Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Passion Fruit Sour Wheat Beer

The inside of a passionfruit by Alexander Klink
Attribution: Alexander Klink
The inside of a passionfruit
Creative Commons 3.0 Unported
Passion fruit is one of the few fruits that is almost always used as a flavoring rather than consumed straight; passion fruit mousse being the classic example. This is largely because it has an potent flavor and loads of seeds.

I was at the supermarket a couple months ago and happened to see fresh passion fruit for $3 each. Many brewers (and chefs) skip the actual fruit and opt for purée, but I bought two with no plan of what I'd make with them.

I’m certainly not the first brewer to add passion fruit to beer, I've enjoyed Breakside Passionfruit Sour, Jolly Pumpkin-Maui Brewing Sobrehumano Palena’ole, and Tired Hands’ Such Passion (Simcoe IPA "Conditioned on heaps of passion fruit purée"). J. Wakefield Brewing's neon-pink Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit Berliner gets plenty of hype, although I’ve yet to try it.

When I got home and opened one of them, that pervasive tropical aroma reminded me that I had a gallon of leftover base sour beer from Atomic Apricot. I scooped the pulpy interiors, seeds and all, into the jug for infusion.

Passion Fruit Sour Wheat

Appearance – After a few cloudy but delicious beer reviews, I thought it was time for something a bit more visually transparent. Faint haze, but I’ll take that in exchange for the beautiful head retention (thanks to both wheat flour and pre-acidification of the wort).

Pretty Passion Fruit Sour Wheat!Smell – The passion fruit comes through nicely, although nothing approaching the intensity of the apricot (which was over 2 lbs/gallon). The Brett doesn’t come through distinctly, a hint of rubber behind the fruit. Glad I added the fruit, it shines on a bland canvas.

Taste – Bright lactic-citric acidity, much mellower than the apricot. Nice tropical fruitiness, but I could see doubling it to four passion fruits per gallon. Beyond the fruit and acidity not an especially interesting beer. Maybe a hint of pale maltiness. The ECY Dirty Dozen seems reliable for primary fermentation, but sadly having 12 Brett strains didn't provide 12 times the aromatic complexity.

Mouthfeel – Light and crisp, but not thin and watery as even my favorite Berliners can be. Carbonation could be a notch higher, but I didn’t want to risk gushers.

Drinkability & Notes – A fun gallon of beer, glad I answered the calling of the eternal thought “I could ferment that!” I have the yeast/bacteria I harvested from this batch at work in something resembling a Berliner weisse with oat malt; it will be interested to see how it does as a mixed rather than staggered fermentation. Chad Yakobson's research suggests Brett produces less of several interesting esters when starting at a low pH, so that may account for the blandness.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Softer, Juicier, and Uglier APA

A delicious mango-y can of Tree House Julius IPA!I’ve always put appearance way down the bottom of the brewing-importance hierarchy. If an ingredient or technique benefits flavor/aroma/mouthfeel, but harms clarity or color, then I’m all for it! However, even I have to admit that I may have gone too far with this batch of New-England-style hoppy pale ale.

Dry hopping during active fermentation seems to disrupt flocculation, possibly by preventing the yeast cells from linking together(?). WYeast London III (WY1318) is a surprisingly flocculant strain when massive dry hopping isn’t involved, although not as much as the White Labs Dry English Ale (WLP007) used by Trillium. Rather than wait until fermentation was mostly complete (as I have been doing), I added the first dose of dry hops on brew day while waiting for the wort to cool a few more degrees for pitching the yeast. When I was ready for my standard dry hop addition, the beer already tasted significantly hoppier than it usually does at that stage.

My wort was also high in protein as a result of a grist containing nearly 50% wheat and oat malts. Unlike flaked/rolled oats, oat malt has plenty of husk to aid in lautering, but all of that huskless wheat and beta glucans from the oats combined to form a sticky mash that caused more grain than usual to make it into the kettle. The combination of hop, yeast, and protein haze is a muddy beer, which also has one of the most deliciously hoppy characters of any beer I’ve brewed! That extra protein provided a more substantial body than my previous Soft & Juicy IPA, which included flaked corn (maize).

How much does what you see change what you taste? For some beer drinkers cloudy suggests yeasty, rough, and poorly made, while others see artisanal, loaded with hop oils, and a pillowy body. This is where narrative, marketing, and expectations come into play. For me, the level of haze I "achieved" on this batch crosses the line into murky. Not the pleasantly hazy, cloudy, but still translucent body that my favorite IPAs from Trillium Fort Point, Tree House Julius, and Tired Hands Mago Tago possess.

I’ll have a better sense of how much of the haze is hop related, and how much is from the grain once I tap the saison whose wort I ran out before adding the hop-stand addition to this batch. I also ran off and diluted three gallons of wort before the bittering hops for a Berliner. Three very different beers from one mash, an unusually productive brew day!

Not exactly a looker...Softer & Juicier APA

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.80
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.00
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 4.5
Anticipated IBU: 39.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

50.0% 7.50 lbs. Rahr "2-Row" Brewer's Malt
33.3% 5.00 lbs. Rahr Wheat Malt
13.3% 2.00 lbs. Fawcett Oat Malt
3.3% 0.50 lbs. Weyermann CaraFoam

0.80 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 14.00% AA) @ 60 min.
3.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Brew Day Dry Hop
1.50 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
0.50 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet, 10.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.50 oz. Nelson Sauvin (Pellet, 12.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
0.50 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 oz. Amarillo ( Pellet, 10.00% AA) @ Keg Hop

The inside of the Tree House Brewery.Extras
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 5 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min.

WYeast 1318 London Ale III

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 155F

Brewed 9/13/15

Recipe scaled to account for only the wort used for this beer.

Mash with 3.5 gallons of distilled, 5 gallons of filtered DC tap. 6 g CaCl, 7 g gypsum, 1.5 tsp of 10% phosphoric. Mash pH 5.42 (5.51 after sitting a few minutes).

Collected 8.25 gallons of 1.050 runnings with a 1.5 gallon cold sparge.

Steeped 0 min hops starting at 195 for 30 minutes in remaining wort. Pitched slurry from Chocolate Butternut Porter (WY1318) I had stored in the fridge for two weeks and decanted. - allowed to come to 64 F during the brew day. Added an additional 2 oz of Nelson to the fermentor! After 5 hours, pitched 6 oz of thick slurry.

9/16/15 Added the second dose of dry hops as the fermentation slowed.

9/22/15 Kegged with the third dose of dry hops, bagged, and suspended so they'll be high and dry when the keg is about half empty. Final pH = 4.54.

Softer & Juicier APA Tasting

Appearance – This beer is many wonderful things, but the clarity is not one of those. While my Soft and Juicy IPA skirted the hazy-murky line, the addition of 13% oat and wheat malts pushed this one firmly into the murky camp. Rather than a pleasing orange hue, the greater opacity leaves this one more dull grey. Wonderful head retention and lacing, for what that is worth.

Smell – The Amarillo and English yeast successfully temper the Nelson Sauvin, smoothing the more catty edge that can be one of the big reasons it is one of the more divisive hops. The nose is mostly hops: grapefruity, juicy strawberries, and slightly dank.

Taste – There are few beers I enjoy more than fresh, hop-saturated, and moderate alcohol. Really opens up as it warms, with that distinctive Nelson "gooseberry" character coming out even more. Surprising how bitter it comes across given the light bittering charge. Malt is subdued, but pokes through with a fresh breadiness occasionally. Slightly yeasty-sulfury, but nothing like the clarity would suggest.

Mouthfeel – The switch from flaked corn to oat malt addressed the thinness that was one of the glaring weaknesses of Soft and Juicy. Proteins and insoluble fiber from the other grains are a big help! Carbonation is a bit low (having some issue with that tap), but fine by me.

Drinkability & Notes – The perfect beer for a stoneware mug... I don’t mind some haze, but this one crosses that line into muddy. It doesn’t hurt the rest of the beer’s attributes, but it is a turn off for many people I’ve served it to. I might drop the late Columbus next time around as Nelson can bring sufficient dankness on its own (as it did in my Amarillo-Nelson Micro-IPA).

Appearance certainly isn’t the most important factor, but a beer shouldn’t be unappetizing visually. I’ll probably add a protein rest next time, and some more rice hulls…

I had plenty of time to take pictures while I waited for my growler fills.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Washington, DC Metro Beer Guide

Every few weeks I receive an email for someone planning a visit to DC wanting to know where to grab a few beers. I thought I’d flesh out my standard response and post it to save everyone the hassle. I limited each category to a maximum of five places because this isn’t intended to be a complete list, just a variety in terms of location/price/vibe. If you're looking for goings-on, DCBeer maintains a really helpful events calendar.

The DC area seems to have more brewpubs that are serious about their food than most other cities. There is also a great culture of interesting session beers.

A bottle of Gene Turns 10K from BlueJacket, brewed in commemoration of my friend Gene's 10,000th RateBeer review.BlueJacket/Arsenal – Close to National’s (baseball) Park. Somewhat confusingly, BlueJacket is the brewery, and Arsenal is the co-located restaurant. They opened talking a huge game (i.e., 19 fermentors of various sorts, huge tap list, A-list collaborations), it took some time, but some of their beers are finally delivering on that promise. Beautiful vertical layout.

Mad Fox Brewing Co. – The most recent stop for local Johnny Kölsch-seed Bill Madden (who previously brewed at Capital City, and now defunct Vintage 50). Nice variety of mostly "to-style" beers, solid food, worth a stop if you are in Falls Church, VA (or near their new DC outpost in previous beer-desert Glover Park).

Franklins Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store – In 2006, I volunteered with head brewer Mike Roy a couple days at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester, NH. A few years later, I was glad he ended up brewing in Hyattsville, MD a few miles from my house (where he has really cleaned up the brewing side of things). Franklins' always had solid food, plus an adjoining general store with a solid selection of bottles (now augmented with some of their own).

Local paper had a blurb about Kodachrome Dream(ing), the collaboration I brewed with Right Proper.Right Proper Brewing Co. – Next to the Howard Theater in Shaw. My friend Nathan Zeender left his post at the brewpub recently to oversee the new production facility in Brookland (which will have a tasting room). Luckily he was ably replaced by Bobby Bump, previously of BlueJacket, who continues to make a wide variety of pale/funky/fruity beers, some normal-ish stuff, and plenty of weird "others."

Production Breweries
The nation's capital hadn’t had a production brewery in more than 50 years until DC Brau opened in 2009. It has taken some hard lobbying (the original requirement was that they needed to install a drop ceiling!), but breweries are now allowed to fill growlers, give samples, and most recently sell pints! Still most of the local breweries are in Virginia, and to a lesser-extent Maryland.

Graffiti mural at 3 Stars, facing the train/Metro tracks.3 Stars Brewing Co. – The closest brewery to my house. They opened a few years ago with a mission to brew mostly strong beers. They still do, but I'm glad they are mixing in some lighter stuff (like Cognitive Dissonance, a snappy 3% ABV rye-Berliner). Also houses DC's only homebrewing shop, DC HomeBrew Shop.

DC Brau Brewing Co. – While big hop-bombs On the Wings of Armageddon and Solar Abyss account for much of their beer-nerd recognition, they also brew a solid, Pilsner, porter, and some other fun beers as well. Head brewer Jeff Hancock and his wife Mari are also great people, which never hurts my opinion of a brewery.

Lost Rhino Brewing Co. – Some of the equipment and talent from Old Dominion Brewing when they shacked-up in with Fordham Brewing in Delaware. Lost Rhino brews solid clean beers, but I also really dig the sours Jasper Akerboom and company are turning out!

Samples at Ocelot Brewing.Ocelot Brewing Co. – If you want strong and hoppy this is the place for you! When we stopped a few months ago they had 10 beers on, nine were 7%+ ABV, including five heavily hopped beers.

Port City Brewing Co. – 2015 GABF Small Brewing Company of the year! I'm especially fond of their porter, big and plenty roasty. Best wit in the area as well. Their hoppy beers tend to be more English-leaning.

Beer Bars
Not being a state results in some weird laws. The Brickskeller built its reputation (record for most beers available) by having a truck crisscross the country buying out-of-market beers. They closed a few years ago, but the tradition lives on and I’m often surprised by what is available at the better beer bars and stores (the prices can be shocking though).

Black Squirrel – Audrey invited me here early on when we both lived near Adams Morgan. They have three levels with their own bars, each of which has different beers on tap (70ish total).

ChurchKey/Birch & Barley – The big name in town is owned by the same group as BlueJacket (plus Rustico, GBD, Red Apron etc.). Huge beer list and prices to match. They do plenty of events and tap-takeovers as well. Birch & Barley is the fancy restaurant on the first floor of the same building.

City Tap House – I wanted to include something downtown because that is where many people end up. City Tap House is not my favorite bar, but it isn't a bad place to grab a pint and some food before an event. Jackpot, and Iron Horse are two other solid options if you aren't hungry.

Meridian Pint/Brookland Pint – In Columbia Heights and Brookland respectively, owned by the same people as Smoke & Barrel in Adams Morgan. All have solid tap lists with a good spread of slightly more obscure local releases, and interesting stuff from elsewhere.

Pizzeria Paradiso – I usually end up at the Dupont location, but there are two others as well (Alexandria and Georgetown). Midweek happy hour at the bar for half-priced drafts is the time to go. They don’t have a huge number of beers on tap, but they are usually well curated.

Bottle Shops/Beer Stores
Sadly the DC area is somewhat lacking for great places to buy beer to take home with you.

Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits – Plenty of singles, sadly not what it once was when I used to live over on that side of town. A few doors down in Magruder’s, which has a sizable selection of six-packs. A bit out of the way unless you are driving.

Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquors – They used to do a lot of "gray-market" stuff (I've seen Alpine, 3 Floyds, Russian River etc.), but not so any more. Despite the small size, their selection usually includes some more obscure bottles. An easy stop if you’re headed to Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont.

The Perfect Pour – In Columbia, MD it certainly the biggest selection around. Good variety, but watch the dates, and bring a second credit card. While you’re up there you can also stop at Frisco’s, Victoria Gastro Pub, or Maryland Homebrew.

Whole Foods P St. – Solid selection, right around the corner from ChurchKey. Several of the Northern Virginia Whole Foods have very good selections as well if you are headed out that way.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Microbe Overview: Yeast, Brett, Pedio, and Lacto

Earlier this year, the AHA requested some info on the various microbes involved in sour beer production for a post they were working on (Sour Microbes: Yeast and Bacteria Explained). I wrote up the summaries below for brewer's yeast, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus to help them out. Nothing ground breaking, but since I had it already hopefully other people might benefit form the overview (without the ultra-nerdy details of chapter 4 of American Sour Beers)!

Brewer’s Yeast - Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale yeast) and S. Pastorianus (lager yeast)
Type: Yeast - Order Saccharomycetales (Family: Saccharomycetaceae)

Fermentables: Primarily glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, and maltotriose (also mannose, galactose, and raffinose. Lager yeast also can ferment melibiose.)

Important products: Ethanol, carbon dioxide, esters, and phenols (POF+ strains – mostly Belgian and Hefeweizen)

Oxygen: Beneficial for growth

Ideal temperature: 45-95F (strain dependent)

Speed: Fast

IBU Tolerance: High

Overall: Brewer’s yeast protects the wort and sets the stage for a traditional slow-moving mixed-fermentation duo of Brett and Pedio.

Brett - Brettanomyces bruxellensis (aka B. lambicus)/B. anomalus (aka B. claussenii)
Type: Yeast - Order Saccharomycetales (Family: Pichiaceae)

Fermentables: Primarily the same as Saccharomyces, but in addition dextrins up to 9-glucose chains. Some strains (beta-glucosidase enzyme positive) are capable of fermenting lactose, cellobiose (wood sugar), and gylcosides (from hops, spices, and fruit – which releases aromatics)

Important products: Ethanol, carbon dioxide, esters (create and destroy), phenols (converts what brewer’s yeast leaves behind into funkier forms), and tetrahydropyridines (toasty to mousy)

Oxygen: Beneficial for growth, but leads to acetic acid production

Ideal temperature: 58-85F (strain dependent)

Speed: Slow

IBU Tolerance: High

Overall: Works well on its own with a large enough pitch, or in tandem with any of the other microbes listed. Brett doesn’t sour the beers you brew, it makes the sour beer you brew delicious. Can do some of its best work without malt carbohydrates available to ferment (especially during bottle conditioning). More fermentables allow the production of more esters, but these fruity flavors are not driving traditional funky “Brett” character.

Lacto - Lactobacillus delbrueckii/L. brevis/L. buchneri/L. plantarum etc.
Type: Bacteria – Family Lactobacillaceae

Fermentables: Some species can only ferment relatively simple sugars, while others can ferment dextrins.

Important products: Lactic acid, ethanol, and carbon dioxide

Oxygen: Usually aerotolerant (doesn’t use oxygen, but isn’t harmed by it)

Ideal temperature: 70-115F (strain dependent)

Speed: Really fast

IBU Tolerance: Low to very low

Overall: Lacto is capable of sour a beer within 24-48 hours if given free reign. However, too much acidity can cause less desirable performance for the microbes that follow. Most strains do not thrive after primary fermentation is complete.

Pedio - Pediococcus cerevisiae et al.
Type: Bacteria – Family Lactobacillaceae

Fermentables: Complex sugars, some species are even capable of metabolizing starch.

Important products: Lactic acid, exopolysaccharides (EPS), and diacetyl

Speed: Really slow

Oxygen: Usually microaerophilic (prefers oxygen at lower than atmospheric concentration)
Ideal temperature: 60-80F (strain dependent)

IBU Tolerance: Moderate

Overall: Pedio should be used with Brett in most cases to clean up the EPS and diacetyl. Won’t lower the pH as quickly as Lacto, but can reach a lower final pH given enough time and complex carbohydrates.