Wednesday, June 22, 2016

New England APA: Conan and London III

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

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

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

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

Simcoe & Daughters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simcoe & Daughters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/22/16 Brewed by myself

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Drinking Beer in Oslo and Drammen, Norway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bar at Himkok.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four samples of kveik.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

HomebrewCon (NHC) 2016 Baltimore (and me)!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Fermented with my House Brett Saison culture and Omega Lacto Blend

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

Final pH = 3.87

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

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

Soured with Omega Lacto Blend for 24 hours

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

Fermented with a big starter of WLP648 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois Vrai

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

Final pH = 3.52

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

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

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

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

Final pH = 3.27

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Courage Russian Imperial Stout: Second Attempt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dark Saison 7 Etrog: Tasting

An etrog (mostly pith).Having finally brewed Dark Saison #8 (with date and pomegranate molasses – recipe post to follow) it seemed appropriate to post tasting notes for the previous iteration, Dark Saison 7 (Recipe)! This was an aberration from my standard dark saisons, brewed with nearly 80% toasty Maris Otter (plus Crystal 55, Abbey, and Kiln Coffee).

Shortly before bottling, I infused 40 g of zest harvested from an etrog into the beer. I happened to see this giant lemon-cousin at the store and decided to give it a try. It turns out that they are more frequently used for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot than culinary purposes. The aroma was closer to lemon than anything else, but without being as distinct.

Dark Saison #7

Dark saison with etrog.Appearance – Clear flame-brown, not far from a Newcastle Brown Ale. Head pours nicely, but deflates quickly.

Smell – The aroma is hard to place. There is some pale-coffee and dubbel-like maltiness, damp hay, and a touch of citrusy perfume. Reminds me more of a De Dolle, than most American sours. Almost licorice as it warms, a character I've never gotten in an amber sour beer like this! Perhaps created by the microbes from Trou du Diable by way of Mark of the Yeast?

Taste – Acidity is mild, more acidity than Brett-only, but not by much. Mild red-wine-berry fruitiness. The etrog plays a pleasant role, helping to cut through the malt and funk without being obvious. The finish is a combination of funky Brett and toasty malt, lingering a beat too long. The toasty flavor has mellowed since my previous informal sensory evaluations (aka drinking a bottle for fun).

Mouthfeel – Surprisingly creamy mouthfeel for a funky saison. Thanks perhaps to the Omega Saisonstein's Monster? Carbonation is medium, could be slightly higher.

Drinkability & Notes – Weird and subtle at the same time. In the series it is most similar to Dark Funky #5 (based on Munich and Vienna), although less acidic. Etrog's contribution isn't especially distinct, but maybe that isn't the worst attribute when you are trying to make a beer without an identifiable citrus addition.

Changes – I would swap half of the Maris Otter for Pils to cut the toasty flavor. Otherwise I think it works surprisingly well for such a weird combination of ingredients! Bottle dregs could be used to replace the Lactobacillus and Brett, WY3711 or another saison strain could be used if Omega's strain isn't sitting in your fridge!

Etrog zest.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Westvleteren Belgian Blond Clone Recipe

There are essentially no breweries that exclusively brew strong beers. This is partly because moderate-strength beers have a big market, but it is also a practical consideration. Harvesting yeast from high-alcohol beers is usually frowned upon. Wild yeast rarely have high alcohol tolerance, and even though brewer’s yeast has been selected for its ability to resist the damaging effects of alcohol, viability drops quickly above 8% ABV. So in addition to brewing a beer for the monks to drink with lunch, Westvleteren's moderate gravity beer means they don’t need to get a fresh pitch from Westmalle for every batch.

Sharing a lineup with a quad (Abt/12/Yellow) that is a long-standing contender for best beer in the universe, and a dubbel (Extra/8/Blue) that I prefer to it, how much does anyone pay attention to the blond (6/Green)? Not much, despite it being one of the best Belgian blonds! It blends subtle spice and fruit from the noble hops and Trappist yeast, with clean and crisp malt. Far more drinkable and lively than its two bigger/older brothers! The Trappist equivalent of a wonderful Pilsner!

Given the difficultly and cost of procuring a steady supply of Westy Blond, it seemed like the perfect inspiration for a keg of homebrew (a five gallon batch costs about the same $22 of a single bottle of the original at The Sovereign)!

I began with a well-reviewed recipe from Candi Syrup Inc., but made a few adjustments. According to Brew Like a Monk, Westvleteren includes Belgian pale malt along with Pilsner in the same ratio for all three recipes, so I swapped it in for 50% of the malt. I also swapped out the clear candi syrup for table sugar (my Pale Belgian Sugar Experiment suggested that pure sugar choice isn't critical even at double the rate of this batch). The hops were heavy on mid-boil additions (not my default) but I decided to stick to it as written (other than augmenting with Magnum to hit the target IBUs) to judge for myself.

The other half of the batch is conditioning with two different Brett cultures (WLP648 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois Vrai and my house saison culture). Tasting notes for those in the next couple months!

A glass of homebrewed Westvleteren Blond, and an 8 and 12.


Westvleteren Blond (Green Cap)

Appearance – Blond body, so far so good. Slightly less than hefeweizen haze, but not by much. The snowy head in dense and sticky, with superb endurance.

Smell – Belgian yeast character leads, banana peel, and a waft of vanilla. The phenols skew pepper (rather than clove) and meld with the subtle noble hops to form a nice counter to the fruit. The malt and hops aren’t able to shine through as I would have liked thanks to the expressive yeast.

Taste – Flavor is bright and vibrant, more interesting than the nose. The fruitiness transitions from banana in the nose adding subtle notes of pear and red apple. The absent malt shows itself with some saltine crackeriness. The focus on reducing carbonate and hitting pH really benefits a beer like this making it finish snappy with a final more-ish crack of hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel – Crisp and lively without being thin or bracing.

Drinkability & Notes – A very nice daily Belgian drinker, maybe a half notch behind my favorite pale/session Belgian as a result of a bit too much banana and malt.

And introducing a new category, notes on what I'd change if I rebrewed:

Changes – Sadly I didn’t have a bottle of the original to open up alongside, but from my recollection the homebrew is more yeasty and malty and less hoppy. On a rebrew, I’d reduce the Pale malt to 25% of the total malt and restrain peak fermentation temperature to 75F. This is cooler than BLAM notes for the original, likely a result of ester suppression from fermenting in larger fermentors. The hops may be fine as is once the malt and yeast are tempered, but an ounce or two of Styrian Goldings or Hallertau at flame-out wouldn’t hurt!

Westvleteren Blond Clone

Recipe Specifics
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Batch Size (Gal): 12.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 21.25
OG: 1.050
SRM: 3.8
IBU: 42.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
---------------
47.1% - 10.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner
47.1% - 10.00 lbs. Castle Pale Ale
5.9% - 1.25 lbs. Domino Granulated Pure Cane Sugar

Hops
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0.50 oz. Magnum (Pellet, 11.50% AA) @ 70 min.
2.00 oz. Northern Brewer (Pellet, 7.00% AA) @ 70 min.
2.00 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfruh (Pellet, 3.00% AA) @ 20 min.
2.00 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet, 1.20% AA) @ 12 min.

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

Yeast
-------
White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale

Water Profile
-----------------
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
-------------
Beta Rest – 60 @ 147 F (Infuse)
Alpha Rest – 20 min @ 157 F (Direct)

Notes
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Brewed 1/10/16 - 3 L starter made on a stir plate for two days then crashed a week prior.
Mashed 9 gallons filtered DC, 7 gallons distilled. 5 g gypsum, 7 g CaCl, 1 tbls phosphoric acid. Mash pH = 5.31. 2 gallon cold/distilled sparge.

Collected 14.5 gallons of 1.040 runnings. Added white sugar 5 minutes into the boil.
Chilled to 65F, shook to aerate, pitched the decanted starter. Left at 67 F ambient to ferment for the first 36 hours.

Placed next to a radiator, measured beer temperature at 78F 12 hours later. Held around this temperature.

At 10 days allowed to come back to 68 F ambient.

1/23/16 Kegged half with 3 oz of table sugar to condition. Slight sulfur edge, nice mellow singed banana. FG 1.009 (5.4% ABV, 82% AA), on point.

1/31/16 Bottled the other half. 2.5 gallons with 1/4 cup of WLP648 B. bruxellensis Trois Vrai starter and 62 g of table sugar. 2.75 gallons with 1/4 cup of House Saison starter and 75 g of table sugar.

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