Monday, December 15, 2014

Secrets of the Best Brewers

Beers at Cambridge Brewing Company. I’d hope that virtually all professional brewers understand the basics: sanitation, hitting target gravity, pitching rates, fermenting temperature, taking detailed notes etc. Then what is it that separates the breweries that consistently release delicious beers, from those that are reliably mediocre? Is it simply recipe design? Equipment? There is no single path, but talking with brewers I respect over the last few years, some commonalities emerge.

Great brewers tend to:

1. Develop their palates. They drink great beers in the best possible condition, ideally at breweries and brewpubs. They drink with other talented brewers frequently, but in moderation (blow-out tastings and festivals are fun, but what are you really learning from an ounce of beer #15?).

2. Find flavor combinations in beers, beverages, foods, history, and other experiences. They don’t mimic, but rather find inspiration from others’ beers. Few great beers are “clones,” but many do start as reinterpretations or riffs. Great brewers dissect the beers they enjoy. Some talk to the brewer to gain specific process information, others take their own approach.

3. Focus on a subset of beer styles. It is challenging enough to brew even one world-class beer, it is nearly impossible to do it for multiple disparate styles. They pick a stylistic area and try to master it: English ales, hoppy American beers, strong/dark beers, sour fruit beers etc. How many great breweries make a top-tier American IPA, Munich Helles, and ESB? Compare that to the number that many make a wonderful American pale ale, IPA, and DIPA (or delicious hefeweizen, dunkleweizen, and Weizenbock).

Barrels at Trillium Brewing Co.4. Think that results are more important than how natural or local the ingredients are. It is fun to use locally foraged oats or hops picked by monks, but if the flavor isn’t as good as those from a larger or more remote producer, then what is the point? Hop extract is used for bittering many of the best IPAs. I love adding local fruit to my sour beers, but East Coast hops have repeatedly let me down.

5. Critically evaluate ingredient quality. Tasting grains, smelling hops, and inspecting barrels. Realize that not all crystal 60, Simcoe, or bourbon barrels are equal. This level of care can be difficult to maintain as the production scale increases, but size does come with advantages. Micro-brewers can go to Yakima or Hallertau to select hop lots, while bigger breweries work directly with producers to have them grow and process the way they want. If you open a bag of hops or malt that doesn’t smell terrific, don’t use it!

6. Understand how to work with pH. The amount of acidity in the mash, wort, and beer can have a profound influence on the expression of flavors in the finished beer. The more measurements you take and the more often you rebrew a recipe the quicker you will learn what produces the best results.

IPAs at Alesmith.7. Dump second-rate beer. This may sound simple, but it can be a challenge especially for a commercial brewery with thin profit margins. I’m not just talking about getting rid of beer that’s infected or reeks of diacetyl. I mean dumping beer that is fine, but not outstanding! Don’t be afraid to try something and fail, but on a scale where failure is an option.

8. Maintain a house culture. Many great brewers have their own microbes either they maintain or at a lab. These strains add a unique flavor, especially once you learn how to coax a particular flavor profile. If you get your hands on a strain you love, bank it. Even if you don’t have a unique house strain, treat your favorite commercial strain like one. After assessing all of the options, use the best one until you really understand how it reacts to various conditions.

9. Adjust “finished” beers based on flavor. Whether it is acidity, water salts, dry hop amount/time, blending batches, flavor concentrates/extracts, unfermentable sugars etc. Realize that brew day isn’t where the choices end. As a homebrewer you actually have more options than commercial brewers because you are allowed to blend in spirits and other fermented beverages.

10. Go to great lengths to prevent oxidation. While most brewers purge bright tanks and kegs with CO2, some go much further for hoppy beers especially. For example, Societe Brewing Company pushes their fermented beers with CO2, rather than pumping.

Barrels at Societe Brewing.11. Serve beer at its flavor peak. Hoppy beers and wheat beers go downhill especially quickly (starting within weeks). Limited production helps setup a positive feedback loop where the beer is fresher and thus tastes great, helping it to fly off the shelf, which in turn means that it is generally fresher... Conversely beers that are strong, dark, or sour age well; the more of that aging a brewery can do before selling these beers, the better. In general learning when your beer will be at its best, and assuming it is drank as near to that as possible.

12. Market their beers well. As much as it pains me to say it, having a unique bottle, gorgeous label, stellar reputation, or great story really do make a beer taste better. Set the correct expectations for the beer drinker, and exceed them with the beer. Blind tastings help to avoid undue influence when judging, but miss how beers are experienced in the wild.

Hopefully this (incomplete) list gives perspective on where to focus if you aren’t satisfied with the beers you brew. To borrow a phrase, you taste great breweries' highlight reels, don't judge your average batch against that. While homebrewers have several disadvantages compared to commercial breweries, we have some advantages as well. Get the basics down first, but don’t narrow your focus on styles or ingredients too early while you work to master the first couple stages of homebrewing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coconut-Vanilla Milk Stout Recipe

Shredded coconut before toasting.My favorite bourbon-barrel-aged stouts aren't the ones that taste like beer with a shot of bourbon dropped in, instead the chocolatey roasted malts are offset by sweet vanilla, toasted coconut, and a touch or boozy heat. Why not try a shortcut then (avoiding the time, effort, and risk of acquiring a used barrel to age stout in), by adding real vanilla and coconut from the supermarket?

The base beer I brewed is an inky oatmeal stout, at a sessionable 4.9% ABV. I added three roasted malts and two crystal malts to give it the malty intensity of a stronger beer. I dry hopped the other half of the 10 gallon batch with three ounces of Simcoe (inspired by Goose Island Night Stalker). As a result I settled on 30 IBUs, a little higher on the bitterness than I would have if I had brewed the sweet portion alone.

Coconut at the end of toasting.For the coconut I purchased one pound of unsweetened shredded coconut from the bulk bins (hopefully fresher than the bagged stuff). It had a mellow sweet-floral flavor as is, but I wanted something darker and more intense to jive with the roasted grains. I placed all of the coconut in a large skillet set to medium-low heat. After 20 minutes of constantly stirring the coconut took on a golden brown color and exuded an enticing toasted coconut aroma. It is helpful to do this in a pan with good heat conductivity to avoid hot spots (I used my 12-inch tri-ply Tramontina skillet – I’ve been satisfied with it so far and a set of their pots is the same price as a single All-Clad saucier).

I watched Alex Tweet use this process for a coconut cocoa-nib variant of Black House while I was at Modern Times summer of 2013 (Alex has since moved on to be head brewer at Fieldwork Brewing Co.). After the coconut achieved the desired level of color in a keggle he blotted the oily shreds with paper towels to wick-away much of the head-destroying oil. So I did the same, rolling up the coconut in a few layers and letting it drain. There is no practical way to remove all of the oil, but hopefully most of what makes it through is left behind in the fermentor or floats to the top in the keg. I lowered a weighted bag of coconut into the primary fermentor then dropped in two vanilla beans split lengthwise.

Toasted coconut, really closeup.A sample pulled at five days indicated it had reached the level of character I was hoping for. Fermentation had dried the beer out to 1.018, so I did a few measured blends and settled on adding half a pound of lactose (briefly boiled in a pint of water) to the keg – technically transforming this into a milk stout. No reason to add lactose or maltodextrin any earlier than packaging. It is a little more work than adding it to the boil, but waiting and tasting avoids the risk of an overly-sweet result!

To add another layer of velvety decadence I bought a beer-gas tank and a stout tap (treat yo self 2014!). If the oils from the coconut destroy the head retention, I'll be really disappointed! I’ll have more on how that goes when I post the tasting notes in a couple weeks. The addition will be part of my upgraded kegerator build; my original is third-hand and starting to look pretty sorry considering the rust spots. It was time for a couple more real taps anyway!

Coconut-Vanilla and Dry-Hopped Oatmeal Stout

Recipe Specifics
--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 11.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 28.50
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 37.6
Anticipated IBU: 30.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
--------------
70.2% - 20.00 lbs. Maris Otter
14.0% - 4.00 lbs. Quaker Quick Oats
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Simpsons Crystal 55L
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Briess Crystal 80L
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Crisp Roasted Barley
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Weyermann Chocolate Wheat 
1.8% - 0.50 lbs. Franco Belges KilnCoffee

Hops
------
2.25 oz. Palisade (Whole 8.00% AA) @ 60 min.
3.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

Bagged coconut, tied up to stay submerged.Extras
-------
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min. 
1 lbs. Toasted Coconut @ Fermentor
2.00 Vanilla Beans @ Fermentor
.5 lb Lactose @ Keg

Yeast
------
White Labs WLP004 Irish Stout

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

Mash Schedule
-------------
Sacch Rest - 70 min  @ 152F

Notes
-----
11/20/14 3 L starter on the stir-plate.

11/22/14 Crash chilled starter.

11/23/14 17 gallons mash water, no-sparge.

w/o treatment 5.9 pH at room temperature - close enough.

Temp fell more than expected, turned on heat while recirculating to get back up to 160F before sending to kettle.

Collected 13 gallons of 1.053 runnings. Added 5 g of CaCl as it came to a boil

Bagged the hops.

Chilled to 65 F with plate chiller. Oxygenated for 60 seconds, then split the decanted and ambient temp yeast between the two fermentors. Left at 67F to start fermenting. Moved to the 60F basement after 18 hours.

11/26/14 Dry hopped half with 3 oz of bagged whole Simcoe. Upped to 67F to ensure fermentation is complete.

12/3/14 Added 1 lb of unsweetened shredded coconut (Whole Foods bulk) that I toasted for 20 minutes until crisp and brown. Plus two split vanilla beans, via Pete's eBay buy.

12/8/14 Down to 1.018. Kegged both versions. Added .5 lb of lactose to the coconut/vanilla half. Purged both with CO2, although that tank was running out. Hooked the coconut keg up to beer-gas the next day in the freezer set to 35F.

1/14/15 Tasting of the dry hopped portion. It expresses a nice mixture of dry hops and roasted grains. Not much I would change for a rebrew, except to back off the roasted barley slightly to remove the charred edge. pH is 4.30.

2/10/15 Tasting of the coconut-vanilla portion. Really delicious, nice balance of the extras and the base beer. A little sweet, but worth it for the silky body in a 5% ABV beer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Berliner Weisse #4 Tasting

I brewed my fourth batch of Berliner Weisse spring 2012. The twist for this iteration was that I skipped my usual single decoction mash (to see how the method might perform if I were forced to brew it on a commercial system incapable of decoctions). I’m well aware that decoctions repeatedly fail to impress in blind tastings (e.g., Decoction: Worth the Effort in Zymurgy Nov/Dec 2014), but psychological or otherwise I tend to enjoy decocted batches more than similar infusion-mashed batches. Sour beers are notoriously tricky to run experiments for, because even two batches with the same process and microbes can come out pretty different. So don't read too much into the results for this batch!

Other than the mash alteration, my process was the same as my previous batches: mash hops, no boil, and a mixture of clean ale yeast, Lactobacillus, and Brettanomyces. The other half of this batch was fermented with nothing but Lactobacillus. This is actually my forth tasting involving portions of this brew day! This half worked very well with rhubarb.

Floor Berliner.Berliner Weisse 4 – “No Decoction”

Appearance – The frothy white head recedes quickly, leaving only a wispy covering. Crystal clear blonde body (despite the 0 minute boil and lots of wheat malt). Certainly looks like a real Berliner weisse.

Smell – Green apple, dusty Brett, and light pilsner malt. Funkier than a Berliner weisse typically is, but about where I like them. However, it’s a bit stodgy, musty, and not as alive as it could be. I'd hoped the Brett Trois would bring the citrus a bit more.

Taste – Bright lactic tartness, but not sharply acidic. Slight doughiness in the finish, luckily no Cheerios-cereal. No alcohol or hops. Two-and-a-half years old and sadly tasting like twice that. It lacks a freshness and vibrancy that a sour beer should still have at this age.

Mouthfeel – Thin, mildly spritzy, plenty crisp. Great mouthfeel!

Drinkability & Notes – Solid, but not my favorite batch of Berliner. Not as refreshing as it should be. Likely a combo of the skipped decoction and the lackluster activity from the Lactobacillus. I’m enjoying the early results of my fifth Berliner much more!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Extract Sour Stout on Blackberries and Beach Plums

After 200 all-grain beers, it is nice to take pictures of a different process.Everyone knows that malt extract is what gives beers that gross “homebrew” flavor. The reason is that the malt flavors become too concentrated and ummm… as a result becomes oxidized by the Maillard reactions during storage? Seriously though, most of the off-flavors many homebrewers remember from their early batches were a result of issues with the concentrated boil, sanitation, or fermentation. With a full boil and the benefits of an experienced brewer’s fermentation process, extract batches can be every bit as good as all-grain! However, what you gain in ease of brewing, you give up in control. As a result, malt extract is best used for beers in the middle of the fermentability spectrum, golden or darker, and not driven by a characterful base malt.

While I’ve brewed a few delicious clean beers with extract over the years (like a hefeweizen and Belgian single), I’d never brewed a sour beer based on malt extract (although I have augmented with it). I decided to use it to evaluate the pack of Wyeast Oud Bruin Blend I had in the fridge. The blend, released as a summer 2014 VSS, combines brewer’s yeast and Lactobacillus. It is intended to turn out a drinkable sour beer in about two months, without attenuation as high as their similar De Bom Blend.

A pack of Wyeast Oud Bruin Blend.This recipe was inspired by the cherry variant of our sour bourbon-barrel porter that our barrel group brewed in 2010. I steeped the specialty malts in 165F water to extract their flavor. Unlike all-grain mashes where the enzymes from the base malt convert the dextrins in specialty malts (including caramel/crystal) into fermentable sugars, extract based beers retain these unfermentables into the fermentor. Hopefully those long-chain sugars provide some sweetness and body to balance the mild roast from the chocolate rye and ~300L roasted barley. For extracts I opted for rye LME and wheat DME. The extra proteins in each should help fortify the body.

Instead of sour cherries I selected 3.75 lbs of frozen blackberries. Blackberries don’t impart as distinct a flavor profile as cherries or raspberries. They are more generically fruity/winey, meaning they integrate without dominating. I had great luck with them in my first batch of Flemish red. I also tossed in a pound of beach plums harvested from my parents’ backyard (just a few yards from the mead pit). Instead of bourbon, I added oak cubes soaked in calvados along with one ounce of the remaining oak-infused liquor. It should be a unique flavor combination if nothing else!

I’ve got ingredients for an extract lambic I'm planning to brew soon as well! Closer to my standard fermentation process, and leaving the extract flavor a bit more exposed.

Soured stout racking onto blackberries.Sour Stout on Blackberries

Recipe Specifics
-------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.55
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 30.8
Anticipated IBU: 5.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50 %
Wort Boil Time: 40 Minutes

Grain/Extract
----------------
38.6% - 3.30 lbs. Briess CBW Rye LME
35.1% - 3.00 lbs. Munton's Wheat DME
8.8% - 0.75 lbs. Weyermann CaraMunich II
5.8% - 0.50 lbs. Weyermann Chocolate Rye
5.8% - 0.50 lbs. Briess Roasted Barley (300 L)
5.8% -  0.50 lbs. Briess Extra Special

Hops
------
0.50 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.50% AA) @ 35 min.

Beach plums right after harvesting.Extras
-------
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Yeast
------
WYeast 3209-PC Oud Bruin Blend

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

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Steep - 165 F for 30 min.

Notes
-------
Brewed 10/12/14

Stepped crushed specialty malts in 3 gallons of water starting at 165F for 30 minutes. Topped off with more filtered tap water with 2 g of CaCl.

Chilled to 73F. Shook briefly to aerate, pitched the yeast blend directly from the package.

11/10/14 Transferred five gallons of tart stout onto 3.75 lbs of frozen Whole Foods organic blackberries, and calvados soaked oak (6 cubes plus 1 oz of the steeping liquid)!

11/14/14 Added 1 lb of frozen beach plums harvested on Cape Cod in September.

12/16/14 Moved to basement. Around 50F, likely cold enough to preserve some sweetness.

1/29/15 Kegged, force carbonated. FG 1.012 (78% AA, 5.7% ABV). pH 3.67.

3/5/15 Tasting notes. Not as dark or stout-flavored as I expected (too light on the dark malts, and steeping less efficient than I expected). Otherwise nice lactic acidity and good fruit flavor. Enough sweetness to balance the malt and blackberries.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Phenols and Brett - Initial Results!

A few months ago I was asked to speak at a Mid-Atlantic Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA) meeting. I opted for an enhanced rendition of my 2014 National Homebrewers Conference presentation (The Influence of Mashing on Sour Beer Production - audio/slides for AHA members). The only significant complaint I received about my original presentation in Grand Rapids was that I didn't serve any beers to illustrate my points. The MBAA meeting was at Lost Rhino Brewing Co, easy driving distance, so I got brewing immediately. Glad I did because both the presentation and example beers were successes! Apparently I made enough sense to sell copies of American Sour Beers to a bunch of craft brewers (and even a couple MillerCoors guys)!

Taking a step back, on a hot July day I brewed two separate batches with identical malts and hops. For one batch I performed a single infusion mash and fermented with English Ale yeast. For the other I started with a ferulic acid rest (113F for 15 minutes), before raising to the same saccharification temperature, and then fermented with a Belgian Ale strain. The goal was to taste the influence of freeing additional ferulic acid from the malt and its subsequent conversion to spicy 4 vinylguiacol (4VG) by the yeast, compared to the control. According to the science, Brett takes 4VG and converts it into 4 ethylguiacol (4EG), a big part of the classic funky-phenolic-baryardy character.

That phenolic brewer's yeasts are more effective at converting ferulic acid to 4VG is one reason that 100% Brett fermentations tend to be less funky than their mixed-fermentation counterparts. While access to additional carbohydrates causes Brett to produce more esters (making 100% Brett beers fruitier) additional phenols are not generated in the same way.

A four month turnaround is a bit tight for a mixed-fermentation, but I did my best to speed the process along, pitching a starter of White Lab's Brettanomyces bruxellensis and naturally conditioning in the keg. Luckily there was about a gallon of each beer left in the kegs after my presentation, so I'll be able to revisit this tasting in six month or so!

Belgian/Ferulic (The Funky?)

Appearance – Hazy golden, headed towards light amber. This would likely clear up given more than a couple days in the fridge. The beautiful sticky white head trails solid sheets of lacing down the walls of the glass.

Smell – Very Belgian nose, mild spice, pear, Brett is there, but subtle. It is young, but at Brett-plus-100-days I was hoping for a little more funk. Pleasant, but not enticing.

Taste – Solid Belgian pale with Brett. Light hay, not much horse blanket (or "stallion cover" as a knock-off version of my book calls it) to be tasted. Could be drier, which should come with time. Some toasty-bready malt. Slight hop bitterness, but no real hop oil profile. Dry, but not bone dry.

Mouthfeel – Crisp body. Firm carbonation. As I hope for pale funky beers.

Drinkability & Notes – Nothing out of the ordinary, it reads as you would expect a young Belgian pale finished with Brett. Despite the time keg conditioning, it needs another few months to achieve the volume of Brett character I was anticipating.

The English/Control is on the left, and the Belgian/Ferulic is on the right.

English/Control (The Fruity?)

Appearance – Identical, if maybe a half tone darker/clearer. Same beautiful head and lacing.

Smell – This is where things get weird: big clove (aka 4VG)! The Brett is slowly working to convert the ferulic acid to 4VG, and apparently I caught it in the middle. No real funk yet, but assuming things continue like this there should be eventually.

Taste – Like a hefeweizen fermented cool with WLP380 Hefeweizen IV, very low fruit, but tons of clove and spice. No classic Brett character yet. As is the flavor is harsh and rather unappealing, especially as I was expecting this one to be fruitier. Comes across as slightly more bitter/harsh as well, almost a solvent edge.

Mouthfeel – Similar, but the carbonation is slightly higher. The primary fermentations finished at the same gravity, but I haven't checked them post-Brett yet.

Drinkability & Notes – This is why you take the time experiment (cough cough Experimental Brewing). While my original hypothesis was correct that the Belgian primary strain would accelerate the eventual production of funky 4EG, I didn’t expect the English primary strain to yield such a spicy beer at this point!

If nothing else, fermenting with a phenolic brewer's yeast seems to speed up the conversion of ferulic acid to 4EG in a beer with Brett. While I have made many wonderful sour beers with English, American, and lager yeast primary fermentations, it seems like Belgian (or hefeweizen) strains are your best bet if your goal is funk with a short turnaround time.

It will be really interesting to see where these two beers end up when the Brett characters stabilize. Will the funkiness of the English yeast primary fermentation eventually catch-up, or will there always be a difference in the level of funk? You'll find out as soon as I do!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pressure Canning Starter Wort

Using the pressure cooker to wash the jars and lids.Why do so many homebrewers skip starters for their liquid brewer's yeast? Pitching enough healthy cells can have a greater impact on the quality of a batch than anything else you do on brew day! Maybe because from start to finish making a starter can take almost an hour. Using an Erlenmeyer flask makes the task easier, by allowing you to boil, chill, and grow in a single vessel. Adding a stir-plate creates denser yeast cultures, the result is less wort to boil and chill for a given target cell count. Still I’m lucky if I can go from getting equipment out to pitching yeast in fewer than 30 minutes. Sometimes half an hour is hard to come by on a weeknight!

I weigh the DME into each jar.Not anymore! My new pressure cooker allows me to produce a large volume of shelf-stable sterile wort at one time. I can produce enough wort for 10 starters in one afternoon. That way all I have to do to make a starter is sanitize my flask and add the wort and yeast, done! The key is the pressure (15 PSI) generated by the canner causes the wort to boil at 250F (121C), hot enough to kill Clostridium botulinum in a reasonable amount of time (it would take 7 to 11 hours in boiling water). While boiling at 212F (100C) is more than enough to kill all the microbes brewers usually worry about, this is only because we are working under aerobic conditions initially and pitching enough brewer’s yeast to quickly lower the pH and produce alcohol thus inhibiting the nasty microbe responsible for botulism. C. botulinum is all around us (mostly in dirt), but really thrives in the anaerobic environment created by boiling-water canning.

The cans with the water added as well.If you don’t have a pressure cooker/canner there are two alternatives to prevent C. botulinum from growing in canned wort. You could add enough phosphoric or lactic acid to lower the pH of the wort below 4.4. This is acidic enough to make reasonable time hot water-bath canning safe (as it is for many fruits). Alternatively, you could store the canned wort in the refrigerator, C. botulinum will not grow if the temperature remains lower than 38F (3C). Personally the risk (however small) of botulism poisoning (paralysis followed quickly by death) with these methods isn’t worth the time/money savings!

Equipment
I purchased an All-American 25 Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner a few months ago for $230. It’s super heavy-duty aluminum, and doesn't rely on a gasket to seal, so I’m expecting it to last at least the next 50 years of my brewing career. There are less expensive options, but I try to buy things that will last when I am able to. A pressure canner can also serve as an autoclave if you are planning to do sterile culturing for yeast isolation and wrangling (where sanitation isn't good enough). The All-American even looks a bit like a mini-version of the one Pasteur used. In addition you’ll need your desired-size Ball jars (which come with rings and lids) and optionally a jar lifter. That's it!

12 jars 8 oz jars in one layer, with room for another.Wort Production
You may not want to produce the same density of wort for all starter applications. I like having small jars filled with low gravity wort for harvesting microbes (8 ounce jars with 10 grams of light DME and a pinch of yeast nutrient). They are easy to take to a tasting or a bar if you want to collect bottle dregs (harvestable bottle dregs list). Pop the lid, pour the dregs in, and screw the ring back on. When you get home you can transfer the inoculated wort to a sanitized beer bottle with a No. 2 stopper and an airlock. Or simply keep the Ball jar in the fridge if you want to prevent the microbes from growing – remembering to vent the lid periodically.

The pressure canner heating.If you are planning to use the canned wort for traditional starters, Kristen England suggested canning high gravity wort (I'd keep it around 2-3 times stronger than your target starter gravity). That will allow you to can less and yield more by diluting the starters with water. It all depends on how concerned you are about the sterility of that water. I am comfortable adding bottled water directly to chilled wort without boiling/chilling. If you want starter wort that is ready to use for growing commercial brewer's yeast cultures, aim for a standard 1.040.

To reach the target gravity you can use malt extract, extra runnings from a brew, or a purpose brewed “beer” for a year’s worth of starters. If your starter wort is all-grain, I’d suggest boiling it first. At Modern Times I brewed a 3 gallon no-sparge batch that I drained directly into jars for canning. The result was the most intense DMS aroma of tomato soup I’ve ever experienced. With the high temperature and lack of steam escaping it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Not a big deal if you decant the starter wort, but it made evaluation of the microbe starters tricky until they were stepped up. Pre-boiling isn't necessary for malt extract, which has already gone through a full boil during production.

The weight, this one can be turned to the 5, 10, or 15 PSI setting.Process
Make sure to follow the instructions for your canner when it comes to processing. Start by washing all of your equipment is hot-soapy water. Rinse with warm tap water to remove all of the soap. While you're rinsing, inspect the jars and lids for chips, dents, and cracks. Don't use any that are anything less than pristine.

Fill the jars with wort or water/DME, leaving ~3/4 inch (2 cm) of space at the top of each jar (this is necessary to form an adequate vacuum during cooling). Hand-tighten the rings over the lids. The ring only holds the lid in place during processing, so it doesn't need to be too tight. Arrange the jars in the canner on the rack, trying to leave a little room around each one to promote even heating. Add hot tap water to the canner, enough to come a few inches up the jars. You can add a second level of jars on another rack if they fit. Lock the lid on the pressure canner.

Begin heating on high. Once steam is escaping from the vent, wait seven minutes, and then install the weight. At this point the pressure will slowly rise. Once 15 PSI is reached, the weight will begin to sputter, hiss, and rattle. Only now do you begin the timer (15 minutes for 8 oz jars, plus 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level to compensate for the lower ambient air pressure). Adjust the heat so that the weight continues releasing pressure, but it doesn't nee to be violent. After the time is complete, turn off the heat and allow the pressure to dissipate slowly. Once the pressure returns to 0, remove the weight and then the pressure canner's lid.

The pressure gauge, nearly to 15 PSI.Once the jars cool completely, press gently in the center of each lid. If they pop up and down this indicates that the vacuum seal was not successful. The wort is these jars should be used immediately or discarded. Partially unscrew the rings on the successfully sealed jars. At this point the suction of the vacuum in the headspace is holding the lid on. If this vacuum fails to hold the lid at any point, discard the starter wort in that jar. Only use the lids once, but the jars and rings can be saved and reused as long as they remain undamaged.

At the moment I have six empty sour-beer-only carboys, so I’ll be harvesting some fun microbes. Starting with a couple raspberries still hanging on the bush in our backyard. I also have some exciting sour beers I have hanging out in the basement in need of harvesting as well (Russian River Beatification, Trillium Lineage Wheat and Rye, Cuvee de Ranke, and a bunch of gueuze).

The finished product, shelf-stable starter wort.

Feel free to post any additional tips or chili recipes in the comments!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Saison New Zealan’ Tasting

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

Saison New Zealan’

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

American IPA Recipe, Tips, and Tasting

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

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

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

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

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

“Real” IPA Tasting

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

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

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

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

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

"Real" IPA Recipe

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

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

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

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

Yeast
------
White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

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

Mash Schedule
------------------
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 156F

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

Brewed 8/24/14

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

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

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

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

9/9/14 Kegged with the keg hops bagged and placed into the keg before purging. Hooked up to CO2 and left to force carb gently. FG = 1.015 (6.4% ABV)

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

American Blonde Ale with Coffee Beans


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

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

American Blonde Ale aged on Coffee Beans.Coffee American Blonde

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lemon Berliner Weisse Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemliner Weisse

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

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

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

Extras
--------
Zest from 3 Lemons in Fermentor

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

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

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

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

Brewed 7/27/14

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

Partigyle batch sparge.

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

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

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

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

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

9/17/15 Tasting notes for both versions. The zest alone was far and away my preference. The True Lemon gave a Country Time Lemonade flavor that dominated.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Membrillo (Quince Paste) Saison

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

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

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

Saison de Membrillo

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flemish Red with Red Wine Yeast: Tasting Notes

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

Flemish, Red Wine Yeast

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Phenols and Brett - The Fruity and The Funky

The yeast and the acids.The science underpinning brewing can be a fascinating subject. However, rather than focusing on practical applications, academic brewing experiments are often stripped down (e.g., an isolated enzyme applied to a specific substrate molecule). This can yield interesting results and demonstrate specific cause and effect relationships, but may not provide a definitive answer on what occurs in real-brewery conditions. While lacking the process control and analytic tools of a laboratory, homebrewers have managed to produce some very interesting experiments (e.g., Brulosophy, BBR&BYO).

One of the topics covered during my NHC presentation, and the accompanying Zymurgy article, was the effect of phenols in the wort on funky-phenolics produced by Brett. I haven't seen or read evidence that "stress" or additional sugars cause Brett to produce more of its signature funky character. Additional fermentation of wort sugars results in more esters, which explains why 100% Brett beers tend to be fruitier compared to funkier mixed-fermentations. When I was asked to give a presentation at the Mid-Atlantic MBAA meeting November 7th, I decided to brew an experiment to serve to confirm(?) that phenols in the base beer are one difference (along with strain selection and pressure).

The start of the primary fermentation.I brewed two nearly-identical worts with the same malts, and saccharification rest temperatures. The two deviations I made were starting one of the mashes with a ferulic acid rest (15 minutes at 113F) and changing from phosphoric to lactic acid for pH adjustment. The addition of lactic acid will allow the production of fruity ethyl lactate. There has been debate over the effectiveness of the ferulic acid rest, a traditional start to a hefeweizen mash, but in Brewing with Wheat Stan cites a study that found adding a rest for 10-15 minutes doubles the perception of clove (4 vinyl-guaiacol) in the finished hefeweizen. This would only be the case when fermentation is carried out by a brewer's yeast that is capable of this conversion (aka POF+). So I pitched the high-ferulic-acid wort with Belgian Ale (WLP550). To really highlight the difference, I fermented the single-infusion wort with English Ale (WLP002) to minimize phenol production.

Tasting both batches after primary fermentation revealed the pre-conditions of the test had been met; the batch fermented with Belgian yeast smelled distinctly of cloves, while the English ale lacked any spice. Surprisingly the two batches hit the same pre-Brett final gravity as well. Into each batch I pitched half of a starter of Brettanomyces bruxellensis (WLP650). Now I'm waiting for the science to happen, the conversion of 4VG to funky 4 ethyl-guiacol by the Brett!

Tasting notes for both batches at 4 months. 

Post-script (4/13/2015): I sat down to do an updated tasting, only to find that the beers hadn't changed much. The Funky beer still was more Belgian-y than funky, and the fruity beer was still more clove-y than anything else. They'd rounded out, but the changes were subtle enough that they didn't warrant writing up full tasting notes again.

The Belgian yeast unsurprisingly was a little more active.Influence of the Mash (Fruity)

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.00
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 3.7
Anticipated IBU: 37.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain
-------
 90.9% - 10.00 lbs. American Pale Malt
 9.1% - 1.00 lbs. Flaked Soft White Wheat     

Hops
------
1.00 oz. Horizon (Pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 45 min.

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

Yeast
------
White Labs WLP002 English Ale

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

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Sacch Rest - 75 min @ 148F  

Notes
-------
Brewed 7/6/14 by myself

Add 1/4 tsp of 88% lactic acid to mash along with 2 g of CaCl.

Acidified batch sparge with 1/4 tsp of lactic acid.

Chilled to 85F, racked leave most of the break behind. Left at 65F to chill before pitching. Slow, smooth fermentation.

7/20/14 Down to 1.012. Racked to secondary with 200 ml of Brett brux (WLP650). Left at 65 F to ferment.

9/28/14 Kegged with 3.25 oz of table sugar. Purged head space, left at ambient temp to carbonate for about a month. 

A bit into the Brett's fermentation.Influence of the Mash (Funky)

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.00
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 3.7
Anticipated IBU: 37.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain
-------
 90.9% - 10.00 lbs. American Pale Malt
 9.1% - 1.00 lbs. Flaked Soft White Wheat     

Hops
------
1.00 oz. Horizon (Pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 45 min.

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

Yeast
------
White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale

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

Mash Schedule
-----------------
Ferulic Acid - 15 min @ 113F   
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 148F

Notes
-------
Brewed 7/6/14 by myself

No water adjustments for ferulic acid rest (works better at slightly elevated pH).

Added 3/4 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid and 2 g of CaCl to the mash at start of saccharification.

Added 3/4 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid to batch sparge water.

Collected 6.75 gallons of 1.042 runnings.

Chilled to 80 F. Racked to a carboy, leave much of the trub behind. Left at 65F to chill before pitching yeast. Explosive fermentation within a day.

7/20/14 racked to secondary with 200 ml of active Brett B (White Labs) starter. Down to 1.012. Left at 65F to ferment.

9/28/14 Kegged with 3.25 oz of table sugar. Purged head space, left at ambient temp to carbonate for about a month.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Zealand Saison and Glycosides

Decoction bubbling in a three gallon clad stock pot.Terroir is a fascinating thing. New Zealand white wines (chiefly Sauvignon Blanc) have gained worldwide attention for exhibiting exciting flavors and aromas (e.g., lime-zest and gooseberry) not produced when the same grapes are grown in Europe or the Americas. It is intriguing that New Zealand grown hops like Motueka (originally called Belgian Saaz) and Nelson Sauvin (related to Cluster by way of Smoothcone) have gained popularity for aromatics described with many of the same terms!

While shopping for beer a few months ago, I tried a sample of Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (from Marlborough, NZ). The idea immediately struck me to add the wine's citrusy flavors to a hoppy/tart/funky saison. In addition to a yeast blend harvested from ‘Merican Saison, I pitched Wyeast’s Lactobacillus brevis. Given the heightened IBUs I wasn’t expecting sharp acidity, but I wanted some tartness to enhance the grapefruit and lime.

Blending a sample of the saison with a small amount of New Zealand Sauvignon BlancThis was far from my first time combining wine to beer, for example a variant of my first Pizza Port Mo’ Betta Bretta clone was mixed with cherries rehydrated in Pinot Noir, a Russian River Temptation clone with Chardonnay, and my trials blending Oud Beersel Gueuze with Maison Trimbach Riesling. The quality of wine you can procure is usually better than the wine grapes you can source locally, and if nothing else combining them is a much simpler task. Mixing wine into a batch of commercial beer isn’t allowed (which is why breweries tend to turn to wine barrels and grapes); you have to appreciate the legal freedom homebrewing allows! When the base saison was finished dry hopping, I blended a sample with measured amounts of the wine for evaluation. I could have stood for adding more than 750 mL (~4.3% of the batch) of wine to the keg, I should have bought two bottles!

Some Brett strains are capable of freeing aromatic aglycones found in hops, fruit, and spices which are attached to sugars in molecules called glycosides. I have a few mentions of this in American Sour Beers, but the section about hop glycosides was dropped because more comprehensive/specific research is underway:

Certain strains of Brettanomyces (those that produce the enzyme β-glucosidase) have the ability to release aromatic aglycone compounds by splitting the glycosides provided by hops. Very few Saccharomyces strains can release aglycone, and those that do at a much lower rate than Brettanomyces.1
The amount of glycosides in hops varies widely by varietal, but the only extensive research into the actual amounts is the proprietary information contained in studies by Miller Brewing. Miller Brewing treated an extraction of hops with β-glucosidase and subsequently used a gas chromatograph to detect “benzaldehyde (almond, maraschino cherry), vanillin (vanilla), raspberry ketone, geraniol (floral, rose), linalool (floral), phenylacetaldehyde (honey, floral), and many other primary alcohols, ketones, and aldehydes which are also aromatic.”2 Methyl salicylate (wintergreen, minty, spicy) is another aglycone which has been shown to be released by the enzymatic action of Brett.3
Citations:
1. Luk Daenen, Daan Saison, Femke Sterckx, Freddy R. Delvaux, Hubert Verachtert and Guy Derdelinckx, “Screening and evaluation of the glucoside hydrolase activity in Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces brewing yeasts.”
2. Beer Sensory Science “Glycosides:The Hidden Flavors.”
3. Luk Daenen, “Use of beta-glucosidase activity for flavour enhancement in specialty beers.”

The New Zealand saison is keg conditioning to boost the Brett activity without extended aging that might compromise the vibrant hop aroma. The second runnings from it were turned into a Berliner weisse that will be receiving some citrus, most likely lemon, eventually. More on that batch later!

New Zealan' Saison

Recipe Specifics
--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00   
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.50
Anticipated OG: 1.062   
Anticipated SRM: 2.4
Anticipated IBU: 37.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77 % (w/ parti-gyle)
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

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

Hops
-------
1.38 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 2.70% AA) @ Mash Hop
1.00 oz. Rakau (Pellet, 11.00% AA) @ 30 min.
2.00 oz. Motueka (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Motueka (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

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

Yeast
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The Yeast Bay Saison Blend
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Trois
Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. CB2 (Jason Rodriguez isolate)
Wyeast L5223-PC Lactobacillus brevis

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

Mash Schedule
------------------
Sacch I - 90 min @ 148 F   
Sacch II - 15 min @ 155 F (decoction)

Notes
-------
7/26/14 Made a 1L starter (50 g DME, Wyeast nutrient, chilled to 112F, put on stir-plate on low) with Wyeast L. brevis (two weeks from manufacture).  Strong activity by the next morning, already a bit tart. "Some even benefit, for example L. brevis yields 50% more cells when aerated." - ASB

Brewed 7/27/14

Added 3 g of CaCl and 1 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid to the mash (along with a couple handfuls of rice hulls. Same treatment for the 170 F sparge water.

Parti-gyle batch sparge.

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

New Zealand Saison with first runnings - L. brevis, and saison/Brett blend from keg, loads of NZ hops, New Zealand Sauv Blanc. Pre-dilution OG = 1.070. Added 0 min hops and allowed to steep for 20 minutes before chilling. 8 g of 88% lactic acid. Added 1/2 gallon of distilled water (cold) to help it chill the rest of the way at the same time as the keg dregs (~6 hours after pitching the Lacto). Left at 65F to ferment

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

7/30/14 Both batches moved to ~75F ambient after three days to ensure complete fermentation.

8/7/14 Dry hopped saison portion.

8/17/14  Kegged the saison (1.008, 87% AA, 7.1% ABV. Light acidity, nice hop aroma) with ~750 ml of Fernlands 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and 3.5 oz of table sugar. Flushed keg twice before and after filling. Left at ambient basement to condition for a couple weeks before tapping. 7.3% ABV including the wine.

10/29/14 Tasting notes. Not much I'd change, delicious blend of citrus and funk, from the hops, wine, and Brett.

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