Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tasting of 3 recent beers

Ah man, this week sucks hard. I was sitting down starting to grind up grains for an IPA yesterday with some Newport hops I picked up from Upright, when I reached over a little too far and somehow threw lower back into a spasm. It hurt, but I thought if I took it fairly easy through the brewday, it would probably loosen up eventually. Sometime during the runoff, it seemed to spasm even harder and I was in a world of pain. So I had to totally cancel the brewday and luckily I wasn't halfway through the boil, when I would have wasted hops too.

Today I'm just sitting around the house, laying on a heating pad, tranqued up on advil, codeine, and reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. This sucks because I was supposed to help Upright with 2 brewdays and help another brewery do a bottling run on Friday, all of which I will probably have to miss. I'm currently consoling myself with a Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale (I have a soft spot for traditional pumpkin ales around this time of year) and an episode of Brew Strong. I thought, what better way to do a little beer tasting since I could use the muscle relaxing properties, and apparently I won't be brewing this week. Wah, Wah...

Starting light to dark:

All Brett Wheat Session Ale: Fruity, clean aroma, mainly of apple & pear, light hoppy spicyness, pils malt background. Light vanilla sweetness, light phenols. No classic brett or barnyard. Blonde and appealing color with a big head, which slowly recedes to patchy islands of foam. Great lacing. Flavor is somewhat phenolic with a touch or horse hair & earthy/smoky nuances. Very clean, drinkable beer with a light sweetness. Bitterness is low but balanced. Medium body, medium-high carbonation. Finishes somewhat tart, but just a twang, in no way a sour beer. Very easy to drink in volume. Overall: A good session ale but nowhere near as much brettanomyces character as I had hoped. No evidence of further fermentation in the keg, so I don't think it's worth aging, but it's probable that it would have picked up an more classic brett character with time. It was the crowd favorite at Clarissa's birthday party.

Clarissa's Sweat Meat Saison: Hints of fruit in the aroma with some higher alcohols. A dry graininess that is a little carboardy. Very hard to describe, but not very inviting. Nice orange color and nice head, no problems there. Flavor is fairly sweet up front, even though this beer finished very dry. Again, a dry grainy quality and more alcohol than I would like, but not terrible. Mouthfeel is fairly dry, but with good effervescence. Overall: Not my favorite beer. It seems to have a variety of strange flavors that do not mesh well, at least yet. The fact that it dried out so much puts all the flavors out in the open with no body or sweetness to bring them together. This is, however, the first saison I have spiced that did not come out over-spiced! Sorry Clarissa, I will try to make you a better birthday beer next year!

Fresh-hopped Black Saison: Aroma is somewhat hop-resinous, with a big rose note & perfumeyness. Dark malts are mainly in the background with no roastiness noted. Noticeable alcohol presence but pretty light for an 8% beer. Appearance is a very clear dark brown, almost black with cherry highlights, what you would expect from a dark schwazbier or a robust porter, with a big head which fades to an even 1/4 inch. Flavor is of hops up front, but fairly balanced with sweet malts. Light caramel/molasses, not prominent. Bitterness I would guestimate at 45 IBU's. Finishes a little bitter but overall very balanced. Perception of medium body even though it dried out to 1.007. Overall, I really like this beer, but it is something I would drink a goblet of and probably switch to something else after that. It turned out much more balanced than I expected, much of which is probably due to the hops that we had on hand (I designed the recipe around big citrusy American hops, and we received a lot Willamette, a much more subtle hop). This was the crowd 2nd favorite at the party.

Overall, I think these beers turned out pretty well. I went in knowing that they would be experimental, and with experiments you always get some surprises, some happy, some a let down. I might try to bottle off some of the brett beer and the fresh-hopped saison, to see what they do over the next 6 months.

Oh yeah, and the Belgian Dark Strong I did recently took 3rd in the Roots Competition (I'm not sure out of how many beers). Not bad for a 20 day old beer at 10.8%!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Svenska Köttbullar Säsong, Meetification part 2, and a new video.

The Beerquest Pilot Video that we helped out in finally came out. Check it out! It features Sixpoint, Brooklyn Brewery, and Kelso/Greenpoint Beer Works.! Enjoy. Damn, I miss my brewing brothers back in Brooklyn. I hope you guys are doing well & brewing strong.

One note on our vignette, they actually asked us to make fun of Steve and be a little standoff-ish at first, so if I seem like a jerk, it's not my fault (for once!) I'm also in the background of the Sixpoint shoot cleaning kegs.

A week ago I did a 10 gallon batch of saison with my friend Josh. This is a really straightforward saison, where I was attempting to resolve some of the problems with my first Portland brew. I wanted to remove any chloramines from the water (using campden tablets), leave out the carafa which seemed to leave an ashy taste even at 1 oz., and pitch the yeast at a more ideal 68-70 degrees, followed by a ramp up to 80 degrees. We are thinking about dry hopping one of the carboys for experimentation.

I ran out of German pilsner malt, so we switched to Great Western "superior pilsner" malt. We noticed some HUGE protein chunks floating up in the boil, which were about the size of IKEA meatballs or even bigger. They looked kind of like this:
But with a gravy on them:

That's why we named this beer Svenska Köttbullar Säsong, which translates to "Swedish Meatball Saison". I'm still not sure what to think about this North American Pilsner malt, or if I would use it in lager.

Recipe is for 13.75 gallons pre-boil, 12.3 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.059 IBU's 29 F.G. 1.003 ABV 7.5%

16 lb. Great Western Superior Pilsner malt
4 lb. Vienna malt
2 lb. flaked triticale
8 oz. aromatic malt

9 gr. Willamette whole 4.7% 60 min
30 gr. East Kent Goldings pellets 4.8% 60 min
14 gr. Magnum pellets 13.6% 60 min
56 gr. Willamette whole 5.1% 10 min
56 gr. Willamette whole 4.7% 0 min

Mash: 7 gallons of water + 2 tsp gypsum, mash in to 142.
At 10 minutes, raised to 148 using 1 gallon of boiling water.
Total mash time 90 minutes.

Sparge with 8.5 gallons at 170.
Collect 13.75 gallons at 1.053 = 87% efficiency. Either we got really great efficiency, or this is a particularly high-yielding batch of malt.

Boil 90 minutes, additions as noted.
Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes, no whirlfloc.
Chilled to 68, collected about 5.5 gallons per carboy.
Oxygen for 1 minute per carboy, pitched an appropriate sized starter of Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast (3rd generation).

Started fermentation at 68 degrees, ramping a few degrees per day to reach 80 degrees by 1 week. Krausen fell at 6 days. When fermentation was almost negligible, I turned off the heat and let it finish out slowly. Racked to keg on 11/6/09. Tastes and smells great!

Then 2 days ago, I did another batch of Meetification, which is kind of an "extreme pale ale", if you believe in that sort of thing (I do). It's designed to be a little more sessionable than an IPA, but with an extreme dose of hop aroma and flavor. I have been craving a hopsickle lately, but I have had the Belgian yeasts going, so I just wanted to get a few batches out of them first.

I stuck with exactly the same recipe as the first time, but I mashed in a few degrees below at only 150. I really need to learn to control my mash-in temperature, as I have had erratic results using the new cooler mash tun. I changed the mineral additions on this one too, using 2 tsp of Burton salts in the mash, and 1 tsp in the boil.

"Meetification" Pale Ale
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 6.2 gallons post boil, all-grain
O.G. 1.056 F.G. 1.008 ABV 6.3% IBU's 48

9 lb. 2-row American pale malt
1.5 lb. Glen Eagle Marris Otter
8 oz. Victory malt
6 oz. British Crystal 70

6 gr. Summit pellets 18.1% AA 60 min
28 gr. Summit pellets 18.1% 20 min
28 gr. Centennial pellets 8% 15 min
28 gr. Cascade pellets 6% 0 min
14 gr. Amarillo pellets 8.6% 0 min
Dry hops: 34 gr. Amarillo pellets, 22 gr. Summit pellets in the keg (in bags), dry hopped cold.

Mash: 4.5 gallons H20 + 2 tsp. Burton Salts.
Mash in to 150 for 60 minutes.
Sparged with 5 gallons water at 180
Collected 7 gallons at 1.050 = 84% efficiency.

Boil 60 minutes
Add 1 tsp Burton salts
Whirlfoc & Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.
Chilled, racked to carboy, and added pure oxygen for 60 seconds. Pitched an appropriate-sized starter of Wyeast 1056 at 68 degrees.

Fermented at 68 degrees for 10 days, then cold-crashed to 50 for 3 days
Racked to keg on 10/26/09. Some of the dank oniony qualities are coming through from the Summit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barrier Brewing Under Construction

My good friend Evan, who I worked with at Sixpoint, has been working on starting a nano-craft brewery for a few years now. I just heard from him, and he sealed the deal on a location!

If you are in New York State, look for Barrier Brewing beers in stores soon. Evan makes excellent beers, and I can't imagine him being anything but successful in his new business ventures.

Remember this guy from my earlier Sixpoint posts? That's Evan. Awesome brewer. Look out for the beers! I'm going to have to coerce him to send some out my way.

Upright Gose Brewday

Here are some pictures form my first day helping out Upright Brewery as an intern. Above is the tasting room. Most of the beers are named by number which is analogous to the original gravity (i.e. the Four is about 1.040 O.G.).

Here's a view of the other side of the tasting room, where many barrel projects are aging.

Their brewing system is a 10 barrel system. The strike water is heated with an electric element, and the boil kettle is direct-fire gas. It's made fairly locally, but I don't remember the name of the company. I stirred in the mash on the Gose, which was a fairly small grist, since we were only shooting for a 1.040 or so beer.

I didn't get a picture of this, but they did an overnight sour mash on about 20 pounds of grain in a cooler. This was smelly pretty sour and funky (think rotten fruit) when we got in, and I added it to the mash as I doughed in.

Here's a view of the open fermenter room (the gose didn't go in there, we put it in a conical). Upright's house yeast is Wyeast 3711 French Saison, which I've been a big fan of since the first time I used it last year. We used the house yeast on the Gose too.

Here's Alex operating the hand-cranked bottle labeler to label the 5, a hoppy pale beer.

We did some science stuff that I had never seen before. Garrit showed me how to a cell count on our pitch rate. After the beer was pitched and well mixed in the fermenter, we took a sample and dropped it onto a slide. The slide has a grid pattern and you can count how many yeast cells are in each square. I don't remember the cell count we got on this, but it was an ideal pitching rate, so we were pretty stoked!

It's cool to see yeast under a microscope. I had never seen that before!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hood River Hops Fest, and a very un-hoppy Belgian Dark Strong

Above: new 70 quart mash tun with a Celebrator goat that Jamil gave me at NHC.

I've been trying to brew as much as possible for competition, and Roots is collaborating with the Oregon Brew Crew on a competition for an upcoming pinot noir/bourbon barrel aged brew. Only 2 categories are open for this competition: Baltic Porter and Belgian Dark Strong. My personal feeling is that a Baltic Porter might be a better beer to age in these barrels. But with limited time and a healthy yeast cake of trappist ale yeast, I went with the Belgian Dark Strong. There's really no way that this beer will have matured properly in only 21 days, which is the entry deadline. But, since I can just bottle up a few bottles with the Beergun, it's no big deal. I'll just keep rest of the beer in a keg until it's time to bottle the rest.

Below, you can see the detail on the new mash tun. I actually turn the pipes upside down when brewing so the slits are facing downward. Cutting and fitting all the pipes, and then using a hacksaw to cut the slits in the copper pipe was extremely time & labor intensive process! So my advice to anyone is to go with the stainless mesh tube in the bottom of the mash tun if you're doing a conversion like this.

So, I brewed the Belgian Dark Strong on Friday, and then on Saturday we took a trip to Hood River Oregon for the annual Fresh Hop Fest. The weather was supposed to be great, but unfortunately it was pretty rainy. This didn't seem to phase the Oregon beer revelers though!
There were tons of great beers there. As a brewer, I felt that it should have been better marked as to which beers were 100% fresh hop beers, and which used a mix of wet & dried hops. My favorite fresh hop beer, which not only used an excellent hop variety, but also displayed it perfectly by holding back on the crystal malts, was Widmer's Hopturnal Emission. It was brewed with fresh Summit hops, and the aroma was so inviting! The flavor was intense and hoppy.

I also really enjoyed: New Old Lompoc's Harvestman Red, which was brewed with fresh Crystal hops, had a juicy malt backbone and subtle hopping. It was an excellent session red ale. Rock Bottom's Octoberfist (yes, I spelled that right) was an excellent malty lager, with a touch of extra hop character from the fresh Hallertauer hops. Maybe the reason that some of my favorite beers were on the malty side is that after a whole day of drinking hoppy ales, my pallete was craving a change. There were many other great fresh hopped IPA's from other breweries, the full list of which can be found on the Hood River Hops Fest website.

Back to the brew: This is Jamil's Belgian Dark Strong recipe brewed pretty much straight up out of Brewing Classic Styles. The differences are:
  • Recipe calls for WLP530 Abbey yeast. I used a blend of Wyeast 1214 and WLP 530.
  • Recipe uses Hallertauer hops as a 60 minutes addition. I used Perle and Magnum.
  • I had a little issue with not getting as good efficiency as I hoped for. I was at 66% instead of 70%. What I should have done is add a half pound of DME to make up for it, but instead my cheap ass spent an extra 40 minutes collecting the last runnings in another pot, boiling this on the stove at the same time as the regular boil, and then adding the runnings to the main pot once they could fit. While this was a big time-suck, I did hit all my numbers dead-on, and I don't think I picked up much extra caramelization.
Recipe is for 6 gallons post boil, all grain + sugar
O.G. 1.103 F.G. 1.023 ABV 10.7% IBU's 30

15 lb. Pilsner malt
3 lb. Munich malt
1 lb. caramunich 60
1 lb. aromatic malt
1 lb. special B
8 oz. Melanoidin malt
8 oz. Wheat malt
1 lb. corn sugar

15 gr. Magnum pellets 13.6%AA 60 min
6 gr. Perle pellets 7.1%AA 60 min

Mash: 6 gallons + 1 tsp gypsum, mash in a little low to 149

at 10 minutes into the mash, added about 1 gallon boiling water to bring up to 153
Total mash time 65 minutes

Sparge: 5 gallons at 170 degrees
Collect 8 gallons at 1.071 = 70% efficiency

Boil: about 2 hours, started in 2 pots. See above notes.
Sugar at beginning of boil.
Once boil volume was down to 7 gallons, started the timer at 90 minutes
Hops as noted, Whirlfloc and Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes
Chilled to 68, whirlpooled, and collected 5.25 gallons
Oxygen for 2 minutes
Pitched 2 cups (half a yeast cake from the blond) of Wyeast 1214 & WLP 530
Ferment at 68 degrees for first 48 hours, then let slowly come up to 72 degrees over 1 week.
Took a gravity reading at 10 days, 1.023. Target was 1.024. Pretty good! tastes/smells pretty solventy, I guess that's to be expected at this age.

P.S. I just lined up a one day a week internship with Upright Brewery. Very exciting! Even if I'm not getting paid yet, it will be great to be brewing and learning.
Cheers & Brew Strong.
Sean / Chupa / Senior Wonton