Monday, March 23, 2015

Matt, and Maple-Bourbon Adam

It’s been more than two years since my series of four barrel-aged strong/dark beers (Wheat Trippelbock, Rye Stout, Vanilla/Cinnamon Porter, and Quadrupel), and stocks are beginning to dwindle. It seemed like a good excuse to brew a variant on the fantastic Hair of the Dog Adam clone I brewed six years ago, considering I'm down to my final bottle (recently drank the second to last – still tasted fantastic). However I didn’t want 10 gallons of the same ~10% ABV beer (no matter how well it ages).

My new water filter, right into the mash tun!
Hair of the Dog occasionally brews a version of Adam called Matt which augments the base with candi sugar, more malts, and bourbon and apple eau de vie barrel aging. Apple brandy and dark candi syrup seemed like a nice match, so I went with that for five gallons of the beer.

I’d been thinking of brewing a Baltic porter inspired by the transcendent Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique I brought back from Montreal… with the addition of maple syrup and bourbon. I decided it would be a bit too close to Adam (both are dark, lightly smoky, and 10% ABV) so I transferred the concept to Adam. Maple syrup plus some bourbon is a technique that I’ve use to great effect before in a Founder's Canadian Breakfast Stout inspired RIS variant. I wanted more maple flavor so I added one quart (nearly three pounds) of grade B maple syrup after primary fermentation slowed. That may sound like a crazy amount in five gallons, but I've heard that some highly sought-after maple beers are brewed with twice that rate (around 10% maple syrup by volume!).

The base recipe is pretty close to my first Adam clone. I tweaked a few percentages and hops, but the only major substitution was the switch from intense peat-smoked malt to a mellower combination of Briess Cherry Wood Smoked and Weyermann Beech Smoked. I used a higher percentage of smoked malt than the first batch, so hopefully the smoke intensity will be similar, if a bit sweeter.

This was the first strong beer (over 1.075) I brewed on the new system. I used the technique borrowed from HoTD, collecting only my target volume of first runnings and boiling down well below the target volume. This concentrates the sugars and amino acids, increasing the rate of Maillard reactions (raising the pH slightly with baking soda further encourages this process). Rather than top-off with water, I sparged with cold water to collect four gallons of second runnings which I boiled for 45 minutes separately. This resulted in pretty good efficiency (overshooting my target gravity) so I topped-off with water post-boil. Nice to have 8 gallon fermentors to accommodate situations like this!

Matt and candi sugar, Adam and maple syrup.Matt, and Maple-Bourbon Adam

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 11.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 46.75
Anticipated OG: 1.095 (Pre-Sugar)
Anticipated SRM: 31.8
Anticipated IBU: 64.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65 %
Wort Boil Time: 180 Minutes

62.0% - 29.00 lbs. Rahr Pale Malt
19.3% - 9.00 lbs. Weyermann Munich Malt
7.0% - 3.25 lbs. Simpsons Medium Crystal
4.3% - 2.00 lbs. Briess Cherry Wood Smoked
4.3% - 2.00 lbs. Weyermann Beech Smoked
2.1% - 1.00 lbs. Simpsons Chocolate Malt
1.1% - 0.50 lbs. Simpsons Black Patent Malt

3.50 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Crystal (Whole, 5.00% AA) @ 40 min.
1.25 oz. Crystal (Whole, 5.00% AA) @ 10 min.
1.25 oz. Saaz (Pellet, 3.50% AA) @ 10 min.

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

White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch - 60 min @ 153F

Brewed 3/8/15

Added 4 g of CaCl to the mash and 3 g of baking soda to the boil. Collected 11 gallons of 1.078 runnings in the main kettle, plus 3.5 gallons of 1.060 in a separate kettle.

IBUs likely lower than projected given concentrated wort. Boiled down to about 6 gallons (~1.143). Added the 3 gallons of second runnings, plus 1 gallon of water to get to 10.5 gallons at 1.105 in the kettle. Then mixed with the entire yeast cake from the Honey Stout which was resuspended in another gallon of water for 11 gallons in the fermentors (poured back and forth to mix). Wort temperature was 64F in the fermentor. Left at 56F ambient.

Added 45 seconds pure oxygen about five hours after pitching.

Good fermentation by 24 hours. Temperature is a bit cool for this strain, so I wrapped the fermentors in a blanket to help hold in the heat of fermentation.

3/11/15 Moved to 67F ambient.

3/12/15 Still fermenting, thankfully as it's at 1.060 (37% AA), only half way there...

3/15/15 Still slowly ticking along, 1.038 (60% AA). Krausen has only gotten bigger. Adding sugars tomorrow.

3/16/15 Still some krausen, but activity seems to have mostly stalled. Added 32 oz (by volume) ~2.8 lbs of Whole Foods Grade B maple syrup to the bucket (effective OG = 1.111), and 1 lb of D-90 Candi Syrup to the Speidel (effective OG = 1.101). Still at 67F ambient.

3/22/15 Fermentation appears finished on both, moved to 55F ambient to settle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Meadowfoam Honey Oatmeal Stout

One of the more fascinating talks I attended during National Homebrewers Conference 2014 in Grand Rapids wasn’t even about beer. Ken Schramm (author of the excellent Compleat Meadmaker, and founder of Schramm's Mead) talked passionately about bees, amino acids, and agriculture during "Really Understanding Honey." While he talked he passed around ten varietal honeys for us to taste with single-use straws. The range from a mild honey like blackberry to some of the weirder ones (e.g., leatherwood) was interesting. Others demonstrated how different a single varietal (like orange blossom) can be depending on what part of the world the bees collect nectar (milder California versus the more  more acidic/juicy Florida).

The two that really stood out to me were meadowfoam (toasted marshmallows) and Mexican coffee blossom (hint of coffee-like roast). I knew I had to get my hands on one or both of these to add to a stout! Last month I finally got around to brewing with meadowfoam honey. The base beer was a relatively straight-forward oatmeal stout, with 10% home-toasted oats rather than a breadier base malt. If I really wanted to play-to s’mores, I could have added a bit of smoked malt, but I didn’t want the flavor of the honey to be lost.

As with other honey beers I've brewed, I added the concentrated nectar when primary fermentation was nearing completion (four days after pitching). This prevents destruction of the volatile aromatics by the heat of the boil, and scrubbing by the vigorous primary fermentation. For the first time I also saved a few ounces of honey to add directly to the keg for natural conditioning. I'm usually not an advocate for using priming sugar to add flavor, but the pressure should trap the volatiles, and I can a easily adjust the carbonation with CO2 once it goes on tap.

Using a pump to recirculate the wort during the mash.Meadowfoam Honey Oatmeal Stout

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 11.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 25.38
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 42.2
Anticipated IBU: 34.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

59.2% - 15 lbs. Valley Malting Pale
8.9% - 2.25 lbs. Rahr Pale
10.3% - 2.63 lbs. Home-Toasted Oatmeal (25 min @ 340F)
9.9% - 2.50 lbs. Simpsons Roasted Barley
3.0% - 0.75 lbs. Briess Crystal 120L
3.0% - 0.75 lbs. Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal
5.9% - 1.50 lbs. Meadowfoam Honey

1.38 oz. Magnum (Whole, 12.00% AA) @ 70 min.
2.00 oz. Challenger (Whole, 6.10% AA) @ 10 min.

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

White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch - 60 min @ 154F

2/13/15 Made a 3.5 L starter with 1 vial of month old yeast. Crash chilled after 24 hours on the stir-plate.

2/16/15 Brewed with some guy

Oats toasted at 340F 25 min. until they smelled toasty (only minimal color pickup).

Measured 5.3 mash pH.

3 gallon cold sparge. Collected 13 gallons of 1.045 runnings. Adjusted hops down by 1% AA.

Chilled to 65F, shook to aerate, pitched 2 L of the starter. 24 hours at 65F ambient, then to 58F ambient.

2/19/15 Back to 65F ambient to finish.

2/20/15 12 oz of Winter Park meadowfoam honey and 1/2 gallon of water to my half.

3/8/15 Racked my half (FG 1.020) into a keg with about 3 oz of meadowfoam honey. Purged and sealed. Left in the mid-60s to condition. Extra beer went into a growler with a small amount of the honey.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Shortcut Sour Tasting - Blackberry Oud Zwart

I realize my standard sour beer process can be daunting for some homebrewers. All grain, year-plus fermentation, fresh fruit, blending, bottle conditioning etc. Apparently not everyone has a temperature controlled basement room to commit to aging sours. So why not cheat? Brew a beer with malt extract that I could age just a few months with frozen fruit before force carbonating? So I did!

This extract-based stout was fermented with Wyeast’s Oud Bruin Blend. The blend doesn’t contain Brett, so it is perfect for a sour that derives character from malt and fruit. The combination of Lacto and brewer’s yeast won’t dry a beer out as much as my long-aged massively-mixed fermentations (1.012 in this case), perfect for a sour with some roast. Sour stouts have the highest probability of missing for my palate, roast+dry+sour often ends up acrid for me. WY3209-PC has only been released once so far, summer 2014.

I racked onto the frozen blackberries (and a handful of home-grown/frozen beach plums) one month into fermentation. A month later I moved the fermentor to my cool basement to prevent the sugars from the fruit from being completely fermented out (or so I hoped) – I liked the way the beer tasted and didn’t want it to change. I was kegging, so residual sugar was not a concern as it would have been if I was bottle conditioning.

Braam Oud Zwart

Appearance – Chocolate brown with substantial cloudiness. Not far off from a dunkelweizen; more brown porter than stout (despite the predicted 30 SRM). The tan head is dense and long lasting, particularly for a sour beer.

Smell – Brown malt, Cocoa Puffs, and winey fruit. Like nectarines, blackberries aren’t as distinct as many of the more popular sour beer fruits. As with the color, the dark malts don’t quite provide the punch I was hoping for, but it is coffee-roastier than traditional oud bruins. No funk, or other unexpected aromas considering it is only Sacch and Lacto.

Taste – Nice melding of bready malt and dried blackberry (toast and jam anyone?). It has a pleasant lactic tartness without being sharp. Very clean, no funk to get between the malt and fruit. Not sweet, but not dried out the way most sour beers are. The combination works well, but isn’t bursting with complexity.

Mouthfeel – Medium body, with medium carbonation. About right for the flavors. I never want prickly or thin when it comes to darker beers, sour or otherwise.

Drinkability & Notes – Nothing about this says “malt extract.” Although my lack of experience with extract beers certainly played a role in the lower dark malt character than I intended. Luckily falling short on a sour stout, I ended up at a pleasant destination. Hopefully Wyeast brings back this blend eventually, I think it’s a great place to start for a quick turnaround tart without the funk beer.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Palace of the Cracked Heads Tasting

One of my favorite fruits to add to sour beers is nectarine. They don’t dominate a subtle beer the way sour cherries or raspberries usually do. I’ve added them to a couple of pale sours, with beautiful results. When Jacob suggested them as one of the fruit choices for Empty Hats (Modern Times’ oud bruin) I wasn’t sure how it would work out. Nectarine is delicate for such a malty barrel-forward beer. Luckily the results are wholly different, but no less delicious!

There are some brewers who deem only their “best” sour beer suitable for fruit (given the increased price and manpower requirements). Others seem to be adding fruit to their worst beer in an attempt to cover-up wretched off-flavors. For me, the ideal barrels for fruit are those that are bland (i.e., those that lack bold and beautiful aromatics and/or adequate acidity). Dumping is the only real option for sour beers with strong off-flavors, no amount of fruit will cover them completely.

Modern Times Palace of the Cracked Heads

Appearance – Red headed towards amber. Hazier than the unfruited beer, but nowhere near murky or muddy. The head sizzles down within a minute, not leaving so much as a spec of foam.

Smell – Apricot fruit leather. Saturated stone fruit, but not so much that it dominates the beer-y nature of the beverage. Cherry-funk around the edges. At around one pound of nectarines per gallon, the rate lower than what I’ve used at home. Less fruit, combined with the more assertive base certainly changes the perception of the fruit, creating a more balanced profile (at the cost of the knock-your-socks-off farmstand aroma).

Taste – Big acidity, lactic and malic: bright, sharp, and quick. The nectarines are there, jammy, concentrated, but not juicy-fresh. I think the flavor melds better with the biscuity maltiness that the Vienna and Munich provided. The damp-barrel goodness is there, but the fruit covers up much of it. There is just a touch of acetic towards the back.

Mouthfeel – Solid carbonation, it is lively without being disruptive. The mouthfeel is a little stickier than the base beer, full enough to support the big flavors.

Drinkability & Notes – Rocking beer. Nice blend of fruit, malt, acid, and funk. It’s the early leader in the clubhouse for my favorite of the five “first round” Modern Times sour beers. There are still a couple more to go though!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stolen Microbes - Lambic Tasting

Lambic fermentations are complex business. While a commercial cocktail of a half dozen microbe species can replicate the major flavors (e.g., lactic and acetic acid, ethyl lactate, ethyl acetate, 4-EG, 4-EP) it is impossible for them to replicate every one of the hundreds of compounds produced by the dozens of species responsible for each lambic brewer or blender’s house flavor. Think imitation vanilla compared to real vanilla beans. Thank goodness each bottle of gueuze comes with a free sample of microbes!

However, the microbes in the bottle do not necessarily represent all those responsible for each stage of the fermentation. While many of the oxidative yeast and Enterobacteriaceae at work early in the fermentation have been dead for years (thankfully - considering some are pathogenic) the acids, alcohols, and enzymes they produced have a profound influence on the aromatics produced by the hardier microbes which follow.

To get the best of both, I naturally cooled my sixth batch of lambic uncovered in my barrel room and then pitched a starter grown from six especially delicious bottles of 3 Fonteinen gueuze. Always judge what to pitch based on the beer in the bottle, rather than the label on the bottle (although fresher is always better). If I was gutsier, I would have allowed my local microflora a 48-72 hour head start before pitching the starter. Maybe next time!

I've been storing these bottles on their sides, so an appropriate excuse to breakout a lambic basket!

3F-Microbe Lambic

Putting a lambic basket to it's intended use.
Appearance – Slightly hazy golden body. The dense white foam sitting on top does its best to maintain lift for a few minutes, but gradually deflates to a thin covering. Despite the wheat, lambics rarely have prodigious heads, thanks to the protein-munching bacteria.

Smell – Potent mix of dusty-Brett funk and brighter lemony-tropical-fruitiness. Has some mineral-like notes as well. It is reminiscent of 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze more than anything else; more towards my preference for citrus zest and minerals rather than strong horse stall or vinegar.

Taste – Sour, but not bracing. Drenched in citrus (lemon rind) which gives it a bright/lively character. Ripe pineapple as well. Nicely funky, fresh hay, and old baseball mitt. Each sip finishes minerally, a little chalky. Just a hair of acetic sharpness in the finish, less than many commercial gueuzes. It retains an edge of sulfurousness that this batch was saturated with when it was young (thanks to some time with a hard stopper).

Mouthfeel – Refreshing, crisp, although it could use slightly more carbonation to reach classic gueuze-level pop. Light tannic astringency.

Drinkability & Notes – Over the last eight years, my lambic/gueuze-style beers have slowly, but surely improved, and this is no exception. It is by no means at the level of my favorite three or four Belgian lambic producers (when they’re on), but I’d give it ~85-90%. Not bad for an unblended lambic that was aged in a plastic carboy! Turns out a turbid mash may not be worth the added effort when you have the right microbes!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dark Saison VII - English Citrus

I'm not a big fan of seasonal beers. Why isn't an Oktoberfest appropriate to drink in November (or October for that matter)? Sometimes I want a wit in February or a Double IPA in August! While there are a few "true" seasonals, like wet-hopped beers, most recipes can be brewed and enjoyed anytime of the year. What I’m more interested in is brewing and drinking beers that evoke a certain time and place. Each year for the last seven years that has included a dark/funky saison. While Alex and I brew them each fall, it isn’t a “seasonal” in the sense of dusting off last year’s recipe and re-brewing. We also aren’t slowly dialing in on a target. Our goal each year is to reimagine what fall tastes like.

We’ve started with an original gravity as high as 1.078 and as low as 1.051. As dark as 29 SRM, and as light as 15 SRM. We’ve added raisins, dates, figs, currants, cranberries, wine grapes, citrus, honey, and numerous spices and herbs. For the 2014 iteration we decided on English and citrus. Going for toasty malts, including a base of Maris Otter, paired with bold citrus zest in the fermentor just before bottling.

Toasty and funky isn't a common flavor combination. Brettanomyces produces tetrahydropyridine (THP), which at low levels provide a toasty flavor (at higher levels the perception of THP shifts to urine, or euphemistically "mousy."). I suspect this compound also plays a role in the "Cheerios" flavors bottle-conditioned sours often temporarily develop. As a result, many brewers avoid adding toasty malts to beers that will be fermented with Brett. However, I've actually had pretty good results with beers like my Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone (which included Maris Otter, amber, and brown malts) as well as a Brett-influenced version of Capitol City's ESB. An unauthorized collaboration, I won a 15 gallon keg of it and had to figure out something to do with the last few gallons.

The fermentation of Dark Saison VII is being carried out by a diverse mix of microbes. The brewer's yeast is Omega Saisonstein's Monster. A hybrid strain resulting from the controlled mating of a Saison Dupont isolate and French Saison (the goal being the classic peppery phenolics of the first with high attenuation of the second). Brett isolates from Le Trou du Diable were provided by Richie (Mark of the Yeast). Lastly a little Lactobacillus brevis from White Labs. If you don't get random boxes of yeast in the mail a couple times a month, and as a result can't procure all of these strains, then choose a saison yeast and whatever microbes suit your tastes!

On a related side-note, I'm now the Advanced Brewing columnist for Brew Your Own magazine! You can read more about Saisonstein's Monster in my February/March article about blending yeasts. The April/May issue will have an article I wrote with Matt Humbard featuring an experiment comparing the pH drops at four temperatures by four commercial strains of Lactobacillus, including White Labs L. brevisSubscribe to BYO via this link to support the blog!

Dark Saison VII

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 11.00   
Total Grain (Lbs): 31.50
Anticipated OG: 1.071   
Anticipated SRM: 16.3
Anticipated IBU: 6.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

79.4% - 25.00 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter                  
6.3% - 2.00 lbs. Rahr Wheat Malt
6.3% - 2.00 lbs. Simpsons Medium Crystal (~55L)                  
6.3% - 2.00 lbs. Weyermann Abbey Malt
1.6% - 0.50 lbs. Franco-Belge KilnCoffee

0.50 oz. Palisade (Whole, 8.00% AA) @  60 min.

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

OYL-500 - Omega Saisonstein's Monster
BBY009 - Wild Canadian Blend
WLP672 - White Labs Lactobacillus brevis

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 152F

12/11/14 2.5 L stir-plate starter with Saisonstein's Monster and Canadian Brett (Le Trou du Diable isolates).

12/14/14 Brewed with Alex. Mash pH 5.36. No adjustments. Cold sparged with 3 gallons of water. Collected 13 gallons of 1.060 runnings. Boosted my efficiency more than expected.

Chilled to 72F with plate chiller, pitched half starter with the addition of White Labs L. brevis (directly) into mine. Shook to aerate. Left at 67 F to ferment.

1/29/15 Racked to secondary, moved to cool basement.

Orange, tangerine, or other citrus zest to be added as the beer conditions.

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