Thursday, April 23, 2015

Alsatian Saison Recipe

I like conceptual series of beers, for example our annual dark-funky saisons. This batch is the third in a different sort of lineage, hoppy saisons fermented with an evolving mixed culture. It is the follow-up to the delicious Nu Zuland Saison, this time with European hops an wine. I wanted an excuse to try Hull Melon ("honeydew melon and strawberry") and Hallertau Blanc ("passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple, grape and lemongrass"), two German hops released to compete with the bolder-fruitier flavors of modern American and Southern Hemisphere varieties like Citra and Nelson Sauvin.

The old rule of thumb that the hundredths place of the original gravity roughly predicts alcohol by volume (e.g., 1.060 wort will ferment into ~6% ABV) doesn't work well for saisons because of their high attenuation. With the start of DC's four months of oppressive heat and humidity arriving soon, I wanted to keep this batch relatively light and refreshing at 1.047. With the wine it still ended up just above 6% ABV.

I fermented it with a starter made from the yeast slurry harvested from the Nu Zulund Saison keg after it kicked (not a textbook maneuver). This is the third use for my house saison blend (a mixture of The Yeast Bay Saison Blend, WLP644 Trois, CB2, and Wyeast Lacto brevis). This turn is heading towards being the funkiest so far. Likely the late harvests are applying selective pressure that favors Brettanomyces. As a side note, White Labs recently renamed/reclassified WLP644 from Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Trois to Saccharomyces "bruxellensis" Trois. I could care less what genus it is, I still think Trois is a great strain! If anything I hope the strain gains wider use by brewers who do not want to risk introducing Brett to their gear.

To bolster the flavors of the hops and yeast I blended in an entire bottle of Trimbach Gewurztraminer at kegging. I find this to be a much easier, more consistent, and effective way to introduce wine flavors than soaking oak cubes in wine that are in turn added to the beer. Despite the German name, most Gew├╝rztraminer is grown in what is now France. I selected the varietal because it tends to be a more aromatic and fruity/spicy than most European wines. Maison Trimbach is a storied producer which I've posted about before. This 2010 bottle was bright, citrusy and minerally, a nice match for the flavors already in the beer.

Excited to see how it all comes together after keg conditioning!

Alsatian Funky Saison

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.75
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.90
Anticipated OG: 1.047
Anticipated SRM: 3.4
Anticipated IBU: 24.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

82.5% - 8.99 lbs. Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
14.9% - 1.62 lbs. Great Western Soft White Wheat Flakes
2.6% - 0.28 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated Malt

0.56 oz. Magnum (Pellet, 11.80% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 11.2% AA) @ Hop-Stand
2.00 oz. Hull Melon (Pellet, 6.8% AA) @ Hop-Stand
2.00 oz. Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 11.2% AA) @ Dry Hop
2.00 oz. Hull Melon (Pellet, 6.8% AA) @ Dry Hop

0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 5 min.

House Saison Blend 
(i.e., The Yeast Bay Saison Blend
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Trois
Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. CB2 (Jason Rodriguez isolate)
Wyeast WY5223-PC Lactobacillus brevis)

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 75 min @ 148F

Brewed 3/22/15

7 gallons mash water with 2 g of CaCl. 1 gallon of untreated cold sparge water.

Initial mash pH 5.64 at room temperature with 3 oz of acid malt. 1.5 additional ounces plus .5 fl oz of 10% phosphoric acid brought it down to 5.50.

Collected 6 gallons pre-boil at 1.047, diluted with .75 gallons of water to 1.042. Added .5 fl oz of phosphoric acid to the boil.

Whirlpooled 5 minutes, settled for 15 minutes. Wort pH= 5.46. Naturally cooled to 180F. Then added 2 oz each Hallertau Blanc and Hull Melon. Allowed to steep an additional 30 minutes before finishing runoff (down to 145F). Chilled to 68 F, pitched the slurry from the Nu Zulund Saison with 1 L of wort pitched the night before, slow activity.

4/9/15 Dry hopped in primary.

4/20/15 Kegged with 3.5 oz of table sugar and 740 ml of Trimbach Gewurztraminer. Left in the cellar to naturally condition. FG 1.003 (5.8% ABV, 6.1% with wine).

7/7/15 Tasting notes. Wine comes through more than the hops. Good balance of fruity and funky. Was sulfury initially on tap, but venting the head space over a few days blew it off.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Courage RIS Clone Tasting "2014"

Rationing a delicious beer is always challenge, but offsite storage helps. I drink a single bottle of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone each year, usually while visiting my parents for Christmas (the remaining seven bottles are the last of my once impressive stockpile at their house). I missed my annual tasting in 2013 (I gifted that bottle to Ron Pattinson himself while he was talking historic beers at 3 Stars, the closest brewery and homebrewing store to my house). I spent Christmas 2014 in Montreal, and didn’t get around to opening my 2014 bottle until the cherry blossoms were out. I also needed something to write about this week when my phenol experiment didn’t prove worthy of another official tasting.

Courage Clone

Appearance – Coal-black body with the same tight mocha head it’s had for years. Pretty good head retention compared to other years. Not all stouts need to be pitch black, but I think imperial stouts should be!

Smell – What a nose! Figs, burnt-on coffee, and fresh toast. Saturated with dark malt and caramelized sugar. Just a hint of soy-sauce oxidation, not offensive yet. Dusty basement. A suggestion of clean ethanol, no fusel burn. Every last bit of what an English imperial stout should be in the nose.

Taste – Decadent. Sweet, intensely malty, clean roast, and lots of caramelized raisins. Nothing overtly funky, but it has a sooty complexity that age alone doesn't produce. Speaking of which, age and oxidation haven’t caused any structural problems so far. Time has mellowed the alcohol and increased the intensity of the dark fruit and burnt sugar. Any hop bitterness is gone, but at 1.020 it isn’t so sticky that the lack of hops leaves it unbalanced.

Mouthfeel – Rich, full, and coating. It has enough heft to back up the opulent flavors and aromas. Carbonation is medium, which is more than I need in such a big beer. Nothing ruins a dark strong ale like too much carbonation, but after a few swirls it falls in line.

Drinkability & Notes – I need to brew another batch of this recipe before I run out! Considering the Brett was killed before bottling, it has held up very well. The antioxidant sulfites might be part of the reason. The dark fruit has really come up since my last tasting in 2012 (when that was missing compared to the actual Courage).

It is challenging for me to be objective with this beer: I brewed it less than two years after I moved to DC, about two years into what is now ten years of homebrewing. The sort of beer that I like to sit, sip, and think with.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Galaxy Dry Hopped Funky Cider

I post pretty much every recipe I ferment, but once in a while something gets missed. I started this cider in the fall of 2013. Fermented with Champagne yeast and a couple wild yeast isolates from Colorado Springs provided by Bootleg Biology. It was the spiritual successor to my first sour  cider; this time I skipped the bacteria, because without staggered pitching or a source for complex carbohydrates they don't produce noticeable acidity.

I'll post a tasting of the plain version soon, but I wanted to get to the half I dry hopped while it was still fresh. The idea of dry hopping a cider was borrowed from Citizen The Full Nelson (with Nelson Sauvin) and Millstone Hopvine (with Cascade). While both are delicious, I selected Galaxy for it's tropical fruity aromatics. I wanted the dry hopping to compliment the apples, without completely dominating.

Galaxy Funky Cider

Galaxy dry-hopped cider, and a slide enlarger.Appearance – Dull yellow, slight haze. The head forms nicely, but despite the hops there simply aren’t enough proteins for it to hold for more than a few seconds. Looks like an authentic farmhouse cider to me.

Smell – Apple peel and slightly tropical. Doesn’t smell of hops specifically. There is a distant earthy-dirty funk. The hops take off the edge, brighten it up, without turning it into an India Pale Cider.

Taste – Dry, dusty, and tart Granny Smith apples. The bugs give the drinking cider depth. The finish does introduce resinous hoppiness. Still fresh thanks to the hops, but with a mature backbone.

Mouthfeel – Thin, quenching. Carbonation is slightly lower than it could be, ciders often benefits from some lift.

Drinkability & Notes – If you’re looking for the hop-lover’s cider, this isn’t it. The Galaxy dry hop is more a twist than a star. Happy with the way it turned out, a pleasant blend of apples, wild yeast, and cider.

Funky Cider 2013

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated IBU: 0.0

5 gallons Apple Cider

2.50 tsp Pectic Enzyme
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient

Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast
Bootleg Biology "Colorado Springs" Isolates

Brewed 10/6/13

Fermenting with Champagne yeast, and two "Colorado Springs" isolates from Bootleg Biology. Likely: Backyard Garden Berries BB80907A and BB80907B.

1/26/15 Bottled 2 gallons with 47 g of table sugar with a splash of rehydrated Pasteur Champagne yeast. Racked the other 3 gallons onto 2 oz of Galaxy hops in a CO2 purged 3 gallon carboy.

2/15/15 Bottled the 3 gallons of dry hopped wit 2.5 oz of table sugar and a splash of ECY Dirty Dozen.