Monday, September 12, 2011

Homebrewing with Local Ingredients

Trying to brew and teach at the same time is pretty tough.
On August 14th I taught my first homebrewing class, with the bucolic backdrop provideded by Purcellville Virginia's Mountain View Farm.  It seemed obvious that being on a working farmthe subject matter would be brewing with local ingredients.  I'm an advocate of buying ingredients at places that specialize in them, which ensures they are fresh and high quality.  In the same way that I don't buy malt extract in the baking isle of the supermarket, I don't buy spices or fruit at the homebrewing store (or a supermarket for that matter).  Obtaining the freshest, highest quality ingredients is the quickest way to improve the beers you produce.

The turnout for the class was great, people asked insiteful questions, and seemed to enjoy the demonstration (not to mention the samples I brought).  During the class I finally opened up the growler of Quick Sour Bruin that I'd been sitting on; it had really improved with a moderate sourness and expressive coffee and bready malts (although having to wait a year really defeated the pourpose of the quick souring method).

The wheat had a few bits of other grain mixed in.
The Peach American Wheat I brewed during the class used as many local ingredients as I could get my hands on.  The farm I was brewing on primarily grows vegetables, so another local farmer provided the raw wheat.  I've read plenty of debate about whether unmalted cereal grains, that haven't been flaked/torrefied, need to be boiled before conversion.  Some brewers point out that for many grains the gelatinization temperature (that is the temperature at which the starches burst and become accessible to enzymes) is within the saccharification range.  While this is true, that is the temperature required for the pure starch to gelatinize, more heat/time is required when the starch is constrained by proteins.  This is the reason why you can thicken a sauce with corn starch without bringing it to a boil, but a flour thickened sauce requires a few minutes at a boil to fully thicken.

Sadly I wasn't able to get any local malted barley for the fill-out of the grist, although a few weeks later I did pick up 50 lbs of Valley Malting pale malt (from Massachusetts) that I'll be brewing with soon.  Brewing with local malt really isn't any different than brewing with any other malt, although Nick (the owner of DIY Brewing Supply where I bought the malt) suggested adding a short protein rest to the schedule when using this particular malt.

Audrey was a big help cutting up the peaches and keeping an eye on things while I was talking.
The same farmer who brought the wheat also came with a few pounds of his yellow peaches.  While I'm usually an advocate of adding fruit after primary fermentation is complete, for this batch I wanted to add it during the class.  I added the sliced up peaches (pits removed, skin left on) to the kettle once I got the chiller running post-boil.  This will give less of a fresh fruit aroma to the beer, but it should provide a complementary fruit character to the citrusy hops.

I brought the first harvest of dried hops from my hop bines, and a couple weeks later dry hopped with half a pound of wet hops from the second harvest (both additions were a combination of Cascade and Willamette).  One of the great advantages of homegrown hops, and wet hops in general, is that they haven't been exposed to heat while drying.  This leaves the most delicate aromatics intact, but by adding them to the boil (even at flame out) these volatilize.

Here is the outline of the topics I tried to cover during the class:

Unmalted grains
Any starch containing grain can be used (wheat, rye, oats, corn, spelt, buckwheat etc...)
Flaked or torrefied grains can be added directly to the mash with malted grain
Raw grains must be boiled to gelatinize their starches before mashing
Pale American 2-row malt has enough enzymes to convert half of its own weight in unmalted grains

Other sources of starch
Includes root vegetables (potato, sweet potato), and squashes (pumpkin, butternut)
Generally steamed or roasted before mashing
Most squashes can be added to the boil or fermenter since they are relatively low in starch

Other sources of sugar
Includes honey, maple syrup, sorghum syrup, and molasses
Can be added right to the boil or fermenter
The later in the process they are added the more of their aromatics will survive into the beer

First time I've dry hopped with wet hops.Wet (undried) hops
Fresher “green” flavor
Usually added at the end of the boil to preserve their aroma
Weigh 5-6 times more than when dried
Must be used within a few days of harvest (or dried)
Less predictable alpha acid percentage

Added near the end of the boil provides a more “integrated” character (good for adding low level complexity), but difficult to control how much character it contributes
As a tea (steeped in hot water) or tincture (vodka extraction) gives a brighter more assertive character (good if you want to be able to identify the herb/spice) and allows you dial in the flavor by tasting as you add

Fresh fruit
The riper the fruit is (even slightly over-ripe) the better
Added at the end of the boil the heat and fermentation destroy or drive off delicate aromatics, but there is no risk of contamination from wild yeast and bacteria living on the skin
Added to the fermenter preserves more delicate aromatics, but there is some risk of contamination (especially in low alcohol beers)

Wild yeast and bacteria
Harvested from the air
Best to capture when the weather is cool (less acetobacter and mold)
Leave hot wort out overnight covered with cheesecloth
Propagate and sample before using
Harvested from grain
Best for Lactobacillus (produces mostly lactic acid)
Add malted grain to a starter, hold at 110-120 F for three days before using

I'm hoping to run another class in the Fall/Winter in collaboration with Mountain View Farms, but this one will probably be setup as more of an introduction to brewing.

Local Peach Wheat Amber 

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.25
Anticipated OG: 1.050
Anticipated SRM: 10.0
Anticipated IBU: 23.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 56 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

81.6% - 10.00 lbs. American Pale Malt (2-row)
16.3% - 2.00 lbs. Raw Wheat
2.0% - 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate Malt 

1.25 oz. Homegrown Mix Dried (Whole, ~5.00% AA) @ 60 min.
1.25 oz. Homegrown Mix Dried (Whole, ~5.00% AA) @ 0 min.
8.00 oz. Homegrown Mix Wet (Whole, ~1.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

DCL Yeast S-04 SafAle English Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 152

Brewed 8/14/11 at Mountain View Farms

Used DC water cut with 3 gallons o f distilled. Boiled milled raw wheat for 20 minutes before combining with the malted grains and water to stabilize.

Hops (Cascade and Willamette) were dried on my fan drying rig.

Batch sparged, collected about 6 gallons of runnings. Added three pounds of sliced/pitted yellow peaches after chilling for a few minutes.

Ended up with about 4 gallons of wort after the boil, chilled to ~90 F and then racked to a sanitary keg for the ride home. Chilled in fridge for 3 hours, then added 1 gallon of chilled water to cool it the rest of the way.

Chilled to 73 F then added 1 gallon of chilled distilled water to drop the temp into the high 60s. Shook to aerate and pitch 1 pack of rehydrated US-05.  Solid fermentation by 18 hours at 65 F ambient.

9/4/11 Dry hopped with 1/2 pound of wet hops just off the bines in my backyard.

9/12/11 Bottled with 3.25 oz of cane sugar, aiming for 2.2 volumes of CO2. Only down to 1.017, not as dry as I expected.

9/29/11 Solid beer, peach and the hops are a bit more subtle than I expected.


Middle Class Middle Aged White Guy said...

Thanks for that - there's some great reference material for future use.

Being slightly paranoid about sanitation, could you sanitize fresh fruit with vodka if you wanted to add them to the fermenter? The same question applies to wet hopping. Or would this make things too boozy?

I am trying to construct a test scenario for hops- much like the one you did with the varying sugars used in brewing- because I'm trying to determine what hop flavors and aromas I like and which ones I don't (I'm not a real hophead). Any suggestions?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I actually did a single hop experiment before my sugar experiment (actually my first interview on Basic Brewing Radio was on the subject five years ago… please don’t listen to it!)

I wouldn’t worry about microbes on hops, I’ve never heard of it being an issue. The problem with fruit (unlike hops) is that they are full of sugar loving, somewhat alcohol tolerant microbes that can thrive in beer. A quick dip in alcohol can work, but I tend to use Star-San since it contributes less flavor. Odds are you'll be fine even without those steps if you wait for the beer to ferment out first, the alcohol, low pH, and hops offer a decent amount of protection.

hiikeeba said...

Would you please write this as a book? After a hunting trip to my cousin's farm, I have been obsessing about a prickly pear fruit beer, and this I run across this post!


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The one prickly pear beer I've had, Freetail Fortuna Roja, sadly wasn't much to get excited about (the color and flavor weren't far off melted Jolly Ranchers). An experienced southwestern homebrewer mentioned to me that he'd never had luck harvesting his own tunas (prickly pears) for beer, but he thought the concentrate worked great (although it is pricy).

The book on sour beers is still churning (and that will cover the local yeast section), but once that is done I'll put it on the to-do list...

BrianB said...

Having dealt with fruit (specifically peaches) myself, I first pitted and froze the fresh fruit. This tends to whack some of the hostile microbes, and also has the benefit of breaking down cell walls to make the fruit more fermentable. I heated the frozen peaches with a cup or two of water to 160 degrees before chilling and adding them to the secondary. This was a week ago and everything seems to be going well.

In regards to prickly pears, most of what I've heard is they do better in mead or wine than beer. Unfortunately with all the wildfires and drought in TX my friends out there haven't had much luck in getting many this year.

Mike W said...

I was planning to brew up a wheat this week and do a cherry addition. But I am inspired by your talk of local ingredients, and I am reminded of my growing love affair with stuff I can get locally too. I think I'll head out and get some peaches today and do a peach wheat. Great post and blog keep it up.

Marc D said...

I just found your blog and really love it.
Thanks for all the great posts.
You have inspired me to try making a sour beer. I have been making mostly Belgian style ales but have shied away from sours because my wife (who is my drinking partner) doesn't love them. I could drink Rodenbach all the time but she makes a face. She did like a beer made with Orval dregs, so I guess brett is OK.

Anyway thanks for writing up this labor of love.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Good info.
I have a comment on the Prickly Pears used in beer. I also agree that they taste just like Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. I harvested my own and made a syrup. I have used the syrup in Berliner Weiss and Gose. Not sure what else it would work in.