Monday, October 29, 2012

What type of beer would you prefer to drink?

A combination of traditional brewing ingredients in a unique way. - 50%
A great example of a classic style - 34%
A batch that includes an ingredient you've never tasted in a beer before. - 15%

Modern Times, the physical entity, is really starting to materialize (fund raising is complete, some hop contracts have been signed, and Jacob is hoping to finalize a lease for a building over the next few days, which would leave a head brewer, and a brewing system high on his to-do list). In addition to brewing test batches, I’ve been spending time thinking about my brewing philosophy. What kind of beers am I truly passionate about making?

At this point there are so many American breweries putting out excellent straight-ahead versions of most classic styles that it would be tough to come into a big beer nerd market (like San Diego) and beat them at their own game. I’m not sure I would want to anyway. The recipes Jacob and I have been developing aren’t weird or wacky, but beers similar to them aren’t available in abundance. Beers like moderate gravity saison, hoppy American wheat, coffee/oatmeal stout, and red/rye IPA. Sure there are already solid versions of all of these beers on the market somewhere, but none of them are available from more than a couple breweries at the average craft-beer-centric retailer/bar.

I respect what breweries like Short’s and Cigar City do, finding unique and interesting ingredients to add to their beers. While these flavors sometimes work well, see Cigar City’s Cucumber Saison, even with perfect execution I rarely want to drink more than a taster. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go out of my way for the experience of trying their beers, but I won’t be buying a case of Short’s Carrot Cake anytime soon (even though the flavor captures the dessert perfectly, down to the cream cheese icing). One of my goals is to brew beers that I want to drink frequently and in quantity.

I want to brew beers that bring a level of sophistication to recipe and ingredient choice. I’d rather see beers designed in the same way chef’s create recipes, rather than someone playing a game (i.e., who can get the most IBUs/alcohol/malts into their beer?). I think breweries that have a vision, and brew to their own palates have the most success. Rather than adding an ingredient just to put it on the label (a brewer-friend once mentioned that they contract brewed a raspberry honey wheat that contained a single ladle of honey for a 30 bbl batch), we will focus on picking exactly the right quality and quantity of a fruit or sugar to achieve our desired flavor.

Fruit, honey, spices, herbs, hops, malt, microbes, and barrels are not all created equal. If we aren’t able to do something right or get a high-enough-quality version, I’d rather wait until we can. Working to procure locally sourced and seasonal ingredients is going to take time and practice, but I’m confident that it will pay off over buying bulk fruit puree or bland pasteurized honey. It also means taking the time to select the ideal strains of microbes for any given sour beer, rather than having a single all-purpose house culture.

As a homebrewer I’ve only have to worry about creating beers that suit my palate. I don’t mind spending a few extra dollars getting “the best” ingredients. Commercially that isn’t always an option in terms of both the profitability of a beer and the availability of certain ingredients in amounts large enough to flavor a 1,000 gallon batch. Luckily southern California has a much wider array of produce for a longer season than I’m used to in DC.

Jacob and I generally agree on what we want in the beers, but at times we’ve had differing opinions on what direction to go. I’m confident that together we’ve been able to dial in our recipes better than either of us could have on their own. I’m excited to get out there and start translating what I’ve had success with at home into the production environment; it should be a blast! For a bit more detail on Modern Times, as well as the book, and some more of my brewing philosophy, check out the interview that White Labs just posted with me over on their YeastBuddy blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bourbon Barrel Oud Bruin Tasting

I grew pretty attached to our first group barrel. It started its life aging Virginia Gentleman at A. Smith Bowman. The first beer we aged in it was a Wee Heavy, but when that grew slightly tart we added bottle dregs and rolled with it to terrific results. The stoutish-porter that went into the barrel next (and then onto sour cherries) reach the mini-Best of Show at the final round of the 2012 NHC. The third beer in, the Americanized oud bruin I’m sipping now, was the last group beer in it before we purchased a fresh barrel from the same distillery (which is currently aging a Brett lambicus spiked barleywine).

The original bourbon barrel developed resident microbes that provided a wonderful tartness, even in strong beers, without producing an overly dry or funky character. The beers aged in it share a lot of similarities with those of Cascade Brewing. Nathan eventually refilled the barrel with a mega-batch of his Vin De Céréale, a gigantic Flemish red inspired by a difficult to find Rodenbach brew. I’m sure the barrel will eventually find its way into his stable at Right Proper and lead a long and happy life.

A snifter full of bourbon-barrel-aged sour brown ale.American Old Brown

Appearance – Pours with a dense light-tan head. It has decent retention, especially for a sour beer. The body is dark brown, but it appears clear with red highlights when held to the light. Very pretty… for a brown beer.

Smell – There was half a second when I initially smelled the snifter that I thought I might have opened one of the bottles that had aged on cherries, nope. In addition to the red fruit, the vanilla from the oak comes through (even on the third turn of the barrel). It doesn’t have that musty aroma that classic aged-out oud bruins like Goudenband have, much fresher and brighter.

Taste – Bright, but not overpowering lactic sourness. Wonderfully snappy, without a hint of acetic harshness. Very cherry-forward, fresh and bright. The fruitiness goes well with the American oak, I won’t say I get bourbon, but certainly a bit of sweet vanilla. The beer still has a decent amount of sweetness, right for a malty sour beer like this.

Mouthfeel – Just slightly prickly, about right for a big/dark sour. Plenty of body left to balance the acidity. I may have to culture the microbes from a bottle of this to start my five gallon liquor barrels when I am ready to take them sour.

Drinkability & Notes – Hard not to like this rounded, complex, sour brown ale. I’m really excited to see how the half that aged on sour cherries it doing… bye.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rumble-Barrel Cinnamon/Vanilla Imperial Porter

The series of four clean barrel–aged beers I’m working on has been a lot of fun so far, but it has also been slightly stressful. Considering their extended aging, trying to keep these beers squeaky clean with all of the wild beers I brew has been my top priority. So I bought a fresh round of post-fermentation gear, passing down the old plastic to my sours. I bought two new buckets, one for bottling and one for storing/sanitizing gear. My dual use buckets always seemed to end up with a ring of scratches around the bottom from the sharp plastic on the tips of bottling wands, auto-siphons etc, creating good places for microbes to hide. I’ll also be bottle-conditioning all of these beers (who wants a five gallon keg of Whisky Barrel Trippelbock?), a challenge as they are all pushing 10% ABV.

This Imperial Porter was loosely based on and inspired by Birth of Tragedy, which I drank a glass of during my visit to Hill Farmstead over the summer. Both are strong dark beer subtly spiced with cinnamon, and vanilla. Shaun aged his in bourbon barrels, while mine is currently resting in a second use barrel that held Rumble (distilled from figs, demerara, and honey).

Cleaning the five gallon barrel with near boiling water.The base beer for my batch is essentially a scaled up version of the Coffee-Oatmeal Stout I’ve been dialing in for Modern Times. It relies on lower color dark malts than those used by most brewers, so I was able to load them in without too much concern about creating a harsh/burnt flavor. I’d grown bored of pitching American ale yeast for so many batches, so I made the switch to Irish Ale (which I really liked in the Scandinavian Imperial Porter I brewed a few years ago).

When I tried to pull my first sample of the Quad that was sitting in the Rumble barrel originally, I discovered the bunghole on the 20L Balcones barrels are just barely wide enough to accommodate a standard auto-siphon. It takes some tilting and pressure, but it pops in eventually. However, it is easy to knock-off the cap while pulling it back out through the hole. So when drawing a sample it may be best to leave the cap off.

The Quad was oaky enough for my tastes after just 22 days, so I bottled it yesterday. Before refilling, I rinsed the barrel with three changes of just-off-the-boil filtered water. If you attempt this, be careful as filling the barrel with hot water, bunging, and shaking generates a decent amount of pressure, so crack the stopper slowly and away from yourself. A hot rinse will remove most of the spent yeast from the barrel, hopefully enough that any Belgian yeast will not affect the cleaner yeast character of the porter. I allowed the barrel to sit for a few hours to cool before refilling to minimize foaming.

Being the second fill, the Imperial Porter should benefit from a bit more time in the barrel; I’m guessing it will take four to six weeks. When the oak character approaches where I want it, I’ll split a vanilla bean and add it along with a few grams of cinnamon. I’m still debating whether or not to add coffee (which Birth of Tragedy had); if I do, it will be whole beans for a couple days right before bottling. I want to taste the character of the barrel-aged and spiced beer before making a decision, there will already be so many flavors flying around that I don’t want to disrupt the balance.

Filling the Rumble barrel with Imperial Oatmeal Porter.Rumble Winter Porter

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6.30
Total Grain (Lbs): 23.50
Anticipated OG: 1.086
Anticipated SRM: 50.2
Anticipated IBU: 65.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 110 Minutes

68.1% 16.00 lbs. Pale 2-Row Malt
12.8% 3.00 lbs. Rolled Oats
6.9% 1.63 lbs. American Roasted Barley (300 L)
4.8% 1.13 lbs. American Chocolate Malt (350 L)
3.7% 0.88 lbs. CaraMunich
3.7% 0.88 lbs. Crystal 90L

10 ml HopShot (Extract) @ 60 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 Vanilla Bean for 14 days
2.00 gm Cinnamon Spice for 14 days
1.00 oz Coffee Beans Coffee for 1 day

White Labs WLP004 Irish Stout

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 65 min @ 154 F

10/7/12 Made a 1.6 L starter on the stir-plate.

Used Bob's Red Mill Extra-Thick Rolled Oats

10/8/12 Brewed with Josh H

Added 3 g baking soda, 2 g CaCl, and 2 g Chalk.

Collected 8.25 gallons of 1.070 runnings.

Chilled to 66 F, 50 seconds of pure O2, pitched the starter, left at 64 F to begin fermenting.

10/21/12 Racked to the triple washed (just-off boiling water) Rumble barrel. Filled to the brim, no vanilla or cinnamon yet.

11/25/12 Added 2 grams of ground Penzey's cinnamon and one split vanilla bean, soaked in half a cup of just off the boil water for five minutes.

12/6/12 Bottled with 2.5 oz of boiled table sugar. Aiming for just under 2 volumes of CO2. FG 1.024.

5/1/13 The residual Belgian yeast ended up drying out the beer to 1.016 in the bottle, resulting in it being considerably over-carbonated. Otherwise pretty pleasant.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saison II vs. Saison III Tasting

One of the easiest ways to become a better recipe designer is to split batches. It allows you to taste exactly what a certain ingredient contributes. In this case I produced 10 gallons of petite saison wort (Pilsner malt, flaked spelt, and a touch of corn) that I divided between two fermentors. I pitched one with White Labs Saison II and the other with the recently released Saison III. Hopefully this beer evolves into a year-round beer for Modern Times, something drinkable enough to sell in 16 oz cans! If these sorts of posts hadn't clued you in, we're taking a unique path on recipe secrecy.

A glass of spelt saison fermented with White Labs Saison III.Spelt Session Saison III

Appearance – Foggy pale yellow. Suspended overhead is a billowy, sticky, white head. Retention isn’t as good as I would have hoped with all that spelt protein, but it isn’t terrible either.

Smell – Big spicy yeast character. Black pepper and cardamom. There is fresh fruit and dough too, and a slightly herbal hop presence.

Taste – The aromatics carry through in the flavor. Slight tartness helps to make the apple/pear fruitiness pop more than it did in the nose. Dry, which accentuates the firm bitterness. The doughiness is toastier in the nose, hard to tell if it is from the spelt or the yeast.

Mouthfeel – It has a decent mouthfeel for a moderate gravity saison. Carbonation is solid, but could be more intense (although I’d need longer beer lines to be able to pour it).

Drinkability & Notes – One of those beers I finish almost without realizing it. Bright, quenching, refreshing, delicious. There isn’t much I’d change about this one unless we want to go for a more intense character by increasing the hopping, adding light spicing, or just a hint of Brett funk…

A glass of spelt saison fermented with White Labs Saison II. Same beer otherwise.Spelt Session Saison II

Appearance – Nobody wants a crystal clear “farmhouse” ale; the yellow body has a rustic haze. The white head is dense, leaving a sheet of lacing on the side of the glass as it slowly deflates.

Smell – The nose has less spice (although pepper is certainly still present), and more apple fruitiness, bordering on cidery.

Taste – The flavor is flatter, waterier, less interesting. The fruitiness is tropical, brighter. It seems less bitter, but more minerally. It has some tartness as well, but it is more carbonic, like seltzer.

Mouthfeel – Thinner, and slightly tannic. This version tastes more like a low-gravity saison despite finishing slightly higher (1.006) than the Saison III (1.004).

Drinkability & Notes – I get a slight fusel alcohol note that keeps it from being as profoundly drinkable as the Saison III version. Not a bad beer, but maybe pushing the fermentation temperature into the low-80s was more than this strain needed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 GABF – My First Trip to The Great American Beer Fest

Last week was my first trip to the Great American Beer Festival, the stupendously gigantic beer festival put on each fall in Denver by the Brewers Association. It serves as both a huge three-day four-session tasting open to the beer-drinking public, as well as one of the biggest competitions for commercial brewers (although there were about 3,000 more beers entered in this year's National Homebrew Competition!). Sadly not all of the beers entered in the GABF contest are available for sampling on the floor, but most are.

I drank some excellent beers, but the people I got to meet were the highlight. I got to chat with a good number of brewers I had only talked to on the phone, including Chad Yakobson (Crooked Stave), Jason Perkins (Allagash), Lauren Salazar (New Belgium), Patrick Rue (Bruery), and Will Meyers (Cambridge). On Saturday James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio and I walked around the floor, drinking sour beers and recording interviews for a future episode of BBR. I also got to chat with Betsy and Brad from BYO Magazine, Stan Hieronymous, not to mention a number of homebrewers (and even a couple professionals) who were excited to talk beer with me!

I was impressed by how many breweries brought “the good stuff.” I hadn’t expected Russian River, for example, to bring sours like Toronado 25th Anniversary and Framboise for a Cure (and even the worst lines were only about five minutes). It was terrific to drink beers from breweries I was already a big fan of or from hyped breweries I'd never sampled, but it was almost as fun to try random sour beers from smaller breweries like DESTIHL, Natty Greene's, Ladyface, and The Commons. It is amazing how much the segment has grown since sour beers were given their own GABF category just 10 years ago. While there were some clunkers, overall I was impressed by the quality.

The other thing going on during GABF week was constant events with beers too rare to pour at a festival that attracts 50,000 attendees (triple counting people like me that went Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). I split a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin De Viento (a tart coffee saison with "a secret Algerian spice blend") with some friends while eating vegan "sausage" pizza and seitan buffalo wings at City O’ City (both the beer and food were surprisingly good), before chatting with brewer (and noted vegan) Ron Jeffries. Friday I braved the crowds at Falling Rock to try Cigar City’s Apple Brandy Barrel-Aged Hunahpu's (one of the darkest, most viscous, complex beers I’ve tasted… but a couple ounces was more than enough on a sunny afternoon).

A few survival tips for those thinking of going next year:

A picture of me with James Spencer, and Will Meyers hands. Care of my friend Tammy Tuck @Lagerheads1) Eat before you go. Sessions start right before a standard mealtime, so eat something early to help you remain coherent. The only food you can bring in has to be strung around your neck (pretzels were the top pick, but I saw people with donuts as well).

2) Either show up early to get a good spot in line, or an hour after it starts to avoid walking around the convention center to the end of the line and then back to the front entrance.

3) Even though they are one ounce samples, don't be shy about dumping beers you don't enjoy.

4) Drink a lot of water. Walking, talking, and drinking for four hours in a warm room can dehydrate you pretty badly if you aren't careful.

5) Don’t go too crazy pre-fest, sure there are loads of excellent events each afternoon, but there are so many beers to try at the fest that you don’t want to be drunk or worn out before it starts.

6) Go after anything you really want to have on Thursday night. Some of the more popular or lower production stuff was already starting to kick by Friday. I was thinking that brewers were holding things back for the Members-Only Session on Saturday, but they were not.

7) Get a good night of sleep, if you can taste anything or need another beer after four hours of that sort of choice, you aren't doing it right.

8) Stay within walking distance, my hotel was about a mile north of the convention center so I avoided having to fight for a cab after the fest each night. I was also close to Masterpiece Deli, terrific sandwiches (nothing helps you recover from a night of drinking, and vegan food, like braised brisket).

9) Skip the Saturday night session, when I asked one brewer if he was looking forward to it, all he said was "shit show." Honestly I might skip Friday night next time I go as well. It was pretty densely packed compared to either Thursday night or Saturday afternoon.

My Top 15 Beers from the fest (in no particular order):

1. Allagash Coolship Resurgam
2. DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon
3. Crooked Stave WWBI (Wild WIld Brett Indigo)
4. New Belgium NBB Love Felix
5. Alpine Bad Boy
6. Jester King Das Uberkind!
7. Goose Island Xocolotl
8. Trinity Le Capitaine
9. Russian River Row 2 Hill 56
10. Dock Street-Thiriez Table Saison
11. Live Oak Pilz
12. Flix Fuyu
13. Grimm Brothers Fearless Youth
14. Laurelwood Fresh Hop Portlandia Pils
15. Lost Abbey Track #7

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cinnamon and Nutmeg Golden Solera Sour

I did tasting posts for the first two version (plain, dry hopped) of our Apple Brandy Barrel Solera not too long after bottling, but I wanted to wait on the version Nathan and I aged on roasted acorn squash, nutmeg, and cinnamon until fall. This batch had a similar concept to the Butternut Squash Sour Brown I brewed a few years ago, but instead of squash in the mash and spices at knock-out, both were added post-souring. The goal was a bolder character, rather than subtle complexity.

Nathan and I are planning to bottle the last of the first pull, aged on blackberries and mulberries, this weekend. His brewpub-in-planning (Right Proper) is on about the same timetable as Modern Times. Our mutual friend, Dan Fromson, has an excellent profile of Nathan in tomorrow’s Washington City Paper. It’s a bit sad that in a year or so we probably won’t be doing much homebrewing together, but hopefully we’ll work out a few collaborative batches on the big systems!

Sour beer brewed with acorn squash, cinnamon, and nutmeg, aged in an apple brandy barrel.Apple Brandy Solera – The Spice

Appearance – Transparent-burnt-orange body, certainly looks the part of an autumnal beer. The two-finger airy white head quickly dissipates to a thin covering.

Smell – The freshly grated nutmeg comes through first, followed by the cinnamon. While the spices lead, it is clear that this isn’t a standard-amber-pumpkin-ale. The apples and oak from the barrel come though quickly, joined by some vinous notes generated by the bugs.

Taste – Pointed acidity sneers at my palate on the first sip. The fresh spices wait around, lingering in the finish, beckoning for another chance. Slightly toasty malt, but more subdued than in the straight version. No acorn squash to speak of; next time we’ll do squash first, then spices after it has had a few months to extract.

Mouthfeel – Moderate body, certainly with the warming flavors some additional fullness would be nice, but that is tough to achieve in a sour beer. Medium-low carbonation, works well.

Drinkability & Notes – Pretty happy with the way this one turned out. Warming spices in a sour beer might seem counterintuitive, but in this case the barrel and the base beer bring it together. I'm worried that this barrel is headed down the road to being too acetic despite our best efforts to keep oxygen out (temperature control, topping-off, hard bung etc.), but hopefully we get one more good pull to try another version of this!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Malt Whisky Barrel Wheat Trippelbock

Checking the temperature as the lager wort is almost ready to pitch.There's no shortage of bourbon-barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stouts or Barleywines at most beer bars; they seem to be about the only styles that most brewers think to age in the ubiquitous charred-American-oak vessels. I enjoy some of them, especially the smooth chocolaty stouts, but I’d prefer to see more breweries thinking of new ideas rather than jumping on something that has already been done so well (e.g., Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Pelican Mother of All Storms, Firestone-Walker Parabola, Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian etc.).

A couple of years ago I brewed a strong dark wheaten lager, based on The Livery’s Wheat Trippelbock (aka Trippel Wiezenbock), that I thought turned out pretty well, but the version aged on Bourbon soaked oak cubes was fantastic. The tannins from the wood helped to balance the considerable residual sweetness, and boosted the complexity. I decided to repeat the recipe (with a few minor tweaks) and age it in the five gallon Single Malt barrel from Balcones (they described the spirit to me as somewhere between Bourbon and Scotch, minus the peat smoke).

Eight days into fermentation, almost done.Thanks to my 70 qrt mash tun, the 25 lb grain bill wasn’t much of a challenge. Luckily I checked the gravity of the wort as it was coming to a boil and noticed it was slightly lower than I calculated it needed to be to hit the massive original gravity (~1.108). I had stopped the run off when I reached my pre-boil volume, so I collected and then boiled the final runnings on the stove until the main wort was ready for the first hop addition. The concentrated wort didn’t get thick enough to caramelize (like first runnings of my Scottish Stout) but it contained enough sugar to boost the OG of the batch by .009. The ability to make adjustments like this on the fly is one of the reasons it is a good idea to check the gravity of the wort as early as possible.

The biggest issue on this batch for me was generating enough yeast without the ability to repitch from a yeast cake. I started a single vial of WLP833 (German Bock Lager) in a 1.5 L starter on my stir-plate. After two days, I crash cooled it, let the yeast settle, decanted the spent wort, and started it back with 1.7 L of fresh starter wort. While this second starter wasn’t much larger, pitching more than twice as many cells into it allowed for a bit more growth than occurred in the first stage. In this case (according to the Mr. Malty Pitching Rate Calculator) pitching a month old vial of yeast into a 1.5 L stir-pate starter resulted in 230 billion cells. Pitching those cells into a 1.7 L starter got me all the way up to 540 billion cells. Not quite the “ideal” 830 billion cells the calculator calls for in 5.75 gallon of 1.108 lager, but not that far off. Despite under-pitching, the chilled starter was enough to produce a good krausen within 12 hours in the 46 F wort.

The five gallon whisky barrel where Wheat Trippelbock will spend a few weeks.I had initially planned to lager this beer pre-barrel-aging, making it the second beer into the malt whisky barrel, but  lagering after it soaks up some booze should provide time for it to mellow. Yesterday I brewed a 1.080 rye stout that will go into the barrel as soon as the Weizen-Trippelbock has enough character... I'm not against the classics!

Whisky Weizen Trippelbock

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.80
Total Grain (Lbs): 25.75
Anticipated OG: 1.108
Anticipated SRM: 22.9
Anticipated IBU: 35.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66 %
Wort Boil Time: 135 Minutes

31.1% - 8.00 lbs. German Wheat Malt
23.3% - 6.00 lbs. German Dark Munich Malt
21.4% - 5.50 lbs. German Pilsener
19.4% - 5.00 lbs. German Vienna Malt
3.9% - 1.00 lbs. Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal (160L)
1.0% - 0.25 lbs. Simpsons Dark Crystal (75L)

1.75 oz. Hallertauer Tradition (Pellet, 6.00% AA) @ 75 min.
2.25 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfruh (Pellet, 3.00% AA) @ 15 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @15 min.

White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 154F

9/18/12 Made a 1.5 L starter on my stir-plate at room temperature.

9/20/12 Appears finished, crash cooled to drop yeast.

9/22/12 Decanted and made a new 1.7 L starter to get the yeast rocking for tomorrow's brew. Quick aggressive fermentation.

Brewed 9/23/12 by myself

Weyermann Heritage Floor Malted Wheat was used, even though I doubt it will add much in such a flavorful recipe.

Collected 8.25 gallons of 1.082 runnings with a batch sparge. Collected an extra gallon of final (1.055) runnings to boil down as I was a bit under-gravity. Added the now 1.100 reduced runnings back at the same time as the first hop addition.

Chilled to 85 F with ground water, then used recirculated ice water to get it down to 47 F. 90 seconds of Pure O2, and pitched the un-decanted starter which had been sitting in the fridge at the intended fermentation temperature. Left at 46 F to ferment.

9/26/12 60 hours after pitching, raised temperature to 49 F to ensure continued strong attenuation. Raised 1 F each day after that until it reached 54 F.

10/2/12 Moved out of the fridge to 62 F for a diacetyl rest and strong finish to fermentation. Gravity only down to 1.043, but still some activity evident.

10/8/12 Racked to the five gallon Balcones whisky barrel, first use after swirling around a few ounces of Knob Creek. Gravity down to 1.029 (73% AA, 10.6% ABV), still some yeast in suspension. It would have been nice to give it another week to settle, but it will have a few weeks at cellar temp for the yeast to finish out anything they were working on. Left at 66 F to age.

10/28/12 Racked to a keg, dropped the temperature to 35 F for a couple months of lagering. Big boozy character, hot, but not rough.

1/16/13 Down to 1.025 (small drop from the liquor in the barrel, or final attenuation while warm). Warmed to 64 F a few days before bottling. Made a starter of WLP833 24 hours in advance, left on the stir plate for 12 hours, then turned it off to ensure no oxygen would be left. Added 2.75 oz of table sugar to the 5 gallon yield. Aiming for about 2 volumes of CO2.  Left at 64 F to carbonate, hopefully.

2/18/14 Tasting notes, with a comparison to the original batch. Carbonation was slightly lower than I intended. Not sure if the yeast stalled, or if that is 2.0. Otherwise pleased with it, probably would go 5.0-5.5% Extra Dark Crystal next time and leave the Dark out to boost the dried fruit character.