Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lambic Phone Home

My mother was kind enough to take some pictures of the wild brews I brewed before moving down to DC. They have no been sitting undisturbed in my old bedroom for about 8 months total (I haven't seen them since I was home for Christmas). I am planning on bottling the Old Ale and the Strong Dark Belgian in about a month, the Flanders Red around next Christmas and the Lambic will be divided and put on fruit in another year or so.

Group photo:
Front left - Lambic
Front right - Flanders Red
Rear - Old Ale w/Brett C and French Oak

Close up of the funky lambic pellicle.

Strong Dark Belgian (w/ cherries, bourbon and 2 strains of Brett)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mo' Betta Brett Bottle Hopped Tasting #2 (The Mt. Hood)

Not a full tasting: I expected this one to be mega funky, but the spicy hops subdued much of the Brett funkiness. It actually has a lot of flavor in common with My first Brett beer (that used Mt. Hood as part of the aroma addition.) Certainly tasty, I think I liked it more than the last few "straight" bottles of this that I have had.

I am intrigues that flavors (hops/cherries) seem to be able to cover up the harsh elements of the Brett funkification.

I'll post a full review of the Sterling Hopped version which I expect to be very similar to this one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

With the re-release of Wyeast's Roeselare Blend

With the re-release of Wyeast's Roeselare Blend (for 3 months as part of the summer VSS releases) I though I would post my only experience with it (even though I have yet to taste the beer).

Roeselare Blend is supposed to be an approximation of the yeast/bacteria mix that Rodenbach uses on their beers (the same blend was at one point provided to such small brewers as De Dolle). It is supposed to give a solid acidity and interesting flavors without being as pungent as the lambic blend.

I haven't found the actual strains in the blend, but there is Brett (probably lambicus) and lactic acid bacteria (most likely Lactobacillus and not Pediococcus). There is also regular old Saccharomyces (California Ale yeast according to some people), but I thought it was a good idea to pitch my own primary yeast so I would not be under pitching (I figured with all that bacteria/Brett in the smack-pack the yeast would at a low count and stressed).

For more info on the the piece of oak jammed into the top of the carboy check out this.

Double tasting 1/24/08

Blackberry tasting 8/18/11


Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.31
Anticipated OG: 1.062
Anticipated SRM: 12.9
Anticipated IBU: 13.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 83 %
Wort Boil Time: 100 Minutes

4.00 lbs. Belgian Pilsener
3.00 lbs. American Vienna Malt
3.00 lbs. Belgian Munich Malt
1.00 lbs. Wheat Malt
0.44 lbs. CaraMunich Malt
0.44 lbs. Aromatic Malt
0.44 lbs. Special B Malt

1.75 oz. Whole Czech Saaz @ 90 min

Primary White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale
Secondary Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Blend

Water Profile
Profile: Wayland
Profile known for:

Calcium(Ca): 31.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 6.2 ppm
Sodium(Na): 20.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 36.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 25.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 61.5 ppm

pH: 7.00

Sacc Rest 40 min @ 147. 0.85 qrt/lb
Sacc II 30 min @ 162. 1.18 qrt/lb

Based on a Flanders Red from Jamil

Brewed 8/9/06 by myself

First rest temp a few degrees higher than intended. Fly sparge, with great efficiency 6.75 gallons of 1.058 runoff collected. 2 year old hops 3.3 AA listed, adjusted down to 2.5 AA. 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient added with 15 minutes left in boil. Boil off went faster than expected so I ended it 20 minutes ahead of schedule, next time collect more wort. Pitched washed cake of 530 pitched from dubbel sugar experiment when wort was chilled to 69. Put into fridge at 62. Nice thick krausen by the next morning, so I dropped the temp to 60 to lower ester production and limit attenuation. The next day the blow-off had overflowed, so I dropped the temp to 58 to slow production.

8/14/06 Gravity down to 1.038 (49% AA), higher than I expected. Sweet and fruity flavor. Temp raised to 65 to see if I can wake the yeast back up a little bit.

8/19/06 temp dropped to 60 to get yeast out of suspension before racking.

8/20/06 1.026 (new hydro adjusted down .004 due to cold water reading) Still a bit of crap in suspension, but I racked anyway. Topped up with 1 gallon of filtered water and put into 5 gallon glass carboy with smacked (but not swollen) Roeselare blend and topped with the oak chair leg, toasted and soaked/boiled, hopefully this will transfer oxygen into carboy, let co2 out and impart flavor I cooked it at 300 for 30 minutes to sanitize and then wrapped with Teflon tape and tapped into place with a rubber auto mechanic mallet. It took a few tries to get the wood in tight enough to stop foam from escaping around it, but eventually foam was coming out the top of the wood. Wood approximately 13 sq in of surface area contact, .5 oz oak beans has 16 sq in contact. Fridge adjusted to 64 degrees for long aging.

10/29/06 I managed to crack the neck of the carboy while putting the wooden peg back into the carboy. The damage was minimal so I just the neck back together.

12/24/06 Looks pretty good, crack hasn't developed and the beer still looks good. After a prolonged secondary I plan to add sour cherries to 2 gallons, dry hop 1 gallon with Amarillo/Cascades like New Belgium's Le Terroir, and leave 2 gallons straight.

8/05/07 Planning on bottling some of this next week. I bought 4 lbs of blackberries today and put them in the freezer, planning on adding most of them to half of this beer.

8/12/07 bottled 2.5 gallons aiming for 2.2 volumes of CO2.  The other half was racked onto the 4 lbs of blackberries for extended aging.  The sourness seems a bit tame at this point.

9/13/07 The carbonation increases the perception of sourness, this is turning into a really solid beer. 

12/29/07 Bottled the blackberry half with 1/3 cup of table sugar. 

Well it's not fermentation, but coffee roasting is fun too (plus you could add it to a stout)

For the last few months I have been refining my coffee roasting technique. I realize that it isn't fermentation, but it has the same virtues of being easy to do at home and really tasty. There are two methods I have used, one uses a $15 dollar popcorn popper (a) and the other just a frying pan with a lid (b). You need a popcorn popper that you don't use for popcorn as the oil from the beans will making for a poor tasting corn snack, you also want the sort of popper with slots cut in the sides not holes in the floor.

Step 1
: Get some high quality green coffee beans. I personally like Ethiopian best, but use whatever you like to drink. You might be able to get some from a local coffee store that roasts their own or from a local homebrew store (like I do) even the internet is a good place to shop. Green coffee beans (unlike roasted beans) have a basically unlimited shelf life.

Step 2a: Turn on the popcorn popper and wait a minute or two to let the air heat up.

Step 2b: Place an oven thermometer into your frying pan, put the lid on and adjust the heat until it rests around 500 degrees (remember the setting for future roasting).

Step 3a: Put 1/2 cup of green coffee beans into the popcorn popper and place the top back on with a bowl for the chaff (bits of coffee skin) to blow into.

Step 3b: Put 1/2 cup of green coffee beans into the pan and put the lid on.

Step 4a: Wait until the beans start to making a popping noise (this is the moisture in the bean turning to steam and expanding to crack the bean). Place a bowl where you would normally catch the popcorn to catch the papery chaff (skin) of the coffee bean that is ejected.

Step 4b: Shake the pan like you are making Jiffy-Pop until the beans start to making a popping noise.

Step 5a: Keep waiting until the popping stops and then wait a few minutes until you just start to hear the beans popping for a second time.

Step 5b: Keep shaking until the popping stops and then wait a few more minutes until you just start to hear the beans popping for a second time.

Step 6a: Turn off the popper and slowly stir the beans as they continue to pop, the longer you wait the darker the roast will be. Stop it right away for a light roast keep going until the popper stops for a dark roast.

Step 6b: Turn off the heat and keep shaking the beans as they continue to pop, the longer you wait the darker the roast will be. Stop it right away for a light roast keep going until the popper stops for a dark roast. You can take a look occasionally if you want, but be careful not to lose too much heat.

Step 7
: Pour the beans out into a metal strainer and shake until the beans are pretty cool. After they cool completely put them in an airtight container and store them for up to a week. The flavor peeks the the day after roasting.

Both methods produce tasty coffee in about the same amount of time (5-7 minutes). The popcorn popper allows you to see the beans as they roast and you get to avoid shaking a pan every time you want to drink coffee. The pan roasting method allows you to avoid buying another gadget and makes you feel like a cowboy.

(More pictures coming soon)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Straight Mo' Betta Brett Clone - Tasting

Appearance – Pours slightly hazy and golden into my Duvel tulip. The white head starts out around 2 fingers before dropping to about ¼ inch where it stays for a long time.

– Huge funky nose with an almost candied fruit character. I get a hint of tartness as well, but it is distant. The Brett is in charge of this one, basically no malt or hop character is getting through. A well respected sour beer homebrewer though this one had a strong sour cherry aroma, but I just don't pick it up. There isn't any alcohol or hop presence, there isn't too much of either in the beer.

Taste – A bit of bread with layers of funk (actually not that different than my Brett bread...). The funk is more earthy in the mouth than the candied fruit that was in the nose. There is basically no detectable bitterness which makes the beer seem sweeter than its attenuation would suggest. The more I drink the smoother and less funky the beer seems, by the end of the glass it seems like it could be a sessionable.

Mouthfeel – The body feels medium-full with medium carbonation. The carbonation could be a bit stronger, but I'm glad I have a buffer in case the Brett drops the gravity another point or two.

Drinkability & Notes – Over the last few weeks this has really turned the corner from slightly funky to a Brett monster. It is a shame that I failed to do a formal review before this one changed, it actually tasted pretty much the same as my first 100% Brett beer for the first few weeks after it was carbonated. I'm also struck again by how different this version is from the cherry/wine half. It is coming along nicely, I look forward to seeing this one continues to evolve.

Homemade Sourdough Starter (not ambient)

The traditional method for making a sourdough starter is to leave loose (moist) dough outside until it picks up the local microflora (sound more than a little like making a lambic?). In this case, living next to a highway where I'll get more smog than microbes, I decided to use some yeast and microbes that I already have sitting around my home. I mixed a bit of Brett C slurry, kombucha, sauerkraut, and commercial bread yeast together with some flour, water and a pinch of salt. I'll try to keep this one going for awhile to see how it develops.

The kombucha and sauerkraut will provide various strains of lactobacillus as well as other souring microbes (all sourdough has both yeast and lactic acid bacteria, however the strains differ from region to region based on what microbes are native to the area, for example Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis is the signature of San Francisco sourdough). The bread yeast will provide most of the lift and will keep rise times reasonable. I hope the Brett will add some complexity, but that its flavor will not be as assertive as in my 100% Brett bread.

It may take some time for the microbes in the bread to adjust to their environment and start living symbiotically (and weed out the microbes that don't jive with the mixed fermentation environment).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cherry and Wine Infused Mo' Betta Bretta - Tasting

Appearance – Pours with a thin white head that quickly falls despite the rapid carbonation. From a steep angle the beer appears dark red, but from the side it is closer to orange/amber. Crystal clear (until the second pour delivers a bit of sediment) despite the fact that this beer was never cold conditioned.

Smell – Mild cherry with light Brett funk (no barnyard, just a bit of fresh hay and fruit). There is also a mildly floral scent. Very nice, and much subtler funkiness than the bottle of the straight version I had over the weekend at my homebrew club meeting (BURP).

Taste – Some bread, light funk and a hint of cherries. The flavor is very smooth with an almost buttery softness. The slight astringentness that was present a few weeks ago is now gone. The cherries are not as strong as I had intended, but I prefer too little fruit to too much. Good balance, dry with almost undetectable bitterness and tartness.

Mouthfeel – Solid effervescent carbonation on top of a medium body.

Drinkability & Notes – All I can say is wow, the cherries seem to have covered up the more aggressive funky Brett flavors leaving a very mellow easy drinking wild ale. I may have to put a generation of my Brett anomalus to a full batch of this beer with a 50% boost in cherries (or maybe a switch to fresh sour cherries) this summer. Not sure if the head retention issues are due to a less than clean glass or a bit of oil that was on the dried cherries that I thought I had washed off.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The case of the unintended Brett cross-inoculation (aka Infection)

Well a few months back my buddy James and I brewed a Rye Mild. The brew went as planned, except for the fact that I forgot that I didn't have an open fermenter. No problem I said, we'll transfer my Mo' Betta Bretta clone out of its Better Carboy into some 4-liter jugs, sanitize the fermenter and put the rye in.

So we gave the Better Carboy a soak and scrub with hot water and OxiClean making sure that all the little bits of yeast gunk were gone. Then we gave it an extended soak, 30 minutes, in Iodophor. The beer fermented fine, and tasted as we expected for about a month in the bottles... then it happened.

About a week ago I cracked a bottle a got a slight Brett C fruitiness, must be a dirty glass or an off-palate, sadly a bottle the next day tasted the same and finally James confirmed my thoughts. Maybe it was the fermenter maybe it was some the the crevice or crook of some other piece of equipment harboring the invader, but it really doesn't matter now.

Here's the thing, the beer is now different, but still damn tasty. It's strange the beer doesn't seem to be building up much extra carbonation either. Only time will tell if this turn into a low-abv Flanders Bruin or a horrid gushing drain pourer.

As soon as I realized what had happened I gave every piece of brewing equipment I own (that ever touches beer post-boil) and gave it 6 hours in a heavy bleach solution followed by a full dry and then a soak in Iodophor.

Luckily either of the two beers I have done since then is showing signs of Brett activity, but they are both pretty young.

I guess this is a wake-up call to start taking sanitation and segregation more seriously, either that or stop brewing anything but wild beers...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Mo' Betta Brett Bottle Hopped Tasting #1 (The Simcoe)

My first taste of a bottle hopped beer. Overall verdict: acceptably tasty but certainly the wrong hop.

Appearance - Foam starts climbing up the neck of the bottle within a few seconds of popping the cap, luckily I was ready to pour and didn't loose a drop. Most of the hops jammed in the neck of the bottle and never made it to the tea strainer, but it did serve to catch a few petals. Once it arrives in the glass the beer is a hazy orange with a coarse head that falls quickly.

Smell - Fruity hops on top of slightly funky Brett. The hop aroma is a bit aggressive and sharp, with a slightly funky oxidized edge (but that may be the Brett playing tricks on me.

Taste - Lightly tart with big Brett funkiness. However the American citrusy/piney hops do not mesh well with the flavor. The beer isn't bitter or sweet, pretty well balanced.

Mouthfeel - The foaming knocked out some of the carbonation, but it still has plenty to fill out the medium-light body.

Drinkability/Notes - Not bad, but I'm glad that I only added Simcoe to one bottle. I am looking forward to seeing how the other hops, particularly the less aggressive European decedents, taste.