Thursday, July 31, 2008

Temptation Clone - First Tasting

At almost three months in the bottle it was time to get a tasting of the Temptation Clone Seth and I brewed last November.

– Beautiful clear golden with a thin white head. Retention is moderate with a thin covering remaining for most of the glass.

Smell – Huge funky Brett nose, back to where it was on bottling day. Very fruity (cherries, apricot) with some floral notes, no aggressive/objectionable funk. There might be some grape in there as well, but it is hard to tease out what is from the bugs and what is from the wine. Those Russian River bugs really are some of the best I have worked with, so complex and without any harshness.

Taste – The flavor is good, but doesn't live up to the nose. It is lightly tart with a mild bready malt/wheat character, but it doesn't have the sourness that the nose suggests. It has enough tartness to balance out the minor residual sweetness giving the beer excellent balance. The flavor does not have the complexity of the nose, but it certainly isn't objectionable in any way.

Mouthfeel – Very quick finish, but with a bit of lingering slickness on the tongue. Carbonation is moderate, but it will likely increase slightly as the bugs slowly continue to work.

Drinkability & Notes – The lack of a gripping sourness gives this beer great drinkability (especially at 7.5% ABV). At this point the beer is somewhere between an aged Orval and a fresh Temptation, I can't wait to see where it goes from here. If I brew this again I will mash this a bit warmer to leave more fermentables for the bugs, and add more wine/oak for a more noticeable contribution.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Liquor Spiked Barleywine

Bottled Liquor Spiked BarleywineHere is the most recent batch I bottled, a massive malty liquor infused barleywine. This is actually the strongest beer I have bottled to date at over 12.5% ABV, it probably needs at least 6 months in the bottle to mellow out before I drink more than a bottle to check the carbonation (which is fine because a 95 degree day does not scream barleywine to me).

The batch was inspired by, but not a clone of, Lost Abbey's Angel's Share. For once I actually had a bottle of the beer to be inspired by as I got a bottle for being part of the Sinners Club. The beer is basically an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon or brandy barrels. It amazingly delicious and complex with a dry enough finish and enough hidden alcohol to make it dangerous.

Many people might look at my recipe with 2 lbs of crystal and .2 lbs of honey malt in just 3.4 gallons and say that it will leave too much residual sweetness. However, between the 3 hour mash at 150, .5 lbs unrefined sugar, and highly attenuative US-05 yeast it got down to 1.020 (very close to the 1.018 I measured for Angel's Share).

The only major snag I encountered on this batch was the same as my most recent Flanders Red, the beer simply did not start fermenting. I still blame the Campden Tablet water treatment, but in the end the beer tastes fine and all it cost me was a few pints of beer because I was forced to rack the beer an extra time.

After primary fermentation ended I divided the batch into three jugs for secondary. To the first jug I added .5 oz of heavy toast American oak that had been soaking in Bourbon along with 3 tbls of Makers Mark to heighten the Bourbon flavor. To the second I added .5 oz of Hungarian oak that had soaked in Cognac along with 3 tbls of Courvoisier VS. The third jug was left plain so I will be able to see exactly how the oak/liquor versions compare to the base beer.

Adding liquor is something that as homebrewers we can do easily, technically though it is illegal for professional breweries to do. Aging their beers in old liquor barrels that still have some of the liquor soaked into the wood is a way for them to sidestep this law. Recently though it seems as if this loophole may be closing, California is considering upping the tax rate for any beer that gains more than .5% ABV from the residual liquor in a barrel.

Look for a full tasting of this batch sometime in early 2009.

Liquor Spiked Barleywine

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 3.40
Total Grain (Lbs): 14.28
Anticipated OG: 1.112
Anticipated SRM: 23.7
Anticipated IBU: 71.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71 %
Wort Boil Time: 120 Minutes

11.00 lbs. Maris Otter
1.00 lbs. Wheat Malt
0.75 lbs. CaraMunich Malt
0.50 lbs. Pilloncillo
0.50 lbs. English Crystal 55L
0.25 lbs. CaraVienna Malt
0.19 lbs. Honey Malt
0.09 lbs. Chocolate Malt

1.50 oz. Galena (10.10% AA) @ 60 min. (pellet)
1.00 oz. Cascade (5.75% AA) @ 30 min. (pellet)

0.50 Whirlfloc Tablets @ 15 Min.
0.25 tsp. Yeast Nutrient @ 15 Min.
1.00 oz. Medium Toast French Oak Beans 66 Days

US-05 American Ale Yeast

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 180 Min. @ 150

Brewed 4/28/08 By myself

Crushed the grains the night before. Added 1/4 (crushed/dissolved) campden tablet to unfiltered DC tap water in the morning. Mashed in during my lunch break, and did not sparged until after work (thus the long mash time).

Sugar was a half cake of Goya Pilloncillo added to the kettle at the start of the sparge to dissolve. Collected 6 gallons of 1.070 wort (including the sugar) pre-boil.

Ended up a bit higher OG than I planned, but I'll leave it as is. The longer mash seemed to boost efficiency a bit for such a big beer.

Chilled to 70, then placed in the freezer at 62 F. Gave it a 60 seconds of pure O2, then pitched a pint of 2 week old slurry from the IPA which had received fresh wort.

After 24 hours there was no activity so I boosted the temp to 65 and gave it a quick shake.

5/01/08 Still no activity, fearing the worst I racked to secondary and added a rehydrated pack of US-05.

5/02/08 Nice full krausen going, finally.

5/09/08 Upped temp to 68 to help it finish, still has a small but thick krausen.

5/11/08 Down to 1.040 (64% AA, 9.6% ABV) Still has a krausen so hopefully it will continue to drop another 20 points. Moved out of the fridge and gave it a heating pad to keep the temp around 70.

5/15/08 Still putting out the occasional bubble but the krausen is just about gone, down to 1.029 (74% AA 11.1% ABV).

5/22/08 Racked to three 4L jugs after 3 weeks in primary. Two full, one with .5 oz brandy soaked Hungarian cubes and and one with .5 oz bourbon soaked American cubes. One half full with nothing added.

5/24/08 Gravity down to about 1.020 (82% AA, 12.3% ABV) Added 2 tbls of each liquor to their respective jugs (Courvoisier VS and Makers Mark). 1 tbls of 80 proof liquor raises the alcohol by only .1%.

6/21/08 Added another tbls of liquor to each, both taste pretty good. The flavor is still a bit rough, but getting there.

7/04/08 Airlocks had gotten pretty low, might have gotten a hint of oxidation, but the flavor is still continuing to mellow and improve.

7/28/08 Bottled with 10 g of cane sugar per gallon plus some rehydrated S-04. Got 9 bottles of each of the Bourbon and Cognac jugs, and 5 bottles of the plain. Plus 2 blended bottles to test carbonation in a few weeks. Aiming for 2.2 volumes of CO2. I am not sure if the S-04 will have the alcohol tolerance to do the job, but I can always reyeast if needed. There is no hurry as July in DC is not the right weather for a 12.5% Barleywine.

12/26/08 Added some dried champagne yeast to aid in carbonation.

5/05/09 Still basically no carbonation. Blended a bottle each of the bourbon and the brandy with equal parts of the Funky Old Ale, entering the blend in the SoFB as an Old Ale.

1/17/10 Got around to doing a tasting with forced carbonation.  Pretty tasty, with the Brandy and Plain being more drinkable and complex than the Bourbon spiked version.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Greg Doss's NHC Presentation - Brettanomyces Experiment

Here is an interesting PDF from Greg Doss's NHC presentation Brettanomyces: Flavor and performance of single and multiple strain fermentations with respect to time.

His experiment compared a “traditional” Brett in secondary fermentation, a 100% Brett fermentation, and a co-inoculation of Brett along with Saccharomyces in primary. For all experiment he used Brett Lambicus (which I have no experience with outside of Lambic and Flanders Red). The most interesting result was evidence that the primary Sacch strain makes a significant impact on the finished Brett beer. According to him it has to do with competition for mebabolites and Ethyl phenol precursors.
I had never noticed a difference, but then I have never done two similar enough Brett beers with different primary strains to compare. It is also always nice to see my name on the thank you list alongside the likes of Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Ron Jeffries (Jolly Pumpkin), and Shaun Hill (The Shed). Here is my small contribution to his presentation.
You can also hear a brief interview with him about the presentation on BBR.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What have you fermented?

Out of 120 people:
Beer 113 (94%)
Cider 63 (52%)
Mead 56 (46%)
Sourdough Bread 45 (37%)
Wine 34 (28%)
Cultured Milk (yogurt, buttermilk, quark etc...) 30 (25%)
Cheese 23 (19%)
Pickles 22 (18%)
Sauerkraut/Kimchi 21 (17%)
Kombucha 17 (14%)
Other 15 (12%)
Cured Meat 14 (11%)
Ginger Beer Plant 5 (4%)
Sake 3 (2%)

Certainly looks like most of the people visiting the site at least dabble in beer brewing. Other beverages cover three of the next four slots. Sourdough bread and cultured milk products are also high up, I find them to be two of the easier and faster fermentations to do at home. Cheese, and fermented vegetables take a bit more time and care, and thus are a bit further down.

I'll probably start doing some cured meat soon, I've been reading the excellent book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. A very inspirational and well written book, I'll probably start by breaking down some Duck and making Duck Prosciutto from the breasts and confit from the legs before moving on the the more microbial driven recipes.

For the people who answered Other, what have you made that doesn't fall into one of the other categories?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lambic Blended/Bottled/Fruited

Last weekend I took a trip up to see my parents in Massachusetts. The three sour beers I have up there were still looking good. The last pictures they sent me made we worried that there was some mold growing (more than just in the airlock), but on close inspection it was just dried beer in some places and souring microbes in others.

The Cable Car clone still needs more time, it is just starting to get funky, without any sourness to speak of. I added some French oak cubes that had soaked in the same Lost Abbey Red Poppy starter that I used on my Flanders Red and Big Funky. I may feed it a few ounces of malt extract the next time I am up to give the bugs something else to eat.

The Flanders Pale has a terrific funky nose, but only a soft tartness. The oak leg looked pretty beaten up so I decided to replace it with a standard stopper and airlock. It is very dry so it will be time to bottle half of it the next time I am up there. I also have 2 lbs of plumcots (Dapple Dandy pluots) that I pitted, quartered, vacupacked, and froze that I will add to the other half of the batch.

My Lambic finally tasted nicely sour, but it had gotten enough sharp acetic acid (probably from the airlock going dry) that I decided to blend one gallon of the Flanders Pale into it and visa versa. To accomplish this I transferred two gallons of each beer into a bottling bucket, then transferred two gallons of the blend back into each carboy. I bottled half of the blended lambic with 3/4 cup of light DME, I considered adding fresh yeast but decided the relatively fresh 1 year old Flanders Pale Ale would provide enough viable microbes to get the job done eventually (I am in no hurry on this one).

After bottling half of the now blended lambic I transferred the remainder of the batch onto 4.4 lbs of local blueberries. The berries were frozen for about 8 hours to break up the cell walls before they were added to the beer. I plan on bottling this portion in another month, but it will depend on the flavor and attenuation. The base beer is at 1.002, so if it is much higher than that in a month I may transfer the beer to tertiary and leave it there until it dries out.

Originally I planned to split this batch of lambic five ways leaving one gallon plain and adding four different fruits to one gallon each, but in the end I decided it would waste (during transferring, bottling etc...) less of this precious elixir just to do half with a fruit and half without. I liked the idea of blueberries because they are native to America, have a distinct flavor that I love, and have only very rarely been used to make lambic (Cantillon Blåbær Lambik and Upland Blueberry Lambic are the only two commercial ones as far as I know).

In the case of the Cantillon Blåbær Lambik it seems that they may not have used what we refer to as blueberries here in America. According to Wiki “The names of blue berries in languages other than English often translate as "blueberry", e.g. Scots Blaeberry and Norwegian Blåbær, although those berries may belong to another species. For example, Blåbær and French myrtilles usually refer to the European native bilberry, while bleuets refers to the North American blueberry.”

I'd like to encourage people to branch out and try something in their fruit beers besides the two old standbys, cherries and raspberries. These days there are so many options, particularly in the summer when terrific fresh fruit is available at local farmer's markets for so much less than those Oregon Purees.

You can see how kind my parents are, allowing me to stack up beer in their spare closet. The cases down the bottom are of the various sour beers I have made, if I didn't have somewhere to keep them I would drink through them far too quickly. I also have some high alcohol homebrews that have not made it to their peak yet. In addition I am keeping some commercial beer that need a bit more age, nothing too amazing at the moment, but certainly some tasty stuff including a 2006 Stone RIS, 2006 Dragonslayer, 2007 Mikkeller Black Hole, 2007 Jolly Pumpkin Noel, Cuvee de Ranke, Fuller's Vintage 1998, and Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien 2006.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ginger Beer Plant 101

With my summer (beer) brewing hiatus well underway it is time to get something new fermenting, Ginger Beer Plant (GBP). GBP is the original way that people made ginger beer (ale) at home, it produces more interesting byproducts than forced carbonation or a regular yeast (including some acidity) and it will not over carbonate the finished drink after it is chilled.

GBP is like Kombucha in that it is a gelatinous symbiotic colony of microorganisms, in this case our old friends Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces. Although in this case they are different species than are common in beer production (hilgardii and florentinus instead of delbrueckii and cerevisiae according to Wikipedia).

Unlike Kombucha, GBP creates mainly lactic acid and likes to ferment anaerobically.
This should lead to a beverage that is more tangy than bracingly sour or vinegary (my main complaint about Kombucha).

I bought my culture from Fermented Treasures (now defunct), dried. The first step was to rehydrated the granules in room temperatures water with a bit of sugar. They swelled up pretty well within an hour, but the directions called for a 24 hour soak. By the next morning there were small bubbles coming through the liquid so I knew the microbes must have been active.

The microbes do their best work in warm temperatures (80-90 F) so summer in DC seems like the perfect time to give it a try. I am starting out with dried ginger for simplicity, then I'll move onto experimenting with fresh ginger. Citrus juice is also a standard ingredient, I'll start classic with lemon and move on to more interesting options (orange, lime, grapefruit etc...). I am also starting with regular white sugar, but will be making things more interesting after that (agave, palm sugar, unrefined sugar etc...).
1st batch: 7/08/08
1 qrt filtered water (no chlorine because it kills microbes)
2 tsp dried ginger
135 g cane sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (pulp left in)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (for head retention)
1 rehydrated ginger beer plant culture

Mixed all the ingredients together, let it sit for 48 hours at between 70-90 before bottling. I left the lid loose to allow CO2 to escape. I bottled it in a 1 L plastic Poland Springs bottle, plastic can hold much more pressure than glass and is much less dangerous in the event that it does rupture. Bad choice on the type of plastic bottle though, the bottom went from an inny to an outy when enough pressure built up (less than 24 hours). The flavor is pretty good, but a bit light on the spicy ginger flavor. The GBP added some nice tropical fruit notes and left plenty of sugar behind for it to be much more sweet than tart. Looks like carbonated lemonade.
2nd Batch 7/10/08
2 peeled fingers fresh ginger
1 cup + 3 cups filtered water
125 g sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (pulp strained out)
Rinsed ginger beer plant
I grated the ginger on a microplane grater than brought it to a boil in the microwave with 1 cup of water. I covered it with plastic wrap and let it cool for 1 hour before straining the ginger solids out, pressing on the ginger to extract all the juice. The ginger juice was then mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Fermented for 60 hours.
The flavor is much more spicy ginger with a milder lemon flavor. I would say that the fresh ginger is definitely superior to the dried, even though it does take a bit more effort.

3rd Batch 7/13/08
2 peeled fingers fresh ginger
1 cup + 3 cups filtered water
125 g sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (pulp strained out)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Rinsed ginger beer plant

Same as Batch #2, but the lemon zest was steeped/strained along with the ginger and I added the cream of tartar that I had forgotten in the previous batch.
I enjoy the quick turn around 4-5 days from brewing to drinking, but like Kombucha I will probably grow tired of the constant cycle of production.

Other reading on Ginger Beer Plant:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Norwegian Beer Train

My friend Mat is over in Oslo Norway at the moment and sent me a picture of an event at Valle Hovin Stadium that involves a train car beer barrel/keg. I don't have the slightest idea what is going on, but it looks like a blast