Saturday, June 9, 2012

English Porter Parti-Gyle Double Tasting

One of the things I hate most about bottling, is bottle conditioning. Having to pick a target volume of CO2 at bottling and then rely on the yeast to get there. I’ve had a handful of over-carbonated batches during the last few years. A couple were the result of Brettanomyces (or other) contamination, a couple my fault for adding too much priming sugar, and one batch I did a poor job mixing the beer with the priming solution.

In the case of this parti-gyle (combined grist brewing) English ale I have no idea what caused the excess carbonation. The beer tastes clean after four months in the bottle at cellar temp, so maybe 15 days was too quick to crash chill the beer (although White Labs Yorkshire Square, is supposed to be quick to reach its attenuation limit and then flocculate). The gravity on the small portion dropped from 1.009 (80% AA) at bottling in February to 1.006 (87% AA) today, a good illustration of how little fermentation it takes to over-carbonate a batch (and surprisingly high attenuation given the strain's usually low attenuation). It could be that somehow another brewer’s yeast strain got into the culture, who knows?

Second Runnings Brownish Ale

Stole Audrey's half pint for this picture of the low gravity brown ale.Appearance – Right out of the fridge this brown-amber ale has significant chill haze. As a result of excess carbonation I’ve had to keep and pour both of these beers much colder than I usually would for English ales. The moderate white head stays for a few minutes, but falls apart relatively quickly.

Smell – The most prominent aroma is the distinct slightly burnt-toast character of brown malt. A bit of English yeasty-fruit character comes out as the beer slowly warms in the glass. English yeast fruitiness tends to not be as distinct as say the banana in a hefe weizen, but in this case it is somewhere around fresh red apple. Not much going on, but what is there is pleasant enough.

Taste – Like the nose, the flavor is relatively straightforward. English yeast, along with toasty and bready malt. Minimal hop bitterness, but there is hardly any sweetness to be balanced. The finish is long and slightly minerally, a nice boost to the complexity. From the malt bill I was expecting more caramel.

Mouthfeel – Starts with too much carbonation, but given 15 minutes to warm up and degas it isn’t annoyingly high. Still tastes a bit thin despite the oats, which is probably a result of the high attenuation and the fact that it is mostly second runnings.

Drinkability & Notes – Overall a relatively clean session-y ale. Pleasant enough, but the excessive carbonation does detract from my overall enjoyment. I do enjoy the flavor of brown malt, but I might back down on it slightly if I brewed it again.

First Runnings Strong Porter

Strong Porter... a bit over-carbonated I think.
Appearance – Pours with a dense light-tan head about four fingers thick… that proceeds to grow to six fingers thick, protruding in a mound above the rim of the glass. The opaque brown body hides the haze better than the smaller beer.

Smell – Big nose of brown sugar, caramel, baked figs, vanilla, and a bit of alcohol heat. It almost smells like it spent a month or two in a rum barrel. It is amazing to think that these two beers, with such different aromatic profiles, came from the same mash and were fermented with the same yeast.

Taste – Sadly the flavor no longer has the sweetness to support the intensely complex aroma. The dryness leads it to almost taste more like a Belgian dubbel, intense malt-fruitiness, but without the sweetness of a strong English ale. Like the lower gravity portion of the batch there is nothing seriously off about it, but the high attenuation has disrupted the balance.

Mouthfeel – Similarly over-carbonated (if that massive head wasn’t enough of a clue). The beer comes across as thin and a bit seltzer-like.

Drinkability & Notes – I like this half more than the small beer, but the excessive carbonation means I won’t get to hang onto it to see how it changes over the next few years. I may have to brew something similar again to see the result with proper carbonation.


The Idoit said...

What were the specs on these beers? OG/FG?
I just brewed a parti gyle of Scotch Ale & Heather Ale where the Scotch Ale OG was 1.087 & the Heather Ale was 1.028.
Also, have you ever tried the boil down method for your English/Scottish style beers?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Big OG: 1.078  
Small OG: 1.045

I mixed a bit of the first runnings into the smaller beer to get the gravity up. The full details of the recipe are linked from the post (and here as well). I have done the boil-down method a couple of times (such as my 90 Shilling Stout last year). It adds some character, but I find that it still takes some caramel/crystal malt to get the flavor people generally expect from the "Scottish" ales.

The Idoit said...

Malt bill was;
7# Asheburne Mild
7# Maris Otter
3/4# English Extra Dark Crystal
1# Caramel 60L
1# Caramel 20L
3/4# Golden Naked Oats
1/2# Aromatic
1/2# Special Roast
1/2# Melanoidin
1/10# English Chocolate

When I did the boil down of a gallon - it was shocking how much richer the final wort was! Mind blowing!

Ryan said...

It's pretty common for the higher floccing english yeasts to restart in the bottle and over carb. I've had some luck cold crashing aggressively with gelatin added and then adding back in s-05 during priming.

Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder if those carb drops are worth trying, not the ones formulated with malt extract, but the pure dextrose kind. Although you can't dial in the carbonation level you want, you could guarantee consistency, I'd imagine anyway. When I finish my Oud Bruin you steered me on at the beginning of this year, I plan on trying them in a few bottles to see if they are worth anything.

Kyle said...

As always - I appreciate how you posts both your success and failures.

I know you can learn a lot from a batch that's off the mark, but being humble enough to put it out there allows us to do the same.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The issue on this one wasn't the amount of priming sugar (something that could be solved with carb drops), judging from the drop in the gravity. Actually a .003 drop on its own was probably more than this batch needed without priming sugar. The lack of customization is what bothers me about those, although they are certainly a good option for small batch experiments.

The flocculation is probably to blame. I roused the yeast several times as fermentation slowed, but the temperature may not have been warm enough to ensure the yeast finished out. Again though with 80% AA, I had no reason to think that there was more to ferment though. US-05 is pretty attenuative in my experience, so reyeasting a relatively sweet beer with it would worry me.

I think honesty is one of the most important things about a blog like this. I want people to believe me when I say a batch turned out great, and part of that is letting them know when one goes the other direction. Glad you appreciated!

synaesthesia said...

Tip I learned from English brewers, bottle the beer without yeast or priming sugar, and wait for about 4 weeks for it to finish out. Most British and Scottish strains behave that way. Cold crashing does not completely work, you have to mechanically filter the yeast out if you want to have more control over carbonation.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I have heard that for certain English strains (especially for cask conditioning), but I thought it was only if you bottled the beer while it was still slowly finishing its fermentation. I’ve bottled dozens of English beers without removing the yeast and never had a problem before.

Ben said...

Agreed. I just started a homebrew blog and it's tough to write about how poorly a batch turned out to be. But, it's super helpful to read about recipes/techniques that didn't turn out quite right on other blogs, so I figure it helps others when I'm brutally honest about my mistakes too. Thanks Mike.

Jim Lemire said...

Hey Mike - I know I'm digging up an old post here, but was wondering what you thought of the bitterness level for the Big Porter. The recipe indicates only 21 IBUs. I'm going to be making something similar - a brown ale/porter with an OG of 1.080 using maple sap in place of water and I'm trying to figure out the correct hopping schedule. 21 IBUs seems low to me, but then again I'm not looking to showcase hops in this one. If you made your recipe again would you change the hopping at all?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

This was brewed for an event where it was going to be drank pretty young, if you wanted to age it you could certainly boost the bitterness to maintain the balance. I was pretty happy with the way it was initially, although the excess carbonation and over-attenuation in the bottle ended up out of control.

Evan Roth said...

I had a WLP006 Bedford brown overcarbonate and blow a bottle into a million pieces in my basement. Thankfully no one was in there at the time.

It had gone for the requisite amount of time (~10-14 days), and I remember even bringing it up REALLY warm (like 73) towards the end. The pitch was healthy. But the attenuation was at the low end. We kegged half and bottled half. The keg half never fully cleared despite it being a "high flocculating" yeast and adding LOTS of biofine. The bottled half OVER-carbonated to an extreme degree, almost like a saison. And we bottled in old 16oz Budweiser bottles which are notoriously weak.

What I surmise is that the beer hadn't finished fermenting in primary (hence the cloudiness). It finish in secondary in the bottle with the aid of the priming sugar.

So the lesson is pay attention to clarity and gravity when using English yeasts. Rack to secondary to encourage fermentation if necessary.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yikes! Almost sounds like there was another strain in there. Did you take a gravity reading after it over-carbonated (tough off the floor).

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