Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Breakside Test Batches

Ben and Tony getting fired up

On Saturday, the 13th, Tony, Ben and I got together to do some test batches for Breakside Brewing. We decided to start off with a test batch of the Wit, and our Rye ale, the 2 recipes we felt the least confident on how they would turn out. We also wanted to split the Wit 3 ways in order to test some different yeast strains and pick a house Belgian yeast. We don't have the stuff moved into the brewery yet, so we spent a long day hanging out in Tony's garage and doing a double batch.

The Sabco Brewmagic system is pretty awesome. It seems pretty easy to get a handle on. I don't know why they don't stick a pump in between the HLT and the mash tun, since they are at the same height and therefore not easy to gravity feed. Instead of pumping over to the mash tun you have to keep filling the HLT as you go to keep the water level above the level you want in the mash. Mash temp is held by recirculating the wort through a small electrical heating unit, and mash steps are done manually by adding bottom heat while recirculating. The boil is pretty straightforward, and we use a Therminator plate chiller with in-line oxygenation and thermometer to cool the wort.
(Tony recirculating the first runnings, which we found to be unnecessary since the mash is recirculated the whole time.)

The Wit is a pretty standard recipe using about 50% wheat flakes, coriander, dried sweet and bitter orange peel, and chamomile. We split the batch into 3, 4 gallon batches, fermented separately with Wyeast 3787 (Westmalle), Wyeast 1388 (Duvel), and Wyeast 3711 (Theriez). The 3 yeast strains we decided to use were picked for their potential to ferment many different kinds of Belgian ales, although I'm not sure the French saison yeast from Theriez is the best choice for that. Maybe we should have tried the LaChouffe strain in stead, but I thought the saison yeast would be fun to try. The unfermented wort tasted really spot-on for a wit, with the chamomile being very up-front in the aroma, but that will most likely change with time and fermentation.

The Rye recipe uses 30% rye malt, pale malt, and some honey malt. It's designed to be a blond session ale but it came out a little darker than we had expected, more of a pale ale color. We used Perle as a first wort hop and Sterling as a 60 minute addition. It seems like this beer is not really settled in its identity yet, Ben likes the idea of it being like a light English summer ale with a Marris Otter base, while I thought it should be a hoppy blond or kolsch kind of base beer, with significant hop aroma but coming from German or hybrid hops. I kind of think it will be better with some late hop additions but I also think that using only early additions in the first batch will give us a better idea of what the rye malt is doing to the flavor and aroma. We split this batch between the classic Cali ale yeast and the WLP007 "Dry English Ale" yeast. My vote is for Cali as our house "clean" ale yeast, because I think it does way better for hoppy beers and is a little more tolerant to slightly warmer fermentation temperatures.

All these beers are fermenting away in Tony's house and I can't wait to try the beers to see which yeast strains prevail. We might hold off any additional brewing until we move into the building, but I will keep the blog updated on our future brews.


Brett Begani said...

The Sabco system is very close to teh Brutus system that Rich built. with the recirculating mash it's constantly clarifying, you do still have to be careful of your sparge speed, as it affects you efficiency. I'm surprised there isn't a pump for the HLT, you might have something wonky in your setup or your process. let me know the next time you're brewing on it and I can stop by. Since the brew kettle is gravity from the Mashtun, you probably are supposed to move the pump for recirculation to the HLT for the sparge water.

thatguy314 said...

I've brewed some really excellent hoppy and malty beers with WLP007. It attenuates really nicely, it drops pretty nicely. Moreover, you can ferment it at 64ish and dnot get too much character, or ferment it 68ish and get some nice strawberry shortcake esters. The bitterness isn't quite as firm with it, as malt is more accentuated than CalAle, but you can just add some gypsum to compensate. I'll bring you a bottle of a really nice amber I brewed with it at NHC (if you can make it).

Seanywonton said...

Not sure if I'm going to be able to make it to NHC this year, if so it will be a last minute decision! Just starting to see some small paychecks rolling in form working with Green Bottling, a roving bottling line. Still no brewery paychecks yet, things are going slowly on opening, which is almost always the case with new breweries.

hendeeki said...

Any verdict on the different strains used?

Seanywonton said...

No verdict as far as a definite strain that we will use, but we really liked the rye ale with the WLP 007, it had a really nice English ale profile but that went really well with the malts. We are also considering using Scottish ale yeast as the neutral ale strain.

As for the wit, there was a split in opinion. Without a doubt the Wyeast 3787 makes a great witbier, and I could see it being a more versatile strain for the brewery, but Tony and Ben liked the 3711 saison strain a lot. In my opinion it really didn't make a good wit, but I do like the strain quite a bit. It just doesn't really lend itself to a broad range of Belgian ales, just saisons really.

hendeeki said...

Thanks for the quick response.

I have been curious about the range of Belgians that 3787 could handle, so I'm pleased to hear that it fared well in the wit. I agree with you about 3711 -- it is a great yeast but perhaps not too versatile without being saison-like.

How was the Duvel strain in the wit?

I'm also interested in seeing how the Achouffe strain would do in a wit since it is quite versatile. Do you any personal thoughts on how the Westmalle and Achouffe strains compare in Belgian beers in general?

Many thanks for your helpful blog!

Seanywonton said...

The Duvel strain in the wit was the least favorite agreed on by all 3 of us. You might be able to tweak a good wit out of it but ours wasn't! I haven't used the Achouffe/Ardennes strain in a while. I have tried some wits with it a long time ago but for whatever reason the beers weren't that great. I could see it doing a good job though, if the base beer was dialed in.