Monday, February 27, 2017

Bootleg Biology: Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

Bootleg Biology Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend logo.I love my House Brett-Saison culture, and for $10 now you can try Bootleg Biology's The Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend at your house (or brewery)! It's a good deal for me as I get a small cut, and the knowledge that if I kill my mother culture I have off-site backup: Order

I met Jeff Mello (Bootleg Biology's founder) while he was living in the Arlington, VA. Shortly after, he moved to Nashville where he moved his small yeast lab to a commercial space. Jeff sent me a few isolates to grow for the Modern Times souring program. In 2014 he floated the idea of isolating and packaging a blend for me, but at the time I didn't have any microbes that I thought of as mine. We could have pulled something out of a solera barrel, but honestly I never loved the fermentation character of either of them. After running a cobbled together saison blend through my sour gear 10 times over two years, sometimes harvesting from kicked-kegs, I don't know which yeast and bacteria thrived or mutated, but it makes great beer!

It has been interesting to have Bootleg Biology pull out the component microbes and put them back together. I've brewed a couple test batches with pre-release cultures with promising results (see below), that were good enough to release it and see what other brewers think! If you do buy a pack, please leave a comment here to let me know what you brewed, fermentation temperature, and the results!

You can use the blend in any saison recipe, but here are my three of my favorite batches to get you started:

Saison 'Merican
Nu Zuland
Alsatian Saison


Culture streaked on a plate.Bootleg Biology is proud to announce: The First Official Mad Fermentationist Culture!

Fine tuned over two years, this blend morphed over time to become an elegant powerhouse of classic Saison spice, stone-fruit Brett, lactic tartness and a dry but well-rounded body. The final master blend consists of Saison yeast, wild Saccharomyces, rare Brettanomyces and an opportunistic Lactobacillus culture.

At temperatures as low as 68F (20C) The Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend exhibits a relatively clean primary fermentation profile and high attenuation. Traditional saison temperatures (around 80F/27C) bring out citrus and elevated phenols (pepper and clove). The Brett character shifts depending on wort composition, as maltier beers emphasize cherry and stone fruit qualities.

This blend integrates beautifully with fruity and tropical hops, with the unique Brett culture keeping hop aromatics crisp and bright for an extended time. For best results use a highly fermentable wort, dry hopping during the tail of active fermentation, and carbonating naturally.


Here are the tasting notes and recipe from the batch I brewed with the second test-pitch from Bootleg Biology. I bottled it more than three months ago, just three weeks after brewing. One of my favorite things about this blend is that it dries out beers quickly, leaving little for the low-attenuating Brett to ferment. The result is a beer that you can bottle young and enjoy as it morphs from bright saison into wild ale!

This batch was actually Audrey's first on the big system after a couple 2.5 gallon batches. I acted as assistant brewer. She was aiming for, "a dark Belgian wheat, with maltiness between a dunkelweiss and an English dark mild." She used an experimental hop supplied by Yakima Valley, ADHA-527, which they describe as: "floral, citrus, huge mint, herbal, mellow spice, thyme, Saaz-like, cucumber, sage, touch of lemon." Seemed like some good and bad, a nice pairing with funk!

Finished beer, on my microbe shelf.Europa Lander

Smell – Fermentation leads with toasty malt following. Still has some underlying Belgian spice and pear, but Brett is beginning to takeover. It is a really approachable leather-cherry funk though. Nothing over-the-top or too animalistic. Maybe a hint of anise and a little clay, hard to place the source.

Appearance – Clear, perfectly not a hint of haze. Pretty light-brown beer-bottle color. White head exhibits solid retention.

Taste – The caramel malt plays with the funk. Chocolate rye provides more toasted bready than harsh roast. Still a fresh maltiness despite the layer of leather and cherry from the Brett. No acidity thanks to the hint of hop bitterness. Dry, but with enough left to support the malt. Subdued hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel – Firm carbonation, nothing excessive. Glad this blend retained the ability to dry out a beer quickly and stabilize. Doesn’t taste as thin as the FG would suggest, but it’s no milkshake!

Drinkability & Notes – I can’t think of a beer to compare this to. Really balanced between malt, hops, and fermentation in a Belgian sort-of-way, but not in a combination I’ve tasted from a Belgian or Belgian-style beer.

Changes for Next Time – Not a blow-you-away beer, but I can’t think of a tweak to suggest that wouldn’t changing what it is: a unique malty, funky, subtle, drinkable beer!

That is one clear beer.Recipe

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 16.5
IBU: 25.4
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.002
ABV: 6.8%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 65 Mins

46.0% - 10 lbs Briess White Wheat Malt
32.2% - 7 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
13.8% - 3 lbs Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner
4.6% - 1 lbs Briess Caramel Malt - 60L
3.4% - .75 lbs Weyermann Chocolate Rye

Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 148F

0.5 oz ADHA-527 (Pellets, 15.80% AA) @ 30 min
2.0 oz ADHA-527 (Pellets, 15.80% AA) @ 20 min Hop-Stand

1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min

Bootleg Biology The Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

Brewed 10/23/16

Filtered DC tap water, no other treatments. 3 gallon cold sparge.

Chilled to 70F with IC.

Half fermented with WLP510, four month old pack, no starter.

Half fermented with Bootleg Biology Mad Blend #2, super-fresh, no starter.

11/12/16 Kegged the WLP510 half. Down to 1.011.

Bottled the "Mad Blend" half (4.25 gallons at 1.003) with 3 5/8 oz of table sugar. Looking for 2.6 volumes of CO2.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Extract Lambic Tasting (Plus Peaches)

Drinking malt-extract-based lambic outside.Over my first 10 years of brewing "lambic-inspired" pale sours, I found that the more authentic my process became, the more authentic the flavors produced. The balance and aromatics improved as I turbid mashedaged hops, introduced local wild microbes with gueuze bottle dregs, etc. I wondered what the beer would be like if I stripped back the sugar-extraction to the basics? I'd brewed sour beers from malt extact before (but with beach plums, blackberries, and dark malts). This lambic recipe was nothing but dry malt extract (Pils and wheat) and maltodextrin to provide carbohydrates brewer's yeast is unable to ferment.

Brewed the day of Super Bowl 49, I opened the last bottle of the base lambic right before kickoff of Super Bowl 51. Didn't look like it had much luck in it for Tom Brady until a couple hours later... I served most of the batch at the BYO Burlington Boot Camp, the folks at the Santa Rosa edition in two weeks will be tasting and blending homebrewed dark sours. Not sure what beers we'll be using in Indianapolis this fall!

Golden Boy Lambic

Tom Brady deserves a beer.Smell – Overripe fruit, mild Brett funk comes across as hay (or is that the aged hops?). Overall mellow, but nothing off (e.g., vinegar, nail polish). At two-years-old it is still bright and vibrant.

Appearance – Crystal clear gold. Towards the darker end of gueuze, but not outside the range. White head stays around for a couple minutes, before falling completely.

Taste – Nice little lemon brightness. Mellow lactic acidity. Brett is similar to the nose, hay, mineral, and fresh soil. Relatively clean and approachable. Not much depth.

Mouthfeel – Medium carbonation, mouthfeel is fuller than usual, maybe the lack of oak tannins.

Drinkability & Notes – A lambic with training wheels both in terms of production and flavor. Not convinced those two are correlated.

Changes for Next Time – One of the nicer straight lambic blends I’ve used. Closest to Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, very approachable. Like many other blends Yeast Bay Mélange would benefit from some dregs from whatever “fresh” lambic you enjoy.

I love splitting batches, so when the above was ready to bottle summer 2016, I racked 2.5 gallons onto peaches... lots of local white peaches from the farmer's market. They were "ugly," so I was able to get 8 lbs for $8. There is something about peaches that translates so perfectly to sour beer (as I've found previously). While the aroma is delicate compared to most berries, peaches doesn't require nearly the rate I used to shine through.

White Peach Lambic on my new 24mm lens.White Peach Lambic

Smell – White peaches, unsurprisingly. Bold, fresh, juicy. Little hits of lemon and hay underneath, but stonefruit is first, second, and third.

Appearance – Similar color to the base beer, but not as clear. A few particles of peach flesh in the glass. Head is low and doesn’t last long, a sign of lacking carbonation in this case.

Taste – Snappier acidity than the base, thanks to the acids and nutritive sugars contributed by the fruit. Has a malic acidity, brighter and sharper than lactic. Lingering in the finish are the clearest signs of lambic, earthy, citrus, mild yeastiness, and maybe a hint of vanilla.

Mouthfeel – Light body, carbonation is low even for my preferences. It allows the peach to linger though. Glad it's gotten here, I was considering reyeasting the bottles a few months ago.

Drinkability & Notes – It is amazing that peaches purchased last summer and allowed a controlled rot rather than preserved (canned or frozen) can still taste so fresh! Fantastic true-peach flavor and aroma, but the base beer wasn’t up to the challenge in assertiveness. Delicious as a peach beer, a letdown as a peach lambic. Still a good fruit choice over cherry or raspberry that would have completely dominated the delicate Brett character.

Changes for Next Time – This one didn't carbonate as quickly as I would have liked, my fault for reyeasting with ale yeast rather than wine yeast. Similar to the notes on the base beer, a more assertive culture would create potent flavors to poke through the peaches.

Not as ugly as you’d expect for $1/lb at the farmer’s market!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Gose: NEIPA Principles for Coriander

Hot-dog-water, celery, hammy… these are all descriptors I’ve heard for coriander-flavored beers. Nearly essential for wits, sometimes an accent in other Belgian beers (like those from Rochefort). Coriander, the seeds of cilantro, sometimes seem more at home in a taco than a beer, but there are two things brewers can do to ensure it imparts more pleasant aromatics like lemon, lime, and floral.

Close-up of Indian coriander.First is one I’ve touched on in previous gose recipes, use Indian coriander. It has a slightly oblong (i.e., more football than basketball) shape than the typical supermarket variety and a much fruitier aroma – Fruity Pebbles. Indian markets are also inexpensive compared to supermarkets and specialty spice stores, a 7 oz bag set me back $1.99 (compared to Amazon for $10).

Second allow coriander-yeast interaction. Glycosides and biotransformation are hot topics in hoppy beers, but they may be even more interesting for beers with fruit and spice. Coriander contains linalool and geraniol, compounds also found in hops. While unexciting in its standard form (floral and rose), yeast activity converts geraniol to B-citronellol which provides a flavor similar to lemon or lime.

"From the screening of various hop cultivars, Citra hop was selected as a geraniol-rich cultivar. In addition, it was observed that coriander seed, which can be used in beer production as a flavourant, contained not only linalool but also geraniol at high levels." The Contribution of Geraniol Metabolism to the Citrus Flavour of Beer

Wellfleet Smoked Sea Salt In the past I’ve added crushed coriander near the end of the boil or to the whirlpool, allowing it to infuse into the hot wort. That is also what was done in the study linked above. However, for this batch I drew off wort for this beer pre-boil, adding the coriander directly to the fermentor at the same time as the yeast. The rest of this batch became Loral-Hopped Funky Saison. I've found that dry hopping during fermentation is essential to the "NEIPA" character. I was hoping the same might apply to coriander!

I pitched the Right Proper house lactic culture harvested from my Quinoa Grapefruit Hoppy Sour. I didn’t have access to the high temperatures (October vs. July), and as a result sourness didn’t kick in until keg conditioning. I was recently at Right Proper brewing a collaborative smoked, juniper-infused, Norwegian farmhouse ale with Modern Times! More on that batch later...

Sodium chloride is sodium chloride, but there is nothing wrong with a story. I grew up spending summers on Cape Cod (where I still have a crate of Cranberry-Orange mead buried). Originally I’d planned to make the trip to collect bay water to dose in for salinity… but the timing didn’t work out. I had a jar of smoked sea salt from Wellfleet from my mother, close enough! Between the low dosage and low smoke-intensity I wasn’t expecting a perceptible smoke character in the beer, but sub-threshold complexity can’t hurt.

Golden Gose

Smell – Bright zesty citrus aroma. Mild graininess. Slight sulfur. I don't detect anything I would identify as coriander.

Appearance – Cloudy golden yellow. White head disperses rapidly. Not intentional, but it could pass for a NEIPA (other than the poor head retention).

Taste – Zippy lactic acidity, without the funkiness of Brett. Lots of bright fresh citrus, especially lemon (without being artificial or furniture polish). The finish has a little no-boil grainy-wortiness that I don’t mind, but it may not be for everyone. Maltiness from the Munich isn't as pronounced as I expected.

Mouthfeel – Slightly fuller than the classic versions thanks to the oats.

Drinkability & Notes – The best gose I've brewed! Refreshing and unique. The citrus from the coriander is outstanding! Sulfur aroma is the only detractor.

Changes for Next Time – Seems like this mixed culture really benefits the warmer fermentation temperature. The acidity hit its mark with extra time, but the fermentation wasn't vigorous enough to blow-off the sulfur. With the maltier grist the no-boil flavor was more assertive when young than similar all Pils/wheat beers that I've brewed - I might go for a 60 minute boil.

Golden Gose, finished beer


Batch Size: 6.00 gal
SRM: 5.3
IBU: 0
OG: 1.041
FG: 1.005
ABV: 4.7%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74%
Boil Time: 0 Mins

65.9 % - 7.5 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
27.5 % - 3.12 lbs Weyermann Munich I
6.6 % - .75 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats

Sacch Rest - 30 min @ 152 F


0.5 oz Indian Coriander Seed - Fermenter

Right Proper House Lacto Blend

Recipe adjusted so this can be brewed as a single batch.

Brewed 10/10/16

Water was all filtered DC tap with 2 g of CaCl and 1.5 g of gypsum. Added 1 tsp of lactic acid. Mash pH measured at 5.12.

Ran off 5.5 gallons of 1.041 wort once the wort hit 180F. No hops or whirlfloc. Chilled to 95F with the plate chiller. Added .5 oz of crushed Indian coriander to the wort. Pitched Right Proper house culture, woken up with 1 L of wort 24 hours prior. Added 2 tsp of lactic acid to lower pH to 4.5. Left at 70F to ferment.

10/23/16 Kegged (still no salt) with 3.25 oz of table sugar.

1/7/17 Dissolved .5 oz of Wellfleet smoked sea salt and added to the keg.

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