Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade German White Wine Tasting

The process that went into making this WinExpert kit (Selection Original: Liebfraumilch Style) was pretty simple compared to brewing a beer: all it required was opening packages, stirring, racking etc...  Not much that you can screw up if you read the instructions.  The real problem I'm having is what to do with 25 bottles of wine.  I've tried everything I can think of: I cooked mussels, made vinegar, gave it away to friends, christened ships and I still have 20 bottles left.  All that is left now is to drink some of it.  I've heard that most white wines are supposed to be drank relatively fresh, so I didn't want to wait too long to post a tasting of this batch.

I went all out for my first wine, delabeled bottles, corks etc...Liebfraumilch Style Wine

Appearance – Clear pale yellow, the bentonite and isinglass certainly did their job removing haze admirably. A swirl reveals some thin legs running down the sides of the glass.

Smell – Big fruity nose, tropical, apricot, and fresh white grape juice. Slight soapiness, not sure if it is from the yeast or maybe the sulfites.

Taste – Slight grapey sweetness. Fermented beer so rarely has any simple sugars that this wine tastes sweet even though the FG is 1.004 (I'm glad I held back some of the back-sweetening "F-pack"). The alcohol is rather soft for being around 12%, but it makes its presence known with a slight warming on the back of the throat.

Mouthfeel – Medium body with only a slight tannic roughness on the tongue. No carbonation, so it turns out my post-fermentation stirring was aggressive enough to knock the CO2 out of solution.

Drinkability & Notes – For a first attempt at home winemaking I'm really happy with how this wine came out.  I wish it was a bit lighter and drier so it was more refreshing for the summer, but there are no off-flavors. I may try making a big red wine this fall, something I can enjoy slowly over a couple of years.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ambient-Spontaneous Yeast Starters

Fermenting beer with truly wild microbes (that is to say not ones found in a tube, pack, or bottle) has recently started in earnest among American sour beer producers. Russian River, Allagash, Jolly Pumpkin, Midnight Sun, and Jester King have all tried their hands at spontaneous/ambient fermentations. Despite this recent surge in interest, allowing the yeast and bacteria present in the environment to ferment wort is nothing new; spontaneous fermentation was the way beer was originally made before brewers learned to repitch yeast from one batch to the next. This method has been brought to its highest form by Belgian lambic brewers, who produce beers with a balance of acidity and complexity that is unrivaled.

There is nothing special about the wild microbes floating around Belgium; the main sour beer fermenters: Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces are found all over the world. It is the selective pressure lambic brewers have placed on these microbes (as well as the masterful post-fermentation blending) that allows them to produce such remarkable beers. For decades these brewers and blenders have been reusing the barrels that make good beer, and getting rid of the ones that do not (burning them for fuel in the case of Cantillon). First use barrels are sometimes inoculated with microbe laden beer from an “established” barrel to give it the best chance to produce high-quality beer. All of this effort on the part of the brewer/blender reduces the role luck plays by providing each batch with proven microbes (in addition to the ones that randomly land in the cooling beer).

Many American brewers mimic this process by racking their "spontaneous" beer into barrels that have previously held successful sour beers (which often used commercial bugs). For example Russian River Beatification is allowed to start fermenting in the mash tun before it is moved to barrels that have already been used multiple times for other sour beers, ensuring they are already saturated with microbes and lacking oak character. Vinnie Cilurzo, the head brewer at Russian River, cleans his barrels aggressively with hot water between each batch, allowing only the strong microbes to survive.

Wider is better because it gives more surface area for microbes to land.
Ambient temperature is supposed to be the key indicator for determining when the best time to capture wild microbes is. Wild Brews report that during the hot summer lactic acid bacteria is too prevalent for successful spontaneous fermentations (other people say Acetobacter is the issue). Hot temperatures also slow natural cooling, which allow thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria more time to thrive before the wort cools enough for yeast to ferment. Whatever the reason, most lambic producers take the summer off from brewing, so I decided to follow their lead for my first attempt. At the other end of the mercury, if the outside temperature is below freezing there may not be enough wild microbes to ensure a quick start to fermentation. Allagash only brews their "Coolship Series" beers in the fall and spring skipping the winter since it gets much colder in Maine than it does in the Senne Valley.

Most homebrewer who attempt spontaneous fermentations seem to report poor results from leaving the wort open during natural cooling for inoculation. With this method you are relying 100% on the microbes that happen to fall into your beer. To help reduce the risk of major off-flavors I decided to capture microbes in starters that I could propagate before pitching them into the wort. I made four pints of low gravity (1.030) wort from malt extract, 1/2 oz aged hops, and a pinch of yeast nutrient. I divided the hot wort into three metal pots, each covered with a layer of cheesecloth secured with a rubber-band (to prevent insects from crawling/flying/dropping into the wort as it cooled). I placed these starters to cool in my backyard (40-45 F), upstairs (60-65 F), and barrel room (55-60 F).

The barrel room starter, ready to catch some microbes.I was hoping that the aged hops included in the starter wort would prevent Lactobacillus from lowering the pH before the yeast was able to start fermenting. At this stage of the process aged hops are not strictly required because any bitterness fresh hops impart would be diluted before it reaches the main fermentation. With that being said, I still wanted to see what sort of character the lambic hops (3 year old Willamettes) that I purchased from Freshops last fall would contribute.

The following morning, with the wort cooled and hopefully teaming with life, I moved the three starters into bottles/growlers and left them at ~62 F. I did not give the wort additional aeration except for what it received during funneling. I also attached airlocks to reduce the chance that aerobic microbes would gain a foothold. I was torn by this decision because yeast cells need oxygen to reproduce effectively.

After a couple of days I observed the first signs of activity in all three of the starters (small krausens and a few bubbles through the airlocks). I left them alone for three weeks, enough time for the yeast and lactic acid bacteria to make enough alcohol and lactic acid to kill any enteric bacteria (like E. coli). I would skip tasting the starters at this stage, while no known pathogens can live in fermented beer that isn’t the case for unfermented wort.

The stepped up ambient starters, hard at work.
After three weeks, the "upstairs" starter had grown black mold on the surface of the wort and smelled rather foul (dumper). The “outside” starter had some white mold and smelled a bit spicy (keeper). The “barrel room” starter had no mold and smelled like over-ripe fruit (keeper). I took the two keepers and doubled their volume with fresh unhopped starter wort, and moved them to (sanitized) clear one gallon fermenters so I could see what was going on. Instead of an airlock I capped each jug with a piece of aluminum foil and I shook the fermenters every time I walked by to get oxygen into solution. Both started fermenting quickly and smelled pretty clean. The outside starter fermented a bit more rapidly and produced a mildly sulfury aroma, while the barrel room starter took its time and produced more fruity/funky aromatics. When fermentation slowed down I reattached the airlocks to prevent mold from reappearing.  After two more weeks both starters had developed a light lemony tartness.

Yesterday I brewed five gallons of a turbid mashed lambic, once it was chilled to 70 F I pitching about one quart of each of the starters (but more on that next week). It is going to be tough to wait more than a year to see how this one turns out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

90 Shilling Stout Tasting

Stout was originally an English invention, but over the last few hundred years the style has been spread around the world.  Brewers have changed it to suit the local tastes and ingredients, morphing it into sweet, refreshing tropical versions; monstrous, bourbon-barrel-aged American variants; and dry, bitter, Irish stout.  There are other dark beers, but stouts are loosely held together by having roast as their primary flavor.  As I've discussed in the past, the umbrella categories of porter and stout are indistinguishable in many cases (if someone wanted to call this batch a Scottish porter it would be hard for me to argue).

This 90 Shilling Stout was inspired by traditional Scottish breweries like Traquair House that get their caramelized complexity from an extended vigorous boil (not crystal malts).  I simply increased the percentage of roasted barley to 5% from the standard 1-2% to darken the beer and add a balancing coffee-like roasted flavor.  This is the most satisfying type of beer for me to taste, based on an idea rather than a specific commercial example or style guideline.

Despite being 6.5% ABV, this Scottish Stout calls for a glass not a snifter.90/- Stout

Appearance – Cocoa brown body with clear mahogany highlights when held to a light. The khaki head floating on top is composed of tiny bubbles. Decent lacing, but the head does not last as long as I would like.

Smell – Light roasted coffee, caramel, and toasted bread. The aroma also has a rustic/woody character that I assume is from the ECY Scottish Heavy strain.

Taste – The flavor is toastier than the aroma, the Maris Otter really comes through. The roast is smooth and coffee-like (without acrid harshness). The light bitterness is enough to balance out the moderate malt sweetness. The finish has the same oaky character from the nose, complex for such a simple recipe.

Mouthfeel – Restrained carbonation, making the medium body feel creamy.

Drinkability & Notes – A beautiful session stout (although the alcohol is a bit too high for a long session). The malt/yeast complexity is what brings me back for a second sip, but the balance is what convinces me to have a second glass.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Portsmouth Kate the Great Clone Recipe

More than five pounds of specialty malts, probably the most I've used in a 5 gallon batch.
Russian Imperial Stout is one of the styles that I enjoy drinking, but have yet to master brewing.  The best examples of the style are smooth, balanced, and have a depth of roasted complexity that I have yet to replicate.  I've made some solid attempts (like my Breakfast Stout Riff), but none that I've been completely satisfied with.

One of my favorite commercial examples, Portsmouth Brewing's Kate the Great. Like a lot of other notable beers the release for Kate is very limited, which makes bottles tough get.  In fact Kate the Great is released at the brewpub just one day each year (it sells out quickly due to how rare/popular it is).  A few years ago, before it was bottled/hyped, there were a couple month each winter when you could drive up to the brewpub (as I did when I lived in Massachusetts) to get a snifter of it with dinner.

One of the aspects I like about brewing (or cooking) someone else's recipe is that it forces me to try combinations that I wouldn't otherwise.  Sometimes I learn something that changes the way I write recipes, other times it reinforces what I already thought.  This clone recipe comes straight from Todd Mott (Portsmouth Brewing's brewer) by way of a post on Homebrew Talk.  It is a complex recipe that calls for eleven malts and six hops.  In an NPR interview Todd previously mentioned that the brewery adds brown sugar to Kate, but this recipe didn't mention it.  This recipe is the polar opposite of the 90 Shilling Stout I just put on tap, which had only two malts and one hop.

I had to use my big mash tun for this batch.
I had to add one pound of light dry malt extract to the boil because my efficiency was considerably lower than I had anticipated.  I adjusted the hop bill based on what I had on hand, with six months or more of age on the beer the hops will not be a big factor in the final character anyway.  I had a yeast cake of WY1272 (American Ale II) from my India Red Ale so I pitched part of that instead of the WY1056 (American Ale) that was called for.  These two strains have similar attenuation and produce similarly clean flavors when fermented in the 60s F.

The combination of the hops, dark malt, wheat, and flaked barley lead to a thick krausen.This combination of yeast and wort produced one of the most aggressive fermentations I've seen (about 1.25 gallons went out the blow-off tube despite ambient temperatures in the mid-50s).  After 36 hours the yeast was still ejecting beer so I decided to pour the remaining liquid into an eight gallon bucket (where I should have started fermentation).  Luckily I began with a bit of extra wort, so I still yielded 4 gallons of beer when primary fermentation was complete.

This massive stout is currently sitting on 3/4 oz of port soaked French oak cubes for the next few months until I get around to bottling it.  A keg seemed like a good aging vessel since I won't have to worry about topping off an airlock, and I could purge it with CO2. Hopefully it will be ready to drink by the end of the year.

Kate the Great Clone

Recipe Specifics
---------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 24.03
Anticipated OG: 1.101
Anticipated SRM: 51.4
Anticipated IBU: 73.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63 %
Wort Boil Time: 135 Minutes

Grain/Extract
----------------
73.9% - 17.75 lbs. American Pale "2-row"
4.2% - 1.00 lbs. Light DME
3.4% - 0.81 lbs. Flaked Barley
3.4% - 0.81 lbs. Special B
3.4% - 0.81 lbs. Wheat Malt
2.9% - 0.69 lbs. Carafa Special III
2.3% - 0.56 lbs. Aromatic Malt
2.1% - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
1.8% - 0.44 lbs. Roasted Barley (~500L)
0.9% - 0.22 lbs. Black Patent Malt
0.9% - 0.22 lbs. Chocolate Malt
0.9% - 0.22 lbs. Crystal 120L

Hops
-------
2.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 13.00% AA) @ 75 min.
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet, 5.25% AA) @ 0 min.

Extras
These small mason jars are perfect for soaking oak cubes in wines/spirits.--------
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.75 oz Port soaked medium toast French oak cubes for 120 days

Yeast
-------
WYeast 1272 American Ale II

Mash Schedule
-------------------
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 149

Notes
--------
3/26/11 Brewed by myself

Mash started a bit cool so i infused a bit of boiling water after 10 minutes to keep it up, by the end of the mash it was down in the mid-140s. pH was a bit low (5.1) half way through the mash, so I added 2 g each chalk and baking soda.

Collected 3.5 gallons of first runnings. Batch sparged with 180 F water and collected 3.75 gallons of second runnings. Gravity 1.068... a bit lower than I was expecting. Boiled down 2 gallons of extra final runnings I collected to add to the beer.

Added 1 lb of light DME to a quart of the wort, brought to a boil, and added to the cooling wort since I was still under gravity.

Chilled to 68 and pitched onto the yeast cake from my hoppy red. Shook to aerate, then pumped in 60 seconds of O2. Left at 57 F ambient to start fermenting.

Massive blow-off. After 36 hours I poured it into an 8 gallon bucket since it was still losing beer. Maybe 1.25 gallons blown off.

4/2/11 Moved to 62 F and added an airlock to let it finish fermenting (still had a really thick krausen). Looks like it is down to about 4 gallons, I'll be lucky to get 3.5 gallons of finished beer out of this one.

4/9/11 Racked to a keg, added .75 oz of port soaked French oak cubes, flushed with CO2. Got about 4 gallons, not as bad as I feared.  Down to 1.028 (71% AA, 10% ABV), may drop another point or two, but it is fine as is.  Left in the mid-60s to age.

9/25/11 Filled a 1 gallon just with 1 1/8 oz Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 each guajillo and ancho peppers all steeped in 1 cup of boiling water. 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract added as well.

Bottled the remaining 2.75 gallons with 1.5 oz of cane sugar and a gram of rehydrated wine yeast.  The beer had developed some carbonation in the keg from slow fermentation.  Beer still seemed pretty cloudy.

10/4/11 Decent carbonation already, big port character, really smooth roast, going to be a winner.

10/30/1 Tastes great, but is too carbonated. Not sure if it was the wine yeast eating more than the priming sugar or what...

11/5/11 Bottled the resulting 1 gallon of the portion that had been on chilies with ~1 g of rehydrated Premire Cuvee and .5 oz of table sugar. It looked like there was a bit of wild yeast growth on the floating chilies on the top, but it tasted great.

12/15/11 Tasting of the plain version. Not a bad beer, but just not enough roast to be a great RIS. I'd probably go 50% higher (if not double) the roasted barley, chocolate, and black if I brewed it again.

4/23/12 Tasting of the Mole version. I like this one a lot, but it could have been mashed a couple degrees warmer. I could go slightly higher on the cocoa, and with vanilla bean instead of extract as well.

-----------------------------
I will give you #s for a full mash and a partial mash, since it is pretty much impossible to brew Kate with an all extract recipe.

When we brew a batch of Kate we use 77% Pale malt, 2% Crystal 45, 1% Caramel 120, 1% Chocolate malt,1% Black malt, 3% Carafa DH# 3 (Weyerman),3.5% Wheat malt 3.5% Flaked Barley, 2% Roasted malt, 3.5% Special B, 2.5% Aromatic. We dough in at 166 to stabilize the mash at 149 degrees F. Saccrification rest for 45 min. or until conversion occurs. Vorlauff (recirculate) 'til clarified and run off. Collect about 1/3rd of your wort and sparge to collect 6.5 gals (for a 5 gal. yield) at 26 degrees Plato or 1.104 degrees Specific Gravity. Yea it's big.... but we like it like that!! (So you are going to need to use your mash tun efficiency to figure out how many pounds of malt you are going to need in total. But to tell you the truth when you get to this thick of a mash your efficiency is going to drop 3-4%).

Boil the wort for 5 mins. for the hot break and then add your bittering hops for 75 mins. We bitter at 38 IBUs with Magnum, 10 IBUs with Styrian Golding and 15 IBUs with Perle. This is the bittering addition. We add a flavor addition for 15 mins with Centennial for 2 IBUS. Our final addition of Palisade, Styrian Golding and Willamette account for about 3 more IBUs at whirlpool. Cool wort and pitch a good amount of White labs WLP 001 or Wyeast 1056 and ferment til it is done. Put into conditioning for about 5 or 6 months and you'll have an amazing imperial stout.

Good luck. Hope this helps Cheers! Tod Mott

"All of Kate is lightly oaked. We make our own Portwood simply by infusing oak spirals ( The Barrel Mill, Avon, MN- 800.201.7125) with local Port. Of course if I told you the amounts and proportions I have to kill you!! Actually, we take 6 spirals and break them up, place them into a 10 gal. corny keg and pour 3 bottles of Tawney Port over the spirals. We add about 10 PSI to the keg and let the concoction sit for 18-25 days. Then we fill the remainder of the 10 gal. keg with Kate. Let it sit at ambient temp for 45-60 days then inject the 10 gals back into the 440 gals of KtG. Once the keg is empty we then back fill the 10 gals and let the Kate sit on the oak for another 6 months. This become the double oaked Kate. Very rare, only about 56 bottles produced. Hope this helps. Kate can age for 6 years once in bottles, if truth be known!! Cheers! Tod Mott"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hair of the Dog Adam Clone Tasting

I got the beer really cold before applying 10 PSI with the carb cap.It has been a year and a half since I last posted thoughts on my attempt to copy Hair of the Dog's Adam.  It never carbonated (one of the risks of bottle conditioning a high alcohol beer), but through the magic of a carb cap I can pump some pressured CO2 into a bottle before serving.  I've been meaning to adapt the technique from this recipe (boiling down past the target volume and then topping back up with water post-boil) to make a 100% Maris Otter English barleywine.  It seems like a simple recipe would be a good way to actually gauge what the long concentrated boil is accomplishing without specialty malts complicating things.

HotD Adam Clone

Appearance – Viewed straight on it is deep, dark, impenetrable blackness, but held up to the light the edges are clear amber/red. The head is light tan, and composed of really fine bubbles. Decent retention leaving some lacing down the sides of the tulip.

Smell – Aged doppelbock: prunes, bready malt, and light chocolate. There is some subtle earthy smoke, but nothing too aggressive.

It is amazing how much a little carbonation improves my Adam Clone.Taste – The spicy smoke helps to cut through the residual malt sweetness (it does not have that really strong iodine-bog flavor that some peat smoked beers get). There is a mild balancing bitterness as well, but even when fresh it never tasted as sharp as the 66 IBUs would suggest. There are some pleasant dark fruity oxidation flavors, but no cardboard (or worse). The smoke character reminds me of a lightly bourbon barrel aged beer, providing some of those same notes that a charred barrel brings.

Mouthfeel – Thick and coating body (almost sticky) with moderate-low carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – This one has aged into a beauty, complex, but still drinkable. The bitterness and smoke make it easier to drink than most aged German beers that head toward cloying as they age.  This is about as close as I could imagine getting to the original, great recipe.  I'm down to my last six-pack, sorry to see it so low when it is drinking so well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

India Red Ale Recipe

Strong boil for the American Red.
I try to keep a hoppy beer on one of the two taps of my kegerator at all times.  I'm often disappointed when I buy hop forward beers at the store, not that craft brewers aren’t making some tremendous IPAs, but too often by the time I take them home they aren't as fresh as they should be.  I've given up buying any beers where freshness counts that aren't dated (or just released).  One of my least favorite characters in a beer is the stale odor of oxidized American hops, for some reason aged out European hops don't bother me nearly as much. 

There aren't many red/amber ales I love, too often they have an unbalanced caramel sweetness, sold more on appearance than flavor.  I brewed Jamil's Red Ale recipe a few years ago, but it wasn't hoppy enough for my tastes (his recipe in Brewing Classic Styles looks better).  Founder Red's Rye PA has been one of my favorite beers for years though, and there are certainly a few others that I've thoroughly enjoyed (like North Coast’s Red Seal Ale and Maine Beer Co.’s Zoe Ale).  My recipe is not intended to be a clone of Red's Rye (or anything else), but I borrowed the idea of hopping a red ale like an IPA rather than a Pale Ale. 

A starter of American Ale II.For the grist, in addition to pale malt I added a couple German cara-malts to add some sweetness and caramel flavor, and pale chocolate to increase the color without adding a roasted flavor (a smaller amount of Carafa Special would work as well).  The hopping strategy was the same as many of my hoppy beers, with additions at the start and end of the boil, as well as two additions in the keg (one at room temperature followed by another cold while serving).  I used a combination of Centennial and Amarillo, two of the fruitier American hops. 

I've read a lot of debate about how long it takes for dry hops to impart a "grassy" flavor.  Many people report just a couple weeks, but that doesn't match with my experiences (I've left whole hops in the keg for months without issue).  My assumption is that the green flavor brewers are getting is chlorophyll.  As a result pelletized hops (which have been ground up exposing the interior of their cells) would cause the problem faster than whole hops (for the same reason that mowing the lawn makes it smell grassier).  This batch used all pellet hops (leftovers from my recently kicked Pliny the Younger clone), so it will be interested to see if I notice any difference with how the flavor changes as it sits on tap.

India Red Ale

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.50
Anticipated OG: 1.060
Anticipated SRM: 13.7
Anticipated IBU: 66.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain
-------
85.7% - 9.00 lbs. American Pale "2-row"
6.0% - 0.63 lbs. CaraHell
6.0% - 0.63 lbs. CaraMunich
2.4% - 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate Malt

Hops
-------
2.00 oz. Centennial (Pellet, 8.50% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet 6.70% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Centennial (Pellet, 8.50% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet 6.70% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Centennial (Pellet, 8.50% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet 6.70% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 oz. Centennial (Pellet, 8.50% AA) @ Keg Hop

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

Yeast
-------
WYeast 1272 American Ale II

Mash Schedule
-------------------
Sacch Rest - 40 min @ 149 F
Sacch Rest II - 15 min @ 155 F

Notes
-------
3/19/11 Made a 2 L starter with 6 oz of DME. Quick start, going strong after 6 hours. Shook several times.

Brewed 3/20/11 with Audrey

Collected 6.5 gallons of 1.050 runnings from a batch sparge.

Slight boil-over after switching propane tanks mid-boil

Added half of flame out hops, waited 10 minutes before chilling. Waited 1 minute after chilling started to add the second dose of hops. Forgot to add gypsum earlier, so tossed in 4 g midway through chilling.

Chilled to 67 F. Decanted 1 L of the starter, pitched, and shook for 3 minutes to aerate. Left at ~62 F ambient to start fermenting.

Good fast start to fermentation.

3/26/11 A bit of krausen left, but I needed the yeast cake so I racked to a keg left at ~62 F to finish fermenting if needed.

4/2/11 Added 1 oz each centennial and Amarillo pellets in a hop bag with some marbles to weigh them down.  Gravity was still 1.018, hoping it will drop a bit more now that the temperature is a few degrees higher (tasted great though).

4/9/11 Moved to the kegerator before switching out the hops and hooking up to the gas. 6 hours later switched the hops out for a fresh dose, and hooked up to 10 PSI.

5/11/11 What a great beer, nice citrus hop character, plenty of toasty malt to back it up, not too sweet.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Russian River Temptation Clone Tasting

Thanks for the bottle of Russian River Temptation, Dyan...Over the next few weeks I'm going to revisit a few batches that I haven't done tastings for in more than a year (hopefully before the weather gets too hot and my interest in drinking well aged complex beers wanes).  Seth and I brewed this Temptation Clone about three and a half years ago.  Some of the stronger funky flavors have calmed down a lot since I did my first tasting, but sadly the acidity never increased to where I wanted it.

One of the issues I had with this batch was that I tried to follow Russian River's process too closely without taking into account the areas where I wasn't able to.  The saccharification rest called for (151 F) was lower than I would have usually selected and I only used microbes grown from the oak chips Vinnie inoculated with the Russian River's house culture.  I think this is an important point, if you can't imitate a brewer's technique 100% you may need to make adjustments in other areas to compensate.  In this case because I wasn't barrel aging or pitching a large amount of healthy Lacto/Pedio cells I should have upped my mash temp to ensure the bugs had more complex carbohydrates to work on.

It wasn't a complete loss though, the beer is still delicious and it reminded me to look at the entire process when changing any single variable.

A glass of Temptation clone, my sours always seem to clear eventually.RR Temptation Clone

Appearance – The bright white head is about two fingers thick to start, but it quickly sinks to a patchy covering. The body of the beer is clear golden yellow.

Smell – The nose is a complex blend of fruit (apples, pears), aged white wine, acid, and a subtle floral funk. It still has a relatively fresh aroma despite its advanced age.

Taste – The flavor is mildly tart with a slight malty sweetness starting to creep in. The flavor is still snappy, but it has started to lose some of the firmness it once had. The Brett funk is still wonderful though, with hay and lemons. The wine flavor is more restrained than it once was, but it still has a white grape character.

Mouthfeel – Good medium-light body, solid carbonation without being spritzy.  Not as carbonated and champagne-like as the original.

Drinkability & Notes – A wild beer that is balanced and easy to drink, but is it as good as Temptation? Of course not. However it is a solid complex winey sour blonde. It certainly would benefit from some additional acidity, which could be accomplished by mashing hotter and adding a higher pitching rate of microbes along with the primary yeast.

Monday, April 4, 2011

If I wrote a book on brewing sour beer, would you buy it?

Yes - 64%
Maybe - 26%
No - 8%
426 Votes

At the moment I'm about 45,000 words into writing an as yet untitled book on the variety of methods for producing sour beer.  Wild Brews is a great book, but it spends 95% of its focus on tradition Belgian techniques.  My goal is to write a book that takes a closer look at the production methods homebrewers and American craft brewers have developed to produce tart and funky beers.  I'm relying mostly on the experience I've gained brewing ~40 batches of sour beer over the last five years (plus the time I've spent assisting at breweries and brewpubs), but I'll also be pestering every brewer that has made a name for themselves with acid beers.  

The book is not going to be a compilation of rehashed posts; it will be a distillation of everything I've learned about making great sour beers.  The draft already contains my thoughts on all the relevant topics, but I'm still compiling information on how craft breweries operate from interviews, articles, and websites (before I start contacting the brewers directly to fill in the gaps).  

I'm not sure what the time frame for the project is going to be, but I'd certainly like to have it out by the end of the year.  At the moment self-publishing looks like the best option (Lulu or something similar), but I'll probably harass some actual publishers as well once it gets closer to being finished.

How you can help
Leave a comment or send me an email with any questions you'd like to have answered (either by me or a specific brewer), any topic/technique/style/beer you would like to know more about, anyone you think I should talk to, any experiments you think I should carry out, and any other suggestions you have.  Ideally the book will not only help someone brew their first sour beer but also be deep enough to give people who have been brewing them for years some inspiration.

Thanks to everyone who has sent me encouraging words over the past five years (and everyone who has linked to the blog, commented, sent me beers, or shared their knowledge).  And don't worry, the blog will continue to receive regular updates (in fact I'm a little bit behind posting about a couple batches I have going).

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