Monday, May 9, 2016

Courage Russian Imperial Stout: Second Attempt

For the last nine Christmases running, while visiting my parents in Massachusetts, I've opened a bottle of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone stored in the closet off their garage (or bring one back with me to share). My friend James and I brewed it in 2007, and considering we split four gallons, I'm amazed it has lasted this long! Sadly, with two bottles remaining I needed a replacement to maintain the holiday traditional that has now spanned more than a quarter of my life!

I coordinated with my friend Scott to brew and split a 10 gallon batch, but at the last minute he had a family emergency... the result is a whole lot of strong/dark beer for me! Thankfully I had a second set of hands provided by Chris, an NYU grad student who was visiting to work on a profile of me for a class and potential magazine article.

The base beer was only slightly tweaked from that original batch: more brown malt, dropped the white sugar, and a couple convenience adjustments to base malt and hops. With five times as much beer as last time, I also decided to split the batch: half bottled clean, half with Brett prior to bottling.

Not what Brett anomalus dregs should look like.I attempted to grow up the Wyeast Brettanomyces anomalus dregs in the last bottle of 100% Brett beer I brewed with the same pack that went into the original batch. Wyeast discontinued the strain soon after because it was miscategorized (likely B. bruxellensis). Sadly the nine-year-old dregs didn't grow anything suggestive of Brett, just some mold(?) after a couple weeks. The beer itself was nearly as disappointing, oxidation was the primary flavor.

Then I got a Tweet from Ron Pattinson letting me know he'd sent an old bottle of Courage RIS to White Labs to have them attempt to isolate the original Brett! I checked with Kara Taylor, White Labs' Analytical Lab Manager, but sadly all they got (oddly) was Saccharomyces. So, I opted for my final resort: White Labs Brett claussenii, which I enjoyed it in a similar role for my Funky Old Ale... nearly ten years ago!

I'll be following the same process I used for that first batch of Courage: waiting until the beer reaches 1.020, then fining with gelatin, racking, and killing the Brett with potassium metabisulfite (campden tablets). The brewer's yeast stopped at a higher gravity than the first batch's 1.030, spot on the 1.040 Ron reported for Barclay Perkins 1924 IBS Ex in his recipe-dense The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beers. More on why that's relevant, and the history and rebirth of this beer on his blog.

Rather than chemically-Pasteurize the whole batch, I may even leave a gallon with live Brett to see how far it will dry it out. I'll be interested to taste the different between the two (or three) versions as they age for decades to come!

Kegs are great for aging... but don't make for great photos.Courage Russian Imperial Stout #2

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 11.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 45.25
Anticipated OG: 1.106
Anticipated SRM: 58.3
Anticipated IBU: 54.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 80 Minutes

66.3% - 30.00 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter
13.3% - 6.00 lbs. Crisp Amber Malt
6.1% - 2.75 lbs. Crisp Brown Malt
5.5% - 2.50 lbs. Simpsons Black Malt
4.4% - 2.00 lbs. Candi Syrup, Inc D-90
4.4% - 2.00 lbs. Candi Syrup, Inc D-180

4.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 75 min.

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

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 40 min @ 158F

2/13/16 Made a 4.5L stir-plate starter with one three-month old pack of WY1028. Crash chilled after three days.

2/20/16 Brewed with Chris. Started with 16 gallons of filtered DC tap water. Mash pH 5.38. Added 4 grams of baking soda. Sparged with 3 gallons filtered DC tap.

Collected 14 gallons of 1.096 runnings, including candi syrup (D-90 and D-180) added to the kettle during run-off.

Chilled to 65F. 60 seconds each of pure O2, followed by pitching the decanted room temperature starter. Left at 58F ambient to begin fermentation.

2/25/16 Raised ambient temperature to 65F, fermentation visibly slowed.

3/23/16 Bottled 5.5 gallons with rehydrated Pasteur Blanc and 95 g of table sugar. FG 1.040 (8.8% ABV, 62% AA). Racked the other half to a keg, waiting on Brett.

5/16/16 Pitched a tube of WLP645 White Labs Brett C and 4 Xoaker Medium Pus Toast French Oak balls (.75 oz) into the keg. Left at 65F to work for a few months.

8/9/16 Bretted version building pressure regularly, down to 1.031.

9/15/16 Down to 1.029

10/22/16 Down to 1.023, Brett and oak really coming out!

11/12/16 Racked to tertiary with 5 campden tablets after 48 hours of crash chilling.

1/9/17 Tasting notes for the clean half.

2/20/17 Bottled the half with Brett, 1 more campden tablet, 2.5 oz of table sugar, and a few grams of rehydrated Pasteur Blanc.

1/11/18 Tasting note for the Brett half.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dark Saison 7 Etrog: Tasting

An etrog (mostly pith).Having finally brewed Dark Saison #8 (with date and pomegranate molasses – recipe post to follow) it seemed appropriate to post tasting notes for the previous iteration, Dark Saison 7 (Recipe)! This was an aberration from my standard dark saisons, brewed with nearly 80% toasty Maris Otter (plus Crystal 55, Abbey, and Kiln Coffee).

Shortly before bottling, I infused 40 g of zest harvested from an etrog into the beer. I happened to see this giant lemon-cousin at the store and decided to give it a try. It turns out that they are more frequently used for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot than culinary purposes. The aroma was closer to lemon than anything else, but without being as distinct.

Dark Saison #7

Dark saison with etrog.Appearance – Clear flame-brown, not far from a Newcastle Brown Ale. Head pours nicely, but deflates quickly.

Smell – The aroma is hard to place. There is some pale-coffee and dubbel-like maltiness, damp hay, and a touch of citrusy perfume. Reminds me more of a De Dolle, than most American sours. Almost licorice as it warms, a character I've never gotten in an amber sour beer like this! Perhaps created by the microbes from Trou du Diable by way of Mark of the Yeast?

Taste – Acidity is mild, more acidity than Brett-only, but not by much. Mild red-wine-berry fruitiness. The etrog plays a pleasant role, helping to cut through the malt and funk without being obvious. The finish is a combination of funky Brett and toasty malt, lingering a beat too long. The toasty flavor has mellowed since my previous informal sensory evaluations (aka drinking a bottle for fun).

Mouthfeel – Surprisingly creamy mouthfeel for a funky saison. Thanks perhaps to the Omega Saisonstein's Monster? Carbonation is medium, could be slightly higher.

Drinkability & Notes – Weird and subtle at the same time. In the series it is most similar to Dark Funky #5 (based on Munich and Vienna), although less acidic. Etrog's contribution isn't especially distinct, but maybe that isn't the worst attribute when you are trying to make a beer without an identifiable citrus addition.

Changes – I would swap half of the Maris Otter for Pils to cut the toasty flavor. Otherwise I think it works surprisingly well for such a weird combination of ingredients! Bottle dregs could be used to replace the Lactobacillus and Brett, WY3711 or another saison strain could be used if Omega's strain isn't sitting in your fridge!

Etrog zest.