Monday, October 29, 2007

Belgian Sugar Experiment: Round 2

Since I did my first split batch sugar experiment last summer I've been wanting to do it again.

I tried to keep the recipe as similar as possible, due to convenience I changed the basemalt to French Pils since I had a sack of it, Wyeast 3787 because my local homebrew shop doesn't carry White Labs (WL530 and WY3787 are both reportedly the Westmalle strain), I also used melanoidin malt instead of aromatic (very similar extra dark Munich type malts from different maltsters).

I also made a change in the procedure, last time after the boil I immediately split the batch and did the primary fermentation in separate jugs. This created a terrible mess, so this time I did the primary in a 6 gallon fermenter and then added the sugars to the individual jugs for secondary fermentation. This may increase the impact of the various sugars because they will not be subjected to the violent primary fermentation.

Sugar Experiment 2 (Dubbel)

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.125
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.84
Approximate OG: 1.063 (Including sugars)
Anticipated SRM: 5.6
Anticipated IBU: 21.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 80 Minutes

7.00 lbs. French Pils
2.25 lbs. Belgian Pale Malt
0.25 lbs. Melanoidin Malt
0.25 lbs. Vienna Malt

1.50 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.3% AA) @ 75 min.
0.50 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.3% AA) @ 12 min.

.50 Unit Whirlfloc 12 Min.(boil)

WYeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Smackpack

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC + CaCl in mash

Calcium(Ca): 45.2 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 8.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 13.8 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 49.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 28.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 86.3 ppm

Mash Schedule
Dough In 15 min @ 135
Sacc Rest 45 min @ 145
Intermediate 15 min @ 163

Brewed 10/08/07 with James

Added 4 grams CaCl to 4 gallons of mash water to get the calcium up to make sure mash was around the right pH (measured around 5.4 at room temp, 5.1 at mash temp)

Collected 6.25 gallons of 1.045 runnings, 4.25 gallons post boil topped up with a jug of Poland Springs water

Placed the fermenter in 60 degree freezer for 5 hours, topped up to just under 5 gallons with 3 quarts of Poland Springs water. Gave 1 minute pure O2, then pitched a fresh, inflated smack pack of yeast. Fridge adjusted to 64 degrees.

Took about 24 hours to get going, but after that it had a vigorous fermentation.

After 48 hours of active fermentation I bumped the ambient temp up to 70 to prevent the yeast from "crashing" and to encourage the formation of esters.

Took 3.5 oz of each sugar and brought it to a boil with 3.5 oz of water. I then mixed each sugar with a little less than a gallon of beer in a 4 liter jug for secondary fermentation.
1. Agave (Used to make Mezcal/Tequila)
2. Lyle's Golden Syrup (Common in English baking)
3. Granulated Date Sugar (Dehydrated dates, ground up) Rehydrated it got really thick and tasted like pureed dates
4. Homemade Candi Sugar (plain white sugar with regulated temp rise)
5. Gur/Jaggery (An Indian sugar made from either Palm Sugar or Cane Sugar, not sure which mine is, but I think it is palm.)

By the next day it appeared that all of the batches were fermenting again, with the date sugar batch seeming the most active.

Bottled 10/28/07
Aiming for 2.8 volumes of CO2 about 22 grams of corn sugar per batch. Got a six pack and a bomber of most of them.

Final Gravities:
Agave - 1.006
Homemade Candi Syrup - 1.006 (It's fermentable Woohoo!!)
Gur - 1.007
Lyle's - 1.006
Date Sugar - 1.005

Full tasting in late December.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Are you afraid of brettanomyces?

Apparently not most of the people who vote for polls on my blog, the final tally was:

If you answered:

Yes (30 people, 28%)
-Brett is nothing to fear (at least as a home brewer), but you are right to be weary as it can certainly spread from one beer to another if your sanitation and cleaning are lackluster.

No (66 people, 63%)
-Good work on selecting the correct answer! Add 5 points to your score.

What??? (8 people, 7%)
-Have you been paying attention at all! Brettanomyces (Brett, Bret, Bretta) is a wild yeast used in the production of many sour and funky beers. Some people (particularly wineries and most commercial breweries) fear it as the rampant madman of the fermentation world, capable of tainting their precious "pure" strain fermented beverages. While Brett can turn a delicious beer into a thin and funky mess, good sanitation practices will prevent this from happening.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pumpkin Kegging

Inspired by recent talk of mashing and fermenting in a pumpkin I decided instead to take the easy route and serve some commercial pumpkin ale out of a pumpkin.

I took a standard pumpkin, cut the top out scraped out the "guts" like I was getting ready to carve it. I cut a small circle in one side of the pumpkin and then screwed in the spigot from my bottling bucket, it took some extra scarping to get the nut screwed on the inside. I then chilled the pumpkin for a few hours in the refrigerator. I filled the pumpkin with a selection of pumpkin beers (Post Road, Dogfish Head, Saranac, Buffalo Bills, and Smuttynose). Amazingly it worked without leaking and the blend of beers actually tasted pretty good.

I really don't think serving from the pumpkin added much flavor, but it really enhanced the appeal of the beer to the "non-beer" people at the party. The key was to get both the beer and the pumpkin as cold as possible so that the maximum amount of carbonation remained in the beer.

As a plus when the beer was finished we got to carve the pumpkin. I gouged out the eyes and nose and a more artistically gifted friend carved the mustache.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cider 2006

With fall and apple season upon us once again I felt it was time to put up a cider post. Last Fall I brewed a very simple hard cider. I threw the recipe together spur of the moment before heading off to Denver for a few weeks. I added some malt extract to the cider to give it some residual sweetness and some yeast nutrient to aid the yeast. I used a packet of dried champagne yeast which makes for a very clean cider, but one that is pretty low in character.

I have a new batch fermenting now, that is a bit less traditional, but should have a bit more interesting flavor and hopefully won't take so long to get good.

My 1st Cider

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 2.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.75
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 6.9

16.50 lbs. (2 gallons) Cider
0.25 lbs. Generic DME - Light

EC-118 (Champagne yeast)

Made 10/31/06 by myself

Heated a cup of juice with 1 cup DME and .5 tsp yeast nutrient.

Cider was from Whole foods, pasteurized but no preservatives. 1/2 packed of yeast added straight into fermenter.

11/18/06 transferred to two 1 gallon jugs and stuck them in the fridge. 1.010, tasted pretty good with a sour twang at the end.

11/24/06 Bottled aiming for 2.5 volumes of CO2.

1st Tasting 10/17/07

- Sweet apples soaked in white wine. There is a hint of sulfur as well, but it is just a background note like is often present in many white wines (not sure if that is the only reason I thin.

Appearance -Nearly opaque it is so cloudy because I didn't use finings or pectic enzyme. The cider is yellow-tan with a thin white head that has surprisingly good retention. Personally I don't mind a hazy beverage, but if you do some pectic enzyme is important because it breaks up the pectin (the same stuff that is responsible for the thickening jams and jelly).

Taste - Tangy with a light apple flavor. Some apple skin as well. It still tastes pretty fresh, with no oxidation or other off-flavors apparent. It strikes a good balance between sweetness, dryness and acidity. However, the flavor is very mild to the point of being bland.

Mouthfeel - Prickly carbonation and a bit thin. There is a light tannic roughness on the tongue as well.

Drinkability/Notes - Finally getting pretty good after almost a year, but it is still rather bland. As time has passed the apple flavors have come more to the front which is nice, in fact I think this is the most I have enjoyed a bottle of this one so far. It really didn't turn out badly for a batch that I threw together on a whim and fermented while out of the state.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Homemade Candi Syrup

After talking to Brian Mercer the importer of the amazing Dark Candi Syrup and making multiple attempts to make my own at home, I think I have come up with something that will hopefully be tasty, but doesn't approach the color contribution. I have included this one in my second Belgian Sugar Experiment, so I'll have a more accurate impression of the flavor and fermentability by early November.


1. Take 1 lb of plain white sugar and mix it with 3 cups of water in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

2. Stir to dissolve over medium heat (if the heat is too low there is a chance that the sugar will crystallize on you, so make sure you have rapid bubbling)

3. Monitor the temperature until it hits 285 degrees then add a tablespoon of water.

4. Adjust the heat until it is hot enough that you get bubbles all over the surface of the syrup, but not so hot that the bubbles build way up the pan.

5. Repeat this as needed not letting the syrup get above 285 (This will be a lot easier if you have a thermometer with an alarm). During this process you will smell an amazing range of aromas starting with butter, then moving through rummy and finally to sort of a roasted raisin thing.

6. Once the syrup takes on a nice dark color add 1/3 cup of water and let cool.

What is the point of all this?

Boiling sucrose for awhile in water causes some of the disaccharide sucrose molecules to split (invert) into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Some recipes call for the inclusion of an acid to aid the inversion process, but the importer assured me that the only ingredient in his product is refined beet sugar (sucrose).

Once some of the sugar is inverted holding it at around 285 presumably allows some of the newly created fructose to caramelize (caramelization temp of 220), while the more robust sugar molecules glucose (caramelization temp of 300) and sucrose (caramelization temp of 340) remain intact and more importantly fermentable.

The final addition of water allows the finished sugar to remain liquid at room temperature, making it much easier to add to a beer than lumps of solid sugar.

1st attempt: 1 lb sugar, 1 pint water, 1 tsp 10% phosphoric acid, 45 minutes @ 260-275
Result: Way too sour, apparently I used way too much acid.

2nd attempt: 1 lb sugar, 1 pint water, 1 gram acid blend, 150 minutes @ 260-275
Result: The syrup turned out a bit thin and the flavor just seemed flat.

3rd attempt: 1 lb sugar, 1 pint water, 180 minutes @ 260-275 (accidentally let it get up to 310 in the middle of cooking)
Result: Good flavor, but a bit too much char probably from the high temp.

4th attempt: 1 lb sugar, 3 cups water, 180 minutes @ 260-285
Result: Good flavor with less burnt notes than attempt 3, but also not as dark.

I used my 4th attempt in my second sugar experiment. I am happy to report that the portion of the experiment with the homemade candi sugar got just as dry as the other portions. The beer tasted good at bottling time, but it will be a few weeks before I can give a real report on the success or failure of this technique.

Here is a short little video of attempts two (left) and three (right) boiling. You can see just how much the sugar bubbles can build up.

Friday, October 5, 2007

My Homebrew Club

Recently I've had a bunch of people ask me if I'm a member of a homebrew club. As a matter of fact I've been a member of BURP for almost a year now. It is a great club with loads of members who are amazing brewers and there is at least one person who can answer any question whether it be about how to treat you water or how to use a wine barrel. Every meeting I go to I feel like I make a new friend and learn something new about brewing.

The club seems to be undergoing an infusion of new brewers, every meeting there seems to be three new people coming for their first meeting. So don't feel like everyone will know everyone else and you won't know anyone else when you show up.

If you live in the metro DC area stop by a meeting and say hello, but first send me an email so I can tell you who to look for. If you aren't local find a club near you, its the best way to meet local brewers and get to taste some amazing beer.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Blending Scandinavian Imperial Porter and Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian

Inspired by a recent Basic Brewing Radio episode about the blending that went into producing Firestone Walker 10, I decided to try some blending of my own using my sweet Scandinavian Imperial Porter and dry Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian.

Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian

–Medium-Light tan head on top of a deep brown beer which appears ruby red when held to the light. Nice and clear when it is thin enough to see through.

Smell – Funky cherries right up front, with supporting aromas including caramel, and toasted chocolate. It is a powerful, complex aroma with hints of ethanol as the beer comes up to room temperature. Warmth also brings out occasional vanilla and oak notes as well.

Taste – Smooth, with loads of complex brown and caramelized sugar character. There is also a bit of sourness in the back of the mouth, but it is not a sour beer. The fruit, malt, sugar, and yeast characters are all well integrated with no single part dominating the others.

Mouthfeel – Medium-thin, with solid carbonation. The tannins from the wood also enhance the dryness of this beer.

Drinkability/Notes – Surprisingly easy to drink for such a big complex beer. If I do this one again I will try to get a bit more bourbon into the flavor/aroma. This one is only about a year old now, so it has nothing but potential for improvement over the next few years.

Appearance – Opens with a bare hiss after being stored at 50 degrees. Poured into my Stone RIS tulip it has a thin tan head which is only briefly supported by the thick dark-dark-dark brown body. You can just see though the edges when it is held at an angle.

Smell – Toasted marshmallows, roasted malts, bread, hints of booze, and vanilla. A complex aroma to be sure, a bit muted though probably because of the low carbonation.

Taste – Hints of vanilla bourbon, with a smooth chocolate roast. The roasted flavors are not as bitter, coffee, or charred as a classic Russian Imperial Stout, but probably more aggressive than a regular Baltic Porter. The supporting flavors range from toasted bread, to caramel, to hints of dried fruit (especially raisins). It is thick, and it isn't very bitter, but I think between the oak tannins and the alcohol it keeps from being too sweet.

Mouthfeel – HUGE body with just a hint of carbonation. I primed this one for low carbonation, but I guess the yeast had already hit their limit. I guess it could use a little more carbonation, but it is actually fine as is. The alcohol is buried well, I can feel the warming in my stomach, but not the mouth or throat.

Drinkability/Notes – Already tastes much older than its 6 months would imply. I can't pick up any contribution from the expensive heather honey, but maybe it is adding a depth of flavor that is hard to categorize. I also don't pick up any licorice flavors, but I have had a few people tell me they taste licorice without knowing its in there. I am so used to anise flavor being called licorice, that I may be tasting it and just not realizing what it is.

2/3 Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian,
1/3 Scandinavian Imperial Porter

Appearance – Pretty much black even when held up to the light. Nice creamy tan head with medium retention.

Smell – Mostly cherry with just a hint of funk. Some toasty aromas and some alcohol. Very subdued.

Taste – Light cherry and milk chocolate. Good restrained Brett funk that lends a nice complexity. It tastes more layered though, the cherry and the stout taste separate with the funk overpowering the stout. Oak is rather potent, but again tastes like it was dropped on top.
Mouthfeel – Medium bodied with medium-low carbonation, best mouthfeel of the bunch.

Drinkability/Notes – Not a great mixture, taste a bit rough with the funk and stout clashing a bit.

1/3 Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian,
2/3 Scandinavian Imperial Porter

Appearance – Creamy tan head with pretty good carbonation. The beer is opaque black with just a hint of red highlights around the edge.
Smell – Big vanilla oak up front. Lots of middle of the road chocolate (not dark chocolate and not milk chocolate) along with a generic fruitiness.

Taste – Roasted marshmallows and chocolate (s'mores without the graham crackers). A hint of fruitiness, but not as much as I expected. Very smooth flavor without any rough edges. As it warms a bare hint of funk comes out.

Mouthfeel – Velvety, beautiful, some carbonation but not much.

Drinkability/Notes – This mix really tames the funk of the Brett and cuts the thickness of the porter. However, the mixture is less complex than either one was by itself. This one matches the rule I have heard that 2/3 "fresh" beer with 1/3 "stale/aged" beer is good combination.

Scandinavian Imperial Porter

This is a non-"wild" batch, but still pretty interesting. I based this one on a few big stouts and porters being brewing by the newly resurgent Scandinavian craft brewing movement.

This recipe combines plenty of interesting ingredients including heavy toast American oak cubes that soaked in Maker's Mark Bourbon for a few weeks, licorice root, cardamom, and heather honey.

I wanted to leave this one pretty sweet to make sure that it would be a good wintertime sipper so I mashed pretty hot to counteract the highly fermentable honey. I also went low on the IBUs in anticipation the a combination of the tannins from the wood, alcohol, and spices would help to balance out the sweetness.

I really built a water for this batch making sure to have plenty of bicarbonate to balance out the acidity of the dark malts in the mash and plenty of chloride and sodium to accent the sweet malt profile.

Scandinavian Imperial Porter

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 3.60
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.23
Anticipated OG: 1.103
Anticipated SRM: 70.9
Anticipated IBU: 36.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63 %
Wort Boil Time: 115 Minutes

6.00 lbs. Maris Otter
2.00 lbs. Munich Malt
2.00 lbs. Munich Malt (dark)
1.10 lbs. Heather Honey
1.00 lbs. Brown Malt
0.75 lbs. CaraMunich III
0.75 lbs. CaraVienne Malt
0.75 lbs. Flaked Rye
0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley
0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt
0.38 lbs. CaraAroma
0.25 lbs. Black Patent Malt
0.25 lbs. Chocolate Rye Malt

0.75 oz. Magnum (Whole, 14.50% AA) @ 60 min.

0.38 Oz Licorice Root 20 Min.
1.00 Unit Servomyces 10 Min.
0.50 Unit Whirlfloc 10 Min.
0.02 Oz Cardamom Seed 2 Min.
1.25 Oz American oak soaked in Makers Mark 31 days in secondary

WYeast 1084 Irish Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Scand RIS
Profile known for: Baltic Porters and RIS
Calcium(Ca): 66.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 9.8 ppm
Sodium(Na): 110.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 39.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 142.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 241.0 ppm

pH: 8.34

Mash Schedule
70 minutes @ 155

Brewed 3/24/07 by myself

Added water salts to distilled water to get a profile high in carbonate, sodium, and chloride.

4 oz of the roasted barley, ground, was added at 10 min left in the mash because the color did not look as dark as I wanted..

5.5 gallons of 1.060 runnings collected.

Licorice Root was bought whole at a natural food store and chopped up into small chunks.

Two pinches of ground Cardamom added at flame out, hopefully not noticeable aside from complexity in the finished beer. Cardamom is traditional in Scandinavian desserts, so it seems appropriate here.

Honey dissolved in a few cups of wort cooled to around 100 degrees then dumped into the bucket. The rest of the wort was cooled to around 66, then strained on top of the liquefied honey.

Hit with 70 seconds of O2 right before transfer to the 5 gallon carboy

Because it was a small batch and I didn't have time I pitched the yeast pack straight in, hopefully not making a starter won't come back to haunt me (but I do have a pack of US-56 as backup)

Room temp around 68 to start, closer to 62 for the next 36 hours. Up to 66 during the 3rd day, blowoff started, beautiful chocolate aroma.

Fermentation seems to be starting after 14 hours.

3/28/07 Up to 75 ambient for a few hours in the day. Krausen dropped, so I took a sample. Already down to 1.035 (66% AA), basically where I want it. Still really yeasty, but already showing good tasting signs.

3/29/07 Warm through the day and cool again at night.

3/31/07 Transferred to secondary down to 1.032 (69% AA, 9.5% ABV) with 2 oz (after soaking, the total weight of 2 oz went to 3.25) of the heavy toast American oak that has been in Makers Mark for a couple of weeks. Flavor is actually not bad, toasty with lots of chocolate, this one should be killer if the flavor doesn't come out muddy.

4/13/07 1.75 oz of corn sugar for 2.15 volumes of CO2

7/06/07 Carbonation is still pretty minimal, but the beer is fantastic. Already has an aged dried fruit character and the light vanilla note from the oak/bourbon is perfect. Can't wait to see how this one is going next winter.

10/01/07 Tasting

12/26/08 Added some dried champagne yeast to try to get this one to carbonate

3/09/09 Finally carbonated, it really helps to temper the sweetness.

6/8/10 Final tasting, still doing well, but this bottle was uncarbonated.

2/4/20 Scaled up and tweaked version brewed as Sapwood Cellars Graveyard of Forgotten Gods
Based on:
Ølfabrikken Porter, Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter, Nøgne Ø Porter, etc...

Components by Extract:
62% basemalt (MO + Munich + Dark Munich)
11% crystal malt (CaraVienna + CaraMunich + CaraAroma)
11% specialty ( Flaked Rye + Brown)
9% roasted (Black Roasted Barley + Black Patent + Chocolate Rye + Chocolate)
7% Honey (Greek Heather Honey)

Ideally it should have been on the oak in secondary for 75 days.