus.

Homebrew fermented with Muri at 40C/104F.Petter Fornes, one of the homebrewers I met, provided homebrewed samples of two of the most prominent strains fermented at both ale and elevated temperatures. As suitcase-dynamics would have it, I could only fit two more bottles in my checked bag. The other four I was forced to sample in my hotel room before heading to the airport, so excuse the brief tasting notes!

1. Voss, 40°C/100°F: Lager-like, doughy, citrus
2. Voss, 40C (underpitched): Clean, no sulfur, orange, fruity
3. Voss, 20°C/68°F: Sulfur+, smoother, less fruit
4. US-05, 20C: Darker color, stone fruit, cleanest
5. Muri, 20C: Light sulfur, brandy, peach, dry/bitter
6. Muri, 40C: Stone fruit, mild sulfur, bone dry

Before I pitched the strains into a more traditional wort (I'm thinking darker with eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, from my backyard and home-smoked malt), I wanted to step them up in a bland un-hopped wort (diverted from the Grapefruit-Quinoa sour). Summertime temperature in my back hall was 30°C/85°F, so that seemed like a good place to start. Un-hopped turned out to be a mistake with the Muri developing a prominent (although pleasant) lactic character. The Voss has a slight tartness, but still retained enough of its character to be worth reviewing.

Voss (NCYC 3995)

Smell – Doughy, orange. Bright, fresh, but not much going on.

Appearance – German-Pilsner yellow, with mild haze. Solid white head, OK retention and lacing.

Voss-kveik-fermented beer. Unhopped.Taste – Rather than Grand Marnier (common descriptor), it is closer to fresh slices of orange reminds me of soccer practice. Bare tartness. Mild apple cider. Refreshing, doesn’t need any bitterness.

Mouthfeel – Light, but not obnoxiously thin. Above-average carbonation helps fill in the body (as does the extra protein from the quinoa).

Drinkability & Notes – Easy to drink, no rough edges.

Changes for Next Time – Next up something more along the lines of the traditional juniper-smoke route! Might make for an interesting citrus-forward IPA as well…

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Commonwealth Penthesilia: Cherry-Date Sour Brown

I’m all for avant-garde brewing. Pushing boundaries. Trying something unique or weird that doesn't make complete sense to see if it works. That isn’t where you start for you start a commercial sour beer program though! When I collaborated with Commonwealth Brewing Co. a few weeks after they opened fall 2016, we opted to brew a sour-brown/oud-bruin (original post). When it came time for fruit, Greg and Jeramy added hundreds of pounds of cherries and dates to the tart red-wine-barrel-aged base to create Penthesilia. A combination so obvious that I can’t believe no one else has brewed one before (that I'm aware of)! Assertive cherries are perfect in brown-to-black sour beers, playing off the malt rather than dominating (as they often do in pale sours). Dates are like a character-booster for dark candi syrup and 80L+ crystal malts (I’ve enjoyed dates in dark beers for years, Funky Dark Saison #2 and #8).

If you’re within drinking-distance of Virginia Beach, a trip to Commonwealth is well worth it for bottles of this beauty and its sister Hippolyta (the same base with jammy blackberries and Fig-Newton-y figs). If you are reading this post long after it is published, it’d still be worth a stop for Fernweh (white-wine-barrel tart pale they are releasing 11/3) or one of their delicious hoppy beers!

A bottle (and glass) of Commonwealth PenthesiliaCommonwealth Penthesilia

Smell – Dark cherries lead, thankfully nowhere near cough syrup! Behind that is loads of dark fruit and caramel. Hints of vanilla and almond. Distant Brett earthiness. Faint ethanol as it warms.

Appearance – Opaque brown. The off-white head fades pretty quickly leaving nothing behind. As a side note, this gold-accented beauty of a chalice from the brewery is the second flashiest in my collection.

Taste – Rich, dense, and fruity. Like the aroma, the cherry is the most prominent character. Bright and fresh. Then there is a flash of lactic acid. Finally, a big, long, lingering finish of caramelized-dates, nuttiness, and finally toasted oak. Mildly sweet (more than most American sours), which works well with the fruit and malt. Slight warming alcohol.

Mouthfeel – Enough heft to support all of the malt and fruit. Carbonation is above what I prefer, but then I tend to like lower than most. That said, there is enough body that it doesn’t read thin or spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – I wanted to wait for cooler weather to post my notes on this flavor-packed fruit and malt bomb. The fermentation takes a back seat, but what shows through is good, no acetic, no discordant funk, sour enough without being sharp.

Changes for Next Time – A portion aged in bourbon (or another spirit) barrel might be a nice kick given the firm fruit character, but it is wonderful as is! I think one of the most interesting areas for brewing experimentation is blending of several characters, rather than a sledgehammer of a single flavor. I really appreciate a two-fruit beer with malt, barrel, and microbe characters all melding together to create (obvious) harmony!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Low Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Brewing Lager

Every few years there seems to be some radical underpinning of the brewing word that comes under assault. Remember olive oil instead of oxygen? Saisons fermented above 80F? Dark candi syrup the key to dark Belgian beers? Dry hopping during fermentation? After the debate calms down sometimes brewer's shift their process en masse, and sometimes most of them say it isn't worth the expense/effort/trade-off.

10 lbs of Weyermann Barke Pilsner Malt
Two things I love about homebrewing are the passion it stirs up, and the flexibility it allows for testing novel techniques. After my friend Trevor talked my ear off about it, I read the German Brewing Forum's collaborative treatise on low dissolved oxygen (Low DO) brewing, The elevator pitch is that to mimic the character of large/classic German breweries (who steam purge equipment and deaerate brewing water) homebrewers need to go to great lengths to limit oxygen pickup on both the hot and cold side. This includes pre-boiling water, dosing oxygen-scavenging sodium metabisulfite, underleting the mash, and spunding their kegs. The supposed payoff is a near mythic German “it” maltiness that Ayinger, Paulaner, Weihenstephaner et al. create that you never taste from craft-brewed examples of helles, dunkel, bock etc.

I decided it was worth a try!

The problem with the method is that, according to the authors, even slight deviations may render the rest of the effort worthless. As little as 1 PPM of oxygen for a few minutes is enough to destroy all of that hard work! I did my best, but didn’t have the effort to go entirely on-method. On the hot side, I used a copper wort chiller (cleaned with StarSan to remove most of the tarnish) instead of stainless steel. On the cold side, I did a more modern lagering method warming rather than cooling towards the end of fermentation to ensure complete attenuation.

The other problem was that I misunderstood the amount of metabisulfite to add. I executed a no-sparge mash as suggested to avoid the risk of aerating during the sparge. The problem was that I dosed my entire mash volume with the rate of campden that they called for (100 mg/L), without accounting for the lower rate (10-25 mg/L) suggested for the sparge. Apparently I wasn't alone because version #2 of the treatise suggests 55 mg/L metabisulfite for no-sparge brewing.

To throw another variable into the mix, I used Weyermann Barke Pilsner for the first time (a sample from BSG, thanks!). This is a new release, an heirloom malt that is lower yielding in the field, but supposedly fantastic to brew with. It is said to replicate some of that elusive maltiness that is difficult to capture for non-German brewers.

The recipe is somewhere between a Pilsner and a Helles (with the other half currently fermenting as a Brett/beet saison, more on that some other week...)

Low DO Pilsner-Helles

A finished glass of Low-DO Pilsner/HellesSmell – Mostly clean aroma, just a hint of gentle yeasty-apple-fruitiness. Nose isn’t especially malty, I might have confused it for an American Premium if I didn’t know what I was being served. Appropriate waft of sulfur, not out of place. Luckily a "peanut butter" aroma it had early in lagering is gone.

Appearance – Pretty white head, good retention and lacing. One of the palest beers I’ve brewed given the avoidance of Maillard reactions in both malting and brewing. Moderate haze, not off-putting.

Taste – First wort Saphir hops provided a pleasant bitterness with some faint herbal notes. The finish exhibits big doughy malt, more reminiscent of a no-boil Berliner than anything else I’ve brewed. Finish has a hint of chemical-bitterness.

Mouthfeel – Light and crisp, as expected given the low OG. Firm carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – A solid beer? Sure. Unique? I think so. Worth all the extra effort? Not for this batch anyway! It’s actually one of the lagers I’ve enjoyed least from my last few years of brewing. Not that I brew many, but the lingering flavor isn’t one that calls out for another sip.

Changes for Next Time – Adjust the sulfites to be more in line with the clarified suggestions reduce by 50%). Try going all-in on the Helles recipe, including some caramel malts to see if their flavor shines as noted.

Low DO Barke Pilsner Recipe

Batch Size (Gal): 11
SRM: 2.9
IBU: 21.8
OG: 1.043
FG: 1.009
ABV: 4.4%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63%
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

100.0 % - 20 lbs Weyermann Barke Pilsner

The wort, super-pale!Mash
Sacch Rest - 30 min @ 152 F

4.00 oz Saphir (Pellet, 3.00 % AA) @ First Wort

1.00 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 mins

Saflager W-34/70

Brewed 8/7/16

Boiled 18 gallons of water (half distilled, half filtered DC) added 12 g of CaCl and 1 tbls of 10% phosphoric acid. Chilled to 160F, added 15 campden tablets (6,600 mg sodium metabisulfite for 68 L, about the 100 mg/L suggested), crushed. Underlet mash after purging under false bottom with CO2.

Poorer than expected efficiency, likely thanks to a less vigorous crush, brief recirculation, and no sparge.

Chilled to 72 F and transferred 6 gallons out and pitched the Bootleg Biology "Mad Blend." Left at 65 F to ferment. Not aerated initially. 15 seconds of pure O2 after 3 hours, and 6 hours.

Chilled the remaining to 58 F (underestimated the amount of ice needed) and pitched 34/70 (rehydrated, then given an hour on a stirplate with 2 L of diverted wort, and then another hour in the fridge at 48F to acclimate. Not aerated initially. Left at 48F. 15 seconds of pure O2 after 3 hours, and 6 hours. Upped to 52F after 18 hours to ensure it starts quickly.

8/11/16 Moved Saison out of the cold room, to ambient ~75F to finish out. Super sulfury.

8/15/16 Slowly started warming the lager portion 3F each day.

8/20/16 Kegged (well purged) the lager portion with 5.75 oz of Light DME. Left at 65F with the spunding valve set to 30 PSI to carbonate to mid-2s volumes. FG 1.009.

10/8/16 Added 14 oz of shredded beets to the saison secondary. Still pretty sulfury, hoping this helps!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fresh vs. Frozen: Mango Tart Saison

June 2015 I found myself with an extra six gallons of low-gravity saison wort, so I decided to ferment it with a vial of East Coast Yeast Bugfarm 15. I was especially intent to trial this iteration of the annual super-blend because it included an isolate of Kloeckera apiculata, a microbe that Vinnie Cilurzo mentioned as a suspect for the citrus-forward character of the spontaneous fermentation of Russian River Beatification!

The result was certainly more lemon and pineapple than funk, but it lacked excitement or depth at a year old. I bottled two gallons as is to see how it evolves (tasting to follow eventually). I racked half a gallon onto wild prickly pears, a gallon onto muscat grapes, and split the rest between fresh and frozen mangoes. The fresh was 1.5 lbs of sliced ataulfo, the frozen was two pounds of 365 Organic Mango Chunks.

I have a pretty flexible palate. I'm generally not a fan of warm citrus or pineapple in savory dishes... but that's about the only thing I won't eat, other than fresh mango! I enjoy mango flavored and infused foods and beverages, but freshly diced mango often has an unmistakable turpentine flavor to me (and not just the "turpentine mango"). Luckily a few delicious mango beers (including Mango Mama from Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, and a homebrewed pale sour brewed by my friend Seth using four mango varieties from his Florida neighbors' trees) convinced me to brew a batch for myself! I hoped to learn whether fresh or frozen imparted a better flavor.

A slice of fresh mango.Fresh Mango Tart Saison

Smell – Pleasant melding of perfume, earthy Brett, light pineapple, and mild toastiness. The Brett picked up in bottle conditioning. Doesn’t have a distinct mango character, even compared to some well-hopped Amarillo IPAs!

Appearance – Bright yellow with mild haze with a few strands of mango pulp. Dense white head exhibits OK retention, leaving a single line of lacing.

Taste – The flavor of the mango comes through more than in the nose, melding with more generic citrus and tropical notes. Mild acidity, dry, but with a perceived sweetness from the general fruitiness.

Mouthfeel – Medium light, slightly slick. Solid medium carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – Nothing wrong with it, it is nice to have a fruit character that doesn’t cover up the solid base beer… however buying and processing all of that fruit feels like a waste.

Changes for Next Time – I enjoy it, but not sure if the effort of skinning, deseeding, and slicing 10 lbs of mango (to produce 7.5 lbs of flesh) would be worth it for a 5 gallon batch!

The same sour beer with fresh (left) and frozen (right) mango!

A chunk of frozen mango.Frozen Mango Tart Saison

Smell – There’s the fruit! Like a mango popsicle, big leading juicy tropical fruit. Subdued Brett funk lurking behind as it warms.

Appearance – Same color without the haze or particulate (although there is plenty at the bottom of the bottle). Head retention is a notch lower.

Taste – The flavor is packed with mango, slight aspirin (or Vitamin C?). Bright acidity. Not nearly the depth and complexity of the fresh version, but deliciously refreshing.

Mouthfeel – Feels lighter and quicker, with similar carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – The mango is so big and bright that the balance is closer to Florida Weisse than a mango-lambic. The base beer isn’t characterful enough to compete.

Changes for Next Time – This one could use something else (like dry hops) to play off of. Otherwise, I might cut the amount back to .75 lbs/gal to get a subtle mango flavor to enhance a characterful base beer.

Bugfarm 15 Tart Saison

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6.25
SRM: 3.3
IBU: 29.1
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.003
ABV: 5.8%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 70 Minutes

82.8% - 9.00 lbs. Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
14.9% - 1.625 lbs. Grain Millers Soft White Wheat Flakes
2.3% - 0.25 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated Malt

.635 oz. Magnum (Pellet, 11.80% AA) @ 60 min.

.5 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min.
.5 Whirlfloc @ 5 min.

East Coast Yeast ECY01 Bugfarm 2015

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 75 min @ 148F

Brewed 6/21/15

7 gallons of water, 2 g CaCl, and .25 oz 10% phosphoric acid.

1.5 gallon cold sparge, filtered, untreated. Collected 7 gallons at 1.042. Mash pH 5.53 (room temperature).

Final wort pH 5.62.

Chilled to 80F. Pitched with ECY Bugfarm 2015, no starter. 45 seconds of pure O2, left at 68 F to ferment.

7/14/15 Racked to secondary.

1/2/16 1/2 gallon racked onto .5 lbs of prickly pears from Cape Cod (singed to remove spines, grated discarding skins). Clean acidity, lightly fruity.

4/5/16 Bottled 2.25 gallons with 2 1/8 oz of sucrose. Racked the rest onto 2 lbs of frozen mango, 1.5 lbs fresh ataulfos mango, and 1.5 lbs Muscat grapes from Chile.

7/2/16 Bottled mango, prickly pear and Muscat portions.

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