Thursday, January 28, 2016

German Pilsner and Brett Saison (Same Wort)

Netting 12 gallons of wort from each brew day I’ve had to get creative with my recipes and fermentation (parti-gyling, staggering hop additions, and doctoring). This split batch of Pilsner and Saison was pretty straight-forward, identical worts (including dry hopping) with two diametrically-opposed yeasts: one a lager (WLP800 Pilsner Lager), the other a Belgian mixed-culture (3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend). No better example of the old adage that “Brewers make wort, but yeast make beer!”

German Pilsner

Appearance – Clear (nearly crystal) bright yellow, just a shade darker than my Berliners for palest. Fantastic head retention, dense sticky white, with a full covering down to the last sip.

Smell – Nose is clean, the herbal-lemon hoppiness comes through fresh and energetic. The best nose on any Pilsner I’ve brewed. Maybe a hint of diacetyl as it approaches room temperature, although my wife (and chief diacetyl tester) has yet to note it.

Taste – Flavor is similarly clean, no yeastiness or yeast character. The hop bitterness is firm, but not rough or lingering. Malt adds a faint fresh-baked white bread flavor in the middle, not grainy. Hop flavor is saturated, without being grassy like noble hops tend to be when used for dry hopping.

Mouthfeel – A hair full for than a classic German Pilsner, perhaps mid-way to Bohemian (thanks to the yeast, and/or higher chloride). Still medium-light and pleasant for my palate. Slightly stinging carbonation, but nothing approaching the carbonic bite of my least favorite pale lagers.

Drinkability & Notes – Chock another one up for Firestone-Walker, Saphir will be my new go-to for Pilsners! A wonderfully drinkable beer that doesn’t cross into being an India Pale Lager with a distinctly American-hop character and assertive bitterness.

Pilsner on the right, Saison on the left.

Brett Saison

Appearance – Appears a shade golder thanks to the haze (and wider glass). Head retention is slightly lower, but the lacing is clingier.

Smell – The hop aroma doesn’t come through nearly as clearly. It’s hiding behind the yeasts’ green apple skin, peppery-spice, and melon. The Saphir does add a delicate herbal-liveliness that too many “Bretted” saisons lack, especially as it warms. A bit more ethanol too, thanks to higher attenuation (and a warmer fermentation).

Taste – Apple is there again, although a bit more bruised than in the nose. Typical French Saison-type tropical fruit and spice. The Brett finally shows up in the finish, all leather and horse blanket. This blend does a lovely job balancing the “saison” and the Brett, not going fully wild-funkmotron as too many Brett Saisons do. Mild acidity, not enough to clash with the solid hop bitterness. The maltiness from the Pilsner is obscured. Bone dry.

Mouthfeel – Leaner mouthfeel, not tannic or drying though. Same carbonation, thanks to the manifold.

Drinkability & Notes – I’m reasonably pleased with the Wyeast Saison-Brett Blend given the relatively short turnaround on this batch! The Brett provides depth without dominating the saison-iness. I think the Saphir does well here, although not in a starring role like the Pilsner.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Saphir-Hopped Pilsner (and Saison)

I often daisy-chain similar batches by harvesting the yeast from one and repitching into the next. While this can be convenient and cost-saving for any strain, it is especially valuable for 100% Brettanomyces and lagers where the pitching rates are higher than ales. After brewing this tmavé, I wanted to brew a brighter and hoppier lager.

Pilsner has long been my favorite pale lager. Clean, hoppy, and delightfully drinkable. I've brewed more of the rounder-maltier Czech-style than the bitter-crisper German-style, but I enjoy both. I've been looking for the right hop (Saaz, Perle, etc.), but traditional European varieties don't have the high aromatic oil content that IPA drinkers are accustomed to (hops like Citra and Simcoe have total oils over 2% compared to many noble-leaning cultivars which hover around 1%). Compound that with no dry-hopping, and you get a Pilsner that doesn't have the hoppy aromatic profile that I'll aiming for!

Pilsners don't travel well, so I tend to buy American when I don't have my own on tap. Firestone Walker Pivo is one of my favorites (along with Victory Prima Pils and Hill Farmstead Mary). I decided to take a cue from Firestone-Walker's Matt Brynildson and dry hop with Saphir (they add Spalt for late-boil additions, but I wanted to feature the new-to-me variety). Saphir has a total oil content of 0.8-1.4%, not bad considering alpha acids are under 3%. The aroma reminds me most of Crystal, with some citrus mixed in with the herbal.

Rather than imitate the classic water profile or techniques used by German brewers, I employed a similar water profile and hop timing that I would for an IPA. Although rather than blend sulfate and chloride, I focused on chloride as advised by the December BYO story Firestone Walker Fever, which included the recipe/process for Pivo. I dry hopped at 50% apparent attenuation, the same time I started ramping up the temperature.

One of the advantages of blogging is that occasionally I get free stuff! I received a Javelin Pro thermometer (order on Amazon and I get a cut) courtesy of LavaTools! It is a more reasonably priced ($55 compared to $99) alternative to the Thermoworks Thermapen. It even has a few added features like magnets embedded on the back, and a back-lit display. Sadly it shares the Thermapen's hinged design, which I find to be an annoying less-sanitary two-handed mechanism to turn the unit on and off (despite being splash-resistant a hinge is also a liability where sticky wort is involved - which killed my Thermapen). In comparing the Javelin Pro side-by-side to my five-year-old $19 Thermoworks Super-Fast Pocket the response time is slightly faster going from room to mash temperature, although the saved second is more valuable for finding the coolest spot in the center of a roast. Luckily the readings of the two were within a couple tenths of a degree; accuracy is by far the more important factor when it comes to brewing! If you have lusted after a Thermapen, the Javelin Pro is a nice budget pick, but I wouldn't suggest either if you are buying it specifically for brewing. (Post-script: the Javelin Pro's hinge snapped after about a year of use).

The wort (pale, hoppy, and fermentable) seemed perfect for a funky saison as well, so I pitched Wyeast 3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend into the other half. I even did the same dry hopping. Should make for an interesting tasting later this week!

Saphir German Pil/Belgian Saison

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.38
OG: 1.052
SRM: 2.9
IBU: 34.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 82 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

98.8% - 10.25 lbs. Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsener
1.2% - 0.13 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated Malt

0.93 oz. Magnum (Pellet, 11.00% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Saphir (Pellet, 2.60% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Saphir (Pellet, 2.60% AA) @ Dry Hop

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

White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager
Wyeast 3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, Hoppy

Mash Schedule
Sacch 1 - 20 min @ 146 F
Sacch 2 - 30 min @ 156 F (Direct)

11/14/15 1.25 L stir-plate starter of two-month-old Wyeast 3031-PC Saison-Brett Blend.

Brewed 11/15/15 - Brewed 12.5 gallons, but all ingredients/process details scaled so it can be brewed as is for 6.25 gallons of Pilsner or Saison wort at the end of the boil.

Mash: 2 gallons distilled, 2 gallons spring, 3 gallons filtered tap. 7 g CaCl. Weyermann Floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner. Measured pH at 5.27 five minutes into the mash. 2 gallon cold/distilled untreated sparge water. Collected 7.5 gallons of 1.045 runnings. pH=5.45 five minutes into the boil.

Allowed the flame-out hops to whirlpool for 10 minutes and settle for 20 minutes before chilling.

Saison: Chilled to 72F, settled for 10 minutes post-chill, ran off 5.5 gallons. 30 seconds pure O2, pitched the entire starter, and left at 71F ambient to ferment.

11/19/15 Dry hopped with 2 oz of Saphir, fermentation was beginning to wane

11/26/15 Keg conditioned with 3 oz of table sugar.

12/20/15 Moved to kegerator. FG 1.002 (96% AA, 6.6% ABV)

1/28/16 Tasting notes, nicely balanced between the yeast, Brett, and hops. Not a wow beer, but solid.

Pilsner: Switched to recirculating with 10 lbs of ice, chilling to 48F. Settled for 10 minutes, and ran off 5.5 gallons. 60 seconds pure O2, pitched a little over 1/2 cup of thick slurry from the Tmave Pivo (WLP800) which had been settling at 32F until the morning, then allowed to warm closer to pitching temperature. Fermented at 52 F ambient to start.

11/19/15 Only down to 1.036 (31% AA). Nice krausen, surprised it is so high. Upped temperature to 53F to make sure it doesn't stall.

11/21/15 1.026 - 50% AA, added dry hops (2 oz of Saphir) pellets and upped fridge to 59F.

11/22/15 24 hours later, up to 64F ambient.

11/29/15 Kegged into flushed Corny, moved to 50F to begin crashing. Gravity 1.012 (77% AA, 5.3% ABV). Held at 32F after dropping 10F every 12 hours.

1/12/16 Hooked up to gas.

Managed to plug the poppet immediately on the first pull. No issues after that.

1/28/16 Tasting notes, wonderfully hoppy, crisp, clean, lager!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Courage RIS Tasting 2015 (Eight Years Old)

My Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone it its native environment.Christmas week is Massachusetts at my childhood home, meant drinking my annual bottle from our 2007 batch of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone! Three bottles of this batch are all that is left in the closest, so I'm good through 2018! I thought there was a forth bottle, but on closer inspection it was a Scandinavian Imperial Porter brewed earlier that same year (not a bad trade, considering I thought I opened the last one of those a couple years ago!)

Courage RIS Clone 2007

Appearance – Opaque dark charcoal brown, other than the clear amber-red edges. Head is fine, haven’t noticed any appreciable deterioration with age.

Smell – The nose leads with earthy slightly-smoky Brett, followed by toast slathered with Nutella. Vanilla and clean booze as it warms. Good progression as it approaches room temperature, nice to have a sipper that changes as you slowly imbibe.

Taste – Sweetness is picking up as the hops continue to drop out: milk chocolate, molasses, and figgy pudding. Still some leather from the Brett, maybe even a little horse blanket. Toasted marshmallow in the finish, a character I don’t see mentioned in previous tastings.

Mouthfeel – Low-moderate carbonation and the body is still luscious, so still no sign that the Brett survived. This technique, fining and then chemically pasteurizing, is still my choice for a hint of funk without drying out a dark beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Thank goodness for the anti-oxidant properties of metabisulfite, no eight year old beer deserves to taste this fresh! I may need to start dosing clean beers intended for aging with a small amount. Time to rebrew this recipe, five gallons all for myself this time (that should take me to Christmas 2060 or so)!