Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Canadian Food TV blows Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay out of the water

My third favorite (behind Good Eats and Americas Test Kitchen) food show, Food Jammers, just did an episode on making hard cider. They went the extra mile by building their own apple grinder and press and doing a natural fermentation. They also distill the resulting hard cider to make Apple Brandy, not clear on how legal that is in Canada. The show skips over some important details, but has lots of cool ideas and inspired nerdery.
Their website is:

I made hard cider last fall, but went the safer root of using pasteurized cider and dried champagne yeast. Next fall I'll give the natural fermentation route a try if I can find a good local orchard.

Treatise on Oaking Homebrew

Oak is the biggest trend in American Craft Brewing, everyone from Allagash to Russian River to your local brew pub is throwing something in a wine or bourbon barrel. There is no reason that you can't get the same caliber results as home with just a the right oak, some planning and some time.

The jar in the picture contains Makers Mark Bourbon and 2 oz of Heavy-Toast American oak cubes most of which that are going into a Scandinavian Imperial Porter (Munich malt, plenty of roasted, specialty, and cara malts along with licorice root, heather honey and cardamom).

I’ve used oak beans/cubes both soaked in wine or liquor and plain. To me both soaked and not they give similar results (I think time, wood origin, toast level and ratio of oak to beer are much bigger factors), either way I boil them for a few minutes first to sanitize and leach out some of the tannins. American oak is stronger than Hungarian which is stronger than French. The darker the oak is, the stronger the contribution to the finished beer will be (time, and ratios kept the same) will be.

I have heard nothing but bad things about the easier to find oak chips (shavings). They have so much surface area that their flavor gets infused within a week or so, which prevents you from tasting the beer and transferring it before the oak gets too intense. I have seen other products such as oak spirals and oak strips which look like good ideas, but I have not tried either yet because the cubes are so easy to use.If you soak the oak in a spirit or wine for a short period of time all you are doing is causing the oak to absorb a small amount of the liquor which will them be carried into your beer. I doubt you are doing much damage to the cellular structure of the wood in a few weeks as some people suggest, particularly when most wineries reuse their barrels multiple times before they get rid of them and almost all brewers prefer second hand barrels because of their mellower character.

All that being said, if you are looking for a spirit/wine character in your beer you would be better of blending it directly into your beer. Doing this is actually illegal for most commercial brewers, so I look at the barrel thing as really just an end-around the long arm of the ATF. I do think you can get a hint of flavor and mellow the oak character slightly by soaking it in another liquor before adding it to the beer, but I've never done a test to see if this is really any better than just adding the oak and a little of the other liquor directly to the beer.

Certain beers, particularly those with Brett like La Folie or the tremendous barrel aged beers from Russian River (Temptation, Beatification, Supplication), benefit from the slow transfer of oxygen through the wood. However, there are risks involved as acetobacteria also loves using oxygen to turn your alcohol into vinegar. So oak cubes are more appropriate for beers that you just want oak flavor in (although Brett can metabolize some of the caramelized wood sugars, so it isn't useless if you don't have the effort for a more complex system).

A few weeks back (while brewing a Scotch ale with a few buddies that is now sitting on medium-toast French oak beans that were soaked in Cognac) I broke out a bomber of a straight forward English Barleywine (Just Maris Otter, EKG and Windsor yeast that my buddy Jason and I brewed) that had sat on 2 oz (for a 3 gallon batch) of medium-toast French oak for 2 months. At bottling a year ago the beer was rather harsh, with a strong tannic quality. The beer has mellowed nicely since then, and while the oak is still a strong component it now contributes pleasant notes of vanilla, caramel and toast. Several of the homebrewers I shared the bottle with swore that there was a little bourbon or whiskey in there. How well this beer came around has caused me to reconsider how much time/oak I will be adding to beers in the future.

I recently bottled a couple of beers that had been aging on smaller amounts of oak (.5 oz of wine soaked oak in an Old Ale with Brett C and .25 oz bourbon soaked oak in both secondary and tertiary in a Cherry Belgian Dark Strong with Brett C and Orval dregs) for around 9 months. These beers both ended up with a moderate oak quality that seamlessly blended into the beer. It is hard to tell exactly what qualities come from the oak and what comes from the beer itself (I don't pick up much of the liquor in either one). I think the larger quantity for a shorter time gives you a character which is more identifiable as oak, but that tastes more layered on than integrated.

I have a 3 gallons of Russian Imperial Stout aging now on ¾ oz of oak for a few months, I hope this combination of time and amount will give an oak character which is both distinct and integrated into the beer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pliny the Younger (Clone) Tasting and Recipe

Appearance - Hazy (from the dry hopping) orange-amber. The beer produces a creamy white 2 finger head from a moderate pour that sinks to about 1 finger, but stays until the last sip. The carbonation looks pretty good and the head leaves a nice coat of lacing.

Smell - Saturated with American hops, pine, orange and peach with some lightly toasty malt in the background. There is a bit of estery yeast aroma that mixes with the hops to add a light fruitiness.

Taste - The same hop aromas are present in the taste along with an assertive bitterness, which never crosses over to being harsh or rough (a product of the clean Nugget hops used for bittering). The flavor is surprisingly well balanced for the style, hoppy and bitter but with enough malt to temper it. Despite the 88% apparent attenuation the beer still has some residual sweetness, US-56 often attenuates very well but seems to leave an impression of sweetness.

Mouthfeel - Firm carbonation (thank goodness, this beer took forever to carb up), medium body.

Drinkability/Notes - Pretty good for a Double IPA, but certainly not a light refreshing brew. This was brewed almost 3 months ago and its been in the bottle for almost 2 months, over that time it has lost some of its fresh hop aroma, but it is still in a tasty place. This is the primary style that is calling for me to get a home kegging system so I can force carbonate and throw some hops in the keg to keep that fresh hop aroma going.

Pliny the Younger (Redux)

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 3.80
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.72
Anticipated OG: 1.081
Anticipated SRM: 5.4
Anticipated IBU: 301.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 57 %
Wort Boil Time: 130 Minutes

10.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row)
2.00 lbs. Golden Promise
0.97 lbs. Corn Sugar
0.75 lbs. CaraPils

1.50 oz. Chinook Whole Mash Hop
3.00 oz. Nugget Whole 120 min.
1.00 oz. Simcoe Whole 70 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo Gold Whole 45 min.
2.25 oz. Amarillo Gold Whole 0 min.
1.13 oz. Simcoe Whole 0 min.
0.75 oz. Mix Whole Dry Hop
0.75 oz. Mix Whole Dry Hop
0.75 oz. Mix Whole Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Mix Whole Dry Hop

0.50 Unit(s)Wirlfloc 10 Min.(boil)
1.00 Unit(s)Servomyces 10 Min.(boil)

Safale US-56 Chico

Water Profile
Profile: Pliny the Water

Calcium(Ca): 76.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 13.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 9.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 133.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 56.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 26.0 ppm

pH: 8.29

Mash Schedule
75 min @ 151

Brewed 1/6/07 with Scott

A second attempt at the fantastic double/triple IPA, hopefully will have that amazing aroma and drinkability that the original has.

No colored crystal used to keep the beer really pale and dry. Using all whole leaf hops from fresh hops for the best possible aroma.

For 9 gallons of mash water add, 4.5 g epsom salt, 1.5 g chalk, .75 g salt, 3 g CaCl and 5 g gypsum. Used 6 gallons of distilled water and 3 gallons of spring water.

Collected 7 gallons of wort at 1.051. (1.093 w/o corn sugar, 78% mash eff),

Added corn sugar with about 20 minutes left in the boil ended up losing more than expected to the hops. Final volume hit, but target gravity of 1.099 missed by quite a bit due to the amount of wort the hops absorbed.

Pitched on a yeast cake from an Amber/Red

Big krausen within 4 hours, room around 75, first put a wet towel around the carboy then quickly dropped overnight to around 58. Krausen fell a bit, but strong fermentation continued.

After 48 hours its already down to 1.042

1/15/07 Kransuen completely fallen.

Dry Hop Schedule:
1st - 4 days (Primary) .375 oz Chinook/.375 oz Columbus
2nd - 12 days .375 oz Amarillo/.375 oz Centennial
3rd - 7 days .375 oz Centennial/.375 oz Simcoe
4th - 3 days .75 oz Amarillo/.25 oz Simcoe

1/16/07 1st charge of dry hops added

1/18/07 1.010 (damn, 87.5% AA 9.4% abv) Still tastes pretty good, just a bit hot.

1/20/07 Transferred to secondary and added the second dry hop charge.

1/27/07 Added third dry hop charge

1/30/07 Still 1.010 (woohoo), Added 4th Dry hop charge, these would be serving tank hops in the original. Hoping to have the amarillo compete with the more pungent simcoe by upping the ratio.

2/2/07 Bottled 3.25 gallons with 2.75 oz corn sugar. Aiming for 2.5 volumes of CO2

Eventually had to add fresh US-56 because the beer was not carbonating.

Some additional notes after my first attempt at cloning Pliny the Younger a few years ago. I emailed Vinnie at the time, but he hedged and said it was too complex and sent me the Elder recipe. Over time though I've pieced most of it together from various interviews, so here is the dirt:

My most recent IPA had an aroma nearly spot on with PtY (got to have them head-to head), but it was more PtE in terms of alcohol strength. It used Amarillo and Simcoe at the end of the boil (5 oz) and two 3 oz additions of dry hops (1 oz each Simcoe, Amarillo, Columbus).

For malt I would go with ~85% Pale malt, 5% Carapils, and 10% corn sugar (by extract). Vinnie has said that he doesn't use colored crystal malts in it as he does in PtE. Aim for 1.100, but remember to calculate for the losses to hops (also remember to aim for low eff due to the high gravity). I would mash in the low 150s to ensure complete attenuation.

I would add enough gypsum to get to ~150-200 ppm sulfate, that will help to accentuate the hop bitterness. If you have a lot of bicarb in your water you might also want to cut it with distilled since this is such a pale beer.

I would bitter with hop extract (or Columbus). I have yet to try extract but some people have claimed that NB's Hop Shot ( ) is the same stuff Vinnie uses just repackaged. NB suggests 11 ml for 100 IBUs on a 1.100 beer. I would probably
go for 15 ml at 60 min since it is supposed to be a smoother bitterness than normal hops.

Here is the rest of my boil schedule after bittering, seemed to work well. The flameout hops were added over a couple minutes post boil as the wort was chilling.
1.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet 11.00% AA) @ 45 min.
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Pellet 12.40% AA) @ 30 min.
3.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet 8.60% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Simcoe (Pellet 12.40% AA) @ 0 min.

Ferment with American Ale (Vinnie uses WLP001). Vinnie suggests not pitching too many cells since they can uptake bitterness. Keep the fermentation cool, but let it get close to 70 at the end of fermentation to ensure complete attenuation.

Actual PtY: Dry Hop Schedule (per Vinnie). I would do 1.5-2 oz total for each addition, whole hops only. He rouses with CO2 to keep them in suspension (probably not feasible at home unless you have a conical). I normally just put them in a stocking and weight it down with glass marbles to keep them submerged and make taking them out easier.
DH 1 Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial for one week and remove
DH 2 Amarillo, Centennial for one week and remove
DH 3 Simcoe for one week and remove
DH 4 Simcoe, Amarillo Dry Hop in Keg

Vinnie has stressed keeping yeast to a minimum while dry hopping, so you might want to crash cool and fine with gelatin before the first round. I would dry hop the first three rounds at room temp (another Vinnie recommendation). Then I would chill and force carb right after the keg hops are added.

Make sure to keep oxidation to a minimum, double flush everything the beer touches post fermentation with CO2.

I'm certainly planning on doing this myself at some point, but I'm not sure having a really hoppy best when fresh 11% ABV IPA on tap is the best idea in the world for my health...

Late 2010 I finally put my own advice to use and brewed another attempt at a Pliny the Younger clone.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Ability of Brett to Ferment Caramel

Another homebrewer who made the same recipe from Brew Like a Monk for caramel that I did (Corn Syrup + DAP) in my sugar experiment was wondering if Brett could ferment it where regular yeast could not. Having an extra block of the sugar around and a big slurry of Brett C, I decided to see what the results would be. If the Brett is unable to ferment it this could be a very useful sweetener for Brett fermented beers.

I took about 10 oz of the caramel and melted it with half a gallon of boiling water.

I boiled it for 10 minutes with 1/2 tsp of yeast nutrient.

I cooled it in an ice bath, gave it a good shake and pitched a big slug of thick brett slurry.

The OG was 1.028. If the Brett can handle it I would expect to see signs of activity in the next few days.

Update #1 - After 24 hours there is definitely some fermentation going on, when I give it a swirl foam forms and I can hear CO2 escaping. However it in not going that quickly, we will see this make take quite a while to get as low as it is going to.

Update #2 - After 4 days the Brett has flocculated out and the gravity has dropped to 1.014. The resulting liquid is actually not bad, sort of has a Flanders Oud Bruin thing going on. It'll be awhile before I throw in the towel, but I can safely say that Brett C can attenuate that caramel more than regular brewers yeast.

Update #3 – At 10 days there hasn't been any more fermentation, the beer is still at 1.014. I'll let this go for another couple of weeks, to make any final judgments, but it is looking like this caramel is only around 50% fermentable by Brett C.

As an aside I think after 2 pure Brett fermentations this yeast is learning to behave itself, look at that flocculation. Makes you wonder how “normal” this wild yeast would get after a few more generations. Sadly the pack of Wyeast Brett anomalus (a special order gotten by my local homebrew store) is next on my list to experiment with.

Update #4 After 40 days the caramel is still at 1.014. I'm moving tomorrow so the experiment ends here. Resulting liquid isn't bad I may try adding some of the caramel to a Brett beer down the line for some residual sweetness and body.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sauerkraut, Weisswurst, and Mustard

Well my first shot at sauerkraut hit pretty close to the mark. For my first real tasting I had it hot with a a couple of weisswurst (delicious, fresh, veal sausages), some grainy mustard (featuring Sierra Nevada Stout) and pumpernickel. Warming sauerkraut drives off some of the acidity, making it a better compliment to more delicate foods. To wash down the meal I had the new Sam Adam's Longshot Dortmund Export, one of the three beers that won Boston Beer's homebrew contest last year.

The sauerkraut is good, rather sour with that classic mildly sulfury cabbage goodness. It isn't too salty, but I really enjoy salt, if it was too much you could always give it a rinse before eating it. The texture of the kraut is much crisper than any commercial sauerkraut I have had, partially because I cut it pretty thick but also because it has not been pasteurized or treated with any chemicals. I think I gave it about the right amount of time before I bottled it and put it into the fridge, if it was much more sour it would overpower any other food it is served with.

The only problem I am having so far with the sauerkraut is trying to keep the cabbage submerged in the brine during storage. I guess I packed it in there tighter than I should have, as I take sauerkraut out I have to force the remaining cabbage back into the brine. Not sure if there was a way to avoid this besides using more containers and not packing in the sauerkraut in.

Next time I do a batch of kraut I will certainly put more effort into getting the cabbage sliced into about 1/8” slices (this batch was closer to 1/4”).

Fermented Clothing

I've had plenty of ideas for crazy fermentation projects, but making dresses from acetobacter produced cellulose certainly wasn't one of them. It is certainly interesting to see a fermentation byproduct that isn't consumed, but sadly if the "fabric" doesn't stay wet it becomes very fragile.

"He noticed that when oxygen got into the vats and turned the wine into vinegar, a slimy, rubbery layer grew on top.

This layer was cellulose, produced by acetobacter bacteria as a waste product when they convert wine into vinegar.

To ferment fabrics, Cass and his colleagues deliberately let vats of wine go off to produce cellulose.

And to get the shape of a dress, they lifted the layers of slimy cellulose off and laid them over a deflatable doll.

After each dress was complete, they deflated the doll and removed it, leaving the dress intact."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Historical Brewing Event

About a year ago my friend Mat and I with the help of many many others, got together to design recipes, brew, bottle and make labels for three five gallon batches of historical beer. Last April we got to serve the beer to reenactors at the annual Patriots Day battle reenactment held at Minuteman National Park in Concord Massachusetts. It was great to talk to several other home brewers and all of the history buffs who enjoyed the beer.

The event went well, the 50 or so people in attendance, including us, managed to drink most of the 140 bottles we brought, leaving us with enough surplus to give anyone who stuck around a couple bottles of
their favorite brew to take home. Despite aging the beer less than an ideal amount of time, two of the batches were bottled just two weeks before the event, the general consensus was that the beer was tasty. The only real negative comment I got was that at about 50 degrees the beer was colder than it would have been served historically. The only let down was how little people drank of our Swankey, a low alcohol licorice flavored beer, apparently most reenactors dislike anise as much as I do.

Recipes and descriptions:

London Porter ca 1800 - 4.8% abv - Brewed 3/18/06

8 lbs Pale Malt
2 lbs Amber Malt
2 lbs Brown Malt
.063 lbs Chocolate Malt
OG 1.051

1 oz Fuggles @ 60 min
1 oz East Kent Goldings @60 min
36 IBUs

1275 - Wyeast Thames Valley Ale

Porter, named for the laborers who were the first big drinkers of it, was invented in 1722 as a combination of three different beers, called threads, that would have been mixed together when it was ordered. Eventually many breweries began to make a porter that was Entire, containing all three threads in one barrel, to save the publican time and effort. The dark black color that people associate with modern porters comes from the addition of Black Patent malt the process to make which was not invented until 1817. While this beer is intended to replicate what the Redcoats would have enjoyed back in England, in 1775 domestic porter became available in America with the opening of first porter brewery in the states.

Traditionally porter was made from a 1:1:1 mixture of pale, brown and amber malts, however only one company makes amber and brown malt today and these versions are too harsh to be used in such high proportions. We kept with the practice of caramelizing some of the sweet wort to add color and flavor to the beer. Traditionally, due to the expense, hops were added only early in the boil to maximize the bitterness they contribute, the result is a beer without much hop aroma.

As this beer aged it got very smooth and smelled just like a bowl of coffee ice cream. Probably not as dark as it should have been. Next time I think I will go with the traditional ratio of malts, and use home toasted versions to make sure that those large amounts of roasted malts doesn't get unpleasant.

Swankey - 3% abv - Brewed 3/13/06

5 lbs mild malt
.25 lbs chocolate malt
.5 lbs unrefined cane sugar
OG 1.032

1 oz Fuggles @ 60 min
15 IBUs

3 g Anise @ 5 min
1.5 g Star Anise @ 5 min

1275 - Wyeast Thames Valley Ale

Swankey was a regional specialty of western Pennsylvania, it was produced for more than a century until prohibition forced the last few producers of it out of business. Refreshing and relatively low in alcohol with a strong licorice flavor this was the soda-pop of its day.

Not much is known about this style today, so I based this recipe on the few scant references that I could find and modern day Dark English Milds. This version gets its licorice flavor from two types of anise.The addition of unrefined turbinado sugar boosts the fermentables while keeping the beer light and refreshing. The English yeast we used adds esters and complexities that are probably closer to what yeast of the 18th century would have contributed than what current day American ale yeasts would contribute.

I never really liked this beer, but then again I'm not a licorice fan. For such a low alcohol beer it had lots of flavor and did retain plenty of body. Next time I think I'll just leave out the anise, but then it really wouldn't be a Swankey would it?

Poor Richard's Ale - 5.4% abv - Brewed 2/20/06

8lbs Maris Otter
2lbs Flaked Corn
.375 lbs Molasses
.75 lbs Biscuit Malt
.25 lbs Special B
.125 lbs Chocolate Malt
OG 1.060

1.25 oz East Kent Goldings @75 min
28 IBUs

1728 - Wyeast Scottish Ale

Versions of this beer were originally brewed by more than 100 breweries this past winter to celebrate the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is quoted as saying "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." At the time of the Revolution barley was relatively expensive so many recipes of the day use corn and molasses as cheap sources of sugar to supplement the barley. The tradition of using corn to lower costs and keep beers light in flavor and color is still alive with the beers from Miller and several other American breweries.

We used a Scottish yeast because it is relatively neutral, allowing the flavors of the corn and molasses to shine through. The mixture of barley malts in this recipe is intended to replicate the High (dark malts) and Low (pale malts) mentioned in many beer recipes from around the time of the Revolution. All of the hops were added early in the boil for plenty of bitterness, however this drives off most of the volatile oils leaving a beer with not much in the way of hop aroma.

Turned out to be a great beer, just had the last bottle a few weeks back. With some age it got some vinous notes and tasted silky smooth. The molasses was really the key to this one. If I wanted to make this more traditional I'd up the corn and the molasses, but as a beer it was great as it.

Culturing Kombucha from a Commercial Bottle

I got a comment on this, I didn't really give enough detail on exactly how I went from a bottle of Tea Chi to having a gelatinous disk of microbes. Essentially, I applied the same principles to get it that you can to harvest yeast from a commercial beer, start small and go bigger as the microbes can handle it. If you go too big too fast the microbes will take a long time to grown and ferment and might get overrun by the local microbes who might not make such a tasty beverage.

I let the whole bottle of Kombucha warm up to room temperature, I then poured it into a sanitized mason jar. I generally don't sanitize now but I wanted to give the microbes a head start because they might be weak after being refrigerated for a couple of weeks. To them I added about a cup of cooled unfermented Kombucha (just cooled tea with .75 oz of white sugar dissolved in it). Every few weeks I would add some more of this sweetened tea moving up to larger vessels when needed until the Kombucha “mushroom” had grown quite large. I dumped out this first batch because it had gotten very sour because of how long the culture had been fermenting without a large replacement or liquid.

When it gets big enough you can just start bottling 90% of the liquid before adding the fresh nutrient solution.

Sauerkraut Bottling

After 4 weeks getting nice and sour I decided to call my first attempt at sauerkraut ready to eat. After washing my hands and 2 mason jars I crammed the cabbage into the jars and topped them off with the “kraut juice” pushing down on it to get as much air out as possible. My two heads of cabbage ended up filling up the two jars perfectly. The sauerkraut is nice nicely acidic and salty, but still has a great crunchy texture that I think is much better than the soggy texture that commercial sauerkraut normally has.

I don't normally eat straight sauerkraut so it's hard to judge exactly how good my homemade version is until I get some bratwurst or make a Ruben or some brisket with sauerkraut and prunes (mmm mmm heritage).

So far I think the most important lesson I have learned is to slice the cabbage thinner, I have some pretty big chunks in there. Next time I think I'll add some additional spices, I may even give Korean Kimchi a shot (sauerkraut with chilies, garlic and scallions).

Bottle Hopping

Last night I bottled my Mo' Betta Bretta clone. I got about 2 six packs and 3 bombers from both the plain and cherry soaked batches. Both batches tasted good, although the cherry batch definitely tastes more funky and immature than the plain version.

To create some variety I added 4 dried hop cones of 4 different varieties (Centennial, Simcoe, Mt. Hood and Sterling) to 4 empty bottles before filling with the plain batch. I tried to select intact cones so that they would be easy to strain out of the beer for serving and so far all the hops appear to have remained whole except for the Sterling which broken down almost immediately.

I got the idea from a special version that LaConner Brewing did of their IPA for Bottleworks in Seattle that had whole hops added to each bottle. Some companies dry hop in the keg (Russian River does it on Pliny the Younger), but as I don't keg that wasn't an option. Bottle hopping also works well in this case because I wanted to leave the bulk of the beer plain, plus now I'll get to try out four different dry hopped versions.

If consumed reasonably quickly (exposure to whole hops for an extended period of time can cause grassy off flavors) this should give the unique experience of having the hops in contact with the beer up until moments before serving. The drawback is that the hops provide loads of nucleation sites for bubbles to form which can lead to rapid foaming. I have heard several stories of broken bottles and gushers from people who had the bottle hopped LaConner IPA

It'll be another few weeks before these beers are carbonated enough to try, but I'm really excited to see how the different versions compare.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

1st 100% Brettanomyces Brew: 1st Tasting

I often see recipes posted on the internet that include no mention of how the beer turned out, and in the rare case that they do mention what the beer tastes like it is brief and vague. I hope to post reviews and results for all the recipes I talk about on the site, in fact I'd like to do updates as time goes on to show how age can effect the beers I make.

48 days ago I brewed this beer, and it's now been in the bottle for 2 weeks. I went with one of the bottles that was spiked with dry US-56.

Appearance – I had left the bottle in the fridge for 24 hours before opening, even with 15 minutes to warm up before pouring it still had plenty of chill haze. The head is initially vigorous, creamy and stark white. However, it sinks pretty quickly leaving just a thin spotty covering. As the beer warms it gradually begins to clear, but never gets crystal.

Smell – Opens up with lots of lemons, and a mild herbal/grassy/spicy hop aroma. There is a light earthy-funkiness hiding behind, but it certainly is not a primary aroma. Overall pretty clean, but there is enough going on to let you know this is not a run of the standard style.

Taste – Lightly tart, with bready malt. Plenty of esters, apples and pears for the most part. There are some barnyard notes as I get closer to the bottom of the glass. It's pretty well balanced, the hops are not assertive, but they certainly are stronger than in most traditional “wild” beers.

Mouthfeel – Prickly carbonation with a medium body. Feels surprisingly full for a beer that finished at 1.009.

Drinkability & Notes – Certainly still tastes young, but damn tasty for a Brett beer that only has two weeks in the bottle. I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops over the coming months.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Can Brett make bread?

I had some Brett from Mo Betta Bretta saved in a growler in the fridge. Not having anything else to do with it I decided to see if this yeast could lend its unique flavor to bread. To make things more interesting I decided to also add a few tablespoons of kombucha, I was hopeful that the microbes would get along and make a unique sourdough.

I made a sponge with 6 oz (by weight, so much more accurate than using volume) of all purpose flour, 3/4 cup lukewarm water, about 1/8 cup thick Brett slurry and 1.5 tbsp of fermented kombucha. I let it sit out overnight to make sure the Brett acclimated to its new task. By the morning there was clearly activity, although not as much as I normally get from dry baker's yeast.

I then kneaded in 10 oz of flour, 6 tbls warm water and 1 tsp salt. I put the dough in a saran wrap covered bowl and placed it in the oven with a pan of hot water to rise. After one and a half hours (the normal rise for this recipe) the dough had risen some, but not the requisite doubling. After another hour the dough was close to where it was supposed to be. I shaped the dough into two baguettes and put them back in the oven to rise until dinner time.

After the bread had doubled again (about three hours) I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with my baking stone (large overturned terracotta flowerpot base). The bread baked for about 15 minutes, until it was golden brown and crunchy.

After cooling for 30 minutes the baguette was ready to eat. The smell was mildly funky and Brett like, but other than that looked and tasted just like a regular loaf of bread. The second loaf is spending the night in the refrigerator, I'll save some of the dough from it to see if the Brett will adapt to its new home and produce a suitable sourdough starter.

The next night I used the second half of the dough to make a pizza with some left over roasted pork tenderloin and caramelized onion. The Brett character had intensified and nicely complemented the earthy flavors of the meat, onions and cheese. The dough, even cold, was very easy to work with, I have no idea if I can credit this to the starch munching Brett, or if it was just that particular dough recipe. Sadly, I forgot to save any of the dough, so I guess I'll be making a new starter soon.