Tuesday, June 7, 2016

HomebrewCon (NHC) 2016 Baltimore (and me)!

BSI primary yeast for the GB collaboration.It’s the best week of the whole year, and this year it is happening less than an hour from my house!

Wednesday I’ll be making the rounds with James Spencer and co. recording content for Basic Brewing. I first appeared on his podcast way back in September 2006… damn! We’ll start our morning at Gordon Biersch Rockville (where I’ll get my first samples of the four red wine barrels of collaborative sour red that head brewer Christian Layke and I brewed a few months ago). Then onto BlueJacket/The Arsenal (the gorgeous brewery/restaurant from the group behind ChurchKey and a dozen other great DC beer spots) for a tour from head brewer Josh Chapman. Then onto Right Proper’s production facility in Brookland so James and Nathan can finally meet! Finally, back to my house to recover… and drink a couple bottles of homebrew from the cellar!

Thursday night at HomebrewCon Baltimore, my club (DC Homebrewers) will be pouring beer alongside craft breweries from the region at the Craft Beer Kickoff. I’ll be serving a keg of Simcoe/Mosaic/Citra New England IPA fermented with a blend of GigaYeast Vermont IPA GY054 and Wyeast London III WY1318. The second keg is already on tap and tasting like hoppy guava juice (final pH of 4.46)! My friend Scott Janish is pouring one of his NEIPAs too, stiff competition to be sure (he took first of 35 with another batch in the first round of National Homebrew Competition this year).

First slide from my presentation.Friday I’ll just be hanging around, grabbing lunch with BYO folks, hitting the Milk the Funk meetup, going to seminars, and of course club night (with Audrey)!

Saturday I’ll be signing copies of American Sour Beers (or whatever people bring) from 12:30-1:30 PM in the Homebrew Expo (next to Mary Izett and Steve Piatz!). Then I’ll be presenting on Hoppy Sour Beers from 2:00-3:00 PM in room 314-317. I asked to only speak once because I couldn’t brew enough sour beer to satisfy two crowds, so they put me in a room that seats 900… I’d suggest getting there early and sitting towards the front! The talk covers the science and techniques to overcome (and capitalize on) the three inherent contradictions of brewing a beer that is both hoppy and sour:

1a. Hop aromatics are best fresh…
1b. Sour beers often require aging

2a. Hops have anti-bacterial properties…
2b. Some beer-souring microbes are sensitive

3a. Hops provide bitterness…
3b. Assertive bitterness and acidity clash

I’m sure that five gallons of each of the three example beers will go quickly, so here are preview process and tasting notes for those who can’t make it (or who sit in the back). The first two were from a split batch brewed a month ago, the third has a bit more age on it!

Beer #1 – Mixed-Fermentation Saison
85% Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
15% Flaked Wheat
180F whirlpool with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra

Fermented with my House Brett Saison culture and Omega Lacto Blend

Keg-hopped (.5 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra) during two weeks of natural conditioning

Final pH = 3.87

Tasting Notes: Big/fresh hop nose (truer than the NEIPA, but still more fruit than green). Bright, lively Brett character, tropical, but not juice. Finish brings in some funk, impressive for such a young beer. Acidity is tangy at best, more saison than sour.

Early pour of the NEIPA I'll be pouring!Beer #2 – 100% Lacto then 100% Brett
85% Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
15% Flaked Wheat
No kettle hops

Soured with Omega Lacto Blend for 24 hours

180F pasteurization with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra

Fermented with a big starter of WLP648 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois Vrai

Keg-hopped (.5 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra) during two weeks of natural conditioning

Final pH = 3.52

Tasting Notes: Big tropical fruit (pineapple and passion fruit), floral, with some classic-Brett-funk riding the coattails. Flavor is lively and tart, acidic but more quenching than sour. Amazing how little the fruit aroma resembles the raw hops!

Beer #3 – Dry Hopped Solera Pull #3
Malt… who knows at this point (originally batch was brewed in 2010)
Minimal hopping

Blend of sours aged in a red wine barrel with East Coast Yeast BugFarm #3 topped up with Malt Extract Lambic.

Dry hopped cold with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra during force carbonation

Final pH = 3.27

Tasting Notes: Big sour-orange rind nose, sharp lactic acid (with a hint of acetic), finish is a bit juicy (softer than the nose suggests). Hops are the mildest, despite the highest dry-hopping rate!


  1. You seem to be really loving that simcoe, citra, and mosaic combo.

    Maybe next time you are asked to make beer for a 900 hundred person audience, you can send out some recipes early and let some of your fans/readers/minions brew some additional backup beers for you.

    1. I wanted to have the differences be too the fermentations, rather than the hop choice... It is one of my favorites though!

      I didn't know the room size thing until it was too late, tricky to make more solera at that point!

  2. Hi Mike, just wondering if you have any links to your process for natural keg conditioning. Thanks!

    1. Really just like bottle conditioning: use a calculator to determine the priming amount, weigh the sugar, boil it, add to the beer. I pressurize the keg to ensure a good seal,then leave it warm until carbonated. You can always adjust (vent or pressurize if needed).

  3. Is your talk going to get posted on youtube? I'd love to watch it.

  4. Hey Mike - 2 questions. im trying to somewhat replicate the flavor of the first beer you served on Saturday and was hoping to get a little more info - it was delicious by the way.
    im hoping to achieve the same funky flavor with 3711, brett brux, and ECY01 pitched at primary...

    1 - can you give a little insight on what is in your house saison blend?
    2 - 2 part question here - Can i substitute ECY01 for Omega Lacto? also, i have an ECY01 from 2014 that has never been used but been refrigerated. Is this still viable at all at this point? Should I pitch with other fresh yeast? I dont want to make a starter because of all the different microbes that would grow at different rates/conditions.

    Also, I cant remember but correct me if im wrong - you said you ONLY added hops after it cooled to 180 degrees and none in the boil?

    Much appreciated!

  5. The AHA posts the audio and slides from all presentations on their website (for members). I'm sure I'll do a podcast or something with similar material at some point.

    Glad you enjoyed it! The blend started as The Yeast Bay Saison Blend, WLP644 Saccharomyces bruxellenis Trois, and CB2 (a Cantillon isolate). I've added Lacto a couple times as well. 3711, Brett brux, and ECY01 have many similar elements, but I can't guarantee how similar the final result will be! The bacteria in ECY01 should drop the pH more in the long term as it contains Pediococcus.

    Correct, the only hops were 1 oz of Simcoe/Mosaic/Citra for ~20 minutes starting at 180 F, and 1/2 oz each in the keg.

    Let me know how it turns out!

  6. What was the OG and Mash Schedule on Beer 2. Looking to do something similar. I really enjoyed your talk and the beers.

  7. I did a single infusion mash at 153F and the OG was 1.048. Make sure you have nice starters of the Lacto and Brett. Drop to pH to 4.5 with lactic acid before souring. It was 3.33 after Lacto, and 3.45 after Brett. SO aim a bit lower than the final pH at first and expect the fermentation and dry hopping to bring it up.

    Best of luck, and let me know how it turns out!

  8. What was your boil length pre-lacto pitch for beer #2?

    I've read through the articles on Milk the Funk which seem to recommend short pre-boil, pitch lacto, then short or full length boil if necessary. Thought in your overnight acidification article you went the other way around with full length boil, then lacto, then pasteurize. Is there an advantage one way or the other? Is there any point in a full length boil if there are no bittering hop additions? I thought it was still a good idea to reduce DMS.


  9. Great talk at NHC and I really enjoyed the second beer you served. Thanks for the recipe and I wanted to know what temp you fermented the Brett at?

  10. I did a full boil, 60 minutes. Exactly, with the extended time it would be sitting hot I wanted to drive off SMM/DMS in advance. For Berliner weisse I prefer no-boil and quick chill for the subtle doughy flavor, but that would be lost here!

    I fermented in the high 60s into the low 70s to finish. That is the bottom of the range, but I haven't pushed it higher. Second one keeps getting all the chatter, glad you enjoyed!